Tuesday, 15 December 2015

It's that time again!

Another year - another gingerbread house!

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!

Suzy and Mads captured that excitement perfectly with this little 'me' leaning out the window of the train as it pulls into the station.

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!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Another New Year???

Wow - these new years come around faster and faster.  It doesn't seem possible that here we are in another one.  2015!  Hope it's a happy and healthy one for all of you.

It's hard to defend my inability to post a single annual post and I won't waste any time trying.  So without further ado here is the (something like) annual Gingerbread House post.

The construction team gathered on a chilly Sunday afternoon in December.  I'd had a morning of mini disasters preparing the gingerbread - I broke a side piece by dropping a tin of coffee on it (I was putting the coffee tin away).  It was the first time in the 23 years of gingerbread house making that I'd had to replace a piece - so I took that broken piece in my stride.

But then I burned the replacement! And by burned I mean I properly burned it to a charcoal mess. What was happening?  Had I lost my touch?

But happily the third time was the charm and I finally had a full set of house pieces.  When the construction crew arrived I was ready for the company and the first glass of fizz!

After a bit of chat we settled on a ski chalet (and mountain!) as this year's theme.

Our youngest construction workers (Louis 12 3/4 and Mads 14) came up with the idea of using Cadbury chocolate fingers to give the chalet a log cabin look.  I think it looks fantastic -

and it's set off nicely by the wrap around deck built by Pat, Gen and Louis.  It was finished off with a couple of outdoor tables for the really hardy snow lovers.

And how cute are the little window boxes with flowers that Caroline added?

Of course a chalet can't be a ski chalet unless there is a nearby mountain!

Thankfully marshmallows and rice crispies (regular and multi grain) make great mountains.

And with a bit of Suzy magic you can create a wonderful ski (and snowboard!) slope.

This friendly little skier has just finished his last run for the day and is heading in for a drink.

While this poor little skier is waiting to be dug out!!!!

What caused the unfortunate incident??  Well, there were no witnesses but.....

...perhaps he caught sight of this rather spooky looking guy following him!!!

The chair lift, and slope flags were all made by Pat (our oldest construction worker!) and Louis (our youngest!)

With a nod to Pat's Canadian roots (and mine!) there is a little Canadian flag atop Mount Gingerbread.  (I just named the mountain right this second under pressure. Had I given the job to the crew on the day I'm sure it would have been something witty.)

Occasionally during gingerbread house decorating someone will become obsessed with an idea - and persevere at that idea long past the time of any reasonable chance of success.  This year that person was Shirl.  Bless her, she arrived determined to make a swan.

Unfortunately I hadn't bought any modelling fondant so she had to resort to marshmallows.  Perfect for mountains... a bit less predictable for swans.

But as proof that our gingerbread house building isn't about perfection -- that swan provided more laughs that Sunday afternoon than anything else!

The recipe of good friends, more sugar than should be legal, fizz, pizza and the Grinch guarantees a great afternoon.  We've been doing this for 23 years now and the only thing I can say is --  long may the tradition continue!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

....and 12 months later...

I'm back!

Once upon a time I called my gingerbread house post my 'annual non-knitting post'.  I think it's safe to say we can shorten that now to my 'annual post'.

Many thanks to those of you who have gotten in touch over the year to see how I am and ask about whether I'm knitting and if I'll be back to blogging.   I can answer a definite yes to the knitting question - although I've found myself sewing a lot more this year and my love of paint, paper and glitter continues to grow.

But on to the reason for this post -- I present the 2013 Gingerbread House!

It always surprises me what 5 adults and 4 mini-Coopers - given gallons of icing, a sleigh full of sweets, a few bottles of fizz, and lots of laughter - can do.

This year we decided to build a country pub  which we named the Four Loons for the four mini-Coopers (not so mini anymore - little Louis, at 11 3/4 is the only one shorter than me.  Marvellous Mads, scrumptous Suzy and gorgeous Gen all tower over me).

Mads created the bar with draught beer pumps, and the bottles of spirits on the wall behind the bar.

Suzy created the elf bartender to complete the scene.

Caroline provided a couple of picnic tables for hardy visitors who want to enjoy their beer, egg and chips outside.

Genevieve or Caroline made this jolly snowman....

...and whoever didn't make that one, made this slightly less jolly version at the side of the tavern...

...by the see-saw created by Louis.

At the side of the pub you can see the kegs stacked up for loading into the pub cellar.

And I love Santa's feet poking out of the chimney!

Behind the pub there's a skating rink, a bench ...

....and a mysterious abandoned pair of ice skates.

Which leads to the question you've probably been asking yourself?  WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE?  Why have the pints of beer and meals been abandoned?  Where are the ice skaters?  Why did they leave their skates?

And the answer can only be...  DALEKS!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who - a UK television institution and Louis' favourite show.  So in honour of this landmark, Daleks are attacking the pub.

Louis and Suzy created these Daleks and I have to say that despite my best efforts these photos do not do them justice.

They are true masterpieces of confectionary.

Luckily we can see that the TARDIS has just landed (for those of you uninitiated it's the blue Police Box the Doctor travels in) and I expect Doctor Who will sort out the Daleks before they can EX-TERM-I-NATE anyone.

Finally, regular gingerbread house viewers will know that Pat (the big Cooper) pretty much always takes the gingerbread house in an unexpected direction.  And this year was no different.

Pat arrived on Sunday determined to include the HS2.

For those of you not in the UK HS2 is a proposed high speed train link between London and cities in the North which is coming under a lot of criticism as it will cost a gazillion pounds, and not everyone is convinced it's justified by the benefit of taking 20 minutes off the time for a rail journey from London to Birmingham.

As you can see our version -  HS2.5 extends all the way to the North Pole.

Pat's second construction is this wind turbine.  Wind turbines are loved for being alternative energy sources, and hated by pretty much anyone who has one near their home.

And how cute is that tree with the little presents. Maybe that's what the Daleks were after.  Afterall there is NO WAY Daleks are ever making Santa's 'nice' list.

But every gingerbread house comes to an end and when my merry band of gingerbread artists leave I take stock of my kitchen.  My poor kitchen, where every surface is coated with a thin layer of icing sugar, and my sticky floor is covered in broken sweets and pretzels.

I take it all in, sigh and think how incredibly lucky I am to have this tradition and these amazing people in my life.

If you made it this far - thanks for stopping by and being part of it all.  However you are celebrating the season I wish you all peace and joy.

I'm off to Canada for Christmas and can't wait!