In a nutshell. (December Favorites!)

Happy New Year! I can’t say that enough. Every day since last January, 2017 showed no sign of ending anytime soon, and now, at long last, it’s over. At the same time, the year went way too fast. 2017 was the split personality of years in my life, and it leaves me excited for 2018.

I’m starting 2018 with a new approach to these “monthly favorites” posts: I’m going to answer three questions about each “little thing” on my lists, rather than writing paragraphs about them. If I have something more to say about something, I’ll devote a separate post to it. Starting now, these posts will be more visual, less blah-blah-blah.

 

1). Darkest Hour

 

 

What I liked: The acting, the direction, the musical score, the story of Dunkirk from the back end, Gary Oldman’s make-up and costume, the overall quality of the production.

What I didn’t like: It dragged slightly in some places, but not enough to lessen my regard of the film.

Would I recommend it? Yes, especially if you enjoy biopics.

 

2). Black Mirror (S4)  (T.V. series)

 

 

What I liked: Every story in every episode, the writing, the direction, impact/thought-provoking nature of the stories, the big philosophical questions raised, the overall excellence of the production.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? Yes. You might enjoy this even if you’re not a fan of sci-fi thrillers.

 

3). The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (T.V. series)

 

 

What I liked: The writing, the acting, the costumes and set, the entertainment factor, the film’s freshness and overall excellence.

What I didn’t like: Some of the humor fell flat on me.

Would I recommend it? Yes.

 

4). I Love Dick (T.V. series)

 

 

What I liked: The story, the writing, its presentation as art, its unapologetic rawness, some of the acting (mainly Kathryn Hahn’s).

What I didn’t like: Just that its IMDB rating is much lower than I’d expect it to be. In my opinion, this series is curiously underrated.

Would I recommend it? NOT TO EVERYONE. If you’d rather not see sexually explicit stories and raw, “artistic” story-telling of such material, I would not recommend.

 

5). Mom’s cooking.

 

Okara with brown rice and furikake

 

What I liked: Everything, meaning the tofu and the okara pictured above. Mom brought freshly made tofu from the little tofu place in my hometown’s J-town (Japan-town), so it was the tofu of my childhood. It’s nothing like the prepackaged tofu you get in a box in the supermarket.

Okara, by the way, is Japanese for “rubbish,” in a sense, from what I understand… as a dish, it’s the scraps leftover from the making of fresh tofu. You could buy it in bags and cook it up with dashi (Mom used plant-based dashi), seasonings, and finely chopped shiitake mushrooms, green onions, and carrots. It’s one of my favorite home-cooked dishes. Grandma used to make it just for me!

What I didn’t like: That it was, perhaps, the last time I’d eat it. With the closing of the little family-run tofu factory (there’s no one left to take it over), fresh tofu and okara may be a thing of the past.

Would I recommend it? Yes, but this is irrelevant, of course.

 

6). Dave’s Killer Plain Awesome Bagels.

 

Dave’s Killer Plain Awesome Bagels

 

What I liked: High nutrient density in a bread that seems like a cheat-day indulgence.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? Yes. I’ve been eating one of these a day almost every day for over a month, and I’m not tired of them yet.

 

7). Apple Pie Larabar with peanut butter.

 

Apple Pie Larabar with peanut butter

 

What I liked: Peanut butter on an apple pie Larabar is as delicious as peanut butter on fresh apple slices. It’s a satisfying nutritional powerhouse of a treat.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? If the apple/peanut butter flavor combo appeals to you, then yes.

 

8). Cara Cara oranges.

 

Cara Cara oranges

 

What I liked: These beautiful red-fleshed navel oranges (they are not blood oranges) are incredibly sweet and juicy, and they have just a hint of tropical flavor.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? Yes.

 

9). Acure The Magical Wonderfluff Overnight Hydrating Booster Mask (argan + gardenia extract).

 

Acure The Magical Wonderfluff Overnight Hydrating Booster Mask (argan + gardenia extract)

 

What I liked: This overnight mask makes my skin look more smooth in the morning. It goes on like a thick lotion that dries into a pleasant, slight tightness; it’s not sticky, as other overnight masks often are. I layer this on over my nightcream every night.

What I didn’t like: Its schoolroom fragrance (paste, maybe?) is somewhat strange, but actually, I don’t dislike it. It may be a turn-off for some people, though.

Would I recommend it? Yes.

 

10). OGX Shea Soft & Smooth Creamy Hair Butter.

 

OGX Shea Soft & Smooth Creamy Hair Butter

 

What I liked: Just that it actually works to smooth out the frizzy fly-aways all over my head, and it doesn’t make my hair feel heavy or greasy.

What I didn’t like: ?

Would I recommend it? Yes.

 

The End. How’s that for succinct?

Until next time!

Random food-related personal trivia ahoy!

Have you ever been curious about other people’s food idiosyncrasies? Here are a dozen of mine:

1). I enjoy monosodium glutamate (MSG). Growing up in a Japanese-American household, we always had MSG in our spice cabinet. We refer to it by its brand name: Aji-no-moto. I never knew it was “horrible” for you until MSG started blowing up the health news circuits. I’m not afraid of it. I still eat it. I don’t buy the full spectrum of negative hype surrounding it any more than I buy the full spectrum of negative hype surrounding soy (i.e. tofu), another common Japanese food I grew up eating. Japanese cuisine is generally healthier than standard American fare. We get our Ajinomoto from the mom & pop Japanese market down the street. You can get it from Amazon dot com.

2). My brain does not know how to tell my body that I’m full when I’m eating pasta. I could eat an entire box in one sitting, so when I make pasta at home, I measure out the exact serving size and make just that amount. In restaurants, I almost never take home leftover pasta, no matter how large the serving size. I eat it all and wish there was more.

3). Along with several other kids on our street, my brother and I used to climb a neighbor’s front-yard almond tree. We ate the almonds while they were still green. We didn’t realize that we were vandalizing, trespassing, and stealing. Because of our unfortunate past-time,  I came to crave the raw, sweet green almonds, and I didn’t understand why they weren’t available in the store. I still enjoy raw almonds, and I still wish they were green.

4). I don’t go around pontificating about vegetarianism or veganism, but if I find a veggie-pride shirt I like, I’ll get it and wear it. And take selfies in it.

 

No Meat Athlete workout apparel

No Meat Athlete workout apparel

“It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war”

Powered by plants

Powered by plants

 

5). If I could only take one food with me to a deserted island, it would be Chipotle Tabasco Sauce. It would make anything on the island edible.

6). I’m a shameless breadaholic. I eat bread of some type or another at both lunch and dinner (unless dinner is something like sushi). My favorite toast is sourdough.

7). My favorite sushi is brown rice with avocado and cucumber, and Callaghan makes the best.

8). When I was in army basic training at Ft. Jackson, our drill sergeant threatened we city recruits with chitlins. I wasn’t afraid. But then I witnessed a particularly strange punishment involving orange soda, and I haven’t wanted orange soda since.

9). I always thought that beets were the most hilarious food on the planet, I have no idea why, and I still can’t eat them.

10). Nutritional yeast powder is one of my favorite foods, and I consume at least a handful of it every week. We get it in a huge can (from Whole Foods… their brand).

11). I’m hooked on cold water stirred up with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s raw unfiltered, always); I drink it after both lunch and dinner.

12). I don’t understand poi. No amount of sugar in the world can persuade me to understand it.

What I’m Digging Right Now – November Favorites

Oh, wow… December 1st! Time to rave about some of November’s memorable Little Things. How about this for a change: I’m starting with food this time, because there’s a lot of it. The month that just passed had a culinary focus. I actually didn’t experiment with any new cosmetic-type products in November, so this list is devoid of that kind of stuff. We didn’t see any movies, either (I guess we’ll catch The Martian at the cheap seats or online when it hits the site we use), and we only started one T.V. series… but man, we’re enthralled with that series!!

Let’s dig in.

 

1). Callaghan’s 7-spice Masala tofu.

 

Callaghan's 7-spice Masala tofu with brown Basmati rice

Callaghan’s 7-spice Masala tofu with brown Basmati rice

 

Callaghan enjoys dabbling creatively with Asian flavors in his cooking, and he often comes up with concoctions that are out-of-this-word delicious. This tofu dish was one of them. I can’t tell you what’s in the sauce because it’s a secret (all I know is that it includes masala), but I know it doesn’t contain coconut anything or any kind of nut butter, which makes it unusual.

 

2). Coconut Aminos (Coconut Secret original).

 

Coconut Aminos (Coconut Secret original)

Coconut Aminos (Coconut Secret original)

 

In my recent endeavor to drastically minimize the amount of processed food I eat, a lifestyle change I haven’t mentioned before (I embarked on this journey in October), I’ve been on the hunt for substitutes for old staples. One thing I learned is that coconut aminos make a fabulous stand-in for soy sauce, and in fact, we actually prefer it. No lie. Coconut aminos is simpler than soy sauce, more flavorful, and healthier. Get this: Coconut aminos contain TWO ingredients, zero chemicals, and a mere 90 mg sodium! Compare that to Kikkoman’s “less sodium” (green cap) soy sauce, which contains chemicals and 575 mg sodium. 575. That’s their lower sodium version. We haven’t touched it since we started using coconut aminos (which, by the way, tastes plenty salty to us). Last night, we finally just threw out the soy sauce. Our new motto is coconut aminos or GTFO.

 

3). Simple Truth walnuts halves and pieces.

 

Simple Truth walnuts halves and pieces

Simple Truth walnuts halves and pieces

 

I’ve been eating a lot of these unsalted walnut pieces lately. There’s something about fall that makes me crave or think about walnuts more, and when I get going on eating them regularly, I always wonder why I don’t think of them as much year-round. Walnuts in salads are great, but I also love them by themselves. They’re an awesome source of plant-basted protein, healthy fats, and trace minerals, too.

 

4). Sting ‘n’ Linger Salsa Co. (hot).

 

Sting 'n' Linger Salsa Co. (hot)

Sting ‘n’ Linger Salsa Co. (hot)

 

I know I recently included a salsa in a “favorites” post… I know! But I’m back with yet another one, and let me tell you, this one makes the other one taste like glorified ketchup. Sting ‘n’ Linger hot salsa is made locally here in Arizona, and it’s completely unprocessed. There isn’t a single chemical in it, and the flavor is fantastic. We get it at the Tempe Farmer’s Market down the street… I’m not sure where else it’s available, but you may be able to find it online. This stuff is the shizz as far as store-bought salsas go, and that’s coming from someone who’s lived on the Mexican border in three different states her entire life (except for temporary overseas living situations).

 

5). Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Extra Dark chocolate.

 

Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Extra Dark chocolate

Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Extra Dark chocolate

 

Like walnuts, I cycle in and out of periods of keeping the kitchen stocked with bars of bitter dark chocolate. This one by Lindt has been a favorite of mine for years. I have one or two squares a day, usually in the evening, and I cherish a kind of ritual around eating them: I take tiny nibbles from the square and let them dissolve in my mouth with just a little biting with my front teeth. Somehow, this slow melting prolongs the chocolate euphoria. I indulged thusly all through November, and I don’t see the end of the cycle as of yet.

Now for the T.V. series that took off with our brains (and a lot of our free time) in November….

 

6). Marvel’s Jessica Jones (T.V. series – Netflix)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-MarvelsJessicaJonesNovFavs2015

 

What can I say about Jessica Jones? Stylish. Sexy. Smart. Badass. Beautiful. Oh, and the show itself is awesome, too, in pretty much every way. The only other comic book-based dramatic project I can think of that matches this one in all-around excellence (okay, in my personal enjoyment… I know art is subjective) is the movie Sin City. Netflix does it again!

Moving on to the objects part of the list:

 

7). Asics Gel-Venture 5 running shoes.

 

Asics Gel-Venture 5 running shoes

Asics Gel-Venture 5 running shoes

 

I knew from past experience that running shoes work great for me in cardio/plyometrics situations, so when we started Body Combat and I needed shoes, I got running shoes from Asics, my favorite brand. That was a year and a half ago, and the pair I got were Gel-Venture 4’s. They were amazing. Naturally, when I decided to splurge on a new pair a few weeks ago – my reasoning being that I was walking to and from work again and therefore needed good shoes for everyday street wear – I got another pair of Asics. They’re Gel-Venture 5’s now, and I honestly can’t tell the difference between them and the 4’s, though apparently the technology’s been updated somehow. I love them. Shoes aren’t my thing and I generally dislike shopping for them, but I do get excited about athletic shoes.

Yeah, if I can help it, I prefer not to wear street shoes in the gym. And yes, that picture shows me with my shoes up on the furniture. What.

 

8). Pentel EnerGel liquid gel ink pen, blue (needle tip 0.7).

 

Pentel EnerGel liquid gel ink pen, blue (needle tip 0.7)

Pentel EnerGel liquid gel ink pen, blue (needle tip 0.7)

 

It might seem silly to put a pen on a “favorites” list, but this pen and I were meant to spend hours together bonding over coffee. You know the feeling. There’s that one pen that feels perfect when you write with it. For me, that’s this one.

 

9). OfficeMax mug.

 

OfficeMax mug

OfficeMax mug

 

Okay, I have a thing for mugs, and I’m particular about them. I love drinking coffee from mugs of a certain size and shape, so when I found this cheerful yellow one for $2.00 in a clearance bin at OfficeMax, I had to get it. And I had to share it with you here, because it was truly a Little Thing that added to my enjoyment of November. (By the way, this pic makes the mug look a lot smaller than it is. I was more concerned with capturing the sunlight than the dimensions of the mug.)

 

10). Method foaming hand wash in Pink Grapefruit.

 

Method foaming hand wash in Pink Grapefruit

Method foaming hand wash in Pink Grapefruit

 

We’ve been using Method hand soaps for years, but we just recently picked up the foaming one in pink grapefruit. Its sparkly, bright citrus scent reminds me of the lemon kitchen hand soap from Trader Joe’s, but I love this one even more. We don’t even care that it’s pink.

That brings this post to an end, and 2015 is about to go away, too. Next time, I’ll write my last “favorites” post of 2015! That seems surreal.

What I’m Digging Right Now – February Favorites

February – the month of Valentine’s, Callaghan’s birthday, new-to-me discoveries and other things I want to share with you!

Usually I start with entertainment, so let’s change it up and get right into it with food this time.

 

1). Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds (cereal).

 

Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds (with assorted fresh berries and almond milk)

Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds
(with assorted fresh berries and almond milk)

 

Since the beginning of February, this cereal has been my go-to evening snack on the evenings I want one, and I always have it just the way you see it in the picture… a third of a cup (one serving) covered in fresh berries and moistened with almond milk. We just picked up another bag. I like it because it’s not too sweet – in fact, it’s just barely sweet – and it’s super crunchy. This is a favorite that’s going to be a favorite for a while, methinks.

 

2). Mediterranean chopped salad (with added tofu) at True Food Kitchen.

 

Mediterranean chopped salad at True Food Kitchen.  I remembered to take this pic after I ate maybe a quarter of it. SO GOOD.

Mediterranean chopped salad at True Food Kitchen.
I remembered to take this pic after I ate maybe a quarter of it. SO GOOD.

 

Here we have my official new salad obsession, guys, and I don’t use the word “obsession” lightly! This salad is a flavor stand-out as well as a nutritional powerhouse with its greens, cucumber, Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, quinoa, feta, sprouted almonds, and lemon oregano vinaigrette. (You can ask them to hold the feta if you’re going for a vegan option. For me, it’s a rare vegan exception.) I add tofu to boost the quinoa’s protein, and it’s out of this world. One of the principles of True Food Kitchen is to use what’s in season, so the last time we went (Sunday, when I took the picture) there were green beans in the salad, as well. IT IS SO GOOD. So, so, so good. I can’t even tell you. If you ever find yourselves in the vicinity of a True Food Kitchen, go there and try this salad. You’re welcome.

Now that I’ve raved about food, let’s move on to entertainment!

 

3). Better Call Saul (T. V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-bettercallsaul

 

AT LAST! The series Breaking Bad fans have been waiting for finally aired its premiere, but you don’t have to have watched Breaking Bad in order to get it. The story of Saul Goodman’s legal career and persona evolution tells itself with no reliance on the BB laurels. We’re enjoying it even more than we’d thought we would.

 

4). Kingsman: The Secret Service (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-kingsmanthesecretservice

 

As in January, we only went out to the movies once in February, and only because there was a particular movie whose impending release kept us on edge for ages, it seemed. We went to see Kingsman: The Secret Service. I’m thrilled to say that it handily exceeded our expectations, offering up a caper of magnificent exuberance and cloaked in strategically overwrought, finely-sharpened darkness featuring great characters played by a great cast. Kingsman was action-packed, absurd in the best of ways, hilarious and just all-around entertaining in exactly the fashion you want your comic book action flick to be. The writing was terrific; many of the lines of dialogue surprised us. I’m not going to provide any spoilers here, so you’ll have to go see it for yourselves, if you’re into that sort of thing!

This brings me to a random favorite of the month:

 

5). The 4th workout.

 

My woman cave! That South Korean flag was handed down to me by my Tae Kwon Do master before he moved out of state many years ago. After traveling all over the place with me, it's finally found a wall on which to hang.

My woman cave! That South Korean flag was handed down to me by my Tae Kwon Do master before he moved out of state many years ago. After traveling all over the place with me, it’s finally found a wall on which to hang.

 

Awesome “little thing” number five is the fourth workout I’ve incorporated into my weekly routine.

I’ve been enjoying the training area we carved out in our garage, and in February, I made sure to get in there at least once a week (I aspire to adding another day somehow, but this is a good start)! Being the creature of habit that I am, it quickly became a Sunday thing. If you’ll remember, it all sprung from the arrival of the WaveMaster heavy bag that Callaghan got me for Christmas. I think I started working out here toward the end of January, having been delayed due to illness, but it really took off as a regular thing in February.

Every week, I look forward to my training session in the garage as much as I look forward to our three Body Combat classes at the gym. Though I mix it up and never do the same workout twice, the main elements are always cardio, stretching, abs, shadow boxing, and bag-work. As for the particulars of what I do, I just go with whatever I feel like doing. I don’t go in at the same time every Sunday, and I don’t time my workouts… sometimes I do a short session (20-30 minutes), sometimes longer (up to an hour). I have goals for the year, though, one of which is to find someone who can hold pads to come over and train with me!

Moving on to another totally random favorite thing:

 

6). Overseas, online pharmacy: InHousePharmacy.vu

 

Our latest delivery for Ronnie James (aka the Wrah-Wrah) from InHousePharmacy.com

Our latest delivery for Ronnie James (aka the Wrah-Wrah) from InHousePharmacy.com

 

I may have mentioned this pharmacy before, in passing, but I want to provide details now because we’re so happy with the service we get from it!

When we started treating the Wrah-Wrah for his pulmonary health challenges, I researched pharmacy options and found 4CornersPharmacy.com, which recently became InHousePharmacy.vu. The “vu” domain stands for Vanuatu, the country from which the medications are shipped. Yes, we get Ronnie James’ Albuterol/Ventolin inhaler and his steroid inhalers from a tiny island in the South Pacific. Online pharmacies can be sketchy, so I first vetted it as thoroughly as I could online, then we asked our vet about it, and then we showed her the goods once our first order arrived. She approved.

InHousePharmacy.vu’s customer service is outstanding; they’re extremely efficient and professional, and they offer FREE SHIPPING to the United States (and maybe to other places… I don’t know). We’ve been using this pharmacy for about five months now, and we’re very satisfied with it, so I figured I ought to share!

On that note, I’ll finish this list with a few of the new cosmetic and skin-care products I’m loving that aren’t tested on animals, since transitioning to cruelty-free beauty products was the biggest of my New Year’s resolutions….

 

7). Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème).

 

Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème)

Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème)

 

I’ve never been a nude lip color person – I’ve always gravitated toward deeper red and berry shades, or darker neutrals – but on my quest to try all new things for the sake of the animals, I thought I’d venture out of my colorful comfort zone. Milani’s 26 (Nude Crème) is the lightest shade in their Color Statement line, and it’s the only nude lip color I’ve ever felt comfortable wearing. Callaghan was the first to give his approval (very important!), and then I got some compliments on it from friends at work, so I’m convinced! I love the lipstick’s formula, too. It feels nice, it wears well, and it also reapplies well, so it gets bonus points for that. I like it so much that I’ll probably pick up a few of my more typical colors at some point. I find Milani products at CVS.

 

8). Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero).

 

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero)

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero)

 

I can’t believe it took a New Year’s resolution to go cruelty-free for me to find my Holy Grail lower-lash eyeliner. I’d been using one by Stila, which had been better than the Revlon one I’d used for years before that, and I just figured it wasn’t possible for eyeliners to wear really well under the eye for extended periods of time. Then I made this resolution and sprang for Urban Decay’s 24/7 eye pencil in the color “zero” (black), and wow! I’m so impressed. It’s creamy and easy to apply, and it literally wears the same ALL DAY. On the downside, it’s Urban Decay, so it’s pricey, and its creaminess means that you have to sharpen it often (it wears down quickly). I just repurchased it, even though I’m not done with the first one yet. It’s one of those things that’s worth the cost. I like an intense eye, anyway, so it’s worth it to me!

 

9). Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral).

 

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral) (Black negligee from Victoria's Secret)

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral)
(Black negligee from Victoria’s Secret)

 

(I couldn’t resist using my black negligee as the stage for Urban Decay’s “naked” concealer. Just work with my sense of humor here.

Aaand yeah, while I was at the Urban Decay display, I picked up this (gulp) ridiculously expensive concealer. This whole high-end cosmetic stuff is atypical of me, by the way. I’m a drugstore makeup kind of person, but after successfully replacing 95% of my cosmetics with outstanding, inexpensive drugstore cruelty-free products – I think I might focus an entire future blog post on the glories of e.l.f. – I was once again just down to the eyeliner and the concealer. (Usually when I splurge on expensive stuff at Ulta, it’s for eyeliners and concealers.)

This concealer goes on as a silky liquid, but as soon as you pat it in, it somehow vanishes while covering what it needs to cover. It’s an invisible concealer that actually conceals, and the formula is simply magic. I can’t describe it. I’m not a beauty blogger. But I can tell you my opinion: this concealer is worth the expense.

(Yes, I know that Urban Decay’s parent company is L’Oreal, indisputably the worst offender in the cosmetics animal-testing industry, but Urban Decay products themselves are not tested on animals. Urban Decay makes the Leaping Bunny list of cruelty-free brands.)

And finally, we have a skin care product!

 

10). Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin).

 

Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin)

Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin)

 

I’m pretty much there with cosmetics, but I’m nowhere near the point of finding all the good, affordable cruelty-free skincare items I need to find. However, it’s only March. I’m taking my time. I have a year to fulfill my resolution (I still have to find cruelty-free hair products, too)! I did discover this moisturizer, though, and I really love it. It wears well under my sunscreen, and it has a fresh, natural citrus scent.

Some text on the packaging:

“gotu kola stem cell + 1% chlorella growth factor – firm, hydrate, restore – clinical collagen + hyaluronic support”

And the text on the box further informs that the moisturizer is organic, vegan, and free of silicone, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, phthalates, parabens, gluten, petroleum and PEG. It’s cruelty-free, it won’t clog pores, and it’s 100% biodegradable.

I’m not going to question any of that. I’m just going to go with it. This moisturizer can be found at Target, so it’s affordable, and there are other products in the same line, so I predict (I hope!) you’ll find other Acure favorites here as the year goes on!

That’s it for February! Thank you for reading, as always!