Last year, only a month before Christmas, we moved into our very first home. In the lead-up to Christmas we were extremely busy trying to juggle our nine to five jobs with unpacking and renovating, not to mention planning for Christmas.

Christmas gift basket

Knowing that our home would not be fit for guests just yet, we opted to spend Christmas with interstate relatives. A great move if I say so myself.

Each year I try to take the stress out of Christmas by shopping for presents months in advance. Thankfully, this year was no exception. With two weeks until Christmas, I had all my purchases for Christmas day ready and waiting. Needless to say, I felt good.

One thing that I had left to the last minute was the gifts for our new neighbours. We had visited the neighbourhood a few times over the course of buying the property and on every occasion we saw how tight knit it was. The previous owners had lived in the home for approximately twenty years and were well-liked and pivotal members in the neighbourhood. Whenever we spoke to the neighbours there was an underlying sentiment of disappointment and sadness that they had left. They really appeared to be the ‘glue’ of the community.

We were much younger than our other neighbours, but building a good relationship with them was really important to us. There is a general sentiment that you either love or hate your neighbours and we wanted to fit into the first category. We thought that a great way to make a good first impression would be to give them all a small but thoughtful Christmas present.

I had been brainstorming for a couple of weeks and, being in public relations, I knew it couldn’t be anything overly commercial or flashy – it just didn’t suit the people in our neighbourhood and I knew that they would respond much better to something that was wholesome and homely.

Being an avid savoury cook, I thought I would set myself a little challenge and dip my hand into baking to make them something sweet and tempting. I searched high and low for a recipe that I was comfortable with and in the lead-up to the big cook-off I changed my mind at the last minute. My partner thought that my chosen recipe wasn’t “Christmassy enough”. This spelt the beginning of the end.

He assured me that gingerbread men would be a much easier and better idea. He had made them before and offered to help me. With an assistant in hand, I set about buying the ingredients for our new idea, gingerbread men. We started making the gingerbread men at 1pm on Sunday afternoon and at 6pm we were still working hard on them. Working hard to save them I should say. It turns out that our new oven express cooks everything so our baked delights emerged from the oven looking anything but ginger. Let’s face it, they were black and hard. Despite that, we pressed on and decorated the black delicacies. Turns out – icing is pretty tricky and not at all as easy as my partner remembered as a wee child.

Six hours later, every spare surface in our kitchen and loungeroom was filled with trays and trays of burnt gingerbread men with fluorescent icing that looked like it had been applied by a distracted two year old.

In denial we hung onto the gingerbread men for a few days. I am happy to say that they eventually made their way into the bin because I think our neighbours would have thought they were a sick joke.

Next year I won’t be baking. I will be organising the household business card printing in the days leading up to Christmas so that I can attach them to the gift basket or charity hamper to make up for that first year when the gingerbread men didn’t quite make it to their door.