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

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Victoria’s economy is expected to bounce back fairly easily, according to a new report from BMO Capital Markets released April 15. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria in good position to bounce back post-pandemic, says BMO

City’s smaller size, lower COVID-19 caseload and diverse industry base bode well

Three new flight exposures have been reported departing from or arriving at the Victoria International Airport between April 7 and 11. (File photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Three flight exposures reported at Victoria International Airport

One flight on April 7 and two on April 11 had confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard

A case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at David Cameron Elementary School. People may have been exposed on April 14 to 16. (Black Press Media file photo)
COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Colwood elementary school

Exposure at Esquimalt’s Ecole Victor-Brodeur also confirmed

According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate in Greater Victoria rose to 5.7 per cent in March 2021, an increase of 0.8 per cent compared to February 2021. But the local unemployment rate remains the among the lowest in Canada. (Black Press Media File)
Greater Victoria’s unemployment rate rises to 5.7 per cent

The increase marks a reversal from recent months, but local economy among the strongest in Canada

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read