Michelle Martin

Building plans

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

I’m a planner.

That statement would come as no surprise to my family. They know that I always want to know what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen and how long it’s going to take. And also what I need to have on hand and what I need to do ahead of time to make it happen.

They also know that if my plans get scuttled, it’ll take me a moment — maybe a few moments — to adjust.

Spontaneity is fine in its place. Which is when I’ve planned for it to happen.

So when it came to adding a Christmas tradition last year, the Year of Doing Everything at Home, Teresa and I decided to make a gingerbread house. Not from a kit, of course, and something a little more complicated than, four-walls-and-a-roof and maybe a bit bigger than the plans I found online originally called for.

But still, it was perfect: a holiday activity that actually calls for, even requires, plans. It doesn’t hurt that it’s made out of gingerbread, one of our favorite holiday baking projects and one that makes the whole house smell like Christmas.

The plans for last year were for a rather large building with several windows (made from melted and hardened sugar and lighted from inside with the leftover battery-operated candles from the Halloween jack-o-lanterns), a chimney with spun sugar smoke, a roof dusted with coconut flake snow and all kinds of candy decorations.

Did it work?

There was a building, it was rather large, and there were windows and light inside. Other than the candles, it was entirely edible.

There was coconut flake snow on the roof, and on the kitchen counter, and on floor … where it stuck in the royal icing that also was everywhere.

The chimney didn’t happen; we ate the pieces as cookies instead. The piped icing decoration was more pink and mint-green than Christmas red and green, and more than a little wonky.

But it was a gingerbread house, and it took pride of place on our Christmas table (where we keep wrapped gifts since the dogs have always tried to open anything kept under the tree) for a week or two without falling down.

So this year, Teresa and I are trying again. This year the plans call for a house with a two-story section and one-story section and even more windows, including a bay window off the front. Teresa thinks it will be cute, but she’s counting on me to get the proportions right when we draw the templates. She’s put herself in charge of decorating with candy. She wants more gumdrops this year.

This year I know to plan about double the time every guide says it should take to put the thing together, and then to double that again (at least) for clean-up.

As Advent and our time anticipation draws to a close, I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas, and I hope you all find a way to appreciate the gifts the season brings and enjoy your traditions, old and new.


  • family life