Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Busy, Busy, Busy


Well, to say the least we have been busy lately. I feel refreshed and I would now like to share with everyone our lives the past week and a half.

We had a fabulous time in Shanghai and did tons of Christmas shopping. It was great to get the shopping out of the way. I now have to figure out how to post things back to the U.S. and U.K. I think everyone will enjoy the goodies we got them; I am just hoping we don't have any problems with the mail.

Once again I would like to thank everyone for the well wish I received on my birthday. I had lovely star-gazer lilies delivered from my husband and gorgeous sunflowers from my friends back in Chengdu. Thank you to my parents, in-laws, and dear friend Jill who sent me cards and for Pam for her rendition of "Happy Birthday" on my voice mail.

While we were in Shanghai I was able to purchase my birthday goodies from Jonny. This year I asked him to wait until we went to Shanghai to buy me a gift, so he so graciously left the gift shopping up to me. One of my gifts was a picture of a woman in a yarn shop by a very famous Chinese photographer named Wang Gangfeng. (All my knitting friends would love this picture!) The photos are amazing and they give you a peak into the real China. One of the cool things about his photos is that he puts the name of the province on the photo. I am going to ask for the above photo of 2 little Sichaunese children for Christmas. Check out both his color and black and white portfolio, I think that anyone would see the beauty in his photos. I also picked out a gorgeous amber ring from Amy's Pearls & Jewelry. The jewelry here is also another big thing to buy while you are in China especially the pearls.

After returning to Chengdu I was busy preparing for several Thanksgiving celebrations. I was asked by Gemma's teacher to prepare Thanksgiving food for Gemma's class on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I organized the parents of the American students and had everyone bring something. I decided not to have turkey since the 20 pound bird I was preparing for our own Thanksgiving was a cool $75 U.S. dollars! I made 2 chickens, stuffed them and called it good. The celebration at the school was really nice. The kids made pilgrim and Native American head pieces and wore them while we ate. Before we ate the teacher asked the class "What do Americans eat for Thanksgiving?", a question I thought was quite answerable, a little Chinese boy shouted out "Turtle!". Now, I would have thought he made a mistake, but since they eat turtle left and right here I think he was dead serious!

Thanksgiving in China was a little different. Especially for us since we treat Thanksgiving as a bigger holiday than Christmas. We are used to having an after-Thanksgiving evening party with Jonny's turkey curry, croquet and the consumption of lots of alcohol. This year Jonny had to work the entire day, so we ended up attending Thanksgiving evening dinner at the house of 2 Americans that are working for the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. We had a nice dinner with all the fixings and there were 3 other families in attendance.

I had decided before we went to our friend’s house for dinner that I would prepare Thanksgiving on Friday and have our traditional Thanksgiving party like at home. Saturday I was really busy cooking most of the day and had tons of help from Jonny. He did lots of peeling and chopping for me. We are so lucky to have an ayi to help clean and take care of the house, but apparently she decided she needed to bring in the 'big guns' and called her sister over (who is my friend Sadie's ayi) to help for the day. It made for a stress-free day and the food turned out really lovely. We had over 20 people for Thanksgiving dinner. I was able to find almost all of my normal Thanksgiving ingredients with the exception of pecans. I would have to say my favorite dish was the
Eggless Sweet Potato Casserole that I made. I highly recommend it!!! The only actual problem with the meal was that my small oven took 10 hours to cook the turkey! It was probably the best turkey I have ever made, so I think it might have had something to do with the slow-cooking the turkey.

Unfortunately right before the party Gemma started coming down with something. She spent most of Thanksgiving up in her room sleeping. We had the doctor come to the house and he said she had an upper respiratory infection, so he started her on antibiotics. We headed to the doctor on Monday for a follow-up, but I thought she was getting better. By Tuesday Gemma appear to be sicker and Angus was now starting to get sick too. I took them to the doctor again and he gave her more drugs and by this morning they both seemed better. Personally I think it is Chengduitis, which is a disease I have made-up, but it is a disease caused by the pollution in Chengdu.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Shanghai Shopping

Yesterday Jonny took they day off and we did quite a bit of shopping. We went to the Xiang Yang Market and took a much more than I did with me and the kids. Jonny loves to haggle with the vendors, however I feel so guilty asking them to cut the price below 50% of what they originally asked. Jonny always goes down to 80% of their original asking price and by the end of it all they seem to agree. I just can't imagine how they make their money, but supposedly China has is making $40 billion a year on knock offs.

After our shopping Jonny had made a reservation for me to have an afternoon of pampering from the very famous Dragonfly spa. I ordered the Emperor's Delight and oh my was it a delight! I had an hour head to toe massage which consisted of a woman massaging my tootsies and my upper body at the same time! Talk about feeling like an Emperor! After that massage I had a Japanese Shiatsu massage, which they described to be more like the deep tissue massage at home. They took me in to a Japanese-styled room and had me lay face down on a mat on the floor. It was divine! They did quite a bit of work with my spine and it did remind me of the massages I have had back in the U.S.

I went back to the hotel and met Jonny and the kids. We decided to take Jonny to the DVD shop to pick up some more DVD's. When we arrived there were tons of people there from every Western destination you could think of. They had a great selection and they even had old television series like Dallas, X-Files, etc.

We decided to take Jonny to the 1221, the Shanghanese restaurant for dinner. We had sweet and sour shrimp (not battered and deep fat fried like at home) over crispy rice, lemon chicken, chili beef, and garliky green beans which was the best Chinese food I have ever had in my life! Jonny was very impressed with our choice and we left fat and happy. I think Gemma single handedly ate the entire plate of lemon chicken.

My Shanghai of the day was Dragonfly!!!

My Shanglow was not having a big enough stomach to eat more food at 1221!

Friday, November 18, 2005

A BIG Shanglow

Yesterday started out to be a great day. We headed to A DVD shop to buy some movies. They had a great selection and I bought about 10 of my favorite movies. We headed to Element Fresh, a Western-sandwich shop recommended by friends and walked in the door and ran into our friend Reed from Chengdu. We sat down and joined them for a smoothie and in walks in our other friend from Chengdu, Amy. We finished our drinks and Amy accompanied us to a place she called TJ Maxx and then on to the fabric market. The fabric market was amazing! They have incredible materials for suits, dress shirts, fancy ball gowns, jeans, coats, etc.

In the afternoon we headed to the Shanghai Aquarium in Pudong. It was amazing! They had fish I had never seen before. They had all these cool tunnel-type aquariums where you walk through the tunnel and there are fish to each side and above you. The had a tunnel-o-fish going down an escalator too! The kids absolute loved it! Angus just kept staring and laughing at all the fish and Gemma kept looking for Nemo! Strange, we never did find him.

When we were finished we went out to get a taxi. It had cooled down significantly and it was rush house. Since moving to China I realized the the Chinese do NOT have a concept of the queue. They just push and shove in front of you and don't really care who they offend in the process. It took about 15 minutes of walking up and down the street to find an open taxi and I shoved my way in front of two young guys who were very friendly and said in their best English "ladies first". I thought, this is a bit strange that they didn't run me over, but after I got in the taxi I realized why, my billfold was missing. I retraced my steps in my mind and thought that I had been pick pocketed. I couldn't believe it! They totally took advantage of me because I had two kids, a stroller, and a diaper bag to contend with. I have traveled quite a bit in my life and never has this happened to me.

We finally made it to Jonny's work function and I was a bit shaken up. I thought about it and decided I could either let it spoil my whole vacation or just blow it off and keep enjoying myself. At least my kids were warm and safe that is all that mattered. I can always get new credit card and a billfold.

The work function we went to was put on by an expat family from Malaysia living in Shanghai. They had a family party at their house, so we were able to see how the expats live in Shanghai. I couldn't believe how fabulous their house was! It looked like something out of Arizona. A big, 2 story house on a lake with normal tile floors and carpet! The whole neighborhood looked like something out of one of the lake communities in Chandler, Arizona. They told us the material from all of the houses were imported from Ottawa, Canada. Now how can Jonny get an expat assignment in Shanghai!

My Shanghai was running into familiar faces in Shanghai.

My Shanglow was getting pick pocketed.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Birthday Shanghai-Style!

I had a fabulous birthday yesterday! Thank you to all of my well wishers! Shanghai is an amazing city! I am having a hard time finding any lows about it. We had a great time and both Gemma and Angus were angel babies for me!

Yesterday we started off breakfast at the hotel and decided to hit the ground running with 2 kiddos in tow. Who cares if this is 9th largest city in the world! We grabbed a taxi and headed to The Portman, which is a fancy schmanzy Ritz-Carlton, where they have tons of Western restaurants like Starbuck's, California Pizza Kitchen, and Tony Roma's. We did have a coffee at Starbucks, went to the western grocery store and hit Lilli's a jewelry store recommended by some friends from Chengdu who used to live in Shanghai. After our Western experience we headed over to the knock-off market to do some Christmas shopping. We got out of our taxi and I could have sworn I had a hundred Chinese people coming over to me offering to 'hold my bag'. I kindly said 'bu yao' and went to find the market. As I got closer to the market I realized that they people were not offering to hold my bag, but to sell me a bag! I wanted in the market and was amazed by all the things there were to buy! I bought some lovely bags, keychains, and Ralph Lauren long-sleeve polo shirts for Christmas presents. I am going to head back again, so once again if you think you might be on my list, please let me know what you want. After our market experience I decided it was time for my birthday lunch. We went to a Shanghainese restaurant recommended by my friends called 1221. It was amazing food and so different than what we have become accustom to in Sichuan. The flavor was more sweet and sour than the hot, hot chili taste of Sichuan. I also treated myself to a lovely glass of wine!

We went back to the hotel room to lay down and wait for Jonny to return from work. Unfortunately for him it took 2 hours for him to get back. We then went out for birthday dinner at Simply Thai, a gorgeous Thai restaurant not to far from our hotel. It was a perfect birthday! I highly, highly recommend Shanghai to any adventurous traveler who love to shop, eat, and enjoys the big city!

My Shanghai of the day was spending my birthday in such a fabulous city.

My Shanglow was having to wait 2 hours for Jonny to get back from work.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Shanghais and Lows

In keeping the tradition of Chengdus and Don'ts I thought I would add Shanghais and Lows for our trip to Shanghai.

We arrived safely in Shanghai this evening. It was dark when we arrived, but it looks fantastic! It reminds me of London very much, but with Chinese people on bicycles everywhere.

We are in Shanghai until Sunday. Jonny has a business meeting for the next couple days and I think he felt horribly guilty because it happened to land on my birthday (which is the 16th), so he thought he would take us all with him and stay the week-end and celebrate.

My main object of this trip: SHOPPING! I plan on doing all of my Christmas shopping, so if you think you might be on my list let me know what you have been wishing for from China.

My Shanghai of the day is that our taxi driver knew how to drive and where he was going.

My Shanglow would be that our hotel room has two twin beds! Guess what I'm NOT getting for my birthday ;)

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Marine Ball


Saturday evening we attended the 1st Annual U.S. Marine Ball of Chengdu at the Crowne Plaza. The Marine Ball is a birthday celebration for the U.S. Marine Corps that is celebrated every year around the world. This year marks the Corps 230th year.


I was really excited for the evening. I went to the tailor and had a dress made for myself. I picked the most gorgeous green color in raw silk and found picture of a dress on the internet that the tailor could copy. The dress turned out great and there is nothing like having clothes tailor made to your body. Here is a picture of Jonny and I on the front steps of our house.


Amy, Angie, Me, and Sadie


Here is a picture of the Marines that are stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. There are 7 here right now, but 2 are going to be leaving soon. Here is a picture of a few wives + one employee from Jonny's company.


Here is the whole gang with the Marines.


There was a 8 course meal and dancing afterwards. Here is a picture of Rock Hardgrove, one of Jonny's colleagues, shaking his money maker.

We had a nice evening, but I have to say the most exciting part for me was having the dress made. I wonder what else I should have made?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Family Pumpkin Carving and Fall Festival

Before we moved to China I just assumed that there would be no Halloween festivities where we would be living. But I was pleasantly surprised when Gemma's school had a Fall Festival where the kids were able to dress-up in their Halloween costume, play games, and trick or treat. There was a family pumpkin carving contest and Jonny was the carver of our pumpkin. Pumpkins are a little different than at home. They are quite squat and easier to clean out.


Angus and Gemma modeling their pumpkin au naturale!


Jonny carving our family pumpkin.


I didn't tell Jonny there was a contest for the best carved pumpkin until after he carved our pumpkin. He was a little upset and said he would have done a better job if he had known. I purposely didn't tell him because he is such a perfectionist it would have taken a week to carve the the thing.


Gemma wanted to be a princess for Halloween and she wanted to wear pink. I told her she could be Sleeping Beauty and she eagerly agreed. Our driver took us to his wife's tailor and she make this beautiful raw silk gown for Gemma. It was extremely reasonable and turned out gorgeous. (I also had a coat and ball gown made for myself that I will post pictures of soon. It is just fabulous to have clothes tailor made to your body and so reasonably priced!)


Gemma and her classmate Sally. Sally is from Korea and was also Sleeping Beauty.


They did a great job decorating the school and had an area for family pictures.


Sleeping Beauty showing off her shoes.


Princess Angus! As you can see Jonny had to restrain his arms to take this picture. Doesn't he look cute in the crown? This photo is bribery material for when he gets older!


Gemma decorating cookies. Actually it looks like she is decorating her face!


Elton Jonny!

It was a great night out for the family and the school did a great job. I was in charge of the food and I would have to say it was the highlight of the evening. There were tons of tasty dishes! There were these curry and shiitake puffs that were incredible, a scrummy curry, and many other tantalizing tidbits. I made my pumpkin bars and also the pumpkin soup my friend Jill in AZ makes. They both turned out great and were a hit.

Good News, we received our furniture tonight! We now have a couch to sit, a table to eat, and a proper bed to sleep! I will take photo once we decide how to arrange it in our house.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Adult Halloween in Chengdu

Last Saturday night a group of us got together and went to the Shamrock's Halloween party. The places was definitely buzzing and it was a ton of fun!


Me, Amy, and Angie. They are both wives of Jonny's co-workers who have lived in China for the past 3 + years.


Bruce, Jonny and Matt.


Reed and Amy.

The fun thing about the Shamrock is that you can purchase a whole bottle of liquor. For instance we purchased a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin and they brought us a bucket of ice, cans of tonic, and the entire bottle of gin. It is much more economical than buying it by the drink, but not too fun when you go through a whole bottle between 3 people!


Brad, one of Jonny's co-workers dressed up like a porn star. The funny about his costume is that it took me about a 1/2 an hour to figure out who he was!


Jonny had to try the wig. I am so glad I didn't meet Jonny when he had hair. It just looks so wrong on him!


Brad took off the wig and then his wife Angie gave it a try.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

We have flitted!

My mother-in-law said to to me when we were in the process of moving from one house to another back in AZ that she would come over to help us 'flit'. I finally figured out what she meant and hence the title of my blog.

Everyone has been dying to see pictures our our house. Now without further ado the grande tour of Casa Dallas, Chinese-style!


You walk in the front door and here is the living room. It is huge! The Chinese are very proud of their televisions. There are TVs in every foot massage place and every house we looked at had a massive TV!


You walk up three stairs to the dining room. Notice the floors are made of granite. It is everywhere here, on the sidewalks, driveways, etc.


On the main floor there is a guest bed for our company. Doesn't it look comfy! Jeannete, Brian, Pam, did you book your tickets yet????


Here is the guest bathroom. Notice the urinal, any ideas to either hide it or make a piece of art out of it?


Here are the stairs. I have only fell down them a couple times.


Miss Gemma's room, pretty in pink!


There is an office off Gemma's bedroom that we are making into the kids playroom.


Angus' room patiently awaiting for his crib, which should arrive on November 10th along with our other belongings from AZ!!


Our master bedroom, where it all happens!


Here is the master bath tub, which has been tons of fun for the kids. It is like a mini-swimming pool in our house. It also fits the four of us in it very nicely!


The office off the master bedroom, where I am typing from now!


The view from the kitchen, a nice little play area for the kids.

We also have a garage, basement storage area, upstairs bathroom for the kids (it was in use when I was taking the photos!), ayi's bedroom/storage and a kitchen. I would have loved to post a picture of the kitchen, but it is so small I couldn't get a good angle for a picture.

I hope you enjoyed the tour!