Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Happy Memorial Day!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend stateside.  I spent most of it working!  Monday of course is not a holiday here (although Tuesday the 30th is - Dragon Boat Festival).  But I still spent most of it working! 

Anyway, enough complaining.  Michael and I had a pretty laid back weekend.  We went to a friend's house for delicious food and a rousing game night, which went until well past midnight.  She just moved into a beautiful, huge, airy apartment (very hard to find in Hong Kong) and we oohed and ahhed over the space. 

We were also treated to the most amazing pork belly, served taco-style with Mexican rice, guacamole, pico de gallo, and tortillas, as well as freshly grilled fish with lemon.  Dessert was a very tasty key lime pie.
 This pork belly was sooo good!  It has opened my eyes to cooking meat sous vide style.  They said it takes 20-30 hours, which seems like an incredibly long amount of time to plan ahead, however, the results were pretty amazing.
 I had two fish tacos with LOTS of lemon, yum!
We then spent the entire night playing Catan, which I've mentioned before.  I don't like Risk (and never got into it when others in college did, showing their bloodthirsty megalomaniac tendencies) but Catan, I love!  This was my second time playing.  If you like strategy, coupled with luck, and acquiring things (who doesn't), particularly roads and houses and cities, you will love this game.  It's like a (much) more interesting and exciting game of Monopoly, with some sophisticated cartel-negotiating and resource bartering thrown in.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

London Shopping Roundup - Potions and Lotions

This post is so delayed, but it's a must!  On my last London trip, I bought a bunch of stuff from one of my favorite shops, Neal's Yard, and Boots pharmacy, where they stocked La Roche Posay products.
I went to Neal's Yard primarily to pick up more products in their frankincense line.  I can get their stuff in Hong Kong pretty easily, but it's cheaper in the UK and I also can get it without VAT.  I think their stuff is available in the States, but it's harder to find (they do a weirder thing, like an Avon or Mary Kay sales structure, where you have to go through an individual salesperson).

They have a few different lines of products, ranging from hair, body, face to scents and oils.  Of their facial and body line, I've tried their rose and jasmine products, but I think I like their frankincense stuff the best. I picked up more of their serum and decided to try the toner from the same line.

I know this smell isn't for everyone (it smells like the pews of a Catholic church when the priests swing the burner during mass), but I really like it.  I think this is my third bottle of the serum and I continue to find it very hydrating but not at all heavy.  It "tightens and tones" but not in a very strong or weird way. The toner I am also liking - I find I tend to spray a lot of it because it feels so light and refreshing.

I bought the facial wash (pictured above for sake of completeness) in Hong Kong, but I don't think it's as good as the other two products - or at least, I don't feel a noticeable difference in using it.  I would be fine just sticking with a plain Cerave or Cetaphil or even Dove soap.

I also went to Boots pharmacy (how fun is it to go to pharmacies in foreign countries and see what products they sell!) where I picked up a bunch of La Roche Posay products at a great price.  This is a French brand very well known for its sun protective qualities, and I've been using their sunscreen for a long time.  At my friend's urging, I decided to try their range of normal facial products, and I have to say, I LOVE THEM.  Their products are pretty expensive in Hong Kong (less expensive in the US where you can buy it at CVS or Rite Aid with coupons) but they had the most range and a lot of heavy discounts in London.

After a lot of hasty googling and indecision at the Boots counter, I decided to try their Toleriane line, which seems to be the combination I need.  It's light and soothing, with no fragrances or additives, and perfect for my very thirsty, dry skin. It isn't greasy or heavy so it's also fine to use on my T zone.  It's amazing because you need such a tiny amount, but it manages to make your whole face feel fully covered.  I debated a long time between the Toleriane Fluid and the Toleriane Ultra, which are both moisturizers.  After reading some more reviews, I decided to go for the Ultra because the Fluid sounded a little too light for my thirsty skin.  I think a good moisturizer is the most challenging bit in any facial routine.  I find it very difficult to find a good one that is not too light, not too heavy, not cloying or clogging or inadequate.  To make it more challenging, everyone's skin is different, so what works wonders for one person may not work for another.  I am so pleased I found the Toleriane Ultra.

I also picked up a cleanser (which I haven't started to use yet) and a scrub, which I've only used twice - I think the dermalogica rice exfoliator is still the better exfoliant for me.  That exfoliant leaves my face feeling clean and bright and fresh, whereas the La Roche Posay one (a kind of micro beaded gel scrub) feels a little heavy.
Finally, I picked up La Roche Posay's Anthelios XL ultra light fluid sunblock, which they've somehow made even lighter and more weightless. (Magic!) I usually hate putting on sunblock after I've already applied toner, serum and moisturizer, but this is so milky and light that I don't mind at all.  It absorbs immediately and feels wonderful!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

This Past Week - London and Back Again

So, the pace of travel for work this year has really picked up, in case it isn't obvious!  This past week was quiet on the blog because I left for London (and returned to Hong Kong) in less than a week.  Doing a long haul flight like that leaves you kind of disoriented, because days take on an elasticity that warps your sense of time and space. 
Tower Bridge and some fountains in the forefront.  Brilliant blue skies and puffy white clouds everywhere!
The beginning of my week felt incredibly, indelibly long (because with the waking hours in Hong Kong plus the overnight flight plus the seven hour time difference, my days had magically expanded to what felt like 40 hours instead of the usual 24) and then the end of my week felt astonishingly short (when I woke up in Hong Kong after a 12 hour flight to evening when it was also evening where I left).

As with most work trips, I had no chance to do any sightseeing or enjoy much of the city, but I was again blessed with amazing weather and my heart just sang with joy at how majestic and historic the city of London is.  As strange as it may sound, on one of the mornings when I took the tube and then walked to work I couldn't help but give a huge sigh of content at the rhythm and coordination of the morning commute (surely because I only had to do it two or three times, as opposed to every morning).  When experienced only occasionally, it feels both primordial and modern when you slip unrehearsed into the stream of traffic and human hoofbeats. 

Here are some pictures I managed to snap while walking or transiting around the city.
St. Paul's
St. Paul's from another angle

Free smiles!  Cute corner card shop
The city - big buildings and construction galore

London transit museum
Covent Garden

Shake Shack in Covent Garden
The most glorious seafood window display

Byron Hamburgers, seen all over town
Lion King - how I wish I had time for a show!
The Savoy Hotel - Embankment entrance

The Savoy Hotel - Art Deco at its finest

Victoria Gardens
Kids playing ping pong outdoors just because

London Eye in the distance
Golden Jubilee Bridge in the distance

Waterloo Bridge
 I stayed at the Corinthia Hotel this time for its proximity to my office, and it was lovely.  Quiet and with the most amazing (though very deeply underground) spa... I wish I had some time to try the sleep pods and the soaking pools.
The hotel room felt a bit like an apartment, with its wood doors and carpeted hallways and foyer when you stepped inside.
Immediately ahead was the walk in closet, and then to the left was the bedroom and desk area.
Then the right was the huge bathroom with soaking tub and shower and separate toilet (with bidet).  Very European but also comfortable and spacious.  The floors were heated, which was a very luxurious touch.
 I loved the spa facilities, though I couldn't take many pictures.  I used the gym on one day and enjoyed the shower facilities, but didn't have a good chance to try out the marble beds, the soaking pools, the steam or sauna, the swimming pool... much less a treatment.  Alas.

All over London, there were a lot of people out and about, bicycling around (you forget how common bicycles are in other cities when you live in Hong Kong), sitting outside dining al fresco, or jogging along the Embankment.  It was a great time to be there weather-wise, but the mood was somewhat somber given the Manchester bombing.  London went into high alert while I was there.  I didn't notice any perceptible change in people's activities but it was definitely a topic on everyone's hearts and minds.
Last shot of central London on my way out of the city - good ole' Big Ben standing sentry.
And there you have it - my whirlwind trip.  I found myself in the Cathay lounge, eating dim sum and noodles, thinking longingly of home.  Sometimes the best part of going away is coming back.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Last Day in Doha

On our last day in Doha, we went to Education City where Justin had spent the semester teaching film at Northwestern University. 

The campus is brand new and beautiful, and as we walked through we couldn't stop oohing and aahing over the phenomenal facilities that they've built.  It is such a new campus that parts of it are still under construction.
 They had all these classrooms full of state of the art equipment, recording studios, an auditorium, lecture halls... it was all so impressive.
 These two goofed around, of course...!  Green screen.

We also wandered next door to check out the Georgetown campus (which wasn't as nice as the Northwestern campus by half) and the Hamda Bin Khalifa University (in the shape of a whale).
We had lunch at the Georgetown cafeteria (pictured above), waited forever and a day for an Uber or a taxi willing to come out to pick us up, then returned back to Justin's apartment to pack.  Our vacation had officially come to an end.  We headed to the Doha airport for a flight to Dubai, then waited there to connect to our flight from Dubai back to Hong Kong.  It was an interesting, fun and certainly entertaining trip, and we're so glad we had the chance to hang out with Katie and Justin halfway around the world!