Bag to School #1: The crossbody day bag

It has been a long summer for me and @surgeoninkicks. Our blog content has been lacking. The weather is cooling and the leaves are turning the characteristic yellows and oranges of fall. While most of us have been in “back to school” for a few weeks already, we would like to bring you a few of our favorite bags (not necessarily purposed for scholarly pursuits) in an occasional series we are calling Bag to School.


I have spent quite a while searching for the ideal go to crossbody day bag. A bag that let’s you be comfortable and hands free while say exploring an unknown city or on a daylong shopping excursion.  I wanted a bag large enough to hold a thin hoodie in case it gets cold as the sun sets, a camera to commemorate the day, sunglasses (and the big cases aviators demand!), etc. all with easy access to your cell phone and wallet without rummaging.

I rejected a few crossbodies for size and still others lacking organizational capacity. At the end of the day, the resason why I rejected my last two crossbodies was that they would be very painful on my clavicle by the end of the day. The soreness of the clavicle bruise would last for days.

Recently, after months of holding out for the ideal crossbody day bag I came across this Marc by Marc Jacobs Luna Messenger Bag.

First of all, the wide leather straps attached by rotating hooks and grommet is super comfortable. It is adjustable and removable though I am not sure what the point of it is without the strap as it is way to big to function as a clutch. Importantly, the strap never digs into my clavicle.  I can wear it for hours without any battle scars! It has two large interior pockets along with two slip pockets to store small items and an interior zip pocket. The interior is a nice deep burgundy canvas.


The exterior is a buttery black leather as soft as a baby’s bum. There is an exterior slip pocket and two zipper pockets on the flap. 




The gold hardware is it strong and the zippers work smoothly. I personally prefer gold hardware on all of my accessories. And the gold on this bag has a nice, not too shiny, matte finish and the logo is not obnoxiously large.



I can fit a day’s worth of gear comfortably in this bag. It’s good for sporty days like the one with me above and for something slightly more chic like the model below.  This is a well made bag that I am certain will give me years of use. Alas it appears to no longer be available at Nordstrom (where it was also offered in a teal color–less versatile in my opinion) so keep an eye out for it at the Rack.   But it is evidently still available at Barney’s in a more versatile khaki color.  Though honesty why is that woman (and the chic one pictured above!) not wearing it crossbody style?! For me that’s the whole point of this bag. I would not own it has it not been for its crossbody feature. 


Refresh for May Day #12: My Favorite Callus Remover

A foot file that actually works.  I bought this as during the Nordstrom’s Anniversary sale last year (best sale EVER, by the way), really as an afterthought.  It had great reviews, although I thought a bit exaggerated, i.e. “Don’t be too aggressive with this file, Make sure you do it gently, it is really effective, blah blah blah.”  Well, they were right!  It quickly removes any and all dead skin with little pressure.  It is double sided, with a fine grain on one side and a medium grain on the other.  It is also antibacterial and waterproof – perfect for use in the shower.  This is perfect to use in between pedicures, I highly recommend!

The Gehwol Biosana Swiss Foot File.


Photo from Nordstroms.

Disclaimer: Nope, still no free products or incentives ;(

10.1 Travel Tips From a Surgeon on the Go


I was traveling for work again last week. While I am not the typical business traveler, I do fly about once per month. It’s taken me a while, but over the years I have become a smarter traveler. Here are ten tips on what you need to do prior to take off.

1) Lose the 1-Quart Ziplock bags.

tumi_toiletry_bagI used to hoard Costco size cases of these because I would take several on each trip as the original one inevitably failed. I now travel with a Tumi split toiletry kit (sold as the Laval or the Lima or the Alpha 2 Split travel kit) that has a clear quart size half where I store all of my 3oz or smaller liquids and gels and two smaller clear zip pockets on the opposite side to store my tooth brush, cotton squares, razor, etc. I have been through security over a dozen times with this. No issues.

2) On the subject of travel size liquids, ditch your body lotion when traveling.

It’s easy fill said quart with all the liquids and gels a gal like me needs while away. If you aren’t planning to check a bag, this can be a problem. Luckily, while I am unwilling to part with many of my lotions and potions for hair, skin, and hygiene, I have found the perfect solution for moisturizer that saves me 3 ounces of room in my toiletry kit. Basin’s solid moisturizers don’t need to go in a 1-Quart clear bag but still smell amazing and relieve dry skin. Basin_lotion_sticks

3) Bring along dry shampoo.

When I travel, I want to look my best. For short trips (this one was just two nights), I use my full size tools to show my wavy hair who’s boss before leaving (the index blow out). Once I have put in all this effort, I don’t want to just wash it out with the next shampoo so I extend my style with a travel size Batiste dry shampoo. The cherry scent doesn’t give me migraines and I get multiple days of shiny locks without an oily itchy scalp. Plus, I can travel with less shampoo and conditioner (yah, more room in the Tumi!).batiste_dry_shampoo

4) But the blowout will need a little maintenance, so bring a mini flat iron.

Luckily most hotels these days have 1875 watts hair dryers so I don’t need to lug one with
sephoraminiflatironme. Of course, if I am extending my blow out I don’t really need all that power and I don’t want to take up lots of cargo space with my full size barrel brushes, 2 in curling iron, and 1 in flat iron.  But I do have some waves and curls that spring back against the index blow out. To touch up these spots I use my Sephora mini flat iron to control the wayward strands after dry shampooing. The heat resitant bag is awesome for packing up on the last day right after getting ready.

5) Speaking of looking your best, no matter what make-up you choose to pack, you must pack the right make-up brushes.

I typically don’t wear make-up at home, but, like I said, I tend to try harder when I travel. After all, I am not wearing my OR mask or taking overnight call. I’m not rushing for a 6am meeting or rounds. The commute from the hotel room to the conference is so forgiving that I can put a little bit more effort into my appearance. I don’t travel with all my make-up, just a few go to items that allow me to put on my business face (Smashbox Photo Finish Primer, Philosophy Supernatural Airbrush Canvas, Origins Liquid Lip Color, and Clinique Water Resistant Cake Eyeliner) or glam it up for evening events (Nars Eye and Cheek Palette and DiorShow Iconic and Blackout Mascara). Of course none of thesesmashbox_travel_brushessephoratravelbrushes will work if applied with crappy brushes. I have found the perfect set of travel brushes in the Smashbox trio that I have paired with a Sephora travel brush set. They all travel together in the Sephora case.


6) Since traveling will wear you out, no matter what make-up you bring and how awesome your brushes are, you must never leave home without a highlighter.

touche-eclat_Alt1YSL Touche Éclat is hands down the best beauty product I have ever known. While I could pair it with multiple other products to give me a slept like a baby look after a red-eye or a long night at the hotel bar apres meeting, what I really love about this product is that it is also a stand alone miracle worker. When my entire morning routine falls apart and don’t have time to hit the make-up bag, I can still almost fake sleep by just dabbing a little under my eyes and on my brow bones, along the sides of my nostrils, and around the upper lip. No other products necessary. Love this product. I wouldn’t both trying the competitors out there. YSL created this genre of beauty product and nothing else compares.

7) Unless it’s tropical on both ends of your trip and over all land masses in between, carry a packable coat with you.

packable_jacketA few years ago, I made the mistake of traveling during winter from the east coast of the US to India without a winter coat. Yup, I just sucked up a slightly chilly ride to the airport leaving my coat at home figuring I didn’t want to lug it around India for a month with temps in the 80-90 degree F range. But I got stuck in London along the way due to a snow storm. No flights in or out for 3 days and I didn’t have a stinking jacket. So now, I have a packable down coat. If it’s cold at home when I am leaving, or if the destination is chilly or if I get stuck in another unexpected storm, it keeps me warm. When I don’t need it, it weighs nothings and takes up nearly zero space in my luggage. Plus, it can also double as a cozy little pillow during layovers or oLandsEndPackableCoatn the plane when compressed. I got my Active Basic Packable Jacket from Bob’s stores for a steal and it continues to serve me well. The pix of the more expensive one from Land’s End below show the packability and pillow effect better though.

8) Along the lines of portability, never travel without ballet flats.

carolineI love my heels for non-scrubs work attire and since I always workout when I travel a also bring a pair of cool kicks with me. For years, I would just throw on the sneakers for rambling through the terminal. Quite frankly, while I am totally embracing the sporty chic look on my weekends at home, I have decided that sneakers with quasi-professional travel attire is not the look I am going for. So now, I travel in my Tory Burch Caroline Flats. I honestly love these shoes so much that the biggest hassle these days is which color of the 5 pairs I own I should take with me. As a bonus, I can toss them in my work bag as a high heel rescue if ever needed in case of emergency during the business meeting.

9) Speaking of quasiprofessional attire, travel in comfortable pants.

athletapantduoI fly coach (I am in academic medicine after all).  While lots of professionals travel clad head to toe in the suits/dresses they are intending to wear on the other end, I just won’t subject myself to that kind of discomfort. But, keeping the blazer or cardigan out of the luggage is a huge space saver. I used to travel in jeans but honestly I am just not in love with that look (though lots of men pull of jeans, button down, and blazer with aplomb and I don’t begrudge that eye candy). I have found that Athleta’s In Fusion pants and herringbone Chaturanga Leggings (both in black) pair exceptionally well with the black blazer or cardigan that I inevitably take on these trips with me worn over any one of my casual or more formal tops.

10) Invest in a layering top that works for work and for play

adea_promoI have already declared my love for Adea layering tops in this forum before. Nothing is more versatile or comfortable. I never travel without a white 3/4 sleeve scoop neck Adea top (but as you can see, there are other colors and I own 20 of them in various shades and shapes) I can wear it under short sleeve or sleeveless dresses and tops. I can wear it as the base layer under a suit. I can wear it as an undershirt under a blouse or button down. I can even work out in it if in a pinch and then hand wash it quickly. It dries in under an hour.adea_colors

10.1) And finally, since you don’t want to risk running out of juice when your trying to follow this blog on the WordPress mobile app, get yourself a portable battery charger.

jockery_chargerI have only had my Jackery portable charger since October and I honestly have no idea why it took me so long to get one. For years if would run out of power on my mobile phone in-flight (out of luck) or mid-meeting (need to hunt the periphery for an electrical outlet). I have even had to seek out post-meeting dinners based on weather or not I would be able to eat while having my phone plugged in. The solution to these battery life problems is simply having a back-up charger that is super portable, reliable, and matches most of my accessories. Bonus, I keep it with me on call too so I also no longer worry about running out of juice at an inopportune time in the midst of a 36 hour stretch at the hospital.

What are some of your travel must haves?





One Outfit, Multiple 2014 Holiday Looks


This gallery contains 9 photos.

Recently you read about how I might have dropped a bit of change on my first St John Collection outfit. Being the good child of immigrants, I am both appropriately guilty at this lavish treat for myself and determined to … Continue reading

My Fall Fashion Cravings

Despite it being football season, I do love fall… and not just because I love anything and everything pumpkin flavored, but also for the fashion.  Sweaters, denim, boots, coats – I love all of it.  My fashion sense bends towards the classic, but here are some of my cravings this season to keep things current with a little edge.

1. Military inspired Jacket

This one from Rag and Bone Jean is great – has structure, so it is still figure flattering.  I see this paired with black denim, sleek black long sleeved t-shirt, and #10 – those amazing Stuart Weitzman 5050’s.

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2. Denim that doesn’t feel like Denim

AG (Contour 360), Paige (Transcend), and 7 for all Mankind (Slim Illusion) have all recently come out with denim that well, isn’t denim… and I am obsessed.  Now, these are not jeggings.  They look like real jeans, but they are so comfortable and flexible, I can literally do the splits in the AG and Paige versions.





3.  Anoraks, anoraks, anoraks.



I got this particular jacket from Stitch Fix and have worn it a TON, love it.


4. Gray jeans

These are still dark enough to be flattering and not draw undue attention to the thigh area, but different enough to warrant being an addition to the wardrobe.

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5.  Ear cuffs

There are a lot out there that are very “statement”.  I prefer the more understated versions like you see below.


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6.  Comfortable but cool flats


Yep, folks, these below are Dr. Scholl’s…Perfect for chasing a 2 year old 🙂



7.  Motorcycle boots

With skinny denim tucked in?  And comfortable?  Yes, please.


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8.  Jeans with zippers

Yes, I was also worried about the zipper placement, but these from Paige Denim are surprisingly not thigh enlarging 🙂

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9. Handbags with a chain detail

Jimmy Choo has not only amazing footwear, but I love his handbags as well!

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I have been obsessed with this Stella McCartney fold over bag for almost 2 years now… it is a classic but with just enough edge to keep it interesting.

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10.  Over the knee boots

I know, this look is hard to pull off for a shortie like me, but the Stuart Weitzman 5050’s are a perennial favorite.

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Happy Fall everyone!


An End to the Mommy Wars

Recently actress Gwyneth Paltrow apparently charged head on into the mommy wars with some rather incendiary statements about how hard it is for her to be a mom compared to, say, ordinary “office workers.” The volume of media attention to the backlash has at this point far exceeded the attention to the original interview. But it’s possible that the mommy warriors, myself included (because I was pretty miffed when I first read it), have misunderstood Gwynee’s cry for help. It’s hard to be a mom for her, and for the rest of us.

I know all too well the sometimes overwhelming mommy guilt that can accompany one’s career. For me, the guilt is most crushing when I am not actively caring for patients. It is the sweetest thing that my little girl forgives me for not being home a lot because I am “helping people.” But in reality, when I am away from my children catching up on billing/coding or writing manuscripts/grants–or worse yet leaving town for professional meetings where patients aren’t even in the building–I am decidedly not helping sick people (at least not directly). While I do hope that my various efforts (fine, not the billing/coding which is simply an onerous task required of me in our messed up healthcare system–Argh!) will eventually result in better quality of care for surgical patients far and wide, the truth is that no human would suffer if I simply dropped those non-clinical professional activities in favor of being with my kids.

So it is a bittersweet cocktail of pride in being the kind of professional that I hope will someday inspire my kids and of guilt about achieving those professional goals at the expense of time with them. I know, I know, it is not the quantity of time but the quality of it. That said, there is always that dream of a guilt ridden mom that it is possible to make every minute spent with your children, whether it is 24/7 or just a few hours a week (as has been the case for me for the last decade), just awesome. No tantrums over broccoli.  No bribing with screen time. No imprint of your child’s teeth in another child’s flesh. No consumption of toilet water. No vomit in your hair….

Yeah no, that is just a dream. An impossible dream. Parenting has its ups and downs for all moms (and dads). Don’t believe anyone who denies it. Embed from Getty Images

For most of us, our life with our kids is the only ‘life with our kids’ that we have ever known. Clearly that is the case with Gwyneth Paltrow. And so it is hard for her sometimes to the only kind of mom she has ever been–a mom who is a successful actress whilst married (at least until recently) to a rock star. I can’t relate to 14 hour days on set with few financial limitations to excellent child care any more than I can relate to being at home all day, every day, without adult interaction with a needy child and piles of laundry that aren’t going wash and fold themselves. But, I do know what it’s like to work 120 hours in a single week, to be out of town for 15 days a month, to have my entire paycheck swallowed by childcare expenses and student loan payments, to be so damn tired (or so worried about a sick patient who might not make it through the night while I am at home) that, when I do get in the vicinity of my kids, all I want is for them (and the dog for that matter) to “Just shut up!!!!!” Embed from Getty Images

Yeah, there’s no quality time to be had with me after a 40 hour stretch on call.

Here’s the thing. No matter who we are, how many kids we have, whether those kids are perfectly healthy or suffer from medical issues/developmental delays, whether we work or stay at home or do something in between, whatever our profession, we are all mothers. We are simply trying to do our best by our kids, and some days we will badger ourselves with mommy guilt for not attaining that. Failing to recognize that (as opposed to being seemingly ignorant of her wealth and privilege) is why Gwyneth Paltrow has become enemy number one at the front line of the mommy wars. She minimized, in a condescending almost pejorative way, the mothering challenges of moms with ‘regular work hours’ without having any clue as to what it must be like for them to balance it all.

Not cool Gwynee, not cool.

In the modern era, all of us mothers have had to make some tough choices when it comes to focusing on ourselves whether it is personal well being (e.g. that which is reaped by way of long runs, weekends away with friends or spouses, a Nordstrom shoe habit) or professional aspirations. For some, the latter has involved a conscious and deeply individual decision to stay at home full time after weighing many complex factors such as income, job satisfaction, availability of professional childcare, family support, presence of life partner…. For others who have weighed the exact same issues, it has meant going ‘all in’ to professional ambitions.

I did not fall into the latter by accident.  My academic and extra-institutional activities have been bolstered by the support of a truly self-less spouse, amazing grandparents in very close proximity to my children, a boss who gets it, and a salary that allows me to support my family. (I think Sheryl Sandberg would say that I have been ‘leaning in’ but I confess between the work, and the wellness efforts, and the blogging, and the travel I haven’t read a book in a while.) And Gwyneth Paltrow, it seems, has decided to act in fewer films.

The trade-off(s) for her decision may be fewer chances to get another Academy Award or less time with the likes of Matt Damon. But I submit that there is not a single mother out there who has not had to negotiate away some aspect of herself in order to be the best mom she can be. And, I bet there is not a single mother out there who hasn’t at one point or another thought that her plight as a mom is much harder than that of anyone else’s. I know I have. I just wasn’t in a position to share it with a major media outlet.

Think before you speak, Gwynee. Think before you speak.

An so, what has really struck me as I have read about the mommy wars that ensued in the aftermath of this now infamous interview is that all of us moms would be better served if we propped each other up instead of putting each other down. Our sources of mommy guilt may be the same (which is abundantly clear to me whenever I commiserate with other surgeon moms, especially the traumamamas whose call schedules are particularly unforgiving), or they may be different.

Irrespective of the source of guilt, the reason we are ALL so prone to it is because, after all, we are all MOMS. We are torn between focusing on ourselves at the expense of our kids. We are afraid of what the future holds for them and how what we do (or don’t do) now will shape that future. We too easily question whether we are cut out to be mothers when things seem bad at home or at school or at the myriad activities our kids participate in these days. Rather than judging whose mommy guilt is more overwhelming than the other’s, we should embrace these similarities among us and encourage each other to drop the guilt no matter where is comes from.

Perhaps if we consciously uncouple ourselves from the bitchiness, we can reach also reach an easy truce to the mommy wars.




Holiday Party Fashion Wrap Up


This gallery contains 6 photos.

As I have alluded to in a recent post, it’s that time of year when we can shamelessly bring all that dazzles out of our closets without feeling like we are over doing it. This month I have had five … Continue reading

Embrace the red soles

I debuted the Louboutins the other day. I bought them while on a trip to Northern California in August (Thank you Nordstrom San Jose!). Although I have been known to wear them around the house just lounging whilst admiring the look and feel of the one piece leather construction since then (and also giving the calves a bit of  a stretch), I have been eagerly awaiting the right opportunity to don them in public.

While contemplating when and where this would occur, I spent a lot of time debating whether or not to do something to protect the sole.

Evidently, there is a micron thin red sole that expert cobblers can shellac onto the classic red sole of a Louboutin to “protect” it. As is common with most controversies these days, the internet is replete with commentaries for and against this practice. I reviewed many of them. My shoe consultants at Nordstrom strongly recommended I do this before the debut. After all, I “wouldn’t want to ruin the soles of these high-end boots” that come at a steep price to begin with.

But you know, at the end of the day they are a pair of shoes, meant to be worn where shoes are needed, e.g. outdoors. Now, I wouldn’t knowingly wear them in a blizzard or walk through a muddy field with them on but I bought them to wear them, to experience the comfort and joy of a well-made designer shoe crafted from leather as soft as a baby’s bum attached to a eye-catching red sole. Sure Christian Louboutin advises keeping them dry and away from rough surfaces but outdoors is occasionally wet and studded with hardtop, concrete, or cobblestones. So I could opt to protect the soles of my boots from these dangers or I could go bare.

In the end, I chose to go bare. I didn’t want to hide the most unique, and to me most precious, feature of my boots. It would have felt like covering a maple table with mahogany inlay with a table cloth. It would have felt like keeping the plastic wrap on the remote control for a TV purchased years ago. It would have felt like have a curio cabinet filled with dolls that a child is never allowed to play with. Most importantly, it would have felt no different than sticking that red sole from the cobbler onto any old black boots.  After all, I didn’t buy just any pair of boots, I bought these boots to wear them, to feel good in them, and to show them off. The red soles make me feel good and allow me to boast without words so why not just wear them in their natural, unadulterated beauty.


I trust that the boots are well made. So, after years of wear on my precious red soles I will someday take them to a cobbler to resurface the heels. That’s when the impostor, umm protector, soles will come in handy. I hear they are a pretty close match. But until then, I am embracing the red soles with every step even if it means some moisture here or a scratch there.

The Elusive Knee High Black Boot

It’s official. Boot season is upon us. What better way to keep the tootsies warm and rock skirts and dresses all winter long. I took a post-call walk Monday morning in my new knee high black leather boots.

After having worked 126 clinical hours in 8 days, I still felt a little guilty taking time to walk my 6 year old son to school yesterday after returning home to freshen up before heading back into work. (More on working-mom guilt in a later blog.) It was a chilly morning; but, I decided to walk him to school so that I could curl my fingers–now dry and raw from alcohol cleansing patient after patient, day after day–around his still so soft and smooth little hands while also having my first conversation with him in over a week. It was also the perfect time to sneak in a few extra steps (10,000 steps/day remained elusive despite being exhausted from being on-service) and to break in the boots.

As I thought to myself “Wow these boots really are comfortable and look soooooooo good!” my son asked, in that way as if he were asking why the sky is blue, “Mommy, why are your calves so fat?” Way to keep it real little guy. Thanks!

The battle between my calves and the elusive knee high black boots has been epic. I know it isn’t nearly as existential as I have made it out to be in my head. Clearly something about my gait has left me with dainty ankles and well-developed (not fat son, not fat!) calves. As a result most knee high boots will simply not zip or otherwise allow themselves to be pulled up to my calves. Those that do typically create what can best be described as a muffin-calf or equally unflattering cankles.

I have spent over a decade trying to find a pair of boots that both flatter the ankle and fully envelop the calves (by whatever mechanism necessary). I tried entry level brands and high end brands. I tried comfort oriented styles and fashion styles. I tried ankle zips and full zips (along the inside, the outside, and up the back) and stretchy panels (full panels, partial panels, and dual panels). I tried leather and suede and (gasp: sorry PETA friends, I just love a good smooth-as-a-baby’s-bottom calfskin) even tried synthetic. The boots won and I lost, relegated to bare calves or wearing long pants all boot season long.

My poor husband, followed by our children, sat through countless hours of me and my calves battling boots in shoe stores or department stores. I would order multiple pairs at a time from on-line retailers only to be disappointed and take advantage of their consumer friendly return policies (thanks, Tony Hsieh). I would take boots to the local cobbler begging him to stretch a boot shaft just a little bit more or stitch a cankle into an ankle. It got to the point where I would look for shoes on every trip I took just in case a far away retailer had an elusive boot that was somehow not available locally. 

Jimmy Choo Dyotts circa fall 2011. May they rest in peace.

Jimmy Choo Dyotts circa fall 2011. May they rest in peace.

I thought I had finally succeeded two years ago with Jimmy Choo’s Dyott. But, it turned out that the Dyott’s left zipper was no match for my left calf (which, of course, is slightly more well-developed than my right).

And so, my hunt continued late into last year’s boot season (found a pair of Stuart Weitzman’s Accumulate that worked with minimal cankling–my go to weekend casual boots), over the summer (when I snagged the very last pair of Christian Louboutin Bourge in the US while vacationing in the Bay area–my party boots), and as recently as last week when my little guy sat with me (again) as I tackled nearly every professionally appropriate tall black boot to be found at Nordstrom (their shoe return policy is the best in the business and my calves demand such a policy) lamenting my calf woes only to end up with a pair of stylish and practical boots for work (Anyi Lu Viktoria) that it turns out are the ideal boots for walking my son to school and chatting about my fatness of my calves or the blueness of the sky.

Mother-son bonding couldn’t be any better.

Christian Louboutin Bourge

Christian Louboutin Bourge

Anyi Lu Viktoria

Anyi Lu Viktoria

Stuart Weitzman Accumulate

Stuart Weitzman Accumulate