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Family home inspires gingerbread design

It's all in how one looks at it.

The local Family Y held a gingerbread house contest recently, with hopes of increasing family time.

"We wanted to start a new family tradition in homes that may not have any traditions of their own," said Branch Manager Dede Keir. "I always have done one with my kids and grandkids, and so I thought it'd be a good idea."

Mrs. Keir's idea apparently caught on for the two winning entries. Both came from families that had never made a gingerbread house. Charlotte Derry and her children created a likeness of their own house that won first place. Erin Dozier, her children and her mother, Margaret Samuels made a replica of the Dozier's barn that won second place.

"That is so funny, because I have four children and she has four children also. So, we are as busy as can be," Mrs. Derry said with a laugh. "But the ones who did these big gingerbread houses apparently wanted some kind of an escape."

But the number of children in each family is where the likenesses end in their projects.

Mrs. Derry said their house took three weeks to complete. She first drew, measured and cut out templates, then made gingerbread from scratch, which she covered with yellow fondant icing to resemble the yellow siding of their house. The children -- Jake, 11, Sam, 10, Laynie, 8 and Libby, 6 -- then got busy planting green-tinted coconut grass, spreading chocolate sprinkle mulch around shrubs made of icing, setting rock candy in the chimneys and shingling the roof with M&M's.

"I got a little obsessed and it kind of got out of hand," Mrs. Derry said. "I just kept working on it and working on it and finally, one day, a friend of mine came in the house and said 'Charlotte, stop. That's enough.' So, I did."

The new tradition even used an old tradition at the Derry's house. "We have an elf that Santa sends to our house every Christmas, she comes when we decorate our Christmas tree. And when she came, she put the star on top of the house with a little rendition of herself," Mrs. Derry said.

The construction of the Dozier's barn didn't take quite as long. In fact, Mrs. Dozier said they only found out about the contest three days before the entry deadline.

"Next year, we will definitely start earlier," she said.

Although they were short on time, they did not skimp on details. The walls of the large barn were constructed of graham crackers, the roof is of wheat thins and the fence around the farm is of pretzel rods.

"We had to redo it several times," Mrs. Samuels said. "It was like building a real fence. We had to saw and cut the pretzels."

"And sometimes they weren't the right size, so when we fitted them together, the posts would fall down and then we'd have to start over," Mrs. Dozier added.

The farm scene features horses made from ornament-dough covered with frosting. They are grazing on hay bales of Shredded Wheat, and fences are made of graham crackers and pretzel rods.

The natural color scheme is brightened with Christmas decorations -- garland made from Fruit Roll-Ups and wreaths made from green Lifesavers that have red frosting bows.

Each child -- Lee, 5, Neilly, 4, Sam, 3, and Ruby, 1 -- stacked large marshmallows to make their own snowman in the royal frosting-snow-covered yard. They personalized their snowman by selecting the color of frosting and Fruit Roll-Ups for the hat and scarf.

"My kitchen was covered in confectioners sugar, from one end to the other," Mrs. Samuels said.

Mrs. Keir said she was impressed with the results. She said people who come in and see the houses are "inspired and everybody says they want to do it next year."

"I've been to the Biltmore House and to the Grove Park Inn Resort and seen the gingerbread houses they have there," she said. "And ours could fit right in with those."

The gingerbread houses are on display weekdays from 3-6:30 p.m. at the Y130 on Main Street in downtown Thomson.

Web posted on Thursday, December 17, 2009

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