What I’m Digging Right Now – June Favorites

My favorite “Little Things” of June were mostly edible… succulent yellow nectarines, crisp, white nectarines and peaches, and white corn, too. Family and food. They go together. One major personal development for me in June was that when my parents were here, I ventured into Costco, and I didn’t have a panic attack! I don’t know how. It was like, that whole Costco thing was an irrational trigger that just ran its course.

So food was central, but let’s start with…

1). Sense8 (T.V. series)

 

 

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Netflix released season one of this series early in June, and it came to our attention, so we found it and watched it on the site we use to watch T.V. shows (we no longer have Netflix). Our reaction was HOLY. MOLY. We really didn’t have any expectation going in, so it was a nice surprise when Sense8 turned out to be utterly brilliant, a tour de force of sci-fi action/drama with a story fresh and skillfully wrought, seemingly over-ambitious, at first, then startlingly adept at dealing with the intricacies written into the plot. It’s going to be a long year waiting for season two! We might re-watch season one again as season two’s release date approaches; it’ll be good to refresh our memories of some of the story’s complexities.

 

2). True Detective (T.V. series)

 

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It’s been thrilling to finally sit before a new season of episodes that tell a new story in this excellent anthology series, but can I just say WTF, episode two?? Colin Farrell’s near-perfection in his role isn’t the only good and immediately evident thing about season two, but it’s the central thing so far, in my opinion. Just… really? That’s all I’m going to say. No spoilers here.

 

3). Jurassic World (film)

 

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I actually deleted the paragraph I originally wrote about Jurassic World because I ended up digressing into a tangent that sounded more like a rant, and this is not the place for such thoughts. This is a place to highlight the Little Things I loved about June, so I’m just going to say (again) that I loved this movie. It’s a film with a plot that’s more or less a facade; it’s really just about dinosaurs and dinosaur-hybrids, particularly a monster in dinosaur clothing. This, to me, is the icing on the 2015 summer action blockbuster cake. A generous dash of visual sensationalism can sometimes have an anesthetizing effect, and Jurassic World delivered!

Now let’s get into some of the food…

 

4). Simple Truth organic creamy peanut butter.

 

Simple Truth Organic Creamy Peanut Butter

Simple Truth Organic Creamy Peanut Butter

 

As a peanut-butter junkie, I’m sensitive to the stuff; I feel like each brand has its own, distinct character. Somehow, they’re all different, even the ones that have the same ingredients. In past “Favorites” posts, I’ve talked about Whole Foods’ 365 brand, and, more recently, Justin’s. This one by Simple Truth is wonderful, too, with its rich flavor and ideal, creamy texture that isn’t too thick or thin. I’m loving it, and I’d definitely buy it again, but we now have two large jars of Costco’s peanut butter sitting in our pantry… they’re next up when this jar of Simple Truth’s is gone… so don’t be surprised if I come back in August reporting on how I noshed ecstatically on Costco’s peanut butter throughout July! We shall see. One can never have too many “favorite” peanut butters, as far as I’m concerned.

 

5). Kirkland Signature Extra Fancy Unsalted Mixed Nuts.

 

Giant jar of roasted, unsalted mixed nuts from Costco!

Giant jar of roasted, unsalted mixed nuts from Costco!

 

Why are these unsalted, roasted mixed nuts Extra Fancy? Only Costco knows. They seem pretty normal to me, and I was happy to find them in these enormous plastic jars. It’s like, my life is complete now… and now that I seem to be cured of my Costcophobia, we’re thinking we might have to join the cult Costco, because what are we going to do once these nuts are gone?

 

6). SkinnyPop popcorn mixed with Go Raw 100% Organic Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds.

 

SkinnyPop Popcorn combined with Go Raw 100% Organic Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds!

SkinnyPop Popcorn combined with Go Raw 100% Organic Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds!

 

I decided to pour some of these seeds over my bowl of popcorn one day after work, and I’ve been hooked on the combination ever since. It makes a thoroughly satisfying marriage of delicate flavors and delicious salt and light crunch and crisp meltiness, and hey, could salty snacking even get more American than this? Popcorn and pumpkin seeds. Welcome to the New World!

Here’s what a part of our kitchen counter’s been looking like:

 

What can I say. I snacked my way through June. The bag of blue corn tortilla chips is off to the side, and yes, that would be a big BOX of Justin's dark chocolate peanut butter cups in the back.

What can I say. I snacked my way through June. The bag of blue corn tortilla chips is off to the side, and yes, that would be a big BOX of Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups in the back.

 

7). Bark Thins Snacking Chocolate Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed with Sea Salt.

 

Bark Thins Snacking Chocolate Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed with Sea Salt

Bark Thins Snacking Chocolate Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed with Sea Salt

 

More dark chocolate! More pumpkin seeds! More salt!

Guess why these weren’t included in that happy little group photo of the other snacks? Because, yes, we polished off this gigantic bag of chocolate in less than a week. (Thanks, COSTCO!) Well, they weren’t all that unhealthy… not at all, in fact… but it was just a lot of sugar. In June, I probably consumed triple the amount of sugar I normally eat, and that is not an exaggeration. I’m surprised I didn’t break out. (*knocks wood*)

Actually, between this and that 28-count box of Justin’s organic dark chocolate peanut butter cups that I was helpless to resist, we might want to re-think that Costco membership. I need a dark chocolate intervention.

Enough food… let’s move on to products!

 

8). Lavanila Laboratories The Healthy Sunscreen SPF 40 Face Cream.

 

Lavanila Laboratories The Healthy Sunscreen SPF 40 Face Cream

Lavanila Laboratories The Healthy Sunscreen SPF 40 Face Cream

 

Here’s an important distinction: I love the sun, and I love living in the sunniest spot in the U.S. of A. But I’m not a sun-worshipper. I’m a sunscreen worshipper. Sunscreen is the number one most important product that I use, and when I went cruelty-free, it became one of the most difficult items to replace. After making much effort with some varieties available in drug stores, I caved and went to Sephora to pick up this expensive sunscreen of Lavanila’s. It’s made for the face, and that’s what I needed… the sunscreens by the other cruelty-free brand I tried not only didn’t play well with make-up, but they also stung when sweat got in my eyes! Lavanila got it right with this sunscreen. It is outstanding.

 

9). Burt’s Bees Vanilla Bean Moisturizing Lip Balm.

 

Burt's Bees Vanilla Bean Moisturizing Lip Balm

Burt’s Bees Vanilla Bean Moisturizing Lip Balm

 

This is my cruelty-free answer to EOS lip balms, which I’d loved. I keep the Burt’s Bees Vanilla Bean Moisturizing Lip Balm in my bag, and on my nightstand, I put the Burt’s Bees Ultra Conditioning Lip Balm with Kokum Butter, because I like a heavier lip balm for night… but I found myself reaching for this one more and more while getting ready for bed. For some reason, it works better for me than the one that’s supposed to be more moisturizing. Now, the Vanilla Bean is the only one that I use. I actually prefer it to EOS!

 

10). Make-up removers: The Body Shop Camomile Waterproof Eye and Lip Make-up Remover and e.l.f. Studio Makeup Removing Cleansing Cloths.

 

My current cruelty-free makeup removers of choice: e.l.f. Studio Makeup Remover Cleansing Cloths and The Body Shop Camomile Waterproof Eye & Make-up Remover

My current cruelty-free makeup removers of choice: e.l.f. Studio Makeup Remover Cleansing Cloths and The Body Shop Camomile Waterproof Eye & Make-up Remover

 

It was so hard to find good cruelty-free make-up removing products. e.l.f. to the rescue once again! (Huge e.l.f. product review post upcoming, by the way, once I can find time to do it.) e.l.f.’s make-up removing cleansing cloths are really good… and when I explored the shelves at The Body Shop, I found this waterproof eye make-up remover, which is not only fantastic, but it’s better than the ones I’d used that were tested on animals. See? If not for my resolution, I’d have never discovered these products.

That’s it for June. Bring on July! (Maybe less chocolate, though!)

Happy Friday, All… and Happy 4th of July, U.S. friends. =)

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. =)

Pride and… ACMs

It was Phoenix Pride weekend here in The Valley, because gorgeous spring weather in the desert brings the Pride, right? Phoenix Pride weekend is always in April. On Sunday, Callaghan and I scooped up a friend and went to the festival to meet up with the friend with whom I traditionally go. She met us there with her partner, and the five of us had a great time! It was just good to be there, as I’d missed the last two years (I’d been in France).

Ronnie James and Nounours didn’t miss us at all that day. When we got home, we discovered them installed in their chairs, thoroughly engrossed watching the Academy of Country Music Awards (ACMs).

We’d flicked the T.V. on for them before leaving in the morning, and we weren’t aware that the ACMs were going to be held that evening, so it was amusing to walk in and find both kitties watching Jason Aldean (winner, 2014 Male Vocalist of the Year) perform “When She Says Baby.”

This photo wasn’t from Sunday night, but it’ll give you an idea:

 

Commercial! Where's mah remote?

Commercial! Where’s mah remote?

 

It was about 9:00PM, so we first attended to feeding the little guys, but we kept the T.V. on and then settled in eagerly, because the ACMs are just a good time… and like Pride, they only happen once a year.

The ACMs are all about great live music performances, and what we managed to catch this year didn’t disappoint. The performances we took in were fantastic. Our favorite number was Toby Keith performing “Shut Up & Hold On,” a newer song of his that we particularly like:

 

 

We also enjoyed Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan’s performance of “This is How We Roll,” with Nitro Circus flying through the air over flames on their dirt bikes in the background. An awesome musical performance with crazy bike stunts on stage with fire! What’s not to like?

 

 

Now, we just have one comment, almost as an aside: Country music as a genre tends to get a bad rap. Possibly some of that is due to song titles such as “Same Trailer Different Park” (winner, 2014 Album of the Year, Kacey Musgraves) and “I Drive Your Truck” (winner, 2014 Song of the Year, Lee Brice). The latter is a beautiful and heart-breaking song, but if you don’t know what it’s about, just seeing the title “I Drive Your Truck” provokes the giggles. It’s almost like country music is trying to parody itself.

I do like the song, though.

[Another comment, and this one is definitely an aside: I thought it was a brilliant decision to close the penultimate episode of True Detective with Townes Van Zandt’s song “Lungs.”

Townes Van Zandt. Let’s not get me started on how much I admire Townes Van Zandt and the genius of his lyrics!]

Anyway, back to the ACMs. We missed a lot of performances and parts I’d have wanted to see, such as Stevie Nicks with Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton’s duet with Shakira and his Ellen-Oscars-selfie-with-superstars copycat moment… but we were glad to see George Strait receive the Entertainer of the Year award, and it was sweet when the entire room sang “Happy Birthday” to Merle Haggard for his 77th birthday.

In addition to enjoying the performances, I also got to indulge my guilty pleasure of ogling the style choices of the beautifully attired musicians. My favorites this year were Carrie Underwood, Sheryl Crow and Taylor Swift, who I thought were ravishing in gowns or ensembles that were creatively cut and embellished, and that also exquisitely suited the singers’ unique personalities (or, shall I say, personas) as well as their physiques.

 

Carrie Underwood, Sheryl Crow and Taylor Swift at the 2014 ACM Awards

Carrie Underwood, Sheryl Crow and Taylor Swift at the 2014 ACM Awards

 

Of the men, I most admired Keith Urban and LL Cool J. The latter attended as a co-presenter with Chris O’Donnell; they were there to co-host this year’s “ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute to the Troops” (to be aired in May). If I’m remembering correctly, they also presented the Entertainer of the Year award to George Strait.

 

Keith Urban and LL Cool J at the 2014 ACM Awards

Keith Urban and LL Cool J at the 2014 ACM Awards

 

I love how Keith Urban managed to look laid-back and classy at the same time in his ensemble of layered textures, the luxurious shirt under a more casual yet carefully fitted jacket. LL Cool J also expressed his personality well, deflecting the strictness of his black shirt and tie with a fun, fancy jacket and casual pants and shoes. The hat and shades as accessories further balanced the outfit. The whole thing was risky, but none of it seemed overdone to me. It worked. Well done, Sir! Both men were wearing belts. I like that.

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.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-BodyCombat

 

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.)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-TrueDetective

 

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

 

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

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-HannibalS2

 

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. =)