What I bought/gave: Presents this holiday season

There are heaps of gift guides, but I’ve always wondered what people actually give to people around them, so if you’re nosy like me, here are the things I gave people for Christmas and around Christmas. My family (every single one of them) and best friends all have their birthday around the November to January period, so I often combine the occasions in the gift-giving. I don’t pressure myself to find a present though, so if I can’t think of something useful/practical or that they would actually use/like, I don’t stress about not giving them something. I don’t think any of my family or friends will mind (though I make a special effort to give something to our grandmothers). I didn’t buy my Dad a birthday gift, for example. T and I also didn’t get each other anything. Neither of us wanted anything for Christmas.

T’s parents: T’s parents have moved frequently in the years I have known them and were in the midst of another move in December, so we are very mindful not to give them things that might become clutter. We try to not give them junk food/snacks unless it’s something quite unique, as they always have too many snack items (plus health reasons!). This year we gave them a gift voucher to a restaurant, Cheek, that we have recommended to them. It’s hidden away so most people don’t notice it or know about it.

T’s grandmother: We got a beautiful rabbit fur and cashmere scarf from N. Peal at the Bicester Village store a couple of months back. It feels so soft and luxurious and I’ve seen her wear similar scarves so hoping she liked it.

My Grandma: I left this to my Mum. She’s very difficult to buy for and due to some health issues in 2019, buying snack items is a no-no. Mum picked out a linen shirt for her that ticks all of Gran’s many boxes (she is very set in her ways about items of clothing) and we split the gift.

My Dad: He’s also tricky but often Mum will tell me that he needs something. Over the years we’ve been getting him snow gear because he really enjoys skiing, but he seems to have everything he wants now for skiing. This year Mum said his swimming shorts were getting old so we got him two pairs of Speedo swimming shorts that we split with my Mum (I had to get the sizes changed twice because the labelling on the website and compared to his old pair was so inconsistent!).

My Mum: On some recommendations from the Internet, I got her the Elemis Pro-Collagen Super Stars Christmas 2019 set. I thought the set was good value for the size and the products which I know she will use. We’ve also been on a hunt for a dress for her to wear to a wedding in late 2020 (I made fun of her for starting the search over 12 months ahead of the wedding – probably before the bride!). The first dress we ordered from The Outnet was too big and the smaller size sold out (such a shame as she really adored it and it was reduced from almost $2000 to $400) but then they had another 20% off promotion and my front-runner dress, a gorgeous silk ALC dress, was included so I ordered it for her to try. As it turns out she agreed with my taste and decided it was the one. I ended up buying it for her birthday (also in December).

My cousin: I knew early on that I wanted to get her the Friends 21319 Central Perk Lego set. We’re both nuts about Friends and she has been into Lego this year. I missed the first round of stock while overseas but fortunately did not miss the restock in November. I picked one up for myself too (and it will be the centrepiece of future-house for sure!!!).

My best friends: For one friend, I had gotten her a Jo Malone cracker (one with a cologne, body cream and body wash) that didn’t arrive last Christmas due to a postal mistake. I gave it to her this year as well as Pandemic Legacy Season 1. I HIGHLY recommend this as some of the best fun money can buy. For friend 2, friend 1 and I joined resources and got her things she requested – indoor rock-climbing gear (don’t even ask me as I have no idea what all the stuff was!) and the Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder, which I originally introduced to her and she has been using it since! She lives overseas so we purchased from local-to-her sites that shipped items to her.

Work colleagues: I have two office mates (more senior) for who I bought a small box of Koko Black pralines. For my close colleagues (friends), I got some Buttermilk Irish Cream Crumbly fudge and Koko Black Magic Pudding White Chocolate Bites (for the one who doesn’t like milk/dark chocolate).

What I bought & Wardrobe diaries: November & December 2019

It has been difficult finishing this post due to ongoing family health issues since the end of 2019 and the devastation of the Australian bushfires. Stay safe, healthy and happy in 2020. 🙂

New in

I thought December was going to be a purchase-free month (in terms of fashion items) but I did get caught up in some post-Christmas shopping while shopping for pre-planned hiking-related clothes, footwear and accessories (I ended up spending over $700 at various adventure stores – eek! – in anticipation for an upcoming holiday and future holidays in the pipeline). I would consider this a separate category to my wardrobe though (same as active wear and underwear).

November:

Autumn Cashmere color-block cashmere sweater (neutral, size S, via The Outnet) – I actually purchased this jumper in October but my order arrived in November. This item was never on my wishlist and I added it last minute to try on, but I felt the cashmere was so much nicer than the other jumpers (see below) that I had sitting in my wishlist for many months. These didn’t have the extra 50% discount (which was what prompted me to make an order for some wishlist items in the first place). I think they are such an interesting piece, with the large cuffed sleeves and contrasting colours. It was difficult deciding between this colour combination and the darker colour combination. This is oversized on me but very cropped, and work nicely with high-waisted bottoms or with a white shirt layered underneath. They came out kid-sized in the first wash but I easily pulled it back into an adult size. $217 (also received $23 cashback and the maths doesn’t make sense but I’m not complaining…)

Ziera Scarlet boots (black, size 37.5) – These look very similar to the Stanford boots which I owned and reviewed a few years ago. That pair eventually came apart at the sole and was letting in water so I had to throw them but they were really comfortable. In person, the Scarlet boots are almost identical but I feel like the leather was better quality on the old Stanford boots. Nonetheless these will be handy to have around as I have only been picking up backup flats and sandals from Ziera since they closed down. The price was slashed drastically (below $100) a few weeks after my purchase, but my size was gone so I don’t feel too bad (my size is one of the popular sizes so typically first to sell). $279.95 reduced to $195.97 minus 20% off promotion plus $7 shipping = $163.78

AG Jeans Super Skinny Legging jeans x 2 (navy and black, size 25; preowned via eBay) – I happened to come across someone selling two pairs in my size. These have been my favourite and only jeans for a couple of years now. It is harder to find the Farrah jeans, which is actually what I am after (on the preowned market), but these two pairs were at a really low buy-it-now price so I pounced. $30 + $14.55 shipping = $44.55

Saba silk floral dress (size 6; pre-owned via eBay) – I was looking for silk pieces for my Mum and found this for myself, oops. I don’t need it in my wardrobe so I feel a bit guilty, but it’s a decent piece and I don’t regret it. Saba is very expensive for the quality (which is fairly average) but the low resale value means some great-value silk, work and occasion pieces can be picked up. The sleeves and hem are interesting and thankfully flattering – it could have easily gone the way. I’ve worn this twice, and it’s very comfortable and machine washes without issue. $30 + $8.55 shipping = $38.55

December (post-Christmas sales):

Skin & Threads cotton tee-shirt dress (black and white, size 1) – I really like the thick cotton and the length of this. A solid/stripey tee-shirt dress is something I’ve been casually looking for and I really liked this the moment I put it on. Skin & Threads uses decent fabrics, even if the finishing is not impeccable (I spotted a minor sewing error on closer inspection and have noticed after the first wear that the front and back fabric was not sewn together symmetrically, so the dress actually veers to one side, which wouldn’t be noticeable without the pockets… it is too late to exchange now but that did bum me out a bit). The stores had 10% off for the first three days after Christmas and I thought this was marked down to $90 (so $81), which I was happy to pay. It turns out it hadn’t been marked down properly and was actually $50 (from $148) minus 10% = $45

Nobody Cult Skinny Jeans (navy/nuevo, size 26; via David Jones) – I saw this on sale before and after Christmas for $99 but was in the market to buy a Cult or Siren pair (high or super-high waisted, respectively) preowned first in order to suss out how Nobody Denim jeans holds up. I was shopping on the 27th at a different David Jones and came across these marked down further to $79, plus I was emailed an extra 10% off sale items offer that morning, so the price became palatable for me to try the brand with a brand new pair first. $199 reduced to $79 minus 10% promotion and used a 10% extra value gift card = ~$64.78

November and December 2019 total: $573.66

Considered or tried

My The Outnet order contained the Autumn Cashmere bow-detail cashmere sweater in grey with navy and dark grey with burgundy because they were an extra 50% off the sale price (bringing them down to $114 each) and had been high on my wishlist for months. The cashmere was mediocre though, and the sleeves absolutely humongous on me (also fussy). I tried one in XS and one in S (based on availability) and if I had to pick, I would have chosen the XS. But my main issue was the quality of the cashmere fibres.

I tried on Paige and Nobody Denim jeans in my continued hunt for high-waisted skinny jeans and to shift my loyalty away from AG Jeans after the new pair I picked up in October was noticeably poorer in quality. I liked the fit and fabric of Nobody Denim a lot better than Paige. I am a 25 for AG, 25 for Paige and 26 for Nobody Denim. I really liked the Nobody Denim Siren jeans which are super high-waisted and would love to pick one up preowned if possible.

I won an auction for a pre-owned pink Jac+Jack 100% cashmere jumper via eBay ($73 + $8.55 shipping). I have wanted to try out this Australian brand’s cashmere which typically retails for $300-700. As soon as I received and felt the item I knew it was not cashmere. I think the tag said it was a wool and cashmere combination (cashmere around 10/20%). Unbelievably, the seller actually had no idea that it wasn’t 100% cashmere and tried to convince me it was still a very good price compared to the hundreds of dollars she had paid. I thought that was a pretty crap excuse – you should probably know what you’re buying (especially if you think you’re paying a lot for something) and you should definitely know what you’re selling! The return was eventually accepted. I think it was relisted and sold for less than half the price when accurately listed shortly after. I’m still eager to find some pre-owned Jac+Jack cashmere to try out so the hunt continues.

During the Boxing Day sales, I did also pop into Jac+Jack and tried on the Iku cotton skirt in dark plum. I fell in love with the stock image a few months ago because of the lovely tiered design and beautiful dark plum colour. I tried on a 6 and it was a pretty overwhelming on me. It is a tie-around skirt and from experience, I find them overly fussy (and a bit lazy from a brand). I could happily try on everything else they stock in the dark plum colour but I don’t see myself needing any of them and I do think the silhouettes of the brand tend towards oversized and boxy, which can be hard to pull off with my frame. I’m not sure I have the patience to figure out what works for me from Jac+Jack.

Other updates

I did not keep those AG jeans purchased in October and I was so unhappy with the drop in quality that I will probably not be purchasing new AG going forward.

I sold the Ziera Uja sandals purchased in July after three wears as it was too narrow and cutting my feet. It went very quickly and after fees, it pocketed me +$27.51.

I also cleared out an H&M black blazer (this had a really nice floral lining so I originally wanted to sell it but discovered two missing buttons), a pink H&M shirt with stud details and a pair of Uniqlo Ultra Stretch jeans (my previous go-to skinny jeans).

What I bought: Black Friday & Cyber Weekend 2019

Does anyone else find the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales period overwhelming (and a bit overrated)?

The first store I took notice of was Clearly. I recently made my first order there and found the prices to be one of the cheapest around when I used the first-time customer 15% off discount. Due to a back order on one of my prescriptions, I also was in touch with the customer service staff (to check for alternatives) and found them to be excellent. Surprisingly they credited $30 to my account, so when they announced 15% off for Black Friday, I thought it would be a great time to buy more of my contact lenses (I buy 90x daily packs that cost anywhere around $90-$120 at full price, depending on the store, though I never pay full price as I find ways to stack deals and coupons). I was about to make the order on Friday but decided to wait until Sunday as I was sure the sale would still be on over the weekend. I’m so glad I did because on Sunday they announced 20% off for Cyber Monday, so in the end, with the $30 credit and 20% off, I paid $137.98 for two boxes, which is by far the cheapest I’ve ever paid for my contact lenses (although $30 of it was a “fluke”).

On the Friday itself, I headed to two shops after work because we were going to be busy all weekend and wouldn’t have time to visit them. T is starting to run low on his Nespresso capsules and they were 15% off. He got six sleeves and we paid $41.31. The other shop I visited was Muji, which was having 20% off. I use their cotton pads and cotton buds so I stocked up on those items. I also got a tall soap dispenser for the kitchen because I like the little one we got for dish detergent. I will admit this was an unnecessary $4 purchase. I also picked up my favourite black ballpoint pen as a back up (unfortunately I did discover I had three back-ups at home already, whoops!). I’ve never seen such a long line at Muji and the queue was around 20 minutes! In total I spent $15.00.

ShopBack announced $5 cashback for eBay on purchases over $5. I went on and bought some screen protectors because T did a poor job for my recent screen protector change and he wants to change his as well. My Mum has also been complaining that she wants a new one. I got five for each phone size (10 total) and paid $7.26 (expecting $5 cash back).

Yesterday I also impulse purchased Japanese face masks at YesStyle. I have been into face masks lately and I really like the big packs of ~30 masks in one case, which are more economical and less wasteful. YesStyle is such a throwback to my teenage years/early 20’s but the prices are genuinely pretty good. The masks were 15% off and I stacked a 20% off Cyber week coupon. With GST, it came to $57.75 (expecting ~$1 cash back).

I’ve also kept my eye on Ziera shoes in a number of retailers but there were no further discounts over the recent sales period. My Mum suddenly informed me her brow pencil was almost finished but Sephora, which was having 15% off, was sold out so I ordered it for her at full price from another retailer. One other stores I was going to buy from was Chemist Warehouse, which had 10% off storewide over the Black Friday weekend. This is typically exciting as I have a list of things I always buy there, such as antihistamines, nasal sprays and eye drops. Their year-round prices on these items are always below the retail price, but for the sale weekend, these prices were marked “up” to retail and then marked “down” with 10% off, rendering them more expensive than every other day of the year. I’m finding that a lot of retailers are re-using deals they frequently use throughout the year, or have subpar deals (compared to others throughout the year) for the Black Friday sales period. On the other hand, one of the more amazing deals I saw was after Cyber Monday when Sephora had 20% off Dyson for one day only, and from my memory that is the cheapest the Air Wrap has ever been.

Travel: Japan Trip #4 2016 (13 – Himeji, Kobe)

See: Travel: Japan Trip #4 2016 itinerary and intro

Day 13: January 30

In the morning, we took the shinkansen from Kyoto station to Himeji station. I had wanted to visit Himeji on my previous trip to Japan, but Himeji castle was under renovation (it has been quite common during every trip that something I want to visit is under renovation so it gets postponed for future trips!). Thankfully Himeji-jou (Himeji Castle) full re-opened in 2015. It is one of the country’s few original castles and considered one of, if not the most, beautiful. From the station, it is a 15-20 minute walk through the main city centre to the castle grounds.

The crowds at Himeji-jo are substantial and moves as a line into the castle. As with most castles, it is not so pleasant to shuffle up and down the narrow stairs inside in single file.

After visiting the castle, we walked back through the city centre to get lunch before returning to the train station. For lunch, we had simple oden lunch sets at Shusentei Nadakiku Kappatei, since local oden is a Himeji specialty.

We then took the shinkansen from Himeji station to Shin-Kobe station. It was also my first time in Kobe, where I only wanted to spend half a day to wander around and eat Kobe beef! We made our way down to the port area, stopping at a number of shrines along the way. It’s a really nice city and I can see why it’s considered one of the most “attractive” cities. That small taste of Kobe makes me want to visit again, especially to go up to Mt Rokko.

As mentioned, the prime reason for the stopping by Kobe was to have some Kobe beef! I decided against making specific reservations because it was difficult to pick somewhere early enough to get a reservation and the prices were mostly astronomical, especially after having the other expensive Michelin meal (and since I don’t like meat in the form of steak). We decided to just wing it. I think it ended up being a good decision because we didn’t want to go all out and decide it wasn’t worth it. We looked around a bit and settled on a moderately priced restaurant, Kobe Beef Kurosawa, with a range of cuts to choose from. It was empty the whole time, but it was an amazing meal and we were very happy with what we paid. We both had A5, and at a guess mine was sirloin and T’s was flank/bottom sirloin. They came in sets and ranged from ¥9,000-¥11,000 for 120-180g. I couldn’t imagine paying double or more. The meat was divine but it was too much meat for me, and even T thought it was hard to handle so much fatty meat by the end. A few bites would have been enough for me, hehe.

After dinner we went out to the other side of the harbour to see views of the city, then trekked all the way back to Shin-Kobe station to take the shinkansen back to Kyoto.

What I bought & Wardrobe diaries: October 2019

October was such a roller coaster. We went to Europe for two weeks from the end of September. My Godmother lost her husband and father. I found out when I returned that my Grandmother had a stroke while we were away, and the aftermath has been really tough on her and the family. Another close family member was hospitalised due to mental health just before we left. It was a pretty rough month. Shopping-wise, I made a couple of large purchases in Europe, and also “panic stocked up” on my favourite Ziera shoes since they went into administration (as of this month they are officially closing down!). It looks irresponsible, but I really believe in sticking with the shoes that work for me. Comfortable shoes for my problem feet are priceless and nothing has ever come close to my everyday Ziera shoes.

New in

Sportscraft Lorri floral knit (wine, S) – I ordered this before I went overseas. I mentioned when I first noticed the Lorri jumper in June because of its cotton and cashmere (4%) composition, which I tend to really like. I wasn’t too keen on the $149.99 retail price, or the price during 20-30% off promotions (still over $100!). Just before I left, I saw it was added to the sale for $49 but the smaller sizes were not available in any stores. I couldn’t find any other items to reach $200 for free shipping, so opted to pay $10 for shipping (I hate and rarely do this, but I thought the price was still good). The navy spotty Lorri jumper was and continues to be less reduced (currently $79) so I decided against it. I only picked it up from my Mum’s place a couple of weeks ago and have since worn it twice. The S fits comfortably and slightly oversized. More importantly, it is not short on my torso. It’s not as soft as my other jumpers in a similar cotton and cashmere composition, but I really like the colour and it’s a nice lightweight knit that’s not too lightweight. Was $149.99 reduced to $49 plus $10 shipping = $59

Celine Soft Cube bag (black with burgundy straps) – The Celine Soft Cube might be my favourite handbag. When I saw this colour combination at Bicester Village, I made a beeline for it and I knew I could not leave without it. The SA told me they received over a dozen Soft Cubes the day before (a Sunday), OMG. She sold a dozen and there were just three or so left. I can’t believe this colour was still sitting around!!! I definitely had a lot of lucky stars to thank! After the VAT refund, it will cost roughly the same as my other one I bought pre-owned (it was in as new condition though). I’m a bit torn with this purchase because my Mum also really wants a Soft Cube as it’s so unbelievably light. I’m indefinitely going to sit on this purchase until I find one for her (because I do selfishly love this colour combination so much!) or decide to give it to her (though she has hinted she wants my burgundy one!). I am so torn but I love both of them so so much! £792 ($1,448.11) minus pending VAT refund = to be updated

Chanel Classic Zipped Coin Purse (black caviar leather and gold hardware) – I was still on the fence about the Loewe compact wallet due to the silver hardware and I was kind toying the idea of a “interim zip coin purse” (queue eye rolls). Last time I went to Paris I wanted to get the small flap wallet but it is so bulky and feels a bit… flimsy? This time around I went straight for the zip coin purse, which is really compact and has been saving me so much bag room. Do I love it? It’s okay but it’s not worth the mediocre quality. Could I find another zip coin purse that I liked more? No. I fully acknowledge this was an emotional and impulse purchase (I have been harping on about a wallet for over two years and I’m quite sick of my large wallet) because I have serious FOMO issues (the timing). €460 ($749.32) minus pending VAT refund = to be updated

I will quickly wrap up the Ziera purchases (all except one are stock ups). Though it wasn’t the case in October when these purchases were made, in November Ziera announced that the brand was not bought and so will be closing down. This is devastating and I’m not sure where I will go to for shoes after I go through my Zieras. Me and my feet are absolutely devastated! There are a lot of brands that claim to be designed by podiatrists, but in my experience only Ziera really follows through with every aspect of the shoe. I’m almost positive these will not be my last purchases and I will keep picking things up if I find stock from other retailers. I picked up my (first) Tosca sandals exactly a year ago and the footbed is starting to disintegrate from my heavy wear so I need to figure out how to prolong my shoes’ lifespan! They’re not necessarily better quality and last longer than the average leather shoe brand, but all the thoughtful foot-friendly features in the shoes means I can actually wear them all day. I picked up:
– Ziera Lennon (black, 38; via Ziera) – Sold out online and rang my local store who had one. Since they kindly held it for me, I felt guilty to not buy it even though I found it cheaper from a different retailer a few hours later. So I rushes there after work to pick it up. T says I’m weird. $224.95
– Ziera Lennon (black, 38) and Tosca (black, 38; via Evans Shoes) – A back-up pair of the black Lennon. I will have to source a second pair of the nude Lennon shoes from another retailer that is selling at RRP. When I was looking for walking sandals to take to USA a year ago, I tried on the Tosca sandals and was tossing up between that and the Topaz, which I now own three pairs of. I quite liked it back then so picked it up too. $249.95 each down to $199.95 each minus 10% newsletter sign-up discount = $359.91
– Ziera Topaz (brown; 38; via Ziera) – Ziera was participating in the Vogue online shopping event and this was the only thing I could find. There is no free online shipping or member points system anymore. $219.95 down to $125.96 minus 20% online promotion plus $7 shipping = $107.77

October 2019 total: $2949.06 (to be updated as VAT refunds pending)

Considered or tried

I was tossing up between the famous Chanel zip coin purse and the Louis Vuitton Zippy Coin purse. Personally I like the layout of the LV coin purse better, with the leather interior and the specialist credit card slots. The Chanel coin purse now comes with an exterior pocket, which I considered a pro but now don’t care for as I discovered I didn’t like constantly pulling my credit card out from that pocket. However there simply isn’t a line of leather from LV that I can get on board with (to suit me). I did try to find the LV Zippy Coin for my Mum but they were out of stock anyway.

Since I decided not to get the compact Loewe wallet (though unbelievably I regretted it as soon as I arrived back home, good grief!) I ended up on a side project of getting a belt. I quite liked the reversible Loewe anagram 3.2cm belt in black/tan with gold hardware but the 3.2cm in that colour combination and my size was sold out everywhere. After running around Paris looking for it, I was told it was sold out in Europe! It was actually really hard to take off, so I’m parking that idea for now.

I ordered a pair of the AG Farrah jeans in black from David Jones. All my AG jeans are pre-loved and mid-rise. I love The Legging Skinny range a lot (in particular the Contour 360 range – ugh these are so good! – but can’t seem to find them anywhere) but they are all mid rise so I wanted to get some high waisted jeans (as far as I’m aware, the Farrah jeans seem to be the same as the Legging jeans but with a higher rise). It’s been a long wait for black or dark wash Farrah jeans on the pre-owned market, so I bit the bullet and purchased them from David Jones after purchasing the giftcards with an extra 10% value offer (buying $200 gave me $220). Unfortunately when my pair arrived, I noticed quite a lot of dodgy stitching and discovered it was not Made in USA! The fit is still great but I am really not sure about paying premium dollars for it. I will, at the very least, request to exchange for another pair but I’m feeling a bit sceptical about the change in quality so I may also just return it altogether. I will have to do some investigation into the Farrah line…

Other updates

That Comme des Garcons PLAY double heart T-shirt I purchased in April has been worn half a dozen or so times now. The other day I noticed some loose stitching coming from inside and upon closer inspected, noticed many issues with the blind hemming, which was poorly done! There was some issues with the finishing and some of the blind hemming wasn’t even on the fabric. I like the cotton but it seems very poorly made. I had all the blind hemming redone. I’m pretty disappointed with this experience.