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