These brownie blossoms are a quick and easy treat to take for a holiday party or to give as a sweet gift.
Here's what you need: A box of brownie mix of your choice, a bag of Reese's miniature peanut butter cups, and some mini cupcake papers.
Mix up the brownies according to the directions on the box.
Fill up the mini muffin tins a little less than halfway with brownie batter.
Find some trustworthy helpers who won't eat their labor, and have them unwrap the peanut butter cups.
Place the mini peanut butter cups right on top of the batter - no need to push it in. Bake at 350 and check at 10 minutes. If they aren't quite done, add two more minutes. Take out of the oven and let cool. They will firm up as they cool.
Enjoy your brownie blossoms!
Christmas is such a fun time to display your family's favorite traditions -- but I know from experience that trying to do it "all" can make for a less than joyful season! That is not what I want for you. I want your Christmas to be memorable. If you are stressed and demanding perfection it can be memorable as well, but maybe not for the reason you want it to be. Relax and enjoy your people this year.
I asked my kids what their favorite Christmas traditions were. This is what they gave me.
1. New pajamas on Christmas Eve.
I think this is a pretty common one. I know lots of families do this, but it was on my kids' list as one of their favorites. We started this as soon as we began having children and it's always been a nice way to settle a little excitement among children eager to open presents. It is also an excellent photo op!
2. Dried bean in the cupcake on Christmas Eve to decide who opens the gift.
This tradition was born from necessity. With six children opening presents on Christmas morning I needed a fun way to control the chaos just a little. For Christmas Eve we always end our meal with "Happy Birthday Jesus cupcakes". In one cupcake I have secretly and cleverly concealed a large dried bean. The children carefully eat their cupcake and whoever gets the bean is the first person to open a present the next morning. They also get to choose which order the rest of the presents get opened in, youngest to oldest or oldest to youngest. It's a lot of fun and something they look forward to each year.
3. Jammie Drill & looking at Christmas lights
This quickly became one of our family's absolute favorite traditions! It is no longer limited to just Christmas time. We started this when our kids were pretty young. We would do the whole nighttime routine; brushing teeth, getting into their pajamas, goodnight kisses and bedtime prayers. After everyone had been tucked into bed for a few minutes, my husband and I grabbed some pan lids and wooden spoons and began pounding them yelling, "Jammie drill!! Everyone up for a jammie drill! Quick, get into the van!" I'd already placed shoes and blankets in the van, and once everyone was loaded up, we were off to the icecream shop where they could get ice cream or hot chocolate. Then we would put some Christmas music on and drive around looking at lights. The kids are older now and bedtimes are later and more staggered. We can still surprise the two littlest boys but everyone else pretty much knows what's up. But, we still wait till at least everyone is in their pajamas! I think it's the spontaneity that is so much fun with the jammie drills.
4. The four gift challenge
This technically can't be counted as a tradition because it's the first year we've done this, but if I could go back in time, I would have done this one a long time ago! With six kids to buy presents for, gift giving can get a little bit out of hand. My husband is a gift giver and he loves to bless the kids at Christmas. Sometimes though, we were just buying for the sake of buying, to keep things even, not really putting much thought into the gifts. This year we decided to do something we'd heard about a long time ago, the four gift challenge. We sat the kids down at Thanksgiving and explained it to them and they were all on board. This year the kids will get 4 gifts from us (5 including the Christmas Eve jammies): something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. It has greatly streamlined and simplified our gift giving this year. I love it! I feel like we've done a much better job of being good stewards with our resources as well as buying things that each child truly appreciates instead of getting stuck in the trap of feeling like we have to buy one more thing to keep things even. Between the kids, they draw names from a hat on our annual Thanksgiving camping trip to buy a gift for one of their siblings.
As Christmas is rapidly approaching, I pray that your Christmas is memorable and peaceful. Surrender your expectations of perfection. Enjoy your real-life, messy, loud, blessed Christmas. When Mary gave birth to her baby in a smelly, noisy barn surrounded by shepherds and animals she laid down her expectations of a perfect birth and embraced absolute perfection to her breast. Our perfect Savior. Our perfect Hope.
Awkard Wednesday on a Thursday
Today I'm sharing a video I did with two of my good friends. I encourage you to surround yourself with some good, godly friends who will sharpen you, and hold your feet to the fire when you need it, and at other times will make you laugh so hard you need to wear Depends when having coffee with them. Ahem, not that I know that first hand or anything. These are two of those friends for me. When we get together, we often talk about the most ridiculous nonsense ever! Sometimes we talk about real stuff, too, like what we wish our younger selves would have known about friendship, being a wife and mother and just life in general. We decided to share what we would tell those young whipersnappers about the Christmas season if we could travel back to visit those younger versions of ourselves. Pour yourself some coffee and visit with us for a few minutes.
My journey into the world of essential oils is just beginning. I have dabbled in the past, but recently I made the decision to jump in all the way. Now I'm up to my elbows in oils.
I just received my Young Living Premium Starter Kit in the mail last week and I couldn't be happier. I got all the oils pictured above - except for the Christmas Spirit, I added that to my order because the description sounded wonderful. I've been diffusing it every day and it smells so Christmasy! My kit also included an oil diffuser and several other goodies.
My ten year old said to me yesterday, "Mom, those families who don't use oils don't realize how many opportunities they have to use them! They're missing out." He couldn't be more right. So far we've used our oils in a coconut-oil base to rub on sore achy muscles, applied to bruised, painful knees, rubbed into temples to relieve headaches, diffused in the cat litter box area to keep it from smelling, rubbed onto little chests to relieve barking coughs, used as part of a skin care routine, added to laundry to freshen and disinfect laundry and even made into a bathroom spray to keep those particular odors down! We have used them several times a day, every day.
My journey is just beginning, but I'm looking forward to many more oily days as I learn about how beneficial adding these essential oils into our everyday lives is. If you have any questions about oils feel free to ask! I probably won't know the answer yet, but I've got some great gals in my life who probably will and who absolutely love to help others out on this journey of health!
Growing up, my home was magical at Christmas time. My mom had a real gift for hospitality and decorating, and my dad absolutely loved everything about Christmas. We always had two Christmas trees, a tall one in our living room arrayed in Victorian splendor and soft white lights, and one in my dad's study decked out in colorful lights and old-fashioned toys. One year my dad kept his toy tree up all year and lit it every single night! He loved the sights, smells and sounds of Christmas. My dad passed away ten years ago, but I can still close my eyes and hear him crooning along to Christmas songs played on the record player. They did Christmas well, and the true celebration of the birth of Christ shone through in all the family traditions that I loved so much.
One of my favorite traditions we celebrated was advent. We didn't belong to a denomination that focused on the church calendar particularly, so we did advent our own way -- using it as a time to focus our hearts on Christ and prepare us for the busy holiday season. We never had a specific scripture study that went with each candle, we just lit a new candle each Sunday leading up to the final candle, the Christ candle, when we would light it and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. I loved the simplicity of it. Our advent wreath was always one of the first decorations that was lugged down from the attic and placed in a prominent position on the dining room table. I'm not sure where my parents got our advent wreath, but it was beautiful. It was a rich wooden wreath with a place for four taper candles and a fifth candle standing a little taller in the center. Mom usually draped an evergreen garland around the middle candle. It was simple and elegant.
I wish I could say that I carried on those beautiful Christmas memories into my own home when I got married and we began having children, but for some reason I didn't. Our first couple of Christmases I tried. I really tried. But somewhere along the way I found myself frustrated with the whole Christmas gig in general. I was so busy trying to make it perfect and make sure I was establishing traditions that I forgot the simple joy. I forgot that the simplicity of pointing my children to Christ was the best tradition I could ever give them. My husband and I discussed some of my frustrations and we decided to purposely reclaim the celebration of Christ. It completely turned Christmas around for me. It added a layer of worship to our holidays that I had been missing.
Over the next three weeks I plan on highlighting some of our favorite traditions. We have some that are really fun and I can't wait to share them with you. This week is our advent wreath. Unfortunately, in one of our moves, the beautiful wooden advent wreath from my childhood, that my parents had lovingly gifted to us as our family began to grow, got broken beyond repair. I've never been able to find one that looks similar to it, so I just got some simple supplies and made our own. When I say simple, I mean very simple!! From Wal-Mart I bought an inexpensive evergreen wreath, four white pillar candles, and one red taller pillar candle. See?! I told you it was simple! I put the wreath flat on the table and on the inside of the wreath arranged the four white candles with the taller red candle standing in the middle of the white ones. Every morning over the breakfast table we light the week's candle and read a few verses. I've been using a guide from shereadstruth.com that I've really been blessed by . It's designed as a woman's Bible study, but I've enjoyed the particular scriptures they've used and the insights from the authors. At night around the dinner table we relight the candle and discuss the theme and verses of the day. It's simple and that's why I love it! The visual of the candles, flames dancing to the Word of God; the activity of lighting them, each child excited about his or her turn to light it; the sweet, airy aroma of vanilla wafting off the lit candle and the smell that comes from blowing it out, knowing with anticipation and excitement that in just a little bit that candle will be lit again.
As these next few weeks leading up to Christmas begin to rush by us, day after day, take a moment, take two maybe, and pause to reflect on this truth -- Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15). Let that truth wash over you today. Whether you use an advent wreath or not, whether you struggle with the busy holiday times or relish in them, whether you have a dozen Christmas traditions or you're striving to carve out something to be meaningful for your family, remember that Jesus came to save sinners. He came to save us.
This is the truth of advent. The hope of Christmas. The story of grace.
My Adoption: Grace Lived Out
Every story has a beginning. This is mine. This is my story. It is not necessarily the story I would have chosen, but it is the story God has given me...
My story begins sometime in the fall of 1975. I'm not exactly sure where, but probably somewhere in Central Florida. Somewhere a young woman made the discovery that she had been suspecting for sometime now. She was pregnant. Her tears flowed heavy and free, but they were not tears of joy. She was scared and angry and alone. "What now?" She asked her reflection as she gazed at her face in the mirror and put her hand over her belly where she visualized the "problem". She took a deep breath and considered her choices. She knew what needed to be done, and she was so glad that now it was legal.
Meanwhile, in the quaint old town of Winter Park, Florida there lived a couple, Glenn and Nancy Walsh, who had been married for ten years. Nancy had a mother's heart, but no child to hold. They finally reached the decision to adopt. They did not know what the future held, but they had a strong faith and knew that the Lord would provide the best for them. Glenn was actually very good friends with Nancy's doctor, Dr. Ron Wilson. The two men were in the area's Christian Business Men Association and often would get together to discuss God's word and to pray with one another. During one of these fellowship times, Glenn opened up with Dr. Wilson about his and Nancy's desire for a child and get his feelings on adoption. Dr. Wilson told Glenn that he sometimes had women come into his office with a desire to place their baby in adoption. He explained that he even had a waiting list of couples that wanted to adopt. He told Glenn that he would put them on the list if that was what they wanted. Glenn was so excited to tell Nancy that they were now on a "list"!
Around that time, the pregnant woman from the beginning of our story found her way to Dr. Wilson's office. She looked Dr. Wilson in the eye and told him in no uncertain terms, she was not prepared to be a mother... the time wasn't right, her life wasn't in order. She had a thousand reasons why this just wouldn't work. "I need to end this pregnancy, you see. I just need an abortion." Dr. Wilson returned her gaze, smiled with kind eyes and compassionately, yet firmly told her he did not perfrom abortions. He made no apologies, but explained his belief that human life begins at conception. He told her of a Creator that made us in His image. He told her of our sin that seperates us from God, our creator. He went on to explain that a way was made to be forgiven of our sins. He told her of Jesus and His sacrifice and of redemption and love. Finally, he asked her if she would like to ask Jesus to be her savior? She had listened in awe. She knew she wanted what he was offering. She bowed her head and asked Jesus Christ to be her Lord and Savior. Two changed lives left that office that day. She still didn't know what to do, but over the next few weeks she had the most peace when she thought of placing this tiny baby growing inside her into a forever home through adoption. She told Dr. Wilson that she wanted her baby to go to a home where he or she would be taught to love the Lord and where he or she would know the love of two parents. Dr. Wilson smiled and said, "I know just the family."
Glenn and Nancy were not the next on the waiting list, but they were the next who adequately filled the requirements set down by the mother. So, Dr. Wilson called up Glenn and told him that he had a baby for them. That night Glenn took Nancy to Taco Tico, a local mexican joint that they both enjoyed. As they were eating their food Glenn took Nancy's hand and said softly, "Honey, we're going to have a baby!" Now, Nancy's tears flowed heavy and free, and they were tears of joy.
On May 17, 1976 the baby was born. A little girl. Glenn and Nancy got the news and couldn't wait to hold their new baby. They had to wait, though. Their attorney had to pick up their baby and deliver her to them at his office three days later. I don't know if the baby's mother held her. This part always makes me cry. As a mother who has held six babies on earth, and another six babies in heaven, I know that feeling of holding your newborn baby, looking her over, counting fingers and toes, running your lips over her fuzzy head, kissing her forehead so gently. I don't know if this precious mother did this or if she left this for another. But, I know she loved her baby. I know that because she let me live.
I'm so thankful for the impact of one man who wasn't afraid to speak the truth in love. I'm thankful for a woman who pressed forward even though I'm sure it was really hard. I'm thankful for parents who raised me in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This is not a political issue to me. Quite simply I believe it is a matter of life and death. I know you might not be on the same side of the fence as I am on this issue, but I am asking everyone who reads this if you would do something in honor of one of the lives that was changed because the best choice was chosen instead of the easiest. Please give a small donation to a local pregancy crisis center, just a ten dollar donation, or a package of diapers, or formula, maybe your old maternity clothes. Or, maybe you could just offer a kind word to a young woman who comes into your path that finds herself in an unplanned pregnancy. Please do this in honor of my six children, or Dr. Wilson, or my parents, Glenn and Nancy Walsh, or the young woman who allowed me to grow in her womb and shared me with the couple that allowed me to grow in their hearts.
Hey there! I'm Pam and I'm sure glad you're here.