Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You Can't Catch Me ~ Gingerbread Men Tell Their Stories

I brace myself for a certain amount of chaos during the winter holiday season. As I walked up the stairs with my children, ages two and six, I expected to open the door onto a certain amount of flurry -- the flurry that looks like several dozen children and parents gathered in one place. I open the door onto calm and ease, and then I remember: Ah, yes, this is The Greenwood Tree.

Older children are busy in various rooms of our host's house, gathered in small groups, heads bowed over something of interest; or maybe they are leading their siblings (or friends' siblings) around by hand. Parents are busy readying the vast mounds of molasses-colored dough prepared the night before: ovens, baking sheets, cookie cutters, plus potluck food arriving as more families arrive.

Song calls us into community and we gather in one room, on chairs or the warm wood floor. Circle time, and the acknowledgemnt of everyone's presence with the naming of names in song. We are here.

Laurel uncovers wool-felted figurines and unravels a story on sky-blue silk. The story of the Gingerbread Man. Not read from a book but told from the heart, hands making the action. The children draw in closer to the sea of silk as the story unfolds. Quiet, captivated. Chins on knees, eyes on the moving figurines.

The story crescendos. Delighted children now rustling about, smiling. The silk and the figurines now unanimated and back in the basket. The energy in the room moves and the parents who keep Greenwood Tree running smoothly make smooth work once again -- a herd of children and parents in calm transition to the next room, to the unfathonably wide wooden table. Mounds of dark molasses dough for all. Cookie cutters, rolling sticks, and decoration in the form of red cranberries, light brown sunflower seeds, white slivered almonds. Let the baking begin!

Gingerbread Men and Women
Dough Recipe

(shared by gwt parent Shelley Olson -- her family recipe: "I believe it was my grandmother's and my mother has always used it, although she uses shortening and we used butter.")

1 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 c. molasses
2 Tbs. vinegar
5 c. flour (we used a little over 5c. spelt)
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. (1 Tbs.) ginger

1. Cream together the shortening and sugar.
2. Stir in egg, molasses and vinegar.
3. Add dry ingredients (sift together if you like).
4. Chill 1-3 hours.
5. Roll out to 1/4" and cut (obviously our children didn't follow this one) :)
6. Bake @ 375 for 5-6 minutes.