Monday, 23 December 2013

Gingerbread House Fun

When I was a kid my parents always bought a gingerbread house and put it together for Christmas. My sister and I would decorate it. For some years we even had two houses so we could decorate one each. Then we became older and one year we didn't have a gingerbread house. I think it was in 2010. I missed it, and the next year I decided to take matters into my own hands. No store bought, flat packed house this year. I was going to build my own gingerbread castle!

I found a recipe for gingerbread in one of my many cook books and made the dough. I cut out the shape I wanted and was very satisfied with myself. Turned out I hadn't quite mastered the art of rolling the dough flat enough, so the pieces turned out fat as well as huge.

Because of the big pieces it was actually easier to put together. It looked horrific and clumsy, but I decorated it with lots of icing and colourful non stops. We put it in its customary spot in the living room with accompanying decorations, and in the end I was quite pleased with the result.

The next year I also wanted to make my own house but I couldn't think of anything cool to make so I went with a pattern I copied of my cook book. It was of a church.

Again I didn't roll the dough thin enough. I also did not manage to cut the pieces exactly like the pattern. The pieces didn't quite fit together, creating this monster:

I added an actual bell to the bell tower to make it a little more interesting.

You can cover up a lot of lopsidedness with enough decoration. Even though the house looked like it was made by a child I ended up loving it.

This year I got home so late I didn't have the time to make my own house from scratch. I had told my mother to by a kit I could put together and decorate when I got home. She bought a church, quite similar to the one I made last year.

When I opened the package it was chaos. It looked like someone in the store had thrown it on the ground and stepped on it. All the pieces had at least one fracture.

Some pieces were fractured into so many pieces I didn't bother to glue the tiniest bits together. As a result some pieces had holes in them.
I ended up liking the result, it looked like a earthquake had gone off fracturing the walls, making it all lopsided and about to fall apart.

A lot of it was covered up in icing and non stop, so in the end only the fractured tower roof and the hole in the ceiling and back wall were visible.

And with the usual decorations the earthquake church is quite charming in my opinion.

I consider myself quite competent when it comes to cooking and baking, but my gingerbread houses so far aren't very pretty. But then again, the fact that they look so home made is what makes me love them.

I wish you all the best of luck with your own, future gingerbread creations!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Christmas at Stirling Castle

This Sunday the Scotland Adventures brought Taylor, Rachel and me to Stirling. Our goal was to visit Stirling Castle and the Christmas event they had on that day.
Church and unicorn pillar on the way up.
First view of the castle.
View over a graveyard

Rachel had some Christmas shopping to take care of while Taylor and I went ahead. We arrived just in time for the program to start, and we were greeted by some lovely ladies in medieval dresses handing out modern chocolate coins. The first post on the program was the Christmas puppet show. It was really sweat and really fun for the children.

After half an hour of puppets Taylor and I went into the Palace and had a look around in all the pretty rooms. This part of Stirling Castle, the Royal Palace, was mainly built under James V of Scotland in the early sixteenth century. It has a lot of Renaissance influences and pretty colours.

We had a pleasant chat with Lady Janet Stewart, King James V's sister. She told us some stories from the Castle, about young Mary Queen of Scots playing football using the guards as goalposts. We gossiped about fashion, hygiene and yule tide.

The mantlepieces in the palace were all so pretty.

And the roofs! We actually lay down in the middle of the rooms to take pictures of it. The first picture following is a restored version of the Stirling heads, carved oak portraits.
Floor selfie
We looked at half of the rooms before hurrying back to the great hall in time for We Are Not Amused with Queen Victoria. We heard of the origins of some Christmas traditions, like the Christmas cracker and Christmas cards. In the olden days it was popular to send roasted dormice with the cards. But sometimes it could be some time before the post could deliver the letters, so the post office wasn't always a pleasant place to be come Christmas. The practice was banned and to this day it is still illegal to send roasted dormice in the post in December.
 We then had a concert with the Swinging Santas.

Rachel had again joined us, and we went back to the palace to see the rest of the rooms.

Some of the doors were original 16th century doors, whereas everything else had been recently restored. The staff were so lovely, one of them demonstrated how the door was built, with nails and vertical boards on one side and horizontal boards on the other.
He also opened a beautiful restored linen closet for us.

A recreation of The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries hung in the Queen's Presence Chamber.
They also had a display of the festive foods that would have been served at the court in the 16th century.

It had started to rain and the sun was setting, but there was still more to see.

View from up on the wall. I was interested in the raised circles on the green field, but weren't able to figure out what it was.

We visited the chapel, a museum, three gift shops and walked around on the walls. Suddenly it was almost 5 o'clock and the castle was about to close. The horizon had turned beautifully brilliant, and we ran around like mad trying to capture the moment with our cameras. Because that's what you do these days, isn't it? Look at the sky through a camera lens so that others might share in the wonder of nature too. And then realizing your camera can't quite capture the beauty of the moment anyway, so why bother.

And thus ended our Christmas adventure to Stirling Castle.