Gingerbread has been a Totoro tradition since 1989 when I was asked if I would be willing to make some gingerbread men for a fundraiser activity. One of the first tips I learned as a potential caterer was "never say no" --- so I said of course I could make gingerbread men. They immediately placed an order for 125!! I experimented with recipes, solicited help from the entire Totoro side of the family (my husband - mother in law - father in law - and grandmother in law) and we managed to bake, decorate, and wrap all 125 men in time for the event. While I was a little tired of gingerbread at the end of that weekend, I knew that I had found a calling.
In 1991 I began the family tradition of making gingerbread houses, which continues to this day.... but that will be the subject of another post. Fast forward to 2001 and my first year of teaching. In googling possible classroom projects, I came across the idea of making and decorating gingerbread men to sell to the student body in order for the class to give a gift to a local charity. I thought this was a marvelous idea and immediately began to work on it. The class developed a business name, Mrs. Totoro's Baker's Dozen (as there were 13 students in the class) - calculated ingredients needed - cost of ingredients - and price to sell the cookies in order to yield a profit. We then decided to solicit advanced orders so we would have an idea how many men to make. I was hoping for orders of around a 100. One week later we had advanced orders of 450 men!! I ended up baking 600 men over the course of a week -and the class decorated them all in an afternoon. What an experience - but it was worth every second when we delivered a check for $500 to a local family whose husband/father had been unemployed for over 6 months.
So..as you can tell...gingerbread men and I go way back. This year I decided to give the staff at school a gift of a gingerbread couple, along with a selection of Christmas teas from the Stash Tea company (my favorites are Christmas Eve and White Christmas) . I got up early this morning and made a double batch of gingerbread - enough for about 32 gingerbread men and women. I googled some images of decorated gingerbread men and decided to do my own interpretation of a couple of the images I found. Here is a picture of them "naked" (before decorating) and then a picture of the well-dressed couple.
These are my first Christmas cookies of the season and I must admit that it is beginning to look - and smell - a lot like Christmas.