Kensie: Party Pretty

March 30, 2009

I took the day off from work to run some errands and see the dentist today! It’s amazing what one extra day in a weekend means–I am definitely looking forward to only working 4 days a week in May.

One fun thing I got to catch up with on my day off was the stacks of magazines which have piled up over the past months (yikes!). I must confess that after spending 70% of my week in business casual clothes, I haven’t really added much to my “normal” wardrobe lately. While checking out the March issue of Elle, I came across a gorgeous advertisement for Kensie.

The Spring ’09 collection focuses on fun and flirty dresses, all priced under $200 (most are $158). I’ve never seen any of the pieces in person, but the line is carried at a multitude of boutiques, Macy’s, and Nordstrom. As the weather gets more and more beautiful each day, any of these dresses would be cute for spring outings or warm summer parties. Most of the designs utilize a soft bone color and their high-waists and full skirts offer some figure-enhancing shapes (something I desperately need at the moment). I love that the brand is very focused on a light and romantic essence which is carried out via its ads, website, and mantra. As I become more and more bored with seeing the same dresses on people, this is a refreshing choice for the months to come!

Who says we can’t still have some fun now that we’re working? In the words of the brand, “We love to play.”

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Heads and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

March 29, 2009

With the rush of work finally starting to settle down, I’m looking forward to picking myself up and having some much needed pampering in the days to come. Luckily, Spa Week is back!

If you’re not familiar with Spa Week, let me enlighten you! I first heard of this back in college through my roommate. Twice a year, spas around the country offer up some of their most coveted treatments for only $50! Isn’t that amazing?! According to founder, Cheryl Reid, it is her goal to make luxurious pampering available to everyone as well as allow customers to try out new spas without having to pay the high prices. It’s a genius marketing plan! The website also clearly organizes the spas by location and labels treatments with Wellness Pick, Eco Friendly, or Stress Busting categories.

Although Spa Week in California is supposed to run April 13-19, I scored a facial appointment at the Fresh spa on April 11 because they were so booked. What’s great about this spa is that they also provide complimentary products equal to the price of your treatment. Their products have gotten great reviews so it’s awesome that I will be getting to try out some of them for free! The spa is offering its Balance and Nourish, Purify and Control, and Age-Defy (for men) facials (regular price $125). Maybe I’ll like it enough to become a regular customer since I’ll be getting products each time I go as well.

I hope everyone gets the chance to check out the site and book yourself some time to relax and refresh those heads and shoulders, knees and toes. We deserve it!


Tasting Menu: Momofuku Ko

March 24, 2009

Last week, I scored reservations to the elusive Momofuku Ko restaurant!  The dining experience here starts even before you clamber onto a stool and eat – getting a reservation requires you to navigate through the online system, and beat hundreds of other hungry clickers for a spot at the 12-seat bar of Ko.

Everyone is treated equally – no special VIP attention is given.  That’s the enforced rule at Ko; that everyone has access to it.  Ironically, this makes it really difficult to get a res, and the one week ahead only rule doesn’t make it easier.  Every day at 10AM, the online system opens for the 7th day from that day.  Reservations can be made for 1, 2, or 4 and are taken very quickly, so a fast finger and persistence is vital.  Sometimes, people get lucky and score random cancelled times, but more often than not, the screen will look like this:

ko

Frankly, I think the whole process of snagging a reservation inflates the whole experience.  It sets lofty expectations for the meal quality, taste, service, decor, etc. 

On the contrary, my night at Ko was low-key and chill. First off, we couldn’t even find the door because it’s so nonchalant and hidden.  I live by the East Village, and have walked right past Ko many times (but for a good reason – Tarallucie next door for dessert!)  Once we found the door, the pretty hostess seated us on stools at the bar and we commented on the no-frills wine cork that doubled as a chopstick holder.  Digging the casual vibe.

When our meal started, the dishes came quickly at first – yummy appetizers that were pleasing and promised a great meal ahead.  We had about 5 plates in 20 minutes, and the bf deliberately slowed down, wanting to drag out the night as long as possible haha.  Beginning favorites included:

  • a standalone biscuit that was plain yet buttery and fluffily delicious
  • long island fluke sashimi in a mildly sour/spicy buttercream sauce accented with poppyseeds
  • soft boiled runny egg with caviar, vinegar, and topped with a sprinkle of fingerling potato chips

After the teaser appetizers, the dishes get heavier. I remember a pasta with snail and chicken sausage (i am terrified of snails and gave my pieces away), halibut, the (in)famous foie gras and a tri-tip steak surrounded by a genius jalapeno sauce.  Each plate is pretty generous considering that there is still more to come.  However, this is where the meal lost a few points with us – the bf and I weren’t so pleased with the shaved frozen foie gras with Riesling jelly over pine nut brittle and lychee, which was the one dish that everyone who dines at Ko raves about.  Not being a huge fan of foie gras and its heavy taste, I’d been looking forward to it with some hesitation.  To some, the peculiar arrangement was just the right balance of heavy flavor, crunchy texture, and light sweetness.  For me though, the way the foie gras flakes melted and stuck to the roof of my mouth just didn’t sit right with me, and I concentrated my anti-gag reflex efforts on the brittle and lychee, which I did think were yummy. *shrug* maybe we need more sophisticated taste buds.

Dessert was okay but not spectacular – a guava sorbet with liquid cream cheese (would have much preferred the sorbet by itself) and black sesame + lemon ice cream with a huge hunk of sugared funnel cake.  Throughout the meal, we shared a good wine pairing which went well with each of the dishes, which I’d recommend.

The menu changes a little each week; I read somewhere that the chefs rotate out one dish at a time so that it’s not always the same meal.  Reading/seeing pics of other people’s accounts of their Ko experience, this seems to be the case, as we didn’t get to try some of the other much-written about dishes.  Also, we didnt take pictures b/c the bf forbade me from doing so, no mixing technology with food.

 (photo by thewanderingeater.com)

All in all, it was something cool to do once, but probably not again for us.  At $100/person, it didn’t rock my world as I’d hoped. We probably wouldn’t get another reservation for awhile anyway, and plus, there are so many other restaurants that NYC promises!


Verna Necklace

March 16, 2009

I’ve been itching for some new jewelry recently.  Apart from a pretty  Open Wave pendant necklace that I wear everyday (thank you Sherry!), I am unadorned and don’t wear much jewelry.  Lately though, maybe because spring is coming, and I want color and vibrancy into my outfits, I’ve been focusing on acquiring accessories to jazz up outfits.

So I jumped onto Etsy, a website where independent sellers can showcase their handmade items. I first learned about the site through other beauty fanatics who loved the handmade soaps and lotions that people sold.  But I adored the jewelry section more – so many unique pieces featuring the stones/materials that you like, and getting to support smaller designers.  It could just be the Berkeley influence, but I feel better paying an indie jewelry maker than forking money over to Urban Outfitters for an inflated wing necklace that dozens of other girls may have (which I’ve done before).

Anyway, I ended up choosing this gorgeous gold-filled wire and cobalt pearl necklace from thepebblecollection that resembles leaves from a branch. Love the bold color (cobalt/royal blue is one of my favorite colors to accent with), the classic appeal of pearls, and the warm gold will look better against my skin than silver does. Can’t wait until it arrives!

verna

pearl

My other choices were this round tree pendant (the seller has a lot of nature tree/leaf themed goodies) and these dainty silver wire leaf earrings. I really like the organic shapes of these pieces. Maybe next time??

tree

leaf


Store Opening: Hayden-Harnett Soho

March 14, 2009

A little late on this post, but I had to document my visit to the Hayden-Harnett store opening in Soho last weekend! Needless to say, I was super stoked about new location (yes, I am that lazy New Yorker who thinks Brooklyn is far) and got to the store early like a dork. On the way, I got a little lost, because I thought it was by an offshoot of the central Broadway street, but it’s really more north in a Nolita neighborhood. The area is really cute, and suits the indie, fresh, and upcoming vibe of Hayden-Harnett.

(photo by www.refinery29.com)

The interior is mostly white with whimsical decorations here and there, and allows the colorful, luxe leather pieces to be the real stars of the show.  It was my first time seeing a lot of HH items in person, and in-person views are so much more helpful in determining proportion of the bags (most are bigger than they appear in pictures!), true-to-life color, and touching the smooshy leathers (softer than I thought they would be.. love!).  What surprised me most was the wide range of products the store carried – not only has HH itself expanded its line to clothes and shoes beyond their signature bags, but they also sell third party accessories like perfumes, candles, and jewelry.  They’re selling a complete style guide for their customers, and it works.

I fell in love with a pair of Moonbeam pumps, they’re suitable for work and yet fun enough to wear with a going out dress.  Maybe it’s because I’m not fond of my toes, but I have a love affair with closed-toe pumps and am constantly on the lookout for cute colors/textures/styles on mine.  Price needs to come down a little bit though ($240).

My only purchase ended up being this wonderfully soft passport holder for the boyfriend, who’s going on a six month long trip soon. I never thought passport covers were necessary, but with all the pockets and the ID cover, this one is functional, and helps to keep organized when there’s enough to worry about besides where your passport/boarding ticket/ID is.  I treated it with a leather lotion to protect it, so hopefully it will last a long time =)

img_37842


Heavy Hitters: Tui-Na Massage

March 14, 2009

I finally got a massage this week. Up ’til now, I had chosen to spend money on other things (ahem, purses) instead of indulging in a massage, but I had to give in when my shoulder muscles became so tense it hurt everytime I typed.  I blame the sedentary lifestyle known as working life I’ve adopted since last July – sitting/slouching in a chair for 12+ hours a day, hunching over, and being hyperextended over my keyboard doesn’t do a thing for my posture (duh).   Worse, my shoulders and neck muscles get incredibly tense and knotty, and sometimes I swear I feel my nerves being pinched.  I tried convincing the boyfriend to give me massages, urging him to take out his stress by pressing down hard and getting rid of those bumpy knots.  Now I know I heed more than just a guy’s strength – I need that of a small, middle-aged Chinese lady.

tui-naTui-na massages concentrate on pressure points on the body (think acupuncture without a million needles) and focuses on cleansing the energy, or chi, of the body to promote better blood flow.  I prefer these massages to regular Shiatsu or Swedish massages, because I feel they’re targeted toward my problem areas, and the ladies know how to dig deep and really knick the knots I have.  It’s a deep tissue massage (although you can ask for lighter pressure), but I wouldn’t recommend it for the faint of heart. Personally, when my muscles are hurting, I embrace the pain, and want someone to kick my butt and get rid of the knots.

Thanks to Yelp, I discovered my local Tui-na place, and have gone back five or six times. It’s called Asia Tui-Na Wholeness, and it’s very no-frills, simple decor, all about the massage.  For an hour, I get pummeled by a little old lady who finds all the biggest baddest knots and knocks them over over with her surprisingly strong fingers. Does it hurt?  Heck yes! But it’s a lot better than feeling crappy during the week, so bring it onn.

This place is my eye in the storm amidst the stress of work and bustling of NY.


Review: Shu Uemura Balancing Cleansing Oil

March 10, 2009

First, an update on the “Less ‘Poo” post – I’ve now been washing my hair every other day for the past month and a half. Not quite as quick and grease-less as I’d hoped, but improvement is there.  The first day (day of shampooing) is still the best; that’s when my hair is light, fluffy, and so smooth I tell the bf to finger comb it. Mmm sooo softt.

On the second day, it still gets oily, though less so than before and the old hair-funk smell isnt (as) overpowering.  I usually opt to pin back my bangs/front hairs on the 2nd day so it stays out of my face.  What I discovered t is that the 2nd day is the best time to curl my hair or get some kind of wave into it, because the texture stays much longer!  I think I’ll continue Less Poo-ing; if my hair is anything like me (and it probably is), it likely is more stubborn than most and needs extra time to change =P

Keeping in line with fighting oil with oil, I’ve been using the Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil in Fresh for awhile now, and I like it!  My roommates both love this, and there are 3 big bottles in our bathroom.  It’s really pretty, and the aesthetic of the bottles psychologically makes me want to wash my face more.  I had tried it haphazardly a few times before, but never really stuck to it.  Now I know that it’s important to give this a fair shot, and commit to using it continuously until your skin adjusts itself.

How I use it: With clean dry hands, I push out a pump of the oil in my hands and rub together. Then I smooth it over my face for 90 seconds or so and gently but firmly spread it to all inches of my face.  The oil is a great makeup remover so in the last 10 seconds or so, I use it to remove my eyeliner and undereye concealer – just make sure not to open your eye or else you’ll go blind.  Then I add a bit of warm water to my fingers and start up a milky lather on my skin – this is the “emulsifying” action, and essentially turns the oil into a creamier cleaning agent. Alchemy in motion! Ah the magic of science.  I repeat this step until I feel that the oil is gone from my face.

After I pat dry, my skin isn’t taut or shiny, like how it normally is with more severe acne cleansers, of which I am no stranger to.  Ever since I was a teen, my skin has gone through many many cycles of breakouts, and the conventional wisdom is to zap all those oily blemishes with stringent cleansers.  That gets me right back in the same rat race as with my oily hair however, so I need to break that. I like that this cleanser is oily, but not too rich – there are multiple formulas in the Shu skincare line, with ones specifically for drier skin (the orange Enriched formula), and one to whiten (the blue Brightening one). For me though, the pink Balancing is great.

For follow-up, I use a toner and then moisturizer. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it’s peace of mind for me to make sure I don’t break out from using this. I know others have complained about pimples from oil cleansers, but I suspect it’s because they don’t use a toner.

Next up, I want to try the green Premium A/O cleanser, which has green tea extract in it, and is purported to be great for oily/combination skin.  My only gripe about these is the steep price ($75/big bottle… geez), but I guess I’ll save on foundation with better skin!