Saturday, November 20, 2010

Beijing in the fall

is so pretty! We had over 2 weeks of blue sky days... it was absolutely amazing. I knew it had to come to an end soon, and when it did, it was with a vengeance! The embassy was getting pretty funny with their air quality read-outs... instead of "hazardous" they chose "crazy bad," which was hysterical to me. Yesterday, the pollution read-outs were off the charts, so they literally had to write "beyond index." Hopefully we get some wind and it clears up!

Beijing has been really pretty in the fall and I thought I'd post a few pictures to show the change of seasons. These pics are from all over Beijing - random streets, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall at Mutianyu.

At the Forbidden City

In this picture, we wandering down a hutong and stepped in to show my parents where the cook lives for the cooking class I go to. These two women, mother and daughter, used to live in the house back to the left... they left in '62, when the daughter was just a baby. We all went back and the people currently living in the home invited us in and showed us around. It was so cool to have the opportunity to see the inside! My husband and the older woman not only spoke Chinese together, but practiced their Russian as well.

Pretty fall leaves on a random Beijing street

The Great Wall at Mutianyu

The hubby and I at my favorite park in Beijing: Beihai. See that tree? It was COLD that day!

At the market with the chef, shopping for our cooking class. Sometimes the uggs need to be worn, what can I say? They are so warm and super comfy to walk around in for me (but my feet don't really have an arch, so that may be why I find them so comfy to walk in for hours on end).

"What's this called?"

Making dumplings

Mmm the yummy Sichuan noodles we made. SO delish! 担担面


Thursday, November 11, 2010

桂林山水甲天下! Guilin and Yangshuo, Guangxi Province

How beautiful. Like something out of a movie. Definitely my favorite place in China, not a single thing disappointed me or made me think it looked better in the brochure. Before going to Guilin, we had been in Guizhou Province, one of China's poorest provinces. We didn't see a single other Westerner the entire time we were in Guizhou. When we arrived in Guilin, it was Westerners galore... but, for good reason... it was really amazing, no wonder people flock there in droves. If you are coming to China and limited on time, the Guilin area is definitely something not to be missed.

Cruising down the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo. Highly recommend - from the river is the best way to see the mountains.

Look familiar?

The view of the village we stayed in from Moon Hill

The view from our room... how amazing is that?

The night we arrived, we went in a boat alongside this cormorant fisher so we can watch him work! What they do is take a string and tie it around the cormorant's neck... that way when the bird catches fish, he can't swallow the fish... the farmer keeps the bigger fish for himself, and feeds the bird the smaller ones.

Some fishies he caught.

Yes I actually held the bird, even though birds in general scare me... hah. And yes. I was creeped out. But I did it! haha!

The next day our amazing guide took us to the village she grew up in. It was about an hour and a half boat ride away from Yangshuo. It was so amazing to be out on a part of the river where we were basically the only ones out there!

Harvesting the rice. My favorite photo.

Some village children peeking around the corner to check us out. They stayed there all day! too cute.

Our guide took us to her own parents' home... they made homemade springrolls, dumplings, and yes, snails, for us.

This is our guide's father, who was trying to teach me how to play the erhu.

This is right near where Edward Norton and Naomi Watts filmed The Painted Veil

Basically, it was really freaking awesome and I recommend it to everyone!

I also highly recommend the hotel we stayed in: The Yangshuo Village Inn, and our guide, Jessie Lu. If you want any of their contact information, let me know!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Giveaway Winner and my dress for the ball!

After counting all the comments and omitting any duplicates, there were 45 comments total. I used to generate a random number... # 23!

Congratulations to one of my long-time readers, TMWAY! You've won my giveaway! I sent an e-mail to you for further details so be on the lookout for that!

In regards to the ball - thank you guys so much for commenting on which dress you think I should choose. The majority of you said the red velvet dress... so I, in typical Steph fashion (just ask my husband), went with the green dress. lol. I just couldn't get the image of Mrs. Claus out of my head with the red velvet.

After receiving the green dress, I am thrilled with it. It is beautiful in person - the stock photo truly did not do this dress justice! It's amazing! The beading detail on the shoulder is gorgeous and the fit is perfect. The green velvet is rich and luxurious looking... I couldn't be happier with my choice!

The ruching (on the right side in the picture) makes for a very flattering fit.

I'm planning to do my hair like this... large waves/curls with one side pinned back (to see the shoulder detail!)

I'll post pics after the ball. It's still not for a few weeks!

Pictures from my last trip still to come - Guizhou Province, and Guangxi (Guilin, Yangshuo).


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Big review post! J. Crew, Cole Haan, and what dress did I choose for the ball?!!!

ALLLLLL that stuff I ordered finally made it all the way to China and are finally in my little hands. Most everything worked out wonderfully! so lots to review!

First up - do you need a good, basic long-sleeve layering tee? If so, Nordstrom's juniors brand Rubbish makes awesome long-sleeve shirts. I've had some for a few years and it was finally time to pick up some new ones.

This is the Rubbish Extended Cuff Tee. Currently on sale for $12.90. Because it's juniors I size up to a medium.

Here it is in grey on me.

Worn with my Lululemon Groove Pants (so stylin'! Hey, I didn't leave the house today...) BTW these tees are one million times better than J. Crew's "perfect fit" tee. I hate those things. They get so stretched out during wear and the sleeves are too short and the bottom rides up.. yuck.

Next up, Anthropologie's Camp Facile Shirt by Odille. I love this shirt. It's gorgeous. It feels like silk, but is actually rayon. I bought it in the army green color, which in my pictures actually looks a little distorted - it's more of a true army green in real life - you can see the true color in the photo below.

Look at the pretty details... gold buttons, the braiding on the sleeve cuff, which also goes along the back in a straight line.

I own about 2 or 3 Odille blouses, and took a size 2 in all of them - so I bought a size 2 in this as well. Truth be told, I could have sized up to a 4 - the button pulls ever so slightly across the chest. If I were in the US I'd exchange it for a 4 - being here, I will settle for the one I have. I also think that if I wear a less "pusher-upper" bra, that will solve the problem. ;)

Next up, J. Crew reviews! very happy with my recent J. Crew purchases.

First, the Sherpa Zip Hoodie, now on sale for $60. Love. So comfy! The sleeves and the pockets are not lined with the sherpa lining - I thought it was last year, but I don't know for sure. I took a size small - I think you should size up with this one.

MMM. Fuzzy. This is the warm taupe color.

Next, the popular Arrow Sweater-jacket (in black), which has been reviewed all over the blogging world. Currently on sale for $80, and I bought it during the additional 30% off sale. This sweater is 100% merino wool, very soft and very thick. Well worth the sale price. No quality issues so far, no pilling, etc.

I took this in a size XS. I like a more form fitting look.

Next is the Glen-plaid Sasha Coat. It appears to be sold out on the website, so no clicky. I bought this coat because it was on sale for such a great price... and I am so glad I did! I think it's super cute. It has a more boxy fit but it's still flattering - I like that it has a swingy look to it - very cute. Also love the plaid which is subtle but adds something extra. Net-a-porter is selling it for $300 still, but J. Crew just had it at a sale price of $99.

I went with a size 2 - it is great because it is roomy and there is no problem layering underneath this coat. It's funny because this coat didn't catch my eye at all and I really bought it for the great price... and it ended up being an awesome purchase.

In that picture I am also wearing my favorite style of jeans - 7 for all mankind's straight leg in rinse wash. These are the ones I bought for 30% off at I have other jeans in this same brand and style, and needed another.

For me, 7 for all mankind fits true to my waist size. Strange, but in light color washes, I find they stretch out and I size down one size. I also bought 7FAM's newest fit "the skinny bootcut" - no picture because they are really long and need to be hemmed, but I really like them - the fabric is definitely different than my other 7fam jeans - true to the product description on their website, this is a very stretchy, tighter-fit fabric - but my regular waist size still fit.

Nextttttttt.... another J. Crew coat - the Stadium Cloth Peacoat with Gold Buttons, in Navy. I also got this with a 20% off code, yay!

Sorry this pic is sideways... I really like the stadium cloth fabric - it feels very very warm and looks and feels rich and luxurious in my opinion!

I listened to my blogger friends and went with a size 4 in this, as I heard it runs a little snug - and the 4 is perfect. Can't wait to wear this coat!

BTW can you see my shoes in that last picture? They are the Cole Haan Air Astrid flats in Beige. They are MUCH lighter (in color) than I thought they would be (you were right Ehayes!) I bought them on major sale at Neiman's. They are super comfy and TTS. The downside is I think they are really plain and sort of boring, and I thought the color was going to be a rich camel color, which it is not... I feel it's sort of a "matronly" (OK, GRANDMA-Y) color.

Keep or return?

And, OMG FINALLY, the final product.... which I am in love with. The J. Crew Studded Ballet Flats, which I also had a coupon for (nice, J. Crew with all the recent coupons...).

They run TTS, they feel extremely well made, the leather is so soft and supple.... I love them. Can't find any sort of fault with these.

Their awesomeness, combined with my "blah-ness" over the Cole Haan flats prompted me to run out (well, run to the computer) to buy one more pair of J. Crew flats, the Kerrington flats (currently on sale) in metallic pewter.

I'll let you know how I like these when they come in.

And that's it. And please don't add up all my purchases. I don't want to know. ;)



PPS - Am I a huge blonde or what? I didn't even post about my ball dress! I guess I'll save that for tomorrow. ;)