*presses rewind button*
Here I am, sitting in a neighborhood Italian restaurant with my husband, Jerry, pre-children. We can’t have children yet because we adopted a rescue Yorkie named Dougie who hates kids but loves steak, so I always order the prime rib and save half for him. I am young. I am ridiculous. I am sipping my third margarita. When I’m out for dinner, I usually have one. Once in a while, I’ll have a second. I don’t know why I was drinking a third on this night, but this is how the conversation went:
Gina to restaurant owner, Johnnie, who also happens to live across the street from her – “You know, Johnnie, you should let me decorate this big picture window sill for Halloween. I could make a huuuuuuuuuuuge haunted gingerbread mansion and these wicked cute paper ribbon witch dolls and gauze ghosts and EVERYTHING!”
Jerry: “Uh, Gina …”
Johnnie: “Hey, that sounds great! But I can’t afford to pay you.”
Gina: “Noooooo problem! You can sell my paper witch dolls for me! And Jerry could wire the gingerbread house so it would light up! And after Halloween, I could make you one for CHRISTMAS! With paper angels that play Silent Night when you press their stomach!”
Jerry: “UH, GINA …”
Johnnie: “Wow! That would be great! You’d really do that?”
Gina: “Oh, sure! It would be fun!”
Jerry: “DO YOU REALLY HAVE TIME FOR THIS?”
Gina: “Oh, sure! This is going to be GREAT!”
*presses fast forward button to next morning*
Gina: “Ugh! Did I really tell Johnnie I’d make a gingerbread house for his picture window?”
Jerry: “No. You told Johnnie you’d make two gingerbread mansions for his picture window.”
Gina: “Crap! Never let me drink again!
See? Alcohol is dangerous stuff! But I said I’d do it, so it had to get done. I learned to decorate cakes so I could help out at my step-father’s ice cream store, but I didn't consider myself a pro - it was more of a hobby. I had done three wedding cakes and two small gingerbread houses before, but I had never attempted a gingerbread house of this magnitude before.
The restaurant had a big windowsill, probably eight feet wide, and over four feet high, so I knew I needed to make a big house. This was before the internet, so I didn’t have the luxury of Googling inspiration and I had to design the house myself. I made a template from cardboard, and I had to make sure it was big enough to fill up the window, but not so big that I couldn’t fit the pieces in my oven. The fact that it was a haunted house meant I could get away with some crooked-ness because like I said, I'm no pro. And why I decided to shingle the roof with sliced almonds, I do not know … that alone took about six hours. I would say I spent a total of at least 80 hours between planning, shopping, baking, assembling and the worst part … clean up L
In the end, it stood almost three feet high, and it took two of us to lift it.
Everything except the base, the wiring components my husband used to light it up and a tree branch was edible. Yes, those are candy stones along the bottom - they tasted like jelly beans.
My suggestion to Johnnie was to wrap it up well and it would keep for the following year – my sister-in-law displayed a gingerbread house I had made for her kids for five years and it was still good. They did sell about 20 of the paper witches I made, but more people wanted to know if I would make them a gingerbread house (ha! no!) Before they even took the Halloween house down, I already started planning the Christmas house.
The sad part is that by the time I finished the Christmas house, I was completely burnt out (and because I didn’t learn my lesson, I shingled that roof with Smarties). My son is now 18 and my daughter is 13, and I’ve never made a gingerbread house for them.
Hmmmm … it’s a little late for Halloween, but Christmas is coming!
Gina Rosati is the author of Auracle which debuts August 7, 2012 from Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She lives in NH with her very pragmatic husband and two gingerbread-deprived children. Although she will be sewing an ice princess costume for her daughter this week.
What's on Gina's Nightstand? Just finished and love EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS by A.S. King, THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern, and LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins