on vulnerability + saying “i love you” {part 1}

Later this week, Allyn and I are headed to Monterey for a little getaway with his family. I’m excited to see everyone and soak up time adventuring and relaxing together. I lucked out with awesome in-laws and I always have a blast with them!

Our upcoming trip made me think about the first trip I took with them—the first time I ever went on a trip with Allyn, in fact. We’d been dating for a little over two months and he invited me along on the family getaway to Mendocino. I was thrilled. “Yes!” I told him ecstatically. “I’d love to come!” Then I immediately began to stress out about what to pack to make him fall in love with me.

I like to tease Allyn that back then, he was a bit of an enigma to me. For the first few months that we were together, I worried that my feelings for him were stronger than his feelings were for me. Looking back now, I’m not quite sure why. I think it might be because we have different Love Languages—mine is definitely Words of Affirmation, and I’m fairly sure Allyn’s is Acts of Service. Yes, Allyn asked me to be his girlfriend and told me he cared about me. And his actions spoke even louder than his words. He invited me to do things with his friends, wanted me to meet his family, called me every night before bed, and always kept his promises. He planned thoughtful dates for us, listened to my stories and problems, and even wooed my grandma with a box of toffee.

But I yearned for more. I wanted him to LOVE me. I loved him. Of course, I hadn’t told him that. I wanted him to say the big L-word first. Somehow, I felt I could trust it more if he said it first. What if I told him that I had fallen completely, madly, head-over-heels in love with him… and he just said, “Thanks”? Or what if he said “I love you too” not because he really felt it, but because what else was he supposed to say?

I spent a lot of time worrying about this.

I wrote epically long emails to my friend Holly analyzing his words and actions, searching for clues. I imagined what particular circumstances might need to unfurl for him to take my hand, look me in the eye, and say, “Dallas. I love you.” After all, I was pretty sure he did love me. His actions were filled with love. But I wanted him to SAY it. I wanted to hear the words so I could wrap them around myself like a blanket, play and replay them in my mind, shape them into bricks and build a solid foundation on their truth. So they could become my home.

It’s funny, because Allyn has never been one to play games and has always been very clear and up-front about his feelings. {Note above, when he asked me to go on vacation with his family after a mere two months of dating. Um, HELLO past self!} I think what made me feel so vulnerable was that I felt differently about him than about anyone else I had ever dated. From very early on in our relationship, I knew I loved Allyn. He was IT. He was The One. But did he feel that way about me?

Which brings us, my friends, to Mendocino. We were going on a romantic trip into the wilderness for four days. I was officially being ushered into the family as Allyn’s Girlfriend. This was it, I felt sure. He was going to tell me, “I love you.” The clouds would part and the angels would sing.

From the get-go, the trip didn’t unwind quite as planned, even though it was a delightful weekend. Allyn’s family made me feel welcomed right away. The vacation house they rented was fun and quirky, with a hot tub and a stunning view of the ocean far below. We lucked out with gorgeous weather and went hiking and exploring and even spotted a whale in the wild. We cooked big breakfasts and dinners together and ate s’mores for dessert over games of Jenga. I loved seeing the little-kid glimpses of Allyn that emerge around his siblings: their decades-old inside jokes, his sugar-high laughter, his easy comfort with them.

{us in mendocino, april 2014}

But, I could sense it right away—something was off with him. He wasn’t as sweetly attentive as he usually was. Did he regret inviting me along? Was our relationship moving too fast? Maybe I was cramping his style. I made an effort to hang with his sister sometimes, to give him alone time with his brother, to help clean up the kitchen with his stepmom, to not be “attached at the hip.” {Even though we’ve never really been one of those couples and I already felt like we each had our own independent hips.}

One afternoon, during a hiking break, we sat on a log together in the forest. My internal I-Love-You Antennae perked up. This could be it! This was the perfect opportunity. Just the two of us, in the peaceful wilderness, in the dappled sunlight.

He was quiet.

“Watcha thinkin?” I asked after a little while. My stomach was filled with butterflies.

“Nothing much,” he responded. My butterflies drooped in disappointment.

Somehow, we got to talking about his upcoming summer internship in New Orleans. He would be gone for two-and-a-half months, and we’d already discussed me coming out to visit him at some point during his stint there. That’s why I was so taken aback by what he asked me next…

{This story will be continued on Friday! See you then!}

my trip to nyc

Happy Monday, everyone! Hard to believe we are flirting with mid-November already. Where does the time go?? I feel like an eye-blink ago was Halloween. Anyone else feel that way?

All this weekend, Paris has been on my heart. To me, Paris will always be Celine’s city, and as such it will always be a magical place. The Parisians I have met are wonderful, free-spirited, generous people. Although my heart breaks, along with so many hearts in the world, with the attacks that happened on Friday, I am choosing to give healing energy to thoughts of hope and love, instead of hatred and fear. We love you, Paris.

celine legacy

Before time gets too far along, I wanted to share with you a recap of my recent trip to the Big Apple to visit my brother. It was my fourth time to NYC, but my first time going as less of a tourist: not staying at a hotel, not seeing the big tourist attractions like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. My brother took me to places that were more off-the-beaten path, that I had never even heard about before, and I felt for the first time a glimpse of what it might be like to live as a true “New Yorker” as my brother is doing during this season of his life. {I am SO proud of him — he has embraced the city and his job and new friends and is simply doing fabulously!}

me and gb reunited

I was so happy to be reunited with my brother! That first night I arrived late {after navigating the bus/subway system from LaGuardia airport… I had to be brave and ask people for help, and everyone was kind and patient, even when I got my huge suitcase stuck in the subway turnstile… all in all, I was quite proud of myself, and quite relieved to make it to Manhattan safely!} Greg and I walked to the Seaport area across the street from his apartment and had a wonderful dinner at the Italian restaurant Il Brigante. I had the eggplant parm. Delicious!

The next morning, we walked to Chinatown so my brother could get his biweekly buzz haircut — he has found a place that does it for $4! Chinatown was so neat to experience because it really did feel like being in a different country, with all the signs in Chinese and people speaking Chinese and little stands along the sidewalk selling hot food and tea. I have been to Chinatown in San Francisco before, but NYC’s Chinatown felt even more immersive to me!

My brother lives in a great apartment in the financial district and his roof has an amazing view! We went up there to take in the sights. Postcard-worthy!

view of city from apt roof

view of bridges from apt roof

me and greg roof

We met up with my dear friend Ben for literary-themed cocktails at the rooftop bar The Library. Ben had been wanting to take me to this bar ever since he discovered it, because of my profound love of books, so it was extra-special to be able to go there with him!

rooftop cocktails library bar

After drinks and a quick dinner, we went to see the Broadway play Hand to God, a dark comedy featuring a hand-puppet that had me laughing… and thinking. The actors were superb!

hand to god play

On our way home from the play, we stopped by Schmackarys for some cookies! I could not decide what to get, so Greg indulged my sweet tooth and we got a box of half-a-dozen to share over the weekend. My favorite was the s’mores. YUM.

schmackarys cookies nyc

The next day, Greg took me to The High Line Park — it used to be a railway, and has great views of the city. It is a neat feeling to be walking through trees in the middle of Manhattan! Greg and I also got a kick out of watching various kids and adults of all ages approach a water fountain/sculpture near where we sat for a break during our walk. After The High Line, we explored Chelsea Market and the lakeshore. It was chilly but beautiful!

chelsea water

We grabbed dinner at The Meatball Shop, a popular restaurant chain in the city, serving all sorts of both veggieballs and meatballs. I love how NYC has such specific and diverse food options!

Thee next day, I met up with Greg after he finished work — I got a tour of his awesome office and got to meet some of his super-nice coworkers! — we headed out for dinner and a VERY special dessert stop. Longtime blog readers may recall my intense love for a certain romantic comedy circa early-2000s? I saw this movie for the first time in theaters when I was in high school, and have watched it pretty much every year since then. It is my “comfort food” movie… what can I say, I just love it! You can guess what it is based on the photo below:

Serendipity!

Yep… Greg took me to SERENDIPITY! As you can tell from the above photo, I was pretty dang excited! And since it was a Monday night, we didn’t even have to wait very long for a table. Greg ordered a classic frozen hot chocolate and I went for the salted caramel frozen hot chocolate. Delicious!

frozen hot chocolate

The true magic of the night came when our waiter approached us holding an iPhone. “You are sitting at a very special table,” he said, thrusting the phone at us to show a picture from IMDB… of my two favorite characters sitting at the VERY SAME TABLE. Ahhhh! It was definitely a serendipitous moment! Greg told the waiter, “Oh, you don’t have to tell her about the movie, she knows exactly what table this is.” Haha! The waiter was kind enough to take our picture and Greg made an image for me with us and John & Sara {from the movie!}

serendipity table!!!

On Tuesday morning, I took the train from Grand Central Station to Wassic to meet up with my dear friends Janet and Lauren for lunch. These two lovelies drove two and three hours respectively to have lunch with me! It was so wonderful to see them. We do not get to see each other all that often, but when we do, everything falls back into place and it is like we just saw each other. I feel very grateful to have such special friends! We went to Harney & Sons tea shop for lunch and oh my gosh, you guys, good thing I was flying back on a plane because otherwise I would have been tempted to buy alllll the tea.

janjan laur

When I got back to the city, I had some time before Greg got off work so I made a quick stop by Central Park. It wasn’t much time to explore, but just walking around one small square at the edge of the park was lovely. Such an incredible, beautiful green space in the center of the city!

central park

All too soon, it was Wednesday morning, and time for me to get on board a plane back home to SFO {but not before taking a silly selfie with my brother!} I miss him very much, but I am so proud of him and I love our adventures together. Already looking forward to the next one! 🙂

me and greg silly

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highlights of my trip to Cleveland
weekend in Half Moon Bay
weekend in South Lake Tahoe
T.Swift concert in Nashville

my trip to cleveland

Happy weekend, friends! As promised, I wanted to give you a recap of my wonderful trip to Cleveland, OH to visit my dear friend Holly. Cleveland gets some flack in pop culture, but I don’t know why — I thought it was a beautiful, vibrant city with lots to do! If any of you find yourselves in Cleveland, here are some fun things we did that were absolutely lovely.

Cleveland park

Our first morning, Holly took me to the West Side Market, which was an enormous indoor market with a farmer’s market and tons of stalls selling all varieties of food! We spent quite some time wandering around, “window-shopping” and browsing all the delicious options.

Westside market

We ended up splitting a Shepherd’s Pie and a Turkey-Swiss Cornish Pasty, plus a pumpkin cheesecake cupcake for dessert! YUM.

cupcake pumpkin cheesecake

There is quite a vibrant Irish culture in Cleveland, which was evident from the food… I snapped a photo of this cake for my dad, who loves Guinness! I am going to look up a recipe for this cake and try to make it myself one of these days! 🙂

guinness cake

Holly and I also spent some time browsing Penzey’s Spices, located just across the street from the West Side Market, which was my first time ever being to a Penzey’s. It smelled divine in there! I also loved picking up all the free recipes on notecards around the store. I picked up a jar of Dried Jalepeno Peppers for my sweetie, who loves everything spicy! {I, however, am quite the opposite!}

We lucked out with gorgeous weather during my visit to Cleveland. Crisp autumn perfection. Holly took me to Lake Erie, which was so much bigger than I had pictured! It reminded me of the ocean, with the waves lapping the shoreline.

lake erie

lake erie shoreline

holly lake erie

Throughout Cleveland the trees were lit up with bright oranges, reds and yellows. I could not stop taking pictures! It was obscenely beautiful.

fall colors cleveland

beautiful autumn tree

During my trip, Holly took me to these restaurants, which I loved:

I always have such a wonderful time with Holly, and it is always hard to leave. I am already looking forward to our next visit!

me and holly cleveland

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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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! 🙂

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 😉

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 #27 {washington d.c. recap edition!}

Happy Friday, everyone! After a few whirlwind weeks of travel, I’m now back home in Ventura soaking up time with my parents, Gramps, Erica, and Mr. Mur-dog.

I’m also preparing to teach the first weekend of my Summer Writing Camp tomorrow! I’ve got a lot on the to-do list today, but before I get going I wanted to take a few minutes to recap my trip to Washington D.C. to visit my brother for a long weekend. So this week’s Fabulous Friday post is going to be a recap!

Here’s 5 things I loved about washinginton, d.c.:

1. Spending time {and taking selfies!} with my brother. I always love getting together with this crazy kid! He makes me laugh like pretty much no one else on the planet.

selfie with greg

selfie on metro

2. Strolling along the Washington Mall and seeing the Capitol and all the monuments.

me with capitol

greg and horse

3. Going to the Ford’s Theater museum. As a huge Abraham Lincoln fan, it was really sad — but also sacred — to see the place he died.

honest abe

house lincoln died

ford's theater

ford's theater box

4. The Native American Smithsonian Museum. Beautiful and thought-provoking.

smithsonian

native american banner

native american museum

native american statue

5. Going to the Sara Bareilles concert! Greg surprised me with tickets. It was a phenomenal show, and the venue was so much fun! We picnicked before on the grassy lawn. It was a wonderful night!

sara bareilles concert

20140714_154420

20140714_161307

20140714_161535

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What’s on your agenda for the weekend?
  • Have you taken any fun trips this summer?

a year of Wooden: week 25

Hi, friends! I’m writing this from the D.C. airport after a wonderful trip visiting my brother. {Recap post coming later this week!} My flight doesn’t leave for another couple hours and there are thunderstorms in the weather forecast today, so cross your fingers I get out of here safely and on time to make my connection in Kansas City!

starbucks

But right now I’m a happy camper with my little travel workstation: laptop, earbuds playing Lucius on soundcloud {they opened for Sara Bareilles at her concert last night and were aaamazing}, phone charging, and of course a big cup of green tea w/honey.

I’m happy to be coming at you with this week’s year of Wooden challenge!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books.
  • February: Make friendship a fine art.
  • March: Help others.
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day (financially).
  • May: Be true to yourself.
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day.
  • July: Love.

Coach Wooden said, “The two most important words in the English language are LOVE and BALANCE.” This month, we’ll be focusing on the first of those: cultivating and nurturing more love in our lives. Next month, we’ll strive to create better balance in our lives.

Last week’s challenge was to increase the love in your life by increasing the time you spend PRESENT with your loved ones. In other words, it’s not just important to spend time with those you love — it’s important to make that QUALITY time!

One simple thing I did this week was turn off my cell phone. I used it to take pictures and occasionally to see where I was going in the city to keep from getting lost, but other than that I tried to keep my phone silenced and put away in my bag for most of the day. I was highly aware that the time I got to spend with Allyn and Greg — and with my cousin Melissa, who drove down from Baltimore to see Greg and me for dinner, and with two other friends I got to meet up with in D.C. — was limited and precious because I was leaving soon and I knew I would miss them very much. But it got me thinking — our time is limited and precious always, with everyone, even with those people we see every single day whose presence we might take for granted. I definitely felt happier and more loved this week when I was focused on savoring the in-person time I was blessed to have with the amazing people in my life! I’m going to try to live with my cell phone turned off more often.

This week’s challenge is to write a love letter to yourself. What do you love about yourself? What are your favorite qualities that you possess? How can you be kinder, gentler, and more loving to yourself?

Questions for the day:

  • What was you experience this week of trying to be present with your loved ones?
  • Have you gone on any trips this summer?

fabulous friday #26 {new orleans edition!}

Hi from beautiful New Orleans, and Happy Independence Day to all my U.S. readers! I hope you have some fun celebrating on the agenda today. Allyn and I are going to watch the fireworks on the Mississippi River! I’m waaaaay excited.

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Being reunited with my sweetheart! After being apart for a month {and knowing we’ll have to be apart for another month when I leave} I am savoring every moment we get to spend together.

me and Al new orleans

2. The beautiful architecture of the city! It’s so uniquely New Orleans. And I love the strands of lights that are hanging everywhere! The picture below is from a cute outdoor art fair we stumbled upon one night on Frenchman Street.

new orleans architecture new orleans architecture new orleans art walk

3. Live jazz music! We saw a terrific performance at a place on Bourbon Street, and also wandered around Frenchman Street where there was a fantastic band giving a street performance that blew my socks off. I get such a big goofy grin on my face when listening to live music.

live jazz

4. The food. Especially the beignets at Café Du Monde. I learned the hard way not to exhale while taking a bite — guess who blew powdered sugar alllll over herself? Haha.

cafe du mondebeignetal beignet

me beignet

5. These cheerful flowers Allyn surprised me with at the airport when he picked me up. There were a bunch of buds that have slowly been unfurling all week. I love them!

flowers from Al

BONUS: My friend Dana’s beautiful photography blog. She posts a new photo of hers every day and it makes my morning to check it out while I sip my tea. Talk about inspiration! She is so talented. I wish she could walk around New Orleans with me and take photographs! She has such an insightful, interesting way of viewing the world behind her lens. You can subscribe to her blog here!

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for this 4th of July weekend?
  • Have you ever been to New Orleans? Any recommendations for my final week here?