3 Reasons Why 2013 Was the Best Year of My Life

December 31st, 2013

New Years Eve is here again! As I look back over the year, my heart is fuller than it’s ever been. I thought I’d share three reasons why this past year has been my favorite so far.

Reason #1 – My perspective has changed. For awhile I was feeling very restless. I wanted to move somewhere outside of the Seattle area, and I do think I will someday eventually. But I began to remember that today is the day to really live – yesterday is the past and tomorrow hasn’t happened yet. Today is real, and it’s no good wasting it with discontent.

I haven’t been out of the Seattle area, even for a short trip, for more than a year. And yet this past year has been more full of adventure and new people and new situations than many in the years past. All these interesting people and circumstances were right in my backyard, as long as I had the eyes to see it.

As a Christian, I also believe that God has a will for my life. Remembering to ask Him what He wants for each day, and keeping my eyes open to the present moment, and aware of what/who He might want me to notice, makes each day more interesting than it could ever be by just trying to make it that way.

Reason #2 – This is the year I decided to become a nurse! I’ve talked about this at length already (you can view the post here). I am so excited to have a direction in my career, and beginning this process has brought about much of the change mentioned before. I’ve been taking classes at community college for the past three quarters. Science was as challenging as I thought it would be, and yet I’ve conquered it somehow, and even become more and more curious and interested in all that I’m learning. That’s a miracle in itself!

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I also began volunteering at a local ER. It’s hard for me to even sum up all that I’ve learned and felt and experienced through doing that. I’ll probably write more about it another time, but it has given me so much meaning and increased my purpose and determination to pursue nursing. If I had to decide right now I would be an ER nurse (although of course that may change).

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Shameless scrubs selfie

Reason #3 – Rex. This boy. My little nephew has completely captured my heart. He’s sleeping peacefully on my lap as I type this. I was excited for him to come, but I never knew I could love him so much! It is the strangest thing to one day suddenly have this new little person in your life, and suddenly there is one more person that you love!

Rexy

While this probably isn’t the place or time to go into full detail, Rex had a handful of unexpected health scares in the month before he was born. It was humbling how many people prayed him into health over and over…today he is 100% healthy and it is 100% an answer to prayer. My sister calls him her miracle baby. I just think there is no better way to come into this world than surrounded by love, prayers, and God’s protection!

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I’m sorry if this post is a little sappy! I’m just feeling so blessed right now. Of course my life isn’t perfect, but I’ve never before felt such a sense of God’s direction and guidance, and seen so much of His protection over my family as I have in 2013. I don’t think I can ask for anything more in life.

Blessings to you in 2014!

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My Favorite Blog Moments + A New Season

December 27th, 2013

One thing I enjoy about this time of year is the chance to review the previous season, and then clear out and organize for the coming year. One project I’ve taken on in this process is sorting through my blog. I read through each of the posts from the past 2+ years, and organized them into their correct categories (you can view these at the top of the site).

I have to admit I felt a little sentimental reading through it all! I put a lot of hard work into the posts, and much of that was fueled by the ambiguity I felt in my career and future. This blog has been an immensely refreshing creative release for me.

That said, now that I’m in school, I have less time for blogging. I’ve had to think about where I want to take this site that I’m so fond of. To be honest, I’m not sure what the content will look like in the future. I do feel, however, that its identity as a baking blog has drawn to a close. I simply don’t have the time required for baking posts anymore.

I do want to keep this blog up and running though. I love having a medium where I can write/create/share, and sometimes even connect with others out there in the internet world. I will keep posting – I plan to write some thoughts on 2013, as well as an update on my nursing journey very soon.

In the meantime, as I’ve just revisited the history of this little site, and as this blog is officially moving from one chapter to another one, I thought it might be fun to highlight the best moments and my favorite posts from the past 2 years, in chronological order. I feel a lot of gratitude as I look back over what I’ve experienced the last couple of years. Let’s review!

1. Lemon Gooey Butter Cookies.

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This was my first recipe post, back in September of 2011. I submitted the photo to Foodgawker.com and was shocked when it was accepted, and the post got 1000 hits in one day! It was so exciting. If you are a food blogger, I highly recommend sites like Foodgawker for exposing your work to others.

This is also literally one of my favorite cookie recipes. Here is the original post with the recipe: jessienextdoor.com/2011/09/02/lemon-gooey-butter-cookies/

2. 2011 Summary Post

2011

This series of photos are some of the first I ever took with my DSLR. I think any creative person would say that they often feel they are “given” something (such as a song). I felt like these photos were a gift. The mornings when I took them were so refreshing as well…it’s a good memory.

Here is the post: jessienextdoor.com/2011/12/31/2011/

3. Lavender Cupcakes with Honey Frosting

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This is the most popular recipe on my blog by a verrrrrry long shot. AND Lauren Conrad featured it on her blog once. I just can’t get over that! You can view it here: laurenconrad.com/blog/post/friday-favorites-53-lauren-conrad-cupcake-hair-braids-shoes-print-2012

…and here is the original post: jessienextdoor.com/2012/03/21/lavender-cupcakes-with-honey-frosting/

4. Style Posts

I thoroughly enjoyed photographing some friends of mine and displaying their style and creativity! These shoots are some of my favorite memories. Pictured below is Grace from the post Late Summer Maxi Dress (link here).

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5. Lemon Lavender Bars and New Day Northwest

Of course one of the most unforgettable moments was winning the Girl Scouts Cookie contest and presenting the recipe on New Day Northwest!

6. Lauren Elizabeth Interview

One of my very favorite bloggers is Lauren of thelaurenelizabeth.com. She was so kind as to write a guest post about blogging. She was such a pleasure to work with – really prompt and helpful. I loved reading what she had to say.

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You can view her guest post here: jessienextdoor.com/2013/06/26/guest-post-lauren-elizabeth-on-blogging/.

7. My New Career

I took some time to write out the paths I’ve taken in my search for the right career, and my new journey towards nursing. I’m so beyond excited to be where I am in life right now, and it was a lot of fun writing it all out. You can view this post here.

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What a journey! Even as I look back over my personal life in 2013, I’m so amazed at what can happen in a year or two years’ time.

Thank you so much to any of you who read my blog. I hope you have a wonderful last few days of December!

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Classic Pumpkin Bread

November 3rd, 2013

ClassicPumpkinBread

Well hello!

I hope you’re enjoying autumn, aka red cup season at Starbucks. I know I am – time is flying by faster than it ever has before for me. I paused to think about this the other day and realized it’s because I’m enjoying everything I do – work, school and volunteering have all been really challenging and enjoyable.

That said, school has been taking over my life a bit. In many ways Cellular Biology has been my hardest class yet! I find it more interesting than chemistry, but it’s a whole world of info that takes a lot of time and energy to absorb.

Because of that, it’s hard for me to pause and take time for the kitchen. However, we are approaching prime baking season, and pumpkin bread was just calling my name.

I was also drawn to pumpkin bread because it’s incredibly easy and quick to make. All you do is mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another, combine and bake.

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Now I will say that the first time I made this a couple of Sundays ago, I didn’t think to grease the pan. On top of that, I took it out of the pan too early, and the whole loaf split into two. I then immediately took what I deemed a Nap of Despair for about an hour and a half, and felt much better about the whole thing. (I should say that I take an hour and a half nap for one reason or another pretty much every Sunday so I wasn’t really that sad. Actually I’m about to go take one right after I post this…)

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This recipe was incredibly quick and simple. I adjusted the original with a reminder to spray the loaf pan and let it sit for around 10 minutes (depending how done it was when you removed it from the oven) and everything turned out wonderful the second time around. I hope you can give this a try!

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Classic Pumpkin Bread

Yields: 1 loaf

Adapted from “From Our House to Yours” (Frontier Bank cookbook from 1991)

Ingredients
1 2/3 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cloves
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pumpkin puree

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.

Sift dry ingredients into a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, water and vegetable oil. Fold in the pumpkin, and combine both mixtures.

Add batter to the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan, and then carefully empty loaf onto a wire cooling rack to finish cooling. Enjoy!

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5-Minute “Apple Pie”

September 24th, 2013

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A few years ago I tried a simple recipe for microwaved apple that I’d found on self.com or somewhere similar. I thought it was delicious and never forgot about it.

These days, while I still (often) enjoy dessert, I’m also trying to eat clean whenever possible. I started wondering the other day if there was a way to make a single-serving/clean/easy version of apple pie. I decided to start with that old self.com recipe, add in some new ingredients, and see how it turned out. I loved it on the first try!

The process is so simple and quick. You will need one apple, some yogurt, granola, cinnamon/nutmeg/cloves, and sweetener of your choice.

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Chop the apple into large pieces.

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Add about a teaspoon of cinnamon, and just a pinch of the nutmeg and cloves. Drizzle with sweetener of your choice (I used Agave syrup). Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.

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Let it sit for a minute, as it will be really hot. (You can stop here and eat it this way too!)

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Sprinkle with a bit of granola (around 1/4 cup), add a dollop of Greek yogurt, and sprinkle with more cinnamon, if desired.

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I love this dish so much. It’s comforting, filling, balanced, and light on calories (especially if you use a light hand with the granola). I think it would also be great for breakfast! I hope you can give it a try!

Five-Minute Healthy “Apple Pie”

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients
1 apple
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of cloves and nutmeg
1/4 cup granola
2 dollops Greek yogurt
Agave syrup

Directions

Chop apple into large pieces. Sprinkle with cinnamon and other spices. Drizzle with sweetener. Microwave for 90 seconds.

Stir warm apple mixture and let it sit for a minute or two to cool. Sprinkle with granola, add yogurt on top, and sprinkle with additional cinnamon, if desired. Enjoy!

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Jessie's Kitchen Chronicles