Remember when...

I spent 4 days in Japan...and promised pictures from the trip?
well, here they are. the best of our amazing visit to Japan that I never wanted to end.
// Day 1. Ashikaga: sleeper train, shiba-sakura park with great-grandma and -grandpa  // Day 2. Akari yakiniku barbeque restaurant with family, soba restaurant, Ashikaga Flower Park, fuji flower ice cream  // Day 3. Tokyo: visiting aunt and friends, katsu restaurant, rainy day Tokyo Disneyland with friends  // Day 4. Osaka: buffet restaurant and shopping with friends, ferris wheel in the city, tako yaki and okonomiyak....and more....

Phew. With all the rushing and running around we had to do, I am so surprised that we were able to do so much. It was pretty much the BEST vacation ever! Seriously, I dream about this trip still. I would go back in a heartbeat! Sending our love and gratitude to all our family and friends that were so welcoming and accommodating to our family. Wishing so badly we could go back.


My Go-to Cookie Recipe: Pudding Cookies

I always always always keep a few boxes of vanilla and chocolate instant pudding mixes in my pantry. Why? because it is so endlessly versatile! I use it mainly for the chocolate cake recipe I previously shared and this recipe for the best chocolate chip cookies you will ever have. period. It's a super quick, easy and tasty treat that is sure to please everyone at any special occasion, because they really do turn out perfect every time.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup white sugar
1 package instant pudding mix*
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups add-ins*
*favorite combination - chocolate pudding and white chocolate chips // also a favorite - vanilla pudding mix with white chocolate chips AND craisins* try them both!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Stir flour and baking soda and set aside. In a separate bowl, using a hand mixer, cream together butter, brown and white sugar. Beat in pudding mix until well blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla until smooth.
Slowly add in the flour mixture, mix together using a fork or spatula until well incorporated. Then mix in the chocolate chips or any other add-ins you'd like.
Line your baking sheets with parchment paper, and drop 1-inch size cookie dough spaced out evenly, and bake for about 8-10 minutes.


DIY Chalkboard

Chalkboard spray paint claims that it can turn "virtually any surface" into a chalkboard. Ever wonder if it works on glass? I did...so I put their claim to the test with this quick and easy diy project.

 For this project you will need:
-frame with glass [I used an old mirror]
-chalkboard spray paint
-masking tape
-fine grit sand paper or steel wool
-glass cleaner

It is important to rough up the surface of glass and clean it thoroughly before painting it to minimize the chance of the paint chipping off. First, using really fine sandpaper, sand the surface to prep. Then wipe clean with glass cleaner and paper towel. Once completely dry, tape off the areas that is not going to be painted with masking tape, or if using frame with detachable glass, separate the glass from the frame. Spray the glass outside on some newspaper, following the directions written on the can.

Dry completely (be patient!)...on my spray paint, it said to leave it for 24 hours before initial use, so that's what I did. Once dry, prep the surface by lightly rubbing it with the flat/long side of the chalk. And voila! Your new chalkboard is ready for use
Chalkboard spray paint totally works on glass! Such an easy and inexpensive project to add some school-house cuteness to your decor. Next, I'll maybe try a mug or some silverware.


Baby's First: Banana Chiffon Cake

My cute little nephew turned one while they were visiting us this past month. It was a time full of celebration and lots of memory-making. One of those moments was the cake smash session that we planned for our 2 one-year-olds, including naked babies, a birthday hat and candle, and of course cake!

I've been on the hunt for a good, "healthy" first-baby-cake for as long as I've been a mommy and I have finally found THE ONE --> a banana chiffon cake <-- not only good for babies, but yummy for adults too, so go ahead and give it a try!

Banana Chiffon Cake | Mini Cakes in a Can
1 banana
1.5-2 Tbsp lemon juice (to keep the banana from browning)
3 Tbsp sugar (30 grams)
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp Flour (50 grams)
2 egg whites [save the yolk for a custard or carbonara ;)]

  1. In a ziploc bag, using your fingers, mash up the banana with lemon juice until smooth with no chunks. Pour bananas to a mixing bowl, add sifted flour, and mix.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add sugar and beat once more.
  3. Add 1/3 of the beaten egg whites to the banana mixture and stir. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites until smooth (be careful not to over-mix!).
  4. Spoon mixture into 2~3 well-buttered and -floured empty soup cans (15oz size). Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool and serve layered with whipped cream, fresh strawberries and bananas. 

Happy Birthday,  you sticky little one year olds! Love you to pieces!! xoxo



As someone who studied nutrition in college, I love finding new nutrient-packed foods that are both versatile and satisfying. Quinoa is one of those foods. I had heard about it in my classes but didn't know too much about it. And now that it's becoming more popular among health-nuts and the special diet population, it is more readily available everywhere. What is it, you may ask? It's a naturally gluten-free super grain, high in protein, a great source of fiber, calcium, and all sorts of other good stuff. This salad I adapted from my friend's recipe at Coconuts and Cardamom is the perfect way to prepare this simple but amazing grain!

Quinoa Salad
  • 1.5 cups quinoa
  • 3 cups water
  • garlic salt
  • 1 cup edamame beans
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed & drained (chick peas are also great!)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 avacados, diced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 English/Japanese cucumber, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Prepare Quinoa as instructed on the packaging. Different varieties have subtle differences. A basic rule is the 1:2 ratio, 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of water. I add a dash of garlic salt for added flavor.
  2. While the Quinoa is simmering, prepare the other ingredients. Dice the avocados and toss in some lemon juice. Dice the tomatoes and cucumbers. Drain and rinse the beans. De-pod the edamame if needed. Use frozen corn, because the steaming hot Quinoa will bring it quickly up to room temp and it doesn’t turn mushy.
  3. Throw edamame, beans, corn and slivered almonds in a large bowl and empty the pot of Quinoa on top. You'll know when quinoa is ready when it is tender and the germs have spiraled out.
  4. Drizzle a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Mix everything together well. Add the avocados last. 
*From Tawny: If I know this salad will last a few days, I only add one portion of avocado to my serving, and I’ll set aside the rest in a bowl with the lemon juice. This prevents the avocado from leaking into the salad, turning brown, and making the whole salad go bad to prematurely.
*I would leave out the tomatoes to, if planning to make it last.
**Good both warm the day of and cold from the fridge!

Be sure to pay my friends Tawny and Andrea a visit at Coconuts and Cardamom! They have an amazing repertoire of gluten-free, and other special diet recipes. xoxo