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?

news! + year of virtues, month two

Hi friends! Wow, 2016 has been off to quite a whirlwind start in my neck of the woods.

In January, I…

… moved to a new apartment with my sweetie that, looking back at January’s focus from Ben Franklin’s List of Virtues, is pretty much successfully put into order. {We put together our bookshelf this past Sunday and our new couch was delivered yesterday!} It is looking much more homey and moved-in around here. I hope to share photos with you soon giving a tour of our new place, but in the meantime here are a couple snapshots of our kitchen!

new kitchen

new kitchen 2

Author Gretchen Rubin {who hosts my favorite podcast, Happier, with her sister Elizabeth Craft} says that “outer order contributes to inner calm.” After spending January focused on getting my surroundings into order, I have to say that I do feel much calmer in all aspects of my life. I have noticed that I am better about being on time to various appointments. I have no trouble getting up early and, most often, my dominant feeling upon waking up is excitement to jump into my day. I no longer waste time looking for things. I no longer feel “scattered” because my things are scattered all around. There is a distinct pleasure, I have learned, in putting an object back in its place. Marie Kondo writes about this feeling beautifully in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. As human beings we cannot control everything — we like to think we are in control, but life likes to remind us that indeed we are not — but we can at least control our surroundings. Perhaps that is why outer order contributes to inner calm: it helps us feel in control of at least some things. I know that when I begin the day with a clean kitchen and a clutter-free living room, I feel much more equipped to tackle my writing projects.

Also in January, I…

… cut 8+ inches off my hair. And I absolutely love my new hairstyle. I feel so much lighter and freer!

My dad wrote a column weaving together my haircut with some other beautiful stories. You can read it here. {Warning: have tissues handy!}

Hair after

The biggest & best thing that happened in January?

… my sweetheart popped the question, and I said YES! Easiest question I’ve ever been asked. I am so thrilled to spend my life with this amazing man who makes me laugh, makes me think, and makes me feel so loved every day.

Al and I engaged

I’ll share our full proposal story with you guys later this week! 🙂

In February {what remains of February… how is it already the 10th??} I am going to focus on Franklin’s virtue of MODERATION. In the early stages of planning a wedding, this seems like an especially appropriate virtue to keep in mind. We want our wedding to be special and fun, but we also want to keep things in perspective: it is one day out of our lives. As a wedding blog I read put it: think of your wedding reception as a six-hour-long party. My sweetie and I have decided that we don’t want to break the bank for a party that will be over in the blink of an eye. Instead, we want to focus on what a wedding truly means: committing to spending your life joined with another person. That is where the real joy and excitement lies!

And, yes, planning a great big party to celebrate is fun… in moderation!

Questions for the morning:

  • What in your life do you wish to “get in order”?
  • Do you agree that “outer order contributes to inner calm”?
  • Any tips for planning a wedding? I’d love to hear them!!

goals + recipes for the week of 3/22

Hi, everyone! Hope your weekend is winding up great.

I had a busy day at church serving as Worship Associate with a special guest minister, Jason Shelton, who just so happens to be a minister at Holly’s church in Nashville! I actually saw him leading the choir when I went to a church service with Holly during my last visit. It was such a nice coincidence to have him visiting my church and it made me feel closer to Holly in a small way. I miss her a lot!

Jason Shelton is a super talented composer and musician, and there was lots of fantastic music during both services today. The theme of today’s worship was “music, change, the old and the new” and I maaaaay have written my Call to Worship about Taylor Swift. I was a little nervous about it, but the writing came straight from my heart and felt so appropriate to the theme. Happily, I discovered there are other T.Swift fans in the congregation {including a very sweet group of seventy-year-old women who came up to me afterwards} and everyone applauded at the end of my Call to Worship! #mychurchrocks

with allyson pirates

Backing up to Saturday, we celebrated Allyn’s sister Allyson’s birthday last night with a pirate-themed murder-mystery party! My guess about the murderer was completely off, as was most everyone else’s, but Allyson used her excellent sleuthing skills and solved the case. I could tell she really enjoyed her party, which made me happy because she is such an amazing person. I hope the party was a small way to show her how very loved she is! Also, check out the red beard on Allyn {aka Captain Redbeard}… it totally stole the show, haha.

allyn redbeard

Now… time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from last time:
– copyedit through Chapter 8 of client’s manuscript
– finish editing manuscript for a friend
– participate in The Minimalist Challenge
connect with two friends
finish reading The Autograph Man

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– finish final read-through of client’s manuscript
– finish editing manuscript for a friend {this got pushed to the back-burner with other projects, but I really want to finish it this week!}
– do yoga two times & PT exercises daily
– connect with two friends
– finish reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
green goddess hummus via Cookie + Kate
spring panzanella salad via Two Peas and Their Pod
orange chicken tofu via Detoxinista & The Pajama Chef
easy chickpea salad via Food Friends
bunny bait via The Pajama Chef
– my own potato, sausage & veggie bake

Questions of the day:

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

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

goals + recipes for the week of 12/14

Hi there, everyone! As soon as I hit “publish” on this blog post, I’m heading off to church bright and early… I’m Worship Associate today, so I have lots of little duties to perform to get ready for the first service at 9:30. Today the children’s choir is performing a special concert as part of the service, which I am very excited about! The kids are way too cute 🙂

It’s been a good weekend so far. Yesterday I taught my rambunctious group of kiddos; it was our final class! I’ll be starting up again with a new class in January, and I hope that some of them will come back and sign up for the new quarter. We shall see!

Allyn is in the midst of his final residency for the semester — he’s such a champ, powering through the long days with a smile on his face — and tonight his school is having a dance party in San Francisco. I went to the one held at the end of last semester and it was super fun! I’m looking forward to going tonight and celebrating the end of the semester. My sweetheart has worked incredibly hard the past four months and I’m really proud of him.

On the topic of working hard… time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from the past couple weeks: 
write a new chapter of my memoir
finish holiday cards
– finish student evaluations
finish reading short story collection
– go to two yoga classes
connect with two friends
Woo hoo! It was a successful week around here! 🙂

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– write a new essay for Chicken Soup for the Soul
– compile tutoring worksheets
– finish reading three New Yorkers from my stash
– go to two yoga classes
– connect with two friends

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
chocolate pb chip oat bars {vegan + gf} via the real-life rd
peppermint pattie brownies via Two Peas and Their Pod
chocolate-dipped toffee shortbread via Two Peas and Their Pod
green salad w/apples, cranberries & pepitas via Cookie + Kate
gingerbread muffins via The Pajama Chef
– my own white chocolate m&m pretzels

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!

why I lied to you on friday

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope your day is off to a lovely start. I’ve been nursing a big mug of huckleberry tea all morning… this is the stuff I got on my trip to Seattle and I only have one tea bag left in the box! So I am savoring it.

huckleberry tea

I’ll be back with this week’s year of Wooden post tomorrow, but for today I wanted to pop in with a quick weekend recap because it was a pretty fantastic one around here!

So, remember when I said that I was heading into San Francisco on Friday night for a dinner date with my sweetie to celebrate his birthday?

I lied.

Well, half-lied. Because it wasn’t really a dinner date for just the two of us. It was a reservation for 30 people! I had to keep it quiet here on the blog, because Allyn reads my blog {hi, honey!} and he had no idea… I was throwing him a surprise party!

Here we are getting ready to take BART into the city for our "nice, quiet, date night just the two of us..."

Here we are getting ready to take BART into the city for our “nice, quiet date night just the two of us…”

I’d thrown a couple surprise parties with my roommates in college, but this was my first time ever throwing one by myself, AND it was my first time organizing such a big event! I learned a lot and had a blast. I kept thinking of Coach Wooden’s saying, “The journey is better than the inn.” I definitely enjoyed the month-long “journey” of planning this big surprise! 🙂

Allyn’s friends and family were so helpful — I could not have done it without them. Different people from different areas of his life helped me get the word out and invite his various social circles. I originally made the reservation at the restaurant about a month in advance, and as time went on I had to keep calling them back and increasing the amount of people in my reservation, because the RSVPs were rolling in! One of the best things about planning a surprise party for someone you care about is connecting with all the other people who care about that person, too!

Some things I learned about planning a surprise party:

  • If you’re going to have it at a restaurant, Yelp is your friend! I wanted to find a venue that was not too expensive, was close to public transportation, and was accommodating for big groups. After a bit of searching, I settled on Unicorn Pan-Asian Cuisine, which ended up being perfect.
  • Make your reservation as early as possible! I also think it’s better to over-estimate your attendance and then call back as the date approaches and lower your reservation number. I did it opposite, but I was lucky that they had the space for me to keep increasing my reservation!
  • I’d also recommend checking out the venue in person ahead of time, if possible. It was really helpful for me to be able to picture the restaurant when I was planning the party and describing to guests where they should go when they arrived.
  • Ask the restaurant if they are able to do individual separate checks for a large group. In our case, they were only able to do three separate checks {one for each table} so I asked everyone to bring cash if possible to help making splitting the bill easy. Some people also recommended the VenMo app, which sounds really neat, but we didn’t need to use it — everyone brought cash and it all worked out fine.
  • Delegate! People love a surprise and they love to help. An unexpected benefit of planning this party for my sweetheart was that I grew closer to his friends and family as we engaged in deception together, haha.
  • Have guests arrive 15-20 minutes earlier than the guest of honor does. That way, you have some wiggle room if people are running late. Also, it gives some time for guests to mingle and get to know each other — something I could tell everyone was really happy about.
  • I gave Allyn’s stepmom a big poster card that she had everyone sign while waiting for me and Allyn to arrive. It gave people something to do, plus it is a meaningful memento for Allyn to have from the party, to remind him of all the people who care about him.
  • Keep things as simple as possible! Especially where alibis are concerned. Allyn knew where we were going, when we were going, and how we were getting there. He knew that we were going to dinner to celebrate his birthday. The only thing he didn’t know was that there would be 30 other people there to celebrate with us!

One thing I didn’t take into consideration is my sweetheart’s early bird tendencies! It’s something I love and admire about him — he is always punctual {often early} and hates to keep people waiting. So I should have guessed that he would want to leave for the BART station early to make it into the city for our 7:20 reservation! He said, “If we’re early we’ll just catch an earlier train.” I tried to hide the panic on my face and said, “Then we’ll be too early for our reservation!” Then I camped out in the bathroom for a while to “get ready” 🙂

Other stalling tactics if you’re trying to delay the guest of honor:

  • change your outfit
  • “accidentally” spill something on them so they have to change their outfit
  • go to the bathroom one more time
  • decide to wear a different pair of shoes instead
  • “forget” something and have to go back inside to get it
  • get gas on the way there
  • get “lost” or go the wrong way

Fortunately, none of these stalling tactics are really out of character for me, so Allyn was not suspicious when we left later than he suggested. We ended up hopping on the 6:50 train into the city just like I had planned, which got us into the city at 7:15. Walking to the restaurant, I felt so excited it was hard not to skip! When we got there, I dragged him past the bar area at the front, because I knew everyone was waiting a little further back into the restaurant. My legs were shaking. Everyone jumped up and yelled, “SURPRISE!”

I will forever cherish the memory of that moment. The look on my sweetheart’s face was absolutely priceless. He said later, “I wasn’t surprised…. I was stunned.” He just stood there for a few moments, looking around at all the people from his life — his parents, sister, childhood friends, grad school friends, roommate, mentor — and he kept repeating, “Oh my god. Oh my god.” I could tell he was blown away. It was absolutely wonderful!

The rest of the night flew by. I had so much fun talking and mingling with all these terrific people from my sweetheart’s life. We ended up closing the restaurant down! It was a perfect night.

us and laurel

justin and fawn

allyson and her dad

surprise party

surprise party

surprise party

surprise party

surprise party

surprise party

Happy birthday, Allyn! I love you so much.

Questions of the morning:

  • Have you ever thrown a surprise party?
  • Has anyone every thrown a surprise party for you?
  • What was the highlight of your weekend?

goals + recipes for the week of 5/18

Hi friends! Hope you are having a lovely weekend! Mine has been busy with loads of good things! Yesterday I taught four writing and public speaking classes of energetic elementary schoolers, then took Bart into the city to attend an event with Allyn as part of his MBA program. I was super inspired by the smarts and passion of these graduate students, plus it was fun to spend time with my sweetheart and meet more of his friends.

This morning, I’m headed off to church, then taking my beautiful cousin Arianna out to brunch to celebrate an academic achievement award she received at school, and then hopefully squeezing in a coffee date with my friend Emy whose birthday was last week and who I haven’t seen in far too long! Later this afternoon my Grandpap is singing in a choir concert, and I’m excited to go support him along with my grandma, Aunt Mary, and cousins Bianca & Makena. Grandpap looooves to sing and it always warms my heart to see him up onstage, doing what he loves best! And then tonight I’m going to a dance party in the city with Allyn. Should be a blast!

Told you it was going to be a busy weekend around here! Before I skedaddle, it’s time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
– write ten pages {didn’t quite make it to ten, but did finish a short story!}
– send out three query letters/submissions
– finish midterm evals of students
– read up to page 400 in Wolf Hall {but I did get sucked into & finish The Gospel of Winter}
– go to two yoga classes
– connect with two friends

And here are my goals for this upcoming 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 some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
– sweet potato & black bean mexican salad via Two Peas & Their Pod
– spring vegetable stir fry w/lemon ginger sauce via Two Peas & Their Pod
– black bean mango quinoa salad w/cilantro lime vinaigrette via the real-life rd
curried butternut squash soup w/kale & chicken via Peanut Butter Fingers {similar to this recipe and this recipe I’ve made before}
– homemade jello via It’s Progression
my own tilapia w/pineapple salsa

tilapia

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 #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 🙂 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 🙂

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?

goals + cookie recipes for the week of 12/15

Happy Sunday! I can’t believe it’s the beginning of another week … and that Christmas is only ten days away! I hope that your holiday season has an abundance of joy and laughter, and a minimum of stress.

I’m back home with my family for the holidays and it is soooo nice! On Friday night I went with my mom to her office holiday party, and we had a blast. They set up a “casino night” and we spent a large chunk of the evening playing black jack. It was my first time playing black jack, but luckily the dealer was very sweet and gave me hints about what I should do. {Apparently that doesn’t happen in Vegas! Haha.}

me and mama xmas

I’ve been busy preparing for my cousin Julie’s bridal shower next weekend. Longtime blog readers might be experiencing deja vu: last Christmas I threw a bridal shower for Julie’s sister, my cousin Amanda. That party turned out beautifully and a lot of fun was had by all. This year, it’s Julie’s turn!

me and cuzes

The rest of the weekend has been spent running errands, wrapping presents, baking, decorating the house for Christmas, watching made-for-TV holiday movies, and goofing around with Mr. Murdog.

me and murray

Hope you’re having a productive and/or relaxing weekend! Now, on to goals …

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals for the week of 12/1:
write 15 pages of new material
prepare for Steinbeck Center reading on Wedsnesday
– exercise at least twice
– finish reading Girls in White Dresses {this book is aaaamazing!}
– order holiday cards
publicize Winter Writing Camp
connect with two friends

Here are my goals for the week of 12/15:
– write 10 pages of new material
take cookies & cards to the nursing home
– exercise at least twice
– finish reading The Tea Rose
– order holiday cards
– teach a fantastic Winter Writing Camp
– throw a wonderful bridal shower for my cousin Julie
– connect with two friends

And here are some of my favorite holiday treat recipes!
aunt elaine’s peanut butter blossoms
mom’s classic chocolate chip cookies
eggnog cookies w/buttercream frosting
gluten-free oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
gramps’ favorite lemon bars
reeses pb cup brownies
chocolate-covered popcorn
white chocolate pretzels

Questions for the day:

  • What are you thankful for this holiday season
  • What are your favorite holiday cookie recipes?
  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?

goals + meal plan for the week of 10/20

Happy Sunday, friends! How is your weekend going? It’s another gorgeous day here in the Bay Area. I love autumn! I think I’m going to bake another pumpkin pie today, or maybe some gluten-free pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies … nothing says … Continue reading

my first time doing zumba!

zumba!

On Wednesday, I went to my first-ever zumba class after my friend Emily invited me to join her at a local dance studio. I had never tried zumba before, though I had heard plenty of great things about it. All I knew was that it was supposed to be fast-paced, fun, and involved dancing.

I was a little nervous {and a lot intimidated} because while I enjoy dancing with groups of friends, I’ve never had much rhythm. Pretty much the only dancing I do on a regular basis is morning pajama dancing with Mr. Mur-dog:

dancing murray

Have any of you done zumba before? Any zumba novices like me out there? Here are some questions I had before my first zumba class, followed by answers based on my experience:

What is zumba?
Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance-fitness program that blends red-hot international music and fun, heart-pumping dance steps to form a “fitness-party.” The website of the local zumba center I attended has a great breakdown of the different types of zumba: http://venturazumba.com/ventura-zumba-about/

What should I wear to do zumba?
I wore capri yoga pants, a sports bra and t-shirt, and running shoes. Wearing some sort of athletic shoes is a must, and I would also advise you wear clothes that you feel comfortable in! You will get HOT and sweat a lot! Some other participants were wearing shorts and one woman wore a loose-fitting skirt.

What if I don’t know any of the dance moves?
Many of the dance moves were super easy to catch on to. You can also look up zumba videos on youtube if you want to do a little research before you go! The inevitable times in class when I felt a little lost, I just danced in place myself. The important thing is to keep moving, keep smiling, and keep having fun! After class, Emily and I asked the instructor for clarification on a couple moves we were confused about. She sweetly showed us, and she said that the easiest way to learn all the moves is to keep coming to class — you get better and more comfortable each week.

What if I feel self-conscious about dancing?
This was what I was most worried about — I’m a little bit a lot awkward on the dance floor, and I was worried that I would totally embarrass myself {not to mention my friend Emily!} and feel self-conscious the whole time. I pictured myself turning the wrong way and bumping into people. But once the class started, I didn’t feel self-conscious at all. Everyone is so focused on their own moves and on the instructor that nobody is paying attention to your dance moves. I tried to copy what the instructor was doing, and in my own pretty little head I was busting moves like Beyonce!

Is zumba a good workout?
YES! Your heart is pumping, your muscles are working, you are sweating like crazy! In the class I went to, we did a ton of squats as well as dance moves that worked our arms and shoulders. I woke up and was so sore the next morning! Definitely a sign of a good workout. Plus, the time flew by — it was the most fun I’ve had working out in a long time.

zumba

If you try a zumba class and aren’t thrilled, my advice would be to try again with a different instructor. {Actually, that would be my advice for any type of exercise class you try out!} I felt comfortable with our instructor immediately — she was funny, high-energy, and very encouraging. She also created a very welcoming space for beginners so it was the perfect class for me. Emily has done zumba before, and she said some of the other instructors are more fast-paced or less explanatory; every instructor has their own style. I feel like I lucked out on the ideal instructor for me.

Em and I have set a weekly zumba date for Wednesday mornings. I’m already looking forward to next week!

Happy Friday, everyone! Be kind to yourself and do something fun today!