What’s in your backyard: Omaha Ne


The winter cold has kept us inside, so we were long overdue for our next road trip. Thankfully, Christmas weekend was coming up, and we had already planned on heading to Omaha. Our previous trips have been in small rural towns, but during this time of the year, big cities offer more activities.
The best part of the Holiday season for me is the memories made with family.  If your children are still young and at home, treasure that time because when they move out on their own, and/or get married it becomes harder to schedule the time to spend together.  Ahhh memories, those photographic moments when life was simpler. I know that those times with our children are some of the best times that we will ever have.
I can’t say that I am one of those June Cleaver type of Mom’s whose house looks perfectly decorated and does the same traditional things every year. Our traditions are that we are always doing something, whether it be baking an assortment of cookies, trying out new recipes each year, watching bake-off shows and critiquing the contestants’ displays while discussing how we could have done a much better job.
I remember watching one show with gingerbread houses that were as tall or taller than the people who were making them.   You may or may not recall it mentioned that I am an all or nothing, do it big or go home type of gal, so when we decided to make our own gingerbread house it wasn’t going to be one of those small kit gingerbread houses.  No Way…
We planned it all out the boys and me – their father was still in Alaska settling business, which left me to figure out the dimensions of the house. This required careful thought and precise measurements to ensure that all the pieces will fit and compliment each other, but there was one problem, I suck at math,  so I just eyeballed it! Besides the walls couldn’t be any taller or longer than my biggest cookie sheet…problem solved! We went through an impressive amount of flour, molasses, and sugar to make two humongous batches of gingerbread dough…
I wanted to incorporate some new techniques to make the house special, so I played around with making different colored Christmas lights using a hard candy method. I poured the molten hot colored sugar into molds for the lights.  I had no idea that when boiled down to hard candy, stage sugar hardens to the consistency of cement. I was seriously concerned that I had ruined several of my pans. Fortunately, lots of hot water soaks later the sugar finally began to melt off.  The next step, royal icing, that also hardens to an uneatable state, but it is the glue that holds the structure together, as well as adding that beautiful contrast of white to the dark brown of gingerbread.
I remember that night like it was yesterday.  It had taken all day to make and bake two sets of gingerbread house walls and roofs, in addition to the sugar decorations, and royal icing, but we were finally ready to put it all together. It was closing in on midnight,  we were exhausted but determined to get Tyler’s gingerbread house assembled, so that the icing would have time to harden and we would be able to have some real fun and decorate it.
All the pieces were laid out, the boys were helping to hold the three walls up, while I put up the last wall, that would be the front of the house. The house was an impressive 18″ x 18″ and it was taking up a large portion of our dining room table. I slathered the icing on all corners of the last wall and held it in place for several minutes.  When I felt certain that it would hold, I carefully let it go and stepped away.  We all waited with baited breath to see if it would hold, when as if in slow motion, the wall pulled away from the remaining three walls.  We stared in paralyzed fascination as one half of the wall landed on the table, and the other half hit the edge of the table and broke in half!  The boys looked at me with trepidation waiting for my response. I looked back and burst out laughing! It was that hysterical, tired, punch drunk sort of laugh, and it was good.
When I finally caught my breath I said: ” I guess this is why God had me make a second batch.” We finally got the wall up, and the next day we decorated the house with Christmas lights, coconut snow, fondant trees and so much more. I wish we had a picture of it, but I have looked all over and couldn’t find one. Tyler made over $200 towards Team Tyler for Lymphoma and Leukemia, and that was even competing with the Salvation Army and their signature red buckets and Pavlovian bells!
This weekend, Travis and I took a trip down gingerbread memory lane by visiting the Mormon Trail Center in Omaha, Nebraska (the pictures in this post are all from the Trail Center in Omaha). For over 20 years they host a community gingerbread house event, free and open to the public. This year they had over 200 community-made gingerbread houses of all sizes, and shapes and designs.  There were elaborate buildings with sugar candy windows, a pyramid made out of Hershey’s chocolates, a Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings themed gingerbread displays.  We were in awe with the level of detail, but most of all…the wonderful spices and scents of ginger that filled the room.  If ever in Omaha during the Christmas holiday season, the Mormon Trail Center’s Gingerbread display is definitely worth a visit!
 What is your favorite Holiday memory? We would love to hear from you…

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