a year of living simply: week 17

Hi, everyone! Hope you had a fun, relaxing Labor Day weekend. Mine was a nice mix of working on projects, taking long walks in the sunshine, lounging with a good book, and Netflixing “Orange is the New Black” {I’m a tad late to the party and just started watching… but I can see what all the buzz is about; that show is addicting!}

It’s hard to believe it is already September. The summer flew by! Yet also, it felt long, in a good way. My summer was filled with so many experiences and big events — graduations, travel, teaching, celebrations — that looking back at the beginning of the summer seems like a long time ago. I was talking to Allyn the other day about how July 4th seems like an eternity ago, since a lot has happened in my life since then: I traveled to Chicago to meet up with Holly {+ T.Swift in concert!}; went home to have a few weeks with my family; taught my Eighth Annual Summer Writing Camp; my brother moved to NYC and started his new job; I taught two weeks of Communication Academy camps; I gave my first-ever sermon at church and launched a Young Adults Community Circle; I house-sat/dog-sat for my aunt’s family for a week; I stepped out of my comfort zone and did Improv for the first time… and, I signed with an amazing literary agent {my dream agent!} to represent my novel to publishers. All in all, it’s been a very busy and very exciting couple of months!

This photo encapsulates my summer... exhilarating, wind-swept, filled with sunshine and smiling as I just let myself go with it!

This photo encapsulates my summer: exhilarating, wind-swept, filled with sunshine and new adventures… squinting and smiling as I just let myself go with it!

However, unfortunately, my year of living simply posts went on an unintentional summer hiatus. The entire blog went on a bit of a summer hiatus. At first, I was stressed about it. I felt guilty for not posting. I made lists and tried to figure out when I could wedge in the time.

But then I realized: that was exactly the opposite of what my year of living simply is intended to be.

It’s not about shoe-horning more and more stuff — even meaningful stuff you enjoy — onto your daily to-do list.

It’s about letting yourself do less.

It’s not about rushing around and cramming every minute of your day with stuff.

It’s about letting go. Giving your days margins. Giving yourself grace.

summer grace

So, I gave myself margins and grace. During a crazy-busy season of my life, I let some things lay dormant. Including this blog. Including this year of living simply challenge.

In many ways, I feel like that in itself was my simplicity challenge this summer. Having the faith and the patience to let go, to set it down, and know that the time would come when I could pick it back up again.

And so. Here we are. Summer is drawing to a close, and autumn is upon us. I feel the whirlwind settling a little. I feel that anticipatory energy I always love in the autumn. The start of a brand-new school year {even though I am no longer in school, I still feel the energy!} A blank slate. A row of freshly sharpened pencils. Brand-new notebooks. A new schedule of classes with different teachers and people. {Literally or metaphorically!} Possibility, sparkling everywhere you look.

And I think it’s the perfect time to bring back my year of living simply challenge. I feel rejuvenated and ready to get back on schedule. Ready to refocus on simplifying my life and reflecting on what matters to me. I hope you’ll join me!

{And if you want to catch up or refresh your memory on the previous sixteen posts in the series, click on over here for the entire list.}

year of living simply

In honor of the back-to-school time of year, this week’s challenge is to examine your morning routine. What are your habits in the morning?

  • When your alarm goes off, do you push snooze, or do you leap out of bed?
  • Do you scramble around feeling rushed?
  • Do you never know what to wear, or wear the same outfits over and over?
  • Do you forget things at home?
  • Do you never have enough time?
  • Do you wake up feeling tired, or are you energized for the day?
These questions are not meant to judge. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to any of them. They are simply questions for you to reflect upon as you think about your morning routine and what changes you might potentially make to improve, simplify, or streamline it.  
morning

Questions for the day:

  • How can you give yourself margins and grace in your ife today?
  • What is your morning routine? What do you like about it? What {if anything} do you wish to change?

8 reasons you haven’t heard from me in a month and a half

Hello, friends! Gosh, I cannot believe it is already the end of July. I did not intend to take such a long blogging hiatus… it was one of those things that just kind of *happened* the way that life happens sometimes! Here’s what I’ve been up to this summer {and why you haven’t heard from me in a while…}

1. I went on a trip to Europe! It was absolutely beautiful, and restful, and adventurous, and sad, and healing, and exactly what I needed. This trip was born about a year ago, when I was invited along for a weeklong trip to the south of France with Allyn’s family. Allyn and I decided to extend our trip a little bit and spend some time in Paris to see my friend Celine. We booked our tickets back in December. I could not wait to see Celine again in her favorite city, and to introduce Allyn to her, and for us all to spend time together.

When Celine died, I wasn’t sure if I could still bear to go to Paris without her there. But I knew that she would want me to go — she would have been furious if I canceled that part of the trip! And so I went. And later I will write a whole post about all the things I learned there, but suffice to say it was very hard, and missing her was a whole-body ache, and I felt and saw her everywhere — and there was something very comforting in that underneath all the pain.

sunflowers

In addition to Paris and the south of France, we also spent a few days in Barcelona with Allyn’s brother Colin and Colin’s girlfriend Charlotte, which was lovely. One of the treasures of the trip was getting to spend so much time with Allyn’s siblings — they are such fun, thoughtful, easy-to-be-around people, and I am grateful to have them as friends.

allyns siblings

me and Allyn France

2. I got an eye infection. Immediately upon returning home from our trip. The doc thinks I must have picked something up on the train/metro/plane/airport/etc. So many germs while traveling! Anyway, this derailed me for a bit, with doctors appointments and antibiotics and hot eye compresses. Fun! But it is all better now, thankfully. And now I am much more appreciative of my un-itchy eyes!

3. I’m teaching summer camps for Communication Academy. In the summer, instead of weekly classes, we teach week-long camps for kids and teens. I teach public speaking, journalism, and academic writing. I love teaching the camps because the class becomes very close during the week, spending so much time together, and you see a lot of growth in the students. It’s very inspiring! However, my workdays are longer than during the school year — more of a traditional 9-5 as opposed to three hours in the afternoons — and it can be hard to fit in writing/emailing/blogging time.

4. My role at church is expanding. In addition to serving as a Worship Associate this summer, I am giving my own sermon and leading the service on August 16. I’ve also taken on a leadership position as co-facilitator of a Young Adult Community Circle. All of this is enriching, important work for my soul, and is challenging me to grow in new ways!

5. Janet came to visit for a few days. Allyn and his family took us out on a boat ride around the San Francisco Bay!

me and janet

6. Holly and I met up in Chicago to see our girl Taylor Swift in concert! It was an amazing show, even though we were sitting in the_very_last_row! Spending time with Holly fills my heart up so much. I wish we lived closer, but I am beyond grateful for every moment I get to spend with this lovely lady!

me and Holly

tswift concert 1989

7. Some terrific developments have been happening for me professionally these past couple weeks… I landed a new copywriting gig, won second place in a national writing contest, and have exciting news regarding my novel that I will share with you at a later date, once I am no longer afraid of jinxing things! 😉 I also wrote a few short essays about writing that you might be interested in:

8. Now I am back in my hometown, soaking up time with my fam and my brother before he leaves for his new job in NYC on Friday! I am also teaching my writing camp this weekend and next weekend. Yesterday I gave a book talk and signing at a local bookstore, Mrs. Figs’ Bookworm, and was so surprised and grateful at how many people came out to support me! I have such wonderful friends. So, so lucky!

friends at booksigning

book signing sign

And now you’re pretty much caught up! I hope the summer has been treating you wonderfully, too. I hope you are getting time to relax and recharge your batteries. Is there anything you need to take a brief hiatus from? If you feel like you are juggling lots of plates — is there one you can set down, even for a short while?

I missed blogging and I missed checking in with all of you, and after my time away I am feeling rejuvenated and eager to be back! Thank you for reading and being part of my little corner of the internet.

P.S. Murray sends you a big kiss! TGIF & happy weekend!

murray kiss

mid-week meditation #11

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Oh man, I went to yoga last night for the first time in for.ev.er and I am sore today! It’s the good kind of sore, though. I’m already looking forward to class tomorrow! It’s nice to be getting back into my regular routine after such a busy, travel-filled summer.

When I got home from yoga last night, there was this gorgeous cake sitting on the kitchen counter. Apparently one of our neighbors saw my grandma walking with her walker and learned about her hip operation. So she baked this homemade lemon cake as a get-well gift. Such a thoughtful gesture! It warmed my heart {and my belly — delicious!} Next time I see her, I’m going to ask for the recipe so I can share it with all of you.

lemon bundt cake

Last night, my fave contestant Tavis Smiley was voted off Dancing With The Stars. 😦 But I’m happy to be heading into San Francisco today to hear Tavis give a talk about his new book about MLK, Death of a King, at The Commonwealth Club.

Death of a King

Then I’m off to teach my first class of the semester for Communication Academy — I’m excited to meet my students and get started! Tonight I’m heading over to my aunt Annie’s house to watch the season premiere of Nashville with her and Arianna… the other show I watch on a regular basis in addition to The Good Wife. Any other Nashville fans?

Before I go, here’s a September-inspired meditation to add some calm to your week:

September quote

Have a beautiful day!

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 😉

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?

goals + recipes for the week of 9/14

Hi, friends! I’m happy to report that my parents are home safe and sound from their adventure in Ireland 🙂 After I picked them up at the airport, we drove across L.A. to have dinner with my brother before coming home to Ventura. It was the first time that all four of us had been together since June, and it was soooo nice! I adore my family and feel so blessed to share life with these loving, supportive, amazing people.

fam wedding pic

Photo from my cousin Amanda’s wedding last year.

Today is shaping up to be busy with errands, exercise, family time, and a BBQ! But for now… let’s move onto goals and recipes!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week: 
– complete new draft of my novel-in-progress
complete new essay for Chicken Soup for the Soul
– finalize tutoring schedule
connect with three friends
do yoga twice
– read through three back issues from my New Yorker stash

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– complete new draft of my novel-in-progress
– prepare for Worship Associate duties at church
– soak up time with my family
– do yoga twice
– read One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
healthy crumb-topped zucchini bread via The Pajama Chef
baked apple chips via The Lean Green Bean
easy homemade peach butter via Two Peas & Their Pod
roquefort rotini w/roasted squash & walnuts via Panera Bread website
– my own pumpkin oatmeal cookies {let the pumpkin obsession begin!} 🙂

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 #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?

goals + recipes for the week of 9/7

Happy Sunday, everyone! Hope you had a great first weekend of September!

This past week I was able to continue my writing momentum and get a lot of pages revised — and some new stuff written! They say it takes three weeks to really solidify a habit, so I’m planning to continue my strict routine into this week and hope it sticks. Every writer works differently, but for me it really makes a difference to jump into my projects first thing in the morning and get some words onto the page before life gets in the way with other responsibilities and fires to put out!

I’m curious: how do you stay productive in your work? What schedule is best for you?

Now time for goals and recipes!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week: 
revise 100 pages of my novel-in-progress
– complete new essay for Chicken Soup for the Soul {started this, but didn’t finish}
submit three pieces to journals/publications
connect with three friends
do yoga twice
– read through five back issues from my New Yorker stash

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– complete new draft of my novel-in-progress
– complete new essay for Chicken Soup for the Soul
– finalize tutoring schedule
– connect with three friends
– do yoga twice
– read through three back issues from my New Yorker stash

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
chocolate-chip buttermilk waffles with caramelized bananas via The Pajama Chef
easy homemade greek dressing via The Pajama Chef
– apple zucchini muffins via Two Peas & Their Pod
best-ever black bean soup via Money-Saving Mom
– my own spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and tomatoes

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 #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?

goals + recipes for the week of 8/31

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone! Hope you have something fun planned. 🙂 Hard to believe tomorrow is September already!

I’m super excited because Dana is visiting me in Ventura for the long weekend! I’m happy to get to show her around all my favorite restaurants, hang-out spots, and childhood haunts.

me and dana sideboard

Plus a now cone-free {woo-hoo!} Mr. Mur-dog is ecstatic to have a new friend! Haha he is pretty much beside himself.

cone free murray

Last week I said I was hoping to get a LOT of writing done, and I was very successful in that goal! Now I’m hoping to continue that momentum into this week! #takingcareofmorebusiness

Before I head out, time for goals…

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week: 
revise 75 pages of my novel-in-progress
– complete new essay for Chicken Soup for the Soul
connect with three friends
– do yoga twice
– read through three back issues from my New Yorker stash

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– revise 100 pages of my novel-in-progress
– complete new essay for Chicken Soup for the Soul
– submit three pieces to journals/publications
– connect with three friends
– do yoga twice
– read through five back issues from my New Yorker stash

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
pumpkin oatmeal bars via The Lean Green Bean
mixed berry granola muffins via Two Peas & Their Pod
– peanut butter honey yogurt dip via Two Peas & Their Pod
slow-cooker cinnamon applesauce via It’s Progression
– my own gluten-free oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies

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 #30

Happy Friday, friends! What wonderful things are you up to today?

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Being home with my sweet parents {who are celebrating their 32nd wedding anniversary next week!} and of course Mr. Mur-dog! He is so stinkin’ cute, even in his cone/Elizabethan collar. Poor guy should be getting it off soon, fingers crossed!

murray conehead

2. This quote from Carolyn Hax:

“Even those of us who learn from our mistakes will also repeat some. This business of being human is basically a jalopy ride over potholes, which is why it’s so important to ride with the best people you know, wherever possible, and to make sure you take note of any particularly beautiful scenery.”

3. I can’t get enough of strawberries with vanilla Greek yogurt. To me, this tastes exactly like strawberries with whipped cream — BUT it’s even better because it’s healthy for you! I’ve been having this for dessert all week. And since it’s actually good for you, you could even have it for breakfast! 🙂

strawberries and yogurt

4. This beautiful and evocative short story written by my friend, Rebecca McKanna: “A Chain of Tiny Disasters” in Narrative Magazine.

5. First USC football game tomorrow! I am all decked out and ready to cheer on my team! #gotrojans #fighton

go trojans

Questions of the morning:

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