Thursday, October 18, 2012

A sweet treat (at a gingerbread workshop)

(NOTE: This story was written for the Winston-Salem Journal in 2007.)

Gingerbread covered with icing, candy

  • By Tom Gillispie, SPECIAL TO THE JOURNAL

CLEMMONS -- The children found a sweet situation last week during a gingerbread-decorating workshop at the Holy Family Catholic Church.

A trio of 3-year-olds -- Avinash Sabbagh and his cousins, twins Rebekah and Jordan Sabbagh Robaiotti -- worked Nov. 20 on eating candy and putting pieces to a gingerbread house.

Helping were Caleb Sabbagh, 4, and David Sabbagh, 13, as well as two of the children's mothers, sisters Michelle Sabbagh and Elizabeth Sabbagh Robaiotti.
David is the son of another Sabbagh sister, Carol.

Michelle Sabbagh said she went to the gingerbread workshop last year with Avinash. She said that the Sabbaghs, all from Winston-Salem, enjoy the workshops. "We get to be creative," she said. "And their grandmother (Judy Sabbagh) is in the hospital. This will go to her."
Across the room, Larry duPont worked intently, putting icing on the roof of a gingerbread house, as his wife, Veronica, and son, Hayden, 8, watched.
Then Veronica and Hayden helped him add the candy.
Nearby, the duPonts' daughter, Erica, 16, and her date, Jason Cibelli, 17, put icing and candy on a gingerbread Christmas tree, and there was giggling as some of the icing and candy failed to reach the tree.
"Dad's big on projects," Erica duPont said as she looked over and watched Larry work under Hayden's supervision.
"Dad has a pattern going," Veronica duPont said as she watched duPont, an officer for the Winston-Salem Police Department.
Veronica duPont said that the duPonts, who live in Advance, saw an advertisement for the gingerbread workshop and thought it would be fun.
"We did get to do it last year, and we made sure we did it this year," she said. "It's something we can do as a family."
Veronica said she was glad that the workshop's director, Lettitia Iruela, had built the houses and trees in advance.
Erica and Jason were using everything from Tootsie Rolls, Whoppers and Skittles to Twizzlers, gumballs and Starbursts to decorate their sweet tree.
Erica duPont said she likes the Christmas tree better than the gingerbread house.
"It's fun, very entertaining," she said as she added more candy to the tree.
Other people worked on various gingerbread items, including gingerbread men.
Iruela, who runs the workshops, appeared to be relaxed and watched others work. She said she got hooked on making gingerbread Christmas goodies when she was in college.
She has done the workshops with Girl Scout troops -- this is the fourth year at the Catholic Church. She also conducts workshops at two churches in Winston-Salem.
Why do it?
"Just look around at the kids," she said, sweeping a hand toward the children. "That's what I get out of doing it."
She started the workshops at the church as a way to make money for the church's building fund.
Iruella said she was up until 3 in the morning the night before, baking gingerbread and constructing houses and trees.
"This is probably the most behind I've been on baking," she said. "I'll work 200 to 400 hours over four months, me and my husband (Carlos). That counts buying candy, baking, bagging candy, putting the houses together, and I will decorate houses for this weekend."
Gingerbread lovers and others can attend two more gingerbread workshops this year at the Holy Family Catholic Church, on Saturday and Sunday.
Iruella said that 18 people decorated gingerbread on Nov. 20, but she said she expects 40 to 50 people at the other two workshops.
Iruella said that most people don't eat the houses, and some people might keep them two years before they begin to fall apart.
Erica duPont was asked how long the gingerbread tree will last.
"Two days, maybe," she said with a giggle.
CONTACT: Email me at or Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie
• Advice for be and would-be novelists

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

EDITOR@WORK blog entries

Entries from The Dog Blog

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(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

An editor's views on powerful writing

Tom Gillispie's resume
I hate wishy-washy words. Throw out the "to be" verbs and give me something active, something powerful.

And take "made his way." Please. I once was reading a chapter in a novel and noticed "made his way" eight times on one page and 40 times in the chapter. The protagonist didn't walk, strut or stroll. He didn't move, slide, wend or walk. He didn't even matriculate or hurry. Or stumble and fall.

He just made his way, over and over and over. Gag.

It works the same way when writers use tons of modifiers. Saturn is massive; it can't be very massive or hugely massive (yes, I'm exaggerating to make a point). A locomotive is powerful. Very, extremely and all of the modifiers in the world won't change or add to that.

If a woman is beautiful or stunning or enchanting, will a modifier make her more so?

He is
 certainly a wise man; or, he is a wise man. What’s the difference?

Shakespeare wasn't famous or revered because of his wordiness. He cut his writing to the core and made every word count. (And, of course, he was one heck of a writer.)

I really hate it when writers use whom all of the time. If this keeps up, Pete Townshend's band will be The Whom.

I also have problems with attribution in a novel. I can stand exclaimed as a verb to replace said, and whispered is perfect. He whispered, and she exclaimed. Great.

But then a novelist will write, "I haven't felt right in years," Julia sniffed. Julia may have sniffed before or after she said it, but she didn't sniff it. She said it. A better way: "I haven't felt right in years," Julia said. She looked away and sniffed into a handkerchief.

I hate it when a novelist uses no attribution at all -- it's tough to tell who's saying what. And I really hate it when the novelist expects me to remember Sally, Joan, Martha and Lula Belle without a scorecard. I probably can remember Lula Belle for obvious reasons. It might help to occasionally remind us that Sally and Joan are cousins, and Martha is Sally's next-door neighbor.

A woman is pregnant, not very pregnant (I'd be tempted to say that she's hugely pregnant, though). And a one-of-a-kind diamond is unique. Very won't boost it a bit.

In fact, you can pretty much kick the word "very" out of your vocabulary and use powerful words. Mark Twain suggested that we change every “very” in our writing to “damn.” The editor will take out the damns, and the writing will be as it should be.

Smart man, that Twain. Very smart.



More blog entries by Tom Gillispie
• Advice for be and would-be novelists

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

EDITOR@WORK blog entries

Entries from The Dog Blog

Blog entries from The Auto Racing Journal
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)