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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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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Felines and Faith: Cat Sweater + Thoughts on Spirituality

how to style a cat sweater
Sweater, Rosegal | Skirt, China | Shoes, Amazon (a sad DIY spray paint attempt) | Bow, China

It was a Sunday, I was a child, and I was sitting in a cardboard box in my living room. 

The box was actually quite comfortable and as roomy as cardboard boxes get--I considered it my own little space, furnishing it with blankets and pillows, decorating the outsides with colorful swipes of a marker. I often retreated there to rest, or to waltz with my runaway imagination.

But today was different. For some reason or another, my family had elected to stay home from church. I was appalled--so I scampered to the bookshelf, plucked my red, well-loved children's Bible from the shelf, and plopped down in my box to read.

When I was younger, we rarely missed church. The seldom occasions we did, I considered it my solemn duty to make up for this transgression by studying the Word on my own. My guilt was a puddle, and I soaked it up by soaking up Bible verses.

Flash forward. I'm a sophomore in college. I can count the number of times I've been to church and Bible study this semester on one hand--to be exact, two fingers. 

I'm not sure what compelled me to be so devout as a child--was it true devotion to my faith, or was it my desire for routine and order? Maybe it was both. 

But it is this same drive to control my life that keeps me from church as a young adult. I want to stay on top of my work, so I stay home and do it. As a junior in high school, Sunday mornings meant practice SATs. As a senior, college apps. As a college student, problem sets and papers and readings. 

I still feel guilty. They say, put God first, and the rest will follow. But I know my work won't do itself. They say, live in a way that glorifies God. But how can I glorify God if I shirk my responsibilities as a student? They say, you have time for what you make time for. But that's only true to a certain extent before you have to sacrifice sleep.

But maybe, deep down inside, I don't want to make time for church because I haven't resonated deeply with the sermons in a long time. I find it all too easy for my restless mind to wander as the preacher speaks. Or in Bible studies, as we pick passages apart, I begin to question every little detail, and feel even more lost. I can't deny that I take issue with some beliefs of the most active Christian group on campus, and even some of the laws set forth in the Bible itself. 

I feel lost, so I explore on my own. Last year, I began journaling each night, writing letters to God, since I found it too easy for thoughts to fly away in traditional prayer. Then, I began reading a passage of the Bible each day, to try to grasp the holy word of a faith that I still call mine. I've found my personal reflection time effective and resonant, but I still wonder: do I write and read out of routine, or am I compelled by a deeper force?

Does failing to attend sermons and Bible studies make someone a bad Christian? Does not praying before meals despite thanking God throughout the day make a believer irreverent? Does questiong some aspects of the Bible, particularly the verses on homosexuality and attitudes towards women, make me sacrilegious?

I don't know. But I do know that I'm tired of feeling guilty. I'm tired of feeling like a bad Christian. I have no resolution for the moment, only the determination to live a pure life--in tune with myself, my surroundings, and the big guy up there.

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Respite: Recovery Week Thoughts + Yoins Review

how to style brown chunky sweater, white lace skirt
college fashion, imperfect idealist
hairstyles short curly hair
Affiliate links to follow
Cardigan, Yoins ($34) | Dress styled as shirt, Yoins ($16) | Skirt, thrifted | Shoes, Keds | Necklace, Love Nail Tree | Earrings, LC Lauren Conrad

I began researching ultramarathons mere hours after completing the Hartford half in October. After a nearly-ideal race in ideal conditions, I was soaring. I hungered for more--13.1, or even my past longest run of 20 miles wasn't enough. I wanted 30. By the end of this year. 

But my body had its own agenda. Tendons in my foot protested fiercely as I attempted to continue training. After three weeks of relentless tug-of-war, I yielded. I realized that it'd been four months since I'd had an extended break from workouts. My body had endured countless hours of hard efforts since mid-June, and it had performed well. It was time to let it rest. 

I consider my relentless drive and penchant for crazy ideas my greatest strengths, but they can also be my greatest inhibitors. I sometimes hack away too stubbornly at my aspirations. I sometimes ignore my body's not-so-subtle nudges. I sometimes thirst to accomplish things for the wrong reasons. Running half marathons may be becoming more and more mainstream, but that doesn't make my personal experiences any less special. I'm not competing to run the farthest, fastest, and strongest among my peers. I run because I find purpose, passion, and clarity in pushing my body beyond my notions of possible. 

Now that I've rested, I'll play it by ear. Staying in tune with my body is of the upmost importance. Adapting my route in face of unanticipated obstacles is key. I grew immensely from my last detour, and I will find my way again.

*                                                 *                                               *

So how did I spend my recovery week? On day one, the golden sunlight, colorful leaves, and comfortable temperature beckoned. So I obliged with an outdoor photo expedition.

As prefaced by my style inspiration sets a couple weeks ago, I agreed to collaborate with Yoins, an online retailer, for a review. Here's the run-down of my thoughts, in ratings out of 5:

Appearance: 5
The chunky sweater and printed dress looked just like I expected. I was really impressed by Yoins' selection of eye-catching items and how true to the site photos they were.

Shipping/Packaging: 4.5
For an retailer based in Hong Kong, shipping was speedy, clocking in at just over a week. The package, however, did arrive in a compact packet and not a box. It was no problem for me, but I'm concerned about the more fragile items, such as jewelry.

Fit: 4
It was no arbitrary decision to wear the dress as a shirt. While the dress certainly fit, the straight cut was unflattering for my body type, even more than most hip-hugging dresses are. The customer service reps, however were extremely helpful in offering advice on which sizes to select. Take note that 2 corresponds to small, 4 to medium, 6 to large, etc for this cut. 

The sweater, offered only in one size, fit just right.

Quality: 3.5
This is Yoins' greatest area for improvement. The sweater was warm and well-made, but there were several threads that hadn't been integrated into the knit (see photos below). It wasn't a huge aesthetic problem since they were mostly on the inside, but they were nonetheless present and noticeable to the wearer.

The bigger shortcoming was the collar of the printed dress--it had been hemmed, but the excess fabric hadn't been secured to the rest of the dress. Again, it wasn't extremely noticeable, but I did notice the excess fabric finding itself out of the collar a few times during the day.

Value: 3.5
As a proud penny-pincher, I love a good deal. I was happy to see several prices under $20 on the site--for instance, the dress was $16. But given the unfinished collar and thin material, I think $16 could go towards a better-made dress. Obviously, it would require more hunting, since most dresses with low original prices will probably have similar quality, but it's very possible to find well-made products on sale.

Same goes for the sweater--I absolutely love it and have worn it often already, but I think $34 warrants just a bit more polished of a product without loose threads.

Overall: 4
The shopping experience was overall pleasant since the site was navigable, products were chic, the reps were responsive, and the shipping was reliable. My advice is to be cautious of ordering the products with hard-to-believe low prices and to pick cuts that you know are flattering on you. Don't hesitate to ask me or the online reps questions!

In the meantime, you'll certainly be seeing more of this sweater. 

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