Review: Blondo “Valli” Waterproof Ankle Bootie

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It’s only been a week (or less!) with these but I’m enjoying my new Blondo “Valli” waterproof ankle booties. My beloved Ecco Sculpted GTX booties of 2013 are still doing okay, but because they ended up being the most comfortable and dependable (MVP during NYC 2014) they’ve been wearing down quicker than I would like. So in my head I thought that if I were to split the wear and tear between two pairs of boots I might be able to add a dressier version and also introduce a slightly different shape into the collection, etc. etc. Okay, I also really wanted another pair of shoes, because shoes.:)

I didn’t have much criteria this time around–it just has to be comfortable, supportive (somewhat snug around the midfoot/arch, which is where I have the most trouble fitting shoes), and ideally waterproof. Not that I live in a place with any water action whatsoever, but my mind is always trying to optimize and have items that do double-duty in case of travel (to places with actual weather.) Not to mention the old “buy nice or buy twice.” So all throughout fall and winter I’ve been on the lookout for something low-cut and waterproof to little success, until these.

Blondo is a new brand to me; it seems to come from my northern neighbors in Canada. Note: this particular model of ankle boots is a Nordstrom exclusive and it was initially the suede “Mushroom” model that I tried on while boot-hunting. But since suede is notoriously hard to clean (even though Blondo certifies that their shoes are all made with “Aquaprotect” waterproof treated leathers), I didn’t immediately bite on the suede pair. It wasn’t until the next day when I did a little more research (ah! the wisdom of patience) that I realized Blondo also made a full-leather version, in black, and that magically my size was one of two left online at Nordstrom.

As far as fit, take your standard shoe size. The suede is a softer fit overall; the full leather is still a little stiff around the top of the ankle and will need some break-in time. I’ve been wearing them to work, around town, just about anywhere, really…fastest integration I’ve seen thus yet. Let’s hope they become a wardrobe valuable player* as the year goes by!

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“editorial” pose😀

 

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*from lovely Pret a Porter P‘s post re: Wardrobe MVPs

Interlude

Interlude

California makes no sense. Absolutely no sense. The second week of February in Southern California is supposed to have temperatures reaching in the low 80s. I was enjoying scarves and boots last week and today I saw an 86F on my car’s dashboard. I was hoping for a little bit more “winter” but who knows what we’re getting this year? Anyway, enough griping, onto the important stuff aka #whatiwore:

Dug some stuff out of the storage bin.

A mix of old and some 2015 purchases:
old Forever 21 split neck rayon blouse
Zara denim culottes (more like wide leg pants on me)
Birkenstock Milanos

I’m a late bloomer/adopter of trends so I realize Birks are definitely old and unexciting news in the blogosphere. I’ve had to eat my previously dismissive attitude about these sandals. They’re orthopedically sound and I’m looking forward to wearing the heck out of them later this year.

Hair is growing back.

2016 has been interesting so far. January went by in a flash: I ran my first half-marathon and I learned what to work on, fitness-wise, to become a better runner (need to do more core work and stretching! Needs flexibility!) But then recovering took a week and a half and then I got hit with the worst flu I’ve had to date as an adult. Missed work, couldn’t exercise, didn’t feel like eating/couldn’t eat. This is the first weekend I feel like myself again–I got to run and lift finally! I thought I was doing better allotting more time to rest and recovery, but I suppose a fine-tuning is still needed. More discipline in the realm of sleep–just as much dedication to it as I give toward the myriad of activities I participate in.

Review: Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Water Defender Jacket

Review: Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Water Defender Jacket

It’s been a while since I did one of these, but judging from my stats/analytics it seems quite a fair amount of people happen upon this blog because of my previous post on Uniqlo’s Ultra Light Down vest. Here’s a hybrid review/update now that I own its sleeved-sibling, the Ultra Light Down (Water Defender) jacket.

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Over Christmas I received a Uniqlo gift card from my awesome relatives, so first thing I did in January was to go for that ever-exciting black for the jacket version. If it ain’t broke, or so the saying goes. Fit is the same for me–the small is the best across the shoulders, but it IS a little tight across the hips. I’m okay with that since I wear it more like a shirt than a jacket. Size up if you want to wear thick sweaters under, otherwise, take your usual sizing.

I’ve owned the vest for about two years now. I lost some fill in the bottom part in the back, and a small amount around the neck. It’s not visually noticeable, but I know how puffy those sections used to be. I predict about the same pattern of loss will occur with the jacket–and who knows how much I’ll lose in the sleeves. Overall, it shouldn’t affect the fit or the warmth of the garment.

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Seams on the jacket version.

Something to note: the jacket’s pockets have zippers, a welcome upgrade from the zipper-less ones from my vest. Not sure if this year’s vests have them–so you might be luckier than I. The pockets will do for a phone and keys.

Water Defender: I’ve been unable to test this claim as 1. I live in California, which barely sees any rain, and I don’t know if the news has spread internationally, but 2. we’re having a terrible drought as well. To be correct: it has rained some in other parts of the state but not as much where I live. As far as this jacket’s waterproof abilities, I’m sure it will keep out a mist or a small spatter, but I wouldn’t toss out your Gore-tex any time soon. The jackets and vests do not have weather-sealed seams or zippers.

Nota bene:  I vaguely remember at one point maybe late 2014 or early 2015 there was a regular ULD line and these “new” Water Defender style jackets. This year they seem to have incorporated it into the main ULD offerings. So to be exact, my 2014 vest is not part of this new line, but my 2016 jacket should be water-repellent. It probably doesn’t make sense to market one jacket that is hydrophobic but still offer one that isn’t. Anyway.

The Ultra Light Down products really shine in the weight and layering department, which is what I bought it for. I’ve worn the jacket under a rain coat, and the vest under a wool peacoat. It’s not going to be a severe-weather solution, but for most people and most situations, it will be plenty. It’s best to think of them as modular warmth for the torso and arms that you can pack easily.

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Carhartt beanie, Uniqlo ULD Water Defender jacket, Vans Excerpt chino joggers

I hope some of that discourse helps you with your purchases! Stay warm and enjoy your weekend.:)

Wardrobe update – 4Q 2015

Wardrobe update – 4Q 2015

Hello. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I had a whole late fall blog post planned out (featuring these outfits), but life and the weather got in my way. This is now quite behind, but I hope you can still enjoy this late 2015 sampler micro-wardrobe:

Such fance. -heh-

Tops: Black Gap V-neck sweater, gray tee, cream Zara open cardigan, JCrew embroidered indigo dot shirt, JCrew Factory polka dot popover, blue Gap v-neck sweater

Pants: black Gap straight slacks, brown Gap 1969 corduroy straight pants, Uniqlo slim fit boyfriend jeans, Zara wide-leg denim trousers

Shoes: Gentle Souls Gabby flats, New Balance Fresh Foam Zantes, Clarks oxford/brogues, Camper Nina Right flats

Jacket: olive H&M military jacket

Work wardrobe must:
– be warm enough for the workplace AC, but not be so much so as to be miserably sweaty while being outside
– comfortable and allow for crawling, crouching, lifting and cleaning
– have real pockets

In general I’ve stuck to blacks, blues, and that trusty olive topper. Mix and match ad nauseam. The corduroy pants and the cream open sweater are clothes I rediscovered after my weight and proportions changed yet again. Over the years I’ve gotten rid of items but I’m still holding onto a few pairs because of this exact situation–finding that I fit them again and I still like them. In this particular case, I’m glad these escaped the donation cut.

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Mini-purchase update:

September

Zara denim culottes (but I’m short so they’re wide-leg pants on me.)

October

Birkenstock Milano in black Amalfi leather
– wasn’t going to keep these but a quick few hole punches to the straps solved my small-volume foot problem. I think I’ll be keeping these–they’re supportive and the heel strap means I’m not sliding around everywhere.

November

COS dropped shoulder top (UK link, couldn’t find it on US site.)
– I saw a gray cropped sweater on Stephanie a few years ago and subsequently bought its black sibling from Zara. I haven’t been able to shake the idea of skinny sleeves and a wide-cut body, so when COS finally opened in Orange County, I was really happy to find this top. Not that I need any more black clothing…but then again, it IS what I wear without fail, so onto the work/play pile it goes. The fabric is a mix of rayon, spandex and polyester–it drapes well and has a nice solid weight to it. I think it feels like a fluid ponte.

One last month and a half to go in 2015! Hoping to dig deep–the season of extravagant holiday sales is nigh, and treats are so very tempting around this time of year. -eek-

Dinner with Irenia Supper Club

Dinner with Irenia Supper Club

One of my hobbies lately is tracking the development and progression of this trend called the “Filipino Food Movement.” It’s a hashtag I’ve been using to promote my own culture’s food–more often when I eat out but also on the rare occasion when I cook something at home. I’m hoping Filipino food gets more traction internationally, just like how Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai food are familiar to Western palates now.

In support of such awareness and growth of Filipino cuisine in my own neighborhood, I attended one of Irenia Supper Club‘s pop-up dinners in Costa Mesa, CA. Yesterday was my first time going to such an event, and it was a great introduction into the world of fine dining. Irenia Supper Club is the brainchild of Chef Ryan Garlitos, who named his restaurant after his grandmother Irenia. “…the Irenia Supper Club aims to create modern Filipino inspired dishes that are reflective of grandmother’s style and values and also demonstrate Chef’s commitment to making deliciously imaginative plates. Currently a monthly Pop-Up Supper Club, Irenia’s long-term goal is to operate as a brick and mortar restaurant in Orange County.”1

Yesterday’s event occurred at Famosa Tile in the OC Mix/South Coast Collection (SOCO) plaza.
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Kitchen, bar seating, and main seating for the guests.

Last night’s dinner was six courses prepared by two teams: Chef Garlitos and the folks from Irenia Supper Club, and Chefs Nate Overstreet and Ashly Amador of Wheat and Sons Butcher.  I should clarify that not all the courses were strictly Filipino-based, but the non-Filipino dishes presented flavors that remind me a lot of Spanish cuisine, but within an American framework.

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From left: Corinne Mosqueda of Irenia Supper Club, Chase Valencia of Lasa LA, Ashly Amador and Nate Overstreet of Wheat and Sons Butcher.
Here are the six courses from the dinner:

1. Salad Sariwa (Tagalog for “fresh”)

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Persian cucumber, radishes, pea shoots, pickled red onion, milkfish tonnato, bagoong caramel
I wanted more salad so I could eat more dressing >_>😀

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Nico De Leon of Lasa LA and Ryan Garlitos of Irenia Supper Club preparing the Salad Sariwa.
2. Dungeness Crab Conserva

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Smoked paprika, tarragon, baguette
3. Repolyo

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Grilled cabbage, tinola broth, chayote, crispy chicken skin, preserved meyer lemon
I would call this a very friendly, comforting introduction to chicken tinola soup. My own family tends to make theirs with a little more ginger/lemon edge with chicken drumsticks in a big pot. The version above is definitely a more elegant, muted take on what I remember from youth.

4. Mussels Caldo Verde

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Linguica, potato, cherry tomato
A hearty thick broth with potatoes, tomatoes, and chopped sausage. Almost reminded me of gumbo with the smoky sausage.

5. Afritada

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Braised ‘Cooks Pigs’ pork shoulder, roasted dwarf carrot, charred shishito, jasmine rice
I’ve made afritada for myself before–but only with chicken thigh. This pork shoulder was tender, but a little dry. I much prefer making this dish with chicken. Nevertheless, the roasted carrot and shishito was a treat for me, and I could spoon the sauce over rice for days.

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Kitchen flow.
6. Cassava Cake

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Burnt coconut cream, San Miguel ‘Negro’ glaze, morro grape
I’m not much of a coconut or cassava fan but this was delicious and not too sweet! Win win.

Overall the dinner was well-executed, and I could not have asked for a nicer first pop-up supper. I am looking forward to attending the Los Angeles series of dinners by Lasa LA.

If you’re in the Southern California area and want to learn more about fine dining and Filipino cuisine check out the following:

Irenia Supper Club (Orange County)
Lasa LA (Los Angeles)

A few helpful links on Instagram, where I get my foodie news from:
@savorfilipino
#filipinofoodmovement
#FFMSoCal

It feels good to learn new things every day!:)

Some thoughts on clothing

Some thoughts on clothing

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these types of posts, mostly because I’ve attempted to do need-based purchasing as opposed to window shopping. Anyway, I don’t live in a minimalist vacuum, so in the last half of the year there have been some purchases and mistakes, so I’d like to talk about those today.

First, the successes:

2015wins

1. Arc’teryx Beta LT Hybrid Jacket (REI)
I got it for $250 at REI’s Labor Day sales for the Seattle trip. I am not too familiar with Arc’teryx’s sale prices, but I decided on this rain jacket vs. the orange Marmot Minimalist  because of the fit of the hood, deep front pockets, and the comfortable collar. I’m sure both would have performed adequately, but I have to give Arc’teryx a thumbs up for what it does. I was bone dry in that jacket. The adjustable hood and collar ensured a great seal around my face, and there’s a slight lip or stiffness to the hood which I noticed directed water away from my nose and eyes. That is not to say the affordable Marmot jacket would not have done the same, but I feel extra pleased by the workmanship and quality I get from this jacket. It gave me confidence during the Washington trip and now I have a solid rain jacket for the future; I won’t worry about future travel to the East Coast and/or other locales with inclement weather.

2. Forever 21 Jersey Dress (sold out. pic shown is Brandy Melville’s Alena dress.)
Struck by some inspiration somewhere on the Internet. This is an example of when buying a fast fashion interpretation works out in my favor. The F21 version is opaque, didn’t shrink, doesn’t stink. It is a very basic, flattering cut and there are plenty of versions out and about.

3. New Balance Fresh Foam Zante (2015)
I am so incredibly happy I found a shoe that works with my orthotics. The Fresh Foam Zantes pictured here are from NB’s running category, so it’s not really a #hypebeast or trendy shoe like the Nike Flyknit Racers or Roshe Runs. It’s an actual neutral running shoe. I was clunking around in Lunarglides anyways, so going with another running shoe-as-lifestyle isn’t a surprise. It’s much less cushioned and much lighter than what I’m used to, but the most important part is it is deep enough to house my orthotic inserts and I can lace up tightly for a very secure fit. I guess my review is skewed because I never wear the base insert, but I’d still recommend the shoe for its light weight. There is a men’s all leather version that is very very tempting…but I can wait on that and see what comes out after Christmas.

Then the underutilized:

Black Crane Pleats Dress (gray)
I didn’t wear this dress as often as I thought I would:
1. the fabric is a bit scratchy (wool/rayon mix) and for me, is a bit too warm
2. caring/cleaning for the dress is a bit complicated–I hand washed it and it shrank from a glorious full length, dragging skirt to just skimming the bottom of my feet. I kind of killed the fit I wanted from it by hand washing.
3. The daringness/oddness of wearing an extremely long, kind of sack-like dress was daunting. My coworkers just didn’t get it, and my family, bless their heart–didn’t say anything but I also get the vibe that if I want to avoid unnecessary commentary, I shouldn’t wear these dress to certain functions.
4. the 3/4 sleeve + dolman effect bothers me. I already know I don’t like either of those two elements, and yet I still bought the dress, entranced by the sale price and the excitement I felt at the store I bought it from.

I still like the dress, but there’s certain things I need to do to make it more me. I want to see if I can chop off or trim off those sleeves, but I’m a little afraid of editing it so permanently. The other half is just to wear the dress until it rips/dies–the fit is already irrevocably changed because it shrank–so I just need to wear it and stop babying it. Clothes are for the wearing, not storing, Kristina.

Muji linen dress
This is a case of I didn’t want to put the work in to maximize this dress (aka too lazy to iron.) I would take the dress out of the washer and hang it up to dry but didn’t fix the collar wonkiness and wore it to work pre-wrinkled. Not my style. I am getting ready to wear this dress later this week and yes, it has been pressed. Lesson of the day: don’t shirk the care for your clothes and reap the rewards of feeling #onfleek to work.

And the fail:

Forever 21 Chambray Shirt Dress (mine is gray)
The fit is fine, but it STILL stinks like preservative and rubber even until now. I Febrezed it, I soaked it in straight vinegar (maybe with a splash of water) for 3 hours. Still smelled after 5 washes and rinses. I should know better, but I gave into the urge after seeing a cool girl at a coffee shop (because where else) wear sleeveless shirt dresses with hoop earrings (which you could say is where my current IG pic inspo is from.) Holly if you ever read this, you’re a dope muse. What a disappointing use of $20, but I really should have known better, especially with fast fashion.

Upcoming guidelines for shopping F/W 2015:
1. no more sweaters/outerwear
Let’s face it, I live in a desert with little to no hope of really experiencing the proper temperatures for lovely cashmere sweaters and the like. I’ve already got a wool coat, tall and short boots, and now a rain jacket. I’ve also got several sweaters to choose from so remembering these and being realistic about the actual weather I live in should keep me from acquiring any more items. I barely have a week in January or so as it is to really properly wear what I own, during the season they are meant for. I own enough.

2. only shop for what I actually wear
What does Kristina reach for time and again?
– Cotton button-downs. My little collection of navy and white button downs are on heavy rotation for work. I also would like some short-sleeved ones like the Muji checkered one I got last year.
– Black pants and blue jeans (I own enough jeans for the moment, but I could always use fade-resistant black straight pants. The Gap ones I got earlier this year attract too much lint.)
– Black running shoes. I bring loafers or flats but I bail out into the running shoes when my feet start to hurt, or if I’m moving a lot between the two buildings at work. My health and strength come before fashion, every day.

Above is my no-brainer work uniform. Occasionally I’ll throw on a different topper–olive jacket, blue soft blazer, or a cardigan, but the base uniform doesn’t change. Some days I’ll wear skirts or have a few dresses to change it up, but rarely. If anything I would like more tops and perhaps one or two more work-appropriate dresses. I tried on this Gap floral print one that apparently just sold out (but here’s the cut with a different print.) Something easy going like that, with a nice understated print would be great. Could wear it to work and into the night.

I also would like some real sandals (not just Crocs) and some flats to replace the Gentle Souls Gabbys I have, which are 3+ years old and no longer have true arch support.

3. Support local artisans/boutiques
While it’s not always possible or financially prudent to buy 100% handmade, ethically sourced/produced goods–I can do a little bit by buying accessories, gifts, and goods by local makers. I love the LA Printer Fair for buying birthday and Christmas cards, and I’ve been to Unique LA’s December events for two years now. Last year was great–I bought some cards, candles, and jewelry as Christmas presents. I liken it to shopping Etsy but in person:) This year I am going to try and go to a Patchwork show in Long Beach or Santa Ana.

That’s the longest you’ve heard from me in months now! Whew. That’s my little shopping update in the last quarter of 2015. How are you all faring with the annual #omgFALL marketing? What are your shopping thoughts for this time of year?

En route

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Personal picture. Grand Central Station, New York, November 2014.

I need respite.

These last few weeks have been full of #adulthood–the daily stresses of work, construction and disruption at the house, increasing responsibilities. I am doing my best to respond to all of them with poise and efficiency, but I need recharging time.

As for blogging regularly, that seems to have gone awry these past couple months. It’s a combination of avoiding shopping/thinking about material goods, to shifting of resources: I’ve been spending a lot more on food and drink. I’ve also been back at climbing and running with a vengeance and have achieved some modest gains in both hobbies. These are all things that have pulled me in other directions and made me better equipped to beast at my own life–with perhaps the exception of greasy food and coffee. Those are purely for fun.

With all that a-brewin’ (hah), I’m looking forward to the upcoming travel this week to  Seattle, Washington–follow my photo diary (of sorts) on Instagram. Stay in touch!