Old Favorites: Tan Button-down + White Lace Dress

dress over button-down
dress over button-down
how to style a lace dress for fall
how to style a lace dress for fall
how to style a lace dress for fall
heart necklace outfit
Button-down, Goodwill | Dress, Kohl's | Boots, Tommy Hilfiger | Necklace, Macy's | Bow, Rire Boutique
Photos by my brother

At home, it's easy to settle.

It's all too easy to waste away before backlit screens, thumbing through social media feeds, mindlessly scrolling through pop-culture articles, oogling enviable products on retail websites. 

It's too easy to dream without acting, drawing up grandiose plans but then casting them aside. It's too easy to exist without living.

So as I indulge in my self-prescribed days of "actual break," and attempt to recover from the blasted post-finals sniffles, I strive for enriching relaxation. 

Yes, I am that girl who watches lectures and reads social psychology books for fun (don't fret, I also consume more than my fair share of frivolous media--definitely a guilty pleasure).

Of course, the lecture and book in question deviate far from standard academia.

The talk is Randy Pausch's Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, as part of Carnegie Mellon's "Last Lecture" series. It was actually taped in 2007, but his message is timeless. Pausch was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, but still continued to maximize his final months as an effervescent soul. You can find the lecture on youtube, or you can pick up the book version. Here are my favorite snippets:

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." 
[on his cancer diagnosis]

"Brick walls are there for a reaon. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something" 
[on obstacles to goals]

As for the social psych book, I finally finished Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath that I had begun over Thanksgiving break. Gladwell's thesis is basically my life anthem: that misfortunes can be powerful portals to great achievements. Transforming failures into impetuses has propelled me so much further than innate motivation. Here's my favorite excerpt:

"...the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty....Giants are not what we think they are. They same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness. And the fact of being an underdog can change people in ways we often fail to appreciate: it can open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable" (6).

And on that note, let's take some time to reflect on the footprints we've left behind and our trajectory ahead.

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Cotton Candy Dreams: Mint and Pink Outfit + Life Reflections

mint and pink outfit, college style
mint and pink outfit, college style
mint and pink outfit
mint and pink outfit
mint and pink outfit
Sweater, Target | Button-down, thrifted Ralph Lauren | Skirt, Wet Seal | Keds, eBay

I am mesmerized.

Head resting against the cool, textured plastic walls, I peer outside the plane window. We soar among voluminous white clouds against pure blue skies. Golden light filters through the fluffy bodies, illuminating the dreamland. I can almost imagine myself floating freely, unconstrained by the sturdy frame of this flying machine. I can almost imagine myself prancing through the immaculate mist before sprawling peacefully atop these inviting thrones. 

In the midst of my cloudland daydream, I begin to wonder if recent life happenings have also been but figments of my imagination.

The cotton candy skies of our first sunrise expedition. A candlelit dinner in a Mediterranean restaurant. Tender kisses atop a cozy blanket, in a grassy field overlooking the mountains.

I'm skeptical. I could be the clumsy lead in some sappy rom-com. Or this could be The Truman Show. I could be absolutely delusional. 

But I know it's all real, and I'm apprehensive. Romanticized snippet descriptions exude the swirls of warmth and novelty that have been my life, but they can't even begin to paint the true picture.

The plane begins its descent. I bid a quick farewell to my dream scene before we're immersed in the majestic, white masses themselves. The sunlight and blue skies disappear: all I see is cloud. Nothing but endless, condensed water vapor that obscures all lines of sight and disrupts all sense of direction. 

This is reality. I'm feeling my way through the thickest fog, entirely new to this whole romance thing (google plz tell me how to relationship). I have no idea where I am or where I'm going, whether the ride will be turbulent or smooth. 

But I am absolutely certain that all is clear above, in the dreamland, and below, beneath the clouds, where I can see the world in a different light, from a new perspective. 

We break through the dense mist. The scenes below reassure me--the farmlands become suburbia become rivers of bustling cars. I smile.

I'll break through, too.  

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Chasing Sunrises: Floral Blazer + Tulle Skirt

Blazer, Kohl's | Button-down, Target | Skirt, eShakti | Necklace, Nordstrom | Oxfords, Forever 21

6:18 am.

I hop out of bed, flick on the lights. Unlike my usual school mornings, the sun has yet to awaken.

I should feel groggy--but instead, warm, pulsing anticipation fills my body. It's the first day of reading period, I had the luxury of climbing into bed before 10:30 pm last night, I'm up to witness my first sunrise.

Pulling on my thickest sweater, warmest boots, coziest scarf, I tiptoe out of my room into the quiet hallway. In the empty common room, I peek out the window: the mountains in the distance are black, their silhouette rests serenely against a deep orange and calm blue gradient. The transition between the two contrasting colors is so smooth, so subtle--nature's finest work of art. 

I awaken a still-sleeping floormate, and we venture into the cold. Streetlamps light our way as we head towards the "beach," the ironic name of our science center's observation deck. Once there, we shiver in the crisp morning chill, ears red from the boisterous wind, exposed fingertips icy and numb.

Huddled for body warmth, we wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, a sliver of gold appears just above the peak of the black silhouette. It intensifies, growing brighter, warmer, more brilliant.

Finally, the sun makes its grand entrance, emerging completely from its respite. 

Enveloped in misty golden light, surrounded by the endless blue sky, I smile.

Here's to simple beauty, serenity, exploring the uncharted. Here's to beginning.

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Bon Courage: Gingham Button-down + Maroon Skater Skirt

how to style printed sweatshirts french quotes
how to style printed sweatshirts french quotes
Button-down, thrifted ASOS | Sweatshirt, Love Nail Tree | Skirt, China | Oxfords, Forever 21
Photos by Alura Chung-Mehdi

When the going gets rough, I often attempt to lift my spirits through my outfit choices. 

Sweatshirts with statements such as "We will," "Harmony: where chaos and peace come together," and of course, "Bon Courage," make regular appearances. 

As finals week quickly approaches, I found "Bon Courage" most fitting. A French phrase, it's most commonly used to express encouragement during time of difficulty. Think a deeper version of good luck. 

So take heart--conquer those exams, papers, reports. Conquer those intimidating, demanding tasks. 

Emerson once said: What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.

Let's do this. Bon courage. 

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Artsy Endeavors + Life Updates: Nothing Gold Can Stay

Attempting to remedy the winter sniffles with hot tea and a good read
No place like home
The world needs more
fall outfit with flower crown
Triple threat: mint, florals, lace
new york public library
Scenic study spot
crepes on columbus nyc
artsy fall photo
fall outfit
Tis the season
All photos from my instagram

As the days before winter break dwindle away, I find myself feeling more reluctant than eager to leave fall semester behind.

Despite late nights wrestling with proofs in a type of geometry where triangles have less than 180 degrees and rectangles don't exist, despite the extra commitment of two jobs, despite 4pm sunsets and gloomy weather that forebodes of winter--this semester has been the most resonant yet. I've found resonance in even my toughest (trippiest?) classes and additional duties.

It's a blessing to be trained well in a challenging proofs course. It's blessing to be a teaching assistant for a blind student in linear algebra and to be a leader in orchestra. It's a blessing to be part of the Asian culture house. It's a blessing to have run the Hartford half marathon. It's a blessing to love where I'm at, despite inevitable hardships.

Tumultuous waves are ahead as the end of the semester nears, but I run a tight ship. While I wish I could preseve this time, these moments, for quite awhile and keep living them, nothing gold can stay. So I'll keep sailing ahead, toward the promise of an unfamiliar horizon and the adventures that await.

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Separate Spheres: Mint Polkadot Blazer + Maroon Skater Skirt

college fashion, colorful outfit
college fashion, colorful outfit
college fashion, colorful outfit
college fashion, colorful outfit
college fashion, colorful outfit, asian fashion
hairstyles short curly hair
Blazer, Kohl's | Button-down, thrifted | Skirt, China (gift) | Necklace, Macy's | Keds, eBay
Hair tutorial: faux updo for short, curly hair
Photos by Alura Chung-Mehdi

"Be nice to your sister--she's our guest."

I was conflicted about my mom's innocuous instructions to my younger brother. 

Yes, they were heartwarming; it's nice to be pampered--to have my brother bother me just a little bit less, to be welcomed with warm embraces, to be cooked tasty bok choy, to be taken on fun outings.

But the gesture was as sweet as it was thought-provoking.

What does it mean to be a guest in my own house? In my own hometown? Amongst my own family?

Each homecoming feels novel, but I soon settle into old rhythms. Life at college fades away and home materializes on the foreground--just as life at home is tucked away while I'm at school, only to be revived upon my return. I alternate between two unfinished paintings, each close to my heart, but featuring contrasting tones, styles, colors. They are different worlds, almost entirely separate spheres. 

In my absence, the paintings evolve. I forget how I left them--but unprecedented changes also emerge, as if countless mysterious hands made adjustments during the interim.

I can claim ownership of neither painting, but they both have left deep imprints on my being. I have felt resonance while immersed in my work on each. I have learned volumes about myself from the process. 

So I'll rest here for a spell, as a guest at home--before jetting off once again to put finishing touches on this semester.

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Jamberry: Vegan Nail Wrap Review

When my facebook newsfeed informed me that an old high school classmate had become an independent consultant for Jamberry, a line of cruelty-free, vegan nail wraps, I had to give the post a thumbs up. Progressive beauty and driven people--what's not to like?

I thought nothing more of it until Emily contacted me, asking if I'd like to try a sample of the nail wraps. I heartily agreed, and also promised that I'd review them on my blog.

Unfortunately, I'm an impulsive nail-picker, so my two attempts to test the longevity of the wraps failed miserably. The first time, I resisted a whopping four hours before I peeled them off. The second time, I actually almost made it to three days. 

So while I can't give a comprehensive review of Jamberry, I'll divulge what I did discover, and some tips I picked up along the way.

Selection: 5/5

I noticed right away that the site offered several different, eye-catching designs, from festive holiday wraps to versatile, simple stickers. My favorite picks include this precious fox design, Gatsby-inspired gold geometric pattern, and ombre glitter Atlantis theme.

Value/Cost-efficiency: 4/5

As expected, these nail wraps are not cheap. Jamberry wraps run $15 a sheet (plus $3.99 shipping), with 9 different nail sizes for each hand. In comparison, the Sally Hansen stickers are $7-10 a set. There's definitely a trade-off between cost efficieny and ethics. When it comes to beauty products, I'm personally much more willing to fork over the cash if I know what I'm buying is high quality, natural, and cruelty free--for instance, it definitely hurt to pay $9 for my eyeliner when I know that there are $1 options, but I rest easy knowing that I'm not putting chemicals near my eyes. 

For those willing to make the investment, there is also a buy three get one free deal.

Application + Removal: 4.5/5

All I needed was a pair of scissors, nail clipper, and hair dryer. The process for two individual nails was quick--I simply trimmed the sticker down, heated it up with the dryer, stuck 'er on, and trimmed with a nail clipper. I recommend applying the wraps when your nails are slightly longer than you want--the wraps have a much cleaner edge if you can simply snip off the extra wrap with some excess nail.

Removal was no problem--I simply peeled off. The is a more laborious process detailed on the Jamberry site if you want to prevent damage at all costs, but I didn't find the need to undergo it. Luckily, my nails remained just fine.

My only concern was the size of the wraps--often times, they were either too large or too small. I ultimately trimmed the side of the too-large wraps just a sliver to fit, which was just an extra step. Unfortunately, there wasn't a large enough wrap for my thumbnails, so I opted to only apply wraps on my pinky and ring finger. 

Longevity: 4.5/5

While the wraps only graced my nails for a few days, I saw little signs of wear before I peeled them off. In those three days, I had worked out (including a swim), showered, and practiced violin multiple times--so these wraps withheld a pretty active lifestyle. 

I had hoped to document the wear over a week, but my impulsive picking proved to be an obstacle. Luckily, Heather of Cake and Greenbeans does just what I had hoped and failed to do in her Jamberry review. By day 7, the wrap remains as shiny as ever, though hints of wear have appeared at the tip.

Overall: 4.5/5

I found these wraps to be pretty durable for the few days that I kept them on, and had almost no complaints about the application and removal process. While they are pricey, they are more ethical than most other beauty products, and their shine survives even the most active of lifestyles.

If you want more info, feel free to browse the Jamberry site or take a gander at more reviews!

Additional links:
Jamberry Site
Emily's Jamberry Shop

Other Jamberry Reviews:
Cake and Greenbeans' Longevity Test and Review
Blogher's In-depth Review
About.com's Rating and Review

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Minimalism: Gingham Button-down + Embellished LBD

lbd outfit
new york public library
Dress, Vera Wang Princess at Kohl's | Button-down, thrifted ASOS | Keds, eBay
Photos by Alura Chung-Mehdi
Location: New York Public Library

I'm far from a light packer--last Thanksgiving break, I lugged home a massive suitcase, overstuffed backpack, cumbersome schoolbag, and violin. 

Break was only one week, but I wanted to be certain that I'd have everything I needed. I planned each outfit down to the occasion, and drafted to-do lists for each day. 

All of this was excessive. I quickly learned that I needed much less than I expected, after wearing only a small fraction of what I'd packed.

So when my school's orchestra went on tour in NYC over Halloween weekend, I was determined to pack as efficiently as possible. I vowed to maximize even my black concert dress--and so this minimalistic travel look resulted. 

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