In a nutshell. (December Favorites!)

Happy New Year! I can’t say that enough. Every day since last January, 2017 showed no sign of ending anytime soon, and now, at long last, it’s over. At the same time, the year went way too fast. 2017 was the split personality of years in my life, and it leaves me excited for 2018.

I’m starting 2018 with a new approach to these “monthly favorites” posts: I’m going to answer three questions about each “little thing” on my lists, rather than writing paragraphs about them. If I have something more to say about something, I’ll devote a separate post to it. Starting now, these posts will be more visual, less blah-blah-blah.

 

1). Darkest Hour

 

 

What I liked: The acting, the direction, the musical score, the story of Dunkirk from the back end, Gary Oldman’s make-up and costume, the overall quality of the production.

What I didn’t like: It dragged slightly in some places, but not enough to lessen my regard of the film.

Would I recommend it? Yes, especially if you enjoy biopics.

 

2). Black Mirror (S4)  (T.V. series)

 

 

What I liked: Every story in every episode, the writing, the direction, impact/thought-provoking nature of the stories, the big philosophical questions raised, the overall excellence of the production.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? Yes. You might enjoy this even if you’re not a fan of sci-fi thrillers.

 

3). The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (T.V. series)

 

 

What I liked: The writing, the acting, the costumes and set, the entertainment factor, the film’s freshness and overall excellence.

What I didn’t like: Some of the humor fell flat on me.

Would I recommend it? Yes.

 

4). I Love Dick (T.V. series)

 

 

What I liked: The story, the writing, its presentation as art, its unapologetic rawness, some of the acting (mainly Kathryn Hahn’s).

What I didn’t like: Just that its IMDB rating is much lower than I’d expect it to be. In my opinion, this series is curiously underrated.

Would I recommend it? NOT TO EVERYONE. If you’d rather not see sexually explicit stories and raw, “artistic” story-telling of such material, I would not recommend.

 

5). Mom’s cooking.

 

Okara with brown rice and furikake

 

What I liked: Everything, meaning the tofu and the okara pictured above. Mom brought freshly made tofu from the little tofu place in my hometown’s J-town (Japan-town), so it was the tofu of my childhood. It’s nothing like the prepackaged tofu you get in a box in the supermarket.

Okara, by the way, is Japanese for “rubbish,” in a sense, from what I understand… as a dish, it’s the scraps leftover from the making of fresh tofu. You could buy it in bags and cook it up with dashi (Mom used plant-based dashi), seasonings, and finely chopped shiitake mushrooms, green onions, and carrots. It’s one of my favorite home-cooked dishes. Grandma used to make it just for me!

What I didn’t like: That it was, perhaps, the last time I’d eat it. With the closing of the little family-run tofu factory (there’s no one left to take it over), fresh tofu and okara may be a thing of the past.

Would I recommend it? Yes, but this is irrelevant, of course.

 

6). Dave’s Killer Plain Awesome Bagels.

 

Dave’s Killer Plain Awesome Bagels

 

What I liked: High nutrient density in a bread that seems like a cheat-day indulgence.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? Yes. I’ve been eating one of these a day almost every day for over a month, and I’m not tired of them yet.

 

7). Apple Pie Larabar with peanut butter.

 

Apple Pie Larabar with peanut butter

 

What I liked: Peanut butter on an apple pie Larabar is as delicious as peanut butter on fresh apple slices. It’s a satisfying nutritional powerhouse of a treat.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? If the apple/peanut butter flavor combo appeals to you, then yes.

 

8). Cara Cara oranges.

 

Cara Cara oranges

 

What I liked: These beautiful red-fleshed navel oranges (they are not blood oranges) are incredibly sweet and juicy, and they have just a hint of tropical flavor.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? Yes.

 

9). Acure The Magical Wonderfluff Overnight Hydrating Booster Mask (argan + gardenia extract).

 

Acure The Magical Wonderfluff Overnight Hydrating Booster Mask (argan + gardenia extract)

 

What I liked: This overnight mask makes my skin look more smooth in the morning. It goes on like a thick lotion that dries into a pleasant, slight tightness; it’s not sticky, as other overnight masks often are. I layer this on over my nightcream every night.

What I didn’t like: Its schoolroom fragrance (paste, maybe?) is somewhat strange, but actually, I don’t dislike it. It may be a turn-off for some people, though.

Would I recommend it? Yes.

 

10). OGX Shea Soft & Smooth Creamy Hair Butter.

 

OGX Shea Soft & Smooth Creamy Hair Butter

 

What I liked: Just that it actually works to smooth out the frizzy fly-aways all over my head, and it doesn’t make my hair feel heavy or greasy.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? Yes.

 

The End. How’s that for succinct?

Until next time!

Yawn. (New Year’s resolutions and such.)

I used to be passionate about making and keeping New Year’s resolutions. Many of you may remember that. I’m kind of blasé about it now, and maybe that’s because I have just ONE resolution for 2018, and that’s only because I’ve already resolved… to get more sleep.

Yawn. (In every sense of a word that can sum up “boring,” ho-hum double entendre intended.)

I’ve been resolving to get more sleep for a long time; 2018 isn’t the first year I’ve re-stated this. There’s only one lifestyle fix I need to make, and this is it. I know that sufficient sleep on a regular basis is essential for optimizing physical health and mental well-being. I know this. 4-6 hours per night just. isn’t. enough.

Waking up later in the morning isn’t an option. I like to be up early. The problem is that I also like to stay up late, and this is what I need to give up. I need to give up late nights. There’s no benefit to me in staying up late.

I’ll keep working on it. Honestly, I don’t know why resolutions are so difficult to keep! New Year’s resolutions, after all, are promises we make to ourselves. Why would I not do everything I can to keep a promise I make to myself? I think we set ourselves up for failure by formally setting resolutions… so I’ll end this here. I’ve said too much!!

 

Sleep is so exciting that only a pic of theatrical lighting and dry ice would do.

 

It’ll be 2018 when I post here again, so Happy New Year to you all… and good luck with your resolutions, whatever they may be!

Mini writing update and SEASON’S GREETINGS!

Writing update: simply put, things in the world of writing over here have been phenomenal since I’ve fallen into the unexpected state of euphoria that is the second draft. Yes, the second draft, I’m finding, is like a state of mind. As I think I’ve said before, it’s also a lot of actual re-writing, and it’s more than fun. It’s all I want to do. I’ve yet to crack open any of the books I’ve been waiting to read. If it wasn’t for the gym, I’d never leave the house.

I spent the first few hours of this morning writing, and then I went outside and took a bunch of selfies for my post next Tuesday because our houseguests are arriving on Sunday and today is my last chance to mug for the camera (the whirlwind starts tomorrow with cleaning and baking and such), so I’m later here than I wanted to be.

My plan to do some cardio in the garage today has been derailed on account of the probability that I injured my toe yesterday afternoon. Guess how? Getting into the shower, of course. I stepped over the metal threshold while I was lost in thought, and my left foot didn’t quite clear it. Not to brag, but it was a most epic of toe-stubbings. I actually smacked the front of all my toes against the threshold, but only the second-biggest one looks, literally, bent out of shape and brilliant with several of the wrong colors for a toe. I’m avoiding walking around today due to discomfort, so the only workout I’m getting is in my fingers as I write. PITY. (Not!)

But I digress. Returning to the writing update… I’m not holding myself to a hard deadline for this second draft, I’ve decided. I’ll get through it as quickly as I can while taking the time that I need. Let’s just say that I’m shooting for the end of January, but I won’t be concerned if it takes longer. I’m enjoying this part immensely, and frankly, I think I’ll be a little sad when it ends.

Seasoned novelists: do you experience this second-draft euphoria, too?

 

Nenette and the poinsettia, 2017

 

With love and thanks to all of you for being here! I hope this finds you well as we head into the end-of-year festivities. This is my last post before Christmas, but I’ll see you before New Year’s!

Happy Thanksgiving (week)!

We’re all over the place this week… mostly out of town… so we just wanted to say:

 

!!!!!

 

I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving feels extra-special this year. I appreciate Thanksgiving as a holiday to honor family, friends, and loved ones. While I’m grateful for my family every day of the year, I’m happy to have this one day to dedicate to them, to honor our emotional connections, and to reflect on what’s truly important in life: each other.

Thanksgiving, I guess, is a personal holiday, meaningful in the ways that matter the most to us.

We wish you all a happy holiday this week. Thank you, friends.

Happy 4th of July! Happy adoptversary, Nenette!

Important things happened on the 4th of July. The U.S.A. gained independence 241 years ago today. Also of note: Nenette found us two years ago today.

So first things first: Happy 4th of July, fellow Americans!

 

Stars and stripes forever!

 

And Happy 2-year Adoptversary, Nenette!

 

Impromptu (hence the blurriness) mother/daughter selfie I took the other day (June 28)

 

The camera was so close to the window when I took this, it was practically resting on the glass. Nenette was up in her crow’s nest looking out at her hummingbirds.

This girl knows how to avoid getting her picture taken, and usually she does… but she allowed the intrusion this morning. I woke up and found her lounging on the dresser across from me, and she just stayed there while I took pics.

 

Unusual early morning photo shoot tolerance.

 

July 4, 2017. Two years with us!

 

Conveniently, Nenette’s owl was lying behind her; I slid it over when she started to get restless.

 

With her owl, her favorite toy

 

That’s all I’ve got for today! Callaghan is home, I knocked out an awesome BodyPump workout this morning, and, unfortunately (“one of these things is not like the others”), people are already out there driving with questionable ability. Let the SAFE holiday shenanigans begin!

[June Favorites coming at you this Friday.]

Staring at the rafters, waving at stars (December favorites!)

December irks me with all the chaos it creates in my agenda, and yet it thrills me because I enjoy the holiday season, and it’s my birthday month. I had adventures: I went to a party and consequently began my fight against PTSD-related claustrophobia (attempting to close myself inside a coffin-like tank filled with water, aka sensory deprivation tank). I simplified my life by switching my glasses lenses to progressives, and I actually like them because lo, this time they were done right. We saw three good movies, two of which I included in the Favorites list below. I had a weekend to myself (when Callaghan went out of town) during which I went alone to watch an exciting and intense UFC fight card (which included Urijah Faber’s last fight!). I had lunch dates with a few dear friends, one of whom introduced me to a tantalizing cuisine I’d never tried before (Malaysian). I met some good people. December ended with Callaghan’s sister and her two boys coming to visit (they’re still here), and that’s been fun, beginning with the fact that Christmas + kids = Good Times. And on the penultimate day of the month and of the year, UFC 207 happened. We left the sports bar on a thrilling high note, especially because of our girl Amanda Nunes (still the champ)! To say that the year ended on a bang is an understatement.

Also, I ended up getting a decent amount of writing done.

December had its trials and tribulations, too, because that’s how life works… everything can’t be all good all the time. On the not good side, Cita has been struggling to heal all month, and we’ve been struggling to help her. She’s a battle-scarred mess with wounds that aren’t healing. She’s been to the vet numerous times. She’s in convalescence and being a very good sport about it. I’ve never seen such a fearless and stoic cat (who talks trash, but can’t fight her way out of a paper bag). Loving and affectionate throughout it all, Cita is a walking contradiction with tremendous heart, and we wouldn’t have her any other way. We just need to get her healed. The next step will be, once again, to attempt to integrate her into the household with Nenette.

Getting on with the list of little things! December favorites:

 

1). Hacksaw Ridge (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-hacksawridge

 

Hacksaw Ridge is an important film, an excellent film. I never thought I’d say this, but thank you, Mel Gibson. The man did indeed create a film to bring to our attention the heroism of a young man who literally dodged bullets unarmed while rescuing others in the bloodiest battle against the Japanese in WWII. This is a true story, and it is unforgettable.

 

2). Nocturnal Animals (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-nocturnalanimals

 

 

Nocturnal Animals is a film written and directed by Tom Ford. Tom Ford as in fashion design. Tom Ford as in Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. Considering this, we shouldn’t be surprised that every scene in Nocturnal Animals is a vision of artistry; Ford’s eye and talent for design translates magnificently to the medium of film. This isn’t his first film – it’s his second – but it’s the first that I’ve seen, and I admit that I wasn’t expecting to leave the theater quite so impressed.

As in Hacksaw Ridge, the acting in Nocturnal Animals is first-rate, as well. It’s always great when you go to the movies and find that you made an awesome choice.

The third film we saw was Arrival, which was also outstanding. The extraordinary Amy Adams once again! She stars in Nocturnal Animals, too.

December was a great month for movies.

 

3). Samurai “Strength” print (original art by David Lozeau).

 

The Fyne Art of David Lozeau - Strength (Samurai series)

The Fyne Art of David Lozeau: Strength (Samurai series) – signed by the artist

 

I reconnected with my biological mother in December (such a month!), who reminded me again of our Samurai ancestry. With that in mind, Callaghan bought me this print for my birthday: a portrait of one of my ancestors, haha! Seriously, though, I love this badass painting, and I love David Lozeau’s art, in general. Visit his site and feast your eyes.

davidlozeau dot com

 

4). The Body Shop Frosted Berries (holiday limited edition 2016) body butter.

 

The Body Shop Frosted Berries (holiday limited edition 2016) body butter

The Body Shop Frosted Berries (holiday limited edition 2016) body butter

 

This year’s holiday limited edition fragrance at The Body Shop is Frosted Berries… mostly cranberries “from North America.” (TBS is an English company; it’s funny to see what foreigners consider to be exotic on our side of the pond.) This scent is lovely. I stocked up.

 

5). The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil.

 

The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil

The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil

 

I was eager to try this serum, and I’m glad that I did. My skin loves it. I put it on after I cleanse my face at night… this first, then eye cream, then night cream. I’ve always layered products on my face in both my morning and nighttime skin care routines, and this serum in oil is a wonderful base layer for the night. Its scent is lovely and light, too.

 

6). The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance hair butter.

 

The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance hair butter

The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance hair butter

 

More from The Body Shop! I discovered their hair butter, and a wonderful discovery, it was. I’m always looking for ways to smooth out my hair (which can never decide if it’s straight Japanese hair or curly ginger English hair). My hair is thin and fly-away and just plain frazzled these days, and this product has been helping.

 

7). e.l.f. Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette.

 

e.l.f. Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette

e.l.f. Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette

 

I don’t know how e.l.f. does it. They create gorgeous, high-quality make-up that’s not tested on animals, and they sell it at unbelievably affordable prices. This Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette is only ten bucks. It’s my new favorite.

 

8). Urban Decay Perversion mascara.

 

Urban Decay Perversion mascara

Urban Decay Perversion mascara

 

Urban Decay is the only high-end, cruelty-free cosmetic brand whose products I use (most of the stuff I put on my face is from e.l.f.). In December, I started using their Perversion mascara, and I’m liking it a lot. I can’t even remember now why I got it, since the e.l.f. mascara I’d been using had been a favorite of mine for months. For whatever reason, this higher-end mascara got into my makeup bag, and it’s luscious.

 

9). Trader Joe’s multi-grain sourdough (with sunflower and sesame seed) bread.

 

Trader Joe's multi-grain sourdough bread

Trader Joe’s multi-grain sourdough bread

 

I’ve found my new favorite sourdough bread! It’s at Trader Joe’s! This multi-grain sourdough with sunflower and sesame seeds is delicious! [/exclamation points] If you’re a fan of sourdough bread – and if you’re lucky enough to have Trader Joe’s in your state – I recommend that you run out right now and grab a loaf or three. You can thank me later.

 

10). Tofurky pizza with “pepproni” & mushrooms.

 

Tofurky pizza (pepproni and mushroom)

Tofurky pizza (pepproni and mushroom)

 

Because there are always those days where it feels like a good idea to turn on the oven and throw in a frozen, processed-all-to-hell pizza. This one is vegan, of course. It also happens to be gluten-free, which I usually don’t like. It’s good. It’s really good. Pricey, but good! It’s an expensive junky treat, and I love it.

That’s it for December! I hope your new year is off to a great start!

Merry Eve of Christmas Eve and Christmas! (FAMILY PICS)

This is my last post before Christmas, so I wanted to wish you all a joyous celebration, whatever you’ve got going on!

I’m coming at you with a few family pics. News-wise, there’s nothing much to report. The main point of interest this week was that my glasses with my NEW progressive lenses came in… and lo, THEY WORK! I can see everything everywhere! FEAR ME.

Seriously, though, my first try at progressives didn’t go well, as you may recall. I thought it was me, but it turned out that the prescription was wrong and the lenses were poorly made.

Now I have the right prescription on well-made lenses installed in my accidental frames (lab’s mistake they let me keep at no extra cost), and I’m having no problem seeing with them. I love the convenience they offer! I’m so glad I gave progressives a second shot. As usual, I’ll wear the glasses for writing, driving, and looking at far-away screens… I don’t need them for just walking around (unless I’m grocery shopping, when it’s good to be able to read ingredients lists without the constant on-and-off of reading glasses), but I’m wearing them a lot right now for the purpose of “training my brain” to see in them, or some such.

Onward! Happy holidays from us to you. Oh, we put up a tree this year because Callaghan’s sister and her two kids are coming for Christmas and New Year’s. The tree is for them, despite what Nenette thinks.

 

Nenette taking a break from chewing on ornaments and pawing at presents.

Nenette taking a break from chewing on ornaments and pawing at presents.

 

Cita on her windowsill, taking a break from laughing at the neighbor cats who can't get to her anymore.

Cita on her windowsill, taking a break from laughing at the neighbor cats who can’t get to her anymore.

 

Nenette thinking she's hiding under the tree.

Nenette thinking she’s hiding under the tree.

 

Cita snuggling with her favorite mousie.

Cita snuggling with her favorite mousie.

 

Then there’s Callaghan and me.

 

Callaghan handily taking care of the See's scotchmallow situation.

Callaghan handily taking care of the See’s scotchmallow situation.

 

"You wouldn't hit a guy with glasses, would you?"

“You wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses, would you?”

 

Then some selfies with the girls. I did that annoying Mom thing and woke them up to take pics.

 

Selfie with Nenette! She wasn't amused to be woken up for this.

Selfie with Nenette! She wasn’t amused to be woken up for this.

 

Selfie with Cita! She was resigned. She's used to us waking her up.

Selfie with Cita! She was resigned. She’s used to us waking her up.

 

Later that day (last night, actually), we thought we’d take some festive holiday pics of ourselves.

 

Frown.

Frown.

 

Derp.

Derp.

 

General goofing around.

General goofing around.

 

Merry Christmas!!

I went to a big-ass party and this is what happened. (PTSD post.)

We went to a party on Sunday. It was Callaghan’s company’s “holiday soiree.”

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-holidaysoiree2016

 

(I concealed the names of the company and the party’s hosts.)

If the colors on the invitation seem unusual for such an event, it’s because the party’s theme was “early Mardi Gras.” If you didn’t know, Mardi Gras colors are purple, green, and gold. I’m not sure why it was decided to celebrate the holidays as another holiday that takes place in February, but that’s irrelevant. Well… mostly irrelevant.

We donned the requested semi-formal “festive attire” (I wore a red dress because I was feeling the current season… I wasn’t alone in this), and we ordered an Uber.

The Uber took us to BFE (far away from us, in the middle of nowhere) with no discernible civilization around. We were dropped off in a big-ass parking lot. To enter a big-ass tent. Which led us into a big-ass warehouse. In which there was a big-ass party with roughly 800 people, pretty much in the dark, save for spot lighting here and there.

No part of which agreed with my big-ass case of PTSD.

Not only that, but when we walked into the warehouse, the first thing that happened was a few metallic strings suddenly dropped from the air, straight down, and landed with a clatter on the concrete floor, right in front of my feet. Because, you know, Mardi Gras. It was someone’s role to stand on a second-floor balcony and throw beads down in front of people walking in. This surprise INCOMING situation set me more on edge, though I didn’t show it. I smiled and laughed and talked to people, and I enjoyed the excellent band. I enjoyed meeting some of Callaghan’s co-workers and their wives. I did have a good time in some sense. I focused on that. We stayed for four hours, and I was fine.

Here’s the thing: Like everyone with PTSD, I have some known triggers, and I have some random triggers that can come out of nowhere. I went into the party thinking that my introversion would be the issue, but my panic disorder overrode that completely. It would’ve been great if being an introvert was my biggest challenge.

In response to all of this, I’ve decided to book myself an hour in a sensory deprivation tank.

Yes, you read that right. I’m going to strenuously push my limits in the tank – claustrophobia is one of my issues – and that is the point.

I may never be able to enter a room without immediately looking for the exits and other avenues of escape. I may never be able to sit in a room with my back to the door. But that’s okay. That’s my normal, and those behaviors are valuable, so I have no problems there. Meanwhile, though, I would like to work on lessening the impact of some of my known triggers. Coming out of the party with this realization was the gift of the whole thing. I will act on it! I’ll let you know how it goes.

An aside: I have no pics of us or of the party, I’m sorry to say. There were roaming photographers and co-workers who wanted to take pics, so there are some images floating around somewhere… if I get my hands on one and get the permission of the people in them, I’ll post them at that time.

Throw-back poems: “Who Knows”; “Nonni” (+ writing updates)

Updates and more updates! Well, just writing updates, this time.

Update 1: My main project is 46% complete, which isn’t bad considering that November was pretty much a wash, as I knew it would be. Things should progress more quickly now that my calendar is clear of major/time-consuming agenda items. Whew! We got through it. Now back to it.

Update 2: My latest strategy in the war on sedentary lifestyle is to write while standing. At my washing machine. For at least half of my working day, often a little more. Since I’m no longer sitting on my ass all day, said ass has less of a chance of flattening out and widening in the wrong direction over time. You know what I’m talking about. A blob of cookie dough on a baking sheet is round and perky, and then you put it in the oven and it spreads out in the baking process. I’m not hyper-vain, but I don’t see how it can help anything to bake my ass, either. It’s not like I had much of an ass to begin with, so I want to save what I can of it. Moreover, it’s not healthy to sit so much.

Ahem. Onward, then!

In closing, I have some old poems to share with you today, two that were originally published in the 2011 issue of Clackamas Literary Review (Oregon). The pics are dark and murky, but then, so are the poems. Enjoy!

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-clr2011_cover

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-clr2011_poem_whoknows

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-clr2011_poem_nonni1

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-clr2011_poem_nonni2

 

 

On that note, Happy Friday!

 

Yummyliciousness happened.

All in one breath: We trekked to California for a Thanksgiving extravaganza of riotous family togetherness with long-lost cousins and uncle and I finally came to understand “once removed” as I met some First Cousins Once Removed and yes, I do feel enlightened and very lucky to have learned this, as the lesson came about when I met some awesome relatives for the first time! OH and the extravaganza included cooking shenanigans involving an array of never-before-tried recipes, all vegan, I believe, and all tasty! I wrangled with some heads of cauliflower that predictably fought back by launching bits of themselves at me and the floor, but my helpful cousins noticed and picked the cauliflower out of my hair and eyebrows. I couldn’t help but envision the kitchen as a wintry Japanese hot springs full of snow monkeys engaged in social grooming. If Japanese snow monkeys could laugh, they would sound like us. We’re not as adorable as they are, though.

 

Japanese macaques (snow monkeys)

Japanese macaques (snow monkeys)

 

It was just so good to reconnect and laugh with my California first-cousin crew!!!

Back at Mom and Dad’s house, I started to write an actual post for this morning, but it spiraled into oblivion in the direction of something I wasn’t prepared to write at the moment. I’ll save that post for another day, if I pursue it all, which I may not.

So today, in closing, I would like to sign off with this selfie I took while snuggling with my new niece, aka my sister-in-law’s dog. I got to meet her this morning! It was love at first sight.

 

My niece is cuter than yours. She has soft ears. Your argument is invalid.

My niece is cuter than yours. She has soft ears. Your argument is invalid.

 

Until next time!

That cauliflower recipe, by the way, is outrageously good. I have it, courtesy of my cousin who brought it to us. I will make that cauliflower dish again… and I will win when the cauliflower attacks.

Kitty updates! (Halloween edition.)

True confessions: I’ve become that (cat) mom who puts on a video to entertain her kid while she writes.

But it works.

 

Nenette watching her birdies and squirrels video

Nenette watching her birdies and squirrels video

 

Nenette and I have discovered the wondrous videos of Paul Dinning. Nenette’s favorite one is just over two hours long, and when it ends, YouTube rolls it over to another of Mr. Dinning’s videos, which is three hours long. Indeed, Nenette sits and watches the birdies, squirrels, and what have you… for, yes… FIVE hours. It’s gotten to where she’ll literally ask me to put on her birdies. She just adores Mr. Dinning’s videos, and I’m happy to provide, because otherwise:

 

My writing table, aka Nenette's favorite hang-out while I'm working.

My writing table, aka Nenette’s favorite hang-out while I’m working.

 

Thank you, Mr. Dinning… we are much obliged!

Nenette also let me know, in no uncertain terms, that she’s ready for Halloween.

 

Nenette with Jack-O-Lanterns

Nenette with Jack-O-Lanterns

 

Outside on her patio, Cita is ready, too.

 

Cita with Jack-O-Lanterns

Cita with Jack-O-Lanterns

 

She’s getting into character, getting the evil look down… but she’s nothing more than a sweet armful of cuddly kitty. Cita’s problem is that she trash-talks other cats, but then can’t handle the repercussions. Instead of backing up her talk, she runs. This leads to major drama; this is why she can’t live indoors with another cat in the house. But she loves her patio and yard, she’s very territorial (she was living on our property before we bought it), and she enjoys her role as head of security chez nous. So we do what we can to keep her safe.

She’s a happy girl, overall.

 

Cita in the mesquite pods

Cita in the mesquite pods

 

She loves luxuriating in piles of mesquite pods!

And she enjoys napping on any of the six chairs arranged on the patio. We’ve made the patio her haven (which includes our attached laundry room, where she eats).

 

Cita on one of her many chairs

Cita on one of her many chairs

 

We’ve decorated her patio for Halloween:

 

Skeleton trellis

Skeleton trellis

 

Laundry room end of the patio

Laundry room end of the patio

 

BBQ end of the patio

BBQ end of the patio

 

(Cita does approve of the Halloween décor.)

We’ve been celebrating Halloween all month, including dressing up for the costume party at Drag Bingo. Flash-back to just last week:

 

Pulling out spines all night with Callaghan

Pulling out spines all night with Callaghan

 

As for what we’re planning for Halloween… we’ll be chilling. We’re opting out of Scarizona once again, but that’s okay. We were going to do an interactive game in the house (haunted house), but our schedules will preclude such shenanigans! The times, they are busy: Callaghan’s getting ready to embark on a journey, and I’m working on my main project and tackling a to-do list for the house. We have upcoming events, so there are Deadlines of various sorts. You know how it is!

Anyway… I’m happy to report that the fur-kids have been doing well.

T minus six days til the holiday! Happy Halloween in advance!

Callaghan is designing clowns and I don’t know what to do.

Heading into off-season at the amusement parks, Callaghan’s evenings of late have been filled with lots of freelance work. He hung onto a few of his European amusement park clients when he accepted his position as a motorcycle designer, because why not? It’s feast or famine in that industry. He’d only be swamped a few months out of the year.

Now that American Halloween hype has started to gain traction in France, French theme parks want a piece of it in a more major way. So they’ve asked Callaghan to design some clown attractions… because you can’t have spooky, ooky Halloween décor without clowns, of course. If there’s one thing the French have picked up on in their Halloween education, it’s that clowns are essential elements of the fear factor.

Even better, some of this Halloween-inspired design will remain a permanent fixture, so visitors can enjoy the park’s creepy side no matter when they go. Here’s Callaghan’s first design, a rough draft of a horror fun-house-type attraction (with mirrors inside):

 

Clown mirror house of horror (original design by Callaghan)

Clown mirror house of horror (original design by Callaghan)

 

You have to have clowns with wide open mouths as entrances, you know.

And there will be more. Oh yes. I’m already imagining waking up at night, shuffling into the kitchen for a glass of water, and noticing a dim screen-light casting vague shadows on the wall. I see that it’s coming from Callaghan’s office. I go in and find that his computer has turned itself on. The clown file is displayed, and it’s flickering.

Thanks, Parc St. Paul. And Festyland (You mean FESTY THE CLOWN-land, I said to Callaghan when he told me the park’s name), and thank you, Parc du Bocasse.

Here’s a draft of his Parc du Bocasse poster, featuring the bee mascot he’s been creating for years:

 

Buzzy (the bee) the Vampire (original art by Callaghan)

Buzzy (the bee) the Vampire (original art by Callaghan)

 

He loved my idea of designing a vampire version of the bee. Buzzy the Vampire is made of awesome because Callaghan’s art is kick-ass. It’s great no matter the subject. Even clowns.

Because “resolution” without the “re” is SOLUTION.

Like many people, when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I’ve been an on-and-off cynic most of my adult life. My birthday falls five days before New Year’s Day, though, so at some point, I finally thought, Why not turn my personal one-year-older goals into resolutions? Because what are birthdays if not opportunities for introspection and decision-making to move forward with new or refreshed goals, right? Or something like that (says my inner self-help guru to myself).

“Resolution” minus the “re” is “solution,” after all… and that stands out to me. I’m a fan of solutions.

As it turns out, I do well participating in the ritual of making New Year’s resolutions. It’s glorified goal-setting that could be undertaken on any random day, sure, but January 1 is as good a day as any, fanfare or no. If we don’t have the motivation to commit to a goal on any other day of the year, at least there’s that day!

“Goals” is a popular word right now, but I want to talk plainly about how there’s a difference between wanting to achieve goals and needing to achieve them. Resolutions, in my opinion, are goals that we need to achieve; we make them in order to reignite the mechanisms we have for growth, self-improvement, joie de vivre… whatever it is that we’re lacking, in whatever way it needs to manifest. Ultimate goals are things like contentment and productivity. Contentment and productivity are good. People who are content and productive are good for society, good for us all.

You might receive advice that’s actually detracting, usually coming from the hearts of well-intentioned loved ones. There’s the old “…but you have to WANT to do it,” which I think is psychobabble for “You have to feel that doing xyz is going to result in personal gratification, or it’s not worth the effort.” I don’t believe this. Some of my greater achievements in life resulted from goals that I needed to pursue, but I absolutely didn’t want to pursue them.

Quitting smoking, for instance. I smoked between the ages of 15 and 23. I only smoked for eight years, but addiction is addiction no matter how long you’ve had it.

I absolutely did not WANT to quit smoking. I loved smoking. Whenever I’d think about quitting, all I WANTED my next cigarette. When I finally committed to breaking the habit, I still didn’t want to. I did it because I knew that I needed to.

Quitting was every bit as excruciating as I thought it would be.

I quit cold turkey, and I never smoked another cigarette. That was 24 years ago. (I think I was successful in part because I suffered through the process without the aid of chemical replacements. This was pre-nicotine patch. There was nicotine gum, but I wasn’t attracted to that strategy.) Suffering for that victory, that solution to the problem of my compromised health, made me value my success even more. If at any point in my smoking cessation journey someone uttered those condescending words in my general direction – “You just have to WANT to quit!” – I would have had to bite my tongue REALLY HARD. I know why I’m quitting. It’s a decision that I made. I don’t need you to tell me that if I just WANT to quit, I’ll effortlessly break my addiction overnight and ride off on a unicorn into a field of flowers and happy little bunnies.

Overcoming addiction of any kind is never easy, no matter if someone WANTS to do it or not.

But I digress. My point is, make a resolution, for the New Year or on any other day. Think of it as going after a solution. Focus on seizing something that will change your life for the better if you capture it. You’re not just making a change (passive connotation). You’re taking action (aggressive connotation). So be aggressive in tackling your resolution. Be a New Year’s resolution badass. Go for it.

Another thing people commonly say: “Do it for yourself. If you do it for someone else, you won’t succeed.” Again, I disagree. I mean, I don’t think this is always the case.

Last year, my main New Year’s resolution was to go cruelty-free… for Ronnie James, my feline fur-child. As Callaghan and I tried desperately to save his life, I told the Wrah-Wrah that I’d make every effort to avoid purchasing and using personal care products and cosmetics made by companies who engage in animal cruelty practices. (Granted, this wasn’t difficult, as I’d already been boycotting a couple of big-name brands for years to avoid contributing to their human rights violations. Boycotting companies that test on animals wasn’t a far stretch from that.)

I did it for Ronnie James. He died five months into the year, but I’m still doing it. For him. For all animals, but first and foremost for him. And doing it for him has kept me motivated to stick to my resolution more than I would were I just “doing it for myself.” In a strange sense I can’t really explain, the act of consciously and continuously striving to remove myself from the cycle of animal suffering at human hands keeps Ronnie James alive.

This strategy of goal-planning works for me, anyway. Everyone is different, but it might work for you, too. It would be worth trying! Dedicate your resolution to someone who deeply matters to you. Make them a promise you won’t want to break, and you might find that it’s easier to stick to your efforts.

This brings me to Resolutionary Road, 2016! I have more than one resolution. Here’s my list:

1). Get more sleep on a regular basis.

2). Improve my French (conversation).

3). Commit to strength-training.

Getting more sleep was my secondary resolution in 2015. Since I failed completely, it’s at the top of my 2016 list. I really, really need to get more sleep. Here, again, is the difference between wants and needs: I don’t WANT to get more sleep. I WANT the opposite… I want more hours in the day. I want to stay up until 3:00am, because for some reason, I’m often possessed by a rush of creative energy at around 11:00pm every night, and I’m afraid that if I don’t utilize it, I’ll squander it. But more sleep is an absolute necessity for my health, so this year, I’m going to try to shut everything down at 10:00pm so I can be in bed by 10:30pm. I get up at 5:30am on weekdays, so this would give me seven hours of sleep IF I fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow. (Which never happens. But nearly seven hours of sleep would be a great improvement over the four-five hours I typically get.)

I dedicate this resolution to Mom, who always worries that I don’t sleep enough. I don’t want her to worry about me for any reason, because worrying is detrimental to her health.

For my second resolution, improving my French conversation, I simply need to speak more French. I have a bad habit of answering Callaghan in English when he speaks to me in French. The divide between my comprehension level and speaking level is now so great that it’s ridiculous! I have no excuses. I just need to speak it more; that’s the only way I’m going to improve.

I dedicate this resolution to Callaghan, obviously!

As for strength-training, I need to make that a regular part of my workout routine. I’m not weak, but I would feel better in a stronger body. Doing pull-ups in my home office doorway every once in a while isn’t sufficient, and shadow-boxing with dumbbells isn’t cutting it, either. We have heavier dumbbells, so I need to start using them.

I dedicate this resolution to Ming, my best friend who died suddenly in 2003. Ming was one of my Tae Kwan Do instructors, and as friends, we developed a brother-sister bond that made him a member of my family. Ming was an extremely talented martial arts athlete, and his work ethic in the do-jang inspires me to this day. Improving my strength so I can be a better martial artist is my tribute to him.

 

Ming and me, 1996

Ming and me, 1996

 

Happy Resolutioning, if you do it!

Happy New Year from Nounours and Nenette! 2016 begins with a kitty update.

Nounours and Nenette unwittingly posed for some super adorable pics recently (says their totally unbiased Mom). Here they are… the last pics of the fur-kids of 2015!

Kitties enjoyed ALL of their Christmas.

Here’s Mr. Blue Eyes with the stockings… his was the red one, and the green one was Nenette’s:

 

Nounours with stockings.

Nounours with stockings.

 

I was so pleased to have captured this next pic… this is probably my all-time favorite pic of Nounours:

 

Nounours sniffing our tiny pinecone Christmas tree.

Nounours sniffing our tiny pinecone Christmas tree.

 

You may or may not have already seen this one of Nenette, but I thought I’d post it again here…

 

Nenette stationed at the presents, just in case.

Nenette stationed at the presents, just in case.

 

This girl, I’m telling you.

 

Nenette hugging her new mousie.

Nenette hugging her new mousie.

 

What do you even do with this much cute?

 

PET ME, I'M SOFT

PET ME, I’M SOFT

 

Nenette loved her first Christmas.

Nenette loved her first Christmas.

 

Nenette has been absolutely thriving since we got back from France. She’s more trusting and affectionate than ever. She’s a happy girl!

 

Content Nenette.

Content Nenette.

 

Happy New Year!

LUCHA LIBRE! It’s what’s for entertainment (the night before your birthday).

Lucha Libre – Mexican wrestling – has to be the most colorful and entertaining type of combat sport I know. Like all wrestlers, a luchador is an athlete and an entertainer rolled into one. Luchadores are known for wearing masks. They’re known for launching themselves into the air. Lucha Libre is hella fun to watch!

A Mexican cultural tradition, it’s natural to see Lucha Libre in Arizona. When a $5.00 ticket deal for a Lucha Libre event at a local venue hit my inbox last week, I snapped up a couple and asked Callaghan after the fact (if he wanted to go). I suspected he’d love it, so I just went for it, thinking I could justify my impulsive decision with the It’s my birthday weekend and this is what I want to do reasoning. The event was on Saturday night. My birthday was on Sunday. Luckily, Callaghan was stoked about our impromptu plans. Lucha Libre tickets five bucks each!

So we headed over to the AZ Event Center on Saturday night, and today I’m coming at you with another gazillion images. I took the interior pics from my seat and with my cell phone, as usual, so the usual disclaimer about the photo quality applies. I wanted to capture the personalities of the luchadores and the fun they were having!

 

[TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

[TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Me with Callaghan on my birthday eve at the AZ Event Center. We were tired, but... Lucha Libre!!

Me with Callaghan on my birthday eve at the AZ Event Center. We were tired, but… Lucha Libre!!

 

From Bout 1:

 

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Strolling around the audience…

 

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

From Bout 2 (Las mujeres! – female bout):

 

Bout 2 - Las mujeres! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 – Las mujeres! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

From Bout 3 (two Mexican dudes vs. two American dudes):

 

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 3 – Mexico duo vs. United States duo! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Representing Mexico:

 

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Representing the United States:

 

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 3 – Mexicans in green, Americans in black shorts [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

(These two were the only Americans on the fight card.)

 

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Mr-Mexico Luchador!

 

Mr-Mexico Luchador, end of Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Mr-Mexico Luchador, end of Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

From Bout 4 (tag teams – trios):

 

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Team 1:

 

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Team 2:

 

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Loved these guys!

We picked up a free poster on our way out:

 

Great night of Lucha Libre! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Great night of Lucha Libre! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

I did capture some high-flying action shots, but with the technical limitations of the cell phone camera, they’re not great – some luchadores came out blurry, while others were straight-up unidentifiable blurs.

Okay, I’ll include a few of them, because why not! These are all from the first bout:

 

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

INCOMING!

 

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

And…

 

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Ka-BAAM.

Also, here’s a short video clip of the bout between the Mexican duo and the American duo, which Callaghan let me post on his YouTube channel:

 

 

The Americans are the ones wearing shorts. They ended up winning, by the way.

Awesome night of entertainment!

Merry Christmas! (Photos from Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden)

As a part of our Christmas celebration this week, we spent an evening trekking through the Desert Botanical Garden to take in the thousands of luminarias hand-lit along trails, walkways, and ledges.

A luminaria is a paper lantern made by filling the bottom of a small paper bag with sand and setting a candle in it. Like eating tamales on Christmas Eve, decorating your yard with luminarias (often around the perimeter) is a southwestern Christmas tradition, and Las Noches de las Luminarias is a tradition at the Garden. At this year’s display, we enjoyed the music of mariachis, and members of Yellow Bird telling Apache winter stories and playing native flute. We also admired artist Bruce Munro’s breath-taking art installations in the Bruce Munro: Sonoran Light at the Desert Botanical Garden exhibit.

We visited the Garden after nightfall. Of course, I took about 500 pics, which I whittled down to 32 after sifting through them.

At times like these, I wish I had a better camera. The one in my cell phone couldn’t adequately capture the beauty beheld in the Garden that night!

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t gleefully surprised when my photo album came out vaguely spooky and Halloweenish; the grainy photo quality probably has something to do with this. My first idea was to take you on a festive holiday stroll through the desert, but instead, you’re getting an experience that might resonate more with The Nightmare before Christmas. The desert at night can be haunting with botanical silhouettes, red skies, and ghostly trees. In many places, the luminarias and Bruce Munro’s artistic light installations added to the eerie effect.

Come along…

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_1

Bienvenidos! [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_2

Christmas tree in the desert. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_3

Over 8000 luminarias were hand-lit at the Garden. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_4

Saguaro cactus. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_5

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_6

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_7

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_8

Luminarias spied behind an organ pipe cactus. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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For obvious reasons, these luminarias are made with plastic sleeves rather than with real paper bags. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_10

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_11

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_12

Christmas lights wrapped around a palo verde tree. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_13

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_14

The desert at night. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_15

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_16

Shadow of a dwelling behind the luminarias. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_17

Members of Yellow Bird told Apache winter stories and played native flute on the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_18

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_19

Christmas light-studded hill in the desert. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_20

Red sky, web on the ground made of strings and beads of lights. (Light art of Bruce Munro.) [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_21

Arteries glowing in the desert darkness – light art of Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_22

Eerily glowing luminous art by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_23

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_24

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_25

Luminarias leading the way on the Garden trails. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_26

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_27

[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_28

Luminaria with more of Bruce Munro’s light art. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_29

“Fireflies” by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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“Fireflies” by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Light art by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

thatasianlookingchick.com-DBGLuminarias_32

Statue in the Garden. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

…and a great BIG “thank you” to Callaghan for patiently waiting as I took hundreds of pics!

Merry Christmas, All. =)

Thanksgiving, TALC-versary, NEW KITTY PICS!

Today falls between two days of significance: Thanksgiving and my TALC-versary, the latter being more of personal significance, of course.

So, happy belated Thanksgiving, American readers!

And happy 3-year TALC-versay to me, which actually feels like an extension of Thanksgiving, because I’m grateful for this blog. I’m especially grateful for all of you who read it. I wrote my first post on November 28, 2012 after creating my WordPress account sans clear idea of what it would involve. Sometimes it’s more fun not knowing, though, and fun, it has been. I can’t say it enough: Thank you all for reading! Here’s to the next three years!

Yesterday marked our first Thanksgiving here in the Land of AZ since we moved back. It was just the two of us and kitties this year. We talked to Mom and Dad on Skype and then did the traditional thing of eating a lot and catching up on Scream Queens.

For the food, I kept things simple and made savory dishes to satisfy the palate the same way as the traditional Thanksgiving spread. I made quinoa and brown rice pilaf with sautéed mushrooms and garlic, roasted baby red-skinned potatoes and onions, roasted Brussels sprouts, and thick eggplant slices lightly fried in olive oil. We had fresh, cooked broccoli with Veganaise for an appetizer, and fresh raspberries for dessert.

 

Thanksgiving dinner 2015.

Thanksgiving dinner 2015.

 

Now for some pics for a mini visual kitty update!

 

No one lounges like the Nounours.

No one lounges like the Nounours.

 

No one poses better than la petite Nenette.

No one poses better than la petite Nenette.

 

I managed to catch Nounours in a rare moment of being properly illuminated for the camera. You can even see the blue of his eyes!

I managed to catch Nounours in a rare moment of being properly illuminated for the camera. You can even see the blue of his eyes!

 

Nenette has taken to resting on the back of the couch to be near us.

Nenette has taken to resting on the back of the couch to be near us.

 

It's funny how these two often sit near each other on this end of the couch.

It’s funny how these two often sit near each other on this end of the couch.

 

Also! Kitties’ Aunty Carol captioned one of Nenette’s pics from the last update:

 

"What is HE doing here????"

“What is HE doing here????”

 

Yes, Nenette really says that sometimes when she’s in the same space as Nounours, and he says the same thing of her. Their dynamic is mysterious and Callaghan and I mostly try to avoid intervening too much, but I admit that I’m a helicopter cat mom who sometimes hovers over the furbabies to make sure Nounours keeps his intimidation tactics to a minimum.

Today, we’re hiding from Black Friday madness. It feels like the day after Christmas, and that’s awesome.

How I Alone: Halloween safety precaution edition.

Callaghan’s been back for 11 days. I’d been alone in the house for 12 days, which isn’t an unusual situation, as he does have away-business of one kind or another every once in a while. I’m not here to gloat about the awesome time I had with the whole house to myself for almost two weeks. (Of course he was missed, but not terribly; thanks to Skype, I “saw” him several times a day.) I’m here to gloat about how I totally outdid myself on the aloning this time.

Yes, there’s a difference between “aloneness” (neutral/positive) and “loneliness” (negative). And yes, it’s “doing alone,” rather than “being alone.” I’m declaring “alone” to be a verb, because this is my blog, so I can. “To alone” refers to how you behave in the absence of human company, of course. You aren’t alone alone when you share your abode with cats or dogs or fish or iguanas or horses or an ant farm or whatever-you-have. (We have two furbabies of the feline persuasion, in case you weren’t aware.)

Aloning is an art, but this time, it occurred over Halloween, so there were special safety precautions to be taken, and that put a different slant on things. It was a learn-as-you-go sort of situation since I’d never aloned over Halloween before. As you can imagine, I came away with a wealth of knowledge. Such as, at dusk, you should close all the window coverings on the south side of your dwelling (in case of a siege such as zombie apocalypse).

You should fill up all of your five-gallon water bottles and hoard them in a closet (in case of zombie apocalypse).

If you don’t already have loyal animal children who will guard you with their lives, you can get a guard dog of some kind. If you’re more of a cat person, you can get an ocelot. If you’re allergic to dander and alligators aren’t your thing, you can get a carnivorous plant or a saguaro. (In case of zombie apocalypse.)

 

With saguaro and a bunch of sun and wind.

With saguaro and a bunch of sun and wind.

 

(The saguaro cactus in the picture isn’t at my house. It’s just near my house.)

You can keep a stash of delicious pickled turnips (in case of zombie apocalypse).

You can play the ukulele (in case of zombie apocalypse).

You can keep the gas tank in your car topped off in case the zombie apocalypse happens and you need to drive to Mexico, where zombies don’t go.

There are many things you can do that you’ll never realize until you’re alone over Halloween, and this is invaluable, especially since zombies are much worse than other things that can happen, such as three consecutive earthquakes (in the desert) one night and a threat of a mass shooting at your workplace the following day.

Each time is a learning experience. Maybe next year Callaghan will be away in early October and I’ll be able to write “How I Alone: Columbus Day edition.” The siege threat in that case would be even more formidable than zombies!

What I’m Digging Right Now – October Favorites

The theme here is Halloween, obviously. This “favorites” post is late, so let’s get right into it, shall we?

 

1). American Horror Story: Hotel (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-AHSHotel2015

 

People either love this season of AHS, or they hate it. We love it. It was love at first step into the extravagant art deco set, and so far, there’s no aspect of Hotel that hasn’t impressed us. For one thing, we were happily surprised to find, right from episode one, that Lady Gaga can act (it was anyone’s guess how that casting decision would pan out). Hotel is a gorgeously done gore-fest of lavishness, and an equally gorgeously wrought mystery. Fine writing. Fine directing and acting performances. Breath-taking set. And that intro with its split-second, neon flashes of the 10 Commandments has to be the creepiest (therefore the best) yet – at least, it’s our favorite so far.

 

2). Scream Queens (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-ScreamQueensS12015

 

We were skeptical about this new series, so I’m thrilled to include it here as a favorite. Every episode of this comedy/horror series features at least one moment that causes us to hit “pause” so we can pick ourselves up from the floor. We’re always a little surprised when we bust out in spontaneous laughter during Scream Queens. Its random humor just strikes you that way, out of nowhere. The series spoofs horror films, so it appropriately stars Emma Roberts (American Horror Story) and, most brilliantly, Jamie Lee Curtis in essentially the same role she played in Halloween H20. Between Scream Queens and American Horror Story, we were set for Halloween all through the month (and between Scream Queens and Modern Family, we were set comedy-wise, as well). Oh, and did I mention that two of Scream Queens’ creators are American Horror Story’s Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk? There you go. Now go watch it.

 

3). Drag Bingo (Melonhead Foundation charity event).

 

Off to the Melonhead Foundation's annual Drag Bingo. This has to be my favorite wig yet.

Off to the Melonhead Foundation’s annual Drag Bingo. This has to be my favorite wig yet.

 

The Melonhead Foundation put on its annual Drag Bingo gala, so of course we attended. Where else can you contribute to a great charity while playing dirty bingo dressed up for Halloween while some of the finest drag queens around MC the event and provide the entertainment, and there’s dinner, candy, a costume contest, and mystery prizes? Don’t say I didn’t told you… if you’re in Phoenix next October, don’t miss this event!

 

4). Too Faced Born This Way foundation (Nude).

 

Too Faced Born This Way foundation in Nude

Too Faced Born This Way foundation in Nude

 

Don’t worry… I’m still an e.l.f. devotee, and e.l.f. is still the brand of cruelty-free make-up I mainly use, but I unexpectedly found myself purchasing this high-end foundation one day in October. What happened was I went to Ulta in search of the Urban Decay concealer I prefer – one of two high-end cosmetic items I use – and just when I found (for the third week in a row) that they were sold out of my shade, the Too Faced lady, who had been lurking further down the aisle in the Too Faced section, snuck up behind me and got her claws into my common sense and then her fingers on my face and next thing I knew, I was walking out of the store $40.00 poorer. But the little orange bag I held contained this amazing foundation, and I absolutely love it. (Plus, since I didn’t get the Urban Decay concealer, I only spent $10.00 more than I’d planned, anyway.)

 

5). Iced Coffee.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-IcedCoffee

 

Maybe it’s because October’s heat felt unusually extreme to me, or maybe the heat actually did register as unusual… in any case, I sort of fell into the habit of drinking iced coffee while home in the afternoons. I’d put the morning’s leftover coffee in the refrigerator, and then I had this fabulous, refreshing drink to look forward to later in the day. It became a special treat.

 

6). Tempe Farmer’s Market vegan breakfast burros.

 

Tempe Farmer's Market vegan burritos

Tempe Farmer’s Market vegan burritos

 

We live across and slightly down the street from the Tempe Farmer’s Market, so once we discovered that their deli offers huge, delicious vegan burros every day, it became challenging to go by without stopping in to pick one up. They’re a lot of food for a reasonable price, and there are all different kinds, so you never know what you’ll find. My favorite is the breakfast burro (the one on the right).

 

7). Frontera salsa (Jalapeño-Cilantro).

 

Frontera Jalapeno Cilantro salsa

Frontera Jalapeno Cilantro salsa

 

Even something as simple as an excellent salsa can add to the enjoyment of a whole month! We’d never tried Frontera brand salsa before, so when we spotted it at Sprout’s one day, we decided to try it. This Jalapeño-Cilantro one immediately became my new favorite jarred salsa.

 

8). Larabar (Cashew Cookie).

 

Larabar fruit and nut bars in Cashew Cookie

Larabar fruit and nut bars in Cashew Cookie

 

These little bars contain a mere two ingredients: Cashews and dates. That’s it. While these tasty and satisfying nutrient-dense treats aren’t cheap, they’re definitely worth it.

 

9). New Hair.

Finally! I had bangs cut! By Melanie, my fabulous hair stylist and friend! Finally, my hair is back to the way it was before I moved to France, it’s out of my eyes, and it’s much easier to control. I’m displaying this particular pic because you can see the shape of the cut, even though it’s wind-blown because I’m sitting at the bus stop in the early morning and there’s weather and lots of fast cars going by.

 

New hair with bangs and a little face-framing and layering.

New hair with bangs and a little face-framing and layering.

 

Hello, November! We’re already two weeks into the month, but it’s never too late to say hello.

Halloween Merriment (and the unexpected adventures of Callaghan’s butt)

Happy Halloween Eve!

Callaghan and I have been celebrating Halloween all week, wanting to make up for the fact that we’ll be apart on the actual holiday. He left yesterday for a 12-day business trip in France (Normandy)… so yes, the week-long celebration was necessary. Priorities.

Actually, we’ve been in Halloween celebration mode all month.

I have no Halloween plans for tomorrow. At first I wanted to go to SCARIZONA Scaregrounds with a friend, but then I chickened out re-thought that plan because they promise to prey on “every possible phobia,” and there’s no way I’m risking the possibility of roaches (real or not). I’m thinking roachaphobia is common enough that Scarizona masterminds would use it in the creation of their haunted house “experiences.” I’m a risk-taker in some ways, but not in the roach way. NOPE. Not going.

Instead, kitties and I will enjoy a quiet, spooky Halloween together.

 

Bunny-butt Nenette and butterscotch Nounours checking out a jack-o'-lantern pumpkin.

Bunny-butt Nenette and butterscotch Nounours checking out a jack-o’-lantern pumpkin.

 

I’m looking at 12 days of quality bonding time with Nounours and Nenette. But fear not – I am planning on some crazy shenanigans for the duration. As they say, the cat will play while the Callaghan’s away.

Here’s some of what’s about to go down:

  • Reading (All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr)
  • Writing (I round-filed both of my neglected big projects, but this new one is actually a starting-over of one of the discarded ones.)
  • Watching Netflix (Yes, I’ve returned to Netflix. What can I say.)
  • Playing with furbabies (Nenette will learn that I can be just as fun as Daddy when it comes to playing.)
  • Taking the bus (to work – this is new) and walking (home from work). I still refuse to pay for parking at work when we live so close.
  • Eating simply. (For the next 12 days, I’m basically going to live on salad, baked sweet potatoes, broccoli, brown rice, quinoa, hummus, peanut butter, bread, and fruit. Because these are foods I love, I’m lazy about cooking, and I don’t want to spend time thinking about it.)
  • Getting my hair cut. (YAY new hair, plus I get to see my girl Melanie!)

And, so as to not make too much of a ruckus up in here:

  • Updating/cleaning up some of this blog’s details, i.e. the About page, stuff in the sidebar, some of the links and tags and categories, etc., etc. Long overdue.

It’s not an exhaustive list, but it captures the main agenda. You get the idea. It doesn’t take much to amuse me.

Case in point: I was too easily amused by this exchange with Callaghan yesterday morning when he was at the airport, texting to tell me about his pre-boarding adventures.

You know how a text conversation can get off-sync when you receive a message while you’re texting, so after you send the one you were writing, you immediately answer the new one that came in, and the messages accumulate out of order because the timing got messed up, plus you were talking about two different things at once, so now your phone displays a merging of replies on different subjects, and it either doesn’t make sense at all, or it just looks wrong?

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Callaghan-AirportScreenShot

 

This is what happens when you’re texting about airport security procedures and breakfast at the same time. It’s all fun and games until someone gets a scone up his butt. Of course, it had to be Callaghan.

Jack-o’-lanterns and Americanism 101.

Somehow, long before he met me and for reasons no one will ever know, Callaghan managed to live in the United States for 10 years without ever carving a jack-o’-lantern.

In my mind, this is tantamount to not knowing what Halloween actually is in America, which in turn says to me that Callaghan hasn’t been a real American. All this time, his dual citizenship has been fraudulent.

Believe me, I did not arrive at this conclusion lightly. Thinking about it, though, I do see a pattern here.

Callaghan knew about St. Patrick’s Day parades and green beer, but he didn’t know that Americans (especially kids) make sure they leave the house with the color green visible somewhere in their outfits, even if it’s just shoe laces, a hair tie, or a pin… or others who are displaying green can pinch them.

He knew about Valentine’s Day roses and chocolates, but he didn’t know that American kids traditionally give their friends and classmates valentines that contain simple and often humorous verses. (Roses are red, violets are blue….)

He knew about Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating, and maybe even about classroom-decorating and school costume parades, contests, and parties, but he didn’t know the most fundamental part of the holiday – how to carve a jack-o’-lantern – because he’d never done it.

I get it. Since he first moved to the States as an adult, he missed out on the kids’ aspects of these and other holidays. But it’s those aspects that define the holidays more than the adult ones, in my opinion. Especially Halloween.

Since the ruthless slashing and carving of a pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern constitutes a basic American Halloween activity we’ve all done at least once in our lives, a logical question on the United States citizenship exam would be, “Have you ever carved a jack-o’-lantern?”

“No” means try again later. “Yes” means here’s a pumpkin and a knife… prove it.

Prospective employers weed out the liars and the frauds the same exact way, like when I interviewed for the job I had before I moved to France. They took me into a room with a lightbulb hanging over a lonely chair computer, sat me down, gave me some basic information, and instructed me to compose a letter on behalf of a fictional boss. I knew nothing about the subject, and that was the point. They just told me the name of the addressee, the name of the fictional boss, and the goal of the letter. I’d written many such letters before, which showed, I guess, since I got the job.

In the same scenario (but with a pumpkin and a knife instead of a computer), Callaghan would not have gotten the “job” (his citizenship).

Instead of being asked about jack-o’-lanterns, he was asked silly things like Who is the current President? And Why are there 50 stars on the flag?

First of all, duh. Secondly, where is that kind of knowledge going to get anyone in terms of being a real American? A full-grown adult who’s never carved a jack-o’-lantern for Halloween is certainly from another country, if you ask me. It’s a dead giveaway. (har, har)

Callaghan would have failed his citizenship exam because you can’t fake your way through carving a jack-o’-lantern. It’s not self-explanatory. It seems like a simple thing, but until Saturday night:

–He didn’t know how to choose a pumpkin for a jack-o’-lantern.

–He didn’t know about carving around the stem to make a lid.

–He didn’t know that pumpkins are hollow.

–He didn’t know about scraping away the stringy pulp.

–He didn’t know about gathering the seeds and rinsing, drying and toasting them, because…

–He didn’t know that Americans like to eat pumpkin seeds…

–because pumpkins are totally New World, and Old World people can’t know these things through osmosis just because they’re in the States.

Callaghan didn’t know anything about jack-o’-lanterns, and I loved it. I loved that somehow, miraculously, I was the person to pop his…. He learned about jack-o’-lanterns from me. Of all the many Americans he met and befriended over the years, I got to be the person to show him!

He seemed disinterested at first, but then he saw me draw the face on my pumpkin. He’s an artist, remember, and I had his attention. He watched as I wielded the knife to carve around the stem, and I invited him to lift the lid off the pumpkin. I’ll never forget the surprise in his voice or the expression of wonderment on his face when he looked inside the pumpkin and said, “It’s HOLLOW!!”

Sharing that moment of discovery with him will always be one of my favorite memories.

After we finished the jack-o’-lantern, he wanted to run out to get another pumpkin, so we did. (Since we’re in the States, we were able to do that, even though it was almost midnight.)

Here we are in the parking lot, as those of you on Facebook have already seen:

 

In front of Safeway at around 11:30pm. Midnight pumpkin run!

In front of Safeway at around 11:30pm. Midnight pumpkin run!

 

And here he is, posing like the Headless Horseman from Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a classic bit of American literature from 1820:

 

The Callaghan Horseman.

The Callaghan Horseman.

 

The Headless Horseman.

The Headless Horseman.

 

We lit the jack-o’-lantern with a tea light so we wouldn’t have to worry about it, and the flame would burn itself out.

 

The spooky jack-o'-lantern we light in our bedroom every night.

The spooky jack-o’-lantern we light in our bedroom every night.

 

Jack-o’-lanterns and accompanying folklore such as the Headless Horseman came to America from Ireland or northern Europe, I believe. American culture contains this bewitching mélange of other cultures. Our traditions come from everywhere. America is a glorious mutt. 

And we love the cutthroat culture of Halloween. No mercy for pumpkins!

Hello, I am a CNTJ.

“Hey Baby, guess what?” I asked Callaghan the other night.

“What?”

“I realized that I’m not an introvert, and I’m not an extravert. Guess what I am!”

“A bear.”

This took me by surprise. Wasn’t it obvious where I was heading?

“No.”

“A mama bear.”

“No.” Although I am.

“I don’t know, mon amour. What are you?”

“I’m not an introvert, and I’m not an extravert,” I began again. “I’m a catrovert.”

Callaghan paused, then snorted with laughter.

“That’s a good one,” he said. “It’s TRUE.”

Yes, it is.

In a world of introverts and extraverts, I’ve always been a textbook introvert. The personality tests I’ve taken have reflected this unfailingly. According to Myers-Briggs, I’m an INTJ. But actually, I’m a CNTJ.

I’ve yet to see catroversion documented anywhere in the literature concerning personality types, but it should be, because I know that I’m far from the only one.

Introversion and extraversion are terms that describe how people replenish their mental and emotional energy stores, right? The way I understand it, introverts “recharge” best in solitude… they get their energy from within themselves, so they need alone-time. Extraverts recharge by being with others; they’re energized in the company of other people.

Catroverts, meanwhile, recharge by being with cats. We derive our energy from those of the feline persuasion, so the time we spend with them is the most profoundly therapeutic time we can know.

 

Catroversion with Nenette

Catroversion with Nenette

 

These pics with Nenette were taken on Sunday. Lots of Labor Day weekend fur-baby bonding went on around here!

And Nounours got all kinds of snuggles in the aftermath of his dental surgery a couple of weeks ago:

 

Catroversion with Nounours

Catroversion with Nounours

 

Since I just did a search and found no mention of catroversion anywhere online,* I figured it ought to be published somewhere, which, I guess, means here in this post. Let’s take it a step further and break catroversion down into two types:

  • Type A catrovert: Derives energy from being with cat(s)
  • Type B catrovert: Derives energy from being ALONE with cat(s)

The Type A catrovert often tests as an extravert on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. (That would be Callaghan.)

The Type B catrovert is essentially also an introvert. (This would be me.)

“Voilà,” I said to Callaghan, “We’re not really opposites in this regard! We’re both primary catroverts.” It was easy to flesh out my theory as I went, so I kept going. “And your secondary extraversion and my secondary introversion complement each other.”

Seriously… with a few exceptions, if Callaghan wasn’t around to encourage me to go out and do social things (i.e. attend parties), I just wouldn’t. He’s good at busting me out of my comfort zones. Pretty much the only place at which I look forward to socializing is the gym. Outside of that, give me one-on-one interactions with friends, and small groups over large ones.

Callaghan had to admit that I was onto something when I presented catroversion to him.

So what are some things we should know about catroverts?

1). The catrovert with secondary extraversion (Type A catrovert) may be prone to:

  • Overspending the household budget on cat birthday party preparations
  • Bringing home every stray cat on the street
  • Struggling to resist adopting all the cats in the shelter
  • Feeding the neighborhood stray cats
  • Insisting on going over to talk to the cats up for adoption at PetSmart and PetCo

2). The catrovert with secondary introversion (Type B catrovert) may be prone to:

  • Being accused of being anti-social (if not an all-out misanthrope)
  • Being labeled a “crazy cat lady” (even if not a lady)
  • Taking longer than average to grieve the loss of a beloved cat
  • Feeling inexplicably jealous if kitty responds to a visitor’s affection
  • Dying alone with cats

3). Advice for the employer, since the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is heavily used as a resource in the workplace: the best way to handle your catrovert employees is to allow them to bring their cats to work.

4). Being a catrovert does NOT make someone a strict cat person; being a catrovert doesn’t preclude loving and/or appreciating dogs or other animals.

I could go on. I may even expand this topic into a book-length volume at some point. For now, I’ll just sign off with the observation that the only reason we don’t have a houseful of cats is that my being a Type B catrovert balances out Callaghan being a Type A catrovert.

—–

*ETA: I just searched on a different engine, and I DID find references to catroversion elsewhere. Catroverts REPRESENT!

New Year’s Resolution check-in! Cruelty-free cosmetics (e.l.f. review)

We all know how it is. When we’re amped about our New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of the year, we broadcast them to the world, but it’s less common to mention them again after that. We’re all about our resolutions for four weeks or so, and then we never speak of them again. Given this, and to share some of the results of my efforts, I wanted to check in with a mid-year 2015 resolutions update.

(Side-note: It was actually my intention to do this post last month, but I’ve been procrastinating. There are more interesting things to read and write about than the make-up I’m using, but I wanted to hold myself accountable for my resolutions, so here we are. Bear with me, guys, please!)

For 2015, I mainly resolved to switch to cruelty-free products – products that are not tested on animals – so I’m going to share some of the make-up items I’ve been using. I’m just talking about cosmetics in this post (I’ve also switched to cruelty-free hair-care and body products), and mainly one brand.

Cruelty-free drugstore cosmetics include brands such as Milani, e.l.f., Flower, Physician’s Formula, Pacifica, and Burt’s Bees, among others. I’ve tried a smattering of things from different brands, but I decided early on to focus on e.l.f., because it’s the cheapest of the cheap. When I made this resolution, I wanted to go cruelty-free, not broke. Spending as little as possible on make-up means that I can justify spending more on good cruelty-free skin-care.

I’ll always prioritize skin-care over make-up. I use a $3.00 mascara so I can feel less guilty spending $30.00 on sunscreen. It does even out!

Anyway, in the last seven months, I’ve experimented with a lot of e.l.f. make-up. It turns out that the quality of their cosmetics is exceptional and impressive, so the experimentation wasn’t as tedious as I’d thought it would be. I placed an initial order with e.l.f. online in January, and a second order in April. For some reason, with that second order, e.l.f. sent a bag filled with extra, full-size items for free, so I had the opportunity to try out some things I wouldn’t have thought to try otherwise. In addition to those two orders, I’ve also picked up a few e.l.f. items at Target here and there, and I’ve already re-purchased several things, as well.

Without further ado, here’s the break-down on how it’s shaken out so far, prices included. The priciest item out of everything I tried was $10.00, but the items I use daily range from $2.00-$6.00.

Current daily products:

 

Everyday e.l.f. (cruelty-free)

Everyday e.l.f. (cruelty-free)

 

1). e.l.f. Studio High-Definition Powder in Shimmer ($6.00)

2). e.l.f. Studio Flawless Finish Foundation in Sand ($6.00)

3). e.l.f. Studio Contouring Blush & Bronzing Powder in St. Lucia (I just use the bronzing side) ($3.00)

4). e.l.f. Studio Baked Highlighter in Moonlight Pearls ($3.00)

5). e.l.f. Studio Baked Blush in Passion Pink ($3.00)

6). e.l.f. Studio Fan Brush ($3.00)

7). e.l.f. Essential Flawless Face Powder in Ivory ($2.00)

8). e.l.f. Studio Eyebrow Kit in Dark (I just use the powder side) ($3.00)

9). e.l.f. Essential Smudge Pot in Ain’t that Sweet ($3.00)

10). e.l.f. Essential Smudge Pot in Cruisin’ Chic ($3.00)

11). e.l.f. Studio Radiance Enhancer in Spotlight ($3.00)

12). e.l.f. Essential Waterproof Eyeliner in Black (I just use it on the upper lid) ($2.00)

13). e.l.f. Studio Eye Enhancing Mascara in Black Sapphire ($3.00)

14). e.l.f. Studio Makeup Remover Cleansing Cloths ($3.00)

Thoughts: The e.l.f. smudge pots are comparable to Maybelline’s Eye Studio Color Tattoo 24hr Cream Gel shadows. The Cruisin’ Chic color is my cruelty-free replacement for my old favorite, Bad to the Bronze, and in fact, I even prefer it. At $3.00 a pop, the e.l.f. smudge pots are less than half the price of the Maybelline ones, which are $7.00 each.

To show how the products look and wear, I have pictures from yesterday morning, mid-day, and late afternoon:

 

7:40AM. Freshly applied.

7:30AM.
Freshly applied, photo taken by daylight.

 

1:30PM, over five hours later. Mid-day, low light in my office at work.

1:30PM, six hours later.
Mid-day, low light in my office at work.

 

5:10PM, over nine hours  later. Photo taken in the car on the way to the gym, hazy natural light (sorry for the bad lighting)

5:10PM, over nine hours later.
Photo taken in the car on the way to the gym, hazy natural light (sorry for the bad lighting)

 

It’s hard to see the quality of the face make-up in this bad lighting, but note the $3.00 mascara still going strong after nine hours! I don’t curl my eyelashes, either. That’s all product. Seriously, why would I pay $8.00 for an average drugstore mascara or $30.00 for an average high-end mascara?

 

5:14PM, four minutes after the last. This shows the >9 hour result in better light.

5:14PM, four minutes after the last.
This shows the >9 hour result in better light.

 

(I changed into my gym clothes in the car, as usual, haha!)

Conclusion: I’m happy with the way the e.l.f. cosmetics wear over extended periods of time. I don’t bother using face primers or setting sprays or anything like that, either… I’m not a high-maintenance make-up user. My whole mission every morning is to slap everything on as quickly as possible. It takes me 15 minutes to do my make-up.

Now that I’ve listed my current preferred everyday items, here’s what I thought about the other e.l.f. products I tried:

Liked: Essential Volumizing & Defining Mascara in Jet Black ($2.00), Essential Jumbo Eyeshadow Stick in Rock Out ($2.00), Essential Smudge Pot in Hit the Town ($3.00), Studio Prism Eyeshadow in Naked ($10.00), Essential Brightening Eye Color in Butternut ($1.00), Studio Baked Eyeshadow Trio in Lavender Love ($4.00), Studio High-Definition Undereye Setting Powder in Sheer ($3.00), Studio BB Cream SPF 20 in Buff ($6.00), Studio Moisturizing Foundation Stick in Nude ($6.00), Studio Lip Balm SPF 15 in Rose ($3.00), Studio Glossy Gloss in Wild Watermelon ($3.00), Studio Eye Refresh ($3.00)

Eh: Studio Mineral Infused Face Primer in Radiant Glow ($6.00), Studio Poreless Face Primer in Clear ($6.00), Studio Mineral Pearls in Natural ($8.00), Studio Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 in Nude ($3.00), Studio Make-Up Remover Pen ($3.00), Studio Kabuki Brush ($6.00)

Thoughts: The two face primers I tried are probably very good, but in keeping with my general experience with foundation primers, they don’t do anything for me at all, so I don’t use them. Lots of people swear by them, but for me, using a primer just adds an extra time-consuming step that makes no difference whatsoever in how my skin and make-up looks and wears throughout the day.

Ditto for the Kabuki brush, which, again, is probably excellent. I just prefer other kinds of brushes, like, looser-bristled ones, I guess. I should clean this brush (that I only used once) and give it to someone who wants it.

The mineral pearls product baffles me. Is it a powder? A bronzer? A contour product? All of the above? I’m not so into make-up that I enjoy dabbling; swirling a brush around on the pearls seemed complicated, and then I wasn’t particularly impressed with the look of the product once it was on. So, eh.

The tinted moisturizer was okay, but it was my least-favorite of the four e.l.f. foundation products I tried. Still, I’d wear it in a pinch. Its major plus, for me, is its SPF 20. You can’t have too much SPF!

I really wanted to love the make-up remover pen, and I did, up until the tip became darkened with the eyeliner it was meant to clean up. Then it was like, “okay, now what?”

This bring me to the final category:

Not for me: Essential Lengthening & Defining Mascara in Black ($1.00), Studio Waterproof Lengthening & Volumizing Mascara in Black ($3.00), Studio Undereye Concealer and Highlighter in Light/Glow ($3.00), Mineral Eye Brightener in Buff ($1.99), Studio High-Definition Powder in Sheer ($6.00), Studio Glossy Gloss in Muted Mauve ($3.00), Studio Matte Lip Colors in Natural and Tea Rose ($3.00 each), Essential Long Wear Lip Liner in Natural Blush ($1.00)

Thoughts: The Studio Waterproof Lengthening & Volumizing Mascara looks good once it’s on, but I can’t get past the packaging! Its shape and dimensions make the wand awkward in my hand, and I’ve never stabbed myself in the eye with a mascara as much as I did with this one. PASS.

I think the lip products ended up on this list because my lips just look wrong in those colors, and the Matte Lip Color formula dries out my lips. Not a good formula for me!

The products that were free were the Essential Jumbo Eyeshadow Stick in Rock Out, the Studio Radiance Enhancer in Spotlight, the Studio Eye Enhancing Mascara in Black Sapphire, and the Studio Glossy Gloss in Wild Watermelon… and I love it all!

The free products I haven’t tried yet: e.l.f. Studio Lip Stain in Lucky Lady ($3.00), e.l.f. Essential Nail Polish in Mango Madness ($2.00), e.l.f. Studio Lash & Brow Comb ($3.00), e.l.f. Essential Cuticle Pushers ($1.00)

My everyday cruelty-free cosmetics that are NOT e.l.f.: Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer in Light Neutral*, Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Zero* (that I use under the eyes), Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion Original (NOTE: e.l.f. does make eye shadow primers, and I’ll try them once I run out of the UD)**, Physician’s Formula Youthful Wear Cosmeceutical Youth-Boosting Dark Circle Corrector + Concealer (the yellow side only, which I wear underneath the Urban Decay concealer), and Burt’s Bees Lip Crayon in Redwood Forest.

*These are the few higher-end, cruelty-free cosmetic items that work better for me than those I could find at the drugstore.

**I haven’t tried an e.l.f. eyeshadow primer yet because believe it or not, I’m still trying to use up the first Urban Decay one I’d purchased almost a year and a half ago, and I have a second one to use after that! I have enough UD eyeshadow primer to last at least two more years, so it’ll be a while before I need to experiment with other brands.

I’d say that my seven months’ worth of experimentation with e.l.f. cosmetics has been instructional and eye-opening. I loved or liked a lot of the stuff I tried, didn’t care for some of it, and just felt so-so about the rest of it. Over time, I’ll continue experimenting to keep up with what’s new, too… I just visited e.l.f.’s website again and noticed a lot of new things, including a brand-new line of products called “Beautifully Bare.”

The important thing, to me, is that everything I wear on my face now is cruelty-free.

As for the stuff I used to use? I gathered up all of my pre-resolution gently-used cosmetics, hair  products, and toiletries, and I donated them to A New Leaf, a shelter for battered women here in the Valley. There were five paper grocery bags filled with products! I hope they brightened someone’s day a little.

Nenette – Nounours’ 4th of July kitty

We suddenly have a little girl kitty. To put it more precisely, Nounours suddenly has a new little sister.

We knew we’d eventually have to adopt another cat for Nounours, but if the deciding criteria was going to be me being emotionally ready, I couldn’t see it happening, ever. Losing Ronnie James left an open wound with tattered edges in my heart, and the idea of putting something there seemed excruciating.

But on the other hand, it’s been upsetting to see Nounours so distraught. Nounours would seem okay one minute, then desolate the next. He’d start crying, and we’d rush into the bedroom to discover him rubbing his head on Ronnie James’ urn. Or, on the occasions I’d leave Ronnie James’ urn up on his favorite barstool in the bedroom, Nounours’ yowling-crying would summon us to find him standing on the bed, mournfully facing the urn as if it were an unreachable island barely visible across a vast sea. We’d set the urn back on the foot of the bed, and Nounours would snuggle up to it, quieting down immediately.

We didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know how to help Nounours. It got to a point where we started talking more seriously about adopting another sibling for him. I was starting to realize that my own reticence wasn’t fair to Nounours, who had never been an only cat. He was lonely and missing his Wrah-Wrah as much as I was.

Things happened quickly from there.

Saturday morning, the 4th of July, we had the conversation again as we headed to the gym, Callaghan and I. “I’d definitely want to get a girl,” I said, echoing sentiments I’d previously expressed. I thought that a girl kitty would feel less like a Ronnie James replacement; moreover, it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring a strange Tomcat into Nounours’ territory. Callaghan agreed.

So we knew we wanted a girl. We also knew that we wanted her to be a full-grown adult, but one who was younger than 10-year-old Nounours. Nounours has a generous maternal streak, and we thought that allowing him to indulge it would help him to feel less lonely. It seemed that a slightly younger kitty would be a good fit for lovable, cozy Nounours and his penchant for cuddling. “Five at the youngest,” I thought out loud. “Maybe five or six….” Callaghan thought this would be ideal, as well.

But again, we shelved the conversation without making a decision. We got to the gym and went to Body Combat.

Not two hours later, we found ourselves peering into a clear Plexiglas case at PetSmart, where we’d stopped to get more treats for Nounours. Inside the case was a little girl whose tag read that she was six years old. (But she was so small!) Her tag also told us that she’s an Abyssinian/Manx mix. The Abyssinian part explained her beautiful, dark-golden ticked coat. The Manx part explained her lack of a tail.

She looked so sweet and sad. As we held her gaze, her waves of loneliness cut through the Plexiglas to touch us. We learned that she’d belonged to family who’d “run into hard times.” They were being evicted, so they surrendered her to the shelter. She’d been at the shelter for over a month.

When we left PetSmart, my heart had been replaced with a ball of mixed emotions, which I promptly expressed on Facebook. Some of my friends – you know who you are! – were so encouraging and supportive and wonderful, commenting and texting me. The conundrum was that (in accordance with policy) the adoption folks wouldn’t hold her for us for even half a day, even if we paid the fee; if we wanted to adopt her, we had to make the decision and do it tout de suite. It would have to happen quickly, lest someone else swoop in and adopt her!

We went back.

We changed her name. It was funny how we arrived at it: I suggested “Nenette” – we both wanted a French name – and Callaghan replied with, “My Godmother’s name was Nenette!” I hadn’t known that. (Also, we found out later when talking to Maman, Callaghan’s Mom, that “Nenette” had been slang for “chick” in France back in the 60’s and 70’s.) We both loved the name, and it suited the little girl. Nounours et Nenette. We purchased a nametag and fed it to the engraving machine at the front of the store before leaving.

 

She already knows her new name.

She already knows her new name.

 

At home later that evening, we sat in the living room and watched as Nenette explored her new forever home.

Here’s one of the first pics I took of her:

 

Part-Abyssinian, part Manx, Nenette has no tail (a characteristic of the latter).

Part-Abyssinian, part Manx, Nenette has no tail (a characteristic of the latter).

 

Sometimes, the way she moves her head reminds me, comically, of a velociraptor à la Jurassic World, and I want to call her “Blue,” my favorite (kick-ass female) character in that movie. Other times, her shy expression reminds me of Princess Diana, and I want to call her “Lady Di.”

 

Nenette on the small round ottoman in the bedroom (7/6/2015)

Nenette on the small round ottoman in the bedroom (7/6/2015)

 

Her shy expressions remind me so much of Princess Diana!

Her shy expressions remind me so much of Princess Diana!

 

As I post this, Nenette has only been here for about 60 hours, so she’s still getting acclimated to her new home and to the three of us. Nounours started showing interest in her within 24 hours, but his tentative approaches drew soft hissing. Nenette will need some time to develop trust and confidence. We suspect that she’d been either neglected or otherwise mistreated in her past situation(s).

 

Nenette has the uniform, ticked coat of the Abyssinian, with velvety soft fur.

Nenette has the uniform, ticked coat of the Abyssinian, with velvety soft fur.

 

She’s as much an Abyssinian/Manx mix in her personality as she is in her appearance. She’s talkative, but her conversational voice is soft and extremely feminine, and I do mean girly-girl-level feminine, with her quiet mewing and trilling sounds. At the other end of the spectrum, we never heard a cat yowl as loudly as she did in the carrier coming home from the shelter! It was funny to think that such a sound could come from this tiny, adorable little being. This kitty has quite the vocal range. She loves the scratch pads we have all over the house, even though she’d been declawed (to our horror). We’ve also observed that she’s intelligent, inquisitive and playful… and she’s quite skittish. When people come over, she disappears beneath furniture whether the visitors ring the doorbell or not. But overall, she seems to be adapting quickly.

 

We thought this pink heart tag said "Nenette" even before we engraved it, so it was the obvious choice.

We thought this pink heart tag said “Nenette” even before we engraved it, so it was the obvious choice.

 

As of yesterday, she and Nounours have been on nose-touching terms. Those brief touches are a magical balm for Nounours, as he seems to be more at peace now than before we adopted Nenette. We’re looking forward to the day we find him nurturing her!

I wanted to capture an image of Nounours and Nenette together, but it’s too soon for such an opportunity. Last night, when I went into the bedroom to take a picture of Nounours by himself, I found him like this, as usual:

 

Nounours still missing his Wrah-Wrah dearly.

Nounours still missing his Wrah-Wrah dearly.

 

Wrah-Wrah will always be with us, and I like to think that Nenette understands that she has two big brothers to adore her. We love her, too. Nenette has been a blessing for us all. The only promise we can make to her is that she’ll be unconditionally loved for the rest of her life.

The Pizookie and the French

Down the street from our house here in downtown Tempe, there’s a pizza joint called Oregano’s. It’s been a local favorite for the last two decades. It was newly opened when I first started going there in 1994; now, 20 years later, there are 14 Oregano’s locations throughout Arizona. They’re famous for their pizzas, but their entire menu is made of yummy awesomeness… I love their salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes. And their dessert? There’s only one dessert on the menu at Oregano’s, and that, my friends, is the Original Pizza Cookie, or, as everyone calls it, the “Pizookie.” The Pizookie is available in three flavors – chocolate-chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, and peanut butter chocolate. I’m sure that all the flavors are great, but I’ve always only ordered the chocolate-chip.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-OreganosTempepizookie

 

The Pizookie, for the uninitiated unfortunates among you, is cookie dough slightly baked in a 6-inch, deep-dish pizza pan, topped with three scoops of vanilla bean ice cream and sprinkled with chocolate chips. The resulting concoction defies description. There are no words.

Many others have tried to re-create the Pizookie, but as far as I know, no one has succeeded at elevating the simple combination of cookie dough and ice cream to the sublime height of perfection that Oregano’s consistently achieves. It must have to do with the pan they use, the type and temperature of the oven, the amount of time they leave it in, the particular recipe for the cookie dough, etc. It is a feat of culinary genius.The cookie comes out of the oven perfectly half-cooked, with the underneath firm (scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan is a part of the delightful experience), the top just barely set, and the inside soft and hot… and then, fresh from the oven, it’s topped with ice cream. It is voluptuous. By the time it gets to your table, it’s a pan full of hot and cold melty, gooey, chocolately ohmygodthisprobablyhasathousandcaloriesbutwhocaresIcanworkouttomorrow goodness.

It’s meant to serve 2-4, haha!

 

We went to Oregano's last night just so I could take this picture. OH THE SACRIFICE! OH THE THINGS I DO FOR THIS BLOG!! Meet the Original! Pizza Cookie at Oregano's. PIZOOKIE.

We went to Oregano’s last night just so I could take this picture. OH THE SACRIFICE! OH THE THINGS I DO FOR THIS BLOG!! Meet the Original! Pizza Cookie at Oregano’s. PIZOOKIE.

 

Just to give you an idea – I’m vegan 95% of the time. Since we’ve been back in Arizona, I mainly reserve the 5% for Oregano’s Fancy Dancy Mushroom pizza and their chocolate-chip Pizookie.

Now all of this, of course, leads up to the little story I have to tell you today.

When I lived in France, one of the most baffling reactions I got from the French was their dubiousness and often mocking hilarity when they’d ask me what things I missed in the States, and I’d answer, “The food.” I honestly did not understand their mirth. In my experience, the diversity and excellence of food here is unparalleled. America is, pretty much by definition, a merging of cultures; we have all the food here. For instance, I couldn’t find decent Thai food where we were in France… between the Rhône-Alpes (Valence, Grenoble) and the Alpes-Maritimes (the French Riviera), all we encountered were approximations of the Thai food that we know here in the States. And Mexican food? Forget it! Those are just two examples… all the cuisines in the States are rave-worthy. I could not find Ethiopian food in France. The plethora of excellent Indian restaurants we have here? Nowhere to be found over there. Also, from our national classics to our regional specialties, American food itself is great, not to mention “New American Cuisine” and fusion styles. I just love food, and there were so many foods I missed while I lived overseas. I found it nearly impossible to be vegan in France… the variety of vegan-friendly foods over there was dismal, at least where we were (we hung out in Paris on several occasions, but we didn’t live there).

Anyway, my answer to What do you miss about the United States? drew laughter laced with disbelief. There were degrees of the same reaction. Some people just laughed. Others laughed and made mocking, disparaging remarks. And yet others simply made disparaging remarks about American food, or my food (when I’d show up with something of my own that I’d brought, or that my parents had sent) for no reason at all. The French that I encountered just could not conceive of anyone liking the food in the States, much less missing it. (Not ALL French reacted this way, mind you! Of course there were those who were super polite and nice and had manners. I’m not talking about my friends, for instance.)

Callaghan was just as perplexed and taken aback by this reaction as I was, and he was embarrassed by the attitude of the French. Not only had he formerly lived in the States for ten years, so he knew the truth about the food here, but he also couldn’t believe the rudeness of the responses when the subject of food in America would come up. He speculated that people probably assumed “food in the States” meant McDonald’s and hot dogs, and pretty much nothing else.

Thus, we were both fully expecting Callaghan’s Dad and his Dad’s girlfriend Nicole to turn up their noses at the food in any given restaurant we’d visit while they were here staying with us over New Year’s. To make a long story short, they loved all the food they ate everywhere we went. It was kind of funny how we could tell that they were enjoying the food, but for the most part, they kept their reactions, you know, low-key. But Oregano’s was their favorite. They loved the jazzy atmosphere, and they loved the food, and they could not hide their reactions there.

When we got there the first time, Nicole said that she wasn’t really hungry. She ordered soup. But when she sampled my Fancy Dancy Mushroom pizza, she couldn’t conceal her pleasure, and neither could Callaghan’s Dad when he tried it. They both reached in for more.

Then the Pizookie arrived. We’d ordered two, so they could share one and we could share one.

It was rapture at first bite.

Suddenly, Nicole, who “wasn’t hungry,” was shoveling in mouthfuls of the hot and cold melty gooey Pizookie goodness. Callaghan’s Dad was doing the same. Several times, they both tried to stop eating it, but they could only leave their spoons down for a few minutes before they picked them up again. They were hard-pressed to hide their ecstasy. I’m telling you… I had never seen either of them eat anything with such gusto, in France or anywhere!

The next day, Callaghan called me while I was at work.

“We’re at Trader Joe’s buying chocolate chip cookie dough,” he told me. “They want to make a Pizookie.”

My first thought was, I could make better chocolate chip cookie dough. I don’t think anyone would argue that homemade is better than store-bought. My second thought was, they’re going to be disappointed, because there is no possible way any Pizookie we’d make at home could even come close to the heroin-laced Pizookie that emerges from the pizza ovens of Oregano’s. I cringed at the idea of them even trying, but I was amused nonetheless.

That night, the “pizookies” resulting from Trader Joe’s cookie dough and our conventional oven were a huge disappointment, as I knew they would be.

The next night, after dinner, Nicole said that she wanted to go back to Oregano’s. She wanted a Pizookie. I couldn’t believe it. She ate some American food she liked so much that she literally couldn’t get enough.

I was scrambling to work on my December Favorites blog post, so I declined, but I ended up tagging along when Callaghan implored me to go and we compromised with me bringing my computer and them accepting that I was going to be anti-social.

There we were, at the end of December during an unusual cold spell, after dark, sitting outside on the patio at Oregano’s, cozying up to the outdoor heaters. I wrote for this blog while everyone dug into their Pizookies. It was kind of surreal, but not surprising. The Pizookie is a thing you have to experience to understand… and if you think you know what it is because you had it somewhere other than Oregano’s, then you really don’t know what it is, because only Oregano’s does it like that.

So, Arizona people, if you’re hosting visitors from France, take them to Oregano’s – the great food, atmosphere and top-notch service speak for themselves, but moreover, there’s nothing more American than a chocolate-chip cookie… and baked in a pizza pan and topped with ice cream at Oregano’s turns it into an experience they’ll never forget!

Happy Friday, All!

(NOTE: this post was not sponsored by Oregano’s.)

Gym Rats: There’s a new poster child for calves-training in town.

It’s surprising how a simple virus can change your body in just a few days.

When I concern myself with my weight at all, I look at it through the lens of the combat sports weight class system. I just prefer to view my body as a tool, as in, what can my body do for me? Could I defend myself using my own body? From this perspective, I dropped from the Jr. Bantam class to Jr. Flyweight within a week, just from being sick. What’s more, I’ve been eating normally for five days now, and I’m still in Jr. Fly. Is this just my new weight class? Should I start re-imagining my fantasy opponents?

But returning to the questions What can my body do for me? Could I defend myself using my own body?  I’ve got my goals set for 2015: I want to make my body stronger, and I want it to be better-versed on the ground. I’ll try to find a place in my schedule for some kind of strength-training, as well as for some basic submission training and practice. I feel like I need to work on the basics. Also, getting stronger will get me my lost poundage back, I’m sure.

Callaghan’s been mapping out his training goals for 2015, too. I’d known that he was borderline obsessed with the whole process, but I didn’t realize to what extent until we were at the movie theatre a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it was on my birthday. We were standing in the lobby when I noticed that he was distracted as I was talking to him.

“Sorry,” he said when he noticed me noticing. “I was mesmerized.” Naturally, I turned to look at the object of his attention. The only thing I saw was this promotional display:

 

thatasianlookingchick-spongebobmovie

 

It took a few seconds.

“SpongeBob?”

“His physique,” Callaghan explained.

I looked at the display again. Then I started laughing. Then I started taking pictures. Because Callaghan was too “mesmerized” by SpongeBob SquarePants to pay attention to what I’d been saying, and come on, how many people can say that about their partners? My husband wasn’t listening to me because he was mesmerized by SpongeBob’s physique.

Later, downloading the pics onto my laptop, something caught my eye as I flipped through them. I looked closer, and suddenly, it all make sense! There it was in all its glory… Callaghan’s biggest gym pet peeve:

 

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SKIP LEG DAY, SPONGEBOB.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SKIP LEG DAY, SPONGEBOB.

 

Callaghan must have been looking at the proportion of SpongeBob’s legs – especially his calves – to the rest of his body!

I was gleeful with my discovery. I went back to him with the pics.

“Were you mesmerized by SpongeBob’s non-existent calves?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Or were you just mesmerized by his ripped upper body?”

“I was mesmerized by his non-existent calves. Actually, no, I was mesmerized by his ripped upper body. I didn’t even see his calves!”

Okay, well. Whatever. All I have to say is, once again, my partner is weirder than yours.

And SpongeBob SquarePants is now the official poster child for not skipping leg day… especially calves!

You want to know what mesmerized me over the holidays? Iggy Azalea performing “Fancy” with Charli XCX on New Year’s Eve:

 

 

How’s that for random?

New Year’s Resolutions and 2014 Favorites!

Just over a week into 2015, I’m finally posting my “2014 Favorites” list with the little things I enjoyed the most, reached for the most, or just generally all-around dug the most last year.

Some things that landed on my Monthly Favorites lists in 2014 turned out to be notable UNfavorites, such as the Revlon ColorStay Moisture Stain lip color, which started out feeling great, but ultimately caused my lips to flake off, and the T.V. series Stalker, which started out fun, but ended up proving to be a big disappointment.

Before we get too far into the New Year, I also wanted to share my 2015 New Year’s Resolutions with you, especially since one of them ties in nicely with these “Favorites” posts. I have two resolutions this year:

1). Get more sleep!! (7-8 hours/night)

2). Switch to cruelty-free skincare products, cosmetics, hair products and other personal care items as much as possible.

I plan to make every effort on that second one, but I’m looking sideways at my beloved Korean Epielle facial sheet masks and the Jergens Natural Glow gradual self-tanning lotion that keeps my legs from blinding my Body Combat class with their natural snowy whiteness.

I’ve been wanting to do this for years, but I’ve been too intimidated by the challenge, and too reluctant to spend money on expensive products. Things are different now, though, and I’m not anticipating any difficulties in finding great, budget-friendly, cruelty-free products. The time is right! Throughout the year, I’ll refer to this list on mybeautybunny.com, as it’s meticulously updated. For instance, if a brand starts to sell in China, a country that requires animal testing on products, a warning will pop up on the list.

As for that first resolution about sleep, I’ve already got a good start on that one, thanks to the stomach flu. I actually blame sleep deprivation for coming down with that bug in the first place. Callaghan gets more sleep than I do by several hours per night, and he did not get sick. Silver lining to the stomach flu: I have a fail-proof incentive to make sure I get enough sleep on a regular basis! Adequate sleep keeps the bad things away.

So, as I was starting to say before I veered off into resolutions, of all the things I’ve listed over the months of 2014, some stood out more than others. There were T.V. series and movies that left us speechless, foods I couldn’t get enough of, and products that were game-changers. Some of the things on this list didn’t even appear in the Monthly Favorites lists, so they’re appearing here for the first time.

That being said, onward with this sampling of some of my favorite little things from 2014. I’ll start with products, since they follow my cruelty-free resolution (see… I got a head start)!

 

1). Face: Alba Botanica Hawaiian 3-in-1 Clean Towelettes Deep Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme.

 

The facial cleansing wipes that changed my life: Alba Botanica's Hawaiian 3-in-1 clean towelettes.

The facial cleansing wipes that changed my life: Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian 3-in-1 clean towelettes.

 

This is advertised as a makeup remover-cleanser-toner product, but the refreshing, invigorating wipes quickly became my go-to facial cleansing product in harried times, and I’ve been re-purchasing them continuously. I don’t use them for removing makeup… I use them in lieu of actual cleansing on days (or nights) I don’t have time for the whole soap-and-water thing. Without fail, I use them on Saturday mornings before putting on sunscreen and heading to the gym. I jump in the shower as soon as I get home, and I don’t see the point in washing my face “for real” twice in a morning (I do put sunscreen on twice, though).

 

2). Cosmetic: Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion in Original.

 

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My favorite eyeshadow primer by Urban Decay.

 

Urban Decay is one of the high-end cruelty-free brands. I don’t mind splurging on their eyeshadow primer potion, because each tube lasts forever, apparently, and it works so well. I’ve been using my current tube for almost a year; I finally picked up another one just because I figured it’s got to end any day now, and yet that was almost two months ago, and it hasn’t. It’s magic!

 

3). Fast food: Chipotle’s sofritas (tofu).

 

My go-to fast food nosh: Chipotle burrito bowl with Sofritas

My go-to fast food nosh: Chipotle burrito bowl with Sofritas

 

Chipotle’s black beans and brown rice were always a good enough reason for me to enjoy going there, but now they’ve completely won me over with the brilliant creation of their vegan sofritas dish. It’s basically a hearty, spicy, perfectly seasoned tofu chili. The omnivorous Callaghan loves it, too, because its texture is pretty much the same as ground beef. An omnivore would never take a bite of this and say, “I’m eating tofu.”

My standard Chipotle order is a burrito bowl with sofritas, brown rice, black beans, grilled onions and peppers, pico de gallo, hot sauce, lettuce and guacamole. I don’t mind paying extra for the guac. It’s one of my favorite things in the world, and I value the addition of the healthy fats!

 

4). Beverage: Sumatra ground coffee from Starbucks.

 

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

 

“Beverage.” I just love that word. Careful, man, there’s a beverage here! I’m just so pleased that we stumbled upon some really good coffee on the humble shelves of Target, I can’t even tell you. I don’t drink a lot of coffee every day, but I like the coffee I do drink to be solidly satisfying. Starbucks’ ground Sumatra kills it.

 

5). Protein bar: Clif (snack size) Builder’s bars.

 

Clif Builder's Chocolate Mint Snack Size protein bar

Clif Builder’s Chocolate Mint Snack Size protein bar

 

Clif Bar makes my favorite everyday treat. As far as protein bars go, the snack size bars aren’t terribly high in protein (10 grams – it’s a small bar), but they’re higher in protein than your average candy bar, certainly higher in protein than most treats with only 140 calories, they’re nutrient-dense, there’s nothing bad in them, and they are, for the most part, vegan. The peanut butter ones are my standard 10:00-10:30am snack at work. If I have one after dinner instead, I go for the chocolate mint.

 

6). Activity: Body Combat.

 

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An hour of someone guiding me through a kick-ass cardio workout in which I can practice almost every martial art I’ve ever studied? Yes, please! This is like cardio shadow-boxing at someone’s command (mostly bad music notwithstanding). All I have to do is show up. It’s fun, it’s an awesome workout, the instructors are fantastic, we’ve met some wonderful people there… it’s a no-brainer!

 

7). Big Thing: XXL WaveMaster heavy bag.

 

Thanks to the arrival of my XXL WaveMaster heavy bag (standing), our car no longer lives in our garage.

Thanks to the arrival of my XXL WaveMaster heavy bag (standing), our car no longer lives in our garage.

 

Practicing my form in Body Combat is one thing, but cardio shadow-boxing only whets the appetite for the next level. I did a drop-in kick-boxing class at a place with bags one day last year, and the surge of excitement as I made actual contact and worked with a partner had my head swimming with twinkly visions of heavy bags, target mitts and medicine balls ever since. Then Christmas rolled around and Callaghan’s gift arrived. Awesome!!

 

8). Small Thing: Travel cup from Starbucks.

 

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

 

Not one, but two Starbucks products on this list! What is happening?! I remember being tempted to travel back through the dusty spring desert to Blythe, California early in 2014 to get this travel cup where I first spotted it, but then hitting numerous Starbucks stores around the Valley, instead, until I found it here. I’m so glad I did. I’ve become kind of embarrassingly attached to it. I carry it with me practically everywhere at work, and it starts a lot of conversations with various aspects of its design. I love it just because it’s awesome, though.

 

9). T.V.: The Killing, Homeland and The Good Wife

 

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HOMELAND (Season 4)

 

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Here we have a murder mystery/crime drama, a spy drama, and a legal drama. All of our cliffhanger needs were met in 2014. Figuratively speaking, our nails were bitten to the quick during these shows (especially during Homeland last fall, holy smokes)!!

Honestly, we saw so much good T.V. in 2014, I had a hard time narrowing it down. We loved House of Cards, The Following, True Detective, Hannibal and Mad Men. For comedies, we love Modern Family and Bob’s Burgers. Our token fluff comedy is Hart of Dixie. Gotta have the fluff!

 

10). Film: Edge of Tomorrow, Nightcrawler and The Babadook

 

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I love action, intrigue and terror, and between these three movies, 2014 delivered big time with this excellent trio of releases. That reminds me – American Sniper was released yesterday!!

That about wraps up this list – I’m looking forward to the fantabulous little things of 2015; in the coming year, expect to find mentions of books, articles and music (along with lots of cruelty-free products)!

Happy Friday, All. =)

What I’m Digging Right Now – December Favorites

December is over! 2014 is over! Today, I’m going to rave about stuff (aka little things) that made the magical 12th month of the year even more magical, and next week, I’m going to rave again about the little things from 2014 that topped them all for a “best of” list for the whole year.

For December, I’m starting with entertainment, because as we all know, that’s one of my favorite types of things… and a great month for that it was, indeed. Three movies knocked us out with their awesomeness in December. Let’s get right to it.

1). The Babadook (film)

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So we were scrolling through our favorite movie-watching site one night and decided to take a chance on yet another horror flick. Good call! The Babadook was intense and intensely gratifying. It more than made up for all the horror flicks that left us feeling wistful for well-crafted terror, because The Babadook is the very definition of well-crafted terror. It scared the hell out of me. It was completely enthralling.

2). Big Eyes (film)

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My birthday was two days after Christmas. We went to the movies that afternoon, because my idea of a good birthday includes a movie date. This year, we went to see Tim Burton’s Big Eyes. We’re ardent Tim Burton, Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz fans, and I love movies based on true events, and I love art, and I loved that for the second year in a row, my birthday movie featured Adams and her stunning talent. Last year’s American Hustle was excellent… and Big Eyes followed suit, to the surprise of neither of us.

First of all, I was fascinated by the story, itself. Since I’d always known the painter of those pictures to be Margaret Keane, it was interesting to learn the history behind the phenomenon and take in a few details about the art world that I hadn’t known before, as well. I’m surprised that no one made a movie about this story before, but I’m happy that they waited until now, because now we have Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. I’m eagerly waiting to see how many Oscar nominations this film rakes in, like American Hustle.

3). The Interview (film)

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Think or say what you want about the hype surrounding this movie or the movie, itself; we thought it was freaking hilarious. It had us rolling from that ridonkulously absurd opening scene with Eminem, and the ridonkulous absurdity continued… the actors never dropped the pace of their comedic timing. We saw The Interview on Christmas day, at home, computer hooked up to our T.V., voilà! Our first ever new-movie home viewing experience! The novelty and hilarity of it made for an extra enjoyable Christmas. I hope no one dies because of it, though.

4). Bikram yoga.

Bikram Yoga.

Bikram Yoga.

I’m so grateful to say that there was something fabulous every day of the short holiday break, and on the 26th, the fabulous little thing was my first Bikram yoga class in about 10 years. It felt marvelous, and I was reminded of why I’d enjoyed yoga so much in the first place. Graciously invited by a friend who practices the art at the newer Bikram establishment, I walked in without an idea of how my body would behave or react throughout the series of poses. As it turned out, my muscles still knew what to do, though at the surface level, I couldn’t remember how the mechanics of some of the poses worked… it was a strange juxtaposition.

Aftereffects? Physically, I never reached the depth of the pain I was sure I’d experience in the following days. The day after, I felt it in my lower body, mostly in my hamstrings and hip flexors… but it wasn’t that bad. I went beast mode in Body Combat class as usual without the help of Advil (I’d been prepared to gulp the Advil in order to do Combat, but it wasn’t necessary). The following day, I felt the soreness in my upper body, mostly in my triceps, lats and along my spine… and again, it wasn’t at all as severe as what I’d thought it’d be.

In other respects, I felt great. The meditative 90-minute practice brought back everything I loved about Bikram yoga. It was energizing, centering, grounding, and I was very glad that I went.

5). XXL WaveMaster heavy bag.

Thanks to the arrival of my XXL WaveMaster heavy bag (standing), our car no longer lives in our garage.

Thanks to the arrival of my XXL WaveMaster heavy bag (standing), our car no longer lives in our garage.

For Christmas, Callaghan offered me what he knew I’d been wanting for a long time: a heavy bag! Body Combat class has been (and continues to be) awesome, but I’ve really been missing making actual contact with my strikes; I love it, and I’m badly in need of target practice. It’s been too long. I went online and identified the bag I wanted. It’s the extra-large WaveMaster, and it’s since taken up residence in our garage.  More on this later… it deserves a post of its own! Suffice it to say for now that I’m completely stoked and can’t wait to start training here at home to supplement my group fitness workouts.

6). HeartFire Botanicals Chocolate Orange sugar scrub.

Chocolate Orange Sugar Scrub from HeartFire Botanicals.

Chocolate Orange Sugar Scrub from HeartFire Botanicals.

This scrub is the creation of a good friend who recently started making and selling her own healing personal care products, and my dry winter lips love it as an evening exfoliating treatment! My lips have been so soft since I started using it. She gave it to me for Christmas, and I already swear by it. Her site is here… check it out! (I added the link to her shop in the sidebar here, too.)

7). Got2B Rockin’ It 4Ever StyleSpray dry shampoo.

Got2B Rockin’ It 4Ever StyleSpray dry shampoo.

Got2B Rockin’ It 4Ever StyleSpray dry shampoo.

Dry shampoos and I got off on the wrong foot. The one I tried last year? Turned my hair gray. I mean, it sprayed on white, and the discoloration was ridiculously difficult to correct. I couldn’t massage it out. I couldn’t brush it out. It was such an annoying experience that I returned it and assumed that dry shampoo was just something I’d do without… until I ventured to try again with this Got2B product. I’ve been enjoying the Got2B Guardian Angel heat-protectant spray so much that when I found this dry shampoo next to it in the drugstore, I sprang for it. It turns out that this brand of dry shampoo is magic in a can! It also sprays on whitish – I guess they all do…? – but my hair easily returns to its color after working in the product and brushing it out. I put it through the ultimate test and used it the day after a Body Combat class after which I did not wash my hair (I come home from Combat with my hair soaked in sweat, so this was gross). The next day, the Got2B Rockin’ It dry shampoo make my hair look and feel like I’d actually washed it. Amazing. Sold. Will re-purchase!

8). Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soaking Solution Relax & Relief with Eucalyptus and Spearmint.

Dr. Teal's Epsom Salt Soaking Solution with Eucalyptus Spearmint.

Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soaking Solution with Eucalyptus Spearmint.

I took a hot bath the evening I went to Bikram yoga, and it was this concoction of Dr. Teal’s that went into it. I actually wanted plain Epsom salts so I could treat the water with some essential oils I already had, but I ended up going for this one with Eucalyptus and Spearmint. It provided a thoroughly relaxing experience, and as mentioned above, the post-yoga soreness I’d experienced in the following days was minimal and short-lived. I’m not sure how much of that I can attribute to these bath salts, but at the very least, I can say that they made for a wonderfully relaxing bath!

9). Birthday flowers.

Flowers for my birthday!

Flowers for my birthday!

Poor Callaghan. My birthday is on December 27, so he has to think of double gifts for me during the holidays! When he asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I thought of the expensive heavy bag he’d gotten me for Christmas and just said, “Flowers from Trader Joe’s!” Because there was really nothing else I wanted. Callaghan’s artistic talent extends to flower arranging, and I love the quality and selection of cut flowers at Trader Joe’s, so we went there on my birthday and came home with the enormous selection of blooms he’d chosen. Later, he presented me with three gorgeous arrangements (only two are shown in the picture because the third one fell casualty to Ronnie James). I am lucky.

10). Sumatra coffee from Starbucks.

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

Okay, so I grudgingly admit that our new favorite coffee happens to be a product of Starbucks.

When I was in college, I worked briefly as a barista at a small independent espresso shop that specialized in roasting beans to sell to customers as well as to distribute to other coffee shops. I worked there just long enough – almost a year, I think? – to develop a familiarity with a dozen or so Arabica coffee beans from around the world. Of the blends and straights our Master Roaster (who was from Italy) produced daily, the straight Sumatra quickly became my favorite.

That was back in 1994. I blame my snotty attitude toward Starbucks on my experience working with the Master Roaster, but really, I never preferred the taste of Starbucks coffee. Thus, it was a total surprise when Callaghan found a bag of ground Sumatra one day in December and my Sumatra love was promptly rekindled by its excellence… and the name on the bag was Starbucks! Guess where he found it? At Target. Of course.

That wraps it up for December… Happy New Year, everyone, and happy Friday! =)

Long-Overdue Yoga Fix Ahead!

Since we’re still on Christmas break at my work, I’m seizing the opportunity to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. My schedule is pretty well packed during normal life hours, so this is what’s happening this non-normal morning: I’m going to spend 90 minutes twisting my non-flexible self into the various poses prescribed by Bikram, I’m assuming, in a room designed to accommodate the activity (heated to a high enough degree to assist your body with said positions).

This will be my first yoga class in almost 10 years, and I’m looking forward to it. I have a brand-new yoga mat that I purchased last year with earnest intentions, but have yet to use. The day has arrived!

I’m pretty sure my body’s going to hate me within 24 hours of this Bikram yoga class, and it will probably start plotting its revenge faster than you can say “shavasana.” I’m expecting it, hence my plan to pick up some Epsom salts on my way home. I already have the essential oils I’m going to add to the hot bath I’ll take tonight. I just want to be able to give 100% in Body Combat class tomorrow morning, and being able to walk without soreness would help with that. I’m counting on this yoga class to make me feel muscles I’d forgotten I had. Bring it.

Although… here’s a little secret… in the past, I’ve powered through Body Combat class while in pain. I’ve literally hobbled through the parking lot thinking what the hell am I doing, then getting to class and forgetting all about it, feeling nothing but the awesomeness. The secret is adrenaline. Adrenaline is what drives me through Body Combat because mentally I flip into training mode, which my brain is hard-wired to link to my “fight or flight” response. This is the up-side of PTSD. It’s a great natural painkiller. (Yes, I know Body Combat is a cardio class, but as far as I’m concerned, if I’m kicking and throwing punches, I’m training… so I know I’ll be able to get through the class tomorrow, regardless.)

I’m still picking up Epsom salts for a hot bath later. My muscles, tendons and ligaments will deserve it! Plus, I’ll enjoy it. Yeah. I don’t need an excuse!

10 years is a long time, though; I feel like I might as well have never done yoga at all. I remember that my first yoga class ever was at Arizona Combat Sports back in 2002… there was an advanced student there on the Brazilian Ju-Jitsu side who was also an advanced yoga practitioner and instructor. They added a Saturday morning yoga class to the schedule with him teaching it, so I figured I’d try it for a few sessions. I thought it balanced out my Muay Thai training well, so I was inspired to try yoga at other places. I enjoyed it, though I never felt like a “natural” in any yoga studio. For one thing, as I said, I’ve never been particularly flexible.

Random: My favorite long-term effect from yoga is my affection for Deva Premal, who sings Hindu and Buddhist chants so beautifully. It was only because of yoga that I discovered her.

Okay, I’m off to get ready for this yoga class… Happy Friday, All! =)

 

Kitties with their Christmas stocking stuffers! They do yoga every day.

Kitties with their Christmas stocking stuffers! They do yoga every day.

 

Merry Christmas from Arizona!

Christmas in Arizona is…

Soaking up the rays in a t-shirt on the second day of winter.

Soaking up the rays in a t-shirt on the second day of winter.

And on the day before the first day of winter.

And on the day before the first day of winter.

Because even if it’s chilly outside (it was between 58-60 degrees in these two pics), the sun-rays are warming.

I took the picture of Callaghan yesterday when I went home for lunch. We inherited this old lawn chair when we bought the house, and yesterday, we discovered that it’s broken. I didn’t post the pictures that happened while I was laughing.

As for me, I avoid actually laying out in the sun, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as too much sun. I love being outside. Sunscreen is my friend, and I do mean tons of it.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Hummingbirds, like this little guy...

Hummingbirds, like this little guy…

...drinking his nectar.

…drinking his nectar.

Callaghan took these pictures yesterday, as well.

We have four hummingbird feeders – two in the front of the house, and two on the back patio. They draw lots of customers, and this is enchanting for someone coming from a country without hummingbirds. (That should be the name of a novel: “A Country without Hummingbirds.”) Callaghan’s enjoying all kinds of special moments mixing the hummingbird nectar and feeding these little guys! He’s a good hummingbird Daddy.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Wide-eyed wonder kitty of the Ronnie James persuasion.

Wide-eyed wonder kitty of the Ronnie James persuasion.

Festive Wrah-Wrah! This wreath was leaning here waiting to be hung up when I caught this photo opp.

And:

Pretending to be a tree kitty of the Nounours persuasion.

Pretending to be a tree kitty of the Nounours persuasion.

Festive Nounours! Seriously, isn’t he even shaped like the tree?!

Christmas in Arizona is…

Mill Avenue lit up in holiday lights.

Mill Avenue lit up in holiday lights.

Downtown Tempe at night. It never gets old. I took this picture coming home from the gym last night.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Bringing the outdoors in.

Bringing the outdoors in.

First we hung our wreath on the front door, all traditional-like, but on second thought, we brought it inside and decorated it instead of a tree. Works for us.

And finally, it wouldn’t be an Arizona Christmas without…

Tamales!

Tamales!

We’re picking ours up today!

It’s traditional here to eat tamales on Christmas Eve. There was one year I went to my friend Mary’s house to make Christmas tamales with her… we had so much fun, and the fresh, homemade tamales were amazing. I’ve never attempted them on my own, so now I do like thousands of other ‘Zonans and order my tamales from one of the many Mexican places that make them special for the holidays.This year, I ordered tomatillo chicken, chipotle pork, red chili beef and (meatless) green corn. There’ll be something for everyone. =)

Merry Christmas, All!