Winter in Maine

Having been a Southerner most my life, in Texas and Japan, it was a bit of a transition coming up here and settling in Maine with my dear. I like to talk about it as if I’m in Game of Thrones, hehehe: I was whisked away from the warm southern coast to the north and the land of winter and… winter was coming!!

And come it did. Here’s a quick rundown of my snow experience so far: it snowed every once in a while in Texas growing up, pretty lightly for the most part. Then my college years witnessed one “Snowpocalypse,” which shut down the entire area for about a week – absolutely no infrastructure to deal with that. My Canadian professor was laughing hard at our weaknesssss…

More recently, it snowed once pretty heavily in Japan – about 6 inches – even in Amakusa where I was placed.

And then there was Maine! It was a completely different ballgame. The snow season cranked up in December and lasted until the first week of April this year, which was a real surprise to me. I think the peak occurred February 13th (don’t quote me) but here are some pictures that represented those conditions:

Stitch Fix Review #2

Hello hello hello everyone! As promised – though a little later than I hoped – here is a quick look at what I received in Stitch Fix #2 in February earlier this year! As a preface to this one, I tinkered a bit with my Style Profile in between Fix #1 and #2, which I’ll explain in bits & pieces later. Needless to say I think you might notice some subtle differences. Probably in relation to the changes I made, this Fix was notably different than the first!

I think what I indicated I’d like to see in this one was a collared shirt and something black. From the get go I noted in my style profile my favorite colors: black, green, navy, and grey. So this time I requested something black. :) I also had the same stylist in a row for these two Fixes. And for this one I’ve kept myself strictly to clothing yet again, so let’s check it out!

Piece #1 – Fun2Fun – Woodward Crossfront Blouse

2017-02-25 15.39.10

Here is the first top I tried on. As you can tell from the above photo, it was on the top!

I was surprised to see this in my box, though I don’t think I should’ve been. The reason being that I changed my selection for the question: How adventurous do you want your Fixes to be? I only ticked it one up (from occasional to sometimes) but I could tell it made a difference. I don’t think I would ever choose a top like this if I were in a store. Though that was my true feeling upon discovering the item, I still tried it on because finding some exciting new piece of clothing for the wardrobe would be awesome.

Well, sad to say but my initial skepticism was justified – this top did not flatter me. It didn’t seem ‘me’ really – quite feminine – though that being said, I thought it was a fun and playful pattern that was well manipulated. It just didn’t work for my silhouette – so this one was a Return.

Piece #2 – Alice Blue – Sekou Button Down Top

2017-02-25 15.40.29

I will say I love collared shirts, and as I mentioned above, I requested a collared something for this Fix, just to see what I would get. As you can see I got this Sekou Button Down Top from Alice Blue, which is a label designed exclusively for Stitch Fix. I was feeling this for sure when I put it on.

However — this shirt was not what I expected. I prefer a bottom to top total button up option, which is something that I wasn’t really able to communicate in my initial request. Hopefully you’ll be able to see in the photo – this one has some non-buttoned space toward the top. Sometimes this is great and it works! Sometimes it doesn’t. This was one of the latter times. In my feedback form at checkout I shared some honesty about how the top made me feel: blah…meh… merp. (That last one is just a noise.)

So this one was a Return.

Piece #3 – 41Hawthorn – Lizzy Colorblock Striped Sweater

2017-02-25 15.50.32

What do you think I chose on this one? Hmmmmm?

No deliberation – this one was a Keeper. I loved it right out of the box. So soft, so right color-wise (navy, orange, & grey?!) and fit-wise (slightly loose but still fitted). And I needed another sweater. It was a no-brainer.

This has become one of my most well-used and well-loved Stitch Fix buys. :) Just sayin’!

Piece #4 – Liverpool – Elizabeth Super Skinny Jean

2017-02-25 16.05.41

My second request – send me something black! And my stylist carried through. I think she had been aiming to send me a black collared shirt but couldn’t find one, so she sent me some black jeans.

I was on the fence on these style-wise. I am not into pants that do not have button loops. These did not have button loops. BUT! My desire to have black skinny jeans in my wardrobe again won out. So there were a Keeper.

I will say that since buying these I have had some discontent with the lack of beltable loops, but overall they’ve been a great option and addition to incorporate into my wardrobe. 2 of 4!

Piece #5 – Evolution by Cyrus – Ladera Open Cardigan

2017-02-25 15.51.29I wanted to try another cardigan again after my last near-buy cardigan. So I got this nice-looking mid-long length beige cardigan in my Fix.

I rode the fence on this one too. There was a slight floppiness about the design of the collar that did not jibe with me really, which was an issue I couldn’t reconcile myself with. Loved the pockets though. I will say that if it had been another color I would’ve been more likely to go for it. I like the idea of neutrals but they just get lost on me somehow. So this piece was a Return.

Wrap-Up

So I kept 2 of 5 items on my second Fix. Still pretty good I’d say. There’s usually at least one thing you’ll probably want to keep in each Fix – something to apply that $20 bucks to. And that was definitely true for me here.

A couple lessons learned though:

  • Don’t tweak your Style Profile willy nilly – I did that and I think my random changes altered the course of some things.
  • Be super specific within your character limit on the request – even if you think it’s something simple like “button-up top.” I’ve rewritten these request thingies a bunch of times in the hope that each time I make it more specific.
  • And realize that your Fixes are undoubtedly going to both align to you Style Profile & test the boundaries of it. Though there were definitely some pieces I wasn’t a big fan of in this Fix, I was ultimately glad to have seen them appear in my box because I would never try them otherwise. New fashion discoveries can be fashion-altering!

I realize the pics are less good in this one, but in my next Fix posts I think I’ve taken better care to take pics at better angles or on hangers so you can see the fit/cut of the cloth. My apologies this time – it’s pretty 2D… D:

I have two more Fixes to review. In addition to that I have some very Maine nature fun that I want to introduce in some of my next posts. I look forward to posting again – sooner this time, I swear! – and I hope you’ll rejoin me soon.

See you next time!

Stitch Fix Review #1

Now, as I indicated in the last post, I’ve been planning to talk about Stitch Fix. I think I’m going to share my style journey with you all, because I don’t think of myself as a fashion guru, but I’m hoping to get there!

I think you may have heard about it by now, but just in case you don’t know: Stitch Fix is a styling service where stylists pick out clothes, shoes, and/or accessories for you depending on your preferences – what they call a Style Profile – and they send 5 pieces to you each Fix. You can choose how frequently that is, so you can set them up infrequently or as frequently as every month or every 2-3 weeks. And there is flexibility to change this as long as you’re diligent and don’t forget about it.

How it works beyond that is quite easy: they send you 5 pieces via mail. Once you get your Fix, as they call it, you try everything on in the comfort of your home. For me, this motivated me to try it – I greatly dislike going to the mall or any number of stores just to find one single pair of ‘okay’ jeans. Then, when you’re done trying the items on, you put your returns in a prepaid USPS envelope and drop them in the mail within 3 days after you receive your package. For your keeps – the pieces that worked well for you – you sign on to your Stitch Fix account and pay for the items you choose to keep there.

What’s so great about that? Well, when you are checking out at the end of all this and buying your keeps, you get to leave a lot of detailed info about all the pieces you tried on. If you liked something, you can share why it was great! If you didn’t like something, you can say why it may have missed the mark (it was ill-fitting in the shoulders, it wasn’t my style per se, etc.). Stitch Fix has also recently added the option where if you loved an item in a Fix, but it may not have been the right size, you can exchange it. I haven’t done that yet, but I have a feeling I might in the future. Anywho, on to my review of the 1st fix!

So I received this fix in mid-February 2017, and I was not really expecting much to be honest. I only felt I partially understood my own style, though I was hoping my stylist could help me out. Despite my skepticism, however, it is true that I was anticipating receiving something akin to a present – to myself – in the mail. Kind of exciting!

2017-02-11 14.46.19When you open it, this is what meets your eye. I actually bowled over the extraneous things and got straight to the clothes, but it’s important to note that other than your returns bag, your box also includes an envelope that has a couple different things in it: a personalized note to you from your stylist, a line item cost sheet detailing what each piece will cost you to buy, and style cards that can be used to help you style your items or request other items later.

I requested clothes – no accessories and no dresses for my first Fix. And that’s what I got!

Piece #1 – Market & Spruce – Walfrid Henley Blouse

M&S WalfridI was struck by the pattern more than anything – if I’m honest, I don’t go grabbing a lot of white pieces for my closet. But this top had a great look to it on, and I’ll post another pic of this one styled eventually because it has become a favorite.

I enjoyed the 3 buttons and the pocket detailing on the front, but the top gave me pause because it goes a little further down the chest than I would usually choose. After much deliberation, I went for it – it was a Keeper.

Piece #2 – Market & Spruce – Colibri Plaid Henley Top

I loved the colors of this top right when I took it out, and I didn’t have any plaid to speak of, so my initial impression of this one was positive. Even better, once I put it on, I felt the neckline was very flattering for me personally. I also like the way the top is fashioned – the two-button details and the seam work and cut of the material around the waist and hips really worked for me. So this was a Keeper!

Piece #3 – Pistola – Isobel Skinny Jean

Now this was the real mystery of the Fix. As I mentioned earlier, it usually takes me anywhere from 10-13 tries to find a pair of passable jeans. And guess what?

My stylist got it in one. And to top it off, she found me some skinny jeans – which I am never able to find on my own. Be it hips or calves, something about skinnies has always confounded my figure… But these Pistolas have totally changed the game.

Needless to say, these jeans were a Keeper.

Piece #4 – THML – Alanna Plaid Pullover

pullover sweater

At this point, I was thinking this Fix was going to be surprisingly 5 of 5!! And I really liked the look and color of this sweater. Sadly though, once I put it on I looked super frumpy. It had a lot to do with my body in particular I’m sure, something about the way my hips caught it and made me look baggy in the midsection was a little unflattering. So it was a Return.

Piece #5 – Bobeau – Jemmy Brushed Open Cardigan

brushed cardigan

I wanted to keep this cardigan and make it a 4 of 5! But alas, it didn’t happen. Though the cardigan was wonderfully soft, and a great pewter blue/gray color, I couldn’t keep it because I noticed a defect, which is that the left hand pocket’s inside bottom seams had not been seamed together properly. I guess I should’ve asked for an exchange on this one, but I was just getting used to it and didn’t want to complicate the matter. So this one was a Return.

Wrap Up

So for my first Fix, I kept 3 of 5 pieces, which has been awesome because I’ve been enjoying them ever since then! One thing I forgot to mention is that if you keep all 5 pieces in one box, you get a 20% discount on the whole purchase. And if you make any purchase at all, your $20 per Fix styling fee can be applied toward your Keepers, which is pretty cool.

I also want to make a move toward posting photos of my own styles, no doubt featuring some Stitch Fix pieces, so we’ll see how this develops! Interested in Stitch Fix yourself? Get your Fix here. I’ll have #2 and #3 Fix reviews coming for you soon. Until next time!

I’m here and I’m watching Merlin!

Hey everyone. It’s been a while! I hope all is well in your neck of the woods; everything is mostly good here.

A lot has happened since I’ve returned from the Land of the Rising Sun. I’ve transplanted myself across the States, I’ve gotten a job at a great place. I’ve started working out again – 3 times a week with Fitness Blender – and I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XV. Oh yes – and as the title suggests: I’ve been watching Merlin with my significant other and our two Japanese cats.

This is one of those shows that I guess I missed when I was younger, and although it is silly at times, I find myself enjoying Gaius’s facial expressions tremendously.

And another thing – I’ve signed up for Stitch Fix. I am going to give an update on how it goes once I receive my first shipment. And I’ll be posting more from my blog backlog, from Japan, and from the new area I’ve moved to.

Here’s to me posting more consistently in 2017! :)

JET Application Aid: Statement of Purpose (i)

Hi all! This is a post I’ve been planning for some time, and now seems like a good time to share because I know that this year’s deadline is approaching for 2017 JET Program applicants — it’s November 18, 2016. Don’t let it sneak up on ya! Hehe. For a while I’ve been promising to give some insight into what became my first-time JET application success three years ago (2013). I’ve decided to start with the Statement of Purpose.

This is one of the most important elements of the written/digital application — as I’m sure you’re aware. It’s critical to your success because through your writing, you can draw a picture of who you are as an applicant with the potential to highlight your strengths and perhaps explain your weaknesses. I don’t know why, but it seems every round there are some who don’t give the statement the attention that it needs, but I strongly recommend taking your time to read and re-read it as much as you can before actually submitting. I definitely did.

Another key element to success: answer all of the questions put forth in the prompt and follow every given instruction exactly. You may ask why that is. Well, the personal statement doesn’t just show that you can write, but also that you are capable of coherent thought and can connect ideas. Most importantly of all, it shows that you can follow simple formatting instructions.

So for my application in 2013, and I’m sure it hasn’t changed too much since then, the instructions read as follows:

Statement of Purpose (1 original and 2 copies): 
This is an essay, in English, of not more than two 8 1/2″ x 11″ (or A4) pages, typewritten in black 12 point font and double-spaced with one-inch margins. Anything beyond the required two pages will be discarded unread. Please type your name and page number (1 of 2, 2 of 2) on each page.

You should incorporate all of the following points in your essay:

  • Relevant experience: Describe applicable experiences, professional skills, relevant interests, and personal qualities, and how you feel these will be useful to you as an ALT or CIR.

  • Motivation for Participation: State why you wish to go to Japan and participate in the JET Program and why you are interested in the position for which you are applying. Also address what you hope to gain, both personally and professionally, and what effect you hope to have on the Japanese community and internationally as a result of your participation in the JET Program.

That seems easy enough, right? Get into word, and before you even start writing set the basic format to be what is requesting in the prompt. That means your margins, your font, your paper size, and set your headers exactly as requested.

Then start writing. The key to great writing is to not only say what you want to say, but to do so in a logical way so that your writing evolves over the course of your very limited two page guideline. A lot of us have a fair amount to say about Japan and our relation to it, so before you know it, you’ll be over two pages and will have to cut down! When it comes time to do so, do it thoughtfully.

In my next post, I hope to share with you a few excerpts from my own statement. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below. Best of luck in the meantime!

A catch-all for all things interesting to a travelling inter-webber.

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