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

 

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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. =)

200th Post! Le Deux Centième!

Well. Today marks a milestone for this blog, because today, exactly one month short of two years since my first post, I’m writing here for the 200th time!

 

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*throws confetti*

Of course, I got to feeling reflective as this milestone approached.

This blog began, in part, because I missed LiveJournal, which I’d more or less abandoned several years earlier. Facebook eventually replaced the social aspect of it, in a sense, but I wanted to journal again. Moreover, I was living in France, in limbo, not working, and I could feel my brain cells disintegrating while my writing muscles atrophied. I did write some poems. I also intermittently worked on a big writing project, but fiction really isn’t my forte… I missed writing creative non-fiction. And when I tentatively returned to writing in LiveJournal, it just didn’t feel the same. For me, the old LJ magic had left the room (but that had happened before I’d quit, which was why I’d quit). Something had to be done!

I went to create a WordPress account, and I was promptly reminded that I already had one. I’d just never used it. How convenient! I named it “That Asian-Looking Chick,” bought the domain and jumped in with the goal of posting two or three times per week. It’s been hella fun, and rewarding, and instructive. I never missed a week, but it wasn’t until March of this year that I fell into a twice-weekly schedule that stuck. By April, it’d evolved into a Tuesday/Friday thing, and eight months later, I’m still comfortable with that.

Surprisingly, getting settled in a regular posting schedule coincided with going back to work. In the same month, Callaghan and I established a consistent routine at the gym. It was interesting how once I was anchored at a job, other things like blogging and working out sort of fell into place. It was like a “structure begets more structure” kind of thing.

I typically just glance at my blog stats and search engine terms, since the superficial layer is right there before my eyes, but in honor of my 200th post, I took a more in-depth look. Some fun facts include:

–Since Netflix released the second season of Orange is the New Black in June, hundreds of views have resulted from searches for the Asian girl who plays a character in those episodes, as I’ve already mentioned. Yes, the OITNB Asian girl madness continues to rage on today! It’s been five months now. (I still wonder whether Kimiko Glenn has any idea of the scope of her popularity.)

–WordPress stats include visitors’ countries. I did a country count and found that, as of yesterday, people have read this blog from exactly 100 different countries. I’m ashamed to admit that a couple of the places on the list are countries that I hadn’t even realized were actual countries. This blog has opened my eyes to the world, and that is fabulous. (Also, if I needed any proof that English is a language spoken, or at least read, world-wide? I’ve got it.)

–You’re mostly a silent crowd on my posts, except for when I wrote about the casting in the film Jack Reacher.

–A few of you have commented with helpful tips in response to my posts, and your sharing has been wonderfully beneficial. For instance, thanks to your awesomeness, we’re hooked on The Following (T.V. series), and I found my favorite Korean facial sheet masks – the Epielle ones I’ve raved about several times – at Big Lots! For an amazing price!

 

Epielle sheet masks at Big Lots!

Epielle sheet masks at Big Lots!

 

–Because of the search terms, I also know that I’m far from the only one looking for that old (1970’s) Charleston Chew candy commercial, the one featuring King Louis. I trust that if anyone finds it, they’ll come back here and share it.

So, as I reflect back to the beginning, I wanted to thank you for reading and hanging out here with me over the last 200 posts/23 months, or however long you’ve been here. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea where all that time went!

Those of you who’ve been here the longest remember when I was an American ex-pat in France who had no clue that she’d move back to the States. You were here when I was an Arizona girl in Texas who had no clue that she’d move back to Arizona. You spent two birthdays with me, you share my “Little Things” (monthly favorites) joy with me, and you’re privy to my enthusiasm for pop culture and martial/fighting arts. You tolerate my kitty blather and pics (mostly Ronnie James, aka the Wrah-Wrah) and “NOT UNLIKE” comparisons. You read about Callaghan’s shenanigans, and you read my embarrassing stories. You follow my occasional cultural comparison observations. You hear me out when I feel the need to rant. You’ve been there during more personal moments, too, such as when my Mom set off on her journey to fight cancer (she’s doing really well, by the way)! And you laugh with me, which I love.

Some things I want to do here in the future? Well, I’d love to get more active as a blogger, reading more of other people’s blogs. I’d also like to mix it up more, spend more time writing about topics that matter to me profoundly. While my routine is fixed, time is actually a constraint (as it is, I’m usually up at around 5:00am to write here). I’d still like to find time to carve out for non-blog writing projects, as well – I currently have a prose piece in the works, and I’d love to pick up on the poeting – so we shall see what transpires over the next two years!

 

Monday lunch hour selfie (October 27, 2014)

Monday lunch hour selfie (October 27, 2014)

 

And who knows… I may yet divulge the story of My Most Embarrassing Moment.

What I’m Digging Right Now – March Favorites

It’s the first day of April! It’s time to show you some of the things I loved last month. There was an abundance of “little things” treasures in March, but I chose nine for this list.

Without further ado:

(ahem)

1). A new phone, which means a new camera… and it’s an Android, which means Instagram. Yes! I’d thought I’d forever avoid Instagram, but I actually really dig it now that I have it. I haven’t been that active on it yet, but I will be.

 

Thing 1: That picture in the middle of my Instagram collage is Callaghan's portrait of my parents, and it's my favorite work of his. Thing 2: Yes, I took this photo at 11:00PM, and yes, it's 82 degrees outside.

Thing 1: That picture in the middle of my Instagram collage is Callaghan’s portrait of my parents, and it’s my favorite work of his. Thing 2: Yes, I took this photo at 11:00PM, and yes, it’s 82 degrees outside.

 

The reason for the new phone was the fact that my camera died at the end of February. I needed a camera, and Callaghan and I both needed phones, and Verizon was offering a Buy One Get One Free deal on Samsung Galaxy S4s, and I had additional perks due to my “loyalty status” from my former years with Verizon… so it just made sense. Now I have a camera. It’s good enough for what I like to do with a camera, which is point and click.

 

2). Flowering cactuses!

 

Complete with a Southwest Airlines plane in the background, equally colorful. In fact, they match! haha

Complete with a Southwest Airlines plane in the background, equally colorful. In fact, they match! haha

 

Here are some of the emerging blooms closer to the ground.

Here are some of the emerging blooms closer to the ground.

 

IT HAS BEGUN. Between now and mid-June, the desert flora will display its myriad of flowers – the different species bloom at different times. Many pictures will be taken. How I’ve missed spring here! Our two visitors from France (one is coming in April, the other in May) are in for a treat.

 

3). New glasses.

 

New glasses. Not BCGs.

New glasses. Not BCGs.

 

These are not the ones I got from the V.A. in Austin. Those turned out to be a disaster in every way, starting with an inaccurate prescription and ending with that wrong prescription being put in the wrong frames that didn’t fit. Long story short, I couldn’t wear them. This is why mall optometrists exist. I walked in, made my appointment for the next day, went back for the appointment, and walked out with this new pair of glasses that seem to be perfect. Instant gratification glasses! I mostly just wear them for driving and watching T.V. and movies.

 

4). Body Combat class at the gym.

 

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Over the last few months, I’ve had to face the fact that I’m just not as self-motivated at the gym as I used to be. Add to this the fact that when I join a group training situation that carries even the slightest semblance to martial/fighting arts, I feel as at-home as a bat in a cave… my so-called muscle memory knows what to do, and how to do it… and voilà! Body Combat is an ideal group fitness class for me. The instructor’s mission in life for that hour is to kick our butts. I don’t have to do anything but show up and follow along.

The Body Combat classes incorporate techniques from boxing, Muay Thai, capoeria, karate and MMA, all of which my muscles know and enjoy, even though they haven’t trained in years. The fast-paced classes focus on cardio rather than on form, but I’m loathe to execute the moves sloppily, so I end up getting a fantastic workout as I concentrate on form while trying to keep up (to the extent that my out-of-shape self can safely do. I’m careful to not exceed my limitations). We leave the class completely elated, worn out and drenched in sweat. I love it so much I can’t even tell you.

 

5). True Detective, season one (T.V.)

 

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Simply stated, this new series right here rather blew our minds. That is all.

 

6). Hannibal, season two (T.V.)

 

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As The Following continues to hold our eager attention, we’ve added Hannibal to our current series line-up, as the second season began on the last day of February – meaning, we picked it up at the beginning of March. It’s just as darkly sick and warped and luscious and richly textured as season one. What is this fascination with serial killers? Hannibal is so beautifully done. It’s mesmerizing.

 

7). Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof eyeliner in Stingray.

 

Stila smudge stick waterproof eyeliner in Stingray

Stila smudge stick waterproof eyeliner in Stingray

 

Finally, I’ve found a retractable black eyeliner pencil capable of drawing a line that stays where you put it! I’d thought I’d also be able to appreciate it for its status as a cruelty-free product, but when I got home and got online, I found that Stila Cosmetics has been struck from the list of cruelty-free cosmetic companies. The reason? “3rd party animal testing.” *sighs*

 

8). Tourni, our new sunflower.

 

Here's Tourni! It's hard to see him in this picture. He's the slender, yellowish stalk with two little leaves on top, rising up from the center of the pot.

Here’s Tourni! It’s hard to see him in this picture. He’s the slender, yellowish stalk with two little leaves on top, rising up from the center of the pot.

 

I met a new friend for lunch one day in March, and she surprised me with a thin, pale greenish-yellow stalk from her garden. Loosely wrapped, it appeared to be quite frail. She told me that it was a sunflower. Un Tournesol, I thought immediately. His name is Tourni! “Tournesol” is French for sunflower.

I left the restaurant with little Tourni hanging limply over the side of a plastic water cup, his vestige of a root-ball submerged in two or three inches of water. I pondered what to do with him. He looked so fragile. Our balcony is completely shaded; we have no real direct sunlight in which to grow a sunflower.

By the end of the day, Tourni was looking pretty lifeless and pathetic. Unsure of what to do, I left him in the drink holder in our truck for the night while I figured it out.

At the end of the next day, we went to retrieve Tourni from the truck, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. The scant amount of dirt in the cup had absorbed all of the water, and there was little Tourni, upright, happy and spry! He looked like a completely different plant.

 

Alive and proud! I should have taken a "before" picture!

Alive and proud! I should have taken a “before” picture!

 

We brought him in and put him in a pot with some potting soil, both of which we happened to have on hand. He loves the close heat of the truck, so we set him in there during the day. At night, we bring him up to sit on our balcony with the other plants in our growing (ha!) collection.

 

9). Oil-pulling

 

Unrefined, organic coconut oil - the remaining two jars of the three my parents sent home with us at the beginning of March.

Unrefined, organic coconut oil – the remaining two jars of the three my parents sent home with us at the beginning of March.

 

At some point over the winter, an enormous can of unrefined, organic coconut oil appeared in Mom and Dad’s kitchen in California. Dad stirs a teaspoon of it into his coffee every morning. I noticed it when we were there at the beginning of March, and I was intrigued… I’d been reading about the Ayurvedic practice of oil-pulling, and contemplating starting it.

The morning we left, Mom and Dad generously tucked three jars of the oil into our luggage. Dad started oil-pulling that morning, Callaghan started that night after we got back to Arizona, and I started the following morning.

It’s now been three weeks, and so far, I’ve noticed the following two effects: 1). I haven’t had a problem with insomnia since, and 2). my teeth, while never horribly discolored, are indeed much whiter now; many people who do this practice report whiter teeth as a result.

The whiter teeth thing is great, but the sleeping thing? Incredible!

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but what an odd coincidence it is. From Day One of swishing coconut oil around in my mouth for twenty minutes as a part of my morning routine, I’ve been able to drop off to sleep effortlessly. This is unheard of, and it’s been consistent. The only thing I’ve been doing differently is the oil-pulling, so I’m thinking there’s a reasonable chance that there’s a connection.

Whatever the case, I’m going to keep doing it. It’s relaxing, and the whiter teeth are definitely a bonus!

On Callaghan’s part, he says that the quality of his sleep has improved greatly, and his teeth are definitely whiter now.

Okay… that’s it for March favorites! Here’s to spring. =)

What I’m Digging Right Now – February Favorites

Experimentation with my new camera (phone) has begun, so let’s do this!

Here are ten marvelous things that stood out in February:

1). My home office (v2)

 

My little corner of serenity, live chirping bird soundtrack included.

My little corner of serenity, live chirping bird soundtrack included.

 

About a week after Valentine’s Day, we rearranged the furniture in the living room/my former office, and the ripple effect resulted in my “office” (e.g. my desk) getting relocated to the bedroom. I love it. I’m tucked away in the corner, next to a big window with trees and active spring birds and the makeshift kitty window seat behind me. Bliss.

 

2). The iStage blackbox theatre on campus (Arizona State University).

 

The scenery in this responsive environment changes continuously.

The scenery in this responsive environment changes continuously.

 

I spent most of my days in February (and continuing) hanging out in this mysterious and literally magical black box with an incredible group of artists, emerging into the sun every once in a while to eat and run around. It’s like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, and the surprising and creative ways my brain’s been challenged have stoked my interest and enthusiasm in a new world of art and thought.

This has been the most significant aspect of my life since February, but I can’t go into further detail about it right now. Soon!

 

3). Benefit Erase Paste.

 

This stuff works miracles. Not exaggerating.

This stuff works miracles. Not exaggerating.

 

Benefit makes this stuff. Now again, I’m not a beauty blogger, so I’m not even going to try to glamorize this product. I’m just going to tell it like it is. This is basically a thick, creamy spackle with salmon undertones that does wonders under the eyes. It’s pricey (probably the most expensive cosmetic item I’ve ever purchased), but the little jar is going to last for a long, long time, so not really. It’s completely worth it, in any case.

 

4). New chairs for kitties.

 

We could not have invented more perfect chairs for kitties if we wanted to.

We could not have invented more perfect chairs for kitties if we wanted to.

 

Chairs for kitties have been on our list since we moved back to Arizona, and we finally found the perfect ones at IKEA. These are structured on a small scale (I found them in the dining room furniture area, rather than with the living room stuff). The covers are removable, so they can be thrown in the laundry. Ronnie James and Nounours love them. Their lives are complete! Now we can all sit together when we’re watching movies and shows. Everyone has a place!

 

5). The optometrist’s office epic clerical error.

 

Callaghan's new name. Bwahaha!!

Callaghan’s new name. Bwahaha!!

 

I about died when I saw Callaghan’s eyeglass prescription, which we went to pick up a couple of weeks ago… this was from the exam he had back in 2011, before we moved to France.

The person who prepared the prescription spelled his first name “Chilipte,” which is unequivocally the most brilliant butchering of “Philippe” I ever saw, AND they gave him my last name, haha! HAI, my name is CHILIPTE GARBOUSHIAN. I posted this picture on Facebook, and as a result, Callaghan now has several new nicknames, as suggested by my helpful friends: Chili, Chipotle and Chili Pete.

 

6). House of Cards, season two (T.V.)

 

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Once again, House of Cards blew our minds; Kevin Spacey’s performance was stunning.

 

7). The Following, season two (T.V.)

 

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I knew it! I knew it! (no spoilers)

 

8). Trader Joe’s Creamy & Smooth Mediterranean hummus.

 

THIS.

THIS.

 

Hummus is a simple thing to make, but simple doesn’t always mean easy. I find the process of transforming the hardy chickpeas to a smooth, creamy paste to be somewhat arduous, so my feeling is, why do it when Trader Joe’s has this delectable preparation ready to go at all times? Hummus is an instant gratification thing for me, I guess. They even put pine nuts and olive oil and herbs on top. So pretty. So delicious! We eat it with blue corn tortilla chips, baby carrots and Trader Joe’s whole wheat pita bread.

 

9). Ronnie James’ and Nounours’ snack pick of the month: Feline Greenies Dental Treats in Catnip flavor.

 

Kitties LOVE these.

Kitties LOVE these.

 

The boys wanted to contribute to the list! They learned to identify this little bag of catnip-flavored treats immediately. It’s their new addiction. It’s like… pot brownies for kitties.

 

10). Blunt signage.

 

They make sure you read this while you're sitting on the can.

They make sure you read this while you’re sitting on the can.

 

The signs everywhere I go continue to crack me up. This one is posted in a toilet stall in one of ASU’s older buildings.

And we’re already a week into March, and hey, today is my brother’s birthday! Happy Birthday, Bro!!

On Breaking Bad and Jedi Cookies

Well. It’s been over three days since The Shipping arrived, but we’re still negotiating around piles of boxes and stuff. However, there’s a reason for our lack of significant progress in unpacking and organizing. We have no self-control. In the last few weeks, Breaking Bad has happened to our lives; once we started it, we quickly realized that it’s as addictive as the drugs it’s about. The more we watched, the harder it became to stop watching. We finally caught ourselves up, and then this morning we hopped online as soon as we woke up (I admit this to you with no shame whatsoever) to see if we could access last night’s episode. We could! So that was the first thing we did today – we watched Breaking Bad while drinking our coffee, surrounded by the mayhem of boxes.

It’s a fine way to start any day, as far as I’m concerned.

In the last year, several television series have taken us delightfully hostage with their excellence: American Horror Story, The Following (brought to my attention by one of you awesome readers), House of Cards, Homeland, Damages and Game of Thrones. Stunning works of art, all. Cute fluff such as Hart of Dixie mildly amused and entertained us. We discovered Arrested Development and greatly enjoyed it… up until the newly released episodes of this year, which did not inspire hilarity the way the prior seasons did. (We felt that the momentum had been lost, and the revised strategy behind it somehow resulted in awkward and left the jokes sitting outside, where they went stale.) And somewhere along the way, we found ourselves inexplicably sucked into Pretty Little Liars, which made no sense at all on any level, but it provided a steady stream of light and cheesy entertainment for quite a while. Purpose served! We’re not above it.

But Breaking Bad? Genius! 99.9% Pure genius. Everything about it astonishes… the writing, the acting, the direction. The character development, and the story, itself, it’s all just phenomenal. It lives up to the hype better than anything I’ve ever seen. We’re glad that we waited so long to start watching it, because starting it when we did brought us seamlessly up to the Final Season now airing. Our timing was perfect, albeit at the expense of making a swift job of the unpacking and organizing around here.

So that’s our status today. Surrounded by stuff, but current with Breaking Bad and waiting impatiently for next week’s episode, along with the show’s hundreds of thousands of other addicts.

On another note, the kitchen being buried in boxes precluded cooking for a few days, so on Saturday night we called in for Thai food from a mixed Asian cuisine place. I found fortune cookies at the bottom of the bag, which excited me. I never eat them, but I open them, anyway, because I enjoy reading the fortunes. The superstition is a remnant of my childhood. I like to believe in these things.

The problem is that in the last ten years or so, fortune cookie “fortunes” have become platitudes more and more, rather than predictions. “Everything happens for a reason.” “This, too, shall pass.” Like that. Still, I feel a hopeful thrill when I see a fortune cookie. Maybe this time it’ll be an actual fortune! I always think.

I brought the two cookies to Callaghan, opened one, and read: “May the good spirits be with you always.”

“That’s not a fortune cookie. That’s a Jedi cookie,” Callaghan said indignantly.

Fortune from the Jedi cookie.

Fortune from the Jedi cookie.

Hmm… better to think of it as a Jedi cookie than as a non-fortune, right? That eases the disappointment somewhat! A Jedi cookie. I like that.

“Go then, there are other worlds than these.”

…said Jake Chambers in The Dark Tower epic series by Stephen King. Better words to capture the essence of escapism have never been spoken.

Whoa! This last week’s been about packing, cleaning, taking stuff to the dump, hanging out with a friend who came to stay for a couple of days, and working around technical difficulties – up until this minute, in fact – with both our internet connection and my computer AC adaptor malfunction.

I’m flipping through my agenda, the book in which I keep track of exciting things coming up. I like looking forward to stuff. I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with secondary clinical depression, so looking forward to stuff is like the key to my well-being.

Mainly, right now, I’m looking forward to moving, and that’s a big thing. It’s exciting, but it’s big. It’s so big that it’s not on my list of things that I’m looking forward to, even though I am. It’s the small things that make a difference, because they don’t carry the caveat of stress that the big things do. The small things are just there to be anticipated. They are fluff, and fluff cannot be underrated.

Here, I’ll share this with you… Fluffy Things I’m looking forward to, in no particular order:

1. The return of Arrested Development (T.V. series) in May. The Bluth family. Because the chicken dance matters.

2. The next episode of The Following (T.V. series). Thank you again for this recommendation, Arne F.!

3. Stephen King’s The Wind through the Keyhole. Because Roland “The Gunslinger” Deschain, aka Roland of Gilead in the aforementioned Dark Tower epic series, is my fictional boyfriend.

I’m not an aficionado of the fantasy genre, but I’m obsessed with The Dark Tower, which is a brilliantly crafted literary collage of fantasy-horror-western-drama. When I finished all seven books in the series, I sought out the short stories that featured Roland. After that, I had to accept the fact that I’d read everything with Roland in existence. Life went on. Then, last week, we were browsing through the books in the English section at Cultura, and guess what! I discovered The Wind through the Keyhole. How did I not know about this publication? It came out last year. It’s a new installment in the Dark Tower series, but it can be read as a stand-alone novel, too. I’m forcing myself to wait until I’m on the airplane to crack it open.

Yep. Settling down on the plane over the Atlantic with this new Dark Tower book on my tray is going to be my reward to myself for surviving the stress of moving.

4. Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel Never Go Back (August). Because… Reacher!!

5. American Horror Story, Season 3 (October). This new season is called “Coven,” and a lot of it will be filmed in New Orleans. I’m sure it’s going to be as richly atmospheric as the first two seasons. Can’t. Wait.

(If we’ve been friends forever and you’re confused because you never knew me to watch T.V., let me explain what happened: Netflix streaming. And we started to watch Bob’s Burgers. That was the beginning of it. Or the end of it, depending on how you look at it.)

I also used to think that I’d never be interested in reality T.V., but then? Cake Boss.

For those of you who don’t know, the Cake Boss is this guy called Buddy who owns Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey. The show follows Buddy and his family and crew as they create these freaktastically detailed specialty cakes custom-ordered by people for various occasions and events. The Cake Boss takes on some spectacular challenges; he seems to be the type of person who works well under pressure, thriving in merging funnels of drama and disaster, always managing to deliver his splendiferous works of sugary art in style. “NOW WHO WANTS TO EAT SOME CAKE?!”

Callaghan and I have an ongoing banter about what cakes we’d order from the Cake Boss. Callaghan knows that I’d love to have one for Valentine’s Day. Every once in a while, I’ll suddenly ask him… wait, okay, let me do it right now…

“What cake are you going to order for me?” I’m calling it out, since he’s in the other room.

“It’s a surprise… you’re not going to know. Heheheh! Coquine! You thought I was going to tell you, hein?”

See? He answered immediately, like he was waiting for me to ask! He has no idea that I’m writing this, and that I just keyed in what he said, word for word.

Shoot. I mean, okay, I’m not desperate to know. I’m not going to secretly administer a truth serum so he’ll tell me. I’ll enjoy being surprised.

It’s just fun to think about what he might order. It’s fun to think about getting, say, a Jack Reacher cake from the Cake Boss. Or a beautiful Dark Tower cake, featuring red roses and lobstrosities.

 

BEWARE – Serial Plan-Ruiner Running Amok in France

I can’t believe it’s already April. I can’t believe it’s already April fifth. The last time I wrote here, it was still March, and it doesn’t even seem that long ago! But there’s a lot of craziness going on right now. I’ll come back to that later because what I’m sharing with you right now is a story per Callaghan’s request. Last week, we went down to visit his family and friends on the French Riviera via covoiturage ride-sharing, and afterward, Callaghan was all, like, “YOU HAVE TO WRITE ABOUT THIS.” (The last time I wrote about covoiturage, I praised it for its entertainment value.)

This is our story about being epically late because of someone else.

The idea behind using covoiturage for transportation is that a driver can get you from Point A to Point B because he’s heading the direction you’re going. It’s basically hitch-hiking, but you organize the ride in advance, online. Passengers are picked up and dropped off at designated points along the way, and the whole thing is based on scheduling… if you’re driving south to Cannes and you want to make a little money, you post on the covoiturage site that you’ll be cruising through Valence at 2:20 in the afternoon. If anyone in the area wants to catch a ride, they can meet you there.

So this guy said. And we replied, “Sure! We’ll meet you in Valence at 2:20pm! We need to get to Cannes.” We chose that particular guy’s ride because the time he’d advertised was going to be perfect for getting us to the birthday celebration dinner on our agenda.

Maybe we brought the shenanigans upon ourselves when Callaghan pulled up the posted photo of the vehicle, and we laughed because it was a white van that looked like it should have the words “serial killer van” painted on the side in black block letters. And when we found the photo of the driver, we laughed again because he looked like he belonged with the van.  Do not laugh at the photos of your driver and his vehicle. He will know, and he will get his revenge.

As it turned out, the driver wasn’t hiding bodies in his van. But he was three hours late.

There were four passengers already in the van, and they were all alive. The front seat held a rat (in a cage) and a girl, who were not together. In the middle row sat a woman and a young guy – they weren’t together, either. Callaghan and I climbed in to sit in the back. (We were together. Ha!) We settled in and cracked open our iPad to watch Zombieland again, which seemed strangely apt for the circumstances.

“C’est le Magic Bus!” said the driver, whose name was Alex. Magic, indeed!

The first passenger to depart was Middle Seat Lady. Instead of dropping her off somewhere along the route, Alex exited the highway and meandered around to a specific bus stop in Le Teil. Callaghan was furious.

But since we still weren’t late enough, there was the second passenger drop-off. Front Seat Girl was moving back in with her mother. We exited the highway again and pulled right up to her mother’s doorstep in the middle of Aix en Provence.

This was now looking more like a limousine service than covoiturage. It was also looking like a house-moving service. And like a van with undead people in it. With a rat in a cage, and a driver who’d only gotten two hours of sleep the previous night (true story).

In Aix en Provence, Callaghan and I stood back on the sidewalk to stretch while Alex, the girl and her mother unloaded her things into the house.

The third passenger off the van was the rat, who had come down from Paris. This one was okay… Alex cruised into a rest area in Fréjus, where an old couple sat waiting in their car. (They had my sympathy, because by then, it was 10:30pm. I know I’d be annoyed if I had to sit on the side of the highway at night for five hours, waiting for someone to bring me my rat.)

And half an hour later, Alex took Middle Seat Guy to his stop in Mouans-Sartoux.

That left us. Callaghan, seething mad, asked the driver to drop us off in Grasse, instead of in Cannes, as planned. We’d missed our restaurant celebration, and we were by then entitled to our own special drop-off request. Plus, there was no one left to inconvenience, so it didn’t matter.

We got down there a total of five and a half hours late.

The next day, Callaghan checked the covoiturage website and found an explosion of negative driver reviews for Alex from the hapless passengers of the last two days. People were furious. For two days, from Normandy to Nice, Alex had plowed down through France in his white serial killer van, scooping people up anywhere from three to five hours late and pissing them off. There was only one good review, and that was from the girl he’d helped move to Aix en Provence. She was thrilled with the service she got – as well she should be, since she got personal door-to-door moving service for practically nothing!

I still think Alex might be a serial killer, though, since something about him did kind of set off my serial-killer-dar. Or maybe I was just imagining it because I’m watching The Following right now, and I’m obsessed.