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How My Cookie Crisis Could Become a Bountiful Blessing from My Family to Yours

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away… Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but this story played out a long time ago. My kids were small, my husband’s job required him to take long trips, and I was desperate thankful for adult interaction. I was beyond excited for the annual cookie exchange in which my friends and I participated every holiday season.

I was downright giddy about the opportunity to get into the car by myself, listen to grownup music on the radio, talk to women in multi-syllable words, and sample cookies of all kinds. I had my recipe with the ingredients required and all that stood between me, and my dream afternoon, was the chore of baking 13 dozen cookies.

My plan was to make the dough and begin baking the day before the event. That way, my cookies would be fresh and delectable, and I could finish up the morning of, if something came up unforeseen. Well, come up unforeseen, something did! I went to preheat my oven and… nothing. No heat. No heat at all.

I may have panicked a little and I might have even cried. If I couldn’t make cookies, I didn’t see how I could attend the cookie exchange. Store bought cookies were unthinkable. The whole purpose of the cookie exchange was to trade homemade delicacies.

Are you familiar with the concept of a cookie exchange? I think they are an amazing idea! They can be organized in several ways, but my friends and I did it the same way each year, taking turns organizing and hosting. Maybe you’d like to put one together? Here is the format we used:

  • Twelve people participated. It was important to have twelve. If you confirmed your spot, you were committed.
  • Each person baked 13 dozen cookies of one recipe (cleared with the organizer in advance to avoid duplicates) and packaged them by the dozen. They could be in bags, tins or covered plates, as long as each package contained 12 cookies.
  • Each person copied, printed or handwrote 11 copies of their recipe.
  • We all met up for one glorious afternoon. The hostess provided a huge table where we each stacked 12 of our cookie packages and our recipes.
  • On a separate table, we each opened and placed our 13th package. Also on this table, the hostess provided plates, napkins and beverages. This is where we got to sample each other’s cookies.
  • After a sweet afternoon of cookies and conversation, we went back to the first table and took one package of each kind of cookie, including our own. We took one of each recipe, excluding our own. This is the exchange by which a cookie exchange gets its name.
  • Where each baker arrived with 12 packages of 1 kind of cookie, they went home with 12 packages of different kinds of cookies.

Personally, my tradition immediately following the cookie exchange, was to pack 12 tins, each with 1 cookie from each package. My kids loved taking these grand assortments to the neighbors and their teachers. It appeared like I’d done much more work than I had, since I gifted an amazing assortment, but only baked a single recipe. All of that was looking impossible this year.

God to the rescue!

Even, no – ESPECIALLY for busy moms, the cookie exchange was a lifeline. It was a simplified and fun way to get a giant check mark on a long holiday to-do list. Not only was I looking forward to it, but I was also committed. My oven breaking had me at my breaking point too. This was a crisis.

But God. That is all I remember about how what transpired next came about. Somehow, I found a recipe. God brought it to mind. Honestly, I don’t remember if I went to the computer or if it is one I had tucked in my recipe binder prior. All I know is that I had never made “Crock Pot Candy” before that day. But boy have I made it many times since!

Crock Pot Candy: How My Cookie Crisis Could Become a Bountiful Blessing, from My Family to Yours
Crock Pot Candy with Sea Salt Topping

God and Crock Pot Candy to the rescue. This recipe did not require an oven. I pulled out my slow cooker, raced to the store for the short list of ingredients, and this blessing came together in a fraction of the time it takes to bake 13 dozen cookies.

You know what else? These were the star of the afternoon. Everyone raved! And it was such a nice touch to have a decadent piece of candy on each plate of cookies.

My own family liked them so much that they have become one of our signature family dishes. My 25 year-old daughter, who was in preschool the first time I made them, called them “Nut Chocolates” and that is what they are to this day, in our house. She and I make them every October because that is her birthday month, and it takes us almost a whole month to eat them all. This recipe makes a bountiful plenty!

Nut Chocolates; How My Cookie Crisis Could Become a Bountiful Blessing, from My Family to Yours
Nut Chocolates for Days!

I have not been to a cookie exchange in years. But that is ok. People love getting a whole bag of “nut chocolates” and I enjoy the simplicity of giving them. If you have an army to feed, or several people to gift, or a birthday month to enjoy, let my cookie crisis become a bountiful blessing, from my family to yours!

What you will need:

  • 1 pound lightly salted, dry roasted almonds
  • 1 pound unsalted, dry roasted almonds
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 ounces white chocolate chips
  • 1 pound vanilla bark
  • 9+ feet of waxed paper

Instructions

  1. Pour nuts into large crock pot. Add chips and bark. Cover and turn on low setting.
  2. Now go shower, fold your laundry, or write a blog. Come back in about an hour.
  3. Lay out the waxed paper. (You may have to weigh down the corners if the paper is too curly to lay flat.)
  4. With a large spoon, stir the now-melted chocolate into the nuts until the chocolates are combined and the nuts are well coated.
  5. Spoon the mixture onto waxed paper according to the size you want.
  6. Keep spooning – this is a bountiful recipe.
  7. Keep the crock pot on the low setting until all its contents have been spooned out.
  8. Once everything has been scooped out, unplug your crock pot and walk away again. Go back to your blog, play with your dog, or read a book.
  9. Let the candy cool until the chocolate hardens and it peels easily from the waxed paper.
  10. It will keep fresh in a plastic bag or airtight container for several weeks. But you might not be able to keep it around for that long. My family loves to share it as much as we love to eat it.

Notes:

  • The original recipe calls for peanuts instead of almonds. I’ve done it both ways and, seriously, you can’t go wrong. My family just prefers almonds. I’m sure you could use other nuts too, if you have a different favorite.
  • In the photos I’m posting, you see sea salt sprinkled on top. This is the way my October birthday girl prefers her birthday treat. We have also experimented with toffee, sprinkles, and coconut. They are all amazing! I think the simplicity of the recipe is perfect and I prefer no toppings.
  • I adore dark chocolate. If I am making these according to my taste, I substitute some of the chocolates called for in the recipe and darken it up a bit. If the measurements of nuts and chocolates are the same as the recipe, you can change them out any way you like.
  • I have never had a batch not turn out. These are 99.9% fool proof. The reason I reserve that extra .1% is because you can overcook them. If you forget all about them and leave the ingredients in the crockpot for hours, the chocolate will burn around the edges. (Don’t ask me how I know!) Even still, you can use what is deliciously melted in the middle of the pot.
  • If you make these on a hot day, you may need to refrigerate them to encourage the cooling process. The best way I have found to do this is to cut the waxed paper into cookie-sheet sized rectangles and slide them onto the cookie sheets to place in the refrigerator or freezer (wherever you have room).

There you have it. That is how my cookie crisis could become a bountiful blessing from my family to yours. I hope this recipe comes in handy for you this holiday season and beyond.


Do you bake or home-make gifts? Do you have a preference between white, milk or dark chocolate? Does anyone do cookie exchanges anymore?

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Conversations Devotions

SuperPower Sunday: Sincerity

Welcome to Superpower Sunday!

This week’s Super-Character skill is Sincerity:

Eagerness to do what is right with transparent motives.

Character Bookshelf Series, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.”

1 Peter 1:22

Please Share! In the comments section below, let us know what you learned and tell your success stories from the last week of practicing sensitivity. Also, we’d love to read your ideas of how we might exercise sincerity between now and next Superpower Sunday!

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Reflections

Finding Thankfulness in Unexpected Places this Thanksgiving

Here we are! Thanksgiving week already! Do you have any exciting plans? Are you traveling? Hosting? Having a quiet day of reflection? Shopping? If you live outside of the U.S., what are you up to this week? Do you have a celebration of thankfulness in your culture, or anything similar?

Regardless of your traditions or plans, I’ve got a challenge for you. I realized that my list of things I’m thankful for has stagnated. Don’t get me wrong, each and every item on my list is a gift from God. I just haven’t put much thought into it lately. I’m always thankful for my family and friends, pets and paychecks, shelter, and such. This year, I want to make my list more unexpected and meaningful. Will you join me?

Finding Thankfulness in Unexpected Places this Thanksgiving

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18

There are some things for which we seldom stop to give thanks. But God is good, and He wastes nothing in our lives. I want to recognize the blessings in places I don’t usually think to look. I have 3 examples to show you what I mean.

Pain

The other evening I was out jogging. (Yes! I’m still at it! If you read How An Eerie Scene Provoked Me to Run and Keep Running, you know the crazy story of how that came about.) Anyway, I thought I heard something in the bushes beside me and as I turned toward it, I inadvertently looked directly into the setting sun. It was so bright! Instinctively, I threw my hand up to shield my eyes and the motion aggravated my bum shoulder. Pain shot to my fingertips and my arm fell limp at my side.

My arm has been doing this the past several weeks. I’ve learned that if I stay still for a few minutes, the pain goes away. So still I stayed. Then, perhaps emboldened by my stillness, the most majestic deer stepped out from behind the bush. It stood looking right into my face. We studied each other intently for a while and then it slowly went back about its business.

Deer: Finding Thankfulness in Unexpected Places this Thanksgiving
Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com
This is not my photo. I didn’t dare move to grab my camera. But this is much like what I experienced (minus the spots and second deer in the background).

The pain in my arm caused me to stop. Without it, I never would have experienced the wonder of looking into those wild brown eyes from just a few feet away. I was – I am – genuinely thankful for the pain. I can’t say I’ve ever put pain on my Thanksgiving list before. What an amazing thing!

Busy work

I work in a lab. I get to do incredible things every day. Science is fascinating! But lab work generates piles of paperwork and time-consuming cleanup. The busy work is not nearly as fun.

I realized this week that busy work never comes up on the list of things I appreciate in life. But why not? I enjoy the job I have. The paperwork and cleanup testify to all that my team and I are accomplishing every day. For the first time, I truly understood that I have many reasons to be thankful for all that busy work. What an incredible realization!

Conflict

I try to avoid conflict. It rattles me. But, let me tell you, there is nothing like it to make me fall to my knees. I need God to help me understand it, navigate it, and handle it well. I feel that I’ve had an unusual amount of conflict lately. Have you heard this saying?

Sometimes, God uses difficult people, like sandpaper, to rub the rough edges off us.

Power sander: Finding Thankfulness in Unexpected Places this Thanksgiving
Photo by Thijs van der Weide on Pexels.com
The abrasiveness of sandpaper smooths and softens

It is not pleasant, but it is effective. Conflict smooths my jagged edges and softens my corners. In it, I see ugliness in me that I must confess and give over to God for refurbishing. I usually start by asking God to change the situation or the other person and end up being so thankful that He changed me. This Thanksgiving, my recent and ongoing conflict is high on my list. God is so good!


Those are a few of my examples. What about you? Where can you find hidden blessings? Are there things for which you haven’t yet thought to be thankful which belong on your list?

If you ask God to show you, I’m sure He will. He loves to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in His people. Will you join me and take up the challenge of finding thankfulness in unexpected places this Thanksgiving?

You’re welcome to join in, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not. Thankfulness is always in style. I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

“Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Psalm 100:3-5
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Conversations

Three Birthday Cakes, a Turkey, and a Veil

Does that sound like the beginning of a bad joke? Three birthday cakes, a turkey and a veil walk into a bar. Or stand at the pearly gates. Nope, it isn’t bad, and it isn’t even a joke. Although, I must admit that seeing humor in it helps diffuse the stress!

Three birthday cakes, a turkey, and a veil is the description of my upcoming week. My husband’s birthday is on Thanksgiving, my daughter’s is a few days after, followed by my son’s girlfriend’s birthday the next day. And then, two days later, the big event takes place – my daughter is getting married!

Oh, I just caught my breath saying all of that! These five celebrations happen within the span of one week. It is going to be crazy! And so fun!

The title for this post probably could have been “Three cakes, Sushi, and a Veil” because sushi is my husband’s favorite, and he gets to choose on his birthday. I love that his special day falls on Thanksgiving from time to time, because honestly, aside from Jesus, my hubby is my biggest blessing. He just camps out, right there, at the tippety-top of my thankful list!

Sushi: three birthday cakes, a turkey and a veil
Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com
Birthday sushi for Thanksgiving? Sure! Why not?

This post is a bit unusual. I have a slightly ulterior motive beyond the peek into my charming chaos. Friends, can I ask your help with two things?

  1. Please pray for me – I don’t want to get so caught up in the craziness of ALL that is happening that I don’t see EACH thing for the blessing it is and the celebration it deserves. I want to cherish each person and the gift they are from God; and there will be so many people. For an introvert like me, it is overwhelming to think about.
  2. Pen a few words to my daughter – I would be so honored if you would take a minute to write encouragement, inspiration, or practical advice from God’s Word. Just a sentence or two, for my daughter and her husband-to-be to read. If you are willing, type it in the comments section below, ‘to Kevin and Mikayla’. I would like to copy and paste your sentiments into a hand-made card or booklet to add to their wedding gifts. I think it would be such a blessing for them!

I know I have access to an incredible wealth of experience, knowledge, and Godly wisdom on this platform. You who visit the Back Porch are top notch! Thank you for coming alongside my family and me in these ways. I am sincerely, from the depths of my heart, awestruck and grateful for each of you.

I have pre-scheduled some posts about different things, so there shouldn’t be too much interruption to the blog in the coming weeks. I look forward to getting back to a regular routine on the flipside of three birthday cakes, a turkey (sushi?) and a veil. God bless you all!

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Conversations Devotions

SuperPower Sunday: Sensitivity

Welcome to Superpower Sunday!

This week’s Super-Character skill is Sensitivity:

Exercising my senses so that I can perceive the true spirit and emotions of those around me.

Character Bookshelf Series, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Romans 12:15

Please Share! In the comments section below, let us know what you learned and tell your success stories from the last week of practicing self-control. Also, we’d love to read your ideas of how we might exercise sensitivity between now and next Superpower Sunday!

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Reflections

Who is in Charge of My Future? Am I Making Plans or are Plans Making Me?

The other day my granddaughter said to me, “Mima, did you know I have a boyfriend at school?” I blinked the astonishment out of my eyes and cocked my head with interested confusion. She’s five. I hadn’t planned this conversation until well into the future.

Her words flooded my mind with questions. The one that screamed its way to the front was “How do you know about boyfriends?” but I decided not to verbalize it just yet.

Instead, I went with “No, I didn’t know that. What’s his name?”

“I don’t know”, she responded.

“You have a boyfriend, and you don’t know his name?” I was beginning to relax.

“No, I don’t actually have him yet”, she said. “That is just what I plan to do.”

“Oh, do you have anyone in particular in mind?” I wondered.

“Not yet. But I do know a lot of boys.”

I was relieved and a bit distraught, but more than anything, I was amused. This precious child was making plans for something she knows very little about and talking as if she had already accomplished it.

“Silly girl!” I thought. But then I quickly realized, “Oh dear, I’ll bet she gets that compulsiveness from me.”

I think that way. I decide on something for my future and it’s pretty much a done deal in my head. And when I tell God my plans, His face probably looks a lot like mine did; astonished eyes, head cocked in playful dispute.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

Woody Allen

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 19:21

I really do like to have settled plans and a direction to be heading. I do not enjoy that feeling when things are ‘up in the air’. But it is one thing to make plans, and quite another to allow the plans to make me. Sometimes I get in a hurry for the future and rush out in front of the Lord. I make decisions and begin acting upon them with tunnel vision as if they were in charge.

Weekly planner: Who is in Charge of My Future? Am I Making Plans or are the Plans Making Me?
Photo by Jess Bailey Designs

I’m working on it. God is working in me. He spoke to me about it a few years back and I wrote this little rhyme in response. It helps to read it every now and then to remind myself to ‘stay in my lane’ so to speak.

Ask Instead of Tell

I wake up in the morning, the "list" commands my day.
I quickly show it to the Lord and ask He bless my way.
He wraps His arms around me and brings me to my knees,
And lovingly requests I "let go of my plans, please".
He says "Thank you for inviting Me to join with you today,
But things will go much smoother, if we live this day My way."
Its important to remember, with my schedule I'd do well,
To take it all before the Lord and ask instead of tell!

I do believe it is ok with God – I’d even go so far as to say it is wise before God – to have direction for my future. But the key is to hold it loosely. I can make plans as long as my plans don’t make me. They are not in charge. I don’t want to be so invested that I can’t be flexible when God’s plans require a different direction than the one in which I was heading.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

Corrie Ten Boom

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm for ever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”

Psalm 33:11
Planner and flowers on desk: Who is in Charge of My Future? Am I Making Plans or are the Plans Making Me?
Photo by Kaboompics.com

Right now, I have 1-year, 5-year, and ‘down the line’ plans for which I am consistently laying ground work. But honestly, I don’t know if I’ll live that long or whether God has different priorities for me. If the past is any indication, He’s chuckling at what I envision, knowing how different it is from His perfect vision.

And that’s pretty exciting when I stop and think about it. The Christian life is definitely an adventure. I need to relax a bit and enjoy it more.

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ 

James 4:13-15

 “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Benjamin Franklin

So far, Benjamin Franklin has been correct, but I’d narrow my declaration a bit further. The only thing I can say about my future with absolute certainty is that I’m going to see Jesus face to face. That is the joy of my salvation. I’m thankful that the one thing I know for sure is such a glorious thing.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

1 Corinthians 13:12

I want to live in such a way as to influence my granddaughter to say, “Mima, did you know I’m planning to have a boyfriend at school?”

To which I can reply, “I hope this is at least a 10-year plan! Let’s pray about it.” I’m sure boys will come and go from her life, but I consistently pray that Jesus will always have her heart.

I would love to help her make plans, but I don’t want to see plans make her – unless they are God’s plans. If He is in charge of her life, that is the best I can ask for. His plans give her the future she was created to live!

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

“Oh Lord, please guide me to be the example you want me to be. I desire that my plans for the future always bend to yours, and for you to always have charge over me. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.”