What I’m Digging Right Now – December Favorites

December is over! 2014 is over! Today, I’m going to rave about stuff (aka little things) that made the magical 12th month of the year even more magical, and next week, I’m going to rave again about the little things from 2014 that topped them all for a “best of” list for the whole year.

For December, I’m starting with entertainment, because as we all know, that’s one of my favorite types of things… and a great month for that it was, indeed. Three movies knocked us out with their awesomeness in December. Let’s get right to it.

1). The Babadook (film)

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So we were scrolling through our favorite movie-watching site one night and decided to take a chance on yet another horror flick. Good call! The Babadook was intense and intensely gratifying. It more than made up for all the horror flicks that left us feeling wistful for well-crafted terror, because The Babadook is the very definition of well-crafted terror. It scared the hell out of me. It was completely enthralling.

2). Big Eyes (film)

thatasianlookingchick.com-bigeyes

My birthday was two days after Christmas. We went to the movies that afternoon, because my idea of a good birthday includes a movie date. This year, we went to see Tim Burton’s Big Eyes. We’re ardent Tim Burton, Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz fans, and I love movies based on true events, and I love art, and I loved that for the second year in a row, my birthday movie featured Adams and her stunning talent. Last year’s American Hustle was excellent… and Big Eyes followed suit, to the surprise of neither of us.

First of all, I was fascinated by the story, itself. Since I’d always known the painter of those pictures to be Margaret Keane, it was interesting to learn the history behind the phenomenon and take in a few details about the art world that I hadn’t known before, as well. I’m surprised that no one made a movie about this story before, but I’m happy that they waited until now, because now we have Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. I’m eagerly waiting to see how many Oscar nominations this film rakes in, like American Hustle.

3). The Interview (film)

thatasianlookingchick.com-theinterview

Think or say what you want about the hype surrounding this movie or the movie, itself; we thought it was freaking hilarious. It had us rolling from that ridonkulously absurd opening scene with Eminem, and the ridonkulous absurdity continued… the actors never dropped the pace of their comedic timing. We saw The Interview on Christmas day, at home, computer hooked up to our T.V., voilà! Our first ever new-movie home viewing experience! The novelty and hilarity of it made for an extra enjoyable Christmas. I hope no one dies because of it, though.

4). Bikram yoga.

Bikram Yoga.

Bikram Yoga.

I’m so grateful to say that there was something fabulous every day of the short holiday break, and on the 26th, the fabulous little thing was my first Bikram yoga class in about 10 years. It felt marvelous, and I was reminded of why I’d enjoyed yoga so much in the first place. Graciously invited by a friend who practices the art at the newer Bikram establishment, I walked in without an idea of how my body would behave or react throughout the series of poses. As it turned out, my muscles still knew what to do, though at the surface level, I couldn’t remember how the mechanics of some of the poses worked… it was a strange juxtaposition.

Aftereffects? Physically, I never reached the depth of the pain I was sure I’d experience in the following days. The day after, I felt it in my lower body, mostly in my hamstrings and hip flexors… but it wasn’t that bad. I went beast mode in Body Combat class as usual without the help of Advil (I’d been prepared to gulp the Advil in order to do Combat, but it wasn’t necessary). The following day, I felt the soreness in my upper body, mostly in my triceps, lats and along my spine… and again, it wasn’t at all as severe as what I’d thought it’d be.

In other respects, I felt great. The meditative 90-minute practice brought back everything I loved about Bikram yoga. It was energizing, centering, grounding, and I was very glad that I went.

5). 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.

For Christmas, Callaghan offered me what he knew I’d been wanting for a long time: a heavy bag! Body Combat class has been (and continues to be) awesome, but I’ve really been missing making actual contact with my strikes; I love it, and I’m badly in need of target practice. It’s been too long. I went online and identified the bag I wanted. It’s the extra-large WaveMaster, and it’s since taken up residence in our garage.  More on this later… it deserves a post of its own! Suffice it to say for now that I’m completely stoked and can’t wait to start training here at home to supplement my group fitness workouts.

6). HeartFire Botanicals Chocolate Orange sugar scrub.

Chocolate Orange Sugar Scrub from HeartFire Botanicals.

Chocolate Orange Sugar Scrub from HeartFire Botanicals.

This scrub is the creation of a good friend who recently started making and selling her own healing personal care products, and my dry winter lips love it as an evening exfoliating treatment! My lips have been so soft since I started using it. She gave it to me for Christmas, and I already swear by it. Her site is here… check it out! (I added the link to her shop in the sidebar here, too.)

7). Got2B Rockin’ It 4Ever StyleSpray dry shampoo.

Got2B Rockin’ It 4Ever StyleSpray dry shampoo.

Got2B Rockin’ It 4Ever StyleSpray dry shampoo.

Dry shampoos and I got off on the wrong foot. The one I tried last year? Turned my hair gray. I mean, it sprayed on white, and the discoloration was ridiculously difficult to correct. I couldn’t massage it out. I couldn’t brush it out. It was such an annoying experience that I returned it and assumed that dry shampoo was just something I’d do without… until I ventured to try again with this Got2B product. I’ve been enjoying the Got2B Guardian Angel heat-protectant spray so much that when I found this dry shampoo next to it in the drugstore, I sprang for it. It turns out that this brand of dry shampoo is magic in a can! It also sprays on whitish – I guess they all do…? – but my hair easily returns to its color after working in the product and brushing it out. I put it through the ultimate test and used it the day after a Body Combat class after which I did not wash my hair (I come home from Combat with my hair soaked in sweat, so this was gross). The next day, the Got2B Rockin’ It dry shampoo make my hair look and feel like I’d actually washed it. Amazing. Sold. Will re-purchase!

8). Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soaking Solution Relax & Relief with Eucalyptus and Spearmint.

Dr. Teal's Epsom Salt Soaking Solution with Eucalyptus Spearmint.

Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soaking Solution with Eucalyptus Spearmint.

I took a hot bath the evening I went to Bikram yoga, and it was this concoction of Dr. Teal’s that went into it. I actually wanted plain Epsom salts so I could treat the water with some essential oils I already had, but I ended up going for this one with Eucalyptus and Spearmint. It provided a thoroughly relaxing experience, and as mentioned above, the post-yoga soreness I’d experienced in the following days was minimal and short-lived. I’m not sure how much of that I can attribute to these bath salts, but at the very least, I can say that they made for a wonderfully relaxing bath!

9). Birthday flowers.

Flowers for my birthday!

Flowers for my birthday!

Poor Callaghan. My birthday is on December 27, so he has to think of double gifts for me during the holidays! When he asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I thought of the expensive heavy bag he’d gotten me for Christmas and just said, “Flowers from Trader Joe’s!” Because there was really nothing else I wanted. Callaghan’s artistic talent extends to flower arranging, and I love the quality and selection of cut flowers at Trader Joe’s, so we went there on my birthday and came home with the enormous selection of blooms he’d chosen. Later, he presented me with three gorgeous arrangements (only two are shown in the picture because the third one fell casualty to Ronnie James). I am lucky.

10). Sumatra coffee from Starbucks.

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

Ground Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks.

Okay, so I grudgingly admit that our new favorite coffee happens to be a product of Starbucks.

When I was in college, I worked briefly as a barista at a small independent espresso shop that specialized in roasting beans to sell to customers as well as to distribute to other coffee shops. I worked there just long enough – almost a year, I think? – to develop a familiarity with a dozen or so Arabica coffee beans from around the world. Of the blends and straights our Master Roaster (who was from Italy) produced daily, the straight Sumatra quickly became my favorite.

That was back in 1994. I blame my snotty attitude toward Starbucks on my experience working with the Master Roaster, but really, I never preferred the taste of Starbucks coffee. Thus, it was a total surprise when Callaghan found a bag of ground Sumatra one day in December and my Sumatra love was promptly rekindled by its excellence… and the name on the bag was Starbucks! Guess where he found it? At Target. Of course.

That wraps it up for December… Happy New Year, everyone, and happy Friday! =)

Long-Overdue Yoga Fix Ahead!

Since we’re still on Christmas break at my work, I’m seizing the opportunity to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. My schedule is pretty well packed during normal life hours, so this is what’s happening this non-normal morning: I’m going to spend 90 minutes twisting my non-flexible self into the various poses prescribed by Bikram, I’m assuming, in a room designed to accommodate the activity (heated to a high enough degree to assist your body with said positions).

This will be my first yoga class in almost 10 years, and I’m looking forward to it. I have a brand-new yoga mat that I purchased last year with earnest intentions, but have yet to use. The day has arrived!

I’m pretty sure my body’s going to hate me within 24 hours of this Bikram yoga class, and it will probably start plotting its revenge faster than you can say “shavasana.” I’m expecting it, hence my plan to pick up some Epsom salts on my way home. I already have the essential oils I’m going to add to the hot bath I’ll take tonight. I just want to be able to give 100% in Body Combat class tomorrow morning, and being able to walk without soreness would help with that. I’m counting on this yoga class to make me feel muscles I’d forgotten I had. Bring it.

Although… here’s a little secret… in the past, I’ve powered through Body Combat class while in pain. I’ve literally hobbled through the parking lot thinking what the hell am I doing, then getting to class and forgetting all about it, feeling nothing but the awesomeness. The secret is adrenaline. Adrenaline is what drives me through Body Combat because mentally I flip into training mode, which my brain is hard-wired to link to my “fight or flight” response. This is the up-side of PTSD. It’s a great natural painkiller. (Yes, I know Body Combat is a cardio class, but as far as I’m concerned, if I’m kicking and throwing punches, I’m training… so I know I’ll be able to get through the class tomorrow, regardless.)

I’m still picking up Epsom salts for a hot bath later. My muscles, tendons and ligaments will deserve it! Plus, I’ll enjoy it. Yeah. I don’t need an excuse!

10 years is a long time, though; I feel like I might as well have never done yoga at all. I remember that my first yoga class ever was at Arizona Combat Sports back in 2002… there was an advanced student there on the Brazilian Ju-Jitsu side who was also an advanced yoga practitioner and instructor. They added a Saturday morning yoga class to the schedule with him teaching it, so I figured I’d try it for a few sessions. I thought it balanced out my Muay Thai training well, so I was inspired to try yoga at other places. I enjoyed it, though I never felt like a “natural” in any yoga studio. For one thing, as I said, I’ve never been particularly flexible.

Random: My favorite long-term effect from yoga is my affection for Deva Premal, who sings Hindu and Buddhist chants so beautifully. It was only because of yoga that I discovered her.

Okay, I’m off to get ready for this yoga class… Happy Friday, All! =)

 

Kitties with their Christmas stocking stuffers! They do yoga every day.

Kitties with their Christmas stocking stuffers! They do yoga every day.

 

What I’m Digging Right Now – January Favorites

Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Hey Fat Choy! It’s the Year of the Horse, and we’re off to a galloping start.

It’s also the last day of January, and I’m wrapping it up with a list of things that brightened my world during the month. Anytime is a good time to celebrate “the little things,” though, I figure.

So let’s start with food, because I stumbled on a great light late-afternoon nosh this month, and I’m eager to share it.

1). A cup of Trader Joe’s Pomegranate White Tea with a LÄRABAR über Roasted Nut Roll (sweet and salty fruit & nut bar).

 

My current favorite late afternoon energy-boosting combo.

My current favorite late afternoon energy-boosting combo.

 

This antioxidant and protein-packed duo bridges the afternoon to the evening really well with just enough caffeine to get you through, but not enough to interfere with your sleep later… and it’s tasty, healthy and substantial. You get a little bit of tart, sweet and salty all at once. Liveliness all around!

2). Learning to drive a manual transmission – Tara’s corvette!

 

I never would have thought you'd find me behind the wheel of a Corvette!

I never would have thought you’d find me behind the wheel of a Corvette!

 

I’m 45 now – I’m entitled to that long-awaited mid-life crisis, and we all know that where there’s a mid-life crisis, there’s got to be a Corvette. (Hey, I know my stereotypes.) My friend Tara indulged me one night a few weeks ago with her car and her patience, and it was exciting! Thanks again, Tara!

3). Returning to the gym.

I didn’t take a picture of our new gym, so here’s a logo from the web, instead:

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsJAN2014-24hourfitnessWe knew when we landed back in AZ that we’d join a gym and start working out. After some lengthy research and consideration, we finally decided everything and made it happen.

Our new memberships came with a complimentary session with a personal trainer. I met with mine the first Friday morning after we signed up. My trainer was nice, although there was some kind of disconnect between us.

“So what are we doing this morning?” He got right into it.

“I’m horribly out of shape,” I told him. “I haven’t worked out regularly in like three years.”

“What do you mean you’re ‘out of shape’?”

“Well, after three years of mostly just sitting around, I’ve become one of those “skinny-fat” people, you know?” I explained. “I’m not overweight, but I’m out of shape, and my body fat composition is probably a mess.”

We’d joined a gym in France, but we went all of like three times, so it didn’t count. I’ve literally been 95% sedentary for three years.

Fitness and martial arts training used to be a serious business with me, as those of you who used to read my LiveJournal may remember. I’d been a dedicated gym rat and student of various martial arts, I went to yoga regularly, and at one point I’d studied to get my personal trainer certification. I never followed through on that, but I read the whole darn book in preparation for it. I also studied nutrition, and I continue to keep up with the ongoing scientific research in the areas of fitness, nutrition and health.

I would have thought that my trainer would measure my body-fat percentage to get an assessment, but he did not. Instead, he decided to kick my ass as if I was in better-than-average shape.

Consequently, the next day, I could hardly walk.

“What part of ‘I haven’t worked out in three years’ was unclear?” I complained to Callaghan later. But still, it was fun. And the gym is super nice. I especially love doing laps in the pool, stretching in the sauna afterward, and then sitting in the Jacuzzi.

4). Starbucks travel drink container

 

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

 

This was one of those frivolous impulse purchases, but it was a delayed reaction impulse, which sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. I saw a bucket of these cups glinting in the sun at the Starbucks that day we broke down on our way to Palm Springs. It ended up being one of those situations where something catches your eye, you note to yourself that it’s interesting, and you ignore it and move along… then, later, when you’re sitting at home 159 miles away, it pops back into your head with the realization that you would really love to have it, and you kick yourself for not having gotten it. You can’t stop thinking about it. You’re mesmerized by the memory of its lid’s shiny coppery facets. It’s sitting in a bucket in Blythe, California, 2.5 hours away, and you’re not going to drive 2.5 hours just to go get it. Thus, your quest begins… every time you pass a Starbucks, you ask your husband to please wait just a second so I can run in to see if that one carries those cups! until finally one of them has them… at which point you discover that it’s stupidly expensive, but by then it’s become The Holy Grail, so you HAVE to get it.

Now I feel slightly guilty about it, but a). the guilt is not as bad as the mournful feeling I had when I thought I’d missed my chance to get it (first world problem alert!), and b). not really, because I’ve been drinking water non-stop since I got it, I love it so much! And that’s a good, healthy thing. No buyer’s remorse here. Nope. None.

Plus, I discovered that it’s sweat-proof, which is a great feature. I keep it filled with ice, and the surface of my desk stays dry. WIN.

5). Townes Van Zandt and the documentary about him, Be Here To Love Me: A Film about Townes Van Zandt

 

One of the best music documentaries I've ever seen. I recommend it.

One of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen. I recommend it.

 

In my November favorites post, I talked about my passion for Steve Earle, my favorite country music artist. Townes is Steve Earle’s collection of Townes Van Zandt covers, and it’s a favorite CD of mine because I’m a huge Townes Van Zandt fan. He’s regarded as a “songwriter’s songwriter,” covered by many other musicians, and I find the story of his life to be as fascinating as the brilliant and haunting lyrics he wrote. I mean, as a poet, songs like “Rake” and “Marie” simply floor me.

I love Steve Earle’s Townes Van Zandt covers more than anyone else’s. Here’s his version of “Marie”:

 

 

If there was ever to be an anthem for the homeless, that song would be it.

6). The requisite beauty product item on this list has to be the Simple Sensitive Skin Experts foaming facial cleanser.

 

My current favorite nighttime facial cleanser is by Simple

My current favorite nighttime facial cleanser is by Simple

 

My Mom loves this cleanser. She gave me a bottle of it when I visited them in December, and it’s grown on me since then, as I’ve used it routinely. It’s almost-but-not-quite overkill for my skin (I have normal skin, and foaming cleansers are usually best for oily skin), but I’m used to it now, and it’s true that my face feels especially clean after I wash with it. I use it at night after I remove my makeup.

7). The girl who hula-hoops on the grass across from our place.

 

Wednesday morning hula-hoopin'!

Wednesday morning hula-hoopin’!

 

I’ve mentioned her before. She continues appearing on the lawn to practice her hooping, so finally I had to take a picture; I feel like it’s a terribly stalker-ish thing to do, but I made sure to avoid getting her face so as to respect her privacy. I wish that her inspirational energy could come through to you in the picture, though. She’s diligent, and she’s a delight to watch.

8). French blue and white toile plate – Luneville “The Cottage”

 

Blue and white toile  Luneville "The Cottage" plate from Callaghan's family in France. The candle is the “Melt” Lemon Verbena and Sage pillar candle (Nest Fragrances)

Blue and white toile Luneville “The Cottage” plate from Callaghan’s family in France. The candle is the “Melt” Lemon Verbena and Sage pillar candle (Nest Fragrances)

 

What is it with me and small collectable plates these days? It’s a new thing. Also in my November favorites post, I’d talked about the handmade Greek one (Bonis Ceramics) I’d found in the corner of a used bookstore, and since then Callaghan discovered this plate, a family piece from France, in one of his many boxes. Somehow, it immediately found its way to the corner of my desk, where it’s resided ever since. All month long, the sight of it has made me smile.

9). My boys. Ronnie James and Nounours have taken to cuddling so close, they almost look like conjoined twins.

 

Look, Mom! Parallel arms!

Look, Mom! Parallel arms!

 

Joined at the hip, those two!

10). Finally, venturing into Callaghan’s office/studio more and more gives me a gateway to the realm of the strange and unexpected as he’s started creating more, and you know me. I love it. Yesterday, I caught this in my peripheral vision as I left the room:

 

Is that a...?

Is that a…?

 

…so I stepped back to take a closer look.

 

...why yes, that would be the gruesome remains of a teddy bear hovering above a death-like mask. Moving right along.

…why yes, that would be the gruesome remains of a teddy bear hovering above a death-like mask. Moving right along.

 

Now let’s see what February brings!