In 2012, our last two festive seasons had been a little short on Christmas cheer, largely as my mum died just a couple of days after Christmas 2010 and 2011 was more than a bit flat as a result. Our kids, Alan and Andrew, have always loved the whole Advent calendar thing, but by then they were both in uni – so I was looking for a new way to find some fun for all of us grown up kids in 2012.
What I came up with was a kind of ‘surprise ingredient’ cooking challenge. This was mostly since I am the cook of the family, more enthusiastic than skilled, but the fact is I really like cooking and Glenn and the boys love eating! In fact, when much of my work involves long term outcomes, cooking and getting a result within the hour or later in the day provides a great deal of satisfaction.
So to get started without wanting to over-think it, while having a coffee (naturally!) I just brain-dumped all the catch words of my Christmas memories into a list:
pudding, custard, ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, arrowroot, rosewater, cinnamon, nutmeg, anything red, anything green, almonds, cranberries, breadcrumbs, dark chocolate, rice flour, mixed fruit, silver cachous, glacé fruit, white chocolate, alcohol, milk chocolate, white icing, gingerbread, brown sugar, hot chocolate, mint, pickled onions, gravy, sherry, vanilla bean, stars, farm animals, orange or coal (in the bottom of your stocking), old Granma’s secret ingredient, munchies for the wise men, reindeer food, sleigh snacks for Santa, elf energy booster …
I stopped there as I already had many more than would be needed for a standard Advent calendar of 1 to 24 December. Actually, having that many did add to the randomness and the ‘treasure hunt’ factor has been a big part of the Advent fun for us.
I printed that list out and cut it up into ‘tickets’, which got stapled shut and put into a ‘lucky dip’ container – a Christmas bear biscuit tin!! Each day, the boys took it in turn to draw out an item, then my challenge was to come up with something to make using that item for us to share in celebrating the day. It was a hoot!