The gingerbread lady
Madison homemaker wins national magazine contest
Record Managing Editor
A Madison homemaker put her culinary skills to the test and is $2,000 richer, as well as being featured in the December 2002 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine.
While in the checkout line of a local grocery store, Madison resident Sheila Burhart decided to pick up a copy of the December 2001 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine.
Burhart said she's not a subscriber to many magazines, but this particular issue grabbed her attention, so she picked it up, bought it, and took it home with her.
While looking through its pages, Burhart said she started reading an article about a contest involving baking and decorating a gingerbread house and submitting a photo and official entry form to the magazine by March 30, 2002.
"I thought it would be a great wintertime thing to do since you can't get out much," Burhart said. "I had never baked a gingerbread house before and was just hoping for an honorable mention in the contest."
Surprisingly, Burhart's gingerbread house creation won first place in the contest, awarding her with a $2,000 check and the opportunity to have the gingerbread house featured in the December, 2002 issue of Good Housekeeping.
"I did a little research on gingerbread houses and spent many trips to the grocery store walking up and down the aisles looking for interesting food items with which to decorate the house," Burhart said.
Burhart used pretzel logs, cinnamon sticks, melba toast, pecan halves, pecan shells, pretzel sticks, sushi paper, no-boil lasagna noodles, and bowls and bowls of royal icing to put it all together.
"I worked on it and worked on it for about four months and had the entire thing spread out over my dining room table," Burhart said. "I had a horrible time keeping the cats away from the sushi paper cedar trees. They absolutely loved them and I had to replace them several times."
Burhart's brother, who had come down for a visit from Antarctica, used his new digital camera to take the photos of the completed gingerbread house.
"We decided to go outside to take the photos while it was dark outside," Burhart said. "After the photos were made, I mailed them in and waited."
Burhart said at the time when she sent the photos in, the postal system was under the threat of Anthrax terrorism. She said she wasn't even sure if her photos would even make to its destination in New York City.
"It was sometime in August when I received a phone call at my office informing me that I had won first place in the contest," Burhart said. "We were all very excited, including my brother, who by this time was back in Antarctica. We e-mailed him the good news."
Burhart said she'd like to enter the contest again and perhaps make a smaller gingerbread house.
"It was a lot of hard work, but it was a lot of fun. I'll definitely start subscribing to Good Housekeeping now."