Winter Kitchen and the Ginger Stars

comments: 73


I love it when the light comes into the kitchen in the afternoon. It's a dark room in the morning and for most of the day, but in the winter for just a short while on sunny-ish afternoons, it filters in at a low angle through obstacles — bare branches, eyelet curtains, onion baskets. Some people are so affected by light, and some people don't seem to notice it too much. Andy and I are in the former category. We are constantly fussing with the lights, tweaking dimmer switches, curtains, and lightbulbs throughout the day and the season until it feels right. I think that part of the reason I miss snow so much is that the daylight, when reflected off snow and into the house, is so much brighter and whiter than the daylight reflected off . . . mud. Our house faces north, and we need every bit of brightness we can get.

What any of it has to do with gingerbread I don't know, except that I find myself just wanting to be in the kitchen all the time lately. Who doesn't, during the holidays. It's warm in there, and the light is nice, and there is cinnamon, and hot drinks, and happy work to be done (unless chocolate is involved, and then there is howling). I just couldn't bear to ruin anymore chocolate in anymore bad brownies, so I decided to go with homemade gingerbread for my baked gifts. Next to homemade egg nog (so much different than the store-bought stuff) and Mexican hot chocolate, gingerbread is right up there with my favorite holiday treats.


Homemade gingerbread requires, you know, ginger, which is fun to chop up into little glittery nuggets. Nevertheless, as we were standing in the aisle at Winco on Sunday afternoon about to buy four bottles of molasses, a ginormous jug of vegetable oil (eeewww), and a big huge bag of flour, I saw a stack of about a thousand Betty Crocker gingerbread mixes for $1.48 each — just add eggs and water. I stood for long moments, flat-footed in front of the display, thinking, thinking. I pointed at them and looked at Andy hopefully — yes? NO said he, and dragged me away. He insisted that "we'd" have more fun if we did it from scratch. Strangely, he disappeared into the basement the minute we got home. . . . But he did come back up when it was time to clean the kitchen and take care of the whole batter-splattered thing, so that was fun. He was right!


Perhaps homemade gingerbread is no-fail, because mine amazingly came out just fine. It was a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. I used this recipe I found by just doing a search; it seemed to have gotten good reviews. I'd have to agree with them — mine came out dense and moist and really nice. Phewy. Well, some of them sunk a bit in the middle, but I think it's because I was baking four at a time. And it was only some. And it's crunch time here, baby, so nothing can stop me now.


I used star-shaped paper baking molds from the Decorette Shop here in Portland. These come in lots of shapes and worked beautifully for me. I found some on-line here. They're a little pricey but I think they're so beautiful. The design on top is just powdered sugar sifted through a square doily (and I have no idea where I got the doilies; I've had them forever — sorry!).


Mmmmmm. Spicy stars. Can you smell them?


Your gingerbread biscuits look so delicious, yum!

I never saw ginger like that. The one I know since my childhood is the ginger root, whitish inside and light brown outside.

This has nothing to do with gingerbread. I was scrolling thru your last few postings and wondered, does Andy already have a Male Nurse Action Figure? That's what I'm getting my male nurse this year.

mmmmm. gingerbread. so pretty & so yummy.
we are in the affected-by-light category too. i totally agree about the snow making it seem brighter than it really is. and although i've lived this far north for 9 years, i never get used to the sunset-at-4:30pm thing. so we bought one of those sunrise alarm clocks. it looks like something out of mork & mindy, but it takes an hour to go from total darkness to nice warm light that reaches across the room. it is my most favouritest thing in the winter and although the boy would tell you i am still terrible at getting out of bed, i can assure you: i can be much, much worse.
now: if only they made them a little more cute!

They look absolutely beautiful. Star shaped gingerbread is just perfect.


You could probably make a passable sugar stencil from a piece of construction paper and some scrapbooking punches & scissors.

Or a paper snow flake would do well.

The paper would need to be stiff enough so it didn't flex a lot when you moved it away. Wouldn't want any stray sugar bombs dropping onto the cake top.

I have never heard of using paper baking molds before. Is there an advantage to using paper over traditional (well, as I'm guessing most of us have known) metal or tin bakeware? I'm guessing too that paper is not reusable? Just wondering... because your gifts look delightful! I'm curious too about the patterning - what you used for the dots. Some kind of strainer or grater perhaps?

how pretty!!! :D

we need more light in our kitchen...maybe i should paint the walls white? they are yellow right now, with brown cabinets :( not so good for photography.

Oh my gosh, picturing you guys in front of that display of Betty Crocker mixes cracks me up.

I am going to tackle oatmeal cookies sometime in the next day or two. Have all the stuff, just haven't had the time to make them. New recipes are scary when you're giving them as gifts. But I plan on eating all the mistakes!

Those did turn out beautifully! I just found plastic powdered sugar stencils. They come in a four pack with dots, stars, edging, and a Happy Birthday stencil. It's Martha's new line at Macy's--about $15. Here's a link: work really well.

i always use kitchen scissors to chop candied ginger. it's SO fast and easy!

I could not find a place to comment on your most recent post, so I will do it here. We are always our own best critics. I tell my daughter over and over again to give herself a break. You probably need to give yourself a breaks are spent reading your blog and loving the calmness in your photos. This is a bright spot in my day and just know that you bring me a little bit of peace with each entry (along with laughs and ideas)!

sweet alicia,

i am just responding to your latest post...the one you posted on life, and looking back, with tears. i hope you don't mind, (i noticed you had your comments turned off) but i just wanted to wrap my arms around you and tell you, ::: you are not alone :: :) i too had my 'looking back tears' just last night. and what i so love about reading your blog is that i feel this kindred connection with are so real and so refreshing. you are a beautiful person who has the wisdom to truly appreciate what the 'real' things are in life. 'home, husband, dogs, family, cooking, baking, crafting, loving and living...'you write and photograph the 'real' stuff in our daily lives that others take for granted. those little things that make our lives inherently one worth reflecting and full of 'soul'. i just love that.

may your tears heal your heart always, and may you also know that there others here who share in your joy and your tears. blessings to you my dear friend, and merry Christmas with heartful wishes for a beautiful day today.

the gingerbread cakes came out darling

merry christmas to you and yours

Your posts make me feel happy and inspire me to do more for my friends and family...and for me. Life goes by way too fast...thank you for sharing your life with all of us. Merry Christmas to the Paulsons...I can't wait to see what 2008 brings for all of us.

Zoie in Canada

Oh, I can smell it now. I love gingerbread and the family thinks it is completely yucky. I'm going to make some for myself and eat the whole thing. Love the stencils on top, such a creative presentation as always. Happy Holidays!

Oooooo...your gingerbread came out beautifully! I've bought that Betty Crocker mix & believe me it's yuk! No flavor - well at least not true gingerbread flavor that I can remember. On impulse I got a mix from Trader Joe's this year & I have my fingers crossed that Joe won't let me down :)
Happy Holidays!

I love how you've mentioned, here and in other posts, how affected you are by light and how you go into such beautiful descriptive language about it. I'm a bit obsessed with lighting, it can (sadly?) make or break an experience for me. Just the other night I freaked when my husband told me he heard that incandescent bulbs would be outlawed by 2012 for energy conservancy to be replaced by fluorescents. It got me in a tizzy and I fully planned to start stockpiling light bulbs for the coming incandescent bulb armageddon. You just can't beat the beauty and romance of a 40 watt bulb. BTW it turns out they are not being outlawed but have to made more energy efficient.

Yum! Looks gorgeous.

I know you didn't put comments on the post above this, but can I just say that's what I am wishing for most as well. And, when I asked my Dad if he'd had a good Christmas he said very quietly, "I just want a little peace." Maybe that is a yearning that we all have in common?

Did you notice the shape of the shadow that the potatoes (?), in the hanging basket, are casting on the wall? It is perfect with all the love that comes from your kitchen.

It was so interesting to hear you speak of people who need light and how they're affected by it. You described me to a T, and since I'm the only person I know like that, I guess I thought I WAS the only person like that!

I begin every day by opening all the shades in the house, and they have to be slanted just 'so'.

I am also greatly enjoying my kitchen more in the winter. Because the position of the sun being more to the south, I actually get sunlight in my kitchen in that season, whereas the rest of the year, it's dark.

My sun arrives in the morning, though, and is gone by afternoon. That's good for me, as it motivates me at a time of day when I'm normally rather slothful.

God bless your Christmas season!

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.