Saturday, December 29, 2012

J.Crew French Hen Meets Oliver Twist

 I snagged the J.Crew French Hen sweater during a transient pop-back in size XXS. Cluck! or perhaps Clutch! It is so out of stock now that the link to the product no longer exists. This sweater has transgressed into ebay existence, which is kind of like an afterlife.
Sweater: J.Crew | Pants: H&M | Shoes: Target
I am wearing it with a T-shirt underneath so I am rather well-protected from the itch of the wool. The arms of this sweater are strangely tight, therefore I doubt that I could layer a long-sleeved shirt underneath.  But other than that I have no complaints.

The print of these H&M pants evoke Dickensian England to me. I should wear them with a sweater vest and a Sherlock Holmes sleuth cap.
Some details I like about these pants, including the back pockets (mockets), the subtle stitching.  I also like the ankle zippers, which can be seen in another photo.
I've had really good luck with pants from H&M.  These pants are a size 4 and fit with enough room in the hips to be comfortable all day. I usually opt for size 4 in H&M pants for this reason. Did I fail to mention that these pants were only $15? My H&M purchases usually ring in under $20...

I've been searching high and low over the last several months for a neutral colored top that is not white or black.  I found this turtleneck at H&M along with the pant friends.  I believe this color is best described as greige (beige + grey) and I hope to wear it with everything henceforth.
1. Shoes: Blink via Zappos
2. Shoes: Steve Madden
Blazer: Forever 21 | Shoes: Banana Republic
this outfit may involve just a few too many zippers
In summary, I now own Oliver Twist pants and a Hen sweater:
1. In the H&M dressing room.  I did not elect to buy this top even though it is also greige.
2. Greige from top to bottom!
3. Pink works well with greige.
4. So does baby blue. Blazer: Talbots
5. Cluck cluck.
In the future, I would like to devote a post to all of the clothes and accessories I own that feature animals. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 28, 2012

I Love my J.Crew Sterling Skirt! And Hunter Boots!

The other day, I stepped out into the wintry frost thusly:
Sweater: Valerie Stevens cashmere | Skirt: J.Crew | Scarf: Burberry | Vest: BB Dakota | Boots: Hunter
I am very happy with this purchase! From the fit, to the texture of the wool, to the 'sheer minty' color which is subtly heathered...I just want to eat this skirt.  It constantly reminds me of ice cream.

Thanks for all the skirts, J.Crew!
Sterling Double Serge Wool Sheer Mint | Perfect Pencil Double Serge Wool (old) | No. 2 Pencil Double 
Serge Wool Hthr Acorn | No. 2 Feather Paisley

A quick note on the Hunter boots--I got them at Nordstrom Rack for much less than original price. They are the Champery boots, which boast a sleek wedge atop a comfy platform. They had a patchy film of white stuff on them which I was slightly sad about. Luckily, the omnipotence of the internet intervened and I learned about rubber blooming.  Apparently, rubber is a sentient being, reacting to harsh external climes by extruding its waxy component (bloom) to the surface in an attempt to protect itself. As creepy as it is to don a living breathing thing on my legs, I pushed onwards, determined to get rid of the bloom. A helpful thread on the purse forum discusses the utility of using oil vs. some special product costing $$ to polish the boots. Therefore, oil it was! Incidentally this oil was leftover from making sufganiyot.  Now my boots are shiny and bloom-free. Another Chanukah miracle!

From my Holiday Oven

'Twas the night before Christmas and there was one mouse a-stirring...cookie dough, that is. (That mouse was me.)  It all started out as a basic cookie dough for chocolate chip cookies, as per this recipe.  Then, I divided it in two and invented two new cookies!

New Cookie #1: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Walnut

I really should try to come up with a more creative name, like "Ostrich Cookie" or "Clumsy Cookie."  But alas, I know not of a fitting moniker to accurately capture how wholesome n' earthy yet sophisticated this cookie tastes.

The sophistication comes from the coarse salt sprinkled on before baking! Other ingredients, surprising and not, include:
- a generous dollop of creamy natural PB (the kind that separates into oil)
- chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup ground up oatmeal (wholesome/earthy)

Next time, I will squash them flat before baking so that they come out thinner.

New Cookie #2: Peppermint Chocolate Marble Cookie or "Zingy Swirl Cookie"
Some cookies are more swirly than others.

For this cookie, crushed candy canes are added festively to melted chocolate whilst singing a happy holiday tune. This mixture is cooled prior to swirling back into the plain cookie dough.
I used:
- 8 candy canes (the regular size, not the mini size)
- 1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
This cookie had a much better spread and crispiness than the Clumsy Cookie above. My suspicion is that the melted chocolate thinned it out, or perhaps it was the lack of oatmeal...

Have no fear, peek in here!


Bonus Baked Good: Lastly but not leastly. I went on a sufganiyot adventure! I followed the instructions from the videos on  I think it is special and amazing that such a website exists.
Sufganiyot = a fried and jelly-filled Chanukah miracle

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

J.Crew Boucle Dress-Up

I recently acquired this dress in size regular 00 during the 30% off craziness after Thanksgiving.  Not surprisingly, it was unacceptably loose on my torso (no pics of this spectacle exist, sorry). Conversely, it fit so perfectly through the waist and hips and was so awesomely tweedlicious, that I decided to permanently maim (alter) it, sabotaging any attempts Reasonable Quyen could have made to return it.  "But I've never owned a boucle dress before," rationalized I.  Then I proceeded to take up the shoulders by 1.25 inches.  I wish I took photos of the whole gory process where the innards of those shoulder straps were vulnerably exposed.

Finished product:
Hey, not too bad for a simpleton.
After alterations:

While the torso of the dress is still too wide, imagine how awkward it was with an extra 1.25 inches of shoulder strap billowing ridiculously about. Perhaps the petite 00 would fit better on my curiously narrow torso.  On the other hand, I purposely ordered the dress in regular sizing instead of petite because I did not want the hem too short, reminiscent of the debacle with the pencil skirts.  And of course, look at how this hem hit above my knees...I shudder to speculate that a petite dress may have hit mid-thigh! Hem hem. Despite the hem hitting above the knee, I do believe the proportions look appropriate on me, given that I am only 5'4" and not 6'4" like the J.Crew models.  Though, I can't help but wonder why the dress is so much slimmer and longer on the model in the stock photo. Did they make her a special long, skinny, and tapered dress?

Loose torsos aside, this dress is lovingly constructed and portends numerous layering and accessorizing possibilities.  Here are a few ideas:
I wouldn't have been able to layer all those shirts beneath if the torso of the dress weren't loose!
1. Sweater: Valerie Stevens Cashmere | Boots: Etienne Aigner
2. Shirt: Limited | Belt: Forever 21 | Shoes: from Vietnam
3. Dress by itself | Shoes: Etienne Aigner
1. Dress looks fine on its own as long as I hold my arms down!
2. Top: Sisley | Belt: J.Crew | Boots: Etienne Aigner
3. Shirt: from Vietnam | necklace: Target | Shoes: Urban Outfitters
1. Jacket: Talbots | Belt: Express | Shoes: Sears
2. Repeat outfit #3 above
3. Shirt: H&M | Necklace: UO | Belt: J.Crew | Boots: from Madrid
Future experiments:
- layering with navy or wearing navy accents
- cardigan
- layering with short-sleeved blouses

The possibilities are endless when you have a solid boucle dress!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pencils Come From Pennsylvania

Pencil Skirt Galore!
I love me a good pencil skirt! But lately, I've been droning on and on about skirt length, knee caps, and the proverbial flats-heels difference. Let's explore those feelings.

These spreads from the J.Crew Aug 2012 (right) and Sept 2012 (left) Style Guides showcase the inspiration behind my celebration of all skirts pencil!

The No. 2 Pencil Skirt (left), as worn by this unrealistically tall model, fits ideally for a slimming and lengthening look:
sits at waist, hits at knee. Boom.
The heather acorn Sterling Skirt (right) looks lovely paired with camel hues.

The ideal skirt length undergoes peri-patellar variation from season to season. For example, J.Crew put out some long pencil skirts last spring that hit below the knee.  The ideal skirt length also depends on the wearer's height, and whether said height has received boosting by high-heeled footwear. Skirting with long lengths = teetering on edge of danger, as in too-long a skirt can make one's legs appear short and stubby. A good skirt length also probably depends on one's torso:legs ratio, but that is just getting too technical!

Top row: my shorter skirts hit above the knee
Bottom row: my longer skirts mostly hit mid-knee
I tried to standardize the pictures by selecting those in which I am wearing ~2.5" heels. You're welcome.
Skirt Casting:
TOP Vietnam | Anthro Just Right | Anthro Paisley Paths | J.Crew Pencil (2011) | J.Crew Feathered Paisley
BOTTOM Vietnam | Anthro San Pedro | Target | Anthro Trenchcoat | Zara

Wow, I sure own a lot of pencil skirts! And the above smattering doesn't even include my new acquisitions

And now, the adventurous installment of my post...altering my J.Crew pencil skirt in the wee hours of the night!!

I let out the hem by an inch. The back pleat was especially tricky, but nothing that some heavy-handed ironing can't fix!
Comparing with the sterling skirt, which used to be the same exact length.
When worn, the pencil skirt actually drops much lower than the sterling skirt since it has a wider waist and sits lower.
 Here it is in person...only 1 inch longer than before, but I am immensely pleased with the results, especially when wearing heels :) In the following series, I compare the altered skirt (left and right) to a pre-alteration photo (center):
With heels
Middle picture = BEFORE: skirt hits above knee, blocks off  middle 3rd of body awkwardly, makes me look short, defeating the purpose of wearing heels.
AFTER: looks much more lengthening/slimming! Just like the disproportionately tall J.Crew model!
With flats
Middle picture = BEFORE: looks alright, I suppose.
AFTER: still looks good even with flats. Extra skirt length did not compromise illusion of leg length. Win!
The back pleats look pretty good, not like some amateur tore apart the seams and hand-sewed them back or anything...
And there you have it, a diatribe all about pencil skirts. Kind of like the time I described my views on jeans.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Simply Noodles

Mike and I have been stocking up on fresh noodles. After flash-cooking them (submerge in boiling water x 10 seconds), the noodles are run under cold water to keep them from turning into a glutinous soggy mess.  Then, we basically stir fry them as per our whim, trying to mix things up night to night. Usually we employ some combination of fish sauce or soy sauce, sesame oil, and white pepper.

We add whatever veggies we have lying around. And chopped chives and green onions go in towards the end.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

(Heather) Acorns and Blackberries

I started heavily shopping at J.Crew during medical school.  My devotion was signed, sealed, delivered when I came into possession of the Double Cloth Carlin Coat in 'blackberry.'

I never know my true sizing in J.Crew speak.  Overall I suppose the sizing has been consistent.  My coat is in regular 0, I made this choice because in Fall 2009 I don't think 00 was available, otherwise it would have afforded a better fit on my disproportionately thin torso.  On the other hand, everyone (my mom) always recommends leaving coats slightly loose for layering sweaters underneath. This advice has attained increased relevance in my new hypothyroid state.

Skirt: J.Crew
Scarf: gift from my mother-in-law
Top: Gabe's
Flats: J.Crew Last Straw Ballet Flats (this was a disappointing purchase; the straw is fraying all over the place)
Bag: Marco Tagliaferri
Nails: Wet n' Wild polish that is more than 10 years old.
Earrings: Estate Sale find
Gloves: H&M

Even though I will now remain loyal to petite sizes for tops, after mulling over my recent J.Crew skirt purchases, I have decided that I will no longer get their skirts in petite. (In general, I should probably hold off on getting ANY more skirts period.) I keep lamenting that this skirt falls above my patella.  I am strongly considering letting down the hem on this skirt and probably the Sterling skirt, too, but I am fearful of destroying them in the process.

Why does the color "blackberry" elevate all outfits? J.Crew, your unique + brilliant tints bewilder my impressionable mind.

I spoke during the last post of finding the appropriate color pairings to fully exploit the understated elegance of 'heather acorn.' I am finding that earthy tones and warm colors best achieve this.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Skirt Wars: J.Crew Sterling Skirt vs. No. 2 Pencil Skirt

J.Crew No. 2 Pencil Skirt (Heather Acorn)

I've wanted this skirt since a billion years ago. Its slim waist and sleek silhouette haunted me.  I became obsessed with this color, believing it to be the destined partner for all of my gaudily colored tops and tights (even checkered tights?!). While waiting for it to hit a rational price tag, I even ordered a different wool skirt in camel. This poor other skirt fell short and flat, lacking the depth and toastiness that I knew could only be found in the original.

Finally J.Crew went on a krazy sale the week before Thanksgiving, affording me not just 1 coveted skirt, but another true love that I didn't even know I longed for--

J.Crew Sterling Skirt (Sheer Mint)

In my defense, I can never justify paying for I usually return superfluous purchases. Unfortunately for my wallet, this skirt is the color of pistachio gelatto, refreshing toothpaste, and all things soothing.  Therefore, instead of going back to the store, it now lives in my closet! In  my investigation I found that most people lament that this year's Sterling skirt is more pencil and less A-line than last year's. Whoops, and here I was touting its fit!

Both skirts are in petite 0.  I think I may actually prefer the regular 00 but that size is gone gone gone. Both skirts hit above the knee and are very well proportioned with flats, but lately I have been reaching for heels.  Well, put  me on a consult month and I'll be back in flats--or better yet, on a segway!!  Anyway, I think the No. 2 Pencil would look better on me if it was longer and sat up higher and tighter on the waist but I suspect that such a size doesn't exist. 

The heather acorn color is lovely in person, but needs the correct foil to bring out its awesomeness. Below is an example of copping out and wearing black, and thus losing the hue's potential. Frustrated, I ultimately changed into a different skirt :-\

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving Bonanza 2012

This year for Thanksgiving, I was thankful that I did not cause a small kitchen fire.  Fires are sooo 2011.

But seriously, like WO we hosted 7 of our friends and fed them a real dinner with cloth napkins and all the plates and silverware that we received from the wedding.

Wait a minute, is that HEN?!


My friends brought some dishes over (cranberry sauce, and stuffing, and yams) which can be seen above.
I woke up and started cooking at 6AM again like last year. Here's the menu I conjured, with links to each dish's Chronicle of Creation (or Description of Disaster?)

Sweet and Sour Brisket (No dedicated pics! Ate too quickly!)

And that was the sweet and buttery conclusion to it all!

Chapter 1: Thanksgiving Appetizer / Roasted Garlic and Potato Soup

What can I say, this whole endeavor started because I was curious about roasting whole garlic in the oven.

It really is as fascinating and delicious as they say.  Basically the whole bulb of garlic gets drizzled with olive oil and wrapped in foil and roasts in an oven.  Then it falls out of the skin all soft and aromatic.
I actually used 1 and a half bulbs of garlic.

I ate a lot of the garlic when it came out of the oven but there was still some to go into the soup.  Earlier in the day, potatoes were peeled, cubed, and boiled.  Then smashed into submission!!! And broth + almond milk were added until it was creamy.

At some point I must've added shredded cheddar cheese to the soup but in the end it didn't matter because you can't really taste the difference--the roasted garlic was all the flavor it needed.  
Mike and I had potato soup during a break from cooking.

On the day after Thanksgiving, the soup became dehydrated and turned into just regular mashed potatoes.  The garlic flavored intensified at this point and I was in garlic potato heaven!

Chapter 2: Thanksgiving Sidekick / Green Bean Casserole

This green bean casserole was gratifying to make because it came together easily and was super tasty.

hey where did those crazy yams come from?
First I boiled fresh green beans and set them aside to hang out with some yams.  
Then I sauteed king trumpet mushrooms (from the Chinese store) in onions and garlic.
For the liquid portion I added vegetable stock and almond milk (instead of cream)
I then devilishly snuck in some marsala wine! 
I seasoned liberally with whatever was around, namely white pepper, salt, garlic powder, and...nutmeg! 
(Got that last one from Alton Brown)

Mushroom soup detour! This was Mike's 1st  lunch. Trumpet mushrooms are SO GOOD.

Now it's straightforward. Note the shallot topping I made by tossing shallots (cut into rings) with panko breadcrumbs and flour. I also added some sliced garlic in there.  Next time I'll double the amount--it seems to shrink like a sweater in the dryer. Off it went into the oven for 10-12 min at 350 until bubbling.
Note: Topping goes on towards the end of baking to ensure crispiness.