Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Case for a Good Weekend, Part 2: Newsstand Round-up

I'm a huge magazine fiend, and it always makes my heart happy whenever I see the latest issues of my favorite fashion and style magazines on the news stands. And by “news stand,” I don't always mean the stacks right in front of the checkout counter next to the tabloids and the news weeklies, but the huge aisle in the middle of the store devoted to the glossies.

This weekend was no exception, because the September issues have started coming into the stores announcing the transition between the “summer” and “fall” seasons. Of course, this usually means nothing to me since I've lived in the tropics all my life - which makes the concept of “fall” quite moot - but it doesn't dampen my enjoyment from looking at earthier colors and modest clothes, which makes more sense to me personally than the screaming brights and skimpy layers of the summer.

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, I purchased the September issue of Lucky at Wal-Mart. Ever since I discovered the Wal-Mart edition of Lucky I haven't been able to read or buy my fashion magazines the same way; if the Wal-Mart edition doesn't excite me, there's no point for me to buy that issue at another store. (It's actually more effective for me than just looking at the cover model.) Anyway, this month's edition has some of the crucial elements at work - a cover model (Rachel Bilson) that doesn't make me puke, droolworthy fashion choices (mmm, Fall Shoe Issue) and, of course, the Wal-Mart section, which includes recommendations on pretty flower vases, sexy underwear, and pop-art notebooks. It's not completely perfect, though. The Fall Style Handbook is full of fugly fashion choices involving short cover-ups, vests, and - get this - turtlenecks under chiffon dresses. (Did the stylists for this issue raid my wardrobe back in 10th grade?) The shoe section still gives props to pointy flats and - oh, the humanity - cowboy boots, meant to be worn with flirty dresses. (Just... no.) And I'm not even going to get started on the whole cropped-pants-with-tall-boots thing, or the insect-inspired designs. Still, I have to admit that at least I'm getting inspired by the retro '40s and '70s-inspired looks, and I'm now more motivated to knit my own hats.

Upon second reading, the new issue of Domino isn't as bad as I thought - it wasn't as annoying as I thought it would be, and some of the featured interior design ideas still followed the whole easygoing loft-chic vibe. Still, I passed it up in favor of Living 101, a "Special issue" spin-off of Sunset geared towards the same reading audience as Lucky and Domino. (Check your nearest Safeway for issues; it's only available until the end of September.) Personally, I'm surprised by how good this special-issue magazine is, and not because I'm also a fan of Sunset - in fact, I admit that it's easier for me to relate to the West Coast aesthetic than to the Manhattan/ New England/ Hamptons fabulousness espoused by Domino and other home-related magazines. While the appeal of Living 101 is blatantly obvious - ripping off fonts from Lucky, headlines promising an O.C.-inspired beach barbecue - it's also amazingly practical when it comes to the home ideas and recipes, with tips on crafting and housekeeping (as opposed to being fixated on interior decorators, which was another thing that annoyed me about this month's Domino) and features on affordable yet hip travel options for San Francisco and Las Vegas. Plus the recipes are classic Sunset - practical and easily adjustable to any budget or taste. Now if only Sunset would do a Generation X version of the Idea House...

Other magazine-related notes:

- Man, was this the month of the Ugly Cover Model or what? I really want to like Shop, Etc., but if they keep on putting those emaciated no-name haole women on their covers, I won't be motivated to buy their magazine at all. Elle also turned me off this month with that horrendous cover shot of Jennifer Lopez looking like a badly-dressed (not to mention heinously coiffed and made-up) extra from Dynasty.

- Madonna on the cover of Vogue: as convincing as Madonna on the cover of Good Housekeeping. Which is to say, not very.

- I have only four words to say about this month's issue of Shape: Shut up, Elizabeth Hurley.

- Also: Shut up, O at Home. I usually like Oprah Winfrey, and her magazine isn't bad (in fact, this month's O is pretty damn inspiring) but something about the home magazine spin-off rubs me the wrong way. Seriously, between Tom Cruise, the car give-away, and the regular monthly cover photos for O, do we need any more proof that Oprah has taken a break from reality as we know it?

- And, because it bears much repeating: Would it kill anyone in the magazine industry to have a magazine cover that does not involve Jessica Simpson or Jennifer Aniston? I'm actually beginning to miss seeing Paris Hilton's ugly mug all over the place - that's how sick I am of the whole deal.

- Esquire Best-Dressed Issue:Yay to Josh Lucas and Luke Wilson on the cover. (Mmmm.) Yay to most of the guys on the Best-Dressed List (though, really, I would rather have Peter Sarsgaard and Andre 3000 in there rather than, say, Matt Lauer). And definite yes to that cute Honolulu doctor. (Now if only Cosmo would follow their lead and choose a hot bachelor from Hawaii who has an actual day job other than "surfer.") Still didn't end up in my shopping cart, though.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Case For a Good Weekend

So this weekend I went out dancing with my friends in Waikiki. This is what I wore:

- In terms of makeup, I started out by wearing foundation - I had some samples of Maybelline's Age Rewind, which I was able to test out and use for the night. I usually am not a liquid foundation kind of person, but this went on pretty nicely - which made me think that maybe I should start wearing this stuff more often. I was inspired to do a little smoky-eye look with me going over the initial pencil line with dark eyeshadow, and pale sparkly cream over the rest of the lids and brow bone. Finishing off the look was some light blush and tons of pale lip gloss - in this case, Cover Girl Wetslicks Crystals in Candy, which smelled like cupcake icing and went on smoothly, but added lots of sparkle. (Because the formula for the gloss is kind of buttery and slippy, however, I was worried that it would rub off too quickly. My solution was to apply and blot in several layers of gloss at a time to saturate the pigment on the lips and absorb extra grease.)

- I did my hair at my friend's apartment, where she let me use her Aveda Flaxseed Aloe Spray Gel to add body and hold (and those anime-style flips) to my 'do. Same friend also lent me her Victoria's Secret shimmer-powder brush, which went on the collarbones and forearms.

- The outfit was pretty simple: a pink jersey long-sleeved top, black assymetrical skirt, and strappy Gucci-inspired sandals that I got from Sears not too long ago for $10. Note the long sleeves: For a moment I nearly freaked out because I was one out of only two women wearing long sleeves in the whole club - most of the other ladies were wearing either halter tops or cami-style tanks accessorized with studded belts over jeans.

The music was pretty tight - mostly hip-hop, with some old-school late '80s/early '90s R&B thrown in. The only sore spot is that the DJ must have been compelled to play Black Eyed Peas more than once, which meant I had to hear Fergie singing about her humps at least twice throughout the night. Equally overplayed was Missy Elliott's "Lose Control," which I now think is more annoying than that stupid Ryan Cabrera song about waiting all his life to "cross thiiiiss liiiiine" that I keep hearing everywhere. Note to Missy: Please send Timbaland some flowers.

Overall, it was a good night because I got to spend time with my friends and let out all the stress with all that dancing. And not only that, I even got to dance with a few cute guys who happened to be real gentlemen. (Note to all you menfolk: If you want me to dance with you, there's nothing wrong with just introducing yourself and making small talk. It also helps me when you respect my personal boundaries and thank me when we're finished. Don't come on too strong, and don't even think for a moment that you could tip me like you would do to the women at that other club. Ahem. Also: breath mints - look into it.)


On a less smoky note, I've started prowling around the newsstands looking at the September issues for most of the major magazines. I probably don't have enough space here to talk about what I've seen so far, but I can say that Lucky (the Wal-Mart Edition) ended up in my shopping cart this month for the right reasons. I wish I could say the same for the newest issue of Domino, though; not that I hated it - far from it, actually - but if I have to see the words "Brunschwig & Fils" or read about people bitching about their interior decorators not being "fabulous" enough one more time, somebody in their editing staff is going to have to endure the Wrath of Meimei - and not in a good way.

Also, that September issue of Shop, Etc. is really as fugly as people say it is. And the sooner I get to see a magazine cover that doesn't have (a) Jessica Simpson, (b) Jennifer Aniston, or (c) J.Lo with poofy hair and bad eyeliner, the better.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Domesticity Friday #5: What's Your Fantasy?

Meimei's Current List of Hot Celebrity Crushes

(Inspired by a comment made by my alter ego on Hawaii Stories. And, no, I don't need to picture any of them in cowboy boots. Also, forgive me if this is way too heavy on TV people; I'll get around to the movies as soon as I'm finished with half of my Netflix queue. Yes, I plan to post pictures over the weekend!)

- Owen Wilson: This belongs in the “oh, DUH” category, because the guy does light up the screen in a good way. I like him best in wacky comedies, though.

- Ludacris: Yes, I tried to resist, but I can't. His lyrics crack me up too much to make me feel dirty. He's got a mesmerizing voice and a handsome face with flawless skin. The man even got me tuning in to Regis and Kelly, for crying out loud. (And he actually came on right after Orlando Bloom!)

- Peter Sarsgaard: You probably know him from Garden State and Skeleton Key, but I started crushing on him when I took in his ass-kicking turn as Chuck Lane in Shattered Glass. (Alas, I was disappointed when I saw the 60 Minutes segment and realized that the real-life Chuck Lane did not look like him.) Talented actor, yes, but I've got to admit that all of those scenes of him playing with a baby and answering phones in his underwear totally melted me. And the leather jacket that he wears in the end? Hot. (Hey, Esquire: What were you thinking, not putting Sarsgaard in your best-dressed list while keeping Jude Law in there? Huge points for putting in that hot doctor from Honolulu, though.)

- James Denton: I've already stated in this space that I'm not really that into Desperate Housewives. That said, there's something incredibly attractive about this guy and how he looks like he could be the kind of dream boyfriend who could turn out to be your dream husband - thoughtful, intelligent, with a strong moral backbone and a sense of integrity. I'd rather have him than the gardener, to be honest with you. (Heck, I'd rather have the evil Latino husband over the gardener.)

- Jake Weber: In contrast, Weber's character in Medium can be described as the anti-Mike Delfino, if only because he already is the Dream Husband - deeply supportive and loyal, the kind of guy who's willing to listen to your dark secrets and just as willing to share them with you, if he still has any that you don't know about. Guy's got a sweet face, too, even when he looks way too rumpled to be up around the house in the morning. (And, hey, Patricia Arquette? I'll watch your show more often if you could ask for more scenes where you get to grab Jake's butt. Preferably while he's in his pajamas. Thank you.)

Other cute-guy related thoughts:

- Take it with a grain of salt: Michael Weatherly and Carmine Giovinazzo could pass for brothers, or at least close relatives. I'm already entertaining the thought of a CSI/NCIS crossover episode with Tony DiNozzo and Danny Messer as cousins. (Bonus points if we could get a bizarre dream sequence where Tony hallucinates his own autopsy.)

- Speaking of CSI:New York: In a just world, Hill Harper should be getting the same opportunities and props that Terrence Howard is getting right now. (Which reminds me: Who do I have to slap over that cover of Entertainment Weekly with Terrence Howard's mug in extreme close-up? Dang, that's one face I did not need to see at Safeway.)

- Dear producers of Lost: Would it really be too much to ask of you to put Jason Momoa on your show? Yes, I know he's on Stargate now. Yes, I know I'm being shallow about this, but you know how we are out here in Hawaii - we'll watch anything that has a local person in it. (I mean. how can you explain the fact that the Honolulu Advertiser had a discussion board for North Shore when everybody else in the world knew that yours was the better show?) I don't care if all you have for him is five minutes and two lines before he gets maimed and eaten by that damn monster. Also, would it kill you to write in a dance number for Sayid?

- Dear Bradley Cooper: I want to like you. Really, I do. But between Wedding Crashers and Kitchen Confidential, though, you're making it very difficult for me because you're getting too good at playing characters that remind me of my exes. (And it doesn't help that you do look like one of them.) That said, I am looking forward to the possibility of a Michael Vartan guest appearance on your new show...

- Dear Hugh Laurie: I would've added you here on my list, but that would mean I'd get people writing to me telling me that my list is “too haole,” and I've seen enough episodes of House and Blackadder to know that you're old enough to be my father. That said, if you ever come to Hawaii, and feel like knocking down a few martinis? Call me.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Case for The Short-List Entry: Underrated, Overrated

See if you agree...

Underrated: Bronzy peach
Overrated: Candy pink

Underrated: Mystery!
Overrated: Desperate Housewives

Underrated: Hollister
Overrated: Hot Topic

Underrated: Andy Irons
Overrated: Ashton Kutcher

Underrated: Hostess Cupcakes
Overrated: Curry-flavored chocolate

Underrated: Powder
Overrated: Anything that promises a "dewy finish"

Underrated: Polska kielbasa
Overrated: Spam

Underrated: Pasteles
Overrated: Burritos

Underrated: Knitting blogs
Overrated: Amateur porn on MySpace

Underrated: Levi's jeans from Wal-Mart
Overrated: Celebrity-designed T-shirts from Kitson

Underrated: Screwdrivers made with POG
Overrated: Colored martinis

Underrated: Being `ono for something tasty
Overrated: Seeing the words “Broke da mouth” in a restaurant menu

(No, seriously: Why is it that I only find the phrase “broke da mouth” on restaurant menus? More and more I'm hearing people use the word “ono” to describe something tasty; maybe it's an Oahu/townie thing, I don't know. Besides, every time I see the words “broke da mouth” on a menu, I don't usually take it as a surefire guarantee that something's going to be that delicious. Especially if it follows a description of, say, pizza.)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Domesticity WEEKEND #4: I Got The Hookup... and the Shoes to Match

(Note: This was supposed to be posted yesterday, but I decided to put it off until today due to extenuating circumstances.)

Five Little Splurges that I Made This Week

- Netflix, online: Now that I have the DVD player, I found it serendipitous that I would find a Free Trial Offer coupon in my Sunday paper. Okay, so technically it does not count as a “splurge,” but lemme tell ya - building up that queue is highly addictive, and it gives me the chance to rent movies that I've missed beforehand, not to mention exercise videos that I've been meaning to try (ahem).

- Wal-Mart, Keeaumoku: No, I didn't buy any clothes or makeup this week, and the reason why is because I spent $20 on a “hookup kit” - wires and adapters that actually made it easier for me to connect my DVD player to my antiquated TV that doesn't even have an S-video outlet. Result: brilliant picture quality (no yucky color-filtering discrepancies, where Aishwarya Rai or Will Ferrell would be overly lit for one moment and shot through ketchup-coated lenses the next) and better sound, even with standard-feature TV speakers. Also, I bought new batteries for my Discman.

- Gap, Ala Moana: The clothes didn't excite me here, either, so I ended up going straight to the clearance rack at Gap Body, where they were selling candles for $3.99 (down from the original price of $12.50). I got one in “Give Good Love,” which is purple with a pretty floral scent. Very calming.

- Lush, Ala Moana and Waikiki: Resistance is futile! Since I was still getting used to my Friends-by-way-of-anime hairdo, I bought not one, but TWO solid shampoos. The Seanik bar looks like a round-molded musubi with blue-tinted rice, but it's cleansing, moisturizing, and smells like a dream. Picture hanging out on a summer afternoon at your friend's new house in Tantalus, Portlock, or Lanikai, and enjoying the fantastic view from the jacuzzi under the plumeria trees in bloom; that's the best way for me to describe the fragrance of Seanik. The Soft shampoo (in a fluffy, wax-free chunk) is made for soft-water areas and smells more herbal and fresh, but it also made my hair bouncy without drying it out completely. I also got a Ceridwen's Cauldron bath melt, which I plan to use later as a shower moisturizer.

(Remind me to tell you later about the biker guys who walked into the Waikiki store looking for the Sex Bomb, which was sold out that day. Seriously, watching them shop at Lush was just the cutest thing, ever.)

- Ross, Fort Street Mall: Steve Madden rubber platform slippers, for $5.50, with fabric flowers on them. The thick rubber sole was just what I needed after wearing out the ones I got at Old Navy, but the black netting detail on the fabric flower was what sold me over the edge. Really cute - though better looking in person - wihout screaming "Look at me, I'm a cute rubbah slippah with flowers!"

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Case for Staying Loyal to Your Hairdresser

All names, once again, have been changed to protect the fabulous.

I have a confession to make: I cheated on my hairdresser.

For the past six months I have all but pledged my fidelity to a certain salon in a certain suburb close to town. I discovered my stylist Lexus by mistake - she was the only one available when I first came to see her - but she did such a good job with my hair that I got my next three haircuts with her. I loved how she did my hair, and I also loved the salon and its gossipy Beauty Shop-gone-glam vibe.

That is, until I woke up one morning and realized that I had forgotten to book an appointment with Lexus. And not only that, but I had a few hours before a major event, and if I wore my hair up in a ponytail one more time, I'd be stuck with massive neck pain and compulsive hair rearrangement for the rest of the day.

Long story short: I ended up going into the Neighborhood Chain Salon after my morning coffee.

Don't get me wrong: the Neighborhood Chain had been my salon of choice before I discovered Lexus. And the reason why I went to Lexus was because somebody else in another salon - whose address I am willing to give if you can egg her storefront for me, because she was THAT horrible - did me wrong when I got my first haircut outside of the Chain. (Lordy, this sounds like an episode of The OC.)

That said, I managed to sneak into the Chain ten minutes before opening time and got a spot. As soon as I was in the stylist's chair, I began to appreciate the little things that I enjoyed about going to Lexus for my haircut. For one thing, the fashion magazines at Lexus' salon - while still in the realm of the mainstream (more Vogue and InStyle than Paper and Arena Homme) - were a step up from the glossy tabloids and cheesy haircut catalogs that the Neighborhood Chain offered, so it was easier to get inspiration if you were the type who needed a picture beforehand. Lexus didn't have hip dance music, wide-screen TVs, or minions who could fix up coffee while I waited, but she also didn't turn up her nose if she found problems with my hair, and she never, ever, nagged me about getting any products to go with my haircut.

On the other hand, the girl who did my hair at the Chain kept on recommending at least three additional treatments while she layered, snipped, and tousled. She also cut my bangs too short (another thing that Lexus would never do unless I told her to) - and in fact the whole 'do ended up being two inches shorter than I wanted overall. Luckily for me, I had a very good idea of what I wanted and I told her exactly how much length I needed for the layers. I also loved the American Crew wax which she used to style my hair, even though she forgot to put some in my bangs.

As for the haircut itself, my friends have noticed, and they like how it looks. It's choppy and practical, and I like it too, but I'm still getting used to wearing my hair a little shorter than the more flowing look that I'm used to, and I still think I should go back to Lexus as soon as I get sick of it. In the meantime, it's all OK. (Those bangs, meanwhile, will have to be pomaded to submission.)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Domesticity Friday #3: Yay, a Food Entry!

Top 5 “Extreme” (yeah, right) Potluck Makeovers

- Store-bought chicken: For roast chicken, cut up whole bird into pieces, then sprinkle with rosemary or Mrs. Dash and bake in warm oven until ready to serve. For fried chicken, follow as directed above, but skip the cutting if it's already in pieces, and substitute shoyu or teriyaki sauce for herbs.

- Canned or vacuum-packed tuna in plain oil: Drain, then combine with lemon juice, Italian parsley, olive oil and capers. Serve with crusty bread and grape tomatoes on the side.

- Plain cream cheese: Dump whole tub or block onto plate, then top with jalapeno jelly, Thai sweet chili sauce, or mango chutney. Serve with crackers or toasted bagels.

- Microwave burritos or frozen dim sum: Prepare as directed on package, then slice in half crosswise and serve with cut ends facing out. If using burritos, make sure you dispose of all plastic wrappers before serving. WARNING: Recipe does not work with Hot Pockets.

- Fruit platter: Serve with a bowl of li hing powder on the side to use as a dip.

Obligatory (but still on-topic) reference to Rohk Stah: Eeeenick Sess: I need to bake JD Fortune a great big semi-homemade casserole for performing Seal's “Crazy” on Tuesday's episode. Way to go messing with my favorite song, asshat, and that's in addition to what you've done to "We Are The Champions." So if you mess with U2 or Crowded House on this show, I'll be shoving beergaritas through your nose all the way to September. Also, I hold Ty Taylor responsible for getting "No Woman No Cry" stuck in my head, which led me to dig out my copy of Legend. Yes, folks, Bob Marley does sound better when you're sober. (Now if only I could get JD to perform "Night Nurse," which fueled my inexplicable hatred of reggae in college. Long story.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Case for Wedding Etiquette, Hawaii Style

All names in this entry have been changed to protect the fabulous.

So my friend Rogue and I went to see Wedding Crashers the other day, which I thought was a cute and amusing movie (even with the boobies and the bad behavior), and even more so because I felt like it reminded me a little bit of my own “wedding season” last month. Don't get me wrong, I like weddings as much as the next girl, and I have to admit that any event that offers all-you-can-grind pupus and bottomless champagne and Martinelli's on somebody else's tab is all good to me, as long as I am on the guest list. But you have to remember that weddings are social obligations, after all - and emphasis on the word obligation, because you do have to make a little sacrifice and be a little less selfish to make the happy couple even happier.

What exactly do I mean about obligation, you ask? Well, there's the fact that weddings here in Hawaii, regardless of religion or ethnicity, are almost always family affairs. Save the freaky weddings for Vegas or the Caribbean, folks, because if you have your wedding here, it will be inevitable that your uncles, aunties, and their cousin's daughter's classmate's friends' coworkers will be invited eventually. And if they are invited, like it or not, you will have to treat them with a modicum of respect, if only out of reverence for tradition. Which is why I think it's about time somebody laid down a few Hawaii-specific rules of wedding etiquette.

First and foremost: Dress up, and dress nice. Wear something that you would want to wear if you're out on a nice dinner date to a super-fancy restaurant. (And, no, Cheesecake Factory and Ruby Tuesday does not count as “super fancy.”) Again, it goes back to the previous point that I just made about Hawaii weddings being family affairs: not only would you need to clean up out of reverence for the auntie and uncle in question, but you will also have to take into consideration the venue of the wedding ceremony itself, especially if it is 1) a religious ceremony and/or 2) held at a venue that calls for strict formality, such as a historical site or a 5-star hotel. That said, you don't want to get too stuffy because, HELLO, you'll never know if you'll run into a hottie, let alone a hottie that may actually turn out to be related to the very uncles and aunties that you need to impress. And if you don't think this logic applies to you, substitute business contact for hottie and the rule still applies. Either way, if you're going to insist on wearing those jeans and Chuck Taylors to that wedding, you may have to think very, very closely about the kind of message you're sending.

Speaking of shoes: Be creative, but be practical. By now you may already know that all of the rules about flip-flops that you read about in the Mainland publications don't apply over here. Believe me, I know. I also used to mock people who wore their “dress” rubbah slippahs - that is, until my friend Bunny showed me the jeweled rubber kitten-heeled sandals that she was wearing under her fancy white dress at her outdoor reception. Not only did those shoes withstand walking through slushy ground and dancing the night away, but she was able to wear them many more times after the honeymoon was over; the shoes even survived a few natural disasters, and she's still wearing them everywhere in the middle of her pregnancy. Other than that, you can never go wrong with wearing your “nice” shoes to a formal reception, especially if it's indoors. And, unless you're under the age of 16, Birkenstocks, Crocs, and Uggs will never, ever count as “nice” formal shoes. EVER.

But what if I want to dance? you ask. Well, you'll have to suck it up, because more often than not you will be expected to dance. That means you have to plan on making sure that your “nice” shoes are comfortable, unless you want to follow up that foot soak with Advil and a topical antibiotic as soon as you get home. Some experts recommend buying them a half-size larger to allow for the swelling, but I suggest making sure that they don't pinch or slip off too much against the heel, ankle, and toe areas in the first place, and get pads or orthotics when necessary. In some cases, pantyhose or socks may cause your soles to slip and increase your chances of getting injured, so be careful about wearing them. A few fashionistas also swear by cutting out the old soles from their running shoes and sneaking them into their Manolos to for padding and traction, which works just as well.

Another point about dancing: Who you dance with is beside the point. Those guys in Wedding Crashers did get something right - there's a certain sweetness of character about people who go out of their way to dance with the other guests and family members, especially the children and the elderly. You don't have to get all Rico Suave on them (because that would give your game away) but you do want to make them as comfortable as possible about moving on the dance floor and being there at the party, especially if they've spent the entire time being emotional. It doesn't matter if the band or the DJ is playing salsa, swing, or The Electric Slide; dancing is a great way to get moving and get happy, no matter how "sober" you are.

About the wedding gifts: Remember what I just said about obligation? Just because you're eating and drinking on someone else's tab doesn't mean you can totally get away with being chintzy. My big sister always tells me that the retail value of the gift should be equal or more to how much the host is paying per plate on their tab. You don't want to, say, spend $7 - the current cash value of a regular sized plate lunch at Zippy's- on a wedding gift for a couple who will be having their reception at the Halekulani, where the same amount of money will get you a glass of water and a dinner roll at the lobby bar. You could try and cheat by 1) getting your gift on sale at the original store (et tu, Borders?); 2) raiding a garage sale; or 3) using your craft-making skills to spruce up a purchase from Ross, but you still have to remember to get something that you know will be useful for the couple in question. There is, after all, a reason why the wedding registry was invented in the first place.

If your wedding season includes bridal showers, you can't go wrong with getting a simple gift - especially if you will end up going to the wedding anyway. Leave the lingerie to her closest friends and go for something a little more practical, like hand-made “Thank You” cards from a local stationer (to ease the stress of having to send them out) bath products in her favorite scent (for the post-stress aromatherapy) or even a box of fine artisanal chocolates (you know where this pattern is going). Lip balms make good bridal gifts, too.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Case for Girl Talk, Sleep, and Coffee

So, yeah, I'm back from retreat, which is at once refreshing and a little disorienting once you come down from the mountaintop. I'd share more, but since there's still Stuff of Monumental Importance to deal with today, I'll just make this entry quick.

For two nights I stayed in the same room with a good number of women, which was a blast because we spent all of our mornings (super early) and nights (not late enough) talking about girl stuff. I tell you, when you get a bunch of women in the same room, no matter who these women are, the conversation will turn to shopping, clothes, and makeup. There was a lot of MAC products passed around, and so did my tin of Smith's Rosebud Salve. There was also a lot of talk about panties, hair removal, and people for whom big boobs run naturally in their families, but other than that there was no TMI to be spoken of whatsover.

And while I didn't go straight to bed as soon as I got home, I did fall fast asleep once I did get myself into bed - and I could've stayed there forever, really.

Okay, enough blabbing, but hey - it's good to be back.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Domesticity Friday #2: Retreat! Retreat! Retreat!

Five Things You Should Think About Bringing With You If You're Going On Retreat*
*in honor of the retreat that I'm going to attend this weekend.
  • Antihistamines. Chances are, even if the place you're going to has a first-aid box, there's a good chance that they might not be able to stock enough allergy meds - or if they do have it, it may not be the ones you want or need. Take enough antihistamines to carry you through the span of the retreat if you're allergy-prone. Same goes for cold medicines and feminine hygiene products if you're a girl.
  • Bug repellent. This is especially important here in Hawaii because you'll never know when you'll go on a hike or stay in a place where you get exposed to mosquitos and other nasty critters. Forego the glam and go for the hard-core stuff - Avon's Bug Guard Plus comes with SPF 30 so you can do double duty.
  • Portable aromatherapy. Rub a little something on your temples and no one will be the wiser. Lush has a range of temple balms that come in little tins, which are easier to carry than oil vials. I've been using Whoosh to help me stay focused and open-minded, and a few Lush-ies I've met since the stores opened in Waikiki and Ala Moana swear by Dream Time to help them sleep. In a pinch, it's OK to use Vicks or Tiger Balm, but only in small doses or you'll give everyone else on your retreat major Grandma flashbacks.
  • A journal. When you're in a quiet place of reflection, those thoughts and ideas in your head will only get louder and louder, so it's nice to have an outlet. A laptop or Palm Pilot would be useless because 1) you might not have wireless access where you're going, and 2) even if you do get a signal, do you really want to be reminded of all the people you're trying to get away from during your retreat? (Plus, I can hear you non-local folks saying it from here: Hellloooooo! You're on RETREAT, in HAWAII. The implications of this statement just goes without saying.) An unruled journal can also act as a sketchbook - Borders always has nice bound journals with blank pages on sale.
  • An open mind. Because, hey, you'll never know.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Case for the Basics, #2: A Good Bra

Here's the second in a series of essays about “the basics” that I'll be covering this week. Read on...

I am not the first person to tell you how important it is to get a good bra. By now you've probably heard all the reasons why you should get yourself fitted properly for one, so if you haven't done so already I definitely recommend going to your nearest lingerie store (or at least the lingerie departments for Macy's or Neiman Marcus), armed with a tape measure and the judgement of a good friend, and get yourself measured by a professional bra fitter ASAP. (There are also independent bra fitters in Honolulu, too, but you may have to ask around; some of your better bridal shops may be able to make referrals.) It won't be an easy process, but once you get that out of the way you can at least get a measure of your peace of mind back.

Come to think of it, isn't peace of mind part of the reason why we ladies wear bras in the first place? It doesn't matter if you're big or small, practical or frilly, mature or youthful - there's always a need for our breasts to feel supported and protected, like they're part of us instead of just part of our bodies. Let's face it, the bra is one of the few garments in our underwear drawers that manages to uphold our decency and modesty while still retaining the physical essence of our womanhood. A properly fitted and styled bra, regardless of the price, is a measure of how we honor our bodies as part of our selves.

If you already have your proper bra measurements done, and you realize that you won't be able to get a decent bra in your size at any other store, you can always turn to the Internet. Unlike panties, the band size for your bra will remain consistent, regardless of which style you choose, and the returns are easier if you try it on and don't like the look.

Remember those scenes in the period movies or romance novels, where the heroine has to hold on to a pillar while her ladies-in-waiting push and strap her into a corset? Well, a good bra is supposed to do exactly that, but effortlessly and without the extra hands. As your mother will tell you, a good bra is meant to help you maintain good form and posture, especially for your back and shoulders. A good bra is supposed to work against gravity and not shimmy and droop under your breasts by the end of the day. Even if it is strapless.

If you're looking for a sports bra, it is definitely important that you find one that reduces the bouncing as much as possible. But that doesn't mean that you should find one that causes you to throw out your shoulder when you're putting it on - or taking it off, for that matter. If you're a D-cup and the tag on that sports bra specifically tells you that it's best for a B or C, don't even try to force your way into it. Same principle applies to the purchase of other bras as well. Think about it: What good is the sale price if you'll need the Jaws of Life to set your girls free?

If you're in the market for a maternity bra... well, I'm no expert (hello, childless singleton here), but I've met numerous mommies here in Honolulu who say that maternity and nursing bras make great baby shower gifts. Personally, even though I've probably attended my own fair share of bridal showers, I still don't think I'm at that point where I could guess someone's exact bra size, sight unseen, so I guess your mileage will have to vary on this one. But if you are a mom, do try to get fitted as often as you can, because otherwise you don't want to keep assuming that you'll stay the same size up there forever.

A good bra is meant to give you a clean line under your clothes. And by “clean line” I mean that you should be able to put a shirt or dress over it and still look like yourself, as opposed to making you look flabby or overstuffed. One of the reasons why I don't wear "minimizer" bras owes to the fact that taking a few inches off my ta-tas makes them look like man-boobs, especially when paired with the pot belly. Not. Sexy.

The bra should not pinch unnaturally and create unsightly bumps or rolls of flesh where they don't belong. The bra should also not squish your breasts or make them look like tumors, gourds, meat products, reptile eggs, props from the last Alien movie, or the naturally ripe fruits of certain tropical rainforest plants that look like they could fall from their branches and cause massive stinkage once they've been cracked open and stomped into the ground by clueless pedestrians.

Under no circumstances whatsoever should you ever allow your bra to show through your shirt. A tank with highly visible straps may be cute if you're young and fit, but on anyone else it looks cheap and desperate. The same goes for the visible outlines and everything else that your bra is supposed to prevent in the first place. Think about the first or last few times you've seen somebody with prominent nips or visible lace outlines poking through their shirt. Chances are, more often than not, it wasn't a pretty sight - unless you're a fetishist about this sort of thing, in which case I'll have to refer you to your nearest spiritual counselor.

(Which reminds me: Is it true what I've heard about guys who actually get turned on by visible panty lines? Because, ew. And they deserve to be pitied.)

The best bra should not only give you uplift, separation, and support, but should also distribute the flesh around your chest in such a way that puts meat on your ribcage and softens the edges around the clavicle. It is also very important for a bra to support your breasts in such a way that they consistently point straight forward and not in two different directions.

You know you've got a good one when your chest and cleavage looks healthy and full all over from the neck down. You know you've got a bad one when... heck, just open a copy of Vogue, Cosmo, or even Lucky, and tell me that those xylophone-chested models are wearing any kind of support other than duct tape or boob petals.

If you have to wash your bras, and handwashing them is not an option, I have two words for you: lingerie bag. Make sure to close the hooks before you put them in so they won't get tangled.

And, like everything in fashion, no matter where you get your Good Bra, it's always a good idea to get more than one in your size - assuming, of course, that you have factored the purchase into your budget. As the wise women in my family would say, it's not like anyone's going to care what you paid for it, because you're not going to wear it outside. And if you meet someone who does care that much about your undies, well... ahem. And ahem. And... oh, you get the idea. Point being, there's no point in going broke over underwear, that's all.

With the right bra, you can be more than confident about yourself - you can be confident about your sense of honor and decency.

But if you have to, disregard these rules at your own risk - and in the privacy of your bedroom, please - if you intend to "torture" Alejandro Sanz (or any hottie of your choice) with your improvised sexy dance moves.

The Case for the Basics, #1 - Mascara

Note: While the article below explains why I'm posting today, that doesn't mean that my “break” is over - on the contrary, some of the updates this week will continue to be very sporadic, and I'll be posting “Domesticity Fridays” on Thursday night because I will be off for the weekend. That said, I'm actually starting a series on essays about the things that I consider to be the “basics” in my own fashion and beauty wardrobe. I'm starting with mascara because I promised to write about this in my “makeup meltdown” story last Friday. Read on...

Monday morning turned out to be monumentally crazy for me, mostly because of all the assignments and projects that I needed to do - which inevitably involved writing letters to my profs about assigned readings that don't turn up where they're supposed to be, and highly advanced planning for school assignments that would probably never get turned in until the very last minute. On top of it all, I had forgotten to eat my breakfast, and by the time 12:30 rolled around I was already wide-eyed with hunger.

After finishing up my weekday brunch (club sandwich with fries and decaf coffee) I headed to Longs Drugs, where they had Cover Girl makeup for sale, and I purchased the Fantastic Lash Waterproof Mascara in very black (as per the recommendations in the June issue of Allure) so I could give it a test drive.

Truth be known, there are days when I just don't wear mascara, but when I do, it's always for those moments when my eyes do need to look awake. Usually this means I wear mascara on the run, when I don't have time for full eye makeup or even a once-over with the eyelash curler. This also means that I only put mascara on my upper lashes, for that youthful “I'm naturally perky this time of the day, I swear” look that I need most days. So it's important for me to have a mascara that gives a finished look in no time, without clumping or smudging from the get-go.

It's also equally important for me to have a mascara wand that won't poke me in the eye when I'm putting it on in the bathroom. That's part of the reason why I like mascaras with pointy-ended brushes, like the CG Fantastic Lash and Triple Mascara - the pointy ends let me reach the little lashes that point downward in the inner corners of my eye. If I get a mascara that doesn't have a brush I can work with, what I do is that I bend the brush at an angle from the wand - no more than 30 degrees from the base of the brush, or you might not be able to put it back in the tube. I've done this with a tube of Maybelline Full'n'Soft (another favorite, which also now comes with a curved brush) and I got a lot of mileage from both the brush and the formula; not only were my lashes as full and soft as advertised, but they also curled up nicely and left me looking refreshed even after a late-afternoon touch up.

Since I'm not much of a product snob to begin with when it comes to makeup, I don't like to spend too much on mascara, especially when you consider that I have to throw the stuff away after two to three months of use to avoid eye infections. (Trust me, I know - I've ended up with itchy red eyes after wearing mascara past the due date.) A reasonable price range for me would be anywhere over $5 but no more than $12 when it's not on sale - anything below $5 is bound to look runny in the tube (and therefore let me down once I'm wearing it), and anything over $12 has to do more for me than not run, smudge, or make me look like Marilyn Manson by the end of the day. My only exception so far to the rule is Rimmel's Extra Super Lash, which retails for less than $3 over here (and smudges quite a bit if you get it in regular formula) but has a good, tight brush that does an effective job of defining and volumizing. Which isn't to say that I'm not open to trying anything else outside of my given range, but again - I don't have that much time or money to burn, so it has to be worth the effort.

I admit that I do like the smoky-eye effect that happens when my mascara eventually runs or smudges at the end of the day, but what I really don't like is the emaciated-raccoon look that happens when it runs all over my eyes and I can't just wipe the rest of it off with a tissue. I've also seen women who intentionally smudge mascara around their eyes as a substitute for eyeshadow, which only makes them look like they've been attacked by tar-covered spiders.

As of this writing, the aforementioned Fantastic Lash has held up nicely - definitely waterproof and smudgeproof (in spite of a few stress-related crying jags), with no residue and no spidery clumps. I wouldn't say that I've found my Holy Grail yet - and what woman has? - but I think this will do quite nicely for the next few months.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Case for Anything Over a Size 14

NOTE: I'm actually going to take a break from posting in the next few days because of a few school and church projects that I have to work on this week. Since this is a fairly new blog I don't think I'll be gone too long, but I'll try to check in from time to time. In the meantime, enjoy.

Here you go: the Ultimate Guide to Plus Size Fashion from The Budget Fashionista.

Seriously, I think this article pretty much says everything that I've always wanted to say about plus-sized fashion, and I'm saying this as a voluptuous woman myself. Just because I don't fit what the fashion mainstream defines as "curvy" doesn't mean I'm condemned to dress as a slob for the rest of my life.

That said, however, I'm still waiting for the day when I can walk into a store in Honolulu that sells clothes in my size, at a price I can afford, that won't make me look too frumpy or slutty. Ross is pretty much hit-or-miss on that front, and even I'm burning out on buying yet another pink-and-black matte jersey blouse after wading through racks of chambray mom-dusters and elasticized broomstick skirts. Old Navy has gotten a little better with the sizing, but I've had more luck with separates (especially jackets, skirts and low-rise pants) than dresses. And as much as I love Lane Bryant and Torrid, I'd rather wait for my next trip to the Mainland - or the next online sale - because those shipping rates don't come cheap.

And if I ever see one more extra-large T-shirt with the words "Baby Girl" written in sparkly studs in the front, I'm going to scream. I don't care which store it is, which rack it's located in, or what color it comes in, or even if I see it on another woman, because... dude, that's just not right, yo.

Speaking of Torrid: is it me, or are the clothes in that store getting a little more decent? I know that they're owned by the folks from Hot Topic, and when I went into one of their stores in Lakewood I thought it was just another version of Corporate GothWear for (Chunky) Mall Rats. Yet I can't help but notice how cute the clothes are getting on their site. Plus, I've seen some of their older stock turn up at Jeans Warehouse II at Ala Moana, which also seems to be easing up on the slutwear - or, if they haven't, at least it's more Sienna Miller than Jenna Jameson, so it's easier to work with.

The Case for Dumpster Diving

When I was a younger Meimei, there was nothing I enjoyed more than shopping. It didn't matter to me that I didn't work for my money since it all came from the good ol' Bank of Dad, as long as I was happy and surrounded by pretty things. This may have worked when I was in high school, but by the time I moved to Hawaii for college I had to face up to the fact that my allowance was not going to get any bigger any time soon. I thought that getting a job out of college would help me feel better about having my own money, but working long hours in a cubicle sometimes has a way of taking the joy out of a girl's life, and listening to other workers in my building talk about going to debt over shoes and logo bags only made me even more cynical.

Now that I'm a full-time grad student bankrolled (again) by the Bank of Dad, my shopping priorities have shifted to whatever gets me through the day. There's no time or space for me to spend money on "hot" brand-name clothes and shoes, especially if there's no other place to wear them than school, church, or the occasional dinner-at-a-restaurant. And while I can still drool over fashion spreads touting the Next Great Thing of Beauty, there's a part of me that laughs at the hype, knowing that I'll be able to get the knockoff at Wal-Mart or Ross in a matter of weeks - or get the real thing, at a deep discount, from Goodwill or a garage sale in a matter of months.

Which brings me to the matter at hand: dumpster diving.

Yes, it's not exactly the best way of doing things. Yes, I do this knowing that I may have to refurbish my finds on my own. And yes, I always ask before I take them away - Lord knows I've been in situations when I've had neighbors in my building give my luggage "the eye," even if I'm just rushing into my apartment to get spare change. But when it comes to a great deal, nothing's better than the ultimate four-finger discount.

This morning, for example, I was able to score not one but two Circulon-style pans that a neighbor had left nonchalantly on the sidewalk, along with some CDs, Tupperware, and a used iron. A few months ago, I was able to get a bookcase and a dining table after the landlords at the high-rise next door started throwing out the unclaimed furniture. More often than not, I'm never alone - on any given night (or day) I'm joined by people on my street who are always looking for new stuff to add to their rentals, and even a few "experts" on trucks who may end up reselling the stuff on deeper discount. With a little elbow grease, some of these finds may pass for something you'd find at a decorator's showroom.

"But you live in a nice neighborhood," you say. True, I would probably not have gotten anything of this caliber if I went looking for it at, say, the cul-de-sac where I used to live, with the flooding problem and the ice addicts. And yet I can't help but make up stories about the people who throw this stuff away. Maybe they got kicked out of the landlord on short notice. Maybe they had to go on the lam when they realized that the cops were on to them, and they had to get rid of the excess baggage. Identity theft? Drugs? Not paying rent?

The stories get wilder if I find them next to the nicer houses in the neighborhood. The leather sofa and glass coffee table was thrown out by a vengeful wife or lover scorned, who couldn't find the time to throw the garage sale after torching the car. The computer on the curb was a teenager's way of getting back at his folks - or could it be the other way around? Maybe the Salvation Army was supposed to pick up the drawers, but the truckers must've taken one look before saying "meh." Maybe that was the wide-screen TV that I saw at the apartment of one of the guys I dated, which probably expalins why he punked out on me. Or not.

It dosn't always have to be this dirty, though. Sometimes my neighbors would leave things that they don't want in the laundry room - a candelabra, some plates, a CD-ROM drive. A friend of mine, who's moving to the Mainland, ended up giving me tons of pillows, a DVD player, and some art supplies. The rest of the furniture in my apartment, in fact, came from a former tenant who disappeared one day, leaving the landladies with too much stuff that was too good to leave on the sidewalk. See, there are some things that don't have to go to waste.