Sunday, December 23, 2012

All-natural gingerbread house making!

Is this a huge tray of yummy treats for little LC to eat up? Um...no. These are for the decorations!
 

One of the activities we squeezed into our busy holiday schedule was to attend a gingerbread house decorating workshop. They supplied each family with a gingerbread house (already assembled) + a ton of all-natural goodies (popcorn, Shredded Wheat, Cheerios, granola, dried cranberries, dried pineapple rings, pretzel rods, candy cane, gingerbread snowmen, milk chocolate and white chocolate melts, chewy fruit stars etc.) Plus, 3 icings: white, pink (was it supposed to be red?) and green.


While older kids and parents could use the cut pastry bag easily enough to put on the icing...a 4 year old needs to use something else (icing was coming out of the top of the bag). Since there were no other tools available... ten minutes into the session, I suggested that LC use pretzel rods to apply icing...and she agreed.





Isn't the roof lovely?...LC decided to center the pineapple ring and then put the chocolate melts around it.



Can you spot the broken off piece of candy cane that was added to the side of the house?





They went out of their way to supply everyone with a ton of stuff, so the cost of the workshop was actually a bargain, $30 per family. I can't believe people are paying like $95 for similar workshops in NYC. I did let LC eat half a candy cane while we were there (as you can see in the above photo)...I had to break off half, so she could have a smaller piece that would fit on the house (I ignored the battle between the mom and boy at our table, after he saw LC eating it and wanted to indulge as well).

LC had decorated her first gingerbread house at home and she had a blast at this workshop, as well...but I preferred doing it at home because of these reasons:

* Yes, I appreciated that all the ingredients were natural - no corn syrup or artificial colors etc. but the colored icing and the gingerbread house itself didn't taste very good...so LC and I ate some of it later at home, but we threw out the rest.

* The icing had an odd consistency to it...very thick and it didn't stick very well...this made decorating difficult, especially for the vertical sides of the house.

* After LC used the pretzel rods to apply icing for twenty minutes...the boy sitting next to her (7-9 years old) stated "you're using a pretzel to put that stuff on the house?!" and then he started to do the same thing...which was cool. Five minutes later, a dad (with a girl too young for this project, so he ended up doing a majority of the decorating) told the boy "that's the best idea I ever saw! you're using the pretzel like a paint brush! What a great idea you had!" So, the boy responded "yeah, I thought it would be a good idea, it works good" and his mom said to him "he loves your idea! you came up with the best idea! you're so creative and resourceful." I kept my mouth shut...but I was sitting there thinking...hmmm...this boy is ready for the corporate world, since the most successful people in companies take credit for other people's ideas, ha...I had it happen to me enough times during my career.

* It would have been nice to have another table set up in the room, so we could all be spread out more. They had so many containers and trays...that one tray, full of snacks, nearly fell into my lap because the dad next to us inadvertently pushed it along when he was putting his arms down on the table. He also kept licking his fingers to get the frosting off (this project ended up way more messy than any of us planned and I wish there were aprons), he almost touched our candy several times (it would be kinda gross to have LC eat candy later if a stranger's saliva was on it). I was thrilled to get outside after this workshop ended. This experience made the idea of forest kindergarten, held outdoors...without a ceiling or walls, seem great! If I became rich, I would buy extra tickets everywhere we go to guarantee that the chair next to us is empty. Breathing room is taken for granted in places like the beautiful beach town we left in Cali. NYC is so darn overcrowded, including the schools.

* One of the challenges in NYC...when raising a child to * not * be competitive nor concerned about being perfect...is the fact that a majority of parents don't agree with that approach. They are constantly telling their children to do everything well and to be best in the group. So, the mom at our table told the poor boy that he has to keep working on the gingerbread house, even though he said he was done. She was being critical and kept pushing him to get it just right...and then pitching in...painstakingly lining things up. He had a stressed out expression on his face. The guy running the workshop went by the table and said to the boy "your house looks amazing" and then his mom said loudly "did you hear that!? it looks AMAZING! isn't that wonderful, he thinks your house looks amazing! you're doing the best job!" Um, chilax, it's just a gingerbread house; this is supposed to be fun. (If gingerbread houses are so important to these parents...you can understand what the dreaded admissions process is like for private schools in NYC.)

I'm proud LC decorated this on her own, as she stated she wanted to do, and focused on enjoying the process...not worrying about the end-product. But the messages she gets in this culture...made her ask "do you care if this isn't perfect?" and I said "no, it doesn't matter to me, at all, I just want you to have fun decorating it." Who cares if anyone else praises her or not...the most important person in the world (to her) is accepting her as she is...just the way she is...and not comparing her to others. I feel sorry for the kids who don't have that at home.

The guy running the workshop did a super job packaging up the gingerbread houses in large, plastic bags that made it easy to take home!