I made my first real gingerbread house for the 2007 festival. I was working as a journalist for The Valley Journals at the time, and I made the house on behalf of the paper. They have a running contest called "Where do you read YOUR journal?" People take pictures of themselves in different places reading their local edition of the journal (there are 13 editions), submit the pictures, and someone is the winner. While trying to decide what kind of house I would do, I thought about the contest, and the first thing that came to mind was the bathroom (hee, hee), and that led me to the outhouses.
The best part about my house was watching people as they walked by at the festival. They'd stop and look...then look harder...then laugh... My favorite was the little old man who really got a good chuckle out of it :) And there was the Den Mother, who called all her little Boy Scouts over to see... "Boys! Come see the outhouses!"
I learned about gingerbreading as I went, which was very fun and very stressful. I found an incredible resource on the web called Franky's Attic, that had recipes, pictures, and how-to articles; there's no way I could have pulled it off without it. The website is now called Ultimate Gingerbread, but it still has all the same awesome information. She also has many, many patterns that you can download (they were free back them, but she's since gotten smart, and now charges for them). I used one of her patterns for the barn my daughter made for the same festival (see below).
I ended up not participating in the 2008 festival because we thought we were going to move and we all know how everything stops when you're trying to buy a house and sell a house and get ready to move all your stuff...I was able to help them write an awesome press release, but that was about all I could do.
So now it's 2009, and it's almost time for the festival. It's a month away, and I'm getting ready to start on my house, get my 13 year-old daughter started on her design, and help my 6 year-old daughter and 7 year-old nephew with a team-effort gingerbread train. Right now I think I'm a little (read "a lot") crazy, but I'm going to do it anyway :) I'll probably have several anxiety attacks by the time we're done, but it's all good, right? Oh, did I mention I agreed to make 2 wedding cakes for next month, too? How many anxiety attacks did I say?
Stay tuned for updates and pictures of the process. If you've never seen a big gingerbread house constructed you're in for a treat :)
I made little Valley Journal's replicas out of fondant. You need reading material while in the loo.
Each stall had a pair of little feet peeking out from under the doors.
One of the greatest things I learned from Loreta at Ultimate Gingerbread is how to make bushes and shrubs. Rice-Krispie treat, made with corn flakes, tinted green....how awesome is that?! Don't they look so realistic? The holes in the back were for light blubs.
A view from the top.
Full frontal. Boo-ya! To be honest, it just about killed me. My baby (now a strapping 2 year-old) was about 5 months old, and my husband had to go out of town on a business trip the week of the festival. I had many very late nights finishing up.
This is the barn that my daughter, who was 11 at the time, made for the festival. She is horse-crazy to her very core, which is reflected in her amazing fondant horses. And before you ask, yes, she did almost everything herself (with guidance from me, of course) and we've got process pictures to prove it :) She won 3rd place in her age category, 11-17 year-olds. Awesome!!
Fondant horses, Rice-Krispie-treat-shrub-and-chocolate-covered-pretzel fence to keep the critters where they're supposed to be, and some lovely Tootsie-Roll window boxes in front of butterscotch candy windows.
Every barn needs a hay loft.