Looking for Hope
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“Food is about nurturing:
not only physical but also
emotional nurturing.”

--Ina Garten

Good morning my dear <<Name>>.  I hope you are having a good week and that everyone you know and love are safe and healthy. As we begin to re-open in some places, I am cautiously optimistic and hoping flowers for mother's dayfolks just use their common sense.

But enough about the current pandemic, because if you're anything like me, you're tired of reading about it. Instead, I wanted to talk about something I'm passionate about:  FOOD.

And why I include a recipe in each love note.

Food is comforting and sensual and life-affirming. Food is one of the ways I lavish affection on those I care about and show folks I honor and appreciate their presence.

Approaching food from the lens of passion has catapulted passion in other areas of my world: my work, my writing, my home. It allows me to see how important the exquisite details of life are to me, no matter what their form. 

When I began writing these love noes almost a decade ago, I wanted to share something more that just a blog post. And that's when I realized that though I could recommend books, I wanted to share recipes with you. Because if we were friends and lived near each other, you can bet I'd want to have you over and herb snipscook you a meal or bake you some is one of my love languages.

The goal of every single love note is that I nourish you in some way. Maybe my words make you feel less alone. Maybe a paragraph serves as a wake-up call. Maybe a single sentence I write is just what you need to read so that you make that decision you’ve been putting off. Maybe a photo I share makes you smile. Maybe my words allow you to connect more deeply with your own soul or someone you love.

And if nothing I write nourishes your mind or your spirit, then at least I am sharing a way you can nourish your body. And nourish the bodies of people  you love as well. 

Kind of a ripple affect of love and nourishment.

Before our Stay at Home orders, I was already cooking most of our meals. We'd rarely go out to eat except when we were traveling (or I went to lunch with a girlfriend or a book).  But with the challenges of our time (items being out of stock or worries about the supply chains), I am spending more time focusing on what we're going to eat.

Early in my coaching practice, I went to a retreat for women entrepreneurs. And I was thrilled to be invited on stage to talk about my business and get some free coaching on how I could make my business coffee with creamstronger. And the guru told me the first thing that had to go was recipes. Because it had nothing to do with selling coaching or selling any of my courses (this was before I had written any books).

I blindly listened for a few weeks and realized that I was diluting the connection and love I wanted to convey to people who gifted me with their time and attention was missing something – like the way spices and herbs turn a blah ingredient into something special.

So, I added the recipes back in and ignored any other guru who told me to ditch ‘em. And I've never looked back. While some folks see food as mere subsistence, it's beyond a meal to me. It's about finding some sense of pleasure in each stage of bringing a meal to the table. 

There is alchemy when you take raw ingredients and turn them into something that will nourish our onions, oh mybodies. And frankly, nourishes my mind and soul as I'm preparing them. And it's mentally nourishing when I am creating something I've never made before - like the recipes I am sharing with you this week.

And in my mind, we can all use a little alchemy no matter what's happening in the world.

Here in the US, tomorrow is Mother's Day. I know many of us are separated from our moms these days  - whether from being isolated or having lost moms -  and that can feel hard. So, know I'm sending all of you moms, daughters, and sons lots of love and prayers.

Please continue to take care of yourself. And if you need anything, reach out to me.

And, as always, I am sending you love.

PS - Being witnessed and heard during times of crisis can be important to maintaining our sense of self. So, I've extended discounts to all my clients - and am offering half-price sessions for anyone that just needs a little chat.

From the blog: Reducing Complaining is Making Me Happier & My Relationship Better  About twenty-one days into our quarantine, I had a very grumpy day. Everything little thing seemed to annoyed me. And I found myself complaining. A lot. Midway through the day, JB announced he was going for a walk. Alone. Not only did that make me grumpier, it also made me feel guilty. Because I realized that everything I complained about was pointed at him, even if he had nothing to do with it.

I know I’m not the only one feeling challenged right now. Dealing with the stress of the news, worrying about people’s health and the economy, and cabin fever is a given for many folks. And complaining, feeling annoyed by everything, or wanting to pick a fight is a side affect of fear. We’re dealing with so much that’s out of our control AND an invisible virus. So, when you consider that our response to fear is flight, fight, or freeze, complaining is a way to fight. Because we’re already “freezing” in place. And there is nowhere to run.

Complaining about things can make us feel we’re doing something about our stress and fears. We’re venting, expressing our opinion, taking a stand, and feeling all the feelings!

Yet, complaining about things just makes me feel crappier when I would rather choose more pleasant emotions.

stop complaining

Complaining invites us to focus on the problem. So, rather than put your precious attention on a solution, we wallow in the problem. Complaining gets you got in a cycle of focusing on the problem, verbalizing it, and then finding more things to complain about. So, it captures our attention and then causes us to feel even more negative about our lives.

And right now, more than ever, I need hope and positivity rather than negativity.

Look, I believe everyone has a right to their feelings. And I know from experience that if we tamp down our emotions, we’ll never create a life that feels nourishing. Because, in part, we are denying our own reality. So, I’m not suggesting that we ignore how we’re feeling. Rather, I’m reminding you (and me) that complaining mires me down in the negative. Without hope of reaching more positive outcomes.Complaining doesn’t fix anything or help anyone. What the point of inviting negative interactions with others?

And remember: just because you have feelings doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone about every single one of those feelings. Especially right now when we’re all getting tired of sheltering in place. Trust me, everyone you live with knows there’s a lot of challenges right now.

In addition to making me feel unhappy, I am also reminding myself that complaining can hurt relationships.

The Gottman Institute found that couples who share negative interactions are more likely to divorce early. Their research further showed that need four positive interactions with our partner for each negative interaction. So, when we complain, it’s not only a negative interaction. It feels like criticism. And I ask you: do you want to be criticized all the time? Because living with someone that’s complaining and criticizing feels pretty crappy.

I’m a realist and I know that perfect harmony is impossible every single moment of the day. Even healthy relationships will see some conflict. However, that doesn’t mean we have to escalate it. Rather than escalate a fleeting negative emotion, ask yourself how you’d rather feel.

That doesn’t mean you aren’t irritated or even angry with your partner. Instead, it’s the old adage of: would you rather be right or happy? Because often, when we choose being “right”, we open the door to more negative emotions to come pouring through.

In order to stop complaining and eventually harming your relationship, stop and think before you speak. This is really about self-awareness. Think carefully about how you desire to feel and what’s really bugging you. Instead of spouting off with a snarky remark from a moment of feeling cranky, be clear with yourself as to why you’re angry, irritable, or on edge. Are you angry because your partner left his socks on the floor or are you sad because you miss going to lunch with a girlfriend?

Now is a great time to also step back and create a relationship vision with your partner. A shared vision for your relationship gives you the clarity to manage your life together. And it’s a great way to choose how you desire your relationship to feel. And agree to let the little irritations go.

This isn’t to say that little things don’t matter. Little things matter, yet they don’t.

I am the first to tell you that little things matter when it comes to happiness. There’s a reason why fresh flowers in your home or a brand new lipstick lifts your spirits. Life is made so much sweeter and nourishing when we notice and indulge in simple pleasures or even little luxuries. Those little things add up to helping you choose happiness. And it can be the path to ensuring that you thrive in your daily life no matter what’s happening in the world.

However, I’m the first to tell you that focusing on the little things your partner does in a negative way can whittle away at love and trust. My ex-husband was constantly complaining that I didn’t load the dishwasher correctly. And while that seems like a small thing, it made me believe I could never do “anything” right in our marriage. And, frankly, that one constant complaint of his still comes to mind more than a decade after our divorce.

Would you rather focus on the little things that are right in your relationship? To focus on sharing a cup of coffee together in the morning, the fact your husband opens the car door for you, or that he never fails to take out the trash? Or would you prefer to nitpick every little thing that irritates you. And ensure that he’s well aware of how irritated you are by complaining?

The choice is yours, my dear. What we focus on, grows. And now, in this challenging season, I’d much rather focus on what’s right in my life rather than what’s wrong in the moment. Gratitude and love over negativity is how I’d rather live, that’s for sure.

So, how am I reacting when I would typically complain? I’m saying “So what?”

One day last week,  I opened my spice cabinet and out came tumbling four jars of spices. One of which struck the corner of my small crock pot, knocking off a chunk of the ceramic. I wanted to bitch and complain. To immediately chastise JB for putting the spices in the “wrong place”. And then I stopped myself.

Did I want to vent my frustration and allow this little challenge to annoy me further? Was being self-righteous about how things “should” be put away more important than the health of my relationship? And what emotion did I want to focus on? The reasons JB had put the spices away was that he’d cleaned the kitchen after dinner the night before, leaving me to relax and read a book. Would I rather focus on feeling grateful or feeling irritated?

I took a deep breath and said “So what?” I put the spices in the spots I prefer. And then ordered a replacement crock-pot for $9.99 from Target. Trust me, spending five minutes tidying up the kitchen and adding a $10 item to my Target order was worth the time and the money. Because the health of my relationship is worth it. And my own sense of satisfaction with my life is worth pausing rather than complaining.

My choice to choose my relationship and my own happiness in a productive and compassionate allowed me to have a happier day. And meant that our combined time together felt nourishing and fun rather than both of us feeling rotten. Life and relationships can’t help but thrive when we fuel them with kindness, compassion, and grace.

Let’s be honest: no one’s perfect.

This awareness around how complaining was making me unhappy and making JB feel attached doesn’t mean I’ll never complain again. But it is helping me do it less often. And that, my darling, makes me a much more joyous person. And not once since then has my partner, in turn, felt like he needed to withdraw to protect himself.

So, what about you? Isn’t your own happiness more important than getting mired down into the way complaining makes you feel in the long run? Would you rather choose to be right or happy? Isn’t the health of your relationship more important than calling attention to every little thing that’s irritating you?

How can you look beyond the stress and strain of this time in our lives? And how could letting the little things go strengthen your relationship?

This is a longer than normal recipe description. And it's actually 2 recipes in one.

One meal I've had on repeat of late is spaghetti with meatballs. I'm usually more of a meat sauce over meatballs person because it's so much easier to throw ground meat into a pan, spice it up, add some tomatoes, and voila you have dinner. Meatballs take more time and more effort.

Yet, one recent Wednesday afternoon, I found myself making meatballs. 

spaghettiBecause I was cleaning out the fridge (trash day here is Thursday), I used other items expiring soon to create my own recipe for what now has become my go-to recipe for these tasty morsels of goodness.

Here's the recipe for these beautiful meatballs with pancetta (recipe 1)

Preheat your oven to 350. And line a  rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper (or spray it heavily with non-stick spray.). It's important, by the way, that your baking sheet does have a rim.

Begin by taking about six ounces of diced pancetta  (which is basically Italian Bacon) and cook it over medium-high heat. Cook until the fat begins to render into the pan and the meaty parts of the bacon begin to brown. If there is not much fat in the pan, add some olive oil until the bottom of the pan is covered in some sort of fat.

Next, add a cup of diced white (or yellow) onions to the pan as well as a small sprinkling of kosher salt to sweat the onions. When the onions begin to soften, add a tablespoon of minced garlic to the pan along with a teaspoon of chili powder and two teaspoons of Italian seasonings. After this is well blended into the pancetta and onion mixture, add 1/2 can of crushed tomatoes.

Allow this to cool completely. Once cooled, add one beaten egg to the mixture.

In a large mixing bowl, add a pound of good ground beef and spread it out as flat as possible so that you can more evenly distribute the spices - I basically use the bowl as a mold. Generously season the ground beef with garlic powder, fresh ground pepper, and some paprika.  Use a very light hand and also add some kosher salt (but very light hand). Flip the meat over so that you can season the other side. 

(Note:  I prefer grass fed beef with 10% fat or less. You want to use lean ground beef here because of the fat content in the pancetta)

Next add a cup of Parmesan cheese to serve as a binder (and for the flavor).

Add the tomato-onion-egg mixture into the ground beef and incorporate as evenly as possible. While you can mix this with a rubber spatula, you may find it easier to combine by hand.

Once mixed well, begin forming the meatballs - I use a tablespoon so that the meatballs will all be about the same size - you could also use a small ice cream scoop. As you make each meatball, ensure that the diced pancetta is well distributed in the meatball rather than too terribly one-sided.

This will make about 28 meatballs. Though, you could choose to make larger (and fewer) meatballs. And note: these will be a very sticky meatball. Though we're eating these with pasta, I'm still trying to cook without gluten-based fillers.

Place each meatball on the parchment lined pan. You can put them close together but don't allow them to meatballstouch. Bake for fifteen minutes (you want the internal temperature to be at least 160 to ensure safety).  Larger meatballs will require being cooked longer.

Place the cooked meatballs on a wire rack to cool. Note that there will be fat in the bottom of your pan so be careful - it's hot!

You can eat these right away, of course. And they are delicious on their own without noodles and sauce. But we fell in love with how it paired with the simple sauce (that I am now obsessed with).

I froze these meatballs and half the recipe was perfect, so this netted us two meals. And better, it allowed us to have a really good meal on a day I didn't feel like cooking.

These will freeze for about 3 months. You need them to be completely cool before you freeze them. I used waxed paper in my container to keep them from sticking together. And because the meatballs were small, I put them into the sauce frozen and allowed them to thaw and warm up nestled in that beautiful sauce.

Here's the recipe for the sauce I am obsessed with. (Recipe #2).

The first night we had some of the meatballs for dinner, I wanted a simple sauce that wouldn't compete flavor wise with the meatballs.Now, I'm obsessed with it, not just for these meatballs, but with some sauteed chicken breast one night...and it would also work as a pizza sauce.

Spray your crock pot with non-stick spray. Open one large can of crushed tomatoes (28 ounce) (My go-to canned tomatoes are the Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes) and pour them into your crock pot. Add four tablespoons of butter (I prefer the Kerrygold Irish Butter) and 1/2 of an onion (white or yellow - not a sweet onion). The onion should simply be sliced in half - no dicing, no slicing.

Allow this mixture to come together on low for about four hours - though you will want to stir it after about an hour to thoroughly mix the butter into the tomatoes.  When it comes time to eat, you'll fish out the onion and discard it. Yes, it's that simple. 

With pasta, I'd add sauce to the cooked noodles and combine well rather than putting the sauce on top of the pasta. Then add your meatballs on top. To use the sauce with the chicken breast, I combined the chicken breast first so as not to over-sauce them. And then mixed it into the pasta.

IF you are warming up the meatballs at the same time, nestle the meatballs into the crock pot with the sauce. Just for even distribution of sauce on the pasta and meatballs per person, you'll need to fish out the meatballs when you fish out the onion.

But it's super easy to then simply assemble the 

Notes about substitutions: 
  • You can substitute bacon for the pancetta, just dice it before you cook it. You want to cook those onions is pork fat for the depth of flavor.
  • You can sub two tablespoons of tomato paste in the meatballs for the 1/2 can of crushed tomatoes.
  • If you want a meatball that is less sticky and has more structure, you can add 1/2 cup of oats to serve as a binder.
  • If you don't have a large can of tomatoes, you can use two small cans. Or even 1 1/2 small cans (to keep waste down.) Since I use a lot of tomatoes in our meals, it's not unusual to have a partial can of tomatoes in our fridge.
  • If you don't have fresh garlic, you can use that garlic in a tube or additional garlic powder (but not garlic salt).
  • The meatballs work best with a spaghetti, of course, but you can substitute any kind of pasta though I don't think it would work well with those little filled pastas.

Enjoy, my darling!

Volume 10 
Issue 10

May 09, 2020

Love Notes Published Every-Other-Saturday
Thank you, darling for the precious in-box space! 

See something you'd love to share?  I'd be honored if you forwarded this along to a friend.
Hello from Debra

About Debra

Debra Smouse is a writer, life coach, and Tarnished Southern Belle who is on a mission to help people create a daily life that is loving and nourishing.

A native Texan, she resides in Ohio with the Man of her Dreams. Connect with her on social media:
Instagram | Facebook Twitter.

One-Time Sessions

In times like these, you may simply need to talk to someone that doesn't live with you, doesn't work with you, or isn't in your current list of friends. That's because we need the voices (and ears) of people who have no horse in the race of our own lives.

From now until our need for social distancing ends, I am offering single sessions at half-price.. These sessions can be done via phone or video.


“No matter what age or stage we are, sometimes life just isn’t everything we want it to be. This course offers amazing insight into some of the many reasons why.

Deb Smouse has prepared an intensive program to help decipher the ways we can derail our own happiness, and, most importantly, lots of concrete tips and tricks for getting back on course to Finally Love Your Life.”

Becca Rowan, Author

Also in the blog

Right now, I am keeping a diary alongside my regular journal. While it may seem redundant to keep both a journal and diary, they are quite different in how they are serving me right now.

Food for thought ==> Why Keeping a Diary is the Saving Grace I Need Right Now



I would just like to state for the record that Debra Smouse is a genius and an awesome listener, to boot.

In one phone conversation with her, I was able to verbalize, and thus realize, something that had been on the tip of my brain for weeks.  Her simple way of listening and asking led to a proverbial light bulb moment that has stayed with me for days and has helped open up new, clearer avenues of thought and feeling.

~Brandi Lee, Photographer, Small Business Owner

Use this Time for Self-Discovery

I believe that if you were to really get to know all the sides of someone, you couldn’t help but fall in love with them.

What if YOU were that person?

Become Besotted. With Yourself. With Your Life.

Become Besotted will assist you in writing your story, a month at a time. An opportunity to get to know all sides of yourself and fall in love.

Become Besotted will also help you explore your dreams and desires. It will serve you in monitoring your victories and shedding what isn’t serving you.

You receive an in-depth questionnaire and 12 months to unfold your story and fall in love...

 to save 50%

Purchase here.

Spot On

Your advice has always been spot on…….from helping me see how important it is to be thankful for my blessings to helping me remove physical and emotional clutter from my life. I am actually the most grateful for the times when you have spoken the truth in love and been honest with me when I wanted to continue to delude myself. Without those wise words, I would have continued to lie to myself and not had the breakthroughs I have experienced.

I’m not all I want to be yet but I would have ever found my path had I not met and worked with you. Thank you for your efforts in helping me find my life. I am forever in your debt.

~Basil Human


Look to Hope

I find that if I am without words, there are the words of others to turn to in order to find a sense of hope.

Whether you meditate upon a favorite quote or simply transfer it to your own journal, note card, or on Facebook, remembering that others who’ve experience tough times have come out OK on the other side can be a balm to the soul.

Here's eighty-seven quotes on hope to turn to when you’re feeling weary, wary, and worried during this time of crisis==>.


Intuitive Ear

In a day and age where relationships are flat and a true connection to each other is a rare gem to be found, Debra’s genuine enthusiasm for life fuels your coaching experience. An ever-faithful ally and pillar of evolving ideas,

Debra approaches her clients with an intuitive ear, a foundation of love and sincerity, sprinkled with a touch of humor.

Elizabeth Rago
Modern Domestic Woman
a year of support

Do You Need a Little Extra Support?

My most popular coaching package as it allows us to spend 12 months together. We build trust and get to know each other intimately.

This allows you go go as wide - or deep - as your stage of life demands.

You choose the number of sessions that fit your lifestyle (and budget) and we’ll create an amazing year together for a life you love.

Learn More  or


Gotten More Courageous 

Finally Love Your Life is an authentic and deep yet practical and fun program all wrapped up into one.  Debra’s extensive knowledge coupled with her emotive writing and ginormous heart provide the tools, support and space to explore and discover, evaluate and play. 

As a result of class, I was able to dig in and shift some major challenges that were keeping me stuck in annoying and frustrating patterns.

I also realized how little time I was devoting to having FUN and making time for simple pleasures.  With these insights and some easy changes, I have grown, gotten more courageous and have way more delight and joy in my life.

Michelle Reinhardt
why decluttering is good for your well being

In the Blog

It’s important to understand the impact that being stuck at home can have on your physical, mental, and psychological state and in knowing that, make efforts to keep yourself busy and occupied while at home.

A great way to do this is by using your time to clean and declutter. Not only will this help your house to be clean, but it will also have a large impact on your well-being as a whole.

Read==>Why Decluttering and Organizing is So Important for Your Well-Being

Facing Teeny Cracks of Vulnerability

My working relationship with Deb began a number of years ago through an online course in which we both participated – post-course, we agreed with a few colleagues to an online accountability relationship for positive steps we were all taking in our lives. During that time for me, Deb established her attention to detail and her accountability to both contribute input and to positively listen to each of the persons involved with the group. After that group ended, she and I personally kept in touch loosely over our blogposts and those posts of other online friends.

But the rest, the rest being with Deb’s counsel, has been an interesting, innovating, expanding chapter in my life as a woman, a spouse, a creative artist. My spouse and I have always had what I considered an excellent life together – I did not anticipate an even better and the more intimate relationship that we now find ourselves living into every day. I’m no slouch in the confidence category but Deb has helped me face those teeny cracks of vulnerability that I sheltered, having helped me prosper mentally and physically at this stage of my life. My creative aspirations are blooming with no end in sight – LOTS more growth ahead for me.

I highly recommend a course with Deb or what she might call a non-course – that’s the arrangement we have now. Personal coaching on a regular basis – touching base on one’s own hiccups, one’s own dimension of daily life, whether it’s exercise, creative habits and/or reaching the next plateau or higher in all of the newness that still continues to unfold for me. I highly recommend Deb’s methods and courses! You won’t be sorry you signed on with Deb as your super-person sidekick!

Dianna Woolley, Abstract Artist

soothing anxiety

Over at YourTango

It’s so important to manage your stress levels at any time for your own mental health and happiness.

Read==> 23 Calming Techniques For Soothing Coronavirus Anxiety Fast

Nudged Me Forward

I believe everyone could benefit from a good life coach. Yes, everyone. Even (and especially) other coaches! Debra is a coach who models what she encourages in her clients—deep soul searching, practical living skills, and solid business sense. Whether you’re new to exploring personal growth or someone who assists others along their own paths, Debra offers a style that meets you where you are.

Personally, I’ve done a ton of my own transformational work and continue to explore new pathways every day. While I wish I could say that I have ‘arrived,’ there really is no such destination for a lifelong learner like me or probably you. Debra is a friend and mentor who helps keep me on task, shed light on my blind spots, and untangle the stuck places that I can’t quite tackle on my own.

Throughout the time we’ve worked together, she’s nudged me forward with just the right amount of force and given me space to grieve my losses and celebrate my victories. She’s more than a coach. She’s a muse and cheerleader, and I am immensely grateful to have her on my team.

Kayce S. Hughlett – Life Coach & Author


Also in the Blog

The best way I know to dig into that self-awareness of who you are and what you most desire is to dip your toes into the depths of yourself through an inquiry process. Sounds ominous in that way, but the core of the inquiry process is posing some bold, open-ended, and probing questions and answering them honestly.

Read==>Self-Awareness: The Key to Creating a Life You Love
Copyright © 2020 Debra Smouse - Create a Life You Love, All rights reserved.

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