FLOTPRC Fashion: Li Pengyuan, The Glam Ma’am of China

Happy Good Friday, Stiletto-istas!

While everyone is away on holiday (it seems) this Easter weekend, we’re bound to our desk working like bananas so, for a lunchtime break, I thought I’d share with you one of my latest mini-obsessions: fashion policing the new FLOTPRC (First Lady of the People’s Republic of China), the glamorous Li Pengyuan, wife of China’s newly-appointed president, Xi Jinping.

After all, one of our more popular posts in the recent past was our FLOTUS fashion face-off between Michelle Obama and Ann Romney in the heat of last year’s US presidential elections (click here to view that post).

As China is close to our hearts (literally, we do live here after all) and as the world’s media – from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, Vogue China to the fashion pundits at our favourite China-watching blog, the Shanghaiist – have all been weighing in on Madame Li’s outfits this week as she accompanies her husband on a whirlwind official tour of Russia and Africa – we thought, heck Becks, we might as well join in the fun!

The new First Lady's choice of a tailored dark coat accessorized by a turquoise scarf and tailored leather black handbag (looks like a Tod's but apparently is not - China media saying that it is not a designer brand) sparked copycats on Chinese online shopping portal Taobao

The new First Lady’s choice of a tailored dark coat accessorized by a turquoise scarf and tailored leather black handbag (looks like a Tod’s but apparently is not – China media saying that it is not a designer brand), upon arrival in Moscow, reportedly sparked copycats on Chinese online shopping portal Taobao.

The new First Lady has a preference for smart tailored suits when travelling - making her look very polished and put together. Here she matches a creamy white embroidered suit with a white tailored bag and pretty crocodile skin peep toes. A refreshing touch? She recycles wearing that lovely turquioise scarf.

China’s First Lady Madame Li has a preference for smart tailored suits when travelling – making her look very polished and put together. Here she matches a creamy white embroidered suit with a white tailored bag and pretty crocodile skin peep toes. A refreshing touch? She recycles wearing that lovely turquioise scarf.

During an official event, while exchanging toasts and charming South African president Jacob Zuma, the First Lady donned a gorgeous silk Chinese embroidered jacket with floral motif in light shades of grey and lavender.

During an official event, while exchanging toasts and charming South African president Jacob Zuma, the First Lady Madame Li donned a gorgeous silk Chinese embroidered jacket with floral motif in light shades of grey and lavender.

Another official arrival, another great, crisply tailored suit, this time with a flattering Mandarin high collar, with grey-green and light blue pattern.

Another official arrival, another great, crisply tailored suit, this time with a flattering Mandarin high collar, with grey-green and light blue pattern.

We love how the First Lady is proudly representing Chinese fashion! Here she wears a traditional Chinese jacket with high collar and Chinese buttons, fashionably draped with an embroidered scarf.

We love how the First Lady is proudly representing Chinese fashion! Here she wears a traditional silk embroidered Chinese jacket with high collar and Chinese buttons, fashionably draped with an embroidered scarf.

To those of you who might be somewhat clued out as to what’s hot and happening here in the good ol’ PRC, here’s a little backgrounder on the new First Lady and her grace, charm and sensible yet stylish wardrobe that’s been wowing diplomatic and fashion circles:

Before her debut on the world stage this past week, Madame Li gained fame in China on her own, as a much-beloved Chinese folk singer and opera star. Every year she was a fixture in the country’s annual Chinese New Year star-studded television extravaganza (the same one which saw Celine Dion singing – in Mandarin – most recently).  The First Lady has performed in Lincoln Center in New York and at the Vienna State Opera House in the past but since her husband became China’s vice president in 2007, Madame Li began scaling back her public singing appearances. In 2011, the World Health Organization appointed her as a goodwill ambassador for AIDS and tuberculosis. Madame Li and the President have one daughter, currently a student at Harvard.

As for the low-key designer – Ma Ke – who is behind Madame Li’s tastefully understated wardrobe – the Shanghaiist offers this interesting observation (post below from Shanghaiist):

– quote –

In a society that typically has more money than class, it’s surprising that such a simple and understated designer as Ma Ke should be on everyone’s lips. If the name sounds unfamiliar rest assured she’s soon to be a household name. Ma is helping turn Peng Liyuan, China’s First Lady into China’s Jackie Oh.

Interestingly anti-consumerist and slightly ironic, she is the designer behind the brands Exception de Mixmind and Wuyong. Naming her haute couture brand Wuyong, which literally means “useless”, Ma says she wants to redefine modern luxury, drawing it away from “Western Materialism”, and towards more spiritual factors, as she believes that elements such as time, water and the human spirit are timeless [Shanghaiist Ed.: *eyeroll*].

What does that actually mean? Both brands only use sustainable production, including traditional dying, weaving and embroidery techniques invented by the Dong People of southern China. The fabrics used by Wuyong are actually woven with Chinese loom technology dating back to 19th century. Furthermore, rather than going the route of ultra-elite and ostentatious, as many domestic haute couture designers have, Wuyong’s fashion shows are outside, open to the public and use a collection of modern dancers and tai-chi performers instead of models.

This ecologically and socially sustainable approach seems to have worked, as Exception just celebrated it’s 16th birthday, and Wuyong was the second ever Chinese collection to show at Paris Fashion Week. Furthermore, Exception has generated sales over one billion yuan in 60 stores in China. While many have attributed the First Lady’s coat and bag to Exception de Mixmind, industry insiders have pointed out that they actually belong to Wuyong. The brand has reportedly made over 100 outfits exclusively for Peng in the past 3 months. She will continue wearing them throughout her trip to Russia, Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo.

– end quote –

The First Lady is supporting sustainable fashion in China???
Very fashion forward of her, if I may say so, and if then… KUDOS to the FLOTPRC!

Postcards from the Cleanse: The Farm at San Benito

Since returning from our detox cleanse at The Farm at San Benito, I’ve been reading “Eight Weeks to Optimum Health” by noted alternative medicine practitioner, Harvard physician Dr. Andrew Weil and trying to follow his advice and recommendations for a healthier lifestyle, in terms of diet (lots of broccoli, salmon and garlic this week), exercise (daily 30-minute brisk walks) and stress management (daily 5-minute breathing/relaxation exercises, also taught by our yoga teacher at The Farm).

8 weeks to optimum health

One of the things that Dr. Weill recommends for optimum mental/spiritual health is for us to take some time out each week to commune with nature. Visit a park and simply do nothing, just breathe the fresh air, gaze at trees and plants and let yourself be…just enjoy.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some beautiful postcard-perfect scenes from where it all began to click for me, at The Farm at San Benito. Let yourself enjoy…

The Farm at San Benito

The Farm at San Benito

The Farm at San Benito

The Farm at San Benito

The Farm at San Benito

One of the most enchanting aspects of The Farm was doing early morning yoga at the amphitheatre pavilion and gazing at the mist-shrouded view, with a peacock or two wandering about (below):

The Farm at San Benito

The Farm at San Benito

The creatures populating The Farm provided an endless source of amusement, entertainment and fascination. I couldn’t get a shot of the white billy goat, who was fond of sunbathing near the yoga pavilion or at the spa but would bound away as soon as I approached, but here are a few shots of the preening peacocks (including the majestic white one) and the happy little duckies:

Happy Ducks in Pond

White Peacock

The Farm at San Benito

Have a happy, healthy Sunday, Stiletto-istas!!!

Bali Work-cation: Alila Villas Uluwatu

Our recent Bali jaunt with Herr Hubby unfortunately wasn’t all fun in the sun…it actually was a working vacay – or a work-cation – for moi.Yes, working during your vacation can be a painful drag but at the end of the day, who am I to complain? I’m simply grateful and extremely humbled by the fact that people are willing to give me the opportunity to work and that I get compensated quite comfortably for what I do. And the perks ain’t half bad either, duckies…

I juggle a few working “hats”, as most of you know, if you’ve been following The Bamboo Stiletto for a while. Yes, I blog but The Bamboo Stiletto is simply what I like to do when I have spare time. Just as I like to create hand-poured soy candles, play around with scents, container jars and packaging, and sell them at bazaars. Blogging and soy candles are fun but we’ve all got bills to pay, don’t we, honey bunnies…and blogs and candles don’t exactly rake in the buckeroos.

As our favourite diva, Mimi (the eternally precious Mariah Carey) once said on MTV Cribs as she was sashaying around her fanta-bulous Manhattan penthouse apartment in her pink high-heeled fur-trimmed mules, ” Somebody’s gotta work hard to pay for this s—“. I feel you, Mimi, I feel you, girl!

So, duckies, The Bamboo Stiletto moonlights as a “wordworker” for hire, or, to use the more professional term, as a content development specialist on retainer to a select group of five-star hotels in China. Which basically means I’m responsible for any English language content they might need, from writing press releases to food and beverage promotional material to website content.

My newest major “hat” is as magazine editor for an English-language lifestyle magazine targeted at expats in south China; I springboarded to this magazine from my previous editorial post at a website, which, technically speaking, was my first break into media and incidentally, was offered to me partly because of this blog, The Bamboo Stiletto. Ha! I may not make any money out of this blog but, my dear Stiletto-istas, it has led to the most wonderful opportunities 🙂 See what I mean about being humbled and grateful???

One other major “hat” I do wear is as PR consultant for a bijou collection of extremely high-end resorts, in glamorous locations like Bali and Phuket. I work from my little home office in Casa Stiletto but essentially, I can actually work from anywhere, as long as I have my smartphone, my laptop and a good wifi connection.

The Bali work-cation afforded a perfect opportunity for me to meet and greet some of my clients who are based there. So, for one day while Herr Hubby was happily enconsced swimming, dining & drinking, and even shopping, with my gal pals, I trotted along with my boss, from Seminyak to Uluwatu to Jimbaran for a day of meetings with clients and resort site inspections.

It was a rainy day and I only had my iPhone camera but managed to sneak a few pics – here’s a look at a stunningly beautiful resort that’s a perfect blueprint as a hide-away for the rich, famous and fabulous. Feast your eyes on Alila Villas Uluwatu:

Ocean & pool view from the lobby

Ocean & pool view from the lobby

that same view...

that same view…

the incredible cliffside pavilion hanging over the edge of the ocean...a sought-after venue for weddings. imagine!!!

the incredible cliffside pavilion hanging over the edge of the ocean…a sought-after venue for weddings. imagine!!!

the sheer drop from the pavilion to the ocean down below...Uluwatu is the spectacular southern tip in Bali where the Indian & Pacific Oceans meet

the sheer drop from the pavilion to the ocean down below…Uluwatu is the spectacular southern tip in Bali where the Indian & Pacific Oceans meet

hallways leading to the restaurant...

hallways leading to the restaurant…

We had a quick look at one of the spectacular three-bedroom villas:

ok, each villa has its own private gate like this, in case you have a fleet of limos ferrying you around...

ok, each villa has its own private gate like this, in case you have a fleet of limos ferrying you around…

...and what money (or Mastercard) can buy you.View? priceless.

…and what money (or Mastercard) can buy you.
View? priceless.

view from another angle...remember that cliffside pavilion as a wedding venue? heck, you can have it right here!

view from another angle…remember that cliffside pavilion as a wedding venue? heck, you can have it right here!

I also couldn’t help but admire the tasteful, thoughtful little touches scattered around the resort, such as these:

a little floral, herb and spice vignette at the spa

a little floral, herb and spice vignette at the spa

a charming corridor

a charming corridor

beautiful driftwood installation art

beautiful driftwood installation art

I loved what they used as a condiments tray in the restaurant during our lunch...an old Balinese children's wooden game board. From my childhood in the Philippines, we had a similar one, called "sungka"!

I loved what they used as a condiments tray in the restaurant during our lunch…an old Balinese children’s wooden game board. From my childhood in the Philippines, we had a similar one, called “sungka”!

And speaking of lunch…here’s where this post ends as I’ve got Sunday night dinner at home to prepare with Herr Hubby. Let me love you and leave you with these fantastic images of Alila Villas Uluwatu in your head, to dream about for YOUR next vacay. Wouldn’t that be fabulous, dah-lings???

Toodles!!!

RAW! Chic Vegan Cuisine @The Farm at San Benito

Happy spring fling, sweets!
It’s been a month since our Chinese New Year post and in that time, The Bamboo Stiletto was whisked away by Herr Hubby for a long, lovely, delicious 3 weeks of holiday. Where did we sashay off to on our vacay, duckies???

Well, to sum it all up or else we’ll be here all day: first stop was Bali, Indonesia. To meet up with The Bamboo Stiletto’s dearest gal pals from high school, all scattered now to the four corners of the earth (namely, Los Angeles, Paris, Dubai, Sydney, as well as Cebu, Boracay…and little ol’ moi, representing Chinoise) and converging on the Island of the Gods, solo or with hubby/boyfriend/partner/what evs in tow.

Anyway, more about Bali in another post, dah-lings, and don’t worry, you’ll be getting an eyeful soon…

Second stop of our little vacay was an incredible, life-altering week at The Farm at San Benito, a wholistic wellness resort in Batangas, about a 90-minute drive from the Philippine capital of Manila. Located in the midst of 50 hectares of lush trees, flowers, a lake, a pond, a river, more coconut trees and bamboo that you can shake a stick at and populated by a charming posse of extremely communicative peacocks, ducks, chickens and a prancing billy goat or two, The Farm comes replete with luxury suites and villas, an amazing spa and an awardwinning organic vegan restaurant.

Herr Hubby and I signed up for a one-week detox cleanse, where we had nothing but fresh juices all day and a hot vegetable soup at night. Take my word for it, boy oh boy, by the time evening would roll around, those nightly hot soups tasted like the most god dang delicious gourmet concoctions on the planet! In addition, we were subjected to colon cleansing sessions, spa treatments to help detoxify and availed ourselves of The Farm’s diverse array of daily activities, such as yoga, power walks, boxing, swimming, etc.

My dear Stiletto-istas, I don’t know about you but if I’m going to suffer through my detox/cleanse, I might as well suffer in luxury…at The Farm. Ha! That was very goopster Gwyneth Paltrow of me. Hahahaaa!!!! But seriously, book the Narra Pool Villa, trust me.

Anyhooz, I thought I’d share our super-delicious “last meal” at The Farm before detox began, which is basically the vegan meal which constituted our last full meal before going on the juice and soup diet. Any preconceived notions I had of vegan food being bland and boring disappeared when I tasted the food at The Farm, where they specialize in mostly raw cuisine (85% raw, only 15% cooked). Check these out and tell me, aren’t these just HELLA SCRUMPTIOUS???

Nori maki rolls with green asparagus & radish

Nori maki rolls with green asparagus & radish

Cucumber ume salad, followed by wakame & grilled scallion soup

Cucumber ume salad, followed by wakame & grilled scallion soup

Alive! udon noodles in shitaake miso broth & oyster mushrooms

Alive! udon noodles in shitaake miso broth & oyster mushrooms

Chocolate (made of organic cocoa) dim sum with fresh fruits

Chocolate (made of organic cocoa) dim sum with fresh fruits

I had headaches in the afternoon of my first day into the juice diet and nausea on the evening of my second day, but after breathing exercises I learned from our yoga teacher at The Farm which, astoundingly, truly worked in relieving my headache, coupled with a good night’s sleep, by the third day, I bounced back with a noticeable uptick in energy. And my energy levels from there just took off. By the end of the week, both Herr Hubby and I had lost weight, trimmed inches off our waists and hips, and felt AH-MAY-ZING!!!  Of course, we are now furiously plotting when and how we can go back…

Meantime, here we are back to reality and the REAL HARD PART: sustaining everything that we’d learned and experienced at The Farm at San Benito. We actually bought The Farm’s recipe book, appropriately called RAW! so we can try out some stuff ourselves at Casa Stiletto. Hey, we’re not turning vegan, ok, but we are making serious attempts at eating healthy. So, get the juicer and blender out of the cupboard!

RAW! The Uncook Book from The Farm at San Benito, with gazillions of yummy vegan recipes!

RAW! The Uncook Book from The Farm at San Benito, with gazillions of yummy vegan recipes!

For a hotelier and a writer/blogger couple such as Herr Hubby and myself, eating healthy can be a bit of a stretch, but we’re gonna have fun trying, duckies.

:-)Ha! Ain’t life a HOOT?

What are your thoughts on raw cuisine, Stiletto-istas? How about vegan cuisine, does it float your boat? Would you like to share some delicious recipes here?…oh, please do SHARE!!!

Celebrating the Spring Festival, Canton-Style

One of the most charming aspects of celebrating the Spring Festival holidays in Guangzhou is the fact that flower fairs proliferate all over the city during this special holiday period.

My Cantonese friends had advised me that it is a time-honoured and beloved tradition in this part of southern China to visit these flower fairs, entire family in tow, to browse the radiantly blooming flowers on display and perhaps buy a good luck offering (or three) for one’s home or workplace for the New Year.

The entrance gate of the Yuexiu Flower Fair, all decked out in festive lights. Such drama, we love!

The entrance gate of the Yuexiu Flower Fair, all decked out in festive lights. Such drama, we love!

Brisk trade in flowers and plants aside, usually there may also be lantern exhibitions and general musical entertainment to amuse the public, as well as masses of peddlers hawking everything from colourful snacks and traditional gifts, such as handcrafted spinning windmills for children to carry, to general rubbish (e.g. ridiculous Angry Bird hats, anyone?). In short, flower fairs are nothing short of all-around spectacles for the senses.

One mild winter evening, Herr Hubby and I grabbed the camera and braved the immense crowds to visit one of the flower fairs in Guangzhou’s Yuexiu district. Oh, how we loved it! We spotted other families of foreigners like us, enjoying the festivities as well.

It was certainly the happiest I’ve ever seen the Chinese people to be (well, apart from the ecstatic crowds during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing). Everyone was in merry, festive spirits – even the cops were all smiling – and why not??? 

Take a look at a few of our snaps  below and you’ll see why the festive mood at the flower fair was so infectious – no winter blues here, duckies!!!

To make sure you've got pots of luck for the New Year, buy 'em up in pots! Makes sense, no?

To make sure you’ve got pots of luck for the New Year, buy ’em up in pots! Makes sense, no?

Festive lanterns lit up the evening sky...

Festive lanterns lit up the evening sky…

...and if pots of luck weren't enough, you can load 'em up by the basketload!

…and if pots of luck weren’t enough, you can snap ’em up by the basketload!

Herr Hubby & I thought these were cute, so we bought a couple. The kitty cat for his office and the elephant for our home/my office...

Herr Hubby & I thought these were cute, so we bought a couple. The kitty cat for his office and the elephant for our home/my office…

...and may the gods of wealth smile benevolently on us all during this Year of the Snake!

…and may the gods of wealth smile benevolently on us all during this Year of the Snake!

On that hopeful note, we end our little foray into Guangzhou’s Spring Festival Flower Fair, our dear Stiletto-istas. Hope you’ve enjoyed the scenery as much as we did that evening.

Have a fabu-LOUS weekend, y’all!!!

Why Hello, Snake! Gong Xi Fa Cai, Xin Nian Kuai Le!!!

We CANNOT believe that it’s been a full MONTH and a half since we last communicated with you, Stiletto-istas…

Indeedy, we had thought that January & February would be the slow & sleepy twins. Aren’t they always. especially for those of us China ressies? Caught in between the frenzied madness of Christmas/New Year and – for those unfortunate enough to be travelling – the chaos of “Chunyun” (also known as the world’s largest annual human migration, when millions of Chinese travel home for the Lunar New Year), January & February have been traditionally regarded in the China-based workplace as a “wash”. In other words, it’s fine if your brain went out to lunch and never came back because EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING THE SAME THING.

Anyhooz, I was all set to snuggle on my couch under a cashmere blankie and for my brain to be junking out for two deliciously lazy months catching up on DVD marathons of Downton Abbey, Revenge, Mad Men, The Walking Dead and the gloriously perverse American Horror Story. Oh – and of course, the final season of Gossip Girl – because, well, DUH! – I just HAD TO find out if Chuck did end up with Blair. I mean, seriously, darlings, don’t you????

Well, snow bunnies, looks like the Snake may slither over with blessings this year because work has been FRIGHTFULLY busy! We still work from home – we ain’t considering anything else – but let’s just say, we’ve thankfully picked up a couple of mighty lucrative and highly enjoyable gigs here and there.

Chucking aside the DVDs (for now) and determined to welcome the Snake and all the good luck that the Lunar New Year brings, we switched out our Christmas decorations in favour of Spring Festival decorations at Casa Stiletto. Here’s a quick Instagram look at our efforts:

Welcoming the blessings of luck & prosperity from the Snake discreetly begins at Casa Stiletto's front door. From our local Metro supermarket, can't remember the price exactly but hella cheap.

Welcoming the blessings of luck & prosperity from the Snake discreetly begins at Casa Stiletto’s front door. From our local Metro supermarket, can’t remember the price exactly but hella cheap.

On the first day of "Chunjie" (Lunar New Year), it is traditional to have a Lion Dance bless your place of business or home. Hang a vegetable offering and "hongbao" (little red packet containing cash in even-numbered denominations only) for the Lion to gobble and he gets to keep the hongbao and you keep the veggies.  Herr Hubby & I were excited that our residential compound arranged a lion dance for residents on the first morning of Chinese New Year and residents could invite them to their home, if they wished. So, we did! And so to Casa Stiletto they noisily and colourfully came, drums and cymbals banging & crashing, two golden lions gyrating & wiggling their tails. I have to say, it was FUN :-)!

On the first day of “Chunjie” (Lunar New Year), it is traditional to have a Lion Dance bless your place of business or home. Hang a vegetable offering and “hongbao” (little red packet containing cash in even-numbered denominations only) for the Lion to gobble and he gets to keep the hongbao and you keep the veggies. Herr Hubby & I were excited that our residential compound arranged a lion dance for residents on the first morning of Chinese New Year and residents could invite them to their home, if they wished. So, we did! And so to Casa Stiletto they noisily and colourfully came, drums and cymbals banging & crashing, two golden lions gyrating & wiggling their tails. I have to say, it was a FUN spectacle!

Gorgeous red lanterns abound during the weeks leading to Chinese New Year, so how could I resist? Picked up a couple from our local supermarket and hung them at the balcony. Love them!

Gorgeous red lanterns abound during the weeks leading to Chinese New Year, so how could I resist? Picked up a couple from our local supermarket and hung them at the balcony. Love them!

One of the most charming aspects of celebrating Chinese New Year in Guangzhou are all the Spring Festival Flower Fairs proliferating in the city. Herr Hubby & I ventured out with the camera one evening & captured the colourful festive sights - more on that in another post - and also picked up this cute little good luck flower offering.

One of the most charming aspects of celebrating Chinese New Year in Guangzhou are all the Spring Festival Flower Fairs proliferating in the city. Herr Hubby & I ventured out with the camera one evening & captured the colourful festive sights – more on that in another post – and also picked up this cute little good luck flower offering.

It's also traditional to have a Spring Festival tree during Chinese New Year, much as we have a Christmas tree at Christmas. Herr Hubby & I searched for something pretty while still fairly traditional and found these little beauties at a flower market. SO gorgeous!!!

It’s also traditional to have a Spring Festival tree during Chinese New Year, much as we have a Christmas tree at Christmas. Herr Hubby & I searched for something pretty while still fairly traditional and found these little beauties at a flower market. SO gorgeous!!!

Here's how the Spring Festival mini-tree looked on our coffee table at Casa Stiletto...and as Valentine's Day this year fell in the middle of Chinese New Year, our mini-tree is flanked by a bouquet of roses, a couple glasses of champagne and a bowl of late-night chicken curry. Hahaaaa!

Here’s how the Spring Festival mini-tree looked on our coffee table at Casa Stiletto…and as Valentine’s Day this year happened during the middle of Chinese New Year, our mini-tree is flanked by a bouquet of roses, a couple glasses of champagne and a bowl of late-night chicken curry. Hahaaaa!

...and check out the roses bloomin' when transferred to a vase. Looks hella beautiful on our living room console table.

…and check out the roses bloomin’ when transferred to a vase. Looks hella beautiful on our living room console table.

What about you, duckies, did you celebrate Chinese New Year in YOUR part of the world???
As we hunker down for the weekend, our dear Stiletto-istas…from the hearts of Casa Stiletto to yours, we would like to wish you a Happy, Healthy and Sizzlingly Prosperous Year of the Snake!!!
Gong Xi Fa Cai, Xin Nian Kuai Le, Happy New Year!!!

2012 in review: Thank You, From the Depths of My Stiletto-Crazy Heart

Darling Stiletto-itas! We received a delightful surprise in our Inbox today. Something enthralling, gratifying and, ultimately, humbling.

Before sharing the “deets”, please allow me to just say that I wish I could gather each one of you up in my arms – yes, including you, who’s sitting there right now in your robe & jammies in front of your computer, drinking your coffee in your corner of the world – and give y’all a great, big group HUG! Yes, that’s how I feel right now, right down to the depths of my stiletto-crazy heart.

Since I can’t hug all of you (obvz!), I’ll just have to settle for posting this below for all of you gorgeous duckies out there:

THANK YOU!!!!!

THANK YOU!!!!!

So, quelle surprise??? The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys have prepared a 2012 annual report for The Bamboo Stiletto. Check out the fascinating “deets” below!

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 10,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 17 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

A New Year of Fierce Fabulousity for Us All!

It’s been a while, my darling Stiletto-istas, but yes, NEWS FLASH! Although on life support for the past couple months as the madness of the festive season and life in general just threatened to completely engulf us, The Bamboo Stiletto is still alive, kicking up her heels and has not forgotten YOU.

We’re determined to start 2013 fabulously right with a wish for y’all…from my heart & home in Canton, China to yours, my warmest greetings for a Happy & Prosperous New Year, filled with skedaddles of success and style, shoes and smiles and everything pure and good that your hearts desire.

Our recent travels here & there coupled with the festive season – and the curious fact that our work-at-home situation seemed to have racheted up a notch recently – kept us from blogging, peeps, but we made an effort to keep up the holiday spirit in our very own Casa Stiletto with a few little touches that, thankfully, managed not to break the bank. Taking a page from The Thrifty Decor Chick (love her blog!), here’s the results of our decorating efforts at Casa Stiletto (please excuse the poor quality of the photos, which were Instagrammed hurriedly and not really edited properly):

Let's kick off with a simple Christmas welcome wreath I hung on the front door, as well as a couple of lovely poinsettia plants I picked up for RMB 20 (approx. USD 3) each at a local market...

Let’s kick off with a simple Christmas welcome wreath I hung on the front door, as well as a couple of lovely poinsettia plants I picked up for RMB 20 (approx. USD 3) each at a local market…

Our home's entry foyer has a floor to ceiling window looking out onto our small balcony, where I hung twin red "parols" (traditional Philippine Christmas lanterns), which I made my brother handcarry to Hong Kong. Aren't they super-kyoooooot?

Our home’s entry foyer has a floor to ceiling window looking out onto our small balcony, where I hung twin red “parols” (traditional Philippine Christmas lanterns), which I made my brother handcarry to Hong Kong. Aren’t they super-kyoooooot?

Speaking of the balcony, I also picked tiny twin poinsettias, which I plonked into the backs of our balcony giraffes (right-hand side). Now, Herr Hubby swears these are not giraffes but reindeer...it's an ongoing debate in Casa Stiletto.

Speaking of the balcony, I also picked up tiny twin poinsettias while at the local market, then plonked ’em into the backs of our balcony giraffes (right-hand side). Now, Herr Hubby swears these are not giraffes but reindeer…it’s an ongoing debate in Casa Stiletto.

Herr Hubby & I are traditionalists in that we both adore having an Advent wreath at home for Christmas...an easy thing to acquire if you live in a Western or international city...not the case in Canton Town, a bit of a no man's land when it comes to Christmas decorations. What's a girl to do? DIY, darlings! Plonked in a Shanghai Tang candle holder with tea light in the centre!

Herr Hubby & I are traditionalists in that we both adore having an Advent wreath at home for Christmas…an easy thing to acquire if you live in a Western or international city…not the case in Canton Town, a bit of a no man’s land when it comes to Christmas decorations. What’s a girl to do? DIY, darlings! Plonked in a Shanghai Tang candle holder with tea light in the centre! Ta-Da!

It's always good to have sweets lying around the house during the holiday season since people are always dropping by...so I created a little dining room vignette, with a bowl of sweets & choccies which I just top up regularly.

It’s always good to have sweets lying around the house during the holiday season since people are always dropping by…so I created a little dining room vignette, with a bowl of sweets & choccies which I just top up regularly.

Each of our bedroom (and my home office) doors had a Christmas stocking...as I discovered the miracle known as Blue Tac!

Each of our bedroom (and my home office) doors had a Christmas stocking…as I discovered the miracle known as Blue Tac!

In the hallway corner outside our bedrooms, I created a cozy Christmas vignette with a tiny tree flanked by modern angel lamps and our resident polar bear, Knut.

In the hallway corner outside our bedrooms, I created a cozy Christmas vignette with a tiny tree flanked by modern angel lamps and our resident polar bear, Knut. Tree & angels by Ikea.

For the life of me, I've never figured myself as a DIY chick or a craft-sy kind of girl, but for some reason this season, the homemade candle bug bit us. Ordered a candle-making kit from Australia, sourced festive jars in China and presto! we were on a roll with our Christmas gifts...

For the life of me, I’ve never figured myself as a DIY chick or a craft-sy kind of girl, but for some reason this season, the homemade candle bug bit us. Ordered a candle-making kit from Australia, sourced festive jars in China and presto! we were on a roll with our Christmas gifts…

...and here's the gifts waiting under the Christmas tree. We searched the local market high & low for this tree & while she may look a little scraggly (and decorated hastily), as you can see, she's potted...so we're keeping her, take care so she stays healthy all year on our balcony so her beauty will grace our home again next Christmas!

…and here’s the gifts waiting under the Christmas tree. We searched the local market high & low for this tree & while she may look a little scraggly (and decorated hastily), as you can see, she’s potted…so we’re keeping her, take care of her so she stays healthy all year round on our balcony and her beauty will grace our home again next Christmas!

How did YOU decorate your home this season, duckies??? We’d love to know! Do email me at bamboostiletto@gmail.com, I’d love to hear from you! Till then, STAY GOLD!

FLOTUS (Current & Aspiring) Fashion Face-Off: Obama vs. Romney

Apologies, Stiletto sweethearts! This was supposed to be a Monday Funday post, but as luck would have it, our VPN (virtual private network) conked out yesterday.

So, for the past 24 hours here in China, while VPN-less, we couldn’t access Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, even Google (couldn’t get into Gmail as well), even Yahoo was drifting in and out…and yes, no WordPress either, where this blog, The Bamboo Stiletto, resides. The only thing working was Bing (but WHO really uses Bing, anyway?) Highly frustrating but TIC (This Is China). Sigh!

We had a sneaking suspicion that all this clampdown has something to do with the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party but what’s annoying is that we have NOTHING, NADA, to do with politics, so the guardians of The Great Firewall should just leave us the heck alone!

Ok, rant over…we do think it IS interesting though that during the same period that China is experiencing a once-in-a-decade leadership transition…new Chinese President (and First Lady!) onboard very soon…the USA is also undergoing a presidential election. Interesting, doncha think, duckies????

Anyhooz, even though we’re obviously not voting, we couldn’t escape the media onslaught of the US presidential elections (we do have 2 CNN channels at home, the Asia Pacific one with all the familiar media faces in Hong Kong, as well as the US one, complete with American commercials)…so we just gave up, thinking, why escape?

Instead, we decided to make the race more interesting (for all of us) by fashion policing both the candidates’ wives!

Obama vs. Romney: the epic FLOTUS (current & aspiring) fashion face-off. At the first presidential debate, Mrs. O in cobalt blue dress & jacket by Preen, Mrs. R in custom cream skirt suit by Alfred Fiandaca, a fave of Nancy Reagan & other similar wealthy women who shop at Bergdorf, Henri Bendel & Saks.

So, Stiletto-istas.. I’m proudly presenting the mother of all epic fashion face-offs, current FLOTUS Michelle Obama vs. aspiring FLOTUS Ann Romney (images courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter):

1.) In this corner, the incumbent FLOTUS: Michelle Obama, 48 years old
(dang! girlfriend looks GOOD for her age! Wish our arms were that toned!)

Mrs.O wore Narciso Rodriguez to welcome US Olympic & Paralympic athletes to the White House on September 2012. She previously wore Rodriguez on the night of her husband’s presidential victory, November 4, 2008. (God, I remember staying awake with Herr Hubby that historic night!). That winning Rodriguez dress had the most number of knock-offs at the Shanghai fabric market for MONTHS afterwards!

During a university visit, the First Lady wore this multi-print dress by British-African designer Duro Olowu – called an “unknown” designer by American fashion critics – but who is actually quite famous in the UK. In Asia, his dresses are carried by our fave store, none other than Lane Crawford, of course (we picked one of his multi-print goddess dresses at a bargain warehouse sale!)

For the DNC, Mrs. O wore this boatneck purple print dress by rising designer Laura Smalls. A lucite dogwood pin by fave celeb accessories designer Alexis Bittar accents her neckline.

During the DNC, Mrs. O. wowed political circles with her moving speech & set the fashion twitterverse abuzz with this gorgeous silk pink and grey-blue number from one of her go-to fave designers, Tracy Reese. Everyone was totally tweeting about her matching grey-blue manicure!

2.) And in this corner, the challenger, aspiring FLOTUS: Ann Romney, 63 years old
(holy cow! does she bathe in milk? she looks AH-MAY-ZING for a lady in her ’60s…in her ’60s!!! Repeating in case you didn’t get that)

Here’s a closer look at Mrs. R’s custom-fitted cream suit by Alfred Fiandaca, a designer whom she favours, shopping off the rack at his stores in Boston & Palm Beach.

Such an unexpected look for a presidential candidate’ s wife and at the RNC, no less, we love it! Mrs R went sophisticated casual with long linen jacket, khakis & high heels and accessorized with an oversize turquoise necklace.

For the RNC’s 2nd day, Mrs. R decided it was time to stop messing around & brought out the big guns – a battle-red shirtdress belted at the waist with a gold buckle, by Oscar de la Renta (another Nancy Reagan fave & a designer notably NEVER worn by Mrs. Obama).

Also at the RNC, Mrs. R again favoured Oscar de la Renta, looking stunning in this bright turquoise blue number with little matching bolero jacket.

AND A FINAL LOOK!

At the final presidential debate, both women looked simply fabulous…Mrs. O in a custom grey Thom Browne cap-sleeved dress with lace overlay (which she also wore at the DNC), accessorizing with a lovely silver bow brooch & black bow belt, Mrs. R in her go-to fave designer, Oscar de la Renta’s emerald-green, cap-sleeved with tropical leaf print skirt, enhanced with jade-green and gold accessories.

So, Stiletto-istas, WHO has YOUR VOTE for best-dressed on the campaign trail? EXERCISE your RIGHT TO VOTE in the COMMENTS below!

Canton Fair 101: The Olympics of Bargain Shopping

The Canton Fair, the world’s biggest trade fair, which happens in Guangzhou every year for 3 weeks from mid-October until early November, finally ends today. For the past 3 weeks, we’ve tried to avoid going out as much as possible since everything, restaurants, bars, the train stations/airports, shopping malls, hotels, and indeed, traffic in the city, has been frenzied. It was ri-DON-culous trying to get a cab to go anywhere!

It was The Bamboo Stiletto’s first Canton Fair, so we were determined to experience it all for the first time and document accordingly. The Canton Fair is the mother of all bargain shopping experiences so for the benefit of those die-hard shoppingeras/shoppingeros out there, I’m sharing my experience here, in the spirit of, let’s call it, “best practices.”

How exactly do you navigate the Canton Fair? You are not an import-export wholesaler, trader or buyer. But you live in Guangzhou and rumor has it among your expat friends that shopping bargains can be had when the world’s biggest trade fair is happening at your doorstep.

The good news? The rumors are true. The bad news? The Canton Fair happens in three phases roughly spanning three weeks and individual shopping bargains can only happen on the last day of each of those phases, when traders are getting ready to pack up their goods and may be looking to offload their inventory of samples to save on shipping costs.

So, one of the first things you need to do is identify which products are being traded on which phase. For instance, home decor/furniture, gifts & toys may be traded during Phase 2 and fashion/clothing & shoes/bags may take place during Phase 3. Ask around, read the newspaper or check on websites like City Weekend Guangzhou (plug, plug:-). You absolutely have got to get the dates right for the items you like.

Once you’ve got that down, just like any elite athlete, you then have to prep big-time because the Canton Fair is like the Olympics of bargain shopping!

The next thing you need to do is obtain a Canton Fair overseas buyer’s pass. Never mind that you are a Guangzhou resident and that the only things you’ve bought lately were milk and eggs from the Corner’s Deli. Prepare to bring your passport, an ID photo, a business card and RMB 100 (about USD 16). You can apply for your pass at any of the overseas buyers’ registration counters at most five-star hotels in town.

Can’t find any of these counters? Head over to the Canton Fair venue itself, at the Pazhou Exhibition Center, and follow the clearly marked signs indicating the spacious and airy hall for “Overseas Buyers Registration.” Friendly, smiling trade fair staff, all speaking perfect English, will be on hand to efficiently assist you with forms and payment, provide you with a Canton Fair guide map and within minutes…voila! You are now an overseas buyer. The cool thing is, the pass is good for a lifetime, so if you want to return for more bargain shopping expeditions in future Canton Fairs, better keep your pass safe.

Officially registered to spend some shopping money!

Now that you have your pass and can sling it around your neck – like all the real buyers do at the Fair – you then plan your transportation strategy. Going there is a no-brainer. You can take the Guangzhou metro, cab it or see if you can swing a ride on any of the free Canton Fair shuttle buses proliferating at any of the major five-star hotels in the city. No, going there is not a problem at all…it is your exit transportation strategy that you should be carefully planning. If you don’t have your own, preferably very spacious, vehicle, then our recommendation is that you splurge a little bit and hire a mini-van with a driver.  Make sure you’ve got the driver’s mobile handy and remind him to stay alert, for when he needs to pick you up (with your vanload of purchases) at any of the exits afterwards.

Lastly, before you actually enter the hallowed halls of the Pazhou Exhibition Center, do a mental checklist of your clothing and equipment. You must have your Canton Fair buyer’s pass and guide map in hand. Wear the most comfortable walking shoes you own. Don’t tote one of your heavy designer handbags; this is not the day for showing off your latest “It bag” purchase to your girlfriends. Carry cash – lots of it, if you can. Don’t forget your mobile – essential for communicating with lost friends and the aforementioned exit strategy driver. And bring a large suitcase or large shopping trolley – with wheels. 

Gurlfriendz, at the Canton Fair, we’re gonna need bigger trolleys than these!

You are now ready to go shopping!

Once inside the Fair, give yourself a couple of minutes to get your bearings and simply gawk. The sheer vastness of the trade halls, the mass and diversity of people from all over the world are overwhelming to the senses. Yet everything is well-organized, with clearly marked signs for directions. Cafes and restaurants offer refreshments and meals, courier companies vie for packing and shipping services and bathrooms everywhere are well-stocked and clean. To get from one trade hall to another, there are covered walkways, with carpeted “sidewalks” for those on foot and “lanes” for those riding in comfort on little electric trams that shuttle back and forth in between trade halls. Try not to get run over by an over-eager shuttle and stay safely on the “sidewalk” instead.

Study the map, figure out which trade hall you want to hit, then attack.

In the beginning, you will probably browse slowly among the stalls because you will be so overwhelmed. The quality of most products at the Canton Fair is simply superb, truly export-worthy and world-class and the sheer number of gorgeous items all in one vast place is visually staggering.

Some traders cannot be bothered to sell to individual shoppers and some of these traders already have makeshift signs posted outside their stalls, saying: “No sale.” This means that unless you’re willing to buy in volume quantities, don’t even bother them. Some traders who are willing to sell, have signs saying so, “Sale” or “Stock sale”. However, not everyone willing to sell posts signs, so, if you do see anything you fancy really badly, it is still best to ask. Simply walk into the shop, quickly point at the stuff you want and say outright:“Mai, bu mai?”  (buy, cannot buy?) After a while, you will be amazed at how swiftly you can do this at so many shops and how much ground you’re able to cover in minutes.

Keep a watchful eye open for stalls whose staff are already busy clearing the stall and packing their items into wooden crates as they will usually be more amenable to giving items away at hefty discounts, or if you’re especially lucky, for free. This usually happens in early afternoon, right after lunchtime.

By early afternoon, after two or three hours at the Fair, you might find that even your large suitcase or shopping trolley will not be adequate for your purchases and you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to transport everything outside the trade hall to the exit gate. Make sure first, at the last stall where you’ve made big-ticket purchases (like, a piece of furniture) that you are issued a gate pass so that you can exit the trade hall with all of your purchases without being questioned by security.

Just as the Fair slowly winds down, you will notice an army of ayis (literally, aunties, in China, to mean, older ladies or maids) pulling flat wooden trolleys with rope, wandering the halls. Hail one of these ayis and negotiate in your best Chinese for her and her friend to load up their trolley with your items and take you to the nearest exit gate, in exchange for a small fee.

Once at the gate, it’s a simple matter of calling your driver to pick you up and load up all your new goodies in the car.

Exhausted but triumphant, The Bamboo Stiletto & fellow Stiletto-istas looking like a bunch of bedraggled garbage ladies, surrounded by our purchases as we wait for our driver at the Fair’s exit gate.

And, duckies, you must be wondering what on earth got our stilettos into a twist at the Fair…here’s a peek at what we picked up (after 2 hours of shopping – we were too dizzy to continue any further):

Blue Tray (free)

Scored the darling blue tray for free from a hastily departing trader…now it’s part of a charming vignette in the guestroom.

Red tray (free)

From the same trader, also scored this beautiful red tray for free…now it makes a striking bar tray in a corner of the dining room.

Red Eames Chair (RMB 120, approx. USD 20)

This lovely red Eames chair, now sitting in a corner of the living room, was selling for only RMB 120 (roughly USD 20), can you believe it???? Trader, who specialized in modern mid-century furniture (my absolute LOVEZ!), was in a hurry to get out of town & just wanted to get dump his samples. Was dying to get my hands on an Eames rocking chair but wasn’t “chop chop” (hurry, hurry) enough…someone snatched it up from right under my  nose!

Metallic Chinoiserie Stool
Inspiration Scenario: Lobby, W Hotel Singapore

Since I spotted these metallic chinoiserie stools in design magazines, browsed vintage versions on Etsy.com & spotted them IRL (in real life) at the W hotel, Singapore (lobby pictured here), I’ve been harbouring an all-consuming lust.

Metallic Chinoiserie Stool (RMB 400, approx. USD 66) & Lime-Green Tray (free)
Actual Scenario: Casa Stiletto 

I was beside myself with excitement at the Fair when I spotted the silver chinoiserie stool (foreground) & the trader agreed to sell it to me for RMB 400 (about USD 66). He had a gold one too, but I knew the silver would be perfect in our living room at Casa Stiletto, as a side table ideally serving as a perch for coffee or a drink, the occasional book or magazine, next to our Eames lounger & ottoman. Oh, and btw, that lime-green tray you see on the purple ottoman? That’s a freebie too 🙂

Congratulations to moi…we’ve successfully navigated our first Canton Fair!!!   Now, life in Guangzhou can, hopefully, get back to normal.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: