Sunday, July 15, 2012

A quiet Sunday

We had planned on spending the weekend in Suzhou, unfortunately Lucas was sick Friday night and all day Saturday so we were forced to postpone the trip.  It rained all day Saturday and with Lucas staying in bed we just lounged around the house and ordered take out for dinner.  Today Lucas was feeling better and the rain actually chased away much of the humidity so we decided to take advantage of that and spend some time outside walking the Bund.  We've been to the Bund before but there is so much to see and do there. 
We walked along most of what is considered the Bund and enjoyed the many different architecture styles that the Bund is known for.  One of the many attractions along the Bund is a 5 meter high statue of Shanghai's first mayor Chen Yi.  Of course another is the cityscape of downtown Pudong and it's many famous, and internationally known buildings.  From the Bund we walked down Nanjing road, famous for its shops, both high end and bargain basement, and of course the pedestrian mall. Along the way you can find street vendors selling all kinds of on the go snacks on sticks like hot dogs, chicken, and octopus.  We decided the kids would enjoy some watermelon on a stick and passed on the octopus. 

I finally bought us a nice set of chopsticks at a well known shop that sells cheap ones from just a few bucks to ones that cost over a hundred dollars.  I settled for a nice set of sandalwood chopsticks with rests for about $30.  I will probably go back for a second set since it was only a set of five and hardly enough to host a proper Chinese dinner party.  They also had some nice wood rice bowls that I wouldn't mind adding to my kitchen.  

Today I also celebrated my twelve wedding anniversary!  We had a family style celebratory dinner at the Blue Frog, a favorite of ours.  Lily had to get the pasta off the adult menu same as Daddy, but I'm not complaining because she ate the green beans that came with it.  After that it was over to the bakery for some very yummy deserts!

To my wonderful husband; we've had our ups and downs, luckily more ups than downs, you enrich my life, and keep things from ever getting boring.  You keep me on my toes and challenge me to be a better person.  You are my best friend, and the father of my two wonderful children, I couldn't ask for a better partner in life.  The last twelve years have been one hell of a ride, I'm looking forward to many, many, more!  I love you.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Some indoor fun!

With summer in full swing and no sign of the heat and humidity letting up I'm stuck trying to find indoor entertainment for the munchkins.  Today we went to the Science and Tech Museum, there is still a lot we haven't seen including the Rainbow Children's Playroom.  This area is designed to be kid friendly and hands on so the kids could run around and burn off some energy.  They had a blast playing on the slide and jumping on virtual bubbles til they popped.  I even got them to sit still long enough to get a picture, Charlie even cooperated! 

I finally convinced them to move on to another area, but we didn't get far. Lily spotted the world's largest Light Bright and had to play.  Charlie loved it too but quickly got frustrated when he had some trouble get the rods into the holes. 

The kids didn't want to leave before seeing the animal display so we made a short detour before heading to my true destination, the fake market.  We wandered the market for a bit and ended up getting a cool bottle opener that is designed to look like a Chinese mask.  After that it was time for lunch and nap.  Since Charlie has a minor ear infection that hasn't allowed him much sleep in the last few days he was exhausted and took a three hour nap.  Lily even slept for over an hour which is rare these days.
We ended the day with dinner at Big Bamboo and an impromptu driving lesson for Charlie.  I think I will let Lucas handle the driving lessons when the time comes...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mother, Daughter Day

Lily and I had a girls day.  We left Charlie behind with Ayi and headed to the mall with plans to have lunch, shop, and see a movie.  We grabbed lunch first, no point in shopping on an empty stomach, right?  We had stir fried noddles with beef, BBQ pork buns, dumplings, and rice.  Lily was thrilled to have her own soda like a big kid, most restaurants have some juice, but tea, water, and soda were our only choices here so I gave in a got her a Sprite. 

After lunch we walked around a bit checking out the fish tanks the restaurants have on display and finally made our way to the book store which has a small selection of English books.  We both ended up walking away with a book, Lily got The Little Mermaid, and I got a book on understanding the Chinese culture.  I'm looking forward to learning more about this amazing country and its culture along with seeing as much of it as possible in out time here.

We made our way to Tom's World, a huge arcade with a few small rides.  Lily did the flying airplanes and played a few games which earned her some tickets that she traded in for a small pack of tissues.  An odd prize, but she was happy with it.  We finally made it to the theater, Lily must have asked at least a 20 times if it was time to see the movie in the few hours we were at the mall.  We got a bucket of popcorn, which is sweet, not salty or buttery, much like kettle corn, and two drinks.  We found our seats and put on our 3D glasses and waited for the movie to start.  Unlike in the US there are no commercials or movie previews, if the movie is scheduled to start at 2:15, it actually starts at 2:15. What a concept huh?  Unfortunately the movie was dubbed over in Chinese.  Our friend who bought the tickets checked the website and verified that it was advertised as being in English, and he did call and complain, but there wasn't anything we could do at that point.  Lily didn't seem to care though, she has gotten used to watching cartoons in Chinese and I don't think she pays too much attention to what is said.  After, on the ride home I asked her if she had a good time and she said she did.  That is all that matters to me. 

Monday, July 9, 2012


This past weekend we spent in Chongming on a BASF sponsored trip.  Chongming is one of three islands in Shanghai and has many beautiful parks.  Lily quickly made a new friend, the girls spent the rest of the weekend together. We started our trip at the Chonging Yingzhou Park which is right on the water.  There was a nice breeze and locals walked around with crabs to sell.  The kids were fascinated by the crabs and were sorry to leave them behind.  Charlie had a fabulous time running around but that came to an end when he fell into a very muddy puddle.  Good thing I brought him an extra outfit.  After the park it was lunch.  The food was not a highlight of the weekend.  It was all very traditional Chinese and there were few dishes that I found I liked.  To be fair I did try many new dishes, but most were just too strange to my pallet. 
After lunch we went to the Xisha Wetland which is the only one in Shanghai with a natural tide and woodland beach.  All along the walkways are little holes that are home to the crabs.  We were given a bamboo pole with a metal ring on the end and were told to try out luck at catching crabs.  The kids thought this was tons of fun and we all had a go at it with varying success, I seemed to have the best.  It all came to and end though when Charlie got a bit too enthusiastic and broke our pole.  We continued on the walkways and watched others catch crabs and enjoyed the beautiful park.  The crabs are a part of the local cuisine as are the small snails that cover the beaches.  Even if I liked crab and snail, it seemed like way too much work for way too little reward.  It was very hot and humid at the park, no more breeze from the water unfortunately.  I got the kids an ice cream, I think Charlie ended up wearing most of his.
Sunday we went to the Dongping National Forest Park.  This is definitely worth a second trip.  The park was beautiful and had lots of things to do, unfortunately with the rain we ended up taking a short train ride and walking a bit before we decided to sit it out till lunch.  We did all try a local type of bamboo that you chew but don't eat.  It is a little sweet and reminded me a little of corn on the cob.  Charlie didn't like it but Lily did and she had fun chewing away.  Despite the heat, humidity, and rain we still had a good time.  I think we will have to go back in the spring or fall and spend more time at the parks. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!

It is easy to forget certain holidays here in China. With Lucas working for a German company in China he was not given the Fourth off.   Not a big deal since we had a big barbeque last weekend and it was going to be just us anyway.  I didn't even really think about the up coming holiday until yesterday, without all those loud obnoxious store decorations we all complain about and make fun of it really is easy to forget the holidays.  To make it feel a bit more like home I took the kids to the pool for some fun.  They had a blast swimming around in the kiddie pool for a good hour or more before I called it quits and headed home to dewrinkle. 
Since I am officially sick of burgers I decided to try a different American classic for dinner, fried chicken!  I've never actually made fried chicken and I was disappointed that I couldn't find buttermilk which most fired chicken recipes call for.  Betty Crocker, who never lets me down, had a simple buttermilk free recipe though.  So with the kids watching on from the edge of the kitchen, no one is allowed in the kitchen while I cook, I took on my first go at fried chicken.  But, where would fried chicken be without mashed potatoes and corn on the cob? 
Feeling a bit heavy on the starches and fats I included a leafy salad with my Fourth of July dinner.  The chicken was good, but I can't help but think it would have been better with buttermilk.  The only think our Fourth is missing is a firework celebration.  But, we will only be in China for a short time, so, for now I will be happy with our unconventional celebration.  I've always been proud to be American, but being an expat I feel even more pride in my country and heritage.  China is a great country, but I can't imagine living under a government that does not allow me the freedoms I've always taken for granted.  God Bless America!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

East meets West BBQ

Ever wonder what would happens if you invited your Chinese co-workers to a barbeque?  Well,  you end up with an odd mix of Western and Eastern foods, and probably the most unconventional barbeque ever.  It was certainly the first BBQ I've been to that had chopsticks at it.  Lucas and I provided burgers, sausages (haven't found hot dogs), and BBQ chicken.  Each guest brought a dish of something that could be shared.  We had dumplings, sushi, square ham, salad, bananas, watermelon, cake, and ice cream.  There were several other traditional Chinese dishes but I can't name them.
The food was excellent and the guest were a lot of fun.  I've heard all about Lucas' co-workers for months now and it was nice to have faces to put with the names.  The entire group has been very welcoming of Lucas and has helped us out with so many little things, like buying movie tickets and ordering a grill to name just a few.  There were six kids including our two at the party, they all seemed happy to play in Lily's room and with Ayi there to keep an eye on things the parents got to relax some. 
Of course the kids managed to find prime spots at the table when the cake and ice cream came out though.  The little girl next to Charlie was in absolute tears when it was time to leave.  Martin, her Dad later told Lucas she cried all the way to the Metro stop.  Everyone left by 7:30 and with Ayi's help, by 8 the place looked like we had never had 30 adults and 6 kids running around for most of the day. 

Next weekend we head to Chongming, one of the islands of Shanghai.  It is a weekend trip organized by BASF and two of the co-workers I met last weekend will be traveling with us.  I'm looking forward to a couple of days outside of the city.  I just hope it isn't too hot to enjoy it, this is definitely an outdoor weekend!