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Nina In New York: A Trip To Gingerbread Village

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Nina Pajak's Gingerbread Village (credit: Nina Pajak)

Nina Pajak’s Gingerbread Village (credit: Nina Pajak)

A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
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How was everyone’s cookies holiday weekend? Personally, I spent mine eating a whole lot of cookies.

I woke up yesterday morning in a groggy haze. A logy, oogy, scratchy cookie hangover. I thought I’d eaten and drank a lot since Thanksgiving, but evidently I was just in training. Those were measly 5ks, and I just ran a marathon. And by “ran a marathon,” I mean “ate an inhuman quantity of cookies.”

And while I don’t regret a single bite, I have almost no doubt that my body has shut down due to a sugar invasion over the last four or five days. My antibodies are paunchy and weak from an excess of buttery dough, and they are no match for the hostile pathogens which have entered my bloodstream via frosting and peanut butter buckeyes. I’m pretty sure that’s scientifically correct.

See Also: The 5 Best Peanut Butter Treats In NYC | NYC’s 5 Best Christmas Cookies

Anyway, in addition to simply eating cookies, our family also did some cookie-based activities over the last weekend. Namely, making a gingerbread village. Not just a house – an entire village.

Full disclosure: I bought a kit from Bed, Bath & Beyond. Being a gingerbread construction newbie, I naively assumed that the box, which featured a picture of an elaborate and impeccably decorated candyland and a burst which proclaimed “everything included!” would actually include everything. Pssht. Dumb.

In reality, it included the pre-baked cookie house pieces, three packets of industrial adhesive being passed off as icing, and a few tiny bags of assorted colorful candy pieces. It all began well, and as we built I constructed a backstory about a mansion on top of a hill in which lived a very rich man who was trying to buy up all the town’s land to turn it into a luxury winter resort.

But while all his neighbors accepted their buyout offers, the stubborn and lonesome hermit who lived in the A-frame ski-in, ski-out property in the woods halfway down the slope was refusing to vacate his property.

Our village development continued, and I began to realize how little we had for decorations and how small a chance I had of using our supplies to produce anything that remotely resembled the perfectly laid bricks pictured on the box. My attention span quickly waned.

ninas gingerbread house Nina In New York: A Trip To Gingerbread Village

(credit: Diana Mirante)

Green gum paste stuck to my fingers like Krazy Glue, and I abandoned my polka-dot shingle pattern in favor of smearing the icing across the roof of my house and haphazardly covering up the mess with candy discs and sprinkles. When I looked up from my “project,” I saw my brother-in-law carefully drawing beautiful, squiggly, wavy lines across the sides of his house. As I plopped a spearmint leaf down to hide my undecorated door and watched it slump down and bleed red food dye into the glaze-snow, he was using a toothpick to meticulously create realistic looking shrubbery and a wreath on the front of his mansion. First, I felt badly. Really, really badly. I mean, I’ve never prided myself on my artistic ability, but the rest of the family appeared to be doing a fairly adequate job with relative ease. I looked at their structures and I looked at mine, and I had to wonder why my manual dexterity had not improved past age six. But oh well.

I picked up a jar of red sparkly dust, flung it around my side of the village, and then I felt a little better. I edited our backstory to better fit the end result of our efforts.

gingerbread village 2 Nina In New York: A Trip To Gingerbread Village

(credit: Diana Mirante)

Here, on the left side of the mountaintop, sits the previously mentioned mansion. Unfortunately, the owner made the mistake of renovating beyond the neighborhood, and he is now struggling to maintain the value of his home. Next door, his neighbor has abandoned his mortgage and allowed his home to fall into foreclosure, lowering his chances of selling even further. It’s a sad tale, but nothing new. The neighborhood has fallen into disrepair and become home to looters and vagrants. Just the other day, a Christmas tree who was squatting in the vacant home was shot outside the door and left for dead. 2011 has been a tough year for many of us, and it turns out that the gingerbread dimension provides no escape. It’s grim, but art does imitate life.

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Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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