Quick dinner solutions

During a busy weeknight, it's sometimes hard to make a healthy and satisfying meal for your family.  I do love quick dinner fixes especially after a long day at work. Although I do enjoy cooking, I don't like to be slaving away all night on a weeknight.  I'd like to think of myself as a Sandra Lee... semi-homemade! Something that I can whip up relatively fast.  For me, pasta is a go to meal that is quick and easy and baby loves it too. You can change it up so many ways and always plenty of leftovers to bring to work the next day.

I was always particularly fond to Prego tomato sauces.  So when I found out I was going to be able to try out their new Prego Cooking Sauces, I was pretty excited.  I received a free sample of the creamy lemon parmesan sauce and I couldn't wait to try it. 'Just add chicken and it'll be ready in about 20 minutes', just pick it up from your local supermarket.  I opted for shrimp instead since I've been eating chicken all week and I can say it was equally delish and even faster to cook and get dinner ready.  I paired it with roasted garlic & parsley linguini with a spring of fresh basil from the garden.  Simple ingredients makes for a savory meal. 

It reminded me of one of my other pasta dishes that I typically make.  A few simple ingredients: bowtie pasta, broccoli florets, and chicken breast in an olive oil/butter garlic sauce finished with a squeeze of lemon and grated parmesan.  This Prego Cooking Sauce will be a quick alternative too for those who may not be too savvy in the kitchen with all the gourmet flavors.  The recipes are endless and can be switched up from chicken to seafood and adding any type of pasta to accompany it with.  I will definitely be trying out the other flavors soon.  What are some of your quick dinner solutions and recipes to share?

New Beginnings

 photo credit: changeboard.com

photo credit: changeboard.com

I can't stress enough how important work life balance has become for me since having a baby and finding that right balance between the two.  Retail pharmacy isn't the easiest for working moms as you're obligated to work nights, weekends, holidays, and during hurricanes/blizzards - you name it.  That leaves little room for family. It might've been easier when it was just us two and no baby, but burnout is huge and especially with a little one at home... it takes a toll on you physically and mentally. It's just draining and exhausting where I have little to no motivation to do anything when I get home but to just decompress.  We have plenty of vacation/personal time that we can't get approved off.  We aren't allowed to call out sick because there is no coverage yet at one point we have had plenty of floaters; floater pharmacists that had hours cut back and eventually quit because they couldn't afford to work 24 hours a week and pay bills/school loans on that salary. We are constantly working understaffed, no lunch breaks, no bathroom breaks, standing on your feet for 12 hour shifts, dealing with difficult customers while administering immunizations, patient consultations, keeping verified time under 15 minutes, and all trying to meet corporate metrics.  Pharmacist just don't count pills or slap a label on it.  We are monitoring drug interactions, making sure dosing and therapy is appropriate, preventing opioid abuse and therapeutic duplications while maintaining and upholding quality patient care .  We as pharmacist have a dual liability of what we fill and if there was an error on the doctor's part that we did not catch, we are the first to get reprimanded - not the doctors.  Unfortunately, that is the reality and retail pharmacists are being spread thin.  

So many pharmacy schools are pumping out pharmacists in an already saturated area and that makes us easily replaceable. What is trending in the world of retail is that companies are pushing out older "slower" pharmacists to make room for faster younger pharmacists who are eager, who are power hungry, and out to prove themselves.  When I say older, I have colleagues who are in their mid 40s who are afraid of their jobs because they may not be as fast as they used to be.  I may not be able to speak for all, but I feel the culture of retail is changing to where we are all expendable at any given time.  There is no longer job security or any recognition but more of  questions of 'why aren't you doing more?' with less - (less hours, less help, less support). 

I can honestly say that I had great store managers and district managers supporting me and helping me grow my career through the years. But after working in retail for 17 years (8 years as a pharmacist) in the same company, the right opportunity came along and I knew I had to take that leap. Every retail pharmacist has that dream of leaving retail in hopes of a more positive work environment where work life balance is key.  Finding that right work environment and network to support your career and life at home is where we all want to be (in the present and future).  It is attainable - with the right job.  I actually interviewed twice for this position and got rejected the first time. 🙃 But I guess my determination and perseverance paid off for what I really wanted.  I found it kind of awkward to reapply for the same position that had opened up again but it couldn't hurt right? If I don't put myself out there and go for it, I would've never had this opportunity come up (and it doesn't happen often). I had to compromise on some aspects of this new job ($$) but everything was screaming WORK LIFE BALANCE! It has been my dream to work for a PBM (pharmacy benefits manager) or insurance company working that cubicle life, Monday-Friday, no nights, weekends or holidays. I'm super excited about this opportunity and new area of pharmacy.  Not because the hours and positive work environment is great (okay, huge plus!) but I'm grateful that someone gave me that chance. It's super hard to break out of retail pharmacy when that's all you have on your resume.  I can only further my career from here and be able to focus on making lasting memories with family and friends.  

Certain things catch your eye,
but pursue only those that capture the heart.
PROVERB
  

Chuc Mung Nam Moi

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Happy New Year! It's the Lunar/Chinese New Year - celebrating the Year of the Dog.  I really enjoy this time of year, not because we get lucky money (haha not anymore now that I'm married) but for honoring traditions and spending time with family.  I don't consider myself a practicing buddhist but I do believe in a higher being and that our ancestors are watching over us and their spirits are amongst us.  During this time, we make an offering to the gods and honor them and our ancestors (all referred to as ong ba) to bring us prosperity, good health, and fortune.  Days leading up to the New Year or Tet (in Vietnamese), the house should be clean and tidy as it sets the tone for the upcoming year.  Deep cleaning shouldn't be for days after as it may wash away your good luck and fortune. I tried my best to clean the house and organize but having a sick baby and husband the week leading up to Tet didn't go exactly as planned.  I always remember my mom talking to the spirits as she sets out this elegant paper meant as money and fabric for clothes along with fruit and flowers on the altar (of Ba Quan Am - kindof like an all encompassing god that takes on many forms and roles).  On New Years Eve, we cook all this food and offer it to the gods, burn incense and bow to show our respects.  Only after the incense has fully burned is when we can eat.  Now that I have my own home, I wanted to keep part of the tradition and set up some fruit and flowers for Tet by keeping it simple since I don't have an altar set up.   Usually red gladiolus flowers are traditional for New Years, but since I couldn't find it locally, these red and yellow flowers worked well too. I always find it a little awkward when I burn the incense and bow not because I don't know what to do but more so of what to say (since my mom has always done it).  In my head I know what I want to say, but it doesn't always translate out loud the way I want it to.  To thank the gods for watching over us this past year, to thank them for keeping us healthy and safe, and to ask our ancestors to continue to watch over our family and bless our home this upcoming year.  I always start off speaking in Vietnamese, then English, then stuttering and stopping altogether because it's semi-awkward for me since I'm not used to doing it.  But I know that they hear the thoughts that I express from within and can feel that I am beyond grateful for what we have.  

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It was pretty awesome to receive li xi or lucky money given in red envelopes when I was growing up.  Only when you are married do you start giving money to the kids and siblings younger than you and stop receiving money (although some parents still usually give it).  It's fun to use that money to play the lucky game of Bau Cua Tom Ca (Gourd Crab Shrimp Fish). My aunt's family came up from VA to celebrate the festivities as my grandfather is here visiting from Vietnam also. So to have all the kids and family in one place was pretty awesome.  

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According to Chinese tradition, once you are married, the daughter can't return home on the eve of New Years but only after the start of the year since it may bring bad fortune.  This I did not know! lol I guess it worked out since I had to work that morning and traveling home after would have been too far and a long night traveling with my babe.  I did get to spend Chinese New Year with my husband's family which was nice.  I didn't realize but in Chinese tradition, the meal cooked on New Years Eve is to celebrate this past year and lunch usually that upcoming weekend is to celebrate the upcoming year.  Last year I missed out on lunch as I was going into labor with Liam.  I really want to be able to show Liam the traditions, honor, and respect we have in both our Vietnamese and Chinese families and hope that he doesn't loose part of that culture as he grows up.