The 641 Project: Gingerbread House Books at the Library


“The North Pole Library,” first place winner of the National Gingerbread House Competition, 2009.


If you’ve been following the 641 Project series The Gingerbread House Project, the talk about gingerbread and house building is making you think maybe about building your own house for the holidays.  I say, go for it!

Gingerbread house ideas, instructions and printable templates can be found easily on the web.  There are even videos that demonstrate different phases of construction.  If hard print is more your speed, the Clayton County Library System has a few books devoted to the art of the gingerbread house.  You may consult one or all of them to make a house or other goodies to show off your baking and decorating skills:

It’s a Gingerbread House : Bake it, Build it, Eat it! by Vera B. Williams

Carrie, Benny and Sam receive a gingerbread house from their grandfather.  When they eat it up before Christmas, they follow grandfather’s instructions for building a new house.

The story is an introduction to an excellent book for young readers/bakers.  With uncomplicated writing, kids should have no problem understanding the recipe and building instructions for baking and building a basic, seven inch tall house.  Like any recipe for any type of cooking, the recipe and instructions need to be read and studied thoroughly before beginning the project to achieve the best results.  The book suggests grown up assistance, especially when it comes to handling sharp knives and going into hot ovens.  Pictures show the tools, ingredients and assembly processes that should come in handy.

Making Great Gingerbread Houses by Aaron Morgan and Paige Gilchrist

Go ahead, say authors Morgan and Gilchrist, make a gingerbread house:  It’s good, messy fun!  Appealing to tactile, visual and olfactory senses, and even communal spirit, Morgan and Gilchrist convince the reader not to be intimidated by a seeming complex project, but to dive in and enjoy what is actually quite easy.  Step by step, they explain the basic house building process from mixing the dough to how to pipe icing.  From there on, your imagination’s the limit.

After the basics comes a full color gallery of gingerbread structure and tableaus.  The purpose is to inspire your own creations and/or how to achieve different effects (Patterns aren’t given for all of these houses, and in some cases not entire patterns).  The patterns given are not full sized:  You’ll need to enlarge many by two hundred percent on a photocopier.

The Gingerbread Book by Allen D. Bragdon

New to the Clayton County Libraries collection, The Gingerbread Book is a reprint of a 1984 book, and doesn’t appear to be revised:  the photos and print appear as they did nearly thirty years ago.  No matter really, because the ideas and most techniques have not changed significantly.

Bragdon’s premise is that gingerbread and gingerbread houses aren’t just for Christmastime.  To prove his point, he gives patterns for other holiday creations, ideas for party treats and centerpieces, and even some storybook scenarios.  He lists several different recipes for ginger cookies and cake – as well as for a building dough – and recounts an extensive history of gingerbread from the Middle Ages to the 1980s.

Sweet Dreams of Gingerbread by Jann Johnson

Author Jann Johnson believes as Allen Bragdon:  Decorated ginger cookies aren’t just a Christmas thing.  She too takes gingerbread around the calendar with the traditional holiday houses and décor pieces – such as a train, stockings, and Santa with sleigh and reindeer – as well as patterns for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Gingerbread men and women can be decorated for all seasons and occasions.

Johnson offers thorough but concise techniques for baking and building, with several different recipes for dough and icings for variety.  Color pictures and pointers accompany each project.  Attention must be given to copying patterns, as many overlap or must be pieced together from separate pieces.

This title is the one that I own and am using for my project (though I have gleaned tips and ideas from the other books listed).  It’s not in the CCLS collection, but can be requested through PINES; it’s also available from online book vendors.


Click the titles above to see the PINES catalog record for call number and availability.  Ask the staff at your nearest library for assistance.

Except for Making Great Gingerbread, these books direct the reader to trace the patterns from its pages.  I recommend photocopying instead to preserve the book; plus, it’s easier to make extra copies of templates.  If you must trace, lay a sheet of clear plastic over the page, then lay your tracing paper on top of the plastic and trace away.

Follow my baking adventure on The Gingerbread House Project blog.  Click here.


The 641 Project: The Gingerbread House Project

A real live sugar shack: Can he make one?

It’s been a long time since I’ve written an article for the 641 Project, my series of food and food related topics.  I’m now about to renew the series with a baking adventure!

The Gingerbread House Project” will journal my attempt to construct my first ever gingerbread house.  After years of thinking about it, I’m finally doing it! and will chronicle the steps from prep, dry runs and experiments to baking, construction and finally decorating a classic gingerbread house.  You’ll see everything, warts and all!  I’ll include some history, trivia and other educational stuff, too, along with pictures and links to relevant web sites.

Check  The Gingerbread House Project on Tuesdays and Fridays for the next six weeks to read the latest postings.  Just click on the name to connect to the blog site.  And look to see new 641 Project postings here starting in January 2013!

Dark Days

The recent talk and use of the phrase “Black Friday” — the day following Thanksgiving, considered to be the busiest and most profitable shopping day of the year – made me wonder if there are other “black days” in popular usage and history.  A little time on Google revealed a number of such days, each ranging in meaning and significance:

Black Friday

As mentioned above, the day after Thanksgiving may soon eclipse Turkey Day in its importance.  Major retailers tout out deals too good to pass up, and in recent years shoppers do everything from camping out the night before to pepper spraying other shoppers in order to take advantage.  Shopping related violence in recent years lends new meaning to the “Black.”  For a history of Black Friday, click here.

Black Saturday

Black Saturday refers to a series of devastating wildfires in the US (Yellowstone National Park, 1988) and Australia (Victoria State, 2009).

Saturday, October 27, 1962 marked the day that the United States and Soviet Union came closest to global nuclear war.  The Cuban Missile Crisis was in its thirteenth day, and US President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev continued a face off over the presence of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.  Tensions escalated when the Russians shot down a U-2 spy plane over Cuba, intercepted another over Siberia, and later two Navy reconnaissance planes over Cuba.  The Soviets did not take kindly to the spying, and readied for a possible strike.  Meanwhile, Kennedy issued an ultimatum to remove the missiles or Cuba would be invaded.  Shortly after, a compromise was reached, avoiding  a catastrophic war.

Black Sunday

The title of a 1975 book by Thomas Harris (The Silence of the Lambs) in which an Israeli commander races to stop a terrorist plot at a major sporting event (the Super Bowl in the 1977 film version)

Also, the day of a major dust storm on April 14, 1935 in the Great Plains states, during an era known as the Dust Bowl.

Black Monday

The name of an interesting group of people in Salt Lake City, UT who patrol the streets dressed as super heroes to deter crime.  Here is an article about them.

Also, the day of a world wide stock market crash on October 19, 1987.  “Black” often refers to disastrous days in stock market trading throughout history.

Black Tuesday

Speaking of the stock market, Black Tuesday is the day of the Wall Street Crash of 1929.  Preceded by a Black Thursday and Black Monday — which saw sharp declines in stock prices — the bottom fell out on October 29, sinking the US into an economic depression.  The depression spread worldwide, becoming known as the Great Depression, and lasted until around the start of World War II.

Black Wednesday

Just as the day after Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday shopping season, the night before is seen as the start of the holiday party season for teens and college students.  With households stocked with alcoholic beverages, kids have easier accessible, making binge drinking and alcohol related crimes, injuries and death more likely.  Read about it here.

Black Thursday

With more retailers opening their stores to bargain hunters on Thanksgiving Day, a Black Thursday is coming into being a sort of holiday like Black Friday.  Big sales start a day (or days) earlier than Friday, or different merchandise is up for grabs; an opportunity get extra bargains for consumers, and more cash for sellers.  Read an article here.


Do you know of any other “black day” happening not listed here?  Please post it in a comment below.

Published in: on December 6, 2011 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

One World, Many Stories “song”

(Imagined by Ms. Darla to tune of “Do Your Ears Hang Low”)

I see one world with many stories

Gonna tell a tale or two

Won’t you listen to my song?

Won’t you try and sing along?

There are places I have never been

And things I’ve never seen

Won’t you come with me?

There are clothes of many colors

There are faces shining, too

Have you tried to meet a friend?

Seen a rainbow without end?

Come and go with me to places

That are new and far away

Won’t you come with me?

I hear strange and different languages

And sounds that aren’t the same

But I see a smiling face

And its joy can’t be erased

Happy hearts all beat to the same sweet drum

Whether here or over there

Won’t you come with me?

I am ready to hear a story that is new and yet the same

Is it from a far-off land?

Will I learn and understand?

I can’t wait to hear the tales they’ll tell

The places I will see

Won’t you come with me?

Published in: on April 5, 2011 at 1:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

The 641 Project: What’s New in Haunted Haute Cuisine!

Three years ago, I wrote here about the cookbook Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes.  Filled with recipes and illustrations of the foods named in Dahl’s books, some dishes are so odd and gross that they may suitable for a Halloween party table.  Revolting Recipes is not intended to be a Halloween cookbook; however, I recently found a relatively new book in our collection that fits the bill perfectly.

Ghoulish Goodies is called a frightful cookbook, and rightly so!  Cookbook author Sharon Bowers creates spooky and whimsical recipes for Halloween get togethers, whether a party with finger foods (pun intended) or a sit down meal.

The recipes are imaginative and not difficult to make.  Plus, as the color photos indicate, the finished products look darn cool!  How about bringing Monster Eyeballs, Chocolate Mice and Ladies’ Fingers (not lady fingers!) to the table, or cupcakes resembling the space aliens from The Simpsons, a cake modeled on Edvard Munch’s The Scream or a Jack O’Lantern?  Maybe Eyeball Meatloaf with a side of Orange Rice or Ghostly Mashed Potatoes is a tamer menu for you!  There are even a few recipes for using leftover candy.  Bowers also provides practical advice on working with ingredients, party planning and little Halloween history.

Though part of our children’s collection, Ghoulish Goodies is probably intended for adult cooks, so the young chef will require adult supervision; pre-teens and teens with some kitchen experience should be okay with even the more challenging dishes.

Between these two books, you’ll find foods for your Halloween party that will delight and fright your guests!


Ghoulish Goodies and Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes are available at CCLS libraries.  Click the titles above for availability, or ask a librarian at your nearest branch.

Other Halloween cookbook books are available at CCLS.  Click here to see available titles in the PINES catalog.

Stop the “Summer Learning Slide,” Read & Visit the Library!

Current research warns that many students undergo a “summer learning loss” due to the lack of stimulating activities during the summer, The Case Against Summer Vacation, Time Magazine. Many articles reporting this research indicate  that  students often lack the resources and opportunities for imaginative, stimulating summer learning enrichment activities. Luckily, creative learning activities may be devised at home by families.  In addition, free learning enrichment activities occur all year at your local public library. Across the country, public libraries intensify programming during the summer for youth of all ages and conduct Summer Reading Programs to encourage children and teens to read all summer. Some summer reading activities are available at Reading Rockets Summer Reading  Information compiled by the New York Public Library and others on the positive, long-lasting effects of summer reading may be found at Importance of Summer Reading .

Remember that Clayton County Library System’s annual Summer Reading Program for children, teens, and adults continues through August 31.  Just visit any of the county’s six libraries, register, and pick up a reading log.  When a child finishes reading, or listening to, 18 books, he/she may return with his/her reading log to that same library and receive a certificate and select a free paperback book to keep. When a teen has read for 9 hours, he/she may return with the reading log to receive a certificate and a free book.  Call the library for details about the adult reading program–remember that kids who see their parents reading are motivated to read themselves.  Group leaders may register youth in their programs by contacting  Janice Arcuria, or 770 210 5238. The library encourages group leaders to read aloud to youth of all ages.

For younger children with Internet access, Clayton County Library System provides  free access to Tumble Books, online e-books. Animated book reviews can be found at Read the Books.  Reviews for, and by, teens can be found at TCC (Teens of Clayton County)

Listed below are two books describing  parents who challenged their children to acheive excellence even in difficult situations.

Published in: on July 27, 2010 at 8:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Time to play and explore ideas is important for the Development of Creativity


For an excellent article about creativity, how it’s developed, and how the creative mind works, read these two articles in Newsweek, July 19, 2010: The Creativity Crisis  and Forget Brainstorming 

“In early childhood, distinct types of free play are associated with high creativity.  Preschoolers who spend more time in role-playing (acting out characters) have higher measures of creativity . . . .”  “In middle childhood, kids sometimes create paracosms–fantasies of entire alternative worlds. Kids revisit their paracosms repeatedly . . . . This type of play peaks at agae 9 0r 10, and it’s a very strong sign of future creativity.  It’s important not to encourage kids to go straight to the “right” answer, but to encourage creative problem solving and fact finding.  It’s essential that kids and youth ask “Why?” repeatedly.  When they stop asking why, they lose interest and motivation.  For books about creativity, children, and the importance of “play,” visit any of the six Clayton County public libraries.


Published in: on July 27, 2010 at 6:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

The 641 Project: A Dessert to Cry For

A sure sign of an accomplished artist (of any medium) is his/her ability to elicit an emotional response from the audience through his work.  The same holds true for the culinary arts.  Remember the scene from the movie Ratatouille when the food critic Anton Ego, tasting Remy’s ratatouille, is transported back to his childhood and his maman’s home cooking?

Such was the case for pastry chef Nancy Silverton, making a brioche tart for uber-chef Julia Child for the latter’s program Baking with Julia.  After two bites of the dessert, Child burst into tears, crying “It’s the best dessert I’ve ever eaten!”  Silverton, in a later interview, wondered if Child might have burned her mouth on some hot syrup that’s part of the dessert.  Personally, I think Child was simply moved.  Watch the episode and judge for yourself.

Another way to judge – and a yummier way – is to make the tart.  It takes a load of patience, lots of care and time, but is actually easy to make.  Brioche dough is made, shaped into a tart – a la galette – and spread with a crème fraiche custard.  The hardest part is making the desert sauce called a sabayon.  A syrup is made by caramelizing sugar and vanilla, which is whisked, while hot, into egg yolks.  Then the mixture is cooked over hot water, all the while being whisked.  (You have to do this for up to five minutes, or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs!)  Finally, fruit is poached in some of the syrup.  The whole dish is brought together for an elegant, yummy treat that is not cloyingly sweet, yet tasty and substantial to where you want more!

Brioche Tart with Sabayon and Poached Plums

A jury of four didn’t cry over my attempt at the tart, but were in agreement that it was the best dessert they’ve eaten!  The recipe can be found in Baking with Julia, available through CCLS.  Other versions of the brioche tart can be found using your favorite search engine:  sweet and savory recipes abound.  The end result is worth the effort!


Photos of last year’s tribute to Julia Child are in our photostream.  Click here to see them.

See some of the delicious dishes put together by the staff and myself in the 641 Project picture gallery.

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Death of the Floppy Disk

We all knew it was coming.  According to this article from Yahoo!, Sony will no longer produce the 3.5 inch floppy diskette.  The writer of the article predicted the floppy’s demise seven years ago, which was  about the time when floppy drives were no longer standard on personal computers; for the desktop I purchased in 2002, the floppy drive was an optional feature.

For our CCLS computer users, this means that there come a time when floppy disk cannot be used on library computers:  Broken floppy drives cannot be replaced, and new computers will not have floppy drives at all.  For now, floppy drives are still available on our computers, and diskettes are available for purchase at all six libraries.

It’s a good idea, though, to consider a new storage media if you’re a regular computer user at the Libraries.  The best option is a USB flash disk or drive.  They insert into the USB port of any computer, are highly portable, and can hold enormous amounts of memory.  Flash disks can be purchased at most stores that carry computer supplies.  The Libraries also will sell them in the near future.

We will not be replacing the floppy drives on our computers any time soon.  But now is a good time to consider using another medium for saving and carrying your files and other documents.


Our Virtual Services Librarian has created an excellent brochure “How to Save Your Files!” which describes how to save and access documents that you create on library computers.  Ask your librarian for a copy.

Published in: on April 27, 2010 at 6:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ladies of Favor Programs at Forest Park Branch Library

Take a look at the interview conducted with Gabrielle Starr, founder of Lades of Favor Mentoring Program, by CNN.  The Ladies of Favor Mentoring Program has teamed up with the Clayton County Library System to plan and host weekly Wednesday meetings and programs at the Forest Park Branch Library in the Teen Zone room. These get-togethers, entitled “Teen Empowerment Series, Realize the Star in You,” will be held from 4 P.M. to 5:30 P.M. For ages 12-18 years.

These programs are coordinated, and presented, by Ladies of Favor, Inc. Mentoring Program.  Guys you’re included, too, because despite the name, this program also is sponsored by males involed with mentoring.  Don’t miss out on a relaxed fun with a purpose in the Teen Zone.

More information about Ladies of Favor is on their web site. To register for this ongoing program series, contact Ms. Gabrielle Starr, MSW, 404 246 6385; or via email at

The Teen Zone is an upstairs room in the Forest Park Branch Library dedicated for use by teens, ages 12-18 years, during afterschool hours weekdays, early evening hours Mondays and Tuesdays, and some Saturday hours–all based on availability of staff to monitor the room. There are board and card games, two computers, and art supplies.  Visit with your friends in a relaxed setting; visit the Teen Zone.

Published in: on April 18, 2010 at 10:43 pm  Leave a Comment