The Essentials: Quality lingerie



Lingerie is one of those things that are often overlook and only replaced when they no longer perform according to function. In terms of personal style, I think that undergarments, a good haircut and well-groomed eyebrows are the best things you can and should invest in. I know it's cliched, but proper underwear not only holds everything together (not that I really have anything to hold *hee*), it often makes me feel much more confident and slightly sexy. I've recently been turned on to bralettes, but I think that having lingerie for every occasion is a necessity. It's also a necessity that they should feel comfortable and help retain a sleek silhouette. Since I'm lazy and don't like hand washing anything, I just toss everything (even the more expensive ones) in a net bag on a delicate cycle in the washer and they seem to have lasted pretty well. I get most of my daily underwear from Marks Spencer's when I visit London, and occasionally on birthdays and the New Year's I splurge on something extra fancy.

What is your take on spending extra on lingerie and is there a particular brand you would recommend?

P.S: I've updated the shop with a CdG sweater and I've marked down all the other remaining items.

P.P.S: Blogger has been pretty screwed up lately and I spent 3 hours on this post trying to figure out why I keep getting a 400 error. I apologize in advance if the post appear incoherent. I am contemplating moving to Wordpress.

Costume jewelry



  From top: A Little Dot Cubic from Etsy, Quarry Triangle Necklace & Hunter Gather(er) Stone Necklace

I'm not one usually for wearing jewelry and shunned away from them for the longest time. On regular days, I have a watch and engagement ring, nothing more. Lately however, I've been quite taken with minimalist handmade jewelry that seem to add a touch of je ne sais quoi to an outfit - the kind of jewelry that seem to elevate a simple combination of tee shirt and jeans into something with a little more personality.

Over the weekend I had some time to saunter downtown and check out the sales at Barney's and Totokaelo. I am happy to report that I picked up nothing at Barney's (leftovers of a dismal selection of Band of Outsiders, Isabel Marant and Rag & Bone). At Totokaelo however my willpower was tested and broken. I tried on various items that didn't quite fit but pick up two new Hope Byronesse tees (my collection is complete! Black, white and stripes!) and the Quarry by Ninh Wysocan Triangle Necklace that I've been pining over for a really long time. For some reason, the abstract shapes seem really amusing and interesting to me.

Along with what I call costume jewelry as shown above, I have a pearl lariat necklace which was the first jewelry the then boyfriend ever bought me and a Wouters & Hendrix necklace I bought on sale from La Garconne. I occasionally also wear a white gold necklace with a cross that my mum got for me for my 16th birthday. I think I'm finally at the point where I can say no to any new jewelry but since I saw the interview with Charlotte Gainsbourg posted by Miss Sophie, I'm now wanting a simple diamond solitaire on a short necklace.

China: Part 2

The giant panda in captive spends about 50% of the time eating, 40% of the time 
sleeping, and the remaining time pooping and playing. Pandas in the wild aren't so lucky. 

Sichuan peppercorns are used in a hot pot in Chengdu to lend a 'ma la' taste - it's a weird 
numbing sensation with an aftertaste reminisce of camphor.

 
Rice field terraces at Guilin. Looking down the terraces, one is 
reminded of the scales on the backbone of a dragon.


Taking a boat trip down the Li river to Yangshuo county. 
The mountainous rock formations are pretty awesome.

A dragonfly, a symbol of good luck landed on my window during the river cruise.

Shanghai looks pretty much like Manhattan. At least they had some decent
bars that served passable wine though.

We were fed really well in China. Apparently, restaurants and hospitals are the 
two most important things to the Chinese. Food quality however, ranged from 
passable to amazing, with my favorite places to eat being the second part 
of the trip, in Chengdu, Guilin and Shanghai! 


I was lucky enough to spend two weeks in China over the last month. As a quick recap, I visited the cities of Beijing, Xian, Lhasa, Chengdu, Guilin and Shanghai. You can read  Part 1 here.

From Lhasa, we flew back into China and visited Chengdu. Chengdu is not only reknown for its tea houses but their most famous inhabitants are the current mascot of the WWF and the subject of a new Disney cartoon starring Jack Black. They are also really adorable animals. The Giant Panda Research Base was probably the congregation spot of most of the white tourists in China. It was  a really interesting place to watch people from all over the world and figure out if we are more alike to our stereotypes than we would care to imagine e.g.: loud white tourist, pushy Chinese tourists etc.

Guilin was the ancient holiday spot for emperors and it's one of the most beautiful places on our itinerary. The area is a gorgeous combination of mountains, rivers and lakes. We visited the rice terraces which were all hand tilled from way back in Ming dynasty (ca 1400s) and we took a 4 hour hike to stand atop one of highest mountains in the area to look down on the "Backbone of the Dragon with Scales" hence the name Longji rice terraces. That night we also saw the "Yangshuo Impressions Light Show" which was apparently choreographed by the same people who did the opening night at the 2008 Olympics.

The last leg of our trip was two nights in Shanghai, and all I have to say about it is that the United States needs to up the ante on infrastructure and stop living in 1950s and wondering why the Chinese are overtaking us in terms of economy, education and technology. We need to stop thinking of China as an imminent enemy bent on brainwashing their citizens and redistributing wealth. China does have its fair share of evil agendas. Freedom of speech there is really as bad as you hear on the news - I could not log on to Facebook and Twitter or even view any Blogspot pages. Every which way you turn on the streets, there is some sort of construction going on such that there was barely a day in the major cities where we could see the blue sky beyond dust and smog. I lost count on how many coal-powered plants we passed by while driving along the highways. The environment is practically being massacred on an enormous scale. People in China are also infinitely rude, a far cry from the Confucianism principals of being considerate and respectful. If you have a death wish, try crossing a major intersection in Beijing during rush hour. The chances of being killed by cars and/or bicycle is almost foolproof. Brian and I had a running joke that in order to get a driver's license in China, part of test would be to kill three pedestrians at a crosswalk during the test.

But for all the negative traits associated with the Chinese, it is also one of the most beautiful places in the world. The grandeur of the ancient world is fascinating, from the Forbidden City to the Terracotta Soldiers to the grand palaces and gardens of kings. Modern China is equally amazing, if not slightly scary and depressing, in the sense that the rate of progress has been so exponential that the standard of living for a majority of people has improved significantly over the last 20 years. The skyscrapers, cars piled up bumper to bumper, shopping malls, electronic billboards are all testament to how China has advanced. I don't think China will ever be able to recapture its glorious past but it may come close, and while the West is more concerned with inward political bickering and general slothfulness and indolence, many countries that were once impoverished are ascending in term of national superiority and we yet witness the rise and fall of nations in our lifetime.

Summer wish list & Chinese souvenirs


I'm not usually one for massive purchases on vacations unless it's specifically a shopping trip, which in all fairness, only happens once every few years. I find that souvenirs are usually pretty tacky and I tend to avoid tourist traps at all costs. The worse kind of stores are the ones where they walk you through quickly about how certain items are made and then force you to exit through a gift shop. The fiance and I have a pact to sit outside and wait while our group goes through the motion. I'm sure we appear pretty cheap, but at least I can keep my annoyance in check! Another really cheap habit I have is doing my laundry in the hotel room, so I usually pack quick drying clothes (tip: the Hope jersey tee-shirts are the best things ever! They dry almost instantaneously! Don't forget detergent!). That way, I don't really have to buy new clothing on trips and I save on over priced hotel laundry services.

From my recent trip to China, I managed picked up a sun hat in Lhasa (USD$7), a little Laughing Buddha statue (USD$20) and a traditional hand loomed throw  (USD$10). I also picked up a "pashmina" (no doubt a fake) scarf for USD$2! The laughing buddha statue is something I've been pining for a long time, it makes me happy when I get up in the mornings, so I think all in all, it's a pretty worth while purchase.

I think the scarf will be a nice pairing for my summer to-buy list which is as follows:

1. A good white summer-weight tee
I don't believe in spending too much money on a white tee-shirt especially ones where you're likely to wear to a barbecue or to a summer picnic. However, you also want to balance quality with price, making sure that the tee isn't too likely to stretch out or thin out in the wash. I've had cheap, lightweight tees unravel and develop a hole within the first wash. My favorites are ones from Banana Republic or Canvas by Land's End. I like them a little loose, and the scoop-neck, boyfriend tees are light and airy enough without looking drab. If I had my druthers though, I would pick up this one by Rag & Bone in a jiffy.


2. Clare Vivier Messenger bag in grey
I think the grey color is a good all-season bag and is large enough for toting around books and other junk e.g. sunscreen, iPod, wet wipes, picnic blanket etc. etc.  

3. Conroy & Wilcox small Signet Ring
I feel like I should keep things a bit low key when I'm wearing tee shirts & shorts and a signet ring just seems to bring everything together.

APC Oxford Denim blazer; Rachel Comey Clan Shorts;  Rag & Bone Boyfriend Scoop neck tee; Claire Vivier messenger bag; Madewell Park Bench fedora; ALittleDot Cubic necklace; Rachel Comey Wala clogs

I think I'm pretty much set for summer, Seattle has had really silly weather so I'm not sure if any major purchases of summer clothing are warranted. I'll probably be lounging around in cropped pants or shorts, light tee shirts and flats or sneakers. I'm very quite determined to lose about 5 lbs over the next few months, but I'm not sure if my summer staple of Caprese salad with mozzarella di bufala (*grin*) will help me achieve that. Any ideas or word of advice on how to avoid drinking too much prosecco and eating too much ice cream on warm summer nights are welcome!

P/S: I apologize for not responding to the various comments left on previous posts. I've been sick with various kinds of self-diagnosed ailments, but I do appreciate all the nice comments left and I hope to get back into the regular mode of things soon.

P.P/S: I am still sorting through the pictures from China and for those who are interested, I'll post the second part of my trip in the next few days!

China: Part 1

I'm back after two hectic weeks trampling through the hazardous, polluted streets of 6 cities (including one  that's questionably located) in China, each famed for its individuality in history and each as unique from one another as the myriad dialects, minority groups and political ideals that make China such an interesting yet depressing country.

My journey started one day late from Vancouver due to some timing problems with Air Canada (oh, Canada!) and we ended up having to take away a day from our Beijing tour. The gist of the trip was basically to go on a rampage of Beijing, Xian, Lhasa, Chengdu, Guilin and Shanghai - all in 14 days including a boat ride and 5 domestic flights. If you couple that with the fact that people in China are crazy nutcase suicidal erratic drivers with absolutely no regard for traffic regulations (ironic, no?), completely disastrous bathroom conditions and insufferable pollution, it's pretty much a recipe for a holiday trip that is guaranteed to end with a few immobile days in bed nursing a cough and a cold.

Anyhow, since my last trip to Beijing about 9 years ago, things have changed remarkably. There are much more cars, air quality has spiralled insanely out of control and where there were once ancient streets and private houses are now massive apartment blocks and mega malls. American fast food chains ala KFC, McDonald's and Pizza Hut have sprouted on every street corner and mobile phones are more likely a daily essential than bicycles.



 

The obvious tourist-y things to do in Beijing include taking a picture of Chairman Mao at Tiananmen Square, visiting the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace, hiking along the Great Wall, and strolling through the 'hutongs' (old houses) and night markets. The night market is a great place to sample some exotic insects e.g. scorpions and silkworms, although I would highly advise against it if you're get easily queasy like me =P. On the other hand, I'm quite amused to report that fast food chains have also infiltrated the old defense system of Far East - you can now easily order a turkey sandwich with easy mayo from the top of the Great Wall via Subway.



From Beijing we continued on to Xian to pay the semi-excavated Terracotta Warriors a visit. The sheer size of the mausoleum is amazing, each of 8000 warriors have different physical characteristics modeled after real soldiers. It's a little bit chilling to think about how much effort and lives were put into building tombs and projects for ancient kings; about 800, 000 people at any one time were reported to have worked on the tomb over 40 years. While I am quite upset at the rate environmental degradation in the name of progress in modern China, I am actually glad that humanity has moved towards a less cruel ways of constructing things.



On the fifth day we flew to Tibet. The sights were incredible, from the majestic mountains to the exquisite Buddhist temple carvings to the colorfully dressed local Tibetans. Lhasa was perhaps my favorite place that we visited on the trip even though the hotel was pretty nasty and the bathrooms treacherously disease-plagued. Our guide told us stories about summers with the warmest temperatures on record, of yaks that had to move higher up into the mountains because their thick coats could not withstand the heat, and of water intensive vegetable farming brought in from across China. Local Tibetans cannot leave the city proper without some form of approval by the Chinese government and even to obtain a travel permit, it involves some sort of bribery and bureaucracy. In some weird way, it felt to me that I was watching a final curtain call of a greatly produced movie, a masterpiece that was fleetingly close to finishing and that once it was over, there will never be another quite like it.




This photo below is one of my favorite from the trip to Lhasa. It captures the very essence of modern life in Tibet. Kids are now more fluent in Mandarin than in Tibetan due to compulsory Chinese schooling , and yet for all the colonisation and urbanization China brings, these two boys are still here playing with primitive soldier figurines on the street outside a laundromat on a school day.


In Part 2, I'll be visiting Chengdu, Guilin, Yangshuo county, and Shanghai!