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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Giving Scaredy New Reasons to Fear: A Gingerbread House Extravaganza (With Some Shrinky Dinks for Spice!)

The jolly gift of the season, for me, is to have friends with oodles, sheer oodles, of talent just ah-flowing out of their gills (so to speak).  Last year I posted about how some buddies and I got together to make Shrinky-Dink Christmas ornaments (which, in turn, led to Shrinky-Dink Caldecott jewelry later in the year).  This year we upped the ante, so to speak.

So I was sitting in my office, minding my own business, when the mail arrived.  And not just any mail either.  Big mail.  Big flat mail.  Big flat mail that had a very prominent bakery sticker on the outside.  I got very excited when I saw that.  Tis the season for chocolate goodies, yes?

No chocolate awaited me inside (well, maybe a little chocolate).  What I found instead was a remarkable little gingerbread house kit, complete with a copy of the latest Scaredy Squirrel title Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas.  Inside was a handy dandy builder’s permit (made out to me!), pre-made frosting, gingerbread, the works!

Knowing that I had a Christmas party in my home coming up I schlepped it to my apartment and waited until this past weekend to start construction.  Not that I constructed a darn thing. Nope.  Say hello to the foreman in charge of this project, Josh Ess.

Some of you may remember Josh as the husband of the illustrious Lori Ess and the man who single-handedly saved an Eric Carle Museum program that featured Anita Silvey (amongst others) when its computer went on the fritz.  Turns out, the man does a mean edible arrangement.  This may have something to do with the fact that he is a professionally trained chef.  Perhaps.

The first problem we had with the house turned out to be the biggest.  At some point in its travels, the body of the house had cracked.

So yes.  We were dealing with a crack house.  Josh put the crack house together as best he could and you can see the clever patching job done with frosting.  Still, things were looking dire.  Particularly when it was discovered that the roof didn’t really fit either.  This called for creativity!!  Step #1: Place gumdrops where the house would normally connect.

Step #2: Stick everything in place with copious frosting.

Step #3: Place other portion of roof on top without toppling everything like a house of cards.

Ta dah!  With some effort the house started to perk up a bit.  Josh even arranged the faux M&Ms on the top in a rainbow pattern.

Now it was time to decorate.  And who better to help with that feature than graphic novelist Gareth Hinds?  You may remember him from such graphic novel Shakespearan adaptations as King Lear, or his work on The Odyssey and Beowulf.  He’s got a killer Romeo & Juliet out in the future, and a very fine hand on hiding the cracked doorway of the house going on here.

Not that Josh wasn’t a remarkable piper when it came to the frosting.

That is the advantage of doing a house like this.  When you make a mistake, you eat the cement.

Ta dah!!  A happy home for all to see.

But what really sealed the deal for me was Josh’s attention to fine details that would have gone unnoticed had someone not pointed them out.  When we weren’t looking he took the Tootsie Rolls that came with the house, some frosting and some toothpicks and made . . . a reindeer!!

Then later in the evening, that same reindeer morphed into Rudolph.

That is what happens when you separate the gingerbread men from the gingerbread boys, son.  Josh, you are the undeniable gingerbread king.

Others have received this same house in the mail.  If you want to see the full roster you can see them on the Scaredy Squirrel Facebook Page.  The blog Pickle Me This actually put the darn thing together using the instructions and ALL the ingredients.  Other blogs followed suit.  Go here or here if you want to see what it was supposed to look like.

After that there was nothing for it but to make a couple Christmas ornaments with whatever picture book characters I happened to have hanging around my living room.  This year the winners included:

Me Want Pet by Bob Shea – ornament created using markers (!!!!) by Alison Morris

Flora’s Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall, illustrated by Matt Phelan – ornament created by Lori Ess using only colored pencils

Humpty Dumpty from the Will Moses Mother Goose – ornament created by Josh Ess

Dick Tracy by my very own resident husband Matt.

And a Sumo wrestler  – ornament created just off the top of his head on a spur of the moment whim by Gareth Hinds.  It was not traced.

If you do not have a tiny Sumo wrestler on YOUR tree, I pity you.

I cannot thank my guests enough for such a fantastic party.  Thanks to Alison Morris, Gareth Hinds, Lori Ess, John Ess, and Matt for helping to make this the bestest Christmas ever.  Special thanks to Alison for the bulk of these fabulous pictures.

And thanks to the folks at Kids Can Press for allowing me the chance to make a house of my very own with absolutely zero effort on my own part.

Finally, my own offspring.  Suited up to fit the holidays.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. And how did you keep said adorable child out of all those preparations — chloroform?

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      The child slept through most of the tree stuff, coming in at the end. Then I entertained her while the house was being constructed. That’s why you won’t see any of me in these pics. Plus I’m lazy.

  2. Fabulosity itself.

    And super-cute offspring.

  3. So much talent and cuteness in one room!

  4. The true secret to a successful gingerbread house? Glue Gun. Covered, stealthily, with frosting. Or there’s my cousin’s gingerbread house. After too much help from the three-year-old, Chris announced that their house was the one hit by the tornado and to decorate accordingly. And they did.

    Looks like you had the perfect party!

  5. You just made my day, Betsy. Merry Christmas to you all (especially that cute little curly head)!

  6. How FUN! I still want to do that Shrinky Dinks thing sometime. I mean, if you can’t have a tiny sumo wrestler IT ‘TIS NOT THE SEASON.

    Oh, the ADORBS with the Wee Oiseau! Gosh, she’s big.

  7. Kelly Ramsdell Fineman says

    What a great party – and what phenomenal ornaments! *has ornament envy*

    Your little one is adorable! (But Betsy, when did she get so big?)

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Thank you! Not entirely certainly how the bigness happened. I suspect she’s been doing something crazy like “eating” and the like. Will have to put a stop to all future growth soon. Tips are welcome.

  8. Forget it. It doesn’t work. They keep growing, no matter what you do. We’ve got one that’s about to turn twelve and the preteen earthquakes are already happening. If we could have stopped growth, we would have done it when she was seven and a perfect human being. You want a tip? OK–here’s one: teach her all you can NOW and chances are better than average that she’ll revert back to human form after the teen years are done.

  9. Betsy, you made my day, too. (Hi, Matt.) And I’m thinking that Matt’s little person hanging on your tree looks sort of like the real little person you have living in your home. In terms of sheer adorableness at the very least.

  10. This is awesome. I want to make one now.

    I tell my daughter all the time to stop growing. She said she would hit 5 and stay 5. Now that she is 5, she claims she will stop at 7. I am not so sure this will work, but it helps me a bit. Anyhow, I suppose we can’t stop feeding them. 🙂

    Your tree rocks!

  11. Wow, I’m so impressed with yours and those you link too. Ours was rather a disaster due to watery icing (and possibly due to children being more interested in eating than in building:).

  12. Oh, your Little Bird is so sweet! You clearly have not been posting enough adorable pictures of her, so we wouldn’t be so shocked at how enormous she is! I still think of her as just born! Oops!

    You have found the MAGIC KEY to gingerbread houses — get someone else to do it! My mother-in-law used to send us kits every year, ostensibly to be nice, but I had my doubts. Usually I got my husband to build one with the boys. On the times when I succumbed, I ended up pretty frustrated! It helps to not be a perfectionist — and to be a decent artist. Getting an artist to do it was a perfect idea!

  13. Can I freely admit that I also have a sumo wrestler on my Christmas tree? He’s made of sculpey and wears a red Christmas hat. I made Sumo Santa as a gift for my husband when we were first dating. So glad to see that I’m not alone in my holiday sumo-ness.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Clearly there is an underground Sumo ornament movement of which I was previously unaware. I can only stand pleased that now I am counted amongst the ranks.