Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sweaters Lately

Got into B's closet while he was in Asia.


Have you ever seen such sweatery goodness? The Kraftwerk one is INTARSIA.  

And here are my nails, just because.  This was a two-coat situation:  some MAC basecoat with some iridescent BS I bought in China on top.  This picture doesn't do the iridescence justice, but trust me it's quite prismatic in person.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Shanghai and HK

Holy crap, I am almost caught up!  Seriously.  This was just a week ago!  This blog is almost topical again!

We were in the States for nearly 3 weeks, arriving in Stockholm on 4 Jan... and then I left the morning of 6 Jan for a week in Shanghai and Hong Kong.  That is way too many time zones (and flights) in such a short period.  

Despite my D-R-E-A-D to get back on a plane, it was great trip to Asia.  (Though my wallet is much lighter thanks to all of the sales on in HK.)  I was surprisingly not too jet lagged, which is probably due to how awesome melatonin is.  What would I do without that stuff?

I was greeted by China Unicom (and their unfortunate spacing issues), employing my FAVORITE Engrish phrase "Welcome to."  I have mentioned it here before, but I am still as taken with this awkward phrasing as the first time I heard it.

As if having it in my own personal text message wasn't enough, I spotted THIS at the Pudong Airport.  Be still my freaking heart!  There it is on the wall!  Y-E-S.

But besides all that, welcome to look at my photos:

Such serious signage on the "luggage handling counter," which is really just the place you get yourself together after being hassled through security.  I shudder to think of the sight of a collision occurring while someone is climbing on this thing.  Oh, the horror!  Thank god there are warnings!

Our new office moved down the road, nearer to the Jing'an Temple.  I didn't go in the temple this time, but it's pretty cool to have it right smack in the middle of the city.

Oh, and this guy's one of two out front.  His paw is telling that baby thing, "Don't mess."

Over in HK, I wandered around the Wan Chai area, where I found the delightful boutique Ka-Pok.  There is a smattering of other cool boutiques in the area, including the Monocle store, which was the least cool of them all.  Unless you need a back issue or something.

I give you Wan Chai:

I snapped this lonely little stool in the elevator on my way up to a fabric appointment.  Guess the elevator attendant had stepped out for a minute.

I am fairly obsessed with the 10 HKD polymer banknotes.  I mean, there is a clear window on them!  And they feel all slick-like in your hands!

Palm Springs

The final stop on our recent US trip was Palm Springs.  Someone asked me, "Isn't that where old people go?"  The answer is N-O.  (OK, a little bit yes, but mostly no.)  You want grammas?  Hitch it over to Palm Desert, honey, where the olds sun themselves like lizards and dinner service starts at 3 pm.  At least that's what I heard.

First, I give your our digs.

The living room:

The exterior:

The pool:


This was the payoff at the end of our trip.  Four glorious days, ringing in the new year with dear friends and lounging away the go-go-go stress of the holidays.  

This is how a man enjoys Palm Springs.  

The fridge was stocked with essentials (note the colon tonic at left).  B and I assumed clean-up duties while the rest of the crew cooked delicious treats and mixed yummy cocktails.  Also, more tamales were had so that B and I enjoyed fantastic tamales in THREE cities this trip.  Ohmygod, the tamales.  I have to learn how to make my own to survive, as Sweden has no idea what a terrible tamale shortage it has been experiencing for these many many years.

Here are other photos of assorted palm trees and the like.  I wish I had a photo of the driver waiting at the stoplight next to us with his sunny g's on top of his reggo glasses (that means two earpieces) WIPING OUT a tub of guacamole with a BREADED CHICKEN TENDER.  G and I were marveling  (in the form of yuk-yuk-yuks!) at our luck to behold such a sight when we realized that not only was his window down but so was ours.  At least G will be there with me to relieve this memory for eternity... in hell.  But seriously people, breaded chicken tenders are the new tortilla chips?!  Why did nobody tell me??

But oh right... the photos!

Here he is, the magical G.  Great minds on the chambray shirts, huh?  How do I survive most of the year away from this one?!  We certainly do maximize the time we have together.  And we meet up in some fabulous places, that's for sure.

Rockin' Well

After St. Louis, we headed west to Sacramento to see B's family.  We spent an afternoon at the Crocker Art Museum, taking in the Norman Rockwell exhibit.  I took photos until I got busted by a security guard, which created a mini-scene wherein two bystanders got involved claiming that there was no sign up and blah blah.  Um, thanks.  The whole time B stood by, when he should have hightailed it like he didn't know me.  That way at least one of us could keep taking photos!  We've got to get our in cahoots down!

I feel bad for Rockwell.  Or for his memory, at least.  I don't think he gets the respect he deserves.  First, he has chops.  His paintings are good.  But he also earns a place in my imaginary Big Book of Great American Artists for his capturing the minutiae of middle America's daily life.  Time stands still.  These are snapshots done as paintings, telling stories with their details.  Yeah, it's a little bougie but don't hate.  You want the other side of the coin, go ground yourself in some Dorothea Lange.

He was famous for his Saturday Evening Post covers (all--and I mean ALL--of which were on display at the Crocker), and this is how he made his dollar-dollahs.  It's easy to dismiss him as too commercial for his ties to the magazine.  But looking at all of the art he produced over 47 years for the periodical, it's a wonder to see the styles and the attitudes and the concerns of the country changing before your eyes.  When he was finished at the Evening Post, Look Magazine allowed him to take on social issues, as he was way more progressive than the Evening Post would allow.  For example, The Problem We All Live With.  Rockwell was a pretty liberal guy for his times.  Betcha didn't realize that.

I came away from the exhibit with mad respect for Mr. Rockwell.  I don't care what the critics say.

Thankfully I got this snap in before the guard found me.  Here's Rockwell posing his dog Butch for a study for the painting Going and Coming.  You can see more charming shots of Rockwell working with dogs here.  Go check the link!  You won't regret it!

Of course the circus dog in the ruff got me.

St. Louis Eats and Treats

A quick run through of the places we hit up on our last trip.  There just wasn't enough time to get to all of the spots I had in mind (see you this summer, Guerrilla Street Food), so here are the winners.  

Sump Coffee had us driving from our West County HQ to the city on the regular to enjoy this delicious deliciousness in a non-BS environment.  I swear, my cappuccino tasted like chocolate-covered cherries.  And not like some Whitman's shit, but like some bliss from Marcolini.  It was a real moment for me, a setting of the bar.  That Blue Bottle capp' I had the week after in SF.  Not as good.

Now that I live in Sweden, I am developing a love of coffee--not only for its nom-nom goodness but for the socialization (hello, fika!) and, well, alertness it affords.  I can get good coffee here, for sure, but now they are all compared to my cup from Sump.  Oh, and check the blog, too, for some nice reading.

Here is an insta-hoo-ha of Marshall Faulk enjoying his pasta playing on his smart phone (is that one word?  Smartphone?) at the wonderful Pastaria.  Sample text:  Yo Tiki, I think I dropped my Superbowl ring in a bowl of spaghetti. Come fish it out for me? xo Faulk

But oh man, you should have seen the cougar parade passing by his table.

Pastaria is another Gerard Craft jam and despite the fact that the words "restaurant group" now appear behind his name (this totally skeevs me, in Cameron Mitchell kinda way), he is still putting out delicious and innovative food and bringing global flavors and newness to St. Louis in a way that still feels local and special.  I will state here (as I did in an ages' old yelp post) that the guy could use some serious help with his spaces and his interior decoration.  Pastaria is fine in that it's pretty bare bones, but for such cozy food the room was just too big and too cold.  And the acoustics were the pits, what with the highest ceiling ever.  

But the food.  Oh, the food.  B had the marinara pizza, which passed his muster and garnered some fine praise.  And before you feel sorry for this gluten-free gal up in Carb City, they make their own gluten-free pasta in house.  What?  Thanks for not sleeping on your gluten-free homies, Pastaria!  I had mine with roasted pork, marscapone, and apples.  Yum.  Oh, and we had the shaved kale salad to start, which was like a steroidal caesar salad.  Double yums.

Can we talk about the name for a sec?  Is it Pas-TARE-ia or PAS-ta-ree-a?  Hmm?

I accompanied B to the Record Exchange on Hampton and spent a couple of hours there, finding all sorts of things.  Housed in an old library, it's beautiful on the outside and stacked to the rafters inside.  We didn't even make it up to the room of 45s this time.  This summer...

Another St. Louis treasure trove just around the corner from the Record Exchange is TFA.  We have followed them from location to location, but now they are settled in on Chippewa.  They always remember us for buying our beautiful Wendell Lovett fireplace there years ago.  This time we bought a family of three (Japanese ceramic) squirrels to hang on our wall.  

This is a Wendell Lovett fireplace for you to enjoy.  This is not at TFA.

Peep some of the merchandise here.  Wow, right??

Other favorites for eats are Local Harvest Cafe on Morganford, which is also gluten-free friendly, bien sur!  

And last year's James Beard semifinalist chef's resto, Salt, which now has apparently filed for bankruptcy.  Keep it together, St. Louis!  Those roasted beets with horseradish, feta, apple, and olives are too good to lose!

The Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood has a damn fine menu, too.  And a delicious pumpkin cider to boot!  It is less cozy than its downtown counterpart and the hillbilly band could have turned it down a few for me, but for those of us holed up in WestCo with moms and dads, it's a heckofalot closer.  

We will definitely have to try the Crow's Nest again, as sadly they were out of most of the good stuff (read:  brains) when we went.  Any joint that serves good beer and brains done multiple ways (nuggets to start, on a sandwich for an old school StL main) goes to the top of my list for next time.  Respect!

What I did not like was seeing the old Pevely Dairy building lying in rubble on the side of S. Grand.  I acknowledge that St. Louis U. wouldn't have made such strides without Larry B.'s vision, but let's be straight.  He is a dude mad with power and caught up in the finer things.  So weird that he's actually a priest, hmm?  Manicures, a tan, and nice cars tend to look better without a collar on.

St. Louis Holidays

Oh, St. Louis.  It had simply been too long.

Over a year!  Can you believe it?

The longer I have lived away, the less it feels like home... though it always will be.  Does that make sense?  Every time I go back, I feel nostalgic that I don't live there any longer.  But that's just nostalgia playing its nostalgic tricks.  Moving back would mean changing so many things in my life (including my career) that it's just not feasible.  So I will remain St. Louis' biggest rep wherever I find myself living.

This was the scene at the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Des Peres.  There was a guy with an O-tank on wheels, but I'm sure you assumed that.  What a glorious Christmas scene!  Make sure to stop by your local DMV for a dose of holiday cheer!

I rolled in with my 180-some-odd days' expired license and managed to answer the troll's (You should have seen this woman.  "Troll" is kind.) questions to garner myself a new license.  Toot!  There's something to be said for keeping a root in the States (US iTunes has waaaay better stuff than its Euro counterpart)... and I certainly couldn't do this without my parents and their TLC of my mail and bills and such that still comes to the house on Fiddle Creek.  

StL pride.  

What the what is "Strayer University"??  I promptly effected some "He ain't come back since he gone to that Strayer University" talk.  It was genius, I tells ya!

The time we spent with these all-time faves was much too short due to my darling goddaughter catching a nasty virus, as well as to general holiday craziness.  But we had one glorious night, which is not accurately reflected in this photo, though I do love the range of emotion.  Ph and I are happy as clams, B looks like he just smelled something rancid, and M looks wary.  We ate at Pastaria, which is well worth any wait in excess of an hour.  But more on that in a minute.  

Spotted this mess at my parents' local Walgreens.  How anyone ever thought this was a good idea, I don't know.  Just because two things pair well, it doesn't mean they should be combined!  Why not steak-flavored red wine next? Oh, and I take issue with the use of "fine" here.  If you state that it's fine, I'm sure that it's not.

I also spotted some vodka-infused white chocolate peppermint whipped cream at the liquor store in Palm Springs and stood there with my jaw open for a good 30 seconds.  First, sick.  Second, we Americans are a fat bunch.  Third, white chocolate is disgusting in any form, but whipped in a can with vodka is not doing it any favors.  Fourth, you know people are squirting this directly into their mouths.  Keep it classy, America!

Look at these two!  B and I had a lovely lunch with these ladies at the wonderful Local Harvest Cafe on Morganford.  Those curls!

I really missed seeing this little lady, but luckily we had a little time together before a yucky virus thwarted the rest of our holiday plans.  She is growing so quickly and is such a joy to be around.  Can't wait to see her again this summer!

And this is her big sister Cosi, who is showing off the lovely brocade skirt from H&M somebody brought for her.  This girl knows how to rock an outfit, hmm?

I'll leave you with Hilde, who is enjoying the heck out of a bird video on YouTube.

Bangla Bonanza

I have really been getting around lately.  Lest you think all of this travel to be glamorous, I point you to Exhibit A:  Bangladesh. 

I've been to India (a buncha times), so I was fairly prepared for Bangladesh.  Well, as prepared as anyone can be to drop in on a still-developing country.  (Roads?  These are proving a challenge.)  Having been terribly sick on previous work trips (starts with a C-H, rhymes with "vagina") and knowing people who have been hospitalized for stomach troubles while in Dhaka, I decided I was not going to take any chances with the local cuisine.  Lame, I know.  (But really, do you even know of a Bangladeshi restaurant in your city?  In your country?)  Multiple people described Bangladeshi food to me as similar to Indian, but... "oilier."  Hmm.  It's like it helps itself right out of your system!

When at a lunchtime crossroads of pizza (full of gluten!) and chicken curry (full of risky microbes!), I opted for the pizza.  I was totally that prissy girl who eats "western" food instead of the local delicacies, when in fact I am a pretty adventurous eater.  (I should have a t-shirt made that states, "Do you have any fish eyeballs, because this gal's hungry?!")  But I didn't have any major stomach issues, so whatever.  I basically survived on a diet of nut bars and food from the Nordic Club.

Oh right, the Nordic Club.  Dhaka is dry.  As far as I understand, you can't order anything alcoholic from a restaurant.  The hotels will serve booze, but what to do if you are an expat who likes to get her drink on?  Join a club!  There is the Nordic Club, the American Club, the British Club, etc.  For the cost of a membership, which is pretty reasonable, you have the privilege to exchange your cash-money for coupons that you can then turn in for alcoholic beverages.  Yeah, the system is roundabout and antiquated (it also involves a ledger), but there is booze at the end so if it ain't broke...  These clubs also have imported ice cubes (the kind that won't give you the squirts), swimming pools and pool tables, Western food, tennis courts, and a built-in social scene.

Our journey started with a layover in Istanbul that grew from 4 to 10 hours.  We managed to station ourselves at the HSBC lounge for free drinks (didn't need that, was still hungover from the night before) and food.  We spent the layover haranguing various mustachioed Turkish Airlines employees who kept giving us the slip, endlessly replaced by another mustachioed colleague... until we got tired and holed up in the lounge.  The heavens celebrated our boarding with a lightning storm for the ages, but now that Turkish Airlines was finally loading the plane, they didn't seem to notice.  I, however, was trying to keep it together in front of my new colleagues when I really just wanted to cry.  You know who should have been struck by lightening, however?  Every one of the Turkish Airline flight attendants who were awful to the Bangladeshi travelers.  Honestly.  Y'all was totally racist on that plane.  Not cool.

We landed in Dhaka to this, the land of left luggage.

This one looked like someone was ready to take it home, but alas.  It too had been left.  The package on the bottom sort of looks like a butterball turkey.  Strange wrapping jobs, these.

Yet another shot of the airport.  This looks like some weird church basement, but it's really the lost luggage area at the Dhaka airport.  I was especially fascinated by the stroller graveyard at top center, but you can't see it so well here.

This lapped fruit is pomelo, served with cayenne salt.  It was deelish.

This is the lovely view from my coworker's apartment, where I enjoyed the pomelo.

This was the view from my borrowed desk at our office there.  Not quite as lovely.

Bottled water from the hotel.  As you can see, it's "Free from Arsenic."  Wow, that's something I've been taking for granted all this time.  Poor Bangladesh has had a real problem with arsenic in the water;  it's nothing less than a slow and painful mass poisoning.  I was jokin' it up when I took this picture, but now I feel a little bit yikes about it.

I was lucky enough to be in Dhaka at the same time as my lovely friend Taylor, who brought me this mag from her flight.  Note the warning label.

This might be one of my favorite photos ever.  I took this on the way back from visiting a supplier.  There were dozens of other pigs just like this guy, all rooting through the trash on the riverbank.

Here's a dark shot of me and the aforementioned Taylor.  I was lucky enough to take my first trip to Bangla with a dear friend and an ol' Bangla pro like T.  It's not the worst place in the world to go if it means you get to see one of your favorite ladies.

And this is Taylor's friend G, the mosquito hunter extraordinaire.  I was treated to some delicious sushi (I know, in Dhaka... but it really was super duper!) and there was nary a mosquito to speak of!  Mosquitos don't step to this guy!

Taka rocka.  Is this the same guy or what?!