my birthday wish + giveaway

Hi, friends, and happy Thursday! My 27th birthday is a week from today, and during the next week I’m planning to celebrate by doing 27 random acts of kindness! I’m really excited about it and will be sharing highlights and photos from all the acts of kindness next week, so stay tuned.

my birthday wish

In the meantime, I’d love to invite you to join in on the kindness! Just like last year, I’d love if you would create a random acts of kindness chain with me. To participate all you have to do is perform an act of kindness in the next week, and then leave a comment below sharing what you did.

On Friday, May 30, I’ll randomly select one winner from all the comments to receive a personally autographed copy of my collection of short stories, 3 a.m.

3 a.m. book cover

I’m so excited to hear about all the love and kindness you spread in the world this week! Looking for ideas of random acts of kindness? Here are 52 of them!

Questions of the day:

  • Have you ever participated in a kindness chain before?
  • What are your favorite ways to celebrate your birthday?

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. 🙂

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!

grandma’s birthday dinner

Last night we celebrated my grandma’s 82nd birthday with a nice family dinner out at The Club. It was a lovely excuse to dress up and Mom and I had a fun time getting ready together side-by-side in front of my bathroom mirror. This beautiful lady is not just my mom, she is also one of my best friends, and I’m so grateful to have her here this week!

mama and me

The evening flew by with excellent food and wonderful company. Whenever my family all gets together, there is plenty of hugging, talking, interrupting, laughter, storytelling, and picture-taking. Last night was no exception. 🙂

the girls at gmas bday

me and arianna

me and al gmas bday

I absolutely love this photo of my grandparents:

gparents gmas bday

We missed my dad and brother, but they sent Grandma flowers — sunflowers! yaaay! — that are brightening up the living room hearth.

sunflowers

Now Mom, Grandma, Grandpap and I are curling up on the couch with some popcorn to watch Saving Mr. Banks. I’ll be back tomorrow with this week’s year of Wooden post.

Question of the evening:

  • What was the highlight of your weekend?

happy st. patrick’s day & weekend recap

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, friends! Hope you’re doing something fun to celebrate. I made myself a spinach-green smoothie paired with some delicious edamame hummus & crackers for lunch.

hummus & smoothie

Then tonight I’m getting together with Dana to do something fun. I’m excited!

Here’s a round-up of delicious, healthy “green” recipes that would be perfect for St. Patrick’s Day, or any day: http://greatist.com/health/healthy-green-recipes-st-patricks-day

This weekend was a blast. I went to Sausalito for the first time, and it was a gorgeous day to explore this adorable seaside town.

sausalito
in sausalito

There was a man making amazing sculptures along the water simply by stacking rocks and bricks and balancing them. I have no idea how he does this! I was blown away.

sculptures

On Sunday, Allyn & I got together with Dana & her boyfriend Brad for lunch. It was another beautiful day and we sat outside and chowed down on delicious burgers. Perfect way to wind down the weekend!

Dana and Brad

me and Al

me and Dana

Tomorrow I’ll be back with this week’s “year of Wooden” post. Have fun tonight and be safe!

Questions of the afternoon:

  • What were your highlights of the weekend?
  • What are you doing to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

goals for the week of 3/9

I have one question for all of you: where did the weekend go??? Hard to believe it’s already Monday. I hope you have great things in store for the week! On my agenda: a fellows meeting in San Jose, a reading to celebrate the launch of the latest issue of Arroyo Literary Review, some church events, and hopefully lots & lots of writing! I came back from the AWP conference last week feeling super inspired and bursting with writing ideas, and I’m trying to harness as much energy and time as possible to get words down on paper.

Speaking of which, it’s time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
– write 10 pages
send AWP thank-you notes
– go to two yoga classes
read & comment on story for fellows workshop next week
– finish reading The Empty House by Nathan Oates
– connect with three friends

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– write 15 pages
– submit three pieces to journals
– go to two yoga classes
– finish reading The Empty House by Nathan Oates
– connect with three friends
– take Arianna out for a coffee date

Before I wrap this up, I want to give a birthday shout-out to my wonderful friend Erica. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SWEETS! ❤ I love you more than our sixth-grade selves loved Johnny Depp & Britney Spears.

baby photobomb

The infamous photo-bombing baby shot from Ghiradelli Square!

Questions of the morning:

  • What are your goals for this week?
  • What were your highlights of this past weekend?

goals for the week of 3/2

Hi, friends! I’m back from my trip to Seattle! Such a whirlwind, jam-packed, inspiring, informative, amazing time. Lots of late nights + early mornings because I didn’t want to miss a thing. It felt so good to collapse into my own bed last night — I slept like a rock! Woke up late this morning and have spent the day nourishing my body with green smoothies + green tea, unpacking my suitcase, doing laundry, and trying to staunch the craziness that is my overflowing email inbox.

But … backtrack to last week. Janet and I enjoyed a gorgeous sunny day exploring San Francisco! I love walking down by the water. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I actually live in this postcard-perfect place.

20140223_114400 20140223_114410

We met up for dinner with some of Janet’s grad-school friends who happen to live in SF now — small world! They were so friendly, fun and welcoming. On Monday, Janet came with me to San Jose because I was speaking to an undergraduate creative writing class. The students were thoughtful and attentive and asked lots of questions. They made my miss my former students at Purdue. I love teaching! That night Janet and I met up for vegan cuisine with an old friend from USC who now lives in San Jose, and it was wonderful to catch up. And on Tuesday we got together with Allyn, Michelle and Dana! I love when friends visit and get to meet other friends, when it feels like the different facets of your life are briefly able to coalesce.

That, in fact, was my favorite part of going to the AWP conference … it was a reunion of writers! I got to see friends from my undergrad days at USC, my grad school days at Purdue, and a conference I went to in Key West last year. Each night the final item on the conference agenda was a dance party, and it was such a unique brand of happiness of be able to spend a couple hours dancing my little heart out, surrounded by people I love who have inspired me at all different points of my writing journey. The hardest part was saying goodbye on Sunday! Even writing this, my eyes are misting a little bit. But as Dr. Seuss would say, “Don’t cry because it’s over — smile because it happened.” It’s a blessing and a privilege to miss people because it means I have so many amazing people in my life to miss!

The conference was so busy with lectures, seminars and events that I didn’t have too much time to explore the city, but I did make it to Seattle’s famous market — and the original Starbucks across the street! Yummm, soy chai.

seattle market

My friend Tera had a book-signing for the launch of her beautiful collection of poetry, Reading the Ground. I am bursting with pride for her!

tera booksigning

me and tera

I’ll be posting more conference recap and nuts-and-bolts writing thoughts on my other blog over these next couple weeks. Now it’s time for a goals recap!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
have an amazing time with Janet! go into the city, see a movie, take her to my favorite spots around town, and talk our faces off
– write 5 pages
prepare for my new tutoring client
– go to one yoga class {sign of a super-busy week: I couldn’t make it to my Tuesday yoga class before I left for Seattle!}
read fifty pages of The Empty House by Nathan Oates
have a blast at the AWP conference! {and I guess be sorta productive and learn something too}

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– write 10 pages
– send AWP thank-you notes
– go to two yoga classes
– read & comment on story for fellows workshop next week
– finish reading The Empty House by Nathan Oates
– connect with three friends

Questions of the morning:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What have been your highlights of this weekend?
  • What was the last trip you took?

goals for the week of 2/16

Hi everyone! How was your weekend? Mine was busy with lots of fun things … time with family, friends, church, shopping, reading and writing! On Saturday I had an amazing time in San Francisco participating in the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt. Have any of you done an “urban sleuthing adventure” before? This one is an annual scavenger hunt that happens on the day of the Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco. The hunt takes you all around Chinatown and North Beach looking for clues, competing against the other teams to solve mental puzzles and test your observation skills. It was such a unique, fun way to explore the city and see the parade at the same time! And our team did great, solving 12 out of the 16 clues before we ran out of time. Woo hoo! Afterwards we went to a Mediterranean restaurant for dinner, enjoying excellent food and conversation. Definitely one of my favorite experiences since moving up here in August!

chinese dragon

chinese new year

me and allyn

allyson and henry

Today the long weekend fun continues: we are celebrating my beautiful aunt Mary’s birthday. She is such an amazing person, so full of laughter and love. She tells the best stories, always builds people up with encouragement and support, and inspires so many kids every day as a middle school English & History teacher. I’m so proud to be her niece.

seesters

My Mom, Aunt Annie, and Aunt Mary

Happy birthday Mary!! We love you!

Now, on to goals…

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
– write 10 pages
– finish new short story I’m working on {This goal seems to keep being put on the back-burner. Maybe my story needs to percolate more before I put the words down on paper…}
– go to two yoga classes {I did yoga on my own, but only made it to one class because I took a friend to her doctor’s appointment on Thursday, during the time I normally go to back-to-back yoga classes. I’ll have to make it up this week!}
complete two chapters of copyediting project
submit to the I Am: Twenty-Seven project
send in final fellowship application
finish reading Power Ballads by Will Boast
connect with three friends

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– write 10 pages
– prepare for new tutoring job
– go to two yoga classes
– finish copyediting project
– begin reading The Empty House by Nathan Oates
– connect with three friends

Questions of the morning:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What have been your highlights of this weekend?

celebrating martin luther king, jr.

Today we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m celebrating by participating in a community service project and by doing as many random acts of kindness as I can fit into my day!

I’m also spending time today reading the words of Dr. King and reflecting on his wisdom. I was especially moved by this passage:

“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be changed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation.” {Source: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/pacificaviet/riversidetranscript.html}

My dad’s wonderful column this past week was about Dr. King and I want to share it with you as well: http://woodywoodburn.com/column-let-service-ring/

I’ll be back tomorrow with this week’s year of Wooden post. Hope you are having a beautiful day filled with service, compassion and reflection!

Question of the day:

  • What are you doing to celebrate MLK day?
  • What are your favorite words of wisdom from MLK?

5 thoughtful gift ideas for valentine’s day {or any day}

Today I was browsing Target while waiting for Charley’s routine service appointment to be over, and one thing was very clear: Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! Yes, people — hard to believe, but it’s officially less than a month away.

valentines-day

I LOVE love and I love Valentine’s Day. I’m single this year, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be celebrating my little heart out. I don’t know about you, but I think the scope of V-day is often presented too narrowly. Why just focus on romantic love? To me, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that celebrates love in all its forms; an excuse to let all of those special people in your life know how very much they mean to you.

So today I’ve rounded up some thoughtful gift ideas for Valentine’s Day — or any day, really!

1. Personalized gifts. Anytime you can personalize something, I think it makes the gift that much more thoughtful. For my cousin Julie’s bridal shower, I ordered this beautiful blanket for her and her husband-to-be from Personal Creations. The company embroidered a corner of the blanket with their names and wedding date. It turned out beautifully and I could tell that the personalized touch made the gift even more special to Julie.

2. Homemade cards. As attested by my massive stash of stationary, it’s obvious that I love browsing stationary and greeting card stores. {I sometimes need to put myself on “probation” from buying anything, my habit gets so out of control!} But, for every adorable Taylor Swift greeting card I have saved up to send to Holly, there’s something to be said for homemade cards. Knowing that you put in extra effort to craft not just the personal message inside, but every aspect of the card, makes it extremely thoughtful.

valentines cards

3. Creative gifts or craft projects. Use your imagination and have fun with it! Pinterest and blogs are a wealth of ideas for homemade gifts and creative scavenger-hunt-type gifts. I discovered this clever poster idea last year on Peanut Butter Fingers and thought it was so cute, thoughtful {and easy to do, even if you don’t consider yourself very craft-savvy!}

valentine sign

4. An experience that you can share together. Try something new like a painting class, wine tasting, disco bowling night, a local concert — any fun new experience that you can share with the recipient is a sweet gift that builds awesome memories.

5. Homemade baked goods. Okay, maybe I just love baking! 🙂 But in my opinion, you can never go wrong with homemade treats. Last year I made red velvet crinkle cookies for the nursing home and they were a big hit. Here are some other recipes you might try:
peanut butter cup brownies
white chocolate pretzels
chocolate-covered popcorn
strawberry coconut cookies
carrot cake with coconut cream-cheese frosting
butterscotch pudding cookies
classic chocolate chip cookies

red velvet cookies

Questions for the evening:

  • What are some of your favorite thoughtful gifts? {That you’ve given or that you’ve received!}
  • Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

year of kindness challenge: week 52

And just like that, we’re into our very final week of this year of kindness challenge. What a magical journey it has been, friends! Thank you to everyone who has participated along with me, suggested ideas for acts of kindness, and sent me encouraging emails and comments on my posts.

year of kindness button

One year ago, I started this year of kindness challenge as a way of trying to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Now, looking back, I believe it made the biggest positive difference in my own life. 2013 has been a rollercoaster of a year for me, with some of the biggest challenges I’ve ever gone through, and these acts of kindness were my lifeline. The people I’ve met along the way are now invaluable friends. I’ll be sharing the top five lessons I learned in next week’s wrap-up post, but for now, I just want to say this: THANK YOU! 

kind note

This past week’s kindness challenge {inspired by Martha Richards, the Executive Director of the WomenArts Foundation} was to reach out to an artist whose work touches you and tell him or her what you love about their work. I sent cards to two of my favorite local artists and teachers, Patti Post and Rima Muna. {Click on their names to visit their websites and check out their stunning artwork!}

artist notes

with rima

My brother and I with Rima at one of her art shows, a couple years ago.

The Week 52 Kindness Challenge, as we head into this sparkling new year, is to forgive someone. You can write a letter of forgiveness; you don’t even need to send it. You can have your own ceremony of letting go: burn a slip of paper in the fire to symbolize your release of anger and hurt. The person you forgive might even be yourself.  

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn AT gmail DOT com.

Oh, and before I wrap this up I also wanted to share this fabulous article that I came across thanks to Danica at It’s Progressionhttp://www.wellnesstoday.com/beauty-inspiration/8-messages-to-teach-young-women-and-girls-about-happiness

Savor these final hours of 2013, and let’s ring in 2014 with kindness!
-Dallas

P.S.: Head on over to this Year of Kindness Challenge page to see all the archived posts from the previous 51 weeks!

Questions of the day:

  • What are you doing to celebrate New Year’s?
  • What acts of kindness happened in your life this past week?