Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

Gingerbread Extravaganza 2014 December 10, 2014

This weekend I hosted our ninth annual gingerbread extravaganza. In our senior year of college, my roommates Jill and Bethany created a gingerbread house, and somehow it has turned into an annual tradition. Months of planning are now involved since we’re scattered across the Midwest and East Coast. Thankfully since we’ve done this for nine years we know exactly what candy to buy. Our new edition this year was creating a shared Pinterest board so we each could add fun decorating ideas or potential patterns.

Back in October we selected a theme and then scoured the internet for patterns and decorating ideas. This year we decided on a beach theme. Jill usually bakes all of the gingerbread in advance, but since she was traveling from Boston we decided it might be better if I made all of the gingerbread. Luckily a few weekends ago I was able to carve out time to create our three buildings that included a lighthouse, beach yacht club and beach house. Unfortunately I didn’t know that dashed lines meant you were supposed to connect the pieces before you cut out the shape…which lead to an interesting beach house for Jill. I also forgot to make people, but as you’ll see we supplemented by smushing out Starbursts.

Jill flew in Friday night and we got straight to work building the houses. My gingerbread expanded a little so we ended up using a sharp bread knife to help even out some of the connection points. Utilizing our soup and pasta sauce cans for support, our buildings were nice and solid by the next morning.


Bethany arrived on Saturday to begin the best part, the decorating stage!We spent the entire morning and afternoon creating our masterpieces. Since Jill wasn’t going to take her house on the plane, she and I decided to build our houses on the same board. Here’s the finished product.


Even Matt got involved this year! He built an awesome platform for Bethany’s yacht club. As payment he requested lights and or some sort of fireworks on next year’s houses. That might help us to decide on a theme for next year. Guess you’ll have to wait and see what we come up with in 2015!



Gingerbread and Boston December 18, 2013

The 7th annual gingerbread village creation took place this past weekend. This year’s event took a little more coordination than in previous years, because we met up in Boston. As you may recall from a previous post, my best friend Jill moved out to Boston this past spring. Naturally, Bethany, Jill and I wanted to keep the tradition going since we’ve been doing this for seven years!

Bethany and I booked our flights in October and once again we divided up the candy list. We did quite well this year except we forgot sugar cones for our evergreen trees. But that didn’t stop our creativity. We had lots of marshmallows and used those to create shrubberies and an igloo.

By now, we’ve got our schedule down to a science, Friday night after Bethany and I landed and ate a tasty dinner Jill made we got right to work on making our foundations. Jill whipped up an excellent batch of icing and none of us had any major issues in putting up our walls and roofs. The next morning proved to be a little more interesting.

After breakfast we got to work on decorating. Jill’s general store had an awning that proved to be quite difficult. But after some finagling of soup cans and other small cans, she made a support system that would eventually allow her candy canes to take over. Check out the gallery of gingerbread images to see all of the final products.

As for mine and Bethany’s we didn’t have any problems at all. Bethany and Jill were even impressed by my decorating skills. Usually I’m the first one done by about two hours and this year I was last! I think they tricked me though because they gave me the biggest building….

We finished decorating Saturday night just in time for dinner. Jill and her husband Jaz took us to Boston Burger Company. Jill got the Artery Clogger, Bethany the Hot Mess and Jaz and I both got the Run Down. Burgers were delicious. The place also had a nice variety of local beers. To pair with mine, I got a blood orange wheat beer by Somerville Brewing Company. The only bad thing that happened during dinner was that Bethany and my flight got canceled. Luckily, thanks to smart phones we were able to transfer our ticket to a later flight. Phew! Once that was sorted out it was time for dessert next door at J.P. Licks for some tasty ice cream. I enjoyed a small cup of eggnog ice cream that was simply delicious.

The next day Bethany met up with her sister and Jill and I went exploring in downtown Boston. Check out the Boston gallery to see all of the different places we visited and all the snow we trudged through. Here’s a bulleted list of what we accomplished in just a little under three hours:

  • The Old State House

  • Site of the Boston Massacre

  • Saw the Old South Meeting House

  • Went to Faneuil Hall

  • Ate lunch at the Faneuil Hall Market Place (I enjoyed a bread bowl of clam chowder soup)

  • Walked around Boston Commons and saw the Capitol Building

  • Picked up amazing cannoli’s at Mike’s Pastry

  • Went to a ridiculously large Christmas ornament store and bought two ornaments

  • Walked out to Boston Harbor (but didn’t throw any tea overboard)

  • Explored a small corner of Harvard University

We accomplished a lot in a half day but there is still more to see. Guess I better start planning my next trip back to Boston!

Gingerbread 2013 Gallery!

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A few images from trekking around a snowy Boston.

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7th Annual Gingerbread Extravaganza December 12, 2012

Last weekend was our annual gingerbread extravaganza. This year’s location was Bethany’s in Indiana. Fortunately the weather cooperated and made for an easy short drive for me!

As you read in last week’s post, I was in charge of making the gingerbread. Which after some practice, actually turned out pretty decent. (Even by Jill’s standards!) We each had to pick up a few candy items as well. As you can see we had just a little candy to decorate all of our houses.

This year was marked by a few interesting hiccups. When I packed for the trip, I placed each house in its own bag because I try to be organized. As we were getting ready to start, we unloaded the bags and low and behold, I totally forgot to make Bethany’s roof. Time for a quick trip to Jewel! We picked up Crisco and molasses and headed back to the house for some backing. Then we also picked up a gingerbread cookie cutter to make some people for the houses since Bethany didn’t have one and Jill and I both forgot ours.

Another hiccup came when we realized that Bethany doesn’t have a Kitchen Aid mixer like Jill and I do, so we were reduced to making the icing using an awesome hand mixer. It was a great workout. The last hiccup was the actual icing. We’re sure it was either the 10-year-old cream of tartar or the fact that we couldn’t get the icing to lose its shine due to tired arms that it wasn’t quite as cement-like as it should have been. But that didn’t stop us.

With the house smelling festive after baking the gingerbread, we finally were ready to start. Bethany got out all of her soup cans for us to begin icing and making sure our buildings wouldn’t collapse. The cans definitely helped since our icing was not solidifying. Luckily, we were still able to get everything done Friday night.
Saturday was dedicated to decorating. Once the Pandora Christmas station was playing and breakfast was over, we worked straight through until about 4PM. Once again I was delegated to tree making and Bethany to the fine decorating of the faces on the gingerbread men. We finished a little earlier than normal because I made smaller houses than Jill had in previous years. I think they all turned out very well.

Despite our hiccups, we managed just fine. Plus we had a great time catching up and thinking of ideas for next year’s extravaganza. What do you think? Check out the gallery below!


Making Gingerbread December 5, 2012

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 3:00 pm
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All the gingerbread ready to go!

All the gingerbread ready to go!

Jill asked my last week if I would make the gingerbread for our annual gingerbread house extravaganza. Knowing she is up to her eyeballs in planning and organizing her wedding that is less than a month away, I gladly said yes.

Last weekend Jill sent me her recipe and different house templates. So I got my grocery list together and went shopping. Note: you can usually find the molasses in the syrup aisle, not the baking aisle.

With supplies in hand, I got to work looking at the templates Jill sent. Unfortunately only one of the links had the actual downloadable templates that I could cut out. So thanks to Google I found another two templates. Getting back to my first grade roots, I cut out the templates following the dotted lines.

Next it was time to make the gingerbread. Things were going pretty smooth in the beginning. But as I was adding the flour I noticed that the consistency wasn’t exactly elastic. Knowing this probably wasn’t right, I called Jill right away and described the dry dough to her. Yep, we had a problem. I had to toss the whole batch. Jill recommended reading the tips at the bottom of the recipe. Apparently I need to add less flour and not pack it in to the measuring cup.

Round two went better. I was able to get half a house cut and baked. But I was still running into the problem of the dough drying out. So I decided to cut the batch in half. This worked out perfectly. The dough did not get dry and stayed elastic. I was able to cut and bake the remaining two and half houses in no time.

Making gingerbread was a learning experience. Usually I’m pretty good at following a recipe and not having any problems. Guess I was due for a problem! Although I’m happy to say that I was able to solve the problem thanks to Jill and a little creative thinking. However, I think next year I’m going to ask Jill to take back gingerbread making duties.


Christmas A Little Early November 9, 2011

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 8:00 pm
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Each year, more and more, I feel that Thanksgiving gets the shaft. I even wrote a post about the Forgotten Holiday last year. And yet, much to my dismay, I have a confession to make. I have already listened to Christmas music and I made my gingerbread house.

I know you’re thinking, how? Why? Where’s your will power? To my defense, there is a very good reason.  The early holiday cheer was due to the fact that my best friend Jill is leaving for Australia for the next three months.

As you may recall, myself, Jill, and our college roommate Bethany get together around the holidays every year for a gingerbread extravaganza.  This summer we realized if we wanted to continue the tradition we would have to bump up the holiday tradition to pre-Thanksgiving. Not willing to give up on this winter classic, we agreed to the first weekend in November for our extravaganza.

This year’s host was appropriately Jill, as it offered an opportunity for us to say good-bye before her trip.  As usual, before the event we divided and conquered the candy and decorating list. Despite her ridiculous busy schedule, Jill found time to bake the gingerbread, found new templates for our buildings, and made the icing for us.

Friday night we got right to work. We built our foundations with lots of icing and found solid structural support from soup cans. This left us in great shape for a full day of decorating on Saturday. The only time we stepped away from the houses was to grab dinner and extra icing supplies from the grocery store.

Below is this year’s gingerbread village, comprised of a manger scene by Jill, an epic farmhouse by Bethany and a barn by yours truly.

2011 Gingerbread Village

I’m really glad we were able to continue this tradition, despite Pandora only knowing five Christmas songs that kept getting repeated. All in all, it was a blast and hopefully next year we’ll be able to do it again and have it be more appropriately timed.


Gingerbread Extravaganza December 15, 2010

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 9:50 pm
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Last week I shared one of my favorite holiday traditions with my family. This week it’s all about the gingerbread.

The annual tradition of the gingerbread creation extravaganza dates back to my senior year in college when my two sorority sisters and roommates, Jill and Bethany decided to make a gingerbread house. From that year forward, we’ve kept our tradition by picking a date in December where we can all gather for a weekend and turn mounds of icing, candy and gingerbread into a masterpiece.

Each year, the location rotates between our respective homes in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. Emails fly back in forth about who’s bringing what type of candy, eggs, powdered sugar, coconut and soup cans for “building support”. And the most important – what type of buildings are we making! Are we going to tackle houses, a train station, shops, post office, or a village hall??

We’ve learned a few technical and creative things over the years –

• Props to Jill for refining the recipes for gingerbread and icing each year.
• Remembering to put the houses together and let them dry over night before decorating.
• Too much candy and coconut is always better than not enough.
• Our creative cleverness has also expanded to making birdbaths from gumdrops and bushes from marshmallows. ..it always amazes me with what we come up with!

Thanks to Bob “Villa” according to Jill, we went with different types of houses this year. Bethany undertook the Victorian manor, Jill mastered the colonial house and I was left with the simple salt house.

I love the annual gingerbread creation extravaganza. It’s a time where I can catch up with my friends, drink wine, and think outside the box of candy.

Right to Left - the victorian, salt and colonial houses


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