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Ghost of Girl Scout Present: London’s Brownie Troop Explores the Gingerbread Wonderland at Frelinghuysen Arboretum, Open Now Through Sunday, December 14th

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In the midst of this holiday season, I’ve been writing a bit about our family feeling like we’re living out Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol through London’s Brownie troop in the form of the Ghost of Girl Scout Past, Present, and Future. Last weekend, London and Maddie celebrated the Ghost of Girl Scout Past at an old-fashioned Girl Scout Christmas caroling event with a big group of local Daisies, Brownies, and Girl Scouts at the Kings supermarket in Mendham, NJ. The girls and I also dreamed about the Ghost of Girl Scout Future… a sleepover for over 200 Girl Scouts at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, NJToday’s post is the story of the Ghost of Girl Scout Present. This week, London’s Brownie troop will explore the 17th annual Gingerbread Wonderland at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum.

After the girls visit the Gingerbread Wonderland, our fearless Brownie troop leader has invited the girls to her home the following week to make their own gingerbread creations. Maybe it’s the Ghost of Gingerbread Past that has visions of pounds and pounds of icing dancing in my head. While I am not a particularly “crafty” person, Rex and I have always preferred the notion of celebrating birthdays and holidays at home, rather than choosing from the wide selection of kids’ birthday party venues in Morris County, NJ. So when London turned four during her first year of pre-school at Westmont Montessori, Rex and I decided to invite her entire class of 20, plus ten more friends and siblings, for a gingerbread house decorating party in our home. It says something about my state of innocence back then that I was actually disappointed when all I could find in the stores were pre-constructed gingerbread houses, since I thought it would add to the excitement for the kids to construct the houses during the party (What was I thinking??!!). I found an after Christmas sale on gingerbread houses at Linens and Things, our nanny and I piled thirty (30!!!) gingerbread house kits into our shopping carts, and we brought them home to prepare for the big event. Four years later, my good friend Hope and I look back on the pictures of that party and laugh over the two of us in red sweaters with our matching KitchenAid mixers, whipping up pound after pound after pound of decorative icing in pink and purple for the kids to decorate their gingerbread houses. Luckily for our fearless Brownie troop leader, when she suggested that the kids all come on over to construct and decorate the houses in her home, another wise Brownie mom convinced her that things would go more smoothly if the girls constructed their gingerbread houses at home ahead of time, and spent their time giggling and decorating at the official Brownie meeting.

The description from the Gingerbread Wonderland on the Frelinghuysen Arboretum web site reads like something from a fairy tale: The rich, spicy scent of gingerbread beckons us into the holiday spirit at the incredible Gingerbread Wonderland at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township. Thousands of visitors annually are thrilled to find that the fantastic handmade structures are not limited to traditional houses. Past entries in this scrumptious exhibit have included a grand piano, a cheery birdhouse and even Santa’s sleigh.   Fantastic creations have included fairy tale castles, haunted houses, covered bridges, log cabins, cathedrals, and trains. Materials have included shredded wheat thatched roofs, fruit roll-up windows, pretzel logs, sugar cube walls, ice cream cone turrets, and candy of every kind. The gingerbread creations are the result of the creative genius of children, adults, families, school classes and scout groups. Entries are judged on creativity, style, method and neatness, with ribbons awarded in every category. Guests may cast their vote for the annual People’s Choice Award.”  The annual Gingerbread Wonderland exhibit has become a Morris County, NJ tradition, and Frelinghuysen Arboretum invites you to make this feast for the senses part of your family’s holiday tradition. It sounds so tempting that I’d better remind London of the tale of Hansel and Gretel to be sure she doesn’t try to eat any of the houses!

Frelinghuysen Arboretum’s Gingerbread Wonderland opened last Saturday, December 6th and runs through this Sunday, December 14th.  Suggested donation of $1.00 per person. Groups of more than 10 must call the Frelinghuysen Arboretum at (973) 326-7601 for reservations.

Also at Frelinghuysen Arboretum during the holiday season:

  • Create a Holiday Centerpiece on Saturday, December 13th: Just in time for the holidays, young people can create their own centerpieces with fresh seasonal greens. All materials – greens, containers, decorations – will be provided. Young people should bring their own pruners and a box in which to take home their arrangements. Grades 1-3: 10am to 11:30am. Grades 4 and up: 1pm to 2:30pm. Cost is $30 ($25 for members of The Friends of The Frelinghuysen Arboretum). To register, please call (973) 326-7603.
  • Super Holiday Sprouts on Tuesday, December 16th from 4pm to 5pm: Using fresh evergreens, young sprouts (children 5 and 6 years old) will create a simple holiday arrangement suitable for a special someone. Registration is a must as space is limited and walk-ins cannot be accommodated. Cost is $20 ($15 for members of The Friends of The Frelinghuysen Arboretum). To register, please call (973) 326-7603.

Frelinghuysen Arboretum, 53 East Hanover Avenue in Whippany, NJ. Open 10am to 5pm daily and until 8pm on Fridays.

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