How I Make Time to Read All of Those Books

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”  – Rudine Sims Bishop

Reading is SO GOOD for the soul. In October 2017, after watching a very inspiring master class about reading journals, I decided that I wanted to start a reading journal for myself and the kids so that we can have a record of all the books we’ve read individually and together, as well as a place to record thoughts about the book, our favorite quotes or passages, and things of the sort. We are now 5 months strong and in that span I’ve read a total of 55 books!  My oldest daughter is ahead of me at 60 books.  We have this little competition going on that she is clearly going to win because she has WAY MORE freedom to pursue reading and she is as much of a voracious reader as I am.

Each month since November, I’ve been posting on Facebook and Instagram the stack of book that I have read for the previous month. Reading an average of 10 books per month begs the question, “How do you find the time to read all of those books?!”  In order to try to answer that question, I’ve compiled several of the ways that I have been able to get some good reading time in, while also juggling work, homeschool and family life.

How do I make time to read:   

  1. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there:  MSN ran an article calculating how much time we spend on certain activities during our lifetime and it stated that on average, we spend about 45 minutes – 1 hour per day just waiting.  Waiting for transportation, waiting in traffic, waiting in lines, waiting for water to boil for pasta, waiting for our kids to put their shoes on (or to find their shoes)…etc. I find that most of my reading gets done in 5 – 10 minute spurts throughout the day.  Whenever I leave the house, I ALWAYS bring a book with me, even when I know I probably won’t be able to crack it open. You never know when those 5 minute surprise moments pop up, and when they do, I’m prepared.
  2. Intentionally carve out the time:  I intentionally carve out about 20-30 minutes each afternoon to read.  This is usually after I put my daughter down for her nap and I set my son up for his own quiet reading or play time.  The whole house is silent and this is the perfect time when me and my big kids sit on the couch and read our own books.  We homeschool, so my kids are expected to read 30 minutes per day anyways. And reading time is always better when mom joins them 🙂  Further, it is very important to me for them to see reading for pleasure modeled, especially when there are so many other things vying for their attention.  I also read aloud to my kids everyday for about 10-15 minutes (mostly middle grade novels). I add the books that we read aloud together to my monthly book stack (excluding the picture and board books that we read because we read hundreds of those hundreds of times). We are averaging about 1.5 books per month. Finally, as part of my self care routine each night, I take a relaxing bath with a book in hand before bed.   ***if you are unable to carve out some time during the day to read, try maybe waking up 10-20 minutes earlier.
  3. I read lots and lots of fiction (middle-grade novels the most):  I don’t know if this is true for you, but it takes me A LOT longer to read non-fiction.  If I’m reading a parenting book, spiritual book, motivational book, or a biography,  I tend to read slower and only a few pages at a time in order to take it all in and maybe wrestle with some of the ideas written or talk to someone about it.  My absolute favorite genre of books right now are middle-grade fiction. These are books recommended for ages 8-12 and they read very easily, which is why I am able to devour them so quickly.  Listen, there are SOOOO many books available in this genre that are very rich and satisfying and some of the best books that I have ever read in my 30 years of life. C.S. Lewis says, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”  I could not have said this better myself.
  4. I have a few different books going at a time:  I almost always have 1 fiction, 1 biography and 1 non-fiction book going at one time.  Depending on my mood and energy levels, I just pick up whatever is appealing in that moment. I suggest to only have 1 fiction story going at a time because if you have more than that, you start getting mixed up with the plot and characters (or this may be just me).
  5. I listen to Audiobooks:  Audiobooks are an AMAZING way to get more reading in and is definitely more convenient to people who are on the go a lot and don’t really have the time to sit down with a book in hand. I just want to say that listening to audiobooks are totally not a cop-out and counts exactly the same as sitting down with a book. The ONLY difference is that you are reading with your ears rather than with your eyes.  I will probably always be a person who prefers a book in hand rather than listening through ear buds, but I have come to really appreciate and love listening to audiobooks. I can write a whole post on just audiobooks and their benefits.  We listen to audiobooks in the car, I listen to audiobooks in the mornings when I’m working or washing dishes or as I’m watching my kids play in the park. Audiobooks are so very beneficial to kids as well, especially if you don’t have much time to sit down and read to your kids yourself.  This is a great way to get the grammatically correct and sophisticated language patterns in their ears.  The most surprising thing for me as I’ve started to listen to audiobooks more and more is noticing just how much I have been mispronouncing words all of my life, hahaha.  I’ve been reading those words all of my life, but when you don’t hear them read out loud and properly pronounced, you kind of just do your best to say it the way you think.  Ah! I LOVE AUDIOBOOKS!
  6. Trade-offs/Putting down my phone more:  We are all given the same amount of time each day and we all have the freedom to make decisions on how we want to spend our time. Yes, I read a lot, but in order to do that, I’m giving up something else.  Life is about trade-offs. Because I want to read more, I don’t watch TV very much and I give myself 5 minute time limits when I am on social media. I have all the alerts turned off on my phone except calls and texts so that my phone is not a constant distraction. Is it hard to stay disciplined in this area?  Heck yes!  But I’ve definitely noticed how, over time, the more I pick up a book rather than my phone when I have a few minutes of down time, the more easier it is and how it is now becoming a habit.

So there you have it.  I hope this post was helpful for those who really want to squeeze in more time to read for pleasure.  I would love to see your book stacks too.  Even if it is only 1.  If you have any tips or suggestions on how you squeeze reading into your busy life, I would love to hear about it!  Happy Reading Friends!


For real “The Best Swedish Meatballs”

I’d never heard of Swedish Meatballs until very recently in my adult life. If it were worth it, I’d allow myself to resent my parents a little bit from keeping this deliciousness from me. I mean, WHERE have these been all my life?! Ha!

My neighbors are often gracing me with a plate at dinner time. They eat at like 4:30pm (no, they aren’t old) so it’s always perfect in timing when Meghan comes dancing over with a hot plate and glass of wine — instant pause during the thick of the bewitching hours of the evening when I wait for my husband to get home. It’s like an appetizer before my real dinner at 7:00pm. It’s a moment of heaven.

Seriously, just a moment since the kids instantly beg me for a bite.

Anyhow, below I’ll write out the recipe I used. I whipped these bad boys up and instantly deemed them approved for a serving meal — you know, the meal that you always wish you could make and take to someone to serve them but always chicken out cause your meals aren’t good enough.

Wait, that’s just me?

Alright – here it is! “The Best Swedish Meatballs” from a gal who I’m sure I’ll be posting again from cause these are just delicious! I served mine with creamed potatoes and peas as a side – oh, man, so good.

1 pound ground beef
¼ cup panko bread crumbs (*or oatmeal)
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped (*I used dried)
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
⅛ teaspoon Pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tbsp. olive oil
5 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
2 cups beef broth (*I made mine with bullion)
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste


In a medium sized bowl combine ground beef, panko, parsley, allspice, nutmeg, onion, garlic powder, pepper, salt and egg. Mix until combined.
Roll into 12 large meatballs or 20 small meatballs. In a large skillet heat olive oil and 1 Tablespoon butter. Add the meatballs and cook turning continuously until brown on each side and cooked throughout. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil.
Add 4 Tablespoons butter and flour to skillet and whisk until it turns brown. Slowly stir in beef broth and heavy cream. Add worchestershire sauce and dijon mustard and bring to a simmer until sauce starts to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste.
Add the meatballs back to the skillet and simmer for another 1-2 minutes. Serve over egg noodles or rice.

Simplifying Meals and Healthy Eating with Meal Planning – Part 1

“Mom! What’s for dinner!?”  This question makes my top 3 list of questions that I passionately dislike, and is especially true if I don’t have an answer for it.   How many times a day do we have to contemplate this question?  And, at least for me, that question takes up a lot of my mental energy. Mental energy that I would much rather spend on other things, like solving sibling squabbles, and helping my kids with long division.  You know, the things that really matter in life 🙂 But the truth is, it doesn’t have to.  Would you believe me if I told you that if you invest 1-2 hours at the most for 1 day at the end of the month, that you can have that daunting question answered for the next 30 days?  Well friend, read along.

Here is the run down to planning for simple, delicious, and nutritious meals for your family. Eating healthy does not happen on accident. You really have to be intentional about it. If  not, you will find yourself in the drive thru again and again. Or serving up that 3rd bowl of cereal for the day. I’m not being judgmental, I’ve been there. I think it is safe to say that we have ALL been there.    It has taken me a while of tweaking different things to fit our lifestyle to finally get this figured out to where I am confident to share what works for me.  Even if everything here does not work for you and your family, maybe this post will set you on the trajectory to finding something that works better for your family and lifestyle.

  1. YOU HAVE TO HAVE A PLAN – No brainer right? I mean, this is a post about meal planning. I know. There is really no getting around this. For all of my readers who say, “I just love being spontaneous and having variety,” there is room for spontaneity and variety in having a plan.  For all of my readers who say “I’m just not organized,” could I just preach to you for a moment? This is an excuse. Everyone has strengths and things that require growth. I also totally understand different personality types, but that doesn’t change the fact that the most organized person in the world still has to sit down and put pen to paper and do the work.  Anyone can do this, organized or not. You can do this!
  2. CHOOSE A THEME FOR EACH DAY OF THE WEEK – I’ve tried several different meal planning methods and this one is by far the quickest and easiest. It also takes the mental energy and overwhelming feelings out of scrolling through Pinterest or flipping through cookbooks for a recipe to fill up every day of the week. Sit down and think about what you usually eat. You will probably notice that you cook a lot of the same meals over and over each week.  And BTW, that’s ok! Take that information and assign it to a day of the week.  For example, here are our themes for the week:

Sunday = Santiago Tradition (roasted chicken, green beans and basmati rice)

Monday = Burgers

Tuesday = Mexican

Wednesday = Santiago Favorites/New Recipe

Thursday = Asian

Friday = Brinner (Breakfast for dinner)

Saturday = Slow Cooker/Instant Pot Meals

Sunday = Santiago traditional meal. We have this meal every Sunday.  It has become our own “tradition,” hence the name.  Monday = Burgers (we alternate between chicken and beef burgers to switch it up a little…variety right?). Tuesday = Mexican (we alternate between beef and chicken for these meals as well). Wednesday = Santiago favorites/New Recipe days – I leave this day open to be spontaneous (there’s that word again). I will either make one of our  favorite meals that doesn’t necessarily fit under any of our themes or this will be the day to try that new recipe that I’ve been eyeing. Thursday = Asian inspired. Friday = Brinner (Breakfast foods for dinner). Saturday = Instant Pot/Slow Cooker meals.  You can change these themes on a month to month basis if you want or not. I don’t change my themes very often. When the warmer months come around, I’ll be changing my Saturday theme to either BBQ or “from the grill” days.  The sky is the limit with themes.  Some more themes are: pasta days, seafood days, meatless, vegetarian or vegan days, or you can even schedule a certain day of the week for take out.  Get a piece of paper and write down your themes:


3.   Now that you have your themes, putting together a meal plan should a breeze. I meal plan for the entire month and at this point, it takes me no longer than an hour to fill in my calendar, write out a grocery list, and shop for the items I need online. The first thing I do is print out a calendar for the month. You can google “printable calendars” and find one there. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Or if you have a daily/monthly planner, you can use that. Here’s what my meal plan looks like for February.  Fill in your plan.

Feb meal plan.png


4.  Make your grocery list.  I also suggest cleaning out the fridge, freezer and pantry before you start this step.  Make this a part of your meal planning rhythm. Here’s where you can do what works for you and your situation and depending on how often you go shopping. You can write out a list for each week all at once if you go grocery shopping weekly and just add to it if something runs out for that particular week (you can title it Week 1, Week 2…etc.).  You can write a grocery list 1 week at a time the day before you shop.  Do what works. Here’s what works for us:  I do most of my grocery shopping online.  I write out all of the places that I shop and as I’m looking at our meals each week, I’m filling in what I need.  I order my meats for the entire month through U.S. Wellness Meats.  I order all of my dry goods/pantry items for the month through  Lastly, I make sure my subscribe and save items through Amazon are all set and will get here when I need them.  My grocery shopping days are early Saturday morning and I usually write my grocery list the night before or morning of Saturday for the week.  Here’s what that looks like:

grocery list.png

So there you have it!  I hope this post is a help and start for you to jump on the meal planning bandwagon.  There’s a reason so many people are on it!  I really does make a difference 🙂

Do you meal plan too?  I’d love to hear about it!

Pursuing present in 2018

It’s been well over 2 years since my sweet friend Melissa pitched the idea that we should both start a blog together, AND 2 years since my last blog post.  There is no better time then to start back up since the year is ending and a new year is beginning. It’s cliché, but who cares, I’m running with it. Here’s my attempt to at least 1 blog post per month 🙂

2017 was overall a great year, but it was also challenging and has brought dramatic change in everything I do. It’s been hard homeschooling my 2 older kids with 2 little ones under tow. It’s been hard working 30-35 hours per week at my job.  It’s been hard trying to keep up with my home and everything that entails.  And it’s been hard making time for and cultivating relationships with the most important people in my world.  Yet, God has been so faithful and His grace has covered all of my mess-ups and start all overs.

In 2017, I was introduced to Allie Casazza ( and her movement to de-clutter, get intentional about how I spend my time,  and embracing simpler. Instead of writing out a New Year’s resolution of all the goals I wanted to accomplish, I just picked one word and applied it to each aspect of my life.  My word for 2017 was simplify. Here’s what that word looked like for me over the past year:  de-cluttering EVERTHING, household items, toxic thoughts and relationships, schedules etc.  Once everything was de-cluttered and lighter (seriously the best thing I could have ever done for myself and my family), I looked at ways to simplify everything I had on my plate that needed my daily attention.  Meal planning and food prepping have played HUGE parts in taking  stress off of my passion to feed my family healthy meals (I’ll save the details of this for another blog post). I’ve been waking up to start work at 5am, which gives me the chance to work in quiet and to complete half of my workday before my kids start tugging at me to meet their needs. I wash, dry, and (kinda) put away 1 load of laundry each day so there are no huge piles of clothes waiting to bury me. I’ve also started delegating age appropriate responsibilities to my kids, because they need to practice serving their family too…to name a few.

My word for 2018 is present.  I’m still working out what that word will mean over every aspect of my life this coming year, but here’s what I have so far:  turning off all alerts on my phone (except for calls and my husband’s texts), so that I can be present to what is going on right in front of me instead of being distracted by alerts.  Finishing my work day first, so that I have the rest of the day to be present in my home without the mental reminder hanging over my head all day. Buying some noise-cancelling headphones so I can be present at work during the times my kids are awake.  Out-sourcing a few homeschool subjects (online) that we just don’t have time to get to.  That way, I can take the pressure off of myself to have to teach everything and be their cheerleader instead. And finally, lots and lots of reading aloud time.  There is no better way, in my opinion, to be present and deepen relationships with your kids, then to enjoy a good story together.  Especially THE ULTIMATE story.

2018, I can’t wait to get this year started.




Finally found a recipe that I like and that my kids gobbled up!

2 c. all purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
3 T. white sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs
1-1/2 c. milk
2 t. vanilla

Mix the dry well. Add the wet. Mix to combine but don’t mix to much! Cook over a griddle set at 350 and enjoy! Makes 8-12 pancakes.

Sweet and to the point because they’re that easy and that good.





Breakfast Hash

Tired of eggs for breakfast?  This breakfast hash is a great way to switch things up a bit and is delicious and filling.  Enjoy!

Serves 6

2 large sweet potatoes

1 large onion

3 green peppers

3 cloves garlic

1 pound sausage

2 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup fresh spinach

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt, plus more to taste

fresh ground black pepper, to taste


How To Prepare

Peel and chop sweet potato and onion. Finely chop the green pepper and mince the     garlic. Remove the sausage from its casing and chop into bite-sized pieces.

In a skillet, sauté oil and garlic over medium heat for 1 minute.

Add in chopped sweet potato and stir.

After 4-5 minutes, add in peppers and onion.

Let sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix in chopped sausage, let cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often.

Mix in fresh spinach, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until sautéed.

8  Remove skillet from heat and serve hot.


Recipe Credit: Real Plans


Paleo Pad See Ew Recipe

I’m not even sure how to properly pronounce the name of this recipe, but it sure is good!  My kitchen is the second most favorite place to be in my home and I love trying out new recipes to add a little variety to our somewhat mundane meal plan.  And this one, my friends, has earned a spot on our weekly rotation.  It tastes just like chicken and broccoli from the Chinese restaurant but BETTER! Seriously.  It is a one pot meal, the total prep time is about 15 minutes, AND I love the added carrot “noodles.”  I think it is just genius!  I changed the recipe slightly to fit our taste.  I used 4 eggs instead of 2 because we really love eggs, and I added a pinch of salt and pepper right at the end before serving. Enjoy!

Paleo Pad See Ew

AUTHOR: Danielle Walker –



  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound chicken breast, boneless and skinless
  • 2 tablespoons oil (I prefer olive oil for the taste with this dish, but coconut will work too)
  • 3 cups broccoli rabe florets and leaves (or chinese broccoli)
  • 10 carrots, peeled
  • ⅓ cup coconut aminos (the verdict is still out on whether this is SCD legal, so use with caution if you’re SCD)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons coconut sugar (sub honey for SCD or omit for Whole30)
  • 2 eggs


  1. Lay your peeled carrots flat on a cutting board and use a Y-peeler to create very thin but wide ribbons. A regular vegetable peeler will work too, a Y-peeler is just easier to use when the carrot is flat. You basically just continue peeling the carrot after you’ve removed the outer dirty skin.
  2. Slice the chicken very thinly on a diagonal. Warm the oil in a deep saute pan or wok over medium heat, then add the garlic and chicken and saute for 5 minutes until the chicken is white on the outside.
  3. Add the broccoli, coconut aminos, and coconut sugar, and continue cooking for 5 minutes until the broccoli has softened a bit. Add the carrot ribbons and cook for 5 more minutes.
  4. Push the stir-fry aside in the pan, then crack the 2 eggs into the pan and stir vigorously to scramble them. Let them cook for a minute or so until they have firmed up, then mix everything back together.
  5. Serve