a year of Wooden: week 28

Hi everyone! It’s time for this week’s year of Wooden challenge!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books.
  • February: Make friendship a fine art.
  • March: Help others.
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day (financially).
  • May: Be true to yourself.
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day.
  • July: Love.
  • August: Balance.

Coach Wooden said, “The two most important words in the English language are LOVE and BALANCE.” In July, we focused on the first of those: cultivating and nurturing more love in our lives. Now, in August, we are working to create better balance in our lives.

balance quote

Last week’s challenge was to identify the four or five key areas of your life. Here are mine:

  • Family & friends
  • Work
  • Writing
  • Mental health
  • Physical health

I differentiated “work” from “writing” because I do a variety of tasks as part of my job other than writing, but I feel the need to write every day in order to feel happy and productive. If I only do other work-related projects, such as teaching and blogging and publicity stuff — but no writing — then it doesn’t feel like a wholly fulfilling day to me. So “writing” is important enough to me to be its own separate category.

For me, “mental health” includes the things that I need to de-stress and center myself: meditation, reading for pleasure, volunteering. “Physical health” encompasses exercise {yoga, walks, core exercises} and also eating healthfully {and carving out the time to cook healthful meals!}

Source: http://www.pinterest.com/explore/inspiration-quotes/

Source: pinterest

For this week’s challenge, look at the inventory of the key components that make up each of your categories. Now, spend a little while daydreaming about how these activities might come together in a balanced way to create your perfect ordinary day. I want to make the distinction between “perfect day” and “perfect ordinary day” because I think to a lot of us, a “perfect day” would be comprised of vacation-type activities. This is certainly lovely and fun to think about, but probably isn’t sustainable over the long-term.

Instead, for this challenge, I want you to think about how you can make your ordinary, everyday days be the best possible masterpiece days they can be. And that means putting together a roadmap of balanced activities from each of the core important areas of your life!

Questions for the day:

  • What are the key areas/categories in your life?
  • What does a “perfect ordinary day” look like for you?

goals + recipes for the week of 8/17

Happy Sunday, everyone! It feels like it’s been for.ev.er since I popped in to say hi… I guess it’s only been a few days since my mid-week meditation post, but it was one of those weeks where a lot happened!

  • I got back to the Bay Area on Sunday night, and there were all sorts of little errands and such I had to squeeze in to get back into my everyday routine. You know how it is, getting back to real life after “vacation mode” :)
  • I taught a wonderful week of journalism and public speaking camp to a group of super awesome fifth graders. I was so proud of all of them!
  • I’m housesitting/dog-sitting for my aunt and uncle right now, so there was a bit of schedule juggling involved to make sure the doggies were comfortable and cared for throughout the day when I was at work. Everything worked out fine in the end!

poodles

There were also lots of fun events:

  • I got together with Dana for dinner at Pizza Antica — yum!
  • I got my first-ever professional massage {more on that coming soon!}
  • We celebrated Makena’s birthday on Tuesday and Bianca’s birthday on Friday! We had a joint party for them both on Wednesday evening, and it was so much fun. They are such kind-hearted and beautiful young ladies, inside and out!

m and b bday

This week is looking to be even busier! Tomorrow my grandma is getting much-needed hip-replacement surgery; she’s in a lot of pain, so we are all excited that this procedure will hopefully provide a lot of relief. Still, getting an operation is always a little scary, so we would be so grateful for your good thoughts & prayers! I will be sure to keep y’all posted on her recovery.

me and gma

Then on Tuesday, my sweetheart comes home!! He is currently driving back to the Bay Area from New Orleans… I think he’s somewhere in the middle of New Mexico right now. Your safe thoughts for his travels would also be very appreciated :) I am over-the-moon excited to see him!

me and al bday creamery

This week is the last week of summer camps for Communication Academy. I’m teaching a public speaking class for teenagers and I’m really looking forward to it. Gonna be a great week!

Before I head out, it’s goals time…

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week: {I bit off a little more than I could chew, as I am so prone to doing!}
– revise 25 pages of my novel-in-progress
– teach a successful week of camp
– connect with three friends
– finish reading Invisibility by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan
drop off donation to Goodwill

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– revise 10 pages of my novel-in-progress
– teach a successful week of camp
– help take care of my Grandma as best I can
– finish reading Invisibility by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
salted caramel apple crisp via Panera Bread Co.
grilled zucchini and corn tostadas via Two Peas & Their Pod
– chunky sausage and veggie pasta sauce via Chew Out Loud
dark chocolate chunk peanut butter blondies via The Pajama Chef
– my own coconut zucchini muffins

Questions of the day:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

MPM-Spring
This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

mid-week meditation #8

Happy Wednesday, friends! I’m in the midst of a fun, hectic, enthusiastic week of teaching journalism & public speaking camp for a group of fourth- and fifth-graders. Even — especially — during these busy days, I am working to cultivate a morning routine of calm, joy and gratitude. This means getting up early enough to meditate, do a bit of yoga, eat a healthy and filling breakfast, pack a nutritious lunch, and have plenty of time to drive to work without feeling rushed. {Which also means going to bed early enough to get a good night’s sleep … something that is a challenge for me, a natural night owl!}

Here’s a meditation that might be helpful for anyone else who is also trying to savor the mornings!

morning quote

Questions of the morning:

  • What is your morning routine?
  • What are the “little things” that refresh your heart?

goals + recipes for the week of 8/10

Hi there, friends! Hope you’re having a wonderful Sunday! I’m soaking up time with my parents & Mr. Mur-dog before heading back up to the Bay tonight. Tomorrow I start another week of teaching writing & public speaking camp for Communication Academy. I love the kids and am gearing up for an energetic week!

Before I head out, it’s goals time…

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my simple goals from a couple weeks ago:
submit new play to contest
teach a successful week of camp for Communication Academy
finish reading Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– revise 25 pages of my novel-in-progress
– teach a successful week of camp
– connect with three friends
– finish reading Invisibility by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan
– drop off donation to Goodwill

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
charity’s bruschetta via sweet summer smiles
easy summer pasta salad & no-bake peanut butter chocolate pretzel cookies via Two Peas & Their Pod
– peanut butter coconut banana muffins via It’s Progression
best ever homemade pizza via The Pajama Chef
– my own cilantro-lime quinoa with chicken

Questions of the day:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

MPM-Spring
This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

fabulous friday #29

Happy Friday, friends! What wonderful things are you up to today?

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Catching up on my stack of old issues of The New Yorker that pile up at my parents’ house when I’m gone. My dad always reads them and saves them for me, because I especially love reading the fiction. My recent favorite: “Here’s the Story” by David Gilbert. The ending definitely sucker-punched me, in the best way! This is one of those stories that I want to press into the hands of everyone I meet and tell them, “Read this. You’ve got to read this.” Does anyone else ever feel that way when you read something amazing?

new yorker issue

2. My parents and I went to the Food Truck Tuesdays event that happens here in Ventura on the first Tuesday of every month. It was a blast! I was impressed by the wide range of cuisine offered by the many different food trucks. My dad opted for the lobster tacos, Mom got a classic burger, and I got sushi rolls topped with an Indian-inspired butter pork-and-peppers sauce. Yum!

food trucks

parents at food truck tuesday

3. I made turkey enchiladas for dinner last night. They were a big hit!

turkey enchiladas

4.  Thanks to Whitney for sharing this powerful sermon on love and commitment. I thought the message was absolutely beautiful, and very true {except for the part towards the end where he says it was “too late” to back out of the wedding… I think that if you have doubts in your gut about marrying a certain person, those doubts are there for a reason and you need to listen to them carefully! Which is entirely different from being afraid of commitment in general.}

5. The fro-yo place down the block from my parents’ house has the best selection of toppings… so many choices! I was cracking up at all their sour candy options. My sweetheart loves sour candy, even on ice cream. I need to bring him here!

fro yo toppings

What are your plans for this lovely August weekend? I think my parents and I are headed to the outdoor concert series Rock The Collection tomorrow evening. It’s always a lot of fun, plus it’s freeeeee — can’t beat that! :)

rock the collection

me and mom summer

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

raspberry brown butter bars {gluten-free!}

Hi, friends! I have a DIVINE recipe to share with you today! Perfect for these gorgeous end-of-summer days. I first came across this recipe on Roxane Gay’s blog, which was inspired by this recipe on smitten kitchen, for cherry brown butter bars.

Alas, I do not own a cherry pitter, and the lovely Erica requested a raspberry dessert for our dinner get-together a couple weeks ago, so I decided to make raspberry brown butter bars instead. They turned out wonderfully. I think these bars would also be lovely with blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, even pears — feel free to experiment!

raspberry brown butter bars

raspberry brown butter bars

crust:
– 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
– 1/3 cup brown sugar
– 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour {I made mine gf so used 1/2 cup oat flour & 1/2 cup rice flour}
– a pinch of salt

filling:
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 2 large eggs
– a pinch of salt
– 1/4 cup flour {I again used a combo of oat flour & rice flour}
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1/2 cup  unsalted butter, diced
– 12 ounces raspberries

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Use butter or Pam to grease an 8 x 8 glass baking pan.

2. Mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated.

3. Transfer dough to your greased pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan.

4. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes. Let crust cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.

5. Make the filling: Cook butter in heavy small saucepan {a lighter-colored one will make it easier to see the color changing, which happens quickly} over medium heat until deep nutty brown.

6. Be careful not to overcook because it will burn!

7. Here are my best tips to not burn the butter: stir constantly and watch carefully. If in doubt, after about six minutes, consider it browned. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup or glass container to allow it to cool slightly.

8. Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.

9. Arrange raspberries in the bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit.

20140723_152227

10. Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack and then cut into bars.

raspberry brown butter bars

Enjoy!

if you liked this recipe, you might also like:

- triple-berry cobbler
zesty lemon bars
rice krispies treats w/m&ms

a year of Wooden: week 27

Hi everyone! I’m coming at you with this week’s year of Wooden challenge… and we’re into August, which means a new monthly focus!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books.
  • February: Make friendship a fine art.
  • March: Help others.
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day (financially).
  • May: Be true to yourself.
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day.
  • July: Love.
  • August: Balance.

Coach Wooden said, “The two most important words in the English language are LOVE and BALANCE.” In July, we focused on the first of those: cultivating and nurturing more love in our lives. Now, in August, we’ll strive to create better balance in our lives.

Last week’s challenge was to go beyond just saying, “I love you” and SHOW someone your love. The aim was to do seven loving gestures for the week, one every day. I made a phone call to check in on a friend, lavished compliments and praise on my students, sent a card to my brother, helped my grandparents entertain guests, mailed a care package, treated my mom to fro-yo, and tried to up my share of household chores. Lots of little gestures, but they brought smiles to the faces of those I love, and made me feel more loved and happy in turn.

balance quote

To kick off our new month’s focus on balance, this week’s challenge is to identify the four or five key areas of your life. These should be broad categories, like “Family/Friends”, “Work”, “Hobbies” and “Exercise.” Next, jot down a few things describing each one. For example, under my “Exercise” category I would write down “yoga, walks, core strength” while under “Hobbies” I might identify “knitting, baking, blogging, reading.” In this way, you’re taking an inventory of the key components that make up your life and happiness. For the rest of month, we’ll work on getting them in balance!

Questions for the day:

  • What was your over-all experience in the month of July with our focus on love? Does your life feel more full and rich with love than it did before?
  • What are the key areas/categories in your life?

goals + recipes for the week of 7/27

Happy Sunday, friends! I’m making this a quick one because it’s a busy day for me! Here are my goals for the week…

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals for this past week:
revise 25 pages of my novel-in-progress
– write 10 pages of my new play
– teach a successful weekend of Summer Writing Camp
– connect with three friends
– finish reading Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro {about 50 pages left to go}

Here are my goals for this upcoming week — keeping them simple:
– submit new play to contest
– teach a successful week of camp for Communication Academy
– finish reading Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
chocolate-chip cocoNUT bars via It’s Progression
watermelon, blackberry & mint salad via Two Peas & Their Pod
– spicy lime chicken salad via sometimes.always.never
marbled banana bread {vegan + gf} via the real-life rd
– my own mixed berry cobbler

Questions of the day:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

MPM-Spring
This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

fabulous friday #28

Happy Friday, friends! Hope you’re having a fabulous day!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. The gorgeous summer sunshine and the beautiful beach. I went out to dinner with my parents and it was one of those perfect evenings… warm, a slight breeze, the sun setting over the ocean. I tried to capture it with my camera, but this photo doesn’t do it justice!

pretty ocean

2. Last night, my sweet parents surprised me with tickets to see Once: The Musical at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles! The movie is one of my favorites and I think the music is stunningly beautiful. Seeing the musical was goosebumps-inducing! And we made a night of it with a lovely dinner beforehand at 33 Taps in Hollywood. My parents are two of my best friends and I love getting to spend time with them!

pantages theater

mom dad once

3. I always love coming home and getting together with friends! I saw Gricelda for a lunch date at our favorite spot, Urbane Cafe. Tania invited me to her house for a long catch-up visit {the kind where you feel like it’s been maybe forty minutes and you look at the clock and, whoops, three hours have passed!} And Erica and Kyle had me over to their adorbs new apartment for dinner.

me and erica at her place

They made a delicious healthy stir-fry with rice and I tried out a new recipe for dessert: raspberry brown-butter crumb bars. Oh man, you guys — so good! I will be sharing the recipe next week, so stay tuned.

raspberry brown butter bars

4.  I was floored by this blog post about the declining health of America’s kids — more proof that kids need active play time every day! This amazing nonprofit org, KaBoom!, is where my brother is interning this summer in Washington, D.C.

5. My first Kindle short story is now available! It’s called “Grand Slam” and for a limited time, it’s on sale at Amazon for less than a buck! Here’s a brief description: Derek is a die-hard Cincinnati Reds baseball fan. He finally works up the nerve to talk to his crush, Regina… but then he learns she is a huge New York Yankees fan. The Reds are going up against the Yankees in the World Series! Can their budding romance survive an intense sports rivalry?

grand slam cover

Read a preview and get your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M1236J2

Here’s to soaking up every last drop of this TGIF and cheers to a fun summer weekend!

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

mid-week meditation #7

Happy Wednesday, friends! Hope your week is going great. I’m enjoying my final few days at home in Ventura before heading back up to the Bay Area to teach another week-long class for Communication Academy. Summer is flying by!

Here’s a meditation for you today — I discovered the quote thanks to one of my favorite writing/creativity bloggers, Alexandra Franzen. Hope you enjoy!

three grand essentials

Questions of the morning:

  • What are your grand essentials to happiness?
  • What are you doing, loving, and hoping for?