Category Archives: Expat life

Say it better with flowers: Ellermann opens.

Everyone loves getting flowers, except for when they suck. Do you know what I mean? You go to this effort and expense… and your friend gets a dozen browning carnations. I hate to say it, but it happens a lot in Hong Kong because the Chinese will cut any corner to make a buck. Introducing the two-week-old Ellerman Flowers in Sheung Wan.

I discovered the shop just wandering down an alley with a friend the other day… it was founded by a long-time HK expat who simply felt she couldn’t find quality arrangements here without insane expense. And she is seriously clever. I love all their bird-centered arrangements–whether they be birdcage-focused or bird-adorned teacup centered. I mean, who would think to put an orchid in a teacup, but it is brilliant! They also have the most amazing terrariums.

The one on the left if you can’t read it says ‘I dig you’ and then there is a little metal shovel. Now, seriously people: could this be more adorable? And it’s an arrangement that will last. I see no reason why you wouldn’t attempt to DIY this for an anniversary or just because… but if you want to purchase one pre-made head over to Ellerman at 36 Tung Street, Sheung Wan, 852.2291.0388

Kitchen conversions.

The truth is I’m not very good at math. That’s why I went into writing. And here in HK, most things are still sold in UK measurements. So a stick of butter here is about 7/8ths of a cup… I’m constantly getting out my little scale to measure things. But then there is the issue of converting grams into tablespoons and that’s where the wonderful app Kitchen Pro comes in. I highly recommend it. It’s great even if you’re Stateside and are unsure of how many pints are in a quart (2 by the way).

But if you’re looking for a more decorative solution to measurement conversions, check out these amazing kitchen conversion towels and posters from Etsy shop Sweet Fine Day. I found them by way of Lost in Cheeseland‘s by way of Lola’s Cookies post.

I am thinking of ordering the poster for the back of my kitchen door and I think the tea towels would be an awesome shower gift.
By the way, if you’re like me and are constantly looking up conversions while simultaneously Googling things like “do I really need to peel peaches for cobbler,” and are lucky enough to have an iPad, the Elago P2 Stand is terrific. It has nice, clean and simple lines and holds it at just the perfect angle for my sticky fingers to tap away on it. Mine was a sweet gift from the Mr. and it is now a very favorite kitchen gadget!

Anthroplogie kitchen accessories.

Anthropologie has the cutest kitchen accessories! And they ship to Hong Kong.

I know, I know Easter is still two months away… but why not plan ahead?
The petite grapefruit sugar bowl on the left really reminds me of the Lladro parrots I posted about awhile ago.
My measuring cup/spoon obsession continues. What lovely little shower or hostess gifts all of these items would make!

Nesting.

So, no, I’m not pregnant, but I do undoubtedly have a strong nesting instinct. And I want to know where it comes from? The Mr. certainly does not have the same insane desire I do to make whatever space I am in feel like home. He does not, like me, put away all of his clothes when we get to a hotel room for even just a night. He does not like to lay out his entire dop kit on the counter, put his toothbrush and toothpaste upright in a cup, or line up his shoes in a neat little row.

(Image from She Wears Many Hats.)

Last year I went on 58 flights… yes, on one particularly long flight recently I actually went through and counted them all up. So I wonder if whatever nesting instinct I would have normally is intensified because I pretty much spend more time away from home than at home… and my home now looks and feel nothing like the one before it–and is, of course, a world away. Other expats reading… do you have a stronger desire to nest abroad than you did at home?

For me, nesting basically means this: when I get back from a trip, I literally do not want to leave the apartment–to the point where I so don’t want to leave that I would prefer to order take-out than go to the grocery store. I take on random projects (organizing closets, sorting the linen closet, cleaning out the baking supplies, making chicken stock, starting scrap books, framing pictures, etc). I swear to myself and others that I will never, ever get on another plane again. When my need to socialize finally trumps my need to nest, I send out party invitations to have people over; nothing makes me feel more at home than entertaining.

In a NY Times story about how pregnant women with big careers have taken nesting to a new level (major remodeling projects), they had this to say about nesting during pregnancy:

Obstetricians have long observed a deeply felt urge among pregnant women to focus on preparing the home for offspring. As with many behaviors associated with pregnancy, this one seems caused at least in part by hormones — specifically, oxytocin, which is thought to be responsible for maternal attachment. Without it, mammals do not bond with their young, or prepare nests for them. Women are just dripping with this hormone in the last part of pregnancy,” said Dr. Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist and director of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California at San Francisco.

So it turns out that even though I’m not pregnant, I have a much higher level of oxytocin that the Mr. does. Oxytocin also fluctuates with your cycle so it could be that my “nesting” urges correlate to that time of the month… but even that was not enough to satisfy my need to understand why I feel this intense urge… so I kept googling and I did come up with this:

Humans more or less respond to things generally the same way rats do… and a team of scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital found that offering stressed-out rats nesting material (sticks, leaves, etc.) helped them to heal from wounds just as much as administering oxytocin (by injecting them with the hormone) did.

When I came across this study, I suddenly felt like my crazy was defensible–which probably really makes me sound like a total nut job, but all of this googling got me really interested in oxytocin. The blog Neurootopia did a great series of posts about all that oxytocin does–I would seriously recommend reading the entire thing, but here is his summary of all of the things oxytocin is responsible for: “contractions during labor, sexual arousal, lactation, orgasm — in both male and female, trust, facial recognition, influences memory formation, pair bonding, and probably there’s more.

Expat life: E.T. Phone Home

One of the hardest things about being an expat is staying in touch with loved ones back home… the time difference makes it so there are really only about five hours a day when you’re both awake and sometimes you just get sick of emailing. And you think calling is expensive… Lots of people get a Vonage phone as a work around–and it works great, but is involved: you have to have fast internet already, buy a special phone, and sign up for a monthly plan starting at $25.99 a month. Skype is amazing–and great for when you’re in front of your computer.

But you can’t make calls on the go, which is where Localphone comes in. This service gives you a local number for a specific number you are trying to call in another country; so if I want to call my Mom, I go to the site, enter in her cell no. in California, and then they text to my Hong Kong cell a local HK number that I can save in my phonebook as Mom… that way I can call her when I most want to, while I’m waiting for the tram, wondering aimlessly around the grocery store unsure of what to make for dinner, or when something ridiculous happens that I just have to tell her about right away, etc. And it’s super cheap, just $0.009 per minute! All you people back home in the States, it works just as easily the other way around.

I’ve literally never had a call drop using Localphone, it’s clearer more consistently than Skype, and the interface is very easy to navigate… but tell me… what other ways do you use to stay in touch that I don’t know about?

Expat life: Shipping without boundaries


One thing that can be quite annoying about living abroad is not being able to get the things you love from back home… that could be your favorite khaki’s from J.Crew, a magazine, a face cream, an RX you haven’t filled yet overseas, or for me personally it’s often the ability to buy something on Etsy because the seller doesn’t ship internationally. Introducing, MyUS.com. This great service gives you a Florida mailing address (accepting regular mail or FedEx, complete with a phone number) and then they will forward your items whenever you’re ready for them. They’ll even consolidate all the packing materials and put everything together into one compact box. (Although you can check a box to toss everything but your shoe boxes if you’re like me and use them to organize!)

I purchased the Premium subscription, which is just for packages, but is only $60 a year. When you are ready to have your packages sent, the great news is that they have wonderful bulk shipping rates so it is WAY cheaper than if you were to go through the USPS. They keep your credit card on file so it’s easy peasy. I’ve had a wonderful experience with them personally; the customer service really seems top notch–there is an actual person appointed to your account and every time you receive something they send you an email letting you know what arrived. MyUs.com has logistics nailed and I highly recommend their services! (And my parents are so relieved to not have to keep trekking to the Post Office for me.)