Category Archives: Personal


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.

Girls cookie making: HK edition.

I did end up making Vietnamese salads, like I promised, recipes to come later in the week in a post about cooking classes in Hanoi.I set up a cookie packaging station so every girl could take a plate home… calendar is by letterpress Queen Linda & Harriet.
Fun times! Hope you all had a nice Valentine’s Day. xoxo

ALTitude Design Conference.

I did a recap of my great time last week at ALT over on the minted blog… such lovely ladies and now sooo many blogs to check out!My business cards from Sydney Newsom arrived just in time… they are stunning! And they made my new friend Camilla Styles‘s round-up of great business cards. Her events are so well put together–enjoy!

Guest bedroom.

So the guest room is not perfect yet, but it’s ready for visitors in 2011!
I am calling it the monkey room.

I’ve thought of a few things to make visitors feel comfortable, besides just setting out fresh towels.

(I was a little sad my beautiful silk drapes had to have slits cut into them for the A.C., but I think especially after a 15 hour flight our visitors will appreciate the black out effect.)
1. Water carafe and a nice candle. (Flowers, too!)
2. Guidebooks to inspire and a Bible
3. Robes
4. Finally, I created a little card with important phone numbers, the Chinese characters of our address, and instructions of how to get into our building, so people won’t get lost!

Hopefully, the monkey makes them cozy!


How cool is the Christmas gift my parents sent over?
I am pretty excited about it and I set it up all by myself.
The coolest thing about it is I can literally see right into the Mr.’s office–I’ve taken to calling him at work and then asking him to come to the window so I can get a good look at him!The legs are fully adjustable for optimal creeping! It’s fun to watch people’s lights go one when they get home from work… and yes, I confess, I do sometimes like to see them sitting down to dinner, too! But, I don’t linger too, too long—I promise.
The telescope goes perfectly with our Starbay coffee table… so it looks like we’ll just always have to have a place with a great view, although Victoria Harbour is pretty tough to beat.

Snow Yurt.

Last week my parents treated me to dinner in a Viking Yurt, half-way up the Park City Mountain Resort. I thought you might like to see the pictures!

They served gluhwein, red mulled wine, and if you wanted to spike it they were also selling aquavit shots. The wood burning fireplace also kept the yurt super toasty.

I have to say the food was surprisingly amazing, especially for serving it at 9,000 feet… Waygu beef was the main and it was so tender. 

The sorbet was served in a stone from Norway–it was a little gimicky, but still pretty cool.

The cheese plate on a cedar plank was just beautiful.

All in all, it was one of my favorite tourist-trap excursions in a long-time!

New Year’s Resolution Ideas.

So, I am very much aware of the fact that I have some major shortcomings. I feel like I am constantly losing my mind and constantly apologizing… so I never have a shortage of ideas for New Year’s resolutions. You know you are inevitably going to get asked what you’ve resolved to do in the New Year no less than 3 dozen times, so why not at least have something to say even if you don’t end up completely, totally, following through.

(Resolution pencils, courtesy of Kate Spade.) Here are some of my favorites, please do comment with your ideas!

–Write one handwritten note a day. If you don’t have a note to write thanking someone for hosting you or for a holiday gift, then think of someone important to you and write them a quick note of thanks. We all get a million emails a day, but a handwritten note actually has some staying power. Of course, Minted has some nice stationery if you need some to get started.

–Stop losing your keys.
After managing to lock my car and house keys in my car parked in front of our old apt, blocking the driveway, fully loaded with enough food to fead an army I decided to make this my resolution last year. I didn’t keep it perfectly, in fact I wish I had done a better job… but making a serious point to develop a system and put things where they belong every time is a really good discipline to develop, or at least try to develop.

–Stop rushing.
Force yourself to internalize the fact that in order to always be on time, one must be early 95% of the time. The Mr. and I have a new plan of attack: we try to get  a drink just the two of us before we meet a couple for dinner…. usually shooting to be 45 minutes early means we’re on time, but sometimes we get to enjoy a little cocktail cuddle time. And
if you are late, then you’re late. There’s nothing you can do about it. So accept that you’re late, call who you are meeting and give them a realistic estimation of your expected arrival. Don’t do what I like to do is split the difference between when you wish you could say you are arriving an when you actually will arrive. And then relax. Accept the fact that there is nothing you can do now to make the traffic go away.

— Be nicer to those in the service industry.
It’s not the poor lady in India’s fault that your computer won’t work. The doorman is a person with real feelings, too. Without nice people to talk to, bagging groceries must get a bit tedious, no? I have to say that everyone here in HK seems just so nice–especially all of the janitors everywhere. And I have to say, what they do is incredible. This city is so clean and immaculate.

— Keep one empty shelf to grow into.
You could resolve to be a neater, tidier, clutter-fighting person, but if you’re like me and you somehow manage to fill / cram  / jam every spare inch with something and then wonder when you’re running around with your head cut-off, why you can’t find anywhere to stash all of the piles (or droppings as the Mr. likes to call them) before company arrives… then you’ll understand why to be truly organized you need to have hidden, empty room.

–Drink more champers.
It’s important to have resolutions that are fun, too! This one hails from my dear friends back in S.F.

–Wear more “duh, dun, du, duhs.”
This is a good one for the year after drinking more champers. Too often we fall into the rut of not putting in effort around the house and shlepping around in gross sweats and that oh, so compfy (but also, oh so ugly) sweatshirt. Your Mr. will appreciate this one. Once a week is a nice way to quantify this one. Plus, this gives you an excuse to shop for you during those great New Year’s sales.

–Use cloth napkins.
What are you waiting for? And why not make every meal celebratory? If you don’t already have some, get a nice set of sturdy white napkins and use them for a week — it’s helpful if you get a napkin ring for each family member — and then when they are starting to get really dirty just bleach the heck out of them. Also, you get green points for this one!