Zucchini Bread

I love Sunday mornings. I enjoyed coffee and breakfast with Adlai today, and then putzed around the house doing a few chores and planning out my day. Since I have so many zucchinis, making bread was first on the to-do list.

basic ingredients for zucchini bread

Ingredients for the zucchini bread.

I like to have all my ingredients out at the same time. Then, as I use them, I put them back in the cabinet or on the spice rack. It helps me keep track of which ingredients I have added to the mix.

To begin, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease two 8 1/2-inch loaf pans.

Basic ingredients for zucchini bread

Basic ingredients needed for zucchini bread.

First, I chopped the pecans and then I chopped and grated the zucchini.

chopped pecans or walnuts

Chopped pecans are ready for the batter.

unpeeled zucchini

Unpeeled zucchini is ready to be grated.

Grate zucchini

Grate zucchini with the peel still on.

Then, I mixed the wet ingredients including the sugar.

Mix together

Mix zucchini, sugar, oil and slightly beaten eggs.

I mixed all the dry ingredients together from flour to cloves.

Then, I combined the wet with the dry ingredients and mixed by hand.

Mix wet and dry ingredients together

Mix wet and dry ingredients together.

Add pecans to batter

Add nuts to batter.

Fold nuts into batter.

Divide batter in half and add to loaf pans.

Divide batter in half and add to loaf pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes. My bread was done in about 50 minutes, so take a peek towards the end of the bake cycle. Edges should be brown, and they should start to pull away from the edges. If you insert a butter knife into the bread, the knife should remain clean, not gooey. Remove and let cool.

Edges are lightly browned and pulling away from edges.

Edges are lightly browned and pulling away from edges.

Enjoy with or without butter. It is fantastic!

Enjoy a slice of zucchini bread with or without butter. It is delish!

Enjoy a slice of zucchini bread with or without butter. It is delish!

Later in the day, I drove to Whitewater State Park for a nice hike that also included some photo opportunities. I wanted to get a few pictures taken for my up and coming Haiku Challenge. I know that it will be difficult to take one picture a day, so I decided that spending a few hours each week loading up the camera would be beneficial.Here is a sneak peek from my Hike today. More on that tomorrow.

One of the many bridges on Trout Run trail in Whitewater State Park.

One of the many bridges on Trout Run trail in Whitewater State Park.

How did you spend your Labor Day Weekend?

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Creative Minds

Happy Friday! I would say finally, but the week went by fast and we have a three day weekend coming up. Woo Hoo! I see lots of writing and reading time in my future! Maybe a few pictures too.

A couple of weeks ago, I received my assignment from the editor of Experience Rochester. This is my third year with this publication and I always love the assignments. In the past, I have written about SEMVA art gallery and the Farmers Market.

This year is different, I am not writing an article per se, but I am collecting fun facts about two creative people from Rochester to compile into a summary. Wednesday, I had the pleasure of interviewing a young woman who had a small part in the movie The Wolf of Wallstreet that starred Leonardo DiCaprio. I spoke to Emily Tremaine and collected information about some of the roles she has played in, where she went to school and various other fun facts for the ‘Creative Minds’ summary in Experience Rochester.

Then, yesterday, I interviewed someone who works at the Mayo Clinic as a glass blower. He makes scientific glassware that is used for testing human tissues and many other things. Not only does he create scientific glassware, but he also creates blown glass Christmas ornaments and small decorative bottles. The only problem…I forgot my camera yesterday. Well, actually, I didn’t feel comfortable taking my camera. I wasn’t hired to take the pictures (which usually doesn’t stop me), I was hired to interview and compile information. I am kicking myself now. I was able to watch him in action. He did a couple of demonstrations for me and I left the interview with an original piece of blown glass. The whole experience was amazing!! I’ll post this piece in January when the magazine is released.

What’s scheduled for September?


I have an article coming out in Rochester Women called Pairing Women with Wine.

I have another piece coming out in The Wagazine, it’s called Happy Hounds.

Flash Fiction

I plan to post a flash fiction writing prompt once a week along with a 750ish word flash fiction piece. The first piece I will post is based on Tuesday’s writing prompt.

Haiku Challenge

I am also going to take the “Haiku challenge.” I have seen a few websites that have daily Haiku challenges and even contests. I am doing one that is slightly different, I will be taking several pictures throughout the month of September. Then, each day, I will create a Haiku to go along with an image and post it.

Wine and Canvas

In the month of August, I taught my my first wine and canvas event. It was very successful! We had ladies asking when the next event would be taking place. So, Denise and I scheduled the next Wine & Canvas event for September 19th! Stay tuned, I’ll give a few sneak peeks as I prepare for the next event.

Dessert Wine with the Girls

On the 13th, I’m meeting with several Rochester Women writers, editors, photographers and other staff members for another wine tasting event. This month it’s dessert wine. I am very excited for this event because I love sweet wines and ports.


I have four or five more pieces to edit and post. I am sharing these particular essays because I submitted these to an editor to land my first writing gig.

September Reading Material

The only book I have on the list right now is Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. I am sure this list will grow to at least one more.

How is your September shaping up? 


How it All Started

After I took my first memoir writing course in 2004, in St. Louis, Missouri, I began taking the thoughts from my journal and creating finished pieces. Those first few attempts at writing about my life landed me my first freelance position for Rochester Women Magazine back in 2011—yep, it took seven years to finally get published.

I decided to dig into the vault and share some of these stories with you. Before I give you a peek into my first few pieces (note: the last name has not been changed to my married name because I wrote it before I was married), I wanted to share words of wisdom from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. The following quote is actually by Flannery O’Connor, but it’s taken from Lamott’s book (one of my favorites) Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life.

“Flannery O’Connor said that anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life.”

~Anne Lamott

Embarking on Independence

By Nicole L. Heidbreder

I rolled over and peered through the morning haze plastered across my eyes. The glaring red light of my cheap digital alarm clock read 7:28 a.m. I laid there watching its numbers change a full two minutes until it read 7:30 a.m. I forced myself out of bed knowing I had a long day ahead of me. A new chapter was about to begin. I was scared senseless, but somehow had manifested enough faith in myself to move my life to Denver, Colorado.

My bedroom door stuck to the frame and then flew open when I tugged harder. The faint smell of blueberry muffins drifted throughout my childhood home.  In her cheeriest voice my mother sang out, “Rise and shine, sleepy head!” as if I were still her little girl tucked safely in my warm, cozy bed.  Her loving and familiar voice produced a golf ball sized knot in my throat.  I knew this would be the last time my mother would sing those words to the person I was leaving behind.

I entered the kitchen holding a pillow by one corner. My parents’ bright faces made the lump in my throat expand. My father had a flashlight, a blanket, and a gallon of water laid out on the kitchen table for my upcoming road trip. I set my pillow next to the items. I guessed that was what fathers were supposed to do under these circumstances…equip their child with the necessities for entering the big, bad world.

My mom asked arbitrary questions about my trip; questions we both knew had been answered. Her words sliced through me like a steak knife. “Do you have enough gas in the car? Do you have gas money? Are your friends ready for you to arrive tonight? Do you have their phone numbers? Do you have the number for Uncle Bob and Aunt Pam in Topeka,” she queried. I grew more aloof with each question. I wanted her to stop talking. Her voice tugged the tears out of my eyes. Unwelcome tears, tears that I worried might make her or my dad feel I was incapable of handling this life changing event.

I poured coffee into my gigantic NYC mug and felt the tears trickle down my cheeks. I wiped them away and thought to myself, why is she asking me all of these questions when we covered it last night? And then, I realized she felt as miserable and conflicted as I did; excited for the new chapter in my life, but devastated that her best friend was leaving and moving hundreds of miles away from Missouri.

I choked down a blueberry muffin and a cup of coffee. Then, I grabbed my thermos, my pillow, and lugged my suitcase to the car. Popps loaded up my trunk with his emergency provisions and my mother and I embraced and cried. I looked up and saw my father watching. He was shaking his head. Then, with Jell-O legs, I wobbled into my overstuffed blue Nissan Sentra and turned the key. Her engine purred confidently. I backed the car onto the quiet street, pausing to wave goodbye to my parents, and the chapter in life I would never get back.


 Looking back on this memoir, moving from Missouri to Colorado was a life changing event. I remember and honor that time in my life. So many lessons learned.


As a writer, how did you get your first break?




Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Thrill Ride

The last writing prompt I posted was a couple of weeks ago. I intended to post the piece once I finished it, but I found a contest and decided that I would wait to post my story until I received a critique from the judges.

I found a website called Women on Writing. They host Flash Fiction contests every quarter and offer a critique on the subject, the content and the technical aspects of the piecefor an additional fee. In order to qualify, it needed to be between 250-750 words. I spent the last couple of weeks writing, reading, editing, rewriting, reading, editing, rewriting…you know the drill. I finally submitted the piece on Sunday night.

The due date isn’t until the 30th of August. After the deadline, it takes two months for the critique to be completed. I plan to post the piece once I receive the comments.

In the meantime, to keep the creativity flowing, I wrote another flash fiction piece today utilizing my smartphone app. Once again, today’s Flash Fiction piece is about getting the words on the paper. Now, it needs to be finessed and I plan to post the essay next Tuesday.

Tuesday’s Writing Prompt:

  • Character: A farmer
  • Setting: Roller Coaster/Thrill Ride
  • Plot: A character has the worst day possible

I set the timer for 15 minutes.

Happy Writing!


Wine & Canvas

Gladiolus Days is a week long event in southeastern Minnesota. To help celebrate this event, I worked with the owner of a local Yoga Studio to bring a fun and creative event to this celebratory week.

I am sure many of you have heard of the Wine & Canvas events that have been popping up everywhere. We decided to take the plunge as well.

On Friday evening, Denise hosted the Wine & Canvas event at her Yoga Studio, and I led the painting class. In honor of Gladiolus Days, we painted Gladiolus flowers, which are similar to Lilies.

Life is a blank canvas waiting for color.

Blank canvases waiting for the creativity to begin.

We chose to have a smaller group and let the ladies have more creative freedom. Many of these events suggested painting exactly what the instructor paints, however, we let the class choose their background color and their flower colors.

The results were amazing. Each person’s painting was unique. Some people chose blue and aqua blue backgrounds, and one participant choose brown. Flower colors ranged from orange and yellow to pink and purple.

We started by laying in the background. I suggested making a criss-cross motion with the brush using two separate colors. This gave the background more dimension and movement. We chose the main background color and one other as an accent color. We blended the two colors with that criss-cross motion.

Painting the background on the canvas first.

Demonstration on how to lay the background on the canvas.

Painting the background is the first step.

Students laying in the background for their painting.

Then, we took a short break and the ladies sipped wine and ate cheese and crackers while the background dried. The next step involved drawing the outline of the flowers and then filling in the flowers with paint.

Painting Gladiolus at Wine & Canvas

A demonstration on how to paint Gladiolus flowers.


Gladiolus painting

A unique look inside the mind of an artist.

Yellow Gladiolus painting

Another unique view of what’s inside of a creative mind.

Orange Gladiolus flowers

The third part of the process was to paint the flowers.

Beautiful orange Gladiolus painting.

Another woman expresses her creativity.

It took us about two and half hours to complete the work and the results were amazing. All the paintings were so different.


Unique Gladiolus paintings

Unique Gladiolus paintings by a wonderful group of ladies!

I attribute the success of this event to Denise for hosting it and all the ladies who participated.

“Life is a blank canvas waiting for color to be added.”

~Nicole Czarnomski

Inspiration from “Back Spin”

One of my favorite authors is Harlan Coben. I read his books that feature the protagonist, Myron Bolitar, the sports agent. His prose is consistent and I love the protagonists sarcasm. I can always count on him for a chuckle in the middle of a mystery.

I know many of the books I read are dated, but I try to alternate between paying full price for a newly released book and buying from a local second hand bookstore.

Today, I finished the book, Back Spin which was first published in August of 1997. I wanted to share a few of my favorite lines from the book for inspiration. I love how he paints portraits of characters with his words, and his use of metaphors are simply brilliant.

” A dark alley. Win’s doctored bullets. Brain matter tossed about like parade confetti.” Pg. 21

“The pain on his face was so naked, Myron almost reached out and hugged him.” Pg. 44

“An elephant gun could not quiet Norman Zuckerman.” Pg. 51

“Her tone struck the marrow of his bone.” Pg.69

“Thin. Lanky. Long-limbed. Pale as a Goya portrait, even in the summer.” Pg 76

Note: As an art major in college and lover of the arts, I encourage you to check out Goya’s work courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Myron trudged forward. Humidity hung in the air in a heavy blanket of beads.” Pg. 84

“Sweat coated him like syrup on a stack of pancakes.” Pg. 86

“There was grass, lots of it, all the blades kept at a consistently ideal length, like a politician’s hair in an election year.” Pg. 93

On page 147, Coben compared a golf course and its seating arrangements to the class system, i.e. serfs, feudal lords. Brilliant, I say.

“Still it was yet another nagging hangnail that needed to be clipped.” Pg. 149

“Their plates were still piled high enough to cause the occasional avalanche.” Pg. 157

“In the ring, Big Cyndi wore makeup like Tammy Faye on Steroids…” Pg. 177

Chapter 20 is a wonderful break from the stressful plot that twists and turns and causes loads of questions. It involves the protagonist, Myron, his best friends and colleagues Win and Esperanza. They chat about episodes of the Odd Couple and the Twighlight Zone, while eating pizza and drinking Yoo-Hoo—well Myron’s drink of choice. It plays out like a real life situation, it’s plausible

“His heart was crumbling like brown leaves caught in a closed fist.” Pg. 193

“She ho-hummed, sounding like a diner waitress reading off the specials in the last hour of a double shift.” Pg. 230

“The woman look blasé and raised it to an art form.” Pg. 231

“Confusion set camp on her face.” Pg. 258

“The garage door came back down, slowly slicing out the sun.” Pg 265

“He slid to the floor like wet sand through a torn bag.” 267

” The power of the blow lifted Esperanza off her feet. She made an oofing noise and folded at the waist like an old wallet.”Pg. 268

“Her voice sounded like old tires on rough pavement.” Pg. 275

“His sanity was probably ripping away like divots on the course.” Pg. 336

Other Harlan Coben books that I recommend are:

  • Promise Me
  • Tell No One
  • Gone for Good
  • Hold Tight
  • Deal Breaker

Are there any authors you recommend?

A Savory Summer Squash Bread

Hey gang! I was back in the kitchen this past week trying to use up some of my Squash from the garden. I have been away from the blog for a week, and I have lots of catching up to do.

Today, I want to introduce you to a fantastic recipe that was quick to prepare and even better to eat. I found this on pinterest by searching Yellow Squash Bread.

I think I would like to declare August as National Summer Squash Month! Can I do that? I think I can. I certainly have plenty of it.

The Squash I didn’t use in the bread, I grated and froze so it wouldn’t go to waste. I put about two cups of grated Squash into a ziploc freezer bag and tossed it in the deep freeze. This bread will bring wonderful summer memories come February when snow seems to be the only thing surviving the Minnesota winter. Without further ado….

My prosperous garden produces more Squash than I know what to do with…

Yellow Squash from my garden

Yellow Squash from my garden.

Yellow Squash Bread ingredients include:

  1. 1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  2. 1 Cup Sugar
  3. 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  4. 1 1/2 Cup Grated Summer Squash
  5. 1 Large Egg
  6. 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  7. 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  8. 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  9. 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  10. 1/4 Cup Raw Oats
    Ingredients for the recipe.

    A few basic ingredients that are usually in any cook or bakers kitchen.

    Preheat oven to 325F.

    First, peel the skin from the Yellow Squash.

    First, peel the skin from the Yellow Squash and cut off the ends.

    Cut the seeds from the Squash

    Quarter the Squash and cut out the guts.

    Grate the Squash.

    Grated Yellow Squash

    I grated the Yellow Squash by hand because I don’t have an industrial food processor.

    Combine sugar, egg, vegetable oil, grated Squash, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. With a fork, cream the ingredients until they are mixed well.

    Wet ingredients first

    Combine wet ingredients along with cinnamon and nutmeg first.

    Mix dry ingredients.

    Dry ingredients

    Combine salt, baking powder and flour together.

    Combine all ingredients.

    Wet and dry ingredients.

    Stir wet and dry ingredients together.

    Pour bread mixture into greased pan.

    Grease the loaf pan and pour the bread mixture into the pan.

    Sprinkle bread mixture with oats

    Sprinkle bread mixture with oats.

Gently smack the bottom of the pan on the counter to release air bubbles. Cook for 50-60 minutes. Insert a toothpick or knife in the middle of the bread loaf; the toothpick should be clean when you pull it out.

Cool for 1/2 hour and enjoy!

Bread completed.

The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg permeate the house. So delish!

This bread was excellent. The Squash doesn’t have a strong flavor on its own, but when it’s combined with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg it takes on a sweet flavor. The bread was moist and rich like a pound cake. It didn’t last long in the Czarnomski household.

Did you wrinkle your nose when you saw Summer Squash Bread?


Flash Fiction: Allergic to Your Spouse

Today I have web content to write for my full-time job at ColorWare. We are in the process of launching several limited edition items, therefore I have copy to write for each of the new items. I wanted to use some time to open my mind and let my pen move across the paper. I want to try to alleviate any judgment and write for the sake of writing.

I used my Flash Fiction Prompter on my smartphone, and here is what I am writing about:

  • Character-Librarian
  • Setting-Candy Store
  • Plot-A character is allergic to spouse

I set the timer for 15 minutes.

Happy Writing!

How often do you use writing prompts to enhance your creativity?


A Morning Boat Ride

This past weekend was awesome! I had a little time to breathe and I enjoyed spending time with my wonderful husband. The past several months have been incredibly busy. I have spent much of my time attending different events, interviewing people and writing articles for a variety of magazines and the newspaper. I am not complaining about all the freelance work, but it’s nice to spend time with the man I love.

Saturday morning, my husband ousted me out of bed earlier than I like to rise on the weekend. I think it was around 7 a.m. After coffee and cereal, Kashi of course, Adlai hooked up the boat trailer to the Jeep and we rode to the boat landing in Wabasha. Mississippi River, here we come!

The weather was perfect. It was partly cloudy and the temperature hovered around seventy degrees. I was so excited to do some reading. I brought three magazines and a book that I never got around to starting. I read a copy of the magazine, Outside. It listed several of America’s best small towns to live in. It was fun to daydream about moving somewhere new. I am such a dreamer, and I love to experience new things. Some days I would love to move and other days, well, I love where we live.

I read Outside magazine.

I read the latest copy of Outside magazine.

While I enjoyed the toasty rays of sunshine and reading about small towns, Adlai cast his line in the water in hopes of catching a fish. It’s funny, he is an excellent hunter. He deer hunts during all three seasons, bow, shot gun and muzzle loader. We always have deer in our freezer, but as for fishing, well, he has some work to do. Needless to say, we didn’t have a fish fry Saturday night.

He changed out the fishing lures at least 20 times throughout the day. He has more lures than I have shoes!

Fishing with Top Water Popper Frogs.

Adlai fished with Top Water Popper Frogs on Saturday. He had lots of hits, but none to bring home.

We spent several hours out on the water and before long our appetites started talking. We battened down the hatches and skimmed the water around 50 miles an hour. Adlai slowed down through the no wake zone and we passed the National Eagle Center and Slippery’s Restaurant and Bar. We have been to both places, but chose not to go to either while we were out and about.

We passed by the National Eagle Center in Wabasha.

We passed by the National Eagle Center in Wabasha.

Slippery's Restaurant.

We passed by the famous Slippery’s restaurant from Grumpy Old Men.

After we made it through the no wake zone, it was back to 50 miles an hour. I am not crazy about going that fast, in fact, I prefer the trolling motor. But, Adlai is a great boat driver and we made it to our destination in one piece.

We docked at the Pickle Factory and locked up the compartments of the boat. We walked up the shoreline and found ourselves enjoying the air conditioning inside the restaurant. We scanned the menu and decided we couldn’t leave the Pickle Factory without trying their famous fried pickles. It sounds odd, but these dill pickles were tasty!

Fried pickles from the pickle factory.

We enjoyed a new treat on Saturday…tasty fried dill pickles with ranch dressing.

I was only going to eat one or two, but I think I ended up eating four. The fried outer crust was sinful and salty. The fried batter encased dill pickles that were hot and started to become saturated and slightly mushy. You know when you cook zucchini just a bit too long. It is no longer crisp and crunchy, but slightly soggy, in a good way.

Since I splurged on the appetizer, I opted for a salad as my entreé. I ordered the Craisin and Chicken Salad with a raspberry vinaigrette. It was delicious. The romaine lettuce was fresh and crisp. The Craisins were plump and the perfect shade of cranberry. The chicken was diced to perfection. Each cube looked like someone had painstakingly cut up a beautiful chicken breast and left the scraps for the dog. Then, the sliced almonds added the right amount of crunch! Mmmm, delish!

A tasty Craisin and chicken salad.

A tasty Craisin and chicken salad.

Adlai, on the other hand, ate a pulled pork sandwich with homemade potato chips. He said it was really good. I have to trust him on that because I don’t eat pork and have no desire to. I don’t like a lot of meat. In fact, chicken, turkey and fish are about all I can take. And, I eat meat in small doses. The chicken on the salad was my first bit of meat all week.

Pulled Pork and homemade potato chips from Pickle Factory

Adlai enjoyed a Pulled Pork Sandwich with homemade potato chips.

After lunch, we made our way out to Lake Pepin where Adlai could fish a bit more and I could continue reading. By this time, it was about 1 p.m. The sun was hot and there were a lot more boaters out on the water making it choppy. The boat rocked back and forth and the breeze picked up. We tried to anchor in a few places, but the anchor wouldn’t hold us.

Lake Pepin

After lunch, we went out on Lake Pepin for more fishing and reading.

We decide it wasn’t much fun to drift into shallow waters, and the choppiness of the water was even less desirable after fried pickles. So, we headed back to the boat launch and left the Mississippi River with a day full of memories that we will treasure for a lifetime.

Have you ever tried fried pickles?


Where’s the Fitness?

I started this blog back in May with the intention of making it a healthy living blog. However, in the last several weeks I have thought long and hard about what I would like to focus on. I am juggling too many things right now, so, I decided to focus my efforts on writing. If you signed up to read along with my healthy living blog, I apologize for the change in direction.

I hope you continue to read about my journey through life. I will continue to write about my life experiences which will incorporate fitness and healthy living because that is who I am, but I also want this blog to be about writing and making a living as a writer.

My goal is to share my work with readers, provide writing prompts and ways of curing the writing blues or writer’s block. I also want to share my thoughts on books and other magazine articles.

Please stay with me for more fun times as I share my experiences through The Whispering Pen.