All week, I get to introduce you to some of my new favorites in the world of blogging, writing, authoring, and entrepreneur-ing (a word I probably just made up). With Advent upon us, I thought it would be fun to do a little bit of old-school hosting of some of the most fabulous people I know. I hope you’ll find a way to stop by for this entire series — we’ll even be posting on Thanksgiving. Feel free to subscribe for the week, so you don’t miss a post (and, you can unsubscribe when the week is done). At the end of the week, join us for your chance to win a copy of #EveryLittleThing and an Everlasting Light Shine Necklace from DaySpring. Happy Holidays!
I keep thinking I’ve met Monica in person. I haven’t. I only know her from the Internet. Our paths first crossed via the High Calling, and I was so impressed with her presence in that space that I’ve been following her around online ever since. Monica wrote the foreword to Jean Fleming’s book, Pursue the Intentional Life (a recent Incourage book club selection) and then, Jean wrote the foreword to Monica’s book, Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading. Monica’s book released earlier this year, and it’s one to add to your holiday gift-giving (and receiving) list. I’m excited to welcome Monica here to this space. Enjoy!
If you’re at my house at eight o’clock on Christmas morning, you’ll hear the oven door open. When it opens, you might close your eyes, smile, and lift your nose to take in the warm scents of fresh-baked bread and cinnamon.
Every Christmas, my husband makes cinnamon rolls from scratch. He starts the mixing, kneading, rising, and baking before dawn so that the rolls come out of the oven right at breakfast time. He makes the bread dough with white flour—a big deal for three boys whose mother makes whole-grain everything all year long.
This is no small thing. We’re talking about Charles Sharman, son of Sue Sharman; the very same Sue Sharman who is famous throughout Montrose and Mesa Counties and beyond, for her homemade cinnamon rolls.
After breakfast, we move to the fireplace hearth to light the “Christ candle” in the center of the Advent wreath, and read the story of Jesus’ birth. We pray and sing carol after carol as my son accompanies us on the piano. I always request my favorites: “Once in Royal David’s City,” “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne,” and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.”
Sometime during the next twelve days, we make gingerbread creations—one per son. The gingerbread, like the cinnamon rolls, is made from scratch. Charles always uses the “Rolled Ginger Cookies” recipe, hand-copied from my mother-in-law’s 1960s Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.
The gingerbread creations are intended for both display and consumption, so of course, they must be 100 percent edible. No toothpicks for rebar. Definitely, no hot glue allowed. We don’t even use the royal icing commonly used as “glue” for gingerbread houses, because it doesn’t taste good and is made with raw eggs. But my guys like the extra engineering and design challenge of having to use buttercream frosting to keep the pieces together.
In previous years we’ve made a gingerbread TIE fighter (think “Star Wars”), a gingerbread Star Destroyer (again, “Star Wars”), a gingerbread Leaning Tower of Pisa, a gingerbread aircraft carrier, a gingerbread Eiffel Tower, and even a gingerbread house.
One year we had a gingerbread Freedom Tower, before the real one had been built in New York City. My son based it on designs and artists’ conceptions he found online.
A few years ago I joked, “You guys should make a gingerbread Sydney Opera House.” But they took me seriously and plan to combine their gingerbread dough portions to do it this Christmas (the last Christmas before our oldest son graduates from high school). I’ll come back here with pictures if they pull it off.
Last year, my brother and his family celebrated Christmas with us again. My nephew Aiden was in our living room, playing with his rubber Godzilla. In order to plan for baking amounts and design the pieces beforehand, I asked Aiden what he wanted to make out of gingerbread this time. “It doesn’t have to be a house,” I reminded him.
“Godzilla!” he said, roaring.
Our gingerbread-making is a fixed yet customizable tradition—a groove that brings us and our holiday guests together in a relaxed, fun way. Then we lick frosting off our fingers, eat the cookies, and head outside for another tradition: the snowball fight!
Monica Sharman is a home educator, freelance editor, and author of the newly released Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading, and portions of this essay are excerpted from the book. She lives in Colorado with her husband—inventor of Crossbeams (learn more, in this gift-giving guide from Jennifer Dukes Lee) —and their three sons. Also, some say she makes a mean cheesecake. Connect with Monica on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.
Your book sounds wonderful (just checked it out via the link)! I love all the boy-energy in your pictures. We have four sons, and I applaud you for getting yours all covered in frosting as part of a family tradition!
Thanks, Michele. You’re even outnumbered more than I am! Yeah, covered in frosting and snowballs.
I just ordered a copy! Cannot wait to read it, Monica. Reading I can do–building scrumptious wonders out of sweetness–yikes! Enjoy your holidays!!
Thanks, Jessica. Happy reading! I hope you get plenty of sweetness yourself during the holidays.
Lynn D. Morrissey
Monica! So fun to see you at Deidra’s, friend. Those creations are fantastic. I’m afraid I’m no engineer, but I’m telling you, I could make those creations disappear! 🙂 Your architectural endeavors remind me of a landmark St. Louis restaurant, Miss Hullings’, alas no longer with us (nor is she). But her bakers would set up long tables in the dining room loaded with colored frosting they’d mixed and gigantic gingerbread houses. Every child (or adult–ahem!) was given a pastry tube filled with frosting, and they’d wield it like playful Picassos. My child and I probably ended up with more icing on us than on the houses (well, on second thought, more *in* us). Your traditions sound lovely, especially the Scripture reading and carol-singing. As a child, I would organize a family Christmas program (because I loved to perform), and *make* my poor siblings listen. But now, we all gather around the grand and sing for the sheer joy of music and Christmas. One thing you should do this year is make sure each child has a personalized copy of your wonderful book. I absolutely loved it and will soon post a review. Thank you for sharing your passion for God’s Word through *your* gift of words and creativity. You are a delight, and I am delighted that Deidra has shared your giftedness. Have a joyous Christmas!
Oooh, you make me want to go to St. Louis! I would love to see you in a Christmas program, and I would *really* love to sing with you someday. A joyous Christmas to you, too, Lynn!
Lynn D. Morrissey
Monica, you are just so sweet. Have I missed that you are a singer too?
I’m not a soloist, but I *love* to do small ensembles.
Lynn D. Morrissey
Sounds wonderful, and I’d love to hear you. I sing w/ a professional Bach chorus, and it remains a joy in my life. Doncha just making a joyful noise unto the Lord?! 🙂
Love all the great designs and ideas for the gingerbread. Love the traditions, too. Thank you for being here. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanks, Melissa! Interesting how so many traditions involve food. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!
I love getting this little glimpse into your family traditions, Monica. So fun! My guys are not big engineers, but they would love the homemade cinnamon rolls and gingerbread!
We could call it “flavor engineering,” I guess!
Now that’s crazy stuff. We bought crossbeams for s grandson last year and it was great
I really appreciate your support and enthusiasm, David!
Real quick — just coming back to keep a promise, because I remembered I said this:
“I’ll come back here with pictures if they pull it off.”
. . . and still haven’t left pictures of their gingerbread Syndey Opera House. Here they are (including design and under-construction photos, and photos of the other gingerbread creations we did that year (Star Destroyer and X-Wing)).