fabulous friday #52

Hi friends, and happy Friday! Hope you’re up to something fun! I’m heading into the city as soon as I hit “publish” on this blog post to have lunch with my hubby {I still get a little giggly calling Allyn my husband :)} and then I’m going to have an afternoon “writing retreat” at a coffeeshop. I’m excited to delve into this new novel I’m working on, and also to get in some distraction-free commenting time on the wonderful batch of poems and stories I received from my creative writing students this past week. {News since I last posted an update on here: I’m teaching a weekly creative writing class for high school students in San Jose, and I’m LOVING it!} Speaking of things I’m loving…

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. One Teen Story! I love this little magazine for so many reasons. The issues come out every month, and each issue is a new story geared for teen audiences {but wise and wonderfully written — I think adults will love them, too!} Some of them are even written by teens, including “A Eulogy for Pretzel” and “Sunrise” in this batch below. I often slip a couple issues into my bag when I am taking public transport somewhere, so I can read without having to lug around a bulky book — I can fit these even into my small purse. I also like to use issues as “prizes” to motivate my writing students.

one teen story

2. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios — I nabbed these when I spotted them at the grocery store because I adore pretty much anything pumpkin spice. I have been eating them for breakfast or as a snack all week long, and I also made these delicious cereal bars from Eating Bird Food.

3. Last weekend, for Allyn’s birthday, I planned a birthday surprise outing for him. I absolutely love birthdays and I had so much fun planning out a fun adventure for us. We went to the pumpkin patch where we were able to conquer a corn maze for the second year in a row and picked out some stellar pumpkins for only $4 each! I have named them Fred & Ginger.

Allyn pumpkin patch

Then we went out to dinner at this neat restaurant called Old City Hall Restaurant that used to actually be the town City Hall — there is so much history in the building, and where the bathrooms are used to be the jail cells! They still have the iron gates and it was definitely the coolest bathroom I have ever seen. I would have taken a picture for you guys but I had left my purse/phone at the table!

I did however take lots of photos of our final stop of the surprise-filled day: the Lumination experience at Gilroy Gardens! This was so cool, you guys! If you live in the Bay Area, I highly recommend it. It is like the Rose Parade meets Christmas lights meets the Chinese lantern festival. We spent a couple hours walking all over the gardens and taking in all the amazing light sculptures. One of my favorites was a ginormous dragon that was entirely built out of china dishes–cups, bowls, plates, etc! It was incredible to behold.

dragon lumination

dragon china plates

4. Something about autumn always makes me bust out my James Taylor albums, especially October Road, and I love his new one Before This World as well. Lately I’ve also been rocking out to this Ben Rector song… impossible to be in a grumpy or tired mood when this song comes on, am I right??

5. I don’t usually get political in this space, but this election feels too perilous not to speak out against hatred, violence, misogyny, racism, homophobia, and a terrifying frenzy of fear. Too much is at stake to stay silent. In these times of uncertainty, I have been particularly inspired by this movement, #DedicateYourNoTrumpVote, started by writers Julianna Baggott and David Scott, who reached out to fellow writers, family, and friends, who reached out to more folks and word spread quickly. The response has been overwhelming — some pieces are heartbreaking and moving, others inspiring, others simply stunning. The line-up of writers include two Pulitzer-prizewinners, New York Times bestselling novelists, a National Book Award-winner, critically acclaimed poets, as well as social workers, teachers, even a retired lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army Special Forces. DedicateYourNoTrumpVote.com is looking for people from various walks of life, a diverse range of experience and points of view. Submit your own piece, or just read the words of others and consider what you want your vote to stand for — what legacy you want to leave to your future children and grandchildren.

Questions for the day:

  • 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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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!

marvelous monday: making the most of long car rides

Hi everyone! Hope you had a nice weekend! As I mentioned on Saturday, Mike and I spent the weekend visiting his family, who live in the Chicago suburbs, about a 2.5 hour drive away from us. I miss my family — it is difficult living so far away from them! — but Mike’s family is warm and welcoming and I always love seeing them.

It was a fun weekend! Home cooking, lots of laughter and long conversation, and a visit to the pumpkin patch! Yesterday was a beautiful autumn day in Illinois and we took advantage of it!

If there is one thing I dislike about visiting Mike’s family, it is the long car ride there and back … I am not the biggest car person and five hours in two days feels long to me! I get carsick easily and can’t read or write in the car. I am someone who hates feeling unproductive and I get antsy sitting still in a confined space for so long. But it is obviously worth the drive to get to see Mike’s family, and also I’ve found that by shifting my mindset and implementing some easy car-ride strategies, it has actually become time I look forward to and enjoy! Here are some tips that work for me that I’m hoping might make your next long car ride or even your daily commute more enjoyable:

  • If you have company, savor it! Take the opportunity to have some nice uninterrupted conversations. I love the long, wandering conversations Mike and I have during our car trips together — serious, silly, deep, insightful. It’s quality time we get to spend together, just the two of us, talking. It reminds me of when we first started dating and spent so much time talking-talking-talking, soaking up each other’s stories.
  • Driving solo? Why not take the time to call up a friend or family member for a catch-up chat? {Of course, make sure to use a hands-free headset and drive safe!}
  • Listen to a comedy album. My current fave: the insanely witty Demetri Martin! {You can check out his new album here.} The drive goes by so fast when you are cracking up the whole way there!
  • Listen to an audiobook. I got this idea from my dad, who often runs to audiobooks. {He’s made his way through quite some impressive tomes this way, such as East of Eden and Huckleberry Finn!} Audible.com is a great resource for downloading audiobooks. Or go the free route and check out CDs from the library! When I drove cross-country with my mom to move from California to Indiana for grad school, this is what we did. The CDs are admittedly a little clunkier than your iPod, but they still do the trick.
  • Scan the radio for new-to-you stations. Mike and I found a station that plays Irish-inspired music, which we both love. It felt like a special treat to listen to songs we’d never heard before, and I was scribbling artists’ names down in my notebook to look up later.
  • If you’re not the one driving, spend a little time being productive: pick up any trash that’s found its way onto the floor or between the seats, write checks to pay some bills, etc. One car trip, I organized Mike’s glove box. {Which I will share in a later post!}
  • Do something crafty. I have found long car rides to be an ideal time to knit! I am halfway through a new scarf for Mike right now, thanks to car-ride knitting time.
  • Gaze out the window and daydream. Sometimes we all need some time to reflect and let our minds wander. Tap into your imagination and see where your thoughts take you!

Anyone else have any tips to share? How do you make the most of long car rides or daily commute time?

Have a marvelous week!
-Dallas 🙂