Best Pesto Ever

This recipe came together somewhat by accident. I bought a basil plant that I felt could die at any moment, and I wanted to whip up something basil-y that required a good handful of leaves. What could be better than pesto? I didn’t have pine nuts or parmesan on hand, but I did have raw cashews and nutritional yeast. This is how a delicious vegan pesto is born.

I realize now that most of the recipes I’ve posted have been vegan. While I’m not a strict vegan, I do make mostly vegan dishes in an attempt to live forever. I’m also hoping it’ll offset some of the radioactive sushi I can’t live without. I figure if you’re going to pick your poison, then at least pick one with Omega-3 fatty acids–but you do you. That’s probably the most you’ll ever hear me say about diets/lifestyles/eating plans.

pesto avocado toast

On Pinterest, you’ll find approximately 1 billion similar recipes for vegan pesto. While you can swap out some ingredients for others—a different nut or broth in place of oil—one thing you most definitely need is lemon juice. It really seals the deal on that classic pesto taste.

You’ll Need:

½ cup raw cashews

½ cup fresh basil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

juice from ½ lemon

¼ olive oil

½ cup water

pinch of salt

a few grinds of lemon pepper

vegan cashew basil pesto

To Make:

Dump it all in a blender and grind. Taste and adjust the ingredients to your liking. Most recipes suggest you let the raw cashews soak in water for a few hours or overnight, but ain’t nobody got time for that. The pesto will taste amazing when you first blend it, and it’ll just get better after sitting a few hours in the fridge. It will also thicken up a bit.

avocado pesto toast

Drizzle it on the most incredible avocado toast you’ll ever have, drench penne with it, dress a salad with it, or eat it with a spoon. You really can’t go wrong with this pesto.

Don’t Fear the Feminist

feminism definition

In high school, my brilliant history teacher asked everyone in my class to raise his/her hand if he/she considered him/herself a feminist. A couple hands shot up and some stayed glued firmly to their desks, while others, like mine, hesitantly rose halfway like a limp petunia. My teacher, patient and understanding as ever, explained that being a feminist simply means you support gender equality—that men and women should be treated as equals. That’s it. After considering this tidbit of information, we were all given a second opportunity to form a decision. Guess how many of us raised our hands the second time around.

sexist vintage ad

Just a heartwarming, vintage advertisement.

That class stands out in my memory because it forever etched in my mind the incredible power of both education and ignorance. By remaining ignorant, I was unknowingly perpetuating sexist attitudes and discriminatory behavior. By taking the time to learn a single definition, I felt confident in knowing and describing what it was I stood for.

I’m thankful I had this learning experience in high school and not in college or—even more embarrassing—as a movie star with a wide range of influence. Still, a lot of well-meaning men and women skirt around what should be a straightforward question. Look it up in the dictionary and you will find that the definition for feminism is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” When someone asks if you’re a feminist, they are asking if you believe men and women should be granted equal rights. A simple yes or no will do.

sexist vintage ad

1920s

Unfortunately, it usually ends up being more complicated than that. The word has been twisted and manipulated into having an overwhelmingly negative connotation. To shy away from the word is to dismiss the work of women who have fought for centuries to reverse oppression. While some of us may be quick to discredit the work of feminists, I doubt any modern woman would prefer living in a pre-feminist world. And by the way, fear is commonly used by the ruling power structure as a means to gain control.

sexist vintage ad

1950s

If you understand what the word means and don’t wish to identify yourself in that way, that is one hundred percent okay. But if you do enjoy the primary features of feminism (equality), please don’t go down the “I’m not a feminist, but…” route. On this point, Mary Elizabeth Williams from Salon writes, “Nobody enjoys it more when a woman says she’s not a feminist than a misogynist. Nobody gets more gloatingly self-congratulatory about it, or happier about what ‘real’ women don’t need than someone who doesn’t like women very much, especially not the uppity, outspoken, wanting pay equity and reproductive freedom types.” Distancing yourself from the label because you don’t like labels perpetuates the ignorance fogging the true definition of feminism.

vintage sexist ad

1960s

Let’s make something else very clear. Sexism is real. From blatant misogyny to the subtler effects of everyday sexism, there are countless ways in which women do not share the same rights and privileges as men. In America, women still earn less than men for the same work. Women are still struggling for the right to make decisions about their own bodies. Women have had the right to vote for a measly 94 years. In an attempt to change this oppressive system via compelling arguments and personal stories, women are all too frequently dismissed as “oversharing.” In her article, “The Feminist Writer’s Dilemma”, Laurie Penny writes that, “when men write about their experiences in a political context, it’s never called ‘confessional’—it’s just ‘literature’, or a ‘memoir’. The second is that male political experience is never coded as male—it’s just universal truth.” Uh, yeah, in that case, I’m pretty sure males of European descent have been “oversharing” since the dawn of civilization.

1970s sexist ad

1970s

It would still take me all of college to recognize what level of bullshit I could withstand before exploding with rage. I’ve tended to far too many fragile egos and allowed myself to be disrespected numerous times for the sake of avoiding confrontation. I’ve shied away from calling out misogynistic comments for fear of being called “pushy”, “bossy”, or my personal favorite, “dramatic”. This, I have since realized, was not just passive on my part, but harmful. There have been so many moments when I should have said something but didn’t, and hardly ever a time I wish I’d kept my mouth shut.

sexist vintage ad

I write these things while keeping an eye on the eggs I’m soft-boiling for my boyfriend and I. This does not make me less of a feminist. Here are a few other things that will never make me less of a feminist: wearing pink, eating and/or baking cupcakes, watching Clueless for the hundredth time, listening to Lana del Ray, talking to my puppy in a baby voice, having a boyfriend, getting married, etc. I know, it’s mind-blowing. I can do all of these fun things while believing women should be treated as human beings. That’s not something to be afraid of, is it?

feminism tshirt

Buy the shirt here.

Save the Cat, the Writing Life

Since moving to L.A., I’ve been doing a lot of L.A. things. I frequent taco trucks, hike up Runyon with the dog I refer to as my son, use my scarves as home décor, and wish death upon strangers when stuck in traffic. I’ve also been writing (or at least attempting to write) a screenplay. A friend suggested I read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, a straightforward screenwriting playbook and really the only one you’ll ever need.

save the cat

When it comes to writing “manuals,” Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird will forever and always be my go-to writing bible. But every now and then I venture out into the unknown for a different perspective on what it means to be a writer. The same week I read Snyder’s manifesto, I read The Writing Life by Annie Dillard—because let’s not forget I’m still hanging onto those highfalutin literary dreams. While technically being in the same reference genre, they couldn’t be more different in tone and content. While Snyder lays down the law, Dillard gives you a rambling, poetic illustration of great writing, something to aspire to rather than a how-to.

the writing life annie dillard

Still, both of these books have an equally important purpose. Although writing a novel and a screenplay are two very different projects, you need to know the rules before you can break them. In literary writing, that means learning how to use a semicolon correctly before you can say “; to hell with it!” and start your short story with a lone, dangling semicolon. In screenwriting, that means learn the rules, play by the rules, and add a twist at the end that seems to defy the rules but doesn’t throw you off the beaten path completely—if you want to make money, of course.

Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

Dillard: “Few sights are so absurd as that of an inchworm leading its dimwit life… I often see an inchworm: it is a skinny bright green thing, pale and thin as a vein, an inch long, and apparently totally unfit for life in this world. It wears out its days in constant panic” (7). Making jabs at writers much? Or could she just be pointing out the futility of our existence? Either way, it’s a pretty sentence. And I like sentences.

Snyder: Other screenwriting manuals “are all so academic! So sterile. They treat the movies with waaaaaay too much awe and respect—they’re just movies!—and I think that gets in the way” (xii). Honestly, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. It’s storytelling, not rocket surgery.

Dillard: Writing a book “is sufficiently difficult and complex that is engages all of your intelligence. It is life at its most free. Your freedom as a writer is not freedom of expression in the sense of wild blurting; you may not let rip” (11). Or rather, let rip all you want, but remember to rein it in and slash most of it out when you’re done.

girl and cat

Working on a project with my editor.

Snyder: “You’re so involved in your scenes, you’re so jazzed about being able to tie in that symbolic motif from The Odyssey, you’ve got it all so mapped out, that you forget one simple thing: You can’t tell me what it’s about. You can’t get to the heart of the story in less than 10 minutes. Boy, are you screwed!” (4). I think this applies to pretty much all writing. If you don’t know what it’s about, whether it’s a log-line or the question that continues to gnaw at your soul, then it’s going to be hard to tell it well.

Dillard: “It takes years to write a book—between two and ten years. Less is so rare as to be statistically insignificant” (13). This makes me sigh with relief. I’ve lost a great deal of time and energy to my own self-doubt. Writing takes persistence, and still I expect to sit down at my desk and have genius pour out. Note to self: it doesn’t work that way.

Snyder: “I like Viki King’s book with the improbable title of How to Write a Movie In 21 Days. Improbable, yes, but I’ve done it—and sold the script I wrote, too” (xi). Okay, buddy.

black and white cat, shame

Dillard: “A work in progress quickly becomes feral… You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room” (52). Again, writing is putting in the work day after day while fighting off the self-doubt demons and the paralyzing fear you will never amount to anything.

Snyder: “As long as I maintain the attitude that he next script will be my best yet, and keep being excited about the process, I know I can’t fail” (144). A little arrogance may be required to write anything.

Save the Cat and The Writing Life butt heads with their two very different approaches to writing. Ultimately, though, they offer this similar message: get shit done. Follow the rules, break the rules, take your time, or pound it out—either way you have to get something down, one word at a time.

Red, White & Booze

What better way to celebrate the independence of our country than by getting hammered with some champagne cocktails?

If you’re looking for a few easy cocktail recipes to throw together at your party or barbecue tomorrow, then look no further. I love champagne cocktails because they’re boozy, pretty, and pretty hard to mess up. These also happen to look very patriotic.

champagne cocktails fourth of july

RED. For the lemon raspberry cocktail, I made a super-simple raspberry sorbet. You’ll need about a cup of frozen raspberries, the juice of one lemon, a splash of citrus vodka, and a couple splashes of sweet vermouth. Put all of these ingredients in a blender and blend away. If you’re in a hurry, you can scoop the soft sorbet and plop it directly into your champagne. Alternatively, you can freeze the mixture in an ice cube tray and pop a couple out when you’re ready to make a cocktail.

WHITE. The vanilla coconut cocktail blows the others away with its simplicity. It literally requires two steps: fill an ice cube tray with coconut milk and a dash of vanilla extract. Freeze. That’s it. When the coconut cubes are frozen, plop a couple in a glass and pour champagne.

BLUE. For the blueberry mojito champagne cocktail, simply muddle a handful of blueberries (I added a few blackberries, too, because why not) with a teaspoon of sugar and a few mint leaves. Let it sit for a few minutes so the mint and sugar can do their magic. When you’re ready to make your cocktail, just spoon a little or lot into a glass and pour champagne over the top. While the finished product doesn’t exactly look blue, feel good knowing your drink isn’t laden with artificial flavors and chemicals. And I shouldn’t have to mention this, but never ever ever screw around with blue Curaçao.

champagne cocktails fourth of july

When you put all three together, they make for a festive fourth of July display.

champagne cocktail raspberry

I think we can all make a toast to that.

Light and Time Before Sunrise, Sunset, and Midnight

I have problems with authority and suggestion, which means I’m a bit of a latecomer when it comes to pop culture. When someone tells me to read or watch something, I can’t help but want to do the opposite. (Hint: if you want me to watch The Wire, stop telling me to watch The Wire, Mike.) Eventually I come around, though, and almost always think why did I wait so long? My spirit animal must be some combination of tortoise and obstinate Billy goat.

There are some cases where waiting pays off. I’d never heard of Before Sunrise or Before Sunset—two films featuring instant soulmates Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) who battle time and distance to reconnect. So, when Before Midnight rolled around, I was perfectly positioned to binge-watch all three. And that’s what I did. Of course, I waited until Before Midnight was safely out of theaters first. I have to do things my own way, preferably on my own couch with my own popcorn.

homemade popcorn

Waiting in this case gave me an interesting perspective. Each installment in the Before “trilogy” was filmed and released ten years apart and they were meant to be watched that way. I imagine this provides a sense of both closeness and distance. You have waited so long yourself to see Jesse and Celine reunite and in that way, the anticipation is more real. But in hand with that comes the distance of having grown yourself. We change constantly, affecting our outlook on practically everything. By checking in on the characters we love, as though peeking through a kitchen window and into their private lives, we also check in on ourselves.

But I’ll never know what that’s all about; I watched all three in quick succession. There’s something so satisfying in having everything you want right when you want it. I felt almost guilty skipping through time, watching them age while I stayed the same. But not that guilty. Watching all three spared me from the agony of not knowing what would happen next.

before sunrise

Before Sunrise

In each film, time acts as another important character. In Sunrise and Sunset, the clock ticks on, pushing Celine and Jesse together like an invisible matchmaker. Knowing they may only have one night or afternoon together compels them to make moves they might not have otherwise. Before Midnight doesn’t have the same impetus; they’ve been together for about nine years at this point. With time behind them and a seemingly endless stretch ahead of them, they are forced to reflect on what it means to be together forever.

Light also plays a significant role in adding complexity to the narrative. All the magic and the initial spark happen in Before Sunrise. Between twilight and dawn, they explore each other without having to see the other person for what they are in the harsh light of day. Before sunset, their love is reignited during the golden hour when everything glows, beckoning nostalgia. Before midnight, they are faced to confront their issues in what is literally and figuratively the darkest hour. While Before Midnight can be hard to watch for this reason, the inklings of love they still have for one another carry more weight than they did before. At this point in the saga, groping in the dark for a reason to stay together, they retreat back to their inner, independent selves.

before sunset

Before Sunset

While Jesse does most of the talking in their relationship, Celine has the best one-liners to put him in his place.

On being rational: “The world is fucked by unemotional, rational men deciding shit.”

On the limited number of female icons: “Who wants to be Joan of Arc? Forget France, she was burnt at the stake and a virgin, okay. Nothing I aspired to. What a great achievement!”

On being a mother: “The only time I get to think now is when I take a shit at the office. I’m starting to associate thoughts with the smell of shit!”

On getting older: “The only upside of being over 35 is that you don’t get raped as much. I read it—it’s true.”

On dodging the mundane: “But not knowing is not so bad. The point is to be looking, searching, to stay hungry.”

On sunsets: “Still there. Still there. Still there. Gone.”

before midnight

Before Midnight

What we want so badly is to know someone else and be known by them, but when we struggle our entire lives to know ourselves, the question becomes whether it’s even possible to truly know someone else. We put so much pressure on making love last when we should be grateful to have it at all. People are complex, unpredictable, beautiful, and awful, so it should come as no surprise that love is a perfect reflection. I appreciate that Before Sunrise, Sunset, and Midnight together present a loving relationship in all of its messiness and uncertainty. The trilogy seems to suggest that we have to embrace love moment by moment, good or bad, before it all inevitably slips away.