Friday, March 29, 2013

this weekend

This Sunday is Easter, so I'm looking forward to a great Sunday with my family. Here's to resurrection in all forms (you, too, Spring!).

Here's what I'm checking out this weekend:

Watchathon Week is currently going on for Comcast cable customers, so I'm taking this opportunity to have a Girls marathon. I've heard/seen/read so many reactions (including the Man Repeller's) to it that I'd like to see what it's really all about. In the meantime, want to give me your take?

I've been on a necklace kick lately, and I've now turned my eyes to this one

I've been on a white sneakers kick for years now, and you can't go wrong with the classic.

Everyone needs a yellow polka dot bikini (it's sexy and adorable).

Like I said, I can't wait to visit Brazil, and this article has me intrigued about Sao Paulo.

To those who celebrate, have a blessed and happy Easter! 
Have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

oh, the places we will go

I'm a big believer in lists - there's something about writing everything down on paper, as though seeing it in ink makes all the dreams and hopes and wishes magically transform from the abstract to the tangible. One of the lists I've made so far is one of all the places I'd like to travel to and visit. Don't the pictures just make you want to be there already?

What places are on your travel list? 

Here are nine on mine:
one: spain/two: ireland/three: italy
four: greece/five: the UK/six: prague
seven: brazil/eight: turkey/nine: france

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


An early Easter present. This necklace is a little bit more than I usually go for bling-wise, but it's lovely and the delicateness of the flowers despite the overall wow-factor is what won me over. 

P.S. How beautiful does the First Lady look?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

quick bites: latkes and salmon

I often don't get to come home until around 7:00 p.m. On the nights when it's my turn to cook, my number one goal is to cook something as quickly as possible before James faints from hunger while still cooking something up that's tasty and remotely healthy. I've put together some  easy-to-make recipes using ingredients that we both like. Some of the recipes are completely from scratch, and some use already prepared ingredients. One of those recipes is latkes and sliced smoked salmon. These require just 5 ingredients: oil, Trader Joe's frozen potato latkes, (light) sour cream, (fresh) dill, and sliced smoked salmon. 

Drizzle the oil of your choice (I used olive oil) in a frying pan and heat on medium-high heat for a minute. Add latkes and cook for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Dill is one of my favorite herbs - so aromatic and always adds a dash of color - so I always use fresh when I can. Tear off the individual branches from the main stem, pile them all together, and loosely chop them to get finer bunches.

Plate your cooked latkes, place slices of smoked salmon on top, add a dollop of sour cream, and drizzle the dill on top. I also add extra sour cream and dill on the side.

That's it. Easy, quick, relatively healthy, and yummy. What are some of your easy-to-make recipes? I would love to know - you can never have too many!

Disclaimer: I'm not a professional chef, but I do like to cook (my 16-year-old self is laughing at me for saying that). I like the sense of accomplishment and the joy I get from preparing a meal, whether just for James and myself or for a bunch of our friends. What I lack in technical skills, I make up for with a willingness to experiment and have fun and to make food that tastes good.

Friday, March 22, 2013

this weekend

This weekend will be a great chance to unwind and relax. I haven't been sleeping well as of late, and I generally feel sluggish and just slow. I blame it on spring taking its sweet time to actually arrive. Nevertheless, I'm going to will myself to get going. I'll be helping my sister pick out a prom dress this weekend, so keep an eye out for pictures next week. She'll be graduating this year and is in the process of picking out a college. We're six years apart, so this really makes me feel old. 

Whatever you're up to this weekend, I hope you have a fantastic time. 

Some things to check out:

There's been so much talk - good and bad - about this book. I'd like to read it to see what I think.

He's definitely bringing sexy back. 

Speaking of sexy,  let's talk about the state of the word whom. (This isn't sarcasm. I think proper grammar is sexy, as is someone who knows how to use whom properly. :) )

Madewell's having a 25% off of $125+ sale. If I were buying, I'm eyeing this, this, and this.

And speaking of sales, Madewell's cousin, J. Crew, is having one, too. I'd pick this and this.

image via 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

make a statement

top row left to right: J. Crew (old, thrifted!)/BaubleBar/J. Crew (on sale for 25% off)/J. Crew (old)/Musana (for a good cause)
bottom row left to right: Express (old)/pearl necklace from James/J. Crew Factory (old)/Zara (old)/Express (old)

I find that the easiest way to change up your look from day to night without changing your entire outfit is to change up your jewelry and your shoes. For day, I opt for flats or low-heeled shoes for practicality and comfort, and simple, delicate necklaces. For night, I switch to higher heels and chunkier necklaces. My most-reached-for statement necklaces are displayed in a little window-box and hang on my bedroom wall next to my vanity. It's a win-win combination of jewelry storage and jewelry-as-art.

Speaking of making a statement, the Tukula necklace from Musana is the newest addition to my favorites. I saw it on Jentine (whose blog I read and love) back in December, loved it at first glance, and purchased it then as a Christmas present for myself. Aside from the fact that it is lovely and has the Bears' colors (it photographed red, but it's orange) 100% of profits from its sale and the sale of all the other beautiful jewelry from Musana goes to help women and communties in Uganda

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

spring bling

spring bling


one: Juliet and Company/two: BaubleBar/three: t&j designs/four: Banana Republic/five: J. Crew/six: Forever21/seven: J.Crew

 Today may be the first day of Spring but Chicago didn't get the memo. It's sunny but cold, which isn't springy in my book. Until the weather decides to get on board, I'll tip my proverbial hat to spring by ogling pretty necklaces. They're shiny, pretty, and allow you to inject a little spring in your outfit without having to give up your thick winter coat and its warmth. I tell myself that if I have to wear boots and a coat one more time, I'll scream, but I like being warm too much. I'll just have to compromise by keeping my boots and coat but buying a new necklace...or two. That's what it means to compromise, right?

products I love: drugstore finds

drugstore finds


Like I've said before, I love finding a product that works, but you know what's even better? Finding a product that works at a price that can't be beat. As much as I love certain beauty splurges, I'm all for finding great products at affordable prices, so I get just as excited about browsing through my drugstore's health and beauty section as much as I do about browsing through Sephora. After some trial and error, I've found some tried and tested and much loved favorites, all under $10: 

 Neutrogena makes gentle, hypo-allergenic, hard-working products that I love. My favorites include their make-up remover wipes and the grapefruit scented body wash. I've also recently discovered Organix moroccan argan oil conditioner. It adds extra conditioning for when my hair needs extra TLC and comes in great, eco-friendly packaging. As for beauty, I love Milani lipsticks (great texture and feel), L'Oreal's Voluminous mascara (long-time fave), and Maybelline's Color Whisper lip balm/stick (light-weight and low-maintenance like a balm, less drying than a lipstick with buildable color payoff).  I also have to give props to Sinful Colors nail polish - an extensive range of decently long-wearing (at least on me) colors that are priced at a wallet-friendly $1.99 or less.

What are your favorite drugstore finds? 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

products I love: l'occitane

products I love: l'occitane


In the winter, my skin gets super dry and super itchy. After trying numerous other products, as a last ditch effort, I tried L'Occitane's range of products, starting with the concentre de lait and the shea butter hand and foot cream. After seeing how effectively these three products worked on my poor skin almost immediately, I was sold. I'm also now obsessed with the almond shower oil and pate delice (couldn't find online but similar) for the days I want extra exfoliation. The subtle, natural, and refreshingly not chemical smell of all their products is a nice change from a lot of other things available, and the great work they do helping women in Burkina Faso makes my purchases even more worth it. L'Occitane's products are pricey, but they're fantastic and last quite a while as a little goes a long way, so they're a splurge I budget for.

Have you tried L'Occitane products? Any faves?

philippines part 2: people and places

For part 2 of my Philippines trip, I'd like to introduce you to most of the members of my family and more pictures of my home and our life there.

Flowers right outside our front door. My grandmother and aunts have quite the green thumb, a skill I did not inherit.

My uncle Arnol trimming some sugarcane. When I was a kid, I loved grabbing a piece and eating it raw - the juices are sweet like candy!

My aunt Edith, preparing some squash blossoms for dinner. Aside from being such a cheery shade of yellow, they're delicious.

Other foods I indulge in when I'm home: Jollibee two-piece Chickenjoy complete with rice and gravy, simple home cooked breakfasts of egg and rice, sweet rice cakes called bibingka, and fresh-from-the-shell coconut.

...and more food. My aunt Lyn demonstrating how to drink soda from a bag (the best way to drink soda!), my favorite street food of pickled green mangoes + shrimp paste (also eaten out of a bag), and freshly made chicharron (fried pork rinds).

The view coming down from our old house.

The house my grandfather built and in which my dad and his eleven (!) siblings were raised. We moved to our current house when construction had proceeded enough along to be habitable and to spare my grandmother the burden of getting up and down our little mountain in her later years.

My grandmother, Rosita. She is without a doubt the single most influential person in my life. She's my hero. Isn't she beautiful?

Clockwise form the upper left: my female second cousins - Nicole, Justine, Azen, and Lea; my cousin Marissa; my aunt Aida; my uncles Amor and Carlito; Marissa's son, Kenneth; my cousin Rose. Phew. I tried to get everyone but I couldn't find any good shots of my uncle Ely, my aunt Arma, my cousins Elar, Madelyn, and Arcely, or my aunt Nitha. Still, I'm batting over .300 consider how large our family is.

This little lamb lost its mother, so my aunt had to feed it using a baby bottle.

Some wild turkeys (I took this shot as close as I dared...they're kind of mean!).

And last but not least...basi, Ilocano moonshine. wink wink.

want more Philippines? part 1: on the way home

Monday, March 18, 2013

bag love: red, white, and blue

bag love: red, white, and blue


Oh, to pick all three...but one can dream, right?


philippines part 1: on the way home

I can't believe it's taken me over two years to go through and catalog my pictures from my last trip home in 2011, but better late than never, right? 

Some pictures on the way home:

I had a 4-hour layover in Japan that turned into a 6-hour layover. Our airline gave us a voucher for 1000 yen (about $10) to buy some dinner at McDonald's as a form of apology. Mickey D's is insanely amazing overseas. In the Philippines, you can have fried chicken with rice or spaghetti in addition to the regular fare of hamburgers and fries. In Japan, they had the burgers, too, but I opted for the Shaka Shaka Chicken. It's a chicken patty that comes in a paper sachet with a packet of powdered cheese. On the back of the paper sachet are instructions (middle picture) to pour the cheese over the chicken patty, roll up the opening of the bag, and shake so the chicken is covered in cheese. The shaking sounds like "shaka shaka". Maybe it was because I had already traveled 14 hours by plane by this point, but I found the packaging super cute and amusing, and while my description might have sounded gross, trust me, it was delicious.

Six hours after my shaka shaka experience, I landed in Manila, slept a few hours at my uncle's apartment, and promptly boarded a bus heading north to my province of Ilocos Norte. 10 hours later, I opened my eyes to see the capitol in Laoag through the bus window.

A half hour later and I could finally see the ocean. The moment I can smell the sea water is the moment I really feel as though I've come home.

And another half hour after finally seeing the ocean, I enter Bangui and see the main bridge running through town.

A sign at the foot of the bridge instructs me to turn left for the windmills and travel the last kilometer home.

After thousands of miles and some 35 hours later, the tricycle comes to a rolling stop and brings me home. I don't feel tired at all. 

For the first time in four years, my eyes can see this. How can I be tired?

Friday, March 15, 2013

this weekend

Bangui at dusk

I've been feeling all kinds of homesickness lately, so this weekend will mostly be spent finally taking the time to catalog pictures from my trip back home over 2 years ago (!). I can't wait to share snapshots of my favorite place on earth filled with my favorite people. Stay tuned next week!

Some things worth checking out this weekend:

I heart everything in this post, especially the water bottle and the funky sunnies.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, March 14, 2013




A woman's perfume is somewhat like her signature.  One of my closest friends wore Angel by Thierry Mugler and another close friend almost always wore Daisy by Marc by Marc Jacobs, and with each one, I considered those perfumes as their signature. I have three perfumes that I wear almost exclusively, one for spring/summer, one for fall/winter, and one for more special events.

I've worn Light Blue since my freshman year of college and am on big bottle #3. Its citrus scent has just the right amount of bite while still staying light and fresh, making it perfect for the spring and summer. The only downside is since it's an eau de toilette, the scent dies down after a couple of hours on me, and I have to respray. While that's unfortunate for my wallet, I love the scent too much. 

I discovered The One about 2 1/2 years ago. I had been looking for a stronger perfume to wear for nice dinners and more formal functions. I wanted something warm and romantic without being overwhelmingly floral or strong, and surprisingly, this fit the bill. Doing some post-buy research, I found out why I liked it so much: it has notes of mandarin, peach, bergamot, and vetiver - a great mix of things I like.

My search for a fall/winter perfume was even tougher. I wanted something that was more suitable for the colder temps than Light Blue but less "fancy" than The One.  I actually discovered Narciso Rodriguez For Her as a sample in a beauty box. I sprayed it absentmindedly and while the first spray was a lot more musky than I usually like, it died down into a really unique scent that I can't even describe but found myself loving. Even though it's an eau de toilette (in the black bottle; the eau de parfum is in the pink bottle, and I've heard the scent is quite different), it's a lot stronger and more lasting than the Light Blue. 

Do you have a signature scent?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013




I've been trying to find a red bag to add to my closet, and while perusing, ran across these two bags. I love the Wang, and the (eerie) similarity of the Zara one makes me laugh/cringe.

Which would you pick?

this: zara, $159
that: Alexander Wang, $1175

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

shoe love: zara

By now, it's quite obvious that I love shoes. While my love for them is infinite, my shoe budget is not, so I'm always trying to find the best balance between price and quality. One of the places I've found to offer up some on-point, reasonably priced shoes on a consistent basis is Zara. I don't think Zara is the most budget friendly place for me to find shoes (for me, an average of $80 a pair is still steep), but I think for the quality of a lot of their shoes, I would pay a lot more elsewhere. I've also learned over the years that shoes are not, as a general rule, the article of clothing on which you should skimp. A pair of low-quality shoes are often uncomfortable, and nothing ruins your day faster than wincing in pain with every step you take. 

When I do pull the trigger on a pair of Zara shoes, I have some basic guidelines to keep my checkbook remotely close to balancing, with the most important being 1) Will I really wear them? and 2) Is the price reasonable for what the shoe really is? For the first guideline, honesty is key. We've all been there - bought a pair of shoes that were beautiful and to die for only to never wear them because a) it's a half size too small/big but they were the last pair so you bought them anyway; b) the magnificent 5-inch heel that made you fall in love in the first place makes them impossible to walk in; c) they're too damn uncomfortable and they pinch; or d) all of the above. For guideline number 2, my general rule is I don't buy a shoe that's not made of leather if it's over $50. Obviously, there are exceptions (like running shoes!), and this doesn't mean all my shoes must be leather, but for a synthetic material, I'm much more likely to find a similar shoe for $50 or less. 

Now, this is all fine and good when it works, and most of the time, it does. I have bought on average two pairs of shoes from Zara in the past 3 years. But this time around, Zara has me seriously considering 6+ pairs, one of the pairs being the one above. The rest?
like the Pamela Love x Nine West collaboration, if you missed out like me
Super simple and chic

Because leopard and summer go well together
The color is fantastic, and it's edgy yet classic at the same time
Super easy and relaxed; dress them up or down
Go-with-anything sexy
White + chunky heel = made for summer (confession: James loved these so much he gifted them to me)

I obviously am not purchasing all or most of these shoes. Narrowing it down to three, I'd go with the tan block heel sandals, the black thong sandals, and the leopard print sandals. All shoes are currently available on

Which would you pick? Have you had luck with Zara shoes?

Monday, March 11, 2013

top five: books

I was quite the bookworm growing up. My parents tell me I learned to read at three and never looked back. When I moved to the States at the age of 6 and had to learn English, I used books to make the process infinitely faster. Reading books like Black Beauty and Little Women was like entering a whole new world. Like the picture above, it really was magical. At school, my English wasn't up to par - I had a funny accent and oftentimes, everyone spoke too fast for me to hold intelligent conversations. But with a book, that was different. I could read as slow or as fast as I pleased. I could look at the individual words and letters and look at the pictures if I found myself lost. They gave me the context I couldn't find in my everyday life, and reading gave me the ability to imagine that I was as witty as Jo or that I, too, someday could have a horse. 

I don't have as much time as I used to to read novel after novel (though oftentimes I wish I did!), but I try to take in as much of the written word as possible, often through The New Yorker or The Atlantic or The New York Times when I don't have the focus or the time to digest a longer piece of work. And it really is digesting - I am a firm believer in re-reading.

There are so many good books out there, but these are my top five, in a not-so-firm order:

To Kill a Mockingbird

A Raisin in the Sun

Pride and Prejudice

Twelve Angry Men

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Do you love to read? What are your top five (or ten) books?

Happy Monday! 

image: Lori Nix, "Library" (2007) via