A holiday tradition, for the first time

  • This North Pole scene by Cheryl Munroe was made with gingerbread houses is awash with brightly-colored candy canes and Hershey’s Kisses. What a sweet display!

  • Santa is stuck in a chimney at this gingerbread house by Amy Lowell on display a the Greenfield Historical Society.

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Karen Russell of Greenfield submitted this “Woodland Gingerbread House” to the Greenfield Historical Society’s Gingerbread House Contest. Ashely saari photos / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript staff

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, December 18, 2017 5:54PM

At age 60, Karen Russell of Greenfield had one holiday tradition she had yet to check off her bucket list: Making a gingerbread house.

She’d never had the opportunity as a kid, and now her own daughter was grown, she said in an interview on Monday. So, while the idea lingered in the back of her mind, she didn’t really have a reason to build one.

“It’s a little ironic, because I was just talking with a friend about how I’d always wanted to make one. Then I saw the flyer,” said Russell.

The flyer was advertising the Greenfield Historical Society’s annual Gingerbread House Contest – this year with a “Santa Claus” theme to pair with its “World of Santas” exhibit.

it was the excuse Russell needed.

“I always want to try new things,” she said. “And I thought, if it’s a disaster when it turns out, then I don’t have to submit it.”

Of course, first, she had to figure out how to make one. Luckily, you can find anything on the internet.

A trawl through Pinterest for inspiration and a Google of how-tos later, Russell was ready to try her hand with a decoration theme inspired by a Norwegian sweater print.

From there, she was off, said Russell.

“It evolved, which is how my projects usually end up,” she said. “It doesn’t start with one specific idea. It just grows.”

The Norwegian theme sparked an idea for a little gnome Russell made from a recycled sock. A little evergreen wrapped in tiny, working lights needed a battery pack, and some way to hide the battery pack, which resulted in a wreath of greenery gathered from her backyard.

“You could just keep going,” said Russell, who ended up trying to keep her house simple and classic. “It could become addictive. You could do a whole village if you got crazy about it.”

It wasn’t a totally smooth road, she said – she had her learning experiences. In the future, she said, she’ll try to do her intricate decorating when the gingerbread is still on a flat surface before assembling. But overall, she said, it was a good first-time experience.

By the time it was done, Russell dubbed her creation “Woodland Gingerbread House” – a concept she hadn’t come up with ahead of time, but fit the final outcome – and submitted it to the Historical Society Contest.

But there are already visions of future gingerbread houses dancing in her head.

There are a few of those Pintrest ideas she’d like to try – a log cabin using pretzel rods, or trees made from waffle ice cream cones, or using hard candy or lollipops to give the windows a warm yellow glow.

“I did have fun, and I would probably do it again, but try a different technique, something new to learn,” said Russell.


Want to try your own hand at a gingerbread mansion? Why not use this gingerbread recipe, one of the many holiday recipes on display at the Greenfield Historical Society.



⅓ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon coriander

⅓ cup molasses (light or dark)

½ teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon ginger

2 eggs

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon black pepper

5 cups flour

½ teaspoon cardamom

½ teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons lard

½ cup butter

1½ teaspoons baking powder

⅓ cup honey


Put the molasses, brown sugar, butter and lard in a pot and heat, stirring, under medium-low until completely melted. Do not boil or allow to scorch.

Take the mix off heat and add 2 ½ cups of flour, along with all spices. Mix and set aside to cool to lukewarm. Stir occasionally.

Beat eggs and incorporate into the dough. Let cool completely.

Sieve together the remaining flour with baking soda and baking powder. Add flour gradually to dough, stir thoroughly after each addition. When the dough becomes too thick to stir, kneed in bowl and then well-floured countertop. Add more flour if needed until dough is smooth and shiny and not sticky.

Grease a bowl with butter and put the dough in it. cover with cloth and let rest for a couple of hours.

Generously flour work surface, roll out a piece of dough very thinly. Cut out shapes and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees for no more than 5-6 minutes until bottom edge begins to brown and surface looks dry. Leave on pan to cool. Extra dough can be stored in the fridge for future use.


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.