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Tag Archives: Shopping

NYC BOUND!

6 Apr

Cue the music because — We are COMING TO AMERICA!  The city that never sleeps to be specific.  Farewell Beijing (well…for 10 days or so).

I am so excited to SEE, EAT, BUY or DO the following:

1. Blue Sky (sans loads of smog)

2. Cafe Habana Corn

3. Visiting with old friends & family

4. Pink Berry (there is just something a little funky about Chinese frozen yoghurt…Although, I can’t put my finger on it)

5. Buy smalls and mediums (trying to fit my non-chinese caboose usually involves buying XL over here)

6.  Easter Brunch in a land that celebrates the true meaning of Easter!  (That would be our risen Lord, not bottomless bubbly – although there is no harm in that.)

7.  Magnolia Cupcakes, any legitimate NY cheesecake, and Crumbs Black & White cookies  (a pretty even tie…and the reason that I may have to buy XLs after all)

8.  Chop’t salads

9.  Window shopping (the concept really doesn’t exist over here – unless you consider getting mobbed every 5 seconds with relentless offers such as, “Hey lady, I give you good price!” to be the same as cruising in Nolita or up Madison Ave).  Personally – I do not.  Although…don’t get me wrong, I do love to bargain at the markets…but you just can’t beat strolling the city streets in the fresh spring air.

10. Happy Hour at the Carlyle – Bemelmans Bar to be exact. Our special spot!

11. Duane Reade…I am allotting at least a 2-hour window to peruse their glorious shelves.  The Easter candy and card aisles alone will keep me entertained for quite a while.

12. Weekend get-away to the Hampton’s – it will still be chilly…but seeing the ocean and snuggling by the fire with my husband is a MUST!

13.  Being on the same time zone with my mom and the twins

14.  Uncensored news (although I must admit, I have enjoyed not being bombarded with campaign nonsense!)

15.  Zero calorie, orange flavored vitamin water (it’s the small things in life…)

16. Toothpaste that doesn’t taste like lavender

17.  High speed internet

18.  MAGAZINES!!!!

19.  Yankees game!

20.  Vintage Shopping (though the Chinese have a far older and more intricate history than the USA…they have nothing on our vintage fashion)

AND…too many other wonderful things to mention!

My big Beijing blues – they are melting away….
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it  – in old New York
If I can make it there – I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you – New York…New York!
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Farewell to Russia

13 Feb

Our last day in Saint Petersburg was divided between a quick tour through St. Isaac’s cathedral (just across the street from our hotel), a bit of shopping, and a bit of errand running.  We don’t normally have errands to run on vacation…but then again, we don’t normally get fined for trying to enter a country illegally – therefore forcing us into “fine paying” errand running.

First stop – St. Isaac’s.  I am so glad that we did not leave Saint Petersburg without seeing the inside of this gorgeous cathedral.  Like everything else we saw, it is gilded and decorated in an over-the-top manner.  One thing is sure, the Russians certainly believe that Jesus prefers gold leaf to wood; however, according to Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade…this is not the case.

Inside the stunning St. Isaac's Cathedral

Brett on top of the colonnade at St. Isaac's. It was freezing...but it was worth it! Beautiful views of the city.

View of St. Isaac's Cathedral from our hotel room

St. Isaac's Interior

Second stop – random Russian bank.  With the help of our hotel concierge, we located a nearby branch of the bank that would accept payment for our Immigration fine.  So, we took in the sloppily, handwritten form and hoped for the best.  Fortunately, without so much as one word of English spoken, we were able to complete the task, get a copy of a very official receipt, and head on our merry way.  Based on our debacle at the airport, we allowed 2 hours for this, but surprisingly – we were in and out in about 30 minutes.  Kind of makes you think that it happens a lot, right?

Third stop – a bit of shopping.  We couldn’t leave without buying a few trinkets!  We picked up some traditional gifts for friends and family at home (you will get them when we come home in May!) Here are my favorite items that we picked up for ourselves…

"The Woman in the Red Hat" by local Saint Petersburg artist Aminov Khalim. Oil on Canvas. The oranges and reds go perfectly in our apartment. Plus - I love a lady in a hat!

Gold, black enamel, and diamond egg pendant created by local Saint Petersburg jeweler Alexey Pomelnieov. A sweet reminder of our trip and a symbol of new life and love. A big thank you to my wonderful husband!

A thank you kiss for my "little egg" !

Enjoying one last glass of champagne at The Kandinsky Bar at the Hotel Astoria before heading to the airport.

Farewell Saint Petersburg!
We had such a lovely time, and we hope to come back to visit again soon.  Perhaps, our next visit will be in the springtime…(That said, I recommend that “first timers” experience the “real” Russia and go in the winter.)

Party Party Party in Pastel!

30 Dec

Looking for something sweet and feminine to wear this New Year’s Eve?  The perfect pastel can actually be a bold move.  Think of all the black that will be crowding the dance floors.  You could really stand out in a delicate pink or sea-foam green.  Here are some my favorite pastels from the Spring 2012 runways:

Azzaro Spring 2012

Calla Spring 2012

Carolina Herrera Spring 2012

Costume National Spring 2012

Giorgio Armani Spring 2012 RTW

Jenny Packham Spring 2012

Juan Carols Obando Spring 2012

Mila Schon Spring 2012

Naeem Khan Pre-Fall 2012

Nina Ricci Spring 2012

Rochas Spring 2012

Rodarte Spring 2012

Vera Wang Spring 2012

Images courtesy of www.style.com

 

 

Countdown to 2012

26 Dec

The Carpenter’s famous song “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” asks a very important question.  By now many of you have most likely booked a table at your favorite special occasion restaurant or you have made plans to go out-on-the-town with dear friends that you only get to see at this time of year.  So now I will ask you another very important question, “What Are You Wearing New Year’s Eve?”

In case you haven’t selected  the perfect ensemble just yet…(like me) here are some fun alternatives to the traditional LBD.

Today, I would like to play with color.  In fact, many of you might be able to create some of these unique looks with items already in your closet.  Wouldn’t it be nice to hold on to that Christmas money from your grandmother just a little longer?

BRIGHT IDEAS!

Pairing two shiny brights, like this look from Ferragamo Spring 2012, feels fun, fresh, and festive. All the look needs to make in NYE ready is a touch of sparkle...pick 2 of the following: necklace, cocktail ring, shoes, small clutch, or hair clip.

Blue, Green, and Yellow are not typically worn together all at once. But isn't it fun? Plus - just think how you will stand out in the sea of black that is NYE. I also highly recommend the beehive up-do and false lashes to add some Madmen sex appeal. DSquared Pre-Fall 2012

Take inspiration from Ferragamo's Spring 2012 runway. Delve into your closet and pick three pieces that are each a different shade of bright...a top, a bottom, and a belt. Have fun and be a show-stopper. Keep in mind that a neutral shoe might be in order!

How about trading in those nude fish-nets or black tights for a bright pair to match your outfit. This monochromatic look from Giorgio Armani Pre-Fall 2012 takes it up a notch, don't you think?

NOT SO BRIGHT

This look from DVF's Pre-Fall 2012 Collection proves that a basic pale blue (or insert your own color) frock can look fresh when paired with contrasting colored long gloves and belt. For NYE - a pair of shoes with a touch of glitter or sparkle is certainly in order. And - if your scene is on the edgy side, go ahead and sport the thigh highs!

Have an old bridesmaids dress or 20? Why not look through your "27 Dresses" collection and see if anything can be revived with a bright-colored belt. Just look how a skinny royal blue belt can add life to this simple asymmetrical chocolate number from Carolina Herrera's Pre-Fall 2012 collection.

This sophisticated look from Donna Karan's Pre-Fall 2012 collection can quite easily be recreated. Supplies needed: 1 slinky white or off-white silky top, a navy blue or other jewel-toned pencil skirt, and a long piece of black silk taffeta (purchased at your local fabric store) tied in an over-sized bow. And of course - ruby-red lips!

I challenge you to get creative and take risks with your New Year’s Eve ensemble.  It is the last night of 2011 after all… Live it up!

More NYE inspirations to come!

Images courtesy of http://www.style.com

OM BeBe!

16 Sep

Truth be told, I wrote off Bebe as a wearable brand the day I graduated from college.  I considered their clothes to be “swap clothes” (for those non-southerners – that means clothes that you would wear to a sorority/fraternity mixer).  The brands previous seasons have included skirts that are a little too short, tops that are a little to low, and dresses that are a little too tight.

That said, this season’s runway collection went an entirely different direction.  With the addition of design consultant, Charles Benton (previous experience includes Emanuel Ungaro) Bebe created a more sophisticated aesthetic.  In fact, in place of the bold colors that consistently fill the brand’s mall windows, they presented an entirely white collection.  Here are a few of the standout looks:

 

Don’t get too excited though.  There is no need to make a mad dash to your local mall just yet. A spokesman for the brand told the press that only a few looks from the collection will go into production to be featured in 40-50 stores.

Personally, I think this is a step in the right direction – but Bebe should be very careful to not lose their current customer base.  After all, there will always be college girls with cute little bodies and mommy & daddy’s credit card.

Images courtesy of http://www.style.com

 

 

 

 

 

Brett’s Birthday Get Away to The City of Lights

22 Jan

La Tour Eiffel! FASHION: Multi-Colored Fox Fur Jacket with Brown Suede Over-the-Knee Boots

I love Paris in the Springtime….I love Paris in the Fall!  Ahh – gay Paris!  Is there any other city so full of romance – delicious wines, the creamiest butter, and steak tartare served to perfection?  I think not.  So – I decided to surprise Brett with a trip to The City of Lights for his birthday celebration.

We left Beijing on a red eye flight on Aeroflot – a Russian Airline that offered a first class fare for almost the exact same price as the coach fare of Air France.  So that was a no-brainer.  Thank you Kayak!  We did have a quick stop in Moscow – which was actually kind of fun, and we arrived in Paris at 7AM.  By the way, I would recommend this airline.  Their fleet of planes might be a little older than other airlines, although the interiors do appear to have been updated, the service was excellent, and the price was right.

On Plane to Paris

I knew we would have plenty of time to freshen up once we arrived at the hotel seeing that Paris doesn’t really wake until almost 10.  Gotta love the 30 hour work week!  We stayed at Hotel Cambon – a sweet little boutique hotel across from the original Chanel store and Coco’s actual apartment.  All the rooms have a different, very modern and eclectic design, and ours even had a balcony overlooking a section of the Tuileries Gardens.  It was lovely.  I had arranged for a chocolate birthday cake and champagne to be in the room upon arrival. Okay…8AM might have been a little early to pop the bubbly – but it was 3PM Beijing time – and that is definitely happy hour in France.  So when you do the math – it was clearly acceptable.

In Front of Brasserie Lipp

Our first day was spent at the Musee Dorsay to visit the Impressionists followed by a late lunch at Brasserie Lipp in Saint-Germain to devour steak tartare and escargot.  The evening was spent at Guy Savoy – a 3 Michelin star restaurant.  We gorged ourselves on a 7-course tasting menu with wine pairings that included Guy’s infamous truffled artichoke soup – quite possibly the best thing I have ever put in my mouth.  I think it is obvious that our clothes fit a little bit tighter after our trip!

The next morning we awoke bright and early to wonder the streets while most Parisians were still warm in their beds.  We hit many of the necessary spots…a kiss on the Lover’s Bridge, a stroll by the Seine, the L’Arc de Triomphe on Champs Elysee. And, when our feet (I should say my feet in 5″ heels) couldn’t take anymore, we stopped by Cafe Marly overlooking the Louvre for a mid-morning snack.  For lunch (yes – the trip was based around eating) we went to Nomiya on top of the Palais de Tokyo modern art museum.

Nomiya at Palais de Tokyo

I had read an article about this place in the NY Times a while back, and it sounded very interesting.  Honestly, it exceeded every one of our expectations, and it was one of our favorite activities during the trip.  The lunch – which you must make reservations for well in advance – hosts 12 guests and no more.

Lover's Bridge

Perched on top of the museum in a tiny glass building, we ate great food at a communal table with interesting guests and a panoramic view of the city.  It was a great time – and as it turned out, the woman sitting across from us had lived in Murray, Kentucky (my off the beaten path tiny hometown) for a couple of years as a child.  What are the odds?

The Louvre. FASHION: Ivory Bunny Fur Jacket with an Eggplant American Apparel Lycra Skirt, matching tights, and Fuchsia Gladiators. Taupe Bottega Veneta Top Handle Tote

The remainder of the trip was spent at many other Parisian classics – The Bar at the Ritz, George V, the Pont Neuf, Hotel Costes, some shopping for the birthday boy in the Marais, window shopping on Faubourg Saint Honoree, Plaza Athenee (for drinks with my cute friend Jenny Leeper, her handsome fiance, and her very sweet mother) and a grand finale stop at La Tour Eiffel.  All in all – a perfect trip.

More Pictures from Paris….

Breakfast at Hotel Costes

Le Pont Neuf

Self Portrait at Plaza Athenee

How Much is that Turkey in the Window?

23 Dec

In Our Turkey Day Aprons

Well…I never thought that buying a turkey would stress me out financially – but then again I never thought that a generic frozen turkey could cost over $100…and I have bought turkeys in NYC!  The truth is – turkey is quite a commodity here in China. But I wasn’t about to cook a Thanksgiving Dinner for Brett and all of our expat friends sans gobbler.  So – I forked over the money to the sweet lady working at the supermarket who giggled and said, “Tai gui le” – which means too expensive.  To which I replied, “Wo tong yi” – I agree.

With the turkey in hand (or in the trunk) I began the search for the other accoutrements.  Corn, potatoes, shallots, even finding butternut squash was a cake walk – but endives, chestnuts, canned pumpkin, and fresh cranberries?  Forget about it.  5 stops later – I gave up all together on the cranberries (eventually I just threw some craisins in a pot of hot water and plumped them up as much as possible before using them in my spicy cranberry relish).

One of my favorite things about the shopping excursion(s) was running into every other

Sharpening His Carving Knife

expat “homemaker” (I can’t believe I just called myself that…although a spade is a spade) out and about in search of all the same things.  I actually exchanged email addresses with a few of the other turkey day trackers, and we are now friends!  One of the markets swarming with expats is called San Yuan Li.  This local market was established years ago to cater to all of the embassies in Beijing.  So – if you can’t find what you are looking for at Jenny Lou’s or April Gourmet – San Yuan Li is the next stop.  I would have gone there for everything – but it is outside and therefore cold, and they do not have champagne, wine, or bourbon – all of which are necessary ingredients for the type of Thanksgiving I like to host!

The Menu

Because The Mayflower did not stop in China on its way to the US of A, Thanksgiving is unfortunately not a Chinese Holiday.  So – we decided to celebrate on Saturday when no one had to work. I began the preparations on Friday by making the items that would keep: butternut squash soup, creamed corn, 14 miniature pumpkin pies (one for each of us), and the chocolate torte.  This left a lot for Saturday itself – but I had a plan.  I knew that my alma mater would be playing its number one rival that day at 3:30 AM Beijing time.  So, with game day bells on, Brett and I arose before dawn to cheer on The Crimson Tide and cook a Thanksgiving Feast.  To Tom and Donna – you did an amazing job with Brett.  He is such a great helper in the kitchen!  He carved out all 14 baby pumpkins (we used them as bowls for the butternut squash soup) while I prepped the turkey and made the oyster dressing.  He peeled the potatoes while I popped green beans, and he poured the Maker’s Mark into our Diet Cokes when it was late enough in the day to not feel like total degenerates! (I mean how do you watch SEC football without at least one bourbon and diet coke?)

Turkey Day Table

With the place settings, candles, and fresh flowers (from our wonderful and freakishly cheap flower market) on the table – we were ready for our guests to arrive.  There were 14 of us in total with representatives from England, Russia, Canada, and America – specifically: Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, California, Texas, D.C. and Virginia.  Surrounding ourselves with so many wonderful new friends helped ease the pain of being away from our families, and it made giving thanks especially easy.  How blessed we are to have celebrated the most American of all holidays in such a far away land.

On to the Ancient World….EGYPT!

30 Sep

For so many years I dreamed to be gazing at the Great Pyramids on the day that I kissed 29 good-bye.  I can’t believe this dream came true!  As I write all the details about this 2 week adventure, I want to be absolutely sure to include as many travel tips as possible.  While there is quite of bit of info on trips and tours to Egypt online, I found most of it to be basic and somewhat vague.  I hope that my insights will be helpful, informative, and fun at the same time! (Please note: I am planning to do about 1 dozen posts on Egypt alone)

The journey started on a direct red-eye flight from Beijing to Cairo on Egypt Air (a Star Alliance Member).  Currently, there is only one direct flight a week out of Beijing.  It is 10 hours.  With stops it can be over 16 – so be sure to book early on the direct.  I should also add that Egypt Air is a dry airline.  Obviously this is not the end of the world…but let’s be honest, this blonde would have enjoyed a champagne toast to celebrate our departure!

After 10 hours at 30,000 feet, we touched down in the land of the pharaohs.  It was 7AM Cairo time.  Getting through customs was fairly easy.  US Citizens do need a visa; however, it can be purchased upon arrival for about $15.  You can pay in US dollars or visit an ATM and pay in Egyptian Pounds.  For all of the Beijing readers with a Union Pay Chinese Bank Card – there are very few ATM’s that work…if any.  We actually used our cards from the States the entire time.

A car service from the hotel met us at baggage claim, and we arrived at the hotel in about 30 minutes.  I strongly recommend booking a car service.  It was nice not to have to think too much after a such a long flight.  Upon arrival to our hotel, The Four Seasons at the First Residence, we were greeted with warmth and excitement.  Noha, the concierge who organized our stay, was particularly helpful.  In fact, she created an itinerary for us that exceeded all expectations!

http://www.fourseasons.com/cairofr/

After a quick rest in our huge suite overlooking the Nile (birthday upgrade courtesy of the hotel) including showers, a cheese plate, and a bottle of bubbly; we headed out to the most famous souk in Cairo.  Khan El-Khalily bazaar contains every treasure imaginable. Some are lovely and some are completely tragic.  Perhaps the world would be a more beautiful place if everyone owned a life size, gold leaf statue of an awkwardly anatomically correct King Tut – but I seriously doubt it.  Even in the sea of very aggressive salesmen pushing their wares from overstocked booths, Brett and I were able to find a few very special shops with years of history.  There are 2 places in particular that I would love to share.

1:  Zaki F. Boutros Jewellers

TEL: +20 5904153

As you can see in the picture, this shop was filled from top to bottom with sterling silver and gold.  Rest assured that every piece is guaranteed with the Egyptian government stamp – and it does not look like Indian silver.  We found 2 beautiful Mint Julep(esque) cups for about half the price you pay for English silver, and they engraved Egypt 2010 on the bottom for us in about 15 minutes. During our wait they told us the history of the shop and served us hot mint tea (their specialty).

2:  Venus Palace Perfumes

5. Khan El-Khalily, Cairo, Egypt

TEL: +20 932625

Egypt has been producing pure scented oils for thousands of years.  They offer hundreds of different scents and blends, and the fact that they are so proud of their craft makes the buying experience delightful.  The shop owner goes into great depth of the effects of each scent – the home remedies, the cures, and the aphrodisiac qualities.  It was perfect timing for us – as we had just run out of Jo Malone bath oils.  Even more perfect – these were 1/10 of the price!  We selected 3: Attar of Roses (similar to Agent Provocateur…my favorite), Sandal Wood (a lovely fall and winter fragrance), and Ramsis (popular for lighting a certain fire…).

My experience with haggling all over Beijing definitely paid off.  While other tourists (from non-haggling countries) seemed overwhelmed and flustered, I practiced my perfected technique to just “walk away” from the vendor until he chased me down to give me the price I requested.  60% of the time – it works every time.  Just like Brian Fantana’s (Paul Rudd) Sex Panther Cologne in Anchor Man.

The souk, minus the more modern and tacky souvenir shops peppered throughout, was like stepping back in time.  There were a handful of hundred year old coffee shops, sheesha smoking corners packed with men in long robes, and a number of other Egyptian men asking Brett, “How many camels for your woman?”  I would be lying if I said that I didn’t like it – and I would really be lying if I said that I didn’t love it when he simply replied, “All the camels in the desert!”  Just so long as he didn’t mean all the wild camels…of which there are none.

Stay tuned for more…

Thank Goodness for My L Visa

19 Jul

Photo booths are all the rage in Seoul. We couldn't resist!

The beauty of living in Beijing on an L visa (a type of visa to visit friends and family) is that I am forced to exit every 60 days.  It might sound like a frustration but the truth is…it creates an amazing guilt free excuse to travel and experience all that Asia has to offer.  Our most recent get away was a long weekend to Seoul, Korea.  What a fantastic and modern city!

Lucky for us a recently opened Banyan Tree Resort was running an extremely discounted introductory rate.  The room itself was enough to make for a great escape, and the Banyan Tree never disappoints with their cabana clad pools.  And while it was hard to pull away from the sunshine, the city of Seoul has so much more to offer.

First – let’s talk fashion.  (I will get to the more intellectual details later!)  I loved it.  It is fresh, inventive, over the top, and saturated with accessories – just my cup of tea!  The innovation is not limited to the clothes; the retail displays and marketing methods in Myeongong (a great shopping street) create fabulous eye candy as well.  In fact, we were so inspired (okay – maybe that “we” should be an “I”) that Sex and the City 2 seemed like the only fitting follow-up.  So…off to the movies we went.  It was cute to see that Korean girls dress to impress for SATC just like American girls.  It was also cute to see Brett dish about which outfits he liked best.

Second – let’s talk food.  Gorilla in the Kitchen, a restaurant owned by a Korean celebrity, was our favorite meal. We selected the seven-course tasting menu, which offered a variety of traditional Korean dishes with a modern twist.  Every bite was better than the one before.

Please don't ask me to pronounce the name of this!

Third – let’s talk our favorite local attraction.  The Cheonggyecheon Stream, recently uncovered in 2003 after being buried under a highway for 30 years, is part of a vast urban renewal project in Seoul.  We strolled the banks for hours listening to local musicians and watching various street performers.  The greatest entertainment; however, was the light show.

Every few hours, a giant fountain emerges on one end of the stream and a light show projector beams through the spray creating a 3D show of crazy colors and holograms.  The finale…a hot pink Rockette-esque kick line.  Remarkable!

In front of the waterfall on one end of the stream

Finally – let’s talk hostess bar.  What we thought to be a cute underground hotspot turned out to be a true gentlemen’s club.  I confirmed this fact when I visited the lady’s room.  The men’s room, which I passed on my way, appeared to be a luxurious lounge. Honestly, I got excited.  I have a secret love for cool bathrooms with attendants.  Well…to say that my experience was different is an understatement.  First – I had to climb 3 flights of stairs in a dark and dingy stairwell.  Then – I traveled down a never-ending hallway, and when I finally made my way to the toilets, after stumbling through the janitor’s closet, I found a group of young girls in shirts posing as dresses counting their earnings from the night.  Despite feeling a bit out-of-place (mainly because my dress actually covered my bum) we enjoyed our drinks and had a great time people watching!

Example of one of the photo booths. They were everywhere!

We had a blast in Seoul.  I highly recommend it, and I hope that we return in the near future!



From Beijing with Love

31 May

The shopping in Beijing is amazing and at times completely overwhelming.  And believe me – it takes a lot for a shopping excursion to overwhelm me.  In fact, if retail therapy was considered a sport… I would be an Olympic team member.  I love to haggle, and I love the thrill of a bargain.  All of that is to say that I am currently working on A Blonde Buys – a shopping guide to Beijing (and other places in Asia) to include on the blog.

In the meantime, I will include a picture of Brett’s favorite Beijing purchase to date.  It is the most perfectly inappropriate souvenir for friends back home.  Craig, this is just the look for a new dad of a sweet baby girl.

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