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COVID-19: Lumber, Pools, NYC Suburbs, & Gingerbread Houses: Unexpected Winners during a Pandemic

What did everyone do when the pandemic first hit and people were spending hours and hours at home? At first, the baking started (see baking post). Grocery stores had flour and yeast shortages as producers struggled to keep up with the increased demand. King Arthur Baking Company created a whole new flour bag size with new packaging to help supply people with the flour that they so desperately wanted (King Arthur 3lb bag).

After people made their sourdough and got tired of posting pictures on social media of their beautiful creations, what did they do next?

They began to think about how they could improve their home. Normally, people spent a large chunk of their week at work, out to dinner, or at friends’ houses. Now people are spending ALL their time at home.

Maybe the wood on the deck needed to be replaced… Or a new addition to the house might be nice…. With all that time outdoors, a firepit could improve their happiness.

What do you need to do all of these things? Wood.

Lumber prices actually crashed when the pandemic first started in March. The fear was that construction projects would be put on hold. Spring is typically a time for houses to go on the market, and people want to build. With this new world and an inability to leave the house, who knew what would happen?

Fortunately for the lumber market, construction (and Home Depot) was considered an essential service and people kept on working. And then, like I said, calls for home improvement started coming in. Lumber futures have surpassed what they were in February! (Wall Street Journal article)

As temperatures started to rise, people next turned from firepits to pools.

I was sitting with some family/close friends on 4th of July in Houston, and we remarked that no one in the group had a pool. How was it possible in a city where there are two seasons -- summer and not really summer – that no one had a pool? Well, in normal times, everyone would just go to a community pool. Now, reservations were needed, and kids had to be kept from making new best friends with whoever else was nearby.

Within a few days of this conversation, we had two new pools at our houses: kiddie pools.

Turns out we weren’t the only ones. Prices of kiddie pools and blow-up slides (the coolest thing that I wish was around when I was little) went from around $100-$200 to $600+ IF you could find one!

And if you wanted to make a serious investment in summer outdoor entertainment, you could install an underground pool. Here are some news sources for how the demand for pools has been rising (NY Times, CBS Local Pittsburgh,

What if you lived in a place where you had no personal outdoor access and minimal space in your apartment? You moved.

Housing in the areas surrounding NYC has been at a premium. Where would you rather be stuck: a 1,000 square foot apartment (if you’re lucky) or a 3,000 square foot house with a huge yard (and maybe pool)? (NPR, PBS Newshour, NBC News)

Back in June I was looking for an apartment in a city about an hour north of New York City. I had commented that there was no rush because the city had been building an excessive number of apartments and condos. Much to my disbelief, very little was available and there were waitlists at the top apartment buildings. A brand-new building opened up… within a week, all of the apartments were gone.

Well, I ended up not needing to move. And now I’ve been considering buying a house… because what fun is home improvement if you don’t have a house to improve?

All in all, there have been some unexpected winners during this pandemic – and not all of them relate to technology and delivery services.

Gingerbread House

What could this post possibly have to do with baking? If you’re like me and you don’t have a house, maybe you can build your OWN house – a gingerbread house. It’ll cost a lot less than calling a contractor or taking out a mortgage. Plus it uses the extra flour you’ve been hoarding since you stopped making sourdough. Finally, this takes lots of time. So, if you’re bored, I recommend it.

I used Sally’s Baking Addiction’s Gingerbread recipe ( except I didn’t make the buttercream icing (it’s not winter, so I didn’t want snow). I do want to point out that you need to make sure you have your AC on or the candy won’t stick to the icing very well.

Here are the steps:

  1. Make gingerbread cookie dough

  2. Refrigerate the dough for a few hours

  3. Cut the gingerbread house pieces and bake.

  4. Let cool completely.

  5. Make royal icing

  6. Ice the house pieces (if you are doing a colored house like me).

  7. Let icing harden (a couple hours).

  8. Assemble the bottom of the house (the four walls) using the royal icing.

  9. Let rest for hours... you want the base to be solid.

  10. "Glue" the roof on top.

  11. Add whatever candy you would like.

See... I told you this would take a lot of time!


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