Showing posts from January, 2013

Chinese Cooking

I've had a bunch of Chinese cookbooks languishing in my U.S. shopping cart, waiting for us to head to America or for another friend to business trip there or here. I've been warned repeatedly that shipping books to China is a crapshoot... many friends report they've ordered books which never arrived, caught up somewhere in customs. Certain things are restricted here, and while books are not expressly restricted (unless they are critical of China, promote division in China, or are "harmful to society"), the number of books you are allowed to bring in at once most certainly is (though the number of books we brought with us when we moved here from Macau did not exceed the limit). So while just sending one or two books seems like it shouldn't be a problem in theory, in practice it is quite a bit more complicated (hey friends who want to send us care packages through the mail/Fed-Ex/UPS - skip the books!).

Michael's quick trip back to the States wa…

Internet Troubles

Hey everyone, sorry that yesterday's photo didn't show up. I've tried to fix it. We've been pretty much without internet access all week long, so if I can't do it on my iPhone with the wifi turned off using the 3G service only, I pretty much can't do it. And I guess this time uploading a photo on my little pocket computer was in the can't do it column. Just had the internet guru out to assess the problem and it's going to take a little more work before things are smooth sailing again. I had a brief moment of slight functioning on the desktop and I quickly took down the photo and put it back up again, and it sorta looks like it might be working. You tell me. Head on back to yesterday and let me know! Thanks for the patience (and oh how I wish I had more of it!).

Put on a happy face

This morning I woke to the brightest, bluest skies Shanghai has seen since the start of the new year. I ran to the corner for coffee and practically danced on the way home. I definitely sang, loudly and joyfully, like a one woman parade. This might sound a little odd, but honestly I see someone walking down the street singing at the top of their lungs every single day here, so I'm positive my meager musical contribution didn't turn any heads.

It is so true that you can't fully realize how bad things are until good returns, and it was only seeing this glorious blue sky that the full impact of recent weeks filled with thick, polluted air could be felt.

I'm working on an ambitious yearlong photographic art project (sorry, you'll have to wait a year to hear more about it), but I happen to have a photo of the sky earlier this month to compare with a photo of the sky today, and it's quite remarkable. No, those aren't grey rain clouds in the top photo, it's p…

Won't be long now

Michael is currently on a plane back home, and this time it looks like a man with a pointy nose is eating the plane. Hope the aircraft doesn't zig when it's supposed to zag. No gentle meandering this direction, that looks like a very specific flight path.

Left at Albuquerque

This poor fella looks a little bit lost...

Like I've said before, it's impossible to be bored in Shanghai, you never know what you might see on any given day!

Ginger Fresh

In America, the most popular scent of dishwashing detergent is lemon. We like our dishes to be lemon fresh! I've found a wide variety of dishwashing detergent scents here in China. Orange is far more popular than lemon, which I don't often see unless I look in the imported section. And for $13 USD for a bottle which goes for 99 cents at the Target in America, I don't need to be washing my dishes with imported lemon fresh detergent. So I usually go with a local brand for about 99 cents. The scent which surprised me the most was ginger. I mean, here's some ginger:

Raise your hand if you look at that and think, "Wow, I want to wash my forks and spoons with that!"

Any hands up? No?

Because you totally can. See?

Personally, I love ginger. I look for opportunities to use it in my cooking. In fact, it's one of the fresh ingredients I always have on hand in my kitchen, along with shallots and garlic. Using it to clean my plates and glasses was an acquired taste.…

A dog's life

I just realized it's been one year since Lucy Rocket joined our family! She marked the occasion by eating her very first shoe.

I was not pleased at all, especially since finding shoes for my American sized 9 feet is difficult in Asia... Next time perhaps I need to remember the date and bake her a doggy cake so she doesn't snack on my patent leather!

Honestly though, she has never destroyed anything before, so it's been a pretty great year over all. Lucy is a very well travelled dog... she was born in Hong Kong, moved to Macau where she found us, and then moving to Shanghai all before she was a year old. Reminds me of my oldest son!

Having a dog makes living abroad incredibly complicated, much more so than having children. But maybe that's because I've done this quite a bit with children but only just a year with a pet? The biggest complication is money. It's not cheap to move an animal from one country to another. Moving her here from Macau, a two hour flight …

3:00 a.m.

My husband is currently hurtling through the air (safely ensconced in a comfy business class seat) on his way to a week of emergency business meetings in Los Angeles. The sad part for him is he'll get back home here in Shanghai just in time to unpack, spend a couple days in the office, repack, and then turn back around with the boys and I for our long awaited first trip back to America in nearly two years. Poor Michael!

It was a stressful weekend, as all the preparations we were making for the family vacation had to be compressed in a shorter amount of time than I expected, mainly the parts where Michael's help was required. We had dinner with him and then sent him off on the train to the airport.

I got the kids to bed, but instead of sleeping myself, I've been up placing huge orders on Old Navy, Amazon, and Drug's websites so that Michael can bring back much of what we were intending to buy in America in his two empty suitcases which have a 70lb limit, inst…

2013 - Year of the Mouse!

As Chinese New Year approaches (February 10th this year), we bid a fond farewell to the Year of the Dragon. My oldest son was born in the Year of the Dragon, so all year long when we saw anything with a dragon on it, we'd point it out to him. And now as the Year of the Dragon roars out, we make way for the new year... the Year of the Mouse!

Okay, not really. It's actually the Year of the Snake. But for us Chases, there is a spectacularly magical Mouse-related year about to commence!

For Christmas this year, we gave the boys these photos:

And then we told them we'll be going to all of the Disney Theme Parks worldwide in 2013! I'm not sure who was more excited, the boys or their Mama! Truth be told, Michael, Nathan, and I have already been to all the Disney Parks except for the two in Paris. But Benjamin wasn't yet born when we lived in Japan. For that matter, Nathan was just a 13 week old baby when we went to Tokyo Disneyland and a ten month old when Tokyo DisneySea …

Farewell, Huell Howser

Today California lost some of its gold. Huell Howser, a well known television personality who took public television viewers on televised tours to obscure, quaint, and historical places of interest in California, passed away at the age of 67.

He was incredibly cheesy, with a Tennessee accent and only a microphone and a camera. But he had such a sense of absolute wonder about the commonplace things in life and insatiable curiosity. I could never help but be drawn in to what he was showing us. In high school I mocked and imitated him, mimicking his isn't that amazing catchphrase when someone would tell me something less than amazing. But I never stopped watching when one of his shows happened to be on.

In later years I grew to appreciate him and the fact that he took the time to travel all over California, pointing out what made the state so great. They say that familiarity breeds contempt, and having been born and raised in California, it was so easy to take it all in with a blas…


Shortly after we moved to Shanghai, we found ourselves in a taxi headed home and saw an unusual sight. Or I should say the boys and I saw an unusual sight, Michael had his nose buried in his iPhone. Running across the road in front of us, trying to dodge the cars, were ten middle-aged men dressed in bright blue overalls and neon orange shirts. And like a band of miners, they were all carrying pickaxes on their shoulders! They looked like they escaped out of a Mario Bros. video game and would look right at home in Minecraft. The boys and I yelled out in surprise but by the time we could tear Michael's attention away from Angry Birds, we'd already sped past. He doubted our story then, and even months later. I admit, it does sound kind of crazy. What would anyone in the giant metropolis of Shanghai need with pickaxes? And why were they dressed like cartoon characters?

I'm happy to report that after six months of pondering this, I came across one of the pickax wielding men al…


When we were looking at flats in Shanghai, we noticed many of them had these metal ladder things on the bathroom walls. My initial thought was it was some sort of towel rack, followed by a second thought - that thing could hold a lot of towels.

When we finally settled on this place and came for our walk through, the owner's husband (who speaks splendid English thankfully), showed us what they really are - bathroom heaters. During the winter, you open the valve on the lower left and press a button on the water heater out on the balcony. This streams boiling hot water into the pipes, which then heats the entire room quite nicely.

Someone told me they were indeed heated towel racks, but they get far too hot to actually put anything on there. Like our bathroom in Macau, the floor and walls are made of marble with no vent for the heater or air conditioner. This means in winter the bathroom is frightfully cold (especially since one wall of the bathroom is windows -single paned- and quit…

Shanghai Hospital Tour

Right after we moved to Macau, we got to experience the local hospital when my oldest son grew very sick. I wrote about that here. I wanted to share what my Shanghai hospital experience was like as well.

First of all, you should know that unlike America, most doctor visits in Shanghai (and greater China) take place at a hospital. Instead of going to an off site doctor's office or clinic, you just go straight to the hospital to be seen. It isn't always a requirement to have an appointment, but if you want to be assured that the doctor you see speaks English (or has someone there to translate), then an appointment is a good idea. Most hospitals have a "local" area and a "VIP" area. The difference is price and wait time, with the VIPs paying more and waiting less. Expats, unless they speak fluent Mandarin or have someone to translate for them, go to the VIP area, which generally has an English speaker to serve you. There are a few expat-centric hospitals with …

Shanghai Air Quality

I feel like I was sick a lot in 2012. It seems to take my immune system a whole year to adjust to a new location. Unfortunately, we seem to move every year! Great for my wandering soul, not so great for my health.

Three of the four members of my family have mold allergies, which tend to cause sinus issues for two of us and asthma for my husband. Hong Kong and Macau have subtropical climates and are quite humid most of the year. There is visible mold growing everywhere you look outdoors, and without a dehumidifier in your home, mold will grow on your walls and in your closets, eventually making its way into your clothing and soft goods. Strangely enough, none of us with mold allergies had a problem at all in either Macau or Hong Kong. Bringing up the mysterious lack of symptoms to our doctors, we were told that the humid climate, while breeding mold like crazy, actually works in the favor of those with mold allergies as the mold tends not to go airborne. In Southern California the cli…

Happy New Year!

At the stroke of midnight, the night sky of Shanghai erupted in fireworks as well as small red lanterns that drifted away on the below-freezing breeze. I spent the last day of 2012 in the hospital of all places, hooked up to an IV filled with antibiotics, painkillers, and anti-nausea medication. Not such a great end of the year! But today starts a new one, a year that I hope is filled with lots of health. More soon, it takes almost nothing to send me back to bed for more rest. Happy New Year everyone, and Happy Birthday to my little brother!