Favorite things of 2017

I went home to California and went over budget for the first time in months because I suddenly had access to physical stores that aren’t in Michigan. Even though I went over budget, I’ve realized I’m a lot better about resisting impulse buys and sales in general and decided to relax my strict budget (it was making me a bit obsessive about tracking purchases). I have also been more content with my closet and haven’t made too many clothing purchases since then and have been spending my paycheck mostly on home stuff and beauty.

So instead of focusing on just favorite clothing purchases, I wanted to do a run down of my favorite materialistic things from this year. As always, nothing is sponsored but some links are affiliate links.

2017 favorites

1. Blundstone Original 510 (Unisex) Boots in black (Moosejaw, Amazon, Shoes.com)

After Riot Fest this summer, my old black pleather ankle boots were seriously approaching their end date. I was browsing Sierra Trading Post looking for wool socks and saw a bunch of factory seconds Blundstone boots for $79.99 (down from their usual $165-$180). I’ve been eyeing these boots for a few years but could never pull the trigger. I read a few reviews saying how factory seconds Blundstones were functionally fine but usually had a few cosmetic marks that relegated them as factory seconds. Mine arrived with one indent in the leather of the left toe box area but you can’t tell unless your eyes are a few inches away.

Functionally, they check off all my boxes. They have a thick TPU outsole that provides much better grip than my old boots and is supposedly less prone to cracking than plain rubber outsoles. Additionally, the sole is thick enough to actively feel like there’s significant cushioning between my feet and the ground. The leather is already weatherproof but I added a layer of Dr. Martens Wonder Balsam (Amazon, Dr. Martens) to further protect the leather against salt/saltwater damage. They’re a little roomy width-wise but perfect for sub-freezing temps when I wear thick wool socks. I think these are fine for any temperature above 10°F but switch to my snow boots for anything below that to be on the safe side.

Breaking in wise, the footbed actually gave me no trouble, but the side elastic panels were tight and stiff so the top of the boot rubbed the back of my lower calves the first day so I just slapped big bandages on those areas to reduce friction. The elastic stretched during a day and I had no issues with rubbing the next day. Very pleased with these boots and am expecting these to last me the next few years (my friend has a 4-year-old suede pair and they’re still going strong despite the harsh Michigan and Canadian weather she wears them in).

I got these in a AU 4 where I usually wear a US 6.5-7M / EU 37 / UK 5 and like I mentioned, these are a little roomy width wise but are perfect length wise. I think thick socks would make half a size down too tight.

2. Spotify Premium for Students + Hulu (Student, Premium)

After a free month trial of Premium and a 3 month for $0.99 deal, I couldn’t go back to the free Spotify version. Thankfully, I qualify for the student discount ($4.99/mo instead of $9.99/mo). I’m a huge song skipper (confirmed by Spotify’s Year in Music summary as someone with a trigger finger hah) and the song skip limit in the free version of Spotify killed me. I also hated how the ads (always the same two or three ads) were slightly louder than the music. Premium also allows offline listening which was perfect for traveling and because I don’t have unlimited data. I also like listening to albums that are new-to-me in order to help me link a song to its song name, and the free version only plays albums on shuffle. Hulu (ad version) was added to the package and is a nice bonus. As someone who listens to music all the time, when I graduate, I have no doubt I’ll keep Spotify Premium even at the normal $9.99 rate.

3. Polk Audio T15 Bookshelf Speakers (Amazon, Best Buy)

Speaking of music, I stepped up my audio game this year.

I technically bought these Polk bookshelf speakers during Black Friday 2016 but I have been using them nonstop in 2017. The sound quality is obviously richer and crisper compared to that of the speakers I had before, even though these are considered “great for their price” speakers. I can’t imagine how great music sounds with better bookshelf speakers. As someone who has never had bookshelf speakers, they were kind of a pain to set up but worth the time and I’m sure I’ll be content with these for the next few years.

4. Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Smart Headphones (Amazon: Series I, Series II; Bose: Series II)

My friend’s brother works part-time at a Bose store and gets great employee discounts. She bought a pair of the QuietComfort 35 Wireless Smart Headphones a year ago and has been raving about them ever since. Over the summer, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and asked if he could place an order for me. I ended up getting them (I have the series I) for around $175 which is such a bargain (they usually retail for $330-$350 and are rarely discounted that much). They’ve completely changed my lab work and plane routine. I’ve never had a pair of wireless headphones/earbuds, and I don’t think I can ever go back to anything with a wire (especially because of that god awful rage-inducing feeling of earbuds getting ripped out of your ear when the wire gets caught on something). I don’t think I would ever spend $350 on these, but at the discounted (but yes, still pricey) price, totally worth it. My ears ache a little if I wear these over 3 hours straight, but that’s a small price to pay for actually being able to listen to music at a reasonable volume on the plane and in lab.

5. Vans Classic Slip-On (Vans, Zappos, Shoes.com – additional 25% with code WELCOME2018)

After being a faithful low top Converse wearer since middle school, I’ve officially become a Vans convert. I’ve never been a fan of the Old Skools because they look a little too thick/clunky but I got a pair of the slip-ons about two years ago and they’ve quickly become my favorite shoes. I find the soles to be more comfortable (they feel thicker/more padding) than Converse ones and they’re so easy to slip on and off. Only downside is that it’s been a struggle to find no-show socks that don’t slip down (I have massively sweaty feet and socks are a must to avoid stink). Also, because I wore these pretty much every day in the summer, I got an epic tan line that still hasn’t faded months later.

I currently have these in the classic black and the black/grey checkboard (my personal favorite). But I’m loving the Vans x Peanuts designs and how cute is this black and white Snoopy/check design?

6. iPad + ebook libraries (Apple, Amazon, Best Buy)

My mom has friends who work at Apple who get employee discounts on items (more discounted than the student/education discount) so I asked my mom if she could buy an iPad from her friends and I’d pay her back, but my parents (bless them) just bought it for me for my birthday this year.

As lame and privileged as this sounds, I got an iPad mainly for reading (books and science papers) and traveling. I had an old Amazon Fire tablet but the software/interface sucked and I didn’t want to waste the time trying to figure out how to jailbreak it. The Fire also kept crashing whenever I used the built-in browser. I get really frustrated when technology doesn’t work the way it’s advertised and actually adds difficulty to my life rather than simplifying it, so I gave up on it and decided to get an iPad after seeing how much my mom loves hers (she’s technologically challenged and was able to get along fine with her iPad). Best decision ever. Transferring over all my ebooks using the Kindle app was a breeze, and I definitely read more this past year. It’s also much easier to travel with (either to lab or on plane flights) than my laptop. And because I have a Macbook Pro and an iPhone, it’s a lot easier to switch between all three of my devices. My old Amazon Fire tablet went to my dad and he doesn’t mind fiddling with gadgets so win-win.

While nothing is better than physical books, for me, they’re just not as practical as ebooks from a physical (where do I put all the books?!) and monetary (I don’t really want to budget for books too…) perspective. But if I’m going to buy a book, I’d rather buy the physical copy rather than the ebook version. Let’s just say: Thank god for libraries. I have a library card from my hometown so I can access the Northern California Digital Library on OverDrive. However, there are so many people and almost every book I want to read has as huge waitlist. However, I can get access to the Midwest Collaborative for Library Services also on OverDrive if I apply for a library card in Michigan which I’m planning to do in the near future. There are a lot more books available with either no or shorter waitlists so I’m excited about that. Your local library should have all the information about which digital library you have access to.

7. Everlane Large Street Nylon Zip Backpack in brick

I’ve had my eye on the Everlane nylon backpacks but since I already have a backpack (a 5 year old North Face one but still fully functional) and don’t use a backpack daily. However, when December came around, I said screw it and got it (massive thanks to everyone who has ever used my Everlane referral link!!!) because while my North Face one is functional, I dislike it – namely, it’s way too bulky and big for 5’2″ me; the straps sit too broadly on my shoulders and causes shoulder aches.

This is the most recently purchased item on this list, and I’ve actually only used it twice so far but within two uses, I already like it infinitely more than my old backpack. It’s smaller and is perfect in size for my height and needs. The laptop compartment perfectly fits my 13″ Macbook Pro even when it’s in a padded case. The compartment sits flush against your back so you don’t feel your computer shift around (always an issue with my previous backpack). I like the middle wider compartment for notebooks, papers and my wallet. Both the laptop and middle compartments have a thicker padded bottom which is a nice touch. I shove cables, lip products, my keys and pens in the front zip compartment (I don’t feel comfortable putting my wallet in the most easily accessible compartment). The side pockets are a bit small but can snugly fit my water bottle. Another draw is that the backpack has no branding (unlike Jansport, North Face, etc.)

A friend has the Modern Commuter backpack and had issues of the straps constantly loosening but I didn’t have that issue. The Modern Commuter has as cotton exterior and because she has it in black, she’s noticed it’s just always gathering dust and lint (she’s one of those people who keeps a lint roller at her desk and she’s given up on keeping her backpack spotless). I’ve noticed some dust and lint on mine but they all fall off with a quick brush of the hand. Even though it says spot clean, I think tossing this into the washing machine on cold with air drying should be fine with no shrinkage.

The only (very minor) downside I’ve noticed is that the backpack comes with an Everlane pin on the front compartment and when I removed the pin, it left two white spots where the needles poked. I hid one of the spots with another pin of mine but there’s still one little white spot and I try not to think about it. I think the pin is a nice touch – I just wish it came not attached to the backpack or with the option of not including it.

I was a little bummed that this size of the nylon backpack was sold out in the dark green so I got it in brick. It’s more of a dark red/maroon shade rather than red-orange rust color I was expecting but it’s still a lovely color.

8. Odeme nail polish in Gold Lion (J. Crew, Goodwin)

I saw this nail polish on a friend and fell head over heels in love with the color. It’s literally everything I want in a nail polish color: kind of ugly with chartreuse undertones plus it’s flattering on my skintone. It’s predominantly a gold color with murky undertones depending on the light. Odeme is a brand I haven’t heard of before, but I really like the formula and brush. The bottle cap that’s attached to the brush makes it kind of awkward for application but it’s not a major detractor. I noticed this brand is being stocked at J. Crew now and am so tempted to buy Library (dark red, sold out everywhere else I’ve looked) and Scout (dirty olive green)… but do I really need more nail polish?

9. Wicktrimmer (via Amazon in black, in gold)

Winter turns me into a candle-burning shut-in and in the past, I’ve used scissors to trim wicks but the uneven trimming sometimes caused smoking. And for larger/deeper candles, it was difficult to trim the wick with scissors. I finally got fed up and bought a wick trimmer and it’s made maintaining candles easier and cleaner.

So those are my top 9 materialistic things of 2017! I haven’t been the best at blogging but I’m going to try and keep this pet project going and post whenever I feel like it. Here’s to 2018 and hoping it’s better than 2017!

-amy

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February 2017 favorites

This post contains affiliate links.

Because I didn’t buy a lot of stuff this month, my budget post is a bit lacking in content. To counter the shortness of that post, I thought I’d make a second post about some of my favorite things this month in TV, music and skincare.

feb-2017-faves

TV: Legion (FX)

I haven’t watched a TV show from week to week since undergrad but I’m now currently into three shows where I have to wait one week between episodes. As a seasoned (pun!) TV binger, the waiting is a bit annoying, but worth it so far.

Of the three shows, my favorite has to be Legion. At the time I’m writing this most, there are only three episodes so far but I’m so enamored by the show: the way it’s filmed, the color/art scheme, the way the story unfolds… everything. It’s not quite like anything I’ve ever watched before and I’m excited to see the season play out. So far, I haven’t been disappointed by an episode yet and I’m hoping it’ll stay that way. Dan Stevens is unrecognizable (Cousin Matthew who?) as the main character and is killing it as a supposed schizophrenic, powerful mutant. If you love stories with unreliable narrators which keep you guessing what’s truth and what’s fake, then you’ll really enjoy this show.

The plot is a bit hazy and can be a bit confusing but I think the show is focusing on fleshing out the characters and acquainting us with how the story will be told before diving into the nooks and crannies of the overall plot. So far, we know there are bad guys and good guys but we’re not entirely sure if that’s true at all. I love the uncertainty of everything we’re being shown.

While Legion is technically part of the Marvel family, if you watch the show without knowing that, you won’t be able to tell. Legion’s first episode is now near the top of my short “best pilots” list, joining the ranks of Breaking Bad and Lost. Only time will tell if the show is able to keep it up with the great episodes to secure a spot on my favorite shows of all time list.

Music: Cody by Joyce Manor (Spotify, Bandcamp)

As everyone around me knows, I’ve been on a major music mode recently. I go through phases where I want to listen to as much music as possible interspersed by phases where I can go a month or more without listening to any new music. This month has been one of those manic phases and I’ve become obsessed with the band Joyce Manor in particular.

I’ve listened to some songs on previous albums here and there, but their music never really clicked with me. The band is pretty popular within the music sphere my music tastes lie in, so I decided to give their new album, “Cody,” a try and holy bejeezus, I finally get the hype. Maybe I wasn’t in the “right” mindset when I listened to their older stuff because I’ve gone back and now really enjoy the older albums too. It’s a funny thing… this has happened to me in the past where I go months or years not really liking a band or artist and after giving something a(nother) listen at another point in time, I suddenly fall in love. Does anyone else experience this at all?

Out of all the Joyce Manor albums, I do like Cody the most; it’s my “gateway” album. I would say they band is pretty pop-punk but lean more towards the punk side of things. Cody is also their most polished and produced sounding album which I think helps highlight the pop aspects of the songs, adding to the catchiness while still getting a bit of an angry and forlorn undertone at the same time. My current favorite songs off the album are Make Me Dumb (unpopular opinion but there’s something about the different sound of this song that makes it my favorite), Angel in the Snow, Fake I.D. and This Song Is A Mess But So Am I, but honestly, they’re all good.

You can find me on Spotify here (username: shortofinfinity). I only have one public playlist at the moment but plan to add more.

Skincare: The Ordinary | Deciem

I recently discovered that ASOS (free shipping over $40!) carries some of the products by the skincare brand The Ordinary which is under the Deciem umbrella. I’ve been itching to try some of the stuff due to the simplicity of the products as well as the price point. My skin has never been good but has been more frustrating to deal with over the last few months due to the dry Michigan weather then the shock of humid Taiwan weather compounded by four long flights within a two week period. I ordered three items to try: the hyaluronic acid + B5 serum (ASOS), the niacinamide + zinc serum (ASOS) and the vitamin C suspension with HA spheres (ASOS). All the products and usage explanations are explained in detail on The Ordinary site.

I’ve been using the hyaluronic and niacinamide serums for about 2 weeks now and I’m really enjoying both. My skin seems to be doing better than before which is saying a lot because no matter what I tried, I couldn’t really make a dent in changing the texture of my skin. But now, things look a bit smoother and plumper and I feel like I have a bit of a natural glow compared to the rough dullness I previously had. In addition to hormonal acne, I struggle to keep my oily skin hydrated without compounding the oil production problem. With the very cold winters, my skin always feels tight and very oily at the same time. I also have a few hyperpigmented marks on my cheeks from breakouts that fade really slowly.

Both serums are the texture of gloopy water and sink into the skin quite quickly. I use the hyaluronic serum on mornings or nights when my skin is feeling really dry or after I do a peel or clay mask. I save the niacinamide serum for when my face is feeling a little spottier or unhappy, usually nights. I haven’t exclusively used either product for two weeks to see which one is better for my skin but I think my system of switching things up is working for me at the moment. The hyperpigmentation on my cheeks is still there but it does look like they’re slowly smoothing out which is a lot faster than normal. I’ve only tried the vitamin C suspension once which isn’t enough for me to form an opinion. I do think it’s different from anything I’ve ever tried- the thin lotion has a slight grainy texture. Due to the high amount of vitamin C, The Ordinary says you can cut the suspension with a moisturizer which sounds better to me than just applying the suspension all over my face because it’s not exactly a moisturizer on it’s own and it feels a bit strong on its own. I don’t have sensitive skin so it causes tingling on my skin rather than the burning others have experienced (see Gothamista’s reviews linked below).

Lastly, due to the cheap (relative to similar products by other brands like Glossier) prices, you can try a bunch of different products without completely breaking the bank. I’m really impressed by this brand and know I will definitely be repurchasing the serums because my skin hasn’t felt this hydrated (and not papery) in forever. I am also interested in trying some other items in their line. For more in depth reviews, I think Gothamista’s YouTube reviews (part one, part two) were very informative.

Hope that was somewhat interesting! I enjoy sharing the things I love with other people and don’t want to talk the ears off the people around me so this is a nice alternative 🙂