Five Things I Loved in December

The last month of the year draws to a close, ducklings, and as always, I have a short list of the things that made the bleak midwinter a bit less bleak.

As always, please share your favorite things from the month in the comments!

Knives Out

What a joy this film was! It’s that rare thing that manages to hit all the tropes of its genre while still being fresh and original. Every single actor and respective character is perfectly formed, and the ensemble together is fantastic. You can tell that everyone working on this project just had so much fun doing it–who knew Daniel Craig could do comedy noir this well?! Much has been written on the costuming (if there was an Oscar for knitwear….) but the entire design of the movie is a visual feast from the sets to the cinematography. I can’t remember enjoying a movie as much in a long time. If you love murder mysteries of any stripe, and appreciate a good love letter to the genre istelf, it is not to be missed.


Glossier FutureDew

Much as I love the brand, I looked at this product askance when it first dropped. A sheer, oil/serum hybrid designed to make you look shiny… Surely only twenty year olds with already perfect skin could use such a thing, right? Well, shut my mouth. I tried it at Glossier’s London pop up in Covent Garden and was shocked at how much I liked the look and feel of it on my skin! It isn’t classified as makeup and provides no coverage beyond a touch of blurring luminosity, but when combined with concealer produces a lovely “fresh face.” I’ve used it almost every day since purchase.

Cowboy Bebop

We went on a winter break pop culture binge and one of the areas Jeff is undertaking to enlighten me is the world of anime. He recommended this cult classic series and I mainlined it! It’s a very difficult series to describe as it’s a mashup of science fiction, film noir, and western genres and tropes but the final blend is a standalone story that is wholly unique. I’m very new to this stuff, but if anyone can recommend other anime series they think I’d like based on this, please send them my way. Jeff’s already got a couple lined up, but a girl can’t ever have too many!

Flannel Sheets

We finally bought these after talking about it for years…and what a great decision it was! We first experienced these at Jeff’s parents’ house and it was a gamechanging experience for winter. It wasn’t expensive in the slightest, we just grabbed some brushed cotton version from John Lewis on a Black Friday sale. If thus far your 2019 has been insufficiently cozy, try adjusting your bedding.

Anti Anxiety Medication

Whew, let’s talk about this one, ducklings. In what is becoming a bit of a theme for longtime readers, this is another area where I have waited too long to get help that in retrospect I clearly needed years ago. In fact, the conversation with my doctor went something along the lines of, “So the last six years have involved cross-Atlantic immigration, freelancing and toxic jobs, career changes, financial stress, religious faith collapse, and the personal strains that all the above entails. Here are all the lifestyle changes I’ve made to try and manage and many have helped, but I’ve hit a wall and here are all the things that aren’t getting better in my mental health (in fact, a few are getting worse). I think I’ve let this go on way too long and I think I need additional medical help to cope.”
Quoth my doctor, in essence, “Girl, you think?!”

I’ve only been on it for a month, but I’m feeling much more emotionally stable and in control of my own brain than I have in at least two years. LEARN FROM MY FAIL, ASK FOR HELP IF YOU FEEL YOU NEED IT.

Year of Discipline: The Wrap Up

Did I live up to my theme this year? Well, sort of…

General Motivation

2019 was a middling year for me. There are some distinct high points and progress, but quite a few rough patches and some of them are ongoing. While discipline was a useful framing device for many aspects of life this year, it was fundamentally inadequate in others and possibly held me back in a few areas where what I needed wasn’t discipline at all…

Quite often “discipline” became a code word for “sticking something out” when what I actually needed to do was make a change, confront an issue, or seek help. I’m still unpicking this revelation and trying to learn the difference between things I need to endure and the things I’m allowed to opt out of or switch up. While I wish I didn’t have to learn this lesson in the hard ways that I did, I’m grateful to have this insight and will be taking it into the new year with me.



This was up and down until September when a lot of mental health and adjacent health issues were well and truly confronted. The wrestling match continues, but it feels like a big missing piece to the puzzle of my health overall and I’m looking forward to hopefully continuing the necessary work in 2020 to get better. I’m still not ready to write more publicly about this yet, but things are improving.



Financial discipline continues to be an area of growth of which I’m extremely proud. It’s far from perfect but I’m ending the year nearer my goals than I was when I started. While we still have too much debt, our spending habits underwent another year of change, helped by things like moving to a cheaper home and reducing our expenses overall. This turned out to be a double good thing when things like therapy and tackling mental health came into the picture. I can afford it and add to savings at the same time, which was not the case at the start of 2019! This is a work in progress, and a lot of my 101/1001 goals have helped continue to curb my old consumerist habits. Two credit cards have been paid off this year, several personal buying challenges have been completed or are in progress, and a much more aggressive approach to savings has been implemented.

But money has been a particular stress point this year that has infected almost everything in my life, from work to relationships. In 2020 I want to achieve a number of things that I think will break the hold money has on my brain and allow me to feel in control of it, rather than the other way around.

  1. Achieve my first “fuck off fund” goal and have three months of living expenses set aside permanently
  2. Pay off our largest credit card in full
  3. Begin investing properly and proactively instead of allowing my work conditions to manage it for me – this means consolidating my historic pension information and opening a portfolio
  4. Doing more personal no buy/low buy challenges to ensure my current habits stick. Namely, I’m going to try and only purchase 20 personal items in 2020…wish me luck!


Grooming and style were big goals for me because of a change in my work circumstances in 2018. I was put on a board in my company which made me one of the two youngest people around that particular table–a fact of which I’m both proud and constantly self conscious. Presentation matters at work and it’s an area that I still struggle with. However, 2019 was the year that I did, in fact, “tame my mane” and learned how to style my hair properly–it turns out that hairstyling products are the key. WHOMEVER COULD HAVE GUESSED. And, as I have mentioned before, my closet is probably the best it’s ever been due to consistent evaluation and decluttering. I’ve donated or sold a decent minority of stuff this year, and what remains is a much more curated batch of clothing that better reflects my life and style.

Ditto for my bathroom shelves. Abject beauty lover that I am, this year I used up or gifted an absolute shedload of products in the aim of generally downsizing my life. All of my makeup now lives in two acrylic containers, and I am going to try and only repurchase items that I use up fully in 2020 without purchasing anything new at all. Wish me luck again.


In Summary

Adulthood is hard, my ducklings. Every year in recent memory has had challenges and headwinds (see again, my conversation with my doctor…), but it has also had victories and growth and goodness. This year was no different. Much went wrong, much went right. I think I can safely say that 2019 was the year that either enabled or forced me to make some big changes that were long overdue and while the growth has been painful in places, my chief regrets have to do with waiting as long as I did to make them in the first place. Of all the lessons I’m taking from this year, a rejection of apathy is the biggest one.

Huh. Which, come to think of it, may be the most basic tenet of discipline there is…

Weekend Links: Yuletide Edition

It’s Christmas week, kittens! We were woefully unprepared for the holidays this year and much of our preparations have been of the last minute variety. I snagged the last slot available for Tesco grocery delivery, the last tickets for our local theatre’s “The Rise of Skywalker” (didn’t like it at all, I’m sorry to say), and the second to last delivery option for our Christmas tree. We got my sister’s present in the mail to Japan on the last possible day. We are one missed time slot away from disaster, here!

However, this year we are attempting some holiday baking which is not something we’ve really done in our time in London. Every year that goes by and we “settle” we seem to have a more functional kitchen, so we are leaning into that this season. That being said I burned the last thing I put in the oven to charcoal crisps so…watch this space.

Other than that, we are indulging in food and drink this week and doing precious little else. There are a few more posts coming your way before the end of the year, but in the meantime, I hope your Christmas preparations are going better than mine–if you celebrate–and that you are enjoying the winter season with friends and family.

We’re all going to have to move.

I’ve made a complete break mentally with the world I used to live in.”

Some leading conservative commentators, campaign veterans and media personalities have launched a PAC aimed at defeating President Trump in 2020…or more specifically Trumpism. Their argument, with which I agree, is that Trump does not represent the ideological conservatism that they revere and wish to restore. However, the rise of Trumpism has made me question how much of this ideology was genuine in the first place, and how much of it was simply a wish for ingroups to maintain their own power (financial, racial, perceived control over life circumstances, and so on). Trumpism s

It’s always a joyous week when Anne Thériault drops her latest in the Queens of Infamy series!

Add this to the list of films I want to see. Preferably with Hannah whilst sipping wine.

This piece is over a year old but it’s new to me and how pleasing it is!

I am glad we are asking the question seriously, “What are we going to do with/for/about men?” and making art that tackles that topic. Men may need to puzzle this out on their own, and there’s a question of what role women should take in this debate. (Contrapoints, a prominent left-wing YouTuber, recently made a video arguing this point of view as well–content warning re drug references, sex and sexuality frank talk, and some pretty bold/provocative visuals. I love her and her hyperbolic and performative aesthetic, but she’s definitely not going to be all my reader’s cup of tea!)

Longtime readers know how much I love murder mysteries–a “cozy” murder read or show is quite probably my favorite way to relax. …I’m not saying I’m healthy, I’m saying I’m self aware. And one of the purely aesthetic aspects my film and TV murder favorites all share is that they are stylish as hell. (And in Small Dog Nation, we stan Madeline Khan forever!)

Well, it’s happening.

In religion news this week, this editorial is blistering and it’s still sobering to think of how little effect it will have on the intended community. (ETA, The National Review got in on the act. I predict the same results.)

The Good Place is on hiatus until January, but here is a lovely piece on it and its approach to hopeful humanism and the limits of philosophy. I truly believe TGP is an active force for good in the world.

More Small Dog Nation catnip!

Woof. This is something I’m thinking a lot about recently, both in and out of therapy.

Weekend Links

It’s been a rough week of news, kittens. Between the British election (which went the way I thought it would but much more overwhelmingly than I anticipated) and the impeachment news in the US, I’m feeling pretty grim overall. Taking a step back, the largest takeaway I continue to have is that all of the old ways of categorizing people and voters seem fundamentally overturned. Old party lines have been redrawn along very different agendas and it’s foolish for anyone, of any political persuasion, to rely on traditional default allies. MAGA and Brexit have subsumed any other conversation or loyalty. Normally these flips take at least a generation, now it’s happening in single term limits. Setting aside my personal biases, it’s academically fascinating. I still think the direction of travel is badly dangerous.

Here’s a week of reading to help you muddle through. It’s entirely election-free, for your mental health and mine.

Yes, I saw the story about the banana. I cackled.


An interesting news story out of Finland! While I would obviously like to see more female leadership overall, I’m also interested in younger leadership in politics. In the same way that we have actively promoted other forms of diversity, I think we need badly to add more elected representatives in the age ranges of the electorates they represent…ie, I’d like more millennials representing me because I’d trust them to have a more personal and correct view of my experience and priorities as a citizen.

What a grim, grim piece of reporting–thanks to aggressively pursuing FOIA requests for years.

Climate change, like the gun debate, often serves as shorthanded for wider culture wars in American society. It’s tribalistic and unhelpful when facing planetary crisis, so I was pleased to read this piece on how the tide may be changing with a key demographic. It’s self-evident to me that the agriculture industries could turn into one of our biggest assets in dramatically reworking our ways of living around necessary change.

Rise up, Vanna!

Why yes, I would like a decade perspective of our Queen and Goddess Beyonce.

OH DUCKLINGS, I will have much to say on the glory of the knitwear of Knives Out later, but in the meantime this article will suffice more generally.

Ugh. With the benefit of hindsight, I’m very convinced that being on hormonal birth control for a decade contributed significantly to my health challenges (especially regarding mental health and anxiety). Let me be clear, I am NOT a person who dismisses hormonal treatments and scientific medicine and people who try and peddle pseudoscience around health enrage me. But I wish I had been much more proactive about seeking medical guidance on what was the best option for me long before I finally did so. Don’t make my mistake, peeps. If you’re not feeling right, physically or mentally, ask for help!

This should have been a much bigger news story, but of course it landed among all NAFTA 2.0 and impeachment news and so got a bit lost in the shuffle.

Good for her! Though I’m reminded that she herself once said something to the effect that the grownups would laud her and probably not do anything to fix the problem…

And all shall bow before him!

This piece thoughtfully lays out the debate I’ve been having with myself for most of my adult life, and which I believe to be the simmering argument beneath a lot of American politics. What do we need to adapt or tweak, and what do we need to tear down and rebuild outright?

Global inequality is now more about disparities in opportunity than disparities in income.”

Yes, give me a longform read on this meme!

Jia Tolentino, who you may remember from my recent favorites posts if you weren’t already familiar with her writing, has dropped her latest for The New Yorker on how our current media and online life is leading to a fairly comment “lewk,” as the children say. What this reveals about is is…a bit scary.

Ten Things I Loved in October and November

Hey kids, I’m still taking things easy, but I felt bad for not sharing a few of the things that have made the last couple of months a bit easier to manage. I’ve done a double batch for two months of failed updates to make up for my continuing, shameful neglect of you. As always, it’s a grab bag of pop culture, beauty, randomness, and silliness and I want to hear about your own bundles of random goodness too. Share your seasonal favorites with me in the comments, I need all the good things I can get.


Lancome Teinte Idole Ultra Wear Nude Foundation

I needed to replace used up foundations this year and hoped to try and find an alternative to my beloved (and expensive) Armani Luminous Silk Foundation at a lower price point. I did this…barely…and discovered a fab new addition to the makeup lineup that isn’t getting quite as much attention as I think it should. This newish foundation is very liquid-y, less viscose than most I’ve tried and yet with very good coverage. Most importantly, it’s one of the best color matches I’ve found for my skin–and when you find that, kittens, you cough up the money and don’t ask too many questions! If you like lighter feeling formulas that can be built up or sheered out based on your preference, I think this is a great contender and can recommend it!


Baume de Rose, By Terry

It’s cold and dark and my lips are chapped. Huzzah for winter! For reasons yet unknown to science, every other lip balm I had to hand suddenly revolted on me and I endured several weeks of what are either the worst chapping I’ve ever had, or some kind of allergic reaction. It took a long time to calm down and left me paranoid about putting anything on the skin around my mouth that didn’t come highly recommended and vetted. Alas for me, this little pot (which is hideously expensive) turned out to be the only thing that didn’t make a flaky and painful situation worse and I’ve been slathering it on since the weather changed. I’m not sure I can recommend it in good conscience given the price, but if you have the money and the need to spend it on something a bit more upscale than Blistex, it’s a very soothing formula. And yes, I’m probably going to repurchase it when I finish the pot…

Chanel Nail Polish in Richness

I only bought three things to “update my wardrobe” for winter this year: one was the beautiful camel coat I actually swapped for, the others were two Chanel nail polishes–the first I’d ever bought from the brand. I’d actually performed a clear out of the small bag that I keep my nail products in as most of them were years old and separated and decided to replace them all with just two shades: an all-purpose, deep red and a near-black, both part of Chanel’s excellent holiday collection. The red is especially beautiful, a brown-y, red-y color that, true to its name, looks expensive and good with everything. It also looks good on every skintone I have seen it used or swatched on! It was a simple way to streamline my beauty cabinet yet further, reduce the waste and wasted space used on expired items, and treat myself for a new season without breaking the bank.

Trick Mirror, by Jia Tolentino

On to books, one fiction and nonfiction. Starting with the latter, this essay collection from Jian Tolentino–a writer with The New Yorker who writes about modern life and experience from a decidedly female and millennial perspective–was a page turner. I admire Tolentino’s writing a great deal, and found her exploration of the strangeness and complexity of life thoughtful and sharp. She seems fairly unflinching in her examinations, especially of herself, and tackles topics such as sexual assault and journalism related thereto, consumerism, and what the internet is doing to all of our brains in both large and deeply personal ways.

Home Fire, by Kamila Shamsie

Without intending to, I seem to have fallen into a theme of adaptations of ancient Greek myths of late! You may remember some previous favorites like The Song of Achilles and Lore Olympus in this vein. I now am thrilled to include this novel which is a haunting take on the Antigone story, with a brilliant twist. The ancient themes of divided loyalties between family, state, piety, and morality are still there but set in modern Britain and the rebellion that divides the famous siblings against the state is the rebellion of their brother in running away to join the Islamic State. It’s beautiful and absolutely devastating. Don’t you dare ruin it for yourself, but the final page will cause you to lose your breath.

FBoL (censored!)

My darling literature lovers and fellow liberal arts majors, gather round the podcasting fire to enjoy this hilarious independent podcast called F**** Bois of Literature. A funny and feminist review of all the characters in literature who we may love, but know in our hearts to be deeply problematic. Tropes and themes, genres and genders, myth and modern masculinity…it’s all on the table and hilariously explored.


Thirst Aid Kit 

A podcast from Slate, this joyous celebration of unabashed thirstiness and horniness is laugh out loud funny, as if you were sitting around with your friends indulging in sheer aesthetic appreciation of the finer specimens of the human form. And (crucially!) it manages to do this in a way that isn’t gross in the slightest. Truly a feat in our day and age!



Still going. Still grateful.


Sweaters you choose to sleep in

Coziness is a much underrated sensation, but it’s one that I actively pursue at this time of year. To that end I purchased a cheapish cashmere sweater whose primary function is only to keep me feel toasty in bed. It’s bougie as hell, but I do not regret this decision at all. Slipping into my sleeping sweater has added a nice little tactile moment to bedtime and I consider it money well spent!


Shearling slippers

See above comment about coziness. My first pair of shearling slippers were worn to a thread and I cheerfully replaced them a few weeks ago for shuffling about the house and keeping toasty. My godmother was the first person who really sold me on specialist foot gear for warmth and snugness by religiously gifting me slip resistant chenille socks for every year I was at university, but these may be an upgrade!

Weekend Links

Gather round for your batch of weekend reading, my Christmas goslings! I am currently still basking in the joy of seeing a really good movie (“Knives Out,” go see it!) and reading up on Instant Pot recipes after we went to dinner with friends from out of town last weekend and they convinced us to buy one. In other words, prime weekend activities. Let’s all cozy up and be lazy together, shall we?


Lisa Page’s professionally mandated silence is up and I’m pleased she’s speaking out against the institutional breakdown and gross misogyny she has faced.

Festivus is here with the airing of grievances. I joke to keep from screaming into a cushion.

How is she out and mediocre, old white men are still buying their way in? I’m actually angry…the only consolation is that she will be able to focus on the senate activity coming up and possibly be a contender for future cabinet positions. I’d be delighted to see her as Attorney General. (I type this pretty well convinced at this moment, grimly, that Mr. Trump will get re-elected if something big doesn’t happen.)


A dual piece of good news: NPR has released their list of the best books of the year and HANNAH’S DEBUT IS ON IT. (How to find her first and pre-order new next novel here!)

It. Never. Went. Away.

I’m very curious, kittens: what changes, if any, are you making to your digital footprint as a result of data breaches, information on how personal information is used, your perception of social media, or other factors?

We wouldn’t believe this shit if it was scripted for TV

Yes. I have seen the Peloton ad. Do we need to stage a rescue for this woman or what? (The Great and Good Mull breaks it down a bit more.)

Gotta hand it to Ryan Reynolds, though, this almost-immediate follow up ad was genius. I hope this actress rides (if you’ll pardon the pun) her fifteen seconds for all they are worth.

Go Miguel!

Diplomacy is going great, team…

Investigative journalism.

I’m always here for the podcast rankings, oversaturated as my beloved medium market may be.

Being a woman caught between nations is such a strange thing. I’m invested in so many elections in which I can’t participate, but which intimately affect my life. Both of “my” countries feel so deeply unmoored and subdivided right now. But I feel as though Britain–smaller, more internally diverse and multi-national in its own right–should serve for a lesson for the rest of the democratic west. This election feels like a bellwether.

Color me underwhelmed. (See what I did there? See?!)

I’m actually interested in this live action remake, what on earth is happening. (Editor’s note: Gong Li was what was happening. C. has had a crush on her for literal years.)

At this point this is the only famous person I still care about, and he still has much to teach us.