Gingerbread Houses

Jacquelin Goodnight, Grandma Jackie, is Emily’s paternal grandmother. She was born in Washington, D.C. in the 1920’s and is considered a true Washingtonian. There are actually not many of those as the Washington, D.C. area is rather transient. Jackie was also born an identical twin and raised by her aunt and uncle. Her story is very interesting but will have to be another blog post.

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Grandma Jackie spoke fondly of her own childhood traditions and those she saw and embraced as she and her young family traversed the world on assignment with the United States State Department from 1959 to 1973 which I will save for another day and time.

She particularly loved the Germanic traditions. As I also grew up with many of the Germanic traditions celebrated in my family with my father being a German immigrant, the merging of our families was easy and there were many traditions and interests that Jackie and I shared.

Once Grandma Jackie began having grandchildren she became a champion of traditions in our homes and families. Making gingerbread houses is a tradition in many homes. Some families have elaborate competitions made of castles, Victorian villages, complete with judges and prizes.

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Grandma Jackie wasn’t looking for elaborate or fancy, however her selections were not always easy or accommodating.

One year she found gingerbread molds and thought it would be great sport to get the grandchildren together to make gingerbread houses together. While assembling and decorating would be something everyone could do together, mixing and baking the molds would be impossible unless done in advance.

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I mixed and baked the molds in advance so that on gingerbread party day, each family would have their own house to assemble and decorate. These molds were extremely heavy, difficult to use, and more difficult to assemble. In the end, I do not even believe we ever successfully made a single house using one of the molds. However, that was 23 years ago and frankly my memory fails me except to tell you that I have kept and moved these extremely heavy molds for 23 years in off chance that some chef will arise from the gene pool looking for these molds longing to bake tiny creations for the next generation. Today I decided to weigh them and discovered that together they weigh 13.8 pounds without anything in them. Rather ridiculous if you think about it really!

Kids really do not care how much time you spend baking their gingerbread or if you throw your back out doing it for that matter. They don’t intend to eat the gingerbread house once it has sat out on the counter for weeks anyway.

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In the meantime, we found the greatest thing since sliced bread at World Market this year. The completely assembled gingerbread house. For $19.99, now $13.99, this gingerbread kit comes with everything one would ever need to decorate a gingerbread house.

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Emily and I sat with her two little cousins and all the candy we could find that no one wants to eat from Halloween, sprinkles, gummy this, and chewy that, we divided the icing into two Ziploc bags and the rest is history. The girls each decorated half the roof and two sides of the house. The decorated house sits proudly in my kitchen with all things gingerbread and once edible (now sprayed and kept for posterity).

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We honor Grandma Jackie each holiday season by bringing out all of her special Christmas items that she held dear. Some were old and part of her childhood. Other items she purchased on her journeys around the world. Still others were procured as she watched her grandchildren grow. Jackie we love and miss you. We celebrate your life especially during the Christmas season which you loved so very much.

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