it’s all relative

Today I attended an 11-hour team building event for work. Typically, when I think of team building, visions of trust walks and relay races come to mind. Generally things I hate. Fortunately, today was more focused on strategic planning and new insights for our team.

The event was specifically for the Marketing department which is so large that many of us don’t have opportunities to work together very often. We engaged in various activities designed to help us reconnect and re-energize.

The first exercise was an ice breaker where we had to share our basic information and then describe what we’d do if we won the lottery. We also had to add our motto or personal battle cry.

When it was my turn I didn’t hesitate to reveal my motto: “it’s all relative.”

This is a statement we must’ve heard at least once a week throughout our teenage years. My Dad prided himself on ensuring Dan and I developed and maintained an authentic perspective. In essence, any time we got a bad grade, or in a fight with our friends, or felt we’d been served an injustice of any sort, Dad was there to remind us that our problems were small potatoes. No matter what we were dealing with, we lived in pretty ideal situations with privileged lives.

This is a mantra I’ve worked to remember my entire life. I’ve gone through what I consider to be challenging periods every so often, but it’s critical to remind myself that in the grand scheme of things, I’ll be just fine.

Happy birthday Dad, and thanks for such an important lesson.

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free your mind

Have you ever caught yourself committing an offense you find completely loathsome? I have. I do it all the time, actually. But I have to believe it’s part of human nature. A just cause to self reflect and keep on trucking.

I started thinking about this last night in class. I was starting a new course and wasn’t too excited. I was tired, hungry and really just didn’t feel like sitting for another four hours after working all day. By the time I sat down in class I had worked myself into a frenzy of negativity. I was convinced the class would be boring, the professor would be lame, the projects useless – all because I had the power to. I never once thought to reverse my perspective because at this point it was a full-fledged self fulling prophesy.

When the teacher walked in I immediately judged him based on his appearance. Longish hair? Unprofessional. Bright tie? Unsavvy. I even scoffed at his bio on the syllabus and the layout of his PowerPoint presentation.

Hello world, I’m an elitist.

Class began and I was pretty quickly proven completely wrong by this guy. Like, way wrong. He was brilliant. It was like sitting in a conference with Peter Bregman. As I contemplated how well the class was going my entire outlook improved.

It has been a long time since I’d been this interested and inspired by what someone else had to say. Everything out of his mouth was relevant and motivating. I generally keep quiet in class and rarely take notes, but last night I found myself engaging in conversations and taking down several pages.

Here’s the weird part – there was something mildly pleasant in being humbled this way. I can’t fully explain it, but it was somehow satisfying to feel like an idiot and experience a true paradigm shift.

This made me think about how many people and things I misjudge on a daily basis, based on looks or other trivial criteria. It also made me realize how much power we hold in our manner of thinking.

I can’t say I’ll be completely unbiased from here on out, because I’m not convinced that’s humanly possible, but I can say that this was cause to focus on being a bit more open-minded.

The Chicken Marsala Experiment

Sometimes I get motivated to try recipes I’ve never made before, largely to see if they’re actually as hard as I’ve always envisioned them to be. More often than not they’re fairly simple.

I googled recipes for chicken marsala and found a great one from Marguerite’s in Westport, MA.

I had to read the directions about seven times to figure out the process but it ended up being pretty quick and de-li-cious.

Chicken Marsala
1/2 cup olive oil
Flour for breading
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs for egg wash“`
1 8-ounce chicken breast cut into three pieces
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
2 tablespoons diced red peppers
2 tablespoons diced shallots
1 tablespoon sliced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
4 ounces Florio Sweet Marsala
3 ounces demi glace or beef stock, or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture. Place into the egg wash making sure to completely coat the chicken with egg wash, then dredge in flour once more. Carefully place the chicken into the hot oil, making sure not to splash the oil. Fry the chicken on both sides until golden brown, then pour off all but about a tablespoon of the oil. Reduce heat. Add a tablespoon of butter, red peppers, mushrooms, shallots and garlic and saute for about 3 to 4 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the Marsala wine, then reduce volume of liquid in the pan by half. Next, add the demi glace or stock and reduce the volume of liquid in the pan by about half again. Remove from heat. Finish with a tablespoon of butter, scallion, basil and salt and pepper. Serve with a starch and vegetable.

red pepper, shallots & garlic

chicken simmering in wine, butter and broth

tada!

I don’t know what button mushrooms are, so I bought regular sliced ones.  And I combined several of the steps listed here into one because it seemed easier. All’s well that ends well.