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?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Blog Changes

If you visited my blog in the last couple days, you may have notice some changes around here. They are all things that I've been wanting to do for a long time now. I first started making changes back in April but really ramped up recently. At some point, I would like to actually redesign the entire website (and brush up on my rusty HTML/CSS skills!), but that will most likely have to wait until after I finish my PhD dissertation. In the meantime, I want to highlight what's new and different around here, especially for those of you who follow via an RSS reader or Bloglovin and don't necessarily visit the site directly very often.

The biggest change is my name. I don't mean the blog name, although I am thinking about rebranding at some point since the range of topics I write about has expanded. I mean my actual name. I have been going by Engineer L for a long time, and I feel like I'm finally ready for a change. I have gotten more comfortable with showing a bit more of my face around here, and I'd like you to use a more personal name for me. So hi, I'm Lea. Nice to meet you (again).

I updated my name here on the blog as well as on my social media platforms. I also standardized my Pinterest and Bloglovin usernames. Now everything is @dresslikeanengineer. (Previously Pinterest was @dressengineer, and Bloglovin was @engineerl.) Please update your bookmarks accordingly. The updated links are also in the sidebar under my profile picture.

The second change is the new navigation menu on top. I realize I have been writing about four different topics lately (style, personal finance, monthly budget, and healthy living), and it would be nice for readers who are only interested in just one or two of those to be able to filter my posts. Now you have the ability to do that.

The third change is the new Labels word cloud in the sidebar. If you want to find all of my posts on a very specific topic (for example, J.Crew reviews), you can use that to filter beyond just the four broad categories I mentioned above.

I also updated the About and Blogroll sections. About introduces who I am and why I blog. And I added some of my new favorite blogs to the blogroll!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these changes. Please let me know in the comments or via email if you find something that isn't working as it should. As always, thanks!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


Lately I have been feeling very grateful for the things in my life that I don't appreciate often enough. As a type A person, I am always striving to be the best me that I can be. Sometimes that's a good thing. It's important to me to be constantly improving, so I have a long list of things that I'm always working on in different areas of my life, including education, career, fitness, mental health, strengthening my relationship, friendships, my personal style, etc. However, by being so goal-oriented, I think I sometimes forget to appreciate who I am, where I am, and what I have right now.

For example, I am incredibly grateful that I have been blessed with overall good health. Obviously, I have a few minor conditions just like everyone else, but nothing so serious that it impacts me on a daily basis. In fact, I can only remember a few times in my life when I have been sick for an extended period of time. Once was when I injured (and re-injured) my upper back for several months. The first few weeks afterwards were miserable, because I could neither sit up nor lie down without agonizing pain. Also I had to go to physical therapy a couple times a week, and I kept re-injuring the same spot just doing daily activities, so the recovery time was very slow. That was an awful experience. Another time was when I had bronchitis for over two months. I would cough myself awake 5-10 times a night. I couldn't do any of the things I like to do normally, and I was too sick to see any friends. No fun at all. During both of those times, I slipped into temporary depression, so I can only imagine how people who have serious health conditions cope.

Recently I was hanging out with some friends when the conversation turned to personal health. One friend is currently struggling with an undiagnosed health issue. She and her husband are very frustrated with the situation, because she is in pain all the time and has zero energy, yet none of her doctors seem to have any idea why. As they continue to search for an answer, the condition has started to severely limit her life and even impact her normally cheerful disposition. Another friend revealed that she has moderate to severe scoliosis (curved spine), so she suffers from chronic back pain. There are some activities she just cannot do, because she knows it would aggravate her back. The only cure is surgery, but there are also significant risks that she's unwilling to take. I feel so much empathy for both of them, and I hope that things will get better. At the same time, it makes me realize I have been taking my own good health for granted, and it's important to appreciate it now while I still have it.

Some other things I feel grateful for: my boyfriend, friends, and family; having enough money to pursue a PhD while living a comfortable lifestyle; living in a first-world country that is (relatively) stable; how much progress I have made towards better mental health; being lucky enough to not have student loans or personal debt; having hobbies I enjoy and the money/health/time to pursue them. I am also grateful that I have this space to write down my thoughts, and I am grateful for all of you who take the time out of your day to read my posts and comment on them. There are more things of course, but these are the biggest ones I can think of at the moment. The next time I feel sad or angry or disappointed or frustrated, I would like to take a moment to think about what I already have and feel grateful.

What are you grateful for? Have you taken a moment to express your gratitude lately?

Friday, July 20, 2018

My Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Picks + Book Recommendations

July has been a crazy month for sales. First, there were summer clearance sales and Amazon Prime Day. Now the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale has opened up to the public. I am mostly sitting this one out, because I already overspent this month.  However, I still want to highlight a few gems that I think are actually a good value for those of you who are shopping. (Keep in mind that some items may be made specifically for the sale. For more info, check out Xin's post. As far as I can tell, my recommendations seem to be retail items.) My sale picks include these classic stud earrings (I bought mine a few years ago and wear them constantly), these high-waisted leggings (I own 3 pairs of the regular ones), these pretty bow flats (I tried them on in person and found them to run at least half a size large), and these waterproof heels. Personally I bought a lipstick and eyeliner set, which contains one of my favorite eyeliners and a bonus lipstick for the same price as it would normally cost to just buy the eyeliner. I also reordered one of my favorite workout tank tops in white. I wear my red one all the time, and it'd be nice to rotate them.

If you're all shopped out, I have a few book recommendations. When the weather gets too hot, I feel lazy, so I've been spending a lot of time indoors reading my Kindle. The books I enjoyed most recently are:

  • The Outsider by Stephen King - I'm a huge Stephen King fan, even though I don't normally like horror as a genre. He's the master of suspense, and this was no exception. I found the first half of the book to be very thought-provoking with its social commentary on our criminal justice system as well as trials in the court of public opinion, similar to during the #metoo movement. The second half is standard Stephen King sci-fi/horror with more sci-fi than horror. Definitely worth a read.
  • Ready Player One - I really enjoyed this young adult sci-fi/fantasy! Apparently it got made into a movie recently, which I didn't realize until after I finished the book. Anyway, the characters are a little flat, but the plot is very entertaining and fast-paced enough to make this a quick read. As a nerd, I enjoyed all the references to classic sci-fi/fantasy media as well as 80's pop culture. I guess I'm getting old enough that some of the things I liked as a kid are now retro!
  • Crazy Rich Asians - I actually read this book a while ago but have to mention it here, because the movie is coming out on August 15. I'm already planning to go see it in theaters, because it's really one of the first Hollywood movies with a predominantly Asian cast. Anyway, the book is super fun and lighthearted with lots of glamour, fashion, and drama. Definitely a guilty pleasure summer read.

Are you shopping the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale? Have you read any of these books? Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sale Alert: Amazon Prime Day Deals (Shoes)

As I mentioned in my last post, I am super excited about Amazon Prime Day, which ends tomorrow July 18 at 3:00am Eastern Time. If you haven't already, check out the best non-fashion deals I found. You do have to be an Amazon Prime member to shop this sale, but you could always sign up for a free 30-day trial (or if you're a student, a free 6-month trial) and cancel it later. Anyway I was browsing through the fashion section and found some shoe deals that were too good not to share. For all of these deals, you can take an additional 30% off the listed price at checkout. By the way, since Amazon uses dynamic pricing, the exact price varies by color, size, and availability. So I can't predict exactly how much something might cost for everyone, and prices may change quickly, but I'll provide them for my own shoe size including the 30% discount. For reference, I usually wear size 6, and my feet are normal to slightly wide.

Cole Haan Women's TALI BOW BALLET Shoe, Black Leather, 6.5 B US

1. Cole Haan Tali Bow Ballet Flat - Originally $170. Black in size 6.5 is only $65.20 (all prices are after the additional 30% off)! I own these and wear them all the time. They're pretty comfortable for flats and look a little bit like the Ferragamo Varina. I went half a size up, because I don't like when the elastic sides are too tight. By the way, this is the best price I have ever seen for this shoe. For reference, I paid about $90 last year. I ordered a replacement pair for myself.

2. Cole Haan Juliana 75mm Dress Pump - Originally $148. Save an additional 30% off, possibly more depending on your size. I don't wear heels myself, but I know that the Juliana is a very classic well-reviewed dress pump, so if you're looking for a sleek comfortable heel, this is the one for you.

My next picks are all from Frye. While I don't own any pairs of shoes from them myself, I have heard great things about their boots (in terms of quality and leather), and these prices are certainly very tempting! I'm definitely thinking about picking up a pair for myself.

3. Frye Melissa Tab Tall Riding Boot - Originally $428. Black extended calf in size 6 is $74.15.

4. Frye Melissa Button Back-Zip Boot - Originally $368. Dark brown antique soft full grain in size 6 is $132.30.

5. Frye Melissa Button 2 Riding Boot - Originally $378. Wine in size 6.5 is $114.12.

6. Frye Melissa Chelsea Boot - Originally $298. Cognac in size 6 is $89.21.

7. Frye Melissa Stud Back Zip Riding Boot - Originally $378. Wine in size 6 is $64.62.

8. Frye Melissa Seam Tall Boot - Originally $398. Slate in size 6.5 is $114.77.

9. Frye Ruth Woven Ankle Gladiator Sandal - Originally $258. Yellow in size 6 is $49.92.

If you own any of these shoes and want to share your experience, please comment below. Also, please share if you find any other great Prime Day deals! Happy shopping!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Sale Alert: Amazon Prime Day Deals

It seems like everyone is paying a lot of attention to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but personally I'm much more excited about Amazon Prime Day (really 1.5 days), which starts on July 16 at 3:00pm Eastern Time and ends July 18 at 3:00pm Eastern Time. I shop a lot at Amazon for stuff ranging from electronics to home goods to books to clothes. The best thing about Amazon is the awesome selection and the competitive pricing. The worst thing is that you can easily get overwhelmed/lost if you try to browse their website. Today I wanted to point out some of the best deals I found for Prime Day, mostly on stuff that I own/use/want myself. (By the way, this is not a sponsored post or anything. I just really like Amazon and buy stuff from there all the time.)

If you're not an Amazon Prime member already, I really recommend signing up. I actually use my membership all the time and feel that it's worth the annual price of $119 (it's even cheaper if you're a student and you can get a free 6-month trial). For that price, you get free 2-day shipping (sometimes free same-day), access to TV shows and movies with Prime Video, ad-free music with Prime Music, unlimited photo storage with Prime Photos, and special deals at Whole Foods (Amazon acquired them recently). Really there are even more benefits, but those are the ones I use the most. Since I don't have Netflix or cable, I watch a decent amount of stuff on Prime Video, including movies, BBC TV shows, and documentaries. Last year I canceled my Pandora subscription, because I started using Prime Music instead. Also, I have all of my pictures backed up on Prime Photos now, and I like shopping at Whole Foods, even though they're on the pricier end. Needless to say, I'm a big Amazon fan.

To access the deals I'm linking below, you do have to be an Amazon Prime member. However, you could always sign up for a 30-day free trial and cancel later if you don't like it or don't use it enough.

1. Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader - Normally $139.99. Now $79.99 with special offers, $99.99 without special offers.
I have raved countless times on the blog about how much I LOVE my Kindle Paperwhite e-reader. I use it all the time, and I've been reading a lot more since I bought one. It's super lightweight and small enough to put in most of my crossbody bags. Great for travel obviously or just reading right before bed. This is actually one of the best prices I've seen on one; I bought my Kindle without special offers originally for $119.99.

2. Amazon Kindle Unlimited Subscription - Normally $9.99/month. Now $0.99 for 3 months.
I signed up for this myself. I usually borrow e-books from my local library, but they don't have a huge selection, so I thought it'd be nice to supplement it with this service. Most e-books cost at least $9.99, so if you read even one book a month, it would be worth the monthly cost. Obviously $0.99 for 3 months is a no-brainer.

3. Bose QuietComfort 25 Noise Cancelling Headphones - Normally $299.00. Now $125.00.
I bought myself the Bose QuietComfort 35 a few months ago, and they have been life-changing. I use them all the time (when I'm working, when my boyfriend goes to bed early, when I'm traveling, etc). In general, Bose makes some of the best headphones, and this is an amazing price for a pair!

4. Amazon Music Unlimited Subscription - Normally $7.99/month for Prime members. Now $0.99 for 4 months.
As I mentioned, I used to pay for a Pandora subscription, but in the past year, I switched to Prime Music. Their selection is still a little limited though. With Amazon Music, you can get unlimited ad-free access to any song. Pretty good deal for $0.99.

5. Instant Pot 6 Quart 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Cooker - Normally $99.95. Now $58.99.
I'm sure most of you have heard of the Instant Pot by now. In case you're not familiar with it, it's a combined pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, etc. I mostly use mine for the pressure cooker and slow cooker functions. It is super useful for cooking meat until it's fork-tender and makes great stews/soups. There are a ton of Instant Pot recipes out there, and I find it helpful for making dinners at home.

6. 23andMe Health and Ancestry DNA Test - Normally $199.99. Now $99.99.
I'm super tempted by this deal. I haven't done any genetic tests before, but I'm curious, and I have several friends that did who recommend it. I think it would be really interesting, and this deal allows you to get both the ancestry information AND the health report for the same price as just getting the ancestry information.

Are you an Amazon Prime member? Do you use the benefits? Also please share if you find any other good Prime Day deals!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Recent Style

Recently I've been trying to document my personal style more, especially when I put together an outfit that makes me feel really good about myself (or one that makes me feel very self-conscious). That way I can look at the pictures later and figure out exactly what worked and didn't work. Today I want to share a few looks that I wore out and about in the past month. They are all good examples of how I dress in my day-to-day life.

This first outfit is composed almost entirely of new pieces I bought in the last couple weeks. The top was an impulse purchase from J.Crew's sale section. I fell in love with the color scheme and thought it looked like something from Madewell. The nutmeg color of the tank pairs well with other earth tones as well as white and black denim, which fits right into my new wardrobe color scheme. The shorts are also new, and they are the only thing I kept from that crazy J.Crew sale a couple weeks ago. They're incredibly stretchy and soft, but they do run large. Also, the sandals are from Fitflop! This is my first pair ever. I feel like Fitflop mostly makes comfort shoes that look comfortable (similar to Birkenstocks, Clarks, etc.), so I was surprised to find this pair that (mostly) looked like regular cork wedge sandals. The platform (really flatform) isn't too high, and the soles are crazy cushy. Of course, I don't think they're for everyone. They still look a little clunky, they're better suited for wider feet, and they're about half a size too large. However, I'm willing to overlook all of these flaws, because they're unbelievably cushy. Imagine, a sandal with actual padding! *gasp* Anyway, I really liked this outfit even though it was very simple. I think the earth tones and gold highlights worked well together, and I was pleased by the matchy-matchiness of my shoes and bag.

Top: J.Crew
Shorts: J.Crew
Bag: Rebecca Minkoff
Shoes: Fitflop (also here)
Necklace: Madewell (old)
Sunglasses: Amazon
Wristband: J.Crew

This second outfit is a little more girly than how I usually dress (sometimes I just want to feel pretty and feminine), but I woke up that day and felt like wearing an all-white ensemble. Initially I paired my white jeans with a white linen button-down, but the look wasn't quite right. I think both pieces were too simple, and for a monotone look, you need different textures to add visual interest and break up the solid blocks of color. So I switched out the linen shirt for this lace top, which seemed to work! The look was pretty dramatic in person (I felt like I was literally glowing), so to keep the focus on my outfit, I wore simple gold/nude/blush accessories. Surprisingly I didn't stain anything all day! (By the way, this marks the official debut of my new bag on the blog! I've been loving it and wearing it everywhere. I like how it looks pretty small on the outside but is really spacious inside with great internal organization.)

Top: Lilly Pulitzer for Target (old)
Bottom: J.Crew
Bag: Sam Edelman (reviewed here)
Sandals: Sam Edelman
Necklace: Madewell (old)
Wristband: J.Crew

This third outfit is what I call my casual-cool look. Out of the four looks I'm sharing today, I think this one most embodies my personality. I just felt very me. The outfit was comfortable, neutral, not too girly, and laid-back. It's also a little less preppy, less feminine, and a little more urban than how I normally dress, which is a direction I'd like to continue moving in. Basically, I want to be that Madewell girl... You know, the one who looks super effortless and cool, while wearing a ton of denim, haha. Also, I'm loving my souvenir necklace from Charleston! I've been wearing it nonstop lately, because I'm really into silver jewelry at the moment and don't own much yet.

Jacket: J.Crew (old, similar)
Top: Treasure & Bond (reviewed here)
Jeans: J.Crew (old, similar)
Shoes: Sam Edelman
Bag: Longchamp
Sunglasses: J.Crew (old)

This last outfit is probably my least favorite out of the bunch, but I still liked it okay. It was just a hair too preppy and nautical with the navy, white, stripes, and gold. All I needed was a captain's hat to top off the look! J and I have been sailing on the weekends, and that probably inspired me to put together this outfit. I think it would have been better if I replaced any one of the elements with something more subtle, so the look wasn't so literal. Oh well, lesson learned. Also, this sweater-blazer has been a lifesaver indoors in terms of shielding me from the freezing cold air conditioning!

Sweater: J.Crew
Top: J.Crew Factory
Jeans: J.Crew
Shoes: Sam Edelman
Bag: Rebecca Minkoff
Necklace: J.Crew

Well that's a wrap! I hope you enjoyed reading about how I put together these outfits and what I've been wearing/loving lately. (Also, isn't it funny how I basically have the same pose in every single picture?)

So which was your favorite outfit, and why?

Friday, July 6, 2018

Thoughts on Budgeting, Happiness, Body Image, and Smoothies

Here are some things I've been thinking about lately that are too short to warrant their own blog posts:

// Personal budget
Even though I've been writing monthly budget posts, I haven't actually set a budget for the year. I think I am going to target spending $150 per month on clothes, calculated on an annual basis. So far I have spent $158.99 in April, $133.47 in May, and $161.36 in June, leaving me with $896.18 for the rest of the year (an average of $149.36 per month). Also I am budgeting $117 per month for my active hobbies ($42 for my gym membership + $75 for everything else per month). I spent $42.00 in April, $275.80 in May, and $265.55 in June, which leaves me with $469.65 for the year (an average of $78.28 per month). Looks like I probably won't be buying skis this year.

// Happiness
Last week I got lunch with a friend who I only see occasionally, and we were catching up. He graduated last year with his PhD and now has a big shot corporate job with good hours that pays generously. By all accounts, he's very successful and should be happy, yet he's been feeling apathetic about life and wishes he still felt the same sense of purpose that he did during PhD. Our conversation got me thinking about what exactly makes someone happy. From my own experience as well as what I've observed, happiness is having good health, feeling loved/accepted/supported by your friends/family/significant other, having enough money to be comfortable, having a sense of purpose in your life whether it be work or something else, and taking pleasures in the little things. What do you think happiness is?

// Weight gain and body image
In the past 3-6 months, I have gained about 5 lbs. You know the Freshman 15? This is the PhD Dissertation 5... While it's possible that some of the weight gain is muscle mass from climbing and running, I think most of it is just fat. I've been working longer hours, so I'm not cooking at home as much or working out as often. Also I use food as a pick-me-up/reward for working hard. As a result, I've been eating all of the things. I'm not super concerned about my diet at the moment since I know this arrangement is semi-temporary (on the order of months), and I can lose the weight the moment I get back to my normal routine. However, it is having a negative impact on my body image. For example, I find myself avoiding tighter clothes, because I don't like how they emphasize my stomach. I also find myself grabbing my belly flab in disgust a couple times a day, which I recognize is super toxic. I'd like to adjust my mental attitude and stop being so hard on myself until I find the bandwidth to actually lose the extra weight. Just not sure how yet. Also note that this weight gain may slightly impact my fit reviews in the near future (mostly for pants/bottoms).

Why I've gained weight (clockwise): buns from my favorite Chinese bakery, best BBQ I've had in my life, homemade Taiwanese beef noodle soup, homemade French toast, pad see ew, ice cream

// What I'm loving lately
1. Smoothies. I started making smoothies for breakfast. They're super quick to make in the morning (less than 5 minutes), I can drink them on the way to/at school, they're delicious, and they keep me full for a surprisingly long time (4+ hours since they're full of fiber versus 2 for cereal). My favorite smoothie recipes at the moment are banana berry (almond milk + banana + frozen strawberries + frozen wild blueberries + spinach) and dark chocolate cherry (almond milk + banana + frozen cherries + cocoa powder). I like sneaking spinach into smoothies, because hey, extra serving of veggies. You can't really taste it, and if you use blueberries, it disguises the color too. Dark chocolate cherry is great if you're craving chocolate but don't want the guilt, since cocoa powder is only 10 calories per tablespoon!

2. Yeti 20 oz Rambler. I bought this recently to put my smoothies in, and now I understand why people love Yeti. It really is a well-designed tumbler. Very sturdy and keeps your drinks hot/cold for hours. I have the magnetic-lock lid, which is spill-resistant albeit not spill-proof (it still leaks if you turn it upside down). Also, this fits perfectly in my European car's tiny cupholders (usually things either rattle around or you just can't put it in at all). Very happy with my purchase.

What are you loving lately? How do you cope with weight gain? What are your favorite smoothie recipes?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Fourth of July Sale Picks: A&F, J.Crew, J.Crew Factory, Madewell

Fourth of July is almost here, and that means sales galore. Here is my roundup of the best deals. I will update this post if I come across any other goodies, so check back!


Abercrombie & Fitch - 40-60% off throughout the store. I haven't shopped here since college, but I was checking out their website recently, and it looks like they're trying to move away from their old brand image. Nowadays they carry some cute basics, so I'm curious to give them another try at some point.

versatile tank dress

Other sale picks: faux leather slide sandals, lace cami (see on Elle from Elle Blogs)


J.Crew - 30% off select full-price styles with ALLSTAR, 20% off with THESKIMM, $20 off your purchase of $100+ with JCSM18. You can only combine two codes, so choose wisely. Ebates is currently 10% cash back! I recently ordered these white stretch denim shorts (runs large, pretty comfortable and relatively opaque for white denim) and this straw hat (looks better in person, runs large, feels sturdy, brim is wide without being overwhelming).

embroidered star sweater

Sale items I own and like: merino wool sweater-blazer, tassel necklacegraphic tee (all three were reviewed in this post), linen shirt

Other sale picks: cross-dyed linen shirt (on my wishlist), seersucker shorts, colorful slide sandals, reversible cardigansimple knit dress, stripe linen skirt, circle straw bag (on my wishlist), ribbon hair tie (on my wishlist)


J.Crew Factory - 50% off everything plus extra 20% off your purchase and free shipping with SUPERSTAR. Ebates is currently 10% cash back!

Sale items I own and like: striped tee

Other sale picks: palm leaf t-shirt, striped v-neck dress, striped shift dress, seersucker apron dress (ordered), linen apron dress, cork sandals (under $20!), elephant bandana (ordered)


Madewell - 20% off summer must-haves with SPARKLER. Ebates is currently 1% cash back.

embossed slide sandals

Other sale picks: striped ringer tee dress, halter dress, lace-up sandals

Please share below if you spot other good sales and deals! Will you be taking advantage of the holiday sales?

Monday, July 2, 2018

June 2018 Budget

June ended up being a pretty spendy month for me. I originally planned to go on a shopping ban as I mentioned in this post, but I caved after only two weeks. Part of the reason I failed was that I really was missing some summer essentials, such as tank tops and sun protective clothing. The other part is that I've been under a lot of pressure lately, since I'm trying to finish my dissertation as well as look for jobs. When I'm stressed, I tend to stress-shop, and I could definitely see that effect this month. I read somewhere that you only have so much willpower/self-control every day, and if you use it up in one area of your life, it's very difficult to exercise self-control in another area. For example, if you've been working really hard and feel exhausted, you may have a harder time saying no to that ice cream or cupcake. My kryptonite is clothes and stuff for my hobbies. Anyway, I decided that I still want to attempt a shopping ban at some point, but maybe when things aren't so hectic. Here's my budget breakdown for the month of June.


Treasure & Bond u-neck tank (grey dark heather and black XXS) - As you guys know, I rarely buy anything full-price. However, I make an exception when I find the perfect item. In this case, I've been on the hunt for the tank top (scoopneck, soft, and flowy but not shapeless) for a long time. I wanted to replace an old Everlane one that I wear all the time, which now looks faded and has a bunch of tiny holes in the front. I found this version with the perfect neckline and fit, so I had to snap it up. I ended up liking it so much that I ordered the other colors too (but I'll be returning the white one because it's too sheer). I haven't washed it yet so I don't know how it'll hold up over time, but so far I love it. The material is a modal/polyester blend, which makes it super soft. Go with your regular size for a flowy fit, or size down for a slimmer fit. Originally $25 x 2. Paid $27.23 x 2 = $54.46.

STS Blue distressed denim shorts (clemson 25) - I have been wearing these shorts nonstop since I got them. They're soooo soft and comfortable, which is incredible considering that they're denim. The material is nice and lightweight to help you stay cool in the summer heat. Some people may not like the short inseam (~2") and/or the distressing, but I love their carefree vibe plus they make my legs look super long! Note that they do run large, so you could either size down or go with your regular size for a slightly oversized look like I did. I like them so much that I'm keeping them at full-price. Originally $39. Paid $42.47.

Sam Edelman Lora crossbody bag via DSW (light pink) - I've been looking for a light colored bag in either white, ivory, or blush for summer. I tried out a couple options, but none of them were quite right (too small, too big, wrong vibe, etc.) Then I came across this very reasonably priced blush leather bag from Sam Edelman. I like the camera bag silhouette, the quilting, the gold hardware, and also how spacious it is! It doesn't look much larger than my Rebecca Minkoff bag, but it actually has a lot more space and much better interior organization (two zip compartments, one with an inner zip pocket and one with an inner slip pocket). Anyway, I'm looking forward to wearing it all summer long. Originally $178. Paid $54.44.

Knock-off Karen Walker Super Duper sunglasses via Amazon (tortoise) - I lost the pair I bought back in 2014 so these are a replacement. They're cheap, offer UV400 protection, and cover most of my face. Not the highest quality, but you get what you paid for. Originally $9.99. Paid $9.99.

I decided to return the casual knit dress I linked in this post. Even though it was flattering in the front, it's actually somewhat sheer in the back. I didn't notice this until I wore it outside for the first time. I could see the color of my underwear, even though the dress is dark, as well as the dreaded visible panty line. Also, the hem has a tendency to ride up as you walk around or sit down, which is annoying when the dress is already plenty short. Anyway, the situation was so bad/embarrassing that I had to go home to change during lunch. So I cannot recommend this dress after all. What a shame when the front is so flattering.

RETAIL: $276.99
SPENT: $161.36 (58.3% of MSRP)


Since I've been spending a bunch of time outdoors in the sun (sailing, beach, etc.), I decided to finally buy some sun protective clothing. It's way more convenient than reapplying sunscreen every 2 hours.

Waterlust tiger shark trailblazer leggings (XS) - My boyfriend actually recommended this brand to me. They sell environmentally responsible products to support marine science research. My leggings are made from recycled polyester from plastic water bottles and help support shark research. They're also UPF50+, making them great for outdoor water sports. Don't you love the print? I feel like a tiger shark when I wear them, haha! Fit is true to size, but they're a little long so they bunch a bit at my ankles (my inseam is 30"). Originally $65. Paid $71.

Baleaf sun shirt (white S) - This was the first sun shirt I bought, and it does the job with its UPF50+ rating. Runs small. Not my favorite though, because it can get kind of hot in the sun since the material is a little on the thick side. Sadly I can't return it since I already wore it a couple times. Originally $16.99. Paid $16.99.

Vapor Apparel sun shirt (white S) - This is the second sun shirt I bought, and I like it much better. Same UPF50+ rating, but the material is thinner and doesn't seem to get as hot. Also the fit is slightly more feminine. Runs small so size up. Originally $22.95. Paid $22.95.

Saucony Guide ISO road-running shoes via REI (black/denim/copper 6) - Now that summer is here, it's too hot for me to bike outside unless I go super early in the morning, and I'm really not a morning person. I still want to get in some cardio though, so I started running in my building's gym about twice a week. (Even though I hate running, I can't deny that it really is the most convenient form of cardio. You can do it anytime at your own pace for whatever length of time you'd like, and if you run indoors, it's climate-controlled.) At first I just wore my 7-year-old Asics shoes, but I quickly discovered that I was getting foot/knee pain and decided to upgrade (while also focusing on better running form). I tried out 4 different pairs and ultimately settled on this one, because it was the most comfortable and offered the best stability/motion control when I did a few test laps around the store (yes, people were giving me odd looks...). I've worn these babies about 4 times. So far so good. Bonus: the color goes with everything! Originally $120. Paid $117.61.

Outdoor Research ActiveIce ubertube (alloy) - This gaiter is a lifesaver in really hot weather. I wet it thoroughly in cold water and wear it around my neck to protect against sunburns as well as cool me down. One size fits all. Originally $22. Paid $19.59.

RETAIL: $246.94
SPENT: $248.14 (100% of MSRP)

What were your favorite purchases this month? Do you like sunwear or sunscreen?