Thursday, May 31, 2018

May 2018 Budget

My birthday was earlier this month, so I bought a couple things in honor of the occasion. This year I decided to treat myself to a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones (I've already used them a bunch, and they'll come in handy for future travel) and some outdoor climbing equipment. My boyfriend thoughtfully got me a bike computer, which I have had my eye on for ages, since I want to start cycling more seriously and better track my rides. Unfortunately, the weather's been really crappy lately, so we haven't been able to take it out for a spin yet, but hopefully that'll change soon. On the shopping front, I've been looking for a new everyday purse, because my Rebecca Minkoff one is starting to look a little too well-loved. I ordered a few possible contenders but haven't received them yet. Here are the other things I bought this month:

J.Crew open-front sweater-blazer (navy XXXS) - All the bloggers have been raving about this
sweater-blazer (check it out on Feather Factor and Elle Blogs) and with good reason. It's comfortable, casual, and just easy. It looks just as good over a tee as it does over a button-down or a simple dress. There are currently two different versions at J.Crew. Both have the same silhouette but are made of different materials. The one I have is merino wool, and the other one is a cotton/poly/wool blend. Both passed my hand-feel test, but the online reviews suggest that the non-merino one might pill more easily. I went down a size, and the fit is just right. I think I'll get plenty of wear even in the summer months, because the air conditioning in my office is always cranked way up. Originally $138. Paid $53.86.

J.Crew demi-fine 14K gold-plated short chain necklace (gold) - I bought this nautical wheel charm from J.Crew last month, and because it bothered me that the gold chain I already own isn't a perfect color match, I had to get this chain too. I think it's pretty when worn by itself or layered with a longer gold chain. Originally $50. Paid $12.30.

J.Crew 8" toothpick jean (Glendale wash 24) - These jeans are a surprise love! They were a pop-back that I ordered on a whim, because I need to replace a few pairs of old jeans, and the price was definitely right. They feature new "Perfecting Pockets" that flatten your stomach, and I'm a fan. They really do work. No muffin top for me, which is a problem that I have with other jeans. Also they don't stretch out by the end of the day! I could do without the unfinished hems, but I'm also not bothered by them. I'll definitely be on the lookout for more Perfecting Pockets in the future. Originally $125. Paid $24.64.

J.Crew chardonnay t-shirt (white wine XXS) - I bought this tee, because I'm a wine person (although I prefer red to white). J.Crew also makes this red wine tee, but it didn't fit me as well (slightly too short on my long torso). The words on this version are white while the body is light beige, which is a hard color to pair with bottoms in my opinion. Also I wish the crew neckline was a little lower, which would be more elongating on the neck. Overall I like the fit, which is slightly long and drapey, and I think I'll get plenty of wear out of it since I pretty much live in tees during the summer. Originally $36.50. Paid $13.95.

J.Crew tassel chain necklace (rose gold) - I had tried the gold version of this necklace when it first came out years ago, but decided not to buy it since I already own a few long gold necklaces. Then a couple weeks ago I saw this new rose gold color, and it immediately caught my fancy. I like rose gold better for certain outfits (for example, all white) since it's less flashy. The tassels are not adjustable, so keep that in mind. Originally $39.50. Paid $8.28.

J.Crew leather bow hair ties (gold red pink) - I picked up these hairties on a whim when they were on deep sale (see them on me in this post). Although they're not the best at keeping my hair in a tight ponytail since the elastic isn't stretchy enough, I like wearing them as wristbands, and it's nice that they don't leave a crease in my hair. Originally $14.50. Paid $2.73.

(Not pictured) Old Navy classic flip flops (white 6) - Every summer I pick up a pair of Old Navy flip flops that I wear to the pool and to the beach. They're super cheap, so I don't mind if they get destroyed by the end of the season. I usually get white even though they get dirty more easily, because they also don't get as hot in the sun. Originally $3.99. Paid $2.72.

(Not pictured) EGNT RFID blocking card case (navy/silver) via Amazon - I like really minimalist wallets and am always on the lookout for a slimmer design so that it tucks into my bag better. Last week I posted about this Mackage card case that caught my eye, but I thought it was a little too pricey at $40. Also it has a key chain that I don't need, and the color may get dirty easily. So I turned to Amazon for an alternate solution. Lo and behold, I found this dupe that suits my needs much better. It has 6 outer card slots and a center zip pocket for cash, coins, and cards you don't use often. Not a brand name, but I actually don't care about that for wallets. So far I like how functional it is! Originally $14.99. Paid $14.99.

RETAIL: $422.48
SPENT: $133.47 (31.6% of MSRP)

What did you pick up this month? What were your favorite purchases?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Linked List: Free Soloing, The Secret to Love, K-Beauty, Periods, Poetry, and Candy

Original image source
1. The Risky Appeal of Free Climbing (The Atlantic). The title of this article is incorrect: they are referring to the practice of free soloing (climbing long routes without the use of protective equipment such as ropes and harnesses), as opposed to free climbing (climbing without outside assistance). Even among world-class climbers who have climbed extremely difficult and sometimes terrifying terrain, Alex Honnold is considered crazy for his pursuit of free soloing. Free soloing is extremely dangerous, because there is no room for error; you could fall to your death from a single mistake since you're not wearing a harness connected to a safety rope, as you typically would for climbing long routes outdoors (see this post for an example). Whenever I watch one of his ascents (check out this video and let me know what your reaction is!), my palms begin to sweat, my heart starts racing, and I catch myself holding my breath. While I think the practice is way too risky and I hope no one at home is ever inspired to try it, there is something majestic about watching him conquer these impossible rock faces.

2. The Secret to Love is Just Kindness (The Atlantic). "If you want to have a stable, healthy relationship, exercise kindness early and often." J and I read this article together, and we talked afterwards about how we can improve our relationship, using what we learned from it. Sometimes when one person is busy or stressed or tired, it can be hard to engage in each "bid" your partner makes. After a while, little misunderstandings and hurts build up, and they can lead to big problems in the long run. However, being generous about your partner's intentions, responding with active constructive feedback, and sharing each other's joys can bring couples closer together.

3. K-Beauty: The Ugly Face of South Korea's Obsession with Women Looking Forever Flawless (South China Morning Post). I found this article on the dark side of K-beauty interesting. South Korea definitely has a very uniform beauty standard. For example, a lot of Korean actresses look similar, possibly because they underwent the same plastic surgery treatments (double eyelid surgery, nose job, jaw sculpting, etc.). Also, Korean women do tend to wear more makeup than American women in general. On the one hand, I like Korean makeup trends, which I think look very flattering especially on Asian women, and their skincare is amazing. On the other hand, it's sad when women feel like they have to be beautiful, because that's their only value to society rather than for who they are or what they do.

4. Women Don't Need to Have Periods (The Atlantic). Periodically (see what I did there?) I think about how convenient it would be to not have a period and how lucky men are that they don't have to deal with monthly bloating, cramps, and blood. In the past I've done some research on birth control methods that help you get rid of your period, but I could never bite the bullet on it. I suppose on some level I feel weird about not having one, even though we have the power now thanks to modern medicine. Maybe I've just been brainwashed by society to feel like it's "natural" and "necessary." If anyone has ever tried to get rid of their period and want to share the experience, I'd love to hear from you!

5. Poetry from My Gchat Archive (The New Yorker). These "poems" are hilarious, and I actually laughed out loud while reading them.

6. How to Eat Candy Like a Swedish Person (The New Yorker). This piece was so fun and frivolous compared to the troubling political news I normally read, and it brought me joy. I'm a candy lover myself (no licorice though), much to the chagrin of my dentist. Be warned: the delectable descriptions of the candy made me want to indulge my sweet tooth on the spot.

What was your reaction to Alex Honnold's free soloing video? Did you learn anything useful from the secret to love article? And have you ever tried to get rid of your period?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Sale Picks: Bloomingdale's Big Brown Bag Sale, J.Crew, REI, Backcountry

Bloomingdale's Big Brown Bag Sale is going on now through May 28, 2018. I found a number of really pretty dresses from what I believe is their in-house brand AQUA. Does anyone have experience with the brand? I've never tried it before.

I love dresses for summer, and I'm always browsing the sale section for good ones. Since summer is basically here, I've been daydreaming about white lace dresses, like this one for under $40 and this lace shift dress. Ebates is currently 4% cash back.

Cutaway shoulder lace dress
More dress picks: strappy floral dress (under $40), glamorous red dress (maybe for a fancy night out), red lace dress (70% off)
Bag picks: Loeffler randall satchel (under $300, so tempted by this!), Rebecca Minkoff crossbody (Chanel boy dupe), Marc Jacobs camera bag (love the yellow version)


J.Crew is offering 40% off your purchase, including new arrivals, from now through May 28, 2018 with code GETAWAY. I mostly shop their sale section, but now is a good time to pick up a few things for summer that you'll use right away or pieces that may not make it to sale in your size.


I own quite a few swimsuits from J.Crew, and I can attest to their quality. Here are a few I like: this nautical top and its matching bottom, also this red cross-back top and its matching bottom (I actually own this set in a different pattern from last season).

Other picks: the perfect sweater-blazer (size down), white button-fly denim shorts (these are sitting in my cart), linen pom-pom scarf (perfect for chilly offices), cotton-silk tie-neck top (very feminine), white denim with a twist (I'm really into button flies at the moment)


My favorite outdoor retailer REI is having their Anniversary Sale, now through May 28, 2018. I bought myself some climbing hardware, a pair of workout leggings, and a Hydro Flask tumbler for morning smoothies. A bunch of Hydro Flask containers are 50% off right now. Also some of my beloved Patagonia is on sale for 25% -30% off. If you like Arc'teryx, you can take 30% off one full-price item (the brand rarely goes on sale). By the way, REI is a great place to try activewear from different brands. They have an extremely generous return policy; you can return anything within one year of purchase even if you've used it.

Patagonia nano puff jacket (30% off)


My second favorite outdoor retailer Backcountry is running a sale where you can take an additional 20% off their biggest brands. Also for a limited time only, you can take 20% off one full-price item. I bought a climbing helmet for myself, because safety first. Again this is a great time to pick up activewear brands that rarely go on deep sale. For example, North Face and Patagonia. Check out this North Face fleece jacket (45% off), this North Face rain jacket (40% off), and these prAna leggings (45% off).

North Face Denali fleece (45% off)

Also, great time to buy off-season gear to put away for winter! For example, a heavy-duty Parajumpers down parka (comparable in quality and normally similar in price to Canada Goose but 40% off right now) or Helly Hansen ski pants (40% off).

I want to wish everyone a happy and safe Memorial Day! Please share if you find any great deals!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Sale Picks: Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale, J.Crew Factory, Gap, Banana Republic

Now that Memorial Day weekend is right around the corner, there are a ton of sales popping up everywhere. I've been browsing through them and wanted to share my favorite finds. If there's something you like, be sure to order early, because things are selling out fast!


The Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale is going on now through June 3. The sale section is so huge that it's pretty hard to browse. I specifically looked through the bags, dresses, and activewear sections just for you guys. You can thank me later. :) 

I love structured crossbody bags, and there are some really gorgeous ones in this sale for under $300. Also I've been looking for a flat card case to replace my wallet so that it fits in my bag better, like this one from Mackage.

Mackage Keeley satchel
Tory Burch Robinson crossbody
Botkier Lennox crossbody (ordered to try)
Mackage Taj card case

I also like this swingy jersey dress (under $35), these classic sneakers (40% off), this cotton floral dress (under $35), this cute sports bra (40% off), and these sporty crop leggings (under $35).


Everything at J.Crew Factory is 50% off, including new arrivals now through May 28, 2018. Don't forget about 3% off at ebates. I've had pretty good luck with their cotton-linen blend dresses and skirts, and there are a couple likely candidates in the new arrivals.

Cotton-linen apron dress

Other sale picks: cotton-linen eyelet dress, striped tee (see it on me here)


Gap is running a up to 50% off sale plus an extra 20% off online with code PARTY from now through May 26, 2018. Ebates is currently 2%. In general, I like to buy their denim, pajamas, and activewear.

My picks: white jeans, strappy sports bra (thinking about ordering for myself), lattice-front sports bra

Banana Republic is offering 40% off your purchase plus free 3-5 day shipping on $100+ with code BRSHIP from now through May 24, 2018. Ebates is currently 2%. I like shells like the ones below that are dual purpose. You can wear them in the office under a blazer or cardigan, but you can also wear them on their own during the weekend (to brunch for example).

As I spy more good deals, I'll post them on the blog. Feels like summer is just around the corner!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Hats Off to You

I love hats. Fedoras, panama hats, boaters, fascinators, I adore them all. I like wearing them, and I like seeing other people wear them. They instantly add drama and visual interest to outfits, don't you think? I wish we lived during one of those time periods where men and women wore hats every single day. Well, maybe not actually, because you know: social issues, lack of proper healthcare, etc. But you get my point. I wish more people would wear hats!

I used to own quite a few myself before I moved in with J, but I had to purge them all due to space limitations. Now that summer is almost here, I find myself daydreaming about hats again. Summer is the perfect time for wearing a hat. They're a welcome respite from the hot sun beating down on you during long summer days. They keep your face from getting sunburned and your hair from getting too hot. They even double as a fan when you need a quick cool-off.

Right now, I'm on the hunt for the perfect summer hat. I want it to be classic (no text or weird embellishments), made of straw, have a natural color, with a wide brim (at least 3 inches), not too floppy, and tied with a ribbon for under $50. I found some possible contenders that I wanted to share with you.

Bachelor #1: wide-brim straw fedora.  This hat is a darker natural shade but is classic in shape. I can't tell based on the picture how high the crown is. Sometimes fedoras with high crowns make my head look disproportionately tall. The price is quite reasonable.

Bachelor #2: classic packable straw hat. I like the light natural color and the classic style of this hat. Also, it's packable, making it perfect for trips to the beach (or pool) and summer vacations. It's middle of the road in price. The packability of it probably means it has less structure and is more suitable for casual wear.

Bachelor #3: structured straw hat with a wide grosgrain band. I like the wider grosgrain ribbon on this hat, and the brim is pretty wide at 3.5 inches. It looks like it has some structure and would work well with both casual and dressy outfits. This hat is at the higher end of my price range although it's still under $50.
Bachelor #4: classic panama hat. This hat is such a classic style, and it's a steal considering the price! Again it has that classic black grosgrain ribbon, and I believe it has the widest brim of them all. It looks like the straw is not as tightly woven as the other two, but that also means it's more breathable and lighter weight.

Bachelor #5: wide-brim boater hat.  Unlike the other hats which were all fedoras, this hat is a boater. See that flat top? The brim looks pretty wide (for a boater at least, probably less wide than the fedoras), and I like the slightly different colors in the straw weave. The band isn't a ribbon, but I think it's fine on this hat.

Honorable mention: black and ivory packable straw hat. This hat is also super classic, and the price is definitely right, even when it's not on sale. It actually looks pretty similar in shape to the first hat, which might be due to its packability. The only reason it didn't make my top 5 list is because of its color. I like the woven black and ivory pattern but worry that it's too dark for summer.

Are you a hat person? What kind of hats do you like, and where do you buy them? Which of these is your favorite?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

How I Stopped Being a Couch Potato and Learned to Love Climbing

Today's sale picks: my favorite leggings for working out (or just lounging at home), this cute strappy sports bra (I like how it's not basic black), and this drapey muscle tank (I frequently wear airy tanks like this because they help me stay cool).

I was a couch potato for years. I blame it on having grown up in the Midwest, where there isn't much outdoorsy stuff to do and where the weather is only nice for 6 months out of the year. Also my parents are couch potatoes, so I didn't exactly have good (physically active) role models to pattern myself after. Another problem was that I kept trying to force myself to do activities that I simply don't enjoy. I thought that was what you were supposed to do. Just keep trying until you learned to like it. For example, I hate running. For years I would periodically force myself to start running, do it for a couple weeks, and then go back to being a couch potato. Turns out it's hard to make yourself do something you don't want to do. No wonder I could never stick with it for long.

In April 2016, I accidentally discovered what is now my cardio of choice: cycling. J, one of my best friends at the time (now my boyfriend), was an avid cyclist and convinced me to go with him on his then-girlfriend's road bike. I almost said no (because I felt overly anxious) but ultimately decided to go, because I had always enjoyed biking as a kid. I was instantly hooked (on cycling, not him... yet). Cycling is even more fun than regular biking! You can go way faster with less effort! (Mountain biking is fun too but in a different and kinda scary way.) I became so obsessed that I started looking for a bike right away, and I bought a new-to-me carbon bike less than two months later. To this day, I never get tired of looking at it. I find it beautiful. Is it odd to be this enamored with a bike? Probably (haha), but I don't care. To me, it symbolizes freedom. No matter how stressed I am or how bad of a week I've had, I feel free the moment I go out for a ride, and my cares just melt away as I zip down the streets and trails.

My love and I (haha)
In September 2016, I discovered my current greatest passion: rock climbing. For years, my friends had been indoor climbing and invited me to join them. I always made up some excuse to avoid going, because honestly I was too afraid. For one, I had a terrible fear of heights, and also I was just super anxious about doing new activities that I had never done before. Even the idea of climbing made my stomach clench into knots. The one time I worked up the nerve to go in 2015 was so awful that I almost never went back (the "friend" I went with was a terrible teacher and didn't prepare me at all for my first climb). One day, almost on a whim, I decided to give it a second chance, this time with a much more sensitive and trustworthy climbing partner/teacher. In the back of my mind, I remembered how afraid I had been to go cycling that first time and how surprised I was to find that I loved it. (I didn't know it then, but I would later use the cycling example time and time again to push myself to try new things that were out of my comfort zone, because I felt like they would be good for my personal growth.)

I thought maybe the same could happen for climbing. And my wish came true. It has become one of the greatest joys of my life. It's a sanctuary for me, where I retreat to build myself up after the world knocks me down. What I love most about climbing is that you have to give it your all, sometimes more than your all, strength that you didn't even know you had. Also, when you're working on a route or a problem, the entire world shrinks to just that moment, that next move. It requires laser focus. And when you finally finish what you've been working on, there's a feeling of personal triumph that I've never found in any other activity.

It's really satisfying to overcome your limits, both mental and physical. When I first started climbing, I felt vertigo every time I looked down from the top of a route, so I decided to just stop looking down and only look up. Over time it ceased to bother me, and now I'm totally fine, even from the top of a 60 ft wall! So if you're interested in climbing but are afraid of heights, don't let that stop you! It definitely gets easier, and the fear will eventually go away. Also, climbing has noticeably changed the shape of my body. My biceps, triceps, shoulders, upper back, and core are all much stronger than they used to be, so it's a great workout. Best of all, it feels more like fun than exercise!

Another thing I love about climbing is the amazing community. Rock climbers are the friendliest, most helpful group of people you will ever meet! They are so encouraging, so willing to share tips, and just stop to chat. It probably helps that you see the same group of people around the gym or at the crag (outdoor climbing area) all the time. I met some of my current best friends through climbing, who I would literally trust with my life and who trust me with their lives. (I mean, you actually hold each other's lives in your hands when you climb together.) How's that for friendship?

My first outdoor climbing trip ever
So I'm completely obsessed with the sport. Right now I go to the climbing gym a couple times a week, usually for 2+ hours at a time. In the past, I've gone as often as 3-4 times a week, although now I find that to be too time-consuming, and it also makes me more susceptible to repetitive stress injuries. Since spring is here, I am planning to do some outdoor climbing trips too. In order to climb harder (i.e. complete harder routes), I've started focusing on better nutrition and working on my flexibility (via regular stretching and yoga). Anyway, I hope you will consider climbing the next time you want to try something new and fun, and that you enjoyed following my journey from couch potato to athletic woman! 

Are you or were you a couch potato? What do you do to work out? Have you ever tried climbing? If not, would you consider it?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tips for Quick and Easy Weeknight Dinners

This week I am tempted by this packable straw hat (perfect for the beach or pool), this designer mascara sampler set (a great deal since you can redeem a full-size version of your favorite), this beautiful cover-up, and this airy linen tee (yes, summer is on my mind).

I love eating good food, and I consider myself a foodie (Exhibit A: Instagram), but I used to hate cooking. Well, that's not entirely accurate. I liked to cook experimentally, but I could never get into the habit of making dinner every night. Similarly, J loved to cook, but the types of meals he liked to make were so complicated that they took hours(!) to prepare. Nobody has time for that! As a result, we rarely made dinners at home, opting to eat out instead which got to be expensive and unhealthy.

Eventually we said enough was enough and started trying to figure out a better solution. As it turns out, the reasons we didn't cook regularly were: a) we were spending too much time per meal, and b) we get tired of eating the same thing every day. After much trial and error, I think we figured out some tips and tricks for making "nice" healthy dinners every day that taste unique without spending too much time (less than 30 minutes for simple proteins if you get the timing down):

1) Create a basic dinner formula. Ours consists of a protein + a vegetable + a salad + a starch. Out of those elements, we only pick ONE item to spend significant time on. For example, if we decide to make a protein that needs prep, marinating, seasoning, etc., then we'll make a really easy vegetable like grilled asparagus or zucchini. If we're really low on time and/or energy, we'll use a frozen protein that's already premarinated or even precooked and spend some time on the vegetables instead. For example, I like to get some of the frozen premarinated fish from Costco, and Trader Joe's always has good frozen stuff.

Protein: prepackaged precooked sliced beef from Costco
Vegetable: grilled zucchini
Salad: lettuce, cherry tomatoes, red onion, parmesan
Starch (not pictured): take-and-bake bread (Target has some)

2) Eat more salad! Most salads are super quick to make, add another element to your dinner, and provide an extra serving of vegetables. We frequently just make a simple salad out of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and shallot or red onion. I alternate between different lettuce blends, like spring mix (although I'm currently avoiding it because of the e.coli outbreak on romaine) or spinach blend, and different dressings. Sometimes we'll add fruit and nuts or cheese. I also like kale salads, but I only make them when I have more time because they need massaging.

Protein: premarinated frozen mahi mahi from Costco
Salad: lettuce, roasted brussel sprouts, heirloom tomatoes, shallot
Starch: wild rice from Trader Joe's
Wine: Trader Joe's

3) Use "fancy" starches to dress up your meal. If we have time during the weekend, we sometimes get fresh bread from a local bakery. Otherwise, we keep take-and-bake bread in the freezer (bake in the oven). Instead of dried pasta, we use fresh packaged pasta from the grocery store (boil on the stove). We keep Trader Joe's wild rice, brown rice medley, and couscous on hand (use the ricecooker). We keep frozen naan from Trader Joe's that we use as flatbread (bake in the oven). By switching up these simple elements that require almost zero prep time (just heat it up), the meals instantly taste different and like you put in more effort than you actually did.

Protein: premarinated frozen salmon from Costco
Vegetable: grilled asparagus
Salad: lettuce, grape tomatoes, carrot, shallot
Starch: brown rice medley from Trader Joe's

4) Grill or bake as much as you can. This is pretty key, because you don't have to watch the food that closely, and it really saves clean up time. Stovetop cooking is very inefficient in my opinion, because you have to constantly monitor and stir the food. By comparison, for grilling or baking, you just season it and pop it in. In terms of clean up, for stuff that goes in the oven, make sure you use aluminum foil, because you'll save time on scrubbing the pan afterwards. Stuff that gets stuck to the grill just burns off. We scrub the ash away the next time we use it. If you don't have a charcoal or gas grill, an electric grill works just fine too (but not a Foreman Grill because you still have to wash the grill plates).

I have more tips I want to share, but this post is getting too long, so I will share them another time. These days we make dinner at home most nights. We're not super strict about it since trying new restaurants is still one of the primary joys of my life, and I don't want to give it up entirely. There's nothing wrong with treating yourself once or twice a week, but it should actually feel like a treat. I don't want to eat out just because I'm hungry.

Do you have a formula for weeknight dinners? Do you rely on frozen stuff to supplement your meals? What other tips do you have?

Friday, May 11, 2018

Recent Style

I've been trying to dress more out of my comfort zone now that I've gotten back into blogging. I feel like I have been in a style rut for a while where I just wear jeans, a t-shirt, and a cardigan every single day. It's comfortable but boring and doesn't say anything about who I am as a person. I would like to start dressing in a way that better reflects my personality again.

(Please excuse my poor photography. I'm still working out how to best take outfit pictures of myself. I think I like the way the first two turned out, so I might stick with that style for a while. Still too shy to show my face on the blog, but hey at least I'm not headless anymore.)

This first look made me feel like I was about to go on a beach vacation. All I needed was a straw hat. It's my first time wearing white jeans, and I was paranoid all day about staining them. The weather was warm, so I paired the jeans with a striped linen shirt. I love linen for spring/summer. It keeps you so nice and cool! Some people probably don't like how it wrinkles, but I'm into that casual rumpled look. Also I bought these J.Crew hair ties recently, and I've taken to just wearing them as wristbands. Multi-purpose!

Shirt: J.Crew (old, similar)
Jeans: J.Crew
Sunglasses: J.Crew
Necklace: Charleston Gate Jewelry (from my recent trip to Charleston)
Wristband: J.Crew
Bag: Rebecca Minkoff
Sandals: Sam Edelman
This next ensemble was really out of my comfort zone for several reasons. The first is that I have zero experience with pattern mixing. As you've probably noticed by now, I usually wear neutrals and at most one pattern at a time, usually stripes. Here I'm wearing two different patterns, one of which is very bold. I think it works in this case though because of the different scales: the pineapples are very large, and the stripes are narrow. This just goes to show that stripes really do go with everything! I added a pair of jade earrings to highlight the green in the skirt and a pink wristband to match.

The second reason I felt out of my element is that I'm wearing a midi skirt, which breaks my (self-imposed) cardinal rule about skirt length. Since I have short legs (bordering on petite), I usually wear skirts that end at or above the knee. Midi skirts look best in my opinion on women who are very thin and/or tall. I also don't wear heels, so I can't even rely on that to create the optical illusion of longer legs. Overall, I liked this look though. I received several compliments that day, including one from J. He rarely notices what I wear, but he told me I looked really pretty in this skirt. :)

Top: J.Crew Factory
Skirt: J.Crew (old)
Jacket: J.Crew (old, similar)
Sunglasses: J.Crew
Earrings: gift from my mom
Wristband: J.Crew
Bag: Rebecca Minkoff
Sandals: Sam Edelman

Here I was on my way to a friend's PhD defense celebration, hence the wine. His party was in the afternoon (we were planning to grill by the pool), so I wore this light cotton sundress with an abstract floral pattern. I almost got rid of it during my last closet purge, but I'm glad I changed my mind at the last minute. You can never have too many floral dresses. As Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada says (sarcastically), "Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking."

Dress: CeCe by Cynthia Steffe (old)
Wine: Trader Joe's (haha)
Necklace: eBay
Bag: Rebecca Minkoff
Sandals: Sam Edelman
Below is what I usually wear on days I go to work out. I like to pretend that I'm wearing athleisure. See? I even added a necklace to dress it up. Anyway, I hate the hassle of changing before heading to the gym. I'd rather just pick up and go anytime. On this particular day I headed to my local climbing gym after school.

Top: J.Crew (old)
Sports bra: Nike
Fleece: Patagonia
Leggings: Zella
Bag: Rebecca Minkoff
Shoes: Vans

So which was your favorite outfit? Did you think my first attempt at pattern mixing was successful? Do you have a personal rule about skirt length? When is an outfit athleisure, and when is it just wearing sweats?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Closet Inventory 2018

This week I'm lusting after this thin gold chain (I'm really into delicate jewelry at the moment) and this pretty blush crossbody bag for 50% off plus 15% off ebates (I ordered this to try, because I want a light-colored bag for summer). 

By the way, if you haven't signed up for ebates yet, I highly recommend it. You get $10 the first time you sign up, and you get cash back on purchases from partner stores. Right now ebates is 15% off at a number of places, including Madewell, Boden, and Michael Kors. This post isn't sponsored by them, although I do get a bonus if you sign up using my link. I've just been using the service for years and have gotten a bunch of cashback checks from them. Since it's stuff I would have bought anyway, I don't see any downside. It's nice to get a little money back, especially on items that rarely go on sale.


The last time I did a closet inventory was over 2 years ago. My living situation back then was very different. I lived with my (now ex-)fiancé in a two-bedroom apartment, which had 5 large closets. I had plenty of space to indulge my acquisitiveness, and as a result I accumulated a ton of clothes. Now I live with my boyfriend in a tiny one-bedroom condo. It only has one regular closet (plus a linen closet, which doesn't count) and a dresser that we share. Before I moved in with him, I purged most of my belongings Konmari style, including a large fraction of my wardrobe. It was hard to let go of some pieces, but I felt lighter afterwards, freed from my material possessions. Because I didn't have the time or patience to sell things individually, I bagged up the nicer clothes and sent them to Thredup. I donated everything else to Goodwill. There are a few items I regret giving up, but honestly I never thought about most of it again.

I thought it'd be interesting to do another closet inventory to see how much I own now. I was actually a little surprised by the results. Some categories definitely shrank, but there are a few that grew too. Also, for consistency, I didn't count the activewear that I've since accumulated. In 2016, I was only just starting to think about personal fitness, so I didn't really own any activewear. Now I live a much more active lifestyle, which naturally means I have clothes that I wear for those specific activities. That includes workout tops, leggings, rain jacket, skiing stuff, cycling stuff, fleeces, etc. I own a decent number of items in those categories, and obviously they take up space in my closet too, but I'm okay with said purchases since they're enabling me to live a healthier lifestyle.

So here's the breakdown of what's in my closet today. The number in parentheses indicates how many I had in 2016 (after a similar Konmari purge).

Coats: 3 (6)
Jackets: 4 (7)
Blazers: 3 (5)
Vests: 1 (2)
Total: 11 (20)

Sweaters: 6 (7)
Sweatshirts: 0 (3)
Cardigans: 4 (8) 
Button-downs: 7 (13)
Blouses: 7 (11)
Tees: 19 (15)
Tanks: 8 (6)
Total: 51 (63)

Jeans: 7 (9)
Casual pants: 2 (3)
Dress pants: 1 (2)
Skirts: 7 (4)
Shorts: 3 (4)
Total: 20 (22)

Dresses: 10 (10)
Suit: 1 (0)
Total: 11 (10)

Boots: 3 (5)
Sneakers: 1 (3)
Flats: 5 (14)
Sandals: 3 (5)
Flip-flops: 0 (2)
Total: 12 (29)

Totes: 1 (3)
Crossbody/shoulder bags: 4 (8)
Clutches/wallets: 3 (6)
Total: 8 (17)

Hats: 0 (3)
Belts: 1 (10)
Scarves: 3 (12)
Total: 4 (25)

GRAND TOTAL: 117 (186)

So now I own 62.9% of what I owned in 2016. The most purged categories were belts, scarves, and shoes. I rarely wear belts, and I only wear scarves during the winter, so it made sense for me to get rid of them. I also got rid of the uncomfortable shoes I never wore even though they were pretty. Lesson learned (hopefully). 

The hardest categories to purge were outerwear and bags. I love outerwear. Love love love. Nothing makes me feel more put-together than a beautiful jacket or coat. Unfortunately, they're also pretty bulky, so out they went. Same with bags. I have such a weak spot for both of them though. Need to be careful going forward.

The only categories that expanded were tanks/tees and skirts. I wear tanks or tees almost every day, because they're just so easy, and my grad student life allows me to dress super casually. Also that number is a bit misleading, because there are a few I am getting ready to retire. Skirts I have been intentionally buying. I feel pretty wearing them, and my boyfriend always compliments me when I wear one, so win-win.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed seeing the state of my closet! Have you ever Konmari-ed your wardrobe? What's your biggest clothing category? What are your weaknesses in terms of clothes you love to buy but just don't wear that often?

Friday, May 4, 2018

Good Reads

This week I am lusting after this watercolor midi skirt (J would approve as a sailor), this linen-blend button front cami (it has a slight boho feel without being over-the-top), and this gorgeous dress in a vibrant floral print (also available as tie-waist shorts).


This past month I've been reading a bunch of articles and books (maybe because I do so much left-brain work for my dissertation that I want to balance it out with right-brain activities), and I wanted to share the links to the ones I found most interesting as well as my thoughts on them.

1. Many People Taking Antidepressants Discover They Cannot Quit (New York Times). A lot of grad students struggle with depression and anxiety, myself included, so this article really got my attention. While antidepressants can be lifesavers for many people, they tend to have negative side-effects, it can take a long time to figure out what works for you, and if you decide to quit, you have to step down the dosage slowly under the supervision of your doctor. It makes me wonder if antidepressants should be prescribed as freely as they are, when counseling and/or lifestyle changes might be a better first course of action. Of course, this really depends on the exact person, situation, and the severity of their issues, but I don't think antidepressants are the right answer for everyone.

2. 'It's Just a Dress': Teen's Chinese Prom Attire Stirs Cultural Appropriation Debate (Washington Post). As a Chinese-American, I'm pretty conflicted about this. On the one hand, it is just a dress, and I'm sure she meant no harm by wearing it. On the other hand, I always feel uncomfortable when I see non-Chinese people wearing cheongsams/qipaos. It seems costume-y and smacks a bit of yellowface. In particular, I dislike the group photo where the teens posed with their hands pressed together, which seems mocking and disrespectful. I feel the same way about Halloween costumes that involve kimonos, Native American dress, sombreros, etc. Interestingly enough, the controversial dress received a different reaction from people in China, although I would argue that they don't have a history of the same kind of cultural appropriation so they don't understand the context.

1. Belgravia by Julian Fellowes. Do you like Downton Abbey and/or historical fiction? If so, then you might like this book from the creator of Downton Abbey. I was a big fan of the show back when it was still running, with its British accents and the melodramatic lives of the "upstairs" family and the "downstairs" staff. I actually listened to Belgravia in audiobook form, and I was hooked right away. I really enjoyed Juliet Stevenson's reading of it (she's a British stage actress), because she created unique voices for the different characters. Anyway, the story begins at a ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The events of the ball set into motion the rest of the story, which is mostly set during the 1840s. It covers the complex relationships between various members of the noble but arrogant Bellasis family and the self-made upstart Trenchard family, whose fates become intertwined due to the actions of their star-crossed children. Like Downton Abbey, you get to know members of the two families as well as the servants who wait on them. The story is engaging with its tales of aristocrats, social climbers, and scheming servants, so I recommend you give it a try.

2. Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume. I loved this book when I was a preteen, and I wanted to reread it for old time's sake. I think it really captures the self-consciousness and vulnerability you feel at that age when your body is starting to go through puberty, and everything is all emotional and confusing. Even reading it as an adult now, I still cringe at the memory of what it was like to be a teenager, and I feel sympathetic towards the problems of the main character Margaret. I think the book would make a nice gift for any preteen or young teenage girl.

3. When Did I Stop Being Twenty and Other Injustices by Judith Viorst. I love to read poetry periodically, and Judith Viorst has been one of my favorite poets ever since I first read this poem by her in high school. I don't know why I hadn't thought to buy a book of her poetry earlier, but I'm glad I did! She brings her characteristic wit, humor, and insight to observations about everyday life, including relationships, marriage, and aging. Her poetry makes me feel nostalgic for simpler times.

What do you think of the articles? Were you a fan of Downton Abbey too? What books have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

April 2018 Budget

Sale alert: J.Crew is offering an additional 50% off sale items now through 05/02/2018 with code HOORAY. If you placed a recent order with them, you may have also gotten an extra 15% off coupon. My sale picks: this pretty lace top, these classic pajamas that rarely go on sale, and my favorite striped top that I wear all the time (true to size, opaque). FYI sizes are selling out quickly!


I noticed recently that I've drifted back into my old bad habit of shopping when I am stressed or bored. I had almost gotten a handle on this problem back in 2016 when I was participating in Franish's Budgeting Bloggers series, because I was holding myself publicly accountable at the time. I would like to get my overall spending under control again, and I miss writing those monthly budget posts, so I'm bringing the series back to my blog.

Overall this month was pretty stressful, so I ordered a lot but ended up returning most of it. I still kept a few items that I wanted but definitely didn't need


7 For All Mankind The Skinny Jean (Santiago Canyon 24) - I haven't bought new jeans in a long time, so the ones that I wear regularly are starting to look very worn. I love designer denim, because they tend to hold their shape better than regular jeans over the course of the day. I wanted to try out 7 For All Mankind, because I've only ever owned one pair of jeans from them, and those were thrifted so long ago that I feel like they don't count. These jeans are reasonably substantial, but they run large (even after I sized down), and I think they're too long. I kind of wish I hadn't cut off the tags right away, because they're expensive even on sale. Hopefully I'll get enough wears out of them despite the problems. Originally $159. Paid $77.31.

J.Crew pretzel t-shirt (heather granite XS) - I actually do need some new t-shirts, and I thought this one was cute. Some of the pretzel salt is actually rhinestones. I had to size up, but the tee is completely opaque and fits well. I hope J.Crew makes more tees out of this substantial material instead of the thin cotton they usually use. Originally $39.50. Paid $11.27.

Jacket: Madewell (old)
Top: J.Crew (exact)
Jeans: Lucky Brand (old)
Shoes: Cole Haan (exact)

J.Crew henley t-shirt (dark flannel S) - This was definitely an impulse purchase. I think I've been seduced by the low sale prices at J.Crew lately. Anyway, I like the color of this henley, and it's very functional. I went up two sizes though, because it runs small, and I was worried about shrinkage. (It did shrink a little in the dryer, but I probably could have gone up just one size.) This color isn't sheer, but a lighter one would be. Originally $39.50. Paid $7.51.

J.Crew love first t-shirt (heather grey XS) - This tee drapes nicely (i.e. doesn't cling to my stomach and make me feel self-conscious) plus it's opaque. I think it looks very casual, because of the color as well as the graphic, but that's fine for my grad student lifestyle. I am slightly disappointed that it's not 100% cotton as stated online. It's actually a cotton/poly blend. Originally $34.50. Paid $10.52.

J.Crew two-tone bar necklace (rose gold) - I didn't really need this. In fact, it feels pretty lightweight and thus a little cheap. I do like its simple design and how it incorporates multiple metal tones. Originally $29.50. Paid $12.02.

J.Crew demi-fine 14K gold-plated wheel charm (gold) - I also didn't need this. I was intrigued by the new line of J.Crew demi-fine jewelry and wanted to check out the quality. I really like the concept of this nautical-themed charm, especially since my boyfriend J is a sailor, but the pendant is smaller/flatter than I thought it would be, and it's very yellow for 14k gold. Originally $49.50. Paid $10.36.

Charleston Gate Jewelry sterling silver necklace - I love this necklace! I bought it on a whim at the Charleston City Market as a souvenir, and I've already worn it a bunch of times. It's inspired by the architecture of the Charleston City Hall (pictured below). Personally I love architecture, and I like how this is a cool unique way to remember my trip. Originally $30. Paid $30.

RETAIL: $381.50
SPENT: $158.99 (41.7% MSRP)


Sephora Collection far & away silicone travel tube (2 oz) - I originally wanted to buy the travel set I blogged about here, but it was sold out, so I ended up buying two tubes individually. I haven't used them yet, but hopefully they hold up. Check out Feather Factor's review. Originally $8. Paid $7.72.

Sephora Collection far & away silicone travel tube (1.25 oz) - See above. Originally $6. Paid $5.79.

Kat Von D tattoo liner (trooper) - Check out my original review here. My old one was getting dried out, so I decided to rebuy. Originally $20. Paid $19.31.

Laura Mercier caviar stick eye colour (khaki) - This was totally an impulse purchase after reading Extra Petite's recent post. I haven't used it yet but will report back when I do. See how the color looks on her. Originally $29. Paid $28.00.

RETAIL: $63.00
SPENT: $60.82 (96.5% of MSRP)

GRAND TOTAL: $219.81

What did you pick up this month? What were your favorite purchases?