a year of living simply: week 21

Happy Tuesday, friends! Hope your day is off to a terrific start! I just got home from a morning yoga class and I have some editing & tutoring on the horizon. This evening, Dana and I are going to a fundraising event for my church called Taste of Walnut Creek that promises to feature lots of wonderful food vendors… I’m excited for some delicious eats! Not to mention I’m excited for some quality catch-up time with my girl.

me and dana sideboard

Before I get into this week’s year of living simply challenge, I want to send a big virtual hug and a thank you for your support of my dad’s new book Strawberries in Wintertime! Yesterday, his Kickstarter campaign to take pre-orders was fully funded! Hooray! I am so proud and excited for him.

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to wrangle together any gift cards you have lying around, and use at least one of them up! I must admit, the week kind of got away from me with our weekend getaway to Half Moon Bay, but I did gather together all of my half-used gift cards and take inventory. I have a few dollars left on gift cards to California Pizza Kitchen, TGI Fridays, and Applebee’s. I informed Allyn that we will be going out for dessert in the next few weeks to use them up! :)


This week’s challenge is to get an emergency kit for your car if you don’t already have one. I am set to do some solo driving this weekend — driving up to Lake Tahoe for the Word Wave literary event, where my one-act play “Woman, Running Late, in a Dress” is being performed at the Valhalla Boathouse Theatre on Saturday night! — and I realized that, other than my AAA card, I am not very prepared for any type of roadside emergency or unforeseen circumstances should they arise. So my task for the week is to get together an emergency preparedness kit for Charley before I hit the road! I found this great resource list of common items you should have in a car emergency kit.

Also, I recently purchased this resqme tool after reading a story on the Peanut Butter Fingers blog about how her sister used the tool to rescue a couple who were trapped in their smoking car after a fender-bender. The tool is small enough to fit on a keychain {I stashed mine in my glove compartment} and can cut glass and cut through seatbelts. It is only about $10 on Amazon — a worthy investment!

Questions for the day:

  • What gift cards did you discover lying around?
  • Do you have an emergency kit in your car?

weekend getaway to half moon bay

This past weekend, I took my sweetheart on a surprise weekend getaway to Half Moon Bay for his birthday! We had such a wonderful, relaxing time. I had never been to Half Moon Bay but have wanted to go ever since I moved up to the Bay Area and heard the town’s name… it sounds so magical to me! And it ended up being even lovelier than I imagined. It is only a short drive outside of San Francisco, but it feels worlds away. Half Moon Bay is a quiet, sleepy little beach town and I kept telling Allyn, “I feel like we are so far from home even though we only drove like an hour to get here!” Even the drive was pretty, with ocean views along Coastal Highway 1 and some very neat sections where the road was lined with huge, beautiful trees.

I booked a cute apartment for us on Air B&B and I want to give a quick shout-out to Paul, Meg and Poppy as fantastic hosts who totally went above and beyond! If you ever visit Half Moon Bay, I would definitely recommend staying with them. When we arrived, there were fresh flowers waiting on the kitchen table, as well as delicious homemade brownies and milk! How sweet is that? They also left tea and coffee for us to brew each morning, which was so nice. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the weekend was the slow mornings with my sweetie, sharing breakfast in the sunny kitchen.

brownies half moon bay

I was a little excited about the brownies :)

Here is the outside of the cute one-bedroom apartment we stayed in:

half moon bay residence

Happy happy!

me half moon bay residence

On Saturday morning, Allyn and I drove the short distance to the Half Moon Bay State Beach.

al half moon bay beach sign

What a nice guy, carrying my purse for me!

The weather was gorgeous and sunny, and we spent some time walking along the beach trails, soaking up the sunshine, and watching the waves. The ocean is so soothing! I could sit in the sand and watch the waves break along the shore for hours.

half moon bay beach

half moon bay me and al

The wind started to pick up in the early afternoon, and our stomachs started grumbling, so we left the beach and stopped at a cute restaurant, The Flying Fish Bar & Grill, for lunch. I neglected to snap photos of our food, but Allyn had a delicious-looking wrap with fried prawns, and I had a mahi fish taco and a cup of clam chowder. It hit the spot!

Then we headed out to the pumpkin patch! Half Moon Bay is known for pumpkins {they actually have a huge pumpkin festival every year!} and before the trip I had read terrific reviews of Arata’s Pumpkin Farm, so we headed there. We were not disappointed! It was a pumpkin patch paradise.

arata's pumpkin farm

pumpkins at pumpkin farm

Arata’s Pumpkin Farm has tons of pumpkins {crazy wide variety!}, a petting zoo, a haunted house, a farmer’s market, and activities for kiddos… but the highlight is the huge labyrinth made out of hay bales. Look at this thing!

the labyrinth

When you first enter, a giant sculpture of a Minotaur is there to greet you. Allyn was not intimidated in the least!

al and the minotaur

When we first entered the maze, I felt pretty confident. But we quickly discovered that making our way to the exit was going to be a more difficult task than either of us anticipated. Dead-ends abounded!

dead end labyrinth

It was so easy to get lost and to forget which routes you had tried before. I joked to Allyn that we should have brought bread crumbs to leave so we could trace our path! We kept taking routes that circled us back to the beginning, where the Minotaur seemed to be laughing at us. Finally, we took a different path that ushered us into the back half of the maze, and from then on it was just a matter of trying out the various routes until we got one that worked.

I was so happy when we saw the exit beckoning us! Success! We did it!

success the labyrinth

I think every couple should make their way through an intricate maze together, because it sure illuminates how you work together and deal with frustration! I was happy that Allyn and I took turns leading, listened to each other, and laughed at ourselves the whole time. I have a ton of fun with this guy, even when wandering through stacked-up bales of hay. And that’s sayin’ something! :)

For dinner on Saturday night we split a Margherita pizza at a wonderful Italian restaurant, It’s Italia, that was a happening spot in downtown Half Moon Bay! We did not make reservations ahead of time and the place was CROWDED, so we nabbed a spot at the bar. It ended up being a fun, cozy place to sit — as Allyn said, it sort of felt like we were part of a large dinner party –and the wait staff could not have been more helpful or attentive. I’d definitely go back!

Sunday morning we slept in, packed up our stuff to be out by noon check-out, hit the beach one last time, and hit the road! It was a delightful weekend away that left me feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

See you next time, Half Moon Bay!

half moon bay beach 2

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because I didn’t hit “snooze”

I almost hit “snooze” this morning.

I’ve confessed in this space before that I used to have a problem with hitting snooze. But, thanks to some reflection as part of my year of living simply, I realized that I didn’t like how snooze made me feel. I didn’t really get any extra quality sleep, and I just felt bad about myself when I finally did get out of bed… like I was already “behind” on my day. So I vowed to give up on snooze, and get out of bed when my alarm first goes off in the morning. I usually feel a little groggy when I first wake up, but by the time I’ve washed my face, put my contacts in, and downed two glasses of water, I am wide awake and ready to go!

me glasses

However, old habits can be hard to break. Even when you have some great momentum going, it can be so easy to slip right back into old patterns. Because old patterns are comfortable. They tend to feel good in the moment, even if you know they don’t make you feel your best in the long run.

This morning, I almost hit snooze. My alarm went off and I just wanted to snuggle down into the covers for five more minutes. {Which would likely lead to five more minutes… and five more minutes… and five more minutes…} However, I intentionally set my alarm for as late a time as possible for me to get out of bed and still make it to yoga class without feeling rushed. So, hitting snooze would have meant a snowball decision: five or ten or fifteen extra minutes of half-sleep, and no chance of getting to yoga on time.

In that moment, I didn’t want to go to yoga class.

But I knew that Future Me would *wish* I had gone to that yoga class.

So I threw off the covers, got out of bed, and turned off my alarm. I changed into my yoga clothes that I had laid out on my bedside chair the night before. I drank my two glasses of cold water, ate a banana, and drank some green tea.

tea saying

And I felt awake. And energized. And jazzed for my day.

In fact, I had gotten ready so quickly that I still had about twenty minutes until I needed to leave the house. I remembered a delightful podcast I listened to last week, Real Talk with Nicole Antoinette, where she talked about her realignment to how she views time, particularly small pockets of time — ten minutes, twenty minutes — that she used to think were “not enough time” to get anything worthwhile done, so she would waste them away by surfing the Internet or scrolling through her phone. But ten or twenty minutes ARE enough — for taking a walk, for reading a chapter of a book, for meditating. Inspired by that thought, I used my extra pre-yoga twenty minutes to do some journaling, and it was enough time to get down some great ideas for my novel and for future blog posts. I felt excited to come back later and write more!

I left early enough for yoga class not to feel rushed. Instead of listening to the radio during my five-minute drive, I let silence envelop the car and just listened to my breathing. To my thoughts.

Yoga class was lovely, both relaxing and invigorating. Sometimes I feel shy when I sit down on my mat before class starts, but today I mustered the effort to strike up a conversation with the woman next to me, and we chatted for a few minutes. It was so nice. I was reminded of the ways that little bits of small talk and smiles with strangers make us feel connected to the wider world around us. While I think of myself as a natural introvert — I recharge by spending time alone or with a small group of people I am close to — I still need to feel this connection with the broader world in order to feel my happiest.

If I had hit snooze, I would have been late to yoga class, and would have missed out on this breath of connection. Or, I might have hit snooze a couple times, and decided not to go to class at all.

peaceful ocean

My body felt so good after yoga class that I wanted to keep the momentum going. I stopped by the grocery store on the way home and picked up some organic veggies and frozen fruit and spinach, and I came home and made myself a fresh green smoothie. It was delicious. Instead of ducking my head behind my computer monitor, I chatted with my grandparents in the kitchen while I drank my smoothie. I didn’t feel at all like I was “behind schedule.” I felt overflowing, like there was time enough for everything I needed to do and wanted to do. Certainly there was ten minutes to drink my green smoothie and talk with my loved ones.

And then I washed the blender and my smoothie mug, made a fresh cup of green tea, and came to sit at my computer to type up this blog post. It is 11:00 a.m. and I am just now checking my email, and the world didn’t end. Nothing was so urgent that it couldn’t wait a couple hours.

I feel energized and excited about my plans for the rest of the day. I feel eager to work on my novel, jazzed about my sessions with students later, and connected to the world and to myself. I feel balanced and capable. Most of all, I feel grateful for the gift of this beautiful day and this precious life.

And I feel grateful that I didn’t press “snooze.”

carrot cake coconut muffins w/chickpea flour

A couple nights ago I posted a photo on Instagram of some evening baking, and multiple people commented asking for the recipe! So of course I had to share it on here. :)

This recipe marks my first time ever baking with chickpea flour! I was inspired by Robyn @the real-life rd to order some, because it is packed with veggie protein, iron and fiber, and she swore it is easy to sub into baking recipes. I have to say I was quite impressed with its soft texture and the hint of sweetness it brings to these muffins. To make these gluten-free, I also used rice flour, although you could use whole wheat flour if you would like.

These muffins are moist, soft, and packed with autumn flavors. They have no sugar, just maple syrup. I love them warmed up for breakfast, smeared with peanut butter, and also for dessert! You could even slap some frosting on these bad boys and call them cupcakes.

Hope you enjoy them as much as we did around here! And I will definitely be sharing more recipes with chickpea flour in the future — I’m hooked. :)

carrot cake muffins chickpea flour

carrot cake coconut muffins w/chickpea flour

{adapted from this recipe at Wallflower Girl}

– 1/2 cup rice flour {or whole wheat flour}
– 1/2 cup rolled oats
– 3/4 cup chickpea flour
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 2 tsp cinnamon
– 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
– 1/2 cup vegetable oil or coconut oil
– 1 cup water
– 3/4 cup maple syrup
– 1/2 cup grated carrot {I used one large carrot}
– 1 cup shredded coconut
– 3/4 cup raisins
– 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with liners or spray lightly with nonstick spray.

2. In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients: rice flour, rolled oats, chickpea flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice.

3. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients: vegetable oil/coconut oil, water, maple syrup, grated carrot, and shredded coconut.

4. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until combined. Batter will seem a little thin, but that is okay!

5. Add raisins and chopped walnuts.

6. Fill your muffin tins pretty much to the top. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

carrot cake muffins

Have you ever baked with chickpea flour? If so, please share your favorite recipes in the comments section!

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a year of living simply: week 20 + my dad’s new book!

Happy Tuesday, friends! Hope your morning is off to a wonderful start!

Before I get into this week’s year of living simply challenge, I want to share with you guys some exciting news: my dad is publishing a new book! Titled Strawberries in Wintertime, it is a collection of essays on life, love, and laughter and has already been compared to Robert Fulghum’s heartwarming classic All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. Topics include hellos and goodbyes; celebrating “lasts” as well as “firsts”; old, new and rekindled friendships; childhood and fatherhood (and motherhood, too); wedding anniversaries and graduations; the magic of a jar filled with marbles and the beauty of a messy garage. Strawberries in Wintertime is scheduled for release on December 1st, right in time for the holidays. Books make terrific gifts! My dad is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to take pre-orders {and he offers some really cool perks as well, like a Skype “Meet the Author” and the opportunity to have your name in print as a sponsor of the book!}… BUT the campaign ends THIS MONDAY, October 5, and this is your only chance to order an exclusive signed First Edition of the book. So don’t delay! It’s hard to beat a signed, personalized new release hard copy book from a national award-winning writer for just $25!

strawberries in wintertime

If you order a copy, let me know and I’ll put your name in a drawing to win a copy of my collection of short stories, 3 a.m.!

Moving along to our year of living simply challenge

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to find a creative way to repurpose or reuse something, instead of throwing it out or recycling it. I tried making granola for the first time {went with this recipe for oatmeal raisin cookie granola, minus the blackstrap molasses and with Justin’s Honey PB because my store didn’t carry the Cinnamon Swirl PB listed in the recipe}…

oatmeal cookie granola

I wanted to make a special treat for my sweetheart because he recently started a new job doing fantastic work and I could not be prouder of him. He is also biking to and from work each day, which means early mornings and the need for a hearty breakfast! So I decided to surprise him with some homemade granola. I upcycled these two metal tea Harney & Sons tea tins to store the granola and keep it nice and fresh.

granola tins

granola tins

Decorated with some twine and handwritten labels, they turned out pretty dang cute!

granola tins with labels


This week’s challenge is to wrangle together any gift cards you have lying around, and use at least one of them up! I don’t know about you, but I have at least half a dozen gift cards to various restaurants taking up space in my wallet and glove compartment, some with only a few dollars left on them… but still, a few dollars are a few dollars! It’s time to make a plan and use them up! You could also sell your unused gift cards at websites like Cardpool.

Questions for the day:

  • What did you upcycle this past week?
  • Do you have a tendency to let gift cards sit around unredeemed?

easy, throw-together, can’t-fail fruit cobbler

Sometimes my grandparents like to shop at Costco.

Which is great! I love Costco! The only problem: there are only three of us in the house. None of us are teenage boys with roaring appetites. And my Grandma likes to buy fruit at Costco.

Which means we sometimes often have a whole bunch of fruit ripening all at once.

So I devised this fruit cobbler recipe out of necessity. I really hate throwing away/wasting food, but a girl can only stir so many strawberries into her morning oatmeal. So one day I chopped up a bunch of strawberries that were on the verge of going bad, added some squishy blueberries and a sad, mealy apple, and topped the whole thing with some stale, also-bought-at-Costco oatmeal cookies that I crushed up with a rolling pin.

I slid the whole thing into the oven and crossed my fingers that when I pulled it out half an hour later, the concoction would have magically transformed into deliciousness.

Well, guess what? IT DID.

costco fruit cobbler

This disappeared from the pan in record time and is a new favorite dessert of my cousin Bianca. {Don’t tell her how easy it is to make… she thinks I’m a superhero every time I bring her some!}

Since then, I’ve made this recipe with a variety of different fruit and topping combinations, and it comes out delectable every single time. So I wanted to share it with you! If you’re looking for an easy, can’t-fail way to use up some past-its-prime fruit — or if you’re just looking for an easy, delicious dessert to make for your family or bring to a party — this is a wonderful recipe!

And {shhhh}… it’s actually healthy! There is no extra sugar added into this dish, unless you use crumbled cookies as the topping — most of the sweetness comes from the baked fruit!

cant fail fruit cobbler

– fruit: strawberries, apples, pears, grapes… whatever is in your fridge! blueberries and raspberries work well, too!
– if you are using less-juicy fruit such as apples or pears, add a little fruit juice {apple, cranberry, orange, whatever you have on hand!}
– topping: stale cookies {I’ve used oatmeal raisin, sugar, even animal crackers} OR granola OR mix up rolled oats with cold butter
– spices to taste {I like cinnamon!}


1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Get out a glass pie pan or a shallow glass dish and set aside.

2. Slice up the fruit until relatively small, even chunks. Mix together. If you are using drier fruit, add about 1/4 cup of fruit juice.

3. Pour the fruit mixture into the glass pan.

fruit in pan

4. Make your topping. If you’re using stale cookies, place them inside a plastic Ziplock baggie and crush them with a rolling pin until they are crumbled. To make a homemade topping, use your fingers to crumble a few small pieces of cold butter through about 1 cup of rolled oats. Add spices to taste, and a bit of brown sugar if you would like. I’m also a fan of sprinkling the cobbler with granola, like I did here:

fruit cobbler with granola topping

5. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown on top. It will make your kitchen smell delicious!

fruit cobbler

I like to eat this fruit cobbler on its own, or serve it warm topped with iced cream, or stir it into yogurt! Hope you enjoy!

a year of living simply: week 19

Hi there, everyone! I feel like it’s been a year and a half since I wrote to y’all, because this past weekend up till now was a DOOZY in my little corner of the universe. Flashback to the weekend before last, I went to the doctor for a mild infection and was put on an antibiotic, which I took twice a day. Everything seemed fine. Friday night, I still had three days left of my ten-day prescription. Allyn and I made plans to meet up with Dana and Brad for a fun evening of mini-golf. {I had purchased a Groupon for a foursome round of golf at a fun local Halloween-themed place, Ghost Golf.} I felt kind of sluggish all day and in the afternoon decided to pop over to the gym for a quick elliptical/exercise bike sesh. Maybe I just need a little perk-me-up, I thought.

As soon as I got home from the gym and showered, I knew I had made the wrong call. Now in addition to tired, I felt feverish and achey. But I didn’t want to call off our plans to meet Dana and Brad at the last minute, so I drove to Ghost Golf. When I arrived, Allyn felt my forehead and immediately confirmed that yes, I felt warm. The four of us went ahead with our round of golf and I had a great time despite feeling under-the-weather. {And I even lucked into a hole-in-one! That never happens to me!} Dana and Brad were sweet enough to let me bow out of our plans for after-golf ice cream, rain-checking for another date.

ghost golf


I went to bed Friday night thinking I was coming down with a virus. I hoped beyond hope I would wake up in the morning feeling better, because we had made plans months ago to attend the Renaissance Faire on Saturday to celebrate Allyn’s mom’s birthday. I had never been to a Renaissance Faire and was SO looking forward to going with Allyn’s family! We all had pirate costumes and everything. But I tossed and turned all night, feeling feverish and chilled, and in the morning I felt exhausted. I knew there was no way I could go along to the Faire. I ended up sleeping until after noon, but when I woke up I noticed I had a rash all over me. That was when I called my dad…

… and thank goodness I did! It hadn’t even occurred to me that something could be going on with the antibiotic I was taking, because I’d already been taking it for a week by that point! But Dad said, “I once had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic. I think you should go to the doctor and get it checked out.”

Thankfully there is an Urgent Care clinic nearby my house that is open on weekends. I made an appointment and skedaddled over there as soon as they could take me. A doctor examined me and quickly confirmed that, yes, I am indeed allergic to the antibiotic Sulfa. Good to know!! She told me to immediately stop taking it, and that I should begin to feel better soon, though it could take up to a week for it to get out of my system. I was relieved to know what the problem was.

On Sunday, my rash got much worse. I have always had sensitive skin and have gotten a few all-body rashes before, but this one was by far the worst. It has been a long time since I have been so sick. Allyn came over and brought me popsicles and Benadryl, but the rash seemed to be getting worse, not better. So Sunday afternoon he took me back to Urgent Care. Another doctor took one look at me and said, “Oh honey, Benadryl isn’t gonna help that.” I pretty much looked like a bright red lobster! {I told Allyn that I am his lobster. Haha.}

So I got a steroid injection and a prescription of steroid pills to calm down my poor freaked-out skin. Today is the first day I don’t feel itchy! Yay! Traces of the rash are still visible, but it is much better. And I finally am beginning to feel back to my normal energy levels and normal self. I feel so grateful for “normal”!!

What I learned through this whole ordeal:

  • Allergies to antibiotics can kick in after 7-1o days, not just when you first start taking a medicine! In fact, the doctor said I could have possibly taken the whole round of this antibiotic and been fine, but then had to take it at some point in the future and been hit with an allergic reaction within the first couple of days. If you are taking a new medication and start to feel “off” or get a rash, go to your doctor!
  • Listen to your body. I am so glad I went to Urgent Care over the weekend instead of waiting until Monday to go to the doctor. If I had continued taking my antibiotic, or if I had not been able to get the steroid medicine when I did, I would have been SO much more miserable and sick than I already was.
  • Plans can be cancelled and postponed and remade. Your health is most important. I had so been looking forward to the weekend because I had all these fun plans: Ghost Golf, dessert out, the Renaissance Faire, fancy dinner with Allyn’s fam at the Country Club, church community circle, double-date in the city with another couple from Allyn’s grad program… and everything except for Ghost Golf was left on the “cutting room floor” so to speak. I missed out on everything I had been so excited about! But, we were able to reschedule the most important things, and now I am able to look forward to them again. There will be another Renaissance Faire next year. I hate to think what could have happened if I had tried to push my body to do all.the.things this weekend. I think I would have simply collapsed!
  • Love is in the details. I had been looking forward to enjoying a weekend of fun activities with my sweetheart. Instead, I was feeling sick on Friday, we were apart all day Saturday, and Sunday I looked like The Creature from the Black Lagoon. No matter. Allyn came over to simply sit by my side on the couch, watching golf with my grandpa and chatting with my grandma. He held my hand and kissed my forehead. He told me it was going to be okay. He refilled my water glass, brought me dry Cheerios and saltine crackers, and still looked at me as if I was beautiful, even though I was covered in a gross rash. He drove me to the Urgent Care and sat with me while they gave me a steroid injection because he knows how much I hate shots. He came with me to pick up my new prescription. In a lot of ways, I feel even closer to him after this weekend than I would have after our planned weekend of sharing all those fun activities together.

Which is all to say… I am so so so happy to be on the mend!

Moving on to our year of living simply challenge

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to examine your nighttime routine. I have been trying to get to bed earlier because I have been waking up earlier, which has been a challenge for my natural night-owl self. I’ll often find myself trying to fit in “one more thing” before I wind down for bed… and then looking at the clock and an hour has passed and I’m already past my “goal time” of falling asleep.

I’ve been trying to work on creating a relaxing nighttime routine that I will look forward to. For me, this means at least an hour before I want to fall asleep, I change into my comfy PJs and get all ready for bed: wash my face, swap out my contacts and put on my glasses, etc. Then I brew a cup of warm tea like chamomile or fall spice, look over my to-do list for the next day one more time, and climb into bed. I like to call my family to say goodnight, and then I give myself thirty minutes to an hour of reading in bed. It feels luxurious and is the perfect way for my book-loving heart to wind down after a busy day. I sometimes will watch TV, but only if I have a special show I want to watch — not just to watch mindlessly. I find that reading calms me for sleep much more than watching TV does.

When it’s time to fall asleep, I keep my phone on silent and plugged in across the room, turned face-down so that I can’t see the little blinky blue light if I get a message or an email. I also like to keep my room cool, so sometimes I sleep with the window open. This time of year, nothing says comfy to me like feeling a cool night breeze from the window and snuggling down under the covers!

This week, with my illness/allergic reaction, falling asleep was much more difficult due to my itchy rash! I found that sitting up and turning on the light and reading when I was having trouble sleeping, as opposed to tossing and turning in frustration, calmed me down and got me feeling drowsy again much more quickly. One night, I actually got a lot of great ideas for my new novel-in-progress, so I’m glad I sat up and turned on the light and wrote them down! I guess a little insomnia can sometimes be a useful thing. ;)

All in all, I’m learning to wind down for the evening much earlier than I used to. Note to self: dusk doesn’t mean you’re going to be up for six more hours; sunset isn’t a signal to see how much more you can cram into the day!

dusk in key west

Dusk settling in Key West {photo from my trip there in 2013}

This week’s challenge is a simple one: find a creative way to repurpose or reuse something, instead of throwing it out or recycling it. Perhaps that means washing out that jelly jar and using it to store/organize some of your bathroom supplies. Or using that old tea tin as a planter for a windowsill herb garden. You could even wrap an empty oatmeal container in some pretty paper and use it as a gift box for homemade baked goodies! There are numerous “upcycling” ideas all over Pinterest and the Internet… just type in what you have and add “upcycle ideas” and you’ll get plenty! I look forward to hearing what you do — feel free to share in the comments!

Questions for the day:

  • What did you learn from examining your nighttime routine? Did you make any changes?
  • Have you ever been allergic to an antibiotic or other kind of medicine or food that you didn’t know about until it happened?
  • Do you have any upcycling success stories or tips to share?

healthy greek-inspired chicken burgers {with feta!}

My mom has been a brave, bold kitchen dynamo lately! She’s been trying out new recipes and then sharing her successes with me. Thanks, Mama! Then I get to share my faves with you guys!

A couple weeks ago, I shared a recipe for easy, colorful roasted veggies. Today, I’m sharing another recent winner: healthy, easy, greek-inspired chicken burgers.

These come together quickly, and I actually LIKE having leftovers because these burgers heat up great the next day. I also like them crumbled over a fresh tossed salad. The feta cheese and spices really kick these burgers up a notch!

greek chicken burgers

  • 1 lb lean ground chicken breast {uncooked}
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tbsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

For toppings:

  • 1 jar roasted red peppers
  • chopped lettuce
  • sliced cheese
  • sliced avocado
  • hamburger buns or rolls, if desired

1. In a bowl, combine the ground chicken with the feta, garlic powder, and oregano. Mom recommends just using your hands to mix!
greek burgers uncooked

2. Divide mixture into four balls and press them into patties.

3. Heat a pan on the stove {or your grill/broiler.} Grill the patties until golden brown and cooked through, about 8 minutes per side.

greek burgers grilling

4. Serve topped with red bell peppers, lettuce, cheese, onion — whatever your favorite toppings are! I like eating mine without a bun, topped with avocado, onion, and red bell pepper. Yum!

greek burgers openfaced

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a year of living simply: week 18

Hi, friends! How is your week going so far? Mine is off to a good start! I picked my sweetie up from the airport on Sunday after his “boys weekend” in San Diego with his high school buddies. I must admit, I was relieved to see him walk down the stairs to baggage claim with no cast on his arm or crutches! {Those crazy guys do a pretty intense Olympiad of sports competitions!} It was nice visiting with him Sunday night and yesterday morning before I left for tutoring commitments. This morning, I had an excellent PT session, met with my lovely friend Trish from church, ran a few errands, stopped by the gym to lift weights, and am meeting up with my dear Dana for dinner tonight after a tutoring sesh with a new client. All in all, a pretty great day!

me and dana my bday


It’s finally cooled down a little here in California, and yesterday was the first day that sort of felt like the beginning of autumn… overcast skies and a hint of chill in the air. I’ll take it! I love the autumn.

Please send your thoughts and prayers to the victims of the horrendous wildfires sweeping across Northern California. My heart breaks watching the news footage. Sending all good wishes that the fire is under control ASAP — and that we might get some precious, precious rain to help the efforts of the firefighters!

Moving on to our year of living simply challenge

{And if you want to catch up or refresh your memory on the previous posts in the series, click on over here for the entire list.}

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to examine your morning routine, and perhaps try making some changes to see if you like what happens. During the summer, I dabbled with getting up earlier in the morning {which meant going to bed earlier, as well!} to feel like I “get a jump on my day” and have some quiet time before the rest of the world awakens. I have always been a natural night owl, but I love the peace and calm of the early morning. I found that I really liked this earlier time schedule, and in general have kept my rising time earlier than it used to be: around 7 a.m. as opposed to 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. Of course, some mornings if I wake up feeling particularly tired {and I have room in my schedule} I let myself sleep in a little later. It’s important to listen to your body!

One thing I worked on this week was to stop pressing “snooze” and just GET UP. Sometime in the last couple of years, I got in the bad habit of pressing snooze multiple times each morning, and — though addictive in the moment when “just five more minutes” seemed like a dream come true — I didn’t like the tone it set for my day. I associate the “snooze” button with negative consequences: not having enough time, rushing out the door, feeling “behind” when the day has just started. Plus, I want to energetically leap into each day, excited about the projects and activities I have on the calendar.

So, this week I put a moratorium on the “snooze.” And, I learned that even when I felt a little groggy when I first turned off my alarm, once I got out of bed, washed my face, drank a glass of water, and put my contacts in, I felt energized and ready to face the day. I think I will always be one of those people who wakes up feeling a little groggy; that’s just me. It doesn’t mean I need “five more minutes” of sleep. The grogginess usually melts away within a couple minutes of getting up, before I’ve even taken my first sip of tea!

tazo pumpkin spice chai tea

When I thought about my ideal morning, I realized that I wanted a little more calm, quiet, “me” time before leaping into my day. Reading in bed for twenty minutes with my mug of tea first thing in the morning feels indulgent, like I’m on vacation — but, really, why can’t I do this every morning? Why does my routine have to be eating my bowl of oatmeal in front of my email inbox? It doesn’t. In fact, it shouldn’t. When I have a bit of quiet time to journal and read in bed first thing in the morning, I feel more centered and focused to dive into the day’s tasks.

I want to try expanding on this a little further and maybe doing ten minutes of yoga and/or meditation in the morning, as well, before I venture out into the world.

picnic view

I love misty Bay Area mornings like this.

This week’s challenge is to examine your nighttime routine. What are your habits at night, before you go to bed?

  • What time do you go to bed? Is it generally the same time every night, or is it scattered?
  • When do you start “winding down” before bed?
  • What are your “winding down” activities? Do you read? Watch T.V.? Play games on your smartphone?
  • Do you stay up later than you intend, or do you usually get to bed about the time you planned to?
  • How is your sleep quality? Do you have a hard time falling asleep? Do you wake up a lot during the night?
  • What is something that makes you feel relaxed? Is there a way you could fit that into your nighttime routine? What would that look like?
These questions are not meant to judge. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to any of them. They are simply questions for you to reflect upon as you think about your nightly routine and what changes you might potentially make to improve, simplify, or streamline it.  

Questions for the day:

  • What did you learn from examining your morning routine? Did you make any changes?
  • What is your nightly routine? What do you like about it? What {if anything} do you wish to change?

Questions for Deeper Conversations: Judgment

Happy Thursday, friends! I have a bit of a lower-key day today. Planning to do some writing + editing work at home, and then I’m meeting up with my sweetie for dinner. Thinking about whipping up a batch of these classic cookies as a treat! Allyn is heading out tomorrow for a boys’ weekend with his best friends from high school, and I’m going to drop him off at the airport in the morning. It’s a rowdy sports weekend, so I’ve got my fingers crossed nobody hurts themselves. #rememberyourenot18anymoreguys ;)

air hockey, guys, games, guys weekend

Allyn and his friend Justin played an intense round of air hockey at my birthday party.

Moving on to today’s topic… a few people have asked what questions we are discussing in the Young Adult Community Circle I am leading at my church, intended to spur deeper, more meaningful and authentic conversations. I thought I would share these questions 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 with yourself! These are great questions to journal about as well. :)

Week One Topic: Home

sunset at home

Community Circle Questions : Week 2

Theme: Judgment

  • In what ways do you notice yourself judging others?
  • What are you most judgmental about? What do you get annoyed by? Why do you think this is?
  • What do you judge yourself most about? Why?
  • What do you feel others judge you about? Have you ever had an experience with someone else negatively judging you?
  • How does your self-perception differ from others’ perception of you?
  • How can you step away from judgment and give others, and yourself, more grace?

“When you judge others, you do not define them; you define yourself.”
Earl Nightingale