Sunday, 11 January 2015

Another New Year???

Wow - these new years come around faster and faster.  It doesn't seem possible that here we are in another one.  2015!  Hope it's a happy and healthy one for all of you.

It's hard to defend my inability to post a single annual post and I won't waste any time trying.  So without further ado here is the (something like) annual Gingerbread House post.

The construction team gathered on a chilly Sunday afternoon in December.  I'd had a morning of mini disasters preparing the gingerbread - I broke a side piece by dropping a tin of coffee on it (I was putting the coffee tin away).  It was the first time in the 23 years of gingerbread house making that I'd had to replace a piece - so I took that broken piece in my stride.

But then I burned the replacement! And by burned I mean I properly burned it to a charcoal mess. What was happening?  Had I lost my touch?

But happily the third time was the charm and I finally had a full set of house pieces.  When the construction crew arrived I was ready for the company and the first glass of fizz!

After a bit of chat we settled on a ski chalet (and mountain!) as this year's theme.

Our youngest construction workers (Louis 12 3/4 and Mads 14) came up with the idea of using Cadbury chocolate fingers to give the chalet a log cabin look.  I think it looks fantastic -

and it's set off nicely by the wrap around deck built by Pat, Gen and Louis.  It was finished off with a couple of outdoor tables for the really hardy snow lovers.

And how cute are the little window boxes with flowers that Caroline added?

Of course a chalet can't be a ski chalet unless there is a nearby mountain!

Thankfully marshmallows and rice crispies (regular and multi grain) make great mountains.

And with a bit of Suzy magic you can create a wonderful ski (and snowboard!) slope.

This friendly little skier has just finished his last run for the day and is heading in for a drink.

While this poor little skier is waiting to be dug out!!!!

What caused the unfortunate incident??  Well, there were no witnesses but.....

...perhaps he caught sight of this rather spooky looking guy following him!!!

The chair lift, and slope flags were all made by Pat (our oldest construction worker!) and Louis (our youngest!)

With a nod to Pat's Canadian roots (and mine!) there is a little Canadian flag atop Mount Gingerbread.  (I just named the mountain right this second under pressure. Had I given the job to the crew on the day I'm sure it would have been something witty.)

Occasionally during gingerbread house decorating someone will become obsessed with an idea - and persevere at that idea long past the time of any reasonable chance of success.  This year that person was Shirl.  Bless her, she arrived determined to make a swan.

Unfortunately I hadn't bought any modelling fondant so she had to resort to marshmallows.  Perfect for mountains... a bit less predictable for swans.

But as proof that our gingerbread house building isn't about perfection -- that swan provided more laughs that Sunday afternoon than anything else!

The recipe of good friends, more sugar than should be legal, fizz, pizza and the Grinch guarantees a great afternoon.  We've been doing this for 23 years now and the only thing I can say is --  long may the tradition continue!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

....and 12 months later...

I'm back!

Once upon a time I called my gingerbread house post my 'annual non-knitting post'.  I think it's safe to say we can shorten that now to my 'annual post'.

Many thanks to those of you who have gotten in touch over the year to see how I am and ask about whether I'm knitting and if I'll be back to blogging.   I can answer a definite yes to the knitting question - although I've found myself sewing a lot more this year and my love of paint, paper and glitter continues to grow.

But on to the reason for this post -- I present the 2013 Gingerbread House!

It always surprises me what 5 adults and 4 mini-Coopers - given gallons of icing, a sleigh full of sweets, a few bottles of fizz, and lots of laughter - can do.

This year we decided to build a country pub  which we named the Four Loons for the four mini-Coopers (not so mini anymore - little Louis, at 11 3/4 is the only one shorter than me.  Marvellous Mads, scrumptous Suzy and gorgeous Gen all tower over me).

Mads created the bar with draught beer pumps, and the bottles of spirits on the wall behind the bar.

Suzy created the elf bartender to complete the scene.

Caroline provided a couple of picnic tables for hardy visitors who want to enjoy their beer, egg and chips outside.

Genevieve or Caroline made this jolly snowman....

...and whoever didn't make that one, made this slightly less jolly version at the side of the tavern... the see-saw created by Louis.

At the side of the pub you can see the kegs stacked up for loading into the pub cellar.

And I love Santa's feet poking out of the chimney!

Behind the pub there's a skating rink, a bench ...

....and a mysterious abandoned pair of ice skates.

Which leads to the question you've probably been asking yourself?  WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE?  Why have the pints of beer and meals been abandoned?  Where are the ice skaters?  Why did they leave their skates?

And the answer can only be...  DALEKS!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who - a UK television institution and Louis' favourite show.  So in honour of this landmark, Daleks are attacking the pub.

Louis and Suzy created these Daleks and I have to say that despite my best efforts these photos do not do them justice.

They are true masterpieces of confectionary.

Luckily we can see that the TARDIS has just landed (for those of you uninitiated it's the blue Police Box the Doctor travels in) and I expect Doctor Who will sort out the Daleks before they can EX-TERM-I-NATE anyone.

Finally, regular gingerbread house viewers will know that Pat (the big Cooper) pretty much always takes the gingerbread house in an unexpected direction.  And this year was no different.

Pat arrived on Sunday determined to include the HS2.

For those of you not in the UK HS2 is a proposed high speed train link between London and cities in the North which is coming under a lot of criticism as it will cost a gazillion pounds, and not everyone is convinced it's justified by the benefit of taking 20 minutes off the time for a rail journey from London to Birmingham.

As you can see our version -  HS2.5 extends all the way to the North Pole.

Pat's second construction is this wind turbine.  Wind turbines are loved for being alternative energy sources, and hated by pretty much anyone who has one near their home.

And how cute is that tree with the little presents. Maybe that's what the Daleks were after.  Afterall there is NO WAY Daleks are ever making Santa's 'nice' list.

But every gingerbread house comes to an end and when my merry band of gingerbread artists leave I take stock of my kitchen.  My poor kitchen, where every surface is coated with a thin layer of icing sugar, and my sticky floor is covered in broken sweets and pretzels.

I take it all in, sigh and think how incredibly lucky I am to have this tradition and these amazing people in my life.

If you made it this far - thanks for stopping by and being part of it all.  However you are celebrating the season I wish you all peace and joy.

I'm off to Canada for Christmas and can't wait!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Gingerbread - 2012 Style

I had to blow the dust off this poor neglected blog to get this post started, and I would be wondering if anyone bothers to stop by anymore - except that 'anonymous' (who I strongly suspect is my sister Donna) posted a comment a couple of days ago that it would be nice to see this year's gingerbread creation.

So I know at least one person is still out there!!

In a quick recap of my crafty year - I'm still knitting of course - lots of novelty animals and stuff this year, scarves and a few pairs of socks.  

I spent a couple of months dreading the Olympics and the inevitable traffic disasters.. and then from the first moment of the opening ceremonies became entirely obsessed with all things Olympic and like every other Londoner fell in love with whole thing.  I watched it every single moment I could and was lucky enough to be there when Usain Bolt won 100m gold.  And no travel chaos!!! 

I didn't want it to end and I consoled myself with more crafting and rediscovered my sewing machine.  Without really intending to, I found myself making a quilt - it's lovely (she says modestly) but contains more than a few pretty basic mistakes.

But of course it's this year's gingerbread house that 'anonymous' was looking for so I better get on with it!

After last year's Who-ville masterpiece (embarrassingly, I don't even have to link to it - it's two posts ago if you are interested) I was feeling a bit of pressure when it came to picking a theme.  There was a lot of interest in an Olympics gingerbread display but I thought that recreating the stadium might be tricky(!) and I really, really like snow on my gingerbread house.  So I vetoed that and decided to go for the snowiest place I could think of - Santa's workshop.

The Coopers (Pat, Caroline and the 4 minis - Gen, Suzy, Mads and Louis) arrived late Sunday morning a week ago and we set to work planning the general layout.  They embraced the theme and quickly decided we needed elves on the inside of the house at work, and a conveyor belt bringing the presents from inside the house out to Santa's sleigh.  

From there we were off!

I really love the help wanted sign - although clearly UK employment law would never permit the bit in parenthesis.  Apparently employment lawyers have not yet hit the North Pole.

 The elves are hard at work inside the workshop, warmed by the roaring fire (Mads made that) ....

...preparing presents to send out to the sleigh through the conveyor belt door.

(These photos were taken before we put the roof on.)

Outside of the workshop, Gen added a solitary elf ice fishing (even elves gotta eat, although I don't think Santa got that figure from a fish diet)....

... and behind the elf you can see the conveyor belt is full of presents ready for loading into the sleigh.  

I hadn't noticed while we were building the house but only the sack of coal has actually made it into the sleigh.  I'm not sure what the meaning behind that is - perhaps there is a mini Cooper worried about what list they're on!!

Suzy created this great Santa and Rudolph, and the sleigh was a joint effort by Pat and Louis.

Of course, where you have reindeer, you have a reindeer feeding station, and reindeer - errrr - droppings.  

Our gingerbread creations are nothing if not sophisticated!

Although I vetoed the idea of an Olympics theme, I did suggest that a 'nod' to the Olympics would be ok.  And from this little display I think it's clear that Santa was a bit of a team GB supporter!  I think that explains their phenomenal performance!!

Tom Daley apparently trains at the North Pole (why not?).  Here he's at the top of the diving platform waving to his adoring audience (the little green elf).  

...and a pair of swimming trunks are floating in the pool - lost by some poor diver who we can only assume is in hiding while he looks for something to wear.

A bird bath, some trees and a lumpy but adorable snowman (Caroline's annual addition) finished the exterior.

The mini-Coopers are pretty grown up now - Louis is the youngest at 10 3/4 years old.  They are all quite expert in the art of building with sweets and their creativity amazes me.  But adult or 10 3/4, we all enjoy watching the Grinch (animated version) and Charlie Brown's Christmas while the roof sets on the house.
For those of you who wonder what happens to the gingerbread house - well, the following Sunday afternoon  the Coopers have a Christmas party.  While the adults enjoy minced pies and some mulled wine the children stare longingly at the house until towards the end of the party when they are gathered into the playroom, the house is placed in front of them and they are allowed to tuck in.  This year the demolition took about 4 seconds.   

Thanks to anyone who is still out there and made it through this crazy long post!  Wishing you all the best for the holiday season!!!