The sights, sounds, and retail prompts will surround us for the next four weeks…

• Unforgettable gifts for that special someone
• Grooming gifts to stuff his stocking
• How to ask for a gift
• What everyone wants and no one asks for
• Gift-wrapping ideas

…of what the holidays are supposed to be.

The $easonal $uggestions fail to cease.

But, I urge everyone to heed the advice given to me this week by Gretchen Baugh, merchandise manager for Ben Franklin Island Crafts whom you will meet in the pages ahead.

She says, “making crafts gives you time to talk and share. It gives us time to appreciate one another versus tossing an expensive toy under the tree.

I have a niece and nephew, my childhood best friend’s children, who have everything a kid could want, multiplied by ten. Sure, I buy them gifts because they like to open them.

But, it’s our annual tradition of assembling a gingerbread house kit, which has made the most memories they raise their virgin eggnog to year after year.

The inaugural tradition started innocently enough.

Fired up on candy canes and Capri Sun, Hallie and Jared bounced around the kitchen table. We pasted, plotted, and constructed, holding up the unstable sides with cans from the cupboard.

My best friend watched from the living room with a hot toddy in her hand as the Cleveland Browns suffered another December beating. Her blue eyes blazed with amusement as I attempted to take charge of the family members I call “Monster One,” and “Monster Two.”

During half time we booked upstairs to search the internet.

We bounded back down the kitchen stairs, only to stop dead in our tracks.


Horror-struck Hallie and Jared.

Amanda and I covered our mouths in shock.

My 135 pound Newfoundland, Alstott, is a registered “special needs” puppy. For the first time in his life he braved a tile floor.

Half the gingerbread house’s roof was gone!

The Newf chomped away in the family room with icing stuck all over his black, fury- webbed paws, on his muzzle, and on top of his enormous head.

Amanda did what any mom would do. She grabbed the vacuum.

We improvised the missing gingerbread with a piece of cardboard, coating it with and exorbitant amount of icing and gumballs to hide the devastation by dog.

The project kept them occupied for an entire case of juice boxes on a dreary Midwest afternoon.

Later, Amanda stuck the confection creation in her oven, so her dog wouldn’t eat it.

She forgot about it, and turned the oven on, catching the ginger and all her glory of gumballs on fire.

Hallie and Jared have since opened a triple-digit number of presents. They don’t remember any gift I’ve ever bought them. Nearly everything is tossed in the basement toy room.

But, they still laugh hysterically any time of year I see them.

“Hey, Aunt Josie, remember when Alstott ate the gingerbread house!”

“Yeah, then I set it on fire,” their mom can’t stop laughing.

In seconds we all have tears rolling down our eyes.

We search the house for the pictures, buried somewhere underneath all the toys tossed aside.

Josie Koler is the Key West Bureau Chief
This time of year she can be found making a mess in kitchens from Key West to Lake Erie!



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