Easy Italian Dinner With Just Four Ingredients

Every so often I get a raging guilt sensation if a considerable amount of time has gone by where I haven’t cooked for my better half.  Did I just write better half in my blog?  What, am I like 65 now?  Okay, anyways, the other night I had no intention of cooking and there it was, the “you should be a better wife and cook for your husband” devil sitting on my left shoulder.  And on my right shoulder was the angel who gave me the idea of whipping together a meal from ingredients I already had at home.  I think I just stole that line from Rachel Ray or Bethenny Frankel.   I whipped up a chicken basil pesto pasta in about 20 minutes and I have to admit, it was good.  And please, no judging.  If you saw our schedules, you would understand why cooking homemade meals, if that’s what we would even call the below, takes the back burner.  Pun intended.  Enjoy 😉

Thinly sliced chicken breasts

Secret cheater ingredient - jar of basil pesto sauce (I know, I know...)

My incredible addition - fresh tomatoes

Final product! It was good 🙂


Continue To Be Bright Pink. And Love Your Boobs.

I have heard from at least five people today on how fast fall is whipping through the Midwest and I couldn’t agree more (I actually exaggerated this morning that I needed to go get my turkey out of the oven as Thanksgiving is about five minutes away).  Christmas music is now on that crazy Delilah radio station that I actually live for as I am obsessed with Christmas and fine, I MAY have listened to the Jessica Simpson Christmas album once or twice on my fall runs.  Starbucks launched their holiday cups today.   Wow, fall is flying by and I am not sure why or where it went.  Sigh.  For me, it may be because I was either on an airplane, attending 436 meetings, networking at TED,  on 320 conference calls, planning wedding showers, planning a charity event, celebrating my one-year wedding anniversary, running, reading Danny Meyers’s Setting the Table or sleeping.  Good excuses.  But, excuses nonetheless.  I did get to see amazing fall foliage in Galena, Illinois this past weekend so that’s a plus.

As I reflect on fall so far, there is one thing that stands out to me and one that I want to stop, pause and pray on:  A time  period that arguably is the most important in our country during the fall season that holds SOME place in everyone’s lives:  Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The extraordinary work of so many organizations, companies and people with regard to Breast Cancer Awareness  has, to me, been incrementally more alive, more visual and more social this year.  Linebackers in pink.  American Airlines website in pink.  Women wearing pink.  Buildings in Chicago lit in pink.  Celebrities supporting the cause (in fact, Bethenny Frankel just posted something today).  Pink cocktails.  Today is November 1 so technically it’s over, but how can we have that same level of momentum all year-long?  After meeting such incredible social entrepreneurs in the past month, I  decided that once or twice a month I will dedicate one of my blogs to one of these people or one of their companies with the hopes that even ONE person could be impacted and/or convicted to do something.

And this month in an effort to continue the momentum and support the cause, I wanted to write about an amazing woman named Lindsay Avner, Founder and Executive Director of Bright Pink.

Okay, moving right along.  Here’s the deal.   About 6 months ago, my friend JR said to me, “Ann, I have a woman you have to meet.  Her name is Lindsay and she runs a non-for-profit called Bright Pink to help prevent breast and ovarian cancer and you will love her…”  That was the simplified version, there were many more superlatives and reasons behind why I should meet her, according to JR.  Wow, I thought.  She sounds amazing.  Time went by, I didn’t meet Lindsay.  And then, two weeks ago, Lindsay Avner magically appeared in my network for the TEDx Midwest conference.  It was clear to me God was telling me I needed to meet her 🙂  So, I connected with her through Facebook and told her who I was and that JR Kerr thinks we would like each other.  So random and sort of stalker-esque.  But if you know JR, he’s usually spot on with this stuff so I trusted him.  And low and behold, I see Lindsay in the midst of over 1,000 people at TED.  I made sure to grab her (not literally…come on, people), introduce myself in person and I instantly could sense why JR spoke so highly of her.  Her energy, her poise, her sweetness and the fact that she has dedicated her life to trying to help women all over the United States be proactive about understanding their risks of getting breast and ovarian cancer.  Wow.

As quoted from Bright Pink’s website, “Bright Pink is a national non-profit organization that provides education and support to young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. We arm young women with knowledge, options and a great attitude, and offer companionship and empathy during their journey. We empower them to take control of their breast and ovarian health and in turn, grant them the freedom and peace of mind to live a beautiful and fulfilling life.”  There is an amazing video that explains this even further…I strongly encourage you to check it out.

So, a huge round of applause to Lindsay Avner and her incredible team at Bright Pink.  They offer loads of education, support (PinkPals – I know I would need many of these if I was going through something as tough as cancer) and a huge community of people and sponsors to help the cause.   Everything from networking events, becoming a sponsor, speaking with a genetic counselor, online forums, outreach groups and so much more, Bright Pink has truly done an amazing job being an innovative non-for-profit organization.

And the ask of you (ladies) today is:  Do some homework about your boobs, give them love, for a brighter future.  Get involved.  Educate yourself.  Donate your time.  Be Brilliant, Be Bold, Be Bright Pink.

[photo credit: http://www.brightpink.org]

A Place of Yes…Admittedly.


Okay, here goes.  Big confession.  I love Bethenny Frankel.  Yes, there it is.  I love Bethenny Frankel.  I do.  She had me when I randomly stumbled upon one of her last TV shows, “Bethenny Getting Married?” as I laughed at her dry sense of humor, loved her dog, Cookie, cried at her realism, awed at her professional experience and innovation and overall was wow’d by her life.  She also had me at her Skinny Girl Margarita’s.  Now let me back up a few steps as I clearly wasn’t patient enough to leave my big reveal to the end.

Over the last few years, I have grown to love reading. In the beginning it may have been the occasional James Patterson thriller or Sweet Valley High series (who remembers that?!).  But I realized, for who I am, if I am going to dedicate my time to read, I better be learning something  and hopefully growing as a person.  And when I need to learn and I need inspiration, the bible is my book of choice.  Granted most times my prayer after reading the bible may sound a little like this: “God, thank you for the bible and your word, but today, I am confused about what you are trying to tell me…”  On one hand it can be frustrating, but on the other, that’s the beauty of God.  And I don’t believe God created amazing authors and artists for no reason so clearly, in addition to the bible,  diversifying my reading selection is a must.  I gravitate towards autobiography-type books (think Andre Agassi’s Open), leadership and career growth, non-fiction and every other month or so I throw in a fiction book (most recently Sarah’s Key which was amazing, heartbreaking and awakening).  When I saw Bethenny’s book, A Place of Yes, come out in late March, I was excited to get it and then equally annoyed by the sub-title of the book “10 rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life,” which completely turned me off to reading it.  It seemed selfish and self-serving.  For the first few months the book was out (and on the New York Times Bestseller list week after week after week), I did not buy it.  I had temptations, but I didn’t do it.  Although I loved her and her show, I was somewhat convinced the book was too typical…too predictable…too preachy.

As I strolled through O’Hare International Airport in early August on my way to New York City (ironically), I had some time to kill so Barbara’s Book Store drew me in for a little peak at the latest and greatest books, magazines and Moleskin journals.  I secretly was looking for A Place of Yes but didn’t see it.  I pretended to look around as if I was flexible and open-minded about my next read.  After about 34 seconds of casually perusing, I raced to the counter and desperately asked “do you have A Place of Yes?”  The lovely man behind the register didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.  So, he resorted to his computer.  After a few seconds of typing, he looked up at me and said with a smile, “ah, yes, it looks like we have one copy.’  Thank God, I thought.  We walked over to the self help section (I could have just made that up… I actually don’t remember what section of the store the book was in but it seems fitting) and low and behold, one copy left with my name written all over it.  Okay, Bethenny’s name written all over it.

Fast forward 3 weeks as I flew from San Antonio to Chicago I finished rule #10 of 10 of the book.  I looked at Rick and said for the fourth or fifth time, “I am so sad to be finishing this book.”

A Place of Yes is inspiring, admirable and funny.  It is Bethenny at her best, sharing her life (all of her life…what I love about her is she seemingly doesn’t hold anything back) and sharing 10 core pieces of advice on how to live in a place of yes, or what I think is living from a place of positivity, a place of hope, a place of honesty and a place of glass half full.   Bethenny has lived a rough life, a glamorous life, a healthy life, a city life, a real life, a life of a wife (two times), a life of a mom, a life of friend, a life of someone who comes from a place of yes.  My kind of gal.  Here are her 10 rules and my very short excerpt of each.   And while I wish I was getting paid for plugging her, I’m not.  I just really respect Bethenny and do recommend her book 🙂

1.  Break the Chain:  Essentially, take the positives from your upbringing, leave the rest behind.  Move past your mom, your dad, your siblings.  It’s YOUR life.  The past doesn’t have to equal your future.

2.  Find Your Truth:  Dig deep and confront who you are, why you are that way and what you want from your life.  Listen to your gut and be transparent with yourself.

3.  Act on It:  Make it happen.  Don’t rely on other people.  Do something for crying out loud!

4.  Everything’s Your Business:  This was one of my favorite rules and has helped me a lot already.  Basically, whatever you do each day, whoever you talk to, even at a family function or a corporate event, be aware, be engaged and be your best.  You never know who is going to mean what in your life at some point…

5.  All Road Lead to Rome:  Love this one also.  Nothing is a waste.  No job, no ex-boyfriend, no ex-husband or no past friendship is for no reason.  Everything serves a purpose and will likely grow you, build your character and your story…even if you have no idea at the time, when you get to Rome you will stop and say, “aahhh, now I get why I had to go through all that pain to…”

6. Go For Yours:  Set your goals and go after them.  Period.

7.  Separate From the Pack:  Being different is good.  Being lonely can also be good.  Step out of the crowd, get uncomfortable and be okay with being unique.  Besides, average is so 1990.

8.  Own It:  Keep your word, if you frick up, admit it.  If you have no clue what someone is talking about, say it.  If you lied, ask for forgiveness.  Remove the pride.  Be truthful.  Be real.   If your ego owns you, go back to rule #2.

9.  Come Together:  Not sure if you guys heard recently, but being social is the new black.  Two brains is better than one.  Two people are better than one.  Being open-minded to others is cool.  Asking for help is even cooler.  Taking a risk for a relationship.  Meeting a new person at a work event or at a mom’s social.  Having a child.  Helping your brother out by babysitting.  Going to church.  Volunteering.  Come together for the love of God!!

10.  Celebrate:  This was also a favorite of mine and I loved that she ended her book this way.  Don’t forget to take time to enjoy life.  To celebrate your success, or someone else’s (ahem, rule #9).  To celebrate your sibling(s), your friends, your parent(s), your job or your child.  To celebrate your husband for no reason at all.  To celebrate life by taking care of your body, your neighborhood, your city, the world.  Celebrate you.

[photo credits:  http://www.bethenny.com]

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