Day 14: Top-Secret Secrets To Making The World’s Best Chex Party Mix

The holidays roll around and so do the requests for my World Famous Chex Party Mix. Even though I realize it is World Famous only because I am willing to make it, I’ve decided to divulge–right here on The Daily Grace–my biggest Traditional Chex Party Mix making secrets.

Here goes, and this first one is a big one:




Except for this.



Plus cheerios. (I do this because my mother did.*)


And except for this:

A little less Wheat Chex, because that box doesn’t go as far. And also because people really don’t like the Wheat Chex in there all that much. (Except for Alex, who swears they’re his favorite.)

And except for this:

ADD A LITTLE BIT MORE BUTTER THAN IT CALLS FOR. I’d say 15% or so, because how can more butter be bad?

And this:

I don’t typically use pita chips because those suckers are expensive. I do use good mixed nuts but mess around with the amount depending on if I found them on sale. (Keep an eye out for December discounts on all the ingredients–this can be a big help when you need some volume.)

Also, and this is key:


Make it the way God intended, baked in the oven, low and slow at 250 degrees. Stir every 15 minutes or whenever you remember to, for an hour or maybe an hour +10 minutes.


going in


DO NOT LET IT BURN. DO let it almost start to brown, thus the +/- 10 minutes.


  1. When you get to the bottom of the cereal bag, do not use the crumbly dregs. They soak up the yummy butter and seasonings and throw off the whole ratio.
  2. Make way more than you think you need. I plan in batches of boxes. By that I mean–one box each of wheat, rice, and corn chex, and part of a box of cheerios (plus the other stuff) will make four batches. You’ll want at least that much to not have to worry about the 10,000 sneaked bites that start the moment the Chex Mix aroma hits your home’s airwaves. Plus you’ll want plenty to share with friends, as hostess gifts, at the office.
  3. And for Christmas morning. We always, always have Party Mix to snack on when we open presents Christmas morning. (Now that I write it down that seems a little strange. Nevertheless.)

It’s what Mom did!


*Similarly, please note I am 100% sure bows go at the top of a wreath. I know this because years ago, my mother corrected me on my bow-at-the-bottom hanging methodology. I asked (rather impertinently) how she knew a bow should go at the top. With no hesitation she responded:

“Because Mother said so.”

Oh yes, I do believe!

3 cups of Corn Chex
3 cups of Rice Chex
2-2.5 cups Wheat Chex
1 cup (ish) of pretzel thins, broken in half, or maybe a half cup, however much you want
1 cup (more or less) of mixed nuts
1 cup bite size bagel chips, broken into bite-size pieces (i usually omit this, although they’re a nice addition)

6 tablespoons butter, plus 1 more for good measure
2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips in a big ol’ bowl.
Melt butter, then mix in worchestershire sauce and seasonings.
Toss with cereal mixture. DO THIS GENTLY BUT INSISTENTLY.

Spread on a big roasting pan (I use the one that came with my oven. I like those tall sides.) and bake for 1 hour stirring every 15 or 20 minutes. Then I usually go another 10 minutes or so to be sure it is just getting golden brown. But you have to watch it–you do not want it to burn.

Cool, share and enjoy. And when people say, “This is the best Party Mix ever!”, just give them a big, knowing smile. It is the recipe on the box, after all, with a few secret adjustments.



30 Days of Joy

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Day 13: Bringing Christmas

It is one of the great joys of my life to sing in the choir at Providence Presbyterian Church. But this year, due to an out of town wedding, I won’t be here for our annual Christmas music program.

Tonight I went to rehearsal anyway. But instead of sitting in the choir loft with music and pencil in hand, I moved to the back of the church where I sat and listened.


my beloved choir


What joy it brought to get to experience the gift of the Advent promise from there.

Here’s a tiny little snip snip for you. (Please pardon the recording quality since at the last minute I decided to grab it as a voice memo on my phone!)



30 Days of Joy

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Day 3: Putting Up The Dern Tree

It goes like this at our house.

  1. Annual conversation about how tall tree should be even though we have been in the house 10 years and have put said tree in same spot with same ceiling height Every. Single. Year.
  2. Eliza and Tim head out the door with rope and straps and all manner of things required to attach a big Fraser Fir to the top of a big SUV.
  3. Dynamic duo returns home flushed and joy-filled with a big Fraser Fir properly attached to the top of the big SUV.
  4. They unbind it.
  5. (I hear grunting. And laughing.)
  6. In a flurry tree is unloaded and hauled into the living room.
  7. I am called in to oversee proper tree placement and straightening.
  8. (It is clear these two jokers think they can achieve perfection on their own but have come to the conclusion–misguided as it may be–that I represent an impossible standard and it is better for everyone if I am simply humored.)
  9. They string the lights.
  10. I leave them to it as they string the lights.
  11. I go to the kitchen and leave them to it as they string the lights. All the while I visualize the web of wires that will crisscross that tree horizontally and vertically and diagonally and horizontally again by the time this exercise is complete.
  12. They come to the kitchen, delighted. We return to the living room, together. I praise, praise, praise their glorious work.
  13. (I wonder how we will ever manage to place a single ornament lest we hang it from the green light wires.)
  14. They smile at each other, then exit the room.
  15. Where are you going? I ask.
  16. Our part’s done, they say.
  17. No! I say. Decorating is the best part! Come back! 
  18. They ignore me.
  19. Please? I say.
  20. (Silence.)
  21. I’ll make White Russians.
  22. They return but refuse to even lift the lid of ORNAMENT BOX #1 OF 4 until they are each, in fact, holding a White Russian.
  23. Ornament hanging commences.
  24. Dogs Barking Jingle Bells plays in the background.
  25. I itch with every ornament hung.
  26. (Everyone knows the big, shiny balls go in the big, empty spaces and delicate angels go higher on the tree. Plus those precious birds and the yarn basket and the pretty gourds and the sand-in-the-clear ball Suzann made in 1997 go right in front, where I see them from my desk.)
  27. These people.
  28. Twenty minutes in Eliza pronounces That’s enough ornaments. Don’t you think, Mama?
  29. Tim shakes his head agreeably.
  30. I open my mouth to scream IT’S A WONDROUS TIME OF YEAR then spot a Little Drummer Boy who is, in fact, hanging from the lights.
  31. Yes, I say. Yes. You guys go on and I’ll just clean up a bit.
  32. They head for the kitchen and the big oven tray of Party Mix.
  33. I reach for the lid.
  34. ORNAMENT BOX #2 OF 4, here I come.


30 Days of Joy

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Day 2: Real.

We were on the road and in need of a quick, late lunch, landing me smack at the front door of the Weaverville Ingles. Hanging right there so festive were long lovely winds of fresh greenery, twists of white pine and fragrant cedar in coils 10 feet long.

I kept walking–my mission grab-and-go from the deli–but I also kept thinking about that garland. It has been my practice to drape the mantel in our keeping room with a pre-lit catalog version I’ve had for many years. There are a thousand reasons: it’s well designed with perfectly placed little bundles of fruit; it is clean and manageable and just the right length; it will not dry out, drop needles, make a mess.

Still something about this possibility took hold of my heart.

Real, live greenery for the mantel.

I grabbed two.



How pretty it looks. How pleased I am!


30 Days of Joy

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Day 1: Gathering

And so it was his birthday, my sweet husband’s, the big 6-0. And his greatest wish was to spend it at our mountain retreat, 5,000 feet of altitude and 200 miles from our regular, beautiful lives.

But we’ll be all alone, I reminded him, something that suits the introvert in me just fine but that might not be what his big extroverted heart actually desired.

And before you knew it our dear Richmond friends agreed to come for the birthday and the holiday, and our precious mountain neighbors said yes to an invitation for turkey dinner, and Eliza and her sweet beau agreed to make the long drive from Atlanta, and Tim’s brother, John–one of the Island Monettis–made plans to fly from Florida to Asheville creating the greatest, most joyful birthday surprise of all.

It has been one beautiful week, that’s my point, one of those times in which you can hardly hold it all, the gorgeous moments coming so fast and furious.


Proof John can, in fact, find sunshine anywhere


our giddy Thanksgiving crew: Doug, Jim, Tim, Preston, Jessie, Vickie, me, Eliza


And then we had this sunrise, one I want you to see and feel and experience with me, one that took my breath away.



AND SO DAY ONE is a big one, bursting at the seams–a cumulative, week-long celebration of the best things in life: love, and family, and friends, and food; of God’s great reminder, new every day, that every moment offers the chance for great, surprising joy.

30 Days of Joy

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30 Days of Joy v. 3

In years past I’ve chronicled bits of my holiday season here on The Daily Grace, with two things in mind.

One: To experience this holy season with greater intention.

Two: To bring the joy and light of its sweetest moments into sharper focus.

My heart is pulling me in that direction this year, and it is my hope you will join me as we travel these last days of 2017 together. Here we go, 30 Days of Joy, III!




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Day 30: Joy Shared

There’s been joy every day, that is for sure, joy every single day since I started this latest 30 Days project here on The Daily Grace. We were running full speed toward Christmas at the time and I knew there was goodness ahead. It would be a season filled with grand moments, gorgeous ones worth celebrating. But there surely would be sweet, quiet moments as well, and I felt myself at great risk of running right through them in the rush to get to those more sparkly ones.

No, I thought. I want to notice them all. I want to take note of them all.

And so I started to write about them on The Daily Grace. And now we reach Day 30 and one of the best Joy lessons of them all. It is this:

Sometimes the very best joy is sharing someone else’s.

Right? Do you agree? Did you already know?


I woke up this morning to an email that made my heart rejoice with so much happy I giggled. I giggled! It was from my dearest of friends, Julie Turner, a bright light in this world who spreads joy like a farmer spreads fertilizer.

Um. Yeeeeeeaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhuh

is what the email said. That’s so Julie, is what I thought. And then I saw what she was referring to. It seems her hero–okay, her ultimate hero if you wanna know the truth of it–had just retweeted her.


Lyle tweet


Wow oh wow, I thought. And then I clicked on the photo link in the tweet.




That’s so Julie is what I thought again. She recently painted the risers of her stairway with chalkboard paint, and she and her husband and two boys always have something fabulous written there.


when their new puppy, Jerry, came to live with them
Thanksgiving, of course

Aren’t these chalkboard stairs the best idea?

Isn’t it swell that Lyle responded to her tweet?

Isn’t the lesson so true????

Sometimes the very best joy is sharing someone else’s.

Yes. Yes. Yes!


30 Days of Joy

*Want a little Julie joy in your life? Follow her on twitter and instagram @juliesturner


Day 1: Keeping Watch

Day 2: When Morning Comes

Day 3: Eight Minutes

Day 4: Hello House Finch

Day 5: For Love of the Cranberry

Day 6: When Joy is Bittersweet

Day 7: Remembrance

Day 8: Now Christmas Can Begin!

Day 9: Home for the Holidays

Day 10: Keeping Watch

Day 11: Making Time

Day 12: The Annual Corporate Christmas Party

Day 13: A Room at The Inn

Day 14: Waiting

Day 15: #IAmNedd

Day 18: Road Trip!

Day 19: Secret Gardens

Day 20: Walks, Dogs and Spanish Moss

Day 21: The Very Last Day

Day 22: Beginnings

Day 23: Playing Favorites (or 6 things I learned during Christmas Break)

Day 24: in january

Day 25:  A Bit of Chit Chat

Day 26: On Dreams. And Courage.

Day 27: Sail Away

Day 28: Taking Note

Day 29: Take A Hike






Day 29: Take A Hike

It was a pretty Sunday, the Spring kind of pretty you deeply appreciate when the calendar insists it is the middle of January. Church was over and as we’d planned, Tim and I made a mad dash for the parking lot and jumped into his car. He started the engine, then reached across to the back seat and handed me the clothes I’d piled back there earlier that morning.

Here? In the car? I asked. I’m meant to change right here in the car?

He looked at me and shrugged, smiling a little. It’s what athletes do, he said.

(I’m not sure I’m meant for this, is what I thought.)


It all started a few days earlier when, in passing, with hardly a thought, I said something innocent like: I think maybe I could be a hiker, if I knew for sure I’d not encounter a wild animal–you know, a bear or a deadly snake. Well, my husband heard me, and the next thing I know we’re standing in our hiking boots in Harbison State Forest staring down ten wooded trails. My husband is an athlete, you see, the kind who plans life around whatever his training spreadsheet tells him to do. He’s finished dozens of marathons, two iron man competitions and one (I still can’t believe it and I was there) 50-mile ultra marathon–an impressive guy with the self discipline (and commitment to health) it takes to do that kind of thing.

I, on the other hand, am not that person.

Still it was a glorious day, and I’m so happy I made it the four miles we trekked to get to see sight after sight like this.

Harbison Forest
Firebreak Trail, Harbison Forest 1.18.15




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Day 28: Taking Note

It’s a lovely thing, I think, to acknowledge an answered prayer. The world cracks open and a little light comes in, right into your heart. Your burdens are lighter. Your disposition is sunnier. Your possibilities are broader, if only for one tiny, precious moment. And then Life resumes with its endless demands, of course, and you move on to the next set of worries and complications.

But here’s what I’ve come to believe. Prayers are answered with much greater frequency than we realize. A thousand times a day we lob little thoughts out there to the great blue yonder. Lo and behold, the universe hears and rearranges to accommodate the requests. We just fail to notice, fallible humans that we are, because the interruption the rearrangement causes in life–most often the changing of what we had planned–hits us as a big ol’ hassle.

(AARRGGGHH!! OUR FLIGHT IS DELAYED THREE HOURS! following a quiet Wish we had time for a beer in the airport. I really loved that Chicago IPA.)

I first offered this thesis here on The Daily Grace last summer, when we returned from Spain. I vowed then to take the time to look at the unexpected twists and turns in my life, to look all the way through those situations to see not just what they didn’t allow–but what they did. This “looking through,” I believed, would lead me back to something my heart had desired, to some little I wish I had tossed out along the way.

I expected it would be a fascinating and revealing study, yes.

And then I promptly forgot all about it.


Earlier this month, the wonderful blogger Hannah Brencher posted this on Instagram.


What a great idea, I thought in that moment. I should make a folder like this! I could fill it with all those “I got yo back, baby cakes” moments, all the showered blessings, ALL THOSE ANSWERED PRAYERS.

(But I really want the folder to be cool, like Hannah’s, I thought. I’ll have to set aside some time to figure out how to make one.) Yeah, right.


A few weeks later, I was criss-crossing the county in search of the perfect notebook for my upcoming writing workshop in Key West. I had a thousand things on my mind, and none of them involved a study of answered prayers (unless you include this very serious endeavor of finding The Notebook, a quest I took very seriously, a search that took me store to store to store).

Guess what I came upon, misplaced among the journals and notebooks at Target?


well, well, well


My very first entry:

Wanted a really cool folder like Hannah’s in which I could keep details & promises & big acts of faithfulness from God, 2015.

Found it, misplaced in Target.




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