logo
cuppacocoa
January 11, 2017

Oh man, it’s January 10, and I think I forgot to say HAPPY NEW YEAR last week! HOPE YOU HAD A GREAT ONE! Are you a resolutions kind of person? I always like to set some goals for myself. Even if they don’t last all year, at least I got a good month or two in of self improvement, and that’s better than nothing. This year, I’m working on a few things, including being more flexible and laughing more. I think this will improve the quality of life for both me and my family :D. What about you? I’d love to hear your goals and intentions at the start of the year.

I’ve also got several posts I’m really excited to share with you! They’re the kind that keep me up at night until I finally I pull out my phone and jot down notes so I don’t forget. Unfortunately, my desire to spend hours writing conflicts with my goal to improve at brush lettering which also conflicts with my goal to play more sports (WHICH I’VE BEEN DOING AND IT’S BEEN AWESOME) which conflicts with my goal to study up and learn how to teach my daughter music. Not to mention spending time with Ben, or watching TV or something.

And I think I maybe had friends or fellowship or something at one point in my life… but… there are only so many things I can cram between 8pm and whenever I finally make myself go to bed. Good times! So today I’m buying myself some time by pushing up a recipe that I was planning to post later. If one of your resolutions this year is to eat more healthily, you might want to go ahead and skip this one. The way I remember the ingredients is literally: two types of sugar, two types of sodium, two types of fat, two types of carbs. The only way you can make this less healthy is to add bacon and ice cream to it!

But it’s super delicious and snacky and addictive :D.

My friend Wendy introduced me to the addictive and craveable flavors of this Hurricane Chex Mix, and I am always delighted to get a little tub of it from her. It’s the perfect snacky combination of sweet, salty, and crunchy! I love the Asian take on the Chex Mix since it uses some soy sauce and Furikake, a dry Japanese rice seasoning. I had fun making this snack with my 3-year old as a little packaged gift for family this year.

read more

January 3, 2017

Brrr it’s been cold here lately, and on chilly days like this, there’s nothing better than a hot bowl of congee to warm you up! Congee, or “jook,” is the Chinese equivalent to porridge. It’s the ultimate Chinese comfort food, and every Chinese kid has grown up eating this for breakfast or sometimes lunch. My husband loves it with fish fillet, and I enjoy it with pork and uh, special Chinese egg (I’ll skip the explanation on that one for now). Yummy stuff.

I am Chinese American and I have struggled to get the right congee (or “jook”) consistency for the last 10 years. But it has eluded me time and time again. How could this super easy staple in Chinese cooking be so hard for me?

I’ve tried cooking it over the stovetop for 6-7 hours.

I’ve tried it in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours.

I’ve tried it in the Instant Pot for 2 hours (it’s supposed to be only 30 mins).

I’ve tried each of these methods MULTIPLE TIMES and have only really liked it maybe twice. But I could never replicate the consistency of the one that I liked. Was it the type of rice I used? Had I used day-old refrigerated rice? Was it the temperature that I cooked it at? Was it the liquid to rice ratio? WHAT DID I DO RIGHT AND WHY CAN’T I DO IT AGAIN?

read more

December 27, 2016

When she was a baby, all I had to do was poke a cool toy in front of her face and she was distracted from her crying.

As she hit the early toddler years, I found that offering a little snack was my easy out when I was desperate:

Crying child: “WAHHHHH!!!

Mother: “Here, have a Cheerio.”

Child: *nom nom nom*

But as she neared three, I found it increasingly difficult to calm my toddler when she was in the crying-so-hard-she’s-gasping-for-air stage. HAVE A CHEERIO. HERE’S AN APPLESAUCE POUCH. LOOK IT’S DANIEL TIGER! LET’S PLAY CATCH! WANNA GO FOR A WALK? LET’S FACETIME AUNTIE JAMIE! …SQUIRREL!

Nothing was working, and she’d cry for what felt like hours. In reality, it was probably under half an hour, but it was torturous. I’d hold her little brother on one side and I’d hold her on the other and she’d just go at it and I would just sit there tracking Ben on my phone like a creepy stalker: Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Leave. Work. Now. Leave. Work. Now. 

Guys, I know I get all sentimental and nostalgic on my blog a lot, but there are definitely rough days. I guess I haven’t found a constructive and encouraging way to talk about them without complaining or entering an unhelpful negative zone, so I don’t usually go into much detail there. Also, I don’t want my kids to hate me in ten years for exposing their less angelic moments here…

But the crying. It’s real. The inconsolable tantrums. They happen. And I have a new favorite trick to calm the crying child down, and I wanted to share it with you just in case it works for you, too. Because when it’s one of those days, it’s these tricks that get you through the day.

read more

December 22, 2016

My friend David posted a recipe for salted caramel cream cheese brownies last week. They are completely over the top. I mean, brownies. With a cream cheese mixture swirled in. Scratch that- a caramel cream cheese mixture. WAIT, I mean, a SALTED CARAMEL CREAM CHEESE.

Yum. Decadent and perfect for those I need chocolate NOW emergencies.

I made them that very day. I just happened to have a ton of cream cheese, heavy cream, and corn syrup on hand. (I know, I’m probably going to die an earlier death =P But at least I will have enjoyed eating well?). After skimming the recipe, I decided I would double the recipe. If I’m going to make such a big mess, I want more than one 9×9 inch pan of brownies! Of course I got lazy and used a 9×13 inch pan, which turned out UBER thick brownies (and took about 30 minutes longer to bake!).

Not complaining. But they’re not as pretty, either.

Anyway, I’m so glad I tried this recipe, because inside this brownie recipe was a GEM: A MICROWAVE SALTED CARAMEL RECIPE.

YUMMMYYYYY!!!!!! I don’t usually love making salted caramel because I always get too close to burning it over the stovetop. But I do love eating it. By the spoonfuls. It’s seriously addictive, and this recipe solves my stovetop problem: microwave stuff for 4 minutes, add in other stuff, DONE. Stir it into your hot cocoa, blend it into brownies, top your ice cream… or do like I do and just eat it by the spoonful. MmmmMMMMmm.

Merry Christmas, guys.

read more

December 18, 2016

Little did I know when I picked her up and out of her crib this morning, it would be the last. The last time I would walk into her room to see her standing there, patiently waiting for me. The last time she’d be cozy in her blue sleepsack, fluffy and as squeezable as a teddy bear. The last time she’d need me to help her start her day.

I carried her up to our room, “Let’s have some morning snuggles!” I said, hoping I could relax in bed for a few more minutes before her baby brother woke up, too.

We snuggled in bed, warm under the covers when her face suddenly popped in front of mine. She looked at me with wide, serious eyes, and whispered, “Mama, today I want to nap in a grown up bed. So I can get up and go potty all by myself and wash my hands and get back into bed.”

I looked back at her, my mind processing this sudden request to grow up.

She nodded seriously as she saw me considering, “Yeah, Mama, I think that’s what I want to do. Can I nap in a grown-up bed?”

Ben and I had been talking about switching her out of her crib. Eventually. But it never feels like the right day to change up routines that are working beautifully for the family, so it took this confident, determined request to finally bring about the change.

“Okay,” I smiled, simply. I knew the time had come. She was ready.

read more

December 7, 2016

busy-doing-nothing

I’ve been very busy doing nothing in a land of sunshine and beaches :]. This also means I took a break from writing for the week, and now it’s time for some Christmas merriment with the family!

I did want to take a moment to thank you all for staying with me here and reading along with me each week! It still boggles my mind to think that people let me into their inbox each week- a privilege I do not take lightly! Thank you so much for letting me share my life and thoughts with you!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

JoEllen

 

December 1, 2016

how-to-keep-kids-art-space-clean

Have any of you taken the leap and started an art space for your child? I was so happy to hear that my brother and sister in law went out and stocked up on art supplies after seeing my post! I’d love to see pictures of your child’s work or photos of your space if you’ve done it, too! Now, if you’ve actually gone and started the whole art thing, you’re probably running into a common problem/fear of parents of kids with paint: MESS

read more

November 23, 2016

dont-make-eye-contact-with-your-students

I attended a training for Sunday school teachers this past weekend, and came across the most unexpected piece of advice: don’t make eye contact with the students.

Wait, what?? Did I hear that correctly? Don’t make eye contact?

Yet I knew inside, even as I wondered this, that it was exactly what the instructor meant. Because as I thought back to her slow and deliberate model lesson earlier that day, I remembered that she had indeed kept her eyes down on the materials and on her hands the entire time. It had been calming and strangely entrancing.

But it was still very counter-intuitive for me. She went on to explain, “This will be especially hard for those of you who come from a teaching background.”

Yes.

“You’re used to making eye contact to keep the students engaged and to make sure they are paying attention. You need to release your students from that. Release them from that. If they are trying too hard to look at you to show you they are paying attention, then they won’t be able to see the lesson and focus as well.”

Hrh. I guess that made sense, in a sad, ironic sort of way: The effort I put into helping them stay focused could be the very thing that took away from their complete focus.

Interesting.

read more

November 16, 2016

brush-lettering-fun-1

A couple months ago, I picked up a new hobby: brush lettering! I was inspired after seeing my friend Marilyn post these amazing pieces of art and calligraphy on her Instagram account (@minkandotter). I was mesmerized with her videos and would watch them over and over and over again. I loved the way her lettering was so fluid and the simplest words looked so beautiful! It helps that she’s got an amazing eye for beauty and art so everything looks just lovely and perfect.

14063229_316316415388375_143001549_nIsn’t Marilyn’s work amazing??

Words as art. I liked it. I have always had poor handwriting, mostly due to my tendency to rush to get things done, but this felt like something calm and beautiful, and I wanted to try my hand at it. I asked her for some tips on where to start and she sent me some super helpful recommendations, including some blogs and materials to start with.

I wasn’t ready to completely commit to this, so I started off with just a $2 brush pen and have slowly accumulated more materials over the last couple of months. I’m pretty happy with the progress I’ve made so far:

brush-lettering-fun-2

This brush pen doesn’t require a separate pot of ink like a dip pen would, which makes it super portable and easy for me to sneak in practice in random pockets throughout the day. This convenience factor has been key for me. After dabbling in this new brush lettering hobby for a few weeks, I can safely say I REALLY LIKE IT! It’s been the perfect little hobby at this stage in my life for many reasons.

read more

November 3, 2016

the-ikea-art-cart

We are fortunate enough to have a dedicated art room. I basically decided we weren’t going to attempt fancy dinner parties anymore and gave away the dining table and chairs. (Everybody likes scrappy dinners better anyway, right?? I mean, at least they happen.) And just like that, we had a dedicated room just for making things.

I didn’t fill the space with a ton of stuff. Just a low shelf, a kid-sized table with chairs, and a rolling “art cart” full of art supplies. But before we got rid of the dining table, when I was still in my let’s see if this art thing is really going to stick phase, the only thing that made that space “the art room” was the art cart. It was a great start to our art studio, and if need be, it would have been enough on its own to accomplish most of the things I wanted to do with the art space.

What is an art cart? It’s just what it sounds like. It’s our 3-tiered rolling IKEA cart that I’ve stocked full of the most-used art supplies. Here are five reasons why I love it and would keep it even if we downsized:

read more