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Turkey Day Thoughts

I used to wish that every day could be amazing. I used to want the extraordinary all the time. I craved awesome. But you know what? Extraordinary can never be ordinary and that’s what makes it so special. The awesomeness lies in the rarity. Today was one of those special days. It was filled with laughter and singing and baking and hugging and those are all of my very favorite things. Holidays can be rough and family drama usually ensues. It’s just the nature of being in close quarters with the people in your life who know exactly how to push your buttons. But sometimes, SOMETIMES, everything falls into place. Good moods and good situations and good conversation all happen and it’s nothing short of mind-boggling. It’s beautiful and unexpected and it totally overwhelms my heart. It reminds me that those average, mediocre days have a significant purpose: they keep us humble and grateful and give us a true appreciation for the great ones. I’m thankful for a lot today, but most of all I’m thankful that I have so much love in my life.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

I’m thankful for an unchanging creator who has seen me through every trial, carried me through every heartache, and blessed me with so many good gifts. Happy Thanksgiving, friends. Take a minute and remember the breadth and length and height and depth to which you are loved. Humble yourself before the lover of your soul and be grateful today and every day. I know I am.

xoxo,

Mindy

ENFP

Do you ever get all jumbled up inside? Do you ever feel like you’re two different people? And maybe those two people are in the throws of some intense battle that might determine the course of your whole life? Do you ever get caught in the contradiction of feeling so blessed and so grateful and somehow so sad and lonely and hopeless all at the same time? Do you ever get pummeled back and forth between highs and lows and wish with every fiber of your being for some sort of apathy to calm the raging storm? How do you learn to not care? Can someone teach me? Because sometimes I think not caring might make life a whole lot easier. And how do you know who you really are? Who is the real you? Are you the person that people think you are? Do other people’s perceptions define you? Or are you the person you want to be? Can you change who you are or is it permanent? Are you destined to be forever chained to the past or do you have control over who you become?

A sweet boy introduced me to the Meyers-Briggs test recently. It’s a test that determines your personality type based on preferences and perceptions. I’m an ENFP – extroverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving. Consequently I’ve spent a lot of time lately reading profiles of ENFP’s and the accurateness is unbelievably unnerving. It’s scary to see the ins and outs of who you are in black and white. It makes you question the concept of uniqueness and individuality and the idea that every person on the planet can be divided neatly into 16 different boxes is strange and sad and breaks my heart just a little bit. And reading about who you are from a total stranger? Being told that those things about yourself that you don’t like – the parts that you struggle with and fight against – are the very things that define you, well it’s slightly soul crushing.

And so the battle continues. The part of me that knows the answers, that knows the truth, versus the part of me that wants instant gratification and tangible results. But fighting that fight every day is exhausting and the part of me that knows the truth grows weary. Defenses come down and the enemy charges and surrendering to the lies becomes so much easier than putting on your armor and going back into battle. Hopelessness abounds.

Here’s the truth: I don’t have to keep fighting those battles. They’ve already been won. And if I, if we, would get out of our own heads for just a split second and take a look at the majesty that surrounds us and remember that this life is bigger than me and you, we might just find ourselves in the middle of a grand armistice. The fighting would cease, if only for a little while, providing us with some much needed clarity. And as the dust settles we would see the hope that we’ve been searching for so desperately. The hope that says there is more to life than fear and insecurity. The hope that says, “You are valued and loved.” The hope that says, “I will not leave you or forsake you.” And apathy is never the answer. If we’re being honest it’s not even an option for me. I wouldn’t know where to start. Not caring isn’t something I can do, and that’s okay. The Meyers-Briggs test does a good job at determining personality, but it fails to capture the complexity of the heart. It doesn’t account for the fact that we are constantly being changed and molded and refined. Personality is but a small part of who we are, not the whole of it.

The truth is that life isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. But there is purpose in the pain and there is value in the struggle. Being tested and tried is to be expected. And when we get the urge to run in the opposite direction, to give in to the lies and live in the hurt, that’s when we need to turn around and run right back into the arms of the one who loves us. That’s when we need to step away from this fallen world and the solutions it dangles in front of our vulnerable hearts and spend time with the one who created it instead. He is who defines us. I look at the people around me and I’m overwhelmed by how much the Lord loves them. I’m in awe of how truly unique they all are, how beautiful and how intricate and how fearfully and wonderfully made. I pray that when the rains come we would be more and more inclined to find shelter in that truth. I pray that we would find our worth in the knowledge that each of us is a creation of the king who sees our souls as priceless treasures. I pray that as we walk through the seasons of our lives, whether they be good or bad, we would hold on to that perspective. I pray that it would be our rock and our foundation and that the peace that comes with that knowledge would quiet the lies from the enemy.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

 

xoxo,

Mindy

Deactivated

My wayward, straying heart was reminded today that fullness of joy is only attained through and from a creator that longs for my faithfulness and attention. But my wayward, straying heart is just that and when lies from the enemy begin to feel more like truth my first instinct is always to self-soothe with worldly medicine that can never, has never, will never heal the hurt. Fortunately, because regardless of my wayward, straying heart I am deeply and constantly loved by my creator, His goodness always brings me back home. It dusts me off and dresses my wounds and reminds me that my worth is found solely in Him and not in how many facebook friends I have or how many people like my status update. It reminds me who I am and why I am and all of a sudden my soul sings once more – a song of hope and peace and endless joy. The loneliness and the fear pale in comparison to the joy that occurs in the presence of the one who loves me.  In His presence perspectives change. The brokenness of this world becomes an arrow pointing directly to the one who can put the pieces back together, if only we’d ask. It reminds us that this world is temporary but we serve a god who is not. My prayer tonight is that I would live in these truths, that we would all live in these truths, and that the beauty of our creator and the greatness of his love for creation would swell in our hearts and overflow into our lives. There’s an old hymn that has been on my mind and in my journal for a while now and so I’d like to share it with you here. The words have written themselves on my heart and have more power and truth than anything I could ever write. I hope you find as much solace in them as I have.

Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

Oh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Our wayward, straying hearts are beautiful to the one who made them and He longs for us to trust the plans He has. We can’t even begin to imagine the depths to which we are loved. Let that love be your driving force. Let it seep into every crevice of your soul. Let it compel you to love with the same ferocity and let it be your safety net when you fall. It won’t disappoint.

xoxo,

Mindy

P.S.
Life sans facebook is really incredible. Give it a shot.

This is the day…

Sometimes being a nanny is really frustrating. Sometimes – when one little girl starts screaming bloody murder because she doesn’t want to get dressed and the other one starts kicking the wall because she’s upset that the older one is screaming and you’re awkwardly standing there because the mom hangs out at home all day and the house is sweltering because they keep the a.c. on 80 and you’re starving because you’re doing a seven day cleanse and haven’t had meat or sugar (or anything of substance, really) since Sunday – you want to throw a tantrum, too. A big one.

Eventually, because they’re children and because they’re products of a society where attention spans don’t exceed ten minutes, they get over it and move on. But you. You’re still stewing because, SERISOULY. WHAT THE FUDGE?! Days like that, days like today, can sour even the most positive of attitudes. In an attempt to amuse yourself and stay awake and pass the time, you start singing a song to the tune of the theme from Lambchop. (You know the one: this is the song that never ends, yes it goes on and on, my friends…) Of course you replace the word song with the word day (because, hello, this really IS the day that never ends) but before you can finish the words “that never ends” your favorite little tantrum-throwing four year old finishes the line for you, only she’s singing a very different song. She finishes out your “this is the day” with “that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” And that’s how God uses a kid to put the smack-down on your bad attitude.

Jesus really does love little children and he really does have a great sense of humor. There are a lot of people in this world who might disagree with me, who might say that approaching God with a borderline inappropriate joke is irreverent or that the Lord is no laughing matter, but I think Jesus loves my inappropriate jokes and I’m certain he thinks that most things are laughing matters. Those humorless people must’ve been created in someone else’s image because my God loves to laugh. He also loves to use his humor to remind us who he is in the most unexpected places, through the most unexpected people. Mid-week is tough for everybody. Bogged down in work and school and life it’s easy to get lost in the details of things that, ultimately, don’t matter. This is your reminder to take a step back. Be quiet for just a few minutes and remember that, as much as you’d like to be, you are not in control. And not being in control can be really beautiful. Get away from the crap and look at something pretty or drink a good cup of coffee and take a cue from a sweet little girl. Enjoy this day that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it. And if nature or coffee doesn’t cut it, this blueberry cobbler will also help you to reflect on the good things in life. Think of me whilst eating it and send good, healthy, cleansing thoughts. Four more days. Oh man.

xoxo,

Mindy

new and improved outlook, guaranteed.

Blueberry Cobbler
(adapted from our good friend, Martha Stewart)

Filling
6 cups (3 pints) blueberries*
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

*If you’re using frozen berries make sure to drain them well before-hand. It’s also worth noting that you can substitute any berry you like!

Cobbler Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, (1 stick), cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more for brushing
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling (If you don’t have any on hand just use regular granulated sugar)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the filling: Mix blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt in a bowl. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking dish.

Make the topping: Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender or 2 knives to form clumps that are no larger than small peas.

Add the vanilla extract into the cream and stir to combine. Add cream mixture to flour mixture; stir until a soft, sticky dough forms. Divide dough into 1o equal pieces and arrange over filling. Brush dough with extra cream and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Place a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet on bottom rack of oven to catch juices. Bake cobbler on top rack directly over the baking sheet until topping is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 55 to 70 minutes. If topping is browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil. Let cool on a wire rack 1 hour before serving.

Or rather, read. Read THIS!! It’s the latest collaboration between your two favorite girls, me and Cristina. Her deeply fabulous fashion blog is trading in the hottest new dress for a flour-dusted apron in today’s post and I’m so honored to be a guest writer for this awesome new column. Take a breather from your crazy day and check it out! And if I can’t convince you, maybe this picture of the most delicious peach cobbler cake of all time can. Trust me, you want in on this one.

xoxo,

Mindy

Peach Cobbler Cake:
for all your summertime dessert needs

 

Happy Saturday, friends. I woke up this morning with two very distinct and very pertinent needs. One was for a serious journaling session, the other for decorating sugar cookies. I’m happy to report that both have been sufficiently satisfied. As is the case with most journaling sessions, I came out of this one with some heady thoughts that needed organization and so a list was born. A list that I’d like to share with you today. A list of general rules for happy living, according to Melinda. While my week was really wonderful, a lot of people I love had seriously rough ones. There was strife and uncertainty, health scares and financial trouble, curve balls and words like knives. Sometimes the bad comes at us like a train and we’re tied to the tracks. We can’t stop it. We can’t control circumstances or people. The only thing we can control is how we react to all of it. And, believe it or not, it’s totally possible to find happiness in the midst of chaos. Here’s how I do it:

buttercream scented candle, ftw.

1) FIGHT FAIR – Arguments happen. It’s the nature of living in a world full of people who see things differently. But you have to fight fair. The past is the past. Leave it there. When you’re fighting with someone, stick to the issue at hand. Don’t bring up every argument you’ve ever had, every wrong you feel you’ve suffered from. Neither of you can go back and change the past. All you can do is work through the problem you’re facing now, hopefully with grace and kindness. Don’t push buttons just because you can, and don’t say hurtful things in the heat of the moment. Hold your tongue. You’ll be glad you did.

2) DON’T HOLD A RECORD OF WRONGS – Let go of things. Forgive people regardless of whether or not they’ve asked you to. The damage caused by harboring resentment is damage done solely to you, not them. We live in a society that promotes anger and hostility towards anyone who’s ever wronged us, but I love and serve a God who shows me compassion and mercy when I don’t deserve it and He requires me to follow suit. Holding on to hurt like that just makes you miserable and misery might love company but I guarantee you company does not love misery. That chip on your shoulder comes across in every relationship and in every interaction. Get rid of it and enjoy life sans bitterness.

3) NEVER LET FEAR BE A DECIDING FACTOR – in anything. Being scared of what may or may not happen, or how you may or may not feel, somewhere down the line is never a good reason for not doing things. Don’t borrow trouble. Take every day as it comes, one decision at a time, and be happy today instead of worrying about whether or not you’ll be happy tomorrow.  Being happy breeds good things and the memories of those good things will help you wade through the bad times when they come. Living is scary, but not living because you’re scared to is even scarier.

4) CLEAN – This one’s a little random, but it works miracles. Swear to God. Keeping my apartment clean makes life so much brighter. I love coming home to clean counters and a bed that’s made. Somehow when my apartment is clutter-free my mind feels the same way. It’s one less thing to worry about and, strange as it may be, it makes me smile to know that my floors are vacuumed and my bathroom is spotless. It’s therapeutic. Cleaning my bathroom is therapeutic. I know. It’s weird. But I think you’ll agree. Give it a shot.

5) DON’T PROCRASTINATE – I’m a huge procrastinator. Always have been. And it’s somehow compounded by a mom who’s the queen of the go-getters. Her promptness and motivation elude me and the shame that comes from not doing things when I should just sends me farther and farther into my delusional world of unproductiveness. Not any more! My new motto is “do things now.” Do things as soon as you possibly can and do them to the best of your abilities. Otherwise you end up living in this weird state of limbo where nothing ever really happens. No bueno.

6) SMILE AT EVERYONE – This one is pretty self-explanatory. It makes other people happy, and making other people happy will make you happy. Easy peezy lemon squeezy. When strangers smile at me, it absolutely makes my day. And I know I’m not alone in that. Let’s remember that love covers a multitude of sins. Sometimes all it takes is the smallest gesture of kindness to turn someone’s bad day around.

7) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH LAUGHTERDon’t underestimate the power of a good belly laugh. Find people that inspire them and hold on tight. The people closest to you should be the ones who remind you that life is funny and laughing at it is the best way to stay sane. A good sense of humor is a necessary part of a happy life.

8) BE PATIENT – Waiting can be one of the most frustrating parts of life, but it’s also an inevitability. We wait in lines at the grocery store, or in traffic, or for a job or test results or a boy (I’m getting a little close-to-home with that one) or for any number of things in this life that take real time. We need to learn how to embrace the waiting. We need to look at it as an integral part of life as opposed to a lack of it. Just because you’re waiting on something doesn’t mean life is on pause. It means that, for the time being, your focus and efforts need to go towards something else. It’s amazing the sorts of things that one can learn and accomplish in the interim. Sometimes waiting can make people angry. Fight that feeling. Be slow to anger, quick to listen, and quick to forgive. In 1 Corinthians Paul gives us a laundry list of all the things love is, and patient is number one on the list. Love is patient. Remember that.

9) TAKE “YOU” TIME – There are a lot of people in this world who go through life blissfully unaware. Don’t be one of them. Take time to think about things. Think about who you are and what you believe and how your actions reflect that. Think about how your actions affect others. Think about the person you are versus the person you want to be and think about how you’re going to get there. The whys and hows are important. Spend some time and effort figuring them out. Face the tough emotions head on and deal with the things that you don’t want to deal with. Truly knowing yourself is so much more rewarding than living in the shallow happiness of ignorance.

10) SING EVERYDAY – For as long as I can remember people have been asking me why I’m always so happy. This is one of the biggest contributing factors. I sing all the time. You should, too. In the car or in the shower or while you’re making breakfast or walking up and down the aisles at HEB. Just sing. Listening to music has the magical power to lift even the saddest of spirits. It heals the soul in ways that are beyond my comprehension. But listening is just the beginning. Participate in it. Sing along whether or not you’re good at it and be grateful that you’ve been given ears to hear and a voice to raise.

And when you have a lazy Saturday or a rainy afternoon and feel like being a kid again (also helpful in maintaining happiness), bake some sugar cookies and decorate them. Because let’s be honest, cookies in fun shapes make everyone smile.

Rolled Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
assorted food coloring

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well incorporated. Stir in (or mix in on lowest setting) the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover and chill dough for at least one hour.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on parchment lined or ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake 8 -10 minutes in preheated oven until light golden around the edges. Cool completely.

4. Combine all icing ingredients in mixing bowl, separate into small containers to color, and frost to your heart’s content.

An apple sitting on a counter? Whatever. No big deal. But a cookie shaped and decorated like an apple? Squeal! Letting yourself be creative, letting yourself create things in general, brings so much joy. It’s a little piece of you out in the world. Have a happy weekend, everybody. I’ll be back soon with a peach cake that tastes like happiness feels. Get excited.

xoxo,

Mindy

On Regret

A very, very long time ago I took a very, very short trip to the big apple. New York City. It was back when I believed with every part of my young, naive, big-dreaming heart that I would be a stage actress on Broadway. I was a sophomore in high school with total tunnel vision and I lived and breathed for everything theater. I was good, too. Really good. And I was convinced that my life would always revolve around acting. Funny how things change.

At the end of my first semester as a theater major at UT my acting professor had private meetings with each student to talk about their progress and potential. I can’t remember his exact wording, but it was something to this effect: “You’re good, but you’re very sweet and it will be hard for you to get many parts.” And my young, naive, big-dreaming heart broke into about a thousand pieces. The sweet part was true enough. I’ve always been a wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve kind of girl. It can make something that’s as subjective as acting difficult when the results aren’t what you had hoped for. But it also gives you a deeper wealth of emotion to draw from. It was what fueled my acting. The second part, though – the not getting many parts thing – I knew exactly what he was talking about. I had been feeling it, myself. I didn’t need anybody to tell me I didn’t look the part. All it took was one glance around the theater building to know I was out of my league. And instead of rising up and believing in myself and going after something that I wanted and deserved, I totally crumbled. Switched majors by the end of the next year. I will regret it for the rest of my life, but for the rest of my life I will be grateful for that regret. Does that make sense to anyone besides me?

Here’s what I mean: Regretting my decision to quit acting has taught me the biggest lesson of my life. It taught me that fear and uncertainty are never good reasons to quit something. They’re never worth it. Being safe for the sake of not getting your heart broken never works. In the end you just break your own heart. I’d rather put it all out there, do everything in my power to make my dreams come true and have it fail miserably, than always wonder what might’ve happened had I tried. And so, in that regard, my regret does a vanishing act. Because how can you regret something that has taught you so much? If I had never known real regret I might still be letting fear choose my paths for me. I might never have pursued something as uncertain as baking. And if I had pursued it, I definitely wouldn’t have been as adamant as I have about being in a position I love. I would’ve taken the safest route possible. No risks, and definitely no rewards. I owe my short-lived amateur acting career a whole lot, as it turns out.

To say thank you to the city that held my heart and my dreams for so long, I decided to bake cookies. Because that’s what I do when I want to express my appreciation for anyone or anything. Baking is my love language. These cookies are special because, for some crazy reason that I can’t for the life of me figure out, they’re only popular in New York. WHY AREN’T THESE POPULAR EVERYWHERE?! So I’m bringing them, in all their cakey deliciousness, to Texas. It was bound to happen eventually. Black and white cookies are an amazing cross between cake and cookie. They’ll make you smile, but you won’t quite understand why. I’ll tell you. It’s the lemon zest. Because when vanilla and lemon meet chocolate it’s the most surprising and delightful experience maybe ever, not unlike walking the streets of Manhattan for the first time. Good feelings x 1,000.

confession: i ate a minimum of three spoon-fulls of batter. minimum.

Black and White Cookies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 1/2 cups cake flour**
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

**If you don’t have cake flour on hand and don’t want to brave the crowds at HEB you can just double your all-purpose. However, I find the texture is better with the cake flour. Softer and fluffier is always better.

Icing
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk
3 ounces very bitter or unsweetened chocolate
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch processed is best)

Yield: ~3-4 doz large cookies

confession: i ate a minimum of three spoon-fulls of frosting. minimum.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 2 baking sheets with nonstick spray, or line with parchment paper.

2. In large mixing bowl combine sugar and butter and cream until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. With mixer on low slowly pour in milk and mix until smooth. It might curdle at this stage. Don’t freak out. It’s totally not a big deal. Everything will get smoothed out when we add in our dry ingredients. Add in vanilla and lemon zest and mix to incorporate. Scrape down bowl.

3. In medium bowl, combine cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until mixed. Add dry mixture to the wet in 2 batches, mixing well after each addition. Using a soup spoon or a large ice cream scoop, place heaping spoonfuls of the dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake until edges begin to brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, make the icing. Place confectioners’ sugar in large bowl. Gradually stir in enough milk (a tablespoon at a time!) to make a thick, spreadable mixture. TABLESPOON AT A TIME! A too-thin icing is hard to undo.

5. Spread icing on half of the flat side of each cookie. Once all cookie halves have been frosted, place the bowl of the remaining icing over a pot of simmering water (creating a double-boiler) to bring it back to consistency and give it enough heat to melt the chocolate. Stir in the bitter or unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder until melted, as well as the light corn syrup.

6. Ice the remaining half of the cookies. The chocolate icing is prone to getting too dry, so don’t worry about whisking in an extra teaspoon of hot tap water from time to time to smooth it out.

7. Let the icing set and store in an airtight container. These cookies keep for a few days, but they’re best on the first or second. Because of the cake nature of the bases, they can get stale quickly. Not that they’ll stick around long enough to find out.

yum.

I still miss acting every now and then. It was my first real love, after all. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll give it a shot again in the form of community theater. For now, though, it sits in a far corner of my mind, a bittersweet reminder that I’m the only one who has the power to chase my dreams. A beautiful past that led me to where I am and taught me an invaluable lesson in the process. The good and bad will forever sit side by side in my heart – just like the top of a black and white cookie – a most surprising and delightful experience.

xoxo,

Mindy