Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fun with friends

I have been having fun this past week or two! In the company of various groups of friends, I have been up to Shenzhen three times;each trip a load of laughs from start to finish. We've tried on purple wigs and pink feather boas, we've bought bracelets, bangles and baubles and commented on,  encouraged and criticized each others choice of fabric, dress style and fit. We've borrowed and lent in two currencies to the point we almost can't remember who owes who how much in which currency.
I have also drunk wine and coffee, eaten lunch in a variety of locations and attended a concert, with another to come this week. In addition, I've been to a book launch (with free chocolate mmm...) and of course my  regular Wednesday  night poetry club.
Now Christmas is really coming to the fore and it feels strange now that the weather is so hot and sunny! A friend and I attended a carol concert, as a mutual friend was singing in the choir. We had wine and mince pies afterwards. I 've also been offered (and turned down!) mince pies at three other events this week.
Les and I joined two couples for a lovely pre Christmas dinner and today (Sunday) we began packing for the Christmas break. We leave in 2 days and the packing is complex as we need winter clothes for 10 days in Scotland over Christmas,and lighter clothes for 4 days in Dubai over New Year. Life is tough! Les is down at the pool having a quite sun top up whilst I dither about deciding on daft things to pack, like earrings and necklaces.
Tomorrow I will attend a Christmas breakfast party and on Tuesday morning I have my manicure booked. All the pressies are bought and packed but not wrapped and I will finish writing cards on the flight home.
So on that note Havers wishes you all a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year.
We will return in 2013,

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It's already feeling a little like Christmas

We had our Corona Ladies Christmas Lunch on Monday, the first turkey dinner of the season. It was a lovely afternoon and also a good chance to make arrangements for the next couple of weeks, before everyone departs for the Christmas holidays.It was a busy week for me, with a bookgroup on Tuesday, dentist on Wednesday followed by "Life of Pi" in 3D (more crazy specs?). I loved the book, it is one of my all time favourites and it was the one I picked when I was a World Book Day giver two years ago, so I have distributed 24 of them around the world. At night I went to Poetry Club, so a very busy day. On Thursday I had a blank, yay! and on Friday, I went to a trial session of a new exercise class. Over the years, I've tried going to the gym, aerobics, cycling, yoga, zumba, aquafit and NIA. This one was Wing Chun kung fu. Wing Chun was a style developed by a woman, a Shaolin nun who realised she'd need to use her body differently to win in a fight aginst a taller and probably stronger man. We learned basic posture, how to be "centred" and then the first exercises or "formations" of the discipline. Next we knocked seven bells out of each other by punching and blocking and then kicking using the shin, not the foot. The reason is there are too many small bones in the foot, so the shin bone is bigger harder and less likely to break. All very interesting stuff.
Friday evening was spent with Susie, our Chinese /Scottish house sitter, who is over here for a family wedding. So strange to meet her in Hong Kong, her home city, but where we now feel more at home than she does! Anyway, our house is fine, she tells us and Ann and Robert will be checking things in her absence.We had a lovely evening, drinks, dinner and then back home here for cakes and wine.
Saturday was a quiet day but in the evening we went to a Christmas market, with real fresh trees, mulled wine, egg nog, all under the open skies with tall buildings all around, quite surreal.Sunday I spent the morning cooking, then we went Christmas shopping.
Next week is going to be busy again, with a charity concert on Monday evening, 2 bookgroups on Tuesday morning and afternoon, a book launch on Wednesday evening, lunch out on Thursday and another trip to the tailor in China on Friday. I collected one dress last week but the other one needs a bit of alteration..It's too big!! Woop woop!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Here to there and back again

After our short break in Seoul, we had 4 nights at home in Hong Kong before I set off for Scotland and Les went to New York. I had a fantastic journey, including an upgrade to First Class, with a wee private cabin and champagne all the way.I know you don't get there any faster, but boy does the time fly past quicker! And sleep? Well yes, with my matress, duvet and full size pillow, plus all 3 windows shuttered and my cabin door closed,yes, I did, for about 4 hours.
I had a whirlwind week of meeting family and friends, including 24 hours in Bristol (via Squeezyjet, no champagne this time!Well, not until arrival chez Wheeler, where we did in a bottle before bedtime). All my travel plans worked out well, thanks to my fabulous friends and family who picked me up, dropped me off and ran me hither and thon, thus obviating the need for a hire car his trip. I'm still smarting from the CDW slap on, because I didn't take the extra insurance last trip when some sneaky pig ran into me and drove off without leaving details.
Meantime, across the pond, Les was also lucky with upgrades from business to first ( mind you he had to use air miles, mine was free!) but less lucky with the weather; he arrived just in time for Hurricane Sandy, so spent 3 days holed up in his hotel room with pillows along the window! Anyway, we both made it to Dubai and met up in the lounge just nearby the champagne bar, as you do.
Since coming home, we have hosted some wonderful Australian friends. We first met 6 years ago  and it was lovely to catch up and show them our adopted city. They were great fun and it was sad to see them go on Sunday. On Monday morning, I had another sad farewell, Katrina announced she was leaving HK for 24 hours! So now 3 of my original friends have gone; Sue, Pat and Katrina. But, welcome to Kate, so plus ca change, plus c'est la meme, as they say.
I went up to China to see my tailor (God, how pretentious does that sound!) on Friday and arranged to have 2 winter dresses made for my trip back home in December. Then Les and I were staying over in Shenzhen as we were attending the company family fun day on Saturday. Fun? Well, it depends on how you classify fun...we were collected at 7.30am and finally got into the theme park at 11.30...straight to lunch, so no time to actually see anything. Which was just as well, since, being November, half the rides were closed. Lunch was ...well, different. For a table of 8, we had: a giant bowl of clear soup with tomato halves and scrambled egg floating in it, a washing up bowl of boiled rice, half a chicken, head bones and all, a whole fish (have you ever tried to divide a fish into eight using only chopsticks?), 2 plates of differently flavoured tofu , a dish of cabbage and one of turnip cubes. Plenty of food, for sure, but quantity certainly over ruled quality.
After lunch, we wandered about aimlessly for an hour, feeling like filmstars as many people wanted to have their photo taken with us,  since we were the only Western people among several thousand Chinese. I tell you,a good few of them will know us again, going by the close scrutiny they made of our faces.
Next up, an hour queuing for a cable car, the only means of getting to the next part of the park. If I'd had a sharp stick, it would have been a relief to poke it into my eye. Eventually, we reached the summit, eyes closed, not looking down...then we were told we had to descend three flights of stairs to get to the bus stop.After the first two flights, my legs were jelly and my knees were watermelons, then we saw an encouraging sign; only 135 steps to go !Yeah!
Next up, a bus, then a train to get to the venue for a cultural show. Wow! It was spectacular! Chinese acrobats, ballet dancers, sound, music,copious use of holographic technology, what a show. I loved it. At 5pm it finished and Les colleague kindly drove us to the border crossing, finally arriving home at 8pm.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The airport at the end of the world

Carved and painted roof

Street food stall; a fishy treat!

Old doorway with roof shadow like a frill at the bottom

"38th parallell" bronze statue

Bubbling bulgogi

Les on a B52 flying fortress

Part of the National War Memorial sculpture

Ceremonial tiger drum
Flying into Incheon Airport, Seoul, was a strange experience. We flew in low over great expanses of mudflats, not a building in sight.All around was sea, dotted wth small islands or sand bars. If not the end of the world, it seemed you could see it from there. An hour's bus transfer took me to the hotel. There was a little tent set up out front and loud, rousing military-style chorus music blasting from loudspeakers. All the hotel staff were wearing bright blue waistcoats over their grey hotel uniform. Some had red head bands with Korean writing on in white. All very jolly looking! Turns out they were in protest at the hotel management and within 2 days this had escalated to a full blown strike resulting, on the day we left, in the closure of most of  the hotel restaurants, room service and other amenities! Luckily for us it was on the day we left and the breakfast buffet was still operational.
Seoul was an interesting city. First glance made me think it was flat but on walking out the hotel I realised it was far from it! More like San Faancisco.

I had dinner in the hotel's Italian restaurant (one of about 8 in house)as Les was still at a business dinner. Next morning, it was bright and sunny, so we walked down to the station and caught the great value city bus tour, one of those hop on hop off things. We toured all the historic palaces, with carved roof beams, spent an hour in a reconstructed traditional village and another hour in the artist quarter of Insadong. Having had the luxurious hotel breakfast,  we only had a coffee all day! At night we took the free hotel shuttle to Itaewon, the main tourist shopping and eating area and were spoiled for choice; everything from the various Asian styles, through Russian, Portguese, American diners, French bistros. Absolutely every cuisine imagineable. We settled on a fusion type pace where we were able to combine the salad bar with a hot food buffet and table service, including Asian and Western and both the quality and range on offer were superb.
We were glad we did not have long to wait for the shuttle bus back to the hotel as it was a tad on the chilly side compared to Hong Kong. I wore a leather jacket, 2 layers, a scarf and socks for the first time since January in Scotland.Next day we spent a long time at the Korean War Memorial museum. It was mainly outdoors with scores of planes, tanks, copters, guns and other big grey scary war machines. Les loved it. I was amused, then frustrated then very angry by the behaviour of scores of school children on field trips, ranging from toddlers (what's the point in taking them to a war history museum?They could barely walk!) to teenagers., all roaming around with little or no supervision. Where were all the teachers? The pupils were rude and loud, yelling, running around, pushing past and, for me worst of all, leaving litter strewn in their wake. Of course, I had to act on that one. I approached a group of teenage boys and asked, "Do you speak English?" Proud to show off their language skills, they said they did, so I pointed out their tinfoil lunch wrappers on the ground at their feet and then pointed to the close proximity of a clearly labelled trash can. They apologised, picked it all up and put it in the bin. Success! I felt better after that. In 35 years of taking Scottish kids to libraries, museums and literary festivals, I have never experienced such bad behaviour...well maybe once when a boy in my charge uprooted a sapling in Charlotte Square gardens at the Edinburgh Book Festival... but it wisnae his fault, honest! A big boy dun it an ran away and he was left holding the stump and looking glaikit.
In the afternoon, we wandered round the famous Namdaemon street market, which operates from 11am till 3 am with stalls selling junk, kitchen wares, souvenirs, food to eat and to take home, toys, clothes, shoes...all haphazardly thrown together in no real order. Stalls were sometimes just a tarpaulin on the ground or an adapted motorbike with a fold out table at the rear . We ate at a street restaurant; bulgogi with kimchi and other accompaniments. It was delicious.
After arriving back to a balmy 27 degrees in Hong Kong, we dumped our bags and headed straight back out, downstairs to the club lounge to meet up with some neighbours for a wine tasting. It was nice to chat  and for the husbands to meet, as we ladies already knew each other.
Today it is laundry time, as we need a quick turnaround on warm clothes.I leave for Scotland late Wednesday and Les goes to Maryland, USA on Thursday.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Post holiday antics

It hardly seems possible that a year has passed since we last went on the Mandarin Oriental private boat to celebrate Hannah's 2nd birthday, yet here we were again,on Saturday 6th, celebrating her 3rd! Of course now she is a big sister as well as a big girl. We had a lovely day sailing round the islands and again went to Rainbow Restaurant at Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma for lunch. It was gratifying to see so many junks on cruise trips so soon after the terrible disaster on the 1st. It was a dreadful tragedy, it was mourned, will be thoroughly investigated and the families will be helped by their community, workplace and financially. We had three days of official mourning and the laser light show was suspended. Many of the neon adverts along Victoria Harbour dimmed. went off or turned black and white as a mark of respect. But Hong Kongers are very pragmatic people and the boat owners depend on leisure trips to make a living.

This week, I met a lovely English newcomer. Kate and her husband moved into our building whilst we were in Singapore and by chance we met them twice in the lift, got talking and I invited her to come to Corona with me. That worked well and since then we've had lunch three times and been on a hike. The hike was wonderful. 17 of us took a bus to the East of the island and walked on narrow cliff top paths for about an hour before descending into Big Wave Bay. Except for the weather, it was not unlike the cliff walks around Eyemouth! I managed reasonably well until the descent.1000 steps played havoc with the old knees but luckily my new purchase helped. I've bought a walking pole!
A further half hour walk brought us to Shek O, a seaside village where we had a Thai lunch before getting the bus then train home. Out from 9.00am until 3.30 pm, then just time for a nap, a half hour in the jacuzzi then steam room to help my knees and then  have dinner ready by 6.30.That's how the time goes by in Hong Kong!

I attended Book Group on Tuesday when we discussed Pearl S Buck's The Good Earth.I loved it, I'm amazed it has passed me by all these years. I remember shelving multiple copies when I had a summer job in the Paisley Central library when I was about 14. My Mum had read it and I remember her telling me it was a really old book, (1932) but it seemed so alien to me as I knew little and cared less about China at that time. My loss, that's for sure; it won both the Pulitzer and the Nobel Literature prize!

From time to time I fill in a customer survey for The Co-Op and this week I won £100 amazon vouchers for commenting on their products. I like their carrot cake very much, so I told them!

Over the weekend, I'll be looking out some heavier clothes as Les flies to Seoul in Korea on Monday and I join him on Wednesday. Currently, the temperature here is 27 and it has been very dry, so we have a RED fire danger warning in force. In Seoul, it is forecast to be 18 so for us that will seem cold. It will be good acclimatisation for the following week, when Les goes to Maryland US and I fly  to Bonnie Scotland. Brr!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Singa Pura

Boat Quay by day

Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel

Dinner by the river at Boat Quay

Merlion Statue

 We had a wonderful time in Singapore. We visited loads of historic sites, so I can tell you with some confidence that the island state was originally people  by Indians, Chinese, Malaysians and Europeans, so it is a real melting pot of cultures. It got it's name erroneously, as Singa Pura means Lion City. In fact, the first sighting of a big cat was much more likely to be a tiger, as they were populous way back then.The modern popular mythical beast, the Merlion, is half lion and half fish.
Singapore became a significant trading port thanks to British Statesman Sir Stamford Raffles who had a vision for Singapore as Asia's premier city. He died relatively young, but is well respected still as the "father of modern Singapore"

We visited all the regular tourist haunts: the River, Merlion statue, Raffles statue,Raffles hotel, Fullerton hotel, etc. We spent a sobering morning at Changi Prison Museum and Chapel and a glorious afternoon in the National Orchid House at the Botanical Gardens. We went to Sentosa Island, did some shopping and visited the National Museum and an art gallery. We took a river cruise. We had a night trip to the brand new Gardens By the Bay and gaped at the magnificent Marina Bay Sands hotel. We ate at Lau Pa Sat (Satay Street)Thanks to Les work colleagues, we saw loads in a short time as they acted as tour guides for a day and on another evening took us to eat spice crab in one of the government (cooncil) housing estates. It is such a safe city and so easy to get around by MRT as they call their underground rail system. It was a bit of a whirlwind! However, the nightly complimentary cocktails in the hotel's club lounge helped us ease from day to evening smoothly!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Holiday on the horizon

We are going on holiday! On Sunday 30th we fly to Singapore for a week, we haven't been there before, looking foward to it.As we know loads of family and friends who have been there, we have a lot of tips on what to see, do, eat and drink.
Les has the week off work due to a combination of local and national holidays coupled with some annual leave.It is Jung Chau Jit, mid autumn fesival  and also Gwok Hing, National Day which as you may remember is celebrated with an amazing, lavish firework display in the harbour right outside our window. As we will be away, we have given keys to Les colleague and his wife, who live in the same block as us, but do no have a good harbour view. Hope they enjoy the show.
I went on a three hour walk on Thusday and spoke to a new Corona Society member from Korea. (Yes, I can now easily walk and talk at the same time, thanks to our new health regime.)Now that's handy, as I fly to Korea on Wednesday 17th. She has kindly sent me some websites to look at for inspiration on what to see and do in Seoul.
When I fly to Scotland on 24th, I won't need any tips on how to fill my time.1. See the boys. 2. See David and Jen. 3. See the boys. 4. See friends and family. 5. Meet up with the soon-to-be-Travelling Sisterhood. Oh, did I mention I want to see Callum and Jamie?
November 3 - December 18 I think I will be Hong Kong based, then it's back to Scotland for Christmas and on to spend New Year in Dubai.
Holidays are great, don't you think? A chance to relax and refresh,  a break from work...Oh but wait, I don't actually work. But I still love holidays.

Jung Chau Jit Faai Lohk

Happy Mid Autumn Festival! At the full moon on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, Jung Chau Jit is celebrated by fantastic displays of paper lanterns. Parents take children with little lanterns to a hill top to light and release the lanterns for good luck in the harvest.
 Here are some pictures of a fabulous display at the Tsim Sha Tsui clock tower, just 5 minutes walk from the apartment.

                            A display of giant lanterns in the shape of the terracotta warriors

It is aso the custom to eat special cakes, called yuht beng or moon cakes. They are an acquired taste!They look like a pork pie but are filled with very heavy sweet lotus paste with a preserved duck egg yolk, to represent the full moon, in the middle. .It is customary to give them to friends and family and businesses give them to loyal customers. I believe the Peninsula Hotel has very good ones, costing around £25 for a box of four. As you couldn't eat a whole one, this is not as expensive as it seems; it's OK to cut into 4 and offer a small piece to guests. (That way, you could mash it around the plate and get away with not actually eating any of it).
These are the traditional ones, but you can also get icy mooncakes and snowy mooncakes, with a light rice paper outer and filled with strawberry sorbet or chocolate bean paste(!). HagenDaz  do ice cream ones but I haven't tried those yet.

A selection of moon cakes; the front one has the traditional filling.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Weekend beckons

 Here are some pictures from our boat trip last Saturday. This is where we moored for lunch.The beach was a fair old swim away.
  The dog needed to go ashore....there was no doggy toilet on board. So he put on his life jacket and allowed himself to be lowered onto a surfboad

 Then he was  pushed to shore. The little boy was being Captain!

Our boat lady ready to throw the rope onto the pier
Some views of the scenery

I had the fitting for my new dress this week, I've to collect it on Saturday, looking forward to it, it's the first made to measure item I've ever had. Including fabric and lining, it cost me £27. I also bought a new bag, not a fancy leather one, just a nice purple nylon lightweight one to use as carry on for all the flying I'll be doing over the next few months.It holds my travel document folder, iPad and other sundry items in several pockets. Should be easy to find things on board in the dark, I hope.
 Lessons, in swimming and Mahjong, continued this week, I seem to be making some progress in both. I bought a little travel Mahjong set, it is not so tiny that you can't play with the tiles and not too heavy to carry around. I really bought it so I could practice recognsing the tiles; some are easy (bamboo, circles) but the winds and the characters are more difficult.

I paid a visit to the new 3 storey bookshop over in Causeway Bay on the island. The papers have been full of it since it opened a few books ago.What a lot of hype! I really didn't like it at all.It was packed, very noisy and vey smelly, both from the sheer volume of unclean humanity and fried food from the  food court above. Also, the English and Chinese are mixed on the shelves,making it hard to find things. It gave me an insight ito illiteracy, though, all these books and I had no clue what they were trying to tell me.Whenever I tried to look at the lower shelves, people were pushing past, almost knocking me over. Call me old fashioned, but I like a calm, relaxed QUIET bookshop. For me going into a good book shop is almost like going into a temple. I feel renewed and refreshed when I come out. After coming out of Eslite, I felt like I needed a bath and a stiff drink! However, I did manage to find a book of Scottish poetry and a reprint of an American childrens book from 1949 which I hadn't seen before. I hope Callum likes it!The free carrier bag is very cool, black and white images of Hong Kong street life. After queuing for ages and answering an interrogation to get their loyalty card (which is a scrap of paper! Not even cardboard!). I emerged, blinking, into a huge shopping mall full of things I could neither afford nor fit into. Sometimes life here is tough, eh?

We went for a walk last night and ended up in a German Bierkeller for a pint. It's a bit out of the way, so we expected it to be fairly quiet as there are lots of more easily acessible bars. Obviously another several hundred patrons had though that too.

Today I'm going to the flower market and I really need to finish the dreaded ironing. Then I should start looking out clothes for our holiday in Singapore. Woohoo!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Another week, another haver

We had a great time on the junk trip on Saturday and I didn't feel even the slightest bit queasy thanks to some anti seasick pills I popped early morning. The info leaflet was interesting. On line 3, it said, , "Do not drive or operate machinery as this tablet may cause drowsiness." Fair enough, as I won't be doing either of those things. But then on line 10, it said, "Do not take this tablet before sleeping as it may cause insomnia" Since I wasn't planning on doing that either, I took it and to hang with the consequences.

But before that, on Friday evening, I bought a nice new iPad. Why, I hear you say, are you therefore typing on your old laptop and not on the slinky new model? Well, I am still getting used to the teeny weeny on-screen keyboard.I have mistyped several passwords and had to set things up all over again. Mind you, this was at midnight after a fair few wines; we took a young colleague of Les' with us ( he of the recently devoured Greek dinner) as he knew what was what regarding the purchase of technological equipment. We took him to dinner afterwards to thank him for his advice.

Sunday was a nowhere day, Les went to the poolside to read the papers and I plumbed the depths of the on line Apple store to see what could be had for free; an amazing amount of stuff, as it happens. In the afternoon, we went to a big computer market and I bought a fancy purple cover for the iPad.  Then we went to a street market as I wanted to get things for a great charity drive we are doing. We've been asked to buy a backpack and fill it with stationery to donate to a student at one of the schools we support. It was good fun, even Les got into it, suggesting highlighters, sharpeners, etc.I chose to do one for a boy; in my experience, a girl will usually find a little money to buy at least a fancy pencil, whereas boys either have none or dig down in a pocket to produce a grubby stub. So anyway I bought all blue and black items.

Monday, I attended a talk on church bell ringing which was actually quite good fun as we had to form a  circle and pretend to pull bell ropes in order as the speaker called out our numbers. Oh yes, time fairly flies here in Hong Kong. I also had a Mahjong lesson, it's all coming along nicely.
Today, Tuesday, I tidied up the house in the morning then had a hand over meeting with a friend who is taking on the school interview volunteer activity I did last year.

Tomorow I am off up to Shenzhen to look at bags and also get a dress made at the seamstress my friends used; if we can remember how to get to her! It is a huge complex and as it is laid out in two squares round a central atrium, it sounds as if it would be easy to navigate. Ha! Add to the mix a maze of side passages on either side of the two squares, several thousand shoppers and an equal number of stall holders and touts and it is impossible to find anywhere. I had on a pair of earrings I got in May and a friend asked me to take her to the place I got them. If I am not back by midnight, I'll have been swallowed up and disappeared forever into the bowels of Lo Wu commercial city. The only ones reading this and laughing are those who have not been there; if you've been there, you know it could happen!

Saturday, September 8, 2012


On Friday, I did not have a mani pedi. Instead, I had a swimming lesson. I swallowed a lot of water but managed to float face down for a long time, also floated on my back but I could do that before. I don't really like it (it's so wet!) but it's high time I learned properly. It is such a waste to have the use of this beautiful pool and ony wallow like a hippo in the shallows. My friend Jocelyn is a qualified swim coach and she was really calm. She explained that although I can indeed get across the pool I am using too much energy and would soon be exhausted. I need to trust the water, she says. She says I can learn, she has previously taught mentally handicapped people to swim, also a 25 stone woman. Hmm.
After that, I met another friend, Sue, for lunch. I was ravenous by that time! Sue has been in the UK for several weeks, so we sat from 1.30 till 4pm catching up, me with the wet swimsuit still in my bag!
In the evening, Les and I went on the harbour dinner cruise and we really enjoyed it. The buffet was ample and varied and it was cool to see the laser light show from the water. We sailed around the harbour for two hours. There was a live band and a dancefloor on board. Everyone seemed to have a great time. We befriended a solo Australian girl at our table, she was at the end of a 5 week European holiday.

Our building from the water
On deck during the Bauhnia dinner cruise

Saturday comprised the usual round of shopping and reading but as it rained heavily we read indoors and not by the pool.I printed off a great picture of Callum in his nursery school uniform so we went and bought a nice frame for it.
We met Lesley and Stan at their clubhouse for a lovely dinner, they are off to the US for two weeks and by the time they get back we will be heading to Singapore, so we won't see them for a while.
Sunday is very slow so far, just drinking tea and writing this while deciding what the weather will do. It is very hot but not to sunny just yet.
Tomorrow I have a talk about a charity for migrant workers then my first official class to learn mahjong. I've signed up for a four week course.On Tuesday it is the first class of the new spiritual literacy group I've joined and on Wednesday I'm going on a local heritage trip to find out about the Hungry Ghost festival. No plans for Thursday or Friday as yet, but I badly need the mani pedi, so maybe that. Next Saturday we are going on a junk trip near where I was seasick last time. But apparently it won't be so far out to sea, so should be less choppy. I hope.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dinner photography

It's a very Asian thing to take a photo of your dinner. Everytime we eat out, we see people letting their dinner get cold so they and all their friends can take pictures of each others' food. We always laugh at it, so forgive me for posting two "dinner pics" here. I think I have good reason.

First pic: I love char siu bao, which are steamed fluffy buns filled with BBQ pork. I often have them for lunch at a nearby shopping mall, served in the bamboo basket in which they were steamed. I already have a three tier bamboo steamer, so when I saw a packet in the supermarket, I couldn't resist trying them at home. They were much smaller when they went in, they fluffed up beautifully in the 5 minutes it took to steam them. The little dishes contain soy sauce and spicy red vinegar.A local friend says she never eats soy sauce, that's only for foreigners; she always has spicy red vinegar. Anyway, I had both and the buns were delicious, or ho ho sik as they say here.I thought it looked so lovely, I wanted to share it with you.

Second pic: Q: What does a diabetic with heart disease cook for dinner when left to fend for himself?
A: Eggs, beans and chips, of course. He did his own washing up but left the evidence for all to see. The case for the defence stated that  he used a non stick frying pan and oven chips, the beans were low salt and sugar and have fibre and the eggs counted as a meat free dinner. Verdict? Guilty as charged but mitigating circumstances may lead to a lower penalty.

Mid week update

On Monday our first Corona Society club meeting of the season was just a good old natter, we didn't have a speaker. It was a great opportunity to just catch up with people who have been away all summer and also to get dates in the diary to remind us of  who is going to be out of town in the next couple of months. It's very necessary, so that the social outings may contine unabated for the people still here. For myself, I'll be gone for some of October. From 30 Sep until 6 October, we'll be in Singapore, then from 17th until 20th I'll be joining Les in Korea.

Monday evening we celebrated Les birthday and I made a low fat, low sugar fresh raspberry cheesecake, candles and all. As I was coming out of the supermarket I met Kate, who lives in our building,so we arranged to meet on Tuesday to travel to our Book Group together.It is unusual for us  to actually meet each other like that, we usually make our arrangements via facebook even though we live in the same building.

So Tuesday afternoon was Book Group, we discussed Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies which was a long and complicated read, not least because of the language used; a mix of English, Indian and a now defunct seafarers lingo which when we discussed it, caused much hilarity. A great afternoon and a wonderful lunch too. The journey home was eventful, it absolutely poured with rain, the downhill path we walked on was like a river. We arrived at a very posh hotel absolutely dripping. I had to take my shoes off and let my feet dry on their fancy carpet before walking across the marble lobby to get through the hotel to the train station. I don't suppose they intend it to be used as a thoroughfare, but needs must!

Today (Wed) I went with Pat, Lynn and Loretta to the big flower market a short train ride away. This week, I bought ginger flowers, which have white blooms on very long stems, also red salvia and the fluffy filler again, cream coloured  this week. The length of the ginger flowers looks better in my huge vase. I remember that the flowers are meant to be taller than the vase they are in, so that the blooms dominate and not the container. I'm gettng there! Every week it looks a bit better but I'll not be competing with Jane Packer just yet.
Tonight the poetry club is at a different venue as one of our members is having a book launch so I'll go along to support him.He'll be doing all the reading, no need for any participation tonight.

Tomorrow I am meeting my friend Lesley for coffee then on Friday I'll get a mani and pedi before  Les and I go on our touristy dinner cruise.
On Saturday, we are going out to dinner with Lesley and her husband and before you know it we'll have passed another ex pat week in Hong Kong.
Incidentally, I have also squeezed in the mundane matters; housework, laundry, shopping, cooking and ironing. It's not all fun and games, you know!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

It's all Greek to me

I had a surfeat of babies on Thursday. When I got to Tung Chung to meet Elaine and her wee new baby Amy, she had run into friends whom I'd also met once before and they had their new baby with them. Amy is beautiul and at I think six weeks, she seemed tiny... until I saw the other baby...he was only two weeks old. Now that really is tiny. It was a lovely morning, I got to hold Amy for a while but of course as an honorary  Grannie I just handed her back when she started to grumble.

Friday was very laid back. I had a nice lazy morning, then met two friends for afternoon tea. We sat outside  under a big shady umbrella. We had the whole showy thing; a two tier cake rack holding tiny sandwiches and various savoury nibbles, followed by scones with cream and jam then assorted cakes. We had so much to chat about, Lesley ordered a bottle of wine to continue. I rolled home at 6.15. After a nap and then our exercises, we went out for a late, light dinner.

Why is there a Greek title line? Be patient, here come the two Greek connections:

Tonight, we've invited one of Les' work colleagues to dinner. For some reason I said, "We'll have Greek food".  Now, I have no expertise or even any particular fondness for Greek cuisine, so it's a mystery as to why I decided that. Les sent him an email saying it would be Greek food, so the die was cast. Therefore, this morning's shopping expedition was interesting. It's amazing how many things you can't get once you've decided on a menu.However,two of the three starters are now made and in the fridge, the main is prepared which just leaves one starter, salad and 2 sides to do.  I could't find cod roe, not even tinned, to make taramasalata, but I found fresh orange coloured caviar type stuff on the Japanese counter, so just used that. Once I'd added the milk soaked breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, it tasted fine. Its just that it's a bit orange....... The hoummus was easier, our supermarket even stocks  tahini paste, but the canned chickpeas had skins on. It takes a long time to pop the skins off a whole tin of chickpeas. As he's from Wisconsin and now lives in Hong Kong, I'm banking on the fact that he's never been to Greece.

On my way back from meeting baby Amy on Thursday, I got off the train a stop early to investigate a shopping mall I'd walked through once before en route to an art event.It was the most normal shopping mall I've visited here, I think. Most malls are full of designer shops with high price tags and very few customers, or heaving with people heading to the ice rink or soft play area. This one was a middle of the road kind of place, with affordable shops, a big supermarket and an M&S. The only strange thing was the food court. The mall is called "Olympian City" Now correct me if I'm wrong, but that's Greek, isn't it? (Oh! maybe that was in my mind when I decided on Greek food) But the food court is laid out like a French village, with old wooden mismatched bistro chairs and Victorian style gaslamps and metal signposts.The facades above the food counters have fake lavender and shuttered windows. However, it served only Asian food so far as I could see and the whole bizarre ensemble was finished off with two giant medieval knights in armour guarding the exit.Not a hint of anything remotely Grecian.The wonton noodle soup with green vegetables was delicious, though and very good value at $27 (about £2.50)

Sunday morning update:
The Greek food was a success although I did have a moment of fear when he said that although he'd never been to Greece, his best friend at home is of Greek heritage and the mother used to make the most amazing Greek food... But no worries, he ate it all and even asked for the recipe for the taramasalata. We had a good evening, he's good comany, a funny guy and is very easy going. He's also only 29 or 30 and newly married, but his wife is still in the US, she'll be here in November.
Today we are off to revisit the Olympian Mall and then relax by our pool.That's if the pool is open. Yesterday we had a shower of rain and they closed the pool "due to the bad weather". The thing is, from our apartment, we look down on 3 other hotel rooftop pools and they were all open, people were just swimming about in the rain. We must have wimps for lifeguards.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Just havering about dates

This post has lots of dates in it. It begins with birth dates. It continues with social dates. Next it deals with camels, (don't they eat dates?) follows with a recipe which uses dates and ends up with yet more social dates.

On August 15th, Callum was three. It was the second of his birthdays we've celebrated from Hong Kong via skype. Today, 29th, it's Jamie's first birthday, so we skyped and Callum greeted us by calling, "Happy Birthday!" in the way one would usually say "Happy New Year!" Cute.
On September 3rd, it's Les turn. It's the birthday he almost didn't have, so we will be doing something a bit different (for us). Every evening, we see a garish ferry boat sailing around the harbour outside our window, so we decided to investigate and now we are going to really be tourists in Hong Kong as we join the Bauhinia for the Symphony of Lights dinner cruise for Les birthday.

Our lunch date on Sunday was lovely, although it was a bit surreal to be eating roast beef and Yorkshire pudding outside,in temperatures in the 30s. There were15 of us on the roof terrace of a restaurant with a fanastic view over a yacht club and out to sea, past the very islands where I was so seasick on the June boat trip. Memory is selective, because during the lunch I eagerly signed us up for another boat trip, this time a private "junk" to cruise around the inshore (they promised me; inshore) islands and then moor for swimming and picnic. Now that I have taught myself to swim (or at least not to sink) I may even go in for a wee dip. Did I tell you that? Yes, after 58 years on this earth, I can get across the pool and halfway back without my feet touching the floor. However, I can't seem to get myself horizontal; my legs work away, but like a duck they paddle frantically underwater.

Mahjong is going well, I even won a game on Tuesday.I had a run of good luck, four quick Pungs and a pair of honour tiles to finish. Nice one. Everyone gave me 3 chips.As I can't work out the scoring yet, I've no idea why, but I took it graciously and stuck it in my wee drawer like a real pro.Something to do with my wind. Hmm.

Today I went to the Art museum to mug up on my Chinese art study group topic. I'll be looking at sculptures of  camels in the Tang dynasty. They were used to transport emperors, silk and spices, to carry musicians during processions and had an important function as funerary ornaments.That's about as much as I already know and I have found very little more on which to  base a 14 page paper and a half hour talk. Depressing, especially as I've found loads on Tang horses, which was what I wanted to do originally.Oh well, I suppose I do relish a challenge!

I haven't been back to poetry club  yet, I'm struggling with a halfbaked idea to write a villanelle with a Cantonese line and it's translation as the repeater. It's not going well, but I live in hope.

One of  the very first girls I met here, at Foon Ying ( a welcome to HK group; foon ying means welcome in Cantonese) writes a food blog. This week, she gave a recipe for chocolate truffles with no sugar, no fat, no gluten.... I made them today and they are delicious.Perfect for Les diet. It's amazing to think something that tastes so rich and decadent is harmless!Except to the teeth, I suppose, as they have dried figs and dates in them.Anyway, they are so rich, one (okay, two) is enough.

Tomorrow I 'm away out to Tung Chung to meet up with Elaine and see new wee baby Amy. Then on Friday I'm meeting a friend who has just come back after a summer in the UK. Next week the clubs start back in earnest, Corona on Monday and Book Group on Tuesday.
That's all so far.
See you back here next week? It's a date!