Thursday, January 11, 2007

Of Kings and Gingerbabies!

Celebrating “King’s Day” our way!

Three kings came from Orient far, to the land in the east. As they journeyed towards the prophesized “king of kings”, Mary and Joseph allowed them a visit with their son Jesus. And the wise men came with reverence and adoration, bearing gifts from afar…..

That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth

~ Philippians 2:10

In our home, our three kings endure quite a journey, small hands moving them about, along with their camel. Some days they roam far and wide over vast lands, piloted from one bookshelf to another, one room altogether into another, stopping to rest a while on top of a window sill, making camp for the night atop a kitchen counter, down amongst the plant foliages, but honestly one never quite knows where their journey has drifted each and every day from the beginning of Advent, until January 6th; Epiphany. Holding fast to the tradition of travel towards the great brilliant star, they are determined to reach their final destination, that of their prized king and carrying gifts to the child.

Clay ornament with the three kings
bowing before Jesus.

Amongst the celebration of actually witnessing the three kings (various sets of them around here) greet Jesus in the manger; our children have taken turns to set the kings, at long last, into the setting with the other figures within the barn.

King’s hats have been made, worn and processions through the house occur, with the loud chorus singing of “We Three Kings”. Even gifts wrapped in gold paper have appeared at the dinner table, gifts for the children on this very beautiful feast day.

Ah, Family Traditions!

We must keep them!

We must remember to make them happen!

With our weekend’s upheaval, Epiphany was a special day around here, as we noted after Sunday’s sermon, on how we are likened to the three kings, journeying and wondering where “in the east” we will be visiting when all is said and done. Yes, we are in "our very own Epiphany”, searching for our star, looking heavenward for guidance and a sign at best to lead us onward. In all things, we pray to the Lord.

Our journey.

Other traditions hold fast within our home, celebrating the actual Christmas season, those twelve days of Christmas most forget. The Christmas music doesn’t get filed away until January 6th, nor does the d├ęcor in the home get removed and stored for another year until that date, or later.

Packing thing away until another year.

This year, it was later obviously; THEN, better late than never, our cookie fest day approached with beaming faces, eagerly waiting for mommy to refrigerate the cookie dough for the afternoon blitz fare!

My good old “Betty Crocker” antiquated cookbook, my old and loyal reference pal still sits proudly within my kitchen shelves of other assorted cookbooks. I purchased this special book by joining the “Columbia House” book club when I was a mere sixteen years old, amongst many other collectibles still present in our book stacks today, Richard Scary being many of them.

The book fast becoming a family heirloom!

Some reference helps never truly grow old; they become cherished and just seem to get better with age. Ours shows gentle and loving wear with food stains, dried up cookie batter spills, dried liquid ripples, and dog-eared corners from favorite recipe acknowledgements. It’s seen many beginner bakers and cooks usage over the years and becomes one of those “family classics” now a collectible by any standard by age, let alone style of its day.

Within the index, the cookie section seems to have been used much over the years, especially the sugar cookie and gingerbread boy recipes. Each year, I make a double batch of each, freeze one of each for another time, but around the “Three Kings” day, we pull out our very special cookie cutter set, making kings and decorating them in high style with colorful icing and glittering fanciful glory, to render anyone offered one, a blessing and certain high privilege of the baker’s artful finished product. *smile*

Our special cutters used at Epiphany.

Kings, nativity figures and stable
animals lay ready to be decorated.

Also, with the gingerbread prepared in advance, this year we read a new Jan Brett book called “Gingerbread Baby” , admiring her wonderful artwork with its incredible details of sheer artistic beauty, co-ordinating our cookies with the story, making ginger babies and ginger families side by side with the kings, nativity figures, stable animals and many yellow iced stars.

Eager to proceed with the dough making.

The Gingerbread Baby ~ by; Jan Brett

...It was cold outside.
It was warm inside.
A fine day for gingerbread, Matti thought.

Matti’s mother put the big blue bowl on the table and lit the stove. Matti took down the worn-looking cookbook with old-fashioned wirting on the cover.

He opened it up to the page that said “Gingerbread Boy”.

Gingerbread boy recipes

Matti with his wooden roller

Jan Brett's lively rollicking chase rendition and its beautifully detailed paintings catch the spirit of a favorite old tale through her cheeky little Gingerbread Baby and the colorful cast of characters who pursue him through a tiny Swiss village surrounded by forest and mountain.

Where did he go?

Just like “Mattie” in the story, the two younger children were anxious to be included in the cookie batter assembly, so with ingredients before us, they proceeded to be immense assistance with help to measure, dump, mix, beat, lick, blend, lick, pour, lick, clean, lick, roll, lick, and basically created an environment too precious to meddle in and chastise for their innocent lack of kitchen food safety. Laugh

Patience was a difficult virtue to put into practice for them all while the cookie dough sat in the fridge for the required hours the recipe called for. The scheduled schooling syllabus continued and the required daily piano practice for all four was completed.

Before too long, several hours later, the next step was to begin, that of gathering rolling pins and other assorted cookie cutters and tools to “dive in” and “create” making them all “food artists” for the afternoon.

Busy hands rolling, cutting and sculpting.

We have the perfect island countertop located directly in the center of our kitchen! Each child claimed thier spot and displayed their own unique way to mold, roll, and cut their dainty delectables, soon placed into the oven when the temperature reached its peak, imminently offering waif of home cooked cookie scent into the air.

Leaving her post for a brief moment, I caught our youngest daughter peeking into the oven window, I wondered just what could be on her mind. Perhaps looking to see how her own gingerbread babies were fairing, or weather or not they would prance about jumping off the hot cookie sheets when opening the door up?

I am the Gingerbread Baby,
Fresh from the pan,
If you want me,
Catch me if you can!

After the cookie dough bowls had but a few mere crumbs remaining, even more patience was necessary to allow the cookies to cool at the cookie stations. To pass the time, all decidedly opted to get some of the sunny winter fresh air outdoors for a time, noticing the sports court was dry enough to get a hockey game rolling with a neighbor down the road playing along with them all. I took the opportunity to walk hand in hand, with our youngest daughter to fetch the mail, having a great time along the way playing “I Spy” both ways to occupy our travels. I’m so happy we all got outside before the air cooled to a crispy chill allowing for a lovely warming up when returning inside near the fireplace.

Back to work; cookie decorating techniques were thought of, then masterfully applied to each individual cookie, handled with care and uniquely presented when complete, back onto the paper towel surfaces for a picture.

Rainbow colors of icing all ready to use.

Well, would you like one too?

Overview of the day;

- Another safe arrival occurred for all five sets of their “Three Kings”.

- Another cookie fest is now behind us until next month’s Valentine creations begin.

- A great new story was read, enjoyed, and savored with the ensuing cookie making activity attached to it on the same day. In fact, while the cookie dough was in the fridge, and while reading the story, like a light bulb brightly appearing overhead, our younger son suddenly exclaimed; “We’ll be doing what he’s doing today too!”

Gingerbread family with little babies

- A lot of fresh air was had by all, virtually a sunny day with the sunbeams bouncing from the snow still laying on the grass, all brightening up the day.

- And, finally, a whole bunch of cookies are just hanging around to tempt the family to munch on them. Today, most of their stashes were beginning to deplete rapidly, and I noticed some were clever placing theirs in the freezer to keep for a time.

A time to keep!

These are the treasures in our mind to carry us into our old(er) ages for sure!

What a great day!

Behold they saw a bright star....