Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Remarkable Passage Tomb known as Newgrange and our Gingerbread House (unnamed this year)

I am posting this on the winter solstice, the 21st of December, which is marked on my Canadian calendar as "First Day of Winter". Now, Canadians, I know you know a thing or two about winter but considering the inches of snow and the temperatures that have fallen well below freezing in the past few weeks, I respectfully suggest that winter starts well before the 21st of December. Also, after the 21st of December, the days start getting longer again - it's midwinter, ok?

gingerbread house, Christmas, craft, Christmas baking
Note the light passes
right through the windows above
the door just like Newgrange...
sort of
The reason I am posting this on the 21st of December is the remarkable feat of engineering I unintentionally pulled off in my building of this year's gingerbread house from scratch ( for previous year's efforts, from kits, see here). This feat of engineering clearly reflects that of the ancient builders of Newgrange, where on this winter solstice day, as the sun rises at the passage tomb , it shines through a window above the entrance to the tomb and down a narrow passage right into the central chamber. As I built this year's house, my deep Celtic roots took over and, when I took the "before" photo, I saw that I had aligned the front and back windows. I am sure that if I lined it up this morning, on my kitchen table, the sun would have shone through our front door peephole, through the windows and onto the kitchen wall where a rainbow would have been projected. However, it was Saturday today so I didn't get up to check.

Bubbly, spicy, beautifully
fragrant gingerbread mix.
Due to the fact that the gingerbread in the kits I used before was barely worth eating, I decided to bake my own gingerbread this year. I have some experience of this though I had never attempted a building project before. I used this recipe after a spot of googling. What I really liked about this recipe was that I got to mix up sugar and molasses and spices in a boiling, bubbling, fragrant pot. It also meant that the dough was warm when I was kneading it and rolling it out*. The recipe says it makes 3 fair sized gingerbread houses at some point - that is rubbish, I didn't even have enough to cut out roof pieces to allow for big overhanging eaves for mine. However, I suppose "fair sized" is subjective.

seasonal baking, Christmas baking, craft, kid's craft, decorating
Z1's side

seasonal baking, Christmas baking, craft, kid's craft, decorating
Z1's side
Well, readers, I was rather delighted with the outcome. I was a nervous builder having read and seen pictures of gingerbread houses disastrously and tragically collapsing due to the icing glue being insufficiently gluey or too slow to dry. I warned Z2 to stay away while I was attempting construction but it was a simple, painless and successful process. We passed happy moments decorating with a system whereby I squirted on the glue (royal icing - this one, as it didn't require cream of tartar which I don't have ) and the Zeds stuck on the sweeties. I foolishly bought Tic-Tacs which don't look so well but, in my defence, I thought they would be orange, not white. I rather like the marshmallow tower that Z2 built.

Sofa cushion fort
After a while, Z2 tired of his task and went to relax in his fort. Z1
Back of the house
by Z1
stuck with it and decorated the back most magnificently as well as being responsible for the beautiful and welcoming front. The completed house is now in the process of having bits broken off for Z1's lunch box and Z2's breakfast and for me whenever I get the urge. It does taste very good and has the added bonus of making the kitchen smell nice...or at least the area around the kitchen table. A true triumph, really.

* A drawback is that it seems to dry out quite quickly so it's really for immediate use.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Opting out

Festive coffee filter garland
Lazy weekends are somewhat harder to actually have at all relax and enjoy when you have delightful, enthusiastic and energetic young children. I had grand plans, one Saturday evening, to bring the Zeds swimming AND ice skating while Husband was off playing badminton. On Sunday morning, my weather app said -8C and Z1's earnest, wholesome and easy suggestion of a scoot to the nearby graveyard (it's lovely, honestly, it is- trees and peace) followed by Christmas crafts seemed like a lot of effort.
Snowflake 1
Magnificent snowflake number 2
Attempt one at crafts on this day was snowflakes from coffee filters which we made with some success last year despite being out in a cafĂ©. I had even practiced two this year and was pleased with the first one until I made the magnificent second one. However, Z1 got frustrated very easily and my attempt to follow a template without actually marking it out on the coffee filter was less than impressive. Even Z1, who is usually quite kind and enthusiastic about my efforts was not inspired.

We stopped for lunch and, afterwards, I suggested painting the coffee filters. I rarely get out the paints but I figured I could just supervise while drinking tea so it seemed like a good plan. It was. They sloshed paint about on the filters, I have a wipe clean tablecloth and they didn't fight. The stroke of genius, on my part, was deciding to string them up as a garland as it meant I didn't have to leave them on the table to dry or risk the wrath of the Zeds by putting them into the recycling (at least, not yet).

 We did not go out scooting to the graveyard.