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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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Gingerbread Whoopie Pies

Gingerbread Whoopie Pies

Gingerbread, a flavour close to my heart. If you look up at the top of the page you will see a section titled Gingerbread Houses, after you’re done here jump over and take a look! There you will find the collection of my gingerbread builds that have raised $1000’s of dollars for charity. Thanks for checking them out, I cherish the fact that with sugar and flour I can make such substantial donations during the Christmas season.

Gingerbread Whoopie Pie From Nutmeg Disrupted

Now about these Gingerbread Whoopie Pies. They looks amazing yes?! I thought so too. I was inspired from all the Whoopie Pies showing up in my Instagram stream a couple of weeks ago from some of the amazing Canadian food bloggers I follow. They were served during a coffee break on the final day of #FBC2016 in Toronto. Due to business obligations I could not attend the conference this year but eagerly watched my social media feeds to capture as much of the action as I could. For days after the conference I was distracted by thoughts of those whoopee pies and knew I had to recreate them at home.

They turned out amazing! Soft and tender, full of traditional gingerbread flavour and a creamy buttery filling, perfection really!

I invite you to give them a try and let me know what you think! Perfect for holiday cookie trays, the quintessential side to a steamy hot cup of coffee or a mug tea, definitely a must try!

As always, thanks for stopping by. Have a fantastic rest of your day!


5.0 from 1 reviews
Gingerbread Whoopie Pies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: baked
Serves: 14
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup Crosby molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup granulated
  • Buttercream Icing
  • 4 cups of confectioners/icing sugar
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons of milk
  • pinch of cup of butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients except the ¼ cup of granulated sugar together in a bowl.
  2. Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses, egg and vanilla; beat well.
  3. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed.
  4. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on a plate.
  5. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
  6. Roll the cookie balls in the granulated sugar and place on a silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet.
  7. Bake 8 - 10 minutes.
  8. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes.
  9. Remove to a cooling rack.
  10. While they are cooling make the buttercream icing.
  11. Cream the butter in the bowl of a mixer.
  12. Add half the confectioners sugar, 1 tablespoon of milk and the salt.
  13. Beat well to combine.
  14. Add the remaining confectioners sugar, milk and vanilla.
  15. Beat well until fluffy.
  16. If the icing appears dry add an additional table spoon of milk.
  17. Spread a generous amount of icing on one cookie and top it with a second creating a sandwich.


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Midnite Mass The Great Collaspe 2007 Festival Of Trees Grande Prairie.

Midnite Mass The Great Collaspe 2007 Festival Of Trees Grande Prairie.


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.

Midnite Mass Gingerbread Houseon Nutmeg Disrupted

The marble steps of the church were stunning.


Midnite Mass Gingerbread Houseon Nutmeg Disrupted

Midnite Mass Gingerbread Houseon Nutmeg Disrupted

The bibles, pews and people were done exceptionally well.

Midnite Mass Gingerbread Houseon Nutmeg Disrupted

The gelatin sheet stained glass windows were flawless.


Midnite Mass Gingerbread Houseon Nutmeg DisruptedMidnite Mass Gingerbread Houseon Nutmeg Disrupted

It was a gorgeous, tall open church……with not nearly enough roof support due to no interior walls.


Midnite Mass Gingerbread Houseon Nutmeg Disrupted


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.

Midnite Mass Gingerbread Houseon Nutmeg Disrupted

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.





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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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Sugar Plums Festival of Trees 2010

Sugar Plums Festival of Trees 2010

Dreaming of Sugar Plums Festival of Trees Grande Prairie 2010

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.

Sugar Plums gingerbread house pattern on Nutmeg Disrupted

Sugar Plums gingerbread house before the siding.

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.


Sugar Plums before the build/

putting on the siding

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.


Building the walls of Sugar plums gingerbread house

Some of the details on Sugar Plums

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.

Outside of Sugar Plums

And don’t forget about the sides and behind the house. Like a real yard there is landscaping on all four sides.


Sugar Plums Gingerbread House by Nutmeg Disrupted

This was the final shot before I delivered the house to the Festival.


Sugar Plums First place at The Festival of Trees

The house did very well at the Decorators event and placed first with the Judges and the decorators!

First place at The Festival Of Trees 2010, Grande Prairie

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!











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