in recent years


totally top five 2k14: bath & beauty

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 amazingly soft and fluffy cotton pads from Target 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.

Honorable Mentions

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.

totally top five 2k14: movies

I didn’t really watch anything this year! This is a theme I am sure you will notice in the coming month of posts. I am hoping 2015 will be better, partly because I like to be able to talk about stuff, but mostly because I really miss stuff. Winter was long this year too, which meant that our trips to Minot — two hours away! where we have to travel! for a decent theater! — were fewer than the year previous. We did, however, get to watch one of this year’s faves in an actual huge, beautiful theater with reclining leather seats and an extremely enthusiastic crowd. Glorious.

5. X-Men: Days of Future Past | | AMAZON

I liked Days of Future Past just enough. Like, it was good and all. I did really enjoy it while I was watching it and I was glad I watched it once it was over, but it was pretty much forgettable otherwise and only ends up at number five on this list because I literally watched almost nothing else that was new to me.

My favorite X-Men movie is obviously X2 because I’m not a complete fool, so I was decidedly amped about seeing my babes back together, but we didn’t even really get enough of them for me to love it. I like the new cast for the most part — I think Nicholas Hoult has the charisma of a tree branch — but they just don’t seem fun at all. I didn’t like X-Men: First Class, like, at all, so I am not surprised I didn’t love this one more. X-Men stories need to be fun and need to lay hard into conversations about disability and racism1 and this didn’t do enough of either. Still a deece watch though.

4. Veronica Mars | | AMAZON

Veronica Mars is my favorite TV show of all time. I have watched the pilot the second most of any episode of TV ever.2 Crys and I backed it on Kickstarter the day it went live and long, drawn-out Internet arguments about wealth and art aside, I was really happy with what we got. It’s at number four because I loved it, but it’s also at number four because it’s not at all what I wanted for my favorite teen detective.

Veronica was dealt a shitty hand and she didn’t always manage it well, but she is intensely loyal and smart and awesome. The Veronica in the movie…? Eh. She left. She way left. And though I don’t blame her, I do think it doesn’t so much seem like her. But I’m not Rob Thomas, so I don’t get any say so. And that’s okay! Because what we got was pretty great anyway.

Really, just give me, like, an eight hour mini-series about Weevil. Or Wallace and Mac. Or everyone. Can I get another season? Please?

3. Big Hero 6 | | AMAZON

I went into Big Hero 6 with little to no expectations — which is generally the way to go in life, let’s be real — and it just blew me away. I thought it was visually bananas amazing with a great story and great, rich characters, and so much — like an amazing amount — heart.

I love Tadashi and Hiro’s relationship and I love Hiro’s very real pain and I, obviously, think Baymax is the sweetest, cutest, best, most awesome robot to ever cross my path. I love each of the secondary characters and I was glad to see so many female characters in roles (STEM!) that don’t usually go their way.

I really loved this one and I think it’s such a great antidote for a lot of what kids — and adults — are getting in media. These are normal kids, young men and women, who rise above, who experience real pain and real consequences, but who keep trying hard anyway. It was multicultural! It was fun! It was moving! It was so, so good.

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier | | AMAZON

I did not love the first Captain America movie. I liked it a lot, but I didn’t love it. I love love loved The Winter Soldier. I think it’s cleaner, less meandering, and since it isn’t an origin story, it has only the meat of the current narrative to carry. I like the way it interconnects to The Avengers and the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. I like what it did for Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff as characters and I loved Sam Wilson and the absolute agonizing pain of watching Bucky Barnes try to kill his best friend in the entire world.

I cried so much in this movie that it actually started to get weird. Like, I kind of started to worry about my own mental health. And I just yelled “BUUUUUUUUCKY” a lot afterward and then dry-sobbed and wrenched my hair from my skull in a plaintive manner.

A lot of people think the whole MCU thing is getting big and unwieldy and annoying and, sure, that’s valid enough. But I don’t care because I love these characters and I’m going to keep dragging myself to the theater to watch them suffer and succeed.

1. Guardians of the Galaxy | | AMAZON

Guardians of the Galaxy was by far the most fun I had in a theater this year. We got to see this one in that big, beautiful theater with a whole bunch of other excited people on opening night and it was so, so incredibly fun. Like everything I watch, I had some issues with it, but I really and truly loved it anyway. I loved every character and I liked that we got less backstory than most origin stories — Quill aside — and that they still felt like whole characters with real lives and a million stories to tell.

I loved the music, like everyone else, and I loved the emotional impact of those songs for Quill. I loved the villains and the visuals and the great big space opera of it. And I particularly loved turning around while I as weeping into my peanut butter M&Ms and seeing the row of teenage boys behind us openly weeping.

Any movie that can truly make me care about a RACCOON WITH A MACHINE GUN and a GIANT TREE deserves an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. Give Guardians the EGOT and give me the bluray already.

Honorable Mention

Previously: 2K12 | 2K13 | JAMZ

1: None of the movies thus far have done the latter enough. I mean, there’s so much potential! And it’s never carried through. To be fair, the comics also often fail at it though, so.

2: Parks and Recreation‘s “The Fight”

totally top five 2k14: jamz

There was great stuff in 2K12! And some more great stuff in 2K13! And now the end of 2K14 is upon us and it’s time to talk about all the great stuff I loved this year!

Like always, we’re starting with the ~jamz~ I loved this year and, like always, we’re talking truthiness before coolness. I am not cool. I am the antithesis of cool. This probably means that the things I love are automatically also uncool by association, sooooo, sucks to be them probably. Here we go!

5. Iggy Azalea featuring Charlie XCX, “Fancy” – YOUTUBE | | AMAZON
This was a song I listened to basically non-stop for like two months this year and it’d be higher on the list if Iggy Azalea wasn’t constantly saying stupid, ignorant, hateful things. I also really like “Bounce”, “Work”, and “Black Widow” and spent a lot of time jamming to those as well. I love Charlie XCX and her voice and, truthfully, I think her contributions here are really the highlight. At the very least, I bought the album with a gift card, so I feel semi-okay about at least not having spent my own cash on it. Sometimes you have to try to do your best to divorce the artist from their work and give them as little money as possible. A Jam, nonetheless.
4. Nick Jonas, “Chains” – YOUTUBE | | AMAZON
I’m 90% sure this was the song I listened to most this year, but since I’m trying to give this list a “Songs I Loved” instead of “Number of Plays” order, it’s coming up a little lower on the list. I like the slow, ~sensual~ thing going on here and I legit laughed out loud when I found out it was Nick Jonas. Don’t get me wrong, Nick Jonas is my favorite Jonas brother, but I mean. Really. I think I really like this because it feels like a sweet-as-hell 90s R&B jam, to be honest, and that’s all I ever really want.
3. Shakira, “Empire” – YOUTUBE | | AMAZON
I love Shakira. She was one of the great loves of my adolescence — when she was Spanish-language only! — and though that love remains, I stopped following her music pretty much after Laundry Service but heard this on the radio and fell hard. Her voice is phenomenal here and it’s plaintive and beautiful and I’m just enthralled by the entire thing. So good, such a jam.
2. Sia, “Chandelier” – YOUTUBE | | AMAZON
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been running around screaming this for what seems like forever at this point and I’m shockingly, amazingly really not sick of it. It’s got sucha great rhythm and so much great, soaring vocal and her voice is awesome. The song is huge and exciting and bright. I like that Sia’s moved toward a more pop-anthem thing from her gentler, indie-er thing. Not that I don’t love “Breathe Me” and “Moon” and, you know, all that. I’m just into this right now. And this is awesome.
1. Paramore, “Ain’t It Fun” – YOUTUBE | | AMAZON
I have never been interested in Paramore before this year. Well, aside from singing along with “Misery Business” whilst playing Guitar Hero. But “Ain’t It Fun” became an instant fave from the first time I heard it on the radio. Or Songza, probably. I also love love love “Still Into You” which is kind of devastatingly romantic, honestly. But “Ain’t It Fun” is fun and dance-y and great. A+ jam, Paramore.

Honorable Mentions

Previously: 2K12 | 2K13