On Powerful Words

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I connected with my law school mentor this week. It’s been a while since we were in touch. She shared some good news I wanted to hear, and I shared a link to the panel on creative writing projects by prisoners INCARCERATED PERSONS I attended last week.

It was just a few emails, sent back and forth while we were each doing our own regular work. Nothing important, really. I asked about her daughter’s first year away at college; she asked how my husband’s job was going and if we’d fallen in love with Chicago yet. [Quite well, and yes! a little more every day.] She asked about my current work, and I wrote back about my ongoing project and how I was surprisingly very happy even though I wasn’t currently practicing law. She replied,

Wow, [pink-briefcase] — that is amazing. Those are some incredible skills you are learning. What is the hardest part? Where do you see yourself after this?

We talked a little more, about law school rankings and the future of legal education and the flowers blooming there but not here, but those twenty-five words worked a powerful magic in my heart.

  .  .  .  .

I have a supervisor that isn’t my supervisor at work. He is kind of a mentor, kind of a boss, and kind of a friend. I’ve learned a lot working for/with him. Every now and then, when things get rough and I start to feel on edge, I read over an email he sent one day, which started off:

Your professionalism, persistence, patience, exemplary work ethic and positive attitude have been evident to all throughout this project.

On days when nothing goes right and all I can do is put down my pen and shake my head and pour the tea and start over again, this sentence waits for me. I look up and see it, hanging on my blue bulletin board right above the empty jar that once held black-raspberry jelly my husband’s grandmother made us for Christmas, which now holds pens and highlighters and a pair of scissors, and I read those words. I remind myself that one bad day cannot cancel out months of hard work.

  . . . .

I’m not sure that either of these mentor-friends knows how important their words were/are to me. I didn’t write back “HOLY COW THAT IS SO NICE I’M GOING TO PRINT OUT THIS EMAIL AND HANG IT ON MY BULLETIN BOARD AND LOOK AT IT EVERY DAY FOREVER.” I said thank you and continued on, slightly embarrassed about all of the fuss. No perfectionist really wants to be congratulated for doing a good job (don’t I always do a good job? I always try to do a good job! why is this time different? did I screw up something terribly last week?! . . . ). But as awkward as I may feel when I first receive these affirmations, I am completely changed by knowing that people I trust think these things. I am confident and brave and resilient because I trust their opinions of me to be true, even when my opinion of myself falls far short of their esteem.

We talk a lot online about how words have consequences, but we often really mean that words have negative consequences. We criticize and condemn each other too freely, with too little concern for the way another might feel to read a scathing review, a bullying comment, a snide remark. We forget too quickly that it could easily be the negative comments they are printing out and hanging up on the blue bulletin boards of their hearts. Negative words do have an undeniably strong hold on us, but I’m becoming more aware of the immense power positive words hold as well.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 4.11.2014

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  1. The Culture of Shut Up, by Jon Lovett for The Atlantic.

  2. What Abandoning Evangelicalism Does and Does Not Look Like, by Zack Hunt for The American Jesus.

  3. Am I Overstepping When I Try To Be Emotionally Intelligent?, by Alison Green at Ask A Manager.

  4. The recovery puzzle: A new factory in Ohio struggles to match jobs to job-seekers, by Monica Hesse at the Washington Post.

  5. Why I’m Done With Letting Critics Tell Me Who I Am, by Esther Emery. >

On Looking Professional without Sacrificing Productivity

Being successful at work is really important to me, and I’m at my best when I am completely focused.  If I’m in “the zone,” you might find that if you walk past my cubicle and say hello I’ll jump a bit, completely startled that anyone else was in the room.  (Thankfully we have security doors, so I don’t have to worry too much about someone sneaking up behind me!)  That’s just how I roll: I sit down, dig in, and get things done.

But here’s the thing:  if my sweater sleeves are itchy, if my pants are ill-fitting, if my bangs fall in my eyes or if my shoes are uncomfortable, I can’t do my best work. My mind will be distracted by how much I hate my outfit or how uncomfortable I am.  I’m not sure men have these problems.  But that’s not what this blog post is about. 

To do my best work, I need to be comfortable. A dress with a cardigan or blazer is ideal, so long as hosiery isn’t rolling down or bunching up. Slacks and a sweater or blouse can also be great, if the pants fit well and my cubby isn’t too hot or too cold. I really like to wear heels at my desk – partly because they feel fancy and partly because I don’t have to wear socks so my feet don’t get too hot.  I try to wear layers that can be stripped off without scandal in case I get too warm.  My ideal work set-up requires changing from flats to heels and a sweater to a blazer just like Mr. Rogers did.  (Dreams do come true, kids.)

If this all sounds a little crazy to you, that’s okay – my productivity makes me a fantastic employee, so if comfortable clothes and fancy shoes are what it takes for me to strategically plan broad organizational change or write and edit convincing and accurate reports on a deadline, I’m down for a little craziness.

This past week, however, a blog I read was talking about the difference between wearing clothes that make you feel good, and wearing clothes that make people think of you as the boss. As young female professionals, we want to do whatever it takes so that our management thinks of us when developing the organization’s succession plan, filling vacancies, etc. And what this blog post and the comments that followed boldly stated was that the best way to be empowered in your workplace is not to feel valued and loved and comfortable in whatever position you hold or clothes you wear. The most effective way to be empowered in your workplace is to have actual power in your workplace — a.k.a. to be the boss.

While I absolutely want to dress in a comfortable way that allows me to do my best work, I also want to look like someone who should be in charge. If someone new walked into the room and scanned the people sitting around the conference room table, I want that visitor to assume I’m already holding a management position.

Spring is coming (slowly but surely) and each day I’m edging closer to 30 and farther away from 25. It’s time for a[nother] closet overhaul.  It seems like I need one of these every now and then!  I’m not sure if fashion posts are your thing, but I’ll be checking in for the next few weeks on my 2014 closet revamp.

To kick us off, today I’m linking you up with my favorite fashion blogs:

1. Capitol Hill Style – Belle’s a former Capitol Hill Staffer, and she provides realistic and specific advice for a professional wardrobe on a variety of budgets, and she includes plus size options and hair and makeup recommendations.

2. Corporette – Fashion, lifestyle, and career advice from former firm attorney turned full-time blogger, Kat. The comment sections here are incredible, and if you have a question about how to navigate a difficult work situation or what to wear to work-ish events, this is where you want to go.

3. The Small Things Blog – For hair and makeup and all-around beauty, Kate’s blog is the place to go. I used one of her hair tutorials for my hairstyle during one of my best friend’s weddings last summer, and she gives honest reviews of products to help you find what works for you. She also just had a very adorable baby. Kate’s archives are gold.

 

Okay, so tell me where you fall on the spectrum:  do you dress for comfort or to make a positive impression?  Maybe a little bit of both?  Does hearing this perspective on empowerment make you re-evaluate your own wardrobe choices? 

What I’m Loving — March 2014

Whew, where did March go?  I can’t believe it’s already time to link up with Leigh once again. 

WORK.  Is that a weird thing to say, that I’m loving work?  Well, I have been.  I started this month off with a business trip to Florida (thank you America), and have been doing hard, challenging work this entire month.  So basically, I’ve been living the dream.  [Literally.  Working incredibly hard every day is exactly what I want to do with my life.]

FRIENDS.  Oh, that’s right, we’re finally using the “f” word here in the Windy City.  I’m setting into some very enjoyable friendships/co-workerships in the office, which is starting to feel like a great fit.  On March 8, in honor of International Women’s Day, I met up with a half-dozen members of my writing group who also live in the greater Chicago area, for drinks and food and writerly hang outs.  I also attended my second Kappa Delta Alumnae Chapter event this month, grabbing dinner and meeting some new women in the city.  It’s so nice to have “people” once again.

Oh, and we’re still looking for a regular trivia night and trivia people around the loop/south loop.  Just an FYI in case there are any random internet stalkers close by. 

CHICAGO.  The weather is improving, the sun is shining more frequently and for longer stretches at a time, and I’m just plain loving Chicago.  Everything about it — the jazz music and the frumpy coats and the popcorn (oh the popcorn!) and the skylines and the way that the best restaurants use animals in their titles (“purple pig,” “little goat”).  My parents were here for a visit and we did basically nothing, but even still — I just love it here.  I didn’t think I would, but I do.

READING and WRITING.  This month has been all about l-e-a-d-e-r-s-h-i-p.  I’ve been reading blogs, articles, and am nearly finished with The Truth about Leadership (Kouzes/Posner 2010).  My favorite tidbit from the K&P’s Ten Truths reminds us that being a leader is all about relationships, and that you need to know the people you are leading and have the right kind of relationships with them to lead them toward positive change.  K&P teach leaders to know their values and visions for their organization, and to know their people — what makes them tick, what their visions are for the future — and to connect these organizational and personal dreams together.   I love it.

ON THE SCREEN.  Television has been kind of meh this month, eh?  (Shout out to my Canadian readers right there.)  I guess Nashville and Scandal are my top choices, but meh.  I also really like Blacklist most days but, meh.  Nothing is really catching my attention for very long.  This weekend we watched several movies, and I’ll give you mini-summaries:

  • Divergent — awesome(!) and now I want to read the books right now.  I’m going to try to purchase them before my DC flight on Friday night.
  • American Hustle — sad but good, with some lovely dresses.  Now I love Jennifer Lawrence a little more.
  • Frozen — what the what is all the fuss about here?  I don’t get how everyone talks about this so much.  Meh.

EATING/DRINKING. I’m a creature of habit, and this month I’ve found myself doing a few things over and over.  Drinking English Breakfast Tea all day long.  Mixing dried cherries, chocolate chips, and raw almonds for my own delicious trail mix.  Also, I’ve been cooking from Bread and Wine (Shauna Niequist) a lot.  I can’t stop loving that tiny little book.

HERE ON PINK-BRIEFCASE.  I’ve been practicing this little thing called speaking up.  Just a bit more than normal, but it’s something I want to do more.  My favorite posts here on the blog this month are

Well, there you are.  March in a nutshell.  April is going to be insane!  We’ll be out of town two out of four weekends.  I’ll be seeing some of my very best friends; trying on my writer hat for four days straight at a big fancy writing conference; and then pulling my lawyer hat out of the closet, grabbing a blazer (it’s been a while, blazers!), and heading to a legal training at the end of the month.  Hopefully I’ll finally get to wear all those new spring shoes I’ve been buying.

NOTE: my friends, our internet has been down to about 10% for days and it is so slow and terrible that I just couldn’t upload any photos for you today.  I also couldn’t really preview this post the way I normally do, so if there are typos here or anything looks weird, I apologize — leave me a note and I’ll try to edit them if we ever have consistent internet again. 

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 3.14.2014

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I have so many links I want to share this week — cutting this down to just five was more difficult than usual!  But I did it, because I am awesome.  And so are you — don’t forget it.

I have two favorite The Girls We Once Were posts that I want to share with you.  All of them are really quite fantastic (click here for more), but these are the two I read that really stuck with me:  

One.  Where were the boys? posted at Faith In Between.

Two.  Renaissance Girl, posted at CoffeeSnob318.

I know the names and details for these two women, and they are awesome and good-looking and all that jazz, but I’m not sure how anonymous these writing spaces are so we’ll let them determine whether or not to say their names online.  I won’t do that for them.  BUT, they are both pretty dang cool and funny and smart.  Take a look.

Three.  How to Watch Your Kid’s Game Without Being a Jerk.  I told you guys how I’m not a mom but I still often enjoy reading the blog Momastery.  I’m still not a mom (still, as in since I wrote the previous sentence one second ago? I’m leaving that awkward transition here for kicks and giggles all around), BUT I have baby sat a mildly disabled individual who loved soccer, and I found myself giggling with memories reading this post.  I also recommend asking your child what is appropriate for you to wear to view his or her game: as in, perhaps what you are currently wearing is not cool and or incredibly inappropriate.  But that’s coming from a twenty-something with no kids.

Four.  Ask A Manager with When a Coworker Missed a Deadline, I Told Her it was a Good Thing She’s Pretty.  People do the funniest, weirdest, most unprofessional things at work.  And it’s really funny, until it’s your boss saying something like that to you OR until it’s your job to address the behavior.  Here on this blog it is quite hilarious.

Five.  Man Beaten in the Street on a Beautiful Day, by Kate at Eat the Damn Cake.  There’s this tension between protecting others and protecting ourselves and this made me think.  She writes in the tension, without resolution, which opens the door for us as readers to consider what we think is right.

 

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 3.1.2014

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Well, we’re a day late and a dollar short with Five Things this week.  I haven’t been reading and saving blogs at my typical frequency because I’ve been, well, doing other things.  However, while it is Saturday instead of Friday, these links are still just as awesome as they were yesterday, and I hope you enjoy them!

1.  How to Improve your Presentation Skills — without an eccentric professor vibe.  I read Ask A Manager almost religiously.  So many things that I didn’t understand or did wrong in the first year of my professional life could have been avoided if I’d read all of this first, and so I make sure to check in each day to AAM as well as to skim through the comment sections.  There is so much good information in here, and the comments on how to be a better presenter do not disappoint.  My two cents:  you make a presentation for an audience, not yourself, so think about what they need to know, not all of the things you have ever known so you can prove to everyone how smart you are.

2.  When this is all I have to say about Jesus and religious freedom, by Preston Yancey.  I don’t know Preston, and nearly every time I comment on his blog it somehow gets a-w-k-w-a-r-d, but some people who I love know him in real life and call him friend, and I can see why.  I’m so glad to hear him and other popular internet people speaking love.

Will bakeries be declining to make cakes for gossips and slanderers and the proud also?

If so, then my wedding is tanked.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that I would bake the cake.

And I think Jesus would too.

I operate from the premise that Jesus is kind.

3.  Discuss: The Empty Hearing Room, at Capitol Hill Style.  I love it when Belle gives an insider’s perspective on how things work ‘on the Hill,’ and this post is a good one.  It is shocking to see how empty hearing rooms are on Capitol Hill — I too have visited a session to see a senator making a speech to basically no one — but while it seems weird it actually isn’t:  she is getting her words on the record and that’s what counts.

4.  The Lectionary and a Legacy: A Letter to Myself, by my friend Caris Adel.    Caris is knocking it out of the park these past few weeks, as she wrestles with being white and privileged.  I’m sticking with her as she journeys into her history, which is also my history.  Only good can come from asking these hard questions.

5.  How to Create a Progress Gantt Chart in Microsoft Excel 2010, a video by Euguene O’Laughlin (YOUTUBE).  If you follow me on Facebook you heard already how I successfully made a beautiful Gantt diagram in excel this week, under the auspices of ENGLISH MAJORS CAN DO ANYTHING.  If you’d like to know what that is, or how to do it yourself, watch this short video that taught me how.

Winter living: like a boss

The sun is shining today, so even though it is literally 12* with a wind chill of 3*, I went out to grab lunch. I need to see the sun, my body soaks up the light and immediately converts it into happiness.

I’ve discovered this winter that while my calorie counts and daily food costs are lower when I pack my lunch, I really need the break that purchasing a meal requires. I need to stand up and physically step away from my desk. I need to bundle up and walk the block or two to grab warm food. I need to see other humans living and thriving in this cold to remind me that I can live and thrive too.

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Today’s lunch: teriyaki chicken on napa cabbage with two BBQ pork bao, purchased from Wow Bao. I love Wow Bao. The WordPress App has trouble embedding links now, but if you’d like to check out Wow Bao just visit http://www.wowbao.com.

This weather has reminded me that I am strong. Because honestly? It has never been so cold that I didn’t do exactly what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. Is it a little crazy to walk four blocks to yoga at 9 p.m. during a polar vortex? Perhaps. But I did it anyway.

My home-loving introverted self may be genetically predisposed to living in the freezing cold Midwest after all. (Please note I never have to shovel snow. This may be a factor in my overall assessment.). A Saturday spent indoors baking and watching movies with my little family? Couldn’t imagine a better way to live. It turns out this whole winter-living thing is a little harder on the extroverts among us.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 02.07.2014

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  1. What It Takes to Change the World, at Everyday Bright by Jennifer Gresham. This post, it’s like Jennifer Gresham is reading my mind. It’s like she can see through the internet into my soul.

It’s become almost cliche to say you want to change the world.

But for you, it’s different. You know deep down that you have something of value to offer. You’re passionate. You’re hungry to make a difference and you’re willing to work hard to make it happen.

So why isn’t it happening?

2.   Ten Ways to Beat Winter Blues, by Joanna Goddard at Cup of Jo.  I really needed to read this! It’s been a rough little bit but I’m embarking on a second new year and will be putting these suggestions into good use.

Get enough sleep. It’s important to get enough rest, but try to stick to your normal sleep schedule—oversleeping can make you feel groggy and grump(-ier).

Related: these 13 tips for being happy in your new home.

3.  On Christian Femininity and Bragging Rights, by my friend Esther Emery for Christian Feminism Today.  I’m so proud of the writing she is doing!  She is awesome and, since I’m with her on the bandwagon, I’d like to tell you that I am pretty dang awesome as well.

In response to a study like this one at MSU, Christians should invite one another to actively apply the language of “calling” and “anointing” to women as well as men. Loosening our tongues to speak well of our accomplishments is a part of the process of rising to our full stature, to stand side-by-side with men as leaders in the church and in the world.

Related:  On being awesome in your 40’s, and basically all the time — Chookooloonks author Karen Walrond with Top Ten Reasons Why Being 40-Something Rocks.  This post made me so excited to be a grown-up and happy to own my awesome age, twenty-eight.

4.  Hannah over at Wine and Marble with IR: Sex, Divorce, and Good Christian Kids.  I have so much respect for the women entering into this conversation online because, let’s be honest, people can be really mean on the internet (and in real life) when you start challenging their long-held presumptions.

Instead, pastors and parents and Bible study leaders and youth group mentors have bought into and perpetuated a false fundamental assumption that binds us to shame and ignorance as a necessary part of spiritual integrity: 1) we are required to take them at their word that sex is life-changing and terrible (in both senses of that word), and 2) we are required to make our trust in their definition of sex a fundamental assumption into how we weigh out relationships and how we decide who and when to marry. The bogey of sex thus becomes a looming question mark for us and the already-significant risks of choosing to get married to someone become exponentially more risky because there’s a huge piece of the marriage-choice puzzle that we are required to leave up to chance (which our good mentors have named God’s Will to keep us quiet).

5.  Elizabeth Esther’s How to Motivate an ENFP at Work.  This honestly just made me laugh, because it is so true to life!

Speaking from experience, it’s important for me to feel all my feelings, but then I have to move past my initial frustration and try to understand the “J’s” in my life. If I can regulate my feelings, I am able to see that “J’s” have great systems and methods that can actually help me.

However, the “J’s” must NOT over-react to us. A sensible “J” will allow the ENFP some “feelings-space” to go dither, play, recreate and blow off her frustration. The “J” should NOT try to micro-manage the ENFP or give her all the Rational Reasons about why her feelings are invalid. VERY IMPORTANT: The “J” should not issue marching orders or hard deadlines.

Just let the ENFP go have her feelings and maybe even offer her a cookie while she’s at it.

Okay, there’s the top five!  I had a very hard time narrowing my list down this week, so I’ll be sharing a few extra links over on my facebook page — click here to check them out!  What awesome internet things have you been loving this week?

 

 

What I’m Into, January 2014

I love linking up with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into series, but it’s been a little hard this month.  Because, except for a few days of awesome, January kind of sucked.  Let me explain:

January

Between two polar vortexes (can you pluralize the word vortex?  I just did!), incredibly terrible winter weather, and two weeks of being sick enough to consider going to the doctor in -14* temperatures, there wasn’t a lot of time for fun this month.  So, I apologize in advance if this past month’s highlights are a little, well, lame.

What I’ve Been Watching

A lot of movies and television and netflix.  I don’t exactly remember all of them since I was taking a lot of naps and cold medicine while I watched them, but I logged a lot of couch hours this month!  When I got desperate for new shows to watch after too many sick days in a row, you all quickly came to my assistance, offering up a dozen or so new shows for me to consider.  On top of the regular shows we’ve talked about before, I’ve been digging Nashville, I watched a bit of Fringe season one, and I caught up on this entire season of Parenthood.

What I’ve Been Reading

I finished my friend Elora’s incredible book Every Shattered Thing (well, technically I read this in December, but it has stayed with me this month).  I’m almost finished with Tyler Blanski’s When Donkey’s Talk (I heard him speak at STORY Chicago this past fall).  That’s at least one book toward my 28 Things reading goal for the year.

What I’ve Been Wearing

Mostly, jammies.  I had three new tops from Stitch Fix waiting for me when  I returned from holiday break, and I’ve been LOVING them.  I also finally took all of my dress pants to the dry cleaners, which means I have been wearing dress pants to work again.  Which is awesome.

A Little Bit of Awesome

I wrote a list of 28 Things I want to do this year.  And I started getting them done.  (See the next item…)

I completed my first DIY project this month — a spring-ish wreath for our living room.  Check out this photo (cute, right?!):

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I cooked a ton of delicious food.  Before the sickness set in, we ate very well.  I have a few snapshots for you that were supposed to be blog posts (please forgive the cold medicine and thermometer hanging in the background of the third snapshot):

Three Foods

And, I went to Las Vegas with my husband and two great friends for a long weekend!  It was the greatest ever.  I loved it and I have so many pictures to share with you, but I’ve been delinquent in doing so.  Soon, I’ll have them all here for you in their beautiful, warm and sunny glory.  Until then, here’s a little sunshine and sparkle to warm up your winter week.

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Chicken Soup Sick Day

Well, I’m home sick with a crazy cough, and I have two things on my mind:  (1) OH MY GOSH I have so much to do at work this week, why couldn’t I be sick last week!?! and (2) soup.

I make a pot of soup nearly every single Sunday, which I package up into individual containers to take to work for a quick, healthy [and cheap] lunch.  There’s not a firm recipe, but after making soup regularly for so many weeks I think that I could probably make a pot of soup blindfolded, or handcuffed, or with some clever speed-bump that my sicky-brain cannot think of at this very moment.  I’ve been eating soup non-stop since Thursday and I’m pretty sure it is slowly working it’s healing magic.

Here are a few core principles that I make soup by:

1.  I use either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or ground turkey.  I don’t have time for dealing with a whole chicken or the patience for cleaning and discarding the carcass.  For the chicken breast, I’ll roast in the oven at 375* with olive oil and salt & pepper or I will just boil it in the broth, pull it out when cooked to chop it up, and throw it back in the pot.  It really makes no difference.  For the ground turkey, I cook it in olive oil in the bottom of my soup pan, but I try to use as little oil as possible so the soup doesn’t get oily.

2.  Don’t make things harder than they have to be.  Sure, you can make homemade broth.  But really, this soup is for you to eat.  Wouldn’t you rather paint your nails or take a nap or get a massage — aren’t there actually about ten billion things you’d rather be doing than making homemade stock to eat for lunch in your cubicle?  Just saying.  I use two to three of the large boxes of low-sodium chicken stock.

3.  Use the vegetables that you like.  My typical vegetables are carrots, onions, celery, zucchini.  Sometimes I add kale, but I don’t like the thick stems so I really have to be in the mood to clean and peel off those stems for kale to make it into my pot.  You’re going to want to saute the onions, carrots, and celery for a few minutes until the onions are soft.  The rest you can throw in to the pot after the chicken is done so long as you give it sufficient time to cook before turning off the heat.

4.  Mix things up a little.  At this point, I have two basic options that I follow, but I tweak them or mix them up depending on what’s in the fridge and how I feel while cooking. You can really add anything to your soup, so just follow your heart there.

(a) italian-style chicken soup:  No zucchini or kale; once the chicken is cooked and the carrots, onions, and celery are sautéed and added to the broth, bring up to a boil and add in orzo pasta.  Cook the pasta in the boiling soup until it is about done (read the instructions on the box), then turn down the heat and add three big squirts of lemon juice and a light handful of parmesan cheese.  Shake in poultry seasoning and parsley, add salt and pepper and you are done.  I learned this lemon-juice trick from Giada and it is delicious.  Note: if I want regular chicken soup, I just skip the lemon juice and cheese and leave out the pasta.  Otherwise, it’s the same.

(b) tomato-based with veggies:  Go ahead and use the zucchini and even the kale here.  Add in a can of whole tomatoes in with the broth.  Take a pair of clean kitchen scissors or a knife and chop up the whole tomatoes so they are not quite so huge.  Then add in spices like you are making chili:  chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, etc.  Shake in a bit of poultry seasoning if it needs it, add salt and pepper, and you are done.  I often add a can of kidney beans to this soup too.  (If you want to try this but are unsure about the spicing, google Martha Stewart’s minestrone recipe and start with that, until you feel comfortable going more free-form.)

There you have it.  If you already know how to roast chicken, chop and saute vegetables, and boil pasta, you are on your way to making a delicious pot of soup without a recipe on this cold winter day.  If you haven’t yet mastered these skills, you’re going to want to find an actual recipe to follow more carefully.  I’m a little too foggy to write that for you today, but if that’s where you are, start here and let us know how it turns out.

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