holiday minimalism challenge

Hi guys! I hope your week is off to a marvelous start! Our little apartment is officially beginning to look like the holidays. We strung up some colorful lights, hung a wreath on the door, and even got this adorable mini Christmas tree! It’s a potted pine, so we’re planning to keep it out on our balcony after the holidays are over. It’s leaning over a little bit and we can’t seem to figure out a way to make it straight… but I think that just adds to its Charlie Brown charm, don’t you? 😉

our-first-xmas-tree

This holiday season, I’m trying out a new challenge for myself. During the span of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am aiming to get rid of one item every day. {For those of you counting, that would be 31 items in total!} During this infamously busy time of year, my minimalism challenge is making me feel energized. In a season of more-more-more, it is a way of centering and reminding myself what truly matters. It is a way for me to practice gratitude for the abundance in my life. It is a way for me to physically clear out some clutter and make some space in my life.

Plus, I love the idea of someone else being able to benefit from something I no longer use, need or want. That is why I am donating all of these items, rather than throwing anything away. However, you could also use this type of challenge to recycle paper clutter, or even to clean out your pantry/fridge!

Here is my donation tally right now:
-5 books
-1 journal
-1 ornament
-2 shirts
-1 candle
Total so far: 10 items {approximately 1/3 of the way there!}

I will keep you posted on my progress!

An Intentional Holiday Season

Allyn and I are making minimalism a cornerstone of our holiday season in other ways, too. How? By trying to make intentional decisions. I think it is a fun challenge to make do and be creative with what we already have, instead of immediately running out to buy more stuff.

Christmas Ornaments

Since this is our first Christmas together, Allyn and I did not have too many ornaments to decorate our tree. {Part of why we opted for a small tree this year!} We like to buy a Christmas ornament as a souvenir on trips we take, so we had beautiful ornaments from our summer trip to Hawaii, our honeymoon to Yosemite, and our recent Thanksgiving trip to New Orleans. We also had an ornament I bought a long time ago on a trip to Belgium, and two ornaments I ordered as Christmas gifts to myself last year: a photo ornament of me and my sweetie, and one of me, Holly and Céline from college. {Hanging this ornament on the tree made me feel a little teary. Love you and miss you, Céline!}

celine-ornament

Still, that left us with a lot of bare tree! Rather than going out and buying ornaments that were not meaningful to us, I looked around at what we had to see if I could make any. I found a few paper gift tags we had saved from Christmas gifts we received last year, of adorable elves. They made great ornaments! I also found some miniature foam surfboards that had been used as place cards at a wedding we attended — all I had to do was attach ornament hooks and up onto the tree they went. I love these as ornaments because they bring to mind my beachy hometown. We strung some Mardi Gras beads from our New Orleans trip around the tree, along with some pretty ribbon. Also, I had a couple pendant necklaces lingering in my jewelry box with broken chains that I’ve been meaning to get fixed one day. All I had to do was loop a bit of ribbon or an ornament hook through the pendants, and they morphed into lovely ornaments.

Wrapping Gifts

We are using up paper, ribbon, gift bags and tissue paper we already have {a lot of it saved from gifts we have previously received} rather than buying more wrapping supplies. It makes me happy to think of these supplies getting a “second life” rather than just being tossed into our trash can. Yes, some of the wrapping paper is a bit wrinkled, and not all of it is really holiday-themed, but in my opinion that doesn’t matter. I still think our hodge-podge gifts look pretty!

wrapped gifts recycled paper

Gifting Consumables + Experiences

We are also making an effort to gift consumables this year, such as homemade baked goods, granola, and spiced nuts. {Here is a favorite spiced nut recipe that I recently made — so yum!} One thing I love about gifting homemade consumables is that you can reuse glass jars or other containers to “wrap” them in: looks nice, costs you nothing, and is eco-friendly. Win-win-win! I personally love receiving homemade gifts because they seem extra special and filled with love. When I bake something with the intention of giving it to someone else, the entire process becomes one of intentional joy and warmth. I pour loving thoughts about the person into whatever I am making for them. It is a wonderful gratitude practice!

glass containers

Gifting experiences is another fantastic way to celebrate the holidays minimalist-style. Instead of spending our time at the mall shopping sales, Allyn and I are making an effort to spend as much time celebrating with the people we love. For example, for Christmas we are giving my grandparents a gift to the theater: we bought them tickets to see “A Christmas Carol” with us in a few weeks, an annual local performance that my Grandpap has always wanted to see but has never gotten around to before. The gift is extra-special because we get to enjoy it with them. I can’t wait!

Questions of the day:

  • How are you being intentional and slowing down this holiday season?
  • What are your favorite holiday traditions?

a year of living simply: week 16

Hi, everyone! Hope your Tuesday is off to a terrific start! I’m soaking up time with my fam and crossing my fingers we get some rain here in California this week.

It’s time for this week’s simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to look ahead on the calendar and prepare for upcoming holidays and celebrations: Father’s Day, graduations, birthdays. I bought and wrapped presents for my brother’s graduation, my sweetheart’s graduation, my dad’s birthday {coming up at the end of the month} and Father’s Day. I also bought some cards, though I still have to write in them. I noticed that the whole process of shopping for gifts seemed much more enjoyable when I was doing it with plenty of time in advance.

clothes for goodwill

This week’s challenge is to clean out your closet! At the very least, try to get rid of one item. Make an honest assessment. If you haven’t worn something in the last six or eight months, are you really likely to wear it tomorrow or next week? Why not give the item to someone who might love it, and make room in your closet for only pieces that you truly LOVE? {One of my goals of this year of simplicity is to only keep pieces that I absolutely love and feel fantastic in!}

I think we all tend to overestimate the amount of clothing we need. Wouldn’t life be simpler if we had fewer options to choose from when we stand in front of our closets each morning? I was super inspired by the way Jen Hatmaker only dressed with seven pieces of closing for an entire month as part of her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. And blogger Courtney Carver has written about how much she loves having a small capsule wardrobe — learn more at Project 333.   

Questions for the day:

  • What did you get a jump on this past week?
  • What is one item you can get rid of from your closet?

a year of living simply: week 9

Happy St. Patty’s Day, friends! Hope you are wearing green today so you don’t get pinched! 🙂 I’m excited to get together with Dana tonight to continue our tradition {started last year} of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with homemade Irish coffees, created by the talented Dana herself. I’m really looking forward to seeing her and catching up!

Photo from our St. Patty's date last year!

Photo from our St. Patty’s date last year!

Before heading over to Dana’s this evening, my plans for the day include a few hours of tutoring, making headway on a copyediting project, and some festive baking! I’m going to attempt to make snickerdoodles with green sprinkles mixed into the cinnamon-sugar topping. We’ll see how they turn out!

Now, onto the simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to do something to simplify or improve your commute. I did a couple things that were SO simple, but that have improved my car time a great deal!

1. The first thing I did was to clean out all the miscellaneous items and trash old Larabar wrappers that had accumulated in the backseat of poor Charley, my PriusC. I was amazed at the difference it made! Even though I hardly ever use the backseat to transport people, glimpsing a clean car as I climb into the driver’s seat just makes me feel good, like I’ve got my life in order. Combined with my new “arrive everywhere five minutes early” habit, my drive time has never been so stress-free! It’s crazy what a difference a few minutes can make.

2. I started listening to podcasts while I drive. I love music, but I was getting tired of my CDs and the same old radio tunes. Dana told me about a podcast she listened to at the end of last year called Serial, and after listening to the first episode I was immediately hooked. I stopped by the Verizon store and bought an inexpensive auxiliary cable so I can listen to my phone through my car’s speakers; all I have to do is load up the podcast, click “play” and I’m set to go! {Apologies if my excitement is lame — I’ve never really stored music on my phone, so this is a new experience for me!}

Listening to podcasts during my car time has opened up a whole new world for me. I love learning and I love podcasts, but I can’t ever seem to find the time to listen to many — that is, until now! Twenty minutes in the car here and fifteen minutes in the car there really adds up. I’ve finished all twelve episodes of Serial and today I started listening to This American Life. Now I actually find myself looking forward to my car time instead of being annoyed by my commute! If you have any podcasts to recommend, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

charley!

This week’s challenge is to get rid of some paper clutter in your life. How you interpret this is up to you! Perhaps you want to sort through/get rid of one of the paper piles on your desk. Or maybe clean out your desk drawer filled with old receipts. Paper is personally one of my major clutter weaknessnes. I’m planning to attack a certain shelf in my closet where all the pieces of paper I don’t know what to do with tend to congregate in a big tall lilting stack.

Before I go, a couple updates:

  • This month my friend Julie is participating in The Minimalism Game {hosted by The Minimalists} and invited me to play along! The game is to get rid of one thing on the first day of the month, two things on the second day, three things on the third day, etc. I’m doing a slightly less intense version where I am trying to get rid of one thing every day in March. So far I’ve donated 8 books, 3 magazines, 2 shirts, 1 sweater, and recycled 2 boxes I was hanging onto in my closet for I have no idea what reason. Not sure yet what I’m getting rid of today, but it will be something!
  • A few weeks ago I said that I wanted to continue arriving everywhere a few minutes early, and I’m happy to report the routine is still going strong! Setting my clock three minutes early was a BIG help {I usually forget it is early} and, generally, I’ve gotten into the habit of getting ready to leave about ten minutes before I *think* I need to start getting ready to leave. I’m feeling so much less rushed in general, that I’m definitely planning to hang onto this habit!

Questions for the morning:

  • Do you listen to podcasts? If so, what are your favorites?
  • What brightens up your commute?

fabulous friday #39

Happy Halloween, everyone!!

lit up pumpkins

What fun things do you have planned for today + tonight? Allyn & I are dressing up as Sebastian the crab & The Little Mermaid and we’re going out for dinner in Walnut Creek, then out to see the murder-mystery play Deathtrap. I’ll show you a picture of us dressed up in our costumes in Sunday’s blog post, but for now here’s a sneak peak at my wig that came in the mail yesterday! This is actually my first Halloween ever wearing a wig, so I am probably more excited than is normal, haha. {And yes, I’m dressed in my yoga clothes, getting ready to head out soon!}

mermaid wig

Also, I want to back up and wish my sweet Mama a belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! It was her birthday yesterday but it was such a crazy day that I didn’t get around to doing a blog post. {But don’t worry, I did call her yesterday and send her a card & present!} My dad sent these beautiful roses to her office… they are USC colors, since Mom is a huge USC fan! Go Trojans!

mom usc roses

Also, because I think this photo is way too adorable not to share, here is a pic of my mom when she was a little girl that is hanging in the hallway of my grandparents’ house. I can totally see the woman I know in her little-girl eyes and face. What a cutie-pie!

mom little girl

Mom, thank you for being my role model and inspiring me every day with your loving heart, genuine kindness, generosity and grace, quiet strength, and beautiful soul. I love you so much. I count my blessings every day that I won the lottery ticket to get you for a mother. It is a true privilege and a gift to be your daughter! ❤

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. So remember last week when I finished writing my novel? And remember a few weeks ago when I went to the Orchard nursery with Dana to revel in all the pumpkins and autumn decorations, and I spotted these beautiful hand-painted sunflower tiles and mentioned wanting to someday get one for my own kitchen?

sunflower tiles

Wellllll, guess what my sweetheart did? He surprised me with a gift to celebrate finishing my novel that I’ve been working on for the past three years.

sunflower tile

Not to mention, I hadn’t even said anything about the sunflower tiles to him. He just read it here in my post and remembered, and last weekend he drove to the nursery to pick it out and surprise me. I was pretty much speechless when I opened it. Allyn, your thoughtfulness, love and support blow me away! Thank you so much for celebrating with me! Now, every time I look at this gorgeous sunflower tile hanging in my kitchen, not only will I smile because I love sunflowers and it is soooo pretty — I will light up inside with such a warm memory. 🙂

2. T-Swift’s new CD. OMG you guys. I am crushing hardcore on this CD. I am in puppy love. I am obsessed. I can’t stop listening to it. SO GOOD! I didn’t even mind when I had major traffic driving home from teaching last night, because it meant more time to bop around in my car dancing to these songs. Is it weird that Holly and I are already giddy with excitement about going to see her in concert when she tours for this CD? Because we are.

t swift 1989 cd

If the music itself weren’t amazing enough, check out her Halloween costume. One of the lyrics to her new song “Blank Space” is “cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”… the caption to her Halloween costume says, “cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a PEGACORN.” {unicorn + pegasus = a possible daydream?} She is so goofy! I love it.

taylor swift Halloween costume

3. These wise words from Heather Waxman… the first time I read them, I felt like she was talking directly to me. As someone who is not often loud and does not prefer to be the center of attention, I love her message that quiet strength and quiet confidence are equally true and beautiful:

Sometimes, we think that we have to be loud and obviously the center of attention in order be confident. But that’s not really it at all. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than a woman carrying herself with soft strength. Quiet and ease. Grace and a smidge of grit.  That’s just so beautiful. She doesn’t feel like she has to prove anything. She doesn’t care if she’s the primary focus of the conversation or sitting and listening as a few people spearhead the conversation. Because she just is. She’s just being. 

4. This week I finished knitting a scarf to donate to the wonderful nonprofit organization Knit With Love that donates knitted and crocheted items to people in need, whether they are impoverished, homeless or struggling with illness.

knit with love

Here is their mission statement: “We believe that the gift of a hand-made item can provide physical warmth to people who may have little else, and can also be a tangible showing of love and support that will serve as an encouragement in this difficult time. Every item is donated to a person who greatly appreciates the hand-made gift. As of June 2014, we have donated over 5,000 knit items to people in 37 countries.” WOW, right? Amazing!

It makes me happy to think of someone wearing this colorful scarf I made and feeling loved!

scarf

5. Finishing with a bang: The Giants winning the World Series on Wednesday!! It feels like the whole Bay Area is celebrating! Everywhere you go, people are wearing Giants’ gear and Giants flags are waving from cars and houses everywhere. I’m enjoying the special feeling of camaraderie with everyone, even strangers in line at the grocery store 🙂 Dana was so cute, waving her Giants rally rag from back when they won the World Series in 2010!

dana giants win

Have a fun and safe Halloween, everyone!!

Questions of the day:

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

favorite halloween costumes

Happy Thursday, everyone! Hope you’re having a wonderful morning! My day today is pretty similar to yesterday: work on my novel this morning, do some editing work, and then teach this afternoon/evening. I don’t know about you, but for me this week is flying by!

Since we’re already halfway through October, I thought it would be fun to do a post about Halloween costumes! This year, Allyn and I are planning to dress up as Sebastian and the Little Mermaid. We’re not even sure what our Halloween plans are yet, but even if we’re just dressed up to pass out candy to trick-or-treaters, I’m still excited!

We found this crab hat for Allyn on Amazon. Paired with a red shirt, he’s set!

Though Allyn was joking that he should get this King Crab costume… if only it wasn’t so expensive! Too bad, haha.

I was excited to come across these inexpensive mermaid leggings. They’re comfortable, not too thin, and cute enough to maybe even wear again underneath a skirt for a unique going-out look.

I’m planning to pair them with a tankini top, and then I just need to find a red wig and I’ll be set!

Here are some of my favorite costumes from past Halloweens:

Last year I dressed up as Minnie Mouse, which is a super easy costume if you have a polka-dot dress. All you need to do is don some mouse ears and draw a nose on with eyeliner pencil. I didn’t have any Disneyland Mouse Ears, so I made some of my own by pinning a red bow to a pair of mouse ears I bought from one of those Halloween outlet stores.

minnie mouse

Another easy costume is a pirate. I did this one Halloween when I was in grad school. Wear a striped shirt, a vest, and a pirate hat, and you’re golden! If you want to jazz it up you can add a hooked hand, a sword, or a stuffed animal parrot on your shoulder!

Halloween costume

In college, my roommates and I had fun coming up with linked costumes. One year, my friend Jess was a pirate and I wore a gold dress and was her pirate’s treasure! I think this would be a really cute couples costume 🙂

college halloween 2

The group photo of us below is a little far away, but I couldn’t resist sharing it because of the kids’ crazy expressions in the foreground! This was when we took my friend Celine’s little brother trick-or-treating.

college halloween

Ha! Those kids are seriously hyped up on candy.

Another easy costume is a cowboy or cowgirl. When I was in college and studied abroad in England for a semester, there were themed dances nearly every week — and the British students got REALLY into dressing up! It was a blast. Whenever I didn’t know what to dress up as, a cowgirl was a super easy option. Just throw on some comfortable jeans, a plaid shirt, a cowboy hat, and boots! Here’s a photo circa 2007 of me dressed as a cowgirl with my friend Jamie dressed as a {very convincing!} vampire.

cowboy and dracula

When I was growing up, my favorite costumes were homemade. I have a fond memory of spending lots of time with my dad painting cardboard wings rainbow colors one year when I dressed up as a butterfly. Another year I went as a sunflower {are you surprised? lol} and made a sunflower out of yellow poster board. I cut out a circle in the middle and stuck my face through it, so the petals encircled me and my face was the center, and then I wore green leggings and a green shirt. I remember getting lots of compliments on that costume when I went trick-or-treating!

If you have costumes lying around that you’re not planning to wear again, especially children’s costumes, consider donating them to Goodwill for others to wear. Also, here is a neat nonprofit I recently heard about that donates costumes to kids in need: Ween Dream.

Questions of the morning:

  • Are you dressing up for Halloween this year?
  • What are your favorite costumes from past Halloweens?
  • If you have kids, what are they dressing up as?

a year of Wooden: week 36 {happy birthday, coach!}

Hi there, everyone! Today is a very special day in our Year of Wooden challenge because today would have been Coach’s 104th birthday! Happy birthday, Coach Wooden!

My dad is doing a really neat thing today in honor and celebration of Coach’s birthday — he is donating one copy of his book WOODEN & ME to disadvantaged youth for every book bought today through either his website or Amazon! His goal is to give away 100 copies today! Be sure to shoot me an email if you order a copy because I would love to send you a personal note of thanks. {If you’re interested in reading a review of WOODEN & ME, here’s a great one Sarah wrote on her blog The Pajama Chef.}

Now, onto 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
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}

Our October challenge is a reprise of our February challenge, from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Make friendship a fine art. For October, we’re focusing on nurturing new friendships.

Last week’s challenge was to get together one-on-one with a friend you normally only see in a group type of situation. I was really grateful to get together for dinner with Allyn’s sister Allyson after I taught in Fremont this past Thursday. Not only is she a warm, friendly person, she is also extremely intelligent and knowledgable and I always learn a ton from her. In group situations the two of us often gravitate towards each other — we both are passionate about books, reading, writing and teaching — and on Thursday it was terrific to spend some time just the two of us, chat chat chatting away. We went to a fabulous Thai restaurant and two hours flew by before we finally realized it was probably time to head home! Since I’ll be teaching in Fremont through December, I’m hoping we can make dinner or coffee happen again sometime soon.

A bunch of us celebrating Allyson's birthday back in April.

A bunch of us celebrating Allyson’s birthday back in April.

Also, yesterday I was able to get together with my church acquaintance Amy for coffee. {I had reached out to her on Facebook as part of week 34’s challenge.} It was lovely to get to know her better and I really felt like we clicked.

This week’s challenge is to reach out to a friend of a friend you have always wanted to get to know better, and invite him or her to do something fun.

Before I head out for the day, in honor of Coach’s birthday I wanted to share a poem he wrote that ties in perfectly to our theme for this month:

On Friendship

At times when I am feeling low,
I hear from a friend and then
My worries start to go away
And I am on the mend
No matter what the doctors say –
And their studies never end
The best cure of all, when spirits fall,
Is a kind word from a friend.

Question for the day:

  • What new friend will you reach out to this week?

27 birthday gratitudes

me with bday sundae

Hi, friends! I’ve been working on this post slowly over the past couple weeks, ever since my birthday — which has seemed to stretch out for quite a while because I’ve gotten to spend time with my loved ones and celebrate my birthday belatedly with different circles of people. Now, I think things have fully calmed down and I can unequivocally think of myself as 27 years old! 🙂

20140529_204736

This birthday, more than any other before that I can remember, has left me SO filled with gratitude. So, in the spirit of this month’s year of Wooden challenge, and as a companion piece to my 27 acts of kindness for my 27th birthday, here are my…

27 birthday gratitudes!

1. The cards I received in the mail from my mom, my dad, and Gramps that I opened up while lying in bed the morning of my birthday. It made me feel so loved that, even though I was going to see them in less than a week, they went through the trouble of mailing me birthday cards so I could open them on my actual birthday. And their written messages were very sweet!

birthday cards

2. My grandma snuck into my room while I was in the shower and left me a flower and a card from her and Grandpap.

flower from grandma

3. Greg was out of the country in China, but he made a birthday video for me before he embarked on his trip! It was a huge surprise to wake up to an email from him in my inbox, not to mention this amazing video that I will treasure always. Wow! I can’t imagine a more loving and supportive brother, and I am so beyond blessed to be his sister.

me and gb at the deck

me and greg walking

{Greg got me that cute purse for my birthday, too! It’s from a market in Thailand.}

4. I received dozens of text messages throughout the day from lots of friends, former classmates, and relatives. Such a treat to hear from people I care about who are scattered far and wide but still remembered me on my birthday!

5. I also received phone calls throughout the day from friends and family, which was wonderful.

6. And so many thoughtful Facebook messages/posts! It made me smile throughout the day to get Facebook notifications on my phone. I made myself wait until the end of the day to read through them all, and it warmed my heart immensely. Perhaps my favorite thing about Facebook is how it enables you to keep in touch with people from all different parts and times of your life, and nothing showcases this more than on your birthday.

7. My friend Lauren sent me these gorgeous flowers!

laur flowers

8. Janet and Chidelia also sent me gifts and cards from far away {Wisconsin and North Dakota}… I miss them both and it was so kind of them to take the time to send me something on my birthday!

9. Speaking of thoughtful gifts, Allyn spoiled me with a few — including a mix CD that I have been listening to in my car nonstop since he left — and this cute card. He didn’t even know when he got it that I have a thing for adorable owls. {I have an owl-printed apron, an owl-decorated coffee mug, and some owl-embellished stationary!}

card from Al

10. Allyn also took me to the California Academy of Sciences for the day, which is located in the beautiful Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I had never been there before and I loved the various exhibits, particularly the rainforest dome and the planetarium show!

academy of sciences me with trex

On an unrelated note, I could not stop taking pictures of butterflies. I have more than a dozen on my phone!

butterflies

11. After the California Academy of Sciences, Allyn and I headed back to my grandparents’ house where my grandma held a birthday dinner for me! She made a fancy salad and baked ziti and Grandpap grilled chicken. Annie and Arianna came over and it was lovely to visit out on the porch in the sunshine before the meal.

annie arianna my bday gpap grilling

12. Arianna helped me bake and frost my funfetti cake! Allyn and Bianca did a pro job with sprinkles distribution.

20140529_204012

al and bianca

13. My aunt Mary and cousins Makena and Bianca joined us for dessert, and as we did back in January for Arianna’s birthday, everyone went around the table and shared one word they would use to describe the birthday girl — in this case, me! Their words were so heartfelt and beautiful and I got teary-eyed listening to such loving tributes. I am a lucky girl!

14. As if that around-the-table tribute wasn’t enough, my aunts and uncles also gave me gifts and cards. I especially cherish the card from Arianna — every time I read it, I feel about ten feet tall. She’s a kind and gentle soul!

me and arianna

15. The day after my birthday, my dear car Charley had a little temper-tantrum. Something was wrong with the alarm system and it kept going off while I was driving — blaring noise, windshield wipers going, lights blinking. It was crazy! Luckily I was able to get Charley towed to the dealership and the concerned tow-truck driver insisted on waiting with me until my ride showed up. My grandparents came to the rescue, and my grandma let me borrow her car to drive to my birthday party and work the next day.

charley!

Something else to be grateful for: Charley is up and running again smoothly now!

16. That evening, some dear friends joined me at an ice cream parlor to celebrate my birthday! Even with my car fiasco, I was only five minutes late. We stayed for nearly three hours, sharing lots of stories and laughter and, of course, enjoying delectable ice cream!

bday friends

me and al bday creamery

17. These sweet friends sneakily paid for my sundae! I got the chocolate-peanut butter special: chocolate ice cream, peanut butter Oreos {did not even know those existed!} and Reeses. Plus a candle!

bday candle

18. The card Dana gave me was particularly special, since this is our first year as friends! She found a journal entry she’d written last September, when she learned through this very blog that I was moving up to the Bay Area, and was wondering whether she should reach out to me. Well, she did, and I am SO grateful for it! She included an excerpt from the journal entry in her card and it gave me goosebumps. She also gave me this beautiful wooden sign — I love its message! Dana, my life is so much richer with you in it!

birthday sign

me and dana my bday

19. Allyson and Henry drove all the way to Walnut Creek from Fremont in Friday traffic to come to my party, and they brought me a gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers to boot!

20. Allyn’s family made me feel very special — his mom sent me an incredibly nice birthday card, and his dad and stepmom Laurel gave me this pretty sunflower stationary. Laurel also baked delicious mini chocolate lava cakes as a surprise dessert and they all sang happy birthday. I was very touched!

sunflower stationary

21. The Wednesday after my birthday, I got to fly home for a few days to celebrate my birthday and my dad’s birthday, and also enjoy a few days with Greg before he left for his summer internship in D.C. Dad surprised me at the airport with sunflowers! {Haha, are you sensing a common theme here? I ❤ sunflowers!}

sunflowers

22. I loved all the gifts my parents gave me, including a night out at a local play, but probably the one I’m most excited about is a Magic Bullet blender! I forgot to take a picture of it, but it will no doubt be getting a LOT of use and popping up on the blog quite a bit! Hello, summer smoothies!

23. Gramps took me and Greg out for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Andria’s. Their grilled fish sandwich is my fave!

me and Gramps at Andrias

24. Erica drove all the way out to Ventura to see me after she got off work on Thursday evening. It was such a quick visit home, I was not sure if I would be able to see her, so it was an extra-special treat. And the birthday muffins she made me were the bomb!

cinnamon muffins

25. Dana donated blood at her work’s blood drive for my birthday! It was her first time donating blood and she confessed it was a little frightening {and she felt a little faint at one point!} but she bravely did it and I am so honored by the gesture. Plus, it’s wonderful to know that others will be helped by her donation!

dana donating blood

26. Holly’s entire visit was a ginormous birthday gift to me! Not only did she fly out to see me, she also got me a T.Swift birthday card and two terrific devotional/meditation books and a super-cute pair of flats… all wrapped in High School Musical wrapping paper, of course! That’s pretty much our friendship in a nutshell: deep conversations + Disney movies aimed for 12-year-olds. 🙂

gift from holly

me and holly lombard st

27. Thanks to all of YOU for your blog comments and for doing random acts of kindness to celebrate my birthday! You made my special day even more special.

I used a random number generator to select the winner of my birthday giveaway {an autographed copy of my book 3 a.m.: a collection of short stories} and the winner is… Annanori!

giveaway winner

Email me at dallaswoodburn<at> gmail <dot> com and we’ll get your book to you!

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you grateful for today?
  • What were some highlights of your most recent birthday?

fabulous friday #15

Happy Friday, friends! You know what TGIF means around here…

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. My dad and brother are in town visiting!! I love these two guys so much. They crack me up and we always have so much fun when we’re together. The only thing is I’m missing my mama — it’s weird for the three of us to be together without her — but she’ll be coming up to see me in just over a week!

boys

2. This quote that Danica shared last week on her blog — so, so true.

And it reminds me of something my dad always says: “T.G.I.M.! Because if you don’t embrace Mondays you will wind up dreading 1/7th of your life. That’s not something I’m willing to do, how about you?”

3. The new Sara Evans album, Slow Me Down. My sweet dad got it for me as a little random, surprise gift because I love Sara Evans. This latest album of hers is no exception! I’ve been listening to it on repeat and dancing in my car as I drive around. The perfect anthem to springtime! Currently, I think my favorite songs on the album are “Sweet Spot“; “If I Run“; and her cover of/duet with Gavin DeGraw’s “Not Over You.”

sara evans cd

4. A company I just learned about, Warby Parker — like TOMS shoes but with eyeglasses! For every pair of eyeglasses they sell, they distribute a pair to someone in need. They emailed me about their Home Try-On program, which allows you to pick out your five favorite frames for five days, with no expense {they even pay for shipping.} This gives you the opportunity to try out multiple looks before you commit to anything, and all from the comfort of your home! I think it’s a cool idea and I love the social mission of their company. I’m looking forward to exploring their sunwear collection in time for the summer!

5. I’ve been thinking and praying for the Holmstrom family, whose precious baby girl Brinley needs all our love and healing thoughts. I went to school with both Eric and Sarah, and they are such kindhearted, generous, loving people. Sarah blogs over at how is your heart? if you want to drop her a note or a prayer.

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • Any fun plans in store for the weekend?

year of kindness challenge: week 34

year of kindness button

Happy Monday, everyone! I’m writing to you from my new home in northern California. Here’s a pic my dad snapped right before I hit the road:

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I’m getting settled in and enjoying a lot of time with my wonderful relatives, including my cute cousin Bianca who I have a feeling is going to become my baking buddy this year. Woo! I’m so excited to have someone to bake with. 🙂

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This past week’s kindness challenge was to donate school supplies to local children who need them. I donated these notebooks and markers to a school supply drive in my community that I found with a quick internet search.

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The Week 34 Kindness Challenge is to buy a sandwich and drink and give it to a homeless person you pass by on your way home. Another option: if you go out to dinner, box up your leftovers and give them to a homeless person.

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 day!
– 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
– week 25 challenge: pay for someone’s public transportation
– week 26 challenge: volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen
– week 27 challenge: send a care package to someone in the military
– week 28 challenge: give at least one compliment every day
– week 29 challenge: do a favor for someone else
– week 30 challenge: scatter lucky pennies around a playground
– week 31 challenge: mail an empowering postcard
week 32 challenge: plant something
week 33 challenge: donate school supplies

recap of my clutter-busting summer!

Happy Friday, friends!

This summer — inspired by the Clutter-Busting Challenge hosted this past May by Crystal at Money-Saving Mom, and the amazing Victoria at Snail-Paced Transformations who is continuing to give away, get rid of, or sell 3 things from her home every week this year — I have been on a mission.

My goal: get things out of my house that I no longer need or use, and get them into the hands of people who do need or could use them.

It’s amazing how much STUFF we accumulate, right?? I am not even the biggest shopper, and still I am just floored by the amount of THINGS I manage to bring into my life and into my space. Books, clothes, magazines, papers, flyers, do-dads, mementos, knick-knacks … where do they even come from??

In regards to clutter, this summer has been a perfect storm of sorts. I moved back home into my childhood bedroom, which was still crammed with stuff from high school and from the year I lived at home after graduating college. Plus, I brought home boxes of new stuff I’d accumulated while living in Indiana.

I was determined to slowly sort through everything through the course of the summer and get rid of as much as possible before moving up the Bay Area to begin my Steinbeck Fellowship. Also, as longtime blog readers know, I really don’t like to waste things, not even uber-ribe bananas. So if an item was useful, I didn’t want to just throw it away — my goal was to repurpose or donate as many items as possible!

clutter busting

Three months later, I’m happy to report my room is much cleaner and less cluttered, and I’m feeling more energized as a result! Here is a list of all the things I got rid of this summer, including how I repurposed some items:

  • 3 boxes of books: donated to the local library and the Boys & Girls Club
  • approx. 40 back issues of various magazines: donated to local senior centers and hospitals {just make sure to tear off the address label and any other personal info before donating!}
  • 2 large bags of clothing, including my heavy winter coat and a bunch of scarves: donated to Goodwill
  • 3 lovely little girls dresses, still in great condition, from when I was a little girl: also donated to Goodwill
  • 4 pairs of shoes I never wear: donated to Goodwill
  • 2 large fleece Snuggies that were not being used: repurposed into two handmade no-sew baby blankets for two friends of mine who each welcomed beautiful babies into their families recently
  • 2 outgrown T-shirts: transformed into diy pillows
  • 10 small hotel shampoos and soaps: donated to a local homeless shelter
  • 1 no-longer-used cellphone: donated to a soldier through Cell Phones for Soldiers.
  • 3 large trash bags full of old papers no longer needed: recycled

WOO-HOO! It feels so wonderful to de-clutter! Not only did I physically get rid of a ton of items, I feel like the act of clearing and sorting and donating was emotionally cleansing as well.

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This task was an amazing reminder of what a difference you can make little by little, day by day … I never imagined at the beginning of the summer that I would be able to get rid of so much unnecessary stuff, but slowly and surely I did!

What goals have you been working on this summer? Any fellow clutter-busters out there? I’d love to hear your tips for STAYING de-cluttered — my next task! 🙂

some related posts you might enjoy:

cleaning out my closet clutter
tips for selling things on craigslist
year of kindness challenge: donating clothes
year of kindness challenge: donating books
year of kindness challenge: donating toiletries