Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Year in Movies: 2013 edition

Much like I did in 2012, this year I gave myself the goal of seeing 52 new movies released in the U.S. in the current calendar year. Thanks to the fact that movies get released on DVD and VOD much faster these days, I did do a better job of staying on track this year - I even wrote about some of my favorites a few months ago.

When it came down to it though, I once again cut it close to the deadline in terms of reaching my goal, and became less discerning in my selections in order to ensure I reached my objective. Honestly, I found it hard to keep up with new movies as well as TV shows and book reading and web shows and hanging out having quality time with other human beings. (And unfortunately, I don't get paid to watch movies, so my job took up some valuable time as well.) Let me say completing my goal would have been much, much easier if I had allowed myself to count cable movies, thanks to my compulsion to watch horrible holiday movies every year. Plus, I could count Behind the Candelabra as one of my favs. But despite that handicap, I did it! And before the December 31st deadline! I even went OVER, movie marathoning two weekends here at the end.

Below is a summary of the 2013 movies I have seen up to this point, sorted alphabetically (although I did a simple computer sort so all the movies that start with "the" are clumped together) and a short summary of my impression on each. (A review of each would make this post even longer - so if I mention a movie you've never heard of, I encourage you to look up to learn more. I also linked to the trailers of several.) My favorites are in bold.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Responsible consumerism

I try to be a responsible, ethical consumer. I love a good bargain as much as the next person, but I also look at the label to see where things are made. I buy fair trade coffee and chocolate, free range meats, organic fruits and vegetables, never buy tuna without the dolphin safe label. I both recycle and buy products made from recycled products. I shop at my local farmer's market.

Look, I could definitely do a lot better, but I do try. It's probably a safe bet that some of my clothes were made in factories I would find appalling, and that children picked some of the vegetables I eat. But as much as possible, I try to support companies that pay fair wages and are sustainable and generally don't make me feel like I'm supporting Dickensian villains.

As a makeup and beauty product junkie, for as long as I can remember, I've tried to make sure to look for the "not tested on animals" label on products. I have avoided buying anything from a specific department-store brand of cosmetics for decades because I heard back in the early 90s that they were one of the few high-end brands that still tested on animals. According to a list from PETA, they're still doing it.  But here's where my world was rocked a bit ago - although a company can claim they don't test on animals, if their products are sold in China, chances are the products have been smeared on some poor bunny. The sticking point here is that the Chinese government reserves the right to conduct animal testing with cosmetic products before the products are approved for use by Chinese citizens. So basically, any cosmetics brand that sells in China has probably been tested on animals.

So what to do as someone who tries to be a responsible consumer? Well, you start doing a little research on what companies not only claim not to test on animals themselves, but also don't sell in China, so their products aren't tested on animals by others, or get their ingredients from companies that might test on animals. And then you get depressed, because the list of cosmetics companies that sell products that have been tested on animals includes most of the brands you can easily find at drugstores and quite a few high end favorites too.

Thankfully, there are a few that don't. Here's a list of drugstore brands I use regularly, and plan to use exclusively from now on:

  • e.l.f. - the brand as a whole can be pretty hit or miss, but they have some good stuff that is very affordable. I like their Studio blushes, mineral lipsticks, and baked eyeshadows. I'm also quite a fan of their makeup wipes, which I buy in bulk when they are sale. I stay away from their mascaras though: for me, a total miss.
  • Physician's Formula -kind of pricey for drugstore brand, but I really like a couple of their concealers, their blushes, and their powders in general. They also make a mascara I really like.
  • Jesse's Girl their liquid eyeliner pen is awesome. Haven't tried anything else really, but that one thing is very good.
  • Jane - I remember this brand from years ago, and it's back. I think they're sold exclusively at Ulta and online now. They make some great eyeliners. I had heard good things about their concealer too, but the lightest shade I could find, "light", was much too dark for my pale face.
  • NYX - makers of some of my favorite lip products and blushes, and pretty good eyeliners too. I've listed them in some of my favorites posts. Love that they can be found in more stores now.
  • Wet N Wild - makers of some of my favorite drugstore eyeshadows, and some good blushes too. 
  • Milani/Jordana - although they aren't included in PETA's list, I did some digging because these two (separate lines owned by the same company) make some of my favorite affordable makeup products. They don't test on animals nor do they sell in China. 
Things get harder when it comes to skin care. I guess there is a reason I don't really buy lotions or cleansers from the drugstore anymore. Thankfully my beloved (and very inexpensive) Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque in on the good list.

Anyway, thought I'd share what I've discovered, in case you too are interested in making a change to your consumer habits, and shop from the nice list instead of the naughty one. Feel free to research the brands you currently use, and perhaps get a bit depressed, like I did. Maybe we can all make a New Year's resolution to be more mindful of our consumer habits.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Favorite budget beauty: 2013 edition

I haven't expressed my love of makeup products in written form in awhile, so I thought I'd do a short post on some of my favorite budget-friendly beauty finds of 2013. I have put myself back in the no-buy zone, so I'm hoping that by looking at my current stash and writing about it, it will help curb the junkie cravings to go get more. Also, I'm focusing on drugstore brand products honestly because my favorite higher-end finds of 2013 were limited edition and are no longer available except probably at even more jacked-up prices online. And why tease like that?

Of the following list, some are products that were new releases this year, some were just products I "discovered" thanks to sales and/or recommendations from other blogs. All have gotten plenty of love and use from me. I think all would make nice stocking stuffers for others, or an inexpensive beauty gift for yourself.