It’s been a pretty epic “baking” season around here this season!
I’ve had this card idea for a long time – in fact, I think it might be the first card idea that I started mulling over while I was working on another card. You might remember that last year’s card was mostly black and white, save for a pale yellow moon. I loved that card, but when I was in the thick of it I remember craving color. I knew that this year’s card needed to be bright and cheerful.
One of the traditions in our house is to pack our holiday themed books away with our decorations, and so those books get rediscovered every year when we pull out the ornaments and lights. The first book that F always requests to “read” is The Gingerbread Architect – which is really a cookbook that my parents gave me years ago. We’ve studied the pages and directions for years and years, and every year F asks if we could PLEASE make one this year. It’s one of those tasks that feels so daunting to me – not the ease of a house kit you can pick up at the grocery store, but rolling and cutting and baking building components… and then the assembly! So I always defer it to another year, and then another. Reading the book seems so much simpler! But the idea of creating a gingerbread house card stuck with me, and then earlier this fall my sister-in-law texted us a picture of the candy ornaments she had purchased for my niece’s memorial tree.
The sparkly sweet treats sealed the deal for me. I knew that this was the right card idea for the year, and I started sketching out ideas and lists right away.
I started over Thanksgiving, and moved my little cutting mat around with me to wherever the people were. By now they are used to me slicing away while we hang out. I made a quick mock-up, and assessed the numbers required.
There are 110 green Life Savers “dipped” in three toned green sprinkles. I thought I could literally dip them by adding glue and pressing them into a pile of paper sprinkles. I hated the way it looked, so I glued 30-40 individual sprinkles on each wreath. It was the first of many road blocks! There are also 110 extra plain green Life Savers on the card. (Fun fact: it’s hard to get the little hole perfectly centered in the middle – if it’s a little off it doesn’t look like a Life Saver. So the rejects became the wreaths, and that’s why I ended up with extra candy on the side. Basically I was 50% accurate with the middle punch!) Baking twine bows – so tiny! – added the perfect finishing touch.
Next I moved onto the Twizzler cornices. I ate a lot of Twizzlers as research. I settled on this textured red paper, and then freehand cut wavy strips that I glued on top to create the ridges. Once I got it right, this felt like my finest achievement. There were some really bad prototypes along the way.
But the most epic component is the sparkly candy mansard roof. This came directly from the Second Empire (Victorian Era) house in The Gingerbread Architect. In that example they use candied sour strips – almost like a gum, but with two tones of blue stripes, that they hand cut and overlapped to look like the slate shingles. It’s our favorite thing in the whole book. I thought about scalloped rows of paper, but cutting intricate curves like that wrecks a lot of blades, and seemed time prohibitive and frustrating. So the idea of punching dots out seemed like a good one!
Another fun fact: there are 8,470 dots on these cards – 7 rows of 11 dots times 110 cards. Lots of punching, and a whole lot of gluing, one row at a time. I worked on this every night for over a week. It was soothing and relaxing and really kind of fun. But by the last night I was ready to move on.
I do love how they turned out.
Next, I made 110 cookie sheets by gluing turned edges to two ends. I liked the idea of the cookie sheet because it gave me a base for the card, and it added a little more sparkle.
The most excited I got was when I thought about using actual parchment paper on the cookie sheets under the houses. I really tried to come up with a way to treat the windows of the house to make them look like translucent candy, but never liked any of the results. But the parchment paper made the holes in the house look a little more polished, and I thought the curled up edges would be cool.
Guess what? Parchment paper is designed not to stick to anything! Who knew? So after gluing over 1/3 of them and sandwiching them between cookbooks to dry, I discovered they just slid back off. So I ended up cutting three holes in each one to “sandwich” the parchment between the cookie and the sheet – and filled each hole with a lot of glue and possibly a few prayers. I then promptly forgot that non-stick issue when I glued the gingerbread snowflakes on, so you probably have a loose snowflake floating in your envelope somewhere! Just tack it back on with a dot of glue!
My least favorite part was the gingerbread cornice, but I knew I needed some depth for some snow and icicles. I think it’s one of the best parts of the finished product.
Not the gumdrop buttons!! (Just a favorite family movie reference there!) Gumdrop bushes seemed like a good idea in front of the house, icing snow covered, of course.
Final details were SO MUCH FUN. I used several kind of white pens, plus puffy paint for the dimensional icing snow. I briefly panicked thinking about how I knew they would stick a bit to the envelopes, even after fulling curing. But I think they’ll be fine. Once I send them out they aren’t in my control anymore. There’s a lot of love and care and attention on the inside, and I hope that the recipients know it and feel it when they open them, imperfections and all. I tucked a quick baking tag in, and liked the alliteration of our street name and our house style.
This card celebrates so many things that are on my mind during this season. It incorporates favorite traditions and has so many little nods to family and friends and past projects and future projects that I haven’t even detailed here. It was a busy season in so many ways for our family, but once again I found the time to be creative and connect with others in a way that fills me up for another year. I hope it says that we love you and miss you and think of you often. That home is intricate and complicated and layered, but mostly sweet. This card is best viewed next to twinkly lights, it’s delicious with coffee (let’s grab some together!), and it looks particularly great lined up in rows and rows like a neighborhood / city / region – the community that I know and appreciate and love and desire to work with and strengthen and make better.
Happy Holidays and Best Wishes in 2019 from our family to yours. I really hope it’s a sweet one. xo, Kristin