Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Handy Man Michael

I am kind of thrilled by the fact that Michael likes to putter around and fix things.  I would venture to guess that his first love is woodworking, but his inclination to fix things also benefits me greatly.  Not only can and does he adjust my glasses, fix my shoes and clean my jewelry, in the latest labor of love, he has ventured into the restoration of my handbags.  I assure you, this is a very attractive character trait indeed.

Just last night, he performed a miraculous resurrection on a vintage Coach handbag that has been in a state of disrepair for a few years now - indeed, it had become so worn out it was practically gray.

I wish I had a "before" picture to show you...the edges of the bag were worn away and the whole thing looked tired.

But now look at it!  It's practically gleaming!

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Wonderful Weekend and a Not So Bad (thus far) Monday

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!  I had a busy and productive and nice weekend.

I went to some hard yoga classes and worked up a good sweat (feeling very sore today), had a fitting for my wedding dress and a fitting for my qi pao, got a strong foot massage, did a little bit of work, started (and finished) a book, went to brunch with girl friends at The Cupping Room (they have fantastic french toast and very fresh brunch items), meandered around Central window shopping Celine, de Beers and Van Cleef (woo hoo that was fun), got my spice fix at my favorite spicy noodle shop in Causeway Bay, and enjoyed a lovely culinary experience at On Dining.  Not in that particular order.

On Dining was really great.  Here is the bar.
The cheese expert (officially, an affineur) formerly worked at Caprice, and listening to him introduce the cheeses was such an experience - all of his love and passion poured out in a history lesson mixed with personal anecdote and poetry.  We had asked for a sampling and he brought us eight cheeses, ranging from the lightest on the bottom left below ("cheese ice cream," in his words) to the stinkiest and sharpest on the upper right ("you may not be able to handle this," he warned).
Oh, we handled it.  I made myself a cheese clock, on my cheese plate. 

This was the view from the 29th floor - you can see a sliver of the harbor.

On Kitchen, I will be back... but preferably on an expense account. 

It has been a beautiful, sunny Monday, and I kicked it off with a bright and early 90 minute vinyasa class.  After that kind of jump start I don't even need coffee.

Sadly, on the way to work, my beloved Ancient Greek Sandals (referenced here) broke.  I guess two years of pretty steadfast wear have done them in.  They turned out to be wonderfully comfortable, the leather wearing and stretching beautifully with age.  I promptly went online and during the course of the day today decided on these (mine are the natural color but the second strap is a metallic gold - I am very happy I got them on sale, woo hoo). 

I can't believe I leave for the US in two weeks!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

W W Chan - Second Fitting

Michael went in for his second suit fitting this week.  I think he managed to drive the tailors a little bit crazy trying to figure out what was wrong with the lapel/shoulder/chest area, but the important thing is that he left very happy with his suit. 

The fabric feels amazing.

On the pants, the seat needed to be enlarged a little and the length in the back taken out a little.  We debated for a while, but decided the waist would be okay as it is.  It's very fitted though - no more chips for Michael for a while!
 On the jacket, the sleeve lengths were perfect, the length of the jacket perfect, the pocket and button and lapel placement all perfect.

It took a while to figure out what was bothering Michael on the chest and lapels but then the tailors took the sleeves off and adjusted the armpit and miraculously fixed the issue.  Now we just have to wait and see if they have fixed the trickiest and most elusive issue of them all - the roll in the upper back and center shoulder area.

So far we are pretty happy with W.W.Chan.

The tailoring appointments are kind of fun for me -- watching the two men dress Michael and fuss over him is like watching a modern day Asian rendition of Downtown Abbey.  See, e.g.:

Next fitting in two weeks.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Wedding Ring

So, lots to do in this next month… can't believe the wedding is really just around the corner!!

I thought I'd share with you today the rose gold wedding band that I just got from the jeweler yesterday. 

We went through a few speedbumps in the creation and execution, as at first they made it too thick and also misaligned the stones.  But now I love it, especially the center where it comes to a very fine point.  The diamonds are very fiery and sparkly.  It is also incredibly comfortable.

I love that the ring has enough character and style to be worn alone (in fact, I would argue it really stands out this way!).  This was very much what I wanted: a wedding band that could be beautiful and interesting in its own right. I think it also works very well paired with my oval engagement stone.  The tapered center helps it fit snugly underneath the oval.  I don't mind that the rings don't sit perfectly flush, but I think they are as nestled together as can be.

Ok, now I guess I should stop wearing it…

Thursday, July 23, 2015


I haven't been this enthralled by a book in a while.  I have never read Jane Smiley, because despite her numerous and impressive accolades, I just never thought I would get into a book (much less a 380+ paged book) about a family and a farm in Iowa.  Then last evening, kind of on a whim, I finally picked up Smiley's "A Thousand Acres," a book that garnered her a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1991 and a Pulitzer in 1992. 

For about four hours, I reached that perfect and very elusive state where I could not put the book down.  Numerous times I just nodded and said OK to whatever Michael was saying to me.  He would ask me a question and after a few seconds, I would realize he was talking to me and briefly raise my head and mutter, "What?"  Finally at 1 AM I was forced to put the book down and go to bed.  I fully intend to finish it today.

The characters are so real.  The writing is so lucid, powerful, beautiful.  The characters come so fully formed off the page, you feel like you are right there with them, watching the tractors criss-crossing the field, fending off the mercurial wrath of the father, planting the tomatoes.  The book, set against the broad sweeping space of the Iowa plains, beautifully mixes the dramatic with the mundane, with a tightly paced, tense plot that just keeps marching inexorably forward toward a damning, explosive finish. 

Wow, it is so good.  A reviewer called it "Book of a Lifetime" and I must say, I agree.  Good job Jane.

Update: As I have been reading rather voraciously of late, here is what I plan to read this summer.  All of them get at least 4 stars or more on amazon, have won a prize, or else generally received some good press.  That said, I am pretty unabashed to drop a book if I don't like it… so I may not end up reading all of these.  I am still undecided if I want to try Jane Smiley's "The Last Hundred Years" trilogy… what if it's really disappointing?

Karen White: The Time Between
Beatriz Williams: A Hundred Summers
Elin Hilderbrand: The Rumor
Christine Kline: Orphan Train
Kristin Hannah: Nightingale
Jessica Knoll: Luckiest Girl Alive
Herman Koch: The Dinner
Aziz Ansari: Modern Romance
Lily King: Euphoria
Marie Kondo: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Kent Haruf: Plainsong
Barbara Demick: Nothing to Envy

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sunday Brunch, SUP + Yoga at Stanley

I had an insanely productive Sunday this past weekend - perhaps too productive for my own good, as I am still feeling the effects even now, on Tuesday night.

I woke up and went to a 75 minute hot intermediate/advanced yoga class workshop, where one of my favorite yoga teachers took great delight in torturing us into wickedly uncomfortable poses.

From there, I headed to the Pulse in Repulse Bay to grab some brunch at Limewood.

The south side of Hong Kong island feels so different from the north.  When we sat down at the tables looking out onto the beach and the water, it was hard to imagine that we were still in Hong Kong.
Limewood was pretty disappointing though, as all I wanted were thick fluffy stacks of buttermilk pancakes with scrambled eggs and biscuits, berries, bacon, and a pot of coffee.  The menu was kind of odd and rather limited, focusing mostly on Asian appetizers and heavy meat entrees.
We joked that everything came deconstructed at this restaurant (a clever way to make less food seem like more - I do believe I have now seen it all, Hong Kong).

 By the end of the meal all I wanted was a huge juicy burger and fries (as I kept telling my friends).
After wandering the boardwalk at the Pulse for a bit, it was time to try stand up paddling at a session on Stanley Main Beach.  It was a pretty crowded day.

The windsurfers were having a great time though…

Here we are getting a quick tutorial on SUP, or Stand Up Paddling.

Here we are out on the water.  It was a choppy day.  After we posed for this picture, we got caught in a squall and could barely make it back.  The bottom picture is of the intrepid members who actually wanted to do yoga on their paddle boards, despite the crappy weather.

I liked how the houses looked down there… it really doesn't seem like Hong Kong.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

So, I tend to shop in binges.  Nordstrom is having their pretty fantastic anniversary sale right now.

I bought a pair of Cole Haan shoes.  So looking forward to wearing them about.
 I somehow justified a leather jacket even though it has been one of the hottest summers on record so far.  I like how this leather jacket is very fitted and is more feminine, rather than biker/rocker edgy.  More my style.

Michael lost his boat shoes during his stag party in Macau, so this seemed like a pretty good opportunity to buy him a new pair. 

And I'm still eyeing these knit Air Nikes... aren't they such pretty colors?
As tempting as some of the other items were, like a pretty green pea coat, a Joie faux fur collar sweater,  a James Perse fleece military blazer, boots and ankle booties, I decided to pass on all of them, given that it won't be getting cold here until at least December.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Massage Junkie

So I realize I have become kind of addicted to, and spoiled by the variety of, massages since moving out to Asia!  I have rotated through a relatively steady supply and am always looking for new places or suggestions.

Having run the gamut from truly budget (and often with the dingy atmosphere to match) to very fancy (and with a price tag to match), I think the ideal massage spot is on the middle-lower price point, with a more clinical environment, with masseuses who really get it.

It is pretty easy to tell a good massage therapist from a bad one - I would argue 30 seconds to one minute into my massage I know how it's going to be.  Good masseuses immediately hone in on the knots and the issues and can source just the right fascia or tendon to its root.  It hurts but it hurts so good.

What amazes me is how easily a good masseuse can tell what my issues are - truly just from a cursory touch on my back and shoulders, and a light touch on my neck and jaw.  I wonder how different bodies come across to them, and how glaring the various issues are, such that they can "read" these symptoms so clearly and immediately, like how you and I read words printed on a page.

At this point I am really soaking up the massage therapy - I have been going almost once a week for body massage (where I arguably need it more) and then on average about once a week or once every week and a half for a foot massage (I love feeling super sleepy after a foot massage - it puts me in a slightly drowsy dream state that is so delicious).

I emerged from a massage today feeling like a very heavy brick weight had been lifted from my upper body.  My neck feels at least three inches longer, as if the space between my chin and shoulder has magically mushroomed.  It feels delightful.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Shopping and Yoga

So, I know the sum of life's happiness is supposed to stem from meaningful encounters, exciting travels and new adventures… where you constantly make fresh and interesting memories that change and refresh you, so that you never lose the wonder of your inner child.  And buying things aren't supposed to accomplish that, because we humans are tricky beasts that immediately adapt to our newly acquired possessions or material goods.

But sometimes I just want to buy things.  So there.  Please take my hard earned money, gosh darn it.

Like, for example, in a fit of frustration and momentary insanity, I signed up for a 90 minute 7 am yoga class. And this morning, I actually went, although my eyeballs felt like they had been scalded in lava.  But that made my morning coffee taste so good, and so well deserved.  So that was a good experience. 

But then I figured I had earned the right to reward myself (rather prematurely, I must admit) for this new and improved self, so I went and bought a ridiculously expensive yoga halter top that I have been lusting after for a very long time now.   Um… not sure when it became perfectly acceptable for workout clothes to cost more than a dress, but this is the yogi world we live in now.

But oh, look at the ombre colors and how they fade into each other.  I really like the light green, pink and cream layered look.  It reminds me of creamsicles and ponies and rainbows and possibilities.  Isn't that what we all need in life?  And it will look oh so nice with my heather gray Beyond Yoga pants.
Source: Tanya-b
And then, because why stop at one top?? I proceeded on a little Hard Tail shopping binge.  I admit I went a little crazy with the patterns...

This is the Hard Tail ikat legging and something about those pink stripes just appealed to me.  I usually don't do horizontal stripes (aren't they supposed to make your legs look fatter and shorter) but... what a nice change from the normal boring black!
Source: Hard Tail

I also went for a pair of their blue skeleton lizard tights... what do you think? This is about the length of my preferred yoga pant - the full length legging is also nice to maintain the line of the leg, but I steadfastly maintain the somewhat illusory belief that those extra six to eight inches of exposed skin down by my ankles help me stay cool. 
Source: Bluefly

I have always gone for straight, solid black or gray tights and solid color tank tops or Lululemon style tops (pink, purple, black), etc. but now they seem so incredibly boring.  I'm ready to shake things up a bit, and embrace some cool patterns.

I did pick a plain ole' white tank top as well (some habits die hard) to counteract all the patterns.

I am hoping all of these beautiful clothes incentivize me to do more yoga.  Now if only they could help me get into flying koundinyasana. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Random Updates, Thoughts, and Oh Yeah, a Wedding

So life is just chugging along this month, and I realized that, oh hey, it's mid-July!  The countdown to the wedding has begun, but, for me more practically, the countdown to getting the heck out of work has started.  Can't come soon enough.
I spent ten hours today at my desk thinking through warranties and covenants and all kinds of legal issues that had my brain feeling really numb by the time I ordered my dinner.
I did not get to go to my dress fitting (which I postponed from yesterday), and likely will not make it tomorrow.
I tried not to think about the other document that I really have been neglecting that I really shouldn't be neglecting.
I need to pick up my wedding band and argue with my tailor and figure out seating arrangements and…

But, hey!  On to fun wedding things.

We have pre-wedding drinks on Thursday (August 20) lined up starting at 8:30 pm at Von, which is a bar where Michael and I first went when we started dating (or more accurately, when he was wooing me, ahem) and where we had a few celebrity sightings whilst sitting around drinking wine and basking in the heady delight that is Nolita (except I recognized none of the celebrities)*.  Who knows where the night will take us?  Personally I am really keen to check out shuffleboard in Brooklyn.

*I often wonder how many celebrity sightings I have had in my life that I just completely missed.

Wedding rehearsal (I keep wanting to say dress rehearsal) will kick off at 5:30 pm on Friday (August 21).

There will be an after party after the wedding on Saturday (August 22) where we all go boogie some more at a pub or neighborhood bar.

And finally, on Sunday (August 23) we will all gather for an impromptu brunch at Freemans, likely around 11:30 or noon.  They do take reservations, not always a given for NYC weekend brunch, so if you're interested in joining you should definitely go ahead and book.
Instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour last night I got a foot massage and stayed up late finishing Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave.
Instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour two nights ago I spent a lot of time looking up all the activities that I want to do and all the food that I want to eat in Anguilla.  For a small scrubby island, this place really has a lot of stuff.  33 beaches for an island 16 miles long?? Wow.
Instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour three nights ago I spent a lot of time planning out a fantastic 11 day itinerary to New Zealand for Christmas.  Glaciers, fjords, mountains, lakes, star-gazing, hiking, and, um, yes, I realize that I may be getting ahead of myself here...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Dessert at Yuen Kee in Sai Ying Pun

I love, love love the super old school places in Hong Kong that look like they could be the setting for a Wong Kar Wai movie or that seem to have survived into modern day from the 1950s completely unscathed.

Such is Yuen Kee, a family owned dessert shop located on Centre Street in Sai Ying Pun.
How great is it that the desserts come in bowls perched on metal tins designed to capture any spills?  Brilliant.
 I ordered the almond milk with lotus seeds.  The almond milk here is very smooth, lightly sweet, and slightly velvety.  Just lovely.  They also sell black sesame seed paste, red bean soup, green bean soup, a red date herbal soup…no chocolate to be found here!
 Everything, I love everything: the old walls with no adornments… the tiny booths that sit one or two people (barely), the metal chairs, the fluorescent lighting, tile floors, drab interior… one would be hard pressed to say that Yuen Kee is trying to score high marks for interior design.  It is so devoid of personality, so ruthlessly functional, so very leached of all personality… that it ends up oozing old school cool in spades!  This must be their ingenious marketing strategy culled from fifty years' worth of experience.

Yuen Kee
32 Centre Street
Western District, Hong Kong
telephone: I wouldn't bother, I don't think they have one… wait, surprise, they do!  It is 2548 8687.  But I still wouldn't bother to call; judging by the surly old man's attitude at the cash register, they don't bother to pick up their phone any way! 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Simple Pleasures at Tsui Wah - Fish Ball Soup

Tsui Wah is a Hong Kong institution, an old school diner with cheap and fast food delivered lickety split.  As a cha chan teng, it serves some seriously weird breakfast, lunch and all day concoctions that somehow became popular in Hong Kong in the 1970s, which have survived to become their own clever and curious gourmet niche in present day. 

The ramen noodles in tomato sauce, condensed milk toast, macaroni with spam in chicken soup, and half-coffee, half-milk tea drink… all of this is a legacy of British Hong Kong.
 Kind of love the old decor, unchanged since 1977, or thereabouts.  Track lighting, wavy designs, tile, and mirrored ceilings? Check, check, check.
 This place is packed at lunch time.
This is what I come for:
These fish balls are hand made and, unlike some of the other places around town, actually taste hand made.  They are very tender, yet still have a nice chewy consistency.  The noodles are very thin, slippery, and silky soft.  Served in a light fish broth (which I still am not sure contains MSG) and paired with some red vinegar and chili sauce, sometimes this just hits the spot.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Friday Lunch at Fish & Meat

Fish & Meat opened in Hong Kong a while ago and I never got around to trying it out.  Frankly, it struck me as the kind of place appropriate for an expense account -- i.e., kind of pricey for not very much stuff.  (But lately I've also been feeling like that is all of Hong Kong generally.)  I had also heard kind of mediocre reviews, so didn't really feel all that inclined to rush to try out their food.  So all in all it seemed like the perfect candidate for a summer associate lunch. 

Friday emerged bright, beautiful and incredibly sunny after the typhoon (always a shame when this happens on a workday!) and it seemed like the perfect time to go for a nice lunch, though I would also argue that there is never a bad time to go for a nice lunch when it's on someone else's dime.
Fish & Meat is located on Wyndham Street in Soho, but it's on the second floor and actually has a lot of light and space considering its location.

I loved their restaurant design.

The food was actually pretty good, I thought - very fresh and interesting.  The portion sizes were also quite big.

We got four starter plates to share for the table:
 Crab salad - the crab salad was a little bit fishy and I didn't love the deconstructed arrangement, but it was interesting.
 Tuna salad with watermelon squares, tossed lightly in a basil and green onion sauce.  Quite tasty and it was remarkable how hard it was to tell which was watermelon and which was tuna.
 Fried whitebait with a mustard aioli sauce.  The white bait was very tender and fresh, but it was a little bit disconcerting to be able to see their little black eyes in there, hiding under the batter.
 Definitely my favorite of the four, the tomato and burrata salad with baby microgreens and yuzu leaves, paired with grilled peaches! (What a brilliant idea!)
 In a laughable attempt to control my cholesterol (or some misguided thought to try to eat healthier), I tried to order the French monkfish paired with cauliflower puree, capers and wilted spinach.  Alas, they were out of this dish.  I took it as a sign from the heavens and went ahead with my order of the 350g of tender hangar steak, paired with french fries and oven roasted (chili flake rubbed) squash.  The meat was very tender, the fries very good (albeit salty) and the squash had a nice sweet flavor.
It was a very satisfying meal (compared to Gaucho, for example) and, after finishing the meal with a skim latte, I felt very content.