“Take a look at this roof: shaved almonds.” My attentive listeners ooh and ah appreciatively. “This one is nice too, only we don’t have any fancy chocolates. And look how effectively this one just uses plain, white icing.”
Then off they go: Alie to make the concrete-style icing; Carmen to cover the cardboard bases with tinfoil; Alexa to draw the Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus figures for tracing on top of the dough. Jacquie to make straw out of coconut, by coloring it yellow and then toasting it in the oven. Andrea and Mariana to design the color and candy combinations for our gingerbread manger scenes. Danielle to get the Christmas music.
To my chagrin some of the gingerbread walls and ceilings are soggy! They had been carefully stored away weeks ago; but somehow got unduly exposed… No matter: Ale, cuts off the soggy parts and succeeds in coming up with the pieces needed to make four whole mangers.
The only class I teach here at Mater Ecclesiae College is the Junior class. But I spent some delightful moments throughout last year with the Senior class doing innovative baking projects like volcano cakes. At the end of last year this year’s Senior class, eyes glinting, announced to me that they were going to be the ones baking with me this year. And so we have, usually leaving time afterwards to sit around and chat while munching on popcorn and our baked goods.
Today’s moment was particularly memorable. There’s something about everyone having the opportunity to be creative with a common project. Jacquie’s straw had the appearance of edible straw. Silvia’s lattice-roof looked professional. Nicolette’s water trough really looked like one once it was placed in front of the cow. Alie and Gaby’s Christmas trees looked stunning, especially with those stars cut out of gummy candies. I was in trouble there for a moment when I accidently knocked over one of Alie’s trees, but she forgave me when she saw the tree hadn’t been damaged.
Sarah, our resident expert manger-maker demonstrated how you should first put up the walls and then you can decorate them, once the icing has duly hardened. But the rest of us were shy on patience so we decorated the walls and roofs first. This way of proceeding made things much more exciting when it came time to put the pieces together. Picture two very interested parties, each holding her wall, while Ana Lucia lowers down her humongous roof much over-laden with her chocolate dipped cookies. More of us quickly became involved when the voices raised a pitch because the roof was sliding off the slanted walls. Ale saved the day with some anachronistic, gothic-style, peppermint stick, flying buttresses.
The other tense moment came when we divvied out the freshly baked gingerbread figures and realized we were short one St. Joseph. Jacquie was certain the right number of Josephs had gone into the oven…The lone Mary and Child were assigned to the psychedelic manger scene and they do okay there, while St. Joseph is presumed to be off working.
I must admit I got teary-eyed when I went over the morning with Our Lord during my afternoon prayer. There’s something so right about spending time together like that, enjoying each other’s company, creating something beautiful together. I hope next year’s senior class will want a repeat on this project…