Monday Boost: An Ode to Schleppers

I name this hot muggy Monday, National Schlepper* Appreciation Day!  It is for all the people who think delivery is lazy (or too expensive), who run the office errands, the family errands, the boring “I know the CVS pharmacy is going to take forever” errands, and everything in between.  We work several (usually strange) jobs, commute on sweaty trains, kill two hours in the city without spending money because it isn’t worth going all the way home, and are not afraid to walk those fifteen blocks instead of spending $2.75 on the subway.  We are the ones that get strange glances and are asked “Wait, you’re walking there?”  And you say, “Yes!  I have legs!”  and carry on in the 94 degree heat.  You are the one that teaches on the Upper East Side, babysits in Flatbush, temps in the Financial District, lives in Queens, and makes it to Amelie on West 8th because they have a cheap happy hour.  All on Tuesday.  Today we should be proud.  And in my half-asleep blogging state today, I name this day for you.

*By “Schlepper” I mean, a person who schleps, or carries things all over the place.  It’s Yiddish. tried to tell me otherwise.  It is wrong.

$10 Wine Flights...

$10 Wine Flights…

When I was young, I always heard my mom talking about having to “schlep” all over the place.  To the store, to the bank, back and forth to work.  I realized pretty quickly after moving to NYC that I was destined to also live the life of a schlepper.  At one point in time, I had seven different possible jobs at once.  Seven.  One week I was just a babysitter, and then the next I was a babysitter, a secretary, a background actor, and a teaching artist, all depending on if I answered my phone in time to accept the work.  To say the least, it was a lot of running around with many clothing changes, snacks, and all the various crap you need to do these jobs.  I once carried 14 shoe boxes in a shopping bag on the 6 train during rush hour.  This will be my whiny story I tell our grandkids about walking uphill both ways in the snow.

Sometimes I jumped centuries.

Sometimes I jumped centuries.

I am always surprised by non-schlepper’s shock when you use a little more physical energy to do something than is normally required.  The other day, a caring coworker asked me if I needed help carrying a case of water bottles up to our office, and to not hurt myself.  I was tempted to say, “I work in theatre, I once carried a flight of steps up a flight of steps!”  But I didn’t feel like explaining because I was carrying water bottles…and didn’t want to sound like a jerk.


I was once paid $11 an hour to cover this wall in post-it notes…after buying a lot of post-it notes.  At many Staples.

But today, when I am not particularly high on energy, I was thankful to be part of this motivated bunch.  I had a fantastic weekend up in Boston with my college roommates – a group of fellow schleppers that know how to keep a friendship going despite living in different states after almost ten years of friendship.  But because of this wonderful weekend, I am a zombie.  A warm, tired, slightly overwhelmed zombie.  So when my office ordered lunch today, and I was faced with waiting an hour for a delicious sandwich or getting off my butt and picking up everyone’s delicious sandwich, I chose the latter, got the sunshine I desperately needed, and became the sandwich hero (hehe) of the day.  They may look at me like I am an overachieving pushover…but I got to get up and get outside.

Our schlepping will also: (all taken from American Heart Association)

  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Improve blood lipid profile
  • Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
  • Enhance mental well being
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
  • Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes

Ha!  So there!  Today is for us!  We will travel across state lines, borough lines, and out into the hot muggy day to get sh*t done.  I declare we all end the day with a glass of wine, that we all schlep to Trader Joe’s to purchase.



Two Dollar Last Chance Mums

I saved a plant yesterday.

I went to Pathmark near our new apartment during a particular grumpy morning.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been thrilled about our new town so far, especially the fulfilling job that doesn’t involve body-checking people on the Path train, fantastic friends nearby, and best of all- a porch to sit on.  And yet, I hit a slump yesterday morning.

An upside to our move…Montclair Bread Company Samoa Doughnuts.

An upside to our move…Montclair Bread Company Samoa Doughnuts.

The Pathmark near us is not the place to go if you need to feel better about the state of the world.  It’s A.) Disturbingly empty whenever I go, and B.) I wouldn’t surprised be if their produce section was made up of what the Whole Foods down the street decides to chuck.  It’s also tucked inside a plaza surrounded by recently closed businesses.  When I left, there was a man standing with two bird cages yelling, “I’ve got these finches!”  ….??!

So if you’re feeling odd about your day, don’t go to Pathmark.  Nonetheless it’s cheaper and closer, so we’re not complaining too much.  In the back of the store sat a table of very sad plants.  Drooping daffodils, rotting Easter flowers, and a few struggling roses.  A sign stood in front reading, “$2.00!  LAST CHANCE!” I desperately looked for something I could salvage.  Lo and behold, there was a a pot of yellow mums calling my name.  The leaves were completely slumped over and when you picked it up, half the petals fell onto the table.  It was the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree of Mums.  Determined to turn my morning around, I put it in my basket and accepted that I looked like the weirdo who was buying a dead plant to my three fellow shoppers.

This is NOT what my plant looked like.

This is NOT what my plant looked like.

The cashier’s words are what truly did it.  It’s funny when strangers say things that stick with you all day.  Maybe it’s because they’re strangers, and kind words are coming from a place of complete selflessness. He didn’t need to say anything about my dead plant.  But he did.  As I was walking away, he yelled, “You bring that plant back to life, BRING IT BACK TO LIFE!!”  Yes!!  Yes, cashier man!  I debated buying some finches from a screaming man, and headed home.

So as you can imagine, Ben was very confused when he found me on our back patio passionately watering a nearly-dead plant surrounded by grocery bags.  Two hours later, with the help of a lot of water, a very sunny spot, and a lot of pruning, the leaves stood back up.  It now looks like a real plant on its way to growing new flowers, not just a two dollar last chance mum.

I stayed outside on the porch for a good chunk of the morning and remembered that I came to this town feeling drained.  Drained of energy, of creativity, and of belief in my art.  I’ve had this blog for four years, and since then have moved farther and farther away from the city I tried so hard to work in.  Throughout my time working in NYC, I worked as: a secretary, a teaching artist, a barista, an auction assistant, a development administrator, a background actor, a post-it note display decorator, a props designer, a gas station promotor, a casting assistant, a scientist welcomer (long story), an exchange student conference organizer, a gift basket stuffer, a babysitter, an accidental Mac help-desk specialist, an audiobook recorder, a conference planner, and a database specialist (I punched holes in documents for four weeks). As thankful as I am to have all these jobs and experiences, I am TIRED.  Only two of these jobs on the list are related to acting.  So after almost five and a half years working in the city and trying to find time time to audition, I have to change my approach before I hate theatre altogether.

So I am working at an incredibly positive school while taking classes in the city until I am ready to return to the audition scene as a useful human being.  Because I wasn’t one.  I was a jaded, angry New Yorker that wanted to punch every musical theatre 20-something that still looked full of hope.  I felt everyone around me had more money, time, talent, and confidence than I did, which I know is bull, but I needed to get out to remember that.

I am very grateful for all these odd jobs.  If I hadn’t worked them, I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now, surrounded by adorable students and genuinely friendly coworkers.  Every office around me has a candy and girl scout cookie secret stash, including mine.  If I hadn’t marked this path out for myself, I wouldn’t have anywhere to go when I get burned out.

Coincidentally, I am reading a book called Brain Rules that describes the physical reaction your brain has to exercise and other stress-reducing activities.  You are actually feeding your brain.  Since I couldn’t go for a run without someone calling me “baby” in my old neighborhood, I am looking forward to my new running path and the less stressful town all around.  I am looking forward to perking back up and waltzing into Ripley Grier someday soon without looking like a droopy plant.


Where I'll be.

Where I’ll be.

So I am going to sit on my porch for a while with my glass of wine next to my revived flowers.  And when I no longer look like a two dollar last chance mum, I will head back to the races.  Until then, I hope to finish my book…or my play…or maybe just my bottle of wine to start.  In the meantime, I have a porch with extra chairs, extra wine, and extra plants that need watering for you city-dwellers that also need some porch time.  Don’t hesitate to come sit with us.


Happy Monday all, enjoy the sunshine:)

Never Fear 9-Layer Italian Goodness

Don’t fear your kitchen, friends!  I know many people who still say that they shy away from cooking recipes that involve anything past opening a Trader Joe’s bag and throwing it in a skillet.  Especially if you’re a creative type, there’s no reason for this.  You don’t have to own a million cookbooks, scour the internet for hours, or buy fancy schmany ingrediants from Whole Foods.

(This post brought to you by too many days stuck in the house with a cold and our trusty friend, Pinot Grigio)


The wine bottle in Ben shaped!

Ben and I have gotten to the point in this cold/bug where we want to eat everything in sight.  Unfortunately we’re not exactly on the upswing yet, which leaves us inside all day pondering when our immune systems will kick in and what fresh air feels like.  I suddenly had the urge to fill this food void with cooking.  And I highly recommend this tactic for whatever reason you may be feeling “stuck”.  Creating something, especially something that leads to yumminess, can help you feel less crappy about that stubborn acting career any day.

Below is a recipe filled with Parmesan cheese and advice on how not to be scared of preparing food…

A friend once told me that if you like a bunch of ingredients separately, not much can go wrong if you throw them all together in a pot and turn on the heat.  Add wine and a little knowledge of how foods get along, and that’s pretty much where I start.  This was vaguely inspired by some other recipes I sorted through, but in the end, I improvised.  And so can you!


It’s bubbling!! Hooray bubbling!

Never Fear 8-Layer Italian Goodness

(aka Baked Pasta Florentine Casserole with Parmesan Encrusted Chicken).  Apparently things with spinach are called Florentine because Catherine de Medici was really into Spinach and made it popular in Florence.  I hope some day I am named after cheese sauces made with beer.

Note: Using words  like “encrusted” make you feel and sound fancier in the kitchen

I admit this recipe has a lot of steps, but all of the ingredients are easy to come by and have multiple uses so are worth the money.

Encrusted Chicken

2 chicken breasts (preferably ones not full of creepy hormones, but you know, do what you can)

A bunch of Parmesan Cheese (I used the crappy Kraft stuff but if you use nicer cheese, you can use less salt and it will be crispier)

1 Egg white (If you’ve never separated an egg before, watch this video  Or come over some time, we’ll separate some eggs!  Hello wiiiine.)

Salt and pepper (and whatever spices inspire you.  Garlic salt always wins)

Spinach Business:

1- 10 oz package of frozen spinach

16 ounces of Ricotta Cheese

8 ounces of Shredded Mozzarella

1 egg

Salt and Pepper

Pasta Layer

Half a box of pasta of any shape (Except like spaghetti or something, that would get in the way.  Think about how you want the bites to feel.  No way to make that sound less creepy, I tried.)

Glob of pasta sauce you have in a jar in the fridge

Tomato Layer

2 large tomatoes

Olive Oil


Salt/Pepper/Other stuff

White wine (Pinot if you’re drinking it too!)

This recipe is all about timing, and it’s a great way to learn about juggling various things in the kitchen at once.  If the timing gets off, nothing bad happens, so don’t fret.  But the better timed it is, the faster you eat it.

1. Pour Wine

1a. (because I forgot to write this before and renumbering is for suckers) Preheat oven to 350.  If you have a convection setting, don’t use it.  It dries out meat.  Who knew!

1b. (again with the forgetting) Begin boiling water for pasta.  Add some salt.

2. Tomato Layer


Sliced! Fingers intact!

-Get a large sharp knife and slice the tomatoes in medium slices.

-Fill a container with olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and whatever your heart desires.  I have this nifty Trader Joe’s grinder that covers everything at once.   I highly recommend it.

-Distribute tomato slices in oil mixture and toss about

-Set aside to marinate (I’ve always said this word incorrectly.  Mer-ih-nate?  Mer-ee-ah-nate?

Note: Don’t refrigerate tomatoes.  They get grainy.

2a. Microwave frozen spinach for 3 minutes.  During the chicken prep, this should finish.  So just toss it in a strainer.

3. Encrusted Chicken

We're in the oven!

We’re in the oven!

-In a small bowl, separate your egg white and place yolk aside for later.

-In another bowl, pour some parm

-dip each piece of chicken in egg first and then roll around in parm.  Place each piece on the bottom of your casserole dish after swishing some olive oil on the bottom.

-You’re gross. Wash your hands.

-Bake for 15 minutes.

3a. At this point your water should be boiling, so throw in the pasta, cook for 7 minutes.  Not longer or it’ll be goo after you bake it.

4. Spinach Business


This picture is sideways. Do I want to go change it? No.

-Give your spinach in the strainer a good squeeze to get the rest of the liquid out.  I’ve studied that if you’re in a good mood when smushing food around, your meal will taste better.  Worth a try?

-Combine spinach, ricotta, a handful of mozzarella, salt and pepper, and that whole egg from before (both the egg white and yolk).  If you have extra ricotta left over, you can make lemon ricotta cookies, which I’m tackling tomorrow.

Mix it up, put it aside.

5.  Chicken is done!  If not, sit back and have some wine.


We’re out of the oven! Okay, the chicken will stop talking now.

-Take it out of the oven and slice into cubes.  If you slice against the grain of the chicken, it will be more tender.  Also, don’t fret if it’s not fully cooked, there’s time later.

Turn oven back on to 375.

6. Pasta is done! If not, you know what to do.

-Strain and add that glob of tomato sauce.  It gives it a little extra moisture.

7. The fun part

-You can really layer this how you like but this is what I did, from bottom to top:

Pasta, chicken, spinach business, thin layer of marinated tomatoes, pasta, chicken, spinach business, rest of tomatoes slices (I poured on the rest of the oil mixture on everything), mozzarella and Parmesan cheese until covered.

-Cover entire casserole dish (I didn’t have tinfoil so I put a cookie sheet on top.)

-Bake for 30 minutes, remove cover, bake for 15 more minutes.

-Casseroles should settle at room temperature for a little bit to congeal so depending on how much wine you’ve had, try to give it 5 minutes.

-Also, turn off the oven and stove.  Drinking and cooking can be sneaky.


And there you go, it’s been an hour and you’ve created something!  And now get to eat your art!  Hell, maybe you even wrote a blog post while it was cooking!

8. Continue to drink wine, wrap cat.