The Week of Netball & Chocolate

Time to have a quick round up of what I’ve been doing with myself the past few weeks.  Firstly, I have been playing a lot of netball.  A LOT!  So much so that my injuries are starting to hurt again which is not cool, but what is cool is that we are top of the league huzzah.  Mighty Eagles (yes that is our name!) have soared to the top of Division 4!  We’ve one game left to go before we reach the play offs and figure out if we’re going up a league.  Truth be told, I’d be scared of moving up, I’d worry we’d lose every match whereas this season (sorry to brag) we’ve won practically everyone…

I’ve really enjoyed joining a club and making new friends in Hong Kong.  As you all know, I’ve tried joining other things and never really stuck at it, the gym, yoga, crossfit (more out of cost concerns), learning mandarin and dragon boating to name just a few (!).  But what is great about this netball club is that I’m not forced to practice every week and play a match.  It is all pretty casual, and the team is made up of a mixed bunch of ladies of different ages, background etc. I say casual, but lets face it, the team is pretty competitive on and off court!  We lost last week, and although I said I didn’t care at the time, I really bloody do and if we play that team again there is going to 110% effort going in.  They’ll get what they dished out back, ha.  No hard feelings post match, honest!

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The full team minus Tara!

I just hope my injuries don’t return so I can continue playing – last season’s calf tear and sprained ankle combo was, to put it mildly, a bit of bitch.  So here’s celebrating something in my social life that wasn’t just a fad, ha, and I really hope the team are all on board for next year.  Particularly looking forward to getting some new uniforms potentially, because lets just say after two years of hardcore playing, mine has seen better days!

Second highlight of the week was visiting the Hello Kitty cafe in Austin.  Ah, Kitty, how much I do love thee, especially, when you are serving chocolate custard buns in the shape of you dressed up as a monkey.  Delicious.  To be fair, there wasn’t an awful lot I could eat now I’ve given up meat but those buns, and some fried silky tofu were top notch.  I also ate the shrimp dumplings too, which were very pretty although a little bland.  Nothing a bit of chilli couldn’t fix though!  The decor is all Hello Kitty-tastic too – chairs, tables, cutlery everything has her face on it.  At the end of the meal you earn ‘stamps’ which you can then go and shop with in the souvenir shop next door.  Five ladies of a certain age who were eating there that night (ahem) rather enjoyed purchasing Hello Kitty shot glasses and magnets!  Basically, whoever happens to be visiting me and the ‘Kong next, you will be taken here for date night whether you like it or not.  An unmissable local attraction I would say, and why the hell hadn’t I been there before (well I do know why the crazy queues when it first opened)?  I’m expecting to get a few more of these themed cafe kicks when we head to Japan for Easter.

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One final item of note for the week was date night last Saturday.  There’s a new dessert place that has opened literally across the road from us in Shek Tong Tsui called COBO HOUSE.  Not like the l0cal sweet shops, this is an upmarket Italian joint.

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When we moved into the area I never expected to associate the word upmarket with any of our local shops but here we are two years down the line.  Since the MTR opening things have been changing in the ‘hood.  I was actually surprised at the prices, a fancy dessert dish costs around HKD100, and a glass of wine around HKD70.  I was even more surprised to find out that this place is owned by a renowned award winning pastry chef in Singapore, Janice Wong, and that it is her first restaurant in HK.  Highly recommend going to visit, there is an outdoor seating area which in the evening is perfect for watching the world go buy, with chocolate and other sweet delights on hand of course.

Looks like it was a good job I played all that netball this week hey?!

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A Tourist in Coventry

So I’ve been back in the ‘Kong two weeks and nothing too exciting to write about has happened yet because of jet lag, work etc.  So I thought, why not do a travel piece on the old stomping ground of Cov?  There’s lots to do there to keep you amused for  few days, and I think you might be pleasantly surprised…!  So here’s some places I swung by during my trip back home.

This post was originally also going to include places to eat and drink but the post was already really long….  Maybe that will be next week’s post, ha.

Things to see & do

Coventry Cathedral, Priory Street:  I have such fond memories of this place, we did an amazing school trip here learning about the history of the city, we watched a famous French tightrope walker walk across the ruins on Millennium New Year and my mum organised a Knitathon here for comic relief trying to break the World Record for the most amount of people knitting together in a room!

Cov Cathedral

The ‘new’ Cathedral (opened in 1962) sits next to the original which remains in ruins after being bombed during World War II.  Go in and take a look around, you really will be amazed by the art and architecture of this glorious building.   Designed by Sir Basil Spence, the building compliments one of the city’s iconic themes, that of peace and reconciliation. Take some time to drop by the old ruins and climb up one of the city’s famous Three Spires and take in the glorious view.  Admission is free for those wishing to pray, otherwise a standard adult tickets costs £6.

NOTE:  Go via The Rising Cafe for tea and cake afterwards – I cannot rate this place enough, reasonably priced warming food for them UK bad weather days (of which there are lots!).

Herbert Art Museum, Jordan Well:  To be honest, I didn’t really know this place all that well growing up.  It had always been around, I think, but I only really started dropping by in the last few years.  When I was back last, we took a look at the history of Coventry exhibit – highlights included spotting my old school uniform in the 90s area, and dressing up in chainmail!  We were also fortunate to see The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition whilst we were there which was amazing.  The young photographer sections were particularly compelling – it’s on until the start of April so there’s still time to see it!  Admission is free!

Theatre Absolute AKA Shop Front Theatre:  I had no idea what my mum and sister were talking about they described this to me, what I had in my head was people performing in a shop window and people standing outside to watch.  But no, this small theatre company performs in an old shop in coventry Arcade which used to be a fish and chip shop restaurant!

I went to see TRAUM, a story about migration told through the medium of breakdance.  to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was completely enthralled and didn’t expect the performance to stir quite so much emotion in me.  We were also lucky enough to attend a Q&A at the end with the script writer and the two performers, both migrants themselves.  What’s more tickets were only £8.

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Three minute Heroes

Coventry Music Museum, Walsgrave Road:   

Mum took me here on a
surprise visit for our morning out together – I was expecting to go shopping but this was much better!  A very small indie museum, run entirely by volunteers, this is the place to go if you are a music fan.  The museum’s key theme is the multiculturalism within the local music scene – 2-tone, ska, bhangra, rock, electronica and pop it’s all here.  The main focus is the 2-tone and ska music, which isn’t surprising considering the more famous bands to have been born out of the city like The Specials and The Selecter.  Be sure to visit the 2-tone village after, there’s a cafe that does a mean goat curry (so I’m told), a vinyl and memorabilia shop.  Admission is £3.

Fargo Village, Far Gosford Street:  I’ve only dropped by here a couple of times, but when i have it has been marvellous (and a little dent in the wallet because of all the beautiful vintage things i end up buying!).  This is creative space with cafes, studios and pop up shops with food and drink events happening on the weekend.  When I last went, a lot of it was closed, being a rainy Monday and all, but my cooler and trendier little sister says this place has lots of fun events happening.  So visit their website before heading here.

Coombe Abbey:  Head here for the great outdoors – fabulous walks, local nature trails and the reason I was there, for a bit of afternoon tea in the fancy old hotel!

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Nan and Nicole enjoying their treats!

There’s lots of other places to visit I haven’t mentioned like the Coventry Transport Museum, The Belgrade and Criterion Theatres, the Police Museum which also deserve a notable mention.  Maybe these are the places i’ll head to next time I’m back in Blighty.

 

Back Home?

Been off the map again for a couple weeks having a really wonderful and overdue trip back ‘home’ to the UK.  I really enjoyed being in blighty, relaxing with family, catching up with friends and all the usual shenanigans.  It’s true what a lot of expats say though, it’s difficult to figure out where you really feel at home after your time away.  And anyway, what really is home?  And if you lived in what feels like your home again would it even be the same?  Probably not.  Well yes, but in a different way.

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The Malatesta Posse

Whilst I was back in the UK I was in love with the idea of finishing up our time in HK asap.  When we spent a long weekend in London I thought about what it would be like to return to our flat in Islington.  Beautiful was the first thought – I marveled at the variety of architecture, the different crowds of people on the streets and yearned to be cycling around it all once again. Expensive was the second thought.  I still have no idea how much I spent, but it was certainly a pretty penny.  How do people get by?  Well they don’t always I know…

I was also surprised at just how on edge I was wandering around.  I take for it for granted in Hong Kong how safe I feel.  I don’t have to clutch my bag tight against me whilst wandering around in HK, I don’t fear the walk from the tube station back to my house in the dark and I hardly ever witness any aggressive behaviour that can put you on red alert during a night out.   London is without a doubt, a really fun place to be, but I’m not sure how quickly I would be able to settle back in there and would it feel like going backwards in time, not having moved forward?  Would we miss the excitement of living abroad?  Where would all our old friends be – still around, or moving onto different stages of their lives?  Questions that you can’t really answer until you make the move.

So then we started thinking, what about returning to the UK but not living in London.  Remaining close to family and friends in Coventry, but within commuting distance to he bright lights of the Big Smoke?  I guess as you get older and think about the future it’s nice to have your original home comforts close at hand.  I did really enjoy going back to Coventry (honestly its not as bad as people make out!), the city has had quite a lot of investment over the past few years owing to the growing popularity of the universities there.  But I was only there for just over a week, in holiday mode, beaming with the joy of being back in my old stomping ground and the simplicity of everything.  The great thing about being in my home town was the people, and being so close to London and other places we enjoy spending time in.  Could I live in Cov, or close by long-term?  I think I could for awhile but, we would at some point, inevitably get itchy feet and feel like trying something new and different once again.

Then to Hong Kong.  Why did I feel such dread about returning?  Our life here is so good in many respects – we get to go on amazing holidays, have good jobs, lots of good friends and an excellent social life.  Within about 48 hours of being back I remembered the value of all that, and was actually quite glad we hadn’t made some romantic hasty decision to stay before boarding our flight home. I am really happy here, I just wish that the UK wasn’t an expensive and long 12 hours plus flight away.  But then, if it was it probably wouldn’t be the same.

And what I think I’ve learned, or what I’m trying to say is (in some sort of rambling way), that my home isn’t about the place, but the people.  So I don’t think I will ever see HK as my actual ‘home’, because some of my nearest and dearest are just so far away.  But Hong Kong has a very special place in my heart, and is for now, my adopted home for the foreseeable future.  And who knows where we’ll be in five years time?  I like not knowing, it makes life a bit more unexpected 🙂

 

 

Beat Three Ways

This week has been a monster.  I am beat.  I was hoping that the return to work wouldn’t be too stressful, but the reality is that I work in marketing and the start of the year is when plans are made and everyone wants to get things on track for the year ahead.  I’m probably not helped by the fact that I’m also buggering off back to the UK at the end of the month and need to get everything finished before I go.  You probably might say that’s your own fault right now!

So whilst I feel beat, and the dark nights are getting a little chilly in Honky (don’t worry it’s still not cold enough to issue a warning yet!) I thought I’d make the most of one of my favourites – the humble beet(root).

I always love heading down to my local wet market in Shek Tong Tsui.  I’m a bit of a creature of habit and always head to the same stall.  It’s nice to see the familiar faces and get my “free for you lah” chillis, corriander or spring onions!  The veggies are fresh and decently priced – I love it!  I know that some people are rightly concerned about where the veggies have come from and the possibility of chemicals used during production, but with me not being a millionaire who is willing to buy the expensive organic stuff (normally flown into HK and more expensive than organic produce in the UK) it does me, and many others, just fine.  Plus I’d rather shop at the market than the supermarkets.  You can read a decent article about HK greens here if you want to find out more.

So what have I made?  I’m really excited because with just four beetroots we’ve managed to feed ourselves for three days (including lunch) and it will probably go on for much longer.  We made a delicious and vibrant beetroots and tomato soup and then with the left over leaves – some beetroot pesto!  Yes pesto with the leaves.  It really is yum, you whack it in the food processor with some walnuts, olive oil and a bit of garlic and there you have it!  A handy way to use up all the leftover leaves which I always feel so wasteful throwing out.  You can check out the recipe I found here on the Go Green HK blog.

There you have it, the fruits of our labour and beets three ways – soup, pesto and me being thoroughly shattered!

Confession:  I must give credit to the old Joe B for being an excellent Head Chef.  I did contribute though, honest!  I made the pesto, and roasted the veg before it went in the soup 😉

Stars xxx

 

 

The Obligatory New Year’s Post – in books!

It would be weird to somehow ignore the fact that it is January and everyone is talking about New Year’s resolutions.  As per usual I have the classic resolutions down pat – visit the gym more, eat healthily and generally be less of a drunken lazy ass and be more motivated to do things (notice the blog posts popping up?!).

But I’d also really like to read some good books this year.  So here’s a list of the books I’m hoping to get round to devouring in 2016.

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My humble bookcase – in my defense I left most my books in the UK and i give a lot of them away!

The Pillow Book, by Sei Shonagon – I’m starting a bit heavy here!  This is a reflection of Japanese court life.  Why is it on the list?  Because it was quoted a lot in a book I read this year that I adored.  Will let you know if it’s a bit too heavy!

The Island, by Victoria Hislop – I read The Thread some years back which was a bit nostalgic for me as it was set in Thessaloniki where I spent a year at uni.  I’ve heard Victoria’s first novel is just as wonderful, and I’m hoping it’ll get me with a bit of Greek nostalgia once again.

The Year of the Runaways, by Sunjeev Sahota – Thought this might be a rather relevant read following the mass forced emigration of Syrian citizens.

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, by Salman Rushdie – Having read and adored Midnight’s Children and Shalimar the Clown I thought I’d best give Salman’s new novel a shot.

The Seed Collectors, by Scarlett Thomas – Not sure exactly what I’m attracted to in this – perhaps the lure of celebrity and a nice story?  Or that’s what I’m hoping!

The Green Road, by Anne Enright – A reflection of childhood memories the story sees siblings return for a last Christmas at their childhood home which their mother is selling.  This year we have made the decision to sell the family flats in Athens which is why this might be poignant.

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion – This one has been recommended by my lovely mum as an easy can’t put down read.  Nuff said.

Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe – It’s letters, from the 80s.  Two of my things I am rather fond of, high hopes for this little gem.

Traveller’s Year, by Travis Elborough – Okay another letters book but I’m finishing on this one now i promise.  Seeing as these past few years are all about travels it might be good to see where some started.  It also got me thinking, I wonder if I should collate all the postcards I’ve sent to mum and nan?!

And there’s a few on the new releases list that are catching my roving eye – in particular Half a Lifelong Romance by Eileen Chan and Blackass by A. Igoni Barett.

The Best of 2015

If you’re looking for reading inspo, my three favourites from 2015 were:

My Year of Meats, by Ruth Ozeki – One of my favourite authors who has inspired by to read The Pillow Book (above).  This was the book that first got me thinking about not eating meat, but I promise this isn’t a veggie ranting cause book!  It documents a TV producer’s year working on a series about meat and recipes in the US.

Survival in the Killing Fields, by Haing Ngor with Roger Warner A tough but very important read.  I was inspired to read this after visiting Cambodia, and it is truly harrowing.  I cannot even begin to comprehend what Ngor and so many others went through.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skoot – A book that talks sciences, yes science, that I loved!  This is the story of the lady whose cells have been used to make numerous medical breakthroughs.

What are you going to be reading in 2016 and do you have any recommendations to add to my list?

A Relaxing Christmas in Borneo

The best thing about moving to Honky for me is travel.  I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity to visit so many places since our arrival: Taiwan, Seoul, Mumbai and Kerala in India, Siem Reap in Cambodia, Chiang Mai in Thailand (again!), Beijing and finally Australia.  As you can see from the gaps in the blog –  I’ve got quite some way to go in documenting all these trips!

So let me start with the most recent whilst it’s fresh in my mind – Borneo. Christmas is normally spent in throws of icy UK winters, gorging on food left, right and centre; and in the company of my favourite people – the Malatesta clan!  This year we thought we’d change gears and head somewhere hot just the two of us.  And so because in typical Stars and Joe fashion we’d left it too late to book our preferred destination – Bali – we settled for Borneo.  Flights were about one sixth of the price if you wanted to go direct, and so we thought we’d save a bit of cash and take on part of Malaysia.

Borneo is no doubt, beautiful – lush green jungle, sandy beaches and crystal waters.  I have to say though that we probably didn’t make the most of everything that is on offer.  We had very good intentions of traveling to Sipidan, Sepilok and climbing the famous Mt Kinabalu over our two week stay…  Instead we made an executive decision (after a lot of typical uming and ahhing from me) to just stay, in one spot and totally relax (note we also came back to HK a week early).

The umming and ahhing stems from my inability to actually sit back relax and do nothing.  I’m basically incapable of relaxing and sort of feel under pressure to do as much exploring as possible in a new country.  Pressure from who I have no idea.  But I actually managed to do it (it has to be noted there were a few wobbles and I had to be brought around by Joe’s maximum chill ethos) and really enjoyed it!

We stayed Shangri-La Rasa Ria resort about 45 minutes outside the main town of Kota Kinabalu. This was the first time I’d ever stayed in a big beach resort like this and can certainly see the attraction – everything you could want is there!  Restaurants, pools, spas, golf, beach, activities galore and more.

That isn’t to say we were sitting ducks, although the sand flies and mozzies seemed to think so.  We managed to get out on a couple of day trips – a river cruise to spot some of the local wildlife which included monkeys, giant lizards and fireflies and a boat trip to a little island called Sapa to do a bit of snorkeling.

The island trip on arrival seemed to be the biggest error, when we arrived the beach was swarming with tourists, so we made a decision to go on a little adventure and climbed over some rocks at the far side of the beach and found a beautiful nearly deserted beach.  Score!  The sea even had some pretty corals and crazy coloured fish to gawp at through my snorkel.  That’s the first time I have snorkeled and actually seen anything worth while.  I think before I’d always use my snorkel and flippers on Greek beaches and the most you would see are the tiny little grey sand fish that scoot around the seabed.

The most memorable part of this trip has to be eating out Christmas dinner at a restaurant called Little Italy in the centre of KK!  A dinner to remember, it was lovely, but felt so strange to not be eating a roast in the cold surrounded by my family.  And I did miss them.  But I was consoled in the fact that we are returning to the UK at the end of January – and after all Chrsitmas is only a day right?  I can feel the rage from some of you for saying that – sorry!

I would definitely recommend heading out to KK for a relaxing long weekend to anyone this side of the globe.  But perhaps I would suggest being a bit more organised if you actually want to see the island than myself!

Here’s to more adventures around the globe in 2016!  Happy New Year!

 

I made it through the wilderness

I don’t know why I have decided to start rewriting my blog now this very minute on my first day of holidays, but I think it is to do with how anxious I have been feeling over the past few days about flying here and other things happening in my life.  Now, the anxiousness has almost passed (I think I’m on some sort of post anxiety come down because I’m excited to be here but also still flapping about our unbooked days!), I’m feeling so much happier.

So how did I get through my terrible flight fear?  There are five key components at play here.

  1. I rushed from work to the airport.  This meant my mind was so busy thinking about all the things I had yet to finish at work there wasn’t enough time to worry about the flight.
  2. I’m sorry, this probably isn’t very zen or mindful of me, but I drank alcohol.  Yes, a couple of Kirins always help suppress the nerves.
  3. My dear friend Tammy provided me with some rescue remedy – taken before and during the bumpy scary bits on the flight.  i’m not sure how much this actually helps to calm me and how much psychological but hey it helped so i ain’t knocking it.
  4. Colouring in.  On a last minute whim before boarding I bought The Enchanted Forest colouring in book.  Yes I know this is something that people are talking a lot about these days and it is very ‘trendy’ but man, this helped calm me so much.  The concentration of staying in the lines whilst the plane is shaking, and your eye sight is failing you (that’s turning 30 for you I guess?!) really took my mind of the fear.  I would really recommend anyone who is scared of flying do this on board!
  5. Finally, knowing it was going to be worth it upon arrival – and boy it is!  This has to be one of the nicest resorts I have ever stayed in, and perfect for our second anniversary on Christmas Eve.

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Not to say that there weren’t parts of the flight that were unpleasant.  We were flying AirAsia, so lack of space, screaming children, general noise and the usual ‘friendly’ turbulence all made appearances.  But I was definitely not at my plane panic worst (cue tears and uncontrollable heart rate).

Now to enjoy the holibobs!  I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas wherever you are!

xxxxx