in recent years



monthly faves: february & march 2k15

JAMZ: Okay, so I spent most of February playing “Uptown Funk” and Azealia Banks’ “212” on repeat, but I also got super into SBTRKT’s “Wildfire” which is best played at near ear-splitting volume while doing a kind of flailing, loose-limbed dance that involves far too much ribcage. March was spent listening to my extensive love song playlist while we ready wedding stuff, but it also brought me “Fade into You” from Nashville which I found in the comments of a wedding playlist post. It’s like… goth country, romantic and lingering. So pretty.

ALBUM: Working full-time has totally destroyed my music finding and album listening. I’ve turned into a single-loving repeater and a safe-for-work Pandora station listener. But! I have revisited Natalia Kills’ Trouble quite a bit since it’s on my phone and it’s just a great listen, especially in the car with the windows down now that the temperature is often above 40! “Rabbit Hole” is my jam. I’ve been hitting this best of Miles Davis because I frequently turn to jazz when I’m feeling stressed, since lyrics can make me feel overwhelmed while I’m working. “Blue in Green” is a forever fave.

MOVIE: Crys and I both really loved Gone Girl and I was so grateful to see that they fixed some of the things I’d found so lackluster/frustrating about the book. I thought Rosamund Pike was fantastic and can’t wait to see Carrie Coon in more stuff. Gone Girl was great, but Whiplash I really loved. In the first few minutes I thought this was going to be one of those media experiences I hate, where I am frustrated utterly for the main character and end up furious, but the payoff in this is so intensely, weirdly satisfying. I want to watch Miles Teller mouth “Fuck you” while drumming angrily until I’m dead. And then it should be the holographic projection that runs over my grave 24/7.

BOOK: When You Reach Me is the best and most moving book I’ve read thus far this year. It’s got a great narrating lead and excellent secondary characters and a rich plot and wonderful details and, like I said on Goodreads, I wish so badly that I had written it. What an awesome, perfectly, gently devastating book. I did not love The Paper Magician, but I did enjoy reading it more than, I think, every other book I read in March. I thought the magic was interesting, but found the characters lacking. There was some great anticipatory romance stuff — I even got kicky-feet! — but it played out too easily and too quickly. I prefer some torture with my romance, thank you, but still a fun read.

TV: The Parks and Recreation finale was so, so good and was so sweet and so positive which is what the show always was when it was at its best. I’ve talked about how much I love P&R plenty before, but that finale was a really wonderful way to end a really wonderful show.

We’ve also been watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix, slowly, and I really love it. I think relentless positivity in the face of adversity is just something I’m really attracted to generally and I love how well Ellie Kemper’s face carries it off. Kimmy wears everything on her sleeve and I love watching her react to the world around her. I also love Jane Krakowski — generally of course, but particularly in this — because even she isn’t immune to Kimmy’s positivity. The speech she gives her stepdaughter about leaving Kimmy alone was like, genuinely moving. So good.

BATH & BEAUTY: I grabbed a couple of the Kate Moss by Rimmel matte lipsticks while we were in Billings in mid-February and I have been obsessed ever since. But, like, I can’t find them anywhere on the entire internet, which is genuinely terrible. I bought a deep red, a Ruby Woo-esque red, and an amaaaaaazing nude (#104, if you happen to see these somewhere!) that has pretty much replaced my usual Revlon ColorBurst Balm Stain in Honey as my MLBB because it’s matte. They have a weird-ish perfume smell, but I love them so much I don’t really care and will definitely grab some back-ups if I see them in stores again.

I recently received an Influenster VoxBox* with some of the Dessange line from Target and after three weeks with the shampoo and conditioner I’m actually really happy. I like the way they smell (in the bottle, it’s not super great on my hair, but it also doesn’t last long) and my hair did actually seem a little glossier and brighter. My hair is really fine and really flat, so best of all, they don’t weigh my hair down, but still manage to make it soft and detangled. I’ve also now tried the Color Correcting Cream two Sundays in a row and I’ll definitely be buying it again. It not only keeps the gold tones in the dyed ends of my hair at bay, but it also seems to brighten the darker, natural dishwatery blonde at my roots. Awesome.

STUFF: Despite the oil slow-down, Williston is still expanding and last week we got a Culver’s, which rules and their Chocolate Covered Strawberry Concrete Mixer is pretty much the most best thing I’ve eaten in forever. Their custard is rich, but not overly sweet, and the combination of strawberry and chocolate is perfect. The beeeeeeeeeeeeest.

Also, most of the restaurant openings here have gone less than smoothly, but Culver’s seems to be the exception. The service is really friendly and seems organized and efficient, which is pretty much unheard of here, even for places that have been open forever. It’s kind of insane how much you learn to live with terrible service and how stark the contrast is when you have good service again.

LINKS: This photo series, this comic, this post from an eternal faveEpiphora, “The Babies in the Freezer which I read right after Ghost Child, This Is My Baby Right Now by Mia Mercado who is on the verge of blowing up and being too awesome to respond to me on Twitter anymore, this A Softer World, #thedress and the Rise of Attention Policing, My Eating Disorder Had Nothing to Do with Barbie or the Media, How Flawless Became a Feminist Declaration, Remembering John Jerde — I am obsessed with the architecture of public spaces and I want to learn everything about this dude, In Defense of Literal Ass-Kicking Heroines, this A Softer World, On Confidence and the Kimye Effect, and 5 Irrefutable Reasons Why “Tank Girl” Is Absolutely Not A Terrible Movie.

*: I got these products for free from Influenster for testing purposes.

goodbye, pawnee

Parks and Recreation is ending tonight and that is sad, not because it hasn’t had a good run — it really has! — or because there aren’t other shows I love — there are! — but because it has been so, so consistently funny and positive and hopeful and aspirational. I don’t think I have ever watched any show that believes as relentlessly and tirelessly in the good of human beings as Parks and Recreation does. I have never seen better, more devoted friendships than the Parks Department. I have never seen a better situation-romcom than Ben and Leslie. And I have never had a fictional hero like Leslie Knope.

I have never loved television as fiercely as I have while watching Parks and Recreation. The characters on P&R have feelings and care about each other, they voice those things to one another, and they react genuinely and meaningfully to each other. These wonderful, diverse, complicated fictional people make me want to be an actual real-life better person. And that a television show can do that without being ham-fisted or saccharine makes me excited not only for what these people do next, but for what I can do with my own narratives.

Goodbye, Parks and Recreation. Goodbye, Pawnee. You will be so, so missed.

monthly faves: january 2k15

This here is the first post in a new series for 2015 where I talk about things I loved this month! Because I don’t spend enough time doing it at the end of the year. Obviously.

JAM: Because I have functioning ears and have also been alive for the last two months, my favorite jam is currently “Uptown Funk”. Bruno Mars is everything and it’s just SO GOOD. I love late 70s/early 80s era funk and “Uptown Funk” hits all the right notes of nostalgia and homage while still feeling really fresh and new and alive. Even with as much airplay as it’s been getting and as much as I’ve been listening to it on my own, I am still not sick of it. Also, the performance from Ellen was too much and Crystal won’t stop watching it at work and getting overly amped. AMAZON | ITUNES

ALBUM: This may seem seasonally inappropriate, but I think if you listen you’ll find that Low’s Christmas is actually wildly appropriate for January when it’s dreary and cold and Christmas is over and winter seems as though it will never end and you are going to be trapped in the cold and snow for so long that you transform wholly into some kind of frost creature. “Taking Down the Tree” is definitely my favorite here, but “Long Way Around the Sea” is also excellent. ITUNES

MOVIE: I only watched two movies in January — We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Maze Runner — and though Kevin was great, The Maze Runner wins for being more fun (Obbbbviously!) and also improving upon the weak-ass book that spawned it. I like Dylan O’Brien enough, but I thought the secondary characters were a lot more compelling and drove my interest more than I would’ve bet. I didn’t love it, but I was just amazed how much better it was than the book. That’s rare, so it’s worth noting. AMAZON | ITUNES

BOOK: I finally got the sequel to The Raven Boys on to my reading schedule last month and it was so, so gooooood. I would say The Dream Thieves is maybe even better than the first book? I continue to not like Adam as much as Maggie Stiefvater wants me to, but everyone else is genuinely awesome and complicated and interesting and Stiefvater continues to effectively and EROTICALLY exploit the female gaze in ways I love. I genuinely cannot wait until the third one comes up in my schedule. AMAZON

BATH & BEAUTY: I am allergic to traditional deodorants and since I quit wearing them in 2011, I have been on a quest to find a good “natural” deodorant that is 1. not a pain in the ass, 2. effective, 3. cheap, and as most of those efforts have failed, I have mostly accepted that I will usually just be a little smelly. I’m okay with it, Crystal is okay with it, and it’s better than getting huge growths in my pit follicles. Then I found Arm & Hammer’s Essentials and I don’t really smell bad anymore! It doesn’t have aluminum, it lasts all day and through even my long workouts, and it’s magical. The fresh scent is a little toilet cleaner-y, but that doesn’t really bother me and the unscented isn’t really — it’s sort of a light citrus-y smell. I’m in love. AMAZON

STUFF: Goodreads is my favorite uncategorizable thing I loved this month. I finally signed up at the start of the year so I could join the Reading Challenge in hopes that it’d help me hit my 50 book goal for the year and then I decided I’d write reviews of what I read all year too and it’s been really fun! I like seeing what everyone is reading — and how fast y’all read! — and it really has helped me keep up on my challenge. And I’m constantly adding things to my Amazon wishlist because I see other people reading stuff I haven’t heard of. It’s awesome, let’s be friends!

I also really liked this New York Times article about product naming, this A Softer World, this A Softer World, this post at, Dear Teen Me, this comic, and

LMAO months later, I realize I forgot one of my most favorite categories: television. Thankfully, I only really watched a couple episodes of Brooklyn 99 and New Girl, so nothing all that new to talk about. Oops.

totally top five 2k14: stuff

We’ve come to the end of the list-making! The end of everything I loved in 2014! The random stuff I loved that I couldn’t1 manage to shove elsewhere!

5. The Gym

Uggggh, I cannot even begin to explain how much I hate that I even considered putting this on the list, let alone actually did it. I went to the gym in college and I always hated it because it was boring and tiring and full of weird people. I started going in 2014 when Williston’s 80 million dollar rec center opened and actually turned out to be pretty nice and Crystal was willing to suffer by my side.

For me, it’s really helpful to have a gym partner, headphones, and a Kindle2 and even though I usually hate it at the beginning and at the end and sometimes in the middle, I usually get in the zone enough with my book and my Cardio Hip Hop to get through it.

I sleep better, I feel more rested, and have less pain when I work out. And okay, I guess I just feel generally better when I do it on the regular. Annoying as that is, for that alone, I’ll begrudgingly let it have a spot on the list.

Also, our gym is preeeeeeetty nice.

As secondary faves having directly to do with the gym, I have to also mention:

FitBit One which I got as a gift in February and have worn almost every single day since. I don’t know how useful the information is but I do enjoy having it!

Also, the Skechers Flex Appeal New Rivals which are the only walking/workout/gym shoes I have ever worn and actually liked rather than tolerated. They are so comfortable that I sometimes wear them in public with regular clothes like some kind of mom.

4. Target

Okay, so I grew up by a Target and then we got a nicer Target and then my sister lived right by a TWO-STORY Target, but never in my life have I appreciated Target the way I do now. The closest Target to us is two hours away, which means if we pass through Minot for any reason whatsoever, I am spending an hour, minimum, in Target. My oncologist is in Billings, MT where they have two Targets and I feel like I’m in some kind of mighty prairie metropolis. On a recent trip to Bismarck, we went to Target twice then stopped at the one in Minot as well. And the current rumor is that Williston is on track to have a Target in two short years. If I’m still here, I’ll probably be first in line to shove other people to the ground in pursuit of those sweet Cartwheel deals.

I don’t know exactly what I buy at Target or what compels me to wander the aisles, somehow both dazed and overexcited, but I do know I’ve spent more money at Target in 2014 than I have at any point in my life before. I even have the Target Debit card. I have a problem and I love it.

3. Lumosity & Elevate

I have always had a terrible memory, terrible enough that my sister calls me Goldfish, and I’d learned to cope with notes and apps and all kinds of things. In 2014, I decided to try exercising my brain with more than just the media I consume and started using Lumosity in app form between switching over to their superior and more varied desktop version3 almost exclusively. I play four times a week, usually, and I don’t know that it’s scientifically done anything of use4 but anecdotally, I have definitely noticed an improvement in a couple of my brain areas. I definitely improve at the games, which is pretty rewarding, but I’ve noticed my ability to multitask has improved and my memory has definitely gotten better. Not bad for some goofy games, right?

Elevate is newer to me, but I think I like it even more than Lumosity. It targets different things — I find Elevate’s games to be more practical, while Lumosity’s are more indirect. It’s like… If your brain was training for a marathon, Elevate would be the time your brain spent running, while Lumosity would be your strength-training and stretching. Both are necessary, but the results feel really different.

I don’t pay for Elevate, partially because the free service is awesome, but mostly because $4.99 a month is just way, way too high for me. I’m sure it’s worth it — what’s available free is seriously wonderful — but I’m just too cheap.5> Definitely snag it for free though, you won’t regret it.

2. Washi Tape

This is probably one of the goofiest things I could’ve put on this list, but I see washi tape every day and use it weekly and am pretty much surrounded by it constantly, so I kind of can’t hide how much I love it. Goofy, yes, but also a legit fave.

I think I bought some Martha Stewart washi from Amazon at the beginning of 2014 and wasn’t wildly impressed with it6 but then ended up ordering some of this stuff and loved it. Then I started decorating my Moleskine7 with it and then… I started seeing it in Target and now it’s… a problem.

Anytime I obsessively collect something, my girlfriend makes fun of me8 and there is nothing she mocks me for more than my love of washi. I’m very proud.

1. TokyoMilk Dark No. 62: Tainted Love

Okay, so this was supposed to be number one on the Bath & Beauty List but I kind of dropped the ball and forgot about it while I was writing the post, even though there’s a 99% chance that I was actually wearing it while writing the post.

I love perfume and have a solid collection curated since I was, oh, like 14?9

But I am really, really picky about what I’ll spend on. Perfume is expensive! And I really need to love something to drop the cash on it. I have never been the kind of person who can just wear one kind of perfume until it runs out and then switch to something new, nor could I be the kind who has only a signature scent. I like to have a nice big tray full of choices to pick from each morning, but every single one has to be a scent I love.

I bought Tainted Love at the Sephora in the MALL OF AMERICA after smelling pretty much every single bottle on their wall of scents. I had gone in to buy Spicebomb and almost did, but it ended up not smelling great on my skin. I kept gravitating back to the TokyoMilk bottles because they just look so pretty all lined up together. The TokyoMilk scents can be… kind of weird. I think they’re going for ~edgy and if edgy smelled good, I would be so into it, but it turns out edgy mostly smells like patchouli which is the worst.

Despite how lacking I found the rest of the selection, Tainted Love is great. The notes are dark vanilla bean, orchid, white tea, and sandalwood, which is really warm and sweet without being grossly sugary or overwhelming. The sandalwood makes it a little masculine, which I love and it seems to last on me well enough. It just a great fall/winter scent and I am going to be so sad when it gets too warm to wear it. And, bonus!, it’s only $36 a bottle. A steal!

Next time I’m in a Sephora, I’m going to obsessively smell every single TokyoMilk scent again until I find another one I love. Tainted Love is so good that there’s no way it’s their only winner.10

Previously: 2K12 | 2K13 | JAMZ | MOVIES | BATH & BEAUTY | TV | ALBUMS | BOOKS

1. Or forgot…

2. Had I had my Kindle when I went to the gym in college, I’d have probably managed to become a regular.

3. You get access to both and the app has finally started to get more games, so I am fonder of it now.

4. The brain test you take to start and the one you take a while later like they suggest? My score didn’t change a single point.

5. To be fair, I would probably think Lumosity was too expensive too, were I paying for it myself.

6. I still am not impressed with the Martha Stewart tape and wouldn’t recommend it. Washi, as I have learned, should feel like masking tape and Martha’s is stiff and waxy and the rolls tend to peel and separate and are just generally crappy. Bad show, Martha.

7. I changed formats for 2015 — well, I’ve used this one before, just not in a while — and I like the washi in there too! Also, it’s cute as hell.

8. Even though she is the queen of collecting crafts and hobbies. Bins! Boxes! Full of yarn! She’s a hypocritical monster.

9. Most perfumes last pretty much forever. I have a bottle of Ralph Lauren Romance that I bought at Macy’s when I was starting my freshman year of high school that still smells flawless. I’ve had a few go bad on me over the years — looking at you Pleasures & Beautiful Sheer — but for the most part perfume is a great investment because it lasts. To be fair, if you like the smell of burned maple syrup, perfumes that have gone bad might be your thing.

10. Well, I’ll probably be running topless through a field screaming about how much I missed warmth, but when I remember to be, I’ll be sad.

totally top five 2k14: books

I love reading. Reading is my favorite. But I never read as much as I want to, partially because I get lazy, but mostly because no amount of reading will ever actually be enough for me. More books, always more books.

5. Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein

I really loved Moonwalking with Einstein, which was actually kind of surprising since I didn’t realize it was memoir/non-fiction when I bought it. Because even though I love to read, maybe my reading comprehension isn’t great?

It was funny and fascinating and easy to read and full of the kind of inane trivia that I really love. I like Foer’s voice and the weird characters/champions available to him on the memory circuit. I liked that even as the methods worked for him, he remained skeptical and self-deprecating and that even though he thought it was goofy, he grew to respect and admire the competitors. I love the anecdotes about historically well-memoried individuals!

Most of all, I know I liked the book because I do a lot of my reading at the gym and I kept pulling my headphone out to lean over and tell my girlfriend about all the fascinating things I was learning. That’s a good book.

Also! I can still do a decent job of recalling the first list of items he learns even now, months later1, which is amazing if not utterly useless.

4. Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette was the first book I thought of when I started making this list and I distinctly remembering being about halfway through reading it and thinking, “OH, this is totally going in the Totally Top Five.” And it being at number four on the list is really only a sign of how much I loved the things I read this year. Love on top of love on top of love.

The narration is great and the story being structured around documents (emails, etc.) made it feel really fresh and exciting. It had an actual plot! That was engaging! And surprising! And complex, likable characters who I really wanted to spend time with. I don’t know that you’re necessarily supposed to like Bernadette, but I love her and I empathize with her and I kind of want to know her. At least for a little while. I’m not sure that Bee is straight likable either, but you watch her grow and you in turn grow to love her even with her faults. Magic.

Sharp writing, a real story, and characters you care about? Amazing.

3. Libba Bray, The Diviners

I don’t remember a lot about The Diviners to be honest. I read it really quickly, over the course of maybe two days, because I absolutely could not put it down. The world was engrossing, the characters flawed but engaging, the plot well-timed, and the mythos built carefully and casually without running into overly long passages of description and exposition. It had a nice, solid resolution despite being the first in a series and it made me want to read more of the world, rather than just leaving me with a million unanswered questions.2

Evie is complicated and she can be annoying and frustrating, but somehow Bray manages to keep her from falling irretrievably from favor and just lets her hover around, figuring out who she is and you end up liking her more than you expect for it. Secondary and tertiary characters can be a little weak, but with Evie so powerfully centered at the heart, that’s not really all that bad.

The Diviners is a coming of age story with a bunch of gory supernatural stuff happening in and around it and it rules.

2. Gavin Extence, The Universe VS Alex Woods

I cried so much reading The Universe VS Alex Woods and I loved it, both the crying and the book. It’s smart and it’s painful and it’s frustrating and funny and it deals with a topic I have never, ever seen addressed by a young adult novel before and it deals with it deftly and honestly without ever veering away from its humanity into an “issues story.”

It reminded me in voice — in all the best ways — of King Dork and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl except it’s smarter than King Dork and more empathetic than Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Alex Woods is a good person and a wonderful narrator. Alex Woods is smart and kind and never particularly condescending. Kids have so much to learn from Alex Woods. Adults too. Alex Woods is a little bit my hero.

1. Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Boys

I loved The Raven Boys. I loved it in a way I haven’t loved something in a long, long time. A long time. It is so lovingly written and so well-plotted and just wonderful to read. Maggie Stiefvater understands and exploits the female gaze like I have never, ever seen a writer manage before. Her descriptions of the boys are tender and beautiful and she manages to make Blue soft and unique without ever making her weak or “not like other girls”3 which is a huge relief.

I liked that it carefully walked the line between otherworldly and realistic, that it felt like I was really experiencing something new as I got deeper into the story, that I was compelled by not only the solid plot, but the rich inner lives of characters I really liked and cared about.

I haven’t read the next book in the series yet — because I am lazy — but I am so looking forward to its turn coming up on my reading list this year. I can’t wait to see the weirdness that’ll come from the story as the magic and mythos starts to really take shape and come to life.

Honorable Mentions

1. Mostly I just like picturing my girlfriend in a giant tub of cottage cheese and that’s what really counts, right?

2. Looking at you, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

3. Okay, I will be TOTALLY honest and say that this is a very fine line, but I think Blue manages to stay unique without entering MPDG territory because 1. She was created by a woman, and 2. She is so damn likable.

Previously: 2K12 | 2K13 | JAMZ | MOVIES | BATH & BEAUTY | TV | ALBUMS