What I’m Digging Right Now – July Favorites

Is it just me, or did July come and go at the speed of light? I hardly recognized it was July before it was over! I don’t even know what happened there! Well, I guess I do. A lot happened in July. We enjoyed and cherished the blessing of priceless moments with family, friends, and our new kitty, Nenette, but I’m glad to take this moment to dwell on the Little Things that helped to make the month awesome.

Jumping right in…

1). Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers (novels by Stephen King)

 

Stephen King novels - always a good time!

Stephen King novels – always a good time!

 

How did the existence of Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes escape me for a whole year? Finders Keepers came to my attention when it became available this summer, but it wasn’t until then that I learned about Mr. Mercedes, which precedes Finders Keepers. On the up side, discovering the two books at the same time meant that I got to indulge in some delicious Stephen King binge reading. I heartily enjoyed the stories and characters in these novels, along with the technical surprises of them… they’re more thriller than horror, and King’s writing style departs from his usual, as well… but they’re not lacking in his usual flair. No matter how he writes, I’m always left wanting more. Such is the genius of Stephen King.

 

2). Southpaw (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-SouthpawMoviePoster

 

Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in this film is brilliant. It’s exciting to think that his superb portrayal of boxer Billy Hope, a role of a sort he’s never taken on before, might lead to an even broader selection of projects. He had nothing to prove in the first place, but now that we know he’s solid action flick material, we hope to see him turn up in more places we wouldn’t have expected.

 

3). The Body Shop’s Honeymania (fragrance).

Honeymania by The Body Shop (eau de toilette and body butter). I also have the Honeymania shower gel.

Honeymania by The Body Shop (eau de toilette and body butter). I also have the Honeymania shower gel.

 

When I made the commitment to use cruelty-free products as much as possible, I started experimenting with fragrances from The Body Shop. You know I love their beautiful Madagascar Vanilla scent, but I found that I’m even more enamored with Honeymania. On me, this fragrance works better than the former in terms of staying power and sillage, and it’s gorgeous, presenting, with my particular chemistry, like wildflowers with a subtle note of honey underneath. Other people love it when they smell it on me, too, which is always a good thing! I keep the body butter on my desk at work so my friends there can enjoy it, too.

 

4). Alba Botanica Very Emollient sunless tanner.

 

Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sunless Tanner

Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sunless Tanner

 

This pic is supposed to show how the color from Alba Botanica’s Very Emollient sunless tanner develops on my legs, the only place I put the stuff. I’m aware that my legs still look pale. That’s because they’re very pale in their natural state! Like many mixed chicks, I’m two-toned, with varying shades and textures of skin on different body parts. My face and legs are pale with thin skin that burns rather than tans, while the skin on my neck, arms, torso and back is thicker and tans easily. Every summer, my neck and arms turn brown no matter what I do, so I like to do a little self-tanning on my legs just to even things out a bit.

I like the way this cruelty-free sunless tanner works, but my favorite thing about it is the surprising way that it smells. Inexplicably… this is a self-tanning lotion we’re talking about, remember… this product smells like a scrumptious, baked treat. Callaghan and I have been trying to identify it, and it’s been driving us crazy, as we can’t quite figure it out. It’s a familiar scent, kind of buttery and caramelesque, but… not quite. It’s a mystery. It’s awesome.

 

5). Naturtint Naturally Better permanent hair color in 5G (Light Golden Chestnut).

 

Excellent cruelty-free hair color by Naturtint!

Excellent cruelty-free hair color by Naturtint!

 

Here’s another cruelty-free product that, because of what it is, has no business wafting a delicious food scent into your nostrils. This hair color actually smells like anise! This is a permanent hair dye. It smells like anise, not like chemicals. Amazing! The shade I use is beautiful, too. The color comes out rich and multi-dimensional, and it lasts longer than the product I was using before. Like the Honeymania fragrance, others have noticed; I’ve never received compliments on my hair color before I started using this one. In every respect, this hair color is superior to any I’ve ever used… and I never would have found it had I not gone cruelty-free.

 

6). Freeman Feeling Beautiful Golden Grain Brightening Mask.

 

Freeman Feeling Beautiful Golden Grain Brightening Mask

Freeman Feeling Beautiful Golden Grain Brightening Mask

 

I’m missing my beloved Epielle sheet masks much less now, thanks to this product from Freeman. My explorations into the realm of cruelty-free facial masks led me to their Golden Grain Brightening Mask, which is unlike anything I’ve used before.

Formulated with vitamin C to brighten the skin and even out discoloration, the product comes out of the tube looking and feeling like clear hair gel. I eyed it warily at first, but there’s nothing even remotely unpleasant about it. The mask spreads over your skin like watery silk, not the slightest bit sticky. It’s good for dry skin, but it’s not oily or greasy. It’s thick, but it goes on feeling hydrating. If water came in gel form, it would be like this. I love its fresh, clean herbal scent, too, which is just as important!

I leave the mask on five minutes longer than recommended, and it never feels tight, dry or otherwise uncomfortable. The entire experience of this mask is pleasant and relaxing. I use it interchangeably with Freeman’s Feeling Beautiful Dead Sea Minerals Anti-Stress Mask, which is more like your traditional clay mask. I’ve said that I’d never go back to masks that harden on your skin and require work to remove, but my skin likes a variety of masks (when I was using the Epielle sheet masks, I alternated between four different formulas), so I re-thought that when I began my cruelty-free adventure. The Dead Sea Minerals mask by Freeman is a great one, as well.

Now that I’ve talked about products that smell like food… fragrance that smells of honey, self-tanning lotion that smells of a buttery-sweet dessert, and hair color that smells of anise… let’s talk about actual food!

 

7). Cherries.

 

Fresh sweet cherries!

Fresh sweet cherries!

 

It appears that I have a tendency to find things I love and then proceed to eat them to excess all month long. This probably isn’t the best idea, especially when the food in question tends to give me digestive issues! I’ve always had a mild sensitivity to cherries, but they’re my favorite fruit, so I eat them with abandon when they’re in season, regardless. I ate tons of cherries in July and didn’t regret a single one.

 

8). Spaghetti with garlic and olive oil.

 

Whole wheat spaghetti with olive oil, fresh garlic and coarsely ground sea salt.

Whole wheat spaghetti with olive oil, fresh garlic and coarsely ground sea salt.

 

This is my all-time favorite dish, and it so happened that I married the person who makes it the best, in my opinion! Callaghan’s pasta with garlic and olive oil is sublime. Of course, I grind more sea salt onto my plate than anyone should eat in a sitting, probably, but I love this dish on the saltier side. There’s just something about the combination of garlic and salt. We like to eat the pasta first and then distribute the minced garlic and olive oil (left at the bottom of the pasta bowls) over toasted whole wheat bread spread with Earth Balance. Fantastic garlic bread!

We eat this year-round – it’s one of our staple meals – but we went a little crazy with it in July. We started out the month with four pounds of whole wheat spaghetti in the pantry, and by the end of the month, we’d eaten it all. We’ll never get tired of it.

 

9). Sprouts’ Vegan Super Fruit muffins.

 

Vegan super fruit muffins at Sprouts

Vegan super fruit muffins at Sprouts

 

We found these muffins in Sprouts’ bakery, and we enjoyed them all through July. These are not your standard, oversized muffins, bloated with sugar and bad fats. These are delicious and just perfect. They’re large, but not two-servings huge, and they’re light and not too sweet. The fruit in them balances the flavor with a nice tang. I wish Sprouts existed outside of Arizona so you could all try them!

ETA: I just checked their web site and saw that new locations are coming to Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Georgia! Sprouts is finally branching out of the Land of AZ. Move over, Whole Paycheck!

 

10). Clif bar in Nuts & Seeds.

 

Clif's new flavor: Nuts & Seeds

Clif’s new flavor: Nuts & Seeds

 

Like the muffins, the new Nuts & Seeds Clif bar isn’t as sweet as you’d expect. I still love their Sierra Trail Mix bar, but this one’s my new favorite! I usually enjoy half a bar as weekday workout fuel. You can’t go wrong with a combination of complex carbs, protein and healthy fats.

That’s it for July’s Little Things… my list for August is already filling up, and we’re only three days into it!

“Southpaw” floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-SouthpawMoviePoster

 

It seems like a long time ago that an upcoming boxing drama called Southpaw crossed our radar… or, rather, a long time since we found out that Jake Gyllenhaal, one of our favorite actors (we’ve never seen a film of his we haven’t enjoyed), would be portraying a boxer called Billy “The Great” Hope. We went online and found a photo of his Southpaw physique, and we hardly recognized him. Needless to say, we were stoked.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-SouthpawJakeGyllenhaal

 

We admire Gyllenhaal because he’s consistently good, and he has a knack for choosing solid projects. He has depth. He has range. But we’d never seen his range extend into action/sports hero territory, and he’d never been an actor I’d expect to see in a gritty, testosterone-driven role such as that of Billy “The Great” Hope. Along with the rest of the world, we were eager to find out how he did. How he did was he went out and trained obsessively and developed himself the bod and the skills, and he smashed it.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-SouthpawJakeGyllenhaal2

 

Some actors, you can see how they come to casting directors’ minds for such roles: Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, Sylvester Stallone in Rocky, Russell Crowe in Cinderlla Man, Michael Jai White in Blood and Bone, Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, and Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter, for instance. Then you have excellent but unexpected choices, like Will Smith, who bulked up and trained to play Ali and nailed it, killing everyone’s skepticism (that marked the beginning of Smith’s action hero career, didn’t it?)… and now, Gyllenhaal, who does the same in Southpaw.

There are several ways you can describe Southpaw. It’s a fight movie, a boxing drama, a story of redemption, a vendetta movie, a come-back story… and it’s a family drama.

Here, I have to say that fight movies – especially the ones about boxing – always carry a note of sentimental value for me, so I can’t approach them unbiased. I’ve mentioned before how my fascination with boxing began in early childhood, growing up in the 70’s sitting in front of the T.V. with Dad on Saturday afternoons watching the likes of Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Duran, and Hagler, and into the 80’s with Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns (not to mention Howard Cosell throughout it all) on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Because of those intervals of bonding with Dad throughout my grade school years, I’ve loved the “the sweet science” of boxing for as long as I can remember.

Because I watched the film through the lens of some of my fondest childhood memories, I saw Southpaw as more of a family drama than as a straight-up fight movie. Southpaw is a simple story about a father-daughter relationship and how it was both shaken and healed by boxing. My own enduring affection for the sport of boxing was inspired by my father when I was a young girl of the same age as Billy Hope’s daughter. Unsurprisingly, I found the drama of that relationship to be the most inspired theme in the film.

Nevertheless, Southpaw follows a standard fight-movie formula; fortunately, it does its thing exceptionally well. It transcends the mundanity of its story with great acting and all the technical trimmings of the film-making craft. Neither Callaghan nor I had trouble forgiving the film its baldly formulaic plot, because if you turn it upside down, you can see that the formula works in Southpaw’s favor in some ways. It relieves the film of obligations to be fresh, and it opens up space for the characters and conflicts to develop. It’s telling an old story rife with clichés, and the refreshing part is seeing it done so well.

Family drama aspect aside, Southpaw’s boxing scenes are beautifully filmed and keenly impactful, and we found ourselves on edge even if we could predict the outcome of the bouts. Much of the movie is painful to watch. Southpaw is relentless, a film that needs no time to find its footing, gliding into its rhythm right from the outset. I’d love to watch Southpaw contend for Academy awards, and I think it could, considering the talent that infuses it: Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer); actors such as Forest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams, and, of course, Gyllenhaal. Then there’s the music by James Horner (the film was dedicated to his memory) and Eminem’s contribution of four songs, including “Phenomenal” and “Kings Never Die”… and the fact that the film was brought to us courtesy of the Weinstein Company.

Of all his memorable quotes, Muhammad Ali is perhaps most famous for proclaiming that he’d “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” and that’s what Southpaw does. It floats along on its easy, predictable plot, but in the end, it’s a knock-out.

What I’m Digging Right Now – November Favorites

November favorites are here! Let’s get right into it and start with food, shall we?

1). KeVita sparkling probiotic drink in strawberry acai coconut.

 

KeVita! Doesn't that word make you want to dance?

KeVita! Doesn’t that word make you want to dance?

 

Let’s just say that ever since a friend introduced me to this softly fizzy, mildly fruity and lightly sweet probiotics drink, I’ve considered probiotics to be my spirit animal.

 

2). Mrs. May’s All Natural Cashew Crunch.

 

Mrs. May's All Natural Cashew Crunch slow dry-roasted snack (original flavor)

Mrs. May’s All Natural Cashew Crunch slow dry-roasted snack (original flavor)

 

Guys, I stumbled upon this sweet, healthy and wholesome snack at Ross a few weeks ago and literally squealed with delight. I used to go to the airport just to buy this, since I couldn’t find it anywhere else. It’s been years since I’ve indulged my addiction to it, and I’d actually forgotten about it until I found it by accident again. Love.

 

3). Garlic from Gilroy.

 

All hail to the garlic from Gilroy!

All hail to the garlic from Gilroy!

 

We pass through the town of Gilroy when we drive to San Jose, California, and this last time, when we went for Thanksgiving, we stopped and picked up a bunch of garlic from the side of the road. Gilroy is the garlic capital of the world, or something like that, and I’m here to testify that garlic from Gilroy is a whole ‘nother species of garlic from its supermarket cousins. Mounds of garlic sautéed in olive oil and piled on pasta never tasted so good!

 

4). Kashi Go Lean Vanilla Graham Clusters cereal.

 

Kashi Go Lean Vanilla Graham Clusters cereal

Kashi Go Lean Vanilla Graham Clusters cereal

 

Here’s another Go Lean cereal flavor that captured my everlasting affection. When I took my first bite, the first thing I thought was Lucky Charms! Okay, it doesn’t actually taste like Lucky Charms, but it does remind me of them, vaguely, or enough, anyway, for it to trigger all the good memories from my childhood. With 11 grams of protein per serving, you really can’t go wrong with this. It is delightful with almond milk. Do recommend!

 

5). Vega protein smoothie powder in Viva Vanilla.

 

Vega protein smoothie in Viva Vanilla

Vega protein smoothie in Viva Vanilla

 

I’m really not a vanilla fanatic… it’s coincidental that there are two vanilla-flavored favorites on my list this month. It just kind of happened that way. The Kashi cereal brings memories of Lucky Charms, and this plant-based protein powder right here whirled up in the Nutribullet with plain, cold water? Tastes like vanilla ice cream! It’s not terribly high in protein, since it’s the smoothie mix rather than the actual protein powder (Vega makes both)… but you get 15 grams of protein in only 80 calories in that little glass of vanilla ice cream-tasting goodness. Drinking a serving of this is my favorite way to add a low-calorie shot of protein to my day.

Let’s move on to products!

 

6). CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion for normal to dry skin.

 

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion for normal to dry skin

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion for normal to dry skin

 

I picked this up because I needed a basic moisturizer to use after those times I take an early evening shower (post-workout), not wanting to put on a thick, rich night cream until right before bed, but I was hooked after first use, and I haven’t used anything else at night ever since. My thick, rich night cream has been collecting dust. I should probably start using it again, too… I’m a fan of layering products… but just saying. This lotion by CeraVe is pretty amazing stuff.

 

7). Cover Girl Ready, Set, Gorgeous Foundation.

 

Cover Girl Ready, Set Gorgeous! in 115

Cover Girl Ready, Set Gorgeous! in 115

 

I really don’t know why I bought this in the first place… I didn’t need it, since I’d recently purchased (and featured on a “favorites” list) a foundation by L’Oreal. I think it caught my eye one day and I remembered that I’d read rave reviews about it, and it just looked so small and cute and innocuous, like, what harm can come from trying me?  Whatever the case, it’s my new favorite. Not only has it kicked L’Oreal out of its spot on my list of favorite foundations, but I’ve also stopped using my Benefit concealer since I discovered that I can spot-apply this as a cover-up, too. It layers really well, feels great, lasts all day and doesn’t cost much.

And finally, entertainment…

 

8). Nightcrawler (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-nightcrawlermovie

 

Jake Gyllenhaal. Jake Gyllenhaal in a gritty, dark, intelligent film. We saw this on Veteran’s Day, and it struck us as brilliant on many levels. Does Jake ever choose projects we don’t like? Come to think of it, no, but we found this film to be especially compelling.

 

9). John Wick (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-johnwickmovie

 

Okay, now, this, folks, is what film-candy is made of, and finally, unbelievably, here’s an action flick that managed to restore my faith in Keanu Reeves. Loved it.

 

10). Miranda Sings.

 

Who makes me laugh, besides Callaghan? This girl right here! Miranda Sings.

Who makes me laugh, besides Callaghan? This girl right here! Miranda Sings.

 

I started watching Miranda Sings videos and immediately found myself semi-obsessed with her music videos, so when she came to Tempe to perform in November, I had to drop everything and scour Craigslist for tickets to her sold-out show. This girl is freaking hilarious! Go watch her videos!! Here, I’ll get you started:

 

 

Now, let’s see what December brings!