Friday, April 28, 2017

April Shopping Reflections

My interview season has finally come to a close and, with that, I'm hoping to get back to writing more regularly. With my commute on top of the normal level of busy for my current job (I've been spending significantly more hours out of the house for work than K at his biglaw firm for months now - many biglaw practice groups have been slow this year) on top of the interviews, I've been worn out. Part of the problem is that I don't think I'm physically capable of fully adjusting to my new sleep schedule. My law firm schedule aligned perfectly with my natural sleep cycle, and moving everything up by two and a half hours has not been fun. I've been on my current schedule for half a year now, and even with the assistance of melatonin, I still have trouble falling asleep every night. 

This was a fairly low-shopping month, which is proper, in light of last month's dramatic spending. I am now $240.91 over budget for the year (($150 x 4) - $555.98 - $154.21 - $94.79 - $35.93 = -$240.91), compared to last month's $354.98, so I'll need a few more low-shopping months to catch up, but I am on the right track. 

In other news, I've been seeing a kind of fancy dermatologist, mostly out of curiosity and because, as a short-term government employee, I briefly am in possession of the best health insurance I'm likely to ever have (biglaw firms are not known for robust health insurance offerings). This will probably be the only time in my life that I can justify regularly seeing a dermatologist for fairly routine care.

Spoiler alert: The dermatologist prescribed some new medications, but I don't think their course of treatment actually works better for me than my most recent over-the-counter CosRx BHA-centric routine (cheapest on Amazon, see my quick review here). Cortisone shots are miraculous, but imperfect, but those are expensive even after insurance. I haven't been reporting on my skincare purchases these past two months, because they've fallen more in the category of medical necessity rather than discretionary purchase while my skin adjusts to new prescriptions. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $35.93) 
  • Ann Taylor Mosaic Lace Shift Dress (only one size left) - $35.93 - I couldn't help but snag this dress when it briefly popped back in stock in my size. I actually have another one in a near-identical color (navy blue rather than this royal blue) from late summer of 2015. I loved that one so much, I wanted a back up. I couldn't tell from the stock photos, but the lace pattern on the 2015 version was different, a bit more delicate. The fabric is otherwise the same cotton and nylon blend for the lace with a polyester lining. The dress is quite light and good for most seasons, even summer (though if the lining weren't polyester, it'd breathe better). I also wear the older dress in cold weather with tights, a cardigan, and a coat. Ann Taylor is currently stocking a lace shift dress in this same cotton-nylon blend in bright pink and steel gray, but in a leaf-patterned lace. Note that this dress runs quite large, though it's also a bit short of hem. I normally am a 4 or 6 regular in Ann Taylor dresses, but a 2 regular gets a "just right" fit for me in this dress. 

Linking up with Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers as usual this month. Please do go check out what everyone else bought this month! 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

March Shopping Reflections

Long time no blog! The interview process, on top of my regular commute and work schedule, has been exhausting. I think it's starting to wind down at last (I'm leaning strongly towards my old firm), so I'll hopefully have more energy to write again in the near future. 

This month involves a bit of a first for me. Throughout the two years-plus of monthly budget posts, I don't think I've ever gone dramatically over budget without having "banked" enough to cover it from previous under-budget months that year. Until now. A few months ago, I mentioned an interest in a new colorful wool-blend coat, though the desire made me feel sheepish (I didn't need-need one) and it didn't pan out. What I hadn't mentioned was that I'd, somewhat relatedly, developed an interest in the Ted Baker wrap coat after seeing it on a few other stylish women in the city. The big sticking point was price. I wasn't seeing any sales on it before most sizes sold out and the sticker price was above the general range of what I'd feel comfortable spending. Then I saw the Ted Baker coat on sale ($384 before tax). Only the oxblood color was available, but they had my likely size. Past experiences with oxblood colored clothing suggested it wouldn't work for me, but nevertheless, I ordered it. I could always take it back to the store.

As for the two pairs of drapey black pants, there was a fleeting turn towards Spring weather here earlier this month that ended up being extremely deceptive. I expect to get a lot of wear from these once the weather warms up, even if they really may push the NYC attorney's business-casual envelope a bit. I'll write more about what motivated those purchases later, but it came out of a desire for more comfortable work clothing. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $555.98)
  • Ted Baker Long Wrap Coat - $418.08* - I was so sure I would be sending this back, but it was just too pretty, and I was fairly confident that this was the best sale price I would get without looking to the secondhand market. The oxblood shade is more purple and less red than other oxblood-colored clothing I've tried, and somehow it works (similar shades have previously just looked wrong on me). Size 3 (the equivalent of an US 8) was the right one to accommodate my chest. The neckline is a bit finicky though, as Julycheee had mentioned about the short version of the coat. 
  • Uniqlo Women Drape Jogger - $29.90 - Because winter returned with a vengeance and remained for most of March, I haven't worn this out of the house yet. On my short for my 5'3'' height legs, these pants are the exact right length, no hemming needed, though they may show a bit less ankle than on the model. 
  • Grana - $108.00** 
    • Silk Ankle Pants - As with the Uniqlo drape jogger, March weather has not allowed me to wear these out yet. I bought the short length, which are exactly right as ankle pants on me. 
    • Women's Oxford Boyfriend Shirt - This was an impulse buy, one I decided on before the Ted Baker coat ate up my budget for the next several months. I've never had a relaxed-fit white button-down that I could see myself wearing with casual outfits (I wre the J.Crew Stretch Perfect Shirt with my suit for interviews when I was in college, but that's a very fitted look and wasn't what I wanted for casual wear). Because I trusted Grana's size measurements and general quality, I thought this was one to try. This kind of shirt for casual wear is a little out of my comfort zone, so we'll see how it works out for me once the weather warms up. 
*Including sales tax. 

**After $20 referral credit, thank you to readers who signed up through my link. If you are a new customer and sign up through my link, you will get 10% off your first order, and I will get $20 Grana store credit for the referral after you purchase. Thank you for your support!

Off-Budget Fashion Purchases 
  • Sam Edelman Tristan pumps - I finally put in an order for the ultraconservative interview shoes I needed. These were the first pair I ordered, and they were comfortable immediately (for the duration of a three hour job interview with walks around the office building halls a few times, which is not always a given) and seem to require no breaking in. At a 3'' heel, they're a bit taller than my previous tallest pair of pumps, so I'm still getting a little used to the height. I my experience, Sam Edelman shoes have a better track record for comfort than Cole Haan ones (the alternatives I would have considered next) so I was fairly confident about keeping these instead of trying others. They're slightly discounted at Zappos, by the way! 

For 2017 so far, I am now $354.98 over budget (($150 x 3) - $555.98 - $154.21 - $94.79 = -$354.98), or over budget by about 2.4 months. This doesn't mean I absolutely cannot shop again until June, as my budget is flexible month-to-month. (I commit to staying under budget for the year, this year at $150 x 12 = $1800, but otherwise I don't sweat it.) This is the most off track I've ever been since I first started doing these posts way back in 2015, though, so I have to be significantly more careful for the rest of the year, at least until my budget starts looking more on track.

Linking up to Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers, as usual, this month. Be sure to go check out what everyone else bought! 

Monday, February 27, 2017

February Shopping Reflections

Lots of  J.Crew the year so far, when it comes to my clothing purchases (though this month's was done on eBay). As with the Ruffle Trim Shift Dress last month, the Presentation Dress (old, seen on other blogs here, here, and here) purchase was inspired by seeing a stranger wearing it out and about. Whereas the time gap between seeing the real life inspiration and ordering the Ruffle Trim Shift Dress was only about two weeks, I waited much longer on this one, almost seven months. I had doubts about whether this style would suit me, but I kept on thinking about it, on quite a few different occasions, so by the time I purchased, I was at least sure that I wouldn't regret it.

I ended up with the 6R in this style (which most people said ran large), though I had been hoping for a 6P or 8P (with, say, Ann Taylor, regular sizing dresses are often best, but with J.Crew, petite sizing works better for me). I'd been looking on eBay on and off without seeing the exact size and color combination I wanted, so when I saw this one, which was close, at a good price, I finally bought it. The 6R works pretty well. I find it right on the edge of snug at the shoulders (as in, there's slightly restricted movement if I reach above my head because of something odd about the sleeve design) and around the chest (a 6P may have been too small), though it's a little roomy in the hips, as is usually the case for me.

This month's other purchases were items I've bought before. I've worn the same cultured pearl earrings close to every single day since I purchased them in early 2015. I've been extremely satisfied with how they've held up. (I've occasionally lost one of the backs, and generally replaced with these sterling silver backs.) I finally lost a earring, and purchasing a replacement was a "must" for me. I've also been working out slightly more frequently and doing laundry a bit less frequently, so it was high time to add a second sports bra to my collection, in the exact same style as my other one.

Fashion - (TOTAL: $154.21) 
  • J.Crew Presentation Dress (old, via eBay) - $40.22* - It's fairly easy to find this dress on eBay, though it's often a little more expensive than the price I paid. I like this dress, though I do find the sleeves odd, as I mentioned above. 
  • Cultured Pearl Earrings, 6.5-7mm, 14k gold posts - $43.99 - Before I first purchased these, I wore cultured pearl earrings on sterling silver posts (exact, it's lower-priced than these), which looked about as nice, but were less durable. One of those pearls fell off the post about a year later, though I glued it back with super glue and kept wearing it for a while, repeating the procedure about once ever two months, until I purchased my first set of these.
  • Panache Underwire Sports Bra - $70.00 - I really like this sports bra, though I'll admit that a large part of why I picked it was that it was the only one that didn't run so small and tight (considering that I had bought them all in my actual bra size) that I could actually wear it comfortably! Note that it still starts out quite snug in the band even if it is "true to size," in my experience. I'm quite busty, enough that I pretty much need both my bikinis and sports bras to come with underwires and in bra sizes, which gets pricey. This sports bra does its job well, including when wear it to run, i.e. for high-impact exercise. 
*Indicates that price included shipping. 

Beauty and Skincare - (TOTAL: $29.23)
  • Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion - $9.39 - Best prices are on Amazon, with the lowest prices generally being from Japan-based sellers. I ordered this bottle in early February, but because of unpredictable free international shipping, it has yet to arrive. This was poorly planned out on my part, as I had already depleted my previous bottle almost entirely by the time I ordered...
  • Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion - $14.40 - ...Which led me to ordering this bottle from a Prime-eligible seller only a week or two later. This is a tried and true holy grail item in my skincare routine, and I can't even count how many bottles I've used up by this point. It's a moisturizing toner, not what most US-based people would describe as a "lotion." I'd imagine that it's suitable for almost all skin types.
  • CosRx Acne Pimple Master Patch - $5.44 - Another holy grail item in my skincare routine, though thankfully not one that I need to purchase quite as often as the Hada Labo lotion. This item helps speed up healing for  certain types of acne, as I explained in this post

I'm a little over budget this month, though not by much, and everything should even out by the end of the year. I'm linking up with Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers this month, as usual. Please do go check out what everyone else bought this month!

Friday, February 24, 2017

(Shopping) Life Lately

Today's post is a quick one, mostly about items I tried on recently. It's been so long since I last interviewed for jobs in earnest, way back in the summer of 2013 before the start of my 2L year, and I had forgotten how exhausting it is!

Alas, I'm finding that the chances of getting a position that I would choose over returning to my previous firm are much slimmer than expected. There's this common wisdom that litigation associates generally have a hard time finding good "exit options" from their original firms, particularly when they're very junior, and I may be experiencing that. I'm also a fairly "average" post-clerkship candidate rather than a superstar, so that's another factor. I loved working with the people at my original firm, so this is no great tragedy, though it does make all this effort feel a bit wasted. 

The upside is that I may well be done interviewing before spring fully sets in, while it's still cold enough for black tights (Uniqlo Heattech when it's around 35 to 40 degrees Farenheit and fleece lined tights when its colder) and my trusty Sam Edelman Petty booties under my skirt suits. I'll be able to put off shopping for interview shoes for another good long while, which is probably for the best, as it's a genre of shoe that brings me very little excitement. 

As you'll soon see in my forthcoming monthly shopping budget post, I only did a little bit of actual clothes shopping this month. I also tried a few items that didn't pan out. I didn't like this J.Crew Cropped Lady Jacket at all (limited sizing, petite sizing no longer available, but judging from the regulars I tried, the petite sizes would have been too cropped on me). The neckline is a little too large and the material is much thicker and heavier than expected. With jackets in this style, I'd want to wear them indoors, like a blazer, but most NYC office buildings have robust enough central heating that a jacket of this weight and thickness would be too warm. 

While doing some off-budget shopping for underthings at Uniqlo (thanks to that misadventure with my laundry), I also tried on the Rayon Flare Long-Sleeve Tee Blouse, but found the sleeves too exaggerated. I shouldn't have been surprised, as I'm generally not sold on the bell-sleeve trend. I've been vaguely in the market all season for machine-washable long-sleeved blouses, whether in polyester or rayon, but nothing I've tried (mostly from Loft or Uniqlo) has worked As for underthings, I feel rather sheepish that I keep going back to Uniqlo, as its solidly "fast fashion", but I've found that their cotton styles (5% spandex) are considerably more sturdy, just as comfy, and a much better value than, say, pairs from Calvin Klein or Natori

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Civil and Appellate Procedure Imbroglio

The United States Supreme Court, via.
I wrote my last entry a few days before I posted it, as is my general habit. Thus, the post was written a few days before legal chaos was about to break loose. We live in strange times, lawyers especially. In my current role, there are restrictions on political activity, political speech, and practicing law, restrictions that I never thought would chafe as much as they do. I was having trouble sleeping, had fitful dreams about court orders not being enforced. Inspiration, blogging-wise, faded, and has been extremely slow in returning.

Without expressing an opinion regarding either electoral politics or the legal merits of issues in active litigation, my thoughts in November about the importance and the near-sacred duty of our judicial institutions now appear... perhaps remarkably prescient. In that general vein, below are several links that I find particularly educational in laying out some of the current issues. Certain links are, it cannot be denied, partisan in their implications, but are offered here only for educational and informational purposes: 
  • "The Quiet Grandeur of the Courts," a New York Times Editorial Board piece, is an elegant explanation of one of the underlying issues in the background of it all. This other opinion piece, by New York Times columnist Charles Blow, is a bit more fiery, but in the same vein. 
  • The Ninth Circuit has posted filed documents and other information regarding the appeal on an official public information page. The news media and twitter have generally been about 15 minutes ahead of this page when it comes to breaking news. Given the status of the case, however, I don't expect breaking news to appear in the next few days.
  • The Western District of Washington case and ensuing Ninth Circuit Appeal is actually in an exceedingly strange and confusing procedural posture, hence the title of this post. It's technical, but in a way that any law student with 1L Civil Procedure under their belt could at least begin to expound on and attempt to unpack. This informative and very accessible piece was written by Sarah Jeong, who graduated law school not long before I did, and I think it does a good job of explaining why it's odd. 
    • P.S. there's one extra step that Jeong's diagram omits. Ninth Circuit rules also allow for one additional stage after en banc review, should it occur,  a "super en banc" if you will. This has never actually occurred in the decades since the rule allowing for it was promulgated. 
  • What happens next? Due to the current procedural imbroglio, it's somewhat unclear. Prior to a Ninth Circuit's judge call to have the case heard en banc, Professor Josh Blackman wrote a post providing a very complete explanation of some of the options. Ensuing events have closed some of the doors he described. (Professor Blackman's more technical post, part 1, regarding the current procedural status of the case is here, but with more editorializing and commentary on what may or may not be procedurally proper or improper.) 
  • Judges rarely, almost never, make public comments that can be construed as directly political. Chief Justice Roberts may, however, occupy an unique position as the head of the Judicial Conference of the United States, as CNN reports. (The generally recognized norm that judges should refrain from political comment may or may not be as sacrosanct as many assume, at least as to the Supreme Court. All that is probably for historians and academics to comment on.) 

Monday, January 30, 2017

January Shopping Reflections

So this ended up being an odd month shopping-wise. I started with good shopping-fast intentions, but had some of my usual sudden and powerful shopping impulses, some of which, thankfully, went away. (Dagne Dover Simone, you’re cute, but no. I don’t need a laptop bag that would be the most expensive bag in my collection.) Some of of the impulses did not leave and I, er, ended up giving in to a J.Crew sale when running another errand, resulting in the purchases below. Spoiler alert, it was a very J.Crew month and I continue to be unable to stick to a shopping fast. Oops. I could try again, but because of upcoming interviews (I still haven't ordered interview shoes), I'd be setting myself up for failure next month. I might revisit the idea of a shopping fast later this year, instead. 

Separately, disaster struck, if you’ll indulge my tendency towards melodrama when it comes to lost property. (In college, someone stole the Longchamp Le Pliage I bought for $80 when the British Pound was weak while I was studying abroad. I cried like a baby and mourned it for weeks. I get emotionally attached to my clothes and accessories.) K and I live in a nice building (the customary rent increase with each lease renewal could price us out next time) where more than half of the apartments have in-unit washers and dryers, so one usually has the communal laundry room entirely to themselves at any given time. It breeds a false sense of security. despite the common knowledge that leaving anything unaccompanied is strictly at your own risk. I’d set a timer, but left my things in the dryer for an extra forty minutes because we were eating. All my nice clothes get line-dried in the apartment, anyway, so it was only a few ratty tshirts, pillowcases, etc. that were in there.

Horror of horrors, someone took about a quarter of my items from the dryer before I got there. All of the underwear that was in there, a few tees, both of the black H&M camisoles that are essential to my slouchy sweater-wearing at work, and enough of my socks to throw off my two weeks between each laundry session equilibrium were all gone. 

Reader, I am bereft. (And also utterly convinced that we have an underwear-stealing pervert in the building.) I may or may not be excessively paranoid. I have been known to have my Gift of Fear instincts kick in when it proves entirely unwarranted. My, shall we say, post-November blues make me a bit more emotional than usual. Nonetheless, I humbly submit that how only a portion of my items were missing (but all the underwear) is suggestive, as is the fact that no one else was doing their laundry at the time, with nothing else in any of the other machines and the time gap being too brief for anyone to have finished their laundry entirely while I was away. Nobody had a legitimate reason to be there but me. This series of events resulted in a few traditionally off-budget purchases of socks and underthings.

Fashion - (TOTAL: $94.79) 
  • J.Crew Ruffle-Trim Shift Dress - $76.80 - I couldn't shake my interest in this after seeing someone wear it, and the J.Crew store I stopped in while running the errand had my size. I tried both a 6R (too big all over and a little too long) and 8P, and the 8P was the way to go. This is the only photo I've seen online of this dress on a real person. It's a more A-line shift on me, given the disparity between my chest and hip measurement on their size chart. To get the fit it has on the model, or on other people, I probably should consider getting it taken in.
  • J.Crew Ribbed Hat with Faux-Fur Pom-Pom (sold out, similar from Ann Taylor) - $17.99 - I wanted this hat way back, when I was thinking about the Cocoon Coat, but never pulled the trigger. I saw it again (the last one in store) and decided that now was the time, as I was still interested. The fur pom-pom is a bit exaggerated in size, making it a bit girlish compared to  my general style. (Extra-large pom-poms are trendy, judging by the number of similar hats I see people wearing in the city.) I think it's cute!

Beauty and Skincare - (TOTAL: $16.95) 
  • CosRx Advanced Snail 96 Miucin Power Essence - $16.95 - This is a refill for something I've been using for a while now. It's a good product, moisturizing and soothing. It has an unusually sticky, gloopy texture that could take some getting used to. Amazon generally has the best price and it's often Prime-eligible from a US-based reseller. 

Linking up with Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers, as usual, this month! Please do go check out how everyone else did.

Have you been able to maintain a shopping fast of whatever length in the past? Any lost or stolen laundry horror stories to make me feel better? (I'll totally get over it, but, good golly, it's just so strange and makes me feel rather creeped out.) 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Ultra-Conservative Interview Shoes for the Junior Professional

In the coming months, I'll be interviewing at a few biglaw firms, as the impending post-clerkship transition makes this an ideal time to explore the job market. I have particular ideas about how one should dress for interviews, which I believe apply to all attorney jobs (clerkship, government, law firm, most public interest). While I enjoy pushing the dress code envelope as much as I can in my day-to-day life at the office (and do so with, say, Vans leather slip-ons at work and super-slouchy sweaters), adherence to conservative business formal dress code rules is necessary for certain occasions, i.e. court appearances and interviews.

For shoes, I have especially nitpicky criteria in mind, some of which are admittedly not universal, and are instead based largely on my own idiosyncratic preferences. The "total package" of my rules may be excessively stuffy by some standards. In no particular order, my ideal interview shoe is:
  • (1) matte leather, not patent, mostly because patent leather is more prone to scuffing, but also partially because of a possibly outdated view that matte leather may be more professional; 
  • (2) a less than 3'' heel, generally around 2.5'' for me, given my clumsiness in heels; 
  • (3) a "regular" heeled pump with a not overly thin stiletto heel, not a wedge; 
  • (4) as much as possible, without extra embellishments like bows or buckles, though a subtle detail like that is ultimately fine; and 
  • (5) while negotiable, likely has an almond toe or, at least, a not-too-pointy toe as I find overly pointy toe boxes uncomfortable and sometimes odd looking with skirt suits.

The last item is not as much of an issue now. I feel like today's pointy toe shoes are generally less dramatic than when I was last looking for a pair of interview heels in 2008-ish. Other rules or guidelines, such as a not-overly low vamp to avoid extremely obvious "toe cleavage" probably also apply, but typically aren't an issue with shoes that meet the other, somewhat "frumpy"-leaning criteria.

That being said, I don't always practice what I preach. I've done maybe half of my legal job interviews in non-compliant shoes. I still own one pair, a patent leather Naturalizer pump with bow detail and stitching all over that mimicked a quilted texture (similar without quilting). It's not as dramatic as it sounds. and I got my summer associateship in those, but they are certainly not compliant. I definitely interviewed for my current clerkship in a pair of suede Cole Haan wedges with a bow detail and patent toe cap (similar in all-matte leather). Things worked out despite how formal these interviews were, which suggests that my criteria for interview shoes are overly restrictive. Everyone who chimed in on my recent post thought my patent wedges were fine for the office (yay!), which I definitely agree with. Sometimes, I get self-conscious because I may be the only junior associate I know who relies solely on wedges when I want to wear shoes with some height. Thus, I'm still in the market for a pair of pumps that fits my criteria for these interviews and future possible court days.

I've posted before about shopping for interview clothing as a student on a fairly restrictive budget, with shoe suggestions. (A few classmates in biglaw have road-tested the Payless Karmen pump for both comfort and durability and are satisfied.) This time around, I'm looking at a higher price point, one that might make sense for a more well-established young professional in a conservative field, who is a few years into their career. Actually identifying which pair looks best and is comfortable enough for at least a business day's worth of normal walking and standing will likely take at least a bit of trying on (indoors) and sending things back.

First up is a few different options from Cole Haan, at two price points (all shoes pictured above in order, clockwise from top left and linked below). The Cole Haan Grace Grand is fairly pricey but has more padding for comfort (last year's version is discounted at 6PM, but has synthetic instead of leather lining). The Cole Haan Clara (almond toe) or Juliana (pointy toe) are at a more typical Cole Haan price point. The Rockport Total Motion shoes have a pointier toe, as do the Sam Edelman Tristan and well-reviewed Michael Michael Kors Flex. I may start with the Sam Edelman Tristans and maybe the Cole Haan Clara and go from there.

P.S., when shoe shopping, I like looking at Zappos for whether they stock the shoe I have in mind. They often do a video with one of their employees wearing each style they carry, which gives one a better sense of what it looks like on.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Health and Wellness Lately

I don't write about body image and healthy living often, but it's one of those things that's generally at the back of my mind. With my current commute, where I'm out of the house 6:50 AM to 7:50 PM most days, it's been easy to slip into a habit of unconscious snacking. My hunger levels are all over the place! I eat a solid breakfast around 6:20 AM, but not long after I get to work, I'm hungry again and need a snack to stay productive, even if lunch (generally kale caesar salad with chicken) is just around the corner at noon. By 4:00 PM I'm hungry again, but dinner's not until I get home, hours away. Oftentimes, even when I've prepared dinner for the week, I'm so hungry when I walk in the door that I'll have a powerful compulsion to grab something, anything to nosh on while I'm heating it up, and before I know it, I'm basically eating almost two dinners when snacks are factored in. 

There are healthy snacks of course: beef jerky from Trader Joe's has proven to be one of the best ways, ounce for ounce, to keep hunger at bay for a long time; raw almonds are great; carrot sticks are good, etc. Still, that pre-dinner moment of must-eat-now! remains a constant challenge, even with so many hunger-fighting snacks in my arsenal. My body just really wants to eat dinner earlier. I never even got used to my 6:50 PM-ish dinnertimes at the firm. On days when I knew I'd be working late, I was often hungry and on Seamless as soon as ordering for client reimbursement opened up at 6:00 PM. And that was after having afternoon snacks.

On top of that, our in-building gym is closed for renovation. K bought us a folding exercise bike (likely the only reasonably sturdy cardio machine that could conceivably fit in our apartment and isn't too expensive), which has been useful. I'm also taking Barre classes with a friend, using a Gilt City deal that got me in for $12.50/class for five classes. It's typically $32/class, an unlimited monthly pass is nearly $300, and the cheapest package is still $28/class, so this doesn't fit into my current budget otherwise, but it's fun to try. At the promotional price, I thought it'd be a good alternative to going out for coffee or brunch to hang out. 

I'm generally rather skeptical about more expensive, "trendy" fitness options, probably unduly so. I'm perfectly happy to do the same workout over and over, and my ideal routine is probably just being able to regularly run on the West Side Highway running path again and mixing in some Pilates-type workouts at home. Barre really isn't for me, based on my first class. It's very different from what I'm used to (not that similar to Pilates), and half the time i had no idea what the instructor wanted me to do. Some of this isn't their fault. I'm not good at taking direction during fitness classes: I have trouble distinguishing left from right, learn new movements slowly, am uncoordinated, and have poor spatial awareness so I often can't figure out how to follow along. I'll use up the classes I bought, but am not especially interested in trying more. 

Do you have any favorite workout classes? I like Pilates, but am perfectly happy with an at-home video, and I enjoy the right Yoga class. Zumba is almost impossible for me due to my aforementioned lack of coordination, so it isn't much fun. Barre is, of course, not quite working. Spin or Soul Cycle sounds like something I could like, but I'm probably not terribly inclined to exploring it on my own. That's about it for classes I've tried or am familiar with.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Shopping Fast Fail (?) and New Instagram

Is my shopping fast going well? That depends entirely on the standard one uses to evaluate it. If the primary goal is to not buy anything new, things are still fine and dandy, as I haven't ordered anything. If the primary goal is to "detox" a bit from using online window shopping as entertainment, or not to make wish lists for after the shopping fast period ends, then it it's not so successful. I've had many of my sudden and powerful shopping impulses, many of which have not really gone away after a few days, so I've accumulated a list of things I'm sort of chomping at the bit to order and try on. 

For instance, I saw the Dagne Dover Simone laptop bag in steel grey leather and thought I desperately wanted to try it on. It's pretty and a bit unique in shape, as far as laptop bags go. Happily (or sadly) it's sold out in that color, so I don't run the risk of breaking my shopping fast there. I was intrigued by the J.Crew Ruffle Trim Dress after seeing it on someone in real life. They seem to have made it final sale though, so I should be safe. Also, I'll be doing a few firm interviews in the coming months. Because I don't currently own a pair of pumps that fits my personal ideal of what a pair of conservative interview shoes should look like (I have patent leather wedges at the moment, which I consider less conservative), I may actually end up breaking my shopping fast for something like the Sam Edelman Tristan or the Cole Haan Grace pumps, which I'd likely consider an off-budget purchase as it's for a specific and necessary professional purpose.

To be honest, I didn't have a concrete goal in mind for my shopping fast this month. Over time, I've been shopping less than I was before, and it wouldn't be that surprising to have a "no shopping" month here and there, even without a conscious effort. I suppose one main goal of the shopping fast was just to accumulate that month's budgeted dollars for future months, which isn't especially minimalist. I think I'd like to purchase some jewelry for myself this year, which likely requires "banking" budgeted dollars from multiple months. I've been looking at Opal rings from Catbird for a while (like this Wwake one or their teardrop ring), though I'm somewhat likely to pick one up from Polamai on Etsy (a Thai jeweler with a lot of good reviews). I've been tempted by the Monica Vinader Baja Bracelet in Green Onyx for a while, though that's probably way too pricey for me, for something that's gold-plated and more fashion jewelry than fine. In that light, if I haven't ordered anything new yet, then the shopping fast is going just fine. (Overall, this is probably not one of the better reasons to go on a shopping fast...) 

In other news, I recently opened a new Instagram account for blog purposes. My old account was set up through my personal Facebook account, though I ran it as the Instagram for my blog. That got too weird for me as I didn't really want random Facebook acquaintances to be able to find my blog and identify it as mine through Instagram. Independent from that, I'm starting to better understand how to explore new content on Instagram, and it's fun! As usual, I'm way behind the times when it comes to learning how to use new social media platforms.

A photo posted by Miyu☺︎ (@miyumo_21) on

One thing that I stumbled upon is a large set of Japanese daily outfit Instagrammers. I follow many, some with a more casual style and some that seem to primarily do office-type wear, but they all have a similar photography style and wear such well-executed, put-together outfits! I follow so many that there's no real way to pick out my favorites because they're all so cool, but in no particular order, here are a few that had really great outfits pop up in my feed most recently:, akko3839, cestmignon_mau, and miyumo_21. After one starts following a few, Instagram starts putting more and more of them into one's "Explore" feed, so it doesn't take long to find others.

Are patent leather shoes, in your opinion, appropriate for ultra-conservative business-formal interview outfits? Do you have any favorite Instagram accounts to follow, or any specific type of account that you like? I also follow quite a few comic artists like adamtots.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday Reading: Grab Bag

via Sarah C. Andersen

Today's post is a bit of a grab-bag, mostly money-related, of things that I was reading this week. Some of the links were either a bit clickbait-y or not that substantive, but they generate some food for thought and a jumping-off point for deeper discussion nonetheless.

Designer Items on Credit

I'm totally preaching to the choir here, no doubt, but I was shocked by this Refinery 29 article "21 Women On the Biggest Purchase They Made in 2016 - and Whether they Regret It." Out of the 21 women surveyed, five of them bought a designer item on credit without (it's either strongly implied or explicitly stated) having the cash set aside to cover the purchase. That way lies only madness, or at least  some serious ambivalence about where all that money went. 

As a general matter, I quite like Refinery 29's money-related features. They satisfy my ever-insatiable craving for financial voyeurism. More often than not, their money diaries imply a fair amount of financial responsibility across many income levels (though I sometimes find that the numbers don't quite add up or that some parental subsidies are implied). So it was a bit of a surprise to see them publish something that maybe plays into sexist stereotypes of women as spenders.

I don't want to sound preachy or that I'm putting myself on a moral high horse, by any means. I've done plenty of financially silly things in relatively recent memory and I hate how much contemporary American society like to judge women, in particular, for their consumption. That being said, I don't think anyone would argue that it's distressing to think that it's at all common for people to buy designer items on credit cards and let that balance sit.

Emergency Funds

This piece on "Why Emergency Funds are a Bad Idea" is particularly clickbait-y. It's gotten a little traction in some of the personal finance online communities I follow and generates some helpful discussion, mainly about why having some sort of emergency fund or cash savings buffer is actually really important. The universal response is that the article is silly. Even those who advocate extremely aggressive debt repayment and who might frown upon my six-months' basic living expenses emergency fund, given my student loans at ~7% interest, would agree that having at least $1,000 in an emergency fund is a good idea and should occur before tackling high-interest debt.

Ken Liu's Dandelion Dynasty

I recently finished Ken Liu's The Wall of Storms, the recently released second volume of his Dandelion Dynasty series.  It was fantastic, a really wild ride in the second half, and I enjoyed it more than the first volume, The Grace of Kings, which was also good. (That pattern of slower set-up in a still good first book and a dramatically faster-paced second that was therefore more enjoyable reminded me of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, incidentally.) Liu's writing style is very different from most of the other fiction authors I read, particularly in the sci-fi/fantasy genres, and it took some getting used to. Among other things, I find his characters a bit flat as a result, though I think it's an intentional stylistic choice.

I would understand entirely if a reader had trouble getting through The Grace of Kings or stalled through The Wall of Storms, but the last half of the second volume really shines and established the series and Liu's writing as something special. One of the top Goodreads reviews of Kings criticized Liu heavily for alleged poor representation of women, which I actually thought was unfair even then. I believe deeply in the importance of diversity in fiction and media, with a particular emphasis on diverse authors and voices and diversity on screen, but I still found the criticism misplaced. Either way, Storms establishes that the criticism contained in that review cannot be applied to the series as a whole: Storms is filled with women taking central stage in both political intrigue and war.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Trip Down Memory Lane

via Pinterest - My real-life dorm rooms were never this cool.

As a child of the Internet age, I've been blogging for over half of my life, though little evidence remains. That's by design: a few years back, I specifically went back to delete or make private every old blog I ever kept, partially to protect my privacy and partially because of embarrassment about my old writing. A few days ago, while doing research for another forthcoming blog entry, I found something that I thought I'd never see again, an old blog that I forgot about, circa 2008. Let me just say, oh lordy, it was quite the blast from the past! Some of it made me smile, but I also cringed. A lot. College-aged Xin had eclectic tastes in clothes.  

I could never link that old blog here. It'd thoroughly destroy my anonymity, as I was much less careful then. I also won't be able to go back and destroy the evidence, to my sorrow, as I forget which email address the account is associated with. It'll sit there on the Internet forever, a testament to my youthful enthusiasm for Blair Waldorf's headbands and shopping at Forever 21. 

A few of the many, many thoughts that occurred to me as I browsed my old entries: 

Is it strange that I don't think I'm that much of a better writer now than I was then? I'm sure I am, it's been so long and I've done so much academic and professional writing since, but, well, the last major development in my writer's education was when my freshman writing professor broke me of the habit of using the passive voice (which I've gone back to, sometimes, but much more carefully). Any other changes have been so gradual that I have a hard time identifying exactly what makes the "before" better than the "after."

Related to the above, whatever else was true about 2008 Xin's writing, it had a certain spark and spirit, which I hope translated into a type of charm that my current writing lacks. I had so much bubbly enthusiasm, or righteous indignation, depending on the topic. It's not just because of the passage of time, or increased maturity, that those things are no longer present.

In some of those darker, "why-did-we-choose-this" moments in law school, I've told friends that, adding insult to injury, law school took the very soul out of my writing. While that exclamation is mostly just drama queen-moment exaggeration, there's a grain of truth. In school, we were taught to tone things down, to be objective, to be more subdued and restrained in our writing, all in the interests of clarity. Those things are important for work, but I always feel like it's had a chilling effect on my personal writing, took something away that I can't find again.

Surprisingly enough, a lot of the things I believe about fast fashion and consumption haven't changed much, especially my skepticism about whether we can really trust any brand to be completely ethical and my discomfort that some aspects of more ethical, conscious consumption are made possible, or at least easier, by financial and other privileges.

Still, even if many a would-be fashionista of modest means is contributing to the market for [fast fashion], people like that are hardly the powers that be behind a free market economy or capitalist culture that makes the people behind the big companies think it’s ever alright to pay their workers less than a living wage. Young consumers are products of this culture and world economy, not the cause. Additionally, a lot of upmarket stuff that is not anything close to “fast fashion” is also being manufactured in the same sweatshops.

I wrote that. In 2008. (Presented with minor edits.) It was part of a deeply misguided entry that was ultimately kind-of, sort-of defending fast fashion (sorry! I was so very young and foolish!). I hadn't done the research to back up that last claim at the time, though it's since been borne out by, say, Elizabeth Cline's book on fast fashion. That particular piece of content makes me cringe now, but well, I was a teenager who could only shop at Forever 21, H&M, Target, or Ross and I guess I felt a little defensive about that. Another slightly modified quote from said entry: "It begs the question: if someone cannot afford the “real thing” in terms of organic, free-range chicken or wild salmon (it’s no small thing to buy that for a family of four), does that obligate us to eat naught but potatoes and bread?" Dear me. It all sounds very awkward now, but some of these points have at least a tiny grain of truth, I hope, namely that (a) our power as individual consumers is small when compared to the might of the capitalist system, and (b) that sometimes the more environmentally or ethically conscious choice is necessarily one made possible by privilege. 

Finding that old blog was an interesting and slightly entertaining trip down memory lane, though it was also seriously embarrassing. How long have you been blogging? Do you have any nostalgia for your old blogs or blogging personality? Did you write differently from the way you do now?

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 Shopping Budget Roundup

Happy new year! I hope that everyone has had a wonderful holiday season and that 2017 is getting to a good start. Today's post is a reflection on last year's fashion and beauty spending and my plans for this year's budget. I'll also give a shout-out to some of my "best buys" last year, pictured above. Unlike last year, I don't have any "worst buys" to point out, which I'd like to think means that I'm a more careful shopper than before.

Clothing and Accessories Budget

In 2015, I spent $2729 out of the $250/month or $3000/year budget. This year, I spent $1545.99 of the $170/month or $2040/year budget I set for "on-budget" purchases. Certain purchases, such as socks or underthings, have always been "off-budget." I also made some planned big-ticket off-budget purchases in the form of two suits (J.Crew Factory wool blend, discussed here) and a pair of work shoes (Cole Haan Catalina wedges in black patent, be sure to size down a half-size!), which cost around $400 total. Putting that together with my on-budget shopping for the year gets me a total of roughly $1945.99, which means that 2016 was a better year for my wallet than 2015. 

For 2017, I'm setting a $150/month or $1800/year budget for clothes, shoes, and accessories. As has been my usual practice, the monthly limit is flexible: Any excess rolls over to subsequent months and any deficits can be made up in later months, but the limit for the year is firm. Items like socks, pajamas, and tights continue to be off-budget, unless I decide to indulge in something unusually expensive, like Wolford tights. Throughout the year, if I get cash from Ebates, Splender, or from reselling items, I won't add it back to my budget. 

As in 2016, I will also allow myself a few work wardrobe-related "off-budget" purchases. I have a solid-sized wardrobe of serviceable (though generally imperfect) dresses for work, but I'd like to branch out a bit and try to find one or two dresses that I think are worth tailoring to get a best possible fit. I may try to get something secondhand from The RealReal, though I also have some temptation to try out M.M.Lafleur and Of Mercer (thanks to their effective branding targeted right at my demographic, though I have no actual sense of whether their items are worth retail price). As I'm quite happy with the A-Line Dress from Brass, their Pencil Dress is also on a possible future shopping list, but I'd likely consider that one of my on-budget purchases.

Personal Style and Minimalism(?) 

I often go back and analyze my monthly budget posts. I'd like to think that there's a noticeable and, ultimately, good contrast between my shopping habits from when I started to now. I buy less, both as a matter of total items and total spending, as the year-end numbers show. I know myself and my own style better, and I make fewer "regret" purchases as a result.

As part of this process, I'm going on a "shopping fast" for at least this month. Admittedly, this is no great burden, as I don't need anything for the ongoing winter season. I feel that it will assist me in continuing to get a better understanding of both my personal style and this minimalism-ish that I've been practicing while writing this blog.

When one compares the general color and nature of the purchases from my earliest "monthly budget" posts to the most recent ones, one can also see some evolution in my personal style, which is echoed in my personal style inspiration pinterest board. I get less excited about prints these days (I still like them, but am much pickier about which ones will suit) and favor more neutrals and more subdued colors. Pants play a larger role in my work wardrobe than they used to. I've really embraced my fondness for slouchy sweaters. My tastes in jewelry have taken a turn for the dainty.

My actual personal style evolution isn't quite this stark, but I did start this blog at the tail end of my "statement necklace" phase and do regularly wear slip-on sneakers, skinny pants, and a slouchy sweater now. Left photo is originally from Sarah Vickers's blog and the right was randomly found from Pinterest.

Over time, I've accepted that I am, at the heart of things, a fairly low-key and low-maintenance person. Among other things, there's no more need to experiment with blush or eyeshadow or eye makeup beyond a touch of eyeliner and a little bit of brow pencil, as I don't enjoy it. A lot of more "statement" or "interesting" wardrobe pieces just don't get mileage in my wardrobe. That big distant future splurge is less and less likely to be a designer handbag because I'm unlikely to really fall in love with one that's just so "me" and unfussy that I know it's both a good value and the right way to spend such a sizable amount of money. (That last thing is a largely a theoretical or academic question, as it's looking more and more likely that I'd postpone any such future splurge until long past 2018, due to a preference for really attacking my student loans first.)

Beauty and Skincare Budget

In 2015, I didn't faithfully record every single beauty purchase, but I've been recording everything accurately this year. I spent $388.97 in 2016, mostly on skincare. I'm satisfied with where this number is, given that I'm still using about as many products as when I last did a post detailing my entire skincare routine, though the exact items involved have changed. So I'll continue with my general approach of not setting a budget for beauty and skincare, though I'll still record these purchases in my monthly shopping posts, as I like keeping track and sharing some of the products I enjoy. 

Keep reading for my thoughts on my best purchases of 2016!