It was Christmas 1989. My husband, Larry, and I had just (three weeks before) moved into an old house in Menomonee Falls. We had two children - Lars (5) and Nathan (3). My husband was in his fifth year teaching middle school and I was busy raising the boys. Needless to say, money was very tight, but we were happy to be in a house - even if we were just renting at the time. My friend, Heather, told me about an ad she'd seen in the coupon section of the Sunday paper. It was an advertisement for a gingerbread house contest sponsored by the Brach's Candy Company. Heather encouraged me to enter the contest because she thought the gingerbread houses I made every year were "so cute." I was amused and flattered that she would think of me, but "nahh" I thought - the only contest I ever tried was correctly singing the Gilligan's Island theme song on the radio and winning tickets to the Haunted House at our State Fair. I'm not a big risk taker and it would cost a lot of money to buy the candy and supplies to make a gingerbread house. I also knew the kinds of houses that won those contests - they were amazing and I couldn't even hold a cake decorating frosting tube steady. Besides, it was almost Christmas already and I didn't have the time. No, I thought.
Heather, however, persisted. The next week she brought the ad to me and said, "You really should do this. You could win!" I looked over the prizes. Well, even if I didn't win the grand prize of $50,000 ('cuz let's face it - that would never happen), there were some awesome runner up prizes. We could definitely use an entertainment center or a deluxe gas grill. Well, maybe... I thought... and the idea began to work on me... or maybe it was all of Heather's flattery. By the time I made up my mind, it was past Christmas and there was no longer a Brach's candy display to be found for an "official entry form/recipe booklet" so I gave Brach's a call to request one.
"Heather," I promised, "If I win, I'm giving you a thousand dollars!"