Monday, November 11, 2019

Life Lately


I did in fact end up taking that whirlwind international business trip I mentioned. The entire trip - flight time and waiting time at the airport included - took up a little less than 48 hours in total. What an adventure! The travel-related exhaustion didn't really catch up with me until the weekend. 

Here are some of the small things that have been on my mind recently:

Money-Related Podcasts

I've been listening to a few new-to-me personal finance-oriented podcasts lately. My preference in this genre is for podcasts that talk more about the personal stories behind how different people manage their money or how they got into a particular financial situation, rather than about more technical details or how-tos. Essentially, I enjoy content like the more money-centric episodes of Death, Sex & Money. In that vein, I've been enjoying the recently debuted She Makes Money Moves by Glamour and iHeartRadio and also the This is Uncomfortable series by Marketplace. There was also a brief season of the Refinery29 Money Diaries podcast, which is also pretty good, though it's from quite a while back and was over too soon.

Out of the episodes I've been listening to in the past week or two, the most unique and fascinating one was probably this recent Death, Sex & Money episode, about someone who got into the debt collection business, found she was quite good at it, and was eventually prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission and New York Attorney General. The ultimate conclusion of that prosecution was a settlement that included a lifetime ban from the industry and a multi-million fine that she can never hope to pay off. Very interesting, though the interview subject is not the most sympathetic figure, I don't think.

Ring Wearer

Prior to my recent engagement, I'd never spent much time wearing rings. I must say, it takes a little bit of getting used to. I find that it bumps against hard surfaces - mostly my desk - somewhat frequently, and then I worry about whether I might actually damage the stone. That makes me glad I never bought one of those opal rings I was thinking about a few years ago, as I probably wouldn't have taken good enough care of it. I sometimes look at used opal rings on TheRealReal, and I've seen stones that aren't looking too well. For instance, this one had a noticeable scratch!

I also found that I prefer not to wear my ring during long flights. On one of my many recent flights, my finger swelled so much that the ring got stuck! (I'd eaten a fair bit of salty food that day, and it was a red-eye flight, which makes it a bit easier to get dehydrated during.) The swelling went down after we landed, and I was able to take my ring off shortly after without resorting to any special tricks

Monday, November 4, 2019

Link List: On a Business Trip (or Not)

I recently got to hang out with my friend's adorable husky while I was on vacation. Those scratch mark-looking things on the floorboards aren't doggie claw marks, they're an intentional design choice made by a previous owner of the home! I was not the first person to ask about that...

As you read this, I might be on an international business trip, or I might not. I won't know if I'm actually taking this trip until the eleventh hour, less than 24 hours in advance of the flight (for which a refundable itinerary was booked).

It's a bit difficult to explain how this scenario came about. The work I would be doing is legitimately urgent and important, but it might also not ultimately be necessary, depending on how certain things turn out. One can understand why I've generally been a bit stressed, and also a bit too preoccupied to write much of great substance here! 

I've had so many ideas recently for more long-form posts, including about the legal industry - with a particular focus on the quirks of biglaw - and about personal finance. But, alas, I also have no time to write for fun. And sometimes, when I manage to put together a substantial draft for one of my bigger ideas, I lose steam when I get to the last few paragraphs. Maybe I'll be able to write more when things finally calm down again at the office, but there's no real chance of that until December at the earliest. 

1. // This may only be of interest if you're curious about fashion/lifestyle blogging as an industry - all signs point to it being a somewhat fading segment of social media-based business, when compared to ones based more on Instagram or other social media platforms - but I really enjoyed Carly the Prepster's recent interview on the Bad on Paper podcast. This also wasn't the first time that Carly has been refreshingly transparent about the business side of her work, she's done a few detailed posts about such topics, including a very recent and candid Q&A. Oh, and back in the earliest days of r/blogsnark, she did an informative Q&A there too, which included some details about her yearly revenue at the time. (I also linked that r/blogsnark Q&A back in late 2016.) 

I related to a lot of what she said in her podcast interview, maybe to the degree where it's a bit weird that I feel that way, since our backgrounds and professions are so, so different. Anyway, I highly recommend the podcast episode if you're interested in fashion/lifestyle blogging as an industry.  

2. // Speaking of other topics I have so many thoughts about that I could write an entire other blog post - or two - about them, if I only had the time: I recently got off the library waiting list for Jia Tolentino's book of essays, Trick Mirror (affiliate link), which I loved. She's a brilliant writer, and I adore just about everything she publishes. I hadn't realized that she and I are basically the exact same age, and so we had some of the same internet-based experiences growing up. (Did anyone else also make their own websites on Angelfire or Geocities back in the day?) Though of course, she's a lot more eloquent in describing those experiences than I am, and she was also consistently more savvy and hip about everything internet and pop culture-related than I was. 

One of the essays in her book was excerpted into that "Athleisure, Barre and Kale" article in The Guardian, which went a bit viral. Among other places, people discussed the essay at great length over at Corporette and r/blogsnark. Having read both versions of that essay, I think the book version is much better, and is more clear in addressing the deeper themes she's getting at. 

3. // I enjoyed this article over at The Fashion Law about consumer fatigue with regards to buying large quantities of clothing and other changes in the clothing retail landscape. Are these trends - particularly the apparently increasing popularity of clothing rental services - ones you've noticed amongst your friends and peers?

I do know that a lot of clothing companies, including Ann Taylor - of all the unlikely places - have dabbled in trying to start a rental service. I've also had friends who've briefly tried things like Rent the Runway Unlimited when they had quite a few different weddings to attend in quick succession, but I don't know anyone who would use a clothing rental service in the long term. 

Did any of you read Jia Tolentino's The Guardian essay when it was first posted? What did you think? I noticed that reader responses were a bit more divided than I expected, though I do understand why. I also didn't find that particular piece as brilliant and sharp as I usually find her other writing, in part because I couldn't relate to being a frequent consumer of barre classes (I took a few classes once, and loathed it) or athleisure (doesn't fit my lifestyle, or my tastes in clothing). Though I do eat an excessive and embarrassing quantity of Sweetgreen, so I can vouch for how her description of the spirit in which a NYC office-dweller might opt to go to Sweetgreen is... disturbingly accurate. And if you listened to Carly's podcast interview, please let me know what you thought! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

October 2019 Shopping Reflections


October has been fairly shopping-heavy for me. Things have remained consistently hectic at the office - outside of when I was on vacation - and I keep wanting to browse online shops late in the evening after work as a way of unwinding and de-stressing after a long day. Not the greatest habit, I know. It hasn't (yet) resulted in my actually ordering too many things to try on and potentially keep, but the risk is certainly there. 

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I'd say that one of this months' purchases, the Kate Spade "Lana" loafers in a croc-embossed "cherrywood" shade, was an indirect product of those work stress-driven online window-shopping impulses. As I explained last month, my sudden interest in the trend of colorful croc-embossed leather came about that way. At the time, a pair of shoes seemed to be the most likely way I'd indulge in that trend, in part because I don't currently own many shoes suitable for warmer weather; I grind them down so quickly with frequent - or unfortunately, sometimes with not-so-frequent - wear. 

This month's other purchases, though, have been much longer in the making. Starting last winter, because of an office policy change that put the kibosh on jeans for casual Fridays, I became interested in looking for a pair of black pants in more casual, comfortable materials. The sole purpose of these pants would be to wear on casual Fridays at work during the colder seasons. One idea was for something from an athleisure brand, possibly a pair of Athleta Wander pants or something similar. 

I never did get around to shopping for something for those pants last winter. Pants shopping is generally such a chore when one is quite short and also has shorter-than-average legs, such that most "petite"-sizing pants are still a little too long. I could never get up the energy to start trying things on last winter. And as soon as the weather warmed up, I lost interest completely. Now that the weather's cooling down again, it was time to resume the search. 

I had observed that solid black denim appeared acceptable for casual Fridays under the new policy, so that was the direction I ultimately went in. Between this month's purchase and the source of my current pair of skinny jeans (similar), it seems that Gap jeans fit me best. I also tried on practically every similar design at Madewell (the 9'' mid-rise skinny jeans in ISKO stay-black were my favorite of the bunch) and Everlane, but the Gap ones looked best on me by far. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $403.57)
  • Elizabeth Suzann Ella Slip Dress in silk crepe, navy - $225.00 - (discontinued) - This dress has been on my main shopping list Pinterest board more or less since I started using it, for nearly a year. But I currently have plenty of summer dresses for the weekend that are still in good condition, so there was no real room for ordering it anytime soon. Then the company announced that the entire Ella product line would be discontinued, so I felt like it was "now or never," if I wanted it. (I like the neckline on the Ella much better than the necklines on the replacement designs, the Petra and the Polly.) The Elizabeth Suzann ("ES") silk crepe is nice, noticeably thicker and a bit more substantial than the Grana, Madewell, Everlane-ish silk I'm more accustomed to. Texture-wise, the ES silk has a little more stiffness than the Equipment silk blouses I've gotten at significant discount in the past
  • Kate Spade Lana Loafers, cherrywood - $138.60* - I had a slightly strange experience when deciding on these: I originally ordered both this Lana loafer (Bloomingdales was price-matching a sale at Kate Spade) and the Darien loafer from Kate Spade directly, both of which were supposed to be the same "cherrywood" shade. But the Darien loafer was a completely different color! On both websites, the "cherrywood" shade looks like a deep, somewhat multidimensional red with uneven shading to give it texture. Instead, the Darien loafer was this one-dimensional, very flat-looking mauve shade, not remotely like the website photo. Whereas the color of the Lana loafer on the website is accurate to what I actually received. How very strange! Has that ever happened to you, where the sample photographed for the retailer's website must not have looked at all like the actual product? Another note: This may be my first pair of shoes with a leather sole - which does feel a bit fragile - so I may need to take these to the cobbler before I wear them out, and ask them to add a protective layer of rubber. 
  • Gap Mid-Rise True Skinny Jeans, black rinse - $41.97 - All I wanted from this purchase was a pair of solid black skinny jeans that fit me well and had no fading or distressing or other design flourishes. Because Gap skinny jeans appear to suit my height and body shape the best,  based on each time I've shopped for jeans in recent memory, this pair fit the bill exactly.
*Indicates that price includes sales tax.

Going into November, the main thing on my mind shopping-wise will be holiday gifts for K and his parents. As I've somewhat sheepishly mentioned, my own immediate family takes an extremely unsentimental - but arguably practical - approach to gift-giving: The recipient selects their own gift, and might even go so far as to order it for themselves, in which case they receive reimbursement from the giver. K's family does holiday gifts the more traditional way, surprises all around. I enjoy participating in that family tradition, but it can be a little stressful trying to pick good and useful gifts. My gift selections for his parents have been a bit hit-or-miss over the years. I've had a few smashing successes, but also a few real duds, unfortunately.

Are you thinking ahead to holiday gifts for family and friends? Any good ideas for gifts this year? If you have a "business casual" workplace that observes "casual Fridays," are jeans allowed? I suspect that many business casual offices in various industries out there, in particular in non-NYC localities, generally allow jeans on at least some occasions. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Outfit Post: A Slightly Unusual Look

Necklace: Alighieri "La Fortuna" necklace
Necklace: Alighieri "Initial Spark" necklace
Dress: Elizabeth Suzann "Ella" slip dress, size M (discontinued)

Now here's an outfit I'm not sure I'll repeat: I originally wore it out of the house with a pair of black tights on, and it felt like a strange, extremely conservative-looking outfit from the waist down, since all the more modern, slightly edgier-looking details were only visible from the waist up. (I also wore my Alighieri "Surreal" earrings, which are the biggest pair of earrings I own, though they're not actually that big.) I still enjoyed wearing this outfit, it's very comfortable and relaxed, but it does feel like an unusual look for autumn weather. Silk slip dresses are just too associated with summer in my mind, and the dress does look a little odd with tights on underneath.

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This post also serves as a spoiler for this month's shopping reflections post, as this Elizabeth Suzann ("ES") "Ella" silk slip dress - recently discontinued - is new to my wardrobe. The company has now replaced the Ella series with two sets of designs, the round-neck "Polly" and the v-neck "Petra" families. I've had an Ella silk slip dress pinned on my main shopping list Pinterest board for most of this year, but I don't think I would have been ready to order one anytime soon. At the moment, I have plenty of other summer dresses in my closet that are all in fairly good shape, including ES's linen Georgia dress from June. It was only when I saw the brand's announcement on Instagram that they were discontinuing the Ella items that I decided to move forward, as it was "now or never." I received this dress just after I got back from my recent vacation. 

Adding to the relative conservativeness of this look, I had my hair up in a loose bun held in place by one of those Ficcare hairclips that I've been using all summer, since I bought them in June. I always feel very buttoned up when I wear my hair that way. (It's a very easy way to style my hair for work.) 

So yes, I'm not sure I'll be wearing this outfit again during the cooler seasons. I really wanted to try wearing my new ES Ella dress out, and this was the only way I could think to do it now that it's starting to cool down here in NYC. We're currently having a few weeks of trench coat weather here.