ikea’s swedish meatballs … now with veggies

What did you do over the Labor Day weekend? I went to Ikea. Woot! Oy! Conflicting emotions there. As always.

I moved into my new place last week (yay!), which meant I needed to buy stuff. I didn’t need as much stuff as I ended up buying, but some of it was needed. Well … ‘need’ is debatable. But what is undeniable is that Ikea has Swedish meatballs and I am a fan. Are they good? Eh. Are they cheap? Yes. Are they consistently the same worldwide? Close enough. Do I get Swedish meatballs each and every trip to Ikea? Oh heck yes. That is, if the line’s not too crazy long.

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And ya know what? Now they’re nutritious! The meatballs are likely the same as before, but an order of Swedish meatballs now comes with vegetables. VEGETABLES! I have no idea when this became a thing, but I’m not a fan. What the heck is that green, yellow, and orange doing on my plate? Mon dieu! They’re cluttering the plate! So now, because I feel bad wasting food, I get guilted into eating vegetables when all I really want are the Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. Argh. Good thing Ikea also offers desserts, because chocolate cake is the perfect thing to wash down those bland veggies!

the danger of sample sales … to your wallet

Do I need a bracelet? No.
Do I need a dress? No.
Do I need a ring? No.
Did I get them anyway? Yes.

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One thing I love about New York is all the sample sales. You think a normal sale is a good deal? A sample sale is an amazing deal. But since these are often high-end brands, an amazing deal can still be somewhat expensive.

Last month a friend dragged me to a House of Harlow 1960 sample sale, and I ended up purchasing a pair of earrings, a ring, and a bracelet. Last week, I was almost late for brunch because I happened to pass by a Pinkyotto sample sale in SoHo and bought a dress for $55 (a great price in my opinion). Then a few days ago, I went to a Joomi Lim sample sale and walked out ten minutes later with a ring and my wallet $50 lighter. Sigh. I really shouldn’t have spent 50 dollars on a ring. It’s really quite ridiculous. It was less than half of retail, but I keep beating myself up for it because I’m supposed to be saving money – heck, I’ve even been bringing my lunch to work! But oy, I love jewelry! And I love unique pieces. And every time I look at the ring, I think it was worth it.

Sigh.

baby crocs in new york

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Have you ever heard that urban legend about crocodiles living in the New York City sewers? Well, there are Crocs in New York City, but these are of the ugly shoe kind. On 34th Street across from the flagship Macy’s store is a Crocs store. And on the wall they have this really cool two-story-tall mural of Lady Liberty made out of baby Crocs shoes! It’s really quite amazing. Although the shoes are ugly. Okay, some of the brand’s newer styles are actually kinda cute, and I do own a pair of their pointy-toe flats. But although I will admit that the classic Crocs are comfy, they are still very, very ugly and should never be worn outside the house/garden/hospital.

cutting buttonholes – taobao adventures

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That moment when you realize your pair of pants has no buttonhole. #chinaproblems

Welcome to the joys of shopping on Taobao. I love it. All the cheap crap you can get. Some of it is random trash, but some of it’s a good steal – especially clothing. But with cheapness comes cut corners. I wonder how much they saved themselves by eliminating that oh so annoying step of actually cutting a hole where the buttonhole should be. And if you think this was a fluke, it wasn’t. It’s actually the second pair of pants I’ve bought where I had to cut a buttonhole. Different brands, different stores. I guess it’s just a thing.

No matter. For a seven-buck pair of pants that actually fit, I can cut the hole myself.

dear ikea, I hate you

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Ikea. The value! The range! The actually decent quality and design! But then there’s the crowds! The ridiculously long path! And today, the lack of things in stock!

It’s been a long few weeks. I’m exhausted and overwhelmed with work, but the other night I decided to stop by Ikea after work to pick up a few things. It’s pretty out of my way, but I’m swamped with stuff most evenings and weekends and I always overestimate how much I’m going to enjoy an Ikea trip. It was supposed to be a quick trip, so I decided to enter through the checkouts and loop around the marketplace in order to avoid the showroom. I wanted to pick up four things. Three were out of stock. Argh. I was so frustrated at that point I just said “screw it” and dropped my yellow bag with one item in a corner.

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Then I did what any normal person would do in such an unfortunate situation. I got myself some consolation Swedish meatballs at the restaurant. And the meatballs were overcooked. Sigh. Seriously, Ikea? Seriously?! Right now I hate you, Ikea. Not ready to forgive you yet.

the perils of online shopping in china

I think I overdid it. Online shopping is just way too easy in China! Click click click. Click. Woot! Junk food! Order placed at 9:30 AM. Order arrived at my door at 4:30 PM. Amazing! Only once I was unpacking the boxes did I think … holy crap that’s a lot of food.

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Online shopping in China is amazing. Quick, efficient, and often cheaper than the stores. Food and household stuff from YHD, clothes and things from TaoBao/TMall, electronics from JD, and I’m pretty much covered. It’s gonna be hard once I go back to the States. Amazon Prime was pretty amazing when I lived in New York, but … it just doesn’t compare.

k11 art mall. there’s art. in a mall.

The K11 Art Mall in Shanghai is an offshoot of Hong Kong’s K11 Art Mall, and though I think the Hong Kong one is more successful in its incorporation of art pieces … whatevs. It’s a mall. A MALL.

However artsy it is, the primary objective of a mall is to sell stuff (especially over-priced luxury stuff). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely knocking this art mall concept. It is great that it’s basically public art and you can wander around an he air-conditioned space and appreciate art without having to pay admission or venture way out into Pudong or the West Bund, but it’s still a mall. Perhaps it’s my prejudice against the archaic mall form (that’s led to ghost structures across America) or maybe I’m too idealistic, but I feel like the gaudy commercialism of a mall can’t help but tarnish fine art.

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Huang Kui, Boundless World (series)

Pretty, ain’t it? There is some nice art peppered throughout the floors, and it’s a bit like a treasure hunt trying to follow K11’s map and find all the pieces. Also, the mall does have a proper exhibition space in the basement, where there’s currently a Claude Monet exhibition that will close this Sunday. I haven’t gone and I doubt I will because A) the 100 RMB entrance fee is ridiculous for a single exhibition, B) I’ve seen Monet before so I’m good, and C) IT’S IN A MALL.

K11 Art Mall
shanghaik11.com
300 Middle Huaihai Road
Huangpu District, Shanghai
Daily, 10 AM – 10 PM

old navy, meet china. shanghai, play nice.

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As I mentioned yesterday, Old Navy has opened in China! March 1st was the grand opening, and since it’s located near the Jing’an Temple subway station (at the corner of West Nanjing Road and Wanhangdu/Huashan Road), I stopped by after work. There’s some promotional material out there hyping it as being on the “famous West Nanjing Road,” which is technically true … but it’s a bit of a trek from the main shopping area. I suspect they were afraid it wouldn’t be able to compete with the Uniqlo, H&M, et cetera that’re over there. It was weird seeing such hoopla over Old Navy considering it’s a very basic place in my mind, but since it’s their first store in China, it is a pretty big deal.

The prices, quality, and styles seemed on par with in the States (id est, so-so on all counts), but it did seem as though the focus was more on dressier casual, like floral blouses and graphic prints rather than plain t-shirts. I guess if a Chinese person wanted a plain t-shirt, he/she would probably opt for Uniqlo, which is a Japanese brand that already has an established presence in China and offers decidedly better quality than Old Navy. I find many of Uniqlo’s cuts to be annoyingly conservative, like suffocating high necklines, awkwardly-long skirts, and sweaters that make everyone look square, so I was really excited for Old Navy and the familiarity of its stuff. I went hoping to pick up some simple spaghetti-strap tank tops, but THEY WERE NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. Huh? So not the Old Navy I’m used to. Also, no sale section (which is where I usually found the best deals), but I’m sure one will materialize as time goes on.

The store was nicely done, which is understandable given it’s the first adventure into the China market, but I found the layout unintuitive. Separated into three levels, the space was partitioned oddly, to the point that I got turned around a few times, had my path blocked by a display table, and almost walked into a mirror! Old Navy’s flagship in New York was also multiple levels, but far easier to navigate. It was quite crowded, so perhaps that was partially to blame, but the simple/open layout of most stateside Old Navy stores is nowhere to be found. The one thing that really struck me was: Old Navy is from San Francisco? Really? Of course I knew Old Navy was an American brand, but seeing the giant Old Navy sign with “San Francisco, California” underneath was like hm … I guess being American is a real selling point in China. And if you didn’t guess it was an American store by the sign out front, all the logo t-shirts, bags, et cetera with “San Francisco” or “New York” scrawled across ’em would surely clue you in.

Old Navy
1728 West Nanjing Road, Jing’an District, Shanghai

every flavor known/unknown to man

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Chinese people have some weird different tastes. Buying potato chips in China can be a minefield. There are some really odd flavors out there. Sure you can buy the imported versions that offer ‘normal’ flavors, but who’s going to pay that much just for junk food?

My recommendation? Stick with the original, a.k.a. American Classic. And at all costs avoid the ‘refreshing’ flavors like Cucumber. I know some expats who like ’em, but to me they’re just … wrong. Tomato flavor? Icks. Lemon Tea flavor? Absolutely disgusting. Some things should not be potato chips. Especially healthy foods – their flavors don’t belong on heart-clogging goodness. Who wants to eat potato chips that taste vaguely like cucumbers? Apparently quite a few people. The mind boggles. The meat ones (Italian Red Meat, Barbecue, et cetera) are decent enough, but only in a pinch. I saw a Cheese Lobster flavor once, but I was too chicken to try it and haven’t seen it since. Sometimes I can find Sour Cream and Onion, but what I would kill for Cheddar and Sour Cream ….

Photo is from Wal-Mart, on the edge of Shanghai. Ah, craziness.

singles’ day: to the spender goes the spoils

Monday was November 11, which is a pretty notable holiday in China. It’s Veterans Day back in the States, but here, November 11 (11/11) is Singles’ Day … also referred to as “Bare Sticks Holiday” (光棍节, guānggùn jié) or “Double Eleven” (双十一, shuāng shíyī). And it’s a big deal. It’s a newer holiday that started out as an anti-Valentine’s Day thing for single people to hang out so it doesn’t really have any traditions … except shopping. You know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Well Singles’ Day in China is kinda like that … but Cyber Monday pales in comparison to Singles’ Day.

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TMall (the more regulated sister site of the ever-popular online shopping extravaganza that is TaoBao) as well as a bunch of other sites do crazy sales for Singles’ Day. I’m talking 50% or more off … for that day only, sometimes for only the first few hours of the day. So everyone’s online waiting to pay at 12:01 AM on November 11. I didn’t go crazy like some people, but I did do some shopping and when I went to pay, I kept getting the above image … and a message saying to be patient. And for the rest of the day it was hard to access my bank account online, probably because the poor website was getting flooded with people paying for things via online bank transfer (people rarely use credit here).

Life off the web was normal, no crazy celebrations or people camping out (since very few brick-and-mortar stores had any special deals), but online was a financial frenzy. Things were selling out left and right. Within the first hour, 6.7 billion RMB was spent. IN AN HOUR. And by day’s end, 35 billion RMB was spent. That’s 5.7 billion USD. IN ONE DAY. CRAZY.