Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I asked Santa to send me some creative, ambitious elves for Christmas. What I had in mind were cute little fellows that live to clean. They could live at the top of the stairs and scurry down to sweep and mop, to sort the mail, wash dishes, clean the oven, scrub the tub, polish the wood, teach Maria how to put away puzzles, dishes, bows, crayons, scissors, tape and her accessories.

What I got are 2 tall, handsome, gingerneer elves. They are still in school and they came home with an unusual assignment: make, bake and assemble a gingerbread house to be brought to school for decorating. From scratch. You may know that our family has a long tradition of making gingerbread houses from a store kit and we forego the use of royal icing in favor of hot glue... instant gratification, not food, being our primary objective. Slow drying royal icing. Real gingerbread from a recipe. Two boys in the kitchen measuring, mixing, slapping it all together... this seemed ambitious enough, but gingerneer elves like to kick it up a notch. They aren't happy enough with cottages or cabins. They need something different.

So, I got this.

And a lot of this.

Gingerneer elves are nothing like cleaning elves. But boy do they spark the imagination! They enchant and inspire and display a wealth of ambition, perseverance and ingenuity and the results are a delight... messes aside.

Alex thought to do a castle and then a cathedral, and finally settled on a mill. I thought making dough and icing and cutting and shaping pieces was enough to accomplish in 2 days, and when he explained that the entire structure would be edible, then I had to bite my tongue... I had to resist blurting That's impossible! I don't believe in squashing big ideas and optimism, but seriously... gingerbread gears and turning wheels? Everything held together with sugar and gumdrops? No time for test runs? No blue prints? No mechanical devices whatsoever? Mercy. William was behind Alex 100%, offering suggestions, support and enthusiasm. I felt doubt, but I offered whatever practical advice I could think of... like baking lots of gears in case of mishaps, and not making anything too big or heavy. But mostly they were on their own and loving it.

On their own measuring, mixing and designing. William learned how to operate the big mixer and what cream of tartar looks like. Alex may have mastered sanding, gently filing, gingerbread and the specialized skill of making gingerbread gears. They cut candy canes, shaping and fitting everything, until by midnight they had an assembled gingerbread mill with a working, turning wheel... completely edible!

Now the mill, the elves and some extra icing and candies are at school. Later today all the students will meet in the quad with their gingerbread houses and there will be a decorating event. I'll be there too. I would not want to miss it. And hopefully while we are away Santa will send in some cleaning elves... it's never too late to hope for those.

As for the Gingerneer Elves... those 2 are welcome to stay. Tonight we can begin a cleaning lesson. Maybe they will build a gingerbread butler!


Dallas said...

Wow, that's quite a gingerbread house. But that's really cool that he had a vision and worked through it. I hope you'll post a photo of the final decorated house.

mtnchild said...

Alex does look very pleased! and I think he should be! I'm very impressed - I have never made a gingerbread house. I definitely want to see the after pictures of this and all the others too!


Tiglizzyclone said...

Sounds fun! About 15 years ago I made a gingerbread house. It was a very complicated project, and it didn't turn out the way I envisioned. I am looking forward to seeing a picture of it before anyone eats it.

judy in ky said...

I think your gingerneers are much more fun than ordinary, run-of-the-mill elves!
Get it... run of the "mill"... sorry!