Just thinking back, there is so much I thought of after the fact. Indeed hind sight is 20/20.
Things started off very well and I was extremely excited about how the project was coming along.
The marble steps of the church were stunning.
The bibles, pews and people were done exceptionally well.
The gelatin sheet stained glass windows were flawless.
It was a gorgeous, tall open church……with not nearly enough roof support due to no interior walls.
I thought I could do a fancy balancing act with the roof pieces and hoped the royal icing would hold it all together. Not taking humidity into thought. I had issues with the roof becoming soft and splitting during the day of delivery and set up.
Really, at that point there was nothing I could do to save the roof but about an hour after leaving the Festival location I realized my mistake.
Earlier in the year due to extreme amounts of snow, the ceilling of the art gallery in Grande Prairie collapsed. Reflecting on that I could have got some blue fondant and made a tarp to go over the opening in the roof. The addition of a sign looking for donations for roof repairs to finish it off would have been perfect. Though no records would have been broken I could have at least walked away content with the project.
Like any situation that does not go as you expect you learn a lot. Making mistakes is the best way to learn what not to do. Far more then when everything goes as planned.
As always I was excited to get started on my gingerbread project for the season. I decided to go with nice bright colors, the house, somewhat traditional with a fun flare.This was my first 3 story build.
I always start with templates for all the pieces of the house. Walls are always designed first, then the roof and any accents to the build, like window boxes, steps and signs.
I have always sided my walls then did the construction of the buildings. It makes for straighter lines and less stress. The siding gets quite heavy and would slide down the walls long before the icing had a chance to dry.
I use cans to support the walls when building the structures. But be sure the icing has a good set before walking away. Especially on larger walls. I walked away too soon and have had major walls collapse and fall to the floor. A crash like that puts you many hours behind. So wait that the few extra minutes and allow the icing to really set up. Believe me, it happens! Do not rush this step.
This year I added window boxes. I like that contrast of the black and any chance I have to add greenery to the build I jump at the chance. It is the little details that really make the house unique.
And don’t forget about the sides and behind the house. Like a real yard there is landscaping on all four sides.
This was the final shot before I delivered the house to the Festival.
The house did very well at the Decorators event and placed first with the Judges and the decorators!
And not only did we completely brake all records this year as we also won the Peoples Choice award Sugar Plums sold at auction for an astounding $600!
We could not be more proud! All the hours of work are worth it when you can produce results like that!
Thanks to all who came out and supported the Festival Of Trees in Grande Prairie this season! It could not be a success without the support of the community.
Be sure to pop over to the Food Bloggers of Canada for a step by step tutorial I did on building your own one of a kind gingerbread house!
I admit, I am very lucky to have the connections I do. I can have fresh seafood from eastern Canada on an airplane and flow to me with 48 hours of my request.
Some things are seasonal, so I always try and stock up during the peak seasons.
I will be placing my order for scallops in the next 6 weeks. For just over $200 I will receive enough scallops to last roughly a year. They arrive fresh being out of the ocean less then 24 hours. Love my seafood guy! He is from the east coast so he is not only a great source for the freshest seafood available, he is full of cooking tips and advice for treating the seafood as it was meant to be. And it is great to teach him about the fish from the west coast. So far he has been impressed with my salmon and halibut creations. And he let me cook a wild board for his wedding! Still need to get that post up……….
Then there is my lobster guy! He is also from the east coast, but a different island then my scallop guy. He works here in Alberta and hand delivers cases of bottled lobster when he returns from his trips back home. I have Tweeted about my bottled lobster numerous times and people are always curious as to what it is I am talking about. I have to say, it is amazing. Fresh lobster bottled at the peak of its freshness.
Somewhere along the way I got a phone number to a connection for fresh lobster. It would fished and package and on a plane within hours. After discussions with my seafood guy we picked what week would be the best for optimum lobster and placed the call.
Within 12 hours we had 2 cases, 40 of the freshest live lobster I have ever enjoyed.
The evening started off with one of the most amazing storms I have ever had the luck to witness. I stood out back for over an hour watching it build. And the payoff was worth it. I captured some of the most fascinating storm shots of my life.
After it moved off towards Grande Prairie it turned into a gorgeous summer evening. The turkey cooker and pots were all ready to go out on the deck. The wine was chilled, corn was boiled, butter melted. Let the cooking marathon begin.
In a perfect world we would have had fresh ocean water for the boil but being in the northern prairies we had to create the ocean water. I used 2 tablespoons of sea salt for every quart of fresh water.
Bring the water to a boil. Now take your lobster and cross his from legs and remove the rubber bands from the claws. Now place them head down into the boiling water.
Cover, return the water to a boil and then lower the heat to a bubbly simmer. Lobster will cook in 12-20 minutes depending on the size. Canners will cook in 12-15 minutes, while large lobsters will require up to 20 minutes of cooking time. Timing should start only after the water has returned to a boil. Once cooked, the lobster should be drained immediately.
They can now be served hot or chilled quickly by being placed in large tubs of ice water to stop the cooking process and the chill the meat.
After the feast I packaged all the remaining lobster in FoodSaver bags and moved them to the freezer.
It is really nice to be able to grab a few from the freezer and pop them onto the BBQ as an addition to a steak dinner or quickly warm them for a breakfast feast of Lobster Eggs Benedict.
After a fantastic night of storms, food, after all my friends had left, I sat out back and watched a stunning 3:30 am sunrise.
The Angel Academy, where all angels come to get their wings!
The annual Festival of Trees in Grande Prairie kicked off last night with the Decorators Take A Bough event out at the Tec Center.
It is a chance for those who designed and donated for the event to gather for a few hours, have a coffee and explore the venue. It is an evening of fun without the crowds and is a fantastic way to get into the Christmas Spirit!
My theme for this years gingerbread house was designing an Angel Academy. I wanted it to have a fun whimsical feel, straying off from a heavy Christmas theme. I used bright pastels and made flowers in place of the more traditional Christmas decore.
I tend to lean towards sided buildings. I love the color that fondant can bring to the build. The strong colors are always sharp against the black rooves with the bright white snow.
My projects usually have a path somewhere as well. The Angel Academy is no exception with the path being a strong element in this years project. I really had no plan when I started but am extremely pleased with how it evolved.
I also took a different direction with my trees, which are usually sharp and green. Keeping with the white “heaven” look the trees were made of rice krispies and then dipped in royal icing. They turned out quite nice and took only a short time to complete compared to trees of previous builds I have done.
The flowers were made of fondant and dyed green spagetti. Which is kind of obvious. I just really wanted to say dyed green spagetti.
And a quick look through the front window will reveal a painting of a scene from a sunny memory down by a remote lake.
And of course, we have the bears. I always have to add that little something for the kids. Once it was Santa, stuck upside down in the chimney. Then there was Sugar from The Sugar Shack! Even a group of troublesome penguins made an appearance a few years. Of course these house are made to raise money for the QE II Foundation but I build these houses with the kids in mind and always gear them towards the little ones. Nothing better then to be able to light up their faces when the discover all the cool things to be found in Gingerbread Lane!
Just a bit of an update. I was asked about the competiton end of the gingerbread tonight so am updating what I know.
As most everyone knows I am a fierce competitor, it is what drives me! That is just how I am hard wired and I work hard to do well when I put myself into these competitions. In the next year I plan on taking that to a whole new level. I will have an annoucement reguarding a new project I will be involved in the days to follow.
But first a little about this years gingerbread house build.
Some ribbons were awarded at the Decorators event Wednesday night. I was there for a short time but I left the event early. This year it is not about winning, it is just for the kids. There is a sad story that motivated this build. A few weeks ago a few boys down the street came home from school and found their mom in the house, dead. The oldest one is 10 and I just can not get them out of my mind. The police were there for many many hours that night. I knew something bad had happened. That truly has to be every childs nightmare, to find a parent like that. So I don’t care if I do place this year, I just hope those little boys can find some peace this Christmas. My worry for them pushed me through this build. At one point I wanted to toss it all and just quit. It just breaks my heart. But not being one to quit, I sucked it up and finished the house with no expectations except to hopefully give the kids who go to gingerbread lane a smile. I can not imagine this familys grief. The burden this little boy will carry in his heart will be there for a long long time. I know my thoughts will be with them all throughout the Christmas season.
Water and fertilizer go hand in hand. The nutrients in fertilizer dissolve in water. Water carries nutrients though the plant. 75% of the plants weight is made up with water.
The root hairs absorb the water, nutrients and oxygen from the soil and carrry them up the stem to the leaves. A fraction of the water is processed and used in photosynthesis.
Large plants use much more water then small plants but there are many more variables than size that will dictate your plants water consumption. The age and size of the plant, the container size and what it is made of, soil texture and composition, the temperatures, humidity and ventilation all affect the water needs of plants.
The healthier the plant, the faster it will grow and the more water it will consume.
If you have ever seen fertilizer in the store you may have noticed a series of 3 numbers on the lable. A common one is 20-20-20. Those number represent N-P-K percentages and there are different combinations for different growth stages of plants. Getting to know these numbers and the nutrients they represent will help you not only have a show stopping garden you will be able to grow a better, healthier garden and acheive maximun results from your plants.
Nitrogen (N) is the most important nutrient. N is essential to the production of chlorophyll and is mainly responsible for leaf and stem growth as well as overall size and vigor.
Phosphorus (P) is necessary for photosynthesis. P is associated with overall vigor. Plants use high levels of P during the germination, seeding and flowering stages of growth.
Potassium or potash (K) increases chlorophyll in the foliage and helps plants make better use of light and air. Potash encourages strong root growth and is associated with disease resistance and water intake. K is necessary during all stages of growth.
The goal of fertilizing is to supply the plant with proper amounts if nutrients for vigorous growth.
A plant has different fertilizer needs as its metabolism changes throughout its life. During germination and seedling growth intake of phosphorus (P) is high. The vegetative growth stage requires high amounts of nitrogen (N) for green leaf growth. P and K are also necessary on substantial levels (a general purpose N-P-K 20-20-20) is recommended. In the flowering stages P intake is highest (10-60-10) will promote larger flower growth.
Fertilizers may be either water soluble or gradual release. Both soluble and gradual release fertilizers can be organic or chemical.
Soluble fertilizers lend themselves to indoor container cultivation. They disolve in water and may be added or washed (leached) out of the soil easily. It is easy to control the exact amount if nutrients available to plant in soluble form.
Type N P K Availability
Bat Guano 5 8 .2 rapid
Blood Meal 13 1 0 rapid
Bone Meal 2 14 0 medium
Cow Manure 2 .5 1.5 medium
Kelp .3 .2 .5 rapid
Sea Guano 15 5 .3 rapid
Wood Ash 0 3 5 slow
Worm Castings 3.5 1 1 rapid
The above figures are only approximates. Please do refer to products for exact nutrient content.
There are also different fish fertilizers, compost teas and compost itself which I will write about in a future post. I am a strong believer in composting and is an excellent practice every gardener should get involved in.