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, 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.

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.




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


HOMELAND (Season 4)


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


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. =)


My parents recently went to Hokkaido for Dad’s annual Japan summer golf trip. As usual, shortly after their return, a package arrived for me because Mom went shopping and thoughtfully sent a few things my way. For quite a few years now I’ve been using random Japanese and Korean beauty products from Japan and Hawaii, and they’re amazing. (Not sure whether any of the brands are tested on animals. I know to avoid stuff made in China, but I have no idea as to the others.)

Here are some of the things that arrived last week:


Background: facial gel exfoliator and foaming cleanser (both made in Japan); Juicy Drop BB Cream (made in Korea) Foreground: a variety of sheet masks (all made in Korea)

Background: facial gel exfoliator & foaming cleanser (made in Japan); Juicy Drop BB Cream (made in Korea)
Foreground: a variety of sheet masks (all made in Korea)


A fun by-product of getting Asian cleansers and creams and such is the Engrish you’re sure to find on the packaging. In case you didn’t know, “Engrish” is the result of humorously botched English translations from some Asian languages; there’s a website that pays homage to it. Product packaging is a fairly reliable supplier of examples, and this blog post right here exemplifies why I would be a terrible beauty blogger: my amusement and enthusiasm in sharing the Engrish on the labels outweigh my interest in telling you about the products, themselves.



This is the foaming facial cleanser... "Washing Form" in Engrish.

This is the foaming facial cleanser… “Washing Form” in Engrish.


(Not sure why there’s a picture of a horse on the bottle. Not sure I want to know why, either.)

Now take a look at THIS. I hope you can read it (click photo to enlarge). This is the text on the back of the one sheet mask that’s not an Epielle – it’s the one to the far left in the array photo above, with the woman’s face in the picture:


Contains beauty gredients for skin activity in the sheets! Helps horny clear up! Put a water skin on the face. TAP YOUR FACE FOR BEING ABSORBED COMPLETELY INTO YOUR FACE. Keep it coolly at the case status and use it.

Contains beauty gredients for skin activity in the sheets! Helps horny clear up! Put a water skin on the face. TAP YOUR FACE FOR BEING ABSORBED COMPLETELY INTO YOUR FACE. Keep it coolly at the case status and use it.


Awesome, right? And, bonus… it really is a lovely product!

Behind Masks and Closed Doors….

Ha! I just startled Callaghan when he turned around and found me covered up in an Epielle Facial Essence Mask. The single-use mask is basically a small, white cotton sheet cut to fit the face, with holes for eyes, nose and mouth, heavily saturated in liquid botanical extracts and other ingredients. You unfold it, drape it over your face, and smooth it down into place. So easy! I leave it on for 30 minutes. Peel off, throw away, done. There’s no need to rinse. Your skin drinks up the product and air-dries after you remove the sheet, and then you can carry on with your normal routine.

Continuing for a second with this tangent (because I didn’t plan to talk about facial masks): I love sheet masks. Oil-absorbing clay masks have their merits, but seriously? Making the effort to remove a hardened clay mask from my face was never my favorite thing to do. I’m too lazy. (I’m not a fan of peel masks, either.) Mom sent three different varieties of the Epielle masks: Firming and Lifting with Vitamin C (“rejuvenating & conditioning formula”), Green Tea & Aloe (“detoxifying & soothing formula”), and Cucumber (“refreshing & purifying formula”). I’m currently wearing a cucumber one, which my skin loves. It feels luxurious, and it smells delightfully like a faintly sweet, fresh cucumber.

My mother has been my beauty mentor all my life. I do my own research to stay current with the science behind skincare, but I follow her advice and use the products she sends. She looks a good 15-20 years younger than she is. She’s amazing, and I’m lucky. I started using sheet masks when she first started sending them to me over ten years ago. Thank you, Mom!

So here’s the question that’s been smoldering in my mind since yesterday: Do you ever wonder what’s going on behind that closed door when you go to someone’s place and no one answers, but you suspect that someone’s home?

Yesterday, Callaghan and I were sitting here on the loveseat when someone knocked on the door. Based on recent events, we guessed that the visitor was either a kid selling something, or a couple coming to talk to us about religion, though we could have been wrong. We deliberated for a few seconds before deciding that we would answer the door. But there was a snag. Literally.

“Back here!” Callaghan hissed in my ear as he frantically pointed and gestured behind his neck. He was leaning forward at a tentative, strange angle. I looked. A thread from one of the couch cushions behind him was badly ensnarled in the clasp of his thin gold chain necklace. He was stuck! The cushion was attached to his back like a shell on a turtle, and someone was waiting at the door. I muffled a laugh with my hand as I hopped over him quickly to get the scissors from the kitchen.

The gold chain is very delicate, and the loveseat cushion is very nice, and we didn’t want either one to get ruined, so the situation required some patience and finesse. By the time I’d extricated Callaghan from the cushion, the person at the door was gone. Maybe I should have answered the door on my way to the kitchen, but then we would have had to explain that we don’t usually wear our furniture. (Rather, our furniture wears us.)

So that’s what the person on the other side of the door would have seen had they come equip with wall-penetrating X-Ray glasses. Something to think about the next time you go to someone’s house and they don’t answer the door. You just never know what’s going on!