fabulous friday #46

Happy Friday, everyone! I don’t know where this week has gone. Crazy that we’re approaching the weekend again already. Hope you’re having a terrific day, and if you’re back East dealing with the crazy weather, please stay safe!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. My care packages love continues. I have such amazing, loving people in my life! This week I received Valentines from my parents, a wonderful card from Julie, and a card and poetry books from my friend Carand.

julie card

carand poetry books

2. My butternut squash chili turned out really well! It is so hearty, savory and warm. I have been enjoying a bowl for lunch the past couple days and it is the perfect midday comfort food.

butternut squash chili

3. My friend Peter Yobo has released an amazing ebook, The 7 Steps to Creating Your Masterpiece Day, now available on Amazon. Here is a brief synopsis:

“Peter shares the 7 steps, that, when implemented daily, will create true life transformation. If you share Peter’s passion for living fully and achieving greatly, then you’ll have a blast reading The 7 Steps to Creating Your Masterpiece Day.”

masterpiece day peter yobo

4. My grandma was going through old photos this week and she found some adorable ones of my mom as a little girl. Too cute! I also love when I can see glimpses of myself in old photos of my mom. ūüôā I think she is the most beautiful woman, inside and out, I have ever met! I love you, Mama. ‚̧

Mom first day of kindergarten

mom little girl xmas

5.¬†Tonight I’m meeting up with Allyn in San Francisco for a really neat event co-hosted by his MBA program: a screening of the documentary film Girl Rising and a panel discussion about “Girls, Women and Sustainability” with experts in the field, including a producer of the film. After first watching Girl Rising¬†with my brother a couple years ago, I was inspired to seek out books on the topic such as Half The Sky, which I detailed in this post. I have become more and more passionate about¬†women’s rights and girls’ education around the world. I’m super excited for the event tonight!

Questions of the day:

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

fabulous friday #45

Happy Friday, everyone! I haven’t felt like doing one of these posts for the past few weeks… but I was thinking today about how Celine was an incredibly fabulous person, and I think she would like the idea of all of us recognizing and celebrating the fabulous things, large and small, that we are loving in our lives each week. So, I am happy to be back this week with a fabulous friday post for you. ūüôā

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Care packages. Tania sent me three books that she thought I would like: A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle; Painted Prayers by Jodi Uttal; and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Reading is such a comfort to me, and I am already working my way through these good books.

books from Tania

And my dad sent me a beautiful card:

typewriter card

2. Another book arrived in the mail this week — Every River On Earth, a book that I have a short story in! It’s been at least two years since my piece was accepted for this collection, and it was so exciting to finally hold it in my hands. It is a beautiful book and I am proud and grateful to be a part of it!

Every River on Earth

3. This inspiring post from Nicole at Life Less BS with some concrete tips for achieving any of your goals using a simple, little-by-little approach. I especially liked this quote:

“Change doesn‚Äôt have to be huge in order to be hugely impactful. If you‚Äôre sitting there waiting until you have ‘enough time’ or the ‘right circumstances’ to make a big change, you‚Äôre making it too hard on yourself. Who says¬†big changes are¬†the only way? Who says¬†it has to be all or nothing?”

4. I baked some delicious sunflower butter cookies using this recipe, adding in both dark chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. They turned out great! Definitely a make-again. Plus, they are gluten-free!

sunflower butter cookies

5.¬†Valentine’s Day! This has always been one of my favorite holidays, whether I’ve been single or in a relationship, because it is all about letting the people you love know that you love them. If you’re looking for some sweet, inexpensive Valentine’s gift ideas, here are some ideas! My favorite way to celebrate is with cards. I still have the cards my parents sent me last year up in my room:

valentines

This year, I’m teaching during most of the day, and then Allyn and I are going out to dinner and to a movie. You can bet I already have my outfit all picked out and am going to bake some red velvet crinkle cookies tonight! ūüôā

red velvet cookies

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?
  • Are you doing anything to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

goals for the week of 12/7

Hi there, friends! Hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend! Mine has been very busy, but a good kind of busy. Friday night I got together with Dana for dinner at a delicious Korean restaurant called Mixed Grain.

Mixed Grains

We sat there eating, talking and laughing for close to three hours and ended up closing the place down! One bonus of staying so long was that the waitress came over and asked if we wanted free cupcakes {I think they would have gone to waste otherwise…} We of course said yes and they were absolutely delicious! Not to mention beautiful — check out this delicate rose made out of buttercream frosting:

rose cupcake

Yesterday morning, I had a long catch-up phone call with my friend Janet before I ran off to teach my four back-to-back classes of kiddos! After a couple weeks away due to the holiday, they were more energy-filled than ever. Some of them said they missed me, which was quite sweet. I missed them too, but I was also more than happy to collapse on my couch last night and relax while catching up on two of my favorite shows, Nashville & The Newsroom!

This morning, I was up bright and early to tutor a couple kiddos, and then I headed over to church, where I took part in the holiday crafts faire held from 10 a.m. Р3 p.m. I sold and autographed copies of my books and everyone was very supportive, encouraging and enthusiastic. It made my heart so happy. I feel very grateful to be part of such a warm and welcoming congregation. I must admit, I was a little worried that it would seem like a long day {being from 10-3!} but the time flew by thanks to lots of delightful conversations and visiting with people.

After church I drove to my sweetheart’s apartment where we are now getting ready to make some veggie pasta for dinner.¬†But before I go… time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from the past couple¬†weeks:¬†
– write a new chapter of my memoir {this totally fell by the wayside this week}
– finish holiday cards {almost done!}
–¬†finish student evaluations {started, not finished}
publicize my¬†Winter Writing Camp {it’s halfway filled already!}
–¬†go to two yoga classes {I made it to three!}
connect with two friends

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– write a new chapter of my memoir
– finish holiday cards
–¬†finish student evaluations
– finish reading short story collection
–¬†go to two yoga classes
– connect with two friends

Questions of the day:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What are your favorite Thanksgiving recipes?

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

a year of Wooden: week 34

Good morning, everyone! My uncle Frankie just hit the road back down to L.A. after a nice morning of visiting with me and my grandparents over breakfast. Now I’m drinking tea and taking care of some emails/business stuff before heading out to Starbucks for a writing session. {I always get more productive writing done at Starbucks than at home. I crave the background noise and busy¬†atmosphere.} Then I’m hoping to have a gym session this evening!

Before I get moving, time for¬†this week’s¬†year of Wooden¬†challenge! Since Wednesday is the start of October, we’re going to move onto our October challenge this week…

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}

Back in January, we began this year-long challenge with the first item from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Drink deeply from good books. In September, we focused on poetry because Coach Wooden had a deep love for poetry.

Last¬†week’s challenge¬†was to read¬†New and Selected Poems: Volume One by Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver poems

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets — I shared her beautiful poem “The Summer Day” earlier this year as a mid-week meditation — and for this week I’d like to share her poem about one of my favorite things:

The Sunflowers

Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines

creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.
Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy

but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young —
the important weather,

the wandering crows.
Don’t be afraid
to ask them questions!
Their bright faces,

which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds —
each one a new life! —

hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.

You all know how much I love sunflowers, so it’s no wonder I was drawn to this poem. At first, I simply reveled in the beauty of the lines and the perfect description of sunflowers — their creaky spines, heavy green leaves, bright faces like “burnished disks.” But as I read the poem through a few times, what I was most left with was a sense of quiet strength, confidence, and hope.¬†I love the lines about “turning their lives/into a celebration” even though this is not an easy task. I think that is a noble task¬†for all of us to attempt!

sunflowers

Now, let’s move onto our challenge for October. This is a reprise of our February challenge, from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Make friendship a fine art. For October, we’re returning to this point, but instead of improving existing friendships, we are going to focus on nurturing new friendships.

This week’s challenge is to reach out to an acquaintance you would like to get to know better, and invite them to do something — coffee, lunch, a movie, etc. Reach out and get to know this person better!

friendship quote

Questions for the day:

  • What is your favorite poem by Mary Oliver?
  • How do you make life a celebration?
  • What new friend will you reach out to this week?

new haircut! & other random tidbits

Hello, friends! Just poppin’ in to say hello. How is your day going?

It’s been a busy morning around here… my favorite kind of busy, productive weekday morning. I woke up early and, after a bowl of oatmeal with sliced apple and walnuts, I headed over to Starbucks for a pumpkin chai latte and a couple hours of writing. This afternoon, I’ve got some tutoring and editing projects on the agenda.

starbucks work sesh

Here are some odds & ends on my mind today…

I got a haircut! Crazy how something as simple as trimming a couple inches off my hair can make me feel so rejuvenated.

new haircut

I’m so happy The Good Wife is back! The first episode of the season was a real nail-biter and I am already on pins-and-needles for next week! The Good Wife is one of the only shows I watch on a regular basis. My parents, grandparents, and aunt Annie watch it, too, so it’s fun discussing¬†each new episode every Monday morning. Do you have any shows like that?

On Sunday night Allyn watched my favorite romantic movie, Serendipity, with me! There’s something about autumn that always makes me crave this movie. As I told Allyn: “My love for Serendpity will never die.” I also love the beautiful instrumental theme song of the movie, January Rain by David Gray.

Serendipity

Yesterday Grandma and I watched the movie Iris on TV about the life of British writer Iris Murdoch. I thought it was heartbreaking but really well done, and now I’m inspired to read Irish Murdoch’s books — I think I might start with her classic The Sea, The Sea.

Speaking of books and writers… I tweeted to JoJo Moyes about how much I loved her book One Plus One, and she tweeted me back! September must be the month for celebrity encounters… remember last year when I ran into Casey James at Starbucks?

jojo moyes tweet

I made a batch of my favorite pb cup brownies {I gave most to Allyn but kept a couple for myself, too!} and I’ll probably polish off the last one tonight.¬†Treats like this just make the week feel more special.

pb cup brownies

Questions of the day:

  • What are your favorite TV shows?
  • Has someone you admire every replied to a tweet you sent? Or have you ever had a celebrity encounter?
  • What treats make your ordinary days more special?

a year of Wooden: week 33

Good morning, everyone! Hope you’re feeling recharged after the weekend! I slept in a little this morning, which felt SO nice after a busy weekend of travel and commitments. Now I’m easing into the day with a hot mug of tea and some pb + banana toast, sprinkled with chia seeds on top for a bit of healthy crunch!

pb banana toast

What do you have going on today? I am¬†hoping to get LOTS of¬†productive work done on my novel.¬†Then, later this afternoon I’m meeting with one of my favorite students for a tutoring session. But for now, 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.

Back in January, we began this year-long challenge with the first item from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Drink deeply from good books. Now, in September, we are focusing on poetry because Coach Wooden had a deep love for poetry.

Last¬†week’s challenge¬†was to read¬†The Soul of Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. {Thanks to my brother for letting me borrow his copy!}

Rumi

I love how Rumi’s poems are so wise and filled with imagery and meaning, while also being accessible to the average reader like me. Reading this collection, I felt like my spirit was lifted up. His poems made me feel more in touch with the greater meaning and spirituality of life. It¬†was really difficult to choose just one poem to share, so I ended up narrowing my favorites¬†down to these two short poems:

One Song

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured

into a huge basin. All religions, all this singing,
one song.

The differences are just illusion and vanity. Sunlight
looks slightly different

on this wall than it does on that wall and a lot different
on this other one, but

it is still one light. We have borrowed these clothes, these
time-and-space personalities,

from a light, and when we praise, we pour them back in.

I love this poem because it makes me feel hopeful and it celebrates the unity between all of us as living beings. Too often, I think, we focus on our differences. We use those differences as reasons to divide us. But, like the poem says, deep down we are all singing one song, together. I love the metaphor of the same sunlight on different walls. And the end of this poem gives me goosebumps every time.

rumi quote

The Most Alive Moment

The most living moment comes when
those who love each other meet each

other’s eyes and in what flows
between them then. To see your face

in a crowd of others, or alone on a
frightening street, I weep for that.

Our tears improve the earth. The
time you scolded me, your gratitude,

your laughing, always your qualities
increase the soul. Seeing you is a

wine that does not muddle or numb.
We sit inside the cypress shadow

where amazement and clear thought
twine their slow growth into us.

At the end of this poem, I can’t help but¬†sigh with contentment. I feel a release within me. Do you feel it, too? I think this poem beautifully captures the wonder, refuge and delight of loving another person. I especially love the lines: “To see your face/in a crowd of others, or alone on a/frightening street, I weep for that.” And the ending image of slow growth and understanding is an important one — love not as a lightning bolt in¬†a fickle rainstorm, but something steady and nurturing like a tree.

rumi love quote

This week, I’ll be reading New and Selected Poems: Volume One by Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver poems

Next week, I’ll share my favorite poem from the collection, and I’d love to hear yours as well!

Questions for the day:

  • What is your favorite poem of¬†Rumi?
  • What makes you feel alive or inspired?

a year of Wooden: week 32

Hi, friends! How are you doing on this marvelous Monday? Hope your week is off to a great start!

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.

Back in January, we began this year-long challenge with the first item from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Drink deeply from good books. Now, in September, we are focusing on poetry because Coach Wooden had a deep love for poetry.

Last¬†week’s challenge¬†was to read¬†Good Poems, an anthology of poetry selected by Garrison Keillor.

good poems

There were so many poems I loved in this collection! It’s hard to choose just one to share. But I think I’ll end up going with this one by Tom Hennen, “The Life of a Day”… I really love the message.

The Life of a Day

Like people or dogs, each day is unique and has
its own personality quirks which can easily be seen
if you look closely. But there are so few days as
compared to people, not to mention dogs, that it
would be surprising if a day were not a hundred
times more interesting than most people. But
usually they just pass, mostly unnoticed, unless
they are wildly nice, like autumn ones full of red
maple trees and hazy sunlight, or if they are grimly
awful ones in a winter blizzard that kills the lost
traveler and bunches of cattle. For some reason
we like to see days pass, even though most of us
claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a
long time. We examine each day before us with
barely a glance and say, no, this isn’t one I’ve been
looking for, and wait in a bored sort of way for
the next, when, we are convinced, our lives will
start for real. Meanwhile, this day is going by perfectly
well-adjusted, as some days are, with the
right amounts of sunlight and shade, and a light
breeze scented with a perfume made from the
mixture of fallen apples, corn stubble, dry oak
leaves, and the faint odor of last night’s meandering skunk.

My favorite sentence in the poem is, “For some reason¬†we like to see days pass, even though most of us¬†claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a¬†long time.” That line struck me as so honest and true. Why do we behave this way? Why do we like to see the passing of days? One thing I have really been working on lately is enjoying and savoring the ordinary routines of my days. I also like this poem’s message of treating each day as a beautifully unique entity, and to appreciate each and every one you are given!

This week, I’ll be reading The Soul of Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks.

Rumi

Next week, I’ll share my favorite poem from the collection, and I’d love to hear yours as well!

Questions for the day:

  • What is your favorite poem in Good Poems?
  • Have you ever read poetry by the ancient poet Rumi?

a year of Wooden: week 31

Hi, friends! Happy Tuesday! I don’t know where the week is going…

Just poppin’ in 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.

Back in January, we began this year-long challenge with the first item from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Drink deeply from good books. Now, in September, we are focusing on poetry because Coach Wooden had a deep love for poetry.

Last¬†week’s challenge¬†was to read Selected Poems¬†of Robert Frost.

Selected Poems Robert Frost

I love so many of Robert Frost’s poems — “The Road Not Taken“; “Birches“; “After Apple-Picking” to name just a few. Reading through this collection, I discovered a new-to-me poem that has become one of my new favorites. I think it fits this end-of-summer season very well, so I wanted to share it with you:

HYLA BROOK

By June our brook’s run out of song and speed.
Sought for much after that, it will be found
Either to have gone groping underground
(And taken with it all the Hyla breed
That shouted in the mist a month ago,
Like ghost of sleigh-bells in a ghost of snow)–
Or flourished and come-up in jewel-weed,
Weak foliage that is blown upon and bent
Even against the way its waters went.
Its bed is left a faded paper sheet
Of dead leaves stuck together by the heat–
A brook to none but who remember long.
This as it will be seen is other far
Than with brooks taken otherwhere in song.
We love the things we love for what they are.

The poem’s themes of transition and the poignancy of change — echoing another poem of Frost’s I love, “Nothing gold can stay” — are a gentle reminder to enjoy the beauties and fruits of each season as they last. The brook in the poem has dried up; it is no longer a beautiful brook filled with water. Yet the speaker in the poem can remember it clearly when it had “song and speed,” and still loves the brook even though it is now nothing but “dead leaves stuck together by the heat.”¬†I really love the ending line, which makes me think of a love that endures and sees beneath the shallow surface.

For this week’s challenge, I will be reading Good Poems, an anthology of poetry selected by Garrison Keillor.¬†

good poems

Next week, I’ll share my favorite poem from the collection, and I’d love to hear yours as well!

Questions for the day:

  • What is your favorite poem by Robert Frost?
  • Who are some of your favorite poets?

happy mother’s day!!! + goals for the week of 5/11

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone! I feel so lucky that I get to spend part of today at home with my amazing mama. She is one of the sweetest, most kindhearted people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing, and getting to grow up {and, let’s be honest, I’m still learning and growing!} with her as my mom and role model feels like winning the lottery. I love you, Mom!

me and mom balloon festival

I hope that you are getting to do something extra-special to celebrate the mothers in your life today! We are making brunch for my mom: nothing fancy, just toast, bacon, fruit salad, and her favorite scrambled eggs with veggies + potatoes. {But if you’re looking for fancy, scroll down to the end of this post for some drool-worthy brunch recipes!}¬†Here is a post I wrote a couple years ago about trying to do little things to celebrate Mother’s Day every day.

It has truly been a fantastic weekend at home with my family and friends, celebrating my cousin Julie’s wedding! Recap post coming soon, stay tuned. ūüôā

In the meantime… it’s time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
–¬†write¬†eight pages
–¬†send out three query letters/submissions
–¬†finish midterm evals¬†of students
–¬†finish reading¬†The Kitchen God’s Wife
–¬†go to one¬†yoga class
–¬†have an amazing time celebrating Julie + Chris’s wedding!

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
–¬†write ten pages
–¬†send out three query letters/submissions
–¬†finish midterm evals¬†of students
– read up to page 400 in Wolf Hall
–¬†go to two yoga classes
–¬†connect with two friends

And here are some fantastic brunch recipes:
cornmeal waffles with blackberry compote via Two Peas & Their Pod
raspberry almond scones via Two Peas & Their Pod
blueberry multigrain french toast bake via The Pajama Chef
healthy vegan banana bread via the real-life rd
sweet potato muffins via Peanut Butter Fingers
snickerdoodle bread via Chew Out Loud
my own french toast bake¬†based on The Pioneer Woman’s recipe {I need to make this again sometime! it was ridiculously good!}

french toast

Questions of the day:

  • How are you celebrating Mother’s 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 #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