happy birthday allyn!

My sweetheart turns 33 today. I’m so excited to celebrate with him tonight!

al birthday

I feel so fortunate to share life with this amazing man. He inspires me every day with his kindness, compassion, determination, work ethic, and generous heart. He is one of the best listeners I have ever met. His constant support of me and all of my endeavors — especially my writing — makes me feel like I can do anything.

And when you find someone who makes you laugh so much that your cheeks hurt from smiling? Hold on to that person! Allyn is that person for me.

me and al country club

Happy birthday, Allyn! I love you! I hope you have the best year yet :)

a year of Wooden: week 34

Good morning, everyone! My uncle Frankie just hit the road back down to L.A. after a nice morning of visiting with me and my grandparents over breakfast. Now I’m drinking tea and taking care of some emails/business stuff before heading out to Starbucks for a writing session. {I always get more productive writing done at Starbucks than at home. I crave the background noise and busy atmosphere.} Then I’m hoping to have a gym session this evening!

Before I get moving, time for this week’s year of Wooden challenge! Since Wednesday is the start of October, we’re going to move onto our October challenge this week…

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
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}

Back in January, we began this year-long challenge with the first item from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Drink deeply from good books. In September, we focused on poetry because Coach Wooden had a deep love for poetry.

Last week’s challenge was to read New and Selected Poems: Volume One by Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver poems

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets — I shared her beautiful poem “The Summer Day” earlier this year as a mid-week meditation — and for this week I’d like to share her poem about one of my favorite things:

The Sunflowers

Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines

creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.
Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy

but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young –
the important weather,

the wandering crows.
Don’t be afraid
to ask them questions!
Their bright faces,

which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds –
each one a new life! –

hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.

You all know how much I love sunflowers, so it’s no wonder I was drawn to this poem. At first, I simply reveled in the beauty of the lines and the perfect description of sunflowers — their creaky spines, heavy green leaves, bright faces like “burnished disks.” But as I read the poem through a few times, what I was most left with was a sense of quiet strength, confidence, and hope. I love the lines about “turning their lives/into a celebration” even though this is not an easy task. I think that is a noble task for all of us to attempt!

sunflowers

Now, let’s move onto our challenge for October. This is a reprise of our February challenge, from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Make friendship a fine art. For October, we’re returning to this point, but instead of improving existing friendships, we are going to focus on nurturing new friendships.

This week’s challenge is to reach out to an acquaintance you would like to get to know better, and invite them to do something — coffee, lunch, a movie, etc. Reach out and get to know this person better!

friendship quote

Questions for the day:

  • What is your favorite poem by Mary Oliver?
  • How do you make life a celebration?
  • What new friend will you reach out to this week?

goals + recipes for the week of 9/28

Happy Sunday, friends! It’s a busy day around here. I’m off to do a little tutoring this morning before church; then after the church service we’re having a Young Adult potluck; and then tonight we’re having family dinner at my aunt Annie’s house before my Uncle Frankie heads back down to L.A. in the morning. Lots of friend & family time, which makes my heart happy!

Speaking of happy hearts, my sweetie’s birthday is this Tuesday! Last night I was invited to celebrate with him and his sister, dad and stepmom at the beautiful Clairemont Country Club. I wore my navy and ivory chevron dress from this past Easter {thanks to Arianna for helping me decide on an outfit! My cousin is eleven years younger than I am but has waaaaay more style!} ;)

chevron dress

And my other stylish cousin, Bianca, helped me bake red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for the birthday boy!

cupcakes

Speaking of yummy desserts, I have to share a photo of this aaaaaamazing butternut squash bread pudding I ordered for dessert on Friday night. I’m gonna try to recreate it myself at some point, perhaps using this recipe? Oh and yeah, that’s salted caramel gelato on top. With chocolate caramel cups mixed in. Yuuuuummmmm. I want to eat this again, like, right now.

butternut squash bread pudding

Before I lose myself in drooling over this photo, let’s move onto goals…

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week: 
– complete new draft of my novel-in-progress {wrote two new chapters; one more to go!}
– finish editing work
– prepare for first week of teaching/new semester
do yoga twice & core exercises five times
– read 100 pages of Into the Night Sky by Caroline Finnerty

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– complete new draft of my novel-in-progress
– celebrate Allyn’s birthday! :)
– do yoga twice & core exercises five times
– finish reading Into the Night Sky by Caroline Finnerty

And here are some recipes I’m eying this week:
crockpot asian pulled chicken via The Pajama Chef
creamy spinach & cheese green chile enchiladas via Two Peas & Their Pod
pumpkin cinnamon cookies via Two Peas & Their Pod
6 healthy crockpot chicken freezer meals via New Leaf Wellness & Money-Saving Mom
– my own curried butternut squash & apple soup

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 #34

Happy Friday, friends! My morning started off with a relaxing, restorative yoga class… and it’s been a little stressful from then on. My cell phone is having battery issues and I’ve been on the phone with tech support all day trying to get the issues worked out. It’s amazing how much our lives are tied to our phones — I use mine not just to get in touch with people, but also as my GPS navigation system and to check my email when I’m out and about, etc. Really hope I get this solved soon!

But at the same time, I’m reminding myself to breathe and be grateful for this “first world problem”… so many people have much bigger issues and problems to worry about. I’m lucky to even have a cell phone in the first place!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. This “Green Goodness” juice that is on sale at Safeway this week … two bottles for $5, score! I grabbed some for a post-yoga snack this morning. The first time I got this drink, I misread the label as “Green GODDESS” and that’s always how I think of it in my head. So much good-for-you green stuff in this bottle, you’ll feel like a goddess after drinking it! :)

green goodness

2. Like a complete knucklehead, I forgot my retainer at home in Ventura when I came back up north last weekend. Well, my sweet parents didn’t even tease me or make me feel bad for being so forgetful — they just wrapped it securely in bubble wrap, slid it into an envelope, and 2-day-mailed it to me. This probably sounds silly, but I was ridiculously happy to be reunited with my retainer — I could feel my teeth shifting without it and it was stressing me out! I didn’t go through three years of braces — plus headgear — for nothing! Any other retainer-wearers out there?

3. This quote from Mother Teresa {which came to me thanks to the always-enlightening Heather Waxman}:

4. My grandma got this ginormous container of peanut-butter filled pretzels at Costco. This is dangerous, my friends. Dangerous.

pretzels

5. I got to see Dana for dinner last night at one of our fave spots, Chow. I got a cup of their fall vegetable minestrone soup and a spinach/apple/walnut salad. Yum! Great food and great company! I feel very grateful to have such thoughtful, wonderful friends in my life who build me up and make me feel so loved. In fact, Dana just now texted me: “I wanted to tell you that I loved your shirt and your bag yesterday, but I forgot to tell you! Super cute.” Sweet texts like that completely brighten my day! Thanks, Dana! <3

me and dana sideboard

Now, I’m off to tutor a couple of adorable kiddos, and then we’re having a family dinner tonight because my Uncle Frankie is visiting! Happy Friday, everyone!

Questions of the day:

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

on love, faith & truth: the legacy of dr. king

Hi there from a beautifully drizzly morning in the Bay Area!

drizzly morning

We are in the midst of a huge drought right now so are beyond happy for any rain or mist at all… waking up to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof was a truly delightful sound. Fingers crossed for more rainy days around here!

Now I’m sipping on green tea & a green smoothie for breakfast. I wanted to share with you some of the notes I took during the powerful and inspiring talk by Tavis Smiley that I was fortunate to attend yesterday in San Francisco at the Commonwealth Club… {it was actually recorded and the entire talk and Q&A session will be available here in the next few weeks.} The talk was centered around Tavis’s new book, Death of a King, about the last year of MLK’s life.

Death of a King

Tavis said he wanted to write a book “that everyday people can devour and enjoy and get to know Dr. King.” He explained, “I want to do my small part to make the world safe for the legacy of Dr. King: justice for all, service to others, and love that liberates people.”

Indeed, the main message that Tavis shared about MLK {or as Tavis called him, just Martin} was his belief in LOVE above all else. “Everything he did, he did in love.” Here are some more of my notes from the talk:

  • We are too often engaged in monologue and not enough in dialogue. Let’s engage in more dialogue with each other. That means, listening to each other.
  • Sometimes, silence is betrayal.
  • No matter what, MLK always stood in his truth.
  • What happened to LOVE in our public discourse? You can disagree with someone, but still approach them from a place of love.
  • Everyone is worthy just because.
  • MLK knew that he did not have a monopoly on the truth and that he was not right about everything {for example, his views on women were at times a little sexist or patriarchal.} But he was willing to learn.
  • Like water, he was able to go everywhere and relate to all different types of people.
  • Tavis’s definition of leadership: “You can’t lead people if you don’t love people. You can’t save people if you don’t serve people.”
  • Every day you get up, and you get another chance to get it right.

Tavis talk

Tavis always signs off his broadcasts on PBS with by saying, “Keep the faith.” During the Q&A, one of the audience members asked him how he defines faith. I really loved what he said:

“Faith is climbing up a dark staircase, where you can’t see the next step in front of you, but you step forward and trust that it is there.”

Afterwards, there was a book-signing and I went up and introduced myself and asked Tavis to sign two copies of his book: one for me and one for my dad. He gave me a big hug and, echoing MLK’s message — and Coach Wooden’s message, too — signed an inscription to my dad with the word “love.” It was the perfect ending to a really inspiring afternoon!

tavis inscription

Now I’m headed off to the gym, then back home for a quick shower before I meet my sweetheart for a lunch date. Have a love-filled day, everyone!

Questions for the morning:

  • What books are you reading and loving right now?
  • Have you ever gone to a speaker event or book talk before? What did you think of it?
  • What does “faith” mean to you?

mid-week meditation #11

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Oh man, I went to yoga last night for the first time in for.ev.er and I am sore today! It’s the good kind of sore, though. I’m already looking forward to class tomorrow! It’s nice to be getting back into my regular routine after such a busy, travel-filled summer.

When I got home from yoga last night, there was this gorgeous cake sitting on the kitchen counter. Apparently one of our neighbors saw my grandma walking with her walker and learned about her hip operation. So she baked this homemade lemon cake as a get-well gift. Such a thoughtful gesture! It warmed my heart {and my belly — delicious!} Next time I see her, I’m going to ask for the recipe so I can share it with all of you.

lemon bundt cake

Last night, my fave contestant Tavis Smiley was voted off Dancing With The Stars. :( But I’m happy to be heading into San Francisco today to hear Tavis give a talk about his new book about MLK, Death of a King, at The Commonwealth Club.

Death of a King

Then I’m off to teach my first class of the semester for Communication Academy — I’m excited to meet my students and get started! Tonight I’m heading over to my aunt Annie’s house to watch the season premiere of Nashville with her and Arianna… the other show I watch on a regular basis in addition to The Good Wife. Any other Nashville fans?

Before I go, here’s a September-inspired meditation to add some calm to your week:

September quote

Have a beautiful day!

new haircut! & other random tidbits

Hello, friends! Just poppin’ in to say hello. How is your day going?

It’s been a busy morning around here… my favorite kind of busy, productive weekday morning. I woke up early and, after a bowl of oatmeal with sliced apple and walnuts, I headed over to Starbucks for a pumpkin chai latte and a couple hours of writing. This afternoon, I’ve got some tutoring and editing projects on the agenda.

starbucks work sesh

Here are some odds & ends on my mind today…

I got a haircut! Crazy how something as simple as trimming a couple inches off my hair can make me feel so rejuvenated.

new haircut

I’m so happy The Good Wife is back! The first episode of the season was a real nail-biter and I am already on pins-and-needles for next week! The Good Wife is one of the only shows I watch on a regular basis. My parents, grandparents, and aunt Annie watch it, too, so it’s fun discussing each new episode every Monday morning. Do you have any shows like that?

On Sunday night Allyn watched my favorite romantic movie, Serendipity, with me! There’s something about autumn that always makes me crave this movie. As I told Allyn: “My love for Serendpity will never die.” I also love the beautiful instrumental theme song of the movie, January Rain by David Gray.

Serendipity

Yesterday Grandma and I watched the movie Iris on TV about the life of British writer Iris Murdoch. I thought it was heartbreaking but really well done, and now I’m inspired to read Irish Murdoch’s books — I think I might start with her classic The Sea, The Sea.

Speaking of books and writers… I tweeted to JoJo Moyes about how much I loved her book One Plus One, and she tweeted me back! September must be the month for celebrity encounters… remember last year when I ran into Casey James at Starbucks?

jojo moyes tweet

I made a batch of my favorite pb cup brownies {I gave most to Allyn but kept a couple for myself, too!} and I’ll probably polish off the last one tonight. Treats like this just make the week feel more special.

pb cup brownies

Questions of the day:

  • What are your favorite TV shows?
  • Has someone you admire every replied to a tweet you sent? Or have you ever had a celebrity encounter?
  • What treats make your ordinary days more special?

a year of Wooden: week 33

Good morning, everyone! Hope you’re feeling recharged after the weekend! I slept in a little this morning, which felt SO nice after a busy weekend of travel and commitments. Now I’m easing into the day with a hot mug of tea and some pb + banana toast, sprinkled with chia seeds on top for a bit of healthy crunch!

pb banana toast

What do you have going on today? I am hoping to get LOTS of productive work done on my novel. Then, later this afternoon I’m meeting with one of my favorite students for a tutoring session. But for now, 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.
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry.

Back in January, we began this year-long challenge with the first item from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Drink deeply from good books. Now, in September, we are focusing on poetry because Coach Wooden had a deep love for poetry.

Last week’s challenge was to read The Soul of Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. {Thanks to my brother for letting me borrow his copy!}

Rumi

I love how Rumi’s poems are so wise and filled with imagery and meaning, while also being accessible to the average reader like me. Reading this collection, I felt like my spirit was lifted up. His poems made me feel more in touch with the greater meaning and spirituality of life. It was really difficult to choose just one poem to share, so I ended up narrowing my favorites down to these two short poems:

One Song

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured

into a huge basin. All religions, all this singing,
one song.

The differences are just illusion and vanity. Sunlight
looks slightly different

on this wall than it does on that wall and a lot different
on this other one, but

it is still one light. We have borrowed these clothes, these
time-and-space personalities,

from a light, and when we praise, we pour them back in.

I love this poem because it makes me feel hopeful and it celebrates the unity between all of us as living beings. Too often, I think, we focus on our differences. We use those differences as reasons to divide us. But, like the poem says, deep down we are all singing one song, together. I love the metaphor of the same sunlight on different walls. And the end of this poem gives me goosebumps every time.

rumi quote

The Most Alive Moment

The most living moment comes when
those who love each other meet each

other’s eyes and in what flows
between them then. To see your face

in a crowd of others, or alone on a
frightening street, I weep for that.

Our tears improve the earth. The
time you scolded me, your gratitude,

your laughing, always your qualities
increase the soul. Seeing you is a

wine that does not muddle or numb.
We sit inside the cypress shadow

where amazement and clear thought
twine their slow growth into us.

At the end of this poem, I can’t help but sigh with contentment. I feel a release within me. Do you feel it, too? I think this poem beautifully captures the wonder, refuge and delight of loving another person. I especially love the lines: “To see your face/in a crowd of others, or alone on a/frightening street, I weep for that.” And the ending image of slow growth and understanding is an important one — love not as a lightning bolt in a fickle rainstorm, but something steady and nurturing like a tree.

rumi love quote

This week, I’ll be reading New and Selected Poems: Volume One by Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver poems

Next week, I’ll share my favorite poem from the collection, and I’d love to hear yours as well!

Questions for the day:

  • What is your favorite poem of Rumi?
  • What makes you feel alive or inspired?

goals + recipes for the week of 9/21

Greetings from the Bay Area! It’s great to be reunited with my grandparents — my grandma is walking around with just a cane now! I’m so proud of her! And last night I was reunited with my sweetheart, who I hadn’t seen for more than 3 weeks because I dog-sat/house-sat for my parents while they were away on their trip to Ireland. It felt like I was gone a really long time! Tonight I’m bringing dinner over to Allyn’s apartment… I’m thinking of making my turkey enchiladas. They’re super easy to prep ahead and then pop into the oven when you’re ready to eat.

My morning started off with a hearty bowl of cinnamon oatmeal with blueberries and sliced pear, and the rest of the pear on the side.

oatmeal pear blueberries

I needed something to give me sustained energy because it’s going to be a busy morning around here — I’m serving as Worship Associate for the first time at my church! In addition to assisting the minister with a bunch of preparation duties for the service, I’ll also be giving two short speeches: the Call to Worship and the Call for the Offering. I’m a little nervous, but mostly excited and honored.

Before I head out, it’s time for goals…

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week: 
– complete new draft of my novel-in-progress {getting really close!!}
– prepare for Worship Associate duties at church
soak up time with my family
do yoga twice
– read One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– complete new draft of my novel-in-progress
– finish editing work
– prepare for first week of teaching/new semester
– do yoga twice & core exercises five times
– read 100 pages of Into the Night Sky by Caroline Finnerty

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
greek orzo pasta salad via The Pajama Chef
pb cup oatmeal & carrot cake oatmeal via the real-life RD
honey peach muffins with oat streusel topping via Two Peas & Their Pod
17 freezer-cooking recipes via Homeschool Creations & Money-Saving Mom
– my own pumpkin pasta

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 #33

Happy Friday, friends! This morning started off bright and early with a bowl of fresh fruit & vanilla greek yogurt — my favorite breakfast right now!

yogurt and banana

Before I move on, just a little reminder: tomorrow is the last day to grab a copy of my ebook “Lost and Found” for FREE! I’d love for you to read it! Here’s the link: 

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Last night I got to see Erica for dinner — I always love getting to catch up with this lovely lady! We went to a terrific Italian restaurant called Giannfranco’s Trattoria and split two of the chef specials of the night: ricotta cheese & sausage ravioli and veggie risotto with cream sauce. YUM! Neither of us had any room left for dessert, but the selection looked so delectable that we decided next time, we’ll just split a salad and then have dessert! Or maybe just skip the salad altogether ;)

2. Oh my goodness, YOU GUYS. THIS BOOK. My mom leant it to me and I finished it within two days. It’s called One Plus One and it’s by JoJo Moyes, the author of another book I loved, Me Before You. This is one of those books that makes you feel better about the world. I smiled, cried, and felt like I became close friends with the characters — I was sad to say goodbye to them all at the end.

jojo moyes one plus one

3. Speaking of crying… this video made me cry. It’s only three minutes, but I guarantee it will stick with you: Compassionate Homeless Man Shares Meal With Stranger When Others Wouldn’t.

4. Homemade applesauce! I made it for the first time based on this recipe from Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean, and it turned out really well! It was much easier than I thought applesauce would be to make… all I did was peel and chop some apples, dump them into the crock pot with a bit of water and loads of cinnamon, cook on low for four hours, and then mash it all up with a potato masher. I was happy to use up some apples that were getting wrinkly and turn them into a really great, healthy snack!

homemade applesauce

5. These super-cool upcycled wallets, bags and totes made from former street banners by the company Upcycle it Now. They’re being offered as perks in a neat IndieGoGo crowd-funding campaign that my sweetie Allyn & some of his classmates are holding to raise money for a humanitarian trip they are taking to Kenya with the nonprofit organization Zawadisha. You can snag one of these upcycled goodies by making a donation to the campaign through the end of September.

upcycled wallets

mens wallets

I’ll sign off with this from Murray: “Have a wonderful weekend!”

murray paws

Questions of the morning:

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