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9 Traditions Which have Characterized Our Christian Christmas

For Christians, Christmas is a sacred season. It is the time we set aside each year to celebrate the birth of our Savior. We believe that Jesus, Son of God and Creator of everything, gave up His throne for 33 years. He left the worship and honor He received in Heaven, choosing instead to be born as a helpless human baby, and raised in a humble Jewish family. He served the people He’d created and they despised Him. Eventually, they tortured and killed Him, all of which He knew would happen before He agreed to come.

And if He hadn’t come, we would not be saved. We would have no alternative to eternity in Hell. Without the events that transpired that first Christmas, we would have no hope, no reason for joy. The birth of baby Jesus changed literally everything! This is why we celebrate. Jesus is the whole reason for the season. In my family, we try to be deliberate, to make certain He is the center of our celebration. We have at least 9 traditions which have characterized our Christian Christmas.

Advent Candle: 9 Traditions Which have Characterized Our Christian Christmas
Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini) on Pexels.com The season of Advent is often celebrated by the lighting of commemorative candles.

Advent

ad·vent/ˈadˌvent/noun

  1. the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.
    • the first season of the Christian church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays.

The word “Advent” has become as much a secular idea as it is a Christian one. My daughter received an “Advent Calendar”, which has tiny doors in a box shaped like a Christmas tree. Behind each door are skin care samples. It was a nice gift from her friend, but it has nothing to do with the Advent of our Savior.

We have found wonderful tools, over the years, which have helped to direct our focus through the season of Advent. The important thing is to keep the important thing the important thing. The important thing is Jesus!

Moving nativity pieces

When we put out our Nativity set, we put the shepherds a small distance from the stable, as if ‘in the fields’. The wise men are placed further away, and baby Jesus is not in the mix. When the kids wake up on Christmas morning, baby Jesus is in the manger, the shepherds are up close, and the wise men are on the move! This is one way we remember all that happened on that first Christmas Eve. Even though my kids are adults now, they make a big deal about Jesus not appearing in the manger until Christmas morning!

Nativity sans baby Jesus: 9 Traditions Which have Characterized Our Christian Christmas
No baby Jesus because He isn’t born yet. In this Nativity set, Jesus and the manger are one piece, so there is no manger either. My kids would simply not stand for it!

Avoidance of Santa

Santa does not appear in our Christmas. He does not come on Christmas Eve, his likeness is not on our wrapping, and we do not include him at all. We have had discussions about who St. Nick was and the good that he did, but for the most part, we avoid all of that and direct our focus on Jesus.

I’m not saying a Christian cannot include Santa in Christmas. If you do, I’m not trying to shame you. For us, it was simpler not to divide our attention.

My granddaughter spent the night somewhere else this past weekend. When she came home, she told me that Santa could see and hear everything we do. I said, “That sounds like Jesus!” She said, “But the best presents come from Santa, so it is important not to disappoint him.” It broke my heart that, even though we don’t give Santa any room in our traditions, he rose to the level of Jesus, in her regard, in just one evening away. Attributes belonging to the King of Kings are His alone. A heart cannot serve two masters.

No Elf on the Shelf

As with Santa, we steer away from Elf on the Shelf. Elves are part of the Santa tradition, and we have no desire to make that story come alive. A focus on the Advent of Jesus is more productive and makes the season more meaningful.

Sign which says "in Christ alone my hope is found": 9 Traditions Which have Characterized Our Christian Christmas
Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash
Without Christ, we have no Hope and no reason for Joy

Christmas pageants

Whether it is a full stage production or just carols being sung at home, there is always some performance of the Christmas story. It is just who we are as a family. Singing, playing instruments, acting, directing… God gave us many means of expression to use for His glory and opportunities abound at Christmastime.

Christmas Eve services

We have spent many Christmas Eves at church. Sometimes the pageants mentioned above took place the day before Christmas. Other times, we went to worship and learn. And there have also been years where we stayed home and did our own service. This year, we will be home. I look forward to singing and praying together and having my husband share from God’s Word. I was hoping to go caroling as well, but I think there is heavy rain in the forecast. We shall see!

The reading of Luke 2 on Christmas morning

Luke 2:1-21 contains the Christmas story. We usually read to the end of the chapter, which takes us approximately 12 years into Jesus’ life. It is our way of keeping Christ in CHRISTmas, even while we are opening gifts, eating our favorite quiche, and doing the things which might tend to distract us from our true focus on Christmas morning.

Luke 2: 9 Traditions Which have Characterized Our Christian Christmas
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Luke 2 has been repeated in our Christmas traditions so often, many of us can practically recite it by heart.

Birthday cake for Jesus/Singing Happy Birthday

We bake a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Day. We put candles on it and sing Happy Birthday to Him. I’ll be honest – sometimes we have so many desserts around that baking a cake seems like a crazy idea. But we are celebrating the birth of our Savior and His birthday cake is a tangible reminder. The other sweets can be put in the freezer for another time.

More Away in a Manger and less Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

We love Christmas music! My husband gets tired of it and will not let us play it all year ’round, or we definitely would. Even so, we must be intentional about singing more “Away in a Manger” and “O Come Let Us Adore Him” and less “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Baby”.

O Come Let Us Adore Him Signboard: 9 Traditions Which have Characterized Our Christian Christmas
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Let us focus our adoration on One who is worthy

I googled Christmas Carols and noticed that half of what came up was called “Christmas Songs” or “Christmas Classics”. Those largely leave Jesus out. The search results which were called “Christmas Carols” were mostly about Jesus. But I thought it was telling that both came up equally when I requested carols. The line has gotten very blurred.


So there we have 9 traditions which have characterized our Christian Christmas. I’d love to hear from you. If you celebrate a Christian Christmas, what traditions help you to keep Jesus in the center? If you do not celebrate a Christian Christmas, I’d enjoy hearing one of your traditions and the meaning behind it.

Thank you so much for being here, for reading, and for celebrating this most wonderful season with me. I adore the gift of your friendship and appreciate you so much! Merry Christmas!

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Six Simple and Fun Christmas Games to Try at your Gatherings This Year

We are in full-swing holiday mode at our house. How about you? Are you having a large family get-together or are you looking forward to a more intimate celebration this season?

In Part 2 of An Illusion of Joy or an Infusion of Joy?, I said I’d get back to you with some ideas to pull everybody in without adding more stress to your schedule. The pressure of the promise has stuck with me and I’m here to make good on it with six simple and fun Christmas games to try at your gatherings this year.

Silly games bring laughter and make for merry memories. With just a small bit of preparation, these games have gone over huge for me. Most of them are available on the internet, but here you have them in one spot, tried and true and highly recommended.

Paper plate overhead draw

What you need: Pens and cheap paper plates (1 of each per participant. They don’t have to be cheap plates, but since they aren’t holding food, they can be!)

How to play: Each person puts the plate on their head. You lead them through drawing something simple. The plate stays on their heads until the end. We most recently did a snowman. It went something like this. I said:
“Your snowman is made of 3 circles.” I paused while they drew 3 circles on the plate, on top of their heads. Then I continued, pausing between each instruction.
“There is a top-hat on his head”.
“He has 3 buttons down the middle circle.”
“He has 2 eyes.”
“He has 2 stick-like arms.”
“He has a carrot nose.”
“He has 3 fingers at the end of his left arm.”
“He has a scarf around his neck.”
“He has 4 fingers at the end of his right arm.”
“He has a crooked smile.”
“There is holly on his hat.”
The jumping around is intentional. It is difficult to re-find a place when you cannot see it. That is the fun. When your instructions are done, everyone gets to take their plate off their head and see their masterpiece. Pass the plates around and have everyone vote on the best, the most impressionistic, the most realistic face, or whatever categories you want to include.

Behind the back paper rip

What you need: One piece of paper per person

How to play: Each person stands holding a piece of paper behind their back. The instructions are simply to keep the paper behind their back and rip it into a Christmas tree. You may want to set a timer for added pressure, but it isn’t necessary. It is harder than it seems. (You may, or may not, want to add the caveat that folding the paper and ripping symmetrically, which makes it significantly easier, is not allowed.) At the end, have everyone show their masterpiece and take votes on best, most unique, smallest, etc.

Christmas Cell-fie

What you need: One copy of the Item List for each participant. (Click the picture below for a ‘copy & paste’ printable version of the Item List. Feel free to change it up to suit your group!)

Person holding a phone with bokeh lights in the background: Some Fun Christmas Games to Try at your Get-Together this Year
(Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com)
What’s in your phone?

How to play: This is a Scavenger hunt each person conducts in their phone. The list assigns points per item and participants tally their score for whatever they can find. Examples might be ‘a contact named Mary’, or ‘a Christmas song ring tone’. Whoever has the most points is the winner. You can decide whether to make it a timed exercise or not, depending on the savvy of the crowd you have. You can also pick a few items and require the winner ‘show and tell’ to prove their win.

Snowball Toss

What you need: A bag or two of marshmallows

How to play: Divide up into pairs and have partners stand across from each other. This is run just like a water balloon toss, but when one partner tosses a marshmallow, the other must catch it in his/her mouth. We have done this many ways:
~ Large marshmallows are worth 2 points and small ones worth 1 point. Partners strategize how they can reach 14 points the quickest. (Go for small and easy, or risk the harder catch for a chance to earn more quickly?) The team with 14 points in the shortest amount of time wins.
~ Set a timer for 30 seconds and the team with the most overall catches in the allotted time is the winner.
~ Start with the partners close to each other for the first toss. Each team who makes the catch takes a step back while those who do not sit down. Each successful catch requires a step back, enlarging the distance between teammates. The last team standing wins.

The Left / Right Game

This is one of my favorites. There are two versions here. The first one is short, sweet and secular. It is good for an office party, or for a gathering where religious content is not allowed. But I prefer the Nativity version, which is the second picture. It is a fantastic way to share the Christmas story with everyone at your gathering. (Click on the pictures below for copy & paste printable versions).

The Short and Secular Left / Right Game story:
The Short and Secular Version of the Left / Right Christmas Game
The Nativity Story for the Left / Right Game: Some Fun Christmas Games to Try at your Get-Together this Year
The Nativity Version of the Left / Right Christmas Game

What you need: At least 1 wrapped gift. I would suggest 1 gift per 5 participants. It does not have to be expensive.

How to play: Everyone sits in a circle, close enough to pass the gifts. You read the story. Every time you say the words “Right” or “Left”, the present(s) get passed to the person to the “Right” or “Left” of whoever is in possession. When the story ends, the person or people holding the gift(s) wins it.

This can be a fun way to do a gift exchange. We had a party where everyone brought a Christmas mug. Everyone carried the one they’d brought to the circle and left with the one they were holding at the end of the story.

Reindeer Ring-Toss

What you need: Antler headbands, rings, Rudolph noses (optional)

This one might take a bit of preparation if you don’t have Reindeer Antlers on hand. I found mine at Party City for $1. If you have a crafty teen in your life, I’m sure they could rig some up for you. Some people can work wonders with pipe cleaners and others can make anything with duct tape!

How to play: I have 2 pairs of reindeer antlers, so we play this game with 2 teams. Each team picks one of their members to be the reindeer, who wears the antlers and stands at least 5 feet from the rest of the team. Their teammates take turns trying to toss rings onto the antlers. The team with the most wins. (The reindeer is ABSOLUTELY allowed to duck and dive to try to catch the rings!)

Each participant can make their own ring by cutting the middle out of the plate they used in game 1 (Paper Plate Overhead Draw). Or the rings can be made in advance with pipe cleaners. I upped the ante this year by purchasing blinking Rudolph noses from the dollar store and using glow sticks as rings. We turned out the lights and played by the Christmas tree.

Reindeer Ring Toss Winners: Some Fun Christmas Games to Try at your Get-Together this Year
Winners!

Our family has been doing Christmas game night for several years now. My husband and I purchase an array of small denomination gift cards as prizes and organize the games. This is our Christmas gift to everyone. It is low stress, and we avoid the mall and the dreaded pressure of shopping for perfect presents all around.

Everybody always shows up, and with 5 adult kids and their significant others, all with jobs and some living hours away, that says something. We enjoy the experience of playing together. In fact, we held this year’s gathering a couple weeks ago because it was the only night on the calendar everyone could make it and no one wanted to be left out. It is one of our favorite nights of the year!

These games I have listed are our favorites. We also play a Christmas version of Bingo, do word games, relays, Family Feud, and others. The competition is surpassed only by laughter and our face muscles are always sore the next day from smiling so hard.

Christmas Bingo: Some Fun Christmas Games to Try at your Get-Together this Year
Christmas Bingo with Red and Green M&M Markers.

My parents recently had a family party and we played games there too. Some of our winnings were translated to a dollar amount, which will be donated to charity in our names. I thought that was a great idea!

What do you think? Will you introduce any of these six simple and fun Christmas games to try at your gatherings this year? Do you have any other favorites you’d like to share?

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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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How an Outrageous Act of Kindness Led to This Magnificent Muffin Recipe!

The house was gorgeous! It sat on a corner lot and had tons of natural light. There were huge bay windows and extra-large sliding glass doors. Each room had several windows, and the cross breezes were heavenly. It was more than my husband and I had imagined when we decided to move with 5 small children between the ages of 1 and 8. We moved in, all giddy-like and wonder-eyed.

And then night fell. None of those incredible windows had any blinds or window coverings. We felt like fish in a very clear fishbowl, visible to everyone. And we didn’t know what to do. My husband’s aunty came to our rescue with an outrageous act of kindness. I had no way to repay her, but to feed her. The following is the story that led to this magnificent muffin recipe.

Plate of muffins next to a Bible: How to Repay an Outrageous Act of Kindness - Feel Free to Start with These Muffins!
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Bible study and magnificent muffins? Yes please!

Aunt Jenny lived an airplane ride away. But she is a talented seamstress, and when she heard about our dilemma, she came. She stayed in our guestroom for weeks. She advised us and gave us style options. Whatever we could want, she could create. She took me to the fabric store and was extremely patient while I perused, touched and envisioned each pattern. She helped me to calculate and stay within budget.

She was a Godsend! Aunt Jenny made a total of 3 trips to help us. That was three round-trip flights just to come sew all day, every day. If she took a break, it was to accompany me to the fabric or hardware stores.

She crafted curtains for all our windows and even created sheer drape panels to hang from my girls’ three canopy beds. She made custom window seat cushions and throw pillows to match for each couch and bed. She didn’t stop until there was nothing more we could think to sew.

I tried to repay her with treats whenever possible. I noticed how much she enjoyed the bran muffins at Starbucks. One day, while she was busy sewing, I busied myself where I had a bit of creative talent – in the kitchen. I recreated the Starbucks muffins and received Aunt Jenny’s heartfelt stamp of approval.

I made other meals and goodies to spoil Aunt Jenny, but I think these muffins were her favorite. I made them by the dozens, and we ate them for more than just breakfast. In fact, even after her outrageous act of kindness was complete, she said she’d do it all again for these magnificent muffins!

Muffin with wheat on a fall table: How to Repay an Outrageous Act of Kindness - Feel Free to Start with These Muffins!
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Magnificent muffins make good use of Autumn’s outrageous and bountiful flavors

If you enjoy the satisfying textures of wheat and bran, the soothing spiciness of cinnamon, and the hearty sweetness of pineapple, raisins and carrots, this recipe is for you! I think they are best in the fall, warm from the oven. But truth be told, they are a wonderful treat any month of the year. And they smell absolutely heavenly as they bake!

Mamalava’s Magnificent Muffins

Servings: 24 – Prep time, 1 hour and 10 minutes – Oven temp. 400 degrees

Ingredients:

  • 1and 1/2 cups Raisin Bran cereal
    (or 1 and 1/4 cups bran flakes and 1/4 cup raisins)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vegetable (or preferred) oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 pound carrots, grated
  • 2/3 cup pineapple (chopped, drained and patted dry)
  • 2/3 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Stir together flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine raisin bran, milk, and carrots. Let stand about 3 minutes or until cereal softens.
4. Add eggs and oil and mix well.
5. Add flour mixture to wet mixture, stirring only until combined.
6. Stir in pineapple, and nuts if desired.
7. Portion batter evenly into 2 and 1/2 inch muffin cups. (Can use silicone cups or tins coated with cooking spray or lined with paper.)
8. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
9. Serve warm!
I prefer to eat these just as they are. They are also amazing sliced and spread with butter and honey, or cream cheese, peanut butter – however you like!

Notes:

1. If you would rather make a cake or loaf shape instead of muffins, decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Exact baking time will vary according to size of pan. Cakes will need to cool for about 45 minutes and loaves for approximately an hour before slicing.
2. You can change the pineapple or raisins for blueberries, cranberries or other fruit of your liking. This recipe was to mimic the muffins Starbucks was offering at the time, but it is customizable to suit your tastes.
3. I imagine you can swap the sugar and flours for alternatives too, but I’m not an expert at those conversions.
4. If you like seeds, they can be sprinkled on top of each muffin just before baking. Sunflower or pumpkin seeds are my most frequent choices. I’ve also been known to sprinkle these muffins with a pinch of raw sugar crystals for sparkle and crunch.
5. This batter can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. I like to double (or triple) the recipe in advance and quickly bake fresh batches just before serving. If you’re baking cold batter, add 2-5 minutes to the baking time.


Is there anyone you’d like to thank? Do you know someone who would benefit from an act of kindness? Is there someone you’d like to spoil? Maybe it’s you! This recipe is well worth your consideration. A basket of magnificent muffins is sweet to the taste, the appetite, and the heart.

Make gifts meaningful by putting the time in creating them, whether baking and cooking, or in making arts and craft. It will all have more meaning for the giver and receiver.

Lidia Bastianich

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord… since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Colossians 3:23a, 24
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This Ultimate Harvest Recipe Tastes Like Fall in a Pumpkin Pot!

Autumn! I love this time of year! The weather gets cool enough for me to want to use my oven and the fresh veggies are flavorful and ripe for my comfort food recipes. I hope to start sprinkling my blog with more of my favorite recipes and stories which go with them. Be sure to tune in if you’re the cooking and baking sort! And if you’re not, you’re invited too. Maybe you can pass them along to someone who will appreciate them and let you be a taste-tester in exchange. Let me know what you think about this idea. Today’s post, and this recipe and story, are examples of what I have in mind.

This ultimate harvest recipe tastes like fall in a pumpkin pot!

I must share this one with you quickly, before the pumpkins are gone from the stores! Maybe if you’re lucky, you have your own growing in your yard. Or, if you don’t carve the pumpkins on your front porch, this is a great recycle (upcycle?) idea.

A hallowed pumpkin, filled with stew, and baking in the oven: This Ultimate Harvest Recipe Tastes Like Fall in a Pumpkin Pot!
Harvest Stew Baking in a Pumpkin Pot

The background story

This is Fall in a pot! And it has a wonderful story attached. To tell it, I need to take you back a few (!!) decades… The elementary school I attended had two adults in each classroom, one teacher and one monitor. I had the same monitor for 3 years in a row, from 4th to 6th grade! Mrs. S. kept moving up with us. She became someone very dear in my life.

In High School, Mrs. S’s kids and I played on the same sports teams and even after graduation, we stayed in touch. We are still Facebook friends today. Several years ago, she posted about this meal, which she was making with her grandkids. When I asked her for the recipe, to make with my family, Mrs. S told me that she had actually gotten it from my mom, who is a preschool teacher and had made it with her little students!

I just thought that was incredible. It is a passed-down recipe that took a detour on its way and came through, not one, but two of my most cherished Christian mentors! Don’t you think that is pretty special? Well, even if you’re not the nostalgic type, I’ll bet your heart will melt for this pumpkin pot filled with all the flavors of harvest!

The recipe

A medium pumpkin is perfect, maybe a 10-12 pounder. First, cut a circle in the top. Then scoop out all the seeds and stringy parts. You want a thick shell with the flesh intact. That is it! Your pumpkin pot is ready to stuff with your favorite fall flavors!

Mrs. S fills her pumpkin pot with sautéed garlic and onions, browned ground turkey, shredded carrots, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli slaw, stewed tomatoes, and kidney beans. But she emphasized that this ultimate harvest recipe is completely customizable.

The possibilities

You can change the protein to stew meat, chicken, something plant based, or leave it out altogether. You can add or delete any veggies you wish. You can season to your own liking too.

Curry? (If you follow this blog, you know how I feel about curry. If you don’t, you can find out here.) Italian seasonings? Mexican spices? Do it your way with the ingredients you like and have on hand. The possibilities are endless!

The instructions

The instructions are simple. Just fill the pumpkin with whatever harvest fare you crave and replace the top. Place it on a baking pan and put it in the oven at 325 degrees. It will bake in there for 2 hours. Make sure to watch toward the end that the pumpkin pot doesn’t get too done and lose its structure.

Stew baked to perfection in a pumpkin: This Ultimate Harvest Recipe Tastes Like Fall in a Pumpkin pot!
It’s Healthy and Hot – It’s Harvest in a Pot!

When it is finished baking, your house will smell amazing! Serve it right from the festive pumpkin pot, scraping the sides to get a serving of pumpkin in every spoonful. Top with cheese, parsley, avocado, sour cream or anything you like!

More options

Mrs. S suggests serving your masterpiece over rice. Do you like jasmine rice? Brown rice? Cauliflower rice? Do you prefer potatoes or noodles? Or do you skip the carbs? Any way you serve it, this is the ultimate harvest recipe. I think you’ll agree that it takes like fall in a pot – a pumpkin pot! What’s not to like?

Are you going to try this recipe? Have you made something similar in the past? What would be your preferred ingredients? Mmm… is anyone getting hungry?

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Moments are Quick but They’re still Mighty! Grab one and Share one – Post 8

I captured this quick moment before it went fleeting by:

Stretching Cat: Quick Moments Post 7
The question mark of confusion was replaced by the exclamation point of amusement

I returned, from the kitchen, to the desk in my home office with a small dish of almonds in hand. I sat in my swiveling chair and swung it to face my computer. I lifted my knees slightly and then relaxed my legs, so my feet could land on the footstool beneath the desk. This has all been done hundreds of times and was completely without cognition, until my feet pulled me forward and clunked to the floor. My elbows landed hard on my keyboard without any semblance of grace. My brain was sent searching for context. In that quick moment, the question mark of confusion was replaced by the exclamation point of amusement. My granddaughter had removed my footstool! As it all became clear, I could hear her behind the couch trying to contain her laughter. She got me! I have to admit, I was impressed!

There is boundless wonder in every quick moment! Tell me about one of yours


Need some background on the Moments Series?
Click here for the Quick Moments Introduction in Post 1.