happy birthday holly!

Today is my friend Holly’s 25th birthday! Happy birthday, Holly! ❤ We met our freshman year of college at USC where we lived in the same dorm and quickly bonded over our shared love of Sarah Dessen books, Nora Ephron movies, cheesey rice cakes, giggling, baking, browsing Target, taking long walks {especially in the autumn with hot apple cider from Starbucks!} and listening to Taylor Swift albums on repeat. Holly is one of those people who makes others feel instantly at ease with her warmth and compassion. I admire her for a zillion reasons: her genuine kindness, brave spirit, intelligence, creativity, insightful take on any situation. She is someone I can always call for advice and she will listen thoughtfully and help me come up with solutions when it seemed like there were none. And she is always someone I can count on to make me laugh and find the joy in the everyday moments of life!

Holly is living in Nashville, going to divinity school at Vanderbilt, and I’m bummed I couldn’t celebrate her birthday with her in person. We lived together for our four years of college, but since we graduated our friendship has been “long distance.” I miss her! But we have a little birthday ritual that helps us feel like we get to celebrate together even though we live far apart. It started when Holly baked me a cake on my birthday a couple years ago and sent me a picture. It was such a sweet gesture and I loved thinking of her enjoying some birthday cake on my behalf! We’ve continued baking birthday cakes for each other even though we aren’t together to share them. {I’m hoping one day soon, we will be!}

This year I changed things up a little bit and made Holly some birthday brownies instead of a cake. I used to make brownies all the time in college and I have many fond memories of Friday nights in, eating brownies and watching Friends marathons.

Nom nom nom!

I just used a box mix for these brownies {Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate} but I substituted the oil for applesauce to make them a little healthier and I also mixed in some white chocolate chips for extra chocolate goodness.

And because what goes better with chocolate than strawberries… I sliced up some strawberries and put them on top! Delicious.

Do you have any special birthday rituals? How do you celebrate the birthdays of your friends & family?

Happy weekend!


marvelous monday: creating rituals with those you love

Tomorrow, I head back to Indiana to get ready for the new semester which starts up a week from today. These past ten days I’ve been home with my family in California, and it’s been wonderful to get to visit with my parents, brother, Gramps, and friends from high school. Don’t get me wrong — I love my grad program at Purdue and I love all my friends there! But, as a California girl who spent my undergrad years just a a short drive down the 101 freeway from where I grew up, it is hard being so far from my family for months at a time. We text and talk often on the phone and Skype, but I still miss them. I guess that is just part of having such a loving, supportive, and special family — I miss them when I’m gone!

My younger brother Greg {check out his website giverunning.org to get an idea of the amazing things he’s up to!} has always been one of my best friends. Greg adds so much sunshine to my life! He can make me burst out laughing with a single silly look, and we can meet eyes across the dinner table and know exactly what the other is thinking. He’s three years behind me in school and it was really hard for both of us when I graduated high school and moved off to college.

The morning I left for college, Greg and I went out to breakfast just the two of us to this cute restaurant we’ve always loved, Allison’s Country Cafe. {They make the BEST Belgian waffles topped with hot cinnamon apples — I’m determined to try to recreate them at home this fall, though I know they won’t ever be as good as the ones at Allison’s.} We talked and laughed and it was wonderful just to be enjoying each other’s company as friends. I remember driving home, pulling the car into the driveway, and bursting into tears. I knew I would miss him so much.

Even now, a decade later, I can never say goodbye to Greg without crying. But something that always makes goodbyes easier is the ritual we’ve established: every morning before I leave, we go out to breakfast just the two of us to Allison’s Country Cafe. I get the waffle or pancake with hot cinnamon apples; Greg usually gets the banana nut French toast. We talk and laugh and reminisce and plan for the future. Sometimes, Greg makes me laugh so hard I have trouble swallowing my mouthful of water or orange juice.

Our ritual is something I treasure. It turns the sadness of having to say goodbye into something comforting and special.

What rituals or traditions do you have with those you love?

Have a marvelous week!