These days, I wake up naturally an hour before my alarm. Every morning.
My eyes open, I blink in the early sunlight and I reach for my alarm clock, hoping against reason that it won’t be what it always is: bright blinking numbers signaling 6:30 (or worse, 6:15). Understand, it is not the time that bothers me, but the timing, a full hour or more before I need to wake up, a full hour or more before I need to have my eyes open or my arms reaching for the alarm clock.
It’s a matter of waste, really, a waste of precious sleep. At this point, I have two basic choices: I can get up, and I do sometimes, or I can try to go back to sleep, laying there, awake, beneath the giant white cloud that is my down comforter, and I can close my eyes and wait — for sleep to come or for a more decent hour to arrive.
In either case, when I do eventually rise, I’ll have to wait for other things. I will go to the shower, waiting for the hot water to come; to the kitchen, waiting for the bread to toast, for the water to boil; out on the roads, waiting for the light to turn green while I drive to work.
A lot of life is waiting, have you noticed that? And I don’t just mean with the small stuff of alarm clocks and commuting and morning kettles. We wait for graduations.
We wait for job offers. We wait for proposals to be made and babies to be born. We wait, many times, for people.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and here is what I want to know: If so much of life is waiting, how can I get better at it?
You hear people say things all the time about enjoying the journey, and I think that’s good. I want to enjoy the hour I have to relax before getting up, especially since there are a lot of tired moms who would wish for exactly that (am I right?).
I want to redeem my morning commutes, with the radio, with talking to the One who never leaves me or forsakes me, and when I drive home, with gratitude for the way the sun streaks across the sky at 5:45 PM.
And, on those mornings when I end up dressed and ready to go a good 30 minutes before I should head out the door, I want to sit at the table, and I want to eat toast with homemade Nutella® on top. It is a simple pleasure, but trust me: it’s one worth savoring.
Did you know you can make your own version? It’s no big deal; there are only four ingredients: Buy yourself some hazelnuts (I get mine in the bulk bins at Whole Foods), toast them so you can rub off the skins, and combine them in a food processor with cocoa, vanilla and a sweetener (I used maple syrup, but you could alternatively use honey).
This homemade choco-hazelnut spread isn’t exactly like the store-bought variety, but it is good: creamy and nutty, sweet and perfect for spreading on toast — or pita bread or crackers or fruit or, let’s just be honest, on anything. And in life, whether you’re waiting for your clothes to dry, your friend to arrive or just Change, in that way we actually wish and wait for it sometimes, take it from me: this stuff makes a great companion while you do.
Homemade Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (aka, Nutella!)
1 cup whole skinned hazelnuts
4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
6 Tablespoons maple syrup
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Roast hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Let them cool and then remove skins by rubbing them between a dish towel (or your hands).
If you don’t get ALL the skins off, it’s OK; it’s just that they taste bitter, so you don’t want them all in there. Grind nuts in a food processor until they go from chopped to soft to a thick butter.
Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Spoon into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate*.
*Regular Nutella doesn’t need to be refrigerated after you open it, and in fact should be kept at room temperature because it’s easier to spread that way. So with this recipe, it’s a good idea to let the spread sit out for a bit before spreading it on things, although, between us (more waiting!?!?), I never do.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.