A detail from “Happy Campers,” Kim Barnard’s entry in the 2020 Habitat for Humanity Victoria Gingerbread Showcase. (Submitted)

A detail from “Happy Campers,” Kim Barnard’s entry in the 2020 Habitat for Humanity Victoria Gingerbread Showcase. (Submitted)

Christmas miracle leads to a gingerbread legacy for Cowichan’s Kim Barnard

Seasonal business celebrates Sweet 16 this year

A Christmas miracle 16 years ago turned into a busy seasonal job for Shawnigan Lake’s Kim Barnard, who has turned baking gingerbread into an art.

Several months after her husband was laid off in 2004, Barnard’s family was looking at a meagre Christmas. But an inspired gamble on a school craft fair saved the day and changed her life.

The love of gingerbread dates back to Barnard’s childhood.

“I’ve always enjoyed the nostalgia of my family’s gingerbread recipe,” she remembers. “And it was my job to make full-sized gingerbread people during the holidays since I was a teen.”

When her husband, Cam, was posted to Japan for a tech job in 2002-03, Kim took the recipe with her, but neglected to pack cookie cutters. The only ones she could find in Motomachi were tiny, but she bought them anyway — her first two, a boy and a girl, are the ones she still uses to this day. Within a short time, she had acquired a dozen shapes: a bell, star, rocking horse, teddy bear, tree, mitten, snowflake, angel, holly and a leaping deer. She experimented making cookies for the family’s Japanese friends in the little convection oven, which was a minor luxury in their rental apartment.

Flash forward a year to January 2004, when Cam was laid off by his employer when it relocated from Nanaimo to Vancouver. As job prospects failed to arise, the Barnards rationed the severance pay to get them through to December, making sacrifices to keep the house and feed their two young kids. They had about $60 saved up for the holidays, meant to cover Christmas dinner and some small presents for the kids.

One day, however, their daughter, Amy, came home from school talking excitedly about the upcoming two-day craft fair at her school, suggesting that her family book a table and sell her mom’s baking.

The Barnards gambled their Christmas budget on a table and ingredients, and Kim baked a couple of batches of gingerbread that the family packed into “squeaky-clean” reused takeout containers with their phone number and the label “Homemade with Love by the Barnard Family.”

Kim went off to teach the part-time graphics class that was barely keeping her family afloat financially, while Cam and her dad Dave operated the gingerbread table in the school gym. When Kim stopped by later to check in, the men were ecstatic.

“Go home immediately and make more!” they insisted.

The 30 boxes they made for the first day sold out, so Kim pulled an all-nighter to make 25 for the next day, and subsequent orders filled the calendar right up until Christmas.

“It was all hands on deck that year, but we went from practically being in line for a Christmas hamper to having enough income to restock our bare kitchen shelves, buy presents, bring home a real tree, and of course prepare a turkey dinner with all the trimmings,” Kim remembers.

Instead of giving away tasters at markets, the family put a can on the table and asked for quarters for the CMS Food Bank. They always had a generous bag of donations, including loonies and toonies, to donate.

Kim learned to love the entire process, from mixing ingredients to kneading and rolling and counting the cutouts, keeping the oven busy with trays full of cookies, and then hand-decorating the final product.

“It’s so lovely to work in the twinkle-lit space, surrounded by the smells and vibes of the season,” she says. “We live beside a forest, and I can work at any hours and listen to audiobooks and podcasts and radio, in a kind of soothing, magical production line. Not everyone has the aptitude to do this kind of repetitive work, but it makes me come alive with joy and purpose.

“It’s taking on a new significance this year as I think of all of the smiles that these happy little cookies are sure to bring! I trust that they will be a comforting part of my customers’ traditions, as we have repeat orders year after year and now have to keep a wait list by December.”

Kim’s company is called ii2c information design & gingerbread. Pronounced “eyes to see,” it is “a reference to my trade background in print and design, and to us as a family looking to Providence for our faith and hope for the future.”

Thanks to a shelf-life of more than three months once they are packed in air-tight sushi boxes, Kim can start baking well ahead of Christmas, which is vital when she ends up completing more than 650 boxes over eight weeks. Her gingerbread has travelled around the world, as far away as Italy and Indonesia.

“I love to hear the stories of how they have been a special part of someone’s memories of the season,” Kim says. “I am constantly reminded of the miracle of Providence our first year, and the little cookie that could bless so many.”

Kim has entered the Habitat for Humanity Victoria Gingerbread Showcase five times, including this year, when she recreated scenes from her beloved Camp Homewood on Quadra Island to follow the theme of “Coastal Living.” Displays need to be at least 18 inches high and 100 per cent edible. Building the project, titled “Happy Campers,” took Kim two weeks from start to finish, but the most challenging part was transporting it over the Malahat from Shawnigan Lake to Victoria.

“I always breathe easier once this is done!” she says in a testimonial on the Habitat for Humanity Victoria website.

The Gingerbread Showcase can be seen in the front windows of the Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour (728 Humboldt St. in Victoria), or online at https://www.habitatvictoria.com/gingerbread2020.html. Viewers can vote for their favourite display in exchange for a donation to Habitat for Humanity.

Christmas

 

A detail from “Happy Campers,” Kim Barnard’s entry in the 2020 Habitat for Humanity Victoria Gingerbread Showcase. (Submitted)

A detail from “Happy Campers,” Kim Barnard’s entry in the 2020 Habitat for Humanity Victoria Gingerbread Showcase. (Submitted)

Shawnigan Lake’s Kim Barnard displays “Happy Campers,” her entry in the 2020 Habitat for Humanity Victoria Gingerbread Showcase. (Submitted)

Shawnigan Lake’s Kim Barnard displays “Happy Campers,” her entry in the 2020 Habitat for Humanity Victoria Gingerbread Showcase. (Submitted)

Just Posted

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

The Dock+ is located on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: Port Alberni’s food hub still growing a year later

The Dock hopes to open a retail store on Alberni’s busy waterfront

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read