Best Ev-ah Pumpkin Bread!

Here’s an easy recipe for delicious pumpkin bread.  Every Thanksgiving I make it early in the morning.  Love to smell it baking as it fills our home with the aroma of happiness, gratitude and love. I’ve made it for years–so moist and yummy and it freezes well.  As a kid, I remember my mom making countless loaves, piling them up on a sled and sending us out into the cold to deliver them to neighbors at Christmas time.  Perfect for both Holidays–Thanksgiving and Christmas. Enjoy!

Best Ev-ah Pumpkin Bread

  • 3 Cups sugar
  • 1 Cup oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2/3 Cup water
  • 1 small can pumpkin
  • 3 1/3 Cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 to 1 Cup chopped pecans (optional)

Mix all ingredients.  Pour into greased and floured loaf pans.  (3 regular sized or 4 small) Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cheers!!  Here’s to all the things for which you’re grateful.  May your Thanksgiving be filled with magical moments to savor…warmth in your belly and in your heart.  Where ever you are, what ever you are doing this holiday, I wish you all the beauty of the season.

Love to you and yours,

Melissa Timberlake

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A Tree of Thanks

Okay, I’ll admit it: hand-me-downs delight me.  I relish secondhand stores, clearance aisles, shopping at Goodwill, dollar stores, finding something for “a steal”, or even better, being the recipient of a “freebie”. Found treasures snatched from the curbside (just in the nick of time) make me ecstatic and downright giddy! Recently while out walking, my keenly-honed-vulture-eye spotted a gorgeous leather couch on my neighbor’s curbside, ready for garbage pickup. Thinking quickly, I forced Ayden, my 9 year old to sit on the sofa and make-like-a-watchdog. With an edge of euphoric lunacy, I commanded him to “STAY!”–begging him to promise to guard this amazing cowhide covered treasure with HIS LIFE. Adrenaline pumping, I abruptly abandoned my child and beat it home as fast as I could to grab my husband and our trusted ’99 Suburban–both brilliantly built for “hauling”.  SCORE! Ah this…this, my loves, is blissful living.

So yes, I am a scavenger. And with great pride, I,  Melissa Timberlake, proclaim to the universe that I am an expert gleaner–a garbage picker extraordinaire!  You see, what others label as junk, I see as possibility. Why in the world would one discard what can be readily repurposed? To me, tossing something to the curb seems almost–well–trashy.  After all, nearly everything can be magically revitalized or revamped. Perhaps you disagree. That’s okay.  Quite frankly, I believe it is a gift. You either got it or you don’t. I do. And because I do, I’ve gained quite the reputation.  People know that I’m as serious as a heart attack about junk.  I pick it up, love it up, and turn it into something remarkable.

A friend called last week, informing me that  an enormous limb had snapped off her Curly Willow tree in a recent wind storm.  She wondered if I wanted it.  If I did, she advised me to bring a large handsaw to cut it down in order to fit it in my truck.  Clueless as to what I was going to do with this glorious gifting of goodness, I promised I’d be over in a flash!  I then bribed my husband, once again, to drive over and help me load the bounty.

By the time we arrived back home, I was insanely inspired.  I had the grand notion of converting this amputated branch into an elegant focal point for our Thanksgiving gathering. You see, there’ s a support beam (pole) in one of our rooms which has always been an eyesore.  I began stacking the branches against and around the pole, securing each layer with floral wire. I placed a multitude of salvaged bird’s nests onto the “tree”.  (My reputation for loving freebies has spread to the nine year old boys in our neighborhood who go searching for abandoned nests for me. Like miniature UPS men, they ring my doorbell, delivering me glorious “packages”-direct from Mother Nature.) Next, for added sparkle, I strung Christmas lights.  I then attached slightly kitschy birds throughout the tree.  Finally, I asked family members, friends and every one of the nine-year-old neighborhood boys to share what he is thankful for on gratitude cards. The cards were tied with raffia and hug from the tree for a dramatic focal point that celebrates thankfulness.  Voila!!  Junk?  I think not!!

So how the heck does life coaching connect to repurposing junk? Hmm…glad you asked! Well, as a good life coach, I’m simply going to leave you with two inquiries, “What’s the meaning here for you?” and “What’s the junk sitting on the curbside of your life that needs to joyously be picked up, loved up, and turned into something wonderfully remarkable?” Think about those questions and get back to me, will ya? In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Abundant blessings,

Melissa Timberlake

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Watching the Light

Nan, one of my BFF’s (ahem…can you tell I have a 13-year-old daughter?) is a gifted photographer. We met about a year ago, although it seems like we’ve known each other for eons! Together, we are co-journeyers. Our conversations drift between riotous laughter and heartfelt tears, focusing on who we’re becoming and on what gifts we want to offer the world. Since we live a little over an hour’s drive away from one another, we’ve adopted a Whole Foods Market to be our halfway rendezvous point. There, in the café, we’ll sit for hours, our souls delighted to connect, drinking cappuccinos as we fire up our laptops and begin co-creating.  (We’re in the midst of launching an amazing life coaching experience for 2011 in Brazil—set on a sustainable organic coffee plantation that dates back to the 1850s. How cool is that?! I’m beyond thrilled to be putting this “gift” out into the world! Be sure to request a brochure—go to the “Other Extraordinary Pursuits of Mine” tab.)

I’ve been thinking a lot this Thanksgiving week about how grateful I am for the countless people in my life that leave their handprints on my heart.  I’m awed by the transforming influence others have on me. Friends stretch me, opening my world to new possibilities and passions. One friend shares a timely book recommendation, another an unthinkable goal that motivates me, another a travel destination (unknown to the masses) which I come to treasure, and another an insight that profoundly moves my soul. And so it goes.

With Nan, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard her mention that as a photographer, it’s important to “study the light.” Her eyes convey her passion as she talks about the value of noticing the impact of light on objects—watching how it moves and dances, acknowledging how it sparkles and glistens, waiting for just the right moment to take the perfect shot—that moment that takes your breath away.

Over this past month, because of Nan’s influence, I’ve found myself noticing light much more. I’m pausing more. Observing more. Watching more. I’m finding myself captured by the sunbeam patches that radiate through my kitchen window, or by the spotlight of illumination that lands perfectly on the clustered pumpkins on our porch. This morning I looked out my back window and was inspired by the sunrise—a luminous tangerine sky glowing through the trees. Watching the light is an art form that is beginning to enhance not only the way I view the world, but also how I view myself and others. To me, it’s a crucial key to living more passionately and more purposefully.

You see, as a life coach, I’m trained to “watch the light.” I’m paid to help my clients discover what fully lights up their souls, what choices illuminate them, what values make them sparkle and dance. Lately, as I move throughout my days, I’m also choosing to really notice the light of my own life. When is it that I’m most fully lit up, glistening, or sparkling? Typically, it’s when I’m blissfully lost in creating—writing, designing, directing, cooking, decorating or producing. Or it’s when I’m in connection with others—coaching, having people over for dinner, chatting it up in line at the grocery store—that I’m illuminated and inspiring. How about you? When does your light shine most brightly? Take time to notice, to pause, to see. Your personal light will clue you in to your passions and purpose. Watch the light. Look for those perfectly illuminated life moments that simply take your breath away!

Shine on,

Melissa Timberlake

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New Recipes

I’m delighted when friends share favorite recipes with me. I have files (No joke. Files—as in plural) that are stuffed full of epicurean concoctions that were sent, e-mailed, clipped, and copied for me. Those who know me best know that gifting me with treasured recipes, tried and true, fills me with joy and appreciation! I love to cook. Simply adore it. It is one of my blissful passions, and I’m always on the hunt to find new recipes.

Recently, a friend shared a recipe for Nutty Wild Rice Soup. Sounded intriguing; toasted pecans, chicken, wild rice and even cranberries. I had to give it a whirl! After all, I’d never thrown cranberries or nuts into a soup pot before. New, unexpected combinations get my heart pumping and make me feel just a wee bit giddy.

Now, I’ll confess, I do have a few of those regular standbys I tend to default to—Mexican Stroganoff, Marinated Flank Steak, Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup. Problem is, sometimes I find myself in a “cooking rut”—chopping and stirring on autopilot; making the same eats week to week, month to month. If I’m stuck making identical dishes over and over again I get bored. I feel unchallenged, and downright uninspired. Same is true for those around me. My kids are the first to cue me in by whining, “But Mooooooom…are we having that again?” Trying something new, on the other hand, adds a touch of excitement, adventure, creativity and intrigue. My family perks up and takes notice as the aroma of something deliciously new comes wafting from the oven, or from the sizzling stove.

Cooking, for me is becoming a metaphor for life. Like cooking, in life we sometimes get in the habit of doing the same old, same old over and over again. We settle for being bored, uninteresting, humdrum, or flavorless. We convince ourselves it’s easier to go with what we know instead of trying something unfamiliar or untried. When someone’s in a rut it’s likely to be viewed as a negative. As a Life Coach, when one of my clients is stuck, it’s often easy to find a positive spin. In fact, many times being in a rut only means you’re ready for something new and you’re on the verge of your next big change. Perhaps you’re tired of living a life that is merely normal (like meatloaf), and are more ready than ever to toss a few cranberries (or nuts!) into the mix. Maybe for you, it’s time to stir up the pot! What are some of the new flavors that your “life recipe” is craving? Is it time for you to taste something exotic, spicy, tangy or sweet? What are the ingredients you might want to try that will add some new flavors? Exercise, oil painting, photography? Expanding your social network? Changing your diet or your daily routine? Travel? Romance? Adventure? Come on—take a chance! Spice things up a bit. Choose something different. Create a new recipe. Chances are it’ll taste EXRTRAORDINARY! In the meantime, I’ll share my new soup recipe with you for a dash of added inspiration.

Nutty Wild Rice Soup

2/3 C uncooked wild rice

4T butter

1C pecans or walnuts

1/4 C green onions, sliced thinly

2 cloves of garlic minced

8 C chicken stock

2 T tomato paste

2/3 C fresh cranberries, chopped

2 C chicken or turkey , cooked and cut into bite-size pieces

2T cornstarch dissolved in 3T water

2 T dry sherry

salt & pepper to taste

(I also added thin chopped celery for color and crunch)

Rinse wild rice in hot water until water runs clear; drain well. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat and toss in nuts when butter is sizzling. Saute until crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove nuts & reserve. In the same pan, stir wild rice, green onion, celery, and garlic and saute over medium heat for 10 minutes until wild rice is toasted. Pour in chicken stock, stir in tomato paste and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, simmer 30 minutes. Stir in cranberries, reserved nuts and meat pieces and continue to simmer 10-15 minutes. Finally increase heat to medium-high and stir in cornstarch mixture to thicken. Stir in sherry. Season generously to taste. Yields 6-8 servings. Absolutley delicious!


Melissa Timberlake

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Autumn Bird Bath

Autumn inspires me to loose myself in embellishing and adorning. I’m always hunting through nature for “freebies”—hedge apples, branches, moss, feathers, pods and bird nests. I take my big black Newfie on daily walks and come home with sacks filled with treasures ready to be plunked and placed in unsuspecting places. I love the touch of whimsy that comes from tossing gourds into a wooden bowl, or randomly stacking oddball pumpkins on the front porch. I guess, at the core, that’s what I’m all about—taking ordinary things—like our front walkway birdbath (or everyday moments, relationships, dreams, celebrations, or goals)—and making them EXTRAORDINARY. I love the impact that my decorating has on others when they pause in the midst of their hustle, look, really notice and then say things like, “Well, will you look at that!” or “Oh, how lovely!” or “Wow, isn’t that creative?”

As a life coach, these are the expressions I also enjoy hearing from my clients when they stop for moment and look at their lives—when they make the choice to turn that part of themselves they’ve allowed to be ordinary into something whimsical and wonderful. Often, it doesn’t take much effort; simply some focused attention, commitment, vision, and enjoyment of the process. Believe me, it can add up to a grand impact! So, here’s the question: What part of your life are you settling for ordinary in even though you know it has the potential to be extraordinary? Make a choice today to adorn it, give it attention or try an unexpected touch of whimsy. Choose EXTRAORDINARY instead. You’ll enjoy noticing how others enthusiastically respond. Promise. And as always, I’d LOVE to hear your stories!


Melissa Timberlake

“Within everyday ordinary people, if you look closely, you can find some amazing and extraordinary things.” —Joseph Badaracco

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