What I’m Digging Right Now – January Favorites

January is over. The Super Bowl happened on Sunday, and it was here in the Valley, aka Phoenix metro. My impulse was to barricade myself inside the house and hide from the madness, since I wasn’t a passionate fan of either team. Callaghan’s impulse was to run out into the insanity and embrace it, though he wasn’t rooting for anyone in particular, either. We’re textbook introvert and extroverts, respectively. Happily, he was able to meet up with our neighbor friends, and they walked down the street to Casey Moore’s to watch the game in public. Meanwhile, I put on some shorts and a t-shirt and headed to the garage to work out. Everyone was happy!

Well, not everyone was happy. What a game. I did keep up with it online, and man, that was one weird Super Bowl.

At any rate, it’s over now, and we can all resume life as normal (including our balmy, sunny winter weather, which went on strike during Super Bowl week), and I’m sitting down to write about my January Favorites.

I noted so many awesome “little things” throughout January, it was hard to narrow down the list! The month started out on a high note when we went to check out a blues band at the Rhythm Room. Also, in keeping with one of my resolutions, I acquired a lot of new (and amazingly inexpensive) cosmetic-type products that weren’t tested on animals. I’m not listing them here today, though… I’ll probably talk about one or two things each month, starting next time.

That said, here’s my first Monthly Favorites list of 2015!

Might as well start with entertainment…

1). Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I (film)

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We weren’t sure what to expect, since we’d heard rumors that this third installment in the Hunger Games film series wasn’t the greatest, so we were happily surprised to find that it was good. It was very good.  Mockingjay, Part I turned out to be our favorite Hunger Games movie yet! I found it to be more lavish, dark and driven than the first and second films, and where I’d left the previous one feeling strangely like I’d been force-fed, I left Mockingjay eager for more. Katniss’ “Hanging Tree” song still comes back to me with its quiet, eerie magic every once in a while. I loved Jennifer Lawrence singing that song. I loved the whole movie. I thought it was fabulous, and I would see it again!

2). American Sniper (film)

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Obviously I appreciated this film – it’s on this list – but if you haven’t already read the details of my response, you can read them here, if you’d like.

3). Broad City (T.V. series)

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We took a chance on this series one night when we were in the mood for something funny and there were no new episodes of Bob’s Burgers.

Broad City caught us off-guard with its irreverence, absurdity and off-beat brand of humor… it’s actually kind of like bro humor, but with girls instead of guys. We thought a lot of it was hilarious, but even during the inevitable humorous moments that didn’t quite do it for us, we found ourselves unable to look away. It was really like watching a train wreck… a train wreck you keep returning to because it’s just such a train wreck of a train wreck… and when you finally arrive at “The Last Supper” – the season one finale – you see a very familiar face and realize that it’s Amy Poehler, and then you find out that she was behind that train a lot of the time, and suddenly, it all makes sense.

If you like to watch train wrecks that are often very funny, you should check out Broad City. It’s disconcertingly entertaining watching how these broads extricate themselves from the ridiculous, mundane little situations they manage to get themselves into. We haven’t started watching season two yet. There are three episodes so far, so we should get on it!

4). The Affair (T.V. series)

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We looked at each other in confusion when Ruth Wilson, a relatively unknown actress, came out of nowhere and stole the Best Actress in a Drama (T.V. series) Golden Globe award from Claire Danes (Homeland), Robin Wright (House of Cards) and Juliana Margulies (The Good Wife), phenomenal actresses from three of our favorite, phenomenal series… so we decided to start watching The Affair, which we’d never even heard of (it nabbed several other nominations and awards, as well).

By the end of the first episode, it was clear what the fuss was all about. We felt like we’d been a part of something more involved and multi-textured than a typical first episode of the first season of a new dramatic series. The two main characters tell a detective their versions of the same story, in parallel. It’s ingenious. Now we’re down to the last two episodes, and we’re just about out of breath, we’re so caught up and baffled. Who is the killer? Why would someone want to murder that particular person? 

We’ll know tonight. It can’t come soon enough!

For us, The Affair joins a growing list of television series that exemplify how T.V. has become a high art form. Also, Ruth Wilson’s talent is stunning, and she soundly deserved that Golden Globe, if you ask me. The Affair is like… imagine if True Detective and The Killing were to hook up and spawn a psychologically intricate love child with its parents’ haunting, poetic complexity, atmosphere and energy. That would be The Affair.

Also, may I just say that Fiona Apple’s theme song with the accompanying images at the beginning of each episode is downright chilling, and it’s just as compelling as the story, itself? In fact, the further we get in the series, the more deliciously unnerving that intro becomes. I’m just so impressed with every last little detail of this series. Just… wow.

5). Alba Botanica Hawaiian Facial Cleanser Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme and Hawaiian Facial Scrub Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme.

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Facial Cleanser Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme  and Hawaiian Facial Scrub Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme.

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Facial Cleanser Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme
and Hawaiian Facial Scrub Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme.

Here are my requisite skin-care picks for January, though I’m going to keep enjoying them for a long time, no doubt! If you’ve been reading here for a while, you already know that the Alba Botanica Hawaiian 3-in-1 Clean Towelettes Deep Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme are my Holy Grail time-saving facial wipes when I have to wash my face in a hurry. Once I decided to go cruelty-free at the beginning of January, I picked up the facial cleanser and exfoliating scrub from the same collection. They’re just as fabulous with their fresh, faint pineapple scent and luxurious textures. The cleanser, which I use at night after removing my make-up, creates rich, soft suds. The exfoliating scrub, which I use in the morning, has granules that are fine and just abrasive enough. I love this entire line by Alba Botanica.

6). Kashi GOLEAN Crunch! Honey Almond Flax cereal.

Kashi GOLEAN Crunch! Honey Almond Flax cereal with fresh raspberries, blueberries and almond milk.

Kashi GOLEAN Crunch! Honey Almond Flax cereal with fresh raspberries, blueberries and almond milk.

I didn’t get a picture of the cereal box, but here you can kind of see the cereal beneath all the berries. So far, I haven’t met a flavor of GOLEAN cereal that I haven’t loved, but the combination of their (high-protein, high-fiber, high-omega 3 fatty acids) honey almond flax protein clusters with fresh raspberries, blueberries and almond milk is my favorite!

7). Van’s 8 Whole Grains Multigrain waffles with peanut butter and jelly.

Van's 8 Whole Grains waffles with 365 creamy peanut butter and Kroger Just Fruit (no sugar added) strawberry jam.

Van’s 8 Whole Grains waffles with 365 creamy peanut butter and Kroger Just Fruit (no sugar added) strawberry jam.

Another breakfast pick! My favorite new weekend breakfast is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with these Van’s waffles, 365 brand creamy peanut butter from Whole Foods, and Kroger’s “Just Fruit” (no sugar added) jam. When toasted, the waffles have that wonderful crispy-soft texture with their combination of whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice, rye, quinoa, amaranth and millet. This is my favorite new way to eat pb&j. It is SO GOOD.

8). Trader Joe’s dark chocolate bar and dark chocolate-covered almonds.

This chocolate has real medicinal properties. I'm sure of it.

This chocolate has real medicinal properties. I’m sure of it.

My beloved Sista (we call each other that) gave me one of these dark chocolate bars from Trader Joe’s in December, so what did I do in January? Went out and bought more, of course! Then I discovered that Trader Joe’s sells their dark chocolate-covered almonds in these little bags, and now they’re my favorite treat to sneak into the movie theatre. Trader Joe’s. Trying to do us in, as per usual.

9). Garden of Eatin’ Red Hot Blues organic blue corn tortilla chips.

Garden of Eatin' Red Hot Blues, aka crack. ORGANIC crack.

Garden of Eatin’ Red Hot Blues, aka crack. ORGANIC crack.

I’ve talked about Garden of Eatin’ organic blue corn tortilla chips before, but I haven’t mentioned their Red Hot Blues version yet. I think I actually consumed more junk food in January than I did over the holidays, and it seemed like there was an open bag of these chips laying around the kitchen all month – but not the same open bag! I don’t even know how many bags of these we went through. Can I count two of the smaller bags as one large one? Also, I’d say that eating these with guacamole adds some nutritional value. Healthy fats and all, right? Right?!

10). Green New American Vegetarian hot wings.

Vegan wings from Green New American Vegetarian, one of my favorite restaurants.

Vegan wings from Green New American Vegetarian, one of my favorite restaurants.

Our friend Rebecca clued us in to the platters of vegan wings that Green (New American Vegetarian) was offering for Super Bowl Sunday. We placed our order on Saturday afternoon, picked up the platter the next day, and devoured the whole thing for lunch inside of 20 minutes. That’s right… just the two of us! But I did, as I mentioned above, get to work out in the garage later that day.

Just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy, and I was well aware of this as we were stuffing our faces with these ridiculously delicious fake wings with the vegan ranch and chili sauces that went with them.

Okay… that’s it for my January Favorites! Have a great Tuesday. =)

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. =)

What I’m Digging Right Now – August Favorites

August was interesting. It brought death, storm destruction, unpleasant dental work and a diagnosis of asthma for the Ronnie James. It also brought much in the way of good times, a new home and a new job for Callaghan.

At work, the fall semester started, and my Monday that week was epic: I started it first thing in the morning at home by spilling a full, large mug of coffee all over myself, the couch, the floor and the inside of my bag, which was sitting (open, of course) on the floor. How to start your day! Bathe in hot coffee! Such literal, caffeinated ablutions sanitize the early-morning mind. That’s how I saw it. Too bad about the almond milk, though.

Coffee scent still wafts out of my bag every time I open it. It’s not a terrible thing.

On that note, let’s start with entertainment!

 

1). The Killing (T.V. series)

 

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Netflix released the fourth and final season of The Killing on August first, and we greedily absorbed it all in two days. It’s over now, and we’re sad about that, but I’ll tell you what… rarely has the final episode of a series felt so satisfying.

I think I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: we’re hard-pressed to explain how The Killing’s Linden and Holder endeared themselves to us so completely.  Our favorite aspect of watching the series was witnessing the development of these characters and their partnership over the arc of the four seasons, but in fact, we loved everything about it. We found the haunting crime drama to be intriguing and masterfully-paced. The city of Seattle was depicted as mostly rainy and gray, and it seemed to be cast as a character in and of itself to gorgeous effect, veiled more in lyricism than grunge. The actors’ performances were exceptional. The plotlines for each of the seasons kept us quietly on edge. We enjoyed seasons one, two and four the most, but each season built on the last while revolving around unique plotlines (with the exception of season two, which was part two of the opening season’s storyline). Overall, we would say that The Killing is a brilliant and underrated series.

This brings to mind an incident that occurred in the store the other day: I was approached by a guy who wanted to know whether we had cable at home (evidently he worked for a cable company), and when I said no, he asked why not. I answered, “Because Netflix.” He was annoyed (maybe because I laughed, which was probably rude, now that I think about it) and pretty much stalked away with a black cloud over his head. At least we didn’t upset him more by telling him about the other internet resources we use for watching all kinds of movies and T.V. series!

 

2). Rage in the Cage (August 9, 2014).

 

Rage in the Cage at the Celebrity Theatre was good times!

Rage in the Cage at the Celebrity Theatre was good times!

 

It’d been too long since I’d attended a combat sports event at the Celebrity Theatre, so when our friend and Body Combat instructor said that she could get us a good deal on tickets because she was going to be working the event as a ring card girl, we gladly seized the opportunity. Not only was it fun to see Izzy at the event (it was like a preview of her participation in the natural physique competition she ended up dominating at the end of the month!), but the fights provided rock-solid entertainment. It was awesome to see that two of the night’s winners hailed from Arizona Combat Sports, the gym where I’d trained in Muay Thai back in its earlier days. The next Rage in the Cage event is in October, and we’re looking forward to it!

 

3). White peaches.

 

The white peaches have been so good, we haven't been able to get enough.

The white peaches have been so good, we haven’t been able to get enough.

 

We devoured white peaches all month… the ones at our favorite Fry’s were fabulous (maybe they still are), and we couldn’t get enough of them! You know how it is when you bite deeply into a piece of fruit and it’s just so satisfying on every level? It’s like that with these peaches. They’re sweet, fragrant, juicy and dense. For me, nothing signals or defines summer as convincingly as certain stone fruits – peaches, cherries, apricots and plums.

 

4). Vegan donuts at Whole Foods.

 

Why?! And why do they have to be so good?

Why?! And why do they have to be so good?

 

Leave it to our favorite Whole Paycheck Foods store to start stocking their bakery with vegan donuts. There’s nothing healthy about these deep fried, refined carb- and sugar-loaded delectables; “vegan” isn’t necessarily synonymous with “healthy,” and treats like these donuts are a great case in point. I feel a bit sheepish admitting that I’ve eaten something like five of them since I discovered them just a few weeks ago. Now I need to develop a will power specific to these donuts. Or not.

 

5). Little Ranch House in the Desert.

We’ve been in our new house for two days, and we all love it! We feel like we’re home, and all the space is a wonderful novelty for the kitties. We adopted them from a small apartment in France, and they’ve lived in nothing but equally small spaces up until this move. It’s been funny watching them here… it’s like, they have so much space, they don’t know where to go first. The bed is still their headquarters of choice, though.

 

Day One in the new house: Ronnie James purring in contentment on our bed.

Day One in the new house: Ronnie James purring in contentment on our bed.

 

6). Framed “Not Cal” decal.

 

NOT CAL in a frame!

NOT CAL in a frame!

 

I finally got this second NOT CAL decal framed! I put it in my new home office, of course. I love it.

 

7). göt2b Guardian Angel Gloss Finish Flat Iron Balm.

 

The hair product that guards against heat even when you don't use heat.

The hair product that guards against heat even when you don’t use heat.

 

This is good stuff. I picked this up in August thinking that I would start using my straight-iron again, but I discovered that I like what it does just by itself, as a leave-in treatment on dry hair. It adds a little something (I don’t even know what, really) that I like to my hair.

 

8). Manifesto (perfume).

 

Manifesto, the way to end the summer.

Manifesto, the way to end the summer.

 

In August, I started wearing “Manifesto,” which caught my eye because of its name. It amused me because of the Unibomber. (Not that I in any way condone, support or agree with the Unibomber and his activities, mind you. Just… you know. Manifesto.) Then, of course, there was the fragrance, itself! Made by Yves St. Laurent, it’s lovely with its body of white flowers, woods and vanilla. I think it bridges the summer and fall gorgeously.

(I wear perfume strictly for myself, by the way… because I like it, and because of what it evokes for me. I wore fragrance long before I ever wore makeup. It’s a personal thing.)

 

9). Paws jewelry.

 

Favorite impulse buy of the month: paws jewelry from Michael's. (Photo from instagram.)

Favorite impulse buy of the month: paws jewelry from Michael’s. (Photo from instagram.)

 

We were on an errand at Michael’s when I saw this cheap little set of costume jewelry. Paws. They were near a Halloween-themed display, so they may have been a part of that, which would make sense… I’m more prone to impulse-buying when Halloween things are out than any other time of the year.

 

This brings us to Ronnie James’ and Nounours’ “Favorites” pick for August!

 

10). Feliway.

 

A Feliway'd Nounours on the eve of our move.

A Feliway’d Nounours on the eve of our move.

 

Feliway is a product consisting of synthetic feline pheromones – undetectable by humans – emitted by a plug-in device similar to a plug-in air freshener. Our vet prescribed it to Ronnie James as a part of his treatment plan for anxiety, which was aggravating his asthma and causing him to over-groom himself. It works, and it works really well! Feliway mellows kitties like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We had the first one in our bedroom in the apartment before we moved, and now, in the house, we have an additional one – so, one in the living room, and another in our bedroom. Kitty bliss. =)

 

That wraps up my “little things” favorites list for August. Welcome, September!