a year of Wooden: week 42

Happy Monday! Before we get into this week’s year of Wooden post, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for all your kind comments, emails and words of encouragement after my post last week! It is always a little scary to make yourself vulnerable, but one of my goals as a blogger is to be honest with you guys — not to edit my life into a Pinterest-worthy highlight reel, but instead to give you a true picture of my ups and downs, highs and lows, nitty-gritty daily living. Thank you for always being so supportive!

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}
  • November: Pray for guidance.

Our focus for November comes from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Pray for guidance.”

Last week’s challenge was to pray about a big dream or goal you have for the future. I have a variety of dreams and goals I want to pursue — sometimes the trickiest part is choosing what to give attention to, and what to put on the back-burner. Thanks to last week’s prayers, I feel more centered and focused heading into these finals weeks of 2014. Excited to see what 2015 will bring!

This week’s challenge, in honor of Thanksgiving, is to pray about everything you are grateful for. When you wake up in the morning, journal about your feelings. 

Question for the day:

  • How did this week of praying for guidance go for you?

berry cream-cheese muffins

Happy Thursday, friends! Can you believe it’s only a week until Thanksgiving?! Where has November gone? I’m trying to savor each day as much as possible, but I’m also really excited to see my parents and brother — and Mr. Mur-dog! :)

murray paws

In the spirit of Thanksgiving baking, here is a delicious and easy muffin recipe that I whipped up the other day when I had some blueberries to use up. I think these would be great with any kind of berry! The sweetness of the berries combined with the cream cheese in the center really makes these muffins a star.

blueberry cream cheese muffins

blueberry cream cheese muffins

adapted from this recipe at healthy food for living

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar or agave
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pint blueberries {I used fresh, but I’m sure frozen would work just as well}
  • 1/4 cup neufchatel {1/3-less-fat cream cheese} at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin, or line with muffin cups.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour & coconut flour, coconut sugar, rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, oil, and vanilla extract {and agave, if you’re using it}.

4. Toss the blueberries with the flour mixture. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until incorporated.

5. In a small bowl, stir together the neufchatel and maple syrup.

6. Divide the batter evenly amongst the prepared muffin cups. Make a small well in the center of each. Fill each well with 1 tsp of the sweetened neufchatel. Sprinkle each filled cup with a bit of the sugar.

7. Bake for 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean {cream cheese sticking to the toothpick is fine, but no raw batter!} Cool in pan for 5 minutes; transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

blueberry muffins

Hope you enjoy! These were the perfect combination of sweet and savory… a decadent-seeming treat that is pretty dang healthy! This would be a great holiday breakfast item. Thanksgiving brunch, anyone?

If you liked this recipe, you might also check out:
apple banana oatmeal muffins
peach streusel muffins
chocolate-chip banana muffins
triple berry muffins

a year of Wooden: week 41

Hi, everyone! Hope your week is off to a wonderful start. Monday means that it’s time for a new year of Wooden post!

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}
  • November: Pray for guidance.

Our focus for November comes from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Pray for guidance.”

Last week’s challenge was to pray for guidance about something in your life that gives you questions or uncertainty. This past year I’ve experienced some setbacks and frustrations in my writing career, and even though I can’t imagine being anything other than a writer — writing is what I love deeply at my core — there have been some moments of doubt the past six months when I wondered if I was being realistic to think I could make a career out of it. But I kept plugging along, because that’s what I do. I kept writing and editing and sending my work out, logging rejections and sending my work out again, writing and writing and writing until my wrists ached.

Looking back, I think this “dry period” has been crucial for me — as an artist and as a person. I truly know now that I am writing for the love of it, writing what I want to write, writing what MATTERS to me, instead of worrying about money or marketing or selling or career-building. Although those things are important in their own way, they should never be front and center. As one of my favorite writers Elizabeth Berg told me, “First, please yourself.”

Which all goes to say that this past week, I prayed about my writing career, letting out all the questions and uncertainty and insecurities I have been bottling up inside me. And what did I receive in return? A resounding sense of peace and confidence that I am doing what I am meant to be doing. I received tangible confirmations this week, too: an acceptance for a short story I submitted months ago to North Dakota Quarterly; an update about a song-cycle being composed at Carnegie Mellon based upon a series my poems; and exciting developments regarding the novel I’ve been working on for the past three years.

All of this reminded me of one of my very favorite quotes by Coach Wooden:

things work out best quote

This week’s challenge is to pray about a big dream or goal you have for the future. Ask God or the universe or whatever you believe for guidance. When you wake up in the morning, journal about your feelings. 

Question for the day:

  • How did this week of praying for guidance go for you?

goals + recipes for the week of 11/16

Hi, friends, and happy Sunday to you :) Sorry I’ve been a bit MIA this week… it’s been unexpectedly busy! On Friday night, I went to Arianna’s high school play that she has been working on for months as the Assistant Director. I’m so proud of her! The set alone blew me away with its intricate attention to detail.

Arianna play

Yesterday, after teaching my rambunctious classes of kiddos, I took BART into the city and met up with my sweetheart for a fun sustainable foods event his MBA program was hosting. I noshed on a delicious spinach dish from a Jamaican restaurant, and Allyn had the jerked chicken and shared some of his dirty rice and plantains with me. It was nice getting to chat with his classmates and catch up with some people I hadn’t seen since Allyn’s surprise birthday party back in October.

Work-wise this week, some exciting developments have been happening that I hope I’m able to share sometime soon. In the meantime, I can tell you that I was really happy to get an acceptance this week from North Dakota Quarterly, the literary magazine out of the University of North Dakota, to publish my short story “Dirt” in their forthcoming “Slow” themed issue. Hooray! It’s been a motivating reminder of the importance of perseverance in pursuing your dreams, despite the inevitable rejections and disappointments — every “No” is one step closer to a “Yes!”

In that spirit… time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from last week: 
– finish writing that one short story that’s been half-finished for months
– prepare tutoring worksheets through the end of the year
– update my website
– go to the gym three times
finish reading Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
connect with two friends

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– finish editing/preparing manuscript for submission
– update my website
– set date for Winter Writing Camp
– go to yoga class
– connect with two friends

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
pumpkin cookies w/cookie butter via The Coupon Project
kale & brussels sprouts salad w/butternut squash via Two Peas & Their Pod
vegetarian chickpea curry via Food Friends
fiesta frittata via PB Fingers
chaider {chai + hot apple cider} via The Pajama Chef
– my grandma’s curried butternut squash soup

Questions of the day:

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

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

chocolate pumpkin-spice kiss cookies

I have a simple, delicious recipe to share with you today! These cookies are easy to make, come together in a flash, and would be the perfect holiday treat for a party or get-together. I brought them to a BBQ this past weekend and they were a big hit!

I got the idea for these cookies when I came across these babies at Walgreens after getting my flu shot: pumpkin spice Hershey’s kisses!

pumpkin spice hershey kisses

I was intrigued and they were on sale, so I scooped them up! When I got home, I started brainstorming what I could bake with them, and I thought about the cookies my mom makes during the holiday season using chocolate Hershey’s kisses. I thought I could make a similar cookie — except with pumpkin spice kisses, I decided I wanted a chocolate cookie base.

Rummaging around in my pantry, I found this.

chocolate cake mix

So I decided to make chocolate cake-mix cookies {similar to the funfetti cookies I made for Grandpap’s birthday two years ago.} I love cake-mix cookies because they are dense, soft and chewy. Yum!

I was able to whip these cookies up in about half an hour, and they turned out great! If you don’t have Hershey’s kisses, I think just making the chocolate cookies would also be a hit. Add in some peanut-butter chips and you’ve really got it made! :)

chocolate kiss cookies

chocolate pumpkin kiss cookies

- 1 box chocolate cake mix {I used triple-chocolate fudge; I bet devil’s food would be good, too!}
– 1/3 cup vegetable oil
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup chocolate chips
– pumpkin spice Hershey’s kisses

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine cake mix, oil, eggs and chocolate chips in a large bowl. Dough will be stiff and sticky.

3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes, to allow dough to become easier to handle.

4. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. {Note: these cookies EXPAND quite a bit! My first batch, I made the dough balls much too big. Just a tablespoonful is enough, I promise!}

5. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until cookies are set.

6. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

7. While cookies are still warm, gently press a pumpkin spice kiss into the center of each one.

chocolate kiss cookies

You can easily adapt these cookies based upon your favorite Hershey’s kiss. I think using a peppermint kiss or white-chocolate kiss would be divine!

If you liked this recipe, you might also enjoy:
aunt elaine’s peanut butter blossoms
pumpkin spice cake mix cookies
eggnog cookies with buttercream frosting

a year of Wooden: week 40

Happy Monday, friends! Just like that, it’s the start of another week. How was your weekend? I hope your week is off to a great start! I don’t have much on my agenda today other than worktime… hoping to plough through some tasks and make headway on a couple projects, because later this week is packed with fun things: friend date with Allyson on Thursday, going to my cousin Arianna’s play on Friday, and attending an event in San Francisco on Saturday night with Allyn as part of his MBA program. Woot!

Now 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
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}
  • November: Pray for guidance.

Our focus for November comes from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Pray for guidance.”

Last week’s challenge was to pray for guidance about an issue in your life that causes you worry or stress. Lately I have been feeling stressed out over little things — running late; not feeling like I have enough time in the day; always rushing. I don’t like the feeling, but I wasn’t quite sure how to make it better. For the past few weeks, it’s felt like no matter how much I tried to de-stress and savor daily life, the more stressed I would become about NOT being able to do so! I was trapped in a downspiral of stress. However, after two or three days of praying and journaling, I felt a LOT more at peace. My go-go-go, hurry-hurry-hurry feeling began to subside. Even on Saturday, which is my most stressful, harried day of the week, I felt more centered, balanced and calm.

This week’s challenge is to think of something in your life that you have questions or uncertainty about. Each night this week, pray on this issue. Ask God or the universe or whatever you believe for guidance. When you wake up in the morning, journal about your feelings. 

Question for the day:

  • How did this week of praying for guidance go for you?

goals + recipes for the week of 11/9

Hello, friends! Today is my Grandpap’s birthday!!

me and grandpap

Tonight we’re getting together at my Aunt Annie’s house to celebrate… I’m planning to make funfetti cupcakes, or perhaps pumpkin spice cupcakes, with cream-cheese frosting and of course plentyyyy of sprinkles :) I love my Grandpap so much and I feel lucky that I’ve gotten to spend so much time with him the past year. He has always been super supportive of my writing. He is a jokester, a piano bar singer, a Sudoku fiend, and the only octogenarian I know who text messages and uses Siri. Here’s to many more birthdays, Grandpap!

Backing up a bit, yesterday I slept in, savored breakfast and my favorite pumpkin spice chai tea while reading some of my favorite blogs. Then I taught four classes of energetic kiddos, and then I headed over to a BBQ at the home of one of Allyn’s childhood friends. A bunch of his longtime friends were there, and it was really nice to get a chance to visit with them! I brought chocolate pumpkin kiss cookies, recipe coming soon!

chocolate pumpkin kiss cookies

This morning I’m heading to church early because I’m serving as Worship Associate for both services. Then I’m hoping to meet up with Dana because it’s been too long since I’ve seen her pretty face, and we have lots to catch up on!

But before I head out… time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from last week: 
– finish writing that one short story that’s been half-finished for months
complete mid-term assessments for the classes I teach
– go to the gym three times
finish reading After Dakota by Kevin Sharp
connect with two friends
get my flu shot!!

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– finish writing that one short story that’s been half-finished for months
– prepare tutoring worksheets through the end of the year
– update my website
– go to the gym three times
– finish reading Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
– connect with two friends

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
bbq pineapple, jalepeno + feta pizza via Cookie + Kate
peanut butter apple oatmeal cookies via Two Peas & Their Pod
rosemary roasted potatoes via Food Friends
white chocolate drizzled pumpkin scones via That Skinny Chick Can Bake
chewy coconut oil granola bars via The Pajama Chef
– 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 #40

Happy Friday, dear friends! I hope you have had a wonderful week and that your TGIF is running along smoothly. I must admit I don’t quite know where this morning went! Yoga class, breakfast, emails, a couple phone calls for work, and now it’s already lunch time! This afternoon I’m hoping to make some headway on a couple writing/editing projects; go to the Verizon store to get my new phone working {my old phone went on the fritz but was insured so I was able to replace it at no cost, woo hoo!}; and then I’ll be tutoring a few kids from late afternoon into the evening.

Should be a great day! Then again, as my Gramps likes to say with a wry smile, “Every day I’m above ground is a great day for me!” Which I think is a grateful attitude you don’t need to be an octogenarian to adopt. :)

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. The gorgeous autumn leaves setting the world on fire right now. Here’s the maple in our side yard, right outside the kitchen window. Every time I see it, my heart leaps. I love the autumn!

maple tree

2. Tazo pumpkin spice chai tea. I scooped this up on sale at Target last week and I’ve been enjoying it every morning since. Nothing like pumpkiny, cinnamony goodness to get my day started off right! {Or perk me up in the middle of a long writing/work sesh!}

tazo pumpkin spice chai tea

Also, this is probably just showing my nerdiness, but does anyone else amuse themselves by reading the writing on food/drink boxes? The story on the Tazo pumpkin spice chai tea box had me smiling: “Cinnamon and cardamom sit by a crackling clove fire, knitting elegant black-tea scarves. Ginger waltzes in with a just-baked pumpkin pie, and the room turns aromatic with sweet spice.” Mmmm. Don’t you just want to curl up and get cozy after reading those words?

3. Not to go TOO pumpkin-crazy {my brother would say, “Too late!” haha} but I was excited to find these pumpkin spice Hershey’s kisses in the discounted Halloween candy section when I got my flu shot earlier this week. Has anyone else tried these babies? I had never even heard of them before, but I was intrigued so I got them.

pumpkin spice hershey kisses

I will say that, as a chocolate-lover, I wish there was some chocolate swirled throughout along with the pumpkin, but these are still a delicious {and dangerously poppable} treat! This weekend I’m planning to bake cookies featuring these pumpkin spice Hershey’s kisses, inspired by my aunt Elaine’s peanut butter blossoms. If they turn out well, I’ll share the recipe!

4. I’m serving as Worship Associate at my church this Sunday, and the sermon’s theme is transience and permanence. While writing my Call to Worship, I came across this beautiful quote from Ovid’s Metamorphoses:

As wave is driven by wave
And each, pursued, pursues the wave ahead,
So time flies on and follows, flies, and follows,
Always, forever and new. What was before
Is left behind; what never was is now;
And every passing moment is renewed.

5. This blog is featured on TheBetsy.com today — check out this article about Day-by-Day Masterpiece! Thanks to TheBetsy for their support!

Have a delightful weekend, everyone!

Questions of the day:

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

be the sun, not the wind

In a recent issue of Glamour Magazine, there was an interview with Kiera Knightley, an actress I have always liked {but I like her even more now after reading this interview!} She seemed very down-to-earth, witty and intelligent. I especially loved this story she shares from her mother:

“Remember, you have to be the sun, not the wind.”

(The Glamour interviewer says, “Huh?”)

“You don’t know that story? Okay, the sun and the wind see a man walking down the street, and they have a competition to see which of them can get his coat off first. So the wind blows and blows, and the man just does his coat up tighter. Then the sun simply shines and shines and shines. My mother has sort of lived her life like that, really.”

I think this is so beautiful and true.

be sun not wind

Questions of the evening:

  • How can you be like the sun, rather than the wind?
  • Is there something in your life you are struggling with? What if you took this approach to it instead? What would that look like?

a year of Wooden: week 39

Happy Tuesday, friends! My arm is SORE from getting my flu shot yesterday! Other than that, it’s a fairly quiet day around here: working, eating yummy food, going to yoga class tonight. What are you up to today?

Now it’s time for this week’s year of Wooden challenge… and a new month means a new 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
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}
  • November: Pray for guidance.

But before we move on to November, let’s wrap up our October challenge: Make friendship a fine art, focusing on new friendships.

Last week’s challenge was to nurture and celebrate one of the new friendships you created this past month. I reached out to Allyson and made plans to get together again next week after I teach in Fremont. And I also made a new friend, Stephanie, at the Asante Africa dinner on Sunday night, so I’m hoping to get together with her sometime in the near future!

are you my friend

Now, moving on to the month of November! Our challenge for this month comes from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Pray for guidance.”

This week’s challenge is to think of an issue in your life that causes you worry or stress. Each night this week, pray on this issue. Ask God or the universe or whatever you believe for guidance. When you wake up in the morning, journal about your feelings. 

prayer quote Wooden

Question for the day:

  • What friendships did you nurture in the month of October?
  • Do you believe in the power of prayer?