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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A gingerbread house tutorial.....


So.....sharpen those pencils and grab some paper....class is in session!! I want to share all of my experience in the art of gingerbread house construction....because I really, really want you to make one of your own!

I have been making gingerbread houses for well over thirty years...so I have learned a trick or two! And, believe me, there are lots of tips to help make your adventure successful!

So.....let's get started!

First of all.....I have lots and lots of ideas on my Pinterest page. Yes....they are rather advanced....but ideas are really important. And it is the best place to start. I have found....after years and years of teaching classes and workshops....that most people think they can't do this. But, once they get started, they realize that not only CAN they do it....but that they are pretty good at it! Usually the first hurdle is not knowing where to start. And, usually, that first hurdle can be eliminated with a few good ideas!!

The next big element for success is good recipes. I have perfected this dough recipe, over the years, and can guarantee it will work for you!

1/2 cup margarine.                                 1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup sugar.                                         1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon baking powder.                     1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda.                      1 Tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.                         3 cups flour

Beat the margarine and sugar together. Add spices, then molasses. Add baking powder and soda. Beat in the egg. Add vinegar. Add flour. Wrap the dough in platinum wrap and refrigerate overnight.

*Refrigerating the dough is very important. It will be much easier to work with if it's cold.
*I strongly recommend making the house as a decoration. I cannot imagine doing all of this work and then eating it!! It should be put front and center and then admired!! Now, having said that, there are a couple of little tips. Add spices....like double or triple the amount in the recipe. It will make your whole house smell a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!!! The combination of sugar (icing and candy) and spice....just heaven!!
*use parchment paper to, actually, roll and cut the pieces out. You don't want to move them once they have been cut because they will become misshapen and then the pieces will not line up when you put them together!
*when designing the basic house shape remember...you need two sides, two ends (with a peak for the roof to rest on) and two roof pieces. There are all kinds of patterns for the basic house (Google it) or you can design your own if you are feeling ambitious!
*Bake the pieces "hard". Being a professional baker it isn't easy for me to recommend practically "burning" any kind of dough (don't, actually, burn it...please!!) but....the more moisture you remove from the pieces....the sturdier the house will be! Another really good reasons NOT to eat it!!
*Use meringue powder (and the recipe included on the top of the can...) for the icing. It is foolproof and you don't have to worry about ingesting it when you absentmindedly lick your fingers....which you WILL do!! Don't rush the assembly. Let the icing dry thoroughly before you do any decorating!! The candy adds a lot of weight...and you don't want any disasters!!
*It is not necessary to buy fancy pastry bags...disposable bags are great!
*It is much easier to draw the doors and windows....and any other details....on the walls BEFORE you assemble the house...but make sure they are dry before you handle the pieces!
*Give a lot of thought to the kind of candy or cookies or cereal (Golden Grahams look like tiles....frosted mini wheats look like they are snow covered!!) you want to use for the roof....it is the majority of the decorated space, on the house, and will set the tone for the whole thing!

Once you complete the basics....it's time to let your imagination run wild! Landscaping, decorations, porches, chimneys, steps, fences, gates.....the sky is the limit! And....just to let you know...I ordered all kinds of great candy just for gingerbread house decoration!! So....stop in and see us....and get everything you need!!

I hope you start this awesome tradition!! If you have any questions along the way....feel free to ask me!!! Good Luck....and have FUN!!!!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The gingerbread tradition.....

I say it every year....once the first of September arrives....life is a roller coaster! Time goes SO fast....and, even though I have a ton of things that I want to tell you...want to blog about....there just aren't enough hours in a day!

I am planning a tutorial about gingerbread houses. I have given this a lot of thought...and decided that, in order to do it "right", I need to break this up into more than one blog post.

I started this tradition when my kids were little. We always decorated the house on Christmas Eve. That probably sounds crazy...I mean, don't we all have "too much" to do on Christmas Eve?? But, to the little ones, it can be the longest day of the year!! It was always a fun, much anticipated, use of Christmas excitement energy. And helped to make the day go "faster"!

It is such an important tradition in our family that, years and years ago, I decided to teach the art of gingerbread house construction so that it could be part of lots of people's traditions! We held SO many classes, over the years....and I built SO MANY houses!! When I started the classes...I went through all of the steps. Making the dough, designing the house, cutting out the pieces, baking them off, making the icing (super important!!) and constructing the house. But....eventually...it became very obvious that my students were far more interested in decorating than constructing. And it became more of a workshop than a class! (Yes....we were WAY ahead of the trends...and had classes and workshops before they were everywhere!!)

Here, however, I am going to walk you through ALL of the steps....and I am going to pass along all of the tips and techniques that I have learned and perfected over the years. There are lots of ways to make this a fun, stress free project. And I want you to come to love this tradition as much as we do!

So....come back soon (I hope!!!) and we will start at the beginning! Just as a "heads up"...I have ordered all kinds of AMAZING candy to decorate your creation and I will be "getting it out" soon! Stop in to Sweet Memories before you go looking anywhere else!! And....I have been pinning ideas like CrAzY!! Go check out my gingerbread house Pinterest Board and start to get some ideas!!

Oh....this is going to be fun!!!

Monday, October 24, 2016

All kinds of exciting things.....

What a difference a week makes!

Last week we had the air conditioners running....let me tell you...it makes it really difficult to get into the Christmas spirit and I NEED to do that, right now!

I love Fall and Halloween so much that, even getting my thoughts to jump ahead to Christmas is a bit of a challenge...but when the weather outside is Summer-like...it's almost impossible!

Luckily....the weather is cooperating now. AND.....our candy cane order came in (yup....those chocolate filled delights that you all wait for!!) and there is a new flavor, this year....it's milk and cookies! Chocolate cookie cream filled and the candy cane itself is vanilla!!! There was a broken one when we opened the box...so we had to try it...(Awww...such a tough job!!) and they are AWESOME!!!!!

We, also, got an order from a new company....and I am really pleased and excited with what I ordered! I think you will be, too!

I am expecting the rest of our Christmas candy to come in this week.....always one of my favorite shipments! I ordered all kinds of great candy! As always....wonderful stocking stuffers and gifts....but ALSO....all kinds of fantastic candy to decorate your gingerbread houses!!

Now....just in case you have never made one before...I want to let you know that I am going to be posting a little "how to" right here on the blog! We (me, my kids and even my Grandson!!!) have been making them for years and years. A long time ago...I started my "teaching career" with gingerbread house classes. I know how much everyone misses those classes...so I thought I would do a little "teaching" on here! There are a bunch of tips and tricks that will help you to be successful....I want your experience to be positive! Then....you can add gingerbread house making to your family traditions, too!!

Well.....now that I am "in the Christmas mood" there will be some progress to report about the "Gingerbread and Candy Canes Marketplace" (aka the shops upstairs!!) I know you are all excited to start your shopping...and, now that Mother Nature has turned off the heat pump....I am excited, too!!

Stay tuned!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The big day is HERE!!!!

It's here, it's here....the BIG day is here!!!

Today is the day that we will reopen the gift shop and let you see what we have been up to!!

These past weeks have just "flown" by (hahaha....get it??) I have had a moment or two of doubt. Doubt about my decision to change things so drastically. Doubt about actually being able to get it all done. But.....those doubts were few, and they are long gone!!

The gift shops look like I have always wanted them to look.....the displays are exactly what I had "in my head"....and the merchandise selection is well on it's way to being EXACTLY what I want to offer!!

We accomplished everything on our list. We had a list of renovations to do.....painting, building...refreshing.....done. We had a list of handmade goodies that we wanted to present to you....they all got done, too!! I have a great selection of antiques and vintage wares.....and a great selection of "new" merchandise, too.

It will only get better as time goes on. We will have even more time to "make" things, more time to find amazing vintage and antique treasures.....and my "new merchandise" selections will be even more focused and awesome!!!

We have "explained" this new way of doing things a LOT over the last month plus....and I know it's a really different concept. But.....let's be honest here.....you have come to expect the unexpected from us!! Sweet Memories, and the family that owns it, is about as unique and special as it gets!! Trust me. Hang in there....eventually this "new way" of doing things will be second nature. And....each and every time you shop, upstairs, will be exciting. Every new season will bring treasures that will make you happy. I promise!

I know I am excited. Excited for the opportunity to give you the Sweet Memories experience! An experience you just can't get anywhere else!!

Doors open at 10:00......and we can't wait to see you!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Trendsetting......

Good Morning all of you trendsetters!!

Yes....you read that correctly....you all are trendsetters.

While, under normal circumstances, I don't care much about what the latest trends are....I can get on board with this one...mostly because we have BEEN on board with this one for 21 years!

So....what is this "new" trend?? To spend your time and money on experiences rather than just "stuff".

All of you have joined us for the Sweet Memories experience from the beginning!! And we are more than just an experience....we are an experience with benefits!! You can go skydiving, zip lining or mountain climbing....but when you come in and visit with us....you leave full, with goodies from the bakery and a few new treasures from the shop!!

And THAT experience....is going to be better than ever!!

Right now.....the upstairs looks like a train wreck! But.....we are making amazing progress (considering we are working in the middle of a train wreck!! 😉) and my vision is coming to fruition!! I must say....when the paint first started to cover the walls....I had a moment (or 6) of doubt.....but....not any more!! It is looking great and I can't wait to show it to you!!

So, so many of you have been asking about our plans and have shown so much excitement and anticipation.....even making your lunch reservations for our open house dates!! For this....I thank you!! This renovation has been a lot of work....and it's all I think about. And, I KNOW the new format will take some getting used to....but everyday that I spend on this project just makes me even more sure that I made the right decision.

Just a little over three weeks to go....and you are going to have a wonderful experience!! I mean...no zip lines....but wonderful just the same!! 😜 Thank you for sticking by us.....and for being the trendsetters that you are!!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A little update.....

I thought I would give you a little update on what's been happening, this week.....the first week without the gift shop!!

Well...first...everyone has stopped thinking we were closing the whole place. That's a good thing. I must say... I am still baffled as to how that piece of misinformation was derived from the post.

Moving on....

Second....there has been some backlash. It was expected...this was not the first time I have made major changes in our long history....and most people don't like change. But, from a business standpoint, change is not only necessary it is essential. Static and boring are not words you want people to use when they describe you!!

You are just going to have to trust me....you are going to LOVE what we are doing....I know I do!! And, while you won't be able to go upstairs and browse everyday of the week....we still have a great selection of treasures scattered throughout the downstairs! Plenty to look at...plenty to buy!

Now....a little sneak peek into what we have been up to.

Hmmm.....I don't want to give any secrets away and spoil the surprise.

Well....let's just say...we are about to get very friendly with brushes and cans....I have been threading my needle...a LOT...(I forgot how much I enjoy sewing!! 😉) my husband has been refinishing and building, the vintage stash is growing....and Fall and Halloween 2016 are going to be AWESOME!!!!!!!

I know it's not what you're used to....but, let's be honest, is ANYTHING at Sweet Memories like anyone else's.......nope!! That's why you love us!! 😊 And right back at ya!!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The FUN, new shop.......

Halloween....is fun!

It is one of my favorite Holidays....okay, let's be honest...ALL Holidays are my favorite....but, Fall and Halloween certainly rank right up there!

I get very excited about picking out the merchandise that I am going to carry in our gift shops. I know all of you do, too. It is, without question, one of the most anticipated times of the year, at Sweet Memories!

I have so many ideas....so many things that I want to do....displays that I want to set up...but, frankly, there isn't enough time.

My husband and I go to the shop early (very!!!) on the Monday that I deem "roll-it-all-over-to-the -next-Holiday" Monday and work for, about, 14 hours. We move furniture, clean, "base decorate" (like lighting and, in the case of Halloween, spider webs....Christmas would be snow...etc.) then start to unpack all of the goodies that have been coming in for months. I have big plans and lots of vision....until we hit hour number 10 (or earlier!!) and my energy level hits the floor. I never, actually, make it all I want it to be.

I hear....constantly....that we have the best displays and the most wonderful, unique, merchandise (and....thank you for that!!!! ☺️) but, lately especially, I feel a little like a fraud when you say it. I KNOW what I WANTED those displays to look like....and I, also, know that, while I love the merchandise that I am picking out, I want to offer more.

Now....none of this is new. It has been a "problem" for quite a while. Actually....there are a bunch of problems all rolled into one. I have been searching for solutions. I have had many, many conversations with myself and the only answer is adding more hours to the day! Since that is not, actually, doable....I started kicking this new idea around!

We are going to create a "Marketplace".

Here....I will give you the "official" tag line:
   "Black Cats And Candycorn Marketplace"
                A Gathering of Vintage, and New, Fall and Halloween Treasures

We are going to have our "Open House" on September 8, 9, 10 & 11. After that...the Marketplace hours (and ONLY the upstairs Marketplace....this in NO WAY changes the hours of operation in the restaurant or bakery!!!!!!!!) will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday until the middle of October. (I will give these dates many, many, many times...)

Basically....this solution does, in fact, add hours to my day. Instead of trying to do everything in one day....I will have weeks. And...since I won't have to worry about keeping the upstairs full everyday...all year long....I can be even "pickier" about what we carry! And....since the day to day operations, up there, won't occupy my every waking moment...I will have some time to make stuff!!! I will, also, have time to "hunt" for vintage treasures!!!! My husband will, also, have time to make stuff! And....we can actually HAVE an open house!! With all that that entails!!! Can you tell that I am excited??

Circle those dates on your calendar....right now....while you are thinking about it!! I know this is a pretty big change....but it will be amazing!

And...FUN!!!!!!!