Thursday, August 9, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians: The Movie

I love Kevin Kwan's bestselling novel Crazy Rich Asians, so I was super excited when I heard it was getting made into a movie. I was even more excited when I was lucky enough to score a ticket to an advance screening in my city. You guys, it does not disappoint! If anything, I would say that the movie is even better than the book, which very rarely happens.

If you're not familiar with the story, here is a brief plot summary (no spoilers). Rachel Chu, a Chinese-American economics professor from NYU, finds out that her Chinese-Singaporean boyfriend Nick Young is not just a humble history professor. He is actually the Nicholas Young, heir to a massive fortune and the most eligible bachelor in all of Asia. They take a trip together to Singapore to visit his family and to attend the hottest event of the year: the wedding of Nick's best friend Colin Khoo and fashion icon Araminta Lee, both from extremely wealthy families. Right away, Rachel is made to feel like an outcast by the Singaporean elite, because she was raised by a single mother and is more American than Chinese. Also, unlike everyone else from Nick's world, she wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth. In particular, Nick's mother Eleanor Young disapproves of Rachel and warns her to stay away from her son. Hijinks ensue as Rachel tries to navigate her way through Nick's world.

Like the book, the movie is super fun. There are lavish parties, exquisite couture costumes, dazzling jewelry, and amazing scenery. The characters are so wacky and over-the-top, like Rachel's best friend Peik Lin (tasteless new money), Nick's cousin Eddie Cheng (obsessed with having the perfect image), and trashy gold-digging soap opera star Kitty Pong. The casting choice really brought the characters to life in my opinion. I like Constance Wu (Fresh off the Boat) as Rachel. She was fresh, plucky, and sassy. I also love Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies) as Eleanor Young. She was so proud and elegant, a true tiger mom. I feel like she really nailed the nuances of the character. But my favorite ended up being Awkwafina (Ocean's Eight) as Peik Lin. I didn't particularly like the character in the book, but Awkwafina stole every scene she was in. She had perfect comedic timing, and it was hilarious to watch her deliver her killer one-liners.

I really enjoyed the movie, and I highly recommend that everyone go see it. I'm already planning to go again with my boyfriend when it comes out in theaters. The movie was very funny and even touching at times. Even though the story is set in Asia and revolves around Asians, its themes are universal: dealing with your significant other's family, feeling like you don't belong, complicated family dynamics, etc. Also, this is the first time in a long time that Hollywood has made a movie with an all-Asian cast. In general, directors are reluctant to cast minority actors in lead roles, because they believe that people of color don't have mass appeal at the box office. We as moviegoers need to show up and send the message that we want to see more diverse casting in American media. But hey, even if you're not political, it's just a great movie!

If you want to learn more about Crazy Rich Asians, check out this article from the Hollywood Reporter. And go watch it when it comes out on August 15!

Have you read Crazy Rich Asians? Are you planning to go see the movie?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

My Hair Care Mistakes

Post-haircut/blowout selfie

I went in for a haircut recently and found out from my hair stylist that apparently I have no idea how to take care of my hair. It's like finding out you don't know how to brush your teeth or take a shower. It's one of those things you learned to do a certain way when you were little, probably from your parents, who learned it from their parents, who learned it from their parents... And then you just end up always doing it that way without giving it much thought. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that it turns out I've been making a bunch of hair care mistakes all these years.

First, some background on my hair. As you've probably noticed by now, I have naturally wavy hair, at least by Asian standards (more obvious in the second picture of this post). My hair is not that thick per se, but it's pretty voluminous since each hair is thick and a little wiry. When there's a lot of humidity in the air, it gets even bigger, turning kind of curly and frizzy. That's why I tend to wear my hair long. The length weighs it down and makes it more manageable. My scalp is on the oily side, so I usually need to wash my hair every 2-3 days. Yet my ends are very dry, so when I go too long without a haircut, I find a lot of split ends. I didn't think there was anything I could do about these problems, so I never thought to look for a solution. 

At the recommendation of my hair stylist, I made a few simple changes to my hair care routine recently, and I've noticed a big difference in the way my hair looks and feels. It's much softer, smoother, and less frizzy. The ends don't feel dry anymore (and it's not just because I got a haircut). The hair actually feels moisturized without being weighed down. In case anyone is curious, I thought I would share my mistakes (surely I'm not the only one doing these things!):

1. Using too much shampoo.
It turns out that I've been using waaaay too much shampoo this whole time. I use to like lathering up all of my hair, and since it's very long, I would use a big palmful every time I washed it. Apparently that inevitably dries out the ends. Nowadays I use a quarter-size dollop and only rub it into my roots, letting the suds run through the rest of my hair.

2. Not using enough conditioner.
Even though I was using a palmful of shampoo, I only used a nickel-sized dollop of conditioner. Now I use a quarter-size dollop, sometimes more if my hair feels dry, to help detangle and moisturize the ends (never apply to the scalp). I also switched from my drugstore conditioner to this sulfate-free conditioner (also here) that I really like. It's a little more expensive, but it smooths and moisturizes hair much better than any other conditioner I've ever tried. Also it doesn't add any extra weight, plus it smells like peppermint!

3. Never using a hair mask.
Sometimes your hair still feels dry, despite using plenty of conditioner. That's when I use my hair mask. I do it once every couple weeks. It seems to help seal the ends and keep them feeling soft. Previously I had never even purchased a hair mask, let alone use it regularly.

4. Not using the right products for my hair type.
As I mentioned earlier, my main hair concerns are dryness and frizz. My hair stylist recommended this extremely lightweight and moisturizing spray (also here) that is a combination leave-in conditioner/frizz reducer/heat protectant. I love it! It's become one of my holy grail items. (Also, the bottle lasts forever.) Previously I had used Moroccanoil, which worked okay but left my hair more oily than I would like. I also felt like the oil was just sitting on top of my hair if that makes sense. The moment I washed it out, it went back to feeling dry. This product is different. It seems like it's actually moisturizing and treating the hair. Now my waves are more defined and noticeably less frizzy. Best of all, it feels completely weightless. No stickiness or crunchiness at all. It's also supposed to be safe for color-treated hair, although I don't have personal experience with that.

5. Heat treating too often.
Because my hair is wavy, sometimes I like to blow-dry it straight, but honestly heat is pretty damaging for hair. Nowadays I air-dry most of the time and embrace my waves. Of course, it's easier to do that when the waves are also less frizzy! On the rare occasion when I do use the blow drier, I also apply my spray as a heat protectant. 

I realize everyone's hair type is different, but I think these tips are fairly universal. You don't necessarily have to use the same products as me, because what works for me may be different from what works for you. However, I hope this helps. Everyone deserves to have beautiful healthy hair that they love. 

Are you making any of these hair care mistakes? Do you have any extra tips to add?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Millennial Spending

I recently came across this interesting article on how much money millennials spend every year compared to other generations. I'm not sure how accurate these numbers are, but they supposedly come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey. Unsurprisingly (based on my personal experience), millennials spend a lot of money dining out, although apparently they are not the group that spends the most money on food. I was also not surprised to see that millennials spend less money on shelter and utilities than other generations, since they may live with family members who cover these expenses. However, I was surprised that people from my generation spend relatively little money on alcohol outside the home (I guess I expected people to spend more money at bars and clubs). Also, I was surprised that the average millennial spends as much money on clothes as they do. Maybe I shouldn't be, since I obviously like to buy clothes, but I thought I was an outlier. Finally, millennials spend a decent amount of money on entertainment every year, although I don't think internet should be included in this category, because it's definitely a necessity in this day and age.

All of this got me thinking about how my own spending compares, so I thought I would do a rough break-down using the categories from the article.

I love good food, and I consider myself a foodie, so it's definitely one of my biggest monthly expenditures. I love checking out new restaurants, and a lot of my social life revolves around food in some way, shape, or form. I really like communing with friends over meals, because the experience just brings people together. I usually eat dinner at home on the weekdays but frequently go out for lunch and on the weekends. Also, when I shop for groceries, I like to buy quality produce and try out new exotic ingredients. I estimate that I spend about $500-$600 per month on food.
Verdict: on par with most millennials, maybe slightly more

In general, I'm not a huge drinker. At home I will occasionally have a glass of wine with dinner, or if my boyfriend offers to make me a cocktail (he's actually pretty good at mixing drinks!). I very rarely drink beer. In fact, I don't even like it, so I'll only order one when friends drag me to a bar or brewery. However, I do like fancy cocktails, especially the complicated ones that you can't make at home. They're expensive though, so I only have them on special occasions. I estimate that I spend less than $20 per month on alcohol.
Verdict: less than most millennials

I'm currently in an unusual situation. Right now I live with my boyfriend, who owns a small studio condo unit. It's not the place I would have chosen to live if we had picked it out together (it's simply too small for two people), but due to the circumstances, we will be living here at least until I graduate. We agreed that it would strain our relationship for him to act as my landlord, especially given that the place is really meant to house only one person, so we just split his monthly HOA and any household expenses.
Verdict: temporarily less than most millennials

Since our place is so small, the electric bill comes out to less than $100 per month. The condo HOA includes internet and water. Also, I am currently still on my parents' cellphone plan, which they have generously agreed to pay until I graduate.
Verdict: temporarily less than most millennials

Obviously I have blogged about this subject extensively over the years. This year I set myself a clothing budget of $150/month calculated on an annual basis. In 2015 (the last time that I did a comprehensive clothing budget review), I spent about $195/month.
Verdict: more than most millennials

I live in an area with poor public transit, so you really need a car to get around. I used to share one with my ex-fiance, but after our separation, I had to get my own. After searching for a while, I found a 5-year-old European car that I really liked. Originally I was just planning to use the money I had saved up from before, but then my parents generously offered to buy it for me as a combined present (normally I never get presents from them for my birthday or Christmas, so they said it was back pay for the last 20+ years). My insurance costs about $100 per month. Sadly, my car requires premium gas and isn't the most fuel efficient, so I spend about $70 per month on that. Also I pay for an on-campus parking permit, which comes out to another $60 a month. I never use rideshare apps. So far I haven't spent too much money on car repair, but I expect that it will eventually cost a pretty penny since repairs for European cars tend to be more expensive. I still love my car though!
Verdict: on par with most millennials

I don't like to watch too much TV (because I already spend enough time being sedentary at school), so I don't have cable or Netflix. Also I don't usually watch movies in theaters for that same reason. However, I will sometimes catch free movies or documentaries on Amazon Prime Video since I already have Amazon Prime. I don't follow any of the major organized sports, although I do watch a few obscure ones (climbing, figure skating, and swimming for example). Even though I read a lot, I usually check out free e-books from my local library (and now via my 3-month Kindle Unlimited membership). I do spend quite a bit of money on my hobbies, but I feel okay about that since they're improving my mental and physical health.
Verdict: more than most millennials

What did you think of the article? How does your spending compare? Which categories do you spend more and less on?

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July 2018 Budget

July proved to be a crazy spending month for me. I had a hard time exercising self-restraint in the face of several huge sales, so it was no wonder that I ended up going over budget. I tried to be fairly selective in what I kept (a mere fraction of what I ordered), and in fact I've already worn most of these pieces. I still feel embarrassed by the shockingly large amount I initially ordered, but at least what I ultimately decided to keep was (mostly) from my wishlist. My prediction is that August will also be spendy, since I still have some orders on their way to me as we speak. Hopefully my spending will calm down come September (famous last words). Anyway, let's take a look at what I bought this month!

J.Crew supersoft Supima tank in stripes (pale sepia ivory S) - Most of my tank tops have developed these little holes in the front (by the way, does anyone know how to fix this???), so I'm slowly replacing them one at a time. Last month I bought these super soft tanks, and this month I added this little striped number. It runs pretty small, so I went up two sizes for a slouchy fit. Doesn't the color scheme look more Madewell than J.Crew? I think it pairs well with cognac accessories. The arm holes are a little big but not enough to bother me. Originally $28. Paid $7.11.

J.Crew denim short in white (white 25) - I actually ordered these shorts at the end of last month as part of that crazy J.Crew sale I posted about. They ended up being the only item that worked out. These shorts are fantastic! For white denim, they're surprisingly opaque as well as soft and stretchy. They do run large, so size down if you like tighter shorts. Personally I went with my normal size, because I want them to be more comfortable. I usually roll up the legs an extra time, because a shorter inseam makes my legs look longer. I've been wearing these nonstop! Originally $69.50. Paid $17.33.

Fitflop Bon II back strap sandal (caramel 6) via Amazon - So I've always been somewhat prejudiced against Fitflops, because I tend to think of them in the same category as Clarks, Crocs, and Danskos: comfortable yet matronly. Now that I own a pair, I take back all of the negative thoughts I had about them, because you guys, these shoes are sooooo comfortable! I feel like I could walk forever in them. The sole is incredibly padded, and it feels like I'm walking on a cloud. However, there is a slightly annoying issue with the synthetic footbed material, where the top layer leaves what looks like pencil eraser dust. Also, the sandal runs slightly large. I would have gone down half a size, but Amazon only carries whole sizes. Originally $130. Paid $66.12.

Top: J.Crew
Shorts: J.Crew
Shoes: Fitflop
Bag: Rebecca Minkoff
Sunglasses: Knock-off Karen Walker
Necklace: Madewell (old)

J.Crew Factory seersucker apron dress (light blue white XXS) - Wearing this apron dress makes me feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. In a cute way, although I wonder if the style borders on twee (or maybe Southern belle). The seersucker material is quite heavy and substantial, plus the dress is lined. Hence no problems with opacity, but I would have preferred if they skipped the lining in favor of making the dress lighter weight. Overall, I like it. The color scheme is very clean and refreshing. The dress does run a hair large, but since the waist is elastic, I don't find it to be an issue. Also, it features pockets and an interesting back detail, which makes the dress look more mature. You do have to wear a strapless bra though. Originally $89.50. Paid $38.77.

J.Crew Factory striped studio t-shirt (ivory navy XS) - This is a rebuy. I wore the original version so often that it developed a bunch of those little holes I was talking about, which is puzzling because the tee itself is actually thick enough to be mostly opaque, even given the light color. Anyway, I highly recommend getting one. I wear mine all the time, and it seems to go with most bottoms and layers. Originally $29.50. Paid $10.84.

J.Crew straw hat with grosgrain ribbon
 (natural navy ivory S/M) - My search for a straw hat is finally over! After trying on countless fedoras and boaters, I decided on this one, which I can only describe as a hybrid. The crown is deeper than your average boater, but it doesn't have that camel hump shape on top that most fedoras have. It also runs large. I have a medium to large head and had to size down, so I don't think it would work on someone with a smaller head. Also it's not packable, but I'm very happy with the straw material, which feels very sturdy and high-quality. I did have to settle for a striped ribbon instead of the solid black ribbon I was originally looking for, but that's okay. It actually goes well with that seersucker dress I bought. Originally $39.50. Paid $14.36.

Cole Haan Tali bow ballet flat (black 6.5) via Amazon - This is also a rebuy. I loved the original pair so much that I wore them almost every single day and ended up badly scuffing the toe/heel on both shoes as well as wearing out the elastic and footbed support. When I saw these on serious sale, I had to snatch them up. If you're interested, I recommend going up half a size because of the elastic sides. Originally $170. Paid $71.00.

RETAIL: $556.00
SPENT: $225.53 (40.6% of MSRP)

SUMMARY: As I mentioned in this post, my clothing budget for 2018 is $150/month starting in April with the ability to roll over leftover money (or debt) at the end of each month. During Q2, I spent $453.82. After this month, I am left with $670.65 for the rest of the year (an average of $134.13/month).


As I mentioned before, I want to start budgeting how much I spend on my hobbies. Lately I've been running a lot more and needed a new pair of running shorts.

Adidas running M10 shorts (black/white XS) - I really like the way these look and feel. They run a hair small but do a good job of staying put. My old pair needs readjustment every so often, which is the last thing you want to be thinking about while running. So I normally don't like shorts with built-in briefs (yes, they make sense if you're going for a long run and don't want to chafe, but I'm not running that much), but these actually feel very supportive and comfortable. Originally $28. Paid $21.77.

RETAIL: $28.00
SPENT: $21.77 (77.8% of MSRP)

SUMMARY: I am budgeting $75/month for my active hobbies ($117/month if you include my climbing gym membership). After this month, I am left with only $237.88 (once I account for my membership) for the rest of the year.

How did you do with your budget this month?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Madewell Reviews: Dresses, Mini Daisy, and Overalls

I was originally planning to publish this post next week, but a few of the items I reviewed below are now included in Madewell's weekend sale. From now through July 30, 2018, you can take an additional 40% off all sale items with SHORETHING. FYI Madewell just updated their website recently, so it's still a little glitchy at the moment. 
It's been forever since my last fitting room review! Part of the reason is that I mostly shop online these days, and partially it's because J.Crew's offerings have been pretty lackluster lately. Since I've been shopping less at J.Crew, I started eyeing other retailers to fill the void and naturally turned to Madewell, J.Crew's cooler younger sister. I'm a latecomer to that bandwagon, but I like their feminine tomboy style, which fits well with the direction that my personal style is evolving in. I stopped by their store recently and tried on some pieces I saw online.

For reference, I am 5' 4" and approximately 125 lbs. My measurements are 32C-26-34. I typically wear regular tops but petite bottoms. I have broader-than-average shoulders, and my inseam is 30" long. My usual J.Crew size is 00 and XXS, although lately I've gained a little weight and have been sizing up to 0 and XS. At Madewell, I seem to mostly wear 00 and XXS. 

So this dress doesn't look like much from my pictures, but I thought it looked pretty good in real life, and I could see myself wearing it all the time. The material is soft and light-to-medium weight, but because of the color, it isn't sheer in the least. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but the stripes are white, black, and terracotta. I love the scoop neck as well as the slight scoop back. It's on the longer end for a casual tank dress (just a little above my knee) and very comfortable with its shift-like silhouette. I tried on both my usual XXS as well as one size up in the XS. They fit similarly, but personally I would go with the XXS, because the underarms of the XS gaped a bit, and there was a little too much room overall. I could see wearing this dress with a denim jacket and cognac accessories. Anyway, this is a great example of one of those easy dresses that Madewell does so well.
Verdict: Like. True to size. Ordered.

District Dress in Stripe (Nightfall XXS)

I like this dress a lot and added it to my wishlist. The material is quite thick and thus completely opaque. Because of the swingy and very stretchy fit, it doesn't cling to your stomach or backside like many other casual dresses, so no need to worry about VPL! (You might be able to size down, but since XXS is already their smallest size, I couldn't confirm my suspicion). Normally I don't like ribbed material, because I think it looks too casual or sometimes even cheap, but it actually works on this dress. Also, I love the in-cut armholes (really flattering on my broad shoulders). However, it does mean you have to wear a strapless bra. Because of the fit and material, this dress could be either dressed up with sandals/heels or dressed down with sneakers. P.S. I love stripes!

Verdict: Love. Swingy fit. On my wishlist.

Ruffled Wrap Maxi Dress in Mini Daisy (Camille Brilliant Royal 00)

On a whim, I grabbed this maxi dress to try on, because I really like the mini daisy print. The dress isn't really my style, so imagine my surprise when I fell in love with it! It's so soft, pretty, and feminine. The material feels great too, kind of like a sueded silk even though it's apparently rayon/tencel. It's unlined but completely opaque. I found this dress true to size and the perfect length on my frame. I wonder if it might be slightly short on taller women though, since I'm only 5' 4". I think this would be the perfect dress to wear to a more casual wedding. The tassel wrap tie was easy to manage, and you can wrap it around your waist a couple times. The only odd thing about this dress is the side zipper, which doesn't completely unzip down the side, so you have to slip it on over your head. I kind of wish they had executed that part differently, but overall it's a beautiful dress!

Verdict: Surprise love. True to size.

Ruffle-Edge Skirt in Mini Daisy (Camille Brilliant Royal 00)

I love this print, so I tried on the skirt too. Unlike the dress, this skirt is lined. It fits true to size, and I like the mini length (not too short and not too long). I even like the ruffled edge, because it's fairly subtle when combined with the print. I'm just not sure how to style it, because the only thing I can think of to pair it with would be a plain white or striped tee. Not on my wishlist due to its lack of versatility.

Verdict: Like, but not on my wishlist. True to size.

Belle Tank Top in Mini Daisy (Camille Brilliant Royal 00)

I just really like the blue mini daisy print... The top is probably my least favorite out of the three pieces I tried on though. It just had too many design elements going on: the already busy print, the shoulder ties, the peplum, and the button-down front. I tried it on with both my own jeans and the matching skirt. The overall length seems a hair short. Also the v-neck is slightly too low, and the buttons actually gape a bit so it's a little risque. Similar to the dress, they added the same side zipper that doesn't zip all the way down, so you have to slip the top on over your head. Not a big fan overall of the top, but I still like the print and material.

Verdict: Meh. True to size.

Wrap-Front Romper in Mini Daisy (Retro Floral Cranberry 00)

I really wanted to like this romper, because I saw it online and thought it was really cute. However, in real life, it just didn't live up to its promise. The wrap front is too low and shows more cleavage than I am comfortable with. Also, the torso felt a little short, although admittedly I do have a longer torso. Plus the sleeves were too long in my opinion, which makes the whole ensemble look sort of matronly and dated. There is a back zipper which makes getting in and out of the romper alright, but the waist tie takes a lot of fiddling to get right. I also wish the floral pattern was red and white, instead of this faded tan color. Anyway, I think there's definitely a woman out there who can pull this off and make it look awesome, but that woman isn't me.

Verdict: Meh. True to size.

Are you surprised that I tried on shortalls? Me too. I haven't worn overalls since I was a kid, and in general they're not really my style. However, I recently saw them on a blogger and thought they looked really cute, so I wanted to give these a try. Surprisingly they looked better than I expected. Definitely a feminine tomboy style. This particular pair runs small, so I had to size up to an XS. I still found them a little tight in the thighs, so I'd even consider going up another size. The torso seemed a bit long, but you can always adjust the shoulder straps. I just didn't bother at the time, because it had already taken me so much effort to get into them. You have to button/unbutton at the hip to put them on and take them off, which would be a hassle every time you go to the bathroom. 

Verdict: Like, but not sure they're for me. Runs small.

I also tried on a handful of sale items but didn't have time to take pictures:
- I liked this floral silk dress, which ran true to size. I thought the bottom half was very pretty and the knee length was nice, but personally I just don't like flutter sleeves, and I wasn't sure about the color.
- I also tried on this tank dress, which was true to size and had moderately thick material. It was completely opaque. The v-neck was too low though, and I didn't like the chest pocket.
- This striped tee dress was huge, so go down at least a size, although maybe it'll shrink in the wash since it is 100% cotton. I really didn't like the color combo, which looked old and faded.
- This cropped jumpsuit actually looks really great once you get it on, but it was incredibly difficult to put on in my opinion. True to size and would work well on petite frames.

Other sale picks: button-front dress, stripe wrap skirt, block-heel sandals

Do you shop at Madewell? Which pieces did you like and dislike?