This year's house was special for many reasons not least because my sisters flew over from Canada to join in the festivities. Just when I thought Gingerbread House building couldn't get any better -- it does!!
To make sure everyone knew how important they were to the process I made them aprons - each personalised with their gingerbread job titles. My older sister Kim was Site Supervisor, and my younger sister Donna was responsible for Quality Control.
The theme this year was inspired by Donna who sent me an email last week asking if we could include a train. A few emails back and forth and discussions with the local construction team and we decided we'd build a gingerbread station, with a train and passengers.
But not just any gingerbread station - we'd build Jacquet River train station. The station that my sisters, brothers, nieces and nephew have all used over the years when visiting my parents - for Christmas, reunions or just because we needed a bit of Mom and Dad care and catering.
Jacquet River station is a small (very small)(very very small) flag stop station on the route between Montreal and Halifax. It serves two trains a day:- the morning train going east to Halifax, and the return train at night. When I was making the trip regularly the trains ran 6 days a week, but the service has been reduced and it now only runs 3 days a week.
Inside the station you can see the ticket counter, a waiting area and the ever helpful ticket lady - who we have named Betty.
There hasn't been a ticket counter in Jacquet River station for about 15 years - but there is (or at least there was the last time I was there) a station attendant who arrives about 30 minutes before the train to open the station and give those waiting a place to sit. As the train was rarely on time this was very useful on cold December nights.
Annoyingly, I can't remember her name - but she was always friendly and Betty (created by Caroline and given glasses by Scrumptuous Suzy) captures her spirit!
This gingerbread station is a bit better equipped than the real station. For instance, Jacquet River was never lucky enough to have this glorious clock tower! Gorgeous Gen really outdid herself with this beauty.
Outside the station we find ourselves on a snowy December night.
Clearly though - it's not yet Christmas Eve as Santa is taking a little break fishing in Bay of Chaleur. (Marvellous Mads is responsible for the amazing Santa!!)
The station is located in moose country so no one was surprised to see this little (big) guy emerging from the woods. (Shirl made the moose - and those of you who recall last year's swan - or care to scroll down a bit - will understand why I awarded her 'most improved gingerbread house artist'.)
The penguin was a bit more unexpected - - but in true New Brunswick style he was warmly welcomed. Who doesn't love a penguin? And John's penguin is particularly cute - if a bit lost.
On the other side of the station we find the scene of an all too frequent occurrence in New Brunswick in December - a car stranded in a snow bank. Little Louis (less little every year!) captured the event particularly well, including the wheel which fell off in the accident.
This unlucky driver was startled by the site of Frosty the Snowman. Frosty was crossing the road hoping to board the train to Montreal and catch a Habs game. Frosty - as I'm sure most of you know - is a big Habs fan and finds time spent in hockey arenas near ice keeps him young.
Anyway - the good news is that Frosty was fine (and did manage to get to the train on time) ...
...and the driver, although a bit shook up, was unhurt and able to join the rest of the gang waiting for Soo (me!) at the station.
Our train is not an exact replica of a VIA passenger train -- but it certainly captures the fun and festive spirit I felt every year when I made that trip!
I enjoy travelling by train and while some might complain at the long journey and many many stops along the way I always enjoyed the opportunity to get some last minute gift knitting done on the way. However, the closer we got the more excited I'd become and the longest part of the journey was always the last 40 minutes between Bathurst and Jacquet River. As we pulled into the station I'd try to catch a glimpse of my waiting parents through the window and always felt the conductor took far too long opening the door to let me out!
As faithful readers will know the gingerbread house tradition goes back a long time - and over the years we've built a lot of fun, sugar coated creations.
I've loved them all in their way - but this one was particularly close to my heart. My last Christmas trip into Jacquet River was 5 years ago - and building this little replica with my dearest friends and my sisters felt really special and more than a bit emotional.
As it is every year, the afternoon was filled with lots of laughter, music, fizz and love. We watched the Grinch, Caroline fell asleep during Charlie Brown (I don't think she's ever seen the whole thing!) and we consumed a lot of pizza. If there is a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in December I don't know what it is.
However you are spending this holiday season I hope it finds you healthy and happy.
See you next year!