My Current Wishlist

My Dream Wedding in a French Chateau

9:42 PM

I haven't really shared details of my wedding with you guys, have I? It was such a crazy experience that the planning took a lot of out me and my husband. After two years (our anniversary was yesterday), I finally have the energy to revisit.



The idea
It started out as a 'what if' discussion between my girlfriend and I during a wine night in. Into our second bottle of wine she said, "I can totally see you having a wedding in a chateau like a princess coming down a grand staircase."

"Yeah, sure," I said. Never in a million years.



The reality
A few months later as we began touring potential venues in wine valley (Napa and Sonoma) and seeing the price tag (hefty for just the venue excluding catering, etc), the mandatory noise ordinance at 9pm, and restrictive beverage selection (their wines only and no liquor), the French chateau wedding went from a no way to a why not.

I did some research and realized that the price was fairly similar to rent the venue but would include catering and drinks. Plus, the idea of a fully privatized site was very desirable. From there we found and interviewed a few wedding planners and choose one from France who specifically catered to non-French clients. We knew it would be impossible to pull this off without some help.


The venue
Working closely with Nancy, from Fete in France, we narrowed down our options to five venues based on location and capacity. She helped us plan a two-day tour in the French countryside to visit all five. I was exhausted at the end, but Nancy was a trooper as she drove us from one site to the next.

Ultimately we settled on Chateau D'Artigny for its 52 rooms and its remote proximity to Paris. The idea was to keep everyone close in an intimate setting for a few days, undistracted by Paris. We wanted to spend time with everyone. The wedding took place during Labor Day weekend so guests were able to make a vacation out of their trip so if they wanted to do Paris later they could.



The vendors
The cost of booking a photographer, videographer and make up artist in France (Euros and conversion rates) actually came out to be more than if I choose my own in the states, flew them to France and paid for their housing. Not that we wanted to skimp here, but I picked vendors who had specifically worked with Asian clients or were Asian.

This is where it gets a little political. I believe that if you have never worked with an Asian client or have not been exposed to diversity, you tend to see those who are of a different race than you as an 'other.' The othering of another race is obvious in photos - they do not come across as intimate, personal and they will not capture the best angles of someone. You know how when you see yourself in the mirror, you are a full person with emotions and experiences? But then when a random stranger takes a photo of you, you suddenly look super exoticized? That's othering. Another example is when I do my own make-up, I look my best and enhance all my unique features. When someone else who isn't familiar with Asian faces does my make up, they always over line my eyes and make me look even chinkier. This has happened to me in a few local photoshoots when your girl was a wannabe model (hi, Model Mayhem). So it's so important to pick vendors who see diversity and are diverse. Those who have a diverse portfolio will be able to capture the nuanced characteristics of you instead of framing you far away and focusing on decor instead of you because they don't know how to capture you.

My photographer was Julie Lim. Makeup artist was Susan Lim. And my videographers were an Italian duo, Sole and Alessandro.



Conclusion
As much as we planned, things went wrong as they always do. And oftentimes they don't matter because your guests won't notice, but when it affects others, I remember. For example, I should have asked for them to move the spotlight so it wasn't in my father's face during wedding speeches. But that's just my overwhelming sense of protection showing up.

Things I would do differently:

  • Probably not cover the cost of stay for guests
  • Cut down on guest list - a lot of friends ended up being just party friends - more on this in another post
  • Spent more on florals 
  • Not spent money on goodie bags - totally unnecessary as no one really used it
  • Not spent $ on Laduree macarons
  • Spent more time intimately with everyone - looking back, it was so busy it was hard to connect with guests
Things I'm glad we focused on:
  • Family speeches and time
  • Videographer
  • Music - my husband personally picked out the playlists
  • DJ - they took the cue from my husband and played all our types of songs
  • The venue was breathtaking and perfect
  • The Paris Officiant, Laura did an amazing job and took the burden off a potential friend who would have had to do the honors, I think this made the wedding more enjoyable for everyone since it was emcee'd by a neutral party
  • The rehearsal dinner and having a moment of quiet before the storm with our close friends and family
  • The welcome drinks - this was a great way to spend time with folks before the wedding. It set the tone for the wedding and started the event on a happy note



Looking back on the photos and videos, I can honestly say it was a beautiful day full of wonderful memories despite all the things I would have done differently. The most important memories were the ones that we had with our parents and close friends. Seeing my mother speak, my father tear up and sharing a dance with him was all I could wish for. Seeing my husband and dancing with his mother and her wide gleeful smile of pride and happiness, we always laugh about that. Moments like that don't happen often in this lifetime.





Reformation Sale: What I Bought

9:48 PM


Everything from The Reformation makes me feel like a lady. So happy am I that their recent sale is a pretty epic one. Here's an indulgent blog entry about what I bought, my pre-haul so to speak. Shipping is the bane of my existence.

San Francisco weather calls for sweaters year-round and I've probably acquired over 20 new ones since I moved here four years ago. But your girl can't resist ones with puffy sleeves made of ethically sourced alpaca wool. Looking chic here is also hard when the weather ranges twenty degrees in a day (50-70 degrees from the Mission to Russian Hill hello). So far, I've managed to avoid paying for anything from Patagonia (unless it's free work swag) until now. This jacket is finally befitting of my discerning sartorial taste (sarcasm, I have no taste).  I got the fatigue green version. I have the dress version of this top and, I swear, I could feel shitty internally but this dress will make you think I was feeling myself. So it was natural that I got the top version as well. Lastly, I have way too many demure sexy tops - said me never. So this top in a 'serpent' print was an obvious choice.

I should note that the first top listed below isn’t from their sale but their new collection. But I couldn’t help myself. Could you?

Ps. Apologies that the link on Instagram to this blog wasn’t working. If anyone understand CNAMEs and DNS records, get at me please. Also, thanks to the small but resilient few who found a way to get here anyways despite my technical ineptitude. xx




Current Obsession: Tapered Trousers

10:52 PM

Relaxed fit and so very Scandinavian. This silhouette is the very essence of cool sf workwear and comfortable grocery outing. Am I right?

I recently bought a few pairs to pair with some tank tops and loose button-up shirts. Anouk, who's instagram I post below, wears a few from the Swedish brand Weekday. She looks so effortless. Unfortunately, they do not ship to the United States. But I've linked a few from places that do. You know I got you.















Images from Anouk Yve's instagram

The Crushing Weight of Your Own Expectations

4:22 PM


Sometimes I take myself too seriously. I look at people twice my age, close to my age, and my contemporaries and compare my achievements to theirs. Inevitably I am left feeling like I have wasted my life chasing windmills.

Instagram exacerbates this. I used to follow influencers who meticulously edit and filter the shit out of their photos before posting. Foolishly thinking this was real life I felt extremely unaccomplished. I've since learned to be more mindful of who I choose to let into my consciousness. If everything you see on your feed as the ability to affect your mood and state of mind, you should be extremely selective. It's the same rules that would apply to who you would invite into your home – so why not be as selection as who you give social attention to? I've since stop following influencers who constantly push products (subconsciously I felt like I had to keep up) when most of the time they are gift these things or sponsored. No one on a real budget should live this way and it's just setting yourself up for failure to try to emulate.

I've since stopped following shopping accounts and influencers. Following those who's style inspire me who have 500 followers with more authentic posts serve me at lot better. They've cultivated their own sense of self and are not chasing a trend, thus not perpetuating it in myself. Following artistic accounts also help foster the creative side in me.

Relying less on external voices to influence myself but rather on those who inspire me to cultivate myself help set realistic expectations.

The crushing weight of it all wears off day by day as the desire to keep up wanes.

What are your expectations on yourself and are they realistic? 


Closet Staple: The Perfect Trench Coat

10:00 AM

The French girl in my mind wears a trench coat with vintage Manolo's. She's a French girl who likes a loose coat like a Copenhagen girl. She's multicultural. Anyways, I was in Tokyo recently and the trench trend was in full effect. The Japanese are usually a few seasons ahead in trends, so I predict this is the best time to invest in a trench coat. And it looked so flattering on everyone. Not to mention a nice loose trench keeps you perfectly warm but won't overheat you. Perfect transitional weather coat. Muy versatile.

I love wearing it over a dress or with shorts. They dress up any outfit no matter how scrubby and the loose fitted ones make it not too serious. Above is an AF Agger trench from a cool girl I follow on Instagram: Amalie Moosgaard. The brand is based in Copenhagen. Below are a few of my favorite trenches.






A Hidden Treasure for Home Furnishing; The Local Flea

3:00 PM


You will not believe what I came across in the Bay Area; a warehouse full of quality pre-owned home goods. From what I gather of the inventory, this place is a receiving house for furniture from startups and local businesses that are recently defunct. You are going to be shocked at the prices of these pieces from Restoration Hardware, Room & Board, West Elm, etc and the myriads of Samsung flat screens. The items are in perfect condition and all need a home. It's so good that even though I want to, I shouldn't keep it to myself.

I will share this with you only if you promise to 1. share your next shopping deals with me and 2. spread the word about my blog. Deal?

Some tips for how to best optimize. If you're still furnishing your home, I highly recommend going here to check out the pieces in person. You should browse online first to see what they have and then ask them to hold the item until you can come in (this may be tricky, but use your nice voice and you may get lucky). The staff was extremely helpful. We had been eyeing a large mirror for our living room. Retail prices were ranging around the $800 mark, but the styles I loved were around $1,200+. Luckily I found a hefty mirror that teetered upon modern and restoration hardware aesthetics at The Local Flea for....a whopping $75. It was originally listed at $85, but we talked it down to make the total + shipping $150. Bring a flashlight as the warehouse is large and not well lit.

Some of my favorite finds listed on their site are: this beautiful artwork of nudes, this set of two antique/modern mirrors at over 50% off original, this lovely light green area rug originally priced at $5,000 now only $200, this midcentury sofa from West Elm, this sleek glass top office desk from Crate & Barrel, and this white marble coffee table.


Here are the details:

The Local Flea
160 Sylvester Road
South San Francisco, CA 94080

Hours:

Monday - Thursday 9AM - 6PM
Friday 9AM - 5PM
Saturday - Sunday 11AM - 3PM


You can check out their current inventory at thelocalflea.com. Shipping is a flat rate of $75 within the Bay Area.

image via

Another two for the books

7:00 PM


The pages are getting longer with each birthday. I'm trying to remember the lessons each year has taught me through these etches on my skin. The point is not to forget and to capture each one in a beautiful way.

The moon. The power of the feminine goddess. Empathy, love, attuned with nature and the universe. I want to draw my strength from this source.

The skull. Everything is transient. Every moment the first and last.



Jewelry Finds at West Coast Craft

8:00 AM


I love when West Coast Crafts is in town. It's a lovely to see what independent makers are into these days. Most of it is cute unless junk (not another vegan sandal or abstract face outline on a vase) but some things are really worth their buck. Below are some of my favorite finds, mostly jewelry because that's what I've been drawn to lately.






Guilty. I found an abstract face on something. But these are cute. Alex Steele babouches.


Custom amulets by Molly Debiak. I want everything she has.


Earrings from 8.6.4. They also have some great pearl earrings.





Chakana stacking ring from Casual Seance





Italian Vacance

10:54 PM

We are off to Italy in three weeks for a wedding in Lake Como. I think we've started a destination wedding trend when we held ours in the Loire Valley in France two years ago. The romance, the decadence and quiet whispers will be rampant. There has been a lot of tension surrounding the upcoming nuptials and I may have played a part. I may have not. Let's say, I am not innocent, but everything I did, I did out of the desire for peace. A quiet and boring social life is a luxury nowadays. But I digress. This post is supposed to be about clothes.

I imagine it will be warm during the day and brisk at night. Lots of stone cobbles and columns. Lots of olive oil and humid air. The only way to combat acrid humidity is to be naked. But I guess the next best things would be strappy dresses, flowy pants and breathable straw hats. The below collection of clothing would be my dream Lake Como looks. I am so obsessed with anything Jacquemus for warm weather. But at the end of the day, when the sun is shining this bright, you only need a statement pair of sunglasses to make any outfit.

Scroll right to see the looks




Luxury Shopping Hacks

9:30 AM

I've been eyeing this Maison Michele 'big kate' hat for some time now as you can see it's on my current wishlist. It's listed here for $1,030. But I only paid 50% of that.

I hope you just got paid because this post could trigger you to press a few 'checkout' buttons. For the five of you who watch my Instagram stories, you know I shop during every waking minute. And while I like nice things, I hate paying full price. The logic is when I used to shop in stores at Neimans or Saks they would also have regular promotions that give you discounts on full price designer items. The habit sort of stuck and I figured it wouldn't be so hard to find deals at other retailers. Stores compete for buyers attentions online and when they compete we all benefit. So here are some hacks to save you some $$ so you can buy even more nice things.

1. Get a VPN to take advantage of international prices. I like to check for the cost of an item in the US versus it's international location. Let's say I wanted a Burberry coat. The US store lists it at $2,300. But if I change my IP to a UK location, I see that the coat is actually 15% less in the UK. In Italy it's 30% less (if I also take advantage of VAT refunds)! Crazy right? Luckily, I'm heading to Italy in a month so I call the flagship store in Italy and place an order. 

VPN's also let you browse anonymously if you also use an incognito browser. This helps you avoid dynamic pricing that some stores use. Dynamic pricing is when stores mark up prices based on your IP locations, browsing history and any other 3rd party data they have on you. If you live in an affluent city, you may see a higher price for the same item than someone in the suburbs.

2. Only buy the local designers when traveling to Asia. Most Asian countries have high import taxes on all luxury items that do not originate there. But if you happen to be in Japan, there is no mark up for designers like Sacai, Comme Des Garcons, Yoji Yamamoto, etc. Zara is so much more affordable in Italy and Chanel, Bash, Sezane, IRO and Maison Kitsune is cheaper in France. Chanel may actually be cheaper in Italy due to higher VAT refunds. But the rule of thumb is that the country's designer wears are often lower in price than if you were to get it anywhere else. Oh, can't forget about Korean skin care! Load up in Asia on the high end stuff for less.

3. For luxury skincare always shop duty free. I always find duty free in Korea, Paris or Italy at least 30% less than in the US especially for brands like La Prairie, Sisley and Chanel. I have my VPN installed on my phone so I can compare prices when shopping duty free to make sure I'm getting the best discount.

4. Comparison shop. This one is a no-brainer. The novice level is to just google the item you'r buying and compare. The advance level is to use VPN to compare prices on an international scale. You're welcome.

5. Stack cash backs. Use apps like Ebates and Honey to find deals, activate cash backs (up to 10% sometimes) in conjunction with credit cards that have high cash backs for shopping.

6. Get those new member discounts. When you first go to a site they also have newsletter subscriber discounts. I use a burner email address that I made just for these kind of subscriptions. I actually use more than one so I can take advantage of this even if I'm not a new member.

7. Bide your time & shop at sites that have regular promotions. When you see something you like for an upcoming event or season save these items in your wishlist. I always do this with shops that have promotions every other week/month. Those sites are: farfetch, shopbop, intermix (they have great 25% off on top of sales), and sephora (theirs is quarterly). Sites not worth their sales: Saks - they always have exclusions on the best designers, Net-a-porter because their sales are so infrequent but when they do have them it's a pretty good steal.

8. Shop one season ahead or behind. I always try to shop one season ahead or behind to monopolize on off-season sales. Never buy swim suits during peak swimsuit season because they will never be on sale and you'll end up paying retail.

9. Befriend the store employees. There's an Isabel Marant by my office. I would come in at once every other week and made friends with one of the employees. I usually leave empty handed, but I try on a few things and get to know the person who is helping me. He feeds me lot of champaign as well. Over the years, I'll text him items that I see online to ask if he has them in store. Once he price matched a sale price on new season heels for me! And he also saves my size in any shoes I've been eyeing so that I can snatch them up as soon as they go on sale. He's now the manager of the store.

10. Ask for price match. I don't usually see this, but it has happened once in a blue moon. If you see a lower price elsewhere especially online when you are in a physical store ask them to match. I do this when shopping online too, when I would rather buy from a retailer that I know has better shipping and return policies but want to pay the lower price on some other website.

11. Retroactive discounts. I track my items. If I buy something and it goes on sale within 14-30 days, I reach out to the retailer and ask for a discount. This is because 14-30 is still within my return window. Retailers would rather give you the discount than have to take back inventory.

12. Use your network. I share items that I'm considering buying on my IG stories all the time. And more than once has a girlfriend messaged me about a secret deal or a lower price for the item being sold elsewhere. The more you share, the more you get. Live in abundance. 

13. Shop vintage. Not consignment of current trends. That's depressing. But go to vintage fairs to find unique one of a kind designer vintages that no one else has. My favorite current vintage traveling show is called A Current Affair. Check if they are coming to a town near you and score some vintage Manolo kitten heels.


xx

PS. If you have a hack, share the wealth

Image by: Mark Leibowitz


My Skincare Holy Grail - Sephora Edition

9:42 PM

Skincare? Oh, honey. I've tried them all. From drugstore brands to high end brands and for over a decade. After a few consecutive years of being a VIB Rouge at Sephora (which means I literally spent over $1000 a year there...hmm...) I've established a few products that have become staples that I cannot live without. And right now you can enjoy 20% off with code HEYROUGE until May 6th. Enjoy, ladies.


Peter Thomas Roth, Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel

Been a long time user of this cleanser for over a decade. The husband also uses it too. I like that it has salicylic acid which helps control breakouts and anti-aging is always a plus. I find that it's super gentle, yet effectively takes off even my waterproof make-up but is not too harsh on my skin. I always stock up on this when the 20% sale comes around because I can never afford to run out of this stuff. It's a staple. 
Cover FX, Mattifying Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment

On the rare special occasions that call for a full face of make up that needs to stay in place the whole day, I always use a primer. I like ones that don't clog my pores or make me shiny. This one has breakout preventing ingredients and keeps the cake face in tact all day long. Even in sweltering heat. 
Smashbox, Photo Finish Primer Water

Does this count as skincare? It keeps the make-up on. I've tried them all; the Urban Decay one, the one that every raves about...etc. This one works for those with oily skin at the end of the day.
Murad, Eye Lift Firming Treatment

This. Stuff. Works. I see instant results. Got this as a sample first, then got the full size.

So I like to use it before a long day/night out and then I load up on SPF moisturizer over it. Lines smoothed out and it feels super tingly, which may not be the most pleasant if you're extremely sensitive. I find the eye patches that they come with made for giants. So I cut them up into smaller strips and it's perfect. Use at least twice a week.
Tatcha, The Rice Polish Foaming Enzyme Powder

You have to exfoliate at least twice a week (less if you have sensitive skin). This stuff feels like silk on the skin and it makes my skin feel like silk. It effectively removes that top layer of dead skin. Beyond expired epidermis.




xx




Artwork by the amazing Miho Hirano. I'm doing this thing where I'm following and supporting more talented Asian artists whose objects are Asian women.  Growing up I only saw art of beautiful women who were white...and without realizing it, I idolized and internalized the figures in those pieces. But they do not connect with me on a deeper level because I do not have features like that. I do not think white features are the only standard of beauty. So as a quest to grow the love of self within myself, I want to seek out art that focuses on the beauty of Asian features. This is a full post on its own (coming soon?), but go check Miho Hirano out.

Travel Style Inspiration from And While We Were Here

1:00 AM
I love this sleeper of a movie, And While We Were Here. The solitary traveling. The quiet moments. And Kate Bosworth's wardrobe in the movie, which is all from her personal closet. As I get older I am falling more in love with the subtle richness that is created through monochrome palettes, flanked by a hint of color or a statement piece of jewelry here or there. Here, Kate Bosworth shows us the art of subtlety as opposed to the overt. Enjoy the screen caps.

If you get a chance you should watch the movie, maybe on a lazy Sunday, to catch a bit of the wanderlust bug!
















Trailer:



community

12:54 AM

I started this blog in my late teens. I didn't feel like an adult then, and I sometimes don't feel like one today. It's strange how far you can come in life, while obtaining all the trappings of an adult life, and still feel so small and behind at the same time. Maybe you don't feel like a fully independent adult until you parents finally pass away. We all revert back to our infantile self when we return home for the holidays and ask our mother to make our favorite dishes (often with a pout). If that's the case, I truly never want to grow up.

But time doesn't slow down. And I wish I could have the time to spend more time with my parents. It's one of those things that become more and more urgent as the day passes. My time will come soon enough, but not before theirs. I hope I will be able to make them smile a few more times before then. 

If we had stayed in Vietnam, I would probably still be living with them now. The family unit becomes and extended family community housed under one large roof. Aunts, uncles and little cousins all clamoring about. Everyone with a place, and responsibility, never alone. I think about the community that my parents lost when they immigrated here. How that loss must have felt. How scared they must have been, and utterly alone they must have felt having to also care for my brother and I at the same time. We had some help from family once we arrived, but it always felt like a burden. Something about how helping family out in the states is viewed as a burden whereas in Vietnam, it's just what you do. 

My brother lives less than a mile away from me but I see him only a handful of times a year. I wonder what makes us so prone to not prioritize each other. Maybe it's because our time isn't as imminent. We'll prioritize each other soon enough.

But time isn't slowing down. Not for any of us.