I always knew I was meant to write. For who, that’s still sort of TBD.
There’s a certain fire that ignites inside of me when I get the itch to write…the kind that makes me stay awake most hours of the night in thought, pondering the shoulda woulda coulda scenarios of my life and wondering what will be in the future.
It’s the kind of fire that makes you think deep, like really deep. A digging into the depths of your soul sort of deep. Writing is expression, it’s an out to words that don’t verbally flow as smoothly or naturally. For me, it’s a platform. I’ve held back far too long.
Sometimes at night, I’ll pop up from my bed and jot down notes of things I want to write about in my iPhone notepad (with one eye open – only normal being I’m half asleep at this point), hoping I’ll have time to continue that thought at a later time, which rarely ever comes to fruition. Like now. 12:16am.
I knew I was meant to write from the day I submitted poems in middle school that were published into a large poetry book. They had asked me to come read the poem aloud from the book but too shy, I turned down the opportunity. I sometimes think back and wonder what would’ve happened if I pursued it.
I knew I was meant to write when in high school, the teachers would use my essays an examples in front the whole class. I’d feel myself turning beat red on the outside but inside…well, inside it felt good to be praised.
I knew I was meant to write from the days when I would write my Dad poems in jail. My Mom would mail them for me via snail mail (yes snail mail was and still exists people). That’s a story for another time.
I knew I was meant to write when I’d play certain songs over and over again repeating the lyrics in my head to figure out what story they were telling with their words. It always intrigued my how artists could piece words together so beautifully but then sound even more harmonious verbally as they recited their own lyrics.
I knew (but now I know) with certainty that it’s my time to write. About all things. My life. My kids. My recipes. For you, for anyone who wants to read it.
My voice on paper is infinite, endless thoughts in my mind. Here I am, it’s my time to let it all out.
Hi friends! Very exciting stuff happening in the world of Pretty Little Pretzel! If you love my brutal honesty, sarcasm and wittiness, please read my new blog post as part of a “Guest Feature” project on The World of Motherhood. Please check it out HERE 🙂 Let me know your thoughts and feel free to share if you share the same Confessions!
If you are anything like me, you might hate reading literature but love reading useless stories on Facebook about how fabulous us 90’s kids had it with smelly dry erase markers, capture the flag, inflatable neon chairs, Limited Too, Tomagatchi’s and Furbys. Those were the days…care free. Nothing to worry about besides whether our Tomagatchi died a terrible ‘death by poop’ after we neglected to clean up the mound off of the screen.
This brings me to current time where my entire life seems to revolve around technology, specifically my 2nd child, “my never leave the house without it child,” “treat it with respect and care and love child”…my iPhone. Maybe I am exaggerating a little but seriously, I am sure you can agree that this “thing,” this rectangle device that keeps getting larger on each new version release, is like a piece of us. It might as well be built into our DNA – wait, I don’t want to jinx this. Humanity has evolved and has become addicted to technology. It’s crazy to think that just 15 years ago nothing close to this even existed on the market for purchase. Us late twenty somethings were probably outside playing hide and seek with our friends, getting PHYSICAL activity after our AOL got stuck on the 2nd load screen for 10 minutes with dreadfully slow DSL and our beepers just weren’t high tech enough to keep us occupied for more than one beep!
What changed? We did, humanity did. We now solely rely on technology for basically everything. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t use Google maps to get from location A to location B. I can’t remember the last time I looked at hand written recipes to make banana bread or chicken marsala versus going on Pinterest. I can’t remember the last time I ordered delivery and didn’t have the option to swipe my credit card on a small white square connected to the actual device. Sadly, I can’t even remember the last time I was without my phone.
Until now…hence the point of my story. Hang tight, I’m getting there.
Saturday day – I made my husband take a trip to Target with Luca and I…you know, that store where you go in to buy shampoo and leave with $350 worth of crap you didn’t need whatsoever? Yes, that store. Never fails. I of course bought food since I was going to cook that night, we paid at checkout and walked to the car. It was so dreadfully hot out – the kind of day that makes you wonder why in the world you live in Florida kind of hot out. We got to the car and Danny put Luca into his car seat while I loaded up the front seat with the packages. I went to go put the last bag in and had my phone in my other hand when in slow motion I saw my phone slowly trickle and smash face first onto the concrete. I mean, I’ll be honest – I have dropped it before and it was fine but this was a no brainer. I picked up the phone and it was shattered into a thousand pieces, glass falling off from every crevice possible. I was so upset. This never happens to me. I ALWAYS have a case. I had bought a $35 phone screen protector at the mall which lasted 2 days before it cracked and with the phone case the guy sold me, it didn’t allow my charger to fit with the case on it to charge. #Firstworldproblems. I know.
It was a blessing in disguise. It reminded me of those care free days when I could enjoy life without lurking other people’s on social media. My mind was clear for a few hours, phone-less, Instagram-less, Facebook-less. It felt good, really good, I must say. I enjoyed a day with family in the pool tanning, eating, drinking and laughing without giving any thought to what Joe Shmoe was doing on his Sunday while I was doing mine. I sometimes wish it was the good ole’ days again where we didn’t take everything for granted. Sometimes I just wish my husband and I would eat dinner without staring at our phones for half of our meal. I sometimes wish that I used my real camera instead of having my son’s life on a black holed photo realm called Instagram. Thank goodness for my mom who prints his pictures and places each month of his life into a physical photo album for us. He will have all of his memories bundled up in tangible albums for when he is older so he can know what it was like to use those album things us old people used to have growing up.
When I think about Darwin’s Survival of the fittest, I can’t help but think in today’s time it’s really Survival of the most technological. Technology always wins these days. It’s our evil but also our advocate. I’m sure as we advance over the next few decades, technology really will become one with humanity. For now, I will cherish the few hours of quiet and my shattered iphone.
Where oh where has my little time gone, oh where oh where can it be?
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how fast time passes us by. Time is constantly moving, changing, evolving and progressing. I even Googled the term: “Time is a measure in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future, and also the measure of durations of events and the intervals between them(1).”
It’s a bit crazy to think that just a year ago, my son wasn’t here. Now, he is almost 9 months old but when I take a second to think about it, it feels like that time was just yesterday when I was sitting in the hospital bed in labor. Time is a funny thing. It doesn’t stop for anyone. You can’t change time, you can only make the best of your time spent doing something or correct it for the time that you will be doing that same thing in the future. Time has no boundaries, it’s limitless. You can think about time as a number but really it’s infinite in the broader picture, only limited for the time we spend here on Earth. I get why time can be linked to religion, philosophy and science but can anyone really define time? Time is used to define so many individual “things” but is the term itself really defined?
As I thought more about my time so far (almost 27 years to be exact), it really became a blur as to how many memories I couldn’t remember over those nearly 3 decades. Time passes but we don’t always remember what we have done with our time. It started to make me think…would I have done anything differently if I could change my time spent, thus far?
Here are my thoughts:
1. Travel: I SO would have traveled more. I think traveling is a beautiful privilege. I am envious of those who have seen the world and the cultures surrounding it. Some of you may be saying, “you’re only 27, travel now, travel later, travel whenever you like because you have all of the time in the world left.” There we go again with the time. Unfortunately, none of us have all of the time in the world left as we are severely limited with the time we have. Yes, I may be only 27 but that’s potentially 1/3 of my life lived. So yes, I would have traveled more before I had a child. I probably will travel more later in life after my kid or kids are grown but it would have been nice to travel “care free” in my younger, college years. Maybe to study abroad or take a cruise around Europe. I think traveling teaches things that can’t be taught through text books or words. It instills other values in us as we learn the ways of people around the world. I have been to Dominican Republic, Spain, Mexico and a bunch of Caribbean cruises but ideally, I would travel globally to far off places like Thailand, Japan and Bali. My husband on the other hand would stay in our cozy home and never travel – He would be that guy you stare at the entire flight in the seat next to you on the airplane wearing a germ mask! He insists it’s unsafe, we will get sick and oh, did I mention cruises are completely out of the question because we will get a disease in such small living quarters?…I’ll convince him one of these days.
2. Stress Less: I think I was born this way and maybe there are others out there like me but I find that I stress way too much about things that are out of my control. I wake up everyday before work with a knot in my stomach thinking about projects I haven’t gotten to yet or if someone else on my team didn’t finish work that I need to present to my clients. I stress about going to the doctor – what if something is wrong with me? I stress about my son – should he be eating these foods at this age or is he perfectly normal? Stress is inevitable in certain situations but I would and need to stress less about unpreventable situations and things in life. Lately, I have been trying to practice Yoga in my house. I found fabulous Yoga videos (30 day Yoga challenge for instance) on my Apple TV and I am hopeful that getting into a routine, will help me stress less!
3. Do for Yourself: I finally caved and got my FIRST facial a few weeks ago. I had never gotten one – not that I didn’t want one…I just never found the time to have “ME TIME” at a spa. Regardless of it costing $250 for a regular facial + collagen mask (yup, $250), it was worth every penny. I got to get away from mommy life for a few hours and enjoy the day out getting pampered. It made me feel revitalized, calm and de-stressed. Yes, I could have gone to the mall and bought clothes with that money but it was much better spent at the spa, I must say. That was my first and NOT my last spa day. I am going to make it a point to have “me time” once every 2 months or so. I need it – I’m sure other people have their ways of de-stressing outside of spas…what’s your calm place?
Do you think your time is spent wisely? What would you do differently if you could turn back time?
In today’s time, it not uncommon to get lost in our smartphones and tablets, choosing the easy way out to email our clients, partners or even co-workers rather than picking up the phone and dialing out. I get it because I’m guilty. Or at least I used to be. I remember keenly interning for a company that accepted me in my last year of college to help with some backend cleanup of their system and assist with basic social media. Fast forward 2 months and I was offered a full time position as an Account Manager. We were a young group so it was no surprise most of us were fresh into the job force, still learning how to be professional, organized and efficient at our jobs. I was switched around in positions during my tenure at the company but I specifically remember being petrified every time my calendar reminder popped up on my Apple lap top screen reminding me of my call with a client or vendor in 15 minutes. What in the world was I supposed to talk about? What if I didn’t know the answer to their questions? All of these terrifying “what ifs” would run through my head each and every time I had a conference call. This phobia stayed with me from that job to my next job where it was even scarier because I was so unfamiliar with the industry. Cyber security. I remember it like yesterday. So many cyber attacks and so little time to demo our product to wiggle our way into helping companies battle hackers. I came in knowing nothing, no job position, just a boss that believed I had what it took to do something useful in the company. I remember applying for the job on Craigslist and thinking nothing of it. When I received the call to come for an interview at a Diner nonetheless, I thought it was a scary scam. I had my boyfriend at the time, now husband, follow me to the interview; that’s how nervous I was. It ended up being legit and I had my next interview with a group of executives, way out of my league, asking me questions about cyber security I hadn’t the slightest idea about. I still got the job. I sat at the front desk and being my usual self, I was intrigued by how intricate a mind had to be to build a product being used by billion dollar companies and government officials. How could a normal human think of such technology? I was bored with the front desk in about …3 days? I decided I was going to soak in any information I could so I could move on up. I started helping the SOC (secure operations center) place and manage orders for enormous clients around the globe. I worked under some who left willingly and unwillingly. It was a wild experience to say the least. One day, the president of the company asked me to put a PowerPoint together for a partner training on the product. We needed to expand more rapidly into other verticals and partner networks could be the key. I put together a PowerPoint for the large training that would happen the next day. 5pm rolls around and I get a call from the president, “great PowerPoint – I won’t be in tomorrow so you’ll do the demo.” My first thought…WHAT? With my pre-existing phone phobia, how could I even think of doing a face to face training? I hadn’t done a presentation since my 30 page business plan in entrepreneurship class 2 years prior. Not to mention, I really wasn’t familiar with the industry still. He insisted I do it even though I tried to back out. I rehearsed that night aloud to myself about 3 times and then reminded myself…JoAnna, you know this stuff. If you don’t, improvise. Yeah, easier said then done. I get to the meeting the next day dressed in my suit to find the CEO with a video camera and tripod – he wanted to video the training! All of the employees also joined the oval conference table. Now, I was sweating. This can’t be real. I paced around while all of the partners took their seats with the agendas and PowerPoint I had printed for them. The room was crowded…really crowded. I started. I definitely stumbled a few times but i reiterated that it was informal and everyone should feel free to jump in at any time. It made it more interactive, less nerve wracking. I made it through my first presentation. It wasn’t in front of a 5000 person crowded but 30 people was large enough to start. I watched myself back on tape and it actually wasn’t that bad – better than I expected. I needed to see the glass half full instead of half empty. I doubted myself because I never felt comfortable besides when I hid behind my emails. I knew I could articulate well in an email but it takes much more to actually talk to someone or a group face to face. Fast forward to my next job and I was faced with a marketing and sales position, constantly talking at ridiculously early or late hours to international customers on the other side of the globe. I was pushed out of my comfort zone again and although when you’re in the situation you don’t necessarily realize the benefits, I look back and perceive that portion of my career crucial in helping me feel comfortable with clients. And now…in my most current position – I will admit, there are still times when I feel a bit uneasy about a presentation or call but I remind myself that there’s a solution to all problems and if the question can’t be answered then, it can be answered later. I’m not the type of person to over prepare for tests or meetings. If I don’t know it, I most likely won’t know it in an hour or a day or two days when I have a call or presentation. Clients and vendors and coworkers are human too – we must not forget that. We strive to be the best but everyone makes mistakes – people accept them as long as you don’t make the same mistake over and over again. In all of this, I feel as though I have come a long way from my call and presentation phobia. I remind myself to just be me, be real. Don’t lie, don’t circle around the truth. I think this has helped me to form better relationships along the way. If I think something will or won’t work for a campaign, I’ll tell you. That’s my duty – take it or leave it but at least I was able to communicate it. I now feel as though I don’t have to hide behind my emails to communicate. I willingly pick up the phone regardless of whether it’s a small question. It’s good to hear voices – it’s good to have verbal conversations where the tone of you and the person on the other end can be determined more effectively than in email. Yes, I still do email constantly but when I look back on how scared I was to have a mere phone conference 4.5 years ago, I just have to giggle at myself. I’ve come a long way and for that I feel proud.
What do you think is the best way to communicate? Phone or email?
When you step back in life and are able to take a snapshot from the outside looking in, it’s amazing the things you’ll learn and see, even to those who truly believe they know everything. Today, I learned something valuable. Today, I learned something not so new, but surprising because it’s something I thought I would never experience. I never envisioned having a child when I was 26, let alone being able to bring on a full time Nanny to do all of the motherly tasks I cannot do while my husband and I work. I never envisioned any of it to be honest. I envisioned myself moving up the corporate ladder until my career peaked, monotony took over and by that point, I would be able to stay home anyways. Life doesn’t always work out with the plans you have in mind. As I was saying, today, I learned something valuable. On Monday, my nanny told me her and her husband would be moving to Fort Lauderdale so next Friday would be her last day since the commute would be too far north for her. I felt sweaty and nervous when she told me the news; who wants to have two weeks to find a replacement for someone caring for their child? I started looking but planned on phone interviewing over the weekend, aka tomorrow. The end of day today came and I walked out of my home office at the usual 5:30pm to see my son beaming with smiles and giggles from ear to ear as soon as he saw me come around the corner. It’s crazy how the little things in life make you so grateful after you see those traits passed on to a child you’ve created. Everything your mom always said was true – we all just never believe it until it’s a reality in our own lives. The nanny, standing in the kitchen, thanks me for the opportunity…I was startled. I said, “wait, you’re coming back until next Friday.” She continued to say no, this Friday. The language barrier confused her with this versus next Friday. Today was her last day, I just wasn’t aware of it. I was upset and flustered but thanked her and said my son would miss her – what else could I do? Beg her to come back next week? She proceeded to walk out of my front door like she had never even watched my son. 6 months of growing, learning, developing since my baby was 5.5 weeks old and not a single tear shed, not one emotional bone in her body. She left like she never existed. It hit me then. A job is just a job. I always knew it was but it took today to make me realize that it’s really just that, a job. I couldn’t be mad at her, how could I be? She wasn’t hired to love him, she was hired to take care of him as her job. All this time, I would tell people, “my nanny loves Luca” but in actuality, she was just doing her job. He loved her because it was all he knew during the week and he’s not developed mentally enough to know that’s not a person to be a “forever” figure in his life. She was good at her job and it was an illusion to me, his mother, that she loved him. It turns out, a not so positive day turned into a valuable lesson in my life. I think all of us do it but don’t realize it. Some more than others, some less. If you walked out of your job tomorrow, would you have regret or be able to move forward without remorse because it was just that, a job?
1 pack of organic, thinly sliced chicken breasts (mine came with 3 breasts)
Chopped fresh Thyme (1 tablespoon for chicken seasoning and 1 tablespoon for pot pie seasoning) and for garnish if you want to get fancy
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Sage
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 cups chopped carrots into thirds
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and chopped into thirds
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
5 white mushroom caps, stems removed
1.5 cups low fat milk
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch, 1 tbsp cold water
1 package phyllo dough
3 tbsp melted butter
Salt, pepper, Adobe all purpose seasoning, red pepper flakes (optional)
A LOT OF PATIENCE 🙂
I don’t know why but I was craving chicken pot pie on Monday night after working the entire day…weird, I know. I just wanted comfort food…something mushy, gooshy, delicious and satisfying. Little did I know what I was getting myself into on a weeknight but hey, it turned out amazing so I’ll let myself slide. You most likely don’t have a 4 month old screaming baby that interrupts your chopping carrots every 5 minutes…or maybe you do. In all seriousness, I think the dish may have not been such an ordeal if my baby boy didn’t know that he should cry at the exact time my hands were covered in flower or particles of mushroom. It’s like they sense you cooking and their internal baby instincts make them cry at the exact moment of you chopping up carrots and shredding chicken. I think it took me 30 minutes just to shred the chicken. Of course as his mother, I wash my hands and tend to him on command at every cry but he’s the cutest thing on earth so it’s okay in my book.
I was searching the web for chicken pot pie recipes that were “lighter” than the normal cream and pie crust but couldn’t find any with more than 3 star reviews. I guess no one has perfected their chicken pot pie on the first 4 pages of Google where I was searching. Most of the reviews said that the pot pies were bland or runny…ew. That’s okay…I would for sure give this recipe at least 4.5 stars. Not because I am biased…because it was really good. My husband honestly didn’t care for it but his only “love” meal is chicken parm so I can’t really go by his judgement; however, my sister and friend said it was great. I’ll stand by their review. I even had the leftovers for dinner the next day and it tasted just as yummy. It’s not a 1.2.3 quick meal so leave yourself some time to cook this. All in all, it took me about 2 hours between prep and cook time but I think next time I would do the prep work before hand and have the right ingredients. I threw this together with fresh mushrooms, fresh carrots and well…I sat and meticulously picked out the corn, green beans and peas from a frozen bag of assorted vegetables because I didn’t have any in the house. DON’T DO THAT…what in the world was I thinking? Obviously you will have fresh veggies readily available and not be the crazy lady picking minuscule sized corn out of a jumbo size assorted frozen veggie bag. PS – don’t mind my grease streaked oven in the pictures I am going to post…not sure what that’s about. Maybe I need a cleaning lady!
Note: If your phyllo dough is frozen like mine was, take out of your freezer about 3-4 hours in advance and put in your refrigerator.
Step 1: Cooking the chicken.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a glass baking dish, coat 1 pack of thin chicken breasts (mine came with 3 thin chicken breasts- I use organic) on both sides with a little olive oil, salt, pepper. Chop up about a tablespoon of fresh thyme and 1 tbsp of sage leaves. Sprinkle the fresh herbs on both sides of the chicken and pat down so everything is adhered to the chicken breasts. If you prefer pan frying the chicken instead of cooking in the oven, by all means, go ahead.
Bake the chicken for 20-30 minutes until completely cooked. Once the chicken is cooled a bit, shred the chicken with two forks and set aside.
Step 2: Chopping your veggies and herbs
While your chicken is cooking, take 2 cups of baby carrots and chop each one into thirds. Chop up 5 white button mushroom caps (stem removed) into small cube size pieces. Chop 1/2 of 1 yellow onion into cube size pieces. If using fresh green beans, chop each green bean into thirds. Set aside 1 cup of frozen peas and 1 cup of frozen corn to thaw a bit. Chop up 1/4 cup of Italian parsley and 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme. Also mince 2 tablespoons of fresh garlic.
Step 3: Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, place your carrots in the pan (do not add any seasoning at this point). The carrots take a while to soften. Mix every few minutes until the carrots are softened, about 10-15 minutes. Once you can pierce with a fork without much resistance, add your chopped onion and fresh chopped green beans in with the carrot. Let these veggies hang out for a few minutes until they are somewhat softened. Add in your mushroom and your minced garlic. Mix for 1-2 minutes.
Step 4: Liquids
In a measuring glass or bowl, pour 2 cups of low sodium chicken broth mixed with 1/3 cup of all purpose flour. Dissolve the flour into the chicken broth by mixing with a spoon or whisk.
Taking your 1.5 cups of low fat milk, alternate pouring in the chicken broth mixture and the milk, mixing as you go along. The sauce will begin to thicken over the veggies.
Take your 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with cold water (mix this so that the corn starch is dissolved) and slowly pour into your pan. Mix and cover the pan on low-medium heat for 10 minutes (stirring occasionally). The sauce should be getting very thick. If you don’t like this thick, omit the corn starch mixture. I like mine not watery at all so I prefer to make it as thick as possible. Here is where you season this baby up and I used A LOT of seasoning. I kept tasting it and finding it way too bland. Add in salt, pepper, Adobe All Purpose Seasoning to your liking (a good amount of it) and because I’m weird, I added in red pepper flakes to kick this up a notch.
At this point after you have seasoned and are happy with the flavor, gently stir in your shredded chicken, peas, corn, chopped parsley and fresh thyme. Stir to incorporate.
I used ramekins for cooking individual pot pies but you could use a larger dish if you like.
Take the veggie and chicken mixture and spoon into your ramekins – I had 5 oval ramekins filled to the top.
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the microwave in a bowl. In another bowl, crack and whisk 1 egg mixed with 1 tsp of water.
Next, open your phyllo dough package and cut the sheets in half. Take a sheet of the dough and place over the ramekin. Using a cooking brush, brush a light layer of butter over the top of the sheet. Fold in the edges so that nothing is hanging over the sides. Continue to put another layer of phyllo dough on top of the first, brushing with butter. Fold in the edges. Do this with a 3rd sheet of phyllo except do not brush the top of this one with butter. Once you cover all ramekins with the 3 sheets of dough, use your brush to top each last sheet of phyllo on the tops of the ramekins with a light layer of egg wash. This will ensure your pot pies comes out nice and crispy.
Last but not least, cut a small slit in your pot pies so steam can escape while in the oven.
Stick your pot pies in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown (I put mine on a baking sheet in case anything oozed over while baking…which is did). WARNING: these were seriously so hot when I took them out of the oven – I suggest waiting a few minutes before trying to put any of this deliciousness into your mouth.