a year of living simply: week 6

Happy Wednesday, dear readers! I hope you are all doing great and enjoying this “short” week after the Presidents’ Day holiday. This morning I’m cooking up a batch of chili but instead of using ground turkey, I’m subbing in roasted butternut squash inspired by this veggie chili recipe I found. I’ll let you know how it turns out! I’m bringing dinner to Allyn’s tonight after I teach my Wednesday afternoon classes for Communication Academy.

Before we get into this week’s simplicity challenge, I wanted to share with you this outstanding fundraising project The Minimalists are doing to build a school in Laos. They’ve partnered with Jhai Coffee, the world’s first completely philanthropic coffee roaster and cafe, started by Tyson Adams. Here’s a brief excerpt from their blog post:

Today, under half of the population of Laos has access to clean, safe drinking water. So Tyson decided that perhaps he could focus less on his material possessions and instead find ways to help.

Since 2013, Jhai has partnered with the Lao Government; Jhai Coffee Farmers Cooperative (JCFC); and a private water-filter company, TerraClear, to serve 23 schools—helping 3,277 children along the way. In less than two years, they have provided 25 water purification filters (filtering up to 99.99% of bacteria, parasites, and suspended solids); completed 21 WASH programs (Jhai’s Hygiene program); installed seven Unicef-manufactured water pumps at schools that previously had no access; built a coffee storage warehouse for the JCFC where farmers house their coffee in a safe, climate-controlled environment, which increases profits for each family; and given organic-coffee training to fifteen member villages for increased quality and future earning potential.

All of this because one man said no to the status quo and yes to contribution.

You can read more here. Check it out — I was so inspired! And now… on to this week’s simplicity challenge!

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to get digitally organized and simplified. I’m going to be honest and admit something to you guys: my computer was a disorganized mess. I had set up file folders at some point, but many of them hadn’t been used in ages. For a while I’d been saving most documents to my Desktop, which was so cluttered with .doc files that you couldn’t even see the faces of me and my brother in my Desktop photo. It was overwhelming to even get started, but I told myself just to do a little bit every day and see where the end of the week got me.

Now my computer isn’t completely organized, but I’d say I’m about 80% there. It is SO much better than it was before. I set up a system of file folders for different projects I’m working on, and broke up my .doc files into different categories so now I can find things easily. Speaking of which… I found a bunch of beginnings of stories and essays that I had started at one time and then forgotten about, and I’m so excited to get back to them! It felt like discovering hidden treasure.

This week’s challenge is to identify one project or task that you have been putting off, and DO it. Or, if it’s a bigger project, do the first step. Often we put something off because we think it’s going to be a chore, but the irony is that it becomes so much more of a chore the longer we put it off because it continues to take up our brain space. Don’t let this task take up any more of your life — get it over with this week!

Questions for the morning:

  • How did it go getting your computer organized?
  • What tasks do you tend to put off?

goals + recipes for the week of 4/13

Hi friends! Hope you’re enjoying a lovely weekend! Yesterday I was busy teaching all day — I taught four classes as part of my new job working for Communication Academy. I was pretty tired last night, but I had so much fun working with such exuberant, energetic kids!

Today was a relaxing yet productive day. I opted to sleep in and go to the later church service, because sometimes you just need to hit snooze! Today’s sermon was so inspiring: all about redefining “failure” and life’s disappointments as a step forward and getting up to try again. It was a great reminder of the importance of perseverance and faith.

After visiting with some friends at post-church coffee hour, I headed over to one of my favorite local coffee shops for some lunch, a chai latte, and a work sesh! Something about working in a crowded, noisy cafe does wonders for my productivity. Is it like that for anyone else?

Speaking of productivity… Sunday means it’s time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past 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 my goals for this upcoming week:
– write 12 pages
– prepare for teaching & tutoring this week
– send out three query letters
– read up to page 250 of The Kitchen God’s Wife
– go to two yoga classes
– connect with three friends

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
– spicy seedy power crackers via Robyn @the real-life rd
grapefruit arugula salad via Sarah @The Pajama Chef
– peanut butter & raisin muffins via Danica @It’s Progression
– healthified fettuccine alfredo via Money-Saving Mom
healthy dark chocolate pudding via Two Peas & Their Pod

Questions of the day:

  • What was a highlight of your weekend?
  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

goals for the week {a day late!}

Hiiiiii friends! Wow, can you believe that tomorrow is already Christmas Eve? Time is flowing by crazy-fast! This past week has I think been one of the busiest weeks of my entire life. One of those weeks where every day feels packed-to-the-brim with important, meaningful stuff.

I’ve been able to meet up with a number of dear friends for coffee dates and dinner dates and hiking dates … special time to talk-talk-talk and catch up with people I love and don’t get to see nearly enough. The fam and I watched some of our favorite holiday movies: Serendipity, Love Actually, and It’s a Wonderful Life. {<– my all-time favorite movie EVER.} I was honored to teach writing workshops at three separate schools {one elementary school, one middle school, and my alma mater high school} in addition to my Winter Writing Camp on Saturday. Nothing inspires me quite like being in a room full of young writers writing!

In addition to all of this, we celebrated my brother’s birthday yesterday {happy 24 Gregburn! I love you!} and threw an absolutely lovely and fun bridal shower for my cousin Julie. Plus the typical holiday cookie-baking, card-writing, present-wrapping, etc! Here are some photos from my week:

family with gramps

The girls with Gramps before Julie’s bridal shower.

cupcakes

I made two dozen cupcakes for Julie’s shower … a dozen chocolate with peanut butter frosting, and a dozen red velvet with cream cheese frosting!

loving murray

Murray lovin’!

brothers

Brothers!

And now … on to my goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals for the week of 12/15:
– write 10 pages of new material {yeah, this didn’t even come close to happening this week…}
– take cookies & cards to the nursing home {doing this tomorrow!}
– exercise at least twice
– finish reading The Tea Rose {less than 100 pages left}
order holiday cards
teach a fantastic Winter Writing Camp
throw a wonderful bridal shower for my cousin Julie
connect with two friends

And here are my goals for this week:
– soak up time with my family and friends!
– journal/reflect on this past year
– set my goals for 2014, wooooohoooo!

I’ll be back tomorrow with the week 51 year of kindness challenge!

This post is linked up with Menu-Plan Monday.
MPM-Winter

year of kindness challenge: week 49

year of kindness button

Hi, friends! I feel like it’s been for.ev.er since I’ve written a blog post … this past week has been crazy-busy! But the good kind of crazy, the filled-up-to-the-brim-with-good-things kind:

  • Last Wednesday I gave a reading at San Jose State as part of my Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing, and it went wonderfully! I feel so grateful and supported by the university. The audience was warm and even laughed at the humorous lines in my story. My dad also drove up from Ventura for my reading and it was so special to have him there!
  • On Friday, Dad and I went to a talk by Ken Burns, the amazing documentary filmmaker. It was fantastic! I was so moved by Burns’ passion and dedication to history, preservation, art and learning.

me and Dad

  • This weekend was jam-packed with friend and family time. Nothing like catching up with good friends after some time apart. Plus the gingerbread flavor is back at Starbucks! Bring on the gingerbread chai!
  • The sermon at church on Sunday was about “surrender.” I’ve been thinking a lot about it the past couple days, and a longer post is coming once I’ve gathered my thoughts together a bit.

And now… on to the kindness!

Last week’s kindness challenge was to help someone put up holiday decorations, write/address holiday cards, or wrap presents. I helped my Grandma get the house all decorated for Christmas {and dusted/swept/cleaned} in preparation for a luncheon party she is hosting on Thursday for her bridge friends. Doesn’t the mantel look nice?

grandma christmas mantel

The Week 49 Kindness Challenge is to give a warm drink to a toll-booth worker, newspaper delivery person, or your mailman/ mailwoman. Alternatively, pay the toll for the car behind you in line.

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.

Have a joyful week!
– Dallas

P.S.: Head on over to this Year of Kindness Challenge page to see all the archived posts from the previous 48 weeks!

Questions of the day:

  • What were the highlights of your weekend?
  • What acts of kindness happened in your life this past week?

fabulous friday #4

Happy Friday, everyone! I’m writing this from the beautiful new John McKay Student Athletic Center at USC … so excited to be back at my alma mater for Homecoming weekend!

Here are five things I’m happy about:

1. Getting to hang out with my brother! This guy makes me laugh like no one else on the planet. I love him so much!

dal and greg

2. The USC Homecoming football game! I’m going with my friend Ben, who I haven’t seen in far too long … can’t wait to catch up. My parents are also driving down tomorrow morning and we’re going to tailgate with them and my brother’s business school friends. Should be a ton of fun! {Apparently last time my mom went to the tailgate with my brother, everyone thought she was a Dean, haha. She’s just such a dignified lady.} 🙂

Greg USC

3. This morning I had a coffee date with Erica at our favorite local coffee shop Simone’s. Nothing like a pumpkin chai latte and two hours of laugh-filled conversation with this beautiful lady to get my weekend off to a great start!

me and Erica at Simones

Simone's chai

4. My dad took me out for a sushi lunch date before I headed down to USC. He’s such a sweetie! When I was living at home we’d try to go on lunch dates every Friday, so it was extra special to continue our tradition when I was home today.

Dad at sushi

Pops says, FIGHT ON!

5. Mr. Murdog was oh-so-excited when I came home and gave me the most exuberant, tail-wagging welcome. And I got to take him out on a walk with my mom last night after dinner, which is one of my favorite rituals. I love walking and talking with my mama!

me and Murray

Murray!

If you couldn’t tell … I’m happy to be back home for the weekend!

Questions of the day:

  • What are your weekend plans?
  • What are you happy about on this lovely Friday?

year of kindness challenge: week 43

The autumn decorations are up at my grandma’s house, and I love them!

autumn decorations

They make me smile every time I walk through the door. 🙂 I absolutely adore this time of year! The weather turned the past couple days and it truly feels like autumn. There is a cold crispness to the air and frost is expected here on the ground in the morning. I’ve busted out my cozy sweaters, scarves and boots!

Now, on to the kindness…

year of kindness button

This past week’s kindness challenge was to buy someone else’s morning java fix or afternoon caffeine boost. I gave $10 to the barista at Starbucks to pay for the drink of the next person who came in, and said to keep whatever change there was as a tip. Two acts of kindness in one! It brightened my entire day. 🙂

The Week 43 Kindness Challenge is to take a batch of Halloween treats to a nursing home, fire station, police department, or school … anywhere that could use some Halloween treats, not tricks!

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.

Have a marvelous week!
– Dallas

P.S.: Head on over to this Year of Kindness Challenge page to see all the archived posts from the previous 42 weeks!

Questions of the day:

  • What kindnesses happened in your life this past week?
  • Do you decorate your house for autumn?

year of kindness challenge: week 42

year of kindness button

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope your week is off to a good start. 🙂 The BART strike continues up here in the Bay Area, and I feel so bad for all of the commuters into the city who rely on BART and now have to find other means of transportation. Please send good thoughts that the issues get resolved soon and the trains will start running again!

My cousin Arianna went to the Homecoming Dance this weekend and she looked absolutely gorgeous! I love this photo of her and my grandma … we were calling them our two ladies in red:

arianna homecoming

Yesterday was another family-filled day, and I loved it! In the morning I headed over to cheer on my cousin Makena in her soccer game — not only did her team win, but she scored three goals! I was so proud. She is quite the soccer star!

Then I headed over to the U.U. church a couple towns over {the closest one to where I live now} … it was my first time going to this particular church, and everyone was so welcoming and kind. The church itself is stunningly beautiful, on top of a mountain, and the chapel has a ton of windows looking out over the green hills and the valley below. I was definitely happy I made the drive, and I plan to go back next Sunday! It can be intimidating to walk into a new church, and it takes me a few weeks to feel completely comfortable and to start recognizing familiar faces.

In the evening, we got together for dinner with my other aunt’s family. Grandma and I made an apple cake with cinnamon crumb topping and brown sugar glaze … YUM! It was actually a very easy recipe, and was a big hit with everyone. Grandpap even went back for thirds! I’ll have to share the recipe on here soon.

apple cake

Now … on to the kindness! Last week’s kindness challenge was to advocate for someone, particularly someone younger or newer or just starting out on their career path. I sent a dozen or so emails to young writers with contest information I came across, and I also spoke on the phone to a few high school students about their writing and college applications. I always come away from these conversations inspired myself — I hope they felt the same way!

The Week 42 Kindness Challenge is to buy someone else’s morning java fix or afternoon caffeine boost. This might mean paying for the person behind you in line at Starbucks or bringing lattes to your coworkers as a mid-week treat. Whatever strikes your fancy!

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.

Now I’m off to work on fellowship apps and then go for a run at the gym. Have a wonderful day!

❤ Dallas

P.S.: The archives were getting pretty loooooong below each new post, so head on over to this Year of Kindness Challenge page to see all the archived posts from the previous 41 weeks!

Questions of the morning:

  • What kindnesses happened in your life this past week?
  • Have you ever moved to a new town and had to start out at a new church? Do you have any advice about making the transition?

year of kindness challenge: week 12

year of kindness button

Hi, everyone! Hope your week is off to a good start.

Last week’s kindness challenge was to thank someone in a genuine and meaningful way. I wrote three thank-you notes to friends, and I also tried to be extra-aware of the many small kindnesses and smiles that people give me in everyday life. For every “Thank you!” I said, I tried to fill my words with genuine warmth and gratitude. And, whaddaya know? Just that simple awareness made me feel more grateful.

This past week’s challenge also got me thinking about the various people in the community who are there, keeping me safe in the event of an emergency … which inspired this week’s act of kindness: The Week 12 Kindness Challenge is to deliver something sweet — coffee, cookies, baked goods, etc. — to your local fire station. 

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.

-Dallas

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year of kindness archives:
– week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
– week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
– week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note
– week 4 challenge: give hot chocolate to someone outside in the cold
– week 5 challenge: do something kind for a neighbor
– week 6 challenge: deliver valentines to a nursing home
– week 7 challenge: donate to a food pantry
– week 8 challenge: donate toiletries to a shelter
– week 9 challenge: post a kind note in a public place
– week 10 challenge: do something kind for a child
week 11 challenge: thank someone in a genuine & meaningful way

year of kindness challenge: week 4

year of kindness button

Happy Monday! How did the #yearofkindness challenge go for you this past week?

The week 3 challenge was to send a kind note to brighten someone’s day. I sent quite a few handwritten cards this week — I aimed for one per day — and it put me in such a good mood! There’s something about sending good old-fashioned snail mail that seems extra-special these days. I slid the stamped envelopes in the mailbox and thought about the recipients opening their mailboxes in a few days to find a card from me, and it was the best feeling! This kindness stuff is addicting! 🙂

kind notes

Here are some good things that happened in my world this week:

  • I was alerted that one of my fellowship applications was incomplete with enough time to send in the required materials to complete it … they definitely did not have to take the time to email me about the incomplete materials, and I am SO very grateful they did not just throw my application out! {Whew!}
  • Funnily enough, I received some happy surprise mail this week — a letter and clipped cartoons from my Gramps! He is not very computer savvy and I am pretty sure he does not read this blog {I don’t think he knows what a blog is!} so it was serendipity that he participated in last week’s kindness challenge!
  • One of my best friends got an exciting {and very much deserved} job promotion. Woo hoo!
  • I bumped into a professor I had last semester, who thoughtfully told me that one of her current undergraduate students took my creative writing course over the summer and had great things to say about it. What a nice compliment that totally made my day!

Okay, now on to the Week 4 Kindness Challenge: give hot chocolate or coffee to someone out in the cold who could use a bit of warmth! Some possibilities: a construction worker, a toll booth operator, a crossing guard, a bus monitor, a mail deliverer … or I’m sure you can think of others!

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.

Have a marvelous week!
-Dallas

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year of kindness archives:
week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note