While the holiday season is nearing it's zenith, friends, family, and strangers alike are spreading their tidings and good cheer, but we'd be remiss if we didn't take a moment to mention an event that brings out a little bit of good natured competition and gamesmanship each year.
Last year we gave you all an overview and rundown of our annual neighborhood gingerbread construction and decoration competition, where we all gather at our friends' home to enjoy some good company, great food, really strong drinks, and a little gingerbread construction smack talking.
Each year Wendy attempts to retain the crown of "Person most likely to win at all costs," while everyone else kicks back, relaxes, and eats way too much candy and icing. However, this year, there may have been a little bit of sabotage involved in the ultimate outcome. ::Gasp!::
This year started out a little different than previous years. The event was actually held last Friday, and I've been working to launch a major project at work. The end results of my work efforts meant I was at the office well into Friday night and didn't actually arrive at the party until about an hour after it started. This put us at a significant disadvantage as the various other gingerbread contractors and home builders were able to ply Wendy with "cosmopolitans." I say "cosmopolitans" because they were more "alcoholpolitans" with a little red dye thrown in for good measure. I'll also mention that there was a flavored "cake batter vodka" floating around. Let's just say that by the time I arrived, Wendy's wasn't exactly at the top of her game.
Once the chit chat and pregame taunts had reached their fevered pitch, we all gathered in the dining room to begin the ritualistic assembly of our soon to be candy covered homes. Wendy chose her strategic location (nearest the cheese and cake pops) and tore into the task like a whirling dervish of crafts.
As has been customary, Wendy brought along her "contraband", as it is lovingly referred to. Her set of 30+ Wilton icing tips and frosting bags is employed year after year to give her the edge she desires. Some argue the added benefit is paramount to performance enhancing drugs in professional sports.
Wendy argues that the tips are just tools, and you can't fault her for bringing the right tools for the job. As they said in the Wild West, you don't want to be caught bringing your knives to a gun fight. Wendy's weapon of choice, her confectionery steroid if you will, a pretty standard frosting tip that provides the utmost of control and dexterity.
Note the viciously strong "cosmo" at the table, and the icing escaping from the top of the bag. She was soldiering through, though it wasn't without effort. Only the most hardened of souls would be unimpressed.
As Wendy worked to decorate the walls and roof of our gingerbread mansion, I worked the crowd, surveyed the competition, and played a little mental chess with our primary competition. I needed to gage just how into the build our chief opponents were, I needed to ready my strategery in the event of a showdown. There's no way I was going to let our team fall victim to cookie and icing trickery.
Mid way though the assembly, I noticed our primary competitors across the table pulling bag after bag of Twizzlers, gumdrops, M&Ms, canned frosting, marshmallows and the like from their backpack. This frustrated and concerned us. We weren't frustrated because they were "cheating," we were simply frustrated because we ran out of time and couldn't reciprocate in an equivalent fashion.
All was going well with our build, and as Wendy completed the various pieces of decorated elements for our home that was becoming a model for modular development, we placed the pieces in the freezer to harden the otherwise liquid icing. This bit of genius was a bit unorthodox but absolutely brilliant for a woman who was already 2-1/2 sheets to the wind.
Wendy took a break and left the actual construction to me. I applied ample icing to the interior joints and roof lines of the home like the skilled caulk master I've become. My years of DIY corrections under the mantra "do your best, then caulk the rest" has been building each year to this gingerbread moment. After final wall and roof assembly, I knew we'd need to hold it in place for a while, especially since it was getting a little warm in the room from the heated competition. After a few minutes of holding everything in place, the icing was beginning to cure. I was covered in the sugary goodness when Wendy offered to take my place while I washed my hands. I gladly accepted leaving her with the instruction to "just hold everything in place and let it all set-up."
A few minutes later I heard Wendy screaming my name from the other room, "ALEX!!! ALEX!!! ALEX!!! WE'RE HAVING STRUCTURAL ISSUES!!!!!" I sprung into action and ran to her aide just in time to see the two roof pieces of our cookie home sliding toward the ground, and the east wall beginning to lean in a manner not appropriate for a structurally sound dwelling. I wish I had a photo to convey the horror of the situation, but there simply wasn't time. Had I reached for the camera rather than help my wife, I'm pretty sure it would have been the last photo I'd ever take.
It seems Wendy grew tired of holding the house together (she claims these instructions were never issued) and moved onto piping ice icicles onto the eaves. The weight of the panels on the unhardened icing was just too much, and the whole thing couldn't help but give way. I hurriedly assembled the house back to the way it was intended to be, but the icicle icing had been substantially marred, the roof details mangled, and the nearby snowman had nearly become collateral damage in the melee.
After helping to reassemble our pleasant house turned tenement, we were having significant issues getting the house to stay intact. Using a similar mindset to our freezer idea, we placed the whole house outside on the grill, where the cool evening air could help to erase follies of our own impatience. However, the damage had been done.
We were able to take a bit of a breather from the home building and had a moment to play with our friends' daughter's pet chinchilla, Spiffy. We've taken care of Spiff many times over the years, and we always love to give her a little extra love whenever possible. I just love this photo of Wendy so much that I needed a good excuse to share it.
Getting back to the gingerbread houses, the other offerings from the group were a mix of downright attractive homes...
...to disturbing homes where we were scared to know what had transpired. (Note the yellow police tape and apparent grisly snowman accident in the front yard.)
Once final votes were tallied, our home tied with the home covered in illegal candies for the first place voting category, but lost out in the 2nd place votes by just two, giving the crown to their crazy candy home. To be totally honest here, the loss is 100% on me. I don't feel right about voting for our own creation. Call it humility, or perhaps stupidity, but I like to vote for houses that look good and were not created by our hands. This year had I voted our house the #1 contender, we would have taken home the crown, though I would have felt disingenuous in casting my vote.
Regardless of outcome, we all had an absolutely wonderful time. Nothing beats having a great time with friends on Friday night. We live in a very special neighborhood and enjoy every opportunity we get to spend time with the people we've had the pleasure to know over the years. Regardless of religion, beliefs, or feelings about commercialism, events like our annual Gingerbread house building "competition" are a staple in our annual holiday traditions.
Do you have any annual holiday traditions that you enjoy taking part in? Are they family, friend, or perhaps stranger oriented? We'd love it if you wouldn't mind sharing them with us. We always love to hear what events make other people feel happy and festive.