Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gingebread Houses

Does anyone remember The Olla Podrida? It was a great shopping venue in far North Dallas. I loved shopping there! Great artisans and crafters and a wonderful ambiance. I celebrated my 18th birthday at the Dinner Playhouse that was located in Olla Podrida. (Lucky for me...the football teams for the University of Texas and Notre Dame were also celebrating with a steak dinner before their big Cotton Bowl game that year! Does anyone remember Joe Theismann?) Alas, it has been torn down and replaced by new building structures.Who knew that some 40 years since my 18th birthday I would meet one of the artisans that was housed in The Olla Podrida. How she came to be in McKinney...well that's probably another story.


Miss Kyra lives a couple of houses down from Miss Janice and we've gotten to know her as a "great" neighbor! We've been down to her house for tea and she has visited with us at Miss Janice's on the front porch. Miss Kyra has baked some WONDERFUL items to tempt us and I've listened to her spin many beautiful stories of her childhood while sipping tea and visiting with her.

Miss Kyra grew up in England and South Africa. She told us of being nurtured by Welsh and Russian Jewish grandmothers and a German housekeeper. She also mentioned an Irish nanny and a cook who loved Italian food.

She immigrated to California as an adult and began teaching cooking classes to friends as a way to raise funds for a new synagogue. Eight years later, upon returning to England, she attended the Cordon Bleu.

In 1975, Miss Kyra opened the Cours de Cuisine Cooking School in Dallas. She and her husband also ran a retail store in The Olla Podrida! She has receive many awards over the years, has served as a food stylist and contributing writer for the "Food" section of The Dallas Morning news and has edited several cookbooks.

Miss Kyra continues to give countless volunteer hours to her community and continues her work with the Jewish Family Services and the National Council of Jewish Women in Dallas. PLUS...she also writes a column for our local McKinney newspaper. SHE IS A BUSY WOMAN! (I'm hoping I have most of my facts correct...I did not take notes while she was spinning her magic!)

Now that I have introduced you to Miss Kyra...let me introduce you to a whole lot of fun. This past weekend she asked several of us to come over and create Gingerbread house. I, personally, have never made one. I always thought I would like to...but just never followed through with all the work!

I found out in the course of the afternoon (from Miss Kyra's sister) that she has been "hosting" Gingerbread classes for more than 30 years!

When we arrived Miss Kyra had already prepared each of us a gingerbread house...
She also had the "Candy Table" ready for us to "shop" for appropriate housing parts.Miss Kyra gave us brief explanation of the process...then set us free! We were a small group, but that gave us space to spread out and intimate conversation as we worked.
Miss Betty was our "oldest" builder. She said repeatedly, "I don't think I can do this!"

Miss Kyra continually encourage and cajoled Miss Betty into completing her house.
Miss Betty's finished product was beyond belief! We hardly believed this was her first try.
One of the builders, Janice from California, broke her wall while building. She immediately went to Plan B: build a snowman stage inside the house and keep on decorating.
We loved her creativity and the fact she was not at all discourage that her house wall caved in while she was "gluing" candy onto the sides. Janice took the whole thing in stride and used it as an opportunity to be even more creative.
Now...Miss Janice on the other hand had her "Accountant Brain" on. BUT, that also did not seem to deter her on this day!
She got right to work on her roof and using all manner of candy to fill in the blank canvas of her house.

It wasn't long before she became a decorating fool! She was "WAY" outside her box, but I think her house turned out wonderful!
She was VERY creative with her chimney and the back wall of her house.
This is my house. I used tootsie rolls (cut, smashed and trimmed) for the roof.Miss Kyra had so many wonderful candies, pretzels, cereals and assorted items to choose from. Her only rule is that all items on the house be edible.
My completed project...with a garden and fencing around the house. My grand kids are going to LOVE eating this on Christmas morning.
Now to the MASTER builder of ALL Gingerbread Houses!
Emily REALLY got into the project...
We were long finished with our houses (and all the other ladies had gone home) before Emily completed her house!
Starburst for the chimney...
Fruit roll ups for the roof...
So much loveliness...I think she was the Teacher's Pet for the DAY!!!! Her house was outstanding.

A BIG HEART FELT THANK YOU to Miss Kyra...not only for opening her home to us, but also for baking the houses and preparing them for our coming. She and her sister gathered all the supplies we would need, and she prepared the "icing" we needed to glue our houses together.

Miss Kyra appears tireless! Not only did she supply us with Gingerbread houses she made, but she also prepared additional houses she will decorate herself. These houses will be given to sick children spending their Christmas holiday at Medical City Hospital.
Miss Kyra...you're the best. You have a heart as BIG as TEXAS...even if you did come via way of South Africa and California!!!

1 Cowgurls said:

Texasbelle said...

This was such fun. Thanks for taking time away from decorating to document the progress.
I'm looking forward to doing this again next year with Lauren & Austin, too.

I loved being outside my CPA box on this one! I appreciate you and Kyra pushing me out.