Let's talk about Curiosity and Wonder.  
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January 2021 (Volume 11 - Issue #1)

Hello and happy Saturday, <<Name>> !  I am so excited to be here  with you as we enter 2021.  Whether the lone benchyou're a new friend or have been around since the beginning, I want you to know how grateful I am for this space in your in-box.

I think most of us had hopes that 2021 would be different (implying better). And am well aware that it may not seem bright and shiny or new to many of you. Especially after what happened in DC on Wednesday (my thoughts are here if you're wondering).

What I know to be true, also, is that it can feel not just tough, but of lonely, too. Because on the outside, a lot of folks seem to have their stuff together, doesn't it? And it often times seems as if "everyone" is coping better than I am when it comes to the on-going pandemic and the political world.

This is why one of the number one things each of us is called to do is take care of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. And that's what I aim to share with you: ways to tend and nourish yourself.

Because you, my dear, are significant in the fabric of our world.  I ran across this line in an essay by Mary Oliver and it spoke so strongly to me about how one individual, spreading light and kindness, can make an impact:

“May I be the tiniest nail
in the house of the universe,
tiny but useful.”

--Mary Oliver


Today marks a pretty significant change in this Love Note.

Not only is it a fresh, new design, it marks the move to a MONTHLY format in hopes that I can more deeply serve you. Gone is the side-bar with good words from clients, ways to purchase courses, and excerpts from blog posts. What I hope you find here, instead, is lots of good ideas, practical tools, inspiration, and solid strategies to love yourself and your life.

When I sat down and begin imagining what this would look like, I began brainstorming what would be useful, fun, and allow us to go a little deeper.

I also wanted you to know that I am seeing this as an EXPERIMENT as well.  What seems like a great idea to me - something that allows us to channel a sense of wonder - may fall flat.  So, feel free to reply to this email with any thoughts you may have - compliments and constructive criticism alike.

My hope, though, is that every single section I've added here feels like a hug. (Or a kick in the pants if that's what you're needing on a particular day.)

I entered this week giddy with excitement to begin the 2021 work year. And yet, as I examined my to-do list yesterday afternoon, I realized there was still a significant number of tasks I'd hoped to accomplish this week My desk on Mondaythat weren't checked off. And many things I had hoped to accomplish early in the week - like the design of this newsletter - are being wrapped up on Friday afternoon. 

Considering one of my goals for 2021 is to set aside Fridays to work only on my book means I'm already not succeeding.  Rather than berating myself - or throwing my hands up at a productive 2021 - I grabbed my journal as I sipped my 1st cup of coffee today and decided to be curious. And ask myself some good questions.

Such as: "What took the lion's share of my energy this week?" and "Where there unexpected tasks that popped up?" and "Is it possible you were unrealistic when it comes to your list?" and "How are you caring for yourself - sleep, food, meditation, etc.?"

And because I approached it with curiosity, I was able to make some good discoveries. Begin readjusting my to-do list for next week so that it's more realistic.  And find the motivation to dive right into work early this morning.

Though there was a lot of "housekeeping" to be done this week  due to the changes, that's one of the main things I want to thread through every section of this new Love Note from me to you - a THEME for the month.

This month, I am asking you to approach life with Curiosity and a Sense of Wonder. 

When we approach our life - especially our perceived failures - with an attitude of curiosity rather than self-flagellation - it opens the path to compassion and grace.

Not only is this a good way to do your inner work, it will help make life more interesting as you do common When I told him he was cute, he posed for me.tasks - like grocery shopping. What IS the difference between a pumelo and  grapefruit? And what on earth is that person in front of you having for dinner?

This is also where a Sense of Wonder can be helpful, too. As children we were often curious about the world while also being awed and amazed. It allowed us to access joy and to stimulate our growing minds.  And, taking that attitude can also help you be more mindful, which has shown to reduce stress and anxiety.

For an example, on my park visit Wednesday, two squirrels ran in front me just as I was stepping onto the walking paths. They always make me giggle, but on that day, I channeled a child-like wonder upon their lives here in my favorite park.

And after another two pair of squirrels scampered about, I became curious about how many of them lived in the park. So, rather than listen to a podcast, I counted squirrels. (There were 13 in the sections of the park I explored).

Though by all means not "important" work  - the counting of squirrels - gave me an opportunity to find some joy just because I followed that thread of curiosity.

As you scroll down, you'll find this thread runs through everything here - from the Food to Favorite Stuff and ending with quotes (that you can download to save or share on social media) explore "Curiosity", too.

And on that note, I'll see you on February 13th. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the changes, your stories of curiosity, and  how I can help you better love your life.

Sending you so much love,

Love, Debra

PS - while this newsletter is much longer than my old one used to be, I hope you'll find that it's chock-full of good stuff.

What's floating my boat?
To say that the start to 2021 has been challenging on a mental and emotional level is an understatement. Especially with the news coming out of Washington on Wednesday. But one thing I've learned is that the smallest of things can keep us afloat - or pull us up out of the deep end.

That's what I aim to share with you here each month. The books, shows, and stuff that's seems small but is making a powerful difference in the quality of my daily life.

What We're Watching

Baby Yoda - GrogoEvery evening after dinner, JB and I watch an episode or two of a show. It's a great way to connect and relax together.

Our favorites the last month have been The Queen's Gambit (Netflix), The Flight Attendant (HBO Max), The Mandalorian (Disney+), and Longmire (Netflix).

Currently we're watching Cobra Kai, which we both thought we'd hate but have fallen in love with the humor, messages, and nostalgia. If you were a kid or young adult in the 80's you'll agree.

Oh, and though it's a movie not a show, we enjoyed re-watching Saving Mr. Banks (Netflix, Disney+). And afterwards, we both went down the rabbit hole of curiosity to learn more about PL Travers and Walt Disney.

While this seems like a lot of streaming channels, be sure and check with your Cable provider, cell phone provider, and credit card offers. Lots of free or discounted access available right now to all these streaming apps.

The #1 Thing I'm Recommending to Girlfriends

Can we get personal for a minute: let's talk about Body Odors. And the fact that while it isn't really good for our skin to shower every day,  most of us do to keep from being stinky.  So, after seeing their hilarious ads on Instagram and Facebook, got super curious about Lume Deodorant and finally ordered some.

And wow, can I just say this this stuff is MAGIC. Seriously, I can skip a shower and still be fresh as a daisy For Your Stinky Partsfor  more than 48 hours. And of every single girlfriend I've recommended it to, they've said the SAME thing.

It's all natural and was developed by a gynecologists. It's vegan, all natural, and non-toxic. It's a lotion, so it absorbs into your skin. And is safe for all your girlie (or boy) parts. And lots of commenters on the Facebook ad rave about how it helps hormonal teen boys and stinky kid feet from being, well, rank.

So, though it seems like an exaggeration, this is life changing. Especially for these winter months. Because with my skin so dry already, it's nice to be able to shower every couple of days instead of daily.  

You can save $5 on your first order with this link (and I'll save on my next purchase).  And if you'd prefer to buy it without clicking a referral link, you can find out more about it here: or even buy it on Amazon.
Here's what I'm cooking on repeat....
When it comes to dinner these days, I'm all about food that's not only comforting to eat, but super easy to make.  Right after Thanksgiving, I made some amazing "Turkey Tortilla Soup" from leftover turkey breast and it was AMAZING.  But since I don't want to go through the process of roasting a turkey breast just for leftover turkey, I've been making Chicken Soup on repeat this month.

And the honest truth is that though I share recipes here with you, most of the time when I cook, I don't measure or try to follow a recipe. That means that even when I think I did the exact same thing as the time before, somethings it doesn't work as well. So, I'm going to share what worked for the perfect bowl of soup for daysgoodness on a dreary day. And how to "fix" it if it's either too bland or too spicy.

(Note: if you already have leftover chicken (or turkey) (or a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store) you can skip ahead to the aromatics.)

Begin by chopping up 1 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast into chunks. You can also start with boneless tenders, too.

Cover the bottom of a Dutch Oven with Olive Oil and add the chicken. Heavily season the chicken with garlic powder, ground sage, some dried oregano. Stir the chicken so that the outside begins to sear.

This is one recipe that doesn't call for exacts of anything. Rather, rummage through your vegetable bin and freezer for small bits of flavor. Begin with aromatics: onions, shallots, garlic, celery, and carrots. 

Dice your onions and then cut the celery and carrots into bite sized pieces. Add the onions and then the carrots to the pan with the chicken. And when the onions begin to soften, add your celery. Then after they begin to soften, add some garlic. You can dice about two cloves of garlic OR a healthy squeeze of minced garlic that comes in a tube in the produce section.

As this sautés, dice 1/2 a can of Chipoltle peppers in adobe sauce. I'm not a big fan of big spice, so I sliced the peppers open and removed the seeds before dicing them. Add the diced peppers as well as a couple of spoons of the Adobe sauce to the mixture on the stove. Set aside.

Here's where things can go two ways: I've made this after 6 PM on a Tuesday when we were already tired and worn down.  So, after the spices have been added, next   3 to 4 cups of turkey or chicken stock. If you don't have homemade stock, use a good boxed broth (I prefer unsalted Kitchen Basics) and bring that to a boil.

As you are waiting for it to boil, it's time to add more veggies if you want / have them. I always throw in a 1/2 or so of frozen corn as well as a can of DRAINED diced tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

If you're planning ahead, add your sautéed chicken and vegies to the crock pot. Then, the broth and any additional veggies. This can cook on low for about six hours.

To add a splash of freshness to this soup, slice up a lime and serve with lime wedges

For serving, get some of your favorite toppings: diced avocado, sour cream, grated cheese, and your favorite tortilla chips.

Some notes:
  • Leftovers can be frozen for about three months.
  • You can use rotisserie chicken from your grocery store deli and boxed broth to make this come together. You can also buy already chopped mirepoix at most grocery stores.
  • The leftover Chipoltle Peppers in Adobe sauce can be put in the freezer. I do this by de-seeding the entire can of peppers, putting serving size amounts of peppers on waxed paper, and then in snack-sized zip lock bags before putting the bags in the freezer.
  • Because this makes enough for leftovers, you make it a bit of a different meal by serving soup over cooked rice or stirring in some cooked noodles. Note that you might want to add some extra broth if this is the case.
  • You can also add a can of rinsed and drained beans - black, dark red kidney, and cannellini beans all work here.
  • Or, you can make this more of a veggie forward soup by adding diced potatoes (sweet , yellow, or white) as well as some frozen green beans.

And what I learned from failed batches of soup - and lots of internet research.

One evening, I wasn't feeling in the mood for spicy soup so I added very little pepper to it. AND also added a can of beans to make it a little heartier. BIG mistake. It was so bland and boring.  There are a couple of fixes for bland soup.
  • You can, of course, add more spice. However, that's hard to do after the soup is cooked because all the veggies will still taste pretty bland.
  • Squeeze some fresh citrus - lemon or lime - into the soup right before serving.
  • Add some apple cider vinegar - just a splash 
  • Ensure you add salt. I try to cook pretty low sodium, but soup needs a little salt. Especially if you use a lot of neutral veggies.
  • Last, but not least, put the soup in the freezer and when you pull it out of the freezer for another meal, begin by sautéing half of a diced onion in some olive oil. As the onion sautés, add some spices to the oil - garlic, cumin, chili, or cayenne. They will "bloom" in the oil. THEN add the too-bland soup to this as you warm it up for dinner. Be sure and add the squeeze of citrus!
And, of course, I've made this way too spicy. Trying to fix my mistakes of the previous too-bland batch. So, how can you fix too spicy soup?
  • Add dairy. A dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt, or even swirl of buttermilk stirred into the soup will mellow out the heat.
  • Add more ingredients - especially starchy or bland ones. This can be challenging if you're ready to eat. But by adding beans, more broth, rice, or some noodles, the additional ingredients will balance out the spice.
  • You can do the freezer method. Put leftovers in the freezer. And when you thaw for a second meal, begin by sautéing and softening some root veggies - carrots, parsnips, or potatoes in the pan before adding the soup to warm up. Oh, and you'll need more broth, too. You can also add more sautéed chicken.
Last, but not least, if you have two failed batches in your freezer - one bland and one spicy - simply combine them together. Again, you'll  need to add more broth. This is, in fact, what we had for dinner on Wednesday evening.
Have you chosen Your Word for 2021?  It's something I've been doing since 2005 and has been a great influence and support on my personal development over the years. Yes, even those years that I have tried to ignore my word, just the act of choosing a Word is like a prayer. 

One thing I wanted to do in the year ahead is to serve as a cheerleader, companion, and champion for you - and Your Word - for 2021. In my experience our words work their own special magic whether we check in with them or not, but keeping them in mind certainly helps boost their ability to serve us. 

Here's some ways to play and connect in this month:

  • Ask yourself: What secret ways is my WORD supporting me and my desires? Grab a sheet Word of the Year!of paper, your journal, or open a blank document on your computer to explore the answers to this question.
  • Get Curious about your WORD. Go to an online dictionary and first look at all the definitions of your WORD. Jot down anything that stands out. Then, click over to the Thesaurus and explore all of the synonyms for your Word. Take note of anything that stands out to you.
  • Choose a Day of Wonder with Your Word. Whatever you are looking for, you are sure to find it. So, on this day, begin with your Word firmly in your mind. And the, as you go about your day, find all the ways that your WORD is present in your daily life and activities. The mundane ones: like washing the dishes and brushing your teeth. And maybe even go for a long walk as you meditate over your word, seeking evidence in its presence and support.
  • Get Creative and Make Your Word a Work of Art. You can create a mini-vision board dedicated to your Word, make a graphic with your Word as the forefront, or go online to a stock photo site and seek an image that represents your Word. Whatever way you choose to create as an expression with your Word, put it in a place where you can refer back to it throughout the year. Maybe even share it on Instagram or in a Blog Post.

PS - If you haven't yet chosen a word, there's still time.  I'll never forget what happened to me in 2010. That year, I didn't even commit to a Word - FAITH - until March. I took leap after leap after leap of Faith that year, and my life has never been the same. It gave me the courage to trust my intuition and step out of my comfort zone. If you haven't yet downloaded A Touchstone For Your 2021 Journey: The In-Depth Guide to Revealing Your Word of the Year you can get the details here.
Interested in Working with Me? Book a Discovery Session
Quotes on This Month's Theme to Save and Share
Anais Nin on Wonder, Curiosity, and Mystery
The reminder to not be judgmental.
LUST for the Mind. I love that.
Walt Disney Always Values Curiosity.


I'm grateful you're here.

I'm Debra Smouse - a writer, lover of books, drinker of coffee, ENTJ, and life coach on a mission to help you create a daily life that is loving and nourishing. 

This love note arrives in your in-box the 2nd Saturday of each month. And my deepest hope is that it gives you practical tips for ways to choose yourself. And helps you discover the magic in the most ordinary of moments. 

Connect with me on social media: Instagram Facebook |  Twitter | Goodreads
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Copyright © 2021 Debra Smouse - Create a Life You Love, All rights reserved.

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