Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Amid your New Year's celebrating, take some moments for quiet reflection.....


20 questions for a New Year’s Eve reflection
2014-12-30 05:01
winter sunset
by Tsh
As you end this new year and move on to the next, I hope you take a bit of time to reflect. Post-eggnog, it’s easy to want to speed forward with gusto, packing up the ornaments until next year and juice-cleansing your system from all the holiday indulgence.
But ease your foot onto the brake for the next few days, and gift yourself the space and freedom to reflect on the past twelve months.
I’m all about starting a new year fresh, making a few goals, finding that one special word, and cleaning out the cobwebs from the corners. But all that stuff is much more meaningful when you look behind you at the bends in your road.
Honor the past year by celebrating your joys, mourning your losses, and shaking your head at the wonder of it all. Isn’t it amazing another year has passed? And so the earth goes round and round, with us about to orbit once more.
Whether you’re headed to a party or headed to the living room with a bowl of popcorn, New Year’s Eve is a great day for reflection. A whole year has passed since the last one. You’re a year older. Are you a year wiser?
Use these next 48 hours to reflect on the past 365 days.
20 questions for a New Year's Eve reflection (free printable!)

20 questions for a New Year’s Eve reflection

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
5. Pick three words to describe this past year.
6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your year—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you. (If you’re not married, have fun guessing the answers from other friends and family, or just skip this question.)
7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their year—again, without asking.
8. What were the best books you read this year?
9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you.
Want to answer these questions solo? Grab a cup of coffee and a pen, and use the space provided on the first three pages of the free download.
Want to chat over the answers with your spouse or with friends? Use the last page of the PDF to cut each question into squares, and then toss them in a hat to draw, one at a time.
And new this year—a set of questions for your kids! Pass it along to them for a personal reflection exercise, or you could cut up the questions, toss them in a jar, and pull them out to answer as a family.
Tomorrow, I’ll share another round of annual questions that’ll help you think about 2014. Have any dreams? Hopes? Goals so big they make you laugh?
What would you like to happen for you personally, for your children, for your family? Tomorrow I’ll share some ways you can be intentional, jot down your ideas, and possibly create a plan to kick yourself in the pants.
But for now, happy reflecting! And pass over that bowl of popcorn!

Easy-as-Pie Chickie Pie, as promised (Though belated. Many apologies!)

This is the foundation recipe for the chicken pot pie that I make once a month. I'm not a huge fan, but my husband and sons like it so much that it's a monthly request (sometimes weekly) and I actually have to make 2 of them, or make it in a large casserole dish (buy extra pie crust if you do this) and there still aren't any leftovers. Enjoy!

Savory Chicken Pot Pie

Savory Chicken Pot Pie
Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts make a delicious pot pie that’s made using chicken and Green Giant veggies - a cozy dinner.
  • prep time10 min
  • total time40 min
  • ingredients4
  • servings4



box Pillsbury™ refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box


cups diced cooked chicken
cups Green Giant™ Steamers™ frozen mixed vegetables, thawed (from12 oz bag) (I start out with sautéed chopped onion and garlic, and usually use fresh veggies, which adds to the prep time)                                             
can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of chicken soup (I use cream of mushroom, much to my 17 year old's dismay)                                            
  • 1 Heat oven to 400°F. Soften pie crust as directed on package. Remove 1 crust from pouch; unfold crust. Place crust in bottom of pie plate (9 inch).
  • 2 In medium saucepan, combine all filling ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Pour into crust-lined pie plate.
  • 3 Remove second crust from pouch; unfold crust. With small cookie cutter or sharp knife, cut holes in crust. Top  with crust; seal edges with fork or flute, trimming edges if necessary.
  • 4 Bake at 400°F. for 20 to 30 minutes or until filling is bubbly and crust is golden brown. If necessary, cover edge of crust with strips of foil after 15 to 20 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning.
  • Friday, December 26, 2014

    Can I just say December is exhausting????

         I've been away, caught up in all the to-do that goes along with the holly-daze, and I've missed being able to pop in and fill people in on the weirdness and loveliness that is my life. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, whatever you observe, filled with fun, laughter, introspection, fulfillment, friends and loved ones. I'll be back later with a simple recipe for a nice, calm, sit-down dinner...something I'll be making tonight after I find my house. I lost it somewhere amid the paper, ninja gear for the five year old, books, resumes and college transcripts. I know it's here somewhere.....

         Much love to you and all you hold dear, and I'll be back. I'm looking forward to sharing recipes, books, music, and quiet times with all of you!    <3, Nicole

    Monday, December 1, 2014

    Publishing conundrums...and cookies.

    My short story Endurance is getting mixed reviews at FictionMagazines.com....we'll see if it makes the cut for New Realms Magazine. (I thought it was a good story, lol). I've decided to take the plunge and investigate self-publishing through Dorrance Publishing (http://dorrancepublishing.com ). The biggest drawback I can foresee (at present) is the fees. I have no idea what they are going to be, or what the payment process looks like. There's only one way to find out, I suppose. Guy Furpurr is on its way, and we'll see what Dorrance has to say. (Ooo, I'm rhyming again. Time to write some poetry, I guess.) In the meantime, while I wait I'll rampage through my kitchen and make some messes. And cookies.

    Orange Hazelnut Bars (from the much-missed For Me Magazine)

    2 sticks butter, softened
    2/3 c. granulated sugar
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
    1 tsp. vanilla
    3 c. flour
    1 Tbs. grated orange zest
    1 c. orange marmalade
    1 c. hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
    1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

    1:Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2: Line a 13x9 pan with foil; spray with non-stick cooking spray.
    3: In a large bowl beat butter, sugar and salt. Add egg and yolk and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
    4: Add flour gradually, beat until just blended.
    5: Stir in orange zest, mix well.
    6: Pat dough evenly in bottom of prepared pan. Prick with a fork.
    7: Spread orange marmalade on top of cookie dough to the edges of the dough; sprinkle with hazelnuts.
    8: Bake 15 to 20 minutes until edges are light golden brown. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
    9: To decorate, melt chocolate chips in the microwave as directed. Scrape into a zip-top bag, snip off a corner and pipe melted chocolate on cookie bars. Let set, and cut lengthwise into six strips, then crosswise into 6 strips. Makes 36 bar cookies.

    (I've also used Nutella for the drizzle instead...zap in the microwave for a few seconds, then pour from the bowl, drizzling as you go.)