Be True to Your Elf!
by Annie Gallay, Bright Sky Press
The Magic Gingerbread House
As a realtor in The Woodlands, Pam Franks knows just what makes a house special. Now, as a children’s book author, she shares her first-hand experience building prime real estate out of gingerbread and sweets. Her picture book, The Magic Gingerbread House, centers on the joyful anticipation of the Christmas season and shows readers the magic that can happen if they build a great gingerbread house and just believe.
About The Magic Gingerbread House
Sisters Meghan and Mollie can’t wait for Christmas to come. For the first time, they build and decorate their very own gingerbread house. Their mother teaches them how to make the house strong and beautiful. She explains that if they make the house with care, Santa’s elves will move in.
The next morning, Meghan and Mollie can’t believe their luck: Five elves—Hans, Grietal, Kirsten, Franz and Stefan—have moved in to the gingerbread house, leaving a quarter for rent. Eager to unwind from their long days in Santa’s workshop, they come after the girls have gone to bed and spend their evenings ice-skating, reading by the fire and roasting marshmallows. As December passes, the elves, so grateful to have a place to relax, continue to leave the two sisters little gifts and notes of encouragement.
When Meghan and Mollie befriend Sammy, a new girl at school who is lonely because her parents have been deployed to the Middle East, the elves’ positive messages take on even more importance. At the friends’ first sleepover, Sammy resists the idea that elves could inhabit the gingerbread house. But a special gift from the elves assures her that the elves are watching out for her, too. The elves keep the girls focused on what’s important and remind them that Santa has something special planned for each of them. With the elves’ help, all three girls have an exciting holiday season and come to understand the real magic of Christmas.
The custom of building a house for the elves became a part of the Franks’ holiday preparation more than 30 years ago, when Pam’s mother-in-law taught her how to make one of these delectable dwellings. Pam’s very first house was a simple one-story affair.
As she started a family of her own, she decided to remodel the gingerbread house. She updated its design and, inspired by her husband’s German heritage, created a merry mythology for it. Her family collected figurines and decorations for the house, and even illuminated it from within. Soon the elves were leaving little gifts and notes for her children, reminding Meghan, Mollie, Maddie and Matt to work as hard on their homework as the elves did at the North Pole and sharing other seasonal wisdom.
As the years passed, the Franks children’s friends got in on the fun, and the elves began providing presents to visitors who joined the family over the holidays. The four Franks children are grown now, but when they’re home at Christmastime, they still bustle downstairs to see what the elves have been up to. Whether they discover a two-dollar lottery ticket, a Christmas pencil or just a funny note from one of the elves, they remember the love that characterized their family’s traditions as they were growing up.
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]“Belief in the magic of Christmas is the first form of faith that children develop. It’s an integral ability that they carry with them into adulthood,” Pam Franks said.[/pullquote]
While it’s easy for kids—and parents—to get distracted and believe that the excitement is about presents, the elves remind us of the value of family and the importance of reaching out to those in our community who are in need. There is something much bigger, if we will just believe. Pam explained that from the creation to the decoration of the house “there are lots of tiny moments that truly make the experience memorable and magical for the whole family.”
This Christmas, introduce an elfin element to your traditions with The Magic Gingerbread House. With Pam’s recipe (provided below) it’s easier to build your own than you might imagine, or there are kits available online at sites such as http://www.gingerbreadtraditions.com or http://www.wilton.com.
Get your carols playing, heat up the hot chocolate and don your aprons. Not only will you have an enjoyable project, but also you’ll provide your family with a shared experience that can bring more meaning to your holidays and last for generations.
The Magic Gingerbread House by P.M. Franks with illustrations by Mike Guillory (Bright Sky Press) is available at www.magicgingerbreadhouse.com, www.brightskypress.com, and wherever fine books are sold.
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GINGERBREAD HOUSE RECIPE
½ cup Shortening
2 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour
½ cup Granulated Sugar
½ cup Molasses
1 Tablespoon Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
3 Tablespoons Ground Cloves
Mix shortening until soft and smooth. Add half of the flour, sugar, molasses, egg, vinegar, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Beat until thoroughly combined. Add in the remaining flour. (Do not refrigerate unless dough is too soft; if so, only refrigerate for 15-20 minutes). Roll out dough and cut out house pieces using a stencil made from poster board. Cut out the biggest pieces of dough first. Transfer dough to cookie sheet. Bake at 375°F for 10- 12 minutes. Let the pieces cool before transferring them from cookie sheet. Let the pieces harden for a couple of hours or overnight until they are thoroughly dry and hard.
Tips from Meghan and Mollie:
- Important: Only cook when you are with a grown-up!
- If you’re using lights in your gingerbread house, cut out spaces for the cord before you bake the walls.
- Make mortar to hold the pieces together by mixing powdered sugar and water.
- Put shutters on windows and let then dry before assembling the house.
- Put people in your house before you put on the roof.
- Have fun, and make your house very special for the elves!