Our ugly Gingerbread House story is kind of like the Ugly Duckling story except it only becomes beautiful in the hearts and minds of those who share it. The beauty of the Ginger Bread House is that it was handcrafted and decorated by Nona and Max and seen through the eyes of a five year old.
Like many things in my life, I had great ambitions for an afternoon with Max decorating our first Gingerbread House. I saw pictures and studied recipes. I learned that it can be difficult to make a good house, and on top of that the kits got poor reviews. Hmm. It appeared to be a daunting task but I was ready for an awesome experience making my first gingerbread dough, finding a pattern, and making it edible using powdered egg white for the frosting. I also had a backup plan in case the house didn't work––a Gingerbread Tree Kit. In case you hadn't noticed, it is a tree in the forest leaning toward the sun. We have a story for everything.
The recipe made a lot of gingerbread and a lot of frosting! I was not deterred by the difficulty in rolling out the dough. I was ready for the challenge! I altered this pattern for the house before cutting it out––my usual style for doing––most things can be improved and the pattern looked entirely too small for the magnificent house I was preparing so I made it bigger all around.
After cutting and baking the house pieces on two cookie sheets and letting it cool, I was ready to glue it together from the huge bowl of Royal Icing I whipped up. The wall of the house cracked as soon as I picked it up. How did that happen? Fortunately I had read about the hazards of building a GB house so I started building before Max came over since the frosting needs to harden on the sides before adding the roof. Does this appear to be a long story? Hang in there. You will want to hear the end.
As directed in the recipe I planned to add the roof and let it dry while Max and I had lunch. I was very pleased I to show him my building skills by adding the roof, which immediately caved in the walls. Ouch! I am not only a poor builder but also not a great cook. I was feeling a little sad over my failure when Max said, "It's ok Nona." I couldn't let him down. So I glued paper on the cracked wall, thickened the frosting, and stuck the walls back together. I explained that builders using stucco sometimes get cracks in the walls and need to fill them in.
After the house fell twice I knew I needed to do something different so I cut the size of the house down to the original pattern, glued on more paper with frosting to hold it together and it worked! We had the best Ugly Gingerbread House. Doug's advice is to add a dinosaur––makes everything more fun!
Now to the decorating. Everything looks better with color! I told Max we can put colored candies on the frosting I got on the front of the house. He said it looked like a snowball hit the house and we should leave it. When the shredded wheat fell off the thatched roof, Max said, "That's ok, Nona." When green frosting was left from the fallen shredded wheat Max said it was moss coming through the snow. The story he created around the house was better than the house itself.
The story you create around any experience is what defines it. Best of all Max was inspired by the Ugly Gingerbread House to create a unique future experience. He said we should make a Haunted Gingerbread House for Halloween with black frosting and skulls. I think I can use the same style with the crooked roof and bowed sides. Amazing what can come from a failed or not so failed Gingerbread House.
This Christmas create positive stories around your celebrations. With all of the lost packages, defective gifts, things that didn't fit and pies that didn't set, it's easy to feel disappointed after having high expectations for pleasing everyone. Here are my recipes for success learned from the Ugly Gingerbread House which I will proudly display this evening.
Take a few quiet moments of thankfulness. Picture a recent moment like breakfast, a recent holiday party or gathering, or a walk in the rain. Find the magic of the moment. Maybe you ended up alone or feeling ignored but find a spark a joy to remember for the moment. I remember a recent gathering that was very busy and noisy. My great niece created an interesting braiding for the bracelet she got and my 2 year old granddaughter was playing Operation with a cousin she probably didn't even remember and giggling as she made the nose light up and beep. If you can't think of a magic moment, then it's time to create one. Walk outside and thank God for the sky and wave to a neighbor if they happen to be out. Savor a sweet colorful bell pepper (ok, I am really into the vegetables after writing, Vegetable Kids in the Garden.
If you just have ginger, make a Gingerbread Tent (see photo). If you decide to venture into baking gingerbread, I recommend having LOTS of Royal Icing. The recipe I found makes a huge bowl of it. Make it a Royal Jolly Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and make joyous memories from whatever you do.
With Love and Happiness,
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Nancy J. Miller, M.S. is a respected Life, Writing, and Career Development Coach, Publisher, and author of Fire Up Your Profile For LifeWork Success and Vegetable Kids in the Garden. With a Master's Degree in Career Counseling, she has over 15 years experience coaching entrepreneurs, writers, job seekers, professionals seeking a career change, and students. Contact Nancy at: email@example.com