What’s Saving My Life Right Now

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I love Modern Mrs. Darcy‘s yearly posts on what’s saving her life right now. It’s fun to see the bright spots in cold, dreary winter for others. Last year I joined in, and some of my things are the same, but I’m in a very different phase than I was last year. So here’s what I have.

Tea breaks. I tried to make New Year’s Resolutions that would be easy on me; I know myself, and resolving to exercise every day or lose 50 pounds would just end in feeling bad about not following through. So I resolved to drink tea and read poetry every day. I’ve always enjoyed hot tea, and I had all kinds, but I have always defaulted to coffee. I have so loved these little tea times, and developed a special affinity for Harney and Sons’ Hot Cinnamon Spice tea. It’s the only tea I’ve ever found I can drink unsweetened. It’s spicy and orangey, and my husband and I decided it’s kind of a mix between a spiced cider and tea. We have an electric tea kettle that we confiscated from a dorm boy’s room at one point, and I’ve been loving it!

Having an infant. How long can you call a baby an infant? I don’t know. Our fourth child, Hannah, is three-and-a-half months old now. Having your last baby and wanting to lean in to that fleeting baby time will make you slow down, even in winter. Right now, I’m still doing a lot of rocking, cuddling, nursing, and staying at home so she can have a decent nap. I don’t want to speed through the cold months because I know her infancy will be so fast. (P.S. If you follow me on Instagram, I mostly post pictures of Her Royal Cuteness.)

And baby smiles and giggles. Because they are simply THE BEST.

These are pink champagne cupcakes I made for New Year’s Eve, and they were incredibly good. 

Baking. I’m a little bit of a stress-baker. As Addie Zierman described in her wonderful post today, I also think I battle through some of my depression issues with the physicality of cooking. After the cookie extravaganza that is December, I have turned to cakes in January. Just that I can think of, in this new year I’ve made Cinnamon Roll Cake, Root Beer Bundt Cake from Baked, Banana Bundt Cake, Snickerdoodle Cake, and White Almond Sour Cream Cake. Not to mention Strawberry Cream Cheese Bread, Apricot Oatmeal Bars, corn dog muffins, and probably half a dozen other things I can’t remember.

It’s good I have a dorm full of high-school boys to feed. My stress-baking is very compatible with their love of food. Baking makes me happy; feeding people makes me happy.

As always, hot baths and good books. The perfect combination. I’m about to go there right now, to finish The Year of Living Danishly.


I am loving reading about those things that help save others’ lives in the link-up at Modern Mrs. Darcy! How about you? What gets you through the winter? 

#oneword2016: TIME

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It’s ironic that I am starting to write this when I need to leave in about four minutes. I know I won’t finish – much like most of the blog posts I’ve began lately.

I’ve never chosen a word for a year. I’ve made sorta-resolutions in my head. But I’m not much of a resolutions kind of person. I don’t like the guilt of breaking them. On December 31 around 11 p.m., though, I was in bed at my in-laws’ house pondering choosing a word for 2016. A place to focus as I face the new year. And I felt God impress one on my mind: TIME.

I don’t know where it came from or what it means. But here is what I know.

The last five or so months, since school started in August, have felt a little chaotic to me. For instance, I realized this week that a company I work for owes me $1200 and I hadn’t even noticed. SERIOUSLY, Jessie? My brain is befuddled.

Reasons for this?

  • I have not regained any brain function since I had Joshua, my third child.
  • Joshua doesn’t usually nap until we get in the car on the three days David goes to preschool. That alone time I had last school year is no more. If he does nap, it’s ON me.
  • I am getting old.
  • My brain is cluttered with more than I can remember. And I am really bad at making to-do lists on paper or a calendar.

It’s become apparent to me in the last couple months that this school year, I just can’t do everything I want to do. I have to prioritize and take advantage of little chunks of time. With this possibly/probably being the last year I have a child at home full-time, my first priority is to just be with him. We have fun. We go to a PlayGym class, gymnastics, museums, play dates. I don’t want to let other things get in the way of that. Other priorities that have become clear: reading, trying not to let the apartment become overwhelmed with dirt, doing my freelance work, listening to uplifting and encouraging podcasts, going to the gym, Bible study and teaching my Sunday School class, and hanging out with my husband at night. Things that are not as prioritized right now: this blog, my Young Living business, cooking everything from scratch even though I would like to, reading blogs.

When August 2016 hits, Joshua will go to preschool three times a week and David will go to kindergarten. Libbie will be in second grade. TIME is going to look a lot different for me. For the first two-thirds of this year, I want to remember how precious the time is with my little ones at home. I want to make the best use of my time. I was to not waste so much time.

I’m remembering that a time will come when I will have three kids in school – and even a time beyond that, God willing. Right now, I need to be fully present, embracing this TIME, this phase.

So that’s my #oneword for this year in a nutshell. I may try to write once a month about what God is revealing to me as I work through it! Do you have a word, phrase, or resolution for 2016?

Jessie’s Magic Sleep Potion

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mama's magic sleeping potion

I have always had a really hard time getting to sleep at night. I have a million things wrestling for attention in my head, and I can’t seem to convince them Mama needs some zzz’s. I will lay there and want to maim my husband for being able to fall asleep instantaneously. It is truly miserable!

I’ve never tried sleep aids, because I don’t do well with medicine. When I was in labor with Libbie, I went to the hospital and found I was only 2 centimeters. They gave me two Ambien and sent me home. I spent the rest of the night – IN LABOR – running into walls and going to sleep on the floor because the bed was too far. I am very sensitive to medications and I don’t trust I would wake up to a screaming child or the fire alarm or something if I were on sleep meds.

Researching an article for ParentLife, though, I came across this little recipe for a Honey-Milk bath with crushed lavender flowers. Well, I said to myself, that’s just silly! Why make a mess of crumbled, dried flowers when I have lavender oil right on my dresser?

That night I mixed up some milk, honey, and the lavender oil. And when I got out of my bath, I was too tired to read even one page of a book. I hit the pillow and fell asleep immediately and deeply. It. Was. Amazing.

I’ve tried it twice more and gotten pretty much the same results. For some reason, lavender oil alone in the bath does not seem to have the same effect on me. Something about the milk and honey is relaxing – and it’s good for your skin, in any case!

Jessie’s Magic Sleep Potion

Jessie’s Magic Sleep Potion


  • 3/4 c. whole milk or half-and-half
  • 2-3 T honey
  • 4 drops therapeutic grade lavender oil


Whisk ingredients together in a bowl or shake together in a jar. Add to hot bath, running container under hot water to make sure you get all the honey out. Relax for half an hour with a good book. Sleep!


I hope this helps you relax and sleep easier, too!

Disclaimers: I am not a doctor and not dispensing any medical advice! Just sharing what works for me. I am (very recently!) a Young Living distributor, and if you want to chat about the oils, let me know!

Kitchen Tools That Last

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We recently passed our 10th anniversary of marriage. When Mr. V and I wed, we were just a few months out of college. We had lived in dorms our first three years of school, then in on-campus apartments that we filled with our mothers’ old plates and silverware from 1978. So when we registered, we basically needed everything for our home together.

(Of course, needed is a stretch. We could have gotten by fine with those 70s plates. But you know what I mean. We didn’t have anything of our own.)

It’s neat to see what in the kitchen has held up for 10 years. We joked that 8 years seemed to be the threshold for linens: that’s when all our sheets were suddenly too shrunken to stay on the bed and the towels seemed ratty.

Some items have been replaced more because of want than need; some met untimely ends, like the blender I dropped on the pantry floor and the toaster I set on fire. (Yep. Awesome.)

If you’re looking for long-lasting kitchen paraphernalia to give as a wedding gift or for your own home, here’s what has lasted in my own kitchen. (Or kitchens. We’ve lived in five different homes since we got married.)

Wolfgang Puck Stainless Steel Cookware – We just have the pots and pans, not the utensils. I have no complaints about our pots and pans. They are nice and heavy and clean up well. We supplement them with a Dutch oven (I have a stainless one as well as an enameled cast iron one), a cast-iron skillet, and a couple of nonstick skillets.

Cuisinart Stainless Mixing Bowls with Lids – Again, stainless steel cleans up so well every time. And I love the lids on these things! So practical.

Sunbeam Heritage Stand Mixer – I actually don’t still have mine, but I used it until a few months ago and then passed it on to my mom. I had a chance to get a free KitchenAid from someone in the family, and I jumped at the chance! But if you want a stand mixer without forking out hundreds of dollars, the Sunbeam did me well. And there are things I actually like more about it than the KitchenAid.

Oxo Good Grips nylon tools – We have quite a few of the Good Grips tools – this ladle, a vegetable peeler, a few others. I’ve been very happy with how they have held up. Just a few weeks my balloon whisk bit the dust, but I think 10 years is a pretty good life for a ($7!) whisk!

Oxo Softworks Salad Spinner – Still in great condition, although it’s not something I use a ton.

We still have the Pflatzgraff dinnerware, Target glasses, and Oneida flatware that we got for the wedding. The dinnerware is mostly in good shape – it is scratched as you would expect from stoneware and a few pieces have chips. We’ve talked about replacing it but that would mean agreeing on something else.

Honorable mention goes to one of the oldest items in my kitchen: my Microplane grater. I inherited it from my grandmother’s things when she passed away, so it’s older then 10 years! And that thing still will grate my skin right off. It’s sharp! (I also have Grandma’s Muffinaire muffin tin, which I used this morning to make Double Chocolate Banana Bread Muffins.) (Also I talked my other, living grandmother into giving me a set of her Tupperware measuring cups. Because the measurements are engraved and they are so nice. I think she had all three of their 70s colors: harvest orange, avocado, and harvest yellow. I took the orange ones.)

What’s the oldest item in your kitchen? Or one that has definitely earned its keep?

How Do You Chop Garlic?

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I had never used a garlic press until about three weeks ago.

I bought one from Pampered Chef, because, well, it helped raise money for my MOPS group and I’ve always heard they are great. It’s pretty much exactly the same as that one pictured from Progressive International, which is under $10 on Amazon. So I probably way overpaid for my PC one. Oh well.

Until recently, I’ve used three different methods to get minced garlic. One, buy the jars of preminced garlic. These are certainly convenient, but the garlic loses a lot of its oomph. Two, try to mince it using my big knife, usually ending in an uneven, chunky mess. And three, use my microplane zester, which makes a great minced garlic but often results in my finger being grated.

So you will understand why it felt like I heard angels singing the first time I used a garlic press. I always thought they were incredibly difficult to clean, but mine even has an attached tool for getting the garlic off and then cleaning it thoroughly. It’s really, really simple. And leaves me to wonder what other kitchen tools I am missing out on? I wrote about a few of those things I can’t live without now.

Time for your opinions: what are your favorite little kitchen tools? And do you use a garlic press? Have I been in the Dark Ages about this one?

Ask Jessie, Volume 1

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This is the me the year I started blogging, in 2006. I was in Thailand.

Do you know what? In almost 8 years of blogging (yeah, seriously!), I’ve never done a Q&A type post. Probably because I don’t think I’m that interesting. But I asked on Facebook if anyone had any questions for me … and they did. Here we go!

Tiffany asked: If you had to pick, what would be your all-time favorite food or recipe? And why do you love it so much?

It’s so hard to pick one food! But I think my all-time, die-hard favorite thing to eat is fresh, warm bread with real butter and orange marmalade. It’s homey, it has a lot of flavor and texture dimensions, and it makes me happy.

Out of all the recipes I’ve shared on this site, I think the one I have made the most times is Magically Delicious Corn Dip. I found the recipe early on in our marriage and it’s a perfect crowd-pleaser for parties.

Mary asked: What do you love most about the stages your kids are in right now?

Libbie is 5 1/2. I love that she has just started to read! As a total book enthusiast, it’s so fun to see her reading. It’s also nice to have a kid who can really reason and understands that we both have opinions and we have to work things out.

David is almost 3 1/2. I AM SO THRILLED HE IS FINALLY POTTY-TRAINED. Have I mentioned that? He is also just so silly. I love that he so seriously tells us, “I am so scawwy!” when he is naked with a dragon hooded towel on. He is obsessed with Cars and Lightning McQueen and Mater, and he plays elaborate games with all his cars. When he is not screaming in rage, he is a pretty incredible kid.

Joshua is 14 months. I love that he is just starting to try to talk and saying “dog.” He adores animals, which is so cute. He is trying to give big open-mouth kisses. And he is just so dang cute toddling around.

Jenny asked: What’s the one thing you swore you’d never blog about that you totally DID blog about?

I don’t know about swearing it off, but I never, ever thought I would blog so much about my, uh, girls. I had no idea when I started blogging that I would spend so much of my time breastfeeding, though!!

I also would have never, ever imagined that I would blog about fashion, considering I don’t think I have any style at all. Sweet Jill mentioned how much she likes it when I talk about plus-sized fashion. I’ve been thinking about starting What I Wore Wednesdays back up, as it really does help keep me accountable to wearing real clothes.

Kelly asked: How in the world do you make it ALL work??

This made me laugh a little. Because really, I am not kidding when I say I feel like a giant mess most of the time. Some people think I do a lot because I cook often, or because I read a lot, or … who knows. Because my kids seem relatively happy? But here’s the thing …

  • You see a lot of great recipes, but I don’t ever have to cook dinner unless I want to, since we eat in the dining hall. (Except during summer break. I’m kind of dreading cooking!!) Most of what I make is for breakfasts, for our dorm boys, or testing recipes for magazine articles. I try to make breakfasts and lunches often, but just as often the kids eat packaged granola bars and yogurt tubes for breakfast (and way prefer it) and sandwiches for lunch.
  • I do read a lot of books – or not a lot, compared to some! I read mostly fiction. Generally I read while taking a bath at night or maybe before bed in the evening. When people ask me how I read so much, I tell them I don’t clean. And that is kind of true. I am terrible at keeping things clean even on a maintenance level.
  • I stay sane by letting my kids be messy. Crumbs vacuum, rooms will get cleaned eventually, and someday I’ll have time to clean the oven. I love to see them involved in big craft projects or playing with Play-doh. I try to always say yes when they want to read a book. And I make an effort to just go out and do something fun a couple times a week – go to a playground, museum, library, friend’s house – even when I feel like I should be at home working or cleaning. They’re only little once, you know?

Wholesome Frugal Mama wanted to know if blogging gets easier as you go along.

I didn’t start out blogging as a serious blogger, not like people do nowadays. This was back in 2006. I knew two people who had a blog, and I decided to start one just to keep me writing. I had no idea how blogging would explode, and how I would make real friends through it, and how I could make money. I just wanted to write. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I go back to that. Just write.

I do think as you travel your path as a writer and blogger, you find what your niche is, who you connect with, how much time you can put into it, and even if you really want to do it. I don’t think blogging is for everyone, and if you don’t love it, you won’t keep at it.

My friend Stephanie asked: I know you love to cook, so is there a food item you find repulsive?

Raw tomatoes, raw onions, green olives, scallops, and baked apples. (I don’t really like black olives, but I will eat them in stuff like tapenade so I guess I don’t find them repulsive.) I also don’t like sweet and savory things mixed together – like sugar on rice, my mom’s Lima Bean Casserole, or Cincinnati chili.


Me a couple weeks ago at Easter, with all my people. Three of whom didn’t exist in 2006.

Well, there you go. I’m sure that’s more than you ever wanted to know about me. But if you have another question, leave it in the comments and I’ll answer it in a Volume 2!