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 ūüôā 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
Рfinish 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
Рmy 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 #39

Happy Halloween, everyone!!

lit up pumpkins

What fun things do you have planned for today + tonight? Allyn & I are dressing up as Sebastian the crab & The Little Mermaid and we’re going out for dinner in Walnut Creek, then out to see the murder-mystery play Deathtrap. I’ll show you a picture of us dressed up in our costumes in Sunday’s blog post, but for now here’s a sneak peak at my wig that came in the mail yesterday! This is actually my first Halloween ever wearing a wig, so I am probably more excited than is normal, haha. {And yes, I’m dressed in my yoga clothes, getting ready to head out soon!}

mermaid wig

Also, I want to back up and wish my sweet Mama a belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! It was her birthday yesterday but it was such a crazy day that I didn’t get around to doing a blog post. {But don’t worry, I did call her yesterday and send her a card & present!} My dad sent these beautiful roses to her office… they are USC colors, since Mom is a huge USC fan! Go Trojans!

mom usc roses

Also, because I think this photo is way too adorable not to share, here is a pic of my mom when she was a little girl that is hanging in the hallway of my grandparents’ house. I can totally see the woman I know in her little-girl eyes and face. What a cutie-pie!

mom little girl

Mom, thank you for being my role model and inspiring me every day with your loving heart, genuine kindness, generosity and grace, quiet strength, and beautiful soul. I love you so much. I count my blessings every day that I won the lottery ticket to get you for a mother. It is a true privilege and a gift to be your daughter! ‚̧

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. So remember last week when I finished writing my novel? And remember a few weeks ago when I went to the Orchard nursery with Dana to revel in all the pumpkins and autumn decorations, and I spotted these beautiful hand-painted sunflower tiles and mentioned wanting to someday get one for my own kitchen?

sunflower tiles

Wellllll, guess what my sweetheart did? He surprised me with a gift to celebrate finishing my novel that I’ve been working on for the past three years.

sunflower tile

Not to mention, I hadn’t even said anything about the sunflower tiles to him. He just read it here in my post and remembered, and last weekend he drove to the nursery to pick it out and surprise me. I was pretty much speechless when I opened it. Allyn, your thoughtfulness, love and support blow me away! Thank you so much for celebrating with me! Now, every¬†time I look at this gorgeous sunflower tile hanging in my kitchen, not only will I smile because I love sunflowers and it is soooo pretty — I will light up inside with such a warm memory. ūüôā

2.¬†T-Swift’s new CD. OMG you guys. I am crushing hardcore on this CD. I am in puppy love. I am obsessed. I can’t stop listening to it. SO GOOD! I didn’t even mind when I had major traffic driving home from teaching last night, because it meant more time to bop around in my car dancing to these songs. Is it weird that Holly and I are already giddy¬†with excitement about going to see her in concert when she tours for this CD? Because we are.

t swift 1989 cd

If the music itself weren’t amazing enough, check out her Halloween costume. One of the lyrics to her new song “Blank Space” is “cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”… the caption to her Halloween costume says, “cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a PEGACORN.” {unicorn + pegasus = a possible daydream?} She is so goofy! I love it.

taylor swift Halloween costume

3.¬†These wise words from Heather Waxman… the first time I read them, I felt like she was talking directly to me. As someone who is not often loud and does not prefer to be the center of attention, I love her message that quiet strength and quiet confidence are equally true and beautiful:

Sometimes, we think that we have to be loud and obviously the center of attention in order be confident. But that’s not really it at all. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than a woman carrying herself with soft strength. Quiet and ease. Grace and a smidge of grit.  That’s just so beautiful. She doesn’t feel like she has to prove anything. She doesn’t care if she’s the primary focus of the conversation or sitting and listening as a few people spearhead the conversation. Because she just is. She’s just being. 

4. This week I finished knitting a scarf to donate to the wonderful nonprofit organization Knit With Love that donates knitted and crocheted items to people in need, whether they are impoverished, homeless or struggling with illness.

knit with love

Here is their mission statement: “We believe that the gift of a hand-made item can provide physical warmth to people who may have little else, and can also be a tangible showing of love and support that will serve as an encouragement in this difficult time. Every item is donated to a person who greatly appreciates the hand-made gift. As of June 2014, we have donated over 5,000 knit items to people in 37 countries.” WOW, right? Amazing!

It makes me happy to think of someone wearing this colorful scarf I made and feeling loved!

scarf

5. Finishing with a bang: The Giants winning the World Series on Wednesday!! It feels like the whole Bay Area is celebrating! Everywhere you go, people are wearing Giants’ gear and Giants flags are waving from cars and houses everywhere. I’m enjoying the¬†special feeling of camaraderie with everyone, even strangers in line at the grocery store ūüôā Dana was so cute, waving her Giants rally rag from back when they won the World Series in 2010!

dana giants win

Have a fun and safe Halloween, everyone!!

Questions of the day:

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

a year of Wooden: week 36 {happy birthday, coach!}

Hi there, everyone! Today is a very special day in our Year of Wooden challenge because today would have been Coach’s 104th birthday! Happy birthday, Coach Wooden!

My dad is doing a really neat thing today in¬†honor and celebration of Coach’s¬†birthday — he is¬†donating one copy of his book WOODEN & ME to disadvantaged youth for every book bought today through either his website¬†or Amazon! His goal is to give away 100 copies today! Be sure to shoot me an email if you order a copy because I would love to send you a personal note of thanks. {If you’re interested in reading a review of WOODEN & ME, here’s a great one Sarah wrote on her blog The Pajama Chef.}

Now, onto¬†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¬†get together one-on-one with a friend you normally only see in a group type of situation.¬†I was really grateful to get together for dinner with Allyn’s sister Allyson after I taught in Fremont this past Thursday. Not only is she¬†a warm, friendly person, she is also extremely¬†intelligent and knowledgable and I always learn a ton from her. In group situations the two of us often gravitate towards each other — we both are passionate about books, reading, writing and teaching — and on Thursday it was terrific to spend some time just the two of us, chat chat chatting away. We went to a fabulous Thai restaurant and two hours flew by before we finally realized it was probably time to head home! Since I’ll be teaching in Fremont through December, I’m hoping we can make dinner or coffee happen again sometime soon.

A bunch of us celebrating Allyson's birthday back in April.

A bunch of us celebrating Allyson’s birthday back in April.

Also, yesterday I was able to get together with my church acquaintance Amy for coffee. {I had reached out to her on Facebook as part of week 34’s challenge.} It was lovely to get to know her better and I really felt like we clicked.

This week’s challenge is to reach out to a friend of a friend you have always wanted to get to know better, and invite him or her to do something fun.

Before I head out for the day, in honor of Coach’s birthday I wanted to share a poem he wrote that ties in perfectly to our theme for this month:

On Friendship

At times when I am feeling low,
I hear from a friend and then
My worries start to go away
And I am on the mend
No matter what the doctors say ‚Äď
And their studies never end
The best cure of all, when spirits fall,
Is a kind word from a friend.

Question for the day:

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

why I lied to you on friday

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope your day is off to a lovely start. I’ve been nursing a big mug of huckleberry tea all morning… this is the stuff I got on my trip to Seattle and I only have one tea bag left in the box! So I am savoring it.

huckleberry tea

I’ll be back with this week’s year of Wooden post tomorrow, but for today I wanted to pop in with a quick weekend recap because it was a pretty fantastic one¬†around here!

So, remember when I said that I was heading into San Francisco on Friday night for a dinner date with my sweetie to celebrate his birthday?

I lied.

Well, half-lied. Because it wasn’t really a dinner date for just the two of us. It was a reservation for 30 people! I had to keep it quiet here on the blog, because Allyn reads my blog {hi, honey!} and he¬†had no idea… I was throwing him a surprise party!

Here we are getting ready to take BART into the city for our "nice, quiet, date night just the two of us..."

Here we are getting ready to take BART into the city for our “nice, quiet date night just the two of us…”

I’d thrown a couple surprise parties with my roommates in college, but this was my first time ever throwing one by myself, AND it was my first time organizing such a big event! I learned a lot and had a blast. I kept thinking of Coach Wooden’s saying, “The journey is better than the inn.” I definitely enjoyed the month-long “journey” of planning this big surprise! ūüôā

Allyn’s friends and family were so helpful — I could not have done it without them. Different people from different areas of his life helped me get the word out and invite his various social circles. I originally made the reservation at the restaurant about a month in advance, and as time went on I had to keep calling them back and increasing the amount of people in my reservation, because the RSVPs were rolling in! One of the best things about planning a surprise party for someone you care about is connecting with all the other people who care about that person, too!

Some things I learned about planning a surprise party:

  • If you’re going to have it at a restaurant, Yelp is your friend! I wanted to find a venue that was not too expensive, was close to public transportation, and was accommodating for big groups. After a bit of searching, I settled on Unicorn Pan-Asian Cuisine, which ended up being perfect.
  • Make your reservation as early as possible! I also think it’s better to over-estimate your attendance and then call back as the date approaches and lower your reservation number. I did it opposite, but I was lucky that they had the space for me to keep increasing my reservation!
  • I’d also recommend checking out the venue in person ahead of time, if possible. It was really helpful for me to be able to picture the restaurant when I was planning the party and describing to guests where they should go when they arrived.
  • Ask the restaurant if they are able to do individual separate checks for a large group. In our case, they were only able to do three separate checks {one for each table} so I asked everyone to bring cash if possible to help making splitting the bill easy. Some people also recommended the VenMo app, which sounds really neat, but we didn’t need to use it — everyone brought cash and it all worked out fine.
  • Delegate! People love a surprise and they love to help. An unexpected benefit of planning this party for my sweetheart was that I grew closer to his friends and family as we engaged in deception together, haha.
  • Have guests arrive 15-20 minutes earlier than the guest of honor does. That way, you have some wiggle room if people are running late. Also, it gives some time for guests to mingle and get to know each other — something I could tell everyone was really happy about.
  • I gave Allyn’s stepmom a big poster card that she had everyone sign while waiting for me and Allyn to arrive. It gave people something to do, plus it is a meaningful memento for Allyn to have from the party, to remind him of all the people who care about him.
  • Keep things as simple as possible! Especially where alibis are concerned. Allyn knew where we were going, when we were going, and how we were getting there. He knew that we were going to dinner to celebrate his birthday. The only thing he didn’t know was that there would be 30 other people there to celebrate with us!

One thing I didn’t take into consideration is my sweetheart’s early bird tendencies! It’s something I love and admire about him — he is always punctual {often early} and hates to keep people waiting. So I should have guessed that he would want to leave for the BART station early to make it into the city for our 7:20 reservation! He said, “If we’re early we’ll just catch an earlier train.” I tried to hide the panic on my face and said, “Then we’ll be too early for our reservation!” Then I camped out in the bathroom for a while to “get ready” ūüôā

Other stalling tactics if you’re trying to delay the guest of honor:

  • change your outfit
  • “accidentally” spill something on¬†them so they have to change their outfit
  • go to the bathroom one more time
  • decide to wear a different pair of shoes instead
  • “forget” something and have to go back inside to get it
  • get gas on the way there
  • get “lost” or go the wrong way

Fortunately, none of these stalling tactics are really out of character for me, so Allyn was not suspicious when we left later than he suggested. We ended up hopping on¬†the 6:50 train into the city just like I had planned, which got us into the city at 7:15. Walking to the restaurant, I felt so excited it was hard not to skip! When we got there, I dragged him past the bar area at the front, because I knew everyone was waiting a little further back into the restaurant. My legs were shaking. Everyone jumped up and yelled, “SURPRISE!”

I will forever cherish the memory of that moment. The look on my sweetheart’s face was absolutely priceless. He said later, “I wasn’t surprised…. I was stunned.” He just stood there for a few moments, looking around at all the people from his life — his parents, sister, childhood friends, grad school friends, roommate, mentor — and he kept repeating, “Oh my god. Oh my god.” I could tell he was blown away. It was absolutely wonderful!

The rest of the night flew by. I had so much fun talking and mingling with all these terrific people from my sweetheart’s life. We ended up closing the restaurant down! It was a perfect night.

us and laurel

justin and fawn

allyson and her dad

surprise party

surprise party

surprise party

surprise party

surprise party

surprise party

Happy birthday, Allyn! I love you so much.

Questions of the morning:

  • Have you ever thrown a surprise party?
  • Has anyone every thrown a surprise party for you?
  • What was the highlight of your weekend?

fabulous friday #35

Aaaaaand just like that, it’s Friday again! These past few days have absolutely flown by for me.¬†I’m loving the new students I’m teaching {plus four new classes start tomorrow!}¬†but it’s always a balance at the beginning of a new semester, re-learning to juggle teaching with my tutoring and editing work AND trying my darndest to finish up the novel I’m working on! But I’m savoring the process. As Coach Wooden would say, “The journey is better than the inn.”

Hope you all are having a great morning. I’m off to one of my favorite yoga classes, then popping to Starbucks for a pumpkin chai latte & some productive work time. But before I go…

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Holly gave me this water bottle a couple years ago for my birthday, and I absolutely love it! Every time I use it, the photos of us make me smile¬†ūüôā It makes gym sessions a lot more fun when I see her beautiful friendly¬†face every time I take a water break!

holly water bottle

2. Bolthouse Farms yogurt dressings. I love how they have a creamy yet light texture and are¬†very flavorful. I’ve previously loved Bolthouse Farms yogurt ranch dressing, and this week I decided to try this cilantro-avocado flavor — it’s my new favorite! Avocado creaminess with a little kick. I can just use a small amount of this salad dressing and it goes a long way. Love it!

cilantro avocado

3. These words of wisdom from Money-Saving-Mom founder Crystal Paine in this interview:

Remember what’s going to matter in 25 years. Wrap your life and energy around those things.

4.¬†Look who’s featured in the church newsletter this week! Woot woot!

church newsletter

5. Tonight Allyn and I are going out to dinner in San Francisco¬†to celebrate his birthday! It’s gonna be a blast. I made a reservation at a rave-reviewed restaurant on Yelp, and I’m taking the opportunity to get a little “gussied up,” as my grandma would say. Last night I had fun trying on various outfits and I think I’ve settled on this one. {Please ignore my messy room in the background!}

al's bday dinner outfit

Happy Friday, everyone! Have a wonderful weekend!

Questions of the day:

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

mid-week meditation #12

First off: happy October, everyone! It is beginning to officially feel like autumn.

September ended on a lovely note for me: we had a wonderful time¬†last night celebrating Allyn’s birthday! His mom cooked a delicious meal of salmon, broccoli and green beans. Plus we had¬†a beautiful red velvet cake for dessert! {Apparently Allyn’s mom and I were on the same wavelength with the¬†red velvet desserts!}

als bday dinner

red velvet cake

al candles

I hope Allyn had a really special birthday, because he is a very special person.

It’s been a busy morning around here. I’m trying to get a solid day of writing in before teaching two classes this afternoon. Taking a quick break right now to nosh on this salad — spinach, chard, cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, celery, sunflower seeds, grilled chicken, balsamic vinaigrette — yummy, healthy and fueling!

salad

This week’s meditation is one of my favorites ever. Such important words to take in and think about. Thanks to my brother Greg for passing along this quote to me:

work lives on quote

 Questions of the morning:

  • What work do you do that focuses on others?
  • What do you want your legacy to be?

happy birthday allyn!

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

al birthday

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

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

me and al country club

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

goals + recipes for the week of 9/28

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

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

chevron dress

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

cupcakes

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

butternut squash bread pudding

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

weekly goals

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

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

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

Questions of the day:

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

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

goals + recipes for the week of 8/17

Happy Sunday, everyone! It feels like it’s been for.ev.er since I popped in to say hi… I guess it’s only been a few days since my mid-week meditation post, but it was one of those weeks where a lot happened!

  • I got back to the Bay Area on Sunday night, and there were all sorts of little errands and such I had to squeeze in to get back into my everyday routine. You know how it is, getting back to real life after “vacation mode” ūüôā
  • I taught a wonderful week of journalism and public speaking camp to a group of super awesome fifth graders. I was so proud of all of them!
  • I’m housesitting/dog-sitting for my aunt and uncle right now, so there was a bit of schedule juggling involved to make sure the doggies were comfortable and cared for throughout the day when I was at work. Everything worked out fine in the end!

poodles

There were also lots of fun events:

  • I got together with Dana for dinner at Pizza Antica — yum!
  • I got my first-ever professional massage {more on that coming soon!}
  • We celebrated Makena’s birthday on Tuesday and Bianca’s birthday on Friday! We had a joint party for them both on Wednesday evening, and it was so much fun. They are such kind-hearted and beautiful young ladies, inside and out!

m and b bday

This week is looking to be even busier! Tomorrow my grandma is getting much-needed hip-replacement surgery; she’s in a lot of pain, so we are all excited that this procedure will hopefully provide a lot of relief. Still, getting an operation is always a¬†little scary, so we would be so grateful for your good thoughts & prayers! I will be sure to keep y’all posted on her recovery.

me and gma

Then on Tuesday, my sweetheart comes home!! He is currently driving back to the Bay Area from New Orleans… I think he’s somewhere in the middle of New Mexico right now. Your safe thoughts for his travels would also be very appreciated ūüôā I am over-the-moon excited to see him!

me and al bday creamery

This week is the last week of summer camps for Communication Academy. I’m teaching a public speaking class for teenagers and I’m really looking forward to it. Gonna be a great week!

Before I head out, it’s goals time…

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week: {I bit off a little more than I could chew, as I am so prone to doing!}
– revise 25 pages of my novel-in-progress
–¬†teach a successful¬†week of camp
–¬†connect with three friends
–¬†finish reading Invisibility¬†by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan
drop off donation to Goodwill

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– revise 10 pages of my novel-in-progress
–¬†teach a successful¬†week of camp
–¬†help take care of my Grandma as best I can
–¬†finish reading Invisibility¬†by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
salted caramel apple crisp via Panera Bread Co.
grilled zucchini and corn tostadas via Two Peas & Their Pod
–¬†chunky sausage and veggie pasta sauce¬†via¬†Chew Out Loud
dark chocolate chunk peanut butter blondies via The Pajama Chef
Рmy own coconut zucchini muffins

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!

27 birthday gratitudes

me with bday sundae

Hi, friends! I’ve been working on this post slowly over the past couple weeks, ever since my birthday — which has seemed to stretch out for quite a while because I’ve gotten to spend time with my loved ones and celebrate my birthday belatedly with different circles of people. Now, I think things have fully calmed down and I can unequivocally think of myself as 27 years old! ūüôā

20140529_204736

This birthday, more than any other before that I can remember, has left me SO filled with gratitude. So, in the spirit of this month’s year of Wooden challenge, and as a companion piece to my 27 acts of kindness for my 27th birthday, here are my…

27 birthday gratitudes!

1. The cards I received in the mail from my mom, my dad, and Gramps that I opened up while lying in bed the morning of my birthday. It made me feel so loved that, even though I was going to see them in less than a week, they went through the trouble of mailing me birthday cards so I could open them on my actual birthday. And their written messages were very sweet!

birthday cards

2. My grandma snuck into my room while I was in the shower and left me a flower and a card from her and Grandpap.

flower from grandma

3. Greg was out of the country in China, but he made a birthday video for me before he embarked on his trip! It was a huge surprise to wake up to an email from him in my inbox, not to mention this amazing video that I will treasure always. Wow! I can’t imagine a more loving and supportive brother, and I am so beyond blessed to be his sister.

me and gb at the deck

me and greg walking

{Greg got me that cute purse for my birthday, too! It’s from a market in Thailand.}

4. I received dozens of text messages throughout the day from lots of friends, former classmates, and relatives. Such a treat to hear from people I care about who are scattered far and wide but still remembered me on my birthday!

5. I also received phone calls throughout the day from friends and family, which was wonderful.

6. And so many thoughtful Facebook messages/posts! It made me smile throughout the day to get Facebook notifications on my phone. I made myself wait until the end of the day to read through them all, and it warmed my heart immensely. Perhaps my favorite thing about Facebook is how it enables you to keep in touch with people from all different parts and times of your life, and nothing showcases this more than on your birthday.

7. My friend Lauren sent me these gorgeous flowers!

laur flowers

8. Janet and Chidelia also sent me gifts and cards from far away {Wisconsin and North Dakota}… I miss them both and it was so kind of them to take the time to send me something on my birthday!

9. Speaking of¬†thoughtful gifts, Allyn spoiled me with a few — including a mix CD that I have been listening to in my car nonstop since he left — and this cute card. He didn’t even know when he got it that I have a thing for adorable owls. {I have an owl-printed apron, an owl-decorated coffee mug, and some owl-embellished stationary!}

card from Al

10. Allyn also took me to the California Academy of Sciences for the day, which is located in the beautiful Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I had never been there before and I loved the various exhibits, particularly the rainforest dome and the planetarium show!

academy of sciences me with trex

On an unrelated note, I could not stop taking pictures of butterflies. I have more than a dozen on my phone!

butterflies

11. After the California Academy of Sciences, Allyn and I headed back to my grandparents’ house where¬†my grandma held a birthday dinner for me! She made a fancy¬†salad and baked ziti and Grandpap grilled chicken. Annie and Arianna came over and it was lovely to visit out on the porch in the sunshine before the meal.

annie arianna my bday gpap grilling

12. Arianna helped me bake and frost my funfetti cake! Allyn and Bianca did a pro job with sprinkles distribution.

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al and bianca

13. My aunt Mary and cousins Makena and Bianca joined us for dessert, and as we did back in January for Arianna’s birthday, everyone went around the table and shared one word they would use to describe the birthday girl — in this case, me! Their words were so heartfelt and beautiful and I got teary-eyed listening to such loving tributes. I am a lucky girl!

14. As if that around-the-table tribute wasn’t enough, my aunts and uncles also gave me gifts and cards. I especially cherish the card from Arianna — every time I read it, I feel about ten feet tall. She’s a kind and gentle soul!

me and arianna

15. The day after my birthday, my dear car Charley had a little temper-tantrum. Something was wrong with the alarm system and it kept going off while I was driving — blaring noise, windshield wipers going, lights blinking. It was crazy! Luckily I was able to get Charley towed to the dealership and the concerned tow-truck driver insisted on waiting with me until my ride showed up. My grandparents came to the rescue, and my grandma let me borrow her car to drive to my birthday party and work the next day.

charley!

Something else to be grateful for: Charley is up and running again smoothly now!

16. That evening, some dear friends joined me at an ice cream parlor to celebrate my birthday! Even with my car fiasco, I was only five minutes late. We stayed for nearly three hours, sharing lots of stories and laughter and, of course, enjoying delectable ice cream!

bday friends

me and al bday creamery

17. These sweet friends sneakily paid for my sundae! I got the chocolate-peanut butter special: chocolate ice cream, peanut butter Oreos {did not even know those existed!} and Reeses. Plus a candle!

bday candle

18. The card Dana gave me was particularly special, since this is our first year as friends! She found a journal entry she’d written last September, when she learned through this very blog that I was moving up to the Bay Area, and was wondering whether she should reach out to me. Well, she did, and I am SO grateful for it! She included an excerpt from the journal entry in her card and it gave me goosebumps. She also gave me this beautiful wooden sign — I love its message! Dana, my life is so much richer with you in it!

birthday sign

me and dana my bday

19. Allyson and Henry drove all the way to Walnut Creek from Fremont in Friday traffic to come to my party, and they brought me a gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers to boot!

20. Allyn’s family made me feel very special — his mom sent me an incredibly nice birthday card, and his dad and stepmom Laurel gave me this pretty sunflower stationary. Laurel also baked delicious mini chocolate lava cakes as a surprise dessert and they all sang happy birthday. I was very touched!

sunflower stationary

21. The Wednesday after my birthday, I got to fly home for a few days to celebrate my birthday and my dad’s birthday, and also enjoy a few days with Greg before he left for his summer internship in D.C. Dad surprised me at the airport with sunflowers! {Haha, are you sensing a common theme here? I ‚̧ sunflowers!}

sunflowers

22. I loved all the gifts my parents gave me, including a night out at a local play, but probably the one I’m most excited about is a Magic Bullet blender! I forgot to take a picture of it, but it will no doubt be getting a LOT of use and popping up on the blog quite a bit! Hello, summer smoothies!

23. Gramps took me and Greg out for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Andria’s. Their grilled fish sandwich is my fave!

me and Gramps at Andrias

24. Erica drove all the way out to Ventura to see me after she got off work on Thursday evening. It was such a quick visit home, I was not sure if I would be able to see her, so it was an extra-special treat. And the birthday muffins she made me were the bomb!

cinnamon muffins

25. Dana donated blood at her work’s blood drive for my birthday! It was her first time donating blood and she confessed it was a little frightening {and she felt a little faint at one point!} but she bravely did it and I am so honored by the gesture. Plus, it’s wonderful to know that others will be helped by her donation!

dana donating blood

26. Holly’s entire visit was a ginormous birthday gift to me! Not only did she fly out to see me, she also got me a T.Swift birthday card and two terrific devotional/meditation books and a super-cute pair of flats… all wrapped in High School Musical wrapping paper, of course! That’s pretty much our friendship in a nutshell: deep conversations + Disney movies aimed for 12-year-olds. ūüôā

gift from holly

me and holly lombard st

27. Thanks to all of YOU for your blog comments and for doing random acts of kindness to celebrate my birthday! You made my special day even more special.

I used a random number generator to select the winner of my birthday giveaway {an autographed copy of my book¬†3 a.m.: a collection of short stories} and the winner is… Annanori!

giveaway winner

Email me at dallaswoodburn<at> gmail <dot> com and we’ll get your book to you!

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you grateful for today?
  • What were some highlights of your most recent birthday?