What I’m Digging Right Now – April Favorites

Some levity is in order around here, right? Conveniently, it’s May now, so I can rave about some of the Little Things that helped to make April enjoyable!

For one thing, we saw a phenomenal movie…

 

1). Ex Machina (film)

 

The movie poster in the theatre lobby....

The movie poster in the theatre lobby….

 

You know I love a good, well-crafted sci-fi thriller, and it’s been a while. I was just barely coasting along on the spectacular fumes of Pacific Rim when we walked into Ex Machina. I was almost skeptical going into it, but I knew that Luc Besson had nothing to do with this one, so I had high hopes that it wasn’t going to be another disappointment like last summer’s Lucy. We used the movie pass that Callaghan had gotten as a gift (thank you, friend!) and found ourselves stunned and in awe as Ex Machina dimmed the lights on its eerie, final scene. Certainly, the combination of elements made this film superb, but overall, I think it was the restraint used in its making that made it brilliant.

 

2). Mad Men (T.V. series)

 

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We’re having the same experience as most everyone who watches this series, I think: Mad Men’s last set of final season episodes isn’t striking us as being as purposeful as those in previous seasons. Whatever. Mad Men is back, and we’re loving it. The set! The hair, makeup, wardrobe! Mad Men is still my favorite period piece in television, and they’re killing it more than ever now that they’ve taken up solid residence in the 70’s. I almost don’t even care what happens at this point; I’m just there for the eye candy.

 

3). American Crime (T.V. series)

 

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Here’s a powerful new series that got right down to business and grabbed us by our throats. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s almost too ugly and depressing to watch… but it’s smashing.

 

4). Nurse Jackie (T.V. series)

 

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We’re late arrivals on the Nurse Jackie train, but like the critic said, “You just want to keep on watching.” Yep. We plowed through the first three seasons in such a short period of time, I’d be embarrassed to say how long if I could remember when, exactly, we started watching it. We just started season four, I can tell you that much! The hilarious short (half-hour) episodes make this dark dramedy especially easy to binge-watch. It goes well with popcorn, too.

 

5). It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

 

It's a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

 

This is an old favorite! Since we’ve now got ourselves on a strict budget because of Ronnie James’ medical costs, I went digging around in places where I store things I haven’t used in a while, and I happily re-discovered It’s a 10. And guess what? This brand meets my recently established criteria for beauty products! Because of expenses, I’d been procrastinating on the hair care part of my 2015 New Year’s resolution to go cruelty-free with cosmetics and such, so I was pleased to find that I’d stashed away this pricier gem of a hair care item that just so happens to have not been tested on animals.

Shopping my home supply for forgotten favorites is the best.

 

6). Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil (The Body Shop).

 

Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil from The Body Shop.

Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil from The Body Shop.

 

My search for a gorgeous cruelty-free fragrance finally led me to The Body Shop and its array of perfume oils. Back in the 90’s, I’d used the one called “Ananya,” which was finally, recently discontinued. I still have a little bit left in my last old bottle, but it’s been a while, and it’s not what it was when I’d purchased it… its potency has faded, and the scent is slightly off. So I went back to The Body Shop and happened upon their Madagascan Vanilla Flower, and I am in love. I’m not usually drawn to vanilla scents, but this one is different… it’s a deeper, more exotic vanilla with its warm, ambery-floral heart.

 

7). Earrings from Target.

 

Current favorite earrings - sparkly cluster studs from Target.

Current favorite earrings – sparkly cluster studs from Target.

 

This was just one of those silly impulse Target purchases, you know, when you run in to get some almond milk and you come out with three bags full of random crap. I’m proud to say that I’ve stopped with all of that this last month – somehow, and I know that many of you can appreciate the self-control I’m having to employ in this effort, haha! – but not before I found these earrings on clearance (back in March, I believe). Over the last month they’ve become my favorite uniform earrings to wear to work on days I don’t go to the gym. They’re just round studs made of little sparkly clusters. I think they’re perfect.

 

8). Arizona Yellow Bells.

 

Fragrant Arizona Yellow Bells on my desk at home.

Fragrant Arizona Yellow Bells on my desk at home.

 

Our Arizona Yellow Bells are all in bloom, and they are splendiferous! Callaghan surprised me with a vase full of them on my desk one day, where they perfumed my entire office with their rich, sweet fragrance. Arizona Yellow Bells are native to our desert, but I never experienced them until we moved into this house. There are two robust Arizona Yellow Bells bushes in our backyard, and they attract many a hummingbird, which we also adore.

While I’m at it, what would an Arizona spring flora favorite entry be without a shot of my favorite cactus blooms?

 

Spring in the desert is my favorite!

Spring in the desert is my favorite!

 

 

9). Rositas’ salsa.

 

Salsa from Rosita's.

Salsa from Rosita’s.

 

I have several favorite restaurant salsas around here, and this is one of them. Yesterday, I decided to pick some up on my walk home from work, and we had it for dinner. I love salsas that aren’t sweet, and this one is satisfyingly tangy and bold on the cilantro and onion… just the way I like it!

 

10). April Favorite pick for Ronnie James and Nounours: Bench & Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats (at Trader Joes’).

 

Bench and Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats.

Bench and Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats.

 

Kitties’ Auntie M. gave them these treats for Christmas, and the little guys went nuts for them. The day we ran out was a woeful one, indeed. What’s more, we couldn’t find the treats anywhere, and Ronnie James and Nounours wouldn’t eat any other kind. Catastrophe. Finally, we asked a sales person at PetSmart. They didn’t have the treats there, but she looked up them up and told us that they could be found at Trader Joe’s. Yes! We went to get them, and happiness has been restored.

“With added vitamins and minerals,” it says. “OMEGA 6:3 Enriched” and “with Menhaden Oil,” it says. Ronnie James and Nounours just say, “MOOR PLEEEZZZ!!!!”

The thing is, while we were medicating the Wrah-Wrah to heck and back, these treats were the only consolation prize we could offer him. They got us all through and ended the sessions on a happy note.

 

That about wraps it up for this favorites list – Happy Friday, All! =)

New Year’s Resolutions and 2014 Favorites!

Just over a week into 2015, I’m finally posting my “2014 Favorites” list with the little things I enjoyed the most, reached for the most, or just generally all-around dug the most last year.

Some things that landed on my Monthly Favorites lists in 2014 turned out to be notable UNfavorites, such as the Revlon ColorStay Moisture Stain lip color, which started out feeling great, but ultimately caused my lips to flake off, and the T.V. series Stalker, which started out fun, but ended up proving to be a big disappointment.

Before we get too far into the New Year, I also wanted to share my 2015 New Year’s Resolutions with you, especially since one of them ties in nicely with these “Favorites” posts. I have two resolutions this year:

1). Get more sleep!! (7-8 hours/night)

2). Switch to cruelty-free skincare products, cosmetics, hair products and other personal care items as much as possible.

I plan to make every effort on that second one, but I’m looking sideways at my beloved Korean Epielle facial sheet masks and the Jergens Natural Glow gradual self-tanning lotion that keeps my legs from blinding my Body Combat class with their natural snowy whiteness.

I’ve been wanting to do this for years, but I’ve been too intimidated by the challenge, and too reluctant to spend money on expensive products. Things are different now, though, and I’m not anticipating any difficulties in finding great, budget-friendly, cruelty-free products. The time is right! Throughout the year, I’ll refer to this list on mybeautybunny.com, as it’s meticulously updated. For instance, if a brand starts to sell in China, a country that requires animal testing on products, a warning will pop up on the list.

As for that first resolution about sleep, I’ve already got a good start on that one, thanks to the stomach flu. I actually blame sleep deprivation for coming down with that bug in the first place. Callaghan gets more sleep than I do by several hours per night, and he did not get sick. Silver lining to the stomach flu: I have a fail-proof incentive to make sure I get enough sleep on a regular basis! Adequate sleep keeps the bad things away.

So, as I was starting to say before I veered off into resolutions, of all the things I’ve listed over the months of 2014, some stood out more than others. There were T.V. series and movies that left us speechless, foods I couldn’t get enough of, and products that were game-changers. Some of the things on this list didn’t even appear in the Monthly Favorites lists, so they’re appearing here for the first time.

That being said, onward with this sampling of some of my favorite little things from 2014. I’ll start with products, since they follow my cruelty-free resolution (see… I got a head start)!

 

1). Face: Alba Botanica Hawaiian 3-in-1 Clean Towelettes Deep Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme.

 

The facial cleansing wipes that changed my life: Alba Botanica's Hawaiian 3-in-1 clean towelettes.

The facial cleansing wipes that changed my life: Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian 3-in-1 clean towelettes.

 

This is advertised as a makeup remover-cleanser-toner product, but the refreshing, invigorating wipes quickly became my go-to facial cleansing product in harried times, and I’ve been re-purchasing them continuously. I don’t use them for removing makeup… I use them in lieu of actual cleansing on days (or nights) I don’t have time for the whole soap-and-water thing. Without fail, I use them on Saturday mornings before putting on sunscreen and heading to the gym. I jump in the shower as soon as I get home, and I don’t see the point in washing my face “for real” twice in a morning (I do put sunscreen on twice, though).

 

2). Cosmetic: Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion in Original.

 

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My favorite eyeshadow primer by Urban Decay.

 

Urban Decay is one of the high-end cruelty-free brands. I don’t mind splurging on their eyeshadow primer potion, because each tube lasts forever, apparently, and it works so well. I’ve been using my current tube for almost a year; I finally picked up another one just because I figured it’s got to end any day now, and yet that was almost two months ago, and it hasn’t. It’s magic!

 

3). Fast food: Chipotle’s sofritas (tofu).

 

My go-to fast food nosh: Chipotle burrito bowl with Sofritas

My go-to fast food nosh: Chipotle burrito bowl with Sofritas

 

Chipotle’s black beans and brown rice were always a good enough reason for me to enjoy going there, but now they’ve completely won me over with the brilliant creation of their vegan sofritas dish. It’s basically a hearty, spicy, perfectly seasoned tofu chili. The omnivorous Callaghan loves it, too, because its texture is pretty much the same as ground beef. An omnivore would never take a bite of this and say, “I’m eating tofu.”

My standard Chipotle order is a burrito bowl with sofritas, brown rice, black beans, grilled onions and peppers, pico de gallo, hot sauce, lettuce and guacamole. I don’t mind paying extra for the guac. It’s one of my favorite things in the world, and I value the addition of the healthy fats!

 

4). Beverage: Sumatra ground coffee from Starbucks.

 

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

 

“Beverage.” I just love that word. Careful, man, there’s a beverage here! I’m just so pleased that we stumbled upon some really good coffee on the humble shelves of Target, I can’t even tell you. I don’t drink a lot of coffee every day, but I like the coffee I do drink to be solidly satisfying. Starbucks’ ground Sumatra kills it.

 

5). Protein bar: Clif (snack size) Builder’s bars.

 

Clif Builder's Chocolate Mint Snack Size protein bar

Clif Builder’s Chocolate Mint Snack Size protein bar

 

Clif Bar makes my favorite everyday treat. As far as protein bars go, the snack size bars aren’t terribly high in protein (10 grams – it’s a small bar), but they’re higher in protein than your average candy bar, certainly higher in protein than most treats with only 140 calories, they’re nutrient-dense, there’s nothing bad in them, and they are, for the most part, vegan. The peanut butter ones are my standard 10:00-10:30am snack at work. If I have one after dinner instead, I go for the chocolate mint.

 

6). Activity: Body Combat.

 

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An hour of someone guiding me through a kick-ass cardio workout in which I can practice almost every martial art I’ve ever studied? Yes, please! This is like cardio shadow-boxing at someone’s command (mostly bad music notwithstanding). All I have to do is show up. It’s fun, it’s an awesome workout, the instructors are fantastic, we’ve met some wonderful people there… it’s a no-brainer!

 

7). Big Thing: XXL WaveMaster heavy bag.

 

Thanks to the arrival of my XXL WaveMaster heavy bag (standing), our car no longer lives in our garage.

Thanks to the arrival of my XXL WaveMaster heavy bag (standing), our car no longer lives in our garage.

 

Practicing my form in Body Combat is one thing, but cardio shadow-boxing only whets the appetite for the next level. I did a drop-in kick-boxing class at a place with bags one day last year, and the surge of excitement as I made actual contact and worked with a partner had my head swimming with twinkly visions of heavy bags, target mitts and medicine balls ever since. Then Christmas rolled around and Callaghan’s gift arrived. Awesome!!

 

8). Small Thing: Travel cup from Starbucks.

 

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

 

Not one, but two Starbucks products on this list! What is happening?! I remember being tempted to travel back through the dusty spring desert to Blythe, California early in 2014 to get this travel cup where I first spotted it, but then hitting numerous Starbucks stores around the Valley, instead, until I found it here. I’m so glad I did. I’ve become kind of embarrassingly attached to it. I carry it with me practically everywhere at work, and it starts a lot of conversations with various aspects of its design. I love it just because it’s awesome, though.

 

9). T.V.: The Killing, Homeland and The Good Wife

 

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HOMELAND (Season 4)

 

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Here we have a murder mystery/crime drama, a spy drama, and a legal drama. All of our cliffhanger needs were met in 2014. Figuratively speaking, our nails were bitten to the quick during these shows (especially during Homeland last fall, holy smokes)!!

Honestly, we saw so much good T.V. in 2014, I had a hard time narrowing it down. We loved House of Cards, The Following, True Detective, Hannibal and Mad Men. For comedies, we love Modern Family and Bob’s Burgers. Our token fluff comedy is Hart of Dixie. Gotta have the fluff!

 

10). Film: Edge of Tomorrow, Nightcrawler and The Babadook

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-EdgeofTomorrow

 

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I love action, intrigue and terror, and between these three movies, 2014 delivered big time with this excellent trio of releases. That reminds me – American Sniper was released yesterday!!

That about wraps up this list – I’m looking forward to the fantabulous little things of 2015; in the coming year, expect to find mentions of books, articles and music (along with lots of cruelty-free products)!

Happy Friday, All. =)

What I’m Digging Right Now – May Favorites

May was a long month that brought a slew of healthy challenges. (If there isn’t already a book called The Introvert’s Guide to Surviving a Month of Houseguests, I might write one.) May was also fun, satisfyingly busy, and rife with “little things” that provoked delight. I actually had to decide which ones to feature here! I doubled some up, so the 10-item list below really contains 13 things. Let’s start with…

1). New reading glasses.

 

Animal print reading glasses in the shadows

Animal print reading glasses in the shadows

 

Before we went to California for Memorial Day weekend, I went shopping for a summer hat for Mom and ended up walking out of Steinmart with two hats for her and these reading glasses for myself, because seriously, who am I to pass on a pair of animal print reading glasses?

It’s great knowing my prescription, by the way. This purchase was a no-brainer, and in fact, I was hardly responsible… the display of animal print glasses pulled me toward it, and all I had to do was find the ones marked +1.25.  I actually needed a pair, though (my rickety old ones fall off my face when I look down).

 

2). Snapea Crisps Harvest Snaps.

 

Snapea Crisps! SO GOOD.

Snapea Crisps! SO GOOD.

 

Snapea Crisps are an old favorite of mine I re-discovered when we got back to the States. At some point during the month of May, they became a staple in our kitchen. They’re as satisfying as potato chips, but they’re baked rather than fried (0 trans fats, 0 cholesterol), and they carry nutritional value… one lightly-salted serving gives you 5g protein, 4g fiber, 230 mg potassium, 6% calcium and 8% iron. I always count out an exact serving of 22 pieces, because if I don’t, I’d probably consume the whole bag in one sitting.

Nutritional density notwithstanding, I know it’s unhealthy to snack on crispy, salty little things in front of the T.V. – we are aware, and we do try to keep it to a minimum. But… you know. Some things just go together beautifully. Rock stars and models.  Desert and rain. Snapea Crisps and Mad Men.

 

3). Artichokes and cherries.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-artichokes

 

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It so happens that two of my favorite varieties of edible flora come into season in May!

When I bring home artichokes, I keep it simple, boiling them with a bit of olive oil and salt and eating them with grape-seed oil Veganaise. Prepared in this manner, the artichoke becomes a glorious magic carpet that carries me off into a cloud of gustatory euphoria. Forget food porn. The artichoke is nature’s Demerol. We’re still indulging, as they’re having a long season this year.

As for the cherries, they ripened earlier than usual this year in the California orchards… they’re technically more a June fruit than May. Dad took us cherry-picking when we were there with Callaghan’s father, though, so they made it onto the list. We brought home heaps of lovely Brooks and Rainer cherries. Like the Snapea Crisps, I have to ration them out when I start eating them, because I will OD on them (if you’ve ever OD’d on cherries, you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s not pretty).

 

4). Clif Mojo Dark Almond Cherry Trail Mix bar and Cascadian Farms Organic Peanut Protein Bar.

 

My new favorite energy and protein bars... and a weird fruit that seems to be a mutant kumquat.

My new favorite energy and protein bars… and a weird fruit that seems to be a mutant kumquat.

 

Yet more food!

You know I’m always on the hunt for perfect energy and protein bars, “perfect” meaning simple, delicious and balanced. In May, I discovered the Clif Mojo Dark Almond Cherry Trail Mix bar and the Cascadian Farms Organic Peanut Protein bar, and they are fantabulous both pre- and post-workout. Anytime, in fact.

 

Now, let’s talk skincare products…

5). Olay Total Effects 7 in One Anti-Aging Eye Treatment.

 

Olay Total Effects 7 in One Anti-Aging Eye Treatment

Olay Total Effects 7 in One Anti-Aging Eye Treatment

 

I ran out of eye cream in May, so I thought I’d get one I hadn’t tried yet. I picked up the Olay Total Effects 7 in One Anti-Aging Eye Treatment, and it quickly became a favorite. It appears to have a tint of color, but it doesn’t… it’s slightly brightening, and it actually reminds me a lot of Clinique’s All About Eyes (it’s similar in color, and it has the same light, velvety texture and feel on the skin). I put it on twice a day, in the morning and at night. I’m definitely going to re-purchase it once this one’s finished!

 

6). Garnier Clean Nourishing Cleansing Oil (for dry skin).

 

Garnier Clean Nourishing Cleansing Oil

Garnier Clean Nourishing Cleansing Oil

 

I used to use olive oil on my face at night, so when I came across this new cleansing oil from Garnier last month, I thought I’d try it out. The verdict? Love it. It’s light yet rich with jojoba and macadamia nut oils, it smells nice, and it just feels good when I work it into my skin. Now, that part of my nighttime routine is less about removing my makeup and more about my face getting massage therapy. I rinse the oil off with water and follow it up with my normal nighttime cleanser (I’m currently using one by Simple).

 

7). Victoria’s Secret VS Fantasies fragrances in Sensual Blush and Amber Romance.

 

Victoria’s Secret VS Fantasies fragrances in Sensual Blush and Amber Romance

Victoria’s Secret VS Fantasies fragrances in Sensual Blush and Amber Romance

 

May brought warmer weather that I interpreted as an excuse to get a new fragrance. Walking by a Victoria’s Secret one day, I impulsively went in and tested every scent in their VS Fantasies collection on every available square inch of skin on both my arms until I couldn’t smell anything anymore. In the end, I decided to go with Sensual Blush (I got both the fragrance mist and the ultra-hydrating hand and body cream) and Amber Romance (the eau de toilette). I layer them, and the combination is sensational!

 

8). Chihuly in the Garden

When I realized that artist Dale Chihuly had returned to the Desert Botanical Gardens to show his work again – I’d gone with a friend to see his exhibit there a few years back – I had to seize the opportunity, and it was an excellent circumstance that one of our houseguests was with us at the time. Chihuly in the Garden was quite an unusual treat for a visitor from France! Spring in the desert is magnificent as it is, with all the cactuses in bloom… add the installation of Chihuly’s colorful glass sculptures amongst the desert flora, and you find yourself in a place of sheer alien beauty. It’s like springtime on another planet.

 

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9). Chef (film)

 

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We loved, loved, loved this movie! We loved everything about it… the story, the writing, the cast, the humor. It’s a comedy, and it’s incredibly well-done. I’m not in the business of writing film reviews, so all I’ll say about Chef is GO SEE IT!

 

10).  Evernote

 

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Ooh, online organizational tools!!

Yeah, I know. But what can I say. I had to start using it for work, and now I’m a card-carrying Evernote nerd with a paid subscription for a personal account (in addition to my work account). Two Evernote accounts! Yikes.

I still maintain my beloved Franklin-Covey agenda, though. Paper forever!

That about wraps it up for May. We’re only two days into June and I’ve already noted two things for my June Favorites post, so it looks like another fun month ahead. =)