China Travel Diaries - Hong Kong

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Foggy morning overlooking the port of Hong Kong

And now for something completely different! We're going to take a break from the home decor talk for some photos of my recent China trip! My work recently sent a few of us overseas to meet with our vendors in Hong Kong and China and to start prepping 2015 merchandise. I love traveling and the trip was an incredible experience. However, this was my first overseas business trip and it's just not quite the same as going somewhere exotic on vacation, with the working 8-9 hours days and all. Still, I had never been to Hong Kong or China before so it was amazing to finally see them.

We only spent about 36 hours in Hong Kong so I would love to go back and spend more time there. It's such and international place, with most people speaking some amount of English due to the British influence. They also drive on the left side of the street here, unlike mainland China where they drive on the right. Locals who go back and forth between the two have to know how to drive on both sides of the road. I don't know how they keep that straight.

At some point in life I'd like to get back to Hong Kong for a vacation and actually see more of the city. It was foggy the whole time we were there so I didn't get to appreciate how hilly the area actually is. Maybe next time the weather will be better. Stay tuned for Shanghai pictures next!

Hong Kong street shots

Hope you're not afraid of heights - view from the roof of our hotel

Nightly light show over the river

Pretty lighting fixture in our hotel - not that this has to do with Hong Kong, but it's still cool

Little Library Nook

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

While we're on the topic of seating areas, I wanted to set up a little temporary reading nook until we can get the library done. (Again, it's not so much an actual library as a carpeted dining room that we're converting. Seriously, who puts carpeting in a dining room?) My grand dreams include a built in floor to ceiling bookshelf system, a few comfy chair, a side table, and a fully stocked bar. But in the meantime (and until we figure out how to build bookshelves and win the lottery) this little corner will do nicely. 

Originally I wasn't sure what kind of chairs I wanted for the library. My first instinct was a comfy lazy-boy style recliner, even if it's not the prettiest piece of furniture. But we have an old one that was handed down to us and I hate that thing with the fire of a thousand suns. Dramatic much? But seriously, the leather squeaks at every miniscule movement you make while sitting on it, it sticks to your thighs in summer, and is freezing in the winter. Plus I always feel like I'm sliding off it. So I poked around online a little bit to see what was out there, checked out the Chair Style Guide on One King's Lane, and realized that I kept being drawn to chairs with a bit more tailoring. 

I really like the Parsons chair style (and someday dream of having an actual dining room - with hardwood floors!- with Parsons chairs around the table) but I just didn't think that worked for a cozy little reading nook. Because above all else, comfort is my number one requirement when it comes to my furniture. It can be the prettiest/stylish/most trendy sofa or chair in the world, but if I can't curl up on it for hours then no thank you. This especially holds true for reading furniture. I take my reading furniture probably too seriously. 

I think this chair fits the bill for now, it's streamlined and has that modern look, but it's actually very soft and comfy. I'm really into the woodsy meets western look right now (it reminds me that it's winter in the rest of the country even though it's like 70 here and I just had coffee on my patio. Yeah you can hate me now...) and I like how the herringbone pattern goes with the rug and the simple style of the table. We'll see how it holds up after a several hour reading marathon. And while we're talking about decor, you know how in magazines and styled home photos everyone's bookshelves are half empty and styled beautifully with photos and trinkets? Yeah, this is my bookshelf - full to the brim with books and then some. No pretty styling here, and I wouldn't change that for anything. 

(Also, I may have overused parentheses in this post.) 


Living Room Redo: Step 2 - Seating

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Last week we took the living room from beige and drab to white and bright. This week we're adding some color and seating so that I don't have to sit on the floor whenever we have more than 3 people over. And yes, it's still Christmas in these photos. And yes, this is still exactly how my living room looks because I haven't taken them down yet. (What? I've been in China!) 

We finally broke into the wedding money and bought our first non Ikea or hand me down couch. It's amazing. It's from Pottery Barn and is made from this gorgeous linen/cotton blend fabric. It holds up well from the cotton, but has the texture and look of linen. I may have been standing in the store drooling for a while when I first saw it. We went with a very classic silhouette. Although we both really like the mid century look that's coming back in, we wanted something that won't go out of style in a few years. And it had to have comfy armrests so I can lay down and watch tv on it. Those were really my only requirements. I was also really pleased that we got a good deal on this because holy cats nice furniture is expensive! Yay for sales and discounts!

Aside from Alastor Moosey (who we moved from over the front door to over the library so he can still pop against a background), the rug is probably my favorite thing in this entire room. I've been eyeing kilim rugs for months, but just couldn't justify the cost. I also wanted a giant 7x10 or larger rug and those run into the thousands of dollars. Yeah that's out. So I scaled back and started looking for a smaller baluchi, persian, or kilim rug as a runner underneath the coffee table. I ended up snagging this guy for a great deal from on Black Friday. I love it and it adds a great pop of color to an otherwise very neutral room (I'm afraid of colors when I decorate because I keep changing my mind. Colors are a commitment, and changing gets expensive.)

So that's how our living room looks now! We still have a large blank wall behind the chairs that I need to fill with something, but I'm waiting for the perfect piece of artwork. I also want to add something above the front door once I take down that wreath, but that's TBD as well. I absolutely love how it turned out. For the first time in my adult life, I actually have a room that feels like us. No more half heartedly decorating apartments knowing we'll leave in a year. This was the first time I actually was able to sit down and think about how I wanted this room to reflect me and my husband, and then actually do it. It still needs some tweaks here and there, and at some point we'd like to replace the entertainment center since it got a bit destroyed in all the moving. But that's not urgent. For now, I'm declaring this room finished!

Sitka approves of all this as long as I don't touch her couch. Yeah, we lost the no dog on the furniture battle. So instead we shaved her.  Much less dog hair!

DIY: Potato Stamp Curtains

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

This DIY is so easy it almost feels like cheating. In fact, the hardest part is using a sewing machine, and you don't even have to do that if you don't want to. It's so simple a 6 year old could do it. Seriously, google "potato stamps" everything that comes up is based on teaching kids crafts. It's very heartening because if some 5 year olds can do this, well so can I! 

Materials Needed:
- Fabric for the curtains - I used 108" bleached muslin from Joann Fabrics and divided it in 2 so each panel is 54" wide
- A potato
- Knife for cutting out the design in the potato
- Paint - I used acrylic paint from the craft store, but I don't plan on washing these. I have no idea how this type of paint will do in a washing machine. Use fabric paint if you want to wash the curtains. 
- Sewing machine or iron-able hemming tape to hem the curtains 

Step 1: Figure out the design you want. That 5 year old can probably make a straighter line that I can, so instead of free handing anything I went into Illustrator, created a triangle, and printed it out. 

Step 2: Cut one of the ends off the potato. I cut about 1/3 off so I could have a solid base to hold while stamping. 

Step 3: Cut your design into the potato. 

Step 4: If you want straight lines, measure and draw them onto the fabric lightly with pencil.

Step 5: Dip the potato in the paint and stamp it onto the fabric, following the lines. I wanted different shades so I used the stamp 3-4 times before dipping it back into the paint. If you want a more uniform look, re-dip the stamp after every use. Let dry

Step 6: Hem the curtains. I folded over the edges 1/4" and then 1/2" and pinned down. Then I sewed a straight line down each of the sides to finish them. To make the rod pocked, fold the top of the panels over 2" and sew it down.  I hung the curtains, marked where they hit the floor, then took them down and hemmed the bottom.

And that's it! If you don't want to sew anything, apply iron on tape to the long sides, fold over, and iron so they are secure. You can do the same for the rod pocket at the top and the hem at the bottom. If you're still not sure about this, get your kid, cousin, or neighborhood child to help you because according to google, this is a kid's only project. Whatever google, potatoes are cheap and easy to make stamps from and so much more than kid's crafts (or delicious fries).

Living Room Redo: Step 1 - Paint

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Welcome back to step 1 of redoing our living room - painting! Perviously the room was dark, beigey, and begging to be updated. You can see the before photos here. In those photos you can see the swatches of paint that I had thrown on the wall while trying to decide what the perfect shade of creamy taupe was. Notice how the photo above is white? Yeah. 

I must have looked at over 20 swatches trying to figure out exactly what I wanted. I lovingly taped them to the walls, I tried different types of lighting, I looked at them during the day and at night trying to see which little swatch was going to become the color for my new living room. I finally decided on Behr's Powdered Snow which was the perfect shade of warm, creamy, almost white with a hint of tan. 

When we actually painted the walls it turned out white. It was even whiter than the trim and doors, which the swatch I had  orginaly painted on the wall looked much darker. I was freaking out a bit while we were painting it, but you know what? I absolutely love it! It gives such a fresh, clean look to the space and it's so much brighter than before. It's almost like we knocked out another window or something.

I made the curtains and added them to the windows (stay tuned next week for an easy DIY!). I also added some artwork above the tv (which I now realize are crooked in the photo - whoops). These were a super simple, cheap way to add some interest. Total cost - $6.20. Seriously! I bought the frames from a dollar store. I was going to spray paint them with my beloved gold pray paint, but I decided that I actually liked them better black. Then I found deer silhouettes on google, printed them off, and framed them. Done. (Also, the garland isn't normally hanging on the windows, I just happened to take these photos in December and I was way to lazy to take them down. And yes, they might still be up. Maybe.)

We rehung the gallery wall, spacing everything much closer together than before, to make it look more cohesive and give us room to expand as we find new pieces of artwork. We also added the K&S from our wedding to above our bedroom door (which you shall not see because it is a mess). We also rearranged the furniture which you will see next time!

And yes, I did take these pictures in December, thanks for noticing my Christmas decorations

We left one wall tan for an accent. It's not really a bad color, it's just a bit much when it covers your whole house. This way it coordinates with the library and kitchen, both which you can see from the living room. Once we paint the library, I'll update the accent wall to the new color, but we don't have any immediate plans to do that yet. 

Side note, the "library" isn't actually a library. I think it was supposed to be the formal dining room, but it's carpeted. We also don't have a giant table to put in it or host enough get togethers that merit a formal dining room. Right now it holds our overflowing book and wine collection so we affectionately call it the library. It's quite possibly my favorite room in the house for that alone. Once I start redoing that room it's going to be magnificent. But that probably won't happen for another year or so. In the meantime it has as residents our old ugly couch and an awesome rug that I scored on Black Friday. Now I'm way off track. 

Painting! Back to painting. We used 3 cans of Behr Premium Plus Flat Enamel in Powdered Snow W-D-700. The paint itself was ok. It was better than the contractor grade stuff that we used in the bathroom, but it still took 2-3 coats to properly cover the walls. I don't know if it was because we didn't prime anything, or the color went from so dark to so light, or if it was our crappy painting skills. Maybe it was all three, but it took forever and lots of coats. Either way, it was worth it because I am so happy with how it turned out! Stay tuned for next week when I actually learn to arrange furniture like an adult. 

Living Room Redo: Before

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Back in June when we bought our house I had all these grand ideas of redecorating to make the place feel a little more us. We finished stage 1 of the bathroom pretty quickly and I turned my sights on the living room, which was a vast brown, dark, piece of ugly. This took more than a quick weekend to fix, and it's still not quite complete. But it looks so vastly different now that I wanted to share some before photos so you can appreciate what a coat of paint can do.

See exhibit A - ugly builder's brown walls. As I've mentioned before, our ENTIRE HOUSE was painted this color, with the exception of the tiny laundry room and the insides of the closets which are white. We only have 2 tiny windows in the living room and a sliding glass door, neither which let in a lot of light. We had to turn on the lights during the day just to try to brighten the room. (Don't let these photos fool you, I had to digitally blow out the lighting to even get a decent picture.)

Anyway, this room was dark and had lots of ugly going on. Yucky walls, beige hand me down furniture, a gallery wall that was spaced too far apart, no window treatments, and sheets over the couches to protect them from the dog. I wasn't in love with the seating arrangement either, but that's really the only place we can put the tv.

So this is how we lived for 5-6 months. The room itself isn't bad, it just desperately needed a make over and any attempt at cohesive decorating instead of just throwing all the stuff we've collected since college on the walls. (However you can see Alastor Moosey above the door, which is possibly my favorite purchase that I've ever made.)

Stay tuned for the after/in progress photos!

Carry On Essentials

Monday, January 6, 2014

I hope everyone is having a lovely 2014 so far!  I’m kicking it off with an overseas business trip to China. By the time you read this I’ll be (hopefully) asleep somewhere over the Pacific Ocean en route to Hong Kong. It’s a looong flight so anything that makes it a bit more bearable helps. Here's my list of carry on essentials for international travel:

  1. Book/kindle/nook (I’m old fashioned and prefer a book, and yes, I am going to carry this giant thing with me). I’m reading Tai-Pan by James Clavell. Since I’m going to Hong Kong, I figured I’d read some historical fiction about it to get it the spirit and possibly learn something 
  2. Inflatable neck travel pillow. Takes up less space than a stuffed one and can be adjusted to the right comfort level.
  3. Dry shampoo. After 15 hours on an airplane – yikes. 
  4. Medicines – ibuprophen, tums, first aid kit, hand sanitizer, etc.
  5. Sunglasses
  6. Random emergency kit. My friend gave me this for Christmas and it’s fantastic. It includes things like a mini clear nail polish, safety pins, band-aids, tampons, and other misc. items for all sorts of emergencies. 
  7. Business cards in a snazzy holder
  8. Snacks 
  9. ipad/tablet/phone for staying in touch with the world
  10. Eye mask to make sleep easier
  11. Passport
  12. Headphones/chargers/connecting cords stored in a little bag so they don't get lost
Other items not pictured:

  • Laptop for working
  • Scarf which can double as a blanket if the plane is cold
  • Deodorant toothbrush, and toothpaste – again, after 15 hours on a plane it may be needed. 
  • Extra pair of socks for comfort and warmth
  • Extra set of clothes in case the unthinkable should happen and my luggage is lost
  • Extra snack food as well as a bottle of water
  • Make up bag 

Those are my essentials, what are some of yours?

I'm not sure how often I'll be posting while overseas, but you can follow me on instagram: farbluemountains  (if it's not blocked in China, otherwise I'll be massively uploading pics when I get back!)
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