Piece by Piece: Vintage Velvet Top + Reflections

vintage velvet top outfit
vintage velvet top outfit
vintage velvet top outfit
Velvet top, vintage market | Button-down, thrifted | Skirt, Forever 21
Photos by Yihao and Esse

It’s been a month and a half.

1.5 months, and my calluses have smoothed over, no longer a distraction from my ragged nails.

1.5 months, and the physical traces of a 10-year passion have faded away.

The skin on my left fingertips looks so foreign when so smooth. The delicate lines of my fingerprints are now discernible, no longer disfigured by the arduous hours of waltzing upon vibrating silver strings.

My violin case sits in the nook between my desk and wardrobe, upright and unobtrusive. My music stand has become a makeshift clothes rack, often adorned with a summer top or silky chemise.

I forget they’re there sometimes. I barely recall the deep resonance that fueled the countless rehearsals, the daily screech sessions, that whole decade of my life. And sometimes, I even forget that all of this was once indispensable.

I would’ve been appalled in another life; another Lily wouldn’t have approved.

She wanders into my dreams sometimes, orchestrating nightmares. Violin is no longer part of my reality, but it consumes my sleep world. I struggle through rehearsals, I arrive at important auditions having not practiced in months…

I awaken unsettled. Yet I still feel no inspiration to play again.

She used to fantasize about her life without violin. What would it be like to regain the weekly 10-15 hours of rehearsal and personal practice? What would it be like to be able to attend the events that always conflicted with orchestra? 

She brushed the thoughts away. Violin was part of who she was, or at least who she thought she should be.

But I was ready for a change. During a brawl with my parents on postgraduation plans, I realized that external expectations too often directed my life. So this time, I took charge.

I realized the ideas I had entertained but had suppressed: I got my helix pierced. I cut and dyed my hair (photos before this change). I gave up violin--and took up other creative pursuits.  

Will I pick my instrument up again? The answer is indefinite. All I know is this: piece by piece, I'm constructing who I want to be, and that’s enough for now.
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P.S. We've just launched the project I mentioned in my previous post--please take a gander at Thank You for the Tragedy, a vision for a collection of atypical love essays. It's a chance for personal love tragedies to become catharsis and resonance. We're calling for creative writers and hope you'll contribute and spread the word!

Also, apologies for my absence in my normal blogroll--I'll catch up on my reading as soon as I can!

Forever Fleeting: Life Lately + CaseApp Review

Disclaimer: I received two ipad mini cases from CaseApp in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
caseapp personalized ipad case
Long ago, I accepted a collaboration with CaseApp, an online store with premade and custom phone/ipad cases.

I ordered two ipad mini cases: one premade, with a dust pink and marble pattern, and the other custom, with instagram photos from my semester in France.

Then life happened, and this review post didn't (oops!). In the last three months, I:

  • finished my first term at Oxford
  • went back to France for a month to travel solo and complete a personal language immersion challenge; I spoke English only twice, once during a call with my bank, and another time during an interview
  • saw my family for the first time since August
  • accepted a math research internship with my advisor at Amherst
  • returned to Oxford for my final term abroad
Each experience is much more nuanced and complex than a bullet point can express, so stay tuned for my melodramatic storytelling in the coming months.

In the meantime, however, here's this well-postponed review: 


Aesthetics--5/5: This is definitely CaseApp's strong point; designs are ultra-hip, ranging from dainty leaf patterns to artsy watercolor. The customization option also has several trendy sticker options, such as block quotes and pineapples.

Delivery--5/5: I received the cases within a week with standard RoyalMail delivery. They came in an envelope, but well-protected in bubble wrap.

Quality--3.5/5: The cases are not for those who frequently drop their devices (aka me). My usual ipad mini case (pictured below), is thicker and has cushioned several falls. These cases offer some protection, but are definitely flimsier and are more for the look. 

Selection--3/5: I would've liked to see different styles of cases, rather than the standard snap-on. For instance, my current case as a magnetic cover that can be folded back into a stand, which is integral for me (for my youtube core workout videos haha). Sticky9, for instance, offers personalized covers like that, but not an actual case. It would be the perfect combo of practical and stylish to combine the two! Otherwise, more protective but still aesthetically-pleasing options would also be a good idea. 


Overall impression:
Pros-
  • sleek premade designs
  • free, quick standard delivery to country of site (there are UK and US sites, for instance)
  • custom design true to online simulator
  • custom cases equal price to premade designs
  • can overlay personalization to premade designs
Cons-
  • rather pricey--each case ranges from $30-40 (or £19 upwards; my cases were £25 each)
  • not incredibly sturdy
  • site design feels somewhat primitive



If you have questions about my experience with CaseApp, don't hesistate to ask!

If life allows, I'll be back soon for my typical rambling. I also have a couple final announcements:
  • I'm planning to launch another site soon, and will share details in a future post! It's still in the works, but it will involve contributors around the world.
  • The illustrator for said site-in-works is interning at Refigural, a digital quarterly of up-and-coming artists, which will be releasing its first print edition next month--you can get more details at their kickstarter page. The pocket issue costs $24, can be shipped anywhere in the world, and will feature work from Logan Jackson, Parker Day, √Čtienne Saint-Denis, Jesse James Johnson and interviews with The Tan Mom, Rock of Love's Heather Chadwell, Soul Legend Gloria Ann Taylor, and other exclusive content. 

Until next time!

Cheers,
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Ruffled: Ruched Red Dress + Knit White Sweater

ruched red dress outfit
ruched red dress outfit
ruched red dress outfit
ruched red dress outfit
ruched red dress outfit
ruched red dress outfit
Dress, eShakti | Sweater, mom's | Boots, Target kids | Earrings, Claire's
Photos by Lumi

Disclaimer: eShakti sent me this dress in exchange for blog exposure. All opinions are my own.
The package arrived in 1.5 weeks from DHL, just in time for Chinese New Year (now several weeks back). The dress was a lovely cut, though I wish I'd gone a size up (I sit awkwardly between size 2 and 4 for their pieces). It also wouldn't have been a bad idea to take advantage of their custom sizing. I always customize the dress length and collar, if applicable, but for the purpose of wardrobe fluidity, I opted for a standard size (easier to donate or sell later). While this dress is now sold out, you can find similar styles and colors on their site.

            *                                                                                                                    *                                                                                                                     *

Before this dress, I didn't have any classic red in my study abroad closet.

It was the week of Chinese New Year (Jan. 28th this year), and I was wondering what I'd wear for the holiday. As a first generation Chinese-American, I couldn't guiltlessly deviate from the custom of sporting the warm color during the new year--that would surely result in bad luck for me and my entire family. 

Typical celebrations boast vibrant shades of red, like the festive lanterns strung across every Chinatown, or the silky traditional dresses. The only red to grace my limited wardrobe, however, was maroon--or bordeaux, if you will. And there was lots of it.

Perhaps it was only a matter of coincidence or taste, but the conspicuous absence of "Chinese red" and the strong presence of "French bordeaux" felt rather symbolic to me.

Being abroad, I've never felt less Chinese. Despite the stark contrast between my very-Asian appearance and more-homogenous European crowds, despite the physical distance from my American roots, I feel weaker and weaker ties to my family's cultural heritage. 

My French language skills have long surpassed my Mandarin abilities. I rarely cook Chinese cuisine, my neglected bottle of soy sauce becoming almost-ceremonious. I clash more and more fiercely with my family's conservative ideals. 

I find it extraordinarily difficult to understand how a wild spirit like me could've come from such a moderate, reserved family. I dream of valiant endurance races. I become restless and miserable in standard office jobs. I dabble in a potpourri of fields and hobbies, though the creative truly holds my heart. I yearn to one day call a foreign country home.

I crave unwavering familial support, but am instead met with: you're too rebellious for wanting to do marathons and triathlons (when most families would meet such goals with enthusiasm). You have to find a practical job so that you can contribute to your brother's college funds (what if standard work just isn't me? And whose college funds will my brother contribute to? This is completely unfair). You have to decide on a specific career path, and you'd better decide now (but even my college advisor told me not to dive into any huge commitments too soon). You don't need to apply to jobs and internships abroad. We want you home in the summer since you spent this year abroad and you need to prepare for your graduate exams (wait, who asked you to dictate my internship search, and who said I was even applying to grad school?). 

And the very worst: we don't want to raise a daughter in the US who spends all her time in Europe.
Hold on, didn't you leave China to go to the US? And just because I forge divergent path from the one you envisioned--one that is still respectable--you'll regret having raised me?

My parents have provided me with much, but I cannot be their puppet. They assure me that they'll ultimately support my decisions, whatever they may be. But their "occasional suggestions," as they so call them, are often suffocating. They are the ambivalent gusts of wind that hinder my takeoff from the nest. 

It's tough to be torn between cultures, and even tougher to toss other contenders in the mix. Instead, I prefer to be rootless--to live and grow in a country that isn't supposed to be mine. It is my middle ground, my space in-between--where I can be both Chinese and American and neither Chinese nor American. 

I'm not sure what's ahead. But I do know how I feel, and I'm determined: it's time to ruffle my feathers and take flight.

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