Dugouts and Diapers

Jessica Starr Nichols


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Things of Quality Have no Fear of Time

I apologize for my absence in the last two weeks. Life has been crazy! We took Banks to Huntsville for his yearly checkup with his pediatric neurologist concerning his seizure activity, or lack thereof. Praise Jehovah Rapha, the God that heals, Banks has been seizure free for thirty months! We will return in May, which will be three years seizure-free, and his doctor will take him off of his medicine. While we were up North, we spent the weekend with my father-in-law and mother-in-law. It was wonderful! If you are ever up that way during the fall, please take the time to go visit a place called Gullion Farms! It is a beautiful farm settled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. You pay $10/person to get in, but included in the $10 is a horse-drawn carriage ride, hay bale maze, milking a cow, fishing, pony or horse rides, etc. We had a blast, and Adam and I have decided that we will be making that an annual event for our family.
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When we came home, I was sick! I have coughed and coughed and coughed for two weeks! I truly did not have time to get sick! My home does not function when I’m down for the count. After taking a tablespoon of honey everyday and drinking fresh orange and grapefruit juice and a gallon of water everyday, I began to feel better after about three days. Of course, I had to hit the ground running once my energy returned, because I had missed two days of chores, which is like trying to fit 48 hours of chores into a 24 hour time period. Somehow, it all got done, and no one had to wear dirty clothes or eat leftovers for more a day. Taking those two days to recuperate made me all the more thankful for a great God that designed our bodies to heal themselves with the help of the things He created in nature as well as modern medicine when needed.

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This past weekend we dog sat my niece Tatum. She is the best dog! She is better behaved than most humans I know, and while the boys enjoyed having her stay with us, it was also a reassurance that we do not need a dog, because I would be the one to take care of it, and let’s face it….I have enough to take care of. Tatum is always welcome at our house anytime.

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On Sunday afternoon, we had our church’s annual Trunk or Treat at Aplin Farms. We had an awesome time of worship around a bonfire with our church family, and our pastor brought a beautiful message about the Son who gave us light and is The Light. There were people from our congregation ranging from newborn baby to my 91 year old friend, Mr. Clarence Sample. I will have to write an entire post sometime about just how much I love my church family. They are the best around! I decorated my trunk, and in all honesty, I could have been much more creative, but in the interest of saving money as well as how chaotic the past couple of weeks have been, I simply loaded up my front porch decorations and arranged them on a quilt my great grandmother gave me when I was a teenager and BAM….I was ready for trunk or treat!

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Adam’s company has officially hit their busy season in full force. Although our time together as a family is scarce, we truly try to make the most of the moments that we do have together. I am thankful for the reassurance of an eternity that we will get to spend together, and on days when I miss him terribly, I am reminded that this life is just temporary, and we are so incredibly thankful for his job with this great company. Adam had a Halloween-themed catering for The Dothan Eagle this weekend, and he needed an extra hand, so we made it a date. Weston was napping, and Banks was watching football, and it was the best “date” we have had in a long time! I like to consider myself a pretty crafty gal, so I was a great help to him on this project. It was also a realization that time spent with someone special is what you make of it. These few hours filled the void that had been lost during his 70+ hours of work last week. I am also daily reminded that I’m more in love with him today than I was the day we got married! He’s the best! I am so thankful God knew how much Banks and I needed him!

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As we approach my favorite holidays, I always look forward to the food, the baking, the parties, the shopping, the lights, the large blowup yard ornaments, the Christmas trees, the music, the movies, the scents of the holidays, but mostly I look forward to the irreplaceable time I get to spend with my friends and family. I challenge you to take the time this year to enjoy the time with those you love. Even if it is just merely minutes a day, make the most of it, and let them know that they are loved. Sure, chores, errands, work, parties, and the hustle and bustle is exhausting, but step back and look at the big picture. We are called to love and time is fleeting. Make the most of what you are given.

How do you and your family make the most of the time you have together?
What are some of your favorite things to do together?

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Cooking Day With My Friend

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What is life without true friends? My childhood friend, Will, married the most wonderful girl from Texas, and when he moved her here to sweet home Alabama, we became fast friends. She’s a precious soul with the most empathetic and beautiful heart. She’s an amazing mommy to two boys, just like me, and I never knew just how much her friendship would mean to me. She came up with the greatest idea…..a cooking day! She would bring all the ingredients and the recipe for her dish, and I would provide the ingredients and recipe for my dish, and we would half the food and swap recipes. It was a blast! I forewarn you, her recipe totally trumps mine, but they are both completely organic and delicious!
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My recipe literally takes about 15 minutes, but it’s great for when you’re craving comfort food but don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen. It really has no name, because I honestly just made it up one day, but it’s an organic take on chicken and rice. Begin by seasoning two organic chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and fresh garlic and grill them for 7 minutes on each side over low heat (my grill reaches approximately 500 degrees on low heat).

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While your chicken is grilling, you can prepare your brown rice and quinoa. Huge props to my local SAMs Club for now selling this amazing product! It’s so easy to prepare and absolutely delicious! I heat up two bags of the brown rice and quinoa and pour them into a greased 9×13 glass pan. After the chicken is finished grilling, I tear it into pieces with two forks and add it to the brown rice and quinoa. Pour a can of cream of chicken soup on top and mix the brown rice, quinoa, chicken, and soup throughly. Lastly, top the casserole with shredded cheese and pop it in the oven at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted. You could prepare this at night for the following day and just let it hang out in the fridge while you’re at work. Super easy and super yummy.

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Amy made burritos. Now, I’m not talking about a Taco Bell dinner kit! She hand-rolled the tortillas and everything! I honestly have no idea what recipe she used for her tortillas, but I’m certain you can find a million recipes online and simply substitute organic flour and ingredients, and your tortillas will turn out just as amazing as Amy’s. I will tell you that she rolled each one until it was a paper like thinness. While she was rolling, I was preparing a tomato sauce and browning a pound of organic ground beef and sautéed onions. The tomato sauce is a thick sauce. It’s basically hot oil, homemade taco seasoning, a little flour, a can of tomato paste, and water. You simply stir everything together over medium heat and add water until you reach the right thickness. It will coat the back of a wooden spoon. After the sauce is ready, add it to the ground beef and onions and mix well. Amy cooked her tortillas on a griddle over medium heat for about 1 minute per side. She made sure to wipe her griddle and butter it between each tortilla. After the tortillas are cooked, fill them with the meat mixture, refried beans, and top with shredded cheese. Her recipe made 16 burritos, and you could store these in individual Ziploc bags and freeze them for a great lunchbox idea, or you can do like we did and eat them for lunch and supper! Banks ate three of them yesterday afternoon and raved about them the rest of the night!

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While the food was amazing, and it was super fun to spend all day in the kitchen cooking, the best part of yesterday was the time spent with my precious friend. I’m so thankful for all of my friends, and I hope you guys will plan a cooking day with your dear friends. Friends are precious, and true friends are rare, so be kind to your friends and pray for them and ask them to pray for you. Friends make everything better!


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Mama’s Pumpkin Bread

Is there one certain recipe that you always remember your mama making every year? For me, there are two, cream cheese braids at Christmas time and every October, our house would be filled with the intoxicating scent of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice as my mama baked loaves of pumpkin bread. This recipe is so delicious, and it yields three loaves, so it’s perfect for sharing some autumn love. My favorite thing about this recipe is that I have to pull it out of my recipe box, and that it’s handwritten by my sweet mommy.
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Ingredients
3 cups of sugar
1 cup of salad oil
4 eggs
1 16oz can of pumpkin
3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2 tsp soda
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
2/3 cup of water

I choose to make this recipe using all organic ingredients. I substitute 1 1/2 cups of homemade liquid stevia in place of the sugar, olive oil for vegetable oil, and I only use King Arthur organic all purpose flour. Of course this is just a personal preference, and it definitely helps to cut the calories by substituting stevia for sugar.

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Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and spraying three loaf pans with non-stick spray. Next, you begin creaming the sugar and oil together. Obviously, if you use liquid stevia, they won’t cream together, but you still want to stir the two together in a large mixing bowl. Add your eggs and the can of pumpkin and just allow your stand mixer to do its thing.

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While your liquids are getting happy in the mixer, sift together all of your dry ingredients into a large bowl. After you are finished sifting, begin adding dry ingredients alternately with water. I add 1 cup of dry ingredients to about 1/8 cup of water. Make sure all the ingredients combine evenly before adding your next cup of dry ingredients. Continue alternating until you’ve added all the dry ingredients and all of the water.

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Pour the batter evenly into three well-greased loaf pans. I place all 3 loaf pans on a large cookie sheet. It makes it much easier for handling.

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Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until tops split. Honestly, one hour is the perfect amount of time. While the bread is baking, enjoy the scent! Take it in….I mean really take a good, long sniff! It’s heavenly!

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After the bread is finished baking, allow it to cool in the loaf pans for ten minutes. Wrap your bread while it’s still warm in one layer of plastic wrap and one layer of foil. If you’re giving these away as a gift, you could simply keep it in its foil loaf pan and put the plastic lid on it and tie a ribbon around it. This bread is amazing whether you eat it for breakfast, a snack, or dessert. It’s one of my most favorite things about autumn. I hope you all enjoy this recipe and will make it a new yearly tradition in your family. Happy fall, y’all!

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Heaven on Earth

Every woman knows that her favorite days of the year are hair days! What are hair days? They are the days when you spend a glorious two to three childless, uninterrupted hours at the hair salon. For that period of time, nothing else matters. No one is pulling at the hem of your garments begging for your attention, and the way you feel when you leave is unparalleled! You leave feeling like a model, and the sidewalk is your runway!

When you have spent 32 years of life with chaotic, curly, red hair (now a touch of blonde to blend in with the grey), you live for these hair days. I could walk out of the salon in my pjs and house slippers, but I would feel like I look like this….
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This hair day is a first for me. I’m cutting my hair short. The question has been, “Why would you cut off all those beautiful curls?” Well, the answer is, I’ve spent this entire year trying to improve myself both inwardly as well as outwardly, and everyday but Sunday, I either pull my hair up in a ponytail, or I twist it up in a bun. I know I’ve lost weight and am wearing smaller clothes, but I don’t feel beautiful. When your hair has been your best asset your entire life, why not fix it everyday? I’m getting it cut short so that I don’t have a choice except to fix it everyday, and if my hair is fixed, I will want to fix my makeup everyday, and hopefully what I see in the mirror will translate to my brain and heart. Now, don’t think for one minute that I don’t know how valuable I am. Honey, I’m priceless! God tells me so! I just need to take the time to take care of myself everyday.

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First comes the most tedious part of the day…the color. This is what keeps me from looking 60 at 32. Why not look as young as you feel? I know that grey hair represents wisdom, but look, I would be intimidating everyone in my path with all my wisdom that would be showing if I didn’t color my hair! Hahahaha! Thankfully, my lovely locks are entrusted to Rexanne, who is the kindest, happiest, and all around greatest hairstylist in town. I haven’t always used Rexy, but after some conviction about where the money God had entrusted me with was going with my former stylist, I began seeing Rexy, and I couldn’t be more pleased. She is a stylist at Chapman Green Salon here in Dothan, and the entire salon is a breath of fresh air. You walk in and hear the Christian music playing, all the stylists look like Pantene Pro V models, and the girl that washes your hair is a miracle worker. I literally almost fall asleep every time she starts scrubbing and massaging my scalp.

After all color, letting it set, and getting shampooed, next comes the cut and style portion of this heavenly experience. Thankfully, Rexy didn’t let me walk away with a mullet, so we didn’t go quite as short as originally planned, but I absolutely love my color and cut, and mission accomplished, I feel beautiful!!!!! I am so thankful for my hair days, therefore when you’re feeling gross or like a big tub of goo, schedule a hair day. It makes all the difference in the world!

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