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!



My Michigan winter closet: outerwear essentials

This post contains affiliate links.

As a Californian living in Michigan for the past three years, I like to think I’ve streamlined my winter wardrobe. This winter hasn’t dipped below 0°F too often so far (oh how far my temperature tolerance has changed), but it dropped down to around 20°F from 50-60°F within a week so I’m glad I had all my winter gear packed under my bed for convenience so I could quickly grab all the coats and jackets I needed.

When I first moved to Michigan, I was a little lost on what clothing items I needed since the coldest place most of friends lived was New York, which is cold, but a different kind of cold, compared to Michigan. My roommate during my first year of graduate school grew up in Minnesota so I asked her for tips which were really helpful. I’m hoping this post might help someone who is in a similar position I was in, or at least might be interesting to someone who’s looking for a few outerwear reviews. I have a 12 minute walk to lab and typically don’t spend more than 20 minutes walking outside in the winter.

I’ve made a personal goal that I cannot buy any new winter gear unless I sell a current clothing equivalent. After graduate school, I plan to move back to California where I won’t have much need for all this heavy-duty outerwear. So as of now, here’s my curated winter outerwear wardrobe (with a variety of Instagram/real life outfits).

1. Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket, $69.90 (wait for promotions)
similar here (save) and here (splurge)


Uniqlo down jacket layered over a sweater.

The first down purchase I ever made was from Uniqlo in the fall of my first year. I’m a person who typically runs warm/hot rather than cold, so when it’s around 20-30°F, this Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket zipped up over a light sweater is perfect. The small size fit snug in a cozy way when zipped up over just a shirt. Unfortunately, my hips are wider than the cut of the jacket; there’s no stretch to the fabric and the jacket rode up noticeably when I walked so I ended up with a medium. Overall, the medium fits slightly oversized on me but it does fit over my hips and leaves room for a sweater. I find their down products well priced (they’re often on promotion) and my jacket has washed and held up well for over two years now. Feathers to escape but not enough to de-poof the jacket. I also just throw the jacket in the washer and dryer and it comes out perfectly fine. Additionally, these jackets (not sure about the vests) come with small drawstring bags. It takes a try or two to figure out how to roll up the jacket to smoosh it down to fit into the bag, but it makes these products really great for traveling.

For even cooler temperatures, I step it up with a slightly heavier Uniqlo down-filled jacket. This jacket is my newest purchase; I received it just a few weeks ago and have already worn it several times. I needed a jacket to fill the gap between my previously mentioned lightweight down and my heavy-duty snow jacket. I often go without a beanie so having a hood is crucial to protect my ears from the cold wind. Remember to protect your extremities (feet, hands, head/ears)! This was the only winter gear purchase I made this year and it’s perfect for my needs, down to the fleece-lined zip-closure pockets and adjustable hood.

3. Uniqlo Military Hooded Parka (old, sold out)
similar here, here and here


Uniqlo parka (in black) worn over a dress for a holiday party.

Alternatively, I have a waterproof parka also from Uniqlo (do you sense a trend here?) with a detachable faux-shearling lining. I picked it up on super sale last spring on a whim and I’m absolutely in love with it. In the winter, for not-too-cold days, I keep the faux-shearling liner in and wear the parka over a shirt and when it’s even colder, I wear it over a cashmere sweater (optional: Heattech shirt underneath).

Speaking of cashmere sweaters, I always stock up during Macy’s Black Friday sale (a tip from me to you). Charter Club (Macy’s in-house brand) crewneck (currently $32!), v-neck (currently $28!) and turtleneck cashmere sweaters (currently $40), also available in petites and plus sizes in a variety of colors, are marked down to $40-50 per sweater which is amazing. My mom has been buying them for about a decade at this point and while the quality of recent sweaters aren’t as good as past season’s, they’re still of decent quality and don’t pill as easily as my Uniqlo wool sweaters which pilled horribly in one day. The Charter Club ones do eventually pill but are easily cleaned up with a sweater-saver (or pumice stone as an alternative) but are very warm and wash well (either by hand or wash on gentle in a machine but hang dry). I’ve also asked friends who’ve purchased Everlane cashmere sweaters and they’ve found that the Everlane ones pill within a few wears similar to the Charter Club ones but are $100 instead of $40.

Lastly, when I’m running late or when I don’t feel like wearing a ton of layers, I’ll just wear a single shirt under my holy grail Marmot Montreal Coat which I normally try to reserve for below 10°F.

5. Marmot Montreal Coat, $285
certain colors on sale here, here and here


Admiring my winter outfit (featuring my Marmot coat) in the elevator

Like I mentioned in the previous sentence, this Marmot Montreal Coat is single-handedly my favorite thing about winter. I got it in the olive color since green is my favorite clothing color. It’s fleece-lined in the body and pockets, feels like you’re wearing a puffy duvet/cloud and hits me mid-thigh which doesn’t constrict my walking which is important when I’m wearing snow boots trying to avoid the slippery icy spots. The removable hood, with a removable faux fur ruff, is also down-filled as well as adjustable. The pockets have zips and there’s an inner pocket as well (I usually stick my wallet or my phone in there when I don’t want to carry a bag). I have this jacket in an x-small and it’s snug in the body but I’m still able to fit a thin to medium sweater underneath. The small would be a little roomier but where there’s space, there’s cold air.

As for my decision to go with the Marmot brand, I almost bought a North Face jacket because that was the only brand of down jackets I knew of at the time. I seriously considered the North Face Arctic Down Parka before stumbling upon the Marmot Montreal Coat during my internet research.

For jackets around the same price between the two brands, I found that North Face coats averaged 550-fill power where Marmot jackets were around 700-fill power. From what I understand, the higher the fill number, the less down material is required to trap the same amount of warmth aka the Marmot jacket requires less material to provide the same amount of warmth as the North Face coat which requires more geese feathers (so the North Face jacket isn’t as economical). Additionally, at the time I was searching for coats, North Face was in the process of switching to ethically sourced down where Marmot already had ethically sourced down. I am aware of my hypocritical stance on this since I do buy items from fast-fashion brands that probably don’t ethically source their materials or have great labor practices. However, for the heavy duty coat I was planning to spend $200+ on, I wanted to buy as ethically as possible. I ended up getting the Marmot jacket on sale for around $150 where the cheapest North Face jacket I could find at the time was around $200.

I mentioned that I tend to run warm so I found I can get away with wearing fewer layers compared to most. For alternative heavy-duty coat options, one of my friends here who’s always freezing (and also a native Californian) finally turned to Canada Goose for negative temperatures because the other brands she tried (North Face, Columbia , L.L. Bean, Patagonia) just didn’t cut it, and she hasn’t looked back since. For reference on our differing temperature tolerance, she wears North Face parkas when the weather is 30-40°F when I occasionally forgo the Uniqlo light down jacket and just wear multiple layers of sweaters and hoodies because hoodies are genuinely my favorite clothing item. However, for those who realistically cannot go the Canada Goose route, taking note from the lab tech in my lab, layering multiple down layers is probably the best alternative. For instance, a Uniqlo light down vest of jacket is thin enough to layer underneath a heavy winter down coat for two layers of down insulation.

Overall, I’m happy with my collection of outerwear. Every item has its own niche in my closet and I think the “one item in, one item out” rule will work well for me and my physically-small closet.

Hope you found this post helpful or at least interesting. And because it’s worth repeating, don’t forget to keep those extremities wrapped up!

Review: Maison Miru Tiny Crystal Stud Earrings

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. The earrings were paid for with my own money. I just wanted to share my thoughts on this product since I couldn’t find many reviews before I ordered mine.

Maison Miru is a jewelry brand that has recently come to my attention when I saw their ad on Instagram that said they were giving away pairs of their Tiny Crystal Studs ($29) to celebrate the launch of their “Ear Bar” (a section of their earrings that are mostly stud earrings).


My pair of Maison Miru Tiny Crystal Stud Earrings

You have to pay the price of shipping ($6.99) for the free pair of Tiny Crystal Studs but I thought that $6.99 was a reasonable price to get to try out the brand as well as the earrings. I’ve amassed quite a large collection of stud earrings (my favorite type) but actually didn’t have any simple crystal/jewel earrings on the more “professional” side. The first time I tried to place an order, they were sold out of the studs but they have since restocked (link at the bottom of this post).

After placing the order, my earrings were shipped that same day. I told one of my friends who also loves stud earrings about this deal, and she also placed an order. Her earrings also shipped the same day and actually arrived the next day (the brand is based in NY and my friend is in CA) which is pretty amazing. My earrings took a bit longer to arrive to MI but we had been having weather delays due to snow that week. Still, they arrived just 1-2 days later than expected which isn’t a big deal.

First impressions of the earrings out of the packaging were noticing how small and dainty they were despite the size being listed in the description (3mm) and seeing the pictures of someone modeling the earrings. If you have multiple piercings, I’d say these would look best in a second or third piercing if the main earring is larger than these studs. But I think they look simple and pretty if they’re the only earrings you’re wearing. I have a second lobe piercing on my right ear with a small black stud, and the Maison Miru studs are about the same size, so I feel like I can get away with wearing them together since the black stud doesn’t overwhelm the Maison Miru ones.


These studs are made of “14k gold plated brass with high quality CZ crystal.” I haven’t had any metal allergic reactions to any earrings before, so I can’t really speak about the metal quality for someone who is more sensitive.

After wearing these earrings several times, some of my main issues with the earrings are that the butterfly backing is a little difficult to get onto the stem (it’s super tight) so it’s hard to put on and to take off. In addition, the stem of the earring bends fairly easily which adds to the difficulty of putting them on and taking them off (see photos; you’ll notice the stems aren’t necessary straight). I’ll keep an eye on how these earrings hold up over time but after wearing them a handful of times, I’ve had to bend back the post multiple times and am worried it might eventually snap. This will only be a problem for someone like me who like sleeping in earrings with a butterfly backing.


Comparison: The Madewell Staccato Stud Earrings are my everyday earrings. They’re also described as 3mm but look larger than the Maison Miru Tiny Crystal Stud. Notice the bend in the earring stem of the Maison Miru stud.

Overall, I do think that for $6.99, these earrings are worth it despite my concerns. However, I haven’t had them long enough to say whether I think they’re worth the full price of $29/pair. I do like the convenience of how Maison Miru sells their earrings as pairs or as single studs (in case you have an odd number of piercings like me or if you lose just one earring).

If you’re interested in trying out a pair of the Tiny Crystal Studs for the price of shipping, the link can be found here.

Kickstarter: Amorstil review

Hey guys! Long time no write. I’ve always had a problem with following through with things when they weren’t mandatory. But I just downloaded the WordPress app to see if I’ll be better about blogging now that I can write blog posts on my phone (which I’m always on).

Today’s post is about Amorstil, the first Kickstarter project I backed (again, I paid for the watch with my own money and this isn’t a sponsored post). I’ve been wanting a basic menswear-styled watch for a while and have been seeing Daniel Wellington watches all over the blogosphere but at $100+ each, that was too expensive of a commitment for me to make. So when I spotted this watch on Kickstarter, for $35 (early bird special), I couldn’t resist.

I got the watch a few weeks ago and have worn it twice so far. I’m taking it slow since I haven’t worn a watch since maybe second grade and I’m making sure I’m wearing it on wet lab-light days because I study the colon and therefore poop 😉

It came in a beautiful box (backers could have received the box in black or white). I selected the black leather/white face option (which wasn’t one of the original three watch color combinations). I was worried the watch would be too big for my wrists but it’s actually the perfect size (some might disagree, but I love the oversized watch face). The watch can fit on even thinner wrists (I use the third to last hole for a looser fit and the second to last hole for a tighter fit). It’s also quiet enough where the ticking does not to bother me (ticking noises normally drive me insane).


trying to science

I love it so much I’m thinking about getting another one…

I’m also making this post in case anyone is interested in getting one too and I was browsing Instagram and saw they posted July 4th promotion code. The watches are such great quality for the price (retail $50) but use code JULY15 to get 15% off your order (promotion end date not mentioned) over at amorstil.com.

I just went on a huge shopping spree (darn you sales at Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic eep) otherwise I’d pick up another watch but I really don’t need another watch at the moment (I do have my eye on the brown/cognac leather with white face watch though…)

Just wanted to put the promo out there for anyone who’s looking for a classic and affordable watch.

Also, happy July 4th!


PS I have Everlane pictures and measurements ready but I just need to sit down and type reviews up. I also just moved apartments so I’ll be doing a closet clean out and might post the link on the blog later 🙂

Review + comparison: Everlane Men’s Crew, Women’s V and Women’s Box Cut shirts + measurements

This post contains affiliate and referral links.

So… I couldn’t resist getting a few more Everlane shirts. Especially since my favorite colors, moss and huckleberry, seem to be in the process of being phased out. The three shirts I got were: the Men’s Crew in Huckleberry (XS), the Women’s V in Antique (S) and the Women’s U-Neck in Moss (S). I also got the Women’s Cotton Box Cut Tee in White (S) in a separate order. The Men’s Crew, Women’s V and Box Cut shirts are new to me.

hello, gorgeous

hello, gorgeous
not pictured is the women’s box cut tee in white

TL;DR version? Like the men’s crew. Dislike the women’s vneck tee. Love the women’s box cut tee and uneck tee.

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My Taiwan skincare haul

Did a little bit of research before heading to Taiwan on what skincare items would be good to look for while in Asia. I mainly consulted the “Asian Beauty” subreddit and a bit of Googling. Tammy also sent me a list written by our good friend. So I had a general idea of what I wanted to look for.

Here’s a photo of part of (half of my haul consists of boxes of masks so you’re not missing much) my haul all laid out under incandescent light:


from top left corner going clockwise: Etude House face masks (singles), Skin Food Black Sugar Mask, Etude House Wonder Pore Freshner, The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Light Oil, Nexcare Acne stickers/covers, My Beauty Diary face masks (Black Pearl pictured), Missha Snail Sheet Masks
not pictured: Biore Deep Free Facial Bright Wash Foam

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