Sunday, June 24, 2012

For A Change of Pace...

That's right, this is not another entry wading through all my Paris adventures. Oh, trust me, there are still scads of pictures just begging to be posted. Yet I'm trying to curb my need to overshare any more from that amazing trip.

I thought I'd redirect us to one of my ongoing, quirky obsessions.  Though this blog usually concerns itself with clothes and accessories in regards to shopping, there is a huge area that I've typically avoided, yet to which others have dedicated all sorts of time, paper, cyberspace, and cash:  beauty products.

I could go on and on about trying to find the perfect concoctions to work with my combination/olive-complected/kinda aging face.  It could get all semi-deep about beauty and race and marketing.  But really, I just want to know if it's as frustrating (yet kinda fun) for you as it is for me, when it comes to shopping for your face cleanser, lip gloss, etc?

Since I wear minimal makeup, I usually focus on the skincare stuff...  cleansers, eye creams, and sunblock (no, really, is there such a thing that is oil-free, anti-aging, and doesn't leave a whitish film all over my face?). 

The only cosmetics I shop for are blush and lip gloss.  Sounds fairly simple, right?  Yet, as anyone knows, trying to find the perfect match online is pretty much impossible.  Even after reading pages of product reviews (and even after trying to focus on those which come from reviewers with "olive skin" and "brown eyes"), I know it's still a crapshoot.  The peachy blush that 6 Asian women swear makes them look all dewy and naturally flushed may still just make me look like a$$.

Currently, I've gotten intrigued by the whole new BB cream phenomenon.  Having originated in Korea, this new wonder is supposed to take care of a myriad of skin issues with one swipe.  I'm curious to check it out but worried about being disappointed - which is pretty much everyone's concern when trying out new products.  Of course, I'm already lining up my usual suspects to challenge any contender:  Will it clog my pores?  Leave an ashy residue on my not-so-fair skin?  Really make me look like a million bucks?

I'm toying with heading down to the Mall of Insanity later today, which is home to my fave beauty destination, Sephora.  At least I'd be able to try out the buffet in person.  It doesn't carry every darn brand (including an Asian one I wanna check out but is only available in a few states, Minnesota definitely not being one of them), but they do a commendable job with their vast array of tubes, compacts, and bottles.

Meanwhile, as I ponder whether I want to immerse myself in the crowds, I'll ask you this:  have you delved into the BB cream frenzy? Do you also share my never-ending search for stuff that gives results? What are some of your trusted brands (I'm partial to Neutrogena and Korres)? And, for those of you with darker skin, is it a challenge to find good beauty products, both because of color and chemistry?  I'd love to know.

Image:  my own

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Paris: Cranky Pandas + Macaron-Happy Mice

Since it's taken me a month to convey a mere day in Paris, I'm gonna edit like crazy and wrap up the sights in a few more posts.  Of course, this is hard as heck to do, because I feel compelled to share with you every street that teemed with activity, the many cultural places we visited (oh that's right, the historical stuff), and the numerous photographs that seem mundane but captured something essential to our daily walkabouts.  And this excludes the separate photo essays I could've written about the metro (I love subways around the world), the graffiti, and each meal we savored.

I'm going to focus on the shopping, mais oui!  For today's post, I'll laser focus on two particular retailers.  The first blipped onto my radar thanks to my friend Amy, who sent me a weblink to the store right before we left for France.  Like me, she enjoys bears with attitude, such as Gloomy Bear.  So I was very glad that she added Hi Panda to my itinerary.  The creation of China designer Jiji, my new love cannot be found in the US.  So I kind of went nutso in here, buying t-shirts and iPhone cases and such.  Some images from our visit:

Um, is that ginormous light for sale?  Because I know the perfect place for that in my house.

Scowling bears in underwear not your speed?  Fear not.  The other "must-go" place on the day's agenda offered up multiple interpretations of "sweet."  We didn't make it to Ladurée until mid-week, but there's nothing like building anticipation, right?  I couldn't wait to immerse myself in what many people consider the temple of macaron perfection.  I'm pretty sure my husband couldn't wait for us to arrive there either, if only to hear my daily plea to get to the place cease.

A complete 180 degree spin from the previous shop, we entered a store that can only be described as girly and cute.  Girly and cute on steroids.  Steroids which were administered via all sorts of wonderful scents that wafted out from the insanely busy tearoom attached to the store, as well as from the candles that sat primly under clear glass jars.  When I asked what the different candle flavors were, the shopgirl simply lifted up a jar and instructed me to sniff into the underside of each one.  Lo and behold, I stuck my nose into aromas ranging from caramel to orange blossom to mimosa.  Every one exquisite and precious, but weirdly not annoyingly so.

I only got in a few snaps before the shopgal politely but firmly told me that no photographs were allowed:

Naturally, the mascots are super cute as well.  I'm partial to the somewhat photobombed mouse:

You may have noticed something is missing here.  Yep, the actual macaron store was, well, next door.  So out into the rain I went, to join a line of fellow sweet-toothed crazies who patiently waited to enter the gourmet part of the establishment.  As we slowly crept closer to the door, the windows both enticed and tortured us.  

Sorry, no pictures of me in action, salivating over the pastries or selecting my little box of morsels.  I was too busy trying to figure out what I wanted, how to say it in French, and having the money at the ready.  With a long line and brisk business, I didn't need to be that person, juggling a camera, cash, and confections.

I'd like to tell you that trip sated my love of Ladurée.  HA.  When I found out there was a pop-up shop along the famed Champs-Elyseés, guess who dragged her poor husband into another line later in the evening.  A couple images from the second stop:

In the end, I bought a few things and very carefully packed them for the journey home.  Here are my ridiculous treasures, bought as much for the (again) cute packaging as for the goodies inside (which included candles, a towelette and pouch, champagne and - yup - macarons):

Who else is a Ladurée fanatic?  They've certainly got me hooked.  I did hear that a very solid rival was Pierre Hermé.  However, like the former, the latter had a line out the door, right into the tempermental rain.  Guess it means I'll just have to come back to sample the competition!

Next up...  a flurry of window shopping scenes!

Images:  my own

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Paris: 5/15, Part 3 - Hangry, Hangry Hippo

My good friend Ana coined a most excellent term.  Hangry.  Yes, as in hungry + angry.  It seems most dudes (including mine) don't experience the same symptoms from which I and many other ladies I know suffer.  At first, you just kinda feel hungry.  Then you get those stomach pains.  The sharp ones. And then it graduates to nausea.  Which, of course, really sucks because by this point, you feel too ill to remedy the problem!  Makes you mad enough to want to slice down everything in your path like a hippo.

My husband has learned that any kind of exercise - including long walks through new cities - can only be accomplished if eating and/or drinking is part of the activity.  It's either that or I get, well, hangry.  And we all know that letting your lady's hunger pangs prevail is about as good an idea as taking a snort of binaca up the nose when the schoolbus hits a bump...  Um.  Nevermind.

This last round of photos from our first full day in Paris (OMG, she's still on the first day, you moan) is a sliver of the food and drink we either consumed or adored from behind glass displays.  Also, some pics of the bistros, comptoirs, and so on, themselves.  Many of the interiors felt so...  French?  Tiled walls and floors, counters lined with little espresso cups, clusters of outdoor tables, or that (heh) je ne sais quoi!   As for what we snacked on?  Lots of rosé, meats, and cheeses.  Sooooo good.  And not a whiff of vintage breath spray to be smelled.

Our breakfast stop (for hot cocoa):

Ah yes, for the English speakers.  Our lunch menu:

While my husband sipped a European beer...

...I completely pigged myself (literally) with charcuterie and wine:

As we walked off our food coma, we couldn't resist at least admiring more of it:

Within Le Marais, you will find a number of Jewish bakeries.  It's a sight that both tempts the tummy and sobers the memory.

In the Bastille area...

Wine break!

We joined my parents for a very tasty dinner in a cozy restaurant, the name of which I need to get from them...

After my parents headed back to the apartment, my husband wanted to take us to a bar he'd read about, which prides itself on craft cocktails in the American tradition.  Our bartender, Nico, served us up some fine beverages and friendly conversation.

So, while there were a few times I was getting close to hangry, Paris has a downright silly number of places to avert that crisis.

And lest I forget, here's the video from the last post that I said I'd upload (once my internet was playing nice) - the perfect chill-out nightcap after this quick culinary tour:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Paris: 5/15, Part 2 - The Stores!

Any good walkabout in a city must include some shopping, right?  In retrospect, I did not go on an insane buying spree.  We stopped into plenty of shops, but boy, it could have been worse.  Much, much worse :)  In fact, I never got to explore the 3 big retail destinations which were repeatedly suggested to me:  Le Bon Marché, Printemps, and the Galeries Lafayette (OK, we did spend about forty minutes in the last one, but not to check out the goods, more on that later).

Still, we managed to find all sorts of gems tucked into boulevards and tiny alleys alike.  Here are some selections from our second day...  And yeah, I totally dumped my 5-then-10 photo limit...

This was an art gallery that we passed.  Me loves the blinged out panda, but I'm guessing he's a wee bit out of my price range.

A great accessories shop, where I made my very first purchase.

I bought one of the color-blocked wallets.  Couldn't resist!

Discovered a little home goods store.  I'd love to plaster one of my cubicle walls with this:

I'll take an owl clock as well.  Whoo-la-la!

 Outside what looks to be the YSL HQ...

Random denim rhino...  reminds me of the William Gibson book I'm currently reading, Zero History.

This is Muji.  Another shop stocked with lifestyle/home items.

As my friends know, I gravitate towards the odd and artsy.  Especially if it involves panda bears.  With baditude!

In the Bastille neighborhood, we ran across this place, which felt like an equivalent to our CB2.

It seems more of the artsy, crafty stores were located on this side of town.  Including a quirky one offering eco-friendly wares and cute shirts like these:

Another great boutique.  I scored a pretty ring here, but I could have easily walked out with more goodies.  Like this tape dispenser:

I dashed into Monoprix for all of 5 minutes.  Hubby was not down with spending much more time in stores (hey, he did very well).  Next time!

Our shopping adventures concluded at a lovely bookstore, which carried more than just said paperworks.

I'm still kicking myself for not having bought Oh non, George!


An exterior shot of the store, where patrons are admiring their new acquisitions.

I think we did pretty well for our first full day on the loose.  A few snaps in the next post of all things food and drink related. 

So I was going to close with a fun video I recorded of, um...  a video playing in the Wize & Ope store.  It appealed to the science fiction fan in me.  Sweet, mesmerizing, and kinda Star Wars.  However, my computer was acting all sorts of stupid about it last night.  Thus, no fun video.  I'll try to upload it over the weekend. 

Happy Friday!

Images:  my own