I Saw: February 2015

February is a short month (and the beginning of session!), so I’m not going to give myself a hard time for only getting through four movies. Unusually for me, all of them were “modern” movies, from the last year or two. Maybe that’s why I actually enjoyed watching all of them?

Obvious Child, Sundance Film Festival 2014

Obvious Child: 9/10

I’d only ever seen Jenny Slate as the supremely irritating Mona Lisa on Parks and Rec (who she actually manages to make more funny than annoying, which so many performers try and fail to do in similar roles), so I was delighted to see her being completely charming as the star of this little abortion-themed rom-com. Not for the pro-life crowd, obviously.

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Her: 8/10

The more I think about it, Joaquin Phoenix might be one of my favorite actors. He’s certainly one of the most talented actors working today, in my opinion. The range of roles he’s played varies widely, and he disappears into his role each time. This movie hinges on his performance (and Scarlett Johannson’s voice acting), and he creates a character that’s a little bit creepy, but mostly just sad and lonely. It really makes you think about the nature of love.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel: 8/10

Wes Anderson’s movies are immediately identifiable as such, and also feel like they’re just endless variations on the same theme. That being said, I think this is one of the best ones. I’d say that The Royal Tennenbaums is my favorite, but this one is a close second. Ralph Fiennes’ lead performance is amazing and is responsible for a large part of its charm. If you don’t like Wes Anderson, this probably won’t be for you, but if you enjoy his work, this a good one.

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Gone Girl: 9/10

I read the book over a year ago and it’s stuck with me…the “Cool Girl” passage alone is worth reading the book for. This was a great adaptation: the casting was spot on for every role, and while there were some things I wish had remained from the book (Nick’s relationships with his parents, more of Amy’s inner life), they had to cut some stuff and I think they made good decisions. I really enjoyed FINALLY seeing a compelling female sociopath onscreen, Rosamund Pike was, well, amazing as Amy. I did think, while I was watching it, that I could see the similarities between the movie and the also-directed-by-David-Fincher House of Cards: the character of Amy seemed to have some overlap with Claire Underwood, honestly, and the way they were shot was really reminiscent of each other. But both the movie and House of Cards are awesome, so it’s all good.

20 Things I’ve Learned In My 20s: If You’ve Committed, See It Through

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Some people are just flakes. Doesn’t make them bad people. My friend Patrick, for example, once texted me at 5 or so to tell me he’d be coming into town to hang out that night around 9 and he’d text me when he was on his way. He never texted me back when I asked him at 830 if he was still coming. Or showed up. Not because he doesn’t care about me or want to hang out with me, but because he got distracted with something else. He apologized later of course, but I never got that mad because at that point I had already accepted his flakiness as just a part of him. Getting mad at people for character flaws you’re already aware of sounds like a really good way to be pissed off at your friends off-and-on for forever. Not interested in that.

But for a lot of people, flakiness isn’t an ingrained part of their personality, it’s just laziness. And hey, I get it. When I was 20, the only excuse I needed to flake out on someone was putting my sweatpants on and a Law & Order: SVU marathon on TV. Sorry, friend, something came up. I had a lot to get done. And I was flaked out on in turn (are kids these days still as bad about lying to their friends that they aren’t feeling well and then posting something on social media a few hours later about how this is a great movie they’re watching or a party they’re at?), and it wasn’t a big deal. Often the commitment made was a party of some sort, where there would be plenty of people to hang out with anyways. But as I’ve gotten older, I find myself becoming more and more aware of how rude it is to say you’re going to do something and then drop it like a hot potato. If you’ve said you’re going to do it, do it.

This obviously applies in work scenarios, too…everyone remembers the kid in the group project that didn’t do/half-assed his work and everyone else had to scramble to make up for it. That kid sometimes doesn’t seem to have figured out that that’s not cool, bro, by the time they hit the workplace, either. That’s just a jerk move. Ain’t nobody got time for that. But it hits closest to home when it’s in a social situation. I didn’t really start getting it until my mid-20s, after I graduated from law school. That’s when I would find things happening like making plans with a friend for dinner, arranging my schedule so that I could make it, looking forward to it all day and then…text twenty minutes before it’s supposed to happen about how they’re not feeling super well, or something popped up at the last minute. And sometimes people get sick and things pop up, but that timing is awfully suspicious. I get it, I do. Once you’ve gotten home and sat down for a second, getting back up off the couch is HARD. The thought of picking up the phone and texting an excuse and getting to spend the rest of the night with a warm laptop and sweet, sweet Netflix can be incredibly, almost irresistibly tempting. But as cliche as this sounds, you have to think about how the other person feels, how you would feel if you were in their shoes. They made the time for you, they’re staying true to their side of the bargain. It’s really disrespectful to someone else’s time and energy to think that wanting to be lazy is more important than that. And anyways, most of the time, in my experience anyways, it ends up being fun. So take off your cozies and put on your big girl pants (or big boy pants, or big girl skirt, or whatever garment you deem appropriate) and get out the door. You said you’d do it, so do it.

I Cooked: Southwestern Quinoa

After my first successful recipe from Damn Delicious, I thought I’d try another one. I’ve been intrigued by one-pot meals and never tried one, and with Drew’s fondness for Tex-Mex kind of flavors, this recipe seemed like a perfect one to start out with!

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1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa
1 cup vegetable broth
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup corn kernels
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
Lime juice

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Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in quinoa, vegetable broth, beans, tomatoes, corn, chili powder and cumin; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until quinoa is cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Stir in avocado and add a healthy squirt of lime juice.

Serve and enjoy!

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And I’m definitely going to keep cooking my way through the vegetarian recipes over at Damn Delicious, because this came out awesome! Both Drew and I really loved it. I made a few changes to the original recipe: I used pinto rather than black beans because I just like them better, and I took out the pepper because I am a wimp who can’t deal with heat. Drew and I both pounced on the leftovers and they were gone within 24 hours because they were so good. Basically what I’m saying is this is totally going to be a staple…after session, I want to start doing a weeknight meal along with the weekend meals I do now, recipes I’ve already tried that are straightforward to make, and this is exactly the kind of thing I’m going to make sure is in the rotation. Relatively little prep, quick cooking, and super yummy!

I Went: Grassroots Books

I love books. I was always the kid that got like 15 new books from the book order in elementary school while everyone else got like 3 or 4. That, along with some deeply unfortunate clothing decisions made by my mother on my behalf, consigned me to a childhood of nerdiness, but whatever. The point is, the only thing better than books are cheap books. I don’t care if someone else has read my books before I have as long as they haven’t done terrible things to the pages, and Grassroots is BY FAR the best used bookstore I have ever been in.

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They don’t just carry used books, they carry new ones too, but it’s mostly used. Unlike a lot of used bookstores, which seem to involve things just being shoved hither-and-thither in rough categories, Grassroots is laid out like an actual bookstore: there is a classics section, a general fiction section, history, psychology, etc. And the books are in alphabetical order even! So you don’t have to go wandering around wondering if they have your book…you look for it where it belongs and if you don’t find it, they don’t have it. Simple as that. Most of the books are really cheap: $1 for hardcover, $.50 for paperback. Some larger/more popular things, like cookbooks or things that have been on the bestseller lists recently, are more expensive, but it goes to keep the store running while they sell everything else for a song, so I’m okay with that.

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Grassroots Books is located at 660 East Grove St in Reno, NV. This is honestly one of my favorite places in Reno, I’ve picked up a ton of books here for really really cheap. I prefer reading real books to Kindle books (even though I love my Kindle), so it’s great to have a place where I can get stuff to read for similar prices as Kindle books. They have one or two days each month where they have a bag sale: you can buy everything you can get into a grocery-sized bag for $5. It’s awesome. There is a parking lot, which is sufficient on non-bag sale days. I love this place, y’all. Give them your business and money because they are awesome.

What’s In My Work Bag?

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I like to carry a large work bag…this one, in fact. It’s perfect for me: during the session (happening now!), I take my laptop with me back and forth daily, so I need something roomy enough to accommodate both that thing and everything else I need close at hand. Here’s what is in my work bag for my lobbying life during session:

Scarf: This is not really in my bag so much as on, but this was actually a gift from Jay when he spent time in Afghanistan. He found one in maize and blue for me! This adds a little pop of color to my otherwise super boring basic black bag.

Kate Spade planner: I’m a dinosaur for still using paper planners, I know. I’ve never warmed to my calendar on my phone in all the years I’ve had an iPhone, so I need something to help me keep track of my life. I had a Sugar Paper one I bought at Target last year, but this year I splurged a little on a Kate Spade one because it was cuter.

Kate Spade wallet: I just wrote about how much I love it!

Pens: I always have some. Too many, in fact. I think they replicate in my purse somehow. There were more in there than these, this is just what I grabbed from my first swipe.

Headphones: For that two-block walk between the Legislative Building and our little Carson City office. Got to listen to my tunes, man. I’m not joking, I totally put in headphones every time I walk out the door in either place. It’s a brief little escape for my mind.

Ibuprofen: I always have some on hand for errant headaches or cramps.

Snacks: You never know exactly how the day will go in terms of being able to get food at any given time, so I always have something that I can snarf down if the day gets too

Imitrex: Mama gets migraines. Always have to be prepared to deal with that.

Ballet flats: These in particular are cheapies, I bought them at Payless a few years ago and have been wearing them out ever since! I’m devoted to my heels for the most part because I’m bite-sized and I need the extra few inches for my vanity, but if I’m just running over to the coffee shop or know I have to do laps around the building to drop things off to legislators, I’m not too proud for flats.

Cough drops: I’ve been the sniffly kid since forever.

Obviously my phone is something I carry in my bag all the times, but most of the time it’s actually out and in or close at hand because during the work day I get lots of texts that I need to pay attention to. Since it was next to me when I was taking this picture, it’s not photographed, but it’s definitely in the mix with the rest of it.

What are your work bag must-haves?

I Cooked: Fettuccine with Garlic Cream Sauce and Sautéed Tomatoes

On a cold, rainy winter night, sometimes you just want to make comfort food, like warm and delicious pasta. Especially when there’s virtually no prep work involved. My love for noodles has already been well-covered on this here blog, so I don’t need to tell you why this recipe caught my eye. Katrina at A Splash of Something has a ton of great, straightforward recipes (and DIY projects), so if this looks good to you, you should definitely head over there and check her stuff out!

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16 ounces fettuccine
¼ cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint cherry tomatoes
salt
freshly ground black pepper
½ cup cream
Italian seasoning

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Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, and sauté just until golden, about 30 seconds to a minute. Add the tomatoes, salt and black pepper. Lower heat, and sauté, tossing occasionally, until tomatoes are soft, another 7 to 10 minutes.

In the meantime, cook the fettuccine to al dente, according to package instructions. When the pasta is nearly finished cooking (and the tomatoes are soft), add the cream to the pan with the tomatoes, give everything a good stir and heat the sauce until it’s almost simmering. Add the Italian seasoning, and stir to combine.

Pour the hot garlic cream sauce over the pasta, and toss to coat. Serve and enjoy!

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First of all, this makes a LOT of pasta. Which is great, because leftovers! Or sharing among friends! Second of all, this is a cream sauce for people who don’t really love cream sauce (like me, honestly). Since there is so much pasta for it to spread around, it’s not too thick or overwhelming. And it’s garlicky, which is obviously awesome. There was pretty much zero prep besides the garlic, so this came together really easily and quickly. I made a couple small modifications from the original recipe: changing out fresh thyme for Italian seasoning, and omitting lemon zest because I didn’t have any on hand, and it still tasted great! This is definitely going to become a dinner staple for me!

I Went: Junkee Clothing Exchange

I’d driven by the Junkee Clothing Exchange a bunch of times and thought: I should go in there. I love secondhand stores. And so, one weekend day when I didn’t have anything else to really do, I did just that. And I was right! It was really cool and I ended up spending hours in there poking around.

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There are two sections to the store: one is used clothing of all varieties (I bought what appeared to be a never worn even though it’s several years old Behnaz Serafpour for Target cardigan for $15, but there was everything from vintage capes to very 90s dresses in there) and the other are antiques. I was a little annoyed that they confiscated my cardigan before I was allowed into the antique side of things (I assume to avoid people leaving clothing all over or trying to slip small items into the pockets or something), because if it’s all the same store it should be treated that way, but that wasn’t really a huge deal.

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Junkee Clothing Exchange is located at 960 South Virginia St, Reno, NV in the Midtown Reno area. It’s a quirky little place full of all kinds of secondhand treasures, so I’d block out some time to come visit because once you get in there you won’t want to leave until you’ve explored a little. Parking is a little inconvenient because it’s Midtown and the lot is teeny-tiny, but there’s plenty available on the side streets.  Prices are very reasonable, it is secondhand after all. Great place to while away an afternoon shopping!

20 Things I Learned In My 20s: Drink Water (Especially After Partying)

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I survived most of college on Diet Mountain Dew and Diet Dr. Pepper. My dentist has long since forbidden me to consume full sugar sodas (or chew sugary gum, for that matter)…I know that fake sugar is bad for you and everything, but it can’t be helped. Anyways, when I think back to what I drank during college, those sodas, beer, and orange juice come to mind immediately. I didn’t drink water almost at all unless I was going to the gym and knew I needed to replace fluids. I think about that now and cringe.

I can’t really remember when I figured out that water was a thing I should drink. I think I finally started thinking about water as a viable drinking option in law school, because Alabama is really hot and I needed to rehydrate after sweating like a pig. I do remember the incident that really drove it home though. It was the summer between my second and third years of law school. After Gloria and I’s rift, I moved out into my own apartment not too far down the road. I was broke as a joke because I was in law school, so I was planning on doing all my moving myself. Well, actually, I was planning on doing most of my moving myself, and then calling some of my guy friends over and begging them to help me. I got most of the stuff into the truck besides the really big stuff, and then called my friend Patrick. Patrick was out of town. No one else was around to help either. Jay (who I was dating at the time) was out of the country. I was on my own. I started to freak out. I managed to get the mattress and box spring in the U-Haul I’d rented, but the couch was both too big and too heavy and I abandoned it out out by the road in the yard. My new place (which ended being my favorite place I’ve ever lived, honestly) was on the second floor of a small apartment building. So now I had to get everything out of the truck (because I couldn’t afford to rent it for more than a day) AND up the stairs. I got most of it, and then one of my classmates I never actually knew very well showed up because Patrick had called him and asked him to help, so I got everything else up and done. Now, even though I did the move at night specifically to try to do it when it was coolest outside, it was still Alabama in August. It was hot and humid as hell. I sweated like crazy. I tried really hard to drink a lot of water, but eventually even water was upsetting my stomach so I knew I wasn’t drinking enough. I woke up the next morning from where I’d collapsed on my mattress and I have never felt so hungover in my life. The headaches, the body aches (not just achy muscles, because I had that too, but that low-key ache all over), the nausea…the whole nine yards. And that’s when it clicked: a hangover is mostly a result of dehydration. All I needed to do to make hangovers less bad was drink more water. It hasn’t completely eliminated the little life-ruiners, but they are a lot less worse now than they used to be before I started drinking an entire glass of water between each drink.

Water is amazing, y’all. It helps keep your skin clear, it helps control your weight/bloating, it helps keep you healthy. Our bodies are about  60% water. I drink coffee daily and sometimes soda, but nowadays, almost all I drink is water. My boss actually sat down and told me to go through less of our bottled water because I drink so much that I was increasing our overall water budget, so I bring in a reusable bottle now. I have to pee all the time, but that’s well worth it. Water. Drink it. Lots of it. Especially after partying.

I Cooked: Tomato, Squash and Red Pepper Quinoa Gratin

I get stuck, sometimes, writing the intros to these posts. Most of the time the story behind a particular thing I’ve cooked is that I was browsing around the internet for recipes, found something with ingredients I like, and decided to make it. This particular recipe is from Cooking Light, which has a ton of recipes without as many calories as others you run into, so when you add relatively healthy to ingredients I like, this was a pretty obvious winner.

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5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped bell pepper
1 pound yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/8 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup feta cheese
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 ounces French bread baguette, torn
1 heirloom tomato, cut into 8 slices

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1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Heat a large nonstick pot over medium heat. Add 4 teaspoons oil; swirl to coat. Add onion; cook 3 minutes. Add bell pepper; cook 2 minutes. Add squash and garlic; cook 4 minutes. Place vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Stir in quinoa, basil, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper.

3. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, milk, cheese, and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to vegetable mixture, stirring until just combined. Spoon mixture into an 9×13″ glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

4. Place bread in a food processor; pulse until coarse crumbs form. Arrange tomatoes evenly over vegetable mixture. Top evenly with breadcrumbs. Bake at 375° for 40 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

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This was good…in the reverse of a few weeks ago, I was more into this than Drew was. He had one bowl, and I ate literally everything else between day-of and leftovers. Having eaten all the leftovers tells you that I was really into it! There was a lot of dicing prep work, it was a time intensive recipe, but once all the prep was done it was really straightforward to actually put together and make. Next time, I’d add more quinoa…only a half cup didn’t make for much more protein, which would have been welcome. Also, feel free to use the cheese that makes you happy…I had leftover feta to use up, so I subbed that in for the original cheese. I didn’t realize how egg-y it was going to be, because I’m not huge into eggs, but once I tasted the final product, I couldn’t get enough!

I Ate: The Blind Onion

When I was working on the Obama campaign in Sparks, our office was in the Victorian Square area in Sparks…more specifically, we were just behind the Sparks Blind Onion. It’s a local pizza place with a few locations around town, so when I was down in south Reno to run errands not too long ago, I couldn’t help but stop in and get some pizza for old time’s sake.

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See, we ate A LOT of Blind Onion during the campaign. It was right there, not too pricey, and quite good. Thankfully, I was walking multiple miles per day or else I would have been a blimp. I have lots of fond memories of the Sparks location: that time when my organizer friends and I ate it to (unsuccesfully) try to sober up after drinking too much at the Rib Cook-Off, doing data entry there because the office itself was dry, but we could drink wine at the Blind Onion, having a watch party for one of the presidential debates there. The Blind Onion is a big part of my early memories of Reno/Sparks.

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The south Reno location featured the same pizza without the memories, but thankfully the pizza holds up. It’s greasy and there’s lots of cheese, and when you order a single slice they give you two. The trademark thick crust is meant to be torn off and dipped in the honey they keep available at tables just for that purpose. I’ve never been super big into honey, so I just enjoy the bread-y deliciousness of the crust without adornment. It’s not a fancy meal, this is not upscale pizza. It’s just hot, covered in cheese, and in no way shape or form good for you. Just how I like it.

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The Blind Onion has several locations, but this one (the South Reno location) is at 6405 South Virginia Street in Reno, NV. It’s reasonably priced and the pizza is really good…I love pizza and think that the Midwest does it better, but this is by far the best pizza I’ve had in Reno/Sparks. There is a lot to park in, and the service is friendly but not in your face at all. Highly recommended for a very casual lunch or dinner.