Monday, December 24, 2012

平安夜 (píng’ān yè) Christmas Eve

I have been warned not to go out tonight.  Apparently, it is common for young people (and possibly older people too) in Wuhan to spend Christmas Eve window shopping, and eating dinner with friends.  So the streets will be crowded with many young Chinese wishing each other a Merry Christmas.  My language teacher told me that if you didn't make your restaurant reservations months ago, then you were already too late.  Unfortunately, I will be taking her advice, although I'm now curious to see this phenomena, how does a country that is not even the slightest bit religious take on a Christian tradition?  DH says that Christmas sells itself, it's shopping and giving presents, there are no strong food traditions, no weird foreign activities, just shopping.  And while I want to disagree with him, he's right.  In the fight to keep Christmas everywhere, what we have done is to take the Christ out of Christmas.  Instead of keeping Christmas at home with our families and in our churches we want to force stores to put up displays, we want schools to have parties, and governments to celebrate too.  But why should an Indian grocery store put up a tree, why does a Chinese restaurant need holiday lights?  Because this is what Americans want.  So we end up with that sanitized Santa version of Christmas which is all about buying and getting.  And you end up with a country of Chinese people who don't even know that Christmas was a Christian holiday. 

But don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, I love Santa, I love nativity scenes and mulled cider, and the Christmas story.  I love all of it.  I'm going to leave you with a quote from Michael Buble who sums up my thoughts on belief and Santa Claus.  (this is from an interview with him on the today show).

Michael Buble
Even as an adult, Buble says he still has faith and is a staunch defender of Old St. Nick. Don’t even TRY to tell him he’s wrong. When asked how old he was when he learned Santa was fictional, Buble responded with mock anger.
“There is a Santa Claus. When you stop believing, then he doesn’t come, and I feel sad for people don’t believe in him anymore.”


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Babe's Room

I don't normally post our home details, but I am actually quite proud of the way Babes' room turned out.  Her room is normally the first room I tackle in an effort to help her feel settled in as soon as possible, but with furniture deliveries, and things arriving from here and there and everywhere it was not possible for me to put her room together until just recently.

Anyway, her room is basically pictures and wall stickers, butterflies and flowers - because she's so girly.  I made the quilt on her bed many years ago (and I will probably NEVER make another quilt again) and most of the rest of the stuff is either hand me down pictures, or stuff we picked up at Ikea.  Looking at the pictures, I should probably paint the letters for her name some color other than white, we always have white walls, and you can never really see those letters.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Barley love

I have recently discovered Barley.  This happened by accident, since at the time I discovered it I was trying to find an alternate tea to drink in the evenings because our apartment was so cold and drafty (we have spread out some area rugs and found a way to heat the apartment, so now it's a cozy place to be instead of a frigid ice box).  I know Japanese and Korean people drink Buckwheat and Barley teas and that they are caffeine free.  I bought a little Buckwheat and a little Barley thinking I would mix them with some spices and possibly flowers and become my own tea mix master.  I actually came up with a pretty good spiced tea mix, but that's a tale for another time.
Anyway, in case you don't know raw barley looks like this:

And after cooking them; 1 cup barley to 3 cups water, bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes, they look like this:

Then you can mix them into a recipe like Barley Caponata and you get:

And so far everyone likes Barley, Babes, DH, me.  It has a little more flavor and texture than rice, and the barley grains are larger than rice too, so it's almost like a small round pasta on your plate.  I think I made something with Barley in it 2 weeks ago, but I've already used three or four different Barley recipes.  Also as far as I can tell a Barley casserole freezes well (you know how I love my freezer).  I haven't had as much success with the buckwheat.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Walking in Wuhan

Actually, this is not walking in Wuhan, it's more like working out in Wuhan.  I am on a quest for a Yoga studio that does not require me to invest in $1000 worth of Yoga classes upfront to be able to take a few classes.  I wouldn't mind later on investing some money in Yoga classes but.... $1000 is a bit much for China (things close all the time without any warning at all).
I have to say though, the gym selling technique is the same here as it is in the US.  They want me to take some fitness test to determine just how out of shape I am (yes, I know I'm out of shape, I don't need your test) there's the gym tour, there's a discussion with the instructors, and finally there's a discussion of price-- Oh and if you sign up RIGHT NOW there's a discount, but only if you act RIGHT NOW.  They were very put out that I didn't want to take their fitness test.

Anyway, here are a few pics of some of the places I've been.

The Yoga studio was very pretty.  All wood and white wash, I forgot to take pictures of the actual classrooms, but you can picture the, hardwood floors, big windows, yoga mats, etc.  I was fairly certain I did not want to join the studio though, after the class let out.  I don't know that I can do Yoga with 95 pound Chinese women.  My self esteem is not that good.  

This place is just a standard gym, no classes, but all the usual equipment.  Their locker room though looked kind of dingy, like at your high school or college, clean, but not super so.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Behind the Great Firewall

I'm still alive in case you were wondering.  I have a couple of posts all ready to be written up and posted, but we've been having trouble with our internet again, and I haven't been able to get onto my blog.  I'll try to get everything written up today while I have access, but I'm not making any promises.

Friday, December 07, 2012

McDonalds at your door!

This past weekend it was raining and cold, and we were tired and hungry, but too lazy to go out.  There was food in the house, but nothing lent itself to last minute cooking, when I hit upon an idea- I was going to order McDonald's for me and the kid (hubby had tummy troubles and didn't want to eat)!  I've done it before.

Chengdu had McDonald's delivery too, but there were other things to order like Mike's Pizza (if you live in Chengdu and have not had Mike's then you must do it now..I'll wait while you order).  So far, I haven't found anything that will deliver here in Wuhan--ok that's not true, what I mean to say is that I have not found anything in Wuhan that I can order without a conversation something like this (translated for your benefit):
Me: Hi I'd like to order some food for delivery
restaurant: EH?
Me: I'd like some chicken, green beans, and shredded potatoes
restaurant: What? You want to butter your nose?
Me: No, I'd like some chicken, green beans, and shredded potatoes
restaurant: What? (indistinct muttering, second person comes on the phone) EH? What do you want?
Me: I'd like to order some food.
restaurant: (holding phone away from mouth) there's some crazy foreigner on the phone, I can't understand a single word.
At which point either I will give up in frustration or the restaurant will.

Which brings me back to McDonald's.  They (and KFC) have figured this out and have created an ordering hotline where you call a central phone bank, you can order in Chinese or English and they will send the order to your local McDonald's and they will send the food TO YOUR DOOR!  OR even better you can order directly from the website and they will send the food TO YOUR DOOR! (can you tell how excited I am by this discovery? In Chengdu, the food couldn't come to our door, we had to go out to the outer gates to get it) The fries are a little cold, but everything else arrives as it should (of course, if you don't like McDonald's to begin with, delivery does nothing to improve it, but I think it's okay from time to time)

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Walking in Wuhan

I went on a trip to the "crazy market" this week, looking for...well, I don't know what.  But it was one of those markets in China that has almost everything.  Anyway, for your viewing pleasure: 

I need to start taking the big camera when I go.  My phone takes okay pictures, but if I'm going to take pictures, I should practice taking good ones instead of just snapping something to have a picture. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Hong Kong

I love Hong Kong, I have loved Hong Kong since my first trip 8 years ago.  I love the bustle of the crowds, the tall and skinny buses, the travelator (I love that name travel + escalator = travelator!), the restaurants, and the people.  I think it's one of the coolest cities on earth.  BUT, like NY, I always have trouble when I go there thinking of things to do.  Maybe I've just lived with DH too long... I used to just go and be content to wander around and soak up the atmosphere, but now I feel like I'm somehow wasting the day if I don't DO something.  But I think HK and NY are places that just lend themselves to hanging out (if you don't live there, if you live there you're too busy working to hang out).
The coolness of HK is even more apparent having lived for so long on the mainland.  In HK the subways are clean, efficient and quiet.  (I did not once see a fight in HK, while I see one at least once a week on the mainland) The city also seemed to be trying to make itself more eco-friendly in ways US cities are not.  There are recycling containers everywhere, public transportation seems to be the way most people get around (although no bicycles, too many hills, not enough street space), and you can use your subway card to swipe your way through just about anything (Disneyland, taxis, the skytram, ferries, 7-11, etc) reducing the need for ticketing in those places.
I also saw so many different types of people there, living, touring, working, running/owning businesses.  It was especially apparent after Wuhan where the sight of another foreigner was rare, much less so many different types of people.  Yes, the majority of the people are Asian, but not necessarily Han-Chinese.  Which made the food so good.  2nd tier mainland Chinese cities are NOT cosmopolitan.  Wuhan is better than Chengdu because at least you can get Sichuan and Cantonese food here, as well as Hubei food (in Chengdu, people felt that it wasn't worth it to eat anything other than Sichuan food).  But generally speaking, it's still going to serve the main parts of whatever region you're in, because there aren't enough people here willing to brave eating something that's not familiar to them (I'm not saying that this is unique to China, if you go into the heartland in America good luck trying to find something that's not Italian, Mexican, or American).  I know we looked like those tourists who come to China and only eat Hamburgers, but gosh darnit I haven't had a good hamburger in months!  We ate Asian food, but the only Chinese food we ate was Dim Sum (YUM!!!!!!!!).  People can think what they like about us, but I don't regret eating pizza twice, in fact I wish we had eaten it more, and I definitely should have had another hamburger. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gratuitous Disney shots

Hi, here are some more pics from our time in Disney.  (Sorry there are so many, but we had so much fun)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving in the "Happiest Place on Earth"

We are now trapped on the school schedule since Babes has officially started school (I know it's only kindergarten, but she started really late so I'm trying to keep her in school as much as possible) so when I looked at Babes' school calendar and discovered that she had 6 days off for Thanksgiving I told DH "we've got to get out of here!" And away we went to Hong Kong.
 Hong Kong is always nice, but this is the first time that I've gone to Hong Kong with a kid.  A 5yr old might put up with walking until your feet fall off the first day, but on the second she's gonna complain (actually on the first she'll complain, on the second she'll cry). Don't get me wrong Babes is a pretty good traveler (actually she's a great traveler-so easy going), she loves to sight-see, and try new foods, and go to exotic locations, but she's not up for just wandering about, which is what we usually do in HK.  BUT!  We had a surprise for her-HK Disneyland.

As you all know, I am not a Disney hater.  As a child I loved Disney, and as an adult I like it even more.  Is Disney a huge soulless corporation built to suck money out of your pocket? Yes!  Am I willing to put up with it? YES!  Because lets face the facts, folks, they are good at what they do.  Are their movies perfect? No, I wish their girls had a bit more backbone, their boys a little more personality,  and who gets married after three dates anyway?  BUT, as with anything Babes watches we make sure to talk about what we're watching and try to balance out Disney's message with our own.

But I appreciate Disney on a whole new level as an adult.  When I was a teenager I used to live near Disneyland CA.  I loved it because it was a place safe enough that my parents would let me go there by myself without asking a million and two questions.  However, taking Babes there for the first time was amazing.  She was all smiles and starry eyes.  Because we went during the week there were virtually no lines, I don't think we waited longer than half an hour for anything.  She was always front and center for every parade, and we have pictures of her dancing in the parades with the cast members. We walked into every show and got seats whenever we wanted.  The food was good, and kid centric, as well as a selection wide enough that the adults were able to enjoy it as well (it was expensive, but not ridiculously so).

From the moment we stepped onto the Disneyland express train the experience was a positive one.  There were tons of  D-employees walking around making sure you weren't lost.  They were happy to answer questions in English or Chinese.  They made an effort to keep the lines running smoothly without line cutters.  The park was sparkling spotless clean.  And as simple as it was, all the D-employees had stickers in their pockets to hand out to little kids (and adults) whenever they felt like it. 
And anyplace that gives Babes big smiles and shiny eyes, AND causes her to say "this is the best day of my life" is ok in my book. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Waffles and a Wrap

When Hubby goes out of town Babes and I almost always have breakfast for dinner.  I love breakfast, but Babes' 6:55am bus means that most mornings it's oatmeal from the crockpot, a bagel, or cheerios.  There is almost no way that I am ever going to be coherent enough in the morning to make waffles, pancakes, or anything like that.  She might get French toast or a scrambled egg, but that's a rare occasion.  So my solution is to have breakfast for dinner, but this is a love that hubby does not share, so we do it when he's out of town...
Which brings me to one of my favorite Christmas presents--my campfire (or stovetop) waffle maker.

 It's cast iron, and it sits on top of the range so I don't have to worry about plugs, or transformers or anything, I just heat it up on the eye and enjoy yummy yummy waffles.

And you know, of course, that my favorite waffle recipe would have to include oatmeal.  Because really, what food is not improved by some good old fashioned oatmeal?  I actually ran out of oatmeal (*GASP*) while making the waffles and I subbed in some of my leftover crock pot oatmeal and decreased some of the milk and they still turned out awesome.  (I would normally just link to the recipe, but I can't find it on anymore so here it is)

Oatmeal Waffles


    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
    • 1 1/2 cups milk
    • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

    1. In large mixing bowl, stir together flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt; set aside. In small mixing bowl, stir together eggs, milk, butter and brown sugar. Add to flour mixture; stir until blended. Pour batter on to grids of preheated, lightly greased waffle iron (amount will vary with size of waffle iron). Close lid quickly; do not open during baking. Use fork to remove baked waffle. Top with fresh fruit and yogurt.
Also, remember my the leafy scarf that I was working on? Well, it's finished blocked and ready for wear.  It turned out really well, I just wish I had more yarn so I could have made it wider and longer.  It makes a pretty fancy scarf, but I think it would make a smashing wrap.  (yes I said smashing!) 

 PS-it's a real pain in the butt to try to take a picture of your back by yourself.  I know I should have just pulled out my camera and remote, but if you know which box they are in, please let me know! (also after all that work, the scarf is on inside out!)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pictures from the park

For your perusal, a plethora of pictures of people playing, posing, pedaling, pausing peacefully, picking people to petition for partnerships all peeped on a perfectly pleasant prance through the park.