Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Our US Trip - Bags are Packed (Actually, Not at All)

So I think I've mentioned that we are headed to the US soon.  We are so excited!

Michael and I are flying business class together (I think this is the first time we have managed to make this happen) in Cathay, direct from Hong Kong to Chicago.  From there, we hop on another flight to Cleveland, where we are headed for a long weekend of fun and revelry at a... wedding!

Michael's sister is getting married, yay!  Weddings are so much fun. 

My parents and sister will also attend.  Tickets have been purchased, hotels have been booked, rental cars have been rented.  I have a dress to wear.  I have sparkly heels to match.  I may even consider wearing makeup.  But I will definitely get my hair done.

This wedding promises to be an absolutely fantastic, rollicking, freewheeling fun time.  

(Thinking back on it, I can't believe that a year ago now Michael and I were running around like little headless chickens trying to get everything in order for our own wedding.  Time flies.)

After the weekend, I head to New York, New York, to my big, beloved, urbane, dirty, stinky, beautiful orderly mess of a city, to just hang out with friends and see my family and relax.  Michael will join me, eventually.  And we will soak in just about everything the city has to offer in the summer, which is, for me, the most wonderful time of the year.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Some More Pictures From My Mom's Visit

My mom just sent me some pictures from her trip to Hong Kong.  I am uploading them now because I miss her and can't wait to be in the US soon!

These were taken in front of our building.

One silly.

One serious.
She admired the view from our living room balcony, which, admittedly, is pretty fabulous as night falls and lights begin to flick on.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Update on the Plants

The mint and basil plants on our balcony have been doing great.

The summer heat has made our basil plant blossom, such that I am suddenly thinking up how to use it all.
I bought a lemon mint plant which we have been trying in our water and tea.

My next thought is to get a chili plant - and maybe try my hand at making my own chili sauce.  I can promise that it would be fiery hot and involve a lot of vinegar.  Yum!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Friday Dinner Double Date and Mahjong Into the Late Night

We just had a wildly successful and very fun double date with our friends on Friday night at the renowned local restaurant, Shung Hing, a very old school, traditional Chiu Chow restaurant that has been in Hong Kong for decades.  

The exterior is pretty gritty, but usually that's a very good sign.  I love these establishments, with their no-fuss exteriors, neon lights and unflattering bulb lighting, family style decor.  You would not be at all surprised to find cigarette burns in the tablecloths here (though theirs were actually in good shape).  The chairs are plastic wrapped and the wallpaper looks like it is an original 1968 vintage.  Sure, it's a bit rough around the edges, but I love it because it captures an irreplaceable flavor of old Hong Kong.    
 Confusingly, there are two storefronts, but it is the same restaurant.  The family has clearly done well in the business (the interior is lined with photos and autographs from local celebrities) and, adhering to the magic rule of Hong Kong real estate, continued to expand by buying up land.
 They have a lot of fresh clams and crabs, for which they are famous.

The speckled flowered crab, the highlight of Chiu Chow cuisine, is traditionally steamed and then served cold, with the lightest of vinegar and ginger dips, so that one can taste the sweet creamy flavor of the unadulterated meat.
The cold fish is also a Chiu Chow staple.  It comes to the dinner table flayed open like thus, and you have to dip the fish in soybean paste, for a salty flavor, or the black vinegar, for a syrupy sweet and tart flavor.
 The goose breast was delicious.  It is marinated in lushui, a soy marinade that has been perfected over decades.  The tofu underneath the goose was also really tasty.
 This is the webbed feet and wings of the goose - for those who like to gnaw at bones and really get the lushui flavor.  Admittedly, it is not for everyone.
 Our spread.
Michael insisted on a more straightforward dish - stir fried pork and cashews.
 We also go this fried taro and minced duck dish for Michael, as it consists of two his favorite ingredients.
We may have over-ordered a bit - we also got the signature pan fried Chiu Chow yellow noodles, and an oyster omelette (but I didn't like it as much as I thought I would).
 The aftermath.  Note my bowl of very neatly cleaned goose bones.
After dinner, we strolled back to our apartment, where we had the mahjong table all set up in anticipation of a long night.   I am not certain why this is so, but  it is always as if we enter a time space warp when we play mahjong.   Finally at 2:30 AM, after many exciting rounds of play and two whole bottles of sake later, we finally called it.

Shung Hing Chiu Chow Restaurant
29-37 Queens' Road West
Sheung Wan Hong Kong
+852 2544 8776

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Catch Up at Moyo: Korean with an Italian Twist

I had dinner with some girlfriends on Wednesday at the restaurant Moyo in Soho.  It has been a meh week thus far and this was the perfect antidote to hump day.
 The concept of Moyo is Italian Korean fusion.  Whaaaa?  Yeah, it works though - much better than I expected, in fact.  Almost all of the dishes that we sampled were very tasty.

I would say that it's mostly Korean food with a touch of Italian.  The space was pretty good, as far as Hong Kong restaurants go (meaning, tiny tiny, but they actually did a decent job fitting in a bunch of tables).
We started with roasted brussels sprouts cooked in a peanut sauce that was lovely - it was flavored a bit strongly, but it was so finger-licking' good that I didn't mind.  Unfortunately, no picture.

The cacio e pepe rice cakes with pecorino cheese and walnuts and cracked pepper sounded a bit odd on paper, but when it came I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty it was.  And I don't even like walnuts.  The cheese was strong and aromatic and oh-so-delightfully nutty, salty and just... gooey cheesy good!
 We ordered a tofu salad with dried lotus root and beet root chips, paired with arugula, thinly sliced apples and radicchio.  It looks very bland, but the dressing or the marinade that they used for the tofu was surprisingly zesty.
The kimchee pancakes - oh my, these were my favorite!  If I come back I am going to get two orders of these and eat all six pancakes by myself.  They were spicy and holy moly delicious.  I liked the crispy exterior also - very nice.  It came with a soy sesame dipping sauce that was spot on.
 This was the bulgogi (marinated beef cubes) with mushroom and onions.  I didn't love the dill sprinkled on top (likely only for garnish purposes but still, I must have accidentally taken one in) but otherwise, this dish, paired with rice, was very tasty.
Their kimchee tasting platter - meh.  I only wanted one of these, but it wasn't available and I had to get the sampler.  I didn't think this one was so good.  Not one bit of Italian fusion element to this dish, though...
Fried chicken (dark meat) - this was the half tasting portion.  It was so good - I wish we had gone big or gone home, and gone for the full portion!  I don't think there is anything Italian about this either.

36 Aberdeen Street
Central Hong Kong
+852 2858 2777

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

On Fitness and Wellness and Fun Gear

I am renewing my dedication to fitness and exercise.  I think it really makes a difference in my attitude and temperament.  Before my lovely (albeit sweaty and wet) hike to the Peak this weekend, I was hit by a blazing whammy of a tension headache, which felt like five hundred pounds of anvils chipping cheerily away in my skull. 

Desperate, I resolved to fix this problem.

I find I like to work out during lunch - it's late enough in the day that I have fully woken up, but not so late in the evening that all I want to do is go home and collapse on the couch.  Something about squeezing in a workout while at work also really, really appeals to my type A scheduling tendencies.

I recently went to a yoga class that left me feeling amazing - just alive, and well, and awake, and rested, but also stretched, and strong, and relaxed.  Michael asked me to explain why it was so good and I said it was ineffable.  But if I were to attempt to explain, I would say that the teacher had a great pace, a good voice, and was challenging without making it feel obviously so.  I also think that each yoga class is particular to that moment.  It so happened that that class helped me achieve a moment of wellness and balance when my body particularly ached and yearned for it.

To continue my amazing streak of wellness after the yoga class, I went to a physical therapy center to get an expensive (oh yes it was very expensive) massage, but I think it was worth every penny because it freed me from a lot of tension that I did not even realize I was suffering.  At points during the massage, I felt tears form in my eyes because the tension (in my jaw) was so palpable.  But I went to bed that night feeling a lot of space between my ears and my shoulders, and that was an incredible feeling.  I also woke up sore the next day, but, this massage felt very different than the usual cheap and quick jobs that I get at a multitude of places around town.  I may also just respond really well to massage - I find this particular form of therapy to really help me with tension. 

I am trying to be more diligent about stretching the particularly terribly abused parts of my neck and shoulders.  I read somewhere that the benefits of stretching are actually in doubt, however, it leaves people feeling so much better afterwards that that in and of itself is a benefit. 

I continue to be intrigued by yoga outfits and pretty workout gear, but I think I've amassed a good collection thus far.  My latest joys are the Teeki yoga pants for hot yoga, S'well water bottle, and Zohba halter tops.  Seriously, the difference between a great outfit and a lackluster one can be the make-or-break factor influencing whether I make it to class...

Monday, June 20, 2016

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all the dads, grandparents, and soon-to-be fathers out there! 

I wasn't able to celebrate with my dad in person, but I did ship home four fat filet mignon steaks that came highly recommended.

Super kudos to my sister for actually cooking the steaks (I did the easy part)!  She did an amazing job on the sear and the browning, too, making a balsamic reduction to go with the steak.  What a talented sibling I have.

I also got my dad a book of riddles and puzzles, because he really likes (and is incredibly good at solving) that brain-teasing stuff.

I miss my family terribly, and am so excited to be back in the US next month.  The countdown has begun.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Hiking the Peak

I think I may have mentioned in other posts that this is promising to be the hottest summer on record.  So of course my friends and I decided that it would be a great way to start off our weekends by going on a hike on a Saturday morning!  When I popped out of bed at 7:50 am, Michael groaned, declared me crazy, and flipped back into sound sleep.

I agreed to meet my friend on Conduit Road, which is halfway up the mountain -- but  we both forgot that the escalators go downhill in the mornings before 10 am.

When I got to the escalator in Soho and saw them going the wrong way, I couldn't help but emit a loud and long groan.  At 86 degrees at 8:15 in the morning and 90% humidity, I thought the trek was going to be pretty brutal.   I made the mistake of hoofing it up these steps - flight after interminable flight, with no stop, and sometimes taking them two steps at a time.  By the time I wheezed up the last flight of stairs on Conduit, I had finished my entire bottle of water and managed to wipe off all of my sweat (along with my tinted sunscreen) onto my white t-shirt.  Hah!

All of this is to say, by the time I got to the beginning of my hike, I was already a bit of a mess.

Rather than taking a further set of steep steps up Conduit to connect to Old Peak Road, my friend and I walked Conduit Road until we were in Mid-levels West, then headed up Kotewall Road.  About halfway into our hike, my friend and I got slammed in a rainstorm - I couldn't believe how soaked we got!  It is definitely typhoon season.  The day started out so hot, sunny and muggy, but with only a whisper of warning, we were pelted until we looked like wet t-shirt contestants.  Needless to say, between the tinted sunscreen and the rain, I was really regretting my outfit choice for the morning.

Thankfully the storm was brief, and we managed to do the rest of the hike only slight squeaky -although, is there anything worse than wet shoes and socks? Blegh!

We exited near the Peak Galleria via Harlech Road.  Once there, we met our other friend and her (adorable, very well behaved) baby and then we did a 5km hike around Lugard Road.  By the time we were on Lugard, the weather had improved considerably.

Altogether, I had walked about 16,000 steps by the time we finished, which I thought was pretty good.  We ate brunch at Tsui Wah around 11 am, and were in a taxi and headed back down the Peak before noon.  Talk about a productive morning!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Trampolining at Ryze

It is summer associate time at the firm, and one of the activities that was organized was trampolining.  Yes.

This is all the craze in Hong Kong currently, from three year old birthday parties to adult fitness classes to trampolining junkies whose idea of a good time is to gather at a gym on a random weeknight and... well... bounce.
I have to say, having never really been on a trampoline but for maybe a few mere minutes at camp when I was eight years old, it is fun but also a little bit... scary.  It didn't help that I had heard that people have broken bones and injured themselves quite severely at these things. 

Because these things are bouncy.  The flying part of it was fun and great - it was the landing part that had me very worried.  
You are supposed to avoid landing outside of the trampoline square (i.e., the green and gray mat areas), I think because these are pads that have been laid on top of metal rods, which are holding the massive trampoline together.  It is harder to control your direction, when you're bouncing several feet into the air, than you might think.  

Some of the people at the trampoline park were amazing - doing cartwheels into back handsprings and launching themselves off of the trampoline into piles of foam cushioning.  

When it came to the riskier moves, I decided to observe more than attempt, but it was still really fun overall.  I managed to try a few easy airborne pikes and splits and was happy with my attempts.

This is the area where you sign in, and also sign a nice long healthy waiver.
Lockers to hold valuables and shoes.  You have to trampoline barefoot, or else buy a pair of their special grippy socks.
Glad I tried it, though I am not sure that I would go out of my way to do this again.

Ryze Ultimate Trampoline Park
3/F, 321 Java Road
North Point, Hong Kong 
2337 8191

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Weekend of Entertaining and Eating

We are finally beginning to have guests over to our apartment, which is really fun.

This past weekend, we may have overdone it a little bit, by hosting two separate sets of friends back to back, and then going out for dinner on Sunday night.

On Friday night, we had friends over for food and drinks, where we had a great time catching up and seeing each other.  I'm not sure how it happens, but in Hong Kong you can go months (in what feels like the blink of an eye) without seeing each other or finding a mutually agreeable time to hang out.

On Saturday night, we also hosted a mahjong double date night, which was great fun, as always.  For some reason, mahjong always goes late into the night...

We lit candles.  I bought peonies.  We made fancy water (with lemon slices and mint).  We put out placemats and napkins and nice forks and knives.  You know, we did the hostess-y things.

And finally, on Sunday night we went to dinner with a couple of friends at Nikuya Room, a Korean fusion barbecue restaurant that had incredibly fresh ingredients.  We sampled some very innovative dishes, which I had never heard of or tried before (Korean style beef tartare, grilled beef smeared with minced onion, grilled pork cheek served with wasabi and lemon...and an amazing fatty beef sirloin served lightly grilled, dipped into raw egg and wrapped around rice).

So basically this was a weekend of entertaining and eating excess!

Friday, June 10, 2016


Just mailed in my absentee ballot for the general election today.

They make you check if you are military, living abroad with intent to return, living abroad with no intent to return, or living abroad having never spent time in the U.S.

Interesting.... guess which one I picked?  Too bad you can't make the choice conditional.

Woot woot!  Let's kick some *@%!  #hillary2016 #hillaryclinton

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lazy Public Holiday (Dragon Boat Festival, or Duan Wu Jie)

Today's public holiday could not have come at a better time!

Rather than making any travel plans, I sank into this public holiday gratefully and without planning anything more complicated or ambitious than a girls' late brunch in Wan Chai.

We celebrated a friend's birthday at The Optimist, a Spanish tapas restaurant on Hennessy Road, and aimed to meet at 1:30 pm.  Now that is the kind of leisurely start to the day that I'm talking about!

Yoga?  Thought for about 30 hot minutes about it, then promptly dismissed the idea.

Pedicure?  Actually, this one sounded really great (I only got a manicure when I went to the Nail Library) but no salons were open due to the public holiday, so I was thwarted.  I hate it (but also love it) when I'm forced to save money.

Massage?  Also thought about this for a little while, but then decided I was so lazy that I would rather laze on the couch than be rubbed down by someone else.

Yes… we are talking a new level of lazy.

But it was awesome.  It is now 9:30 pm and I have not done much else but update my pinterest page and scroll through my instagram feed.

Oh, and post this.  Oh oh and give myself mental high fives for such a fantastically non-productive day.

We have guests over for two nights in a row though, so I am resting up in anticipation of those antics!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

All the Orchids

My office gets a new orchid plant delivered for the main desk every few weeks or so, but they replace it before the blooms have even begun to fade.
For the price of the pot, I got to keep this one, the latest "discard".  I mean, really!  Recycling can take all forms, including adopting a plant that is going to be retired.  So far, the flowers have made me very happy while at work.  I think they really add some "pop" to my office and brighten up the whole space.

Word is that these orchids are bred and cared for by the orchid whisperer, a very crabby old Hong Kong lady at the florist near our office.  Supposedly her temperament towards humans leaves much to be desired, but anyone can see that orchids have no problem responding to her touch.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Fish School and Nail Library

Michael and I went on a really fun double date at Fish School in Sai Ying Pun last night.

I refrained from taking pictures at dinner, but then the Hamachi fish head came out and I couldn't resist.
It was such a fun night.  Halfway through dinner, we were laughing so hard that we could barely sit upright.

We got an array of appetizers, including lobster popcorn, hamachi crudo atop a bed of creamy avocado, crab uni rice and a grilled octopus.  The entrees were the fish head, pictured above, and a whole dover sole, cooked in an almond butter sauce. The boys opted for negronis.  The girls opted for white wine.  We also got two desserts, wax berries with geranium granita and a mango with coconut ice cream.  The food was very fresh.

Before dinner, I went with my girl friend to catch up over manicures and pedicures at the lovely, relaxing Nail Library.  Getting into the swing of summer, I opted for a bright pop of color.  It makes me think of beaches and summer.  I am loving it!

 Fish School
100 Third Street
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
2361 2966

Nail Library
10-12 On Wo Lane
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
2618 8623

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Latest Life Updates

I have been percolating a few blog draft posts but haven't gotten around to shepherding them from that ephemeral brain state into electronically published format...

Last week I returned from Ho Chi Minh city on Friday afternoon, then promptly headed into the office to get a bunch of work done before the weekend.

On Saturday (so, unbelievably, a week ago today!), I went to dinner with a few girl friends at Belon, a new French bistro (from the Black Sheep Restaurant group) that opened on Elgin Street (and I cannot even remember what it replaced, such is the transient state of restaurants in Hong Kong).  It was tasty, though very buttery.  I would say the only drawback is its tiny portion sizes.  We then went to Foxglove after for drinks and to listen to the jazz band.

The work week this week showed no signs of slowing down, with a closing occurring in the U.S. right after Memorial Day, two of my deals coming back to life with urgent new issues, and a tricky beneficial ownership report filing that had me very stressed.  This was a week of a lot of late nights and early mornings!  Coffee… coffee was essential this week.

Last night, Michael and I went with friends to the Frozen Planet concert with the HK Philharmonic.  It consisted of many stunning clips of various animals in the Arctic and Antarctica, set to live music accompaniment.  I loved it!  The cinematography was incredible - huge packs of killer whales in a strategic attack on a seal, wolves chasing down a buffalo, penguins soaring in the water, polar bears playing, beluga whales swimming, an albatross learning how to fly…the videos showed all the facets of nature - the tender, the playful, the cruel and the relentless.  As one of my friends said, it was like watching animal planet in a big theater, but set to really, really good surround sound.

We live on a beautiful planet full of such whimsical, amazing animals, and the fact that we have the technology and ability to capture it on film, pair it to such fitting musical accompaniment, and package it for consumption in an intimate auditorium… the whole show felt like a joyous celebration of our world and our humanity.  It was a really nice big-picture distraction from the various minutiae that I had been preoccupied with during the week.

In other news, Hong Kong has reared its hot head, and all signs indicate that it is going to be one of the hottest summers on record.  Tonight, Michael and I are headed on a double date to try a new restaurant in Sai Ying Pun, Fish School.  More details in the next post!