Chicken Tortellini, Anyone?

What if I told you that all you needed for a quick meal is chicken, tortellini noodles and pesto sauce? Easy, right? I KNOOOOOOOW!! This is one of the tastiest and simplest dishes that I know of…like seriously. Every time I serve it to people and tell them how to prepare it, they immediately ask, “That’s it?” Yuuuuup…let’s get started!

Hanging in my kitchen where all the magic happens!

First things first…grocery list: 1 pack of boneless, skinless chicken tenders or breasts, a large bag (or 2 small) of frozen tortellini. I use the cheese tortellini, but they have spinach & cheese and other variations. Lastly, you’ll need a jar of pesto sauce. That is it-uhhh!!

Ok, so begin by boiling water in a large pot and be sure to add a hefty dash of salt. While waiting for the water to come to a boil, cut the chicken in small cubes. Add a bit of olive oil to a pan and once the oil starts to sizzle, add your chicken. Season with seasoning salt and pepper and saute until golden brown. Once the water is boiling, carefully pour your frozen noodles in and stir occasionally. They are done when they float to the top – usually in about 5-7 minutes.

Once the pasta is drained it should remain in the pot and the chicken can be added to it. Continue to add pesto sauce to that mixture until the chicken and pasta are evenly coated. Voila…you’re ready to serve!!

Chicken Tortellini with Pesto Sauce

On a personal note, I enjoy adding a few drops of zesty Italian dressing to my bowl. It adds a bit of extra flavor, ya know?

Now don’t get me wrong, you can certainly roll your own pasta dough or make your own pesto, but uhhhh…ain’t nobody got time for that! Just sayin’…

Let me know if you get a chance to make this and tell me in the comments what you think!

xoxo

Lea

One Day At A Time…

“Did I say something wrong?” “Oh nooo, she is taking so long to respond. Maybe I was offensive.” “What’s going to happen if I say no?” “I’m probably coming on too strong…I should fall back a little.” “Why am I in a bad mood? I can’t shake this feeling…” “Man, it really doesn’t seem like I’m connecting with anyone today.”

These are a just a few examples of some of the thoughts that run through my head on what should be a “normal” day. I’ve realized three things in the last couple of years: 1) because of it I never have a “normal” day; 2) there are lots and lots of people who suffer from it and experience the same feelings I do but never talk about it; and 3) it has become more evident as I get older.

The “it” that I am speaking about is anxiety. I believe that most people deal with some form of anxiety in one way or another. I have figured out a way to function through it somehow. Now, am I functioning well? I’m not really sure. I have avoided medication and therapy, which some have found to be extremely helpful, I’m sure.

I find myself questioning so many more things than I used to. Is it good enough? Will they like it? Then, I talk myself out of doing whatever it is I wanted to do. It has been YEARS since I’ve done this. It bothers me that I am back in a place that I thought I had escaped from. Maybe it never went away…I just suppressed it somehow.

Photo by Tammy Gann on Unsplash

It’s hard to determine what kind of day it will be when I wake up every morning. Some people go to sleep happy because something great has happened that day, and then they wake up with that same energy. That doesn’t happen with me. I can go to sleep happy over the same news the other person was happy about, but my next day may be filled with negative thoughts about why I shouldn’t be happy. I don’t even know if I’m explaining this accurately…I’m doing the best I can. The point is, it isn’t something that just “goes away” because you play a feel-good song or because someone says something funny.

Have I ever dealt with depression? Yup. Have I ever had thoughts of harming myself? Yes, albeit a very long time ago. The point is, I understand. I know what it is like to feel separated from everyone even when they’re close by. I know what it is like to think that life would be better for everyone else without you around. I know how hard it is to smile and laugh when you can’t even explain your feelings to anyone.

I get it. I hear you. I see you.

Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

I am not sure what the future holds, as none of us are. I just know that one day at a time, we will get through.

One day I won’t read and re-read…and then re-read again an unsent text message that would seem so simple to most. One day I won’t leave an email in draft for two days while I wrestle with myself over sending it – just because. One day I won’t agonize over telling someone I am not able to do something they’ve asked me to do. One day I’ll understand that it’s okay for me to take care of me first. One day I’ll allow myself to truly feel proud of my accomplishments…I think I have a few…(smile). One day I’ll accept that there are some people who genuinely enjoy being around me.

I am often asked if there is anything I don’t do. But they don’t reallllly know why I keep myself so busy. I work from home full-time, I write for my blog, my husband and I have a small catering business, I braid hair and I do my fair share of online shopping. I keep myself busy so that my mind is occupied. I think that’s why if there is ever a moment that I have down time, I grab a crossword puzzle or get a new jigsaw puzzle to keep my brain busy. Otherwise, I will sit and think about who said what, who did what, maybe I should have…, I wonder if… basically just getting myself worked up for no apparent reason. I am good at creating scenarios in my head about things that have not actually happened, and may never.

Shirt & skirt: New York & Co.
Shoes: ShoeDazzle

Someone once told me that every time they see me I’m smiling…I make a conscious effort to do that. I think that’s a step in the right direction. I make sure to focus every day on what will truly make Lea happy and I commit myself to doing just that. I am trying to get more sleep, relax more, exercise to ease the tension in my neck & back that is constant…anything that will help me cope.

I am grateful for such a strong support system – some of whom know exactly what I am feeling because they too, experience it. I love having the opportunity to be so open without feeling judged. I can say that for the most part I am happy. My husband and I have a strong, loving marriage. Our children are all amazing. I am excited about my career path and other business ventures.

Are there days when I do not want company or want to be around a lot of people? Yes and I’m not talking about just not being in the mood – I literally have gotten body aches over it and became irritable. My husband is so dope, ya’ll. He totally gets me. Never forces me or makes me feel like I’m disappointing him for not going somewhere. He understands that crowds aren’t my thing, even though he thrives in those environments. I often wish I could command a room like he does…maybe one day. We are total opposites in so many ways, but we fit together perfectly. I am grateful for him…

Do I have days where my brain is consumed with thoughts of sad events or self-doubt? Yes, I do…but I also know that I can take it to the Lord in prayer. I can fall into the arms of my husband. I can call my sister and unload…some people don’t have anyone. You feel alone and misunderstood.

Well, you have me. We can start there…

xoxo

Lea

What Feeling Alone Can Reveal

It’s obvious that you’re alone when you are the only one in the house – unless you have some spooky things going on…just sayin’. You also may feel alone when you start a new job or school and nobody knows your name. But what about when a lot of people do know your name, or if you are in a room full of people? Can you still feel alone? Absolutely!

Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash

Listen, there have been times when I felt like no one could possibly understand what I was feeling. It was almost like a wave of sadness came over me and I didn’t know what to do with it, or how to get through it. In times like these, we have to decipher what is really being revealed to us. Our mind likes to play tricks on us sometimes. We often believe that no one cares or that no one can relate. We are shown these false images of people but have no idea what they are battling on the inside. I used to be guilty of this myself, which is why I try to be so transparent at this point of my life. I know that there is someone that needs to know that everything isn’t always good. GOD IS! But our situations are sometimes just….bad! We don’t like to talk about those times because we want people to think of us in a certain way. I get it! Trust me…

I used to feel weak and way too vulnerable when there were moments of doubt or uncertainty. Rather then talk about them, I would just keep plugging along until it hopefully fixed itself or caused me to distance myself from certain people. I know now that it wasn’t the best method to deal with my issues or challenges, but I’m a work in progress. I still find myself pulling away from people when I don’t believe that my presence will make a difference one way or another. In those moments, I have talked myself out of feeling needed, wanted or even loved.

Photo by Zach Guinta on Unsplash

I remember being a teenager – in a bit of an awkward stage (yeah, I can admit it). I used to be my sister’s plus one any time she had plans to hang out with her friends. Lucky her…lol. It got to a point where she would get out to go inside someone’s house and I would opt to stay in the car. Of course, at that time, she wasn’t necessarily coaxing me to join her. She probably didn’t think much of it because at that time in our lives we weren’t nearly as close as we are now. She had the attention of boys, lots of friends and invitations to events and she is just so stinkin’ cute! I, on the other hand, was a bit of a tomboy with big glasses and, admittedly a little mean and rough around the edges. That is the time that I began to write poetry because I didn’t know what else to so with what I was feeling inside. That was one of the BEST things I could have done….

Photo by Kat Stokes on Unsplash

So, let’s talk about what is revealed in our alone time…

Everybody is not going to be your cheerleader. Nope. Just get that out of your head right now. If you are looking to be pumped up and celebrated every time you accomplish something you are going to be disappointed a lot. Sure, you will get the initial “Congratulations!” or “Good job!” But then…it might get radio silent and you may begin to feel alone and unsupported. Some of your biggest supporters will be people you don’t even know. Ask me how I know! My advice: don’t stop doing what you’re doing! You are going to touch the people that need to be touched. Those that want to hear about what you’re doing will find you.

You need an outlet. In my case, I am blessed to have my husband and my sister to talk to when I’m in my feelings. I also have my poetry…I LOVE to write and that is the best way I know to express what I’m feeling. This blog has become extremely therapeutic as well, which is why I had to stop worrying about who subscribed, who didn’t, who left a comment…it is helping ME! My prayer is that it is helping others as well. Some people find an empty studio and just dance, others paint…whatever you can do to release…do it! Talking to a neutral party is encouraged because it is always good to just say things out loud sometimes.

You are being prepared for something bigger.¬†Often¬†times, when you are feeling alone it is God’s way of preparing you for what else is in store. You can’t always be around the same people, same drama, same location and then expect different outcomes. That alone time is a good opportunity for you to really take inventory of who you allow in your space. People are often held back just because they don’t want to offend anyone or they’re worried about what someone may say…at some point, you have to decide that those thoughts will not determine your next move.

Alright, I’ve kept you long enough…I just really wanted to share this with you. It’s okay to talk about these feelings. Doing so can create a support system that you may not have. More people than you think feel this way in normal, everyday life. I am genuinely grateful for any and every one who has shown their support in some form or fashion throughout my entire life. It is the fuel that keeps me pushing…I do know now that I am not alone. It just took me a while to get here….

How do you cope in those moments when you feel alone? Share below in the comments!

xoxo

Lea

It’s Tough Being A Superhero!

Worn out is an understatement. Can I just be completely honest for a few moments? Walk with me, here…

So, Mondays are already tough enough…after enjoying a weekend of relaxation (only because the weather forced it on me) it was time to get back into swing of things. You are all family now, so you know I have:

Three children to send off to school every morning. Three different schools. Three different times.

Yup, you heard that right. Oldest leaves at 6 am, middle leaves at 6:40 am and the youngest leaves at 8:45 am. I’m driving to/from bus stops all week because it’s COLD, answering calls from the school nurse and/or teacher, taking time helping my little guy with homework that doesn’t get turned in because he “forgot,” going back and forth to the grocery store because I have a sixteen year old boy that thinks every food item is bought specifically for him so he eats it all with no consideration for anyone else in the house! (Takes a breath) Yes, I know that was a run-on sentence, but I had to get it out the same way I was thinking it.

So, all week long it has felt like the beginning of the week…kind of like that movie Groundhog Day, where every day that the main character woke up was the exact.same.day. Spoiler alert: It turns out it was up to him to change his decisions and the day would change. Of course, this was after days and days of things going completely wrong. I guess this week was my “groundhog day”. I am making a conscious decision to make tomorrow different.

I am convinced that women are superheroes…my husband doesn’t really enjoy multi-tasking. He has to focus on each task one by one. Must be nice. What’s funny is that my children know this and if he is working on something they leave him alone. I can be working on my computer, and all at the same time my daughter is reading me a poem she wrote, my oldest son is telling me about a show he watched, and my youngest has walked from the vicinity of his dad allllllll the way around the bed to ask me to open something for him. Sigh… I have just learned to embrace this superhero status, take each day as the Monday it is and keep my house running smoothly.

So, to all of my fellow women – mothers in particular – just put your cape on and wear it proudly. The world would clearly crumble without us in it. Yay us. Make the best out of your “Monday” tomorrow and try to take some time to rejuvenate on the weekends…because when the following week starts that cape better be washed, pressed and ready to go!

xoxo

Lea

Mother’s Day Staycation!

Have you ever thought about what it would feel like to spend actually spend Mother’s Day away from the kids this year? Now, don’t get me wrong…I looooooove my kids. I really do. Butter-ummm…sometimes us moms need an actual BREAK!

I have a few fabulous ladies who were willing to go along with me with this craaaazy idea. We call ourselves the Hot Mamas (HMs). Yep, you read that right. Don’t judge us. We have earned the right to be over 40 (or just under) and still bask in all of this hawwwt-ness. So, anyway…we decided to leave the husbands and the children behind and take what we called our Mother’s Day Staycation.

(l to r) Ashaa, Naomi, Lea & Zakiyyah

First, we booked two double rooms at a hotel across town that was near the restaurant we planned to go to. Our HM Ashaa surprised all of us by booking a masseuse to come to our hotel and give us each a full body massage. WHAT?! It was amazing and sooooo needed. After our massages it was time to eat at one of our fave restaurants – The Cheesecake Factory. I love to just order a bunch of appetizers and share them…so good! The mini chicken sandwiches and the crab bites are a couple of my favorites!

After a great night of rest, the next day we headed out to Painting With A Twist to create our butterfly masterpieces. What a fun activity! Take it from me, you do not have to be an artistic person to have a great time. I draw stick figures and bubble letters pretty well, but that’s about it! However, I was able to truly zone out and enjoy myself. My daughter actually has my painting hanging up in her bedroom, so I guess it can’t be that bad.

Next we stopped at Phipps Conservatory, which is a pretty cool place that has beautiful flower gardens and great scenery. You know what that means, right? PICTURE TIME!! Yep, we had our own impromptu photo shoot. To finish out our afternoon, we detoured to Rita’s Italian Ice to indulge in a few mango-flavored water ices…when do we ever get to do that without the kids?!?

All in all, it was a great time – we were able to be silly, have adult convos, eat our food uninterrupted, sleep in peace…yeah, you get it. We did miss our kiddos, though, and were excited to get back home to celebrate with them on that Sunday. It was a much needed staycation and we may need to schedule a few more of those…

Let me know in the comments what kind of things you and your friends like to do to just take a break from everything?

You’re Not Guilty!

How many of you have walked around a store and filled your arms up with clothes only to put every single thing back where you got it from – or if we’re being honest, just in a clump on top of the first shelf you see… Oh, we’re not admitting that today? So, I’m alone here, huh?

I’m not ashamed. I can admit it. That’s the first step to working through this “problem”. I think part of the issue is simply my guilt in spending money on myself. The other part is that I’m clearly indecisive.

I hereby announce that we should no longer feel guilty about buying things for ourselves! Even if you have to give yourself a pep talk like you’re about to play in the big game, do whatever it takes! Why? Because you deserve it. You do. Say it with me…”I DESERVE IT!” Yes!!! You deserve that nice, cozy sweater you saw looking so snug on the mannequin. You deserve the pair of jeans you keep walking past because the last pair you bought was back in 2014. You should treat yourself to that stiletto that is clearly calling your name from across the room…I know that “call” all too well. I just simply respond, “I’m coming…”

Listen, we spend all of our time, energy and money on being good mothers and providers. We save, scrimp, scrape, struggle, stress and sell stuff just so we can put a smile on our kids’ faces. Well, now it’s time to put a smile on our own faces. Maybe I was aiming too high with the clothes and shoes…heck, it’s even okay for you to take a long shower when you want to, eat the last handful of chips, kick everybody out of your room for an hour…and no, you do not have to share your food! Why? Because if your little person is like my little guy, HE ALREADY ATE!! Do you, boo!! You are NOT GUILTY of anything!!

Tell me in the comments what you have committed to doing this year for YOU!

xoxo

Lea

FOODIE FRIDAY: Spaghetti & Meatballs

I looooove Italian food. Spaghetti and meatballs is a favorite in my house, but not just any meatballs…Ricotta Beef Meatballs. Hand-rolled. Yep, that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Now, let’s not get too carried away…I am the first to admit that I use store-bought pasta and I prefer marinara over spaghetti sauce. One of my favorites is Emeril’s Home Style Marinara, in case you’re wondering.

In order to make the meatballs, I combine ground beef, ricotta cheese, eggs, sauteed shallots, fresh parsley, and bread crumbs. Once combined, I roll them into whatever sized meatball I want and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Hand-rolled meatballs ready for the oven…

They are then ready to get into a 350 degree oven to bake for about 20-25 minutes. Oven temperatures vary so be sure to keep an eye on them to avoid overcooking. Otherwise, they may get too dry.

While the meatballs are baking, drop your pasta into boiling water and chop up some extra parsley to add to your finished dish. Pour the marinara sauce into a sauce pan and heat it up, as well. Add a tablespoon or two of pasta water to your sauce to add a little flavor and thicken the sauce a bit.

Once your pasta is al dente and drained and your marinara sauce is heated up, heap a healthy serving of pasta onto a plate, spoon some marinara sauce on top (I like my pasta saucy!), add a few meatballs and some additional marinara. Finally, top it with the chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese and voila! Dinner is served.

Spaghetti and Ricotta Beef Meatballs

I was a bit vague with the recipe, so if you have specific questions or need more detailed steps, let me know in the comments. I’m happy to help!

xoxo

Lea

FOODIE FRIDAY: Hold The B.S., Please…

This is not something I hear in my house…no one requests to hold the Brussels Sprouts! You may not be ready to admit it, but Brussels Sprouts are making a comeback. A strong one. Gone are the days of unseasoned, steamed, smelly, tiny heads of cabbage. Now, they are sauteed in butter and garlic with a generous pinch of sea salt and crushed black pepper. When I want to indulge a bit, I throw some beef bacon in there for taste & texture. Hellooooo…it’s bacon – no one’s complaining about that. Well, unless you don’t eat beef. Or meat, but I digress…

Brussels Sprouts can also be spread on a baking sheet, kissed with a splash of extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and topped with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Roast them under the broiler until they are a crispy, golden brown.

Brussels Sprouts sauteed in butter & garlic

If that doesn’t make your mouth water, then we may need to re-evaluate our relationship. I, personally, have always enjoyed eating Brussels Sprouts, but I cannot say the same for my husband. Before we were married, there was absolutely no way in the world he would’ve even entertained the idea – totally based off of his experience as a child.

Now, if you ask him what one of his favorite side dishes is, he will proudly boast about Brussels Sprouts. I mean, he tells everybody. “You have to try my wife’s Brussels Sprouts…” “You don’t like these? Oh, that’s because you haven’t had my wife’s…” While I appreciate the compliments (that come along with the pressure to make the best Brussels Sprouts ever after he’s bragged about them), I do understand that no matter how they are prepared, not everyone will love them. Sigh… I’ll just assume you hate puppies too.

At any rate, if you haven’t tried Brussels Sprouts since your childhood, I hope you’ll give them another chance. Try something new and different. You may surprise yourself. Let me know how it goes!!

xoxo

Lea

Pink shoes. That is all.

If you don’t already know…pink is my faaaaavorite color. And as my BFF, you should already know about my obsession with shoes. So, if you combine the two…color and shoe…I’m a happy chick!

This shoe is from Charlotte Russe and I gotta tell you, they never disappoint. Not only are the shoes stylish, they are extremely affordable. Charlotte Russe has a great selection and there is always a sale to take advantage of. I bet if you go to the site right now, there is some kind of sale. Go ahead…I’ll wait.

These heels can be paired with a cute pair of fitted cuffed jeans, a skirt like the one I’m wearing in the picture above from Forever 21 or a cute sundress. If I’m being completely honest, these shoes are really comfortable – don’t let the heel fool you. I really wish I had more opportunities to wear them this past summer, but I was busy with my other 2,673 pairs of shoes.

You know I can read your thoughts, right? This is supposed to be the “No Judgment Zone”. Smh… Just head over to Charlotte Russe and check it out! Let me know in the comments what great deals you found.

xoxo

Lea

FOODIE FRIDAY: Caprese Salad Skewers…perfect appetizer!

I absolutely LOVE Caprese Salad… I wanted to create a spin on the salad for the dinner I was preparing for this year’s Diner En Blanc event. (If you’ve never been, check this link out: www.dinerenblanc.com) Anyway, I headed over to Pinterest to get a little inspo. I saw a few examples but this is one I absolutely fell in love with.

Caprese Salad Skewers

Fresh mozzarella cheese, peppery basil and plump tomatoes drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette…oh my gooooodness! My mouth is watering even now! I added some turkey pepperoni to give it a bit of saltiness as well. Stack it all on a toothpick and go to town!

This dish is quick and inexpensive to prepare. Those are key words, especially when you want to save money and don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen before it’s time to entertain. The skewers can also be prepared in advance – you can reserve the olive oil/vinaigrette drizzle for right before you serve.

I promise this dish will be a huge hit and it is quite filling so don’t eat too many at once! If you get a chance to try out this dish, let me know what you think in the comments. Enjoy!

xoxo

Lea