Monday, November 30, 2009

Australian cuisine

Hong Kong has been called a "Gourmet Paradise" due to its variety of food on offer. Perhaps it's not surprising then that there is a market for good ol' Aussie steaks and chips. I've seen three Australian restaurants so far...

By the way, we haven't eaten in any of the above places yet. I guess that's because we've found lots of local places that offer much cheaper menus!

And Woolloomooloo in Sydney spells its name slightly differently to the restaurant.

Tirzah tries on her brother's undies

A low-fat vending machine that my father-in-law would really like

A few weeks ago Craig posted about a vending machine he spied in Hong Kong that sold umbrellas. Well, I've found one even better! We were passing through a train station and saw this vending machine stocked with USB Flash Drives, earphones, iPods, and other computer accessories. You pay with your Octopus card so there's no chance of bills getting stuck or coins getting swallowed by the machine. Just make sure you double-check that you've punched in the right code for the item you want because these selections cost much more than a bag of chips or a chocolate bar!

I don't think these vending machines would last long in Australia, but Hong Kong has a much lower rate of vandalism and petty crime.

I guess this is proof that the vending machine business has really expanded into brave new worlds. In certain countries you can purchase footballs, mobile phones, pizza, digital cameras, underwear, sneakers, beer, jeans, books, fishing bait, and even eggs from vending machines.

So what's next? Laptops? Flatpacked Ikea furniture? Pets? Religion? Hmmmmmmm.......

Koi joy

We were invited to lunch after church yesterday with some friends who live at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The university campus is beautifully presented with lots of trees, green grass, flora and fauna. These pictures were taken when we stopped to enjoy the scenery at the koi fish pond.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Word for the day: KONJAC

These little jelly tubs came in the Christmas stockings the children were given at their carolling event. When I had a close look at the packaging, I saw the words "contains no konjac"printed on the top.

I'd never heard of konjac before and to use a quote from Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, "I don't know what it means, but it sounds pretty bad."

If a food product is trying to reassure me that it doesn't contain a certain ingredient, it must not be something of which I would want to ingest great quantities. So I decided to educate myself via the internet and found that konjac is an Asian yam-like plant often used to make fruit jellies (surprise, surprise). Unlike gelatine and some other commonly used gelling agents, Konjac fruit jelly does not melt on its own in the mouth. It must be properly chewed before being swallowed. However, there have been several reports of young children and elderly people somehow inhaling the jellies and suffocating. Konjac fruit jelly has been subsequently banned in the US, Canada and the European Union.

So try to avoid konjac in your food at all costs.

Hey, it does pay to enrich your word power.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Tonight was the first opportunity to perform the Christmas carols that Jemilla and Keegan have been practising for the last fortnight. Straight after school we took the train in to Tsim Sha Sui and the kids barely had time to get changed before the rehearsal started. Most restrooms in Hong Kong are kept spic and span but this one next to the Cartier shop was truly luxurious. Crabtree and Evelyn products were available for us to use if we so desired. An attendant waited nearby with fluffy white towels for us to dry our hands.

The carols were part of an annual ceremony celebrating the lighting of this ten-foot-tall Christmas tree in front of the 1881 Heritage building in Hong Kong.

The children donned their choir robes and prepared to mount the stage.

There was a huge crowd in attendance with lots of TV cameras and big-wigs in suits, so we lowly parents were unable to get near the stage to watch. I held my camera above the crowd to try to get a picture.

After their three carols, the children left the stage while this man made a speech entirely in Chinese.

Then the children were invited back on the stage where they were each handed an enormous Christmas stocking by another important Hong Kong businessman.

The crowd counted down, and the Christmas tree was lit. You can see Tirzah's silhouette down at the base of the tree. During the ceremony she happily played with her friend Daniel whose brothers were also performing in the choir.

Jemilla and Keegan's stockings were nearly as big as them! It took quite an effort to lug them plus all of our bags and the pram down the subway steps and onto the train...

...but it was worth the exertion when we got the stockings home and could see all the goodies inside...chocolates, biscuits, fruit, jelly cups, candy canes, nougat bars, and so many kinds of nuts! What would have been your favourite treat from this selection?

What's nearly as good as an op shop?

On Wednesday I was able to satisfactorily feed my addiction for exploring second-hand shops due to an invitation to a "clothing exchange". Although I had nothing to offer as my kids haven't outgrown any items since moving to Hong Kong, I was urged to "come anyway and see how it works". The exchange occurred in this apartment block called Granville Garden in Tai Wai, about twenty minutes from Tai Po.

We gathered in the estate club house where I met quite a number of English-speaking mothers and their children.

While we were chatting, the mothers who brought clothes went into another room to organise their items according to size. Then we all drew numbers and waited for our turn to choose what we wanted.

Tirzah especially enjoyed "driving" in this red bus.

Here she is behind the wheel with her friend Monica.

Tirzah and Monica are very close in age. Monica's brother attends the NIS kindergarten with Keegan and her parents come from Perth, so we have a lot in common.

I was number five on the list (yay!) so was one of the first mums to look through the stuff. We were told we could pick five items per child in our family. I couldn't believe it was just free to take in spite of the fact that I hadn't donated anything!

Of course it can't compare to our massive Woodvale Baptist Church babies and kidswear sale, but I still managed to find a pair of shoes and two pairs of pants for Keegan, plus several items for Tirzah for the coming year. I was pretty happy with my freebies.

Once all the mothers had chosen their items, the domestic helpers (maids) were free to take any of the remaining items for themselves or their relatives. I was very impressed with how well it all worked.

You may remember my post about the lack of second-hand stores here in Hong Kong. Well, this seems like a fantastic way for Anglo families to swap and share clothes without having to spend lots of money. I'm keen to go to the next get-together in the New Year which is a toy-exchange. Doesn't that sound fantastic?

Caught in the act

Is Tirzah trying to shift the blame onto her dolly for tipping out my face powder?

Thursday, November 26, 2009


"Wanna go shopping?"my friends Marieke and Debra asked me today.

Well, am I a woman? And am I breathing? Of course I was happy to go!

We drove to a mall called "Elements", located above Kowloon Station in Tsim Sha Tsui. (No, Andy, it's got nothing to do with Bruce Willis or The Fifth Element.) Its design is based on the five Chinese elements and they are as follows: Gold, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth.

Now, the shopping centres in Hong Kong are pretty flash, but so far this one really takes the cake. It is clearly targeted at the upper middle class (emphasis on upper) and features a considerable number of high end shops of which I could safely assume I couldn't even afford the air inside.

And as if those sorts of classy boutiques aren't enough, Elements also boasts a huge cinema and an ice skating rink.

The ice skating rink integrates a pay-by-the-minute concept using the automated Octopus card system. I liked seeing some young children learning to skate by holding on to a penguin-buddy for balance.

Tirzah was in a happy mood today, sleeping in her stroller and charming many of the shoppers. She enjoyed looking at the various sculptures, Christmas trees, and especially this silver sequinned car on display. She was most disappointed that she couldn't hop in and have a ride.

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch at a Thai restaurant (you would have loved it, Amanda!) before heading back to school to pick up our kids.

Craig still hasn't asked me how much money I spent at the shops today. Is it because he is afraid of the answer? Or does he know that his wife is way too thrifty to blow a couple thousand dollars on something like a belt...

A post from Jemilla

Hello, everybody!

My life has been very exciting lately!

This afternoon me and my friend Griffin found a kitten (Tabby) stuck up in a tree. Griff went inside and got a cup of milk. I put it below the tree. The cat came closer, but then it ran further up the tree. We tried for about half an hour to get it down but nothing worked. Maybe Hong Kong cats don't like milk?

Yesterday I went to the dentist with my class. The dentist said my teeth were very healthy and gave me a toothbrush. Guess what was on it? (Hint: she's a mermaid.) Yes, you guessed it! Ariel!

In P.E. I have been doing archery. I have to wear a kind of arm band. It is very hard to explain, so you'll just have to imagine.

Yours sincerely, Jemilla Autumn Harvey

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chillin' with chinchillas

Yesterday we spent an enjoyable few hours with our friends the Rode-Christoffersens, whom we know from school and church. After tea, I pried our children away from the exciting collections of Lego and Playmobil to come and have a look at the R-C's pets ... chinchillas.

So what's a chinchilla?

(I'm sure Colin Buchanan could make up a joke about putting one's chin in the freezer, but for the sake of my more intellectual readers I will refrain.)

Basically they are a kind of rodent. They reminded me a bit of sugar gliders or bush-babies. As chinchillas are illegal to own as pets in Australia, it was our first time seeing them up and close.

Chinchillas are nocturnal and herbivores. These ones seemed very clean and their cage was practically odourless.

According to the R-C's, their lifespan is around 15 years. These chinchillas recently had two babies, which was a surprise to their owners as the R-C's were told they had bought two male chinchillas!

Apparently, they can't bathe in water because their fur is too dense and doesn't dry properly, leading to fungal infections. Instead, they roll in special sand to keep their fur soft.

Rodents or not, they are extremely cute little animals. However, I noticed that my kids and my fearless husband declined to have a cuddle with the chinchillas.

When I googled chinchillas, I discovered that they are enormously popular as pets in many countries around the world. There is even a humorous range of Chinchilla Art from this site (see below).