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putting together a fabulous wardrobe, part 2

so on to accessories and shoes detox today!

in my opinion, shoes and accessories are just as important as clothing and actually, if i look back to my purchase history, the trend has been that i’m more willing to spend money on good pair of cute but comfortable shoes than on clothing.  typically, my cutoff of basics (tops, bottoms) is no more than $30-50 dollars (depending on the brand) and for formal items no more than $100, 150 depending on how fancy the item is.  but for shoes, i would spend more comfortably around $50-150 on a pair especially if it pays off in comfort (i’m looking at you, cole haan + nike air and stuart weitzman).  these prices of course are the sale prices and not the retail price.  with accessories, my main weaknesses are belts and scarves and since i don’t carry around handbags anymore and can’t really wear costume jewelry (sometimes i get a rash and my taste in jewelry is of the motto “the simpler, the better”), i only have three gold necklaces that i rotate around in addition to my belt and scarves collection.

so now, we tackle (2):

a) paring down one’s accessories:

think back to the style that you have now defined.  find all your accessories and place them on your working surface, be it bed, desk, or whatever.  which accessories that you currently have would go great with the outfits that you have now prepared with the clothes that survived the purge?  do you have scarves, belts, hats, etc. that would fit the color palette(s) you previously established?  do you have the appropriate jewelry that expresses the style that you would like to embody?  any accessories that you can’t answer “yes” for need to be left behind (gifted, donated, dumped, etc.).  don’t hold on to any items that would propel your style forward!

more concretely, for me this means that i only have five different colored spring/summer/fall scarves that enhance my outfits/keep my neck warm, that i’ve learned to wear/drape/tie appropriately with each outfit (i have two heavy duty cashmere scarves that is no longer in use for cali).  i like to wear contrasting colors together like a red dress with a vibrant purple scarf or a white tee with jeans and a grey cardigan with a light pink scarf.  play around with your options and figure out now which colors go well together so you’ll be able to grab-n-go later on.  with jewelry, i don’t wear bracelets because they’re a lab hazard (can be caught on things) and so wear only necklaces. i like really delicate pieces and usually don’t switch my necklaces around.  my current favorite piece is a look-alike of the tiffany’s elsa peretti diamonds by the yard piece (gah look at that pricetag!) which looks something like this:

from google

from google

i also have several belts (stretchy cinched waist belts, traditional thread-into-hole types, in vibrant colors, black, camel, etc.) that i’ve already identified for certain outfits.  do the same for your belts if applicable.  i especially like the patent belts at jcrew in fun colors which go on sale after the season and can be bought for around $8 to $15.  these are perfect for brightening up a dress, for example with color combos like neon poppy red with navy blue, or fuchsia with white, etc.

of course for summertime, sunglasses are a must so figure out what shape flatters your face the best (for me, only aviators) and purge your collection accordingly.

i have a collection of handbags that i don’t use since i’ve switched to wristlets (i have 3 i alternate)…i’m waiting to decide what to do with them.  if you are a handbags gal, be sure to include them in your assessment!

also take the time to identify what accessories may be missing for your collection.  write these things down so that later on when sale season comes, you can tailor your search just for those pieces and be focused (instead of buying indiscriminately).

b) shoes re-vamp:

be honest with your shoe collection.  which ones don’t you wear at all?  which ones are your favorites?  identify the attributes and jot them down for future reference.  any shoes that are falling apart but you love need to go to a cobbler to be fixed.  can’t be fixed?  trash them and write down the type as a “future sale” purchase and actively look for a replacement pair.  identify which gaps you may have in your shoe collection.

i’ve whittled down my collection to 20 pairs (including winter shoes):

spring/summer/fall shoe collection:

  1. black leather flats from jcrew with small gold studds
  2. black leather flats with bows by coach
  3. black patent coach heels for formal business attire
  4. black leather wedges by cole haan (with nike air!!!!) for business attire
  5. black and gold flat coach slingbacks
  6. rose gold leather flip flop-style wrap around sandals (weird i know but prevents accidental loss of shoe when stepped on)
  7. nude bcbg sandals
  8. peach suede flats from jcrew (new unworn recent purchase =D)
  9. magenta criss-cross, peep toe flats from cole haan
  10. gold stuart weitzman flats (sporty look)
  11. two pairs of random brand prada-look-alike baby wedges in coral/blue/nude and also in blue/nude (bought when on vacation in taiwan)
  12. formal gold and crystal strappy stuart weitzman heels (my baby!)
  13. brown leather minnetonka mocassins (a gift from a. e. s.)
  14. running shoes

winter shoes (in storage):

  1. heavy duty cole haan waterproof/snow dark brown suede lace up (hidden zip) boots (bday gift from mom)
  2. brown leather cole haan riding boots
  3. dark brown leather cole haan low wedge heel, knee high boots
  4. black coach leather knee high boots
  5. black celine leather round toe, knee high, wooden stacked heel boots (so very sexy, my special splurge for my 25th birthday)

man i’ve accumulated many pairs of shoes over these past five years!!!!  the last five i don’t even really get to wear in california except for the brief november through january period…it’s definitely not cold enough to warrant wearing.  additionally, i have a pair of stuart weitzman formal crystal and black strappy heels and a pair of valentino pink satin heels that i’m trying to decided what to do with; i most likely will sell them at a consignment store.  as you can see from the list above, i should not buy any more black shoes (or shoes for that matter)!  usually for the more expensive pairs, i get soles put on the bottom to extend their wear.  so worth it!

alrighties, it’s time for me to head off to bed!  have a great night peeps and until tomorrow for part 3!

putting together a fabulous wardrobe, part 1

since i’m moving up to berkeley for my new job in june, i’ve been inspired lately to reassess my wardrobe because moving unnecessary things is always painful.  that and after reading about wardrobe rehab on this blog, i’m inspired to write a little about how to put together and maintain a FABULOUS wardrobe in which you can grab-n-go and look awesome (because YOU’RE awesome, HIMYM-style, lol).  sale season is also coming up and reevaluation of one’s wardrobe will prevent you from making that unwise extraneous purchase that you couldn’t stop yourself from buying because it was ON SALE (hahah been there, done that many times).  having a game plan will help you shop smartly and not waste your precious moolah on stuff that won’t make you absolutely gorgeous.

now your wardrobe is a reflection of your personal style and tastes and differs greatly from personal to person.  i know i tend to gravitate toward simple, clean lines, very few layers and accessories (fans of the sartorialist are gonna hate me!), great cut and fabric, and skin tone-enhancing colors.  over the years, i’ve figured out a few tricks that i will establish here as guidelines in three parts and will try to write as generally as possible, giving concrete examples where applicable.  the three parts are:

[specific aim] (1) defining one’s look/style and clothing purge

[specific aim] (2) accessories and shoes purge

                       (3) future outlook: future purchasing habits after the purge

(…sounds a bit NIH grant-like, no?  i couldn’t help it)

today, we will tackle (1)!

a) defining one’s style:

(a.1) pick a look

(a.2) pick your color palette(s)

why do we need to do this?  because it will prevent you lots of grief and crying over spilled money later on.  also, it will make your wardrobe more fluid and easy to put together so that you will match in a good way and look nice without spending tons of time.  i have decided that my “look” is very much like this except with less heels.

mind you, my “look” is also decided by what looks good on me.  i know that i look better in simpler styles that have great cut and shape.  i actually really love and appreciate the boxy, oversized look, the rich girl preppy look, and also the sensual, sexier look but don’t have the body type for any of those styles (i look swallowed up by my clothes or with the last two options, really, really awkward and out of place).  an example that i will give is that i don’t buy blazers, oxford shirts, etc. ever (except for one interview outfit) because they look HORRID on me.  but most people can work the oxford/blazer look and look amazing.  similarly, i can’t pull off the leather jacket/cool sexy look ’cause i just look stupid.  it’s taken some honest, self-evaluation to arrive here but now i know even when things of those type are on sale, i’m not tempted.

so far we have “defining one’s style”…now we need to consider color palette.  i wear a lot of grey shades as well as purple/navy shades (no bright blues for me), white/creams, and pops of reds/pinks.  even though these colors are not my favorite colors (except for grey, but that’s more of a lack of color), i know that i look best in these colors so i buy my clothes in these colors.  i don’t own any green because i look awful in green, even though i actually really like green…my bathroom and kitchen would totally channel fresh green tones!  i also try not to wear too much black because i tend to look bony and anorexic in black, even though i know that black is a holy grail color for most.  figure out which colors you always get complimented on when you’re sporting it and that should say something.  i know a lot of fashion experts say stay with neutral colors in your wardrobe (black, grey, camel, navy, white, etc.) for ease of wear but i think that it tends to be boring and drab.  if you look good in a certain color, buy different items in different shades of that color so they would automatically look good when worn together.

trendy colors i sometimes buy but at h&m and sometimes zara only because it’s cheap and it won’t wear well for very long.  as for color pairings, i strongly agree with what aspairandaspare has said about 3 colors per outfit (*SUCH* great advice!).

b) clothing purge!

pretty self-explanatory for this sub-heading.  when you have a free few hours, buddy up (or if you prefer to do this alone, it’s cool too) and try on allllllll your clothes.  be honest.  anything that doesn’t fit anymore [too small, too big], not the right color on you, not fixable by hemming/alterations, or just doesn’t make you look awesome NEEDS TO GO.  ever seen “what not to wear?”  your ill-fitting, unbecoming (on you) clothes *need* to be thrown out/donated/gifted to a friend.  we’re gonna do this clinton and stacy style!  also make sure your bras and underwear fit you properly and don’t make you lumpy because if they do, no amount of beautiful clothing will save you.  after all this, put/hang/fold all the clothing that you will be keeping in your closet again.

SOOOOOO…what happened with my closet?

yay!  all my clothes fit into these two pictures

IMG_0637 yay! all my clothes fit into these two pictures

my summer basics are now whittled down to:

  • darkwash jeans (in skinny and bootcut)
  • fitted scoopneck tees (black, peach-ish pink, and grey)
  • loose scoopneck tees in multiple styles (mostly in white, and some in peach/pink and purple)
  • cotton tanks in white, oatmeal, black, pink
  • printed silk skorts in navy with white polka dots and pink floral print on black (actually looks like a skirt but are really shorts)
  • white and ombre dolman sleeve short sleeve shirts
  • mesh slightly oversized knit pieces in oatmeal and black to go with the corresponding tanks
  • shorts in white, pink with small purple flowers, vibrant chambray blue, dark grey, and jean
  • tank dress (white and black)
  • grey maxi dress kind of like this with the draping but mine is racerback and has more coverage in the front
  • many different dresses in white, chambray, various purple tones, peach-ish nude, cream,  orange-red, and navy in various materials and prints (cotton, silk, eyelet, lace, viscose, with crochet detailing, etc.)
  • light merino wool v-neck cardigans in grey, red, and white
  • navy cotton cardigan

in part 3, i’ll let you know where i shop/which brands i look for.  hopefully this gives you a sense of my style and the process i go through to revamp/reevaluate my wardrobe.  until tomorrow for part 2~

how to choose the best vitamin C “anti-aging” skincare product

hi guys!  hope everyone had a great weekend.  today’s topic is of interest to the older folk (including late twenties and up i guess, lol)…anti-aging skincare!  i know that there’s A LOT of hype out there with “our product will revolutionize wrinkle prevention” etc. etc. and it’s hard to really figure out what is really true and what is just aggressive advertising.  many companies that sell over-the-counter (OTC) potions make all sorts of claims for anti-wrinkle, anti-aging but are not backed up by the fda.  only fda backed products (prescription-based products) are forced to provide scientific proof of their claims that that the products are efficacious.  therefore, we should always approach OTC product claims with caution and really think about whether buying the item is analogous to flushing money down the toilet.

we will learn today about how to look at vitamin C anti-aging products; once again, i will be giving a chemistry (not medical) perspective of how to choose a vitamin c product that won’t lose efficacy/degrade before you get to use it.

so we all know that vitamin c, also know as ascorbic acid, has great health benefits (see here for a general audience tutorial) when ingested.  vitamin c has also been used as a topical agent in cream, lotions, gels, serums, etc. because of its reputed ability to lessen/prevent sun spots and skin discolorations and also stimulate collagen production (for what collagen is, click here).  additionally, vitamin C can act as an antioxidant, as shown in the browning of apples experiment where the sprinkling of vit. c on apples slows down browning,  so logically, all vitamin c skincare products must be good…bring it on, right?

of course, things are not always so simple.  as it turns out, vitamin c degrades, like any other organic molecule, over time and exposure to light (UV usually) or heat.  the time frame in which this degradation happens is accelerated when vitamin c is put into a solution (liquid) versus when vitamin c is stored in its solid form.  many companies, in efforts to market and sell their vitamin c creams/lotions/potions, use chemical “stabilizers” to slow down vitamin c decomposition.  however, usually once you open your cream/lotion jar/bottle and expose the product to air, the decomposition pathway has started and your cream/lotion is losing its vitamin c efficacy.  other companies like nv perricone have used other approaches like chemically joining vitamin c with a fatty acid via an ester bond (it’s okay if you don’t understand the nomeclature) thereby changing the behavioral properties of the new vitamin c-derived compound, but this may not actually make the vitamin c derivative better (see bioavailability of different vitamin c compounds if you’re interested).  i personally never by creams/lotions/gels/etc. with vitamin c mixed in already with the product in mainly because you don’t really know how much you end up really using on your face (is it all decomposed?  partially decomposed?  degraded material that i’m slathering on?  who know?)

if you do want to jump on the anti-aging moisturizers bandwagon and want to use a vitamin c-based product, here is what i would recommend:  a solid form of vitamin c that you can mix into your lotion/cream/gel right before you use it.  that way you know exactly how much your putting on, what you’re putting on, and that you’ve avoided, as much as you can, the decomposition of your vitamin c before use.  philosophy make something called “turbo booster c powder” which is solid vitamin c that you scoop out with the scooper they’ve provided and mix into your moisturizer.  the ingredients are: (comments in parentheses mine) “ascorbic acid (vitamin c), panthenol (provitamin B5), zinc pca (humectant), copper pca (humectant), camellia oleifera leaf juice, dipotassium glycyrrhizinate (licorice extract), arginine (amino acid), cysteine (amino acid), aloe barbadensis leaf juice” in solid form.  the bottle looks like this:

from the sephora website

from the sephora website

i would store this bottle away from heat and light and cap tightly to avoid moisture from getting in.  hopefully this tutorial has been helpful and has taught you a little more about this tricky molecule.  may you be successful in your search for vitamin c skincare products!

do you like french macarons? try the “trader jacques” version

look what i found while browsing barnes and noble!  =)

look what i found while browsing barnes and noble! =)

one of my favorite treats while i was a grad student in boston was the occasional indulgence in french macarons.  they’re not cheap mind you, especially on a graduate student stipend,  at usually $1.50 (crema cafe) or even $2.50 (thinking cup) a piece for the good ones.  thus,  i would only get them when i was having an especially bad day in lab and needed a pick-me-up, savoring the two bites of deliciousness, so that i could plow on in lab.

fear no more poor grad students (or people who think paying $2.50 for two bites is ridiculous),  i have found a great substitute such that you can get your french macaron fix without a guilty conscience!  enter “trader jacques” who at $4.99 a box will give you 12 scrumptious, nearly identical to cafe-quality petit sandwiches, which can be easily found at your friendly neighborhood trader joe’s.  they’re typically in the frozen foods/desserts section and all you have to do before eating them is let them defrost for 30 minutes at room temperature.

there apparently are multiple varieties, from vanilla/chocolate to pumpkin (whaaaaa?) to peppermint to variety pack (picture below).  i had seen and eaten the vanilla/chocolate ones in boston but have never seen other flavors while i was there or when i came back to california.  of course when i was getting orange juice from trader joe’s the other day, i casually glanced at the frozen dessert section and what do i see?  the VARIETY PACK *fist pump*  i had never seen it before in my neighborhood trader joe’s and was elated to find four boxes left (i bought three boxes).  TJs did an awesome job with the variety pack with flavors such as pistachio, salted caramel, raspberry, orange, chai, and one last one which i can’t remember now…anyhoo, next time you need to get groceries, i would head out to the TJs in your area and take a look!  bonne chance mes petites choux!

two are missing 'cause i ate them...sigh

two are missing ’cause i ate them…sigh

my most recommended gel eyeliner

so as promised, today i will be writing about my favorite gel eyeliner that is a bit of a splurge but totally worth it.  if you are looking for a gel eyeliner, which i think is much more controllable and easier to work with than liquid, i would recommend bobbi brown’s long-wear gel eyeliner. it is $23 at sephora (you can also find it at macy’s, nordstrom, neiman, bloomies, etc.) and comes in a variety of colors from black, brown, and grey to purple, blue, and green.

(from sephora)

(from sephora)

i personally use the color “violet ink” which looks really purple in the container but wears beautifully as a dark blackish purple and feels less harsh against fairer skin tones than jet black.  i would apply it with an eyeliner brush (see here and here for recs) so that you can draw a thin fluid line close to your lash line.  it builds easily in color intensity and once you let the gel dry, it’s pretty much smudge-proof.  the pot-o-gel eyeliner lasts at least 6 months if you wear it everyday and take care to tighten the lid such that the gel doesn’t dry out prematurely.    once you add some mascara, voila! you have pretty, well-defined eyes.  i’ll be back tomorrow to post (even though i usually don’t write on fridays) since i didn’t get to post on monday (my NIH proposal revisions are done though yay!).

EDIT: just found out today that there apparently is a problem with the formulation of the gel eyeliner right now and the BB headquarters are aware and remedying it…please hold off purchasing until the problem is resolved! i just bought one from nordstrom and it’s the real deal!  i think the sephora stock is much older and thus the quality is questionable.  if you want to buy it, go to nordstrom!

so…what’s really in my acne cream/lotion?

soooo i was going to write about favorite, highly recommended gel eyeliner today (put off until tomorrow) but i thought i’d do a little chemistry demystifying of acne cream and lotions. i think most people don’t really know what active ingredients are in their pimple stuff and it would benefit the average consumer to be aware of what s/he is really slathering onto her/himself. note that i will only be giving chemical analysis NOT medical analysis, so gather ’round kids and let’s begin!

the two most commonly used active ingredients in over-the-counter (OTC) acne medication (meaning non-prescription) are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. each of these act as acne medication in different ways, meaning each lessens acne lesions via different chemical mechanisms. let’s first look at the chemical structures (pictures, figure 1 and later 2) of each to see and understand more of how these chemicals work:

figure 1

figure 1

so in figure 1, i’ve shown salicylic acid with three other well known compounds wintergreen oil (mmm minty), aspirin, and sodium benzoate.  it’s quite cool to take a look at how the ingredients look like structurally to see why they might behave similarly.  as you can see salicylic acid looks very similar to wintergreen oil and they differ only by the blue parts of the molecule (OH vs OMe).  you don’t need to know what these letter combinations mean but it makes sense that both of these molecules when rubbed on skin give a burning sensation (a little different between the ouch burning of salicylic acid versus the tingly burning of wintergreen oil).  similarly if you take a look at salicylic acid and aspirin, you see that the blue parts are the same (both OH) but the bottom right parts in green are different.  this similarity gives them properties/modes of actions that react with the human body as an anti-inflammatory.  although the biological pathways of these two molecules as an anti-inflammatory is complex, one of the modes is via acting as a proton (via the carboxylic acid group) shuttle in the mitochondria (remember high school bio?).  pretty nifty, no?  lastly, sodium benzoate differs the most from salicylic acid.  it is the sodium salt of the acid (see blue part) with no OH group (see green part).  it is often used as a food preservative or cosmetics preservative.  while we’re on the topic of sodium benzoate, i want to clarify the “scare” that sodium benzoate turns into benzene (a known carcinogen) when mixed with vitamin c (ascorbic acid).  while the fda article is talking about the scare of sodium benzoate in soft drinks turning to benzene in the presence of vit. C, which in my book i have much beef with if you look at the data but more another day,  i want to say that sodium benzoate in your cosmetics will not turn into benzene to kill you/cause you harm even if your moisturizer/makeup product contains vitamin c.  i’ve seen on too many “health/natural living” beauty blogs give ABSOLUTELY wrong information about this (about how sodium benzoate will decompose to benzene in the presence of vitamin c) and this claim is chemically craaaaazy.  if you can really prove that, let me know and we’ll write a jacs/nature/science paper together!

figure 2

figure 2

in figure 2, we see that benzoyl peroxide looks completely different than salicylic acid.  it has in the middle two oxygen atoms that are connected by a line (a bond) and these types of molecules are known as peroxides.  now certain peroxides can explode because that line in between the oxygens (the bond) can break apart too quickly/too much at once.  with benzoyl peroxide and hydrogen peroxide they are relatively stable than other peroxides, especially because they are often formulated in some sort of liquid (as a solution or a lotion/cream/gel).  these two peroxides are used often as disinfectants for the human body and react primarily through breaking of that bond to generate what are called free radicals.  thus these radicals kill off bacteria by reacting with the bacteria’s survival machinery (cell wall, organelles, etc.).  unfortunately, because the radicals generated aren’t specified to only attack the molecules in bacteria, it may also react with other things like cloth (causing bleaching) or yikes, the person’s cells leading in some cases to an adverse reaction (swelling, burning, allergy).  although people can also be sensitive/allergic to salicylic acid, it makes sense that the reactive nature of benzoyl peroxide would cause more of a reaction than the acid acne ingredient.

most sensibly, start off using salicylic acid in your acne medication (careful not to use too much as it can cause a chemical burn) and if your doctor tells you to use benzoyl peroxide products, use carefully (don’t over medicate!) and with caution.  benzoyl peroxide, while is okay to use in controlled amounts as directed by a physician, is not a compound/chemical to be trifled with and carelessly slathered on.

hope this helps clarify what’s in your jar of acne cream and may you have clear skin in the days to come!

high quality makeup brushes that won’t break the bank

sorry for the late post (missed monday, boohoo)!  i was revising a NIH grant proposal yesterday and of course, it took longer than expected, as per usual.  sigh, o chemistry.

onto makeup brushes!  so i’ve recently discovered two makeup brushes that make one’s makeup significantly better for those special occassions.  i usually don’t wear makeup on a day to day level, just good ole sunscreen after washing my face (and the occasional concealer ’cause no one wants to see that big fat zit on my face, let’s face it).  when i do wear makeup, it’s tinted moisturizer, concealer, gel eyeliner (thank you m. c. for introducing me to this! another post on which one i use and would recommend), blush and maybe mascara (depending on the occasion).  i’m not into eyeshadows and such because well, i don’t care for it and also the consensus from the boys/guys/men in my life (n = >20) is that they do NOT like eyeshadown especially if it’s COLORED (i guess only nude eyeshadow in their book is fine but then why wear it?).  if you’re looking for a high quality foundation brush, blush brush, or eyeliner brush at a reasonable price, look no farther!  i have three suggestions (one for each) for you, all from the same line: sonia kashuk (from here on out SK)!

but you may protest, “t, that line is from target, are you crazy?  i need some high quality brushes, yo!  are you sure about this crap from target?” to which i say, “they are reallllly good quality brushes, and stop being an elitist/snob and go out and get some ha!”

the three in particular that i am talking about are, after much, MUCH research and reading of beauty blogs and then testing them out for myself:

(1) foundation brush: SK core tools synthetic buffing brush for $12.99

(from the target website)

(from the target website)

(2) blush brush: SK kashuk tools synthetic domed multipurpose brush for $18.39

(from the target website)

(from the target website)

(3) eyeliner brush: SK core tools bent eyeliner brush for $5.99 (!!!!)

(from the target website)

(from the target website)

why these three?  besides being obviously high quality (very soft, doesn’t shed) and cheap(er) i like that (1) and (2) are synthetic and wash cleanly and easily without the crazy wet dog smell of animal hair brushes (when you wash them).  (1) is used after dotting/striping (not a typo) on your tinted moisture or foundation and then buffing in gentle, circular motions all across your face.  it makes you look airbrushed and what girl doesn’t want airbrushed-looking skin!  as for (2) the bristles pick up just enough blush pigments to put on your blush and can work for powder or cream blushes.  it applies your blush smoothly and evenly without blotchiness/streaking and feels like a chinchilla going across your face.

lastly (3), in addition to being a steal (look up prices for MAC, trish mcevoy, or even sephora eyeliner brushes, *shudders at price*) is perfectly angled to reach and apply eyeliner (gel or liquid or powder if you moisten your brush) in a thin line (you can build the thickness if so desired) at the roots of your eyelashes, making for the most natural and prettiest eyeliner look.  it doesn’t lose its bristles and washes well and is the best eyeliner brush i’ve used by far for achieving a close-to-lashline eyeliner look.

okay, that’s it for today!  i will most likely be writing about my favorite and highly recommended gel eyeliner tomorrow!  enjoy!

EDIT:  target often has coupons and/or sales on SK products so keep a lookout for them!

for special occasions

i’ve been asked quite frequently by non-bostonian friends, “if i’m visiting boston, where would you recommend i eat?” to which my answer is,”if you’re willing to splurge a little and if you’ll be there sunday night, you HAVE to go to craigie on main!”

why specifically sunday nights to chow down at craigie? because of tony maw’s amazing chef’s whim menu, which guarantees a treat for your tastebuds at either $45 for 4 course (+ usually an amuse-bouche) or $57 for 6 courses. he is by far one of the best chefs in the US in my opinion and will not disappoint you with his creativity or delicious preparations. the menu changes for every chef’s whim and you can’t choose what you’re getting but i think that’s the best part and the most fun part! obviously if you have a food allergy they’ll accommodate, but other than that you either choose the “surprise” or the “vegetarian”. i’ve received during chef’s whim traditional dishes like duck confit to weirder things like squid ink, rabbit’s heart but all of them have been deliciously satisfying. the atmosphere is classy but not pretentious and the restaurant is good for bringing the friend/parent/significant other for a special treat/occasion. i’ve also been there for brunch with my good friend c. f. c. where we were hand-delivered cragie’s special donut by tony maws himself. *swoon* haha see below for the donut we enjoyed:

THE donut from chef maws

THE donut from chef maws (we kinda dug in already…)

happy eating!

colorful sundresses: great deals from jcrew factory

going along with our recent summer theme, today i’m writing about one particular sundress choice from jcrew that i absolutely adore and would suggest to those looking for a new summer dress.  i’ve received multiple requests for cute, well-cut sundresses that won’t break the budget and aren’t see through (i’m looking at ya H&M with your wimpy, semi-transparent fabrics that become hole-ridden after the wash!) in eye-catching colors.  well let me introduce you to jcrew’s button back sundress:

picture taken from factory.jcrew.com

picture taken from factory.jcrew.com

this sundress is made of cotton and substantial cotton mind you that won’t shred in the washing machine.  it comes in two colors: bohemian red (orange-red-ish) and byzantine blue (cobalt blue-ish).  i love the buttons down the back that give the dress a playful look;  i think it’ll look really nice with some summery, neutral-colored sandals.  it is on sale right now on the jcrew factory website for $40 but you can get it in the factory store (if you have one near you) for $25 right now ($50 in the store with extra 40% off and an additional 15% off with your student ID).  happy (dress) shopping!

lattes on-the-go: just add water

one the great things about being back in california is the easy access to imported asian goods.  i can drive 15-20 minutes and arrive at different ethic supermarkets which carry a wonderful variety of compact packaged goods that are actually tasty and portable.  in particular, i’ve found that user-friendly packaged japanese drinks specifically “lattes sticks” have received much accolade from my friends and have resulted in a following.  my bad for introducing these addictive just-add-water instant lattes to my (l)east coast friends who don’t have easy access to them 😉

my favorite "latte stick" flavor: green tea

my favorite “latte stick” flavor: green tea

what are these delectable “latte sticks”?  basically they’re sugar stick-shaped packets (remember the high-end skinny sugar packets at those hipster coffee places?  yeah that shape) of dry powdered latte mix which instantly become a mug-full of piping hot, sip-worthy latte upon addition of hot (or even warm) water.  they come in a variety of flavors (see below for a small sampling, i couldn’t get all of the varieties in one picture) and are just sweet enough to satisfy a sugar craving.  things that i like about these “latte sticks” are they aren’t super sweet like with a lot of american offerings and contain just enough creaminess/frothiness to resemble a coffee house-style latte.  hopefully, my girls will soon have access to these treats with the h-mart that supposedly will come (within the year?) to central square in cambridge!

a sample selection of "latte sticks"

a sample selection of “latte sticks”