Janesville74°

Gingerbread adds spice to holidays

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
December 8, 2010
— It's a holiday tradition that started when Lisa Sheldon was a child.

So it's only natural that the Janesville woman would carry on that tradition by building tasty, festive gingerbread houses.


"It's fun," she said. "I remember going to a friend of my mom's who had a gingerbread house and you could always pick a piece of candy off. She actually let me eat the gingerbread."


As an adult, Sheldon has been building gingerbread houses for nearly 15 years. Every year, "neighbors and kids of friends of ours come to look. They know they can pick a piece of candy off," she said.


But the public also will have an opportunity to see Sheldon's gingerbread house—a North Pole village—that she's entered into the second annual Gingerbread House Festival and Contest. Entries will be displayed at Rotary Botanical Gardens during its holiday light show.


The festival and contest was the brainchild of Sheila Killion, owner of Cakes by Sheila.


"I started it last year because I used to always enter the one the Woman's Club sponsored, but then they stopped doing it. I just thought it would be something neat to start back up," Killion said.


So she expanded this year's festival and contest as a way to give back to the community. She's asking those who want to view the gingerbread houses to bring a nonperishable food item donation that will benefit ECHO's food pantry.


"I saw it as an opportunity as fun and a fundraiser for them," she said.


Sheldon agreed it's a great idea, and it's another reason she entered the contest.


"I enjoy making gingerbread houses, but I'm also hoping more people will get involved," she said.


Last year's contest drew eight entries, said Killion, who hopes there will be at least 25 this year.


Meanwhile, Sheldon started creating her gingerbread house from a design—not a kit—she and her drafter husband, Joel, created.


"He's the builder. I'm the creative one. He helps once in a while putting the structures together, but I pretty much do the decorating," she said.


The house/village will feature a toy shop, reindeer barn, a bakery, the home of Santa and Mrs. Claus, a log cabin made of pretzel rods and an igloo made of sugar cubes on a piece of plywood that is 2 feet deep and 3 feet wide.


To create the scene, Sheldon is using peppermint sticks; red, white and green Jelly Bellies; white cotton candy she uses for snow; candy canes swirled into the shape of Christmas trees; shredded wheat; multi-colored Life Savers for stained glass; starlight mints; wafers; sprinkles; large and miniature M&Ms; square pretzels; bubble gum tape; icing; sugar crystals to resemble snow; and glitter to look like snow flakes. Candy syrup, dyed blue, will be used to make a pond.


Taking a bite out of this winter wonderland won't be a problem, she said.


"Everything is pretty much edible."


GINGERBREAD HOUSE MAKING TIPS

-- Keep it simple—Even a basic structure can be cute with lots of different decorations.


-- Visit these websites—Ultimategingerbread.com, gingerbread-house-heaven.com or search for "gingerbread house ideas" in a search engine.


—Lisa Sheldon, local Gingerbread House Festival contestant
IF YOU GO
What: Gingerbread House Festival and Contest
Who: Cakes by Sheila, ECHO, Rotary Botanical Gardens and the Wisconsin Garden Railway Society.
When: Dec. 17-23 and Dec. 26-31.
Where: Rotary Botanical Gardens, 1455 Palmer Drive, Janesville.
To enter: Register at cakesbysheila.com or call (608) 756-3146
Entry deadline: Between 1 and 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, when houses must be dropped off at Rotary Gardens, 1655 Palmer Drive, for judging.
Entry categories: 10 years and younger, teens 11 to 18, and adults and professionals.
Entry fee: None
Judges: Beth Wheelock, WCLO reporter; Katie Thomas, Blackhawk Technical College culinary instructor; Britten Graft, Wisconsin Wagon; Alicia Reid, Raven's Wish.
Prizes: First-, second- and third-place ribbons in each category.
To view the houses: Non-perishable food donations for ECHO are suggested

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