Friday, June 26, 2009

And If I Never See You Again...

First of all, a thumbnail of yours truly, mid-move. The Old Glory tank is a "vintage" one from Old Navy that I got from a clothes swap over the weekend; the lipstick is Dare You from MAC. Not much makeup on the rest of the face, though.

Second of all, one last moving tip:

The case that used to hold my Sephora mini-tweezers finally broke today, so I jerry-rigged a new carrying case by stuffing an old prescription-pill container with cotton balls before putting my tweezers in. My tiny pair was able to fit into a child-proof prescription container from CVS (okay, it's still technically Longs, but they *are* using CVS materials post-merger), but you can also use this with an old-school lipstick case, a shampoo bottle, or any cylindrical container long enough to accommodate a pair of tweezers; the padding is there to prevent the tips of your tweezers from getting blunt.

See you in a few days! :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Case for the Basics: Personal Style


Never mind the prices or the brands; let's talk about the setup.

If you like the window shopping more than the actual buying-of-stuff - and in this economy, who wouldn't? - do as SisMei and I have done by checking into Polyvore and creating your own "inspiration board" for fashion and interior design, in super-handy JPEG form. I, for one, can't even begin to tell you how supercool this is, because it makes you feel like you're creating your own fashion spread!

That said: My first Polyvore set, as you can see here, is basically a capsule summation of my style. And the one message that stands out the most about this set?

Inconspicuous luxury.

I wouldn't be surprised if the most expensive items in my set are the Anna Scholz dress and the super-hot Stuart Weitzman peeptoes, but that's the thing - I'd rather spend on quality rather than quantity. On the other hand, however, there is a lack of label-consciousness, as well.

For me, it's a flat-out safety issue - even a place like Hawaii has its own fair share of purse-snatchers and wallet-stealers, so I'd rather take my chances on an inexpensive but practical canvas bag than a gorgeous but hefty Louis Vuitton purse that practically screams "STEAL ME."

(Not that I don't love me some Vuitton, either; in a just world, I would be carrying LV's Mahina XL bag with no shame whatsoever. But anyone who has ever carried a fine purse - even one from Aldo or Nine West, which qualifies as a "luxury item" in the Meimei household - would know exactly what I'm talking about here.)

And it's not just the purse snatchers, mind you. Part of my aversion to labels has a lot to do with the class issues I've dealt with since childhood; there's nothing enjoyable, to me, about speculating how much a person has spent on a bag, or a pair of shoes. Even something as simple as a manicure can lead absolute strangers to making certain conclusions about your net worth.

I honestly think that envy is a sin that leads to more treacherous behavior - jealousy, after all, is what drives people to think that they can get away with stealing lives and possessions just because "those rich people don't need it anymore."

But just because I hate designer labels doesn't mean that I can wear any schlumpy thing that I want, any time and anywhere. Oh, no, no, no. I still believe that dressing well is a form of respect; otherwise, why should others respect you if you look like you don't respect yourself?

Look at the detailing on those Michael Kors shirts in the picture; those tiny bits of bling are nice, but they don't detract from the comfortable cut and fabric. Ditto with the prints on the dress, and the ribbing on the cardigan. The jeans are there because they are cut in the way that makes the most of my back view without the need for any additional faffery in the front, or anywhere else. (Do you hear me, True Religion?) I love the criss-cross straps on the brown flats, which take an otherwise basic and comfortable shoe to a whole new level. I love that the bag has a nice, slouchy shape - the better to fit my usual gear in - in a soft, workable material that won't chafe my arms (or my clothes) if I carry it around every day. And, of course, a good red lipstick to pull everything together, without bleeding onto my teeth - doesn't have to be Nars per se, but you get the gist of it.

Point being: This is my style.

When I walk into a room, I don't want people to make comments about how much money I've spent on my clothes, or how much time I spent on my makeup. I want them to see me, for what I'm worth... and if I happen to be wearing something that looks more expensive than it really is, that's just icing on the cake.

Some of you may be looking at this and saying, But I have no style. Well, I obviously didn't come out of the womb with impeccable taste, either; all of that just came to me after 30+ years of trial, error, observation, and moments of hard reckoning during the times when the rest of my life have come into question. I won't say it's too late to start the journey, though.

Pay attention to the changes in your body, the changes in weather, the life that you live. (This is especially true for anyone whose professions require machine-washable clothes.) Clip out pictures that you like from magazines. Test your concept of style on sites like Polyvore and Taaz to see how it all fits. Ask yourself, many times: What draws me to this? Maybe it's not the outfit, but the mood, the atmosphere, the attitude. Remember that you are meant to own your wardrobe, but your wardrobe is not meant to own you. (Or pwn you, as SisMei's kids would say.)

Above all, be absolutely honest with yourself. Not brutal, not judgmental, but honest in a loving way. Maybe there are things that you do need to let go; think wisely, and soon you will find more room for the new.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Blogging Goddesses of Manila

A recent conversation with a friend of mine back home turned towards the question about whether or not a blog like this one will ever survive in a crowded blog-market like the one we have in Manila. While I never really claimed to blog for the money (...sorry, corporate sponsors-to-be), I will admit that a shopping-and-chismis blog like mine may not stand out, at first. This is, after all, the country that also spawned Bryanboy.

And while this not-too-humble probinsyana is committed - and content - to continue blogging about drugstore mascaras, I would be more than happy to concede my usual showbiz-and-glamour beat to the real experts.

First and foremost:

Mind, this is a stylist-assisted Chuva you're seeing in this picture, but I was already a fan of Cecile Zamora-Van Straten from her columns for the Philippine Star, before Scribey tipped me off to her blog. Stylish, yes, but whip-smart and witty, and quite unpretentious when it comes to her love of fashion and design. Anyone who can write about Louis Vuitton and still have no shame about buying housewares at SM has my undying love and respect.

Also in the category of "undying love and respect": Jessica Zafra.

In the early part of the decade, I was more than ready to write her off as a relic of the grunge era - too artsy for her own good - but all that changed when she also started writing for (again, no surprise here) the Philippine Star three years ago. Now she has her own blog, and I can't let a day pass any more without her piercing insight and unrelenting sense of humor. Also, if you can find them, Scribey and I both heartily recommend her old column, Twisted - several compilations of which are now available on paperback.

(Disclaimer: I have no connections to the Philippine Star, other than the fact that my parents are faithful subscribers to the paper, and a passing acquaintance of mine and Scribey's from high school is now an editor in the same section of the paper where La Cecile and La Jessica publish their columns. Those of you who do, however, should feel free to bombard the editors of the Star with recommendation letters on my behalf. Heheh.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Randomesticity: It's Cranktastic!

It's no joke to be a moving gal: I just got my apartment clean, my suitcases half-packed, and plans for a goodbye party under way... and yet, I've also become deeply cranky, to the point where I'm tempted to get all up in somebody's business if I ever so much hear somebody ask me why I'm moving, let alone why I should even think about trading in this lovely, lovely Hawaiian paradise for the creature comforts of the Southern Tagalog Region.

So let's all go to the happy place together, shall we?

- I actually think that the new, celebrity-studded Drive Safe PSAs sponsored by E! and Ciroc Vodka are pretty cute... and not just because Dave Annable and Maksim Chmerkovskiy are en fuego, and Tom Green naming Kathy Griffin as part of his "list" just makes me giggle. But if you like your anti-drunk-driving PSAs without the bar-hopping celebrities - but with a touch more Biz Markie - here's the soon-to-be-classic Let a Stranger Drive You Home from Heineken.

- Here's what the cashier at the Walgreens on Keeaumoku Street has to say about my most recent purchase: "I see this everywhere! Everybody, always buying this! My co-worker, she got the Colossal! My manager, Colossal! Everyone, they like the Colossal!" (To be fair, however, I also bought Define-a-Lash Volume as well. What can I say, I love BOGO days at Walgreens... and yes, it has been *that* long since I got a new mascara.)

- Speaking of purchases: It's no secret that I am deeply in lurve with Marks and Spencer, especially now that they have branches in the Philippines. I especially love the fact that I have no problem finding stuff in my size at their Manila stores, even if it's just for basics like T-shirts and bras. That being said, the only way I could love their Philippine stores even more than I do is if they constantly keep these chocolate-covered digestive biscuits in stock. Yes, you heard me - and don't let the "digestive" moniker fool you, because it's just there to remind you that they're chock-full of whole grains. Dee-lish.

- And because I can't let this pass without any comment...

Sevin Nyne, besides the fact that it's nothing more than celebrity-endorsed self tanner: a) industrial-strength pesticide, or b) pornographic Star Trek-themed fan fiction?

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Case for the Basics: Moving Essentials, Part 1

- USPS flat rate boxes and envelopes: Practically free from your local post office, and can be used for both domestic and international shipping. The trick here is to get the packaging routine down: For boxes, make sure to double-tape the bottom (aka the flaps that don't have the to/from address labels) - first layer should go 2/3 of the way over the "box crack" (aka the gap between the two top flaps) towards one side, and second layer goes 2/3 of the way over the second side - that way, the bottom is doubly insulated. You don't have to tape down the sides all the way, but go ahead if you think it helps. The envelopes, on the other hand, are great for sending small items like books, baby hats (aherm) and DVDs... but if you must use those bubble-mailer envelopes, I suggest wrapping your item in the bubble mailer before putting it in the Flat Rate envelope. You'll be surprised by how much postage you'll save with Flat Rate.

Tree-hugger bonus: Most Flat Rate boxes have "cradle to cradle" certification, which makes them easily recyclable without affecting your carbon footprint.

-Good packing tape. In my previous life as a storage clerk, I was armed with heavy duty tape rollers with super reinforcement... but at home, my weapon of choice is Duck EZ Start, which you can get at Wal-Mart for a very reasonable price. It doesn't gum up on the dispenser like the other brands of tape, which makes putting boxes together a snap... plus it's easy to smooth over mistakes. And when you're preparing your fine dinner plates for the give-away pile, just wrap your packing tape around them in an X pattern to keep them together - that makes selling and donating much easier.

- Reclosable/ Ziploc bags. True, it's a great way to keep your makeup and potions together (o hai, fellow bloggers!), but the power of the Ziploc(TM) knows no bounds! I use them for sneaking tea bags or instant cocoa packets into my carry-on, and for keeping my prescription meds together. I even used a gallon storage bag to put together my inflight crafting kit: baby yarn, a lucite crochet hook, and a free pattern.

- Your rattiest casual clothes: You'll be sweating through the nitty-gritty of boxes and suitcases anyway. Pack your finest outfits first to get them out of the way; you'll have time to wear them once you get them organized at your final destination.

- A box of rags: Seriously, you don't need those old T-shirts with the bleach stains and gigantic holes in them, do you? Put them out of their misery by cutting the seams out and and using them instead of paper towels around the house. Bonus points if those clothes belong to your ex, which instantly bestows magic cleaning powers.

-Antihistamines and a dust mask: If you're a pack rat with allergies like me, this just goes without saying.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

If You Must Take Up One Hobby This Summer...

Feeling weird about taking up anything yarn-related this summer? (Not to say that there are no gorgeous, summery lace-inspired shawls to be made; on the contrary, I'd suggest either a cotton or a lightweight acrylic for that kind of thing.)

Here's another hobby to pick up: T-shirt renovations!

I just borrowed Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt from the public library today, and up to now I'm still getting a lot of inspiration from this book... and by "inspiration" I don't mean cutting up my T-shirts into unwearable-in-public ensembles. (Though I must say here that there are a few designs in this book that look like they've been held up by nothing more than a safety pin and the grace of God. Yikes.) And you don't really need to have a sewing machine or a fully-stocked sewing arsenal to create these looks, either - in some cases, even the sewing-required projects call for nothing more than a needle, a thread, a tape measure, and a very steady hand with the scissors.

What I like best about Generation T, though, is that the ideas don't stop at wearables alone. There are instructions for T-shirt shag carpets, headbands (o hai, Blair Waldorf!), and even earrings. Yeah, you heard me, earrings. I've already copied their concepts for pillows (stuffed with scraps from previous projects, naturellement), and I might even end up taking their concepts for bags, scarves, and quilts with me, as well.

And if the great ideas don't compel you to start shredding - or at least salvaging some cool designs from an otherwise unwearable shirt - consider the rising costs of shopping and the dire state of our landfills. Even if your attempt at making a punky shirt, skirt, or dining-chair cushion ends up not working as well as you hoped it would, let's face it: at least you would've made an awesome gift... or Halloween costume... or an even more awesome donation to Goodwill!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

"Subtle Amber! For day, for night!"

That, my friends, is the voice of the makeup artist at John Robert Powers in Manila, where I first took my makeup lessons. Subtle Amber, of course, was a blush made (at that time) by Max Factor, and he raved about it because it was a versatile color for every shade of Filipina skin.

But now, Max Factor is departing the US market (boo) for greener pastures in Europe (yay?) and I couldn't be sadder that it's leaving. Especially since I did purchase a stick of Erace Secret Cover-Up - which not only saved my hide during my tan-free years in high school, but also made for a pretty kick-butt eyeshadow base.

(And, if the eyeshadow-loving fellow temp that I worked with was any indication, it's still up there with the best lid primers on earth... yes, even the MAC Paint Pot.)

On the one hand, this gives me the incentive to hunt down what remains of the Max Factor sections at Longs and Wal-Mart. Not so much for the mascara (unpopular opinion: 2000 Calorie is just as overrated as Great Lash) or the eyeshadows (gaaah!!!!) but for the Vivid Impact Lipstick, which - considering the raves for it in the blogosphere, and its current spotty distribution on Oahu - is going to be my next lemming. And, oh heck, maybe some Pan Cake, too.

But until then, let's comfort ourselves with the warm fact that the Factor legacy still lives on, at least in spirit, at Smashbox.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Stuff Like That (Over) There: A Preview of the New Beauty Stash

The one good thing about this particular trip to the Philippines - besides the fact that I'll be staying there indefinitely - is that I don't have to worry about the shopping any more, and not just because we finally got our own Gap. Most of the major brands, after all, are available in the big city of Manila: the big malls have the high-end heavy hitters like Lancome, Shiseido, MAC, Shu Uemura, Chanel, and Lush; the drugstores are catching up with Revlon, Maybelline, L'Oreal, and Nivea; and Kerastase is the brand of choice for many of the best salons in town. (Don't even get me started on The Face Shop - our first branch had just opened during my last visit three years ago, and now it's all over the place!) That's not even to say that our local beauty brands have a long way to go; the last time I checked, some of our local brands have started catching up to innovations from our neighboring countries in Asia.

Even so, however, it's still tempting for me to stockpile on things that I'm afraid I'll run out on by the time I get there. Foundation, for instance, is a major sticking point for me: no matter which brand I use back home, I always end up with something that's way too light for me... and if it's not too light, then it's too obvious either way.

(Insert grumbling here about how dark-skinned Southeast Asian women - even a sunblock-slathering morena like myself - are forced to conform to the long-established cultural standard of "white skin," and how even the major global brands in the Asian market have yet to realize that they are leaving out a huge chunk of the market by not expanding their shade selection enough. Say it with me now: GRRR ARRGH.)

Imagine my response, then, when I found out that Walgreens had a BOGO special on L'Oreal foundation last week.

As a drugstore-makeup junkie, I'm not afraid to admit that L'Oreal's Sun Beige is the only shade that has matched my skin perfectly over the years. I've tried it as part of the True Match line, and I raved about it nonstop when Sun Beige became part of the shade selection for the Bare Naturale mineral makeup line. So of course I just *had* to stock up on two new formulations for my beloved Sun Beige: Infallible Never Fail Powder, which can be used wet or dry, and the pressed version of Bare Minerale, which couldn't be more portable.

On the other end of the spectrum, I also took my MAC empties for the Back to MAC program, where 6 empty containers will get you a free product of your choice at the nearest MAC counter. (Refresher: Most department-store counters will give you a free lipstick, but your local free-standing MAC store will give you a choice between lipstick, gloss, or eyeshadow. How fun is that?)

And this is what I got:

This is Dare You, which looks tomato-red here but is actually a deep brown red (swatch here, courtesy of Makeup and Beauty Blog). Believe me when I say that this lipstick is shiny, shiny, shiny - one swipe makes your lips look soft and hydrated, and the deep red makes the look fresh instead of antiquated.

And, speaking of MAC: I was one of those folks who really wanted to get something from the Style Warriors collection that just came out this month, and as soon as I saw that eyeshadow in Bright Future (the bright yellow one) I brought it upon myself to add a bright yellow to my existing eyeshadow palette.

This is what I got instead:

Yep, L'Oreal's HIP Bright Shadow Duo in Flamboyant. No surprise, considering that the HIP line is a perennial favorite 'round these parts (even my sister is in lurve with them!) but I dare you to look at that yellow-and-purple combo without drooling. Not to mention that I got this for just $7 at Longs instead of spending $29 en toto for the two separate colors from MAC's Style Warriors that these two shades were meant to duplicate in the first place, down to the saturation of the pigment and durability in wear. Score!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Randomesticity: La Belle Manille, and Other Stories

First of all, let's acknowledge our last "guest" "blogger" for holding the fort, shall we? A big round of applause, everyone.

(...Well, okay, so you weren't exactly fooled by that, were you? Seriously, though, Rafe Spall is a massive bucket of cute - IMO, at least - and I really couldn't resist putting him in this blog. Even though I still can't get over the fact that he was sired by Peter Pettigrew.)

Second of all: If you weren't able to tell from the title alone, it's about time I announced it - I am, indeed, moving back home to the Philippines, after the job offer that was supposed to keep me in Honolulu finally fell through. I don't want to get into the bloody details at all, but all I can say about the decision is that I have finally made peace with it, and I am definitely looking forward to the next chapter in this adventure.

Just like the song says: Miss you like hell, Manila.

But before we get there, we still have to contend with the moving process, which I have begun as of last week and will continue throughout the month of June.

Currently I am in the middle of purging all sorts of stuff from this apartment, sorting my possessions into piles and Ziplocs, and editing like crazy until all that's left for me to take with me on the plane are two suitcases' worth of my life. (And a carry-on, of course, but let's not get ahead of ourselves!) Add to that the realization that there might be Stuff I Can't Get Over There - not to mention its clothing counterpart, Stuff I Can't Get In My Size Over There - and it's a miracle I haven't gone completely off the deep end.

Thankfully for the rest of us, I haven't. YET.

And so, on that note, here's a preview of what's coming up for this blog:

- A discussion of the aforementioned Stuff I Can't Get Over There, especially in terms of beauty products for morenas like yours truly

- Another discussion of Stuff that I CAN Get Over There - hello, cosmetics from Japan and Korea!

- Upcoming announcements on the new blog-boyfriend (holla at your girl!) and the long-awaited Domesticity spin-off blog (scheduled to launch in July 2009)

- Moving essentials (because you can't have too much of those)

- A final farewell to my favorite haunts in Honolulu... and a welcoming post for the haunts I can't wait to visit again in la belle Manille!

Here's to a great summer of Domesticity! :)