Year in review, looking ahead, and my favorite little things (2016 favorites!)

Happy New Year! I know I probably already said that, but “Happy New Year” again. This is my annual year-in-review/resolutions/favorites of my past year’s favorites post.

1). 2016 was exciting, but I don’t have to be wistful about it because the good things are continuing into 2017.

I’m still heartened with deep satisfaction from the life changes I was able to make in 2016. It was a particularly great year occupation-wise. About this, I can only say that I’m thankful every day to experience the feeling of vitality the luckiest people feel when they wake up driven and eager because they know they’re going to spend the day doing what they love, where and how they love doing it. Any work-related stress I experience is self-imposed, productive stress. I keep thinking this is all a splendiferous dream. I’m aware that I may have to wake up one day, so I’m enjoying it while I can.

Fitness-wise, adding (Les Mills) Body Pump to my workout routine was the best thing I did in 2016. It took me almost the whole year to get here, but I finally did, and I. Am. Loving. It.

The year was rich and rewarding family-wise, too. We spent lovely time with my family (between my brother’s wedding and Thanksgiving), and it was fun ending the year with my sister-in-law and her boys during their longish visit.

One thing we did with them was the annual Phoenix Zoo Lights, which is great, anyway, but so especially awesome with kids!

 

Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016

Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016

 

With Legoland now open down the way at Arizona Mills (where we also went with the kids), Legos were featured in this year’s Zoo Lights:

 

Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016 (with Lego sculpture)

Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016 (with Lego sculpture)

 

On the darker side of 2016: It was a hard year in terms of our furbabies. It involved upheaval, heartbreak, and a lot of time, effort, and money spent trying to make life good for our kitties. It’s not over, but we’re determined. Our focus at the moment is on healing Cita physically. After that, we can focus entirely on healing her emotionally, with the ultimate goal of integrating her into our household with Nenette… yes, we’re going to attempt that again. We are not going to give up.

We’re already doing what we can to make Cita’s environment as stress-free as possible – putting Feliway (comforting feline pheromones) in her air, and Bach Rescue Remedy in her water – so we’re off to a running start. Reducing her stress is helping her to heal, in general.

2). Looking ahead at 2017, I am:

–Starting out the year with an updated workout routine, doing 3 Body Pump classes and 2 Body Combat classes per week, instead of the other way around. It was time for a change, and my body is loving it!

–Continuing work on alleviating (if not overcoming) my PTSD-related claustrophobia via repeated trips to the sensory deprivation tank.

–Speaking more French at home, since I completely failed last year’s resolution and spoke practically no French.

3). I usually do a “favorites of the past year” list; continuing with the tradition, here’s my list of my favorite of my 2016 favorites!

Favorite Random:

  • Les Mills Body Pump
  • Nature’s Wick Bonfire Nights candle

Favorite Skin care, hair care, cosmetics (all cruelty-free… not tested on animals):

  • Derma e antioxidant natural sunscreen with clear zinc oxide SPF 30
  • OGX Healing + Vitamin E shampoo and conditioner
  • The Body Shop Honey and Oat 3 in 1 moisturising scrub mask
  • The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil
  • The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance hair butter
  • e.l.f. Flawless Finish foundation (in Sand)
  • e.l.f. High Definition Powder in Soft Luminescence
  • e.l.f. Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette

Favorite Foods (all vegan):

  • Scivation Xtend BCAAs (strawberry kiwi)
  • Bragg’s organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • Trader Joe’s multi-grain sourdough (with sunflower and sesame seed) bread
  • Eureka! Seeds the Day bread
  • Seedless red grapes
  • KIND Nuts and Spices bar (dark chocolate nuts and sea salt)
  • Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (iced oatmeal cookie) with peanut butter
  • Chipotle Tabasco sauce

Favorite Movies:

  • Hush
  • Ghostbusters
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hacksaw Ridge

Favorite T.V. series:

  • Orphan Black
  • The Americans
  • Empire
  • The Affair
  • American Horror Story: Roanoke
  • Better Call Saul
  • Bates Motel
  • Stranger Things
  • Black-ish
  • Speechless

That’s it for the wrap-up. Onward!

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And they all fall down. (November favorites!)

Let’s just jump right into this list of enjoyable little things I discovered in November!

 

1). Jacket weather.

 

Winter has come.

Winter has come.

 

Okay, I didn’t discover this, but it happened, and I love it. Jacket weather has arrived! (My hair isn’t this light; this pic shows an illusion of the aggressive lighting in the optometrist’s room in which I was sitting yesterday afternoon. My hair looks red under light, anyway, but this pic is beyond.) It doesn’t matter what the calendar says… if it’s cold enough to wear a jacket – in the 60’s – it’s winter.

 

2). Night School (novel by Lee Child)

 

Lee Child's 2016 Reacher release!

Lee Child’s 2016 Reacher release!

 

It’s here, and I finally got my hands on it! I’m about half-way through, and I’m hooked, as usual. I’ll probably devote a post to this new Reacher novel of Lee Child’s.

 

3). Nerve (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-nerve

 

We were looking for a fluffy cinematic escapade for mindless entertainment one day, and we happened upon Nerve. We chose it because of Emma Roberts and the fact of having seen the trailer and remembering how we thought we discerned a unique premise for a sci-fi thriller… and that’s exactly what we got. And we were entertained. Success!

 

4). The Affair S3 (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-theaffairs3

 

This season of The Affair is strikingly dark compared to the last two seasons, which were also dark, if that gives you any idea about this stunning series. Season 3 takes you down into an abyss, a drop that’s immediately evident as that eerie song of Fiona Apple’s in the opening credits now harmonizes with beautiful and morbid images of the characters sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

 

 

The Affair just gets better and better. The story seems straightforward enough as it begins in the first season, but by the time you’ve watched the first two/three episodes of the third season, you have no idea, really, what you’ve gotten into.

 

5). Acure night cream.

 

Acure night cream

Acure night cream

 

I think this cream may have appeared in a list from last year. It’s making a reappearance, as I’ve started using it again, and I still think it’s great. I’ve tried some very good night creams this year; my favorite is still Yes to Blueberries, but I’m enjoying using this one by Acure at the moment.

 

6). Amy’s organic lentil vegetable soup (light in sodium).

 

Amy's organic lentil vegetable (light in sodium) soup

Amy’s organic lentil vegetable (light in sodium) soup

 

I eat a lot of soup these days. I love homemade soup, but more often than not, I grab whatever can of soup we have on hand. It’s always Amy’s. This lentil vegetable one is my favorite. It’s “light in sodium,” but not to worry… it’s nothing a few twists of the salt grinder can’t fix! I load it up with pink Himalayan salt and figure I’ll deal with the repercussions of excess sodium consumption later. I’ve got to have some vices, right? At least one? And as far as processed foods go, Amy’s soups really aren’t that bad.

 

7). Clif Kid Organic Z bar (iced oatmeal cookie) with peanut butter.

 

Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (iced oatmeal cookie) with peanut butter topping

Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (iced oatmeal cookie) with peanut butter topping

 

This bar appeared on last month’s list. Its taste reminds me of Fig Newtons, which I love. But now I top it with peanut butter for some added protein, and the aftertaste takes it from Fig Newton to pure oatmeal cookie. I’m so glad I tried this!

 

8). Scivation Xtend BCAAs in strawberry kiwi.

 

Scivation Xtend BCAAs (strawberry-kiwi)

Scivation Xtend BCAAs (strawberry-kiwi)

 

When deciding on BCAAs to supplement my weight-training workouts and muscle recovery, my only concern was finding a good one that’s vegan. I’d never taken BCAAs before, so I dove into some research and came up with Scivation Xtend. I got the strawberry kiwi. The flavor is good, and it works well in getting me through a Body Pump session and recovering faster afterward. SCORE.

 

9). Sumo wrestling.

 

Grand Sumo Tournament 2016

Grand Sumo Tournament 2016

 

Sitting in front of the T.V. with Dad when we were in California for Thanksgiving, I got to revisit those favorite childhood moments of watching combat sports with him… only this time, instead of boxing, it was sumo wrestling! It never occurred to me to actually sit and watch sumo. Callaghan and I were instantly drawn in; we were surprised at how much we enjoyed it. I’m still pondering the mystery of how a match that can be over in 5 seconds can be so exciting to watch. The 15-day tournament ended on the 27th (It was the November Grand Sumo Tournament, or Kyushu Basho, in Fukuoka, Japan). We watched the last two nights here at home, on YouTube. The next tournament will be in January.

 

10). New tattoo.

 

Three swallows in flight

Three swallows in flight

 

Fresh out of the studio, freshly wrapped in plastic.

Fresh out of the studio, freshly wrapped in plastic.

 

I finally got my bird tattoos! I’ve been wanting swallows, and I love the way they turned out.

That’s it for November, and that’s almost it for 2016!

You’re a seasonal beast (October Favorites!)

Our daytime temperatures hung out in the 90’s all October, right up until yesterday, when it dropped into the 80’s… but it’s been fall enough for me!

Lots of food to talk about again. In October, I started making a point of watching the amounts of processed food and refined sugars that I consume. The situation has gotten better (it wasn’t that bad before, but there was a lot of room for improvement). I’m still a fan of protein/energy bars and cereals, though, so I’m always trying new ones. My latest discoveries are included in this list.

Things have been busier than usual with writing, plus preparation for various trips (those had and those to-be-had). So I’m just going to get right into these little things I loved in October. Happy Fall!

 

1). The Shallows (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-theshallows

 

This wasn’t the greatest film ever, but it was entertaining and suspenseful and different, so we had a good time with it. Good shark films, let’s face it… because Sharknado movies don’t count (“good” being the operative word)… are few and far between. I can’t think of a decent one since Jaws, and that was something like 40 years ago. The Shallows filled that void nicely, despite its absurd ending. Nancy’s predicament was plausible enough, but the contrast between that modicum of believability and the big problem-solving action she takes at the end was just too stark. After all the time we spent balancing on the edge of our seats, waiting to see how she’d get out of her situation, we ended up, like, “…really?” It almost killed the whole thing for us (pardon the pun). But we enjoyed The Shallows 95% of the way through, and I do recommend it if you’re in for a shark-menaced thriller!

 

2). Speechless (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-speechless

 

Speechless is a new sitcom that stars Minnie Driver and features a main character with a disability. If there’s ever been a sitcom centered on a family with a specific set of challenges not only working into their dynamic, but shaping their dynamic, I haven’t heard of it. Speechless has us amused and charmed, impressed and appreciative… there’s a lot to appreciate about this series, on many levels. Highly recommended!

 

3). KIND Nuts and Spices bar (dark chocolate nuts and sea salt)

 

KIND Nuts and Spices bars (dark chocolate nuts and sea salt)

KIND Nuts and Spices bars (dark chocolate nuts and sea salt)

 

Yes, it’s another KIND bar… but this one has 5 grams of sugar, which is less than the others I’d loved. This is a satisfying little bar with a decent amount of protein, for what it is. It’s been a delicious staple all month.

 

4). Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (iced oatmeal cookie)

 

Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (iced oatmeal cookie)

Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (iced oatmeal cookie)

 

And another bar! This one lands on the list because it reminds me of fig newtons, which I love… especially when I close my eyes and savor its aftertaste. This bar is more sugary than the KIND bar, but I like its solid good carb content, and it’s not devoid of nutrients. I have this as a treat once or twice a week.

 

5). Organic apples

 

organic apples

organic apples

 

I’m still enjoying red grapes every day, but I’ve added apples to the mix. It was time! Apples… I like them, but I tire of them quickly, so I save them for the fall and winter, for the most part. They’re always a surprisingly tasty twist after months of delicious spring and summer fruits.

 

6). Bragg’s organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar

 

Bragg's organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar

Bragg’s organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar

 

This is certainly new: I’ve been drinking apple cider vinegar, stirring a teaspoon of it into a glass of cold water three times a day. It’s an acquired taste, I guess… I found it strange, at first, but it’s become an oddly refreshing concoction that I look forward to drinking.

 

7). Kashi Organic Promise Autumn Wheat cereal

 

Kashi Organic Promise Autumn Wheat cereal

Kashi Organic Promise Autumn Wheat cereal

 

This is one of my favorite cereals! For some reason, I seem to gravitate toward Triscut-like Kashi cereals this time of year. I like the Autumn Wheat and the cinnamon one equally. The latter has more sugar, but neither of these are that sugary. I have them with fresh blueberries and soy milk.

 

8). Trader Joe’s Just a Handful of Raw Almonds

 

Trader Joe's Just a Handful of Raw Almonds

Trader Joe’s Just a Handful of Raw Almonds

 

For years now I’ve been cycling in and out of raw almond phases. I usually eat roasted, salted nuts and seeds (every day), but I crave plain old raw almonds every once in a while. Trader Joe’s (“just a handful”) raw almonds is a time-saver. You can grab a pre-portioned packet on your way to anywhere.

 

9). Nature’s Wick Bonfire Nights candle

 

Nature's Wick bonfire nights candle

Nature’s Wick bonfire nights candle

 

Another candle! When last month’s candle died its natural death, Callaghan went to repurchase it… but there weren’t any left. So he got this one, instead. And I like it even better. It was slightly alarming at first (its wooden wicks are designed to crackle like a fire, which isn’t necessarily a sound you want to hear in your kitchen), but I’m used to it now, and I’m enraptured. I can’t even describe the scent. It really does evoke the woods in the fall, with a bonfire, and the crackling fire sound adds to the experience, as intended. It is lovely.

 

10). Les Mills BODYPUMP

 

Les Mills BODYPUMP [pic from lesmillsdotcom]

Les Mills BODYPUMP [pic from lesmillsdotcom]

Body Pump just became a favorite last week, as you may know! I’m thrilled to have added two of these classes to my weekly workout schedule.

That wraps it up for October! I’m guessing that November will fly by, and I’ll be back with another Favorites post before I know it.