Monday, September 27, 2021

September 2021 Shopping Reflections

I mentioned in August that I thought I didn't really feel like shopping for fall/winter this year. But as it turns out, I've managed to become interested in a few more items than the list I originally had in mind. I still want the light gray chunky crew sweater from The Curated and the patina eclipse stud earrings from Porcelain and Stone. But there will probably be a few additional things that will also be part of my shopping through the end of 2021, including this month's purchases. 

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If you think these Reiss Lara dresses look like they are outside of my style comfort zone, you're not wrong! I've mentioned before - in the context of my one stretchy tee shirt dress purchase - that I generally avoid "unstructured" dresses designed to closely fit the body. As someone who definitely has some curves and soft spots, fitted stretchy fabrics don't always look the way I want them to on me. Thus, I've almost never wanted to even try on any sweater dresses in the entire time I've kept this blog, and it's only rarely I've contemplated any tee shirt dress for wearing outside the home. 

The draped top and sort of dolman sleeve on the Lara are slightly less outside my personal style comfort zone - I definitely have one sweater with a similar look to the top of the Lara dress - but I didn't previously have anything else like this in my work wardrobe. With that, plus the neckline's tendency to sit off one shoulder, the Reiss Lara is a bit outside the norm of my typical work dresses. 

Both Vee and Sherry have posted detailed reviews of this dress that were extremely helpful to me in initially deciding to order and then picking the right size. I'm curvier than both of them, so I sized up to a M. Because the top portion of the dress is quite roomy in order to allow for the draped effect, it may have been possible for me to size down to S even with my fairly substantial bust measurement, but I think the elastic waist would have been uncomfortably snug if I tried. (At 5'3'', I'm also shorter than Sherry and Vee.) 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $480.34)

  • Reiss Lara Dress, teal, M - $312.47* - (also available at Bloomingdales) - Because sweater dresses generally don't look good on me and I don't always like the way stretchy knit fabrics skim over my curves, I wasn't sure I'd like this dress, even if Vee and Sherry both look great in it. This was the first time I've tried on a sweater dress near this price point, and it was a pleasant surprise. The fabric has a good thickness and weight, so the fitted skirt sits on my curves well, without clinging oddly anywhere, and the top half of the dress also drapes well. Like Sherry and Vee observed, the fairly snug elastic waist and more fitted skirt will probably determine what the right size is for most. The neckline is very open, so while one can theoretically drape the top so it covers both shoulders fully, I've found while trying the dress on at home that it's unlikely to stay that way. In other words, it may be difficult to wear this dress without leaving at least one shoulder uncovered. The teal color is similar to a J.Crew dress I bought last year, so I knew this color would suit me. Because the Lara is so unlike any other dress in my wardrobe, I worry a little that I might not end up finding it practical. Will I be comfortable wearing such a different silhouette from my usual to work? The dress is also made of a heavy enough knit fabric that I could probably only wear it comfortably in winter and the extremely brief periods when spring and fall feel balmy in NYC. In winter, I'd also need tights on underneath, and I don't know if the dress would look as good with my typical black tights. Because the weather hasn't cooled down enough in NYC yet to wear the Lara out, I won't get to road test this dress until later this year. But because I felt beautiful in the dress when I tried it on, I'm hoping it'll work for me as well as it does for Vee and Sherry. 
  • Reiss Lara Dress, stone, M - $167.87* - (past season, sold out; similar in camelcheapest at Selfridges even with international duties and shipping) - This stone shade is a past season color, so it's generally no longer available from retail stores. After looking at Vee's photos of the dress in this color, I thought it would also look nice on me, and it was a pity the only similar shade from Reiss this year was camel. (While I like camel coats layered with a top, dress, or scarf in another color, I don't think camel tops or dresses would suit my skin tone.) A week or two after I bought the dress in teal, I was taking a random look at the Reiss webpage and saw the Lara dress in stone had somehow popped back in stock in their sale section in several sizes. I couldn't resist ordering because I thought I'd have trouble finding this dress on the secondhand market, and the price was only a bit higher than I'd expect to pay on eBay, Poshmark, etc. I've only tried this one on briefly, but I feel like the neckline may be slightly less open than on the teal version, so it can stay put on both shoulders a little more easily if you try to drape it that way. Not sure if I'm imagining this difference, though. If I want to wear this dress in winter, I'm not sure the stone color would look as good as the teal with black tights. 
*Indicates that price includes tax and international shipping. Reiss's standard international shipping charges are substantial - a whopping $15 - if you're not ordering enough items to get to their free shipping minimum. 

And that's it for this month! I've actually already pre-ordered the chunky crew sweater in light gray from The Curated, but won't record it in a monthly shopping post until after it arrives - likely in mid to late October - and I make a final decision about whether to keep it. I've looked at lots of customer photos with detailed commentary about sizing, however, so I don't expect I'll have chosen incorrectly about my size or the design. 

Also, thanks to a discussion in the comments over at Kathy's, I recently learned about Amy Smilovic - the founder and creative director of Tibi - and her Instagram account, where she frequently shares tons of thoughts about personal style and design. And I'm totally obsessed! While my personal style is  definitely very different from Smilovic's and from Tibi's, the way Smilovic articulates her own personal style and how she thinks about personal style in general is really compelling and clear to me, and it's inspiring me a lot. I don't think this inspiration will cause me to shop too much more in the next three months than I was originally planning to, but it's given me a lot of food for thought when considering my wardrobe. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

COVID-Era Life Lately

Kushikatsu at Izakaya Toribar. We were mainly there to eat yakitori, but those dishes were less photogenic. The restaurant was very popular, all the indoor and outdoor tables were full when we came in around 7:30 PM on a Saturday, but we were able to sit at the bar so we didn't need to wait.

Very brief post today, as I'm quite busy with both work and personal matters this month! K and I's courthouse wedding will happen very soon, and even if there really wasn't that much to plan at all - we're doing this wedding in just about the most informal and low-key way possible - it's still a bit stressful. 

I've now been back in the office full time on a mandatory basis for roughly two months. Much more recently, my workplace finally got around to formalizing a policy that if any employee develops cold or flu symptoms - in other words, possible COVID - they should, in fact, stay home from the office. In hindsight, it's pretty wild that even though my colleagues and I have been required to return to the office full time since July, this particular issue was not explicitly addressed by our workplace policies until barely two weeks ago. 

I guess because most people in NYC are still masking on public transit, in grocery stores, and in many other indoor settings, no one at work had actually gotten sick with a cold or the sniffles in the past few months. So we're lucky that the lack of quarantine policy never really became an issue. Well, at least we have such a policy now, I was getting a bit worried that we were never going to get clear instructions on what we should do if we got a cough or sore throat. 

We're also officially back to being required to wear masks while around colleagues indoors. Though as I've mentioned, I never actually stopped wearing a mask at work - and in other public indoor settings - whenever I'm around people from other households, except when I'm actively eating or drinking. 

Because I'm a pretty big fan of US women's gymnastics, I originally wanted to attend the Simone Biles Gold Over America Tour ("GOAT" tour), at Barclays Center on November 6. But because that's the type of event that would almost certainly attract a significant audience under age 12, I don't think I'll ultimately be able to go forward with it, even if I'm happy to stay masked throughout the show. 

Under NYC's current rules, I believe all attendees over 12 at large events would definitely need to show proof of vaccination to attend. Maybe that means the NYC Simone Biles GOAT tour stop would actually be a relatively safe event for all guests, and I shouldn't worry so much? Either way, I'm more than 95% sure I won't be attending. It just doesn't feel right to me at this time, and I'm not optimistic that I'll feel better about it by early November. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Money Diary: Typical-ish Week Back in the Office, Part Two

via Unsplash

And here's part two of my 2021 money diary from a fairly typical week since I was required to return to the office full-time!

On this Monday morning, I decide to grab an iced skim latte for $5.80 including tip from a coffee shop that's part of another small local chain, a different one from Friday. There are a ton of independent coffee shops in the vicinity of my office, and many of my colleagues and I each have our own personal favorites, with little overlap. I myself have three different shops I frequent in the neighborhood.  

For lunch, I get the same custom vegetarian - but not vegan - salad from Sweetgreen as I did last Friday, with kale, baby spinach, chopped tomatoes, chopped red onion, spicy cooked broccoli, boiled chickpeas, cooked portobello mushrooms, and burrata. The total is, once again, $14.64

Spoiler alert, I end up getting this exact same lunch two more times this week, which may make me sound very boring. While I'm definitely not a picky eater and I enjoy a wide variety of foods and cuisines when dining out or ordering delivery, my natural tendency when picking up weekday lunches or cooking meals is to repeat the same small number of dishes in rotation. So I'll cook things like the Dutch baby pancake or mapo tofu from part one of this money diary - and other favorite dishes - around once every two weeks.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Money Diary: Typical-ish Week Back in the Office, Part One

Hoka One One Bondi 7 running shoes (affiliate link)

Approximately once a year, I get inspired to write a money diary post in the format used by the now-defunct Man Repeller, with some added resemblance to Luxe's weekend money diaries. Unlike in the Refinery29 money diaries, I do not provide extra commentary about my overall finances to these posts, which focus instead on daily spending for a week. To date, I've done a 2018 "atypical week" money diary (part one, part two); a 2019 "slightly more typical week" money diary (part one, part two); and a 2020 "COVID-era staycation" money diary (part one, part two). And now, here's the 2021 edition, depicting a fairly typical week from after I was required to return to the office full-time starting in mid-July this year. 

During this week, I wasn't very busy at work, so there won't be a lot of commentary about my time in the office. I'd arrive at my workplace around 9:15 A.M each morning; would step out briefly for a quick walk around the neighborhood to try and get my daily step count up before picking up a takeout lunch - mostly Sweetgreen, just like in my 2018 and 2019 money diaries - sometime around noon or 1:00 P.M.; and then head home around 5:30 P.M. or so. 

I wear my mask while I'm at work, except when I'm alone in my office with the door closed. Like I mentioned in my 2020 money diary, I typically wear a Happy Mask - I ordered mine before demand dramatically increased recently due to the start of the school year - though sometimes I wear a disposable KN95 instead. I find both types of masks equally comfortable because they're both cone or beak-shaped, preventing the fabric from resting directly against my nose and mouth.

This year's money diary starts on a Friday. I set my alarm for an unusually early wakeup call - 7:00 A.M. - because I plan to go running before work, as part of my recent new health and fitness goals. Since I set those goals for myself, I've been reliably running/jogging outside once a week, slowly increasing the distance I'm able to run each time. This particular outing was only my third jog since I started pursuing my new health and fitness goals. 

Within a minute of starting to jog, however, I stop abruptly because my feet and ankles just don't feel right. I'm pretty familiar with this type of feeling, the old pair of running shoes I'm currently wearing have had it, they're completely worn out. I'm surprised by how suddenly this issue came on, however, as these shoes felt just fine during my previous run last week. Whenever past pairs of running shoes became too worn out and started causing pain or discomfort, it usually happened very quickly, but I don't think I've ever previously started feeling it in the very first minutes of a workout before! I usually only start feeling it that evening, or the next day. But it's also been years since I've run outside. (Since graduating law school, I only ever ran on a treadmill until this year.)

I decide I can still walk for a while before heading home to shower and change for work. While on my way to the office, I pick up a small iced latte with skim milk at a coffee shop that's part of a small local chain. It costs $5.75 including tip. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Things I Like Watching Lately

Today's post is about some of the things I've liked watching - mostly on YouTube - recently. As I mentioned in my last reading reflections post, because of all the things going on in the world right now, I seem to have very little mental energy for anything after work. After I get home from the office, I can't even muster up the brain power to read for fun, even though I'm currently working through some books that are quite well-written and not particularly heavy or sad in subject matter. 

My current favorite YouTube channel is Mejoo and Cats, see a post from their Instagram account above. Mejoo's family of cats: Monji, Bongji, Hyuji, and Yoji, all have big personalities, and the videos are very relaxing and soothing. That's Bongji and Monji in the Instagram photo above. Bongji, in particular, is quite a character. (Make sure closed captions are turned on if you need the English subtitles for their videos.) 

I've also been enjoying some YouTube day-in-the-life vlogs that have no or minimal talking, mostly just ambient noise and some added background music. Most of the the channels I watch in this genre are run by women based in Japan or Korea, most of whom live alone in fairly small studio or one-bedroom apartments. Many of them cook often, making meals that feel fancy and a bit complicated because they make several dishes, some of them carefully plated. I find these videos very calming and relaxing. 

My favorite creators in this vlog genre are Usako Style and Nami's Life. I also like Yuireu (she often uses more lively background music than the other day-in-the-life vloggers I've listed here) and deemd. Because many creators in this genre are internationally based and English is not the primary language they post in, I'm completely dependent on the YouTube algorithm to show me other similar channels. I have no sense of whether the people I follow are some of the more popular ones in this space, or if there are a whole world of other, more famous ones out there! 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

August 2021 Reading Reflections

Pardon me for disappearing for a while. Work managed to get too busy quite suddenly for me to post last week!

I had a pretty good reading month in the first half of August, but since then I've been right back in another one of those weird moods where I'm just not motivated to read for fun, particularly before bed. There's been a lot of bad news in the world recently, and I just... don't have the energy to use my brain for anything after work, even to read books that are objectively quite well-written and also not too terribly heavy in subject matter. 

Our courthouse wedding in late September is going to be super informal and super casual, and K and I have already done basically all the minimal planning work that's required. Even so, I suspect my brain will probably still feel too preoccupied and distracted to read for fun for most of the rest of the month. So maybe I'll end up having no new books to report on for September.

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

  • Case Histories by Kate Atkinson - This was recommended by a commenter here, I enjoyed it a lot and am now working on One Good Turn, the next book in the series. Based off these two volumes, Atkinson's Jackson Brodie series is a bit of a nontraditional murder mystery series, the focus is much more on the characters and their inner lives than it is on anyone actively taking many steps to solve the mystery. I don't mind that at all, though when reading Case Histories I sometimes found myself confused by the pacing because I was initially expecting the main character - who was working as a private investigator, after retiring as a policeman - to get fully to the bottom of each of the separate crimes involved in the story. But once I let go of that expectation, I was okay with the book's somewhat slow pace. I enjoy Atkinson's writing style and the way she gets in the head of all her characters, so I can see myself finishing the entire Jackson Brodie series in fairly short order, once I'm able to shake off my current non-reading mood. 
  • Imposter Syndrome by Kathy Wang - I really loved Kathy's debut novel, Family Trust, so I was excited to read this when the New York Public Library finally got it in as an ebook. This is a very different, more fast-paced story than Family Trust, and once I got to the end I really wanted there to be more! Like in Kathy's first novel, there are many sharp, darkly funny observations about life in the Bay Area and life in the tech industry interspersed throughout this story. I can't wait for her next book. 
  • Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner - This book had tons of buzz amongst the many writers I follow on Twitter, and all their rave reviews are extremely well-deserved. I loved this memoir, and it's going to be right up there amongst my favorite nonfiction books of the year.  It's an incredibly sad story, as the author lost her mother to cancer after two brutal rounds of chemotherapy. I've recommended so many memoirs on this blog over the years because it's a genre I greatly enjoy. Every author's life story is so different that it isn't exactly proper to compare them head-to-head and try to label any of them the "best" or anything like that. But I don't think I've read another memoir before that was truly this vividly "real" and unflinching about grief - including the ugly parts of it, the anger and resentment that can accompany it - and about sometimes-difficult family relationships, including when Zauner was a teenager and her mother hadn't yet accepted Zauner's creative ambitions. 

Like I mentioned in July, I'm also still working through Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon. It's not quite as densely filled with detailed descriptions of scientific research as I feared from the first chapter. Solomon focuses much more on personal stories, including his own, and I find those personal stories interesting. But either way, this type of nonfiction that's on the more dense and academic side of the spectrum is a tough genre for me to read on Kindle, I can only work through it slowly. 

I've also been reading Laura Lippman's Lady in the Lake, following Kathy's recommendation for Lippman's books as being consistently well-written "literary" thrillers that deserve more buzz and attention. This is only my first Lippman book, so it's maybe a little too early for me to declare Kathy's recommendation absolutely on point. But my feeling so far is that the writing,  development of the characters and setting, etc. are so good that I'd be shocked if it doesn't carry over to the author's other work. I try a lot of best-selling, highly-marketed "women's" thrillers and often the writing is... just not great and many of the books are close to unreadable. Lady in the Lake is nothing like those not-so-great representatives of the genre, and I'm eager to finish this and pick up Lippman's other books (at least once I get over my current mood about reading).