Dugouts and Diapers

Jessica Starr Nichols


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He’s My Favorite Thing About Everyday

I know, I know, I am over a week late with my post. I’m sorry to those who actually look forward to reading my blog each week. Between the end of school, work, and my house being overtaken by VBS decorations, I haven’t had much time for anything else. We did make time to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary on May 28. We had a wonderful day, but we have an even more wonderful life together. Everyday with Adam is a gift!

We began the day with a DIY project. I mean, is it really a weekend at the Nichols house without a project????? We (mostly Adam) made a headboard for Weston’s bed out of old pallets. This was such a great, easy project that cost us $0! BOOM! *Attention locals: Eagle Eye Outfitters will allow you to haul off as many pallets as you want at no charge.*


We went to dinner at our favorite little Mexican restaurant, Hacienda Azul. As we dined, we talked about all the Lord had brought us through in our 5 years of marriage and all the blessings we’ve been given as well as the excruciatingly difficult times that we’ve endured. 


There was a time in our marriage when Adam was making very little money, we had a newborn and a 10 year old, and I got laid off from my job. Times were tough, like crying and praying everyday tough. In order to feed our boys and keep a roof above our head, I sold every piece of real jewelry I owned, except my wedding rings. I would have sold those too, but Adam wouldn’t let me. Times were tough, but we made it through together. Thankfully, we are in a much better place now, and God has been faithful! My precious husband surprised (I mean really surprised) me with the most beautiful ruby and diamond earrings. He always reminds me that I’m “worth far more than rubies.” He also knows I cherish them because they are Banks’ birthstone. I was just absolutely stunned! The gift is not what makes me feel loved. While I adore the beautiful token of his love for me, it’s the fact that every single day, he knows my worth as a wife and mother. That is love!

I have known Adam Nichols for ten years, and for as long as I’ve known him, he’s been asking for a solar-powered, leather banded wristwatch that only has the time and date on the face. He has no interest in a chronograph or any of that jazz. Well, I’ve searched religiously for the past 5 years, and they were always out of my budget. Well, my search finally came to end. I found the watch he had longed for, and it was within my budget! He was so overjoyed and excited! He has worn it everyday since he got it. He deserves the finest of watches! I pray that every time he looks down at it, he knows that there’s not one second that passes that I don’t love and adore him. ❤️

Marriage is certainly not for the weak. It’s definitely more than a ceremony in a fancy dress and a party. It’s work! It’s fun! It’s hard! It’s rewarding! Most importantly, for Christians, it’s a covenant with God. The covenant I made with God and Adam is so important to me! I realize that five years isn’t very long compared to an eternity with my love, but I’m so thankful that I get to do this thing called life with Adam Nichols! I could never fully depict his worth in a blog post. He’s truly my favorite thing about everyday.

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I Love a Project

As many of you know, I love a good DIY project. We have been working on our house for three years, and we do projects as we are able to afford them. My grandmother gave me two pieces of furniture that she and my Papa had in this home when they lived here. Clearly the furniture is outdated, but they are both solid wood, and they are very unique pieces that just needed a little TLC.

My first project was this fabulous chair! Our bedroom is made up of neutrals, and it needed a pop of color. This chair was the perfect piece to take our bedroom to the next level!

I disassembled the chair and sanded it down before applying Valspar Color Radiance spray paint and primer in one. This paint went on extremely smooth, and it only required one and half cans to get good coverage on all sides of the chair. 

While the paint was drying, I recovered the cushions with a basic dark chocolate and beige upholstery fabric that I purchased from Hobby Lobby.

The finished product was the perfect pop of color our bedroom needed. I accented the turquoise with a coral throw pillow from TJ Maxx.  This was a super fun project for under $25!


Our second project was one that my sweet husband helped me with. I hate that I didn’t take an assembled “before shot”.  This is a solid wood secretary that my grandparents kept in the living room, but Adam and I use it for a dresser/tv cabinet in our bedroom. We sanded down the dresser, the drawers, as well as the hutch. We also removed all of the old hardware before we began sanding.


We used Valspar spray paint and primer in one for this project as well. This spray paint goes on flawlessly. It was also such a time-saver for this project due to all of the woodwork on this piece of furniture. We used 10 cans of paint.

I really wanted to use clear knobs to keep the look soft yet updated. We found these knobs at Lowes. The total cost of the project was just under $100. I’m so pleased with the outcome. I’m amazed at what a coat of paint can do to transform a piece of furniture.

I love a project, and I certainly enjoy it all the more when the pieces are a family heirloom. Small DIY projects such as these are excellent for some weekend bonding with your spouse. Thank you guys for reading and let me know what you think, or if you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them.


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Taste for Truth- Indulgence/Entitlement

This week we had many victories! Two of the ladies shared that they had both lost 5 pounds. One quit drinking sodas completely and the other majorly cut back on drinking sodas! I, myself, lost 5.3 pounds, and was able to add some exercise into my already crazy weekly schedule. This study has been so encouraging and and wonderful! I love that we are able to text one another throughout the week to discuss our victories as well as ask for prayer when we need it! 

This week, our study focused on indulgence/entitlement. Society sells us two lies: 1.) we should be able to do whatever we want whenever we want to do it, and 2.) life is better when we do whatever we want to whenever we want to do it. Our goal through our study this week was to dispel both of these lies. The truth is we, as Christians, are actually happier when we bear the fruits of the Spirit by walking in God’s will rather than experiencing the temporary happiness that comes from doing whatever we want in our own timing. As an added plus, we also avoid the consequences associated with indulging in our flesh rather than staying in God’s perfect will.  

 Just like with any well-laid plan, there are steps to this Taste for Truth plan. We learned in weeks one and two that our first step is to pray for the fruit of the Spirit, self-control and to set boundaries. This step has been extremely beneficial as we made it through the detox phase of making healthier choices when our flesh was lusting after such things as: sodas, sugar, take-out food, etc.  

 Once you’ve endured the first couple of weeks of living a healthier lifestyle, you begin to get into a groove, and before you know it, you’re enjoying this healthier way of life. We saw that in Step 2 we are actually happier living for God and for others rather than just ourselves. When you begin to see that choosing a healthy lifestyle affects not only yourself but also your family and friends, the importance of your choices makes all the difference.  

 It takes twenty-one days to begin a new habit, and as we enter our third week of Taste for Truth, we should be participating in some new, healthier habits. So often, especially with weight loss, we feel that we can’t do it because it is so difficult, but God shows us in Proverbs 3:5-6 to “trust in Him with all our heart, and lean not on our own understanding. In ALL our ways acknowledge Him, and He will make our paths straight.” Notice He didn’t say, “all of your ways except weight loss.” He cares about everything that concerns His children, even losing weight. What a good God! Jeremiah 29:11 also points out that it isn’t his plan to harm us. His plan only includes that which will prosper us. So if we fail at losing weight, it’s because of our own choices. Either we didn’t practice self-control, therefore breaking boundaries, or we chose to give up. No matter how hard it gets, we are reminded in Phillipians 4:11-13 that we should be content in our circumstances, and we can do ALL things through Christ, even losing weight and living healthy, because our strength comes from Him! Once we become content with eating healthier foods and drinking water and realize that such things like: cake, ice cream, chips, and sodas should be consumed as a treat or on special occasions rather than part of our daily diet, we will be happier with ourselves and able to give the best of ourselves to God and others.

As we enter week three, I encourage you to quit lying to yourself and quit telling yourself that it’s ok to have a certain food item, or it’s ok to continue drinking sodas, or it’s fine if you choose not to exercise, all the while using the rationale that it won’t hurt you in the long run. Remember where lies come from and who the master of lies is. Speak Truth into your life, and allow yourself to exhibit self-control. The boundaries have been set for a reason. Trust Him! We can do this!


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A New Year, A New Project

Since we moved in this house nearly three years ago, we have constantly had a project. Thankfully, most of the major projects are complete, and those that remain on the “to-do list” do not require us to rearrange our lives in order to complete. 

  On the weekends and even some during the week, we spend the majority of our time in our backyard. Whether we are laughing with friends around the firepit, grilling delicious food with family, or just watching the boys play, we are enjoying every minute spent outside. One thing we were missing was an outdoor television for watching sports or a movie. My precious parents bought us a new 60″ SmartTV for Christmas, and we knew immediately that we wanted to put our old tv outside. My brilliant husband devised a plan to remove one of the windows in our laundry room and build the tv cabinet around the current window frame. He’s truly brilliant!  
 Once we removed the window, he cut a piece of plywood to the size of the window frame and braced it from the back with pieces of a 2×4.He placed a smaller piece of plywood in the center of the window to attach the wall-mount for the television. We painted it all black so that it will disappear into the black of the television. 

 He then built the actual tv cabinet using 2×4’s, right angle brackets, and screws. We allowed an extra 3-4″ on each side for proper air flow when the television is on. As you can tell, we had to remove our vinyl siding to do this project, but it doesn’t take but just a few minutes to hang it right back up when the project is complete. When the framework was complete, we painted the frame black and ran all of the cables from the attic to the outdoor space.  

 For the door of the tv cabinet, I wanted it to be more of a piece of artwork than simply a piece of solid black plywood. I spent roughly two hours painting the door of the cabinet, but it really is so inviting, and most importantly, so us! 

 Once the door was complete, the only thing left to do was hang the television, hook up the cables and Bluetooth surround sound, hang the cabinet door, and check for power. Of course, it worked beautifully! Since we didn’t want to take the tv in and out every time we wanted to use it, we put a lock on the closure of the cabinet so it is right ready to use each time we go outside. 

 We are all so excited about the completion of this project, and we can’t wait to have our first gathering next weekend as we host our church’s youth group and college kids for a Super Bowl fellowship. We find enjoyment in all of our renovation projects, but this one just might be our favorite! 

Come back next week as I fill you in on one more thing that I’m obsessed with this year! Ladies, it’s a good one, so don’t miss it! Have a great week everyone!


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Loveliest of Christmases 

WOW! What a Christmas! Some Christmases stand out in your mind as the greatest ever, and next to Christmas 1986, Christmas 2015 was absolutely the best yet!  

 We kicked off the festivities with a wonderful dinner with the entire family at Firestone Pizza on December 23. My parents, my sister, my brother, my fine husband, our beautiful children, and our dear friends that are indeed family all sat around one table and talked and laughed and basically had an amazing time! We had an absolute blast, and I hope that we make this a new tradition!  

 Adam, Banks, and Jud went to see Star Wars on Christmas Eve, and they all enjoyed it immensely. While the boys were enjoying a guys day, Weston was absolutely and completely off the chain with Christmas Eve delirium and excitement in anticipation of the main event. 

 For months he told everyone that all he wanted for Christmas was “a hot Jeep.” Well, his hopes and dreams came true when he unwrapped his very own hot Jeep down at Granny’s house. He was absolutely thrilled, and he was ready to drive immediately!  

   After a wonderful time with family at Granny’s house, the boys went to bed with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. Adam and I were awoken by a shout of exclamation by Weston at 6:30am. He proclaimed, “Santa brought me a bike and bubba a bike too!” As I’ve mentioned before, our boys both receive three gifts from Santa. Banks received Beats by Dr. Dre, a mountain bike, and Rayban Sunglasses. Weston was thrilled with his bike, new shoes, and new bedding. The magic and thrill of a child’s wishes coming true is one of the most magnificent moments as a parent. Adam and I are both extremely blessed by being able to provide not only our children’s needs but a few of their wants as well. 

    
 I’m 34 years old, and I still look forward to Christmas morning at my parents’ house. The gifts are great, but the company is phenomenal! Every gift, hug, book, letter, and word spoken is heart-felt and genuine. Banks is thrilled to have a star-gazing date with his Pops. He is fascinated with the sky and the ancient astronomers. Weston is absolutely set with modes of transportation, Thomas the Train gear, and his newest obsession…Ninja Turtles! Following our home renovation, Adam mentioned that our old tv was not proportional to new amount of wall space. He and I were blessed with a new 58″ Samsung SmartTV, and Adam is in love. This TV does everything! Needless to say, we are so extremely blessed, and while the gifts are nice, the people are the real treasure! 

   Speaking of treasured people, we set out Christmas afternoon for a weekend visit with Adam’s Nanny in Auburn. She was going to be alone on Christmas, and no one should spend Christmas alone. We had a blast, and it’s always wonderful to spend time talking to and listening to such a wise and kind woman. We always leave her house feeling loved, and we hope she feels the same from us. 
I hope you all had an amazing holiday and were surrounded with people that love you exactly the way you are. I pray for a prosperous and happy new year for you and those you treasure most. Come back next week and see how my manclan and I ring in the New Year!

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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