Fun DIY Housewarming Gift: Bloody Mary Easter Basket

One of my best friends recently moved into a brand new custom-built house. The process was arduous, with her spending months picking each and every detail and overseeing (and occasionally correcting) the construction along the way. But after a many month process, she is now happily settling in to her new place, and invited us over for an Easter brunch.

Knowing that we didn’t want to show up empty-handed, I set out to find a housewarming gift. Except, as this wasn’t her first house, I knew she already had most of the “stuff” one might traditionally give for a housewarming present. So I needed to get a bit creative.

That got me thinking…since this was an Easter brunch, why not an Easter basket? And what goodies would come in a grown-up Easter basket? The answer seemed pretty clear to me: Booze.

With that, the idea for a bloody mary themed Easter basket was born. So, I stopped by the grocery store and gathered our favorite local bloody mary mix, Zing Zang, celery, limes, hot sauce, horseradish, stuffed olives, and some flavored rimming salt, and then swung by the liquor store to grab the finishing touch, a bottle of Tito’s Vodka.

We pulled an old wicker basket out of our garage (I think this had been part of a birthday or Christmas present we received at some point…), added a bit of Easter “grass” leftover from our Christmas baskets in 2015, and then stacked all the goodies in so that they looked good and were clearly visible.

And voila – I now had a fun and festive housewarming gift that I knew my friend would actually use. Best of all, it took very little time to assemble (seeing as how I had to go to the grocery store anyways), and she can reuse the pretty wicker basket even once the goodies inside are finished.

What’s your favorite DIY project? Tell us in the comments. 

Retail Therapy Without the Guilt (or Expense!)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we spent a pretty good chunk of change in our recent living room remodel. So, in keeping with our Mustachian ways, that means we’re tightening our wallets a bit over the next month or so, to even out that additional expense.

That being said, you can imagine how pleased I was today when some FREE MONEY just showed up in my inbox, allowing me to do a little shopping without the guilt or cost that normally comes with such activities.

How? Well, it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of airline and hotel loyalty programs. But as it turns out, many retail outlets have their own loyalty programs as well. And West Elm, where we purchased our new couch, is part of a loyalty program called “The Key”.

I took the 30 seconds or so to sign up for this program before I punched in my credit card details for the couch purchase, and poof! Three months later, a credit for $67 showed up in my email. Even better, I could choose from between 7 stores (including Pottery Barn, West, Elm, and William-Sonoma) for where to spend it.

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So, after perusing the many beaded pillows and terrariums and finials and all other matter of stuff that pretty much no one on Earth *actually* needs, we settled on two items from Williams-Sonoma: a wine decanter (to replace an old one that cracked) and a spoon rest for the stove (which I’ve been talking about getting for ages).

The subtotal came out to just under $58. I applied a coupon code I found online for free shipping, and then with tax, my “total” was $62.73. I added the certificate number from my email, and voila — my purchase was free. I didn’t even have to enter a credit card number!

The lesson here is always to take a couple minutes to research your “reward” options, especially on large purchases. Our typical order-of-operation goes something like this:

  1. Check for coupon codes using Honey or RetailMeNot
    • If not, check to see if you can get bonus points for purchasing the item by going through a travel shopping portal (like Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping).
  2. Check to see if there’s a statement credit available through Amex Offers, if you’re an Amex card holder.
  3. Check to see if you can get free shipping by meeting a certain subtotal amount or through a service like ShopRunner, which is a free benefit of many Amex cards.
  4. Check to see if you can sign up for a loyalty rewards program through the merchant, or if they participate in an umbrella program, like Plenti.
  5. If the retailer gives you any sort of discounts to use in the future with your purchase (like with Kohl’s Cash, or Old Navy Super Cash), mark them on your calendar so you don’t forget about them.
  6. If it was a really large purchase (over $300 or so), keep your eye on the price of the item over the next 60 days or so, then avail yourself to your credit card price protection benefits if the item’s price decreases.

So take the extra time, and you might just run into a free shopping opportunity yourself!

Highlights from our “Nevertheless, She Persisted” Postcard Party

This past weekend, we invited several of our more liberal-leaning friends over for a slightly different kind of social event: a postcard party. The purpose of this sort of gathering is to get individuals together to write their elected officials, but in a way that’s fun, social, and builds up our community.

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The planning for the party was fairly straightforward. I scheduled the event for 3pm on a Sunday, so that meant I’d only need to provide light snacks and refreshments. We opted for a mimosa bar (much like our New Years Day brunch) along with iced tea, homemade salsa and guacamole with tortilla chips, chicken salad tea sandwiches, my homemade pepper jelly over cream cheese with crackers, and cookie-brownies. (The cookie brownies came from a box…baking isn’t really my forte.)

Then, there were the logistics of the postcards themselves. Assuming I’d get 10-20 people in attendance, and that the average person could write about 30 coupons in a 2-hour span, I went ahead and ordered 500 postcards from Vistaprint. (Don’r forget to check for coupon codes!) It only cost me about 10 cents per card, and here’s what they looked like:

As for the postcard designs, I found a few that were made available for free, specifically for this cause, by their designers. Others, I ordered digital downloads from Etsy, each for less than $5 a piece. I’d highly recommend this route if you decide to replicate this yourself — don’t forget to pay your artists!

Next came setting my attendees up for success. I gathered addresses for all of my area representatives at both the federal and state level (President, Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, 2 US Senators, US Representatives from our area, Texas governor, Texas Lt. Governor, Texas Senators from our area, Texas Representatives from our area, and our city mayor. I also wrote a list of “conversation starters” — ideas for what folks could write to their reps at each level. (I’ve made both of these documents publicly available on Google, in case anyone would like to use them!)

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Then, I cut down an Amazon box into small pieces so that everyone could have a piece of cardboard to write on, gathered pens, printed out multiple copies of my documents, and we were ready to go!

As everyone arrived, I gave them the rundown of how to proceed: they could write up to 3 postcards to each rep, and I would collect them in three separate batches, for mailing on consecutive weeks. Guests were instructed to bring personal address labels, postcard stamps, and like-minded friends.

Midway through, I gave a quick speech of other upcoming activism opportunities, and overall I’d say the event was a huge success! We’re thinking of hosting another such party next month as well.

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Postcard parties are a fun, easy, and social way to stay politically active. They don’t replace more direct activities like calling and visiting your reps or going to town halls, but if you’re unahppy with the current administration, they can be just one more way to make sure your voice is heard.

 

 

15 Things You Can do Post-Inauguration to Keep Resisting a Trump Presidency

January 20, 2017, 12:02pm: “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

Well, he’s the President now.

But that doesn’t mean our fight is over. It means our fight is only just beginning. What you do EVERY SINGLE DAY of the next four years is important. The next two years, leading up to midterm elections, potentially even more important. So how do you fight back? Here are some suggestions.

  1.  Sign up for the Daily Actions text updates or Facebook page, and look out for the daily recommendation for what to do. The actions are usually things like calling your members of congress on a specific issue, and generally take less than 5 minutes to complete. But multiplied tens of thousands of times across all the members in the group, it makes a difference.
  1. Continue to vote with your wallet. The #GrabYourWallet boycott highlights retailers that still have Trump family products on their shelves. Boycott these stores, share on Twitter when you shop elsewhere, and write to your retailers to tell them how you feel.
  1. Fight fake news on Facebook.  When you see fake news, go to the divot icon in the top right corner of the post, and click “report post” then choose “it’s a fake news story.” Facebook will then review the content.
  1. Fight the profitability of fake news sites like Breitbart, by asking their advertisers to drop the site. Here’s news on this effort, and the primary group behind the effort, plus instructions on how to participate. (Note: their focus is on Breitbart, but you can do this with any hateful fake news site that runs ads, which is most of them.)
  1. adchoicesFight the profitability of fake news sites, by asking Google to drop the site from their ad network. To do this, go to any site, and look for the icons shown here to the left in the upper right corner of the ads. Hover over the triangle icon until the words “adchoices” show up, then click on them. Then scroll to the bottom of the page, click “the issues were with the website” and then choose “The site promotes racial intolerance, or advocacy against an individual, group, or organization.” You can do this daily.
  1. March. Join the Women’s March on Washington, Women’s March on Austin, or any of the hundreds of sister marches taking place across the entire world tomorrow, January 20th, 2017. While you’re there, interact with community groups and give them your contact info so they can alert you to other upcoming events as well. Remember: the March is just the start. You have to keep the momentum going.
  1. If you can’t make it to a march because of your own personal situation or a conflict, consider sponsoring a marcher through NARAL.
  1. If you can’t make it to a march because you (or a loved one who you are the caretaker for) have a disability, join the Online Disability March.
  1. Preserve the ACA. Call your congressional representatives and tell them why the ACA matters to you, and demand no repeal without replacement.  Remember that personal stories matter more than reading a script.
  1. Continue to donate to good organizations that have promised to fight, like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and many others. Bonus points if you set up a recurring donation.
  1. If you haven’t already, consider joining one of the many (often unlisted) local action groups on Facebook that sprung up out of the decline of the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group.  To join, reach out to whomever your most politically active liberal friend is, and see if they’re a member. Chances are they are, and can add you.
  1. Sign up for the email newsletter list  of your representatives at the local, state, and national level. (Yes, even if they’re Republicans. Especially if they’re Republicans.) Keep your eyes out for emails about Town Hall events. Attend, ask them questions, and force them to answer for what they’re doing. You can use this site to find who represents you, then navigate to their website to find the email sign up.
  1. Figure out what non-partisan news sources or websites are reporting on your local politics. These can often be overshadowed by the national news, or sensationalist issues only. In Austin, for example, the Austin Monitor reports on the happenings around City Council, and Community Impact News often does deep dives on things like local bond measures. At the state level, the Texas Tribune reports on what’s happening in the State Leg, and also features frequent events where you can confront your legislators in person as well. Add these local sites to your daily reading list, and support them monetarily if possible.
  1. Try to find balance. It can be overwhelming to feel like you alone are responsible for taking on the establishment. So look for support and action groups that share your views. Take time out to celebrate all the little non-political things: birthdays, promotions, days with nice weather, great meals, firsts, etc. And don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day (or even a few days) of being active. Just recommit yourself to the process of fighting back and start again. The worst thing you can do, as Obama has often reminded us, is to grow cynical and stop trying.
  1. Send a message of thanks to Barack and Michelle Obama for all they did, via their new website. We all know they deserve it.

Want more things you can do? You can re-read my earlier posts on 44 Things You Should Do If You’re Disappointed in the Election and 22 MORE Things You Should Do If You’re Disappointed in the Election.

Reflections on “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life”

Anyone who knows me knows that I really love Gilmore Girls. I’ve watched every episode in the series probably 6-7 times each (and more for my favorites).

Why? Beyond the fast-talking, quirky town characters, and female-led cast and crew, it was mainly about Rory. I just get Rory. I sometimes wonder if I *am* Rory, and Amy Sherman-Palladino has simply been stalking me. Here are some facts about Rory, compared to facts about me.

  • In the new Year in the Life show, Rory is 32. I am 32.
  • Rory is an only-child, raised primarily by a single, working mom. I am an only-child, raised primarily by a single, working mom. (Though, shout out to my Dad who was very active in my life as well.)
  • The other adult figures in Rory’s early life (Emily, Sookie, Mrs. Kim) are primarily strong women. The other adult figures in my early life (grandmother, aunts, cousins) are primarily strong women.
  • Rory transferred in her junior year of high school to a prestigious private school. I transferred in my junior year of high school to a prestigious boarding school.
  • Rory got good grades. I got good grades.
  • Rory went to a prestigious private University, where she majored in journalism. I went to a prestigious private University, where I majored in public relations (which at USC, is housed in the Annenberg School of Journalism.)
  • Rory had a serious, live-in boyfriend in college. I had a serious, live-in boyfriend in college.

There are other similarities, but those are the main ones. To put it mildly, I see a lot of myself in Rory.

She’s determined, cautious, smart, deliberate, hard working, and fastidious.

****CAUTION: SPOILERS COMING. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED****

And because of all that, I have a real problem with the idea that in the past 10 years since we’ve last seen Rory, all she’s managed to accomplish is 2-3 freelance articles published in random magazines. Amy Sherman-Palladino turned our beloved Rory into the reflection of the popular millenial meme that my generation is a bunch of whiny do-nothings, that despite her stellar education and well-documented internal drive, she’s somehow flamed out entirely without a career, money, relationship, or even a place to live and must come back and live with Lorelai.

Palladino apparently really believes in this meme – so much so that not only was painting Rory as a millenial burnout not enough, she also added the “30-something gang” as a running joke in the latter half of the new episodes to reinforce the stereotype.

To put it mildly, that’s sort of infuriating. If I look around at the people I went to college with, I see people with challenging and interesting careers in fields like medicine, science, music, marketing, technology, and yes — even journalism. I see them building upon solid relationships in their marriages, raising curious and responsible children, buying houses, volunteering in their communities, and standing up for what they think is right.

That’s not to say my generation is perfect and just lives perfect lives. If I look at that same group of people, I also see layoffs, divorces, failed startups, miscarriages, special-needs children, the death of parents and friends, recessions, setbacks, and challenges. But when those things have entered the picture, they’ve been dealt with. No one ran home to cower in their childhood room and lament that the world wasn’t handing them enough success.

And I just don’t believe that Rory would have done that either.

Nor do her relationships make sense. Rory was never a cruel person, so the running joke of “Paul” is out of character for her from the beginning.  And the idea that she’s continuing to sleep with an engaged Logan Huntzberger? I’m pretty sure Rory got her fill of “being the other woman” from her second go-round with Dean. Beyond that, to suggest she’s not encountered any other serious relationships in 10 years time? I’m just not buying it. Perhaps again, Palladino is relying on those spurious headlines about millenials, proclaiming this is the generation that never gets married, doesn’t date, and never settles down. It all seems very cliche.

It didn’t need to end this way. We see glimmers of hope in Palladino’s portrayals of the other characters; Paris, for example, has become a business mogul, married Doyle, had kids, and gotten a divorce. It’s not all perfect, but it’s consistent with who Paris has always been. Lane, meanwhile, is busy raising the twins, while still jamming out with her band in her spare time — another consistent portrayal.

So how did Palladino miss the mark so much with Rory? Hard to say. Palladino’s last season of the show’s original series was season six, where Rory WAS floundering around on her “break” from Yale, planning DAR parties and redecorating the pool house. It’s possible Palladino just couldn’t break out of that mindset; much of Rory’s distress in the new episodes seems well suited for a just-out-of-college 22 year old, and only fails because Rory’s supposed to be a decade older and wiser now.

In the end, it’s not that the new episodes were bad. Emily’s journey is interesting and even touching at times, and Palladino does capture the feeling of Star’s Hollow again quite accurately. It’s just that it could have been so much more, especially for our beloved Rory.

22 MORE Things You Should Do If You’re Disappointed by the Election

DON’T MISS PART ONE, LINKED HERE!

First, let me say that in this sea of uncertainness, I am so heartened by the interest in my most recent post, 44 Things You Should Do If You’re Disappointed by the Election. This post has been re-shared hundreds of times and is now the second-most read post on my blog, ever. Thanks!

Even more, lots of you have been sharing additional thoughts, tips, and recommendations of things you can do in response to this election outcome. So I now present you with 22 MORE Things You Should Do If You’re Disappointed by the Election:

Political Action

  1. In my previous post, I encouraged you to write letters/emails to your existing representatives. But a former congressional aide recently gave compelling advice that CALLING your rep’s in-state district office is actually even more effective than letters or emails. And don’t forget to call your state- and city-level reps as well.

    Here is a script that I used when I called: “Hello, my name is (name) and I am one of Congresssman/Senator (their name’s) constituents.  I wanted to call today to let Congressman/Senator (their name) know that I am very concerned about the election of Donald Trump and wanted to call on the Congressman/Senator to do all he can in his power to help protect the right of marginalized communities, and especially to (fill in your own personal reasons here- they might include ‘protect a woman’s right to choose,’ ‘keep in place the Obamacare provision restricting insurers from discriminating against pre-existing conditions’, or ‘support DACA to keep families together’, etc.) They will likely then ask for your address. That’s it – super quick.

  2. There is a Change.org petition asking people to call on electors to cast a protest vote in states where they are allowed to do so. My personal opinion is that this is very unlikely to happen, but it takes two seconds to sign the petition, and does serve as a “count” of how many are working to prevent the potential damage of a Trump presidency from occurring.
  3. Similarly, you can write to the electors in your state, asking them to become a “faithless” elector, and vote their conscience. Know that this is pretty much a long shot, though.
  4. One other online petition of interest is the one asking Obama to appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, as the Senate has failed to do its job by calling for a vote.
  5. Email, write, and call your local city officials (mayor, city council), your district attorney, and your local police chief or sheriff, asking them to work to designate your city as a “Sanctuary City” for immigrants; meaning they will not turn over any lists they may have of who in your city is undocumented, nor will they allow police or municipal employees to inquire about an individual’s immigration status.
  6. Email, write, and call your University alma mater if you have one, asking them to designate your University a “Sanctuary Campus.” This is similar to becoming a sanctuary city, in that the University promises to refuse to turn over any lists of immigration status of students or staff, and does not work with ICE officials to facilitate raids on the campus. (If you Google “your school” + “sanctuary campus” you may find an existing letter you can join, as many campuses have already called for this.)

Boycott/Donate

  1. In addition to the previous targets of boycott that I listed, there’s also a call to boycott businesses that distribute/stock Trump branded products, and to write into their corporate headquarters asking that they discontinue their relationship with the brand. Talk about how you’re boycotting with the hashtag #grabyourwallet on social media.
  2. Write to Nike, Gucci, and Starbucks — all businesses that have “flagship” locations in Trump-owned buildings — asking them to end their leases and relocate these stores. Boycott these specific locations (but not the chains themselves) in the meantime.
  3. Do not watch or attend PGA events, and write to the PGA asking them to move the 2017 Senior PGA Championship and 2022 PGA Championship from Trump-owned golf courses. Also consider writing to individual golfers on the senior tour asking them to withdraw from the 2017 event in protest if it is not moved. Boycott the Senior PGA Championship sponsor, KitchenAid, and write to their corporate headquarters asking them to pull their sponsorship.
  4. While I told you in the previous article to support good news sources doing investigative journalism, I’d also recommend that you boycott the Wall Street Journal (both in paper and online), as it’s owned by Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch.
  5. Consider making donations (like ones to the organizations listed in the previous article) in lieu of giving Christmas or Hanukah presents this year.

Advocacy

  1. I keep seeing people say that “half of America voted for Trump”. This is an outright lie. Only roughly 25% of Americans voted for Trump. A slightly larger 25% voted for Hillary Clinton. And 47% didn’t vote at all. Everywhere you see this lie being propagated, correct it. Only roughly 1/4 of Americans voted for Trump, and he did not win the Popular Vote.
  2. Do you know someone who didn’t vote? Ask them why and then really LISTEN to their response. Do not vilify them. Do not accuse them. If there was a barrier that kept them from voting, e.g. they didn’t have the proper id, they didn’t know if they could get off work, or they didn’t have a way to get to the polls, make a plan with them for how you, personally, can help them set this right for them for next time around. If they cite the most common response for not voting—that they were too busy—ask them to make a commitment to you that they’ll vote in 2018, and then followup with them about it on a monthly basis.
  3. Be prepared to intervene if you witness or are the subject of harassment or an attack.  Here’s a video on disrupting a racial attack from post-Brexit. Here’s a great comic on what to do if you witness Islamaphobic harassment. And here are 12 potential responses for encountering street harassment. (And p.s. white guys— here’s your chance to really step up, as victims of harassment will generally look to de-escalate themselves, but you can shift the focus and call out the harasser in a way that those being harassed often cannot.)

Health

  1. If you don’t have insurance, sign up for Obamacare. It’s much harder to take it away once it’s in place. Call your state representatives and let them know that you actively use it.
  2. Here’s a good list of Trans-specific healthcare concerns and actions to take before the inauguration. If you’re not Trans, share with any Trans friends.
  3. Are you a runner, walker or biker? Consider downloading the Charity Miles app that will donate $0.10 per mile biked or $0.25 per mile walked to a charity of your choice. Many of their charities have an international focus, but some also do work in the US, like: The Nature Conservancy (environmental protection), Partnership for a Healthier America (children’s health), or Back On My Feet (homelessness).

Self-Protection

  1. Read this article about better protecting your data online, and make whatever changes you see necessary. Here’s another article on the same topic.
  2. For Trans individuals, prioritize getting your name and gender marker changed on state and federal ids as soon as possible.

Community Organizing

  1. Start a community organizing group among your friends.  Here is a FANTASTIC article I found about how to get started. I’d recommend everyone read this!
  2. Look into attending the Womens March on Washington D.C. the day after the inauguration, or, if you can’t make it to D.C., then to a local satellite event, like this one here in Austin.
  3. The safety pin thing. (Sigh.) I’ll admit I have mixed feelings on this one. Read up on both sides of the argument and make your own decision about whether you want to wear one or not.
  4. Consider attending a Trump protest (or not.) Like the safety pin thing, I also struggle with this one. As I feel right now, Trump has been legitimately elected by the process we currently have in place. Showing our solidarity? Good. But I’d rather save our collective “protesting energy” for protesting a specific policy, nomination, or action once he’s in office. A better option may be attending “rallies” for specific causes like immigration rights or BLM. But do what makes sense for you.
  5. Do you know a friend who would make a great candidate for office? Tell them so. Regularly. Set a reminder on your calendar to send them a note once a month or so to encourage them in this way.

So there ya go.  How many have you checked off the list so far? Make it a competition against your friends and see who can drive the most change!

44 Things You Should Do If You’re Disappointed by the Election

Donald Trump won the presidency, and the Republicans will control both houses of Congress until at least the 2018 election.  If you’re like me, you’ve hopefully shed your tears and are now ready to get to work. Here’s 44 concrete things you can do right now as  ways to get started:

Communications/Advocacy

  1. Send a Thank You card to Hillary Clinton.
  2. Write or Call your existing congressional representatives, telling them about your concerns on a Trump presidency and specific policy issues that are important to you.
  3. Prepare a similar letter for future President Trump, as well, and send on Inauguration Day.
  4. Send emails/write letters to companies who advertise on Fox News, asking that they pull their advertising.
  5. If you de-friended someone on Facebook over their voting Trump? Reconsider. They need to hear your viewpoint if they’re ever going to change their mind.
  6. Call out “fake” news, claims and conspiracy theories whenever you see it, citing real news sources, fact-checking websites, and Snopes to debunk them.

Political Action

  1. Volunteer to become a Voter Registrar in your state, and attend large events/festivals in your area where you can talk to people about registering to vote.
  2. Attend a City Council or School Board meeting in your town, or even better, start attending one regularly. Ask questions. Speak up in the public comment time periods. Regularly introduce yourself to your Council members.
  3. Lay the groundwork to run for office yourself in a local role like school board, city council, or other starter position: Texas women in particular should consider attending a training/event from Annie’s List; other state orgs promoting women candidates can be found via Emily’s List.
  4. Check whether any local- or state-level races in your area are headed for a run-off election. If so, mark the date on your calendar and tell your friends about the run-off as well.

Donate & Help Raise Funds

  1. Donate to worthwhile organizations that defend and legally advocate for the groups Trump has threatened:
  2. Better yet, set up a recurring monthly donation.
  3. If you donate, check with your employer to see if they will match your funds, and see what they require in terms of verification in order to do so.
  4. Can’t afford to donate? Set your Amazon Smile charity to donate to one of the above whenever you shop, and always shop through https://smile.amazon.com.
  5. Black Friday is coming. As much as possible, support minority-, women-, and LGBTQIA-owned small businesses in your community to do your holiday shopping.

Volunteer

  1. Volunteer for an organization working to assist sexual assault survivors, by working the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline, or for local organizations (like SafePlace in Austin).
  2. Volunteer to be an abortion clinic escort — you help women with appointments get from the parking lot to the building, often through a line of horrid protesters screaming obscenities.
  3. If you’re a lawyer, set a higher pro-bono goal for yourself for 2017 and dedicate a portion of your CLE hours to learning more on constitutional law and immigration law.

Boycott

  1. Don’t stay at Trump hotels, golf at Trump golf courses, or gamble at Trump casinos.
  2. Don’t buy Ivanka Trump’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, or makeup lines.
  3. Don’t ride the Central Park carousel or use the Wollman ice skating rink in Central Park. (Both are operated by Trump.)
  4. Don’t stay, gamble or shop at The Venetian casino in Las Vegas, which is owned by Trump’s largest donor, Sheldon Adelson.
  5. Boycott movies and tv shows produced or distributed by 20th Century Fox (owner of Fox News) and its subsidiaries, including tv networks (Fox, FX, FSN, and National Geographic), current television shows produced by Fox (Son of Zorn, Bordertown), movies produced by Blue Sky Studios (most notably the Ice Age and Rio movies, also upcoming movie Ferdinand).
  6. Buy an electric vehicle or invest in solar panels for your house, so that you can boycott buying gas, thereby indirectly boycotting the Koch Brothers (who made their money off oil) and also decreasing the need for pipelines like the proposed Trans-Pecos Pipeline and the DAPL.

Self – Protection

  1. All married couples, but especially LGBTQIA individuals, should make sure to create a will or estate plan, and consider creating both legal and medical Power of Attorney documents for their spouse.
  2. Get your finances in order. If you have credit card debt, get yourself out of debt as quickly as possible (I recommend tactics such as those espoused by Mr. Money Mustache) and start setting aside whatever you can each month in order to build up an emergency fund that would cover your family’s expenses for at least a six-months period. (Not only is this just good, practical financial advice, but if you ever needed to use it to get out of the country in a hurry, you have it.)
  3. Get a passport for yourself any any children you may have, and renew any passports that are set to expire anytime in the next four years.
  4. If you don’t have the same last name as your children, make sure you have official copies of their birth certificates that list your name as a parent. If you are in a same-sex partnership and have children, make sure your child’s birth certificate lists both partners names, or have it amended if it does not.
  5. If you have a passport from another country, don’t let it expire.
  6. Take self-defense or martial arts classes. One study out of Canada shows that women who complete self defense classes experience 63% fewer attempted assaults and 46% fewer completed assaults that those who had not.
  7. If you have stock market investments, make sure your portfolio is properly diversified. You want a mixture not just of stocks, bonds, and cash, but also a mix between US markets, international market, and emerging markets. REITs and even Gold can be added as well to create stability.  And if we do experience a market downturn thanks to Trump, remember the best thing you can do is not panic and stay invested, rather than pulling your money out when it’s down.

Health

  1. If you rely on Obamacare for your healthcare – make an appointment for your annual physical, annual female exam, any another necessary appointments or treatments before the end of the year. Also, talk to your doctor about whether you can call in for prescription refills if you were to lose your health insurance.
  2. Women: if you’ve been considering getting an IUD for birth control, do it before the end of the year.
  3. Exercise. You can’t fight if you don’t have the strength and stamina to do so.
  4. Teach children about how to stand up to bullies, not just for themselves, but others who they may see targeted. Teach them that it’s never ok to try to hurt someone else’s feelings because they are different from us in some way. Practice this skill with them using role-playing or dolls.
  5. Make sure you (and your children) are up to date on all vaccines, including HPV and meningitis for teens and 20-somethings, Hepatitis A & B for adults, and pneumonia and shingles vaccines for seniors. You should also get a tetanus shot every 10 years, and a flu shot yearly.
  6. If you are able to choose an HSA type healthplan through work, do so now, and contribute as much as you can up to the annual limit into the fund. Whenever possible, do not use this fund to pay for current health expenses, instead creating a rainy-day fund for yourself in case you encounter non-covered health expenses in the next four years.

Hobbies

  1. Join or start a monthly feminist book club.
  2. Learn Spanish (so that you can help rally Hispanic voters for 2018).
  3. Get a PAID subscription to news organizations that are still doing comprehensive in-depth investigative journalism like the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, etc.
  4. Add a non-US based news site like the BBC, aljazeera.net, or RT.com to your daily news site list in order to get an outside perspective.
  5. Read the Quran, so that you can knowledgeably rebuff any Islamophobia you may encounter.
  6. If your workplace offers them, join an Employee Resource Group for minority or women employees, (even if you’re not a minority or woman!) and listen to what they have to say.
  7. Travel internationally — because travel helps us to better understand that while we may be different, we’re all humans and most of us want the same things.

And most of all? VOTE & VOLUNTEER FOR PROGRESSIVE CANDIDATES IN 2018. 

Finally, as Obama said, don’t become cynical.  This may have been the most disappointing election of your life, but four years can fly by if you use it being an ally for groups that most need it. Good luck to all of us.

Want more? Read my followup with 22 MORE Things You Should Do If You’re Disappointed by the Election, here. 

Texas Voters: Don’t forget to go vote!

Hi Texas friends! Have you voted yet? Here’s some useful info in case you haven’t!

  • You’ve got TWO DAYS left to EARLY vote. There is NO early voting this weekend. Most (but not all) polling locations are open till 7p both tomorrow and Friday, and you can vote at ANY early polling place in your county – it doesn’t have to be the same place you’re assigned on election day.

Waiting till election day? That’s fine too! But be prepared – here are some things that might help:

  • Afraid you can’t get out of work? Polling places will be open from 7a-7p on Election Day. If you have at least 2 hours in that span that you aren’t working? It’s up to you to get to the polls during that time. But if you DON’T have at least 2 consecutive hours of non-working time in that span, then your employer is REQUIRED to allow you PAID time off to go vote. (Yes, even hourly employees.)
  • Can’t get to your polling place till 6:55pm and worried about the line? As long as you’re in line by 7pm, you’ll be allowed to vote.
  • Need someone to watch the kids? Free childcare will be available at many YMCAs nationwide. (Or even better yet, if the line isn’t too long, take your kiddo with you! It’s great to get them involved in the process early!)
  • Need a ride? Many cities (including Austin!) are offering free public transit on Election Day. If you’ve never used Lyft or Uber, you can use a free ride credit for first time users to get to your polling place. Alternately, if you have a preferred candidate, you can call their campaign office in your area and request ride assistance. Volunteers are standing by to help you get to the polls.
  • You’ll need an acceptable form of id – most likely a drivers license, concealed carry permit, or passport in order to vote. If you don’t have one of those, you can also use an expired (by 4 years or less) id, a birth certificate, a voter registration card, or a public utility bill — and you’ll just need to sign an affidavit saying why you didn’t have another form of id. (Lost or misplaced counts as a valid reason.)
  • Don’t wear political clothing (shirts, hats, buttons) to the polls with you, as you may be banned from entering the polling location. It’s illegal.
  • Not so good with English? Most Texas ballots machines are available in English AND Spanish, but you are allowed to bring an interpreter (which can just be a family member, for example) to help you understand a ballot if you prefer. And that interpreter does NOT need to be registered in the same county as you.
  • At the polls and encounter someone intimidating you, threatening you, or otherwise making you feel uncomfortable? Report it to a poll worker or call the ACLU’s Election Protection Hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) or the Department of Justice Voting Rights Hotline (800-253-3931).
  • Need even more incentive to vote? Krispy Kreme is giving away free donuts to anyone with an I Voted sticker on Election Day, and Firehouse Subs is giving away free medium drinks.

Run into any other challenges, have questions, want a virtual high five for voting? I’ll be online ALL DAY on Tuesday, and am more than happy to help — just leave a comment here or message me.

Easy Low Carb Meals for Campfire Cooking & Photos from Inks Lake State Park

Well, we’ve just returned from yet another camping weekend, our 4th since the hubby convinced me I might not actually hate the great outdoors a few years back. This time, we ventured to Inks Lake State Park, just about an hour outside of Austin.

And while I’ve talked about my “glamping” mindset in the past, you might like to know that also extends to the meals I make over our campfire. You won’t ever see me packing generic hot dogs and s’mores for our camping trips. I like to treat the outdoor setting, lack of gadgets, and campfire cooktop as a real-life Top Chef challenge of sorts, and this time we added in an additional bit of difficulty: we wanted to stay relatively low-carb.

So, I dug deep into my own recipe stash and Pinterest boards, and came up with a meal plan that really worked well. (Note – if you don’t care about food stuff, just scroll to the bottom for more camping pics!)

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Night One: Link Sausage, Elotes, and Tomato Salad

For this meal, we upgraded from a basic hotdog with a nice pork and venison sausage link that just went directly onto the grill grate over our fire. I then paired it with my absolute favorite grilling side-dish: elotes, aka Mexican-style street corn.

To cook elotes, you shuck the corn and rub it with butter + salt + pepper, before wrapping it in foil, and sticking it in the coals of your fire for about 5-6 minutes to warm.  I then removed the corn and brushed each side with mayonnaise, then transferred it to a large-size ziploc bag that I had pre-packed with crumbled cojita cheese, chili powder, paprika, and cilantro.  Shake the cheese/spice mixture until well coated, then squeeze a bit of lime on and enjoy!

Finally, we also paired dinner with a nice, fresh tomato salad. I simply picked the ripest tomato from my garden, chopped it into bite sized pieces on-site, topped it with some chopped green onion, and a Greek-salad style vinaigrette. Yum!

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Breakfast Day Two: “Breakfast Charcuterie” — Salmon Toasts, Cheese, and Dried Fruit

A lot of time camping at a busy campground means a pretty early wake-up call, thanks to lots of sunlight, loud children at nearby campsites, and/or the engines of the fishermen that wake up super-early to catch the biggest fish. Because of this, sometimes just an easy breakfast that doesn’t even require the use of your campfire is ideal, so that’s what we went for.

Granted, this was sort of a splurge on the carb front b/c we each had a slice of bread, however the bread we picked (Pepperidge Farm Pumpernickel) also had 3g of protein, and 2g of fiber, so we allowed ourself this little indulgence, since we were going to be doing a rather long hike shortly after breakfast.

For the toasts, we just did another light dab of mayonnaise (left over from the elotes) and then topped with smoked salmon and a sprinkling of dill. The cheeses were a delicious rosemary asiago that we’re fond of, and a smoked gouda. The fruits (in limited quantities b/c of carbs, but again, we were trying to power up for hiking) were dried apricots and dried cranberries (not Craisins, though, which have a ton of added sugar!)

Lunch Day Two: Snacks from the Cooler

Alright, no fancy photo of lunch. But I had made a batch of my curried chicken salad, and we paired that with almonds, beef jerky, and some of the leftover dried fruit from breakfast.

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Dinner Day Two: Foil Packets with Chicken, Artichoke, Mushrooms, Tomato & Pesto

OMG, guys, this meal was so good it’s going into the regular rotation — not just for camping meals, but also for our everyday eating. And it was incredibly simple: before we left, I cut up raw chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and then combined with jarred and rinsed artichoke hearts, sliced tomato, and sliced mushrooms. A couple dollops of homemade pesto provided the “sauce”, and we folded them up into foil and were ready to go.

If you’ve never made foil packets before, the key is to keep them relatively flat; you don’t want things stacked on top of each other, but more like in one single layer, so that it all cooks evenly. We cooked our packets about 10 minutes on each side, which was perfect to get the chicken bits nice and crispy, while also letting the veggies steam in the sauce.

Breakfast Day Three: Breakfast Scramble with sausage, green onions & mushrooms

For our final campfire meal, I pulled out the trusty cast-iron skillet. If you’re planning on cooking over anything that requires a skillet over an open flame, you’re going to want to invest in some good quality cast iron, because fire will totally destroy your everyday cookware.

I forgot to get a photo of this one because we were too busy packing out all our gear, but it was just a basic scramble…eggs, breakfast sausage, and the leftover chopped onions and sliced mushrooms I’d used in some of the other recipes. I topped mine with a bit more cilantro that was left from the elotes. Simple and delicious!

So there you have it.  That’s how we managed to stay low-carb even while camping this weekend, and it all managed to fit into a single cooler to boot. And never fear, more low-carb recipes from my current recipe series are coming later this week!

In the meantime, how about a few more photos from our camping trip?

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The scenic view from our Saturday hike. We did various trails that combined to be about 4 miles round trip on the West side of the campgrounds.
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Our noisy neighbors! We also spied several cranes, turtles, and even a rogue crawfish.
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Campsite 236, with our tent set up. This was a drive-in spot that came with a water and electricity hookup.  Being right on the water was fantastic. 
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We took a class on “Fishing with a Ranger” that was free through the park itself.  The hubby caught a bluegill during the class, and then several other little guys over the next few days! 
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And later on in the weekend, I followed suit.  Here’s me with a green sunfish – my first catch ever! A great thing about the Texas State Parks – no fishing license is required as long as you’re fishing from the shore.

There were plenty of other fun things to do at this park as well; you could rent kayaks or walk down to a popular swimming hole nearby, and the view of the night sky was fantastic as well. We had a great time! What’s your favorite camping locale?

Trip Review: Hotel Indigo Dallas & a Very USC Weekend

Hooray, football is back!  Everything is right in the world again, Saturdays have a purpose, and people can fight with each other over their favorite sports rivalries instead of politics. Yay!

In that spirit, when we learned that our beloved USC Trojans would kick off the 2016 season just up the road in Dallas at Cowboys Stadium, facing off against current-National Champions and pre-seasons #1 ranked Alabama, it was pretty much a no brainer that we’d need to be there.

So, we took a look at our current travel mile and points balances to see what we could do. And lo and behold, the hubby had around 50,000 IHG points just sitting in his account, with no intended purpose.  We jumped online, booked the Hotel Indigo Downtown Dallas, and were ready to go.

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Our queen bed room at the Hotel Indigo Downtown Dallas. (Apparently their housekeepers need an iron.)

The reason we had these 50,000 points was pretty interesting. Late last year, IHG had run a promotion in which you received a free “instant win” game every time you stayed at one of their hotels.  And, just like any contest, they were required to provide a no-purchase-necessary method of entry, which made entrants send in a handwritten entry on a notecard with various pieces of information if they too wanted a game piece.

The kicker though, was that unlike a regular contest, every “game” in this promotion was guaranteed to earn AT LEAST 500 IHG points per entry. And you could mail in up to 92 entries PER PERSON. So, I spent a Sunday last December handwriting out entries for both myself and the hubby.  And for roughly $60 in stamps, we both earned around 50k IHG points.

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The small desk area in our free room at the Hotel Indigo.

I converted my points into Singapore Airlines miles, and used them to help book our nearly-free trip to the UK & Ireland next year.  But for hubby’s points, we were able to get two-nights in Dallas for FREE, in a room that otherwise would have cost $185/night.

The hotel itself was nicely located close in the downtown area, convenient for freeway access, and across from a very nice little park. Our room was small but clean and comfortable, and the parking in a structure just across the street was vey convenient.

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The bathroom area of our room at the Hotel Indigo Downtown Dallas.

Once we’d arrived and checked into the hotel early Friday, we hurried over to nearby Klyde Warren park, where the USC Trojan Marching Band was leading a rally at noon. And let me just say, as a Trojan living outside of California, there is absolutely nothing as exciting and inspiring as seeing the FULL BAND roll into some random city and completely take over their downtown core.

After the rally, while food wasn’t the focus of this trip, we did manage to stop by a couple noteworthy restaurants; The Woolworth was our lunch stop, where the hubby’s “Pig and Pear” sandwich (barbecued pulled pork with sweet Asian pear and gruyere cheese on a toasted bun) was a real winner. For dinner, we visited the Ten Bells Tavern, where we met up with some Dallas-based friends for a fantastic beer list and delicious bar food including my impeccable “SBLT” (shrimp, bacon, lettuce, tomato) sandwich.

The next day, though, was all about the Trojans.  We had sort of unintentionally become the tailgate hosts for most of the Austin-based Trojans in our local alumni club, and so reserved a “premium tailgating spot” through StadiumParking.net.  This turned out to be a fantastic decision, as we had guaranteed parking just a couple blocks from the stadium, a shaded, grassy area for the tailgate itself, and even a concrete slab on which to set up our food/drinks tables.

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Our Trojan tailgate crew selfie (the hubby and I are top left!)  Photo by Marcelo Teson.

After several hours of jello shots and brats later, we headed into Cowboys Stadium and….well, the stadium itself is very nice.  As for the game….yeah, we’re just not going to talk about that.

The next day, we concluded our trip with a lovely brunch with some of my sorority sisters and their husbands over in Dallas’s uptown district, before driving back down to Austin that afternoon.  All in all, despite the game it was a fantastic weekend, once again made possible with points and miles.