a year of living simply: week 11

Hello, friends! Hope you had a lovely Easter weekend. Allyn and I went into the city to a friend’s house for a brunch celebration. It was cold and rainy here yesterday morning, so we were all smiles! {We need rain badly here in California… every drop feels like a blessing!}

me and al easter

We put together an Easter basket that we brought with us to brunch. It was fun to fill the colorful plastic eggs with jelly beans and chocolates, and I enjoyed reading the cute little sayings on them: You’re a Grade A! Chicks Rule. You Crack Me Up. It was a hit at brunch, especially with the little kiddos.

easter basket

Backing up to Saturday, Allyn and I went out to dinner and saw a play in Walnut Creek. The play was called “Mirandolina!” and had been translated into English from Italian. It was a lighthearted romantic comedy and though I went into the play with high expectations {every play we have seen at this theater has been wonderful} this one exceeded my expectations!

mirandolina play

There were multiple laugh-out-loud moments, the cast was superb and had great chemistry, the set and costumes were excellent… plus this theater sells little tubs of Haagen Dazs ice cream at intermission, so that is an added bonus. Overall, it was a really fun date night! I love seeing live theater and I’m so glad that Allyn enjoys going to plays with me.

Now, onto the simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to tackle the magazine clutter in your life! Magazines pile up in my house so quickly, especially The New Yorker, which comes weekly. Magazines tend to grow into a pile that I tell myself I will read “one day…” while in the meantime, the huge stack of them stresses me out. This week I took a hard look at my magazine subscriptions, and ended up unsubscribing to three of them. {Though I am keeping The New Yorker!} I am donating a bunch of New Yorkers to the high school library where Allyn’s sister Allyson is librarian… they don’t have much of a budget to spend on magazine subscriptions, so rely on donations. I’m sure many other school libraries are in the same boat, so if you have magazines to donate, you might check with your local schools!

magazines

This week’s challenge is to say no to something. I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time saying the simple word, “No.” I’m worried about disappointing people or letting people down, so I’ve adopted this bad habit of “hedging” — even if I know that I absolutely do not want to do something or do not have time to commit to something, I have a hard time declining outright. Instead, I say, “Maybe” and then end up worrying about it for a while before finally getting up the nerve to opt out, or just doing it even though I don’t want to do it because I can’t bring myself to “let down” the other person. It’s so silly! Especially writing it out here, I can see how ridiculous my process is.

The older I get, the more I realize how precious time is. It is a valuable gift that passes by so quickly, and we cannot afford to waste our time doing things that are not meaningful for us simply because we’re afraid of that moment of discomfort that comes with saying, “No.” Sure, there will always be things we have to do that perhaps we aren’t thrilled about {dentist appointments, DMV renewals, household chores} but when it comes to actively committing to an activity or task, I want to be more aware of what I’m adding to my plate. I want to guard my time, so I can use it to invest in the people and projects that are most dear to my heart and most important to me.

Questions for the morning:

  • Did you get rid of any magazines this week?
  • What do you have a hard time saying no to?

raspberry pavlova

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Hope you’re having a wonderful week so far! I’m spending the morning and early afternoon working on various projects, then teaching two classes for Communication Academy later this afternoon, and then I’m headed into the city to go to a Giants game with Allyn and his business school classmates. It will be my first Giants game and I’m excited!

Before I leap into my writing for the day, I wanted to share this amazing dessert recipe from Easter that our family friend Diana made. It’s a Russian dessert named after the ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. We were all blown away! It is light and fresh — the perfect dessert for spring or summer.

I know it looks complicated, and there are a lot of steps to this recipe, but Diana assured me it is actually quite simple to make. And I can assure you it is quite delicious!

easter dessert

diana’s raspberry pavlova
{adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe}

– 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
– pinch of salt
– 1 cup sugar
– 2 teaspoons cornstarch
– 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
– 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 2 pints fresh raspberries {1/2 pint for the sauce, the rest for topping}

homemade whipped cream:
– 1 cup cold heavy cream
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

homemade raspberry sauce:
– 1/2 pint fresh raspberries
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 cup seedless raspberry jam
– 1 tablespoon framboise liqueur

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees F and place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking pan. Draw a circle on the paper, using a 9-inch plate as a guide, then turn the paper over so you can see the circle through the paper but won’t get any ink or pencil on the meringue.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg whites and salt. Beat the egg whites on high speed for about one minute until firm. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar and beat for about two minutes, until it makes firm, shiny peaks. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

3. Sift the cornstarch onto the beaten egg whites and add the vanilla and vinegar. Now fold ingredients lightly with a rubber spatula.

4. Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk. Don’t stress out — it doesn’t have to be perfect!

5. Bake for 1 and 1/2 hours. Then turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven {will take about 1 hour.} It should be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

6. While you’re waiting for it to cool, make your raspberry sauce: Place the raspberries, sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for four minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and framboise into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth. Chill.

7. Also make your whipped cream by whipping the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer or with a hand mixer. When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until firm. {Diana adds a caution not to overbeat!}

8. To assemble: invert the meringue disk onto a plate and spread the top completely with your homemade whipped cream. Combine the fresh raspberries in a bowl with about 1/2 cup of your homemade raspberry sauce, enough to coat the berries lightly. Spoon the berries into the middle of the Pavlova. Slice and serve immediately with extra raspberry sauce if desired.

Enjoy! Diana also added that you can easily adapt this recipe to use other fruit of your choosing, such as strawberries or blueberries.

Hope you’re having a wonderful day, friends! Eat something delicious!

goals + recipes for the week of 4/27

Hi friends! Happy Sunday! It feels like it’s been for.ev.er since I’ve done a goals post — I skipped last week because of Easter and my trip to Mendocino! Speaking of Easter, we never really chatted about that — how was your Easter? Mine was one of my favorite Easters ever. I spent most of the day volunteering with Allyn at a church in San Francisco, serving lunch to the homeless. The big dining room was set up like a sit-down restaurant and as volunteers our instructions were to treat clients like they were dining at a 5-star restaurant. It warmed my heart to see the bright smiles and proud postures of the clients leaving the church after the meal. I believe that the world would be a much better place if we simply treated everyone with dignity and respect. I definitely want to volunteer there again next Easter!

For Easter dinner, I missed my parents and brother, but I had a wonderful time visiting with my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. As always when we all get together, there was much laughter and storytelling. My aunt Annie hosted us all for a delicious meal of eggplant parmesan and grilled chicken, and this amazing cake whipped up by our family friend Diana. I got the recipe from her and will definitely be sharing it with you soon!

easter me and arianna

easter dessert

I finally feel like I’ve settled into my new weekend routine: waking up early on Saturday to teach four classes as part of my new job working for Communication Academy, crashing into bed exhausted but happy, and waking up on Sunday morning to head to church. {Which I’ll be doing as soon as I hit “publish” on this blog post!} Today after church I’m looking forward to getting together with my friend Michelle, who I haven’t seen for a couple weeks. And then, just like that, the weekend will already be winding down!

Before I head out… it’s time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from two weeks ago:
– 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 my goals for this upcoming week:
– write 12 pages
– finalize travel plans for the summer
– send out three query letters
– read up to page 350 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:
– chocolate banana pb smoothie via Jill @reini days
zin-zen chicken via Sarah @The Pajama Chef {originally from Rachel Ray}
– nutzo date bites via Danica @It’s Progression
– spaghetti squash w/avocado kale pesto via Whitney @sometimes.always.never
cucumber noodles w/peanut sauce 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?

MPM-Spring
This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

fabulous friday #19

Happy Friday, everyone! This week seemed to go by simultaneously slow AND fast to me — does that ever happen to you? Whatever your plans are for today and this weekend, I hope they are filled with love!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Tonight I’m going to see Les Mis with my grandparents! I’ve only seen the movie version of this musical, so I’m really excited to see it on the stage. It is one of my Grandpap’s favorite musicals, and he’s been singing the songs all week around the house.

2. Speaking of singing… I love rocking out in the car as I’m driving. I am not gifted with a great singing voice, but I don’t care — when I’m by myself driving, I sing with zero self-consciousness! If one of my favorite songs comes on the radio {currently: Pompeii, I Choose You, Girls Chase Boys, Dark Horse, Rewind, or pretty much any T.Swift song} I feel like I’ve won a prize. Yesterday I drove down to San Jose and back for a dinner-and-a-show date with Allyn, and the drive flew by thanks to my solo karaoke session. {And also maybe because I was a tad excited to see him.} 🙂

3. My nightly routine of climbing into bed with a book, sipping on a mug of this huckleberry tea I got in Seattle, and reading until I feel sleepy. Such a peaceful and relaxing way to end the day.

huckleberry tea

4. Easter! This time of rebirth and renewal always makes me feel hopeful and rejuvenated. I’ll be spending Easter Sunday serving meals at a church in San Francisco, and then in the evening my family is getting together for dinner. My grandma is even making her famous-in-our-family eggplant parmesan.

5. This quote from the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

marquez quote

RIP Marquez, who passed away yesterday at 87. As my friend Corey wrote on Facebook: “Thank you for it all.” He was one of the best.

Questions for the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for Easter weekend?

 

what I wore on easter

Happy Easter Sunday! I feel so fortunate that my bestie Holly came to visit this weekend. Whenever we are together, we spend all day talking and laughing and drinking tea and watching Nora Ephron movies. She is such a wonderful person and having her as my friend brightens my life in so many ways!

holly and me

Holly and I went to church this morning and had an easy lunch at home before she had to hit the road. She was also sweet enough to snap a picture of my Easter dress to share with you, linked up at Camp Patton!

Camp Patton

easter dress close up

easter dress

Sweater: Nordstrom’s Rack
Dress: Target
Tights: Target
Shoes: American Eagle
Necklace: a gift from a friend

Hope you are having a restful, happy day filled with friends and family!