fun-filled “staycation” weekend

My brother found a cheap flight from NYC to the Bay Area and came to visit us for a long weekend! He was our first houseguest, and we loved sharing our little apartment with him. I went grocery shopping on Friday evening to stock up on favorite items for our houseguest and Allyn was very thorough about checking the comfort of the air mattress.

My brother said that the timing of the trip could not have been more perfect for him because last week incredibly busy, both at work and in his personal life — he is moving to a new apartment, AND his workplace moved to a new office, AND he had a big work event this past Friday. He said it was really nice to fly out to California and relax for a couple days! I told him that it felt like a vacation for us to have him here — a “staycation,” if you will. Allyn and I had so much fun showing him around our town and taking him to our favorite places. Allyn joked that we’ll need to wrack our brains to come up with things to do next time he visits, because we did everything there is to do in our little town!

Saturday

Saturday morning we slept in a bit and I made smoothies and pancakes for breakfast. Then we headed over to the Lake Chabot recreational park down the street and went for a walk around the lake. We also showed Greg the picnic area we reserved for my 30th birthday party in a few months! Allyn is super on top of party planning, which is good, because apparently picnic spots get booked up six months in advance. We were lucky to nab one for the first weekend in June.

After 45 minutes or so, we headed back home and got all cleaned up to head over to a “gender reveal” party for dear friends of ours who are expecting a baby in August. We could not be more excited for them — they’re going to be such great parents! Greg met them during our wedding festivities and actually got together with them in the fall when they were out visiting NYC, so he has become friends with them too. The timing worked out perfectly that he was in town to come along to their party! It was my first time attending a gender reveal party and the concept was so much fun. They asked guests to wear either blue or pink to the party, depending on what gender you thought the baby was going to be. Then, towards the end of the party, the parents-to-be cut open a cake to reveal either blue or pink. We all wore blue, even though Allyn thought it was going to be a girl {he just didn’t have anything pink to wear.} For some reason, I had this overwhelming feeling that they were having a boy. I felt pretty dang confident. And I was right! It’s exciting to imagine them welcoming a baby boy in just a few months.

The party was a blast — lots of Allyn’s friends from high school were there. I love these people but we don’t get to see them as often as we would like, due to everyone’s busy schedules. In fact, we hadn’t seen most of the gang since our wedding six months ago! It was great to chat and catch up with everyone over delicious “soul food”: fried chicken, black-eyed peas and rice, mac and cheese, cornbread, greens. There was enough food and cake to feed an army, and the hosts insisted that all the guests take home leftovers. We left the party around 5:30 and, while we had originally planned on taking Greg to a local Thai restaurant that night for dinner, none of us were feeling like eating again anytime soon. Sleepiness hit, along with a rainstorm, and nothing sounded better than changing into pajamas and cozying up on the couch to watch a movie. So that is exactly what we did! We picked up the movie “Arrival” from Redbox on the way home, which we had all been wanting to see. I was worried the movie might be a bit too scary for me {I am such a horror movie wimp} but it wasn’t scary at all, just suspenseful. The story was told in an interesting way that kept you guessing, all the way up to the enigmatic ending. It was definitely a good movie to watch with other people, so you can all discuss it afterwards.

Sunday

Early in the morning I had a couple student writing appointments scheduled, so after a shower and a quick breakfast of two defrosted muffins from the freezer, I slipped out while the boys were still sleeping. When I returned home a couple hours later, Allyn was making breakfast and Greg had just returned from a run. I joined them for breakfast #2, and soon we all headed out the door for an afternoon of fun!

Our first stop was the local bowling alley where we made it just in time to take advantage of their “before noon” weekend discount. When bowling, my goal is always to break 100. I got the closest I could come without actually meeting my goal: 99! I bowled more 9’s that game than I ever have in my life. Allyn and Greg both broke 100, Greg edging out Allyn with a spare in the final frame to win the game, 114 to 108. It was a close match! The bowling alley was hoppin’ — lots of families and little kids with bumper lanes — and it was fun to be part of the festive atmosphere.

After bowling we walked a few minutes to this cool shop called Aran’s Art Studio that Allyn and I had passed by many times and had always wanted to check out. In addition to teaching classes and hosting birthday parties, they also have a large selection of pottery that you can drop in anytime and select to paint with your own designs. When you’re done, you leave the pottery and they glaze and fire it, then call you to come pick it up when it’s ready {usually within a week, according to the helpful receptionist.} It sounded like fun, so we each chose a piece to paint. I used to love painting when I was a girl, and I’d forgotten how soothing it can be. About an hour later, we left the painting studio feeling relaxed and also energized by our creations. I can’t wait to see what they look like glazed and fired! Greg sweetly picked out a vase he painted for me, so I get to keep his piece, too!

We had just enough time to squeeze in lunch at one of our favorite local restaurants, Don Jose’s, before I had to head off to teach my weekly Creative Writing class. While I was gone, the boys went to the movie theater down the street to see the movie “Logan” {which I was grateful for because I really did not want to see it — too violent for my taste!} They really liked it but confirmed that yes, it was much too gory for me. It made it easier for me to be away knowing that they were seeing a movie I definitely did not want to see!

When I arrived home from teaching around 7pm, Allyn and Greg were putting the finishing touches on a Blue Apron meal they cooked for dinner! Tangelo-glazed salmon with apple farro and an extra side of green beans. {The meals we order from Blue Apron are portioned for two people, so I bought an extra fillet of salmon and some green beans at the grocery store to round out the meal and make it enough food for three!} The meal was aaaaamazing and we all toasted the chefs!

After dinner, we played a few rounds of a supremely fun card game called “Guillotine” that Allyn’s sister introduced us to a while ago. It is a simple premise, so the game is easy to learn, but it uses a combination of logic, strategy and luck that really keeps your interest. Usually my go-to activity after dinner is to relax on the couch with a TV show or movie, but having Greg here reminded me how much I love playing board games and card games, too!

During the game we enjoyed some leftover cake from the party on Saturday. Allyn made his typical sugar feast of an ice cream dish! He cracks me up. I tease him that he has the sugar tooth of an eight-year-old!

Monday

Greg and I have a tradition of going out for breakfast or brunch together. So on his last morning in town, Allyn and I took him to a gem of a breakfast place down the street, called Doug’s Place. It’s been in town since 1978 and has the homey atmosphere and huge portions of a local staple. Allyn ordered the “light” breakfast {which would be a normal-sized breakfast at any other restaurant: two eggs, bacon and toast} and Greg and I split a ginormous veggie omelet and French toast. I loved both items, but the French toast was the winner in my book!

Allyn didn’t have to work, and the rain was kindly holding off, so after breakfast we headed over to the mini-golf course. On a gray-skied Monday morning, we had the place to ourselves! It felt like we were kids playing hooky from school. The course is a lot of fun with some very creative hole designs. Greg got a hole-in-one!

For lunch, Greg said he was in the mood for “a fast-casual Mediterranean place” and, thanks to Yelp’s help, I was able to find a great spot called Shish Grill that was on the way to our afternoon activities. The boys ordered chicken shawarma and I got a falafel sandwich. The restaurant was busy with a lunch crowd but we were very impressed by the service and the food! After lunch, we stopped by my grandparents’ house as a surprise. Grandma is out of town visiting her sister, but Grandpap was home and he was so excited to see his grandson. The look on his face when Greg popped out from around the corner was priceless! We had a really nice time visiting with him.

Next up, we dropped off Greg at the gorgeous Lafayette Reservoir for a run while Allyn and I went to our tax appointment. Taxes are never very fun, but our appointment was less painful than I was anticipating, and I was excited about our first time filing as a married couple! #relationshipmilestones

The timing worked out perfectly and we swung around to the Lafayette Reservoir just as Greg was finishing his cool-down. I wish we lived closer to the reservoir because it is such a peaceful place to walk around. Fun fact: Allyn and I went to the Lafayette Reservoir for our second date, and it was the location of our first kiss!

We headed back home and Greg showered and packed up his stuff while Allyn and I made another Blue Apron meal for dinner. This recipe was chicken yakiniku with bok choy, sesame-marinated carrots and garlic rice, and it was another winner. Yakiniku, according to Blue Apron, is “a type of barbecue sauce that combines the sweet notes of teriyaki with the savory depth of sesame.” We all thought it was delicious and not too spicy! To ensure the meal would be enough for three people, I simply added some additional veggies and the boys also polished off leftover corn muffins from Saturday’s party.

After dinner we had just enough time for a rematch of “Guillotine.” Then, all too soon, it was time to drive Greg to the airport to catch his flight home. His visit went by so fast, but it also felt so full in the best way. I can’t wait until he visits again!

Questions of the day:

  • What are your favorite places in your hometown to take guests when they visit?
  • Have you ever had a “staycation” before?
  • What is your favorite card/board game or favorite movie you’ve seen recently?

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

if you enjoyed this post, you might also want to check out these:
family vacation to Mexico
highlights of my trip to Cleveland
weekend in Half Moon Bay
weekend in South Lake Tahoe
T.Swift concert in Nashville

a year of living simply: week 10

Hello, friends! It’s been way too long since I’ve checked in with you guys. I took an unintentional blogging break when I traveled down south to visit my brother and my parents for a long weekend. My brother organized this fantastic event about girls education for USC’s “EdMonth” and I did not want to miss it! Thanks to an inexpensive flight on Southwest, I was able to rearrange my tutoring schedule and travel to L.A. to attend. Greg is passionate about women’s rights and his enthusiasm shined throughout the evening! He recruited amazingly impressive and eloquent panelists to talk about “The Girl Effect: From Why to How.” It was such an inspiring event and I am SO proud of him for putting it all together!

greg edmonth panel

greg edmonth panel

I took advantage of being down in Southern California to visit my parents in Ventura before I headed back to the Bay. It’s always so relaxing and happy to spend time with my parents. On Sunday we went to a talk by Garth Stein, author of the wonderful book The Art of Racing in the Rain. I am fascinated to hear other writers talk about their process, and Mr. Stein was as insightful as he was humorous! I also ate way too many strawberries {Mom bought an entire flat from a local farm}, visited with Gramps, and played many rounds of fetch with crazy-eyed Mr. Mur-dog. Soaking up time with my family always makes my soul feel refreshed.

me and greg

Now, onto the simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to get rid of some paper clutter in your life. I cleared out my box of old receipts and also organized my tutoring folder, which had become a mess of worksheets and assignments. Now I have everything organized based on age/grade level. Moving forward, my challenge will be to take a little time each week to do inventory and KEEP the folder organized. I am motivated to do so, because I feel much more prepared going into each tutoring session — I know that I will be able to find what I am looking for to engage my students!

This week’s challenge is related to paper clutter… time to tackle the magazine clutter in your life! Magazines pile up in my house so quickly, especially The New Yorker, which comes weekly. They tend to grow into a pile that I tell myself I will read “one day…” {Sound familiar to anyone else?} This week I’m going to take a hard look at my magazine subscriptions, decide which ones I don’t need to renew any longer, and donate all the magazines I honestly don’t plan on reading.

Do you have magazines to get rid of, too? Don’t just toss ’em — donate ’em! I’ve donated magazines in the past, and libraries have always been grateful to receive them. You could also consider donating magazines to nursing homes, hospitals, or community centers.

Before I go, an update: I have become a podcast junkie! I especially love This American Life, RadioLab, and Invisibilia. In the past few weeks I’ve learned about:

Questions for the morning:

  • Do you listen to podcasts? If so, what are your favorites?
  • What paper clutter did you get rid of?
  • Do you subscribe to magazines?
20150326_203634

My new teaching mantra!

fabulous friday #37

Happy Friday! I’m off to my favorite morning yoga class, then hoping to get a good writing session in at Starbucks before lunch, and then this afternoon I’m tutoring some really sweet kiddos. The rest of the evening will be spent hanging out with my grandparents and resting up for my crazy day tomorrow!

My Saturday = a full day of teaching + an evening reading in San Francisco for Arroyo Literary Review as part of the awesome Litquake events going on throughout the city + meeting up with Allyn and his MBA classmates for a “dare-e-oke night” fundraiser for their humanitarian trip to Kenya. {Any good karaoke song suggestions??}

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. This wise message on my green tea bag this morning, which reminds me of the namaste principle in yoga class:

tea message

2. The new NBC romantic comedy sitcom A to Z. You guys, it’s only been three episodes but this show is already something I look forward to in my week! If I were to write a TV show, I have a feeling it would be something like this. The show centers around Andrew and Zelda {get it? A to Z!} and chronicles their relationship from when they first meet. The episodes are organized by letter, for example the first one was “A for Acquaintances.” It’s a really clever and funny show, and I love the characters! I even got Allyn to watch an episode with me the other night, and he laughed out loud a couple times. My brother texted me after watching the first episode: Oh sweet Jesus this is a Dallas show! Haha. What can I say? I love love!

3. The pumpkin-pie fail that happened in my kitchen this week. I’m not exactly grateful for this disaster of a pie — something happened and it never really set, but the top layer sort of burned and peeled off the pie! Has that ever happened to anyone else? I followed my favorite recipe the same as I always do, but obviously something went wrong. The only thing I can think of is that I made it in a different oven than I usually do {I made it for Allyn at his place}… but other than that, I’m clueless! I need to make another one soon to make up for this pie.

gross pumpkin pie

However, the thing I LOVED about this pie was my sweetheart’s reaction. It was my first time ever making him a pie, and it smelled so good baking in the oven, filling the kitchen with spice and autumn. Anticipation was high! But then I took it out of the oven, and there was a huge air bubble on the top — the pie was like a dome, and as it cooled the dome deflated. It reminded me of that scene in Christmas Vacation when they cut into the delicious-looking turkey and it immediately shrivels up. Anyway, I knew right away that something was not right with this pie. I peeled off the top burnt layer and the insides were this mushy texture. So disappointing!

I’ll be honest: I was upset. And embarrassed. And confused. I was about ready to pitch this pie out the window! But Allyn just hugged me and said, “It’ll be fine! It’s still gonna taste delicious!” And when the pie cooled, over my protests, he cut himself a big slice and finished every bite.

We spent the rest of the night laughing about this pie. Now it’s actually a funny memory, and yet another reminder of why I feel so grateful and happy to be with this man.

4. This quote and beautiful photo from Courtney Carver at Be More With Less:

5. For my birthday, my friends Allyson & Henry got me a subscription to a superb and innovative literary magazine, McSweeney’s. Yesterday my first issue arrived! This issue is designed as a bunch of small pamphlets so it’s easy to just grab a story and slip it into my purse when I’m on the go. I’m so excited to dig into it this weekend!

mcsweeneys

mcsweeneys

Questions of the day:

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

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 🙂

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 🙂 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! 🙂

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 #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?