Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

I’m usually not one for reviewing, much less promoting apps, but when I find one that actually does make life easier (instead of just helping me to waste more time), I’d like to let others know about it. In this case, the app I’m about to review hasn’t just made life easier, but helped me to parent more effectively. It has helped my kids learn healthy habits and be accountable. All that for a mere $2.99? Larry and I normally never buy any apps, but I think this one was a $3 well spent.

For awhile I’ve tried to get my kids, especially my older son, to regularly do their chores. We’ve tried all kinds of ways – physical chore charts with stickers, rewards, penny jars. Those things would work for a week or so, but eventually the novelty would wear off, and I have to confess I wasn’t that good at consistently adhering to whatever system I had started. So in the end the system would go out the window and I would go back to nagging them everyday and they would go back to ignoring me.

Well, a few months ago, Larry, believing that there’s an app for everything, did some research and downloaded some chore chart apps. There are so many out there, but the one he eventually decided on was Chore Pad. It’s relatively easy to use and you can customize chores for each child. There’s a simple reward system of checks and stars and you can decide what rewards they get. My kids love it. We’ve been using it for a few months and the novelty still hasn’t worn off. They have been consistently making their beds, folding their pajamas, cleaning their room, etc. with much less nagging from me. And I don’t have to worry about printing out anything or getting any stickers or pennies, all I have to do is whip out my ipad and have them check off their chores themselves. It has become part of our nightly ritual and both boys will often remind me if I forget to do their chore chart before going to bed.

I’ll walk you through it real quick –


Each child gets his own page that he can customize. My boys decided to go with the snowflake theme for the winter.


Then you assign chores for each child and how often they must be done. This is CC’s and…


…this is Turner’s.


You can also decide how many stars each chore is worth. The kids use their stars for payouts. So far the reward that has worked to motivate them are minutes for playing video games. CC also has the option of converting his stars to money, which Larry keeps track of in a different piggy bank app.


As they accumulate checks, they also earn trophies for their virtual trophy shelf. There’s also the option to give them a bonus on each check, if they did a really exceptional job, or a minus, if they did their chore but not such a good job.

We also included a box for daily behavior which we check off at the end of the day if they behaved well. Many times if they’re misbehaving, all we have to do is threaten not give them their behavior check and they’ll change their tune right away.

Anyways, this app has worked well for us so far. It’s so easy even 3-year olds and non-tech savvy mamas like me can figure it out.

What apps have you found useful for parenting? Please share!



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Yesterday we had an early celebration for CC’s birthday. My not so little boy will turn 6 tomorrow. For weeks I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether to throw him a birthday party this year, not because he had asked for one, but because for some crazy reason I thought I’d be less of a mother if I didn’t. It seemed like ALL his little friends got birthday parties and I didn’t want him to feel left out. In all honesty though, we are not birthday party people in this house. Things like that tend to get me stressed because I feel like I have to get everything perfect and pinterest-worthy. Kind of like when I tried to bake the fire engine cake when he turned 3…I don’t need to remind you all how that turned out.

So Larry finally put an end to my hemming and hawing and put his foot down and said we would just celebrate CC’s birthday as a family. I complained for all of 5 minutes but was inwardly relieved. I told CC we would go out for dinner for his birthday and he can pick the restaurant. Just as I predicted, he picked Homeroom, a very hipster joint in Oakland touted to have the best Mac and Cheese this side of the bay. So yesterday afternoon, before heading out to Homeroom, we let CC open his one present from us (more on that later) and Face Timed briefly with his grandparents. The place was super crowded, even at 5:45, but we scored a table outside relatively quickly. We ordered two kinds of Mac and Cheese, a side of buttery minty peas and a Limeade for me, and watched my soon to be 6 year old son chow down more calories than he probably ordinarily gets in a week. He was happy as a clam, and I was too, knowing I didn’t have to frost any cakes or fill any goodie bags.

After dinner, the boys of course asked for dessert. Larry, thinking ahead, had printed out a coupon for a free birthday scoop from Ben & Jerry’s for CC. We asked CC in the car what he wanted for dessert and he said ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s. Score! Isn’t it great when what your kids ask for is actually the same as what you plan? So we made a stop at B&J and even though we were planning to get Turner his own scoop, CC very graciously said he would share his cone with his little brother. So we walked out with free ice cream and two very happy boys.

When we got home, CC had about half an hour to play with his birthday present before he had to get ready for bed. For his birthday, we got him a box of 125 Zoob building pieces. Recently he’s really been into Legos and can spend hours by himself just building things. So we wanted to get him something similar – open ended creative building toys. The Zoobs are pretty cool, basically ball and socket type pieces you can fit into different configurations. It also comes with guides with instructions of different things you can build. CC got into it right away, and for half an hour we all joined him in building things. Definitely quality family bonding time.

We got the boys ready for bed and CC thanked the Lord for his new present. I thanked the Lord for giving us such a simple yet wonderful day. My son will only turn six once. I’m glad I didn’t miss it because I was too busy planning a party he never asked for. When he looks back on his 6th birthday, I hope he’ll remember that we had mac and cheese and ice cream and that his mommy and daddy sat down and built Zoob robots and animals with him. I know that’s what I’ll remember. 🙂

Happy birthday CC!

IMG_2694[1] IMG_2697[1] IMG_2702[1]

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About a month or so ago I received a free sample copy of a small book from Bibles for America entitled “A Life of Forbearance but without Anxiety” written by Witness Lee. They asked me if I would read it and review it before its release in May. I replied that I would be happy to since I’ve always received tremendous help from the writings of Witness Lee and his co-worker, Watchman Nee. This book, or more like booklet, is short (consisting of only 7 chapters) and is actually taken from some spoken messages Lee gave on the book of Philippians. For the past month this little booklet has been everywhere with me – on my nightstand, in my gym bag, in the diaper bag. I’ve enjoyed reading through it, praying over it, and quoting it to friends.

These seven chapters unpack the last chapter of the book of Philippians, especially two verses (4:5-6) in which the apostle Paul tells us to “let our forbearance be known to all men” and “in nothing be anxious.” Lee makes it wonderfully clear from the Word that not only is it possible and normal for us as believers to live a life full of forbearance without anxiety, but even more, that it is God’s charge to us. He states very simply but profoundly that anxiety is the totality of human life, whether it’s anxiety related to our marriage, families, children, jobs, etc., and no human being is exempt from it. But just as anxiety is the totality of the human life, forbearance is the totality of the Christian life. What is forbearance? It’s simply Christ in us as an all-fitting virtue and to live a life of forbearance is to live Christ as the one who is reasonable and suitable in every situation. So while God might assign certain circumstances, and even sufferings to us, He never assigns anxiety to us. If we realize that those circumstances and sufferings are for our perfecting and transformation, and if we would come to the Lord in everything, as Paul encouraged us to do, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, then it is fully possible for us to live a human life as a Christian without anxiety. How marvelous is that?

I think anyone would receive help and encouragement from this book, whether you’re a new believer or have been a Christian for a long time. Let’s face it, we all deal with anxiety though it may be in different degrees. Lee’s words are a reminder from God’s word that an anxious life is not the kind of life we’ve been called to. I love how the chapters are peppered with real life examples and experiences that we can all relate to and is full of practical help for our daily life.

The book will be available starting May 5th. Go here to order a copy for yourself and maybe one for a friend! You won’t regret it!

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I know I would normally be writing my Truth Tuesday post today, but in all honesty, I got nothing. For this week the profoundest truth I can share with you all is that sometimes what gets me through the day is calling on the Lord and lots of chocolate. I should probably do more of the former and eat less of the latter. Anyhoo, check back next Tuesday and maybe I’ll have something deeper to offer you.

But I still wanted to post today…so I thought I’d start with something I’d been wanting to add to this blog for awhile now – recipes! I know, I know, it’s not like there aren’t enough recipes out there on the web already and I’m definitely not a gourmet cook by any standard – but I thought it would be fun anyway. If anything it gives me a place to store and archive all the different things I’ve made.

When it comes to cooking, my philosophy is simple – easy, convenient, and kid-friendly. I like recipes that don’t involve running all over the place for hard to find ingredients, is easy to follow when you have two little kids underfoot in the kitchen, and good enough to elicit a “Mommy, this is yummy” from a toddler. So I’m excited to share some of the recipes I’ve developed over the years that have passed this test.

Every Monday for about a year now, I’ve participated in a dinner co-op with two of my neighbors. We do a three week rotation where each week one mom makes dinner for all three families. At about 6pm, we report with our empty pyrexes to the designated cook’s house, take our portion and bring it home to our waiting hungry families. Brilliant idea, isn’t it? I wish I could do this for every night of the week.

Last night was my night to cook for the co-op and usually I plan ahead so that I have everything I need by Sunday night. That didn’t happen this week and I was panicking Monday morning when I realized that I probably wouldn’t have time to run to the store since CC was off from school and I had offered to babysit his friend for the morning. So I tried Instacart for the first time. Instacart is a basically personal grocery shopping service. It took me about 15 minutes to download the app, create an account, make a shopping list and schedule a time for delivery. So while I was at the park with the kids, some nice lady was buying my groceries at Costco and delivered them to my door while the boys were napping. Pretty sweet, I tell you. I don’t think I would use it for my regular shopping, but the service is definitely nice to have on those days when you just can’t make it out to the store. It’s worth checking out if Instacart is available in your area.


My Instacart delivery

Oh yeah, so on to the recipe…last night I decided to make my Tried and True Turkey Meat loaf. Doesn’t sound that exciting, but to me meat loaf is comfort food and my kids love it. I’ve tried it with ground beef and mixtures of ground beef and pork, but I still prefer ground turkey because the meat loaf doesn’t come out as greasy.


CC always insists on “helping” in the kitchen. Here he is mixing and taste testing the glaze.

Tried and True Turkey Meat Loaf


  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small onion (minced)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs or oatmeal (I use 1/4 cup of each)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbs worchestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tbs brown sugar

Cooking instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  3. Shape into a loaf and place in baking pan.
  4. Put into oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Mix all ingredients for glaze in a small bowl.
  6. After 30 minutes, take out meat loaf, drain any excess liquid, and brush the glaze generously over the top.
  7. Place back in oven and bake for 15 more minutes or until done.

For our three families, I doubled this recipe and shaped them into three loaves. It was super easy and delicious, especially served with a side of rosemary roasted potatoes and steamed baby carrots. Bon Apetit!


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Happy new year, my friends! Sorry I’ve been pretty silent on this blog in the last couple of weeks. We’ve been down in So Cal staying with Larry’s parents and I just got lazy. But now we’re back home and I’m slowly starting to ease back into the swing of things, which I hope will mean that you’ll hear from me at least twice a week again.

So a few things from our recent winter vacay…

  • We attended the semi-annual training, a week long Bible conference, this time covering Genesis chapters 12-24. It was awesome and faith infusing. I hope to share some highlights with you in next week’s Truth Tuesday post.


  • We explored some more museums in LA, the La Brea Tar Pits and the Natural History Museum. CC loved both and could not stop talking about saber tooth cats, mastodons and of course dinosaurs. The charge for admission is the same at both museums, but the Natural History museum is waaayyy bigger and in my opinion, more bang for the buck. You can get a combo ticket that gets you into both (and you don’t have to go to both on the same day, just within two weeks time), which is probably what we should have done.



  • So you know how I often complain about CC’s eating…or more like his not eating? My mother in law suggested that we take him to see her Chinese doctor, who’s a combination of a chiropractor and a chi gung master. I’m usually pretty skeptical about these kind of things, but I thought, “Hey, if it doesn’t hurt, why not?” So she made an appointment for him and we all went along. The guy put CC on the massage table, showed us how part of his spine was not aligned (which I couldn’t really see), gave him some gentle adjustments, did some special massages on his back and hands which were supposed to stimulate his appetite and told us he was cured. We were instructed to do those same massages on him once a week. For the next few days CC ate like a ravenous wolf, all without any prompting. I’m not saying I’m a believer now, but I’d happily do little finger dances and pinches up his spine once a week if it means there will be less battles at the dinner table.


  • On our winter break I started this book with CC – Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It was recommended to me by a friend, so I picked up a copy at Barnes and Nobles before we left for So Cal. My background and training is in teaching ESL, but surprisingly enough, I’ve never had any experience or exposure to teaching phonics. This book is broken down into 100 short lessons and you’re supposed to do one a day. The great thing is that it actually scripts out everything you’re supposed to say to the child word for word, so anyone can use it, even if you have no background in teaching. It really is amazing. Each lesson only takes us about 10 minutes and by Lesson 7, CC was already sounding out three letter words all by himself. I totally wished I had started this with him earlier.



  • We had a pretty uneventful New Year’s Eve. While Larry’s parents went out to party, we had dinner at a mediocre Japanese restaurant, came home to do laundry and pack, and then put the kids to bed. Larry and I did however each spend some time to pray personally and then together to freshly consecrate ourselves and our family to the Lord. For us, it was the best way to end the year. I was in bed and asleep by 11. 🙂

Hope you all had a wonderful end to 2013, whatever that means for you, and I’m excited and looking forward to a new year which I hope will be full of more pearls of wisdom to share with you all!


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A while ago my husband downloaded an app onto my ipad called Balanced. It’s a very simple app to help motivate you to build up healthy habits. You make a list of things you want to work on in your life (like exercise more, as an example), and put down how often you want to do it (once a day, twice a week, etc.). The app will then give you gentle reminders to do those things and when you do, you can swipe it off your list and it’ll encourage you with motivating words like “Well done!” or “You’ve done that 25 times without missing!” It will also tell you which things you need to do soon and which things you’re late on. Very basic and no frills app, but having a visual checklist has been a big help.


One of the items I have on my Balanced list is “Read Bible.” I’ve always had trouble maintaining my regular Bible reading and since I’ve put it on my Balanced list, it has been kind of shocking to see how irregular it really is. Sometimes days (and maybe even weeks) go by and I still have yet to swipe it off my list. It’s not like I never open the Word, I try to pray over a few verses at least everyday and of course I open my Bible when I go to Bible studies or church meetings, but I’m talking about my personal goal of trying to get through the Bible chapter by chapter from cover to cover. Let’s just say I’ve been in the book of Leviticus for a long time.

I know the new year is still a month away and even though I’m not really one for making resolutions, I’ve decided that this is one habit I’ve really got to work on. I think the problem was that I didn’t have a designated time in my day for my Bible reading, so that’s got to change. This week I’ve started trying to do it first thing in the morning before anything else. I normally have my ipad on the nightstand next to my bed, so instead of being tempted to check email and Facebook when I wake up, I go right to my bookmark in my Bible app. Yes I’m usually still half asleep and if you ask me, I don’t think I can tell you what I read this morning…but there’s just something about starting your day off with the Word. I’m calmer and not as frazzled. Of course, later on in the morning I try to spend some quality time with the Lord, but nothing compares with giving those very first waking minutes to be sanctified and washed in His word. It’s also nice to finally be able to swipe it off my Balanced list.

How do you keep up with your daily Bible reading?

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About a month ago I went through a little bit of a wardrobe crisis and put out an impassioned plea for help. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from friends. Some offered to take me shopping or babysit so I could go shopping, some gave me their hand-me-downs (which I have no problems taking), and one friend went out and actually bought me a pair of pants. Anyways, I am quite touched to say the least that you all care so much about making sure I don’t feel and look frumpy.

All your support has motivated me to purge my closet. It felt so good to finally get rid of clothes I’ve been hanging on to for years, but never wear. It has also encouraged me to do something I’ve always wanted to try – Stitch Fix. In case you don’t know what Stitch Fix is, it’s basically like having your own fashion consultant and it’s awesome and so much fun! Almost every mommy blog I read has a review of Stitch Fix. How exactly does it work? After you create an account and fill out a fashion profile, you can schedule to have a stylist pick out five random articles of clothing which gets mailed to you. You have three days to try out the clothes, decide what you want to keep, and mail the rest back in a postage paid bag which they provide. Each time you schedule a “fix,” you pay a $20 “styling fee” which gets deducted from the price of any clothes you end up keeping. Shopping can’t get any easier.

So why haven’t I done it before? It’s because I have a strange habit of buying only clothes that are on sale. When I go to a store, I ignore all the nice displays in the front and head straight to the back where the clearance racks are. For me to feel justified about buying anything, it has to be marked down not once, but twice. And let’s just say, Stitch Fix clothes are not sale prices. But I finally decided it was time to go against every frugal fiber in my body and just give it a try…because it’s really not fun anymore to comb through bargain racks with two kids in tow.

So last week I received my first Stitch Fix box in the mail and this is what I got:

20131123-155521.jpgStriped long sleeve shirt. I wasn’t too crazy about this one. A little too boxy and stripy so it went back.

20131123-155306.jpgBlouse with studs. I liked the style and color…but the studs, not so much. Plus, it needs to be hand washed, so it went back too.

20131123-154949.jpgCharcoal skinny jeans. I’m a latecomer to the whole skinny jeans bandwagon because they remind me of junior high (because the last time I wore them was in junior high). When I first saw these jeans, my first thought was way too tight and way too long. But after trying them on, I actually really liked them. They were super comfortable and scrunched up nicely. But hubby thought they were too tight (ok, I did have to peel them off) and it was a little pricier than I’m used to paying for jeans…so they went back.

20131123-155745.jpgGrey blazer. Loved this! I tried this on with a whole bunch of different outfits and it matched with everything. I like how I can wear it casually or dressed up. It’s actually cotton/spandex material so it’s machine washable! This one was a keeper!

20131123-154531.jpgCharm necklace. I’m normally not big on jewelry, but I can totally see myself wearing this necklace. Not too overstated, but just enough bling to jazz up an outfit. Decided to keep this one too!

So overall, it was a fun experience but I can probably afford to do it only once in a while. The pieces also come with suggestions on what you can wear it with, so at least now I kind of know what to look for when I’m shopping. If you need a fun refresh for your wardrobe, I think Stitch Fix is worth trying at least once. And…oh…if you do decide you want to try it…can you please use my referral link? Shameless plug, I know, but the $25 credit from the referral would definitely contribute to the “Help Sophia look less frumpy fund.” Thanks!

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