A Day in DC with my Sister and Cousin

Today, my sister, cousin, and I went with my dad to his work today so that we could hang out in DC. Sidney (my younger sister) had a project for AP US History that required her to go to a historical site, so she and my cousin, Claudia, went to Ford's Theater while I hung around my dad's office. I was going to go  to the National Postal Museum-- I've been dying to go since I first found out about it-- but I ran out of time. There wasn't enough time to go and have lunch, and the girls and I were planning to go shopping after lunch. So I'll save that for another day. I'll go to work with my dad and wander DC and enjoy the Postal Museum-- something no one wants to do but me :| But I had a great time anyway. I had a low key morning watching some really cool internet videos and reading up on the latest from twitter.

For lunch we went to one of my favorite places in DC-- Tony Cheng's, a Chinese and Mongolian Restaurant in Chinatown. Chinese is upstairs, Mongolian barbecue is downstairs. I've never had the Chinese, but the Mongolian is absolutely GODLY. You put veggies and meat in a bowl and place it on the counter for them to cook. They cook everything very quickly on a large, extremely hot cooktop. It is best to put a dollar in the tip jar, and they will say thank you and ask if you want more meat. You tell them which meat you'd prefer, and they add another bowl of it! It is fascinating to watch-- they cook everything quickly, stirring constantly with absurdly long chopsticks, and use those chopsticks to pick up the ridiculous amount of food and put it into a fresh bowl.

My food in the foreground, Claudia (L) and Sidney (R) in the background

I ended up with waaay too much food. I stacked veggies high, and got another bowl of lamb to go in with my cabbage, broccoli, and mushrooms. The result was so much food that it had to go into two bowls. This feast was accompanied by rice and the most delicious, flaky, crispy, mongolian sesame bread that we open up and stuff with our delicious barbecued meat and veggies. They also serve traditional pickled cabbage and carrots and peanuts as side dishes.

Behold the feast before me!
I ate 1.5 bowls, the rice, and a bread roll/stick-thing. Way too much, but hey, I'm going back to college in two weeks-- I gotta make it worth it don't I? It was amazingly delicious! Word of the wise: If you want to check this place out (and definitely do!) go on a weekday. On the weekend, Tony Cheng's raises lunch and dinner prices tremendously (as does pretty much every restaurant in high tourist traffic areas).

Afterwards, we went shopping at the Urban Outfitters in Chinatown a block or two away from the Chinatown Gateway. Urban Outfitters is one of those places I go to to look at cool things and get ideas on clothes and how to style things--not so much to actually buy. For the most part, Urban Outfitters is way out of my price range, but my sister and Claudia had checked it out before meeting my father and I for lunch and there was a sale that made on marked down products 50% off.

New rucksack courtesy of Urban Outfitters
So I bought this cute floral rucksack that was on sale. It originally cost $50 and was marked down to $20. Thanks to the sale, I grabbed it for $10. It's excellent. I love the print! A bold floral that isn't too loud and incorporates many colors I wear often-- green, pink, brown, and teal. I love the old-school style it has, and I have been drooling over rucksacks for ages! This is a great for days out where I don't feel like getting a purse out because I want something a little more laid back, but stylish enough for when I don't want to slack off and carry a tote or backpack. It fits my art and/or writing supplies, which is a huge plus. And for 80% off the original price? Yes please!

New nail polish!
I also bought pale mint green nail polish for $4 (on sale from $5). I figure it'd be cute for spring and summer, and the color is cool enough to wear in the cool months. I'm also trying to slowly amass a decent nail polish collection. I only own about 4 bottles of nail polish total, and eventually I want to have all my bases covered in terms of the colors.  One day.

We had a good time at the Urban Outfitters, and then headed to the art store near my dad's office, Utrecht. Now, I say art store instead of craft store because this is where you get really nice, artist quality stuff-- no scrapbooking sets, no ribbons or stickers, no foam or felt. I love going to this store and it always makes me want to splurge being inspired by walking around all those amazing tools. I rarely walk out of that store empty handed.

And I didn't.

Woohoo! Art supplies!
I bought two pads of watercolor paper-- 140lb and 12 sheets a pad. I also bought some new Sakura Micron Pens. I'm trying to get into doing some more serious quality ink and watercolor art. Appropriate paper is important because regular paper puckers too much from the water. I have some Microns already, but a few were lost in the hustle and bustle of high school and many are wearing down. They are really nice quality pens and I love working with them.

I love DC-- the colors, the harsh urban setting with the gorgeous old architecture, the styles of the many different people, the food, and the museums-- They're so much fun to experience and enjoy. There are always weird things to see. Whether they make you laugh or make you cry, it's wonderful and beautiful.

Tribute to a journalist killed in a bike accident
Gotta love the crazy ad/marketing ploys people use to get noticed in such a fast-paced city
If you have questions about DC, ask me, an almost-local, and I may be able to lend a hand :)
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Black Friday Haul

This post presents some difficulty because I bought christmas gifts for some friends who actually keep track of this blog. So I decided to go vague. Individual prices will not be listed, and there will be very few photos of individual items I bought. But anyway, I had such and awesome time.

I went to the outlet mall at 8pm Thanksgiving day until a little after midnight.  Here are the spoils!

Part One: Old Navy
Jeans! I bought 3 pairs of jeans for $15 each at Old Navy. They retail at $25. I adore Old Navy and I swear, my butt is made for those jeans! I lost some weight since starting at William and Mary. They say that Botetourtians face the freshman negative fifteen-- and I can see that. Well, not fifteen, perse, but 5-10 in my case. My jeans have been getting looser and now I've got these three new pairs of jeans. In addition, I got my first two pairs of skinny jeans. Five years late, but better late than never right? That was paid for by my father since jeans are a necessity.

Jeans Total Expenditure: $45 
Jeans Total Retail Price: $75 
Savings: 40%.

On my own tab-- and this is where prices will stop getting disclosed-- I bought some more awesome stuff.
This fabulous green peacoat is for myself. This is wool and is a bit more casual than the purple one I bought last year. The purple one is a winter knit and it's not as sturdy as this is. Also, this lush green really works on me :)
I bought two pairs of leggings. One in black, one in brown. Leggings are another basic that recently came into popularity that I am just now getting a hold of. What can I say, I wanted to make sure they were here to stay, and then I wanted to make sure I got them for the right price. Half price is the right price. 
I grabbed this beret in purple (my signature color). Gotta love warm hats.
This hat is cute and warm. And although it's a lot like a beanie, it has a brim which is really cute and blocks out the sun, as brims do. 
I grabbed a few of these reusable coffee cups. They're great little gifts for coffee lovers and tea drinkers alike. And being in college, that's kind of everyone. 

Old Navy Total Expenditures: $83.50
Old Navy Total Retail Price: $164.24
Savings: 49%

Part Two: Bass
I bought a ton of scarves. They are awesome and they are great gifts-- no sizing necessary. These are really good quality too.
I also got a bracelet set-- though not this one, although I believe this one is from Bass. It's a gift for a friend and I think she'll love it.

Bass Total Expenditures: $59.65
Bass Total Retail Price: $288.84
Savings: 79%

Part Three: Maidenform
Bought some new bras :) Nothing can stop a girl in awesome undies. I assume the same applies to guys, but that's really something that I don't know I want to ask. I got 4 bras!

Maidenform Total Expenditures: $24.98
Maidenform Total Retail Price: $63.00
Savings: 60%

Grand Outlet Mall  Total Expenditures: $168.13
Grand Outlet Mall Total Retail Price: $516.08
Grand Outlet Mall Savings: 68%
Oh snap. That's right. 

And the adventure continues at the mall!

Part Four: F.Y.E.
I bought six DVDs, some for me, some for gifts. 

FYE Total Expenditures: $34.95
FYE Total Retail Price: $58.95
Savings: 41%

Part Five: Hot Topic
I bought some eyeshadow. 2 eyeshadows in some of my favorite colors. I really like the eyeshadows at Hot Topic because they have so much pigment. When I'm older, I suppose I can't wear these kinds of things, but for now, rock 'n' roll ;)

Hot Topic Total Expenditures: $3.00
Hot Topic Total Retail Price: $8.00
Savings: 63%

Part Six: Pottery Barn Kids
I bought two airplane accessories for a bike. The propellers spin as you ride! I got them as gifts for my younger cousins. Had to pay retail though, but I think it was worth it.

PBK Total Expenditures/Retail Price: $10
Savings: none :(

Part Seven: The Body Shop
These are all for me! Everything in the store except for gift sets were 3 for $30. I bought water-proof mascara, some red lipstick, and black liquid eyeliner.

The Body Shop Total Expenditures: $30.00
The Body Shop Total Retail Price: $44.00
Savings: 32%

Mall Total Expenditures: $77.95
Mall Total Retail Price: $120.95
Savings: 36%

Oh, and here was our victory dinner: Korean pyuh chiggae

PS- I waited in line at Old Navy to be one of the first in the door. Since I was one of the first in line, I got a wristband that got me a FREE Kodak waterproof Digital Camera since I spent more than $45. That's my sister's Christmas Gift! 

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Black Friday 2011 - How to Prepare for Black Friday

Black Friday is arguably my favorite day of the year. It's up there with Christmas and Halloween. Why? Well, let me take you through my Black Friday, which actually begins on Thanksgiving Day for me.

I start on Thanksgiving, enjoying delicious fried foods-- my family does deep fried turkey, as well as fried chicken, fish, and calamari-- alongside classics like mashed potatoes, collard greens, etc. and Korean classics like Bulgogi, rice, and kimchi. It all works in a weird, delicious way. We have both sides of the family over for lunch. Then, after all the food, everyone goes home, and my household sleeps for 4 hours. We get up at 8pm and get ready and leave for the outlet mall. We get there around 9 or 9:30, when parking is madness, but not impossible.

And then it begins. We shop like mad until around 3am. And the savings from shopping so early are immense.

Black Friday starts with planning. When you have been Black Friday shopping as seriously and as long as I have, you want to maximize your time. You look up sales and locations ahead of time. You make lists of what you need to buy-- for yourself and for holiday gifts. You plan what you will pack to be able to keep going all night. You plan what to wear if you will be at an outdoor mall like me and need to stay warm.

My iphone currently has a sticky note app containing all this vital information. I have looked up the sales at my number one pick for shopping-- Old Navy. I love Old Navy because the basics are so handy to have around, and the prices are great. Not to mention their jeans make my butt look awesome :) Other places I will be checking out include Eddie Bauer, Nike, Adidas, Liz Claiborne, Bass, Charlotte Russe, and L'eggs Hanes Bali Playtex-- because underwear is something you never want to be short of in college.

Other stores I am considering hitting are Izod, Nautica, Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel (although it is no longer listed on the mall's site :/) and Kate Spade (I love Kate Spade).

Are the savings worth staying up so late? YES. I once bought over $120 worth of stuff at the Liz Claiborne for under $10 and was told to pick out a free item. On top of that, it's kind of cool to experience something so novel and wacky-- there are energy drink and coffee companies who send out little trucks to hand out free drinks as a promotional thing for us batty shoppers.

What do you pack on a night of such crazy cold and fantastic deals at late hours? Well here's the rundown.

Layers. Black Friday shopping has often been about dressing in layers. This is important because while it'll be cold as the dickens outside, it will probably be hot in stores filled with bustling shoppers. Wear things you can get in and out of quickly for changing room ease.

Lists. Your shopping lists, your sale lists, your timeline (if you have one), and your gift list are all important. whether it's written down or in your phone, bring it.

A buddy. Friends are important to bring because not only is it often good to shop with a buddy, but they can hold your space in a long line while you shop, and then you can switch. Tag-team shopping is essential for stores with lines out the door.

Snacks. Shopping builds up an appetite-- running around, carrying bags, getting in and out of clothes. Granola bars, chips, crackers, pretzels, etc. are great ideas.

Water. You will be sweating. Stay hydrated.

Coffee. Bring some caffeine to help keep you going. I usually just budget in some money for coffee.

Folding Chair. Not necessary, but if you are planning to get into somewhere like the Coach or the Michael Kors, expect a line extending the mall.

Mall map and sales guides. These will help you map out your battle plan.
Hand warmers, hat, gloves, scarf. Cold weather gear is a must for outdoor shopping on cold nights!

Backpack or large purse. To carry all this stuff in! It can hold all your smaller cold weather gear when you shop. It'll also help keep you hands free of smaller shopping bags so you can really dig into the stuff!

Phone. Always have it on you!

I'll get back to you on how my black friday adventures go!

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First Williamsburg Thrift Trip

As you know, a couple of my girls, Jasmin and Yena, and I visited some local thrift stores to check out the scene and perhaps grab some halloween pieces as well as day to day clothing. We hit the CHKD and the Goodwill that are just a trolley or bus ride away. William and Mary and the City of Williamsburg have an excellent relationship, so students get to ride the bus or trolley for free with a flash of the student ID.
Yena and Jasmin on the bus

Before I get into the thrift hauls, we're going to go into the basic observations I have on the thrift culture here.

In general, the items at the thrift stores are typically pretty new. I imagine this is due to the huge college student community turning clothes around quick. Back in NOVA you can find everything from things someone wasn't able to return (never worn out) to things from the 70s and sometimes the 60s or 50s. Things were pricier over here. Books were $1 for paperback and $3 for hardback. Up at home it's typically $0.50 for a paperback and $1 for a hardback. This is going to stick a bit of a dagger into the heart of my plans to deal more books to Hatley, my new best friend and owner of Mermaid Books (why yes, I did write a review for Mermaid), which is a fabulous antique books store full of fantastic bits and bobs. We'll see.
Mermaid Books, my favorite place in CW

Hatley, my new best friend at the register of Mermaid Books

In general the items priced for $7 were things I could probably get for $4-5 in NOVA. But, considering that the profits went to charity, I didn't mind-- especially when I got such quality items out of it.

the CHKD had fun friendly service.
The CHKD is on the smaller side. it's organized by type (women's tops, dresses, shoes, books, men's jeans, etc.) and has a more eclectic selection. This is a little boutique thrift shop in that this is where some of the older items get stuck. It has less traffic than the Goodwill, so it's a good place to look.

The Goodwill was pretty interesting. I had never been to a Goodwill before. It was enormous. Everything was organized by type and then color with each rack with a sign stating the type of clothes and a $X unless otherwise marked. The selection was ridiculous. It was very clean and much better lit than the CHKD. Like I said, everything was a couple bucks more than I imagined it'd be from my experiences in NOVA, but I guess with such a huge college population flooding the thrift stores, it's easy for them to bump up the price a couple bucks without sales suffering. I wasn't able to satisfactorily peruse all the interesting shelves because we were short on time, but I guarantee you I shall return!

Now for our hauls-- or at least, mine and Jasmin's. Yena was unable to pose for our photo shoot.

 Here's my gorgeous friend Jasmin. She's wearing $8 magenta skinny jeans from Goodwill, a black camisole, and a button-down dress as a vest which she also got from Goodwill for $6. She's also got on my lia sophia necklace and her converse.
I got this funky bohemian skirt at Goodwill for less than $5. I thought it'd be excellent for both belly dancing and salsa club. I love dancing (although I am by no means a dancer). It's quite flippy and the color suits me I think. The belt is from my grandma. I've got my character shoes on and a simple white cami from old navy.
This is my Jessica McClintock dress that was mentioned in a previous post. I bought it in Fairfax. I have yet to get it dry cleaned, but I'll get it done. It was thrifted for $5 since it had a couple stains on it. 

This is Jasmin's very warm carnation pink corduroy jacket which she picked up at CHKD for $8. She's wearing it with some strappy sandals, faded jeans, and a white tank.

 Here's Jasmin in her adorable Dorothy-esque button-down that she got from CHKD for $6. She's modeling it with her white tank and elastic buttoned down skirt and strappies. I also adore her necklace  (I picked it out)

 I got this fabulous faux leather jacket $7, which has been something I've been on the look out for for over a year. It's very comfortable, and is cropped and fitted just exactly right for my body. the shoulders are slightly big, but being a bottom-heavy girl, I didn't mind. The faux leather is nice because real leather holds in odors and scents and this just smelled like faux leather. This leather jacket is the perfect way to add some edge to any outfit. I like wearing it with a sweet sundress/daydress to give it a rocker chick flair. I'm all about the studs-n-lace thing. I'm wearing it with a frock dress I got from Plato's Closet for around $10. Character shoes and my grandma's belt.
Jazz got this excellent skirt which I spotted for her. It's covered in tiny florals and a cream lace border and she got it at Goodwill for $5. She's also got on her strappies, a black tank, and a pink cardigan.
 Here's my top for my Marceline costume. I talked about how I'm dressing up as her for Halloween in my last post. I bought this for $4 at Goodwill. I like it because it's wearable even after Halloween. I've got on my converse and grey-wash jeans.
Jasmin got this dress at CHKD for $7. She's also wearing strappies and a bracelet she got on my recommendation from Plato's Closet.

Well I hope you enjoyed our thrift haul :)

-- Harper
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Graduation outfit

This post is long overdue--

So, as you can see I have graduated! I am done with high school and can now move on to do more incredible and epic things in my life. Or just do nerdy things on my computer all day.

Anyway, it's pretty obvious that I'm wearing this classy polyester graduation gown-- blue, one of my school's colors, and the snazzy cap-- made by Herf Jones, where apparently "One size fits most" actually "one size, fits no one." Also the cap messed up my hair. :(

Despite that little snafu, I did put together a decent outfit to go underneath that charming ensemble. You can see it in these lovely photos below
Top to bottom, let's cover the outfit. 
For my hair, I did a side part side pony tail. I left it off the side, and then wore this vintage brooch I bought at a local shop run by the wonderful and amazing Lara of OohLaLara. It's an enamel pink flower piece with crystals in it. I also wore a jewel studded white and silver dragonfly clip bought by my friend Emma for my birthday from a consignment store called Chic Envy (hooray for second-hand).

The earrings were a gift from my friend Nikki (Emma's twin sister)-- cherry blossoms made of jewels, also from Chic Envy.

The pearls were from Kohls-- bought a year ago for choir for $15. I'm also wearing an Honors Graduate Medal-- It's our school's version of Valedictorian.

The Dress is a BCBG tea dress I got for $70 (compared to the original $180ish) at Chic Envy.

Lastly, I wore a pair of old flats-- payless shoes, $10
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My prom was last weekend! It was tons of fun. Before I get to anything else, I want to do an outfit breakdown.

The dress is an A-line little black dress. It made me look thin, which I liked, and A lines are just fabulous on me. I thrifted it for just $10. For info on how to grab a great prom (or any other occasion) dress, check out my guide to prom dress thrifting. Since I did go the LBD route, I needed to punch it up with an accent color-- I went for purple!

The hairband is from claire's (that store for cheap girl's accessories and teenybopper merchandise). It's a lovely purple flower made out of black metal and purple rhinestones. It added a pop to my hair.

I got the earrings from a "high end" thrift store for $7. They were well-backed studs with a purple gem on top, a band of little diamonds, and a purple pearl on the bottom. This is what I took with me to every store I visited when looking for other elements of my outfit-- it was all based around this earring!

The necklace had to be bought at the last minute. This dress really can't be worn without a necklace, given my neck and clavicular area. I got it at Nordstrom rack after it was marked down a week after I first saw it.  $17 down from the original $35. I had to buy it the day of prom!

The shoes are Bandolinos (ooh brand name). They're purple suede with purple suede flowers. They're about thee inches tall! I did go retail to buy these, but having saved hundreds of dollars on the dress made me feel that some retail splurges were not the end of the world. I got them at a discounted price at TJ Maxx. And you had better believe I'm taking these with me to college!

A lot of this outfit was done within a month and a half of the event, which is against my rules of event-specific thrifting. But it had to be done when, upon the advice of my family and date, I realized the dress I had picked in february or march (3-4 months ahead of time), was not prom appropriate. Although it felt like it was sewed for my by a clan of fairies so I could feel like a princess, it was more appropriate for a wedding or a homecoming-- something much less flashy than prom. So I had to hit the ground running and shift directions. (Don't worry though. I'll be wearing that dress to my Graduation, so you'll get a chance to see it.) 

I started with the dress. I took my boyfriend Jonathan with me-- He understands clothes so he helped me pick something that made me look good and was practical at a local thriftstore-- we had to visit a few. We picked this dress because it fit the 7 tennants of a good dance dress.
  1. It fit.
  2. It was secure.
  3. It looked good.
  4. It hid what needed to be hidden, and showed off what needed showing off.
  5. It was appropriate.
  6. It was in good condition.
  7. It moved well.
Given the Little-Black-Dress-i-ness of this dress (which I adore), I knew I needed to punch it up with a color. I went for our tried and true purple. I found the earrings and purchased them, then built the whole outfit using the earrings as a color guide. 

Our prom was a blast. My boyfriend and I planned it all out from the limo to the restaurants to the timing.  

We met up at my house for pictures and snacks and socializing. There were a good 45 minutes of photos. 

look at how cute we all are! The Limo came to pick us up a little early-- 7:30 instead of 8:00-- for dinner. 
From there we went to a local, family owned, Zagat rated Italian restaurant which was phenomenal. If you're ever in the Northern Virginia Area and happen upon Fairfax (the city, not just the County) and you're looking for some great Italian food, hit up Dolce Vita. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but the food is great and so is the inside ambience-- They had a russian violinist and guitar player playing in there and singing italian songs in his lovely Baritone voice. He'd walk to each table and serenade them.

Oh and did I mention the food?

Be jealous you don't live in NoVA. :) Or glad you do!

It's really important to support the local businesses in your area! We wanted to do that in a big way before we left for college-- what better than to arrive in a huge Limo with sixteen hungry teens?

After our delicious meal, we went off to our prom which was at one of those fancy places created specifically to hold events at-- They purposely don't do it at Hotels at our school, because they don't want to facilitate baby making or whatever. 

Our Prom theme was "Bella Notte" but this years juniors really failed on the decorations-- there were none. Our Prom is always Junior-Senior and is always planned by the Juniors. Wow, there were no indications at all that they did ... anything. I was on prom committee last year and I went to last year's prom. It was awesomely Masquerade themed-- we got masks for everyone to wear and some fancy mask centerpieces and colored cloth.... Class of 2011 knows how to work!

Prom was fun overall. I went with a bunch of friends and had an excellent time with my date. stuffed my face full of things dipped in the chocolate fountain. The DJ was not the best-- but they rarely are that great. My boyfriend is fantastic. Whenever I got overheated or tired he sat with me. When my feet hurt he massaged them (without my asking-- he just knew!) He's the best. 

She went back to my house in the Limo where people drove home from or awaited their rides from. Some of us decided to stay up even later and got breakfast at IHOP. It was 2AM and some of us fell asleep while waiting for our orders, but we had a blast being all strung out and flying on that post prom high! 

I hope you enjoyed my account of our crazy Prom tale!
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