September 23, 2016

There’s a post I have been REALLY wanting to get out to you about responding to questions from kids… because if you have a toddler like me, you’re probably fielding a lot of questions alll the time! And I recently found a new strategy I LOVE using with my little girl. But man it’s been kinda crazy times over here, and every night that I’ve meant to pound out that post, something else has come up.

So instead, today is about oatmeal. Because I’ve had this post ready to go (but kept forgetting to snap a picture for it). It’s really yummy oatmeal! My friend just happened to test the recipe this week, and she liked it, too! “So tasty, quick and easy!” It really is yummy, so I hope you try out this warm, toasty, stick to your ribs oatmeal with the cooler seasons approaching!


This is my new go-to oatmeal recipe. But wait, JoEllen, you already posted a steel cut oatmeal recipe! Ah, yes. I did. And I still like that one! It’s chock full of steel cutty, apply, cinnamony raison goodness! And you can freeze it into pucks and simply reheat in the morning- what’s not to like?

Nothing, except that I have a new recipe I’ve been using and loving, and I prefer it for many reasons:

I usually double this recipe and freeze two batches the same way I described before. It works great! I also find that the bottom sort of caramelizes in the Instant Pot, which I find kind of awesome. It adds a toasty nuttiness to your oatmeal (though the pot is admittedly annoying to clean afterward)!

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, this same recipe works on the stove top (instructions below). Enjoy!

September 6, 2016

it's not about the paper towels

“Here you go,” I said, tearing off an entire paper towel sheet for her.

“Thanks, Mama,” she said, smearing her fingers across one side.

We had given up on proper napkins a long time ago. They didn’t absorb the spills as well, and when we gave one to our toddler she would just crumple the whole thing in her little hands, wasting 95% of it. We went through so many napkins each meal that it made more sense to tear off only what she needed from a big paper towel instead. (I suppose we could have taught her not to waste the towel, but… uh… getting there.)

This time, I was generous. I gave her a WHOLE SHEET. She accepted it with big eyes and a sense of responsibility. And then she kept eating. And I kept feeding her little brother. And of course, messes kept happening.

August 26, 2016

Daniel Tiger's neighborhood

I’ve been reluctant to write about this because screen time gets such a bad rap. And for good reason. There’s a lot of stuff out there I would never let my kids watch on a screen or do on a tablet. I kept my eldest away from screens for a long time and only really started allowing her to watch shows after she turned two. It was out of desperation since I’d just had a newborn and was having trouble juggling the two at first. But that stage of crazy parenthood is over and I’m still allowing about 25 minutes of screen time a day now, and I don’t even feel guilty about it anymore thanks to one show: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

August 15, 2016

Brussels Sprouts with orange butter sauce- DELISH

We eat this all the time. Everyone loves it. I enjoy roasted Brussels sprouts on their own, but this easy sauce definitely takes it up a notch and makes it something special! It was this dish that caused me to go and buy a vegetable book in the first place. If you’re in charge of veggies or looking for a good side dish to bring to the next gathering, try this one!! It won’t disappoint.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Orange Butter Sauce
From Fast, Fresh & Green by Susie Middleton



  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts with the olive oil and 1/2 tsp of the salt. Arrange the sprouts in one layer, cut side down, on the parchment.
  3. Roast until brown and tender, 15-18 minutes. (The tops will be dark brown and crispy and the sprouts should feel tender when pierced with a paring knife.) Transfer the sprouts to a mixing bowl.
  4. Combine the balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, orange juice, and orange zest in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat just until it’s hot (you will see a bit of steam), but not simmering. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cold butter, several pieces at a time, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth and creamy. (Don’t reheat the mixture or the butter will break and the sauce won’t be creamy.) Pour the sauce over the sprouts and stir thoroughly but gently until most of the sauce has been absorbed. Transfer the sprouts and any remaining sauce to a serving platter or dinner plates.
August 11, 2016

For some reason, I have been totally exhausted the last couple weeks. Maybe it has something to do with a toddler that keeps waking up crying in the middle of the night? Or nursing? Or being a mom? I don’t know. But as soon as those kiddos are down to bed, I’ve been plopping myself on the bed and vegging out on my phone… too lazy to even sit up in a chair in the office.

collaborative art with grandma

I’ve also been working on a new project at home! I don’t even know how it started but a few weeks ago I got it in my head that I had to create an art studio/maker space for our family. I dreamed big and stayed up way too late for way too many nights researching and planning and buying. And then I (or maybe Ben?) toned down my dreams and we decided I’d start simple and see if this was just a phase or something I really wanted to commit to. As in, committing an entire room to. As in, swapping out the dining set for a kid’s craft table and lining the walls with strings of art and shelves of paint and buttons and glue.

July 29, 2016

Rehearse desired behavior

“No, No! DON’T. TAKE. MY. BOOK!!!!” she cried, running over and yanking the book out of his hands.

He had recently learned to crawl, and his new life goal was to put every object into his mouth.


You’d think it was her favorite treasured book, but really it was just one of many books that she enjoyed reading. That’s just how it is though, isn’t it? When someone else wants it, its specialness suddenly spikes and we feel extra possessive for it. I’m still like this, even as I try to train my daughter to respond otherwise.

How would you respond in this situation? Make her give it back? Encourage her to share with him? Ignore it? Tell her to take turns with him? Let her keep it and distract him with something else to play with?

Here’s what I do: I remind her to be more gentle, and then I have her practice being more gentle right then and there. 

“Sweetie, you need to be more gentle with your little brother. Let’s try that again. This time, gently ask him if you can use the book, and if he’s okay with it, take it away- gently. Let’s see it.”

I place the book back in his hands and watch her try again, this time doing everything with more gentleness and respect. 

July 22, 2016


Don't keep things fifty-fifty

Ten years ago, Ben and I attended a marriage conference as newlyweds, and there was one piece of advice that has stuck with us both after all these years: Don’t go 50/50. It’s marriage advice we’ve revisited again and again- for ourselves, with our small group for newlyweds, and with anybody else who wants to hear anything we have to say about our marriage relationship.

Going 50/50 is just what it sounds like: you do your half, I do mine. Let’s keep it fair, right? I cooked dinner, so you do the dishes. I do the laundry, you take out the trash. But there are a couple problems with the 50/50 mentality. For one, it gives you a reason to hold back. You cleaned the shower last time- now it’s his turn, right? Or, it’s his job to take out the trash, so I’ll leave it, even though it’s overflowing with garbage. There are things you could do to pitch in, but well, it wouldn’t feel even. And no one likes that feeling.

Another problem with this 50/50 mentality is that it encourages you to keep tabs. And we all know that whenever you’re keeping track of stuff like this, it’s going to feel unbalanced. I think this is because we are mostly only aware of what we’re doing. I am aware of it each time I change the toilet paper roll, put away the dishes, or vacuum the floor. When Ben does those things, I rarely take note, and it doesn’t really get accounted for in my mental balance sheet of Let’s Keep Things Even.

So what’s the alternative? Instead of a 50/50 mentality, we should have a 100/100 mentality: I will always give my 100%! Sounds a little cheesy, but the perspective change makes a huge difference! Instead of keeping track or feeling disgruntled at how he’s not pulling his weight, you take the opportunities to do what you can to take care of things. Sure, it’s still fine (and probably wise) to have some sort of division of labor. We do, too. But the difference is that when I cook, I make an extra effort to clean up as I go in the kitchen because I know it will result in less work for Ben after dinner. When Ben sees the basket of unfolded laundry sitting in the corner, he puts it away because he knows it will make me happy! We help each other out because we’re not busy thinking about how the other person isn’t doing their part or pulling their weight- we’re thinking about how we can give 100% of ourselves to love them. And it doesn’t have to be even. That’s not the point. We just keep giving.

It might sound a little crazy or radical, but the best example of love that I know is one of crazy, radical, self-sacrificial love. And Jesus definitely isn’t keeping tabs or trying to make sure things are even between us- if He did, then there is no hope for us. He just gave all of himself for us, and marriage is a great place to practice mirroring that kind of self-giving, self-sacrificial, unconditional love.

This mentality has made a lot of difference for me, as someone who has a tendency to keep tabs and try to keep things even in a relationship. I can imagine a version of myself that would get annoyed about mundane things like filling up on gas, changing the baby’s diaper, or even bringing in the mail. But after years of seeing Ben give and give and give 100% of himself to make our marriage thrive and keep our household running well, it only seems natural to try to do the same.

I’m definitely not perfect, and I still get huffy about things sometimes, but I am often humbled by his humble and servant-hearted response to me that reflects a 100% attitude. It reminds me that it’s not about proving that I do more or work harder- it’s about how we’re both going in 100/100 in our home and marriage! It’s an attitude I really hope to adopt in every relationship, but marriage is a great place to start!


July 9, 2016

Life’s been good.

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

  1. These chocolate chip cookies are amazing. They come out chewy, buttery, savory-salty in a great way, gooey, chocolatey, crisped up just right… possibly my new favorite, which I really didn’t think could happen.
  2. Good Old Fashioned Pancakes. They are really truly fluffy pancakes. I can’t think of how many times a pancake advertised itself as fluffy and came out disappointingly flat. This batter was unusually thick and, well, fluffy even when I dropped it on the pan, but nothing weird happened. Just satisfyingly fluffy and moist pancakes when they finished. I added banana slices to mine. Blueberries next time. Yum.
  3. Carving out some ME time. Like, I actually asked my husband for a day off, and he took a day off from work that very week so he could give me a real day off! I went shopping. Like, real shopping where you browse at your own pace, try on clothes, and wait in line to buy the things you decided you liked. Cannot remember the last time I had the luxury of time and space to do that! I also visited the great outdoors (for a whole 30 minutes…) and got a massage. Aw yeah.
  4. Getting swamped in preschool research again. I had actually already gone through all this in January and applied and enrolled and everything. Done. But now it’s July and my child has already changed and grown so much since then that I’m reevaluating our whole arrangement. Of course it’s the Bay Area, and it’s July… which means I am way behind the game now if I want to actually get into one of our top choices. We’ll see! 😛
  5. I actually tried one of those TasteMade recipes someone posted on Facebook and the pasta I made was SUPER TASTY! It’s super not good for you (Heavy cream? Sausage? Cheese?!), but doesn’t that just convince you that it really does taste great? It does. It’s like the other creamy carbonara-y penne dish I love, but even easier. So I’m posting the recipe here for me, so I won’t have to search for and then scroll down to the bottom of this page to find the recipe on my phone. I served it with Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Orange Butter Sauce (recipe coming soon!) and everybody was very, very happy with dinner last night. Yum.

It’s been a pretty mellow but sweet summer, and we are enjoying these warm California days. Happy weekend to ya :).

June 30, 2016

game for toddlers! i found a friend who

This is the name of a super cute and simple game that my husband made up to play with my daughter when she had just turned two. It’s great for developing her visual skills, imagination, and fluency with colors. She’s able to get a lot of practice making deductions as well as using words to describe things. Most importantly, it’s fun, easy, and lends to lots of sweet cuddle time!

Here are the materials you need: stuffed animals. If you’re like us, you have dozens of them piled up somewhere. Some of them may be out in the living room for a picnic, while others are sleeping in the cardboard house that Papa built, but right now most of them are having a big sleepover in the guest bedroom. Our girl likes to snuggle up in the middle of them and play this game.

Here’s how it works. Ben goes out of the room and finds a stuffed animal somewhere in the house while she waits in the room. He spots the panda sitting on the couch, picks it up, and comes back to the room hiding it behind his back, and says, “I have a friend who…”

Her eyes light up in anticipation.

“…is black and white!”

“The dog!” she guesses.

“He’s black and white and this small!” he says, gesturing as well as he can with one hand.

“…Zebra!” she tries.

“He’s black and white, this small, and eats bamboo!” he says, sneaking in a fun fact he taught her recently.

“PANDA!” she cries.

“Yeahhhh!! Panda’s here!” he cries, tossing the little panda to her. Then he goes out and finds another friend and repeats.

Easy, right? It’s a fun and brain-stimulating activity that helps tidy up the house to boot! You’d be surprised how many rounds of this your child will enjoy. Once they get the hang of it, you can change roles and have them be the one to “find a friend” and give you hints! That’s a whole different set of great skills for your child to practice! Bonus: You can be the one patiently waiting on the couch while they scurry around the house picking up stuffed animals. Sounds like a GREAT plan to me! 😉

game for toddlers! i found a friend who is

June 23, 2016

How to have a deeper conversation

I recently got to spend some quality time with a couple of my best friends. Moms only. It was great. We talked about our kids, our jobs, our marriages, and our personal triumphs and struggles. The hours felt like minutes.

It’s not easy to develop friendships like this. As Angela described it, it’s easy to make “small talk” and remark on the weather and current events. Most people are comfortable moving on to “shop talk,” sharing about personal and common interests. It’s less common for conversations to progress to “self talk,” where you cover more personal things. Even more rare are the conversations that reach a deep level of “soul talk,” where you get into the nitty gritty of what’s going on in your heart and soul- the beautiful and also the unspeakable things.

She had heard about this progression of conversation at a seminar she attended at her church, The River. They had this fantastic seminar where they basically taught church members how to love better. Part of that is living in community and sharing life together. Real life, past the small talk.

That’s the kind of community I want to live in. Not one where we just talk about the weather and the news, but one where we can really be honest about who we are, be confident that we are loved despite everything, and be encouraged to be better. But it’s not always that easy, even for me. It’s not like you can just decide you want to go deep and it happens. So how on earth do you get past that and actually talk about matters of the soul? I think the full answer includes a lot of things, like spending time together, building a community of trust, and innumerable factors that range from personal history to the current state of your heart and your own willingness to expose it to others.

But here is something real and practical that may help: a list of questions. As part of the seminar, staff at the church had developed a list of questions designed to help move conversations from personal talk into soul talk. I wish I could share more about how to build a community of trust and love that ultimately ushers everyone towards God, but I’m no expert. Instead, I will share with you this list of questions that hopefully can us deepen our conversations and ultimately love each other better.

If someone shares a personal life experience with you, these questions will help them go deeper to examine their heart and also see how God has worked or is working.

Moving from SELF TALK to SOUL TALK:

I thought about giving examples of how these questions can affect a conversation, but I think it’d be better for you to try it and see for yourself! If you are in a community of believers and are hoping to take your conversations to the next level, considering using these questions to spur one another on!