My friend Barbara is the first one I tried out the idea of a non-Christmas advent with, 9 years ago almost exactly. Her birthday was a few months after we met, and we had a major interest in common: quilting. This was exciting considering that in Germany, quilting as I know it is only done amongst a handful of people. (Cotton quilting fabric that you can buy for $3 a yard here in the US is a minimum of $12-19 over there.) I was also new in town and only had to work about 20 hours a week, so I had time on my hands to get creative. And so I designed an advent calendar for the week leading up to her birthday. It was the first time I remember designing something considerably complex, and it worked!! It was really something. I credit those two years in Germany as a time when I really took a step forward in becoming an artist, from art-for-fun to art-for-real.
I actually managed to just put my hands on some photos! I took these with my very old SLR camera in November 2002 (click on the photos for a close-up.):
Once you opened the door, there was actually a little pocket that a tiny gift could fit in in there. And so that year, Barbara received not only this calendar, but a individually wrapped chocolate each day at school delivered by a person we knew in common (teacher or 8th grader or her husband), and a little trinket in each pocket. It was a lot of fun.
The next year, I made an advent calendar for my Christmas card called "An Advent Calendar for the Rest of the Year." One of the most complex cards I've made in bulk (not counting the pop-up card this year), only about 20 people got one of those, and to this day it is one of the highlights in my memory. (Does anyone still have theirs? If you do, can you scan it and send it my way?)
Nearly every year since 2002, I've given Barbara 7 things each year, and lucky for me, she has actually done the same! I've given her jelly beans with inspiring quotes, sewing supplies, random trinkets, and cooking gadgets. Last year I got 7 things for the bathroom (nail brush, nice soap, tub mat, lotion, hand towel), and one year she gave me one recipe a day to create a 7-course menu by the end. (We also have a love of cooking in common!)
This year, I'm also sending her a recipe a day, but one with embellishments--a mini art piece in itself. On weeknights, Germans generally eat a cold dinner of bread with stuff on it (meats, cheeses, veggies, spreads). Well, I thought I'd send her recipes of various ways to spice up those weeknight meals. She now has a recipe for a new spread or dip or salad to add to what they already eat for each weeknight leading up to her birthday. Here are the first four cards:
I'll post the final three next week! As a bonus for today's post, since you had to go so long without a post from me in October, I thought I'd include one of these recipes for you to spice up your own weeknight meal. This is one of my very favorites:
Walnut Sauce (the one from the orange card--I know it is from a wonderful cookbook that I don't own, perhaps my friend Kyran can help me out with the citation?)
¾ cup walnuts
1 clove garlic
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
In a food processor, mix the walnuts, garlic and ¼ tsp salt until finely ground. Slowly add oil while still mixing. Pour in a small amount of the boiling water to reach desired consistency. Sauce thickens as it cools. Season with pepper. Yields about 1 cup.
Serve atop whole-wheat pasta topped with some micro greens and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Leftovers are also great spread on toast!