Monday, March 24, 2014

living for THIS moment: morning schedule and routine

My morning routine in the past has never been intentional. I'm not a morning person, not even a little bit. But obviously with kids, things had to change. And in order for me to work toward accomplishing the goals I set for myself, I know that my mornings have to have some kind of structure. After all, they are the foundation of each day. And each day I need to take action steps toward a larger goal.

 The schedule and routine in our home is nothing fancy. But it works really well for us. When Eli was born, I noticed immediately that in order for there to be any order, we needed a schedule. And actually, I had been slowly implementing a schedule for Isaac before Eli even arrived.

Today I'm sharing our morning routine in a "day in the life" format along with my vlog, where I talk more about how I prepare for my mornings, which for me, is just as important as the rest of the routine.



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night before: pick out clothes for the next day

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Wake up. Read the Bible. Journal. This is quick. I usually take 20 minutes or so to do it. Sometimes more if I am afforded the time.

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Get dressed for the day. And get the kids out of jammies and into clean clothes for the day.

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Make breakfast. We usually eat oatmeal with fruit for breakfast. You can see some of the other breakfasts we eat in these posts. Isaac is allowed to watch Curious George either while I'm cooking or while they're eating (depending on what time they got up) and then the TV goes off.

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We usually head into the playroom and do "tot school" for a little bit. We always have music playing, per the eldest's request. If we're in the playroom, music has to be on. We generally listen to the Baby Einstein station on Pandora or worship music. Sometimes I can sneak to my side of the room and get some crafting done, but usually I'm on the floor with them.

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This particular morning Eli was mixing vegetables and we were reading these books together. Isaac was coloring.

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We head outside to let the chickens out of the coop and into the run. I give them fresh food and water.

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The boys check on the chickens too.

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I water all the plants.

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And the boys play outside while I read. We are really enjoying this part of our mornings now while the weather is good. In probably less than a month the temperatures are going to start getting intolerable. So I'm trying to take advantage of it while I can. And of course, they can never have too much outdoor play! (Also, the outside part and the tot school part are interchangeable. Some mornings we go outside first until they are worn out and then spend some time in the playroom).

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At 11:00 I turn on Daniel Tiger for Isaac and they get a morning snack. Something small. Eli will sit with him for about 4 minutes and then he gets bored and comes into the kitchen to help me unload the dishwasher.

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I spend the 24 minutes or so that I get while Isaac watches his show to clean the kitchen from breakfast. This is when I unload my dishwasher from the night before (see my vlog for more about how my nightly routine preps for my morning routine).

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Kitchen is clean and ready for lunch!

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This particular morning I had enough time to get some kitchen prep done for the rest of the week! I put on a giant pot of chicken stock. There is nothing better than the smell of your house when you have stock simmering on the stove all day long.

And that's a typical morning for us. We try to get over to the library or the park a couple times a week and that's always in the mornings. Now that Eli has finally dropped his morning nap, it allows us to get out for longer periods of time, which is nice. They can play as long as they'd like at the park! So long as we're home by noon in time to make lunch for my husband. We are so blessed to live close enough to his work that he comes home for lunch every day.

And now it's your turn! What does your morning routine look like? What changes do you want to make to it? Check out the prompt and link up with your vlog or blog post below and your link will appear here and over at Becky's blog, For This Season.






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squelch the inner negativity

I'm not thin enough.
I'm not pretty enough.
I'm not blonde enough.
My skin isn't fair enough.
My style isn't good enough.
I am not enough.

You know those are all lies right?

Ladies, why do we struggle so much with lies like these? The enemy loves to speak these lies right into our lives. He wants nothing more than for you to believe each and every one and then to accept them into your life. Because, he knows you'll become totally and completely ineffective, fruitless as a Christian, as a mom, as a wife, as a friend.

It's no secret that girls and women struggle big time with inner negativity. We seem to be so vulnerable to any negative thought that pops into our head, to any criticism we hear from someone else, and to the harsh comparisons we make about ourselves. And it can be a crushing downward spiral.

The good news for those of us who struggle in this area, is that scripture is not silent on this issue. In fact, the Creator God, who made you in His image and loves you beyond words, has something to say about it.

Scripture speaks a lot about both the heart and the mind - what we should be filling both of them with and what we should be setting them on. Do you ever stop to consider what you've set your heart on this day? What are you filling your mind with today? I guarantee, whatever it is, it has a lot to do with how you view yourself.

God knows, and tells us, that we must focus on and set our minds on things which bring life and peace in order to do the things He has called us to - in order to be the person He has called you to be. He has a will for you, a good and perfect will and He wants you to be effective and brazen for Him. But, we become ineffective as Christians when we allow our minds to be filled with the negative - the trash, filth, dirt that so desperately seeks to take up residence there.

Look, it takes work to rid our minds of those things. Sometimes we've allowed so much junk to fill our hearts and minds that it also takes time. But that's where we have to begin. As Paul says, put to death what is earthly in you, those things that your flesh seeks, your earthly desires. Kill them. Get them gone.

What does this look like practically?
In order to rid our minds of the negativity, the criticism, the comparisons, we have to remove them from our lives. Turn off the television shows, stop listening to the music, close the books, x-out of the websites, end the relationships, break the habits that your flesh desires.

That tv show you watch every single week that makes you think, "Oh, if only I had her shape, if only I could afford her wardrobe, if only my children acted like hers, if only..." stop.watching. And don't ever turn it on again.

That magazine you read that causes you to think only about all the things you don't have, all the features you wish you could change about yourself. close.it. And stop buying it. Stop wasting your money.

That relationship that drags you down because she only has negative things to say, she never wants to listen to you, it drains you, end.it. And move on.

That pop "artist" you listen to on the radio who always sings about sex and drinking and clubbing and unhealthy relationships, turn.her.off.

And don't turn back. Seriously, it can be done. There is no reason why we, Christians, daughters of the Most High King, heirs with Christ, should be subjecting ourselves to filth like that. Why do we make ourselves feel that way? Why do we allow it in our lives? Just stop. It's up to you. And you have the power, through the Holy Spirit to say, no.more.

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So, what next?
If there is space in our hearts and minds, no question, it will be filled with something. But we have the choice about what we fill our hearts with and what we set our minds on.

Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2

What kinds of things is Paul talking about in this passage? Well, good thing for you and me, he tells us. Read Colossians 3:12-16 and you'll find a wonderful list:

compassion
kindness
humility
meekness
patience
forgiveness
love
thankfulness
wisdom
praise

And then he tells us, not only what to allow into our hearts, but who: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart." -Col 3:15

What an incredible list. Sister, are these the things that you set your mind on each day when you wake up? Are these the things that fill your heart, your thoughts, even your actions? Perhaps more importantly, have you made room for these things yet? Your heart cannot be filled with both envy and humility, hate and kindness, grudges and forgiveness, pride and meekness. We have to first, cut those things out, and then we can replace them with:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. Philippians 4:8

In order to squelch the inner negativity, to rid ourselves of the bad, the hurtful, the filth, the lies, we must ditch it, put it to death, end it and then fill ourselves with the good. Notice in both the verses from Colossians and Philippians that Paul uses action words. Set, think and put on (Col 3:12) are verbs that require us to actually do something. We can't just sit around and expect the Holy Spirit to change us without doing some work ourselves. This is a call to action. 

You have to rid yourself of anger, rage, lust, greed and idolatry.

You have to set your mind on things like compassion, kindness, patience and love.

You have to think about things that are true, noble, right and pure.

You have to do it. No one else can do it for you and no one else is going to.

And you know what? The work, the effort, the time it takes, is so worth it. Aren't you worth it? In the passage from Colossians, Paul refers to you as "God's chosen one." Believe me, you are worth it. Because, sister, not only were you made by Him, but you were also made with a purpose and a calling. There is work to be done (Ephesians 2:10). And in order for you to be effective in your work, you must set your mind on things above. You must be ruled by the peace of Christ. You must dwell in truth. 

It's no wonder that Paul ends this passage in Colossians by saying, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (emphasis mine).


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

living for THIS moment March prompt: morning routines

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Next Tuesday, March 25, we will be talking about our morning routines. Meet back here and post your VLOG (under 5 minutes), or blog post, using the following prompt. 


Prompt:

Do you have a morning routine? And is it working for you?
What sort of things do you do in the morning to motivate you for the day?
What do you want to change about or add to your routine?
What does an average morning look like for you? 

Feel free to document your morning routine with a day in the life post! We'd love to see photos from throughout your morning and your day. Give us an idea of what life is like in your home and any given day.

We encourage you to evaluate your current morning routine and make changes if you feel they are needed.
Then join us back here on Tuesday, March 25, with another VLOG linkup!

You can see some of my day in the life posts here.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

when you're helpless to stop an abortion

This is going to be a somewhat depressing post. I'll just warn you up front. But I hope that it will also be a little encouraging.

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Recently, a friend asked me to pray for a friend of a friend who had an abortion scheduled. I went on to ask some of my friends to also join in praying for the Lord to intervene in the situation and stop the abortion from taking place, for this woman's heart to be changed, for someone to step in and tell her she had other options, that she is loved and cared for and there is support.

Unfortunately, she went through with the abortion.

It's not uncommon for someone to ask me to pray for a similar situation or to ask for a recommendation of a crisis pregnancy center for a friend who is considering abortion. And sadly, it's not uncommon for women who are set on abortion, especially those who have already scheduled the abortion, to go through with their plan.

And it hurts.

If you're friends with the woman, or if you counseled the woman, it's easy to take the outcome personal. You ask yourself and God, "What could I have done differently? Why didn't she listen to me? What did I not say that I should have said?"

And honestly, the answer is that you couldn't have done anything differently to change the outcome. You are not responsible for the choices and decisions of others. Don't blame yourself.

This is a lesson I learned the hard way. I counseled at a crisis pregnancy center for many years. And while I had abortion-minded clients who changed their minds either during our appointment or who came back later to tell me that they had chosen life, there were women who left the center, determined to go on with their initial plan: abortion. And there were several more women who never came back, never answered our follow-up phone calls and we never knew.

But you can't take it personally. It's not your fault. And if you dwell on it and beat yourself up with those questions (that will never be answered, by the way), you're only going to discourage yourself further and potentially render yourself ineffective with future clients.

We must always remember that ultimately each person is responsible for his or her own actions. You said what you could say. You did what you could do. She made the decision. And sadly, she will have to carry the consequences of that decision for the rest of her life.

If you're removed from the situation, if you only knew enough to simply pray, you question God about it. You ask, "Why didn't You stop this? I prayed, I begged, I pleaded, and did You even hear me? How could you allow a mother to take the life of her own child?"

We have to remember that God is sovereign over all. And for all the times that a woman has gone through with her abortion, there are so many times that God did intervene; times that He did send someone to step in and give the woman hope; times that the Holy Spirit softened her heart to hear the truth, for the first time, in a counseling session at a pregnancy center. These things do happen. I have witnessed it with my own eyes.

But they don't always happen.

We won't ever fully understand why God allows bad things to happen. It's been a long debated theological discussion, that I prefer not to get into with this post. But the truth of the matter is that God makes those decisions. He controls it all. He is sovereign. Not us. Sometimes He allows babies' lives to be ended by their own mothers.

And it hurts.

And it should hurt.

But don't let that stop you from caring, from praying, from taking action. You never know when a baby will be saved. And we should work knowing that all babies can be saved. There is no need for a single life to be ended by abortion. Not one.

We only need to trust the Lord, stay the course and don't get discouraged. Take heart and remember, He is in control, not us. He has already overcome the world.

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33


Friday, March 7, 2014

what kind of person are you, or are you not?

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 We all have strengths and weaknesses. And duh, they aren't all the same.

Here are some things I am terrible at:

Getting work done early- I always wait until the last minute. There's nothing more motivating than the last minute. I know, some of you are cringing at that right now.
Writing music- I can read music all day long. But ask me to create my own? Or even improvise off of basic chords and notes. Nope, not going to happen.
Remembering- Seriously, I have the worst memory. I'll tell my husband something that I just heard for the first time or just discovered while reading the Bible, only to hear him say, "Ya, you told me that like 3 months ago."
Being Patient- My patience is so short. It's horrible. And something that God is always working on in me.
Biting my tongue- If a thought enters my mind, I generally want to say it. I do put most everything through a filter but there have been numerous occasions where the second I said something I wished with everything in me I could take it back.

But enough about those weaknesses. Let's first consider our strengths. I want to challenge us to really consider what kind of people we are. How did God wire you? What comes easy to you? And along with that, what are you not as good at (those things can help you pin point what you are good at)?

As I recently thought through these questions, especially in respect to the positions I'm currently in and the direction that the Lord is calling me to, I've been able to determine what kind of person I am.

I am a big vision person.

No question, I have giant, lofty, crazy big dreams and goals. I love writing goals; weekly, monthly, yearly, and beyond. I have grand ideas and plans; hopes and dreams. Ask me my plan for x, y and z and I can draw out a big vision, 5 or 10-year plan for it. No problem.

And I love that God has given me that strength. I love being able to dream big and see end goals to work toward.

But in thinking about that strength, I've also been able to determine where I struggle and what my weaknesses are.

I struggle with implementing an action plan.

I know, how in the world am I going to reach my goals, see my big visions come to life, if I can't implement the daily, step by step actions that are required? And that's why I started thinking about what kind of person I am. What are my strengths? Because then I was able to better determine my weaknesses. And now I know where to work and improve.

Honestly, I can write an action plan. It's just a smaller goal list, really. But it's taking those first, initial steps where I struggle. And I have no idea why. Okay, maybe it's the procrastinator in me. Maybe it's a fear that my steps and effort won't be enough. Maybe it's my refusal to ask for help and for criticism. Maybe it's that I'm intimidated by what others are doing and I worry I won't do it as well or I'll be judged for being inexperienced or young.

Whatever the reason, I just need to get over it. Or in nicer terms, I need to work through it. I need to face it head on and work diligently to overcome it. But the truth is, I can't get over it, and you can't get over it, until you are willing to sit down and decide what's holding you back. What are your weaknesses? They may be the key to why you aren't accomplishing your goals.

It's good to know what kind of person you are. Let's be honest, most of us have no problem thinking of all the things we're good at. We like to focus on the good. We like to think about what makes us feel good about ourselves.

But what are you terrible at? Where do you need work? What are your weaknesses?

Determine those things and get to work. And then, I think, we can get some amazing things done.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

lazy lunches / 004

We've finally made it to dinners. Yay! For dinner, both kids (age 3 and 1) eat what we eat. For Eli, it's a little more challenging because he doesn't use a spoon very well yet. And even when I give him one, he's not interested. The kid just prefers to shovel everything in his mouth with his hand. He basically finishes eating in about .2312 seconds.

Dinners double as lunches around here. We are a big leftovers family. Saves money on buying lunch stuff and it makes things easier for me! Plus, we are blessed in that my husband comes home for lunch every day so I just heat everything up at the same time for the whole family. But, if there isn't enough leftovers we do resort to some basic lunch foods; mostly crackers and sandwiches.

Breakfast
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Egg yolk from a hard boiled egg (Eli is allergic to egg whites), clementine, and whole wheat toast with all natural grape jelly.

Lunch/Dinner
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Deconstructed hamburger and cabbage soup, crackers and cubed avocado. With toddlers, it's easy to just deconstruct whatever you're having for dinner for them. We eat a lot of soup so that just means serving it with a slotted spoon to make sure it's not runny. If we have tacos, I just give him all of the ingredients individually to eat. And so on.

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Chunks of turkey, an orange and crackers. Nothing fancy. I think this was a quick, we're in a hurry, lunch.

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Chucks of roasted chicken, oven-roasted potato, carrots and parsnip, couscous with raisins.

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Stir fried vegetables, pan-seared chicken and rice. For the chicken I brushed it with honey, crushed garlic and salt and pepper. As far as rice goes, we generally eat more white than brown rice. I know it's not as healthy but there have been studies released recently showing high amounts on arsenic found in brown rice and so it's made me a bit uncomfortable feeding it to my family. As with anything we eat, when eating white rice, we just eat it in moderate amounts.

You can find more lazy lunches toddler food ideas here.

Also, you can follow me on instagram, @jessibridges or the hashtag #lazylunches for more ideas!



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

house update and a peek at our entryway

You may remember that we bought a mess of a house back in September. Week in and week out we are working, slowly, to turn it into a home that we love. I knew my husband was a hard worker before we bought this house, but I really didn't know how hard until now. Oh. man. Am I the luckiest woman in the world.

To be honest, I haven't shared that much of the progress because my camera lens isn't working (you can see all the before photos here). Boo. And let's face it, iphone photos are only so good. But I did want to let you all know what's been done and what's still on the list to be done. And I promise, I'll get some more updates posted soon. In the mean time, here is what we have updated, renovated and fixed:

3 new windows. 4 still need to be replaced and will be before summer.
The front, back and side yards have been completely cleared of trash, rock and all other randomness we found.
New tree in the front yard!
The front door, trim and shutters have all been painted to match.
New carpet throughout the house.
We painted the entire interior of the house. Mostly white, except for the boys' room and the bathroom. Both are gray.
New (to us) appliances in the kitchen. We replaced the ugly, dirty, gross vent/hood over the oven with a mounted microwave.
We installed a garbage disposal. There wasn't one prior.
Chalkboard wall in the kid's play/school room.
New door on the master bedroom. I can't even explain how horrible the condition was of the door that was here originally. It was frightening.
We hung doors on the laundry area in the hall. There were no doors originally. We added new shelves over the washer and dryer.
New washer and dryer.
Replaced the light fixtures in the entryway and hallway.

I'm absolutely sure I'm missing some things. But, there is still a ton to be done! Here is the dream list of what else we'll be renovating:

Paint the exterior.
Landscape front and back yards (this is going to be an on-going process. piece by piece by piece).
Floors in kitchen, hall and bathrooms to be replaced. They are currently a very cheap and very poorly laid laminate. We're planning to do a dark wood laminate, although I wish we had the money for bamboo! Alas, we'll just have to compromise.
New counter tops in the kitchen.
New sink in the kitchen.
Back splash in the kitchen.
Paint kitchen cabinets and add knobs.
Hang a light over my kitchen sink.
Remove ceiling fan over kitchen table and replace with a fancy light fixture. I'm still on the hunt for one I love!
Tint the side/back sliding door. It faces the sun all day and is going to make the kitchen unbearable in the summer if we don't do something soon.
New vanity/sink/counter/faucet in both bathrooms.
Basically the master bath needs to be gutted and completely re-done. We don't even use it at this point. It's just gross. We'll add a new vanity, toilet and standing shower. Put up a new mirror and paint.
Ceiling fans in all 3 bedrooms and living room. They need to be wired properly through the ceiling.
New doors and doorknobs throughout the house.

And then on top of that there's, of course, a ton of decorating that remains! But one spot that we are done decorating (okay, with the exception of one piece that I'm still hunting for) is the entryway.

The entryway posed a bit of a challenge. It's quite small. The front door is directly across from the closet door and so there is absolutely no room to place any furniture on the wall. If both doors are open, they take up the entire space. But, I wanted to be able to have some storage on the wall. And so, we decided to hang wood with hooks for purses and bags. Coats can go in the coat closet.

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The first photo is looking at the entryway from the living room.

We used lumber from Lowes that we simply cut to the proper length. We considered staining the wood to match all the other dark wood in our house, because we love stained wood, but we decided to change things up this time. Instead we just sealed it and hung it.

I bought the hooks to hang on the wood at Walmart. They match the doorknobs we've chosen for the house. We hung 2 baskets from Hobby Lobby, also the same color as the hooks. And I'm still looking for one last storage type basket to hang on the lower piece of wood.

Basically the top storage is for adults. The bottom is for the kiddos. Isaac and Eli already love hanging their bags, hats and jackets on their hooks.

The painting was inspired by this. I knew I wanted black and white words but went back and forth for a long time on whether to paint a scripture or just something else. In the end I landed on "this house belongs to the Lord, we just live here." It says very succinctly how we feel about our home.

The mirror on the opposite wall was originally hanging over the fireplace when we moved in (the previous residents left a ton of stuff, most of it junk). I just cleaned it up and hung it. They say you should always have a mirror in the entryway so people can check their hair and makeup as they leave and arrive.

We also changed the doorknob and deadbolt on the front door. And we replaced the light fixture. It was either white or gold, I can't even remember, and super ugly and dirty.

 Honestly, the photos don't do it justice. We love the final product and I'm so glad we have finally been able to cross this project off our list!

Monday, March 3, 2014

chicken pho (asian chicken noodle soup) recipe

chicken pho

If you follow me on Instagram, sometimes you'll see me post a soup photo and tag it #soupofTHISweek. That's because we eat soup at least once, but usually more times, a week. It's easy, usually quick and there are so many different variations to one type of soup. Basically what I have in the fridge, goes in the pot.

Today I wanted to share one of my husband's favorite soup recipes. But to be fair, he likes pretty much any soup. As long as it's delicious. Which, I assure you, this one is.

No fancy photos for this recipe today. I'm just no good at snapping pictures as I cook. I'm too focused on getting things done and on the table for my hungry family. I hope you'll understand.

Oh also, I'm a "whatever tastes good" kind of cook, so not all measurements are exact.

Ingredients:
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 or 2 bunches of broccoli (depends on how much you like broccoli) chopped
4 or so heads of baby bok choy chopped. I use 1 whole package from Trader Joe's
1 or 2 jalapenos (how spicy do you want it?). Seeded and sliced thin.
1 carrot
4 cups chicken stock (definitely recommend using homemade for added flavor)
3 chicken breasts (my rule is 1 per person)
Soy Sauce to taste
Sriracha to taste
6 oz. Soba (buckwheat) noodles
Juice from 1/2 lime

Heat pot, preferably a dutch oven over medium high heat. Mince garlic. Add sesame oil to pot and let heat (this will happen very quickly). Add garlic. Stir for 30 seconds to a minute. Don't let it burn. Add in broccoli, bok choy, and jalapenos. If you feel like there's not enough oil you can also add a drizzle of vegetable, olive or more sesame oil to make sure nothing burns. Let cook and stir periodically. You want bok choy to begin wilting. This will take 3-5 minutes. Use a vegetable peeler to shred carrot into the pot. Stir.

Add chicken stock. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer. Add chicken breasts right into pot.

Put on lid and allow to simmer 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked all the way through.

In the mean time, bring water to a boil in a separate pot for the noodles. Cook as directed on the package. Generally you add noodles to the boiling water and allow to cook for about 2 minutes. Drain noodles. Return to their cooking pot. Drizzle and stir in some vegetable oil to keep noodles from sticking while soup cooks.

Once chicken is cooked, remove it from soup. Shred with 2 forks, adding the meat back into the soup as you shred it. Add soba noodles into the soup. Add soy sauce and sriracha to taste. Keep in mind you already have jalapenos so don't make it too spicy! (Unless you like it that way). Squeeze in lime juice. Stir.

Serve and enjoy!

(You can also serve with cilantro, chopped scallion and more lime)