A Gingerbread Village

I taught a baking class one year at this time. The College hosted a “Christmas at the College” event so we built a Gingerbread Village.

We invited small children in to decorate graham cracker houses and students created large house. Here is a gallery of the different houses on display.

Notice the windows, inside lighting, stained glass and the one Thomas Kincaid House and look for the ice skater and the 3 little pigs houses made from “straw, sticks and bricks”.

There are a lot of ideas for decorating your gingerbread house. Some materials you can use are:

  • Ice cream cones: traditional and sugar cones for roof peaks and trees
  • Sheet gelatin for windows, you can make stained glass by using a cotton swab and food coloring
  • Rock candy for rock walls and pathways
  • Shredded wheat for thatched roofs and frosted shredded wheat for snow topped
  • Dentine gum for bricks
  • Marshmallows for snow men
  • Candy corn for candle flames
  • Pretzel rods and sticks for fence posts and fire wood stacks
  • Hold your house together with hot glue and then cover the glue with royal icing. The house will hold together better and not be as fragile.
  • Don’t cut walls too thin. They need to be strong enough to support the weight of the roof and all the candy you are going to stuck to it.
  • Use a sturdy board as the base so you can move the house around on the base and not have to lift the actual house itself to move around.
  • Plan a hole in the bottom of the board to stuff twinkle lights into so the inside of the house lights up.

Happy Holidays!

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Entertaining

Entertaining is a word that can strike fear or pure pleasure in people.

Hors d’oeuvres spoons

The prospect of entertaining need not be a burden, just have a plan of action to make everything go smoothly. Don’t be afraid to begin planning well before your party. Allow yourself time to work on the details so when your party time arrives you will be well prepared to host a spectacular event.

Choose your location

Consider using your home to host your party. Take a look around and see how many people can comfortable fit. If they are going to be seated, is there enough seating and adequate space? Is this a standing conversing party? The occupancy changes if you are doing a seated dinner vs. a cocktail style party.

If you live in a small apartment, there may be a communal area you can reserve. If you live is a temperate climate or at the beach, consider holding your event outdoors. On the beach, in a park or back yard are all great locations.

Determine your guest list

Choose a varied guest list to keep the conversations lively. If everyone had the same interests, there will be a lot of ‘shop-talk’ instead of exchanging ideas and discovery conversations.

Please be considerate and don’t invite ex’s or enemies to the same events.

Strive for a balance of genders. Be considerate of those who are couples and who are singles. Being the only single at a party full of couples can be socially odd as can being the only couple at a singles party. Strive for a good mix.

Is there a theme?

It could be Christmas or Holidays, Halloween, Valentines Day, Kentucky Derby Day, Wedding, St. Patrick’s Day or Talk Like a Pirate

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Photo credit: ParaScubaSailor)

Day or a just because.

Having a theme will make your choice of decorations and menu easier.

Plan you menu

Plan your menu

Unless you are having a dinner party, most party food should be small and able to be eaten without the use of a knife. Think about trying to balance a drink and eat while trying to impress someone you are just meeting.

My rule is 1-2 bites in size.

Make your favorite nibbles in bite size. Martha Stewart’s Hors d’ Oeuvres is one of the best references out there. If you ever see it, buy it.

Cover of "Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres...

Cover via Amazon

This post is not about menus or recipes but about how to plan a party so you don’t lose your mind in the process.

As I host a party or two this season, I will have menus and recipes.

Look at the space you have to display food. You are going to make yourself miserable if you plan more food than you can accommodate.

Decide what tables and surfaces you are going to use for what. A kitchen counter (clean and uncluttered) is nice for a beverage station.

If you need to borrow a table or two, make arrangements.

Write out your menu and make small labels. Take out your plates and dishes and decide what food is going on what plate. Put a label on each dish you decide to use. Arrange to borrow or buy or rent what you need beyond what you have.

Your menu should not require you to be in the kitchen longer than 10-15 minutes while guests are present. Plan a do ahead menu so you can spend time with your guests.

If you are planning an elegant holiday gathering and need stem-ware or nice glasses you can

A table full of glasses

go to the dollar store and see what they have. Often they have exactly what you need.

If you really don’t want to store 60 wine glasses, you can always rent them. Same with china and silverware, unless you choose to go

Rental Party Accessories

paper and plastic.

If you plan on entertaining more than once every year or so, you may want to buy a few nice display pieces. Large platters, staggered tray displays, small chafing dishes. Evaluate what you use and if it is worth storing.

Hint: If you go paper, buy a good quality. There is nothing worse than cheap paper plates and cheap plastic silverware. Same with paper napkins. Quality matters.

Plan your decor

Decor does not need to be elaborate. Use branches, pine cones, leaves, candles, berries, fruit, nuts, ribbons, even glass vases filled with Cheetos work.

Once I bought river stones and put them through the dishwasher. I lined trays with the hot rocks and placed food on the hot rocks to keep food warm. The rocks were scattered all over the table along with geodes, slabs of cut rock, and slate.

Ball and Mason jars make great candle holders for outdoor events.

Send your invitations at least two weeks ahead of time, three weeks is ideal. Ask for an RSVP so you have an idea how many to expect.

Make your shopping list.

Make your ‘need to do’ list.

Plan your activities on a calendar so you keep track and get everything done on time.

Make your parties enjoyable. If you want casual, make it casual, formal, make it formal. Make it what ever you are comfortable with hosting.

If you find you need help, either ask friends or hire one or two to clean things up and keep platters and dishes full.

Beverages

Don’t feel obligated to provide a full bar. Provide a party cocktail for everyone, red or white wine. Ask people to bring their own drinks. Be sure you have non-alcoholic beverages too.

Be a good host and NEVER allow your guests to drink and drive.

Have the number of a taxi service on hand so you can call inebriated guests a ride home. If you allow a drunk person to drive away, you could be held liable for any damages they cause if they were to get in an accident.

With December approaching, plan on having a party this season.

I always love the energy that remains in the house after a nice party, especially during the holidays.