Thursday, December 19, 2013

Our First Gingerbread Party

This past weekend, Corey and I hosted our first ever gingerbread house construction and decorating party. I am so very proud of myself for throwing it because it easily could have become just another one of my good ideas that I never follow through with. But I did follow though, and it turned out even better than I expected!

We had five couples over. They competed against each other to create the best gingerbread home. There were two rules. 1. Everything used in their creation had to be edible. 2. Though a traditional gingerbread house was not required, the finished product had to be something a gingerbread man could live in. The rest was left to their imagination and creativity.

The night before I baked the gingerbread. I found a recipe that was technically edible, but more economical than enjoyable, designed for structural purposes. It took me five grueling, labor-intensive hours to pump out four batches, totaling 48 slabs, of gingerbread. I actually broke a wooden spoon stirring the molasses-y goop and developed four blisters on each hand. I crawled into bed at 1:30am wishing I had opted for graham crackers.

It also made an astronomical mess, as you can see. I was scraping my table and floors with a spatula for days.

Corey played bartender for the evening. He poured farm fresh homemade eggnog and a cocktail he named the "Crandizzle". I laid out a dessert spread that included a gingerbread bundt cake, donut holes, peppermint Joe-Joe's, lemon crisps, cocoa batons, See's candy, and gluten free, dairy free chocolate chip cookies (to accommodate one of our guests).

The Crandizzle - Cranberry juice, vodka, & champagne with sugared cranberry ganish
Each couple began with 8 slabs of gingerbread and an assortment of edible decorations. I also set out four pounds of Royal frosting in little plastic baggies for mortar. Additional building materials and decorations were set in the center of the room on the coffee table.

There was so much candy! Corey and I had a field day at Winco in their bulk candy section. We filled bags of gumdrops, licorice, gummy bears, gummy trees, peach rings, and a ton more. I also asked everyone to bring an edible decoration of some kind to add some variety.

A time limit of an hour was set and everyone got to work. When the building began, I knew my labor the night before was worth it. The gingerbread was strong and durable yet soft enough to cut into shapes. We ended up extending the time limit because no one was even close to finished after an hour... except Will and Nina, who had a pristine gingerbread house completed within the time limit. How did they do it?!

The finished houses were all so good and all so different. I had everyone vote on the best creation.
 Corey and I built a ship with a gummy Santa captain and a gummy bear crew.

Natalie and Marc designed a home for a hobbit.Looks like a Baggins' abode to me!
Photo ever so graciously provided by Natalie Matters
Will and Nina whipped out this classic style cabin, complete with firewood under the porch and pickup truck.
Photo provided by Brittany Wallace

Juliann and Justin styled this "hobo house" lean-to into a believable dwelling.Who knew gingerbread poverty was such an issue?

Brittany and Ryan - well, mostly Brittany - came up with a modern adobe bungalow.
Photo provided by Brittany Wallace

Amber and Sean revved up this amazingly crafted and stunningly detailed van. Another politically charged exposé on gingerbread poverty. We've got to do something about this!
Photo provided by Brittany Wallace

And they won the contest! Good job guys!

The night was so fun. I definitely plan on making it an annual event.

Here's a few more photos from the evening.
My sister and her sweet boyfriend Justin. I could not have finished all the prep for the party without her coming over and helping me beforehand. Thank you again!
Two teams working hard with baby Edgar standing by. Notice our cute little three foot tree!
Me, starting in on the foundations of the ship. Juliann and Justin working on a house that would later tumble and lead them to construct the lean-to.
Ryan, Brittany, and their adorable three-week old Brooklynn.
Corey's thumb and Will and Nina, the most efficient builders of the bunch.
Amber and I at the end of the night

Thursday, November 28, 2013


I didn't expect Vivian to appreciate Christmas this year. I thought she was too young. But she is already squealing over houses adorned in lights and ogling over Great Gramma's ornaments.

Christmas will be magical once again.

This past week, my entire extended family on mom's side traveled from Florida, Texas, Washington, and Southern California to congregate here with us. We shared giant delicious meals every night and stayed up late reminiscing and catching up on each others' lives. It was first time in four and a half years that all of my siblings and I were together.

My sister is a month away from her due date. 

Corey strung lights up on the house and I dusted off the wreath and hung it on the door. Tonight we will pick out the perfect tree and decorate it. The holiday season is here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


We have been trying to introduce the baby sign for "help" so that Vivian can ask for assistance in putting on her shoes, scooping her oatmeal, and what have you. But when I offer "help", she looks at me with a furrowed brow and pouted lip - almost insulted, like how dare I take away her independence. Help is the last thing she wants.

Today we were exploring downtown Roseville (as we often do when we go to work with Corey) when she started pointing and shrieking excitedly towards some cement stairs leading up to a house. It actually was an architect's office. (I only know because Corey networked their computers when they moved in.) "You want to climb up those steps?" Nodding and giggling, she squirmed out of my arms as we approached the stairs.

It was only seven steps high. But then again, she's only about two feet tall. From her view down there, the staircase was a towering feat to conquer. Up she went, no reservations.

Fifteen months old. This seems to be the age of confidence. Everything is tried. Everything is tasted. Everything is new.

I won't hold her back. I won't to tell her that people are staring, that the stairs are filthy, that there's nothing she needs at the top of the stairs. I want her to hold on to her confidence as long she can - forever. Because people will always judge, hands can always be washed, and sometimes you don't need a destination to start moving.

As kids grow up, the water becomes too deep, the stairs become too high, and fear of failure settles in. At what point do kids loose confidence in themselves?

What if they never did?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Redland Trip Part 2 - Sand & Seagulls

About a month ago, Vivian and I visited my sister in Redlands. Read my first post about the trip, here.

One of Sheridan and Mark's favorite places is San Diego. They lived there for the majority of their marriage and discovered all of the best spots to visit and eat. I have only been in the city a handful of times, so was thrilled to hear that they planned a daytrip during our stay to introduce Vivian and I to the place they love - San Diego.

We painted the nursery first thing in the morning so the paint fumes could air out while we were gone. After a short two hour drive, we made it just in time for lunch at the amazing Sushi Deli. Best sushi I have ever had. Awesome prices.

Later in the afternoon, we headed to the beach. How could we not? The weather was perfect.

The beach was definitely a learning experience for Vivian.

Lesson 1: If you venture too far out toward the ocean, you better run the other direction when the tide comes sweeping in. Or you may fall on your face.

Lesson 2: Eating sand is not fun. It may look like brown sugar but it's glorified dirt.

Lesson 3: There's never just one seagull. If you throw a Cheerio towards a seagull, you will soon be surrounded. One seagull is cute. A group of thirty is a bit intimidating.

Lesson 4: Sand. Gets. Everywhere.

After the beach, we met up with our cousins, Nicholas and Evan. Both of them are truly amazing young men. Nic is finishing up law school and Evan has this killer job for Sony. Both are so much fun to be around. It's a mystery to us all how they are both still bachelors. Two lucky ladies have a lot in store down the road. We all went to The Fish Shop for some of freshest fish you can get and then walked through Balboa Park (where Mark proposed to Sheridan years ago). We finished the night by indulging in some extraordinary desserts at, well, Extraordinary Desserts.

We were all wiped out at the end of the day. The ride home felt twice as long as the way there, as it always seems to when you're exhausted. Definitely worth it though.

A few other highlights from our vacation...

1. Coffee cake from Carolyn's Cafe. Holy. Moley. I had never before experienced anything quite like this buttery, moist, warm slice of heaven. I still dream about it.

2. Successful Thrifting Trips. Sheridan found the perfect retro side table for the nursery. We painted it and it looks like a lot more than the ten bucks she spent! I found a set of magnetic letters for the refrigerator. They are now Vivi's go-to activity when I'm cooking dinner.

3. Staying up late to work on crafty things and talk life with my best friend. So great, I can't even tell you.

Sheridan is really great at helping me document Vivian's growth by taking pictures of her every few months with her amazing Canon Rebel. Here are some the photos she took for her 14 month milestone.

And, finally, a few shots with Aunt Sheridan. Doesn't she look fabulous seven months pregnant?! Vivian and Sheridan have such a special bond. We are so blessed to have her be a part of our lives.

We are counting down the days until Thanksgiving when we will be reunited once again. We love you, Sheridan and Mark!