My whole life I have been terrified of looking conceited, self centered, too engaged in my own behavior, but in doing so, I’ve become my fear. I’ve allowed my self-proclaimed humbleness to inhibit my talent and dreams. Finally, as a 26 year old actor, I’m beginning to let that go.
From a young age, accepting compliments has always been something I’ve struggled with. I decided that the attitudes of kids I surrounded myself with in our theatre community were not attitudes I wanted to see be reflected in myself. And so I buried myself in the work of it all. That is something I’ve been doing pretty much ever since. Except the difference between myself and those self centered attitudes of the fellow twelve year olds I knew back in the day, was the fact that I continued to learn and grow, and pursued theatre as a career for myself. Many of those kids I thought were conceited were simply confident, and were not afraid to let people know. Now I understand that the fear of looking self centered as an artist has taught me to keep my talents behind a wall, to not use them or flash them, or try harder than everyone else around me, and that is a problem.
Fear has turned me into a timid actor (even though it may not always seem that way), and I’m working on changing that.
I’m going to the auditions, doing the best I can, even if I fail.
Not too long ago, I went to an audition that I was really excited about. I went in, sang, and they asked me to stay to dance. I’ve always been confident in my singing, and it’s something I still work really hard at. Anyway, I stayed for the dance call, and all I did the whole dance call was tell myself that I wasn’t good enough. That’s all I could think about.
I got out of the audition and called my friend Sarah. She said something really important that I am so thankful for. She told me “You should be congratulating yourself.”
I put myself out there, I did everything I could, and I walked away with my head down. All it takes to change that attitude is to move my chin 2 inches to the clouds.
I can firmly say I am good at what I do. I work hard, I try hard, I sound good, I go to the auditions. So, good job Val, you’re doing great.
I’m doing great.
Of course there will always be things to work on, and as an actor I’ve got to be working as hard as I can, but it feels great to recognize my own worth as a person and an actor.
Yeah you read that right. Blueberry and cream cheese pierogi. I created this recipe after reminiscing about all the Polish food I ate growing up. Particularly, one experience in which my mom went to get some pierogi at the Polish mart (none of that frozen crud) and brought home dessert pierogi. They were blueberry and ricotta pierogi, which I loved and remember fondly, but my Mom recalls them not being sweet enough! I created this recipe as an ode to that day where we tried something different and interesting!
Dough- I edited this recipe from The Spruce Eats
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
1/3 cup room temp water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 small frozen bag of blueberries (12 ounces or so, does not need to be exact)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
dash of salt
You’ll wanna make the dough first. It’s so so simple. Literally, plop the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, and whisk it around for a bit until you feel good about it. keep the mixer on low/medium and break the eggs into it one at a time. Use your discretion with the water. If it gets pretty liquidy, add a tiny bit more flour. You don’t want the dough to be like pie crust (a little rough and crumbly), you want it to be a little bit sticky. when the dough is well mixed, put it in a lil’ bowl, and refrigerate it for about an hour. It does not need to be super hardened to work with, like pie dough does. It should just be cold enough that is can be rolled out a bit.
Take that bag of blueberries, and throw it in a large sauce pan. I like working with frozen blueberries, because they already have retained water and juice, so when you add corn starch, it will turn into a nice gooey filling. Turn the stove on low and put the lemon juice and sugar in. You need to stir constantly for a little bit, maybe like 3 or 4 minutes, to let the sugar melt down without burning it. Add the corn starch. This is what makes it like pie filling-ish. The corn starch will transform the liquids from a liquid texture (duh) to a gelatinous one. Stir that for a while, maybe like 10 minutes. At this point you don’t need to worry so much about stirring constantly, but you probably should give it a good mix in the pan every minute or so, to keep it from burning. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool.
And the rest:
Take the dough out of the fridge, and on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into one thin layer. You don’t want it to be thin enough that you can see though it, but it should be thinner than a rolled crust or a rolled cookie.
Grab the whipped cream cheese from the fridge, and the mostly cooled blueberry filling, and in a separate bowl, mix equal parts cream cheese and filling, until it’s a delicious and workable texture. Add your spices in now! Except salt; you should have added that in with the dry ingredients earlier.
cut out circles from your dough, these can be like 2 1/2 or like 3 inch circles. I used a tart cutter thing to cut mine, but you can use a big cup if you don’t have a decently sized circle cookie cutter or mini pie cutter thing.
Take a decent sized amount of your filling and put it on one side of your circle. Take a little eggwash, and coat the outside of the circle, to help it stick together when you fold them over. Fold and accordion the dough as well as you can. Pinch the sides together well. Boil some water, drop in the pierogi. Build for like 5-8 minutes, strain in a colander, and put some powdered sugar on those goodies.
Last year, when we finally decided to move from Brooklyn to Philly, we decided that we had to be more choosey with what we wanted in a house/apartment. I can not advocate for this more. I am so happy we went for what we wanted, and not with just was easy. We happened to find an amazing townhouse/apartment kind of thing. If we didn’t set our goals four ourselves earlier, I don’t think we would have found our amazing place.
YOU’RE living here. Not your family or friends, YOU. SO get used to liking it. Work hard for your rent money. And if you’re like me, surround yourself with a home that fulfills you. I am so proud of our efforts and choices involved in finding our current home. I feel motivated every day to get outside and get stuff done.
credit: Samantha Braun Photography
2. There will ALWAYS be dishes to do, even if you have a dishwasher.
LISTEN. Our very first place in NYC, we didn’t have a dishwasher. There were ALWAYS dishes to do, but neither of us wanted to be in the kitchen because it was so ill-maintained throughout the years that it freaked us both out. This led to horrible habits for both of us. I never really remember getting out of that apartment much,because it was so much easier to barricade myself in my room instead of facing the mess that we had to deal with. I could not be more grateful for having a real, FULL-SIZED, dishwasher in our current place. We make sure we run it every nigh, as well as wipe down the surfaces in our kitchen. Overall, I feel waaay more motivated and happy with our kitchen now, even though it’s tiny.
However, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to keep up with good habits. Take it from me. My mom still swears she is still finding candy wrappers and messes that I’ve made throughout my childhood in my bedroom at the house I grew up in. It’s not always easy for me to tackle mess, but having a bigger space of my own, allows me more freedom to fail, and in turn, more chances to succeed. There are always dishes to be done, but I feel pride in myself and my home when I get them done. I am still learning.
3. Having clean laundry is nice, but it’s never-ending
This is kind of a similar vein to the last bullet point, but just as important. If having laundry to do bothers you, don’t be afraid to look for a place that will make it easier for you! We happen to be able to laundry every day if we like. I am so grateful for this new space in our house. my habits have changed completely. I laundry all of the time, and I’m not completely sick of yet. Now this statement might make some of you roll your eyes, but it is an achievement in my eyes, and I like to celebrate the little things.
Now listen, this laundry is never-ending. We have so many clothes, and that means we are responsible for keeping them all clean. But I am so happy that we have the opportunity to do so.
From a person who has never been good at organization/is trying to be better, do you have any advice for those who do not have the convenience of a laundry room in their house? Are there any helpful tips to make things easier?
4. You’re never going to be finished with decorating and perfecting
I am a space-filler. When I look at my walls, I constantly see negative space. I wanna fill it all with art, mine or my friends. But then I take a step back and look at the whole wall, and the whole picture needs a little space,a little separation to make sense of each piece of art. That being said, I’m still interested in filling space and having something interested to look at no matter where my eye falls.
I also think it is easy to doubt your sense of style. For me, I get very proud of how I decorate, and then people come over, and they say they love it, and then I start to doubt myself. Does this happen to everyone else? And honestly, that’s okay with me, I know that I have my very own style, but I am kind of okay with having to evolve constantly. It means I’ll never be bored. Relaxing has never really been my thing.
5. All of your old furniture won’t fit perfectly in your new space, even if it’s bigger.
Listen…It’s just not. Thrift store are your friend. For us, this was also lesson in learning to let go. We also got a new couch out of the deal. a PINK couch. #dreamcometrue
6. Your style is ever evolving are items in my home I THINK I will never want to change out, and then I do. I like this because it means I am happy with things, until i’m not, and that’s when I make changes. Never ever ever bored.
Also trends come and go. I think it’s cool to try the trends. Don’t be afraid to take risks. It’s like wearing wacky clothes. You’ll never know if it will stick with you unless you try it out! Honestly, who cares if it doesn’t work?! Have fun. That’s how I live at least.
7. You won’t always get everything you want
When we were looking for new places to live in Philly, we found places with some amazing things. We found basements, backyards, garages, great locations, etc. etc. But the truth is, we never found anything that had EVERYTHING we want. We have an apartment that has two stories, an incredible location, great landlords, outdoor space, and hen a small kitchen and crappy parking. But I don’t regret settling on this apartment. We had to weigh our pros and cons (which we literally did on paper) and picked an apartment that works amazingly for us. You have to let some things go to be able to truly enjoy the things you have the opportunity to enjoy (i.e. more space, ability to have pets, all those sorts of things.)
It’s early October, which means it’s time for one thing.
Soup tends to be one of the easiest and best things to make around this time of year for me. I generally have so many vegetables hanging around my kitchen, and I’m also usually very cold as soon as August ends. This results in my throwing everything into a pot, walking away, coming back an hour later and hoping everything tastes good. This is why I love soup.
A few key things I had for this particular recipe I made were all bought in the same grocery trip. Ginger root, leek, and acorn squash. Everything else I pretty much had hanging around.
I decided to call it Singer’s Soup because it’s great to clear out your sinuses and a lot of these ingredients us singers swear by. I.e. ginger, lemon, cayenne, broth.
A few years ago I was In the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. I was playing Fruma Sarah. If you’ve never seen Fiddler on the Roof, Fruma Sarah is a wacky dead ghost lady who appears to the main character in a fun dream sequence (BEST SCENE IN THE SHOW. In my opinion at least) and anyway…This is a difficult singing role. SO…basically all of the sudden, I start feeling really sick (I get sicker in the Summer than the Winter, anyone else?) ANYWAY, I go to the urgent care, and I have tonsillitis….My tonsils were SO swollen, and just honestly mangled, it was absurd. Guess what. I didn’t miss one performance of that show. I had no understudy, and it was one of my first professional credits. Every morning I woke up, had ginger tea, hot water with lemon and cayenne, and gargled with apple cider vinegar (and of course took antibiotics.) But the point is, I took care of myself, and healed my throat and my instrument. Singer’s soup would have been good too 🙂 Now that you’ve tortured yourself by reading that whole paragraph or just skipped it entirely…
Here’s the recipe:
1 carton of chicken broth
1 carton of chicken stock
2 cups water
1 finger of ginger (it looks kind of like a weird finger soooo…)
1 whole bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 large raw chicken breast
1 medium yellow onion
1 leek stalk
1 spoonful of minced garlic, or 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lil’ acorn squash
1 bunch of carrots (save the tops for fresh pesto)
2 bay leaves
1 lemon, sliced
Let’s get started over here!
Turn your oven on! 350 will be good. Get a lil’ pan, and slice the top and bottom off of your acorn squash. Pop this sucker in the oven and let it bake for about a half hour or so.
Do you guys know how to peel ginger? just cut off a healthy chunk of it and take a spoon and just scrape off that outside bit! Easy! Now just take a good knife and chop that stuff up real good.
Take that onion, chop it up, chop those carrots (don’t forget to save the tops!!)
Turn your burner on to medium heat. Throw all of your liquid ingredients in that pot, along with your chopped onions and ginger. I also chopped that parsley up really well and super fine and threw that right in as well. This parsley is a great anti-inflammatory so that’s cool.
ALSO, guys do you know how to cook a leek? Leeks grow in the sand so just washing them under the faucet isn’t really going to do the trick. All you have to do is cut that sucker from the top of the stalk to the base of the stalk, long ways. Then you can chop it like it’s an onion. The good parts of the leek are the lighter part of the stalk. The tougher, greener parts of the stalk don’t have much flavor, and are tough and difficult to cook. The lighter parts of the stalk are easier to chop, and are tasty when you cook them up. Use your judgment! If it seems too dark and tough, toss it/compost it! If it seems tender and easy to cut through, chop it up to use in your soup! I love the taste of leek. Oh my gosh. I got off track. Okay so after you’ve chopped up your leek properly, get a big bowl and fill it with water. Throw all of those sandy and tender pieces, throw them in that bowl of water and kind of just wash them with your hands. All of that sand and dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl! Take those buoyant leeks and toss them in the pot with your onions and ginger!
I’d also add those bay leaves now if I were you.
Get that big ole lemon, slice it up in five or six slices, toss it in the pot. This will flavor the soup really beautifully, and look really pretty floating on top, as well.
DID YOU FORGET ABOUT THE ACORN SQUASH IN THE OVEN. TAKE IT OUT NOW, OKAY?! Let it chill out for a few minutes while the base of your soup is simmering. When you feel okay about not burning yourself, you can slice the outsides right off that acorn squash. It will be much easier now that it’s a bit baked. Cut it into cubes and toss it into your soup!
Chop the rest of the ingredients like the raw chicken and carrots, and throw them into the pot as well. SEASON YOUR SOUP. NOBODY LIKES UNSEASONED SOUP. Throw a bunch of salt and pep in. Throw in some paprika and some cayenne and also your garlic. Use your discretion here, friends. My husband hates anything spicy, so I like to wait to put the cayenne in until he’s had his own share. Let the soup cook until the chicken is cooked through! OKAY! ENJOY!!!
Listen. I want you to know that if you move away from NYC, you are not giving anything up. New York City isn’t always the end all be all, and if you feel that way, then you are either:
Meant to be in New York forever (which is awesome, good for you for knowing.)
disillusioned. You are NOT giving anything up.
When I moved to Brooklyn three years ago, I knew I wasn’t going to stay forever. I, similarly to maybe one third of the population in NYC, am an actor. I am a working actor, a union actor. When I moved to Brooklyn, I imagined art, music, and inspiration. I did not expect anger, fear, and overall grumpy people. So many told me that New York is negative and mean, but I am an optimist, and I chose to ignore that feeling.
I am still an optimist, but I no longer live in NYC. That doesn’t mean I don’t still love it, or that I don’t believe in it, or that I don’t believe in you if that’s where you plan to go, or that’s where you live now. I just want you to know, that if you move to NYC, and you don’t feel inspired or creative there, it doesn’t mean you failed. It means you’ve tried, and you’ve learned.
That’s what happened to me.
I was acting in a Shakespeare festival in Pennsylvania. It is a reputable theater company, full of people I admire, people that encouraged me, people that don’t judge, people that want to do the same thing as you: act. People that want to take an audience away from the drama for two hours, with a different kind of drama. Storytellers. People that inspire you to dream. I am forever grateful. Coming off of this festival, I was on a high. If I didn’t move to NYC right now, I never would. It was on my fiance’s (then boyfriend’s) bucket list too. And so we did.
It was perfect. We found an apartment for a mere 1,600 a month (lol cheap for NYC, but still a fortune for us).
Guess what? I barely left my apartment. I was nervous and scared. I was intimidated. I knew I was better than half the people out there auditioning, and still, I doubted myself.
I felt like I was my apartment. A brownstone. But when you went inside, it was old, undusted, with a fridge half the size of the original invention. Two rooms, both of which were brightly lit, but had curtains, so your neighbors can’t see inside.
What was this new feeling? Why couldn’t I believe I was more than this? Is this my life now?
I auditioned here and there. I got cut for having brown hair, for not being an ingenue, for being too much of an ingenue. For being a sidekick, for this, for that, for the other thing, for blue eyes, not muscular enough, not natural enough of a smile. It gets to you. My very best friend was consistently working in Broadway. I met many people, because of her. I got to see many shows that I loved, and met many people that inspired me. But, listen to them when they tell you it gets to you. Sitting at home, going to work at a server job, gets to you most of all. I worked in theatre here and there, but it was work I didn’t feel i could delve into. It was always to make money for the theater. I didn’t go to school for business. This is not what I wanted at all. At one of my jobs, I once had to tell a man he could not have an additional person sit in the aisle, to which he responded (very angrily, and loudly) “I am God, you are nothing.” It wasn’t just this experience, more than that that made me start to feel differently about where I was living.
AND THAT IS OKAY.
I do not think it is NYC’s fault for making me feel bad sometimes. I still LOVE New York. I especially love Brooklyn. It is something that I had to go through. I am not going to change people. I am going to change myself, and hopefully inspire change in others. I am proud that I’ve done what I’ve done. That being said, I don’t have the stomach for Manhattan I have the heart for it, yes, but If I can’t be there fully, I want to spend my time elsewhere.
Adam, my fiance, feels similarly to me. I don’t want to continue making my money in a way that depressed me. I want adventure, I want inspiration. Our lease is coming to a close and so we have made a decision.
It is such a hard decision. My very best friends are still there. My pride is there.
But I want you to know that just because I am somewhere new, doesn’t mean that I am someone new. I am different, yes, but evolved. I have not given the away the things that mean the most to me:
PHILADELPHIA, JUNE 2018
I am here. I feel new, refreshed, pretty great. I am starting somewhere new. Somewhere where people say hello, and root for each other, and encourage each other to make art. New York, I still root for you, will you root for me here?
So basically, for the past two years I’ve been working on perfecting my pie-baking skills. At this point I feel like I’ve really got a crust down that I really love. I use it for almost all of my pies now. I’ve learned a whole lot about baking from all of these adventures. Mainly, I’ve discovered how baking can be a huge source of stress relief for me. I really enjoy pouring my time and effort into something that physically manifests itself into something positive when the work is done.
I am predominately an actor and singer, so baking is a just a hobby for me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t taking baking seriously though, and I do. I really do. I take a lot of pride in baking and it means a lot that i can share it with my family and friends.
(p.s. I’ll share my pie crust recipe at the bottom of this post. I’m pretty proud of it.)
One thing that I’ve really figured out from all of my efforts is that I have to accept that I can’t make a perfect pie every single time just yet. And that’s okay. I have to accept that once in a while, I’ll have a liquidy filling or a burnt lattice, or the the decoration won’t turn out the way I had hoped. Precision is pretty important, so things can get tricky sometimes. I’ve also learned that I’ll never make a perfect pie if I give up. So that’s why I keep on making them. As I kept on practicing these past two years, I have noticed a lot of improvement in myself, and I can now confidently say that I make a pretty darn good pie.
Another thing I feel like I can kind of pat myself on the back for is flavor inventing. It’s pretty awesome to experiment with different flavors and fruits in unexpected ways. I like traditional pies as well, but I have a lot of fun making things that are a little out of the ordinary. The strawberry fig in the top picture, for instance, turned out pretty awesome. I’ve also done things like cheesy apple and wine pie and peach and blackberry pie. I can’t wait to invent some more.
Val’s Pie Crust
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup REALLY cold butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ice cold water (i literally put an ice cube in the water after I’ve measured it)
yields enough pie crust for the bottom crust and a lattice
When you’re making a crust, make sure you’re really precise about it. I start by sifting my flour and then throwing the salt in. Mix that together. Take your butter out of the freezer (yes, you read that right. Freezer) and using a box grater, grate your butter. Add it to the flour/salt. Push that stuff together, and slowly add your water. Mix until it forms dough. Wrap it in some plastic wrap and throw that sucker in the fridge until you’re ready to use it! Good luck!
As soon as warm weather starts to peek around the corner, festivals pop up everywhere and anywhere. I’m talking music festivals, art festivals, and any other festival (I’m sure you’re all familiar). The Cherry Blossom festival is no exception to the new-found liveliness we all feel as soon as 40 turns to 65.
As members of Brooklyn Botanic Garden, my boyfriend and I enjoy extra perks at this friendly city establishment (including free admission, cha-ching).
This is a plea for you all to support your local non-profits and businesses. We all need these beautiful things in our lives. The cherry blossom festival is a perfect spark to the fire that is festival season, and summertime. Get out there and smell the roses, boys.
Hey, also, the Brooklyn Botanic garden features many festivals throughout the year. I totally siked you out and made you think this was the only one, but that’s a lie. If yu get a chace to go, go. You can also get married here! So if you’re thinking about it….it’s an option and all that jazzerooni.