How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House

In the 1960’s,  my grandmother {aka Nana} and a group of ladies from her church used to make gingerbread houses to raise money for their ward building fund. She was even in the Sacramento newspaper once for all the houses she had made! I so wish I could find a copy of that newspaper article. What a treasure! Thankfully, in the middle of that craziness, Nana taught her daughters.

Years later, my mama was a young mother living 2 states away from her parents. When she was wishing she was home for the holidays, rather than here in Utah, our home would be filled with the spicy scent of ginger as Mom would bake and frost her homesickness away.

And so, a long held tradition of gingerbread houses was created.

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

I still remember each December, lovingly carrying a freshly made gingerbread house into my classroom to give to my elementary school teacher. Yeah, that stopped when there were 3 of us in school and Mama couldn’t keep up! I can’t blame her, I cringe just thinking about getting gifts for all my kids teachers, let alone spend hours decorating a gingerbread house for every single one!

Now that Nana lives near by, the tradition has escalated. Each November, you’ll find many of Nana’s daughters and granddaughters decorating gingerbread houses together, laughing, sneaking candies, making a mess, and memories too.

They are a lot easier than you would think… here’s what you do.

1. Make Gingerbread Dough

A few days before the big decorating day, you’ll need to make your gingerbread.

I like to put my dough in an oiled zip top bag, then I let it sit overnight in the fridge.

That way it isn’t too sticky when you try to roll it.

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

2. Make Pattern

While you let that chill, you can make your house pattern. We use a cereal box because they are free and the slick side doesn’t stick to the gingerbread when you are trying to cut it out.

Just trace on the cereal box and cut out your shapes.

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

 Keep in mind that these are gingerbread houses, not architectural blueprints for a skyscraper. They don’t have to be perfect!

This is for fun, remember?

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

 DOWNLOAD PATTERN HERE

 

 The door is seriously freehanded, and it doesn’t even matter because you are going to cover that sucker up with frosting anyway. Frosting can hid a multitude of mess-ups. So don’t stress.

3. Bake Gingerbread

After your dough is nice and chilled, roll it out in an oiled jelly roll pan (one of those big heavy duty cookie sheets) and bake at 300° for 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and place pattern on HOT gingerbread. Cut immediately.

You’ll use this pattern in the download to layout your pattern pieces on the hot gingerbread…

How to make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House Pattern {Gypsy Magpie}

Cut 2 roof pieces, 2 sides, 2 chimney pieces, a front piece, a back piece, and a door.

Remove leftover edge pieces first, then remove house pieces from pan with a spatula and place on wire rack to cool. The gingerbread should be VERY HARD when cool. If not, return to cookie sheet and bake for an additional 10 minutes or more. Do not bake gingerbread on a rainy day!

When cool, stack flat between pieces of paper towel. Do not keep air tight and do not freeze!

*FYI: It’s best to bake and cool a few days prior to decorating so it can be hard and ready to withstand all that frosted candy awesomeness.

4. Gather your Best Girls, Your Supplies, and Buy a MASSIVE amount of Candy

Supplies:

  • base
  • tweezers (for small candies and sprinkles)
  • large pastry bags
  • decorator tips- we like to use a #4 or #6 round writing tip and a #32 large star tip but use whatever works for you
  • candy, cookies, ice cream cones, pretzels, colored food gel, figurines, etc.
  • powdered sugar
  • egg whites
  • cream of tartar

The base is made from tin foil covered cardboard and can be any size you please. We like to get the packs of cardboard cake bases from the Wilton section of the craft store with our 40% off coupons. Just wrap a piece of cardboard with aluminum foil and tape it on the bottom. Or, you could use a cookie sheet, piece of Plexiglas, whatever you’ve got! If you want to be fancy, you could totally use a cake stand! Just make sure whatever you use is sturdy.

Please excuse the badly lit photos… I still don’t know how to work my fancy camera and we do these things at night when all the little munchkins are in bed. From what I’ve heard, that is naughty because kids should get to help, but you know, sometimes mamas need a little time to play, too! So, if you want, make a pretty one for your family and then help the littles make another one out of graham crackers that they can decorate for themselves. They’ll love it!

Now back to the candy.

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

We like to set everything out on a big table so we can share, that way there is more to choose from. Some of our favorite candies to decorate with are old fashioned ribbon candy, star-burst mints, lifesavers, gum drops, candy canes, rock candy, sprinkles, Necco wafers, licorice, and non-pareils. But, you can do whatever your can dream up with this!

One year, when Nana was kicking breast cancer’s butt, my aunt made the most amazing pink house! The whole thing was decorated in pink candies in Nana’s honor. It was the most meaningful gingerbread house ever! This year, my aunt did a blue one and my cousin made a red one, for the local BYU/Utah college rivalry. {Forget that! Go Aggies!}

 5. Frosting

In an electric counter-top mixer, beat together:

2 lbs. powdered sugar, sifted
6 egg whites
1 tsp. cream of tartar

Beat for 5-10 minutes or until the shine disappears. We set the timer for exactly 8 minutes and it comes out perfect every time.

Put frosting into a piping bag and you are ready to go!

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

I like to use a piping tip size #4 to do my windows very first thing, before I even put the house together. It’s much easier to pipe them while the side of the house is laying down rather than when it is up. You can do a cute little lattice pattern like I did, or whatever you want. A couple years ago, one of my aunts made stain glass out of melted hard candy and that was beautiful.

After you finish the windows, put on a star tip and slap your house together! Hint: you’ll need an extra set of hands. Sorry I don’t have a pic of the process. I can’t frost and photograph at the same time. It’s easy but you have to move fast! Just stick frosting along the edge and bottom of your side pieces and then stick them to your front and back. Make sure you frost them to the base so the house won’t go flying off. Once you have the 4 walls complete, put on your roof the same way.

Random side note, don’t lick your fingers. This ain’t buttercream, people! If you are anything like me, you will probably catch yourself doing it over and over without meaning to, just don’t say I didn’t warn you. Yuck.

Lastly, you’ll add your door and chimney. We usually leave the door partially open. It’s warm and inviting. *Insert Hansel & Gretel reference here*

For the chimney, you will frost the two tiny separate pieces together, then frost that now bigger piece to the roof with the angled side facing down. And, no, there isn’t a specific place that the chimney needs to be. That’s totally up to you. If there are a lot of you, you’ll NEED a designated frosting maker. Nana has taken that role these days. Squeezing the piping bag gets really hard on your hands after a couple hours. There is no chance in heck that we could bust out as many houses as we do in one night if we didn’t have Nana running the frosting brigade! She is the best. {Jealous? You should be. The woman rocks.}

 6. Let your Imagination run WILD!

Here are some of the houses that we made that night. Each one is as cute and different as the gal that made it, that’s the best part!

Every one is unique.

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

Red and green theme plus a darling animal cracker fence

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

How cute is this little pond made with blue decorator gel!

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

Rapunzel couldn’t have lived in a prettier tower!

But, wait, there’s more…

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

Is that… ?

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

Yep, that dang over achiever even put on Christmas lights!

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

The candy cane portico is pretty sweet, too!

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

This one is my mama’s.

Those darling little deer in the lower left corner are older than I am.

I better inherit them one day or there will be gingerbread mutiny… I’m just saying.

 7. Enjoy it

Every year my house ends up a little different, but some things stay the same. There is always a green sugar cone pine tree, an open front door, little silver dragees, and a frosting pathway.

 

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

And every year, there is the feeling of excitement when we start, and exhaustion/relief when we’re done! Be prepared for some flat hair, sweat, and some crazy cramped hands, too. Think Jim Carrey in Liar Liar. “It’s the claw!”

You might be able to write like a 1st grader the third day after, I said might.

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

I am so grateful for the special memories that were created when, instead of feeling sorry for herself for living far from her family, my Mother pulled her hyper-active daughter in the kitchen and taught her how to use her energy for good.
I will never create or even look at a gingerbread house without thinking warmly of my mother.
So, grab a cute apron, some of your favorite people, and a whole lot of candy, and make something special… memories that last a lifetime.
 How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

How to Make an Old Fashioned Gingerbread House {Gypsy Magpie}

Happy Holidays from our kitchen to yours!

Homemade Brown Sugar Recipe {Gypsy Magpie}
I while back, I was asked to be a part of a provident living/self reliant fair. 
I was asked to teach on making your own mixes and how to make many of the foods that we buy at the store from scratch. Did you know that many of the items we purchase from the grocery store can be made at home for pennies on the dollar. It’s funny, our society has gotten so far into “convenience” that we’ve forgotten how to fend for ourselves!
Our great grandmothers are probably laughing right now.
 Homemade Brown Sugar {Gypsy Magpie}
Case in point.
Did you know you could make your own brown sugar?
Yep, you sure can.
That is it. Easy peasy.
How to Make Brown Sugar {Gypsy Magpie}
Why would you want to know how to make your own brown sugar? Well, for one it’s been pretty expensive lately.
Another reason? Food storage…brown sugar doesn’t store well, it goes hard. So, instead of buying a ton of brown sugar for your long term supply, only to have it petrify, store granulated sugar (which keeps for decades) and jars of molasses.
Now, I’m not saying NOT to buy brown sugar for day to day use, go for it. This is just a little trick to make your food storage life a little easier.
Oh, and I’d like to introduce you to this little guy. My kids call him “Mr. Sugar Bear” Creative, I know. He is a little terracotta bear that my grandma picked up on one of her snowbird/Arizona in the winter excursions. Find it HERE. Buy him and put him to work! All you do is soak him in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes, wipe him off, then put him to sleep in his bed in the brown sugar container. Your sugar won’t go hard.
And, seriously, He is way cuter than a piece of stale bread!
Brown Sugar Bear

 If there is anything you’d like to learn to make from scratch or about food storage, leave me a comment, and I’ll see what I can come up with. In my experience, anything that helps out mama makes for a happy home.

Enjoy!

 

I have a confession to make, I am addicted to throw pillows.

*insert Manly groans here*

Fun patterns and fabrics can really cheer up a room. I love that you can make a space look new and fresh just by changing out a couple pillows. Not only is it one of the most simple ways to update, it can also be one of the least expensive.

A couple years ago I ran across DESIGN SPONGE’S tutorial for making zippered pillow covers and I use it any time I feel the urge for something new. It is really clear and easy to follow which I really appreciate because I’m not the most gifted seamstress!

Zippered Pillow Covers {Gypsy Magpie}

I used it to make these pillows for my office window bench.

Zippered Pillow Covers {Gypsy Magpie}

This floral pillow makes me happy. It’s bright, fun, and has personality which is exactly the feeling I wanted in our office.

Zippered Pillow Covers {Gypsy Magpie}

A creative space for creative girls needs major personality and that is just what this space now has!

I found all of my fabric on a fantastic sale at FABRIC.COM. They have a great selection of home décor fabrics and if you get on their mailing list, they will send you coupon codes that you can use to get even better prices. If you spend $35.00 or more your fabric ships free, so I usually combine several projects worth of fabric into one purchase.

I just finished making more pillow covers for our living room, but I need to go buy more down inserts before I can show you those. I’m really excited for the punch they will give to the boring dark brown leather couch. Oh, and while we are talking about pillow forms, I really like the FJADRAR pillow insert from Ikea. It’s a 20×20 and is only $6.99. It is a great size pillow for a couch and is nice and soft.

 FJÄDRAR Inner cushion IKEA The duck feather filling feels fluffy and gives your body excellent support.

  via Ikea

If you are in Utah, I also love to get down pillow forms from HOME FABRICS in Orem. They often have great specials on nice pillow forms and I stock up then. I like the 18×18 size, which is what I used for the fun office pillows.

Sometime I am going to attempt piping, but for now these pillow covers are easy and quick which is just what I need.

Thanks to DESIGN SPONGE for teaching me how to sew something with a zipper!

I’ve been trying to cut out canned cream soups this past year. Why? Well, first, because there are a whole lot of ingredients in that can…

INGREDIENTS
CHICKEN STOCK, WATER, VEGETABLE OIL, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, WHEAT FLOUR, CREAM (MILK), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF: SALT, DEHYDRATED MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, CHICKEN FAT, YEAST EXTRACT, FLAVORING, BETA CAROTENE FOR COLOR, CHICKEN FLAVOR, BUTTER (CREAM [MILK]). Info can be found HERE.

Secondly, because as gas prices have risen, so unfortunately, has the cost of food. Feeding a family of 6 {including a 6’7” man with a bottomless pit or a stomach} gets more and more expensive every year. I’m finding that ditching the convenience foods and making meals from scratch really is a great way to extend your budget, not to mention eat a little healthier. Yes, cream soups aren’t that healthy even made from scratch, but at least the homemade versions doesn’t have MSG, man-made flavorings, and excess salt. So, in regards to health, I feel a little better about it.
The problem with cooking from scratch is it takes a little bit more time to pull out and measure the ingredients. As you already know, I am a horrible planner. I avoid planning like the plague. We just don’t mesh, way too much energy involved! So, needless to say, a lot of times I’m trying to put together a yummy meal in a pinch. Enter the make ahead mix!

I started out trying a mix called MAGIC MIX. I liked the flavor, but I didn’t love that a giant container was taking up valuable real-estate in my fridge. If you don’t mind a big thing in your fridge for months, then try it out. It tastes good and works great. But, because I was running out of space, I decided to go back and try a shelf stable recipe my grandma had given me years ago called SOS Mix.

Homemade SOS Mix {Gypsy Magpie}

All you do is mix 5 ingredients together in a bowl and then store in an labeled airtight container in your pantry. So easy.

Homemade SOS Mix {Gypsy Magpie}

Homemade SOS Mix {Gypsy Magpie}

SOS Mix

Ingredients:

          2 cups powdered non-fat dry milk
          3/4 cup cornstarch
          1/4 cup instant chicken bouillon (regular or low sodium)
          2 Tablespoons dried onion flakes
          2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning (optional…but yummy)

Directions:

Mix ingredients together in large bowl. Store in an airtight container. Makes equivalent of 9 cans of cream soup.
To make cream soup:
          Combine 1/3 cup of dry mix with 1 1/4 cups of cold water.
          Cook and stir over the stove or in microwave until thickened.
          Add thickened mixture to recipe as you would a regular can of soup.
You can also add or substitute other dried herbs like basil, thyme, or a little bit of pepper. This is simple, have fun and play around with whatever your family likes.
*To make Cream of Mushroom soup, simply add a 4 ounce can of mushrooms or sautéed fresh mushrooms as part of the water in the recipe above.
*Cheese sauce? Yep, add 1/2 cup to 1 cup shredded cheese after soup mixture has thickened. Stir until cheese melts.
I don’t use this mix for everything, sometimes a recipe just has to have a good old fashioned rue made with real butter, but this mix works great when I’m in a time crunch and hurrying to get a meal on the table. I can now cook homemade macaroni and cheese just as fast as I can make up the orange kind in the blue box. Pretty handy! Oh, almost forgot, it’s fat free which makes me happy!{However, there is cornstarch in it, which is a highly processed ingredient… I’m not sure if you could substitute flour or arrowroot powder. Maybe? Could be worth a try if the thought of using cornstarch bothers you. Please let me know if you do!}
Here is a link to a downloadable SOS Mix recipe pamphlet from the USU EXTENSION. {Go Aggies!} There are a lot of great ideas of how to use it from Alfredo Sauce to homemade hamburger helper. There are more recipe ideas in this AWESOME BANK OF MIX RECIPES that is also provided by the USU Extension. They know pretty much everything. I go to the Extension looking for answers to all my gardening, cooking, cleaning, and well, practically any question involving the home. They have incredibly knowledgeable staff and walls of resources to choose from. If you are in Utah and can’t find an answer on their WEBSITE, I highly recommend giving one of their offices a visit. You will be so glad you did. {Go Aggies! Wait, did I already say that?}
I’m on a make a mix kick right now, so help a girl out!

**What is your favorite homemade version of something usually bought in a store?**

I heard homemade Taco Seasoning is fantastic. I’m trying that one next!

Someday she will kill me for sharing this, but for now she is 8 so I’ll take my chances. My daughter has the stinkiest feet that any girl on this planet has ever had. She says it’s her way of honoring UNCLE RED while he is on his MISSION. Maybe she is on to something here, because other than my brother, I’ve never smelled anything quite like it! {Dude, Red, how did I get your daughter and would you kindly take your stinky gene back please? Girls are supposed to smell like sugar, spice, and all that, aren’t they?} Maybe it has something to do with my girl’s love of puddles, mud, and her disdain of socks. Whatever it is, the man and I are at our wits end!

Remember my awesome little MUDROOM PROJECT from a couple years ago?

DIY Air Freshener {Gypsy Magpie}

Well, the overwhelming smell of stinky girl feet is overwhelming this room. As in, the smell has taken over and has started seeping into the garage and kitchen. Yeah, it’s that bad.
Desperately grasping at straws, I started searching Pinterest for air freshener ideas. I found THIS homemade idea over at TIDY MOM and figured that since I had all the ingredients, it was worth a shot!

Baking Soda Air Freshener at TidyMom.net

via Tidy Mom
I used an old 1/2 pint mason jar and instead of using decorative paper, I used a nail and punched holes in the top of the canning lid.
My 5 year old chose the star shape.
Homemade Air Freshener {Gypsy Magpie}

I used lemon essential oil because for some reason, lemon means clean to me. Well, let’s be honest, lemons are my favorite color, so that may play a factor in why I love them so much. Maybe. Back to the canning jar…

Homemade Air Freshener {Gypsy Magpie}

I don’t like the idea of fake air fresheners.
The thought of all the chemicals swirling around in the air landing on everything and everyone makes me cringe. So, this being baking soda and essential oils was right up my alley. Plus, it’s a lot cuter than those ugly cone things with the stinky fake flower wax inside!

Add on the fact that it was basically free, and I’m a happy mama!

Homemade Air Freshener {Gypsy Magpie}

Here’s hoping it helps combat the stink because I am THIS close to throwing away all her shoes and making her go barefoot to school. Wait, that’s not legal? Fine. Then I’ll make her shoes live in the garage with all the spiders then. Whatever.

Thanks TIDY MOM for the great tutorial and idea!

**What are your weapons for battling stink?**

{Other than sending the kid back east to live with her stinky uncle… because that’s frowned upon…}

I have been trying to clean a lot of the chemicals out of our home the past couple of years. I figure with an nearly 90% chance for breast cancer I don’t need to play the odds! I tried plain vinegar, and that worked ok, but wasn’t fantastic and my hubs hated the smell. So, I did what any smart homemaker does late at night, I got on Pinterest and started searching for homemade cleaners.

I found this… lovely little gem, and figured it was so easy and cheap that it was worth a shot!

{Do you feel a Pinterest Challenge coming on? You should!}

Ingredients:

Wait for it….wait for it!!!

Orange peels {or any other citrus you love} and plain old white vinegar. 

How to make DIY Orange Oil Cleaner {Gypsy Magpie}

THAT’S IT!

Throw your peels in a jar, cover with vinegar, put a lid on it, and store it away for a few weeks. Then, after it’s steeped for a while, drain the oil/vinegar into a spray bottle and add more vinegar depending on how strong you want it. I made one half orange/half vinegar and one full strength for super tough jobs.

How to make DIY Orange Oil Cleaner {Gypsy Magpie}

Here is the half strength.

How to make DIY Orange Oil Cleaner {Gypsy Magpie}

And, here is my “Killer” kind. {I reused an empty window cleaner bottle, because, well, I’m cheap.}
Of course, I forgot to take pics of the bottles when the peels were fresh and pretty, but, oh well, now you know what they look like after you drain out the oil!

How to make DIY Orange Oil Cleaner {Gypsy Magpie}

Not so loverly. But, hey! Whatever works right!

The verdict?
 
I actually like it! Manly STILL isn’t fond of the vinegar smell. I can’t win, but, the orange oil sure makes it smell better. Even though it does smell strong {open a window or turn on a fan if it bugs you, hello!} it works quite well! You can use it on counters, sinks, windows, etc. And, I have to mention the mega bonus points awarded for the fact that if my kids got into it we wouldn’t have to call Poison Control! Saaaaweet!

I mean, not that my kids ever get into anything they aren’t supposed to. Darling little angels.

So, there you go. My new favorite EXTREMELY cheap little homemade cleaner. Try it out. See what you think. And, if you do, totally come back and let me know how you liked it.

 

Hey, and while we are on the subject of cleaning, do YOU have a favorite homemade cleaner recipe?

{Please excuse the blurry pics, the camera is slooooowly dying. I may “accidentally” drop it on the ground then step on it to speed up the process…}

Last week, our local morning television show, Studio 5, had all their contributors share their “easy out”…something they do that makes their life a bit easier. I really enjoyed the segments and the ideas they had, so I thought I’d share one of my own. It’s just a little thing, but it really helps when things get a tad crazy here, as they often do.

My Easy Out for Quick Homemade Cookies {Gypsy Magpie}

Whenever I make cookies, I throw some dough in the freezer for a busy day. I didn’t like all the fake stuff that is in store bought refrigerated cookie dough and making my own dough takes mere minutes, so I figured why not?

My Easy Out for Quick Homemade Cookies {Gypsy Magpie}

All you do is make your dough, lay wax paper on a cookie sheet, scoop dough onto the pan with a small ice cream/cookie scoop, and stick it in the freezer for a couple of hours.

My Easy Out for Quick Homemade Cookies {Gypsy Magpie}

Once they are frozen, place them in a freezer bag and throw the bag in the freezer for the next time that your kid comes home and tells you that he needs to take cookies to scouts… in 15 minutes.

My Easy Out for Quick Homemade Cookies {Gypsy Magpie}

Just make sure that you label your bag! That way your man can make a treat next time you are out for Girl’s Night and he is cranky about “babysitting” {And, seriously? It’s your kid, you ain’t babysitting, you are FATHERING! Ooooh, sorry, I digress.}

My Easy Out for Quick Homemade Cookies {Gypsy Magpie}

Anyway, it’s probably a dumb, simple, little tip, but it sure has made the treat game easier for me. And, honestly, it feels good to know that when the neighbor has a new baby, your daughter has dance, and you’ve had your limit of stress for the day that hot cookies are only a few minutes away.

Welp, that’s one of my favorite “easy outs”.

Do you have something that makes your life run a little smoother?