Friday, June 30, 2006

What's Your Fantasy?: Special Pinoy Edition! Part I

Yes, my friends: I'm starting an entire series of pictorial blog entries featuring hot Pinoy guys. And lest this becomes a droolfest, I also promise to write What's NOT Your Fantasy?, an entry dedicated to the ones that represent the skeevier elements of Pinoy guydom.

Let's begin by saying that some of the hotter guys in the Pinoy celebrity landscape - at least the ones I know from my generation - are now married. And not just married, but happily married.

Exhibit 1:

Here is Aga Muhlach with his wife, the lovely Charlene Gonzales, and their twins (twins!) Atasha and Andres. (Not pictured: Aga's son Luigi, who grew up during the guy's wild-bachelor years and is now in his teens, but is still very much his father's son.) Forget those "Aga Muhlach Is Dead" rumors, which come up as often as the President gets impeachment complaints. He was my first celebrity "boyfriend" when I was eight years old - I couldn't even look at his photos without screaming. Now, I giggle at his Globe Telecom commercials with the maid who insists that her husband looks like him. (My favorite line, translated from Tagalog: "Darling, there's somebody here who looks like you, but you still look like Aga." Cue funny look from Aga himself.) And now he's so famous that he even has an entry on Wikipedia, complete with filmography and brief mention of that time when he used to date Dayanara Torres. Not only that, he's the only person in the planet who can publicly endorse Quaker Oatmeal and, um, feminine hygiene products (with his wife!), and still maintain his dignity.

Exhibit 2:

Richard Gomez, now married to the very hot former Lucy Torres (no relation to Dayanara... or myself, for that matter). Together they have a cute daughter named Juliana. I've always found Goma to be attractive (see this not-too-safe for work photo) - even though there's something really "street" about him - but he is part of family lore at Hacienda de Meimei as the nice guy who used to work at Mickey D's with my cousin and almost got set up for a date with my sister. (Let's just say that he wasn't famous then, and we still elbow each other when we see him on TV.)

Exhibit 3:

Those of you who saw The Great Raid (and/or spent a lot of time at the Hawaii International Film Festival) may already be familiar with the hotness that is Cesar Montano. Yeah, I said it, hotness. I used to think he was just plain beefcake when he used to star in cheesy drama serials on TV, but on the big screen - with the right directors - he practically smolders. Now, not only do I have to elbow out maids and nurses to get to him (plus whichever hoochie ends up getting linked to him, since boyfriend's reportedly got a wandering eye), I also get to deal with the fact that he's married to a woman named Sunshine, who's the mother to his daughters. Note to Cesar: Do your kids a favor. Give their mom a break.

Exhibit 4:

For those of you who like Christian men - especially if they know how to sing, dance, and praise God with all their soul - well, Gary Valenciano is still a happily married father of three, God bless him. And yet, even as a crossover Christian artist, he's still very much the Gary V we all know and love. In fact, boyfriend might actually be aging backwards; I actually saw him on the cover of Men's Health (Pinoy edition) and he looked better than he used to in the '80s when he was rocking the acid wash jeans and the Michael-Jackson-of-the-Philippines schtick (without the crazy evil Michael Jackson-ness). Then again, I still think the shirt he's wearing in his new video was raided from his '80s-era closet -- which is funny to me, since I've seen contemporary Christian artists with snappier, un-stylist-dictated wardrobes. (Gary, if you're reading this, I love you, and I mean to affirm you, but it's just about that one Star Trek shirt bothering me. And, yes, Mac Powell did cut his hair.) Still as compelling as ever.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Domesticity Dispatch: Stuck in the Philippines With You

As I'm writing this entry, I'm playing an old INXS tape that I found in my closet. It's playing "Disappear" right now and I can't help but be philosophical while I'm listening to the rest of the tape.

The thing is, I won't be back in Hawaii by the Fourth of July, as anticipated. I can't even begin to explain all the reasons why it's not happening; all I know is that I'm already missing the rest of my summer session and I can't predict when I'll return... if I return. So, yeah, I am sad about it.

But bitter? Well... not really.

I'm not looking at this as a setback, my friends. True, I get a little misty-eyed whenever I watch the travel channel and see live footage of Waikiki. And, yes, it's true about life being so much better here -- no laundry, no TV dinners, no textbooks, just Mom's home cooking and plenty of time to walk the dog and watch telenovelas till the sun goes down. Then again, let's face it -- I haven't had a real vacation for six years now. I haven't seen my friends and family in so long. I'm sure the manicurist who will do my nails this weekend will be shocked at my overgrown cuticles (says the girl who used to get her nails done every week back in high school). And I owe my best friend here a spa day.

(No, seriously. The spas are HUGE here, and girls can't get enough of it. I'm sure that, for the price of a cut and highlights at a top salon in Honolulu, I could get a full-body treatment and get waxed where I need to get waxed. Ahem.)

So what to write about, then, if I'm not in the mood to rant about not leaving the country, and I'm not out on the field checking out schools where I can volunteer in the meantime? More Pinoy-flavored beauty and pop culture snark, of course. There are more shampoos to review, more shops to check out, more artistas (and rock stars, models, newscasters...) to drool over. So what if we don't have a Sephora here? I'm sure Watson's, PCX, Beauty Bar, Marks & Spencer, and Rustan's (not to mention Bench and Robinson's, which are EVERYWHERE) all have a lot of other products that I can test, and possibly laugh at if I'm feeling particularly mean. It's going to be a great adventure, I tell you.

Here are a few topics I'm kicking around so far for future blog entries:

  • Filipino guys, of course. It's a topic I used to be hesitant about, seeing as I've dated the worst of the lot (not to mention that more attention is given to our ladies - yeah, I get it, we Pinays are awesome, but let's spread the wealth around) but let's face it - we've got a lot of hotties in this country. Maybe I might even post pictures... Nope. I will DEFINITELY post pictures.
  • Bad beauty habits. Already my Mom has brought up the whole "cement face" phenomenon, where dark-skinned local girls would abuse beauty products in the vain attempt to get the desired "rosy white" complexion... only to end up with a gray cast on their face. Which products are sure to give you the Cement Face? I'll talk about those in more detail later.
  • Plastic surgery. Those of you reading this from the Philippines (or at least the major Pinoy neighborhoods in the States) will probably tell me to count this as part of the "Bad beauty habits" section. I mean, really: I don't care which celebrities have had lipo and boob jobs, and I can't care less if they want to talk about it so they can flog the services of their surgeon. I just think it's too much of a luxury, that's all.
  • Shoes. Because I no longer have to rely on Payless and Ross for that kind of stuff any more.
  • And, last but not the least, shopping bargains for clothes. Especially when said clothes are for a certain curvy young Filipina woman who sports a D-cup bra and substantial booty.

More entries to follow later!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Domesticity Reviews: Pinoy Hair Products

Quick Tagalog lesson: The word of the day is hiyang, which loosely translates to "suitable." (Not to be confused with "hiyang-hiya," which is embarrassed to the point of blushing, or "walanghiya," which is how my Dad describes my ex-boyfriends.) When you see fashionistas in the Philippines telling you to get a product that is talagang hiyang sa iyo, they really mean it literally - you should get the product that is the absolute total best for you, and by "absolute total best" they mean something that does not break you out, make you itch, or just plain makes you look totally horrible.

You will always hear the word hiyang most often in ads for hair and skin products, and for good reason: We Filipinos have a very bad habit of using "imported" products thinking that they will work wonders for us, until we realize that it will let us down badly by virtue of being unsuitable for us. Not all Filipinos, for example, have the same tap water that requires a shampoo or face wash with higher amounts of detergent, or super-thick moisturizers designed for more drying conditions. As with every other country, we are a nation of different hair and skin types that can tolerate different ingredients, so we can't use the same types of products all the time (*ahem*Eskinol*ahem*).

So in honor of our word of the day, most of the products tested for this review were created specifically for my hair type: fine, straight, and frequently lifeless in hot weather. Note that I also got it trimmed and layered at Jesi Mendez Alabang (which, as far as getting my hair done in Manila goes, is the BEST. SALON. EVER) so my new 'do now looks like a full-on shag when unstyled.

Sunsilk Fresh for Longer shampoo: Remember when I said that Sunsilk is one of my favorite brands here at home? Well, this shampoo does not disappoint on this front at all. I got this primarily because of the tangerine scent - and, okay, so it's not exactly posh, but if I can get a shampoo like this that smells good and cuts the scalp grease that I usually get in the summer for a fraction of what I'd pay for a salon/boutique brand, well, I'm there. I've been using this practically every day and I can't help but touch my hair; it's that good.

Cream Silk Light & Bouncy conditioner with baby oil: Let it be known that this conditioner has mineral oil, which I doubted like the dickens. Firstly because, well, it is mineral oil, and secondly because I think that's what gave me the major pimples during my first few days here. Once I calmed down, however, I decided to give this conditioner another shot. That's when I noticed that this stuff is creamy - all I really needed for my new shag was a single squirt of conditioner, no bigger than a dime, and I got my "light and bouncy" hair that not only stayed that way all day, but also kept my hair soft and touchable all throughout. That said, if I'm still here and I run out of this, I'm going to keep my eyes open for a conditioner that doesn't have mineral oil, just to be safe. (The Cream Silk products I found at the store sounded quite rich in comparison.) Or maybe I'll just grab the Creme Silk leave-in conditioner instead, since that one has sun protection.

Bench Fix Hairlastic styling cream: I just had to grab this on my last shopping trip at Bench because 1) it seemed cheap compared to other salon products (P150 = roughly US$3); 2) it smelled nice; and 3) it promised to texturize and volumize with "flexible fibers." All righty, then. The first thing I noticed was that this cream looked hefty in the jar - not only was it glossy like donut glaze, but it was also thick enough to form stiff peaks. And not just that, but it also left my hair completely volumized: Every strand it touched got beefed up in a major way without looking greasy or stiff, and it was extremely easy to work with from there on. The packaging recommends this for making spikes and twists, but my favorite way of working with the Hairlastic is to rub a nickel-sized amount into my hands, then rake it through my hair while holding my head upside down, then flipping my hair back and rubbing the leftover cream on my fingertips into my bangs and front pieces to create a shaggy, piece-y look. Points off for the tricky packaging, though, because I still needed a butter knife to open the tin during the first two times I used the stuff. Otherwise, it truly is fantastic, and a high quality product that's comparable to anything else that your hairdresser might want to use.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Domesticity Dispatch: Welcome to the PI

Mabuhay! I'm sorry I haven't posted sooner, but the fact is that I have been making the most of my vacation - even though I do have DSL here at my folks' place and I am able to post, I have been getting up early most days and packing in as much as possible: catching up with friends and family, mostly, but also resting, relaxing, and just plain being here.

But yeah, I have been doing a lot of shopping, too. Not at the vintage stores, though, and not even at all my favorite stores (where the sizing is often inconsistent - then again, I haven't fit into a Pinoy size XL since 1995). So far I've been doing my shopping at Ayala Alabang and the brand-new Mall of Asia, but so far I'm liking what I see.

Before I go on, I'd like to give a shout-out to all my fellow Pinoys reading this blog, especially those from the Philippines - and my teenage god-daughter, as well, since I've been told she has a Blogger account. So this entry's for you...

Here's my confession: I am so glad - repeat, SO GLAD - to see my two favorite stores for makeup here in the Philippines. The first favorite store is PCX (see Alabang map here), which I love because it reminds me so much of Longs Drugs: drugstore toiletries AND massagers? I'm so there. And I couldn't resist snapping up another tube of Revlon's Super Lustrous gloss in Raisin Glaze, which is sparkly in the tube but turns into a nice, toasty nude shade on me. Between this and the Cherries In the Glow, I think I'm in love with this line. (And, Pinays, take my word for it: Those two shades I mentioned? Are totally awesome next to Pinay skin, especially if you're quite tan like I am.)

My second favorite store? Watson's. No, I am not kidding. By now you're probably asking why I still insist on shopping here when there are all sorts of high-end department stores with high-end cosmetics, but it's no secret that I've been in love with Watson's ever since I stepped into one in Singapore. Sure, they still have the old-school Max Factor products on the shelves (even though the sales clerk was amazed by my familiarity with the Lipfinity line), but I think it's so crazy awesome that they carry everything in every imaginable price range, from local products to international products and even their fantastic house brand.

Here's another thing: Manila girls, don't sweat it if you think I'm only harping on American brands here (especially those that I can buy at Wal-Mart for cheaper). You should've seen my face when I found out that there were Korean makeup stores here - and for me, Korean cosmetics are pretty much squee-worthy, since they're relatively inexpensive and are almost equal in quality, if not better than the American, European, and Japanese brands that fashionistas tend to drool over.

And as for the Pinoy brands, I'm running a review soon of some of the local brands I've been able to try, which I'm loving so far. Believe me when I say that I'd buy more if I wasn't at risk of overpacking my suitcase!


As I'm typing this, I'm wearing a T-shirt that I bought from Bench (don't mind the Pussycat Dolls-inspired ads and limited merch on the site; the store's long-standing menswear section always has great T-shirts for the curvy babes among us) and I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that, for the price of a pair of killer first-issue pumps from Nine West in Honolulu, I actually managed to buy not one, but three pairs of cute shoes (kitten-heeled wood mules from T at Rustan's Alabang; black leather loafers from Figlia at SM Bay City; and the cutest canvas slip-ons from SM Hypermart that only cost me roughly US$3). As I mentioned before, I've become quite the bootylicious diva in the last ten years, so for me to come here and find out that some stores consider a US Size 12 to be "Extra Large" is, well, not quite a relief, but not quite an outrage.

And yet, by the time I put a wardrobe together between the stuff I have now and the stuff I got from Manila, I practically won't look like anyone else on the street. It's a feat that I barely manage to do Stateside - especially in Honolulu, where everyone shops at Ross and Old Navy anyway - but over here I feel like my wardrobe choices turn out to be especialy quirky and forward-looking. Even my flip-flops (on which I only spent $1.99 when I could've shelled out buku bucks for Havaianas) look especially cool... and quite ironic, I should add, considering that I grew up at a time when flip-flops weren't exactly considered cool.

But you know what? It's all good. And I couldn't think of a better place to be right now.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Case for the Occasional Wardrobe Entry

Today: no makeup, schlumpy sweatpants, and an old t-shirt, 'cause there's nothing glam about cleaning the apartment before I go.

Tomorrow: I leave for Manila (via Guam) wearing the following ensemble:

- black suit blazer
- black Old Navy boot-cut trousers
- blue-and-orange Old Navy T-shirt with long sleeves
- white low-cut socks
- blue-and-silver Reebok running sneakers
- extra polo shirt (in carry-on luggage)

- Carry-on: khaki-colored Dockers tote made from Tumi-inspired fabric, with lots of room for my visa documents, books, extra shirt, and CD player
- Check-in suitcase: burgundy Samsonite hard-shell packed with clothes, toiletries, and an entire box of Hawaiian Host macadamia nuts (among other gifts for the folks back home). Also in the suitcase: my Stila 8-pan (because I can't live without neutral shadow, but I ain't toting that bad boy with me on the plane), Olay Daily Facials Express (again, too lazy to bring my actual face wash), Chanel Chance EDT (the better to sniff all the other fragrances at the duty free) and both of my Aveeno calming moisturizers.
-Other check-in luggage: box full of old clothes, for my relatives back home

Hair: down (no ponytail) but texturized with Garnier Fructis Surf Hair texture cream

- L'Oreal True Match powder in W6 Sun Beige
- L"Oreal HIP eyeshadow in Mischief
- Maybelline Sky High Curves mascara in black
- BareMinerals Face Color in Warmth
- Smith's Rosebud Salve (because there's nothing more annoying on a long flight than disappearing lip color)
- In the carry-on: all of the above, except for the BareMinerals (I'n not going to let that stuff spill all over me), which was replaced by the L'Oreal Feel Naturale blush in Mocha Rose. Also: L'Oreal HIP lip gloss in Gallant; MAC eyeshadow in Crystal; some eyeliner (I haven't decided yet) and some lipstick (ditto), plus Dove Cleansing Pillows and L'Occitane Verbena Shea Butter.

As I've mentioned before, however, I can't guarantee that I will be posting out of the country, but if I can, I will let you know. I do expect to be back by the 4th of July, though, so until then... andiamo!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

What's Your Fantasy? Special Soul Patrol Edition

Dear Taylor Hicks:

I'll go ahead and admit this now: I can't find your single at the record store. And not only that, I still can't believe that I went there looking for it anyway. Which can only mean one thing: You're pretty damn close to making my Celebrity Boyfriend list.

Well, okay, so I found you entertaining (at best) during American Idol. I did say I was willing to buy tickets to see you live - but I didn't want you to win, and what I really wanted to do was to wait until you could open your own show on the Strip in Las Vegas so I can finally get an excuse to go there that doesn't involve blackjack or shoe shopping.

But nooooooooooooooooo. Not only do you end up winning the whole shebang, but you won because of a fanbase more rabid than the People's Republic of Clay Aiken in their heyday. (And, dude, I liked Clay, too, before he started getting all weird and stuff.) And that just kills my dreams of you taking over for Danny Gans at the Mirage. Or at least challenging JD Fortune to a karaoke dance-off at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay.

And here's the thing: 1) We're both the same age, and 2) I happen to like guys with gray hair. But a reigning American Idol? Heck no. I'm not that kind of fangirl, buddy. Not to mention that your song... well, okay, so we can't all be Bono, so I'll stop right there.

But still. You have the voice, the talent, and the je ne sais quoi to back it up. Don't ruin it for us, buddy.

Hugs, Meimei

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Domesticity Friday: Taking One For The Team

I have a confession to make: I finally saw the video for the Paris Hilton song "Stars Are Blind."

Oh, okay, I didn't - I actually saw the first 30 seconds, and then the computer started sputtering on me. Which means that, once again, I should take this as an omen.

Can I just say something about it, though? That crap was NOT reggae. Even the worst reggae songs sound like canon classics next to Paris Hilton. Trust me, I already get enough bad bubblegum-pop reggae from the Hawaiian-music station. That song just sounded like the worst "Jawaiian" song ever recorded... and that is saying a whole lot, my friends.

(Note to Hawaiian-music radio programmers: If you ever put this song on the radio, don't be surprised if you get tons of angry listeners cussing out your DJs and threatening to burn down your radio stations in protest. Because, seriously? Paris Hilton? Is so not "island music.")

On the plus side, the guys in that video are hot.


Speaking of hot guys in videos: LeAnn Rimes video + Tyler "Nik Ol' Ass" Christopher = HOT. Sorry, folks, but that guy is like a gigantic bowl of Moose Tracks ice cream with extra cookies on top.

EDITED to add: Tonight's TV is Craig Ferguson with - surprise! - Ludacris. Aiiiiyyyy....

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Case for Cramming it All In

So it's official: One more week until I leave. Yes, dear readers, my plane leaves Hawaii on the 14th, and I'm expected to land in Manila by the 15th. And if the universe continues to be kind to me, I should be back here by the 4th of July.

In the meantime, I've actually started packing. Well, the suitcase that holds my own stuff isn't packed yet - and even then, I believe my Mom when she says that we're going shopping when I'm there - but I've started on the suitcase that holds all the stuff I don't need, so I can give them away to my relatives.

It really does amaze me how much stuff I've accumulated all these years - years that have included shopping binges, "emergency" purchases, and other activities that have resulted in more stuff getting packed into my apartment. It's like what one of my friends told me after a recent trip to the Philippines: We don't realize how spoiled we get here in the States until we see all these people - some of them who may even be our own relatives - who have so little.

And I look at all the unworn skirts, tired sweaters, and too-tight blouses, and I think: I know a bunch of folks who can use this more than I do. Some of my cousins are not much older than I am, and not getting any younger; even if they don't wear what I have to give, I'm sure they can find a way to make it all work. I think about all the old school uniforms and Sunday-best outfits that I've given away, which they were able to get altered and re-tailored for their own needs.

It's not just the sweaters, either. I've actually packed a Ziploc full of cosmetics - decanted new lotions and hair products, unused powders, unopened samples, barely used lipsticks and nail polishes- all of which can be shared between friends and relatives. I remember the last time I was home and my cousin really admired my makeup bag; I taught her how to put on eyeshadow while she taught me how to use lipstick as a multitasking blush/highlighter. I plan on getting her some new stuff, too, so she can share in the bounty with me.


Speaking of new stuff: It's time for me to temporarily retire my backpack in favor of a new carry-on. I saw some cute rolling suitcases from DVF at Ross for less than $50, along with some cute messenger bags, gym-style overnighters and rolling backpacks at the luggage section. Or maybe I should carry a briefcase? Hmmm. Either way, I'll have to get them at Ross anyway, since they're on deep discount anyway.

(And because this never goes old: Ladies and gentlemen, the Manolo Mobile, Mark 1. Made in Marikina, bos!)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Domesticity Friday: Playing With Fire

It was not enough for me to merely marry my great loves of snark and fine fragrance on this blog. Behold, I present to you...

POPOZAO: The Fragrance For Men

Luck is nothing without talent. Here is a fragrance for the man who has no shame in going on long guys-only trips to Las Vegas, Miami, and Tijuana without his wife and kids but still loves his family enough to stick with the craziness. Wear it and you'll feel no shame in seizing the day and rocking out with your confidence out. It's the scent you'd wear to play with fire.

Made with the unmistakable top notes of Cheetos and Red Bull, with a musky cannabis-tobacco drydown and a base of ginseng tea, menthol-eucalyptus, and stale beer. Eau de Cologne packaged in a handsome bottle clad in frayed denim and stained cotton with trucker hat cap; aftershave comes in bottle with white “Pimp Daddy” hoodie and matching trucker hat cap. Available at all Wal-Mart, Target, and Kmart stores everywhere, as well as selected pharmacies, gas stations and 24-hour convenience outlets.

Just in time for Father's Day! This special POPOZAO For Men Gift Set includes both cologne and aftershave, plus a complimentary home pregnancy test and a gift CD featuring choice cuts from the album “Playing with Fire.” Yours for $20 or $10 with any purchase of In Control Curious.

And if you thought this was messed up... well, let's just say that, if my side business of creating snarky perfumes continue throughout the summer, I should be employed as The Face of Deception (or at least the writing staff at a certain soap opera Which Shall Not Be Named) by next year. Mwahahahahaha.


Things keeping me sane this week:

- Cleaning my kitchen and bathroom sinks. Nothing gives me more peace of mind like less scum in my home.

- The thought of seeing my cousins in the Philippines once again after not having seen them for six years.

- Dreyers Slow-Churned Ice Cream. Did you know that they just came up with a light version of Moose Tracks? Yummy.

- Switching off Kelly Preston's fembot-esque (and, I believe, Hawaii-only) PSA for Narconon so I could watch 1) the Diet Coke commercial with the guy dancing to that Bodyrockers song or 2) the Ford commercial where the girl pays for the hot guy's dry cleaning.

- Watching The Price is Right and thinking: Dang, did I really believe this was my favorite TV show when I was a kid?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Domesticity Retail Mini-Roundup: Summer Edition

Today: not a good day, considering that I was already PMSing like a fiend and I couldn't wait for school to be over (and for a limo to take me to the nearest spa so I could get myself un-kinked before boarding that plane to Manila). Amidst all the procrastination, however, I was able to go spend some time at the usual haunts...

- At The Store Formerly Known as Holiday Mart Kaheka (come on, Hawaii readers, you know which store I'm talking about), I finally got that tester for L'Oreal's Bare Naturale mineral makeup to work. Lo and behold, more coverage from the powder! Too bad the tester didn't match my skin. And too bad I won't be buying one until I come back from Manila.

(During my trip to this store, I also heard "Do I Make You Proud" - which I mistook for a Bo Bice song until I realized that it was my man Taylor Hicks singing. Now I'm convinced - bravo, Taylor. Then again, I'm the person who can't wait for Taylor to be in the same room with J.D. "Eyeliner Costs Me A" Fortune, just to hear what the ensuing craziness will look like...)

- Speaking of the Manila trip... So the new L'Occitane store opened at Ala Moana, and even though I know they might move to Waikiki once the Royal Hawaiian renovation is over, I really don't want them to move back there and turn into a gigantic tourist trap. (It's the same deal with Lush - I don't want them to go to Waikiki and just be stuck with the tourist riff-raff. At least at Ala Moana they also get the local fashionistas and class-cutting gawkers.) Anyway, the Ala Moana store is sweet - not as gigantic as their outlet store in Las Vegas, or as sexy as their branch on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, but it's surprisingly wallet-friendly, IMO - I just fell in love with their tiny guest-size soaps (hello, Mimosa- I ought to take you with me in my travel bag) and the cans of candles and balms imprinted in Braille. All the favorites were there, too, from Verbena to Sweet Almond to Eau des 9 Reines (my new favorite rose scent) - and, of course, the lavender and shea butter. Also, I've been looking at their Mamans et Bebes balm, which I'm planning to get for a friend who's expecting her own little bebe in the fall.

- Sephora, as usual, makes my head spin. I have yet to encounter anything offensive this season - no perfume watches, shower heads, or annoying celebrity fragrances on this visit - but I think I'm in love with Pout's Superbalm, which looks, tastes, and feels like a delicious dessert. And while the name still annoys me, I was heartened to see our friends at Arrogance Mix come up with some surprisingly sweet cocktail-inspired fragrances.

- And finally, seeing all the old-school, pre-Carmen Electra-fied Max Factor products on sale at Longs gave me memories of the guy who taught the makeup class I went to one summer in Manila (back when I was a clueless, grungy teen), who proudly proclaimed the wonders of MF's blush: "Subtle Amber! It's fantastic! For day, for night!" Now that I look back on it, maybe I should snap up that last case of Subtle Amber, just for the memories.