Thursday, November 29, 2012

My $6.50 Haircut

Yesterday I bit the bullet and decided it was time to get a haircut HK style...I went to QB House, a mini-salon that promises haircuts in 10 minutes for $50 HKD ($6.50 US):

I was skeptical, but my hair is forgiving. I walked for about 10 minutes down to City One, the QB House is located right under the MTR beside exit C. I opened the door and an Asian man smiled at me. I said, "I need a haricut." (What else would I be there for, right?) He pointed to the Octopus card reader and said "only Octopus." I pulled out my Octo card, happy that I had just recently added money at the MTR station, and he scanned it and pointed to the chair. I love that I can use my octo card for so much in this city!

I held my thumb and finger about 3/4 of an inch apart and gestured "all over" with my hands.

"Yah, yah."

I watched the little screen in front of me that explained that all QB hairdressers are trained in Japan. And then showed funny you tube videos of the giant wave pool in China that had thousands of people in tubes.

My stylist did a fine job, finished in 9 minutes, and vacuumed me off. That was a new experience.

Obviously, I am not a hair diva who needs a head massage and expensive shampoo.
I am one happy camper:) 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Photo Christmas Cards...75% off....with free stamps!

I have to tell you all about this great deal, because, well, it's a great deal. I bought my cards from last year and they were an amazing value! Right now, Nov 21-25, they are 75% off...but here's the thing: cardstore will mail them for you for free! Enter the names/addresses of your recipients and let them do all the work. Bottom line: get a great deal on the cards and don't pay any postage! Of course, you can have them shipped to yourself if you like, but you don't have to. I'm a little undecided on this since I like to add a personal note, but for those of us overseas, you really can't beat this deal! And there are literally HUNDREDS of choices. I particularly like that I can add up to 10 photos on my card and even write a little mini-letter.  Just go to and add the code CCN2175 at check out. Happy card shopping!

Here's one of my faves:
Counting Our Blessings 5x7 Flat Card

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Memories

Wow! Spending Thanksgiving in Hong Kong has caused me to look back over my previous 43 Thanksgivings (or the ones I remember at least) and make me realize how truly blessed I am. A few things that bring a smile/tear:
Photo: There are Always Countless Things to be Thankful About
Add caption
(my mother would have LOVED this)

From the early Maine years:

-watching my Dad carve the turkey and my mom make homemade bread
-the men-folk going hunting before/after the big meal
-extended family coming home from out-of-state
-bumping elbows with my left-handed nephew around the crowded table
-not knowing that mis-matched glass-ware "mattered"
-really hoping it would snow
-a walk "around the square" on a night so cold/dark no  human should have been outside
-my niece burning her GED study guide
-my sister breaking her wrist
-a pot of homemade cranberry sauce sitting in a snow bank cooling off
-picking a butternut squash to bake from the dirt cellar
-watching the Macy's Day Parade

From Word of Life:

-not going home because Christmas break started right after
-families coming to eat at the college, but not mine
-huge turkey ice-sculptures

From IWU college years:

-going to the Methners in Mich (and watching movies and going to Bronners)

Married life in IN:

-going to Michigan and getting to know the in-laws and the infamous turkey fights
-a very special Thanksgiving with our landlords the day we brought Abby home from the hospital

Life in NC:

-learning how to make all those different dishes like green bean casserole (confession: I love it!)
- inviting people over who had no other family, which became a wonderful tradition
-Mr. Poole and his Persimmon Pudding
-Toad many memories!
-Thanksgiving with the Farlows
-Abby's first cheesecake
-Tommy Cookies!!!
- making the Black Friday list
-buying the Christmas tree at Spillmans and drinking hot cider
-the Monroes bringing the turkey and a sense of family
-PIG and Jack and Termite
-my husband reading the Psalms (His love endures forever)

I could go on and are a few pictures that I could find, in no particular order:

So many blessings, so many friends. And while life changes constantly, one thing has remained the same: God's bountiful blessings...AND.....our tablecloth (the white one in the picture), which we have had for 11 years now. Every year, wherever we are, we ask everyone to write down one thing they are thankful for. What a blessing to look back on it all now, with a few gravy & cranberry stains here and there. Some traditions are special. I look at the tablecloth now and wonder where it will be in 20 years, 30 years....50  years....

Monday, November 19, 2012

11 new freebies!!

Haven't posted freebies in quite awhile. I realize HK readers may not be that excited about them, but you can do what I do and send them to someone you know stateside who will appreciate the mail. Some of mine go to my college-aged daughter:

Free L'Oreal shampoo sample (facebook):

Free Walmart sample of Prilosec OTC, new Wildberry flavor:

Free Target sample of Tums Freshers:

Free samples of Mrs. Dash seasoning, 20,000 a day (facebook):

Free Live Better America calender (must sign up for membership):

Free Aveeno Shampoo sample:

Free Pillsbury calender (must sign up with Pillsbury):

Free Centrum Flavor burst chews:

Free Betty Crocker calender:

Free sample of Calico Minerals skin care:

Free Folger's sample (facebook):

I am having withdrawal symptoms just looking at all the freebies being handed out at Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid on Black Friday. I am not much of a Black Friday shopper, but I always went to these three stores as soon as they opened and came away with a stash that lasted a good part of the year. This year promises to be even better!! You can check out the deals at Just click on the link for the store you are interested in. And do some freebie shopping for me, please.

Stovetop Rice Pudding

(thanks to yummly for the photo)

I LOVE rice pudding, and until I moved to Hong Kong, I had only ever made the tradtional oven baked custard style. However, I eat rice much more frequently here and consequently have more leftover rice sitting around. There was actually a stove top rice pudding recipe taped to the inside of the kitchen cabinet door when I arrived. I had never heard of such a thing, but thought it was great and have since looked up similar recipes online. Here is the one I like the best, tweeked a bit:

1.5 cups cooked rice
2 cups milk (I like evaporated, but any kind works, even cream)
1/3 cup sugar OR brown sugar
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup raisins OR golden raisins OR dried cranberries
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
pinch of nutmeg (optional)

Combine the rice, 1.5 cups of milk, and sugar. Cook over medium heat in a non-stick pan for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until thick and creamy. Stir in remaining milk & beaten eggs; cook for two more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in butter, cinnamon and vanilla. Personally, I like nutmeg in my rice pudding, so I sprinkle this on top before serving and do not use cinnamon. To each his own on that one:)

Serve hot plain of with more cream, ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Meat Buying in Hong Kong

Since I haven't been quite brave enough to buy meat at the wet markets:
I've been blessed to find a few good alternatives. One of the first places we went here was a small store in Tai Wai called Texas Food Supplies, Ltd. (I know, could it MORE American??) It's only about a 7 minute walk from the MTR and the prices beat all the local grocers for good Western style meat. Most of the meats are from the US, Austrailia or New Zealand. They also have very good sole filets from Vietnam. Since finding shops can be a bit of a challenge, here is a visual for you. Take the MTR to Tai Wai. Go out exit A and turn right. Cross the street in front of you at the first place to cross (see pedestrian in this pic) and then walk across this overpass:
Cross this street and keep going straight here:

At the next street, Shing Hing, turn left:

The store will be just two down on your left. As you can see, it's not a very busy area:

Don't let this small display scare you! There is a lot more in the back. The man (owner?) speaks very good English. They have list you can look at and anything not on display they will get from the back. They are very willing to put items in smaller packs for you. They also have an assortment of spices and wines:
On my last trip I bought this small pack of bacon bits ($16HK, $2US) which I like to use for brocolli salad, cheddar brats ($35HK, $4.5US), nurumburger sausage ($28HK, $3.75US) and boneless skinless chicken breast, 2 kilos/4.4 pounds ($56HK, $7.50US--or $1.70 a pound US) The pack contains about 8 large chicken breasts.

Our school has something of a coop, so I buy meat there also. I have heard from other colleagues that their apartment complexes sometimes form coops also, so you might want to check into that.
Here is the link for Texas Foods. Look on the left side for the price list..all in English! They deliver for free for orders over HK$1000.
Happy Carnivores:)!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My 50 Dollar IKEA Patio

My husband has a green thumb, especially when it comes to all things flowering. We had gorgeous rose gardens in the states, at both houses that we sold.When we moved to Hong Kong, he mourned the loss. "What will I do on Saturdays if I can't tend my yard?" I've heard it often, nearly every Saturday, to be precise.  We've been here for a little over three months, and the question was often followed by a statement: "I need to buy some plants and patio furniture."
Now, the fact of the matter is, we only have this apartment for one year. It is located at the school, and next year we have to find our own. While this apartment has two lovely, large patios, the chances of that happening next year are slim to none. I saw no point in getting furniture. Still, he was undaunted. He wanted to sit on the patio and drink his coffee, he said.  I caved, and now I'm glad I did.
About two weeks ago, we headed to the local IKEA, where we picked up these two lovely wooden folding chairs, the table, and the plants (one from IKEA and one from the wet market) for right around US $50. It was a nice compromise, and even I have enjoyed sitting outside occasionally!
For you HK readers, IKEA had several options, and we did check out asiaexpat first. In the states, I'd recommend Craig's list or yard sales. I frequently saw patio furniture at both.
Here's to flowers and making our spouse happy:)!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Corrie and Me, a book review of sorts

Last year, on October 15, I started a "gratefulness jounal." Every day (well, OK, I missed some days, but I always went back and filled in...) I wrote down at least 3 things I was thankful for that day. It is a beautiful thing to read back over all these blessings now. How quickly we forget all that God does for us. How nice it is to be reminded.
I have asked the Lord to continue to grow me in this area. This grateful living. How I struggle living, thankful, in the moment-by-moment. But He has been answering,  as only He can. Recently, it's been in the form of books:
(thanks to my grace is sufficient)
Last night I picked up a copy of The Hiding Place, the biography of Corrie Ten Boom. Like me, I'm sure many of you know her story. I had read the book over 30 years ago, and I saw the movie as a child, but as I opened in the middle and read to the end (unable to put it down), I was touched again by the faith of this woman.
Corrie was a Dutch Christian watchmaker when the Nazis began their occupation of Holland. She lived with her sister and father in a small home above the watch shop. As the persecution of the Jews grew worse and worse, Corrie's family contructed a secret hiding place behind a closet in their home, and they took in anyone who needed a safe place. Eventually, the family was caught and thrown in prison for aiding the Jews. Corrie was in her 40s when this happened; her sister older still and her father was an elderly man who died after only 10 days in prison.
The story is miraculous on so many levels, from the way God shut the eyes of so many to the very particular prayers He answered. But what is truly remarkable is the gratitude shown by Corrie and her sister Betsie under the most deplorable, inhumane conditions. At what would be their last concentration camp, Ravensbruck, they were forced out of bed at 4:30 each morning and made to stand in the sleet and cold for sometimes two hours during roll call, with nothing but a thin dress. This was followed by 11 hour days of back breaking physical labor with only a small crust of  bread and thin soup. They were women crammed 10 to a row on fetid straw-covered boards stained with human filth, literally crawling with lice and fleas; starving to death, immaciated and sick, they clung to God. They had a tiny Bible (the very ownership a miracle) which they read each night to as many of the 70,000 women who could hear. Betsy would read in Dutch and German and then the other ladies would translate each verse in many other languages. And then they would thank God for it all: the fleas, the cruel guards, the ability to help others.
"Fridays: the recurrent humiliation of medical inspections....we stood, erect, hands at sides, in the freezing hall, naked in front of the jeering guards...stick thin legs and stomachs bloated with hunger....One of those mornings as we stood there, shivering in the cold, another page from the Bible leapt at me, "He hung naked on the cross." I leaned over Betsy's shoulder blades, sharp against her blue-mottled skin, and whispered, "Betsie, they took HIS clothes too." Betsie gasped, "Oh Corrie, and I never thanked Him..."
"I would look about as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face. More than conquerors...It was not a wish. It was a fact. We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute---poor, hated, hungry. We are more than conquerors. Not "we shall be." We are! Life in Ravensbruck took on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One life, the observable, external, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory."
Corrie was released a week after Betsy died in Ravensbruck and spent her life telling the story of God's love and forgiveness.
Here's the original 3 minute movie trailer. You can watch the whole thing for free on You Tube, just search "The Hiding Place:"


My (half-price) Cruise on the Queen Mary 2

(thanks to dippity for the photo)
I promised my facebook followers a blog post on how I managed to sail on the QM2 for (nearly) half price, so here it is! I realize that taking a cruise in general is not considered a thrifty vacation, but if you're going for luxury, you might as well get it for less. More and more, cruises are becoming a frugal way to see the world. When you factor in lodging, transportion costs and meals, this all-in-one way to travel can be a true deal.

Why the QM2? The Cunard line is known for being one of the higher end cruise lines. The QM2 is their newest and largest ship--the largest ocean liner (not cruise ship) in the world. An ocean liner is built specifically to make transatlantic trips, and that is what the QM2 does best. It's hard to describe the size of this ship, which is twice as long as the Washington Monument is tall, without being on it or seeing it in person. Mike and I were living in Maine when she made her maiden voyage up the east coast in 2004. We made the trip to Bar Harbor to see her and it was quite a show with much hullabaloo and fanfare. It was worth it. I'll never forget driving onto Mount Desert and seeing her smokestacks towering over the smaller islands. She made the other cruise ships look like toy boats. As we sat there that day, watching this beauty and all her bejeweled guests and listening to the bands play, I remember thinking to myself that if I ever had the chance to sail on her, I would. I went home and looked up the prices; reality told me it would be a long time before that dream came true!

Fast forward eight years. We sold our home in NC for a small profit, enough that we no longer had to worry about keeping up with a mortgage or the money needed to transition to Hong Kong. It was also our 20th wedding anniversary, and I wanted to plan a trip to celebrate the occasion. I had several items on my "bucket list" and I thought I might be able to combine at least a couple of them: being in Boston on the 4th of July, going to Nova Scotia and seeing Phantom of the Opera in NYC. As I began searching for all these items on the internet, I came upon a bucket list item I had hardly deemed thinkable: a 5 day cruise on the QM2 leaving from NYC and going to--get this--both Boston (on the 4th) and Nova Scotia!! I was pretty excited, until I saw the price...over 3 grand for two people. Undaunted, I began to look at discount cruise sites. Prices there were better, but not great. I had less than a month to plan the trip and I really wasn't sure what to do. So, I waited. And in this case, procrastination paid off. At this point, I can't remember the exact original price of the cruise, but waiting until two weeks before the sail date, I was able to get an inside cabin for just a little over half the original price! I found my deal on, but there are other similar sites, such as, and All of them offer phenomenal prices if you are able to wait until the very last minute...which also could mean you wait one minute too long and miss out entirely.

Anyhow, we left one day early and drove to NYC from Maine. I had enough reward points saved up on my Wyndham reward card that I was able to get a room at the Wingate in downtown Manhattan for free! It was a very nice room, within walking distance of  everything we wanted to see while we were there:

We went to see Phantom of the Opera, went to the top of the Empire State Building, ate a hog dog from a street vendor, attended Redeemer Presbyterian (no, Tim Keller wasn't preaching...drat), hailed a yellow taxi, hiked through Central Park, went to Times Square, rode the wooden elevator at Macys and got a corned beef on rye from a corner deli--all in less than 18 hours!! Many of these items were on the bucket list also:

Finally, we boarded the ship, and me, who is pretty much a cruise newbie, was blown away by the opulence. She has her detractors, but honestly, I don't know what people are looking for. Every inch is exquisite. Our stewards were so attentive and came within seconds of our ringing for anything. Here we are going under the Verranzano Bridge (you think for certain it's going to take down the smokestack) and going past the Statue of Liberty:

QM2 has the largest at sea library, a huge production theater and a movie theater, the only planetarium at sea, four pools, the obligatory casino and countless pubs and restaurants.  There are so many activities to choose from each day. We went to the movies, had high tea, heard Historical lectures and Juilliard performances, hung out in the library,  attended the Black and White Ball, and went to a couple of theater productions. We ate in the Brittania Restaurant each evening (a dress up affair) and had incredible 5 course meals including (but hardly limited to): lobster tail, duck l'orange, filet mignon, smoked salmon, sturgeon caviar, duck liver pate, 5 new cheeses each night (with names I didn't even recognize), baked alaska, creme brule, champagne mousse and so much more. Here are a few visuals for you:
Going to see Tintin

pointing to Dean Martin, who sailed on the original QM

a nice place to have tea and watch for whales

meet the captain night
grand lobby
On our way to Halifax, I saw some whales making a show, along with dolphins looking ever happy...another item marked off my bucket list. Our day in Halifax was delightful. After being greeted by bagpipes on arrival, we spent the morning walking around the city and then took a bus tour to Peggy's Cove, a picture perfect fishing village:


Then it was on to Boston, my all-time favorite city. Because we know our way around (very generally speaking), we opted to walk into town from port. We hiked up the famed cobblestone Acorn street and had clam chowder at Fanueil Hall before retiring to the ship to watch the fireworks. With all the guests watching from the top deck, the rain let loose, and the fireworks...fizzled. But honestly, I didn't mind at all. It was the trip of a lifetime for me, one I will never forget. All-in-all, NYC included, it set us back but just a tiny bit over 2 grand. $100 for each year of marriage. Knowing it was paid for up front: priceless. The memories will hold me a lifetime: