Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Shopping We Will Go!

I recently made my first trip to Marks & Spencer, a British department store that not only carries clothes for adults and kids, it also has a small grocery store and cafe.  To the British expats M&S is like a holy mecca, to me its one more place I can add to my list of places to find frozen peas.  Yes, you read that right, peas.  I've learned the hard way that the local version is not always the same as what I'm used to getting back home, and it is not unusual to go to 3 or 4 different stores to pick up what you might need for a single dinner.  So, having one more store to check for those hard to find things like frozen peas is great!
The Chinese love to shop, the many shopping malls are proof of that, but if you want to shop like a local you need to learn about the markets.  There are markets for crafts, children's clothing and toys, eye glasses, tailors, clothing, and perhaps the most well known, the fake or knock off market.   Last week I went to the Children's Market, a large underground space lined with tiny shops selling everything you need for your kids at a fraction of the price you'd pay at a shopping mall.  Some shops specialize in things like socks and tights, or baby clothes, but most have a variety.  You can often find "name brand" clothes like Polo, or Gap here too.  The quality varies, as does the price, which is dependent on your negotiating skills.   I didn't get any clothes for the kids this trip, but I did find stickers, coloring books, and some other fun crafts to help keep the kids busy next week during their spring break.
In anticipation of spring break I also made a trip to a craft market.  Just across from the Yu Yuan Garden, this large indoor market is filled with stalls selling ribbon, stickers, pencils, beads... you get the idea.  It is incredibly crowded, but worth the trip.  AC Moore ain't got nothin on Shanghai's craft markets.  You may have to hunt a bit, but you can find just about anything here you could possibly want for a busy afternoon with the kids.  There are other craft markets that cater more to the more serious artists with things like oil paints, charcoals, and clay.  If you're in need of paper for a project there is a whole street of shops for that.  They even call it paper street.

The fake market is one of my favorites to visit though.  You can find "designer" purses and sunglasses, silk scarves and robes, and all the typical souvenir chotchkies.  It is never boring and I'm always finding something new.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sunny Florida, well, sort of...

After much planning and anticipation we finally made it to Florida for our annual trip.  After handing the kids over to Grammy and Papa, Lucas and I crashed, while the kids burned off some of the excitement of seeing everyone.  Holly and I got in our sister day at Downtown Disney, retail therapy and lunch at the Earl of Sandwich!  Magic Kingdom was first on the list this year, but we made a stop at a delicious character breakfast where we all over indulged while the kids got to meet the Mad Hatter, Alice, and Mary Poppins.  We had barely stepped foot in the park when we came across Aladdin and Jasmine.  As always the kids were super excited to be at Disney and happily bounced from one ride to the next.  Luckily for us Steven has connections in Fantasyland, and got us out of all the long lines!  Thank you Steven, you're awesome!  Lily seemed to really love the Peter Pan ride, especially the tick tock croc.

This year when planning our Disney trip I asked Lily if she wanted to be made up as a princess again or a mermaid.  Since she's currently all about Ariel, it was no surprise when she picked to be a mermaid.  Charlie also got made up this year too, and after a bit of discussion over which pirate make-up to get done, we went with a mini version of Jack Sparrow. We got Tobias Swordcutter (can't use your real name when you're a pirate) dressed in his pirate gear and then got him to sit still long enough for the wench to do his make up.  We even got a surprise visit from Jack Sparrow (Hello, yummy).  Charlie was not as impressed and wanted nothing to do with him though.  Holly and I had no such issues and happily posed for a picture with him!  Lily was busy getting turned into a mermaid, complete with frothy skirt, jewelry, hair, and make-up.  Both kids looked amazing, Charlie in particular got a lot of comments as we walked around the park.  Unfortunately, our pirate had had enough and by the time we went to Tony's for dinner he was out cold!

We visited EPCOT the next day and had fun seeing Spaceship Earth, the Land, and of course the Sea, one of the kids favorites since it has a Nemo theme and Turtle talk with Crush. This year Charlie was tall enough to go on Soarin, and after a mad dash from the front of the line to the bathroom, Charlie and I were allowed to go right back to the front and hop on the ride, which he loved. After powering through yet another day without a nap both kids crashed at dinner.  Charlie didn't even make it to the table and once Lily sat down she was done.  Too bad, I think they would have like the food at the Biergarten.

Over the weekend, mom, Holly, the kids and I, all headed to Ft. Lauderdale to visit with family.  We took the kids to the beach, where Lily had a blast looking for shells and both kids played in the sand.  We celebrated birthdays and had so much fun, but as always, it went by way too fast and Monday morning we were headed back to Clermont.  Thank you everyone for a wonderful weekend!

Our first day back to Disney was spent at Hollywood Studios, where we took Lily on the Tower of Terror and Star Tours.  She absolutely loves the scary rides!  We also saw the Little Mermaid show, and the Indian Jones Stunt Spectacular, which the kids absolutely loved.  Charlie in particular loved all the action and was super excited when they brought out the plane.

A highlight of our Disney trip this year was our dinner luau at Ohana.  We had a table right up front for the show, thank you Holly for working your magic.  We got served an awesome dinner of classic Polynesian food and got to watch the kids try to learn to hula dance and then even better, we got to watch Grammy and Lucas get up on stage to celebrate their birthdays with a hula dance.  After the dinner was over we were treated to some seriously good looking men and women wearing very little clothing dance around the stage showing us the different types of traditional Polynesian dances.  The best part, I got a kiss on the cheek from the hottest guy there!  It was an fabulous time.