bruce bruce, homemade beignets, pumpkins galore & other weekend highlights

Happy Monday, everyone! How was your weekend? Mine was absolutely lovely and I couldn’t resist sharing some photos… I’ll be back tomorrow with this week’s year of Wooden post!

Saturday morning I slept in a little and relaxed, reading a couple short stories while sipping on a mug of chai tea and noshing on a bowl of cinnamon oatmeal. Then I baked a batch of 3-ingredient banana cookies. Then I got ready to go teach a bunch of energetic kiddos for five hours!

Then I taught for five hours!

Then I was exhausted.

But I quickly perked up because I was meeting my sweetheart for dinner ūüôā We went to Tommy T’s, a comedy steakhouse — it was the first time there for both of us and we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but the food was tasty and the whole place was packed! Definitely a popular venue. The headline comedian was Bruce Bruce, who I had never before heard of but who seemed quite well-known among most of the audience.

I was a bit disappointed because he talked SO fast that I had a tough time hearing/ understanding what he was saying! The jokes I did catch I thought were humorous, and it was clear that his quick-talking was purposeful — it was part of his whole vibe. Maybe if I heard him perform more often and had a better sense of his speech rhythms, I would have been able to understand more of what he said. But in any case, it was still a fun night and I was really glad we went!

Sunday morning, Allyn and I tried our hands at making beignets! They’re the French-style dessert that we loved at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Before he left NOLA, Allyn picked up a box of beignet mix and yesterday we decided to finally put ourselves to the test!

beignet mix

I’ll be honest: at first, I was quite certain they were going to be a disaster. The dough was super sticky and I was having a ridiculously difficult time rolling it out. I used a water glass because we didn’t have a rolling pin!

rolling pin water glass

Lots and lots of flour ended up being the secret weapon. Once the dough was rolled out thin enough, we cut it into small squares and placed them carefully in the frying basket. By the time they reached the frying basket, they usually looked more like distended blobs of dough than squares, but no matter. We pressed on!

beignet dough

making beignets

Then Allyn, who earned the name Mr. Pro Fryer, dropped the basket into the hot oil and … I was amazed! The blobs of dough actually looked like little beignets! Not as pretty as the ones at Cafe du Monde, but still respectable.

frying beignets

little beignets

We topped them with powdered sugar and they were delicious! Eating a Sunday brunch of beignets and fruit salad out on the patio felt super luxurious. Sometimes my Sundays start out way too fast, with me rushing off to church or tutoring commitments. When possible, I want to start waking up early enough to savor a slow Sunday morning breakfast.

beignets breakfast

Church was lovely yesterday. I was honored to do the chalice lighting {a symbol of our religious faith at the beginning of the service} and I read aloud these beautiful words by Joy Harjo:

joy harjo quote

After church, I met up with Dana for a catch-up coffee date, and we also stopped by this super-cute local nursery that was all decked out for Halloween! It was a really warm day yesterday, so the weather felt like summer, but the place definitely felt like autumn. I really love autumn decorations and Dana does too, so we had a great time admiring all the details.

Dana pumpkin patch

me pumpkin patch

pumpkins

sunflower

spider

halloween

There were baby goats, too!

baby goats

I was swooning over these beautiful hand-painted sunflower tiles. I told Dana that one day I want to buy one of these and hang it in my kitchen!

sunflower tiles

My Sunday ended with family dinner, where my Uncle Arn serenaded us with Steely Dan hits on his new electric drum set and my gorgeous cousin Arianna did a fashion show of her beautiful Homecoming dress and accessorizing options. Then I watched The Good Wife with my grandma, read a little of After Dakota, and collapsed into bed. A perfect day!

goals + cookie recipes for the week of 12/15

Happy Sunday! I can’t believe it’s the beginning of another week … and that Christmas is only ten days away! I hope that your holiday season has an abundance of joy and laughter, and a minimum of stress.

I’m back home with my family for the holidays and it is soooo nice! On Friday night I went with my mom to her office holiday party, and we had a blast. They set up a “casino night” and we spent a large chunk of the evening playing black jack. It was my first time playing black jack, but luckily the dealer was very sweet and gave me hints about what I should do. {Apparently that doesn’t happen in Vegas! Haha.}

me and mama xmas

I’ve been busy preparing for my cousin Julie’s bridal shower next weekend. Longtime blog readers might be experiencing deja vu: last Christmas I threw a bridal shower for Julie’s sister, my cousin Amanda. That party turned out beautifully and a lot of fun was had by all. This year, it’s Julie’s turn!

me and cuzes

The rest of the weekend has been spent running errands, wrapping presents, baking, decorating the house for Christmas, watching made-for-TV holiday movies, and goofing around with Mr. Murdog.

me and murray

Hope you’re having a productive and/or relaxing weekend! Now, on to goals …

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals for the week of 12/1:
write 15 pages of new material
prepare for Steinbeck Center reading on Wedsnesday
–¬†exercise at least twice
–¬†finish reading¬†Girls in White Dresses {this book is aaaamazing!}
– order holiday cards
publicize Winter Writing Camp
connect with two friends

Here are my goals for the week of 12/15:
– write 10 pages of new material
take cookies & cards to the nursing home
–¬†exercise at least twice
–¬†finish reading The Tea Rose
– 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 some of my favorite holiday treat recipes!
aunt elaine’s peanut butter blossoms
mom’s classic chocolate chip cookies
eggnog cookies w/buttercream frosting
gluten-free oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
gramps’ favorite lemon bars
reeses pb cup brownies
chocolate-covered popcorn
white chocolate pretzels

Questions for the day:

  • What are you thankful for this holiday season
  • What are your favorite holiday cookie recipes?
  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?

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?

year of kindness challenge: week 48

year of kindness button

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

Someone gave me an article from the latest issue of O: The Oprah Magazine called “The Do-Gooder’s Guide to Better Health” that claims “practicing philanthropy is one of the surest steps you can take toward a happy, healthy life.” The article cites studies showing that acts of kindness lead to a longer lifespan, greater happiness, better pain management, and lower blood pressure. Woo-hoo!

Last week’s kindness challenge was to brighten someone else’s Thanksgiving.¬†My family hosted a bunch of my brother’s friends from business school; most of them were far from home and had nowhere else to go. They were so grateful! I also sent cards to a dozen of my friends letting them know how thankful I am to have them in my life.

The Week 48 Kindness Challenge is to help someone put up holiday decorations, write/address holiday cards, or wrap presents. Do you know a busy parent or perhaps an elderly neighbor who could use an extra hand? My friend Jewell used to need help addressing her holiday cards because her hands shook from her medications. Another idea: go to a mall or shopping center and offer to wrap gifts for free!

xmas cards

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 47 weeks!

Questions of the day:

  • What acts of kindness happened in your life this past week?
  • What are your favorite ways to spread holiday cheer?

happy halloween!

Before we get to Halloween, I first want to give a shout-out to my beautiful Mom whose birthday was yesterday. The older I become, the more and more grateful I am to have been raised by such an amazing, kind-hearted, intelligent, generous, and loving woman. She is my role model. I feel like I won the lottery to get her as my mom! She makes me laugh and she makes me feel loved every single day. Mama, I can’t wait to see you in a couple weeks and give you the biggest hug!

BallonDalMa

Today has flown by and I can’t believe it’s almost time for trick-or-treaters to hit the neighborhood. I’ve got my candy ready at the door, my pumpkins carved, and my costume on!

halloween pumpkins

minnie mouse

I had the Halloween Party Pandora station going, but it seemed to devolve quickly into random ’80s tunes that had no Halloween association whatsoever {I think the train ran off the rails after I thumbs-upped Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”…} So now I’ve got the Wicked soundtrack blasting, and you better believe I’m singing and dancing along! I forgot how fantastically catchy this music is!

What are you doing for Halloween? Whatever it is, I hope you have a fun night!

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. ūüôā 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. ūüôā

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?

marvelous monday: grocery store surprises

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope your Thanksgiving weekend wrapped up well and that you made it home safe if you were celebrating out of town. I am happy to report that Mike and I arrived back safely in Lafayette last night, with enough time to hit up the grocery store, do a bit of work, watch an episode of Arrested Development, put all of our clean laundry away {thanks, Mike’s mom, for letting us do laundry in your lovely machine instead of having to trek to the quarter-eating machines in our apartment complex!} and even put up a few Christmas decorations. The wreath is on our door and my mini tree is on display!

Sometimes it’s the smallest things that add a big smile to your day. I love surprises, and one of my favorite things is to discover a new treat when I’m browsing the grocery store. Look what I found last night:

PUMPKIN SPICE ENGLISH MUFFINS!

I know we are transitioning from autumn into winter, but I remain pumpkin-obsessed. And I’m okay with that!

I enjoyed every bite of a pumpkin spice English muffin for breakfast, half smeared with chocolate peanut butter and the other half with regular peanut butter. I can’t decide which topping I like better. I also want to try cream cheese. I might have to eat another one for a snack later to do further research! ūüėČ

What grocery store finds have you been delighted with lately? Anyone else still obsessed with pumpkin?

Have a marvelous day!
-Dallas