Tuesday, July 27, 2021

July 2021 Shopping Reflections

If you caught my Instagram stories last Thursday, then you may be able to guess that I also made an additional major purchase last week, which isn't listed in this post. After I fully paid off my law school student loans earlier this month, I made an appointment to stop by Mociun in Brooklyn. All their sapphire ring designs were absolutely gorgeous in person, and I ultimately chose one as a gift to myself, to celebrate the hard-won personal milestone of finally paying off my student loans. 

It didn't seem quite right to include that particular purchase in this month's shopping reflections post, as it's very much a one-time only, special occasion kind of thing. Price-wise, it's also an extreme outlier compared to any other single month - or heck, even any other single full year - of total spending since 2015, when I first started tracking my wardrobe purchases on this blog. I'll probably do a separate, dedicated post about it soon. And when it comes time to do my year-end shopping reflections post for 2021, I'll probably start counting jewelry separately from other categories in that analysis. 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in my earning a small commission - at no extra cost to you - if you click and make a purchase. Thank you for your support! 

As for the rest of this month's shopping for my closet, two out of three items were summer dresses I actually ordered back in June, but they were not made to order and delivered to me until this month. The third item is the secondhand Balenciaga City I first became interested in not long ago. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $1057.22) 

  • LinenFox Slip Dress, sea green - $104.07* - The price on this was originally $87.56 with standard shipping, but then I added expedited shipping. If I remember correctly from my past LinenFox orders, standard shipping can take two to three weeks. I was actually shocked by how much faster expedited shipping was, it barely took two or three business days for my package to get here from Lithuania! Anyway, if I'm interested in new summer clothes from LinenFox next year, I probably need to remember to order earlier than June because their expected production time can be as long as four to six weeks during the summer. I customized this dress by asking them to shorten it by four inches, which was definitely the right choice as I'm significantly shorter than their models. I quite like this dress and the color I picked, but I may need to sew up the straps so they're a bit shorter and the dress would look a little less low-cut on me. One other quibble I have with this design is that there's no slit at the bottom of the skirt, I think adding one would be helpful to allow the legs to move more freely. As always, the detailed product measurements LinenFox provides for each size of every item are extremely helpful for selecting the correct size. 
  • Heinui Noe Dress, green birds print - $310.79 - No product link because Heinui took orders for this through Instagram DM! I had this one customized by asking them to add three extra inches because I worried that - with the brisk wind one often encounters in NYC - the very flouncy, voluminous, and short-ish skirt could easily get blown upwards and cause a wardrobe malfunction. (There was no extra charge.) This print is really cute. The fabric is a medium-weight cotton-linen blend that's heavier than Elizabeth Suzann medium-weight linen, but because this dress is so flowy, I find I'm still been able to wear it comfortably on fairly hot and humid days (up to, say, ~85 degrees Fahrenheit). Heinui often works with lighter, floatier fabrics that are more summer-friendly, but because this dress is quite short and voluminous, the designer said they intentionally chose a heavier fabric to prevent the skirt from blowing upwards accidentally. This silhouette - with the skirt flowing generously out and down from a rather high point on the waist - can take on a bit of what I rather ungracefully refer to as the "boob tent" effect on my more busty frame. (I used to think these kinds of silhouette were solidly outside my style comfort zone - they emphasize the part of my body I'm most self-conscious about - but over the years, I've learned it doesn't actually bother me. If the dress is comfortable and pretty, I'll still enjoy wearing it.) I still really like this dress and find it very fun to wear, but I also worry that other people could think it looks... a little like a maternity dress on me. 
  • Balenciaga City, black lambskin, secondhand - $642.36* - (search for similar items linked) - As I mentioned two weeks ago, I'd already ordered and returned this bag with gold hardware, so by the time I ordered this one, I was already sure I'd like this design and that it'd be functional for me. I find this bag to be a perfect size, it can carry everything I typically bring to work - which currently includes an additional A5-sized notebook; a swap for a larger pen case; and my Kindle, on top of everything pictured in that post - and then some. Though like the Coach Rogue, the City also can't comfortably accommodate a letter-sized notepad or binder. The somewhat short-ish shoulder strap is just the right length to allow the bag to sit comfortably and securely on my shoulder without flopping around and getting in the way while I'm walking. Now that I've taken this bag on a few outings, I confess part of me sort of wishes I kept the gold hardware version instead, even if it would have been ~$100 more expensive. (I originally thought the higher contrast gold-tone hardware would be a bit too "loud" for my tastes, given that my handbags tend to have simple designs with minimal visible hardware.) I find this combination of more subtle aged brass "classic" hardware and black leather causes the bag to really blend in to the background for me when I'm using it - I don't think to admire the bag in my reflection in shop windows when I pass by - so maybe I'd have appreciated the brighter, more eye-catching gold hardware after all. Between my previous return and this order, I'm very satisfied with my Fashionphile shopping experience. Everything's been smooth, and in particular, they process returns quickly. 
*Indicates that this price includes tax and/or shipping. 

And that's it for this month! I'm maybe a bit surprised I haven't been interested in actually ordering anything I mentioned in my "miscellaneous shopping" post in early July. Those J.Crew hammered metal bangles have since gone on sale, but I haven't been inspired to get them. As for my sandals, I think it's looking like I can safely wait until next summer to replace them. (Thank you to Hadilly for recommending the Mephisto Helen sandal, as I think they definitely seem like they will have a sleeker and more attractive look on me than the Birkenstock Gizeh I was thinking about or the Fitflop Lulu style I currently wear!) 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Pandemic-Era Health and Fitness Changes

via Unsplash

As you can probably tell from the title of this post, there's definitely a content warning on this one, as I'll be talking about weight changes (as a broad concept, I'm not going to refer to my weight in specific numbers today but I also can't guarantee that any websites I link to, including one of my own older posts, won't include more explicit discussion of weight-related numbers), diet, exercise, and certain health conditions. Please do not continue with this post if you do not wish to read about any of these topics. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

The First $100,000...

Tory Burch Robinson Colorblock Card Case (affiliate link) 

As I mentioned in an Instagram story last week, I've officially fully repaid my student loans! It almost feels anticlimactic to be done so suddenly with something that's taken a little over six years from when I graduated law school. (But with the paycut I took while clerking, I was only able to make serious payments for five of those years. I couldn't even keep up with the ~6% interest that was accruing to the tune of roughly ~$990/month while I was clerking.) 

Is it funny, or maybe just strange, that I don't even actually know what my total student loan balance was at its peak? Because ~6% interest was steadily accruing on the vast majority of the balance at all times - including while I was in law school and in the months between graduation and when I actually started working - the total balance was constantly in flux. If you've ever noticed inconsistencies in how I've described the size of my initial student loan balance over the years, it's mostly because of this constantly accruing interest. My total amount actually borrowed was different from my balance upon graduation, which was also different from my balance when I started working, etc. etc. I know the all-time high was at least ~$195,000, but I can't recall if it ever actually got much closer to $200,000, or even slightly exceeded it. 

There's a pretty common trope in personal finance-focused online discussion spaces about how "the first $100,000 is the hardest" to accumulate in savings and investments, and that's certainly been the case for me. Heck, because I started with an extremely negative net worth thanks to my law school student loans - and because I took that aforementioned paycut to clerk very early on in my career - it even took a super-long time for me to get to "the first negative $100,000" in net worth!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Life Lately: Fully Back in the Office

Enjoying a meal at Hometown Hotpot & BBQ in Chinatown. It's K and I's favorite hotpot place.

My workplace finally announced a formal office return date, so I'm officially back in the office full-time now. It would have been lovely if the powers that be had decided we could keep some limited amount of work from home flexibility, but alas, that was not in the cards. 

While I'm a tiny bit disappointed, I'm not too surprised by this development because our workplace culture had always been really old-fashioned about strongly disfavoring remote work. So I didn't really expect to be able to keep any discretion to continue working from home sometimes. Oh well, it was good while it lasted! At least we're still allowed to dress casually at the office until further notice, our typical business casual office dress code has yet to be reinstated...

I've now had the opportunity to have at least one in-person hangout with each of my close friends living in NYC, and that's been wonderful. We've all been fully vaccinated for quite some time - and none of us have very young children or other household members who cannot receive the COVID vaccine - so we're all fairly comfortable now with going to restaurants, shopping in stores, and the like. 

K and I continue to make the personal choice to wear masks indoors while out in public, except when seated at restaurants or bars, or while actively eating and drinking in other settings. By now, most public settings in NYC don't really require masks for vaccinated people anymore. Though, in my experience, a good 30-40% or more of people in stores and other non-restaurant settings mostly still wear masks inside. (I admittedly don't go out to that many places. I still don't have all my pre-pandemic energy back for running errands all over the city!) 

Now that I'm feeling more comfortable with going out into the world, I'm starting to make all my long-overdue appointments for routine checkups and the like. For the most part, I was already overdue for these appointments long before March 2020, which was a little irresponsible of me... Hopefully my dentist and general practitioner will find that everything is in order! Once I drop by the optometrist, I'm already pretty sure they'll tell me I need a stronger prescription now, unfortunately. 

One thing that happened during the pandemic was that I started watching a lot more YouTube. Very recently, I've gotten into Eileen at Colourful Noir's channel, I think she has a really soothing voice and a lovely accent (I think she lives in the UK). She mostly talks about certain ultra high-end designer items, which are obviously not something I'm personally in the market for. But she approaches it from a refreshing angle focused on prioritizing responsible personal finance management first and foremost. Only after that's taken care of would she advocate shopping for a limited number of designer items that will get a lot of use in one's wardrobe. 

How are things going on the COVID-management front where you are? Are people mostly back in the office or the classroom in your part of the world? Do you have any favorite YouTube channels to recommend? I hope that everything is well for you and your friends and family. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

A Big and Somewhat Impulsive Idea

Somewhat random, but I really like Julianne Moore's street style. It's totally how I'd dress if I was an extremely wealthy woman living in NYC, with lots of practical-looking shoes plus nice handbags and comfortable-looking - but also luxe - coats and sweaters, all heavy on neutral colors. 

This is totally not the best thing to admit, and I'm not exactly proud of it, but now that I'm within spitting distance of finishing off my student loans for good - I'll most likely fully pay off the last ~$5,000 with the lion's share of my next paycheck in a few days - parts of my brain have been really clamoring for some extremely fancy shopping. And it's not just for the jewelry gift to myself I've been thinking about for a few months, the impulsive part of me wants even more than that! 

I think I'll end up doing a passable job controlling these impulses. I'll probably indulge a time or two, but primarily through the secondhand market. Given that I'm currently actively seeking to take a dramatic paycut to work for the government - if only they'll have me; it's a process that could take a year or more, and I only started applying recently - there's a definite budgetary limit to how much or how often I can act on these shopping ideas that have started popping up in my mind.

With this particular specific idea I'm about to name, I'd hoped a search through my blog archives would reveal that I'd been foreshadowing it for at least a few years now. In other words, I thought I'd previously mentioned this item at least a time or two, even if only in passing. It turns out that was not the case. 

I'm pretty sure I remember saying somewhere that I think this specific handbag is pretty cool, and that people roughly around my age who fell in love with it as far back as the mid 2000s, including Jessica, had excellent taste. (It's definitely a design that's withstood the test of time so much better than many other "it bags" that were also around back then, such as the Miu Miu Coffer I was totally in love with.) Maybe I only mentioned this in comments on other blogs? 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in my earning a small commission - at no extra cost to you - if you click and make a purchase. Thank you for your support! 

The item I'm talking about today is the Balenciaga City bag, specifically in black lambskin. I call it a "big and somewhat impulsive idea" for me because, up until a few weeks ago, I never seriously considered even a used one as a possible purchase for myself. At its retail price - which I think may have been around $2,050 most recently, though Balenciaga doesn't really sell this classic style much anymore? they also offer newer, more structured takes on the City design that I don't personally like - it was completely off the table for me, in part due to my highly nitpicky preferences that lead me to heavily favor extremely simple handbags (most of my collection is pictured here, I think you'll see what I mean by "extremely simple").

Thursday, July 8, 2021

June 2021 Reading Reflections

This was not the easiest reading month for me. Because I knew I had a stressful work project coming at me towards the end of June, I wasn't really able to focus well on reading throughout most of the month. I also get a lot more fickle about what types of books I feel like reading when I know I'm going to be busy and stressed at the office, I'm not really able to handle anything that's too emotionally heavy or too complex in writing style. 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in my earning a small commission - at no extra cost to you - if you click and make a purchase. Thank you for your support! 

Plus, I also didn't do a great job of picking books for the month either, so that sapped my motivation to read even more.  Like I suspected in last month's reading reflections post, I just couldn't get into The Push by Audrey Audrain, and as you'll soon see, I also wasn't able to finish two other thrillers I also tried to pick up for June. 

As usual, here are the books I read last month, in the order in which I completed them: 

  • Home Before Dark by Riley Sager - This is a very middle-of-the-road horror novel. The premise of the story is decent and the writing style is easy enough to get through, but the book just didn't stand out to me as being especially good. I've definitely read many better authors in this genre. For instance, Jennifer McMahon's writing style is significantly more suspenseful and engaging and Paul Tremblay also has a stronger writing style. Out of horror books I've read more recently, I'd also rank the C.J. Tudor novels I've read above Home Before Dark. So yes, this book wasn't anything to write home about, it's just a somewhat cliched haunted house story-slash-mystery. 
  • Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes - I also thought this book was just okay, it felt very underdeveloped to me, especially given how popular a bestseller it apparently was. The two main characters are both supposedly working through some pretty big emotional issues and difficult times, and yet it really felt like the author didn't do a great job "showing, not just telling" the reader that. It also felt like there were pieces of the story missing, scenes that should have been added to really flesh out the character arcs for both leads. I do appreciate that both main characters are likable and mature, they communicate about things like adults. This isn't one of those romance-focused stories where the drama or conflict between the main couple is artificial and contrived, and could easily be solved in a minute by just talking things out. 

Hah, I guess this reading reflections post is very dull and dour because I was not that satisfied with either of the books I managed to finish. I really did try to read more, sticking mainly to thrillers that wouldn't require too much of my brain power. I also picked up The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse and The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher, but neither worked for me. The Sanatorium lost me in the first few pages, I just didn't find the writing style and first chapter that engaging.

I got a lot further in Tarryn Fisher's The Wrong Family, but the characters were exceedingly tedious and weird, and it was starting to look like the story was going in a direction that would get silly fast. I previously had a similar experience with Fisher's The Wives, except that I thought the characters were better. But again, that story also looked like it was moving in an extremely silly direction. It's a pity because I think Fisher has a good writing style for thrillers, she sets things up with the right amount of suspense and mystery that makes you wonder what will happen next, but the premises and likely endings of these books just don't work for me. (And yes, I suppose it's my own fault for not avoiding spoilers. When I confirm with spoilers that a story is moving in a foolish direction, it ruins my reading experience and I just can't finish the book.) 

Have you read anything good recently? Does anyone else find themselves unable to avoid looking at spoilers? I generally don't mind seeing spoilers for books, movies, or TV shows, though if I know the story won't end on a strong note, it can definitely harm the reading or watching experience to know what's coming. 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Thinking About Miscellaneous Shopping

J.Crew Hammered Metal Bangles (affiliate link) in silver. I might consider getting these in gold.

Ooph, I ended up being extremely busy at work last week so I wasn't able to write or post any blog entries. But things have calmed down again at the office for now, just in time for the Fourth of July long weekend. My workload this year has been very feast or famine, with only a few intensely busy periods here and there and significant lulls in between. Accordingly, my billable hours for 2021 aren't looking that strong. 

Now that it's July and the Feedburner "subscribe by email" feature has officially been discontinued, this is also the first blog post for which I'm sending out a (non-automated) email notification using TinyLetter. Hopefully it worked alright for those of you who are subscribed.

One non-shopping, non-fashion thing that have been on my mind recently: The United States recently selected its women's gymnastics team for the Tokyo Olympics! I'm not a very serious fan of women's gymnastics, as I prove completely unable to tell any of their skills apart or even to accurately distinguish more difficult and complex skills from easier ones. But I've been following the American women's gymnastics team closely since 2018 or so. The athletes are so incredibly strong, especially those who had to endure the Karolyi era and its failures of reporting and abuses of power. (Some of these issues were covered in the Believed podcast series, which I recommended back in 2019.)

Because of the COVID pandemic and the delayed Olympics, this has been a difficult eighteen months for so many of the athletes. A number of the ones I was most fond of were, sadly, unable to seriously contend for the Olympics this year due to injuries. But I'm so happy for the athletes who were selected! Jordan Chiles has a particularly great comeback story. I'm also so glad that Sunisa Lee was able to perform so well and make it to her Olympic dream, through so many challenges. And obviously Simone Biles is undeniably the greatest of all time in the sport. I could also go on to praise all the other women who were named as well, but I feel like I'm starting to ramble already. 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in my earning a small commission - at no extra cost to you - if you click and make a purchase. Thank you for your support! 

Today's post is a fairly light one, about some of the miscellaneous possible shopping for my wardrobe I've considered in the past week or two. I'm not sure how serious I am about any of these ideas, however. 

J.Crew Hammered Metal Bangles: I've historically had pretty good luck with J.Crew costume jewelry. I think they come up with lots of pretty designs, and the pieces typically all feel quite solid and fairly good quality. Their items generally also prove to be reasonably durable when compared to a lot of other costume jewelry on the market. It's been a while since my last J.Crew jewelry purchase in 2018, but I continue to browse their jewelry selection every few months to see if they've put out anything that looks interesting. These hammered metal bangles, pictured in silver above, have really caught my eye. (I would get them in gold, though, as I strongly prefer gold jewelry.) Sadly, this item seems to have been excluded from most of the recent J.Crew sales and promotions. 

In practice, I don't really wear bracelets often, so I'm not sure I'll actually end up ordering these. I don't like that some bangles tend to bump up against things a lot, in particular my desk or computer keyboard, as I go about my day.