in recent years



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

new year, same me

Resolution culture is garbage. It is a New Year, but you do not have to be a New You. You are wonderful and you don’t have to change jack shit if you don’t want to.

But if you want to make a change, the New Year isn’t a bad time to, right? New Year, fresh start, all that stuff. You’re the same person you were last year, but with maybe a little extra motivation.

I spent 2014 making some very big and serious changes to my life partially because I got The Cancer, but also because I was well enough to have a full-time job and sort of behave like an actual Adult Human for the first time in my life, which is kind of cool.1

So, since 2015 is upon us and I did pretty damn good making changes last year, I’m taking my New Year’s Motivation and making some resolutions and sharing them with you. Fun, yeah?

1. Write More

I’m a writer! But I basically forget to write. I cram blogs in at the last second and I forget how much I actually enjoy writing them. When I write one blog, I feel urged and excited to write more of them. I should, you know, follow that instinct. I also write fiction! And, to be fair, I verbally and text-message-ually write almost every single day because I tell my girlfriend stories of all shapes and kinds, but I don’t write enough of those stories down. I have a finished novel I should edit and try to, like, sell and another that’s got a solid shape and tons of ideas scribbled down in a million places. I want to do something with them. I love words. I need to write more of them down.

Concrete Goal: Write 100 words a day! Edit/re-write my MFA book.

2. Consume More

I read and watch a pretty fair amount but I want to consume more and I want to consume things more intentionally. I like liking things and I want to find more things to like. Simple.

Concrete Goal: One new movie every two weeks, three new episodes of TV a week, 50 books this year, and more comics! Update listography and goodreads regularly, including a small review for each book I finish this year. Try to hit at least some of these diversity challenges.

3. Keep Moving and Feeding This Body

I work out frequently — sometimes six times a week! — and I have gotten much better at feeding myself in a way that satisfies my body and doesn’t make me miserable. I want to eat burgers and fries for every meal, but it turns out that my gastrointestinal system doesn’t exactly feel great when I do that? Crazy. Also, I kind of like how I feel after I work out. Gross, right?

Concrete Goal: Keep food journaling, meal planning, and going to the gym. Keep on keeping on.

I also want to be less envious and subtweet-y. I hate how often being cranky makes me think everything is dumb, but it’s kind of hard to resolve to like, be an entirely different human being than you are? And to come up with goals more concrete than “Be less of a dick.”

I am going to try to ask myself “Do you really want to say that?” before letting things loose on the world via social media. And also try to think, “That’s nice” when someone is enjoying something, even if I’m not into it. I love enthusiastic and joyful people! I don’t need to be a passive-aggressive bummer. I want to lift people up whenever possible or at the very least try harder not to drag them down, indirectly or otherwise. I am not a beacon of sunshine and I will never be, but I can strive to, you know, shut up a little more frequently when I’m in a mood.

Are you making resolutions? Are they as boring as mine? Did you resolve to become a superhero? That’d be pretty cool, to be honest.

1: I would way, way rather be sitting on my couch marathoning TV shows, but we can’t have everything.

totally top five 2k14: albums

As always, I am forever uncool and this is all just albums I loved and listened to this past year. Truthiness before coolness.

5. Childish Gambino, Because the InternetAMAZON |

I like Donald Glover1 and Culdesac is probably one of my most listened to albums ever. I’ve probably played “Let Me Dope You” hundreds of times and I’m still not tired of it.

Because the Internet is a great mix of solid verses, excellent beats, slow jammin’, and straight up JAMZ. I fell in love with “IV. Sweatpants” because it’s freakin’ great and sounds so, so good being blared out of my car windows the second the weather is good enough to do it.2 I also love “3005” and “II. Worldstar”. It’s just a solid as hell album.

4. Ed Sheeran, XAMAZON |

I did not know Ed Sheeran the first time I ever saw him — on the Grammys, I think — and I genuinely thought he was Patrick Stump every time they cut to him in the audience. To be honest, I still think of him as “Unwashed Patrick Stump” pretty exclusively, despite really being into this album and feeling kind of terribly swoon-y about it.

I like the album as a whole, played in order as intended — which is pretty rare for me. I’m a pick-and-chooser to the extreme with most albums. But my favorites here are “Don’t” because my ears work pretty well and I’m not a fool and “Nina” because that’s my sister’s name, oh and also it sounds like a damn Jason Mraz B-side which is a good thing. I also love “Even My Dad Does Sometimes” because I like crying a lot and “Tenerife Sea” because I’m a walking First Dance Cliché.

3. Sam Smith, In the Lonely HourAMAZON |

All I listened to for SEVERAL months this year was Sam Smith. It is a solid album from beginning to end, but I am super guilty of repeating my faves until Crystal was finally like, “Hey, can we maybe listen to something else?” To be fair, that was after the phase where she was like, “Hey, can I hear “Leave Your Lover” again?”

I’m partial to “Stay With Me”, obviously, but it was “I’m Not the Only One” that got me hooked first. “Life Support” is a killer and had I heard “Not In That Way” in the weird mid-period of Crystal and my relationship, I’d have probably cried so much I’d have had to have been hospitalized for dehydration. So good.

2. Taylor Swift, 1989AMAZON |

I was very late to the Taylor Swift thing as a whole and if I am being honest, I really only like Red,3 so I was nervous about 1989, but I shouldn’t have been because it’s so, so good.

Okay, “Shake It Off” is genuinely terrible — mostly because the repetition is just so bad — and I really and truly believe that if anyone else except maybe Beyonce released it, it would’ve been universally panned and derided. But the rest of the album is very solid and super fun and satisfying. “Blank Space” is amazing and “Bad Blood” is so good and so hilariously dumb4 dramatic great. I L-O-V-E “Out of the Woods” and I could listen to it so loud and for so long that it would be considered torture were I inflicting it on another human being. So good.

1. Kiesza, Sound of a WomanAMAZON |

I know absolutely 100% nothing about Kiesza. I have her Wiki up right now to read AFTER I set this for posting because saying I know nothing about her has now piqued my curiosity enough to finally hit Google up. I do, however, know that I love this album.

I love her voice, especially when it gets kind of weird and throat-nasal on “Sound of a Woman” and I love that some of the songs, in particular “Hideaway” sound like perfect throwback 90s jamz a la La Bouche and CeCe Peniston. I mean, “What Is Love” is literally a Haddaway cover. She knows exactly what she’s doing.

I think “Losin’ My Mind” is a killer and “Bad Thing” is great and kind of crazy hot. And if that one doesn’t work for you ~sexually, “Piano” should. So solid, so fun, such a great listen all the way through.

Honorable Mentions


1. Even though he sometimes says stupid shit. To be fair, everyone I like says stupid shit. In fact, from here out feel free to assume that every human being I mention sometimes does and says stupid shit. Some stupider than others, obviously.

2. Which, here, means any time it’s 35 degrees or warmer and not snowing, basically.

3. I’m sorry, I am just not interested in contemporary country music! Sorry!

4. “Bandaids don’t fix bullet holes” and “Still got scars on my back from your knife” are amazingly dumb, but in that magical way that makes you really believe them and want to sing them loudly. But, like, let’s be real: there is not a single lyric on 1989 that is as good as “You made a rebel from a careless man’s careful daughter”, but that is also totally okay.

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

totally top five 2k14: tv

First of all, sorry for the brief hiatus? I had to travel! And I thought I would be able to work while I traveled! But it turns out that I didn’t even sleep while I traveled, so these posts are a weeeeeeee bit late. Apologies!

Second, I’ve been genuinely atrocious about watching TV this year. I am sure this is shocking with how much I’ve already talked about being culturally-delooped in the last twelve months, but it bums me out far more than my movie-watching falling by the wayside. Television is my favorite. Well, after books. And this list is proof that I have ignored my love for too long. I mean, I watched 237 episodes of TV this year. Last year, I had watched that many by the first week of March and had watched another 831 by the end of the year. I’m slipping. But on to the list anyway!

5. Parks and RecreationAMAZON |

Parks and Recreation is probably my favorite show of all time. I’ve loved it for such a long time now that it obviously shouldn’t be on a list of shows I just discovered this year, but since its last season is about to air and it’s one of the only shows I watched and rewatched this year, it’s taking a spot.

Parks and Recreation is really important to me because it helped me understand that what I want from a sitcom is found-family and kindness and characters that are full and care about each other. Some instances aside1, Parks hits all of those points hard. Leslie Knope should be a hero to all human beings alive on earth and Leslie and Ben’s relationship is probably my favorite TV romance of all time.

My day is better with Parks and Recreation and I am going to miss it so much

4. Broad CityAMAZON |

The only reason Broad City is this low on the list is because I’ve only gotten a chance to watch the pilot and though that may seem a narrow margin on which to stick it in my list of favorites, you must also consider that I’ve seen a lot of gifsets on Tumblr.

Okay, maybe that’s slim reasoning anyway, but Broad City has awesome, funny women! And great, painful awkwardness! And FRIENDSHIP. And great jokes. And a legit understanding of reality. And awesome secondary characters! And cameos! And that was just the pilot. How can you argue with any of that? You can’t. 2015 has Broad City‘s name all over it and I can’t wait to see more.

3. The GoldbergsAMAZON |

I know that The Goldbergs isn’t a show that someone childless and under the age of 40 is supposed to like. The Goldbergs isn’t cool or hip or edgy or ground-breaking. It’s a nice, kind, sitcom with narration done by the living embodiment of a douchebag2. It’s manipulatively nostalgia-laden, often to complete disregard for the actual timeline of pop culture and human development and it can be a little… You know, family sitcom-y. But every episode makes me feel good. It makes me laugh. It reminds me of my family who I actually like a lot. It, of course, reminds me of things I loved when I was young and it just, it never makes me feel bad.

The Goldbergs are not a chosen family, but they are family who makes the best of what they have by caring for and loving one another, even when they’re at their worst. The jokes can be… not great, but the heart of the family is what compels me to keep watching. Good people trying their hardest. Love it.

2. The Good WifeAMAZON |

I started watching The Good Wife while I was sickly in the beginning of the year because all the seasons were on Hulu and I was spending a lot of time on the couch. I didn’t expect to like it because, well, it seems like it’s for old people. And it’s on CBS, so I questioned its quality. But I was really wrong on both counts.

It’s smart and is really funny and can be painful3 and it’s just super easy and enjoyable to watch. I think I finally gave in because of the constant chatter about it on Twitter because I figured, like always, “If these people I like like this, why am I not already watching it?”4 and it definitely deserves the praise it gets.

1. The Mindy ProjectAMAZON |

I did not plan to ever watch The Mindy Project. I like Mindy Kaling a lot5 and I wish I were 1/10th as smart and talented as she is, but the previews all made it just seem terrible. Like, legitimately awful. And even as I watched the pilot earlier this year, I tweeted about how painful the pilot was to watch. It was just… so bad. So much potential, but so badly managed.

Thankfully, as I was advised, it got better. And even though I still watched those unbearable early episodes, it ended up totally being worth it. I love everyone’s weird interactions and their goofy exchanges and how hostile everyone can be even though they love each other. It’s got that found-family feel except it’s like everyone hates each other a little bit more than you should in a found-family, but it never gets so mean as to lose its heart. I love the Danny and Mindy dynamic6 because I always love when people who are going to date kind of hate each other.

Basically, The Mindy Project hits the things I love about sitcoms — friendship and found-family and lots of goofy, awkward laughs — but it’s like, the slightly meaner version of it. Plus, I love that it’s so excruciatingly awkward and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten so much better at not only tolerating it, but loving it. I love Mindy Lahiri and I love her beguiling group of idiots.

Previously: 2K13 | JAMZ | MOVIES | BATH & BEAUTY


1: I don’t like how the show often treats Jerry/Garry/Larry and it bums me out that a show with such a warm heart can be so weirdly and needlessly cruel, particularly when it feels so counter to what the show wants to be and do. But, you know, you can’t have everything.

2: Patton Oswalt is categorically terrible. That article doesn’t even really touch the surface of his embarrassingly stupid pond.

3: I haven’t even gotten to that point yet and I am already in deep and unending pain about it. I’ll never be ready.

4: This happens often. Currently, I am killing myself because I haven’t watched Fargo yet.

5: With the caveat that I think she tends to uphold a lot of stereotypes — gender and sexuality in particular — in her work that bum me out, but I find this often turns out to be true of comedians that I love and it is always more disappointing with the women because I expect men to be terrible. I’m reading Bossypants (FINALLY) right now and I keep groaning and lamenting that the people I love aren’t more perfect. LIFE.

6: I haven’t gotten to the fruition of that tension yet and I am not looking forward to it because shows almost always handle it so, so poorly. Looking at you, New Girl. Applauding you, Parks and Recreation.

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 SeasonCelebrate 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 FiresideCozy 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 IciclesA 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 MistletoeA 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 ToddyA 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.

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.