fabulous friday #19

Happy Friday, everyone! This week seemed to go by simultaneously slow AND fast to me — does that ever happen to you? Whatever your plans are for today and this weekend, I hope they are filled with love!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Tonight I’m going to see Les Mis with my grandparents! I’ve only seen the movie version of this musical, so I’m really excited to see it on the stage. It is one of my Grandpap’s favorite musicals, and he’s been singing the songs all week around the house.

2. Speaking of singing… I love rocking out in the car as I’m driving. I am not gifted with a great singing voice, but I don’t care — when I’m by myself driving, I sing with zero self-consciousness! If one of my favorite songs comes on the radio {currently: Pompeii, I Choose You, Girls Chase Boys, Dark Horse, Rewind, or pretty much any T.Swift song} I feel like I’ve won a prize. Yesterday I drove down to San Jose and back for a dinner-and-a-show date with Allyn, and the drive flew by thanks to my solo karaoke session. {And also maybe because I was a tad excited to see him.} :)

3. My nightly routine of climbing into bed with a book, sipping on a mug of this huckleberry tea I got in Seattle, and reading until I feel sleepy. Such a peaceful and relaxing way to end the day.

huckleberry tea

4. Easter! This time of rebirth and renewal always makes me feel hopeful and rejuvenated. I’ll be spending Easter Sunday serving meals at a church in San Francisco, and then in the evening my family is getting together for dinner. My grandma is even making her famous-in-our-family eggplant parmesan.

5. This quote from the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

marquez quote

RIP Marquez, who passed away yesterday at 87. As my friend Corey wrote on Facebook: “Thank you for it all.” He was one of the best.

Questions for the morning:

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


my health heroes

Earlier this month I received an email from the American Recall Center, “a brand new website devoted to providing health and wellness news in simple, straightforward terms.” They say their ultimate goal is to help their readers take complete charge of their health by being fully informed!

They asked me if I would be interested in participating in their “Who Keeps you Healthy?” campaign by answering the question, “Who is your Health Hero?”

I immediately wrote back, “Of course!” I’ve spent the past couple weeks thinking about the question, and I’ve decided it’s too hard for me to pick just one person. I’m extremely fortunate to have multiple Health Heroes: my family!

Running-Santa-Clarita-Marathon-720x1024My dad inspires me every day with his determination and perseverance. In addition to running many marathons including Boston, he is a “running streaker” and has run at least three miles every single day since July 7, 2003 — that’s nearly 4,000 days! He keeps track of his streak and writes about running on his website.

My mom inspires me with her commitment to cooking nutritious meals, eating a healthful whole-foods diet, and making time for exercise even when she is busy. She has run many marathons and goes running in the morning before work, and walks twice a day with Mr. Mur-dog. She is truly a strong woman inside and out, and is my favorite gym buddy — she always encourages me to do one more rep on the weight machines! And, longtime blog readers may remember, my mom and I climbed Mt. Whitney together back in 2003.

me and mom at top

Trojan_Invite_2011My brother inspires me with his dedication to exercise and being healthy, even in the midst of a super-busy academic and work schedule; he is a student in USC’s MBA program, works part-time in the USC Athletic Office, and serves as a leader of multiple student and volunteer groups. Yet he still makes time to run multiple times a week and is even taking part in a meditation course this semester. He inspires me to be healthy and happy in mind and spirit in addition to my physical body.

The more I thought about Health Heroes, the more my list grew:

  • My grandparents, all in their eighties, go on walks nearly every day. My Gramps rides the stationary bike every morning while watching the news. My Grandpap still plays golf occasionally and my Grandma plays bridge every week to keep her mind sharp.
  • My Aunt Annie does Pilates multiple times a week and my Aunt Mary goes to super-early-morning cycling class at the gym before work.
  • My friends {both in real life and the blogosphere} have inspired many healthy adoptions that are now a part of my daily routine: my yoga practice, my morning breakfast smoothies, my lunchtime salads, my nighttime meditation ritual, even trying new things like zumba!
  • My cousins inspire me to remember to have FUN exercising and moving my body, because isn’t that what it’s all about?


I feel so fortunate to have so many Health Heroes in my life who motivate me to stay true to my own goals for a healthy, happy, fulfilled life!

Question of the day:

  • Who are your Health Heroes?

a year of Wooden: week 15

Hi, everyone! Monday means 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.

This metaphorical shelter includes family, friends, good work, faith – but, since we will focus on these elements in other months, right now we are focusing on the financial interpretation.

Last week, the challenge was to keep track of where you spend your money — even small amounts. Not counting staple items like groceries and drugstore purchases, I tend to spend my discretionary money at Starbucks, bookstores, the movie theater, and going out to lunch at places like Panera.

This week, the challenge is to take just ONE of your weekly discretionary purchases and drop the money into your spare-change jar instead. For example, maybe I’ll swap one of my Starbucks chai lattes for a mug of home-brewed green tea on my own back porch. Or instead of meeting up with a friend for lunch at a restaurant, maybe we can meet up for something free like a walk outside in this beautiful weather.

Having a savings safety net is so important, and these little actions can really add up! I’m inspired by these words from Coach Wooden:

john wooden quote

Questions of the day:

  • Where do you tend to spend your discretionary money?
  • What small change are you going to make this week to drop a little extra money into your spare change jar?
  • Have you ever had the experience of not taking the time to do something right the first time, and having to go back and do it over?

goals + recipes for the week of 4/13

Hi friends! Hope you’re enjoying a lovely weekend! Yesterday I was busy teaching all day — I taught four classes as part of my new job working for Communication Academy. I was pretty tired last night, but I had so much fun working with such exuberant, energetic kids!

Today was a relaxing yet productive day. I opted to sleep in and go to the later church service, because sometimes you just need to hit snooze! Today’s sermon was so inspiring: all about redefining “failure” and life’s disappointments as a step forward and getting up to try again. It was a great reminder of the importance of perseverance and faith.

After visiting with some friends at post-church coffee hour, I headed over to one of my favorite local coffee shops for some lunch, a chai latte, and a work sesh! Something about working in a crowded, noisy cafe does wonders for my productivity. Is it like that for anyone else?

Speaking of productivity… Sunday means it’s time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
write 12 pages
read 100 pages of The Kitchen God’s Wife
go to two yoga classes
prepare for my new teaching gig
connect with three friends

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
- write 12 pages
- prepare for teaching & tutoring this week
- send out three query letters
- read up to page 250 of The Kitchen God’s Wife
- go to two yoga classes
- connect with three friends

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
spicy seedy power crackers via Robyn @the real-life rd
- grapefruit arugula salad via Sarah @The Pajama Chef
peanut butter & raisin muffins via Danica @It’s Progression
healthified fettuccine alfredo via Money-Saving Mom
- healthy dark chocolate pudding via Two Peas & Their Pod

Questions of the day:

  • What was a highlight of your weekend?
  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

fabulous friday #18

It’s Friiiiiiidaaaayyy!! Hope you’re having a great one!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. My new part-time job teaching writing and public speaking classes for middle school kids! I taught my first classes on Wednesday afternoon and had an absolute blast. I feel so lucky to be able to spend time teaching and building confidence in these amazing young people! I’m already getting excited to teach my seventh annual Write On! Summer Writing Camp this July.

writing camp

2. The informal “book club” that my mom and I have started. A couple years ago, my mom made it her New Year’s Resolution to read more, and she started reading every day at work during her lunch break. Now she reads dozens of novels a year and she always recommends the best books to me! I love reading and talking about books with her. It’s a great way to stay close and connected even though we live far away.

me before you

One of my favorites of the books she’s recommended is Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. This is a tear-jerker {you’ve been warned! grab the tissues!} It is such a beautiful, well-written story — and extremely hard to put down, especially once you get to know the characters! Mom recommended it to me and once I finished it I passed the book along to my Aunt Annie, who said she was reading it at her hair appointment and two other women came up to her and raved about how much they loved it. When Annie finished it she gave it to my grandma, who just finished it last night, so now she and I have been talking about it too. I think it’s safe to say that we would all highly recommend this book!

3. My cousin Arianna rocked her drama performance last night! I am so proud of her. She absolutely *shines* onstage! Here is a video I took of her singing “Seasons of Love” for the show’s finale.

arianna performing

4. Speaking of great singers: Sara Bareilles’ new single “I Choose You” has been bopping around on the radio {and in my head!} all week. Oh my goodness, you guys, I can’t get enough of this song! It’s so catchy. Love her.

5. Baseball season! I had such a great time at the A’s game last weekend with Allyn & his family. Sunshine + hot dog + A’s win = happiness!

a's game

Now I’m off to tackle my to-do list before the weekend! Have a wonderful day, everyone!

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for this weekend?
  • Have you read any good books lately?

a year of Wooden: week 14

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

For this month of April, we’re going to be focusing on Coach Wooden’s creed to “build a shelter for a rainy day.” This metaphorical shelter includes family, friends, good work, faith – but, since we will focus on these elements in other months, right now we are focusing on the financial interpretation. In other words: save now to weave a safety net!

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.

Last week, the challenge was to create a “spare change jar.” Instead of pocketing spare change to spend somewhere else, drop it into the jar. This week I ended up with $3.49. I’m planning to continue this spare change jar throughout the year!

This week’s challenge is to keep track of where you spend your money — even small amounts, like that Starbucks pick-me-up or the impulse drugstore purchase. For the next three days {or the entire week, if you’d like} make note of every penny that leaves your pocket. We’ll work with the results in next week’s challenge!

coach wooden quote details

Questions of the day:

  • Have you ever kept a strict budget before?
  • What are the “little details” that have made a big difference in your life?

guest post at Parent Grapevine

Hi, friends! Happy Monday! I’ll be back tomorrow with this week’s year of Wooden post, but for today I wanted to let you know about a guest post I wrote for the terrific blog Parent Grapevine:

Help Your Child Become a Better Writer: 3 Easy, Fun Prompts to Try!

I’ve been a writing teacher for the past eight years, working with a range of ages: kindergarten through senior citizens. I’ve led writing workshops for public schools, private schools, home-schooling groups, community centers, and more! I also taught undergraduate writing courses at Purdue University for three years.

When I talk to parents and teachers, two questions come up again and again:
1. How can we make writing FUN for kids and teenagers?
2. How can we help our kids become better writers?

The answers to these two questions are tied together: like anything, people become better writers with practice. The best way to help your child become a better writer is to encourage him or her to write, write, write! Well, how do you do that? By making writing a fun activity.

Head on over to Parent Grapevine to read the rest of my post, including three popular writing prompts I use often in my work with young writers.

Hope you’re having a marvelous Monday!

goals + recipes for the week of 4/6

Hi everyone! How is your weekend going? Mine has been lovely so far! Bianca came over and we baked some delicious pumpkin spice muffins. I got caught up on one of my fave TV shows, Nashville {thanks, Hulu!} Yesterday I went to morning yoga class and a women’s self-defense class. And I got to see my dear friend Michelle after she’s been out of town for three weeks! It was SO great to reunite with her.

As soon as I hit “publish” on this post, I’m heading off to morning church service, and then I’m going to the Oakland A’s game with Allyn and his family. It will be my first baseball game in forever and I’m really excited!

Before I head off for the day, it’s goals time…

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
write 12 pages
- send out newsletter {subscribe for *free* here if you want}
go to two yoga classes
prepare for my Steinbeck Fellowship reading {such an amazing night!}
connect with three friends
have a wonderful time with my mama in town! :)

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
- write 12 pages
- read 100 pages of The Kitchen God’s Wife
- go to two yoga classes
- prepare for my new teaching gig
- connect with three friends

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
- cheesy mexican chicken skillet via Lindsay @The Lean Green Bean {guest-posting @Nut Butter Runner}
oatmeal fudge bars via Sarah @The Pajama Chef
homemade pizza using this crust recipe via Danica @It’s Progression
edamame & black bean salad via Julie @PB Fingers
dark chocolate + pistachio + sea-salt cookies via Two Peas & Their Pod

Questions of the morning:

  • How has your weekend been so far?
  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

asbestos awareness week

A few weeks ago, I was approached by the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance about their national awareness campaign. I learned that every year around 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. On average, they are given 10 months to live. That’s a mere 300 days. And yet, according to the MCA, asbestos is “still widely used in the U.S. It affects our water, air, and soil quality, as it does not break down or biodegrade.” The MCA works to spread awareness because mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure, so knowing more about asbestos and its risk factors can make a huge difference in preventing this cancer.

April 1-7 is Asbestos Awareness Week, so I wanted to share some facts that I was given by the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance:

Did You Know Facts

Scary stuff! This definitely has motivated me to investigate my own surroundings and products to make sure that asbestos is not present.

I was also touched by this inspiring blog post on the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog about Sara Gapasin, the Advocate of the Month for April:


You can learn more about mesothelioma and asbestos at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance website:

fabulous friday #17

Happy TGIF, friends! I hope you have fun plans in store for this spring weekend!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. My incredibly supportive, thoughtful and generous friends and family. I’m still on Cloud Nine after my Steinbeck Fellows reading on Wednesday night! My mom and grandparents came, as did Dana and her sweet mom Lynn, and Allyn took time out of his busy schedule to be there.

me and gparents reading

with dana and lynn

with allyn at reading

2. My dad. Yeah, he gets his own number :) Some of you might remember when I had my first Steinbeck Fellows reading back in December, and he drove up with me after Thanksgiving to be there {and we also went to a wonderful talk by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns the next night!} Well, the arrangement was that he would stay home this time to take care of Mr. Mur-dog, while my mom came to the reading to support me.

Looking back now, I probably should have expected him to do what he did. Here are two facts about my dad: 1) He loves surprises; and 2) He has never missed a single performance or big event of mine, not even back in second grade when I was the lead in our class play and he came to ALL four performances even though it meant he had to miss a big event for work.

mom and dad reading

So there I was on Wednesday night, chatting with people at the dinner in the Steinbeck Center before the reading, when I felt two familiar hands over my eyes… I turned, not able to believe it. My dad! That was one of the best hugs of my life.

My dad drove 5+ hours to surprise me and be there for my reading! And then after the reading he turned back around and drove the 5+ hours home so Mr. Mur-dog wouldn’t be left alone overnight. He said simply, “You know I couldn’t have missed your big night!” It was such an incredible surprise — a memory I will always look back on and cherish. I love you, Daddy!

with dad steinbeck reading

3. These beautiful flowers that Dana and her mom gave me. They are brightening up the kitchen, making me smile every time I walk by!

flowers from dana

4. This video made me cry in a good way: http://www.upworthy.com/a-pregnant-woman-learns-her-baby-has-down-syndrome-people-who-have-it-answer-her-one-big-question-2

5. And this new Ingrid Michaelson song always makes me smile & dance in the car: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsvKT8vsgF4

Today is shaping up to be a “taking care of business” workday, which will balance out the all-play-and-hardly-any-work plans I have for the weekend. Looking forward to spending time with friends, putting in quality time on my yoga mat, and soaking up some sunshine at the A’s game on Sunday!

Questions of the morning:

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