That whole house is sticky now

When my girls were little (and when they were bigger too) we always had a Gingerbread Party.  It used to be that we’d fill up the house with people, and food, and music, and I’d bake a couple hundred gingerbread cookies, and make a few pounds of royal icing (that kind that gets hard when it dries) and then we’d just make merry all over the place while my gingerbread cookies got decorated by littles and big ones alike.  It’s been a few years since we did it now.  With no real littles around, the tradition seemed silly to the big kids I think, and I’d invite them and we’d try to make it happen and they’d say no, because it was gingerbread and what self respecting young person trying to assert themselves as an adult shows up for a gingerbread party? It undermines your adulthood.

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In my secret heart through, I really, truly believed that I wasn’t the only one who missed the gingerbread party. I brought it up a few years, but nobody seemed to want to – but I thought they were lying.  I had rented kids over to scratch my itch (the neighbours, and Jen provided a few) but this year I took a different tack.  I invited the family for dinner. A regular family dinner, like we do all the time, and then – I ambushed them.

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When everyone arrived, the gingerbread was laid out, icing was made and put into ziplocks to be makeshift piping bags (they actually work really, really well) and from there, instinct took over.

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It was a wonderful evening.  Music was made, dumb reindeer songs were sung, Lou decorated his first gingerbread, and everyone got into it. I’d go into the kitchen to lay out more food (the food – holy cats they demolished it all) and come back out to find someone else had sidled up to the table and was having a go.  People came and went from the table, but the die hards -the ones who decorated the most and had the biggest fun, were the young men. Exactly the ones who shrink back in horror when you suggest such a thing.

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The older men didn’t have a terrible time either, and my mum and Joe’s were happier than I can tell you.  It reeked of good, clean fun.  When the night was over, and the last gingerbread decorated, and the house tidied, I sat on the chesterfield and had a good, long smirk.

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I knew they would love it.  Sneak attack gingerbread  party.  One of my better plans, and worth the sacrifice of the knitting time.  They’ll remember this more than whether or not I finished their mittens.

What did Luis hang today?

El jersey.  (That’s an easy one to learn in Spanish, isn’t it?)

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I knit this one almost to the pattern (although I admit to changing the shoulder shaping, and the pattern on the yoke, so it would match the hat. WHAT.  I thought it should be a set) and Joe used a paperclip to make a tiny little hanger.

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I know that a sweater isn’t something that would thrill Lou (and that likely explains it’s late arrival on the tree) but it was intended as a little homage to the many sweaters I’ve knit him.  I am the sweater Auntie, and when he’s bigger, maybe he’ll think of the sweaters I’ve made him over the years, keeping him warm and cozy.  (More likely he’ll remember that Sam let him squirt icing straight into his mouth at the party, but I can’t compete with that.)

Gifts for knitters, Day 20

This one’s quick and dirty, easy and fast.  Personalized labels for your knitter to sew into the things they make. There’s great ones here, and charming ones here, and if labels aren’t quite your kntiter’s style, think about some personalized tags.  They all say “I’m proud of the things you make” and that’s a great message to send your knitter.

96 thoughts on “That whole house is sticky now

  1. I’m sitting here, teary eyed, wishing I had thought of this. It is hard to hold on to traditions as the kids grow, the elders pass, and the middle aged are crazy busy. I think I will borrow your ginger bread bombing next year! You continue to rock, whether knitting or just living life! Happy Holidays!

  2. Pingback: That whole house is sticky now | Yarn Buyer

  3. Love, love, love the family gathering/gingerbread decorating party idea. And yes, I think it was def worth sacrificing knitting time to make such special memories. Think I will try this with my crew next year. The girls gave up the decorating when they were working and with too busy schedules. Now they have little ones of their own and I am sure would love it if Nana had all the stuff set up for them to go at it all together!! Daughters, son-in-laws, grandkids and hubby – just wait til next year stealth party coming!

  4. Aw, I love this idea too and will consider importing it next year when my son is old enough to decorate cookies (2.5 is old enough, right? So far this year at 1.5 trying to have him color Christmas cards..not so much). My only question is can you really eat the gingerbread after decorating it with royal icing? We used that for cake decorating in 4-H growing up and I recall it being very hard and rather unpalatable, at least on cakes.

  5. Oh, this did my heart good. Thanks for these posts of your holiday prep (although really, so many of these pre-holiday occasions *are* holidays in themselves.) I enjoy these posts more than I can say.

  6. I fully understand why you are the keeper of Christmas at your house. No one else could even come close. And how sneaky, to say “Dinner is bubbling away on the stove” and never mention the couple of hundred cookies that got made along with that dinner. Memories are made of this.

  7. We used to do gingerbread cookie decorating en famille, too. Until the year the young men, giggling madly in a corner, decorated all the dancing ladies as nudes!

    • It probably says a lot about my family and our collective sense of humor that this would practically guarantee it became a family tradition.

  8. Any unattached uncles I could marry? I think I need to be part of your family. I’d promise to knit you your Christmas present every year.

  9. You are giving them all a great heritage and teaching your daughters (in an un-teachy way) things they will no doubt pass on. Love expressed in action. Brilliant!

  10. OK, you got me. Teary-eyed again. Flash mob music at the wedding, now gingerbread decorating party bombing – you definitely have a fall-back career as a family event planner. You know, if this writing thing doesn’t pan out…

  11. Would you mine sharing your gingerbread recipe? I’ve tried several on the internet, but they always end up too fluffy for the shapes. I think I could handle the royal icing, but if you want to share that too, that would be awesome.

  12. I knit a dozen or so tiny sweaters as that year’s ornament gift a few years ago (pattern from last minute knitted gifts) and my favorite thing about them was, and is, the pipe cleaner hanger!!

  13. As a long-time knitter, I have been reading your blog for a while, but this is the first time I have felt compelled to comment: the sneak gingerbread decorating party was nothing short of brilliant!! I keep trying to gather my 6 adult daughters & their families for things and the thngs keep not happening. But ambushing them … hmm … Will try soon!

  14. and yet again, MOM KNOWS BEST! Great ambush, Steph. They will hold it in their hearts always. Well played, mi amiga. <3

  15. What a wonderful idea!! And your pictures are great. Would you mind sharing your gingerbread cookie and royal icing recipes? Your pictures made me want to bake!!

  16. I was so hoping that it was going to be the gingerbread party you blogged about today. It looked like everyone was having a totally fabulous time! Love Joe’s coat hanger, that is pure genius!

  17. I keep telling my writing students who don’t title their pieces that they’re leaving money on the table, that the title can do a whole lot of work so the piece doesn’t have too. (And Pattianne Rogers points out it’s the only part you can be sure anyone’s going to read twice.) I’m going to start using you as Exhibit A.

  18. Years ago I used to help decorate gingerbread people for for a friend of mine who always had a *huge* Christmas party. After a few hours (and a fair amount of Wassail!) we degenerated into decorating anatomically correct gingerbread folk. You get these little silver balls and ….. Maybe we should have left it to the kids! LOL!

  19. I am going to have to try that, sneak attack cookie decorating. A genius idea and great fun! Plus, those personalized labels with sheep? They made me swoon with cuteness!

  20. Stealth cookie decorating. Brilliant. And, even better, even if they get wise to this plan next year, they still have plausible deniability. Who could fault someone for accepting a dinner invitation?

  21. I never comment, but I have to say you are the best. This post touched me in so many ways, as has your blog in the year I’ve been following it. Thank you so much for all you do. And Merry Christmas to you and to all of your family, near and far!

  22. So much fun. And thank you so much for the idea–whenever it may be, next time my grandchildren are in town we are so going to do that! Oh, and tell Joe, his hanger totally tops off that sweater. Adorable.

  23. OMG! Surprise cookie decorating! This is awesome on so many levels – especially anthropologically! Good work, you deserve that smirk!

  24. ,,,HMMM…Sounds like a good idea. I might just try that myself. Both my boys will be home (26 and 28) I used to do the same thing. Time to find my cookie cutters……


    • Barb, you have shared that this will be a lean Christmas for your family financially. But it sounds like it will be rich in good times and memories. And, really, that is far more important. Have a good one!

    • Skip the cleaning. I’m not kidding. Pick up the clutter, wash the dishes and wipe down the counters, but otherwise leave it. Its all getting covered in Christmas and no one sees it under all that glitter.

  25. I think you could make a go at “The Yarn Harlot Plans a Party” book with differnent themes and recipes. You do it well.

  26. Bless you, Harlot. Your posts this month have been such a bright spot of cheer in a difficult year. Thank you for sharing your merry spirit.

  27. Might have to try that here. Sneak Gingerbread Party. Great idea for piping the icing. As for squirting icing directly into the mouth (way to go, Sam), it’s right up there with my Nana letting me bite Christmas chocolates from the box, and if I didn’t like them, put it back and choose another one. Memories are the best!!

  28. What a wonderful way to stage a party! Looks like Lou and his dad had a TON of fun! Hope everyone else did, as well.

    Kudos to Joe for getting all the bends and kinks out of a paper clip to make such a perfect hanger for that small sweater! Having tried such things myself, I think this is further evidence Joe has the patience of a saint!

  29. Hi from Japan. I don’t usually leave coments but I cannot help this time. What a beautiful pictures and warm story! I wish you have merry christmas. Thanks for fun and knowledgefull blog posts always.

  30. My kid is still little (4) and last year I accidentally started a tradition of a cookie decorating party with her friends. This year I’m actually planning it, and I’m as excited for Monday as she is. And then, because I’ve figured out that no family of littles wants tons of cookies around, we’ll be delivering them (rounded out by a few non-decorated varieties of cookie) to a local nursing home on Christmas Eve for the staff working over the holiday. It may make my top five favorite bits of this Christmas, and its been a great Christmas already.

  31. Bright blessings to all! My mom and I made our traditional anise cut out cookies today… We haven’t frosted and decorated cookies for years. What fun and memories it brought back.

  32. I love the stories of your holidays. Lou looks like he’s having a blast. 🙂

    And that tiny sweater. Ye gods, that’s adorable. I think my favorite part of it might be the wee hanger.

  33. Steph, I think you have the space-time continuum licked. I am constantly amazed and impressed by the number of projects you fit into your days, and then you even have time to blog about it all!! Yowzers! Keep it up and thanks.

  34. Awesome! But how do you do it?!? Finding the time to knit, cook food, clean up, make cookies and icing? I know you knit fast, very fast, but still… I haven’t even finished buying gifts, my house is a mess, never found the time to hang the Christmas lights outside, and I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll have time to bake with my girls so it feels like Christmas…

  35. Hi Stephanie,

    Just wanted to let you know, I´ve rediscovered your blog a couple of days ago and I´ve been reading through all of your archives since then – it´s a delight. I´m probably joining a crowd, but you´re on my daily reading list from now on 🙂

  36. Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing your Christmas with all of us. It is cheering! I live in California, just me, husband and grown daughter visiting, and the rest of my family lives in Maine. It is heart-warming to participate in your more traditional festivities by proxy.

  37. I made gingerbread biscuits for the first time (well half-made, got a bit late for baking last night) must be subliminal. Looking forward to decorating mine. Have a good Christmas!

  38. Excellent tip about the ziplocks as piping bags! Our family has just lost our annual Cookie Day, as the auntie who took it on has just moved many hundreds of kms away. Now I need to make sure it happens next year 🙂

  39. Brilliant strategy :-). But as a dedicated non-kitchen-gizmos person, I’m also thrilled by the baggie idea, thanks so much!! I might reconsider my icing attitude entirely.

  40. When I was four, some family friends organized a gingerbread party, and we had lots of messy fun. This Wednesday, we are celebrating our 25th gingerbread party. Now one of the “kids” (now an architect) organizes it and does the baking, and some of the other “kids” now bring their own kids & spouses. Through the years the various creations in gingerbread have included a pirate ship, a mosh pit at a concert, the Sydney Opera House, a train engine, a cathedral (with flying buttresses!), a plane, a farm stand, a section of the Appalachian trail, and many others. It’s one of my favorite days of the year, and such a wonderful way to stay in touch with those friends.

  41. Oh, my, such a great idea for a sneak attack. :^) Even though they may have seemed reluctant, they all have new memories of old things. Even the grand-kiddos. Lovely!

  42. I just taught myself to knit (thank you YouTube!) & after starting one “sampler” scarf & completing a chair mat, I find your books AND your blog. It’s wonderful! I don’t know what I enjoy more, your sense of humor, your patterns & yarn suggestions, or your amazingly beautiful photographs. I don’t really follow anyone’s blog with the instant gratification of Pinterest and Facebook, but I enjoy yours so much, that it may be my new guilty pleasure.
    Happy new year & happy knitting,

  43. We, too,were laid low with flu and had to reinvent our celebrations. I’m just now catching up with your blog and, in honor of the old International Delurking Week tradition, finally leaving a comment. This was my most favorite of the seasonal posts. Thank you for the knitting and the stories.

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