Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Refinery 29, we need to talk.

Refinery 29, I've been a loyal reader for like, ever. My heart jumps when I get your emails, especially the ones with new hairstyles, beauty buys and trends. I really love when you publish things about pushing boundaries. Like how to wear teenage trends when you're not one. Hello, crop tops? They're a staple for me and I appreciate your support when I wear them.

You wrote an article about how to make leggings look good, which I could relate to in some way because I know it takes help to make them look good. So I decided that we were made for each other when I shared my PSA about leggings, here. I could read between your lines and detect that we were of the same mind. Which is you know, leggings are not pants and all that.

And, then you wrote this article about those must have leggings that sold out overnight, twice.  And, at first I was upset about this. You caught me off guard, Refinery 29, especially when I saw this picture. But I excused it. I knew you had to reach your audience so I stuck with you anyhow.

But I'm not sure how long I can keep making excuses because now I found this. Another post about "best selling" leggings, and I think you may have changed. Maybe we aren't so compatible after all because I thought you knew better about leggings. But then again, maybe it's not you, it's me. Perhaps I'm just a stick in the mud, unwilling to embrace your changes. I don't know. I guess we'll see.

Until then, I suppose I'll read fewer of your "latest trends" articles and keep focusing on my other favorites. Like the articles about street style at various events and festivals like the Afro Punk Music Festival. I'm not ready to give up on you yet, Refinery 29.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

I'm a Sassy Mama

I'm no mothering expert, let me just put that out there. I lose my patience. I swear in front of my kids. I enjoy the quiet and a glass of wine after they've gone to bed. But I love these kiddos with a depth I never thought imaginable until I knew it for myself, so I embrace my role as their mother with the utmost seriousness. I wear my title with humility and pride.

A few months ago, I wrote a post on my blog dedicated to working mums. You can read it here. I was really just articulating thoughts that had been swimming around in my head for some time and I wanted to share them because I often feel like there isn't enough written for working mums. Shortly after, I was invited by Sassy Mama HK to be featured as August's That Mama. What an incredible privilege! As part of their interview, they asked me about my experiences with motherhood as well my job as a teacher and my love of vintage.

It was a humbling opportunity, to say the least. My kiddos and I had a lovely morning with photographer Michelle Proctor who came over to our house for a photo shoot and when the interview was published, I received some heart warming compliments, too. Even if my experience just resonates with one mum, I feel happy to share it. Please go and read the interview if you haven't. You can find it here. Sassy Mama did such a lovely job putting it all together.

I've toyed around with the idea of sharing some more working mum thoughts on the blog (I used to when the kiddos were tiny, only they were more like rants). I recently stumbled onto The Unmumsy Mum on Instagram, who I find amusing and fresh because she's honest. I like to think that I always keep things honest, too. Would you be interested if I wrote some of these mum ideas from time to time? Are there topics you'd be keen to read about? Or, should I just stick to the vintage stuff? 

Let me know.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed some of the other unpublished photos from our shoot. Michelle did such a fantastic job capturing us naturally. I really love the last photo of me and my big teenage boy. A lot of my energy these days is taken up by being a mother to him. Ups and downs, people. Ups and downs. Kind of like a rollercoaster and definitely a thrill.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

My Vintage Road Trip: Smorgasburg LA

When our family was making our summer plans and decided that we couldn't make it out to New York this summer, we all felt a little sadness knowing we'd have to miss out of some of our favorite NYC activities (um, eating). One of our faves is Smorgasburg, a super yummy flea market in Williamsburg where you can sample good food and shop vintage at the same time.

Imagine our surprise and delight when we discovered that Smorgasburg was opening a second market in LA, right at the time we were visiting! And, here I thought I'd have to go a whole summer without eating a ramen burger. Nope!

The Smorgasburg in Los Angeles is located right downtown (DTLA) and was super easy to drive to for us out-of-towners. You have to love Google Maps; what did we ever do before? There is a big parking ramp walking distance from the market (and you can even pop into the huge American Apparel on your way).

Having been to the Smorgasburg in Williamsburg for several summers, we had some high expectations going into this new market. Smorgasburg LA did not disappoint. It's nestled in an open parking lot where Alameda Produce Market takes place during the week. In between industrial buildings which are part of the fashion district (I asked a local), there was lots of variety of food vendors, vintage sellers and other artisans.

The organizers had planned well in anticipation of the summer heat given that it was all blacktop with no grassy space like in Williamsburg. There were tables with umbrellas located all around the market, a beer garden and even a tent spraying mist for people to walk through to cool off. It was the first time in our summer holiday that we'd experienced the heat, so we didn't mind it too much. It was still a lot less humid that what we're used to. All our previous Smorgasburg experiences have always been steamy, so we didn't think too much of it.

The highlight of the market for me, and definitely a highlight of my vintage road trip, was stepping foot into the most amazing little boutique in a classic mobile Airstream trailer called Blossom Vintage. I didn't realize until after we left the market, that I'd actually been following her account on Instagram for some time. I had a lovely chat with the owner and picked up this beautiful blue vintage Saks Fifth Avenue number which I wore on the first day back to work. If you haven't already, pop over and check out her online shop and Instagram account. You won't regret it. She's having a sale at the moment to clear out stock and make space for new Fall arrivals.

Another highlight was having my little crew with me. We love going to explore new markets like this and they were such good sports in the hot weather (donuts helped). My big teenager was being a teenager, so he missed out.

Oh, summer seems like such a long time ago. I still have one more post to write about My Vintage Road Trip. I'm already planning next years pit stops!

Outfit details: The House of Folklore Pools of Perseverance scarf, Louella Odie Jungle Lily shoulder bag, vintage skirt thrifted at Bethesda Thrift in Madison, second hand Club Monaco tank, H&M panama hat.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Links a la Mode, August 18th

Back to school for many bloggers means thinking about uniform, balancing work and home life, reestablishing routines, etc.  Or maybe that's just me. Anyhow, my Style Minute post on wearing belts with dresses was picked for this week's Links a la Mode fashion round up on Independent Fashion Bloggers.


Go and have a look at some of the other amazing blog posts this week!

Links à la Mode, August 18th
SPONSOR: Shopbop ZAC Zac Posen, Commando Lingerie, Stuart Weitzman Boots, No.6, GUM, Bag Studio, Floral Dresses, Wide Leg Pants, Low Heel Booties, Men's Club Monaco

Monday, August 15, 2016

Style Minute: Put a Belt on It

People often think that dresses are hard to personalize. How can one creatively style them to make them unique and change up how they look each time they're worn? As a blogger, I think about this because heaven forbid I should repeat an outfit in a post. I mean, seriously! (can you detect my sarcasm? I hope so).

Refinery 29 

Well, there are a number of different ways, I think, but my favorite lately has been to use a belt. Who cares if you don't actually have belt loops? No one said you need them. Wear your belt with whatever dress you like!


I'm loving how versatile this look is: shirt dress with a belt, sweater dress with a belt, belted dress under a blazer, boho maxi dress with a belt. The belt works amazingly with all of them!

The Sartorialist

And there's no wrong way to try this trend. You can experiment with belt widths and colors. Heck, you don't even need to use an actual belt! I've been using some of my vintage scarves to belt a dress, too. Have a look here and here.

Refinery 29

You need not play it safe with your belt, either. Notice how the western belt over this boho maxi dress makes it's own statement.  I also love how the woman in the striped shirt dress has styled her belt buckle to the side to go along with the cross over styling of the shirt dress (or maybe the dress was a bit big and this was a solution, which by the way is brilliant!)

I can't wait to pull out my blazers and try the belt under the blazer look for Fall.  I will also be on the hunt for some good vintage belts to keep exploring this trend myself.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My Vintage Road Trip: Estate sale 101

Estate sales are a highlight of every summer and a definite must go pit stop on my vintage road trip. It's the one experience I cannot find here in Hong Kong; not with lack of space, high rents and superstition being such a central part of the local culture.

I love estate sales because everything comes with a back story, an occasion for which each piece was worn and a memory from someone's personal history. I often find myself being reminded of my childhood or stories my parents have shared of theirs.  One summer, we found an old View Master from 1956 which made me remember the red one I had when I was just seven or eight.  

Estate sales are different to places like Goodwill or Savers and should not to be confused with vintage boutiques and charity shops either. There are varying degrees of curating involved in all of these shopping experiences and when that aspect is done well, they'll likely have a healthy clientele of vintage hunters. Estate sales belong in their own class of description and shopping them requires a certain etiquette, too. 

A few years ago, I wrote a little guide which I thought I'd revise for my vintage road trip this summer. 

Here it is, Estate Sale Shopping 101: The Basics.

First off, let's do a little review.

What is an estate sale?  Simply put, an estate sale is a liquidation of the entire estate of another person.  Everything must go, from large and small appliances, clothing, jewellery, shoes, furniture, antique toys and games, old pictures, linens, kitchenware, fine china and silverware, etc. Naturally, each estate is unique because each person's estate reflects that person's lifestyle and their own sense of taste, so you may find that there are some sales where you don't find the items matching with your taste, while other sales are loaded with pieces you love. Sometimes estate sales are called tag sales because of the way items are marked and priced. Contrary to what people often think, estate sales don't have to take place after a person's death.  Fairly often, they take place after a person moves into a home, or in with their extended family, as well. Estate sale companies do not accept donations or one off items, rather companies who manage estate sales will help families to liquidate entire estates, hence the reason they are called estate sales.


Next, what to expect for those considering shopping at an estate sale.

What you can find?  Aside from the items I mentioned above, estate sales often showcase specialty items, too.  It really all depends on the person whose estate is being liquidated.  There can be some really unique collections being sold as well. Antique stamp collections, baseball card collections, porcelain figurines, antique beer steins, old instruments, etc.  Really, anything. Usually, the estate sale company will post a list of the kinds of items to be showcased. Do check this before you go to decide whether or not the sale will have the kinds of items you're looking for. Usually bigger, higher priced items are reserved for auctions (an entirely different way of shopping, but often found in the same places as estate sales).  This might include farm equipment, old bicycles, artwork, etc.

Where are they? Estate sales commonly take place in the homes of the people whose estate is being liquidated.  These days, however, families are also selling their homes and are trying to downsize quickly.  Estate sale companies go into homes to view the items and then transport those items to a big warehouse to be tagged and sold.  This is what happens at the place I visit each summer. This company is called Main Street Estate Sales in Ottawa, IL.  Each weekend, new estates are added and multiple estates are represented, which is why their showroom is so huge.

How often do estate sales take place?  In my experience, they usually happen on weekends, typically Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The company I visit will list a particular estate over three weekends in order to move all the items.  The process of setting up an estate sale is an extremely intricate and timely one.  All items have to be priced, tagged with a color to denote which estate it's from and catalogued so the company knows what inventory they have to move.  Once this happens, the items are placed in the showroom.  It's easy to see why sales only take place on weekends since it must take the majority of the weekdays to prepare.


Estate sales can be overwhelming, so it helps to have a bit of guidance before walking in the door to make your shopping experience more enjoyable.

Tips:  You definitely want to get the most out of an estate sale, so pay close attention.  Please note, these are not tips for how to pay the least amount of money for what you find. You should not go into an estate sale with this expectation. Estate sales are unique and what you are privileged to browse through are the mementos of a person's entire life. Walking through an estate sale is like browsing through the personal history of a different era and taking a trip through someone else's memories.  I often find myself getting very nostalgic and wondering about how life was during that time.
  • Get to know the people who are managing the estate sale and the volunteers who are there to help.  I've always found these people to be super sweet and helpful.  They'll take note of what you're looking at and suggest other items that are similar.  Volunteers are there quite often because they share your interest in finding new homes for beautiful pieces from the past. As such, they won't be hustling you for a sale. They'd rather see a treasure go with someone who will enjoy it. Chat with them and find out what they know.  Service like this is hard to come by anymore.
  • Ask questions.  If you've seen a particular item advertised in the announcement, you should ask the people who work there about it.  I'm always amazed by their ability to know what's already sold and where certain items have been placed in the showroom.  There is so much represented, yet they seem to always know what you're looking for.  Also, their goal is to help move the estate so often items come priced in sets.  Though they'd prefer to keep them that way, I have found it doesn't hurt to ask if you want to buy things separately.
  • Pay attention to signs.  Everything is marked very clearly.  It has to be because the estate sale company must make sure the money from each sale goes to the correct family.  There are often unmarked items which are all priced generally, for example, jewellery can be priced the same and will have a sign denoting "All unmarked jewellery is five dollars." When in doubt, ask.
  • Be decisive. With any kind of vintage or secondhand shopping, you have to remember that every item is a one of a kind. When you see something you like, don't hesitate. Don't count on it being there when you circle around again because you're likely up against some collectors who will snap it up in an instant.  

Equally important to these tips are the things you need to avoid.

Don'ts:  I mentioned before that estate sales are special because they're part of someone's personal history and as such, this should afford them a great deal of respect.  This means there are a number of things you just shouldn't do:
  • Don't haggle.  I have found that the prices at my estate sale place are really competitive.  The quality of items is top notch and the prices are even better than many thrift shops. The money goes back to the family of a person's estate with a percentage going to the company managing the sale of the estate. If you go trying to get a bargain, you may just be cheating a family of some of their inheritance.
  • Don't remove tags.  The tags are different colors to help the estate sale company make sure the correct family gets the money to which they are entitled.  The process of tagging items is tedious and timely. 
There you have it, a little guide to estate sales to give you a boost in confidence. Keep in mind, these are observations based on my own experiences and you may likely develop your own helpful tips along the way. Experience is your friend in these places.  

 Good luck and happy shopping!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The House of Folklore in Madison: The Nostalgia of Home

When brainstorming ideas for our collaboration, Sneha Mathew from The House of Folklore and I agreed that the designs on their scarves evoked a strong feeling of nostalgia, it was the inspiration for the artist who created them. This idea of nostalgia and stories is a connecting thread that weaves through many of the products that they feature in their online boutique of lifestyle and fashion products.

It was also one of the ideas behind my plan to take a vintage road trip on the blog this summer as well, since hunting for vintage pieces has a tendency to make a person nostalgic for past eras. Heading to a thrift store, an estate sale or a vintage boutique/market is like walking through a museum of our past. I love it.

My sister and her fiance came to visit.

So, nostalgia for me is always strongest when we're in Madison, our summer home. It was, after all, where my hubby and I started our married lives together, where two of our three littles were born and where we first owned a home.

It seems fitting that my House of Folklore scarves got lots of wear in many different ways while I was here. July is the best month to be in Madison with all of the summer time things happening, so we made the most of the month we had. Art Fair on the Square, Farmers Markets, Paddle and Portage (a race the hubby decided to take part in for old time's sake), Concerts on the Square, Atwood Fest, Hot Summer Nights on Willy Street.  Oh, the list goes on...

This summer, we also had house guests.  Friends and family came to stay; nothing makes a house feel like home more than having a visit from the family. My sister and her fiance were the first of my side of the family to visit. What fun we had reacquainting them with our Madison and sharing our summer home with them, too.

Having guests allows you to fall in love with a place all over again because it's like seeing it for the first time, through their eyes. I was reminded of all the things my sister loved about Madison and I felt more linked to the nostalgia of this place as home than ever before.

Now, here I sit on our very last day of summer holiday in America. We flew to LA yesterday to spend one last evening with our West Coast rellies since this was our first port of arrival. Our bags are packed and we leave tonight to return to Hong Kong. We're leaving one home and headed to our other one. It's always bittersweet, but I can't wait to be home again.

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