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Nick Giordano’s gingerbread house was featured in the Magical Elf House on Dec. 8 and 9. His gingerbread making started as a holiday tradition and grew into an intricate puzzle. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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What do gingerbread, baseball, and murder mysteries have in common? Nick Giordano might say it’s the puzzle involved.
At an upcoming scholarship fundraiser, Nick will be providing a gingerbread house, the likes of which he has been crafting at home for his kids for some 20 years.
“My children are older now. I’ve kept it on,” Nick says. “It’s very therapeutic for me.”
The event is the Magical Elf House, a guided tour through a Guilford house decorated for the holidays complete with Santa and his elves.
When Nick started baking gingerbread houses with his kids when they were young, they were simple enough. When he received a book of patterns and the houses evolved from there, becoming larger, developing see-through windows and intricate patterns.
“There’s not much else I can do with it other than to display it. I never made a big deal of these things. I’ve been doing them for a long time.”
Even just displaying his houses at home, people would encourage Nick to display them somewhere more public or enter them in competitions.
“That’s not really [what] I do it for,” he says.
Nick says he’s always been one for jigsaw puzzles. He did them with his mom when he was young and now finds time throughout the year to put them together with his wife, Pamela.
“Always like to do those kinds of things. Things that were really for mental stimulation,” he says. “It’s relaxing, yet there is some focus that you have to put on it to make sure it comes out right. It kind of takes me away from some of the nonsense that normal people like us have.”
Building gingerbread houses is a similar mental exercise.
“There’s all kinds of things that go in to it,” Nick says. “It’s time-consuming and tedious, but I enjoy it a lot.”
Part of the puzzle of putting together a gingerbread house like Nick’s is getting the dimensions right. The gingerbread is prone to breaking and curling, making it difficult to form complex, standing structures.
“You hope that when you lay on its patterns…that all the pieces fit together,” he says. “So you make a little adjustments to it.”
He displayed a house for the first time last year when DiamondZone, a baseball instructional facility, hosted a holiday event. One of the Magical Elf House’s showrunners noticed it and asked Nick to build one for their event.
“I brought it in and people liked it and they said, ‘...I can’t believe a baseball coach does this,” he says. “Why not let some other people enjoy it other than my family?
“I’ve done this particular farmhouse several times, but I’ve changed the colors, I’ve added to the landscape, I’ve used things from different projects and rolled them in,” he says.
DiamondZone, a relatively new operation in North Haven, offers softball and baseball instruction for 8 to 18-year-olds. Having sold his businesses, Nick is a pitching instructor there.
“From five years old I was involved in [baseball] so always wanted to be as involved as I could, knowing that I had a family and another career,” he says. “Couldn’t retire, so this is the next best thing, to go a little bit further with the teaching aspect of baseball.”
Pitching, Nick says, is a lot more complicated than people realize.
“I can teach you how to pitch in a month,” Nick says. “But you can come to me and sit in a classroom and I can explain to you how to pitch. I actually enjoy [that aspect] more than the on field stuff…getting kids to understand that there’s a strategy to the game.”
“I think everything is a puzzle,” he says. “I’ve always tried to look deeper into things to get them to work.”
Recently, DiamondZone opened the Z Foundation, a nonprofit group that raises money for athletic scholarships at North Haven High School (NHHS).
“We hatched an idea over last summer about how to…give back some of the good fortune we’ve had over the years to NHHS male and female athletes,” he says. “It seems like a worthy, and the correct, investment.”
The first fundraiser for the scholarship was a murder mystery party hosted by the Royalty Winemaking Group, complete with a professional script and actors.
“Two people died and we had to figure it out,” he says. “It was really fun.”
The group is planning more events, including another murder mystery night, in the upcoming year with the hopes of rising a few thousand dollars for their new scholarship.
Get ready to celebrate the holidays with our helpful guide
The 2020 Member Directory and Town Guide for Branford, Guilford, North Branford, and Northford has arrived!