a thank-you note to the universe

Dear Universe,

You really outdid yourself with my thirtieth birthday. It was one of the most special days weeks {I mean seriously, whose birthday celebration lasts multiple weeks??} of my life. It was filled with reminders of all the people who have made every day of my past thirty years on this planet such an incredible gift. I just wanted to write a little note to say thank you.

Thank you for my parents, who created me and raised me to be kind, curious, and confident in myself, to strive for my dreams and appreciate the present, to dive forward and dig in with both hands. They turned the story of my rocky premature birth into a story of strength and determination. Every single day of my entire life I have felt loved, because of them. I was so grateful to be able to celebrate my birthday, and my dad’s birthday two days before mine, with my family in my hometown over Memorial Day weekend. We ate so much delicious food and went mini-golfing and watched movies and relaxed together on the couch and took Mr. Murbur for long walks, and it was simply perfect.

Thank you for my brother, who has been my “twin” since the day he was born when I was two and a half. It is such a blessing to have someone in my life, for as long as I can remember, who shares my history and inside jokes and who just “gets” me. He may be my younger brother, but he is my role model. He is so wise, and I learn so much from him. It was such a gift that he flew out from NYC to be there for Memorial Day weekend, and he even ran the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon and totally kicked butt! It was his first-ever marathon, and he did it in 2 hours 52 minutes and creamed the Boston Qualifier time! I am unbelievably proud of him. Thank you, universe, for the gift of being able to cheer him on for the last mile of the race and hug him at the finish line. He inspires me all over!

Thank you for my amazing husband, who drove down to Ventura by himself on Saturday morning {with my flexible work schedule, I was able to fly down a few days earlier to squeeze in more family time} and was his sweet, thoughtful and generous self all weekend, even though he was probably exhausted from a long workweek and a long solo travel day. He fits in with my fam so naturally and I love seeing them share inside jokes and long conversations. He also was amazingly helpful to my mom–she has officially crowned him “Best Son-in-Law Ever”–washing off chairs and running to the grocery store and setting up tables for our big party on Sunday. {More about that later.} And, if all that wasn’t enough, he also made me the most wonderful personal birthday gift I could imagine, and he threw a party for me up in the Bay Area the weekend after my birthday, so I could celebrate with all my friends and family up here. He spent months planning it and even baked funfetti cupcakes with homemade cream-cheese frosting for the event! Universe, you were so generous to introduce me to this man three and a half years ago. He’s made me smile every day since. #luckiestgirl

{mini-golfing!}

Thank you for the gorgeous weather all weekend–especially on Sunday, when my parents threw a big party to celebrate my birthday, my dad’s birthday, and my brother’s epic marathon! My mom worked her booty off prepping for the party, as always without a hint of complaint. She gives to others with such joy. So many people from my childhood came by–old family friends, former teachers, my cousins and aunts and uncles, plus newer friends too! It was a whirlwind of chatting and visiting, eating and drinking and laughing. I love being able to introduce various people I adore to each other!

Thank you for bringing Erica into my life in seventh grade; she has been one of my best friends ever since. She has always loved me and accepted me for exactly who I am, which is such a gift in a friend. I was so happy to get to see her twice while I was home: for one of our marathon catch-up coffee dates, at our favorite spot Simone’s, and at the party on Sunday, where her parents came along too! It was wonderful to see them again, and they got to meet Allyn for the first time. It always warms my heart to see my hubby bond with my friends. Anyway, universe, I’m just so grateful for this girl!

Thank you for the dozens of sweet cards and thoughtful messages and phone calls I received from friends near and far on my birthday. From notes on Facebook to text messages to sunflower bouquets to birthday packages in the mail, I felt like the most loved lady on the planet. Now I have cards displayed all around our apartment that give me the warm fuzzies as I go through my day. I am so fortunate that my path has crossed with the paths of so many incredible people in the past 30 years!

Universe, thank you for blessing us with more gorgeous weather last Saturday for my second birthday party—a picnic at the Lake Chabot regional park, just down the street from our apartment. Allyn reserved our picnic area back in January, and it was absolutely perfect: up on a little hill, tucked away, our own private spot to BBQ and hang out with friends.

Thank you for my wonderful in-laws, who came early and schlepped coolers and grilling trays and drinks and food and camping chairs and propane up the hill, who helped us get the tablecloths and decorations all set up, who were grill masters and made sure everyone had enough to eat. Allyn’s mom saved the day by bringing along some metal tongs—Allyn and I realized when we started unloading things for the grill that, despite months of careful planning and triple-checking to-do lists, we had completely forgotten to bring any sort of implements to turn meat and veggies on the grill, like maybe a spatula?? Haha! After a few moments of panic, Barbara realized she had metal tongs, which she brought along to serve the delicious ribs she had made for everyone. Problem solved!

Thank you for all of our dear friends and family who took time out of their busy lives to come celebrate with me. It is so rare for all of us to be together in one place—it felt a bit like my wedding all over again, in the best way! Hours flew by in what felt like a blink. It was such a treat to spend time just relaxing, eating, sharing stories, laughing, piñata-ing, throwing around the football, and soaking up the sunlight together.

Finally, universe {coming around full-circle} thank you once again for my parents, who totally surprised me by driving 6+ hours to come to my picnic party! Allyn was the only one who knew their plan, and he was a master secret-keeper. I was completely blown away! I will always treasure the memory of seeing them walking up the hill to the party, a huge smile breaking across my face as I realized… “Hey, that’s my parents!!” I couldn’t believe they would travel all that way to celebrate my birthday all over again. {Actually, I could believe it. My parents are such generous people who always make me feel so special!} I absolutely loved having them there, getting to introduce them to my friends and showing them around the park where I love to go for walks during the week. Plus, we got to hang out with them for dinner that night and lunch the next day, before they hit the road to head back home. Even though I wish we lived just down the street from each other, I’m so grateful that we’re only a car ride away.

Universe, I can’t imagine a better 30th birthday. Thank you for my health, my people, and for all the love in my life. As everyone sang me “Happy Birthday” over funfetti cupcakes with divine homemade frosting, I looked around at all the smiling faces and my heart felt full-to-the-brim with pure gratitude. How beautiful this life is. How lucky I am to live it. I am savoring these moments as deeply as I can, even while I am so excited to see what my next trip around the sun brings!

Love,
Dallas

Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer, and “freewrite” your thoughts on the following prompts:

  • Write your own letter to the universe. What are you grateful for?
  • Have you ever been surprised or been thrown a surprise party? Or, have you ever surprised someone else? Write about the experience.
  • What is one of your favorite birthday memories?

goals + recipes for the week of 1/11

Hi there, everyone! It’s been a lazy Sunday around here… which is nice, because things are going to pick up pretty soon when I go back to work/teaching/tutoring/church duties! Lazy Sundays at home with my parents remind me of lazy Sundays growing up — such a cozy feeling! Especially because it’s been gray and drizzling here all weekend. Hooray for rain! We can always use more rain here in California.

I just wanted to pop in and say hello 🙂 Hope you’re having a relaxing Sunday, too! This evening, Gramps is coming over for dinner, and right now Mom and I are watching the red carpet coverage at the Golden Globes. I hardly ever watch these awards shows, so it feels like a treat.

Now… time for goals!

weekly goals

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:

– write a new essay for Chicken Soup for the Soul
– compile tutoring worksheets
– finish reading Anna Karenina
– go to two yoga classes
– connect with two friends

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
roasted cauliflower & freekeh with garlic tahini sauce via Cookie + Kate
power salad w/lemon chia seed dressing via Two Peas and Their Pod
loaded baked potato gnocchi via Two Peas and Their Pod
butternut ribbon goat cheese pesto pizza via Cookie + Kate
slow-cooker minestrone soup via The Pajama Chef
– my own honey-lime chicken enchiladas

Questions of the day:

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

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

fabulous friday #34

Happy Friday, friends! My morning started off with a relaxing, restorative yoga class… and it’s been a little stressful from then on. My cell phone is having battery issues and I’ve been on the phone with tech support all day trying to get the issues worked out. It’s amazing how much our lives are tied to our phones — I use mine not just to get in touch with people, but also as my GPS navigation system and to check my email when I’m out and about, etc. Really hope I get this solved soon!

But at the same time, I’m reminding myself to breathe and be grateful for this “first world problem”… so many people have much bigger issues and problems to worry about. I’m lucky to even have a cell phone in the first place!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. This “Green Goodness” juice that is on sale at Safeway this week … two bottles for $5, score! I grabbed some for a post-yoga snack this morning. The first time I got this drink, I misread the label as “Green GODDESS” and that’s always how I think of it in my head. So much good-for-you green stuff in this bottle, you’ll feel like a goddess after drinking it! 🙂

green goodness

2. Like a complete knucklehead, I forgot my retainer at home in Ventura when I came back up north last weekend. Well, my sweet parents didn’t even tease me or make me feel bad for being so forgetful — they just wrapped it securely in bubble wrap, slid it into an envelope, and 2-day-mailed it to me. This probably sounds silly, but I was ridiculously happy to be reunited with my retainer — I could feel my teeth shifting without it and it was stressing me out! I didn’t go through three years of braces — plus headgear — for nothing! Any other retainer-wearers out there?

3. This quote from Mother Teresa {which came to me thanks to the always-enlightening Heather Waxman}:

4. My grandma got this ginormous container of peanut-butter filled pretzels at Costco. This is dangerous, my friends. Dangerous.

pretzels

5. I got to see Dana for dinner last night at one of our fave spots, Chow. I got a cup of their fall vegetable minestrone soup and a spinach/apple/walnut salad. Yum! Great food and great company! I feel very grateful to have such thoughtful, wonderful friends in my life who build me up and make me feel so loved. In fact, Dana just now texted me: “I wanted to tell you that I loved your shirt and your bag yesterday, but I forgot to tell you! Super cute.” Sweet texts like that completely brighten my day! Thanks, Dana! ❤

me and dana sideboard

Now, I’m off to tutor a couple of adorable kiddos, and then we’re having a family dinner tonight because my Uncle Frankie is visiting! Happy Friday, everyone!

Questions of the day:

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

fabulous friday #33

Happy Friday, friends! This morning started off bright and early with a bowl of fresh fruit & vanilla greek yogurt — my favorite breakfast right now!

yogurt and banana

Before I move on, just a little reminder: tomorrow is the last day to grab a copy of my ebook “Lost and Found” for FREE! I’d love for you to read it! Here’s the link: 

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Last night I got to see Erica for dinner — I always love getting to catch up with this lovely lady! We went to a terrific Italian restaurant called Giannfranco’s Trattoria and split two of the chef specials of the night: ricotta cheese & sausage ravioli and veggie risotto with cream sauce. YUM! Neither of us had any room left for dessert, but the selection looked so delectable that we decided next time, we’ll just split a salad and then have dessert! Or maybe just skip the salad altogether 😉

2. Oh my goodness, YOU GUYS. THIS BOOK. My mom leant it to me and I finished it within two days. It’s called One Plus One and it’s by JoJo Moyes, the author of another book I loved, Me Before You. This is one of those books that makes you feel better about the world. I smiled, cried, and felt like I became close friends with the characters — I was sad to say goodbye to them all at the end.

jojo moyes one plus one

3. Speaking of crying… this video made me cry. It’s only three minutes, but I guarantee it will stick with you: Compassionate Homeless Man Shares Meal With Stranger When Others Wouldn’t.

4. Homemade applesauce! I made it for the first time based on this recipe from Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean, and it turned out really well! It was much easier than I thought applesauce would be to make… all I did was peel and chop some apples, dump them into the crock pot with a bit of water and loads of cinnamon, cook on low for four hours, and then mash it all up with a potato masher. I was happy to use up some apples that were getting wrinkly and turn them into a really great, healthy snack!

homemade applesauce

5. These super-cool upcycled wallets, bags and totes made from former street banners by the company Upcycle it Now. They’re being offered as perks in a neat IndieGoGo crowd-funding campaign that my sweetie Allyn & some of his classmates are holding to raise money for a humanitarian trip they are taking to Kenya with the nonprofit organization Zawadisha. You can snag one of these upcycled goodies by making a donation to the campaign through the end of September.

upcycled wallets

mens wallets

I’ll sign off with this from Murray: “Have a wonderful weekend!”

murray paws

Questions of the morning:

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

goals + recipes for the week of 9/14

Hi, friends! I’m happy to report that my parents are home safe and sound from their adventure in Ireland 🙂 After I picked them up at the airport, we drove across L.A. to have dinner with my brother before coming home to Ventura. It was the first time that all four of us had been together since June, and it was soooo nice! I adore my family and feel so blessed to share life with these loving, supportive, amazing people.

fam wedding pic

Photo from my cousin Amanda’s wedding last year.

Today is shaping up to be busy with errands, exercise, family time, and a BBQ! But for now… let’s move onto goals and recipes!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week: 
– complete new draft of my novel-in-progress
complete new essay for Chicken Soup for the Soul
– finalize tutoring schedule
connect with three friends
do yoga twice
– read through three back issues from my New Yorker stash

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– complete new draft of my novel-in-progress
– prepare for Worship Associate duties at church
– soak up time with my family
– do yoga twice
– read One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
healthy crumb-topped zucchini bread via The Pajama Chef
baked apple chips via The Lean Green Bean
easy homemade peach butter via Two Peas & Their Pod
roquefort rotini w/roasted squash & walnuts via Panera Bread website
– my own pumpkin oatmeal cookies {let the pumpkin obsession begin!} 🙂

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!

fabulous friday #32

Happy Friday! We have a busy weekend in store around here — an end-of-summer pool party, a book-signing event for my dad’s book Wooden & Me, cheering on my Trojans, plus the usual errands and weekend catch-up activities!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. My parents come home from Ireland today! I didn’t want to mention anything on here while they were gone, but I’ve been house-sitting/Murray-sitting for the past two weeks while they took a special anniversary vacation. From our brief email exchanges and Google Hangout chats, it sounds like they had an incredible trip and I can’t wait to hear all about their adventures and see their photos… and, of course, give them ginormous Welcome Home hugs!

lovebirds guinness

2. Early morning walks with Mr. Mur-dog! He is so excited about his walks, it warms my heart. His jaunty stroll down the sidewalk is so cute!

me and murray walk

I’m also loving my new running/walking shoes!

walking shoes

3. Big salads — I’ve been craving lots of veggies lately and these have been my go-tos for lunch and dinner lately. I’ve been throwing in some black beans and chickpeas for extra fiber and protein. Yum!

big salad

4. This fascinating article: “11 Things Humans Do that Dogs Hate.” I’ve definitely been guilty of a few of these {i.e. #2}… sorry, Mr. Mur! Now I know!

5. Just ordered this book on Amazon — HEADS YOU LOSE — and I’m really excited to delve into it this weekend! It’s a really neat twist on the murder mystery genre.

When collaborators Lutz and Hayward (former romantic partners) start to disagree about how the story should unfold, the body count rises, victims and suspects alike develop surprising characteristics, and sibling rivalry reaches homicidal intensity. Think “Adaptation” crossed with “Weeds.” Will the authors solve the mystery without killing each other first?

heads you lose

Questions of the morning:

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

happy anniversary, mom & dad!

Today is my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary. They were college sweethearts and married young, right out of college — two years younger than I am now. I feel so grateful to have them as parents — I won the parent lottery! My whole life, they have been a living example of a real-life love story. I can’t ever remember seeing them argue or yell at each other. They talk through things; they admire and respect each other; and they laugh together all the time.

As I write this they are somewhere in the waters off Alaska, on a week-long cruise my mom has been dreaming about for years. I am so happy for them!

Congrats, Mom & Dad! I love you. Thanks for showing me every day how to love and be loved.

❤ Dallas