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The Christmas Congregation Festival of Trees Edmonton 2017

The Christmas Congregation Festival of Trees Edmonton 2017

I bet you came here thinking you were going to read about a gingerbread house or church in this case.

This post is about that and so much more.

It is about words and music, passion, loss and grief.

It is about firsts and creativity.

Personal goals.

A group of music lovers that have become to feel like family.

And charity.

That is everything that this years gingerbread build represents.

This was the first time I have participated in the Festival of Trees in Edmonton. Over the years I have had the amazing opportunity to be a part of both the Festival of Trees in Grande Prairie and Barrhead. I have always wanted to be a part of the Festival in Edmonton and this year everything came together.

Nutmeg Disrupted At the Festival of Trees in Edmonton

I nailed down a design in late September and got to work on completing the blueprints. I started to bake pieces for the church early in October, between working full time and a road trip planned for mid October to Vancouver to catch a rock and roll show I wanted to get an early start. I knew that I would have a better time in Vancouver if I was not worrying about the build, feeling confident that I had a good start on it back at home.

The hardest part for me of any gingerbread project is picking the perfect name. It captures the essence of the project and hopefully is a fit for  what I am trying to create.  As I was planning the design I decided that I would have a minister standing outside of the church to welcome his parishioners and was tossing names around. Michael, Stephen, Douglas….nothing felt right. Putting it on the back burner I knew it would come to me, the deadline for turning in my project idea was approaching quickly, due the same day I was leaving for Vancouver. A few days before leaving on my road trip it all fell into place. With the trip heavy in my thoughts and needing to get my paperwork turned into the foundation I began brainstorming names at work. I whispered the name Father John and in that moment it came to me.

Father Gregory standing outside of the Christmas Congregation gingerbread church on Nutmeg Disrupted for the Festival of Trees in Edmonton in 2017

Pleased that I had nailed down the name and theme for the build I left for Vancouver ready for a few days of rock and roll and relaxation. This was the second time I have travelled to Vancouver to catch The Afghan Whigs. People have said,  “you’re going all the way to Vancouver for a concert, that’s pretty dedicated.” Indeed. Music is my fuel, my therapy, my everything. It is what has gotten me through the hardest days of my journey. Some people rely on friendships or family, others drugs and alcohol, sometimes food or extreme exercise to comfort them in the darkest moments of their lives. For me it is music that gets me through. It always has. I celebrate every moment with music. It is through the words and music that I search for acceptance or deal with defeat and despair, find resilience or hope, joy. I am able to explore my deepest darkest heartbreak and come out stronger,  better because of words that resonate so deeply that somehow, over time, they heal. There are only a few bands that I can relate with on such a deeply profound level. The Afghan Whigs are THAT band for me. In those dark broken moments in my life their music and Greg’s words helped me to find hope and move forward.

Dave Rosser

The Afghan Whigs know about dark moments and pushing forward. Their strength in 2017 was something to admire. They lost an amazing friend, musician and fellow bandmate during the summer. When I heard about Dave Rossers cancer it took my breath away. I couldn’t believe it. 2 men I admired now were stricken with cancer, both terminal. How is that even possible. As fans watched the Whigs tour Greg spoke of Dave at every show, and in some of those moments he was indeed there with them. The show that struck me the most was at the PukkelPop Festival. It was one of those chills passing over your body kind of moments when Greg spoke about Dave. Even though they were working through their heartbreaking loss, down one member of their team, they sounded amazing and my excitement for the Vancouver show was simmering beneath the surface.

Driving through the Icefields Parkway on Nutmeg Disrupted

The drive to Vancouver was amazing & exhausting. There is no more beautiful drive in Canada then travelling over the Rocky Mountains through the Icefields Parkway. 15 hours after we left we arrived at the AirBnb, I was grateful to be in the city ready to explore and discover.

Arrived in Vancouver for The Afghan Whigs show at The Rickshaw Theatre on Nutmeg Disrupted

It was Sunday evening, with the show being on Tuesday I had an entire day to be a tourist! That first day every free minute was filled, first we went down to the waterfront, took a drive out to Burnaby to do some exploring and ended up having some amazing seafood on Granville Island.

Visiting Granville Market on Nutmeg Disrupted

Tuesday we kept closer to the main part of the city exploring the Stanley Park then made our way through the downtown area.

Visiting Stanley Park

exploring downtown Vancouver

Deciding to check out the area around the venue to see the best place to park I spotted Rick Nelson and Jon Skibic crossing the busy street in front of us. With a quick drive around the block we spotted the tour bus, as if I wasn’t excited enough, months of planning for this day and it was finally here. The show was going to be spectacular!  And my god it was! I can still remember how I felt that night. The band, the venue, the music, the crowd.

At The Rickshaw Theatre to see The Afghan Whigs in Vancouver on NUtmeg Disrupted

The high you carry away from a live show can last for days.  Feeling every beat of the music encompass you is powerful. Electric. There is absolutely nothing like it. And you feel that electricity for days afterwards.  Reliving the show over in your thoughts.  Falling into bed that night I was so grateful that I could make the trip out, life is short and we have to grab as many of those moments we can.

Patrick Keelers Drum at The Afghan Whigs show at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver

Greg Dulli and The Afghan Whigs at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver on Nutmeg Disrupted

The set list from The Afghan Whigs InSpades show at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver on Nutmeg Disrupted

Morning came swiftly, it was going to be a long drive back home through the mountains and we wanted an early start. I stretched and grabbed my phone, seeing a message from a friend in New Brunswick. It took a second for my mind to grasp the words I was reading.

He simply said….

I hate to wake you up to the news….he’s gone Red 🙁     I wish I could hug you.

In that moment I went from the highest high to the lowest of lows.

Gord Downie

He was Gord Downie and the night before while I was rocking out with my beloved Afghan Whigs my hero lost his battle with brain cancer. Gord was dead. He was gone.

Coming home over the Rocky Mountains on Nutmeg Disrupted

The trip home is mostly a blur. Every gas station or restaurant we stopped in had the news on, it was all about Gord. Every radio station was playing the Hip and only the Hip. It was impossible to escape and more impossible to hold it together, nothing had prepared me for this day and I was beyond devastated. And hearing the music only compounded my pain. I sobbed openly, my heart shattered. As we traveled home heartbroken I played the Whigs. Searching for peace. Perhaps trying to outrun my grief. Broken, exhausted. Thankful for the time we had with Gord. The powerful energy of the night before fueled my emotional trip home.

Mourning one with the music of the other.

Driving into the Rockie Mountains on Nutmeg Disrupted

I took my grief and I channeled it into my gingerbread. Hard work has a way of being a distraction from the pain, it has always worked like that for me. When my son died it was hard work that got me through and this was no different. And as the days rolled into weeks my heart began to heal and a church was built.

The Christmas Congregation Gingerbead Church on Nutmeg Disrupted

I am thrilled at how The Christmas Congregation turned out and I am super proud of my work. It was a fairly easy and clean design. As I worked on some of the finer details of my minister and his special guest I shared images with a small yet special group of music lovers who love and appreciate the Whigs as much as I do. To some this is just a gingerbread church, to others it is so much more.

Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs a part of the Christmas Congregation gingerbread church on Nutmeg Disrupted

Dave Rosser getting ready for the Christmas Congregation on Nutmeg Disrupted

So to my fellow CGs thank you!

Early evening outside The Christmas COngregation gingerbread church on Nutmeg Disrutped

Outside The Christmas Congregation Gingerbread Church on Nutmeg Disrupted

Nutmeg Disrupted with the Christmas Congregation Gingerbread Church at the Festival of Trees in Edmonton

Nutmeg Disrupted with the Christmas Congregation Gingerbread Church at the Festival of Trees in Edmonton

As it was my first time attending the Festival of Trees in Edmonton I really didn’t know what to expect. Competiting in a Festival of this size I was nervous and excited to see the talents of those who I was sharing the space with. All monies raised at this years Festival go to the Emergency Department at the University Hospital in Edmonton.

The Christmas Congregation Gingerbread Church takes the GOLD at the Festival of Trees in Edmonton in 2017

The Christmas Congregation did well at the Festival and Father Gregory and Mr. Rosser walked away with the GOLD! Each Festival has its own set of rules and in Edmonton they do not share the sales prices of the items sold at the auction. I admit, I am not a fan of the rule. I invest 100’s of hours into each of my gingerbread builds and I strive to raise the bar every year. My only hope is the someone who attended the Gala happened to catch the sale price for the Christmas Congregation and reaches out to me. Or the other possibility is if anyone has seen the Christmas Congregation on display in Edmonton through the Christmas season contacts me to let me know where the church was spotted so I could inquire with the new owner about their generous donation.

If you have read this far, I thank you for following along on my gingerbread journey. All those years ago I never expected that gingerbread would become such as passion of mine and that I could take that passion and raise thousands of dollars for charity. What started as a simple build this year turned into so much more. What began as a fun idea for a build turned into a project that injected my love and grief for 2 men gone from this world far to early. Who music has been my saviour, my confidante, at times my only friend.  I am so glad I could share this extra special build with you all.









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Lake Fever Festival of Trees Barrhead 2013

Lake Fever Festival of Trees Barrhead 2013

I made a huge move at the end of summer.

I landed a fabulous job in a new town and embraced the adventure.

But no matter where my life takes me there are two constants.

Gingerbread and raising money for charity.

And this year did not disappoint.

Nutmeg Disrupted at The Festival

One thing I have learnt in my short time here.

Barrhead does it up right.

From the Taste of Barrhead to the Pumpkin Walk (which we’ll talk about soon)  to the Festival of Trees. This little town supports the local events

Nutmeg Disrupted at The Festival of Trees in Barrhead 2013

You don’t have to be in a big city to see amazing people step up and raise big dollars for charity. It can happen anywhere.

One of the many trees at The Festival of Trees in Barrhead kitchen tree

One of the many trees at The festival of Trees in Barrhead

Details from one of the trees at The festival of Trees in Barrhead

I am so very proud to say that my 2013 gingerbread house sold for $600.00 at the Festival. All the money my house raised was donated to FCSS!

Nutmeg Disrupted at The Festival of Trees in Barrhead

Love that. And it makes every hour I put into it worth it when I can make such a significant contribution to an event like that.

This years build was clean and simple. With around 120 hours work it is one of my easier houses. If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll recognize my style.

A look at the front of the Lake fever Cabin at the Festival of Trees in Barrhead


Looking do0wn ont he Lake Fever Cabin

The Lake Fever Cabin at the Festival Of Trees in Barrhead

If you ever have the chance please do check out your local Festival of Trees. Not only is it a great way to get into the Christmas spirit it is a wonderful contribution to local charities in your area.

Be sure to stop by the Food Bloggers of Canada for a step by step Gingerbread house tutorial I wrote! It breaks down the steps so you can create a one of a kind gingerbread house of your own!



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The Sugar Shack Festival of Trees Grande Prairie 2009

The Sugar Shack Festival of Trees Grande Prairie 2009

The end of summer means a lot of things to people, and for this girl, it means gingerbread!

The emails and donation material came out a few weeks ago and I am so excited about this years Festival!

Truthfully though, gingerbread is never far from my mind, I am continually on the hunt for inspiration for the next showpiece!

And good news! After a suggestion by yours truly, this year we are going to be using bigger boards!  24 x 24 wonderful inches!

Only 2 inches bigger but that is a lot of prime gingerbread real estate to work with!

I have a rough idea of what my building will look like and for the first time I have the design and name picked out early.

I have been know to,  at times push it right to the sign up deadline before I nailed down the perfect name and idea.

Feels good to be ahead of the game this year!

I stopped by The Home Depot yesterday to pick up  my board and will start the sketches this evening on my 2010 competition entry.

I draw the complete house on paper then plot it out on the board. Patterns are made, then the fun begins!

This weeks shout out is to……Mr Koscielnuk, my high school drafting teacher!  Little did I  know, back then, that drafting would be so handy in the kitchen?!?!?!  Thanks Mr. K!

Now to get down to the nitty gritty……

Because of the HIGHLY competitive nature of gingerbread competition…….I will not be talking about this years design on the blog until right before I drop it off with the Festival committee on November 16th.

I am looking at the possibility of doing a Gingerbread Cam to follow the progression of the construction so stay tuned for further details.

In the meantime, I would love to share my 2009 entry!

I introduce….


Sugar from Nutmeg Disrupted

And this is her house.

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

The Sugar Shack!

I was looking for a more rustic looking entry, a change from the very colorful houses I usually create.

I love the deck and railing design, it really lends itself to the country feel of the house.

As with any construction, you need a nice strong solid base.  This holds up the whole structure, make sure its strong!

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

I used blue and purple Nerds for the rock stucco detail.

Then I add the main floor using gingerbread pilings for support.

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

Now you turn your attention to other things while you let the base dry.

If you rush this step you could cause  damage now that will cause a collaspe later.

I like to add a lot of little details to my houses, whatever fits the setting you are trying to create.

This time I used candles, gifts and the green wreaths you see placed around the house.

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

Before I put the front of the house up I need to do a touch of interior decorating, for the kids of course!

They are on eye level with these creations so I design to please not only the Judges but love when the kids hit Gingerbread Lane and also keep them in mind!

To see the delight  in their faces when they first peer into my houses is pure joy for me!

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

And a shot of the livingroom from above.

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

Hummmm…..looking at it now I am wondering why I did not paint a pattern on the rug?

Won’t let that kind of detail slip by me again…..

See you can learn something everyday!

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

With the inside complete its time to put the roof on and work out the details of the exterior of the house.

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

At this point I decided that although the roof shingles looked good, I found it all to be a touch too dark and decided to modify the roof plans a bit looking to add some brightness to the house.

100’s of cirlces later…..

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

I thought this really brightened it up enough yet it still felt Christmasy…..if thats even a word!

The wonderfully detailed steps, front deck and railings where my favorite part of the construction.

Also the most time consuming as it took a long time to place the Ovation stick railings in place, with tweezers, so as to not melt the chocolate on the sticks and mess up the nice swirled pattern on the surface of the minty Ovations.

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

As with any project, if feels good to come to the end! I was very happy with my Sugar Shack!

It took a total of 115 hours to complete.

Here is a short list of some of the ingredients.

85 cups of flour

37 eggs

92 cups of icing sugar

17 cups of regular sugar

17 cups of molasses

20 boxes of Nerds

5 oz of Vodka

and a whole lot of little ingredients.

Here was the final shot before I turned it over to the Festival of Trees.

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

And this is what I found when I returned to the Festival!!

The Sugar Shack Gingerbread House on Nutmeg Disrupted

I could not have been more thrilled!

For my American readers, First place in Canadian competitions are represented by RED ribbons!!!

And I am very proud to say we raied $250.00 with this very large cookie! And up to date I have raised over $1000 with gingerbead!

Sugar would be very pleased!

Be sure to head over to the Food Bloggers of Canada to see a step by step tutorial I wrote on designing and building your own one of a kind gingerbread house!

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Angel Academy Festival of Trees Grande Prairie 2012

Angel Academy Festival of Trees Grande Prairie 2012

The Angel Academy, where all angels come to get their wings!

Nutmeg Disrupted at the Grande Prairie Festival of Trees, Grande Prairie Alberta

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.

Grande Prairie Festival Of Trees Gingerbread House

Nutmeg Disrupted at the Grande Prairie Festival of Trees, Grande Prairie Alberta

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.

Nutmeg Disrupted at the Grande Prairie Festival of Trees, Grande Prairie Alberta        Nutmeg Disrupted at the Grande Prairie Festival of Trees, Grande Prairie Alberta

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.

Nutmeg Disrupted at the Festival of Trees in Grande Prairie Alberta..      Nutmeg Disrupted at the Festival of Trees in Grande Prairie Alberta..






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.

Nutmeg Disrupted at the Festival of Trees in Grande Prairie Alberta..        Nutmeg Disrupted at the Festival of Trees in Grande Prairie Alberta..






The flowers were made of fondant and dyed green spagetti. Which is kind of obvious. I just really wanted to say dyed green spagetti.

Nutmeg Disrupted at the Festival of Trees in Grande Prairie Alberta.

And a quick look through the front window will reveal a painting of a scene from a sunny memory down by a remote lake.

Nutmeg Disrupted at the Festival Of Trees in Grande Prairie Alberta

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!

Nutmeg Disrupted at the Festival Of Trees in Grnade Prairie Alberta

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.



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Gingerbread Dreams Festival Of Trees Grande Prairie 2006

Gingerbread Dreams Festival Of Trees Grande Prairie 2006

Never in a million years did I expect I would come to design and create gingerbread houses.

I did make a few of the kit ones you can buy. I remember the feeling of “that is all” after the simple build. Though I never had a reason to build anything bigger.

Many years later and a move to north of Grande Prairie I had seen pictures from the local Festival of Trees in the newspaper. My first thought was cool, gingerbread houses. My second thought, wow,  I bet I could create some seriously cool gingerbread.

So inspired by simple design I decided to find out how I could get involved with the Festival for the following year. I was very excited to be able to partisipate. To see what I could come up with and just have fun with it.

I went with 2 smaller buildings, I pictured a sort of town square in my mind. Having limited space I had to keep it fairly simple.

Truly, I was flying by the seat of my pants. I had taken a few years of drafting in high school so had an idea of how to draw out the plans. Then I turned the plans into templates which were then used right on the surface of the gingerbread dough.

I wanted fairly bright colors so I decided to go with fondant siding. It is a great decorating medium and is very inexpensive to make.

I had 3 different buildings to start but realized only 2 would fit the board. The blue and yellow really stood out so I went with them.

I did not own a very good camera back then so the limited pictures I do have really are not of great quality. But they do give a good idea of what the project looked like.

Being completely new to the Festival, Gingerbread Lane and doing something of this size I was nervous going into it. I did not know know what to expect. And I had hoped I had done a good job. I had only see a few pictures in a newspaper and the only gingerbread houses I had ever seen in person were the kits I made with my kids.

I worked for 38 hours straight to finish it for delivery. Total hours into the complete build was somewhere around 150. I had 2 goals in mind while doing the build. One was keep it nice and clean. Second was making it fun for the kids.

Get down to their level and look at what you are building.  Now scroll back up 2 pictures. Do you see it?

The kids noticed him right away.

I am so proud to announce that Gingerbread Dreams did very well. It was lucky enough to get first place as the Judge’s Choice and was selected for the winners circle. Which means the house was sold at the live auction the night of the gala.

When I called the QEII offices a few days after the sale to inquire how it did at the auction I was very happy to learn that we broke the sales record for gingerbread houses at $450.00. Wow! I truly never expected that. But am very proud that I was able to make a contribution like that with my house.

I look forward to many more gingerbread houses. And maybe a few more records can be broken.

A step by step gingerbread house tutorial I wrote can be found over at the Food Bloggers of Canada!














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