First Favorites of 2018! (January Favorites)

January was interesting… it seemed to go on forever, and yet it was a great month!

Without the usual blathering, may I present some of the “little things” I enjoyed in January:

 

1). The Florida Project

 

 

You may already know how I feel about The Florida Project if you’ve read my “non-review movie review” about it. If you haven’t, and you’d like to, it’s here. We found this to be Just a wonderful film, with the best acting I’ve seen from Willem Dafoe (whose acting I’ve always enjoyed, anyway). I highly recommend it!

 

2). Sumo – January 2018 Grand Sumo Tournament (Basho)

Sumo, Japan’s national sport, is one of my favorite martial arts/combat sports to watch. There’s a Grand Sumo Tournament in Japan every other month, and we watch them all – the “Grand Sumo Highlights,” that is. There are 15 days in the tournament, and we watch each day’s Highlights (on YouTube). Some tournaments are more enjoyable than others. We didn’t much enjoy last November’s tournament, but January’s was amazing… it was probably my favorite of all the tournaments I’ve seen!

Early on in the 15-day tournament, we were impressed with the rikishi Tochinoshin – one of our favorites – when he came out looking like he’d been training hard. We rooted for him to win the championship (Emperor’s Cup), and win it, he did!

For those who don’t know, this is Tochinoshin, the first European to win a Grand Sumo Championship since 1972!!

 

Tochinoshin receiving the Emperor’s Cup (January 2018)

 

Tochinoshin is Georgian. His actual name is Levan Gorgadze.

 

Tochinoshin (January 2018 Grand Champion)

 

 

3). Glitch (T.V. series)

 

 

Thanks to Netflix, we have access to all kinds of wonderful international T.V. series, and this is the latest we’ve started. Glitch comes from Australia with a great cast and an intriguing sci-fi mystery storyline. There are two seasons so far, and we just started the second.

 

On to food…

 

4). Cherry Pie Larabars.

 

Cherry Pie Larabar

 

This is getting predictable, I know. I still enjoy those apple pie Larabars – and all the other ones I’ve written about – but cherry pie Larabars are my favorite-favorite so far. They’re tart and just barely sweet enough to be sweet, if that makes sense. I love cherries, but these bars taste more like cranberries to me. They remind me of this cranberry quick bread recipe someone in my family used to make at Christmas. Very festive, Larabar.

Cherry pie Larabars have three ingredients: dates, almonds, and unsweetened cherries.

 

5). Lifelight meatless pastas (esp. Wild Mushroom Ravioli).

 

Lightlife meatless pasta (esp. wild mushroom ravioli)

 

This month’s favorite processed vegan food discovery award goes to Lightlife for their frozen meatless pastas. My favorite is the wild mushroom ravioli… so flavorful and hearty!

 

6). Baby sweet potatoes.

 

Mini sweet potatoes

 

We found that mini sweet potatoes come out creamy – buttery, even – and delicious after 20 minutes in the steamer. They’re a treat hot or cold!

 

7). Coconut yogurt bowl with berries and seeds.

 

Coconut yogurt with berries, hemp seeds, and chia seeds

 

You may have seen this on Instagram when I posted it recently. I’ve been enjoying plain, unsweetened coconut yogurt with a little bit of light agave nectar, hemp seeds and chia seeds (a heaping tablespoon of each), and whatever berries we have on hand. It’s so tasty and satisfying!

 

Products…

 

8). The Body Shop Oils of Life intensely revitalizing facial oil.

 

The Body Shop Oils of Life intensely revitalizing facial oil

 

Being that I’m a skin care junkie and a devotee of The Body Shop, I went a little crazy when said establishment had their Black Friday sale a few months ago. I stocked up on some favorites, and I also ordered some new products to try.

I’ve been using these Oils of Life products since the middle of December, so I’ve had some time to decide how I like them. I like them a lot, as in, “I will re-purchase before I run out” a lot. The two products I use are the facial oil (above, #8), and the night cream (below, #9).

I’ve seen mixed reviews of the Oils of Life line. Many reviewers were turned off by the products’ fragrance, saying that they thought the scent was terrible, overwhelming, or both. This seemed to be the number one complaint about this line.

I don’t mind if skin care products are scented as long as I like the scent, and I love sandalwood and other woodsy, warm notes, so the Oils of Life products appeal to me even more because they’re rich with such a fragrance. Oils of Life, to me, smell like a Buddhist temple. Or like a man who smells great. (haha)

That aside, I’m very happy with the way these products work on my skin. I use the oil twice a day and the night cream at night, of course. I put the oil on first, then layer other products over it. I use an overnight mask over the night cream.

(About the pricing: this is The Body Shop, and The Body Shop isn’t drugstore cheap, but it’s not La Mer, either.)

 

9). The Body Shop Oils of Life intensely revitalizing sleeping cream.

 

The Body Shop Oils of Life intensely revitalizing sleeping cream

 

(See above for the text!)

 

10). Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus extra moisturizing hair detangler (for kids).

 

Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus extra moisturizing hair detangler (for kids)

 

This product for towel-dried hair is just refreshing and pleasant. I found it in the kids’ hair care section at Target.

 

That’s it for January! Onward with the new year.

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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!

It’s that time again. (November Favorites!)

I’m back to share some “little things” that I enjoyed or actually loved in the last month! November brought significant “big” things to appreciate, such as visiting my family and finishing the first draft of my manuscript, but as always, this list is all about the fluff in between.

We’ve got a couple of T.V. series, a horror flick, some vegan processed (junk) food, some other edibles, and, of course, a few cruelty-free skincare products.

Without further ado, may I present…

 

1). Godless (T.V. series)

 

 

This series, in my humble opinion, is rave-worthy.

Westerns aren’t my favorite genre, but I do enjoy the genre; my all-time favorite movie – Tombstone – is a western. We thought we’d give Netflix’ new western mini-series a try. Godless did not disappoint. From its quintessential sweeping vistas to its characters who are badasses merely by virtue of existing, this one captivates for the reasons fans love westerns. One aspect that sets this western apart from others, though: in this traditionally male-dominated genre, Godless is female-dominated.

Add to this the story’s extravagant application of symbolism and metaphor (also characteristic of westerns), the quality of the production, itself, and the actors’ fine performances, and we’ve got a binge-watching hazard on our hands.

 

2). The Good Doctor (T.V. series)

 

 

Truth be told, we’re just entertained enough by The Good Doctor to keep watching it. The main attraction, for me, is Norman Bates in the lead role. I’m sorry, but hapless Freddie Highmore will always be Norman in my mind. (Bates Motel remains one of our favorite series.)

Callaghan feels the same way. While watching it, we’ll say things like, “Norman will figure it out!” and “Poor Norman is going to get blamed for this,” and “FINALLY Dr. Melendez recognizes that Norman is a genius surgeon!” Also, “But does Lea know that Norman is autistic?” because we’re rooting for Norman and Lea to become “Norman and Lea,” and the two of them are continuously confused by each other’s behavior communication-wise, and, well, you can see how this hospital drama closes in on soap opera territory at times. Maybe this explains why I’m only borderline super into The Good Doctor… generally-speaking, I don’t dig soap operas. We love Freddie Highmore’s character, though. We giggle every time he sums up his assessment with his emphatic, matter-of-fact “He’s dying” or “She’s dying” (right in front of the patient), which he does in almost every episode.

That being said, it’s Norman’s (I guess I should say “Sean’s”) personal journey and challenges that intrigue us. The Good Doctor is ultimately thought-provoking and well-wrought.

 

3). As Above, So Below

 

 

I don’t have much to say about As Above, So Below except that we enjoyed it. We’re not too discriminating when it comes to horror, especially since horror is sometimes at its most entertaining when it’s cheesy, low-budget, or just plain bad. Horror’s found-footage sub-genre is usually guilty of one or all of the above. As Above, So Below is no exception. We liked this one more than most, and definitely enough that we’d see it again.

Also, we’ve walked through those catacombs beneath Paris, and let me tell you… I believe these movie people 100% when they say that As Above, So Below was filmed down there. That the story unfolds in a familiar place made it even more creepy and entertaining.

 

4). Gardein Mini Crispy Crabless Cakes.

 

Gardein Mini Crispy Crabless Cakes

 

This is Gardein’s third consecutive appearance here. This time, it’s their crabless cakes, my friends. These little tidbits of doom are delightful. I don’t think they taste like crab, which is good if you like crab cakes that don’t taste like crab, if that makes any sense. Haha!

We bought these for my parents to try, and they liked them, too. We always find ourselves looking for more, so next time we’re in the mood for these junky, processed vegan treats, we’ll get two bags. (They’re not cheap, so they are treats.) Our preferred prep method is to bake them in the conventional oven. Oh… and they’re amazing with vegan chipotle “mayo,” in our opinion!

 

5). Simply Balanced Organic Agave Nectar Light.

 

Simply Balanced Organic Light Agave Nectar

 

I ran out of coconut sugar for my coffee and had to fall back on something else until we could get to the store. That “something else” turned out to be the unobtrusive bottle of light agave nectar we’ve had in the pantry forever. Now I remember how I used to love it! This might even be the second time I’ve featured it in a “favorites” post. For me, light agave nectar serves as a great middle ground (sweeter than coconut sugar, not as sweet as Truvia). I love its light smoothness, too.

 

6). Raw unsalted mixed nuts.

 

Raw unsalted mixed nuts

 

I love salted nuts, but in November, I cycled into my raw-unsalted phase. I leave a big jar of these mixed nuts out on the kitchen counter, and I grab a handful of them at random times… often with breakfast, actually. I’ll still have the salted nuts and seeds later in the day, so yeah, I’ve been doubling down on the mixed nuts. If you count the peanut butter I eat almost every day, it’s a triple-down. I have nothing against a daily mega-dose of healthy fats, though. They’re delicious.

 

7). Apple Pie Larabar.

 

Apple Pie Larabar

 

I’ve also cycled back into a Larabar phase! Lately, I’ve been enjoying this apple pie version as a spicy-sweet refined-sugar-free alternative to fall desserts. Ingredients: dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon. That’s it. Yum.

 

8, 9, 10). Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Cream Cleanser, Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Overnight Eye Balm, and Yes to Coconut Naturally Smooth Lip Balm.

 

Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Cream Cleanser, Ultra Hydrating Overnight Eye Balm, and Naturally Smooth Lip Balm

 

Okay, I think it’s safe to say that I’m a huge fan of this entire line of products by Yes To. I’ve already talked about (and continue to use) Yes to Coconut cleansing facial wipes and Yes to Coconut moisturizer. It’s all wonderfully rich and hydrating, and I can’t say enough about it, really. If you have dry skin like I do, then you might do well to try out the Yes To Coconut line for your skincare!

 

That’s it for November! Happy Friday, friends.

Cancelled plans, but good things, too. (October Favorites!)

In October news, nothing much happened. October was the month of cancelled plans.

We wanted to catch UFC 216 (Demetrius Johnson defending his title again!) at our usual sports bar, but it didn’t work out. We’d planned to go to a Halloween party – I even had a Harry Potter costume! – but we had to cancel. That’s right. We did nothing for Halloween. The closest I came to celebrating Halloween was going to BodyPump looking a little goth. That was it.

At the same time that nothing happened, a lot did happen. We had houseguests in October, you see, for 10 days in the middle of the month… and that was what happened. In the aftermath of their visit, we were wiped out on every level. We were compelled to hibernate.

Enough said.

Let’s get on to the little things I enjoyed in October. OH, here I must insert an apology in advance: these are not great pics. I didn’t have the wherewithal to work on getting super-good shots of anything this time. So it goes.

Starting with entertainment, as usual!

 

1). A Ghost Story

 

 

You may remember the non-review movie review I wrote about A Ghost Story. If so, you know how I feel about it. We were just as happy to watch it a second time.

 

2). Mindhunter (T.V. series)

 

The excellent Mindhunter is not your average T.V. series. It’s unusual. Words that come to mind: Vintage. Stylish. Noir. Not scary. Not glamorous. This series about the beginnings of criminal profiling in the FBI’s fledgling Behavioral Science unit first struck us as a bit awkward in its delivery, but you soon realize that this is deliberate. It works. This is a period piece, after all, and this was how T.V. looked back then.

I’ve heard people say that they had to watch two or three episodes of Mindhunter before they got into it. Our experience was that we were hooked by the end of the first episode.

 

3). Stranger Things 2 (Season 2) (T.V. series)

 

 

Is it even necessary for me to say that we loved Stranger Things 2 and it was fantastic and maybe even better than Season 1 and in our humble opinion everyone should watch it? I think not. If you’re not watching Stranger Things, then I don’t know how to help you.

 

Products!

4). Physician’s Formula Super BB cream SPF 30 (in “Light”).

 

Physician’s Formula Super BB Cream

 

Did you catch the complete name of this product? The operative words are SPF 30. I wear a broad-spectrum SPF 30 cream every day, so I always have it on under my make-up, but I love a make-up product that also has sun protection. Physician’s Formula BB cream’s sun protection includes zinc oxide, which I look for in a sunscreen above other active ingredients.

It so happens that this cruelty-free product not only works as an extra layer of sunscreen, but it also wears nicely as a foundation. It works for me, at least. The color match is perfect, with the right undertone and everything, and the product is long-wearing, as well. Physician’s Formula is one of the more pricey drugstore make-up brands, but it’s still drugstore… easily accessible and not outrageously expensive. I highly recommend this product if you’re looking for a new foundation.

 

5). The Body Shop Frosted Plum shower gel.

 

The Body Shop Frosted Plum shower gel

 

The Body Shop’s 2017 holiday (limited edition) line is Frosted Plum, and – surprise, surprise! – I love it. I wasn’t expecting its pronounced pine scent; I adore pine fragrance, so this was a pleasant discovery. The vaguely sweet plum scent is detectable beneath the pine. I find this fragrance to be less sweet than the other fruity fragrances I’ve tried from The Body Shop. Callaghan loves this scent, as well. (On me, that is. He doesn’t use it.)

 

Food!

6). Wholesome! Organic Coconut Palm Sugar.

 

Wholesome organic coconut palm sugar

 

I started sweetening my coffee with this coconut palm sugar… it’s an enjoyable change from the stevia-based product I’d been using. Coconut palm sugar is less sweet and more healthy. This was a great discovery!

 

7). Organic Honeycrisp apples.

 

Organic honeycrisp apples

 

Apple season! Honeycrisp apples are my favorites at the moment. They’re ubiquitous around here (we get them from Fry’s, but we’ve seen them everywhere), and they’re so tasty and satisfying. My fruit addiction hasn’t suffered a bit with the end of summer fruits.

 

8). Simple Truth walnut halves and pieces.

 

Simple Truth walnut halves and pieces

 

I’ve been eating walnuts the way they should be eaten, in my opinion: unsalted. My preference is always to crack whole walnuts, but time is of essence, so any brand of shelled walnut meat will do. It so happens that I picked up Simple Truth brand in October.

 

9). Gardein Meatless Meatballs.

 

Gardein Classic Meatless Meatballs

 

Gardein does it again with their meatless meats! We love these “meatballs” of theirs. They’re high in protein, high in flavor, and super fast and easy to prepare.

 

10). Helpful friends at the gym.

I don’t have a pic. I just wanted to note that thanks to friends like Rawn, I’ve been able to do the leg track in BodyPump with my usual weights as I rest my tennis-elbow-compromised forearm. (I’m not doing upright rows right now, or any variation thereof. I’m finding ways to modify in the back and shoulder tracks.) I wouldn’t be able to do legs without assistance in getting the heavy barbell onto my back, and I appreciate having a buddy who’s willing to take time from our quick track-change to offer this.

 

Well, that wraps it up for October. November’s list is already filling up!

Opening windows, letting in fresh air. (September Favorites!)

Are we ready to talk about the little things I found to love in September? I mean, ready already?

I’m not complaining that it’s already. I’m loving October.

Here’s one thing I discovered in September: two of my go-to, ride-or-die product brands – Organix (shampoo and conditioner) and Burt’s Bees (my lip products) – are no longer cruelty-free. I had to go on the hunt for replacement products, and that’s fine… I’ve had it in mind to go completely vegan with products, anyway, as up until now, I’ve only been partially there. Organix’ and Burt’s Bees’ decisions to start selling their products in China (therefore abandoning their ethics – testing on animals is mandatory in China) gives me a long-overdue push in the direction of finding vegan replacements for any non-vegan products I’ve been using. And find them, I did. They’re on the list below.

Other than these products, I’ve got a great movie to share, a T.V. series we’re particularly enjoying, and some noms, as well and as usual.

 

1). What the Health

 

 

This excellent documentary about health and how we can manage it with success is informative, and, in our opinion, surprisingly fun to watch (for what it is). What the Health is available on Netflix. I highly recommend it!

 

2). American Horror Story: Cult (T.V. series)

 

American Horror Story: Cult (season 7)

 

We went into this season of AHS with a degree of skepticism. After watching the pilot, we were still somewhat skeptical, but intrigued enough to watch the next episode. We ended up hooked despite our initial misgivings. After the last episode (4), we decided that “Cult” is our new favorite AHS season, with our former favorite (“Asylum”) down to second-place. Let’s face it, though: we love the gruesome, over-the-top insanity of AHS no matter what the story.

The great thing about AHS is that since it’s an anthology series, you don’t need to have watched any previous seasons.

 

3). Kite Hill cream cheese style spread (both plain and chive).

 

Kite Hill cream cheese style spread (chive)

 

In the world of plant-based cream cheese spreads, Kite Hill makes my favorite, so far… and that’s saying a lot, because I really like Tofutti’s Better Than Cream Cheese. Kite Hill makes their product from almond milk, and they do it wonderfully.

A 1 oz serving of the chive variety has 78 calories, 3g protein, 6g fat (0 saturated – 0 cholesterol), and 3g carbs.

 

4). Gardein Beefless Ground.

 

Gardein Beefless Ground over a layer of vegetarian refried beans (with hot sauce and Daiya cheddar-style shreds) (Side salad not pictured.)

 

Gardein makes a delicious plant-based ground to replace ground mammal or bird. We love using it in red pasta sauces, or simmering it in taco seasonings to use in tacos (as in the pic above). This would also be great in Hamburger Helper-style meals, to make them healthier and just as tasty. We’ve seen Gardein Beefless Ground at most of the grocery stores we frequent (Sprouts, Fry’s, Whole Foods, Safeway), but we get ours at Target, where it’s $3.99 for the 13.7oz bag.

A 3/4 cup serving has 120 calories, 18g protein, 2g fat (0 saturated – 0 cholesterol), and 8g carbs (4g fiber).

 

5). Alba Botanica Hawaiian shampoo and conditioner Colorific Plumeria. (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Colorific Plumeria shampoo and conditioner

 

I’ve long been been a devotee of Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian Pineapple Enzyme facial cleanser and facial scrub, so when I went looking for new hair care products (to replace my products from now-sold-in-China Organix), I thought I’d try Alba’s shampoo and conditioner from the same line… the Colorific Plumeria is formulated for color-treated hair. I’m thrilled to report that I like these products better than Organix’! They smooth out my hair and leave it super shiny and smelling so good. I don’t have to use any after-products, either.

 

6). The Body Shop vanilla eau de toilette. (cruelty-free… and vegan?*)

 

The Body Shop Vanilla Eau de Toilette

 

I loved Pacifica’s gardenia scent during the summer. The last time I put it on, though, I couldn’t stand it and tried to remove it as much as possible before going out. I’m not sure what happened… why it suddenly offended me so much… maybe something about my chemistry changed so the fragrance just went bad on me? But I was inspired to find a different sort of fragrance altogether.

The Body Shop’s vanilla eau de toilette is a lovely, updated 90’s vanilla scent with a spicy-sweet, musky dry-down. That’s how it works on my skin, anyway. It’s perfect for now. I absolutely love it.

*I put a question mark after “vegan” because when I did a “vegan” search on The Body Shop’s website, this product came up on the list… and it still does… but when I search for “vegan” as a sub-category under fragrances, it’s not on that list. Since it appears on the main vegan list, though, I’m thinking that it just got left off the sub-category list.

 

7). Method nourishing hand wash (in Almond Flower). (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Method nourishing hand wash in almond flower

 

Callaghan chose this hand wash for the kitchen; since it’s called “almond flower,” I wasn’t expecting its vaguely spicy scent, so that was a bonus. Maybe almond flower actually is spicy. I don’t know. Whatever the case, I’m enjoying this product. I love its scent, and I love the fact that it’s indeed moisturizing. We get our Method products from Target, and all of their products are cruelty-free and vegan.

 

8). Pacifica Bali Coconut Natural Lip Balm. (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Pacifica Bali Coconut Lip Balm

 

Luckily, I found replacements for Burt’s Bees lip products that are not only cruelty-free, but vegan, as well… and it turns out that I like them better than Burt’s Bees’. I had to replace a plain lip balm, a tinted lip balm, and a lipstick.

Pacifica’s Bali Coconut lip balm is silky and softer than the Burt’s Bees lip balm I’d used for so long, and it feels more hydrating, too. I don’t have to use as much of it, and I don’t need to reapply it as often as I did the Burt’s Bees, either. Love this product!

 

9). Pacifica Devocean Natural Lipstick (in Natural Mystic). (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Pacifica Devocean Natural Lipstick in Natural Mystic

 

I didn’t think there was a lip color I’d like better than Burt’s Bees Redwood Forest, but here’s Natural Mystic by Pacifica to prove that wrong. Again, think 90’s: Natural Mystic is an updated 90’s mauvy-brown shade, hinting at Bordeaux. The Devocean formula’s creamy softness feels wonderful, and the color is highly-pigmented. In comparison, the Burt’s Bees lip crayon was drier, and the Redwood Forest shade had a slightly orange undertone rather than the purple undertone of Pacifica’s Natural Mystic. I like it better all the way around.

 

10). Pacifica Color Quench Lip Tint (in Sugared Fig). (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Pacifica Color Quench Lip Tint in Sugared Fig

 

Last, but not least, I found Pacifica’s tinted lip balm in Sugared Fig to replace my Burt’s Bees Red Dahlia lip balm. As with the lip color above, I like it even better… and for the same reasons. It’s creamier and more hydrating, and its undertone is cool, rather than warm.

[Sidenote about Pacifica: I ordered these lip products from Ulta online, since I couldn’t find their cosmetics in the store. From what I’ve seen, stores only carry Pacifica’s skincare.]

 

This brings us to The End. I’m happy to be in the Octoberness of now. I hope you are, too.

August Favorites!

Here we are in September. Let’s just be blunt: August was a shit show from start to finish in the U.S. and in some parts of the world. Of course the month had to go out with the tragic devastation of Houston and other cities in Texas; I swear I’ve never seen a month slam the door behind it like August just did. It was like, HERE’S THIS ONE LAST THING TO REMEMBER ME BY. Well, good riddance, August. Despite silver-lining moments and suggestions of hope and restorations of faith in the human race, I’m especially glad to be here sharing some of the little things we enjoyed.

Without further ado…

Entertainment:

1). Atomic Blonde (film)

 

 

Atomic Blonde was the one movie I saw in the theater in August. Callaghan ended up having to work the day we’d planned seeing it with a friend, so he hasn’t watched it yet. I know he’s going to like it as much as I did, because we have pretty much the same taste in movies. Atomic Blonde is the type of movie we’ll see when we’re in the mood for a thriller on the campy side of the 80’s. (Like there’s any other side of the 80’s.) Charlize kicks ass with stylized aplomb, and the soundtrack took me right back to high school, only now I can actually enjoy those songs, because I’m not in high school anymore and therefore life is much better. Anyway, if you’re into cheesy thrillers, I recommend this one.

 

2). Department Q (film trilogy: The Keeper of Lost Causes, The Absent One, and A Conspiracy of Faith… in that order.)

 

 

We watched the excellent Department Q film trilogy at the recommendation of friends, and I’m passing that recommendation along to you who also enjoy getting caught up in dark and brooding crime thrillers. We’re fans of Scandinavian noir in television and movies; we’ve had a penchant for the genre since Bordertown (Sorjonen). The Department Q trilogy can be found on Netflix. It should be watched in order: The Keeper of Lost Causes, The Absent One, and A Conspiracy of Faith. The films are in Danish (I believe) with English subtitles.

 

3). Bob’s Burgers (S7) (animated T.V. series)

 

 

We like Bob’s Burgers, in general, but some seasons make us laugh more than others. Season 7 was one of those! Warning for those unaware: some of the humor in Bob’s Burgers is not for the little ones.

 

4). Parks and Recreation (T.V. series)

 

 

We started a Parks and Recreation marathon. We’re nearing the end of season 4. I don’t know why it took us so long to get into this series, but it couldn’t have come at a better time! The only other series that makes us laugh so much is Black-ish. Enough cannot be said about comedy that works for us.

 

Food:

5). Watermelon.

 

Fresh watermelon

 

Fun fact 1: Callaghan doesn’t like watermelon. Fun fact 2: In August, I learned that it only takes me three days to eat an entire mini watermelon by myself.

[Sidenote: How can you NOT like watermelon?!]

 

6). Kiwi fruit.

 

Kiwi fruit

 

We love the tart sweetness of Kiwi fruit. Slicing them makes them easier to eat without making a mess, but I like to eat them whole after peeling them… sinking my teeth into a whole Kiwi fruit is somehow exhilarating. The fruit is tender and dense and juicy, and those tiny seeds add the lightest crispy crunch that’s hardly a crunch at all. Kiwi fruit is like the Krackle or Nestle Crunch candy-bar of fruit.

 

7). Pistachios.

 

Pistachios

 

This pic is from my Instagram. We bought two of these big pistachio nut bundles from Sprout’s, but by the time I got around to gathering pics for this post, I’d long since eaten them all… by myself, too, might I add. Callaghan likes them, but he ate maybe a handful of the pistachio haul. I love how they’re salty without a coating of salt granules. I love their flavor. We’ll probably get more before the season’s up.

 

8). Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Bagel.

 

Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Bagels

 

Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Bagel: toasted, melted cheese sandwich with Daiya cheddar-style slices. That’s a pickled jalapeno pepper on the side. AZ-style.

 

Dave’s Killer Bread is our staple bread of choice, so when we saw that they now have everything bagels, we were all over it. They’re called “Epic,” which they totally are: they’re organic, vegan, delicious, and satisfying, and each bagel has 12 grams of protein. So good!

 

Products:

9). Derma-e Vitamin C Intense Night Cream.

 

Derma-e Vitamin C Intense Night Cream

 

I used up my Yes to Blueberries night cream. I love it, but I cheat on it all the time, as I often do with skincare… there’s just so much to try! This time, I decided to get a night cream from Derma-e, who makes my holy grail sunscreen. I’m impressed. This cruelty-free night cream is light and smooth, and vitamin C products are so good for the skin. I layer it over my vitamin E serum-in-oil (The Body Shop) at night, with Yes to Blueberries eye cream in between the layers. It’s like my skin is drinking a smoothie. Or something.

 

That wraps up this “monthly favorites” installment! September holds fresh promise. I’m all in.

Intensity before our eyes. (July Favorites!)

Most of this list is stuff we watched. I tried no new products in July. Two of the three food items here aren’t even new. I’ve just never mentioned them.

That being said, that which we watched in July made for some intense entertainment, some of it difficult to watch. It wasn’t all weighty and dark, though.

Let’s take a look!

 

1). To the Bone (film, Netflix)

 

 

I don’t know what life is like inside an eating disorder, but I would guess that this film captures a realistic glimpse of what it might be like… for both patients and their family members. To the Bone focuses on a young woman struggling with anorexia nervosa. We were surprised to find ourselves laughing a bit, which felt awkward at first – I would never expect to laugh while watching a film about eating disorder patients – but we’re supposed to laugh. To the Bone is a fine example of a dramedy, deftly scripted with humor to help make a serious and uncomfortable subject more understandable.

I’m not sure that I would recommend this film to everyone, as it may be triggering. Watch with caution.

 

2). Ozark (T.V. series)

 

 

What’s this?! It’s another Netflix original crime drama/thriller. Atmospheric Ozark stars Jason Bateman, whose outstanding turn as the desperate protagonist should earn him Best Actor nominations throughout the 2017 awards season next year. We were impressed when we saw the trailer, and with the cast including Laura Linney, we marked it on the calendar. Bateman was great, Linney didn’t disappoint. If you’re a fan of crime thrillers – thrillers such as Breaking Bad, let’s say – then you’ll likely enjoy this one.

 

3). Black Mirror (T.V. series) – S3 “Hated in the Nation” and “San Junipero”

 

 

Netflix’ sci-fi thriller Black Mirror is the series we watch when we’re in the mood to have our brains scrambled. I’m thinking particularly of season 3’s “Playtest,” followed by “Shut Up and Dance.” Season 2’s “White Bear” did it, too, as well as season 1’s “Fifteen Million Merits.” Never before had we encountered a series whose episodes made us say “Well that was a mindf*ck” so consistently.

This series is unique in that I couldn’t binge-watch it. That would be a bad mental health decision.

Black Mirror episodes are written as stand-alone stories, so they can be watched in any order. We haven’t seen them all, but of the episodes we have seen, the above-mentioned ones were made more disturbing by their very excellence. Two other season 3 episodes, though, stood out. They weren’t disturbing so much as they were just plain successful at being mysterious (“San Junipero”) and thrilling (“Hated in the Nation”).

I think it’s safe to say that if you like The Twilight Zone, you’ll dig Black Mirror.

 

4). The Handmaid’s Tale (T.V. series)

 

 

The Handmaid’s Tale takes Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel and brings it to chilling life in this outstanding Hulu original series. Elisabeth Moss may well have secured herself major awards nominations for her performance as Offred. There was also stunning beauty before our eyes in the town of Gilead: anywhere we hit “pause,” the image on the screen could’ve been a Vermeer painting. The use of color and music play strong roles in the telling of this story.

Sidenote: Callaghan found The Handmaid’s Tale to be so unsettling that we took a long break from it… we started it in June and finished it in July. We returned to it after we saw The Keepers (next on this list), which made The Handmaid’s Tale seem mild.

 

5). The Keepers (T.V. series)

 

 

I honestly don’t know what to say about this Netflix docuseries. I think it’s important to watch, but I would not call it “entertainment.”

Two middle-aged women – former classmates at a Catholic high school in Maryland – continue their efforts to solve the case of their teacher Sister Cathy Cesnik’s murder. A priest and the Archdiocese of Baltimore come under scrutiny, and horrors are uncovered in the process. By the end of episode two, we were disgusted and enraged into speechlessness. We watched the seven episodes over the course of a week, and when it was over, we immediately signed the petition. I do recommend this docuseries, but again, my recommendation comes with a trigger warning (this one for sexual abuse).

 

6). Gypsy (T.V. series)

 

 

Admittedly, it was only Naomi Watts’ name that drew our attention to this Netflix series; we had no idea what Gypsy was about. Turned out we’d gotten ourselves into a psychological thriller, which we kept watching because of its intrigue… from beginning to end (of the season), we never stopped asking, “What is going on, exactly?” Naomi Watts plays a shrink whose behavior, um, deviates from the norm. I’ll just leave it at that! We did enjoy Gypsy, though, and I would recommend giving it a try if you’re looking for a different sort of ride.

 

7). GLOW (T.V. series)

 

 

I’m finishing this part of the list with GLOW, an offbeat Netflix dramedy that gave us a respite from the heavy intensity of the rest. GLOW was a treat. It’s smart and satirically (sometimes crudely) funny. It combines combat sports, misfit women, and the 80’s. There are a few turning-point situations in the women’s lives, and there’s some outlandish and creative problem-solving… solemn moments and hilarity held together with Aqua Net. An original, indeed!

Now let’s get into the food….

 

8).  Pearls pitted Kalamata Greek olives.

 

Pearls pitted Kalamata Greek olives

 

I love these olives in my salads. I always have, but now I have them on hand at all times, and I eat a few of them every day. I’m sure I’ll cycle through this olive phase eventually, but it’ll be one of those recurring phases. I can tell.

 

9). Nectarines.

 

Nectarines

 

All of a sudden, in the third week of July, I realized that I hadn’t eaten a single summer stone fruit since the cherries my parents brought when they visited in May. It was like I’d had blinders on in the grocery store. How could it be that I’d been so intent on finding the red grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pears, oranges, and bananas that I’d failed to see the plethora of peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots right before my eyes? I’m still eating those other fruits, but I’m also making up for lost time. At the moment, I’m swooning over the white nectarines. Better late than never!

 

10). Trader Joe’s extra virgin olive oil.

 

Trader Joe’s extra virgin olive oil

 

There’s actually nothing new about Trader Joe’s extra virgin olive oil in our house. It just occurred to me, as we went to pick up yet another bottle, that it’s one of our staple foods, and I’ve never mentioned it in a “favorites” list. We eat salads at least four days per week, so we go through these big bottles of Trader Joe’s olive oil pretty quickly. It’s a good, dependable favorite, and the spout that comes with it makes it friendly to use, as well.

 

This brings us to the end. Heading into August! Much to anticipate already!