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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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Recommendations

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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Emotions

If Today is the Last Day of Your Life, What are You Going to Do?

I just had a conversation with the youngest and oldest of my five children. For context, they are 18 and 26 years old. We sat down at the same time for breakfast and began to discuss what we would do today, if we knew it was our last day to live. I thought the discussion was hilarious, stereotypical, and insightful. It went like this:

If Today is the Last Day of Your Life, What are You Going to Do?

My answer was simple. “What would I do if I knew today was my last day to live? I’d go to the beach. I’d pray, call, text, and write. I’d communicate my gratitude, encouragements and goodbyes from the sand, serenaded by crashing surf.” I try to keep short accounts with God and people, and I don’t feel like I’d have much baggage to sort out. It was an easy one for me.

Me at the Beach: If Today is the Last Day of Your Life, What are You Going to Do?
The beach is my happy place!

My youngest had a completely different take. He asked, “I’m going to die tomorrow for sure?”

“Yes.”

“Then I can’t die today, right?”

My oldest and I looked at each other. We hadn’t thought of that. I was completely amused by his line of thinking. He continued.

“I’d go skydiving without a parachute.” He started.

“But just because you aren’t going to die today, doesn’t mean you won’t feel pain today,” I interjected. “Wouldn’t it be worse to sky-dive without a parachute and not die?”

Rules crossed out: If Today is the Last Day of Your Life, What are You Going to Do?
Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash (x’s added)
The rules don’t apply on your last day!

He agreed, “Ok, then if today is the last day of my life, and I know I’m going to die tomorrow, I’d do something reckless and die before it catches up to me. I’d rob a bank and spread the money to the poor, like Robin Hood. Or I’d visit people in the hospital with Covid, who have nobody to sit with them, because it wouldn’t matter if I was exposed. I’d switch places with someone sentenced to life in prison.” I’d go out with abandon.

My oldest began to laugh. We looked at her. She pointed out the difference in their personalities and said if today was the last day of her life, she was going to have to tackle a to-do list that was very long.

“I’d be writing my will.”, she stated. “I’d need to clean my room and my car. I’d make sure my bills were paid and I’d email instructions for the person who would take over my job.”

Filed paperwork: If Today is the Last Day of Your Life, What are You Going to Do?
Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

She chuckled. “I’d be taking care of all the little details, to make it easier on everyone once I was gone.”

I was thoroughly amused by the conversation, even though the subject matter could have been very sobering. Isn’t that so typical of how a first born and a baby of the family would tend to think? I chuckled to myself, as I got an insightful peek into these personalities that I love so much. I really need to ask more open-ended questions.

So, if today is the last day of YOUR life, what are YOU going to do with the time?


“I live my life based on 2 principles. One, I live as if today was my last day on earth. Two, I live today as if I am going to live forever.” 

Author: Osho

“How different would today be if you knew it would be your last one on earth before meeting God face-to-face? We should strive to live every day as if it was our last, for one day it will be!” 

Author: Billy Graham

“May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one. If my life should end today, let this be my best day.”

Author: Anonymous

“Let your light shine, never look back and live as if today is your last day … because it just might be.”

Author: Gena Showalter

“Live as if today is the last day of your life. Love and be kind as if this is the last chance to express it.”

Author: Debasish Mridha

“A person’s days are determined; you (God) have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.”

Job 14:5 (parenthesis mine)

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12
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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.

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Promotions Reflections

It’s My Birthday! May I Serve You a Piece of One of My Favorite Memories?

Aloha! A special day is occasion for a special story, right? Well, it’s my birthday! May I serve you a piece of one of my favorite memories? This is a memoir I wrote a few years back, on the day after it happened, simply entitled:

Sea Glass

I asked Jesus on a date.  I was going to be near our ‘special spot’ and I planned a day and time to meet Him there.  Is that strange? 

It isn’t to me.  After all, I have specific places that hold unique significance to my husband and I and some with my friends as well.  And in my special spot with Jesus, which happens to be a stretch of beach on Oahu, worship flows without coercion, conversation is easy, and my heart seems naturally primed for the Master’s touch. 

However, as my date with Jesus approached, the weather report turned nasty.  I have no qualms about walking with Jesus in the rain, but the expectation for our day was thunderstorms.  I told Jesus it was ok if He needed to change our plans – that I would meet Him anywhere – and I waited to see what could be worked out.  The rest of my family also needed to adjust their outdoor agenda for the day and it was all a bit unsettled.   

Palm Trees against the Clouds:
The Cloudy Sky

Yesterday was the day.  I woke up early and realized I did not hear rain.  I drank my coffee hurriedly and put my shoes on, hoping to squeeze a quick walk around the neighborhood with Jesus before the storm arrived.  As I walked, the sun came out! 

It was as if Jesus said to me “Hey, we have a date today. Aren’t we meeting at the beach?”  I went home and woke everybody up with the good news that our schedule was back on track.  I dropped the family off at their planned activity and went where I had asked Jesus to meet me.   

The tears started flowing as soon as my toes hit the sand.  I felt so personally romanced by my Lord.  He had held back the storm and told the sun to shine on our special day. 

He showed up and was waiting there for me, not with flowers or chocolates, but with delights, created by Him, for all my senses. He provided the smell of sea air, the gentle grind of sand between my toes, the sound of crashing waves, the taste of salt spray, and my favorite view of all time.  

At one especially difficult point in my life, I had lived near that beach. Back then, Jesus and I met there almost daily.  That was where He taught me how to let go of the things that I esteemed in addition to Him.  It was also where He consistently took the broken fragments of me and masterfully molded them into something new.  

Beautiful Beach: Its My Birthday! May I Serve You a Piece of One of My Favorite Memories?
My Date with Jesus

On that sand is where Jesus has taken what I’ve learned about Him in church and ministry and everywhere else and made it personal.  He has altered me copiously on that stretch of beach.  And yesterday was no different. 

We walked and talked; I marveled and adored Him and thanked Him profusely again and again.  And then it got real. 

The focus shifted to the issues of my heart and my confessions poured out. Shortcomings are more difficult to discuss in person, and He was right there.  My tears turned from amazement and joy to sorrow and grief.  

Sea Glass on a woven mat:
Sea Glass Treasure

And yet, Jesus, being the perfect example of confrontation in love, never stopped the perpetual crashing of cool waves over my toes or the consistent exposure of sea glass which I treasure and save.  It was through this interest in sea glass that He would create the most poignant lesson of the day. 

I noticed a rather large piece of blue sparkling in shallow water.  As the sea ebbed and flowed, it covered and uncovered the fragment. I quickly grabbed it at an opportune moment and discovered it to be much more like a broken bottle than a piece of smooth sea glass. 

Blue glass in the ocean: Its My Birthday! May I Serve You a Piece of One of My Favorite Memories?
Photo by natsuki on Unsplash

I promptly threw it back in the water and said “It needs more time with You, Lord.” 

Immediately I heard “As do you.  You are still ‘slick’ and your edges are still sharp. You need more time with me.  And just like that piece of glass, you must submit fully to the churning and pounding.  If I allow you to be tossed against the rocks, it is out of necessity for your transformation.” 

As I heard this, I pictured the hot and dry place where I live and thought, “Oh, that lucky piece of glass, it gets to undergo this daunting process in this most beautiful spot, in these refreshing waves.”  And almost simultaneously I realized that I am privileged to experience this refinement in the sea of Jesus’ love – in the refreshment that covers my soul and never runs dry. He will be with me through every tumble I endure.

Shoreline: Its My Birthday! May I Serve You a Piece of One of My Favorite Memories?
Beautiful Waves

I will remember that blue chip of glass.  As it is carried and bumped and scraped and broken, I will also be.  And I will be grateful.  Because just as one day someone will marvel at the exceptionality of that colored treasure on the beach, I will also be a more brilliant display of the wonder of my God. 

I will be better able to exhibit the majesty and glory of the One who is molding and making me.  When I am finally called to Heaven, I want to stand before Him as resplendent as a piece of sea glass, beautifully bearing the marks of complete surrender to His artistry. 

I had a date with Jesus.  He made it exceptional.  I will never forget it and never be the same.


It’s my birthday! I’d love for you to celebrate with me by going on your own date with Jesus. Don’t forget to write about it! Thank you for stopping by the Back Porch and allowing me to serve you a piece of one of my favorite memories today. I deeply appreciate each of you!