Sugar and Spice
By Rebecca Meekma
I don’t usually plan a theme to our weekends, but if I had to sum up last weekend, the word would be gingerbread. Something I don’t really want to eat, but is a lot of fun to play around with.
We opened with the Discovery Science Center’s party for the new Science of Gingerbread exhibit. Maggie and I had been fortunate enough to be invited to a gingerbread-house-making event a few weeks prior and I had been happy to sit back and watch Maggie’s very artistic 6-year-old self go to town decorating. Our house was on display, along with hundreds of others – some simple and child made, others elaborate and adult made. Most were in the middle. All were wonderful to see. There were basic houses, zoos, the Taj Mahal, a Chichen Itza pyramid, even the Honda Center in cookie and candy. We loved them all.
There were science experiments and lessons about gingerbread; now I know why baking soda makes things rise and the different spices that go into making gingerbread. We made our own gingerbread cookie mix to take home and were lucky enough to decorate and sample some cookies as well.
There was also a fun exhibit about the Anaheim Ducks, which coincidentally was where hubby was for the evening. We checked out a real zambone, learned how ice is made in an arena, compared our reflexes to a goalie’s and felt the difference between old school and modern hockey uniforms, protective gear and sweat (ew!) included. The gingerbread exhibit smelled much better.
This is one of those venues parents often visit before their children are old enough to appreciate it. My first and third graders had a blast. They could read the directions themselves and understand what they were doing. I didn’t need to hang over them and make sure they behaved. I could relax and have fun. Good times.
Sunday was family gingerbread day when we went to the St. Regis to participate in the hotel’s Gingerbread Academy. In the past we’d bought the gingerbread kits from Trader Joe’s and Michael’s and, well, let’s just say the experience and results were less than stellar (not that the girls thought so.) I get too tense when I’m dealing with kitchen mess and frosting that’s supposed to act like glue. This year I left the gingerbread baking and the basic house set up and, most importantly – the set up and clean up – to the pros. All we had to do was show up and decorate to our heart’s content.
It was interesting to see their different decorating styles. I giggled to myself when I noticed they remembered design elements from the gingerbread exhibit. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Soon, our house had a swimming pool with gummy bears enjoying the water, a “watermelon” patch (as every snow-bound house should), a chimney, and wood pile out back.
The kind staff of the St. Regis circulated, refilling candy bowls and offering encouragement. David and I enjoyed good coffee and the girls had magnificent hot chocolates. We parents got in the fun when asked; my task was sorting M & Ms by color; David assisted in creating a log cabin effect with pretzels. After two hours of hard work we left with a spectacular gingerbread house that had its own travel box. The house made it home without loosing an icicle. That is, until the cat had to try one.
The Science of Gingerbread at the Discovery Center in Santa Ana runs through Jan. 2. www.DiscoveryCube.org.
The St. Regis’ Gingerbread Academy continues this weekend: Saturday has both morning and afternoon sessions; Sunday morning only. $65 per house. Worth it! Reservations required. 949-234-3900.