Interview with ML

Today’s interview is with ML – a mom, business analyst, world traveler, and jewelry aficionado. I receive quite a few requests for more interviews with mothers (both working and stay at home), and I’m very happy to introduce ML today. ML juggles multiple roles both inside and outside the home, and has an awe inspiring work ethic and an infectious energy. Whether she’s sharing her perspective on motherhood, jewelry, or her favorite eats in Hong Kong, it’s clear that ML is passionate about enjoying and making the most of what she is passionate about in life . Enjoy meeting ML!

A wrist shot featuring some of ML's beautiful jewelry

ML’s wrist shot

Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

Hi, I’m ML. I am a business analyst with a large IT firm in the SF Bay Area.

You’ve been working with the same technology firm for 16 years, which is a rarity here in the Bay Area. Can you share how you’ve stayed at the same place for so long? 

16 years is indeed a very long time to be in the same firm! I typically work on a new project every 2-3 months, often juggling several projects at the same time so I am constantly learning new things! The fundamentals of the job don’t change, but the content varies and that keeps things interesting. Working with different partners helps keeps things challenging as well. You are constantly adapting to different people, project needs, goals and deadlines. I LOVE what I do and this in itself is the main reason why I am still here. What keeps me going as well is that I have very supportive management which recognizes my work.

How did you handle managing your work once you began having children?

I took five months off with each of my births and then went back to work full time. I jumped right back into challenging projects which was good and bad. Good because I wanted to get back and make sure that I still had “what it takes”. It was bad, because I had to learn to strike a balance between work and the demands of motherhood. As an example….for a working mom who is still breastfeeding, you have to make time to pump, or else you will lose your milk supply. With my first, I didn’t know better and let work take priority. The second time around though, I made time and blocked off time on my calendar to pump. It helped to have a very understanding manager. The first thing I did when I got back to work was to let her know about these little blocks of time that I needed during the work day. I also worked from home.

A sneak peek of ML's bag collection

ML’s beautiful blue Chanel

Working from home sounds like a dream for many. Can you share more details about your set up? 

To work from home, you need to have a proper work space set-up. You need to be disciplined enough to get your work done instead of being distracted by chores that need to be done around the house. Working from home has its perils too. The laptop is always on. Unless you have lots of extra rooms in your house, chances are that your work area not be in a dedicated room. This means that whenever you walk by your work area, you will be tempted to just check your work emails! Once you get started, you are stuck there for at least 30 minutes and before you know it, a couple of hours have flown by! It is easy to work around the clock so you need to know when to say stop, enough is enough or take comp time off when your work schedule permits.

I have been working from home for about 5-6 years now. Daycare and a very hands-on husband is what it takes to make it work. My kids have been going to a daycare center since they were 5 months old. It is not possible to work from home and care for your kids at the same time. Even if you have in-home care, you will be distracted, you will hear their cries and want to check on them and meet their needs.

My very supportive husband does daycare drop offs and pick-ups. I just make sure that there is a meal on the table when they all get home. We are a team. We do dinner time, baths and bed time together.

Pre-kids, I was a workaholic with no qualms about working around the clock. Post kids, I am still the same, except now, I have to take a few hours off to take care of their needs, to spend time with them before I get back to work. For example, 5-9pm are off limits for meetings, since it is when my family gets back home from school. That’s dinner, bath and bed time. If needed, I will get back to work after the kids are in bed.

VCA Estate

Van Cleef & Arpels Estate ring

You collect estate jewelry. Can you share some of your favorite pieces? What was the first piece you ever acquired?

My first ever estate piece and also the one that started my love for Van Cleef & Arpels, was a white gold with diamonds and blue sapphire ring. The blue sapphires form an “X” like a kiss which made for a perfect 5th wedding anniversary gift.

My favorite estate pieces are my Buccellati ring and cuff! The exquisite gold work is amazing. In fact, it was my estate jeweler who introduced me to Buccellati. You can score some really good signed estate pieces at great prices. For example, my Buccellati cuff was priced at 1/3 the current retail price. As you can see, jewelry does not hold its value very well. So if you plan to purchase estate pieces for resale value, don’t bother, you will get more resale value with an Hermes Birkin. Buy estate jewelry because you love it and will wear it!

Buccellati Ring

Buccellati ring, cuff

Buccellati ring, cuff

What are some of your tips for buying estate pieces?

First and foremost, you need to buy your estate pieces from a reliable jeweler that has been in business for a long time. Chances are, they will not jeopardize their reputation and sell fakes. Secondly, I prefer to buy signed pieces i.e. Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Buccellati, Boucheron etc. Despite jewelry losing its value, if you want to resell later on, signed pieces will still hold their prestige and thus value.

Third, try it on before you buy, this is true for any piece of jewelry. What you see in print may not look great on you. Lastly, if in doubt about sizing (e.g. rings), be sure that they can be resized to your size. Some pieces cannot be resized at all or can only be resized half size up max.

VCA Perlee Bangle

Apart from estate, what are some your favorite jewelry items? 

I have so many favorite pieces to share with you! This Van Cleef & Arpels Perlee bangle with diamond clovers in rose gold is a recent acquisition and a current favorite. I have been wearing it lots! It is so pretty yet something I can wear daily without worry. Gold and diamonds, you cannot go wrong!

If I have to choose one absolute favorite piece, it would be this beautiful white gold, diamonds and jade ring. I just think that it’s such an exquisite piece with flowers, butterflies and heart shaped jade petals!

Flower Diamond Diamond Jade Ring2

A dear friend alerted me to this special find – a beautiful Buccellati x Montaigne collaboration cuff. It is such a statement piece! Despite it being a collaboration piece, it is very well made and showcases Buccellati’s excellent gold work. It was also priced very reasonably as well!

Buccellati Montaigne Cuff

Last, the one Van Cleef & Arpels piece that never fails to make my heart smile – my Vintage Alhambra 5-motif white gold Turquoise bracelet. I have the same bracelet in white gold Mother-of-Pearl and Chalcedony and together, they make a perfect 15-motif necklace! The length is just perfect! The mix of semi-precious stones makes the necklace uniquely yours.

VCA bracelets necklace

Cyclamen Evelyne

What about your favorite and most used accessories?

Bags wise, my Hermes cyclamen Evelyne gets the most mileage. It is great for shopping and being out and about with the kids since I can be hands free. Birkins are really not for toting around with kids in tow! But when it is just a day date for me and my husband, my fuschia ostrich Birkin comes out to play more often than not! I love how lightweight it is and just so versatile with my wardrobe. I am surprised at how hardy ostrich leather is because once, I actually got caught out in the rain with it. I was so worried and so sure that water spots would appear but there were none! What we do have to watch out for with ostrich, is darkening handles. You can easily avoid this by tying Twillies on the handles but it is not a look that I favor.

Fuchsia and Rose Tyrien

A couple of favorite bags which I don’t use as much are my Hermes Rose Tyrien Birkin. I love the neon-ish pink color! Isn’t it so fun? I am ever so grateful to my sales associate who managed to get these highly coveted bags for me. I have a Chanel Reissue in Metallic Purple and a Jumbo Flag in Blue Roi which I had a hard time hunting down when they were first released. They have a special place in my heart.

My absolute favorite watch is my Franck Muller Sunset 6850. I wear it with my bright blue strap all the time. I just love this shade of blue. When I need a water resistant watch, I tend to pick my white 38mm Chanel J12. My very first designer watch was a Tag Heuer 1500 series that I purchased with my own pay check many years ago. I still remember hyperventilating a little when I was signing the credit card slip! I justified my big purchase by wearing the watch every day for at least 3 years and that works out to a little less than $1 cost per wear each day. It has been 14 years so I think we are good! The watch is still in great shape! I have a soft spot for Cartier watches as well and gradually added the classic Tank Francaise or Santos and Roadster to my collection.

Hermes tray of jewelry

Can you share some of your favorite wardrobe items? I know that you love Japanese ready to wear. 

I have a very casual style. In summer, my denim shorts and bermudas get the most wear, along with my Spanish Riuduvets /Avarcas Pons or Birkenstock sandals or Repetto ballet flats. In winter, it’s my UNIQLO denim jeggings (the best and most comfortable ever!) together with my Onitsuka Tiger or Ash sneakers.

A couple of Japanese RTW labels that I love are Tsumori Chisato, Franche Lippee and Mercibeaucoup. I love their fun and sometimes whimsical prints. I love colors and prints so it’s perfect.

Tsumori Chisato oct and spots

Tsumori Chisato top

Pucci tops

Pucci tops

You’re also an avid beauty collector, and I know you favor Japanese brands. Could you share some of your favorites? 

From a base make-up perspective, Japanese brands make colors that are more suitable for my skintone. They are very lightweight in texture and blend easily. Covermark and RMK liquid foundation are my favorites. RMK makes a perfect shimmery (yet not over the top) very finely milled loose powder that just sets everything beautifully. I have been using it for years and hope they do not discontinue it! In general, Japanese make-up has great texture and color play off, even for drugstore finds!

What started me off on Japanese cosmetics were these beautiful Kesalan Patharan eyeshadow trios. Aren’t they lovely? The color combinations are so pretty together. They are pigmented yet very finely milled which makes for easy application.

Kesalan Patharan eyeshadow trios

Besides the above, I love Anna Sui, Jill Stuart and Laduree Les Merveilleuses. The latter two have AMAZING packaging and great products as well. Jill Stuart does great eyeshadow palettes and blushess. Laduree is new to the market and has emphasized cheek colors since its launch last year. Check out the beautiful Cameo blush compact or their beautiful container of blush petals. Doesn’t it look great on the vanity?

Laduree face powder

Laudree face powder petals

What’s a piece of advice about building the perfect closet that you’ve learned over the years that you could share?

Always dress for yourself and what makes you feel good! Just develop your own style and don’t blindly follow trends or buy what everyone else is buying. Sure we are always influenced by what we see/read in print, online, in person etc., but when everyone else is wearing the same items, it just isn’t so special anymore. Above all, it should be comfortable. I know many who will sacrifice comfort for fashion but not me. At the same time, comfort does not equate sloppy dressing.

What are some of your other passions and hobbies?

I love to travel but that has taken a backseat since I have little ones now. I love to read, all sorts of fiction genre from Asian American lit to chick lit to romance and history. In my spare time, I love to watch Korean dramas on my iPad!

Hermes violet Medor

Where are some of your favorite places to travel and stay? 

My absolute favorite place to stay in Maui is Four Seasons at Wailea. I love the beautiful resort, impeccable service and I like the fact that cabanas are provided pool side unlike at the other resorts where you have to pay an additional US$150-200. We pretty much just park ourselves at the resort during the entire duration of our stay! We do not even rent a car!

I also visit Hong Kong frequently. We always stay at Marco Polo Gateway in Hong Kong. It is conveniently located at Tsim Tsa Tsui. It is connected to the Harbour City Mall so you can easily drop off your shopping, freshen up or even take a nap! It is just a short walk to the MTR station and along the way, there are more shops and eateries! So your walk can take 5 to 8 mins or longer!

I have so many favorite places to eat in Hong Kong. From hole in the wall places to nicer eateries, I like them all! Here are my top picks.

– Kau Kee for the best beef brisket noodles (Gough Street in Central)
– Australia Milk Company for a breakfast of toast, ham, macaroni and milk (Parkess Street in Jordan)
– Man Fai for the best cuttlefish balls flat rice noodles ever (Jardines Bazzar in Causeway Bay)
– Ser Wong Fen for some traditional cantonese cuisine such as steam Chinese sausages over rice, sweet and sour pork or snake soup popular in winter (Cochrane Street in Central)
– Ho Hung Kee for award winning won ton noodles (Sharp Street near Times Square in Causeway Bay)
– Seranade for delicious dim sum (Hong Kong Arts Center in Tsim Tsa Tsui)
– Sun Tung Lok for delicious sharks fin and Cantonese cuisine (4th fl., Mirarmar Shopping Center in Tsim Tsa Tsui)
– Yun Yan for well executed mouth numbing Sichuan cuisine cuisine (4th fl., Mirarmar Shopping Center in Tsim Tsa Tsui)]
– Din Tai Fung for the best xiao long bao aka soup dumplings (Canton Road in Tsim Tsa Tsui)
– Crystal Jade for yummy noodles (Harbour City mall in Tsim Tsa Tsui)
– Street food like curry fishballs (Lock Road in Tsim Tsa Tsui)
– Tai Cheung Bakery for the freshest yummiest egg tarts (Lyndhurt Terrace in Central)

I guess you can tell that I LOVE good food.

Finally – please share something surprising about yourself!

I am a mother of three, and two are twins!


I have to say that I was indeed surprised by the twins! I knew that ML was a mother of three, but had no idea that two were twins. She is truly a super woman!

I really enjoyed having ML on and learning more about her. I truly admire her work ethic, enthusiasm and conviction. I’ve also tried a few of ML’s favorite picks in Hong Kong and can vouch for her excellent taste! And of course I loved learning more about and seeing ML’s estate jewelry collection – that Buccellati cuff has been on my mind for days (and I already checked…it was a limited edition, long gone). Thank you for much to ML for being here today and for sharing some of your life with us!

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  • Elaine
    August 22, 2013 at 9:06 am

    I’m originally from Hong Kong, the list really gives me a huge craving now!!!

    I always enjoy your interviews 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • Tabitha
    August 22, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Oh that jade and diamond ring is exquisite. All of my jewellery was stolen a few weeks ago so I will have to replace my rings and estate jewellery is the only thing grabbing my attention, it’s so much more individual, go back up for a swoon at that ring.

    • Katherine
      August 22, 2013 at 9:38 am

      Tabitha I’m so sorry to hear that! Estate jewelry often has such more more character and is so much more unique…I love it too. I hope you will be adding some great items soon.

  • courtney
    August 22, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Loving your interviews with such strong women, she is really an inspiration to others pursuing a career and juggling social and family life.

    A Golden State of Mind

  • Jennifer
    August 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    What a great interview Katherine. It was great to hear actual specifics about ML’s experiences balancing motherhood with career, breastfeeding, and working from home. It’s really helpful when women share what works for them in detail since this is something I’ve recently started thinking about. I can’t stop drooling over these pictures of ML’s jewelry collection, especially the piece with the butterfly.

  • Leigh
    August 22, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    I love to travel too! Especially out of the country! Although I’ve never been to Hong Kong… Sounds amazing!

  • Oonagh
    August 22, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Katherine, I am shocked that you have included a recommendation or a sharks fin restaurant. I assume you know how the shark fin is harvested. If not, you should know. The fins are cut off the live animal, which is then thrown back into the water. It can no longer swim or feed and so dies a slow agonizing death. Shame on you and ML.

    • Katherine
      August 23, 2013 at 10:06 am

      Hey Oonagh, I’m aware and understand your position on shark fin soup. I personally do not eat it (anywhere in the world) and supported the ban in my state. That being said, it is legal in Hong Kong and I respect the right for those who choose to consume it, where it is legal. Whether or not shark fin should be made illegal in Hong Kong/China is a different story and a subject I have a different opinion on. I’m sorry to disappoint you.

  • Adele
    August 22, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Being a jewellery addict myself I was totally engrossed in this post & the 1st shot of the arm candy totally had me!
    Have a fab weekend Katherine xoxo

  • Marlene @ chocolatecookiesandcandies
    August 24, 2013 at 6:15 am

    I’m just in awe of ML. I don’t know how she balances a high powered career with 3 (!) young children. Her jewelry and bag collections are to die for. Absolutely stunning.

  • Namuna
    August 26, 2013 at 3:34 am

    OH please do an interview with the one and only UPCLOSEANDSTYLISH from Instagram!!!

    • Katherine
      August 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      I would love to, I’m not too sure of her contact details, if you know feel free to pass along 🙂

  • p @ phiphi's blog
    August 29, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    what an amazing lady! her jewelry pieces are simply stunning, and i loved reading about how she balances life at work and home. thanks Kat! xo

    • Katherine
      September 8, 2013 at 11:45 pm

      She truly is! ML rocks 🙂

  • JJ
    September 10, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I really enjoyed this interview. ML sounds like a very intelligent, down to earth lady. I love her gorgeous VCA collection and they’re so versatile! Thanks for another wonderful interview.

    PS. I LOVE LOVE Australia Milk Company. I probably eat there at least three times a week whenever I’m in HK for a long period of time.