One of those moments of fun I had planned for this weekend: building an old-fashioned, down-home, sugary and spicy gingerbread house.
Those of you who have read the Christmas River series know that gingerbread plays a huge role in the books. Not only is there a gingerbread man on every cover, but there’s an annual high-stakes gingerbread competition that the main character – Cinnamon Peters – participates in almost every Christmas. And being that gingerbread is so central to my stories, I figured it seemed only right that I make a house this year in the spirit of the holiday season.
But I didn’t want to make just any house from a kit. No, I wanted to make a real house – one made from delicious, freshly-baked gingerbread that, after being admired by friends and family, could promptly be dismantled, eaten, and enjoyed.
So Sunday morning, I woke up with all the enthusiasm and excitement of a 10-year-old at Christmas. I headed downstairs, grabbed a cup of coffee, and got to work.
And work it was. There was mixing, blending, rolling, tracing, cutting, baking, cooling, and more mixing, rolling, cutting, baking, and cooling. Halfway through the first batch of gingerbread, the kitchen had exploded into a jumble of dirty bowls, whisks, and cookie sheets. But the house smelled like heaven, and I was excited as could be about the prospect of finally getting down to the fun part of the process: the decorating.
While the gingerbread cooled, I whipped up a bowl of frosting and got my arsenal of decorations ready: I set out M&Ms, gumdrops, peppermints, and all varieties of glittery sprinkles.
Then I cut out a piece of cardboard for the base, and got down to business.
I wasn’t but a few seconds into building the gingerbread house when I realized there was a problem.
A BIG problem.
The dimensions of the house, in no way shape or form, lined up.
The roof was too short. The walls too long. The edges of the cookie walls barely touched in some places. In others, they overlapped by ridiculous lengths.
At some point during the transfer of the dough to the cookie sheet, or perhaps during the baking, the sides had become completely warped.
“I can salvage this,” I said to myself, holding together two pieces of the gingerbread together with one hand, while drizzling copious amounts of icing to fill in the massive cracks between the walls with the other.
Ten minutes later, I gazed at the heaping mess of cookie, icing, and dashed dreams in front of me.
The Gingerbread House – the one I had been looking forward to building all month – had turned into a full-scale disaster.
Hours and hours of work amounted into the ugliest gingerbread house I’d ever seen.
And after a few moments (er… hours) of washing dishes and moping around about my epic fail, it dawned on me:
There was nothing to do but laugh at the situation.
|Me moping/laughing about the situation|
I felt a smile come to my face and a lightness in my chest as I let go of the dream of gingerbread grandeur.
I had messed up – that was obvious. I am no Cinnamon Peters – not even close. But you know what? That’s okay.
It’s easy this time of year to put a ton of pressure on yourself to do a million things, and to do them all to Martha Stewart perfection.
And when something goes wrong, it’s also easy to feel like you’re just not up to snuff.
This lesson has also come up in another area of my life recently.
I have done my utmost to get Menace in Christmas River, the next book in the Christmas River series, out in time for Christmas. I had started writing it with the intention that it would be just a novella, but the story has snowballed into a full-length novel. Which means that it won’t be out in time for the 25th. It hasn’t been the full-scale disaster of the gingerbread house fiasco by any means, but I really hate missing my own deadlines like that. I hope that for fans of the series, the new book will still be a welcome addition to the Christmas River stories, even if it is a little late.
I’ve been feeling bad about getting the book out late to my readers, but I think I’ve reached a point where I can finally smile and laugh a little bit at myself about it.
Sometimes I’m overambitious. I do things like try to make a gingerbread house from scratch or try to make a tight deadline that I know will be a stretch to make, and it doesn’t always turn out as I hoped or expected.
But there are always silver linings to those moments.
Like the fact that I think this next Christmas River book is going to be a really satisfying addition to the series once it’s finished.
And like the fact that the gingerbread house itself, though ugly, was quite tasty and a big hit with my family.
This pooch in particular loved it:
After I declared a state of disaster on the fallen cookie house, I poured myself a glass of wine, ordered a pizza, and sat back down behind the computer screen to do the thing I belong doing.
Writing about gingerbread houses instead of building them. :)
Wishing each and every one of you a spectacular, lovely, stress-free Christmas this year!