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Showing posts from 2014

Merry Christmas from Shanghai!

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It's our third Christmas in Shanghai, which seems like forever for us! To mark the milestone, we decided to actually feature Shanghai on our annual Christmas card. We just wanted to make sure we were sticking around a bit before we committed... heh heh heh. We live just out of the frame on the far right hand side of the photo, in the shadow of the second tallest building in the world, and the first and second tallest buildings in China. I do love this city so much!

You'll note that Nathan has now surpassed Michael in height, which officially makes him the tallest member of his family, on both sides. Ben is trying desperately to catch up.

This morning Michael and I slowly woke up and made our way to the living room to find the boys around the tree. We asked if they wanted to eat breakfast or open gifts first. You can tell they are teenage boys (or almost in Ben's case) because food came first.


Lucy Rocket wants to wish you a very merry Christmas too! All she wants for Chri…

Limitless Laowai Podcast (and the sound of my voice)

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Hey! I have some exciting news! My friend Ally Mona along with her husband Ron have launched a new website and podcast called Limitless Laowai.

What is a laowai, you ask?

laowai    \ laʊ-why \   noun;A foreigner, of any nationality, age and profession, currently living and/or working in China; one looking into a future move to China.I am a laowai. So is my entire family. So are about 85% of my friends here in Shanghai (I'm super fortunate to count among my friends a good number of local Chinese, and that, I think, makes a huge positive difference in my experience living in Shanghai). My friend Ally is also a laowai, and something she noticed about living here in China for so many years is how this is a land of really unlimited opportunity. I say very often that there is so much freedom here in Shanghai, which is a hard-to-explain and controversial statement considering the government system here. Coming from America where everything is heavily regulated, I've come to greatly ap…

Christmas Magic with HRC!

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It's finally December! The time of year when I don't have to hide my extraordinary enthusiasm for all things Christmas! 
This month I'm taking photos every day of all the magically delicious Christmas things that catch my eye in Shanghai. 
Three cheers for Christmas! Hip hip hooray! 
Tonight we had our group of creative friends over to enjoy some made-from-scratch turkey soup using up the leftovers from Thanksgiving. We also made paper Advent chains to count the days down to Christmas, and watched A Charlie Brown Christmas, which was originally released in 1965. The depression Charlie Brown felt all those years ago over holiday fatigue and wondering what it's all about is just as relavent today. Never gets old. 

And, unrelated to Christmas, but certainly to December in many places, we are in the middle of a cold snap. Temps will dip below freezing this week. It's actually hovering at freezing right now. Bah humbug! Neither Lucy Rocket nor myself are a fan. She just can…

Buh-bye October

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Wow, did I seriously go the whole month of October without posting anything? It's after midnight in Shanghai on November 1. October was crazy busy, but all good. We went to Hong Kong, we had a guest from the States, and I've been furiously writing a Christmas production script. No time for newsy updates! 
Even this won't be long. Gotta wrap it up before I turn into a pumpkin. But in honor of Halloween (which is still going on in the States), I have two things to mention. Both involve the kids.
First, my sons go to a Chinese school. Not an international school, but a Chinese school with a bilingual track. A couple of their classes are taught fully in Mandarin, including art, computer science, and PE. There are 3000 students at the school, and the campus is huge and simply gorgeous. My sons are the only Caucasian children at the school, which is predominately Asian with a minority of students from African countries. I'm sure I'll write more about our crazy education ch…

Chocolate Hair/Vanilla Care, the book!

Hi Friends!

Sorry I've been sparse in this space of late. Between internet issues (the bane of our China existence!) and some big writing projects (my book! My book is taking shape!), there's not much left for the blog. But I did have to figure out a way to get in here to let you know that my friend Rory, who I've posted about here and here, has gone and published a book containing similar information to her popular blog, Chocolate Hair/Vanilla Care.

I just re-read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast (so good, especially now that I've walked those streets in Paris and sat in those cafes he spoke of, and am myself an expatriate), and I was moved by the way he drops in his relationships with so many great writers of his time. It made me think about how I have a strangely high number of friends who are writers and published authors. I daydream of one day long from now writing my own A Moveable Feast set in Asia, where I'll drop in my own friends' names. And then I b…

Jedi Mind Tricks

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If you've spent time with me in real life any time in the last 15 or so years, you know that any time I get together with a large group of people, either family or friends, I always insist on taking a big group photo of everyone. It's just what I do. My kids are well trained in this, and they know that if they quickly pose and smile, the pain is over fast and they can go on with their lives rapidly. Other friends and family members took awhile longer to condition, but for the most part they have come to appreciate that I have over a decade's worth of documenting heights and hair colors and changes. Like I said, it's what I do, and there's no likelihood this quirk of mine is going to change any time soon.
Yesterday was the Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated in China and several other Asian countries. It's a public holiday here, very similar to American Thanksgiving, a time for families to gather together, eat lots of high-calorie food, and feel gratitude for the …

Riding the lift with a crabby toddler...

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No, really. Look:


I look forward to the weekly changing of the print ads in our elevators. Honestly, they give me such great comic relief as I take the long ride up and down to my flat. Sometimes I'm grateful for the language barrier, because it's always fun to guess exactly what the ad agency was hoping to accomplish (or advertise for that matter!).

Upon seeing this one, Nat remarked that Chinese kids are made of tougher stuff than other kids, who usually start out the toddler years eating something more gentle, like Cheerios or cubed cheese, rather than jumping into live crabs...

Welcome to Autumn and Hairy Crab season!

Why Lucy Rocket Rocks.

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I think having a dog while living abroad, specifically while living in Shanghai, is the best. Especially if it's a little dog. Especially if it's Lucy Rocket. 

When we lived in Tokyo, we did so with a tiny newborn blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby Nathan. If you wanna stop traffic, meet people, or vastly improve your language skills, I recommend the foreign baby in Asia route. I rarely got more than a few dozen feet without being mobbed by excited locals exclaiming happy sounds, trying to interact with Nat, who incidentally ate it all up. (Side note: at 13, nearly 14, he is way less enthusiastic about strangers interacting with him than when he was 13 months). 
If I was struggling with a bag and the baby, someone always ran to my rescue, generally preferring to snuggle the baby while I carried the bag. (Another side note: the things you do abroad are very different than the things you do in your country of origin... I would never hand off my baby to a stranger in America, but in …

Playing the cows home

Though I'm a city girl through and through, I have lived in the country. For two years in middle school I lived about an hour north of Los Angeles in the High Desert on two and a half acres. And then for the four years of high school I lived on a huge spread of land on California's Central Coast in a town that had a population of 123 the day we moved in. Or 127 if you counted my family. Moments after graduating high school I moved by myself back down to Los Angeles where I was born and raised up through the end of 6th grade, and where I fit in far better among my fellow city slickers.

But one thing I did when I lived in the middle of nowhere was to roll down my windows and shout or sing cheerful greetings to the livestock lined up against fences along the country roads. I always felt like they could use a little lift in their otherwise surely monotonous lives. And frankly, I myself was in need of something to lift my own spirits. For my troubles I was often rewarded with a cho…

Lost in Translation. Again.

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Our conveniently located wet market where I would get all my fruit and veg for cheap closed down at the end of last year, leaving me trying out all sorts of other options for produce. Sadly, the stores that I can walk to within about a 6-10 block radius tend to be some of the most expensive for produce, stocking imported organic goods from America or Australia. Which, for some people, is fine. But for us it's out of reach for use on a regular basis.

We've been doing a lot of potlucks and hosting lots of dinners at our house this summer, and it's been challenging to find economical options to feed a crowd. This Monday night we hosted our usual group, and I decided on doing a baked potato bar. Pretty simple, just bake up a bunch of potatoes (scrub, poke 6-7 times with a fork, rub with olive oil and coat with sea salt before baking on the oven rack for an hour at 180 Celsius) and then provide an array of toppings.

I searched online for a grocery which sells russet, or at leas…

Dreams of Tibet

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I have wanted to visit Lhasa, Tibet for as long as I can remember. Knowing how close we are here in Shanghai, and that you can take a train across the permafrost to get there makes me crazy with anticipation and longing. But knowing we have a son with congenital heart disease whose cardiologist has not signed off on Ben making the trek to such a high elevation means we've not yet gone. Regardless, I'm drawn to it.


Last week on the Time Out Shanghai website I saw a contest for tickets to an art exhibition of photos of Tibet. With nothing to lose, I put my name in the hat and won! Michael and I headed across the river to LOHAUS, a six-story building built in the 1930's. It's a creative space for events and coworking. Why write that novel in a coffee shop when you can do it in an historic building next to other creatives working on their own artistic endeavors?


On Saturday LOHAUS was hosting photographer Yunyao Shen, a 25 year old man from Shanghai with quite a story. It …

Shanghai Pretty

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We live right across the river from this building, the Bund Centre Building. I'm frequently in the neighborhood around it, and have been inside it just once, for a special birthday dinner for my friend Leslie.

Except for its height, it fits in so well with the architecture of the other buildings on the Bund. I was certain it was built close to the turn of the century, like the rest of the Bund buildings, completed in the early end of the 1900's. Today I looked it up, and saw that it was indeed built close to the turn of the century-- just the wrong century! It's actually as new as most of the buildings here on my side of the river! It was completed in 2002, after five years of construction. It houses mostly commercial offices, but it also has some space devoted to the Westin hotel, with rates starting around $170 USD. 
It's one of my favorite buildings in Shanghai, and today as I passed by it I couldn't help to enjoy the view of Shanghai's best summer feature:…

Oh Daiso!

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I recently read somewhere online that there is a Daiso store in Shanghai. Daiso is basically a Japanese dollar store. Our community in Los Angeles is home to many Japanese dollar stores, but I never visited a Daiso. In Macau however, Daiso was my favorite place to find all the stuff I didn't know I needed! There was a small one in Taipa and a huge one on the Macau peninsula. I frequented both regularly. And of course they can be found all over Japan.
Tonight Michael and I left the boys home with pizza and crossed the river for some fun in Puxi. We tried out a new restaurant, and then wandered around the Former French Concession area for about an hour and a half in our quest to spend more time away from the "America Town" area further inland on our side of the river.
At one point during our stroll, I looked up to see the Daiso storefront, and we quickly crossed the street and took a flight of stairs down to the basement which held all the amazing products I have missed sinc…

Seaside Horseback Riding in China

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My Mom was one of those girls obsessed with horses. She didn't get one until she was an adult though. She and my Dad both had one, and the story goes that one was sold when I was born, and then the second one was sold when my little brother came along. Horses are expensive! When I was in middle school we lived on a plot of 2.5 acres about an hour north of Los Angeles.  Since we had the space, my Mom gave me what she always wanted growing up, a horse of my own.

I loved my horse, a huge and gorgeous Morgan. She was a pro who'd done both western and English style riding, barrel racing and dressage (jumping), parades and even some police work. Nothing ever spooked her, not even coming across an angry rattlesnake on a trail, which she gingerly stepped around while my companions' horses bolted and jumped every which way, nearly tossing their riders. While the other girls in my community worked with their horses every day to get them to listen to their cues, my horse Chela (CHEE-…