Practical Gift Guide: For the Lady

Continuing from my previous post, here is a list for the lady in your life. These items are practical but nice enough to call a gift, because no one needs a silk pillowcase, but they say it’s gentle on the face to prevent wrinkles and it’s an indulgence one wouldn’t own unless it was a gift.

  1. Longchamp Le Pliage tote. My mom recently shared that she prefers to carry and use lightweight objects because of her weakening wrists. Whether it’s plates or bags, she gravitates towards lightweight objects, and the same goes for me even though my wrists are fine. The Longchamp one is the ultimate lightweight carry-all bag and they come in various sizes and colors. It’s good quality, it matches most everyday outfits, and you won’t feel guilty if you spill coffee all over it as I have done too many times. [Longchamp Large Le Pliage tote]
  2. Name/signet rings. I’ve been following a blogger who now has 5 kids. She’s been ordering and wearing these gold rings with each of her children’s names, and I thought they looked chic stacked and worn together. A signet ring worn on the pinky is another good idea–you can use your children’s initials and combine them onto one ring. I made a ring of my daughter’s name and I love it. [Dainty Stacking Name Ring, Gorjana Bespoke Signet Ring]
  3. Diamond stud earrings. Diamond studs are surprisingly affordable. They don’t have to be large 1+ carat diamonds, because you know, we’re not rappers, and I think the smaller ones can be comfortably worn every day. If not for Christmas, diamonds studs would also be a nice gift for a birthday. [Mejuri diamond mini studs]
  4. Silk pillow case covers. I’ve read years ago on Cup of Jo and I’ve read it again today on Good Housekeeping, that silk pillow cases do make a difference. As I’ve mentioned in the intro, it’s something one wouldn’t purchase and own unless it was a gift. If you do decide on buying one, do consider whether the product is machine-washable and easy to care for, because there’s nothing worse than giving your lady something else to add onto laundry. [Fisher’s Finery 100% Pure Mulberry Silk Pillowcase, Slip Pure Silk Pillowcase]
  5. Ember mug or Cold Cup . Only consider it if she appreciates drinking hot beverages throughout the day. It’s pretty expensive, so unless you think she’s going to enjoy using it regularly, it’s going to end up as one of those gifts that sits in the back of the cupboard or remain in its box to regift. As the weather gets colder, my mom has mentioned a couple of times she’d like a nice warm cup of coffee or milk. She’s the type to appreciate something like this as long as it’s easy to use, but there are some women who only drink iced beverages all year long, so if that’s the case, a reusable tumbler might be a better choice. [Ember Mug, Starbucks Cold Cup, Kate Spade Insulated Tumbler]
  6. (Machine-washable) Silk Pajamas. Similar reasons to purchasing silk pillow case covers. I think a lot of us still wear leggings and old t-shirts as pajamas, and I personally will not understand why cotton pajama sets are over $50. But If you’re going to buy a nice pajama set, go all the way and buy the silk ones. [Everlane Women’s Washable Silk Pajama Set, Mommesilk Piped Silk Pajama Set]
  7. Wireless earbuds. Same reason as I’ve provided in the Men’s Gift Guide below. It’s a must have. [Apple Airpods Pro, Sony – WF-1000XM3 True Wireless Noise Cancelling earbuds]
  8. Jo Malone body cream. When I was going through my dry skin trauma, I tried many types of body creams, butters, and oils. One product that felt and smelled especially nice was Jo Malone’s body cream. It didn’t cure me from my dry skin, because nothing could, but it felt nice to apply right before bed as the mild scent comforted me to sleep. The texture is silky smooth and I especially like the ‘myrrh and tonka’ scent. I always wanted to know what myrrh smelled like, and after I bought the cream during Nordstrom’s anniversary sale, I use it as I imagine it was one of the gifts the three wise men gave to baby Jesus. My husband said it smelled like an old white lady, ha, and maybe it does, but it’s comforting nonetheless like a grandmother’s hug. There are safer scent options, like ‘nectarine blossom and honey,’ ‘wood sage and sea salt,’ ‘peony and blush suede,’ to name a few. [Jo Malone Myrrh and Tonka body crème]
  9. Fur-lined boots. What do you call winter slippers you can wear outside? (No, not Crocs) UGGs! Yes, there are cheaper options, but if you’re going to indulge her, the soft shearling and quality of UGG brands are incomparable to others. Years ago, I once bought copycat shearling lined boots from Costco for my mom and grandma thinking they were practically the same thing. My mom later shared that though the boots warmed her feet, the bottom of the shoes lacked ridges and grip, so she slipped everywhere in the icy/snowy roads of Korea. I was so sorry! Since then, I have vowed to always buy the real deal. [UGG Classic Mini II, UGG Classic Femme Toggle]
  10. Heat pads. It’s for cold nights, that time of the month to relieve cramps, back pain, and stress relief. [Sharper Image Infrared Heating Pad, Pure Enrichment Heating Pad]
  11. Hair products for thinning hair. My mom once had thick hair like mine. I don’t think it was as thick, but she didn’t worry much about hair thinning during her younger days. That is, until she reached her 50s. If she doesn’t clip/tie her hair a certain way, you can see her thinning area. She’s never been a high-maintenance lady and never invested in quality skincare items, but I’ve been noticing its repercussions lately. Her once pretty eyes are now droopy and her once puffy thick hair is now flat and thinning. I know the stress I’ve caused her has also affected her, so it makes me all the more sad to see her so aged, especially these past few years. I don’t know if the hair products will help, but it’s worth a try and it’s something I know she wouldn’t purchase on her own. [Kératase Densifique Bodifying Shampoo, Kératase Initialiste Advanced Scalp and Hair serum, Ouai Fine Hair shampoo & conditioner]
  12. Skincare products. Same reason as above: for preventative, self-care efforts. Any quality skincare product is a good gift in my book. If purchasing a gift set, beware of sample sizes. I think many gift sets during the holidays tend to trick you into buying more sample sizes than the original sizes you think you’re purchasing, especially if you’re shopping online. You won’t be able to tell if you’re buying the real sizes or sample sizes unless you look at the ounces. Calculate well and don’t get tricked unless you’re not sure if the recipient will like the brand and therefore you intentionally want them to try sample sizes. Also, try not to buy gift sets with cleansers or toners (unless that was your intention). If you don’t know what you want to buy, buy the good stuff with creams and serums. [Sulwhasoo Cult Classics, Estée Lauder 3-piece Radiant Skin Repair, Clarins Double Serum Set, Charlotte Tilbury Red Carpet Skin Secrets, Sisley Paris Black Rose Skin Infusion Cream Set, La Mer The Hydration Comfort Mini Collection]

Next up: Gift Guide: for the Girl

Practical Gift Guide: for the Man

I was doing some Christmas shopping for family members this week, because apparently “Black Friday” started already and that’s when I like to get all my shopping done, so I thought I’d post something fun. These gift ideas are mostly tried-and-true, things we own or have thought useful. Some items are also included thinking of our parents’ generation–what I’d give my dad or his generation.

  1. Aftershave balm or lotion. If your guy is scruffy like my husband and shaves pretty often, he’ll appreciate a facial balm or lotion. It’s one of those things that guys don’t buy for themselves. My husband doesn’t have skincare products other than the Cetaphil lotion he uses for everything, and though it has helped him thus far, he has often come out of the bathroom after his weekly shave saying that his face hurt. This is a pain I will never understand, and it made me wonder why, after all these years of shaving, he has not bought himself an aftershave balm/lotion. That’ll be my gift to him this year. If your man doesn’t have or has very little facial hair, maybe he’d appreciate general skincare products. I don’t think many men know that there are products to help remove blackheads, prevent wrinkles, and basically clean your face. ;) [Nivea, Jack Black Cooling Gel, Art of Shaving unscented balm] [Clinique skincare set, Kiehl’s Ultimate Age Fighter]
  2. Wireless earbuds. Game-changer! I received mine a couple years ago, but if any adult in your life does not have one (and he/she uses the computer/phone regularly), I think this is a must. The more recent ones have longer battery life, better fit, etc. [Apple Airpods Pro, Bose Sport Earbuds]
  3. Sleek shirts and/or coat. After my husband and I got engaged, I saw to it that he rid of all his skater shirts. He also gradually faded out his flannel/plaid shirt phase. That’s the most change that has occurred in his wardrobe within the past ten years, but lately I’ve been noticing a transition into an I-don’t-care phase. He has embraced color and comfort, like turquoise t-shirts and elastic waistband shorts with fisherman hats. Maybe there’s a time and place for those things, maybe, and maybe especially this year because of covid, but I decided to upgrade his appearance. He is not a bad looking man, but somehow he has become un-handsome. haha. And to that note, I’d like to recommend these collarless shirts. I bought a white one for my husband and it looks good on him. I think they’re very sleek and modern, clean and simple, and they upgrade a look without seeming like he’s trying. Also, a nice (tailored/fitted) coat really does make a man look elevated and classy. Simple changes/swaps make all the difference. [Everlane linen shirt, Gap Oxford Band-Collar shirt]
  4. Pocket tools. My husband recently bought two of these things. Why? I will never understand, but it seems like it’s a guy thing. [8-1 Emergency Auto Tool, Wingman (Leatherman) Multi-Tool]
  5. Slippers. I’m sure the one he’s wearing right now is worn-in and comfortable, but it may be time to wash it or buy a new one. My husband also attests to the comfort and convenience of Crocs, but I won’t go that far. [Ugg Leisure Scuff Slippers, Ugg Ascot Slippers]
  6. Charging station. There are countless options nowadays: compact, wooden, modern, #/types of devices, etc. and you can find one that caters to what he owns. For example, my husband owns Samsung products, but he doesn’t use his smart watch anymore, so he may only need a charging station for his phone and earbuds. [Wood Valet charging station, Elago charging hub, JoyGeek 3-in-1 charging station]
  7. Blue light filter glasses. I bought myself and my daughter a pair this fall, but I didn’t buy one for my husband thinking that he’d think they were a gimmick, but when we received ours in the mail, he asked, “Where’s mine?” Whoops! [November Matte black with EBDBlue plus glasses]
  8. Snack subscription. This is for the guy who has it all and likes to try new things (and doesn’t mind monthly packages). Is there a guy like that? I don’t know. Maybe this is a bad idea; but hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time of making this guide. There are so many types of monthly subscription boxes, I’m sure you can find one to his liking/preference (meats, health-conscious, cheese, Japanese snacks, pickles, wine, etc.). [SnackCrate, Universal Yums, FitSnack, Mouth PickleBox, Cellar’s Wine Club, Try the World, GoldBelly BBQ]
  9. Heatonist Hot Sauce. If your man ever watched “First We Feast” on YouTube where celebrities are interviewed while eating spicy wings, then he might be interested in tasting those sauces. I bought a 3-pack last year for my husband and he enjoyed the unexpected gift. He did not enjoy tasting the “XXX” (the last dab) sauce, but the other two classic sauces have been to his liking. Even I, who cannot tolerate spicy foods, liked the flavors of the classic two. [Heatonist Hot Sauces]
  10. Ergonomic desk chair. If the chair he sits on is over 10 years old, it is time for an upgrade. In our household, my husband has acquired the nickname Wreck-it-Daddy. He is known within the family for breaking everything not out of clumsiness, but by sheer force and bestial conduct. He manages to break things that seem unbreakable, e.g., a back support mesh. This year, his desk chair has disintegrated. How is that possible, you ask? I have no idea; but he has managed to leave remnants of its pleather cover all over the floor on which he walks. If one can afford the luxury of a Herman Miller chair, then that would be a great gift. But for us middle class folks, affordable ones will suffice because I don’t know if even a Herman Miller can withstand my husband’s savagery. [Herman Miller Aeron chair, Ticova Ergonomic Office Chair]

Next up: Gift Guide: For the Lady

At Home: Fall Stories and Crafts

Nov. 2015

Halloween is just around the corner and fall is here in the Inland Empire. It almost rained and almost stayed cold last week, but now it’s back in the 80s. Nevertheless, I’m enjoying the warm but “cooler” weather and sometimes I even play Christmas music in my room.

Truth be told: When I used to teach, I used to take Veteran’s Day off and take the longer weekend to visit New York. The first time I visited during Veteran’s day weekend, I went to look at some wedding dresses (2010). I remember walking through Greenwich Village to a small wedding dress boutique and seeing The Sartorialist and Garance Doré sitting at a cafe across where I was walking, and they were both looking in my direction, and I imagined–had they been walking on the street, perhaps they’d taken a street photo of me. Haha! (Please excuse my vain memory/imagination/hallucination). Fall weather was so perfect, I took a mental note and visited during the same time thereafter. The photo from two posts prior was from this visit (in 2010).

It is a lovely time to be in the city. The leaves are golden and falling, and it is right before wind and rain invade the city and take down all the leaves so that on one bitter morning before you realize what has happened, all things fall and golden lay on the ground in grey mush. Never in my visits during the same weekend have I experienced inclement weather. Ideally, one should visit New York City during the first week of November. Not before Halloween though. Halloween in New York is crazy and unpredictable. You have to go after Halloween when people have shaken off their eerie party spirits and are feeling more light and festive. When the pandemic is over, keep in mind, dear readers, the best time to go to NYC to experience fall is right after Halloween (the first two weeks of November).

Random story: During my first year at NYU, I didn’t know about NYC’s crazy Halloween parades and festivities. On the night of Halloween that year (2006), I had finished my evening classes after a full day of classroom observations, and when I exited the building which was located around Washington Square, I found myself in the middle of a Halloween parade. Mind you, I never attended a Halloween party in my life, and there I was in the middle of the biggest one in the city, or so it seemed. The streets were closed and everyone, adults and children, were in elaborate costumes. I remember seeing Marie Antoinette (full wig, gown, makeup, etc.) and a mother hen (full-feathered) with three little chicks, etc. Those were the most memorable costumes that stuck with me, but when I say people went all out, I mean, The Walking Dead characters would feel normal in such a setting and I don’t think you could’ve gotten away with a costume from Target. I was in regular old clothes and so tired, I shoved myself across a flood of people though three blocks and remember wanting to get away from such mayhem. Oh, the memories.

To change the subject,

Here are some fall crafts to enjoy with family:

  • Leaf crafts also this: I especially like the card concept
  • Pumpkin seed craft: Similar to the above idea, but with dyed pumpkin seeds
  • Seed Pictures: Another similar to the idea above, but more versatile
  • Dried Flower Turkey Gourds: A chic take on decorating the table
  • Caramel Apple Recipes: Yum! I think E will enjoy the DIY Caramel Apple Bar. She prefers peanut butter over caramel, so we might have a peanut butter apple bar instead.
  • Apple Cider Caramels: Smitten Kitchen’s recipe and she claims it’s her favorite, in her own words, “These apple cider caramels are my love letter autumn in my city, my attempt, as I wrote in the book, to ‘pack everything I love about New York City in October — the carpet of fiery leaves on the ground from the trees I didn’t even know we had; the sky, impossibly blue; the air, drinkably crisp; the temperature finally delicious enough that it implores you to spend hours wandering around, sipping warm spiced apple cider from the Greenmarkets — into one tiny square.'” Perfect for gifting later in the year. I never saw the appeal of caramels until a coworker brought homemade caramels to share at work and people were inhaling them. I tried one and couldn’t believe how soft they were! Not sticky on my teeth as I had imagined. Hopefully Smitten Kitchen’s turns out similar.
  • Try a stuffed squash recipe. A savory option for fall cooking.
  • Family game night: Scattegories using fall themes: Fall movies, fall foods/dishes, fall harvest (seasonal fruits/veggies), etc.
  • or Pumpkin Games: some active options

Happy Fall!

Little Story #004: Me Duele

In 2001, I was admitted to the hospital every couple of weeks to receive treatment. Because I was seventeen and still considered a minor, and because I received treatment at a county hospital, I shared a room with three other little ones and their parents. If you didn’t know, nights at a hospital are far from peaceful. There’s the constant beeping of machines, the nurses stabbing you awake with a needle to draw blood, constant poking, checking blood pressures and heartbeats, toilets flushing due to the nonstop pumping of fluids, and doctors coming and going and talking to you or others around you as though it was day. If the sounds and poking didn’t keep you awake, the crying did.

I remember one night when I found myself asleep in the midst of all the noise, I woke up to a boy crying in the bed next to mine. “Me duele, me duele,…” It was dark and I didn’t know what was happening behind the curtain dividers. He continued crying me duele, me duele, and no one seemed to be able to console him. At seventeen, I was able to tolerate pain and discomfort, but it was different for the little ones. They had no idea what was happening and why they were there, and how could they know how to endure such pain. His cries broke my heart. His words broke my heart, and I prayed,

Lord, please, the boy is hurting. Please take away his pain...

Now when I lie awake at night thinking about prayers and tomorrow’s plans, sometimes I think of the little children in hospitals and hear echoes of me duele. I pray for the children. I pray the Lord will give the children in hospitals a peaceful and painless night. To comfort their little bodies, to wipe away their tears, to let them hear His voice.

To give them hope.


Central Park, NY (Nov. 2010)

Hello to my two, three readers,

How are you?

I’m feeling all the fall feels with the onset of cooler weather. 70-something feels so good. To make it even more perfect, rain would be amazing. When our previous church pastor, who is now retired, prayed for rain, it would rain that week out of the blue. This happened at least twice. He doesn’t live in California anymore, so maybe it’s time we pray for rain. Rain feels like such a distant memory and I long for the day it will wash away all that’s burnt, because fires and ashes have been our summer weather. The Lord has confined us into our homes not only because of covid but because the outdoor air itself has been deadly. Whatever His purpose, He has made it clear that we had to be indoors and secluded this year.

I’ve been off chemo for the past month, and that also feels so so good. In a way, being off chemo has been my rain. I am flushing out the chemicals and my body feels recovery, if not, restoration.

My real skin is coming back and I forgot what my actual skin felt like. It’s been a year and a half of what I would call my battle of epidermis hydration. I’ve written about it far too many times. Was my skin always supposed to be this soft and not bumpy/flakey? There was a point right before I stopped chemo when my whole torso and bottom was covered in a rash and my scalp was oozing out yellow puss because I had been scratching it too much. It really looked and felt like I had a severe skin disease and I felt so disgusting and sick. The mental and physical agony was unbearable. The chemo wasn’t working and my body had had enough. I had had enough. Everyone has a breaking point and my body was telling me it had reached its limit and the medicine was doing more harm than good.

Currently I am waiting to start my new treatment regime. I have one more week to enjoy a little bit of normal life.

Normal feels amazing. Being able to breathe, eat, rest, work, read, walk, all without physical pain.

Is this what it feels like to live.

Let me tell you, not being ill… is a wonderful gift.

Being ill is also a gift, but you know what I mean.

I was watching Stranger Than Fiction this past week, one of my favorite films, and when Dustin Hoffman’s character (Professor Hilbert) concludes that Will Ferrell’s character (Harold Crick) is not in control of his own life, Professor Hilbert tells Harold, “…You could just eat nothing but pancakes if you wanted.” Harold Crick angrily responds, “What is wrong with you? Hey, I don’t want to eat nothing but pancakes, I want to live!” And then Professor Hilbert replies, “Harold, if you pause to think, you’d realize that that answer is inextricably contingent upon the type of life being led… and, of course, the quality of the pancakes.”

That was it.

The life I want to live is not about worrying how long I will live.

What I do today for His glory is all that matters and at the end of it all,

I will have lived a life well-lived.