If I had planned Will’s gingerbread house party more than 24 hours in advance, I would have been sorely tempted to spend hours crafting homemade gingerbread building materials, 5 colors of royal icing and a buffet spread for the adults.
But… while I love to get my kicks out of cooking and baking and hosting for friends, the truth is that you can present a two year old with homemade icing and candy and a lovingly crafted, from-scratch gingerbread Cape Cod or you can give them a table full of candy and a slew of low-density graham cracker housing and the end result is the same: a house full of toddlers hopped up on more sugar than they’ve ever had before in their entire lives.
Tuesday night I slapped together a few graham cracker structures with some leftover royal icing from another project, put a water pitcher to chill in the fridge, set out plates and napkins, and prepped ingredients for a coffee cake to bake in the morning.
Before Will’s friend’s arrived on Wednesday morning, I bought a few tubes of store-bought icing for the first time in my life, put the coffee cake in the oven, threw a shower curtain over a folding table in the backyard, set out a stash of Christmas sprinkles and leftover Halloween candy, brewed some coffee and queued up Pandora’s Christmas station.
We took the whole colossal mess outside rather than fighting a losing battle to keep bright blue icing off of our already battered furniture and started at 9:30am to avoid sabotaging bedtimes with too much sugar and Red 40. I don’t know if it was either of those things or the ultra low prep-to-party ratio, the holiday spirit or my own low expectations, but it was quite possibly the most fun event we’ve hosted at our house in a long time.
It also helped that the kids were hilarious. Given carte blanche to inhale as much candy and icing as they could before losing interest in the activity, it was interesting to watch who actually got into the decorating aspect of the activity and who (ahem, Will) mostly attempted to cram as many fistfuls of sprinkles into their mouth as possible before they might be taken away.
I don’t know when I’ll summon up the patience for the finicky details of hardcore gingerbread house construction, but I do hope that we can keep a low-key graham cracker house decorating party on our annual Christmas tradition docket for at least a few more years to come.