Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gingerbread Barn: Part VI

Animals, animals. The book whose directions I was following only decorated the front of the barnyard animals, but I finally decided to decorate both sides so that the gingerbread barn will look good from any direction, including the back.

It may not be obvious, but these animals are the same ones from yesterday, except that after they dried, I flipped them over and "painted" all over them a second time. This time, the udders of the cows aren't quite so bright, but it's pretty much the same thing as before.

I did the back side of the sheeps as well, although this time I didn't need to paint faces on them since the faces are on the other side.

The chickens I didn't redo on the back, but I did add an additional layer of icing just to reinforce the pieces. Remarkably, not a single one broke on me while getting them off the parchment paper.

I mixed up some coconut shavings with yellow food die to make hay, then glued some into the hayloft with icing, and set a chicken on top of the hay. Looks nice, I think! =)

Now it's time for a little landscaping. I mixed up some brown icing and laid it out more-or-less where I wanted to corral the animals.

Then I sprinkled the icing with cocoa powder. A nice, earthy texture, I think. *nodding*

Time to grow some grass! I took more coconut shavings and mixed it with green food coloring this time around. Presto! Grass!

I laid out green icing where the grass should be. (I probably should have made the green icing a bit greener than I did. Oh, well. *shrug*)

Then sprinkled the grass over it. I also pulled out flower-shaped sprinkles to dot the grass. Flowers are always a nice touch, don't you think? =)

Time to build a fence to keep all of the animals from running away! First I set up the posts with pretzel sticks.

Then follow with the beams across the posts.

Time to add the animals! This particular photo is the only one I took of the shovel, which is merely a bit of Black Jack gum attached to a pretzel piece. On a completely unrelated note, if you look very closely at the neck of the horse in this photo, you'll see a small crack. I accidentally dropped this fellow while I was standing on the hard, tiled ground. The head managed to stay on the horse--which rather surprised me, to tell you the truth, but it does suffer from that small crack, and if you shake the body, you can tell the only thing holding the head on are the thick layers of icing. I put this horse near the back of the barn so the crack in the neck wouldn't be as obvious. =)

And the barn is FINISHED!

Two horses, two cows, three sheep, 11 chickens (I didn't like the painting job I did on one of them, so I didn't use all 12), happily sharing a barn with a silo. Hope y'all enjoyed it! Now I have a kitchen I need to clean up.....

Monday, December 21, 2009

Gingerbread Barn: Part V

It's really starting to look like a barn now, but there's still a few details left to done. First, I added the top to the silo. The silo is officially done!

Next, the barn needs a little trim.
Here I'm adding the borders to the windows on the side of the barn.
Here's the barn after adding borders to the barn doors and hayloft doors.

At this point, I set the barn aside and started to work on animals. This, Fluffy, is the first of two cows! To get the spots right, I traced the image on tracing paper, poked holes with a pin outlining the different colored areas, put it over the gingerbread cow, sprinkled some flour on top, so it marked where on the cow all of the sections should be.

The directions in my book had very little information about how, exactly, to make the animals. Basically, they said, "Slap a lot of icing on it in the appropriate colors." That's not a direct quote, but my paraphrase. So I looked really closely at the pictures in the book to figure out how they did it and I noticed that the sheep had a nice, bumpy texture to it. So I took some of the icing I still had and added more sugar to it to thicken it up more. The icing I had been using was much too syrupy to hold any texture. Then I applied it to the sheep with a star-shaped tip. Presto! Fluffy sheep! (It's a cousin, Fluffy! Go with it.)

Now that I had some thickened icing, I went ahead and added star-shaped trim to the roof line, the front of the roof's edges (and the back for that matter, but you can't see that in this photo), and along the corners of the barn. Very pretty. =)

Then it was back to making more animals. This time, the horses! I chose a light brown color for them and mixed up a small bit of icing for them.

Here are the animals, pretty much completed. Cute! =)

The book also had chickens, which I guess they considered too small for gingerbread. They suggested piping the icing directly onto parchment paper and waiting overnight for it to dry. And to make extras--in case some of them break later. Apparently, they are very fragile. I made a whopping 12 chickens, mostly because each one took all of about 10 seconds to make.

First I applied the white icing in the proper chicken shapes. After waiting a couple of hours for it to at least be partly dry, I added more icing on top to shape the wings, then added a red crown, yellow beak, and black eyes. The chickens are done, dude!

And that concludes today's gingerbread session.

Last Chance for YOU to Own History!

Yes, if you've been living under a rock and don't know about it, I put my old hiking shoes up for auction on eBay. The auctions ends in another 24 hours or so, so time is running out!

The possibilities are endless! Use them as planters! Use them as odor eaters! (Guaranteed, you won't smell anything else in the room.) Use them as stocking stuffers for bad children! (Coal is so last century.) Use them as a fly swatter or spider squisher! Or use it as the centerpiece of your very own Tortuga Shrine!

You can even split the two shoes if you win--keep one for yourself and share the other with a friend!

And now, to sweeten the deal, I'm including one of my hand-carved stamps for the winner, so really, you're bidding on TWO pairs of my historic shoes!

The carved image I did this afternoon while eating lunch. This isn't the most amazing stamp you'll have ever seen, but it has heart, and the bottom of one shoe has my initials carved into it. (I can sign the bottom of the real shoes too, if the winner would prefer that.)

And remember, all proceeds from this auction are being donated to the Pacific Crest Trail Association! So get your bids in now!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gingerbread Barn: Part IV

In this session, I'll be putting together the silo and putting shingles on the roof.

In this first photo, I've gathered together all of the materials for the silo. The Black Jack gum will be used to 'texture' the silo once it's been erected.

If you've ever tried to put eight long slabs, glued together lengthwise, like I did here, you'll discover that two hands is just not enough. The directions I followed suggested putting a cardboard tube (such as that used for wrapping paper) in the center and gluing the long strips to it. It would have been a lot easier that way, but I just couldn't bring myself to do so. To me, the essence of a gingerbread house is that everything used to construct it must be edible, and in my book, a cardboard tube inside the silo wouldn't count.

But that's not to say a cardboard tube couldn't be a useful tool--just so long as it's doesn't become part of project once it's completed. So I rigged together a device from a toilet paper roll. I taped parchment paper to the bottom of it (figuring icing wouldn't stick to it very well) and taped a candy cane coming out the other end. I built the silo around it, then once the walls were together, I could pull it out.

I think it's clever, but it wasn't as useful as I would have hoped. In the end, I wound up asking my mom for a couple of extra hands to help. She would run the icing along the side of a gingerbread strip and hand it to me while I held all of the pieces together until all eight pieces were in place and the structure was largely stabilized. It wasn't easy, but I finally got it together!

In the photo above, I used a couple of pieces of the Black Jack gum to run around on the inside of the silo to help it hold its shape correctly, then flipped it over and put it in the correct position on the side of the barn and did it again. The round piece of gingerbread will go on top, capping the silo.

After several hours for the icing on the silo to dry, it was time to texture the silo with the Black Jack gum.

I also had to battle for kitchen space after my mom decided to start her own little project--oatmeal cookies. I didn't complain, though. =)

I ran the gum through an assembly line of sorts. First I 'stripped' the gum of the wrappers and piled them up like 2 x 4s.

It generated a lot of wrappers! Seems kind of a waste, but what else could be done? *shrug*

Then I cut each stick of gum in half. This seems like a slightly seedy thing to do, as if I were cutting drugs rather than gum.

Here the silo texturing is nearly complete. It went relatively quickly and wasn't much trouble. The parts that touched the barn slowed me down a little since I often had to cut the gum into very specific shapes and sizes to get a full coverage, but even that wasn't much trouble.

And presto! The silo is done! (Well, I haven't put on the top of the silo, but for my purposes here, it's done.)

Next up: shingling the roof. I found some hexagonal-shaped crackers. I couldn't find the exact brand the book suggested, so I winged it with another brand. The only real downside to the switch was that the singles were much bigger than I would have preferred. Only six crackers across filled up the first row of shingles I installed. I would have preferred them being half the size I was dealing with. Oh, well. *shrug*

I've added a few more rows of shingles, working from the bottom of both sides of the barn upwards to the ridge line. In the photo above, I had to stop at this point until I made a run to the grocery store to buy more crackers. All of the ones left on the board were broken. Stupid crackers. I was also running low on icing and went ahead and made another batch during the break. (No pictures of that--it looks largely the same as the first batch I made, except I was able to use the electric mixer rather than the hand mixer this time around.)

And presto! The roof now has shingles!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gingerbread Barn: Part III

Yes, folks, it's time for the barn raising! We'll start small at first....

Here, I've glued on the doors of the barn. Strangely, the directions in the book don't actually state when the doors should be installed. After the walls are up? Maybe. I thought it would be easier to install them while the barn pieces were still horizontal.

Next up, the hayloft. After waiting a few hours to make sure the barn doors were glued on tight with the icing, I flipped it over then installed the 'shelf' that will make up the hayloft, with three supports under it it keep it in place.

At about this time, I realized that the edges of the gingerbread pieces would be visible, and look strangely out of place once it was surrounded by red barn pieces. So I went through with my food coloring marker and turned the edges red. It was easier than 'painting' like I did with the faces of the pieces.

Now it's time to put up the walls! I laid out the pieces on my board so all I need to do is push the pieces upright right in their correct position. I lined the edges with icing that I'd deal with first.....

Then pulled up the first two walls, then a third wall....

Then iced and pushed up the fourth wall. The barn now has walls!

Here's a look at the inside of the barn so far. At about this point, I finally figured out why the book suggested that I wrap the board with "brown paper." If you notice, looking through the holes in the front of the barn, you can see the wrapping paper through it. Well, when the barn is done, you'll be able to look in the windows from the other direction and see that the barn floor is a bunch of wrapping paper that says "Merry Christmas!" Not very authentic-looking, really. Oops. I thought all of the wrapping paper would be covered by the time I finished, but I forgot about the inside of the barn.

Another problem started showing itself. The gingerbread is a bit less than completely stiff, and the walls--especially the front and the back walls, started to bend and warp under their weight. Once the icing dried, I figured each of the walls essentially would help prop the other ones it touched up. In the meantime, the barn was starting to sag! And gravity was slowing pulling the walls away from each other. I needed the pieces to stay put while the icing dried.

So I arranged a bunch of knives (and scissors) to hold all of the pieces together. Mostly a matter of "gently nudging" all of the pieces into their correct positions until the icing dried.

Here's how it looked from the outside. I did this part late last night, just before going to sleep, so everything should be crisp and dry by the time I woke up again this morning. Worked great!

I removed all of the knives (and scissors) from their positions, then set out to deal with the "Merry Christmas" problem on the floor of the barn. My mom suggested sprinkling brown sugar over it to look like compacted dirt. Perfect! So I pulled out some brown sugar and created a floor for the barn. The directions in the book did not include this step--this was an invention of necessity!

Next it was time to start installing the roof. I applied the icing quite liberally on the inside joints. I didn't worry if the icing started to drip or looked terrible. It wouldn't be noticeable once everything was done. Here I've installed the first of the four roof pieces.

Here's a view of that first roof piece from the other direction. If you're wondering about that notch in the roof, that's where the silo will be installed.

I went to a candy store this afternoon shopping for pieces I knew I'd likely need by tomorrow and ran across these candy canes. I didn't go out with the intention of buying them, but I decided to buy a couple to use as support beams inside of the barn. The directions in the book don't have them, but I liked the idea of "over building" things than watching the roof collapse in under its own weight at some point. I suppose I should have painted the candy canes brown or something to look more like real support beams, but I figured they were far enough inside of the barn and the light from the windows and entrance would be dark enough that deep in the barn that the support beams probably wouldn't be that obvious once everything was done. *fingers crossed* Hey, I'm winging it. =)

After installed the first two bottom roof pieces, I set soda cans under the edge of them to make sure the pieces didn't slide off as the icing was drying. You can see the soda can in previous pictures, but it wasn't as obvious as this one what its purpose was. I let the first two roof pieces dry for several hours before I went back to install the rest of the roof pieces. In the photo above, there's only one roof piece left to be installed.

And presto! The barn is up! It's currently drying right now, so there's not much I can do on it tonight. The shingles and trim will have to wait until tomorrow..... But the barn is up! (The soda cans will be removed as soon as all of the icing dries.)

The stacks of "lumber" you see in the foreground of this last photo will be used to make the silo.