Monday, July 15, 2019

Link List: The Farewell

This past weekend, K and I watched The Farewell, the new film from director Lulu Wang, starring Awkwafina. I hadn't realized that it was only released in four theaters nationwide last weekend, so I guess we were very lucky to be able to see it! The movie is really good, all the actors and actresses are excellent, especially Awkwafina. Although the subject matter is quite sad, with clear parallels to things that have happened in my own family, there are also surprising moments of levity. 

1. // I couldn't imagine creating a piece of art that's so personal, it must be incredibly nerve-wracking to see how audiences will react. This article in The Atlantic about Lulu Wang and the movie is great. One particular quote from the director was especially poignant, I thought, and really captured something I think about whenever I recommend something that speaks to facets of the Asian-American experience I find familiar and that resonate deeply with me: 
“I was just really hoping people didn’t hate it, because it is so personal, and it is my family. If they hated it, then they hate us, in a way, you know?”
That's even a sentiment I've expressed, though it was only buried deep in the footnotes of a post focused on something else

Whenever I recommend Kathy's novel Family Trust (affiliate link), I always do so with some trepidation because it's about people so much like me, my parents, and the community I grew up in. It's not exactly the same (there are some substantial differences, including in socioeconomic class), but before I read her novel, I would never have dreamed of seeing something so much like my lived experience depicted in a creative work, one that was receiving a fair amount of positive buzz and attention. To the extent that anyone out there found the characters in the novel absolutely loathsome or completely irredeemable, I would take it a bit personally. Such a strong negative reaction would suggest to me that the reader might not be inclined to show empathy to people a lot like like my parents and I, and that would make me sad. 

2. // Because I so recently wrote about my past notebook-hoarding habits (which did not go hand-in-hand with actually using said notebooks), I was a bit tickled when I saw that Vox's The Goods recently published an article about that exact phenomenon, of how difficult it often is for people to use up their notebooks and journals:
“A new, unused, good-looking notebook represents pure potential. The words we inscribe into this beautiful notebook will be words of pure genius, we tell ourselves,” Korkki says. “A used notebook is sullied — it shows how we attempted to achieve something impressive and fell short. [] I hate to continue writing in a journal I have previously abandoned months or even years before because that journal represents the ‘old’ me. A new journal represents the new me, who will always be disciplined and inspired.” 
But what about actually finishing the notebook once you’ve started? 
Korkki believes that “people lose steam because the idea of perfect writing in their heads never matches what they end up putting on the page, and they become discouraged.” 
I can certainly relate to all that! It's only now that I've accepted that notebooks have the most utility to me when I'm not too "precious" about them, and when I prioritize using them frequently over needing the words I put in them to be particularly high quality (or to be done in especially neat handwriting), that I actually can use them up. With my writing and journaling style, anything I handwrite tends to be in a very stream-of-consciousness style, and I never really go back to read over it. Once I've written out whatever I was thinking, the words are no longer as meaningful to me. 

3. // I was glad to see that one of my favorite bloggers, previously at To Universe, with Love, is back and newly blogging at Of a Certain Vintage. Recently, Luxe did a good entry about the importance of knowing one's values when making money-related decisions. In some ways, at least to me (a major homebody and also a fairly shy introvert), it was also an entry about introversion, about choosing not to do (or spend money on) certain kinds of social outings. 

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4. // There are a few small items from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale that I have bought in the past, and that I think could be a good deal: I got these Nordstrom-branded cubic zircona stud earrings last year, on Kathy's recommendation. They're a solid choice, and more importantly for their being a good value, Nordstrom does not seem to discount them at any other time of year. 

A lot of the more interesting items in the sale are from the beauty section: I recently bought one of those Slip silk pillowcases to see if it would help reduce the tangles and split ends my hair's been prone to. (It helps noticeably, but it definitely isn't a miracle product either. I'm satisfied with my purchase, but I won't really be able to compare it to any other silk pillowcase because I don't plan to buy any others to try.) Nordstrom is offering sets of two Slip pillowcases at a substantial discount, in white or beige

Monday, July 8, 2019

An Infatuation With Good ~50 GSM Paper

One of my old vices - small-ish in total cost, but unfortunately maybe not that small in resulting waste over many years - from before I started this blog and before I started examining my spending habits more carefully, was buying up notebooks and journals that I'd then proceed to write or sketch in for only a few pages at most before moving on to the next book. Happily, things have changed quite a bit since then. I've cut down significantly on that habit of overbuying notebooks and have started actually using up the ones I have in their entirety.

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My KonMari-style decluttering (including of my desk and bookshelf) back in early 2015 was enough to teach me (among many other sobering lessons) not to wastefully accumulate notebooks anymore, given my horrible track record with actually using them. And when I returned to the private sector in late 2017, I learned that I actually could stick with and use up a notebook after all, utilizing a somewhat bullet journal-like system for keeping track of my to-do lists and other notes. I spent approximately a year and a half filling up my A5-sized Leuchtturm notebook with dot-grid pages, writing in it just about every day. Through that, I trained myself to be a lot less "precious" or finicky about how I used my notebooks, learning to not feel a little anxious, like I'd permanently marred a once-clean and perfect notebook - making me want to pull out a new one instead - if I made spelling or other errors, or if my handwriting wasn't always neat, or if I needed to cross some things out.

Looking back, I'd actually mostly stopped with my bad habit of over-buying and under-using notebooks and journals while I was in law school, I suppose because school and internships were keeping me busy. At the time, there wasn't any appeal to the idea of doing any more writing for fun in addition to what I needed to do for school and work. Plus, relying on digital solutions like Google Calendar proved to be far more practical than keeping a hard-copy planner while I was in law school. Once at my first job, a combination of my work calendar in Outlook and my personal Google Calendar was more than enough for scheduling purposes. And for a time, I added on the Wunderlist app as a way of keeping track of both months-out long-term deadlines and also small, immediate things I wanted to remember day-to-day.

Though I eventually did buy some smaller Rifle Paper Co. notebooks later on at my first workplace, to keep a separate and more condensed list of upcoming deadlines and important tasks, when my note-taking system on the firm-provided legal pads grew a little too haphazard and voluminous to be a good system for that purpose. (I take super-wordy, stream-of-consciousness-style notes at meetings or when I'm researching and planning out how to write something work-related.)

Much more recently, I might be slightly finding my way back to my old weakness for collecting pretty stationery, now that I think I've finally learned how to be fully committed to actually using it all up. The resurrection of this quirk of mine likely began with my trip to Japan last September, as stores there really do have the most wonderful selection of stationery.

It was in Japan that I finally had the chance to handle one of those popular Hobonichi Techo planners. While I ultimately tore myself away from them because a pre-printed planner just wouldn't be functional for me, I had become quite taken with the texture of the 52 GSM Tomoe River Paper used in the Hobonichis. That paper was lovely and smooth (but not too smooth and almost slippery, the way the Clairefontaine-made paper in Rhodia notebooks feels to me), and also much lighter and thinner than that of any other notebook I'd ever used, while still being reputed to be a high-quality paper on which most inks and pens would not bleed through. People even color in pictures or paint with watercolors on the pages of their Hobonichi planners, and the paper's supposed to hold up!

Friday, July 5, 2019

A Year Later: The Shoes of Spring/Summer

Outside of my trusty FitFlops, the vast majority of the shoes I currently wear in the warmer seasons are approximately a year old. I bought my trusty Sam Edelman Loraine loafers in black leather (now on sale in limited sizeslast May, the same month I bought my somewhat impractical Soludos llama slip-on sneakers in pale pink canvas (discontinued, but discounted in navy blue or burgundy velvet). I'd bought my M.Gemi Felize in gold shimmer-effect leather that March (discontinued, similar gold leather). I also bought a pair of Rothy's Points last June, and was really hoping they'd be as durable for me as they are for many of my colleagues, such that I'd still be wearing them now. But alas, that was not to be, and I got barely a few months of heavy use from them before they started developing holes in the outer edges, the way all other ballet flats also tend to do on me.

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That was a lot of shoe shopping in just a few short months last year, but part of my rationale was that I wanted enough pairs that I wouldn't need to wear the same ones two days or more in a row, in hopes of getting more longevity from my shoes than I did before. Now that I've had most of my spring/summer shoes for a year (the Sam Edelman loafers also get worn in fall/winter, but not the rest), I thought it was a good time for an update on how these shoes were doing, whether I was actually getting a longer lifespan from them than before. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the styles I choose, or my wide feet and my manner of walking, or because I don't yet do much work to maintain my shoes, this update won't sound too impressive or exciting. While I don't think I'll need any new shoes for spring/summer this year, I don't expect that the shoes I currently have for those seasons will last too much longer into next year, particularly if I need my shoes to be presentable-looking at work.

Sam Edelman Loraine loafers, black leather: These have gotten the most wear by far, as I also use them frequently in fall-winter, so long as there's not too much slush and ice on the ground. I've gotten them reheeled once, within the first three months, but they haven't needed another visit to the cobbler since, though they'll need another trip there soon. In terms of physical condition and sturdiness, these loafers are holding up fairly well, having only accumulated a few small scuffs, just normal wear and tear. As I observed when I bought them, they're made of a very soft, pliable leather which makes them fairly comfortable if they fit your feet well, but likely isn't as good for their durability. In terms of aesthetics though, the leather is starting to look quite worn-in and dull because I haven't done anything to maintain them, outside of the one time I got them reheeled. (Not sure if this is the type of thing shoe polish is good for, as I'm completely clueless about shoe care and maintenance!) 

If I'm not able to learn how to maintain these loafers better, then I'm not sure how much longer they'd stay presentable-looking for work. It'd be a pity if I couldn't spiff up the leather a bit and get them looking better, since they've otherwise proven to be comfortable and sturdy. One additional note: From my experience with the gold glitter version, which are made of fabric rather than leather, the fabric ones are not as durable. A rip developed last month long one of the seams on one of my gold glitter loafers, and I'd generally only been wearing them once a week since I got them, so they hadn't seen anywhere near as much heavy use as my leather ones, which have not had this problem. 

M.Gemi Felize, gold shimmer-effect leather (similar): I'm very careful with these and never wear them out if there's any chance of rain, so they generally only end up getting used once a week, a little less often this year because we had a rainy start to the summer. I'd never before owned a pair of driving moccasin-style loafers with rubber pegs instead of an actual sole on the bottom, and I was a little concerned these shoes would wear out very quickly, but they haven't been too terrible on that front. It was only towards the end of last summer that some of the rubber pegs near the heel started getting close to being so worn down that the leather on the bottom of the shoe would start rubbing against the ground soon. The outer edge of my right shoe is also starting to rub against the sidewalk a little, thanks to my wide feet and the way I walk, though it isn't too close to developing a hole yet, it's just that some of the gold shimmer-effect on the surface has started to rub off. I think these shoes will last through part of next summer if I continue wearing them once a week-ish, though not too much longer than that.

As someone who doesn't have remotely adventurous tastes in shoes, I continue to find M.Gemi's business model perplexing, because it seems to be so focused on constantly developing trendy new styles, colors, and leather textures, including the shimmer effect on my loafers. They so rarely stock their more classic designs, like this Felize or the similar Pastoso, in neutral shades of leather. (I continue to resolutely avoid suede shoes of all kinds because I think they wouldn't do well on NYC's super-grimy sidewalks.) Even if M.Gemi's bread and butter is weekly releases of limited runs of exciting new styles, I suppose I'd imagine that it should still be a no-brainer to also consistently stock more classic, neutral shoes as well, since I'd have assumed there'd always be a market for those more "boring" designs, the kind that almost never go on sale from other brands either.

Soludos llama slip-on sneakers (navy velvet, burgundy velvet): Similar with the Felizes, I also try not to wear these out if there's even the faintest chance of rain. I'm almost more careful with these than the Felize because the pale pink canvas is so prone to getting dirty! I ended up wearing these about once a week last year, but have only used them once this year because we had such rainy and unpredictable weather for a while. As with the Sam Edelman loafers, when it comes to the physical condition of these slip-ons, they're holding up well. The only flaw they've taken on now is aesthetic, that they're already looking noticeably dingy despite infrequent wear, as can be expected due to their light color. With the llama applique and the cork-looking insole, I doubt these could be machine-washed like some other sneakers.

With slip-on sneakers like these, I'd expect them to be durable enough to last through a good long period of frequent wear, at least if they weren't a color that's prone to showing dirt and dust. I suppose I should have learned from that mostly-white pair of Keds I wore a lot back in 2015 to 2016 that slip-on sneakers in light-colored fabric are just not a very functional choice when one lives in NYC and does a ton of walking! I'd be better off with something like the black leather Vans I wore from 2016 to 2018.

Rothy's Points, gray birdseye: Well, I don't have these anymore because they weren't capable of enduring a full year of frequent use at my hands! It was such a big disappointment too, because they're not cheap, and they do also have some noticeable advantages over most other ballet flats I've ever tried. So many of my women colleagues really love these and have been wearing theirs frequently, including on their commutes, for ages, certainly well over a year. I'd hoped I would have a similar experience. Alas, I think it's just the way I walk, I grind down almost all of my ballet flat-style shoes with remarkable speed, in as little as a month or two of frequent wear. On me, these Rothy's points lasted around three months of 3-4x/week wear before they started developing holes in the outer edges.

I would still recommend Rothy's to other people who don't destroy their ballet flats the way I do. They're remarkably comfortable for a ballet flat, I was able to walk around NYC and stand in them all day most days, which I can no longer do with other ballet flats. I also loved how light and easily packable they are for travel. Being machine-washable (cold water wash and air dry only,  I'm told that any exposure to heat will cause them to shrink) was a huge plus, though because they're made of recycled plastic, they did make my feet sweaty, and the shoes would get quite smelly very quickly between washes. Being plastic and machine-washable, exposure to rain will not cause lasting damage, though I did hate how they felt on my feet when they were damp, so if I got badly rained on during my morning commute, I'd need to switch to other shoes at my desk for the rest of the day. (And they generally wouldn't be fully dry yet by the end of the day, when it was time to head home.)

What does a proper shoe care and maintenance regime, particularly for good leather shoes, look like anyway? I'm eager to learn, and any suggestions would be much appreciated (and of course, the internet provides many easily found and helpful resources for such things, which I'll also look into). Additionally, I'm still daydreaming about someday having a pair of those famous Gucci Jordaan loafers in black leather, after seeing, on another woman while we were both in an elevator, how much sleeker and more chic they looked compared to my well-worn Sam Edelmans. But I wouldn't dare buy a pair of shoes that fancy if I hadn't first learned to take scrupulously good care of them first!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

June 2019 Shopping Reflections

As the months go by this year, I continue to feel as if I'm settling in to a slightly new way of thinking about shopping. The jury's still out when it comes to whether the results will actually look different, of course, but as of this month, I still feel as if my mindset has changed. This isn't a process that's completely without growing pains, however, and I still wouldn't claim to have a particularly noteworthy level of self-discipline about shopping. Regardless, things feel different from 2018. 

Among other things, I'm gradually becoming more accustomed to some purchases being "slow", including in the purely literal sense of the word of needing to wait a few weeks for an item to be made-to-order. I think I've also better internalized the idea that, if an item has the right details and meets my criteria, then it's worth a longer wait. But because I'm super-indecisive sometimes, a longer production time could also mean that I end up not being able to make a decision about something until such a late date that I definitely won't get it until after its season is already over. 

I was maybe still a bit disheartened this month by some of those "growing pains" I mentioned feeling. They felt like the thoughts of a person who might be a little addicted to some aspects of shopping, namely to that sometimes-fleeting excitement of receiving something new-to-me that I think is awesome and beautiful. (There have, of course, been times when I start off with that feeling and still end up realizing, fairly quickly afterwards, that the item actually wasn't as suitable for me as I first thought. So that early excitement can be a deceptive thing!) 

This past month, there were times when I found myself browsing retailers' websites for an extended period, and I felt some real disappointment when I realized that I wasn't going to find anything new to add onto my Pinterest "shopping list". My usual next step was to go back to Pinterest, browse through the section of my "wishlist" dedicated to items I've been thinking about more seriously, only to feel further disappointment that nothing there struck my fancy as something I could order to try on right now. These feelings are so silly, the only real explanation for them is that I'm definitely addicted to something about shopping, likely to the novelty and excitement of getting my hands on something new-to-me. And it's not even like I've been deprived of that feeling recently, given that I've still shopped each month of 2019 so far!

I don't think it's inherently a bad thing to enjoy new-to-me and shiny, pretty things. If I saw something really awesome, for which the price was right, which fit my preferences and criteria, and which I expected would be functional to me for the foreseeable future, I'd totally still buy it.  

But it might not be a great sign that I get wistful about not currently having more new-to-me things that I'd like to think about buying imminently. If the open market isn't currently presenting me with ideas for new items that would actually be functional and useful for me, at the right price for my budget, and that meet all my requirements for whatever category of potential purchase I'm thinking about, I shouldn't feel disappointed! Instead, I could spend that specific time or energy appreciating what I already have, or doing something else that's more productive than, er, wishing I had something new to buy right now, or soon. 

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That faint but sometimes recurrent desire to shop for the sake of novelty or entertainment is something I'll need to keep an eye on. I've at least observed that the feeling of adding a few pins to my Pinterest boards (most recently, on a board dedicated to more fantastical and larger-than-life "Abstract/Runway Inspirations" that I don't think would ever translate to my day-to-day life) can sort of scratch the itch just a little, by giving me the chance to think about something pretty and new, even if it's just pictures. Plus, I always have various wardrobe-maintenance and clothing-care tasks in my queue, including actually making use of that handheld clothes steamer I got from my friend when I traded away my full-size one during my recent bout of free-cycling

Fashion - (TOTAL: $356.46)
  • Elizabeth Suzann Georgia Dress in Midweight Linen, black, OS - $205.00 - As I mentioned last week, I received my Elizabeth Suzann order earlier this month, almost a week ahead of schedule. I've worn my items a few times, and I'm really enjoying them so far, though I still haven't spent quite enough time with them to feel like I can give a detailed assessment. Note that the midweight linen material is a bit too thick and heavy for this to be a "perfect" summer dress for me. When temperatures climb into the upper-70s Fahrenheit under typical NYC summer humidity, I sometimes start feeling a bit overheated in this dress if I'm outdoors wandering for a long period of time. 
  • Elizabeth Suzann Asawa Tie Belt in Midweight Linen, black, OS - $60.00 - I don't think I'd have become interested in the Georgia dress in linen if it weren't for this belt and seeing an Instagram photo of someone in this outfit. While I very much like the idea of voluminous, relaxed-fit items such as the Georgia (everything in this vein looks so comfortable!), I personally think that amount of extra volume is often not suitable for the NYC business casual office environments I'm familiar with. Plus, with linen's natural tendency to wrinkle, the unbelted Georgia would start feeling even more casual. With the belt, I'm comfortable wearing this dress to work on days without formal meetings, though I prefer to keep it mostly to casual Fridays. I find the shape and design of the Asawa fairly unique and special, it transforms the shape of the dress. I like how infinitely adjustable this belt is, and with the texture of the mid-weight linen, it stays in place reasonably well (no real wardrobe malfunction risk). Though I do still find myself slightly repositioning the belt maybe two or three times throughout the day, as the widest part of it sometimes folds down a bit and shifts a little, particularly if I spend most of my day sitting at my desk.
  • Ficcare Ficcarissimo Hair Clip, gold, medium - $40.49* - I had seen Ficcare hair accessories recommended in Corporette comment threads. This was the month I finally decided to try one, now that my hair is more recovered from a recent... situation... with a failed "magic straight" perm, and I can start growing it out and going longer between haircuts again. Because my hair is quite thick, and also because I have essentially zero hair-styling skills, I've always had trouble getting most hair clips or barrettes to stay on. Whomever recommended Ficcare must have said the hair clips were unusually awesome, and that no other brand had worked for them before. With my lack of hair-styling experience, I can't fully vouch for whether that recommendation is entirely true, but I've found this clip to be easy to use. All I know how to do is to twist my hair up; position the resulting twist of hair in a loop towards the middle or lower part of the back of my head; and use the clip to keep the loop mostly in place (which results in what looks like a neat-ish updo from the front, but one that necessarily has some ends of hair sticking out a bit in back). That style stays in place the entire day with both this clip and the Maximas. 
  • Ficcare Maximas Hair Clip, caramel, medium - $50.97* - The price here takes into account a promotional $10.00 "Nordstrom Note" I received out of the blue. After getting my Ficcarisimo early this month, I couldn't stop thinking about the more colorful enamel Maximas clips. I kept going back to both Nordstrom's and Ficcare's website to try and decide which one would best suit my wardrobe only to end up with this fairly neutral "caramel" shade in the end. (And I must say, Nordstrom's photography is much better than Ficcare's, and makes the colors look far more appealing.) Note that finding the right size with both these hair clips is important. With my roughly shoulder-length (sometimes a little longer) and fairly thick, somewhat wavy hair, the "large" Maximas clip is too big for me to style my hair the way I described. The hair falls out of the clip more easily when the clip's too big. The "medium" size of both is about the right size for my hair texture and length.  

*Includes sales tax. 

With the Elizabeth Suzann purchases this month, I should be done with my warm-weather clothing purchases for 2019. There are other technically warm-weather friendly things I'm still thinking about, including the ES Bel Skirt in silk, but I don't think of that skirt as being a summer-only item. Then again, it may be that a longer silk skirt wouldn't have the right look with tights, which I find to be a necessity when wearing skirts and dresses throughout the colder months of the year. 

My one potential weak spot for an item that I see as being definitively "summer-only" comes about as a result of LinenFox's recently debuted bright teal-looking "emerald green" shade, which I think is gorgeous. I don't need any more summer dresses, but I really want one in that color. Except that, after factoring in the naturally wrinkly tendencies of linen; my preference for designs without too much extra volume; and how I prefer a design that would mostly hide my bra straps, I'm not sure any of LinenFox's dresses are guaranteed to be suitable for my tastes. There are a few designs on my "shortlist", but nothing in that group really stands out from the rest of the pack.

Admittedly, I have recently been a bit preoccupied with other shopping that's not for my wardrobe. Specifically, Bloomingdales has two styles of Smythson notebooks on sale: a pale blue Panama notebook with "Notes" embossed on the cover for 30% off and the larger Soho notebook for either 30% or 70% off, depending on the color. (And there's also an extra "buy more, save more" discount for the rest of June, which will be applied upon checkout.) These days, after starting to keep my daily to-do list (in a vaguely bullet journal-like style) and other notes in a hard copy notebook, I'm a lot better about using my fancy stationery than I used to be, so if I ended up getting one of these ultra-fancy notebooks, it'd be a major indulgence, but most likely not a wasted one.

Anyone else sometimes feel that sort of addiction to the novelty or excitement that comes from buying new-to-you things? How does one go about learning how to style one's own hair anyway, without having a patient sibling, friend, or parent willing (and also able, which is not a given) to do the teaching? Youtube tutorials are probably helpful for most people, but alas, I'm truly hopeless when it comes to hair-styling!