Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Case for the Real-Time Entry

I just HAD to say this:

It's bad enough that I only get to watch the Friday episodes of Dancing with the Stars. It's bad enough that, in spite of my aversion to all things related to 98 Degrees and Jessica Simpson, I'm beginning to find Drew Lachey attractive because of Dancing with the Stars.

But having Drew Lachey perform the Paso Doble this week to.... THRILLER?!? With a cape?!?!?!!

Comedy gold, people. Comedy gold.

(And, darnit, the only way "The Final Countdown" could be made more palatable for ballroom-dancing purposes will inevitably involve Will Arnett and a lot of pyrotechnics. That is all.)

POSTSCRIPT, 8:35 PM: Finally, Master P has been eliminated! Now I no longer have to endure his non-dancing while waiting for the other "dahncers" to come out. Also, as much as I don't mind the Pussycat Dolls - well, except for the silver bathrobe that Nicole wore for the second number - I'm relieved that they didn't perform "Stickwitu," because that would officially make it the 100th time I've heard that song today.

The Case Against the Other Woman

Dear Maggie Gyllenhaal:

You know that I don't mind you, right? And you know that I'm joking when I say that you do look a little like your otherwise cute brother as a drag queen? So why are you making this way too easy for me to steal Peter Sarsgaard away from you? I mean, I could probably talk to you till I'm blue in the face about the benefits of jeans and push-up bras, but you still won't listen - and now you decide to come out in public with messed-up hair a la Kathryn Morris in the early seasons of Cold Case?

Oh, dear. It's too bad I'm not much of an expert when it comes to hairstyling. But if I were, I would've introduced you to my friends Shampoo and Conditioner, not to mention Volumizer. And perhaps I could've brought you some of the hairdo magazines lying around at Lexus' salon - no, not the ones with the American celebrities, or the Thai ones with the weird spiral perms and overdone Harajuku Girl hairdos, but the British mags with the well-written editorials and edgy dye jobs.

I'm telling you, honey: You're overdue for a reinvention. Better now rather than later, when somebody finally taks Peter into dumping you.

Kisses, Mei

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Domesticity Retail Mini-Roundup, February 2006

Before I begin: You may wonder why most of my Retail Roundup entries are always set at Ala Moana Center. Well, as I've mentioned before, it's the closest shopping mall to where I live, and it's got a good mix of everything - locals and tourists, designer boutiques (Louis Vuitton, Emporio Armani), neighborhood favorites (Sears, Macys, Longs) and mall staples (Barnes & Noble, Ann Taylor). It's definitely not the only mall in Oahu (*ahem*WindwardKahalaPearlridge*ahem*) nor is it the only place to find the finer stuff (hello, Kalakaua Avenue, Ward Center, and Waikele Outlet) but it is the place where you'll be most likely to find someone like yours truly checking out the merchandise.

So. On with the roundup...

- The Chanel display window continues to disappoint me. Now the mannequins are clad in white one-piece bathing suits, which... well, okay, if that's what they want, but I didn't need to see that much hip bone on display after seeing Madonna's leotard in the “Hung Up” video the night before. (Seriously, though: Leotard scenes aside, the song and the video are both awesome. And even if Madonna herself has gotten kind of boring lately, I'd still give anything to have those legs when I'm 40.)

- Sephora finally stocks their own store-brand Foundation Primer, and it costs only $12! Sweet deal! (Still didn't buy it, though - maybe next week, when I'm not so bummed about my textbooks?) Also, most of their Aquolina bath & body stuff (except for the Pink Sugar fragrance) is on sale, as with Dessert Beauty, and some decent fragrances from Comme des Garcons and Comptoir Sud Pacifique.

- In non-sale news, I caught a whiff of the new J.Lo fragrance (at Macy's in downtown Honolulu) and I thought it was way too sweet. Not as noxious as any of the Britney fragrances - or, shudder, the Ashanti one I sniffed at Wal-Mart - but now I'm beginning to wonder about who it is, exactly, that develops these celebrity fragrances, and the decision making process that goes into choosing the particular notes. I, for one, can't wait to figure out who gets to decide the "white flowers" Mariah Carey will include for the fragrance she's developing right now.

- Speaking of celebrities with beauty partnerships: Catherine Deneuve and MAC? Talk about a real classy combo! The makeup she's wearing for their ads is plenty bright, but still timeless and feminine, and not a whiff of hoochie whatsoever.

- Lush: Still giving away their Christmas stuff! I'm so happy with some of the product I still have from their store, though - the Arabian Bright hair conditioner gives my hair lots of salon-style shine - so I'll just leave the rest to the bath-product freaks.

- At Barnes & Noble, I was shocked to see Julie & Julia (in hardcover, no less) at 50% off. I snapped it up anyway, and I hope to give a review soon. In the meantime, apparently Kim France is following Linda Wells and Anna Wintour in their descent to hell, now that the latest cover of Lucky features... Nicole Ritchie. And not just that, but a badly airbrushed version of Nicole Ritchie. I'm glad not to see her ribs poking out, but the end result made her chest look flat and plastic-y, like a shirtless GI Joe. Not a good look for the cover. But at least the editorials didn't annoy as much.

- My one disappointment so far is that I have yet to visit the nearest Estee Lauder counter so I could surrender my senses to the influence of Tom Ford - I mean, ask if they had Youth Dew Amber Nude in stock, just to see how that tea-and-patchouli combo holds up. But it will happen. Someday.

Edited to add more links. Now, if only somebody will finally develop PopoZao: The Fragrance for Women, with the unmistakable top note of Cheetos and Red Bull...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Case For The Don't

If you thought my list of Honolulu's Fashion Don'ts was amusing, bear in mind that some rules were meant to be broken. Like rubber slippahs, these fashion trends may be considered atrocious by Mainland fashion experts, but that doesn't mean you can't look fashionable wearing them. Consider:

- Bare legs in general. Of course you don't have to wear pantyhose in Honolulu, even if your workplace is very conservative - that's the beauty of our tropical climate. (Besides, nude-colored nylon next to aloha wear looks extra dowdy!) Spanx and foot pads can also compensate for the other matters usually covered by hose. Don't throw out those stockings yet, though: For nights on the town, colored or patterned hose looks really cool and edgy next to a feminine black dress.

- The “aloha crisp” look. Wearing your “business” aloha shirt does not always mean you'll end up looking like an accountant. My dad is the perfect example of a guy who wears his Reyn Spooner shirts with tailored pants on occasions where he's expected to “suit up” informally; not only does he project proper decorum when he does so, but he looks at least ten years younger. It's a jacket-optional look, and surprisingly versatile: replace the pinstripes with khakis, switch to a woven belt, and wear the shirt untucked over your buckle (if you want to), and voila - the perfect casual date/ senior yearbook photo/ church with Grandma outfit. Just don't pop that collar, unless your name is Will Smith.

- Matching ensembles for the whole family. Alohawear brands like Reyn Spooner, Hilo Hattie and Manuheali`i have been showcasing matching aloha shirts for fathers and sons, and dresses for mothers and daughters. I think it's cute, as long as everyone isn't too matchy-matchy all the time.

- Printed polo shirts, and especially those with aloha prints. I'll need to recommend this cautiously, though, because it's so easy to biff - remember, polos are not always an acceptable substitute for a proper aloha shirt, so it's easy to go from polished to dorky when you wear an aloha-printed polo. The people that I do know who can pull this look off are professionals in sports, tourism, and education: teachers, coaches, librarians, trainers, waiters, marketing directors... you get the picture.

- Flowers in your hair. Before Jasmine Trias ran the trend into the ground, Hawaii ladies have been wearing real and fake flowers behind their ears for generations. The flowers don't have to be huge, or even natural; I've known girls who make their own plumeria-sized accessories (to tuck behind the ears) from fabric scraps and wire, which are actually quite pretty without being overwhelming.

- Trucker hats. On your average young man, it's played out and skeezy (see: Federline, Kevin). On the other hand, if you're an older man whose idea of a pau hana involves beer and poke on the porch with your buddies in boroboro shorts, slippers, and T-shirts, then more power to you, brah - you've earned it.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Case Against The Less Than Super Fantastic

Inspired by the Carnivale of Couture on Manolo's Shoe Blog.

Honolulu! You'd think that a city that has consistent summery weather, the most beautiful people in the United States, and a generous helping of designer boutiques would have minimal incidences of fashion dont's, right? Depends on how you define “don't” - we're talking about a city where flip-flops are welcome at church, aloha shirts are considered professional, and wearing a single Hawaiian gold bracelet with a is considered “underdressed” in certain quarters.

In my case, I can take practically anything on anyone, but that does not mean that I can't draw a line somewhere when it comes to the fashion trends that drive me crazy. Consider:

- The unsupportive bikini. The only thing that drives me crazier than bralessness is bad taste in swimwear, especially if you're talking about walking around Waikiki and staring at flapjack boobies - of any size - in badly constructed bikinis. Trust me on this one, ladies: If your cup size is greater than a C, you really are much better off with more chestal support. And unless you are (a) a model or actress, (b) a stripper, or (c) a bodybuilder, you have no business running around in public in nothing but a string bikini, ever. Remember, even the hottest female surfers and canoe paddlers know better to put on a rash guard before hitting the water.

- Badly done layering. Okay, so letting the halter straps of your bikini peek out of your tank looks cool. Wearing a plunging halter top over the thick beige straps of your 18 Hour Bra, on the other hand, is not. And as for those “fake layer” tops that were in vogue not too long ago... it's over, folks, and not a moment too soon.

- Out-of-season footwear. I only know of one person who can carry off wearing Uggs here in Hawaii. She was wearing it because it was cold outside and we were hanging out past our bedtime in pajamas. Everywhere else? Don't get me started.

- Hooker/fetishist shoes. Again, I only know of one person who got away with platfom lucite heels, and she wore them because it gave her height under her wedding gown. (And, uh, check out the younger version of Julia Roberts in the poster on your right.) The rest of us in any combination of platforms, stilettos, rubber, patent leather and/or Lucite will inevitably look like runaway cast members from a “sensual” revue on the Las Vegas Strip. (And, yes, the Rick James episode of Chappelle's Show has turned me off platform boots indefinitely.)

- Gut overhang. Guys, it's OK to layer your most awesome T-shirt over another shirt, even a thin undershirt like your grandpa used to wear. Otherwise, that extra inch of bare midriff that peeks out between your shirt hem and your waistband runs the risk of ruining the sexy, as Diddy would say. (And if you think you can be excused from this rule because of your “killer” abs... think again, brah.)

- The matching set. The one thing that's unsavory about shopping at Ross involves those cheesy, printed blouse-with-matching-skirt (or pants, or jacket) outfits. Yes, it can save you money, but wearing the whole set all at once can be unflattering at worst and costumey at best. The only solution is to break the set up; in most cases, you can wear the bottoms with another shirt in the same color family and the tops over a camisole or tank with neutral pants. (Unless the top is "fake-layered" with a shirt-like panel, in which case... no.)

- Head to toe leather. Need I explain more? Plus, if you're wearing fake leather, it's double the don't.

Now, to be fair, this doesn't even cover the exceptionally heinous crimes against taste by way of hair and makeup - and trust me, we'll be here all night if we went there. But the point is this: We're already lucky to live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Dressing badly only makes you stand out in a very obnoxious way.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Case for Retail Expansion

This has been a great week for shopping here in Hawaii, hasn't it? First it's announced on Monday that L'Occitane is opening in Waikiki (at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, which is already home to Lush and Cheesecake Factory) and now comes the news that Target is coming over. Oh happy day! As long as they bring more Method and less Choxie, we should be fine.

Meanwhile, Bath and Body Works is continuing to punk out on on opening a store here - which shouldn't be bad if you can order their stuff online (more Coco Cabana for you, my sweet), but if you like to have your nice-smelling bath products you can go ahead and check out Chemistry on King Street. I'm not saying that it's exactly the same quality or ingredients, but the concept of blending your own scented stuff is cool, kind of a throwback to what The Body Shop used to do before they became overrated. And if you think the range of scents are too girly for you, consider this: The last time I dropped in, they were also selling stuff from Thymes, so check 'em out while you can.

Seriously, though: I'm still waiting on Lane Bryant and Torrid to open out here. (Especially Torrid, who should give Jeans Warehouse II a run for their plus-size clubwear money.) Not to mention IKEA, Anthropologie... and, uh, H&M, at least so I don't have to endure their badly-designed Flash site any more.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Case for the Random Celebrity Commentary

Or: I Never Thought I'd Say This, But This Blog Could Use More Sarsgaard

Aww, check out two of my favorite celebrity boyfriends in this photo! Peter looks especially happy to see Ludacris, don't you think? Too bad about the Maggie impersonator right in the middle of them.

(I kid, I kid. But, seriously, Luda must be looking at Jake and thinking, "Yo, P, why you gotta dress your woman up like a dude, bro?")


Speaking of Maggie Gyllenhaal: You know that new Real Simple show on PBS? One of the reasons why I started watching was because I noticed that one of the co-hosts - the twee-soundingly-named Cydnee Welburn - looks like a cross between M.G. and Kimberley Locke, but more adorable. The rest of the show is OK - the hosts aren't bad, but the concept and the editing makes America's Test Kitchen and Everyday Food look like Ken Burns documentaries by comparison.

(And I'm not even going to start with that punk Ming Tsai, who moved to PBS from the Food Network. Caramelized onion sambal?!? No wonder I dropped him from the TV-boyfriends list after I heard about his arrogant 'tude.)

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Case for the Writing Process

Okay, so remember the “domesticity issues” I've hinted at two entries ago? I've been getting a little emotional about how I feel about relationships and commitments. It's not just romance, because that's always been on my mind - especially now that I've got friends who are either getting married or just going into relationships that could go there - but the whole realization that there's a whole new world outside of my apartment and I'd like to share more of myself with other people. And because I tend to be more private when I'm vulnerable, I've decided to pour out these anxieties into the novel I've been working on.

A few months ago, I mentioned on this blog that I have been working on my novel, and that I promised to talk about the writing process with regard to said novel when I'm more confident. Apparently I haven't mentioned it again, seeing as I was caught up with school while I was working on it, but now's a good time for me to share how it's coming along.

I think that I'm happy with the first five-and-a-half chapters that I've finished, including the two whole chapters I knocked off before Christmas. Those of you who may have read the previous drafts will be surprised to hear that the editing took care of some of the aspects that would have bloated up an otherwise workable story about four twentysomething professionals. For example, even though most of the main characters were working in major mass-media jobs in Honolulu, I kept the unnecessary commentary on Hawaii television news to a minimum, mostly because it was getting way too much in the way of the story. Because of that, many of the peripheral characters were also eliminated so I could focus more on the interior dialogues and character development.

And because of the focus on character development, I feel like I've invested a lot more humanity into the characters, as well. To take a metaphor from Japanese cooking, I seem to have slipped in a little umami into the characterization - there's more than one dimension emerging, and it's not all sweet or bitter but something tangible and indescribable at the same time. The conflicts emerge a lot earlier because I'm still trying to capture that mindset of getting everything you could ever dream about in your 20s and then suddenly realizing that it's not what you thought it would be. (And as someone who's all but done with that phase, I think it's so much better to go in there with some emotional distance.) There's also some commentary there about being in that place and asking some tough questions about taking chances and having faith.

All in all, the book has been a great way for me to work out some things that have gotten into my beeswax in the last few. Hopefully I'll have a manuscript worth sharing some time soon.

Stay tuned for more "fun" entries soon!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Case for Even More Un-Pop-ular Opinions

Don't kill me for saying this (and I've already turned in my U2 fan card because I can't spare $50 on mosh-pit tickets for the April concert at Aloha Stadium) but I like Mary J. Blige's cover of “One” - the duet she did with Bono. Okay, so girlfriend should've stuck more closely to the melody line, but I've yet to hear anyone outside of a karaoke bar investing this song with the right amount of passion and emotion, and MJB nails it perfectly.

Which, on the other hand, is more than I can say for Alanis Morissette covering “Crazy.” Sure, Alanis is no J.D. Fortune when it comes to mangling Seal, but... the heck?

And here's the real kicker: I expected Alicia Keys and Adam Levine dueting on “Wild Horses” to suck, but it didn't. No, really. In fact, I think I like this one better than "Unbreakable."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Case for the Crowning Glory

The last few days have been a whirl for me, especially now that I'm starting school again and it looks like I'm back on my old ministry schedule again (complete with weekly dinner!). The only thing that hasn't been sitting well with me is that I've also found myself on an emotional rollercoaster because of... let's just say that there are some domesticity-related issues involved. The blog's still here, though, which is where the rest of the story fits in.

As I mentioned, my schedule's been changing lately, and because I'm in the middle of making adjustments I hadn't been able to make the appointment that I'd been meaning to make with Lexus. Eventually, however, I got really impatient and I ended up going to another branch of The Chain, one that was close to school.

Good news: I didn't spend that much money. The thing is, it went by too quick - I asked for layers, but I doubt that there was enough layering going on; all I saw was that the lady who did my hair just cut everything around my face at an angle, giving me a sort of straw-mushroom look while my hair was still wet. And she didn't even blow-dry, which meant that I ran around all afternoon with wet hair. Once it did dry to its usual shaggy-bob self, though, my hair looked and felt so much fuller - and kickier, even.

So much for my New Year's resolution to be less impulsive.

Time will tell, though, if the 'do stays kicky on its own, but I'm fairly sure that I'm going back to Lexus before Valentine's Day to razor the layers back to their shaggy glory.


Speaking of shags, one of my friends - who's also going through a major life-adjustment period - recently got her hair chopped, and I do mean chopped: She went from having long, blond beach-babe hair to a feathered, piecey shag with the under-layers dyed pink. (She told us that it started out really bright hot pink, but now it's fading into a more subdued shade of strawberry.) It's so awesome in a Deborah Harry kind of way, and it's so her that I couldn't imagine anyone else being able to pull that off.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Domesticity Newsstand Roundup: Winter 05-06

One of the things I did differently on my winter vacation was to skip the usual offerings at the newsstand. And for good reason, because I was not impressed by any of the editorial content that was being offered by the usual suspects between Christmas and New Year's.

Take Allure, for example. Seriously, Linda Wells is descending into the same pit of despair as Anna Wintour. By now you've probably read the reviews of the January issue (the one with Gwyneth on the cover and Dr. Sunken Tits in the Fashion Stakeout section - the heck?) but I have to take umbrage at the December issue, which I purchased at the corner store while I was still going through the flu. What on earth did Teri Hatcher and her people do to Allure to deserve the pallid lip gloss and poor retouching (yes, worse than Gwyneth's) on the cover shot? And don't get me started on the articles, which have always bored me to death. For one thing, the hateful Rachel Zoe Rosenzweig (and yes, I insist on using her full name) actually drops a few tips on “Arriving with Style.” Shut up, Rosenzweig. Also, every time I read about celebrity dermatologists, I always remember what my sister says about Tyler Florence: “The only way he can be more useful to me is if he showed up in person in my kitchen, cooking the food himself. Why settle for the book and the pictures?”

And what's up with the featured celebrities in the other mags? There's Ashlee Simpson on Cosmopolitan, trying to convince us of two things she hasn't been lately: sexy and relevant. There's Paris Hilton on Shop, Etc., hereby convincing me that she will never be sexy or relevant in this lifetime. There's Anne Hathaway, who actually sported better hairdos in Brokeback Mountain than on the December cover of Lucky. (Mena Suvari, on the other hand, looked nice on the January cover.) And then there's Sheryl Crow on Shape, doing nothing to convince me that I really should work harder for my fitness goals this year.

Speaking of fitness goals, as soon as I got off the plane in Vegas my brother handed me a back issue of Men's Health. And, sure, there's a lot to snark on about Men's Health - it's like Esquire with a little less (political, booze-fueled) conversation and a little more (body-sculpting, whey-protein-drinking) action - but I personally couldn't put that back issue down. Maybe it's because I find the articles more helpful, since they emphasize muscle performance and definition rather than calorie counting and hiring a personal trainer. Maybe it's because they refuse to sugarcoat discussions of body image among genders and body types (none of that fake-sincere “you're beautiful the way you are!” crap that I usually find in Glamour; more like “Just ask any hot girl: abs = sexy, flab = meh, but big bodybuilder muscles = hell no”) Or maybe it really is all the pictures of shirtless guys showing off washboard abs, accompanied with articles on how to diet and exercise to achieve said washboard abs without throwing away tons of money or injuring one's self. Mmmm, abs. (Sorry, Michael Tsai.)

My other favorite parts of Men's Health are the fashion features, which are focused mainly on tailored sportswear - eg. jackets, slacks, and jeans - as opposed to the Lycra-and-slutwear that Shape usually features for women. Again, there's no sugar coating here - it's apparent that there's going to be a woman reading the magazine who's going to come up to her significant other (or brother, or in-law, or dad) saying, “Honey, you'd be so much sexier if you dressed like Orlando Bloom in this picture” - but I happen to be a fan of well-tailored clothing on anyone, so your mileage may vary. (If only Women's Health didn't look so dowdy by comparison; even with Mally Roncal dishing advice, the makeup and fashion sections lack the same sense of wit and flavor as the fitness and sex articles.)

This January, Men's Health has Eric Bana on the cover. And any opportunity for me to gaze upon the beautiful visage of Eric Bana (without having to suffer for two hours' worth of costume and dialogue - take it from someone who saw that Hulk movie on TV) is a good opportunity in itself. But more about that later.


In other news, I just browsed through a copy of the January issue of San Francisco magazine at B&N, and, well, let's just go ahead and say that Gavin Newsom is teh hottness. Okay, a little too workaholic and political for my taste, and it's not like I'm going to leave Oahu for the Bay Area any time soon, but - come on, I'm not blind!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Case for the Recap

2005 was the year...

- I left my job and went back to school.
- I started this blog as a way to jot down the thoughts I actually have when I'm not studying/ working/ volunteering.
- I took up crochet again and ended up giving away so many scarves, hats, and afghans as gifts.
- I went back to the gym and was shocked - shocked! - at how much I enjoyed spending my time there in the first place.
- I finished a 10k walk without cramping afterwards.
- I made peace with some friends I've lost, and lost some friends who gave me no peace.
- I had to remind myself that all of us - including yours truly - are doing the best that we can in every given situation, and it would be best if we could just calm down and not be so difficult for once.
- I started to have a good idea about what I'm supposed to do with my life, my home, my money, and my future... and while I'm not exactly going to get the answers soon enough, my hope for the next year is that I'll enjoy the journey anyway.

Now, for the beauty/shopping discoveries...

- Smith's Rosebud Salve: Not just the clear winner (pun semi-intended) in the Battle of the Lip Balm All-Stars that occurred during my vacation, but the only cosmetic product that I wore on my face in Vegas on the days that I didn't feel like wearing any makeup. Once you've dabbed it on your lids and cheeks, it's hard not to believe the hype.
- Bath and Body Works' Brown Sugar & Fig and Coconut Lime Verbena: One is like a sweet, sophisticated French cafe pastry; the other is like a cocktail on a Caribbean beach resort. Both scents are completely unexpected for B&BW.
- L'Occitane Pure Shea Butter: BEST. BALM. EVER. I got the verbena-scented version as a Christmas gift (thanks, Sis!) and I can't get enough of it since.
- Lush Temple Balm in Whoosh: Like a booster shot of Ritalin, without the aftershock.
- Domino magazine: Replaces Allure and Lucky as my go-to newsstand glossy staple. Goodbye boring beauty-mag stories - and hello, envy-inducing photo spreads of chic semi-minimalist apartments!
- Better mid-price jeans for curvy gals: Not just Gap and Old Navy (low rise boot cut for $20 - woohoo!), but also the Levi's Signature jeans at Wal-Mart. Shocking, but true!
- Underwire sports bras (in general): Shockingly effective at reducing bounce while still keeping a clean line under shirts.
- L'Oreal True Match pressed powder in Sun Beige W6: No blotchiness, barely any breakouts, and impeccable skin tone to go with the airbrushed complexion; I still can't believe this worked for me!
- Bare Escentuals' i.d. bareMinerals All-Over Face Color in Warmth: Gives that healthy, “I just went hiking” glow at any time of the day... without looking like you've powdered your face with volcanic soil.
- Jordana lip liner in Tawny: Cheap and cheerful; never needs sharpening; goes great with gloss.
- Almay Whipped Gloss in Nude Reflection: I got this at Longs for half-price (are they discontinuing this stuff? hmmm) and couldn't be happier. The perfect spicy, see-through nude.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Case for the Vacation: Las Vegas, the Hard Way

Hello dear readers! I have returned, as promised, and not a moment too soon. I have to admit that there are a lot of things I'm glad to have missed - like, say, Master P replacing his son on Dancing with the Stars - but all I can think about right now is how glad I am to be back here.

First up, Vegas. What else can I say? BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER. (Okay, so every Christmas gets better with my family, but bear with me on this one.) Not so much because of Vegas but because I got to spend it with my entire family... which I have to admit was far from relaxing, but worth every moment nonetheless. Especially when it came to shopping, which in our case meant hitting the outlet centers and the shopping malls for last-minute Christmas gifts.

As I am typing this, however, I am still recovering from a brutal bug that I seem to have caught during my trip; I already had a sore throat by Christmas (when we stayed up all night and ended up in Downtown Las Vegas for the Fremont Street Experience - which I think is quite pretty, BTW, and underrated) but didn't get worse until our flight back to Honolulu. For the next few days after that I was down with a fever and had to take meds for my flu-like symptoms. Seriously, it's so easy to underestimate health issues like this while you're traveling, but for some reason it was even worse for me due to the combination of the weather, the smoke-filled (and recirculated) casino air, the crowds (hello, lobby of the seriously overrated Wynn, where the overriding theme is "Steve Will Always Have More Money Than You") and the possibility of not getting enough nutrition from all those bambucha buffet meals.

(Then again, as my brother noted, all of us adults at the table seem to have made fewer trips than usual at the buffet. He thinks it may be a dietary thing, or something that comes with age - metabolism and whatnot - but my sister adds that this may be because half of the offerings on the entree line looked abysmal to begin with.)

The sad part was that all the poor, unhealthy habits did show up on my face eventually, and now my face is completely chapped. It is true: If you don't take care of yourself on the inside, it's definitely going to show up on the outside - and in my case, the face is always the first to go. As I bundled myself on that couch seat during the flight home, trying desperately to stay warm without coughing, I cursed myself for not bringing enough vitamins, forgetting the Airborne, and feeling like I haven't done enough to keep myself healthy.

(And, oh yeah, did I mention that I nearly threw up after one of the rides at Star Trek: The Experience? Not because the ride was horrible, though.)

That said, I can't hate on Vegas too much; even with the crowds and the second-hand smoke and me not getting lucky with the one-armed bandits, I still have a soft spot for the place. The bargain shopping is tops (Las Vegas Premium Outlets, especially - even L'Occitane has an outlet here!); watching Cirque du Soleil and hanging out at the Bellagio never gets old - really, that grown-up playground atmosphere is just a change of pace for me, and I can't help but love it. And any city that plays hilarious videos of Lance Burton and Carrot Top going through airport security while you're waiting in line can't always be that bad.