Time to make some changes

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Last night, I had a dream that I suffered from a concussion and couldn’t remember the past 24 hours. It was such a strange feeling, dreaming of “I wonder if this is real or if this is a dream” but then concluding that it was NOT a dream. Immediate dream-panic.

At the moment of peak panic, I startled myself awake. Naturally, the first thought was “WOAH. Was that real or a dream?”

I reached out to touch my husband next to me. Skin. real.

Then our dog, Lainey who sneaks up on the bed in the middle of the night, farted like the SKANKIEST fart evvvvver. So foul you could taste it. Lainey is my totem in Inception.

Like an idiot, while trying to fall back asleep, I began furiously reciting details of the past 24 real hours just in case I landed back into the same dream. Once I got through that, I just kept going backwards, this week, last week, last month, last Christmas….trying to recall only just the good stuff, things I wanted to keep in my memory. Because, like frequent flyer miles, memory is “use it or lose it.”

I guess the best way to explain is to tell you that I “bookmarked” certain cool little memories that I like to replay in the future. If only memory recall was that easy!

Anyways, all this to get to the point of my story:

I miss writing stories on Steamy Kitchen.

When I rolled back memories of when we first started Steamy Kitchen, I was a story-teller. Not a great story teller, but I gave all five of my readers (Mom, Dad, brother, Mother in Law and Scott) a peek into my fascinated, twisted mind. Most of the little stories and vignettes were funny. I loved making my dear readers laugh or giggle.

I miss that. How did it change?

I began retracing the decisions and steps we made over the 7.5 years that I’ve been blogging on Steamy Kitchen. The company has been our full-time family business for the past 6 years.

Like any business, you apply tried-and-true practices to ensure that the business doesn’t become one the 8 out of 10 small businesses that fail.

I devoured books on marketing, branding, business essentials. I became an expert in how to create a thriving business from a blog. I spoke nearly at every food or blogging conference on the subject.

Our business was ROCKIN’. Like doubling revenue every single year rockin’. Like, “Damn, we could hit a $1 million a year soon” kind of rockin’.

We were so crazy busy that if I could have velcro’d the laptop, iPhone, iPad, Flip Camera, dSLR to my hip, I would have done it. I was wired to the hilt. I was a Tweeting maniac, quickly becoming one of the most influential food personalities on social media.

As we exceeded our numbers month after month, Scott and I began to question if there was a better way to make this business work for our family, instead of the other way around. Could we manage to create a business that allowed us to work 2 days a week? Could we achieve that yin/yang work/life balance that all the gurus say is attainable? [Read a past post where I talk about our decision on create balance]

For our business to operate and THRIVE only working 2 days a week, we had to make some changes. I’ll talk about those changes in detail another time, but gist of it is that we had to cut out the 80% of the “work” that didn’t produce results and only focus on the 20% of the opportunities and work that did the heavy lifting in terms of traffic, results, income.

Several things happened very quickly.

Yes, we were able to achieve our 2 days a week schedule. The rest of the week is for play! Family! Personal Growth! Being lazy on the couch binge-watching full seasons of shows on Netflix! Ahhhh, life was (is) grand. Our kids loved it as well. So much free time to do whatever we wanted to do.

The point of having a business is so that you can have freedom. Making the business work for us meant freedom of time and energy to pursue the wondrous things that life has to offer.

The happier we were as a family, the happier Steamy Kitchen business became. We purposely pulled the reigns back on future business growth.

More opportunities = more revenue = more growth = less time for family

If it didn’t fit our 2-day work schedule lifestyle, then we didn’t pursue it.

Perfection. Balance.

*I had originally included some $ figures on how much our Steamy Kitchen revenue changed — but decided to take it out because I’d like to devote an entire section on money, talking about money and changing beliefs about money. I think telling you exactly how much we make in this particular post without background on our views and beliefs about money isn’t productive. 

However….(you knew there was another side to this bliss, right!?)

The site became formulaic. We relied so much on the formula that allowed our lifestyle that it became a crutch.

Our formula was simple:

The 80/20 Rule really is true: If we only wanted to work 2 days out of the 7 days in a a week, we could only have the time and energy to focus on the most important aspects of the company that provided the most impact. Goodbye Google Plus. See ya later, Twitter. Sayonara Instagram. (I still use Twitter occasionally, but only when I feel like it and having something to share or say)

Tech and social media changes SO freakin’ fast. Once the darling of the social influencers, Twitter is now dying. (Whether you believe the story or not, there are more social media choices than ever before)

Sidenote: If you’re curious about what our 20% is, let me know in the comments and I can plan on another post to got into detail. Just be aware that my 20% won’t be the same as your 20%.

The most popular posts were Asian recipes of course, so we kept creating more and more Asian recipes (YAY!) We added video to each and every recipe because that’s what people wanted!

To streamline the video process, we had a template (another formula!) that we followed with graphic visuals, music background, how recipes are presented, etc. etc. to keep consistency and ease of editing. Video production was quite the learning curve. Editing video is both an art and skill, neither of which Scott nor I possessed.

We hired Cheri to help us. We love Cheri…she helped us make video super easy.

As time went on, the formula didn’t change much and it was a well-running machine. Why change something that worked!?

But the consequence is that you lay awake one night realizing Steamy Kitchen has lost its soul. You realize that all the *spark* and fun of blogging that became the catalyst for wanting to turn blog-to-business can’t fit into a formula.

All this to say that perhaps it’s time to juggle out some of the items in the 20% and mix back in some quirky things that I used to love talking about.

I don’t know what this really means just yet (this dream I started the post off with just happened last night!)

Some things I have to think about:

  • I really don’t enjoy Twitter anymore. Should I just completely abandon it with over 131,000 followers? I’m not a fan of hiring out my social media – if I can’t do it myself and I don’t enjoy it AND it doesn’t really add much to site traffic or direct revenue, then is it really worth it?
  • Pinterest is a time-suck. Fun, but a time suck. Does it add joy and happiness to my life? I like making photos easy for people to pin and we have over 13,000 followers, but I’m pretty sure I can use the time that I spend pinning recipes or stuff I can’t afford, crafts I’ll never do more wisely.
  • I love love love my email newsletter subscribers! All the little personal stories and updates in our life went from being posted on SK to being written in our email newsletter. I need to make sure that moving forward, we still keep our biggest fans feeling special. Big thanks for everyone who has subscribed, all 82,105 of you! Would you like to be added?
  • Get the kids more involved in posting. They primarily work behind the scenes in the business, with recipe ideas, taking care of all of our animals and helping make business decisions at our “Board of Directors” meetings at our family dinner table.
  • Feature more weekday recipes (less ingredients, healthier, less complicated) and then more elaborate, more time-intensive, gluttonous recipes that are really meant for weekends (when you can really slow down and enjoy the cooking AND eating process!)
  • We LOVELOVELOVE growing micro greens! I’m encouraging Scott to create an invention to make microgreens growing super-simple and inexpensive. The nutrient density of micro greens are astonishing – red cabbage micro greens has 40x higher levels of vital nutrients than the full-grown thing.
  • Maybe I should apply the 80/20 rule to all the clutter and “things” in the house??? We’re about to remodel the kitchen. Do I really need 8 silicon spatulas and 33 plastic containers (half of them have missing lids).

I’d really would love to hear your thoughts.


p.s. I feel a little silly that I just had my very own Jerry Maguire moment.

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Comments 81

  1. CB

    It’s nice to read that you came to this conclusion as well. i’ve thought this for a long time. I started following your blog because I loved reading what you shared with your life, travels, food, thoughts. At some point it felt like you were too busy to share those things that I came here to enjoy. There were mechanical giveaways and no more stories. I love your chickens, your kids and your pond, the dogs, the aquaponics and all that you’re husband has learned in it’s growth. I hope that I can enjoy that again someday.

  2. Melanie

    I love it when a dream sparks some real life changes! I think it’s important to regularly evaluate and adjust the way we are living. It brings a spark back to life. Even if it is only getting rid of a few spatulas and mismatched plastic ware 🙂 I do love the idea of some midweek easy/simple ingredient recipes!

  3. Joy

    My best ideas come in the middle of the night (of course that’s when my husband cringes “honey I have the BEST thought” at 2 AM)

  4. Nolwenn

    I am thankful for people like you speaking their Truth. And babe, honestly: we NEED to talk and hear more about money because money is just energy and there is nothing shameful about it. Nothing.
    Working only a few hours a week while having a thriving business is my goal too and working with my Husband. But we will get there. I left the food industry and now paint instead, food is on the passion side and it is what works for me, for us.
    Templates are amazing to be time effective so go for it !
    Can’t wait for you to go into more details, if you feel inclined to it.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Mike

    Jaden God bless you for trying to simplify your life. My girlfriend and I are plugged in all day due to our jobs. Once work is over I’m offline. I do not tweet, facebook, instagram or anything else. We don’t have smart phones. I know it sounds “CRAZY” to not be connected, but we can actually enjoy our down time and not feel like we are missing something. Unfortunately everyone is so convinced they must keep up with the joneses, that they get swept up in a lifestyle that may not really suit them but that they feel compelled to participate in. Congratulations on realizing whats most important to you and your family!

  6. Joan

    Thank you so much for this. It is so very refreshing. Like a blast of fresh air. I really love the honest way you talk. Believe me, you are not alone in thinking like you do. A little bit of refreshing in our lives is a welcome thing. I love that you are concentrating on family and not business. Good going.!!!

  7. Amy B in Portland

    Dear Jaden, Jerry Maguire moments are important and you’ve done an amazing job of writing down the details. Thanks for sharing them with us. The beauty of having your own business is in the ease of implementing new decisions and the fluidity and time line that you choose. I started reading SK because I was drawn to your passion and your life both of which are very different from mine. Stick to what works, 86 what doesn’t. YUM and thank you, Amy

  8. Cairine

    I still read your newsletters and enter a couple of your contests but I too loved all the stories about your family and what they were up to. I enjoy pictures of the kids to see how much they have grown, stories about your menagerie and your trying new systems of growing food. I will probably never meet you but am still interested in how you are all doing. I’m happy to see you are on the mend. Also happy to know you’ve cut back on the work and are able to enjoy life more. I am trying to cut back on some of my clutter too, amazing how much ‘stuff’ you can collect. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Catherine McCord

    You’re such a warrior Jaden! So inspirational, authentic and just downright real. Thank you for reminding all of us that you can’t put a price tag on happiness!

  10. Arden Rembert Brink

    Actually, a *fascinating* post! As a “barely there” food blogger myself (although with other things published on other subjects) I’m always intrigued with folks who have made this into a “serious money-making business.” But at the same time it’s really, truly the personal stories, the quirky life bits, the sense that I may be one of 82k+ newsletter readers but that I actually “know” you somehow through what you share in the blog that keeps me most interested.

    As a sidenote, I TOTALLY agree with your stance on talking about money — it’s like one of the real things people are interested in, NOT to judge someone but to get a sense of is it possible to actually make a living this way — and everyone dances around it, not saying anything real. I realize most ordinary bloggers will *not* build a business that big, but it’s nice to have some honest input from someone who did.

    And, lastly, YES on the micro-greens. Would love to have some way to grow those easily without a massive up-front investment!!!

    I look forward to future blog posts about your real life. And simple recipes are always welcome — even for those of us who do love to cook, we don’t always want it to be a massive time/energy investment (like after days when I’ve been chasing after our amazing granddaughter all day — one reason *I* want to build a “2-day-a-week” business — I want a super-great meal that I can put together pretty quickly and easily.)

    So, YAY on all fronts!

  11. rapper450

    Jaden, I loved reading your post. It has insight and thoughtfulness and inspiration. I love hearing about you and your family’s learning through experiencing different topics. I love seeing your videos of recipes and I especially love seeing the product demos and your personal quirky likes or dislikes! I especially enjoy your recipes, including the simple ones like the rice and sausage “recipes” which I now make myself. I will not miss a lack from Twitter, and I have mostly quit Pinterest (too hard to manipulate recipes, etc.) but I love your newsletter and look forward to it. I wish you many happy and satisfied days in the future. Please keep on.

  12. Kara

    What a great post. I recently quit my full-time job, with the intention of writing and blogging full time. I’m still feeling a little stuck in regard to what direction I want to go, but your thoughts about how you use the time were really helpful to me. I’m definitely interested in hearing about both the money aspects and the 20%. I only recently discovered Steamy Kitchen, but I’m very glad I did! Thank you!

  13. Kiki Hammond

    I’ve only been following for a short period of time, but I do enjoy your stories and recipes. I am wondering about micro greens. My husband can’t eat dark leafy greens because he is following the kidney stone diet. Do you all have any information about the oxalate level of micro greens? I’m thinking that if they are more nutritious, and have less oxalate, then he could eat them. Just wondering if you have done any of that research?

  14. Farah @ The Cooking Jar

    I love these kind of posts. It takes a lot of guts to stop for awhile, smell the roses and then say “I seem to be lost’ on a path that for all intents and purposes, seems to be the right way to go. Great thoughts. My philosophy is to do what makes you happy.

  15. Angel Reyes

    You know, when I’ve had those kind of dreams that make you reflect on life, I feel like my brain has launched a re-start program that really helps me focus on what I need to accomplish. True for life, work and everything in between.

  16. Der Schuhmacher

    DUMP Twitter. DUMP Pinterest. SAVE the spatulas (or send them to me! lol)-one always gets melted, chipped, and so on. Dump the containers without lids. Concentrate on this website and make it the best ever.

  17. Tammi

    You definitely need the spatulas but dump the containers. I was a hoarder of those too until my husband put his foot down, the upside was that he bought me a new Rubbermaid set :). I so enjoy your emails and blog and if you’re happy, I’m happy!

  18. Deb

    Congrats to you and your family. Our business is open 7 years now. Like you, I am struggling to cut our time in the business back. My hubby works 7 days a week and I have medical issues so I am unable to work in the building. I do what I can but need him to cut back. We need family time. I’ll be following what you are doing as you are my inspiration now.

  19. Jill B

    Hooray! I love everything about this post. You’re an inspiration in so many ways and an excellent role model. So wonderful to watch your evolution since the early days. And I’ve missed your stories! I still send links to your early posts to friends.

  20. Donna

    Thanks so much for sharing. Your post offered me so much insight into the evolution of Steamy Kitchen. Admittedly, I found you through your sweepstakes offers, but it is posts such as this that make me return for more than a quick enter and send.

  21. Mary

    I encourage you to re-prioritize your life and business! Family time is precious and is what will be remembered by your sons later when they go to set up a home/family. I, too, would love to see more quick, easy mid-week dinners that aren’t expensive and time consuming. Loved reading about your life. Focus on that again please. Social media can be a time waster and stressful. People look at me like I have two heads when I say I don’t have a Facebook account. I have joined Instagram but that’s so I can see the posts my daughter puts up of our grandson. Now’s the time to de-clutter (yes, even those containers with no lids! 😉 Looking forward to what comes next!!

  22. Tiffany N.

    I am an administrator in education, at a charter school and you have done what we encourage everyone in our building to do- self reflect. If you are not getting out what you want, it is time to self reflect, change what needs to change, and move forward. Without these moments in life, you don’t grow. I fully support your moment! Love your site and all that your hard work produces!! Not to mention, the 80/20 principle is so very true and not the same for each individual!

  23. Winter

    Hi Jaden, This was such a refreshing read as I have been taking some breathing time to evaluate why I started my blog in the first place also. It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one that thinks Twitter and Pinterest is kind of a waste of time. It’s always a nice reminder that the reason why I started was to write stories about our life…so thanks for the thoughts today.

  24. Brenda P

    What a refreshing post, and a reminder to ALL of us that just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s the best use of our time! I am constantly caught up in the virtual and physical “clutter” of life and find your evaluation enlightening.

  25. Brenda P

    P.S. – You should connect with Elizabeth Millard at Bossy Acres farm in MN on the microgreens. They are the micro-green queens, and she just published her book “Indoor Kitchen Gardening”.

  26. JC

    I think this is so needed. I’ve been a long time follower and have kind of been un-interested lately. I would love to see some changes! I also really love the way you simplify things. I really wish I could get myself to the point of working 2 days a week.

  27. Caroline

    I love that you had a Jerry McGuire moment!! I’ve always wanted one. I’ll come with you! I believe in your ideas. 😉

  28. bruce barrett

    Congratulations Jaden,

    A wonderful sharing of what are behind the scenes to many of us. I applaud your efforts toward
    simplification…I’m still pushing that battle.
    As always, it comes down to priorities. Yours can only be yours based upon what’s really
    important to you.

    Best of luck & I hope you continue to share.

  29. Ree

    I look forward to seeing how you reboot the soul back into SK and what that will look like in this soon to be new phase.
    Thank you for your courage and living this and writing about this so that we can continue to see what is possible-which is as you know one of your strengths, especially when the spark and fun was in your business.
    While I enjoyed the early years, I don’t expect it to be that again. And I am glad you and your family have been able to create a life you enjoy and want.
    Happy explorations!

  30. Elizabeth

    I’m a fan of stories!! And I love love love your farming and growing. More please.

  31. Carolan

    So often we see wonderful people allow the time suckers drain the life and joy out of them. You are beautiful and have such a great family and fun activities. Do what you must to keep your life rich with wonder, joy, happiness and peace. Don’t worry what others think, we must all walk the path God sets before us.

  32. Nate @ House of Annie

    A few years ago, we were doing a post every day for 30 days for Royal Selangor, part of a challenge to see who could come up with creative ways to use their pewter cone mold. The prize was a trip to Kuala Lumpur and a camera. We worked our butts off. It was exhilarating and exhausting. I’d never blogged so hard.

    Immediately after that, we cut our posting way back. Like months in between posts. Because this blogging thing was getting in the way of life.

    People keep asking us, when are we going to post new stuff? I say, when we’re not too busy doing other things. When we’ve got something worth sharing. When I have the energy to stay up way past bedtime to put a post together.

    Because frankly, our blog isn’t so much for our readers as it is for our kids, for them to have something to remember all the good food and good times we had. But we need to actually spend time making memories with our kids, not ignoring them in order to pound out another post.

    So thanks for this post, Jaden. I hope you find your balance again that you are searching for.

  33. Jean Gallagher

    So happy that you are feeling better!!!! I love the Steamy Kitchen, and love the stories. I Rarely check Pinterest, don’t Tweet, but do check my e mail and look forward to the newsletter. I love the recipes and do enjoy entering the contests. Wishing you continued success and a speedy recovery.

  34. Amy Kim

    Hey Jaden, you had me at “hello”!


    Thanks for this post! It’s been interesting following you on your journey. I’m also curious about your 20%…

  35. Nancy

    Please don’t abandon this newsletter! I really look forward to the recipes, text and pictures. I have had many nights of midlife-midnight terrors/reflections. Middle age, for ME, was far more confusing than puberty. I had the experience combined with the IQ and the hormonal influence … not a good combination. Take a deep breath, step away from all decisions ( by at least 200 yards) and exhale.

  36. Brenda

    What a refreshing and positive post about stepping back and looking at what you want out of life. This made me have a family meeting of my own. Thank you.

  37. Lynn

    I am so glad that blogging has taken you to such a great place in your life. I know it’s also that you work really hard and are smart, too. However, I miss hearing the funny stories about your life and your irrepressible sense of humor that would have me spewing my tea over the keyboard thinking, “I can’t believe she just posted that!”

  38. clara

    always love your site jaden. i kinda stopped looking when the site became more commercial instead of the one i loved back then when i graduated from hs and trying to cook rice on the stovetop with your coconut rice. i’m glad your health is improving and that you could now step back and go back to your roots and hopefully spend more quality time with your family. you guys worked hard and it’s time to go on vacay! unwind and relax 😀 thanks again for your amazing garlic butter noodles recipe 😀 chubbychubbchub

  39. Jeanette | Jeanette's Healthy Living

    Great reflection Jaden – I think it’s all too often that as bloggers we start off with stories, then eventually try to figure out how to monetize our blog, which can lead to making up content that “works.” The personality of the blog changes over time when we do this, and I applaud you for taking a step back to go back to your “roots” of when you first started blogging and have some fun with it. I always love hearing your stories and look forward to it soon again.

  40. Hyo

    So glad I found you through Ree’s The Pioneer woman site. I think we all need a Jerry Maguire moment. I love your posts about food and life and how they are really interconnected with family….or whatever that seems to anchor us. With 4 kids I need to be selective on how I spend my time and your site is one of the very few I make time for. Best of luck as you figure out your crossroads..just don’t dump the website!

  41. Karen

    I just love your honesty. It’s so refreshing. And too believe that our lives should all be simplified and enjoyed more. I say, do what you want and your true followers will still be right there by your side cheering you on. Please get back to your story telling. I totally enjoyed it : )

  42. Cindy

    Your post could have been directed right to me. I loved your blog, and was one of your recipe testers for the first book. Since then, I’ve felt disconnected to you and your blog. Each time I went to your website, I felt blasted by recipes and giveaways and links, but no personal stories. It felt very commercial. I’m happy for your success. However, I’d love to see you re-engage to your readers and fans. Give us the stories behind the recipes. Tell us how your brother is doing! And, your terrific Mom! Thanks.

  43. Loretta Fallon

    Congratulations on a decision, one that will work for all of you. Just be sure to keep me in ‘the loop’.
    I get emails from several blog cook folks… none that I like as well as yours. I open Jaden first, and often delete others that I don’t have time for.
    Good luck and God bless..

  44. Lynne H

    Jaden – so nice to hear your thoughts! (And yes, I want to hear your 20%). I miss the old SK – it has changed, and while I will always love you and your family, I miss the old site. I’m thrilled you might be going back at least a little bit to the you were. Congratulations on all you’ve achieved; you are an awesome woman! 🙂

  45. Elizabeth Smith

    I have embraced the simple life after getting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is so important to decide what are needs and what are wants. It is different for everyone.
    I really enjoy your emails and blog posts. Than you for all you do.

  46. kelly

    i love reading your posts.Thanks so much for sharing. Your post offered me so much insight into the evolution of Steamy Kitchen. I found you through your sweepstakes offers, but it is posts such as this that make me return for more than a quick enter and send.thanks again

  47. Kentucky Lady 717

    Good for you…..but keep the spatulas 🙂 like one viewer said…..you may burn some and have to pitch them…a spare is always a good thing….
    I would not throw away the plastic bowls without lids…..you don’t always need a lid…..I use my bowls a lot and rarely even use the lids…..
    Working 2 days a week, how awesome is that……that’s the kind of job I always wanted 🙂 but more power to you if you can afford it……

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