"Workweek" Series, Thoughts

Workweek 12/15 – 12/19

I’m bloody exhausted but here is mid-December’s installment of “Workweek.”

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Monday: Lands End 2013 Luxe Wool Walker Coat, old Uniqlo polka dot poly dress, Target tights, Nike Lunarglide 5
Tuesday: Banana Republic Textured Cropped Turtleneck, Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Vest, Uniqlo Ultra Stretch jeans, Ecco Sculptured GTX booties
Wednesday: JCrew Factory plaid flannel shirt, Zara cropped cotton sweater, Uniqlo Ultra Stretch jeans, Born Valentina riding boots
Thursday: see Tuesday.
Friday: Muji cable-knit open cardigan, Uniqlo Ultra Stretch jeans, Nike Lunarglide 4.

Being sick really throws everything into perspective. When one is healthy, it is easy to take many things for granted, like exercise. I am annoyed at not being able to run or not having energy to do anything after work. As far as getting dressed, you can see my creativity took a hit this week. I repeated Tuesday with no shame. That darn sweater is just so comfortable; I’ve purchased another in the light gray color which is due to arrive today. I may just wear turtlenecks for the next three months and call it a day.

I hope I’ll be better by next week–Christmas is nigh! I hope you all are staying healthy.

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Personal, Reviews, Thoughts

Workweek 12/8 – 12/12

I haven’t done one of these in a while, it seems. Let’s look at what happened this week in the wardrobe department:

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Monday: Zara faux leather sherpa-lined moto jacket (thematically similar), Lands End supima cardigan sweater, Cotton On mini, Target tights, Born Valentina riding boots.
Tuesday: Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck, old H&M & straight leg-jeans, Target leather belt, Ecco Sculptured 45 GTX bootie
Wednesday: Banana Republic textured cropped turtleneck, old H&M & straight leg-jeans, Ecco Sculptured 45 GTX bootie
Thursday: Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck, Uniqlo Ultra Light Down vest, Banana Republic coated shine mini, Ecco Sculptured 75 Shoetie, Target tights
Friday: old raincoat (my grandma’s), Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck, Muji gray/black colorblock cashmere sweater, Uniqlo Ultra Stretch jeans (navy), Ecco Sculptured 45 GTX bootie

Mini-review of the Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck: it’s like regular Heattech but better. Soft and fluffy micro-fleece on the inside, same comfortable cotton-feel fabric on the outside. The neck isn’t tight at all. I wish it came up a little higher on my neck but it’s still very usable. The Extra Warm also seems a little less sheer than the regular Heattech fabric. I want a second black turtleneck for my winter uniform.

“Sparkly” skirt success: the skirt was well-received at the office luncheon.  I brought a red sweater to layer over the turtleneck but true to my color-eschewing self, I got lazy and opted to keep the vest on. Too bad I forgot to bring eyeliner in my purse–I had blush and even brought my Naked palette to work so I could jazz up my Five-Minute Face. I’m thinking of synthesizing a throw-and-go makeup/toiletries kit for these kinds of situations (or just plan better and do all my makeup before leaving the house? That is what I really should do.)

Waterproof coat musings: I used to own an LL Bean boy’s fleece-lined jacket with a waterproof shell. It was oversized, but at least it was less comical because it was from the kid’s section. I have since lost that coat, and have been borrowing from my family. My grandparents’ coats are from the 80’s and they look like I’m wearing a comforter. It works for now, as my area doesn’t really get any serious rain, but I remember now my two trips to the East and how there was a day I could have appreciated a water-repellent coat. I’m going to do some research on what features I want–packable? semi-lined? short (hip) or thigh/knee length coat? and keep an eye out for end-of-season sales. The last time I raised this point Amanda of Assembled Hazardly brought up North Face rain jackets for the waterproof-shell. If I go with that route, I’ll have to get creative with my layering scheme underneath to provide warmth. I don’t think I’m going to invest in a puffer anytime soon–there is no true need especially with SoCal living, plus as I’ve learned with Uniqlo’s inexpensive ULD line, down gets messy.

I can safely say I think Southern California is finally in what passes for “winter” around these parts, if at least evidenced by the strong rotation of boots in my daily wear and the fact that I’m not melting wearing my sweaters. Hooray for “seasons” and double hooray for the rain we’re supposed to be getting today and over the next week or so. We need all the help we can get restoring our water supply.

Have a lovely weekend and stay warm!

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Acquisitions, Reviews, Thoughts

Review: Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Vest

Kali asked me a question re: my Ultra Light Down vest which I’ve been wearing for a solid month now and I’d like to share my notes on this oft-ballyhoo’ed piece from Uniqlo.

The good:
Overall, I like the vest. It’s very light and comfortable to wear, folds down into nothing and can be stored in a small purse. It does add warmth to the torso and the tall collar keeps my neck covered.

As far as styling it, I haven’t been terribly creative:

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I have many plaid shirts/checked shirts. #hansoloseason

Yawn. Hehe.

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The easiest most comfortable outfit to wear .

It’s just an easy piece to use. In my case, I’m wearing it as outerwear, but I can imagine it could go well under coats.

The meh: what I think is a lot of feather leak. Since I prefer wearing mostly dark-colored clothing, I notice the little white fuzzies very easily. Most of what escapes is small fuzz, thin fibers. But there’s enough of it to where when I look down I spend some time picking stuff off of myself. The seams of the panels seem to be the culprit and where I see the fuzz escape. Not happy with that. Then again, this is my first down-filled item, so maybe that’s just how those items work.

This vest retails at $49.90,  which isn’t unattainable, but I’d still like my clothes to not make a mess on me as I’m wearing them. Depending on your budget and comfort level, I personally would suggest other brands if you want the vest to work as a full-fledged outerwear piece vs. as a layering piece. I like wearing mine on the outside, so should I pursue a black puffer vest in the future I’ll look at North Face or Patagonia.

Final thoughts: I would recommend this piece, with a caveat: buy it on sale. Its tendency to shed makes me unwilling to recommend it at full price, rather, if you have an opportunity to grab a ULD item on sale, go for it–it will be useful and warm, but I personally think one can wait for a sale. I wish I could report how other similarly-priced down vests perform (I would class the Uniqlo ULD with other packable vests,) but the only ones I’ve seen are TJMaxx/Marshalls diffusion lines (Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, and Michael Kors all make packable down pieces. Haven’t owned those, so I cannot comment, but the price point is comparable.)

Tell me what you think! Have you owned Uniqlo Ultra Light Down items? Is my feather leak problem standard, or should I just expect that from down-packed jackets? Do technical brands like North Face do it better, or do you know of other brands (LL Bean, Lands End, etc.) that work just as well?

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Personal

“A 7Leaves Winter” Contest

Disclaimer: All the thoughts and opinions below are my own. I was not compensated by 7Leaves Cafe for this blog post.

Today’s post is a slight deviation from my usual rambling, so bear with me! I’ve been up to no good on Instagram, but this is the first time my flailing efforts have actually netted me something tangible. I’ve been skirting around the coffee world for a few years now, but I didn’t really drink it until late last year when my friends bought me iced Vietnamese coffee with milk (ca phe sua da.) Since then I’ve been working my way slowly through the many iterations that the lovely brew presents itself in.

My favorite place to get iced Vietnamese coffee (and other delicious teas) is at 7Leaves Cafe. With locations in Garden Grove, Cypress, Tustin, and soon Fountain Valley, this booming little coffee and tea shop is steadily increasing its presence in Orange County. I visited their original location in Garden Grove (Westminster and Kerry) sometime last year and have been hooked since:

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Delicious iced coffee and the occasional strawberry croissant from Cream Pan!

7Leaves Cafe is currently running a photo contest on their Instagram called #A7LeavesWinter. How to participate:

  1. Follow @7leavescafe_ on Instagram.
  2. Take a picture of any 7Leaves drink of your choice, tag @7leavescafe_ and #A7LeavesWinter
  3.  Winners will be drawn every month.
  4. Prizes:
    – 7 Leaves Gift Set which includes their logo shirt, a mug, and 5 free drink gift cards,
    – A free drink to be redeemed at the location of your choice.

I’m happy to report that I won this month’s drawing for a gift set! I could not have been more pleased. I received my gift set yesterday from the lovely people at the Cypress branch, who thankfully bore my effusions with patience. They even sent me along my way with a cup of hot House Special coffee! I am pathetically simple, I will be your friend if you wave food in my face.

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yahoo!

I’m very glad to see their growth in my hometown. For those of you in the Southern California area, drop on by any one of their locations for some good coffees and milk teas. I’m partial to the House Special coffee, but I’ve heard good things about their Sea Cream Jasmine and Strawberry Hibiscus tea. I’ve sampled the Black Halo tea and the Mung Bean and Taro Milk teas and those were great as well. For those of you who are boba fans–not only do they offer boba but also grass jelly, pudding and aloe in your drink should you wish it.

I’m quite proud of where I live, if you can’t tell. I suppose we all tend to romanticize home to a certain extent, and my blog becomes a place for showcasing that. Compared to our flashier, louder neighbor of Los Angeles, Orange County is practically sleepy and quiet. But there’s innovation here and pockets of folks doing good work. We may not have as much diversity as LA but we’re starting to grow as a region, attracting good food and businesses to set up and stay. I’m hoping this continues and that I can do my little part to support local efforts by good people.

Now with all that effort spent, I think I should go perk myself up with a cup. :)

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Acquisitions, Reviews, Thoughts

Acquisitions: November 2014

November hit heavy on the ole wallet:

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Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Vest

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Banana Republic Textured Cropped Turtleneck (in charcoal) and Coated Shine Mini

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Aerie Romantic Lace Bralette in black (shown in navy)

Not photographed:

Hue super opaque tights, black
NYX Powder Blush PB01 Mocha
A soft-haired blush brush from Marshalls
NYC Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil, dark brown

Good news: only the vest was full-priced. Banana had a 50% off sale on the sweater and 30% off on the skirt. American Eagle Outfitters/Aerie had 40% off.

Meh news: The vest, tights and makeup were all regular-priced. Silly me got too eager in New York; I could have waited two weeks and got the ULD vest for $30. T_T.

Notes about the bralette: I’ve wanted to try one for a long time, but I kept waffling over it all throughout the summer which would have been an excellent time to test it out. Kept waiting for more than buy-one-get-one-50% off sales. I didn’t want to pay very much for what isn’t really a workhorse bra for me–I like my regular wired t-shirt bras for most situations. But bralettes look pretty and fancy and in my imagination, I am a pretty and fancy lady. I tried some Target bralettes from the Gilligan and O’Malley and Xhilaration lines but their construction and fit was not up to snuff (rough lace, and unflattering.) Enter the Aerie bralette. It arrived and while I thought the extra lace at the band was elegant, IRL it’s not as flattering on me as I would have wanted. The lace is also a bit itchy at the tops of the cups and on the band. :( I returned it yesterday. Try looking again, Kristina.

For those of you with eligible American Express credit cards, you may want to check out Shoprunner. It seems to be a shopping service that offers discounts as well as free 2-day shipping (similar to Amazon Prime’s offering) to a host of partner retailers, including American Eagle Outfitters. I took advantage of Shoprunner as I have an eligible AMEX card. Ordered my stuff on Tuesday 11/25, package arrived Friday 11/28. Not too shabby, Shoprunner!

Makeup mini-update: The Five-Minute Face is evolving. I’ve noticed that I look beat-up and pale at work after some long nights. I’m happy with my brows and my BB cream + pressed powder scheme is enough coverage for daily life, though I still want to eventually figure something more long-lasting for parties (with tons of dancing, because I’m shameless.) Enter blush. I’m trying this NYX Powder Blush which comes highly recommended by friends and family in the universally-flattering Mocha shade, which doesn’t look brown by any means.

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Blush + tiny bit of eyeball pinstriping, lip balm, and brow shenanigans.

This isn’t too hard after all. It’s just muscle memory, right? With the holiday I’ve been wearing a little bit every time I go out with my family, just for practice and to get used to seeing it on me. I like the addition and the NYX price point is really fair. As I am not at ALL a powerhouse makeup consumer, this tool and compact should last pretty long. As for the eyeliner pencil, I’m hoping that the NYC pencil does not break as I am trying to sharpen it. I have yet to find an eyeliner pencil that did not suffer catastrophic crumbling upon sharpening. *crosses fingers* Do you have any favorite tough-as-nails eyeliner pencils? I’m willing to spend if it’s long-lasting and not prone to waste (breaking.)

Some musings on shopping and prioritization:

Something I’d like to work on or at least understand about myself: I noticed that while I make shopping lists and try to prioritize buys by time of need and buying when there is a deal, there are still times where I let certain items jump to the front of the list, for a myriad of reasons. The Banana Republic purchases were a bit unplanned; I had less than three days from the initial thought/desire to dress up for the holidays to looking around in-store and finally purchasing the two items I came away with. I usually can wait two weeks or more until I “forget” the item and end up not buying it. But this particular buy was accelerated and I hope that the short amount of review time won’t cost me regret in the long run–as in the sweater ends up not well-used or the skirt had a flaw I overlooked in my haste to have an outfit ready.

Why did I let it jump to the front of the list? I distinctly remember feeling like I had a deadline–my family’s dinner party, for example. I also had a vague musing that I would wear it to a work function, but that isn’t for another two weeks. I also remember saying I wanted turtlenecks because of how I didn’t have anything  warmth-generating to wear to New York. I depended a lot on a Nike jacket in NY, which isn’t a crime in and of itself, but if I could do it over again I would have liked to wear a nice sweater on some of the days in the city. To look good. And also because while I don’t mind the sportswear look, I do like to look nice. I think sweaters are nice. But why am I focused on fulfilling a need that won’t even come around till the next time I’m in a location that actually requires cashmere and wool? My ordinary life is lived in a dry desert-type climate.

My own armchair analysis of it all is that shopping is still very emotionally linked for me. I buy things to tap into positive feelings. I had a great time traveling and experiencing things I don’t get to do very often. The weather in the East Coast is a novelty for me, so buying a sweater or a down vest can remind me of New York. I associate lox bagels with New York. I got home and tried one from a local shop and it can’t even come close to the lox I had (at Russ and Daughters / at Grey Dog.) I’ve been trying to replicate the experience I lived by purchasing items that give me back that state of mind.

I haven’t decided yet if this is necessarily a good or bad thing. It can definitely affect one’s finances, and more importantly I’m not sure that in the long run this whimsical purchasing really soothes the root of the buying, which is I want to experience more things. The thrill of a sale, or searching through stores for the “perfect” skirt is temporary. What I really want more than a charcoal sweater is the experience of living.

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I almost can’t stand how introspective this got so I’ll wrap it up here for now. None of what I’ve just yakked out is new necessarily, but it’s eerie to find it so applicable to myself at the moment. I want to experience more of life. Consumption is a part of novel experiences. How does one keep emotion’s inexorable power in check while acknowledging and fulfilling reasonable needs?

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Personal, Travel

New York in Motion

I might not be able to ever finish my photos on New York at the rate I’m going…I have over 6 GB of shots and I’m feeling overwhelmed with my editing. Here are some GIFs I made from NYC. There’s so much to do in the city and so little time; if I could do it all over again I’d just film the constant movement. It’s just as they say in the movies; the city never slows down. It’s nothing like Los Angeles or San Francisco or Washington DC; it is its own kind of beast. I’m glad I was able to see it in my youth. I want to come back and see more of Brooklyn, Queens, or Harlem. Manhattan, you sure are something.

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This is Grand Central Terminal on a weekday rush hour.

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Times Square on a Saturday night.

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The early morning sky over the Flatiron Building.

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A quiet afternoon at Brooklyn Bridge Park, looking out toward Manhattan.

I hope that was enjoyable and not terribly slow on your browsers! :)

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