Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Beautiful Yunnan

Yunnan Province is gorgeous and has officially skyrocketed to the position of my favorite province in China.

Honestly, if I were coming to China for 2 weeks, the one chance I had to come to China... I would fly into Beijing, spend a few days around Beijing to see the most important sights, like Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall... then fly to Lijiang, spend time in Lijiang (or Dali), then onto Guizhou's small minority villages - one is Xijiang, and finally onto Guangxi province to see Guilin/Yangshuo area. This is truly the China people envision when they think of China. (Have you see The Painted Veil? This is what I am talking about for the second/third part of the trip.)

Anyway, we are now in Guizhou Province - I think which is officially known as China's poorest province. The city we are in is surrounded by karst limestone hills, which makes for very beautiful and unique topography. Unfortunately, our guidebook warned us about the locals' love of dog meat. Consider me officially a vegetarian while I am here. Thank God for Pizza Hut!

Here are a few pictures from our time in Yunnan. I am disappointed that I was sick during the time we were in Kunming - I really, really wanted to see the red fields (东川红土地), but unfortunately, that wasn't meant to be. I am, however, feeling much better, thank you for your well-wishes, they worked! :)

These photos were all taken in the ancient city of Lijiang... yes Lijiang can be touristy but it's beautiful, has a special ambiance and is definitely worth a visit. It reminded me of Pingyao in Shanxi.

The countryside

This is the first bend of the Yangtze River

Naxi Villages

Tiger Leaping Gorge... yeah so the actual park was closed, so in typical China fashion, some guys trying to make money offered to take us to the other side...

We went, and came across this. Pretty sure this side was more dangerous than the closed side.... seeing as how half the road was gone and all....

Workmen working towards trying to prevent any (more) crazy landslides

The gorge

That's it for Yunnan. There was so much more amazingness to see, but like I said, I got sick and we had to rearrange our travel plans.

Feeling much better here in Guizhou! Though the weather report said a high of 80 and a low of 65.... I am currently freezing seeing as how I am working with a high of 40 degrees and we didn't pack anything warmer than a fleece!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway here!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Only in China

Why am I blogging from a hotel room, you ask? Why am I inside and not exploring Southern China?

The answer would be... that... I am sick. Again. I'll have you know, prior to moving to China, the last time I was sick was 2007. Moved to China and something is always making me sick! I blame it on the food situation... anyway... hopefully this will pass before we move on tomorrow. Night trains, while sick, are not fun. I know, because I was "lucky" enough to experience it the night before last.

Anyway, I was looking through some of our pictures from the last couple days and some were making me laugh.

This picture was taken inside a kid's playroom. Baowei Zuguo, 保卫祖国,means "Protect the Homeland."

I thought this was hysterical, seeing as how it was in a children's playroom, and the drawing is of a little kid carrying something like an AK-47!

And then around town, we saw some awesome signs and translations..

The same Chinese, two different English translations.

And I think we can all agree... shopping should be rational!

I was going to add a few more pics, but am suddenly feeling tired and am going to rest. DON'T FORGET to enter the giveaway!! Enter in the post below this one.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

What, a giveaway?! Not Just Another Blonde in Beijing's China Treasures Giveaway!

School children walking down a street in Lijiang, Yunnan Province

HI everyone! Right now I am in Yunnan Province, China, and having an absolute blast. Everywhere I turn there is something beautiful to see! Yunnan Province is home to about 25 minority groups, and their influence is seen everywhere I turn. One of the things that has caught my eye the most here are the beautiful scarves being sold on every street. Weaving and dying is a tradition among the ethnic groups here, so the scarves here are really one of the area's special products.

According to an article I found online, "the embroidery and dyeing consists of many processes, such as brushing patterns, twisting and tying, soaking, dyeing the cloth, steam boiling, atmospheric drying, taking out stitches, rinsing and grinding the cloth, among which the knotting and dip-dyeing are main processes." From what I have read, all the dyes are naturally occurring and found in different plants and berries.

After walking through stall after stall of these beautiful, colorful scarves, I decided that because this area of China is so beautiful and unique, I really want to share part of this with one of my readers.

For this giveaway, I can't really say exactly what will be in the "treasure box" I send, because as of right now, I'm not entirely sure. I DO know there will be one of these beautiful scarves, dyed by a woman part of China's Bai ethnic group. There are also going to be other goodies, all of which are a surprise, and will be hand-picked by me. Think of it as a care package full of unique items handmade (mostly) in China.

There is more to China than the cheap manufacturing and crappy products so many of us associate with the country. China is really a special place and I am hoping to show that through this giveaway! I am hoping whoever wins this giveaway will walk away with a greater appreciation for this country.

Giveaway Rules

1. Must be a follower
2. Must live in the United States or Canada
3. I WILL ship to APO/FPO addresses
4. Tell me what colors you would want your scarf to be. I can't promise it will happen, but I can try!
5. Leave me your e-mail address, or another way to contact you

Deadline to enter this giveaway is Halloween, October 31st!

Good luck!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Heading to Southern China!

Alright ladies (and the few gentleman that read this blog),

We are off for a 2-week trip to Southern China! We have lots of adventures ahead of us, several overnights on trains, visits to small minority villages, rice terraces, and cruising on bamboo rafts down a river! Lots of beautiful scenery to see, and I will post a ton of pictures when I return. SO excited about this trip.

I'll be on periodically and may possibly get in a post or two while on the road... we'll see!

In other news... the one pair of J. Crew final sale flats did not fit. The left shoe fit, the right size was 1/2 a size too big. They will possibly let me return them. I mean, I've never had that problem before so I maintain that it has to be an issue with the shoe!

Anyway -

Take care everyone! Talk to you soon.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

..but...Anthropologie made me do it!

For over 6 months I have successfully avoided Anthropologie, both in store (obviously) and online. Unfortunately, that has come to an end. After a friend showed me a new skirt she bought from Anthro, I decided to browse and see what Anthro was offering in terms of sweaters - you know... something warm... for winter.

Unfortunately, I didn't find anything that actually had a real, practical purpose... but I did walk away with the Facile Camp Shirt. It was love at first sight. I had to have it. I told myself "No, no, Steph, do not buy this shirt, this shirt will NOT keep you warm during a Beijing winter." I told myself "Steph, NO, you might move to Hawaii, you would have absolutely no use for a shirt like this in Hawaii." (Oh yeah, friends, there is a chance I might move to Hawaii after this! But it's just a possibility... If we move back to San Diego, I will have the chance to wear this beautiful shirt again... though I am not going to lie, we are really hoping for Hawaii!)

Last night, I successfully talked myself out of buying this shirt. This morning, I successfully talked myself out of buying this shirt. But after class, I came home and once again set out to find reviews and saw it on lovely K over at Vurbanity.

And so I bought it. Promptly. Especially because one size sold out overnight and I panicked and...yeah.

So it will be on its way to me shortly! The husband really loved the shirt and told me I should get it. Who am I to argue?!

The other thing I was looking for were a pair of simple, camel-colored flats. I had been eyeing Cole Haan's Astrid Ballet Flats, but kept holding off due to the price - $148. They finally went on sale at Neiman's, and I was able to snag them for just $66 - and free shipping (you know I love that!) They are also one of the Nike Air flats and are supposed to be comfortable - we'll see.

I'm hoping all my recent purchases will fit when they finally arrive! It would really suck to have to send back and wait on returns all the way from China. I especially hope the shoes fit... I am really hurting for flats! Hopefully at least 1 pair (of the 3 I bought online) will fit me.

I'm also anxiously awaiting a bunch of long sleeve shirts and long sleeve thermal shirts I bought from the gap... it's quickly cooling down here and my winter wardrobe is sad!

What are you guys hoping to, ahem - acquire - soon?


Monday, October 11, 2010

Beijing is officially out of the dog house (for now!)

I woke up.... jumped out of bed, whipped open our super dark black-out curtains... to see this!

OK actually this picture is from a week and half or so ago, but when I tried to get a new picture today, the sun was actually reflecting so fiercely off the buildings across the way that I couldn't get a decent picture. If it's possible, the sky is possibly even more blue than in this picture. Glorious!

With awesome air quality read-outs to follow!

I don't know what happened... maybe it rained a little over night, all I know is... I'll take it! As I've learned, in Beijing, you can NEVER take a day like this for granted... definitely going to be outdoors today, and I will definitely get a work out in! And by the way, it's 50 degrees (F) out right now... brrr!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Beijing... I can't take you when you are like this.

I can't. I don't know how people live here and go about their daily lives when the pollution levels are so bad, it is actually hazardous (all members of the population will experience adverse health effects) to simply breathe. I can't even workout indoors when it's like this. I feel so unhealthy here, from the air I breathe to the fact that I can't (won't) workout even indoors when it's a hazardous air quality day. According to an article I stumbled across from a few years ago (I don't know how true this is): "China's environmental agency calculates that living in Chinese cities does more damage to a person's lungs than smoking two packs of cigarettes a day."

It's been like this for the past 5 days... with no reprieve in sight. The only thing that will sweep the pollution away is either wind or rain, neither of which is in the forecast.

Earlier in the week from my window

This morning - no improvement, and actually worse

If the levels would just go down from "hazardous" to "very unhealthy" ... I'd take it. This recent wave of really terrible air quality has me in such a funk. I am TRYING to get out of it, but looking at those pics, can anyone really say "WOW I'd love to get outside today and explore!"....?'s not fog.

I'm homesick for something I never thought twice about when I lived in the U.S.... clean air!


Saturday, October 9, 2010

J. Crew customer service success!

This morning, I called J. Crew and explained that I received two 25% off cards in the mail, but couldn't use them in store because I am in China. I told them I have a frigid Beijing winter ahead of me and said that I would love to use the 25% off to buy a coat... and they obliged!

(Of course, I really hate that I had to pay $17.50 on shipping (to ship to a U.S. address). I just don't understand why their shipping costs are so high. And I don't understand why you can spend 200+ dollars and STILL be charged an exorbitant amount on shipping.) I know it was really nice for them to let me use the coupon, so, I'll just stop there.

On it's way to me

Yep... I decided to go with the navy peacoat with gold buttons. I agonized over the decision, kept flip flopping between the navy version and the grey version, and then started wondering if I should just buy that plain dark charcoal or even a plain black peacoat instead.... It was clearly getting out of hand, and I decided that a purchase of a coat shouldn't require this amount of debate, so I bought the darn navy & gold peacoat. The only other coat I have is black and classic, so I decided I could use a little "fun."

I also grabbed this "warm taupe" (I call it pinkish!) sherpa hoodie. This is the warmest, most comfortable hoodie ever... I think it will come in handy for hanging around the house or quickly running to the grocery store during the cold months.

Anyway, that's pretty much it on the shopping front... I have ONE more pair of flats I want - still looking for my size... but I really want a rich tannish color pair...

Does anyone else find that blogging and browsing other blogs just makes you WANT more? I wish I could browse other blogs without being like "OMG I want that!" "I need that!" and pretty soon after, find myself shopping up a storm...


Don't forget to take advantage of Shopbop's (RARE) 20% off code: INTHEFAMILY20

I won't be. But you should! ;)


Friday, October 8, 2010

So sad, J. Crew, so sad.

Look what showed up in my China mailbox today:

Not one, but TWO J. Crew 25% "red cards." I'm one of the chosen few! (sorry, I'm on a MAC so the pictures are mirror reflections!)

I'm so sad. They are in-store use only, and they expire on the 11th so there is no chance of sending it back to my mom and having her buy me my coat....

On a happy note, I received a care package from my mom.... Vanity Fair with trainwreck Lilo on the cover, US Weekly with the Jersey Shore crew, and People... some new skincare products...

.....and a new pink IPOD Nano!! The best part is the inscription "Let the music take you home." Um, she rocks, no?! And the new Nano rocks. I love it. It has a touch screen! and it's fun! and it has a pedometer! a stop watch! and you can listen to the RADIO! and you can PAUSE live radio, and rewind up to 15 minutes... awesome for language learners. Love it.

Hoping for a smog-free day tomorrow... we've had some really terrible pollution the last 3 days.

I wonder if I call an actual brick and mortar J. Crew store, and order the coat I want over the phone - if they will let me read the card number to them over the phone? .... I have a feeling that might work.... I want to purchase that Navy coat (I think) and 25% off would be huge! It's worth a shot, I think.


Monday, October 4, 2010

In the mood to shop! FALL Wants!

The weather has been so gorgeous lately, but there is a definite chill in the air that says fall is here! I love the change of the seasons. As fall makes it's way to Beijing, I've become more and more aware how woefully unprepared I am for winter. As a Florida girl who has never really lived in a place with a winter, I'm still not exactly sure what I am doing when it comes to dressing in winter. I visited my parents last year in NYC in December, and the year before that spent a snowy Christmas in Prague... so I think I can manage, because I managed then.... but boy am I in the shopping mood!

Would you believe it if I told you I have like, no flats? I don't know what happened to them all! They must be in storage or maybe I never really had as many as I thought. My Tory Burch Revas are flopping off my foot (will never buy them again, but that's another story), so I ran to my computer and ordered two pairs of cute flats from J. Crew. I had a 20% off code to use, plus free shipping. I bought the Girandole Flats which were on sale, and the Studded Ballet Flats, which weren't.

Girandole Studded Flats

I thought these were cute and different and added a little something to plain old black. Plus they will look cute with jeans, with the studs just barely peeking out.

Studded Ballet Flats

These... I just completely fell in love with them in the light grey color and had to have them! Luckily I had a 20% off coupon to offset full price (thanks to a very sweet girl on a board I frequent!)

Then I started thinking about denim, because I pretty much love wearing jeans... and I haven't bought a nice pair in a couple years! What can I say.... the good stuff lasts! I was annoyed that I had let Bloomies Friends and Family discount pass me by... but in the end, I lucked out because currently has a promotion out for 30% off!

7 For all Mankind is my designer denim of choice - they just fit me the best of the many different kinds I've tried on.

I ended up buying the Skinny Bootcut in Rinsed Indigo

And because the 30% off was such a big help, I bought a second pair, the Straight Leg in Rinse

If you're in the market for some new denim, check out for 30% off!

Another thing I stumbled across today: if you sign up for 7 For All Mankind's email list, they send you a 20% off code to use on your next purchase.

I'm still eyeing a couple things.... a $190 sweater from Piperlime - OUCH! Wish I hadn't overlooked that 25% off code Piperlime had out last week...

and a peacoat from J. Crew. I've wanted a short classic peacoat for years - I think it's time to just buy one! Does anyone have any input on how J. Crew's peacoats fit?

I'm thinking of going with just the regular peacoat in charcoal...

But look at this gorgeous navy coat with gold buttons...

I'm thinking the charcoal for longevity's sake... but I love that navy one! I think that shade of navy can be worn with black, too... what do you girls think? go for the classic (if somewhat boring) charcoal, or go for the navy with the gold buttons? Will the military trend fade in a few years?

***If you go to to use that great 30% off code MeetTobi, please use my link to register! When someone I've invited makes a purchase, they put a reward in my account! My link is:*** They have several Rebecca Minkoff styles and the code works!