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March 8, 2012

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Put a little spring in your step

FLOWERS begin to bloom and trees begin to leaf. Spring is not too far off. With the nasty chill of winter fading, it's time for renewal. This can take form in many ways from changing your diet and indulging in a spa treatment or two to sprucing up your wardrobe and taking a short sojourn out of town. Here are some ideas about how to rejuvenate this spring, Yang Di reports.

Quick getaway

Spring is the best season to visit Hangzhou and pick tea leaves. The best and most costly green tea is picked before the Qingming Festival, which falls on April 4 this year.

Hangzhou is home to Longjing (Dragon Well) tea, one of China's top 10 teas. The city is often lauded as the "tea capital of China" due to its excellence in tea cultivation, education and culture. Picturesque villages surrounding West Lake are famous for growing Longjing tea. The tea villages are now popular tourist destinations in the spring.

If your budget allows for a memorable weekend, Amanfayun is a world away from urban life. Set amongst temples and tea fields near the historic town of Tianzhu, the resort is a 20-minute drive from the center of Hangzhou.

An independently operated teahouse outside the resort provides traditional tea service accompanied by home-cooked meals that change daily.

A selection of the best teas from the region as well as from around China are available for purchase.

The resort also offers guests the chance to visit Meijiawu tea plantation and pick tea leaves. Farmers will explain the entire process of how the tea leaves start on the plants and end up in your cup.

Spring fashion

Pastels are popular this spring, with baby pinks, blues and yellows in different fabrics very much in demand. Mixing pastels with a touch of bright is the freshest way to pep up a spring look. Gals can also bring out their feminine and romantic side by adding feminine floral, lace trimming and provocative sheer fabrics. It is about creating simple, sophisticated silhouettes with a hint of playfulness.

If you're the cutting edge type with a bit of rocker flair, jeans, capris and shorts in white or bold colors, especially with a slim, sexy fit, are hot this spring.

Cropped tops are very trendy this season, but keep in mind that tummy needs to be in shape.

A little flab around the midsection will not look good with a crop top. Cropped tops can be casual paired with jeans or more formal mixed with an evening outfit.

Though leopard prints have been in style for too long already, animal prints remain hot this season.

New menus

Restaurants in town will be changing menus to accommodate all the spring produce that hits the market.

Top chefs regularly visit wet markets to get fresh picked greens and vegetables as well as meat, poultry and fish. Based on his weekly research in the city's wet markets, chef Gao Xiaosheng from Gui Hua Lou restaurant at the Pudong Shangri-La has unveiled more than 10 new dishes using the freshest seasonal ingredients.

By serving Cantonese, Sichuan and Huaiyang dishes, the seasonal dishes are well-balanced while the presentation is meticulous.

Seasonal vegetables and river produce are recommended in spring.

The spring dishes at Gui Hua Lou include sautéed razor clam with seasonal vegetables, stewed tofu skin in superior chicken soup, baked noodles with sliced tiger garoupa in curry sauce, as well as braised longsnout catfish with bamboo shoots. Gao says the relatively strong taste of tiger garoupa in curry sauce has just the right kick to get the spirits up.

Chinese cooking is known for its health regulating properties, and some dishes are eaten more for their health benefits than filling the stomach. Gui Hua Lou's ingredients are better than those used in most local restaurants. The light frying method they use also highlights the crunchiness of fresh veggies. It's just right for the new season.

Clean and redecorate

Letting fresh air into your home on the first warm day of the year may make you realize how dusty and cluttered your house has become during the winter. It's time for a spring cleaning, a tradition that allows people to freshen up homes and feel renewed.

The first step is to get rid of stuff you no longer use. But take a second look and see if any of these items could serve a purpose you haven't thought of before. Safely dispose of anything that's not recyclable or trash friendly.

Now, it's time to think of a new style for your home. It can be something relaxed, informal and effortless. Take a look at colors in season and add them to your home with sheer fabrics, flowers or garden elements.

Go for textured pieces that feel as good as they look. Take a clue from fashion catalogues and use the colors and patterns in your home. Avoid dark colors and use soft pastels or even bright colors to cheer up an uninteresting neutral space. Spring greens, pale violets and aqua blues can be good choices.

To lighten up the space, everything should be clean, refreshing and light. Replace the heavy window treatments in the winter and choose sheer fabrics, linens and open weave textiles.

In addition to the colors, patterns and textiles, another way to have a refreshing start is to create a new theme such as vintage, country or minimalist. Add a touch of old-school fun to your home with one or two pieces of vintage or vintage-inspired furnishings in oval.

Shanghai Dandou Arts & Crafts Co Ltd is one of the first furniture manufacturers with a focus on producing European-inspired vintage-style furniture with more than 60 retail outlets in China. More small vintage furniture boutiques have opened in the former French concession area in the past year.

However, nothing says spring more than fresh flowers. Pick up fresh flowers from local markets, street vendors or boutique shops and arrange them in your living room or even kitchen table. Flowers have a way of lifting spirits. Without spending much money, you can easily use flowers to give your home a fresh look.

Spa pampering

When you start shedding all those layers of clothing for spring, you may notice your skin is shedding, too. You may feel dull and heavy. Your skin may have lost its glow and feel extra dry or sensitive.

A revitalizing spa treatment can help. Take the time and pamper yourself with a seasonal spa treatment that can feel like a mini vacation.

The city has many hotel spas, day spas and massage parlors. Dragonfly is one of the most popular because many of its locations are close to home and work, although their masseuses and masseurs may make your mind wander freely during a treatment.

To help customers gain maximum benefit, a 30-minute invigorating body scrub (198 yuan) and a one-hour lymphatic drainage aroma oil massage (280 yuan) are recommended in spring.

Pure sea salt is used to remove dead skin cells and add replenishing minerals, thus revealing smoother, radiant skin. This also promotes improved circulation.

It is followed with an aroma massage with lavender essential oil, which is good for treating insomnia and calming the mind. With the refreshing scent of lavender, the oil is applied to strained muscles while the therapist gently soothes sore muscles to improve energy flow.


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