It has been a minute since I’ve done one of these. But one of my major resolutions for 2018 was to get back out there and shamelessly stan my favorite tv shows write! Here are a few of my faves from the past month.
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
So—fun fact—I started tutoring this fall! It’s definitely a challenge for me, since I’m not sure I’m the teacher type, but luckily my “student” is a wonderful human with a ton of integrity and maturity for a teenager. Her final project was a presentation on the book Station Eleven, so obviously I had to read it!
It fits squarely within the genre of dystopian YA, but the author attempts (sometimes, too hard) to elevate it with a ton of Shakespeare references (there are characters named Arthur Leander, Miranda, Olivia, Viola—and those are just the references I get). Without spoiling the ending, the climax is a bit, well, anti-climactic, but I still consider the book a worthwhile read. Plus, it’s pretty short, so it took me all of two days to finish.
I know what you’re thinking—this show ended like 5 years ago. And it did. But I’ll have you know that David Caspe’s Happy Endings is one of the *Kanye voice* best shows of all time. It’s a travesty that it only lasted three seasons. Genius actors comprise the entire cast, but special shout out to Eliza Coupe and Damon Wayans, Jr. Brad and Jane are two of my favorite tv characters ever. This show has some of the best writing I’ve ever heard—it’s inspiring and brilliant.
The whole thing’s on Hulu, so you know what to do-lu.
Great, Sara Benincasa
Full disclosure: I only bought this book because I love Sara Benincasa and it was super cheap on Amazon. Greatis a contemporary, YA, gender-flipped retelling of The Great Gatsby, which should be a recipe for disaster, but was actually a joy to read. The names are a bit cringe-worthy (I’ve compiled a list below), but, beyond that, it’s a smart spin on a classic that you could easily read in a day. I’m reading DC Trip now—keeping the Benincasa binge going!
Great – Gatsby
Jay Gatsby – Jacinta Trimalchio (get it?!)
Nick Carraway – Naomi Rye
Delilah Fairweather – Daisy (Fay) Buchanan
Teddy Barrington – Tom Buchanan
Jeff Byron – Jordan Baker
Misti – Myrtle Wilson
Giovanni – George Wilson
Leahlani Bless Balm
I am obsessed with this stuff. Bless Balm by Leahlani came in the December Oui Fresh Beauty Box and I’ve been using it almost daily since it arrived. At first I was a bit skeptical of its texture and scent (it’s a pretty strong jasmine scent and it’s got sort of a Vaseline texture), but after a month of use, I’m in love. It’s so super hydrating and has kept my skin fabulous through the dry winter months. It’s upped my skincare game.
It’s pricey as hell, but after a month of use, I’ve barely made a dent in it. I have no doubt that it will last me the rest of the year. Plus, it’s all-natural and almost 100% organic, so I feel great about supporting this beauty brand.
And, last but not least, Dry January! I’m participating in the DJ tradition this month, and I’m feeling great about it! It’s such a nice new year refresh, and a great way to shed some of those holiday lbs! Basically, the rules are: Don’t drink any alcohol for the entire month of January. That’s it! I’m tying in some other wellness practices as well, but no drinking is the main goal. I’ll post a wrap-up in early February all about my experience! Wish me luck!
The first time I ever used an essential oil, I was around 19 and had recently gotten my nose pierced with a friend. Mine (on the right side) never really healed right, so a cursory Google search alerted me to the fact that tea tree oil was anti-bacterial, natural, and promoted healing. I bought a bottle (my broke college butt was mildly appalled by the price tag), and applied it directly to my nose with a Q-Tip (not the smartest move when dealing with harsher oils). But I loved the clean, pungent smell of tea tree, so as the years went by, I sought it out in my products (to this day, I use Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree shampoo on those rare occasions when I actually wash my hair…)
Beyond my tea tree adventures, I didn’t give much thought to essential oils until a few years ago, when I first heard of oil-pulling. If you’ve been on the internet this decade, you’ve heard of it—swish a tablespoon of coconut oil around in your mouth for twenty minutes, pull out all the gross impurities in your mouth. A blogger I follow posted a recipe for oil-pulling chews, made from coconut oil and peppermint essential oil. I marched to the store, grabbed the peppermint oil and flower-shaped silicone ice molds, and got to work. I keep a jar of them in my fridge at all times!
When I got engaged, I decided (for some incomprehensible reason) that DIY-ing soy wax/essential oil candles would be a great idea for wedding favors. Only problem? I had to make at least 50. I diligently hit the craft store, bought all 50 tiny jars, and chose my scents. Suddenly, I had five or so new essential oils! The candle-making was ill-fated (I think I made all of 6—we repurposed the jars), but the EOs ended up being a good investment. Suddenly, I was DIY-ing counter sprays and reed diffusers. I fell in love, in particular, with Eucalyptus. It’s my spirit scent.
And then there was Monq. I’ve written about them before, but Monq makes portable, personal aromatherapy diffusers—mini vapes full of essential oil goodness! My personal fave blend is Active—I always have one on me! I discovered the brand on Instagram years ago, and bought my first set with a sweet promo code. These are great for us non-smokers, but I imagine that they’re a wonderful and inexpensive way for smokers to quit, since it replaces the routine. I can’t wait to try their newer blends, especially Ocean!
It was like the entire earth was conspiring to get me to make essential oils a part of my daily routine. Now I’m something of a devotee, though I’d never use them in place of actual medicine…that’s just cray. They’ve help me clean up my act—and by that I mean kick toxic chemicals out of my home one by one.
Here are some of the products that helped me get started:
DoTerra is, at least in my circles, the most popular brand of EOs. Their product is great, but it’s hard to get (you have to buy through a wholesaler unless you want to pay crazy retail markups. Their branding is on point, and they have a ton of diffusers, accessories, spa products, and supplements. My mother gifted me the lovely petal diffuser for Christmas!
You didn’t think I’d miss a chance to shout-out my ABM girls, right? What I love best about Oui Fresh oils is that they’re available at a reasonable retail price and you can buy them no-strings. My personal fave is Rose Geranium!
S.W. Basics is the Brooklyn-based brand of Adina Grigore, who wrote the book Just The Essentials, and inspired me to actually start workin’ on my oil game. No lie, the day after I finished the book, I was browsing the beauty aisle at Target and spotted a gift set of S.W. Basics on sale, so it felt like a sign that I had to give it a try. My set came with the Cleanser, the Toner, and the Cream. I SWEAR the Toner changed my skin overnight. It’s incredible. Now, if I only I could remember to wash my makeup off and use it nightly…
I read a borderline horrifying article recently re: MLMs and essential oils, but, I will say that the few Young Living oils I have are very pure and smell incredible. They, like doTerra, are usually purchased through a distributer, who becomes a member to get them at wholesale price.
I haven’t tried their new clean makeup line, but as I start running out of products, I’ll definitely check it out!
I started off with Aura Cacia. They’re a fantastic brand with a consistently great product. My local Wegman’s (shout out to Wegman’s, the best chain grocer), has a pretty impressive natural skincare selection, and AC is the main brand they carry. They have EOs, carrier oils, epsom salts, roller balls, spritz bottles—you name it!
EO Products was a total fluke find! I had seen Everyone essential oils at Target, but the packaging was so mod and cute that I actually doubted the quality of the product (don’t judge wine or EOs by their cover, y’all). After I read Just the Essentials, I checked out Adina’s list of recommended brands in the FAQ section, and lo-and-behold: the spray hand sanitizer that I had been using for months was, in fact, EO Products Everyone label! It’s peppermint & citrus, cruelty-free, and non-GMO. I had picked it up, again, at my local Wegs, because it smelled like a mojito fever dream, and didn’t leave me feeling dried out by chemicals (à la Purell). So far, my hand sani is the only thing I’ve tried from EO, but I have total confidence in their brand’s quality (and its cute design).
I’ve previously blogged about EOs once or twice…check out my cocktail-inspired room spray here!
Also, here’s an original rollerball recipe that will put some pep in your step!
Bright Sunshiny Day Blend
30 drops bergamot essential oil
8 drops spearmint essential oil
5 drops wild orange essential oil
carrier oil (I used sweet almond)
This smells like spearmint gum in the best possible way. It’s refreshing and invigorating when the spearmint top notes hit you, but the subtle, sultry bergamot lingers longer. Great to give you a (caffeine-free!) jolt.
And my all-time favorite EO recipe of all is ABM’s face oil, which I use every day after my shower!
I’ve definitely made some missteps in the EO game. For some reason, I thought it would be smart to diffuse Texas Cedarwood and Lemongrass together (I’m still haunted by the overpowering smell), and I definitely accidentally poured half a bottle of Peppermint into my diffuser one night…
Nevertheless, this experiment into EO land has been fun. Now that I’m building up supplies, I can DIY my heart out and never have to buy chemical-laden perfumes, cleaning products, or skincare products ever again!
2017 is over and frankly, BYE GIRL. What a rough year. I went from severe election depression, to a Mexican vacation, to not knowing WTF I was doing with my life, to going to grad school. The transition was rough, but not just for me. This year has also, obviously, been an actual trash-fire for the entire country.
But apart from praying for mercy from our overlords, there were a few enjoyable things about 2017. I went to Cancún and Atlanta for the first time, and got to spend two weeks in L.A., which I proudly yet undeservedly consider my homeland. I dove even deeper into my comedy obsession, and turned it into a final paper on feminism and comedy writing (in which I got to use the quotation “Men are a cancer! God made a mistake!“). I binged so much TV that it should be considered a crime against (my own) humanity. I started therapy and got back on meds. Actually, if it weren’t for the backdrop of constant nuclear panic, 2017 might have even been a good year.
Luckily, even in the darkest timeline, artists gonna art, so there was a barrage of dope shit released this year. Here are the things that really stood out in my 2017:
Literally everything Roxane Gay has ever written is perfect, so it was a no-brainer that this incredible book would be on my “Best Of” list. This book is so powerful and emotional; I cried reading it. Hunger is, genuinely, a memoir of her body—unlike so many other books written in a similar vein, this one has no self-help aims or “happy ending.” It is a raw, honest rendering of past and present traumas, and though Ms. Gay’s journey is unique to her, her writing speaks to the universal truths familiar to all those who inhabit bodies and navigate the world. For six months, the words of Hunger have stayed with me, like a haunting presence.
I haven’t finished this book yet, so no spoilers! (lol)
Part of me loves this book so much merely because I love Secretary Clinton and want to push back against the haters that think, for some reason, that it’s unacceptable that the first female presidential candidate of a major political party should write a book chronicling her experiences. I know this about myself. What I didn’t expect, upon beginning to listen (I’m checking out Audible this season), is how deeply First Lady Clinton’s words would affect me. She gets pretty real about her journey, and doesn’t shy away from being honest about the present danger in which America finds itself. But it’s never sad. In What Happened, hope eclipses sadness and darkness at every turn. It doesn’t hurt that Senator Clinton is funny as hell, either. Listening to What Happened is like inspiring meditation for all of us who were deeply hurt last November.
So, if Popular Vote Winner Rodham Clinton wants to hit me up for a glass of Chardonnay, just DM me @highwaytochel, bby.
Just realized I keep switching up her name! I guess she just has so many accomplishments that I’m not even sure what to call her!
This list was getting pretty heavy, so I had to turn up the levity to 11.
Matt Bellassai is a national treasure. I first heard of him on Throwing Shade, so I’m a bit of a late adopter, but as soon as I heard him on TSPod, I sought out his podcast Unhappy Hour, which led me to his book, which I scored, again, on Audible. I knew the book would be funny, but I didn’t think it would be laugh-out-loud-like-a-maniac-alone-in-my-car funny. The writing is so, so good. He has such a clear, distinct voice that it’s shocking he’s only my age. It’s so powerful, in fact, that I find myself relating on a deep level to a chubby, sheltered, Midwestern, gay, cis-male child, most of whose adjectives don’t describe me at all! I rarely advocate for audiobook over real book, but hearing Bellassai’s delivery is the icing on the cake.
Amy Sherman-Palladino has blessed us once again! The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which Jen Kirkman consulted on, nbd) is my favorite new show of the year! I’m not even that bitter about the fact that the lead actress, Rachel Brosnahan, is the same age as me!
The MMM tells the story of Midge, a 26-year-old mother of two in 1958, going through a separation following her husband, Joel’s, infidelity. Joel had been fervently pursuing a stand-up career (i.e. plagiarizing one), but it turns out that his wife is the real natural. Coached by Susie, played by the incomparable Alex Borstein, Midge begins to perform, to varying degrees of success. Oh, and Lenny Bruce is a character.
In true ASP fashion, the dialogue is fast-paced, joke dense, and sensational. If there had to be an heir to Gilmore Girls, this is indeed the one. I just watched the series but might start it over and force the huz to watch it with me. 10/10
Is Get Out the best movie I’ve ever seen? Strong possibility. Give Jordan Peele and Daniel Kaluuya and Betty Gabriel all of the Oscars!
I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it would be that good. I only just watched Get Out this fall, since I am horror-averse to the extreme, but I already know it will be one of my life-long favorites. Unfortunately, to write pretty much anything about it would spoil the majesty, and for once, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I was shocked, despite waiting months to watch it, and I wouldn’t take that experience away from anyone.
Jordan Peele is a genius. The film is aesthetically gorgeous, socially aware, hilarious, and terrifying. It’s a horror film, and a comedy, and a documentary.
P.S. I had the unique privilege of writing one of my final papers about Get Out, which I’m submitting to conferences!
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
If you didn’t like this movie, please eject yourself from planet Earth. I won’t spoil it for anyone (it was spoiled for me by my brother), but it was a joy and a pleasure. I gasped in surprise or glee multiple times, and I got to experience the entire thing sitting between my husband and my best friend—best combo ever. I’d write more about how much it rocked my world, but I’m busy going to see it again.
I finally discovered the true, unadulterated joy that is Hallmark Christmas movies. I watched Christmas in the Air*, which only made me thirst for more**. These things are a bright spot in an increasingly dismal world. Plus, where else will you experience the true joy of a 49-year-old, childless female lead? Hallmark doesn’t even know that it’s feminist!
*I will say, specific to this film, that it espoused one trash value, which is that messiness and imperfection is acceptable. You should have let her clean your office, dude. You’re not a creative genius—you have untreated ADHD.
**There’s an upcoming one starring Candace Cameron Bure and Marilu Henner!
I. Love. St. Vincent. I finally got to see her in concert last month at the House of Blues! I’ve liked her for years, but I have to admit, when she started getting super high concept, starting with Strange Mercy and continuing even stronger with St. Vincent, I really became a superfan. Masseduction doesn’t disappoint for a second—it’s got killer visuals, tight tunes, and her sexiest sound yet. Go purchase this album with human currency!
As if The National could put out a bad album. I’ve been waiting for what seems like decades for new Ntl jams, and finally, my prayers have been answered. Sleep Well Beast is everything I dreamed it would be and more. It has more tech-y, electronic-y moments (please, don’t be intimidated by my vast knowledge of music) than previous releases, but it works. Get on this album, my dudes.
I know. I’m going back on years of hating on T. Swift. I can admit I was wrong! In my hour of darkness she was standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, so let her be.
Reputation is bops for days. I adore it. I’ve listened to it more than the previous 2 albums combined, which severely deducts cool points from my street cred. But I don’t care. I even like “Look What You Made Me Do” which was pretty much universally panned. Highlights are, for sure, “Endgame (feat. Future & Ed Sheeran),” “Ready For It,” and “I Did Something Bad,” but basically every song is great so just go listen to it? T. Swift redeemed.
Guys, I got to actually go to PYHT in Hollywood! It was probably the craziest night of my entire life—maybe I’ll share the story someday—but it was an amazing experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. The whole drama is recorded on the podcast, so if you’re a listener, you may know what I’m referring to. It was definitely a…teachable moment.
Cam & Rhea, thanks for being the moms we all need, and being genuinely the warmest and best people I’ve ever met.
My ABM ladies started a natural beauty line! Lipstick, lip gloss, and essential oils, oh my! I am obsessed with clean beauty products (#backonmyhippiebullshit), so these gems were a total godsend. I took advantage of all of the launch and holiday sales, so I, of course, have the full lip collection. They go on smooth, hydrate, last, and bonus: the lip gloss smells like yummy vanilla!
…with Essie’s Lilacism shade. And no, Essie is not paying me for this review, but I would love it if they did!
Essie is my brand. This ho is loyal. I even choose Essie gel shades when I go to nail salons. For years, I held food service jobs that forbade painted nails in the workplace. But now, more than ever, finally freed of that torture, I need my nails to be consistently on point—people grab my hand to check out my ring constantly! The *joys* of being newly engaged…
Lilacism is by far my favorite shade out of the 20 or so Essie polishes I’ve accumulated (runners up being Bikini So Teeny, Chinchilly, and Sand Tropez). It’s a “grown-up” purple—neutral enough to be professional, but still fun and funky. It’s a perfect pastel for spring and summer.
The odd thing about my obsession with this color is that I don’t even like the color purple. I’ve long found it completely obnoxious. Purple bridesmaids dresses, purple flowers, purple home décor—PASS! I don’t think there is a single purple item in my wardrobe. I’m all about pink, pastel blue, and mint, so it’s not that I don’t like traditionally “girly” colors. Purple just doesn’t really do it for my eyes and brain. That being said, this purple polish is so muted that even I, the purple-naysayer, find it completely aesthetically pleasing. It even makes for a pretty little tableau:
What are your favorite Essie shades? Are there other polish brands worthy of my devotion?