I had one foot in October before the month ended, though. (September Favorites!)

I’m excited about this monthly (September) favorites list, because I’ve got some new stuff for you… “new” as in different than the usual TALC monthly favorites fare.

(Incidentally, I’m also excited to post this list because that means it’s OCTOBER, the most creeptastic month of the year.)

The list is still mostly comprised of T.V. series and movies and food, but I’m also including some short YouTube videos for your viewing pleasure.

These videos make great procrastination material. For me, it’s more than gratuitous time-suckage. It’s brain-cleansing, and it’s actually serious business: when my head’s been submerged in the worlds of my creative endeavors, it’s good to clear it out and forget that on which I’d been focused. This allows me to return to those worlds with fresh eyes. I can then see clearly what oversaturation had concealed.

My recent – and current – tool of choice for brain-cleansing is YouTube. I need simple escapism into the creative worlds of others. My favorite YouTube videos of late are short horror films and videos of this one guy fabricating sharp kitchen knives out of materials such as tin foil, underwear, and jello.

You’ll see. I’ve provided a few of the videos. You can click to watch them right here! Down the rabbit hole with you, too.

Let’s get on with it!

 

1). Searching (film)

 

 

We went to the theater to see this one. Searching is a different sort of thriller, and a different sort of film in the “found footage” genre. What the audience sees on the screen is a movie entirely shown on other screens – computer screens, phones, televisions, surveillance videos, etc. It makes for some solid and unique entertainment regardless of the film’s other merits (or lack thereof). As well, I love a good mystery/thriller.

 

2). Ozark (S2) (Netflix)

 

 

An intense, atmospheric, dark drama/thriller, this Netflix original series is a work of art about which I cannot say enough. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney are superb in their roles – Bateman more than I’d ever seen him in any role, and Linney as per usual. Julia Garner’s performance confirms what we suspected when we saw her in The Americans: she’s an artist with a formidable future. Ozark wants you to binge-watch it, and it’s hard to resist if you have the luxury of time. Breaking Bad fans, here’s your fix.

 

3). American Horror Story: Apocalypse (S8) (TV – FX)

 

 

What can I say? AHS is back, and it’s more twisted than ever… and that’s already saying a lot. Thanks to its mid-September release date, October’s coming in on a delightfully disturbing note. I love it.

 

4). Horror short films (YouTube)

YouTube rabbit hole number one: short horror movies. You’ll run into all the horror movie tropes you expect: jump scares, white dresses, cheesy demons and monsters, tripping and falling while running away, doors that close and then won’t open, gratuitous gore, characters who make maddeningly stupid decisions, etc. I find, though, that these transgressions are often more forgivable in a film that’s less than 15 minutes long. Besides, thanks to their short duration, I know pretty quickly whether I should move on. If I make it through the whole thing and end up not liking it, I only wasted a few minutes of my life compared to two hours wasted during a full-length horror flick that never got better. When these short movies are good, they deliver what you want in horror. They’re tense and tightly-wound because they get straight to the point. Many of them are silent films in that there’s little to no dialogue, which can add to their creepiness. The whole spectrum of the horror genre can be found across the hundreds of these films on YouTube… and they’re free.

Two examples:

 

 

 

 

5). Luna Bar (Blueberry Bliss).

 

Luna Bar Blueberry Bliss

 

I wasn’t sure whether I’d include this bar on my list. It’s too sweet for my taste, but I really like its thin layer of blueberry jam. Moreover, after two test runs, I determined that this bar gets me through a Body Pump workout if for any reason I can’t have a normal breakfast. I guess it’s on the list because of the blueberry jam part and the instant fuel part. If you like blueberries and instant fuel, you might like these.

 

6). Nori – specifically, Kirkland Signature Organic Roasted Seaweed Snack.

 

Kirkland Organic Roasted Seaweed Snack (aka nori)

 

First off, I should say that I have a cousin to thank for my return to eating nori straight out of the bag. Like all Japanese-Americans (with family rooted in Hawaii) I know, I grew up eating this stuff. Mom used to send me this Korean version from Costco, but it’d been a while as I’d turned my salty snack attention elsewhere. I’m back!

These have no nutritional value, but they don’t contain anything detrimental, either. They’re organic and devoid of chemicals. Eating this nori is like eating air. Crispy, salty, seaweedy air.

 

7). Silk Dairy-Free Yogurt Alternative (plain).

 

Silk Dairy-Free Yogurt Alternative (soy, plain)

 

I cycle through yogurt phases, and I’ve been in one since September. This time, it’s this soy yogurt by Silk. I prefer the plain version because it’s the least sweet, but I often top it with granola (see below), which is sweeter. It’s a great combination, though. I love the thick creaminess of this yogurt.

 

8). Bear Naked Granola (V’nilla Almond).

 

Bear Naked Granola V’nilla Almond

 

This lightly sweetened granola is fabulous on the plain Silk soy yogurt. That’s why it’s on this list.

 

9). NYX Slide On Lip Liner (Alluring).

 

NYX Slide On Lip Liner (Alluring)

 

Remember the NYX butter gloss lip (in Ginger Snap) on my July list? This lip liner goes perfectly with it. Just thought I’d share!

 

10). kiwami japan (YouTube channel)

Rabbit hole number two: THIS GUY. This enormously talented guy. This guy can make a knife out of anything. (If you know me, you know that I love knives.) His YouTube channel is called “kiwami japan,” and his videos are awesome, fascinating, and entertaining. I feel obliged to show you a couple of them.

 

Making a knife out of underwear:

 

Making a knife out of tin foil:

 

The End, and have fun.

 

 

So we waited. (August Favorites!)

Hello, my friends. I don’t know about you, but this week has wrung me out in pretty much every way. I’m glad to be here talking to you for the second time this week – that means it’s Thursday, aka Friday Eve, aka within sight of the decompression zone. As a writer, I work at home on and off 24/7, but the weekend is still the weekend in that I usually have nothing obligatory going on.

Are we ready for some monthly favorites now that we’ve arrived at the second week of September? This time around, I present a movie, three T.V. series (one American, two French), a breakfast bar, a pasta, and three Pacifica products (all vegan and cruelty-free).

Also, I’m including my favorite person-discovery of the month, as I did last month with Karl the Fog on Twitter. I’m thinking I want to make this a mainstay of my “favorites” lists. If I stumble upon a personality that captures my interest, why not share, right?

Okay, then… let’s get into these delightful “little things” that came to my attention in August. Some of them I may have known in the past, but if they’re just now on the list, that means I’ve really gotten into them.

Ahem…

 

1). BlackKklansman (film)

 

 

Our date nights are few and far between these days – to the point where a “movie in a movie theater at night” is a big event. (We go to the movies infrequently as it is, and we almost always prefer to go in the mornings or afternoons to catch a matinee.) Thus, it’s a huge plus if we really, actually like the movie we choose on these rare evening occasions!

We had such a date night in August, I’m happy to say. We went down to Alamo Drafthouse to watch the dramedy BlackKklansman, and we were not disappointed.

(Also, when Denzel’s son opens his mouth, he sounds almost exactly like Denzel, in my opinion. He inherited his father’s talent, too.)

You might also enjoy this film telling the true story of a black cop who, with the help of a Jewish cop, manages to join the KKK. Dramedy, as I said.

 

2). Better Call Saul (TV-14 AMC)

 

 

Better Call Saul is back for season 4, and we’re all in!

 

3). Les Témoins (Netflix)

 

 

We continue to find and plow through French T.V. series on our streaming services. Netflix International is a beautiful thing.

 

4). Engrenages (Netflix)

 

 

We’d just started watching this French series when Netflix dropped Ozark season 2. We’ll see you on the flip side, Engrenages! (You can just assume that you’ll see Ozark on my September Favorites list.) In all seriousness, though, Engrenages looks to be unfolding in promising ways.

 

5). KIND Peanut Butter Breakfast Bar.

 

KIND Peanut Butter Breakfast Bar

 

My fellow Americans: this breakfast bar tastes like Nutter Butter Peanut Butter cookies, and I felt that it was my duty to bring it to your attention. The bars contain more sugar than I like to eat, but I don’t eat them every day, and their macronutrient panel looks good. It’s only vegan-friendly if you’re a honey-eating vegan, though. (I’m a mostly non-honey-eating vegan. There are exceptions. Like these bars.)

 

6). Delverde Wholewheat Organic pasta.

 

 

Pasta is my favorite food. Since I discovered Delverde’s whole wheat pastas, I’ve been eating it nearly every day… that’s no exaggeration. Also, I eat more than the serving size (kind of a lot more). I will never willingly go back to any other brand of pasta if I can get my hands on this one. I’m not sure how Delverde manages to make their pastas so exceptional, especially since they contain only the same two ingredients as many pastas: 100% organic whole durum (wheat) semolina and water. However they do it, this is the pasta.

 

7). Pacifica Coconut Milk & Essential Oils Underarm Deodorant Wipes.

 

Pacifica Coconut Milk & Essential Oils Underarm Deodorant Wipes

 

You know those mornings you go to the gym and you didn’t break that much of a sweat and life happens and you don’t make it into the shower but you can wash your face and freshen up a little? Pacifica has changed the “freshen up a little” game with these underarm deodorant wipes. They’re inexplicably effective. They cleanse and refresh, and they can actually take the place of deodorant. I can’t explain it. Just try it.

 

8). Pacifica Wake Up Beautiful Mask.

 

Pacifica Wake Up Beautiful Mask

 

Acure DISCONTINUED my holy grail overnight mask, so in August – after I used up the last of my Wonderfluff stockpile – I went on the hunt for another one. I ended up a fan of Pacifica’s Wake Up Beautiful Mask. I say “end up” because I didn’t like it at first. I tried it, didn’t like its scent, decided it was awful, and exiled it to my box of Women’s Shelter donations. After failing to find a cruelty-free overnight mask that worked for me, I gave Pacifica’s another try. For some reason, it didn’t bother me at all the second time. I love it.

 

9). Pacifica Alight Multi-Mineral BB Cream.

 

Pacifica Alight Multi-Mineral BB Cream

 

For make-up, I’ve been wearing this wonderful preparation on my face instead of foundation. I used to only use BB creams; I don’t know what happened to that. I got away from it somehow. Now I’m back, because this one from Pacifica is amazing.

 

10). Ask a Mortician (YouTube channel).

 

Meet my favorite internet-person find of the month: mortician Caitlin Doughty, whose YouTube channel “Ask a Mortician” has become somewhat of an obsession of mine.

Be careful when you click on her videos, though… remember that what has been heard cannot be unheard. I watched her “Ask a Mortician – Worst Way to Die?” video, and I’m not sure I’ll ever recover.

Caitlin has authored several books, and she also runs The Order of the Good Death, whose website also has serious rabbit-hole potential. If you’re as fascinated with death, the macabre, and the funeral industry as I am, you’re going to love this woman. If you’re not, you may still love Caitlin and her videos. She’s awesome. You’ll learn a lot. You’ll realize that there is, in fact, a need for death-acceptance (and the re-thinking of death, in general) in western society. Did you know that there are Death Doulas? I didn’t. I’m glad that I know it now!

 

All I can say to wrap up this post is “The End.” I’m out of time over here! Have a great weekend, All.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

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!

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!

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.