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.

Pros:

  • 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

Cons

  • 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 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.

Continue reading “to pamper / beauty box review (allure, birchbox, sephora play)”

to shop / uniqlo lately (oct 2018)

I found myself in Uniqlo over the weekend, which is rare as I am much more of an online shopper. The Columbus Day long weekend sales are in full swing.

Blocktech Soutien Collar Coat

Continue reading “to shop / uniqlo lately (oct 2018)”

to pamper / tata harper concentrated brightening serum & huxley brightly ever after essence

Like many other Asians, my skin is prone to hyperpigmentation, freckles, sun spots, etc. It’s not just about sun exposure, it’s also about temperature. I regularly use brightening products to keep the spots at bay.

I’m reviewing two empties today: Tata Harper Concentrated Brightening Serum and Huxley Secret of Sahara Brightly Ever After

(1) Tata Harper Concentrated Brightening Serum

Tata Harper is an American natural beauty brand and I love the concept of clean, natural beauty, but it’s pretty expensive. Products in green colored packaging are her standard line (previously mentioned). Products in yellow colored packaging are pricier and not sold as pervasively as the green line, but has a wider distribution than it used to.

What’s In It? I don’t really read ingredients as my skin is not sensitive, but I looked for reviews (there weren’t that many useful ones). I regularly use Tata products and know that she would never put silicones into her products. From her website: A blend of targeted technology takes a triple-action approach to fighting and minimizing the appearance of dark spots. Brassica Napus and Sea Fern Extract helps to minimize the appearance of dark spots. Colorless Carotenoids help prevent the appearance of dark spots, and Norwegian Kelp boosts glow and helps reduce the look of dark spots.

Texture: It has a consistency of a light lotion unlike what you think of as a serum. For the summer, I used it with the True Botanicals Vitamin C Booster powder mixed in. It mixed really well. I use it after any liquid products, like the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum and Water. Even in the hot summer days, it never felt heavy.

Smell: Nothing memorable. I think it smells floral/natural?

How Long It Lasts: I used about 1-2 pumps in the morning. I don’t remember when I started using it (I hate breaking into expensive products and sometimes do it slowly), but I would guess late winter through early October. That’s over half a year for the 1 fl oz and there was a scant amount left after the pump stopped working.

Does It Work? Yes, it does brighten. I noticed it one day after a month of almost daily usage. I have some old, dark spots that didn’t budge, not that I expected them to.

Packaging: Externally, Tata’s products are 5 stars. Internally, it’s also 5 stars. The airless pump works perfectly to deposit the right amount and to keep it hygienic. Glass bottle bottom, but not a deterrent for traveling light.

Pricing: Tata Harper is by no means budget-friendly. Let alone the yellow line. I got it for 30% off (US sales tax included in calculation) by purchasing it from the UK site Cult Beauty during their 20% off Black Friday sale stacked with cashback from another site. Also, there was a very nice Tata Harper gift with purchase, which I placed value on. Purchasing from Cult Beauty means that VAT is removed for US orders and you are also not charged duty tax.

Note on Cult Beauty: I think they send US-bound packages in bulk from the UK to a US third party, aircitypost, which then mails it out. It took 5 weeks(!) for me to get my package. Aircitypost messed up my address (what happened to copy and paste?). Cult Beauty service was 3 stars out of 5. My order also came with a time sensitive coupon. Needless to say, I didn’t shop from them again, but may consider it in the future. Also, the plastic on the inside of the glass container has been warped since I got it – mystery solved after I pulled the top off of the empty bottle.

Would I Buy It Again? Maybe, but I rather try other products first. There are so many.

Where to Buy (available at more stockists than last year):
Tata Harper (especially if want Tata samples)
Nordstrom (sometimes great with stackable gifts with purchase)
NET-A-PORTER (also on their global sites)
Bloomingdales
Neiman Marcus
GOOP
24Sevres
Cult Beauty

(2) Huxley Secret of Sahara Brightly Ever After Essence

Huxley is a mid-range Korean brand. I first heard of Huxley on Glow Recipe, but pretty much everything on that site can be found for a cheaper price elsewhere.

This is called an essence, but I treat it like a serum. The terms essence, ampoule, serum, and water can be confuing. I layer from light to heavy texture.

What’s In It? From Glow Recipe: Huxley’s star ingredient, the antioxidant-rich Prickly Pear Cactus Seed, is still present in the new line to protect and strengthen skin, while new players such as Niacinamide and Mulberry work overtime to supercharge and brighten the complexion. Even better, the milky texture quickly absorbs (seriously, so quickly) to keep your skin slick-free and ready for your moisturizer. It also has glutathione, bisabol, and silicone but I can’t tell for the latter.

Texture: It is heavier than water, but very runny. It’s strange to put an essence in a serum bottle, but this is when the strict definitions of Asian skincare items don’t apply. It spreads and absorbs easily. I also mixed the True Botanicals powder above with this one. It works better with a heavier formula, so I don’t recommend it.

Smell: All of their products have a clean, cactus smell. I love it.

How Long It Lasts: It lasted a while because I didn’t use it consistently. It got to a point where I was determined to finish it, so left it on my vanity to force myself to use it.

Does It Work? It makes my skin feel moisturized and there is some brightening effect, but nothing drastic. It is very easy to layer, despite the silicone ingredient.

Packaging: Huxley uses the same dropper bottle for other essences. The dropper bottle works better than it does on the Oil Essence, but the last bits get stuck and you have to shake it out. Overall, all their products have glass packaging that has a solid feel.

Pricing: Retails for $58 in the US, I got it for $20 + intl shipping from SweetCorea in Korea. I think it’s great for the latter price.

Would I Buy It Again? Maybe, for the same reason as above. I want to try other products.

Where to Buy
Anthropologie
Saks
Nordstrom
Revolve
YesStyle
SweetCorea (cheapest but shipping from Korea is added later, great for a haul)
Harvey Nichols