Perfume notes – March 2015

I’m not much of a beauty junkie, but I like to wear perfume. Yesterday I went to the mall to try on some things¬†and dropped by the local Sephora to look at their fragrance section. These are just a few of the things that I¬†tried on:

Disclaimer–I’m no connoisseur; I just know what works on my skin. My observations will be quite simple and unrefined:

Commodity Goods‘ Black and White Collection:

Wear them solo or layered. Under the bottles there are “mix” suggestions from the brand; it was quite interesting. For this visit, I only tried them solo to get a first impression.

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Three of the five scents in the Black collection. Not photographed: Wool and Moss.

I was drawn to Whiskey and Book. Book smells great from the bottle but I don’t think my body takes to woodsy notes that well. I do know some friends for whom it might be more appropriate. Thumbs up on the packaging and name choices; it’s quite attractive to think “my perfume is Whiskey and Books.”

Unfortunately I think my style is more “Donuts and New Computer Smell.” I digress.

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White collection. Not photographed: Paper, and Rain

Gold wears like Atelier Cologne‘s Vanille Insensee on me. No wonder I thought it was familiar. Mimosa is also a pleasant scent; it’s got blood orange and grapefruit as top notes and ylang-ylang in the base.

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What I tried on at Sephora this month.

Of yesterday’s visit, I liked these three the most (and a fourth one not photographed, which is Atelier Cologne’s Pomelo Paradis.)

On Atelier Cologne: of the three citrus-themed scents I’ve tried from them so far, I’ll say Mandarine Glaciale > Pomelo Paradis > Orange Sanguine. Personal preference. They seem to last longer than Diptyque does on me. I’ll call it an insistent fragrance: you will smell yourself for a while. So likely others will too (is that what sillage is?) Love that they smell like freshly cut fruit, but it may be a bit overwhelming for some people.

Juliette Has a Gun is a brand by Romano Ricci, whose ancestry includes Nina Ricci and his grandfather Robert Ricci, creator of L’Air du Temps. I tried Not a Perfume and Anyway. These are pretty understated perfumes, Anyway goes on clean and finishes like a hint of soap or powder after 45 minutes. In contrast to Atelier Cologne, those two scents from Juliette Has a Gun are subtle and quiet. There are other “heavier” scents but I’m looking for a daytime spring/summer vibe, so I didn’t check those out.

Finally, Commodity Goods’ Gold: I like this better than Vanille Insensee; I’ll keep it in mind, but it’s not what I’m currently looking for. I may go back to try Mimosa or Tea.

That’s where I am fragrance-wise this season: looking for a new spring/summer, airy day scent. Do you wear fragrances? Do you change your scents with the season/for the occasion? Or do you prefer to wear one brand or one type of fragrance only?

Evolving needs

I haven’t really talked much about shopping lately because there isn’t much that I desperately need. 2015 has been relatively quiet on the shopping front; so far all I’ve accumulated is the following:

As seen on Instagram:

January

February

Nine West Foodie monkstrap shoes 
Black Crane Pleats Dress in gray

March

Gap true straight and tailored crop work pants

The following are non-urgent ideas, but would be nice to have to supplement the evolving wardrobe:

1. A pair of dressy/casual flat sandals.

I bought these super dorky (yassss!) gold Easy Spirit sandals last year and they’re not that great. The strap is loose around my ankle and the foot bed while cushy, is not entirely supportive at the arch. I am not sure whether to donate these or to see if I can get the strap shortened. I’d like something that straddles dressy-casual, so probably something in non-distressed leather. 1/2 inch heels okay.

2. A wide-brimmed (straw?) hat for walking

I walk during my breaks at work. The straw hat I use is falling apart. I’d like one that I can tie under my chin in case it is windy. I like straw hats because it makes me feel like I’m from Little House on the Prairie, but I could also go for a more outdoorsy/sporty sun-fabric hat for practicality’s sake. I like the idea of a straw hat; I personally like the idea of being that dorky Asian lady with a visor (not yet! maybe in 20 more years!) While I love that Southern California gets a ton of sun, my skin will probably appreciate some protection.

3. A new fitted button-down shirt (dressy)

My old button-down work shirts are much too large on me. I’d like a fitted white or navy dress shirt to have on hand for interviews or “formal” work occasions. The sloppy fit of my older shirts are ok for casual days, but there are times when I need a prim and proper option.

4. Running socks

Of all the things on this list I’ll probably buy these first, along with the hat. My current socks abrade my skin after long runs–I think because of the way the inside of the sock is manufactured. Going to try these Hidden Comfort socks by Balega¬†on the next pay cycle.

What I don’t really need but kind of want anyway:

Рstraight (not skinny) jeans in a light wash. not sure if I want distressing or whiskering yet, but Sue of Susie So So sure makes it look good. (look at her jeans 1, 2, 3, 4 not fair! so many options!)

– another dark plum lipstick (I own Bite Beauty’s High Pigment Pencil in Bramble) but Mac’s Sin (Matte) lipstick makes me look like one of those Tumblr girls¬†(actually, that’s model Taylor Hill.)¬†The dark lip + bold brow combo satisfies the 90’s craving I have without necessarily dipping back into plastic tribal tattoos (which I wouldn’t mind trying again for the hell of it.)

– I don’t need perfume, but I enjoy it and I’m running low on my main scents. Not a high-priority purchase, but one I can probably save for a birthday or special occasion.

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It’s interesting to move from filling closet gaps to refining needs/desires. I notice that the things I want above are replacements or refinements of items I currently own. In some cases, what I own fails to fulfill its purpose (gold sandals) and at other times I’m buying because I ran out (perfume.) In general, I’m glad that I’m better at identifying WHY I want to buy something new–knowing the reason and purpose behind it helps me evaluate and prioritize future purchases. And spending that time to deliberate weeds out a lot of impulses and leads to a more optimized acquisition.

That’s it for me on the shopping front–quite boring, really, but it’s just where life is going nowadays. What’s on your shopping list lately? What’s your best buy of the year so far?

Bouldering at Joshua Tree

This weekend I took my suburban self out of the concrete jungle into the desert park known as Joshua Tree.

Last year I took up bouldering after my friends encouraged me to try it at least once. I got hooked pretty easily. Bouldering is rock climbing without the use of special gear; just a pair of climbing shoes with rubber soles suffices. There’s traditional rock climbing with rope and harness which is more common and more well-known. I enjoy bouldering because of the low start-up costs (not as much gear) and because it doesn’t require a partner (a belayer, someone who holds the tension for a rope climber.) I’ve come to enjoy the sport quite a bit, so when I was offered a chance to go bouldering outdoors I was excited to try it out.

I am fortunate to know some amazingly buff and excellent people from my local climbing gym. We headed out to Joshua Tree (or JTree as I’ve heard people call it) early on Saturday morning. It’s about two hours from my home, but it was a nice clear day with hardly any traffic. I hadn’t been to JTree since I was nine, so I didn’t have much context heading in. I just remembered it was hot and dry and full of spiky things that can hurt you.

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That assessment still stands. Many pointy things abound.

Since I went with a fairly advanced group, there weren’t many routes I could really climb. I’m not quite as strong or as skilled as the others just yet, though someday I’d like to be. Still, I managed to finish two routes (climbers say “to send a route”.) I sent two routes. The first one was an unmarked warm-up problem in The Outback area.

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The other lady in the far right corner is starting Chuckwalla V6, a much tougher problem than what I’m working on.

In the U.S. routes are rated using the Hueco scale.¬†Problems start from V0 and go all the way up to V16.¬†At the easier end of the scale, some use the designation “VB” (sometimes said to designate “basic” or “beginner”) for problems easier than a V0. I’m definitely at this beginner level!

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On the aptly-named Dragonscales boulder.

Dragonscales in the Planet X area was really fun. It is about 20 feet tall and the many cracks and grooves make it an easy climb. Of course “easy” is a relative term–for me, the starting move was a few inches out of my reach. Luckily my spotters were there to pile some crash pads underneath me to boost me up to a good height. Crash pads (the mattresses on the ground) are essential to providing some measure of fall protection. Of course, it is still advisable to climb within your limits and always go with a group of people.

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Success!

I’m really glad to have gone bouldering outdoors–it was one of my goals that I wrote down for this year. Now that I’ve accomplished it, I can’t wait to go back and go outdoors more. It gives the gym workouts a purpose if I know what moves I’m practicing to get better for outdoors. As free-spirited as it sounds, you really can’t beat being out in nature and fresh air.

Menswear redux

Workplace dress will always fascinate me. There’s no shortage of wonders in what people deem work-appropriate, and I like to see what others come up with. My employment does not have a dress code, but my job has a significant front-facing, public dimension. This whole blog has been about me trying different ways to improve my outer image, to learn how to build a good foundation of a wardrobe that will serve me well in my daily activities.

Last month I was hemming and hawing over adding a new silhouette to my repertoire, but this month I’m back in my menswear corner, opting for a far more masculine vibe:

Blazer: old JCrew maritime blazer (see 2013 me)
Shirt: old Lands End No Iron Supima dress shirt
Pants: Gap tailored crop pants 
Boots: Ecco Structured 45 Gore-Tex booties
Belt: black leather, silver buckle. borrowed from my grandmother.

I got some new pants from Gap and they’ve revitalized my workwear pieces. I’m back to slacks, socks and shoes! I’m enjoying them. I have been searching for new pants for a while and I hope these ones stand the test of time (and the washing machine.)

Eventually maybe I’ll learn to look less rumpled and be even slicker but for now, I’m happy with what I’ve got. My pants have functional pockets and don’t drag on the floor (thank you “ankle length” option). Next on my vague list is a black jacket that ends at the waist–maybe a light bomber style jacket. Something to throw over myself at work that can be casual or dressier depending on what I’m wearing.

That’s where I am sartorially as of late. I suppose because there’s not much change in what I’ve been doing, it’s affected my blog posting schedule here. These days I’m far more likely to update via Instagram–it’s admittedly a lot easier to write a short sentence than a whole post, not to mention I’m quite visually oriented. Please join me there should you feel so inclined :)

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Sometimes I run

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and sometimes 90s pop song lines work as blog titles, so we’ll run with it (ha). In case you didn’t know, I took up running as a hobby in late 2013 and have been keeping up with it since. Today I’ll be talking about mostly the gear I use to run, whose importance is rising as I get more¬†involved with the sport. I’m planning on attempting a half-marathon this year (!!!) so the topic is near and dear to me as I put myself through torture for reasons which I still don’t quite understand as of yet.

Shoes

Gear preferences and needs are specific to each person. I currently prefer cushy, supportive, stability running shoes. Typically these types of shoes are recommended to people whose feet roll inward (pronation) or outward (supination) but I like them because they’re very comfortable. I favor the Nike brand of running shoes because my feet are small and somewhat narrow–it’s what works for me. I currently run in these:

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Nike Lunarglide 5+ in volt/gray (source)

I’ve owned Lunarglide versions 3 – 6. They are my never-fail, walk-everywhere, travel-anyplace shoes, and they’re more than comfortable on asphalt and concrete. The stock insole could use a slightly higher support in the arches, but that can probably be fixed by getting custom insoles.

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Left to right: my black Lunarglide collection (versions 4-6.)

Clothes

My current running wardrobe looks something like this:

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Since it’s “winter” for California my tanks are put away and I’m running in Heattech and one of the full zip tops + pants. I prefer running outdoors early in the morning when I have the most energy, but it happens to be the coolest time of the day where I live. Thankfully the weather here is mild enough that I can do this, but my advice probably won’t work out for most of you who have actual seasons.

Under Armour Printed Qualifier 1/2 Zip (source)

Under Armour Printed Qualifier 1/2 Zip (source)

This Under Armour top has been a great workhorse since fall. It has a pocket in the back to hold cards, an energy gel pack, or keys. There are thumbholes sewn into the sleeves that can be pulled over the top of your hands for extra warmth. The fabric is very soft on the inside and the zipper/neck area are comfortably snug and warm without being restrictive or cold on the skin (there’s a tab that covers the zipper at the top.) I wish it had a few more reflective elements, like a stripe down the arms or on the back, but I figured safety orange would be a good bright color for running on the street.

Sports bras
I will be forever indebted to high-intensity sports bras with discrete cups. This will vary from woman to woman, but for running I find that structured bras with molded cups (not necessarily padded) are really useful for feeling secure during long distances. I’ve found the most success and comfort with GapFit’s high intensity sports bras–which sadly are not in production currently.

On how to fit sports bras (or even bras in general, really): Running Warehouse and Moving Comfort put this video up on Youtube that I think best explains how to get a good fit on for a sports bra. The best advice I’ve ever gotten is to scoop your breast up and into the cup securely–really, this way you’re ensuring the mass is adequately supported by the band instead of the band sitting on most of the breast tissue. Now any time¬†I change in and out of any of my undergarments, I do this adjustment and I feel a lot more secure.

Accessories and socks

I live in a place with sun year-round, so a hat is essential. I like my Nike Feather Light 2.0 Dri Fit hat:

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Available at Nike.com

It’s not groundbreaking but it sort of acts like a sweatband and shades my eyes. It’s breathable and doesn’t add weight to my head, so it’s a worthy purchase. Hand wash and line dry.

I also occasionally use something like the SPIbelt (Small Personal Item Belt) or what my folks would call a fanny pack. I like that the SPIbelt and other products like it change size to fit your needs but what they don’t tell you is that the belt has a tendency to move while you run–resulting in the contents bouncing around in a most distracting manner, and the belt moving around and up your waist. Also, good luck fitting anything heavy like a phone or an iPod in there–even if you cinch the belt tight it will droop somewhat because of the weight.

Re: socks

This is the issue I’m currently grappling with–what sock brand to use? I’ve been working out in Adidas Climacool socks for a while until I realized they chafe the ball of my foot on long runs. They also seem to fall apart quickly, though I’m wondering how much of that is also the stress I put them through–they’re both workout and everyday socks. I’m looking at trying Balega’s Hidden Comfort sock¬†which was highly recommended online and by one of my marathon-running friends who swears by them. I like padded, cushioned socks and while these aren’t the thickest, online reviewers said they were happy with its cushioning and durability.
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And just because I’ve been very impressed with this retailer I will mention that I love shopping at¬†Running Warehouse. They’re a California company out of San Luis Obispo and have top-notch customer service. Their 90-day No Sweat Returns policy is easy as pie, and I’m spoiled because I get free overnight shipping (and so do select Arizona and Nevada residences.) Otherwise it’s free 2-day shipping which is still pretty darn quick. If you add them on their social media they’re quick with coupon codes and deals to all sorts of sportswear, accessories, and shoes.

I recognize that this type of topic is somewhat new on here–what do you think, was that informative? I geek out about a lot of things, and I guess running is now one of them. Let me know what you think or if you have any questions; I like to share my discoveries. Do you run? Have you got any long-distance running tips for a n00b like me? What are your favorite brands for sportswear?

Mode: wo(mens)wear

Pret a Porter P had some interesting insights on her evolving wardrobe that got me thinking about my own influences, which are currently in flux. Lately, I find myself inhabiting these two spheres of dress:

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Structured and prep || a nod to avant-gardeish dark flowy neutrals.

Lately¬†it’s been mostly dark clothing (#allblackeverything, really) and loose, soft, flowing lines. But a few days ago I found these double monkstrap shoes, which reminded me of how much I love #menswear:

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Nine West Foodie Monk Straps. There’s a few left at Amazon.

Went into Macy’s looking for discounted North Face jackets and ended up with these instead, which I consider a worthy use of a 20% off discount and a Christmas gift card from the parents. They’re so handsome! I am excited to wear socks and trousers and button downs again, just to pull these babies off.

The discovery of these shoes reminds me of how much I love classic tailored clothing, especially with the nod to menswear. But if I look over what I’ve worn in the past few months, I’ve moved away from that aesthetic quite a bit. That¬†long black open cardigan¬†that I received from my aunt sparked a bunch of looks I’ve only seen online but never worn in real life. Now all of a sudden, these images below don’t seem too foreign:

Not sure of what to make of this current mood I’m in. I enjoy both styles: menswear has a recognizable¬†structure (pants, crisp shirts, jackets) and I delight in the rich colors of leather shoes and the potential for endless sock combinations. But long flowing dresses are physically appealing¬†too. They evoke mystery and I like the non-aggressive femininity that the pictures above display. To me, these shapes are unassuming and quietly ladylike.

Perhaps the only drawback (if you consider it one) is that long (dark) dresses generate interesting¬†comments like “who died,” “are you a nun,” and “you look like (insert malevolent character here).” I personally enjoy these comparisons and I like running with it–I don’t mind being Severus Snape. Or Morticia Addams (particularly Carolyn Jones’ depiction):

black is such a happy color

And soothing too!

I suppose there is no crime in subscribing to both, or any other schools of thought re: fashion. There’s so much crossover now that I don’t need to label myself or my style. But as a person who likes to¬†compartmentalize life to make sense of it, two or more (seemingly) unrelated influences is jarring. Can one still consistently project the same message even if the external image might change?¬†Can there be a multi-directional wardrobe that expresses different themes, but still remains true to its owner?

tl;dr: Kristina likes dude clothes AND swirly long skirts. Cue much introspection; such overthinking :)

Skirting issues

I mentioned earlier this month that I’ve been feeling pretty content¬†with my wardrobe as it is. The last few things I purchased from November 2014 to present were these Banana Republic turtlenecks¬†and¬†some Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck tops. I’ve lived in these for the last two months along with my trusty Uniqlo Ultra Stretch denim. It was great for the slow days at work over the holidays, but lately I’ve been feeling a bit unpolished. I’ve been riding the casual line at work for so long that I’ve forgotten what actual slacks are like. I want to go back to more structured work looks, like blazers and pants and flats–not so much because I am required to, but because I feel good when I look good and that affects the way I approach my work and duties.

I decided to challenge myself to spruce up a bit more and put the jeans away for a week. It’s January and I want to enjoy what passes for “cooler” weather in California before it goes away all too soon–and it already has. We’ve had low 80-degree days just this past week with humidity that makes hair go haywire. The challenge was to wear either a dress or a skirt for a week–no jeans.

I’d done a few looks with mini skirts and tights last year that felt comfortable, so I opted to get a second pair of Target Merona opaque tights¬†to help me out this week. I’d purchased a cheap pair from Marshalls but it fit uncomfortably; it had a little too much control in the control top and it was cutting into my stomach. Maybe I bought the wrong size? At any rate, I’ve found a pair of tights that are opaque enough and more importantly comfortable at the waistband with no heavy seams or itchiness.

Prepare to be underwhelmed, because my creativity apparently decided to disappear this month:

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#allblackeverything club

Monday: Macy’s INC long open cardigan (similar from ASOS), old babydoll sweater dress (similar cut), Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck top, Ecco Sculptured 45 GTX bootie
Tuesday:  Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck top (sold out), Cotton On mini skirt, Clarks Charlie brogues
Wednesday: Banana Republic cropped turtleneck, Gap striped mini skirt, Ecco Sculptured 45 GTX bootie
Thursday: Lands End supima cardigan sweater, Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck top (sold out), Cotton On mini skirt, Clarks Charlie brogues
Friday: Macy’s¬†INC long open cardigan (similar from ASOS),¬†Uniqlo Extra Warm Heattech turtleneck top (sold out), Cotton On mini skirt, Ecco¬†Sculptured 45 GTX bootie

Fun facts:

– the long black cardigan and the baby doll sweater dress were “shopped” from my aunt’s donation pile. She’d never worn the black cardigan and was going to get rid of it until I intercepted the stash. I also got a nice gray peacoat out of the pile, which I haven’t worn to work yet.
– Tuesday’s outfit is the base for Thursday and Friday

As far as the challenge goes–I completed it successfully–no jeans during the workweek and I even managed a maxi skirt¬†and Crocs¬†during the weekend because it was warm. As for variety, well, I could do better, but my addled brain couldn’t think up of anything new. It’s a combination of things: I’m bloody comfortable, so I keep reaching for the same few things every morning. I’ve also been preoccupied with running, so most nights I try to go to bed right after dinner so I can run before work. This doesn’t leave much time to hem and haw over outfits, which is good, but also leads to a lot of monotony and repeats.

Despite the lack of variety here, I think it was a good exercise to complete. Comfort doesn’t just mean tee shirts and jeans, it can be a simple skirt and sweater¬†too. It goes with the spirit I’m trying to follow for this year: grow, develop, innovate. I’m not breaking the ground here fashion-wise, but I am challenging my own behavior and tendencies. This also helps me appreciate what I already own/what already exists–who would have thought that Cotton On $5 purchase would turn out to be so versatile? Or that clothes destined for a donation bin would fit my aesthetic so well? I love that long black cardigan and I’ve worn it at least a few times a week since I got it last month.

Do you have any clothes that you feel deserve commendation for being workhorse pieces? What items do you rely on during this time period to feel comfortable and stylish?