It feels like time goes by so much faster in Hong Kong! I can’t believe it has been over 2 years since I moved here. 2014 was marked with new challenges, new travels, and a constant reminder that the only thing that matters in life are your friends and family. At least that’s how I saw it. What were you reminded of as 2014 came to a close?

Here are some snapshots of my year:

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It’s the view from the Ku De Tahhh, dahling

 

Despite the atrocious heat, I survived my first visit to Singapore for a tech event my company was participating in. I got to visit an old friend who showed us some of Singapore’s more vibrant neighborhoods. We also explored the sprawling city center, getting a glimpse of what life is like in Hong Kong’s “sister city”.

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Just some friends, ridin’ round in a donut

 

In April, two of my favorite people came to visit me in Hong Kong! When we weren’t roaming the city, we were dancing all night and eating all day. Then we embarked on one of the most memorable trip to Chiang Mai – ever. Let’s just say we should be so glad we made it out alive.

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Puppy. Cafe. Full stop.

Finally: a visit to South Korea! I’ve been meaning to visit Korea for years and finally ticked that off my list. My college days were pretty much defined by my introduction to Korean culture, Korean bbq, Korean ramen, Korean alcohol and plenty of Korean and Korean-American friends. So by default, Seoul was a blast. We ate pancakes, visited a puppy cafe (bury me there, plz), drank coffee til we peed caffeine, spent hours in Aland (it’s like Korea’s American Apparel mixed with Urban Outfitters, but way better?), and bike rode around Hongdae. I cannot wait to go back for another visit!

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All about them gainz. Well, trying to be.

 

This one is a bit personal so I won’t spare any details. For the longest time, I thought I could stay in shape on my own but let’s be real: “on my own” was really code for watching an 8-minute ab video, once or twice a week. I needed to get in better shape so in July I joined a gym.

My lower back problems, which have been bothering me for years, were exacerbated by walking around everywhere in cheap flats with 0 shock absorption. Plus I was sleeping on a fairly small couch for the good part of a year, which did not help. I remember feeling like my back could give out if I so much as sneezed really hard. That’s a scary feeling. As if that wasn’t enough, my weight was also fluctuating a bit due to poor eating habits like skipping meals when work got busy or snacking instead of eating a proper meal.

So once I joined the gym, my boyfriend, who has been weight training for years, began to get me into a routine. It took some time — a bit of reluctance from me, and some well-deserved scolding from him — for me to realize that being half-assed about my gym workouts was a waste of my money, a waste of my time, and really, not doing anything to improve my health. Fast forward to today: I’ve put on, and more importantly, kept on, almost 10 pounds. It’s an accomplishment for someone who has always been underweight. As for my lower back, I don’t think its ever felt better. Weight training gives me focus at the gym. It has also led to improved physical strength and stability I haven’t felt since high school.

Feeling strong is a new and awesome feeling for me. I really can’t thank my boyfriend enough for showing me the importance of this type of exercise. If you struggle with lower back problems or weight gain, a balanced diet and weight training could be just what you need!

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Can’t believe she’s hitched!

 

 

You always think you’ll be young forever and then your little sister gets married. Time really flies as you get older. My youngest sister got married in October and since it was the first wedding in my immediate family, a huge celebration was in order! It was a beautiful day and a fantastic wedding weekend. Going home for 2 lovely weeks meant maid of honor duties, family dinners, a few Taco Bell runs (of course), catching up with friends and cousins I’ve missed, and a special, long overdue trip to LA.

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You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

 

When I returned from my trip, Hong Kong was a different place. A small but determined gathering of students had swelled into a full blown movement. I will never forget how quickly things escalated during that period of time. From televised protests to nighttime walks home, I felt very close and sympathetic to what was happening yet as an expat, very displaced at the same time. To this day I often think of what Hong Kong will be like in the near future. Ultimately, I cannot help but feel sad that despite the efforts of the Umbrella Movement, Hong Kong is still very much under China’s grip.

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That beef noodle broth tho

 

A short but full trip to Taiwan during Christmas provided some much needed respite from long days and frenzied nights in Hong Kong. We made good use of Taipei’s metro system, visiting a number of night markets and less-than-tourist-y areas. We also tried the bike share program (unbelievably cheap and very convenient) and feasted on as many street foods as we could! If you visit Taipei, don’t forget to check out Eslite – it has to be one of the most beautiful bookstores in Asia.

Already 2015 holds a brand new set of adventures and challenges! I can’t wait to travel around Asia more, and see what else the year has in store. What are you looking forward to most this year?

I am so feenin’ for these cute azz shoes. Check these bad girls out!

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I love them!

Firstly: METALLIC. GLITTER COVERED. SHOES. Good call on the metallic and the glitter, Chiars.

Secondly, a winking eye? The universal signal for flirtation, reassurance, happiness, contentedness? Just great. Yay!

Thirdly, they come in mary jane flats, slip-ons or slippers. I’m really crazy about all three styles – perhaps equally crazy about each. But it would be TOO crazy to have 3 pairs of the same shoe, or 6 shoes with giant eyes and eyelashes on them.

Or would it?

Chiarra dons the flats here, as she gazes over Hong Kong – she was in town recently to launch her pop-up shop at Hysan Place. (And, you know, just meandering around my hood, no big deal. #Smh)

chiarra ferragni4(Okay, how is it that every fashion blogger just happens to be dating a photographer?)

Well, I think Chiarra done good with these shoes. They’re so cute and quirky – the other styles in this collection are also matching pairs, like lips and lipstick, popcorn and coke and Hollywood stars. I can’t get enough. Putting this on my Christmas wish list.

The other night I was cruising Instagram when I came across this amazing brand: TTYA. The acronym stands for “Taller Than Your Average”, a new line of apparel for TALLER THAN AVERAGE WOMEN.

As their site says, “TTYA offers clothes for tall women, specialising in jersey staples and key wardrobe essentials for women 5’9″ and taller. Shop for tall leggings, tall maxi dresses, tall tops and jersey dresses. All designed by a tall woman for tall women worldwide.”

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That’s right – tall, tall, tall. Formerly gawky, gangly women of the world, rejoice: this one is for us! Finally, cool clothes for women who aren’t 5’5″.

Admittedly I myself am only 5’8″ (ha!) and some of these pieces are not the most novel but I rarely find brands dedicated to tall women, much less clothing that actually makes me feel like 5’8″ is short! Another thing to love about the label? The reference to Notorious B.I.G!! You know the jam…

I’m actually probably most excited about that. If TTYA is actually a reference to Biggie’s line in “Hypnotize”, and not just the notion that women who are 5’9″ are literally, taller than your average, then TTYA you have my full affection. (Although, less so if this is actually a reference to Craig David‘s “Slicker Than Your Average”).

Judging by the street-smart style of each look and the choice of models (Jourdan Dunn hello – the 5’10” beauty also openly endorses the brand), it’s highly likely the designer is a hip hop lover herself.

Here are some of my favorite pieces:

If you know me, you know I love my turtlenecks. And this one actually looks sexy…

Ok my search for the perfect crop top is over.

Hot.

This looks comfortable, and chic. I’m good with that.

Cozy sweats. Oversized tees. Slinky dresses. Minimalistic colors. I’m so down for you TTYA. This entire site has just become my outfit inspo for the fall/winter season. Thanks for the good vibes, TTYA. Ta!


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One thing you come to appreciate when you move far away from home is people who try to keep in touch with you. With social media and email, it would seem a fairly easy task but even then, there’s a good level of intentionality that remains to be seen once someone isn’t just a phone call or meetup away.

I’ve been so blessed to have such supportive family and friends. They have done everything from send me sweet packages with Amurrrican goodies (DIY taco kits, large bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos — hallelujah Lord bless them) to shell out hard cold cash to visit me.

My cousin Jamie is one such person who has shown me so much love and support. Despite her own busy schedule, being an ambitious blogger, event hostess, and visionary designer, she always clears out her schedule to visit with me while I’m home and makes sure I don’t leave empty handed (or without major sideaches from laughing so damn hard). It makes me sad I can’t spend more time with her in person but on the up side, the distance does make our hearts grow fonder as we exchange ideas for new projects and keep in touch the new old fashioned way: lengthy emails and blog post updates! Jamie and her husband, Chris, have been working on some AMAZING projects, like Blog Party, which started out as a collective meetup for bloggers to connect in cool, creative spaces. Blog Party has grown tremendously into a *pretty* huge deal, with collabs featuring Brit + Co, Social Print Studio and more. Check out Blog Party if you’re interested in connecting with other cool people or hosting your own Blog Party!

I’ve been sitting on this one for awhile now but I wanted to give Jamie a tour of my neighborhood since there are so many spots that remind me of her. If you’re headed to Hong Kong in the near future, add this area to your list!

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The area I live in is called Star Street Precinct. In 1889, Hong Kong’s first power station started operating in Electric Street. The streets surrounding it were thus named according to the Three-Character Chinese classic verse of “Three luminaries – the sun, the moon and the stars”, the three major elements that generate electricity. Star Street, Sun Street and Moon Street are some of the oldest streets located in the area.

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Today the area has evolved into a funky commune of old and new, an interspersing of small cafes, independent galleries, and colorful furniture shops with upscale restaurants and distinctive retailers.

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I never thought I would live here — I looked at 18 flats before I found the one I live in now, and that story is for another blog post — but I’m fairly happy I do now, even if it’s a bit more expat-oriented than I might like to admit… (Let’s just say it’s doing nothing for my Cantonese language skills)

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This section of the neighborhood is actually a rare slice of serenity, even though it’s a stone’s throw from one of Hong Kong’s busiest streets (Queen’s Road East). From here the endless passing of rattling buses, trucks and taxis seems almost inaudible.

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Odd One Out always carries great pieces, like intricate laser cut artwork, humorous deadpan notecards, and other unique items that you can peruse while a super hip soundtrack plays in the background. I also enjoy this spot because of the owners, who are extremely friendly and engage every person who walks in. I should mention they make a solid long black as well!

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South China Morning Post, the largest English newspaper in Hong Kong, recently published this lovely piece on Star Street, which covers many spots I didn’t have a chance to photograph but made me appreciate this area even more. Hope you all wander through this area when you come for a visit! Jamesquas, HK awaits. 🙂

I’ve been so negative about the coming of summer that I’m barely enjoying the last bits of winter here. It’s a pity considering within a few months, these brisk, cool temperatures will be long gone, replaced by humidity, sweat and mosquitos. Weee.

But between then and now, there is spring. Walking through Times Square today, I finally noticed that the coming of summer is actually really beautiful — all the windows were dressed in bright pastel arrays, a winsome departure from the drab navy blues and blacks I’ve been in for the last few months.

One color that really stood out to me was powder blue. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this modest shade of blue is going to be front and center as we move from l’hiver to le’printemps… What do you think?

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A powder blue leather biker jacket. Say no more.

Image: Alexander McQueen

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*My eyeballs are hearts*.

Image: Sarah Klassen

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Leave it to Nars to create spring, in a bottle!

Image: Pinterest

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Earrings! An impossibly easy way to get some powder blue in your life.

Image: Etsy

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Lady, I love the oversized sleeves of your dress.

Image: Fashion Vibe

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This is just stupid cute — and it rolls. And it’s recycled.

Image: En Mi Espacio Vital

powder blue square dress

Hoooly want. (Also this.)

Image: Pinterest

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I think I see Valentine’s Day this way because of the way it portrayed to me by my own parents. Growing up, neither of my parents were never very romantic with one another. (It’s always made me insanely curious to know what they must have been like while they were dating — I’m almost 100% sure it was the opposite.) Throughout high school, every time Valentine’s Day rolled around, my dad would leave for work and peck my mom on the cheek — if he remembered what day it was. “Oh great, the one time a year I get any affection,” my mom would retort, thrusting his boxed lunch at him. Sometimes he’d already be getting into the car when either my sister or I would remind him what day it was. Already in work-mode, he’d tell us, somewhat begrudgingly, to get Mom so he could deliver the peck while he was halfway in the car. Then as the day would end, my sister or I would call him to ask if he had gotten anything for her before dashing off to the store to buy some overpriced flowers and a card that he could sign in the garage.

In my head, as I got older and learned that love can be showed in other ways than holding down a job or paying the mortgage (no small feats!), I told myself I’d try my best to find that balance between the love I was shown at home through my parents and the love I knew existed through the media and my White friends — that outward, unprovoked physical demonstration of love. I thought it would be cool if one day I could be still so in love with someone after years of child-rearing and housekeeping that I’d still want to show everyone around me just that — we were still in love. I wanted to make my kids feel just a little bit uncomfortable about how much their parents liked each other and teach them that being affectionate both physically and verbally is natural and healthy.

Then, as I got even older, I learned more about love from my own experiences. That love can make no sense and feel great, but it can also not make sense and feel really awful. It can be a fickle and unreciprocated. It can feel weird and empty. It can disappear. I slackened my expectations of myself and resolved to just try my best never to get divorced.

My dad’s way of showing his love for my mom is and probably always will be through provisions — paying utility bills, for doctor’s visits, car repairs, vacations. And probably because we’re an Asian family, of the progeny that’s never placed a high value on hugs, kisses or audible ILYs, I knew well that other displays of love could be expected, but really, what’s more more important than having a partner who can provide for you?

I don’t blame my parents for showing me marital love the way the only way they know how. They’ve taught me what consistency, companionship, stability and living a moralistic life can look like. They’ve also nurtured one of the best families I’ve ever known (totally biased, of course). I have a lot to learn from their relationship, even if I’d made some tweaks of my own.

For first time in a long time, I went out on Valentine’s Day evening and walked around some of Hong Kong’s busiest districts, seeing young and old with giant bouquets and silly grins spread across their faces. I loved that I was in Hong Kong, in Asia, amongst people who are too quickly typecasted as “submissive”, “emotionless”, “non-demonstrative” — sometimes even “prudish” or “not sexy”. Not tonight. It was fun and cute and heartwarming in a way my overly cynical self would have gagged at a few years ago. I hope I never go back to cringing visible acts of love and happiness (unless it really deserves to be cringed at).

I wanted to share some stories on love that I found in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Most of them I read forgetting that Valentine’s Day was at the end of this week — I merely came across them as expressions the type of affection, gratitude and appreciation we should strive toward everyday. I like being reminded of how to better love people, whether it’s romantically or in the interest of being a better human being.

Every week month time I can… I plan to post a few interesting reads I find worth sharing with others. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Cheers to being in love and learning how to love better.

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Photo: Nicholas Nixon

“A Lot of Love (and a Little Out of Control)”  – An intimate series of portraits entitled “Bebe and I”, chronicling the love between photographer Nicholas Nixon and his wife, Bebe.

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“Remembering a Folk Art Visionary” – My visit to Calipatria was very hot and very stuffy but memorable because you don’t find art like this everyday. If you ever find yourself in Southern California, I hiiighly recommend a visit to this unique section of Slab City! Even if you don’t believe in God, it’s a good place to think about universal love. RIP Mr. Knight and long live folk art!

“Can Marriage Cure Poverty?” – Less about love and romance than marriage, politics and poverty. Still, a read that ought to make us think about our reasons for getting married and pressuring others to do the same.

Washington Post journalist Ezra Klein writing on getting married (to NYT’s Annie Lowrey, author of the aforementioned article). It’s (super) sweet.

“Seduced By A Gift That Broke The Rules” – This one is a year old but I come back to it from time to time because it’s hilarious, heartwarming and makes me wonder if I have Asperger’s.

“Before the Web, Hearts Grew Silent” – Another warm and fuzzy from NYT’s Modern Love column. It’s about long distance love, life before Facebook and real-life reckless adoration. So good.

Top image: my own, taken in San Diego after visiting Salvation Mountain.