July 27, 2013

June Favorites

This post was sitting in my drafts folder and I had completely forgotten about it! Guess this is the week for some June catch up posts.

This month was not one filled with many new products but a lot of really really great memories. Here are a couple of my absolute favorites last month:

1. Duvet covers from Ikea and 2. Ridiculously high thread count bedsheets
I haven't changed out my sheets in forever, even though I bought these bedsheets a while back. They are incredibly luxurious and basically make me feel like I'm sleeping amongst the clouds. I highly recommend splurging (and to be honest, I bought these sheets at an outdoor market. They cost me $30 and are truly magical. My only regret is not buying more) on nice sheets because it makes such a huge difference!

3. Meals with friends
Picture above, dinner with Jeff at Outerlands, which is now one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. Just really fresh, clean food beautifully plated in the most surprising of ways. That grassy looking dish at the top is carrots with Greek yogurt, honey, and oats... and it was freaking. delicious. Definite must-visit if you live in the Bay.

But beyond extremely good food (other places I've visited this month include BUILD, a pizza place in Berkeley, with Carrie, and Woodhouse Fish Company with Elaine) - one of the best things this month is spending meal times with some of my favorite people. I don't think I've met Jeff since he graduated or Carrie since I've graduated, so it's always nice to catch up and share some yummy food.

One day when I'm like all grown up and stuff, I will host lovely dinner parties (this is, actually, a real dream - to move into a place where I can invite friends over to hang out and eat together in a very idealized adult world type situation) and basically become Gertrude Stein.

4. Walking tour of Downtown San Francisco
Dan and I went on a free walking tour of SF's Financial District, also known as the place I have sold my soul and life to. And it was just super marvelous. I am a huge, huge fan of the San Francisco City Guides (Gerald and I go on one every time he visits and between us we've managed to cover most of the neighborhoods in the city). They're basically free city tours, with an option to tip at the end, and cover history, architecture, and general gossip.

I think it's so rare to take the time to actually think about the city that you live in. The more familiar a place becomes, the less you feel like you have to actually get to know it. I walk the same route from my office to the store almost every single day, and yet my eyes were opened to the history and just strange facts about the buildings that I walk past without thinking.

These pictures are of some of my favorite architectural detail, including the Banana Republic flagship store, a medieval lobby, and some medieval detail on a building. The hashtag that I would use to sum up this experience is #lookup. This city is beautiful and I fall in love with it a little bit more everyday.

5. Work
It's hard to entangle my feelings about work from my feelings about working in general. In sum, June was absolutely insane. I worked 3 weekends in a row and now I am so confused about my schedule, but my work life this month has included: fixing up an snow ice cart machine, meeting a politician and being on the "corporation" side of the nonprofit funding equation, and coordinating a national TV segment!

There are those days where I'm tearing my hair out in frustration and then there are those days where I leave the office thinking "I have the Best Job Ever Yay." Whatever may come out of this, I am so thankful to have had these experiences in my working life.

That's it for a long and rambly June Favorites! Happy weekend!

July 25, 2013

On the reading list this month

I read so many great books in June (and have read even MORE great books this month, eep - where has July gone?) that it was hard narrowing it down to three recommendations! But here they are:

Learn: Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
This book should come as no surprise and will not be new to anyone, but I really enjoyed her story and what Sheryl Sandberg had to say about work/life balance and being a woman in the workplace. For someone just starting out (and struggling, to say the least), it was a personal, insightful look into a successful woman's career journey.

Online: The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
The personal website of the NY Times' bestselling author - I have loved reading this site almost daily and getting bits of advice on how to be happier.

It has very honestly been a struggle for me these past months to be happy, content, and satisfied with where I am in life, and I think that Gretchen's honest, very personal, and very applicable stories have helped me get onto a path of a little less unhappiness. She has reminded me of the importance of making my happiness a priority (which, I know, isn't that weird that I even have to be reminded of that? Such is the lot of ambitious, crazy people I assume.) - follow her blog, there is a lot of wisdom there!

Fun: the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
One day I swear I'm going to compile a large blog post about all the dystopian young adult novels that I have read and loved, and this series will definitely be at the top of my list. Cassandra Clare is famous for her other series - the Mortal Instruments - now turned into a film starring the very lovely Lily Collins, but I think that the Infernal Devices are BY FAR superior to the Mortal Instruments.

I don't want to give anything away, but I've only read this series 2x in the past 2 weeks. Clockwork Princess is my absolute favorite - I think Clare writes with incredible sensitivity to dying, and loss, and self-sacrifice for the greater good. There is such emotional depth in these novels and yes, I cried buckets  while reading them. They are THAT good.

Any other good books I should be reading?

July 17, 2013

New shopping principle: closet holes

After coming off a month-long shopping ban and receiving a larger-than-usual paycheck (after a VERY stressful 2 weeks of a ridiculous amount of overtime), I went a little mad at Madewell and Zara, and was left afterwards feeling horribly guilty.

When I was holed up at home with a terrific throat infection though, I was browsing blogs and came across Blue Paper Lanterns, which is Kimmie's blog about living on a $600 annual clothing budget, and was just completely blown away. And then when I saw her post about closet holes - it just hit me as a good principle to abide by in my future shopping, and I started thinking about the holes in my closet.

It's basically: don't shop for stuff you don't need. Figure out what you do, and then only look out for good deals on those items. Here are mine:

Closet Holes

1. Black structured bag large enough to fit my resume folder
I have a beautiful tan J.Crew bag that Dan gave me for my birthday last year, and have received so many compliments on it. But I've been wearing a lot more black to interviews lately, and really need a professional, black structured bag to fit my resume binder in. My parents are getting me a fancy designer purse as my graduation present next year when we visit France (I'm looking at the Givenchy Antigona or the YSL Cabas ChYc - the old version) but in the meantime I threw this Zara bag into my last online order and am hoping it'll work out for now!

2. Black ankle boots
Dan got me the Sam Edelmans that I've had my eye on for my birthday, but I'm looking at getting a black pair so I can wear them when I'm in the store. I like these from ASOS, but I'm also looking for something a little cheaper.

3. Non-basic blazer
My wine-colored blazer from Cotton On is one of my most-worn items in my closet, and I'm interested in getting a patterned blazer for interviews - this floral blazer from ASOS fits the bill perfectly, but I don't know if it's chic enough for Fall interviews because, not going to lie, pretty sure I'm going to be interviewing through next year. Sigh.

4. Maxi skirt
This pin got me hooked. So casual, chic, and perfectly summer. This skirt's from Whistles, via ASOS, but it's a little too expensive, but it's exactly the look I want in a maxi skirt (plus it has pockets!)

5. Simple necklace
Starting to get more into simple jewelry, like this beautiful (and OOS) one from Kate Miss. I want to get one that supports a local artist or is from Etsy - even though it might be cheaper to get from a mass retailer, I want to start supporting artists that inspire me.

6. Black cropped pants for work
The Forever 21 pants I love dearly are OOS on the website and I spilled paint on my existing ones, so I need to find a new pair, stat. Black cropped pants are basically my work closet staple. This picture is the J Crew Minnie Pants, but J Crew pant sizing works weird on me so I'm on the look out for something else!

What are your closet holes?

July 15, 2013

One Thing 2 Weeks Ago: I turned 23!

So I guess nothing very exciting happened last week. Meep. But TWO weeks ago - oh the excitement!! I turned 23 and while it was not the glorious coming of age I have always imagined, it was just simple and sweet. Beyond receiving buckets of texts, Whatsapps, and Facebook posts/ messages, really the nicest thing about my birthday was getting back in touch with people I hadn't spoken to in a while.

Dan brought me out to The House, which is an Asian fusion type place and has an obscene number of stars and reviews on Yelp. And so it begins with an empty place setting and an adorable placemat:

Then came our fantastically designed appetizers - a tuna tartare and some mussels in a laksa-like sauce. Both were phenomenally delicious. Ignore the odd hand. 

The stars of the show were the entrees though - here is Dan very pleased with his sea bass, an Asian Taking Photos photo, and then... my black cod and sliced sushi rolls. I am drooling just looking at these pictures!! It is breaking my heart that I am not tasting the cod in my mouth at this very moment.

The mandatory Birthday Girl picture with me in the mustard Kate Spade dress I wore for graduation and which my mum bought for me under duress of wearing it for my birthday. This picture is for you, mum. And accompanied with a truly delicious chocolate torte with caramel ice cream.

All in all, I think the older you grow the more you realize how little the world revolves around you. It's a sobering thought to say the least, and one that I try to remind myself of everyday (...now I sound like a selfish princess but You Know What I Mean). I was deeply unhappy for a while because of all these expectations that I had placed on the day but the sad truth is that you will never mean more to anyone than yourself, and you cannot substitute self-love in pursuit of another person's love for you. The thing I think that aggravated me the most was that it was such a normal day, and nothing felt particularly special even though I! Was! Born! 23! Years! Ago!!

But I think there's something to be said about having a life so beautiful (in all its loveliness and weariness and teeth-wrenchingly frustrating moments) that a birthday can pass like a "normal" day. And that's all the philosophizing I can do right now.

In sum: eat at The House. It completely deserves its billions of stars on Yelp and I had a really phenomenal birthday meal there!!

July 10, 2013

Some harsh truths

Many of you who read this blog are dear friends who know that I've been extremely unhappy for some time, and that's primarily because I haven't found a stable, full-time job yet (and I 100% hate instability in my personal life) - I don't know where I'm going to be come February of next year, my family is breathing down my neck asking me about job applications incessantly, and to be honest, a lot of this unhappiness is wrapped up in how I've been seeing myself so far as a failure. A failure for many reasons, but most notably because of how far it is from what I expect of myself.

And so I've been making myself even more unhappy by telling myself things like: you're not that smart so it's ok. You're lazy so really you don't deserve to get a job anyway. I have never really quite said so many awful things to myself as I have these past 9 months, and at its root, I think it's because it's even more awful to think that an intelligent, hardworking, eager to learn person cannot get a break. And that it's easier to believe that I'm dumb or lazy or just plain unworthy than to think that it's just plain bad luck or it's not my time yet.

Anyway - maybe you're struggling through something like this right now, this deep unhappiness with yourself or with your life. Maybe not. But my body has quite literally broken down over these past 2 days (throat infection the likes of which I haven't seen since my stressed out JC days and a happy little flu to go along with that). I took 2 days off work and spent time with myself and a healthy dose of Hulu, and then came across this article about how to stop comparing yourself with others, by the lovely (and very wise) Rachel from In Spaces Between.

The thing that struck me most about it was this journal prompt:
What can I celebrate about myself and how far I've come in the past month/ 6 months/ 12 month, right this second?

And what I'm celebrating is this:
- This blog which I have created and which I am very proud of (and hopefully some of you love reading too)
- Giving of myself 150% everyday. I don't half-ass my work and I have never done something or applied for a job or had a conversation with someone without being truly genuine and of myself. I have never done this and I don't intend on starting now.
- Plodding forward regardless. I'm on track to getting my driving license by the end of the summer, I'm keeping to my savings goals, and I'm still applying to jobs and speaking with people relentlessly. I am SO PROUD of this actually (and yes I still don't have my driving license yet, mildly sacrilegious in California I know)

My good friend Jorel said to me recently that joy isn't necessarily happiness, but it's the settled feeling that life is unfolding as it should. I think I'm starting to finally grasp this: to find that space within myself that is proud of who I am and not necessarily what I have accomplished, but what I know I can do. There's a mildly terrifying power in finally starting to believe in yourself again.

Image from Tumblr, as most quotes accompanying emo posts are

Currently obsessed: mixed prints

Not so lately, I've been super obsessing over the prints that Peter Pilotto, Mary Katrantzou, and Proenza Schouler have been showing on the runways and that stars like Emma Watson have been wearing to such perfection. This is most definitely not news, guys. But the question always remains: how to wear these prints on a normal person day without looking like a pattern monster spat up on you?

Enter: the mixed printed cotton dress.

mixed prints

From left: Zara printed dress, Topshop top and skirt, and Uniqlo x Suno dress

I'm pretty sure my next purchase is going to be this Zara dress. Simple, chic cotton with pockets (!). It just looks incredibly easy and perfect for brunch with friends or a trip to the farmers' market. I would wear this with a messy braid and some poppy red lips, and accessorized with some flat brown sandals and a crossbody bag.

This Topshop outfit is a little out of my comfort zone, but I just fell in love with the bright yellow and love the gradient of the checks - reminded me so much of Louis Vuitton without being a total knock off. I would wear the top a little cropped, and pair it with a low bun and a very clean face (fresh, bright, "no makeup" makeup). For some British punk, I would add nude oxford flats and maybe even a punchy baseball cap: think Eva Chen or Mary Kate Steinmiller.

I actually own and adore this Suno dress. It has a great swingy shape perfect for fat days and future pregnancies, but I love how prim and nerdy I feel all buttoned up. I've worn it with a black blazer and flats for work, but this is really more of a weekend look because of its length on me. This is basically an outfit in itself! Plus there are pockets. I mean really, a dress that combines everything I love about dresses couldn't really exist elsewhere.

So, yay/ nay to mixed printed dresses? You obviously know my answer... yay all the way.

July 8, 2013

One Thing Last Week: Fourth of July celebrations

Baking's one of Ju Ju's first loves (and I just like picking fruit and then eating desserts), so to celebrate the glorious day of America's independence, we decided to bake a peach cobbler!

And guys, when we say we baked our peach cobbler from scratch, we really mean we-picked-our-peaches-from-a-farm-and-baked-it-into-a-cobbler scratch. No one can accuse us of being less than dedicated to our baking cause.

Our peaches began their simple life on a farm in Brentwood, California, until we triumphantly ripped them off their trees and mixed them in with some minute tapioca, sugar, cinnamon, and some other things I do not remember.

The journey begins:

While they were baking, we decided that there was no point in wasting a good pre-heated oven, and stuffed some s'mores in there:

And they emerged GLORIOUS and bubbling with caramel goodness and Love for All:

(Except for Daniel, who looks like he was trying to get away with an entire s'more in his mouth before Ju Ju and I noticed.) (Which we did.)

And now we present to you, in our Americana glory:


And then we trooped down to the waterfront and joined the millions of Americans (and pseudo-Americans, like us) to participate in a truly spectacular fireworks display over the San Francisco Bay. It seemed to go on forever in a blaze of sparkly glory while patriotic music boomed below.

It was a beautiful day. And I just had more peach cobbler for dinner dessert, and so really this is the fourth of July gift that keeps on giving. Have a great week ahead!

July 5, 2013

One Thing This Week: Peach picking!

After I saw Rebecca's Instagram photo of her peach picking trip, I couldn't get the idea of picking fruit out of my mind. And so on my first day off, we went!!

The most interesting thing I learned on this peach picking adventure is that: peaches are grown on trees.
This was actually a surprise to me. I did not expect peaches to be grown on trees that were taller than me!! But then again... I've never really thought about where peaches came from. So there's that, I guess.

We went to a farm in Brentwood, and paid about $1.50/ pound which is pretty pricey considering we drove for 1h to get to the farm and Safeway is selling peaches for like $0.75/lb or something like that. But the people we met were absolute darlings and threw in a couple of peaches for the road. Plus we did get to choose our own (and discovered that Dan is quite bad at choosing good fruit. Objectively speaking.) We got a mix of white peaches (my absolute favorite summer fruit) and yellow peaches...and we did something extremely delicious with them. To be shown in a post next week!

p/s Also, first post with my new camera! I'm in love... why did I not switch out sooner. Best birthday gift ever.

July 3, 2013

Summer capsule wardrobe: boy style

A couple of weeks ago I helped my friend John shop for his entire summer wardrobe at Uniqlo, which is one of my favorite stores in the world (literally. And also, not just because I work for them) - great quality, great prices. John wanted to completely revamp his wardrobe for a Boston summer as a young professional, and basically hates shopping and had no idea where to start.

Enter: me, the shopping fiend.

Let's start with an approximation of what we ended up with and then some tips for how to adapt this to any season.

summer capsule wardrobe

Everything is from Uniqlo unless otherwise stated.
First row: striped polo, extra fine cotton patterned shirt, long-sleeved oxford shirt, premium cotton v-neck shirt
Second: mint chino pants, men slim fit straight jeans, belted patterned shorts, chino shorts
Third: Sperry Topsider boat shoes, Rayban Aviators, Fossil watch, extra fine merino wool sweater

Pick one of each row (or all of the third row), and basically you have got yourself a perfect outfit.

And here are some tips to make shopping for a new wardrobe from scratch as easy, efficient, and effective as possible. Yes tech boys, be still your beating hearts.

1) Know what you’re buying for
I think it’s strange when magazines have these “10 things you need in your wardrobe” type stories because one of the 10 things I need in MY closet is definitely a pair of glitter pumps. Which obviously is not the same for everyone. When you want to streamline or build your wardrobe from scratch, you need to identify what occasions you would wear them to. For John, he only needed casual summer wear (his professional gear was taken care of thanks to the good folks at Brooks Brothers). We identified key “casual Boston summer wear” events to be:
  • Sailing/ golfing/ WASPy activities like so
  • Eating out, going to bars
  • Going to the grocery store, running errands over the weekend (he suggested sweats but that is literally not a clothing category in my book)
And hence we stuck to a very conservative selection with more collared shirts than tees, and more sweaters than hoodies. Though he did buy 2 hoodies, to my dismay.

2) Buy in a similar color palette
Figure out what colors look good on you or what colors you tend to gravitate towards. I divide it between the blue/black and the green/brown category (if you want to get all fancy, “cool” and “warm” colors). Then choose accent colors.

For John, we stuck with a cool palette and got mostly blues and blacks. For a pop of color, we got a mustard yellow polo tee. We also got a pair of mint chinos for an understated green addition - see above. The most important thing though is to feel comfortable with these clothes. If you're not comfortable with bright red, don't do it. You will most definitely not wear it.

3) To quote another retailer, fit is everything. 
Try it on. Get stuff tailored. There’s nothing worse than baggy jeans. Yes John, I’m looking at you.

If you’re unsure of your size, take a size run to the dressing room and try everything on. Try on things together and see if you’re comfortable in them. See if this shirt looks good with this pair of pants - concentrate on length, fit, and flexibility of tucking in or out.

4) Go wild!
We ended up with: 4 polos, 4 button downs (2 cotton oxfords, 1 chambray, 1 checkered cotton), 2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of chinos, 2 hoodies. Basically an approximation of the above picture, but with more quantities of each item.

5) Then edit 
We sat down in a corner of the store and analyzed: does everything fit together? What else are we missing? Can one pair of pants match more than 1 shirt?

The most important thing is for each item to multi-task and be able to match more than one item in the collection. I would go for a mix of print and solids, and then a mix of darks and lights (e.g. white shirt/ dark blue jeans). The mint chinos I am especially in love with because I think it's good with both dark and light tops.

And there you have it - an easy cheat sheet to semi-professional summer dressing. If you're a girl and want more personalized styling tips: say hi via my Keaton Row profile! If you're a boy, you'll have to comment below or email me (KR is girls-only unfortunately), but I'm always happy to provide sartorial advice.

Happy shopping and happy summer!