easy, colorful roasted veggies + potatoes

As we soak up these final end-of-summer days before the autumn sets in, I have found myself wanting to spend as much time as possible outside. Taking long walks, sipping tea out on the back porch, watching the sunset, breathing in the fresh air. I particularly love those late afternoons/early evenings, when dusk sets in and the light has a magical hazy quality that seems especially magical in this transitional period between seasons.

During late autumn and wintertime, I love to cozy up in my kitchen baking or cooking. But right now, I’m in the mood for easy, throw-together meals that are still healthy and nutritious.

Enter these roasted veggies + potatoes.

This recipe comes from my mama and could not be simpler. All you have to do is chop, toss, and bake. I love how customizable it is based on whatever your favorite veggies are, or what’s in season. Plus, it looks beautiful — definitely a dish you could make for company or for a potluck and feel proud about. I think I’m gonna cook up a batch for myself tonight!

roasted veggies

easy, colorful roasted veggies + potatoes

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • 1 small bag of little red potatoes
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1/2 red onion
  • any other veggies of your choosing!

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Chop all the veggies and potatoes into relatively equal-sized pieces.

chopped veggies

3. Pour them into a large Ziplock bag and add olive oil.

olive oil in bag

4. Zip closed and shake well until all the goodies are lightly coated with olive oil.

coating veggies in oil

5. Spread the veggies and potatoes into an even layer onto a baking tray. Sprinkle generously with garlic powder {and/or other seasonings of your choosing.}

roasted veggies on tray

6. Roast veggies for 40-45 minutes. I recommend turning the veggies over with a spatula halfway through for even cooking.

7. When the potatoes are tender, everything is done! Remove from the oven and serve warm. Top with cheese if desired.

roasted veggies meal

if you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
oven roasted pumpkin seeds
springtime veggie pasta bake
easy sausage, veggie and potato bake

Questions for Deeper Conversations: Home

Happy Friday, friends! Hope you have something fun planned for tonight + this weekend! This afternoon I have some tutoring and work on the agenda, and then I’m meeting up with Allyn and some friends in the city for dinner and a movie! Should be fun. Tomorrow I have a full day of tutoring, an evening meeting at church, and a picnic dinner date with my sweetheart. And then Sunday I’m leading another session of our Young Adults Community Circle at church!

I had a few people ask me what topics and questions we are covering in the group, since I wrote about how the community circle is intended to spur deeper, more meaningful and authentic conversations than you might traditionally have with people you are just meeting. I thought I would share these questions with you here on the blog, in case they spur some deeper conversations of your own — with longtime friends, new acquaintances, family members, loved ones, or even perhaps just with yourself! These are great questions to journal about as well. :)

sunset at home

Community Circle Questions : Week 1

Theme: Home

  • What does “home” mean to you?
  • Where are you currently living? Does it feel like home? Why or why not?
  • Who are you currently living with? What do you love about your living situation? What do you struggle with?
  • What thoughts do you hold in your heart about your childhood home? Do you return there often?
  • Where have you lived that has felt like home?
  • What dreams do you have for a future home?

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

-Maya Angelou

moving away from fear, towards fiery possibility

My dear Holly wrote a stunningly beautiful, achingly true piece about grief and love and our friend Céline. I have read it many times since it was published last week, and every line of it resonates. I have been thinking a lot about these lines, in which Holly writes about the new self she is in the process of discovering and becoming:

I hope that she will be like Céline and make friends everywhere she goes, that she will move towards fiery possibility instead of away from fear, that she will view faith and adventure as intertwined.

celine flowers

In all honesty, my natural self can be a fearful person. Even as a child, I was cautious. I liked to test the water before diving into the pool. I would read a book at the base of the tree, instead of climbing its branches. I have never been a wild daredevil, taking risks or acting impulsively or figuring things out on the fly. I am a planner. I like to consider my options. I like to make lists.

Sometimes, I worry too much. Sometimes, I make decisions more as a way of moving away from fear, rather than intentionally moving towards fiery possibility.

But Céline was a fiery possibility type of person. She always seemed fearless. And I so loved and admired that about her. Being her friend made me more fearless, too. The good kind of fearless. Céline taught me that being fearless doesn’t mean you make rash, stupid decisions or refuse to think about consequences. It’s more a mindset of being brave even when you feel scared, of pushing yourself to grow, of not putting limits on yourself. Getting outside your comfort zone, even just a footstep or two. Trying new things. Not labeling yourself or confining your own ideas of who you can be or what you can do.

lamppost paris

So, inspired by Holly’s beautiful words, and in homage to Céline, I have been trying to actively move towards fiery possibility, rather than away from fear. Here are just three examples from this past week:

After church yesterday, I led the first meeting of a community circle for young adults in our congregation — a time for people to gather together and have meaningful conversation about their lives. Facilitating this group was intimidating for me. I have never done anything like it before, and worried that my questions would not resonate, that conversation would be awkward or stilted, that people would think I was a fraud, that nobody would come. But it ended up being a wonderful experience. The atmosphere in the room felt safe and authentic, conversation flowed well, and we all go to know each other on a much more genuine level than coffee-hour small talk. It was soul-nourishing for me. I am already looking forward to next week.

trees and shadows

I pitched myself for a copywriting assignment in a field I do not know much about, but am interested in and passionate about. I landed the assignment and am interviewing half-a-dozen professionals in the field this week and next week for the article. At first, I felt nervous, thinking, Who am I to write this? These questions are probably silly. What if I don’t come across professionally? But instead of worrying, I made a choice to shift my frame of mind and focus on the exciting possibility of the assignment: a chance to meet fascinating people and learn something new. And I am really enjoying stretching myself in this way!

me and allyn lottie's

Last night, Allyn and I went to a 2-hour beginner’s Improv class. Oh my, was I scared to do this! While I generally enjoy public speaking, I have never really thought of myself as an actress and was especially intimidated by the “not-knowing” aspect of Improv. What if I couldn’t think of any good ideas? What if I had a mind-freeze? What if I ruined the scene and let down my partner? Intentionally, I made the decision to push these worries aside and just focus on having fun and soaking up a new adventure. And it ended up being one of the best “date nights” Allyn and I have ever had! I loved seeing him jump into a new endeavor, just as I could tell he was proud of me each time I raised my hand to volunteer and bounded onstage. There was so much energy and creativity in the class, and everyone was very supportive of each other. I was definitely a little nervous/uncomfortable the whole time, but it was exhilarating to get up in front of people and act out a zany scene on the fly. It made me feel proud of myself, and ripped off the label I had always put on myself as “someone who could never do Improv.” Now that label is gone. In fact, Allyn and I are already talking about going back to the class sometime soon!

sunflowers

Here is what I am slowly learning: when you move away from fear, the fear only gets stronger and bigger. You can never move far enough away. It will always cast its shadow over you.

Instead, when you move towards fiery possibility, and away from fear, the joy and sense of adventure soon eclipse the fear entirely. What is left is a bigger and braver and more beautiful sense of yourself.

“The Magic Thread”

Last weekend at church, I had a truly amazing day. During the summer when our ministers are on sabbatical, Worship Associates get to lead the services. It was my honor and pleasure to lead the service this past Sunday. The entire congregation was so welcoming, loving and supportive. I am still “walking on air” after the experience! I wanted to share my sermon with you — but first, I need to share the story my sermon is based upon.

The Magic Thread

“The Magic Thread” is a fable about a boy named Peter who is not very different from you or me. Peter finds it very hard to enjoy whatever he is doing at the moment. He always wants to move on to the next thing in his life. Have you ever felt that way? Summer is too hot—he can’t wait for the autumn to arrive. Winter is too cold—he counts the days until springtime. School is okay, but none of his best friends are in his class, so he wants it to be the next year already. Then, his friends are in his class, but his teacher is very strict and assigns a lot of homework. He is always convinced that his life will be better next week, next month, next season, next year.

One day, Peter is walking home from school through the forest and he meets an old woman, who offers him a shining golden ball of magic thread. She explains, “This is the thread of your life, my boy. If you want time to pass more quickly, all you need to do is pull the thread a tiny bit, and an hour will pass like a second.”

However, she also gives him a warning: “Listen carefully: once the thread has been pulled out, it cannot be pushed back in again. You can only move forward in time, never back.”

Peter joyfully takes the ball of magic thread. All his troubles are over! How easy life will be now, that he can skip forward past all the times of hardship and trouble. School is too boring, so what does he do? He pulls the magic thread and finds himself out of school and working at his first job. He meets a girl and falls in love. He can’t wait to marry her, so what does he do? He pulls the magic thread and—poof!—it’s their wedding day. When he feels sick, what do you think he does? He pulls the magic thread to feel better again. What about when he has troubles at work? Yep, you guessed it! He pulls the magic thread to move on to a new project, a better job, a corner office, a bigger promotion. But, as soon as one problem is solved, it seems another always appears in its place.

Before Peter knows it, he is an old man, and his wife is an old woman. Their daughters are grown and have left the house and moved on to their own careers and families. Peter goes for a walk in the forest, and meets the magical old woman once again. She smiles and asks him, “So Peter. Did you have a good life?”

“I’m not sure,” Peter admits. “Your magic ball of thread is a wonderful thing. I have never had to suffer or wait for anything in my life. And yet it has all passed so quickly. I have had no time to take in what has happened to me, neither the good things nor the bad. Now there is so little time left.”

The old woman smiles wisely and says she can grant him one final wish. “Choose,” she says. “Would you like to continue living with the magic thread, or would you like to live again as if for the first time, without it?”

Can you guess what choice Peter makes? Yep, he gave the magic thread back to the old woman and chose to live his life again, through each and every moment—the good and the bad, the wonderful and the boring. He woke up the next morning as a young boy again in his bed, and he was the happiest person in the world as he walked down the stairs into a perfectly ordinary day.

Below is a video taken of my sermon, or click here to watch it directly on YouTube. I hope you enjoy! :)

life is like a wine tasting

sunstone winery

Yesterday, we took a “family staycation day” and drove up to the San Ynez Valley to explore the beautiful vineyards. It was a gorgeous day and we ended up doing a wine tasting at Sunstone Winery, which was absolutely delightful. It was my first time doing a wine tasting at a winery, and got me thinking about the ways that life is like a wine tasting:

1. Each taste is unique and lovely in its own way, and should be enjoyed for what it is. For example, if you expect a pinot grigio to be a merlot, you are going to be disappointed. But if you pay attention to the distinct flavors of the pinot grigio, you are able to appreciate it for what it is. In the same way, each season of life has different flavors — pros and cons, perks and disappointments. Try to appreciate the season of life you are in for all the gifts it has to offer, instead of wishing for a different season. You will get there soon enough, and there will likely be things you miss about your life here and now!

me and mom winery

2. Each pour is meant to be savored, not rushed through. So often, it can feel like we are rushing through life: counting down hours in a workday, scrolling through email constantly on our smartphones, yearning for the weekend or for our next vacation. Even meals are often hurried affairs, something we rush through rather than enjoy, or mindlessly eat in front of the TV — have you ever finished eating something and realized you barely even tasted a single bite? In a wine tasting, each taste is sipped slowly and savored. Can you imagine what life would be like if we treated every meal with such respect? Not to mention, if we tried to savor each moment of our day as if it were a sip of expensive wine?

greg and pops winery

3. The joy of the experience doesn’t come from the wine itself — it comes from the people you share it with. If I had gone wine-tasting by myself yesterday, I would have had an okay time, but I would not have had anyone to share the experience with. Much of the fun of trying out the different wines was sipping them out on the verandah together, talking and laughing and telling stories and discussing our opinions on the different wines. That was where the joy truly came from. Our family visit to the vineyards wasn’t even really about the wine tasting at all — it was about spending time together, enjoying each other’s company, and sharing a fun experience with those we love.

me and gb winery

Now I’m off to soak up more family time before we take my little bro to the airport tomorrow for his new job in NYC! So proud of him! (And I’m going to miss him a TON.)

Hope you are soaking up every beautiful moment of this lovely day, wherever you are and whatever you are doing! <3

8 reasons you haven’t heard from me in a month and a half

Hello, friends! Gosh, I cannot believe it is already the end of July. I did not intend to take such a long blogging hiatus… it was one of those things that just kind of *happened* the way that life happens sometimes! Here’s what I’ve been up to this summer {and why you haven’t heard from me in a while…}

1. I went on a trip to Europe! It was absolutely beautiful, and restful, and adventurous, and sad, and healing, and exactly what I needed. This trip was born about a year ago, when I was invited along for a weeklong trip to the south of France with Allyn’s family. Allyn and I decided to extend our trip a little bit and spend some time in Paris to see my friend Celine. We booked our tickets back in December. I could not wait to see Celine again in her favorite city, and to introduce Allyn to her, and for us all to spend time together.

When Celine died, I wasn’t sure if I could still bear to go to Paris without her there. But I knew that she would want me to go — she would have been furious if I canceled that part of the trip! And so I went. And later I will write a whole post about all the things I learned there, but suffice to say it was very hard, and missing her was a whole-body ache, and I felt and saw her everywhere — and there was something very comforting in that underneath all the pain.

sunflowers

In addition to Paris and the south of France, we also spent a few days in Barcelona with Allyn’s brother Colin and Colin’s girlfriend Charlotte, which was lovely. One of the treasures of the trip was getting to spend so much time with Allyn’s siblings — they are such fun, thoughtful, easy-to-be-around people, and I am grateful to have them as friends.

allyns siblings

me and Allyn France

2. I got an eye infection. Immediately upon returning home from our trip. The doc thinks I must have picked something up on the train/metro/plane/airport/etc. So many germs while traveling! Anyway, this derailed me for a bit, with doctors appointments and antibiotics and hot eye compresses. Fun! But it is all better now, thankfully. And now I am much more appreciative of my un-itchy eyes!

3. I’m teaching summer camps for Communication Academy. In the summer, instead of weekly classes, we teach week-long camps for kids and teens. I teach public speaking, journalism, and academic writing. I love teaching the camps because the class becomes very close during the week, spending so much time together, and you see a lot of growth in the students. It’s very inspiring! However, my workdays are longer than during the school year — more of a traditional 9-5 as opposed to three hours in the afternoons — and it can be hard to fit in writing/emailing/blogging time.

4. My role at church is expanding. In addition to serving as a Worship Associate this summer, I am giving my own sermon and leading the service on August 16. I’ve also taken on a leadership position as co-facilitator of a Young Adult Community Circle. All of this is enriching, important work for my soul, and is challenging me to grow in new ways!

5. Janet came to visit for a few days. Allyn and his family took us out on a boat ride around the San Francisco Bay!

me and janet

6. Holly and I met up in Chicago to see our girl Taylor Swift in concert! It was an amazing show, even though we were sitting in the_very_last_row! Spending time with Holly fills my heart up so much. I wish we lived closer, but I am beyond grateful for every moment I get to spend with this lovely lady!

me and Holly

tswift concert 1989

7. Some terrific developments have been happening for me professionally these past couple weeks… I landed a new copywriting gig, won second place in a national writing contest, and have exciting news regarding my novel that I will share with you at a later date, once I am no longer afraid of jinxing things! ;) I also wrote a few short essays about writing that you might be interested in:

8. Now I am back in my hometown, soaking up time with my fam and my brother before he leaves for his new job in NYC on Friday! I am also teaching my writing camp this weekend and next weekend. Yesterday I gave a book talk and signing at a local bookstore, Mrs. Figs’ Bookworm, and was so surprised and grateful at how many people came out to support me! I have such wonderful friends. So, so lucky!

friends at booksigning

book signing sign

And now you’re pretty much caught up! I hope the summer has been treating you wonderfully, too. I hope you are getting time to relax and recharge your batteries. Is there anything you need to take a brief hiatus from? If you feel like you are juggling lots of plates — is there one you can set down, even for a short while?

I missed blogging and I missed checking in with all of you, and after my time away I am feeling rejuvenated and eager to be back! Thank you for reading and being part of my little corner of the internet.

P.S. Murray sends you a big kiss! TGIF & happy weekend!

murray kiss

fabulous friday #51: recap edition!

Hi friends, and happy Friday! Sorry for the radio silence around here the past week or so… it’s been an especially busy time, filled with lots of emotion! I thought I would make today’s Fabulous Friday post a recap version of all the neat things I’ve been grateful to experience and celebrate recently.

Happy weekend! Hope you’re up to something fun!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Memorial Day weekend was Céline’s Celebration of Life, which was basically a big party honoring her memory and celebrating the amazing, one-of-a-kind, treasure of a person she was.

celine celebration of life

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or how I would be feeling, and while the evening was bittersweet and there were certainly tears shed, it was an overwhelmingly loving and beautiful experience. It was a gift to be with my friends from college, and to spend time talking to and connecting with other people who knew and loved Céline from all different facets of her life. The party was themed “Around the World” and I dressed up as Ireland — an excuse to wear my gold dress from college that I always associate with Céline and our college parties.

celine celebration group

me and holly

I think Céline would have really loved it. I miss her every day.

2. My 28th birthday yielded all sorts of sweet surprises. One of my students wrote me this lovely card, and another gave me a piece of her own artwork — a stunning painting of birch trees! She is nine. NINE. I am in awe.

rosalie card

birch trees painting

And my darling Dana surprised me with these gorgeous sunny tulips! They make me smile every time I walk past. Thank you, Dana! <3

bday tulips

bday tulips 2

3. For my birthday, Allyn surprised me with a cooking class in San Francisco at Sur La Table! It was my first time ever taking a cooking class and it was so much fun. Normally the class would hold up to 16 people, but we lucked out that we were the only two people who showed up — it ended up being a “private” class just for us! I think we got to do a lot more “hands-on” cooking ourselves than we would have if it had been a full class. And when the instructor found out it was my birthday, she brought me a cupcake with a candle in it and everyone sang me “Happy Birthday.” So thoughtful!

cooking class

We learned to make grilled pizzas with homemade dough and toppings. That’s right, pizza cooked on a grill pan over your stovetop! It was much easier than I expected and turned out amazing. My favorite part was the thick, chewy crust. We made a classic margarita pizza; a Greek-influenced bell pepper and chorizo-topped pizza; and a pizza topped with seasoned lamb and mint pesto. They were all fabulous!

pizzas

Allyn had a fun time too and we are definitely hoping to take more cooking classes together in the future. Such a unique and cute date!

sur la table date

4. The evening of my birthday, my extended family gathered at my Aunt Annie’s house for dinner. It was wonderful to get to spend time with them all. As always, there was lots of laughter and storytelling around the table. And my grandma baked and decorated my birthday cake herself! Have you ever seen a more adorable cake?

birthday cake

ally and gparents

me with my aunts

me and seeeees

allyn with poodles

5. On May 30, Allyn graduated with his MBA! He has worked so hard the past two years on his degree and I could not be more proud of him. If graduating were not enough, he was also honored as the Outstanding Student of the Year, chosen by faculty and fellow students. Congrats, sweetheart!!

allyn graduating

20150530_163011

me and al graduation

Questions for the evening:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What do you have on the agenda for this weekend?

7 things my dad has taught me

Today is my dad’s birthday!

me and daddy

I wish I was home with him to celebrate and give him a ginormous hug and bake him a peanut butter chocolate brownie cake, but that will just have to wait another 10 or so days until I’m home again. {We’re planning to celebrate both his birthday and my birthday a little belatedly this year when we’re all together again!}

bday brownies

In the meantime, in honor of this amazing guy’s birthday, I wanted to share with you 7 important lessons I have learned from my dad. I could have listed 707, but for the sake of brevity I kept it simple. :)

7 things my dad has taught me:

1. Find your passion, and follow it. My dad is the reason I became a writer. He is a journalist and author {he will always be my favorite writer!} and when I was growing up, he often wrote his columns from home so he could spend time with my brother and me. I have always loved to read, and soon I began making up my own stories. Dad let me sit on top of the phone book at the kitchen table and type up my stories on his special work computer. I was thrilled — and hooked on writing. I decided then and there that I wanted to grow up to be a writer just like my dad. I couldn’t {and still can’t!} imagine a better job than spending my days bringing characters to life on the page. Dad has been my cheerleader and supporter for as long as I can remember, and my love of writing is intrinsically connected to my relationship with him. Even when I was a kindergartener, he always took my writing seriously. He helped me find my voice. He taught me to talk through ideas, to stretch my limits, to search for the heart of the story, to edit and edit to make every word count, every word shine. He is still my #1 editor, first reader, go-to brainstormer, and biggest fan.

with dad steinbeck reading

At my Steinbeck Fellows reading last year.

Dad taught me that when you find something you love, that doesn’t feel like “work,” that you daydream about and would do for free because you can’t imagine NOT doing it — that is a true blessing, and not to be taken for granted. It can be difficult and scary to pursue your passion, but it is also a privilege. When I am feeling down or doubting myself, Dad is always there to lift me up and remind me that pursuing my passion for writing, through the good times and the bad, is how I honor my gifts and live a rich and meaningful life that makes me happy. Through his example, he has shown me what it means to follow your passion and devote your time to something that matters to you.

2. Little by little, big things happen. My dad has a passion for writing, and he also has a passion for running. He has run at least three miles every single day for the past 11 years, 10 months, and 24 days. Just thinking about that is overwhelming to me, but Dad insists that when you take it one day at a time, it’s easy. Every single day, you simply lace up your running shoes and get out there. {In fact, he swears getting ready to go run is often the hardest part — once he’s out there, he hits his stride and enjoys it, even on those days he didn’t especially feel like running.} Writing, or whatever your goals are, is the same way: just focus on one day at a time. Books are written one word at a time. Businesses are grown one transaction at a time. Relationships are built one phone call at a time. Little by little, big things happen.

Running-Santa-Clarita-Marathon-720x1024

3. Sometimes it’s good to break the rules. I have always been a natural rule-follower. Maybe it’s because I tend to worry, or just have a cautious personality. I never really had a “rebellious” stage, even as a teenager. However, my dad has taught me that it is important to evaluate rules and that sometimes taking a risk is worth it! One of my favorite memories of this is when I was four years old and Dad took me kite-flying at a park for the very first time. I was so excited! My kite had a rainbow design and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The day was windy, perfect for kite-flying, but soon after we got my kite airborne, a strong gust of wind hit. The string snapped and my beautiful rainbow kite sailed off into a nearby barranca! Dad climbed over a tall fence — not fearing the NO TRESPASSING signs — and climbed a tree to rescue my kite. My hero!

me and daddy

4. Stay curious and always keep learning. Dad is one of the most curious people I know. He is always learning new things: reading books, listening to podcasts, watching PBS documentaries, traveling to new places. The older I get, the more I realize how hard it can be to keep an open mind and to constantly keep adjusting your opinions and views based on new information. Dad is a prime example of someone who is always listening and taking in knowledge, and I admire this about him so much. He is joyfully curious, and I think this is also something that keeps him young!

With Dad at a talk by Ken Burns, the legendary documentary filmmaker, at San Jose State University

With Dad at a talk by Ken Burns, the legendary documentary filmmaker, at San Jose State University

5. By giving to others, you give to yourself. Dad has shown me by example that pursuing your passion goes hand-in-hand with sharing your passion with others. One way to do so is to help give access to other people who may not be able to do what they love. For example, my dad — a longtime sports columnist — has held a Holiday Ball Drive for the past 20 years and has donated thousands of new sports balls to underprivileged kids. He inspired me to start a Holiday Book Drive to collect books to donate to libraries and youth organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club. He inspired my brother to found a nonprofit organization Give Running that has collected and donated more than 16,000 pairs of shoes to both domestic programs and third-world countries.

me and greg shoes

My dad also gives to others through small, everyday acts of kindness such as picking up litter when he runs at the park, paying the tab for servicemen and women at restaurants, and giving food to the homeless. He lives by The Golden Rule and has taught my brother and me to do the same. More important than giving is the intention and love behind the gesture; we have learned that by helping others, YOU are truly the one who gets the most out of the experience.

6. Take time to savor the ordinary details, and use “the good china” every day! Dad believes in making every day special, and using those special items — “the good china” — in your everyday life. After all, what are you saving it for? Why have it if not to enjoy and get use out of it? He has also taught me to take the time to recognize and appreciate the small details that make life rich and beautiful. Whether it’s a gorgeous sunset, a happy tail-wagging welcome home from a dog, a hot shower, a cold drink, a fresh-baked cookie, a new-to-you book or movie, a soft pillow, a hug from someone you love… close your eyes, savor and enjoy the details. Don’t just rush through your life. Don’t put off happiness until “someday.” Find something to be happy for and grateful for today!

me and dad

7. Love is the most important thing of all. Show AND tell people that you love them. Every morning, I wake up to a text from Dad wishing me a masterpiece day and saying that he loves me. Every night, he sends me a goodnight text saying he loves me and is proud of me. I never get tired of hearing those words. Growing up, he would write notes on napkins for our lunchboxes every single day. Not only did he tell my brother and me he was proud of us, he showed it by hanging up our awards, displaying our report cards and track ribbons, framing our school artwork. Every school performance, athletic event, book signing, academic competition — he has been there. He even drove 5+ hours each way to surprise me and attend my Steinbeck Fellows reading! When I was in college, Dad drove down to L.A. to have lunch with me every single week. He never complained about traffic; he always made it seem like a joy, rearranging his work schedule so we could have our “lunch dates.” He always has time for us and treats our family as his #1 priority. He is the most thoughtful person I know.

with my boys

Above all else, Dad has taught me that love is the most important thing in this life. It is important to both show those you love how much you love them, and to tell them in words, too. Yes, we *know* how much Dad loves us, but we still love hearing him say it.

And now I want to say it to him, though I hope he already knows: Daddy, I love you more than words can express! Thank you for being my sunshine and for brightening my life every day. It is such a blessing to be your daughter. Happy birthday!!

Happy birthday dad

healthy chicken and bell peppers with goat cheese

Hi, everyone! Happy Thursday! Hope your week is thrumming along nicely. :)

A little while ago, I promised you this recipe that my mom made for dinner one night during our family reunion in Pittsburgh. Not only is it easy, healthy, and delicious, I love this recipe because it is full of flavor and easily customizable. Don’t like goat cheese? Substitute feta or parmesan, or leave out the cheese altogether. Mom served it over orzo pasta; I like it best over quinoa. Whatever suits your fancy! This also makes great leftovers and heats up well. Hope you enjoy!

chicken and peppers

chicken & bell peppers with goat cheese

– 2 large chicken breasts, or a package of chicken tenders
– 1/2 cup flour
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 2 bell peppers; I like the combination of orange and yellow
– 1 small onion
– 1 can diced tomatoes
– 1 small can tomato sauce
– 1 tbsp minced garlic
– fresh basil, to taste
– goat cheese {or feta or parmesan, if you prefer}
– salt and pepper, to taste
– pasta or quinoa, for serving

1. Slice the bell peppers and onion into chunks and set aside.

2. Cut the chicken into small pieces. Pour the flour into a pie pan or shallow dish so it is an even layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. With your fingers, roll the pieces of chicken in the flour until they are evenly coated.

3. Pour the olive oil into a skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, pour in the chicken and saute until cooked through. The flour will create a nice golden-brown crispiness. Once chicken is cooked, remove from pan and set aside.

4. In the same olive oil, saute the bell peppers and onion for about 10 minutes, until the peppers are soft and the onion is translucent.

5. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, minced garlic, and chicken. Cover and simmer on low.

6. Finely chop the basil. Just before serving, add the basil and goat cheese, to your taste.

7. Serve by itself, or over pasta, rice or quinoa.

Cheers! {We enjoyed this for Mother’s Day dinner, pictured below!}

mothers day

a year of living simply: week 16

Hi, everyone! Hope your Tuesday is off to a terrific start! I’m soaking up time with my fam and crossing my fingers we get some rain here in California this week.

It’s time for this week’s simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to look ahead on the calendar and prepare for upcoming holidays and celebrations: Father’s Day, graduations, birthdays. I bought and wrapped presents for my brother’s graduation, my sweetheart’s graduation, my dad’s birthday {coming up at the end of the month} and Father’s Day. I also bought some cards, though I still have to write in them. I noticed that the whole process of shopping for gifts seemed much more enjoyable when I was doing it with plenty of time in advance.

clothes for goodwill

This week’s challenge is to clean out your closet! At the very least, try to get rid of one item. Make an honest assessment. If you haven’t worn something in the last six or eight months, are you really likely to wear it tomorrow or next week? Why not give the item to someone who might love it, and make room in your closet for only pieces that you truly LOVE? {One of my goals of this year of simplicity is to only keep pieces that I absolutely love and feel fantastic in!}

I think we all tend to overestimate the amount of clothing we need. Wouldn’t life be simpler if we had fewer options to choose from when we stand in front of our closets each morning? I was super inspired by the way Jen Hatmaker only dressed with seven pieces of closing for an entire month as part of her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. And blogger Courtney Carver has written about how much she loves having a small capsule wardrobe — learn more at Project 333.   

Questions for the day:

  • What did you get a jump on this past week?
  • What is one item you can get rid of from your closet?