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.
Honorable Mentions: Polk Boom Swimmer Jr | K&H Heated Pet Bed | Alexander Del Rossa Fleece Robes | Polaroid Zip | Noosa Vanilla | Matrix Color Obsessed So Silver | Nest Cam
2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | WATCHING | LISTENING | READING
YOU GUYS, I spent so much money on crap this year! I don’t even want to think about it, tbh, but I do want to share the best of the good stuff I bought with you so that you can buy things less indiscriminately than I did and, you know, end up with really good stuff that you like and is mostly worth the money.
5. CLOTHES: Ava & Viv @ Target & Modcloth
Shopping is hell and shopping while fat is hell with the bonus of added expense, limited availability, and ugly garbage. Target’s plus lines have never been a particular exception to this with an even more irritating gift of being sized completely illogically. Ava & Viv is not free of these issues — they make some ugly and boring garbage and their sizing is wildly off (I wear a 2/2X/XXL in all other plus size retailers, but a 4 in Ava & Viv. Perfect!) and they, like Old Navy, seem to think everyone shopping their plus sizes is 5’11” or so, BUT I bought jeans and a jacket in an honest-to-god brick and mortar store for the first time in at least a dozen years, so I’m giving them at least a few points. I mean, the jeans are like six inches too long for me, but I’ll survive. I even just re-bought the same jeans (And the same pair for Crystal…) because I needed to change sizes. That’s pretty good as far as recommendations go.
ModCloth has been around for so long that it’s honestly super weird that I hadn’t ordered from them before this year, but considering Crystal and I both got our wedding dresses through them, I’m glad I finally did! I’ve bought a couple of dresses that I’ve been extremely happy with (Aside from the wedding one, which I obvs love!) and we tried a bunch of shoes for the wedding without having to worry about whether they fit or not because the best part of ModCloth aside from their selection is their awesome return policy.
4. NEO SMARTPEN N2: Okay, this is only as low on this list as it is because Crystal gave me this for Christmas and that’s just not long enough to declare something your new number one favorite thing over the course of an entire year. I am always always alwaaaaays searching for something to take my handwriting and turn it into text and had yet to find a conversion system that actually works and isn’t a huge hassle, but Crystal found it! It’s not perfect — the translation of the text above: 12128/15 ruuules! Yo! this shit tello, friends! You’re the best!! — but it is totally adequate for letting me take notes, scribbling story ideas, working through blog posts, etc etc. I thought getting used to the pen would be hard because I am hugely fussy and it needs to be in a semi-specific position to work, but it actually fits really naturally into my grip and it hasn’t failed to read yet. I mean, if I needed more proof that I married the right woman, this is it.
3. AQUACISE: We’ve had a membership to the fancy new gym pretty much since it opened, but had never bothered to take a class in anything since we’re both uncoordinated and thought it would be embarrassing and terrible, but then we showed up to the new lap swim evening hours and a lady talked up her aquacise class to us so hard that we finally decided to shake off our idiot fears and give it a shot. Now it’s pretty much all we do for exercise and one of my favorite things to do, period. I love being in the water at all times and water aerobics is basically an organized form of the dumbass stuff I did in the pool as a kid growing up. It can be surprisingly intense and I always leave feeling awesome and limber and fit.
2. SKINCARE: Because I got married this year and also because I turned thirty, I got super into taking care of my skin and smeared a whole bunch of fancy garbage all over myself in attempt to stem the tide of mortality! I tried (And returned! For the first time ever! Bless Sephora’s return policy!) way more stuff than I even want to remember, honestly.
Cleansers: I don’t like to cleanse heavily in the morning because I’ve pretty much only had time to accumulate pillow dirt and sweat, so I’ve been using First Aid Beauty’s Face Cleanser which is gentle, non-stripping, and doesn’t have any texture or weird smells. I also love Murad’s Essential C Cleanser and Time Release Acne Cleanser which are both powerful without being harsh and also don’t smell or feel weird. I also had a huge fight with like, four different kinds of make-up remover this year because I wear waterproof mascara most of the time and it’s just such a pain in the ass to get off and I hated all of them because they’re either oil-based and they make my eyes foggy and blurry which is exceptionally unsettling to me, since I’m constantly convinced my vision is getting worse by the second or they’re painful and sting a lot. ANYWAY, I recently grabbed Simple’s Micellar Water while we were at Walmart looking for the Garnier version. It’s great! It takes off all my make-up with a single cotton pad and it doesn’t burn or sting or blur my vision or my make my skin feel sticky or slimy! It’s like magic, honestly. When I do cleanse more heavily, I almost always use my Clarisonic Mia 2 with a mix of the First Aid Beauty and one of the Murad cleansers. I hate that I spent $150 for a glorified washcloth, but I love what this stupid, unnecessary thing has done for my skin. When I’m using it consistently — once a day works best for me — my skin feels softer and smoother and my skin tone seems more even and less weird and patchy. I also feel like I’m slightly less prone to breakouts, which is awesome.
Masks: I really just went for it this year and finally tried some GlamGlow products even though they’re really a level of expensive I’m not super comfortable with and I liked some of them! Flashmud is great and really brightens my skin, but is probably not for the faint of heart (Very tingly!) and Youthmud is also pretty potent, though I can’t say that my repeated applications have brought me back any youthful attributes. My favorite Glamglow, by far, is Powermud which I actually use sometimes in the morning if my skin is feeling particularly gross or dull. It is definitely the one I would recommend to Glamglow noobs because it is unbeatable in the noticeable difference department. It takes about ten minutes to dry and then with the addition of wet fingers, it turns into a deep cleansing oil that somehow manages to deep clean and exfoliate my face without making it red or abraded. My skin always feels insanely soft and supple (God, I hate that word.) after I’ve done it. I also grabbed the Peter Thomas Roth Mask-a-Holic Kit when the 20% off VIB sale was going on because you get so much expensive product to try out! And I’ve used the Cucumber Gel Mask before and really liked it, but really because I wanted to try this 24K Gold nonsense and, tragedy or stupid tragedies, it’s actually great. It really does make my skin look and feel firmer, which is infuriating, and it also makes it feel super soft which is 100% the most important aspect of any mask I buy. I don’t know that I’ll ever be willing to pay 80 bucks for the full-size, but I am def going to enjoy what I have.
Moisturizers: I figured out this year that even though the skin on my body is dry enough to catch fire if exposed to flame, it turns out that my face is actually pretty greasy? And that I usually hate the way my skin looks because I’m over-moisturizing? Crazy! I grabbed Fresh’s Rose Hydrating Gel Cream right before the wedding and I love it. The smell is a little intense for me, but I love the way it makes my skin feel – smooth and even and a little like I’m wearing a primer – without making me feel greasy or sticky. Even more recently, I tested Boscia’s Sake Balm on the back of my hand when I walked into Sephora and had to go grab it before I left because my hand looked like a teenager again. J/K, but my skin looked amazing and it’s doing the same thing to my face. It has glycolic acid in it which is supposed to help with aging and dark spots and all that, but I just love how incredibly smooth and glowy it makes me look. I also found Clinique’s Custom Repair Eye Treatment which is the first eye cream that doesn’t turn my eyelids into an oil slick. I also can’t forget Sugar’s Advanced Therapy Lip Treatment which is amaaaaaaazing for the super dry winters here on the tundra. It’s really moisturizing without being either sticky or greasy and it smells good without having a discernible taste. It’s expensive (So expensive!) for what is basically high quality chapstick, but it’s lasting me forever and I’ll probably repurchase it with a suitable amount of shame.
I have loved make-up for basically my whole life, but I have never been interested in anything other than eyes and blush because 1. Base/foundation kind of makes me feel like I’m suffocating and 2. I’m super lazy. So when I decided that I wanted to do my own make-up for the wedding and that I’d want to do a full face that hopefully still looked like me, I knew I was going to have to spend some actual, serious time figuring out what would work on my face and not make me miserable. Cut to six months of buying crap and smearing it on my flesh while screaming until I figured out what I liked. What I like, mostly, is to not wear base make-up, but also somehow have flawless, clear skin that holds all my other make-up in place. This is not possible, sadly, but I did find some stuff I could tolerate/learn to love.
Tools: The key to me loving full face make-up is one word: beautyblender. Nothing has ever made face make-up sit on my skin in a way that didn’t feel gross or weird or thick or suffocating before I bought a beautyblender. It makes the entire process of putting on make-up feel faster, less frustrating, and more fool-proof. I am also obsessed with Sephora’s Classic Multitasker Powder Brush #45 which I have bought more than once and use for pretty much everything. It’s an awesome blush brush, great for a dense swipe of highlighter, perfect for buffing and blending, and precisely applies setting powder. It’s dense and soft and is the first time I have ever understood why people pay a lot of money for brushes. In addition to marrying Crystal, I am also now married to Urban Decay’s All Nighter Setting Spray because my wedding make-up stayed from about 4pm to about 2am without cracking, settling, smearing, fading, or STICKING TO MY GLASSES through my entire wedding and reception, sweat and camera flash and laughter and smiling and screaming included. And it didn’t make my skin feel weird at all!
Primer: I L-O-V-E primer. I really do. I am so grateful that I got some Nanoblur in an Influenster box earlier in the year so that I could become properly obsessed with them. I wear this one pretty frequently alone, when I don’t want a bunch of make-up on my face. It really does even my skin out and it helps keep my blush and highlighter in place. (I do not wear Nanoblur with foundation, so it’s really a ~base product, but I DO WHAT I WANT.) I also like the Hard Candy Sheer Envy Illuminating Primer which is super cheap and gives a nice glow-y finish under foundation or alone. For the wedding and any day I’m really going FULL FACE, I use Make Up Forever’s Skin Equalizer in Smoothing and Mattifying and they are amazing at making my make-up really stick and last.
Foundation: Cover FX’s Total Cover Cream Foundation is what I ended up using for the wedding and what I reach for most often when I’m doing a full face. The coverage is great and the finish is the most human-flesh-like I’ve ever managed with foundation, as long as I use one of my trusty beautyblenders. It also helps to have a great setting powder and after trying the Make Up Forever HD Pressed Powder, I returned the other one I had bought to try unopened because I knew it wasn’t going to be better than this stuff. So, so good. I also have a love-hate with BB creams because I’m neutral-yellow pale and they always want me to turn BRIGHT ORANGE, but I recently snagged the Rimmel Wake Me Up Radiance and it’s got nice coverage and finish and is really affordable! I also like Tarte’s Amazonian Clay Tinted Moisturizer when I just want my skin to not look like I just crawled my way from the grave. I also just ~splurged on the Marc Jacobs Re(marc)able Full Coverage Foundation Concentrate because I tried it recently at Sephora and LOST MY SHIT at the coverage, but they were out of my color (This happens 100% of the time in North Dakota/Montana because I am the same color as every Norse-ass Scandinavian in this part of the country…) so I used the very generous Christmas gift card I got to grab it. I am way too excited to wear it, so I’m making it a preemptive (and bananas expensive!) fave.
Highlighter: So on my quest to figure out the Wedding Full Face, I also learned that what I really want make-up-wise is to SPARKLE LIKE THE SUN, despite the stupid, misguided, nonsense common belief that women over 30 shouldn’t. I love shimmer. I love sparkle. I love straight-up GLITTER.
So, thanks to the wisdom of some youtube beauty ~gurus, I went hard for highlighter this year. I cannot even begin to count the number of minutes I have spent wandering around Sephora swatching highlighters and trying to decide if it’s too bronze or copper or pink for my corpse-colored skin. I love Becca’s Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Moonstone and Poured in Moonstone, which, YES, are the same color, but the powder is for FULL FACE days and the cream is for when I am feeling low-key/lazy and just want to rub color and shimmer on to my bare skin so that I look a little more alive and “radiant” as I was told on one of those low-key days. I also love Benefit’s Girl Meets Pearl on days where I don’t wear base and it just adds the most pretty, glowy touch to my face and it’s super fast and foolproof to apply. I also recently grabbed the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette because I’m a sucker and had a $20 off code and I do love it. I have not yet mastered using Dim Light as an all over setting powder (I end up VERY SHINY regardless of how lightly I apply it, which is really just a testament to it’s INCREDIBLE POWER) but the Incandescent Light is suuuuuuch a pretty and ~refined highlight and Radiant Light is the first almost-bronzer that is neither too dark nor too orange for my colorless flesh.
I cannot recommend buying something super sparkly and smearing it all over your face enough, really. My wonderful friends took Crystal and I to Zumanity (Also a fave from this year, tbh! Sometimes problematic, but incredibly fun and actually pretty sexy! Lots of hot people doing circus is basically my Life Favorite, so.) the night after our wedding as a post-wedding bachelorette type situation and I literally just smeared cream glitter on my cheek and brow bones and eyelids and called it a damn LOOK. (I used a NYX Glitter Cream Palette for this which are sort of terrible, but did the job since I was going for ~flirty, not precise. SPARKLE ON.
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Honorable Mentions: Lush’s Big | Maybelline’s Master Glaze | Bumble & Bumble’s Don’t Blow It & Thickening Hairspray | Anastasia’s Brow Wiz | Tarte’s Amazonian Clay Blush | Bare Minerals’ Pop of Passion Lip Oil Balm | Urban Decay’s Perversion Mascara
Totally Top Five 2K15: Listening | Reading | Watching
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 fave – Epiphora, “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.
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 thefrenemy.com, Dear Teen Me, this comic, and retroj.am.
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.
5. Tree Hut Sugar Scrubs
These scrubs smell great, feel great, and make my skin crazy soft. They’re the only scrub I’ve tried that I’ve ever had make a dent in my rough, scaly elbows and yet manage not to irritate or abrade my skin at all. The Italian Mocha smells so good that it kind of makes me furious and it gets even better when it’s sort of mixed/followed/preceded by Philosophy’s Peppermint body wash. I can’t speak to the ~firming properties of the mocha, but it can’t hurt, can it? The Coconut Lime smells like the best sunblock ever and is a very close second to that amazing mocha.
4. Nailtiques Avocado Foot Crème
Had I done a Totally Top 5: 2K13 edition of Bath & Body, this stuff would’ve been at the top of it. We use this so often we just call it “avocado-ing” our feet.
I love this stuff. It’s creamy, it has a great, not subtle, but gentle smell, and it makes my cracked, gross, miserable feet unbelievably soft and happy. I slather it on before bed once or twice a week (slightly more in winter) and put some cotton socks on until I just can’t tolerate them any longer, which is usually about thirty minutes. (People who sleep in socks are an entirely separate species from me. I cannot.) Regular lotion has never helped with my feet. I hate wearing socks and shoes and I spend as much time barefoot as is humanly possible. Winters in North Dakota have changed my habits some — it’s not generally a great idea to walk around without shoes when it’s twenty or thirty below zero, especially outdoors — but they’ve also obliterated any natural moisture my skin has ever had, so this stuff has changed my life. So much less cracked foot pain!1
3. Revlon’s Colorburst Matte Balms
I love lipsticks more than any other cosmetic and they are the only kind of make-up I wear consistently. I like mattes best, the drier and more matte the better2 and I really love these Revlons. They aren’t as dry as I normally like, but they finish very matte and are easy to apply and wearable. I love the range of colors and I love that they’re cheap-ish. They’re long-lasting enough — I usually only have to reapply after I eat — and the color payoff is solid without being thick or sticky. Shameless, Sultry, Striking, and Standout are all excellent. Shameless is my go-to for when I am looking for something dramatic but surprisingly wearable. I love these so much that I’ve even given one of the non-matte version a shot and fallen for Honey, which is totally my Your Lips But Better color. Well done, Revlon.
2. Bath & Body Works Three-Wick Candles
Okay, so I already wrote about these last year and they’re only barely skirting the Bath & beauty category3 but this year… well, the candles have become A Situation.
That’s the Situation. We have an excessive number of these things — for all seasons! — and we love them an amount that is probably not great for our mental health. My girlfriend blames the problem totally on me, but every time we’re in a place with a Bath & Body Works she’s like, “Hey… Do you want to go sniff some candles?” and I’m not going to lie, it’s like the most romantic thing she says to me.
I’ve got a lot of favorites — we’ve got fourteen candles out right now for winter/Christmas alone — so here’s a mini Totally Top Five for those!
5. ‘Tis the Season – Celebrate the perfect holiday with a festive medley of bright red apples, cinnamon, cloves and deep green pine notes – This is spicy and Christmassy and pretty much like what you’d grab in a Glade candle if you were in the grocery store except better.
4. Marshmallow Fireside – Cozy up by a crackling fire with the warm scent of marshmallows, smoldering woods and vanilla – One of my favorites last year was Fireside, but this year I’ve found it to be a little too smoky for my liking even though it still smells otherwise awesome and Marshmallow Fireside has that nice warm wood fire smell without the smokiness and some added sweetness that never gets overbearing.
3. Sparkling Icicles – A sparkling blend of bergamot, a citrus bouquet and a touch of holiday moss, inspired by ice glittering under the sun – I love this candle. It was one of my absolute favorites last year and I still love it so much. To be fair, I love it partially because it smells like part of California Adventure’s Soarin’ Over California, but also just because it smells clean and wintery with just a hint of citrus.
2. Merry Mistletoe – A flirty and festive blend of cranberries, pears, frosted citrus and a hint of holiday greenery – I’m not sure about flirty, but I most definitely think that Merry Mistletoe is not only festive, but festive-ass. This is like, Christmas without all the cinnamon. Green and bright and lovely.
1. Spiced Apple Toddy – A warming blend of apple brandy and spiced plum, infused with mulled cider and tart cranberry – This smells so good. This one smells so good that when I first got it last year, I pretty much immediately ordered another one during the next 2 for $22 because I am nothing if not a crazed person, constantly terrified that the companies I buy from are going to discontinue the things that I love. It’s really fruity and a little sweet and wonderfully spicy and awesomely Christmassy.
1. Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner
Crys and I first tried out the Mario Badescu stuff because I saw Jaclyn Hill mention the brand in one of her favorites videos and we’ve been really happy with almost everything we’ve tried (Aloe Moisturizer, Acne Cleanser, and Drying Lotion) but I really, really, like 110% LOVE the Glycolic Acid Toner.
I saw Claire Marshall mention it in one of her videos and bought it at the next possible trip to [REDACTED]4. I’ve been using it since the end of October and my skin has NEVER looked better. It’s smoother, it’s brighter, and I haven’t broken out. I’ve had maybe three or four small zits and two of them were in a few days where I missed my toner. The others disappeared within a day and never really developed into anything more than a bump.
I use it in the morning, usually after just splashing my face with warm water5, and then make sure to moisturize thoroughly, which I’d do anyway. A lot of internet tipsters say you don’t need much, just a few drops rubbed in with your fingers, but that method is messy and annoying and I like this stuff enough that I won’t mind buying it again, even if it seems a little soon. I use these amazingly soft and fluffy cotton pads from Target, wipe all over with the textured/design side and then wipe again with the smooth side. I swear this stuff might actually be magical and if you haven’t had problems with glycolic acid, I cannot recommend it enough.
Previously: 2K12 | 2K13 | JAMZ | MOVIES
1: My usual remedy for all my dry skin is just to make it worse by scalding it with the hottest water I can tolerate in the shower. It’s the only thing that keeps me going in winter here. Twisted.
2: I wear MAC’s Ruby Woo more often than any other lipstick and I find the wear not only tolerable, but pleasant. Despite Ruby Woo’s popularity, people on the internet and irl seem to find MAC’s retro mattes almost universally unwearable.
3: To be fair, had I a bathtub in which to bathe, I’d be burning these suckers non-stop during the process.
4: There is a store I sort of love that sells both drugstore and high-end brand cosmetics and skincare and bath and body, but they rejected my affiliate application without explanation or even telling me, so you know. Tiny vengeance via redacting.
5: I don’t wash my face in the morning because Salma Hayek told me not to and when Salma Hayek tells you to do or not do something, I think we should listen to her.