A Rocky Road to Learning – Renee G

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way
Xmas in Australia on a scorching summer day, Hey!

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Xmas time is beaut
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden ute.

Christmas time is a wonderful time to be a kid. All through December there is the buildup to a big day of presents, food and general running around like a lunatic full of sugar. It starts out slowly and fairly innocuously with the daily advent calendar. Add in decorating the tree and the house. Getting xmas cards in the mail, and from school friends. The arrival of the end of the school year. And then the excitement really ramps up as the day edges closer (or if you are a parent, comes screaming at you in a blur of days).

We aren’t very religious, so Xmas in our household is akin to an end of year celebration, rather than anything else. We’ve taken any traditions from the spirit of the season that we like and created our own version of the whole deal. I guess everyone does that, and I love that there are so many diverse ways to celebrate.

One of the issues that is often talked about amongst our social peers is the commercialization of Xmas. And it’s a tricky one for families like ours. We don’t believe any of the Christian parts of the festival, and therefore many would assume that we are left with just the mad frenzy of gift giving. Not true. A few years ago I came across the ‘Want. Need. Wear. Read.’ gift giving philosophy. Basically, it is a way of simplifying gift giving so that each child gets only four things – something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.

Want. Need. Wear. Read.
Want. Need. Wear. Read.

It might sound great in theory, but in a large family it gets pretty complicated. Not only would kids get four things from their parents, but they also get wads of other things from grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, cousins – Xmas remains a commercially driven gift mountain. Our house gets filled with loads more stuff and parental stress levels go up as we try and organise it all in the months following Xmas. The whole point of the exercise becomes lost quickly amongst all the piles of things.

So we threw that idea away and have simplified things even more. Our kids get an adventure from us and a couple of books from Santa. We ask all the relatives to contribute to the adventure. If they don’t feel comfortable with that, we make up a little chart with the kid’s current favourites (colour, food, book, movie, toy, etc) and they can get a traditional gift using the chart as inspiration. The answers to some of these questions can be pretty funny. No4’s answer to her favourite food: “Yes!” Often the kids get a mix of gifts from relatives and adventure related things.

Last year, we went camping for a week, and had a day out at Jamberoo Water Park. One of their relatives added to the day by giving the kids money to spend at the park, and we used some of it to get photos of them on different rides. Nearly a year later, they still look at those photos and talk about the day out. The previous year, we did a three week tour of the south west corner of WA, and relatives helped with little adventures such as entry to tourist sights and so on. Both No1 and No2 built diaramas of places they’d seen on this adventure for a school project this year (nearly two years later). No2 was given a pretty funny certificate for his efforts.

Certificate of success
Certificate of success

This year, we are going to Tasmania for two weeks; and already one aunt has sent us tickets to Tasmazia. On Xmas day, the kids will be unwrapping a fake ticket for the adventure, and a travel journal.

The spirit of Christmas is not just about receiving gifts. It is also about giving gifts. In our family, we give a small gift of thanks to each child’s teacher with a handwritten note from the child saying something nice. “Say something nice, dammit!” The note by itself would probably suffice. Their notes are sometimes brutally honest “My favourite thing this year was lunchtime.” Or surprisingly lovely.

If you google ‘teacher’s gifts’, you get a huge list of different websites flogging ‘personalised teacher’s gifts’. Rather than splash out more cash, why not put that money into some ingredients and get the kids to make the gift. This year, we made rocky road and put it in a little box wrapped in ribbon. I took a photo of each child while they were creating the gift, and printed it out onto the front of a card that they wrote their message in.

Star shaped gift boxes for teachers
Star shaped gift boxes for teachers

Rocky Road

  • Servings: 4-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients for rocky road
Ingredients for rocky road

  • 2 x 375g packets white ‘Melts’ chocolate
  • 100g marshmallows
  • 80g pistachio nuts
  • 100g macadamias nuts*
  • 200g dried apricots
  • 50g coconut*

Total Cost: $28.97

*I’ve included the full cost of the packet for these in the price, but you won’t use the whole packet in the recipe, only the amount noted.


First, ask the teacher if they have any allergies. Adjust the recipe to ensure it won’t hurt the recipient. I simply said “The kids want to cook you something for a small xmas gift. Do you have any allergies that we need to be aware of?”

Depending on how much you give to each person, this recipe can be split out for between 4 and 8 people – for less than $30. And it only takes ten minutes, plus the wrapping.

First you need to prepare a cake pan, or any square shaped object, by placing a sheet of baking paper in it. Then you need a pot of water and a non-plastic bowl that fits onto the pot. Boil the water with the bowl sitting over the pot. Once the water is boiling, the bowl will heat up. Put the two packets of chocolate in the bowl and stir occasionally until it is all melted.

Melting the chocolate
Melting the chocolate

Tip all the other ingredients into another bowl and mix it around.

Once the chocolate is melted, dump all the other ingredients into the chocolate and stir quickly until mixed through. Using an oven glove, remove the bowl from the boiling pot and pour the chocolate mixture into your paper lined cake pan. Spread it out so it is even. If you want, you can sprinkle the top with some desiccated coconut. Place the cake pan with chocolate mixture into the fridge and let it set. Once it is set, cut it into blocks and wrap.

Setting the slice
Setting the slice




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