my valentine’s weekend


Hello, friends! I hope you are having a wonderful Presidents’ Day! In honor of our past presidents, here is a link I came across with some truly inspiring quotes: 50 Greatest Presidential Quotes of All Time.

I also hope you had a love-filled {all kinds of love, from friendship to pet-love to romantic love} Valentine’s Day! My minister gave an insightful sermon about the many forms of love in our lives that we should celebrate, rather than only focusing on romantic love. I could not agree more! She also touched upon The 5 Love Languages, a subject I find quite fascinating. You can watch her sermon on YouTube here.

My Valentine’s Day was not just limited to a day, but encompassed the whole weekend! Here are some snapshots:

My sweetie and I ordered Blue Apron for the first time, and received our first delivery on Friday night. We had heard many good things about this meal/cooking service and thought we would try it out for ourselves! We ended up making all three meals in three straight days, for dinner on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night. I was blown away by how easy it was, and how absolutely delicious all the meals turned out! Each night Allyn and I would look at each other across the dinner table in disbelief: We just made this?! Really?! I also feel like the recipes taught us some new cooking tips that we can use in lots of future recipes of our own! We are definitely Blue Apron converts now. 🙂

Friday night's dinner: Mexican spiced salmon with black rice

Friday night’s dinner: Mexican spiced salmon with black rice

Saturday morning, I woke up with the urge to bake. So I whipped up these easy + healthy apple oatmeal muffins, along with a note: MUFFINS FOR MY STUDMUFFIN. I came across this idea on Pinterest {the wedding-planning frenzy has begun!} and thought it was too cute, so I couldn’t resist doing it for my studmuffin. 😉

apple oatmeal muffins

After enjoying a couple muffins for breakfast warm from the oven, I headed out for a quick tutoring session, and when I returned home my sweetie surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers!

Valentine flowers

I spent most of the rest of the day obsessively reading THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN… have any of you guys read this book? Allyn’s sister loaned it to me and I started it on Friday night, and could.not.put.it.down alllll weekend… I finished it on Sunday afternoon! Very suspenseful and full of twists and turns.

girl on train book

Saturday night we made another Blue Apron meal and I had to continue our Valentine’s tradition of red velvet crinkle cookies! YUM. These are so festive and super easy to make {besides the batter turning your hands bright red!} 😉

red velvet crinkle cookies

On Sunday, Allyn came with me to church to announce our engagement news during the “joys and sorrows” part of the service. It was so wonderful to share our happiness with the congregation! Everyone was so warm and joyful, and it warmed my heart.

We stopped by my grandparents’ after church to say hi, and I was delighted when my aunts and cousins surprised us and came by for lunch, too! We hadn’t seen them for a while and it was so fun to chat and share stories. Grandma busted out some of the wedding photo albums from when my aunts got married, and there was much laughter while looking through them. {’80s fashion out in full force!} My grandma then disappeared for a little while into her bedroom and emerged holding her own wedding dress from 60+ years ago! It was a goosebumps-inducing sight. The dress’s beautiful lace is still preserved quite well. It was quite a special moment!

My grandparents also surprised me with “engagement flowers”… our apartment is now bursting with flowers and I love it!

20160214_141039

When we got home, Allyn and I got some work done for a little bit, and then he asked, “Do you want to go mini-golfing?” There is a very cute course less than a mile from our new apartment, where Allyn and his family have gone many times. It was a beautiful evening so we walked over to Golfland and played 18 holes. There were many families and couples out and the atmosphere reminded me of summertime. I played pretty well, but Allyn absolutely rocked it. He got THREE hole-in-ones! How is that even possible?! Needless to say, he beat me handily.

IMG_1392

mini golf

When we got home our stomachs were growling, so we made our final Blue Apron meal of the batch: seared chicken with mashed potatoes and maple-glazed carrots. It was both of our favorite one from the bunch {and all of them were delicious!}

20160214_191043

valentines dinner

It was the perfect ending to a truly lovely weekend!

Questions of the day:

  • What was the highlight of your weekend?
  • Did you celebrate Valentine’s Day? How?
  • What is your Love Language?

fabulous friday #51: recap edition!

Hi friends, and happy Friday! Sorry for the radio silence around here the past week or so… it’s been an especially busy time, filled with lots of emotion! I thought I would make today’s Fabulous Friday post a recap version of all the neat things I’ve been grateful to experience and celebrate recently.

Happy weekend! Hope you’re up to something fun!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Memorial Day weekend was Céline’s Celebration of Life, which was basically a big party honoring her memory and celebrating the amazing, one-of-a-kind, treasure of a person she was.

celine celebration of life

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or how I would be feeling, and while the evening was bittersweet and there were certainly tears shed, it was an overwhelmingly loving and beautiful experience. It was a gift to be with my friends from college, and to spend time talking to and connecting with other people who knew and loved Céline from all different facets of her life. The party was themed “Around the World” and I dressed up as Ireland — an excuse to wear my gold dress from college that I always associate with Céline and our college parties.

celine celebration group

me and holly

I think Céline would have really loved it. I miss her every day.

2. My 28th birthday yielded all sorts of sweet surprises. One of my students wrote me this lovely card, and another gave me a piece of her own artwork — a stunning painting of birch trees! She is nine. NINE. I am in awe.

rosalie card

birch trees painting

And my darling Dana surprised me with these gorgeous sunny tulips! They make me smile every time I walk past. Thank you, Dana! ❤

bday tulips

bday tulips 2

3. For my birthday, Allyn surprised me with a cooking class in San Francisco at Sur La Table! It was my first time ever taking a cooking class and it was so much fun. Normally the class would hold up to 16 people, but we lucked out that we were the only two people who showed up — it ended up being a “private” class just for us! I think we got to do a lot more “hands-on” cooking ourselves than we would have if it had been a full class. And when the instructor found out it was my birthday, she brought me a cupcake with a candle in it and everyone sang me “Happy Birthday.” So thoughtful!

cooking class

We learned to make grilled pizzas with homemade dough and toppings. That’s right, pizza cooked on a grill pan over your stovetop! It was much easier than I expected and turned out amazing. My favorite part was the thick, chewy crust. We made a classic margarita pizza; a Greek-influenced bell pepper and chorizo-topped pizza; and a pizza topped with seasoned lamb and mint pesto. They were all fabulous!

pizzas

Allyn had a fun time too and we are definitely hoping to take more cooking classes together in the future. Such a unique and cute date!

sur la table date

4. The evening of my birthday, my extended family gathered at my Aunt Annie’s house for dinner. It was wonderful to get to spend time with them all. As always, there was lots of laughter and storytelling around the table. And my grandma baked and decorated my birthday cake herself! Have you ever seen a more adorable cake?

birthday cake

ally and gparents

me with my aunts

me and seeeees

allyn with poodles

5. On May 30, Allyn graduated with his MBA! He has worked so hard the past two years on his degree and I could not be more proud of him. If graduating were not enough, he was also honored as the Outstanding Student of the Year, chosen by faculty and fellow students. Congrats, sweetheart!!

allyn graduating

20150530_163011

me and al graduation

Questions for the evening:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What do you have on the agenda for this weekend?

fabulous friday #47

Happy Friday, friends!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. I was feeling really sad earlier this week about Celine… just missing her a lot. My sweetheart surprised me with beautiful flowers and took me out to dinner. He is simply the best.

flowers from allyn

2. Speaking of flowers… the amaryllis that Allyn’s stepmom Laurel gave me three weeks ago is finally blooming! It’s so pretty. And I’m thrilled that I’ve kept it alive and haven’t accidentally killed it! {I don’t have the greenest thumb…}

amaryllis

3. One of the little girls I tutor is selling Girl Scout cookies, so I bought a few boxes from her… and she delivered them to me in the sweetest decorated bag. How cute this this?

decorated heart bag

On the subject of Girl Scouts, Holly reminded me of something really awesome that Celine used to do: when she saw Girl Scouts selling cookies at a table, she would buy a box of cookies and then GIVE the cookies to the Girl Scouts so they could enjoy them while they worked. Such a simple, thoughtful act of kindness that brings SO much excitement and happiness to the girls! It is also the perfect solution for those times you want to support the Girl Scouts, but don’t particularly want a bunch of cookies hanging around your pantry.

20150227_121147

4. My thoughtful friends Shane and Lauren sent me cards this week. Always brightens my day to receive love in the mail!

wild things card

5. In the mail this week I also received copies of North Dakota Quarterly, a beautiful literary journal. I am honored to have my work published in the current issue, 80.2. You can read my short story online here.

north dakota quarterly

On my agenda for the weekend: tonight Allyn and I are going to dinner and to a play — a production of Part I of Angels in America, a powerful play I read and loved in college. I’ve never seen it onstage and am very much looking forward to it! Tomorrow, I’m teaching all day and then in the evening Allyn and I are meeting up for a double-date with Dana and Brad at this new-ish adult arcade place called Plank that looks really fun. I’m excited!

Should be a great weekend. 🙂 Hope yours is wonderful, too! Have fun and be safe out there, everyone!

Questions of the day:

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

fabulous friday #38

Happy Friday! You know what this means, right? One week till Halloween!! Do you have any ghoul-tastic plans yet? {Haha, someone is obviously a liiittle too hyped up on caffeine right now… sorry!} Earl Grey before yoga + post-yoga endorphins + pumpkin chai latte from Starbucks after yoga = this version of me you are hearing from right now 🙂

Moving right along… this weekend, Allyn and I are going pumpkin-patching {don’t know if that’s actually a verb, but it is now} and I’m planning to hit up a craft store for a couple last-minute touches for my Halloween costume. If you’re looking for an easy, fun Halloween costume but don’t have any ideas, feel free to check out this post with some costumes that have worked well for me in the past!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. This beautiful autumn bouquet from ProFlowers that arrived on my doorstep a couple days ago from my incredibly sweet and thoughtful dad! He sent them just because he was thinking of me and wanted to send some sunshine my way. How amazing is that? I am the luckiest daughter on the planet. I miss you, Daddy!

autumn flowers from dad

2. My favorite dessert of late: peanut butter toast topped with mini chocolate chips!

pb toast

3. Every time this song comes on the radio I do a little happy dance: “Riptide” by Vance Joy.

4. This heart-wrenchingly beautiful and wise short essay my brother wrote for HuffPost called The Girl Effect and My Grandmother. Read it, and believe me — you’ll be glad you did! Here’s a teaser:

“The agony of these missing parts applies not only to our deceased loved ones — it applies to when we allow fear to dampen courage; ignorance to imprison knowledge; and hatred to overwhelm love.”

5. My grandma’s soup. Her chicken tortilla soup just might be my favorite, but she also makes a mean split pea and curried lentil + barley. I’ll try to get the recipes for those latter two up on here soon!

grandma tortilla soup.jpg

Oh yeah, and one more thing that might explain why I’m feeling so dang happy and excited … I FINISHED MY NOVEL!!!

finished novel doc

Happy weekend, friends! Sending lots of love & joy your way! Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the blogosphere. It means a lot to me 🙂

Questions of the day:

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

fabulous friday #17

Happy TGIF, friends! I hope you have fun plans in store for this spring weekend!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. My incredibly supportive, thoughtful and generous friends and family. I’m still on Cloud Nine after my Steinbeck Fellows reading on Wednesday night! My mom and grandparents came, as did Dana and her sweet mom Lynn, and Allyn took time out of his busy schedule to be there.

me and gparents reading

with dana and lynn

with allyn at reading

2. My dad. Yeah, he gets his own number 🙂 Some of you might remember when I had my first Steinbeck Fellows reading back in December, and he drove up with me after Thanksgiving to be there {and we also went to a wonderful talk by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns the next night!} Well, the arrangement was that he would stay home this time to take care of Mr. Mur-dog, while my mom came to the reading to support me.

Looking back now, I probably should have expected him to do what he did. Here are two facts about my dad: 1) He loves surprises; and 2) He has never missed a single performance or big event of mine, not even back in second grade when I was the lead in our class play and he came to ALL four performances even though it meant he had to miss a big event for work.

mom and dad reading

So there I was on Wednesday night, chatting with people at the dinner in the Steinbeck Center before the reading, when I felt two familiar hands over my eyes… I turned, not able to believe it. My dad! That was one of the best hugs of my life.

My dad drove 5+ hours to surprise me and be there for my reading! And then after the reading he turned back around and drove the 5+ hours home so Mr. Mur-dog wouldn’t be left alone overnight. He said simply, “You know I couldn’t have missed your big night!” It was such an incredible surprise — a memory I will always look back on and cherish. I love you, Daddy!

with dad steinbeck reading

3. These beautiful flowers that Dana and her mom gave me. They are brightening up the kitchen, making me smile every time I walk by!

flowers from dana

4. This video made me cry in a good way: http://www.upworthy.com/a-pregnant-woman-learns-her-baby-has-down-syndrome-people-who-have-it-answer-her-one-big-question-2

5. And this new Ingrid Michaelson song always makes me smile & dance in the car: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsvKT8vsgF4

Today is shaping up to be a “taking care of business” workday, which will balance out the all-play-and-hardly-any-work plans I have for the weekend. Looking forward to spending time with friends, putting in quality time on my yoga mat, and soaking up some sunshine at the A’s game on Sunday!

Questions of the morning:

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

grandma’s birthday dinner

Last night we celebrated my grandma’s 82nd birthday with a nice family dinner out at The Club. It was a lovely excuse to dress up and Mom and I had a fun time getting ready together side-by-side in front of my bathroom mirror. This beautiful lady is not just my mom, she is also one of my best friends, and I’m so grateful to have her here this week!

mama and me

The evening flew by with excellent food and wonderful company. Whenever my family all gets together, there is plenty of hugging, talking, interrupting, laughter, storytelling, and picture-taking. Last night was no exception. 🙂

the girls at gmas bday

me and arianna

me and al gmas bday

I absolutely love this photo of my grandparents:

gparents gmas bday

We missed my dad and brother, but they sent Grandma flowers — sunflowers! yaaay! — that are brightening up the living room hearth.

sunflowers

Now Mom, Grandma, Grandpap and I are curling up on the couch with some popcorn to watch Saving Mr. Banks. I’ll be back tomorrow with this week’s year of Wooden post.

Question of the evening:

  • What was the highlight of your weekend?

year of kindness challenge: week 33

year of kindness button

Hi everyone! Happy Monday! Let’s have a marvelous start to the week! 🙂

Here is a terrific article that I came across this week about happiness: http://blog.bufferapp.com/10-scientifically-proven-ways-to-make-yourself-happier. I noticed that much of the advice has to do with being kind, being grateful, and feeling connected to others — all things that I have grown in my life over the course of doing this kindness challenge!

Last week’s kindness challenge was to plant something. I planted flowers in the long-dormant pots on the front porch as a surprise to my lovely Mama. She was so happy!

Since it’s back-to-school time {already! can you believe it??} this week’s kindness challenge is to donate school supplies to local children who need them. Many communities have school supply drives, or you could donate via organizations like the Boys & Girls Club. Better yet, host your own school supply drive and partner with a local school or classroom to make sure the supplies get to those who need them most!

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

Have a wonderful week!
Dallas

—————————–

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

year of kindness challenge: week 32

year of kindness button

Hi friends! Thanks for stopping by. How is your day going so far?

I absolutely loved this story about a young man’s act of kindness that totally made a little boy’s — and mom’s — day: http://www.thearenaupdate.com/2013/08/the-mystery-man-at-miller-park.html?m=1

Last week’s kindness challenge was to send someone a postcard with a healing, empowering, or comforting message. I sent a California postcard to the nonprofit Traveling Postcards that will distribute it to a woman somewhere in the world who is working to overcome violence and oppression. I wrote out one of my favorite quotes, by Anais Nin. {If you’re looking for empowering quotations, this website has a great list!}

postcard

postcard back

The Week 32 Kindness Challenge is to plant something. Plant flowers, plant a tree, plant a herb garden in your windowsill. Here is a great article on the best plants to grow indoors: http://greatist.com/health/best-plants-to-grow-indoors. You could also take this metaphorically and plant seeds of friendship or forgiveness.

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

Have a wonderful week!
Dallas

—————————–

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

year of kindness challenge: week 21

year of kindness button

Hi, friends! Hope your week is off to a great start! Last week’s kindness challenge, courtesy of Lindsay, amazing blogger at The Lean Green Bean, was to donate blood and/or register online for the bone marrow registry. I had a bit of a cold, so I was unable to donate blood, but I did register to be a bone marrow donor. And I will try to donate blood once I kick this cold to the curb! 🙂

On a side note, time is running out to enter my summer beauty giveaway!! It only takes a few seconds! Here’s the direct link — please spread the word! http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/df32660/

Here’s a wonderful story I came across about a stranger’s kind act for a woman and her deployed boyfriend: http://www1.whdh.com/news/articles/local/metro-west/10010151015688/vet-leaves-kind-gift-for-woman-deployed-boyfriend/

The Week 21 Kindness Challenge is to visit a cemetery and pay homage to those buried there, particularly war veterans. You could leave flowers or notes, pick up litter, do some light weeding — anything that feels meaningful to you.

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

Have a wonderful week!
Dallas

—————————–

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

year of kindness challenge: week 14

year of kindness button

Happy Monday, friends! How was your weekend? The weather has finally shifted from winter to sunny spring and I am LOVING it! Walking outdoors and soaking up the sunshine and fresh air is such a pleasure.

Speaking of spring, it seems fitting that the kindness challenge this past week was to give someone flowers. I gave flowers to two lovely people this week: my friend Shavonne, who aced her thesis defense {my defense is this Wednesday, eek!} and to the English Department Schedule Deputy Judy Ware, who is retiring this semester after many years of service. She is a really sweet lady and will certainly be missed at Purdue!

I picked up a couple pretty bouquets at the grocery store while I did my shopping for the week.

flowers

It was so much fun delivering them to Shavonne and Judy! Both were so surprised and excited to get flowers. Their faces lit up! It was the best $10 I have spent in a long time.

Judy sent me an email that afternoon:

“THANK YOU for the beautiful wishes and special card/good wishes.  I really appreciate your thoughtfulness. Enjoy finishing your degree and your academic next steps!!!”

This week’s kindness challenge pairs nicely with spring cleaning: go through your bookshelves and box up the books you no longer need or do not plan to read again. Then donate them to your local library, Boys & Girls Club, school or homeless shelter. You could also purchase some new books to donate. A great way to get children involved in this act of kindness is to have them pick out their favorite book to donate to a child who maybe does not have many books of his or her own.

{Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may know that literacy is a cause very dear to my heart — you can learn more about my organization Write On! For Literacy here!}

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 great week!
-Dallas

—————————–

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