why surprise dates are my new favorite thing

Back in the spring, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts–Happier With Gretchen Rubin & Elizabeth Craft–and one of their tips was to plan “surprise dates” with your significant other. I immediately loved this idea. I get a huge kick out of surprises, both planning them for others  and being surprised myself. Also, Allyn and I had a long list of “someday” date ideas–activities and restaurants and places that would be “fun for a date someday”–and, while we have always gone on a lot of fun dates together, I thought having a clear structure would be motivation to tackle even more of the creative things on our list. One thing I highly agree with Gretchen Rubin about is that more often than not, when something can be done anytime, it is not done at all.

I proposed the “surprise date” idea to Allyn, and he was game to give it a try. {One of the countless amazing things about my husband is that he is always open to trying new things, whether that is a new recipe I have invented or some activity I hear about on a podcast. I love you, honey!}

We decided to alternate months planning surprises dates for each other, and set parameters to keep things from getting too crazy–the last thing we wanted was for these surprise dates to seem stressful or like a huge event. {To be honest, I think Allyn was probably trying to reign me in because he knows I tend to get a little too enthusiastic or go a tad overboard sometimes. See: planning a huge surprise party for his birthday at a restaurant with all of his family and friends, when we had only been dating for six months. What can I say? I love birthdays and I love surprises and I love him!}

Now, five months into our surprise date experiment, Allyn and I both agree that it is one of our favorite traditions, and definitely something we hope to continue throughout our marriage. It is such a kick to plan the dates for each other and, on the receiving end, the dates just have an extra bit of special magic because they are surprises. It reminds me of when we first started dating. Surprise dates are an easy way to keep the romance alive!

And they don’t even have to be that original. For our very first surprise date, which I planned, we went out to dinner and a movie. But it was more special than our average dinner-and-a-movie date because I found a new-to-us restaurant to try out, and also took Allyn to a cool boutique candy shop to get movie treats before heading to the theater. {No lie: the way to my man’s heart is sour gummy candy.}

Here are some other surprise dates we’ve gone on together:

  • Lunch at a cute little Mexican restaurant and a walk along the Hayward Shoreline, which is quite a lovely hidden gem.

  • Lunch and beignets at a New Orleans-themed restaurant, then a matinee showing of the musical Monsoon Wedding.
  • Fireworks night at an Oakland A’s game.

  • An afternoon at the Exploratorium, a super cool science museum in San Francisco, plus a drive to Twin Peaks to take in the incredible views of the city.

  • Dessert at a French bakery that Holly introduced me to during her recent visit {she and her boyfriend discovered it when they were out here for our wedding!} followed by an indoor rock-climbing class.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this idea with you guys in case any of you find it intriguing! Let me know if you try it out yourselves, or if you do something similar. What are some of the most fun dates you’ve been on? Anything we should add to our list of dates to try in the San Francisco Bay Area?

fun-filled “staycation” weekend

My brother found a cheap flight from NYC to the Bay Area and came to visit us for a long weekend! He was our first houseguest, and we loved sharing our little apartment with him. I went grocery shopping on Friday evening to stock up on favorite items for our houseguest and Allyn was very thorough about checking the comfort of the air mattress.

My brother said that the timing of the trip could not have been more perfect for him because last week incredibly busy, both at work and in his personal life — he is moving to a new apartment, AND his workplace moved to a new office, AND he had a big work event this past Friday. He said it was really nice to fly out to California and relax for a couple days! I told him that it felt like a vacation for us to have him here — a “staycation,” if you will. Allyn and I had so much fun showing him around our town and taking him to our favorite places. Allyn joked that we’ll need to wrack our brains to come up with things to do next time he visits, because we did everything there is to do in our little town!

Saturday

Saturday morning we slept in a bit and I made smoothies and pancakes for breakfast. Then we headed over to the Lake Chabot recreational park down the street and went for a walk around the lake. We also showed Greg the picnic area we reserved for my 30th birthday party in a few months! Allyn is super on top of party planning, which is good, because apparently picnic spots get booked up six months in advance. We were lucky to nab one for the first weekend in June.

After 45 minutes or so, we headed back home and got all cleaned up to head over to a “gender reveal” party for dear friends of ours who are expecting a baby in August. We could not be more excited for them — they’re going to be such great parents! Greg met them during our wedding festivities and actually got together with them in the fall when they were out visiting NYC, so he has become friends with them too. The timing worked out perfectly that he was in town to come along to their party! It was my first time attending a gender reveal party and the concept was so much fun. They asked guests to wear either blue or pink to the party, depending on what gender you thought the baby was going to be. Then, towards the end of the party, the parents-to-be cut open a cake to reveal either blue or pink. We all wore blue, even though Allyn thought it was going to be a girl {he just didn’t have anything pink to wear.} For some reason, I had this overwhelming feeling that they were having a boy. I felt pretty dang confident. And I was right! It’s exciting to imagine them welcoming a baby boy in just a few months.

The party was a blast — lots of Allyn’s friends from high school were there. I love these people but we don’t get to see them as often as we would like, due to everyone’s busy schedules. In fact, we hadn’t seen most of the gang since our wedding six months ago! It was great to chat and catch up with everyone over delicious “soul food”: fried chicken, black-eyed peas and rice, mac and cheese, cornbread, greens. There was enough food and cake to feed an army, and the hosts insisted that all the guests take home leftovers. We left the party around 5:30 and, while we had originally planned on taking Greg to a local Thai restaurant that night for dinner, none of us were feeling like eating again anytime soon. Sleepiness hit, along with a rainstorm, and nothing sounded better than changing into pajamas and cozying up on the couch to watch a movie. So that is exactly what we did! We picked up the movie “Arrival” from Redbox on the way home, which we had all been wanting to see. I was worried the movie might be a bit too scary for me {I am such a horror movie wimp} but it wasn’t scary at all, just suspenseful. The story was told in an interesting way that kept you guessing, all the way up to the enigmatic ending. It was definitely a good movie to watch with other people, so you can all discuss it afterwards.

Sunday

Early in the morning I had a couple student writing appointments scheduled, so after a shower and a quick breakfast of two defrosted muffins from the freezer, I slipped out while the boys were still sleeping. When I returned home a couple hours later, Allyn was making breakfast and Greg had just returned from a run. I joined them for breakfast #2, and soon we all headed out the door for an afternoon of fun!

Our first stop was the local bowling alley where we made it just in time to take advantage of their “before noon” weekend discount. When bowling, my goal is always to break 100. I got the closest I could come without actually meeting my goal: 99! I bowled more 9’s that game than I ever have in my life. Allyn and Greg both broke 100, Greg edging out Allyn with a spare in the final frame to win the game, 114 to 108. It was a close match! The bowling alley was hoppin’ — lots of families and little kids with bumper lanes — and it was fun to be part of the festive atmosphere.

After bowling we walked a few minutes to this cool shop called Aran’s Art Studio that Allyn and I had passed by many times and had always wanted to check out. In addition to teaching classes and hosting birthday parties, they also have a large selection of pottery that you can drop in anytime and select to paint with your own designs. When you’re done, you leave the pottery and they glaze and fire it, then call you to come pick it up when it’s ready {usually within a week, according to the helpful receptionist.} It sounded like fun, so we each chose a piece to paint. I used to love painting when I was a girl, and I’d forgotten how soothing it can be. About an hour later, we left the painting studio feeling relaxed and also energized by our creations. I can’t wait to see what they look like glazed and fired! Greg sweetly picked out a vase he painted for me, so I get to keep his piece, too!

We had just enough time to squeeze in lunch at one of our favorite local restaurants, Don Jose’s, before I had to head off to teach my weekly Creative Writing class. While I was gone, the boys went to the movie theater down the street to see the movie “Logan” {which I was grateful for because I really did not want to see it — too violent for my taste!} They really liked it but confirmed that yes, it was much too gory for me. It made it easier for me to be away knowing that they were seeing a movie I definitely did not want to see!

When I arrived home from teaching around 7pm, Allyn and Greg were putting the finishing touches on a Blue Apron meal they cooked for dinner! Tangelo-glazed salmon with apple farro and an extra side of green beans. {The meals we order from Blue Apron are portioned for two people, so I bought an extra fillet of salmon and some green beans at the grocery store to round out the meal and make it enough food for three!} The meal was aaaaamazing and we all toasted the chefs!

After dinner, we played a few rounds of a supremely fun card game called “Guillotine” that Allyn’s sister introduced us to a while ago. It is a simple premise, so the game is easy to learn, but it uses a combination of logic, strategy and luck that really keeps your interest. Usually my go-to activity after dinner is to relax on the couch with a TV show or movie, but having Greg here reminded me how much I love playing board games and card games, too!

During the game we enjoyed some leftover cake from the party on Saturday. Allyn made his typical sugar feast of an ice cream dish! He cracks me up. I tease him that he has the sugar tooth of an eight-year-old!

Monday

Greg and I have a tradition of going out for breakfast or brunch together. So on his last morning in town, Allyn and I took him to a gem of a breakfast place down the street, called Doug’s Place. It’s been in town since 1978 and has the homey atmosphere and huge portions of a local staple. Allyn ordered the “light” breakfast {which would be a normal-sized breakfast at any other restaurant: two eggs, bacon and toast} and Greg and I split a ginormous veggie omelet and French toast. I loved both items, but the French toast was the winner in my book!

Allyn didn’t have to work, and the rain was kindly holding off, so after breakfast we headed over to the mini-golf course. On a gray-skied Monday morning, we had the place to ourselves! It felt like we were kids playing hooky from school. The course is a lot of fun with some very creative hole designs. Greg got a hole-in-one!

For lunch, Greg said he was in the mood for “a fast-casual Mediterranean place” and, thanks to Yelp’s help, I was able to find a great spot called Shish Grill that was on the way to our afternoon activities. The boys ordered chicken shawarma and I got a falafel sandwich. The restaurant was busy with a lunch crowd but we were very impressed by the service and the food! After lunch, we stopped by my grandparents’ house as a surprise. Grandma is out of town visiting her sister, but Grandpap was home and he was so excited to see his grandson. The look on his face when Greg popped out from around the corner was priceless! We had a really nice time visiting with him.

Next up, we dropped off Greg at the gorgeous Lafayette Reservoir for a run while Allyn and I went to our tax appointment. Taxes are never very fun, but our appointment was less painful than I was anticipating, and I was excited about our first time filing as a married couple! #relationshipmilestones

The timing worked out perfectly and we swung around to the Lafayette Reservoir just as Greg was finishing his cool-down. I wish we lived closer to the reservoir because it is such a peaceful place to walk around. Fun fact: Allyn and I went to the Lafayette Reservoir for our second date, and it was the location of our first kiss!

We headed back home and Greg showered and packed up his stuff while Allyn and I made another Blue Apron meal for dinner. This recipe was chicken yakiniku with bok choy, sesame-marinated carrots and garlic rice, and it was another winner. Yakiniku, according to Blue Apron, is “a type of barbecue sauce that combines the sweet notes of teriyaki with the savory depth of sesame.” We all thought it was delicious and not too spicy! To ensure the meal would be enough for three people, I simply added some additional veggies and the boys also polished off leftover corn muffins from Saturday’s party.

After dinner we had just enough time for a rematch of “Guillotine.” Then, all too soon, it was time to drive Greg to the airport to catch his flight home. His visit went by so fast, but it also felt so full in the best way. I can’t wait until he visits again!

Questions of the day:

  • What are your favorite places in your hometown to take guests when they visit?
  • Have you ever had a “staycation” before?
  • What is your favorite card/board game or favorite movie you’ve seen recently?

my halloween weekend recap!

Hi, friends! Can you believe it is already November? I have some travel recaps coming your way soon, but first I wanted to share my Halloween with you guys because it was a great one!

allyn allyson me and pumpkins

On Friday, Allyn cooked us a delicious dinner of salmon & veggies, and then we carved pumpkins! You may remember Harold and Maude from our trip to the pumpkin patch at Half Moon Bay in early October. I was so relieved they lasted so long without growing moldy, and were in great shape for us to carve the day before Halloween. Yay!

harold and maude

We used stencils to make a gremlin {Allyn} and a mummy {me}… I thought they turned out pretty great!

mummy and gremlin

On Saturday, Allyn had a work event during the day and I had a meeting for church and some errands to run. In the afternoon, I assembled the last of my costume by making a wreath out of fake flowers I bought on sale at Michaels {apparently these flowers are part of their autumn line, which is now on super sale because that store is alllll about the holidays currently!} I had never made a flower crown before, but I used this tutorial and once I got the hang of it, the crown came together pretty easily. Here are the steps I did:

how to make a simple flower crown 

  1. Wrap floral wire around your head to measure the fit. Make sure you don’t make it *too* tight because you will be adding flowers, so it will get a little thicker. I used two strands of floral wire to make it a little sturdier.
  2. Snip the flowers you would like to use and arrange them on your crown in a pattern. Important note: make sure you leave enough stem on the flowers. I would recommend a couple inches, to make sure you are able to attach them securely to the wire.
  3. Use floral tape to tightly wrap around the stem of the first flower, continuing for a few inches down the wire of the crown to really stabilize the attachment. To me, this step was the key. At first, I did not use nearly enough floral tape and my flowers kept falling off. When I started using more floral tape and continuing down a couple inches past the flower’s stem, the entire crown felt much more secure.
  4. Continue until you make your way around the entire crown. Ta da! Your very own flower crown {that can double as a wreath if you hang it on the door, as I plan to do next autumn!}

forest gump and jenny

Can you tell who Allyn and I dressed up as for Halloween? Forest Gump and Jenny!

We met up with Allyn’s sweet sister Allyson and her friend Henry, who both dressed as Pirates, and drove into San Francisco for dinner and a Halloween show! Dinner was Chipotle because they were having a special deal where anyone who dressed up in costume got any menu item for just $3! I went with the vegetarian burrito bowl. SO GOOD.

Halloween chipotle

Then we drove to Fort Mason by the marina to go to the BATS Improv Halloween Musical Show! I just happened to come across info about this annual show when I did an Internet search last month for fun Bay Area Halloween events. It ended up being an absolutely wonderful way to spend Halloween night! The cast were very talented and quite hilarious. They made up an entire two-act musical show on the spot based on the audience’s suggestion of a title: “Infection!”

improv halloween comedy show

Allyn’s eyes are closed because Forest Gump is tired from all that running…

All in all, it was a truly fantastic Halloween!

On Sunday, there was an incredibly moving All Souls Service at my church. I have been missing Celine a lot lately, and the beautiful service and words of joy in the midst of grief were exactly what I needed on this day. I lit a candle for Celine and walked down the aisle to place it on the communal altar. I felt understood and lifted up by the supportive members of my church community, and for that I am very grateful.

I miss Celine every day, but every day I also smile thinking of a memory we shared, or simply remembering her genuine laughter.

candle for Celine

Later on Sunday afternoon, Allyn and I took BART into San Francisco to see the production of one of my all-time favorite musicals, “Once”! You guys, I adore this show. It makes me feel connected to the world around me and it reminds me why I love creating art: to give hope to others and celebrate the beauty of ordinary life.

once play sf

“Once” is an adaptation of the independent movie that came out a few years ago and won the Academy Award for Best Song. I love the movie, the songs, the storyline, and the musical does not disappoint! This was actually my third time seeing this show: I saw it originally on Broadway in New York City, and then a couple summers ago with my parents in Los Angeles. It was really special to be able to share the experience with Allyn this time!

before seeing once

Aaaaand, that’s a wrap! This week so far has been busy getting caught up after my travels to visit Holly in Cleveland and Greg in NYC. Hoping to pop back in soon with a recap of my trip! Until then, hope you are having a lovely week and adapting to the time change. I am slooooowly getting used to it getting dark so early. As one of my adorable tutoring kids said when I arrived at 5:30 yesterday for our lesson: “Miss Dallas, why are you here at midnight?!?” Haha. It IS strange for the sky to be dark as midnight at 5:30 p.m. but I am trying to embrace the winter for all the gifts it brings. I do love this time of year! What about you?

fabulous friday #52

Hi friends, and happy Friday! It’s been far too long since I’ve done a Fabulous Friday post… I’m excited to bring this back today! Hope you’re up to something fun this lovely autumn weekend. 🙂

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Being in Lake Tahoe! This is my first time traveling to this gorgeous vacation destination that so many people rave about, and I must say it has lived up to my expectations and then some! It is a beautiful time of year to be here, with crisp fall weather and so much greenery. I snagged a postcard for you guys!

Lake Tahoe postcard

I am loving being part of the Tahoe WordWave Festival. There are so many talented, creative writers and artists all around and it has been a privilege and pleasure to attend the workshops and events. Additionally, I am SO excited for the premiere of my one-act play “Woman, Running Late, in a Dress” tomorrow night at the Valhalla Boathouse Theatre! The cast of my play took a selfie for you. {How adorable are they??}

my cast

2. Backing up a little bit, this past Tuesday Dana and I attended the Taste of Walnut Creek, a fundraiser for a variety of local organizations, including my church! Each attendee got a little booklet of coupons and you would walk around downtown and stop at various restaurants to get a sample.

taste of walnut creek booklet

Each sample was quite small, but at the end of the night we were definitely full! {And we didn’t even make it to all of the restaurants offered!} If your town offers something similar, I would for sure recommend attending. Here is a list of the different eats & drinks we enjoyed:

I had an absolute blast strolling around downtown Walnut Creek, eating and chatting with beautiful Dana! I feel so blessed to have such amazing people like her in my life.

me and dana taste of walnut creek

3. I can’t get enough coconut butter lately! Have you guys tried this before? I first had it smeared on my morning bagels at Key West when I was there for the Key West Literary Conference a couple years ago, but I kind of forgot about it because I never see coconut butter in the grocery store, just coconut oil. But coconut butter was on sale at Swanson’s Vitamins last week, so I bought a tub.

coconut butter

You guys, I can’t get enough! My favorite thing of late is to prep a slice of toast with half coconut butter, half almond butter. Mmmmm I could eat this all day.

coconut almond butter toast

Aaaaand I am pretty sure my love for avocado toast will never die. Bring on the healthy fats!

avocado toast

4. I recently discovered Susan Hyatt {thanks to my girl Alex Franzen} and I am loving her short weekly “GO!” podcasts. Susan releases a new episode each Monday, with the goal of helping you get your week off to a great start. Topics range from your finances to your family to your business/career. I love how these are short enough to listen to as I’m getting ready for the day, and they never fail to give me a burst of inspiration. Susan is like that funny, no-nonsense, motivating friend who gives you the honest kick-in-pants you need. I binge-listened to all of her episodes last week, and now I am kinda bummed I have to wait each week for a new one!

5. Allyn and I got our pumpkins! Fingers crossed they last till Halloween; we are planning to have a pumpkin-carving party with Allyn’s sister on Halloween day. Since I like to name EVERYTHING, I of course had to name our pumpkins. Let me introduce you to Harold and Maude! {Have you seen that movie? Such a great one.}

our pumpkins

Questions for the morning:

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

weekend getaway to half moon bay

This past weekend, I took my sweetheart on a surprise weekend getaway to Half Moon Bay for his birthday! We had such a wonderful, relaxing time. I had never been to Half Moon Bay but have wanted to go ever since I moved up to the Bay Area and heard the town’s name… it sounds so magical to me! And it ended up being even lovelier than I imagined. It is only a short drive outside of San Francisco, but it feels worlds away. Half Moon Bay is a quiet, sleepy little beach town and I kept telling Allyn, “I feel like we are so far from home even though we only drove like an hour to get here!” Even the drive was pretty, with ocean views along Coastal Highway 1 and some very neat sections where the road was lined with huge, beautiful trees.

I booked a cute apartment for us on Air B&B and I want to give a quick shout-out to Paul, Meg and Poppy as fantastic hosts who totally went above and beyond! If you ever visit Half Moon Bay, I would definitely recommend staying with them. When we arrived, there were fresh flowers waiting on the kitchen table, as well as delicious homemade brownies and milk! How sweet is that? They also left tea and coffee for us to brew each morning, which was so nice. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the weekend was the slow mornings with my sweetie, sharing breakfast in the sunny kitchen.

brownies half moon bay

I was a little excited about the brownies 🙂

Here is the outside of the cute one-bedroom apartment we stayed in:

half moon bay residence

Happy happy!

me half moon bay residence

On Saturday morning, Allyn and I drove the short distance to the Half Moon Bay State Beach.

al half moon bay beach sign

What a nice guy, carrying my purse for me!

The weather was gorgeous and sunny, and we spent some time walking along the beach trails, soaking up the sunshine, and watching the waves. The ocean is so soothing! I could sit in the sand and watch the waves break along the shore for hours.

half moon bay beach

half moon bay me and al

The wind started to pick up in the early afternoon, and our stomachs started grumbling, so we left the beach and stopped at a cute restaurant, The Flying Fish Bar & Grill, for lunch. I neglected to snap photos of our food, but Allyn had a delicious-looking wrap with fried prawns, and I had a mahi fish taco and a cup of clam chowder. It hit the spot!

Then we headed out to the pumpkin patch! Half Moon Bay is known for pumpkins {they actually have a huge pumpkin festival every year!} and before the trip I had read terrific reviews of Arata’s Pumpkin Farm, so we headed there. We were not disappointed! It was a pumpkin patch paradise.

arata's pumpkin farm

pumpkins at pumpkin farm

Arata’s Pumpkin Farm has tons of pumpkins {crazy wide variety!}, a petting zoo, a haunted house, a farmer’s market, and activities for kiddos… but the highlight is the huge labyrinth made out of hay bales. Look at this thing!

the labyrinth

When you first enter, a giant sculpture of a Minotaur is there to greet you. Allyn was not intimidated in the least!

al and the minotaur

When we first entered the maze, I felt pretty confident. But we quickly discovered that making our way to the exit was going to be a more difficult task than either of us anticipated. Dead-ends abounded!

dead end labyrinth

It was so easy to get lost and to forget which routes you had tried before. I joked to Allyn that we should have brought bread crumbs to leave so we could trace our path! We kept taking routes that circled us back to the beginning, where the Minotaur seemed to be laughing at us. Finally, we took a different path that ushered us into the back half of the maze, and from then on it was just a matter of trying out the various routes until we got one that worked.

I was so happy when we saw the exit beckoning us! Success! We did it!

success the labyrinth

I think every couple should make their way through an intricate maze together, because it sure illuminates how you work together and deal with frustration! I was happy that Allyn and I took turns leading, listened to each other, and laughed at ourselves the whole time. I have a ton of fun with this guy, even when wandering through stacked-up bales of hay. And that’s sayin’ something! 🙂

For dinner on Saturday night we split a Margherita pizza at a wonderful Italian restaurant, It’s Italia, that was a happening spot in downtown Half Moon Bay! We did not make reservations ahead of time and the place was CROWDED, so we nabbed a spot at the bar. It ended up being a fun, cozy place to sit — as Allyn said, it sort of felt like we were part of a large dinner party –and the wait staff could not have been more helpful or attentive. I’d definitely go back!

Sunday morning we slept in, packed up our stuff to be out by noon check-out, hit the beach one last time, and hit the road! It was a delightful weekend away that left me feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

See you next time, Half Moon Bay!

half moon bay beach 2

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goals + recipes for the week of 11/16

Hi, friends, and happy Sunday to you 🙂 Sorry I’ve been a bit MIA this week… it’s been unexpectedly busy! On Friday night, I went to Arianna’s high school play that she has been working on for months as the Assistant Director. I’m so proud of her! The set alone blew me away with its intricate attention to detail.

Arianna play

Yesterday, after teaching my rambunctious classes of kiddos, I took BART into the city and met up with my sweetheart for a fun sustainable foods event his MBA program was hosting. I noshed on a delicious spinach dish from a Jamaican restaurant, and Allyn had the jerked chicken and shared some of his dirty rice and plantains with me. It was nice getting to chat with his classmates and catch up with some people I hadn’t seen since Allyn’s surprise birthday party back in October.

Work-wise this week, some exciting developments have been happening that I hope I’m able to share sometime soon. In the meantime, I can tell you that I was really happy to get an acceptance this week from North Dakota Quarterly, the literary magazine out of the University of North Dakota, to publish my short story “Dirt” in their forthcoming “Slow” themed issue. Hooray! It’s been a motivating reminder of the importance of perseverance in pursuing your dreams, despite the inevitable rejections and disappointments — every “No” is one step closer to a “Yes!”

In that spirit… time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from last week: 
– finish writing that one short story that’s been half-finished for months
– prepare tutoring worksheets through the end of the year
– update my website
– go to the gym three times
finish reading Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
connect with two friends

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– finish editing/preparing manuscript for submission
– update my website
– set date for Winter Writing Camp
– go to yoga class
– connect with two friends

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
pumpkin cookies w/cookie butter via The Coupon Project
kale & brussels sprouts salad w/butternut squash via Two Peas & Their Pod
vegetarian chickpea curry via Food Friends
fiesta frittata via PB Fingers
chaider {chai + hot apple cider} via The Pajama Chef
– my grandma’s curried butternut squash soup

Questions of the day:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

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

goals + recipes for the week of 11/9

Hello, friends! Today is my Grandpap’s birthday!!

me and grandpap

Tonight we’re getting together at my Aunt Annie’s house to celebrate… I’m planning to make funfetti cupcakes, or perhaps pumpkin spice cupcakes, with cream-cheese frosting and of course plentyyyy of sprinkles 🙂 I love my Grandpap so much and I feel lucky that I’ve gotten to spend so much time with him the past year. He has always been super supportive of my writing. He is a jokester, a piano bar singer, a Sudoku fiend, and the only octogenarian I know who text messages and uses Siri. Here’s to many more birthdays, Grandpap!

Backing up a bit, yesterday I slept in, savored breakfast and my favorite pumpkin spice chai tea while reading some of my favorite blogs. Then I taught four classes of energetic kiddos, and then I headed over to a BBQ at the home of one of Allyn’s childhood friends. A bunch of his longtime friends were there, and it was really nice to get a chance to visit with them! I brought chocolate pumpkin kiss cookies, recipe coming soon!

chocolate pumpkin kiss cookies

This morning I’m heading to church early because I’m serving as Worship Associate for both services. Then I’m hoping to meet up with Dana because it’s been too long since I’ve seen her pretty face, and we have lots to catch up on!

But before I head out… time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from last week: 
– finish writing that one short story that’s been half-finished for months
complete mid-term assessments for the classes I teach
– go to the gym three times
finish reading After Dakota by Kevin Sharp
connect with two friends
get my flu shot!!

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– finish writing that one short story that’s been half-finished for months
– prepare tutoring worksheets through the end of the year
– update my website
– go to the gym three times
– finish reading Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
– connect with two friends

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
bbq pineapple, jalepeno + feta pizza via Cookie + Kate
peanut butter apple oatmeal cookies via Two Peas & Their Pod
rosemary roasted potatoes via Food Friends
white chocolate drizzled pumpkin scones via That Skinny Chick Can Bake
chewy coconut oil granola bars via The Pajama Chef
– my own pumpkin pasta

Questions of the day:

  • 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!

pumpkin carving & other weekend highlights

Hello and happy Monday, everyone! My day started off in a very special way… I stopped by Target to pick up the Deluxe version of my girl’s new CD!!

t swift 1989 cd

I have been a fan of T.Swift since her country music “Tim McGraw” days. She was one of the {many} things Holly and I bonded over in college 🙂 Longtime blog readers might remember when we went to her concert in Nashville last year as the final stop on her RED tour! It was a blast.

red tour bus

I listened to the first six songs driving home from Target, and now I’m taking a little break before listening to the rest… I’m trying to savor it. Nothing like listening to new music from one of your favorite artists for the first time!

Look what else I found at Target: my favorite English muffins! These babies are seasonal, so I need to enjoy them while I can!

pumpkin spice english muffins

Pumpkin in the autumn is a total weakness of mine. I may have also been swayed to purchase some Tazo pumpkin chai tea and a box of pumpkin spice oatmeal. Is anyone else pumpkin-obsessed like I am?

Speaking of pumpkins… yesterday I went to Clancy’s Pumpkin Patch in San Francisco with Allyn and our friends Justin and Fawn. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and everyone in the city seemed in a great mood after the Giants’ win on Saturday night! {And they won again last night, too! Only one game away from clinching the World Series title!} We had a fun time wandering around the pumpkin patch, inspecting pumpkins and admiring the adorable, creative costumes worn by numerous little kids running around with their parents. We saw lots of Ninja Turtles, Elsas {from Frozen}, and Power Rangers — which made me happy, as I was a huuuuuge Power Rangers fan back in the day! Yellow Ranger all the way.

I did not take pictures of any of the little kids, as I did not want to be a creepazoid, but here are some photos I snapped of the patch!

pumpkin patch

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IMG_20141026_121946

After the patch, we stopped by a picnic that one of Justin’s former coworkers was hosting in Alamo Park, right across from the famous Painted Ladies — the houses featured in the opening credits of Full House. I completely forgot to take pictures because I was too busy enjoying the conversation and noshing on a chocolate pastry that Allyn & I got at a farmer’s market on the way there.

But I did take lots of pictures of our pumpkin-carving once we made it back to Justin’s apartment! We did it old-school with knives and our imaginations. In the previous few years I’ve carved with a template, so this was a new adventure! Instead of a traditional Jack-o-Lantern or Halloween design, I decided to carve a cheerful sunflower. {I’m sure you are not surprised!}

sunflower pumpkin

Allyn made a googly-eyed face with a snazzy, slightly off-kilter mustache! Haha, the off-center mustache was driving Justin crazy, but I think it adds to the pumpkin’s charm!

allyn pumpkin

We had a LOT of pumpkin guts when we were done!

pumpkin guts

It was Fawn’s first time ever carving a pumpkin, and she did an amazing job! Her design was so intricate — all those little teeth! — but she carved it flawlessly. No toothpicks were needed in the creation of this Jack-O-Lantern!

Fawn's pumpkin

And here are Allyn & my pumpkins, all lit up:

lit up pumpkins

It was such a fun day!

The rest of the evening was spent doing work {schoolwork for Allyn, getting-caught-up-on-emails-etc for me} and chatting with Allyn’s roommates while making veggie & black bean tacos for dinner. All in all, a truly wonderful weekend!

Before I head out, I want to wish a heartfelt congratulations to our family friends Peter & Brooke, who got married yesterday! The wedding was down in L.A. and since I had to work on Saturday, I was unable to attend, but the rest of my family went and had an amazing time. I love this picture of them from the reception. So much love and joy for you both, Brooke & Peter!

peter and brooke wedding

Questions of the evening:

  • What was a highlight of your weekend?
  • Did you carve pumpkins this year?
  • Who are your favorite music artists?

goals + recipes for the week of 10/26 {and MUSTACHES!}

Hello, friends! Today I’m savoring a relaxing morning with my sweetheart after a crazy-busy day yesterday {editing + teaching four classes + big family dinner!} It felt sooooo nice to sleep in this morning! After lots of green tea and a big breakfast, I’m looking forward to working on a new writing project for a couple hours! Then this afternoon, Allyn and I are headed into San Francisco for a double-date with our friends Justin and Fawn. We’re going to a pumpkin patch and out for lunch, and then carving pumpkins if we have time!

I’ve been dying to show this to you guys: look what I found when I went to Orchard nursery with Dana a couple weeks ago

mustache

… a pumpkin mustache!!

I was super excited to get it for Allyn’s Jack-O-Lantern because 1) it’s funny; 2) it’s unique; and 3) on November 1st Allyn will start growing his own ‘stache as part of the “Movember” campaign to raise awareness for men’s health issues such as prostate cancer. I’ve never seen him with facial hair before, but he will be rockin’ a mustache for the entire month of November! And so will my brother! Does anyone remember this pic of Greg and me from Thanksgiving last year?

me and greg staches

That was taken at the very tail-end of Greg’s mustache-growing. That ‘stache is as unruly as all get-out! Can’t wait to see what he ends up with this year. {Just kidding Greg, you know I love you and your unruly ‘stache!}

What mustache would you choose to grow {or choose your significant other to grow}? Here is a handy-dandy chart I found. I told Allyn my top two choices are Lampshade or Painter’s Brush. Or to just go all out and go for the Imperial! Haha.

As for me, this is the closest thing I’ll get to my own ‘stache this November:

me mustache

Which reminds me of a Mustache Bash my roommates and I went to in college, where we all drew mustaches on our faces with eyeliner pencil. Fun times!

moustache bash

ANYWAY… before things get too ‘stachetastic around here, let’s move onto goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from last week: 
complete one new chapter of my novel-in-progress {I FINISHED IT!!}
write & mail Halloween cards
– go to the gym three times
read 100 pages of After Dakota by Kevin Sharp

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– finish writing that one short story that’s been half-finished for months
– complete mid-term assessments for the classes I teach
– go to the gym three times
– finish reading After Dakota by Kevin Sharp
– connect with two friends
– get my flu shot!! {still haven’t gotten around to this after I failed a couple weeks ago when trying to get it at Safeway}

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
curried red lentil soup w/dried cherries & cilantro via Cookie + Kate
roasted vegetable stuffed shells via Two Peas & Their Pod
spinach feta wrap via Peanut Butter Fingers
slow-cooker santa fe chicken via Peanut Butter Fingers & Skinnytaste
asian turkey meatballs w/carrot rice via The Pajama Chef
– my own butternut squash mock risotto

Questions of the day:

  • 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!

goals + recipes for the week of 10/19

Another beautiful Sunday around here! I’m getting up early this morning to tutor a couple of my favorite students, and then I’m heading over to church where they are having a New Member Recognition Ceremony as part of today’s service. I’m excited to officially be accepted by my congregation as a new member!

sanctuary

My lovely, light-filled church!

The rest of my day I’m hoping will be loose and relaxed. My plans include: pleasure reading, phone dates with a couple friends, a long walk outside, and family dinner.

Before I get moving, time for goals. Last week I wrote about my mental shift from focusing on the end product to instead simply enjoying the PROCESS of writing. Instead of hurrying to the finish line of my novel, I’m focusing on making it the very best it can be. This week, I didn’t put pressure on myself to finish the whole novel. My goal was to complete one chapter this week…

… and I did! I finished one entire new chapter and wrote about half of another new chapter. This week I averaged about 1,000 words a day, and a couple days I even wrote closer to 2,000 words — more consistent productivity than I have logged in months. Most importantly, I had a lot more FUN writing this week! Instead of feeling rushed, I felt expansive and excited. I knew I had all the time in the world to follow the threads of the story wherever they wanted to take me, and that made me feel eager to dive back into the story each day.

It reminds me of the feeling you have writing a term paper when it’s due in a matter of hours, versus writing a term paper when it’s due in a month. The act of writing is much more enjoyable when you have time and space for discovery, instead of being stressed out about getting from Point A to Point B.

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from last week: 
complete one new chapter of my novel-in-progress
– prepare for tutoring through the end of the month
– go to the gym three times
read 100 pages of After Dakota by Kevin Sharp

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– complete one new chapter of my novel-in-progress
– write & mail Halloween cards
– go to the gym three times
– read 100 pages of After Dakota by Kevin Sharp

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
thai beef skewers via The Pajama Chef
sweet & salty marshmallow popcorn via Two Peas & Their Pod
easy marinated baked chicken via Peanut Butter Fingers
peanut butter pumpkin brownies via It’s Progression
caramelized onion & apple galette via Panera Bread website
– my own apple cake with brown sugar glaze

Questions of the day:

  • 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!