Lesley's List: This Week's Five Infatuations, Reviewed as Awkwardly as Possible

Olympics, Crock-Pots, better sleep, cheap lip stuff and baby elephants. IT'S A BLENDER OF AWESOME CRAP.

Aug 3, 2012 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

image

That nifty cauldron. (Photo by Thomas Heatherwick, licensed under Creative Commons)

The Olympics

NOBODY FREAK OUT, I’M NOT POSTING SPOILERS, OK?

I love the Olympics a little bit. I love them for the same reason I love "So You Think You Can Dance" -- because there is something magical about watching other humans pushing themselves to the limits of physical ability for no other gratification than a shiny necklace and lifetime bragging rights.

There’s a kind of purity to it, a passion and conviction we rarely see expressed so unabashedly in the years between games. Many of us spend our everyday lives a little worn out and jaded, unable or unwilling to summon the kind of commitment and enthusiasm you see during the Olympic games. It’s energizing to see it; at least, it is for me.

This is also the first Olympics in which every participating country has sent at least one female representative -- Saudi Arabia having lifted their ban on female participation earlier this year, and Qatar and Brunei sending women athletes as well. Sure, the Saudi women probably still had to get permission from a male relative to attend, but it’s progress to be sure.

I am primarily obsessed with women’s fencing and women’s weightlifting so far, with a lot of anticipation for women’s boxing. I’ve also watched roughly ten million hours of tennis, which I have on in the background pretty much all day long. Did you guys know that as a roly-poly tween I played tennis? Seriously. I even have trophies. 

Which events am I not watching that I should be? Oh and feel free to get spoilery in comments.

image

*America's Test Kitchen is not responsible for any actual revolutions that take place in your kitchen.

Slow Cooker Revolution

Let me tell you about my obsession with America’s Test Kitchen. I first discovered the PBS series while channel surfing on a lazy Saturday morning, and it was love at first sight -- I began DVRing every episode just in case I wasn’t near a television at the correct time. ATK is basically a show with a bunch of food nerds being nerdy with food, plus there is science and product testing and interesting tips about how cooking works and some really excellent recipes. 

It is also filmed in Brookline, Massachusetts, not far from where I write this, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t regularly consider stalking the real life Test Kitchen just for the hope of catching a glimpse of bowtie aficionado and food nerd extraordinaire Christopher Kimball and shouting at him, “DUDE YOU ARE SO AWESOME!”

The “test” part of the name does what it says on the box, and as a result many of the ATK recipes I’ve tried have been some of my favorite and most foolproof recipes ever. Any cookbook that comes out with that red ATK logo on it, I will buy the fucker immediately and read it cover-to-cover like normal people might consume a gripping novel.

My most recent purchase is "Slow Cooker Revolution," and it’s wonderful. I love a good Crock-Pot cookbook -- and because good Crock-Pot cookbooks are hard to come by, I don’t get to love them that often -- but this one is just outstanding. To write it, they set up a whole WALL of 30 slow cookers to test recipes! One thing I love is that they often tell you about the experiments that didn’t work while sharing the ones that did. Did I mention that it’s all extremely nerdy? 

I’ll admit that this cookbook stands above others of its ilk mostly because it doesn’t follow the dump-a-bunch-of-cans-into-the-pot-and-hope-for-the-best approach of many other slow cooking guides. The downside to this is that the recipes often require a bit more prep work before and after the slow-cooking magic happens. But if the resulting food is way more delicious, that’s a worthy sacrifice.

Don’t have a Crock-Pot? Get thee to a Target, my friend. Basic models are inexpensive and it is a wonderful appliance; you can use it for stuff as varied as soups to roasts and sauces and brunch. 

image

Include a picture of myself wearing "pajamas for your ears"? SURE, I WASN'T USING MY DIGNITY ANYWAY.

SleepPhones

My husband used to have a snoring problem. Imagine a freight train filled with heavily congested rhinoceroses playing a Philip Glass symphony on hundreds of kazoos, and you’re not even close.

After a couple of years I even stopped sort of gently shaking him to get him to roll over and cut it out, and began full-bore punching him in whatever body part was nearest to me. He’s a sound sleeper, I reasoned, he’ll never know, and it makes me feel better to exorcise my rage at having my sleep interrupted multiple times every night.

His snoring issues have since been resolved, but what I would have given to have Acoustic Sheep’s SleepPhones back then. This brilliant little gadget features flat headphones inside a soft fleecy headband that you wear while you sleep, so you can listen to classical music or guided meditation or whalesong or Richard Armitage reading the “Robin Hood” audio books or whatever it takes to lull you into the land of Nod. 

If you’ve ever tried to do this with regular headphones or earbuds, you’ll know that the price paid is some sore-ass ears in the morning. SleepPhones remedy this by being flat and encased in fleece. I am completely in love with mine even though they make me look like a huge dork. I was worried they would not work for me as I have a massive head -- seriously, it’s vast -- but with some minor adjustments, they fit fine. 

Even if you don't have a snoring partner, they’re also useful for folks who like to sleep or meditate listening to binaural beats, if you’re into that sort of woo-woo relaxation quackery, as I am. 

If you just want peace and quiet, Amazon also offers this bizarre mask/pillow helmet, which I can only describe as a dream product for sleep fetishists. Seriously though, I would have bought one plus a backup in the days when I was sharing a dorm room, and would have been a far nicer person for it.

image

Worst beauty blogger ever: "I'll just, like, hold these up by my face? That won't be awkward, right?"

Revlon Colorburst Lip Butter

I secretly hate reviewing beauty stuff. I just don’t know how to write about it, like that time I wrote that Eos Lip Balm is “a big bulbous knob you rub on your mouth” totally straight-faced and it didn’t even occur to me how hilariously obscene the description was until people started laughing about it in the comments.

This is how 90 percent of my jokes happen. By accident.

Anyway, I’m giving this a shot because I really like the product. I’m not huge into lipstick as a general rule. It’s too crisp, too precise. Also I have only owned maybe three lip liners in my whole life. I like a lip color I can smear on like Carmex, without a mirror, and have it turn out sort of charmingly inexact. 

Enter Revlon Colorburst Lip Butter, which, like all drugstore makeup these days, has a very stupid and unnecessarily multisyllabic name. It is not a stupid product, though! This is essentially a tinted lip balm with a lot of tint; I was expecting it to be more subtle but I dig the result. It’s super moisturizing, but doesn’t feel as heavy as lipstick, and is somewhat sheer. It also doesn’t taste like crap, and that’s a major point in its favor with me, as few things put me off lip stuff like an overpowering fragrance or taste.

Plus, the red one is called Red Velvet. Like I’m not going to buy a lip color named after my favorite type of cake.

Cuteness

I leave you with footage of the most adorable baby elephant ever scampering across a road in a national park in Tanzania. You’ll probably watch this five or six times; I’m here to tell you that’s totally OK.