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Blog

My thoughts in writing. 

Introducing...90s Chokers by VenicesaTreasures

Vanessa Tam

First off, I would like to acknowledge that my page has been a little quiet over the last few months with the exception of my New York post, which I had only recently posted even though the actual trip was about three months ago. I just want to take this time to give a little update on what has been going on in my life. I've been really busy with work, studying for the CPA, and other projects that I haven't gotten a chance to sit down and blog. I am a little disappointed that I haven't been making writing my top priority like I said I would at the beginning of this year. But I realized that some things need to take precedence over others for the time being. Even though it may not be the first thing I do when I get home, I am still going to strive to blog as often as I can when time permits. 

Now that things have slowed down a little, I want to share some exciting news about my side project! I have been withholding this for a few months now only because I wasn't sure what to expect, and if I truly believed in myself and my project. But after some time, I have gained the confidence to feel proud of what I have started. I am thrilled to finally announce that I have opened up a handmade jewelry shop on Etsy (VenicesaTreasures)! It all started out of curiosity, which later grew into an obsession and then an idea that eventually led me to open up my own Etsy shop. I have always wanted to start my own business, but I was too scared of all the risks involved. Although I learned the basic ins and outs of how to run a business from working at both small and large organizations throughout my career thus far, I was still nervous about the responsibilities that comes with the territory. However, after much research and long conversations with friends, I was convinced that Etsy would be a great platform to start and try out my business venture. Since the beginning of what I thought was a huge undertaking, I have experienced the highs and lows of running a business. Since launching about three months ago, I must say that it has been the most exhilarating, scary, and incredible experience so far. I realized that I love getting my hands dirty and learning from the ground up. And I am just getting started! There is so much more to be learned, yet I am only at the beginning stages. I'm excited to continue on with this journey and hope that you will continue with me. 

To learn more about my shop and what inspired me, please check out VenicesaTreasures! I have provided a snapshot of my products below. The links are all clickable and directs to my shop. Check it out and let me know what you think! 

New York!

Vanessa Tam

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This gorgeous mural is located about a block away from The Bagel Store.

This gorgeous mural is located about a block away from The Bagel Store.

Beautiful array of bagels..mmmm taste the rainbow!

Beautiful array of bagels..mmmm taste the rainbow!

Sweet surprise...overload of confetti cream cheese!

Sweet surprise...overload of confetti cream cheese!

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This place has the best cream puffs I've ever tasted...they have the matcha flavored too!

This place has the best cream puffs I've ever tasted...they have the matcha flavored too!

For some time, New York had always been a place where I wanted to revisit. In the last few years, I had made many attempts to go, but I was never able to for some reason. After saving enough vacation time and finding some insanely cheap flights deals (I paid about $220 roundtrip), my friend and I decided to finally book a short trip to New York! And I'm so glad we did, because I had a blast there! 

I loved exploring the city day and night. New York has changed so much from 10 years ago when I last visited. Now that I am older, I feel like I acknowledge and appreciate all the cultural differences between San Francisco and New York. Although they are both very diverse cities, I feel like the people in New York are much more energetic and prideful. It seems like they really embrace their uniqueness and put it on display in an artistic way, which is so magical and beautiful. I think San Francisco does show a lot of pride too, but lately it seems to be more centered around sports and occupation. Maybe it is true for both cities and I am just biased based on the current events and economic shifts around the Bay Area. Don't get me wrong-I love San Francisco and all its uniqueness. In fact, I don't think I can see myself living anywhere else. I just think that New York puts me in this dizzy, magical spell that gives me a jolt of energy no matter what time of day it is and my eyes are always glowing with excitement and anticipation of what I may see next! Most of the credit probably goes out to the unique and delicious food spots that I visited. 

On this trip, I made sure that I stopped by some of the Instagram and Facebook-famous eateries around the city such as The Bagel Store, Bibble and Sip, Juliana's Pizza, Milk, and Halal Cart. My taste buds were certainly dancing in happiness during these few days! In fact, I'm drooling as I am writing this blog entry just thinking about it. I've highlighted some of my favorite food spots in NYC. Hopefully it will give you some inspiration or some ideas of places you want to visit. Enjoy!    

Keep Portland Weird

Vanessa Tam

Pearl District

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Powell's Books - Downtown

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Blue Star Donuts and Coffee - Downtown

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Stumptown Coffee - Downtown

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Ace Hotel - Downtown (adjacent to Stumptown Coffee)

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Downtown Murals

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New Deal Distillery - Southeast Portland

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Wahkeena Falls at Columbia River Gorge

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Tasty N Sons - Northeast Portland

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Outfit details: Steve Madden Gorgeous Boots (on sale at Nordstrom), ARE YOU AM I Kaeda Camisole, Forever 21 bag and blouse, Zara skinny scarf

I'm so glad I spent my President's Day weekend up in Portland. Although the 10-11 hours drive from San Francisco was a little rough, I had the opportunity to see some amazing views while driving through towering trees and along the rocky coastlines. I was prepared for the rainy weekend so I had a long list of food spots to check out. The list was so overwhelming that I couldn't even post up all the pictures. Almost everything that I tried was delicious, generously portioned, and reasonably priced. Did I mention that everything in Portland is tax-free? It was a nice surprise whenever the waiter handed over the bill as I was used to seeing San Francisco prices. I didn't even feel guilty adding on the dessert at the end of my meals! 

The rain did limit a lot of outdoor activities, but I visited most of the places I wanted to see. I do plan on taking another trip to Portland sometime again this year. Hopefully next time the weather will allow for more outdoor adventures! 

Whitesplash

Vanessa Tam

The Bates Motel

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Urth Cafe

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Grand Central Market

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I love going back and visiting SoCal. The food, drinks, and artsy displays never disappoints! I highlighted some of my favorite landmarks and eateries in this post. Enjoy!

P.S. I am testing out the Canon EOS 60D DSLR camera that I borrowed from my dad. Let me know what you think! 

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Legion of Honor

Vanessa Tam

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Photo credit: Isabel Liang

Outfit details: Lucca Couture blouse, Vince booties, Forever 21 quilted velvet crossbody, Anarchy Street ring and bracelet  

I often opt for the classic black and white look when I like to focus in on the details. In this photoshoot, I decided to pair my black Big Wave dupe skirt with a white surplice side-tie blouse. I just love how this black and white combination is subtle, yet striking. The detailing at the hem of the skirt and the front of the blouse really adds a touch of sexy to this sophisticated outfit. I finished this look with my gold Multi Diamond X ring and unbreakable bracelet  from Anarchy Street (for 10% off, use promo code: VANESSATAM10).  

 

Summer Love in Cancun

Vanessa Tam

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Outfit details: Asos box pleat satin slip, Urban Outfitters heels (similar here), Zara chained top, Zara crochet shorts, Philip Lim for Target shoulder bag

This past August I had some R&R in Cancun, Mexico. It was definitely a much needed vacation. This was one of my most relaxing trips. Although Southeast Asia was adventure-filled and action-packed, I eventually burned out after traveling across 6 different destinations. Instead of an amazing race, I wanted a more lax schedule. In Cancun, I had the time to dip in the pool, lay out on the sandy beach, and soak up the sun, while getting a nice tan!  Our friends invited us to stay with them at the GR Solaris by Caribe All-Inclusive Resort. The hotel was right along the beach and 15-20 minutes drive to downtown. The amenities were good and the staff was friendly. Everything we needed was so close to us, which eased our minds. I wouldn't mind another relaxing vacation! 

Kate Spade Themed Bridal Shower

Vanessa Tam

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I know that I am long due for another post. I needed a little break to focus on helping out with my cousin's bridal shower and catching up with work from busy season. So it was actually great timing that my Cancun vacation (more details on my sunny adventures coming soon...) landed after the end of these hectic events. Now that I am a few shades darker, more calm, and more rested, I can finally find time to sit down and start blogging again. Because I had so much fun helping out with the Kate Spade themed get-together with my cousin and the girls, I thought I would dedicate this post to the lovely bridal shower that I was fortunate enough to co-host. We lucked out on finding this community apartment space that accommodated our needs--private, spacious, and fully furnished. The sophisticated, chic, and modern decor suited the theme of the shower. I hope these pictures will spark some inspiration for your upcoming party ideas!   

Lace and Leather

Vanessa Tam

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Outfit details: Zara Faux Leather Pants, Forever 21 tee, Urban Outfitters bralette

This outfit requires great attention to detail. I especially love the motorcycle look of these faux leather pants - the ridges and zippers add a lot of personality! Sometimes you just have to let the clothes speak for itself. 

OZ Naturals Ancient Orient Rice Enzyme Review

Vanessa Tam

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

I recently was given the opportunity to try a bottle of this amazing, all natural, 100% vegan, and cruelty-free Ancient Orient Rice Enzyme Dermafoliant, sponsored by BrandBacker. This face scrub exfoliant contains lactic acid, alpha lipoic, and Pro-Vitamin B5, which claim to have anti-aging properties. The product is unique in that it comes in a powder form and shakes out like a salt shaker. Most scrubs I have used come in a tube or jar that is either in a cream or liquid form. This facial scrub is free of harmful chemicals - perfect for all skin types.

Before using the product, I first wet my face with warm water. To use the product, I first applied a dime size amount on the palm of my hand. I then added two drops of water and mixed the ingredients in with my middle and index fingers until a paste was formed. Then I applied this paste on my face and massaged gently in circular motion. I followed the directions and waited five minutes before washing off with cold water. After I patted down with a dry face towel, I immediately noticed how clean and smooth my face was!   

The powder itself is very fine and soft, so I am pleasantly surprised by how effective this product is. I noticed the difference in my skin's texture after only one use. The product is a little more on the expensiver side ($24.95). However, it is a much cheaper alternative from the more widely know Tachta Rice Enzyme Powder. Since you only need a dime size amount every time, this product can last for one month or longer if used two to three times a week. I would highly recommend OZ Naturals Ancient Orient Rice Enzyme for those looking for an all natural, gentle, and effective face scrub!

Adovia Dead Sea Salt Scrub Review

Vanessa Tam

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Product Description: ADOVIA SEA SALT BODY SCRUB: Made with Real Dead Sea Salt – 100% Pure and Genuine for an infusion of 21 Minerals Essential to Proper Skin Function. Great Exfoliator and Moisturizer.

I recently received a free sample of Adovia Dead Sea Salt body scrub in Ocean Breeze, sponsored by Brandbacker. I was really excited to try this product because of all its natural ingredients. This scrub contains key ingredients such as dead sea salt, apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, and papaya extract all of which are known to help heal and improve the skin's surface. 

When I first opened the jar, I was a little taken aback by the distinct separations of the ingredients. The dead sea salt was submerged to the bottom covered by half an inch of oil. I really had to sink my fingers in the jar to grab the sea salt (I recommend mixing beforehand so that the contents are evenly distributed). I scooped out about a tablespoon and massaged it on my skin in circular motions in the shower. The sea salt felt really gentle and not abrasive on my skin - perfect for sensitive skin types like mine. 

Other scrubs that I've used were a little rough and harsh. This product did its work by gently removing the top layer of dead skin cells, while hydrating my skin. I really liked how effective and natural the scrub felt; I did not have to worry about the harmful chemicals I was putting on my skin, like other scrubs that I've used before. After I washed the product off, I felt like my skin was instantly smoother and hydrated!

Overall, I thought this product was great and inexpensive for the amount you receive ($14.95 for 11 oz. on Amazon). The Ocean Breeze scent was refreshing and calm. My only complaint was the oily residue it leaves on my skin and if you are not careful it can get messy. I used this while I was showering and it left my tub a little oily and slippery. I would recommend washing the bottom of your tub after your shower or bath to make sure you don't slip.

Mini City Bag

Vanessa Tam

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Photo credit: Isabel Liang

Outfit details: Zara Bag, Faux Leather Jacket from H&M, Muscle Tank from AEO, Faux Leather Leggings from Forever 21 (similar here at Nordstrom), Booties from Target, and Rings from Forever 21 

The structured shape and faux leather fabrication makes this Zara bag unique, yet classic. I especially love the rectangular boxed shape and gold hardware details. The short gold shoulder chain adds a nice timeless touch to every outfit. Shoulder bags are my go-to for an easy day or night stroll in the City.  

10 Hour Food Marathon in Taipei

Vanessa Tam

What to during on a 10 hour layover in Taipei, Taiwan? Why, eat, of course! I recently returned from a two week Southeast Asia trip with a group of friends from the Bay Area. Our trip started off with a 10 hour layover in Taipei, Taiwan. We arrived to Taoyuan Airport at approximately 10:30pm. As a group consensus, we decided to step out of the confines of the airport to explore Taipei's night life. The night life scene in Taiwan is known to be very vibrant and lively with a multitude of street vendors, night clubs, bars, and karaoke bars to choose from - I knew I was in for a treat.

After a 30 minute wait at customs, we headed straight to the bathroom to freshen up. Although some of us were able to sleep soundly on the 12 hour flight, we wanted to make sure we didn't look haggard or jet lagged. Shortly after, we stepped out of the airport and hired a six-seater taxi to take us from Taoyuan airport to Shida Night Market. We were recommended to Shida over Shihlin Night Market because it was less frequented by tourists with just about the same variety of street vendors.

When we first arrived to Shida, I noticed that the streets were dark and emptyApparently, the night markets in Taipei close around 12:00am on weekdays. Shida, which sits adjacent to Taipei University, closes a little earlier than Shiling. Since it was a Monday night, we were only greeted with a select few of local shops that were still open. 

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Our first stop was a hot stew stall which served an array of ingredients such as mushrooms, tofu, leafy greens, innards, pig’s blood cake, intestines, and noodles. I wasn't particularly interested in trying anything foreign so early on in the trip, so I decided to stay safe by ordering only known vegetables and noodles. To order, you are supposed to take a basket and select the desired ingredients with a tong. After the basket is filled, you're supposed to hand it over to the staff so they could count the ingredients and collect payment. The staff then chops up the ingredients, dumps them in boiling hot flavored stew, and braise them with their secret sauce.

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The five of us shared two of these delicious braised plates. This meal satisfied my palate and filled my empty stomach. My favorites were the sauce soaked tofu, enoki mushrooms, and rice noodles. I thought the heat and the sauce really brought out the flavor of the vegetables and noodles. The dish reminded of the clay pot stews that I order from the Chinese restaurants at home, only better. The portions were too huge for our appetite that we had some leftovers at the end of our feast. We complimented our food with milk tea boba drinks from the shop that shared the same storefront. I thought the milk tea was pretty decent but the boba lacked the chewy texture that I like.  

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Our next stop was Shi Yun, which was just down the corner from our first spot. Here I had one of the best fried food I've ever tasted. You can choose from an assortment of ingredients to deep fry such as potatoes, chicken, gizzards, bean curd, and squid. My favorite was the popcorn chicken. It was definitely a lot better than the ones I have ever ordered at Quickly's back in the States. The popcorn chicken at Shi Yun had just the right amount of pepper and salt!

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At this point, we decided to rest our stomachs and our feet by sitting down in an open table at a quiet, small park near the otherwise bustling street market. To my surprise, there were a ton of low standing tables and sitting areas throughout the park. It was nice area to absorb the scenery and the environment around us. Taipei is normally quiet on weeknights, especially on Mondays (we found out later). After our nice break, we decided to make the most out of our night by heading to the local 7 Eleven store to pick up some Taiwan beer. I didn't think the beer was particularly interesting or special than any other beer that I've tasted back home. However, I thought it was worth the try.

At approximately 3:00am, we headed to our third food spot for some early morning breakfast food. We placed two orders of xiao long baos. They were steamed to perfection! The baos had just the right amount juice that oozed out of the skin, which wasn't too thick or thin. The meat was very tender and flavorful. The vinegar and garlic dipping sauce heightened the flavor. 

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We also ordered sticky rice roll, onion beef roll, steamed baos, turnip cake, and soy milk. Although I didn't find these items to be particularly stand out dishes, I appreciated the much less frequented meal as they could not be easily found in San Francisco.

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After our long eating and walking marathon, we decided to pamper ourselves by visiting a 24 hour massage parlor to have our shoulders and feet rubbed. I must say that these Taiwanese masseurs and masseuses mean business. To my surprise, I walked out of the shop with my shoulders and feet in relief and in pain. 

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After our massage, we decided to head back to the airport to catch our next flight to Hanoi.  The taxi back was slightly more than what we paid going to the city. Our driver asked us for more money after forcing him to drive over to the EVA Airlines terminal, instead of the first terminal that he mistakenly dropped us off at (probably purposely). My recommendation is to verify the exact drop-off location with the driver before getting into the cab. Once we arrived to the terminal, we hurried to the small food court for our last feast in Taipei. I ordered a spicy beef noodle soup with vegetable tempura on the side. Although Taiwan is known for its beef noodle soup, I was unimpressed by this bowl. The broth wasn't as flavorful as I imagined. Also, I though the soup base was a little oily. The vegetable tempura also tasted a little soapy to me, but it may be because the batter they used. Although this meal was a little lacking for me, I was entertained by the neat presentation of their dishes.

I was a little disappointed that I wasn't able to do some night shopping or try a bunch of street food. Perhaps, Shihlin would have been a better choice. Although I was looking forward to exploring more of Taipei's culture, I felt like we did make the most out of our 10 hour layover. 

Stay tuned to read about my next stop - Hanoi, Vietnam!

Fog City

Vanessa Tam

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Outfit details:  Giuseppe Zanotti Olinda Pointed Toe Mule Pumps on Bluefly (15% off your first purchase with email sign up), Lovers + Friends Intimate Dress (10% off your first purchase with email sign up), Zara blanket coat, Kate Spade Book Clutch (similar here),

I just came back from a fun-filled two week long Southeast Asia trip. Although I had an amazing vacation, I must say it is nice to be back home. I was delighted to greet the ever so familiar cold chill and Karl the Fog. After a week long of jet-lag recovery, I felt inspired to post a new outfit blog. This past weekend I explored the Presidio and its vicinity.  I encountered these beautiful Lincoln Park Art Tile Steps and thought it was a great place for a photo op to show off my new Giuseppe Zanotti pointed toe suede mules that arrived in the mail last month.  I paired these mules with my black lace trimmed dress from Lovers+Friends, my beige blanket coat from Zara, and my book clutch from Kate Spade. I loved the sexy cutouts and lace details of this outfit.  I thought the coat and clutch added a sophisticated layer to this look.   

 

Suede Pointed Toe Mule Pumps

Vanessa Tam

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Shoe rack details: Giuseppe Zanotti Olinda Pointed Toe Mule Pumps on Bluefly (extra 20% w/friends & family code: Family)

These beauties just arrived at my doorstep. I adore designer shoes, but I usually admire them from afar as I have a hard time with justifying the cost and benefit of a $200+ pair of pumps. Although the purchase price of a pair of Giuseppe Zanotti heels ($600-1,800) is out of my usual range, I can't help but fixate my eyes on this unique pair of ankle boot/mule hybrid footwear, which is precisely what I have been searching for over the last three months. These are cut out in all the right places. Giuseppe Zanotti's design perfectly embodies the right amount of exposure and coverage. They slip on smoothly and the height perfectly compensates my 5' 2" frame. The cutaway mule stilettos achieves a sexy but sophisticated look that works great with a long tee and a leather pencil skirt for a dressy casual afternoon date or an above-the-knee dress for a girls night out. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not one to spend a whole lot on name brands. Instinctively, I always look for a good deal. I have been watching the prices of these pumps for some time. Just as the prices of these pumps dropped, as with the price of my unnamed shares, I decided to act fast and buy. With a discount rate of 40% (plus my $40 off $200 coupon), I quickly made my first big girl purchase. In total I paid $223 - that is a savings of approximately $625! To some this may seem like a bargain purchase. I can't wait to take them out for a walk! This calls for a new outfit post coming soon!

Walking Down the Avenues with Craig

Vanessa Tam

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Photo credit: Isabel Liang

Outfit details: Rebecca Minkoff Craig Crossbody Bag (similar here at Gilt), Faux Leather Jacket from H&M (20% on $60+ w/code 2963), Muscle Tank from AEO (BOGO 50% off. No code needed), Faux Leather Leggings from Forever 21 (similar here at Nordstrom), Booties from Target, and Rings from Forever 21 

Last Winter, I was looking for a structured bag that was small and light enough to swing across my body and stroll through the city streets with ease. As I was scouring through the clearance racks at Nordstrom Rack, I stumbled upon this boxed treasure hanging on the metal bar. Although the color was very light and neutral, I was intrigued by its clean, naked body - full of clothing pairing potential. I knew this would balance out some of my more edged out pieces. Although I knew I found something special, I couldn't help squinting nervously to look at the price tag. I remember thinking to myself that the sale price had to be right enough to be considered a sale and light enough for my wallet to afford. As I slowly allowed my eyes to open and focus at the numbers before me, I felt a little flutter of excitement to see this flawless beauty for a mere $79, while bags from Rebecca Minkoff typically run from about $150-$200. This Rebecca Minkoff Craig Camera Crossbody Bag was a diamond in the rough that was calling my name. Although I did take a few minutes staring at the silver rack and contemplating, I knew I had to snatch this piece before another girl walked down the aisles.

Pink Lemon-Infused Water

Vanessa Tam

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I stopped by a local corner grocery store this morning to pick up some fruits. As I was making my way to the cash register, these yellowish green, oval-shaped lemons caught my eyes. At first glance, these looked like mini watermelons but as I inched towards the display, I realized these were pink lemons. I had never seen them in person until today. The distinct color and texture drew me in. I quickly stuffed them in a plastic bag to purchase. I couldn't wait to make some pink lemon-infused water.