Viewing: shopping

Winter uniform: Isabel Marant for H&M

As a Catholic school girl, the word “uniform” always brings me back to years of white starched blouses and strictly monitored hemlines. I couldn’t wait to break free of my school uniform and was happy to leave that word behind. Well, here I am using “uniform” to refer to my personal style for the first time in years.

Confession time: I’ve fallen into the habit of wearing tight bottoms with oversized tops. Honestly, it took me a few months to realize I was dressing as if I was still pregnant! Once I discovered I didn’t need to be in an Outfit to drop off Tala at the gastouder or to swing by the Kruidvat for a pack of diapers, it was easy to succumb to the warm, forgiving embrace of sweatshirts and leggings. Winter, when it seems pointless to dress up because it all gets covered up by a coat anyway, has simply reinforced that attitude.

But wait! I haven’t given up just yet. Comfort and style don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I figure if I’m going to stick to the basics, those basics ought to look good. If I’m going to just throw on a sweatshirt to pick Tala up from daycare, it might as well be a cool one, right?

This was how I justified the madness of queuing up for the Isabel Marant for H&M collection last November. It turned out to be a logical decision, because I’ve been living in my Isabel Marant loot all season long.

Mom style Isabel Marant for H&M Balenciaga

In the earlier half of winter, I could get away with just a warm angora cardigan over this black-and-white linen t-shirt—which is, by the way, from the men’s collection. Seeing the clothes-crazed violence in the women’s department forced me to sneak up to the men’s floor as both a shopping and survival strategy. I barely escaped with my life, plus a few good buys!

Mom style Isabel Marant for H&M duffle coat

This is the coat I throw over everything: my navy wool blend duffel coat from Uniqlo. I love how roomy it is, although I wish it was more resistant to pilling.

Mom style Isabel Marant for H&M

I thought I would swear off roundneck t-shirts after turning 30, but I couldn’t resist this cute feather-printed linen tee. With a pop of fuschia stretch velvet and SuperCosy fleece tights from Primark, it’s one of my more dressy errand outfits that’s surprisingly comfy.

Mom style Isabel Marant for H&M red sweatshirt

Another menswear score: my favorite sweatshirt of the season! This sold out almost instantly, and I wasn’t prepared to inflict bodily harm on anyone to grab the last piece in the women’s department. I just love the combination of color and comfort, print and practicality.

Mom style Indian silver and lapis lazuli necklace

Isabel Marant’s modern spin on bohemian chic inspired me to dig out some of my favorite pieces of ethnic jewelry, like this silver and lapis lazuli necklace I bought while on honeymoon in Jodhpur. I thought it was a bit much for laid-back Amsterdam, but somehow it works with the casual ease of a sweatshirt and boots. I’m glad to get a little more use out of it!

Do you have a “uniform” too? What are your go-to outfits, and how do you keep them fun and fresh?

Manila shopping: The new & improved Bleach

I may have been adventurous with dining out on my recent trip home, but when it comes to shopping I’m completely a creature of habit. I have a roster of favorite shops in Manila that I hit for what I’ve come to think of as a kind of annual restocking.

My shopping list might not all be the stuff of Pinterest-worthy blog posts (plastic file folders and Japan-made pens at National Bookstore, for example), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the store that’s consistently at the top of my list got a major makeover. I’m talking about Bleach, formerly known as Bleach Catastrophe.

Bleach Greenbelt new look

In the six years I’ve lived away from home, my yearly trips home are never complete without a few new goodies from this store. Some of my favorite shirts of Marlon’s are from here, and I wore Bleach all throughout my pregnancy (which says a lot about their roomy yet flattering cuts).

Bleach Greenbelt menswear

Alongside the launch of an updated look for her store, Bleach owner Tinay Villamiel also expanded into home and interior items with a pared-down, modern sensibility.

Bleach Greenbelt new interior

I love that these are designed and made in the Philippines, using natural materials (linen, canvas and cotton), but offer a younger, hipper alternative to the usual Asian-Filipiniana fare.

Bleach Greenbelt new home items

Bleach Greenbelt banquet placemat

Bleach Greenbelt eggs and bacon tote

Maybe I’ve just gotten used to seeing a lot of gray, but after the sensory overload that is Manila, Bleach was a welcome visual break with its subtle palette. It’s refreshing to see something a little bit different, like these French- and Scandinavian-inspired details tucked into Bleach’s clothing, homeware and interiors. We all crave a little something that will transport us elsewhere, which also explains the proliferation of Buddha heads in homes across Europe.

Bleach Greenbelt merci dress

Bleach Greenbelt oui pillow

Bleach Greenbelt French inspired details

I like the new home items, but I do miss the wider clothing selection of the old store. I’ve always loved Bleach’s comfy basics with a twist—although every time I visit the store, there always happens to be some kind of pearl-earring-and-Lacoste-wearing preppy girl who’s walking out looking like she doesn’t get it. Haha.

Naturally I couldn’t leave without picking up a couple of things for myself: this cozy charcoal gray graphic sweatshirt…

Bleach Greenbelt gray sweatshirt

and this little black dress with an asymmetrical hemline for just Php 495, or €7. Ridiculously affordable, even if you’re not converting to Euros!

Bleach Greenbelt little black dress

Looks like this LBD will have to stay hidden for a few more months before it makes a debut. Can it be spring now, please?

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!

Atlantis Books in Oia, Santorini

What’s with this year and awesome bookstores? First there was the Stedelijk Museum bookshop, where I scored a really cool alphabet book for Tala. Then there was our visit to Selexyz Dominicanen, a 12th century church-turned-bookstore in Maastricht. Good things must come in threes, because this is the third fantastic bookstore of the year: Atlantis Books in Oia, Santorini.

Atlantis Books Oia Santorini

I was first drawn in by the palm-sized, beautifully printed books displayed out front. They’re published by Paravion Press and are designed to be sent by mail. I’d be thrilled to receive one of these from Santorini… better than a postcard, indeed!

Atlantis Books Oia handmade books

Then I saw this and just had to laughed. For €5, which do you think would be a better companion: a cat or a book? I’d have a hard time choosing, although if it was our cranky black cat for rent, I’d probably advise someone to take a book.

Atlantis Books Oia rent-a-cat

It’s hard to resist something that makes you laugh out loud, and Atlantis Books did just that with this adorable display. How could I not step inside?

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Guest post at Eclectic Trends

Today, you can find me over at Gudy Herder’s blog Eclectic Trends with a guest post!

Store Without A Home Haarlemmerdijk window

Gudy is a stylist, visual merchandising trainer and ceramic lover with impeccable taste. So when she asked me to do a shop visit as a guest post, I decided to feature a beautiful interior and living store right in my own neighborhood. Store Without A Home is full of dreamy, whimsical things for the home, located on a fantastic shopping street just a few minutes’ walk from my own home.

Here are some more images that didn’t make the cut for the final blog post. For the full tour of this lovely store, head on over to Gudy’s blog!

Store Without A Home Haarlemmerdijk dresser table

Store Without A Home Haarlemmerdijk ceramics

Store Without A Home Haarlemmerdijk neon Dream On

It was my first time to approach a store about taking photos for a blog post. I was a little nervous at first, but shop owner Janwillem was so kind and welcoming (and so very particular about placing things just so!). It was fun and I’m glad Gudy gave me the opportunity.

I’m curious: is this the kind of post you’d like to see more of on Currystrumpet? Let me know!

Stedelijk Museum bookshop & ABC3D

For me, no museum visit is complete without a stop at the bookshop. Amsterdam’s museums have terrific ones, and the ever business-savvy Dutch have cleverly ensured that at the major museums (the Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk), visitors can access the bookshops without having to buy a ticket to the museum itself.

Our family trip to the Stedelijk ended, naturally, with a visit to the museum’s stunning shop.

Stedelijk Museum bookshop

Not only does it look like a really nice place to just sit and browse art books…

Stedelijk bookshop

but it also has a great little selection of design gifts and goodies. I had my “mommy glasses” on (the parental equivalent of beer goggles) and zeroed in immediately on the children’s section, which has design-y books in English, Dutch and—my personal favorite—children’s books that can be read in any language.

This is how I found Tala’s first alphabet: a pop-up book called ABC3D by Parisian graphic designer Marion Bataille.

Marion Bataille ABC3D

The holographic cover alone promises something different. This isn’t your ordinary alphabet!

Marion Bataille ABC3D holographic cover

I love pop-up books for the sense of fun and surprise they bring to reading, and ABC3D combines those elements with some seriously cool type design. I looked for our family’s initials and took a few shots to show you.

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Queen’s Day flea market

They say the business-minded Dutch, inventors of the multinational corporation and stock exchange, are Europe’s shrewdest when it comes to money. And they say Queen’s Day, when the streets turn into a free-for-all flea market, is when Dutchies first learn to make money.

Queen's Day kiddie bakery

That said, to join the Queen’s Day flea market with the goal of making money is to miss the point entirely. The point is to have a good time! The Dutch sense of fun and humor comes out in blazing orange on Queen’s Day, and there are as many silly gimmicks to enjoy as there are bargains to be found.

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Unicorn from Planet Fur

While gathering inspiration for how to decorate the baby room, I saw an unbelievable number of animal heads. Stags, rhinos, bears, stuffed and mounted on walls like hunting was a kindergarten pastime. Along with chevron prints, cloud pillows and moustaches, animal heads seemed to be a huge trend in the world of children’s rooms. I just didn’t get it.

“I’ll never put an animal head in my child’s room,” I sniffed, adding this to a growing list of “when I am a mom, I will never”—a list that includes posting pictures of Tala when she’s sick, or making her feel guilty about what I went through when I was pregnant and in labor.

Anyway. I ate my words when I saw this unicorn trophy from Planet Fur, an Etsy shop filled with whimsical, hand-sewn felt creatures by Dutch blogger, crafter shop owner Marlous Snijders. I simply had to have it.

Planet Fur felt unicorn

All my “I-will-nevers” faded in the face of my lifelong unicorn obsession. I first discovered them in a book when I was five, and it was love at first sight. I collected them all throughout grade school, and consider A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle one of my favorite young adult books ever because one of the main characters is a unicorn. I even have a unicorn tattoo.

Marloes made my daughter her very own unicorn trophy using the pink and gray color palette of Tala’s room. Now, this little guardian presides over diaper changes from the wall beside her changing mat. Maybe he (or she?) needs a name… what do you think?

Revisiting Singapore

After almost two years away, we find ourselves back in Singapore this week.

This is just a stopover en route to Manila, where Marlon and I will spend Christmas, but it’s also a chance to catch up with good friends and indulge in a few things we miss about this city.

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Minimalist Nativity

One of the Christmas traditions that Marlon and I both grew up with was the belen, or Nativity scene. It was easy for us to agree on having a belen in our home during the holidays—what wasn’t easy was finding one that we both liked. Most of the Nativity sets we saw (mostly in the Philippines and Germany) were either too old-fashioned or elaborate for our tastes.

Well, after nearly five years, the search is over! We finally found our family belen last weekend at the Aachen Christmas market.

Hand carved wooden nativity scene1

I was browsing with my friend Leslie in a store called Käthe Wohlfahrt, which sells traditional German Christmas ornaments. As soon as I saw this hand-carved wooden belen, I fell in love. Clean, simple, no fuss—just the way I wanted it. I brought Marlon back with me to see it, and he was equally charmed.

Hand carved wooden nativity scene3

The small size is perfect for apartment dwellers like us. Though the figures are tiny (no taller than my pinkie), they’re all mounted on one piece of wood, making them less likely to be misplaced. They have a young, Playmobil kind of feel that I like… suited to the kids that (I think) Marlon and I still are in many ways. Plus, it fits this year’s minimalist theme at home, too.

Hand carved wooden nativity scene2

Part of what made our belen search difficult was my tendency to be particular about faces and expressions. These ones, I like. They’re fairly neutral without being dead, and cute without being cheesy.

Hand carved wooden nativity scene-Mary and Baby Jesus

This scene doesn’t include the Three Wise Men, but that isn’t a huge deal. The shepherds and angels were the first on the scene anyway. Besides, I couldn’t resist these tiny adorable sheep!

Hand carved wooden nativity scene-sheep

Our little family is still figuring out and making up its Christmas traditions, but I’m happy that this year, another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place with a quiet click.

Did you grow up with a Nativity scene at home, or do you have one now? I’d love to hear about it!