Sunday, April 28, 2013

J. Crew Factory 50% Off: Fitting Room Reviews

A perpetual sucker for a sale, I was excited to learn J. Crew Factory was running a weekend promo of 50% off everything in stores (today is the last day!).  I was feeling a bit blue on Friday so went right after work for some retail therapy (and it worked).  :)

Floral Embroidered Cap Sleeve Dress, 0, $59 (here)
I LOVE the embroidered details of this dress and really liked the cap sleeve (though it seemed more like a sleeveless dress with a wider shoulder).  It had pockets and that magical JCF ability to mask tummy pouches.  Ultimately, it came down to me feeling cheap and also feeling like I looked a bit rectangular in it.
Verdict: No, but would consider on sale and then doing a little waist nipping alteration

Printed Sanur Dress, XS, $30 (here)
See also on Gigi.
Gigi hit the nail on the head with her review.  I thought the print was very cute, but did not like how the top portion became more sheer when it stretched over the bust.  Made it seem kind of cheap?  In comparing with this with my first Sanur dress here, the fit was one size smaller and I felt like the material was more coarse and stiff as well.
Verdict: No, I had high hopes for this one but the material wasn't up to par with last year's

Stripe Sleeveless Popover, 00, $32 (here)
I'm a big stripes fan and rather liked the fit of the slim blouse-like silhouette.  Ultimately, I felt like $30 for a semi-simplistic, polyester top was a meh value.  Especially since I know I have striped poly fabric at home. 
Verdict: No, I can make this shirt if I decide I need something similar

Stone Fan Necklace, $27 (here)
I had been eyeing the Fan Fringe necklace for awhile and was excited to see this Factory version during the 50% off promo.  I love the navy / crystal combo and snatched this up quickly.
Verdict: Fervent yes

Textured Charley Sweater, XS, $29 (here)
Charley sweaters fit very much like the Tippi where the chest / arms fit well with a little bit of wiggle room in the torso.  Similar to the Sanur above, I felt like this year's Charley is more coarse than last year's here.
Verdict: No, decent fit but didn't like the feel of it against my skin

Printed Pencil Skirt, 0 (here)
Stripes and red/white/blue? Of course I felt compelled to try this!  This seems to fit one size smaller than the retail No. 2 pencil skirt.  The cotton is a little on the thin side.  It felt more like shirting material than what I would expect from a pencil skirt where the fabric is likely to be stretched for long periods of time while sitting.
Verdict: Liked the general aesthetic but didn't love the material

Stripe Knit Blazer, XS, $25 (here)
Another red / white / blue motif I felt compelled to try.  Sizing wise, I prefer XXS as seen here, but the $25 price tag made it worthwhile for me to alter if necessary.  As it is, it's only a little bit looser in the arms / torso so I will probably leave it alone.  See Sm on me for sizing reference.
Verdict: Bought

$50 for a blazer and a pretty bauble seemed like a fair price to pay, but my $50 gift card made it even better.  Yay for free stuff :D

I then went to check out sunglasses at Off 5th:
Chloe CL2119 in Brown
I think they're cute, but my husband thinks I look like a bug.  They were marked down to $90 from $295.  I tend to gravitate towards oversized frames because I feel like they fit my face width better.  
Verdict: Bought.  My old sunglasses were too tight on my big noggin and these are much more comfortable.

I also got to meet up with my fave SF girls this weekend for food truck eats and fabric shopping:
Ping, Karen, Me (thank you Ping and Tim for the pic!) at SOMA StrEAT Food Park

Looking for more J. Crew Factory reviews?  Hop on over to Gigi's.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hong Kong Eats: Local / Traditional Foods

Food, always has been and always will be, one of the main reasons I love visiting Hong Kong.  There is no shortage of good eats.  It's times like these I'm thankful we walked so much in HK, otherwise I'd have turned into a big gelatinous ball on Day 2.

We got traditional foods:

We visited Tim Ho Wan, the world's cheapest Michelin-starred eatery, for dim sum:
 "wok hei" is the breath of a wok.  Gives it a unique "heat" flavor.  The closest thing I can think of that would be similar is a grilled flavor.
The Cha Siu Bao was the best I've ever had!  Light, crunchy, slightly sweet crust with savory, tender roast pork filling.  They definitely deserve their Michelin star!
Glossary: "cha siu bao" = roast pork bun, "bolo" = pineapple, "lo mai gai" = rice dumpling w/ chicken

Can you "Where's Waldo" my husband?  :)

We were no strangers to street eats:


We had milk tea. Every. Single. Day:


From street stalls to uber modern cafes, we never had a bad meal:


And we'd top it all off with...more food!

Just putting this post together makes me hungry!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Scattered Flowers DIY Top Tutorial

I made this nude top a couple of weeks ago and pondered different embellishments options for a while.  I ultimately decided on a scattered floral motif.

Experimenting...

Difficulty:  Embellishing - easy, Top - average
Time:  1 hour to embellish, ~1.5 hours for the top

Materials:
  • Existing DIY'ed Top (DIY instructions here)
  • Silk flowers (I should probably note that I'm not sure how this will behave in the washer.  I'm guessing it will be fine in gentle wash with cold water, but I won't toss it in the dryer.)
What to do:
1.  Pluck the flowers off of the stem
2.  Lay out your general flower design and mark it (I use chalk) like the first photo.  Add a few stitches to the center of each flower and backstitch to secure.
3.  Follow Step 2 for all of your flowers and you'll wind up like #3 pictured above.  Snip off the extraneous threads from the front and back.

I wound up liking the semi-ruched look, so kept the back stitches intact on one shoulder :)

Scattered Flowers DIY Top
Polka Dot Skirt DIY (original post here)
Basketweave Crossbody from HK
Talbots Sandals

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hong Kong Shopping: Bargaining & Buyer Beware

I remember following my mom around on our trips to HK as a kid where she would deftly "bargain" with just about every merchant.  I would stand behind her, thankful I didn't have to talk, and try to send her encouragement vibes.  10 years ago, the thought of bargaining made me recoil.  On this trip though, I figured I didn't have anything to lose and it might even be fun to see what kind of deal I could get.

HK's Ladies' Market used to be jam-packed with replica bags, clothes, and the like, but they've really cracked down on that.  So while you will still see MANY inspired items (usually unlabeled or locally labeled), there are considerably fewer merchants trying to pass off to-the-dot replicas.  When it comes to my stance on that, I'm fine with inspired items.  I myself make my own inspired pieces, but personally stay away from items that are being passed off as something else.

My first purchase was a one-size-fits-all shirt dress / tunic in the Burberry-inspired vein.  I actually liked it so much, I picked up a navy / red version the next day.

One-size-fits-all is an interesting concept to me.  The sleeves and torso are relatively full, but the shoulders are actually pretty close to my normal shirts.  So I'm guessing the one-size is meant for smaller-framed Asians.  What I loved about this was the versatility.  You can wear it as shirt dress (although I feel like it's a little short for me), button up the sides for a bubble-esque hemmed tunic, or tuck it in as a shirt.  Opening cost was $299 and I talked her down to $160 ($20 USD).

Here's the navy version.  When I looked at this shirt at the market, I knew the quality wasn't great.  There were loose threads everywhere, the stitching wasn't very sturdy (they used a long, basting stitch in many places), and the stitching was crooked in some areas.  I weighed this all and still bought them because these flaws are fixable, I loved the versatility, and I knew recreating this (and finding this type of fabric) would be difficult.

My other purchases included a leopard scarf ($79 down to $39 - $5USD) and 2 cross body bags - 1 basket-weave ($350 down to $200 - $25USD)  and 1 map ($399 down to $250 - $29USD.  I love maps! see map skirt here).  I didn't notice when I bought it, but one of my leopard spots was faded.  :(

In all, I had fun bargaining and haggling my way to a lower price.  If you go shopping there, start haggling at around 50% of the list price AND be sure to very carefully inspect each piece for defects!  

Where do you stand on haggling?  Love it or leave it?

Monday, April 15, 2013

LA Eats & Travelogue

A week after Hong Kong, we took a mini road trip down to LA for a business / personal trip.  I spent the majority of my time in a meeting, but did get to sample some of the yummy eats SoCal has to offer.  You already know that I love Yelp.  Another website I like to frequent for food recommendations is TV Food Maps.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen something on Top Chef or The Food Channel and wanted to try it.  This site allows you to search via TV show and city / map for featured eateries.  My favorite shows to search for are The Best Thing I Ever Ate and Top Chef.

But the highlight of my trip?  Meeting Aubrey!  After work, we went for some bubble tea and chatted like old friends.  I'm so happy we got to meet up and hope to do so again when we have the chance!
Cha Cha Chili - Korean/Mexican fusion: Kalbi Burrito & Mushroom Poppers
Yelp Stats: 514 reviews, 4 stars
Big, bold flavors and tender beef with a spicy kick.  Fresh ingredients and friendly staff.

Golden Deli - Vietnamese: Chao Tom, Beef Banh Mi, and Pretzel Banana Cupcake
Yelp Stats: 1080 reviews, 4 stars
Featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate for their Chao Tom.  If you're not familiar with Chao Tom (I wasn't), it's a shrimp paste wrapped around sugar cane and served with rice paper, fresh herbs & veggies for DIY wraps.  The funny thing about this place?  They had the BEST cupcake!  Moist, flavorful without being too tooth-achingly sweet, and filled with fresh bananas.

Oumi Sasaya - Japanese: Curry Tempura Shrimp Udon, Duck Udon, Scallop Tataki, & Tofu Appetizer
Yelp Stats: 204 reviews, 4.5 stars
Best udon broth ever!  So much depth and loved the different options available.

Sushi-Gen - Japanese: Sashimi Combo, Sushi Combo, Teriyaki Chicken + Sashimi Combo
Yelp stats: 1775 reviews, 4.5 stars 
I saved the best for last.  This place is AMAZING!  The sashimi is crazy fresh and just melts in your mouth - some of the best I've ever had in my life.  The lunch specials come with a ton of food for a mere $15.  The only caveat?  Be prepared to wait for a table, so arrive early!  

Redondo Beach - gorgeous ocean views, morning bike rides along the beach, and a nautically themed hotel :)

Pasadena - we moved to a hotel in Pasadena (larger rooms and closer to San Gabriel / Asian stuff) for the personal portion of the trip.
After staying in hotels for 3 out of the past 4 weeks, the kids have acclimated well to living out of a suitcase.  Almost too well!  My son keeps asking me when we're going back to hotel because they make him happy.

I love everything we get to see and do when we travel, but it makes me feel so worn out (I'm such a travel wuss).  How long does it take you to feel normal again after a trip?  My husband is able to transition seamlessly and fall right back into his routines, but it seems to take me a couple of weeks.  Makes me wonder how others feel :)  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

H&M and Joe Fresh for JCP Fitting Room Reviews

Lured to the mall so my husband could get a pair of shoes, I couldn't help but snap a few pics for a review post.  My first stop was H&M.

 White Blazer, $30, Sz 4 (tag info below)
For whatever reason, single-buttoned blazers do not work on me, but I feel the need to try them on anyway.  The size 4 fit pretty well in the chest / torso and the sleeves are just a little too loose.  An overall decent fit, but not flattering on my body type.  
Verdict: There's something about these kinds of blazers that make me look more stout, no for my body type
See Jean's H&M blazer reviews here.

The back has a cute back peplum (?) detail.  Click on pictures to enlarge.  The blazer is on promo for $30.  A pretty good price for a lined blazer!

Conscious Collection Blouse, $17.95, Sz 4 (here)
I first saw this top on Ping and loved the ruffled armhole detail.  I was hoping being bigger would work in my favor for a better fit.  I'm trying on my usual size 4 and had the same issues she did - armholes / neckline too low.  The fit is also very blouse-y.  There's no easy way to alter this one since the shirt is pretty short and raising the shoulders would make it too short for my taste.  Oh well, will have to devise my own version at some point!
Verdict: No for me, but found another DIY candidate

It was a fast stop at H&M and as I wandered around waiting for my husband, I decided to go check out the Joe Fresh for JCP collection.  Their ads are everywhere and I was intrigued by the bright colors as well as curious about the fit.  My overall impression?  Cute pieces, decent prices, but do not fit me very well.  See below for details.  Want more JCP reviews?  Elle of FF&FF reviewed a couple of pieces from the Duro Olowu collection here.

Striped Dress, XS, $29 (do not see on website)
This dress is a great basic with the stripes, soft material, and pockets, but it just wasn't flattering on me.  The fit is OK with a roomy torso that made me look more frumpy than I wanted to.
Verdict: Not for me, geesh, so many body type fit issues today

Sleeveless Lace Top, XS, $29 (here)
Wow, this green makes me look tan!  I thought this top was pretty cute.  It's a little big through the torso and the armholes are a little bit low.  I wasn't in love with the large, circular lace pattern so did not purchase.  Plus, there are so many lace top options out there - why not hold out for something perfect?
Verdict: Cute, but not in love with it

Slim-Fit Sateen Pants, $29, Sz 4, (here)
Such a cute print!  My usual pant size of 4 was baggy throughout - waist / hips / legs.  I wanted to try a size 2, but it looked like all the size 2 / XS ladies barreled through JCP and bought it all out.  SO, I *think* sizing down would be the best way to go for these pants.
Verdict: I briefly considered altering these, but seemed like too much work to take in the waist / slim the hips / slim the legs / shorten

Print Blazer, Sz 2 (here)
Holy moly, this blazer was huge!  I'm wondering if this blazer is supposed to be really big and boxy?  The model on the website is swimming in it (and she also looks weirdly sleepy).  If you prefer a more fitted blazer, I'd recommend sizing down 2 sizes or looking elsewhere.
Verdict: Big No

And the shopping OOTD featuring my favorite purchase from Hong Kong - a reverse(?) leopard scarf and my tried-and-true military jacket from LOFT ages ago

No purchases for me (again), but I'm trying to save up for a new bike  :)  

Have you checked out any of the new JCP collections?  Would be interested to see what you thought, especially if you were able to find smaller sizes.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sewing 101: How to Line a Top

Lining a garment provides several benefits: 1.) great to add opacity to sheer fabrics 2.) finishes all of your raw edges 3.) if your outer fabric is itchy, lining can provide a smooth barrier.  I'm currently in midst of creating an embellished nude shell (thinking of adding cascading petals at the moment) and figured I'd show you the process of lining my top while I was at it.  2 birds, 1 stone :)

What You'll Need:

  • Shirt fabric and lining fabric (In my example, I'm lining my shirt with the same fabric.)
  • Shirt pattern: tutorial on how to create your own OR buy a commercial one

Steps:

1.) Cut out 2 complete tops using your pattern

2.) Take 1 top and align the front with the back.  Make sure the right sides of the fabric are together and sew along each side of the top from the underarm to the bottom.  Do the same with the lining.

3.) Place the lining inside your top with right sides together. (Ahem, I took a picture of it with wrong sides together, sorry!)

 4.)  Sew along the armholes and neckline.  Do not sew the shoulders yet.

5.) Flip your garment so that the right sides are facing outwards.  Tuck one shoulder inside the other shoulder.  (This helps me orient myself)  Flip the exterior layer over.  (This makes more sense if you look at the picture below)

6.)  The shoulders should now be sandwiched together like the photo above with the right sides of the shoulders together.  Stitch the shoulder closed.  Do the same for the opposite shoulder.

Both sides of the shoulder should now look like this.

7.)  Just hem as desired and you're finished!  The best part is that you can use this tutorial to line your tops OR to create a reversible top since each side is completely finished and no raw edges can be seen on either side.

Hope this was helpful!  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hong Kong Eats: Kanizen (Japanese Crab Restaurant)

Upon review, I realized I took around 150 food pics during our recent trip to Hong Kong.  That's a LOT of eating!  I'm not planning on dedicating a post to each restaurant we went to (that'd be 12 weeks of nonstop food posts), but Kanizen is an exception.  I am a huge fan of Japanese food and seafood, so when I heard about a Japanese Crab restaurant, I was beside myself.  I know that sounds exaggerated, but my stomach is very influential upon my moods.  :)

It took me a few minutes to realize this was a door (press white button on right side and it will open) and not a wall.  If I could read, that nifty little sign probably would have told me that.

The crab tank upon entering

A private room w/ 3 self-cooking stations

Grilled edamame and Chuwanmushi (a savory egg custard dish - silky smooth!)

Shabu shabu w/ a basket

Assorted fresh mushrooms, noodles, tofu, and veggies for hot pot

Matsuba Crab Tempura and veggies
See that green powder in the corner?  This is green tea salt (new to me) and it tastes good on EVERYTHING

Horsehair crab for shabu shabu

Gorgeously marbled Wagyu beef slices for shabu shabu

This crab really is hairy looking.  SO good and I very much appreciate them de-shelling a portion so I can eat it lazily

Crab Tsukune - a little like a crab meatball on a stick

 Grilled crab roe

 Our crab rice steaming away next to our strands of udon for shabu shabu

And the end result? Delicious!

The first time we tried to find this restaurant, we got lost and wound up getting there right when it closed.  Disheartened, we almost gave up on it since Wan Chai was so far from Sha Tin (4 MTR lines to get there).  On the very last day, we decided to try again and I am so glad we did!

Despite the fact that we didn't have reservations, the staff very kindly let us dine in one of their private rooms upstairs.  The private room was fantastic both for the overall experience and for the kids.  Service was very attentive without being intrusive.  The wait staff took great care in informing us how to cook and/or eat each item.

We ordered 3 lunch sets (3 adults, 2 children).  One executive set ($500(?) HKD) including crab tempura, crab shabu shabu, grilled edamame, chuwanmushi, and veggies, one Wagyu set ($150 HKD) including wagyu beef and udon, and one Crab Rice set ($180 HKD) with Matsuba crab / salmon roe and the crab tsukane.  Each dish was beautifully presented, incredibly fresh, and oh so tasty.  I would highly recommend this restaurant for the food, service, and experience.

Stay tuned for more Hong Kong travelogue posts :)

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