Each year here in Seattle chefs from the Sheraton hotel pair with architects from various firms to create a Gingerbread Village display that is truly stunning. The village is free to view and donations are taken for the JDFR. This is the 21st year and the theme is “there is a rhyme and reason this holiday season” and the various structures are based on classic nursery rhymes. If you’re here in Seattle I highly recommend making a visit to see the gingerbread village part of your Christmas tradition. It opens this year on November 27th and stays up for viewing in the Sheraton lobby under the new year. If you like to avoid the crowds, or if you just want to extend the holiday as long as possible, going in to see the village after Dec. 25th means you’ll have more time to linger and study the details.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to get a peek at the gingerbread structures in the midst of construction. I managed to play it cool but I was so excited to learn what goes on behind the scenes.
From the factoids I got: “The gingerbread creations are made from an estimated 1,200 pounds of dough, 800 pounds of icing and hundreds of pounds of chocolate, almond paste and candy. Creations are designed in partnership with Seattle’s top architecture firms and trade associations, and are made possible by more than 2,500 volunteer hours from the Sheraton’s hotel staff.”
Chef John Armstrong told us that people keep an eye out for candy they can use all throughout the year.
Since the display is up for over a month they do have to use some non-edible interior support. By the time this is ready to be viewed by the public nothing inedible will be showing.
He also showed us the industrial oven which was massive and has eight surfaces that can each hold a bunch of full sheet pans. Yet in order to bake some of the gingerbread pieces needed they had to extend the baking surfaces to be large enough to hold them. That, people, is some serious gingerbread.
This boat has to be built in pieces because, no joke, it’s too tall to fit inside the room where it’s being constructed.
Kids respond most to the past gingerbread creations that have lights and movement so almost each sculpture will incorporate some of that. This entire ship will sway back and forth, I cannot wait to see it’s finished state.
All the details in the walls here are hand carved into the gingerbread before being baked.
The clock shown here was created by coloring dried pasta then embedding it into a pane of sugar while it was still hot. So smart.
Figurines awaiting showtime.
I love the Gingerbread Village every year but I think this year is going to be really special. Thanks again to the Sheraton and Chef Armstrong for taking the time to show me behind the scenes!
· comments  · 11-21-2013 · categories:christmas · seattle ·
· comments  · 12-21-2012 · categories:christmas · holidays · links ·
My friends Freshly Picked and The Alison Show got together as The Craft Pack and made a book full of delightful and easy (really, seriously) DIY holiday gifts. The book is called A Hip Handmade Holiday: Gifts For Everyone On You List For $10 Or Less and I super duper love it. It’s a PDF download and includes nine how-to videos, pro tips and lots and lots of printables.
Susan and Alison gave a presentation at Camp Mighty last month and Alison said (to applause) that if your idea of crafting is printing something onto sticker paper and slapping it on a jar, then this book is for you. There are also project with great instructions that teach you a technique and give some room to improvise if you’d like.
There are projects for women, men, pets, the house, things to treasure for years and those gifts for last minute print-and-glue moments. Susan and Alison have curated their offerings incredibly well so the book offers just a few projects for each category but every single one is gorgeous, clever and well explained. If you want to follow each project by the numbers they’re great, but there is also room to use the technique as a starting point. There are pro tips and how-to videos scattered throughout the book. The printables include every holiday card you could wish for, all the stencils you need and stickers to cover treats served in jars, paint cans and bottles.
I’m highly impressed with the balance they’ve struck here and if this is the type of quality that can come through non-traditional forms of publishing I clearly need to be paying closer attention. Susan and Alison have labeled this book “No. 1″ and I hope there are many more to come.
I’m a little obsessed with the Ho Ho Ho pillows.
Just so you know: If you buy the book through the link here I get a percentage. That percentage goes right back into hosting costs for this here website which are doubling due to higher traffic. This isn’t something I’m complaining about. Just, you know, noting. So thanks.
As a way of saying hello The Craft Pack is offering a $50 Michael’s gift card to Not Martha readers. Yay, thank you The Craft Pack!
If you’d like to enter just leave a message with this post, and if you want answer this question: Have you ever sent a DIY gift to a family member? What was the most successful or the least? (My answer: a trio of candied nuts were beloved, but the hand knit scarves mostly got a polite thank you.) You’ve got until next Tuesday, Dec. 18th at 12 noon Pacific (my) time to enter, at that point I’ll close comments. The fine print applies. Good luck! Closed, thanks to everybody for entering!
· comments  · 12-13-2012 · categories:books · christmas ·
In my 3D Christmas Tree Gingerbread Cookies post last year I explained how to create your own version from an existing cookie cutter and I also offered a ready to go printable version that you could use. I wasn’t ever happy with that pattern so I’m updating it. The pages to print out are below, and they have been added to the original project as well.
I’ll be making these again (as soon as I have a working dishwasher, because ugh) and using royal icing and sanding sugar to decorate the branches instead, I think it’ll look far nicer.
A view overhead showing how the cookies fit together to make them stand up.
Click on each of these to view or download and print them.
· comments  · 12-10-2012 · categories:christmas · food ·
I was going to show you my updated pattern for the 3D Christmas Tree Cookies today but yesterday morning my dishwasher decided it didn’t want to do it’s job anymore and I decided I was going to ignore it by not entering the kitchen, which means no baking is getting done right now. So! Instead let’s talk about cookie swaps.
I’ve got a few cookie swaps coming up and I am considering something new. My usual cookie swap recipe is of the slice-and-bake variety, the Cornmeal-Cherry Cookies from Martha Stewart are a go to. (Also very helpful is this slice-and-bake cookie palette over at Smitten Kitchen.) The slice-and-bake means I can lovingly mix the dough a day or two before hand then bake the night before or the day of the swap and, since I have not been stressing over six dozen cookies for the majority of the day, I’m a happy person at the gathering. This year I wanted to do something different that would let me cut out a bunch of shapes (since I’ve been doing a lot of that lately and have my technique down). These gingerbread wreath cookies are under consideration. And then yesterday I came across these:
Edge of the mug cookies cutters! I previously came across this concept when doing research for my tiny gingerbread houses that perch on the edge of a mug but at that time the only cookie cutter sets I could find were ones you’d order from the UK or were no longer available, just ghost catalog pages found through a vigorous search. You can also cut a slot into any cookie, see this page at I Am Baker for examples, but I think we’ll all agree that a dedicated cutter is faster. I know, this is me saying that. I am the one who is always making needlessly complicated things because they amuse me and suddenly this is too much bother. (In my defense, I had made a few test runs of DIY edge of the mug cookies and they all sort of tipped over and fell off the mug so I gave up on it.)
I think I’ll be using these edge of the mug cookie cutters and making cocoa-friendly cookies out of basic shortbread dough for my cookie swaps. They’ll be fun and quick and hopefully novel enough to delight people.
But I’m curious: What is your favorite recipe for cookie swaps? Do you bring something practical? Or a family recipe? Do you attempt to dazzle? Or do you pick a cookie that you know to be delicious but might not look like much? Have a cookie that is a consistent crowd favorite? Share!
· comments  · 12-7-2012 · categories:christmas · food ·
Earlier I posted about how to turn a tree shaped cookie cutter into one that is interlocking and standing (shown above). I wrote about the way to interlock three cookies but I wanted to say that I started this project by using the same 8 inch tall cookie cutter and much thinner dough to make trees that used six layers that slotted together. I made them in the same year I showed the gingerbread houses that perch on the edge of a mug. Here are some photos that I took waaaay back in 2009:
I made small ones that used three cookies, and large ones that used six cookies:
Trouble was that the larger trees curled, the layers of dough wouldn’t cool flat no matter how careful I was, leading to them looking like this:
It had a nice geometric look but just lacked a certain amount of charm and, dare I say it?, looked like beef jerky. Also, it required rolling dough out to a point where it was unreasonably thin. Still, at that point in time I was a bit caught up with interlocking as many cookies as I could.
The smaller trees were flat and looked fine but I’m happier with my current version using thicker dough that allows you to decorate the edges. My lesson? More isn’t always better. Um, less is more? That sounds better. Ok, Happy Holidays everybody I’ll see you in the near year!
· comments  · 12-22-2011 · categories:christmas ·
I made 3D Christmas Tree Gingerbread Cookies for Christmas. They slot together and don’t require icing to hold them up. Below I explain how to 3Dize your own cookie cutters and I also provide printable templates in case you don’t have a tree cookie cutter you like.
Click through for a how-to.
[Read more →]
· comments  · 12-21-2011 · categories:christmas ·
How to: Make Modern Perforated Christmas Trees » Curbly | DIY Design Community. These look like the porcelain ones from West Elm, nice job.
12 Days of Christmas Gifts | Mighty Girl. Love!
MinuteFrame: Order a framed photo in less than one minute. This one is the service of a friend of a friend, and I have not tried it but it looks so darn handy. Very simply you upload a photo to have printed at the 5×7 size, they do the printing and framing and ship it to your giftee.
mirrormirror: Christmas Cupcake Decorating at Trophy Cupcake. Paola includes tip numbers and notes on technique for some fancy cupcakes. They look great Paola!
Calvin and Hobbes Snowmen Truffles · Edible Crafts.
Festive Topped Jars at You Are My Fave. Simple and very impressive! Via Edible Crafts.
Felted Bell Ornaments – the purl bee. So sweet.
· comments  · 12-19-2011 · categories:christmas · links ·
Have you seen this amazing Gingerbread Brownstone made by Kitchen Table Scraps? Even better, she shows how to make it including shaping the rounded front windows, adding all the detail and lighting it from the inside. Super greatness.
· comments  · 12-13-2011 · categories:christmas · food ·
· comments  · 12-6-2011 · categories:christmas · links ·
One of the most asked questions about my Christmas Tree Ornament Mobile was how I was planning on storing it. Some people were curious how much space it would take to store, others wanted to know how I would do it without it getting tangled. So, here is a photograph of everything that comprised the mobile excepting the ornaments themselves. The ornaments went back into their packaging (in this case tubes about the size of rolls of wrapping paper which will be easy to store with the paper). Otherwise I took the mobile one set of string lengths at a time starting with the outer rings and working my way in. So, I took off all the longest strings, tucked away the ornaments, took off the hooks, looped all the strands and tucked them into an envelope together. I used orphaned envelopes I had left over from various greeting and Christmas cards, so they are all reused. I have separate envelopes holding each set of string, numbered from longest to shortest, on bag holding all the ornament hooks, I left the hooks on the grid rack itself on, so it will be a snap to reassemble the next year we use it as the spacing is already in place. It’s flat, and just about as big around as my wreath so they’ll be stored together.
· comments  · 01-31-2011 · categories:christmas · craft ·
I used Duchess Potatoes as an inspiration for something else this year, go see my Duchess Potato Christmas Trees over at The Kitchn. p.s. I discovered that if you keep baking them they turn a lovelier shade of golden brown. I pulled them out of my oven a bit too early fearing they would burn.
This past Thanksgiving I piped Duchess Potatoes into the shape of bowls to hold a bit of gravy.
· comments  · 12-23-2010 · categories:christmas · food ·
· comments  · 12-23-2010 · categories:christmas · links ·
Here is how I made my Christmas tree ornament mobile, it was easier than it looks, promise.
- a 17″ steamer rack from a restaurant supply store
- about 5 feet of lightweight jack chain
- a small carabiner
- 100 basic ornament hooks
- one roll, 500 feet, monofilament jewelry string (not the stretchy sort)
- 200 jewelry crimp beads or tubes
- jewelry crimping tool
- 100 lanyard hooks
- 100 ornaments
Note: In the photo above I show earring wire instead of ornament hooks. I changed that later as I found ornament hooks made it far easier to move ornaments around after they’d been hung. Also, my supplies are based on a 4 foot tall mobile using almost 100 ornaments, you’ll need to adjust amounts if you make one larger or smaller.
Creating the Mobile Frame
Creating the frame for my ornament tree mobile turned out to be fairly simple. I used a lot of hooks to allow for easy adjustment and additions as the mobile was being assembled. I gathered materials from a restaurant supply store, a hardware store and the jewelry section of a craft store.
[Read more →]
· comments  · 12-21-2010 · categories:christmas · craft ·
This year we decided to do something a little different with our tree and I created this Christmas tree mobile consisting of ornaments suspended on clear threads.
When I was shopping for ornaments to use found a lot on sale and went a little crazy. I decided it would be worth it to see how three different options would look. I did a variety of silver ornaments that came as a boxed set, green ornaments with three different textures and three sizes of clear glass ornaments that look a bit like bubbles.
Here is the mobile in context of our dining room (please forgive the mid-present wrapping clutter). We have room to put presents below it, and are still able to peek out the windows to see if the neighbor’s cat is visiting our front porch.
The view from below.
The ornaments are hung on regular ornament hooks attached to jewelry monofilament secured with crimp beads.
I’ll put up details of how the mobile was created tomorrow. Instructions on how I made it are right over here.
· comments  · 12-20-2010 · categories:christmas · craft ·