Tag Archives: Shopping

I Still Call Australia Home

10 Oct

We just got back from three weeks in Australia! We were efficiently visiting for two weddings – Julian’s and my cousin Jon’s. Like last time, we used pretty much all our free time to catch up with friends and family (and also gorge ourselves).

Plane Anthropology

On our flight to Melbourne, our section of the plane (the blue Economy Plus area) had hardly anyone in it – behold!

Screenshot_20170904-223549I had optimistically put myself in 21L and James in 22L but had been obsessively monitoring the situation in case of a flood of newcomers to our section – I figured rows 16 (the one we vacated), 17, 18 and 20 would be my canaries in the coal mine, and if I saw those starting to fill up I’d change our seats so James and I were in the same row.

It was pretty interesting to watch people figure out that there were empty rows for the taking, and start to spread out and stake their claim. The first people to catch on were a group of guys in rows 22 and 23 – they separated and took the DEFs in row 20 and 21. The other empty rows were taken maybe 10-20 minutes after we’d sat down, and well before the boarding doors closed. 24DEF was the last to go, and after that it was people just circling around looking for empty rows. I counted eight of us who had the very best situation – an ABC or JKL row to themselves (DEF was less optimal because you didn’t have a wall to lean your back against to stretch your legs out on the seats).

I also thought it was interesting how reluctant people were to move to a row where someone was already sitting. As far as I could tell, almost everyone who started with their own row stayed that way. Everyone technically only had the right to their own seat, but clearly the seat poachers realised how desirable it was to have a row to yourself and didn’t want to be the one to take that away from someone (also a lot of people had defensively moved to the middle seat of their row).

Which brings me to the 17JKL bloc. I was particularly fascinated with it because it was one of the few filled rows. 16JKL was also full but the guy there moved to 16ABC pretty quickly, and the 16s weren’t really that desirable because the seat arms don’t lift up (which was partially why we had moved our seat allocation). But anyway, early on in the boarding process (after the 22/23 guys had spread out but before other rows had been taken) I saw a lady from 17JKL look around and realise that the blue section was likely to have empty seats. She asked a flight attendant if she could move, and I guess the flight attendant told her that after boarding she could take any empty seat, because she stayed put but kept looking around.

Which was a huge mistake, because by the time she started walking around, all the rows had been claimed, and even people who had moved (and had just as little “right” to the row as her – except for the apparently crucial part of being there first) had started to feel territorial about their space. I heard her ask to sit with a single in 17 or 18 ABC, who straight up lied to her face and told her that someone else was sitting there! She got rejected from another row and was roaming around looking for someone who was too nice to say no (from my live email updates to Cat and Ivo: “the unwanted lady just moved seats again to someone else’s row. She was like “can I join you here?” NO! Nobody wants you!!”).

Obviously she had to do it because moving would be a significant upgrade for her, but just as obviously people didn’t want her in their row because it would be a significant downgrade for them. I think she ended up in 18DEF on her third attempt.

The flight took off 30+ minutes late, but watching people tetris around was the most engrossing 30+ minutes I’ve ever spent on a plane. Also I slept nearly the whole way, sat with my legs stretched for the rest, had nobody reclined in front of me, nobody pulling my seat to get up, no lines for the toilet, and had three tray tables/seat backs to organise my stuff – highly recommended!

(I had high hopes for our return flight which was looking similarly empty, but it filled up a couple of days beforehand. So we did the only reasonable thing and upgraded to business. =P)

Catching Up

The whole point of visiting Melbourne is to catch up with family and friends, and we always make the most of it! I love our friends in Seattle and SF, but there’s nothing quite like being around the people we grew up with. We met up with my school friends, James’ school friends, James’ computer science friends, and my cousins.

Being with my cousins reminded me of when we were kids and hung out every weekend (except half of them have kids of their own now!)
IMG_20170928_163922I wasn’t sure if it was just me, but Cat said that she also got teary-eyed looking at that picture. We were so close growing up, and it’s so much fun hanging out with them – we’re only fully assembled every couple of years or so, because of Klene living in Sydney and me in San Francisco.

Last time we visited Melbourne we didn’t see as much of my parents as I would have liked, so this time we had a weekly dinner with them and Cat/Mitch.

It’s funny, because I feel like at times, Cat and mum didn’t always get along that well – Cat used to get exasperated with her easily, and mum would come to me and be like “you tell Cat to do X, because Cat won’t listen to me”. But now Cat writes all these funny, sweet anecdotes about mum on facebook, where apparently “Mama Chen” has quite the following among Cat’s friends – even some of my friends have told me they love the Mama Chen facebook updates!
21768353_10156217380865656_6916487172671501806_n (1)All of James’ high school friends have kids now, and about half of my school friends have kids. Everyone is getting so old! Here we are with James’ uni friends after a brunch catch-up:

Stuff I Had Totally Forgotten About:

Chicken Salt

The first time we went to get fish and chips (with flake! Not that cod bullshit they have here) and they asked if we wanted regular or chicken salt, James and I were like “OMG how could we have forgotten about chicken salt???”

How is it not a thing here? Possibly for the same reason the US doesn’t have Burger Rings, chicken Twisties and chicken flavoured chips (that aren’t a novelty flavour like chicken and waffles) – Nancy said “people in the US don’t like meat-flavoured chips” (!!!)

But anyway, we brought back three different kinds of chicken salt.


I never saw them in Seattle or SF but they’re everywhere in Melbourne. I was walking down the street and heard a magpie sing and was hit with this intense wave of nostalgia. I used to hear that sound all the time, and hearing it again after all those years felt simultaneously foreign and familiar.

Melbourne Food

It is so good, especially the Asian food. James and I reckon the best Asian restaurants we’ve been to in the US would be middle of the pack in Melbourne.

James had his first proper Melbourne coffee and said he’d forgotten how good it is – and also how strong it is! We went out to brunch with Joel, Nancy, Damo, Joan and their kids, and afterwards James said he was really jittery from the coffee – whereas Joel and Nancy made themselves another cup when they got home.

Anyway, here is a random selection of food we ate and took photos of:

My pavlova freakshake at Naughty Boy cafe:
IMG_20170917_095758Sushi platter from Shyun:
IMG_20170923_181953The “Money to Burn” cocktail at Eau de Vie:

20170925_085924-ANIMATIONEau de Vie was really fun – the cocktails were delicious and beautifully presented. We love speakeasies and didn’t realise that they were now a thing in Melbourne. Mitch had a cocktail with some fairy floss and a paper plane:
IMG_20170913_204716 I think this one involved a drink being poured into a glass full of hickory smoke. 00004IMG_00004_BURST20170913212612_COVER
Next time we go back to Melbourne James wants to do Eau de Vie’s food/cocktail tasting menu because he was absolutely in love with the place.

(Also, James fell asleep on the train ride home. It turned out he had actually started to get tired after dinner and before we went on a 20 minute hunt for a speakeasy, and certainly well before we had 3-4 drinks each at said speakeasy – but he said he was having such a good time with Cat and Mitch that he “wanted to keep the party going”).

The “Meat Fruit” at Dinner by Heston:
IMG_20170926_181002 (1)

Vegemite gyoza at Shizuku Ramen & Craft Beer. You can take the girl out of Australia …
Zombie VR

Ivo said she wanted to do this, and to be honest at the start I was dubious. I mainly went along with it because I thought it would be fun to hang out with everyone – I could take or leave the VR experience, really. It was at Zero Latency in Melbourne and it ended up being amazing.

They were running a bit late so we could see the people before us. They were wearing their gear – VR set, headphones, motion capture stuff, guns, some sort of computer backpack – yelling at each other, and sort of shuffling around tentatively in this massive warehouse space. I imagine we looked just as goofy when we were doing it.IMG_20170917_205923_1It was really immersive – not just 3D but completely responsive to our actions because of those little motion capture bobble things. I can’t believe there isn’t something like this in SF!

We did the zombie and the space one, of which I think the space one was better. There was some really cool stuff, like where you walked up this torus, and when you looked down you could see your friends still down below you and it felt completely real. And walking across high platforms, hiding behind boxes, dodging baddies … it was really, really cool.

The zombie one was just a straight up shooter experience, which is why it felt a little less interesting. It was still really immersive though, and thus pretty freaky having a zombie running right at you.

Mitch did really well and ended up coming with the third highest score ever. The guy working there was really impressed! They sent us all these cool stats afterwards, like how accurate our shots were, how many points we’d scored, how far we’d moved etc. I thought the funniest stat was that during the space boss battle, all of us moved a pretty consistent distance – from 8-17 meters … except James, who apparently just spent the whole time walking around and had travelled 112 meters! WTF James!


Generally stuff is way cheaper in the US so we tend not to buy too much stuff when we visit Australia. James usually replenishes his supply of Bonds undies, and I pick up some clothes, but this time we decided to go all-in on Aussie snacks:
IMG_20171001_174837Things James missed the most: banana lollies, wizz fizz and musk sticks

Things I missed the most: chicken Twisties, Burger Rings, honeycomb chocolate, noodles

You can’t really tell in the photo but there’s a couple of boxes of Wei Lih noodles that the Pringles and chicken salt are sitting on. They’re sooo much better than any other instant noodle I’ve had and I can’t find them in the US. They were $23 for a pack of five on eBay – outrageous!

James and I taped two boxes together and checked them as luggage, and they survived the trip really well. And it was only a little bit embarrassing collecting them from the carousel and carrying them through the airport. Cat reckons I’d be able to tape four boxes next time – I think definitely three, but I’m not sure if four would exceed the allowed luggage dimensions.

I also bought some sneakers from Country Road (I’m having mild regrets on that one – they look cool but they’re made of fucking neoprene and make my feet sweaty) and this awesome croissant rain coat from Gorman that I will never, ever regret:


image from Gorman

Every time we visit, we’re surprised at how much cooler Melbourne is than we remember, and how our friends are just as wonderful as we remember. And we sort of get stars in our eyes and think about moving back even though it doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes we just miss being around people who sound like us, you know?

But anyway, we’ll be back next year for Cat’s wedding!



4 Jun

Ugh, jetlag has really hit me hard this time round. I’ve spent all week getting up at totally random times and feeling totally useless. I haven’t sorted through my photos and videos yet (but I will!)

So in the meantime here is some stuff I bought recently that I love.

Lululemon All Tied Up Tank
c1b6db0eaea3f708c9bab4a0690d6c7dIt sold out on the same day so I’m really glad I impulse bought this while I was in Australia, even though I had to wait almost a month to get back and pick it up! I kind of regret not getting it in the grey as well.

I also bought that sports bra because it looks so cute with the top. =D

Gorman Basic Leather Tote

James hardly ever has opinions on things but he hates this bag – “it’s gaudy”. Unfortunately for him that’s the reason I love it.
Gap Panama Hat
cn11024080I wore this hat almost every day Indonesia and it was perfect – kept the sun off my neck/face/shoulders and went with pretty much everything. Plus I crushed it in my bag a couple of times and it sprung back into shape.

Manolo Blahnik Peach Heels
s-l1600I’m slowly easing myself into them in anticipation of the next time I need to wear heels (probably the next Christmas party!) Even my guy friends admit these are super cute and they never notice shoes.

Dell Chromebook
Chromebook 13 NotebookThis was a birthday present to replace my old laptop. The keyboard is a dream, it has an incredibly long battery life, and I’m surprised at how much I can do just using web apps (though I would really like something that could properly edit GoPro videos).

I have also gotten mildly obsessed with frangipani since the hotel we stayed at in Bali on our last day had them all over the place and they smelled heavenly. The best candidate seems to be Ormonde Jayne’s Frangipani but I hesitate to buy a full bottle based solely on reviews.

I’m now sleeping 2-11am so I reckon by Monday I’ll be functional again. I’ll aim to get my blog post up by next week because next Saturday Nixi is coming to visit! Yaaay! =)

Feathering the Nest

12 Jul

I’ve wanted to get a big reading chair for awhile and have my eye on this one from Restoration Hardware:


image from Restoration Hardware

I ordered some fabric samples online and put them on Kyoto’s current favourite sitting spot to test their fur resistance:
IMG_20150706_161146But I think he caught on.IMG_20150706_161333Luckily Mouse hasn’t figured it out yet.

A Rick Owens Splurge …

10 Feb

I’ve wanted this jacket for aaaages (proof – and check out that foreshadowing: “I thought maybe I could save it up for an important birthday. Or maybe if we ever move to a cold climate“).

I’d describe Seattle as a cooler climate, not cold. Though we had snow a couple of days ago! This was outside my building at 6:30am (I don’t normally wake up that early – Mike was picking me up to go snowboarding)

But anyway I was prepared buy the jacket when we went to NY – it would have been an awesome souvenir – but I didn’t like the blistered lamb, which felt like very flimsy suede. On the bright side, at least I figured out my jacket size. The majority online opinion is that it runs small but it ran true to size for me.

About a week ago I found exactly what I’d been looking for on eBay. It was still expensive, but significantly cheaper than retail and, more importantly, silky lamb instead of blistered lamb and in my size. Jackpot!

Me: Would you mind if I bought this jacket that I’ve wanted for a really long time?
James: *frowns* Why do you have to phrase it like that?

Sorry James – that was accidentally manipulative of me! But he said he remembered me dragging him to the Rick Owens and Bergdorf Goodman flagship stores in NY and grudgingly agreed that my story checked out.

It arrived today and is soooo buttery soft and wonderful. It’s the perfect compromise between the drapey-ness of the blistered lamb and the leathery-ness of the calfskin. It’s pretty satisfying to finally own something I’ve been wanting for years. Now I can retire the search for my perfect leather jacket. =)

Post Christmas Wrap-Up

28 Dec

Merry Christmas everyone!

We had a bunch of Christmas orphans over to our place for a pot-luck meal (hot-pot, roast, ham, mashed potatoes, stollen, Tim Tams, cookies, stuffing and other stuff that I’m probably forgetting). No snowboarding, unfortunately – no fresh snow for a few days so we didn’t think it was worth going up.

Present-wise I got a dress from James’ grandma, a silk scarf from James’ parents and a snowboard binding multitool from Cat (with the other half of her Christmas present to arrive in the new year). James got a wallet from his grandmother and some scotch glasses from his parents.

We also did some self-gifting (which, according to several articles I’ve read, is a Christmas trend). I bought a trench so I have a non-bummy coat option:

image from Banana Republic

Also a belt, merino wool scarf and noise-cancelling earbuds (that James steals whenever I run the Roomba or Vitamix).

James decided to go back to skiing because even though he prefers snowboarding it was hurting his knee too much. He got Atomic Savage TIs packaged with some bindings on sale and Lange ski boots:

image from Evo

Man, ski gear costs sooooo much more! But we figured it was worth it so he could still come out with the group and not completely wreck his knee. We got his snowboard stuff pretty cheap last year, so only paid a little bit more than a season’s rental, and it was worth it for the convenience and money saved. Now we have a spare in case a friend needs it and he still has the option to take his snowboard out for powder days.

Hmm what else has been happening? We’ve been going out a lot since everyone seems to be in a social mood. James is enjoying his week off – lots of Playstation, computer games, TV and bumming around. We’ve been eating a lot (mmm Christmas pudding with brandy butter …) and skipping gym so will have to tighten up on that next week. Though it doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world to have a lazy end to the year. =)

How To Fool People Into Thinking You’re Neat

25 Oct

Step 1: Don’t own a lot of stuff
Step 2: DO own a Roomba

It’s hard to keep a lid on “stuff creep”, especially in the US, where everything is so cheap. My weaknesses are board games (stored invisibly in the couch) and clothes – not so much about having lots of clothes as it is trying to find the perfect shirt, the perfect jeans, etc. so I can look put-together without expending any effort.

Which brings me back to the Roomba; pretty much the embodiment of no-effort big-reward. It vacuums your house! It freaking vacuums your house!

image from iRobot

Sometimes the Roomba doesn’t get everything on the first pass so when it’s charged up I just send it out again. I run it even when I think the floors look clean but when I empty the canister it’s full of dust and cat fur. Where did that all come from? It also forces me to keep stuff off the ground – I feel super guilty if I come home and find that the Roomba has choked on a sock.

Almost all our friends here own one. It’s not as popular back in Australia but we’ve gotten James’ parents, my parents, Cat and Ivo to buy one, and they all love it (and have been getting their friends on board too). They all live in 3-4 bedroom houses so I think they just run it more often than we do. Apparently it works fine on carpet and can detect stairs so you don’t need to worry about it plummeting to its death.

James has a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Roomba. Sometimes when it’s fruitlessly trying to find its way back to the docking station he’ll give it a look of contempt, pick it up and put it back in its charger. The Roomba does his victory chirp and James is all “don’t you sing at me like you found your own way home.”

Also the cats don’t ride around on the Roomba like I had hoped. =(

My mum said that my dad runs theirs twice a day and keeps going “it’s so clean! So clean!” Ha! Apparently they’ve had various friends and family over to marvel over it.

So yeah, if you don’t have a Roomba you need to buy one. Dooo eeet. It’s the best thing I’ve ever bought and it just saves so much time (and it’s so satisfying to empty it – kind of like “this is all the crap I didn’t have to vacuum.”

And like I said earlier, the combination of clean floors and not owning much stuff tricks people into thinking I’m neat. I think it’s all the uncluttered surfaces – or maybe they just think we’ve put all our stuff away? Chuck says he’s intimidated by how clean our place is and calls it the “hermetically-sealed apartment.” But I’m secretly like “little do you know – I’m filthy. I didn’t even shower today.”

Hoo Boy – Big Shopping Splurge!

20 Jul

We spent a shitload of money in June. We went to a few nice restaurants (James’ parents were visiting, yay!) but mainly it was that we bought a lot. I swear we normally don’t buy anything and then suddenly in June we bought all the things. Fortunately the first batch of James’ stock arrived to ease the pain! I had a list of our purchases but it was getting embarrassingly long so here are some of my favourites:

Gentle Souls Opal Sandals ($180 -20% + tax)

image from Nordstrom

The footbed is super plush and the sandal are comfortable yet slightly dressier than thongs (which they call flip flops here). I get a lot of compliments on them and have been practically living in them the past few weeks so when the dark blue version went on sale (for around $90 + tax) I bought another pair. Seattle gets like 3 months of non-drizzly weather so I probably don’t need so many sandals, but they’re so cute that I have no regrets.

You can see the blue sandals in the picture below, along with a few of my other favourite buys from June.

Balenciaga Town Bag ($1495 + tax)

I love the Town I don’t tend to carry much with me (phone, wallet, keys) so it’s a great “everyday” size. I added a notepad, pen, tissues and tiny sunscreen since there was more than enough room.

I tried the City but it was way too big and I think the Town worn crossbody looks better on a petite frame. The bag was a total splurge but I wear it all the time and it goes with (almost) everything.

Gap Leather Flip Flops ($24.95 – 30% + tax)

These were cheap and cute. Plus rose gold is my favourite shade of gold – now I feel fancy when taking stuff to the recycling and garbage chutes. =)

Sam Edelman Petty ($89.50 -20% + tax)

These shoes have insanely good reviews and the Smokey Praline colour was on sale (normally $130) so I snapped them up. OMG these are awesome. They’re so comfortable and go with dresses, jeans, shorts, everything! They have a slight heel but feel like flats when I’m walking. I’m trying to figure out whether I can get away with wearing them with my Balenciaga Town or if I should pick up a pair in black.

So yeah, that’s like … 10% of what I bought last month. I blame the great sales (on top of already cheap prices), free shipping and free returns. It means I can buy clothes online, try them on at home, then return them if I don’t like them. I don’t even need to find a mailbox – I can just drop the package off downstairs for the front desk staff to give to the USPS guy. 

Also FYI I’m not the only one who went on a big shopping spree. James bought almost as many clothes as I did, plus a few big-ticket items (admittedly not Balenciaga big) like a wetsuit, a bunch of clothes and snowboard bag. Also a limited edition Skyrim board from Never Summer. Here it is mounted in the study.

You can see in the bottom left Mouse has some teeny tiny artwork hanging in his little nook. That’s because he’s a classy cat. Here, have a blurry photo of Mouse where he looks like he’s seen shit go down.

Updated to add a photo of Mouse being intrigued by the longboard: