I used to share my Needful Things on a quarterly basis, but I don’t think I’ve shared any at all this year! If you are a subscriber to my newsletter, you may have seen mention of a few of these things that I’m into or recommending or am finding “needful” over the past few months, but there are a few new things in the mix, too–and at any rate, it’s useful and helpful to have all the good stuff and best-ofs all in one place, so here we are.
This screen-capped image above is from the NYT; a friend shared it on Facebook. I was already working on my needful list at the time, and I thought, “hey! that’s kinda-sorta-exactly what I am doing!”
What follows is a bit of a jumble, with no rhyme or reason or overarching theme that ties these things together; some are more recent loves, and others have either proved quite useful or just provided sparks of contentment, bliss, and joy all year long. Some of them are tangible stuff and things and items, and some of them are sentiments or services. Some you can eat, wear, smell, or read. Others are just ideas or suggestions to mull over or principles to guide you. I’m hesitant to phrase that last one in such a way–I’m not the boss of you, and I’m not trying to “guide” anyone anywhere. All I mean to say is that they are things that have provided guidance to me. YMMV!
Uka base coat is a nail polish/treatment I saw worn by a Japanese YouTuber and grew instantly obsessed with. This is 3/0, which is noted on the site as a grayish purple, and sometimes it does appear that way, but more frequently, it’s just the perfect greige. The brand describes the product thusly: “The colored bases of uka contain a tinted serum which takes care of your nails and embellishes your hands.” They’re a bit hard to find in the US, but I found a bottle at YESSTYLE.
Elemis Soothing Apricot Toner I prefer spray toners to the ones you pat onto your face with your fingers (though I do use both) this Elemis one is so nice. What’s it do? I have no idea. I just like the way it feels and smells.
This scalp scrubber thinger is something I have been using for a few years now. My head gets SO ITCHY, and I love to just go to town with it while shampooing my hair. I am not sure where I found the one I am currently using, so I just linked to the Sephora brand, but I imagine any silicone version will do the same thing.
The Laura Mercier caviar stick eyeshadow in Plum. I don’t wear much makeup anymore; just some CC cream, some mascara, and this shadow stick that I use a bit like eyeliner, smeared and blurred just above my lashes. I just saw this eyeliner hack on TikTok and it looks like the easiest thing ever and can’t wait to give it a try. Probably doesn’t work for hooded eyes, but we’ll see!
This Warwick Castle tee shirt. I’ve never been to Warwick Castle, but I saw Courtney Cox play a possessed writer on Shining Vale, and I thought, aha! That’s the look I am going for! 2nd place tee goes to my gorgeous Frankenhooker tee shirt! And I am fairly certain I have mentioned this Beauty is Terror sweatshirt inspired by The Secret History, but I don’t recall where I mentioned it, so that mention may as well not count. Here is a photo of me wearing it sometime last spring, pre-wedding, pre-move, pre-blue hair. Wow. A lot has happened this year!
Alice Crewneck Ribbed Pullover Sweater this is a sweater from Amazon’s The Drop, which I believe is an in-house clothing line that features limited edition capsule collections in collaboration with influencers, but they also have a Staples line which are wardrobe basics available all the time, or at least on a less limited basis. This sweater is from their Staples line, and it is quite possibly the coziest sweater I have ever owned. I got the “porpoise” color, which is sort of an oatmeal grey. The way they pair it with knitted shorts looks to me as if it is meant to be some sort of pajama set, but I think this is too nice to sleep in.
And two other sweaters from Amazon that I actually love even more than the Alice is this olive jacquard crew neck and this navy heather balloon sleeved number. I don’t buy a lot of clothing from Amazon, but I don’t want to spend a lot of money on items that I can only wear for a few weeks out of the year, so it just makes sense for my wallet.
Have I spoken before of my love of Le Bon Shoppe’s socks? (Yes, I checked my archives, and I have, but that was actually a rhetorical question and I don’t care.) Their Girlfriend socks are the coziest socks I have ever worn; they feel cloudlike and squishy on my feet without really looking cloudlike and squishy. When I first saw them, I’ll admit…I thought they were sort of ugly. But once you wear them, you won’t really care, I promise. Their Cottage socks are much cuter.
Embracing color. Oh, you guys. You have seen me through a lot of transitions (some of you who have known me since LJ days saw my twee Anthropologie phase, hee hee!) I’ve come out of my all-black-everything chapter in the last few years, and now I am wearing colors again. It started with all the colors of my favorite 70’s Tupperware sets (which I also tend to think of in terms of the four humours), but in 2022 I rediscovered my childhood love of all things purple. And I am not content to just wear it in the form of clothing! Although I did just splurge on a gorgeous pale lavender winter coat! I also painted a gallery wall in my office a stunning shade of VELVET EVENING, and I even have some purple in my hair now!
When it comes to accessorizing with more color, I got a lot of mileage out of my jewelry from Alexis Berger, whose lovely, luminous pieces are like cosmic winks from the universe. You can read my interview with Alexis here!
Another splurge was this outrageously fluffy Too Collective Robe. I will admit it. I am stupidly influenced sometimes. This time it was via a TikTok influencer who is so obnoxious that I’m ashamed to tell you who it is, but I saw her wearing this robe while she was twerking and eating taco bell, and instead of thinking, wow, this person is an idiot, I thought holy crap, I need that robe. Most of the time in Florida, when you get out of the shower, you’re immediately sweaty again, so I typically prefer a very lightweight, highly absorbent waffle weave robe.
But it has been very cold in the mornings this past December, and I wanted something warmer and cozier, and sometimes I just throw it on over my pajamas as a housecoat in the morning. It’s glorious. I will also confess that I saw her wear this lululemon sweater, and I had to have that thing, too. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.
I’ve long been obsessed with the memory of a certain fried tofu and broccoli in a spicy garlic sauce dish that I used to order from a Chinese take-out place near my work when I lived in NJ. We’ve been eating various incarnations of it 2-3 times a week since the beginning of the past year as I’m trying to recreate the perfect version of it that lives in my head. This spicy “honey” garlic tofu from Rabbit and Wolves isn’t quite the same thing…but it might be even better? And if the tofu looks kinda weird, that’s because it’s not tofu! It’s soy curls. Also, the recipe calls for agave nectar because it’s vegan, but I use actual honey because I am not. Sometimes I use brown sugar instead. They both do the job!
Japanese sweet potatoes, omg. I thought I hated sweet potatoes. But it turns out that I hate the carrotyness of the orange sweet potatoes I am used to eating. Japanese sweet potatoes are fluffier, and some folks think that even just plain roasted, they taste like cake. I am not a huge fan of cake myself, and I think the sweetness of these tubers tends to be subtler than that, but anyway you slice it (or spoon or fork it), I love these things so much.
Cheese on toast. Not a cheese toastie or grilled cheese. But rather: hot, buttered slices of toasted bread with thinly shaved bits of cheddar scattered across the surface to slightly melt into and meld with the butter and become a savory breakfast nibble. I thought this was a little weird at first, honestly. Yvan’s family does this (they’re Icelandic), and I thought, huh, maybe it’s a European thing. But now I am addicted, and it’s the only way I want to eat toast anymore. It’s helpful if you have one of these things to get the cheese slices pretty thin.
Pots o’slop! I know, most people call this time of year “soup season,” but my favorite sort of meal is one I often refer to as “a bowl of slop.” So …it’s slop season! My favorite slops, some new, some of which I’ve mentioned here before, but just so’s you’ve got the whole roster: chicken and dumplings // red lentil curry // chicken tikka masala // black bean soup // kimchi jjigae // a dijon-y beef stew // smothered cabbage // fesenjen.
Slop storage: These “Souper Cubes silicone trays with lids” are pretty fantastic for portioning out your slops to freeze for when future-you doesn’t want to cook that night. One weekend every few weeks or so, I’ll pick two slops from the list above, cook up two bubbling pots of each, and then portion it out for dinners to squirrel away for when I need them. It’s a very good system for nights when my brain is fried, and I don’t want to do a single ounce more of work, I want something low-effort, but I don’t want to order out, and I don’t want a bowl of Golden Grahams because I need to pretend like I am an adult or something. I want a home-cooked meal, and I don’t want to make it! I feel like that a lot.
Know what’s better than spending your money on a bunch of crap and nonsense? Commissioning the services of friends. This year I compensated friends to:
–do a wise and insightful tarot reading for me
–edit a book draft for sensitivity issues
–create a Patreon banner for me
–embark on various artistic collaborations
–maintain my website
–assist me in creating a media kit and related marketing things
If you count yourself lucky enough to have creative friends who offer their energies and efforts to the world, it’s a beautifully satisfying practice to avail yourself of their goods and services.
But speaking of buying crap and nonsense. This is a really ridiculous thing, but I need to do what I can to make cleaning and tidying fun for me. I shouldn’t have to trick myself into having a home that is not filthy, but whatever works, I guess. I got a little roll-y cart to put all my cleaning junk in and roll it around the house with me. I think it reminds me of the media carts that they used to have in the school libraries. I think I just like pushing little carts around.
And this is also a kind of ridiculous thing, but it’s pretty, and it’s serving a useful function, and I love it. We have a weird window in our bathroom that overlooks our neighbor’s house. There’s a hedge between our homes, and I am *fairly* certain that no one can see in our window when I’m peeing, but I can’t be 100%. I didn’t want curtains or blinds in there, so I found this really lovely rainbow crystal window cling film decal, and when the light filters through it at 4:30 in the afternoon, it throws out a beautiful kaleidoscope on the walls. It literally brightens my everyday. And the people in the next house over won’t be able to see me on the potty. Win-win, very good use of $10. You can sort of see it in this video (which is a sneak peek of something I am mentioning below.)
I have been Duolingoing since January 1, 2022. I’m refreshing my French and learning Japanese, and while I am nowhere near fluent in either, it’s nice to learn something every day. I was fast-tracked into French a year early, so I have five years of French from junior high and high school, and I still am smarting about one aspect of that. Two students in the whole seventh grade were chosen to be plopped into a French class with the ninth-graders, and I was one of them. The other, a friend of mine, shared that a mutual friend had said, “I don’t understand why they picked Sarah, she’s such an AIRHEAD.” Fuck off, Erin G. I’m still mad at you, you backstabbing butthole. Anyway, I wasn’t an airhead–I was a DREAMER. Anyway, still mad about that over 30 years later. And at this point, the most I can say in Japanese is “a tasty apple,” but that’s okay. Progress, not perfection.
This was not the year for new music, but this was the year for taking a break from the need for constantly amassing new things to listen to. I miss the me who was constantly on the hunt for and discovering new music, but I don’t miss the circumstances I was living in at the time.
If you are someone who naturally gravitates toward seeking out and sharing the best of the NEW! and EXCITING! It’s exhausting always to have your eyeballs and earholes trained to pick up on marvels and constantly churn out your findings, and then…maybe never even listen or look at that stuff again. This was a sort of chat that I was having with a friend over on Instagram, and I think we both agree that appreciating instead of curating is a struggle when that’s how you’re brain is wired, but man, it is worth it to slow down and immerse yourself–just utterly marinate in– those wonderful things you’ve been collecting. Whether it’s music or art, books or movies, whatever. And winter is such a good time for the slowing down and taking in of things, right? Thanks, Heather, for reminding me of this.
Anyway, this year has been a lot of Dead Can Dance and Heilung and Lana del Rey, and you know what? I’m good with that.
My two favorite books this year were both squarely in the feminist horror genre, with elements of comedy and trauma, and though they come with various trigger/content warnings, I highly suggest them both: MOTHERTHING by Ainslie Hogarth and Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison. The woodsy mushroom desk mat that MOTHERTHING is resting on was actually one of my year-end favorites from last year, and I highly recommend that, too!
Netgalley. I got MOTHERTHING through Netgalley! I always wondered how all these reviewers get their ARCs, and I thought eventually, if you just reviewed enough books and had a lot of readers/viewers/fans and maybe got on lots of author’s or agent’s or publisher’s radars, they just…sent you stuff? And maybe that is true, but there are also websites where you can create an account for free to request and read books before they are published and provide reviews and feedback to publishers.
I’ve gotten to read over twenty books through Netgalley over this past year, and most of them haven’t been officially released yet! There is a downside, though. You, as a reviewer, have a rating based on your requested/received/review ratios, so there is a bit of pressure to get the books read and submit reviews for them. The better your rating is, the more likely it is that you will get the books you want. If you are an anxious person, this is probably going to make you anxious. If you tend to resent obligations (even if it’s something that no one twisted your arm to commit to), you may get resentful of the seeming pressure to write these reviews. There is no actual pressure, no one is breathing down your neck. But anyone who is conscientious and hard on themselves about self-imposed deadlines will get where I am coming from, I think.
This is not a new thing, but I don’t think I’d ever heard it put into words before muchelle b. mentioned it in a video. If only I could remember which video it was! But I can’t remember, so I will just link you to her YouTube channel.
In one of her conversations detailing ideas on how to get yourself motivated/inspired/back on track/out of a rut, she references those days when we really might be struggling for whatever reason. We’re resistant to doing anything, even though we know we’re going to feel awful about ourselves if we don’t. And yes, of course, if you have those days, you are perfectly allowed to go with it and just not do a damn thing. You know yourself best, and if that’s what your body needs, go with it.
But I know myself, and I know that it will send me into a spiral if I indulge in the do-nothing days. muchelle suggests “doing the bare minimum.” Don’t want to exercise? What’s the bare minimum you can get away with? For me, that looks like a 15-20 minute walk. Don’t want to (insert your deadline thing here)? Just do it for 15 minutes. Writing your book, studying, responding to emails, making those appointments, whatever. Don’t want to fix yourself a decently nutritious meal? I slice up an apple and eat at least half of it. These are the bare minimum things that I ask of myself on the days my brain feels like everything seems too much. I can say that whatever else did or did not happen today, I moved a bit, I ate a piece of fruit, and I wrote a stupid paragraph or two.
That’s actually what me typing this out right now is. I am tired and cold, and I just want to eat Chex Mix and read the Jacob Clifton Pretty Little Liars recaps (IYKYK) I just bought, but I know I want to post Needful things up later this week, and now I can say I worked on at least one little segment of it today.
I have paid a lot of money over the past decade (probably too much) to have pieces of art professionally framed. Now we have moved and have not yet found a local framer, but I did find this shop on Amazon that sells these ridiculously pretty frames. In the above photo they are framing some stunning floral prints from midnight floriographer, Alyssa Thorne. Along those lines, I also found this antique-looking mirror on Amazon (see a peek at it in the image below) which is not at all antique, but it is also very pretty.
In terms of actual antique items, my go-to is Kate at Roses & Rue Antiques–which is where the Art Nouveau brush and mirror set came from, as well as the Victorian black lacquer & mother of pearl vanity tray came from. It’s actually a pen rest, but thanks to the creative marketing she does in her Instagram stories, I was immediately smitten with her repurposing of it! Also pictured in this tableaux are some gorgeous silver pieces from Under the Pyramids and my beloved Snake Oil hair gloss from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab–these are both things that I wear on a daily basis!
Speaking of smells I reach for on a regular basis, lighting a stick of the gorgeously sweet resins of Hexennacht’s Sanctum incense has become an indispensable daily ritual.
And also art-related: Remember my interview with the marvelous Robin Isely a few years ago? Robin’s Tumblr was hacked, and so, fed up and frustrated, the digital collage artist disappeared for a while. But now Robin has an Instagram account , and is once more sharing new work!
My two favorite perfume discoveries this year are dreadfully unfair to mention, as they have since sold out, but I am going to share the review here again JUST IN CASE you can grab a bottle second-hand somewhere, or who knows, perhaps they may again be restocked!
I cannot possibly sing the praises of Zara’s Bohemian Oud highly enough. I don’t think ten choirs of angels could do it. But let’s just say you took a pillowy bit of the marshmallow fluff those angels were floating around on and stirred it into the lightest, fluffiest chocolate mousse you can imagine, served it in a hand-carved bowl made from some sort of resinous holy wood, and topped it with the incendiary floral of a dusting of gently toasted black pepper, then you might have an inkling of what we’re all singing about. Bohemian Oud is a splendid delight made that much more fantastic because at less than $30.
Malìa from Nobile 1942 is a twisted and tragic sorcery of sour citrus and bitter woody green herbs, lush, velvet, exquisitely corrupt florals, and a bright, rosy, psychedelic pink peppercorn that borders on utterly unhinged. This is a perfume that feels like a subversive folktale told in shrieking ballads via an experimental rock opera.
Because I cannot possibly end on things that you can’t have, here is an available and very cheap new love that I found this year: Kumba Made’s Persian Garden fragrance oil. This is a really gentle, intimate scent, and when I say intimate I just mean it feels like a little secret, just between you and yourself and the soft skin on the inside of your wrist, and it’s no one else’s business. Imagine a vial of Egyptian Musk diluted in a bottle of Johnson & Johnson’s baby shampoo. That’s it. That’s the scent. It is perfectly lovely, and I cannot get enough of it.
…but here is also something that is available AND expensive but also very good. If you love the offertory pencil shavings of CdG Avignon (and I do) Reve d’Ossian from Oriza Legrand is that but on steroids and maybe also hallucinogens. You know, the drugs that monks and nuns and holy prophets and saints take to get swole and bench press dusty wooden pews and write trippy ecclesiastical poetry on brittle parchment scrolls? Sure, why not. Hey, look, it’s gothic sex nerds Lord Byron and Percy Shelley! Where’d they come from, smelling of nightmares and bad reputations, all gloomy and grandiose like moody vanilla and smoky leather and rich, sticky resins and horny graveyard strolls at midnight? If Ken Russell made a fever dream of a film about the famous time-traveling debaucheries of Hildegard von Bingen and her companion, Frankenstein’s monster, I think it would result in this glorious perfume. Let’s party.
What are your favorites this year? Big or little, silly or profound, spill all your secrets! This is the least gatekeepy space you could ever hope to find, so I hope you will feel compelled to join in and share all of the things that made your life better this year!
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