Bah Ouais. (July Favorites!)

July, then! In (sweeping) summary, I finished writing my book, we went out of town, and we spent most of our entertainment hours over the month watching French-language T.V. series – we found a few great ones on Netflix, and I’m sure we’ll find some on Hulu and Prime Video, as well. We’ve still got a few in our Netflix queue before we move on.

I should have mentioned in my last “Monthly Favorites” that I’ve changed up my format for these posts, namely in the interest of streamlining them: 1. I’m now specifying where we watched the series mentioned, 2. I’m including less in the way of commentary, and 3. for the food and products listed, I’m linking to the items and using pics from their websites (rather than taking my own… this way you can see the item clearly, packaging and all).

For the movies/series, especially, I’ll try to keep my commentary brief. I may not write anything at all. If it’s on my “Favorites” list, it’s because I enjoyed it!

[ETA: I corrected the typo of “100%” – thank you, sharp reader!]

 

1). La Forêt (Netflix series)

 

 

(Crime drama set in an appropriately dark and beautiful forest on the Belgian side of the France/Belgium Ardennes.)

 

2). La Trêve (Netflix series)

 

 

La Trêve – our favorite of the French crime drama/thriller/mystery series we’ve watched so far.

 

3). Dix Pour Cent (Netflix series)

 

 

I’m not sure why the title “Dix Pour Cent” (“10%”) got turned into “Call My Agent!” – whatever the case, this is a fun series. It makes for a good change of pace, too. It’s good to mix some humor into our dark and sinister crime dramas.

 

4). Les grandes Grandes Vacances (Netflix series)

 

 

We’re still working our way through this excellent animated series. The simplistic art of Les grandes Grandes Vacances lends the production an innocence and charm that’s perfectly fitting, but remember that WWII through the eyes of children in the (occupied) French countryside can be nothing but heartbreaking.

 

5). GoMacro Macrobar (Everlasting Joy: coconut + almond butter + chocolate chips).

 

GoMacro Macrobar (Everlasting Joy: coconut, almond butter, chocolate chips)

 

These bars! I’m totally into these. They probably contain more sugar than I’d like to be eating, but their nutritional panel looks good, overall, and I love the bar’s chewy coconut base. Supply is low wherever I find these, so I always do the courteous consumer thing and snap up what’s left. “First come, first serve,” right? I would order them online, but ordering anything with chocolate chips in the Arizona heat usually doesn’t end well. I may start ordering them online once the weather cools down.

 

6). Sprouts Organic Vegan Pesto.

 

Sprouts Basil Vegan Pesto

 

I know… I listed Trader Joe’s vegan pesto just last month. We still enjoy that one, but we’ve now discovered Sprouts’ vegan pesto, and I have to say that it’s my favorite of the favorites.

 

7). Acure Brilliantly Brightening Day Cream.

 

Acure Brilliantly Brightening Day Cream

 

I was almost-but-not-quite at the bottom of my day cream jar when the remaining product developed an odor. I used it one more day before throwing it out. Needless to say, I went looking for yet another day cream. This one by Acure seems to be good! If I enjoy it all the way to the end, I’ll re-purchase it.

 

8). The Body Shop Pink Grapefruit Shower Gel.

 

The Body Shop Pink Grapefruit Shower Gel

 

I used up the last of the Frosted Plum shower gel I’d purchased during The Body Shop’s Black Friday sale. It’d become my favorite – to me, the strongest note in its fragrance was pine, and I love the scent of pine. The Body Shop tells me that it’s unlikely they’ll bring back that particular holiday/limited edition. I had to find a replacement. I went for their Pink Grapefruit shower gel, and to my surprise and delight, it’s also redolent of pine! It could just be my nose, but I’m picking up the bitterness of the grapefruit as an evergreen bite.

 

9). Flower Beauty Sheer Up Lip Tint (Airy Orchid).

 

Flower Beauty Sheer Up Lip Tint (Airy Orchid)

 

The first thing I look for in a pigmented lip product is a cool undertone. I love this berry shade from Drew Barrymore’s cosmetics line. The lip tint is moisturizing, too… it feels good to wear.

 

10). NYX Butter Gloss (Ginger Snap).

 

NYX Butter Gloss (Ginger Snap)

 

This is a nice formula for a pigmented gloss, and the ginger snap shade is a good, neutral brown that’s just dark enough. It’s hard to find a brown without orange undertones. I like a brown with a plum undertone, but if I want to wear a brown gloss, it’s nice to have one with no undertone at all. I like the way the sheer effect of this one brings out the natural color of my lips.

Also, this shade brings back the 90’s. Love it.

 

That’s it for July! I hope you all enjoyed a great month.

 

 

 

New glasses + weekend shenanigans. (Wedding! Anime Comic Con! Dinosaurs! etc.)

It seems like a long time has passed since my last posting date on Thursday, but that’s just because I’ve spent most of the intervening days out of town. We went to the Bay Area for a friend’s wedding. It was a French wedding attended by lots of (mostly) French people speaking (mostly) French. It took place on Bastille Day and the day before France won the World Cup, so it was a very French affair.

We made our hotel reservation months in advance. Unbeknownst to us, the Anime Comic Con would be going on in the hotel at the same time. Surprise!

Spoils from Anime Comic Con 2018:

 

Marvel Black Panther bag and Sen. John McCain action figure

 

[Sidenote 1: I got to chatting with the cool guy who sold me the Marvel Black Panther bag. Turns out he’s a musician. He’s a member of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (aka D.R.I.). He said they’re coming to my town at the end of October to play a gig. We’re going, Callaghan and me.]

[Sidenote 2: I thought it was hilarious that they were selling Sen. John McCain action figures at Anime Comic Con in California. I couldn’t resist. McCain’s been my senator since I moved to Arizona in 1991. I don’t have to agree with all of his political positions (and I certainly do not) to say in all honesty that he’s one of my heroes.]

Next:

New glasses, part I-don’t-even-know-what.

 

[Sidenote: These pics were taken late last week during a time of hot dusty winds, when the AZ monsoon skies were a haze of golden brown. Even the indoor pic on the left looks dusty.]

You may be wondering how many new pairs of glasses a person needs in a year. I am, too. Hopefully the saga ends here. It should, provided that a). my prescription doesn’t change again, b). I don’t step on my new glasses, and c). in the event that I do, my replacement frames don’t come from overseas on a slow boat that either hits an iceberg or gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Those are the three things that have happened in the last 12 months. Luckily, the debacle cost only $25.00 to fix – it was $25.00 to replace the broken frames, and when they never showed up, the glasses lady let me pick new frames for a complete re-make (fresh lenses included) and trade the new glasses for the replacement ones.

I’m enjoying my new granny specs. I’ve worn dark, plastic/acrylic frames for as long as I can remember; these super thin gold-toned ones are a change I’m loving. They seem treacherously light and delicate, but the glasses lady assured me that they’re very strong (titanium) and difficult to break.

Returning to the weekend! We got back yesterday in a dramatic climatic shift. On a summer morning in San Francisco, middle of July, I wore jeans and a t-shirt, as usual, but also a sweatshirt over the t-shirt, and a pleather motorcycle jacket over the sweatshirt… and I was still cold. San Francisco in the summer is antithetical. I boarded the plane dressed for a Phoenix winter, landed in Phoenix 1.5 hours later, and stripped myself back down to summer while still on the plane. I walked into Sky Harbor airport in just the jeans and t-shirt again.

And that, my friends, is one reason why I’ll never move back.

The day before, though, we spent a balmy and beautiful afternoon strolling through Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. We had a great time, but I was glad to come home, as usual. There’ll just never be anything like the steady hum of creative energy in our quiet house in our quiet neighborhood in our quiet desert – it always seems quiet, even when it’s not – with the wide-open space all around, the huge sky overhead, and the sound of our Arcosanti bells speaking for the monsoon breeze out front.

OH! We went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom while in Concord. I thought it was good enough for entertainment, but not good enough for a “monthly favorites” list.

The movie-makers told a familiar story this time, didn’t they? An ark with all the different species, a clashing of good and greed-driven evil, and the not-subtle suggestion that Owen and Claire are Adam and Eve in their neo-Jurassic world. Even the movie’s title (Fallen Kingdom) sounds biblical.

I found myself emotionally wrought at the beginning when the brachiosaurus got left behind on the island, watching everyone sailing away to safety. I cried. Callaghan assured me, “No brachiosaurus was harmed in the making of the movie,” but it didn’t help. I spent most of the movie thinking the poor dinosaurs. Gah. I’m always upset to tears when I see horrible things happening to animals, and I guess CGI dinosaurs are no exception.

 

And now we’re raining. (June Favorites!)

Just like that, we’re monsooning here in the Land of AZ. I don’t know what happened, but this time of year arrived quickly. I’m into it. I shouldn’t blink. Summer storms in the desert are magical, and our monsoon seasons seem to be getting shorter and less… just less. It’s been years since I’ve seen dumpsters rolling across the street, I’ll put it that way.

Just as quick, here’s my “favorite little things” list for June. Yes, that June. That weird and wonderful black hole of a month.

 

1). Hereditary (horror film)

 

 

2). Thor: Ragnarok AND Avengers: Infinity War (superhero films)

 

 

 

3). Goliath (Amazon Prime drama series)

 

 

Three words about this excellent original Amazon Prime dramatic series: Billy Bob Thornton. Also, William Hurt as Billy Bob’s nemesis. If you love a good legal/suspense drama and you’ve been looking for an excuse to sign up for a Prime free trial, this is it.

 

4). La Casa de Papel, aka Money Heist (Netflix crime thriller series)

 

 

5). Fresh Off the Boat (comedy series)

 

 

Blackish being on hiatus had us antsy for a good comedy. We love Ali Wong and knew of her creative involvement with Fresh Off the Boat, so we thought we’d check it out. It’s now our second-favorite comedy series. We watch it on Hulu.

 

6). Karl the Fog (twitter account)

 

 

San Francisco isn’t one of my favorite cities, but I’ve always loved the fog in the Bay Area. It turns out that the fog is witty and he has a name and a Twitter account.

 

7). Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew and Basil pesto.

 

Trader Joe’s

 

8). Trader Joe’s Green Goddess Salad Dressing.

 

Trader Joe’s

 

9). Peaches, nectarines, plums.

 

Summer fruit

 

10). e.l.f. Velvet Touch Eyeshadow Palette (Island Breeze) – CRUELTY FREE AND VEGAN.

 

e.l.f.

 

I’m enjoying this e.l.f. eyeshadow. You swipe it on with your finger… no brush necessary! It’s more like a cream than a powder, and I love the colors in the Island Breeze version.

 

That takes care of it for June… sorry to be a little late this time!

Pay attention: It’s Hereditary. (Non-review movie review!)

My partner-in-crime Caroline and I anticipated Hereditary for months, so you can believe that we were in that theater on the morning of opening day. I do have something to say about this film, but it constitutes even less of a “non-review movie review” than usual. This is not a review of the movie. It’s a mere commentary on my reaction to it.

 

 

First, I found the ending to be disappointing, which affected my immediate opinion of the whole movie. I don’t know what I was expecting the ending to involve. I guess I wasn’t expecting it to involve what it did. It wasn’t the ending that I wanted.

Well, that was my problem, because the movie turned out to be an overwhelming success for me as a person who loves to get scared by horror movies, and who very rarely gets scared by them. Hereditary got to me. I just didn’t realize it until later that day. And that night. And the next day. And that was the beauty of it: the delayed reaction.

[Sidenote: It made no sense that I left the theater with such a dominant feeling of dislike for the ending, because while I was complaining about the ending, I was also marveling at the excellence of the production as a whole… not to mention Toni Collette’s stunning performance.]

I didn’t think that Hereditary had any effect on me, but then the day drew to a close, the sun went down, and I started to look around the house apprehensively. Hours later, I got ready for bed feeling more than a little creeped out. I thought back to the movie and couldn’t pinpoint a single scene or instance to blame.

Hereditary wound itself into the back of my mind, and then its creep-factor unraveled forward and stayed with me for a good two days.

That night, I couldn’t bring myself to turn off the dim lamp in the dining room when departing with my glass of water. For the first time, I was so spooked by a movie that I didn’t want to turn out the light. I’m not afraid of the dark.

I went to bed with my heart thumping in my chest.

Tired as I was, I stayed awake. Then I had to pee, but I was loathe to get out of bed, so I held it. How old was I the last time that happened, if ever? Five?

A shuffling sound moved quietly across the space by the closet. I couldn’t breathe. Callaghan didn’t move. When it happened a second time, Callaghan murmured that it was the fan blowing his cup off the nightstand, which didn’t make sense because the small fan was sitting on the floor, and the cup was up above and full of water. He reached down to turn off the fan. I didn’t hear the sound again.

The next day, I went around with many questions in mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about the movie. Caroline and I discussed it in a flurry of messages. She said that when she woke up at 2:44am to get a drink of water, she was “kind of freaked out and heard noises” as she walked around in the dark.

“I felt like there was something on the ceiling… following me as I walked to the kitchen,” she said. “And I heard a bump… and the hairs on my neck stood up and I gingerly looked up… but there was nothing there. ghghhghg.”

I would say that this sums up our joint reaction in terms of scariness on a scale of 1-10: ghghhghg.

I’ll be going to see Hereditary again… with Callaghan. This time, it’s his reaction that I’m anticipating.

 

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.

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.

 

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!

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.

Callaghan and the prism of Luc Besson.

Being with Callaghan has taught me to see things in new ways. Like action flicks. If not for him, I’d never think to ask myself: “How bad is this movie on a Luc Besson scale of 1-10?”

As a French person, he’s sensitive to Luc Besson. Or, should I say, he’s not sensitive so much as he’s annoyed by Luc Besson.

I listen for his comments when we’re watching action movies. If he starts grumbling about Luc Besson, I know that he’s annoyed. That’s because Luc Besson is the yardstick Callaghan uses to measure his opinion of the movie’s worth, even if Luc Besson had nothing to do with the movie.

This morning, I asked him to summarize his feelings about Luc Besson. I actually recorded his answer. Verbatim:

“Hmm. Luc Besson. Alors. His movies are too easy. I mean, the stories. The resolution of the problems. It’s always, like, ‘Oh! Everything’s fine now. She turned into an intergalactic f*cking cloud of black matter, so everything’s fine’.”

Some comments I’ve heard from him while watching action flicks, or while talking about them:

10). “Putain, the person who did this movie was influenced by Luc Besson.”

9). “This could’ve been a great movie, but Luc Besson.”

8). “The CGI is cheesy. It’s Luc Besson.”

7). “Luc Besson outdid himself with Valerian!! I had to stop after a half-hour. It was bad, it was SO BAD, it was the quintessential Luc Besson movie.” (Yes, Callaghan knows the word “quintessential.” No, I wasn’t with him when he watched Valerian. He shared this opinion with me afterward.)

6). “Ugh, this movie has that Luc Besson vibe.”

5). “Taxi was ridiculous, and Luc Besson made three of that!!”

4). “You can tell Luc Besson was involved in this.”

3). “Dobermann was good because it wasn’t Luc Besson. If it was Luc Besson doing the same movie, it would be ridiculous.”

2). “The Family. That was a stupid movie. Luc Besson.”

And his #1 general comment, applicable to any action flick that annoys him:

“ET VOILA. LUC BESSON.”

Sidenote: This post is rather a tribute to Luc Besson. Love him or not, he’s an iconic filmmaker. Two of his films are on my list of all-time favorites: The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, and La Femme Nikita (1990). Callaghan likes those movies, too, as well as The Fifth Element.

 

Just believe: The Florida Project. (Non-review movie review!)

Last week, we went to the cheap seats (the iconic Tempe Pollack Cinemas) to see The Florida Project, a film about a young mother and her little girl who live in a run-down budget motel, and the motel manager’s conundrum of having to be an effective manager in difficult circumstances while also being the compassionate person that he is.

Theirs is one in a cluster of colorful, Disney-themed budget motels crouched on the outskirts of Disney World. The motels create a mini-village mostly populated by human beings living in poverty the likes of which most of us couldn’t imagine, while skipping distance away, tourists visit the Magic Kingdom.

 

 

In the Magic Kingdom’s shadow, the motels strung together with fantastical storefronts of various establishments – gift shops, corner markets, eateries – contain a precarious world concerned with survival… a world of have-nots and have-nothings. Worlds exist within other worlds, though. At the center of The Florida Project, the little girl, Moonee, explores her world and finds smaller ones, each of them magical. She knows where to find them.

Left largely to her own devices by her mother, who comes across as more sisterly than motherly, Moonee is like a little old person, wise in the ways of her universe yet oblivious to danger, to the fact that her mother is unstable in perhaps every sense of the word, and to the reality of living a hairsbreadth away from homelessness. It’s both a relief and a heartbreak to note that the difficulties of Moonee’s life haven’t deprived her of her childhood innocence.

Halley, Moonee’s mother, can’t seem to set examples of right and wrong, but she can exemplify elation and the ability to turn the mundane into wonder-provoking discoveries. In terms of parenthood, there’s fit and unfit, but can you be a thoroughly bad parent when you can show your child the incalculable value of joyful play in found moments?

Writer/director Sean Baker discovered Bria Vinaite on Instagram, and he cast her as Moonee’s mother. She is a treasure. Young Brooklynn Prince’s raw and unfettered performance as Moonee could make you believe that she’s not an actor, either, but a child who wandered onto the set. All of the children in the film are wonderful. And as the motel manager, Willem Dafoe – the only “named” actor in the film – gives a superb performance that eclipses any I’ve seen from him… after all these years, we finally get him in such a role!

 

 

I would describe The Florida Project as a dramedy, and I highly recommend it. Just believe.

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!

Frosty the Rude Man.

Callaghan was outraged when he read our friend Nick’s FB post the other night. I could tell that something was wrong, because I could see him fuming as he stared at his phone.

He yelled, “Did you see what Nick posted on FB? THIS is what happens when you try to be nice to people now!!!”

Thinking back, I remembered that Nick had posted a joke about Frosty the Snowman earlier in the day.

Before I could say anything, Callaghan ranted: “Seriously! WHAT is wrong with people?!!”

I struggled to hold back a snort. “Uh… Baby, no… read the whole post.”

“I AM reading the post!!!”

I try not to laugh when his English as a Second Language gets in the way of his understanding, or being understood. In this case, though, his lack of understanding came not from a language barrier, but from a cultural one. Callaghan wasn’t familiar with “Frosty the Snowman.”

“It’s ridiculous what this guy did,” he said with great indignation. “HE PEED ON NICK’S FLOOR!!!”

I lost it. “Baby. It’s a joke. The ‘guy’ is a snowman.”

“What?” He stared at the spectacle of me cracking up while he sat on the couch seething with fury on Nick’s behalf.

“Yes, the ‘guy’ they brought in was a snowman!”

He read the post again. “Oh. He was NAKED except for a scarf. I get it now.”

When I stopped laughing, I reassured him. He didn’t get the joke because he was never a child in America, I said. I quoted the pertinent “Frosty the Snowman” lyrics:

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul/With a corncob pipe and a button nose/And two eyes made out of coal

Thus, Callaghan learned another little piece of Americana.

Here’s the joke in question:

Yesterday it was so cold out that we took a man into our home out of the kindness of our hearts. We felt so sorry for him. Poor thing was trembling out in the cold. But this morning he had just vanished. Not a word … Not even a goodbye or a thank you for sheltering him !!!
The last straw ?!?! When I realized he had peed all over the living room floor !!! That’s the thanks I get for being good to people ?!?!?!
Now I’m going to warn my friends to watch out for this man !!! He is heavy set & wearing nothing but a scarf. He also has a corn cob pipe, a button nose & 2 eyes made out of coal !!! Don’t bring him into your house !!! What a huge mess he made on the floor !!!

One thing about the holidays: they can make it extra fun to be with a European who came to the States as an adult.

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

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

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

Without further ado, may I present…

 

1). Godless (T.V. series)

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

3). As Above, So Below

 

 

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

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

 

4). Gardein Mini Crispy Crabless Cakes.

 

Gardein Mini Crispy Crabless Cakes

 

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

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

 

5). Simply Balanced Organic Agave Nectar Light.

 

Simply Balanced Organic Light Agave Nectar

 

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

 

6). Raw unsalted mixed nuts.

 

Raw unsalted mixed nuts

 

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

 

7). Apple Pie Larabar.

 

Apple Pie Larabar

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Enough said.

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

Starting with entertainment, as usual!

 

1). A Ghost Story

 

 

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

 

2). Mindhunter (T.V. series)

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Products!

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

 

Physician’s Formula Super BB Cream

 

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

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

 

5). The Body Shop Frosted Plum shower gel.

 

The Body Shop Frosted Plum shower gel

 

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

 

Food!

6). Wholesome! Organic Coconut Palm Sugar.

 

Wholesome organic coconut palm sugar

 

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

 

7). Organic Honeycrisp apples.

 

Organic honeycrisp apples

 

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

 

8). Simple Truth walnut halves and pieces.

 

Simple Truth walnut halves and pieces

 

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

 

9). Gardein Meatless Meatballs.

 

Gardein Classic Meatless Meatballs

 

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

 

10). Helpful friends at the gym.

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

 

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

Lingering: A Ghost Story. (Non-review movie review!)

A Ghost Story isn’t a horror film, but it’s haunting nonetheless. It’s haunted my thoughts since we first saw it last week.

 

 

Why do some spirits choose an afterlife of haunting?

A Ghost Story  raises a multitude of questions. I might as well start with that one.

As far as haunted house movies go, I’ve never been compelled to consider the fate of the ghost, or how lonely it must be for a ghost tethered to his place of haunting. But then, I’d never seen a haunted house movie from the perspective of the ghost.

It’s a despondent ghost who’s unable to leave his place until he gets his answer, or achieves his goal, whatever that may be. Time glides endlessly and the ghost goes along with it. It’s the only dimension he can traverse.

Watching this movie was a profound cinematic experience.

We begin with a married couple, but we never learn their names. I suppose this is because the humans in their physical bodies are more or less props, there to set in motion a possibly infinite journey. In the middle of the film, another nameless person passes through to hold forth at a social gathering. The scene ends and we never see him again, but we’re left thinking.

We fall deeper into introspection. What does it mean to be alive, to exist? What does it mean to be not-alive?

We witness the pain of grieving, but we feel the ghost’s pain more than the pain of the one still living. It’s the bereft ghost whose story we follow.

A Ghost Story is a ghost’s story, yet the ghost is not the protagonist. If the film has a protagonist, it’s the place to which the ghost is fixed. Or it’s the universe. Or it’s time.

If the ghost has a voice, it’s the sheet he wears, its movement, folds, and appearance; even the shape of its eye-holes as they seem to alter with his emotion. That’s the thing about this ghost: he’s emotional, even to the point of throwing the occasional tantrum. The ghost’s sheet is his voice, and Daniel Hart’s exquisite musical score – the most sorrowful voice in the film – makes it devastating.

Thus, the driving forces of A Ghost Story are inhuman. And yet, in this inhumanity, we perceive the timeless plight of humanity. This is brilliant writing. It’s poetry.

In my humble opinion, writer and director David Lowery succeeded with his experiment in mixing mediums to tell his story. Film as poem, or poem as film? When a work of art is effectively both, it doesn’t matter how you assign its primary medium.

Speaking of mediums, I’ll touch again on the expressiveness of the ghost’s sheet, because its authority is so striking in its simplicity. I was fascinated by the way the ghost stands or sits still and turns only his head to look to the side or back, so the folds of his sheet twist with the turn. The effect is dramatic, and that is the point. Facing forward, but looking elsewhere, the ghost’s sheet conveys that he inhabits temporal realms in a transcendence of future and past. We can perceive the enormity of this by merely looking at the drape of a sheet.

A Ghost Story is a highly visual film. It’s maybe 80% silent movie, if not more so. As the ghost lingers, there’s lingering in the silence; we linger on what there is to see. There’s lingering in the sustained notes of the musical score.

There’s more I could say about the significance of music in this film, on how it helps to speak for the ghost, and why, but I’ll hold back. In this aspect, though, A Ghost Story calls to mind The Piano. In The Piano, the instrument serves as voice for Ada, who can’t speak. Also silent, Ada expresses herself through her music.

Watching A Ghost Story, tears collected in my throat early on, and they stayed there until the end, the aforementioned musical score by Daniel Hart partially responsible, I’m sure.

Callaghan was mesmerized, too. When A Ghost Story was over, we looked at each other at the same time that we both said, “I want to see it again.” And we did see it again. I would see it yet again.

A Ghost Story is a beautiful film, a story to ponder and discuss. It’s an elegant study in the philosophical discipline of metaphysics, and it’s a poem. Maybe more than a moving picture, it’s a moving poem with pictures.

 

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.

50 (no, 41) facts about me. (Meme)

Every once in a while, I’m browsing blogs or social media posts and I come across the “50 facts about me” meme that’s gone around on-and-off ever since the internet was invented. I don’t remember ever doing it. Last night, I revisited a friend’s blog post in which she did this, so today, I’m going to see if I can think of 50 things about me that most of you don’t already know. I’m feeling weirdly self-indulgent just thinking about doing this, so I’ll jump right in.

 

 

  1. Pressing lightly on my left eyebrow or running my finger over it sends a tickly-sneezy feeling down through the left side of my nose.
  2. I often sneeze while doing the eyebrow part of my makeup because of that eyebrow-nose nerve connection on the left side.
  3. I believe that I’m addicted to lip balm.
  4. I believe that I’m addicted to peppermint gum.
  5. I don’t think of my wisdom teeth procedure (that I had when I was 17) as a surgery, even though it was (as it is for many of us).
  6. Therefore, I usually accidentally lie when I’m filling out a medical form and I’m asked how many surgeries I’ve had.
  7. I used to drink, and sometimes, I got really, really drunk.
  8. But I’ve never had a hang-over in my life.
  9. I believe I’ve inherited some crazy English drinking genes.
  10. I don’t drink anymore.
  11. I’m uncomfortable to the point of anxiety attack when I’m around people who are drunk.
  12. So I avoid hanging out in bars, unless it’s a sports bar and they’re airing an event I want to watch but can’t watch at home.
  13. I especially avoid bars because not only do I not drink, but I don’t eat bar food.
  14. I always order club soda/sparkling water at a bar.
  15. My club soda is free because I’m the designated driver.
  16. I am a cheap date.
  17. My first job was at a dentist’s office in Honolulu the summer I was 14.
  18. I once tripped on something while walking to work at the dentist’s office.
  19. I thought I tripped on a large rock, but it was a snail the size of a tennis ball.
  20. My roach-phobia started with a terrifying roach incident in Honolulu when I was 12.
  21. I read both The Amityville Horror and Helter-Skelter when I was still in grade school.
  22. Also horror-related, I was probably 7 or 8 when It’s Alive aired on cable, and my parents didn’t want me to watch it, but I low-crawled into the family room so I could watch it while lying on the floor behind some furniture, and they didn’t know.
  23. It’s Alive scared me and I loved it.
  24. Horror has been my favorite film genre ever since I watched It’s Alive.
  25. The most scared I’ve ever been at the movies was during Alien when I was 11.
  26. Alien petrified and traumatized me and had me crying and literally begging to leave the theater.
  27. Horror was still my favorite film genre, and Alien also spawned my love for sci-fi thrillers.
  28. I’m always looking for movies that creep me out, and so far, only The Ring has come close.
  29. I love all forms of entertainment-provoked fear.
  30. But I will not see The Human Centipede.
  31. I don’t understand how I developed a roach-phobia after a traumatic childhood roach incident, but the total opposite thing happened when I had a traumatic childhood movie incident (Alien).
  32. I used to be a republican.
  33. I switched from republican to democrat.
  34. I was a democrat for less than a year.
  35. I switched to “independent.”
  36. I’ve been an independent for more years than I belonged to any political party.
  37. I generally avoid discussing politics.
  38. I strongly dislike the word “ditto.”
  39. My biggest grammar pet peeve is when someone ends a sentence with “at.”
  40. When I hear someone say “where’s it at” I have to physically contain myself.
  41. My thoughts on the Oxford comma are more complicated than my thoughts on politics, and I will not discuss the Oxford comma.

So there’s 41. I would try to think of 9 more, but I’m out of time, so The End for now.

p.s. I guess my mind went to a Halloweenesque place in this post because it’s feeling like fall around here. In Arizona, summer is over when you can open your windows in the early mornings.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

My life without Sex in the City. (My pop culture deficiencies!)

I don’t remember watching much in the way of T.V. series when I was a kid. I know that by the time I graduated from high school, the only channel I liked was MTV. Almost five years later, post-army, I found that something had happened to MTV while I was away. MTV was still there, but it had met with disaster of some sort (I’ll spare you the gory details – if you’re Gen-X, too, you probably remember the trauma of it), and I could no longer watch.

It was 1992. I’d just moved to Phoenix. I was 23. I started watching Beverly Hills 90210 because I heard it was good. I watched it for a year or so, and when Melrose Place happened, I started watching that, too. Then I got into NYPD Blue. (I did enjoy Hill Street Blues when I was in high school, come to think of it.) Somewhere around 1994, I stopped with the T.V. series because college and work and homework and martial arts and grad school and work and etc. in a big, long-running snowball of busy, and there was no room in my life. I did find time to watch boxing and basketball, though. I don’t know if you remember, but the Suns were on fire in the 90’s. And movies. Always movies!

I finally started watching T.V. series again with Callaghan in 2011. We were living in the boondocks of the Alpes in France and needed some entertainment. But guys – I watched no T.V. series at all for almost 20 years. I missed out on almost 20 years of pop culture!

At least my time watching NYPD Blue led to my grasp of the significance of Dennis Franz’ bare ass running into the ocean in the film City of Angels. And thanks to my time watching Melrose Place, I knew who was responsible for the mainstream popularization of ambient-electronic music (I’m looking at you, Enigma). Melrose Place also explained Bohemian-inspired fashion with short, edgy haircuts on women.

The landscape of T.V. changed over the years, as I was well aware due to people buzzing around me in hysterics. High-quality cable series took off, starting with The Sopranos. Someone invented reality T.V., starting with Survivor. People were losing their minds with these developments. I had no sense of FOMO.

Here are some of the popular series I missed while I was away from T.V.:

  • Seinfeld
  • Ally McBeal
  • Friends
  • The Sopranos
  • Survivor
  • The Osbournes
  • Sex in the City
  • Lost
  • Six Feet Under
  • The Office

I’ll probably never see any of these, especially not Lost, as I remember the furor of the general public when the finale aired. Everyone was pissed off at the way the series ended, and that’s enough of a spoiler alert for me. Plus, I was already in therapy. I didn’t need another reason to go.

Callaghan and I did go back to watch/start watching:

  • Arrested Development
  • Damages
  • Dexter
  • American Horror Story
  • Breaking Bad

And perhaps some others. I wrote these lists off the top of my head. Currently, we’re catching up on Parks and Recreation.

The point of all of this? No point, really. This post is brought to you by a Facebook comment (again, you know who you are) that led to musing on my pop culture deficiencies. I guess all of this is to say that pop culture references originating from these series are mostly lost on me.

For more Tuesday randomness, in lieu of an image that makes sense with this post, have this pic of Callaghan with someone’s dog:

 

Callaghan with dog.

 

Actually, the pic goes perfectly with this post.

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!

DUNkirk. (Non-review movie review!)

Last weekend, we went to see Dunkirk, an historical war drama written and directed by Christopher Nolan. As you may know, I enjoy historical war movies – the operative word being “historical.”

 

 

The film is named for the WWII event that took place in the town of Dunkirk (Dunkerque) on the shores of northern France: the rescue of allied forces hopelessly hemmed in by the Nazis.

I didn’t know anything about this event at the start of the movie; neither did I know much about it by the end. Dunkirk didn’t have a lot to teach. One thing I did learn is that I can gauge the appeal of a film by my degree of willingness to use the restroom in the middle of it. In the case of Dunkirk, the slightest urgency in my bladder had me rushing out of the theater.

Yes. I’d eagerly anticipated seeing Dunkirk, so it was with disappointment that I had no problem at all getting up to use the restroom about an hour in. I was disappointed because I feared missing… nothing. There was nothing worth the struggle of ignoring my bladder so I could sit through the remainder of the movie.

I wasn’t held in my seat by suspense (there was no suspense). I wasn’t invested in any character (there were no developed characters). I wasn’t afraid I’d miss out on great acting or brilliant writing going into the dialogue (there was very little in the way of dialogue).

Dunkirk starts out promising. There’s a scrappy kid on a mission to survive. He’s got his wits about him, and he seems resilient and resourceful. But the film’s human component fails to evolve beyond that. We never get to know the kid. What remains is a maelstrom of impersonal and chaotic drama that consumes the film, resulting in turbulence that had us fidgeting with annoyance and boredom.

I mean, we were utterly bored.

We yawned through scenes that seemed cut, altered, and pasted throughout the film. Did Nolan decide that after reaching the apotheosis of his vision in one scene, he could get away with making a few changes and then “saving as” so he could plug it in here and there? It was as if he re-worked the scenes repeatedly until he could use them to string the film together.

So yes… after an hour of this, I had no fear of missing anything in the 10 or so minutes I’d be out using the restroom.

Let me mention, too, the nuisance that is the film’s soundtrack. Dunkirk’s “music” is a ceaseless cacophony that plays too great of a part in that above-mentioned turbulence. The musical score could have used at least a measure or two of restraint, even a little bit of push-and-pull… not only to give us a break from the noise, but to employ the sound as a device of suspense-building.

Making it all worse was the fact that I later read about the event and found myself wondering whether the film was in fact historical or merely based on historical events. From what I read, it was more the latter. We saw fewer than 10 boats, fewer than five aircraft, and merely one or two hundred troops in peril. For all of its powerful, sweeping cinematography – the film’s great strength – we saw barely a fraction of the magnitude of the evacuation of Dunkirk. If Nolan’s strategy included condensing the event in order to give us a focal point representative of the event as a whole, he forgot to include in that strategy, as I said, an iota of character development to keep us engaged.

In summary, Dunkirk is inaccurate and repetitive. It’s somewhat difficult to follow as its perspective swings from land (specified as “mole”) , air, and sea, which made it often unclear as to where we were in time. The film has no human quality to speak of, which is why, perhaps, we felt no sense of profound triumph at the end of it. If you’re a fan of Nolan’s non-linear storytelling style and you wouldn’t mind seeing it applied to the telling of an historical event, then you may enjoy this movie.

We were drawn to Dunkirk by its trailer. We didn’t suspect that the merits of the film would stop there. We would have been better off leaving it at the trailer’s sweeping scenes, its enticing glimpses of sturm und drang and suggestions of gravitas promising an outcome of stirring heroism worthy of a film made more than 70 years later.

 

It’s not a rag. It’s KSJO. (Rock radio!)

The other day, to my horror, a certain t-shirt of mine accidentally got mixed up in the laundry. My horror only lasted for half a second, though, because that was how long it took to rush over and verify that the shirt was still in one piece.

It’s a rock radio t-shirt from my favorite radio station of the 80’s: 92.3 KSJO, a San Jose station that broadcasted hard rock throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. I grew up in San Jose. I’ve had this t-shirt since I was 17. It’s 31 years old, and it’s the only wardrobe piece I’ve carried around with me wherever I’ve lived over the last three decades.

As you may remember, I have a hard time letting go of favorite articles of clothing. I hang onto them until they’re quite literally falling apart.

I didn’t recognize the shirt in the laundry basket, at first. My eyes passed over the limp and faded piece of black fabric, and I thought, which rag is that? I didn’t know we had a black rag…??

Then, in that half-second of horror, I realized it was the shirt. My precious. I hadn’t washed it for years because I didn’t think it would survive another round in the laundry, and now here it was, in the laundry, washed and dried. And lo! It made it through. And now it’s clean, which is a good thing, anyway.

I’ve long since stopped wearing this t-shirt, though it’s (miraculously) still wearable. On the verge of disintegration, but wearable. I did take it out of retirement momentarily for the sake of this post, though, so you can see the old-school glory of this now-defunct rock radio station:

 

92.3 KSJO t-shirt, c. 1986

 

This was the station’s classic logo. I had bumper stickers with this logo, too, which I plastered onto my binders. I also had the bumper stickers featuring that one red, white, and blue KSJO logo that had the “S” drawn as the AC/DC lightning bolt. (I loved that one. AC/DC was my first favorite rock band.)

I listened to KSJO’s rival station, too – 98.5 KOME (I also had KOME stickers) – but to this day, I have this shirt. This was the shirt that came with me when I left home at 18.

I haven’t always treated it well. I cut out its neckline, as I was in the habit of doing to all of my t-shirts. I wore it relentlessly and washed it hundreds of times. It lived in boxes for long periods of time. It’s full of holes, ripped and torn, faded and so thin in some places, it’s practically see-through. It’s worn-out and falling apart.

It’s priceless. The shirt rocks on.

 

Scrabble, Callaghan edition. (+ a favorite vintage commercial!)

Callaghan and I started playing Scrabble last week. Have you ever played Scrabble with an English as a Second Language (ESL) person?

It’s been fun! It’s been interesting and instructive, and it’s a great way for a non-native speaker to learn how to spell words in whatever version of Scrabble you’re playing. (I would love to have a French version.)

For instance, Callaghan’s first move was “ew,” which, according to Merriam-Webster’s (MW) Scrabble dictionary, isn’t playable. “Maybe because it’s an exclamation,” I speculated. He replied that “ew” is NOT an exclamation. It’s a female sheep. See? Now he knows how to spell “ewe.”

Then I put down “pantie,” which he challenged on the grounds that it ends with a ‘y’. MW said that both spellings were correct.

MW’s Scrabble dictionary is a great resource. We pulled it up on Callaghan’s phone so he could have it at his fingertips. He didn’t like that “pantie” came up on the page when he opened it from his bookmark, but that was easily fixed. He deleted the bookmark, entered a new word in the search field, and re-bookmarked it.

Now his dictionary opens up with “igottaewe.”

“Because I learned that a female sheep is a ‘ewe’,” he said, knowing that I was going to ask. “It’s generic.”

Of course!

We decided that we’ll disregard the challenge rule; we’ll both be able to consult our MW Scrabble dictionaries while playing.

The last time we played was Sunday, and he won.

 

The game I lost!

 

On a completely different awesome note, I was thrilled when a reader found this commercial and sent it to me a few days ago. Some of you may remember that I’d been looking for that one Charleston Chew commercial from the 70’s. Thanks to Dirk, here it is!

 

 

Callaghan thinks it’s hilarious, too… even more than I do, in fact. Because he’s French.

 

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!

Wonder Woman: a superhero of a female bildungsroman. (Non-review movie review!)

We went to see Wonder Woman on Tuesday night.

 

 

When I say that this is not a real movie review, I really mean it. I’m in no way equipped to say everything that needs to be said about this excellent film. I could say that its writing, direction, casting, acting, film score, cinematography, costumes, et cetera are superb, and call it a day. It’s for the real film reviewers to elaborate on all of that, as I’m sure they have.

No, I’m only here to offer my personal reaction and observations, beginning with the women’s training, sparring, and battle scenes. (Those of you who know me are shocked, I’m sure!)

Be that as it may. Starting from there, here are my three main thoughts about Wonder Woman:

1). In making Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins didn’t hold back. She directed the women to fight the way actual, trained women fight: brutally. Trained female fighters are fearless and capable of taking tons of pain and punishment, and Jenkins hands the general population this reality with no-big-deal nonchalance. How refreshing and unexpected it was to see these women training and sparring like they were actually trying to kill each other.

 

 

2). It’s with this same deftness that Jenkins merges the film’s worlds in time and dimension without skipping a beat, at the same time crossing Wonder Woman over multiple genres. With its tight, complex plot, this film has something for everyone. You want to watch a movie about ancient western mythology? Wonder Woman. You want to watch a superhero movie? Wonder Woman. You want to watch a Great War movie? Wonder Woman. You want to watch a drama with a little comedy thrown in? An action/adventure flick? How about a martial arts action flick? Wonder Woman.

(About that last: you want to watch real-life tough, highly trained, battle-scarred badass women warriors facing off in real-life action? Watch MMA.)

 

 

3). The film is really all of the above, but the way I see it, Wonder Woman is, at its core, a female bildungsroman presented in a superhero framework, a coming-of-age story ending with the protagonist fully realizing who she is. Literally. It’s maybe too easy in this regard, but it works. The result is breathtaking. First of all, the notion of a female bildungsroman disguised as a superhero movie is, in itself, brilliant.

Directed by anyone other than Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman might have turned out to be another one-dimensional superhero flick. In Jenkins’ hands, Diana did not come out to be a sword-wielding piece of ass in a short skirt, and neither did the Amazons. Diana is the hero, contingent on nothing, peripheral to no one.

What there is to drool over here is a well-crafted film that’s already a classic.

Not to mention, the battle-scene fight sequence choreography is stunning.

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.

 

Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell. (And Gen-X. And okayness.)

Man, I’m in a dark and strange mood this morning. I shouldn’t be. It’s gorgeous out there.

I live in Arizona and it’s May 19 and we’ve been sleeping with the windows open. It’s been like this for almost two weeks. The bedroom air is slightly chilly in the morning, so I reach for a light robe. This bizarre behavior can only mean one thing: we’re entering a new Ice Age.

It’s not just at night, either. After I get up, I go around the house and open one or two other windows and the front door, and leave them open for a good half-day, if not longer. I open them again in the evenings. This, my friends in other places, is paradise. We desert-dwellers love the desert, but we also love an unseasonably cool breeze through our security screen doors.

For posterity, here’s me this morning:

 

May 19, 2017 – in a light sweatshirt. In Arizona.

 

At the same time, awful things have been happening in the world, including the recent and tragic departure of Chris Cornell, whose widespread fame was launched with his Seattle grunge band Soundgarden. His death was not only shocking and sad, but also somewhat alarming for we “lost ones” of Generation X.

When you spend your childhood in the 70’s, your teens in the 80’s, and your twenties in the 90’s –and when the 90’s was your favorite decade, and Ten is one of your all-time favorite albums – the untimely deaths of icons like Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell are sobering. It makes you want to watch Singles (older Gen-Xers), Reality Bites (younger Gen-Xers), and Office Space all day, kicked back on the couch eating chips and not looking for a job, all of us stereotypical, slovenly losers and slackers of Generation X.

Should I complete my own stereotype as a Gen-X writer and install a coffee pot on my desk?

Should I stare off into space and then write a letter? (“Dear Eddie Vedder: please don’t.”)

But I’m lucky. My depression is under control. I’m okay. We’re okay. Everything is okay. Everything is fine, despite global shenanigans at the highest levels of power, shenanigans of which there’s no need to speak. It’s like that one meme… that one where the dog is sitting in a house that’s burning down around him, and then he perks up and says, “This is fine.”

That’s a sign of our times, though, isn’t it? “Okay” and “fine” have long since been code for “things aren’t exactly hunky-dory.”  

“How are you?”

“I’m okay.”

“JUST okay?”

Commence questioning all of your life choices as you’re prompted to consider why you said just “okay.” You can’t be okay if you say you’re okay, because okay isn’t good enough. To tell the well-meaning inquirer that you’re okay is to send yourself an invitation to spill all of your not-okayness right there in the office hallway on your way to the water cooler.

Is this the product of a society defined by extremes? If we’re not flying high on the vaporous joy of life at all times, then something is wrong?

I’ll take “okay.”

Maybe this entire post was a sort of tangent. Maybe I just wanted to say, Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell.

 

 

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!

 

Phoenix Forgotten. (Failed non-review movie review!) (+PTSD diagnosis story)

We went to watch Phoenix Forgotten, which brought back the year of 1997.

As I sat there, it occurred to me for the first time that the beginning of my PTSD coincided with the Phoenix Lights.

[NOTE: The link function to open the linked page in a new window is down at the moment, so you’ll have to back-arrow to get back here]

 

 

Probably many of us living here in Phoenix metro in 1997 remember the lights that moved over the Valley in March. For me, 1997 was also eventful because it involved numerous doctors throughout the year. 1997 was the year I was diagnosed with PTSD. Yes – six years post-main event.

I wasn’t in school in 1997. I was taking a year off, the year after college and before grad school. There were only two things on my agenda for 1997: write poems and train for my black belt in Tae Kwan Do. I was also working.

So I was doing all of that, just minding my own business, like you do, and then, one night, I went to bed feeling sick to my stomach. As soon as I closed my eyes, my heart jumped in and crashed the party, like, Hey! I’m here too! Whheeeeeee! Cannonball!!!… and I couldn’t breathe, and I thought I was going to die of a cardiac event.

Then I was waking up. It was morning. What the hell just happened?

It happened again the next night, and the next and the next. It got to a point where I was too gun-shy to go bed. Going to bed had become a horrifying prospect, so every night, I put it off until I was passing-out tired. I don’t know why I didn’t go to the doctor sooner.

Eventually, I did go to the doctor, because I had an episode that was different than the others, and that was the proverbial last straw.

In that episode, I was trapped in another dimension and I was going to die for sure. Somewhere between awake and sleep, something happened. If I was completely asleep, it would’ve been a nightmare. Whatever this was, it was psychedelic and real, like, 3D real… and that was on top of the physical Armageddon that was my new normal. After I survived that night, I finally went to the doctor.

*****

1997 became a year of medical mystery. I went back and forth between different internists and specialists, cardiology and gastroenterology and cardiology again, everyone referring me to everyone else. I was deemed healthy – good news! – but I was still having these ridiculous episodes.

Then my baffled first internist started asking me questions about my background. When it came out that I was a combat vet, she referred me to a shrink. The shrink explained that panic attacks mimic heart conditions and other physical issues, which was why no one thought of the PTSD possibility.

He explained that the first episode was a panic attack. After it recurred nightly for a period of time, it became a panic disorder (PTSD, in my case). And the next-level attacks, he said, were “night terrors.”

Why did it take so long for the PTSD to manifest? He said it wasn’t unusual for vets to come home fine and then experience a trigger years later. The trigger could be anything, he said. So what was my trigger? We’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter.

All we know is that my PTSD was triggered by something in the spring of 1997. Coincidentally, I’m sure, the Phoenix Lights also happened in the spring of 1997.

*****

I sat in the movie theater remembering and pondering all of this, and that is how my non-review movie review became a post about my PTSD diagnosis.

I can’t be objective about this movie, but I can say that in my opinion, it wasn’t bad.

Phoenix Forgotten begins on a robust note, then bleeds out into the Found Footage horror movie sub-genre. In my experience, Found Footage movies made after the first Blair Witch Project are doomed to the basement where Bad Horror Flicks live. I often really enjoy Bad Horror Flicks, but I can’t even say whether this movie was bad enough to qualify as that bad.

If you’re intrigued by the Phoenix Lights and/or you’re a fan of Found Footage horror movies, you may dig this one.