pumpkin spice cupcakes w/cream-cheese frosting

Well, the Giants got a smack-down last night. It was pretty pitiful.

But Dana and I still had a fun time chowing on deep-dish pizza, catching up {we ended up talking more than watching the game, since the game was so depressing} and playing with her adorable new kittens, Sadie and Hunter! They are so inquisitive, full of energy, and TINY! Here’s a photo I snapped of Sadie cuddled up on Dana’s lap.

sadie

So soft and fluffy! I couldn’t stop petting her.

One good thing about the evening was that at least we had yummy baked goods to help ease our sorrows!

baseball cupcakes

These cupcakes might not have been very lucky, but they sure were delicious! And super easy to make. I got some requests on Instagram for the recipe, so I thought I would share it on here!

My secret weapon: Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix. This stuff is amazing! Hands-down my favorite baking mix ever. And it’s seasonal, so stock up while you can!

trader joes pumpkin bread

I’m sure you could use a different pumpkin spice baking mix in a pinch, or make pumpkin muffins from scratch — here’s a recipe I love from Snixy Kitchen.

pumpkin spice cupcakes w/cream-cheese frosting

– 1 package Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup water
– 1/2 cup vegetable oil
– 4 oz cream cheese, softened {I used 1/3 reduced-fat kind}
– 1/4 cup butter, softened
– 1 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine baking mix, eggs, vegetable oil and water. Mix until well combined.

3. Pour batter into a muffin tin lined with paper cups. In order to make these rounded baseball cupcakes, I filled the cups all the way to the top with batter. If you would like flatter cupcakes, fill the cups 3/4 of the way full.

4. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from the muffin tin and set on a rack to cool.

5. While cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting: using a mixer, beat together the softened cream cheese and softened butter until smooth and well-combined.

6. Slowly add the powdered sugar, combing well after each addition. I used approximately 1.5 cups, but you can increase or reduce the amount depending on desired sweetness.

7. If frosting is too thick, you might need to add a little heavy cream or milk to thin it out, but I love my frosting thick, so I didn’t add any.

8. When cupcakes are completely cool, use a knife to generously spread them with frosting. To make baseballs, use a red gel frosting to make dotted lines in two half-moons, like the threading on a baseball.

baseball cupcakes

ENJOY!

In the meantime, I’ve got my Giants spirit going all day today! Game 7! Let’s go, San Francisco! ūüôā

giants spirit

Questions of the day:

  • Are you watching the World Series? Who are you rooting for?
  • What is your favorite autumn dessert?

a year of Wooden: week 38

Hi there, everyone! Hope you’re having a great morning! On my agenda for today: run a few errands, finally get a flu shot, go to the gym, and bake something yummy. Tonight I’m going to Dana’s house to watch the World Series game! GO, GIANTS, GO!!

Before I hop in the car and head out, 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}

Our October challenge is a reprise of our February challenge, from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Make friendship a fine art. For October, we’re focusing on nurturing new friendships.

Last week’s challenge was to¬†ask a stranger¬†out on a “friend date” like Rachel Bertsche does in her book MWF Seeking BFF. I exchanged numbers with a new woman at church in the hopes of meeting up for coffee sometime. Also, I am slowly trying to become friends with my favorite yoga instructor. We chatted for a bit after class this week, and I definitely feel like she’s someone I’d love hanging out with! But it felt too soon/too pushy to suggest getting together outside of yoga class. I’m going to play it cool and keep building momentum, and maybe in a couple weeks I’ll feel better about asking her out on a friend date! ūüôā

are you my friend

This week’s challenge is to nurture and celebrate one of the new friendships you’ve created this month! Send a note, card or email to your new friend or acquaintance. Invite them to do something else together. Tell them why you think they’re awesome and why you’re happy to know them. As Coach¬†Wooden used to say…

to have a friend quote

Question for the day:

  • What new friend will you reach out to this week?

mid-week meditation #15

Hi there, friends! I’m sharing a beer and pizza with my grandma right now. Coming at you from a commercial break of the World Series {gooooo Giants!} with this week’s mid-week meditation.

My brother and I were exchanging emails yesterday and the topic of generosity and gratitude came up, and how sometimes the act of accepting a gift of generosity is even harder than it is to give generously. It is so easy for pride to get in the way, or feelings of insecurity or inadequacy. But actually, accepting an offered gift with love and sincere appreciation is in itself a generous gift.

This morning, I saw that Greg had tweeted something I wrote in our email conversation as a #quote, which gave me the idea that maybe it would be a meaningful thought to share on here.

So this week, I’m presenting the first mid-week meditation that isn’t a quote from someone else — these are my very own words!

generosity meditation

I hope these words fill you with peace and grace. Here’s to giving generously, and receiving generously, too!

Before I get back to the World Series game, I also wanted to share this amazing Sat Kriya meditation from the effervescent Heather Waxman. I’ve only done it once, but it felt so good that I’m already planning to make it a regular part of my routine. She has such a¬†soothing energy and compassionate spirit.

Questions of the evening:

  • What is harder for you, giving or receiving?
  • What does it mean to you to receive with a generous spirit?
  • Are you watching the World Series? ūüôā Who are you rooting for?

fabulous friday #20

Happy TGIF! Can you believe it’s already May? I am in awe of how quickly this year is flying by. A reminder to make the most of each and every day we are blessed with!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. The gorgeous, summer-like weather we’ve been having around here … warm and sunny, the days are long, and I can sit out on the porch with a book and a glass of iced tea reading even after dinnertime. On Wednesday Allyn and I went to a Giants game and I didn’t even need a jacket! I didn’t know San Francisco EVER got that warm, especially down by the water. It was glorious! And I love the energy and happiness in the air at this time of year, like everyone is more carefree and open to the world.

giants game

2. The latest collection of short stories, The Color Master, by one of my favorite writers {and people!} Aimee Bender, author of the previous best-selling novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Aimee was my professor at USC and she is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. She definitely was, and continues to be, a huge influence and inspiration for my own writing. I am savoring her new book–the stories are by turns delightful, dark, funny, serious, and always surprising. I would highly recommend putting this on your summer reading list!

the color master

me and aimee

3. I wrote a short story that has been published in the online literary journal Superstition Review! I’m so excited and honored to have my work featured as part of this publication I have long admired. You can read it here.¬†{Note: the story is fictional, and a little dark/sad… just be warned!}

4. These berry + cream cheese muffins I made a few days ago and have been enjoying as breakfast, snacks, and dessert … zero refined sugar, zero white flour, and absolutely delicious! I will be sharing the recipe on here next week, stay tuned!

cream cheese muffins

5. This picture, shared by my dad on Facebook:

reason someone smiles

BONUS: Vote for my friends Mike & Bob Bryan, who are amazingly kind and generous Philanthropists of Giving and are in the running to win $100,000 for their charity! You can vote up to 3 times a day and it takes less than a minute! https://givkwik.com/campaigns/2014-asu

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?

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! ūüôā

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?