First Paycheque

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Paying for your Parents, or How the Tables Have Turned

I like think of myself as being raised the Chinese way in a British setting, therefore (hopefully!) getting the most out of those two incredibly different cultures. This way of parenting filtered into nearly every aspect of my life, from education (grades did matter, but I wasn't pressured into studying a particular degree subject at university) to extracurriculars (I've had a piano teacher since the ripe old age of 3, but practised mostly when it took my fancy) and eating utensils (chopsticks were used at dinnertime but even mum drew the line at attempting spag bol with them). This was a Tiger Mother upbringing, localised to a teenager in London - and I've turned out okay...right?

However, I do have a few favourite Chinese traditions - one of which is the custom of using your first grown-up job paycheque to treat your parents and extended family. The idea isn't to just give your money away, but to see it as the first real opportunity to express your gratitude for the effort, time and money they have invested in you.

Paying for your parents in whatever means possible seems to be a widespread phenomenon among Asian cultures (other examples here). From experience, I know my parents, aunts and uncles all willingly contribute towards the living expenses and arrangements for their parents. I also remember the proud look on my granny's face when she's taken out to lunch by one of my cousins with their own salaries, and look forward to doing the same very soon.

But first, I needed to treat my amazing Tiger Mama. I surprised her with a meal at Madam Sixty Ate a few weeks ago, and she was proud as anything when I settled the bill with my earnings. She even took a photo of the receipt, which you can see on my Instagram feed (check it out @smallval). Best of all, we went during Hong Kong Restaurant Week, so my graduate salary stretched to a three-course meal! Our favourite dish from the night was the sweetcorn soup, which was freshly poured from a silver pot right in front of us.

My question to you is - how did/would you spend your first paycheque?

This post is dedicated to my personal Tiger Mum - thank you for raising me, just the way you did.

#GetRedressed with A Pair and A Spare

Monday, 19 August 2013

It's time to remake your wardrobe! 

I was lucky enough to attend a DIY fashion workshop within days of arriving in Hong Kong, and it was the perfect way to get immediately stuck into my new life away from London. Hosted by Redress, a local NGO promoting sustainability in the Asian fashion industry, the #GetRedressed workshop was all about reworking old, discarded and/or ill-fitting items of clothing from the back of your wardrobe into an on-trend piece for the new season ahead - all without spending a single penny and buying into fast fashion. No skirt was too long, no shirt was too old, and no jeans were too boring; every participant had an unloved piece that could be transformed through embellishments, hemming, cutouts, and some creative stitching.

The workshop was held at Pizza Express (yay for dough balls!) and led by Geneva Vanderzeil, the DIY fashion blogger extraordinaire behind A Pair and A Spare. Geneva was on hand all night with tips for everyone's upcycling projects, providing inspiration through her personal DIYs and offering tips and tricks she'd learnt through years of experience of cutting and sewing her own (incredibly covetable) wardrobe. She was incredibly sweet, making sure that we'd all had our fill of pizza and were on track with our projects, and even brought along some of her favourite DIY pieces and copies of her book DIY Fashionista to further inspire us.

My project was inspired from her fabulous denim cutout shirt here, and I can't wait to wear my new flannel cutout creation on a night about town once the tropical weather allows for it in Hong Kong. That Zara flannel shirt had been languishing at the bottom of a drawer, unworn for over a year, and I couldn't be more pleased with it's update. I couldn't have done it without the help of graduate fashion designer and volunteer for the night - Tina, as well as Geneva's guidance, and can't wait to take on my next DIY project now that I'm armed with ideas (and basic sewing skills, of course)!

A huge thank you to Redress for organising a fun and informative workshop, Pizza Express for the location and food, Geneva for lending us her DIY fashion know-how for the evening, and all the incredible fashion design volunteers who gave up their time to make our upcycled fashion dreams become a reality. Be sure to read more about Redress and its founder, Christina Dean, for more on how to contribute towards sustainable fashion!

Photos of me by Gensen Chan for Redress

Iberica La Terraza

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

It's typhoon season in Hong Kong right now. The high wind speeds means that work has been called off for the day, so I thought I'd bring some sunshine back into my life by writing up a sunny meal I had just before leaving London! Iberica La Terraza had kindly invited me to sample their menu two weeks ago; I didn't need to be asked twice...

Sangria in the Sun

London isn't famed for its nice weather, so when the sun was shining during the heatwave, I jumped at the opportunity to eat al fresco style. Normally, this means hosting an impromptu picnic or having a barbecue in someone's garden; this time, I was sipping cocktails in an outdoor terrace in the heart of London's business district. Iberica La Terraza is the third restaurant in the Iberica group, whose specialty is in bringing authentic Spanish cuisine and products to London. Having sampled a range of La Terraza's offerings, from cold cuts (imported chorizo and manchego cheese) to mixed salads (apple, beetroot, avocado and strawberry) and hot dishes (fried squid bocadillo) - I can heartily recommend the food from this charming restaurant. In case anyone is questioning their credentials, the menu is overseen by Iberica's two-Michellin Star Executive Chef, Nacho Manzano. They know what they're doing!

My personal pick from the menu were the Pinchos - small flatbreads with bite-sized toppings - a traditional bar snack or appetiser from northern Spain. The two pinchos in the foreground were my favourites - on the left we have topside veal with vegetable puree (carnivores rejoice!), and on the right is the deep-fried baby squid with aioli. I would choose to have one of these with my cocktail at a bar over peanuts and crisps any day; here's hoping my local pub will have gotten the message by the time I return to the UK...

Don't worry - I haven't forgotten about the drinks. My lovely date for the evening tried the La Terraza house cocktail (gin, cranberries and lime - mmm), whilst I opted for the deliciously fruity Sangria White. Being intolerant towards red wine has meant that I've missed out on past opportunities to sample sangria, and I was glad to see an option with white wine for me to try. I'm ashamed to say I sipped the contents of my jar at an alarming pace; in my defence, it was light, sweet and very tasty - a perfect complement to a sunny summer evening meal out.

My honest opinion? Iberica La Terraza is a lovely setting for a laid-back drink and nibble in the sunshine. It's relaxed atmosphere means that you feel a thousand miles away from the bustling City, when in reality, you are surrounded by tower after tower of office blocks. Bear in mind that the menu is designed for breakfast and light snacks as opposed to full-on meals, and pick a nice sunny day to try it out! They don't take reservations, and can be found at Cabot Square near Canary Wharf tube and DLR.

The Little Graduate and her date were guests of Iberica La Terraza. All views in this post are mine. 

Going Away Gift Guide

Friday, 9 August 2013

A Few Thoughts On Moving Abroad

Moving rooms between university years was stressful, but moving across the world for the long haul takes stress (and a host of other emotions) to a whole new level. The process of relocating from London to Hong Kong has been an emotional roller coaster so far, from the highs of getting a permanent contract in this employment climate to the lows of bidding tearful farewells to my nearest and dearest. I'll confess now that I always thought I'd be okay with putting my career first  (at the very least during my twenties), but when it came to signing on the dotted line, I was terrified; with pinches of excitement mixed in, of course, but nervous nonetheless.

Personally, the full consequences of my decision to move started to sink in during my leaving weekend festivities (this post), when an assortment of friends - accrued from school, university, summer projects and the like - came to London to say goodbye. Holding the "Good Luck" and "Bon Voyage" cards and numerous farewell / "I might never see you again" drinks in hand made the move seem really, well, real. Having begun the process of settling into life in Hong Kong for the foreseeable future, those cards, pictures and other personal tokens I received have really helped with the transition. If anyone back in London (or anywhere else, really) fancies sending me a care package, do get in touch here or via social media - and I will eagerly await the arrival of the Parcelforce box! Only kidding. Not.

Anyway - here's a going away gift guide if anyone close is moving off to pastures new; I can personally recommend each and every one of these as being thoughtful (and reasonably priced) presents that will be much appreciated!

1. A little bit of gold luck - Long Gold Clover Necklace (£35) from Francesca Rossi Designs via NOTHS
2. Something to perk up a phone, aka your new best friend - Hello! iPhone Case (£22) from Rifle Paper Co
3. A card with a difference - Assorted Wooden Postcards (price TBC) from Timbergram
4. Print your Instagram pictures in style - Memory Box (price depending on quantity) from Printstagram