Construction Zone
The entries in the fifth annual Gingerbread Build-Off will not be nearly as ambitious as the one the Texas A&M Traditions Club recently built in Bryan, which, at 39,000 cubic feet, was earlier this month awarded the Guinness World Record for largest gingerbread house. But while these competition houses may be modest in size, they are meticulously detailed.

The friendly competition, hosted by the Architecture Center Houston, will enlist 32 teams of architecture and construction firms, high school and university students, graphic designers and even a group of neuroscientists. Each group is given five hours of on-site construction time to assemble entirely edible materials in a curious mix of physics and food chemistry, with the aim of coming up with a design that is not only original but also structurally sound. Last year’s winner of the Public Favorite award, Seeberger Architecture, created the factory from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” out of Rice Krispies treats, ice cream cones and Hershey’s syrup, and the winner of the Grand Prix de Show, Kirksey Architecture, created a replica of the Park Güell porter’s house in Barcelona, Spain, out of pasta, pretzels and Fruity Pebbles cereal.

“We develop the drawings and the details of the project just like we do for a building model that is presented to a client,” Linda Camacho of Kirksey said in an email.
Hermann Square, December 14, 10 a.m., aiahouston.org


Angels in America 
Charles Lewis Tiffany, the jeweler who founded Tiffany & Company in 1837, set up his son, Louis Comfort Tiffany, for a life in diamonds. But the younger Tiffany was enamored of another radiant light source: stained glass.

During the first three decades of the twentieth century, Louis Tiffany operated Tiffany Studios, the pre-eminent maker of glassworks. Its masterpieces include seven eight-foot-tall stained-glass lancet windows depicting angels who symbolize early Christian churches in Asia Minor. These pieces make up the exhibition “In Company With Angels,” on display in Texas for the first time since it began touring in 2007. Beyond beholding the beauty of the intense  colors and the craftsmanship of Tiffany’s multilayered glass-plating, viewers can learn the remarkable story of how these windows, originally installed in 1903 in an Ohio church that was later demolished, were found in 2001, all but abandoned, in a barn.

Visitors to the exhibition can have a value-added experience on Sunday with the free Illumination Tour, featuring the stained glass at seven churches in the area and a library.
Lee Lockwood Library and Museum, December 13-Jan. 18, historicwaco.org



Open House
Clearly, residents of Alpine respect their ancestors. When completed downtown next year, the Wall of Pioneers, a 600-foot wall that borders the Union Pacific parking lot and U.S. Highway 90, will display plaques commemorating families that settled in the area before 1920.

The funding for the project comes from another celebration of Alpine’s past: the Christmas Tour of Historic Homes. This self-guided tour focuses on buildings constructed in the area in the early twentieth century—this year, five residences and the First United Methodist Church. See houses with connections to the first woman to be deputy police chief of Brewster County, one of the original owners of the newspaper the Alpine Avalanche, and a doctor who is said to have delivered more than 5,000 babies in the area.
First United Methodist Church, December 15, 1 p.m., historicalpine.org


Caffeine Fix
Coffee drinkers can catch a buzz and keep it going all day at the secnd annual San Antonio Coffee Festival. Nine local and Texas roasters will offer more than thirty freshly roasted coffees, some further amped with alcohol, made of beans that come from all over the world. Cupping, or sampling coffees in a manner much like beer and wine flights, will inform discerning palates, but there are also plenty of informational sessions for the java novice. Topics include how to make iced coffee at home, how to grind beans properly and how to make art in the milk foam on lattes.
La Villita Historic Arts Village, December 14, 10 a.m., sacoffeefest.com


Big Birds
A free breakfast is a nice perk for ornithologists attending Breakfast With the Sandhill Cranes—which has been expanded to two mornings this year—but the real draw is the premium views of the four-foot-tall cranes inhabiting the west end of Galveston Island, a close-up look enhanced by a discussion entitled “The Private Lives of Sandhill Cranes.”
Moody Gardens Golf Course, December 14-15, 8 a.m., galvestonnaturetourism.org


5 O’Clock Somewhere
A cold beer isn’t so appealing in near freezing temperatures, but the Dallas Winter Warmer beer festival, held under tents at Main Street Garden, offers ales that heat up the soul, with porters, stouts and seasonal brews, often enjoyed at room temperature.
Main Street Garden, December 14, noon, dallaswinterwarmer.com