Sunday, April 30, 2006

And this is what I woke up to today...


View from outside our villa.

We arrived safe and sound in Koh Samui on Friday night around 11 pm. We had a couple of tired kiddos, but they did fantastic on the journey. We haven't done much other than eat, drink, and swim. We have the luxury of having a Thai chef at our disposal and have used her every evening for dinner. The food has been utterly AMAZING!!!! Tonight we hired the babysitter and we are heading to Chaweng Beach for drinks. This is an incredible place and everyone should add it to their list of places to see.

And this is what I saw before I went to bed last night.


I promise to take more pictures and post them soon!


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Koh Samui, Thailand!


We are getting ready to leave tomorrow afternoon for 10 days in Koh Samui, Thailand. I am so excited I can't hardly stand it! I am in need of a break from China. I feel that I get quite agitated at the littlest thing about Chinese culture and the way that most Chinese people think. I am sure it is nothing a few days on the beach and loads of Thai food won't cure.

We are going with the kids, Sadie and Rock and staying at Headland Villas. The villas were highly recommended by a couple other expat families living here in Chengdu. They also offer a Thai chef and babysitting services which we plan to take advantage of quite frequently.
I thought I would include some other photos of our accommodations for you to enjoy.

THV view to inside

THV lounge & dining

THV terrace villa 3

THV deck of villa 2

I plan on doing quite a bit of blogging while we are in Thailand, so stay tuned! We are also going to be meeting up with a woman from my MOMS Club in Chandler that relocated back to Koh Samui this past year. It should be nice to see a familiar face and get a locals view of the island.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cooking Fest!

For a while now my friend Asma and I have wanted to get together and cook. Asma was born in Pakistan and raised in Saudi Arabia and makes the most fabulous Indian and Pakistani food. I have been so lucky to try her delectable tidbits, but to learn how she puts everything together was the ultimate treat for me! I was also flattered that Asma wanted me to teach her a few things that I make.

Today we made paneer (Indian Cheese), homemade yogurt (which is near impossible to find in China, anyway the stuff without sugar is hard to find) and whole wheat bread. We tried making the paneer with skim milk and used apple cider vinegar instead of distilled vinegar. It turned out alright, but the apple cider vinegar didn't work too well because the cheese had a strong vinegar taste. I think next time I will try making the paneer with low fat milk and the right type of vinegar. It is quite easy to make and not very time consuming.

Since moving to China we have found it quite difficult to find decent bread here. The whole wheat bread doesn't have a whole lot of wheat flour in it and it is packed with sugar! I found a great little recipe on the internet which we altered, but I have to say it turned our very yummy.

Here is the recipe with our modifications:

5 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
2 packages of Active Yeast
2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Honey
1 Cup Skim Milk
1 Cup Warm Water
3 TBSP Oil


In large bowl, combine 3 cups whole wheat flour, yeast, and salt and mix well.

In saucepan, heat milk, water, honey, and oil until a thermometer reads 120-130 degrees F (warm).

Add liquid mixture to flour mixture and stir to combine. Beat this batter for 3 minutes. Then, gradually stir in rest of whole wheat flour and enough remaining all-purpose four to form a firm dough.

Sprinkle work surface with flour and knead dough, adding more flour if necessary, for 5-8 minutes until smooth and satiny. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning the dough in the bowl to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour, until double in bulk.
Punch down dough and divide into 2 pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll or press each piece of dough to a 14x7" rectangle. Starting with shorter side, roll up tightly, pressing dough into roll with each turn. Pinch edges and ends to seal and place dough, seam-side down, into greased 9x5" bread pans, making sure short ends of bread are snugly fitted against the sides of the pans. Cover and let rise in warm place until the dough fills the corners of the pans and is double in bulk, 30-40 minutes.

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes, until bread is golden brown. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. I like to brush the bread with butter when it's still hot from the oven for a softer crust.

For lunch I made Lemon Chicken with Brown Basmati Rice from the Chinese cookbook I picked up in Australia called A Little Taste of China. I have made it about 3 times now and it is a hit, so I will share recipe with you.

1lb of Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast
1 TBSP Light Soy Sauce
1 TBSP Rice Wine
1 Scallion, finely chopped
1 TBSP Ginger, finely chopped
1 Egg, lightly beaten
3/4 C Cornstarch
Olive Oil for frying

Lemon Sauce
2 TBSP Lemon Juice
2 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Roasted Sesame Oil
3 TBSP Chicken Broth
1/2 tsp Cornstarch

Cut the chicken into slices. Place in a bowl, add soy sauce, rice wine, scallion, ginger and garlic and toss lightly. Marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Add the egg to the chicken mixture and toss lightly to coat. Drain any excess egg and coat the chicken pieces with the cornstarch. The easiest way to do this is to put the chicken and cornstarch in a plastic bag and shake it.

Add olive oil to your wok and heat. Add chicken and fry for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.

To make the lemon sauce, combine the lemon juice, sugar, salt, sesame oil, chicken stock and cornstarch.

Add the lemon sauce to the wok and stir constantly until thickened. Add the chicken and toss lightly in sauce.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. I slightly modified the recipe as asks you to deep fry the chicken, which although it tastes yummy, it isn't necessary.

The last thing we made is yogurt, which is still setting in my oven. I hope it turns out well! We are planning to do this again soon, so I can't wait to see what goodies we find to make!

The Finished Goods!

Last Wednesday I received the furniture from the furniture refinisher Nui Wei. Here are some before and after shots:














I am very pleased with the pieces that we bought and had refinished. I think by far the armoir and kitchen cabinet are my favorites! I am looking forward to another trip out to Mr. Wong's and Nui Wei's in the near future. Nui Wei had also told me that he can make me anything from a picture or catalog, so I am thinking I might have him make me a couple sofas and a coffee table out of a Chinese shutter. We will see!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Shanghai Girls Week-end!

The week-end before last my friends Sadie and Asma headed to Shanghai for a girls only shopping week-end. I have long awaited the day when I would be totally comfortable to leave Jonny with the kids, but it does help to have a fabulous ayi to help too!

We left on Friday morning after I dropped miss Gemma off at school. She didn't seem to be upset at all, but man did I cry like a baby when I left the house.

We arrived in Shanghai and checked into our hotel. We were all starving and looking forward to the shopping we were planning to do right when we arrived. We headed to the The Portman for lunch at Element Fresh and to do a little grocery shopping at the Western grocery store located in the hotel. I found some great things like organic peanut butter, organic brown basmati and jasmine rice, and organic oatmeal. I so miss the wonderful selection of organic foods back home!!! What a treat it was to find these things!!! I think my best purchase was a small bottle of Clorox 2 that cost me almost $10 US. I swear by Clorox 2! I takes stains perfectly out of colors and I have always used this as a stain remover. If you have never used this stuff, you should!


Here is Sadie and I relaxing for a cuppa at Starbucks! They are everywhere in Shanghai!!!

After lunch we decided to hit a yarn store, which we were really looking forward to visiting. Unfortunately it was a big disappointment. The prices were ridiculous and their was not a great selection of imported yarns like they advertise. The did however have a great stock of Addi needles for a very reasonable price. If you are a knitter you know how great these needles are, but I actually controlled myself and didn't buy a thing. After knitting we hit Zara, a Spanish clothing store that I like to frequent when I go back to Northern Ireland with Jonny. They have trendy styles at excellent prices. I was so excited when we walked into to the store. They had such a wide selection of clothing in every color you could imagine and the prices were cheap, cheap, cheap!!! It was so nice to be in China and actually find clothes in my size. I have never thought I was a really big person, I usually wear a size 6 US, but the women here are so narrow I have never been able to get pants, skirts over my hips. I guess I will have to make quarterly trips to Shanghai....


Here is Sadie with her knitting needles purchases! She is in knitting heaven!!!


After taking our goodies back to the hotel we headed to dinner at Simply Thai. Here we are at dinner. We had a great dinner and ended up going back to the hotel to get a good nights sleep for our early start the next day.

We all woke up really early, probably thanks to me. I woke up earlier than I normally, but we had shopping to do and I guess my body wanted to get an early start. We headed to breakfast and then to the Xiang Yang Market. Xiang Yang is the very famous, gigantic knock-off market that is soon to be closing in July. We walked in a did a little browsing before we decided to split up. We were just getting ready to separate when I looked in front of me and saw a friend of mine from Chandler, Arizona! I couldn't believe, my friend Amy Kirley from my MOMS Club was just arriving at Xiang Yang for a day of shopping. The Kirley Family moved to the Philippines shortly after we moved to China as our husbands both work at the same company. I knew they were going to be in China for a vacation sometime soon, but I wasn't sure when. It truly is a small world. We exchanged numbers and planned to meet for dinner before they left for Beijing and we headed back to the Du.


Here is a picture of me with Amy, James, Maria and Catalina (on James' back).

After the market we headed to Dragonfly for a little pampering. If you are ever in Shanghai you must visit this place. It is such a lovely experience for very little money. I had a 1 hour top to toe massage where two people massage you at the same time, one at your head and shoulders and one at your feet. The next hour I had the Chinese massage which was an all over body massage. What a little slice of heaven!

We did more shopping the rest of the day mostly at IKEA. We decided to go out to dinner in a trendy little area called Xin Tian Di. We ended up eating at a Turkish restaurant which had the most amazing food! I highly recommend Iskendar kebob if you have never had it! It was so good, I had it at least 3 times of the course of the week-end. After dinner we hit the Simply Thai for Mangos and sticky rice and drinks.


Here is our Asma with her mocktail! What can we say we tried to corrupt her, but she was a good girl!

Sunday it was more shopping at the same places we had already hit the last too days. We just couldn't help ourselves. In the evening we met the Kirley's for dinner at the Shanghainese restaurant 1221.


Me, Amy, and Catalina.

After dinner Asma, Sadie and I decided to go out for a few drinks at one of the local Irish pubs (yes, they are everywhere!). Asma kept getting calls from her driver in Chengdu asking when her husband, Mazhar would be back from his trip to Malaysia. Asma was worried so she left Sadie and I to fend for ourselves, which we did quite well. When we returned to the hotel and Asma was very upset. Mazhar had not called her to tell her where he was, but she emailed him and found out that he missed his flight from Malaysia and wasn't coming in until the next day. She was super angry and asked him "What kind of normal person misses their flight?".

You are probably wondering why I told you the above story, right? Monday morning we leisurely got ourselves ready for our flight in the early afternoon. We grabbed a cab and headed to the airport. About 15 minutes into our cab ride I asked everyone what time our flight was and Sadie looked at her ticket and said 1:10 pm. I looked at my watch and it was 12:15 pm with about 40 minutes to get to the airport. I couldn't believe that not one of us bothered to look at the tickets. Sure enough we missed our flight and had to stay an extra day. It wasn't horrible, but I was really looking forward to seeing Jonny and the kids. We did a little more shopping and eating and made sure we were up and on time for our flight the next day.

That night when Mazhar called Asma to find out where she was she had to tell him she was still in Shanghai. We all burst out laughing when she told him this because "What kind of normal person misses a flight!" We think it was her karma that made us miss that flight, but we sure did have a good laugh about it!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Massage Envy

This past week-end Jonny headed to Hong Kong for the Hong Kong 7's rugby tournament. I really wanted to go, but the airline tickets from Chengdu to HK were ridiculously priced plus taking the kids to this particular tournament might not have been such a good idea since there would be lots of drinking and nakedness (beer + nakedness = rugby!).

The kids and I had a relaxing week-end and did absolutely nothing! It was great and I just love week-ends like this. Jonny is more the person who pushes us out of the house on the week-ends, so even though we missed him it is nice to relax and do nothing.

Jonny returned on Monday and I wanted to surprise him with a massage. I had been trying to find a masseur to come to our house and give us massages like our good ole' friend back in the US Annette Hess (Happy 30th Birthday Annette!!!). I found two women who came to the house and gave us each an hour massage for the low price of $3.75 per hour! It was totally different from the massages back in the US, but you should definitely try a Chinese massage if your local spa offers it. They work everything and use pressure points. My favorite area is my butt! There is nothing like a good butt massage! They even massaged my inner ear, which was little weird! I love a good clean ear ;) and really don't like people digging out my ear wax, but I didn't even see it coming. The girl that massaged Jonny was partially blind and he said she was excellent. I have heard from other expats that there is a place in China where there is a massage place with blind masseurs and that because they lack the sense of sight their touch is much better than non-blind masseurs .

This week-end I am going on my first girls trip with my friends Sadie and Asma. This will be the first time I leave both of the kids with Jonny for more than a trip to the mall! We are going shopping in Shanghai and for massages at this great spa called Dragonfly. I think I am getting addicted to massages!!!