Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

The holidays are quickly approaching and here in Hong Kong there is no shortage of beautiful decorations. The first signs of the season showed up on the escalators. All 800 meters are lined with tiny hanging lights and each of the flyovers has a lighted greeting on the side.

Every mall (and there are LOTS of malls) decorates to a theme and we have been stopping by to see many of them. Individual buildings also decorate and often the route from point A to point B will go through several office buildings/hotels/shopping spots along the way. I always have my camera handy for such moments.

Times Square is paying tribute to 75 years of Lego with their life sized villages both inside and out. A group of Santas are even perched on an I-beam hanging over the crowds.

Harbor City looks like Christmas exploded on the entrance walkway. The individual elements are quite nice, but there is so much in the space it is almost overwhelming. It reminds me of Christmas meets carousel meets Alice in Wonderland meets Dali.

Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong boasts the largest Christmas tree in Hong Kong. It is about four stories high and decorated with Swarovski crystals. Every ten seconds the lights change colors. The mall has wonderful hanging ornaments and even an ice rink.

We went to the flower market and found a woman roasting chestnuts on an open fire. They smelled wonderful.

Our local mall at IFC used textiles to make all of their decorations this year. The lighted fashion tree is quite unique and the giant reindeer are impressive. A few of the trees are knitted, some are woven and some are made from skeins of yearn.

Out wandering with Tamara and baby Sasha we passed through The Landmark where they have built a small mountain complete with a working gondola ride. Their tree was a vision in white. The lighting was also perfect for for capturing a sleeping baby.

In Tsim Sha Tsui the Miramar Mall put together a Christmas Garden complete with fairies and a walk through tree. 

Our most recent excursion was to Pacific Place to take Sasha to see Santa Clause. Preparations were made and she was in a good mood.

Pacific Place has been turned into a winter wonderland featuring ballerinas and all things sparkly.

Visiting Santa was a lovely experience. There is a fee of HK$100 (about $12.50US) which gives you time with Santa, a photo, the option to take two photos on your own camera and a gift of Jelly Belly candies. ALL of the money goes to charity. Boys and Girls Club of Hong Kong is this year's recipient from Pacific Place. Each mall that has a Santa chooses it's special charity. I think this is a lovely way to encourage giving. They even placed a giant chair for family photos outside of Santa's house.

The season is in full swing and there is lots more to see. I am sure I will be adding to my collection of Christmas lovelies over the next few weeks.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Much to Be Thankful For

This is our first Thanksgiving in Hong Kong. Last year we travelled back to Grand Rapids just before the holiday. But since we are staying here for both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, we decided to host a traditional dinner for our friends. We celebrated on Saturday, the 24th since everyone had to work on Thursday.

It started out as a group of five and we grew and grew and grew. By Saturday we were a group of 17. 

Our guests began to arrive and we had a fun group to celebrate with. Janet, of course, co-hosted. She is a fellow Grand Rapidian as are the Heredia family, Jason & Susan and their daughters Perry, Teddy and Ava. Our friend Rommel joined us and we were lucky that his brother Ronald was visiting from Manilla and able to come as well. Vesper celebrated her first Thanksgiving with us and enjoyed the whole event very much. Jeff & Amanda Ge and their daughters Isabelle and Angelina are from China, but Jeff also attended Michigan State. And two new hires to the marketing team also joined us. Jenkin Au grew up in Vancouver and so was quite familiar with Thanksgiving even though the Canadians celebrate in October.(I don't think he minded the later date.) And Penny Ping is from Beijing but graduated in May from Calvin College in Grand Rapids. Calvin is a huge rival of Aquinas I might add. So our group was very eclectic in all ways and we had a lively time with much laughter.

Since ovens are small and turkeys are large we decided to order a pre-cooked turkey from Oliver's. Everyone brought something to add to the festivities and our feast quickly took shape. We did have one glitch for the day. About two hours before our guests were scheduled to arrive, all of the outlets in the apartment blew out. We knew it was a circuit problem, but flipping the one that had tripped did nothing and it also did not explain why the rest of the apartment went out as well. 

So we called our wonderful landlord who got us fixed up with an electrician who arrived 30 minutes later. It was an easy fix, but he wanted to be sure about the connector for the built in oven. So here we are watching him pull the oven out (with the yams and the dressing inside) to check on something that is still working. I kept trying to distract him, but to no avail. So he declares everything is A-OK and we go back to our preparations.

Luckily Janet lives two floors up and we had already planned to heat the turkey in her oven.Between the two kitchens we were all set to cook. (I might also add that we borrowed chairs and stools, dishes, flatware and even a game for the kids. We kept the elevator in use for a lot of trips.) And then when I went to light my oven to reheat the items in there, it wouldn't light. Luckily the yams and the dressing were still quite warm so we just sighed, laughed and moved on.

It was finally time for the feast and Ken introduced the Guest of honor.

We gathered around the table to give thanks for all of the blessings we have been given. This has been a year filled with many ups and downs. In looking back we know that our blessings outweigh our trials and that makes us truly grateful. And though it is always difficult being far from home and family during the holidays, we are most thankful for our friends here in Hong Kong who have helped to make this our home as well.

It was a real treat to once again have a kids table. It has been a long time. And what a gorgeous group of girls we had.

After dinner it was Finding Nemo for the girls and clean-up and chatting for the grown-ups. 

I would not have believed it possible to fit five people working in my tiny kitchen, but we managed to get a nice rhythm going and everything was cleaned up and put away in no time. 

And then it was time for dessert. Janet made two apple pies and brought ice cream for the a la mode lovers and I made a pumpkin cheesecake complete with whipped cream for the top. Everyone descended so quickly I could barely get some photos.

Following dessert it was more relaxing and conversation.

I think the day was a memorable one for all of us. And now the Christmas season can officially begin.