What Not to Give Your Mother-in-Law for Christmas

“Who is this?”

“Danny’s Demolition. We’re offering a 20% discount this week on tear-downs and we heard there’s an immediate need at your address.”

I pounded END, and added even MORE egg powder to the bowl.

Then I turned back to Hell House.

I was twenty-five years old and had never before tried to bake and assemble a gingerbread house, but how hard could it be?  I was a decent cook, and a pretty good baker.

I did have a habit of not following recipes exactly, but I thought that, in this case, I’d better.  This house was to be the very first Christmas gift for my future mother-in-law. I was going to impress her. 🙄

The house would have cobblestones–halved hazelnuts–coating the chimney and the low walls surrounding its snowy yard.   The windows would be glowing stained glass, formed the way lollipops are made, by melting, coloring, and candying sugar syrup.

At no point did my fiance Joe let me know that his mother had worked for years as a professional baker, decorating cakes–including gingerbread cottages. 😡

I slid my first-ever gingerbread roof and wall pieces from the oven. Perfect! After they cooled, I began the assembly process with the stiff, dry Royal Icing, made per the instructions, using toothpicks and books to pin and prop pieces in place until the icing dried and held.

Except it never did. I may as well have been constructing a house of cards in a breezy causeway. As soon as the icing dried, and I removed pins and props, it was Jericho all over again.

Cheesy Walls of Jericho

Does This Pre-Fallen Model of Jericho’s Walls Look a Little Cheesy to You?

Again and again I re-propped and re-glued, and again and again roof and walls came crashing down. Soon, each crash was accompanied by a soft, swishing sound, like slush falling:
followed by a sharper rapping sound, like when sleet hits:


Those sounds kept repeating, growing rapidly in volume as the “Shhh–it” storm increased in its fury.  Then, the sleet apparently turned to rain, for drops suddenly began falling down upon the hellish house, causing the Royal Icing to develop Royal Dripsicles.

I sat down and finished bawling. Then I sat back and took an objective look at Hell House as it stood thus far:

After multiple crashes into the snowy interior, the swayback roof now sagged dangerously, and the two halves had a noticeable gap between.  One corner of the house failed to meet its neighboring corner by almost a half-inch.  And there wasn’t a prayer of the stained glass windows fitting their openings.

Gingerbread Boy Vampires

I Envisioned the Home’s Only Future Occupants

What to do?! ❓

Hmmm… There WAS a bit of ginger-y dough remaining… 💡

…A sleigh and Santa could close the open roof…
…A cypress tree could mask the gaping corner…
…Some simple window sashes could disguise the too-short lollipanes! 🙂

As for that Royal Pain-in-the-Icing, if more cream of tartar didn’t do the trick, I’d get the caulk gun, dammit.

At last.  Finished. Ho-ho-hope future Mom liked it, because by now, she was the only one who would.

All that remained was to pack the house inside a giant box and carry it on a plane.

Eight hours later, I was in future mom’s kitchen, performing Royal Splicing on Santa and his sleigh. Reattaching a roof. Performing Christmas miracles with a broken cypress tree–or was it a cedar of Lebanon?

All of this effort accompanied by more slushy, sleety sound effects–in the spirit of the season.

On the blessed day, upon opening the box, Santa and his sleigh were found to be sliding dangerously backward down a ridgeline into an ice-skating pond of Royal Goo, congealed in the deepest depression of the roof’s swayback.

Future mom wisely did not comment upon this, recognizing the situation for the slippery slope it was. 😉

After the story of its unique local weather conditions was told by Joe, The Gingerbread House from Hell was rechristened forever The Sh*t House. I was so traumatized by the experience that it was almost ten years until I made another gingerbread house.

* * *

It didn’t come out any better!

Dinosaur Eating Gingerbread House

“Call for the Royal Caulk!”

Leave a comment


  1. I love this! So witty, so hilarious…and my biggest guffaw?…”…all that remained was to pack the house inside a giant box and carry it on a plane…” Best wishes for the season and blessings to you in the new year… 🙂


    • Hi, Cynthia! Thank you so much!! I am glowing 🙂 🙂

      And: SLOWly making my way upward, backward, through the list of Blogs I Follow to read a month or two of back-posts of each blogger, since it turns out I have been away for more months than I knew (FIVE!). I will get to you (is that a threat? oh, dear).

      The merriest of Christmases to you, or pagan festivals, or–oh, too late: Mohammed’s birthday was yesterday, I believe. And a healthy, happy, and prolific new year, as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m surprised you only waited ten years to make another. How did that one turn out?


    • It was actually worse than the first! I managed to stick it together, barely, but it was so misshapen that I just stuck sugar-free candies all the heck over the place with Royal Putty to hide the house, brought it to Sunday School with me, and let the kids have at it. (It was sugar-free and slow-sugar sweetened so both my sons could eat, too.)

      My Bavarian friend thinks I am an AMAZING baker–one of the best she’s known. Hah! She’s never seen those houses.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “I did have a habit of not following recipes exactly”

    Ah, a kindred spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never made a gingerbread house. I’ve helped students assemble here and there, but I’ve never attempted it because it looks so difficult. I don’t have steady hands, so I’m only good for supervising 😉
    I can decorate cakes though. Not too elaborate, not like wedding cakes or shaped cakes, but like standard bakery piping. Although, I’m sure there’s an expiration date on that as well.
    I cannot believe you traveled with it. I’m in awe of your faith in such matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I admire your courage and tenacity to persist and even to try again. And I laughed like anything (although with pangs of sympathy).

    I’ve never attempted a gingerbread house and now never will since my nephew married into a family of Canadians who have brought gingerbread house making to a competitive sport level. Last year they built a replica of the Rialto Bridge in Venice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you laughed, MoSY!
      🙂 🙂 🙂
      But re: your admiration, I likely do not deserve it: Aspie OCD + abused kid fear of failure/need for approval = AWESOME work ethic. Male parent even a WASP! DANG I have it goin’ on!

      As for those Canadian culinary craftswo/men cousin-ish-y types of yours:

      F*ck them and the gondola they poled up on. Masters of nothing better to do, THEY are. Hmph.

      ( 😥 )

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Eda

     /  2015/12/23

    Hell House, Shhh-it Storm, Dripsicles??? Love it. Every minute of it. Thank you for putting Christmas eve in perspective. Missed you, Outlier.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Eda. I am truly touched by you saying that.

      I am s-l-o-w-l-y working my way over to everyone’s blogs, so I shall get to yours, too. Until then, please have the merriest of Christmases, should that be what you celebrate, and the most fortunate new year!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yemie

     /  2015/12/25

    What more can I possibly say Babes?! Yikes! 😂😂😂

    Aw! You poor dear, it musta been tough and to think you did give it a go the second time around and it still didn’t pan out…..the horror! 😈😆

    Maybe you weren’t made for creating the Gingerbread Man then and its as good a time as any to quit trying right?! 😃

    Lesson learnt: Do not attempt to bake anything at all for your mum-in-law especially if she’s a guru in that field or there might be hell to pay! 😂😂😂

    A very Good Christmas Morning to you Babe, have you and all of your adorables a most spectacular Xmas Day Celebration! Mwah! 😇❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Merry Christmas to you and your family, Yemi! 😎☀️☃🎄🐘☕️☕️
      (Those are the cups of coffee you and I will share sometime in the next twenty-four hours if you give a thought to me with a sip, and I to you : )

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yemie

         /  2015/12/25

        Aw! 😣😭 That’s the sweetest thing ever that you’ve had to say Babe! Getting intune with your inner ‘sweetness’ aren’t ya?! 😇😄And its such a delight to see….most adorable! However could I say nay to that…to you?! 😘Plus, coffee sounds like dappy and’insomniac’! I’d soo take you up on that offer in a heartbeat, if it still stands! 😆😆😆

        PS: You’re always on ma mind Phoenix, how could you not be?! You stand out, in a class of your own and your sense of humor goes on forever! Happy, Happy Holidays to ya! 🎅🎄Mwah! ❤😄


  8. “The Gingerbread House from Hell was rechristened forever The Sh*t House”…
    Haha…. so eloquently said…
    That was a good attempt whatsoever
    Anyhow… I would never try that recipe or anyone similar, so thank for the indirect advice
    An enjoyable post, my friend … Thank you very much for sharing. Aquileana 💫

    Liked by 1 person


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