Crazy Rumors Lip Balm

I am a lip balm fiend. It started back when I was in elementary school, since I always licked my lips, making them red, raw, and swollen. I started simple: chapstick, then worked my way up to those Bonne Bell Lip Smackers, which had a huge variety of flavors. By middle and high school I was using all-natural and/or environmentally-friendly brands, and by college I added "animal-friendly" to my list of necessary traits of lip balm. Unfortunately, this meant that my once huge collection of lip balm varieties dwindled. Most companies use beeswax or lanolin or honey or something else not vegan to make their products. The few vegan lip balms I've had since are often disappointing: they come off easily, taste/smell funny, go bad quickly, or they melt or separate too easily.

But then I discovered Crazy Rumors.
And I went a little crazy. But I'm glad I did--the lip balm goes on smooth, doesn't feel too greasy, and feels like it lasts for at least an hour. The ingredients are awesome: about half organic, and all natural. That is, you can pronounce everything, and probably even picture it. It helps that they are made in small batches by the couple who owns the company. The flavors are strong, but though they smell sweet and have stevia in them, they aren't sweet at all, so I don't feel like I'm rubbing my mouth with a popsicle or something. They are all an opaque, waxy color, so they won't stain or tint your lips.

As my "small" collection suggests, Crazy Rumors has a variety of flavors. They have multiple lines, each of which contains 4 different flavors. The "Soda pop," "Fresh Squeezed," "A La Mode," "Gumball," and "Candy Cane" lines all sounded a little too fruity and/or Lip Smackery to me, though I did try the Raspberry Sherbert and the Peppermint Stick. Ther sherbert one does smell a bit too fruity for my tastes--I like my lip balms to be a little more subtle, and remind me a little less of when I was 11. The peppermint one is a decent, basic mint-scented lip balm--just what I wanted. The Brew line, however, sounded more up my alley. Tea-flavored lip balm?! I tried the Orange Bergamot/Earl Grey-flavored one and was a little disappointed, because it's really fruity, not too tea-y. Their flavors are strong, but the site says that, because they use all natural flavors, the flavors might fade a little over a year or so. Maybe I'll age my Orange Bergamot lip balm so the flavor mellows ; )

If you're like me and LOVE chocolate and/or coffee, you really should get all the flavors on the Perk line.
They're all coffee-themed, so there is a straight-up coffee lip balm (which I found to be the msot subtle of all the scents; it's barely there, but in a good way), amaretto (which is AMAZING), mocha, and french vanilla (my boyfriend, sitting across the table from me when I first put it on, asked "is that french vanilla coffee?" so their flavoring combination is spot on!). These are my favorite.

They have other line I haven't tried, but have read good reviews of on the ppk forum: Hibiskiss line of lip colors.

Right now, Crazy Rumors is having a HALF OFF EVERYTHING sale, as they (as in, the couple who makes them and their baby) are moving. Use the Voucher code MOVE to receive 50% off your order. This is an AMAZING deal, especially because their homemade, natural, mostly organic, vegan lip balms are now cheaper than most of the low-grade, questionable lip stuff you find at pharmacies.

Note: Crazy Rumors don't endorse this entry or even know it exists. This review is unbiased; I just love sales, lip balm and small family businesses and wanted to pass on the news.


fresh summer rolls and my new obsession with jellyfish

The boyfriend and I live on the third story of a three-story building. In the winter, our location allows us to save money on heat bills: heat rises from the units below, and comes down through the not-very-well-insulated roof. However, in the summer, our place is consistently 5 degrees hotter inside than out--and with temperatures consistently above 90 degrees in Boston this month, we have been sweltering. I still cook most nights, but sometimes we just have to escape to restaurants for warm food, or eat meals that involve little or no cooking.

The boyfriend is fine with salad every night, but not me! So last week I made fresh summer rolls, a quick dish that, depending on your ingredients, can be a simple side or appetizer or a filling entree. Note that summer rolls are the uncooked cousin of spring rolls, wrapped with rice paper instead of wheat-based wrappers. If you can't find rice paper your grocery store (though if your store has an "Asian" section, it should be there), they are always available at Asian markets. Like tortillas, they come in varying sizes; if you can only find the 12-inch ones, just use a lot more filling per wrapper. Unused wrappers should be stored in a resealable plastic bag so no moisture gets in.
Before you begin with the rice paper, gather and chop all of your fillings. The ingredients you use to fill summer rolls are flexible, but they should all be cool at the time of rolling. Good ingredients include (but are not limited to): lettuce, vermicelli noodles, cilantro, mint, bean sprouts, strips of marinated tofu (or other protein, cooled if cooked), chopped mushrooms (cooled if cooked), grated or julienned carrots, shredded cabbage, julienned cucumber.My ingredients were (clockwise from the top left): chopped mint, pea shoots, carrots, finely chopped mushrooms I'd sauteed with garlic and soy sauce earlier in the day, and spinach.
Fill a pie plate or baking dish with about an inch of lukewarm water. Slide in one sheet of rice paper, and allow it to soak until softened, about 30 seconds.
Remove from the water, hold it above the dish for a second to let the excess water drip off. It'll be really floppy and will stick to itself almost as easily as saran wrap. Lay on a flat surface. [Right now, as a sort of assembly line process, you can put another wrapper into the water while you fill and roll this one] Place 2-3 Tbsp worth of filling (or just small handfuls/spoonfuls of each ingredients) near the bottom of the sheet. Fold in the sides and roll it up from the filled bottom, just like you'd do with a burrito. The roll will stick to itself at the ends, so it won't come apart.
Ta dah! Now, for sauces. I like to have a variety of choices. Any bottled Asian sauces will do, but to make your own, I recommend a sweet-and-sour sauce that is almost equal parts vinegar and sugar or mirin. (For a thicker texture and less sweetness, do what I do and do equal parts apple sauce and vinegar, pictured below.) There are good recipes for this available all over the internet (for the first link there, scroll down to the bottom for a few different sauces, substitute soy sauce for fish sauce). Hoisin sauce is a HUGE favorite of mine; this recipe is really simple. (I omitted the hot sauce and added extra pepper.)Also, for something a little heavier and with more protein, a good peanut sauce is always nice. I made this this one but didn't heat it, just stirred it a lot... and added some extra water, and baked it with tempeh to really round out the meal:

While I was making these summer rolls, I couldn't help but think of jellyfish. Of course, everything makes me think of jellyfish lately; I'm obsessed. Before this past month, I had only ever seen jellyfish in aquariums, so I assumed they were tropical creatures, like sea horses. However, I work by the Boston Harbor, and sometimes I take breaks to walk by the water. AND GUESS WHAT I HAVE SEEN IN THE WATER:
JELLYFISH. IN NEW ENGLAND. I've since told everyone I know about this, and almost no one else is surprised. I guess everyone but me knows that wherever there is salt water, there are usually jellyfish. Seeing these little guys by my office inspired me to do some research. Jellyfish especially thrive in areas that are overfished and/or get runoff and other pollutants in the water. While most jellyfish sting, these little guys, the one most common in New England, are Moon Jellies (Aurelia aurita), which do not sting.
Earlier this month, some friends and I went out to one of the Boston Harbor Islands, which have ample areas for hiking, swimming, and soaking in gorgeous views of Boston:When we first went on the beach of the island, the tide was out, and I discovered that jellyfish frequently wash up on shores during low tide. Though they are dead, they are still soft to the touch. My friends and I were at first too timid to touch them, since, after all, jellyfish who do sting can hurt you even when they're dead, as people on New Hampshire beaches learned last week, but two 5-year-old girls came running down the beach and were literally juggling the dead little jellies, so I guess there really is no need to fear moon jellyfish.
Seeing the jellies on the beach really allowed me a chance to see their anatomy; it's hard to see it when they're alive in the water because they move all the time. But one thing I noticed about their anatomy:


House of Mirth: cilantro pesto

I love food and I love to read. As a result, the first week of each month, I'll combine these two interests in a post about food from literature. I'll mostly be sticking with books from classic literature, so you're likely to know the storylines anyway, but just in case you don't: warning: there may be spoilers ahead.


Edith Wharton's 1905 novel The House of Mirth is about a young-but-not-getting-any-younger woman named Lily Bart who is desperate to secure a wealthy husband to ensure her place in society. Lily has no money of her own and spirals into debt to try to keep up her rapidly dwindling social standing. Beautiful and well-versed in the complex rules of 1900 high society, Lily should have it made--except that she falls in love with Lawrence Selden, a smart, handsome, and unfortunately poor (and therefore impossible for Lily to marry) lawyer. Lily's feelings for Lawrence keep ruining her prospects for a wealthy marriage, and most of The House of Mirth depicts Lily's frenzied attempt to avoid becoming a poor old maid.

The first time we read about Gerty Farrish, Selden is explaining to Lily that she doesn't have to marry someone rich to be happy; she could afford a cheap flat like his cousin Gerty's. Lily laughs condescendingly, implying that Gerty (who is only a couple years older than Lily) is already an old maid "--and besides, she has a horrid little place, and no maid, and such queer things to eat. Her cook does the washing and the food tastes of soap."

In some free indirect discourse in the book, we find that Lily thinks Gerty "typified the mediocre and the ineffectual." Gerty has neither money nor good looks, and "Lily's own view of her wavered between pity for her limitations, and impatience for her cheerful acceptance of them." Gerty doesn't mind her poverty at all, and spends all of her free time working with charities for poor working girls in the city. For all of Lily's jibes at Gerty, even she knows that Gerty is the kindest and most generous person in the book--Gerty takes Lily in several times throughout the novel when Lily has problems, and listens to Lily's problems. Gerty falls in love with Selden and is crushed when she realizes that he loves Lily, but although several times she has the opportunity to thwart their attempts to be together, Gerty remains stoic, kind, and generous. She encourages the two to talk, meet up, to help each other when they can. Even though it's breaking her heart!!! Lily judges Gerty and looks down upon her way of life until even the end of the book, but as the novel progresses, we readers realize that the strongest character, the best person--and the only effectual person--in this shallow, duplicitous society is Gerty. During the dramatic ending (I'll try to avoid a blatant spoiler here!), Gerty steps up as the only character who can take charge and direct the events. Free of Lily's point of view, we can see Gerty as she is when she rises in a crisis: she glows with an "extraordinary light," and as she tells Selden what to do, "a light broke through Selden's stony misery, and he saw deep into the hidden things of love." Gerty's love, light, and strength propel her and other characters through difficult times throughout the novel.

SO. In honor of Gerty Farrish (who isn't even in the movie version, I hear! I am appalled), I am celebrating her "queer," "soapy" cuisine with something else that some people (people who are wrong!) find "queer" and/or "soapy"--cilantro!
Cilantro is often used in Mexican and South Asian food, both in dishes and as a garnish (as seen above), and this distinctive, delicious little cousin of parsley gets a bad name. Some people associate cilantro with a soapy or bad taste--and these people, like Lily Bart with Gerty, just can't appreciate cilantro's fine qualities.

Not that people who don't like cilantro are closed-minded. They literally can't appreciate the herb. As I learned from this report on NPR, people to whom cilantro tastes soapy or gross lack certain taste/odor receptors. So, readers, if any of you are said "non-tasters," feel free to substitute parsley or even arugula for the cilantro in the following recipe for:
Cilantro Pesto

2 lightly packed Cups (usually about 1 bunch) cilantro
1-2 cloves garlic, depending on how garlicky you like it
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
1/4 Cup canola or other flavorless oil (olive can overwhelm the cilantro flavor)
1/4 to 1/2 Cups pine nuts or coarsely chopped walnuts

In a food processor or a blender,* combine the garlic, cilantro, and salt; process/blend for 10-20 seconds, until there are no large chunks of garlic. Add the citrus juice and oil; pulse once or twice to incorporate, then add the nuts and process/blend until it has reached the desired texture; usually a chunky paste to a smooth puree, depending on your preference.

*-Blenders make the texture smoother and more consistent, like in the picture above; food processors allow you more of a chunky paste, like I used for the picture below.

Cilantro pesto is good on rice, bread, burritos, and pasta, like on my sweet potato gnocchi (a good recipe for sweet potato gnocchi is here, only substitute sweet potatoes for the carrots, obviously).

I hope you all like this first installation of Food from Books, or whatever I decide to call this feature when I think of a snappy title. Suggestions welcome... for a snappy title OR for books to use. Let me know what you think!