Return of the Gingerbread Builders

Back by popular demand, the Little Women spent Christmas Eve doing one of the things that they do best: using candy and frosting to show the building code who’s boss. Let’s see what they pulled off with 6 pounds of powdered sugar, a carton of eggs, and a pile of dollar-store candy.

Clara knew that the key to a strong foundation is lots of frosting.

Nicolyn didn’t hesitate to shoulder the burden of quality control.

Annika designed her house to make Santa feel welcome while flying into town.  Especially if Barbie is filling in for Santa this year.

But Annika’s backyard was not so welcoming.

Nicolyn created this lovely church.

It’s know colloquially as the Church of the Holy Overdose.

Clara’s house included lovely ice-cream-cone trees and a peppermint fence.

Here’s Jenelle’s house this year.

Note that it uses Hershey’s chocolate as a building material, which is the only suitable use for Hershey’s chocolate in the Vance house.

This year Jonathan decided to modify the roof line of his house to create a mid-century modern look, a sort of “Frank Lloyd Wright meets Santa” approach. Note the solar panels on the roof.

As a bonus, here is a picture of a tree-stump-house cake, which Clara designed and made from scratch herself.

Hello Austria!

The Little Women finished their lovely summer by spending two weeks in Austria (with a little bit in Germany). This allowed them to do research for their forthcoming book, A Guide to Austria for Little Women (and Little Men). As a preview to the book, here are the highlights of Austria (according to Annika, Clara, and Nicolyn):

The food! Yes, Austria is a great land for food: Schnitzel, pastries, Spaetzle, Kaiserschmarren . . . and cheap Haribo gummy candy.

The hotels! At least, the hotels in remote alpine valleys that have bunnies, horses, guinea pigs, and playgrounds. They were begging not to leave.

Visiting an ancient salt mine! The mine near Hallstatt let them experience history. And take a ride down a cool slide at 30 km/h.

The girls are wearing their miner clothes and sitting on the train that we rode out of the mine.

Alpine slides! Somebody has to use those mountains in the summer when there’s no snow on them. The Little Women tried the steepest one in the Alps.

Schmancy castles and churches! Now they have new decorating ideas for their bedrooms.

On the steps of Hellbrunn Palace, near Salzburg.

But the best part of any trip is . . . going home.

Delayed in San Francisco.

More pictures are here.


The Republic of the Little Women

Several months ago, Clara and Nicolyn opened their issues of Washington Weekly, a newsletter that they study every week at school to learn about the history of their state, and read about this cool place where you can dig for fossils. They knew immediately that they had to go there.

Posing with an antique wagon and a non-antique horse.

Over Memorial Day weekend, their wish came true: after a five-hour drive, they found themselves in Republic, a 1000-person mining town in northeastern Washington. Nestled among forested mountains, most people would never guess that 49 million years ago, lots of things died and became fossilized just up the street from where the Little Women spent the night. After paying a fee at the Stonerose Interpretive Center, the threesome headed for the (fossil) hills.

Where the dirty work happens. Lots of stuff died here 49 million years ago.
Clara cracks open a rock to see if there’s a fossil inside.

After an hour or two in the rain (of course), they had a nice pile of fossils to their credit: leaves, pine needles, stems, and other plant matter. The fossil-hunting rules allowed each hunter to take home up to three fossils.

The left-hand fossil is a birch leaf; the right-hand fossil is a sassafras leaf.

With fossil-hunting under their belt, the Vances drove through the beautiful wooded mountains and over to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. They spent two nights there and enjoyed the town and its natural beauty, though Annika thought that it would make more sense to spell the town’s name “CORE DA LANE.” By the time they drove home, the Little Women were wondering aloud if they could move to Coeur d’Alene, or maybe at least come back next year.

More pictures are here.

A Hot and Cold Birthday

Clara and Nicolyn recently celebrated their 10th birthday.  Yay!  Their birthday treat of choice was a baked Alaska, which they had seen on a cooking show, and Jenelle was kind enough to make one.  It had a cake layer, an ice cream layer, and a meringue layer. It is the first and most likely the last baked Alaska for the Vance family.  But not the last birthday celebration!

Canyon Time Travelers

On Saturday Clara and Nicolyn learned what it’s like to be hiker time travelers. Having finished their Saturday chores early, they got to go on a hike with Jonathan. Their destination was Coal Creek, which is a surprisingly peaceful park and hiking area in the middle of a major metropolitan area.

A Waterfall on the Hike
A Waterfall on the Hike

The hike was not only beautiful, but also historical. In the 19th century, a coal mine on this site produced many tons of coal for the young-but-booming city of Seattle. Although the Industrial Revolution has since moved elsewhere, there are signs along the trail of what things used to be like: foundations for a power plant and other buildings, an air shaft for one of the old mines, remains of a locomotive turntable, and other things.

Note how the tree has started growing around these axles, which were probably once used to move coal out of the mines.

What Clara and Nicolyn perhaps liked the most was being outside and enjoying the spring weather by looking for cool rocks, swatting dandelions, and bragging about their phone conversations with Sasquatch (he calls Clara to ask for recipes, she says).

Clara and Nicolyn were impressed with this tree that grew from another tree that had fallen across the creek.

Snow Day

The Little Women awoke this morning to find 5+ inches of snow on the ground, which is a real treat for a temperate place like suburban Seattle. Of course, under such circumstances, school could not go on. The kids all went outside to play in the snow, though Annika declared herself bored by 10 AM.

Clara and Nicolyn, however, made the most of the snow: playing snow dogs, eating snow, trying to sled on a “hill” that was not steep enough for sledding, and building snow things like this one:

Nicolyn and Clara with their snowman.
This picture was taken a split second before the snowman’s left eye fell out.

The snow will soon disappear, but the memories will linger.

Museum of Mädchen Art

The Little Women are pleased to announce a new online museum where their readers and fans can see some of their finest works, many of which were previously available only in exclusive private collections (i.e., the living rooms of their relatives).

Adoration of the Magi and Everyone Else, by Clara, puff paint on canvas, 2017.

The exhibits will be updated periodically and are available here. Happy browsing!

Building Boom

The Seattle housing market may be cooling down, but the gingerbread market was warming up at the Vance house last night. The Little Women unleashed their creative talents on some blank gingerbread canvases from Ikea.

Here we see three little builders, ready to work their magic.
Like every Ikea product, it came with instructions
Grandpa Tom and Grandma Shauna did some nice piping work
Nicolyn makes a river. For some reason, most of the houses had waterfront property this year.
Clara ponders how she can best stick more candy to her house.
Jenelle and Jonathan’s house. Jenelle did everything that’s beautiful. Jonathan did the pond with the dock and sailboat.
Shauna and Tom’s house. Note the lovely evergreen trees, which are really ice cream cones in disguise.
Annika with her house. Before the evening was over, she had started “remodeling” (i.e., eating) the walls.
Clara’s house.
Nicolyn’s house. She was especially please with the frolicking reindeer in the front yard.

All of the houses now have a place of honor next to the Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas from the Vances

Here we see the Little Women hard at work on assembling Christmas cards, bringing holiday cheer to people around the globe.

This year they took a page from Henry Ford’s playbook and assembled the cards in an assembly line.  They also adapted his philosophy on customer choice, namely, “Our friends and family can have any Christmas card they want, as long as it’s this one:”