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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

(Pxhere)
Mill Bay nurse suspended after using Tensor bandage to trap long-term care patient in room

Susan Malloch voluntarily agreed to a three-day suspension of her certificate of registration

Saanich police are investigating property damage at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Police seek info after fence torn down, dumped over embankment in Saanich

Christmas Hill restoration site fence destroyed sometime between Jan. 16 and 18

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

RCMP officers provide policing for 63 B.C. municipalities under a provincial formula based on population. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. communities warned of upcoming RCMP unionization costs

Starting salaries for city police officers are 30% higher

Abbotsford’s Skully White (left), who donated his kidney in December, has started a campaign to find other recipients and donors. The first candidate is retired police officer Gavin Quon. White owns and operates a hotdog stand, Lullys Food Experience, out of the Abbotsford Canadian Tire parking lot. (Facebook photo)
After donating his kidney, Abbotsford hotdog king starts donor campaign

Skully White donated his kidney to customer Tim Hiscock in December

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

(File)
Man allegedly bites Vancouver cop during arrest for outstanding warrant

The officer was treated in hospital for the bite wounds

(File Photo)
Interior Health says COVID positivity rates in Fernie area actually 10-12%

IH say the rates are not as high as previously claimed by the region’s top doctor

Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C., on July 8, 2015. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Supreme Court quashes review of B.C. conservation officer who refused to euthanize bears

Bryce Casavant was dismissed from his job for choosing not to shoot the cubs in 2015

Most Read