Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Showering Vander

With only 8 more weeks to go, I am starting to "nest" as they say and slowly slow down my crazy traveling frenzy.  In the 7 months I've been pregnant, I have taken 7 big trips - Korea in January, Nagano in February, Kyoto in March, Thailand in May, Okinawa in June, Hong Kong in July and Hiroshima in August...with several side trips all over Japan in between.  These last two months however, I am trying to NOT go anywhere far and instead focus on getting things ready for the baby's arrival.

Two weeks ago I had not one, but TWO showers!  The best part was, my mom was in town and got to "attend" both!

One was an online shower hosted by my two aunts in Texas.  All my cousins got together and had a party complete with blue helicopter decorations and yummy blue themed food all in Vander's honor!  They showed me and my mom everything via the computer and opened Vander's presents while we watched through a computer screen from a million miles away!  Oh technology what would we do without you!?!?

 (Pardon my slouch, we were actually in a hotel and had been touring around Hiroshima all day...it was after midnight our time and this preggo girl was exhausted!!)
My adorable cousins all trying to get in the camera view to talk to me!  So cute!  They even choreographed dances to show me and all made Vander cards as well as the the shower decorations!

The second shower was held here in Japan and was hosted by two of my very best girlfriends.  My mom, a couple of my Japanese students and a few of my closest friends attended and it was very special.  (Thank you Rebekah and Sarah....you girls did a FABULOUS job!)
 The theme was Koi (Japanese fish) and blue and teal, which are the colors of Vander's nursery!

EVERYTHING was Koi themed...
They even made the drink bottles look like Koi....clever! (Orangina is my favorite drink these days...it's the only thing I drink besides water, and luckily for me, it's orange, so it fit the theme ;)

Gorgeous flower arrangement put together by my talented friend Mary!  
3 different flavors of cupcakes....my girlfriends know their audience!
 Yumi and Yuki (two of my Japanese students) had never been to a baby shower before...they don't have them here!  Who knew?  It was quite an experience for them to say the least.

 It wouldn't be a shower without a game...for my shower the girls created "Baby Shower Keno"!!!  LOVED IT!  Again, my girlfriends are super clever ;)
When someone won a round of Keno, they "went fishing" for their prize...

Every single detail of the shower was cleverly thought out and planned by my two amazing friends...it was perfect and I absolutely loved it!  Thanks again Rebekah and Sarah!
Ironically Nick's homecoming was the same day as my baby shower!  (He'd been deployed 5 months and was finally coming HOME) After showing him all the shower gifts, we opened up several packages I'd saved for him, (we'd received several in the mail from family and friends in the States) so he too could open up some of Vander's gifts....it was a "shower" of gifts all it's own!  (As you can tell, Beretta has been enjoying all the new things as well ;)

Nick and I have been very blessed by all the amazing shower gifts we have received for baby Vander.  He doesn't know it yet, but he is a VERY loved little boy!  Even being overseas, we have received tons of packages in the mail of precious baby items as well as necessities for him off of our registry!  We feel beyond lucky and are thankful for each and every present we've received!  Thank you, thank you for all who have sent gifts, cards, and words of love and encouragement.  We truly appreciate it all!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hong Kong we meet again....

 Hong Kong is one of Nick and my favorite places we've visited while in Asia, luckily for us, we got to go back a second time this past month!
Nick's ship pulled into port in Hong Kong in mid-July, so of course, I flew out to meet him for a romantic getaway in one of our favorite cities.

We stayed in Central this time, at one of Hong Kong's first boutique hotel's - The Butterfly on Wellington

 Though quaint, it's clean and in the heart of everything...we couldn't have asked for a better location.
Our first night there, Nick got in late, so we walked up the street from our hotel and found a yummy little Thai place.  (After being on the "dry" ship for so long, Nick's first order was a beer!)  
Unfortunately, I didn't get the name of this place, but with so many good eats on the streets by our hotel, it wasn't at the top of our list of favorites.

 After dinner this pregnant girl needed her own version of a cocktail...Gelato!  And as the sign boasted, it was delicious!

 The next day we followed some friends to The American Club.  Now, we never knew such a place existed, but apparently for a steep fee, people can become members of this ritzy club and drink, dine, workout and swim at the two facilities in Hong Kong.  We are obviously not members, but what we found out is, military and their dependents can enjoy the same amenities as members for FREE!!!  (Sometimes being in the military does have it's perks!)

 We dined on the balcony of one of the restaurants, enjoying fabulous food and an even better view!

The Batman building...famous for a scene in The Dark Knight where Batman jumped off of it!  

After lunch we took a bus to Stanley Island

The Stanley Market, lines the streets next to the water.  With various types of street vendors selling their goods in small make-shift shops, it's fun to look and easy to bargain.  We got some artwork and a few souvenirs.   

There are several pubs and quaint restaurants lining the bay, and all with a view...it's easy to forget your'e in Asia when there.
We ate at a fabulous pizza place that's a local chain in Hong Kong, called Pizza Express.  Honestly the best pizza I've eaten since moving to Asia.  Fresh, thick and a lot of different varieties.  

The next day we did a bit of hopping around Central, checking out a few venues as well as stopping by Johnny Jewelers to get my ring cleaned and re-sautered together.  (Johnny Jewelers is a jeweler who has been doing business with the military for years, he comes to the store I work for on base a few times a year and is a reputable jeweler.  He cleaned my ring for me and gave it back to me as shiny as the day Nick proposed!  If ever in Hong Kong, look him up!)
After walking around all day Nick and I grabbed some lunch at Gourmet Burger.  Hong Kong is known for their amazing food (among other things).  Because it's a famous harbor, there are people who live, work and travel there from all over the world.  It's an international hub, with a wide variety of International foods.  You can get your taste buds satisfied with whichever type of food you are looking for.

That day, we were craving BURGERS!  And not burgers like in Japan, REAL burgers.  Gourmet Burgers didn't disappoint.  With burgers so big and juicy Nick and I had to share, and a menu that gave us a few dozen toppings to choose from to add to it.  GM is a "build your own" burger type of place, and build our burger we did....I recommend the roasted garlic aioli sauce!  Yum yum!

That night Nick and I went on a harbor boat cruise.  If there's one thing I recommend, it's riding on one of the many different boats while in HK.  It's a great way to truly see the island.
Many of Nick's friends from his ship were on the cruise as well. 
Last time we were in HK we took a day cruise, this time, we did a night cruise.  We got to watch the sun set, and then see the city buildings all lit up and reflecting on the water!  What a sight!  (I'm a sucker for the water!)

IFC, aka Batman building all lit up at night...

After the boat ride, we dined at one of the floating junk boat restaurants. 

It was a traditional Chinese meal, with lots of different foods shared among those dining at your table.  (I'm still not over my food poisoning from my trip to China, so eating Chinese food hasn't been my favorite lately)

The next afternoon we set out to find a restaurant that Anthony Bourdain had boasted about on his show "No Reservations."

Tim Ho Wan, located in downtown Kowloon, is a tiny Chinese kitchen tucked away, but not hard to find due to it's incredibly long lines no matter the time or season!  And yes, it's worth the wait! 
Not only was this restaurant on Anthony Bourdain's list, but it's the cheapest restaurant in the world with a Michelin Star.  (For those who aren't foodies like us, the Michelin Guide is THE guide for Star restaurants) 

The BBQ pork buns were said to be the thing to try, so of course we did (among many other delicious treats).  These heavenly buns were not only the BEST thing we ate at this restaurant, they were the best thing we ate while in HK!  Sooooooooo good!  AND CHEAP!  

Even though lunch was filling, Nick is a sucker for dessert.  Across the street, a cute little dessert shop boasted of their waffle ice-cream treat....so of course Nick wanted to try it!  (Like I said, Hong Kong is the place to go for food....that's about all we did!)

 Between the restaurant and the train station is the famous Ladies' Market.  There you'll find more street vendors boasting that their products are the best....be sure to call their bluff and bargain them down, otherwise they'll try and rob you blind!

That night we set out to find the wine bar that we'd heard so much about from our friends....   

Each bottle of wine features a different vintage pin-up girl on the cover, too cute!  Nick did a wine tasting, sampling a bit of each wine, while I picked up a couple of bottles to bring home and save for my "post-baby" treat!
We asked the owner of the wine bar for a recommendation for dinner, he suggested Chilli Fagara.  We took his advice and walked down the street to try out this popular place.  (Luckily we went late enough, apparently normally it's impossible to get a table without a reservation)

Some like it hot.... We were warned that the reason this dining place is so popular is because they use Fagara chili's imported from China in almost every dish!  Nick isn't one for spicy foods, but I am a spicy food lover (it's only gotten worse with this pregnancy).  We both however couldn't resist the temptation to try these curious peppers.  Oh and did I mention this restaurant too has a Michelin Star???  Check and check!

As described, the Fagara chili's grab your tongue and literally make your entire mouth numb!  It was some of the spiciest food I've ever eaten but extremely delicious!  (Though Nick and Sarah were hurting from the fire it set to their tongues, they liked the food too)
Our hotel didn't have breakfast, so Nick and I had skipped that meal every day, sleeping in and not venturing out until lunch time.  The last day however, we were determined to eat a good breakfast before leaving HK.

Lucky for us, the night before we'd seen a 24 hour breakfast venue that appeared to serve American-style breakfast right around the corner from our hotel.  (Now if only we'd known about it at the beginning of our trip...)

With one of the largest breakfast menu's I've seen in a while, everyone at our table tried something different and we all did a little sampling!

Eggs benedict, french toast, omelets, crepes...you name it, they have it!  
Our last day in Hong Kong, we had to check out of our hotel by noon but didn't have to be at the airport till 10pm, so we decided to use the American Club's amenities again, but this time at their beach location on Stanley Island.   
Sit by the pool all day overlooking the scenic view of HK island?  Yes please!  And free showers afterwards....why would we say no?

 It was a great relaxing last day with our husbands.  Saying goodbye stinks, so we wanted to make the most of our last day by relaxing with our men!
Dinner at the American Club restaurant ended the day perfectly.
 Until we meet again Hong Kong....And Nick
Very blessed to get to go on these wonderful "port calls" to meet one another, but we're both ready for this lengthy deployment to be over and to be HOME together!