Monday, August 28, 2017

Some Pictures From Sydney and an Office Refresh

I kind of dreaded writing this post because it would showcase just how terribly pathetic and depressing my trip to Sydney was... I truly did not leave the hotel or the conference room on any day until well after the sun had set, and I did not traverse more than four blocks in any given direction from my hotel room, the bank's conference rooms, and the local counsel's offices during any of my four working days in the city. 

There was one bad stretch when I didn't leave my hotel for over 24 hours, and had ordered room service (dinner, breakfast, dinner) three times in a row, while I worked on drafts. 

But the deadline was met (funny how that happens) and drafts were turned and calls after calls were made and joined and finished... just in time for me to get back on a plane on Saturday afternoon.  I never made it to any of the famous sights and sounds of Sydney - the beautiful Botanic Gardens, the Opera House (in the daylight), the museum... or just even a good ole' ubiquitous coffee shop!

My parents wanted to know why I didn't just stay the weekend - and it was hard to explain, but without Michael, and having worked flat out for five days straight, and knowing that another typhoon was blowing through Hong Kong and picturing the hours of delays that that would cause to my homeward journey...I just didn't really feel up to it.  If I weren't pregnant, if sleeping on red-eye flights weren't so painful, and if I weren't *so* sick of my hotel room, then the ordinary me would absolutely have jumped at the chance to stroll Sydney's shops, have a cuppa (or three) and do all kinds of beautiful strolls and hikes.  Instead, I jumped in a car, left all that sunshine and beauty behind, and raced to the airport to take a 9.5 hour flight that had me landing at Hong Kong at nearly 10 pm at night.  I landed to gusting winds and rain as the T3 (typhoon signal 3) had just been hoisted.  Hong Kong has been wet and gray ever since.

I kid you not, these are the only things that I saw on my trip:


 In the thirty minutes of "free time" that I had between submitting our final documents and the airport car pickup, I went to David Jones and purchased a few baby wondersuits from the famous Australian brand Bond's.  I couldn't stop marveling at how cute and tiny everything newborn is!


  Then, I enjoyed this view from the Sydney airport lounge.  Sigh.  Work trips suck.

To showcase how exciting my life is at the moment... I got a stand up workstation at work!  It's fitted for my (rather massive 32") computer screen and keyboard, and I like that it forces me to stand a little bit.  I'm at my desk so much that sitting for 10-12 hours at a time has to be a health hazard.
 
I've also gotten a new bookshelf to help me manage my slippery stacks/piles of paper everywhere.  (At some point I should really get around to filing some stuff.)  I've managed through woefully negligent care to keep my orchid plants alive, but they do not seem to ever want to flower ever again. 

 Inspired by this refresh of my office, I am thinking about bringing in some picture frames and maybe a few new prints or paintings, to warm up the space.  I've also been thinking about some more green plants, maybe a bowl of succulents, or else a spider plant or a snake plant?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Postcard from Down Under - My First Time in Australia!

Hi everyone!  I feel like I've been playing "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiago" this year, because this week finds me in Sydney (surprise)!

It's my first time ever down under and so far I have to say, Australia is lovely.  The sun... the sun.  The water.  The sky.  I get the comparisons to California.  I'm also delighted that I get to cross off a new continent from my list!  Now all that's left is Antarctica! 

Michael and I were marveling about my travels this year, which has been dialed up to a slightly insane level.  The baby will have been to four continents (multiple times) while in utero.  Yikes.

Flying while pregnant has become a little more difficult and I have found that I have quite some trouble sleeping.  I think I barely managed to get two hours of sleep, total, on my flight, despite having a lay flat business seat and eyeshades, ear plugs and plenty of water at my disposal .  Not ideal.  We had a lot of turbulence during the flight so it was unfortunate - dinner service got prolonged and I didn't stay up to wait for the fruit and the dessert.   I did enjoy a surprisingly charming, light hearted romantic comedy, "Everybody Loves Somebody," before going to sleep.  I went to sleep very easily, but woke up after what was essentially a nap and couldn't go back to sleep.  Sigh.

I'm a bit turned around though, I have to admit - for a good few seconds tonight I couldn't recall if it was Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.  I left Hong Kong on a 9:30 pm overnight flight on Monday that had my landing (with the 2 hour time difference) around 9 am on Tuesday.  From there, it was straight to the hotel, a quick breakfast and shower, and then off to the meeting rooms.  Thankfully I was able to call it a day around 4 pm, take a hot bath, and crawl into bed for a much-needed nap.

I did manage to go out to dinner with a friend of mine from Hong Kong who has moved to Sydney and had two kids since (time flies)!  We went to Hubert, a French restaurant in the central business district, and then she kindly drove me around to show me some of the sights and lay of the land.  It was great to catch up and I love being able to meet up with people all over the world, so that was a plus!

Some pictures from my day:

The big ballroom conference room that I camped out in with computer for the better half of my morning.  We were at our local counsel's offices, and they have some nice ones in a historic building in the CBD.
They had a nice library floor with an atrium and comfortable seating area. 
 View from my room looking down and out (you can see a sliver of the Sydney harbor) from the 30th floor:

 At night, dinner at Hubert's.
 We got a (very dark) picture in front of the famous Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge!  My first sighting, woo hoo.
 The whole city is just lovely - tranquil, full of trees and parks, and surrounded by water.
 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Food and Wandering Around Sheung Wan

Sometime a week (or two? It all flies by so quickly) ago, my friend and I went to get pedicures at my new favorite salon in Hong Kong, Lavande Spa on Bonham Road, then went to eat Thai food at the newly-opened Krua Walaiphan on High Street.

I got a pretty bright Barbie-like coral pink (rather unlike me - my tastes in nailpolish tend to stray to the dark purple or red, or else to the delicate but rather neutral light pinks, grays and beige), but I decided to counter my tired, hungry, overly-relieved-that-it's-Friday self with a bright pop of color.  While still too pink for my taste, the color has succeeded in making me smile every time I stare at my feet while doing my yoga poses.

The serving portions at Krua Walaiphan are pretty healthy.  The restaurant has received some stellar reviews since its grand opening, and it was packed on the night we were there.  However, I have to say, I found the food really salty.  The ingredients were fresh and I get the feeling it is a family-run business, run by an actual Thai family, but they go really strong on the flavor.  To start, longan ginger drink paired with freshly battered fish cakes.
A pork red curry.
We ordered sticky rice and also some stir fried chicken.
People have asked me if I have any cravings, and I say no, except this past week I kind of went through a Vietnamese food phase.  Something about the hearty soup and beef in the pho was really comforting and exactly what I wanted.  That said, I've liked pho since I was like, ten years old, so I don't think I need pregnancy as an excuse to indulge in this dish!
I also had the chance to wander through one of my favorite streets in Sheung Wan on my weekend walk home, after a long massage.  I saw some cute street scenes that I quickly snapped.  A fun vintage shop, "InBetween."
This restaurant has a random window in the back that always cracks me up - a quick look into the kitchen of some poor sous chef who is slaving over his dishes.
Sometimes, on a leisurely Sunday afternoon, people get really creative with where they set up their tea and snacks stands.
Here, I saw to my amusement a couple of tourists trying for many minutes to jab at the secret button that would allow them to enter the elusive restaurant (hidden behind a stamp storefront), Mrs. Pound.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Pool, and the Accessories (Big Sunglasses) to Go With

I realized when we moved in to our apartment in spring of last year, that I never properly documented our pool area.  Our building has a skinny long pool for laps (though it's shallow throughout) and a very shallow baby pool (ostensibly for babies but also great for sitting in to listen to podcasts/read while getting some sun).
Entrance to the pool through the men's and women's locker rooms
 While the pool is not large by serious swimming standards, it's a really pretty great size for Hong Kong, and even on weekends (which is really the only time I get to use it, let's be honest) it's never really crowded.  It can be a little bit odd to look up while you're swimming or floating and realize that ALL of these apartments and high-rises are surrounding you and can see you very clearly.  But then you quickly forget about it, heh!
A few of the long pool from one end

The other end of the long pool
The baby pool
Loungers by the baby pool, and lots of greenery
It's crazy, but right beyond that little oasis, just over a wall - is a VERY main thoroughfare!  It's never loud though, thankfully.  I don't think I've ever heard a car or bus honk.

I recently picked up a huge pair of what I affectionately call bug sunglasses.  Yesss.  I really like them - the size, the slightly winged tip, the geometric sides, the black lenses...

 
Here's to more sunny pool days!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Rolling Out the Baby Bump, f/k/a "Belly"

This thing is starting to deserve a separate nickname!  So far I just dub it "the Belly" which is not at all creative but strikes the right semi-ominous/kind of adorable tone (if that's possible)?

I had really good intentions of documenting my baby bump week by week, diligently putting together a flip-book progression of belly shots as it grows, but so far I've failed pretty spectacularly at this.  Maybe once the Belly becomes so prominent that it cannot help but occupy my every waking and sleeping thought, I will be less distracted and become a better recorder of its progress.

This is the (barely there) Belly at week 15:
This is the Belly at week 19:
 This is the Belly at week 20:

Here, we are starting to get a bit more pronounced!  Belly at week 22:

This is the Belly at week 23/23.5:




Thursday, August 10, 2017

And Baby Makes Three

Well, the title of this post should give it all away, I think...

Michael and I are expecting a baby in early December of this year!  If all proceeds on schedule, this will be our biggest Christmas present ever!  I just hit my 23 week mark this week, and according to my various apps, the baby is the size of a chinchilla right now, or a papaya - take your pick.

We are completely excited, in awe and also kind of in denial (as I firmly believe all first time parents are, because really, what the heck do we know?) that this is all really happening.

It's been (knock wood) a pretty smooth journey so far, with no morning sickness or nausea, and really nothing more serious than fatigue (though that was mostly in the second half of the first trimester and the first half of the second trimester), the need to go to the bathroom at all times (it's about to get more real, I know) and some light insomnia / inability to sleep in.  I wonder if my body is preparing in anticipation for the future??

We did an early scan (called the NIPT test here, but also frequently referred to as the Harmony test), which is done pretty frequently by private clinics in Hong Kong even for women below the age of 35 (I think it's because it costs more, hence more money!) and then went in for a morphology scan at 21 weeks.  Baby is measuring spot on for everything so far, fingers crossed, and has recently really started to pack a powerful wallop or kick. 

Lots of women here hire what is called a "pui yet" or a "confinement nanny," who is a person (well, woman, really, as I have never heard of a man doing this!) that will come to your house six or seven days a week for about 8 hours or so, and cook three meals full of nourishing, healthy ingredients and help you take care of the newborn (changing, feeding, bathing, etc.).  Their only job is to focus on the mom and the baby.  During this confinement period (usually lasting about a month or two) there is a pretty traditional practice where mothers don't shower or wash their hair for the first month after giving birth (it's believed that the body has suffered a lot of stress and cold, and so it needs to heal properly) but this is pretty extreme and I actually really don't know anyone who has done this without some modification!  A common compromise instead is to wash with hot water boiled with ginger (which is believed to be warming for the body).

These women get booked up pretty early in advance.  I've hired one based on the recommendation of a friend, and I really liked her demeanor and attitude when I met her.  Mostly, I am basking in the luxury of knowing that I will have someone cater solely to my eating and sleeping needs for 2 months on end (but of course, I will ultimately be catering to the eating and sleeping needs of a new little one, so...).  Anyway, already, I am pretty certain I want this woman for three months.  Michael has talked me down from that for now, but we'll see.  It will very much depend on if we can get a full time helper hired in time for a smooth transition.

I stocked up on some baby stuff while I was in the U.S. (although I neglected to look for maternity outfits as much as I should have, doh) - for things that I thought would be hard to buy in Hong Kong, or just more expensive - but I also didn't go crazy buying too many big ticket items because there's a pretty healthy baby products exchange in Hong Kong, and the thought of lugging a car seat or crib across the world was enough to make me give up.

My parents gave me a few newborn clothes, which are tiny and adorable.  I got the guava bassinet/travel crib, which seemed like a really nice combo unit that could be used for a long time.  I got the keekaroo peanut changing pad, as we won't really have room for a full changing station.  I also purchased the original ergobaby, figuring that baby carrying is pretty essential in a city as crowded and compact as Hong Kong.  We also got a white noise machine.  For a stroller, car seat, diapers, bottles, pump... these are all things that are too hard to drag over, unless we want to get a crate.  It's at this point that I'm really wishing Amazon were available in Hong Kong!  I don't really know how one survives as a parent without Amazon prime and the ability to just buy and return things to try them out??

And finally I have started to buy maternity clothes.

The first toe dip down this slippery slope (mixing metaphors, I know) was getting maternity underwear.  Wow!  These things are amazing and should definitely be for everyday wear.  They are soft and wide and comfy and have a nice big stretchy band on top for the ever-expanding belly (you know, useful for a growing baby, but also amazing for accommodating a huge meal).  I wish I had bought 10 more pairs of these.  Woe.

I also bought a pair of leggings with a big wide soft stretchy belly band, which is great because I'm starting to run into an elastic issue with all of my pants and yoga pants.  The elastic hair trick pretty much stopped working for me right away.

Then I bought a few big, looser A-line dresses in a slightly larger size than normal from Zara.  I haven't worn a sheath dress in a while!

And now, I've completely succumbed.  I just ordered these maternity pants in black (there is something both frightening and liberating about buying pants that are "one size fits all"??), this dress in poppy and this dress in black from the Hatch collection.  I also just sized up in my yoga/workout gear, and I'm also planning on getting a pair of jeans, a skirt and maybe a few more dresses.  At least it's an excuse to go shopping?!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Working Week in London




As promised, this next catch up post is covering our last week in July, spent in London.


 

We arrived in London on a cold, overcast Monday, and headed straight to our hotel, the Corinthia (the same hotel I stayed at last time I was in London in May).   It was as lovely as I remembered (But had some weird quirks too).




I took a long nap, jetlagged and really tired from the short flight, and then promptly worked on a memo that I had procrastinated the entire weekend before.

For our first dinner in London, we went to Margot, an Italian restaurant in Covent Garden.  We got a simple salad, a lightly seared veal loin in mustard sauce, steak with argula and parmesan, and gnocchi in a bolognese meat sauce.


For dessert, we got a delicious ice cream/mousse concoction that was served with coffee poured over top.  The meal was okay, but nothing particularly exciting or innovative.  The dessert, on the other hand, was fantastic.  Michael ordered a glass of grappa at the end because he fancies himself an Italian.
After that, my Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday passed by in a completely monotonous blur as I camped out in conference rooms with my clients and opposing counsels and their clients, trying to figure out where we would come out on a series of transactional documents.  For three days straight, I saw nothing of note except (1) the sunflowers in the reception area of the London office, (2) glimpses of fancy cars parked outside the hotel lobby when I left for work in the morning, and (3) the view from the office conference rooms.
Still overcast and rainy.
On the final day of negotiations, we pulled out a miracle and somehow managed to get to agreement.  To celebrate, a bunch of us walked over to a little street where everyone stood around sipping their pints, undeterred by the rain that would sporadically appear.
 
Once I had some free time, I took advantage of walking around the streets.  I happened to meet up with a group of college friends who were also in London at the same time (what a fun coincidence)!  We had lunch at honey & co., a Middle Eastern restaurant in Bloomsbury that served a fantastic, incredibly filling lunch.  The mezze for the table alone was a sight to behold. 
 
I thought the weather had cheered up for the better, until we got to Regents' Park and then raindrops started splattering again.  See those storm clouds rolling in?
 

Even they couldn't deter to me from enjoying the beautiful gardens.

That evening, Michael and I went to the British Museum.  We saw the Rosetta Stone and wandered around their great Egyptology exhibits before closing. 



 


For dinner, we went to Galvin La Chappelle in Spitalfields for dinner, a restaurant set in a former parish hall with soaring ceilings and lots of glass windows.  To be completely honest, though, I found the food rather lackluster.  Michael ordered a very simple and not particularly inspiring or fresh tuna tartare, and a chateaubriand that lived up to expectations but was only two measly slices.  I ordered a buttery crab lasagna which was very well executed, but my red mullet was not innovative and so, so fishy.  So a bit of a mixed bag.  The venue is undoubtedly beautiful.
On another day, we went to brunch with Michael's friend who happened to be in town.  We had a great brunch at Dean Street Townhouse, where we sat by the window and just happened to be under an original Damien Hirst doodle.  Cool.  Of course, first we had to fight through all of the street 
blockades for the Prudential cycling event.

 
Have I mentioned how much I like London's gardens and parks?
After brunch, we headed to the National Gallery, one of my favorite museums in London.  We made a beeline for the Turners, then the Impressionists.  So predictable, I know, but those colors get me every time.









I also ended up dragging Michael to a show, Kinky Boots, which may have made him squirm in his seat a little.  Whoops.  I just wanted something lighthearted and fun with musical numbers, but in retrospect this one may have been a little too campy.

We spent the rest of the trip hanging out, doing a little shopping (I didn't allocate enough time to this, unfortunately, and didn't walk away with anything that I wanted) and then packing up all of our stuff.  Check out this cool store, Swaine Adeney and Brigg, that has been making umbrellas and leather bags for centuries and showcases true craftsmanship by having each one made by hand.  Amazing!

Finally, it was time to head back to Hong Kong.  We'd been away for an incredibly long time - we realized that Michael had been away and on the road for nearly 40 days! We departed London on Sunday and headed back to the hot, muggy swamp that is Hong Kong in August.