Remembering last year’s fun, some friends got together at our house tonight to decorate gingerbread houses. I am so amazed at how we can all create such different houses after starting with the exact same ingredients!

I had a bit of a difficult time sourcing the gingerbread houses this year. Although I had called in advance, Ikea sold out of the kits we used last year, Aldi’s were also sold out, but a woman in Ikea tipped me off that some were available in K-mart. I drove to the closest K-mart and was informed that a different store had them in stock.

After visiting two more K-marts, I finally amassed enough kits for the evening, and we were ready to go. These kits came with icing pre-made, which meant that I didn’t need to make it. However, the consensus was that last year’s homemade icing was a better construction glue (which I’m not sure was a compliment). So, for next year’s activity (because of course we’re going to do this again next year!), I’ll remember to buy the kits early from Ikea AND make the icing.

Seven lovely ladies came to my house from around 7 pm. Some of them knew each other from previous get-togethers, but by the end of the evening, all were friends. They each brought several small bags of lollies to contribute to the decorations which came in the Create A Treat kits.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
After laying out the shared lollies on the kitchen counter, we opened our Canadian-made kits and started to decipher the instructions.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
The first step was to construct the houses using thick lines of icing as mortar to hold it all together.

Sharla making gingerbread houses, December 2010
Sharla had the great advantage of being a seasoned Christmaser, complete with gingerbread-house-making experience AND coming from Canada. She knew what she was doing, and we took notes from her.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
Kerrie started her decorating too soon and had construction issues later on.

I’ve learned from my lesson last year when the girls eyed off the gingerbread houses and my neatly colour-coordinated decorations didn’t entice as much as Kerrie’s masterpiece. So I tried to make this year’s house as colourful as possible.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
I started off on a very colourful (if controlled) note with mini M&Ms on my roof.

Lorna took a more minimalist tact, not wanting to have the same roof collapse as last year. However, the icing didn’t have the same holding properties. (Now that I reflect upon it, I wonder if Kerrie and Lorna shared a bad batch of icing…)

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
Lorna's house's roof slid off its frame, revealing the lollies she had hidden inside (a very exciting treat for the kids!).

Later, Lorna’s house collapsed. We may not have waited long enough to begin decoration, and there was some discussion about whether we should construct the houses first one day and decorate them the next (which is something the professionals recommend).

Lauren and Ruth making gingerbread houses, December 2010
Ruth started an orange and pink theme because her children adore those two colours.

Working around the table was so much fun. We swapped stories and heard about the intimate details of each other’s lives. It was great to be among such a fun group of women, and I’ll miss these friendships as we travel.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
The table ended up a sweet, sticky mess with the icing and lollies spread all over it.

While we were working, David played with the kids outside and in the shed. As well as our three girls, Lorna’s two children came for a play. They rode the gyrocars down the driveway and kicked a ball around the shed. Considering that we were working at eye-level with a great many colourful sweets, we had to field off very little attention from the children, thanks mainly to David’s enthusiasm and efforts!

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
When we were finished, we used a sifter to distribute icing sugar over the top of the house.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
Sharla's finished house was like a picture on the front of a magazine cover.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
She used liberal amounts of icing to hold the colourful lollies onto the walls.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
Kerrie's house was colourful with a good variety of lollies.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
She cleverly used the candy canes as structural support for the roof.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
Ruth used little licorice allsorts to make her footpath to the front door, neatly turning the squares so they alternated directions.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
I really liked her colour-coordinated decorations and the pink wafer shutters.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
Debbie's house used the greatest variety of lollies — her boys will love it!

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
This was Debbie's first gingerbread house, and it looks so professional!

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
Kathy's house was very symmetrical and didn't use so much icing on the construction.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
On my house, I sliced bits off licorice-allsorts to make curtains.

Making gingerbread houses, December 2010
In the end, I was just trying to tastefully layer on the lollies so our girls would think it was beautiful. (But look, I put this side of my roof on upside-down!)

It was after 10.30 when we started saying good-bye to everyone. I was sad to see them all leave — I would have been happy to keep decorating for hours, enjoying the conversation and laughing at our humanity. Thanks for a great evening, girls!