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Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Our Christmas Cup Game and How We Modified It

Merry Christmastide, friends! 

How was your Christmas? I hope you and your family were blessed by the activities on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

We enjoyed both days immensely. I made even more changes to our Christmas Day meal plans, simplifying my actual day-of work significantly. We skipped the steaks for dinner altogether. Instead, I pre-made some curried chicken salad, opened our box of smoked salmon, pre-cooked roasted carrots with thyme, pre-roasted tri-colored potatoes with garlic and rosemary, pre-baked honey-mustard glazed onions, thawed some scratch dinner rolls, used a coupon for a free salad kit from Fred Meyer, and my daughters made a dessert. About 30 minutes before eating dinner, I tossed the salad, microwave-heated the carrots, potato, onion dishes and dinner rolls, plated the smoked salmon, and placed everything on the table. This was one of the easiest Christmas dinners I've ever made and will consider doing something along these lines again in the future. Our brunch meal plan was simplified as well. My daughters made a batch of deviled eggs the day before, I heated the pre-baked breads and muffins, I cooked a package of bacon, one daughter made a salad of fresh blueberries and sliced bananas, I thawed some homemade frozen eggnog, and we set out 2 types of juice. Again, super easy on the day-of an event. BTW, frozen eggnog made with heavy cream separates into whipped cream and the rest of the beverage. Once thawed, I ran it through the blender and served it fro the blender pitcher.

On to our game. . .

As you might recall, Alice gave me the idea to do this cup game with our family. I set 50 red and green plastic Solo-type cups upside down on the kitchen table and decorated each cup with a star bow from our stash. I had enough small prizes for each cup. 

The prizes ranged in value from a kitchen sponge at the low end to a full-sized bottle of Bath & Body Works shower gel (free with a coupon). I also had lots of edible prizes, such as chocolates, tiny containers of jam, a mini bottle of cajun spices, a small tin of breath mints, small packs of nuts, individual packets of cookies, and individually-packaged tea bags. For non-food prizes, I bought the mentioned kitchen sponge, a rechargeable mini-flashlight, a couple of small puzzles, chip clips, hand warmers, travel-sized toiletries, a bath bomb, some fingernail clippers, a couple of votive candles, and perhaps a couple of other things that escape my memory right now. The "big" prizes (meaning desirable) were $5 gift cards to McDonalds, See's Chocolates, and Starbucks. 

WinCo's bulk bin section was a great place to shop for small amounts of candies, cookies, or tea bags. The best price on Solo-type cups was Dollar Tree. I bought the green cups there. I had previously bought the red cups at Target, but at least I bought the Up and Up brand of those. I used coupons wherever I could and raided my gift closet for small gift-ables. 

I did as Alice had recalled from her family playing this game, and when a prize was too big to fit under the cup, I put a number under the cup and tagged the corresponding item with the same number. I then placed these all in a cabinet out of sight. I didn't mention to the "contestants" that there were some cups with numbers underneath. So when the first number was found, there was a lot of buzz and excitement over what this meant. Once they realized that some prizes were stored in the cupboard, and I had to retrieve them, everyone wanted to get a number.

Once all of the cups had been removed, we added an extra level of play to the game. At this point, everyone had 10 prizes. I told them that they could choose to keep all of their prizes, or they could return some of them to the table, exchanging each for a token. The tokens could then be used to choose from the returned prizes from other contestants. Everyone had some prizes they wanted to exchange. As with the first level, the contestants took turns choosing from the returned prizes, which were out in the open at this point. By adding this extra part to the game, everyone had a second chance at some of the prizes.

Everyone loved the game and said it was a lot of fun. Lots of laughter, smiles, and giggles. This game was a winner.


  1. I'm glad that the game was so fun for everyone. Was it hard coming up with 50 different prizes? Sounds like a lot. Even if you meals were scaled down, they sound great to me. We still have our family celebration this weekend. I think we'll have a big pot of chili with some cornbread.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Many/most of the prizes were edible, so those were not at all hard to find or think of. I knew all of my family would enjoy chocolate candies and truffles and cookies. The non-edibles were also pretty easy. I'd check the travel-size product sections of stores whenever I was out and about. I did try to think of some things that would appeal to each of the players, like spices and nuts for my husband, puzzles and cadet-y things for my son, and bath products and teas for all of the females. In the end, sometimes they surprised me and they seemed really pleased with something I'd thought would appeal to someone else.

      I'm so glad you'll all be able to get together this coming weekend. A pot of chili and cornbread sounds delicious. Enjoy your time together!

  2. The cup game sounds fun! Filing this idea away for next year. Thinking one could do a "Dirty Santa" type game rather than tokens at the end for an added component? Will think on that.

    Sounds like your scaled-back meal worked out perfectly!


    1. Is "Dirty Santa" the same as a white elephant gift exchange?

      Glad you had a good day. You are right, simple is the way to go. My baked potato bar went well, but I'm not sure I would do it for that large of a group again. Part of the problem was that I assigned toppings to different people and some of them arrived late, so that made it challenging to have everything served at optimal temperature. In retrospect I should have provided all of the toppings--then I could have had everything staged and ready to go. It's fun that Live and Learn mentioned chili and cornbread--I served chili as one of the toppings, and while I was serving everything, I thought, "Why didn't I just go with chili and cornbread and call it a day?". We learn from experience .... so for future parties, I will remember that!

    2. Kris, my inner mini-control-freak relates to your experience with the toppings. I would worry about that, too, as part of the "main event". Late sides or desserts are no big deal. Everyone can just "catch up" if something brought late is popular. But I'm glad to hear it went well, overall. Sara

    3. Hi Cat,
      The game turned out to be really fun. I'm curious, too, if Dirty Santa is like White Elephant in that people "steal" gifts from one another. That could be fun, too. For next year, I'm going to have to think hard how to top the cup game from this year.

      The meals were great and so much less stressful for me. I think I may have to prioritize simplicity for me for future Christmases. So much going on in the house on Christmas Day, I need a simple plan.

      How was your Christmas dinner? Did you do the steaks you had from the freezer? Does your husband grill the steaks while you do other dishes, or do you do all of the meal?

    4. Hi Kris,
      Hmm, I hadn't thought of that possibility, that some folks would arrive late and toppings wouldn't all be available at the right time. But it does make sense. Christmas Eve and Day are such busy days, some people have other obligations that they have to meet before coming to their final meal destination, or they have kids that may slow them down getting out the door, or last-minute gift-wrapping, or need to stop at the store, etc.

      I like both of your ideas, either to do the potatoes and all of the toppings yourself, then assign other parts of the meal, like desserts or beverages, or simplify the meal altogether like Live and Learn's upcoming gathering and just do chili and cornbread. The toppings are fun, but what people will recall in their memories is the time spent with each other. Despite all of that, I do think the baked potato bar is a great entertaining idea!

    5. Sara, some of my friends and I recently did a baked potato bar and it went super smoothly. However, I didn't stop to consider the personalities involved when I decided to do it for family. My friends are the kind of people who you want helping you with party events because not only are they timely and responsible, but they think ahead and help anticipate how to make things go more smoothly. Alas, while I love my family ...... let's just say that isn't necessarily the case with some family members and leave it at that. :) Despite everything, I think a good time was had by all, which, as Lili says, is the important thing.

    6. Hello, again, Kris. I hear you. It's interesting how much personalities DO matter. More than you'd think, sometimes, especially if you are personally "timely and responsible". Other people have other priorities, I know. But all's well that ends well, for sure! Sara

    7. Yes, in Dirty Santa, people can "steal" gifts from each other. Sometimes there are rules or limits, such as once a gift is stolen 3 times, it cannot be stolen again. Our youngest will turn 14 this year, so I think we're now at a stage when gifts for this could be pretty universal, though some might be more applicable to a certain gender or such. At least I have plenty of time to think on it and stash away some small prizes.

      Steaks were delicious! We did a mix of elk steaks and ribeyes from our last side of beef. We put them in marinade Christmas morning, and I made up the cheesy potatoes (funeral potatoes or hash brown casserole to some). Late morning, after gift opening, I prepped our Brussels sprouts, then at lunch time we baked the potatoes, and I sauteed the Brussels sprouts (with some added bacon bits) and prepared some of our homegrown and frozen corn while my husband, son, and son-in-law grilled the steaks. We had lemon bars for dessert later in the day. Simple but delicious! My kids take turn doing dishes (the three home rotate days, two each) and my husband and I take care of Sundays), so it was the 17 yo daughter's day for dishes. My son-in-law offered to pitch in, which was kind, though cleanup also wasn't too terrible with what he had made.


    8. Hi Cat,
      thanks for the explanation. Dirty Santa sounds a lot like White Elephant, although Dirty Santa is a lot funnier sounding. A yummy Christmas menu!

      We're not as organized with dishwashing as your family is. It works out that two or three help with dishes, now that we're hand washing everything. I'm usually one of the two or three. But when I've not felt well, everyone is happy to do it all and let me rest. My husband and I are the fastest at washing, so we do prefer to be the ones to get that part done. Its means we all leave the kitchen a little sooner.

  3. Yay! So glad your cup game was a hit. Our party got reduced in size to only 4 people. Dad collapsed Saturday at his restaurant breakfast and went to the hospital with RSV which was really bad. He started to get better Tuesday morning and breathing was much improved. He actually called this morning and he is being discharged for home. So our Christmas party did not include him as he "celebrated" in the hospital. Mother in law was here but she is very confused with dementia that she couldn't understand or follow any conversation. Our son was her and we had fun with him. No Christmas presents were opened and they still sit under the tree for maybe this coming weekend.

    Live and Learn, the prizes really are quite easy. When we did this last year we used Burt's Bees lip therapy, a jar of cookie mix, Christmas socks, candles, chocolate, gift cards, money, and just so many little things that come in a package but can be opened and used individually. I also used different sized cups to throw everyone off.


    1. Oh Alice, it seems like you are always dealing with difficult health situations with your family members. I'm so sorry that happened and I hope your dad is feeling better.

    2. Hi Alice,
      I am so sorry your dad was so sick. I pray he continues to get better and better in the coming days. A do-over this weekend for your Christmas celebration sounds like a good plan.

      I didn't think of buying packages of items and breaking up the package. That's a great idea for small gifts!

    3. Alice, so sorry to hear about your dad. I hope he is doing well by now. Cat


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