Today was a great day. Today, I did things that I loved doing.

I skyped with my family, dressed myself in Target sweatpants and a Lululemon top, read articles on the NY Times website to my heart's desire, learned new things online, brewed a fresh cup of coffee, heard exciting news from friends, prepared chicken tortilla soup from scratch, made pressed juice for breakfast, dreamed about the furniture (a blue velvet sofa! a rosewood dresser!) for our future apartment and scouted deals on Craigslist, studied new Chinese words and brushed up on my quantitative skills, and snuggled up in our couch/bed to catch up on Homeland and The Good Wife – all things that make me happy.

I'll be honest – I'm not where I thought I'd be at 26 as I imagined it would be like back in high school. But also, I'm not where I thought I'd be. For all my planning, I never could have predicted that I'd be in China of all places, or married, or living more of a freelance adventure than a climb up the career ladder. Somehow, I thought I could only be happy while on a tropical vacation or stressing out over an ambiguous project needing results fast (because weirdly, I thrive on that, too). When I step away from my day's activities as things to be checked off of my Todoist and view them more like things that I enjoy doing, I'm so much happier.

I want to stop apologizing for not having enough time, for not doing it all. I need to stop apologizing for recognizing the resource constraints that we all face. I'm not sorry that sometimes my priorities change and that instead of juggling yet another to-do, I choose to drop one, sometimes temporarily, sometimes forever. More fun means less list. When Dave gets home and asks me how my day went, I want to stop responding with, "Ugh, I haven't finished all of my to-dos yet." More often, I want to respond: Today was a great day. I did things that I love doing. And I'll be happier for it.

Layered Chicken Tortilla Soup

If you've ever had the chicken tortilla soup at Cafe Rio, you'll understand the magic of the layering. This is my take on the Cafe Rio fave...
This soup makes for an easy weekday meal, but it's exciting enough to make for friends on the weekend. I would include a picture, but the one I have doesn't do it justice.

You'll need:

  • about 1 lb or three chicken breasts 
  • 1 packet of taco or burrito seasoning
  • half a lime
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 small, green bell pepper
  • 5 cups of chicken broth (I used 5 of the packets from Trader Joe's mixed with hot water)
  • 1 jar of salsa
  • a handful of cilantro
  • 1/2 - 1 cup of cheddar cheese (I used white cheddar), shredded
  • a handful of tortilla chips or toasted corn tortillas
  • a couple flour tortillas
RINSE and pat dry the chicken. You can easily double the chicken if you want extra for tacos or chicken quesadillas later in the week. I used a leftover packet of burrito seasoning, but I think a full packet would be sufficient for 2 lbs. Squeeze the juice of half a lime on the chicken and sprinkle on both sides with the seasoning.
MARINATE the chicken for about an hour then place in a slow cooker with a cup of broth on high for 2-3 hours or until the broth has thickened into a sauce. Use two forks to shred the chicken.
ABOUT half an hour or less before you want to eat, dice the onion and pepper and saute in a tablespoon of oil until softened. Use a soup pot to saute, then add the remaining cups of broth and bring to a boil.
PORTION the chicken into soup bowls. You'll have 4-5 servings. To each bowl, add a ladle or two of the onion, pepper and broth mixture. Add a few tablespoons of salsa, a sprinkle of cilantro (no need to chop), and a handful of cheese. Garnish with a few tortilla chips. I used guacamole flavored chips, and they were delicious. You could easily add more toppings – sliced avocado, maybe? Heat a couple of tortillas in the oven or microwave as a side. Enjoy!

[Wednesdays at Eight] Rachel from Through Painted Deserts

[Honey-Bourbon Pulled Chicken from

Healthy. Delicious


 I am thrilled about starting this new blog series,

Wednesdays at Eight

. I've been thinking a lot about what it means to build community around the table, about everyday meals and celebrating the ordinary. I've been thinking about all the planning and preparation that comes before making dinner and the unique routines that make those dinners possible. 

This is my take on Bon Appetit's

My Morning Routine

. Breakfast has its own rituals of morning coffee, reading, sometimes frantic preparation for the day. Dinner is different. Dinner is about winding down. It's about experiencing gratitude for the day. It's about relief after a day of work and about sharing experiences over a meal. 

A billion thanks to Rachel for kicking this series off! Here's a peek into her dinner routine...

How you know her:

As the Director of Project Development at

Touch A Life Foundation

, Rachel works to support and advocate for vulnerable children around the world. You can find her blogging about life, food adventures, travel and community (I'm loving her recent post on

the harvest

) at

Through Painted Deserts


What is a typical weeknight like for you?

 I really like to eat at home as much as possible. I was so inspired to cook for myself more after reading

Bread & Wine

, a gorgeous memoir-meets-cookbook by one of my favorite authors,

Shauna Niequist

. It makes me feel so much better to eat at home, and cooking also allows me to feel like I’ve created something healthy and lovely for myself. I like to occasionally meet friends for cocktails or wine after work but I typically prefer to stay in during the week and cook for myself – after the hustle and bustle of the workday, it feels nice to relax and treat myself to good, wholesome foods.

I enjoy exercising after work – running,

Bikram yoga

, playing soccer, and

surf-inspired exercise classes

 are amongst my favorite activities – and I like preparing my meal plan at the beginning of the week so I can have food at the ready when I come home from working out (otherwise, I get hangry


!). I usually like to eat no later than 7:30 (because any later than that and I get


hangry) and I tend to set my little bistro table with a placemat and a pretty candle. Sitting down for dinner is a beautiful ritual, whether you’re alone or with company.

Thursday nights are always date nights with my fiancé, and we alternate between cooking at my apartment and trying new restaurants (Dallas is such an amazing hub for great new food).

Do you have any weeknight staples?

 I love salads – lately I’ve been making mine with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, avocado, shredded carrots, feta cheese, and Shauna Niequist’s basic vinaigrette (1/2 cup of olive oil, ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar, one tablespoon of Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper, all shaken up in an old jelly jar) – and anything quinoa-based. I like to make a big pot of quinoa at the beginning of the week and throw whatever I have into it each night – sweet potatoes, avocados, black beans, roasted tomatoes, various cheeses, and spicy peppers have all made appearances. Crock-pot recipes are a winner, too – I particularly love

this honey-bourbon chicken dish

. I usually skip the buns and eat the chicken with plenty of pickles.

What’s on the menu for dinner tonight?

Speaking of quinoa, I have been


for this recipe that my friend’s mom used while cooking for us over Labor Day weekend. It calls for both cumin and chili pepper, and those spices really kick it up a notch. I like to add fresh avocado (not to the mixture itself but as a topping when I’m actually sitting down to eat it – I find that that tactic preserves the avo better) and sometimes even rotisserie chicken for extra protein. Here’s the recipe, if you’d like to try it for yourself.

Kay’s Quinoa with Black Beans, Tomatoes, Corn & Feta


15 minutes


50 minutes





¾ cup quinoa, rinsed


2 tsp canola oil


½ large onion, chopped (about ¾ cup)


¾ cup frozen corn


1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed


1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered (about 1 and ½ cups)


1 tsp ground cumin


½ tsp chili powder


Juice of 2 to 3 limes (about 4 to 6 Tbsp)


3 oz feta cheese, crumbled (about ¾ cup)


1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves


1 and ¼ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan on high heat. Stir in the quinoa and ¼ teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is cooked through but still firm to the bite and the water is evaporated, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the heat and rest, covered, 10 minutes.


the oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add the corn and cook 2 minutes, then add the beans and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the quinoa, tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, and lime juice to taste and stir gently to combine. Stir in the feta and cilantro and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Wine? Dessert?

If I could, I would drink wine with my dinner and eat dessert after every meal – but my budget doesn’t quite permit for that sort of lifestyle.


Some of my favorite desserts include

Shauna Niequist's blueberry crisp

 (which is so versatile that it can be paired with

Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

 after dinner and with creamy Greek yogurt for breakfast the next day), lemon bars, and anything made with peanut butter (I’m dying to try

this recipe

, and also

these peanut butter-filled brownies

). I love wine, especially Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, and I can’t resist a glass of ice-cold Prosecco. Sometimes there’s no better treat than having


wine and dessert for dinner – and, in case you couldn’t tell, I’m speaking from experience. 

Thanks so much for sharing, Rachel! 

planting seeds.

I'm discovering, as I become older and


 wiser, that there are themes that emerge for each figurative season in my life. Lately...

Lately, I had been assessing (re: worrying about) the potential payoffs of my time investments and questioning how I should plan and execute my now

very flexible

 day. As I was writing, I came across this quote at the top of the journal page, with this verse on the facing page:

"Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don't know if profit will come from one activity or another 


or maybe both." - Ecclesiastes 11:6 NLT

The most succinct and appropriate wisdom revealed at the exact time I needed it. And just as I was thinking,

I would really love a visual reminder of this

, boom.

Clementine Daily

(my fave new site) beat me to


. It's like God knew that extra nudge would hammer that little sentence home, pushing me away from my comfort zone of tidy, tangible, and immediate outcomes.

This month, and maybe even this entire fall season, I'll be planting seeds. Small but powerful seeds of time, energy, sweat and faith. 


 of sweat. 


of faith.

a week in paris (via my iphone).

//Versailles by day, wedding by night//

//the clouds matched the garden!//

//the freshest produce at the Versailles market//

//my favorite garden in Versailles//

//a chocolate themed reunion brunch//

//the best place in the world to celebrate four years//


//bests and the newly engaged couple//

//my favorite view//

//buckets and buckets of peonies, my favorite//

//picnic part I on the Seine before picnic part II at the Eiffel Tower//

//ahh, Montmarte//

//piggy latte for breakfast//

I'm feeling nostalgic about Paris even though it's only been a couple months since I was there. It's the city of so many memories and emotions for me, sadness and heartbreak and beauty and love.

Paris is the most beautiful place in the world to cry, and the most romantic place in the world to kiss. 

I would spend part of every summer in Paris if I could. Even though there is a big, wide world of places to visit, I'll never get tired of spending those long summer days in the city of lights.

lizzie's wedding.

//the girls, photo via



My childhood friend, Liz, got married a few weeks ago, and it was the most touching wedding I've attended, so intimate and personal. Dave and I had just returned home from Shanghai a few days before, so the timing was perfect. After a year abroad, there was nothing more beautiful to me than spending time in the California sunshine, celebrating love and reuniting with the girls I grew up with.

//lavender iced tea, loves, and sparklers//

The wedding took place at the

Highland Springs Resort

, which I didn't know anything about until Lizzie said that she was getting married there. We ended up spending

our three year anniversary

there, at the same time as their annual lavender festival. If you're in Southern California during that time, it's a must visit. The resort is a local gem - olive trees and lavender fields and rustic beauty all around.

//friends, laughter, and celebrating Lizzie and Matt//

I honestly believe that California is one of the most  beautiful places in the world to live. I loved soaking in everything that I had missed - friends, glorious sunsets, fresh outdoor air. They served breakfast for dinner, which was so cute and yummy. I'll take pancakes at any time of the day!

//stunning reception backdrop and sunset//

That night was one of those nights where I was so happy that everything felt surreal and perfect and just so much like


. That night to me was the best possible kind of summer night, all filled with sunlight and laughter and celebration and catching up on everything. I'm so glad to have been there. Life is beautiful!