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

The Arts Council of Ladysmith and District is working with several Vancouver Island art councils on the Digitial Innovation Group to improve digital skills for Island artists. (Submitted photo)
Digital Innovation Group supports digital literacy for Island artists

The goal is to leverage digital skills to promote Vancouver Island as an ‘arts powerhouse’

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

Emergency service vehicles respond to motor vehicle incident at Highway 1 and 1st Avenue in Ladysmith. (Submitted photo)
Truck hits person using mobility scooter at northern entrance of Ladysmith

One patient was transported to hospital in stable condition

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Conservation officers transported the bear to a wildlife veterinarian in Nanaimo for examination

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
MISSING: Salt Spring RCMP find woman’s car, still seek Island resident

Sinikka Gay Elliott is 5’3” with a slim build and dark brown short hair

A Saanich man received almost 10 years in Supreme Court in Courtenay for a shooting incident from 2018. Record file photo
Shooting incident on Island nets almost 10-year sentence

Saanich man was arrested without incident north of Courtenay in 2018

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Most Read