I dedicate this post to my mom…and my sister.

The title begs a dedication to them.

Growing up Lesley and I had this term we would use quite often “MH” also known as “Mom Humor”. This term describes the extreme corny nature of my mom’s favorite jokes. Corny. MH. Mom Humor.

Recently, I have seen an alarming trend in my sister’s humor displayed in her Instagram feed. Evidently, MH is a hereditary gene and she got it.

Flourpot. Flowerpot. This is MH at it’s finest.

7.15flowerpot-01Chris and I decided to start transforming a small space in our backyard. We eat at least 2 meals a day at the picnic table, it was time to start making the area more reflective of our family. I started the process by looking for containers to plant flowers and plants. I found this plastic flour canister for $6.00 and immediately thought my mom would appreciate me planting flowers in it.

Lots of people have luck planting things in closed bottom containers by using rocks and such in the bottom. I never have luck unless there are drainage holes. Thankfully, you can add holes to about anything with the right drill bit (I consider the ‘right’ one to be whatever one I have on hand). No need to get technical with this…just filling it with dirt!

7.15flowerpot-02I probably should have skipped trying to drill a hole in the middle because it was the thinnest point. I pushed too hard and cracked the plastic. It is not a big deal though…again, I’m just filling this with dirt.7.15flowerpot-04Inevitably there is at least one kid around ‘helping’ me or ‘photographing’ me when I work on a project. She found her brother’s really old camera.7.15flowerpot-057.15flowerpot-067.15flowerpot-07My flourpot. I will think of my mom and sister every time I look at it…which will make me smile and giggle a bit.7.15flowerpot-087.15flowerpot-107.15flowerpot-127.15flowerpot-13I like disclaimers. My friends make fun of me for this, but it is my way of heading off a few comments. So, today’s disclaimer is: I know some of the plants I put together don’t necessarily ‘go together’. It has worked for me in the past. I am a rule follower, except for things like this.

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  • susie - I have been following your blog for a long time and I have yet to see a photo of the front of your house- i often wonder what the front looks like! Maybe you don’t want to post one but it would be fun to see how it all flows when I just see parts of it. Love the flour pots!

  • Carol - It is obvious to me that with this post, you also inherited the gene! Love it!

  • Dawn - Fun post and pretty plants!

  • Diana - Hahahahaha, that is awesome! And I love all your flowers together!

  • Erin - If there are certain flowers that don’t “go” together, it’s news to me! Adorable idea :-)

  • Southern Gal - Love it!

  • julia-tagandtibby - I love it!! Gardening is not my thing, but I’m trying this year! That pop of red is perfect.

  • RachelC - This is my all time favorite disclaimer. People comment on plants not “going” together? I suddenly feel so uncivilized.


My friend Ruth and her family stopped by earlier this week as they returned home from a few weeks on the road. Ruth inspires me and challenges me in so many things. Besides being a phenomenal artist and cook, she gently pushes me with her words and actions to be all God has created me to be as a woman, wife, mom and friend. We laugh at how opposite our personalities are. She is everything I am not and she smiles at all my quirks. I like her a lot.

I like her so much that when she said they would be able to spend a couple nights at our house, I asked her to cook us all dinner (that is my family of 7 and her family of 8). Really – there needs to be a hospitality book about the graciousness of a host that invites people over and then makes them cook for everyone. I’ve been wanting to learn how to cook Chinese Hot Pot and I knew Ruth would be the perfect one to teach me.

My plan is to do this meal for Chinese New Year – so I needed Ruth to show me how to do it in a simple and practical way. I am not Chinese. Shocker, I know. My goal is not to cook a meal that is authentic in every possible way. My hope was to learn the basics of Hot Pot, so I could share it with friends and family. Ruth taught me a version that tastes amazing, but doesn’t involve so many details and steps that I would give up before trying to do it on my own.

Since there are a lot of ingredients that I would not recognize by name and I am guessing some of you are like me – I took photos of all the ingredients. Yay for visual aids!

We made two Hot Pots (not sure if that is the right way to say that!). This served 4 adults and 11 kids with just a few leftovers.

So, first I am going to walk through what you need:

This is for the soup bases: Soup Base for Satay Hot Pot, 2 Cans Beef Broth, Soup Base for Seafood Hot Pot


Enoki Mushrooms, Bean thread noodles, dried shitake mushrooms7.15hotpot-04Dumplings (we did pre-cooked frozen for ease), napa cabbage, medium firm tofu7.15hotpot-071 lb. Shrimp with shell off, frozen fried fish balls, frozen fried shrimp balls7.15hotpot-101 lb beef sliced super thin (we sliced this thinner than pictured. You can also freeze steak or roast and then slice super thin.), I have no idea what these are called!, Chili sauce, Soy sauce, sriracha sauce7.15hotpot-13Guilin style chili sauce, black vinegar, sa cha sauce7.15hotpot-16Now onto the steps involved:

First, put the dried shitake mushrooms in warm water. Let them soak until soft (about an hour). At the same time, put the bean thread noodles in slightly warm water. Let those soak until soft (not crunchy, not mushy, about 20 min). While those are soaking you can go onto the other stuff.7.15hotpot-21Rinse the enoki mushrooms and chop off the ends.7.15hotpot-23Slice the napa cabbage into chunks.7.15hotpot-25Cut the tofu in half and then into squares.7.15hotpot-26Arrange your ingredients on plates. You can use a different plate for each thing if you have enough plates and table room. We put the frozen fish balls with the tofu. The cabbage, shitake mushrooms and enoki mushrooms on another plate.7.15hotpot-28If your beef wasn’t pre-sliced super thin, you will want to slice it up. Your noodles should be soft by now. Using kitchen scissors, cut the noodles. Do what Ruth is doing about 4 times.7.15hotpot-30Fill one stock pot with water and add the two soup base packets. In another stock pot, add water and the two cans of beef broth. We had a lot of kids, so the beef broth version was less spicey…just something to keep in mind regarding why we did the two different pots. Once the pots get boiling, remove them and put them on your hot pot stoves. We boiled on the stove first simply to save the gas on the portable stoves.7.15hotpot-32Place everything on your table: Beef & Shrimp, tofu, fish balls, shrimp balls, mushrooms (enoki & shitake), frozen dumplings, bean thread noodles, cabbage. (there are other things you could add too…this is just what we did)

Place all the different sauces together on a sauce tray.7.15hotpot-34Before we began eating, Ruth took a few minutes to share with us the heart of hot pot. I’m sure I will recount some of this incorrectly, but I think I have the basics. Hot Pot brings everyone together around the table. It is not meant to be a meal that you rush through. Instead, you slowly cook items for others and yourself. If you are seated far from the dumplings – the person closest to the dumplings and the hot pot cooks a couple for you. Take your time and enjoy the process. It is a beautiful communal meal – a slowing down and coming together.7.15hotpot-35Once you are ready to start eating, the first step is to prepare your sauce. In your bowl, you add whatever sauces (those pictured) you want to create a customized flavor. I added a little of everything. Typically, you also mix in a raw egg. Our chickens gave us some eggs about an hour before dinner….and I eat a lot of cookie dough….so yeah, the adults added raw egg. Do as you wish on that part.7.15hotpot-41Most of the kids just used soy sauce as their sauce.7.15hotpot-42

Now it is time to just drop stuff in the pot, let it cook. Everything cooks super fast.7.15hotpot-37The Simons have 6 amazing boys. Add my 3 boys to that mix. It was awesome. They hit it off right away. Dart guns. Matches. Pocket knifes. Boy ‘crafts’. My guys are already asking when they will get to see their new friends again!7.15hotpot-397.15hotpot-407.15hotpot-447.15hotpot-46The meal was delicious. My 9 year old was so surprised to discover he likes fish and shrimp balls. My oldest daughter devoured the dumplings. It was so, so good. I can’t thank Ruth enough for sharing her tips with me, but more importantly sharing her family with mine. Our hot pot may not look like everyone else’s, it may not even end up looking like Ruth’s…but it will taste good and we will relish the heart of the meal.

I see hot pot becoming a Campbell staple…7.15hotpot-48

Chris and I want to have a couples night soon with hot pot. My idea is to print off pictures of the ingredients to give those invited. I love the idea of sending my friends to a market they rarely shop at to buy fried shrimp balls and sauces they have trouble pronouncing. I think they’ll enjoy the adventure of it and the coming together to share the meal.

For those in the Tulsa area, I purchased everything (including the stoves) at Nam Hai.

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  • Dawn Ritchie - Definitely one of my favorite posts from you.

    My grandmother is Japanese and I made sure to take pictures/video of her making some of our favorites, along with the ingredients. It’s so much fun to go into the Asian markets to find the stuff.

  • Jessie - I can. not. tell you how excited I am about this! THANK YOU!!! Can’t wait to do this for our 2nd Chinese New Year this winter (1st Chinese New Year involved very unauthentic Chinese take-out.). Already dreaming of doing a “pre-party” trip to the Asian market with our family. :)

  • Caroline - Hey Ashley,
    I’m Chinese and hot pot is my fave thing to have. It’s almost like the sure-have for Chinese New year and the idea is like everyone gather around the stove and pot, cooking a meal together, symbolizing reunion.
    While beef broth is possible, you can opt for chicken broth too! I like to add carrots, corns, white radish into the soup for it to cook and soften. The sweetness goes into the soup!
    and the very thin slices of beef is also called shabu-shabu. Basically you dip it in and out of the hot soup a few times for it to be cooked, not totally maybe 80%. And it’s best to dip into raw beaten egg. The egg coating will make the meat smoother and less hot to eat. No other sauces needed. I also like it with very simple dip – soy sauce, cut chilli and chopped garlic. This will let you enjoy the natural sweetness of the food. You can add basically anything into the hot pot. There’s no specific way or type of food. It’s like eating boiled food, but somehow after cooking everything in, the soup become sweet and you enjoy everything together! Goes well with noodles, rice, udon, vermicelli!!
    I like to cook an egg in the pot at the end, like the poached style! You might wanna try it!!

    Caroline 😉

  • Kelsey - We celebrated Chinese New Year with my daughter’s birth parents at their restaurant this year and this post really gives me context and an appreciation for the purpose behind the traditions we experienced. Her birth parents speak very little English so we hilariously stumbled through dinner trying to figure out what things were and how to eat them! Add to that that I was entering my second trimester and still feeling queasy and it was quite the experience! One thing that surprised me reading your post was that “fish balls” is the technical term for what we ate! We had asked our daughter’s birth father what they were and assumed his answer was his attempt at explaining what they were in broken English! I’m still curious what kind of fish is in these fish balls, though. When we asked, we were told “don’t worry about it.” :) Sometimes I’m so in awe of the life God gave us when we said “yes” to adopting our girl. I never would have guessed that our extended family would include Chinese immigrants, but I’m so humbled and thankful it does! Thank you for this post and the insights it provides!

  • Mary - Isn’t it incredibly unsafe to use camp stoves inside? Not only because of the open flame, but because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning? Obviously you were fine, but I would be very worried about using it in a small room with all the windows and doors closed.

  • Breanne - I love this so much! My husband and I first had hot pot in Thailand where we didn’t speak a lick of Thai and the staff didn’t speak much English but through hand gestures we made it through. Our second experience was in Taiwan with my husband’s missionary grandparents and friends. It’s always been a communal and bringing together meal but I’ve never thought of doing it at home.
    Thanks for sharing all the pictures, great aids!

  • Kimberly Dial - I feel certain I’ll never try such a feat on my own but I loved this post. Thanks so much for sharing. It all look so very delicious!

  • Artadorned - This looks like the perfect meal to have with the family. I’m sure good stories will be shared and good memories made!


  • Laura Yan - So excited for you to have someone show you this! I married into a Chinese family 11 years ago so I am well experienced in all things hot pot. We love our electric pot. And enjoy the “fights” over whose shrimp that is floating around the pot! ;0) It’s not nearly as intimidating as it seems once you practice a few times.

  • Laura Y - I love Hot Pot! My husband is Japanese and so this is a a staple for us. It gets easier the more you make it. Now we often make Hot Pot on nights where we need to use up vegetables from our fridge. I make it all different ways, but you can use chicken broth too and mix in a little miso paste. I just throw in whatever vegetables we have along with meat and/or tofu and some udon noodles. Yumm!

  • Donzel - Hot Pot sounds like Raclette… in as much as there’s tons of veggies, meat, spices and long slow cooking. If you are ever fortunate enough to be invited to a Raclette dinner immediately say YES PLEASE!!
    The meal can be as simple as the Raclette cheese, potatoes and some spices, but it’s often far, far more!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Ruth cooking in your kitchen?! My favorite worlds collide.

My youngest daughter turned four this week. Though we’ve spent her last three birthdays together, it still feels like yesterday we celebrated her first birthday while she was an ocean away. She doesn’t like cramped spaces or crowds or lots of noise (unless it is the normal noise of our home). For her birthday, her request was simple. She wanted ‘little cupcakes and apple juice and that’s all.” Her friend request included her sister, two cousins and two friends. One friend is out of state…but they got to celebrate together a little early.

I love the differences in my kids. My oldest daughter has a birthday coming up and her list includes basically everyone she has ever met – even those she has to describe to me because she can’t remember their names. She has also been planning crafts and decorations for her party for a good 2 months. She is definitely a ‘more the merrier and the louder the better’ kind of girl. Her little sister – the opposite.

So we kept it simple. A few decorations I had on hand. A couple little girls. A kiddie pool. Lots of open space free from feeling cramped and where sounds could be carried away.


She only took a lick of the frosting, but she sure was adamant we have cupcakes!

By nature, I tend to be more like my oldest daughter when it comes to party planning. I like decorations and lots of details. I like cute foods and all the little extras. I’ve learned over the years how different my kids are regarding what makes their birthdays feel like special days. As we celebrate their birthdays, we are really celebrating them and the things that make them beautifully unique. For my youngest – apple juice and little cupcakes with a few little girls. Simple, but full of love.


The glass bottles, straws, napkins, pinwheels and tassel garland are all from Shop Sweet Lulu. We originally used them for family pictures with our trailer (I’ll share those pictures later). I like to keep reusable party supplies on hand. Keeping simple and varied decorations on hand makes party prep quick, easy and much more affordable. The pink flower hanging from the tree is one I bought 7 years ago! I use it, fold it up and store it until I use it again.


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  • Southern Gal - A beautiful little party for a beautiful little girl.

  • Anniken - I like her style… And i like lots of decorations… But simple can never go strong as long as the company you have is good! My bot celebrated his 4th birthday with just 4 friends. And it was perfect for him. But my little girl is more like your oldefar girl. She wants big. Its funny to notice the differnce each kid has…

  • Jean - The picture of Daddy’s arm protecting the little girl’s candles from the wind and her happy, happy face — totally bringing tears to my eyes.

  • Mek - Love all these sweet lovely pictures! Happy Birthday Little One!

  • Annemieke - Congratulations Little One, a perfect party for a perfectly feisty little 4-year old. Why do I always get teary-eyed when I see her so very very happy? What a beautiful family you have Ashley!

  • Sarah - Happy Birthday to her. I guess the puppy was invited too. I ?? you and your sweet family.

  • Jess Z. - very cute! she is so sweet :)

  • Arlene - My third daughter is getting married in a week, and I must say that the differences between my girls continues be evident. What a joy to be a mom, yes?!

  • nicci - I LOVE THIS! It’s so refreshing to see a SIMPLE, yet fully enjoyed birthday fit for a little girl! It’s a great reminder that all of the “fluff” we copy form Pinterest is unnecessary, and what they really want it TIME & a few FRIENDS to enjoy their day! Thanks!

  • amber - She is precious. And I can’t believe she’s 4. Time is nuts. Happy day to your sweet girl!

  • Wilfried Fotoatelier - Beautiful pictures of the dad and the little girl. Thanks for sharing such natural pictures. :)

  • Jo Moseley - Okay, this little party just made ME cry! So much Joy and Protection (those big Daddy arms wrapped around his girl, lighting her candles, then protecting them from being blown out by the wind!). That whole thing makes me think of the Love we have from Our Father in Heaven!
    And, COURAGE! Wow, Little Miss has come so far! That straw in her mouth. The frosting. The smile on her face when everyone was singing Happy Birthday to You!
    Happy, Happy “4th” Birthday, to one of the most Treasured and Brave Girls I know! Your Party was Perfect! Great Job, Mama, on providing just the things your children need. Much Love, Jo

  • Kari - Still! Still after 3 years of hearing her- your- story, I tear up. She is beautiful, and she looks so happy. I’m happy for your family…

  • Carrie Rowe - Oh my goodness she’s getting so big!!!! Such a cutie.