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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bringing Back the Basics

Fashion moves quickly, and trends change in the blink of a perfectly mascara-d eye. With so many changes constantly taking place in the fashion world, saying that it's sometimes hard to keep up would be an understatement. Something that gives me solace are the certain items that you see repetitively in street style pictures and just in everyday life, regardless of whatever someone's personal style might be, or regardless of what may be considered "chic" in that moment. These items can be dressed up or dressed down, and they can be paired with something as simple as a pair of jeans, to something as wacky as a pair of flowered gauchos. These items are unpretentious, classic, and sleek: these items are the basics.

Of course, there will be debate about what items are considered to be one of the basics, just like there will always be debate about nearly aspect of the myriad of creative art forms that exist in our world. What I personally consider to be an essential basic may not even cross the mind of someone living halfway across the world, but that is the beauty of fashion: that the old cliche of "there isn't really a right answer" holds true. From learning about others' preferences, you are able to compare them with your own and embellish your personal ideas about fashion- you may even find yourself going, "huh, I've never thought about that combination before," or "wow, maybe culottes aren't such a crazy idea after all." So, from the mind of an 18-year-old college student who loves enlightening discussions, bubble tea, donuts, music, and the city (in addition to fashion), here are some of the items that I find essential.

*All pictures used link back to original source*
1. Plain white tee
Hey there Delilah what's it like in New - no, not those Plain White Tees - I'm talking about the plain white tee that is simple, effortlessly chic, and comfortable. What's so great about the plain white tee is that there are many varieties, from the oversized "I just rolled out of bed" tee, to the more sophisticated fitted tee. From these many varieties, the outfit possibilities just multiply with the number of ways you can wear a tee.


Left: A white sweatshirt style tee paired with wide-leg trousers creates a more dressy look.
Right: A flowy white tee, paired with blue jeans and heels: a more casual but still refined look for you.

2. Fashion sneakers
Is there anything better than something that's as cute as it is comfortable? Grab a pair of fashionable sneakers, and you're set. You won't have to suffer from your high heels chafing your feet, and you won't have to bear the brunt of judging looks you would receive if you were to just wear your slippers out in public. I personally love the contradictory effect of wearing sneakers with an otherwise more dressed up or feminine outfit: it just makes the whole ensemble more interesting. Of course, going for an all-together casual look is just as satisfying.

Left: Dress, trench coat, clutch, watch, and *say what* sneakers? Sounds weird, looks perfect.
Right: Wow, plain white tee and fashion sneakers in one outfit? Props to that idea.

3. Black leather jacket
Black leather jackets aren't just for your Harley Davidson motorcycle pros- they're a major closet staple as well. Throw it on for a little "cool" to your outfit. Wear it with jeans or with a dress. Really, it's all up to you.

Left: Tomboy cool- relaxed chinos and leather jacket.
Right: Who says you can't wear a badass leather jacket with a midi skirt?

4. Vintage blue wash jeans
There's something extremely satisfying about vintage-wash jeans- is it the tinge of brown at the hems, or is it the fraying of details that makes them seem like they have a story to tell? It's hard to pinpoint exactly, but there's no mistaking that a good pair of vintage-wash jeans adds a classic element to anyone's wardrobe.

Left: A comfy sweater made even comfier with a classic pair of jeans.
Right: A sleek, modern top contrasted with vintage jeans.

That's enough from me- what are the items that are essential to you?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

DO Wear Black on Hot Days

So I wore black on a hot day. Hot weather and I usually tend to clash, with my heart whimpering "but...but..I love black..!!" while my brain shouts "if you want to die out there in the heat, then go ahead." In the end, my heart won, and I wore black.

Outfit details: Zara dress, 3.1 Phillip Lim mini Pashli handbag, Zara slides

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Korean Mocha Bread Recipe (Also Known as Rotiboy)

Without a doubt, Korean pastries are one of my favorite things to eat. Whenever I go to a Korean bakery, I find myself making rounds through the aisles while taking multiple free samples of too many different types of bread. I love to bake, but making these Korean pastries proves to be a bit difficult, because recipes aren't readily available on American cooking websites like Food Network or AllRecipes. This morning, I stumbled across a website called bakingschool.co.kr and decided to try my hand at Korean mocha bread, also known as rotiboy.

Since the recipe I used was in metric and I don't have a scale, I had to look up conversions for all of the different ingredients- for example, 100 grams of sugar is not the same, volume-wise, as 100 grams of bread flour. 

Below is a paraphrased version of an authentic Korean recipe, including the unit conversions I used. Another change is that I filled the pastries with vanilla pastry cream instead of butter, since I ran out of butter. Note that I say PARAPHRASED because my Korean sucks and I followed the pictures really meticulously since I can't understand everything in Korean. My adaptation of the recipe describes what I did to get a successful result, and isn't an exact replication of the Korean version.

Source: http://www.bakingschool.co.kr/recipe/recipe/recipe_view/recipe_no/424/page/3


For the bread/dough
  • Bread flour (250g = about 2.1 cups)
  • Salt (3g = about 0.5 tsp)
  • Granulated sugar (20g = about 1.6 tablespoons)
  • Active dry yeast (4g = about 1.4 teaspoons)
  • 1 egg
  • Milk (80-90g = about 1/3 cup)
  • Butter (25g = about 1 3/4 tablespoons)
For the cookie/crust topping
  • Butter (100g = about 7 tablespoons)
  • Powdered sugar (80g = about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 egg
  • Flour (100g = about 0.83 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 tablespoons coffee sauce + coffee powder to taste
For the filling (separate source: http://www.the350degreeoven.com/2012/02/japanese-hawaiian/japanese-cream-pan-japanese-custard-filled-sweet-bread-buns/)
  • 0.875 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
To make the bread:
1. Measure out flour into a kitchen-aid mixer bowl and make a small well. Measure out sugar, salt, and yeast, and mix together with flour.
2. Whisk one egg separately. Add milk and the whisked egg to the flour mixture and mix with the kitchen-aid mixer fitted with the hook attachment at setting 4 for about 2-3 minutes. 
3. Add room temperature butter to the flour mixture and mix with the hook at setting 4 for about 10-15 minutes. Dough should form a ball, and it should be firm and elastic- it should not rip too easily when pulled.
4. Grease a medium bowl with butter or oil and place the dough ball into the bowl. Grease the top of the dough ball  to prevent a crust from forming, and seal the bowl with plastic wrap. 
5. Place the bowl in a warm place (I heated the oven to 150 degrees Farenheit with the oven door open and kept the bowl there) for about an hour, until the dough doubles in size.
6. When dough is doubled, remove from oven or warm place. Lay out a mat and lightly flour the surface. 
7. Punch a hole into the dough with your finger to release the gas, and place the dough onto the mat. Wait a few minutes, flatten the dough slightly, and cut into equal parts (about 8).
8. Add about a teaspoon of butter to each equal part and work the dough with the butter. Form a ball and do this with each equal part.
9. Place each ball onto a cooking pan and spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap, and place back into the warm place for dough to rise again (about 15-20 minutes)
10. After the dough rises, take a ball of dough and flatten. Spoon a small amount of vanilla pastry cream filling into the dough and pinch the sides of the dough up to enclose the filling with the dough. Don't put too much filling into the dough, as it will be difficult to close. Also, don't over pinch the dough- the filling with move gradually to the top of the dough and will not be evenly distributed in the middle. 
11. Fill each dough ball with pastry cream, and place onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat. Pipe the cookie crust mixture onto each ball by creating a spiral on top of each ball until halfway covered.
12. Bake at 375 degrees Farenheit for 15 minutes, or until the topping becomes nearly crunchy (not overly crunchy- it will become crunchier as it cools)

To make the cookie/crust topping:
1. Whisk room temperature butter and powdered sugar together until fluffly. Add coffee sauce or powder to the mixture and whisk. Add more to taste.
2. Whisk an egg separately and add to the butter mixture. Whisk very well, until egg is combined and the mixture is almost smooth- the mixture will look scrambled/eggy for a while, but this isn't a problem. Just keep whisking.
3. Add flour to the mixture and whisk. The mixture should now become completely smooth.
4. Scoop mixture into a pastry filling bag.

To make the vanilla pastry cream filling:
1. Scald milk and butter together by placing in a microwave for 2-3 minutes.
2. Beat egg yolks and whisk in flour, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and sugar.
3. Add 1/3 of the warm milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture and whisk well until combined. Add another third and whisk until combined, and then add the final third and whisk well.  
4. Transfer mixture to saucepan by straining through a sieve to remove any lumps of egg.
5. On medium heat, constantly whisk the mixture in the saucepan. The mixture will begin to thicken.
6. Keep whisking well and add small amounts of flour to help thicken, if needed.
7. Transfer the filling into a container and then place in a refrigerator- the filling will thicken further. 

This was probably the most successful Korean pastry recipe I have tried. The bread was fluffy and light, which is characteristic of Asian pastries. The topping was a great crunchy contrast, and the vanilla filling added just a bit more sweetness. I hope you try it- also, look back at the link for the Korean recipe if you need pictures to help you!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Not-so-obvious Things to Do in Washington DC

If you live in the DC area, you'll probably grow up as a kid thinking that DC is one of the most boring cities in the world, a city that fades in comparison to the broadway, glamour, and soothing (at least to me) noisiness that is New York City, or the breathless ocean views and palm tree lined streets that are the major cities of California. I too was one of these kids. I'd say the culprit for giving me such a run-down impression of Washington DC was the constant school field-tripping as a young student living near the district. Every year, we would have a field trip to the National Mall, and we would visit the same museums every time. Field trip after field trip of squatting inside overly crowded museums as we would scrawl the answers to our field trip assignments onto flimsy papers, my view of DC was limited at a very young age.
Having had such a lackluster impression of DC for so much of my life, I consider myself lucky that I realized (soon enough, I hope) how awesome the nation's capital really is. I interned at the DC VA Medical Center for a group of GWU researchers over the summer before senior year, and I had a tooootallllly awesome (note the sarcasm- I'm not to the "omg DC is actually hella cool" part of the story yet) commute there that took about two hours. I had to take a bus to the metro station, then take the metro station and change lines until I got to my final station, from where I had to take a shuttle to the actual medical campus. Imagine this with jam-packed metro cars every day during rush hour, with Mr. Old Guy's sweaty armpit in your face because you're too short and he's holding onto the bar near the ceiling of the car for balance because it's so crowded that there's nowhere to sit. Also imagine the sweat running down your leg because there's a dress code at work so you have to wear long pants even though its 95 degrees and the sun's rays are pounding you. Nevertheless, taking the metro and having to navigate around DC gave me a look into the hidden beauties of the city. I was forced to trek through sections of the city I had never been to before, whether it was because I needed to get my work permit, or because I simply needed something to eat. Sometimes when my friend and I got off work early, we would take the metro to random places in DC and just shop. Now, I see DC as far more than the National Mall or a bunch of museums, and I see the metro as a kind of savior instead of a panic-inducing human sweat machine.

So, long talk aside, to the tourists coming to DC who want even more to do after seeing the major attractions, and to the disenchanted DC suburb residents who just want something new to do, here's a list of some of the most fun things to do in DC that are sadly not as well known.

1. Georgetown

Ok- Georgetown is probably still considered "well-known" and is on most people's radars, but it's still worth mentioning. Some of my friends hadn't been to Georgetown before this year, which personally shocked me. Georgetown is a hip neighborhood of DC with a bunch of shopping to do and places to eat. There's also the waterfront at Georgetown, a perfect place to find some chill after indulging in food and/or shopping 'til you drop.

2. Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is one of the more low-key museums out there, and it's rarely been crowded when I've visited, which surprises me because it's probably my favorite museum in DC. Not only do they have a wide range of art, but the layout and architecture of the museum itself are their own kind of artistic masterpieces.

3. Union Market

If you've ever been to Chelsea Market in NYC or just want a relaxed space with a humble selection of food and ample seating available for a great afternoon, Union Market is the place. It's not extremely big, but there are a variety of food vendors available, and you can get a hearty main meal (or a sampling of many small dishes) and also some dessert if you feel like it too.

4. Shopping around Metro Center and Gallery Place Chinatown

This isn't really an official "thing to do," but there are a handful of shops for the typical young adult around the Metro Center station in DC. Some of the stores around this area are Forever 21, Zara, H&M, Anthropologie, J. Crew, and American Apparel. Also nearby are a smattering of restaurants, including Co Co. Sala, an interesting place where all the dishes have something chocolate inspired, even the salads. Just a short walk away is DC's Chinatown, which isn't really much of a Chinatown (except for the arch), but is a bustling part of the city anyway, with a few major shops here as well. I'd suggest visiting this area during the holiday season, when DC's Downtown Holiday Market comes to Chinatown and shopping is a must.

5. Union Station

Union Station is a major center for DC transportation, with a metro station and train station operating out of it, but the station itself is a bit of a hidden gem. The architecture is fantastic, and there are also a few floors of shops available and a generous helping of places to eat.

This list is obviously not exhaustive, but all of these places are ones that I have truly enjoyed visiting in DC. Since these places are what I'd consider the "not-so-obvious,"and because this list was meant more for those who are already familiar with DC, I didn't include most of the major attractions on the list. However, places like the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial are definitely a must if you haven't visited DC before. With that said, go out and explore- don't be an elementary school suburban kiddo who hasn't yet seen the wonders of DC!

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Cinque Terre


It's funny- when I first got to Italy, I thought I would like the Rome least out of all the cities we had to visit (not to say least is the "end all"- I thought I would like it "4th best." I mean it's Italy- how can any city even come close to being a letdown?). But Rome surprised me. I thought it would just be filled with the old ruins that are characteristic of the Roman Forum, but there was a chic vibe to the streets of the city that I didn't expect, particularly in the obsolete side streets and alleyways I found myself lost in. Even the ruins that I thought I would be bored with ended up fascinating me- how did people so long ago make all these intricate designs? How did they even have the effort (and not stay in bed all day like I usually do)?