fabulous friday #45

Happy Friday, everyone! I haven’t felt like doing one of these posts for the past few weeks… but I was thinking today about how Celine was an incredibly fabulous person, and I think she would like the idea of all of us recognizing and celebrating the fabulous things, large and small, that we are loving in our lives each week. So, I am happy to be back this week with a fabulous friday post for you. ūüôā

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Care packages. Tania sent me three books that she thought I would like: A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle; Painted Prayers by Jodi Uttal; and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Reading is such a comfort to me, and I am already working my way through these good books.

books from Tania

And my dad sent me a beautiful card:

typewriter card

2. Another book arrived in the mail this week — Every River On Earth, a book that I have a short story in! It’s been at least two years since my piece was accepted for this collection, and it was so exciting to finally hold it in my hands. It is a beautiful book and I am proud and grateful to be a part of it!

Every River on Earth

3. This inspiring post from Nicole at Life Less BS with some concrete tips for achieving any of your goals using a simple, little-by-little approach. I especially liked this quote:

“Change doesn‚Äôt have to be huge in order to be hugely impactful. If you‚Äôre sitting there waiting until you have ‘enough time’ or the ‘right circumstances’ to make a big change, you‚Äôre making it too hard on yourself. Who says¬†big changes are¬†the only way? Who says¬†it has to be all or nothing?”

4. I baked some delicious sunflower butter cookies using this recipe, adding in both dark chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. They turned out great! Definitely a make-again. Plus, they are gluten-free!

sunflower butter cookies

5.¬†Valentine’s Day! This has always been one of my favorite holidays, whether I’ve been single or in a relationship, because it is all about letting the people you love know that you love them. If you’re looking for some sweet, inexpensive Valentine’s gift ideas, here are some ideas! My favorite way to celebrate is with cards. I still have the cards my parents sent me last year up in my room:

valentines

This year, I’m teaching during most of the day, and then Allyn and I are going out to dinner and to a movie. You can bet I already have my outfit all picked out and am going to bake some red velvet crinkle cookies tonight! ūüôā

red velvet cookies

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?
  • Are you doing anything to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

mid-week meditation #12

First off: happy October, everyone! It is beginning to officially feel like autumn.

September ended on a lovely note for me: we had a wonderful time¬†last night celebrating Allyn’s birthday! His mom cooked a delicious meal of salmon, broccoli and green beans. Plus we had¬†a beautiful red velvet cake for dessert! {Apparently Allyn’s mom and I were on the same wavelength with the¬†red velvet desserts!}

als bday dinner

red velvet cake

al candles

I hope Allyn had a really special birthday, because he is a very special person.

It’s been a busy morning around here. I’m trying to get a solid day of writing in before teaching two classes this afternoon. Taking a quick break right now to nosh on this salad — spinach, chard, cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, celery, sunflower seeds, grilled chicken, balsamic vinaigrette — yummy, healthy and fueling!

salad

This week’s meditation is one of my favorites ever. Such important words to take in and think about. Thanks to my brother Greg for passing along this quote to me:

work lives on quote

 Questions of the morning:

  • What work do you do that focuses on others?
  • What do you want your legacy to be?

goals + recipes for the week of 9/28

Happy Sunday, friends! It’s a busy day around here. I’m off to do a little tutoring this morning before church; then after the church service we’re having a Young Adult potluck; and then tonight we’re having family dinner at my aunt Annie’s house before my Uncle Frankie heads back down to L.A. in the morning. Lots of friend & family time, which makes my heart happy!

Speaking of happy hearts, my sweetie’s birthday is this Tuesday! Last night I was invited to celebrate with him and his sister, dad and stepmom at the beautiful Clairemont Country Club. I wore my navy and ivory chevron dress from¬†this past Easter {thanks to Arianna for helping me decide on an outfit! My cousin is eleven years younger than I am but has waaaaay more style!} ūüėČ

chevron dress

And my other stylish cousin, Bianca, helped me bake red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for the birthday boy!

cupcakes

Speaking of yummy desserts, I have to share a photo of this aaaaaamazing butternut squash bread pudding I ordered for dessert on Friday night. I’m gonna try to recreate it myself at some point, perhaps using this recipe? Oh and yeah, that’s salted caramel gelato on top. With chocolate caramel cups mixed in. Yuuuuummmmm.¬†I want to eat this again, like, right now.

butternut squash bread pudding

Before I lose myself in drooling over this photo, let’s move onto¬†goals…

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:¬†
Рcomplete new draft of my novel-in-progress {wrote two new chapters; one more to go!}
–¬†finish editing work
–¬†prepare for first week of teaching/new semester
do yoga twice & core exercises five times
–¬†read 100 pages of¬†Into the Night Sky¬†by¬†Caroline Finnerty

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
Рcomplete new draft of my novel-in-progress
– celebrate Allyn’s birthday! ūüôā
– do yoga twice & core exercises five times
Рfinish reading Into the Night Sky by Caroline Finnerty

And here are some recipes I’m eying¬†this week:
crockpot asian pulled chicken via The Pajama Chef
creamy spinach & cheese green chile enchiladas via Two Peas & Their Pod
pumpkin cinnamon cookies via Two Peas & Their Pod
6 healthy crockpot chicken freezer meals via New Leaf Wellness & Money-Saving Mom
– my own curried butternut squash & apple soup

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!

red velvet crinkle cookies

As promised, here is the recipe for the cookies I made last week for Valentine’s Day. They look fancy but they are super easy to make and are absolutely delicious. If you’re a fan of red velvet cake, you will love these cookies!

red velvet crinkle cookies

you need:
– one box of red velvet cake mix
– 2 large eggs
– 6 tbsp butter
– 2 tsp lemon juice
– 1/2 cup powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar
– 1 tsp cornstarch

directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Melt butter; set aside to cool.

3. In a shallow dish or pie tin, sift together powdered sugar and cornstarch.

powdered sugar

4. Combine cake mix, eggs, butter and lemon juice. Dough will be slightly crumbly {and bright red!}

red velvet batter

5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll them in the powdered sugar until well-coated.

cookies prebake

6. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until edges are set. The centers might look slightly undercooked, but they will harden as they cool. If you like your cookies chewy in the middle, I’d recommend taking them out after 11 minutes! {The recipe I found also emphasizes only cooking one sheet of cookies at a time.}

cookies baked

7. Top the cookies with more powdered sugar if desired.

cookies sugared

And that’s it! The cookies will stay fresh for up to a week if stored in airtight containers. {You might want to use wax paper to separate the layers so they don’t stick together.}

Hope your Tuesday is terrific!

year of kindness challenge: week 7

year of kindness button

Happy Monday! Hope your week is off to a great start!

Last week’s challenge was a fun one:¬†deliver Valentines to a nursing home, Veterans Hospital or assisted-living facility.¬†I got this idea after¬†I delivered holiday cards and cookies to a nursing home this past Christmas, and it was such a wonderful experience. I wanted to celebrate Valentine‚Äôs Day by spreading love and kindness to people in my town who may otherwise be forgotten.

So I went to Target and scooped up some terrific Valentines-making supplies from their $1 section: blank pink and red cards, colorful stickers, and fun ribbon. Then I spent an evening last week getting my craft on while watching Downton Abbey! Here is the finished pile of 20 Valentine’s Day cards:

valentines cards

Then {because I am always looking for an excuse to bake!} I made a batch of red velvet crinkle cookies to deliver with the Valentines. {And, okay, I admit it — a couple of the cookies maaaay have made it into my Valentine’s Day lunch. Gotta taste test!} I’ll post the recipe on here tomorrow.

red velvet cookies

Next year I think I’ll make these adorable red velvet marshmallow bites that my friend Sarah posted on her fabulous food blog The Pajama Chef. Y-U-M!

I arranged the cookies in an upcycled pie tin, sprinkled in some Hershey’s kisses, wrapped the whole thing up with plastic wrap and tied it with pretty ribbon. Ta da! Cookies + valentines, ready to be delivered!

valentine's day

It did not take long to drive to the nursing home on my way to school. The woman at the front desk said she would pass the cards and cookies out to the residents during an activity later in the day. Perfect! Meanwhile, my whole day was brightened as I thought about the residents smiling to receive Valentines.

Here are some good things that happened in my world this week:

  • My precious Gramps successfully underwent knee replacement surgery on Friday. He is now recuperating in the hospital but I talk to him often and he is doing great!
  • I received a mailbox full of lovely Valentines from my mom, dad, Gramps, and my brother Greg {who is having a fantastic time in Sri Lanka — he’s keeping us updated via emails and his group’s blog.} My family makes me feel so very loved!
  • Greg also sent me an amazing mix CD full of songs that are special to our childhood and also more recent memories … it was the sweetest, most thoughtful gift and such a treasured surprise to find in my mailbox! I’ve been listening to it on repeat.
  • A little boy held the door open for me when I was coming inside from the cold one afternoon.
  • I overheard a fellow MFA grad student complimenting my plays to another student — her offhand comment made my whole week. ūüôā
  • One of my good friends just announced she and her husband are expecting their first baby, a boy, in August. I am thrilled for them!

Now on to the Week 7 Kindness Challenge: drop off a donation of canned goods to a food pantry, homeless shelter, or soup kitchen. This idea came to me when I was thinking about how we often hear a number of opportunities to donate food to the hungry during Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it seems donation efforts die down once the holiday season has come and gone. I am sure there are many people who would be SO grateful for our food donations right now. Why not go through your cupboards and pantry and fill a big bag with nonperishable food items to help feed those who might otherwise go hungry? Or stop at the grocery store and pick up some of your favorite canned food or dry goods to donate!

Blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

Have a marvelous week!
-Dallas

‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚Äď

year of kindness archives:
–¬†week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
–¬†week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
–¬†week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note
–¬†week 4 challenge: give hot chocolate to someone outside in the cold
–¬†week 5 challenge: do something kind for a neighbor
week 6 challenge: deliver valentines to a nursing home

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

red velvet cupcakes with coconut cream-cheese frosting

I like to bring my students baked goods as a surprise at the end of the term {that is, if they’ve been a good class — which so far, they always have been!} I had an especially wonderful creative writing class this summer so I decided to eschew the usual cookies or brownies for a special treat: homemade Red Velvet Cupcakes with this fabulous coconut cream-cheese frosting you might remember from my carrot cake recipe last month.

{Here are the finished cupcakes all ready to go to class:}

I have made Red Velvet cupcakes to great success from a boxed mix before — I like substituting applesauce for the oil to make them a little healthier while still retaining moistness. I am a big fan of the Duncan Hines Red Velvet boxed cake mix.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, like I was, here’s a recipe I was excited to find on the wonderful site Annie’s Eats to make Red Velvet cupcakes from scratch:

Ingredients:

for the cupcakes
– 2¬Ĺ cups cake flour
– 1¬Ĺ cups sugar
– 1 tsp. baking soda
– 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
– 1 tsp. salt
– 2 large eggs
– 1¬Ĺ cups vegetable oil {I substituted 1 cup applesauce}
– 1 cup buttermilk
– 2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
– 1 tsp. vanilla extract
– 1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

for the frosting:
– 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
– 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
Р2 cups confectioners’ sugar
– 1 tablespoon heavy cream
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon coconut flavoring {optional}
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.

3. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, vegetable oil {or applesauce}, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar. Beat by hand or with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.

4. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Beat until the batter is smooth.

5. Fill the cupcake tins about 3/4 of the way full.

6. Bake 15-18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

7. Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

8. While cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter in a mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time, alternating with heavy cream. Beat in the salt, coconut flavoring, and vanilla extract. Continue beating until mixture is smooth and spreadable. Add additional confectioners’ sugar if necessary to thicken the frosting, or more cream to thin. Stir in the coconut.

9. Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, use a knife or a spatula to spread the frosting onto the top of each.

10. {Optional} I like to refrigerate the cupcakes for twenty minutes or so to let the frosting solidify.

Happy Friday! Have a wonderful weekend!

Always,
Dallas
————————
Time spent: about 1 hour {including bake time}
Cost: $5-$7