fabulous friday #18

It’s Friiiiiiidaaaayyy!! Hope you’re having a great one!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. My new part-time job teaching writing and public speaking classes for middle school kids! I taught my first classes on Wednesday afternoon and had an absolute blast. I feel so lucky to be able to spend time teaching and building confidence in these amazing young people! I’m already getting excited to teach my seventh annual Write On! Summer Writing Camp this July.

writing camp

2. The informal “book club” that my mom and I have started. A couple years ago, my mom made it her New Year’s Resolution to read more, and she started reading every day at work during her lunch break. Now she reads dozens of novels a year and she always recommends the best books to me! I love reading and talking about books with her. It’s a great way to stay close and connected even though we live far away.

me before you

One of my favorites of the books she’s recommended is Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. This is a tear-jerker {you’ve been warned! grab the tissues!} It is such a beautiful, well-written story — and extremely hard to put down, especially once you get to know the characters! Mom recommended it to me and once I finished it I passed the book along to my Aunt Annie, who said she was reading it at her hair appointment and two other women came up to her and raved about how much they loved it. When Annie finished it she gave it to my grandma, who just finished it last night, so now she and I have been talking about it too. I think it’s safe to say that we would all highly recommend this book!

3. My cousin Arianna rocked her drama performance last night! I am so proud of her. She absolutely *shines* onstage! Here is a video I took of her singing “Seasons of Love” for the show’s finale.

arianna performing

4. Speaking of great singers: Sara Bareilles’ new single “I Choose You” has been bopping around on the radio {and in my head!} all week. Oh my goodness, you guys, I can’t get enough of this song! It’s so catchy. Love her.

5. Baseball season! I had such a great time at the A’s game last weekend with Allyn & his family. Sunshine + hot dog + A’s win = happiness!

a's game

Now I’m off to tackle my to-do list before the weekend! Have a wonderful day, everyone!

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for this weekend?
  • Have you read any good books lately?

a year of Wooden: week 9

Hi everyone! It’s March, which means it’s time for a new month of my “year of Wooden” challenge! This month we are focusing on Coach Wooden’s creed to help others.

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books.
  • February: Make friendship a fine art.
  • March: Help others.

Last week, the challenge was to send a thank-you note to a friend. And my fortune cookie agreed:

fortune cookie

I sent notes to some friends who especially meant a lot to me this past year, when I was going through a tough time and they went above-and-beyond to be there for me. Writing down in words how grateful I am made me even MORE grateful. Isn’t it amazing how gratitude expands the more you practice it?

Another thing I’m grateful for: my sweet cousin Julie! I had the nicest note waiting from her when I got home from Seattle. Totally out of the blue, totally made my week. I love you, JuJu!

On the dance floor at Amanda's wedding this past summer...

On the dance floor at Amanda’s wedding this past summer…

This week, to kick off our month of helping others, the challenge is to help a perfect stranger who has no way of repaying you. This might mean corralling a stranger’s shopping cart in the parking lot, leaving an especially generous tip, paying for someone else’s public transportation or paying the toll for the car behind you on your daily commute.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite-ever quotes by Coach Wooden:

recite-9136--1816980306-1wiza5s

Questions of the day:

  • What ideas do you have for helping a stranger?
  • When was the last time a stranger did something kind for you?

goals for the week of 1/26

First off…

arianna bday

Today is my dear cousin’s “sweet sixteen” birthday and we are all getting together as a family tonight to celebrate. Last night I got to help chaperone/drive a bunch of her friends as part of her birthday party. It was a blast and I felt happy to be a part of it!

This weekend has been filled with lots of great friends & family time and lots of time spent outdoors taking advantage of the gorgeous sunny weather we’re being blessed with {even though we are all praying for rain … California needs rain very badly!} Yesterday I went hiking and out to lunch with new friends Emy & Sam, and today I checked out a food truck fair with some old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Have any of you been to a food truck gathering before? It was my first time, and I was impressed by the variety and quality of the offerings! I had gourmet spaghetti & meatballs and a decadent s’mores cupcake. Then stopped by Trader Joe’s on my way home to pick up some nom noms for the week … and now here we are, Sunday afternoon already!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
write 10 pages
go to two yoga classes {I made it to three!}
complete two chapters of copyediting project
– finish reading all of the old Narrative Stories of the Week in my email inbox {I underestimated how many stories I had in my inbox! Got through quite a few, but still have more to go! These are some great reads.}
connect with two friends {It was a terrific week for feeling connected with friends, by phone and in person! I’m always happier when I make this a priority in my life.}

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– write 10 pages
– finish new short story I’m working on
– go to two yoga classes
– complete two chapters of copyediting project
– finish reading all of the old Narrative Stories of the Week in my email inbox
– connect with three friends

Questions of the morning:

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

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

my cuz’s wedding!

This past weekend, my beautiful cousin Amanda got married!

cuz bride!

Here’s a photo of Amanda and her now-husband, Justin, at the rehearsal dinner.

happy couple

I got to be a bridesmaid, and I was so honored to be part of her special day. My brother Greg was an usher.
me and greg

The wedding was beautiful, and I loved getting to spend some time with my family at the reception. Here’s me and my Gramps — look at him all snazzy in his tux!

me with gramps

The reception was a blast. We had so much fun dancing up a storm!

reception dancing 20130622_220031 20130622_222019 20130622_222030 20130622_222114

It was a wonderful night! I’m so happy for Amanda + Justin!

Are you going to any weddings this summer?

year of kindness challenge: week 25

year of kindness button

Hi everyone! Hope your week is off to a great start! And welcome to our new subscribers — so happy to have you joining us! Thank you to everyone for letting my blog be part of your day. It really means a lot to me!

My weekend was filled with wedding craziness — I was a bridesmaid in my dear cousin Amanda’s wedding! Full wedding recap coming tomorrow; for now, here’s a sneak peak picture of me and the beautiful bride just a few minutes before she walked down the aisle:

cuz bride!

Now, on to the kindness! Last week’s Kindness Challenge was do something kind for a senior citizen. This could mean calling or writing a note to a grandparent, offering to carry an elderly person’s groceries to their car, bringing in the mail for an elderly neighbor, visiting people at a nursing home … or whatever inspires you!

I recently connected with a new friend, Jeri, through a local volunteer organization called Caregivers that serves senior citizens. {Longtime blog readers might remember my friend Jewell, who I met in high school while volunteering through Caregivers and whose memory inspired me to bring Christmas cards and cookies to her former nursing home this past holiday season.} Jeri is a friendly, sweet elderly woman who can no longer drive due to health issues and failing eyesight. This past week, I drove her across town to her church, where she taught an hour-long line-dancing class to half a dozen other elderly women, and then I drove her home. I enjoyed visiting with her and listening to her many interesting life stories — she used to own a Dude Ranch! — and it was so inspiring and fun to watch the ladies line dance! They had SO much more rhythm than I do!

The Week 25 Kindness Challenge comes from my lovely blogger friend Ashley at A Happy Lass {if you haven’t checked out her blog, I would highly recommend popping on over! It’s wonderful!} and it is to do something kind for people riding public transportation. Ashley says, “I ride a bus and a train to work and was thinking I could do something for the people there. Maybe I’ll pay the bus fare for the person behind me on my way into work and back home. I’ve done this before and, usually, their faces light up, it seems to brighten their commute.”

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 wonderful 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
– 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
– week 12 challenge: deliver baked goods to a fire station
– week 13 challenge: give someone flowers
– week 14 challenge: donate books
– week 15 challenge: reach out and spend time with people
– week 16 challenge: smile at everyone you meet
– week 17 challenge: pick up litter/trash
– week 18 challenge: write a kind note to a mom figure in your life
– week 19 challenge: leave an extra-generous tip
– week 20 challenge: donate blood/join bone marrow registry
– week 21 challenge: visit a cemetery and pay respect
– week 22 challenge: practice a little patience
– week 23 challenge: call 3 loved ones on the phone
week 24 challenge: do something kind for a senior citizen

a simple, successful bridal shower!

Yesterday afternoon, I was so excited and honored to host a bridal shower for my cousin Amanda! We were born only three months apart and went all through school together, from pre-school through college. She is one of my closest friends and I am so happy for her and her fiancee, Justin. They are so cute together and I know they make each other very happy.

me and amanda

In elementary school, we started calling each other “cuz” {short for cousin} and the nickname has stuck!
She will always be my “cuz.”

My Gramps generously let us use his beautiful, large living room to host the shower. {Having a lot of space was a necessity, as we had more than 20 attendees!} Can you spot him peeking out in the pic below, preparing to make his escape before the twenty giggly, wedding-giddy ladies showed up? Haha.

living room shower

We set enough chairs around the room so that everyone would have a place to sit, but also tried to keep the room open to encourage guests to walk around and mingle.

And we designated an area by the fireplace for guests to set down their gifts for the bride-to-be:

gifts

* decorations *

Amanda’s favorite color is pink and her wedding isn’t until June, so even though we held the shower right before Christmas, we went for a summery pink-and-white theme instead of having a Christmas-themed shower.

  • Fresh flowers really brighten up a room!
  • Dress up a plain tablecloth with colorful streamers and bright napkins.
  • Use cups to corral forks, knives, spoons, and toothpicks.

table set

* food *

We went with a simple veggie tray and some h’orderves. The real stand-out were the gorgeous cupcakes, made by one of my mom’s friends:

cupcakes

She’s a professional cake decorator; if you wanted to make homemade desserts, here are a couple of my tried-and-true recipes:
red velvet cupcakes with coconut cream-cheese frosting
carrot cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting

For drinks we did mimosas, red & white wine, soda and water. And of course coffee with dessert!

* games *

Amanda is a competitive person and specifically requested that we play some party games! After doing a little research for ideas, I settled upon two games: Pictionary using wedding-themed phrases, and a “Newlywed” style game to see how well Amanda could guess her fiancee’s answers to a series of questions.

Both games were a big hit, but they did require a bit of preparation. Here are the phrases we used for Pictionary:

  • To Have and To Hold
  • Happily Ever After
  • Just Married
  • I Do
  • First Dance
  • Bridezilla
  • Father of the Bride
  • Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride
  • Tossing the Bouquet
  • Bridal Shower
  • Till Death Do Us Part
  • Bachelorette Party
  • Tying the Knot
  • Wedding Cake
  • Wedding Bells
  • Going to the Chapel
  • Flower Girl
  • Ring Bearer
  • Best Man
  • Maid of Honor
  • Honeymoon

The Q-&-A game was an idea I saw on the always-wonderful blog Peanut Butter Fingers. Here’s how it worked: a couple months ago, I sent a list of questions to Amanda’s fiancee to answer about her, himself and their relationship. Then I wrote out these questions and his answers out on pieces of paper and made them into a book. I used a small, inexpensive photo album and cut each piece of paper to 4×6 inches to fit perfectly in each slot. Then I decorated the pages with colorful stickers and markers.

bridal question book

question book pages

Here is a full list of the questions I asked the groom-to-be {feel free to add or subtract to fit your needs!}

  • When and where was your first kiss with the bride-to-be?
  • Where was your first date with the bride-to-be?
  • What do you think the bride-to-be’s favorite gift is from you?
  • What is the one item the bride-to-be cannot not live without?
  • What is the bride-to-be’s dream job?
  • If the bride-to-be could move anywhere without having to worry about a job or family, where would it be?
  • What is the bride-to-be’s most obnoxious habit?
  • What is your most obnoxious habit?
  • What turns the bride-to-be off the most about a man?
  • What turns you off the most about a woman?
  • What do you think is the bride-to-be’s favorite memory of your relationship?
  • What is your favorite memory of your relationship with the bride-to-be?
  • What does the bride-to-be picture when she looks into the future?
  • What do you picture when you look into the future?
  • What do you think the bride-to-be loves most about you?
  • What do you love the most about the bride-to-be?
  • What is a big dream of the bride-to-be’s?
  • What is a big dream of yours?
  • What is one thing the bride-to-be will never forget that you did for/said to her?
  • When does the bride-to-be want to have kids?
  • How many kids does the bride-to-be want to have?
  • How many kids do you want to have?
  • If the bride-to-be were an animal, what type of animal would she be and why?
  • If you were an animal, what type of animal would you be and why?

To make it into a game, we asked every attendee to guess the number of questions Amanda would get right. Then we passed the book around the room, taking turns reading out questions and keeping track of how many of Justin’s answers Amanda guessed right. The trick, of course, is that the “right” answer wasn’t always what was true for her, but what Justin thought was true for her. She had to try to think like him, which is the fun part! This game certainly evoked lots of laughter. After we made it through the entire book, we tallied up the number of correct answers and the two attendees with the closest guesses won prizes.

* party favors *

party favors

We found these cute scented candles and thought they would make the perfect party favors! To make them festive and pink, we just wrapped them in a sheet of tissue paper {folded in half} and tied with ribbon.

candle party favors

Here they are all lined up and ready to go for the party!

party favors

The bridal shower was a blast and I think Amanda had a really fun time! I snapped pictures throughout the afternoon that I’m going to print up and slip into a pink photo album for Amanda as a little post-shower gift, so she can look back and remember the day!

shower picture

amanda friends

me and cuzes
It was a simple, successful shower! Have any of you hosted a bridal shower before? What are your favorite party-hosting tips or shower games?

* This post is linked up at Fine Linen & Purple!

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