Viewing: fashion

Milan: Beautiful city, beautiful people

Even without the excitement of the Salone del Mobile, Milan is a beautiful city to explore. With our most comfortable walking shoes on, my #blago2014 travel buddies and I pounded Milanese pavement for hours, passing by some of the city’s most iconic sights along the way.

Milan Duomo and Galleria wide angle

Oh my DSLR and wide-angle lens, how I’ve missed you! I love my little Sony point-and-shoot, but it would never let me get the immense Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II in a single shot…

Milan Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II

or to capture the Galleria from head to toe, for that matter.

Speaking of head to toe, Milan’s beautiful and stylishly dressed citizens sure know how to steal attention away from its stunning architecture.

Milan people-watching hipster carabinieri

I secretly love to people-watch, and Milan’s unique flair makes my little pastime a true pleasure.

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The cardigan that (almost) got away

We’ve all heard of buyer’s remorse, but you ever been haunted by something you didn’t buy?

It rarely happens to me, but when it does, I’m capable of obsessing for a ridiculously long time. I’m still haunted by purchases I passed in 2006 (gorgeous silk Persian carpet in Mumbai, way out of my budget as a copywriter); Marlon and I still talk about the black, silver and gray pashmina bedspread we didn’t buy on our honeymoon.

When I passed up the chance to buy this outfit in Santorini, I immediately regretted it.

It’s from Heel Athens Lab, a Greek label that makes fun, artistic clothing with a sense of whimsy. I was drawn to Heel’s colorful, chic boutique, which stood out by leaps and bounds from all the tourist shlock in the center of Fira, and fell in love with this backless halter dress and Greek toga-inspired cardigan. But with the prospect of fall and winter in Amsterdam, I felt I had to be practical and let the outfit go.

It began to haunt me almost immediately. I  took the bus back to Fira from Imerovigli (twice!) but was never able to catch the boutique open again before we left. Then I begged a friend who was traveling to Santorini to buy it for me. Finally, two months later, Heel put up the cardigan on their online shop.

Here I am, happily reunited with the cardigan that got away! Well, almost.

Heel Athens Lab polymorphic cardigan

What I love about this cardigan is how it can be worn in different ways. You may be familiar with that staple of late-night home TV shopping, the infinity dress; this is a cooler version of that dress.

By the way, thanks to Heel Athens Lab, I don’t have to ever utter the embarrassing and slightly awkward phrase “infinity cardigan.” I can use the far cooler term “polymorphic” instead.

Heel Athens Lab polymorphic cardigan front

Call me crazy, but I just love me some clothing that needs its own instructional video!

Heel Athens Lab polymorphic cardigan back

Even after watching the video, I spent so much time swishing around and entangling myself in this cardigan that Tala was able to take a snooze during our little photo shoot.

Behind the scenes outfit shot

But I guess getting lost in your own cardigan is all part of the fun of dressing up. It is fun, Tala, I promise! Just wait a few years, you’ll see.

Do you have a fashion equivalent of the one that got away? Were you ever reunited with it? And have you, like me, spent too many late nights watching the home TV shopping channel? Hit the comments and let me know I’m not alone!

Maternity style: Welcome to the third trimester

What better way to start one’s third trimester with a 12-hour transcontinental flight? That’s what I always say.

Thankfully, the flight from Amsterdam to Singapore was surprisingly comfortable, for someone in her 28th week of pregnancy. Booking Singapore Airlines and having a prenatal shiatsu massage the night before (my neighbors are yoga and shiatsu therapists) definitely made a difference. I also walked around, did a lot of hip circles in the toilet, and packed a Ziploc bag with chocolate chip cookies and bananas, and checked my ankles every five minutes to see if they were still there (I’ve heard one too many cankles horror stories from pregnant flyers).

I’m happy to report that I made it to Singapore in one piece, with minimum discomfort and intact ankles. Hurray!

Asymmetrical dress by from Uniqlo’s Designers Invitation Project: Costello Tagliapetra, H&M copper headband, Ona leather camera satchel, Vincci patent leather wedges, and five-spike necklace from WeAreLabels.  

Heavy, clinging humidity swallowed me up the moment I stepped out of Changi Airport (a forceful reminder of why mentholated facial wash was created), but right now I’m happy to be dressing like myself again, minus all the winter layers. I’m glad to still be wearing my pre-pregnancy clothes, too. And sandals, oh sandals… what a glorious feeling.

I give myself two days before I start complaining about curly bangs and oily skin, and generally cursing this climate. But for now, the tropical heat and I are cool—no pun intended.

Friday night fog

Spending Friday night in a fog was something you did a lot in your 20s. (Not that I was ever super wild. I was in the choir, remember?) But in my 30s and in Amsterdam, that Friday night fog gets pretty literal.

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This was the scene last Friday, when the streets of Amsterdam were covered in a heavy, misty fog. It reminded me of weekend drives to the beach when I was a kid, and stopping by the Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay for lunch. Tagaytay was the only place remotely near Manila where you could see heavy fog, and it was the biggest thrill.

We’d be driving, the car would suddenly be enveloped in fog, Mom would turn on the headlights and wipers, and we were instantly transported somewhere gray, foreign and cold! (Note: it couldn’t have been more than 26℃ or 27℃, a hot summer day in Amsterdam. Haha.)

Marlon and I practically leapt out of the tram into the fog, instantly kids again. I swear I don’t know how we’re going to be parents in three months. While Daddy played Assassin’s Creed

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Mommy played dress-up with her new wool cape (a.k.a. the anti-maternity winter coat) and self-made knitted cowl (based on this pattern).

Cape and cowl

If you’re ever going to go swirling about in a fog, I highly recommend a cape and cowl. (Note that my recommendation is purely based on the fun factor.) Something like a superhero costume or Sherlock Holmes-type outfit seems fitting when you find yourself living on Jack the Ripper’s street.

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Mist and mystery aside, one thing I love at this time of year is walking with the glow from people’s windows lighting my way home. Even if I’m freezing, this sight makes me smile—although depending on the temperature, the smile could look like a grimace.

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How are you spending your Friday night? Whether it’s in a fog (literal or otherwise) or totally in the clear, hope you have a good one. Happy weekend, folks!

Granada: Carrera del Darro

Right on the doorstep of our hotel in the Albayzin, a UNESCO World Heritage district with a medieval Moorish past, was the Carrera del Darro—a narrow, scenic path that runs along the Rio del Darro.

Granada Rio del Darro

Lined with centuries-old buildings, punctuated by picturesque stone bridges and paved with cobblestones, the Carrera del Darro is a lovely place for a stroll—especially in that magic hour before sunset, when the sun bathes everything with a sheer golden coat. As you can see, quite a few people seem to agree.

Granada Carrera del Darro

Remember this dress from my first trimester? Something about the colors and print just made it seem like something I should wear in Spain. Thankfully, it still fits and the peplum falls right over the bump.

Maternity style Week 23 Spain

So, come walk along the Carrera del Darro with me! And let’s see what we can find along the way.

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Hola from Marbella!

A warm hola! from Spain’s Costa del Sol, where I am playing the tag-along wife. Marlon had a work conference to attend in Marbella, and I was dying to escape the cold. I also didn’t want to be alone for a week, so here I am.

In the ’60s and ’70s, this was the summer destination for Europe’s wealthy and glamorous. As a kid in the ’80s, I remember going to a Batangas beach resort called Marbella, obviously modeled after this town. My mom caught the tail end of its heyday, but I never thought I’d get to see the real Marbella.

We arrived on Monday with just enough time for a stroll around the center before Marlon had to work. My impression of Marbella, at least from its old town, is more charming than glamorous, and I like that. Tourist season is over (though it’s still a good 8-10℃ warmer than Amsterdam), so the town is practically deserted. I like that, too.

I’m not really here to see the sights. If all I do is hole up in a nice hotel room, occasionally take some nice pictures, and spend time with my husband after his long conference days, I will be happy. Getting to eat churros con chocolate and wear sandals in November would be huge pluses, obviously.

They say the second trimester is the best time to travel, and so far I’m inclined to agree!

By the way, I’m trying two new things in this post. First is this Photoshop tutorial for vivid color photos from A Beautiful Mess. My photos sometimes turn out much darker than I’d like (especially in gray Amsterdam), so I like this quick fix. Do you like the results or do you find the images too bright?

Another one is a tip from The House That Lars Built. In her column called 15 Minutes to a Better Blog, contributor Tori Bowman suggests making all images the width of the post for a good flow. I like taking tall/portrait photos (vs the usual wide/landscape orientation) so I struggle with this a bit. I’m trying it out here, so let me know what you think: is the last image way too big or just right? If you have a good fix for these pesky tall photos, I’d love to know!

Brooklyn leather camera satchel

The best gifts come from people who know you best. Don’t you agree?

Take my husband, for example. He knows I’m always carrying around a DSLR with at least one spare lens. He knows I have a terrible habit of using my nice, “grown-up lady” bags as camera bags, which is great for me but not for the bags. (I once horrified a friend by taking my DSLR with the clunky wide-angle lens out of a buttery soft Bottega Veneta handbag.) He knows that I’ve been in the market for a sturdy brown leather bag for a few months now. Most importantly, he knows that I pin pictures of all my bag crushes on Pinterest.

This is how he completely bowled me over with his birthday gift: the Brooklyn leather satchel from Ona.

I absolutely love the vintage style of this bag, as well as the chestnut leather that’s just begging to get all nicely worn and beat-up. The cross-body strap makes it easy to carry… and it looks great with everything! I can totally see this becoming my go-to travel bag.

Not only is this a good-looking satchel on the outside, but it’s also a camera bag on the inside. Removable inserts (attached with Velcro) allow it to store a DSLR and up to three lenses. Generous padding cushions the whole kit.

As if this wasn’t awesome enough, tucked into the padded interior was another birthday surprise… a Canon 60mm Macro lens!

I discovered this lens at The Hive Berlin, when Yvonne of Fraulein Klein (who takes beautiful photos) used it during her photography workshop. Like my 50mm lens, it’s a fixed-focus lens with shallow depth of field. However, it’s a lot sturdier, more light-sensitive, and easier to use for macro photography.

I will post test photos when I’ve gotten to play around with it a little more. This definitely completes my photography wish list and I think I’ll be very happy with my current set of lenses—all four of them!—for a long, long while.

Maternity style: Fall colors

I really regretted not taking more pictures outdoors last fall. So this year, I’ve made more of an effort. Amsterdam doesn’t have a whole kaleidoscope of autumn colors, but what it does have is this glorious yellow that’s everywhere at this time of year. I wish I knew what these trees were called!

I love looking out the window—or down at my feet, if I’m out—and seeing these rich shades of yellow. They’re a much-needed burst of happy brightness against Amsterdam’s persistent gray.

Fall colors are also seeping into my wardrobe—like this burgundy, tan and blue-gray outfit I wore to take visiting friends out to lunch last Sunday. I’m happy to say that all this stuff is still non-maternity! The striped t-shirt is from Uniqlo, the mullet skirt is from Forever 21, and the gold flats are from Jonak, a French shoe brand that I fell in love with on a trip to Paris last year. The burgundy tights are from American Apparel; one of the surprising advantages of being a short girl who wears a large size is that all of my regular tights are so long on me that they go up and over the baby bump. Yay.

And the knit turban… well, I made that myself! I saw a similar knotted headband being sold at the Westerpark Sunday Market for a whopping €42. It came with this whole song and dance about being handmade from 100% alpaca by grannies from Belgium. Okaaayyyy.

Using this super easy tutorial from Craft Snob, I made my own version for just €3.25 (the cost of half a ball of yarn). And it’s got its own exotic song and dance too. After all, it’s handmade from 100% Icelandic sheep’s wool by an expecting mother from the Third World. Beat that!

Maternity style: The jeans experiment

I’m not a jeans kinda gal. I would wear dresses all year round if I could; it’s only when I need to brave crappy weather that I squirm into a pair of jeans.

With a wool coat or leather jacket, knit scarf and boots, jeans are part of what I call my “Dutch girl uniform”—a tried-and-tested getup inspired by the vast majority of Dutch girls who dress sensibly (if a bit all the same) for crappy weather. Though I never look quite like a Dutch girl in said uniform, I don’t feel quite like myself in jeans either.

Friends who know me well laughed when I bought my first pair of maternity jeans at Week 14. “You actually bought jeans?” one said with a friendly kind of snort. “I never see you in jeans!” Indeed. So I didn’t quite know what to do with the jeans until last week, Week 17. Dropping temperatures and a growing belly prompted me to finally take them out of my closet for a spin.

These jeans are from Mamalicious, a Danish maternity wear brand available in the UK and Western Europe. They have a dark rinse and a low rise, a bit of stretch, one button and no zipper, and a stretchy navy blue waistband that comes up high over the belly and feels nice and thick. As with all European pants, a good six inches had to come off the hems, a feat I accomplished myself with the help of this fantastic tutorial.

I seem to have been in a black-and-white graphic tee mood last week! To watercolor class, I wore the jeans with a gray wool blazer from Uniqlo, “I don’t speak Icelandic” tee from Dogma in Reyjkavik, fuschia suede hobo bag from a shop off the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, silver necklace from Topshop, and gray studded Balmain brogues.

To meet my neighbor Giova for coffee, I wore them with my sister’s black leather jacket from Lindex (size Small, yay! This didn’t fit me last year!), Audrey Hepburn graphic tee from a pop-up flea market in Cologne, and neon flats from Landmark, my Manila bargain mecca.

After test-driving these jeans, I think I’ll put them back into the closet for now. I have no complaints about how comfortable they are, but I’m just not used to such a low rise—I kept worrying that they were going to slide off! Maybe they need more of a belly to cling on to… and maybe this autumn weather will let me get away with dresses, tights and leggings for a little while longer.

Maternity style: Month 4

September—weeks 12 through 16 of my pregnancy—has been exciting because I’ve started to see more “proof” that I’m actually pregnant. I know that sounds weird (the pregnancy test and two ultrasound scans weren’t enough?) but I’ve had such a smooth pregnancy, I do sometimes forget that I’m pregnant. Well, the fog of unreality has cleared, thanks to two thrilling developments.

One: I’ve started to feel the baby move! The first time was at week 14, while sitting at the dining table talking to Marlon late one evening. I suddenly felt this subtle, unusual fluttering at the very bottom of my belly. It went on for about 10 minutes and was so unlike everything I’d ever felt… and I cried. The movements—which also felt like soft little taps on the inside of my belly, or like speeding downhill in a fast car—started to get more regular through the next week, but I could only really feel them if I sat or lay down quietly.

Now I can feel the baby move a little bit every day, sometimes even while I’m out and about. It’s a wonderful feeling, and when it happens, everything else just goes quiet for me. I can’t wait for the movements to get stronger so Marlon can feel them too.

Second: I now have a little bump! I find it so thrilling because I want to be showing already… I want to have a good excuse to have a big tummy! It’s not huge (heck, heavy meals have given me a bigger belly many times in the past), but it’s exciting because now I get to start dressing the bump.

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