Life · Lifestyle · Personal · Photography · Ramblings · Writings

Why I Write

I started off as a reader. Mom used to read Nancy Drew books to me before bed, and somehow I collected over 30 of the hard yellow backed mystery books. I guess you would say that was step one. I don’t remember when I first started writing. I think it just gradually shifted when I realized I could make up my own stories instead of just reading somebody else’s. Since then, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.

High school wasn’t really the best for me. Not really having friends was the norm. Obviously part of that was growing up in a country where having an American my age was rare. Comparing it to the friends I have now, I was a lonely kid. It was Jenna, Michael, and myself. It’s sad to think that the people who used to be your whole world can so easily be snatched away, whether in distance or in spirit. To cope with the lack of companionship, I turned to my writing a lot. My stories and the characters in them were sometimes more real to me than the world I actually lived in.

Yet there was one place that has ever remained uninhibited by the outside world. During the Bosnian war, there had been a building on the outskirts of Kobilja Glava that was a partially completed medical facility. After the war broke out in 1992, the building was used as a barricade for the men of the neighborhood. When the war was over, the building remained where it was, and no efforts were ever made to rebuild. And thus it sat, quite embedded in the earth; half sunk, half slunk on the backside of a hill, in a field, in the middle of nowhere, Kobilja Glava. To me, it was the most beautiful place in the world.

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I always felt like I could be myself here. No inhibitors or spelling mistakes or hand cramps. My creativity could just flow. I would talk to myself as I explored, planning out wars and battles and fights ending in loss of life or loss of love. I never questioned my own sanity or why I spoke to walls. The inner dialogues could roam free.

I’d bring my backpack, stuffed full of notebooks and pencils and lay it all out on a ratty old blanket somewhere on the second floor. If I got stumped, I’d pace, walking down halls and exploring rooms until my writer’s block had been smashed to pieces and I was running back through rooms and up broken stairs to get back to my notes. Writing always made sense. Sometimes it was the only thing that did.

I’ve found that writing when you’re depressed is sometimes the best medicine. Have you ever noticed that it’s the ones that are hurting that can create the most beautiful art? For some reason, beautiful things come from pain. It makes me think of Van Gogh’s paintings, King David’s poetry, and Mozart’s music. When you’re hurting, there’s a raw emotion that seeps it’s way through your fingers, and bleeds on everything you touch. Your words, your emotions, your work – they’re all living shards of you.

Writing gives me peace. It gives me power. It’s violent and urgent and grotesque and REAL. I am both creator and destroyer. I am both life and death. If a character is too weak, kill them off. Make the reader suffer like I have suffered; like the character has suffered. I can offer hope on a silver tray, and then snatch it away just as quickly. That power that comes with writing is probably one of the reasons I do it. When I have no control over the pain I feel, or the emotions that have gone numb in my chest, I can write. I have control over that. Much like someone who slashes lines into their skin just to feel something, I can control everything, when I am the one writing the script. If I didn’t have my writing, I honestly don’t know if I would even be here. That’s the God-sworn truth.

My dream job has always been to be an author. Before Chesh, the plan was to spend my life alone in a cabin in the woods in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by my dogs, and to write. Now the dream is a little different. It has morphed into spending my life with him in a cabin in the woods in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by dogs and kids, and to write. It’s always been my passion and always be my passion. That doesn’t mean all my writing is dark or depressing. That doesn’t mean all my writing is happy-go-lucky or happy endings. I want to write truth. I’ve always wanted to write truth. A lot of times it’s me working through what I think or feel and trying to relate that to the world around me in a way that makes sense.

Writing is a safe place. Writing is a sanctuary. If I can share that with other people, then maybe I’ll help some others along the way. Don’t fear your inner demons, but let them escape through your pen. That is my redemption. And that is why I write.

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Food · Life · Lifestyle · Personal · Photography · Ramblings · Writings

Dinner with Friends

One of my love languages is food. I absolutely love to cook for people. I believe that if you can’t capture someone with food, they can never be caught. These elusive types you must reserve yourself to simply admire from a distance. I figure, if I can trick  you with my food to like me, that’s magic. I’ll gain some new friends, and you’ll eat some good food.

After all, this is how I tricked Chesh into proposing to me in the first place.

Last week I invited two of the coolest people over for dinner, and they said yes. I knew them from college theater, and had interacted (sort of) with each other over the past four years in some capacity. In the tiny theater program at CIU, they had always been the “cool kids”. They were talented on stage, got amazing roles, sang obscure Broadway shows I’d never heard of, and always seemed to be having the most fun whether they were backstage, on stage, directing, or slapping on makeup in the green room. It had been my lifelong dream to be friends with them, and here I was, an adult, inviting two other popular adults over for dinner.

I decided to try making something I had never tried before. A fellow blogger had posted something about re-creating a french meal and had made duchess potatoes to complete her meal. As I read through her post, I found myself drooling. If you don’t know, duchess potatoes are mashed potatoes that are piped onto parchment paper and backed in the oven. It gives them a crisp golden exterior and soft melt-in-your-mouth center. I had never tried making them before, but I like a challenge. In the end the hardest part was trying to pipe the things… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Because I don’t get home from work until 5:30, I prepped. I was so proud of myself. I cooked a bunch of stuff the night before. I lacked a peeler (which I realize in retrospect is something I should probably own in my kitchen), so I used a knife. I grew up in Sarajevo, and no real woman uses a peeler there. The inner Bosnian woman in me was very proud that I not only peeled all my potatoes without cutting myself, but also did it pretty quickly.

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I tried to make sure all the pieces were approximately the same size, and stuck them all in a pot of boiling water with some Himalayan pink salt. I freaking LOVE Himalayan pink salt! I like the flavor so much better than table salt and it’s my go to every time I’m cooking. The only bad bit about using pink salt with potatoes, is that potatoes suck up salt, and so you’ll need a decent amount. How much is a decent amount, you ask? I have no clue.

Once the potatoes were nice and soft, I added butter, sour cream, garlic, more salt and pepper to taste, parmesan , feta, and milk, before mashing it all together into one creamy (and yummy) mashed potato mess.

SIDENOTE: I realized later that I should have added egg. I think it might help with the firmness when you bake it, because mine were not as crispy as I would have liked.

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I then cut up all my broccoli and put it aside. Because broccoli cooks relatively quickly in comparison with the rest of my menu, I knew I could wait until the next night to cook it. Also took six chicken breasts and sliced them so they would open like a hot dog bun, leaving one side still attached like a hinge. I put all the chicken in a giant zip lock back and stuck in my fridge. The rest I would do tomorrow. Now it was time for the sauce.  This is my favorite part of cooking chicken, and since I had a jar of sun-dried tomatoes on hand, I decided on a sun-dried tomato & spinach feta cream sauce. The mix in the picture looks a lot runnier, but it was actually a lot thicker with plenty of spinach and cheese.

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When I got home from work on Wednesday night, I melted half a stick of butter in the microwave and then poured it into the ziplock with the chicken. Then I added a bunch of breadcrumbs in and shook up the bag. This got all the chicken covered in butter first, and then coated with Italian breadcrumbs (I had half a container of Panko breadcrumbs in my pantry and used that).

COOKING TIP: If you ever have a recipe that calls for breadcrumbs, but none can be found, use Ritz crackers to do the job. Especially the vegetable or herb ones. Just crumble them up, and you’re good as gold.

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I put down foil in my pans and then laid the butter smothered-breadcrumb covered chicken in the pans. As you can see in the picture, I have more than six chicken breasts. This is because some of the pieces were huge and I cut them in halves or thirds. I spooned my sauce into each breast and then place a half a slice of mozzarella cheese on top of each one. Once it was popped in the open, I piped my potatoes, boiled my broccoli and Voila!

Cheshire showed up at 6 and our guests popped by around 7. With an hour and a half, I should have had plenty of time to cook everything. We ate around 7:30, and everything was scrumptious! I do regret that I didn’t take a picture of the finished product.

After dinner I started on the cobbler, and since we had all resolved to just enjoy the time together, the dinner party lasted until about 10:30. This gave me plenty of time to whip up my favorite cobbler recipe and pop it in the oven. If you’re interested, I found it through Pinterest on The Charm of Home blog, and is a recipe I’ve used many many times. Paired together with some vanilla ice cream and a bottle of Stella Rosa Black, the four of us polished off almost the entire pan. Needless to say, we were all stuffed and happy by the time the night ended.

If having people over means I get to cook more, I’m happy. Good food, good people, good time.

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Life · Personal · Ramblings · Writings

#BeNiceToMonday

Mondays get such a bad rep. Everyone talks about how awful Mondays are:

“Ugh, Mondays are the worst.”
“If I just make it through this Monday, I’ll be fine.”
“I need some #MondayMotivation for such a horrible day.”

Whoa now! What did Monday ever do to you? Monday just wants you to love it and accept it and it wants to be helpful. If Monday could be manifested, it would be a not-yet-potty-trained puppy. It makes messes, but can’t stop wiggling its butt at you because it just wants you to love it SO MUCH. It doesn’t know what it’s done wrong and why you are mad at it, so it rolls over on it’s own mess. And here we are getting all frustrated and annoyed when Monday is just a puppy.

Now Tuesdays. Tuesdays are an entirely different matter. Tuesdays are conniving little snakes that slither in when you least expect them and MURDER YOU. Or at least murder your innocence.

Allow me to present a Hannecdote to explain:

Emily has enjoyed her weekend. She slept in and painted a little. She baked a pie and ate the whole thing. She feels rested after two days off from work and stress. Monday morning she is prepared for five more days of work until the weekend. Emily is bummed, but understands that this is a Monday occurrence and has prepared herself for a case-of-the-Mondays attitude. Surprisingly, the day goes by quickly, and Emily is very thankful for the weekend she had to renew her energy. She goes to bed Monday night, still thinking about her lovely weekend and looks forward to the next one.

Emily awakens Tuesday morning and finds that she hates the world. For no apparent reason other than it is a terrible day. She doesn’t quite understand, but during her day she can’t seem to get the energy she needs and counts the days till Saturday. 1, 2, 3, 4. Four whole days until Saturday. The energy she had gained over her weekend she had used up on Monday, preparing herself for the worst. Right under her own nose, Tuesday had weasled it’s way into her week. The weekend had JUST happened and she was already longing for the next one. She had been so innocent before, but now she knew the horrors a Tuesday could provide. She goes to bed annoyed at the lengthened distance between herself and her freedom.

Wednesday dawns, and Emily thinks to herself “It’s hump day! Half way through the week!” With this though in mind, the day passes quickly with the comfort that she’s made it half way. Thursday blooms with the promise of tomorrow being Friday, and Friday excites her with the simple fact that it’s Friday. She has made it to the weekend again! If only there hadn’t been that pesky Tuesday in the middle.

The End.

Do you see what I mean? Tuesday slithers its way into our week and surprises us with the awfulness. Even as I write this, I think of  Tuesday as a slimy, sneaky, greedy, selfish, evil, maniacal laughing snake. Its very nature is to contort and ruin and destroy. Evil evil Tuesdays.

And have you guessed yet? It’s Tuesday. I’m not a fan of Tuesdays.

BUT! I have found a solution that helps. My roommate Ri and I realized that we don’t get to spend as much time together as we would like. We have decided that every Tuesday night, when I’m home from work, and she’s home from student teaching, we Processed with VSCO with x1 presetwill do something. Last week we had no motivation so we just watched Netflix. This week we are going shopping because I don’t have nearly enough clothes in my closet or enough mugs in my cabinet. The point is, we spend time together on Tuesday nights. With that to look forward to, it makes my Tuesday a little bit better. If you can find something to do on Tuesday to help you look forward to the day rather than dread it, you’ll be beating the sneaky day instead of being sucker punched by it. If you have any other ideas that’ll help me get through Tuesday, I’ll gladly take any suggestions.

And remember! #BeNiceToMonday
She’s just a little puppy that wants to be productive.

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Life · Personal · Photography · Ramblings · Writings

I am NOT a good person

DISCLAIMER: I am not a good person.

I present to you this disclaimer for several reasons.

A) As much as I would like to think that I am a good person because I haven’t murdered anyone or that I try not to lie about stuff, it just isn’t true.
B) Being a non-good person doesn’t make me a bad person. It just means I’m human and was born with a desire for selfish intentions; thus I will (almost always) chose myself over other human beings.
C) I would never want to portray myself as anything other than what I am. I suck. On a regular basis. I try really hard to be good and have good thoughts and want to help people all the time, but I fail a lot. A lot of times I do the things I do because I’m down-right lazy. It’s only by the grace of the Big Man Upstairs that I do anything.

Sigh. Ok, now that you all know how much of a non-functional individual I am, let’s get to the point.

On Tuesday of this week, I was a hot-mess. I don’t mean that I had my raccoon eyes on and a bed head and that I was running late to everything. No, I looked fine on the outside, but it was the inside that was a mess. I was annoyed at the world for no apparent reason. I was stressed about a couple of wedding to-do things, and I wanted to either curl into a ball and cry, or run down the street screaming and throwing things. I got through my work day, because I knew if I lost it at work, I would never be able to live that down. These kind of days happen to me more than I would like, and I’m never happy when they happen. It makes me want to wear dark makeup and stare blankly out at the world from my little den of “I-hate-everything-that-breathes.”

But it was on the way home that it really set in. I said some choice words at drivers who were going just under the speed limit, yelled at a construction worker (praise God he couldn’t hear me), and wouldn’t let someone over in my lane. To anyone on the road with me Tuesday night in the Columbia area between 5 and 5:30, I would like to deeply apologize. I’m not a good person.

I ended up calling my fiance and venting all the way home, which ended up helping a lot (thank you Chesh!). He puts up with a lot from me and loves me through it, for which I will be eternally grateful. As I was making the final turn into my apartment complex, I had almost calmed down. Almost is the key word. Not fully, just almost. There is a field right in front of my building, that, presently, has some beautiful long grass that is picturesque beyond belief. And with the sun setting behind the trees, it was no surprise that there was not one, not two, but four people with cameras, snapping pictures of the view.

For some unexplained reason (I’m going to go with “Hannah is a bad person”) I hated them. Here they were with their stupid little cameras that were probably better than mine, being all artsy-fartsy with their macro and depth of field and their lenses. Probably just a bunch of basic white girls trying to get the perfect shot for their Insta feed. How pathetic! Didn’t they know how stupid they looked? Like a bunch of tourists traipsing through safari grass just to get a picture of some stupid inanimate object. I hated these do-gooders and their optimism. I hated the stupid sunset for looking so dang good. I hated the beautiful picturesque long grass. I hated the cameras they were using to take pictures…

Need I go on? It was a low moment. I’m not proud.

Let’s skip forward to Wednesday. As opposed to Tuesday when the outside of me was fine but the inside wasn’t, Wednesday was polar opposite. I turned off both of my alarms in my sleep and was almost an hour late to work. I snapped at my boss. My hair was a wreck, I almost twisted my ankle walking in my heels, I wore NO makeup (you know, being late and all…), and felt out of it all day. As I was leaving I realized I couldn’t continue like this. I know that when I’m grumpy, not only do other people avoid me, but I actually avoid myself. I sink further into the hole I’ve dug for myself, and nothing other than a shameful amount of chocolate pudding can pull me out.

So what did I do? I got in my car. I rolled down the windows. Put on my favorite pair of sunglasses. I blasted Needtobreathe, specifically “Lay ‘Em Down”. And I sang my heart out. I didn’t care if people could hear me. I like to think I have a nice voice, and singing harmony to “Lay ‘Em Down” makes me feel happy. I love to sing, and somehow it always changes my mood. Paired with the wind in my hair, and a “I-don’t-care-who-hears-me” attitude, I shouldn’t have been surprised that it worked. And this time when I passed the field, I decided to stop.

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Isn’t that just beautiful?

I ended up becoming a basic white girl who took sunset pictures for her blog. Actually, I made a self discovery, wrote about it, and happened to have a picture to go with.

In recap, I’m not a good person. I get angsty and annoyed for no reason. I hate people and things for no reason one day, and then love them the next. I’m emotional and extremely stubborn and hard to love. I won’t get it right all the time. I won’t always be good. Or happy. Or even human. Sometimes I take the form of a lumpy grumpy potato cat. But that’s a story for another time.

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Food · Life · Personal · Ramblings

Stuffed Mushrooms and Creative Boosts

As any creative person knows, there will always be slumps in the creative process. Or life. The house you promised to keep clean is a mess, the laundry is piling high, there are dishes in your sink, on your counter, and stuffed in the vegetable bin in your fridge just to keep them out of sight. (Not that I would ever hide dishes in my fridge so I won’t feel guilty, but I’m trying to use dramatic storytelling here.) You’ve slumped yourself into your couch, and instead of writing a great American novel, you’re watching Netflix and eating a chocolate pudding cup. The phrase “Hannah, you fat lard” comes to mind, but you brush it away trying to convince yourself you aren’t really lard-like in any sense of the word, and burrow yourself further into your fuzzy cocoon of a blanket.

Usually this state of being continues throughout the night, and the productivity level not only drops, but finds itself lost in the basement of your brain, stuck with the brain cells that have long given up on you. BUT, every once in a while, you get a creativity boost. If I could bottle that boost, I would. I don’t exactly know what triggers it, and the circumstances seem to be different every time. Sometimes I think I just get sick of my own disgraceful self.

I live for these kind of moments. One second, I was wallowing in my own chocolate pudding, and the next second, I suddenly had more motivation I’d had all day. My “genius level” spiked high, my eyes were opened, and dis-wedged myself from the couch. And I rose! I rose like a phoenix being reborn, for I, Hannah Jones, had purpose anew! I could do so many things! I didn’t have to continue living in my own inadequacy as a human, and could do something PRODUCTIVE. I could clean my room, organize my closet, do dishes, paint a masterpiece, or GO OUTSIDE. Aren’t you impressed? I was.

So what would I do? The possibilities were endless! Since I really do enjoy cooking, I decided food was a good option. I scoured my fridge and didn’t find much. It should be no surprise that on the long list of things to do, grocery shopping was also on that list. In the end, it was the mushrooms that caught my eye. I’d purchased them in the wild imaginative hope that I would do something with them. It had a while since that mad, brilliant notion, and they looked as though they were coming to the end of their life span. So what did I do? I made stuffed mushrooms. Fancy, right? I thought it was pretty cool. Here’s a fancy looking recipe for you!

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Honestly, when I cook, I don’t really use measurements very much. Usually I’ll take a little bit of this and little of that and a sprinkle of salt and taste while I go. Trying to rethink how much cheese I used had me fiddling around in my measuring spoon drawer and thinking, yeah that’s about right. I whipped up some sun-dried tomato and alfredo pasta to go with the mushrooms, which was pretty good too.

After I made my delicious lunch, I had so much more energy. I plopped down on my bed (my kitchen table hadn’t been cleaned yet), and enjoyed my success. It’s funny how one little lunch could change my day. Motivation comes in strange forms, but mine came in the form of stuffed mushrooms.

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