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 ūüôā

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?

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.} ūüôā

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?

 

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?

highlights of 2013

Happy New Year’s Eve! Whether you’re painting the town red or cuddling up with those you love and watching the ball drop on TV {I’ll be doing the latter!} I hope you give 2013 a stellar send-off tonight. Have fun and be safe!

Here are some of my highlights from the past year:

  • Attended the Key West Literary Seminar in Key West, Florida, where I spent a week learning from amazing writers, made some fabulous new friends, and met one of my literary idols — Judy Blume!

key west workshop w:judy

  • Submitted my thesis and graduated from Purdue with my M.F.A. in Fiction Writing! What made it even more special was that my parents, grandparents, and Holly traveled to West Lafayette for my thesis reading.

me and hol thesis reading

my birthday wish

cuz bride!

with writing campers at ceremony

  • I bought my first new car, a Prius C that I named Charley!

charley!

me and gma

red tour bus

  • Reconnected with my friend Dana, one of the sweetest people I know {and her adorable dog Heidi, a.k.a. Mr. Mur-dog’s girlfriend!}

dana and heidi

baby photobomb

jess's show

after the game

DSC00016

family with gramps

This year I also:
– celebrated my 10-year anniversary of climbing Mt. Whitney
–¬†tried zumba for the first time
– began attending church regularly
–¬†de-cluttered & simplified my possessions
– completed my Year of Kindness challenge
– celebrated the release of my dad’s new book Wooden & Me
– met up in person with my blogger friend Sarah @ The Pajama Chef and bumped into Julie @ Peanut Butter Fingers in the middle of San Francisco
– went to a hot-air balloon festival
– read 71 books
– joined Foodie Pen-Pals @ The Lean Green Bean
– got on board the smoothie train
– and tried my hand at some new craft projects and recipes!

What an incredible year it has been. Tomorrow I’ll share my goals and dreams for 2014… but for now, it’s your turn!

Questions of the day:

  • What are your highlights from 2013?
  • What new things did you try this past year?

fabulous friday #2

Happy Friday, friends! And happy November! How was your Halloween? I had soooo much fun handing out candy to a ton of adorable trick-or-treaters. Lots of princesses, superheroes, and some amazing homemade costumes including a Medusa with hand-sewn snake hair! I hope your night was spooktastic and filled with more treats than tricks. ūüôā

Here are five things I’m loving today:

1. Thanks to Robyn’s blog The Real-Life RD, I discovered this natural nutrition boost Vega One to add to my morning smoothies, and I’m loving it! I got the French Vanilla flavor and it’s very sweet, so I normally add just a quarter scoop to my morning smoothie. But it leaves me feeling satisfied for longer, and I love getting all kinds of plant-based nutrients and vitamins in my body first thing in the morning. It’s great way to wake up!

vega one

2. Two nights ago, I got to see the terrific writer Tom Barbash give a reading at San Jose State … I’ve been a fan of his work for a while, and I’m even more so now because he is such a warm, engaging and humble person. I am simultaneously devouring and savoring his new short story collection, Stay Up With Me. I’d highly recommend it!

3. Does anybody else watch the TV show Nashville? I got pulled into an episode the other night when I was drowsily getting ready for bed, and I’m now hooked! I guess I should have known this would be a show for me: after all, I love Nashville since it makes me think of Holly, I love country music, I love Connie Britton {Friday Night Lights!!} and I love romantic drama storylines, which the show has plenty of! Now I just need to get caught up on last season…

4. This evening I’m excited to hang out with a group of USC alumni to watch our Trojans play Oregon State¬†… I’m all ready to cheer them on!

usc gear

5. I get to see my friend Dana on Sunday! We haven’t seen each other in a few weeks and I’m so looking forward to catching up. She always puts a smile on my face. Plus, I get to meet her sweet dog Heidi, which I am looking forward to!

Questions for the morning:

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

my favorite gluten-free baking supplies

Happy Thursday, everyone! Is it just me, or does today feel like Friday to anyone else? It’s bizarre that this week feels long because it’s actually been a short week with the holiday on Monday! Oh, well. It’s still been a good one!

As I shared a couple weeks ago, I’ve recently been trying to go gluten-free, and it actually hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I expected … I feel energized and vibrant, which could be because I’ve eliminated gluten or could simply be because I’m eating more fruit and veggies than ever! Either way, I’m loving it!

One of the things I was most concerned about in going gluten-free was that I would miss baking. You all know how I love to bake, and I was worried that eliminating regular baking flour would cause my baked goods to be … well, gross. But I needn’t have worried. Even if you aren’t gluten-free, there are some wonderful alternative flours you might want to try out just for the fun of it! Here are my current faves:

gluten free baking supplies edit

As far as baking styles go, I’m a by-the-seat-of-my-pants baker. A little bit of this, a little bit of that … I like to experiment! Typically, if a recipe calls for two cups of regular flour, I’ll add about a cup of gluten-free flour, 3/4 a cup of gluten-free oats, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of other things!

1. Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour

gluten free flour

This is my favorite gluten-free flour base. It’s a mix of rice flour and tapioca flour, and it is a perfect substitute for all-purpose flour! I’ve also tried Bob’s Red Mill brand of gluten-free all-purpose flour, and that kind was good also, but I like this Trader Joe’s version better.

2. Gluten-Free Rolled Oats

oats

I love baking with oats! They make muffins and breads heartier and healthier. Plus I think they give baked goods a great texture. Just makes sure you purchase a gluten-free version of rolled oats, if gluten-free matters to you! {Sometimes wheat sneaks into things you wouldn’t expect…}

3. Almond Meal

almond meal

This an easy way to slip more heart-healthy almonds into your diet! An added bonus: almond meal makes baked goods extra moist. Just be careful not to add too much, or your finished product might be a little too crumbly.

4. Ground Flaxseed

ground flaxseed

I started adding a few tablespoons of ground flaxseed into my muffin and bread batter even before I went gluten-free. Flaxseed is packed full of omega-3s and fiber. I usually just add 1/4 a cup at most, so I can’t really taste it, but if you like a rich nutty flavor you can add more! You can also sprinkle ground flaxseed over your cereal or hot oatmeal for a morning nutritional boost.

oatmeal

So, there you have it: my current arsenal of favorite gluten-free baking products! Are any of you gluten-free bakers? I would love to hear your recommendations!

Have a wonderful day! Eat something yummy!

my favorite quick, healthy + gluten-free breakfasts

I’ve recently began eating a gluten-free diet — my brother found out that he is allergic to gluten and feels much better on a gluten-free diet, and since we share the same genes I thought I would give it a try, too! Breakfast was the meal I felt most stumped by: my quick go-to breakfast used to be a whole-wheat english muffin or toast with peanut butter. I haven’t yet found a gluten-free bread loaf that I love, so I went back to the drawing board.

Here are four of my new favorite healthy, gluten-free breakfasts. They are delicious when enjoyed slowly over the morning newspaper, and are also perfect for busy mornings when you need to eat something quick!

1. Oatmeal with nut butter & fruit. Make sure you use gluten-free oats. I like topping mine with blueberries, walnuts, and a spoonful of almond butter.

oatmeal

2. Greek yogurt + fruit, with a handful of walnuts or almonds on the side. My favorite combo lately: plain greek yogurt + a drizzle of honey + a sliced banana.

yogurt and banana

3. A smoothie made with greek yogurt and/or a spoonful of nut butter,¬†plus spinach & chia seeds of course!¬†Right now I am loving a combo of strawberries + mango + a sliced peach. And here is a delicious looking recipe from Danica at It’s Progression that I am planning to try out this week.

smoothie

4. Homemade muffins topped with peanut butter. I try to make a batch of banana muffins or apple-cinnamon muffins {substituting a gluten-free flour blend for the wheat flour} every weekend, and then I get to enjoy them as breakfast and snacks throughout the week.

apple oatmeal muffins

What are your favorite quick, healthy breakfasts? Please share in the comments below!

my favorite. dessert. ever!

Happy Friday, friends! Hope you have something fun planned for this weekend. ūüôā I am getting ready to head to LA this afternoon for my cousin Amanda’s¬†bachelorette party! I am so excited! It will actually be the first bachelorette party I’ve ever attended. I’m looking forward to seeing my cousins and friends and celebrating Amanda’s final days of singledom!

I have a delicious recipe to share with you today! I made this for my dad’s birthday cake on Monday. He loves peanut butter and chocolate, so I took my peanut butter cup brownies and upgraded them to a “brownie-cake” … and the highlight is definitely the homemade peanut butter frosting! This frosting is SO simple to make, and if you like peanut butter, you are in for a treat! I predict you will be licking the bowl. {Or maybe that’s just me!}

pb brownie cake

I will warn you in advance, I didn’t even try to healthify this dessert … I don’t even want to know how many calories/fat/sugar/etc. is in a slice of this! Sometimes you just have to treat yourself, right? But I did just come across this recipe by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean for healthy sweet potato brownies that I might try using in this recipe in the future! If you try it out, let me know how it goes!

I used my fave boxed brownie mix … Ghiradelli dark chocolate!

brownie mix

I made the batter as directed {if you’re trying to healthify things a little, you could substitute unsweetened applesauce for half of the oil} and poured the batter into a lightly greased 8 x 8 pan. Then I stuck in mini dark chocolate peanut butter cups in a tic-tac-toe pattern.

brownies prebake

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

brownie cake

Once the brownies were cool, I frosted them with homemade peanut butter frosting!

homemade peanut butter frosting
– 1/4 cup butter, softened
– 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
– 3/4 cup powdered sugar
– 2 tbsp milk {to taste … depending on your frosting consistency preferences!}

1. Mix together the butter and peanut butter until well blended.

butter pb

2. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add milk until it gets to desired consistency.

frosting

After frosting the brownies, my final step was sprinkling mini chocolate chips over the frosting layer. Ta da! My favorite dessert ever!

pb dessert

These disappeared from our house in record time!

Thank you also for the sweet birthday wishes! I had a wonderful birthday. My family took me out for dinner and even surprised me with sunflowers! How pretty and happy are these flowers?

bday girl

Thanks also to everyone who took part in my birthday beauty giveaway, and welcome to all our new subscribers! The two randomly selected winners are:
– Big Beauty Basket: Anna Wang
– Travel Beauty Clutch: Jo Tran

I will email you both to get your mailing addresses to send you the prizes!

Happy weekend, everyone! Eat something yummy and spend time with those you love!

MPM-Spring
This post is linked up as part of Menu-Plan Monday!

saturday upsides: my favorite romantic movies

saturdayupsidesbutton

Happy weekend, everyone! Time for another edition of Saturday Upsides¬†— today, in honor of Valentine’s Week, I’m excited to share with you some of my all-time favorite romantic movies. I came across an article on Cracked.com yesterday about how the weather influences people’s preferences when it comes to movies: when people are warm they generally prefer action movies; when they are cold they generally prefer romantic movies. Makes sense to me!

valentines week

Valentine’s Day + cold winter weather = the perfect time to curl up under a blanket and watch a good romance!

Here are a few of my top picks:

Serendipity

Serendipity

This is probably my favorite “chick flick” of all time! It came out when I was in high school and I think I saw it three times in the movie theaters alone. My friend Micaela and I were obsessed! I love the idea of serendipity {a fortunate accident} and love that is “meant to be.” This movie twists and turns and keeps you guessing until the end. I love the characters, the music, the settings, the dialogue. There’s also a lot of humor in the movie — Eugene Levy’s character is hilarious!

When Harry Met Sally

when-harry-met-sally-poster

This movie just makes me feel so happy and warm inside. You know those movies that make you feel like everything is right with the world? When Harry Met Sally is at the top of my list. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal are fantastic together, and the dialogue and storyline are Nora Ephron at her best. One of my favorite things about this movie is the intersplicing of “real life” older couples sharing how they met. Best love quote of the movie: “At that moment, I knew. I knew the way you know about a good melon.”

You’ve Got Mail

you've got mail

Another Meg Ryan classic … I can’t even count the number of times I’ve watched this movie with my friend Holly. It’s just so sweet and wonderful! Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are superb together. I love the music in this movie; I love the book/reading theme; I love the backdrop of NYC. This movie is actually a remake of a Jimmy Stewart class, The Shop Around The Corner, which I have watched many times with my Gramps and would also highly recommend! The ending of both movies always gives me a grateful, goofy, teary smile–one of the best kinds of smile, in my opinion.

Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!

Win_A_Date_With_Tad_Hamilton

This is such a fun movie! I remember it came out when I was in high school, and I had a bad day at school and my sweet dad and brother took me to see this movie in the the theaters. {My mom was at work.} How lucky am I, right? Best dad and brother ever! I loved every minute of this movie that first viewing, and I love it still. This is the perfect rainy-day movie, sleepover movie, lazy Sunday movie when you just want to watch something funny and sweet. Which guy should she choose: the famous celebrity or her small-town best friend? {Okay, you might already be able to guess who she chooses, but getting there is the good part!} ūüôā

The Notebook

the notebook

There’s something about the love story in The Notebook¬†that really sweeps me away. The kiss scene in the rain is amazing!!

And of course, the perfect movie to celebrate Valentine’s Day would have to be …

Valentine’s Day!

valentines-day

It doesn’t get much more love-packed than this! While I don’t think this movie is quite as good as its Christmas-themed inspiration Love Actually, I still really enjoy the multitude of interweaving storylines, star-studded cast, and of course the day all the action revolves around: Valentine’s Day! This movie explores many different types of love in many different relationships. Plus, my girl Taylor Swift is in it! Love her.

What are some of your favorite romantic movies? Please share in the comments section!

Hope your weekend is wonderful,
Dallas

———————-

you might enjoy these other valentine-themed posts:
easy + inexpensive valentine’s day cards
an adorable owl craft project
6 simple sweets to make your sweetie for valentine’s day
budget-friendly valentine’s day ideas
hand-crafted valentine’s day decor