Archive for January, 2014

27th January
written by Michelle

It’s week 4 of Project 52: My Town. If you’re new here, every Tuesday I take one photo, once a week of something in my town.

Today it’s our local tortilleria. Most Guatemalans buy fresh tortillas at least once a day if not more! We usually buy them once or twice a week. In every town throughout the entire country there is a local mill, where women take the kernels of corn, add some water and grind them to make a masa. They walk back to their homes carrying plastic tubs full of fresh ground corn balanced on their heads. And in every town there is a tortilleria or two where every day, three times a day, women stand around a hot comal and roll, pat, and flip tortillas. There is a rhythm and efficiency to it that I love to watch.

Traditionally the belief is that before a woman can get married she has to learn how to tortillar. (make the perfect tortilla). My mother-in-law has tried to teach me a few times, and basically I fail every time. Thankfully, I didn’t have to abide by that tradition.

But, I must say, there is nothing like fresh, homemade, warm tortillas.

And as part of my New Years goal of appreciating the little things in my town. I am documenting the things that make my town unique or special or fun. But I realized this week that I don’t want to just document things, but also people. So I added a note in my favorite note app- titled People in My Town. And this week I typed the word Tortilleria, and underneath the names: Isbael & Yolanda.

I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for me ask someone’s name once and then forget it 3 minutes later. And then I feel bad to ask it again next time I see them. So I am going to write them down. And hopefully in 52 weeks I will have a note filled of names of people who live in my town.

How do you get to know new people in your town?

P.S. When I asked Isabel and Yolanda if I could take their picture, I told them I wanted to show my friends and family in the U.S. how Guatemalans make tortillas. They thought that was pretty funny.

Wanna join? Take one photo of something, ANYTHING, in your town. Post it on instagram or facebook or twitter or on your blog or whatever social media platform you prefer. Use the hashtag #project52mytown. I’ll post mine on Tuesday. Be sure to leave a comment below with a link to your blog or picture.

25th January
written by Michelle

chocolate chip cookie in a ramekin. the after. I forgot to take a picture of the before.

One of the reasons I love blogging (both reading and posting) is it immediately connects you with a whole new sphere of friends. It’s like walking into someone’s home and going, mmm, I never thought about doing that before. I like seeing and learning how other people do life, you know the different ways other people get things done, the shortcuts you take, he recipes you make over and over, and little things you keep in your car or purse.

My friend Becca, from While You Were Napping, recently wrote a “What’s Working” post on her blog last week and I LOVED it. So, I am adding my own:

Here’s What’s Been Working for Us Lately:

In the kitchen:

1) Baking Cookies in Ramekins- It’s been a long week. Solo-parenting…started sleep training…you get the picture. I love homemade chocolate chip cookies, but don’t often get around to making them. I’ve become a big fan of prepping once, eating multiple times! So next time you make your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, roll up half the dough in saran wrap, place it in the fridge and then when ever you want a warm, homemade cookie, scoop a little bit out into a ramekin, bake for 8-10 min and enjoy! I may or may not have done this every night this week (remember husband done, still sleep training, etc). It has become my new favorite way to eat a cookie.

2) Baked Garlic -Parmesan Chicken- this is one of those no brainer, easy, but good dinners. I make it at least once a week because we always have these things on hand. Just dip in olive oil & garlic, rub on breadcrumbs and cheese and some herbs and bake. It makes great leftovers and I bet you could even cut the chicken into little strips for toddler size hands.

Around the home:

3) Water Bottles, Water Bottles, Water Bottles- I am notorious for carrying around my water bottle and then leaving it somewhere and then having to run out to the car at 10:30pm looking for it. I know, I know first world problems. I have started leaving one upstairs in the bedroom, one downstairs by the kitchen and one in the car. I fill them all up at night and have water for the next day. Nursing moms, gotta stay hydrated, right? This brand and water bottle is my all time favorite- leak proof, easy to clean, and for some reasons babies like playing with it?!

4) Pretty Flannel Sheets- Have I told you how I love the Treshold line from Target? Well, I do. Whenever I’m in the US I linger in the aisles, imaging my house decorated with cute, affordable, Treshold things. And then I snap back to reality and remember my two suitcases. Now I know many of you are in this thing called the polar vortex and I won’t even begin to say I know anything about cold outside temperatures. Buuuuuut, even though I’m in the land of eternal spring, it does get down to the 50s sometimes 40s at night here, and with no indoor eating and cement walls, let me tell you, it gets cold inside! When’s the last time you slept in 50 degree weather, huh? So, last month we ordered these pretty, orange flannel sheets. Not too girly, husband approved.

5) Propolis- prop-a-what? You haven’t heard of Propolis? (pronounced “pro-puh-lee”) I hadn’t either until I was visiting my family in December. I started to come down with a cold…sore throat, running nose, blah. My sister, who lived in Italy, said families there use it when someone starts to get sick. You can read more here or here, but basically it comes from bees and it’s strong, healing stuff. I put 20 drops in a spoonful of honey and seriously sore throat, running nose wee gone the next. It will now be a regular in our medicine cabinet. Usually sold at a Whole Foods or your local health food store.

For the Baby:

6) THIS Carseat Activity Bar - my mom bought this for Elena after our first trip to the US when she cried for 90 min straight as we sat in LA traffic. not fun! Needless to say my child doesn’t like her carseat. Granted we are not consistent about putting her in there when we’re here {shocking, I know. don’t judge. Most people in 3rd world countries don’t ever use carseats. I know, I know..gasp!} Regardless, this has helped cut down on crying and fussiness in the car when she’s in her carseat.



7) EASY way to convert pdf-> jpg - I don’t know much about graphic design or coding, but I do lots of editing, writing and emailing for work and always get stuck when I have a pdf file that I want to save as a jpg. Voilà! All you do is click on this website, upload your pdf and then it emails you a link to download your jpg. love, love it!

8) The Notes app on the iphone- Now, I know there are fancier note taking programs like Evernote, but I actually love the simplicity of the electronic yellow notepad. Did you know you can link it right to your gmail account, too? I have like 120 different notes, but they come in so handy. And I can search and access them from my gmail. I have ones with Elena’s medical info, one ongoing one with things we need at the grocery store, blog ideas, things to do for work, the wifi passwords from different cafes and restaurants, etc, etc.

ok, there you have it. That’s what been working for us.

Do share. What has been working for you?

21st January
written by Michelle

Dear Mija: 7 months

I could write about how you’re on the verge of crawling and how your sweet gummy grin now has TWO tiny teeth poking through. Or I could mention how you love bath time and sticking your hands under the running water and how you’re leaning to feed yourself sweet potatoes, avocados and bananas.

But I want to write about something else.

We’ve been getting in a bit more of a routine around here and most mornings between 9am and 12pm I leave you with the babysitter. At first, Daddy preferred I bring you and the sitter to the office. But that got to be too hard. You’d see me and every time you cried I’d run out and feed you. Obviously, I didn’t get that much done and you had no place to play. So, now we started leaving you at home. And overall it’s been much better for all of us.

Until last week.

I was holding you on one hip and carrying my shoes in the other hand. There was coffee to be re-heated, a diaper to change and a pump to put together in order to leave you a bottle.  In walked the babysitter, with her jeans and red zip-up hoodie, her hair swept up in a ponytail. She smiled at you and you squirmed your little body away from me and reached your two chubby arms right out to her.

And my mommy heart broke a little bit.

You wanted someone else, besides me. You reached for her, away from me.

Of course, my head says I should be thankful. We have a babysitter who takes such good care of you. She plays with you and reads you stories and holds you up so you can see yourself in the mirror above the dresser. It’s what every mom wants. Someone who they trust, someone who their baby likes. It would be so hard to leave you if every morning you cried when the sitter walked in.

But I never anticipated the opposite.

I texted my friend: “Elena reached for the babysitter this morning, right out of my arms. I know I should be thankful, but of course I feel like a bad mom.”

Should I stop working? Am I am bad mom for leaving my daughter? What if she always reaches for the babysitter over me?

One day Mija, if you’re a mom, you too will probably have some of these thoughts and questions. I don’t know much about motherhood just yet, but I do know there is not just one way to do things. Moms do lots of different things, some moms stay home with their kids all day long, and some moms work from home. Although I think all moms work, just some moms get paid. A lot of moms work outside the home and leave their kids. And some Dads stay home with the kids and sometimes it’s a little bit of everything.

I often hear moms talk about this thing called work/life balance. Sounds like some perfect equilibrium that others have found, but I haven’t. The truth is I don’t think life is like a scale, it’s not something to be categorized, weighed and measured. Especially not things like motherhood and work and home and family. I think the moment you chose to be a mom you automatically give up any idea of balance.

There should be a brochure that reads—warning: this journey of motherhood may lead to or cause a full, beautiful and very unbalanced life.

Elena, I know you’re still little, but I want you to know why I am choosing to work outside the home. The truth is I like working. I like that my ideas and knowledge and gifts are being utilized. I want to keep serving with our organization because I believe good things are happening for Guatemalans and North Americans and I get to be a part of that.

But the truth is, I also want to be an example for you. I want you to see me teaching, planning and leading. Especially since we live in a machista society, I so desperately want you to know that women can work and lead outside of the home as well as, inside the home. I want you to see women who are directing schools and programs, women who are leading and pastoring and practicing medicine and engineering and accounting. I want you to know that women can cook and clean and stay at home, but not because they have to, but because they choose to. And there may come a time when I’ll chose to be home with you all the time. But right now I am choosing to be your mom and keep working.

 So today, I am thankful that I have the privilege to choose. I am thankful that we can afford childcare. I know there are many moms who would like to work outside of the home, but the cost of childcare is so high it doesn’t make sense. And there are probably other moms who would love to stay-at-home with their little ones, but have to work outside the home. Both situations seem hard.

My sweet girl, deep down I trust it’s good for you to have mornings with the babysitter and some evenings with Daddy.  I have to trust that some afternoons when I plop you on the carpet and try to pull out my computer it doesn’t mean you’re going to grow up feeling ignored.  I have to trust that when you kick your little legs in excitement and reach for the babysitter, it means you’re going to have many adults in your life who love you and teach you things. And I think that’s a good thing.

And I have to trust that no matter how old you get or how ever many babysitters or teachers or coaches you have in your life, you will still need me, your mama.

You know, maybe this letter is just as much a reminder for me, as it is for you.

With all my love,



21st January
written by Michelle

It’s Tuesday. The day where I post a picture from around my town. It’s something small, a little thing that helps me look around and notice where I live. It sometimes helps this foreign culture feel more familiar. And maybe most importantly it focuses my attention on what is good, beautiful and unique right here where I live.

Wanna join? You can document your town once a week? or once a month.

Here’s the idea: Take one photo of something, ANYTHING, in your town. Post it on instagram or facebook or twitter or on your blog or whatever social media platform you prefer. Use the hashtag #project52mytown. I’ll post mine on Tuesday. Be sure to leave a comment below with a link to your blog or picture.

That’s it.

In case you missed week 1 and 2 are here.


14th January
written by Michelle


There’s a lot of these project 52 ideas going around the blog world. The basic idea is you take one photo a week for an entire year. I know some people are following along here, where you have different theme each week. Other people are doing a picture of their kid each week with this site. However, we all know I probably post more than enough pictures of my little one and I’m not always good about following along when the theme changes week-to-week. It stresses me out.

But, remember how I want to commit to little things this year?

I like the idea of something consistent and easy to do each week (easy being the key!). I like the idea of doing a better job noticing and appreciating where I live.

So, I am going to document my town; the place I live and the people I meet. Where I walk in the afternoons and where I buy fresh tortillas. You know, the little things that make my town unique.

Wanna join? Wanna document your town once a week for a year?

It’s easy peasy.

Here’s the idea: Take one photo of something, ANYTHING, in your town. Post it on instagram or facebook or twitter or on your blog or whatever social media platform you prefer. Use the hashtag #project52mytown. I’ll post mine on Tuesday. Be sure to leave a comment below with a link to your blog or picture.

That’s it.

Here’s to a year of appreciating and sharing about my town.


P.S. And because I’m little late starting this (story of my life right now) here’s week 2:


11th January
written by Michelle

My word for this year is little. It’s a year about the little things.

I don’t have big plans or huge dreams for this year. Oh, of course I have writing dreams and teaching dreams and places I’d love to travel dreams and big projects that I’d love to finish. But, I am holding those dreams and plans loosely. This next season isn’t about accomplishing big goals or dreams. It’s about the little things.

It’s about figuring out how to feed myself and my family something other than pasta with sauce from a jar. I want to make healthy, quick and easy meals. Emphasis on the quick and easy. I need to figure out how to meal plan better and go to the grocery store with a baby and a box full of groceries when there are no shopping carts to push to your car.

It’s about choosing to turn my computer off at 10pm. Gerber and I made a deal. No technology after 10pm. For me that’s my computer, for him it’s the TV. We both get energy at night, but I know that we will be better parents, kinder to each other and healthier if we get more sleep. Plus, the newest member of our family still doesn’t understand the words “sleeping in.”

It’s about appreciating my little neighborhood. I love where we live and I have big dreams about activities and soccer nights and all the things I want to do to connect with people where we live. But for now it has to be about the little things: intentionally walking around the block to say hello, learning people’s names, being available, bringing over cookies. These little things I can do.

It’s about playing with and enjoying our little girl. Watching her eyes light up when I walk into the room, listening to her sweet laugh and watching her take her first steps. Let’s be honest, it’s also a lot of diaper changing, poo cleaning, & milk pumping. But I prefer to focus on the former.

It’s about letting others into our home even when there are piles in corners and boxes yet to be unpacked and projects yet to be completed. It’s letting those little things not take away from the place we want to it be. A place to welcome others in, a place of rest and refuges, a place to play and fun.

It’s about doing my job well. Part of my job requires that I plan and coordinate about a gazillion little things for each of our different groups that come down to serve with us. I want to do those little things with a big heart.

It’s about finding little bits of time to write. Maybe not polished essays and books just yet, but simple posts about life in Guatemala, motherhood and raising a bilingual and bicultural daughter. I want to keep writing because I believe it’s kinda like running. The more you do it, the easier it gets. But if you stop for weeks or months, it’s so hard to get back into it, right?

It’s about supporting and loving my husband. It’s taken me 2 years of marriage to realize that the way to best love someone whose love language is act of service, means actually doing things for him. Practical, simple, little things every day.

It’s about carving out a little me time. Once a week, at least. Meeting a friend for coffee, going to yoga, sitting in a coffee shop, getting my eyebrows waxed. These are luxuries I tell you, luxuries! This has probably been the hardest change has a mom. Before I could do these things whenever I wanted. But now these little things feel like big things that take a lot more coordinating, planning and time.

And maybe the biggest thing of all is inviting God into these little everyday things. I am a firm believer that God shows up in the kitchen and at the table, driving on the road and waiting at the airport. Some of my most holy moments happen while sitting on the floor with Elena or walking around our neighborhood. Sometimes the prayers uttered in the shower, or at 1am while feeding the baby remind me of how I need God in these moments, the little ones and the big ones.

Here’s to 2014. A year of little things.

Do you have a word for 2014? What are the little things that you want to do this year?