The holiday was over.

What few leftovers remained had been carefully wrapped and put away. Colorful paper had been gathered up from the floor, coats had been retrieved and children shepherded toward the front door. Hugs were exchanged, while young mothers and fathers carefully balanced their not quite sleeping children and bags filled with gifts, but before each family could leave, there was one more tradition to realize.

Those who had a free hand were to fill a gallon-sized baggie with the very sweetest of homemade confections that had been spread out across the table. Easily 20 boxes, each filled with several layers of melt-in-your-mouth goodness, waited to be emptied and their delightful contents taken home.

I have never been much of a chef, and really, I am barely even a cook, so every year I look forward to my sister-in-law’s cookies. Their sweetness seems to propel me through the first half of the year and lure me onward for the second half. I am fortunate indeed. And every year I imagine that perhaps this is the year when I will try to bake up a batch of holiday treats myself. It has not happened yet.

Well, with the holiday past, the stores had all shuffled what remained of their holiday-themed items to the drastically reduced tables by the front door. I usually linger to look and see what items might be worth rescuing and saving for use next year. A tin filled with my sister-in-law’s cookies still sat on the counter at home, but my eye was caught by a large bright box. It was red and dotted with white snowflakes falling across a perfectly decorated gingerbread house.

The box advertised that its contents included pre-made icing and promised that it had been designed for easy assembly. Not even baking was required. Perhaps this was just what I needed to start my career in holiday confection creation. I was not perturbed in the least that the holiday was past. I knew just what I could do with my very first attempt at building a gingerbread house.

I will confess, however, that even though the house really was easy to build, I still managed to get icing dripping in places where I am sure it was not supposed to drip, at least according to the picture on the box. Even so, I totally enjoyed the process. It reminded me of the paint by numbers sets I had enjoyed as a child. I was quite content to sit at the table and build my project.

Once I was finished, I let the little house stay front and center on the table, so that Greg and I could enjoy it all evening. It even emitted a faint ginger scent. I lit a small candle and placed it beside it, and it really did look quite lovely.

I could not wait to wake up the next morning, and I did not even want to even linger over our morning coffee. I told the dogs that they needed to stay inside as Greg and I did the animal chores. They looked at me quizzically as I carefully carried the little house outside. As soon as I stepped off the front porch, the chicken all flocked around my feet, as they always do.

I walked out into the yard and set the house down right where we usually scatter the hens’ morning scratch grain treat. The little orange hen boldly stepped right up and began to peck at the house. I had removed most of the candy, thinking that it was really not good for my flock. The little orange hen was soon followed by another hen, and then another. I smiled. It certainly appeared that that my very first gingerbread house had been a success.

And this coming year, when Greg and I are living in our new home, I have promised myself that I will make a real gingerbread house from scratch. Such a real house I will not give to my hens, but I must confess that I might just stop by that sale table and make another house, just for my hens.

The price was right, and I certainly enjoyed sharing it with my birds.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio. Visit them on the web at