Merry (Fifth Day of) Christmas, and Happy New Year

Since there are 12 days of Christmas (according to the song, at least), I figured I'm not too late with Christmas greetings. I hope everyone had a great time on December 25.

My Christmas season was rather hectic up to Christmas Day, when I actually left some gifts at home and had to run back and get it. Normally, I would have shopped all year round and got all the presents with plenty of time to spare, but this year things were different. Due to a number of circumstances this year--some unforeseen and unfortunate, others inevitable--I didn't have much time for gift shopping. Consequently, I was fitting in shopping here and there after work on some days, resulting in multiple days of driving and frustration. I was literally running around town on Christmas Eve up until the stores closed around dinner time in an effort to get all the presents. I haven't done any online shopping this year because it would require me to know exactly what I want for people, whether it'll fit, whether it'll get here on time etc., but I think I will try to do more online shopping next year. Brick and mortar stores have limited hours, but I can shop online in the wee hours of the night and have more time to find what I'm looking for.

Frustrating logistics aside, it was a fairly good Christmas for me because things went back to basics. The current economic recession affects everyone, and it also had its effects on gift-giving. For the most part, most gifts that I've seen passed around were smaller and on the very practical side (i.e. socks, nail polish, bath products). How much to spend, whether something is nice enough to give as gifts, etc.--none of that mattered this year, and I really like that. The important focus this year was simply to spend time with those we care for, to help each other get through the hard times, and hold out hope that things will get better.

Tough times like these make me see more of a silver lining in the stormy clouds--"problems" are really just minor annoyances compared to the real problems and difficult choices that many people have to make every day. A lot of things happened in the last month or so, and it's been tough to make time to deal with everything, but I am thankful that I get to be busy and gainfully employed. Although I didn't have as much time to scope out super-deals this year when shopping for gifts, I'm glad the end result was splurging a little for loved ones who couldn't afford to get themselves a well-deserved year-end treat. Although I'm grumbling about the troubles of having to save up and replace a big hunk of motorized scrap metal (which is currently sitting idly on a street somewhere), I'm just very lucky it managed to protect me before its demise and I'm around and able to deal with the aftermath, not to mention that it happens to be a time when there are very good deals abound.

How have your holidays been, and what are your wishes for the next decade? I hope that the New Year will bring all of us inspirations, motivations, felicitations, and (at least in my case) perhaps a new set of wheels that will keep on going round and round for years and years to come. The cautious realist that I am, I tend to be weary of prognostications of "everything is going to be OK," but I do believe that things are starting to turn a corner and will get better.

Enjoy the celebrations, and stay safe!


This Old Home (in the city)

"Busy" is an understatement when it comes to describing my life right now. I don't have time to do the fashion-oriented shoots at the moment, but there are other topics of conversation. I took hundreds of pictures when I was in Hong Kong. What good are those pictures if they're not shared? Here's another installment in the series; hope you'll enjoy it.

Because Hong Kong is such a tiny place, there is nowhere to expand but up. Particularly with public housing, older buildings get torn down, replaced by even taller residential towers. Even though the newer buildings are gleaming and modern, I do miss the character and soul of the older buildings.

During my trip, I got to see a mix urban architecture. Here's a selection of pictures of residential buildings that fascinated me, a comparison of the old and new:

Urban sprawl

Pastel trim

The Makeover (you just don't see this age-old setup of bamboo scaffolding in the U.S.)

Junior Mints

Not to Scale

Mean Green

Fading away
[Edit: Oops...after zooming up close and seeing some of the signs, I just realized that these might be light manufacturing units. I thought they looked residential because the layout resembles American apartment complexes.]

[Edit: As an aside, the car in the third picture has one of those incredibly expensive and hard to get license plates that allow the car to be driven around both in Hong Kong and in Mainland China; such plates are primarily for people who do business on both sides of the border, so getting through customs won't be such a pain. Even though it's now the same country, it isn't like the U.S., where it's OK for the short term to drive with California plates into other states, and vice versa, without going through special procedures.

Oh, the things I discover by zooming up close...I didn't even spot these little things when I was actually there, because it was too far away for me to see the details.]

A bit Gaudi

Out to Dry


Skewered and Askewed

The first week back in the States after travelling overseas felt awkward. I thought that by thinking, "Jet lag, what's that?", I'd be able to ignore the issue and feel completely settled in. Alas, that was not to be. I felt completely upside down all week. I've been busy trying to get caught up with the hundreds of emails (work and personal) and stacks of papers that piled up in my absence, and in doing so, there was no time to buy groceries and fix up a proper meal. Now that I want to cook to start the week right, I have to be out of town again; there's no point in buying groceries, not have time or be around to do anything with them, and let things spoil for no good reason.

At least I feel committed to cooking. As long as I have a particular dish in mind, I'll get motivated to work on it. This is the same situation as what occurred before I left for my trip--I somehow got fixated on the idea of making kabobs because it was easy, filling, and delicious, so even though I was tired after getting home from work, I went ahead and did it. This recipe is great for working professionals because the labor can be split into different days, and if the portions are small, less prep time is needed. Also, if you know in advance that you need to feed a small army on the next day, kabobs look great and are generally crowdpleasers.

The concept is simple--cut up the meat one night, marinate it, put it on skewers on the next day along with some veggies, and grill or broil. The process really is that simple. However, it can be a bit time-consuming. The bamboo skewers had to soak for 30 minutes before use (so that they won't burn), and while that was being done, I washed and cut up a bunch of veggies. Since the value pack of sirloin I got was a bit short of 2 pounds of meat, it took a while to get them all skewered up. It was pretty fun to try and come up with different configurations so that no two skewers were exactly the same:

Cooking was very quick and easy--drizzle some olive oil on the kabobs, broil one side for 5 minutes, turn, and broil some more until the desired level of doneness (another 5-10 minutes). It was delicious, and I had enough food for lunch and dinner for almost a week.

Now I have to figure out what to cook next time...


I'm going (going) back (back) to Cali (Cali)

Well, I'm physically here, but I'm mentally not. I thought I was over jet lag yesterday, but I practically slept all day today and am now in great need of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Having ate so much delicious foods in Hong Kong and Mainland China, I kinda miss the culinary delights right now...although there are great restaurants around me, it's just not the same, and I'm too lazy to drive around.

My trip was very packed with family activities and could be exhausting at times, but I got to see a lot, and got to eat a lot. It's going to take me a while to sort out my life now that I'm back to the States, so posting will continue to be a bit slow, but I'll leave you with a few pics. There will be a few more HK-related posts a bit later.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!


Alphabet Soup

[Edit: I was a law review editor, but I can't even edit my own blog posts. Shame on me...duly corrected. My brain is already on vacation even though I'm not there yet.]

When I was a kid, my mom used to make soup noodles with a can of Campbell's vegetable soup. I used to love taking my soup and fishing out the alphabets. The concept of alphabet-shaped letters pasta were was very fascinating to a young, impressionable lass (how did they make 'em?).

I still get the canned vegetable soup and use them for various things, but the soup I buy don't have the alphabets in them anymore. I'm suddenly feeling nostalgic for them after my much awaited crazy alphabet tights, which I wrote about months ago but were back-ordered, finally got here this week. I'm surprised by how easily they integrated into my wardrobe; while alphabet tights are not something that people see everyday, the colors are fairly muted, so the tights do not scream out loud. They do make enough noise, however, to keep things interesting.

[Michael Kors leather hoodie, Love Yaya tunic, The Limited necklace, House of Holland x Pretty Polly tights, vintage ankle boots.]

I'm going to be out of the country for the next couple weeks. I'll try to see if I'll be able to post--I'll have my laptop with me, but the question is whether I'll have the time to do it. If I don't get to post during my trip, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Layering Chains

My work style for the past several weeks had been rather woeful. I didn't really have much time to think about what to wear--just throw on something black or gray and face the long day ahead. This week I finally got back on track, and it's quite fun to make work outfits interesting again. It also helps that the heat waves have finally come to an end, and I can work with layers.

Although I tend to make some rather outrageous jewelry for myself and for the shop, I haven't been very adventurous about layering chains. My style tends to be fairly predictable--something bland mixed with a statement piece or two--so it's a good time to try something different. Like Elaine at Clothed Much, I got inspired by the J. Crew catalog's idea of layering necklaces. I'm more of a minimalist, so here's my take with faux pearls and a silver multichain cluster necklace I picked up from the BCBG outlet:

[Love Yaya tunic (worn as top), secondhand pencil skirt from clothing swap, a really old Tally Ho sweatercoat purchased from Ross many, many years ago, faux pearls ripped from a Forever 21 top and converted into a necklace, BCBG cluster necklace, Hue tights, Calvin Klein pumps.]

My eyes locked onto the cluster necklace the minute I saw it at one BCBG outlet, but I didn't pick it up until later, when it was marked down. The necklace a very simple piece, and it's easy to just throw over my head and go. The clusters are really cute (love playing with them) yet sophisticated. Since it is somewhat of a hybrid of a chain and beaded necklace, I can mix it with colorful beaded necklaces or silver chains. It is very contemporary and livens up a classic look--it punches up pearls in a "not your mother's pearls" fashion.

I've been debating about wearing patterend or colored tights to work. What do you think about that? I've seen a court reporter wear a plum pair of tights with a black shift dress, and she looked very polished (we actually had a conversation about that after a deposition, which was pretty cool). I have a lot of tights that have fairly conservative patterns, but once in a while I want to wear something more adventurous. The checkered tights above are a little more out there, so I kept everything else rather low-key (except for the layered jewelry). I probably won't wear these to court, but it was refreshing to see someone at a hearing wearing some fabulous knitted pattterned tights with a pair of black Loubotins and a beige trench--very businesslike, but definitely not boring.


Animal Instincts

My Halloween costume this year is not quite as flashy as last year's, but it deserves an award for the effort I've put in to put it together. I only had 4 hours before the party to get everything I needed--namely the skirt, vest, and gloves. The gloves were the easiest to find--I knew that there were a few places that would have them. I've always wanted a pair of long leather gloves, so I'm glad to finally have them. I knew that I wanted something with a leopard print for Halloween, and I originally wanted a funky blue leopard print dress. However, it didn't come in my size, so I opted for a leopard-print skirt--which ended up working out better than what I had originally wanted.

The furry vest was the toughest one to find. I had originally spotted one at Zara, but I didn't feel like spending $80 on something that was nice but did not quite fit me the way I wanted. I hit Forever 21, H&M, and other fast fashion chains in search of a furriness that wasn't too shaggy, too fake, too loose, or too expensive, but there was nothing satisfying. As time was running out, I gave myself 5 extra minutes to hit other stores that I normally would not go to. If I didn't find what I was looking for when time was up, I was just going to have to do without the furriness.

At my very last stop for the day, I felt like I hit the jackpot. There were furry vests of all different sizes and colors. I finally nabbed the one that fits perfectly, and I was told that the style was 25% off. Woot! I rushed home, did the makeup, put the clothes on, and off I went to the party. I had a great time as Cruella DeVil: The Early Years.

[Vintage coat, BB Dakota furry vest, F21 skirt, Zara gloves, J. Crew wool tights, BCBG pumps with leopard print trim.]

As always, you can bet that the components of the costume will get remixed (two-tone hair not included). Stay tuned.


Weekday/Weekend: Vested Interest

I usually don't care for half the junk mail that come through the email inbox associated with this blog, but one got my attention. I got an email about Bluefly's America's Most Stylish Blogger challenge. The challenge of the week happens to be the boyfriend vest. As gimmicky as the challenge seems (it is, after all, used to promote the products they're selling), I have to admit that it's pretty cool to see how the vest was styled by different bloggers.

Since I've been super-busy with work lately, there's been very little time to shop, not to mention I haven't been in much of a shopping mood in these past few weeks. That's a really good thing, as it pushes me to go back and rework pieces that I haven't worn much lately. Seeing the blogger challenge reminds me of the vest that needs to be worn more, now that the weather has cooled significantly. However, there are still days when the sun is out strong, so I can still combine spring/summer and fall/winter pieces in a way that I think could only be done in California weather. It would probably look quite strange elsewhere.

The vest has been mainly a work piece, but the mild temperatures from last weekend allowed me to use it for something more casual:

[J. Crew gold lame shirt, F21 vest, American Eagle Outfitters shorts, Express blue tights (from last Halloween), Dolce and Gabbana mary janes, Liz Claiborne bag, cuff from Etsy.]

Blue on Blue

Autumn has finally hit Southern California with a vengeance. I'm getting quite a bit of use of my wool suits now. I only have one wool suit and one wool-blend jacket, which doesn't quite do the trick...will have to look for more.

On cold days when I have to suit up, but not need to be quite as formal, I turn to my trusty Diane von Furstenburg blue wool-blend shift dress. After wearing it so many times, I can say that it is a very worthy investment piece (though luckily I didn't have to spent too much money on it). You've seen it before in a more casual form. Now I'm wearing it for work as intended, but definitely not in a typical way that one would envision as a work outfit:

[DvF shift dress, Mike & Chris fleece blazer, Capezio boots (many years old, still going strong).]

I've remixed this dress before (though not captured on "film") with black blazers for court and various cardigans for the office. This time, I needed something warmer for a deposition in a cold hotel conference room and strong, cold winds on the way there and back. In fact, the winds have been strong enough to knock out power in various places, including (lucky me) my neighborhood. Since the blazers that would have looked good with the dress were not all that warm, I reached for the fleece blazer that I got roughly a year or two ago for $10 at a sample sale. To my surprise, it worked surprisingly well as a tone-on-tone match. The peplum shape of the jacket also couples well with the slim profile of the dress. I think I can actually wear this to court next time if I wore a pair of pumps instead of boots.

Speaking of powerful winds that knock out power, the night before the deposition was a rather surreal experience. I came home late from work, which was bad enough, only to be further frustrated by the fact that a) I couldn't get into the garage because it was power-operated; b) there was no hot water, and the cold water was even colder than usual; c) I had to get up at the crack of dawn the next day to move my car before the towing patrol came around; d) there was no microwave to heat up my dinner on an already-late night; e) since the pilot on the stove was electrically-dependent, I had to light the stove the old-fashion way; f) [insert gripe here about the lack of modern conveniences]. Since all the lights were out and I left my brightly-lit cell phone at home that day (yup, lucky me again), I literally had to feel my way up the stairs and then back to my apartment unit.

It was frustrating to come home to something like this when I had a lot more work to do before the next day, but it was also quite nice to spend the night in candlelight. The entire apartment complex was eerily quiet--no TVs, no radios, no whirling noise from various equipment...and no human voices, as people presumably found other places to stay for the night. Although I didn't sleep much that night, I slept very soundly. It's a reminder to me that in an electronics-laden world, slowing down once in a while is a good thing.


Pasadena Art Night

As I have less and less free time to do things, I lament the diminishing variety of topics on my blog. There used to be more than just fashion--I used to write more about such things as the joys of cooking and cheap/freebie cultural events, but these days I haven't had much time to experience much of either. I'll try to mix things up as time permits.

A few weeks ago, my roommate asked me if I happened to be free after work. I still had enough energy to do something fun, so I was intrigued. We ended up hitting the Pasadena Museum of California Art for free as part of Pasadena Art Night. There were 2 amazing exhibits. One is of Wayne Thiebaud, the other of Frances Gearhart.

I can't believe that I have not heard of Wayne Thiebaud until now. As my friends and I strolled through the exhibits, we just couldn't stop talking about the paintings. The use of color, brushstrokes, and piling paint on thick with a a palette knife are just few of the techniques used to make certain elements of the picture literally pop out. For one painting of a man standing at a lecturn and another of a beach ball, we walked up close to the canvas just to make sure it wasn't 3-dimensional in form.

There are quite a few recurring themes we observed: beaches, food, and buildings. All of them involve the use of many colors. Since we had just eaten dinner before we went to the museum, we salivated after looking at the many paintings of desserts, such as this:

There's a Norman Rockwell sense of homeliness/familiarity to it, but the painting seems to be far less nostalgic and far more deliberate. The pastel-colored food itself looks very inviting, and so does the empty space--I paid an equal amount of attention to the food as I did to the bare shelf. It seems like the space was created after the multi-layered cake vacated the case, but it still left me wondering: what filled out the empty space before they flew off the shelf?

My favorite paintings were of the fantastically-steep hills nestled between skyscrapers, which look something like this:

Based on the aforementioned eye-popping paintings beach balls and lecturers, it is clear that the man knows how to depict a view from a particular perspective very, very well. However, his landscape paintings often conflate a few perspectives together, including those that seem "wrong" together (like diminishing point motifs in the middle of a field at a corner of a bird's eye view painting). But "wrong" has never looked so right in unison--the exaggerated steepness combined with the super-flat surfaces, or the profile views combined with the aerial view, just belong together. It is unlike anything I've ever seen.

The woodcuts of Frances Gearhart just blew my mind away. They're just beautiful, and hardly anyone does woodcuts like those anymore. I love seeing the series of prints that illustrate how multi-colored prints are made. Precision is a must, and there's really no room for error.

I don't know when the next Art Night is, but the two amazing exhibits I saw runs until January 31. I highly encourage anyone who is remotely interested to see it...you will not be disappointed. I look forward to more museum visits the next time Art Night rolls around.


Double Trouble

"A wide double-buckled stretchy belt that fits" is a fairly specific accessory, perhaps too much so--it has been oh-so elusive. Because my waist is fairly small, it has been all but impossible to find a stretchy belt that doesn't slide down to my hips.

Fortunately, I finally found one at Forever 21. The stretchy portion is constructed of a raffia-like material instead of the obvious elastic. Cheap without looking cheap...now that's what I'm talking about!

I've also wanted a skeleton key necklace for a very long time. I was looking for a single key on a single chain, but the necklace at Forever 21 that I ended up buying had two sitting on attached chains. I may take them apart at some point, but the status quo works for me right now.

[Forever 21 grayish-purple fleece bomber, necklace, sunglasses, and belt; Gap t-shirt dress; Giuseppe Zanotti grommeted sandals.]

Wow...I didn't realize that so many components of my outfit came from Forever 21. I really don't shop there all that much, but when I do, I tend to be pretty picky about the pieces I buy because I want them all to last. The fleece bomber, which I found for $5 a few years ago, has been one of the most versatile pieces in my closet. California weather veers from cool to hot and back again all on the same day; warm layers with short sleeves are the most appropriate pieces for bridging the gap. When I'm sick and the outdoor temperature has a 10-15 degree differential on the indoor conditions (80-something degrees vs. the low 70s), I count on jackets like these to keep me from getting even more sick.


I've been insanely busy with work and battling the flu at the same time. After finally getting the chance catch adequate sleep in the past 36 hours, I'm now wide awake in the middle of the night and feeling closer to normal, so I may as well get a little bit of blogging in before my schedule descends into chaos once more. I've managed to avoid the flu for quite a number of years until now; I forgot how bad it could be, but luckily I bounce back fairly quickly. Hope all you folks will be able to stay healthy in this particularly widespread flu season.

Before the flu forced me out of commission, I was stricken by another affliction: an unhealthy obsession with exposed zippers. It's like exposed beams in buildings--they're obviously functional, though they are very capable of enhancing aesthetics simply by existing (and sometimes by clever placements). I bought 3 things from Forever 21 featuring prominent zipper elements, each with a distinct look evoking the past, present, and future.

The Past: the miniskirt with lace trim has a very retro/burlesque feel to it. It is surprisingly well-tailored and well-made (it's lined!) for a Forever 21 cheap fix. It is a bit shorter than I'd like, so I feel better wearing it with tights. A pair of "Minnie Mouse" shoes and a sporty jacket makes the outfit more modern and leaves something to the imagination.

[Forever 21 tank ($1 from FIDM store), Converse One Star for Target jacket, The Limited bolo necklace, Forever 21 miniskirt, Target patterened tights, Forever 21 ring, Payless pumps.]

The Present: I call this a "utility skirt" because it just looks like an all-purpose skirt. It has pockets. It looks like a cross between a cargo skirt and a pencil skirt. It's stretchy. It's curve-hugging and very flattering. It is very comfortable. The list goes on and on.

[Forever 21 tank, Forever 21 skeleton key necklace, Gap scarf, Michael Michael Kors leather hoodie, Capezio boots.]

The Future: I'll let the tunic speak for itself. The whole science fiction look is so campy and absurd that I may as well throw in the ultimate accessory of silliness for my age--a Hello Kitty ring.

[Forever 21 tunic and leggings, Mike & Chris trench, Tarina Tarantino Pink Head ring, Ray Bans, Maison Martin Margiela cutout booties.]