Friday, January 30, 2009

Never Can Say Goodbye: This Month's Clearance List

And so the economic downturn begins, with a look at the online sale racks and clearance bins at your favorite beauty stores....

Sephora: There really is a couple of schaedenfreude-licious entries here, like the No!No! and SkinFusion (although I'll admit that I've got my eye on this set, and I'm hoping against hope that it's still available when my tax refund rolls in). I'm also sad about all the Vincent Longo stuff here, although I'm probably just hoping that it's just a matter of the brand moving, to, say, Ulta or Bath and Body Works instead, and not because the company itself is losing money. Otherwise, there are good deals to be had here, especially when it comes to the sets for makeup and body products. Also, get those on10 lip balms while you can; it's the perfect combination of scent, flavor, SPF and price.

MAC: Website redesign notwithstanding, the Featured Goodbyes are a good place to look at a few things you may have missed from the last, oh, ten billion color collections they've issued last year. Yes, it's a pity that they're still selling the regular stuff at regular price (standard practice, I realized, after looking at the bye-bye lists at other department-store brand sites), but if you're the kind of person who did find the most perfect shade of eyeshadow ever but couldn't come back to the store for it, this is always a good place to start. There's also a feature where you can plug in the name of your fave now-discontinued MAC product and check out their recommendations; it's not as accurate as, say, doing a search on Specktra, but it's a good start.

Bath and Body Works: Here's a confession - I like going to the clearance bins at the actual B&BW stores because I always find better deals there than I would online. Unfortunately, since there's no Mainland trip in the future (unless I'm crazy enough to convince my sister to pay extra for a suitcase containing nothing but Bath and Body Swag), I'll have to content myself with sifting through the online sales and clearance bins. Take this page, for example: Some of the stuff are cheesy leftovers from the holidays, and the lipglosses - with the exception of the Bigelow Mentha stuff, of course - leave much to be desired... but just mention the words "Japanese Cherry Blossom" and "Velvet Tuberose" to me, and I'll start raving like a madwoman. Since I'm also easily amused, I find myself drawn to the Lippmann Collection nailpolishes, especially Stop and Stare (what, no "Apologize"?) and Shut Up and Drive (very Rihanna-ish, dontcha think?). Also: lambs!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

No Snarky Explanation Necessary

What else can I say? Well, I did finally get a sniff of Dolce & Gabbana's The One at Sephora the other day, and now I'm convinced that D&G are giving Chanel a run on the iconic-fragrance department.... not to mention my hard-earned cash, since I've been wearing Chanel Chance for the last seven years. Someday, when my cash isn't too hard to earn, I'll splurge on a bottle of this.
Although, to be fair, there is another fragrance that does come close...

Yeah, I said it: Deseo by Jennifer Lopez really does come close to replicating The One, at least as far as my nose is concerned. Come to think of it, J. Lo has been really doing well in the fragrance department lately, ever since she came out with Live. (Also: the Deseo for Men smells fantastic, too - so much that I'd buy it for myself!)
But alas, neither one is meant to be. Now I must go back to doctoring body sprays with patchouli...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Don't Call It a Diet

Suuuuure, I tell myself. Of course I'm not on a diet. I only got those cans of Slim-Fast Optima because I'm too lazy to wash dishes after breakfast. I only got the mini plate because I wanted to make room for dessert. I only got those apples from the store because I got used to my parents eating fruit after every meal.

(...Wait, that last part is a bold-faced white lie, and I know it. My sister will tell you how much pie I destroyed over the holidays compared to the amount of fruit and veg on my plate.)

And then it hits me, when I get to the store and pick up the 5-lb. bag of pink grapefruit because it was "more affordable" than the bag of apples, that I really should stop lying to myself.

The fact remains that I did gain a lot of poundage back - not just for the lack of exercise and the roller-coaster cycles of depression and stress that besieged me all of last year, but because I didn't watch everything I ate for the whole year. That doesn't mean I've stopped the stress-eating - yet - but judging by the way I went through four pounds of apples since Sunday, it looks like I'm beginning to get the hang of this whole "healthy eating" stuff.

That's why, when my friend proposed going on a diet together, the first thing that came out of my mouth was "I'm in." Trust me, I don't like cutting calories and eyeballing portions as much as you do, but there's a very competitive person who's dying to get out from under all this cellulite - and that person would practically kill to fit into another pair of Size 14 jeans this spring. That's also the same person who's sick and tired of being the person who takes home cake and macaroni salad from every party. (And why does it have to be the cake and the macaroni salad? I can't even make sandwiches out of that stuff, people.) I may be broke, but this one-person pity party isn't going to stand back and go home with sloppy seconds any more... not just with food, but with, you know, practically everything else in my life.

Still and all: I'm not going on a "diet."

Here's what happened during the last few times I went on a "diet": I tried so hard because I wanted to be loved. I thought that cutting portions would make me smarter, sexier, or a better person over all. I always went in thinking that my friends and family were going to love me more if I lost X pounds in Y amount of time, in greater direct proportions. When I failed, I failed spectacularly, to the point where I did become suicidal. Talk to me about the times when I stopped eating in college because I just stopped "feeling like it," or the times when I wanted to overdose on fatburners because I felt like a loser at work, and I'll be quite blunt with you. Talk to me about the last time I tried intense high-impact cardio - with the hope that I'll burn off pounds and meet hot guys while doing so - and I'll tell you how my lungs gave out so much that I ended up with relapses of both my asthma and bronchitis.

This moment, with all the shakes and the fresh fruit and the smaller portions? Doesn't feel like a diet to me. The shakes really are there because my mornings are always rushed and I'd rather not blow all my calories on a greasy omelet. The fruits are there to take care of both the fiber and the stress-eating, especially during the times when I would rather eat than knit. (Also because I hate the processed-food aftertaste that I get from most snacks.) And the mini plates? Not only are they easy on my pocketbook and my calorie counts, but they're also easy for my stomach, since I can't handle big meals any more... or at least any big meal that isn't attached to celebrations at hand.

No more sweets, mac salad, or leftover fried whatevers from other people's pupu platters that I can't recycle into legitimate meals the next day. And definitely no soda. Not even diet soda, which I used to drink by the gallon. That stuff I have to cut down to no more than 2 a week, because anything more than that would just irritate my stomach on top of the bloating and the heartburn.

Not a diet, really. More like a change of pace.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It's All About The O

Let me preface this by saying that I, as a resident of the same Makiki neighborhood where he grew up, am very proud of our President. I may not fundamentally agree with everything that he stands for, but that's to be expected - and since when did I have to agree with every single opinion held by every single person I've ever respected and admired? Beside the point, people. All I know is that we have a new President, and he's as human as can be. So there.

That said: Before we move forward, let's just bask in the moment here.

File published at; photo credited toTimothy Clary of AFP/Getty Images.

You know what I'm also loving, beside that white dress and Michelle O's love and support for immigrant designers like Jason Wu, Isabel Toledo, and Narciso Rodriguez? The ongoing fashion coverage at Mrs. O and Allure Daily Reporter. Just brush off the blog-trolls and feel the love.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Not Another Recipe!

Still life of stock pot on stove. Taken with the webcam.

If I wasn't already laid up with bronchitis this weekend (boo), I would've taken all this crazy weather we've been having as a good time to start experimenting with soup - and in particular, the graniteware stock pot that I purchased for myself at Wal-Mart over the holidays. However, given that my respiratory health hasn't been the greatest lately, I decided that now was a good time to play around with our family's panacea of choice: chicken and rice soup.

Call it what you will - congee, jook, bubur, arroz caldo, lugaw, pospas (what up, Visayas!) - whatever it is, it's definitely comfort food for the days when you could really use the strength. Being the urbanized Pinoy that I am, I usually prefer to make the stuff with chicken because 1) chicken = good, and 2) I've had lugaw with tripe before, and it does nothing for me. In the Meimei household, the only spices that go into our rice soup are ginger, onions, garlic, and other members of the onion/garlic family, to keep the porridge "blonde"; anything else is either optional (Sriracha and fish sauce, hayyyy!) or just plain showing off, which explains why I never liked the saffron-laced versions I've seen in Manila restaurants.

Beyond that, however, there is much considerable debate - starting, of course, with the rice itself. Traditionally most home cooks make arroz caldo with sticky rice, which gives the soup a risotto-like consistency. (If you've ever been to my Mom's kitchen, where jasmine rice is a daily staple by decree of Dad, you'd understand why.) Pinoy expats, on the other hand, like to use a base of regular Calrose or supermarket medium-grain, which has more of the desired soupy-starchy texture found in congee; it does get watery after a while, but some cooks would rather put a lot of Calrose in the stock pot and let it boil until it's thick and porridge-y.

And then there are cooks like me, who just make what I feel like making.

Over the holidays, I got to try SisMei's mother-in-law's legendary Leftover Turkey Jook, made with the remains of this year's Thanksgiving turkey - starting with the carcass in the stock. Not only was it delicious (made even more so by me adding tons of pickled ginger in my bowl) but it was also the perfect antidote to the eat-fests we've had over the holidays. That gave me an even more wicked craving for my Mom's usual sick-day porridge, fueled more so by both my actual sickness and my curiosity about using leftover turkey.

Smoked turkey drumsticks happened to be on sale at Safeway over the week, so I decided to go with making the stock from those - along with dried shiitake mushrooms, which are supposed to be good for your immune system, and brown rice for fiber. The rest of the recipe - which I've now rechristened Turkey, Mushroom, and Rice Panacea - is outlined below...

  • Start with 1 whole chopped yellow onion, 1 tsp. crushed black pepper, and 2 tbsp. of ginger-and-garlic paste (or 2 cloves of garlic) in a 5- or 7-quart stock pot. Add 3 skin-on smoked turkey drumsticks (about 2.5 lbs. if you can find them), then add enough water to cover the meat (about 3-4 quarts). Cover with the stock pot lid and simmer for about 2 hours on low heat or until meat and cartilage starts falling off the bones. (Note: The smoked turkey eliminates the need for salt and any additional flavoring at this point; if you're an umami junkie, though, I'd recommend holding off on the soy sauce and other condiments until later.)
  • After 2 hours, discard the bones; the meat and cartilage should fall away easily when prodded with the back of a spoon, leaving you with a clean bone to toss in the garbage. Stir constantly to separate meat further from cartilage and/or any of the tiny pin bones you might find sticking out, which you can also throw in the garbage. (Note: It's important that you do not throw the cartilage away; not only does it add flavor to the stock, but they're also an important source of collagen. I also like to keep the skin on in this case, since the skins lend a ham-like texture to the proteins in the soup.
  • Once you get rid of the bones, add about 2 tbsp. (an entire 1-inch knob) of chopped fresh ginger - you can add as much as you want, depending on how much you like ginger, but if you're as sick as I am you will need a lot of ginger. If there's a significant amount of water loss, add 1 can (2 cups) of low-sodium chicken broth, put the lid back on, and let simmer on the stove for about 30 minutes on low heat.
  • Meanwhile, soak a 1-oz. package of dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water for at least 2 minutes, to soften them up. Add the mushrooms and the water to the pot once they're soft enough to be pliable, but not too soft to be mushy.
  • Now here's the tricky part: Because of the smokiness of the turkey drums, and also for health reasons, I decided to add some brown rice to the mix, which maintains more of the soupy balance without sacrificing the heft of the starch. Since we have about 3 quarts of liquid in the pan, I went with a ratio of 1 cup brown rice to 1 cup regular white, which makes 2 cups of starch altogether. Depending on how soupy you want this, you could also make this with half Calrose and half sticky if you want the thicker, heartier version, as long as you limit the brown rice to no more than 1 cup - it really does make a difference, since the brown rice does cook into a barley-like consistency.
  • Once you've added the rice to the pot, put the lid back on and let it simmer on low heat, again, for at least 30 more minutes or until the rice has expanded to twice its size and the soup is thick. Turn off the heat and let it cool before serving.

Voila: a perfectly Asian-American rice soup with all the healthiness and heft from the mushrooms and brown rice, the smokiness from the turkey, and the kick from the ginger. You can eat this straight from the pot, or you can go all Fusion on it and top it with green onions, tofu, soy sauce, fish sauce, and even more ginger (pickled or fresh, your choice). You can even eat it with breadsticks, if you are so inclined.

This recipe should last you at least three days if you're single, or should serve at least 4 to 6 guests; refrigerate or freeze any leftovers - but reheat on the stovetop for best results, since microwaving sometimes leaves portions too soupy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Randomesticity: My Blog is On Fire

Some things that are taking over my attention right now:
- RIP, Ricardo Montalban. May you be welcomed in heaven as warmly and hospitably as you have welcomed everyone else on Fantasy Island... preferably with Saint Peter presenting you with your own seat of Corinthian leather.
- Kings of Leon, "Sex on Fire." I would've put this on my New Year's 2008 list (as if throwing Lesley Gore in the same playlist as TI and Kevin Rudolf wasn't crazy enough) but I think this song deserves a separate category in itself. Dark, dirty, danceable: it's up there with "The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret" on my list of hot, sweaty, sexy indie-rock joints.

- Eddie Izzard, again. As far as MAC-endorsing drag queens go, I'd still take him over Dame Edna any given day... and, since he does admit to fancying "birds" (ahem), I'd also take him anytime, anywhere, any way I can get him. Even if it means he'll need to take me out to shop for hot shoes first.

- Which reminds me: As much as I adore Dame Edna (and don't get me wrong, I actually do), I am actually getting tired of looking at that old heffa's face every single time I pass by the MAC stores at Ala Moana and Pearlridge. Why? Brunette Blonde Redhead -that's the reason why.

- Rock-n-roll shirts. Usually I have a hate-on for the likes of Ed Hardy and Christian Audigier, not the least of which because the tattoo-print tee is already an overplayed look all over HNL. (Seriously, I can't even go to the supermarket without my eyeballs getting seared by an overly blinged Ed Hardy shirt.) That changed, however, when last weekend I accompanied a friend to a store that sold shirts from Affliction and Sinful, on top of the usual Hardy/Audigier stuff. Let me tell you: When I say it's hot, I mean hot - in a biker/rocker, Mickey Rourke-before-he-messed-his-face-up kind of way. The Sinful shirts, in particular, looked super hot on my friend (who has a day job in the medical field), but I, personally, still can't get away with wearing any of it without looking like a total poser. Still hot and adorable, though - and a surefire cure for the American Apparel-style hipster chic that we've been enduring for the last few years.

- Flirting with the dark side. We all know that the dark side has cookies, on top of biker-tattoo shirts, male lesbians, the Wrath of Khan, and rock anthems about hot sex. And while nothing, not even the messed-up face of Mickey Rourke, is going to get me to watch Grindhouse, this hilarious fake trailer from Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright - which also has a short cameo by featured player (and certifiable hottie) Rafe Spall - comes dangerously close.
- Letters from home. One thing that does keep me from being enticed to the dark side, however, is the occasional sunny missive from friends and family. It just so happens that the lovely Dess (who went to school with yours truly and Scribey) just started her own blog, All Things Manila - and what do you know, the most recent posts have been about two of my favorite things in the Philippines: food and travel! Definitely worth a read. :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mama's Got a Brand New Bag

Black, supersoft mock-croc satchel from Red by Marc Ecko. Original price: $74.00.
Tag price at Macy's Ala Moana: 55.50.
Final price at Macy's Ala Moana, after One-Day Sale markdown: $27.75.
Awwww yeaaahhhh.
Although, if any of those plastic rings ever break on me, it will be a long day at the cobbler, for sure.

Save Money on Plastic Surgery!

Baffled by contouring, highlighting, and blush? Here are a couple of YouTube tutorials to get you started.

From Lauren Luke (panacea81):

From Marlena of MakeupGeekTV:

And, for extra credit: How To Apply Bronzer, from Karen of Makeup and Beauty Blog.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

I Wish I Had A Red Pen

In which I critique my makeup in almost the same way that I used to critique papers in high school and college. (But more constructively, hopefully.)

I won't comment on the specific colors much, because this was a quick "errand" face for me and I don't want to go into specifics about colors I already use on a regular basis. Instead, I will talk about the new stuff I put on my face:

- Pop Beauty's Golden Sparkle Sauce: I learned the hard way - after taking this picture - that I still need to practice how to use it as an eyeshadow base; the stuff dries quickly, and powders have a tendency to stick to the stuff like glue, so if I don't apply it evenly enough, the shadow will wear off in a way that will make me look like I've been pooped on by some mythological glittery bird. That said, I love the nice golden shimmer that it lends when layered over shadow... and I love, love, LURVE the way it works as a liquid liner base when mixed with a dark powder shadow. Sparkle Sauce even redeeemed my old habit of lining my eyes with a Q-tip: Just saturate the cotton tip with dark powder shadow, add a little Sauce to dampen the powder, and apply to eye line accordingly - the shadow will not only stick where it's applied, but will stay that way for hours. Using a swab also eliminates the need for a brush, since the Sauce does have a tendency to make regular brushes sticky when not cleaned out immediately.

- Everyday Minerals blush: Usually I wear their B&B blush (a sparkly peach), but since I was wearing a pink top I went ahead and test-drove the Salon Fun shade (raspberry sheen) by applying it as a "pop" on my cheeks with Bare Escentuals Warmth as a contour. Really nice, if I should say so. (And is it my camera, or do my cheeks look ten years younger in this shot?)

- Smashbox Brow Tech (from the Try Me palette): I just got my brows done at the neighborhood salon, and the new arch seems to flatter my eyes by making them more almond-shaped. So of course I used the new brow powder on them - and I didn't even have to use just one shade, since I always blend the Taupe and Brunette together.

- The hair: Yeah, I'm back to ponytailing again... but the coconut oil still works, even if it meant that I still had to wash my hair regularly.

We will not talk about the under-eye circles here. Just... no, not here.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Holiday Loot

So I didn't get everything on my wish list this Christmas. So what? Holidays are for sharing with your family. And speaking of my family, we had a beautiful time together - what with me getting a lot of tips from my mom, SisMei and Mrs. BroMei on everything from career rebuilding to cooking for one to, well, keeping one's self beautiful. That explains the coconut-oil conditioning routine I described in the last entry: it's been passed down from generation to generation. (But only for the girls in the family... which explains why my Dad was unable to slow down the growth of his bald spot. Sorry.)

On the bright side, I did get this package from SisMei:

Smashbox doesn't call this the Try Me set for nothing. You've got trial sizes of the Photo Finish primer and Photo Op Under-Eye brightener, a clear lip gloss, a double-ended brush (Brow #12 and Eye Liner #9, respectively), and a compact with brow wax, brow powder, and cream eyeliner.

In the Brow Tech section: wax, and powders in blonde, brunette, and taupe;
Cream Eyeliner: Image, Thunder, Putty, Caviar, Picasso, and Midnight Brown.

So far I'm liking this set - I like to use the Photo Op as a base for concealer and the Brow Tech powders (in any color) for grooming my brows. The brush is also a great addition to my arsenal - the Liner #9 in particular is actually a little fluffier (like an art-store brush) so it's more comfortable to use on the eyelid. I still haven't tested the Cream Eye Liners enough, but from what it looks like here, they follow the regular Cream Liner formula, as opposed to the more tenacious Jet Set liners from the same brand.

And if that wasn't enough, I also got some extras on the side!

Everyday Minerals calls the Salon Fun blush a "sweet raspberry shade layered over a neutral pink base," which turned out to be too bright for SisMei's liking. I tried wearing this on New Year's Eve by putting it on with an extra fluffy brush, which made the powder virtually disappear on my skin. Next time, though, I'll layer this with a bronzer - which makes sense now that contouring seems to be the story of the year (thanks, Allure January '09 issue).

Also, when I ended up at SisMei's house post-blackout - still with the raging respiratory infection, to boot - this Sephora Vanilla Cupcake bath and body bubble gel was added to my stash. Not only did it smell of vanilla and almonds, but it also cheered me up even when I was at my sniffliest. Sweet indeedy.

Not shown in this stash: Maybelline's Mineral Power Finishing Veil in Tan (which was a little too dark on me... but hey, more contouring power!) and Pop Beauty's Golden Sparkle Sauce, which I was able to snag at Sephora at Pearlridge Center for half price. I've decided that the Sparkle Sauce is going to get a test run in my makeup bag as a temporary replacement to my MAC Paint Pot, since I'm supposed to use the stuff as an eyeshadow base.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Everybody's Got to Start Somewhere

I don't like making New Year's resolutions, but since I did need to do something this year to snap me out of my funk, I thought I'd do some cleaning up around the house.

Behold: Le bathroom sink en la Maison du Mei.

This is what the bathroom sink looks like in its unstyled form. It's not quite finished yet, but it's much cleaner than what I started with. Note the new Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on the left-hand side of the sink; it's there to purposefully remind me to keep this area from getting too grungy. Also, the snowman mug holds my lady-shavin' razors; maybe it's a subconscious habit from living with my Dad, but since the sink is right next to the shower I felt that this was a more convenient place to get to them.

I had the good fortune of receiving not one but two bath-product sets from my Sunday School kids, which are now part and parcel of my bathroom arsenal. The pink tin was from one of those sets; I immediately decanted its contents and stuffed every single facial skin-care product and primer I could find into the basket. (No more excuses for missing moisturizers and makeup removers!) The Alba Botanica Hawaiian stuff is from another set; I still have yet to try out that Pineapple Enzyme Facial Scrub, but I'll get around to it when my skin starts acting grungy again.

Also: That Details hand soap from Walgreens? BEST. HAND SOAP. EVER. I love the delicious tropical scent, which lingers on my hands in a good way.

Let's talk about those corner shelves, shall we? I fell in love with them when I first got this apartment. As you can see, the other stuff from the bath sets are in the middle shelf, and the top shelf holds my "weekend hair stuff" - ie. baking soda for occasional scalp scrubs, and a shower cap for deep conditioning. Incidentally, I started deep conditioning my hair again with a mixture of extra-virgin coconut oil and lime juice, which is supposed to stimulate hair growth; since then my hair has never felt softer without losing its bounce.

And then there's the neti pot.

If you suffer from frequent colds and nasal allergies like I do, a neti pot is your best friend. (See how it works here.) I got mine at Whole Foods after my sister recommended the routine to me; since then I've been significally less sniffly, and my breathing has never been better.

As it goes, this is just the beginning; I still have to figure out where the rest of my stuff goes in this apartment, but once I do I have resolved - not just for New Year's, but all year long - to keep posting pictures of places that I've kept in spic-and-span condition. Because, hey, if I could have the chutzpah to post about my closet and my makeup routine... why not post about keeping this apartment clean?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Randomesticity: Absolute Last Post of the Year, I Swear

Greetings, my friends! I'm here chilling with my family at SisMei's house - owing to several factors including that heinous Oahu blackout and an even more heinous respiratory infection that left me horking up phleghm-balls for a good solid week - but all that matters is that I'm surrounded by the people I love and care about the most.

Since I don't have any of my USB camera-loadin' cables here at the house, I thought I should just hold off on the pictures of holiday gifts and purchases until I get back to my own Maison so I can totally go all-out on the rants and raves. (And yes, I was at Sephora today, checking out the sale stuff... *and* Pop Beauty on half off!) Until then, as the clock continues to tick on this crazy year, I thought I'd share some of the tunes that have been rocking these last days of 2008. Enjoy!

- Kevin Rudolf f/ Lil Wayne, "Let It Rock" (I blame the ads for 24)
- Kardinal Offishall, "Dangerous" (what an annoying hook! but still!)
- TI f/ Rihanna, "Live Your Life" (speaking of annoying hooks: Yes, I finally *GET* Mr. Tip now! And don't tell me that the sample from "Dragostea Din Tei (Numa Numa)" was anything but genius!)
Kanye West, "Heartless" (got this stuck in my head after it was played in the SUPERMARKET, of all places! Thanks, Kanye!)
- Lesley Gore, "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows" (to counteract the never-ending bitterness of the Kanye)
- Duffy, "Warwick Avenue" and "Stepping Stone" (note: I still think that D. is overrated and much more gimmicky compared to Adele, Kate Nash, or even Leona Lewis... but these two songs are at least intriguing, and live up to the hype of "Mercy")
- Fall Out Boy, "What a Catch, Donnie" (if only for the vocal blending between Elvis Costello and Patrick Stump alone... I don't care much for the other gimmicky aspects on this track)
- Coldplay, "Viva La Vida" (I should have this as my wake-up music every single day)