balance-9422

Balance.


hand-carved butter spreader I bought in Seattle.

When I first started SteamyKitchen.com, it was just an itty bitty website just to store recipes that Mom would recite to me over the phone. The blog was a safe place, away from the dangers of hard drive crashes, spills (how many of you have soiled your favorite recipe cards?) and curious toddlers (yummy….recipe cards stained with frosting). Back then, 4 1/2 years ago, I had no idea that the blog would turn into my life work, something so grand that it would bring balance to my life.

<screeeeeeeeeech!>

Okay, okay, let me fess up. It first took 4 years of crazy NOT-balance-insane-nonstop-always-moving-airports-deadlines-little-sleep-laptop-always-on-go-go-go-shiny-new-exciting!

2010 was the year of Go.

2011 is the year of Slow.

Last November, Scott and I finally had a moment to sit still and reflect. On one hand, this was exactly what *I* wanted – the success of Steamy Kitchen was a dream come true. Not only did my little ol’ website have hundreds of thousands of readers each month, but I was on syndicated television, had a published cookbook, traveled to the best culinary destinations and created life-long friendships. All while doing something that I absolutely loved, cooking.

But was this what my *family* wanted? Peel away all the “ego”, is this what I really wanted? The answer was both yes and no. I simply LOVE what I do. I love with all my heart Steamy Kitchen. But I didn’t love the go-go-go….my family didn’t love the go-go-go.

So, Scott and I had to do what we do best: reconnect, dream, design and set off make it happen.

I’m sure you’ve heard of, “Ask a better question and get a better answer”? Well, in the previous 4 years, my questions that I’d ask myself for Steamy Kitchen was, “How can I help others learn about recipes and cooking? How can I create this into an amazing business?” Oh, answer that question, I did.* To the tune of 500+ recipes published, nearly 37,000 clicks of my camera and Delta Platinum Medallion Skymiles status.

Scott nudged me towards a better question, “How can we design a life of balance, abundance and play?”

Hmmmmm……it got us thinking. And I adapted a new philosophy of “my No’s are more important than my Yes’s.” I’ll have to go in depth about this another time, but the essence is to be incredibly picky about the “work” activities that we engage in. Scott and I set off to re-design the business so that it fits in our balanced, abundance and playful lives….instead of wrapping around. It’s an important distinction – anything that wraps around has power, control and can sometimes choke.

What does a life of balance, abundance and play look like? Spending energy on things that really matter, like cuddling with my boys on the couch, playing with new ingredients in the kitchen, practicing Tae Kwon Do from my husband, finding new crafts to make, giving my time to others, teaching Coco how to fetch, remodeling a house, planting a massive garden, learning about how to raise chickens. It also means I work less….way less….like 3 hours a day and letting my husband do the dishes all by himself every night without a feeling a tinge of guilt. Oh and handing more house chores to my growing kids.

Sounds good so far?

Some of the major changes we made recently (and upcoming!):

1. SmartFarm. What started as a life-changing, heartfelt, out-to-change-the-world inspiration turned into meeting after meeting after meeting with planners, architects, media, engineers, specialists, administrators, committees, grant people. Don’t get me wrong, I know that planning is an absolute essential component to making a community farm successful and sustainable, especially as it affect an entire town. But I realized that it wasn’t for me. I ended up compromising big-time on things that really, truly mattered to me, because of budget, timing and other people’s opinions. At several points of the project, we had heated debates on whether we’d accept donations from Phillip Morris or Monsanto. I just can’t go there.

The “Go Big or Go Home” philosophy just didn’t suit our new life of balance. I can absolutely Go Small, Have Fun, and still have a big impact on people’s lives. Currently, the SmartFarm project is on hold, perhaps someone in my community with the right experience will step up and take charge to create the most beautiful farm and educational facility for our town. I’d love to see that happen.

My “Go Small, Have Fun” plan for teaching kids about where food comes from may seem a little less ambitious, but I think I can affect just as many kids in a different way. So you’re wondering what “small” project I have in the works? Just wait 7 more days and then I can tell ya.

Update: Now I can tell ya!

2. More teaching and contribution. I realize that the emotions that I enjoy the most from what I do with Steamy Kitchen is the teaching. I love to share. I love to inspire and teach. I love helping people’s dreams come true. I love celebrating others’ success. From designing recipes and creating step-by-step photos to teach people how to cook…..to spending time coaching aspiring bloggers and cookbook authors. I want to do more of this. Diane, Todd, Scott and I are heading to Nashville to lead another Food Blog Forum in October and I’ve just come back from speaking at BlogHer Food and IACP. In August, I’ll speak at BlogHer San Diego and then travel to London to keynote Food Blogger Connect.

3. Getting help and surrounding myself with good, smart people. I want to introduce you to an amazing young couple, Adam and Joanne of Inspired Taste. They’ve guest posted here on SK before and attended Food Blog Forum in Orlando earlier this year. A few weeks ago, they asked me if I had needed any help on Steamy Kitchen and was wondering if they could be free interns for the site.

Well, I did even better, I asked if they wanted to be hired as part of the SK team.

Not only did I desperately need the help, but it just so happened that Adam and Joanne’s employer was cutting back their hours and they were looking for an additional part-time job anyways.

What a blessing.

Their little intro is at the bottom of this post – I know you’ll love them!

In addition to Adam+Joanne, I hired on other people to help with the “stuff I don’t like doing,” namely negotiating and reading contracts (raise your hand if you don’t like to do that stuff either!) In addition to my literary agent, Janis Donnaud, I’m now working with Daniel Ryan Kinney, my agent on every other business and media matter. He’s my man……my frontman, doin’ the wheelin’ dealin’ and negotiatin’.

Reading long blocks of text makes my head spin** especially contracts, letters of agreements, and anything that contains legalese that I do not understand. On the left side of the boxing ring is my attorney, Jackie, whose job it is to protect me. Oh don’t worry, the boxing ring is hot-pink, has a disco ball and I’m glee-ly*** sprinkling glitter on the mat.

I’m letting go and hiring people who love doing the things I don’t!

4. My Yes projects. As I mentioned, I believe that my “No’s” are more important than my “Yes’s.” I know that sounds strange, but in a balanced life, I’ve learned to say more No’s to projects and business activities that don’t fit in well with what we’re trying to build. I’m picky about the projects that I engage in (ay-ya…I could write a book about all the crazy proposals I’ve said “No” to this year).

What am I saying Yes to? I’ve got another cookbook to announce soon with one of the very best publishers in the world and I lovelovelove my long-term partnerships with Thermador and Cooking.com…..and also fun projects with Sweetbay Supermarket and Mitsukan.

I am riding in that sweet spot of balance in my life right now. At first, that balance beam was so thin, almost as thin and brittle as dried angel hair pasta. I could only balance on it a few milliseconds at a time. A single puff of whining would knock me down. We didn’t give up and that beam grew stronger, wider. A month later, oh it was more like linguine, still only a minute or so of feeling “balanced” at a time. It took daily rituals of getting knocked down (sometimes slammed down) and stepping back up.

Right here, right where I’m wobbily standing on my 6-inch wide beam, it’s pretty darn glorious. I’m looking forward to next month’s balance “stool” and maybe one day it will be a BIG WIDE platform, big enough to support many, many more people.

Lots of love,

Jaden

*unintentional Yoda.
**uh…..long blocks of text like THIS POST!!! :-)
***is “glee-ly” a word?????

***

A little note from Joanne+Adam

 

We could not be more excited to be a part of the Steamy Kitchen team and to have the opportunity to work with Jaden and Scott. The moment we put down our phone after speaking with Jaden, it is safe to say that we both squealed a bit, some more than others (ahem, Adam). Adam and I came to the blogging world about two years ago with the hopes to find inspiration from others and from our kitchen, a place where we have connected more often than anywhere else within our home. Since then, we have been humbled by the friendships we have made, passion for food we have experienced and the many opportunities to learn.

The food blogging community is one that gains its strength through passion, mentorship and the willingness to continue learning. We see this through blog comments or forums, social networks and during conferences, such as the Food Blog Forum or BlogHer Food. To us, such a community is exhilarating. Since the squealing and excitement after that first phone call, we have calmed down a bit and are now very ready to get to work!

Joanne + Adam
Inspired Taste

 

Comments 46

  1. House of Tang

    I still can’t believe I was reading about your tangy chicken wings THAT long ago. And then your gucci steak. mmmmmm. Oh! Firecracker Shrimp! And then you were such a natural on 5am morning tv!
    Thank you for elevating the fine art of food porn, Jaden!!!
    <3sicled

  2. Kathleen

    Jaden, cheers to you! You’ve worked so hard and done such an amazing job. I think you’ve more than earned your “no’s.” Enjoy your new-found balance. I think it’s great.

  3. Amber DeGrace

    Jaden, I’m so excited for you. Finding balance is such a difficult task, and the face of it evolves constantly based on the current details in our life. I’m glad you’re focusing on what’s important to YOU because your whole family will be the better for it. It’s easy to get distracted by the clutter in our lives (even if they’re “good” things!) and it’s essential to do housekeeping every now and then.

    I look forward to continuing to follow your journey as I continue my own. You’re an inspiration!

  4. jaclyn

    what great post, Jaden! i think you’ve given me a lot of food for thought about what balance means to me personally. you’ve had a lot of great successes, and it seems that there’s only more on the horizon for you! i’m looking forward to seeing you again at Food Blog Forum in Nashville!

    also, big congratulations to Joanne and Adam! you guys are great!

  5. Shira

    As someone who started and ran a large community garden, I can tell you it was very gratifying work. However, the compromises that I had to make while there very often were in direct conflict with what I really wanted, it was frustrating for sure. I hope your “small” gardening project is successful! Give me a shout if you need any help :)

  6. Jill B Roark

    What a great post. I’ve been following you for a long time and have always wondered where all of your energy came from! It’s really refreshing to see a woman take a step back and say “yes, I could do more, but I’m not gonna!”

    Cheers, congrats, props and many continued blessings for you and your family.

  7. Michael Procopio

    I remember sitting with you over a drink in Atlanta when you mentioned your “nos” were sometimes more important than your “yeses”. That really made me stop and think about my own priorities.

    So thanks for that. And for the drink!

    xom

  8. Deirdre

    You might find a book by Mary Pipher called Seeking Peace intereating to read– she too became highly successful and then had to back off and try and do what is right for her. Congratulations on working this out for you self and on acting on it. It seems like a very wise decision, I hope things work out wonderfully well for you.

  9. Lyndsey

    This sounds great, so good you had a chance to sit down and sort things through. Funny I have a hard time sittng back and letting my husband do the dishes without feeling guilty. But then I think how many times he’ll be sitting there watching the Rays game while I’m doing the dishes, and I know he’s not feel a bit bad about it. :D

    I love seeing you grow and change, and you have inspired me to start my food blog. I do need more time though to spend on it and all the forums and such, but food blogging has such a great community!

  10. kathy

    Jaden, what an inspiring post! I am so happy to have met you this year, and I look forward to continuing to follow your blooming spot in the food world. I love that 2011 is your year of “slow” – boy can I relate to that feeling!

    Good luck on your SmartFarm. What an exciting and rewarding project! Lovely post!

  11. Wendy M

    Jaden,
    I think you are such an amazing person, woman, mother & wife. I’m in awe of you, of all the hard work, dedication and support from your husband you must receive to make Steamy Kitchen into what it is today. And FYI you are def the most unique food blogger out there!!! I love your blogging style, it’s you!!
    I absolutely love Smart Farm. Not enough kids these days know where food TRULY comes from. Their parents need to expand their kid’s food horizon to beyond fast food & lunchables!!

    Thank you!

  12. bunkycooks

    Hi Jaden,

    I remember we briefly had this conversation about balance at BHF and I am glad to see that you have found a way to make it work for you and your family. I am also trying to find a way to fit everything into our lives, yet have time to exercise, cook more, relax and have quality time with Mr. B. It is a challenge, so kudos for saying “no”!

    I hope to see you in Nashville in October. :)

    Gwen

  13. Lynn

    Balance is to tricky to achieve and harder to maintain. I’m so happy for you, both for your success and your ability to move from “exciting” to “important.” You and your family will be blessed by your decisions!

  14. sara

    As a chronic do-too-much’er, I *adore* this mantra: “my No’s are more important than my Yes’s.” !!!!

  15. Jen da purse Ho

    wow this is awesome. you are growing so much you need ppl to help you! you have been a great inspiration to me and honestly got me back in the kitchen to make meals rather than going out so much. :) thank you!

  16. Mayhem Mama

    I am so glad that you are making yourself and your family a priority! I look forward to seeing the changes you make and hearing about the benefits of your decisions! Your book arrived and I am slowly perusing my way through it! My list of recipes I want to try keeps getting longer!

  17. SMITH BITES

    i cannot believe the timing of this post Jaden, like really. in the last 48 hours you have been on my mind constantly and i have sat down at least 3 times to write you an email – about balance as well as some other questions. i cannot tell you how happy it makes me to read that your ‘nos’ are more important than your ‘yeses’ – that, my friend, is balance to the ‘nth’ degree. you’ve worked hard and now you get to enjoy that super cute family of yours. big hugs to you!!

  18. Susan

    I am so pleased that you have been able to carve out some balance for yourself and your family. It is something that I struggle with constantly and you have inspired me to remember that “no” is appropriate to use when deciding what I truly want to do in life.

  19. Nancy

    AMEN!
    What a wonderful post to read today.

    You’re an inspiration for me and I’m sure many others.

    Cheers and all the best to you and your family.

  20. Kate @ Savour Fare

    Hey– congratulations on figuring out what makes you HAPPY. I always say that at its core, blogging needs to be about following your bliss. Even if that means scaling back.

  21. Casey

    Good for you!! While it takes a lot of guts & effort to launch & run a business, sometimes it takes MORE guts & effort to scale back and take care what is truly important in your life!
    -Casey from Madfish Grill

  22. Monica

    Being in a place of balance is the ultimate well being … but, once you find it, then it becomes clear that life is not that complicated and taking care of yourself first is not being selfish but being true to yourself and your love ones. Happy that you found your place.

    And congratulations to Adam and Joanne!

  23. Jeanette

    Jaden, I can only imagine how tough it must be for you to stop and rebalance, given how quickly your business has taken off over the past several years. I have had to learn to keep things in priority and rebalance over the past 2 years, not by my choosing, but by personal family circumstances. At the time, I was frustrated by having the big STOP sign put in front of me, but now I realize it was a blessing in disguise. It made me realize what was truly important – my family and their health. There will always be the opportunity for me to do something meaningful and fun when the time is right, but I can never replace that time, that moment with my family. xo Jeanette

  24. jen s

    Awesome! I only hope to find that balance as I start my journey in the blogging world! I am a new subscriber and sincerely enjoy your site, your passion for food, recipes and insight! Thank you and continued happiness to you! Congrats on finding your balance!!!

  25. Carole

    Brava to you for finding your balance and keeping your commitment to Scott and your kids. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

  26. Jan

    Beautiful post, Jaden! Thank you for the terrific — and personally timely — reminder to stop, breathe, and focus on what is important. All the best — and balanced — to you, dear girl. xoxox Jan

  27. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

    I echo what others are saying – it must be hard to step back from so many opportunities – what a roller coaster ride you’ve been on! But very important for you to be happy with the balance, and I think you’re doing exactly what you need :)

  28. missuspie

    Just want you to know you’re the only food blogger I’ve followed fairly regularly since “the beginning of time” and am still following :) Not only do I appreciate the shared cultural background (I’m Chinese originally from Singapore and now married to a “white” American/Californian), I love your style…writing, flair, photography, presentation, business sense, etc…the list goes on… I digg you! especially since I’m first and foremost a musician, but also a piano and ESL teacher!

    Special thanks, Jaden, for sharing this reflection write-up on BALANCE, something I strive for every moment of my life! More power to you and your family…and peace as you relish in that sweet spot you’ve arrived at :)

  29. Elise

    Jaden, I’m glad you’ve found a way to balance now. It’s so key to our happiness and enjoyment in life. I myself just started a new career as an English teacher and I said yes to way too many things this year that should have been no’s instead! Needless to say, I understand where you’re coming from. Good luck in your journey toward balance. :)

    Also, the word you’re looking for is gleefully.

  30. Aggie

    A wonderful post Jaden. Balance is something I think we all struggle with, thank you for sharing your aha moment with us. Enjoy your year of Slow :)

  31. Nancy G.

    I have been following you since your humble beginnings and although I rarely comment, this post merits a big pat on the back.

    I am a small business owner and I built it based on the schedule and needs of my family at any given point in time. The result is that I have a very strong marriage of 25 years and a loving son who just completed his first year of college.

    Balance is one of the most underrated values in our society today. We can’t always keep it, but it is important to stay focussed on it.

    Congratulations on all of your success. I hope to personally meet you one of these days at one of your Food Blog Forums.

  32. Joan Nova

    Once again, I admire you for your seeming natural ability to be genuine and forthright. Kudos to you and Scott for seeing beyond the fanfare and seeking your true balance.

  33. Lori @ RecipeGirl

    I hear you, and you speak to so many who can relate to this as well. Good for you for realizing that your family needs you and that you need your family. You are one successful hot mama and it’s so tough to let things go and focus on what really matters most. I applaud you :) Remember I told you that I spoke about “stress related to blogging” earlier this year? It was a hugely popular topic… SO many people came to me to thank me for opening up and sharing this sort of thing. Hope I can learn some of that balance from you!

  34. Fuji Mama

    Loved reading this post. Balance is something that my husband and I have been discussing a lot lately as we try to figure out how to make things work with our growing kids, his crazy job, my crazy job, and health problems. The second I think we’ve got it figured out, something changes! Thank you for the reminder that we DO need to say no to achieve balance. XO

  35. Michelle @ Taste As You Go

    Jaden, I’ve been a fan of yours and of Steamy Kitchen for years. You have always been such an inspiration to me, and I really appreciate where you’re coming from. While my blog has not exploded in popularity quite like yours, I’m meeting so many wonderful people and taking on lots of exciting opportunities that wouldn’t have come around had it not been for the blog. But I completely understand your need to slow down, reevaluate, and re-prioritize. Thank you for sharing!!

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