mid-week meditation #10

Hi there, everyone! How is your day going? It’s been H-O-T here in Ventura this week — temps are up in the 80s, which feels super hot here because we don’t have air conditioning! Don’t usually need it with the cool ocean breeze and fog. I’ve been working in the dining room all day, which is the one room in our house that seems to get a bit of a breeze. Dad and I went out for lunch today — partly for a fun meal out, partly for some air conditioning! ūüôā We went to one of my favorite restaurants, a Japanese place called Kabuki. I got two sushi rolls and chowed down on the complimentary edamame. Yum!

sushi

I’m savoring these final days at home with my parents before heading back up to my life in the Bay. The rest of the afternoon was spent working on my novel, visiting my Gramps, and baking a loaf of pumpkin bread to deliver as a thank-you to the local newspaper for running a guest column I wrote a couple weeks ago.

Now Dad’s having a Guinness (he fell in love with Guinness while he and Mom were in Ireland) and I’m trying out a cider I spotted in Trader Joe’s… has anyone else tried¬†pineapple cider?! I’ve never seen it before, so I couldn’t resist. It is a bit of a strange combination — apple-y plus tropical-y — don’t know if I’d get it again, but fun to try something new!

pineapple cider

Before I close up my computer and start prepping dinner, here’s a meditation for you:

small daily choices

Question of the evening:

  • What are small daily choices that make you feel renewed?

goals + recipes for the week of 5/25

Happy Sunday, friends! First off, I want to wish a very happy birthday to my beautiful friend Chidelia! Happy birthday, sweets! I love you!

me and chidelia

I also want to send love and prayers to everyone in the UCSB and Santa Barbara community… I am heartsick and horrified over the tragedy that happened in Isla Vista on Friday night. It hits very close to home to me personally, as Santa Barbara is just up the 101 from my hometown. Both my parents went to college there {that’s where they met} in addition to my cousin Melissa, a number of my friends and many of my high school classmates.

ucsb solidarity

It’s been a quieter weekend than last weekend around here, which has been nice. Yesterday after teaching I came home and caught up episodes of New Girl before hitting the sack early. This morning, Allyn came to church with me and then we had a lovely lunch together at Lettuce, one of my favorite salad/sandwich eateries in Walnut Creek. It is beautiful and H-O-T here today!

Before I move on to goals, a quick shout-out to¬†my blogger friend Sarah @ The Pajama Chef for her wonderful, insightful review of my dad’s book Wooden & Me. Thank you, Sarah!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
–¬†write ten pages
–¬†send out three query letters/submissions
send acceptances for new young writers project
read up to page 400 in Wolf Hall
–¬†go to two yoga classes
–¬†connect with two friends

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
–¬†write ten pages
–¬†send out two query letters/submissions
– complete final students evals + certificates
Рfinish reading Wolf Hall
–¬†go to¬†the gym twice
–¬†complete my 27 random acts of kindness for my 27th birthday!

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
–¬†coconut brownies¬†via Two Peas & Their Pod
–¬†italian tortilla roll-ups¬†via¬†The Pajama Chef
–¬†crockpot freezer meals for the summer¬†via¬†Money-Saving Mom
sugarless homemade granola via Recipes Happen
–¬†rhubarb walnut muffins¬†via¬†It’s Progression
–¬†funfetti cookies or cake {my current birthday front-runner}

bday cake

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!

a year of Wooden: week 15

Hi, everyone! Monday means it’s time for this week’s¬†year of Wooden¬†challenge!

a year of wooden

  • January:¬†Drink deeply from good books.
  • February:¬†Make friendship a fine art.
  • March:¬†Help others.
  • April:¬†Build a shelter against a rainy day.

This metaphorical shelter includes¬†family, friends, good work, faith¬†— but, since we will focus on these elements in other months, right now¬†we are focusing on the financial interpretation.

Last week, the¬†challenge was to keep track of where you spend your money — even small amounts. Not counting¬†staple items like groceries and drugstore purchases, I tend to spend my discretionary money at Starbucks, bookstores, the movie theater, and going out to lunch at places like Panera.

This week, the challenge is to take just ONE of your weekly discretionary purchases and drop the money into your spare-change jar¬†instead. For example, maybe I’ll swap one of my Starbucks chai lattes for a mug of home-brewed green tea on my own back porch. Or instead of meeting up with a friend for lunch at a restaurant, maybe we can meet up for something free like a walk outside in this beautiful weather.

Having a savings safety net is so important, and these little actions can really add up! I’m inspired by these words from Coach Wooden:

john wooden quote

Questions of the day:

  • Where do you tend to spend your discretionary money?
  • What small change are you going to make this week to drop a little extra money into your spare change jar?
  • Have you ever had the experience of not taking the time to do something right the first time, and having to go back and do it over?

fabulous friday #10

Happy Friday, friends! Hope you have some fun plans on the horizon! I am pretty dang excited for the weekend. Tonight I’m going to see best-selling YA author Veronica Rossi give a talk at a local bookstore. On Saturday I’m reuniting with my lovely friend Dana for a walk at the reservoir & lunch afterwards — we haven’t seen each other for a few weeks and I can’t wait to catch up! And Sunday I’m going to church, meeting up with a friend for coffee … and of course watching the Super Bowl! The one time all year where the commercials are actually my favorite part ūüôā My aunt is having a big party at her house which will undoubtedly be a good time.

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Spontaneous trips to the park. It’s been gorgeous weather here this week, and when I spent the day with my cousins Makena & Bianca earlier this week we went over to the neighborhood park to take advantage of the sunshine. I love swinging on swings! And isn’t this tree beautiful?

swings

2. Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity. A friend first shared this link with me a couple years ago, and after someone mentioned it at church this week I watched it again. So inspiring! I especially love this quote:

elizabeth gilbert quote

3. Trader Joe’s! I can’t get enough of this store. I have lately been addicted to their kale & shredded broccoli chicken salad, edamame hummus, and butter shortbread cookies with chocolate in the middle. {No, I did not take home this entire stash, but I wanted to!}

shortbread cookies

4. This song, “Giddy Up” by Dragonette. My brother posted it on my Facebook wall and it is my new morning jam! Such a rousing way to start the day.

5. Soaking up time with my super-fun cousins. This week I’ve gotten to spend lots of time with these beautiful girls and it’s been so great! Last night Arianna and I had a total girly night: pizza, watching 17 Again, doing face masks, talking about boys. It was wonderful! I feel so blessed that my cousins are not just cousins, they are truly my friends, too ūüôā

arianna and rocca

makena bianca

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • Do you have fun plans for the weekend?
  • Are you going to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday?

asian chicken curried salad

So, my grandma?

me and gma

Not only is this woman adorable and funny and kind, she is also a fabulous cook! {Check out her recipes for curried butternut squash & apple soup, apple cake with brown sugar glaze, and vegetable salad with honey-apple vinaigrette.}

Last week she tried out a new recipe for asian chicken salad that was an instant hit in our little household. Grandpap and I both went back for seconds — I think Grandpap may have even gone back for thirds! I took photos because I knew immediately that I wanted to share the recipe with all of you. So here it is:

asian chicken salad

grandma’s asian chicken salad
– 2-3 cups cubed chicken
– 4 oz can of water chestnuts, drained & sliced
– 1 lb. seedless green grapes, halved
– 11 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
– 14 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained
– 1 cup toasted almonds
– 1 cup chopped celery

for the dressing:
– 3/4 cup greek yogurt
– 1 tsp. curry powder
– 2 tsp. soy sauce
– 2 tsp. lemon juice
– salt & pepper to taste

1. In a big bowl, combine chicken, water chestnuts, grapes, oranges, pineapple, almonds, and celery.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and whisk until well combined.

3. Toss the chicken mixture with the dressing until everything is well-coated.

4. Chill several hours, or even overnight.

5. Serve on lettuce for a salad, or on a roll as a sandwich.

20140122_185758

At first Grandma made different versions with either the pineapple or the oranges, but we decided we liked it best with all the ingredients!

 

Question of the evening:

  • What are some of your favorite recipes lately?

melinda’s vegetable salad with apples, bacon & honey apple vinaigrette

My grandma taught me how to make a wonderful salad last week that is perfect for autumn! She got the recipe from her friend Melinda, who she plays bridge with at the senior center every week. ūüôā This salad makes a perfect side dish, but is also hearty enough for a main course. I brought the leftovers to my writing “office” {i.e. the local library} for lunch the next day and they were terrific!

melinda salad

for the salad:
– cauliflower*
– broccoli*
– brussels sprouts*
– 1 tbsp minced garlic
– 1 package baby spinach
– 1 apple {we used a granny smith}
– 4 slices bacon
– 1 cup chopped walnuts
– 1 cup dried cranberries
– 1/2 cup feta cheese
* Feel free to use a combination of your favorite vegetables, and the amounts can vary of each. We used an equal amount of cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts, about 2-3 cups chopped of each.

for the dressing:
– 1/4 cup apple juice
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
– 2 tbsp lemon juice
– 1 tbsp honey

1. In the oven or on the stovetop, cook the bacon until it is very crispy. Set aside.

2. Finely chop the cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Thinly slice the apple.

3. Saute the minced garlic in a bit of olive oil in a large pot. Add the chopped vegetables and cook 8-10 minutes, until tender.

4. Add the sliced apple and baby spinach and cook another 2-3 minutes, until the spinach is wilted. Then remove the salad from heat.

5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients: apple juice, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and honey, until well combined.

6. Toss the salad with the dressing, crumbled bacon, walnuts, dried cranberries and feta cheese. Serve warm, with salt and pepper to taste.

Hope you enjoy!

father’s day recap

Hi friends! How was your weekend? Mine was wonderful + busy — so busy that I didn’t have time to post about Father’s Day until now! Thanks for your patience with me.

I had a busy weekend, but it was busy with good things: delicious homemade food; gluten-free baked goods {new recipe coming soon!}; lunch out with the fam on a beautiful sunny day; shopping with my mom for a dress for her to wear to my cousin Amanda’s wedding {she found the perfect one that looks gorgeous on her!}; after-dinner fro-yo with plenty of toppings; cheering at the TV with my fam as we watch the NBA Finals; curling up with a heartwarming book, Emily Giffin’s Where We Belong; a long, laugh-filled, soul-soothing phone date with my bff Holly; snippets of peaceful yoga time on my new yoga mat {birthday present from my parents, thanks guys!}; a powerfully moving sermon at church about helping others; and my Gramps came over for Father’s Day dinner!

gramps fathers day

And here’s a picture I took a couple weeks ago of my dad, brother, and Gramps on the couch before dinner. I love this photo: three generations all together!
3 generations

At my church, the congregation always sings a song as the children leave the chapel and head off to Sunday school. This week, the words struck me as particularly meaningful:

“How could anyone ever tell you/You were anything less than beautiful? How could anyone ever tell you/You were less than whole? How could anyone fail to notice/That your loving is a miracle? How deeply you’re connected to my soul.”

The lyrics made me think of my dad, who has always made me feel beautiful, whole, loved and connected. {My mom makes me feel this way, too, but my dad was especially on my mind because of Father’s Day!} I count my blessings every day that I have been so lucky to grow up in the warmth of my parents’ unconditional love. For as long as I can remember, my dad has always done little things like opening my car door for me and laughing at my jokes, and not-so-little things like genuinely listening to my thoughts and opinions and telling me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. He also always, always tells me he loves me and is proud of me. Throughout my life, my dad has been a shining example of how I deserve to be treated — and not just in the way he treats me, but also in the kind and respectful way he treats my mom. I love you so much, Daddy!

father's day

What did you do to celebrate Father’s Day?

dairy-free butternut squash quinoa mock risotto

I am SO excited to share this recipe with you today! A few months ago, I had a delicious butternut squash risotto at a local Italian restaurant, and when I went to the grocery store last weekend the butternut squashes were calling to me. So I thought I would do a little experimenting in the kitchen and see if I could come up with a healthy, dairy-free, quinoa-based “risotto” … and I was super pleased with the results!

{My family was pleased, too … this dish makes great leftovers, which did not last very long in our house!}

butternut squash quinoa risotto

– 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
– 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
– 1 bay leaf
– 2 cups roasted butternut squash, mashed
– 1/2 cup water
– 1 cup baby spinach
– 1 cup arugula
– 2 tsp minced garlic

Optional toppings:
Р slivered almonds
Р dried cranberries
– feta cheese
– salt & pepper to taste

1. Cook the quinoa in the low-sodium chicken broth with the bay leaf for seasoning.

2. While quinoa is cooking, warm the garlic in a bit of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the mashed butternut squash and cook on medium-low.

3. After about 3 minutes, pour in the water and stir. The consistency of the squash will becoming more like a thick sauce.

4. Add the spinach and arugula and continue cooking on medium-low until the greens are fully cooked, stirring frequently.

5. Once the quinoa is fully cooked, remove the bay leaf. Pour the butternut squash mixture over the quinoa and mix well to form a “risotto.”

6. Top with slivered almonds, dried cranberries, and feta cheese if desired. {To make this recipe dairy-free, simply skip the feta cheese.}

There you have it! An easy, healthy, filling and nutritious meal! This has been my go-to lunch of the week.

butternut squash quinoa

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy these recipes:
cilantro-lime quinoa with chicken
veggie-filled pasta bake
pumpkin pasta

MPM-Spring
This post is linked up with Menu-Plan Monday!

kitchen tip tuesdays: my favorite {healthy!} chicken salad

kttovenmittbanner425

Hi, friends! I have a quick, easy and healthy recipe to share with you today as part of Kitchen Tip Tuesdays! I love chicken salad but I don’t like mayonaise very much, so I was on a mission to find a healthier recipe for chicken salad that I could make at home. I think I found a winner!

I like to bake chicken breasts ahead of time during the weekend {see my earlier post about making the most of oven time} so I typically have cooked chicken breasts in a tupperware container in my fridge. Often to save time and extra dishes, I mix up the chicken salad in the tupperware container, and I’m ready to grab and go if need be!

chicken salad

healthier chicken salad
– 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast
– 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt {you could add more or less yogurt as desired}
– 2 tbsp hummus
– 2 stalks celery, chopped
– 1/4 cup dried cranberries
– 1/4 cup slivered almonds
– salt and pepper to taste

1. Stir Greek yogurt and hummus into chicken until fully incorporated.

2. Add chopped celery, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, and mix well.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

It’s a great lunch, especially as the weather continues to warm up! I like serving the chicken salad over a bed of baby spinach.

chicken salad lunch

Have a great day! I’ll be back tomorrow with a post I’m really excited to share with you! ūüôā

Till soon,
Dallas

MPM-Spring

This post is also linked up with Menu-Plan Mondays!

my valentine’s day plans

valentines week

Happy Valentine’s Day!

My lunch today is leftover tilapia, veggies, and — to make things a little special! — a couple of red velvet crinkle cookies. I made them yesterday to deliver to the nursing home along with valentines for my Week 6 Year of Kindness Challenge, and they are just the way I like cookies to be: dense, chewy, soft in the middle and crispy around the edges. YUM!

red velvet cookies

After I finish teaching, I have plans for dinner and then a late show of the new Nicholas Sparks movie Safe Haven. I’m so excited!

safe haven

I came across this Valentine’s poster idea from Julie at PB Fingers¬†and¬†I wanted to show you this morning in case anyone is looking for a last-minute gift idea for their sweetie! This one is inexpensive, easy, and pretty dang adorable.

Here’s what you do: leave a trail of Hershey’s kisses from the doorway through the house to the bedroom. Then have a sign waiting like this one, surrounded by more Hershey’s kisses:

valentine sign

Isn’t that such a cute idea?

I’m going to sign off now and get going on my day! I hope your Valentine’s Day is filled with a ton of love, laughter, and of course chocolate! ūüôā What are you doing to celebrate today?

xoxo,
Dallas

other valentine’s posts you might enjoy:
–¬†easy + inexpensive valentine‚Äôs day cards
–¬†an adorable owl craft project
my favorite romantic movies
–¬†6 simple sweets to make your sweetie for valentine‚Äôs day
–¬†hand-crafted valentine‚Äôs day decor