Thursday, September 29, 2016

More Updates to the House

I haven't posted recently, but it isn't for lack of updates!

Things are still progressing steadily on the house, thanks in HUGE part to our families:

Michael's dad for coming all the way out from Ohio, driving an SUV full of supplies, including an air mattress and fan and a saw and tons of tools.  He brought lots of construction expertise and really helped us kick off the process.

Michael's brother for making the detour from Washington D.C., who was a tremendous help in moving, placing, and just generally dominating everything heavy and bulky in the backyard.  We still marvel at how much he was able to help us get done in just a couple of days.

My sister for managing to squeeze in a trip between her travels to and from Boston and New York to help run errands, get grub, take pictures... and just be her usual hyper-efficient, fun and happy and cheery self.

And of course, my parents, my wonderful parents, who are always really amazing, but lately they have reminded me (as if I ever needed a reminder) of why they are just so darn awesome.  They are such hard workers, and so diligent.

They have been helping on the house so much, and spending all of their energies and efforts to make it look new and sparkly and clean.  My mom and dad have been going to clean and fix it up, nearly every day, for hours on end every day, leaving their house mid-afternoon and working until late night, not getting home until after 11 pm.  I couldn't believe it when my mom told me.  It made me feel terribly guilty, for swanning off to Italy to enjoy a wedding, while they were helping me clean the heck out of the house....

They have been helping with improvements both big and small.  My dad told me that he donned a hat and mouth mask, then used a leaf blower in the basement to get all of the dust and dirt off the floor of the basement.  When the dust settled, he came back in to scoop everything up.   My mom said she was so tired that she has never slept better.  This is so like my parents - going above and beyond so that you can only feel love and worry brimming to the surface in equal parts!

Now to the pictures.  With everyone's help, the house is really starting to brighten up.

The stairs to the basement, before:
And after:
My dad noticed that the water was leaking into the second floor window from the third floor, and went up to caulk up the gutter.

Here, these were steps that Michael had stained in red oak, and then my dad painted in between the steps for the finishing touch.
Here, my dad is painting the metal stairwell in the backyard.

Here are some new bird eye views of the backyard.  We keep holding our breaths and crossing our fingers for grass to sprout.  As you can see, we are surrounded by lots of greenery!

One more shot at dusk:

A close up - never thought I'd be so happy to see a few anemic green sprouts!
But it is slowly filling in...

Separately, the contractor had put in tiles, and replaced the temporary wooden windowsill with a slab of granite, in the kitchen in the lower duplex.


And after:

Monday, September 19, 2016

Good Eats at Maison Libanaise

I finally went to the Maison Libanaise in Soho, off of the escalators, this weekend.

I loved it.  They have a great picture window that opens out to the escalators.

Fantastic people watching? Check.
 They have the cutest decor, with these fun patterned tile floors, and the most cheerful and colorful entryway.  Their stairwell just makes you happy.

Colorful, cute, funky decor?  Check.

They have a eat-in menu and a take-out menu.  Their takeout menu focuses on a few things they do well and they do not try to be too ambitious with it - grilled cheese, lamb, chicken or beef, or falafel are the protein choices.  They have rice, Syrian salad, tabouleh or a mezze platter.  They have four sauces, consisting of cucumber yogurt, sesame, lemon garlic or chili.  They have some beverage options and two side options.  Done.
Simple, fast, decision-tree menu?  Check.

 The food came out in a jiffy and before I knew it I was eagerly and greedily inhaling my combo beef haloumi Syrian salad wrap.  I will definitely be back.
This place has it all!

Maison Libanaise
10 Shelley Street
Central, Hong Kong
+852 2111 2284

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lights Festival in Victoria Park for Mid-Autumn Festival, Followed by Dinner and Dessert

This was a long weekend in Hong Kong for the mid-autumn festival, which is a holiday where everyone eats a lot of mooncakes and lights up lanterns.  I went to Victoria Park with some friends on Saturday to look at the lights and lanterns, and then we went to get dinner at a traditional restaurant, Pak Loh Chiu Chow in Causeway Bay.  After dinner, we went to get frozen yogurt at llaollao, a new Spanish dessert place that has popped up to join the frozen yogurt craze that is taking over Hong Kong.

 After we looked around at all of the lights, we made our way to the restaurant.
It is set back from the street, in an interesting, quirky, wood hallway.
We started the meal with the traditional shots of strong Iron Buddha (tieguanyin) tea.
 We got a platter of braised goose, one of my favorite dishes.  The dipping sauce, a very tart white vinegar, is delectable.
 Chicken with basil.
 Marinated chicken and jellyfish, a cold platter.
 Fried rice with olives.
 Yellow croaker topped with fermented soybeans and ginger.  The fish was delicious - incredibly fresh and tender.
 We also got some sautéed green beans with pork.
 The goose was so good that we got another platter, this time a combo plate with goose liver (the liver is on the left, the meat is on the right).  Underneath the meat is marinated tofu, which soaks up all of the soy sauce and marinade.  Yum.
 This is a minced pork and squid patty - we joked it is the equivalent of Chinese hamburger meat.
We were nearly the last ones out of the restaurant.  After that filing and delicious dinner, we went to satiate our sweet cravings at llaollao.

Here is my petit llao sized frozen yogurt.  It was creamy and tart and delicious.  I loved the packaging as well.  We joked that the spoon was like a mini shoehorn!
Pak Loh Chiu Chow
23-25 Hysan Avenue
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
+852 2576 8886

9-11 Pennington Street
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Experiencing the Hong Kong DMV

I had the luck misfortune of checking out the Hong Kong equivalent of the department of motor vehicles this week.

As I stepped into the fluorescent-lit office area, with its light up number counters, endless rows of booths and crazy zig-zagging lines, the scene made me think that perhaps the endless bureaucracy, tedious paperwork, and the waiting, shuffling, waiting, and endless waiting that epitomizes the agonized purgatory of a motor vehicle department... is simply inevitable, no matter where you are in the world.
There was a whole other room, with rows and rows of chairs and about 30 counters, in an area behind this.
I finally got around to figuring out how to get a Hong Kong drivers' license (turns out, it is not so hard if you already have a drivers license from another country).  You fill out paperwork, provide proof of residential address in Hong Kong, and provide three forms of ID (your passport, HKID and original driver's license).

The motor vehicles department takes five working days to review the paperwork and application and give you a definitive answer.  Then you return within a 30 day window with payment, and if all goes well you get your Hong Kong drivers license.

I wanted a drivers' license here so that I could then get an international driver's permit.  Ultimately a local driver's license doesn't seem a bad thing to have, though I doubt I will be putting it to much use.

In truth, I think this process is a bit too easy - I would never dream of driving here without some serious practice sessions.  Driving on the opposite side of the road, with the crazy traffic, the short on and off ramps, and the nearly dizzying circuitry that are the roads of Hong Kong island...sounds like a fine idea in theory but not in practice.  

Knowing that this is all that it takes to be on the road here makes me certain that I need to be a much more careful pedestrian...

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ongoing Updates to Our New Old House

Thanks for the positive responses to our big news!  I have begun to load pictures and updates to the page titled Our New Old House.

Michael has been an absolute star throughout this process and has demonstrated his skill and strength again and again.  Before arriving in New York, he had drawn up the blueprints of his plans for the yard and had already plotted and measured out all of the dimensions of his projects.  And now I wake up every morning to pictures and updates showcasing the incredible progress that has been made every day.

It has been very exciting, but also a bit stressful, but overall still very exciting.

I want to extend a huge thank you to both of our families for their assistance and support, and a very big kudos to Michael for all of his hard work.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Look at this cool picture I captured on Hollywood Road this weekend - flowers in an art gallery, with reflections of the street from the glass. 

The instagram filter kicked up the colors a most heart-pleasing notch.

I love flowers.  Have I mentioned?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Moon Festival at PMQ and Dinner at Chom Chom

We are coming up on the mid-autumn festival in Hong Kong, and suddenly the city has been alight with lanterns.  This is a cheery light exhibit at PMQ which I had the opportunity to see last week.
PMQ had a "moon festival" in their courtyard, with a bunch of different vendors selling foods and fashion vendors selling clothes and jewelry.

The whole place was strung up with lanterns.
After checking that out, my friend and I went to eat Vietnamese at Chom Chom.  The food is very tasty, but the portions are small and the prices are high.  People love to sit on the steps outside of the restaurant and watch the Soho street scene.  While we were there, though, we saw a flying cockroach... I worked hard to separate that image from the food we sat down to eat.
The salt and pepper squid with a mustard aioli sauce
The pho beef rice rolls
The lemongrass chicken skewer
The wok fried kale with mushrooms and green onion
The stir fried beef topped with shallots and red peppers, paired with rice