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!

Other things that are on my desk: this strawberry frog glass and this little mushroom lamp. Do I even need to rationalize or justify these adorable things? No, I do not.

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 linesI 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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One thing I will never tire of is hearing about people’s favorite things! Hopefully, if you are reading this, you feel the same.

Below are a few things that I have either been enjoying lately or relying on throughout the year. It was a weird year, and I have a feeling that things are only going to get weirder. I’m not sure if I want to say “get weirder before they even out” because most of the time I don’t think that’s possible anymore.

But it was a weird year in good ways, too. I wrote my second book (just working on image permissions at this point!) and I just signed a contract for my third. I was interviewed on four podcasts despite swearing up and down that I was never ever going to be on a podcast! I started a little TikTok account after proclamations that I hated TikTok and that I WOULD NEVER! Chances are, if I say I’m never going to do something, the universe will present me with a reason or an opportunity to do that very thing within the next 24 hours. I never learn my lesson! (According to this logic, all lessons be learned by tomorrow??)

Anyway, 2021 was a mixed bag. I’m still here. I’m glad that you are too. In honor of mixed bags, here’s some stuff. Just a total jumble of things, no theme tying anything together, and everything mixed up in no particular order!


Celestial Seasonings Fast Lane Tea
. I haven’t drunk Celestial Seasonings teas since I was a kid. Nothing wrong with them, I guess I was just seduced by the variety of options available nowadays and never bothered to revisit them. But I had several boxes of their Fast Lane tea – a lightly spiced black tea- thrust upon me, and it’s actually very good. I think there may be an extra kick of caffeine in it, and the spices are very subtle, more of a fragrance than a taste, and it’s a really lovely treat in the afternoon with the Silk “oatmeal cookie” Oat Creamer.
We’ve taken to having a mid-afternoon tea break and treat around 2-3 pm most days and this is really perfect for that. Serve with a cardamom bun or a slice of lavender tea bread!

Lavido Hand Lotion I already love the thick, nourishing version for feet, and this mildly musky coconut-scented hand cream is perfect to keep at my desk.

Jadeywadey180  I love watching videos where people are pampered. Massages, scalp scratches, even chiropractic videos! And of course, facials and skincare treatments. On Jadeywadey180’s channel, she once mentioned that you really need to massage your cleanser into your skin for at least 30 seconds for it to even begin to be effective. Now I don’t know if that’s true and I am not here to debate anyone, but I did start doing that and it feels amazing, so I think that’s reason enough to continue.

Christophe Robin Regenerative Hair Mask I love this luxuriously goopy stuff. It makes my hair super soft and it smells like a silent film star’s vanity table.

Molton Brown Geranium Nefertum shower gel is not exactly similar to my stupid expensive favorite Oud Wood shower gel from Tom Ford but they’re on similar wavelengths. A sort of rich, woody scent, balanced with moss and fig, perked up with pepper. It’s a dashing ghostly scoundrel of ascent and at $32 it’s still not cheap for a bottle of squirty shower shit, but it’s also not Oud Wood’s $75 price tag.

Some pieces from Universal Standard: these Universal Standard Stephanie wide leg striped pants which are sort of replacing my linen Swayers from STATE the Label because they are falling apart and for some reason, STATE refuses to make more of these plain black pants. Come on, guys! Pretty please!? Also, these bike shorts, which honestly are sort of amazing. From the fit to the feel to the side pocket for my phone, they are excellent. I also picked up this waffle-knit lounge set in a dusty rose-lavender-oatmeal color, and it’s comfy and cozy as heck and I strangely love this light neutral color and am looking for reasons to incorporate more of it into my wardrobe.

Here’s that color again, sort of! I was gifted an older Apple Watch from my BGF after they upgraded to a newer version, and I surprisingly loved it. It was a nice opportunity to try it out before making that sort of investment, and I probably would have just continued using it, but it wasn’t really charging very well, and it wasn’t super responsive after awhile. I purchased a new one and I was going to get a lavender band to accompany it, but somehow I ended up actually liking the band that was included with it. Sarah of 2017 would be aghast. *waves to old-Sarah from across time*

Le Bon socks I first saw these last year in Rachel Symes New Yorker gift guide in 2020 and I pooh-poohed them because I am obsessed with cute socks, and these are … not that cute. But my kawaii animal and anime character socks are often cheaply made and then and fall apart and I’ve been rethinking about what it is exactly that I expect from my cozy foot tubules. The socks from Le Bon are a bit utilitarian-looking in muted colors, no bright novelty prints here. But they do offer an extremely soothing sole swaddle, so I’m sold.

When I walk for exercise my toes flail and flounder aggressively, which results in holes being poked in the top of my shoes. Someone suggested to me that I need sneakers with a wider toe box, and after doing a little research (you know, reading like 2.5 reviews) I decided upon the Topo Athletic Zero Drop Magnifly 3…which I think is actually a running shoe, but that’s fine. Or at least it seems to be fine. I don’t know, I am not a shoe or foot or much-of-anything expert! They’re really comfortable and they’ve held up quite well. I purchased these in June and nary a toe hole in sight! With the previous pair, I’d managed to breach the top of the shoe in less than three months, so this is good news.

This adorable little glass cup is just the sweetest thing and makes me unreasonably happy. I had a tiny matcha latte in it one day and a little whiskey soda the next evening. Wheee!

Then there is this neutral color open-front cardigan from Cotton Emporium that’s getting pretty ratty because I wear it nearly every day. With dresses, with jeans and old metal or horror tees, with my pajamas when I wake up on a chilly morning–I wear it with everything. Does it go with everything? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, no one said that. I originally got this one from Stitchfix but I am fairly certain it is no longer available. This is the exact one that someone was selling over on tradesy a while ago. It’s really nothing special, just perfectly worn-in, and somehow both lightweight and cozy. Another piece that has been getting a lot of mileage these past few months is this mustard-colored tunic dress from Toast.

Recipe inspiration from two unlikely places: Nami’s YouTube channel & The Salad Lab on TikTok. Nami is a single woman living in Japan and her 20-30 minute videos often follow her over the course of a weekend while she documents the meals she prepares, tidying her home, small crafts, and occasional peeks at her neighborhood grocery shopping trips or visits to cafes to meet up with local friends. I usually watch this while I am knitting a simple project (it’s subtitled, so I partially need to pay attention!) and I love to see her go about her quiet, creative days. I especially enjoy Nami’s imaginative approach in the kitchen, where she often cooks simple meals using unexpected combinations of ingredients. In The Salad Lab, saladologist (I made that word up) Darlene “creates fabulous salads every day” and it’s exactly what it sounds like. A brief minute or two long video of some disembodied hands making a variety of salads. I love salads! So I get a lot of ideas here, too. 

Also, I learned that you can shred chicken in your kitchen aid in less than 30 seconds with the paddle attachment. Now granted, I didn’t spend a lot of time shredding chicken with just two forks and elbow grease–that’s too much work!– but now that I know that I don’t have to do it that way…!

Sopor from Twilight Alchemy Lab is a pillowy sleep blend with notes of lavender, vanilla, chamomile, and blue tansy and its  gentle, aromatic lullaby has earned a position of prominence on my nighttime dream shelf.

Ok. So. While these two fragrances I’ve chosen to share here are not exactly my *favorite* scents this year, they are the scents that surprised me the most with how much I’ve enjoyed them. Also, I realize that I often write about perfumes that are not easily accessible; they’ve either been discontinued, or they’re prohibitively expensive, or hard to get one’s hands on, for whatever reason. I thought instead I might mention two fragrances that are fairly easy to find and accessible– in terms of purchasing a bottle, and also that neither of them are really challenging scents. I’ve already written reviews for both Hanae Mori and Glossier’s You, but I will share them both below again, in case you missed them!

I first learned of Hanae Mori on a blog that I was pretty obsessed with, back in the early 2000s. This person wasn’t a perfume enthusiast or fashionista, or even a popular blogger as far as I could tell…she seemed to be a gentle quiet weirdo, like me. She had a goth Betty Page bob and she did something in tech and updated sporadically about her little Seattle apartment. I thought she was the coolest. When I began to really delve into fragrances a few years later, I recall her mentioning this one in passing, and so sought out a sample. I was disappointed at how ordinary it seemed. Twenty years later I quite disagree with past me! Hanae Mori is a perfectly lovely woody vanilla and creamy, milky musk with hints of dusty dried grass and the airy green tang of blackberry leaves. A lot of reviewers mention fruit, but I don’t get any of that at all. If you enjoy the sweet comfort and nostalgic 90’s whispers of Vanilla Fields or the bitter Miss Havisham melancholia of Fleur Cachee, I’d say this scent falls squarely in the middle and I am surprisingly obsessed with it.

Glossier’s You is a scent I really had no intention of ever buying, but then my curiosity got the best of me. A minor point: I hate this bottle, it’s dreadful. It looks like a small pink blandly Cronenbergian lump of quivering flesh. I can, however, get over that, because as it turns out and much to my surprise…I actually really love what’s inside the horrid skin sack of a bottle. It’s possible that I had very low expectations because I don’t like any of Glossier’s other products and also because I am maybe a snob. But I really don’t mind being wrong! Okay, I am a Taurus and I hate being wrong! But I make an exception for perfume. You is a wonderful melding of this chilly, ghostly delicate iris musk and a warm, woody, sturdy peachy amber quietly enveloped in a crystalline psychic glow of pink pepper and you kind of wonder how these notes got together but then you think of Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus and it all just makes perfect sense. Yes, this is a queer classic anime power couple of a scent and I absolutely adore it.

Books. Always. Words have always been my dearest, staunchest companions, and this year I read a lot of good ones! I challenged myself to read 50 books this year, which I realize is not a lot for people who tend to read a lot, but I surpassed my goal at a current number of 55 and if I can finish Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart Is A Chainsaw by the end of the day, it will be 56! (I probably won’t.) My two favorite from this year are books that I inadvertently read back to back and which have some similar themes in common: death, loss, grief, and food: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner and The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan.

Music: I’ve been remiss in recent years in keeping my ear to the ground for new and incredible music, but I will say I’ve been immensely enjoying Japanese Breakfast, both their newest release, Jubilee and basically everything else, too. And lots of Matt Berry, of course.

Watching: Both the ridiculousness and stunning costumery of The Great and the dreamy absurdity and upsetting realism of Atlanta. We also just binged S2 of The Witcher, which, although I enjoyed it, it kinda seemed like we were playing the video game this season. Do I need to read the books? Hm.

At just 12 hours until 2022, I am attempting to watch a handful of horror/esque/ish/adjacent movies I meant to watch before the end of the year. I have seen In the Earth, Possessor, and Censor (my favorite so far) and I am going to try and fit in Last Night in Soho and Titane before the night is over. Wish me luck!

 

I have glamorous aspirations, but in reality, I am pretty much the opposite of glamour. Despite all the makeup I have lying around, I barely wear any of it, unless I am going to make a little video for YouTube (which …isn’t that often), or else I have to leave the house for a special occasion. Which is also not often, or ever really, nowadays. On a daily basis, the only thing I do after morning skincare stuff is sunscreen and the most minimal of eyebrow stuff. I basically just want to make sure they are all going in the same direction, to be honest with you. I’ve been using this brow butter and styling gel from Saie, and it’s ok. It does the job. I think I just really like the packaging.

I do try to sneak a little glamour in with some daily jewels and the magics of the Face of the Oracle pendant from Atelier Narcé have been clasped around my neck more often than not throughout the week.

Paintbox Soapworks is a perpetual favorite in our household. Here are some of their wintry offerings that we are currently enjoying…

Honorable mentions include: my library card, which has really gotten a workout this year in accessing their digital collections // Stasher silicone bags which have been great to help with cutting down on plastic baggie usage (and another shoutout to Swedish dishcloths as a paper towel alternative!) // all of the friends, family, and acquaintances who have checked in on me during what I feel have been several near meltdowns over the past few months // finally accepting the idea that at 45 years old I don’t have to suffer unnecessarily, and maybe medication for depression and anxiety is an option worth exploring…I have been on it for 4 days now, go me! Better living through chemistry! // art and poetry, always // Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings which was a perfect superhero movie // on a related note, I am happy to see that Michelle Yeoh is just about everywhere I look nowadays, and I don’t think I have ever been as excited to see a movie as I am Everything Everywhere All At Once

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Taking inspiration from the Needful Things series that we shared on a quarterly or semi-annual basis over at Haute Macabre….since things are slowing down over there, I thought I would give the installment a new home over at Unquiet Things. In that vein, here are some needful things in the form of spring favorites! ! From mundane to marvelous, below I am sharing all the stuff I love lately. Alternately (or, both, if you wish, I have also shared a version of this over on youtube!

Shower caddy shelves. My shower toiletries were just sitting on the edge of the tub, the bottoms coated with dust that becomes that disgusting wet glunk. It’s unsightly and gross and I am a million times happier after discovering that I could just put them on a shelf. These are just the stick-on-the-wall kind, and I was able to figure it out for myself, so it must have been pretty easy. Also this little tiered countertop organizer, which doesn’t exactly fit on my sink quite the way I had envisioned it, I mean god forbid I ever measure anything, but it definitely helps organize my clutter.

Mate The Label boxy tee. Ok, so these tee shirts overpriced but really nice, and they’re organic and sustainable and all that. There’s something about these shirts I really love, but it’s not the price, which is sort of ridiculous. I think it’s actually the necklines, which are raw and uneven and that might drive some people nuts, but my big head stretches out necklines anyway, so it’s like these guys have already done the work for me.

Stitch Fix floral tops I can’t count how many times I said I was done with Stitch Fix’s subscription boxes and for a while there, I really was, I swear! But this past year they switched their business model up a bit and instead of just offering you a box where a stranger picks some things out for you, they have started curating a little shop of outfits for you that changes throughout the day. Nine times out of ten it’s nothing I want but I’m afraid I’ve become a little bit addicted to peeking in to see if they’ve got the *perfect* floral top for me. Now I am not sure what this perfect,top even looks like, but I will know it when I see it, and as I’m a bit obsessed with florals in general, I’ve picked a few “not quite perfect but I like it anyway” pieces along the way.

Bookkeepers butter hand and cuticle salve from Paintbox Soapworks Packed with nourishing shea butter & a panoply of skin-pampering oils, this little jar is a lovely little treat for your grubby little mitts, and I love the smell of the herbal floral lavender natural oils, it makes me feel like I am getting a manicure and hand treatment from a gentle hobbit in the Shire.

Two fragrances that I have been wearing frequently this spring are both from indie perfumers: Antoinette, a zingy candied floral from Seance Perfume, and The Queen of May a limited edition scent from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and a riotous jumble of wildflower blossoms with a dusty heart of vanilla musk.

Kur nail polish + Smokin Hot for the past year I have basically been wearing two colors on my nails. This mushroomy purple-grey that reminds me of the gills on the underside of a fungi with the epic name of Amethyst Deceiver, and actually I wish that were the name of the product, but it’s not. It’s got the very basic name of Smokin’ Hot and it’s from Essie. Also Kur, an “illuminating nail concealer” , which reminds me very much of the creepy seer’s eyes from The Beyond.

Ever since the big chop earlier this year, now that I can finally see my ears, I have reverted back to my childhood love of massive earrings,I found a few inexpensive pairs of silver hoops on Etsy that have been in heavy rotation lately. I love the details and shapes of these two in particular. They’re not too crazy, but I think they’re still pretty and unique. 1st pair of silver earrings and second pair of silver earrings. Also Sacred Hearts from Rosita Bonita, Amparo Rosary from Vanessa Mooney, as well as earrings from Arcana Obscura, Under the Pyramids, and Bloodmilk.

I always keep a notebook and a pen nearby when I’m engrossed in a book. Whether it’s to jot down an unfamiliar word or turn of phrase, to capture a sentiment that particularly ensnared my heart or set my imagination alight, or make notes on this, that or the other interesting tidbit or topic for further research, I have found my book notes absolutely essential to deepening my experience of and engagement a story while I’m reading it. Equally as important, I revisit the thoughts and words I’ve recorded in this little grimoire of poetics for inspiration in my own writing when I am working on various projects. The notebook I am currently using is about 3/4 full, so inspired by an Instagram friend, I found another one that I’ll keep waiting in the wings until I need it.

This Hilma af Klint phone case to match the cover of my book, created by virtuoso of big glitter energy, Sparkledome Studio, is perhaps the most frivolous purchase I have ever made, and I don’t care. I LOVE IT.

Conversely, this little power strip/cube/whatever is not glamorous. I have devices scattered all over the house in search of unused outlets to charge them, and it’s never occurred to me to get a little multi-plugger-inner thing. It’s not very exciting, so there’s not much to say about it, but it’s nice to have the stuff I frequently use throughout the day plugged in and conveniently charging next to me, as opposed, to say, next to the toilet in the bathroom at the other end of the house.

I am always looking for somewhere to stash my knitting when I’m not working on it (otherwise it’s just strewn haphazardly across my desk) and this project bag from my friend Erica’s shop is just the perfect size and shape for just about everything I am working on. The vintage floral fabric makes my heart sing every time I catch a glimpse of it.

Milk Bread As long as I’ve been an adult with a kitchen to call my own I have been trying to bake bread and for a long time, they were mostly sad loaves of failure. I think I’ve really only begun to see success in the past 5 years or so and funny enough, the best loaf of bread I have ever made was whipped into creation last week…using a foolproof recipe that probably would have guaranteed me perfection a long, long time ago. This would be the plush, pillowy Japanese Milk bread. This is undoubtedly the exact opposite of all of the sourdough I have been making lately in that I feel sourdough is a real tough-love sort, bare bones of project, it only gets so much to work with and build on. Whereas milk bread, you got your full-fat milk, the addition a significant amount of sugar and a whole bunch of butter, and how is that even going to go wrong? The answer is that it doesn’t. If you’ve had bread problems, make this recipe and you’ll feel like a genius.

Joshua Weissman’s Tikka Masala is probably the most delicious recipe for this dish that I have ever tried, but his YouTube videos are kind of cringey and obnoxious and hard to watch. Luckily you can find the recipe on his blog, as well.

Daily Walks to look at “nature”; Every day, around 3 o’clock or so, Yvan and I take a walk outside and around the house to peek in on the growing and movings of the seedlings and sprouts and flowers and bees and all of the other daily dramas that take place in our backyard. We don’t live on an estate or anything (ha!) just a small house in the suburbs, but we’re hunched in front of our computers all day and it’s so nice to take a moment, stretch our limbs, get some fresh air, and look at bugs and lizards.

Poetic Remedies for Troubled Times: from Ask Baba Yaga I’ve been reading and rereading both books of enchanting advice from Russian American poet Taisia Kitaiskaia, who writes from the perspective of Russia’s most infamous witch, Baba Yaga. My dear friend Sonya, also a Russian poet, has written on how this folkloric entity is both benevolent and dangerous, and ultimately more unpredictable than evil–and that’s exactly how these wildly imaginative missives read. Beautifully and compellingly unpredictable. These books would make the most delicious gifts for your most daydreamy, whimsical friends.

Gaylords of Darkness has all the trappings of something I might hate if I am being honest. My least favorite kind of podcast or any interaction, really, is when two friends’ conversation devolves into tangents and inside jokes and it’s awkward and makes me feel like a third wheel. Stacy and Anthony wander all over the place and ramble about all kinds of silliness and I am fairly certain they think they are quite amusing, and you know what? THEY ARE. It must be that they are just on the right sort of weird wavelength as I am, or that their fanciful ridiculousness and whimsy aligns in all the right ways with mine because I love them, and existence in this world truly makes it a better and a million times more interesting place. Listening to them chat about horror movies, their thoughts and insights and experiences with them, reminds me of listening in on the *coolest* conversation at a party and wishing, and hoping against all hope that they were also talking with you. With every single episode I come away with a fresh take on horror and having peed myself a little from laughing so hard.

The Queen of Black Magic is an Indonesian horror film I had heard about, promptly forgot about, and then my interest was rekindled when I heard the glowing things that the aforementioned Anthony and Stacy had to say about it. A loose remake of a 1981 film sees three estranged orphan friends meeting up several decades after a traumatic event to say goodbye to the head of the orphanage, who is dying. Increasingly weird and violent things begin to happen once they arrive with their families in tow, and uncertain of the source, they soon discover the secret from their past is much more terrible and tragic than they realized. It is a pretty bonkers film in terms of both story, and uh, gory. And like an director Joko Anwar’s previous offerings, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Li Ziziqi’s YouTube channel is another fleeting nugget that someone had mentioned to me a year or so ago and which I then tucked away to look into later…and of course, never did. I saw the Chinese video blogger referenced again somewhere in my twitter feed last week and decided to have a peek at whatever they are all about, and I was utterly entranced. Known for her food and handicraft preparation, and depicting idyllic interludes of her life in her hometown of rural Pingwu, Mianyang, her storybook videos emphasize the stunningly beautiful countryside and many compelling ancient traditions. There’s a highly elaborate drama to the skills and craftsmanship she shares in her incredible creations, whether it’s salted egg yolks from ducks she raised by hand, the furniture she creates from stalks of bamboo, or the petals she cuts from a single piece of silk and colors one by one with vivid botanical dyes to create a charming peach blossom headdress and matching combs. Combine these creations with the pastoral scenes of the seasonal landscape and the lovely, lilting tranquility of the soundtrack, it conjures a wistfulness for a gem of life you’ve never experienced but most certainly want to –somehow– get back to. And I can’t get enough of it.

Honorable mentions: Astral Bath and Dragon Hoard Yarn // Wild Oak socks pattern // my new Hobonichi planner // velvet mythological creatures pillow from Baba Studio // a cat-shaped dish from my best good friend that says “Silently Judging You” // Totoro water bottle // Rae Dunn coffee mug // Iced Coconut 3 wick candle

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