April Favorites video is live!


There are lots of reasons I'm excited for May—including warmer weather, the promise of summer, and the imminent release of the Canon G7X Mark II. But April has been a fun month of product discoveries for me. Here are some of my faves—including a weird spiked mat that helps with my computer-persons' neck and back pain.

How do you know when you're stressed?

We all know how to deal with stress—well, at least, we all know how we're supposed to deal with stress: exercise, yoga, meditation, therapy, contact sports, reckless behavior, vodka (just kidding about those last three). But one of the things I've always struggled with is figuring out how to tell when I'm stressed.

I think I've been stressed out since I was 11, and probably before that. I remember my teacher pulling me aside during lunch, right after I'd delivered a presentation on the life and times of Rasputin (did anyone else cover the Russian Revolution in sixth grade or was it just us?). She asked me if I was OK—which I wasn't, because I'd been under a lot of pressure having just sat for a junior high school entrance exam (#GrowingUpInNYC). I didn't even know what stress was at the time, but I definitely had it—and it took someone else to tell me in order for me to realize how much it had affected my behavior.

Even as an adult today, I so often internalize my stress that physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms manifest before I realize how far it's gone. From talking to friends, I don't think I'm alone. But in order to cope with stress—and take care of ourselves and our health—it's important to be able to identify its symptoms. Here are some weird things that happen to me—or that I find myself compulsively doing—when I'm stressed out and don't even know it.

Storytime: I was a Wilhelmina plus-size model

Here's something that I've never really discussed in great detail with very many people I know: how I became a plus-size model, got signed to Wilhelmina in New York, and what that was all like. Plus, photo evidence!

March Favorites video


...In which I talk about some other stuff and then spend half the video talking about Gianvito Rossi shoes.

My first Influenster box! L'Oreal's #EverPure kit


A couple of months ago I signed up for Influenster.com—a social sampling program that helps you discover new products and new brands totally free. And yesterday I received my first-ever Influenster box: an entire full-size kit from L'Oreal's new EverPure haircare collection, which included a hair mask, a leave-in treatment, shampoo, and conditioner. I can't wait to try all these items and will let you know how they are! Check out Influenster for yourself—and see what free samples fit your lifestyle. What I think is the coolest thing about the program is that the samples are selected for you based on your interests and expertise—so, like, I won't wind up with men's grooming products or pet toys, for example.

11 Things I'm Reading Right Now


One of the biggest obstacles standing between me and all my hopes and dreams (read: making more and better YouTube videos) is that I'm actually, secretly, for the most part a very boring human—at least when I'm in New York, that is. I know it seems counterintuitive—how could being in New York ever be boring? But I grew up here, and just like any place anyone spends nearly their entire life, I see the city through a lens of everyday familiarity. It's when I travel outside of New York—to places like South Dakota, Colorado, California, Kenya, Tanzania, China—that I'm invigorated and excited by my environment. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that when I'm in New York, I'm usually working 50-60 hours weeks at my day job, and on the weekends I putz around my apartment and the neighborhood, enjoying spending time with myself or with family. I wake up every morning and imagine how fun it would be to vlog my day—but then I realize that going to the office or popping a load of laundry into the machine downstairs might not make for very interesting content.

That said, I'm not going to let my little humdrum existence stop me from practicing making YouTube videos! This morning I promised myself I'd make one—because I skipped filming last weekend—so I did this one, above, which is about a pretty boring topic, I guess: books and magazines (paper products!). Maybe I'll try that thing people do and challenge myself to vlog every day for a month, just to get into the habit. Stay tuned.

I'm obsessed with #TeamGeorge on The Voice UK

OK, let's be real, I've loved Boy George since 1983. And now he's on The Voice UK, I love him even more—especially for breaking the mold and selecting singers for #TeamGeorge who look like the teenagers we all feel like on the inside.

Cody Frost:



And, last week, duet-ing Nothing Compares 2 U (I cried)



Harry Fisher:



I will always have the deepest admiration and respect for people who aren't afraid to dress and style themselves exactly how they want to and how they feel.

Storytime


Every year at Thanksgiving, for a few years in a row sometime around the 10th anniversary of our college graduation, my friend Grace would come to New York to see her family and we'd spend the Saturday hanging out, catching up, doing a spot of shopping, and pontificating on where we were and how far we'd come since school (and over the last year).

In 2013, Grace and I repeated our tradition—and, I guess because both of us were sort of feeling the nearly-15-years-out-of-college are-we-in-a-rut blues, we made a new year's resolutions pact: that by the end of 2014 we'd each have started and finished a writing project and gotten boyfriends.

Well, as you've probably already deduced, I am terrible at follow-through and did neither. Grace, who's much better at being a grown-up than I am, did both. And this September she's marrying the love of her life and I am so happy for her. *Insert heart eyes emoji here*

The moral of this story is to always stick with your new year's resolutions.

Wannabe YouTuber


Over the past few months, outside of work and even though I'm old, I've really rededicated myself to watching videos on the Internet—specifically videos made by popular vloggers. Some of my favorites include Zoella, iJustine, Casey Neistat, and Zoe's boyfriend Alfie. I guess I love YouTube for the same reasons everyone else loves it: on-demand, bite-sized programming that doesn't feel canned or too contrived. It's high-energy (or low-energy for you fans of ASMR out there) and vloggers cover everything these days—last week I watched a lot of what-fits-in-my-handbag videos and this week I'm back to regularly scheduled daily vlog programming. I also watch a lot of YouTube from a media person's point of view—with sort of a curiosity about what makes the next generation tick, how millennials communicate, exchange ideas, and are building an entirely new medium from the ground up by sheer force of will (a mass movement).

I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to make YouTube videos of my own—and I have, here and there. I loved making snack videos with my old coworkers at Glamour, like this one where we taste-tested mystery chips:


But I started a new job about a month ago and I don't really have any good friends yet at work (plus I'm not sure I'm ready to show my new team my newfangled packaged-food-obsessive side yet) so I haven't done any group snack videos in a while. I miss making them! So much so I was thinking about getting my siblings involved in a jelly bean taste test video (but I'm not sure we share the same sensibilities or weird senses of humor).

Anyway, I think now that I'm in a new office environment, I might have to strike out on my own and come up with at-home talking-to-the-camera YouTube videos to make. I made a makeup one the other day, just for kicks (top), and I'm thinking of slightly more offbeat ideas I can put together. Maybe I will do something with Peeps. I also wonder all the time whether I'm too old to be doing this YouTube thing, but maybe not? Let's see.

My own little 1994 revival moment

I'm having my own little mid-90s revival all by myself this weekend. Over the past few days, I've bought Revlon's Super Lustrous Lipstick in both Toast of New York and Rum Raisin (both high school favorites), a Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey, and a Louis Vuitton monogram Speedy (though I did buy the 2011 version of this bag, the bandouliere—with the strap).

I'm hoping the bag will break in and the straps will get a little bit of a patina by summer. I haven't bought a Vuitton monogram bag since the Mini Marie came out more than a decade ago, and anyone who knows me knows a monogram isn't usually my thing, but I have a premonition that this summer will be a big monogram summer, trend-wise. So I'm prepping ahead of time. Fashion: it's a marathon, not a sprint, right?

Hotstamped:


An incomplete list of all the things I almost always overbuy expressly to avoid running out of

— Toilet paper: Charmin
— Twinings organic peppermint tea
— Patent black pumps
— Organic whole milk
— Eames dining chairs
— Diptyque "Figuier" candles
— Decorative candy bowls
— Commemorative teapots
— Vanilla extract
— Organic free range pasture raised eggs: extra-large or jumbo
— Ham
— Butter
— Collegiate sweatpants
— Organic steel cut rolled oats
— Frederic Malle perfume
— College-ruled yellow legal pads

Full-on fashion

Background: It's been just over ten years since I finished up the MA at Saint Martins and tomorrow I'm starting the first serious fashion job of my career. Not that all the jobs I've had up to this point aren't serious jobs—they were just serious in other ways. Working at the Post was all about scooping the News, developing the paper's first market pages, and shock value; launching Racked National was creating a national shopping blog POV from scratch and securing its place in the landscape of independent fashion blogs at the time; the three times I worked at Glamour always boiled down to moving the traffic needle with a content-first strategy while covering as much ground as possible without sacrificing brand value; and my under-a-year stint at Epicurious (food, not fashion) was all about getting the website to max traffic in the shortest amount of time while overhauling a 20-year-old site's functionality, purpose, and design.

The tipping point: About three months ago, I was summoned to the office of one of the most important people in fashion publishing. We talked about my career, the internet, and millennials—and the one thing that resonated with me the most (and that I've thought about every single day since) is when she said to me, "It sounds like you're a generalist." 

I don't want to be a generalist. I didn't spend my 20s doing semi-random master's degrees (first women's studies, then fashion) to wind up a generalist. I felt lost during so many of my higher education years and through a dozen internships (liver cell research lab; corporate law firm; PR agency; college administration) before finally, after landing at CSM, I felt like everything in the world and in my little life finally made sense. I guess at some point over the last ten years, I must have lost my way. Two years ago, I became completely disillusioned with fashion—for so many reasons, but especially the way the industry functions in the United States—and I thought I wanted out. Now, after a professional break—first with a stint in the food media industry and then as a digital generalist and news and politics editor—I'm ready to go back. And I'm not going the consumer-facing service media route this time: I'm going full-on news.

Wish me luck.

Apartment facelift time

I was well-aware, at the beginning of 2015, that December 28th of last year (uh, last week) would mark my ten-year anniversary of living in this apartment. That's a long time. So I made a resolution a year ago today that before the end of the year, I would either renovate and redecorate or move. Since I love my neighborhood and Manhattan real estate is totally bananas right now—the only way I'd actually be able to significantly upgrade my living space would be if I sold my one room studio and moved off the island—I decided in the beginning of December to make a real go at redecorating. And what I realized is that by changing just a few key things superficially, I could drastically alter the look and feel of my space.

Here are five things that are coming and going:
Bed: My friend Danny, who used to have his own organic mattress collection, told me that you're meant to get a new mattress every two presidential terms. My mattress is 10 years old, so I'm changing it up—and getting a new bed frame while I'm at it.
Custom shelving: When I moved into my apartment at age 28, I designed my space to perfectly accommodate the life (and stuff) I had back then. Ten years on, my book, kitchen appliance, and shoe collection have way outgrown their allotted storage spaces. So last month I met with a designer to create a customized bookshelf that will span nearly the entirety of the eastern wall of my studio.
New window treatments: I used to be super-minimalist (well, a minimalist who's always been thwarted by my own maximalism). To that end, my apartment right now is a glossy white box with pale-to-medium-gray furnishings and textiles (rugs, towels, sheets). But now I prefer comfort over austerity in my old age, I'm more interested in neutrals and warmth. So I'm adding drapery.
Bathroom fixtures: I was never really crazy about the toilet I'd installed in my very-small bathroom when I moved in in 2005—small bathroom fixtures are pretty hard to find—so a couple of years ago, I ordered a new Toto toilet and asked my super to install it (my building's staff is awesome and it's so much easier to work with them on building projects rather than hire unknown outsiders who then need to procure paperwork, COIs, etc.). Next up, I'm thinking about switching from a vanity to a pedestal sink. I'm still grappling with what to do about bathroom storage when I lose that under-cabinet space, but I think that what I lose will be made up for in easy-to-clean-ness and the additional feeling of spaciousness in a small bath.
New rugs: This is a no-brainer (new rugs = new look), but I've always been nervous about adding too much pattern-wise to an already small space. More investigation needed, but I've already mentally committed to the idea.

Totally unrealistic new year's resolutions I make every year

— Lose weight while maintaining a nonchalant attitude towards eating what I want (nachos)
— Exercise in the morning before work, after coffee, but before breakfast 5/7 days of the week
— Renovate my apartment (which I have been living in for 10 years as of last weekend)
— Write another book, maybe two, sell it/them
— Buy a country house with above book money, spend time in the country
— Go on more ambitious vacations, possibly involving more fishing
— Invest more in skincare and wear less makeup
— Learn to explain my thought processes more patiently and in more detail
— Read more fiction
— Learn to drive (this, surprisingly, is the most unrealistic resolution of all)

How to be homesick

A few months ago on a flight back from London, I sat next to a teenage boy who was going to New York City for the very first time. He was born in India, spent his whole life in Goa, and was traveling to the U.S. to start college. There was so much I wanted to tell him about New York, freshman year, living away from your parents for the first time, and being homesick—but he was super-excited and I didn't want to scare him. So, instead, I asked him about his pending computer science coursework and we talked about the weather.


I know most of my friends (and my family) think I'm super-weird for spending the last week of December on my own in Hanover. None of them have said anything to me about it, but I can tell. After all, who in their right mind spends New Year's Eve alone in the tiny town (pop. 11,000) where she went to college 20 years ago?

Well, the logical reasons I'm in New Hampshire are the following:
— I left holiday booking way too late and didn't figure out whether I could even leave New York until right before Christmas
— I wanted to get out of the city for a few days, but didn't want to make a whole production out of it
— I can't drive, but wanted to be in the country, and (ditto above) didn't want to make a whole production out of it
— I wanted to be somewhere easy and familiar, where I wouldn't feel the pressure to sightsee
— I wanted a travel experience that would circumvent all major transportation hubs
— I wanted to stay in a really nice hotel for not a lot of money
— I wanted to be somewhere wintry, not sunny, because it's been so warm in New York all season; also I'm a little fat right now and wanted to wear sweaters, not swimsuits

The illogical reasons I'm here are more abstract. When I first got to Hanover, a college freshman in the fall of 1995, I wasn't at all prepared. Sure, I'd been to sleepaway camps (math sleepaway camps—we're first-gen Asians, that's how we roll) three-to-six weeks at a time every summer since I was 12, but I'd underestimated how much of a city kid I really was. And I was pretty flip about the whole college thing—big deal, I thought, freshman year, middle of nowhere. I didn't even go on an outing club trip before orientation because there were 27 kids in our entering class from my high school—I figured I already knew 2.7 percent of my year.

But that fall and winter were tough. I remember waking up one morning, turning on the radio, and hearing the broadcaster announce that outside, with wind chill, it was minus-70 degrees. That winter I got mono and was laid up in Dick's House (that's what the Dartmouth infirmary is called—best. name. ever.) for two weeks. And for the first three terms, I was still pretending to make pre-med work. It didn't. I think I got a C+ in chemistry (unrelated/related tangent: My freshman writing seminar prof gave me a C that fall and told me I had no aptitude for writing). As a whole, freshman year was not one of my brightest moments.


But, as it turned out, a shitty first year at school is just like so many other beginnings and unfamiliar circumstances that can feel new and impossible at the start. After a summer at home, I came back up to Hanover in sophomore year and everything was better—and kept getting better, month after month, year after year. Now, looking back, I wouldn't change anything, not even the mono.

After college I moved to Cairo (that's right, Egypt), and I went through somewhat of a similar adjustment process. Then there was grad school in England, where at first I didn't feel like I belonged at all and, later, found the first place in the world where I've ever felt completely at home, surrounded by like-minded people.

What I've learned about homesickness and/or adapting to new environments is that coping comes in stages. When uncomfortableness first sets in—somewhere in between the novelty wearing thin and your mind starting to panic from feeling trapped—the easiest thing to do is to nest: eat foods, create superficial experiences, and surround yourself with objects that remind you of home. Me, I try to find Chinese food wherever I go. In most cities, I'll look for a pub or coffee shop to make a ritual out of visiting every day (also, wine and coffee are my panacea).

In the mid-term of homesickness, the most important thing is to find or build a community of like-minded people around you. That was the key for me at St. Martins—I found some of my best friends in the world to this day within six weeks of starting the MA, we all wound up living together a few months later, and they completely shaped all my strongest memories and emotional ties to that city and those two years.

Eventually, if you're lucky, in most cases, the more new environments you experience, the more the idea of 'home' expands and redraws its borders. Sometimes it's weird how that can manifest: for me, for example, Oxford just smells right. And while I love London, Cambridge, Bath, and Brighton, as soon as my bus or train pulls into the Oxford station, everything in my body relaxes and I instantly feel correct. That's it: correct.

It's OK if a place doesn't turn into home, no matter how much you try. Living in Cairo was hard for me—I was a young kid, super-naive, super-sheltered, and sort of just wound up in the Middle East by accident after college. I cried every single day for the first three months even though I knew I wouldn't quit and go home early (because I'm not a quitter). But then I remember waking up in my apartment in Zamalek on December 1 and everything was all of a sudden A-OK. And I was really sad to leave when my contract was up in mid-2000. I visited a few times in the years afterwards. But even though I love Cairo (and, to this day, Aswan is one of my favorite places on earth—I'm always trying to get back there), I still have complicated feelings about my time in Egypt (though my hangups are mostly due to the person I was in my early-20s).


I'm 38 this year and what I've noticed is that (1) I finally feel like an adult. I think most of my friends who got married and had kids started to feel like proper grown-ups when they hit those social life landmarks (marriage, parenthood), but without experiencing those external changes, I've often struggled with identifying contextual markers for my own adulthood. (2) I have a very strong attachment to place. I've always felt so lucky to have been able to travel for fun as much as I do. In the last few months I've been to Mexico (twice), Alaska, South Dakota, England (twice), San Fran, LA, a bunch of places. But there are cities I'm drawn to over and over again, where I'll blow way too much money just to be there for a long weekend, walk around town, breathe the air, eat a meal, buy a book. Sometimes I'm so overwhelmed with nostalgia for a place—not necessarily the people (I hate school reunion weekends, for example, even though I always always attend)—especially if my experiences there involved a sense of personal struggle.

Anyway, tl;dr, that's why I'm in Hanover for New Year's. It's snowing outside, I've already been to every single store and restaurant two or three times this week, I don't know a single person in town right now, and it's so great, the best. Home, a sense of place, has changed and evolved so much for me over the past 20 years—and, right now, this is only place on earth where I want to be.

Found gems

I do this all the time—leave photos on SD cards for years and years before downloading and storing them. Just found these gems on a card tonight—arts and crafts from 2013 by me, Caitlin P, and Lindsay S.





Favorite Christmas scene from a movie

Well, at least, one of the greatest. From Les Parapluies de Cherbourg: