Judith Niven's house looks good enough to eat.
In fact, it is: A completely edible home sweet home.The Salt Lake woman's first attempt at making a gingerbread house won first-place in The Children's Museum of Utah's second annual "Sugar and Spice" make-a-gingerbread house contest.
Niven, who has had crippling rheumatoid arthritis since she was a child, made the house in about a month for her two godchildren, Steven and Kevin Cyweski of Tahoe Vista, Calif.
"I have artificial implants in my hands, but the house was fun to make and came out pretty cute. This is the first time I have ever made something like this. I am really thrilled," said Niven, who had surgery on her feet this past summer so she could walk.
She said she was so excited to learn the judging results that she didn't even think to ask about a prize.
Jacque Conkling, the museum's public-relations development director, said Niven won a mountain bike, donated by Easton Aluminum of Salt Lake City. Niven plans to give the bike to the Cyweski boys, Conkling said.
Conkling says she believes judges selected Niven's entry because of the detail that went into the house. Only six gingerbread houses were submitted in the contest, but all were of the highest quality, she said.
Other entrants were Renae Dewey, 17, second place; John Sydney Nicholas and Marco Plastino, third place; and William Cheng, 4 1/2, and Jonathan Cheng, 6 1/2.
Titled the "Cyweskis," Niven's house is draped with icing, has sticks of chewing gum for sidewalks, cinnamon sticks for a woodshed, a black licorice stick for smoke from a chimney and two snowmen fashioned from gumballs, with rolled taffy scarves around their necks. A fence for the house is made from candy canes. Light posts in front are a combination of gumdrops and Tootsie rolls, while an outdoor bench is a Tootsie roll cut with a razor.
Conkling said the contest is held to stimulate creativity and imagination.
"That is something we encourage at the museum," she said, noting that one entry (all entries received prizes) included a castle with a dragon in a moat. Another was an artistically created barn, while others included a church with a stained-glass window and a horse-drawn sleigh.
All entries may be viewed through Dec. 31 at the museum, located at 840 N. 300 West, where admission is $2.50 for children and $3 for adults. The museum also contains many other exhibits, ranging from a 727 jet cockpit to a children's first handi-bank. Museum hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; and 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays.
Now that she's had some experience in making a gingerbread house, Niven said she plans to make another house for the museum contest next year. She also plans to donate a separate house for the Festival of the Trees, a fund-raising project sponsored by the Primary Children's Medical Center.
"Because I was ill with rheumatoid arthritis as a child, I can understand what it means to kids to get help with medical care. It is not easy growing up sick as a child," Niven said.