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?

my brother’s graduation!

My brother Greg graduated with his MBA from the University of Southern California this past weekend! I am so incredibly proud of him, and it was a blessing to be able to celebrate with him and my family. Here are some photos I snapped from the weekend…

greg with parents graduation

MBA graduation

Greg got the Arete Award from USC for his academic performance, community service and leadership! So proud of all his hard work!

me and greg graduation

It wouldn’t have been a USC celebration without the marching band!

greg and classmates

I am so proud of my brother and I had a blast celebrating him and his classmates. Congrats, Greg! I love you!

Question of the morning:

  • Are you attending any graduations this year?

a year of living simply: week 15

Hi, friends! Hope your week is off to a great start. I’m off to a morning PT session and some tutoring appointments before I head home to pack my suitcase because… tomorrow I’m leaving on a jetplane for Los Angeles for my amazing brother’s MBA graduation! I’m so darn proud of him. This evening, before I go, I’m meeting up with Dana at one of our favorite local places. So glad I get to see her before I leave!

So that’s what my day is looking like. Backing up a bit, how was your Mother’s Day weekend? I was bummed I was not able to be with my mom in person {though we are going to have a belated celebration this upcoming week when my brother and I are both home!} but I did get to talk to her on the phone. Suffice to say, I am beyond grateful that I am gifted with this amazing woman as my mother. I could go on for hours and hours about how kind, caring, supportive, funny, generous, and all-around wonderful she is. I love you, Mom!

Mom and Me

I did get to spend time with Allyn’s delightful mother Barbara on Mother’s Day. She is a firecracker, with so many hilarious and fun stories to share. She is also extremely enthusiastic and encouraging of my writing, which means so much to me. Plus she raised a pretty dang stupendous son who I love very much! ;) She has welcomed me into the family with open arms. I was lucky to be invited to join Allyn, his mom and sister on their Mother’s Day tradition of going to the horse races! It was my first time ever going to the racetrack and it was a blast. The horses are gorgeous and I loved watching them run. We bet $2 on each race and I ended up winning a couple, so I walked out of there with $1.26 more than I walked in with! Woo hoo! Enough to pay for the $1 hot dog I ate for lunch, haha.

races mothers day
horseraces mothers day

Allyn and I left the races a little early so I could head home to cook Mother’s Day dinner for my grandparents and extended family! I am the oldest grandchild and, as you know, not yet a mother, and I was thinking that if I didn’t volunteer to cook, one of my aunts or my grandma would likely end up hosting a Mother’s Day get-together for our family. I wanted them to be able to relax on their special day, so I stepped up to cook the meal. I made a chicken & bell peppers pasta dish and snickerdoodle cookies for dessert.

chicken and peppers

snickerdoodles

mothers day

Everything turned out great, and it was so lovely for us all to spend time together. It made me especially happy to see my grandma so happy. She was all dressed up in this pretty new blouse my mom got her for Mother’s Day!

Doesn't she look beautiful?

Now it’s time for this week’s simplicity…

year of living simply

Our last challenge was to journal about your beliefs — about yourself, your life, your relationships, your world — and reflect on what you wrote. Is something you believe about yourself holding you back? Is anything an old, worn-out belief that is no longer serving you? How about letting go of it?

In addition to my limiting belief of myself as someone who has trouble saying, “No” — that, after a conversation with my sweetheart and some reflection, I realized may not be true about me anymore — I also examined my idea of myself as “not a morning person.” I love the feeling of waking up early with the whole day in front of me, but I have always thought of myself as more naturally a night owl… I’m going to experiment with going to bed earlier and getting up earlier, and see how I like it!

morning quote

This week’s challenge was inspired by Mother’s Day. It is such a wonderful and important holiday — with the intention of celebrating mothers and mother figures in our lives and thanking them for all they do and have done for us — but I think the true purpose of the day can easily get lost in hurry and stress. Everything is so busy that it is common to wait until the last minute, and then suddenly the day is upon us! We rush around getting cards and flowers and gifts, not focused on the meaning behind them as much as simply having SOMETHING to give.

But what if we approached things a little differently? Specifically, what if we gave ourselves more TIME? When you have a lot of time to do something, it is infinitely less stressful. You don’t even need to spend more time doing the actual thing; simply having more time before the deadline minimizes stress. Looking ahead on the calendar, many of us have graduations to attend in June, plus June 21 is Father’s Day. Your challenge for this week is to prepare for one or more of those upcoming events: brainstorm thoughtful gift ideas, buy cards, plan activities to celebrate. You could even write the cards and wrap the gifts in advance so you are all ready to go! If you have any birthdays coming up in the next couple months, you could plan for those, too. Also, remember you don’t always need to buy material gifts for people — a donation to a favorite charity or a day spent with you doing something fun are meaningful gifts that don’t add any STUFF to a person’s life! 
Greg and me

At Greg’s undergraduate graduation, three years ago!

Questions for the day:

  • What limiting belief did you let go of?
  • What is one thing coming up that you can get a jump on starting today?

happy birthday céline

roomie party

My dear friend Céline would have been 27 today. It’s such a strange occasion, the first birthday since her death, because it’s like my brain is still used to May 4th being a joyous day of celebration, and I keep feeling bowled over by these waves of sadness. I miss her a lot.

My friend Trish from church, who has been meeting with me every so often to talk about Céline, recommended that I do something special to commemorate today. She said grieving can often be more difficult if special occasions are just experienced as “a normal day.” So I brainstormed things I could do to honor and celebrate Céline. Here’s what I came up with:

  • A morning phone date with Holly. I wish we could be together today, and in the future we hope to make it a priority to be together on Céline’s birthday — it just wasn’t possible this year. Being together on the phone was the next-best thing.

celine me holly

  • Baking cupcakes! Specifically, funfetti cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting and rainbow sprinkles. These are what I would make for Céline if we were together celebrating her birthday today. She always made the best birthday cakes and cream-cheese frosting was a favorite of our apartment in college. We actually referred to our place as “The Cream-Cheese Frosting” when we would have parties!

cupcakes

  • I packed a picnic lunch and met up with Allyn for a walk around the Lafayette Reservoir, one of my favorite places in the Bay Area to soak up nature. I haven’t been hiking since my leg injury in January, so it was be exciting to be back out there on the trails. The Reservoir is somewhere I would have loved to take Céline if she had visited me here.

Lafayette Reservoir

  • I wore the beautiful bangle bracelets that were hers, that her mom gave me after Céline’s funeral.

celines bracelets

  • Tonight my aunt Annie and cousin Arianna sweetly took me out to dinner. They have been so great at listening to me talk and tell stories about Céline. Annie lost her best friend to cancer five years ago, and she has been very understanding and has given me advice about what has helped her grieve, and also keep her friend’s memory alive.

annie arianna my bday

  • I was extra gentle to myself today, taking time to journal, read, listen to music, look at pictures, and go through some of our old emails and messages to each other. My family was also wonderfully supportive, sending me loving text messages and notes throughout the day.

I want to end by sharing a poem my brother sent me written by John O’Donohue. This verse has been so comforting for me, especially today:

“As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The tight solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime.”

Happy birthday, dear Céline. I will try to honor your memory not just today, but every single day, with the compassion and kindness and joy that you embodied each day of your much-too-short life.

We miss you. We love you. Always.

Celebrating your 21st birthday... what a fun night that was!

Celebrating your 21st birthday… what a fun night that was!

fabulous friday #50

Aaaaaand just like that, it’s the weekend! It is a warm one around here and we are all trying to stay cool, and also soaking up some gorgeous sunshine outdoors. I get to meet up with this pretty lady in a few hours for dinner.

me and dana sideboard

So excited to catch up with her! Hope you’re up to something fun!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. My favorite dessert of late: organic vanilla greek yogurt + fruit {raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries are my faves!} + mini chocolate chips.

yogurt dessert

2. My wonderful minister gave me a copy of this little book, which takes its title from a beautiful Robert Frost Poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

nothing gold can stay

I’ve been reading through the short essays in this book when I wake up in the morning and before I go to sleep at night, and it has been a source of comfort.

3. Last weekend I drove to Marcus Books in Oakland to attend a talk by Tavis Smiley about his new book chronicling his 20+ year friendship with Maya Angelou, My Journey With Maya. Tavis’s talk was filled with humor, wisdom, and his trademark insight. He is one of my role models! And I am savoring this book. I would definitely recommend picking up a copy — I think it would make the perfect Mother’s Day or graduation gift!

my journey with maya

I also loved these beautiful murals on the outside walls of Marcus Books:

marcus books

marcus books 2

4. My friend Jess sent me this lovely ring and a nice card in the mail, out of the blue! It was really sweet and made my day. It’s an infinity ring, symbolizing the everlasting bonds of friendship. She sent them to our friendship group from college, as a way of honoring Celine.

infinity ring

5. This *free* April reflection worksheet courtesy of Nicole at Life Less BS. It’s the perfect way to say goodbye to April and hello to May! Nicole never fails to make me feel inspired and ready to tackle my goals and BIG dreams for my life.

Questions for the evening:

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

a year of living simply: week 14

Happy Wednesday, my friends! This morning, I was woken up by a wild turkey gobble-gobble-squawking on the lawn outside my bedroom window. It was quite a unique alarm to wake up to and a funny sight to usher in my day. :)

Today is going by quickly thanks to a mix of writing, “housekeeping” business type stuff, errands, and a gym session where I tried out the elliptical for the first time in a long time. It was exciting to do some cardio again without pain! My PT is working, slowly but surely — I just have to keep being patient and doing my exercises.

Now it’s time for this week’s simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge — inspired by Lauren Singer, a 23-year-old blogger living in NYC who hasn’t produced ANY waste in two-plus years — was to pay attention to how much waste you produce and try to produce less. I found that simply being attentive helped me produce less garbage. For example, I refrained from using paper towels whenever possible, and instead of grabbing a stack of paper napkins at Starbucks, I only took one. I made sure to recycle even small pieces of paper, like oatmeal packets, that can easily sneak into the garbage. I reused envelopes when mailing packages at the post office. Instead of using Ziplock baggies to pack my veggie snacks, I used reusable containers. {Purchasing glass containers is on my to-do-list!} I aim to continue being aware of and working to reduce my waste, and I have a goal of learning how to start a compost container, too, for food waste. My sweetheart composts and it was something I was attracted to about him from the very beginning — his care for small details to help the environment. #treehuggersmakemeswoon

allyn trees

This week’s challenge was inspired by a conversation I had with my sweetie earlier this week. We always call each other to say goodnight and talk about our days, and sometimes we wind up on these conversational tangents that are really fascinating and I feel like I learn so much more about him from our long meandering talks. Anyway, somehow we got on the topic of how we perceive ourselves, and he said something I wasn’t anticipating: that sometimes he is surprised by things I say about myself here, on my blog. For example, a few weeks ago when I posted about how I’m learning to say “No” to things and how I tend to say “Maybe” and hem and haw and dread until I eventually say “No” and feel like I’m letting the person down — Allyn said that he never had that view of me at all. He sees me as someone who is very intentional about how I spend my time and proactive about committing to the things that matter to me. Of course, he admitted, there are surely things in my daily life and routine and work obligations, etc. that he doesn’t know about, but still — it got me thinking.

And when I tried to come up with specific examples of things I have said “Yes” to lately that I really haven’t wanted to do, my list was pretty dang short. A lot of memories I have of that behavior are pretty far in the past, like back in my high school and college days. I realized that maybe, without realizing it, I’ve been holding onto a limiting belief about myself and haven’t given myself credit for learning and growing. Maybe I am a different person now — stronger, more self-aware, more intentional and proactive about my time and my commitments — than I used to be when I was afraid to say, “No.” Perhaps in this instance, there is more truth in the way that Allyn sees me, than in the way I see myself.

view of trees

So this week’s challenge is to do some journaling about your beliefs: about yourself, your life, your relationships, your world. Be honest. Don’t write about what you “think” you should believe; write the story you tell yourself, deep down. Then reflect on what you’ve written. Is something you believe about yourself holding you back? Is anything an old, worn-out belief that is no longer serving you? How about letting go of it? If you are the type of person who likes ritual {as I do!} write your limiting belief or idea on a slip of paper and burn it to symbolize releasing it from your life.

Questions for the morning:

  • How did you reduce the waste you produce?
  • What is one limiting belief or idea that you could let go of today?

a year of living simply: week 13

Happy Wednesday, friends! {How is it already Wednesday??} I don’t know where this week is going! It’s been a good one for me so far, though. I’m excited because tonight, I’m getting together with my sweetheart for dinner and then we’re going to Berkeley to see a former professor of mine from USC give a reading from his debut newly published novel. Congrats, Viet! Can’t wait to see you and read your book!

Before then, I have a list of tasks to knock out on my to-do list, and some gym time on my agenda too. My PT appointments have been going well, and I’ve been cleared to use the elliptical, which I am way too excited about. :) I see some low-impact jogging & jamming out to T.Swift on on my ipod shuffle in the near future!

In the meantime… simplicity!

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to set aside a small block of time every day to do something you absolutely LOVE. So often, we fill our lives with so much busy-busy-busy-ness that we don’t have any time left to do those things that bring us pure joy or contentment. But, more and more, I am learning that it is so important to make room for FUN!

Something that has always brought me pleasure and helped me relax is reading. I love reading. Especially when I’m not reading for an assignment or a book review or book club or because I need to return a book to a friend — I enjoy reading in those circumstances too, and I enjoy pushing myself outside of my reading comfort zone. However, there is a certain type of pure, childlike pleasure that washes over me when I am sinking into a book I love, with no deadline or obligation other than to simply revel in the reading experience.

This week, I made more time to read for pleasure. I read for twenty minutes, lying in bed, when I woke up in the morning, and it felt so luxurious. I read for half an hour before going to bed at night. One morning, I met a friend at a coffeeshop for a visit, and when she had to leave I stayed around for another hour or so, just drinking my tea and reading, as the sunlight slanted through the window and the cafe bustled around me. It was glorious. It was fun. It made me feel like i was on vacation. It made me feel refreshed.

books from Tania

This week’s challenge, in honor of Earth Day, is to pay attention to how much waste you produce and try to produce less. For example, instead of using Ziplock baggies to pack your lunch every day, why not invest in reusable glass containers? Pay attention to how often you rip a paper towel off the roll and throw it away barely used. Order a drink at a restaurant without the straw and cocktail napkin. Bring your reusable coffee mug to Starbucks. All simple things that if we all did, there would be so much less waste in this world.

This challenge was inspired by Lauren Singer, a 23-year-old blogger living in NYC who hasn’t produced ANY waste in two-plus years. Incredible! She also describes in that article how producing zero waste has given her a happier, simpler lifestyle.

Questions for the morning:

  • What FUN did you build into your schedule this week?
  • What is one thing you could do starting today to reduce the waste you produce?

fabulous friday #49

Hi, friends, and happy weekend! Hope you’re up to something fun!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. This movie: Hank & Asha. My brother sent me a link to it after he watched it on AmazonPrime, and I watched it earlier this week. I was hooked from the first five minutes! It’s a beautiful, unconventional love story told solely through video messages the two characters send to each other. I would definitely recommend checking it out!

2. On the topic of entertainment, I’ve found a new TV show that I’m working my way through… Manhattan Love Story! Does anyone else watch this one? It’s a new show in its first season and I’ve been watching it from the beginning on Hulu. I was missing my love-story sitcom ever since “A to Z” bit the dust {you’ll always have a place in my heart, Andrew + Zelda!} and Manhattan Love Story fills this void perfectly. Fingers crossed this one sticks around!

3. I’ve tried out some new recipes that turned out pretty well this week: an Italian chicken-and-peppers quinoa bowl that I’ll share with you soon; a veggie butternut squash chili {similar to this recipe but with squash subbed for the ground turkey and black beans subbed for the kidney beans, and quinoa added}; and a raspberry-apple cobbler, similar to this one but using raspberries and raspberry preserves instead of pumpkin butter. It was delicious served warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!

raspberry crumble

4. Thanks to The Literary Nest for including my story “The Man Who Lives In My Shower” in their debut issue! This story originally appeared in Zahir: a journal of speculative fiction back in 2010, and it’s wonderful to see it get some renewed attention. You can read it here.

5. This quote I rediscovered today through Timehop:

“Always remember that striving and struggling precede success, even in the dictionary.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach

Questions for the evening:

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

a year of living simply: week 12

Hi there, everyone! I’m back from a family reunion trip to Pittsburgh to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary! It was wonderful to spend time with my family, especially some relatives I had not seen for years and years.

3 generations

the ladies

me and grandpap

My Grandpap’s sister Muriel came — I had never met her before! She is a hoot.

mom and muriel

One day we went into Pittsburgh and had a delightful time exploring the city. We lucked out with a gorgeous sunny day!

pittsburgh

with my girls

on the incline

I’ve spent the past couple days unpacking/shopping/laundry-ing, and getting back into my normal routine. I’m finally feeling like I’m back on the right timezone! Onto the simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to say no to something. As I mentioned, I’ve adopted this bad habit of “hedging” instead of declining outright when asked to do something I have no time or interest in. Instead, I tend to say, “Maybe” and then end up worrying about it, or sometimes just doing it because I can’t bring myself to “let down” the other person. It’s ridiculous.

This past week, I practiced flexing my “no” muscle! I’ll be honest: it was difficult. I felt a pang of worry every time I stopped myself from hedging and said, “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to do that — I’ve just got too much on my plate right now.” Even if I wasn’t saying the words out loud but typing them in an email response, I still felt my nerves clench! But, guess what? I don’t think anyone I said, “No” to hates my guts now. I think everyone understood. In fact, I think people appreciate an honest, up-front response — it is actually much kinder to say, “No” outright than to hedge and hedge and finally flake out on someone. In turn, I don’t feel resentful of “having to do” tasks I have no interest in, and I don’t feel like I’m running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off trying to please everyone and get everything done. Now I have more energy and time for the projects and people who really matter to me.

This week’s challenge is to set aside a small block of time every day to do something you absolutely LOVE. So often, we fill our lives with so much busy-busy-busy-ness that we don’t have any time left to do those things that bring us pure pleasure. I’m not talking about being productive or getting things done; I mean those “frivolous” activities that are simply FUN. Remember back when we were kids, and “fun” wasn’t a luxury — it was a priority? When we actively made time to play? Why do we have to lose that when we become adults?

This week, spend some time thinking about activities that make you feel good — maybe it’s reading books by a certain author or in a certain genre; perhaps it is knitting or scrapbooking; or maybe simply sitting outside under you favorite tree, doing nothing but enjoying the breeze and birdsong. Make time every single day to savor what you love. Put FUN on your to-do list!

Questions for the morning:

  • What did you say, “No” to this week?
  • What is something you absolutely LOVE to do?