Channeling Steve Jobs… Or Not

Hello outfit post! It seems like forever since I posted one of these, doesn’t it? Between the Lunar New Year and the traveling, I haven’t taken any outfit photos for a while, so here’s a backlogged one all the way from January. I was trying to recreate this outfit, but I think I need a more loose-fitting button-up and trench coat (and my coat needs a good press. I steamed it before leaving the house, but it didn’t seem to do much good.)

Also, do you realize how easily a black turtleneck and faded blue jeans can conjure up the image of Steve Jobs? Before I put on the button-up, I was wandering around the house in just the turtleneck and jeans, and when I caught my reflection in the mirror, I thought the outfit looked really familiar. It wasn’t until later that I realized it was Steve Jobs’s signature look :))


SIA Inspiration: Vintage Fabric

It’s Daenel’s turn to host SIA, and here is her pick:

This is a piece of vintage fabric that Daenel bought to cover a bench, but it ends up being too small – too bad, because it’s gorgeous. I can see a lot of rich colors here, and the embroideries can be a source of inspiration as well. Remember to send your outfits to Daenel (livingoutsidethestacks@gmail.com) by next Tuesday, February 25th. Have fun!


Russia Diary #1: Overview

This trip came about in a rather roundabout way. See, my friends and I had the idea of going on a trip to hunt for the Aurora Borealis – the Northern Lights. However, when we looked at usual Aurora destinations, like Iceland and Scandinavia, they’re all expensive, and other than Aurora hunting and winter sports, there isn’t much to do there (and I’ve been to Iceland already.)

Then, during our searches, we stumbled upon Murmansk, a Russian city in the Arctic Circle that is growing in popularity as a destination for Aurora hunting due to its cheap prices and close proximity to big cities (it’s only a 2-hour flight away from Moscow). So I thought, why not go to Russia? Even if we didn’t see the Aurora, there would still be tons of things to do and see and we would still have a memorable trip nevertheless.

The idea of traveling to Russia in the depth of winter was a little daunting at first. The funny thing is, this is Russia’s warmest winter since 1886 (!!!), so we didn’t get a lot of snow. For us tropical dwellers though, their warmest is still pretty effing cold, but we got through it, and I’m glad we did, because I feel we got a more authentic experience. Lower prices and fewer crowds are always a plus too.

Besides, you can get scenes like this…

Or like this (it kinda looks like a horror movie, but still beautiful)

Or this

Since Russia is such a big destination, it took us some planning (the shopping for winter clothes alone took a lot of time, which I’m going to talk about in the packing post.) There is plenty of information on Russia travel out there, but here’s my experience:

– Visa: You probably need a visa to travel to Russia. The application requires a letter of invitation from Russia, which can be provided by a travel agency. We just did everything through an agency. It costs more, but it’s much less hassle.

– Money: We exchanged our money before leaving, but exchange places can easily be found in big cities. Our budget came out to about $50/day (about 3000RUB), but with transport and accommodation, it’s actually closer to $120/day. Russia isn’t that cheap.

– Accommodation: Since there are four of us, we decided that Airbnb would be easier than hostels (also, being old ladies at heart, we’re not keen on hostels anymore.) In Saint Petersburg, most of the attractions are around the town center, so it’s easy to find a place within walking distance. Moscow is more spread out, but the city is linked by an extensive metro network, so it shouldn’t be a problem either. Still, I recommend staying within the inner ring (the main roads of Moscow form a series of rings surrounding the Kremlin) because that’s where most of the restaurants and shops are. The center of Murmansk is tiny and as long as you stay around Lenina Prospekt (Lenin’s Avenue) and the Murmansk Mall, you’ll be fine.

Near our Moscow Airbnb. It’s a pedestrian street lined with restaurants and pubs

– Getting around: To save time, we traveled in a triangle (Saint Petersburg – Murmansk – Moscow) so we didn’t get to travel on Russia’s legendary railway. Instead, we took domestic flights between cities (we booked on tickets.ru, which has cheaper prices and also shows flights with free checked luggage – important, as we couldn’t travel carry-on only during the winter.) Within the cities themselves, we did a combination of walking, taxi, and public transport (I will talk more about this in my Moscow posts.) The Yandex Taxi app is the Uber equivalent of Russia; it’s much cheaper than traditional taxis and easy to use.

– Food: Luckily, food in Russia is relatively cheap. We ate pretty well, with a mix of fast food (mostly Russian fast food, like Teremok, which specializes in blini), sit-down meals, and home-cooked food. Russian restaurants usually have lunch “sets” – combo of soup/starter + main dish + drink – for 300-500RUB, which is a great deal. There are also cafeteria-style restaurants where you pick and pay for the dish you want. Out of all the traditional dishes I tried in Russia, my favorites are vareniki (dumplings), borscht (beet soup), blini, and honey cake. Also, make sure to keep warm with a lot of tea (not vodka!)

A very Russian lunch with borscht and vareniki

Georgian food is also a favorite – like these pork patties with mashed potato

Blini from Teremok

A cafeteria-style meal with a slice of honey cake

Coffee break – hot chocolate and pavlova

– Language: Other than the Metro, you won’t find a lot of English signs in Russia, so it helps to learn the Russian alphabet (I used a pretty fun app called Russian Cyrillic in 3 Hours). Some words may look totally foreign in Russian, but when you sound them out, you can actually recognize them (for example, “ресторан” is pronounced “res-to-ran”, and yes, it means “restaurant”.) English speakers are rare (in fact, we encountered more English speakers in Murmansk than anywhere else!) but Google Translate and body language can take care of it, so we never had any problem with communication.

The sign for Arbatskaya Metro Station

Stay tuned for more detailed posts about each city!


SIA: Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer

Welcome to another week of SIA! This week, our inspiration is Edgar Degas’s sculpture “Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer“, so let’s see how everyone interpreted their inner ballerina!

First up is our co-host, Kim, who chose a pleated skirt and not pointe, but pointed-toe shoes (snake-print, no less!)

Our other co-host, Daenel, couldn’t take outfit photos this week, so she went through her archives to find what she had. Below is her favorite, but make sure to check her post to see other looks as well:

Up next is Leslie, who went all-in with the ballet theme with a pink tutu and pointed-toe strappy pumps:

And finally, here’s me:

What a fun challenge this has been! Big thanks to everybody for participating, and remember to check back next week for Daenel’s inspiration of choice!


A Night At The Ballet

So here’s my outfit for this week’s SIA, inspired by Degas’s sculpture, “Little 14-Year-Old Dancer.” The outfit itself is pretty self-explanatory – I simply took inspiration from the neutral colors and ballet theme of the sculpture, hence the ballet flats and the skirt (which I think should be called my “ballet skirt” from now on.) However, you may notice that this is not the usual background for my outfit photos. In fact, it is very unusual – it’s the Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg, Russia!!!

That’s right, I just came back from a 2-week trip in Russia, during which time I had the wonderful opportunity to watch a ballet at the prestigious Mariinsky (I originally wanted to go to the Bolshoi in Moscow, but their schedule didn’t quite line up with my travel plan.) I had to admit, this was the reason I picked this sculpture as the inspiration for SIA, because I knew I’d have the chance to take my outfit photos at the theater itself. I’m still kicking myself for not getting a picture of me in my seat, but I was so overwhelmed by the experience that I barely even remembered to take pictures at all (I snatched these quickly during the intermission.) So here are some pictures from my seat instead – our seats were not the best, but they’re the best we can afford (we were in the 3rd box on the 1st tier, and they cost about $70 each). The ones with a better view of the stage are naturally more expensive.

As for the show, we saw La Bayadère, which, while not as well-known as Swan Lake or The Nutcracker, is actually one of the most famous classical ballets in Russia. It’s good that I knew nothing about it beforehand, because that means I could fully enjoy the experience and understand the story from the dances alone – and it’s truly amazing how the ballet manages to tell the story so clearly just with music and dance moves. Of course, this being the Mariinsky, the technique, music, and costumes are all top-notch. And the three leads are perfectly cast too – I’ve seen photos of other productions, and while I have no doubt the other dancers are all experts, their looks are not as well-matched to their characters as the ones I saw (being a filmmaker, I can’t help but notice these things).

(You’re not supposed to take photos during the performance, so all of my photos were during the curtain calls.)

Stay tuned for my travel posts, and don’t forget to come back on Wednesday to see other outfits inspired by this sculpture!


To Belt Or Not To Belt

After my failed attempt to pair these tall boots with my wide-leg jeans, I moved on to a different pairing – with this skirt. This outfit looks much better, in my opinion, even though (or precisely because) I looked like an extra in Annie Hall. The only quibble I have is that I’m not sure which way looks better – belting the blazer or belting the skirt. Belting the skirt is more comfortable (I didn’t have to constantly adjust the bulk of the blazer around my waist), but belting the blazer is a trendier look. Which one do you prefer?


Wide Leg Cropped Jeans, Take 2

Last week I shared an outfit featuring these wide-leg cropped jeans with tall boots, but the boots aren’t comfortable, so this time, I tried pairing them with these Chelsea boots instead. When I first tried these boots on, I dismissed them because the gap between the hem of the pants and the top of the boots chops my (already short) legs up and makes my legs really cold, but then I had the idea of layering a pair of tights underneath, and bam! Both problems solved. This is how I’m going to wear my wide-leg pants all through winter now.