fall asleep counting my blessings

You know the scene I’m talking about, right? The scene from White Christmas where Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney meet in the middle of night because both can’t seem to sleep… and so the famous duet, “Counting My Blessings” emerged.

Today, I’m open-eyed, sleep-counting. The thing is, there are almost too many blessings to get sleep. I wonder what advice Bing Crosby would have for that…

I invented a recipe today and made a royal mess of the kitchen. I didn’t set out to be so creative, but I got there real quick after I got cavalier with the size of my baking pans. I was pretty hopeful when I poured the harvest brownie batter into three pans of different sizes and pretty disappointed when the baking soda/powder didn’t expand my desserts like I hoped.

So harvest brownies became chocolate cream cheese fudge layered brownie dessert. Yes, it became that. I mixed up a cream cheese frosting that failed, which led to the cream cheese, chocolate fudge number that succeeded (I think) and became the finger-licking middle to the two unfortunately thin layers of harvest brownie.

All this while the roast cooks in the crock pot and the bean salad waits to be made on the counter, because tomorrow is Food at First downtown and I’ve got friends to meet up with still tonight.

Blessings.

Full days and short sleeps can keep a person counting without ever falling asleep. It’s a place I could easily navigate as a 20-year-old and one I don’t want to admit is getting harder.

Prayer walking with high-schoolers in the afternoon, teaching college students this morning, baking with cinnamon and pumpkin: blessings. Football games, acoustic guitar sessions in the basement, sitting in the balcony to worship with new community, hearing the Word of God preached with power: blessings. Laughing in the fellowship hall after church, breathing in the breeze on an autumn walk, riding mo-peds under the star-speckled sky, clustering around a tailgate for celebration, stretching the late night hours until they break: blessings.

I am not falling asleep, but I will keep counting.

Counting my blessings.

brown sugar vanilla cappuccino

I know what you’re thinking: this is either me taunting you about a delicious drink I bought for $5.00 OR me taunting you about a delicious drink I found on Pinterest that you would never make.

Surprise! It’s neither.

This delightful little number will make your morning, noon, and/or night taste like comfort. And, just so you know, the directions are about as simple as they come (which is good, because I spend a lot of time trying to make things in my life complicated).

Here’s what you do:

1) Throw some of your best brew in your coffeemaker (nothing fancy, but make it on the strong side)
2) While your java’s brewing, fill your mug halfway with skim milk
3) Add a capful of vanilla to the milk and a few lumps of brown sugar
4) Heat the milk in the microwave for 30-45 seconds
5) Place a wire whisk in your warmed milk and slide your hands back and forth to create a good, stiff foam
6) Pour your hot java into the foamed concoction
7) Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top to make it look like someone else made it

ENJOY!

This is how my morning started today – with a coffee that looked like it was ordered off a hip, chalkboard menu. If that doesn’t put a person in a good mood, I don’t know what would.

*My cousin Vince told me yesterday that my post was, “weird.” I guess I’m trying to take a little break from the long-winded posts as of late. I’m sure my grandparents will thank me. 

upside down at the ankles

When I was little, I was thrown around like a toy amongst the brothers and men in my family. I don’t mean that in a bad way (because my mom would say I “asked for it” almost every time and I probably did). But let’s just say it wasn’t strange to walk into our living room to see me hanging upside down with my brothers’ hands at my ankles. Now, I could incite trouble like any good tomboy could, but I wasn’t one to give up once I got in the middle of it. So, even in that helpless upside-down-at-the-ankles state, I would be jerking and swinging and doing any kind of acrobatics to get free. And it was always when the boys got tired of the game that it was over – not when I accomplished something with all my thrashing. They would let me go (probably by the surprise release method) and then I’d catch my breath long enough to go at them again, sure that this time I could somehow swing an underdog victory.

(Sigh). Right now feels a lot like upside-down-at-the-ankles. I realize I haven’t written since those last days in Honduras and I can’t quite decide if it’s shock or pain or laziness or a dreadful combination of all three. I had all sorts of ideas about what life would look like back here in the States. I still have that tomboy-ish mischief in me that looks at trials and says, “Ha! You can’t get me!” and then scampers off knowing full well that trial is a-comin’ at full speed to pick me up by my ankles and shake all my independence out (oh, and every little bit of loose change). And that, folks, is exactly what happened.

I stepped off the plane in Omaha after one of the most emotional departures of my life in Tegucigalpa to blaze a trail that only made sense in my mind. It looked like this:

I was applying for jobs in those places, but I was also picking up the pieces of my stateside self – trying to figure out what it would mean to live in this skin – and I ended up back on the good ole family homestead thrashing and resisting the attack I provoked on my pride and independence. I am not one bit regretful of my galavanting, though. I’m kind of a face-to-face girl and I needed the time walking on beaches and sitting on couches and chasing kids around houses to remind myself that God has called me to let love fly just as crazy here.

But, when the dust settled from the adventures and I started getting used to painfully pleasant rejection letters and emails, I started to feel the weight of “missing” the ministries and people and crowded streets and fried corn tortillas. It was sure heavy.

God is so gracious to give me community in this time. I was ready to pack my bags and move almost the minute I got back, but He hasn’t let me. No, I think I needed to get some thrashing out, upside down, before I could move on and He was gracious enough to let me do that in the midst of canning salsa and playing nertz and hiking timbers and harvesting soybeans. I am so very thankful.

Last night, when I was babysitting some imaginative munchkins, I scooped up Dari and flipped her upside down and said, “I’m going to shake all your sillies out!” I shook and shook while she giggled until I said, “Well, I think I got ’em all!” to which she promptly responded by scooping all her sillies from the air and then touching my knees, saying, “Now all the sillies are in your knees!”

Oh, what beautiful perspective innocence brings! My knees have never had such a party!! It reminds me of Ecclesiastes 5 and verse 20 more specifically. Solomon is going on and on about what is/isn’t important and what we can/cannot hold onto in this life. Then he arrives at this verse that has nestled its way into my favorites,

For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

I want so much to forget my days, for the joy in my heart! How wonderful a thing – to be SO AMAZINGLY FULL of joy that there is no room for anything else.

So, I guess I’m back at this blog thing again. There is too much inspiration in this season to find excuses not to express it! The changing leaves, the baking spices, the conversations, and the endless times I find myself in the upside-down-by-the-ankles state … they all want written about and I think I’ll finally give in.

maybe you’ll help me remember how to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

5 ways to keep stress out of the kitchen

A ball of chocolate chip cookie dough ready fo...
a dough-y ball of sweet goodness!
There are a lot of possible stressors in the kitchen, but I strongly feel that the kitchen is a place where stress should be relieved not added. If I let baking stress me out, I would certainly be in quite a predicament at the moment (launched a bit of a baking business in order to raise money for an upcoming mission trip). So, here are some personal tips if you are finding yourself conditioned to dread the combination of cookie dough and cookie sheet.

  1. exact measurements
    Yes, I do have and use measuring cups… occasionally and as strong suggestions. I believe strongly in the power of estimation and (to be honest) I enjoy the uncertainty and risk involved in “eye-balling it,” as my mother used to say.
  2. noise
    I hope this is an indicator of a future of full kitchens: I like to bake while talking, singing, and laughing. I’ve also been known to have the occasional intellectual discussion over a healthy lump of cookie dough and I highly suggest it. No philosophical argument will come to fists when you’ve got something as sweet as cookies in the oven (with gooey fingers)! If I’m not talking on skype, hanging out with friends, then I’m singing my favorite sounds and some you can get for free: noisetrade, briterevolution, designers.mx, just to name a few.
  3. stray drips, splats, and the occasional cookie on the floor
    Everything while you are baking is EDIBLE, so don’t forget you can clean up/taste test all in one enjoyable finger swipe! While baking and talking to my mom on skype about this stress-free post, she says, “don’t forget about the flotsam and jetsam…” to which I reply, “I have no idea what language you are speaking right now, mom.” After a half second blank stare, she says, “Well, I don’t really know what it is either….(giggles) but I’ll look it up for you.” We finally figure out it’s originally a nautical term used to describe floating debris or items thrown overboard. Apparently, my mom thinks this also means things spilled in the kitchen. I’ll take it, mom.
  4. burnt edges
    Here’s the deal, folks: you will inevitably get a wee bit past the recipe-prescribed “golden edges” every once in awhile. It’s just one of those kitchen facts of life. So, be “easy” as my Canadian friend Heather would say. Just go with the flow and, trust me, there is always somebody who genuinely prefers cookies the way you’ve just taken them out of the oven. Burnt, brown, or between gooey and barely baked… they will get eaten and enjoyed!
  5. clean up
    As much as I want to say clean up can be skipped entirely – that’s actually a way for you to smother all the silly cheer of freshly baked goods. My method? Scrub a dish or two while the cookies are in the oven. As I use bowls, spoons, etc., I collect things in one bowl and put it in the sink to soak so when I do get to it everything is in a clean-ready state. I might also use already floured, sugared, and soda-ed utensils over again in a different recipe if I’ve got many things happening at once (regular occurrence). Lastly… keep the conversation or music going through cleaning. I certainly don’t like to be standing at the sink alone, scrubbing out the last bits of tasty cookie remains from a pan. No need to resent the cookies for making a mess! Even clean up can be social!

Okay – so there are 5 things. I’m learning here and I’m hoping to store some of these lessons for the days I can manage my own kitchen. If baking is as stress-free as I just made it sound, I might want to think about a new career!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

A Valentine’s Day Limmerick

In typical Nichols (CHEESY) fashion, my mom read this poem to me because she knew I would be absent from the celebration of love. Please enjoy it and read it several times over. This might give a little insight into where all my cheesy ideas come from! 🙂 Here’s the last Valentine’s day picture of my family I can find (circa 2006?)

 

we were missing a few, but you can see the reds, pinks, and white in FULL force!

 

A VALENTINE’S DAY LIMERICK
by Cindy Nichols
There once was a family strong
Who usually all got along
They just kept on growing
All the while knowing
God blessed them with love and with song!

We welcome two new Nichols girls
They both have beautiful ‘curls’
Though Natalie’s are short
And better for sport
Grace’s are long and unfurled!

The boys are men now, it’s so
Their height has stopped to grow
One is a dad
One is a “Nav”
And one’s getting married, you know!

The girls all love to laugh
To sing, to love, to craft
They talk to each other
And sometimes their mother
Who gives cheesy advice on their behalf.

We daily count our blessing
For our family of loving siblings
God is making you strong
To Him you belong
There is no greater joy you are bringing!

——-

Isn’t my mom great?

She knows how to let LOVE fly like cRaZy!

Chapel Week: delicious-ness

I’m not going to ramble tonight because yesterday I think I scared my mother. I just want to give you a couple recipes.

We have had chapel every day at school, which means that I’ve been baking everyday to encourage the seniors to carry their Bibles 🙂

Here’s the menu to date:

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwich (to see the FULL modification go here)

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Dream Bars

For these bars, I added to the bottom crust, because many bakers suggested a smaller pan. I needed the quantity, so I just increased some of the proportions. Also, I used whole wheat flour and added peanut butter to the second layer. I skipped the chocolate on top because they were already very sweet. It was a HIT!

 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bakes

For these cookies, I didn’t really follow a recipe. I had chocolate chips, peanut butter, milk, oatmeal, vanilla, and spices on hand, so I made my own combination and we’ll see how they go over tomorrow morning.

 

 

 

 

Just in case you are wondering, I’m planning a big hoorah for Friday that will involve my favorite ingredient for this time of year – PUMPKIN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

strange day explained

It’s 9:32 pm.

I’ve got dream bars in the oven (with a variation that has me puzzled about cooking time), I’m munching on tortillas with sun-dried tomato hummus (the strangest before-bedtime snack I’ve ever been a part of), and I’m looking at what I picked up at the grocery store: fake milk in a box, chocolate chips, powdered sugar, pumpkin, and oatmeal (wondering why these are my first purchases after paycheck), and I’m thinking it’s a strange day.

Oh, well. I’m sure you have those days too. Nothing especially wrong or out of place, but you feel like you are moving around in someone else’s skin and it’s just uncomfortable. At this point, all of you who haven’t felt this way have at least one eyebrow raised. Which, I guess, is kind of my point.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with everything I want to do or read or hear or say or know and I go into overload mode. Hm. I imagine this is what a baby bird might feel when it first discovers its wings. There are so many endless possibilities – so many adventures and birdies to adventure with and trees and clouds and…

then there’s that typical picture of the not-yet-ready-for-flight
birdie falling clumsily from the nest.

There’s no better way to explain than to give a few examples, so here they are in NO particular order:

  • I really want to know if there is a connection in the Hebrew word “paneh,” which means presence and the Spanish word “pan,” which means bread. We’re studying the story of David right now and when he ran from Saul he stopped and asked for bread from a priest who only had holy bread on hand. This bread was called “paneh” because it was the bread of the Presence. I thought, how neat would it be if there was a connection because Christ (the Word) became physically present and is the bread of life. I have searched and can’t make sense of etymologies in several languages… The farthest I got led me to some Polish explanation of Mr. and Mrs. (which is pan/pani).
  • At what point are liberties counterproductive in recipes? I mean, a little more butter, flour, and sugar would naturally just increase quantity, no? And peanut butter always adds value, right? Tomorrow we will find out! I’m sincerely hoping that my scheme to encourage “Taste and see the Lord is good” (Ps. 38:4) leads them to understand GOD is what the need to taste! (More joy and satisfaction, less tummy-ache!)
  • Why does pride always wiggle its way into the category of “self-preservation”? That is a lie through and through.
  • I hope with every hope in my heart baking becomes drastically cheaper.
  • I have been reading an absolutely amazing book called, “Competent to Counsel” by Jay E. Adams and I love how he challenges the excuses we make for personality by saying, “It’s just who I am.” We are in a sanctification process, here, folks – there’s no settling for “just who I am.” So, I started to wonder (out loud) about how I should change my personality… what needs refining? I was wondering this and talking to my friend Sarah, when all of a sudden I wondered if I could still do the splits. I paused, slinkered down as far as I could and then popped back up above the countertop and said, “not quite.” She burst out laughing and then she said, “More of that. You should definitely change your personality to include more splits.” I don’t know…
  • There’s this student. She is amazing, beautiful, inspiring and God is transforming her right in front of my eyes. I’ve never had a front row seat to something so spectacular! I mean, here I am, sitting next to her just listening to her talk with such seriousness about faith and plans. But, it’s not just fluffy, future talk. This girl is making it happen in her life the way some kids can only make it happen at summer camp or youth conferences. I’m just thinking, “What’s up with this?” God is SO amazing to be working and restoring and growing such a beautiful heart! And I get to watch? WOW!
  • I’ve got Asia on the brain and I don’t know why.
  • I want to read and understand and memorize the Heidelberg Catechism… and then try to start understanding what Bach has to do with it (thanks Justin Taylor for planting that seed in my already crazy day!).
  • I want like crazy to sew an owl costume right up for Halloween, but I’m not sure where I would go with it… which makes me want to have a costume party at my house, which reminds me of the mammoth weekend of 4 am sushi-making chaos that is barely a week behind.
  • There’s a crazy urgency in me to take each of these seniors by their ALP uniform shirt and shake them a little bit (friendly, of course) to make sure they know how much I love ’em and how important it is for them to know how much more MASSIVE God’s love is for them. I just want them to get it, as my Dad used to say.
  • I talked to my mom on Sunday and she added the greatest news – Dad finally sold the calf that was the Lord’s! I know it sounds strange… in fact, every single person I told today asked for a repeat. Buying and selling calves makes absolutely no sense to people outside the farming/cattle industry and that’s okay. What you should probably understand is the way God is using my Dad’s hobby operation to bless people around the globe. This time, he gave the calf to the Lord and said the money would go to Honduras. What joy I had as I wrote in a large sum under the current total of money raised by the sleepout. Praise the Lord!!

Oh, boy. Now do you understand a teensy bit more? My brain is like a crazy factory! It makes crazy all day, non-stop! I think I should tone down on the coffee.

It’s now 10:17 pm and I hope this day found you less strangely inclined.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

this is an example of some serious STRANGE happening!