fabulous friday #36

Happy Friday, friends! I can’t believe it’s the start of another weekend again already. Although, Saturdays are actually my heaviest load teaching-wise — four classes back-to-back-to-back-to-back! — so Fridays for me are spent prepping and gearing up for a whirlwind of energetic kiddos! My “weekends” actually fall on Mondays and Tuesdays right now {those are the only two days when I don’t have any teaching or tutoring commitments.} However, even though teaching can be exhausting, I love it and I love my students. Plus, Allyn is taking me out to dinner & a comedy show tomorrow night, so I’ll be looking forward to that all day!

How is your day going so far? Mine is flying by! I slept in a little later than I intended this morning {guess my body needed it! I’m all about following Robyn’s advice and listening to your body, which means sleeping in if you are able to when your body craves more rest} … so I downed a quick smoothie breakfast of banana + pineapple + mango + bluebs + spinach while getting ready this morning. Then I scurried off for two private tutoring sessions. The students are out of school today for a teacher workday, so I was able to schedule my tutoring sessions for the morning¬†instead of the afternoon as I usually do. Sometimes the kids get {understandably} a little tired or cranky in the afternoon when I see them after they’ve already had a long day of school, so this morning they seemed extra-energetic and ready to write! {By the way, if you’re a parent or teacher or looking for some fun writing activities to do with kids, check out this post I wrote for Parent Grapevine with some tried-and-true ideas I use frequently!}

On my way home, I popped by Safeway in an attempt to get my flu shot, but after waiting in a long line I was informed they no longer take my insurance, so I have to go to Walgreens or Rite-Aid instead. It was a little frustrating, but I also am petrified of getting shots so I will admit a part of me was relieved to put it off for a little longer ūüôā

Now I’m back home, hoping to get some productive writing done this afternoon. Before I get down to work, time for Fabulous Friday!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Honeycrisp apples! They’re baaaaack! As my cousin Makena said in amazement when we split one the other day, “These things taste like CANDY.” Yeah they do! My favorite snack of the moment is a sliced honeycrisp apple, half topped with pb and the other half topped with Justin’s maple almond butter. I could eat this allll daaaaay.

honeycrisp apples

2. On Wednesday night, I gave a reading in San Jose at the Flash Fiction Forum event. It was so much fun! Such a warm, engaged and welcoming crowd. I always get nervous before giving a reading, but my nerves melted away as soon as I looked out at the crowd and saw all the interested expressions and smiling faces. I wore what I refer to as my New Orleans dress, because I got it for my trip to visit Allyn in New Orleans this past summer.

nola dress

Another thing I love about attending public readings is meeting other writers! I was excited to get a signed copy of fellow reader Kevin Sharp‘s YA novel After¬†Dakota… I’ve only finished the first couple chapters, but I’m already hooked!

after dakota book

3.¬†When kitchen fails actually turn into something yummy. Earlier this week,¬†I was intending to make butterscotch chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies, but when the oven timer sounded I was greeted with these monstrous things… much bigger and thicker¬†than your ordinary cookie! After trying one, I¬†realized they are not cookies, they are scones! So I’ve been enjoying them for breakfast. They’re delicious plain, with nutbutter, or with jam. I’ll be sharing the recipe soon, after¬†I test it out again!

scones

4.¬†This is a stunning blog post — beautifully written, heart-rending, brought me to tears:¬†http://witandwhimsy.onsugar.com/Watching-Dad-Watch-Flames-6584225

5. When I was at the grocery store, I was not able to get my flu shot, but I WAS able to score some pumpkin baking ingredients on sale! I wanted to load my basket down with cans and cans and cans of pumpkin, but I restrained myself. Can’t wait to bake a pumpkin pie and to try out some of the fantastic pumpkin recipes on Two Peas & Their Podpumpkin snickerdoodles, perhaps?

pumpkin

And, that’s a wrap! In addition to dinner with Allyn tomorrow night, this weekend I’m also looking forward to family time, helping out with the church service on Sunday, a much-anticipated long-overdue catch-up date with Dana, and cozying up under a blanket with some tea and a good book.

Questions of the day:

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

fabulous friday #35

Aaaaaand just like that, it’s Friday again! These past few days have absolutely flown by for me.¬†I’m loving the new students I’m teaching {plus four new classes start tomorrow!}¬†but it’s always a balance at the beginning of a new semester, re-learning to juggle teaching with my tutoring and editing work AND trying my darndest to finish up the novel I’m working on! But I’m savoring the process. As Coach Wooden would say, “The journey is better than the inn.”

Hope you all are having a great morning. I’m off to one of my favorite yoga classes, then popping to Starbucks for a pumpkin chai latte & some productive work time. But before I go…

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Holly gave me this water bottle a couple years ago for my birthday, and I absolutely love it! Every time I use it, the photos of us make me smile¬†ūüôā It makes gym sessions a lot more fun when I see her beautiful friendly¬†face every time I take a water break!

holly water bottle

2. Bolthouse Farms yogurt dressings. I love how they have a creamy yet light texture and are¬†very flavorful. I’ve previously loved Bolthouse Farms yogurt ranch dressing, and this week I decided to try this cilantro-avocado flavor — it’s my new favorite! Avocado creaminess with a little kick. I can just use a small amount of this salad dressing and it goes a long way. Love it!

cilantro avocado

3. These words of wisdom from Money-Saving-Mom founder Crystal Paine in this interview:

Remember what’s going to matter in 25 years. Wrap your life and energy around those things.

4.¬†Look who’s featured in the church newsletter this week! Woot woot!

church newsletter

5. Tonight Allyn and I are going out to dinner in San Francisco¬†to celebrate his birthday! It’s gonna be a blast. I made a reservation at a rave-reviewed restaurant on Yelp, and I’m taking the opportunity to get a little “gussied up,” as my grandma would say. Last night I had fun trying on various outfits and I think I’ve settled on this one. {Please ignore my messy room in the background!}

al's bday dinner outfit

Happy Friday, everyone! Have a wonderful weekend!

Questions of the day:

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

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! ūüôā

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 ūüėČ

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?

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?

fabulous friday #31 {dana’s visit to ventura!}

Happy Friday! I’m looking forward to a weekend of relaxation, writing time, cheering on my Trojans, and dinner with friends. What wonderful things are you up to?

Today I want to give you a recap of my sweet friend Dana’s visit to Ventura! We had so much fun, and the weather was gorgeous — I couldn’t resist sharing these photos with you!

Here are 5 highlights¬†from Dana’s visit:

1. Fish & chips at the Harbor! We went to a local favorite, Andria’s {longtime readers may remember it as Gramps’s favorite, too!} We also spent some time walking around the Harbor, looking at the boats and listening to live music.

Dana fish and chips

harbor

2.¬†Going to¬†the beach!¬†It was a relatively calm, quiet morning — seagulls were pretty much our only company as we stretched out on the sand. After soaking up the sunshine for an hour or so, we went over to The Deck and had lunch. Their fish tacos are amazing!

my feet and sand

Dana beachside

deck fish tacos

3. Soaking in the sunshine at the Santa Barbara Pier. It was a gorgeous Memorial Day and after a delicious lunch we walked all along State Street and ended up at the pier.

dana sb

me in sb

santa barbara

4. We met up with Erica at Food Truck Tuesdays! I ordered an amazing gourmet grilled cheese with herbed gouda, butternut squash, cranberry compote, and walnuts on 9-grain bread. {My taste buds are already craving fall, I guess!} We had so much fun talking and laughing until the event closed down. I was so busy talking and enjoying our visit that I neglected to take a photo, whoops! Though here’s an older photo of Food Truck Tuesdays:

food trucks

5. Murray was SO in love with Dana! He would come sit next to her and place one paw on her lap, like he was trying to hold her hand. We joked that he was “courting” her. I love this picture of the two of them!

dana and murray

Questions of the morning:

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

meal plan & goals for the week of 7/7

Happy Sunday, friends! How has your weekend been?

We’ve been enjoying beautiful sunshine and I’ve been soaking up time with my family. We went out for Happy Hour margaritas, rented some movies, grabbed fro yo, and went out to dinner to celebrate my dad’s “streakiversary”: 10 years of running at least 3 miles every.single.day! {You can read more about it on his website — so proud of you, Pops!} I also ran errands with my mom, organized a pile of random papers that has been chillin’ in my room for weeks, and read read read a ton! Lazy weekend reading is my favorite way to relax! ūüôā

On Saturday morning we were thrilled to watch on TV as Mike & Bob Bryan won the Wimbledon Mens Doubles Title! If that isn’t exciting enough, the win also means they’ve secured a historic “Gold Slam”: all in a row they won the Gold Medal at the Olympics, the U.S. Open, the Australian Open, the French Open, and now Wimbledon. The Bryan Bros grew up in Camarillo and are dear friends of our family, and we could not be prouder of them! Not only are they world-class athletes, they are also amazingly kind and generous people. Congrats, Bros!!

bros wimbledon

I decided that I want to bring back my Sunday posts about goals + meal plans for the week … I kind of got away from doing them with the craziness of my thesis deadline, graduating from my Master’s program, and moving back home, and I was just thinking about how I miss doing these weekly goal posts. It’s a great way to gear up for the week and keep myself motivated.

So here are my goals for the week of 7/7:
– write 2 chapters of my YA manuscript
– complete the #yearofkindness challenge
– prepare for my Summer Writing Camp
– read first 100 pages of 1984
– volunteer at the Food Pantry
– update my website

And here are some recipes I’m planning to make this week:
veggie pasta bake with spinach basil pesto
turkey enchiladas
– gluten-free oatmeal cookies {recipe coming soon!}
lemon bars for my Gramps

What are you goals for this week? What’s on your menu plan?

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

weekend fun {+ trying to stay cool!}

Happy Sunday, friends! Hope you are having a joyful, relaxing, rejuvenating day!

It has been H-O-T here in Southern California, and especially in my little beach community where few of us have air conditioning, this weekend has been all about trying to keep cool! I have been downing Gatorade, homemade iced tea, and smoothies.

As I mentioned the other day, I have been all about the smoothies lately! I am a little late to the smoothie party, and I don’t know why it took me so long. I think I was intimidated by the blender {and blender clean-up} but it really takes me all of five minutes to assemble my smoothie, blend it, and wash the blender. A smoothie has become my go-to breakfast! I normally blend some fresh or frozen fruit, a couple spoonfuls of greek yogurt, 1/2 cup of coconut water, a handful of baby spinach, and ice. Here are a few of my favorite fruit combos:

– strawberries, banana, pineapple
– peach, strawberries, blueberries
– mango, peach, blueberries
– raspberries, strawberries, banana, blueberries

Also, if anyone is like me and feels a little wary about adding spinach, trust me: you really can’t taste it! It’s a great way to get a little more green into your diet.

On a more decadent note, I also made these chocolate butter cups which are currently chilling in the freezer … I will let you know how they turn out!

me beachin

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at the beach with my dear friend Patty and her family, who were sweet enough to invite me out to their beach house. It was a beautiful day at the beach and the nice ocean breeze cooled things off a little!

Then, last night my mom and I kept cool in the air conditioning: we went to a local restaurant and saw my amazing friend Lauren Sexton in concert! She is such a talented songwriter, singer and guitar player. She just released an album and the concert was a celebration. You can check out her music on her Facebook page — two of my favorites are her songs “In the Morning” and “The Highway.” Her music is beautiful and I was so proud to be there last night! Congrats, Lauren!

lauren sexton concert lauren sexton

This morning began with a smoothie, the Sunday comics, a slobbery doggy kiss from Murray, and a beautiful sermon at church. Today’s sermon was about delighting in the abundance and joy of the summer and taking time to relax and recharge your batteries. After I got home, I’ve spent the rest of the afternoon sprawled out on the couch reading a great book —¬†Abide With Me¬†by Elizabeth Strout. {I love her! Her novel¬†Olive Kitteridge¬†is another great read!}

As I’ve written about before, sometimes I feel this pressure to be go-go-go all the time, like constant busyness makes my days more worthwhile, but I’ve found it’s really quite the opposite. On those rushed, forced go-go-go days I typically climb into bed feeling depleted and frazzled, like my gas tank is on empty. Not a good feeling. I’m learning to give myself permission, especially on Sundays, to just relax and savor this amazing life I’ve been blessed with.¬†There was nothing I felt more like doing today and curling up with a book, and it has been a delightful Sunday.

What are you doing to relax and recharge your batteries? What are you delighting in this summer?

clutter-busting challenge

clutter-busting-challenge1

Crystal at Money-Saving Mom is hosting a Clutter-Busting Challenge in which she is getting rid of {throwing away, selling or donating} at least 7 items for every single day of May. She is inspiring loads of others to do the same, including me! 

I already did a lot of clutter-busting last month when graduated from Purdue and moved from Indiana to California … the move was the fire-under-my-butt motivation to sort through my various papers, knick-knacks, books, clothes, kitchen supplies, etc. and decide what was worth taking with me. I ended up donating and selling everything except for the clothes, blankets, books, and important papers that fit within five suitcases and a few big shipping boxes.¬†

When I arrived home, I had another opportunity to clutter-bust: my bedroom at home {which my parents have been sweet enough to leave as-is during my time away… it hasn’t been converted to a home office, at least not yet!} There were books and papers and random STUFF that had accumulated during winter breaks and summers at home and that I hadn’t gone through in years.¬†

After a few days of sorting, I am proud to share with you the big pile of stuff that I am getting rid of! 

clutter busting

I took the clothes/shoes/purses to Goodwill and donated the books to my local library. Not only does it feel good to purge your life of unnecessary items, I also love imagining the person who will enjoy each item in its next life! 

Are any of you doing spring/early summer cleaning and organizing? I’d love to hear your success stories and tips!

You can follow along the entire Clutter-Busting series at Money-Saving Mom here: https://moneysavingmom.com/series/clutter-busting-challenge

ch-ch-ch-ch-changes …

Notice anything different?

That’s right, you’re not going crazy: we’ve got a new name!

“Day-by-Day Masterpiece” stems from one of my favorite-ever quotes {I love it so much I have it posted above my writing desk and as my cell phone background} … it comes from the late, great John Wooden, who was a huge inspiration to me and my family. One of the maxims he lived his life by was, “Make each day your masterpiece.”

I find that quote so inspiring because it reminds me that each day is truly a treasure and a blessing. Each day is something to savor. Making your day a “masterpiece” does not mean making each day “perfect.” Far from it — masterpieces are full of mistakes, trial-and-errors, messes and wrong turns and laughter and spontaneity. Indeed, I think that’s part of what makes a day a “masterpiece” — the surprises give our lives variety and richness.

To me, a masterpiece day is a balanced day. Time with my friends, family and loved ones; time spent pursuing my writing goals; physical exercise and delicious, healthful food; quiet time to reflect and relax. Love, laughter, daydreams, peace.

I started this blog to keep track of my steps towards becoming more organized in my day-to-day life and tackling those hidden {and, okay, not-so-hidden} trouble spots that were adding stress and frustration to my life.

Something I’ve discovered is that “organization” doesn’t just pertain to the material possessions you own or how clean your home is. It’s more a way of life; a way of thinking; a way of approaching your day.

So I wanted to give the blog a new title to reflect upon how it has grown and expanded in the past six months since I started chronicling my organizational journey with you.

Don’t worry, I’ll still be sharing my organizational projects and day-by-day progress with you. But as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve really grown to love cooking and baking and sharing healthy recipes here. I also am delving more and more into simplified, frugal living — everything from couponing to saving money on date night to selling things on Craigslist. I am participating in the monthly book club over at Peanut Butter Fingers and am hoping to start up my own monthly book club on here. {I’d love to have you join me!} And I’m really passionate about living “green” and doing our part to protect our precious environment. I’m hoping to expand that part of the blog in the coming months. Finally, it really inspires me to follow along with Crystal’s weekly and monthly goal-setting over at Money-Saving Mom, and I want to do something similar on here — I’ve already posted about goal-setting and to-do lists. I want this blog to be a place where we can be sources of inspiration for each other!

So how do we make our days masterpieces? That’s what I’m hoping to explore in this blog!

Making the most of each day, being grateful and mindful, living with passion and joy and love — to me, that is a masterpiece day. And you know what masterpiece days add up to, right? A masterpiece life. What more can any of us ask for?