Wednesday, March 26, 2008

High point in Hong Kong

After our whirlwind first day, our second was just as busy: two more appointments with bag manufacturers and more high-powered shopping, thanks to Fanny, since we were not getting enough retail therapy! We ended the day with one of my favorite rituals, crossing the street to a hotel restaurant with great anticipation for what the menu described as a piled-high Reuben sandwich. What a bummer! Probably the worst Reuben I’ve ever had—just a couple of sandwich slices, and not even real corned beef. Oh well, that taught us a lesson: stick with the Chinese food!The next day we had time to squeeze in one more appointment. Tommy, a local printer, picked us up at 8 a.m. His office was only 30 minutes away. Phew, what a relief—no long commutes today. We were very impressed with the quality of his books, magazines and other printed materials.The workday was very short because we were moving into Phase 2 of our trip: our families had arrived! This trip coincides with our girls’ spring break, so Lissa, Kara and I had a grand reunion with our husbands, daughters and my parents back at the hotel after our best-forgotten Reubens. It had only been a few days since we left home, but our girls had missed us a lot.

After our last work appointment we headed back to the Peninsula to meet Isaac from Honolulu—he also manufactures in Hong Kong and was there on business with his family. Our girls are in the same brownie troop and all four were thrilled to see each other on this side of the world! Isaac took us to Victoria Peak to see the fabulous view of Hong Kong and the harbor. We took a cable tram up to the top. Unfortunately it was a very overcast, foggy day, but the view was still breathtaking. Later we walked around the Soho District and caught the Star Ferry back to Kowloon. It’s great to be with our families again.

Monday, March 24, 2008

24 hours in China

Sorry I haven’t kept in touch for a while—been very busy working and I have to admit, very busy having fun! After 22 hours of traveling, we finally arrived at the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon. It is beautiful, but the most beautiful sight was the soft, luxurious bed! We ordered room service dim sum, had the tea that was set out for us, then we crashed. Day One in China would begin in just two hours!

We got up at 5:30 a.m. Our broker, Fanny, picked us up and took us to the train station. Fanny and Michael were to be our hosts and guides for a (can you believe this?) 24-hour adventure to visit printing and Style Kit bag manufacturing plants across the border!

Off to Guangzhou. Two and a half hours on a train and one and a half hours by car brought us to a 30,000-square-meter printing facility with four presses from Germany and 1,200 employees. They print brochures, books in all kinds of configurations (we saw some pop-up scratch-and-sniff and fuzzy tactile books being made), boxes and packaging for all kinds of products. At noon the workers lined up for lunch. Their facility is so large they raise their own pigs and chickens, and have a large dormitory and cafeteria.

We didn’t get to taste the lunch and we were starving. At this point Fanny and Michael treated to us an incredible Chinese banquet. This town is known for fresh seafood and we got to taste some unusual delicacies. Two of our favorites were the spicy fish dish and the scallop in black bean sauce. Mmmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about them!

We rolled back into the car and fell into a stupefied slumber during the 1.5-hour drive to the bag factory in Guangdong. It was just as we imagined: six stories of row upon row of 500 sewing machines total. Each worker specializes in one part of the process—cutting, clipping, gluing, sewing, et cetera.

After a few hours it was time for our next destination—Shenzhen’s famous wholesale shopping district. Wow, what an experience that was! People had warned us to hold on to our purses and that the vendors were very aggressive. Boy, were they! We did not take pictures because we were too worried that Kara would have her camera stolen.

We picked out what we wanted and Michael and Fanny did the bargaining for us. We got some great deals and had a lot of fun. By now it was 8:30 p.m. and the shopping had worked up our appetites.

Fanny and Michael took us to an amazing restaurant in Shenzhen. In the entrance of the private dining room was a display of plates stacked in the form of a blossom.

The dinner was oh so yummy! Ten courses, each better than the one before! One of the most unique was a dish of steamed cucumber with little tiny fish on top. It was delicate and delicious. But the three of us agreed that our favorite was the dessert. No surprise there! It was pumpkin jin doi—globes of fluffy, deep-fried pumpkin sweet rice that simply melted in our mouths. By the time we remembered the camera, Lissa was on her third one!

When Fanny and Michael told us they were taking us to a foot massage to end the day, we had no idea what we were in for. This was an enormous place that was a cross between a spa and a Las Vegas lounge. It was glitzy, with rows of recliners with television screens. You got your foot massage while being served refreshments. After the one-hour massage we thought our pampering was over, but to our delight we were taken to another room for a two-hour full-body massage! Boy, did we all need it. I was in the same room as Kara, Lissa and Fanny and heard surround-sound snoring all around me. I guess everyone was pretty pooped and relaxed.
At this point it was 3:00 a.m. and our day was still not over! We headed over to the only open border station, took a bus from China back into Hong Kong and a cab back to our hotel. My head hit the pillow at 5:30 a.m. It had been 24 hours since we began this crazy day—and that was just the first day of our trip! Thanks Fanny and Michael for a day we will never forget!

More later, much more…

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Narita Airport: RSVPstyle sets foot in Asia!

What a small world we live in! I’ve never traveled to Asia before, but shortly after Lissa, Kara and I landed in Narita Airport, I heard someone calling my name. I turned to see an old friend from high school—we were cheerleaders together (a few years ago!). She and her friend are off to Cambodia and Thailand and happened to fly in on the same flight as us!

For old times’ sake we did some cheerleading poses, then I hopped on her back to see if we still got it ... we don’t!

Needed a break after that workout. We enjoyed negitoro and tempura udon along with lotus tea. With the yen-dollar exchange rate being what it is, our snack was 2400 yen, or 24 U.S. dollars, and it was yummy!

I found the toilets very interesting. They had a choice of using the regular Western-style commode or the more traditional Japanese one that was in the ground. No thanks!

Next it was time for our massage. The three of us got a neck and shoulder massage—aaaaahhhhh. So good after that eight-hour flight from Hawaii. When it was over I didn’t want to leave so I extended for another 20 minutes. The massage was 4200 yen and it was worth every penny!

Now here we are at the Yahoo! cafe to keep you all posted on our adventures. We’re using a Japanese/English keyboard and can’t find all the keys. Gotta go now, we need to buy some mochi before they call us for our flight—more from Hong Kong!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

This one’s for you, Marianna—and next, on to Asia!

Recently we received an e-mail from Marianna. She attended our last Invitation to Design workshop but her husband didn’t, and they have a home that’s similar to the home I completely remodeled in our Applying the Fundamentals design lesson. Marianna asked that we post some photos because she wants to share the transformation with her husband.

The home I remodeled was a 70s-style house in really bad shape, with not a lot of color or texture. Beautiful koa ceilings were interrupted by an unnecessary skylight, the floors were covered with a cold white tile, and the living room opened onto a wraparound deck that was completely non-functional because it was only about 3’ wide, not even enough room to put out patio chairs. Even worse, the deck railing just outside the windows took away from the magnificent view of Diamond Head. It was more of a catwalk.

I removed the wraparound deck, popped a hole with sliding doors through the left-side wall of the living room and created a huge lanai out to the side of the second story. This lanai also fronted the master bedroom, allowing for a fantastic, unobstructed view not only from the living room but from the master as well.

So from an outdated space, by simply using some imagination and adding color, style and texture with warm slate flooring, wrought-iron railings, berber carpeting and new furnishings, I was able to create an inviting space to relax and enjoy the view.

Hope the photos help you, Marianna!

I know it’s been a couple of weeks since you e-mailed, but we’ve been in a mad rush again—seems like we’re always in a mad rush preparing for something! But at least this one also involves our families. Lissa, Kara and I are headed to Hong Kong on Sunday. We’ll be visiting the plant that manufactures part of our Style Kit as well as a few other factories. Then on Tuesday our families will be joining us for a much-needed and -anticipated vacation: husbands, kids and my parents—everyone who’s been so patient with our crazy workload this past year. For a few days we’ll get to take in the culture of Hong Kong and do some shopping, of course! We’re going to be at the Peninsula—just heard amazing things about it. Nicki and I love high tea, and we’ve heard they have the most fabulous high tea there!

Then we’ll board the ship. We’ll leave Hong Kong for Kobe, Hiroshima, Dalian, Shanghai, and we’ll be ending in Beijing. Of course the highlight will be the Great Wall of China—this will be a dream come true! After hearing about it all our lives, to actually walk on it will be the absolute highlight, I think, even for the kids.

It’ll be fun to share our experiences, all the wonderful sights, our shopping finds and culinary adventures with you. Be sure to keep checking this blog as we discover Asia together!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sell til you drop!

Saturday was a day full of our Shop with Focus event, and that evening I was just exhausted, but Sunday was family day. We have to do those once in a while, our family deserves that! It was nice to sleep in and make breakfast for my family. In the afternoon the girls had a Brownie excursion to sell Girl Scout cookies. Nicki, Megan and Keri are all Brownies, and we went to Hawaii Kai Foodland and set up a little station by the entrance. Girl Scout cookies are up to $4 a box, can you believe it? My goodness, inflation!

From left: that's Megan (Lissa's daughter), Keri (Kara's) and Nicki (mine)
with Lissa pitching her favorite cookie in the back

I gave the girls a quick lesson on how to sell, sell, sell—big smile, of course!—and how to let people know the cost. Not just $4 a box, why not let them know it’s three boxes for $12 and five boxes for $20? With their smiles and cute little faces, they broke the Brownie record and sold over 100 boxes in two hours! The record before was 70 boxes. They had a lot of fun and raised money for their troop, and they did it in RSVPstyle fashion! It was a fun day.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Shop til you drop

That’s exactly what we did yesterday at our Shop with Focus event at C.S. Wo! By 9:00 most everyone was there having pastries and coffee and dropping their entry cards for the $5000 shopping spree into our basket. Most people had uploaded enough photos or posted enough comments on this website to earn two or three entries.

Everybody wore a nametag, which was great because I was able to put faces to names. Everybody’s been making comments and posting photos and saying things in our surveys, so it was so nice to get to know them! Hearing their enthusiasm and their stories about what they learned at the workshop and how much they enjoyed it and started putting lessons into practice also really inspired me.

Unlike last month’s big workshop where there were 350 people and it was just a very crazy day with so much going on, so much I had to think about and prepare for, and plus I was sick, this session was much more intimate and relaxed. This was a much smaller group, only 50 people. I had the opportunity to personally meet most all of our participants and shake people’s hands and give them a hug and spend some quality one-on-one time, and that’s what I loved more than anything.

One participant told me that her fiancĂ© could not believe she had to go to a seminar to learn how to shop! He said are you crazy? Why are women going to a seminar to learn how to shop? Isn’t that a natural instinct for women? She responded, no! I went to this workshop and learned a little, and now I want to learn some more!

I truly believe that with some simple tips and techniques, the outcome of a shopping experience can be completely different. I remember when I used to shop with frustration instead of focus.

We started out in the conference room, where I expanded on lessons from the workshop. I gave pointers on what to keep in mind and tips on how to prepare—how to really use your Style Kit workbook and organizer, make sure you have your inspiration pictures in place, fill out your worksheets and have your Style Sticky notes and everything ready to go.

Then it was time to move on to the hands-on lessons. We went down to the second floor and it was so cool—it was the March of the Style Kits! I felt like a bizarre Pied Piper! I yelled, come on everybody, let’s go shopping! Then I started down the stairs, I turned back and saw this sea of people carrying their Style Kits and I said you all look so fabulous! It was a very exciting moment for all of us at RSVPstyle to see our baby that we’ve been working on for so long finally in people’s hands and on their shoulders.

I used our first furniture grouping, a Contemporary Island setting with lots of textures, to talk about tone-on-tone elements and how and why things work and how to add to them. I was thrilled to see people nodding and learning—even Bub Wo, the president of C.S. Wo, who I spied at the back of the group, following along. Was I surprised!

In a more Island setting I gave tips for making decisions on dining and accent chairs. We wrapped up in the Ralph Lauren section, which I love. It’s classic, timeless, fresh, always exciting. I explained why it works and how people can integrate it into their own style.

It was time for our big $5000 drawing for a shopping spree! I introduced Bub Wo, who welcomed our group, and then I grabbed our basket. Bub and I stuck our hands in there and mixed and mixed the entries. I did not want to be the one to call the winning name. As I looked out upon everyone’s faces I saw a lot of people clasping their hands and closing their eyes as if saying a little prayer, so I knew it really meant a lot.

Bub announced Marion Heath. To my left I heard a scream and an Oh my goodness, it can’t be! Marian was so thrilled that her jaw literally dropped and I don’t think her mouth closed for five minutes. The look on her face was absolutely priceless. She was so prepared, she had her Style Kit on her shoulder and a camera on her neck and a backpack—she was raring to go.

She and her husband are building a home and she had come to our workshop and just loved it. I talked to her earlier in the day and she told me time and again how much she’s enjoying this process. She told me that for her to walk away as the big winner was the icing on the cake, because she had gotten so much out of the workshop. Her first thought was to call her husband and tell him the great news, but she decided to break the news in person because he would need to sit down. Lissa and I were so happy for her!

Afterward a small group followed Marion and me as I helped her shop. Everybody had their workbooks with their inspiration pictures, before-pictures and Style Stickies—it made it so much easier to guide them. That’s really what our Style Kit is all about—it’s a tool to help people focus and communicate with professionals they need to work with. Boy, did it work like a charm. RSVPstyle staff and C.S. Wo staff helped guide other participants, and the C.S. Wo people told me over and over how much of a benefit it was for them to have our people come in so prepared. Bub Wo thanked me and said how much he enjoyed the day, and he even said he learned a lot! That was a real compliment, coming from him!

People were all around shopping with their $100 C.S. Wo discount certificates and having a great time. It was a huge thrill for RSVPstyle as a company to see this turnout and make friends with everybody. It was great meeting people, making a connection, hearing people express appreciation and say they can’t wait for the next event.

Really the highlight of my day was meeting everybody. And Lissa and I talked at the end of the day about what a big success it was and how we’re both looking forward to our next event for RSVPstyle members!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Get ready to focus, people!

We’re all set for our Shop with Focus event tomorrow at C.S. Wo. Not only am I going to teach how to put things together and shop with focus, I’m also going to point out what I feel are the best buys. I was at the store again today to get my final thoughts about what I want to teach in different areas of the showroom. A bunch of the salespeople were telling me how excited they are. People from our workshop have already been coming in to use their discount certificates. They’ve seen how prepared they’ve been, coming in with their Style Kit, book and bag, inspiration pictures, ready to shop—with focus, of course!

I’m so proud of all of you, putting into practice what you learned at the workshop. Tomorrow we’re going to take it to a new level.

Speaking of using the C.S. Wo certificate, I just want to remind everyone to thoroughly go through the vendor packets you received at our workshop. There were over $3500 worth of discounts and certificates. Obviously you’re not going to use all of them, but if you use one or two, you’ll more than make up for the money spent on the workshop.

The C.S. Wo certificate is a great one—it’s $100 off with a purchase of $300, but there was a short fuse on it: it’s only good til the end of this month, so hurry up and use it! People coming tomorrow, obviously I think everyone’s going to find something amazing, but the rest of you, make sure you take advantage of that—it’s a 33 percent savings!

There are some other ones I want to mention, such as Steve DeBiasi, who’s done some pool and water features for me. If someone builds a pool with him, they’re going to get free pool service for a year—that’s a $1200 to $1500 value in and of itself!

SoHa’s Brooke Watson had offers for her store at Ward Center, but she also had a special RSVPstyle online offer in the packet as well. You can use that discount in the store, or go online and enter a special code.

Marblehaus is offering $100 off and that expires in June, and that’s a really good deal because they already have very low prices.

And when was the last time an electrician or a plumber offered you a discount? Well, you’ve got one!

There’s lots more for you to look through, so be sure to go through your packet—there’s something for everyone!

I hope everyone is registering at At tomorrow’s event—which is by invitation for members only—I’m going to go over all the benefits that come with being a member. I’ll be announcing our next event for members only. If you haven’t yet registered, be sure to do that ASAP to take advantage of all the benefits we have in store for you!

I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow and assisting them with my favorite thing to do: shop!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

More of a good thing

We’re all getting excited! We’ve been preparing for our Shop with Focus event this Saturday at C.S. Wo. This will be our first event since the workshop, the first time we’ll see some of the participants again, and the first exclusive benefit for members of RSVPstyle, since the only people invited are registered members of

Amazingly enough, this event was almost 100 percent full the first day we announced it!

Today the girls and I headed out to C.S. Wo where we met with James, our video director, who wanted to get the lay of the land. We also met with C.S. Wo’s visual person, their assistant manager and retail manager to talk about how our day will unfold.

We’ll start the morning in C.S. Wo’s conference room, where we’ll do a little lesson on shopping and make sure everyone’s RSVPstyle book is in order. After all, we are shopping with focus, so I want to make sure everyone is focused! I’ll check to see whether everyone has their inspiration picture in their Style book and has determined their 60-30-10 schemes. That way we can get an idea of everyone’s style, see a little of their space and guide them a little better.

We’re really hoping that when the day is over, everyone will have found one new piece to add more style to their space. I know that’s why they’re coming—on a mission not just to learn, but really to find something amazing that will enhance their space.

We decided which vignettes we’ll talk about. We’ll be in a Contemporary section, an Island section, and their Ralph Lauren blue-and-white nautical section, which is very popular and timeless. We also determined where we’re going to do our drawing for the $5000 C.S. Wo shopping spree. We’re all super excited about that! I’m going to let Bub Wo do the drawing. I now know so many of our participants, so he’ll pull the name without showing any favoritism and award the $5000 certificate—how cool is that!

Whoever wins that shopping spree will get personalized, detailed guidance from me in selecting beautiful items for their space from the showroom, but of course the winner doesn’t have to use the certificate that day. They may want to come back with their husband or friend, and that’s perfectly fine.

After our meeting we surprised Lissa with a chocolate dobash cake with candles and a balloon. Yesterday was her birthday and she is a diehard chocoholic! We sang happy birthday to her at C.S. Wo and went next door for lunch at a ramen shop. She’s feeling a little under the weather—I think she caught my cold—so she wasn’t so hungry (and by the way, that's me and Melanie helping out Lissa by blowing out her birthday candles), but she had some miso soup and I think she’s feeling better now.

We have an exciting day lined up, people are going to learn a lot and have a lot of fun, and that’s exactly what our mission is at RSVPstyle. I think when people leave, they’re going to want more—we’ve already got a lot of things in mind for members!