Ohhhhh my GOD I am SO GLAD TO BE DONE WITH THIS POST. I felt super weird writing this one this year! And that apparently meant that even though I started writing it in like, NOVEMBER, I managed to stretch the process out until MARCH?! For no reason at all?! Books and movies and TV and music feel natural to share in times of duress because we need escape and we need joy, but consumer goods always feel a little different. I love shopping and trying new things, but I feel like, when things are as crappy in the world as they are right now, shopping as relief becomes strangely sinister? Capitalism is bad.
Not all the things on this list are things to buy, but the whole thing gave me a case of the wobblies and that’s partly why it took me so long to put this one together. So, like, buy things when you want to? But find sanity elsewhere? Or don’t! What the hell do I know.
5. Pokemon Go – I flip-flopped SO HARD about putting this one on the list because it has been such a wild ride between SUPER FUN THING I LOVE and poorly-designed frustration. I had no experience with Pokemon prior to this game except that a girl I was friends with in high school called me Jigglypuff regularly and I just stumbled into it since everyone on the entire internet was talking about it. Crystal and I have had a super good time, mostly, but because we live in a rural area the lack of Pokemon to catch (even now with the 2nd gen, there are about six new ones here and that’s it) and the lack of Pokestops kills the intensity and enthusiasm pretty quickly. We play in the car mostly — North Dakota is NOT a walking place — so we wondered if that might be negatively impacting our experience, but even when we have walked, the game doesn’t improve. (Niantic doesn’t care about rural players!! Never 4get!!!) That said, when it’s fun, it’s super fun! And because I don’t have any experience with Pokemon, each addition to my Pokedex is a fun new discovery.
4. Digit is a tool that saves money for you which is the least sexy and exciting thing I could probably put on my list, BUT it does it automatically for you by analyzing your bank activity and then pulls money and just hangs on to it for you until you’re ready to move it. Digit doesn’t earn you any interest, so I treat it as a waystation for savings deposits elsewhere and since October I’ve saved $750 which is well worth it considering I don’t think I saved $50 in all of 2015. If you sign up using my link, I get a kickback, so that’s pretty cool because free money is nice. Even if you don’t use my link, I recommend it 100%.
I no longer recommend digit and actually cancelled my own account because they recently announced that they will now charge $2.99 a month for their service. Though I do really like what digit does, I do not think it’s at all worth three dollars a month. There’s no service that does quite what digit does yet, but here’s a post about some alternatives. Such a bummer.
3. I bought a LOT of makeup and perfume this year. Like, way more than I should have (a lot of it is Crystal’s fault) and more than I will probably be able to finish in my entire life. But a lot of it is very good and I love it a lot and I’m going to recommend it to you because, well, that’s what I’m here for, obviously.
THREE LIPSTICK FORMULAS
Marc Jacobs Lip Crème – The formula on these is lovely, really pigmented and silky. It’s a satin finish, which I don’t normally like, but it isn’t glossy at all, just comfortable. I love Slow Burn and Infamous and Goddess. I highly recommend the apply-blot-apply-blot method to extend the wear of these. So lovely.
NARS Audacious Lipstick – These are sooooo pretty and comfortable! And the packaging is really lovely and minimal and feels super luxe. I LOVE Anna and Rita and Audrey. These are pretty long-wearing and extremely touch-up-able and moisturizing without being glossy or sticky.
Smashbox Always On Matte Liquid Lipstick – If you ever take my advice about lipstick, take it now. These are THE BEST liquid lips I have ever used and I wish there were about 100 more colors. The applicator is perfect for getting a sharp line and an easy swipe of color, the formula is super pigmented, isn’t crazy drying, is thin but not watery, can be layered and touched up, lasts foreeeeeeever, and doesn’t transfer basically at all. These last through meals and even when they wear away at the center, you can just slap some more on without it getting all weird and gross. They are MAGIC. Pricey but super worth it. I love Stepping Out and Bawse and Miss Conduct.
I started using high end mascara in 2015 and bought… way too many in 2016 after being a 100% drugstore devotee for many years because for me it’s turned out that if I pay more for mascara, it doesn’t clump and it doesn’t flake into my eyeballs! Both qualities well-worth the extra money for me.
Too Faced Better Than Sex is, I think, the first ~high-end mascara I ever bought and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet. I don’t love the brush on this one — though that seems to just be me, EVERYONE seems to love this brush shape and I feel like I see it more and more all the time — but the formula is great and makes my lashes look full and long without a lot of fuss.
Benefit Roller Lash is my other go-to high-end mascara. I like that this one is dark and it makes my lashes look long and full. I don’t know that it necessarily curls my eyelashes noticeably, but I do think it helps hold the curl if I bother to curl my eyelashes first. I also love the brush because if I use it backwards, it gets into that annoying little outside corner that I have so much trouble with.
Guerlian Maxilash So Volume is stupidly expensive, but it makes my eyelashes long and dark with a single swipe, doesn’t clump, flake, or smear, and has lasted way longer than the expiration date recommends I ought to be using it without drying out. I love the brush, though it’s not super special, but the formula is great. It even lengthens the outer third of my eyelashes where they grow extremely curled and fight me on a daily basis. My only complaint about this mascara is that Guerlain says it’s floral scented, but it smells like a cheap, dirty Las Vegas hotel room in the 1990s when you could still smoke in them. Since I spent a lot of the 90s in Vegas, it’s oddly comforting to me, but is still BIZARRE as scents go. Since I can’t smell my eyelashes I don’t care, but YMMV.
I added Thierry Mugler Alien to the favorites list in 2016 after a lot of hemming and hawing about whether or not I actually wanted to buy it. It smells AMAZING, but is for some reason extremely divisive and also really dependent on body chemistry. The notes are sambac jasmine, cashmeran wood, and amber gris which is all meaningless, but on me it’s warm and a little spicy and a little sweet (in a vanilla bean way, rather than a sugary way) and it lasts F-O-R-E-V-E-R.
Dolce & Gabbana Pour Femme Intense was a bottle that Crystal grabbed after I had explicitly told her that we needed to STOP BUYING PERFUME because we have so much and she’s obstinate like that. But since it’s become one of my faves, I guess I’m not that mad. The notes for this one are neroli, orange blossom, jasmine, tuberose, and sandalwood which is mostly meaningless, but it smells warm and a tiny bit sweet but mostly just GOOD.
Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium is so good I’ve used like, half a bottle in less than six months. Another warm, sweet, almost spicy scent, this one with notes of coffee accord, orange blossom, cedarwood, patchouli and I guess there’s sort of a pattern there, huh? It’s rich but not overwhelming and it makes me feel a little ~sexy and also cozy?
These are all what I consider fall/winter scents, which I hate myself for even having mentally categorized, but the older I get, the more I am drawn to those kind of warm, spicy fragrances instead of the clean, fresh stuff I wear in the spring. They all kind of make me feel like a cool, aloof adult though and that’ll be hard to give up as the seasons change.
2. In addition to make-up, I also spent a lot of money on skincare in 2016. I am getting older! And my skin is confusing and fickle and also spending money on skincare feels like an ~investment, so it’s disturbingly easy to justify the expense to myself.
Origins Ginzing Eye Cream – This weirdly makes me feel like an adult woman who has her shit together, but is also still generally pretty cool and stays current with like, pop music and tv shows. I apply this in the mornings all over my orbital bone and under my eye and out toward my temple and it makes my skin look bright and hydrated and also kind of masks my thankfully minimal undereye darkness. It feels cooling and tightening and really does make me look and feel more awake. My eyes are stupidly sensitive, so I have to be careful not to get it to close to my lash lines because otherwise I think I’m in the midst of going blind all day long, but it is otherwise 100% my fave new skincare product I bought in 2016.
Caudalie Lip Conditioner – I am always buying new lip balms because my lips are eternally chapped and miserable and I had been pretty faithful to the Sugar Fresh for a while until I realized that it wasn’t lasting long at all and I was going through it like crazy and when it’s $22 a tube, that sucks. A lot. The Caudalie is similar except it lasts a lot longer and it’s only $12 a tube! It can occasionally give me a weird taste when I’m drinking, but otherwise I love it. It keeps my lips soft and moisturized, but isn’t sticky at all.
CoverFX Clear Cover Invisible Sunscreen – I HATE SUNSCREEN. I hate it so, so much. I hate it hate it hate it. I hate it even though I have spent the last 32 years slathering myself or being slathered in it because I am the kind of fair-skinned that is sometimes transparent and I start to burn in under a minute in direct sunlight. I have tried one million sunscreens and the most positive reaction I have ever had is, “I don’t wish I was dead” because they all feel like they’re trying to suffocate me. UNTIL NOW. This stuff is amazing. It’s bananas expensive, but I will gladly continue to pay it because it is so much more pleasant than any sunscreen I have ever used. It feels a lot like a silicone primer — very slippy and then powdery once it sets — but it applies quickly and I’m actually able to almost immediately forget that I’ve put it on. I used it on my face, arms, neck, and upper body for two solid days at Disneyland and I didn’t even get a little pink!!!!!!!!! And I didn’t even mind reapplying!!!!
1. The only TOTALLY MONEY-FREE thing on this list: NOT REMOVING ANY OF MY EYEBROWS. I have never been good at dealing with my eyebrows. Mine go straight across my face and have no arch and barely any tail whatsoever and I have hated them since I knew enough to know that eyebrows could look nice. I have waxed, plucked, threaded, and trimmed. They’ve been embarrassingly thin and I’ve accidentally taken off the entire puny excuse for a tail that I have and they’ve just always been a mess. But after the wedding, I just started leaving them alone. I mean, I occasionally fill them in some or use some eyebrow gel to shape them, but in the hair removal department I just GAVE UP. And it is GLORIOUS. They still look pretty terrible and have no discernible eyebrow-like shape, but at some point in 2016 I just stopped caring at all. I don’t care that my eyebrows are ugly and that I don’t like them!! If they were on another person I’d probably think they were totally fine!! My eyebrow obsession was completely in my head and just POOF I managed to let it go. I feel so free.
OKAY, now that I’ve finally finished ALL MY REVIEWS of books I read in 2016, I can finally tell you which ones are in my top five! I’m sure you’ve been on TOTAL TENTERHOOKS. I mean, like everyone, I feel partially conflicted about writing about silly, joyful things when it feels like the world is being set freshly aflame every single day, but without joy, what are we fighting for, right? So let’s do this in spite of it all!
5. Julie Murphy, Dumplin’ – Dumplin’ is only the second audiobook I’ve ever listened to (It is exxxxxtremely hard for me to absorb information aurally.) and I loved both the narration (TBH, the way that Eileen Stevens has Bo say “Willowdean” has irreversibly changed my life.) and the story. It’s fun and sweet and smart and funny. Willowdean grows, the secondary and tertiary characters are awesome, and most importantly, WILLOWDEAN IS FAT AND DOESN’T LOSE WEIGHT. There is a secondary character named Millie who is also fat and DOESN’T LOSE WEIGHT. I have read a lot of books about fat characters and even the ones who decide being fat is “okay” usually lose some weight as, like, a magical side effect of being allowed to feel human? I guess. But Willowdean is fat and thinks that’s okay and pushes back against the idea that it isn’t okay and she stays fat! She never even obsesses over food! What a gift.
4. Andrea Portes, Anatomy of a Misfit – Anatomy of a Misfit is a book that frustrated me as I read it because it struck me as so true to the misery of high school, but in a really satisfying way. The writing is very strong and Anika is a really well-rendered teenager with complex feelings about genuinely difficult situations. She’s not particularly likable, which is always unbelievably hard for me to engage with, but she was so fully-fleshed and felt so human. Her narrative voice always felt age-appropriate without ever pandering or falling into that non-young-adults-trying-to-sound-like-young-adults thing that I seemed to encounter a lot in 2016. This is not an easy book and I don’t think it always pulls it’s weight, but it was definitely some of the best reading I did this year.
3. Marie Sexton, Trailer Trash – I think I screamed about Trailer Trash for like, five days straight on twitter after I read it because I was so, so impressed with it. It’s a gay, teenage love story set in the 80s that manages to be sweet, emotional, devastating, and hopeful. The narrative voices feel SO of their time, while also feeling really current. It doesn’t ignore its time period at all — including the AIDS crisis — but manages to stay hopeful in spite of pain, loss, and tragedy. This book is a romance through and through, but it’s cut with real, weighty problems and real, painful experiences and full of real, complicated conversations and relationships. I read it in May and not a week has gone by where I haven’t at least thought about how much I enjoyed it.
2. Sonia Belasco, Speak of Me As I Am – I’ve known Sonia for… more than ten years now, I think, and I have spent nearly all of those years waiting to have one of her books in my hands and man, it was so worth the anticipation. Speak of Me As I Am is beautiful and moving and lyrical and lovely. Melanie and Damon feel like real teenagers, but they’re also smart and sensitive and thoughtful. I love the weight of place in this and the way that characters who are not physically present in the story are so incredibly central and alive. There are also awesome parents in this and good teachers and secondary characters who are lively and fully-formed and worth caring about. I feel like a cheater sharing this one, since you can’t actually read it until April, but I promise it’ll be worth the wait.
1. Stephanie Tromly, Trouble is a Friend of Mine – I LOVED THIS BOOK. I loved it so much. I love-love-loved it. I also listened to the audiobook of this one (the last one I listened to, I think) and Kathleen McInerney is GREAT and kind of sounds like Kristen Bell, which made it all feel very Veronica Mars-y. It was a fun, fast story with great characters. Nobody really sounds like a teenager, but they somehow feel like teenagers anyway. It’s a great caper-y book and it made me laugh a lot. And the end made me squeal in delight with such vigor that I traumatized Crystal while she was driving. It does have some… questionable moments with racial stereotypes and slut-shame-y-I’m-not-like-other-girls type stuff, but the story was worth it for me anyway. Such a fun read!
This list was really hard this year! Because for the first time in a couple years, I actually spent a lot of time listening to new music and successfully sought out new-to-me stuff that I ended up loving! I don’t want to love Spotify as much as I do, but without it I would be much less musically educated.
5. Clara Rockmore, “Air”
This is probably the weirdest song that will ever make it on a Totally Top Five list from me, but if you can’t be weird on the internet, what the hell is the internet for?! I knew about the theremin prior to Google’s Clara Rockmore doodle, but I hadn’t heard of her. And like a lot of people, I ended up listening to the Lost Theremin Album on repeat for weeks afterward. It’s so beautiful and so unsettling and other-worldly and weirdly vocal without having vocals. It was great music for the office not only because it wasn’t distracting, but because it would freak people out a little bit and make them leave me alone.
4. A Tribe Called Red, “Sisters (featuring Northern Voice)”
I LOVE A TRIBE CALLED RED. And this song is so so so sooooooo good. And the video is so fun and charming and TO BE FRANK, if it were full of white people, it would have been HUGELY popular which is some bullshit. The beat is so good and so danceable and I have yet to ever skip it when it has come up on shuffle. If you don’t know A Tribe Called Red, remedy that immediately. I’m particularly fond of “Electric Pow Wow Drum” and “Suplex” and “Burn Your Village to the Ground” which has been my Thanksgiving anthem for the last two years.
3. AWOLNATION, “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”
Like everyone else on the planet, I was extremely obsessed with “Sail” waybackwhen and was bummed when the rest of the album didn’t at all live up to the single, but I feel like “Hollow Moon” and the rest of Run was worth waiting for. I have scream-sung “Motherfucker, I’ll be back from the dead soon” far more often and far more passionately than I should probably admit to, but it’s, like, strangely empowering? It’s also just a really solid song from beginning to end. I also love “Run” aka that song everyone was using to make Vines for like a long time and “Woman Woman” and “Fat Face” and “Like People, Like Plastic” and “I Am” and “Drinking Lightning” and “Jailbreak”. SOLID ALBUM.
2. CL x Diplo x Riff Raff x OG Maco, “Doctor Pepper
THIS SONG IS SO DUMB AND SO GOOD. I don’t know how to explain my attraction and devotion to this song, but it is very much this year’s “Hood Go Crazy” because I could NOT stop listening to it and all I wanted to do was blare it in the car with my windows down as loudly and as often as possible. It has also frequently made me “dance” uncontrollably. This is the purest, most wonderful kind of jam because I can’t explain what the hell is going on in it and I don’t care AT ALL. It’s just GOOD.
1. The 1975, “Love Me”
This was by far my most listened-to song this year and I still think it’s as good as I did the very first time I heard it after Sonia put it on a playlist and changed my life forever. There is Bowie in this song. There is great 80s synth in this. There is Steven Tyler in this song. There is Talking Heads in this song. There is “Love Stinks” in this song! This is one of those songs that immediately makes you go and dig through the artist’s entire library, but there isn’t anything in The 1975’s catalog that comes anywhere NEAR this one. Bands with amazing one-offs are LIFE-RUINERS, but what a great way to go.
Not to be a HUGE DOWNER, but 2016 was kind of a shitshow, yeah? Everything is kind of terrible! If you had told me in January that my neighbors would successfully elect Donald Trump to the United States Presidency, I would have laughed. A lot.
Anyway, in the spirit of my Twitter declaration to try to share good things in the face of the dumpster fire burning eternally around us, it’s time for TOTALLY TOP FIVE 2K16! Because the year didn’t really fall totally apart until the end and I managed to like a lot of stuff before I got too depressed and hopeless to function like a normal person!
5.4th Man Out – This movie was so much more charming than I expected it to be. And it did such a good job of dealing with straight-guy-gay-panic in a way that felt more true to 2016 than a lot of contemporary stories have. It had a realistic level of angst without ever veering near tragedy porn — something that a LOT of LGBT stories still do — and most of all, it was funny and kind and about FRIENDSHIP. Really good friendship! It was super duuuuuper white, but I did appreciate that they were regular working class people in ordinary jobs and lives. Lots of good parental stuff too. It’s nice to see a coming out story where no one is irreversibly miserable and everything just sort of goes okay-enough. That’s what I think (and hope) it’s like for most people and it’s nice to see that translated on screen.
4.Ghostbusters – The original Ghostbusters is one of my favorite childhood movies and I was amped to see it with women and I just got more and more amped with each announcement. I really loved it. I thought it was funny and good-looking and charming and had really, really great action scenes. I LOVED that women were smart, complex, and ATE FOOD WITHOUT BEING WEIRD ABOUT IT! I love that Holtzman was coded so clearly as queer and that she was so incredibly hot and that it wasn’t intended for men! It subverted so much of what people have come to expect from action-comedy and media in general and it did it while making a really fun, watchable movie. My only disappointment is that I know there is another version of this movie that is funnier and sharper and a little bit darker that was supposed to exist and I know that it was strangled by studio dudes who wanted to make something really marketable and family-friendly. That sucks for everyone who made the movie and it sucks so so much for everyone who didn’t get to watch the movie they really wanted to make.
3.Captain America: Civil War – Crystal and I saw Captain America: Civil War twice in two days, one of which was in these goofy things and both times I mostly just quietly cried to myself while murmuring, “Bucky… Buckyyyyy…” over and over again. Good action, good story, good pacing for the most part, super funny, and extremely re-watchable. I was surprised to really L-O-V-E every new character and how well they folded into the existing universe. I am disappointed that the comic didn’t get translated as directly as I’d hoped (SAD TROMBONE, WHAT A UNIQUE COMPLAINT) and I am STILL frustrated about the lack of development/transparency about the content and political impact of the Sokovia Accords because I’m a nerd and the details of that document are VERY IMPORTANT. Without them, choosing Team Cap or Team Iron Man is MEANINGLESS given the limited information given. Sorry I’m going to be an angry nerd forever.
2.Crashing – Crystal picked this on Netflix on a whim one night while I was working in the other room and watched the first episode and then came in yelling at me, “YOU HAVE TO COME WATCH THIS SHOW.” And so I did and then we watched it all in a night because it was so charming. It’s not groundbreaking comedy, but it is a really unusual living situation populated with interesting people, funny, awkward conversations, and super weird stuff. Not all of the characters are likable which was VERY HARD for me, but I still wished there were way more than six episodes to watch. I mean, I often argue that TV shows need to know when to end and that we should move toward the British model of short, unpredictably aired seasons, but there’s something to be said for having 22 episodes to watch each season.
1.Stranger Things – Maaaaaaaaan was this an easy #1 to choose this year. Stranger Things is a giant, fun, moving, awesome homage to everything I grew up loving. I didn’t really expect to love it that much because I’m not really a scifi or fantasy person — I’m a horror movie nerd! — but MAN did I love it. Winona Ryder is so, so good and every teen, tween, and child actor in this is UNBELIEVABLY good. It’s beautifully shot and set-designed, the creature design and world-building are amazing, and it’s fantastic that it manages to tell a complete and satisfying story in just eight episodes. I was really hoping that it would end up being an anthology series, whether that was with the same actors in a new situation/era or with new actors in an expansion of the existing universe, so I am a little bummed that it’s coming back as a regular second season, but also pretty excited about it because it was great, obviously. VERY EXCITED.
It’s January! It’s a new year! It’s time for me to reward you for listening to my blathering by giving away gift cards! Three of them! Fifty bucks each! To ModCloth! And Amazon! And Sephora! So you can listen to all of my vehement recommendations and buy some good stuff! Sweet! You surely know how to enter a giveaway on the internet by now, so hit up the widget below and get to winnin’!
The giveaway will be open from the time this post appears at 9:00 am CST on January 15th 2016 until 12:00 am CST on February 15th 2015. Winners must be over 18 and willing to provide their email address. Gift cards can get weird, so if you’re located outside of the United States, you’ll have to figure out how to spend it!Giveaway closed and winners contacted! Thank you for being awesome!
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