Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Philippine Recap

But before I get to all that, today I got my first red envelope!  And keys to work!  And tutoring cancelled! And Paul's going to tap his beer!   OMG a totally great day.

Back to Manila.  As we're waiting to board we start talking to the nice couple again.  Turns out Lauren (good name) and Ed are English teachers in rural podunk China.  They hadn't booked a hotel and we told them we had reservations at Banwa, so they came along.  Then in the AM we all took a van up to Ed Nido.  Banwa was cute enough, but the town pretty lacking.  In retrospect the smart thing would have been to book it the 5 hours in the van right after getting off the plane.  Better to get all the traveling done in one day than drag it out over two.  Ohh and was that a fun bus ride.  There were 14 passengers so as you can imagine leg room was limited.  And guess who was lucky enough to score a seat in the back row?!  That's right, these kids.  We would hit a bump and the people in front wouldn't feel it, while we're protecting our heads from the ceiling.  And then we got to the dirt roads.  A car would come by in the opposite direction stirring up a dirt tornado.  But no, our driver didn't care he couldn't see, he'd just push that pedal down harder.  Oh the pummel of rocks!  There were several minutes where Paul shielded my eyes from the horror.  But we made it.  In no less than 6 hours because every 10 minutes the driver would a) pull over to pee or b) get out and make sure our tires hadn't exploded.

So CNY is a Chinese holiday, not a Filipino one, so Paul and I figured the place would be deserted.  Wrong.  It's actually the busiest tourist week of the year.  Obviously we had no hotel, no iphone, and no plan, so we spent a solid 45 minutes going from shit hotel to nice hotel to super fancy nice hotel, all to the same response, "full."  We even went to an office and inquired about a resort on a private island.  The guy told us about all of the amenities blah blah and then told us ~$550/night.  At this point we're desperate and say fine!  He makes a call.  "Sorry, full."  You mean we spent the last 20 minutes rationalizing to ourselves that we deserve a 5 star hotel, even when we don't have 5 star jobs, and now you're going to take it away!?  What a cruel cruel man.  Finally someone in a similar situation pointed us in the right direction and we found a perfectly cute hotel on the beach.  But only for two days and then we would have to move on.

By the time this all settles down, we have a San Miguel (Lite!!!) and watch the sunset.  Head to dinner where I had squid (and every following meal possible) and we ran into our new buddies Lauren an Ed! They're super fun and we spent the whole night sipping rhum cocktails at our hotel watching as the calm sea turned into a violent attack on our short beach.

Full Day 1 and we wake up at the crack of dawn (8!) to go island hopping because that's what you do in El Nido.  It is quite possibly the most beautiful beach I have ever seen.  Beautiful white sand, sapphire blue ocean, and rocky cliff islands that jut out all along the horizon.  We first hopped to secret beach where you have to swim underwater through a hole to get to the isolated beach.  Rumor is it's where the inspiration for The Beach came from.  I'm a bit skeptical and think that's a marketing tool used for every island in the Philippines and Thailand.  Regardless, it was cool.  Then we hopped to what I call Triceratops Island where we snorkeled over the reef.  We saw fluorescent blue starfish, day glow stripey fish, Nemo!, and all sorts of interesting underwater craziness.  Island 3 was lunch island.  Just a beautiful white sand beach where we relaxed as the boat crew grilled fish and chicken.  Yum.  Oh I should mention there were other people on this boat.  The blackest man I have ever seen who is currently a teacher in rural Korea.  I can't even imagine the looks and stares this guy gets!  2 Spanish guys, and a mother, daughter son from Canada but were Filipino.  By the end of the day everyone totally bonded.  Hop 4 to an island with an abandoned resort.  It was cool to climb around inside and see all the leftover beds and mirrors and stuff, and finally when we'd had just about enough of island hopping we hit Helicopter Island.  It was shady and you had to swim to the beach, so 90% of our boat just stayed and waited til was time to go home.  Despite how hot it probably was.  By the end of the day getting a little pink and being on the open water got cold.  But I guess I'm always cold.  Post boating met Lauren and Ed again for dinner and drinks.  While waiting an hour and a half for dinner to come (it's island time baby) Lauren and Ed ran into two guys they had met in their random podunk town China a month ago! Weird!  We all hung out, but after all the hopping, we were beat.

Full Day 2 up again at dawn (7!) to go SCUBA diving!!!!  I hadn't been in 10, ew how old that makes me feel, years.  Paul had never been.   It was pretty spectacular.  We signed up for 2 dives each, and everyone else on our boat was pretty experienced so they all did 3.  We were all broken into groups (Paul and I being the lowest level) with our own guides.  Ours was awesome.  Super spunky and excited about life.  He was a cook for 15 years working 20 hours days, and I guess saved up enough money to become a dive master.  He was clearly enjoying life.  The dive was awesome.  Saw tons of fish and a sea turtle!!!!  And found Nemo again, and his whole family.  Territorial little guys they are.  They charge when you go near their coral!!  But by the end of the hour, my 2 size too big wet suit was failing at keeping the heat in, and I was cold.  My allergies had kind of been acting up and my ears were making weird noises, so I opted out of dive 2 to sit in the sun.  Dive 2 looked a lot cooler than the first one.  We parked the boat alongside a cliff island and the divers swam around the base.  Everyone agreed it was the best dive of the day.  I was happy to sit in the sun thank you very much.  Again we pull up to a deserted beach where we have a private, awesome, lunch.  Then out to dive 3.  Paul and I snorkeled through the jellyfish, saw a sting ray and another turtle, then retired from the ocean upon our private boat.  Oh private except for the young Chinese girl who came with her MUCH older Greek boyfriend.  While he was out SCUBAing, one of the boat guys would pull this woman around in the lifesaver, while she wore a life vest and screamed in fear!  haha so Chinese.  When she finally felt a little comfortable he would tie her to one of the balancers and leave her to float while he snorkeled.  soooo Asian.  Our dive master told us ridiculous stories about how these Chinese tourists would come and go SCUBA but couldn't swim.  Why would you do that!?  WHY!??  Even in India all of our guides would say how much they loved Western tourists, 'but not those Chinese.'  I think 90% of it is a language barrier, but I digress.

Post scuba we were treated to drinks at the dive shop, then we were off to meet Lauren and Ed and 2 other dude (Tim and Matt) for dinner and drinks again.  Night life in El Nido isn't crazy, as it's probably just too small, but I think that's a good thing.  We spent each night mixing a couple mango cocktails on the beach and calling it a night. Does it get any better!?  Day 3 move hotels to where Lauren and Ed are staying down the street.  I should mention El Nido at it's peak is still empty.  We'd go to the beach, any time of day, and there would never be more than 4 people out.  Where are they hiding?  Island hopping I suppose.  We spent the day loafing on the beach.  Sipping mango smoothies and cocktails, and of course, met Lauren, Ed, Tim and Matt for dinner and drinks.  It's so much fun to have vacation friends! While on a beach stroll we discovered the Mecca of Ed Nido; the Cadloa Resort.  Private bungalows, bikes, hammocks, bean bags, private restaurant, and it's only a month old!  Jackpot.  They just so happened to have one room available on our last night, so we booked it over early in the AM to maximize our resort time.  The entire time Paul and I spent having this conversation,

"This is awesome."
"This is what a vacation should be."
"Why didn't we find this earlier."
"I LOVE this place."

So although we didn't get to see our new friends on our last day, we enjoyed totally relaxing and absorbing all that is resort life.  Hot water.  24 hour electricity (let me tell you, this is a novelty!).  Service hand and foot.  Clean, really clean, rooms.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

BUT of course we had to wake up at stupid 4 am to van 5 hours back down to Puerto Princesa, grab lunch, fly an hour to Manila, have Kenny Rogers Roasters, fly 2 hours while Paul fought food poisoning from said KRR, then taxi it to make it home by 10pm the very same day.

I appologize, this seems was all quite rushed.  Trust me, I would have done a much better job of telling our tales if I could had done it all along the way, but I didn't, so you're stuck with this.  To sum it all up, it's a beautiful place, with beautiful beaches, fun activities, and reasonably easy (hey I was in India all summer) to get to, so CHECK.  Been there done that.  Bring on Bora Bora....

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chinese New Year

No one really celebrates Christmas here.  The extent of it is going out to dinner.  The biggest holiday in Asia is for sure Chinese New Year.  So a quick intro on the celebration practices during CNY.

Families all get together and have a huge dinner.  Or several as it's a three day holiday.  Married people hand out red envelopes to those non-married (usually younger).  Red envelopes are filled with cash.  One bill per envelope.  Several envelopes per person.  A nice little system don't you think?

Seeing as I work with 3 people, all of which are foreigners, I got zero red envelopes despite my non-married status.  Paul, however, works at a kindergarten and got loads of envelopes.  Check out the take!
Plethora of RED
Cash for nothing?  No problem!

Don't Worry

I have heard some general concern recently about my whereabouts due to the lack of posts.  Sorry, it was impolite of me to check in!  I should have at least put a little 'I'm still alive' in there.  Paul and I made a very difficult decision and opted to leave our beloved iphones at home, so really we had no choice.  I swear.
But alas, my hiatus is over, much to my tanned self's sadness.  So let me tell you a little about where we have been hiding this past week.   Paul and I took our favorite 5 am airport shuttle, enjoyed some 6 am breakfast beers, and napped on the two hour flight to Manila.  Manila, as I have experienced first hand two years ago, is a total shit hole.  We had a five hour layover and decided to skip the shit and chill at the airport.  Well let me tell you, Manila airport for as much as it sucked 2 years ago, has totally cleaned its act up.  Does anyone remember my sad story about almost having to pan handle my way out of the Philippines all those 2 years ago?  Well as a refresher, this crap little airport charges you 750 pesos (~$18) as an exit tariff.  No one told me this and I had zero pesos and zero access to pesos.  Finally aircrapphilippine "loaned" me the money.  I have yet to repay.  ANYWAY, point of the story, this money has actually been reinvested into improving the airport!  Weird!  There are tons of eatery choices, but the Americans in us could not avoid the pull of the Gambler.  Kenny Rogers Roasters.  Asa.

So we had our fun eating this "healthy" food that had this strange glossy sheen to it, and still had some time to kill.  Airport Massages!! An hour later and twas already time to check in and board.  While in line we met the nicest couple.  We shared a few words about Palawan and bade each other good bye.

Sorry my friends, Paul has just arrived home from work and tutoring so it's time for Californication and a glass of Sauv Blanc (a new favorite).  I know the suspense of WHAT we did on vacation is killing you, but I promise, I will fill in the holes tomorrow.  Good evening.  

Sunday, January 29, 2012

We're Baaaack

After planes, buses, vans, boats, tricycles, fins n swims, taxis and lord knows what else, we have made it to the Philippines and back in one piece.  Well two if you count Paul and me.  Full account coming tomorrow, but for now all I can say is that we had an amazing time, got amazing (ha) tans, stayed at an amazing resort, and saw one of the most amazingly beautiful places on this Earth.  In summary, amazing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Too cute not to share

This is from Paul's Chinese New Year party at school today.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

A Typical Wednesday in the HK Speedway

Whilst walking home from work today--paying more attention to my iphone than the path ahead of me--I was very nearly struck by a truck in the crosswalk.  I suddenly realized that HK is one of the worst places for pedestrians.  The labyrinth of high fences surrounding every street in Kowloon give some warning of this danger but it takes a few months to realize just how perilous cultural norms make walking in HK.  Not long after my near run in I was walking by a basketball court when a souped-up Honda straight from the set of Fastest Furiest sped by me and honked (not slowed) as it neared a group of children walking across the road.  The children did not seem the least bit surprised by this fast-approaching ton of machinery; they had timed their steady trajectory to reach the other end of the street.  The whole scene passed in few seconds of disquieting clockwork.  Cars simply do not find it necessary to slow for pedestrians.  Lauren has sought to change this trend by staging a mini Tiananmen Square protest, marching across momentary crosswalks to the chagrin of onlookers and displeasure of oncoming motorists; yet I doubt such brave actions will result in any lasting change.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Day In the Life

Of yours truly.  I know you're all at home wondering 'what does Lauren do all day?'  So here it is, a run down of my Tuesday, which was quite typical of the nonsense that endure everyday.  Except with one twist, I got paid!!!!!!!!!!!!  My first paycheck (read cash) since BHive.  Woot.

Wake up begrudgingly at 7:30 when Mr. Paul gets out of the shower.  We walk together to school, I run 3k home, shower and eat breakfast.  My commute takes me all of 18 minutes door to door, counting waiting for the bus, and I arrive at HOFW just in time to get a text from Greg.  "I've gone for a shower."  Well, that's nice and all but it's locked and I don't have a key.  "Go have a coffee and come back in 30."  I go have a coffee and come back in 30.  Greg's not there but the delivery man is with 2 palates (that's a shit ton) of wine gift boxes.  Text Greg again.  "Ok I'll hurry back."  The delivery man, who speaks zero English, and I spend an awkward 15 minutes where I try to explain my boss is hurrying back, and he gesticulates his annoyance.  Finally we're in and the day begins.  Greg frantically runs around moving cases of wine, while I try to catch up on emails, input yesterday's expenses and invoices, all the while Lionel and Nana show up.  Lionel helps with organzing our surplus of stock, Nana replaces stickers on foie gras and as I'm doing my computer stuff, I take whatever Greg throws my way.  New invoice?  Sure.  Email a retail price sheet to these people?  I'll get right on it.  Fold and stuff 30 envelopes?  Already done. I literally have my hands in all aspects of the business.  Be it stacking (although this is usually left to the men folk), invoicing, answering phones emails, making truffle/foie gras crackers....I've touched it all. 

And on and on, until Sean arrives and then things get totally nutty.  Greg, Lionel and Sean scurry around our small showroom trying to get all of the deliveries ready to go out, while I'm in the office making sure the invoices are correct and up to date, and try to figure out who owes us how much.  By 2 or 3 when the boys head out to deliver, I finally have a moment to eat while sending out more emails.

Then we have our visitors.  Delivery guys stop in looing for documents.  Their friends stop in looking for wines to bring to China.  A shop owner stops in interested in our gourmet foods.  It's quite action packed I tell ya.

As things start slowing down, and the visitors begin to dissipate, we\(Greg) get a call from the truffle lady in Italy.  Greg's trying to negotiate a marketing budget, and she's trying to understand what's going on via a translator.  I listen on, totally absorbed in the transaction, but alas tis 6:30 and I need to get home to tutor.  I grab a couple of unfinished bottles from yesterday's impromptu tasting, bus it, eat my dinner standing in the kitchen with P, then head down stairs to tutor Nim Nim.

Yes, that apparently IS her name.  She is 3 years old and wants nothing to do with the one hour teaching a week  I prepare.  It's actually become a tag-team activity.  I sit in the mini chair on the floor with a book open, she runs while her JeJe (nanny) blocks the door and her grandmother scoups her up and brings her back to her chair.  This goes on a solid 30 minutes until Mom comes home.  Then she sits on Mom's lap, equally as uninterested in me as before, while Mom and I try to read some stories to her and get her engaged.  She's not, but the hour is up and I collect my money and head 12 floors back upstairs to sip my day old left over wine and write to you. 

Twas a pretty asa day. 

The End.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunday Lazy Sunday

Saturday post long walk across Kowloon, Paul and I relaxed at home over sushi.  Then was time to go out and meet Kina and their English friends for dinner at JAR (Just A Restaurant).  First off, Kina obviously has very good taste in friends, but this point was just further driven home by Sarah and Will.  They're pretty new to Hong Kong too, about our age, and a couple.  Perfect!  We had a lovely dinner, and although I wasn't totally wowed, it was still good.  I had the simple trout, and simple it was, and Paul had the burger which was delicious!  It was really fun to go out and not have to GO OUT.  Maybe it's because I'm 27 1/2 now, but staying out til 4 in LKF just isn't as fun as a dinner party with some quality people.

Sunday was the laziest day I've had in a long time.  Probably since typhoon day when we were instructed not to leave the house.  I woke up early and caught up on blogs, then when Paul rolled out of bed we made eggy sammies for breakfast, followed by an intense bout of Mario Party (where I was robbed!!!!  1st to 4th?  Paaaalease secret star round), which was followed by a victory in Jeopardy.  But only because Paul couldn't figure out his controller and picked the wrong answer in Final Jeopardy.  Sucker.  We eventually wandered outside at about 3 to gather groceries for the week.  Shop and immediately home to watch one of the best movies!!  3 Idiots.  If you haven't seen it, take 1/2 a day off work and watch it!  It's a Bollywood film, so in typical Bollywood fashion it's almost 4 hours long, but it's awesome.  Funny, poignant, relevant, cheesey, romantic, silly, you really cover all your bases.  It is subtitled though, so I would advise against drinking til the second half....or you'll miss it.  So yeah that was our ridiculously productive Sunday.  Ha.  I did make a phenomenal Veg soup which I am about to go eat now for dinner.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy Half Birthday To ME!!!

That's right kids, today I am 27 and a half.  Appropriate gifts for half birthdays include but are not limited to:  diamonds, chocolate, puppies....
As I walked out this morning I noticed our stupid mall is doing another stupid exhibition.  Apples?
I called up Physical Fitness yesterday and made an appointment for Saturday at 11 to meet with a personal trainer.  I had bought a groupon a while back for a month membership to the gym, 2 personal training sessions, 5 classes, 3d face scan (I have no idea), an hour massage and access to the sauna and steam room.  All this for like $10.  Pretty sweet, right?  Well the alarm goes off on this first Saturday free since working, and totally scares the crap out of me.  You see, Paul and I went to a groupon dinner with Katie, Steph, Beth and her sister, last night with free flow wine.  And free flow it did.  And today my head reminds me why you shouldn't pound wine.  Anyway, remember how I mentioned a while back that whenever I try to go somewhere new I get lost.  Hong Kong is seriously a maze of malls and escalators.   I have a general concept of where the mall that houses the gym in Kowloon Bay is, which is no joke a 4 minutes bus ride from my door.  I leave an hour early expecting to get a little lost and I wanted to see if they could give me a massage after PT.  I go to the mall I am familiar with and ask the info desk people where I need to go.  They look a little perplexed pull out a map and say, "Go that way."  I go that way.  No gym.  I put the address into my iphone, turns out it's across the street from 'that way.'  Sometimes the iphone leads me astray, so I'm still doubtful, but I head to where it tells me.  As I approach a different set or malls I see advertisements for the gym.  This is hopeful.  I wander up and down escalators, through shops, in and out of different buildings and finally stop at a coffee stand near an ad and ask the barista where this elusive gym is.  The points me out the back, go right through this narrow walkway and then instructs me to go upstairs to the second floor.  Oh why didn't I try that to begin with!?  By the time I got there, one hour later!, I was not feeling PT, but hey I'm here.  I sit down with a guy who works there, he tries to sell me a monthly membership (I have a gym in the Latitude), I decline and ask if we can begin.  "Sure, just need your ID so I can get you a one month membership card."  I don't have an ID for I am here as a visitor, and no I don't have my passport because really, who works out with their passport?  Not this kid.  Ugh, so I tell him I will be back tomorrow passport in hand and that I would like a PT session and a massage.

"Oh well you have to make an appointment."
"Ok, I'd like one for tomorrow."
"You need your membership card to make an appointment."

Potentially Sweet Korean Place
The circles that are Asia.  Let's not do anything the efficient way, let's do it the hard way. Fine, so I'll come back tomorrow to get my membership card and set up an appointment for next week.  Chincha!?  But siliver lining, the malls surrounding the gym are super awesome, and now that I know where it is, only 10 minutes from home.  There's a Korean place that looks promising, a movie theater, home goods store, and all sorts of nonsense.

Anyway, now it's 11:30 and I have nothing to do!!  Woohoo!  So I walk from Kowloon Bay, passed Wan Tai Sin over to Kowloon Tong where Paul works.  Approximately a 10 k walk.  Twas quite nice on this overcast day.  I have included some pictures to give you a glimpse of my walk.   So Saturday and Sundays are children/mom tag team day where they hit you up for money for whatever charity.  I try not to make eye contact and play the foreigner card, but today, they got me.  It was a wide open sidewalk. Just kid/mom team and me.  And she knew she had me.  She looked me straight in the eye and pounced.  She just had to say hello and she already had my wallet out and open.  How did she do it!?

What's behind the fence?   Kowloon Bay

Cool Tree in the middle of construction

The Latitude from across the street.  

Old Airport across the street from our apt.  They're putting in a ton of apt complexes

Alas, I finally made it to Festival Walk, the fancy mall near Paul's work.  It has my favorite grocery store, Taste.  They have everything a Westerner could ask for!  Paul came and met me when he finished at 1 and we did a little shop together, picked up some sushi, and walked home for a nice relaxing afternoon.  As I blog Paul is on the Wii.  He loves that thing.  Good call Mom and Dad!  As for me, tis time to shower.  Tonight we're off to dinner with Nina, Kenny and their English couple friends.  This is my first triple date dinner!! Should be fun, review tomorrow.

Festival Walk actually has cool displays.  Dragon dance.  "He's chasing the ball.  It's like snake." -P

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Paul's Potato Project

So our little dinner project turned into a rather large dinner project.  As I mentioned, Paul spent a solid hour or two peeling potatoes (sweet and regular) Wednesday night, and boiled them so we would be ready to go on Thursday. And thank god he did or we would have been up all night making gnocchi.

I think we got a little over eager with this project, for Paul bought probably the wet market's stock of potatoes.  I'm guessing we had over 10lbs.  For two of us...

Boiling the giant sized gnocchi
haha but anyway, this was the blind leading the blind.  We mashed, started kneading some egg into the mash, and slowly added flour.  And then more flour and more flour until there was none left and we were both elbow deep in potato goo.  Paul graciously volunteered to run down to Yata where he picked up two more bags of flour while I waited with my good hand in the goo.   And again, thank god, because we needed it.  I finally decided my gnocchi was ready to go, so I dropped little plops of dough into the boiling pot.  While they were cooking (all 3 minutes) I took some of the excess potato goo and put it into a skillet to make chapatis/pizza crusts.   Stuck those in the freezer, so now we're set on our starch consumption for the next month!  Then it was Paul's turn to make his gnocchis.  Two and half hours, 8 or so boiling pots of water, and 3 potato pancakes later and we had all the gnocchi put to bed in the fridge, tucked away in their respective tupperware.

Garlic Rosemary Butter
Review:  They are pretty tasty, especially with Paul's rosemary butter, but definitely not worth the effort.  Next time we'll keep it down to 4 potatoes.  

Potato Master

Alone At Last

Today I am officially holding down the fort.  Greg was in a bit in the morning getting some stuff together, but come 1:30 and he was outta there.  Place to myself.  It would be a lot more fun if he didn't leave this horrible project for me to do in his absence.  More on that later, I'm a little burnt from it now.  He did leave P and I a nice bottle-well he actually left me our whole warehouse, what was he thinking?!  Do you know how much wine I have access to right now?  Thousands of bottles!  Thousands!!!!!!

Tonight is gnocchi night!!  Ever since we went to dinner at Kina's Paul's been on a kick where he wants to make it.  So tonight's the night.  Poor Paul spent all last night peeling potatoes while I caught up on Top Chef.  We each have to tutor tonight so the fun won't start til 8.  That's a bit past my dinner time (usually 6 ha) but we'll see what we can do.  Paul boiled enough potatoes to feed North Korea (ouch, too much?) so hopefully it will turn out amaaaaazing and he can show it off to his coworkers at their monthly birthday party tomorrow.  If not, I guess I'll be eating it for the next week.  Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


So the restaurant opening last night turned out to be a total blast.  Paul and I met at the Sheung Wan MTR (as far West as you can go on the island) and cabbed it to Kennedy Town, which in all likelihood, is where we will live next year.  What a cute place!  It's very Chinese with intermittent Western bars and restaurants.  Super cute and lots of personality.  And the trolley goes there!!  Wouldn't it be fun to have to trolley to work!?

The Staff at Retro. Shiva's left of the cowboy hat.
Plate 1....of many.
The bar
Retro is owned by a jolly Nepalese man, Shiva, who has been living here for 21 years.  I'm not really sure why the restaurant is called Retro- perhaps because they didn't update the interior?- but what a cute neighborhood joint.  They serve Middle Eastern food cheap and good.  The lamb was amazing!!!  They had a little buffet set out so we could try everything; fish and chips (random and didn't try), chicken croquets, hummus, eggplant dip, chapatis, chicken "stew" (was chicken and veggies in a spicy sauce, yum),  lamb and rice, Greek-ish salad, and a couscous parsley salad.   Everything I tried was really good, but the eggplant dip and lamb were aaaamazing.  And the free flow wine and Nepali beer were much appreciated as well.  We will certainly return next time we're in des parts.

It was a pretty small gathering but I ran into a guy I sold foie gras to at the Conrad Christmas fair last month.  He was also a vendor there, of I don't remember what, and just super friendly.  I also met James who is in charge of Hong Kong exhibitions.  I'm guessing he's the reason Sean and Greg got the invite.  The exhibitor world is becoming smaller and smaller.....

Today work.  Cook dinner with P.  Tutor Nim Nim.  Wii.  Sleep. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Shows What I Know

So I guess they're not going to Macau until tomorrow.  Nobody tells me anything.  Anyway, here's the event I was supposed to do on Friday, but has since been cancelled.  Well the event's not cancelled, but HOFW is cancelled from the event.  Hmm.


It would have been so much fun! I guess the pressure's off though.  I think it was kind of a test to see how well I could sell.  Trust you me, I'm no salesman, so I suppose this is all for the best.  And I can go to the free flow dinner!

Grey Day

I am convinced my mood is directly tied to how brightly the sun is shining.  Yesterday was gorgeous!  Probably almost 70 and I was hum-hoing happy all day.  Had a great run/gym sesh in the am, got a lot done in the office, had a great tutoring session with Natalie (she's my favorite!), came home and made awesome lunches for today, caught up on my magazines and watched Top Chef til I fell asleep.  All around a perfect day.

Today tis dreary.  Paul dragged me out of bed by 7:30, we had a pleasant enough walk to school and then I promptly turned around and walked the entire way home.  Wasn't feeling the run today.  Everything just seems a little slower today, ya know?

My whole office, well Sean and Lionel and JC, is in Macau for a trade show, so it's just Greg and I holding down the fort for a couple days.  He'll go join the boys on Thursday or Friday and it'll just be little old me in the office.  Party!  Probably not, but I am hosting my first solo event Friday night....while all of my friends go to an all you can drink dinner together in Sheung Wan.  Working weekends has its downsides.  But today I get one of the perks of working for a wine company.  Sean and Greg, and by extension me, were invited to a restaurant opening in Kennedy Town tonight.  They have no interest so me and Pres of FLA are going to check it out.  Soft opening, yes please!  Let you know how it goes.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It only took a week....

with real sharp knives before I maimed myself.  Cutting onions is dangerous and the tip of my thumb is proof.  Can you imagine life without thumbs?  It's only been a day with my mangled left thumb and it's already proving to be a huge liability.  Man this sucks.  At least Wii doesn't require thumbs.

Had a good walk, run, 15 min gym session, left over bread pudding, and now tis off to the office.  Fingers crossed Greg's awake when I get there.   


Brought the Wii and new cord and old cord back to the same shop where we bought the cord, and where Paul tried the Wii last time and it worked, and guess what.  It worked there again!  WTF.  Why won't it work in our apartment? This is mind boggling.  There's no way our plugs are any different than theirs.  We sat there in awe and then the dude finally grabbed another cord with a slightly different prongy thing (3 instead of 2) and said to try a different one.  Fine fine, we'll try.  But we're not getting our hopes up!

A 10 k walk home (tis a beautiful sunny day here in HK), Paul plugs it in, and do do dooooo, it WORKS!  Yey!!!

Paul will probably be up til 4 am playing Mario.  First it's off to dinner in Sheung Wan with Kina.  Can't wait to catch up!

Saturday, January 7, 2012


True story.  I just made the best brunch ever.  EVER.  I had all of this left over bread from America which I cut into cubes and made croutons out of.  But, we don't really eat croutons much.  Solution: Savory Bread Pudding.  Oh my god this was delicious and it was thrown together with leftover stuff in the fridge.

In a bowl whisk together 5 eggs, milk, parmesan, salt and pepper.  Pour egg mix over croutons and let sit.

Cook 1 onion and some garlic in red wine.  Add mushrooms and spinach.

Add spinach mix to bread and sprinkle with more parmesan.  Bake (or convection oven for like 400 hours) until brown (and then microwave until the eggs set).

Paul agrees.  Next time we're adding bacon and calling it dinner.  
Like my new shirt?
P.S. See my flowers in the window sill?  Paul came to pick me up from the end of work last night, asked me to grab a sweatshirt out of his backpack and there was a bouquet of flowers.  Saranhaeyo.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Back to Work

It's been no joke this week. Go Go Go.  Today I'm going to be working the Kowloon Bay Wedding Expo which I am told is very Chinese.  I went to help set up last night and place is nuts.  Sparkle, sparkle everywhere!  But yeah, it's Saturday and I'm working.  11-8.

Palawan in 2 weeks!!

Oh and the Wii saga continues.  We're going to bring it back to the electronics market one last time to see if it's working and if not, it's back to the US for Wii.  Poor Paul has no games to play....

Thursday, January 5, 2012

'Like' Me!

Please 'like' our new facebook page over at House of Fine Wines. 


As of current this is our only social media.  I am taking it upon myself to change that.  Maybe we'll even get onto Twitter!  What do you think?  Any suggestions?

New Morning Routine

Since we've been back Paul and I have implemented a new morning routine.

Day 1- Learning Curve

Thursday 7:45 AM Paul and I head out on a 2 mile walk to his school.  Not only are we exercising, and saving money, but we also gain an extra half hour together in the morning.  After I left Paul at school I had a lovely two mile run back to the Latitude.  As I'm walking the last few meters I'm debating if I should hit the gym or not seeing as I have sooo much extra time before work.  I decide yes, then reach for my card.  Shit!  I had left the house with Paul not evening thinking about my keys!  So I book it back 2 miles to Paul's school to get his keys and card.  Then run the 2 miles back home just in time to shower and get to work.  My nice little 2 mile run quickly turned into a 6 mile run, and I haven't run since I started working!!  Needless to say, I'm a little sore today!

Day 2- Much More Smoother (as my co-worker JC would say)

Thursday 7:30 AM Paul and I head out for a walk.  He gets breakfast, we stop for a coffee, drop him off, run to Park N Shop n get bananas and oatmeal, home in plenty of time to shower, eat, blog and relax.  I'm digging this new schedule.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ass Backwards Day

Ass backwards is the only way to describe our return to HK.  The airport was easy enough.  Thanks to my HK residency card we blitzed through the line to our baggage in minutes flat and quickly found a painless cab ride home.  Then things grew dark…literally.  Thanks to the benevolence of Lauren’s lovely parents we were bestowed with a brand new black (and striking awesome-looking) Nintendo Wii for Christmas (thank you Derald and Shirley).  Since I had the following day off work and little else to do I aspired to set up our new entertainment system whilst Lauren unpacked our suitcases, did laundry, and cooked dinner (thanks, babe). 

A brief run-down on electronics worldwide before I continue: American electrical outlets (and their corresponding appliances) operate at 120 volts, whilst outlets in HK run at 220 volts.  Since our American laptop, electric razor, toothbrush, etc all work well-and-good at this foreign voltage with a simple power adaptor I hypothesized that our new Wii would fare just as well.  Unfortunately my theory was invalid.  Whilst Lauren unpacked I headed downstairs to one of the four electronic shops in the mall beneath our building; I found an adaptor in the fourth shop.  Bristling with excitement I placed this new adaptor onto the Wii power cord and plugged it into the surge protector.  Thankfully I did not plug the cord into the Wii prior to this act because as soon as I plugged the cord into the surge protector I heard a pop, saw the lights in our room go out, and smelled smoke.  Luckily I was able to fix our situation by flicking the fuse box and opening the door to the balcony; however, the Wii was still an issue.

We headed back downstairs to the same electronics store where a kindly gentleman told us to buy a power converter in the Golden Computer Arcade 4 subway stops away in Sham Shui Po.  This place is amazing, it’s like a wet market for electronics where any electrical appliance need (save mine) can be met.  In one painless stroke we managed to get a Japanese power cord for the Wii at the first shop we went to. 

Then we went home. 

Once again bristling with excitement, I plugged the cord into the wall and Wii to no avail.  It didn’t work.  I tried every outlet in the apartment except for the ones in our roommate’s room and it still didn’t fucking work.  Well no big deal.  As I said before, I didn’t have to work the next day thus I could put off such problems until then.  Lauren cooked a great spaghetti dinner and we fell asleep at 8:30 P.M. due to jet lag.

            Then I woke up.

            Lauren had to go to work at 10:00 A.M so I had the whole day to solve problems.  Wii was the first priority and our bathroom lighting was the second.  Seeing as the previous day was out of order I decided to deal with the second priority first.  Only one of the three lights in our bathroom has been working since we moved in.  I can’t adequately explain how difficult it is to wake up with a morning shower by candlelight; yet I’ve shouldered this burden for four months without complaint.  Ergo after four months I went downstairs and complained to the front-desk that the lights in my bathroom have been burnt out since I moved in.  The kind woman on duty told me she would send an “engineer” (her word) to replace the bulbs.  Whilst waiting for said engineer I placed the dinner leftovers into a Tupperware container and told Lauren I made her lunch for the next day.  She thanked me via WhatsApp.  The “engineers” rang my doorbell as I was watching the new Conan the Barbarian movie (which I must say lives up to the original Arnold Schwarzenegger version that none of its sequels quite met).  The two “engineers” (yes I will keep using quotation marks and parenthesis) brought a superfluous ladder to replace the bulbs.  The two men were very nice and explained that they could only replace one bulb.  I responded that I could not possibly have burned out the bathroom lights because I only use them for a cumulative 30 minutes a day at most, thus that they never worked.  They kindly replied, “We understand, Sir, but we can only replace one [of the broken bulbs we installed].”  I let it slide since they called me “Sir” as I had bigger bulbs to ignite.

            I packed my Wii and accompanying power cord and MTR’d back to the Golden Computer Arcade where I told the shop owner that they sold me a faulty power cord and I wasn’t leaving until they provided me with a working power cord or refunded my expenses.  The storeowner looked at me in disbelief, and then plugged the cord he sold me into a socket and into my Wii and pressed its power button.  It ignited with a warm, green, heavenly glow.  Then he and his employees collectively laughed at me. 

            “I guess you have to try a different socket,” he said.
            “I guess so,” I replied.
            “Where did you come from?” he asked.
            “That’s not so bad,” he said. 

I guess it could have been worse.

Thinking I had been previously color blind to little red lights on a Wii entertainment system I went all the way back to home-sweet-home Wan Tai Sin station.  On my way back to the apartment I bought two light bulbs (they come in packs of two) to replace the one bulb that has been burnt out since we moved in and the management couldn’t afford to replace despite my monthly king’s ransom management fee.  Thinking that the same plug that didn’t work would somehow work in the same outlets and power the Wii to leave me on the couch of the lotus-eaters and unable to attend to any other problems of the day (hopefully anyone who has read The Odyssey will get this reference) I decided to fix the light prior to fixing the Wii.

The light bulbs in our bathroom are within recessed-lighting fixtures.  Any new bulb must be plugged into a little cord that hangs from within the ceiling and placed within the fixtures.  I unplugged the faulty bulb from the cord then plugged a new bulb into it and set it into the ceiling fixture.  I flicked the light switch and Whallah, the new bulb didn’t work.  Thinking the new bulb was faulty (like so many other things today) I plugged the other new bulb into the power cable hanging from the ceiling and it worked.  “Fantastic,” I thought.  Then pushed this new bulb into the ceiling fixture and flicked the switch again to see what a fully illuminated bathroom looks like and dammit it didn’t work.  I pulled the bulb from the ceiling and out of curiosity flicked the switch again and wouldn’t you know it, it worked!  Thinking previous events had been a fluke I pushed the bulb back into the ceiling and flicked the switch and nope, absolutely no light!  I pulled the light from the ceiling and sure enough, it worked.  Then I put it back into the ceiling and sure enough, it didn’t.  I debated taping the bulb to the cord (as I conjectured that somehow the two were disconnected when delicately pushing it into the ceiling) then decided to leave it hanging.  Two recessed lights and one tool-shed chandelier ain’t bad.

Then I moved back to the Wii.  Needless to say the same cord that didn’t work before but worded in the store didn’t work again.  I debated punching through the wall but convinced myself that since the apartment walls are comprised of re-enforced concrete such endeavors are useless.  Now it’s dark out and all I’ve completed today on top of a bright bathroom is this blog entry.  Hopefully I’ll get more done tomorrow J

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

McPhate Family Reunion

Paul and I had such an awesome time touring the East.  We spent the mornings making epic breakfasts at home with my mom and dad, afternoons catching up with old friends, and evening competing with Scott and Stacy on Wii.  We spent a blustery afternoon in New Hope catching up with Jen, hit NYC for drinks with Chetta, Ryan, Kati, and Kristina, lunch with John, Brady and Lara, then head down to DC for the night to drop off Stacy and Tickles.  I miss DC!  It was so fun to be back and see my old stomping ground.  Chetta and Ryan played host in their beautifully renovated town home in NE, which is where we all went out to dinner with Liz and Joe and had perhaps a bit too much to drink with Henry at Lola's.  After a quick breakfast with Sherine, and a curbside chat with Alex, Paul and I zoomed up to Baltimore for a quick drink with Justin.  Zoomed again up to NYC where we caught up with Maria, Dave and Paul's friend JD.  And alas finally made it home to see the Laganas and ring in the new year with my parents.

Being home made me understand and appreciate Paul a little more. Seeing where he comes from, his family, his friends, opened up a new part of him to me.  And I think vica versa.  There was never any awkwardness between either families and we feel so lucky for this!!

Being home also makes me realize how much I am missing here.  I love Hong Kong, but home is still home.  I'm going to implement a twice a year home policy.  Yup there it is.

So if you couldn't tell by the above, we really, really had a fantastic trip home.  It always goes too fast though!!  We had an interesting trip back to our new home.  Our flight was delayed in hour in JFK, so we hit the bar for a snack and a drink.  Some drunk guy next to us started chatting and it came out that Paul and I had lived in Korea.  The guy on our other side chimed in and said HE was a teacher in Korea.  Small world.  We chatted and discovered he had the same 13 hour layover we did in Bejing.  Weird.  Paul and I slept 90% of the 13 hour flight to Bejing, met up with new friend Jordan, and made it to the Air China counter to see if we qualified for a free hotel.  We did!!  Asa!  We get on a sketch bus and wind through sketch Bejing streets in the dark until we pull up to this hotel in the middle of nowhere.  I'm talking we crossed through train tracks, fields, industrial complexes and ended up at this joint.  But hey, it's free.   The room was surprisingly nice, although reeked of smoke, and dinner was complimentary as well.  Of course the only thing on TV was Al Jeezera and Chinese channels, so we hooked up the laptop and watched a movie until we fell asleep for another 5 hours.  That's 14 hours of sleep that day.  ha.  Quick 3 hour flight back to HK, cab, and we were back and unpacked by 2.  Then, da da duh, Paul tried to hook up the Wii we got for Christmas.  Poof!  The US cord is 200 volts, the power here is 110, so I think we fried the plug.  Luckily the Wii wasn't plugged into the power cord.  We took the subway over to Sham Shui Po and super easlily/quickly found a Chinese power cord.  Come home and no dice.  For whatever reason, no power is getting to the Wii.  Hmm busted cord perhaps?  Paul had been looking forward to playing Wii since we left.  He doesn't have to work today, so he'll go see if he can get it sorted.  Here's hoping.

We cooked dinner with our new amazingly sharp knives and settled on the couch to watch some TV.  I feel asleep 5 minutes later at 6 and didn't wake up this AM til 6 again.  Asa!  I have to go to work today at 10 and we have a wine tasting in our office (warehouse) at 7:30, so I'm guessing I won't get home til 10 or 11.  Starting off with a bang.  Wooh.

Photos from the new camera coming soon, I just need to get the software installed.  That'll happen after I catch up on 2 weeks of emails and facebook messages.  So much to do, so much to do.  Luckily we have enough chocolate, cake, cookies, bread to get through the week, for it doesn't look like grocery shopping will happen any time soon.

Happy New Year!!!