to shop / 2018 thoughts on bags

Every year I intend to write ‘year in review’ posts. Somehow time escapes me, so let’s see if this works this year. I plan to write on different topics. First up: bags.

I go through periods of times of buying no bags and then bam! I get a few. I bought a few recently, mostly black bags.

($$$$ to $)

  • The spendiest purchases were driven by Hedi’s takeover of Céline. I couldn’t get myself to Europe soon enough, so I managed with duty free shops in Seoul. Prices are comfortably below US prices and the # of stores are somewhat plentiful. I went to 4 duty free boutiques – 3 in Seoul and 1 in the Incheon airport! For the most part, what I purchased is what I have wanted to purchase for years but the opportunity and urgency never arose. I have no regrets with my purchases, although I have yet to use all of them. I have invested in Samorga inserts for most of them.

I am hesitant to buy Céline secondhand online. It’s hard to assess the structure of a non-super structured bag on the internet. Or for example, the Trio was quietly redesigned in recent years where the straps that connect to the purse were reinforced. This isn’t apparent in most online listings. I wouldn’t want to buy an older Trio. I haven’t sold any of my Célines, but the resale of some of them look roughly the same as duty free. It’s a no lose situation, in my opinion. Some of the classic Phoebe Philo designs are still around but now don the new Celine logo (no accent over the é) and new colors.

Image: Celine

  • The APC Meryl in quilted black leather is a nice APC alternative to my favorite half moon bag. Slightly smaller, softer yet not delicate. Compact enough to throw into a tote. The strap is also thick and comfy. I really like wearing a crossbody to work when I don’t have too much to carry!

Image: APC

  • I purchased the Mansur Gavriel tumble small tote in black during the first online sample sale. It took me almost half a year to unbox it. I love the size, the slouch, the light weight, and the price. I find the “large” MG tote to be way too big. Tumble leather is very nice and different than the more popular vegetable tanned, calf leather, or saffiano. I wouldn’t have given tumble a second glance if I hadn’t seen it in person. It gives a different vibe for the same style in another bag. The only thing that is slightly off-putting is the smell of the leather. Most of it has aired out but there is still a whiff (and this happened to my new Céline bags too). I sometimes use this bag for work and throw the Meryl in when I don’t have time to switch bags. It’s perfect for papers, but I wouldn’t weigh it down with a laptop.

Image: Mansur Gavriel

  • Clare V perf/perforated leather. I really like most of the items in this leather, especially the SLGs. The patina on this simple tote is incredible. I need a key wallet and really want one of the Clare V perforated wallets in a lighter brown (cuoio), but they seem to sell out so fast. I got the Bruno sans strap. It’s a nice, casual summer/fall bag. Slightly bigger than a crossbody.

Image: Clare V

  • J.Crew has these super affordable camo print everyday totes and you can monogram them! (Thanks to the stranger sporting a bag at EWR arrivals.) I’m typically not one to personalize things, but I couldn’t resist ordering these with an orange monogram over Cyber Week — the 50% off promotion applied to the bags and monograms. Great for gifting. Do note their processing time, I’m still waiting for my order. (Similar is the LLBean Hunter tote, however no monogram. Previously mentioned here. Mine is going strong and so practical.)

Image: J.Crew

  • The Momofuku Milk Bar book pre-order came with this tote for free. I love their cake and the tote is perfection. The tote has since sold out but it’s available in this set. (Sidenote: the book is surprisingly OOS on Amazon. I don’t plan to bake cake, I got it for the eye candy.)

Image: Twitter

I sold some bags this year – bags that no longer spark joy (like the MG saffiano bucket bag and the Ecco Derna lady bag) and plain ol’ shopping regrets (such as the another MG sample sale purchase and the Clare V Le Big Sac!). Resale value is something I think about when I buy a more expensive bag. There are some more bags to clean out once I have time!


to shop / 2018 cyber week deals

It’s that time of year again! I will be updating this over the long weekend. In general, I’m buying items that are on my list — many of the retailers only have a discount once a year. If you miss out on a deal, keep on mind Green Monday is on December 9 (last Monday before Christmas for ground shipping).

Updated on Monday morning.

Note on Cashback and Return Shipping

  • Ebates has great cashback rates at the moment for many stores. You can get an extra $10 cashback with my Ebates referral if you don’t have an account. It is a legit cashback site, I have been using it for almost 2 decades! You just have to remember to checkout from their link. I use other cashback sites as well but overall, Ebates has the best rates right now.
    • Rates: Saks, Neiman Marcus (14%); Bloomingdale’s, Barneys, Ulta, Gap, Lululemon, Macys (10%); L’Occitane (15%); Sephora (8%); J.Crew (6%)
  • Chase Freedom 5% on department stores: If you have a Chase Freedom credit card, it makes the department store cashback ‘deals’ even sweeter with the extra 5% cashback.
  • Discover and Amazon Pay: If you have a Discover card, the 5% cashback on Amazon also works on Amazon Pay (i.e. similar to PayPal, Amazon Pay is a payment method). This stacks with any cashback for the retailer you are purchasing from.
  • PayPal refunds return shipping: if you pay with PayPal, you are eligible for a refund return shipping, if you had to pay for it. Super easy process and up to $30 per refund, 12 times a year so I usually save this for those sites that don’t offer a label. I also like to pay with PayPal on those smaller sites so my payment information is centralized. Previously mentioned here.


  • Anthropologie / Black Friday (Thursday – Sunday): 30% off everything. Thursday early morning through Sunday. Last year, Monday’s sale was 20% sitewide.
  • MoMa Store  / Black Friday (Th – Sat): $20-40 off. Great for gifts (for yourself haha) through Saturday. Unless you’re hitting the $200 mark to get $40 off, I recommend waiting — last year Sunday/Monday had 20% off and free shipping.  Cyber Monday (Sun – Mon): 20% off and free shipping on Sunday and Monday.
  • Nordstrom / Black Friday (Th – Sat): Perhaps my favorite department store. There is an excellent Fresh and Christophe Robin (love the rose volumizing shampoo paste) gifts with purchase. Use code DEALMOON for beauty purchases over $65 for an extra bag of samples. Cyber Monday (Sun – Mon): Spend $250 and get a $50 gift card for use in Jan/Feb. 
  • ShopSpring  / 12% cashback and free Shoprunner membership (2 day shipping). You can shop other sites through this site.
    • Pros: they currently offer 12% cashback that goes back to your credit card. You can get cashback on sites that normally don’t have cashback like Clare V. Shipping and returns are free.
    • Cons: This site has changed itself over the last year. No extra sale codes or gifts with purchase. They also used to charge sales tax on items that shouldn’t be taxed — I think this has been fixed. Inventory is also not the same as the retailers and I have gotten orders cancelled due to lack of inventory.
  • Amazon / Good for the entire long weekend:
    • $5 off $20 for books using code NOVBOOK18 through Sunday. Sold by only.
    • When you use an Amex membership reward point, 20% off up to $100 off. Works on gift cards. Sold by only. Details.
    • When you use a Chase UR reward point, $15 off $60. Sold by only. Details.
  • Saks Fifth Avenue  / Black Friday: Spend $150 and get a $75 gift card through Friday, code THANKFUL. Cyber Monday: Get $50 off for every $200, lots of exclusions.
  • Target / Black Friday only: Spend now to save 20% on a single use between Nov 27 and Dec 8.
    • In-store, Friday only. Spend $0.01 or more using the Target app.
    • Online, Friday only. Spend $50 online.
  • Hulu / 99 cents a month for a year. For new accounts or old customers who haven’t subscribed in a year. Also on Ebates – open the site through Ebates and click on the main site and you should see the promo.


  • Brooklinen / 10-20% off tiered discount. I’m a big fan of their luxe sateen sheets. I recently upgraded from Queen to King, so I picked up a few new items and also grabbed some items from their discontinued patterns (RIP Bedford Stripe). They rarely have discounts! Cyber Monday sale is same as BF. 
  • Poketo / 20% off sitewide through Monday.
  • Food52 / 20% off sitewide through Sunday.
  • Parachute Home / 20% sitewide through Monday. I’ve only tried the linen sheets and I recommend them!
  • GIR / 35% off + free ship $35+ with code NSBFriday. Through Saturday. I love their silicone lid covers and various kitchen tools in an array of colors and non-colors. Also available at Amazon (some items are super overpriced though), Food52, and Target. Cyber Monday: B1G160% off with code GIRMonday.
  • Trumedic massagers / 30% off and free shipping on massagers with code MASSAGE30. Expiration unknown.
    • I’ve had the IS-3000 PRO (Amazon link for reviews) for over a month. I tried this at my aunt’s and promptly ordered one for myself. I like stronger massages and while this doesn’t replace a professional massage, this gives a deeper massage and is a treat. I’m slightly annoyed at paying $50 more on Amazon at the time, however, I like it enough to say that the price difference was worth having it for a month earlier.
    • The InstaShiatsu+ Foot Massager with Heat made Oprah’s Favorite Things list this year. I’d ordered one through a Good Morning America deal and am still waiting for mine since it was backordered.


  • Uniqlo / A lot of staples are on sale, including the HeatTech x Alexander Wang collection.  Also free shipping on all orders. End date not stated but expected to go through Monday.
  • Abercrombie / 50% off site wide with some exclusions and free shipping. End date not stated. I never wore Abercrombie before but have had my eyes on the winter trench coat because I love the plaid trim and this sherpa open front cardigan which looks like a warm blanket.
  • A.P.C. bags on sale at Matches Fashion, Ssense, Shopbop, 24 Sevres, Nordstrom
  • J.Crew / 40% off at first, now 50% off and the site is still crashing.
  • Madewell / 25% off.
  • H&M / 30% off and free shipping. I’ve gotten some items from here, after not shopping here for years. They also have some quality items from their home department.
  • Margaux / 20% off $225. Margaux has attractive block heels and ballet flats. I’m intrigued but haven’t tried them before. You can buy pre-made or made to measure.
  • Clare V / 20% off select items. Launched promptly at midnight on Friday morning. Through Sunday.
  • Baggu / 20% site-wide, 25% for $50+, 30% off $100+.
  • COS / 20% off select items. The selection is a bit disappointing and a lot of items are already out of most sizes. I do recommend the Tailored A-Line Dress, but any shorties (like me) will need to get the length altered.


  • Birchbox / 10-25% off site-wide. End date not stated, guessing through Friday night. Birchbox has tons of brands – Tata Harper, Sunday Riley, Shu Uemura hair, Oribe (this set), Dr Jart, Whalmyung… they have exclusive sets and don’t forget the gifts with purchase section. For Cyber Monday, Ace gets up to 45% off of the unexciting sale section, others get 30% off.
  • Neiman Marcus / $50 off $200 through Saturday. Last year, Monday was a gift card promotion. I prefer a cash discount. Sale is not limited to beauty. Ebates has 14% cashback (my referral) and if you have a Chase Freedom, get 5% cashback. Cyber Monday is gift card event.
  • Peach and Lily / 30% site-wide through Monday, exclusions apply including their Peach and Lily collection.
  • Sephora / 50% off Surratt Beauty. Otherwise, I’m shopped out from their November sales.
  • Stratia / 20% off on Cyber Monday. This is an indie skincare brand that I found through Reddit. Their Liquid Gold is a light moisturizer full of good stuff. I will be restocking on this!
  • QVC has Black Friday specials (kind of hard to navigate IMHO) and free shipping on Beauty (amongst other things) through Monday. Use code TEN4U for $10 off your first purchase.
  • True Botanicals / 20% off and a $10 credit for every $50 spent for use in December. Good through Monday. I didn’t expect to see them join the fray.
  • Beauty Heroes / 15% off through Monday with code LIKEAMEMBER. They carry clean beauty brands and more. I recommend the Level Up discovery sets, especially the True Botanicals one if you wanted to try their Vitamin C Booster.
  • Drunk Elephant / Midi sized Babyfacial and C Firma Serum, and free shipping. If you missed out of any of the holiday sets at Sephora, they have it here, even the Trunk.
  • L’Occitane / 20% off and free shipping.

to pamper / {sale alert} 30% off peach and lily collection at ulta

The beauty sales are so aggressive in Q4. I think it’s been worse this year than last year with Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom joining the ring. Sephora has one more weekend left of their annual sale and is welcoming all status levels (after last weekend didn’t go so well).

Ulta nonchalantly dropped a Cyber Fundays event as a precursor to Cyber Monday. The event is through Saturday and I was surprised that the entire Peach and Lily collection is 30% off and they had trouble keeping some items in stock. While Peach and Lily will probably have 30% on their site next weekend, I rather buy from Ulta and build status, and I had gift cards. Don’t forget to add a free beauty bag.

I resisted this collection when it was released. It wasn’t too hard as some things flew off the shelves. I waited for real, non-sponsored reviews. General feedback is good. They’ve done a great job formulating the products. Toxin and irritant free. To date, I have tried:

  • Super Reboot Resurfacing Mask, great for degunking your pores. I use a mask like this about once a week and follow with a moisturizing (wash off or sheet) mask. Since I love variety, I rotate this with the Tata Harper resurfacing mask. This one has a jellier consistency and does not dry matte. If you have sensitive skin, you will need to patch test.

Image: Peach and Lily

  • Glass Skin Refining Serum. A very pleasant serum to use. It has a nice weight, texture, absorbs well, and plays nice with other products. I don’t think it gives a glass skin look though and I’m fine with that. It is well priced given the ingredients (not just for hydration), sleek packaging, and the sale makes it a smart buy.


to pamper / sephora holiday beauty insider event

It’s that time of year again for Sephora’s annual sale. Sephora did push up the dates a bit. When you can shop depends on your Sephora Beauty Insider status. The discount applies in US, Canada, and JCPenney.

Rouge: Code ROUGEBONUS for 20% off from Oct 26-29 and Nov 2-5. Fine print for Rouge.
VIB: Code VIBBONUS for 20% off from Nov 9-12
Insiders: Code BIBONUS for 15% off from Nov 16-19. Anyone can sign up for Insiders.

I read that Rouge can use their code during the VIB/Insiders weekends as well. Also, the VIB/Insiders code is one-use only whereas Rouge can place unlimited orders. Sephora has been doing these annual % off sales for the longest. Now, there are other retailers that run similar promotions, however they don’t have all the value sets that Sephora has!

My picks:

Drunk Elephant. In the US, you can buy Drunk Elephant from their own site or Sephora. I quite like Drunk Elephant (old posts). My favorites are the vitamin C serum and the lip balm, then the eye serums, moisturizers, and marula oil. I don’t like the jelly cleanser or SPF.

(1) The Trunk 2.0 comes with 10 full size products, a snazzy acrylic case customized to hold the products, and 28% off. With the Sephora discount, it comes to 42% off. Of course I bought it (with some gift cards I’d been saving). This has since sold out on Sephora, but it’s hard to say whether it will be restocked before the sale ends. It’s also available on Drunk Elephant. Note, it does not include all of DE’s products. Missing: D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops, Lala Retro Whipped Cream, Shaba Complex Eye Serum, Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30, Juju Bar, or Pekee Bar.

Images: Drunk Elephant / Sephora

For the remaining kits, they contain at least one full size product that is priced close to the kit price. It is a no brainer to me.

(2) Agent Ellie Day Kit – I’ve been through about 4 bottles of this vitamin C serum. It’s my favorite and since vitamin C oxidizes, their packaging is 5 stars. The smell does take some getting used to but the cons outweigh the pros. I tend to stock up on products, but this is one serum that you should not stock up on as it has a shelf life of 12 months unopened (from manufacture date, not purchase date). If you do have problems with a bottle, email Drunk Elephant directly. They stand by their product!

(3) Inspector Drunk Night Kit / (4) Out of Office. The pink Framboos serum is a nice AHA. It’s certainly not the cheapest night acid serum but it is nicely formulated and works well for my skin. I like the Lippe lip balm (I’m on my 5th?), especially the larger surface to get into the corners, and it’s nice to get some minis out of the purchase.

Sephora x Clare V

Image: Verge Creative Group

This was an old early 2017 collab, so I’m surprised to still see them in stock and on sale. This Penelope Pencil case has CV’s signature spots and the unpictured Agnes clutch is double sided with a signature stripe.


  • AMOREPACIFIC Vintage Single Extract Essence. No review yet, I am going to start using this highly rated essence soon. I picked it up at Lotte Duty Free for a good price.
  • AMOREPACIFIC Treatment Enzyme Peel. I’ve gotten a few of these over the years in beauty boxes or as a sample. A little goes a long way. This is great for gentle exfoliation when traveling.
  • Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask Limited Edition.My favorite Tata products are her cleansers and masks.. This is a limited edition jumbo size of my favorite Tata mask of hers. Not sure if I care for the brush though.
  • CAUDALIE Brightening Heroes. I really like Caudalie products and have been using a sample of the brightening serum.
  • Sephora Cuticle Nippers. I misplaced my existing pair so am picking up a new pair.
  • Christophe Robin Volumizing Gift Set. The volumizing paste smells so lovely and a little bit goes a long way for good volume. A tub of this has lasted me a long time. Pick it up here if you want the shampoo or conditioner. This is often OOS elsewhere when there is a sale.
  • Fresh Mask for Miles. I love Fresh wash off masks and this is a very nice of well sized minis. They have a few value sets but this is the only one that is all masks.
  • GrandeLASH – MD Lash Enhancing Serum. I am a fan of their serum and it comes in this PLAY! set on sale. It is much better value than buying the full or jumbo size.
  • Glow Recipe Watermelon Jelly Tote Set. More millennial pink in a cute bag. I’ve never tried the watermelon products before.
  • Mount Lai Gua Sha Facial Lifting Tool. Gua sha increases blood flow and stimulates the lymphatic system. I got one recently and need to look more Youtube tutorials to figure out how to use it.

to pamper / beauty box review (allure, birchbox, sephora play)

If you’re interested in a beauty box, the Allure Beauty Box has been impressive. I subscribed in December 2017 when I heard of the January spoilers (a full size $85 Sunday Riley serum). They have a good balance of prestige and non-prestige brands. Value-wise, it is easy to pick 1-2 products in the box that exceed the $15/monthly fee*. The box contains a booklet that explains each product and discounts for the full size. You can go month to month, which is what I do.

A sample of what’s been in my boxes:

  • October 2018: 7 products. Sunday Riley x 2, Caudalie, Hourglass mascara, YSL lipgloss, etc. Valued at $86.

  • September 2018: 5 products, 2 were full size. Drunk Elephant Babyfacial, full size MAC lipstick, Tarte x 2, IGK, etc. Valued at $66.

  • August 2018: 6 products, 2 were full size. Laneige, Caudalie, Eyeko, etc. Valued at $69.
  • July 2018: 8 products, 1 was full size. Olay, Ouai, Sunday Riley, etc. Valued at $110.
  • June 2018: 5 products, 3 were full size. Kat Von D and Ole Henricksen. Valued at $69.

I prefer skincare and I like when the products are prestige brands or interesting products from the smaller/mass brands. I don’t wear makeup often but the offered brands tend to be prestige (like Make Up For Ever, MAC) and/or a product that I would actually use (like highlighter or lip product). Hair products are not in every box. No perfume samples to date!

Perhaps a part of their success is not customizing their boxes like their competitors below (excluding color variations for makeup). Spoilers are usually available, e.g., here is November’s. I like the spoilers – no surprise needed here.

Signup link through Allure (they have gift subscriptions)
My referral link
* – first box is $10, subsequent boxes are $15 each. One year is $150. I tried cancelling after 2 months and they offered me 4 boxes for $10.

Signup through Amazon (While you may get an older box as first box and don’t get a $5 discount on your first box, you don’t have to deal with Allure’s customer service. Not that I had issues with them when trying to cancel via e-mail. Recommended if you have issues with getting mail as you’ll be dealing with Amazon and it also sounds like they ship faster.)


  • Birchbox:$10/month. I did Birchbox for a bit, stopped, restarted, and then stopped again after they devalued their program. Birchbox is still quite good for shopping, especially during November sales, for discovery kits and value sets. I like higher end brands and while Birchbox sells them, their customized boxes don’t consistently have them. Is the box worth the $10? Not to me. The brands also tend to repeat, which is not a good thing when it is not an appealing brand. I also think there is room to improve the website, which in my opinion, is hard to shop and lacks filtering/sorting functions that are common in most other sites.
  • Sephora Play: $10/month. This was super exciting when it initially launched and registration was limited but it fizzed out for me and I cancelled after 10 months. It had too much makeup/perfume, some skincare that wasn’t appealing, Sephora Collection products, or it started repeating. This is great for someone who isn’t picky. I ended up selling most of what I got. A non-committal alternative is buying the Play boxes that aren’t monthly or past monthly boxes when Sephora clears them out.

All images from