Monthly Archives: September 2010

Shoe valet.

Like many of you out there I am certain, I routinely struggle with what to get men in general for gifts… the Mr. and my Dad are pretty much impossible to shop for. But inspired by all of the street shoe shiners in HK, the Mr. came up with this great idea for his very good friend Alex’s 30th!

We figured Alex probably doesn’t have the luxury of being able to get his shoes signed for pennies like we do here (this Brit was nice enough to let me photograph him mid-shine). Plus Alex is a new (as of TODAY–a big congrats to Alex & Di on the arrival of Miss Alise Maria!) father and don’t you have just the nicest memories of your father or grandfather shining his shoes before a big meeting or wedding?

The valet we got for Alex was on the fancier side so even if he doesn’t end up shining his own shoes, it will still be a nice decorative item in his bedroom or entryway.

A little matching brush was included with bristles on two sides which seems very handy.

I really like the reinforced brass corners.

We got it from Starbay, the Mr.’s latest obsession… look for a post on them coming soon re: furniture purchased!

It came with a nice leather cloth sack so I decided to skip the wrapping paper and went with a nice, masculine brown bow.

In case you’re interested in a shoe valet that you can order easily from the Staes, I tracked down a few. I just love the idea of how the platform really helps you shine your shoes and the box is the perfect place to store your shine and supplies. It’s both functional and organizational!

1. Kiwi Shoe Valet ($46.95-Includes black and brown shine, brush, polish cloths, and sponges)

2. Brooks Brother’s Cedar Shoe Valet ($128-includes all the supplies) If you were wondering about the cedar wood choice here like I was… here’s the lowdown… you’ve probably seen cedar shoe trees so obviously this would be nice because it would match if you happen to have a few of those. But more importantly, the reason they use cedar with leather is that it wicks moisture, acid, and salt from shoes, preventing the leather from cracking. Finally, they have the nicest scent…  shoe polish and cedar together! Divine.

3. Black Hardwood Valet ($29.990-with supplies)

4. Esquire Valet ($9.99)

5. Cedar Valet ($40.52)

6. Vintage Esquire Valet with fun little man sketch ($28)

7. Ronson Valet ($20)

8. Rise ‘n Shine Valet *Bonus points for the cute name!* ($29.99)

9. Griffin Valet ($30.00)

And ladies out there… this goes for us, too. It’s a good idea to remember to polish our leather shoes often as well. They’ll last so much longer when the leather is protected.

By the way, I think this would make for a perfect holiday gift for that special guy in your life. ALSO, speaking of holiday gifts… and the holidays… which immediately makes me think of holiday cards… hop over to my MIL’s amazing blog to enter to win 150 FREE Minted holiday cards!

Transcontinental jetsetting, part two.

Adding on as promised to my first post about must have travel essentials to make jetsetting more convenient and comfortable, I bring you my latest list after a four day trip to Germany for Oktoberfest… that’s a 12 hour flight.

1. iPod Adapter Cord. It’s so frustrating when you get in your rental car or are at a pool hall with terrible music and you have your iPhone or Ipod with you, but nothing to plug it in with–all you need is a simple, $1.75 cord to get your tunes playing.

2. Tea bags. I bet you have a favorite type of tea that you just love. It reminds you of curling up at home on a rainy day with a good book… so why not bring a few bags along with you when you’re reading on a plane for that cozy feeling? You can always ask a flight attendant for hot water. I am personally obsessed with licorice mint tea–it totally cures my sugar cravings. My old book club member Tonya introduced me to it and now I buy it whenever I see it… I actually stocked up by way of Amazon before the move out here. I also love Bancha’s Toasted green tea.

3. Jump rope… for heart. Remember that good old elementary school contest? No matter where you are, no matter what the weather is like, you can always break a good sweat if you have a jump rope with you. It’s so hard to work out when you’re traveling, but the truth is nothing is better for jetlag. Even jump roping for five minutes will really wake me up and help my swollen legs recover after a long flight.

4. Resistance bands. You can actually work out almost every muscle in your body with one or two bands. They take up no weight and almost no room and they cost next to nothing so you really have no excuse to not get in a little toning on the road. When I can’t find a tree or pole or a Mr. to loop the band around to get in my chest presses, I’ve been known to loop them around the metal casing of an open window. I like to alternate a few minutes of jump rope with a series of band exercises that way you really cover every base.

5. Jurlique rose hand cream. My friend Cynthia nicely recommended this great product. I am a total sucker for anything that comes in a metal tube–I love that you can squeeze the last drop! It has a great scent and is super thick and concentrated, without being greasy. Your hands do get so dry on flights! You should find a scented cream that really makes you feel refreshed just when you put a little (you don’t want to overwhelm your fellow cabin mates) on. Although this is quite expensive, it is nice to have something ‘special’ to look forward to during that 11th hour!

6. Saline nose spray. This is probably the most helpful thing yet on my list and I would never have tried it had it not been for the Mr.’s strong advocacy because leaning your head back and jamming plastic up your nose and then waiting for the dribbles that inevitably follow is not exactly a ladylike maneuver! Your nose does get so dried out on the plane and this salt water spray that you can get at any drug store for a couple of dollars completely prevents that. Not only that, but keeping your nasal passages moist actually really helps your immune system fight invading bacteria, meaning you are much less likely to get sick. This is especially true on long flights where the air filtration system breaks down after about four hours. I’ve taken to following the Mr.’s lead and spraying pre, during, and post flight. It’s also great for extremely air-conditioned hotel rooms and the inevitable exhaustion, sickness cycle that comes with being on the road.

7. AirPort Express. Another great idea from the Mr. If you’re staying in a hotel room, they will often charge you for every electronic device you connect to the Internet… and sometimes it’s simply highway robbery (20 Euros per day, seriously?) If you bring your wireless adaptor from home however you can connect as many devices (work computer and personal computer x 2, iPad, iPhone, etc.) for the cost of one.

8. A chic, clear cosmetics bag. After all that serious talk, we needed something a little lighter! My friend Gina got me this adorable Kate Spade toiletry bag for my honeymoon and I just love it–great shower idea, by the way! Nothing has made traveling more enjoyable for me than having an entire set of toiletries, cosmetics, and–this is key–makeup and makeup brushes dedicated just to traveling. It is so nice to know that this is just ready to go whenever you need to go. It’s hard to enough to coordinate your clothes, shoes, etc. So do yourself a favor and make this easy! I collect all hotel toiletries and cosmetic samples in one place. I also try to force my self to refill anything that needs refilling after a trip so I’m ready to go on the next one.

9. Clear card. So before Clear went under last year they were my new best friend… but I’m including them here because they are back! So if you were a member before they folded, make sure to re-register–they’re honoring your previous membership. And if you weren’t a member before I would wait until they hopefully get up and running in more airports. It was such a blessing to waltz through security and I believe the $99/year actually saved me money because I was able to take the train/BART/subway so much more often knowing exactly how much time to budget for security… sparing me the expense of a cab ride, which often equals the annual membership of this card. Here’s to hoping that they’re back for good the second time around! TSA could sure use the help.

Paper first anniversary gifts.

So I never got a chance to show you what the Mr. and I gave one another for our first anniversary. Not surprisingly, being a complete paper-obsessed freak, we stuck with the traditional paper gifts.

I gave the Mr. two antique prints of our new home. I love antique prints because there is so much you can learn from them and they’re also quite beautiful. And they have some real value as they are quite old, but they’re not nearly as expensive as real art. If you are looking for an online source, I highly recommend Lyon’s Ltd. I bought the Mr. his groom’s gift here (maps of Boston, his hometown). They have a fabulous, certified collection with something at every price point.

We both are quite fascinated by old maps. I love the colors in this one (especially the turquoise sea and the bright orange regional border) and it has already been helpful as my Asian geography is not quite what it should be. 
I like how the inset on this map of China and the Japanese Empire is of Hong Kong. I am so embarrassed to even write this, but the truth is I didn’t know that Kowloon was part of mainland China until I saw this on this very map. That’s right… China is right there out the window. And, yes, I am a complete idiot. There are lots of other interesting notes, like where the Imperial Hunting Grounds are in Beijing or what ports at the time were open to foreigners (they’re underlined). You also get a real sense for how far south HK is from Tokyo — it’s a 4.5 hour flight.

The second picture is a series of three prints picturing Victoria Harbour in 1847. There is almost nothing here yet, except for the Governor’s House, the RC Church, the Market, Jamieson & Co., Matheson’s Opium Store, Barracks, and the Mission Hospital. I think it’s pretty cool to have it up in our living room with the current Victoria Harbour view which is obviously SO much different!!!
Now, the Mr. is actually quite creative and instead of something to remember our new home, he got me a little something from back home.

Leave it to the Mr. to find the best the Internet has to offer. These little books are a throwback to agriculture memo books. They say they’re: “An honest memo book, worth fillin’ up with GOOD INFORMATION.” There other tag line which I quite like is “I’m not writing it down to remember later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.” Isn’t that so true? Get your Field Notes here.

Do any of you have fun first anniversary paper gift ideas you feel like dishing? I’ve heard of plane tickets is another quite popular one. As is a wedding album.

Jane Austen mug.

I ordered this mug from Brookish on Etsy a little before our move. It’s become my recent favorite. Not only do I just love Jane Austen, but it is good to remind myself that HK is home now. It’s also a good reminder that it’s okay to just stay in… which is good because the Mr. and I have chronic F.O.M.O. (Fear of Missing Out) and also S.L.D. (Squeeze the Last Drop) syndromes. And it’s been pouring buckets here (hello rainy season!) so it’s a good time for hot beverages.

Here are a few other things I am loving from Brookish.

(I hope my Jane Austen loving Sister-In-Laws are not reading this post…  as they may have an idea of what they’ll find in their stockings come December.) In all seriousness, now is the perfect time to get started on stocking up for Christmas!

And while we’re on the subject of black and white mugs, this is the one I like to drink tea out of — because it’s so big! I really shouldn’t drink that much coffee. I got it with my friend Sam in NYC at Serendipity, which is the cutest tourist trap I know of! If you haven’t been, grab you favorite tween and go try their decadent frozen hot chocolate. It’s fun to have things around that you use that remind you of good times.

This is exactly what the restaurant looks like and I’m glad they included tidbits of the definition for serendipity.

If you’re not going to be in the Big Apple anytime soon, you can still buy the mug here on Amazon.


Dragonfruit are everywhere here! I’ve decided we need to get into fruits and vegetables that grow locally because I’m tired of buying (and paying for) oranges from Florida. I was a little intimidated about cutting one up, but it was super easy. Much easier than a mango!
The Mr. loves dragonfruit… I am not a huge fan of it actually, but then again I don’t really like melon so I am not the person to ask.

In case you were wondering, dragonfruit a.k.a. pitaya grow on trees.

Picture from Pixdaus, posted by Chrisada.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

I was not so happy when we didn’t have Labour Day off, but I’m pretty happy that we have tomorrow off because today is the Mid-Autumn Festival. I like that they give you the day after the festival off so you can recover from all the partying! Even Google is celebrating.

As far as I can tell whether you call it the Zhonqiu or Mid-Autumn Festival, it is really about two things: mooncakes and lanterns. Under the bright harvest moon augmented with lantern light, families get together to celebrate and eat moon cakes and pomelos together.

My lovely friend Wendy (who went to Notre Dame with me and whom I connected with soley through Facebook or I would never have known she lived here!) and her fiance Alex nicely brought us over some mooncakes and fruit in honor of the festival. They are so sweet and so helpful in educating us about the local culture.

The cakes are meant to ressemble the moon and as such they have the bright duck egg yolk in them. They are honestly the richest and most dense thing I have ever eaten in my life. There is no way you could finish one on your own. The filling is made from lotus seed paste and is very sweet in a bean paste type way. They are meant to be cut into thin slices and shared with tea, which makes sense when you have a bite of one!There is  a folk tale about mooncakes being used to conceal secret messages (they certainly are dense enough to hide a letter in!) during the Ming revolution, which overthrew the Yuan dynasty.

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Carrot cake, again.

So I recently posted about my insanely good, family secret, carrot cake recipe. My Notre Dame book club friend Caroline tried out the recipe in cupcake form for a co-worker’s send off and it looks like they turned out great!

From Caroline on cupcakes vs. cake: “I baked the cupcakes for about 25 minutes, but I did everything else the same. It made 24 cupcakes plus a mini-cake (maybe 5x 8 — I had run out of cupcake liners.) I did cupcakes, because they’re easier to share in the office, but I feel like the round cake is really the way to go as it allows for the highest frosting to cake ratio. :)”

I also wanted to let you know that I have figured out how to make nice frosting in humid HK. You cannot buy C&H because it comes in that glassine type bag, but it is not sealed so all of the moisture in the air can get in.

I honestly don’t even know why they sell this here because it is literally rock hard pellets… but what you should buy is this Hong Kong Top Brand icing sugar, which is even finer than powdered sugar and comes in a sealed plastic bag. My cream cheese icing with this stuff was even smoother and more delicious than it is in the States.