Happy belated National Black Cat day, Salem! (Laundry room tour, + it’s getting cold.)

It’s getting chilly. I’ve resisted turning on the heater at home or in my car, because my unheated workplace is colder on the inside than it is on the outside, and I don’t want to leave a heated house and get into a heated car to drive to a cold place where I will spend eight hours. I figure I need to develop some degree of tolerance to the cold if I want to get through the cold months.

I’m forcing myself to acclimate, and I’m fine with it. I’m trying to be comfortable and safe at work so I can keep loving my job. Comfortable relative to the cold. Safe relative to the virus, which is even scarier now because the cold encourages it. (Not to mention, the virus has now infiltrated my workplace.)

Here at home, I have a kid who also does her life in unheated places, and that would be Salem, my little black cat. She’s acclimating to the weather, too. I take inspiration from her!

Salem is a special little girl. National Black Cat Day was on October 27, did you know? My friend Caroline texted me that day to inform me of this. I never did get to posting a pic of Salem on social media that day, but I intended to make up for the cat mom fail with a blog post all about Salem. Here we are! I’ve got a ton of pics, too. I have pics of Salem, and also of her room, aka the laundry room.

First, the sweetheart, herself:

 

Salem at home in the backyard.

 

Salem is a happy girl.

To say that she’s come a long way from her terrified-of-humans-rail-thin-foraging-for-food-in-the-garbage days is an understatement. She’s still feral in the sense that she doesn’t let me touch her, but she’s increasingly comfortable with me, and she’s recently had a couple of major breakthroughs: She discovered furniture and the joys thereof, and she realized that the toys in her room are there for her to play with.

Yes. Without any guidance from me, she’s chosen to sleep on the old ottoman I’d moved into her room, and she plays with her toys… domesticated cat behaviors more than feral cat behaviors. She’s had toys in her laundry room for the last two years, and she always ignored them. Heading into this third winter, she’s comfortable to the point of relaxing into playfulness. When I go into her room every evening, I find the stuffed fishy and various meeses scattered hither and yon, and the two rugs pushed out of place. I can envision her tossing her toys around and skidding on the rugs as she chases after them.

Every day, I make her bed and gather her toys and put them back where they go. The rugs, too. I love arranging everything perfectly in the evening and then seeing the disarray in the room the next day. The nest she’d made of her blanket, her toys all over the place, the rugs wherever they’d moved. Picking up after this little girl is the best thing ever!

Salem used to disappear during the day and stay out half the night. Now, she’s home more than she’s away. She slips out for a little while, and next thing I know, she’s back in her yard, lounging here and sleeping there.

She comes home to this house. She comes home to me.

Going out isn’t the norm for her anymore. Staying here is. She loves her yard, her patio, her room. In the morning, she comes out to eat her breakfast, and then she goes back in. I’ve noticed on the weekends that she sometimes stays in the laundry room well into the afternoon.

 

Salem napping on her patio, as seen through the screened side of the sliding-glass door.

 

Salem seen from afar.

 

Salem getting closer to me, little by little. One day!

 

Salem grooming on the go.

 

Salem lounging in the grass.

 

Salem stretching and blinking at me. Cats will only lie on their backs and expose their bellies when they’re comfortable and trusting that they’re safe.

 

Meatloaf Salem.

 

Salem on her path.

 

Salem owning the place.

 

Salem in cuddle-mode. Those little paws, though!

 

Salem on her doorstep, surveying her yard.

 

If that’s Salem’s doorstep, then that’s Salem’s door, and if it’s her door, then it’s her room. It’s my laundry room, more technically, but let’s be real here. When a cat lives in a place, it’s her place. It is not up for discussion. This is Salem’s room. She often hangs out on the doormat on her front porch next to her food area.

This brings us to the room, itself. Its aesthetic? Well, I’ve filled it with old furniture and old treasures, found treasures. A dusty candle last lit over a decade ago, fake dead flowers, natural objects I’d picked up in nature – hiking trails, beaches, backyards – with every intention of keeping them forever. Crystals, an antique doll handed down to me, re-homed tapestries, a few garish cast-offs. It’s kind of witchy and celestial and grimy in there. You might decide that it’s cottagegoth or goblincore. I’m still adding to it; I have the ashes of several beloved furbabies in their wooden urns waiting to be arranged in the shrine to them that I’m going to make.

This laundry room is attached to the house, but it’s only accessible from the outside.

 

(LED) candle-flame lights on either side of the door.

 

Looking in from the doorway at night.

 

I don’t think I’ve ever brought you into my laundry room! I believe this is also the first time I’ve dedicated an entire post to Salem.

 

Lest there’s any doubt as to whose room this is.

 

The long wall to the right of the door.

 

Bookcase corner (to the left of the door): stones, crystals, a piece of coral, a pinecone, a wooden Tibetan figurine, an owl trinket-holder, fake dead roses, everything old or found or gifted or all of the above. I’m going to create the shrine to my dead cats in one of the cubbies in this bookshelf.

 

Washing machine corner: an old floor lamp, a string of cloth elephants from an Etsy shop in India (which I got to replace my cherished elephant string that I’d lost), a small handmade plaque I’d purchased in a ghost town.

 

Dryer corner: a clock sent to me by mistake, more fake dead flowers, a dusty old candle, an antique doll handed down to me, the green bats’ blood bottle I had in my office during its dark academia iteration.

 

Water heater corner (to the right of the door): the water heater, of course, and the utility sink. Above the sink, a cast-off sakura paper lantern, a small round mirror in a wooden frame in the shape of an eye. Next to it, my little glass and wrought iron table from 20 or so years ago that now holds my laundry detergents, a fake tree, and random objects.

 

My celestial tapestry on the long wall, with faerie lights and glittery, jewel-toned paper origami stars.

 

Tapestry at night.

 

Salem’s bed: an old ottoman with mismatched old cushions and Salem’s winter blanket. The black and gold rug used to be in my office. The rug is never neatly positioned like this when I go in during the day. It’s askew, and often, I’ll find a toy mouse beneath the ottoman.

 

Above Salem’s bed. These things are self-explanatory.

 

Daylight detail: top of the bookcase. These treasured objects are much easier to see in the daylight. The pinecone is obscured from this angle, though. It’s behind the blue crystal.

 

Daylight detail: corner shelves. I didn’t like the look of the doll sitting up. I prefer her lying down, looking deceased.

 

Daylight detail: top of laundry table.

 

Salem’s toy area beneath the laundry table. She used to sleep in this space. By the time I moved the ottoman in, she was brave and comfortable enough to choose it for her new bed. It started to get chilly at night soon after I realized that she was sleeping on the ottoman, so I put her blanket there instead of down here. Most of these toys are scattered throughout the room when I come in during the day.

 

Salem’s doormat and rug. This is the old rug that’s really dramatically out of place when I go in every day. It’s pushed aside, bunched or folded. Sometimes, I find it in the middle of the room. Often, I find one or two of Salem’s toys where the mat should be. They tell the whole story.

 

Doorknocker above the door on the outside. It also used to be in my office.

 

Since I took these pics, I wrapped Salem’s ottoman in heavy plastic sheeting all the way down to the floor, in case of wandering male cats feeling territorial for no good reason. I will not be laundering piles of bedding every day in order to clean up male cat spray, thank you! Furthermore, the ottoman is upholstered. No surefire way to get the male cat odor out of that. Salem would never sleep on the ottoman again! With the plastic sheeting protecting the ottoman, I’d only have to wash her towels and blanket. With luck, I won’t have to deal with it at all.

I hope you enjoyed this first post dedicated to Salem and her room! Happy belated National Black Cat Day, little girl.

And a lovely rest of your weekend, friends.

~~~~~

ETA: I just took this pic of Salem eating and thought I’d include it, as this post is also a journal entry for my own memories. She ate her breakfast when I gave it to her at 7:30am, and here she is finishing it after having gone back to sleep for a few hours. (Just like her mommy.):

 

Salem finishing off her breakfast on a Sunday morning.

 

Alright! I have some baking to do right about now. Until Wednesday, then. Stay safe, friends.

 

 

May Favorites!

I’m not sure how to sum up the month of May. Mental health real talk: May was the white serial killer van creeping slowly down the street in front of your office window; you’re mesmerized by a combination of horror and morbid fascination as you wonder when it’s going to stop, and what you’ll see when it does. The van doesn’t stop, though. It keeps going, slowly, and when it disappears from view, you’re relieved, but you wish you’d seen more. Then June rolls around in the form of another serial killer van, and now you’re wondering whether you should ask for an adjustment to your depression medication cocktail.

In other words, ugh. This is what “Little Things” are for, right? Here are some of the Little Things that I enjoyed in May:

 

1). Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife (Netflix)

 

 

Some hilarity was in order. We got it by watching this. BEWARE if you have delicate sensibilities. Ali does not hold back!

 

2). A Quiet Place (film)

 

 

We finally made it out to a movie, and we picked a good one. It’s immensely gratifying when a horror film turns out to be good and not cheesy at all, like this one, though I love cheesy horror flicks, too.

 

3). The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu, S2)

 

 

I probably noted the first time around that the phenomenal The Handmaid’s Tale is visually stunning, and that you could hit “pause” anywhere and it’s like you’re looking at a Vermeer painting. Season 2 follows suit.

 

4). Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist (Netflix)

 

 

Netflix’ real-life crime drama docuseries game is strong.

 

5). Cobra Kai (YouTube Red)

 

 

Cobra Kai is a current day “where are they now” blast that puts you back in the 80’s because the main character is stuck there.

 

6). The Americans (FX) Series Finale (S6)

 

 

The Americans series finale couldn’t have been better, in our opinion. We’re sad that it’s over, but it had to end at some point, I suppose.

 

 

Philip and Elizabeth in the final scene of the very last episode of The Americans.

 

7). Sumo/Natsu Basho (May 2018 Grand Sumo Tournament) and Tochinoshin’s promotion to Ozeki.

 

Tochinoshin (actual name: Levan Gorgadze)

 

We’re big Tochinoshin fans, as you may recall if you’ve been here for a while, so we were thrilled to witness Tochinoshin’s historic promotion to Ozeki (Sumo’s 2nd-highest rank) at the end of his spectacular May tournament.

 

 

The wonderful tribute video above doesn’t include Tochinoshin’s most notable victory of the May Basho (for reasons of respect, I would guess), so I’m posting another video showing that match. This is his win over the formidable Yokozuna Hakuho. Yokozuna is Sumo’s highest rank. A Yokozuna is basically like a god in Japan.

 

 

8). Cherry season.

Cherry season is when Dad drives 1.5 hours to the cherry orchards in Brentwood (CA) and picks pounds and pounds of cherries and sends a big box of them to me, and then I know that we’re on the verge of summer, because I can taste it. Cherries are my favorite fruit. Callaghan doesn’t like them, so these were all for me.

 

Rainier cherries and another type whose name I can’t remember. The deep red-black Bing cherries come later in the season.

 

9). Popcorn with nuts.

 

popcorn and nuts

 

I started dumping roasted, salted mixed nuts on top of my popcorn, and it’s so very satisfying.

 

Alas, I could only come up with nine Things this time. They were outstanding. They were more than enough.

What do you get when you cross a flamingo and a ukulele? My office.

I had a hard mental health day on Friday, and all of the late-afternoon popcorn and Perrier couldn’t fix it. Neither did it help that that was the day I decided to watch Childish Gambino’s “This is America” video. Excellent song and video. Bad timing.

But then things got better, because when I woke up the next day, it was a gym morning and it was Mother’s Day weekend. I got cards from Nenette, Geronimo, and Callaghan, and for my main gift, Callaghan took me to Home Depot and said I could go crazy and choose any plant I wanted, emphasis on “any”! I chose this tall guy and named him “Flamingo”:

 

Flamingo! (He’s a Dracaena ‘Massangeana’)

 

My desk now, as seen from the doorway:

 

Four of my nine office companions, from left: Holder, Flamingo, Icarus, Thoreau

 

At some point, I’ll do an updated office tour and take you around to see all of my companions of the chlorophyllous persuasion. Two of them have joined me since my last such update, and some of the older ones have migrated to different spots.

Also, you may be noticing that there’s a ukulele sitting next to my desk. Yes, I’ve brought the ukulele back into the light! I haven’t dusted it off yet, but it’s out. That white binder on the shelf above it is a lesson book. Mom gave these to me, as some of you may recall, and I proceeded to capitalize on the opportunity to share some of my favorite ukulele jokes.

i.e. (from my previous blog post about the ukulele):

What’s the difference between a ukulele and a trampoline? You take off your shoes to jump up and down on a trampoline.

What’s “perfect pitch”? When you throw the ukulele into the garbage can without hitting the rim.

What do you call a beautiful woman on a ukulele player’s arm? A tattoo.

And my personal favorite:

A ukulele player suddenly realizes he left his vintage ukulele out in his car overnight. He rushes outside and his heart drops when he sees that his car window is broken. Fearing the worst, he peeks through the window and finds that there are now five ukuleles in his car.

I still love to laugh at the ukulele, but I do respect it, and I’ve decided to learn to play it. Going through my old rhythm and timing workbooks, composer collections, and sheet music made me realize how much I miss doing music. Self, I said one day recently – yesterday, in fact – why don’t you learn to play that beautiful, new ukulele Mom gave you? Why not.

I’m sure I’ll be back with ukulele-learning updates for any of you who may be interested; I can’t wait to laugh at myself as much as I laugh at the ukulele.

Oh, and my second Mother’s Day gift was a new tool box! Callaghan knew that I wasn’t thrilled with the one I’d been using. My new one (which I chose) is shiny and black and spacious and lovely. I should’ve taken a pic of it, too.

I hope you’re all having a great start to your week!

Escapism + Food + Skincare = (April Favorites!)

First: We didn’t see any movies in April, but we found a couple of Netflix series that we thought were pretty great.

Second: I’m always talking about my efforts to avoid processed foods, yet every month I come to you with a list of the processed foods I ate all the previous month. I don’t even know what to say about this hypocrisy of mine, except that I’m still cognizant of eating a lot of whole foods, too, and I’m also trying to minimize the chemicals and other b.s. you often find in the ingredients lists of many processed foods. There are “healthy” processed foods out there. I don’t mind taking the time to search for them.

Without further ado, let’s talk about some of the awesome Little Things I found in April.

 

1). The Five (Netflix series)

Despite O-T Fagbenle’s minimal screentime in The Handmaid’s Tale (S1), we recognized him immediately when we started The Five. His starring role in this well-paced, artsy British mystery series showcases his talent. Based on his performance here, I’m pretty confident that we’ll get to see more of this actor in the near future.

 

 

2). Hotel Bon Séjour (Netflix series)

We’re two episodes away from finishing this Belgian (or Dutch… it’s unclear, as it straddles Belgium and the Netherlands) crime drama. It had me at the opening credits. This one is a stunner and a must-watch if you enjoy the genre! Tip: watch it in its original Flemish and enjoy the subtitles.

 

 

3). Quaker Select Starts Organic Instant Oatmeal.

I’ve been breakfasting on this oatmeal as of late. I went through an oatmeal phase about 10 years ago, and now that I’m in the mood for it again, I’m loving it. Oatmeal is funny… if I’m not in the mood for it, I can’t get into it. When I am in the mood for it, I love it. I make this oatmeal with water and add a little light agave syrup and a lot of cinnamon and call it good, because it is good.

 

Quaker Select Starts Organic Instant Oatmeal (Plain)

 

4). Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice and Sweet Earth Big Sur Breakfast Burrito.

How to make a satisfying approximation of a Chipotle sofritas burrito bowl in five minutes with very little fuss: zap this burrito, cut it up, put it in a bowl with some of this Trader Joe’s brown rice that you’ve already zapped, top it with fresh pico de gallo, shredded iceberg lettuce, salsa, and guacamole, and wonder why you’ve never thought of it before.

 

Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice and Sweet Earth Big Sur Burrito

 

5). Kashi Dark Cocoa Karma cereal.

Kashi Dark Cocoa Karma has been my go-to cereal for quite a while. My favorite way to eat it these days is dry, as something to munch on when I want a little sweet, but I’m not really hungry. This cereal is as close as I get to eating sugary sweets. For me, it’s just sweet enough. If you’re used to eating sugar, you might find it less than satisfying. Either way, it’s pretty benign for being a processed food… any six-year-old can read and comprehend all six ingredients on the list.

 

Kashi Dark Cocoa Karma cereal

 

6). Skinny Pop Popcorn.

I’ve cycled in and out of Skinny Pop phases for years, too. It’s currently saving the day when I’m craving salt, but I have no appetite. It’s like eating salty, corn-flavored air. What could be better for nausea?

 

Skinny Pop popcorn

 

7). POW Red Lentil Power Protein (rotini) Pasta.

Ingredients: organic red lentil flour, organic quinoa flour. That’s it.

I tried this pasta in my mission to maximize the nutritional density of the processed foods that I eat. I’m not going to lie and say that this pasta is “good” pasta, because to me, it’s not. Reasons why I don’t really care for it in and of itself: its vaguely unpleasant taste when sampled plain. Its texture that’s never “right.” However, it is good and satisfying when I mix it with my standard pasta sauce (organic tomato-basil jarred pasta sauce, nutritional yeast flakes, olive oil, sea salt, oregano, and crushed red pepper). I make the sauce spicy and thick (lots of the nootch), and I don’t even think of the red lentil pasta as pasta. It’s just good. Really good.

As for the pasta’s nutritional density: 14g protein, 7g fiber, 35g carbs, 1g sugar, 1g fat, 25% iron. POW, indeed.

 

POW red lentil rotini pasta

 

8). Perrier Sparkling Water.

I’ve been drinking Perrier for years. What can I say about it now other than it’s even better these days because it combats my nausea? Nothing. In the last month, it’s gone from good to wonderful.

 

Perrier

 

9). Alba Botanica Very Emollient Body Lotion Maximum.

I’m not thrilled about the scent of this product, but that aspect is easy to disregard because I love the lotion, itself. This is what you want a hardcore body lotion to be: thick, moisturizing, and non-greasy. Besides, the scent is very light, and it disappears quickly. (Where I got it: Target)

 

alba botanica very emollient body lotion maximum

 

10). Nourish Organic Argan Face Serum.

This is like a lighter, dryer version of the Oils of Life facial oil (The Body Shop) that I use at night. It’s fabulous, and I love its light, citrusy scent for daytime use. I put this on first, then layer on eye cream, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Like the lotion above, I will be re-purchasing this product! (Where I got it: Target)

 

Nourish Organic Argan Face Serum

 

The end… I think I finally succeeded in keeping the text to a minimum in this Monthly Favorites post! Happy Tuesday and month of May, everyone.

 

Insert snazzy title here. (March Favorites!)

Hello, and welcome to the “Little Things” I enjoyed in March. Since I’m again later than I’d wanted to be with this post, I’m offering a streamlined version of Monthly Favorites… meaning, with no further ado…

 

1). Jessica Jones (T.V. series, Netflix)

 

 

Jessica Jones is back for season 2 (Netflix), and Callaghan and I both like this season even better than the first. The writers infused the story with deeper intrigue, along with emphasis on character development. The effort left us with tantalizing fodder for speculation… we have a million questions, ideas, and theories regarding what will unfold in season three. It’s going to be a long wait!

 

2). Tabula Rasa (T.V. series, Netflix)

 

 

This series from Belgium is simply stunning. If you like horror/thrillers such as The Sixth Sense and Fatal Attraction, there’s a strong chance that you’ll like Tabula Rasa. As always, we watched it in its original language (Flemish), which I recommend. Honestly, this series was creepier to me than most horror movies I’ve seen. There was an effective wink or two at The Ring, I might add! Loved this series.

 

3). The Americans (T.V. series)

 

 

March brought season 6 of my favorite series, FX’s Cold War drama/thriller The Americans. Sadly, it’s its last. We’re looking forward to seeing how things wind up for the hottest pair of fictional deep-cover Soviet agents ever to pose as ordinary Americans. (Hyperbole totally deserved, in my opinion.) We’ll have to get our Washington D.C. Russian spy fix elsewhere on T.V. after this. Oh, wait….

 

4). The Good Fight (T.V. series)

 

 

Thus begins another excellent second season… The Good Fight continues. Its characters roll with the proverbial punches, as hard-boiled Chicago lawyers do. We hated to see the end of The Good Wife, so it’s been satisfying to watch its spin-off carry on the madness so well. We’re here for it!

 

5). Sumo March Grand Tournament (Honbasho) and rikishi Kaisei.

 

There’s a Grand Sumo Tournament (Honbasho) in every odd month, so we got to enjoy 15 days of Sumo in March. The Honbasho isn’t an organization, but it is to Sumo what a UFC card is to MMA – the combat sport’s highest level of competition. This time, we set our early sights on Kaisei, the rikishi (fighter) from Brazil. We’ve always been fans, but Kaisei came out swinging this tournament and got us all hyped about the possibility of a Brazilian (go New World!) winning the Yusho to take the Emperor’s Cup. Spoiler alert: he didn’t, but he got close.

 

Let’s get into food…

6). Archer Farms raw, unsalted mixed nuts.

 

Archer Farms (Target) raw, unsalted mixed nuts

 

Contrary to what I say sometimes when I’m waxing enthusiastic about nuts being great carriers for salt, I do cycle through periods of eating lots of raw, unsalted nuts. I do enjoy them! For weeks now – since early February, in fact – I’ve been eating a big handful of these nuts every day, usually at breakfast.

 

7). Trader Joe’s Multigrain Sourdough with Sunflower & Sesame Seeds bread.

 

Trader Joe’s multigrain sourdough bread with sunflower and sesame seeds

 

I’ve posted a couple of other brands of sourdough bread here before. Trader Joe’s multigrain sourdough with sunflower and sesame seeds is one that I always go back to. Trader Joe’s makes several varieties of their sourdough (plain, whole wheat, etc.), and they’re all good, but this multigrain version is my favorite! I’ve eaten two or three slices of this bread every day since the beginning of the year, though I’m just posting it now. It goes without saying that bread is always one of my “favorite things.”

 

8). Emmy’s Organic Vanilla Bean Coconut Cookies.

 

Emmy’s Organic Vanilla Bean Coconut Cookies

 

I’m not big on dessert-type foods anymore, but I thought I’d try these “cookies” (I wouldn’t call them that, personally) because sometimes I get a hankering for chewy-sweet coconut concoctions. These are nice. They’re slightly too sweet for me, since I’m not used to sweets anymore, so I probably won’t get these again. I did enjoy them, though.

 

9). Derma-e firming DMAE Eye Lift and Moisturizer.

 

Derma-e firming DMAE Eye Lift and Moisturizer

 

I used up my daytime eye cream and moisturizer in March, so I picked these up. I use several other Derma-e products, and they’re all fabulous. These two products follow suit. I’ll definitely repurchase these! They’re vegan and cruelty-free, of course.

 

10). The Body Shop Colour Crush lipstick.

I’d jokingly said that Jessica Jones inspired me to look for new lipsticks, but that was partially true. I’d been wanting to broaden my color range out from the one color I wear. I love all three shades I got from The Body Shop’s Colour Crush lipstick line, and they’re all quite moisturizing, too. I love the way these feel!

This morning, I put on #240 “Damson in Distress,” a blue-toned, medium berry shade. Later, I took a selfie to show how it looked after six hours of being out, running around, talking, eating, drinking water, chewing gum, and applying colorless lip balm. I did not reapply the lipcolor. This is how the remaining lipstick looks on my bare face (I wore no other make-up today):

 

The Body Shop Colour Crush lipstick in 240 (Damson in Distress)

 

(As usual, there’s no filter on this selfie; this is the lipcolor exactly as the daylight captured it.)

There’s just a hint of color remaining, but I love the faint stain as much as I love the lipstick when it’s freshly applied. I’d blotted it before I left, so I didn’t start the day with a heavy layer, either. This lipstick wears well, feels great, and the colors are great. They’re vegetarian and cruelty-free.

 

That’s it! I hope you all have a great month ahead.

 

I did one of Funk Roberts’ MMA workouts. (Garage gym workout!)

I thought I’d do something different in the garage this week and do one of Funk Roberts’ workouts.

Funk Roberts is a Canadian MMA Conditioning Coach and Certified Personal and Metabolic Trainer who creates and posts workouts on his YouTube channel. I’ve been a subscriber for a couple of years, at least, but I’ve never done one of his workouts. I don’t watch all of his videos… mostly just those that don’t involve gym equipment that I don’t have.

As an MMA conditioning coach, Funk Roberts creates his workouts to get you into fighting condition. I love his tagline: “Get It Done!” I find this to be motivating. I need to get it done. At the moment, I’m nowhere near fighting condition. I think I’m in better-than-average condition, and that’s great, but there’s a ton of room for improvement. Getting back into fighting condition is my main fitness goal these days.

When Funk Roberts posted his recent Ultimate Full Body HIIT Workout (“full body metabolic workout”) video, I thought, that’s one I can do here at home! I knew I had to try it.

I did the workout on Sunday. By the end of the following day (yesterday), it hurt to stand up straight. I went to BodyPump this morning feeling wary of the ab track and anything involving the glutes. My glutes were fine for BodyPump, but my core wanted none of it. I actually stopped in the middle of the crunches at the end and flipped over into plank, instead, because it was less sore that way.

I’ll post some screenshots of me attempting the workout, but take a look at his video, too, so you can see what I was attempting! I appreciate that Funk Roberts keeps his workout videos short. He gets to the point with no filler content and lays out the workouts with clear instruction.

Without further ado:

 

 

Here are stills of me attempting the workout, in order. I went light on the weights because I didn’t know what to expect. In some cases, I didn’t know what I was doing, at all.

1). Dumbbell Burpee Snatches.

 

Dumbbell burpee snatches (1)

 

Dumbbell burpee snatches (2)

 

Dumbbell burpee snatches (3)

 

This one wasn’t difficult for me, but I felt awkward because I’d never done snatches before, and I wasn’t sure I was doing them correctly. I’ll increase my weights when I can perform the technique more smoothly. The weight I used here (8 lbs) was not challenging.

 

2). Plank Side Raise to Forward Raise.

 

Plank Side Raise to Forward Raise (side)

 

I actually felt this one destroying my abs as I was doing it. I used 5 lb weights, and while they were light for the shoulder-work, itself, the fact that you’re stabilizing yourself with your body set up like a lopsided tripod makes it a killer core workout.

 

Plank Side Raise to Forward Raise (front)

 

3). Side to Side Rotational Lunges.

 

Side to Side Rotational Lunges

 

Otherwise known as absolute hell (for me) and not something I’m doing again without shoes. Yes, please laugh. I am! Seriously, though, I felt all kinds of clumsy and wrong doing these plyo twisting side-to-side lunges. I always feel like my lunge form is wrong, anyway. I’m always working on it. This is a great core workout (obliques, especially)!

 

4). Zottman Curls to Hammer Curls.

 

Zottman Curls to Hammer Curls (pronated)

 

I’d never heard the term “Zottman curls” before. As Funk Roberts says in the video, they’re done with a pronated grip (palms down). I’m assuming that this works the forearms. The 10 lb dumbbells I used felt appropriate given the speed component.

 

Zottman Curls to Hammer Curls (hammer)

 

5). Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs.

 

Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs (start)

 

I loved this one! This was one of my two favorite exercises in this workout. I used the 10 lb dumbbells this first time, and they weren’t challenging. Next time, I’ll increase the weights to 12.5 lbs, at least.

 

Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs (press)

 

Glute Bridge Chest Press Pull-Overs (pull-over)

 

6). Predator Hops.

 

Predator Hops

 

This was my other favorite exercise. The technique is fairly easy, so I could go faster and get more out of it. This whole workout is supposed to be done for speed, and I probably only achieved that in half of the exercises. This was one of them.

 

7). Ab Walk-Outs.

 

Ab Walk-Outs (mid)

 

Ab Walk-Outs (extended)

 

I didn’t feel that I was getting anything out of this one. It wasn’t difficult. This says to me that I wasn’t doing it correctly. I’ll study Funk Roberts’ example again to prepare for the next time!

 

8). Kettlebell One Arm Swings to High Swings.

 

Kettlebell One Arm Swings to High Swings (bottom)

 

This one also felt too easy, and in this case, I know it’s because the kettlebell we have is way too light. 8 lbs isn’t enough. I’ll go back to Ross and get one or two heavier ones for next time.

 

Kettlebell One Arm Swings to High Swings (top)

 

As a whole, this workout was hard. I couldn’t go as quickly as I wanted to go, and in some cases, I barely finished the third round. Here’s a walking-back pic, because a picture speaks a thousand words:

 

Dying.

 

This isn’t even at the end of the workout. This is me hauling myself off the floor and lurching toward the timer somewhere in the middle.

Based on this experience, my impression of Funk Roberts’ workouts is that they’re hardcore and well-designed. I’m definitely coming back for more! I can also incorporate some of his techniques into my standard garage gym workouts, alternating rounds of his exercises with bag-work.

I’m loving the Les Mills On Demand, but it’s always good to changes things up in your fitness routine.

 

Crazy plant lady. (Office updates!)

Welcome back to my office! My plant family has grown since my last update. I love that the only color in my writing space is alive.

Plants give me life from the inside out, fueling me from the inside and providing a lovely source of creative energy from the outside. My desk still sits at an angle toward the center of the room, facing the window, and I’ve now surrounded myself with plants.

I’ve moved most of these guys around since my December office update. Some of the plants have been re-potted. One of them has departed this world, sadly, and two of them are new. Let’s look around!

Behind me and slightly to my right (on the wall to the left of the door): Icarus.

 

Icarus (re-potted since my December update)

 

Behind me on the left side: Hercules and Angel (on the corner stand re-purposed from the patio). These two are my newest. I discovered Hercules on a dusty shelf at Walmart, all by himself, alone and bedraggled. He’s doing so well now!

Angel sits beneath, on the second shelf. I picked him up from the florist’s section at Fry’s. He’s also doing well, though he’s quite fragile. He’s an aluminum plant.

(The color of the walls in here – in the whole house – is so strange and sensitive to light and camera angle. The wall can look like two different colors even in the same pic!)

 

(from top) Hercules and Angel

 

Here’s a close-up of Hercules… I’m so pleased with how he’s thrived in the short time he’s been here! I’m going to re-pot both Hercules and Angel in the next few weeks. They’re strong enough for it now.

 

Hercules

 

Moving along, slightly behind me and to my left (and to the left of the printer): Jerome.

 

Jerome, my second.

 

To the left of my desk, to the right of my printer: Holder. I’m glad to say that he’s doing well. Linden, his partner, did not make it, I’m afraid. RIP Linden.

 

Holder (re-potted since my December update)

 

Just in front of my desk and to the left: Robbie. We migrated him to my office from the living room. Within 24 hours of moving him in here, he spread out, opened up, and turned a lighter, brighter shade of green. Plants love the strong daylight in this room! There’s no direct sunlight in here, so all of these guys are low-light/indirect sunlight plants.

I pulled this small table out of the closet so Robbie could sit in the middle of the room, rather than against a wall. It’s perfect for him.

 

Robbie

 

A better look at Robbie (as I see him from my desk):

 

Robbie

 

My view sometimes includes Nenette sleeping on the futon behind Robbie.

 

Nenette napping on the futon.

 

Finally, Barclay, my first, sits further out in front of my desk and to the right, same place he’s been… I did have to purchase this stand for him, though, as he needed a greater height. His tendrils had grown to where they were coiling on the floor. I found this cheap little metal stand at Ross.

 

Barclay, two angles

 

Here we are, full circle… and a full circle, it is. I don’t think I’m imagining the cooler note I feel in the air here, or the scent, loamy and damp and fresh. I haven’t burned candles in here since I started cultivating this little oasis in my desert office.

I’ll post an actual writing update next week. Office, part two!

Ruthless. (February Favorites!)

I’m a little embarrassed looking at this list. For being such a short month, we sure watched a lot of T.V. in February.

Of the little things that helped to brighten our days (or distract, as it were) in February, there was one stand-out vegan junk food item, and only two non-food items: a perfume and a household cleaner, of all things. No skin care on the list this time! I haven’t run out of anything, and I’m loving everything I’m currently using. I have been testing out a product, though – actually an item – so you might see that on next month’s list. I need another month with it to get a good idea of how I like it.

Back to the aforementioned T.V. escapism-fest. We didn’t catch any fight cards in February, nor was there Sumo to watch, so that left us with more screen-time for Netflix and the like. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though. Of the six series listed in this post, we only binge-watched three. There’s one ongoing series, and there are two complete seasons of series we just haven’t finished yet.

On with the list, then!

 

1). Black Panther

 

 

We went out to see just one movie in February, and we did well to choose this one. Black Panther  was absolutely worth the excursion. Black Panther is awesome. Its superpowers are manyfold, but mainly it’s managed to change the superhero film game, in our opinion, delivering in big, sweeping and important ways. I would have to dedicate an entire post to this film in order to begin trying to discuss my experience with it as a movie-goer. Suffice it say that we walked away feeling like we’d watched something quite profound… not at all what you’d expect when sitting down in front of a superhero flick.

 

2). Zone Blanche (T.V. series)

 

 

This thriller series stars Suliane Brahim, a French actress whose work Callaghan admires, so we thought we’d watch the pilot one night. We went from watching the pilot to binge-watching the whole season. The story’s premise might lack in originality (Silence of the Lambs kept coming to mind), but it held our interest with its mystery. Fine writing and acting had a lot to do with that.

 

3). Babylon Berlin (T.V. series)

 

 

Babylon Berlin is another intriguing and well-wrought foreign-language thriller series – this one’s German (we always watch in the original language with subtitles). We’re enjoying it, but we’re taking it one episode at a time, every few days or so. We’re finding this series to be a hefty bite; you don’t escape into mindless entertainment with this one. You escape by getting drawn into a dark and complex web of we’re not even sure what, at this point.

 

4). The End of the F*cking World (T.V. series)

 

 

Here’s one series we did binge-watch. The End of the F*cking World tells a brilliantly original, neatly-paced story of the misadventures had by two teenagers. You go along for the ride fully immersed in its weirdness, then you’re struck by the sheer poetry of its ending. I was, at least. If you’re up for a dramedy, I highly recommend this one!

 

5). Everything Sucks! (T.V. series)

 

 

We started Everything Sucks! toward the end of the month, and we’re still working on it. This is another fine coming-of-age dramedy. Heavy topics are covered with a light touch, a strategy that works to soften the blows. Youth at high-school age can be uncomfortable and often plain awful, and Everything Sucks! doesn’t let you forget that reality. I’ve done a fair amount of cringing so far, but still, I go back for more. There are a couple of stand-out young actors here whose work, alone, makes it compelling.

 

6). Imposters (T.V. series)

 

 

I’d say that Imposters is the classic escapism vehicle on this list. It’s not especially brilliant or original, but it’s entertaining enough, just light and fun. It’s one of those where you look forward to witnessing the demise of the bad guys, even though you don’t really care that much. This might make you wonder why I’ve included it on my “Favorites” list, right?! I can’t fully remember why we kept watching Imposters on consecutive nights, sometimes more than one episode per night, but watch it all the way to the end, we did. The Bumblers’ shenanigans definitely amused us. As I’d said: escapism.

 

7). Homeland (Season 7) (T.V. series)

 

 

This (7th) season of Homeland is so intense, it’s insane. It wastes no time. It grabbed us by the throat in episode 1, and it tightens with each new episode. This seventh season is my favorite so far. How could Homeland not only get better, but completely outdo itself this late in the duration of the series? The writers, that’s how.

 

Moving on to the non-entertainment “little things!”

 

8). Beanfields Pico de Gallo Bean & Rice Chips.

 

Beanfield’s Pico de Gallo Bean & Rice chips

 

We discovered Beanfields at our neighborhood farmer’s market down the street. These chips taste as junky as you want your junk food to taste, but they offer 5g protein and 6g fiber per serving… so while they’re not exactly healthy, they do have some nutritional value. They’re vegan, of course, but you should also know that they’re gluten-free, as well; they don’t crunch in quite the same way that average chips crunch. You soon get used to this as the flavor of the chips seeps into your bloodstream where it transforms into an opioid. Kidding. Or not.

 

9). DefineMe Sofia Isabel Fragrance Mist On The Go.

 

DefineMe Sofia Isabel Fragrance Mist On The Go

 

ETA: This fragrance is vegan.

My new favorite fragrance! I found DefineMe Sofia Isabel Fragrance Mist On The Go on Ulta’s website and thought I’d try it. It’s available online, only. Since I was placing an order with the gift card Callaghan gave me for my birthday, it was actually a gift from him, and it worked out surprisingly well (it’s a risk, buying a fragrance without smelling it first). Callaghan loves this fragrance as much as I do. It’s light and crisp, not too sweet, and it develops well with my chemistry. On me, it has great lasting power and sillage, as well. I will be repurchasing this fragrance!

 

10). Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-surface Everyday Cleaner (Bluebell scent).

 

Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-surface Everyday Cleaner (Bluebell scent)

 

I don’t know what to say about this cleaning product other than it’s more pleasant to clean when I know I’m not spraying chemicals all over the place. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-surface Everyday Cleaner is “made with plant-derived ingredients, natural essential oils, and birch bark extract.” I use it on everything, including mirrors, and it works well! Its scent is pleasant, too, but not at all overpowering or even that noticeable.

 

That wraps it up! We’re stoked about March… it’s a Sumo month, for one thing.

Happy Tuesday, All!

Wrangling with B.O.B. (Garage Gym workout!)

A minor stress-related autoimmune flare has kept me out of the gym these last two days, but the garage saved me from inactivity in the meanwhile. The ironic thing is that working out is my therapy to help reduce stress, but if stress gets to me anyway, I’m sometimes unable to do my normal workouts! I know that those of you with autoimmunity issues know exactly what I’m talking about.

In the garage yesterday late afternoon, I wanted to challenge myself in ways that wouldn’t aggravate my right shoulder. I set B.O.B. to a greater height than usual, thinking I’d try to work with the height differential.

A sampling of screen shots from my workout with a 6-foot, 290 lb. dummy:

 

1). I started with a jump-rope cardio blast to get warm, jumping rope in 3-minute rounds to music from Disturbed’s The Sickness album.

 

Cardio: jumping rope

 

As usual, there’s nothing to see here, really. You can’t see the rope when it’s in motion.

 

The rope.

 

Moving on! Here’s the height differential I had before me:

 

Me vs B.O.B. (height differential)

 

I’m 5′, 4″ and 115 lbs. In this case, B.O.B. is 6′ and 290 lbs (fully filled with water)

 

Me vs B.O.B. (height differential)

 

2). I threw some kicks to see where they’d land on someone who’s six feet tall.

 

Side kick (placed and held)

 

I have short legs and I’m not flexible, so this is as high as it’d get. This is not what would happen in reality. If you’re taller than me, I’m much more likely to blow out your knee or your family jewels.

 

3). I tested my left back fist (leaving my right arm out of it). It was indeed a reach to get 6-foot B.O.B. in the face. In actuality, a person of this height would get throat-punched.

 

Back fist

 

4). I tried out some knee strikes on 6-foot B.O.B.

 

Pulling B.O.B. down for a knee strike

 

Knee strike

 

In my current condition with my right side, I can pull all day long, but pushing overhead or straight-arm lifting/extending are a problem. I did a lot of pulling in this work-out.

For these knee strikes, I jumped in to grab B.O.B. by the base of his skull, jumped back in my stance to pull him down toward me, and then came up to land a rear knee. Unfortunately, it only got to his chest. Haha. Again, in actuality in a street situation, my knee would end up lower. That’s fine. A hard knee to your solar plexus will knock the air out of you.

 

5). I found out right away that a standing rear naked choke was not going to happen on 6-foot B.O.B., so I just grappled him as best as I could, really testing my strength more than anything. In real life, I’d have to get him to the ground in order to choke him.

 

Using B.O.B.’s base to step up and get my arm around his throat

 

Even stepping up, I couldn’t twist my arm around to get a proper grip, so I just did this. (My right shoulder was fine with this.)

 

Pulling him back by the throat from the other side (sorry we went out of frame)

 

This kind of wrangling with B.O.B. made for a pretty good strength-training, pulling workout (so back and biceps, I guess).

I did a little more in the way of conditioning exercises…

 

6). Speed punches for muscle endurance:

 

Speed punches

 

Again, you can’t really see anything, but there was some speed happening in these rounds of speed punches. The goal is to stand close and hit fast, not hard. This is like sprinting in place with your upper body.

 

7). Jumping-in planks:

 

Plank

 

I kept a little bend in my elbows to avoid stressing my right shoulder.

 

Jumping in (then back out, repeat)

 

(I suppose all of this counts as knuckle-conditioning, too, since I’m always on my knuckles.)

 

8). For abs, I just did some crunches.

 

Lying on the floor (doing crunches), ha

 

9). I finished up with some stretching.

 

A few stretches at the end

 

I forgot to take a post-workout selfie, so here’s a screen-shot of one of the times I turned to face the phone:

 

(you get the idea)

 

That was it! This was a fun garage gym session. I got to sweat a little, and the whole thing was pretty instructive, too. I’m not done working with B.O.B. set to this height.

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.

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!

Writing and writing space updates! (REVISED office tour.)

Writing updates, in brief: I’ve been working through my second draft, mostly polishing, but also doing more extensive re-writing where I see the need. I’m loving this part. There’s nothing like a good chunk of time to clear your vision. 18 months later, I can really see this manuscript, and I’m going to town with it, just having fun. It’s exciting.

Office updates: I’ve got a bunch of pics to share for those of you with a penchant for seeing other people’s spaces. I get you. I’m one of you.

Main changes I made to my office since “office tour May 2017”: I snagged my old desk from its spot in the guest bedroom, added two small console/bookcase things to fit in the corner behind the desk, and acquired three more houseplants.

I loved sitting on the floor at my old German trunk, but the anti-ergonomic nature of that set-up became apparent. It was a matter of time, I suppose. I enjoyed it while I could! The books came up off the floor at the same time that I did (enter the small console/bookshelf things behind the desk). In the process of minimalizing, I removed the wall clock and the Luche Libre poster, and the only thing left hanging behind the door is my pair of boxing gloves (covered in dust, since I never use them).

About the houseplants: I’m up to five. I haven’t decided whether this counts as a minimalism fail. Does it? It doesn’t feel like it does. It feels like the energy within my ring of plants encourages my creativity. I would like to add one or two more, in fact.

Here’s the view from my window:

 

view to the front yard

 

…and here’s the interior:

 

looking in from the doorway

 

I keep the room neutral and plain. Only the plants add color.

 

where I write (same as before, except at an actual desk)

 

Nenette often naps on the futon. I can easily see her when I look up from my screen.

 

view from the desk, left of center – Nenette on the futon

 

Here’s a better pic of Nenette:

 

Nenette napping on the futon

 

To the right of the futon:

 

3 plants (Holder, Icarus, Barclay)

 

Behind my desk, right side:

 

another plant (Linden)

 

Behind my desk, left side:

 

another plant (Jerome)

 

Back of the door:

 

boxing gloves I love, but never use

 

That’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed this. I love peeking into other people’s offices, so this was fun to do.

 

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.

My everyday make-up + Minimalism update blurb!

Today I’ve got make-up, for those of you who are into it: ladies, gentlemen, and anyone else who enjoys wearing make-up and/or knowing what other people put on their faces.

We can thank Callaghan for this. I took a mirror selfie the other day and set it as my FB profile pic, and he promptly cropped a close-up of my face and posted it while talking about my skin. I can’t take all the credit, though: lighting and make-up had a lot to do with how the pic came out. I’m going to explain the make-up part. It’s my “everyday” make-up routine, though I go bared-faced half the time.

However, I did take the selfie for this blog post in the first place, the reason being that this was going to be a minimalism update. I wanted to confess to my latest t-shirt replacement acquisition. The selfie was a FAIL for that purpose (because I still suck at taking mirror selfies), so here’s just the shirt:

 

The shirt that got me THIS time.

 

Right? “COFFEE” in a Metallica-inspired style… are you kidding me?! I got rid of my Metallica shirt because I liked this one better. Who needs a Metallica shirt when you can have one with COFFEE looking like Metallica? It was too awesome to pass up. [*shakes fist at Target*]

I should just stop looking at the damn t-shirts at Target. There should be a sign: THE GRAPES ARE ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE STORE KEEP WALKING

Back to the make-up I’m wearing in the pic:

 

(“everyday make-up” – click to enlarge)

 

The products:

 

Current everyday make-up

 

The routine, in order: Physician’s Formula Super BB cream (“light” – applied with a dampened make-up sponge from the package in the upper-right corner of the pic) (A), then Urban Decay eyeshadow primer potion (original) (B), then e.l.f. eyebrow powder (“dark”) (C), then, from Urban Decay’s original Naked palette, eyeshadow (“naked”) (D), then eyeshadow (“sin”) in the inner corners of my eyes (E), then Urban Decay Perversion liquid eyeliner on my upper lids (black waterproof fine-point eye pen) (F), then black Urban Decay Perversion mascara (G), then Urban Decay 24/7 glide-on eye pencil (“zero”) under my lower lids (H), then Nars* Radiant Creamy concealer (“light”) under my eyes (I), then Urban Decay Naked Skin concealer (“light neutral”) down my nose and around my nostrils (J), then NYX Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator (“sunbeam”) on my cheekbones and tip of my nose (K), then Pacifica Natural Minerals Devocean lipstick (“natural mystic”) (L), then Pacifica Bali Coconut lip balm (M). I remove most of the lipstick, then put lip balm over the stain that’s left.

*Sadly, Nars has been recently removed from Cruelty-Free Kitty’s cruelty-free brands list (“soon to be sold in China”), so I’m looking for a replacement product for that concealer.

 

The lighting: there’s a frosted window up near the ceiling behind me through which the late-afternoon light shone and reflected off the mirror in front of me, and the light tan walls around me in the very small, enclosed space (our master bath) turned the light golden, which turned me golden.** The fluke convergence of lighting and angels worked with the cream highlighter on my face, which resulted in this airbrushed look. I believe that’s what happened, anyway.

(I was just concerned with trying to get the shirt. The phone dominates the picture, covering part of the word COFFEE that’s backwards, anyway, because duh, mirror. Haha.)

**I don’t self-tan, and I’m not wearing bronzer, contour, powder, or anything like that in this pic… or ever, for that matter. With the exception of eye make-up, I don’t put powder products on my face anymore.

The End.

P.S. Let’s see if I can get through the next two weeks without replacing a t-shirt with another t-shirt.

 

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!

Remember this little girl? (Kitty updates!)

Kitty update fans… I’ve owed you this post for a long time. Nenette updates have been few and far between. Not only that, but the last one was pretty lame, as it was text-heavy and it featured only one pic of Nenette. I know you’re here for the pics!

The thing is, I’m always trying to take pics of her, but she dislikes having her picture taken. She knows when I’m doing it. She’s the Houdini of photography: she’s good at escaping. More often than not, I wind up with a blur of whiskers and butt-hole.

I don’t give up, though. I’ve been continuing my efforts, and now I’ve got a handful of pics to show for it. These range from the first week of September to yesterday. Oh… I should say that I’ve posted a couple of good pics of her on my Instagram in the last few months. Those pics aren’t included here. My insta account is thatasianlookingchick, if you’re interested (it’s in the sidebar).

Without further ado, enjoy some pics of Nenette!

 

She loves to lay down next to me while I’m writing. Here she it trying to get my attention:

 

Nenette’s favorite kitty bed is this backpack that I mistakenly thought was mine.

 

She still leads us to her toy box and digs into it, searching for the toys she wants.

 

Nenette in her toy corner

 

Nenette doesn’t hang out on the bed, but she’s been joining me more when I settle there with my laptop. (It’s a sleigh bed. I sit and lean against the footboard.)

 

Nenette on the prowl (new territory for her)

 

She still loves her little glasses of water all over the place. This one is a permanent fixture behind me where I write. She comes and asks for fresh water several times a day.

 

Nenette drinks as much water as I do.

 

Nenette up in her crow’s nest at my office window… one of her favorite places.

 

Nenette in the late summer

 

I picked up two new plants for my office, so Nenette had to inspect. By the way, my office looks slightly different since I last posted pics of it. I might do an updated office tour post, if you’d be interested in seeing that.

 

Nenette with Linden, one of my new plants.

 

Nenette’s always loved to hide behind the books in the living room. Now she can do it in my office, too, since I’ve acquired some shelves.

 

Easter egg Nenette

 

That’ll do it for this post! Everything is good with Nenette. I’ll keep trying to get pics of her so I can do these posts more often.

 

What I ate on Monday. (Full day of eating!)

To those of you who’ve asked to see this: here’s a full day of eating. (And to anyone else who’s interested, of course.)

May I just say that it was strange spending the whole day stalking my own food with a camera?

I chose Monday so I could track a rest day (no gym).

First:

  • Yes, I normally eat five to six times throughout the day.
  • After dinner, I don’t eat again until later the next morning (unless I’m going to the gym). I like a good fast before I start my day of noshing.
  • I love food and only eat what I enjoy.
  • Other than two cups of coffee in the morning, I only drink water.
  • I’ve cut down on processed foods, but I do eat more of it on the weekends. Even then, I try to keep it minimal and nutrient-valuable to some degree. I avoid deep-fried foods, sugary foods, and empty-calorie foods.

Before I get into the dirty details, I should add that:

  • I take meds and supplements, but the only one I’m mentioning here is my thyroid medication, because that explains why I wait 30 minutes before having coffee in the morning.
  • I drink water all day long, so I didn’t bother to include it in these pics.

Onward, then!

 

Monday, October 9, 2017

5:30am: Alarm. Get up. Take thyroid medication (for Hashimoto’s/autoimmune hypothyroidism) with a full glass of room-temperature water.

(Wait 30 minutes because of the thyroid med.)

6:00am: Coffee (Sumatra is my favorite!) with plain, unsweetened soy milk and a teaspoon of organic coconut palm sugar. (x2 – I have two cups of coffee)

9:30am: Two slices of Dave’s organic thin-sliced 21 whole grains and seeds bread, toasted and topped with creamy natural peanut butter (lots of it!), banana slices, organic hulled hemp seeds, cinnamon, and a light drizzle of organic light agave nectar. Raspberries on the side.

 

Toast with natural peanut butter, banana slices, organic hulled hemp seeds, cinnamon, and organic light agave nectar. Raspberries on the side.

 

1:10pm: Whole wheat pasta with olive oil, fresh sauteed garlic, sea salt, a sprinkle of organic hulled hemp seeds, and a lot of nutritional yeast, aka nooch. (Maybe too much nooch. My blood tests always show that my vitamin B12 is “borderline too high.” B vitamins are fat-soluble, so there’s such a thing as “too high.”) Broccoli on the side. An orange.

With pasta, I like veggies on the side. I’m not the biggest fan of veggies in my pasta.

 

(plus olive oil and sea salt)

 

Whole wheat pasta with olive oil, fresh sauteed garlic, sea salt, a sprinkle of organic hulled hemp seeds, and a lot of nutritional yeast. Broccoli on the side. An orange.

 

After lunch: A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar stirred into a tall glass of cold water.

I’m inexplicably hooked on this. I drink it twice a day, every day, after lunch and again after dinner. It’s weird because I don’t necessarily like the way it tastes, but I love it and look forward to it. It makes no sense. I’ve been drinking it for a year now.

 

Glass of water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

 

3:25pm: A pear.

I have fruit four or five times a day. Since I quit eating sugary sweets about a year ago, fresh fruit has become an ecstatic experience… especially the fruit I eat in the afternoon. Somehow, that one piece of fruit in the afternoon makes my whole body feel energized and alive. It’s amazing.

 

Bartlett pear

 

5:15pm: A bowl of mixed nuts and sunflower seeds (somewhere around 3/4 cup).

I also eat nuts and seeds every day. Sometimes I throw raisins in there, too, but raisins are sweet, and let’s face it… nuts and seeds are wonderful vehicles for salt. They’re also wonderful carriers of trace minerals that we need in our bodies, not to mention other nutrients, a little protein, and a lot of healthy fats.

Examples of trace minerals: magnesium, zinc, selenium, iodine, chromium, iron, copper, etc.

(I’ll never say “no” to raw and/or unsalted nuts and seeds either, though. I do like them. It’s just that salt is my one vice.)

Walnuts! I prefer unsalted walnuts. Anyway…

 

Mixed nuts and sunflower seeds (roasted and salted)

 

8:00pm: We’ve been eating large salads for dinner four to five times per week, and cooked meals for dinner on the remaining nights. On Monday, I made our salad with red leaf lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, thinly-sliced mushrooms, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, sea salt, and cracked black pepper.

I love red wine vinegar on salads, but my favorite thing these days is just to press some fresh lemon juice over the salad already drizzled with olive oil. With lemon juice, I can really taste and appreciate the flavors of the lettuces and greens.

I didn’t get a pic of the finished salad, but here’s the main ingredient:

 

Red leaf lettuce

 

8:30: Small bowl of blueberries.

 

Blueberries

 

After dinner: A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar stirred into a tall glass of cold water.

There you have it… a smattering example of what I eat on an average weekday rest day.

Let me know if you’re interested in seeing a full day of eating on a gym day, or a full day of eating on a weekend day when I eat more processed foods!

BOB’s first time. (Garage Gym workout!)

First garage gym workout of fall 2017!! I tried out our new Body Opponent Bag (BOB) last Friday. We acquired it just when it got too hot for the garage this year, so I’m glad the long delay is over.

Here’s what I found out about BOB: he’s taller than I remember him to be.

Here’s what I found out about me: I’m shorter than I remember myself to be.

Which I knew, actually. That’s right, Surly Measurement Guy. I stand corrected. (Pun not intended.) The V.A. recently confirmed that you were right: I’m 5′,4″ now.

[For reference, I’m 5′,4″/114.2 lbs – weight as of yesterday]

At his shortest setting, BOB’s got a couple of inches on me. I experimented with the height differential as well as with distance.

Punches are no big deal at his height, but because of his wide base, I’ll have to take matters into my own hands to properly train elbow strikes, as they’re mostly inside-fighting techniques. As evident in the pics below, I didn’t do well with elbow strikes just standing in front of him. I’ll modify for this in the future.

The work-out: I mostly practiced upper-body strikes. I worked in a few kicks, but I didn’t really train lower-body this time. For my cardio warm-up, I ran in place, alternating sets of high knees and those jumping toe-taps (?) (whatever they’re called) on BOB’s base.

This was a 45-minute work-out. I didn’t wear shoes because the mats had been cleaned, but my feet still turned black. Eh. Desert dust… a small price to pay for living in paradise!

 

Superman punch

 

First height observation: My superman punch puts me a couple of inches in the air, so my straight-right lands almost perfectly on BOB’s face.

 

Straight right, aka cross (orthodox)

 

Straight-right (aka cross, if you’re right-handed) from standing.

 

Punch to body

 

Going for a punch to the body. Self-critique: I’d drop my stance a little lower to get my head out of the way. Most people like to hit back when you hit them. If BOB could trade punches, he’d clock me pretty easily in this position.

 

(between rounds)

 

See how I’m kind of knock-knee’d? This is why my lunges suck. I’m always trying to modify the position of my feet in order to get my form right and maximize the benefit of the exercise, but I still have a hard time with range of motion in lunges.

 

Spin punch chamber

 

I practiced some spin-strike techniques; this practice makes for a great exercise in judging distance. Here, it looks like I’m taller than BOB. Optical illusion.

 

Up elbow

 

This is ridiculous. I landed these upward elbow strikes, but you can see that I’m open to all kinds of pay-back shenanegans. BOB’s wide base keeps you from getting inside where elbows are the most useful. I’ll find a way to correct for this.

 

Back elbow chamber

 

This is slightly better; with a back elbow, it’s easier to jump in to close the distance. Back elbows are useful when you want to get out of a close situation you’re losing, though. Like when people elbow others out of the way to get through a tight crowd.

 

Standing stretch

 

I used BOB as a stretching apparatus. I stretched on the floor, too.

 

Stretching (and selfie)

 

Multi-tasking: stretching and mugging for the post-workout selfie.

 

Walking back

 

The walking-back pic. I’m still doing them, I guess!

A word about food: I used to include a post-workout food pic at the end of these posts, and once again, I forgot. There will be lots in the way of food pics this Friday, though, as I’m going to do a food-centric post.

 

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!

Cycling back around. (June Favorites!)

I’m going to let the pics do most of the talking here, but I do have some blurbs to go with them (some more blurby than others). It goes without saying that I recommend everything on this list! (The foods are vegan and the products are cruelty-free, as usual.)

Getting on into it: some of my favorite little things from June!

 

1). Wonder Woman (film)

 

 

I already dedicated an entire post to this superhero movie, so rather than repeat myself here, I’ll just direct you to that post: If you’re interested, click here to read my thoughts. (The link will open the page in a new tab; whatever glitch was causing my links to open in the same tabs has been fixed.)

Suffice it to say that we highly enjoyed this film.

 

2). Okja (film)

 

 

Joon-ho Bong’s stunning feat of cinematic wizardry brings to life the story he wrote about the plight of an engineered animal and the girl who loves her. While love, loss, loyalty, and identity comprise some of the story’s themes, desperation is the dominant mood… in every character, at every level. Okja is a study in ethics, a socioeconomic commentary set in a fantastical world that’s yet real enough to be imaginable.

 

3). black-ish (T.V. series)

 

 

The comedy series black-ish is thought-provoking comedy gold; once we were able to access it again, we were thrilled to be able to pick up where we left off. We’re nearing the end of season 3, and we’re still laughing! For us, black-ish’s brilliant writing and the performances of its actors amount to unparalleled hilarity in television.

 

4). Tofurky hickory-smoked deli slices.

 

Tofurky Deli Slices Hickory-Smoked

 

As far as food is concerned, it’s more fun to talk about the processed stuff, so here we are again!

Tofurky’s deli slices, now. I’ve enjoyed all of Tofurky’s deli slice varieties for years, but in June, I cycled back around to the hickory-smoked flavor. I’m still going strong. I love the peppered flavor, as well. Tofurky does a good job with these slices!

 

5). Van’s Power Grains waffles.

 

Van’s Power Grains waffles

 

Actually, since I do cycle through foods, I probably post repeats in these “favorites” lists more often than I think. I know for a fact that I included these waffles on a favorites list from last summer. Van’s Power Grains waffles are delicious and satisfying, firstly, and secondly, they give you 10 grams of protein per serving (2). They prepare themselves in the toaster oven. What else could I want in a waffle?

 

6). Dave’s organic thin-sliced 21 wholes grains and seeds bread.

 

Dave’s thin-sliced 21 whole grains and seeds bread

 

As a breadaholic, it’s my inclination to try new breads all the time. We’ve been fans of Dave’s breads for several years now, so we weren’t surprised to find that we love this thin-sliced version, too. For one thing, the smaller slices perfectly accommodate the deli slices and the sliced Daiya cheezes we eat. Comparatively, the larger breads seem awkward.

 

7). La Costeña jalapeños.

 

Costena jalapeno peppers

 

I’ve also cycled back into a jalapeño pepper kick. (Haha! Kick! Get it?) I’ve been eating these peppers with sandwiches instead of dill pickles… savory sandwiches, that is. Personally, I wouldn’t eat these alongside peanut butter and jelly.

 

8). Maitake Mushroom (supplement; Solaray).

 

Maitake mushroom supplement

 

I’ve updated my daily supplement regimen with the addition of ‘shrooms: Maitake Mushroom (Solaray). Each capsule is a triple-mushroom threat with 600 mg maitake mushroom, 180 mg shitake mushroom, and 180 mg reishi mushroom. The reported health benefits of these mushrooms are numerous; click the links to read about them. (Again, the links will open the pages in new tabs.)

 

9). OGX Orchid Oil shampoo, conditioner, and color-protect oil.

 

OGX Orchid Oil shampoo & conditioner and oil

 

I finally ran out of my OGX Vitamin E shampoo and condition and went to repurchase them, but when I got to the shelf, I found OGX’ Orchid Oil shampoo and conditioner, which I didn’t recall seeing before. Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve gone looking for hair care products.

It seems that this line isn’t just safe for color-treated hair, but it was formulated specifically for it. I’ve been putting dark brown color in my dark brown hair that’s naturally – but not uniformly – reddish. When the color fades, some parts look artificially red, even though the reddish color is real. I also have a silver hair here and there, and it’s a mystery why my hair comes out blondish in some pics. Mixed chick hair identity issues!

I went for the Orchid Oil line, and I’m digging it so far. I haven’t refreshed the color in my hair in quite a while, so when I finally do, I’ll really be able to see whether these products extend the color’s longevity. I got the oil to mist on as a detangler, too. OGX claims that all of these products provide broad-spectrum sun protection, which, if true and truly effective, would be a great bonus.

 

10). New prescription sunglasses.

 

Selecting frames for sunglasses (Instagram 05/30/2017)

 

I Instagram’d this pic when I was trying on frames at my optometrist’s office. These sunglasses are nothing short of life-changing. They arrived a week or so into June, and I still can’t get over how great it is to be able to see everywhere at every distance while wearing sunglasses! My old ones were single-lens, the prescription was wrong, the frames didn’t fit correctly, and one of the lenses kept popping out.

 

That does it for June. I’ve already got a list going for July!

Another month has passed. (Writing updates!)

Is this going to be a regular thing, this monthly writing update posting? It’s been a month since the last time I sat here to write out loud to you my big-project progress.

Progress has been even slower than usual this last month. I’d say about an eighth of each writing session goes to research, which is par for the course, but it makes the writing seem slower, yet.

I tend to dream whatever I’m writing about at the moment; ergo, I’ve had some nightmares in the last few weeks.

It’s still strange to me that work can be so grueling and satisfying at the same time. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, no. I’m everlastingly grateful that I can do what I’m doing – what I love – and it’s worth the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears.

As far as word-count, I’ve altered my goal yet again. Surprise! Last time, I’d decided on 80,000 words. As of now, a target count of 70,000 makes more sense. This puts me at approximately 75% done, and I think that sounds accurate.

That’s right… this is my first novel, and I really have no idea what I’m doing. I never took a fiction class. Maybe I should have. Maybe it’s better that I didn’t. I don’t know.

I’m not going to concern myself further about whether this work is a novel or a novella in terms of word-count. This thing will probably end up being considered as a novel, regardless.

Thank you all once again for sticking with me throughout this process! Thank you for bearing with me as I present these reports. I know that they make for dry reading, but as I may have mentioned, writing them allows me to hold myself accountable while considering the situation in a big-picture frame.

Speaking of frames, Callaghan came in to hang out with me while I was working yesterday (I’d set myself a big deadline for late afternoon, and at some point, I realized the time and had to crank  it up), and while he was in here, he took my phone and walked around me taking pics while we chatted. I was at the point in my chapter where I could afford to talk while working… and he was at the point in his day, apparently, where he wanted to take pics and talk.

The lighting was poor (late afternoon daylight + the lamp sitting here next to me), and I wasn’t sitting still, so the pics are a little blurry. In fact, I didn’t even know he was stalking me when some of these pics were taken.

Beyond that, though, I do believe that the camera in my phone is heading for life support. Of late: my hair is dark, and it comes out light. There’s black lettering on a sticker, and the sticker comes out solid white. The sky is blue, and it also comes out solid white.

I’ve given up on trying to color-correct anything. Here, I just stuffed the pics into frames to wrap them up in neat little packages. (There.. that was my point when I said “speaking of frames.”) Does this mitigate the camera’s declining health? I may start doing this with all of my pics from here on out.

Yours truly, working and talking:

 

I don’t even remember what we were talking about here. (06/29/2017)

 

Writing update. (06/29/2017)

 

With that, I wish you all a happy weekend!

Every day is Bring Your Fur-child to Work Day. (Nenette update!)

Kitty update lovers, today is your lucky day on TALC, for I have a Nenette update post… only a month since my last one! Shocking!

Being that I’m in my office all day, all of these pics were taken here.

Nenette has developed new habits and games for this new, revised office.

For instance:

 

She spies on me from behind the plants.

 

Behind HER plants.

 

She gazes at the Buddha (like mother, like daughter).

 

With the Buddha.

 

She instigates play by chewing the tassels on the bag I keep right next to me. She knows, see, that I don’t want her to chew those tassels… by chewing on them, I’m compelled to grab her toy – the black string behind her – to distract her away from the tassels. (Yes, I’m easily trainable by her. I’m only partially susceptible to her tricks. Truth be told, I could refuse to participate if I wanted to!)

 

Chewing on tassels that aren’t toys (aka playing)

 

Now that I’m not sitting at a table with room on it for her, she drinks her water beneath the small bench behind me. This little “cage” has become her new watering hole, and here, she’s upped her water game, taking it to a whole new level: she comes to ask me for water, I get up and get it, bringing my own refilled glass while I’m at it… and then when I get back, I set her water glass down, hold mine out to her for a toast – “chin!” – and we both drink our water.

Callaghan could not hide his amazement the first time he witnessed us performing this ritual.

 

Nenette with her drinking habit

 

(I don’t know why/how that black bar filled up the bottom part of the pic, by the way.)

 

She naps on the futon.

 

Nenette crashing on the futon

 

She lolls around with her tongue sticking out.

 

Nenette revealing her silly side up in her crow’s nest (looking a bit washed out by the bright sun behind her)

 

And there’s our Nenette update for June! I’m not making any promises, but we’ll try for another one in July.

All-day anniversary date! (Firing range + samurai armor.)

Wednesday was our wedding anniversary. The sub-title of this post could be: “We’ve been married for 6 years and to celebrate we went out and Did Non-Everyday-Things.” Callaghan took the day off so we could spend it together.

The first exciting thing that happened was the doorbell rang and a minute later Callaghan called out, “It’s a package for you!” as he came into the bedroom where I was getting dressed, and he dropped the package onto the bed and walked out, leaving me to think, “He got me something for our anniversary??” (We’d agreed no cards, no gifts.) So I opened it and found a Black + Decker 16v cordless hand-vac, which I’d been wanting for the longest time, and which I grabbed while running to the other end of the house all like, “Baby!! THANK YOU SO MUCH for the hand vac!! Best surprise anniversary gift ever!!!!!” as I jumped into his arms, to which he replied, “I didn’t order you that.”

Long story short, we found out that my parents ordered it for us for our anniversary, knowing that I had my eye on it. It’s been one of those things that I wanted, but never wanted to spend money on.

Anyway, still. Best anniversary gift ever! Best parents ever! The hand-vac has already changed my life.

The reason we didn’t exchange cards or gifts was that we had an expensive plan for the morning: going to our favorite firing range to rent weapons and practice shooting. Even with Groupon, the whole thing cost us $140.00, and that was only for 40 minutes of shooting. Seriously, how do people afford to do this on a regular basis?! I suppose, for one thing, they own their own firearms. We never will, so we rent them when we want to shoot. Firearm rental is expensive. Ammo at the range is expensive (unlike at Walmart). Hence, the firing range is a special-occasion date activity.

In the afternoon, we went to the Phoenix Art Museum for our second date activity: the “Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection” exhibition. We’d known that the collection was there, thanks to some of you! We remembered it while finishing up the first season of Fargo not long ago, when we had this conversational exchange:

Me: Oh, look. Good old Lester married a submissive Asian wife.

Callaghan: I thought that was what I got when I got married.

Me: Ha! So what did you get? The English Rose?

Callaghan: No. I got the Samurai.

Then he quickly added, “And it’s perfect!”

And this, my friends, is one thing I appreciate about Callaghan so much. Seven years together, six years married, and the guy is still making me laugh. I have no complaints.

Such as it was that we went to the Phoenix Art Museum to see the Samurai exhibition.

 

“Cultivated Warriors” – (Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection)

 

 

If you can get to the Phoenix Art Museum before July 16, I highly recommend that you go check out this exhibition! It is spectacular.

The first thing you see when you enter the gallery is a large statue of the Buddha. The sight of the Sakyamuni Buddha entrances me instantaneously, so I had to linger a few minutes before going in… and, of course, take a selfie with the Buddha.

 

With the Sakyamuni Buddha at the Samurai Armor exhibition, Phoenix Art Museum 2017

 

Worth mentioning right now: the strategic play of lighting and shadow fluctuates throughout the gallery, and you’ll see this variation in these pics. Here at the entrance, it’s extremely bright. That white square on the top left of my shirt? That’s a sticker that reads “Samurai” in black letters. The light was so bright, it washed out the lettering completely! (I didn’t even try to bring out the lettering with filters or anything like that; I left these pics as-is.)

You can see the lettering here, though, with just a slight change in distance and angle:

 

Me, Callaghan, the Buddha. Not in that order.

 

Let me tell you, it took a lot of finagling with the phone camera position to get the three of us into this shot!

The reason the Buddha invites visitors into the samurai gallery is that Buddhism and its philosophies and motifs informed the design of the warriors’ armor and weaponry to a great degree; the religion was a part of samurai culture. “Buddhism was widely adopted by most samurai,” says one of the plaques inside the gallery.

Despite this fact and the fact that Buddhist warrior monks developed a deadly martial arts system that engendered all of the martial arts schools in East Asia (many of which are prevalent in the public eye today, as they’re included in an MMA artist’s arsenal), there’s still this myth that all Buddhists are strict pacifists, and that pacifism defines Buddhism. This may be due, in part, to Buddhism having become widely New-Age-ified in the hands of western seekers.

The myth may also come from the fact that Buddhists are not a war-mongering people, in general. There is a difference between being a warrior and being a war-mongerer. Being Buddhist and being a warrior are not mutually exclusive.

And so the Buddha welcomes you into the samurai warrior gallery. The exhibition consists mostly of armor, but you’ll also find weaponry and other objects particular to samurai culture. Truly, everything in this gallery is an exquisite work of art.

[click to enlarge if you wish to read the plaque]

 

Helmet

 

Like this one, many of the helmets and masks were adorned with Buddhist symbols. One plaque explains: “The adornments are influenced by the philosophy of Buddhism, a religion that greatly inspired Japanese warriors.”

Another plaque says of its subject: “The shape of the helmet is reminiscent of the cloth headdress (tokin) worn by Buddhist ascetics and warrior monks (yamabushi) who lived in remote mountain areas.”

Here are a few more pics, to give you more of a taste of the exhibition:

 

War drum

 

Family portrait, haha!

 

Did you know that samurai warriors battled with firearms as well as with bladed weapons and bows and arrows? I didn’t.

 

On samurai weaponry

 

Another plaque explains: “Though archery eventually gave way to the use of firearms in combat, the bow continued to be venerated, and archery remained a martial art that every samurai was expected to master.”

And another: “Shogun Takugawa Leyasu described the sword as the soul of the samurai.”

The exhibition includes chest plates with bullet marks and traces of sword-slashes. (Impressively, the bullets did not pierce the armor.) I didn’t take pics of those, though, for some reason. I did get some of the mounted warriors:

 

Mounted samurai

 

Even their horses sometimes wore elaborate masks!

 

I wouldn’t want to meet this guy coming out of the fog.

 

WHY SO SERIOUS? ~Of course I had to get a selfie with a samurai warrior lurking in the background.

 

Remember: this gorgeous and awe-inspiring exhibition will remain at the Phoenix Art Museum until July 16!

Happy Friday, All.

Fight or flight? How about both. (Garage Gym workout!)

On Sunday night, Callaghan commented that it’d been a while since I’d posted a garage gym workout. I checked my planner (in which I track pretty much everything I do). Indeed, it’d been two months since I last documented a garage gym workout.

I did this plyometrics-based martial arts workout in my garage yesterday morning, before it got hot. I did it early, so of course, 10 hours later, the after-effects were setting in; I opted to let my body rest instead of putting it through my normal Monday night kickboxing class at the gym. Not great planning on my part, but I had no regrets!

This morning, I’m mostly feeling the workout in my core, especially in my obliques (side torso part of the core). I feel my legs secondarily. This makes sense, considering my current level of fitness and the techniques I practiced. And it’s good. Something better be sore after a 1.5 hour workout!

As per usual, I didn’t record all the segments of the workout. My warm-up included jump-roping, alternating between regular skips and double-time high knees. I also did some dynamic stretches across the floor (walking knee raises and front stretch kicks). For the main workout, I stuck with basic techniques… nothing fancy (i.e. no spinning moves).

I’ll say it again: I value these recordings because they show me where my form is off. In this workout, I found more need for improvement than usual. For what it’s worth, though, I’m here with the customary pics for those of you who enjoy these peeks into our home workouts! The pics come with my usual disclaimer: I’m not a trainer, and I don’t post the pics with the idea that they demonstrate perfection. They most certainly do not.

Callaghan’s been working out in the garage, too, by the way. Maybe one day he’ll let me post pics of his workouts!

Getting right into it, then…

1). Jump tucks.

 

Jump tucks

 

Since the theme of this workout was plyometrics, aka jumping, I went through some moves like this one.

Jump tucks are done from a stationary position. You squat and jump straight up while tucking your knees and feet up to your body at the top of the jump.

 

2). I have no idea what this move is called. It’s a good core/plyo exercise where you sit back on your knees and then spring up to your feet without using your hands for support. This is not easy, and I definitely need to keep at them.

 

Floor to feet jumps

 

3). Flying knee strike.

 

technique: flying knee

 

I had nothing to actually strike here, so I practiced the technique on an imaginary target.

 

4). Flying punch (“superman punch”).

 

technique: flying punch (“superman”)

 

5). Flying down elbow strike.

 

technique: flying down elbow

 

In case it’s hard to see: it’s my left elbow striking the dummy. My right arm is chambered back for a follow-up, but I’m not sure that this is practical in terms of preparing for a counter-strike. It’s probably not. This is something to keep in mind for next time.

 

6). Jumping front snap kick.

 

technique: jumping front snap kick (land)

 

With this kick and the next, the biggest problem I see is… everything! No, really, I’d have to say that I need to work on gauging my distance, first and foremost. Since I needed the bag to be in the camera frame, I had limited space for running to gain momentum, a fact that in itself provides a valuable training opportunity: in a real-life situation, you can’t control the parameters of your environment. Granted, in real life, I wouldn’t execute this move with limited space. That being said, being able to adjust and control distance is yet a skill I’m working to hone.

 

7). Jumping side kick.

 

technique: jumping side kick

 

Now in this pic, my problem with distance is very clear!

 

8). Post work-out selfie.

 

flying techniques practice DONE

 

A few times in this series of posts, I also posted what I ate following the workouts, and of course there were the silly “walking back” pics. I’m leaving it at this for now.

And that was that! The workout didn’t seem as long as it was… I wasn’t overly affected by the increasing heat of the morning. I kept well-hydrated throughout (always important to do, regardless), and I had the garage door and the back door open for whatever cross-breeze could be had. We’re still researching A/C options for the garage!

The end.

Heading into summer. (May Favorites!)

It’s a fine day for that customary list of my favorite Little Things from the month that just ended. It’s a fine day for some fluff: entertainment, edibles, and stuff to put on your face.

The month of May brought our late-to-the-party discovery of a dark crime dramedy series, the return of a favorite Netflix comedy series, and a book filled with short stories revolving around my favorite fictional character. It brought frozen veggies and yet another protein bar discovery. Also, I’ve got a slew of rave-worthy skincare products – more than usual, in fact. I don’t know what happened in May, but here we are with all kinds of goodness from The Body Shop and Yes to. If skincare products don’t figure in your life, feel free to pass this along to someone you know who may be interested!

In one word, the theme of this list is “refreshing.”

Starting with entertainment, as usual…

 

1). Master of None (T.V. series)

 

 

After 2015’s debut of this fresh, intelligent, and hilarious series, we waited (im)patiently while Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang went back to work. Season 2 of Master of None was well worth the wait! It proves again that a comedy television series can be an exquisite work of art. This is storytelling made rich with subtleties… nuance and mood, humor and wit. Throughout the season, vignette after vignette, a larger story unfolds, and yet that larger story itself is nothing more dramatic than a slice of life. That is the brilliance of Master of None. An artist first and foremost, Aziz Ansari brings life to life.

 

2). Fargo (T.V. series)

 

 

We love dark comedy, thriller-mysteries, and crime drama. We’re huge fans of the Coen brothers. So it doesn’t matter that we’re (inexplicably) three years late getting to Fargo, the T.V. adaptation of the titular film. Season 1 takes off on the shoulders of strong character development, plowing through a series of increasingly outrageous events after Billy Bob Thornton ever so gently nudges that first domino.

Evidence of the Coen brothers’ involvement abounds. Billy Bob Thornton is terrifying. The music is awesome and actually supplies a lot of the humor in the dark-humor equation. We couldn’t ask for anything more, really.

 

3). No Middle Name (collection of Jack Reacher short stories by Lee Child).

 

 

After devouring all of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, I’m finally reading all of his Reacher short stories, and very happily so. The first two installments in this newly released collection had me a little worried, I’ll admit, but my enjoyment’s increased with each story. I’m just past halfway through the collection, so I can’t comment on it as a whole, but I can say that seven stories in, I’m having a blast!

Jack Reacher is my favorite fictional brain candy, and in terms of reading, brain candy is what I need right now. Thank you, Lee Child… and thanks to my friend Bob, who alerted me to the collection’s impending release.

Heading into food…

 

4). 22 Days Plant Power protein bar in salted caramel.

 

22 Days Plant Power protein bar in salted caramel

 

We knew this would happen sooner or later. I’m back with another protein bar.

This one threw me off at first, mostly with its unexpected texture… but it wasn’t bad. The texture, I eventually realized, reminds me of caramel candy, which is appropriate for a “salted caramel” flavored bar. My enjoyment of this bar increased when I stopped thinking of it as a bar and started thinking of it as a chewy caramel treat. It grew on me.

Also, consider the macros in each of these organic and plant-based bars: 15g protein, 9g fiber, and only 4g sugar (20g carbs in all) and 150 calories per bar. At this point I’ve gotten very good at limiting my consumption of processed foods, so I don’t eat protein bars every day anymore… but when I do, I feel pretty good about reaching for this one.

 

5). Trader Joe’s Soycutash.

 

Trader Joe’s Soycutash

 

I’ve never been a fan of succotash because I never learned to enjoy lima beans. I’ve tried. I can’t. (Add lima beans to my list of permanent food aversions.) So when I stumbled upon Trader Joe’s version of it, I had to try it.

TJ’s “soycutash” contains three ingredients: edemame (replacing lima beans), sweet corn, and red peppers. It is delicious. I prepare it in the microwave and then eat it cold as a refreshing and satisfying side or snack. Fun fact: I grew up snacking on fresh, cold boiled soybeans, but I never knew they were called “edemame” until they became popular in western cuisine!

Getting into the skincare products…

 

6). Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Facial Soufflé Moisturizer.

 

Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Facial Souffle Moisturizer

 

How do I begin to describe this product?

I know I included a moisturizer in a recent “monthly favorites” post. The problem with doing a monthly favorites post is that you try a moisturizer, think it’s great enough to add to the list… and then the next month, you try a different moisturizer, only to discover that it’s your Holy Grail of moisturizers.

This one from Yes to Coconut is thick and very rich, but it melts into my skin and leaves it soft and dewy without a trace of greasiness. Its coconut scent is subtle and not at all overpowering. I love this. I love it so much that I already re-purchased it, so I’ll have it at hand when this first one’s used up.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll see another moisturizer on a monthly favorites post… at least not for a long while!

 

7). Yes to Cotton Micellar Cleansing Water and Yes to Coconut Cleansing Wipes.

 

Yes to Cotton Micellar Cleansing Water and Yes to Coconut Cleansing Wipes

 

My current favorite way to remove the makeup from my face involves these two products: I fold a Yes To Coconut makeup removing wipe into quarters, saturate it with two pumps of the Yes to Cotton micellar water, and smooth it over my skin… a refreshing treatment I’ll do even when I’m not wearing makeup.

Yes to has upped their game quite a bit!

 

8). The Body Shop Almond Milk & Honey Body Lotion, Hand Cream, and Shower Cream.

 

The Body Shop Almond Milk and Honey Body Lotion, Hand Cream and Shower Cream

 

I couldn’t stay away.

It’s safe to say that I’m enamored with The Body Shop’s entire Almond Milk & Honey line, starting a couple of months ago when I picked up the body butter. All of these lotion and cream formulas exist in TBS’s other lines, but the Almond Milk & Honey products are richer and more moisturizing than the others I’ve tried. I still love the scent. I hope TBS comes out with a body mist in the same line!

 

9). The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter.

 

The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter

 

I’ve been using The Body Shop’s camomile eye makeup remover since I discovered it well over a year ago, but when I finished up my last bottle in May, I decided to try something different from the same line.

After several tries, I figured out how to make this cleansing butter work for me: I take a little scoop onto my fingertips, massage it gently onto my eye makeup, and then (just as gently) wipe it away with one of those Yes to Coconut makeup removing wipes. I’m preferring this method to the application of the liquid eye makeup remover, which feels harsh in comparison; I’d used a cotton pad with that remover, and I always had to sort of work those rougher cotton fibers into my lash line to remove eyeliner and mascara.

I don’t use this cleansing butter on my entire face… just on my eyes. I do this first, and then I go over my face with the above-mentioned Yes to Cotton micellar water on the Yes to Coconut makeup removing wipe… this takes care of any eye makeup/remover residue, as well.

 

10). Freeman Beauty Infusion Brightening Overnight Mask.

 

Freeman Beauty Infusion Brightening Overnight Mask

 

I wouldn’t have tried this mask had I not gotten a free sample from a lady at Ulta when I went there with Mom a few weeks ago. I love this sleeping mask! Callaghan tried it at the same time I did, and he was also impressed with the appearance of his skin when he woke up.

I’m now alternating between this mask and The Body Shop’s vitamin E overnight mask (one each per week). I’m still doing TBS Honey & Oat 3-in-1 Scrub Mask one morning per week, too. They’re all wonderful.

That wraps it up for May!

La Fin.

 

New office aesthetic. (Writing-related update!)

Recent major changes to my work environment prompted a request for pics, so I’m here to oblige! I’m on version 5 – my fifth office change over the last 14 months.

I always had an office in this house, but I didn’t always use it.

When I started writing full-time, I used the desk in the guest bedroom (v1). Then I  started working in my actual office (v2). A few months later, a situation arose that required kitty management, so to accommodate that, I moved my office set-up to the dining room (v3). Callaghan eventually moved his computer work from his office to my office, also because of the kitty situation. Then the kitty situation changed again, and we had houseguests, so I moved my office set-up into Callaghan’s office (v4). He stayed in my office. That was fine for both of us, but it was also temporary. Now, almost a year later, we’re finally back in our respective offices (v5). That’s what this past weekend was about.

It was an opportune time to overhaul my office. The theme I had in mind was no theme at all, so I stripped the room. I wanted as close to nothing as possible in here, and no color or décor. My behemoth of a desk went with Callaghan to his office (the desk was working really well for him) and only kept the futon, the cat tree, and the console table (because it bolsters the cat tree). I’m using my old German trunk as a desk.

I took almost everything down from the walls; I only left the small white shelf by the cat tree. My two plants remain on the side table, because they like it there. I removed the red futon cover and replaced it with an old sheet. It’s a queen-size futon, so our sheets fit perfectly.

In short, office version 5 (haha!) is neutral, minimal, and functional. My new work environment aesthetic is a non-aesthetic.

 

office work corner

 

Yes, I now work sitting on the floor. I’m in the corner, so I have eyes on both the window and the door. I’m still burning this particular candle because I like the ambient noise of the crackling fire produced by its wooden wicks.

 

office from behind the desk

 

That’s Nenette’s string toy on the floor to the left. My laptop and keyboard don’t quite fit on the surface of my old German trunk, but it works, and it’s very comfortable… until it’s not. Then I’m forced to get up, walk around, and stretch. That’s the idea!

 

office from the doorway

 

office – closet wall

 

I use that (hanging) black tote for writing-related dashes around town, when I need to carry papers, books, notebooks, etc.

 

office – Nenette in her crow’s nest

 

Nenette sleeps in her crow’s nest at the top of the cat tree most of the day.

 

hummingbird through the office window

 

I also have a good view of the hummingbirds as they come to drink from the feeder hanging from our patio awning.

There you have it! We’ll see how long this version of my office lasts.

 

Nenette is full of surprises. (Kitty updates!)

I would’ve posted this earlier today if I wasn’t spellbound by the creosote scent in the air. The creosote plant’s ability to intoxicate is sorcery, I’m telling you. Rain brings it out. Creosote isn’t a fragrance you catch as you walk by the plant… it’s a fragrance that saturates the air completely. The Sonoran desert is magic.

Admittedly, I’m also late because I went to the gym this morning, but that’s another (awesome) story.

Getting on with it – as you can tell from its title, this post is about Nenette. I’ve got updates for you… man, do I have updates!

My parents flew in at the end of last week to stay for a four-day visit. Callaghan and I had high hopes that they would be able to see Nenette… at least once, if only in a flash. As you may know, Nenette hides when people come over. We wanted her to prove her existence to Mom and Dad.

WELL. Nenette did hide herself, but she also came out… and when she came out, she stayed out.

Dad was sitting on the couch and she went to him and head-butted his hand so he’d pet her, and then the little minx turned around and stepped forward with that flirty arch in her back that’s kittyese for “pet my butt.” It was elevator butt in the living room with someone she’d never seen before.

She did the same thing with Mom in the hallway. Also, she talked to them with her conversational trills. Also, she dropped to the floor and rolled around. WHAT’S MORE, she did all of this several times throughout their visit.

Callaghan and I were looking at the spectacle like WHO is this cat, and what did she do with our Nenette??!!!

You could’ve knocked us over with a feather. I’m very happy to be able to use that cliché in this context.

The only explanation for Nenette’s unprecedented behavior is that she knew that these were her Grandparents. It’ll be interesting to see what happens the next time we have people over. That will tell us something! Will she do the same with others?

At any rate, I’ve got a few pics here that I’ve accumulated over the last few weeks. Here’s Nenette modeling some facets of her personality. Enjoy!

 

Nenette in the library shadow

 

Nenette in vintage filter

 

(I love how that filter emphasizes the bronze of her Abyssinian coat.)

 

Nenette sleeping

 

Nenette playing

 

Nenette in beastmode, ready to face her opponent

 

That’s it for this wondrous kitty update. Nenette is full of surprises! Time will tell if real changes are happening, or if her behavior was specific to the people involved.

Things that smell good, and other April Favorites!

Looking back on April, I’m happy to be alive and eating fewer processed foods. Haha! There are no processed foods on this list, maybe for the first time in the history of Monthly Favorites posts on TALC. That is something.

This is not to say that I didn’t eat any, though, because I certainly did. But I managed to cut way back, and I didn’t discover any new processed foods.

As for the rest, well, we’ve got the usual assortment of movies and T.V. series. Also, there are more products than usual on this list.

Take a look!

 

1). The Devotion of Suspect X (film)

 

 

We went to see The Devotion of Suspect X when we saw that it was playing in the theater near our house. The Chinese film (with English sub-titles) detailed a mysterious story whose reveal toward the end came as a surprise. I found the development of the two main characters (and their relationship) to be somewhat lacking, but the aspects that were emphasized were intriguing enough. All in all, the movie’s minor deficiencies didn’t have much of an impact on our enjoyment of it. It was an interesting time, and it was fun to see a film that we knew nothing about when we went in.

 

2). Split (film)

 

 

James McAvoy’s turn in Split is something to behold. Can one actor win 23 Best Actor awards for the same film? That is the question. Of course, I’m creating a wild exaggeration here… this is just to say that I was enthralled by McAvoy’s ability to shift from one personality to the next, and I thought that his main personalities were well-acted in their own right. His performance was truly stunning. I was also impressed with Anya Tayler-Joy’s performance. This is, in my opinion, one of M. Night Shyamalan’s better films.

 

3). Better Call Saul  (Season 3) (T.V. series)

 

 

Between Better Call Saul and The Good Fight, spin-off series have been some of our favorites! Better Call Saul gets better and better. We’re now at the point where we’re seeing the evolution of the liaisons in Breaking Bad, which is extremely satisfying. Last night’s episode left us on a particularly maddening cliff-hanger. Is it Monday yet?

 

4). Sorjonen (Bordertown) (Finnish T.V. series)

 

 

Here again we have a foreign language piece, only Sorjonen (English title: Bordertown) is a T.V. series. In fact, it’s the first foreign-language T.V. series we’ve seen. It’s in Finnish and Russian, sub-titled, of course, and it’s a crime thriller (surprise, surprise). It’s fun to watch the Finnish protagonist at work with his unique methodology, and his Russian counterpart is one of the more badass women (of the many) that I’ve seen in such pieces. Sorjonen was picked up by Netflix, so it’s binge-watch friendly!

 

5). D’anjou pears.

 

 

Pears are one of two repeats on this list. D’anjou pears are fabulous right now! They’re flavorful and refreshing straight from the refrigerator. I love pears as a transition fruit to stone-fruit season.

 

6). The Body Shop Vitamin E sink-in moisture sleeping mask.

 

The Body Shop Vitamin E sink-in moisture sleeping mask

 

Still addicted to The Body Shop. Still haven’t stepped foot in a Lush store or tried any Lush products… but old-school works for me. The Body Shop is a little costly, and its parent company is L’Oreal, but their products are cruelty-free and pretty reliably awesome.

This sleeping mask from their Vitamin E line is my latest TBS passion. It was my first foray into sleeping masks, so I didn’t have expectations going in. I put it on and immediately felt sort of like my skin couldn’t breathe… and also, the mask on my face felt tacky to the touch, which wasn’t the most pleasant feeling. Luckily, of course, you go to bed right away, so you’re asleep and unaware of how weird it feels. The important thing was that in the morning, I woke up and couldn’t believe how different my skin looked. My skin loves this mask! (My skin also loves The Body Shop’s Vitamin E serum-in-oil as a nightly treatment. And their Honey and Oat 3-in-1 moisturising scrub mask.)

 

7). The Body Shop Almond Milk & Honey body butter.

 

The Body Shop Almond Milk & Honey body butter

 

But wait! I’m not done raving about The Body Shop. They’re famous for their body butters, but this new one of theirs is something else. TBS Almond Milk & Honey body butter is silky, creamy, and rich, and it has an unexpected bouncy feel to it when you scoop it out. I love the way it sinks in and transforms my severely dry skin into soft skin, especially on my hands. Bonus: I love its fragrance; it’s exactly what it is. Almonds and honey.

 

8). Yes To Blueberries Age Refresh daily repairing moisturizer.

 

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh daily repairing moisturizer

 

When I went looking for a daytime moisturizer, I picked up this blueberry/age refresh one from Yes To. I loved their night cream (see below), so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with their daytime formula. It’s wonderful. I have a feeling it’s going to stay a favorite for a while.

 

9). Yes To Blueberries Age Refresh deep wrinkle night cream.

 

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh deep wrinkle night cream

 

This is an old favorite that you’ve probably seen before, if you’ve been reading here for a while. I loved this night cream, but I drifted away from it as I tried other products. I came across a lot of good ones, but I’ve circled back around to Yes To Blueberries. This night cream is just the best for my skin.

To give you an idea: I tried The Body Shop’s Vitamin E night cream in April, too (there was a crazy sale going on, so it was a good opportunity to try new things), and while it’s good, the Yes To night cream beat it to get on this list. Adding to its wonders, Yes To is a more affordable drugstore brand.

 

10). Pacifica Tahitian Gardenia perfume roll-on.

 

Pacifica Tahitian Gardenia perfume roll-on

 

This is a first: a cruelty-free fragrance (vegan, to boot) that I absolutely love. Its sillage is impressive, and its scent doesn’t change on my skin over time, which is probably the nature of a perfume oil. It’s not a chemical concoction. I picked this up at Sprouts on a whim, as I’d been on the hunt for a new fragrance. I love this one.

 

La Fin. Let’s see what there is to discover in May.

Happy Tuesday, All!