Oreo Cheesecake Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Oreo cheesecake stuffed chocolate chip cookie bars“The Oreo cheesecake stuffed chocolate chip cookie bars are ready,” says your personal baker in your dreams. Except these magical words don’t have to only be in your dreams anymore. And very soon you can will be saying these very words to your loved ones, because very soon you can will make them. These Oreo cheesecake stuffed chocolate chip cookie bars are too good, but they are not too good to be true. They are true, and they are real, and they are deliciously decadent.

Oreo cheesecake stuffed chocolate chip cookie barsOreo cheesecake stuffed chocolate chip cookie barsRecipe adapted (and dare I say, enhanced), from the food blog I’ve been loving and following for six years, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe: Cheesecake Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars.


Chocolate chip cookie layer
8 Tbs butter, melted
2/3 c. packed light brown sugar
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips

Cheesecake layer
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

9-12 Oreo cookies


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8×8-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. For the cookie layer, stir butter and sugars in a large bowl until combined. Add the egg and vanilla, mix well. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda; stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  3. Press half of the dough into a thin, even layer onto the bottom of the prepared pan. (Moisten hands slightly if the dough is sticking too much.) Fill in any holes with a bit of cookie dough from the bowl.
  4. For the cheesecake layer, mix the cream cheese and powdered sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, mix until well combined.
  5. Spread out Oreo cookies over the layer of cookie dough in the pan, 3 rows of 3. If you want, cut another 3 cookies into halves or fourths to fill in gaps. Pour the cheesecake layer over the Oreo cookies, filling in crevices so the bottom layer of cookie dough is not visible.
  6. Using the remaining cookie dough, flatten tablespoon amounts into flat discs in moistened hands. Place these discs over the top of the Oreo cheesecake layer, pressing them lightly together. Fill in gaps the best you can with any remaining bits of dough. It’s okay if there are small spaces–they will fill in pretty well as the bars bake.
  7. Bake the bars for 20 minutes. Turn oven temperature down to 325 degrees F and bake for another 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool, cut into squares and enjoy your dream come true.

**These Oreo cheesecake stuffed chocolate chip cookie bars are delicious when eaten while still warm, or at room temperature, or after being chilled in the fridge. So basically, what I’m saying is… try all three ways and tell me your preference.

Haircut: Long to Lob

Long hairWhelp, I finally got a haircut. Almost 2 weeks ago actually, and I haven’t even posted a single pic of it, and I’ve decided that feels so anticlimactic since I’d only been growing those hairs out for the past 4 years, you know… Hence, a whole blog post is now being devoted to my haircut, woohoo, because I care and so do you!

I’ve had something of a lifelong tradition of growing my hair out then cutting it short, growing it out again to cut it short again, and so on and so on. I don’t usually like to keep it the same length for long. Which is odd, because I typically hate change in almost all other matters of life–go figure!

2012 haircut
Pregnant mama-to-be haircut, 4 years ago

A year-and-a-half or so ago when my hair was waist-length and I surprisingly wasn’t totally sick of it yet, I decided I might as well grow it to my bum just to say I had and then donate it because I never have before, and it would be a waste not to. So that’s what I did. Long hairLong hair

Since my hair was longer than it had ever been before, I felt more attached to it than I ever had before. I’ve been talking about doing the big haircut for several months, but kept putting it off for one reason or another. Finally I scheduled my haircut in advance, and having that commitment set helped me go through with it at last. I thought I was going to cry when those 15-inch long ponytails snipped right off in a matter of seconds after years of growing. But I didn’t. It actually felt completely normal. Like it was time and I’d been ready for it longer than I’d realized. It felt lighter and somewhat liberating. It also felt nice to know those hairs were going to be put to good use. haircut

Sitting in that haircut-chair I had something of a revelation. Sometimes we put things off in life because we don’t think we’re ready to make the change. We’re scared to go through with it, because it’s easier to stick with what we know. And then finally we make the jump and do the big thing that has seemed so daunting, and just like that, it is done. It turned out to be quite easy. It quickly becomes obvious, in hindsight, that it had been the best thing to do all along, and we wonder why we had felt so afraid. Because, after all, that tired old hair had been hanging there dead-celled and lifeless for 4+ years anyway. It had served its purpose, and it was time to move on. We hang on to things even when they’re no longer doing us any good, because they feel vital and impossible to let go of. When we finally do let go, we expect to feel immediate regret and sorrow. But instead we feel free.

Haircuts are deep.

Anywho, I have no regrets about mine. 15 inches off took my hair to the ever-so-popular (and for good reason) lob level, and I am lobbin’ it. I mean lovin’ it.

Lob haircut lob haircut lob haircut   lob haircutlob haircut

Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen to Good People?

why does God let bad things happen to good people“Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Why would He allow us to suffer?” It seems many of us have asked these questions at some point in our lives. For some, these questions become a kind of evidence that there is in fact no God, because with all the power and love He’s supposed to have, He would never let us suffer so much. And yet the suffering happens, even to people whose actions in no way make them deserving of such suffering. Therefore, God cannot and does not exist.

This line of thinking doesn’t sit right with me. God is real, and He always will be real to me. Yet I still can’t help but sometimes wonder why He allows certain things to happen to me, and then I wonder if there’s something I’ve done to make me deserving of such difficult and trying circumstances. I mean really, why does God let bad things happen to good people? These questions have frequented and puzzled my mind recently–during the hardest period of my life by far, if I’m being honest.

Why does God let bad things happen to good people?

My questions and perspective changed while listening to a particularly meaningful devotional by Jonathan G. Sandberg, Healing = Courage + Action+ Grace. He states, “I have come to realize that [God] cares more about my growth than He does about my comfort. One evidence of His love is that He does not spare me from the suffering I need for my development and progression.”

And with that, a light bulb turned on in my head. I realized that wondering why I was suffering and what made me deserving of it had been the wrong questions. They would always be the wrong questions. Such questions assume that my perpetual comfort is of utmost importance. Turns out it’s not. When it comes down to it, God doesn’t care much about my comfort. He does, however, care about my development and progression.

Do I deserve to grow in my life, to become better, stronger, wiser, more humble, more compassionate? I do. And so in that sense, I absolutely deserve my struggles and hard times, because “Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees” (Thomas S. Monson). Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Because unlike me, He has an eternal perspective. He knows what experiences will lead me to my ultimate potential, and He’s not going to protect me from those hard things if it’s going to hold me back, keep me weak and doubtful and afraid.

As a parent myself, I know all about letting my child experience hard things for his own good. My son is 3 1/2–his life experience is fairly limited. He knows little of what he will face in years to come, and while I don’t know exactly what awaits him, I have a fairly good idea. It’s my job to prepare him for the rest of his life, and some of my biggest goals as Mom are to teach him to be responsible for his own actions, that good and bad consequences are inevitable, that sometimes things happen which aren’t a direct result of anything he did, but he still has to face them head-on and deal with them the best he can.

Why does God let bad things happen to good people?

Some of my son’s greatest challenges currently include eating the vegetables I give him because they’re good for him, going to bed on time because it’s good for him, having limited media time because it’s good for him, practicing politeness and kindness to everyone because it’s good for him. Do I love the tantrums caused when I instigate these “challenges?” Do they make him happy and comfortable, do they make me happy and comfortable? No. But I enforce them because my perspective is much greater than his in-the-moment one. I want him to learn values and proper behaviors, to grow and develop to be the best possible version of himself, and if that means both of us experience unhappiness and discomfort at times, so be it.

Just as my perspective is much greater than my son’s, God’s is much greater than my own. When it comes to having an eternal perspective, my ability and understanding is no greater than a 3 1/2-year-old. And so I’m trusting that God knows what’s best for me. That while it doesn’t make Him happy to see me miserable, He knows this period of time is small when compared to the measure of happiness that will ultimately be mine. I’m choosing to have faith in Him and the joy that awaits me.

This faith doesn’t make my problems go away, it doesn’t make them any less difficult right now in this moment and the foreseeable future. But it makes them a bit more bearable. It gives them some kind of meaning for me to cling to, to know that this hardest-part-of-my-life is not all for nothing. While I have felt alone and abandoned, I haven’t been. Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Because he is loving and all-knowing enough to allow us to struggle for our own good.

That makes sense to me. That line of thinking sits right with me. It gives me a sense of peace in the midst of great turmoil. And so I cling to my newly-discovered truth, that God cares more for my growth than my comfort, and that’s why He allows hard things to happen to me, despite and because of the fact that I’m a good person. I deserve the best possible version of myself.

11 Ridiculously Satisfying Mom Triumphs

11 Ridiculously Satisfying Mom Triumphs

I think the title says it all: 11 Ridiculously Satisfying Mom Triumphs. The kind of triumphs that are ridiculous, but no less satisfying and triumphant. The kind of triumphs that may not seem too extraordinarily triumphant to anyone but moms. We moms, though, we know how to appreciate life’s simplest triumphs… especially when our kids are involved.

  1. When your 3-year-old says he wants mac-and-cheese for lunch, you ask him three times just to be sure, and fifteen minutes later, once the mac-and-cheese is made, he doesn’t start screaming, “But I wanted grilled cheese!” Hallelujah.
  2. Your toddler starts running away from you in a public place, you yell out “Stop, come back!,” and he actually listens the first, second, or even the third time you call without any chasing or tackling on your part. Mom of the year? I think yes.
  3.  When you make plans or schedule an appointment to work around what is 95% of the time your baby’s nap time, and on that day he actually doesn’t decide to not fall asleep until two hours later than usual.
  4. After making and eating dinner with your family, you look at the leftovers, then ponder in front of your avalanche-of-Tupperware cabinet, decide to use the one that holds 3 cups instead of the one that holds 3 1/2 cups (because any unused Tupperware space is wasted precious mess-of-a-fridge space!), and lo and behold, the food fits *perfectly,* give or take zero ounces. Score!
  5. Your toddler is playing independently while his dad’s on the couch with the laptop and you’re doing chores. Once you finish and sit down for a moment of relaxation, your toddler doesn’t immediately tackle you, begging for horsey rides, food, and a metropolitan of building blocks.
  6. You finish at the store sooner than you had anticipated (and not because you ditched a full cart in aisle 18 and raced toward the exit, buying nothing, because someone couldn’t stop screaming).
  7. On a particularly long day your child goes to bed at 11pm when he usually goes to bed at 8pm. The next morning, instead of waking at his typical 8am, he wakes up at 8:25am. BOOM. 
  8. When your kid gets sick with the stomach flu (bless his little soul), and he throws up for the first time at 12pm, not 12am.
  9. You sleep six consecutive hours on a regular basis.
  10. You don’t remember the last time someone kicked you in the face while buckling them in, rammed their head into your jaw while dressing them, bit your nipple while feeding them, or jumped onto your stomach for no other reason than you made the mistake of lying down.
  11. It’s not an occasion of utmost rarity for you to get dressed all the way, i.e., to wear pants with a zipper, possibly even accessories, e.g., a scarf, earrings, a necklace (not your kid’s leftover lunch stains). Look at you just doing it all, and looking so. darn. good doing it.

8 Tips for Getting Chores Done Faster

8 Tips for Getting Chores Done FasterMaybe you don’t need any tips for getting your chores done faster, but if you’re like me, maybe you do. It’s not that I love doing chores so much that I purposely make them take forever or anything, but I am naturally a meticulous perfectionist. When I do something, I want to do it meticulously and perfectly; otherwise, I don’t want to do it. That becomes a problem with everyday chores. Either I take way too long doing them, or I don’t do them at all. Here are my tips for changing that, and getting chores done faster.

1. Don’t Lay Down First

When I know I need to get chores done, I try really hard not to recline around on the couch first with the intention of working my way into the chore-completing mood. It won’t happen. It will only sound more and more like drudgery, and if I ever actually do get up, I won’t be in a chipper or energetic mood about it, but dreadful and slow. Lying on the couch is for after chores are complete (but if you accidentally reverse the two, refer to tip #2).

2. Listen to Upbeat Music

I know cleaning and exercising may not be the same thing (although I feel completely justified when I skip a workout because I cleaned), but I like to listen to the same kind of music for both. I listen to my most upbeat, fast-paced, get-me-moving jams when I’m at the gym, and it turns out rocking to the same tunes while I clean gets me moving quicker and my chores done faster.

3. Set a Time Limit

This may sound silly, because honestly, it’s not that I love doing chores so much that I just can’t make myself stop. But if I set a timer and pay attention to the minutes ticking by and how much more I intend to accomplish, I simply work faster. (This strategy works well for things besides chores, too.)

4. Have a Realistic Plan

Whenever I’ve set out to clean and organize the whole house in one day, I get hopelessly overwhelmed one-and-a-half chores in and end up laying on the couch Netflixing. But when I make a realistic plan with specific chores for the day, I can finish them feeling accomplished, not feeling guilty about everything else I unrealistically meant to get done.

5. Don’t Use the Restroom

This might sound ridiculous, but I seriously start washing dishes all the time when I need to pee. I wouldn’t take this too far to the point of bursting my bladder, but needing to urinate and not doing so until the task at hand is complete causes me to work at near-superhuman speeds.

6. Find Your Rhythm

When it comes to weekly chores, I like to have a routine. Certain chores for certain days, an order for doing them, a specific method for each one. Having this rhythm allows me to get my groove on and get those chores done faster.

7. Have a Cleaning Caddy

Is it just me, or does it totally stink when you start cleaning the upstairs bathroom only to realize the cleaning supplies is in the cabinet of the bathroom downstairs, and once you get to the bathroom downstairs, you realize you forgot the toilet cleaner upstairs? Going back and forth throughout the house is a great way to waste extra time on chores, so a cleaning caddy, stored in one particular place, containing all the most essential cleaning supplies becomes very handy for simply grabbing and going.

8. Reward Yourself

Once all the chores are complete, I like to reward myself. Whether it’s a banana split, reading more of the book I’ve been thinking about all day, wasting time on Facebook, or doing whatever the heck I want for the rest of my kid’s nap time, that reward has been thought about long before the chores were begun. Keeping my eye on the prize like this definitely helps me work quickly and get those chores done faster, because banana split MUST. GET IN. MY BELLY. And now.

How to Make Trips to the Store with a Toddler Enjoyable

Trips to the store with a toddler: how to make it an enjoyable experience for both of youTrips to the store with a toddler — or, heaven forbid, multiple stores… or perhaps multiple toddlers — can seem like a daunting task at times. At least with my son, trips to the store became very much the opposite of fun once he learned to crawl way back when. He’d squirm and scream in the cart, maneuvering his little self out of the safety belt until I’d either force him back down, making him cry harder which is something I usually prefer to avoid in public places for any extended period of time, or I’d pick him up to hold him in one arm while pushing the cart around the store and trying to super-speedily grab the things I needed with the other, while also making an effort to look as graceful and composed and I-totally-got-this as possible.

And then I discovered a trick that seemed pretty obvious, but by some of the looks and comments I’ve received, realized it may not be that obvious. When I’m at any store with a toy section, I like to make my way there first. I tell my Desmond ahead of time, usually while driving, “We’re going to Walmart/Target/Kohl’s/TJ Maxx/etc. Mama needs to get some things, but we will look at the toys first and you can pick out x amount to play with in the cart while I shop–but we are only playing with them at the store. We’re not buying any toys today. Does that sound good?” He says yes, and most of the time, everything goes according to plan with no tantrums or fits, I shop in relative peace and leisure, and my son plays happily with some new and different toys. As with many situations with toddlers, informing him of the plan and setting the rules beforehand is key.

If we have the time and he seems to be getting bored or restless with the toys in the cart, I tell him, “If you keep being good and let Mama finish getting what we need without whining, we’ll go back to the toys once I’m finished, put away these ones, and you can get out of the cart to look at/play with some more toys for x minutes.”

I suppose bribery + toddlers is no new combination, nor is it a standard for good parenting. However, I like and feel okay about the fact that this particular bribery doesn’t involve buying some junky little toy as a be-good incentive at the end of each shopping trip or repeated questions of “Are we done yet?” so we can finally stop by McDonald’s to get that ice cream cone I accidentally promised. At least this way neither of us are crying or wanting to pull our hair out, because the trip to the store with a toddler in itself is a pleasurable experience.

But fair warning: as I mentioned previously, not everyone seems to be aware of this trick. Like me, you may get some shocked and disapproving looks from shopping passersby, to then hear muttered comments like, “Did you see all those toys? You’d think it was Christmas!” or “That’s why kids these days are so entitled; parents are spoiling them,” or “I hope they’re buying gifts for some triplets’ birthday party.” So be prepared. Have a comeback ready if necessary, or just keep on walking like you didn’t even hear, feeling confident as always in your parenting skills. When going to the store with a toddler, you do what you gotta do, and feel pretty darn good when you’ve figured out something that works and makes you both happy.

Happiness is Altering Your Expectations

Happiness is a long fishtail braid and good skin day
Happiness is a long fishtail braid and good skin day

Happiness is altering your expectations. Better yet, happiness is having no expectations at all.

From a young age, I’ve been practicing the “don’t get your hopes up” way of life. It may seem like a negative way to live, but I think of it as realistic and smart, because few things in life lie completely within our own personal control and it’s always nicer to be surprised by good news than bad, or even no news at all.

And having no expectations is actually pretty easy… if you live alone under a rock, and are completely content with living alone under a rock. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: things get hard when the comparison game comes into play, when we see what others have and want it too, when we don’t want to be jealous of the Joneses but how can we not be when they display all the achievements of all their ridiculously high expectations literally right under our noses via social media like: beautiful house by age 21, start decorating with the most stylish and high-end furnishings immediately–check. Travel to five continents by 22–check. Complete PHD by 23, marry most gorgeous of spousal specimens that same year–check. Have amazing career with amazing salary, pay off mortgage by age 24–check. Have perfect, great-sleeping baby at 25, plenty of loved ones around to help take care of baby but still be a super-devoted parent, continue awesome career, exotic travels, write and publish best-selling novel, begin successful modeling side career on a whim–check, check, check, and check.

We all know someone like this, right? Or perhaps this is just the way they appear to us, based upon the culmination of all the good personal news they’ve chosen to share with the world, and perhaps the fact that many of the checks off their lists happen to be the very things we haven’t even yet written down on our own lists because they still seem like such far-off-in-the-future achievements. Everything seems so easy for them. Why can’t it be easy for me too? Happiness is always within their reach but just out of mine. They have everything I want but don’t have, even though I deserve it as much if not more than them… why is that? Why them and not me?

Happiness is your 3-year-old model
Happiness is your 3-year-old model
Happiness is Saturday afternoon messes…and yet iPad still wins out

Whenever I find myself thinking this way, here’s how I handle it:

First of all, while we may seem to deserve certain things based on our hard work, years in school, admirable qualities, or past struggles, none of us are actually entitled to anything. Certainly not just because our same-aged friend already owns a home therefore we should already own a home too. Or because our friend three years younger than us is already married with two kids therefore we should already have at least two kids or at least one kid or at least be married. Or because our friend who finished school to be a doctor at the same time as us already has a thriving practice therefore we should already have a thriving practice too.

Isn’t that how it usually goes when we find ourselves wondering why we can never seem to keep up with so-and-so? I at least never seem to feel too jealous of friends 5 or 10 years older than me, because it’s easy to believe/wish/hope/pretend that in 5 or 10 years of course my life will look just like theirs. But when it’s friends my age or in a similar stage of life… that’s when it gets hard not to view them all as Joneses.

Happiness is laughing in a public bathroom stall because you can’t reach the hanger on your tiptoes
Happiness is a healthy stir-fry with all the veggies in your fridge after too many junk food meals
Happiness is a healthy stir-fry with all the veggies in your fridge after too many junk food meals

But similar age or stage of life does not make us all the same. We all face different challenges and fight different battles in life, so doesn’t it make sense that our good fortunes and blessings would be different as well? Whether you believe in God, a next life, the universe, karma, or chance, I find it impossible to believe that any person can get through this life scot-free, without having to endure a number of personal challenges, however they may come.

Your friend may have the nice new house you don’t have, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t trade it for the happy, loving marriage and home-life you do have. Your friend may have the husband and kids you don’t have, but it doesn’t mean they don’t struggle every day with feelings and the resulting guilt that they missed their opportunity to begin a successful career, travel, and/or have the social life that you do have. Your friend may have the thriving career you don’t have, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t give it up to have a loving and close relationship with a still-living mom that you do have. And maybe you have a friend who truly hasn’t yet faced a single large difficulty in life, but just to give some perspective without wishing anything bad on anyone, perhaps they’ll be forced to battle a terminal illness a few years down the road or face the heart-breaking death of a child.

These are random examples from my own imagination given with no intent to jinx anyone, but the point I wish to make is this: I truly believe we all have our own easy breezy, smooth-sailing facets of life as well as our own rocky, tumultuous, how-will-I-ever-come-out-on-the-other-side facets of life. I read a quote by Regina Brett a while back and it’s stuck with me: “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.” I believe there’s a lot of truth in that. Of course, if we all threw our blessings in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d probably want to pick and choose amongst all of them. But that’s just not fair and that’s not how life works.

So I’m telling myself right now: Stacey, stop trying to gyp everyone else of their blessings and good fortunes if you’re not willing to gyp them of their problems too. Stop being jealous of the achievements others have made in life when you honestly don’t know the hurdles they’ve had to overcome. Stop believing everyone else has it easier than you, making yourself out to be some sort of victim who deserves to be sad and mopey, discrediting them of all the struggles they have and will endure. There are too many people in the world and too many possible problems to really believe you’ve been dealt more than most, while so-and-so is getting through life without a care. So suck it up and be happy. Be happy for yourself and the blessings you do have, the challenges you have and will overcome, and the problems you will never have to face, and be happy for the so-called Joneses.




Happiness is a like-expressioned photo shoot with your son

Because happiness is having no expectations. Okay, actually, that’s not true… Happiness is having realistic expectations based upon what you can personally feasibly achieve in your individual life according to the blessings and challenges you’ve currently been dealt. Happiness is not formulating expectations for your life based upon what awesome, enviable things the people around you have achieved. Happiness is finding joy exactly where you are right now, and finding it again every day for the rest of your changing life. Happiness changes. Happiness is altering your expectations.

Side French Braid

side french braidI started doing this side french braid in the summer when I still remembered what it was like to feel hot outside and just wanted to have my hair off my back and neck and in one place where it would stay all day and not make me sweaty or drive me crazy.

And guess what! This side french braid fit the bill perfectly. Not to mention, I think it looks super cute but is simple enough it can be done for any occasion. I also like it because it’s actually two french braids that connect to form one braid. The first time I did it, I was in the process of growing out bangs, meaning they were at the huge-pain-in-the-butt length. Not long enough to put behind my ear, constantly falling out of ponytails and regular braids to annoy my face and eyes. But this hairdo kept them braided and in place nicely all day–bonus!

First, brush out all your tangles and part your hair the way you like. On the side of your head that you want the braid to be once complete, begin french braiding from the top of your head and working your way down to the nape of your neck, only adding in hair from the front (near your face, not from the back of your head). Once you’ve reached the nape of your neck, finish your braid off with a little piggy-tail braid that should contain about a third of all your hair. Secure with an elastic. Pull braid apart a little from the bottom working upward to make it fuller.








On the other side of your head, start french braiding from the top of your head working downward in the same fashion, adding hair from the front. Instead of stopping at the nape of your neck, keep braiding toward the other side of your head, adding in hair from off your neck.

This braid is not perfect, it’s a little twisted, but that’s okay. This is the side of my head that is a little trickier for me to do due to my right-handedness. But even with imperfections, the finished product looks good, and that’s all I really care about.











Once you’ve reached the other side of your neck where your completed piggy tail braid is, your across-the-head braid should contain about another third of your hair, with the last third being the unbraided hair in the back of your head. Keeping these three sections separated, hold them all in your hands and use them now to form your side braid. Braid to the bottom of your hair, secure with an elastic (can be the same elastic you used to secure your first small braid; just pull it out once you reach the bottom of the braid and use it for your new, big braid) and pull the braid apart slightly from the bottom working upward to make it fuller.


Use a comb, if necessary, to softly brush across the unbraided hair in the back of your head to smooth out any bumps, or if your like me, the part of your scalp that always likes to show at the crown of your head.















One of my favorite parts about this hairstyle is the braid within the side braid. It adds great texture and a little extra pizzazz, I think. Not to mention, it really helps the braid stay looking nice (i.e., no random long strands of hair falling completely out) all day. This braid within a braid technique could of course be used in other non-french braid styles.








Hope this tutorial is helpful and you like this hairstyle as much as I do! If you try it, comment with pictures of your side french braid so I can admire your beauty. :)

Apple Crisp (Great Recipe to Make with Your Kid)

This apple crisp recipe is delicious. Sweet, tart, tender, juicy spiced apples topped with an abundance of buttery, oaty, crunchy crisp. I mean really, what more can you ask for? Plus, it proved to be a pretty good recipe to make with my 3-year-old son, and any quality time spent with him that doesn’t involve some type of screen this winter is a bonus. (Less mom guilt, yay!)


Peel, core, and dice 4-5 large apples. (Or peel, core, and slice apples, then hand over to your child to cut a few more times with a butter knife.) Tart Granny Smith apples work great for this, but my whole purpose in making apple crisp was to help use up a bag of sweet Red Delicious apples someone had given us, so I made those work. Place apples in 8×8 baking dish.


Over apples dump 1/4 cup white sugar (if using Granny Smith, closer to 1/2 cup), 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and dash or two of nutmeg. Stir until all the apples are uniformly coated.

Mix 1 teaspoon lemon juice into 1/4 cup apple juice (or water). Pour evenly over apples.

At this point, Desmond threw a tantrum, went to his room for a few minutes, came out with all clothes removed but once again happy. We continued with our apple crisp naked, of course (him, not me).


In a medium size bowl, combine 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, and 1/4 tsp salt. Cut in 6 tablespoons cold butter with pastry cutter or fork or hands (definitely hands if you’re doing this with your child!) until large clumps form. Crumble evenly over apple mixture.


Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until bubbling around the edges and topping is golden brown and utter perfection.


Uh, yum. Enjoy! (Recipe adapted from this recipe on allrecipes.com.)

Screen-Free Preschooler Activities All Day Long

There are many screen-free activities to do with preschoolers, and even nowadays in this first-world country going screen-free for a day shouldn’t be too difficult. My “Kid” board on Pinterest provides me with all manner of things I can do with my son for educational, fun, super-involved, overly-crafty, try-mama’s-patience, screen-free entertainment. And yet he’s watching a show on t.v., kiddie youtube videos on the computer, and/or playing games on our iPad for at least some undisclosed amount of time every day… whoopsies.

Depending on how the rest of the day has gone, how many places we’ve been, what else we’ve done, I don’t always feel bad about these screen-filled activities. Sometimes they are a lifesaver, especially when I’ve gotta cook dinner, get our home company-ready (i.e. clean more thoroughly than usual), or I’m not feeling particularly well–me being my only-child’s main entertainer.

That was the case last week.

After a few days of not feeling my best, I wake up naturally one morning, all of my own accord–a rare occurrence since my son is typically my alarm clock. I get out of bed, see that he’s not in his bed, and go to the living room where my 3-year-old is sitting by himself in front of the desktop, watching videos that were left open since yesterday, while playing games on the iPad in his lap. I laugh at the adorableness of the scene, but also know we have to do something different today.

“Ok Des, give Mama the iPad,” I say, turning off the computer. “Today we’re gonna have no iPad or computer. Or TV,” I quickly decide–I’m an all-or-nothing sort of gal. And as my son’s expression quickly turns to panic, I realize my mistake. There’s no reason to announce this to him, as if I’m punishing him for my own parental laxness. As he screams and cries and I think how we are not off to a good start, I correct my mistake too late: “We’re going to do other fun things, activities, cool stuff, just Mama and Des! It’ll be great! But first, let’s eat breakfast!” Thank heavens for my child’s love of all things breakfast, because he is instantly smiling and racing me to the kitchen. And this officially starts our screen-free day.

8:55-9:15am — Breakfast.

9:15-9:50am — Watercolor painting. We haven’t done this in a while, so it keeps Des busy longer than usual. Halfway through, I draw really good pictures for him to paint.

9:50-10:05am — Tell stories. My son really loves to give a “topic” for me to make up a story about: “Tell me a story about when I get a really big Heatwave transformer at the store.” Before he gets his hopes too high about all the new toys he wants and believes will come to fruition, I tell stories about when I was a kid, and he enjoys that too.
FullSizeRender-710:05-10:45am — Play legos, make a sponge-curler train while Mom gets ready for the day.
IMG_161310:45-11:15am — Help Mama make beds, then lay down on the bed, get some cuddles, sing songs, act out “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” over and over until my face gets jumped on, OW. Next!

11:15-11:40am — Go through alphabet and color/shape preschool flashcards that I forgot we had. Des most enjoys spreading them all out on the floor as we go along.
IMG_162611:40-11:55am — Pick up toys and messes so far. I realize we are only three hours in; this is going to be a long day. Every activity and entertainment depends on me. Perhaps my decision for a screen-free day was a bit rash… But, I actually have nothing else I need to do today. I do, however, feel like I need to do this, prove to myself that we can spend a full day at home screen-free (I’m really pretty sure some people achieve much harder things in life. Maybe). Press on Stacey, press on.

11:55am-12:15pm — Make lunch. Des sits on the counter to oversee and kinda help. I give him options and let him choose what we will eat. At some point, piggy-back rides around the house are involved.
FullSizeRender-612:15-1:00pm — Eat our picnic lunch of sandwiches, chips, fruit, and hot chocolate on the living room floor. If it were not cold and winter outside, we would have made this a real picnic. Still, eating lunch on the living room floor really is somehow fun. We turn on some music and talk about silly things. Des runs in circles around me and the blanket to finish up. (Side note: We’ve been potty training for oh, you know, about a year, and pants at home are usually such a bother.)
FullSizeRender-81:00-1:35pm — Desmond rediscovers some toys he hasn’t played with lately, and yay, they take up some time.
FullSizeRender-91:35-2:15pm — We make paper snowflakes following this simple tutorial (because I totally forgot how). Des hasn’t had a lot of scissor practice before, but by the end of this activity he’s holding them the right way and making some cuts on his own.
FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender-22:15-3:05pm — We play cars and trucks. Today that means Des forms them into a circular enclosing of sorts, then forces us to sit squished inside while playing with each vehicle, one by one. Eventually our play space is allowed to expand and we crawl around the house.
FullSizeRender-33:05-3:35pm — Desmond works on puzzles. (We love this Melissa and Doug set of four wooden vehicle puzzles.)
IMG_16353:35-4:30pm — We build a fort, make popcorn, and eat inside while telling stories. Desmond has gotten pretty good at making up and telling stories to me, which is really cute, and thank goodness because my imagination is feeling pretty burnt out right about now. At some point he knocks down the fort and sits on top of the blanket calling it a princess playground. I have no idea.
FullSizeRender-3FullSizeRender4:30-5:10pm — We leave to pick up Dad. (Previous errands would have made this screen-free day go by much faster, but it has been snowing, and I repeat: it’s cold and winter, and I’m all about proving that we can find enough things to do at home.) Usually I bring the iPad on car trips that will last more than a few minutes and Desmond expects this, but when I ask him if he wants to bring anything in the car, he doesn’t even mention the iPad. (In fact, surprisingly to me, he hasn’t mentioned it or the t.v. or computer all day!) Instead he runs to his room and comes back with four Berenstain Bear books, which he adorably looks at in his car seat for most of the trip. Until ten minutes before we get home, when he falls asleep. His first nap in almost two weeks, and it’s at 5pm, oh joy.

5:10-6:00pm — I lay sleeping Des down on the couch, hoping he will wake soon enough, and peacefully prepare dinner.
IMG_16586:00-6:20pm — I eat dinner, while trying to wake my child by loudly calling out his name every minute, but to no avail. This kid is hard to wake before he’s ready.

6:20-6:45pm — I pick Desmond up and cuddle/annoy him until he’s finally grumpily awake.

6:45-7:05pm — Des agrees to play blocks and his mood improves.
FullSizeRender-57:05-7:35pm — We run around the living room kicking balls back and forth and playing catch. Miraculously, this does not end in disaster.

7:35-7:50pm — At last Des says he’s hungry and eats a good dinner.

7:50-8:10 — Des follows me around the kitchen while I clean up, helps me put dishes in the dishwasher. When he’s distracted, I quickly fix the dishes my way because I’m horrible.

8:10-8:30 — Des finds his magnetic drawing board thingy and actually plays with it for like twenty minutes, what. (Usually we’d be getting him ready for bed around now, but late naps change things, and this day has not. been long. enough.)
FullSizeRender-28:30-8:40 — Des eats a snack. He specifically requests a banana, apple, and milk. Apparently a day of no screens makes him want to eat healthier. I can live with that.

8:40-9:05 — I’m not a quitter, but I’m thinking the day is pretty much over. We’ve done well enough, and I just want to sit on the couch. I ask Des if he wants to watch a show now. His response? “No Mama, let’s paint again!” I’m perfectly okay with that, especially since no brainstorming of activities was involved on my part. So we paint.
IMG_17229:05-9:45 — I finally realize we haven’t even read books all day. Des picks out a bunch from our weekly-changing pile of library books and we sit on the couch (hooray!) and read.

9:45-10:15 — At last it is time to put on jammies, brush teeth, say prayers, sing songs and get into bed. By 10:15, Des is asleep.  Ahhhhhhh, we made it.

I couldn’t do this all the time; often I need to wear more than one hat of entertainer all day. But I’d like days like this to happen more regularly. It definitely helped give us a fresh start, enhanced both of our abilities to be more creative about simple activities we can do without resorting to screens right away. It’s good to know that we can both have a rather happy and sane screen-free day. Once the rule was set, Desmond never even tried to fight it. It’s quite a relief knowing that he can adjust so easily, and when it comes down to it, will always find things to do based on what is available to him. It’s my job to limit the screens and help him with other activity ideas when he needs them, and I’d like to think that I might be a little better at this from here on out (…most of the time).