to shop / {sale alert} peach and lily collection

Images: Ulta

Ulta’s Love Your Skin event has kicked off and day 3 has select items from Peach and Lily’s collection (which is always excluded from their own site’s sale). Their line is formulated well and most importantly, very well priced during sales. The first item is 50% off and the rest are 30% off (EDIT: while the Matcha Pudding is a one day promotion, the rest should be available through January 25, while supplies last). I’ve tried all but the toner and oil.

Purchases of $35 and more get a Peach and Lily glass skin sample (auto added to cart). Skincare purchases of $70 and more qualify for a 30 piece gift with purchase (and it looks very good) (not auto added to cart).

I may start a post to track when Ulta has sales on Peach and Lily (versus the sitewide coupons).

Note: Ulta doesn’t let you check out from an IP address outside of the U.S.

to travel / lo & sons hanover deluxe 2 backpack review

I recently changed my travel backpack from the Fjallraven 17″ laptop backpack to the Lo & Sons Hanover Deluxe 2 backpack. While I liked the Fjallraven and its light weight, it lacked a suitcase sleeve. I really wanted a backpack with a suitcase sleeve so that my backpack can sit on top of my carry-on suitcase secured to the suitcase handle. The top handle on one of my carry-ons defaults to one direction and without the suitcase sleeve, the backpack slides right off. And while I could sit the Fjallraven on its side and tighten the straps, it was inconvenient to have to adjust the straps every time I was switching between modes. I had tried looking for alternatives to Lo & Sons, but nothing checked all the boxes as Lo & Sons did.


  • The compartments! Within the front pocket, main inner section (it comes with an insert that can be removed), sides (I put a S’well bottle and umbrella on each side), laptop compartment, and my favorite – the top pocket which is perfect for the phone/passport/boarding pass. It makes it easy to find what I’m looking for.
  • The suitcase sleeve.
  • No logo
  • Zippers are easy to use and easy to access items — speaking as someone who doesn’t always zip everything fully while inflight. You can also twist the zippers together so that they deter theft.
  • Unisex. Overall, I prefer function over form. I got the backpack in Onyx black in the 600D Recycled Poly material. It’s a very unisex style so that the mister can use it if he wants to — I normally do not use a backpack for work.
  • Comfortable shoulder straps


  • The suitcase sleeve is a tight fit with the suitcase handles and requires two hands/some maneuvering. But, I guess a tight fit is better than a loose fit.
  • Not many color options.
  • The retail $188 requires some thought.

The Hanover Deluxe 2 is a perfect size for me. I almost always travel with a laptop, iPad mini and/or Kindle, noise cancelling headphones, some chargers, adapters, skincare (for the dry long-hauls), jewelry, socks, a scarf, a water bottle, etc. Although, I may experiment with traveling without the inner sleeve which does contribute to the ~2 lb weight.

I also got the Lo & Sons Catalina Deluxe Tote but haven’t had a chance to use it yet. It is a weekender and doesn’t have compartments like the backpack does, e.g. no laptop sleeve although it can fit a laptop. In general, I think a backpack is more versatile to travel with since I can distribute the weight across both shoulders when I have to carry it, and it looks smaller than the tote in case they are strict on carry-ons.

Lo & Sons seems to make updates to their designs fairly frequently and addressing customer feedback. If you want a slightly smaller backpack, there is the Hanover 2. The Hanover Deluxe retails for $188 and the Hanover 2 for $168. (Comparison guide here.) They also have more feminine backpacks if that is your preference. Their holiday sale has been going on for a while and 30% is a nice discount (also if you have Chase Freedom for the 5% cashback on PayPal). If you are interested in Lo & Sons, they are still having a 30% off holiday sale!

Images: Lo & Sons

to shop / everlane recashmere stroopwafel turtleneck review

I don’t wear sweaters often – mostly sweater blazers. The Everlane ReCashmere Stroopwafel turtleneck sweater caught my eye – mostly because I love waffle knit and how it was styled. The ReCashmere material is 60% Recycled cashmere, 40% Non-mulesed, extra-fine merino wool. It is soft and has a generous fit. If you are debating whether to size up or down, I think it looks better sized down. I also like that it is a higher mockneck for a sleek look. I am still looking for a white shirt to go under the sweater. I have been wearing it with a tissue turtleneck layered underneath (it doesn’t show on the outside). It does pill so I avoid having it near my purse. I have yet to see how it is after it is handwashed. The Heathered Sand color doesn’t look heathered at all. I didn’t like the black for a change.

to travel / orly airport & level airlines, paris to new york

I haven’t read much about my specific Level airline experience (booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, ticketed by Iberia, operated by Level). I hope someone else can benefit from it.

My Paris trip came about very casually when I was texting with a friend on how long we haven’t seen each other. I had plenty of vacation days and was forecasting some downtime. As a collector of points/miles, I had a lot of options to work with. I don’t travel as much as I used to so I have no status. The challenge was finding something that worked around the US Thanksgiving holiday when many others are also traveling, two months out. I used AA miles for the outbound flight. For the inbound flight, I wanted to return on the Saturday evening (not 6am!) or Sunday after Thanksgiving (peak travel time). While in the US, there is often not much of a difference if you book a roundtrip vs two one-ways, it’s not always the case when you’re crossing the Atlantic.

Level Airlines was the best option. They are a budget airline and owned by IAG (which owns British Airways, Iberia, etc.) The flight between Paris and New York was Saturday evening, and it operates out of Orly Airport and Newark Airport (technically not New York).

The plane only has two cabins. We paid for two premium economy seats for 74,000 Ultimate Rewards points in the Chase UR travel portal where points are worth 1.5 cents for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders. You can transfer points within the same household which is useful for maximizing points earned from other Ultimate Rewards cards. The cost difference between booking premium economy vs economy was minimal (around $100) considering the almost 9 hour flight. If you want to book a seat or check a bag, it’s additional in economy. My coworker had booked a round-trip during their June 2019 sale, and I felt the price I paid was reasonable for a direct, one-way flight. As far as I know, you cannot earn any miles for Level flights, so it felt even better that we paid for the flights with points.

Where it got confusing – the flight was ticketed by Iberia and ‘operated by SUBSIDIARY/FRANCHISE’ and check-in with OpenSkies. I knew enough that the flight was operated by Level – which replaced OpenSkies as a brand in 2018.

Before the Flight

  • Seat assignments: I wasn’t sure if they were included in the price of the premium economy ticket. I don’t like getting seats at the airport and coincidentally this is the 2nd time a coworker happened to be on the same flight in the same small cabin, so I wanted to make sure we weren’t next to each other for the 9 hour flight.
    • Chase couldn’t figure out how to get seats.
    • Iberia refused to touch the reservation since it was booked by an OTA.
    • Level was so much more helpful over the phone. They gave me my Level record locator and reserved great seats for us for free. If they tell you that you can check-in 30 days out and pick seats or that you can reserve your seats online, make sure you can actually do it. Until they actually reserved the seats, they didn’t know that it was free. I also couldn’t access my itinerary on their website until they manually entered my contact information.
    • At some point I had tried pricing the flight out on Level’s site and the seat assignment option required a fee.

Orly Airport

  • Check-in: The online check-in process was seamless. Note that I was never able to view the seat map or change my seats online. I got my boarding passes for my iPhone wallet and got the paper version at the airport.
  • VAT Refund:
    • Orly airport has 4 terminals. Level is in Terminal 3. You can easily walk from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3.
    • Pictured above. The tax refund office is before security is in Terminal 2 and I walked right past it because the lights were so dim. The Pablo machine (for scanning tax refund forms for purchases made in France) did not work for me. Unsurprisingly, there is no queue since Orly doesn’t have many flights outside of the EU. The process was quick and one no longer has to mail in forms for the credit card refund!
  • Baggage:
    • Hand Baggage: On the website, economy is limited to 10kg, no weight stated for premium economy. They did not weigh or check the size of bags. (This has happened to me before with Air France until they heard I was ticketed by Delta.)
    • Checked Baggage: I couldn’t find anything online on whether my premium fare included checked baggage. Answer: Yes. The baggage allowance is 23kg per item and we were around 23.5kg. They didn’t charge us for the extra weight and my coworker had the same experience.
  • Shopping:
    • The biggest downside of Orly is that there is no luxury duty-free shopping, but the emptiness of the airport relative to CDG was so refreshing that I would definitely opt to fly out of here again!
    • Before security, there is Nespresso, Mariage Frères, Laduree, Maison Du Chocolat, and Paul, etc.
      • If you have a Nespresso machine, I highly recommend buying capsules in Europe as it is much cheaper and they are easy to carry. Many capsules are $0.70 in the US and 0.43 euros in France. On top of that, Nespresso France had 20% off capsules in celebration of Black Friday (a weeklong celebration in France).
    • After security, you have the standard cosmetics store, multi-brand store, Relay, and some food shops.

On the Plane

  • Priority Boarding: It was a mad house. I think premium economy boards the same time as those who purchased priority seats in economy. My flight was mostly Americans and they had no shame whatsoever cutting the queue with their entire family. The boarding process also started 15-20 minutes before the stated time.
  • Seat: We sat in the first row of premium economy. We had tons of legroom as seen above. I thought the seats were comfortable.
  • Food and Drinks: One hot meal and one hot snack. Alcohol is included. My expectations for airplane food are pretty low and I thought the food on the plane was not bad! Service was very friendly.
  • Priority Baggage: Does not exist.

Do I recommend Level for Orly to Paris? Yes

Do I recommend Level premium economy for Orly to Paris? Definitely if the price is good!

to shop / 2019 thanksgiving sales

Going out of the country during the Thanksgiving week is a great way to spend less! (Although I did shop in Paris…) Unlike prior year updates, I’m going to summarize what I bought and highlight any other sales that may still be around through Monday.



  • Target has 25% off beauty and personal care!
  • Dermstore for Elta sunscreen. Amazon sells it now too but their reviews about inventory don’t put me at ease. (I will be claiming reimbursement from my FSA later.)
  • Cult Beauty had a tiered 15-30% off discount, now you can get up to a 25% off code with their quiz. They are based in the UK, so best for purchasing non-US brands as they deduct VAT and have free shipping. I got the Zelens Vitamin D, Alpha-H Vitamin B, and an Oskia set.
  • Ulta has been killing it with sales. Their Cyber Monday sale is live. 40% off a few Peach & Lily items.
  • Beautycounter 15% off. I have been using their Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer. I picked up some skincare and body products.
  • Glossier 20% off. I haven’t used any of their products lately. I got the perfume.
  • Birchbox will have an additional discount on sets starting on Monday. Their holiday sets and discovery sets are typically the best deal. E.g. the hair detox kit has a full size Oribe scrub (which I like more than Christophe Robin) that sells for less than the kit, Sunday Riley, etc.
  • Sephora has special sales, some are sold out. I did not keep an eye on them.
  • It Cosmetics CC Cream on QVC — $45 for two.
  • Neiman Marcus $50 off $200 beauty has switched to a gift card promotion (I prefer a cash discount).


  • Parachute Home 20% off. I like their linen sheets. I ordered waffle towels.
  • Anthropologie 30% off. I ordered chairs for the dining table that look promising and has positive reviews. Most furniture has a $150 flat shipping fee, but some smaller items including what I ordered are shipped through ground shipping (free if you meet the threshold).
  • Brooklinen 20% off. I have multiple sheet sets, they are a favorite. Most recently in percale.


  • Polène is a French brand. Their leather handbags are made in Spain. Prices are affordable. Free international express shipping on all orders until Dec 24 with the code: GIFTFROMPARIS. You can save a bit with the VAT refund if you buy in Paris, but factor in luggage space if you want to keep the box. The Number One style is the most popular but I like Number Two.
  • Clare V hasn’t run a sitewide sale in years. Consistent with recent years, the Cyber Monday > Black Friday.
  • Ssense has a great APC bag sale. So many half moons. My recent favorite has been the Meryl, which is slightly smaller than the original half moon but is soft. I liked traveling with this the most since it stays closer to the body. I also like the new grained leather half moon and am really tempted by it now that I don’t need to worry about luggage space.


  • J.Crew had 50% off, then 40% off, and is now back to 50% off. I had put some items in my cart to wait for it to go back to 50%. I love their lace items (like this mockneck top) this season and their tissue turtlenecks.
  • Ann Taylor 50% off.