Thursday, December 26, 2013

Advent 2013 days twenty-three and twenty-four

Day twenty-three, December 23rd

What gingerbread houses have to do with Christmas, I have no idea. But we often made them at Christmas time when I was a child, and I've done them probably half a dozen times or more with my own children, although not for a few years, because we've been trying to avoid sugar, as well as artificial colors and flavors, and my children weren't too interested in one I saw on Facebook (and now can't find an image of) built of carrot "logs" and decorated with various other vegetables. I've sometimes made somewhat elaborate patterns, sometimes more basic. About seven or eight years ago friends of ours were visiting with their five children and we decided to make gingerbread houses, and I hit on the idea of "A-frames": two triangles for the ends, two rectangles for the sides/roofs. That made it very easy to do with nine children and four adult, and we've done it that way ever since.

So I started by making enough squares (instead of rectangles, but the same idea) and triangles for five of the children and Jörn, and filled up the rest of the second baking tray with more squares and triangles (some smaller ones), then let Jacob and Konstantin have the rest of the dough to do what they liked. What they liked was a pirate ship, and Lukas ended up making a boat, as well, using some of the extra pieces. Jörn made a helicopter and Marie made a sort of treehouse. The three little girls made the intended A-frames. And I went from person to person helping "glue" stuff together, kept melting more of the couverture chocolate (white and brown) we used instead of lemon and powdered sugar (usual in Germany, but I don't like it), egg white and powdered sugar (usual in the U.S. but I'm paranoid about salmonella, even though there probably isn't any in Cyprus, and especially not in free-range eggs), or even butter-cream frosting (which is what I used to use, but which doesn't set hard and doesn't keep as long), and kept adding decorative stuff to the table and telling people to stop eating it.

The houses weren't as colorful as in the past, as I wouldn't get anything with artificial coloring. I did buy some rather expensive additive-free gummy bears and gummy worms, and rather a lot of Cadbury chocolate (buttons and fingers, neither of them officially FairTrade, but Cadbury is definitely making a serious effort to go 100% FairTrade), as well as dried cranberries to add some red and animal cookies for variety, and Jacob and Konstantin added leftover popcorn to the "sea" around their ship. Marie did made some butter-cream frosting, and some of them used some of it, but chocolate is definitely the best.

Enough rambling: the photos explain everything just fine anyway.

On the 24th we all ate Katie's house together, and on the 25th, we took Lukas's boat with us to the friends' house where we had Christmas dinner and spent all afternoon and evening. We tried to vote on whose creation to eat today (the 26th), but most people said they didn't want to eat ANY, they'd already had too much sugar!! Everyone did have hot chocolate and Spekulatius, though. (We haven't drunk milk on a regular basis for about a year and a half, either, so the two-liter bottle of milk I bought for that was also a huge treat.) Tomorrow we're going to have nearly 30 people in the house and will definitely serve up Jacob's and Konstantin's ship, and I might try to talk everyone into adding the rest of the houses to the mix.

Day twenty-four, December 24th

The activity for the final day was "make a birthday cake." Amazingly, people were already so sugared out, that nobody really cared. Marie made a half recipe, putting it into four small cake forms (two trees and two stars) and we haven't even eaten it yet, and I didn't take any photos.

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