Sunday, October 28, 2018

My "Where-Did-You-Get-Those-Pants?" Pants


The other day, I was walking down the street, when someone started following me. The footsteps got closer and closer, the sound of them getting faster and faster until they matched my own. As I tightened the grip on my bag, I braced myself. I would swing my bag at their head. I would kick them. I would run away. The possibilities flew through my head. And then, before I could do any of these things, they were right there in front of me. A little lady in her late sixties. "Excuse me, but I've been following behind you, and I just had to ask, where did you get your pants?" she asked, pulling a pen and pad of paper out from her purse.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised. They were, after all, the pants. The pants that everybody asks about when I wear them to work or to get a cup of coffee. (The little lady on the street was my favorite inquirer :)

High-waisted, wide-legged and cropped, they're the perfect Jesse Kamm knock-offsand at a fifth of the price. And now these high-waist, wide-leg pants are on sale for $40!


Styling suggestions:
  • Pair with a white-tee tucked in or knotted at the front
  • Top with a leather jacket
  • Complete with mule flats or white sneakers
(Top image via Jesse Kamm, bottom image via ShopBop/Amazon)


Monday, October 15, 2018

3 Dainty Necklaces

For a long time, my jewelry of choice were tiny little rings. Then one day over the summer, while waiting for a table at Duck and Waffle, I noticed the hostess wearing two layered necklaces. So delicate, you almost missed them. I liked that. Just a little something for yourself, something pretty to catch sight of when you look in the mirror or to run between your fingers when you're deep in thought. Here are my three current favorites.

1. The Dashed Collar 


My desk mate Steph shared the brand Automic Gold with me. Their tagline "Yes, wear it in a pool. Yes, wear it to sleep" answers every question I ever had about buying gold jewelry off the internet. Plus, I love the alternating beads and dashes. Like repeating morse code.

2. A Beaded Satellite Chain


I never thought about wearing chains on their own, but lately I've been wearing this beaded satellite necklace everywhere. I have it in the rose gold and love that it never gets in the way and I never have to take it off. 


3. A Mini Healing Quartz Pouch


My co-worker Kat came back from her trip to Greece with this VK Lillie necklace (except hers is tan leather), and every time she wears it, I can't help but stare. This last time she wore it, I stared so much, she opened it up to show me the mini quartz stone it held inside. How magical! 

Which is your favorite? Do you have any other jewelry brands I need in my life? 



(Second image by Gldn; third image by Pamono)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Living in Mexico City: A Travel Guide


One of the best things about our recent trip to the CDMX was seeing my cousin Melany, who gave us an inside peek into living in Mexico City. With her red locks and fair skin and my black hair and year-round tan, we look nothing alike. She's a quarter Cambodian (her mom and my mom are cousins), three-quarters French, and fluent in French, Quebecois, Spanish and English. Driving around in Melany's dusty red Volkswagen (she'd just returned from a monthlong trip exploring the jungles of Costa Rica) and hanging out with her Mexican friends, we got the real local experience. Here are some of the things I learned, including the one thing you must bring to a dinner party (surprisingly, not flowers!).


On moving to Mexico City: Melany came to Mexico City for six months to learn the language. She arrived with nothing – no job, no work visa, no apartment and no friends but fell in love with the people and ended up staying. That was 10 years ago. She says it takes time to make your way, just like it would anyone starting in a new country, but if you work hard, you can have a really nice lifestyle.



On what to bring to a dinner party: Melany took us to her friend's birthday party, where I was surprised to see jello (also in the shape of a cake) sitting next to the birthday cake. At birthday parties, you always have both. And if you're invited to a dinner party, it's better to bring jello than flowers!

On being tardy: Speaking of the birthday party, James and I had late lunch plans, so I wasn't sure if we'd be able to make it. We didn't arrive until two hours after the party had started, which, I learned, was totally okay, because, as Melany put it, "It's Mexico." Talk about my spirit-city.

On PDA: One night, we sat in a crowded cafe, drinking hot chocolate and eating churros. We sat across from a couple who were so zoned in to each other, I had to look away. Not because they were doing anything inappropriate, but because it felt like I was intruding on something so intimate. Couples like that were hanging out all over the city!


On candy: Candy is everywhere and everyone eats it. Melany says she'll be in meetings with multiple co-workers sucking on lollipops.



On driving: Melany says you can't drive slow or else you might cause an accident. But traffic can also be really bad (it was bumper-to-bumper when we landed at 5:30 a.m.) so people either drive really fast or really slow. Left turns were funny: a single left-turn lane might spontaneously turn into three. But the best part of driving in Mexico City is everyone's calm and collected demeanors. Sometimes, Melany would just stop in the middle of the road, throw on her hazards, and show us a historical monument or point out a cool building. The faces of the drivers passing us would be like "la di da, just another day in the neighborhood."


On Sundays: Over 20 million people live in the city, so there's always someone around or something going on at all hours. But the city really comes alive on Sundays. Families, couples and vendors (see street hustle) hang out in the city's many parks and public spaces. Huge parts of the city feel like one big party.



What $1500/month (USD) gets you for living in Mexico City:
  • An apartment - Average rent is $700
  • A well-stocked kitchen - Food costs about $200 per month
  • A cleaning person 1x per week
  • Dinner at nice restaurants 1-2x per week
  • A weekend getaway once a month
  • A gym membership
(Side note: If you want to buy a place, a 3 bed/2 bath condo with a pool, gym and outdoor space starts at $120,000 USD, just 20 minutes from the upscale Polanco neighborhood.)


On street hustle: Melany says that if anyone goes hungry in Mexico City, it's because they want to. Street hustle is everywhere! Here are some of the hustles we saw:
  • Shoe shining – No shoe-shine stand? No cleaning cloths? Non-leather shoes? No problem! A man walking by offered to clean James' sneakers even though he didn't have any supplies with him. He just pointed at James' feet, asked politely but directly, and then went on his way. 
  • Selling everything – People sell fresh-cut fruit, lollipops, balloons – even masks! – in the park, outside popular brunch spots or in stopped traffic.
  • Parking guardians – I just made that name up for the people who charge you a small fee for "guarding" your parked car on the street in a popular neighborhood. The hustle is real. 


Income by profession: Just in case you're curious (I always am!), here's how much different professions typically make each month (USD).

Construction worker
$90
Restaurant server
$150 + tips
Entry-level associate
$500
Manager at a multi-national co.
$3500






Thanks for showing us what it's like living in Mexico City, Melany!

Planning a trip? Check out all my travel guides, including things to do in Mexico City.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Things To Do in Mexico City: A Travel Guide


This past Christmas, my boyfriend James surprised me with a trip to Mexico City (aka Ciudad de Mexico, or CDMX for short), a vibrant, intoxicating and romantic place. We spent 3.5 days there last week, and I came back home buzzing with energy. With a population of over 20 million, it's no wonder the city is so lively. My absolute favorite thing to do in any new place is to walk around and explore, but here's a specific list of fun things to do in Mexico City.

Teotihuacan - Pyramids in Mexico


Just 30 miles from Mexico City (and a 45-minute bus ride away), this ancient Mayan city is home to breathtaking pyramids and ruins. Even to this day, the origins of Teotihuacan remain a mystery. It didn't cost very much to get in (the equivalent of a couple U.S. dollars per person), and was definitely a trip highlight. While you could spend an entire day exploring, four hours is a good chunk of time to see all the main parts. 


The first thing we noticed when we got to the base of the pyramids was just how huge they are. Seriously, huge!


At the top of the Temple of the Sun (the one pyramid you can climb all the way up) people were taking in the views, cuddling (which was cute), sunbathing and even sitting cross-legged meditating.


There were rubber rope railings you could hold onto, which was handy for coming back down the steepest bits.


Next we climbed the Temple of the Moon. Even though you're only allowed to go halfway up, the views from this pyramid were even better!

La Gruta



We left the site (save your ticket and you can come back in later) and headed to lunch at La Gruta, a nearby restaurant in a cave (!) (Tip: To find the restaurant, exit via Puerta 5 and head left, then take a quick right where you’ll see signs pointing you down the long driveway to the restaurant.) The food was just okay, but the tamarind margarita and cave were definitely worth the visit.


Shopping



Utilitario Mexicano: Bon Appetit called this housewares shop the "Muji of Mexico" and our hip hotel concierge described it as "everyday Mexican things, but cool." Everything – from the store design to the blankets, baskets and ceramics  is beautifully minimal. James bought a wool blanket and peltre, the white enamel mugs and bowls with blue rims that were used in our hotel. 


Barrio Alameda: We happened upon this set of shops when we were looking for the now-closed-Centro-location of Utilitario Mexicano. The space is fun and design-y with tons of plants, bars, restaurants and quirky boutiques. 


Expendio Durango: Although it's a small space primarily serving coffee/sandwiches/pastries, Expendio Durango also has cute home and kitchen goods for sale, like salts, honey and pretty wooden vessels. Worth popping in if you're having lunch next door at Contramar. 

Public parks



Even though Mexico City is a bustling metropolitan area, there are lush green parks everywhere. On Sundays, the whole city hangs out in them. It's really fun to just hang out, walk around, drink a coffee and people watch. Chapultepec is the main park, rivaling the likes of Central Park, complete with a castle, a zoo and a few museums. Above is one of the parks in Polanquito, a three-by-three-block area with cute cafes and restaurants, and a Polanquito street. 

Farmers markets




Farmers markets in Mexico City are fun because you can walk by all the food stalls and see what's cooking and buy handmade treats and souvenirs. We went to the Mercado Parque Lincoln, which happens every Saturday in Polanquito.



Local's tip: Pick busy food stalls with lots of customers coming and going for the freshest food. 

Museums



Frida Kahlo Museum: We didn't get a chance to go to the Blue House, but would love to check it out on another trip. Lines are long, so buy your tickets in advance! 


Casa Luis Barragan: I wanted to see the home of Luis Barragan, an influential Mexican architect who's known for his use of bright colors in modern architecture, but we didn't make it. Next time! Note: Reservations are required for admission. 

There are so many things to do in Mexico City that my cousin who lives there tells people they need at least two weeks to see everything. But even if you just have a couple of days like we did, I hope you enjoy it!

Planning a trip soon? Check out my Mexico City travel guides for more tips on where to stay and eat. Plus, get an inside peek into what it's like living in Mexico City from my cousin Melany who's lived there for the past 10 years.

(Expendio Durango photo via their Twitter; Frida Kahlo Museum picture via CDMXtravel.com; Casa Luis Barragan picture via casaluisbarragan.org; all other photos by me or James) 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Forwards and Sideways, but Never Backwards



9:10 a.m.
I pull up to the house five minutes early. I don’t know what I was thinking when I volunteered to come. One kid? I can handle that. Two kids? Two makes me sweat. For a brief moment, I think about turning back around, but I know it’s too late. They might have already seen me.

9:18 a.m.
Stacy walks around the house, explaining everything I’ll need to know. The boys and I follow behind her in descending order by age. Thirty-three-year-old me, three-year-old Charlie, and one-year-old Laz. The whole time, I feel the same way I did last summer when my parents left their dog with me for three months: afraid. Afraid I might forget something really important. Afraid I might accidentally kill a living being. The stakes are even higher now. I decide it’s best not to mention these things to her right before she has to leave for work.

9:36 a.m.
After we wave goodbye to Stacy, Charlie asks me to sing for him. This requires some deliberation on my part because the list of people I will sing for is very small—it includes Alan and select members of an acapella group I auditioned for in college (I had to turn my back towards them and face the wall to finish; I was not invited back). In the end, I decide it’s safe to add small children to the list: They don’t have the vocabulary yet to be mean.

9:42 a.m.
Charlie and I get into a disagreement about the plastic cars we’re rolling across the coffee table. According to him, they can only race forwards and sideways. He screams at me when I roll them backwards. In a fine demonstration of maturity, I resist telling him that driving in reverse actually makes more sense. It’s important, I think, to set a good example. Instead, I silently judge the impossibility of each sideways roll.

10:00 a.m.
I catch sight of something purplish on Laz’s face. Is that a bruise above his left eye? Was that there before? I lean in closer for a better look. He smiles at me. Huh. Must have been a shadow. He crawls away and sits up dangerously close to a sharp table corner. I remember the soft spot on his head that Stacy showed me months ago. I wonder if it’s still there. I decide better not to risk anything and hover over him, cupping my hand over table corners while he crawls beneath. He laughs. I pick him up and move him across the room, standing him up next to his baby-walker.

10:23 a.m.
I go back and forth between racing cars with Charlie on the coffee table and re-directing Laz who is tottering precariously across the room. His walker keeps getting caught on the leg of a chair or on the corner of a rug. When he can’t make it more than a few feet before getting stuck again, I pick him up for nap time.

10:29 a.m.
Following Stacy’s nap-time directions, I dim the lights in the boys’ room, put Laz on my lap, and read him three cardboard books. After the third one, I get up slowly to turn the lights off. Charlie, who’d been playing quietly on his bed, beats me to the light switch and turns them all the way up. Laz shrieks. We need to turn the lights off now, I tell him. He turns the lights halfway down, then all the way back up again, and then finally all the way off. I try to think of a more diplomatic way to say Not cool, bro, but before I can say anything, he opens the door and slips outside.

10:37 a.m.
Laz shows no signs of sleepiness. His cries remind me of an adult coming to terms with the fact that the weekend’s over and he has work the next day. I put him tummy-down in his crib while making soft shhh, shhh noises meant to mimic the ocean setting on a white-noise machine. He doesn’t buy it, sitting up and looking at me, crying even louder than before with his mouth in a perfect “o.” It takes singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Stars” a maniacal number of times and drumming a consistent beat on his back before Laz finally falls asleep.

11:04 a.m.
Outside, I find Charlie digging happily in his sandbox. I seize the opportunity to go to the bathroom. As I sit on the toilet, I let out a deep breath. Finally, a moment of peace an— The doorknob jiggles wildly. In here? comes a voice from outside. I freeze. The jiggling is getting more erratic, more desperate. I’m reminded of a scene from a horror movie. The one where the girl chooses poorly, picking a room without two exits to hide in. Just a second! I call out, pawing at the toilet paper. Just as soon as I’ve pulled my pants up, the jiggling stops. I wait to hear the sound of small receding steps, but there is nothing but dead air. I flush the toilet, wash my hands and open the door to find nothing and nobody on the other side.

11:09 a.m.
Want to play blocks with me? Charlie asks when I come back to the living room. I keep my eyes on him and nod slowly. I can’t decide what’s creepier: him pretending to be a ghost at the bathroom door or him pretending like it never happened.


11:22 a.m.
I catch Charlie walking around the kitchen, one hand holding a granola bar, the other pulling Zoey's tail. It’s not nice to pull Zoey’s tail, I tell him. He looks at me in complete seriousness. She turns around and is silly. That's the truth, he says. Before I can tell him it’s still not nice, he looks back over his shoulder and repeats solemnly, That's the truth.

(This is Charlie's serious face.)

11:33 a.m.
Charlie jumps on the mini trampoline in the backyard. I blow bubbles so he can pop them mid-air. He laughs the most when they pop right in front of him so I just start blowing them in his face. He frowns suddenly, stopping mid-jump and pointing a finger at the brown bits on the edge. What's that on the trampoline? he asks. His voice is so filled with disgust, he might as well have been pointing at human feces smeared across the surface. It leads me to feel equivocally disgusted. I use a stick to wipe the debris off.

11:45 a.m.
To make playing cars more interesting, I give Grave Digger (that’s the actual name printed across the door; pretty macabre for a kid’s toy, if you ask me) more of a backstory and pump up his personality. Before crashing into Charlie’s Ice Cream Truck (for the fifth time), I have to finish doing donuts in the desert. (I stop here to explain to Charlie what donuts are, and then I demonstrate by spinning Grave Digger around in fast, tight loops. I’m a wild car! I shout.) Eventually, Grave Digger leaves the sun-bleached desert and heads to Disneyland because he wants a churro.

11:53 a.m.
Charlie and I walk around the house. Grave Digger and Ice Cream Truck are in search of fires to put out. (That we’ve moved on from simply crashing into each other brings me indescribable joy). I open a cabinet and gasp. There’s a fire! Charlie says. I’ll use my hose! I tell him. No, use the powder, he suggests. Okay, I’ll use the— Wait, what does the powder do? I ask. It puts out the fire! he says, emphatically. I change the sound effect I’m making from a spraying hose to a dusting of powder. Note to self: Look up fire extinguishing powder later.

12:05 p.m.
I collapse on the couch. Go back to Disneyland, Charlie says. He wants to do the whole spiel all over again. Instead, I tell him, on Grave Digger’s behalf, that I’m tired and need to eat some dinner. We talk about the color of ice cream we want. I want a pink and red ice cream, Charlie says for Ice Cream Truck. I decide on a blue one for Grave Digger. The cars feast before a heavy sleepiness overcomes them. It’s nap time now, Grave Digger says, laying on his side. Charlie nods and lays his car next to mine. For a few glorious moments, we both rest. I’ve successfully turned Charlie’s cars into the dolls from my childhood.

12:12 p.m.
I hear what sounds like a small dinosaur coming from the other room. Laz is awake.

12:19 p.m.
I fix lunch: reheated leftovers for Charlie and me; mashed black beans and quinoa for Laz. The house is quiet. Too quiet. The dread from earlier punches me in the stomach. Charlie, do you see Laz? I shout out. He’s right here, Charlie says. They both look up at me as I burst into the room. I let out a relieved sigh. Why? he asks. I tell him that I just need Laz to play in the kitchen so I can see him. As soon as I say it, though, I change my mind after both boys return quietly to their toys. I go back to making lunch and am wondering if I’ve mashed the black beans well enough, when Laz starts screaming. Did he eat that chalk he was holding earlier? I knew I should have moved it up higher. But it’s not the chalk or anything else I’d feared. Charlie has an arm wrapped around Laz’s angry red face, another one around his chest. I’m bringing him to the kitchen so you can see him, Charlie says mid-drag. My heart swells: he really does listen!


12:27 p.m.
Charlie runs in a tight circle next to the kitchen table. I'm doing donuts in the desert! he yells.

1:00 p.m.
I leave for a dentist appointment. Rob, the boys’ dad who works from home, takes over for me.

2:30 p.m.
When I get back, the house is quiet. Charlie is asleep, and I put Laz down a short while later. I think about reading or doing something else productive, but I don’t have the energy to move off the couch.

3:34 p.m.
Charlie yells from the bedroom when he wakes up. He is calmly sitting among rumpled blankets with his jeans neatly folded at the foot of the bed. Putting them back on him requires a surprising level of effort. I think these are Lazzy’s, Charlie says when the pants get stuck. Could be, I think. They do seem really small. I look down and see both of his legs stuffed into one pant leg.

3:39 p.m.
We watch “Fire Monster Truck and Police Monster Truck.” I think there is no way anything exists with that actual name, but Rob easily finds it among their recently watched YouTube videos and puts it on the TV for us. Charlie does not blink the entire eleven minutes.

4:05 p.m.
Mama, will you make a road with me? Charlie asks me in the sandbox. For a second, I think about correcting him. But then, selfishly, I think about the number of times I raced cars with him that day and let myself bask in his compliment.

4:16 p.m.
Charlie refuses to be it after I tag him. I calmly explain to him that that’s how tag works: I was it, I tagged him, and now he’s it. I know he’s stubborn, but I can be stubb— Charlie throws his head back so that it hangs at an unnatural angle, like it’s broken and separated from his body, his entire face twists, and his mouth opens into an angry black hole. I sense a major tantrum coming on. Okay, I’m it, I quickly concede. Charlie’s head snaps back into place, and the storm clouds immediately pass from his face. You’re it! Charlie gloats. Our heart-warming moment from earlier is over.

5:07 p.m.
I rest quietly on the couch. Laz chews on the corner of a Lego block. My unsanctioned break lasts for two minutes before Charlie wraps his arms around my neck and swings off my back until I play with him again.

6:28 p.m.
Just when I start thinking about how I’m going to be the parent who sticks her kids in front of the TV all day, the front door opens and Stacy walks in. Mama! we all scream. Three beaming faces welcome her home. Charlie and Laz run to her, forgetting about me, their toys, or anything else. I flop onto the couch and watch the boys crawl all over her. She is greater than even Charlie’s favorite cars.

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