You Don’t Own Me

It’s hard, sometimes, when you’re in love, to remember that the person you love is a completely separate human. That they don’t necessarily actually think about and react to every situation exactly the way you might think they do. What’s more, they don’t actually think about and react to every situation the way you’d like them too. The impulse to control the ones we love isn’t usually borne of malice, I don’t think, but more of an interaction of wanting to see our loved ones as their best selves…and (selfishly) thinking that they way we want them to act would be best.

We all have that friend who begs off coming to hang out at the bar because their significant other doesn’t want them to. And sometimes that’s probably an excuse because they’re actually just too tired and don’t feel like getting in a five minute argument about how lame they’re being if they actually said that. And sometimes there is a good reason why they’re being held back: they have a date that night, or plans for the next day that require an early wakeup call or just a non-hungover companion. But sometimes it’s because the other person is controlling, and even when it doesn’t rise to a level where there are concerns about the relationship being dangerous, I’m still not sure it’s healthy.

I’ve struggled with this myself, honestly. When I dated Sean, I would get really upset about him going and doing anything Greek system-related without me. I wanted him to stop being friends with girls I found threatening (usually simply because they were attractive), and did not respond well when that didn’t happen. I wasn’t trying to be an asshole, I just young and in love and scared. Scared that if he was doing what he really wanted, he’d spend less time with me, like me less. Having never dated anyone before him, much less actually been in a relationship, I was painfully insecure about my own romantic worth. This pattern continued, to a lesser extent, with Jay. I’d figured out at that point that other people generally don’t like it when you try to control them, so it wasn’t as direct. I would call him several times in a row if he didn’t pick up, trying to force him to answer just to keep the phone from ringing again. I’d be cold and distant if he did something I didn’t like even if I hadn’t asked him not to do it. I’d “suggest” things I’d like for him to do and if he objected, shrug it off but freeze him out. I knew that these relationships weren’t in good places, and that my own behavior didn’t help that, but I couldn’t seem to help myself.

I make a conscious effort to not be controlling with Drew. And he’s not controlling with me either. And it’s kind of great, actually. Sure, we have spats here and there about things that the other one has done, but for the most part we’re just open with each other about what we want and talk it out when we disagree. We’re both in a place where we’re dedicated enough to our relationship to make an effort to work things out instead of eyeballing the exit when there are bumps. It’s hard sometimes, because my habits from the past are ingrained and I’m used to asking for what I want not being an option. But every time I manage to override that inclination to try to control him and just ask for what I want like a normal person, I’m reminded that I’m in it with someone who’s just as dedicated to our relationship as I am and that’s an awesome feeling.

I Cooked: Tofu Pad Thai

I’ve been meaning to try a vegetarian pad thai for a while since pad thai is something that both Drew and I like, but no recipe had ever struck me as a must-make. When I saw this recipe that explicitly billed itself as something that even a meat-eater would love, though, I knew I had to try it out.

IMG_2613

1 lb. extra/super firm tofu, cut into 32 chunks
8 oz. rice noodles, soaked in warm water
1/4 cup of lime juice (or the juice from two limes)
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 Tbs. sriracha sauce
1 Tbs. soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, sliced
1/2 cup minced dry roasted peanuts
2 eggs, cooked in single sheet, rolled up and cut into thin spirals.

IMG_2617

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the tofu into 32 chunks. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and your favorite spices (I used cumin, turmeric, and garam masala). Bake for
about 45 minutes.

While tofu is cooking, put noodles in a large bowl and cover with water. Leave aside.

Combine the lime juice, sugar, sriracha sauce and soy sauce in a small bowl or measuring cup.

Beat and cook the eggs in a single sheet. Roll and turn out on a cutting board and cut into ½ inch slices. Set aside.

When the tofu is done baking, in a large pan over medium- high heat, add the onions and a large pinch of salt and cook for about a minute. Add garlic and stir. Add the cooked tofu.

Add noodles and sauce, stir and cover to cook the noodles for about 3 minutes.

Remove lid and stir to combine and cook sauce down.

Stir in the eggs. Garnish with chopped peanuts and serve!

IMG_2619

The verdict? It was good eating, but it didn’t really taste like good pad thai. This may be (read: almost certainly is) my own fault. This is one of the more complicated recipes I’ve attempted: tofu to season and bake, sauce to mix, noodles to tend to, stir frying…I felt like I was in constant motion for an hour, trying to keep track of various and sundry timing issues. And while it came out well, my lack of experience with recipes that have more rather than less moving parts didn’t do anything to help it come out the way it should have. For high-altitude people, I’d recommend more like a half hour than 45 minutes baking the tofu, mine was a little extra dehydrated at 40 minutes. Also, this might have been the recipe that pushes me into finally getting a proper skillet. Our cookware isn’t super high quality stuff, and we’ve actually been talking about replacing it sooner rather than later, but it is often overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I want to put into it and then things fall out onto the stovetop because the edges aren’t high enough, and it was almost comically overflowing when I was cooking this. Anyways, pots and pans digression aside, this is definitely good food, and pretty healthy. Drew and I both liked it enough to go back for seconds. It’s definitely a time commitment though (I was in the kitchen for an hour and change), so save it for a day when you’re not super busy.

I Ate: Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill

On Friday night of my Las Vegas trip with Drew, Tom, and Amelia, we wanted to grab a quick dinner before going out to see a show. We’d made reservations for a fancy dinner the next night, so we figured we’d just stay inside the casino. So we stopped at Wolfgang Puck, and they were able to get us in…without a reservation even! Score!

IMG_2154

This place is a kind of Italian/steakhouse mash-up…they bill themselves as “American food”, but it’s actually a lot of pasta and then a lot of meat. Since I LOVE pasta with my entire heart and soul, I was happy as a clam. I am a sucker for no-frills Italian done well, so I ordered the basic spaghettini with tomato, basil, and garlic sauce. I really enjoyed it…the pasta was a tad overcooked, which it usually is in a restaurant, but the sauce was amazing. I wasn’t all that hungry when I rolled in, honestly…a long day in the sun tends to wipe my appetite out pretty well, but once I started eating I didn’t want to stop and managed to take down most of it. Everyone else got some kind of meat dish, and they all really enjoyed their meals as well.

IMG_2242

Wolfgang Puck is located within the MGM Grand Casino. They do take reservations and it’s probably better to be safe than sorry if you decide you really want to eat here. Prices are very reasonable for inside a casino (mostly about $25-35 for an entrée for dinner). Service was excellent. Highly recommended if you’re staying at the MGM…not really sure it’s worth it to come to from outside.

BFFs

One of the sad, if inevitable, parts of getting older is the culling of friends. People that once knew every deep (or silly) thought of your heart become strangers and time and distance separate you farther and farther until you don’t even know what you would talk about if you saw them again. The girls who cried on your shoulder about that boy that broke their heart get married and have babies with guys you’ve never even met. It’s not always the ones that you think are going to stick around for the long haul that do, especially when you do what I have and move 2000 miles from where you grew up. And that’s why it’s extra awesome that two of my friends since elementary school, Crystal and Kailey, came out to visit me in Reno for a weekend!

They flew in and out of Sacramento (about a two hour drive), because it’s cheaper that way. They also flew in on Saturday and out on Tuesday for the same reason, so they ended up arriving in Reno at about 230 on Saturday. Since Saturdays mean football for Drew and I and it was the Notre Dame game, we headed up to Drew’s parents house (they were out for the evening and had graciously offered for us to use it for this exact purpose) to watch football. Thankfully, given the result of the game, we mostly hung out on the lovely back porch and talked and caught up. I regret absolutely nothing about not watching that game, and after it was over we headed off to dinner.

IMG_2538

One of the things I knew we had to do when Kailey and Crystal were first planning their trip was Basque food. Reno is one of the few areas in the US that has a decent sized Basque population, so it’s one of the few places you can get dine Basque-style. Having been here several times myself, I knew that there was going to be pretty much nothing for me to eat (Basque food is super vegetarian-unfriendly), so I had put away a decent amount of food during the day and wasn’t especially hungry. But hungry or no, when you go to Louis’ you have to have a Picon Punch. After dinner, we wanted to head over to the Lincoln Lounge, but it was closed for a private event (we never ended up making it while they were here), so we headed to another one of my favorite bars, the Sierra Tap House. It’s right on the river, and it’s the perfect place to go out, grab a drink, and play a good round of Cards Against Humanity.

IMG_2578

Besides Basque food, one thing that I’ve always thought Reno does really well, dining-wise, is breakfast. So, obviously, we had to go to the Squeeze In for brunch and have mimosas in goblets. The Squeeze In is one of my favorite places to eat in Reno…it’s quirky and fun and delicious and did I mention the mimosas in goblets? So we all filled ourselves up to the brim with food and then waddled off somewhere I’ve been wanting to go in Reno but hadn’t had the excuse to before now: the Discovery Museum! It reminded me a lot of the Hands-On Museum in Ann Arbor, in that it’s one of those interactive educational museums that are fun for both kids and adults. We spent a while acting like big kids there before taking an afternoon break and then heading out to dinner at one of my favorite Reno restaurants: Campo. Since it was a lovely evening, we sat outside by the river and ate delicious Italian food until we were full to bursting, and then headed next door to the Old Bridge Pub to grab a quick drink (we picked it because it had TVs and poor Drew was football deprived all day). It’s a neat little place, but there were a couple of people already aggressively drunk at 9 pm who made unpleasant company, so we hightailed it out pretty fast.

IMG_2585

Monday was our Lake Tahoe day. Drew had to work, so it was just the girls, which ended up working out best anyways. The morning was cloudy and cool, so I suggested going up through Truckee to kill some time shopping while it warmed up and that ended up being a really good idea. We did a lot of shopping at the cute little stores before heading down to Kings Beach to get lake time in. I’m a Michigan girl, I was raised in and around the water, so I had a blast splashing around in the lake and basking in the sun on what turned out to be a really nice day: warm enough to hang out on the beach in swimsuits, but cool enough that we weren’t baking. Since we were there on a Monday, there was pretty much no one else there, which was also awesome. We grabbed a snack at Steamers per Drew’s recommendation before heading back into Reno on the Mount Rose Highway and heading to grab dinner at Great Basin Brewing Company. Since Drew has gotten dragged to craft brewers in Michigan, we thought it was only fair to take my Michigan friends to a Nevada brewer. They have good food, I’d eaten there before, but I was so stuffed from a whole weekend of overindulgence that by the time I took about three bites of my caprese salad, I was done. Kailey and Crystal wanted to get in some casino time, so that was the end of an amazing weekend with my best friends.

IMG_2587

So, here’s some #realtalk: sometimes, it feels like blogging is a way of nostalgizing your life as it’s happening. It’s either “look at all the cool things I’m doing, life is so grand” or “here is my humorous take on the little daily downfalls, but don’t worry, not sad just funny” with an occasional “this is a serious talk about a serious issue” lumped in when a celebrity dies of an overdose or something. Look at all the funny and good, no sign of the hard and bad. And I do that too, write glowing things about my relationship while avoiding talking about things like that one time I was ready to leave a party because I was tired and my back hurt and Drew didn’t want to go and we ended up staying for over another hour and it still kind of annoys me when I think about it. Doesn’t mean we don’t have a positive, healthy relationship, but I deliberately leave out those little moments of strife or annoyance because I want to focus on the positive stuff, because it’s easier and nicer to focus on the positive, because it makes my life look better. Or the fact that my sister is refusing to come out to Reno to visit me because she “just doesn’t really want to see anything there”, even though it’s where I live now, and how much that hurts my feelings. I don’t want my blog to become a catalog of my whining about things that I don’t like. That’s not fun for me to write, and it’s certainly not fun for anyone to read.

Where I’m going with this is that it wasn’t until my friends came out for like, 72 hours that I realized how very lonely I actually am. I speak to Kailey and Crystal (and my mom, and my dad, and my sister) regularly on the phone, but there’s nothing quite like actually sitting down together and sipping drinks and just bullshitting in person. Going and having real experiences together is what keeps friendships really alive, and that’s something I’m not going to have the chance to do very often with the people that have known me since I was 10, and that sucks. I don’t know what the solution really is, either. While I’m sure that I’ll make Reno friends as time goes on, I’ll never be able to have the same richness of history as I do with my besties, the ones who watched me cry and listened to me angst over boys that I would now breezily dismiss as nothing special or meaningful, who remember who I was and love me for who I am. And that blows. Being lonely is hard. Flights across the country are expensive for everyone. This is the choice I made, to move out to Reno for Drew, and many things about that were and are good, and the right choice. But the friends part is something I’m having a hard time with.

I Cooked: Tempah and Lentil Sloppy Joes

Weird kid confession time: when I was a kid and ate meat, even then I didn’t really like sloppy joes. I’m not sure why, because it’s basically spaghetti sauce in a bun which sounds like something I’d like, but I remember when I went to day camp and they’d do sloppy joes day and 90% of the camp would line up for that, I’d be one of the odd ducks that still lined up for just plain peanut butter, please. Anyways, when I saw this recipe for vegetarian sloppy joes online, I thought maybe it was time to finally right my childhood error, if indeed it was, by making (and hopefully liking) these. If you’re into clean and healthy eating (or want to be!), you should check out the other recipes on that blog as well. It hasn’t been updated in a while, but it’s still up and there are definitely lots of quality recipes over there.

IMG_2597

For the tempeh marinade:
1 package of tempeh
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 cup beer (or you can use veggie broth or water)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped

For the lentils:
1 cup lentils, rinsed
4 cups water

For the sloppy joe sauce:
1 8oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp molasses
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. water
1 Tbsp chili powder
2-4 hamburger buns or 4-8 slices of bread

IMG_2600

Combine all marinade ingredients except tempeh in a medium bowl. Crumble tempeh into 1/2 inch or so chunks and let sit in marinade for about half an hour or longer and then drain.

Add lentils and water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, then let simmer for 20-30 minutes until lentils are soft. Drain.

In a medium bowl, combine all sauce ingredients. Add lentils, tempeh, and sauce to a large skillet and heat over medium heat until everything is warm. Serve warm on hamburger buns or bread.

IMG_2604

 

I didn’t include a picture of the sloppy joe mix on bread because I forgot to pick up hamburger buns at the grocery store and it looked a little sad just slopped on there on my regular wheat bread. And however uninspiring this might have looked on bread, it tasted really good! I would definitely use actual hamburger buns though, because the sauce soaked through the normal bread and make for a very, well, sloppy eating experience. I subbed in molasses for the original recipe’s maple syrup, mostly because I already had molasses and figured it would add the required sweetness, and if made a difference, I couldn’t tell. I honestly can’t tell you if this really tastes like sloppy joes, it’s been too long since I had them, but it was good and really easy to make! Almost zero prep work had to be done besides breaking up the tempeh, so it was very little muss or fuss for a yummy result. Victory!

I Stayed: The MGM Grand

Like I mentioned in my post about my stay at the Luxor, when I went to Las Vegas, my sister and Tom had booked their entire four-day stay at the MGM in a double-queen room. Because Friday and Saturday nights are the pricey ones, we decided that it would be best for us all to stay together those nights and split the costs. Everybody wins! So on Friday morning, Drew and I took the walkways between the casinos and made our way over to the MGM Grand, which was fairly close by.

IMG_2145

The room here was both more luxurious and more spacious than the room at the Luxor…it accommodated four people closely, but comfortably. We didn’t really spend all that much time in the room, though, because we spent most of Friday at a cabana at the pool! My sister really wanted to go all-out for this trip, and it was right after her birthday, so my mom helped her cover the cost of the cabana. Having done it now, it’s really a fantastic way to spend a day by the pool. Padded lounge chairs, an attendant to bring you food and drinks, an indoor area with a TV so you can get out of the sun if you need to, free inner tubes for the lazy river. It’s NOT remotely economical: there’s a flat fee for the cabana rental, and any food and drink you order counts against it…so our mission was to eat and drink our way through about $700. Even for four people in our twenties, we weren’t able to get there, so we got a few bottles of champagne to take back to the room.

IMG_2123

Which brings us to my only real knock against the room- it didn’t have a mini fridge to store anything. I’ve never been in a room in Las Vegas that didn’t have a mini-fridge in addition to the mini-bar…I don’t know if that was something about our room or if that’s hotel-wide. Otherwise, the room was good: big vanity in the bathroom that my sister and I used to get pretty, spacious shower, comfy beds and pillows. The only thing we really could have asked for extra was a better view, but since we didn’t spend too much time in the room, it wasn’t a big deal.

IMG_2144

The MGM is considered a mid-level Strip property, and prices reflect that: my sister and Tom paid about $100/night for Wednesday and Thursday, and about double that for Friday and Saturday. Staff is friendly and accommodating: Las Vegas is a tourist town, so good service is pretty standard there. There are several good places to eat and drink, and clubs to go to/shows to see (they do have a Cirque show), without ever leaving the casino. Probably not someplace I would stay on a weekend because I’m cheaper than that, but if I was going on vacation and wanted to stay in a nice place for a special weekend away, this is a solid choice.

Happy 1 Year To Me!

Technically, I will hit the one year mark tomorrow, but I think this is close enough, don’t you? Tomorrow will officially mark one year of blogging, and what a journey it has been! It’s remarkable to me that anyone at all takes the time to read this blog of mine. I started blogging after years of being on tumblr (still am…tumblr 4EVA), but wanting someplace to be more…I’m not even really sure if there’s just one word to describe it. More thoughtful, more in-depth, more revealing. More fully myself. I’ve found some sort of little niche, apparently, that those of you who follow seem to be interested in, and for reading and commenting, I can’t thank you enough. Spending the past year blogging has made me evaluate and reflect upon myself in ways that have been sometimes challenging but always rewarding. It’s forced me out into my community more, and even when I’m traveling, I find myself choosing independent hotels and local eateries so that I can write about them here!

In the interests of continuing to grow and be better, I’d really love to hear from y’all. What have you enjoyed reading about, and what has been skippable? What kind of things do you like reading from me, and what kind of things might be better left behind? I rather like the way I do things now, honestly, and I have post ideas plotted out for quite a while, but if there’s something you think is getting the short shrift, or on the other hand, that’s taking up way too much valuable space, your feedback is something I would love to have moving forward. So once again, thank you for taking the time to read. The internet has a great many things to offer, and the idea that you find what I’m putting out there to be worthy of your attention is great! Here’s to another awesome year!

I Cooked: Indian Pulao Rice

This is my first time trying a recipe I found on Pinterest, I believe. A delicious stir fry in 30 minutes? With chickpeas, even? Yes, please, and thank you.

IMG_2521

  • 1½ cup brown rice
  • ½ red pepper, cut in small pieces
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 large tomato, washed and cut in small cubes
  • 2 handfuls spinach, washed
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • ⅛ tsp.  ground cayenne
  • ½ tsp. whole cardamom seeds
  • ½ tsp. garam masala
  • 3 cups water
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Salt

IMG_2528

  1. Cut the onion. Warm a large pan over medium heat. While that is heating up, continue cutting the rest of the vegetables (pepper, garlic).
  2. Once the pan is hot, pour a generous amount of olive oil and put the vegetables in (except the tomato, garlic, spinach and chickpeas), stirring often, until nicely roasted (probably 7-8 minutes).
  3. Add all the spices (except salt) and stir well for 15-20 seconds, to make sure the spices develop their flavors. Then add the tomato and garlic for a few minutes and then add the rice, water, and chickpeas, stir, cover and reduce temperature a bit, just under medium.
  4. Let it cook, covered, for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. If the water evaporates too quickly, add a bit more water so that it doesn’t burn at the bottom. A few minutes before the end, throw in the spinach. Add the salt and pepper before serving.

IMG_2532

I feel bad commenting about this food because I screwed it up a little. I’m so used to stir-fry recipes calling for pre-cooked rice that I just pre-cooked the rice without thinking and realized later that it was supposed to be cooked IN the dish. Oops. That said, it came out pretty good, if a little spicy for my bland Midwestern tastebuds. I am feeling a little deceived about the 30 minute bit, though, as that always seems to leave out the time-consuming step of slicing and dicing veggies, not to mention everything that happens before the final cooking. All told, this ended up taking about 40 minutes to make (not including time for the rice to cook beforehand), so if you actually let it sit and cook for 30 minutes while the rice you’ve cleverly NOT pre-cooked gets done, it’ll probably be close to an hour including prep time. Which is fine, it’s a healthy and tasty meal, but it’s not a quick 30 minutes. So if you have about an hour and an empty tummy, try this out!

I Ate: Hash House A Go Go

In early April, Drew’s uncle Tom passed away, and he and I and his parents went down to Las Vegas for the funeral. The majority of his extended family made it to LV, actually, which is especially meaningful because many of them traveled all the way from North Dakota. We (and by that I mean pretty much everyone) stayed at the Rio, and both mornings we were there, we ate breakfast at Hash House A Go Go, one of the places in the hotel.

IMG_2223

This place is efficient with line management and customer service y’all. The first morning we ate there, we all kind of trickled in bit by bit, and the staff was super accommodating as we had to keep adding tables to give all of us a place to sit. The second morning, there was a significant line and we were a party of 12, but we still got seated within about a half an hour. Once you sit, the waitstaff shows up quickly and the food comes out faster than you’d ever imagine possible in a crowded place. That food comes out in ENORMOUS portions. I just laughed when I saw mine, because I knew there was no way I was going to be able to eat all of that. What I did eat was decent, but not amazing: a greater emphasis on quality as opposed to quantity would not be missing here. It was also greasier than is my usual wont.

IMG_2225

Hash House A Go Go has a few locations around Las Vegas: we were at the one in the Rio, but there’s also one on Sahara. Prices are actually pretty reasonable: I expect breakfast food to be a little overpriced, and for the incredible quantity of food that was placed in front of me, I felt like it was a fair bargain, and not even just “for Las Vegas”. Service was excellent, everyone was friendly and accommodating. Recommended for big appetites.

Birchbox: August 2014

IMG_2473

This month’s Birchbox was pretty decent, but nothing special. Once again, we got to pick one of our samples, which is a feature I hope they keep (it seems like they will, since they’ve already done the choosing process for next month’s box) because I really like having a little control over what I get but mostly having little surprises.

Paula’s Choice RESIST Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum: Given that my only real wrinkle is the one between my eyes where I knit my brows together while concentrating, it’s hard to tell if something like this is “working”. It feels good on my skin and hasn’t made me break out, so that’s good at least? I will say that the sample size was nice and that I liked the design of the sample with the pop-up dispenser. I don’t know how well it works, honestly, but I’ll use up the sample at least.

Whish Coconut Milk CC Body Cream: When they say “CC body cream” here, you should read “body shimmer”, because that’s what this is. It’s a nice body shimmer, moisturizing and everything, and the shimmer is pretty and subtle, but it’s definitely there. If this was 5 years ago, I’d have been all about this stuff. But a year and change from 30, body shimmer isn’t really on my radar anymore.

Laura Gellar Beauty Cool Lids Cream Eyeshadow: This was my chosen sample, which I was really excited about because I’ve never tried cream eyeshadow before and this was a metallic, which is what I tend towards when I do buy eyeshadows. And I’m happy with my choice! I squirted just a little bit out onto my fingertip and put it on…which is probably an acquired skill because it wasn’t especially neat. It’s pretty sheer, but could easily be layered for a stronger look.

Neil George Shampoo: This is one of those shampoos that actually needs you to lather rinse repeat, because the amount of lather I got on the first go-through made it feel like my hair wasn’t going to come fully clean. With superfine, oily hair, I require a very shampooed head to not have grease accumulate. I don’t like having to lather up twice, I feel like I should only have to do it once. Also, the smell wasn’t bad, but I didn’t love it. Meh.

Neil George Conditioner: This conditioner felt heavy and rich, which is the kind of conditioner I usually use anyways, so it didn’t really move the needle for me in any way. My hair felt the same after using it as it usually does with my Nexxus conditioner, so I’ll use it until it’s gone but won’t purchase full-size.