Saturday, November 27, 2010

My first gingerbread house!

Another winter project has been my first gingerbread house - inspired by Rockland Main Street, Inc.'s "Gingerbread Houses on Main Street" competition for the Festival of Lights this weekend.

The whole process started with a cardboard version:

Then I took the cardboard pattern pieces and cut the gingerbread, baked it, and used royal icing to "glue" it all together.

This was the first house. It's the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse:

I say "first house" because Izze ate most of this one so I had to start over. I made a new batch of gingerbread, cut everything out again (thankfully I saved the cardboard patterns!), baked it, and stored the pieces in the microwave (an Izze-safe zone). Not much later, I heard some banging in the kitchen and Brian saying something that didn't sound good. He needed to use the microwave and had dropped the pieces while trying to move them.

So I made a new batch of gingerbread, cut everything out again, baked it, and stored the pieces in the oven (another Izze-safe and hopefully Brian-safe zone) after it cooled. I decided to work in the dining room to put this one together and when I left the room for any length of time I would put two chairs in the doorway (there is no door) to keep Izze out.

On Tuesday, I went into the dining room for something and discovered that Izze had somehow managed to get beyond my barricade and eat the house - AGAIN. This time it was 90% decorated so he ingested a lot of gingerbread and a lot of candy too. He must have been full because the roof was left mostly intact. This is what the remaining portion of that house looked like:

So I set about making another batch of gingerbread, cutting everything out again, baking it, and putting it together. I continued working in the dining room to put this one together and when I left the room for any length of time I put two chairs with heavy filing boxes in them plus my hockey gear bag, Brian's duffel bag, and a bag of books in the doorway to keep Izze out.

I'm happy to report that my tenacity paid off ("I'm going to make this gingerbread house!") and, with huge thanks to Brian for washing lots of dishes throughout the process, here are the results:

Some detail shots:

the front of the lighthouse

The roof is decorated with Spree candies. The front of the house has a layer of white fondant with little sugar candy trees, edible gel shutters, and a colored frosting wreath on the door.

the lighthouse tower

Okay, I know it's far from perfect but that light house lens is made out of pulled sugar. It is hollow and it took several attempts to make it. I kept cracking them. Again, I know it's not perfect but it's the best one I made. I added red food coloring to the gingerbread and scored it to make the "bricks". The wreath is colored frosting on a Ritz cracker.

a Christmas tree at the end of the breakwater

I made the tree out of Spree candies and decorated it with red frosting for ornaments and white frosting for garland. The snowflakes on either side of the yellow top are edible too! The Christmas presents under the tree are sugar cubes decorated with colored frosting. The "breakwater" is red and green rice krispy treats.

These happy guys are on the other side of the lighthouse.
Snowman Peeps! Candy canes. More sugar cube presents. Again...all edible.

This is the top view of Rendezvous.

The pilot house and aft canopy are gingerbread with a layer of white fondant. The canopy is decorated with M&Ms and each M&M has an edible candy snowflake. The pilot house has just one M&M on either side...running lights! And the last thing I did to the whole project was to add the "Happy Holidays" in light blue icing. The pilot house looked pretty bare before I did that. And look at the cargo...the boat is loaded with M&Ms!

Rendezvous has a Ritz cracker wreath on her bow. And I made little lobster buoys out of mini-marshallows with Twizzler tails and colored icing. The water is a blend of three different colors of frosting; white first, then the light blue, then a darker blue.

The original plan was to have both of our boats represented. My grand plan was the Evans made out of gingerbread with pulled sugar sails. My pulled sugar technique needs some work so that part of the plan didn't work out. Maybe next year?!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Winter Fun

People always ask what I do in the winter and I like sharing some of my projects here on the blog. Tuesday's project was a wreath for Big Brothers Big Sisters' Bids for Kids Wreath Auction. Basically, local businesses agree to decorate wreaths and they are displayed in town so people can bid on them. Wreaths with smaller gift certificate values are bid on through a silent auction and larger values are auctioned at a live auction. Last year I did a blue and silver themed wreath with starfish and mussel shells. This year I did a red and gold lobster-themed wreath with gift certificates for trips for two including a lobster dinner on each boat. What do you think?

Wordless Wednesday - photo credit Len and Linda Reed

Monday, November 22, 2010

Capt. Brenda as a kid

I'm working on a photo book project and so far I've come across some interesting stuff. There are so many images and it is very time consuming. When I came across these, I thought you might like to see them:

This is me and my brother in Rockport, Maine next to the marble statue of Andre the Seal. The statue was erected in 1978 and I'd guess that's the year this photo was taken. Andre was found by Rockport harbormaster Harry Goodridge in 1961, when Andre was a pup without a mother. Goodridge kept Andre in a floating pen during the summers and entertained visitors with Andre's tricks and antics. In the winter, Andre was let free, and later, sent to an aquarium. Andre died in 1986.

This is me next to an Allagash Wilderness Waterway sign. Our family vacations when I was a kid always involved some sort of outdoor experience. It was camping, fishing, swimming, hiking, panning for gold, mining for tourmaline, and such, not flying off to far-flung destinations, visiting the mall, or rushing about at amusement parks. I was 15 or 16 when this picture was taken. I think it was the first family vacation that my brother did not go on (he would have been 18 or 19). My mom, dad, and I canoed the Allagash for almost two weeks. I remember not being happy with all the mosquitoes and being so far away from civilization (and my friends) but I also remember lots of moose, beautiful scenery, sunsets, the cool ice cave we visited. We, of course had to carry all of our belongings including food and water. I've always loved my mom's cooking but by the end of the trip I was sure she was a campfire genius... more Spam and biscuits, please! Even so, we ended up heading straight for a restaurant when we made it back to civilization and I think we ordered one of everything on the menu!

Great fun and great memories for which I am very thankful!

Friday, November 05, 2010


It's pretty common to see harbor porpoise during a cruise on the Isaac H. Evans.

This sure looks like a shark fin, doesn't it?

But it's not...

When we sailed closer, we saw that it was an ocean sun fish!

There's no frame of reference in this image but the ocean sun fish (mola mola) is the heaviest known bony fish in the world with an average adult weight of 2,200 pounds!
For lots of information about ocean sun fish visit Wikipedia.

Thanks to Len and Linda Reed for the porpoise picture and to Nancy Hackney for the sun fish pictures.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - photo credit Nancy Hackney

A tooth fairy aboard?

Why would a windjammer need a Tooth Fairy? Well, when the windjammer sails with kids like we do, it's a definite necessity! The Isaac H. Evans Tooth Fairy shared this note with me this summer as well as the poem that she received from Madeline's Tooth Fairy. She asked that the poem be put under Madeline's pillow with some very special nautical treats! I'm sorry to report that Tooth Fairies are very secretive (understandably so) and that she was unwilling to share her name with me...sorry Madeline, I tried!

The poem from Madeline's Tooth Fairy:

It's a good thing
You wrote me that note.
How else would I know
You're on a boat?

The Evans' tooth fairy
Called me at home
She told me the news
Over the shell phone.

You lost another tooth
And she's sending it to me
Will my gifts get to you?
We'll have to see.

It's a good thing
You wrote me that note
It's also good that I fly...
Not float!

How else could I deliver
These nautical treats?
Now be sure to take care
Of the rest of your teeth!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

This is a picture of me with a piece of kelp that was floating near the boat one day this summer. I couldn't believe how big it was so we hooked it and got it aboard. The blade of the kelp is like leather and the stalk is like rubber. I tugged and pulled but couldn't tear it or pull it apart. The interesting things is that this huge plant is attached to the ocean floor (usually a rock) with a relatively small holdfast (looks like a root system). The large frond spreads along the surface of the water, gathering light energy for photosynthesis. The holdfast seems flimsy compared to the structure of the rest of the plant and a strong storm can rather easily uproot the kelp. Shorelines are often lined with stranded plants after winds like we had this September!

And, as a reference, I am 5' 8" tall!