Simple Gifts

I'm not one to throw a big party to commemorate another year of existence; something simple would do. Good food and conversation with friends is a great way to spend the evening, and that is enough to keep me happy. Getting some awesome gifts is the icing on the cake (or whipped cream on a pie...I'm more of a pie person).

Figuring out what to wear for this year's shindig was pretty easy. Usually I accessorize around the clothes I choose to wear, but it's the opposite this time. After coming home from one frustrating, really long day, I was treated to a surprise left on a table by my roommate--a retro-looking hairband. I absolutely love it. It is definitely a wonderful costume piece, but it is quite versatile for a more modern outfit. The piece I chose to tie it all together is a lace overlay halter top that I've had for years. I used to wear it with swingy skirts. Nowadays, it looks just as great with a pair of jeans and heels.

The little lights are something I picked up from Ikea a while ago during a clearance sale (after Christmas, I think?) for something like $2 a set. I figured that they would be great for parties. They look like candles, but I don't have to worry about anything catching fire. I figured it was time to play with them.

[Outfit: Michael Kors leather hoodie, The Limited halter top, Goldsign jeans, Calvin Klein bow slingbacks, Coach satin bag. Gifts: handmade hairband, air freshener with rose scent, paisley top, monster container for knicknacks (which I really needed), knife-sharp fabric shears (love them--they're so sharp that they come with sheaths).]


Camera Obscura

Yesterday was a day of fairly big decisions. I came to accept that my planned trip in the Fall to the East Coast is probably not going to happen--I wanted to go there when it's not too hot, and not too cold. Since my schedule is too hectic to fit it in, I think it is better to wait until the Spring, when I can actually enjoy my time there.

Then came another decision to ponder about. My brother called me yesterday and asked what I planned on getting myself for my birthday. I hadn't really planned to splurging on anything--after all, I am fortunate enough these days to get what I want (within reason) when I want it, so there isn't something particular that I have been holding out on. I don't really need fashion items, even though there are certain cool things that have caught my my eye. If I were to get something, it will probably be a camera upgrade. I love the camera I have now, but to do the things I want to do in terms of photography, I will need something better eventually. The price of an entry-level SLR these days is actually not too bad.

The camera is not really a birthday present per se; I'll have a couple of months to think about it. I'm saying that I have a couple of months because I may end up taking a trip overseas with my Mom in November for a wedding. I still have much planning to do and many things to clear (with work, for one) before the trip can be a reality, but it gives me something to look forward to. It would certainly be a great opportunity to play with my new toy.

Any camera recommendations? (To those I know personally off-line (you know who you are), I'll be bugging you about this, that's for sure.)


As you may have noticed, I gave the blog a fresh coat of paint and a new banner. Somehow I have been blogging for close to 5 full years (come September) and didn't even know it. Other than putting up a new banner during the second year of the blog's existence, I pretty much left everything else alone. However, as time went by, my tastes changed somewhat, and the blog no longer looked as exciting as it once did.

Redoing the layout has been rather challenging, as I had to troubleshoot a bit of code at a time. This is the first time I have used a "liquid layout," so if you see that font or margins are unusually big or otherwise strange, please let me know. Thanks!


Weekday Warrior

My work trip to the middle of nowhere ended up getting scrubbed at the last minute. While I miss the chance to visit places like that, where I would have never gone on my own initiative, I definitely do not miss the 100-degree heat, because it would have kept me from wearing a new dress that I have come to love.

For months, I've heard about a collaboration between GAP and various designers to produce a line of sartorial goodness made aptly of khaki. Ever since I saw pictures of a short-sleeved Vena Cava dress, I was hooked. Lately, I have been wearing a lot of dresses for work because it is easy--I did not have to spend time thinking about what top to match with which bottom. A khaki dress with a lovely tribal-inspired print would be a great addition to my work wardrobe. It is not too short (hits just above the knee); I couldn't go wrong with a conservative khaki color and sleeves; it is easy to throw it into the washer, and the print is just really cool. A dress like this would not need much, if any, accessorizing.

Never (and I mean NEVER) have I ever ran to the store on the first day a collection drops until now. The store near my work had already sold out of my size, and not much else was left. I ended up buying one 2 sizes bigger, which fitted well enough (it was comfortably loose), but if I could find a smaller size with a better fit, I would exchange it. I still can't believe I actually went through the trouble of going to a second Gap that was close to home, but I didn't think that the dresses would remain available for long. There were still dresses in my size. However, my excitement soon dampened as I tried them on. The dresses definitely ran small--while my regular sizing fit to a tee as I was standing, the dress did not pass the sit test. The skirt portion was simply too tight. The fit was great when I went a size up, but there was small stain on it. As I looked for another dress of the same size and in pristine condition, I noticed that there was a bigger problem. Several of the dresses I saw had holes at a particular seam at the armpit. I was beginning to wonder if it was a design defect. While the dress passed my "hug test" (wrapping my arms across my body), the holes were disconcerting, especially because the fabric is stiff and would not have any give in the event of a strong tug. Also, because the fabric was stiff, I was afraid that it would be prone to wrinkling.

I broke another of my own rules: I bought it anyway (a dress without holes, that is). Normally I would not buy anything that I was unsure about, but I really, really liked this dress. Also, sometimes it is hard to gauge how well something fits and feels in the long run during the few minutes in the dressing room; there have been a few occasions where I returned things that did not work quite as well when I put it on again at home, such as shoes. I figured that I would give it a few hours of more extensive testing when I get home, and I am glad I did. After wearing it to do everything I would do in a normal day (walk, sit, reaching over to grab stuff, etc.), all my misgivings melted away. The dress did not get as wrinkled as I feared. My normal range of motion would not have subjected the armpit seams to undue stress. The fabric was comfortable. The dress still looked great after prolonged wear. I don't have the results of the laundry test yet, but everything else gets a "pass" from me.

After wearing it for dinner one night and for work the next day, I know that this dress will be a fine weekday staple. It works with boots, it works with heels, it works with flats, sandals, tights, and bare legs. It's just easy to work with, and given the hassles of dealing with complexities in life, easy is much appreciated.

[Dinner: thrifted coat, Vena Cava for Gap dress, Gap purse, Marc by Marc Jacobs Latin phrase bracelet, Capezio boots. Work: Forever 21 sweater, Vena Cava for Gap dress, Christian Lacroix flats.]


Straighten Up and Fly Right

Straighten up and fly right,
Straighten up and stay right,
Straight up and fly right,
Cool down, Pappa, don't you blow your top.

-Nat King Cole, "Straighten Up and Fly Right"

By this time tomorrow, I would probably be driving off to another remote location for work, a place where the address is a highway mile marker (that's a first). Even though business travel can be awfully tiring, I do like to take a look at how life is in different parts of the country, even if only for a short time. Another bonus is that I get to collect those frequent flier miles.

As of last week, I finally travelled enough to get my free flight from Southwest. Instead of wasting my free ticket for somewhere fairly local, I decided that I want to head over to Philly to visit a friend who is there for school. I've never been there before, so I figured it would be a good destination. I've been trying to plan this thing for a while, and was quite excited about going until a few days ago, when I found out a case I'm working on has been assigned a trial date at the same time I wanted to go on this trip.

I felt like I was about blow a gasket at that point.

Oh well...it is possible that I may end up going at a different time, or if that doesn't work out, I might switch to a different location. New York is another place I'm considering, as I did not get enough time to really see the place the last time I was there, and I really miss the friends who are now living there.

I'll open this up to you guys--what's there to do/see in Philly? What are some other places you'd like to use your free ticket on? Other suggestions/comments? Fire away.


Original Recipe

There are lots of stories of college students surviving on ramen, but I was not one of them. After moving out of the dorms, I had to figure out the cooking situation. Sure, I've done a little bit of cooking before, but they were simple things and not quite a full meal. However, I was pretty excited about living out on my own and was determined to be a good cook. After all, if I could cook up chemicals in class without blowing anything up, cooking food shouldn't be a problem. I picked an ambitious menu for a first complete meal (pork chops, potatoes, and veggies). While the potatoes were more of a challege than I anticipated, I wound up with a delicious meal in the end, and the small triumph spurred me into being more creative and experimental. Cookbooks offered some guidance, but I preferred to create my own dishes. I had a ton of fun.

Tonight was a trip down memory lane, as my roommate and I tag-teamed to cook up one of my favorite recipes that I can call my own--my Tuna Casserole. It is a very inexpensive dish ($3-4 at most), and it can last quite a few meals if you are cooking for yourself. It is really easy to make, and will leave you wanting more. I have even gotten non-fans of tuna to enjoy it.

The recipe requires rotini pasta, tuna, condensed cream of mushroom soup, cheddar cheese, celery (or green beans), cracker or bread crumbs. I don't measure (I eyeball everything), so I can't really quantify how many ounces of this or that to put in, but you can add your best judgment. It is really hard to screw this up.

1) Pick a casserole dish or baking pan. Figure out how much rotini pasta it would take to cover about 2/3 of the depth. Boil that amount of pasta, preheat the oven to 275F in the meantime, drain, and pour into the pan/dish.

2) Grab a can of tuna (or if the dish is big, make it 2). Drain, then mix in with the pasta.

3) Slice and dice up some celery. Or, if you'd like to get rid of some green beans (which is what I did tonight), cut up some of that. Saute for a few minutes in olive oil with an optional smashed clove of garlic to flavor. Mix in with the pasta and tuna.

4) Open up a can (or 2, if the dish is big) of condensed mushroom soup. Mix it in with the pasta mixture until you get a nice, creamy concoction.

5) Add in a little bit of cheddar cheese and mix with the pasta. This will give the casserole a little bit more cohesiveness when it's done. When that's done, cover the top of the pasta mixture with cheddar.

6) The crust can be made from either Italian bread crumbs or cracker crumbs. I prefer breaking up thin, crunchy water crackers in Ziploc bags, then pouring it all over the top to create a very crunchy crust. We used Italian bread crumbs tonight and it was quite good.

7) Bake for 20 minutes, or a tad longer if you want a toastier crust.

8) Eat.


Marc Jacobs Special Items

I've avoided the shopping mecca on Melrose partly because parking is a mess, and largely because the prices are often out of reach (except when there is a sale). Then I read a post about the Marc Jacobs special items, and I became intrigued. I checked out the website and found a couple of things I could use, but I did not know when I would find time to go.

This morning, my friend invited me over for a brunch in her home. After I left, I figured I'd make a slight detour to the Marc Jacobs store on Melrose. As expected, parking was very hard to find, but I did find spaces about 4-5 blocks to the south. I got what I wanted and went home.

The big tote is something I'm thinking of saving as a gift for someone. The bracelets are just great for my small wrists. As for the rubber heart tote, it is just the most adorable thing. The leather version of it from the main line is cute, but prohibitively expensive and not at all practical (because the leather pieces are stiff and get in the way of carrying it on the shoulder). The rubber tote is just right for me, and the label inside indulges my sense of humor. I'm glad I snagged one before they ran out.

[Outfit of the day: Forever 21 tunic with side twist, Express tights, vintage boots, Marc by Marc Jacobs ring (which I already had before today), Marc by Marc Jacobs Latin phrase bracelets, Roots messenger bag.]



When I had to stay that extra night in Phoenix, I had to go out an get another shirt to sleep in because whatever I brought with me was just too warm. Luckily, a local had given some shopping advice. I headed over to Chandler Fashion Center in Chandler, AZ to get that shirt and some dinner.

I could have just bought a cheap t-shirt, since I just needed something to sleep in, but I didn't want to buy something that I wasn't going to wear a lot once I got home. Luckily, the Gap had exactly what I needed and wanted. I found this lovely red-orange top on clearance for $11. The sleeves and gatherings on the shoulders are just amazing for something cheap. The color is so vibrant, and the fabric is soft and comfortable like a t-shirt. In the end, I only paid $1.07 for it, since I had a $10 certificate on me. Even the salesman found it incredulous.

I also got a pair of checkered tights from Nordstrom. It was something that I've been wanting since last week, when I saw a random stranger wearing it. I've never stopped someone to ask them where they got something, but I felt compelled to do so that time. The person was nice enough to tell me that she bought the tights from Nordstrom. Sure enough, that was where I found them. It also helped that Arizona's sales tax is lower than California's, which is going up and up due to the fiscal crisis.

Both pieces are rather dramatic, but I really wanted to wear them together. That's exactly what I did today, and indeed, they belong together. I also wore a light black coat with a Peter Pan collar for most of the day, since June Gloom has taken over the California skies and it feels like Autumn.

[Gap top, secondhand pencil skirt from clothing swap, Hue tights, Ciao Bella booties. Not shown: Alice Ritter for Nave coat.]



Just got back from another work trip, this time from Phoenix, AZ. It was quite a challege, both professionally and sartorially. Deciding what to pack was rather difficult, since the weather of the two places I shuttled between could not be more different--it's in the 60s in LA, while the rental car's thermometer measured 95-97 in Phoenix (and I was actually told that is actually "nice weather" and "unseasonably cool" for this time of the year, which is usually in the triple digits). On top of that, I had to stay an extra day, which I didn't plan for.

For my work outfits, I made do with everything I brought with me. Good thing I travelled with an extra pair of shoes and a pair of flip-flops (for walking around my hotel room). The footwear really helped make the outfits look different. The only reason why I actually had to shop was because my PJs kept me too warm, and I had to find something lighter to sleep in during the second night. I ended up finding something fabulously great for $1.07. More on that next time.

Here's my wardrobe remix, starting from the time I left the office and headed straight for the airport. I decided to wear flats to make security checks easier, and kept the pumps in my duffle. I had planned out my work outfit for the second day, but the post-work outfit (on Day 1) and the Day 2 work outfit were improvisations.

[Items remixed: F21 coat, Vivienne Westwood Red Label drapey blouse, Express tank, Citizens of Humanity Catalina jeans (almost forgot I had them; they were so comfortable for the flight), Bloch London flats, BCBG green sleeveless top, Forever 21 pants, Calvin Klein pumps, Bobbi Brown for Havianas flip-flops, Issac Mizrahi for Target cardigan.]

I'm just glad to be home.



The decoration and arrangement of personal space has always been a work in progress. I've never been able to afford redoing an entire room at a time, nor did I want to. Shelves, furniture, and other knicknacks were acquired piecemeal and swapped out over time. I have not done any major overhauls until now.

Over the last few weekends, I have been on a mission to make more efficient use of my space. Much of my furniture and equipment carried over from my college days. While they worked really well for the space I had back then, they do not work efficiently with the space and lifestyle now. One particular corner of my room could be put to better use, since things did not fit together very well, leaving awkward patches of empty spaces in between. An old computer cart held many parts for my desktop computer, but because I have a laptop now, I don't use that computer much. To make matters worse, the CPU doesn't fit on the cart, so it takes up even more space right next to it. In the meantime, more books and papers accumulated throughout the years, and I didn't have enough shelves to organize them. Frustration ensued.

I was seriously spurred to action over the Memorial Day weekend, when I went to visit my family and saw the Ikea circular. A couple of pieces of furniture--the Poang chair (which I have always wanted, because it is so comfortable and portable) and a big bookshelf--were hugely discounted, and I could actually get both of them together for less than a hundred bucks. I ran off to Ikea to get them, even though I had no one to help me carry the heavy boxes. I somehow managed to stuff them in my car and drove them home (this time, I had help carrying them indoors).

Once I got everything home, the first thing I did was to get rid of as many old, useless papers as possible; new shelves can only hold so much. After that long process was completed, I finally moved on to assembly. The chair was easy to assemble, but putting together the bookshelf was like a shipbuilding exercise--I had rotate the half-finished bookcase to push the pieces together, and scramble up and down a bench to get to the higher shelves. In the end, all the trouble was worth it, as the bookshelf was everything I needed. It does triple-duty as my nightstand, bookshelf, and counterspace for working. The old nightstand was moved elsewhere in the room, where it was a better fit and continued to hold a lot of things. I got rid of the old rolling computer station altogether and put the chair in its place, while the desktop CPU was put into the problematic corner. The computer keyboard is plunked on top of the CPU instead of taking up desk space. The desktop monitor was placed on top of the bookshelf, but I have arranged the wires in such away that it could be moved off the shelf if I need more counterspace to work with. I LOVE the fact that the counter is bathed in sunlight--I've always wanted a workspace in natural light, but not a desk of the size I needed.

The bookshelf is a workhorse--I have many books and papers crammed in. From an aesthetic standpoint, it would have been nice to have some empty space. Even though it's wishful thinking, I tried to turn a few select shelves into little exhibits of sorts:

(I made this years ago.)

(Empty CD spools turn out to be great for holding bangles.)

(This is actually a tissue holder; the tissue comes out of the top of the volcano. The big plushy thing also is great for concealing a bunch of papers underneath...hehe...)

Another thing that I have desperately needed was a proper desk--the folding table that I have been using has always been too small. A friend of mine is moving and gave me his. It is beyond awesome (the table, not the moving away)--not only is it a lot bigger and sturdier than my old table, the color scheme works with everything else I have. It is tall enough such that I can tuck my rolling cart of crafting materials underneath, thereby saving even more space.

I also used the wall to help free up some floor space. Many of my beads are stored in box of small plastic drawers, which I bought from the Container Store. The color-sorted set-up is something of an objet d'art in of itself, so hanging it up was a no-brainer. It just took me a while to get around to it and find the right place for it. The right place is finally available. It is right at home in the midst of rectangular forms.

This isn't a new decorating idea, but I just love the vintage repro notecards sent to me by a friend. I framed one of them, and left the other sitting next to a bamboo steamer full of necklaces.

It's amazing what wide open spaces does to the psyche. It brightens up my mood, and it feels great to come home and sink into a comfy chair. Today I dressed comfortably to hang out around the house and hammering away at the wall so that the bead drawers could be hung up. I nearly blended in with the neutral-colored furniture and accessories.

[Cris striped tank layered over sheer Nation LTD burnout tank, Park Vogel sheer hoodie, Gap skirt.]