Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A Unique Advent Calendar

For Christians the Advent season began on Sunday November 29, 2020.  It is all about preparing for the birth of Jesus.  Advent actually means Coming in Latin.  The true Christian meaning is probably lost for some,  and it has become a countdown to Santa Claus. I am not about to debate this, because your beliefs are a personal thing.  Every year since my daughter gave birth to her children, they would have an advent calendar.  It was a visual countdown to Christmas.  I had them for my kids too, but they were made of cheap cardboard with perforated numbered doors.  Behind each door was a piece of low quality chocolate candy nearly not edible.  It never occurred to me to be creative with the process.  My daughter has taken it to a new extreme.  Each year she betters herself.  She makes it so much fun, her boys will want her to do it forever.  

This year was no exception.  She has been collecting the small Altoid tins for a long time.  I'm not sure if she had this in mind or if it's just hard to throw away these cute little tins.  For anyone who watches our grandson Ewan's Youtube channel, Old Time Skills, you will see he likes them too.  

She started out with her Cricuit machine or something similar.  She cut out different patterns to cover the top of the tins and numbers 1 to 24.


After the tins are decorated, they are positioned on a board.  In this case, she used a distressed barn board.  Her husband drilled a hole through the back and secured them to the board.


They chose to position the tins in the shape of a Christmas Tree.  With some imagination, the shape could be of anything.

Now the fun begins.  Everyday that corresponds to the date, the tin is opened.  Inside is a clue with an initial on for each child if there are more than one.  She saved clues from previous years, but found out her son remembers every single one so she has to create new clues for him.  Of course the clues have to rhyme and done quickly and secretly.  That is a challenge with a ten year old who has exceptional hearing, sight and memory. 

A treat or small gift is hidden.  The clue is used to find it.  It isn't always easy to find.  This morning Ewan was up bright and early to head downstairs to open the first one.  It was reminiscent of Christmas morning.  


Oh where could it be.  It looks like this one is hidden in or around something blue.  There it is, behind the goldfish tank.  Today it is a big piece of Lindt chocolate.  There are many days I would get up early to find a large piece of chocolate.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring.


My daughter's college son still participates in this.  Since he can't be home to open the tins everyday, he will do it over the holiday break.  Last year, she bought a big Lego kit that contained several bags of pieces.  He would find each bag but didn't really know what it would make until the last clue.  Really good memories are being made.

Thanksgiving 2020 Was Not The Same

 Who would have thought that the year 2020 would turn out to be the weirdest year in most peoples memory.  We thought back in March if we stocked up on a few extra groceries and wore a mask in public for a couple weeks, we would be able to move on with our lives.  As we all know, that wasn't the case.  We missed all the major holidays with our family including birthdays.  Last Thursday was Thanksgiving.  We didn't get together with anyone, and I cooked your typical Thanksgiving dinner for the two of us.  I have ordered all my groceries since March and have not been in a grocery store.  Therefore, I had to make due with a few things that I would have "run to the store" for.  One of those things was gluten free flour blend and freshly ground pork.  

We discovered a few years ago that we like our stuffing (some call it dressing) made with gluten free bread cubes.  It makes for a firmer stuffing and not quite so soggy.  We do have family members who grew up with soft bread stuffing and that is their preference.  I did not.  My mother made a drier stuffing that was golden brown with a crusty edge.  

Since necessity is the mother of invention, I went about trying to do the best I could with what I had on hand.  I do make gluten free bread on occasion but it never turned out exactly right.  It was always good enough for stuffing.  So on Tuesday, I made a loaf of bread.  Here is the link for the recipe I modified.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2018/05/lets-try-againgluten-free-bread.html When I started mixing it together, I discovered I only had half the amount of gluten free flour, but I did have some gluten free baking mix.  It was a much finer texture and not meant for bread, but I had no choice.  My yeast spilled a little so I probably added another teaspoon of yeast using 4 teaspoons rather than a tablespoon.  I also baked it in the bread machine on a dark crust setting.  When it was finished, it turned out better than any I had ever made.

My homemade gluten free bread is usually very heavy but even the texture of this loaf was good.  I cubed it up and let it dry out.  I sprinkled the cubes with a little poultry seasoning and some melted plant based butter before I put them in the oven and browned them just as I do for regular bread croutons.  I included the crouton recipe in this blog from 2013.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/search?q=stuffed+pepper


We all have our own recipe for our favorite stuffing.  I saute onion and celery and brown some ground pork.  I add turkey broth and some cut up turkey meat but others may add cranberries and other ingredients.  I did make a few mistakes with this years dinner.  My heart wasn't in it.  I over salted the stuffing and it required adding more liquid than I wanted to.  It defeated my purpose and I ended up with a pretty soggy stuffing in a quantity that would have fed ten people.  To compensate for this, I added a little more plant based butter, spread it in a cake pan and baked it until it dried out and turned brown.


As the two of us sat and ate our dinner, we were thankful for each other but nothing tastes the same without the love of the family and lively conversation.  I suspect Christmas will be the same.  It is a big test for all of us.  We hope next year we will turn the corner, and we live long enough to  enjoy all the holidays next year.  I am sure we will appreciate them more than ever before.