Showing posts from June, 2014

First swim of the season!

The pool across the street has opened for the season! We joined up with three other families (only one other family shown below) and decided Tuesdays shall be Swim Day. 

Shanghai has mostly completed its seasonal mass exodus of the expats, who all generally return to where they came from the minute school lets out, returning a day or two before it starts up again. Not us however! We are here for the duration and enjoying weekly planned events with those like us who call Shanghai home year round instead of just first of September through first of June. Not that we wouldn't also enjoy doing some summer travel... But sadly flights go up, up, up whenever there are expat holidays, and the provision of Michael's contract doesn't include a paid annual trip "home" like many others (I have one friend whose work contract includes four paid home leaves per year. Which makes me wonder, is Shanghai really so bad that people feel they have to vacate it every season for the plac…

Edge of Tomorrow, Today

When the going gets tough, the tough bury their sorrow in a couple of hours of entertainment. Edge of Tomorrow, with Tom Cruise, just opened here recently, and I am a huge sucker for science fiction. So off Michael and I went to the theater.

Knowing that frequently the people selling the tickets do not speak English, we've made it our practice to snap a quick pic of the movie poster for the film we want to see so we can just flash that instead of getting very lost in translation and ending up in the wrong picture. Of course, since none of the signs here are in English, we sometimes forget the names of films, as we are not exposed to any type of marketing that would make the names stick. And honestly, we didn't really know the name of it, we've just been calling it that Tom Cruise movie. As in Michael saying to me, "Hey, my boss just saw that Tom Cruise movie that just came out. It's totally something you would like."

We waited our turn in line. "Two tick…

I Louvre You.

Remember how I mentioned that the Mona Lisa is just a tiny painting? The curators decided to balance her petite frame by facing her with one of the largest paintings in the Italian wing, Antonio Campi's The Mystery of the Passion of Christ. In the top right corner there is a controversial image of what many people think is a planet or UFO. When looking it up, I found all sorts of conspiracy theories about it. I'm sure the Mona Lisa has plenty of time to ponder the Mystery while the museum is closed!

Following our rendezvous with La Gioconda, we consulted our map to seek out another famous lady, Aphrodite, who is better known as the Venus de Milo. We walked through a lot of marble statuary to find her, and arrived right as a huge number of tour groups converged on the scene.

This time we patiently waited it out, as the tour groups were just interested in checking it off their list before moving on. Not much different from what we were doing, to be honest, but considering we wer…

That time Mona Lisa photo bombed us...

As I mentioned yesterday, during our trip to Paris last October we visited the mother of all Parisian art museums, the Louvre. It's actually one of the largest, and certainly the most-visited museum of art in all the world. There were 9.344 million guests in 2013. We make up four guests in that enormous number!

The day we visited the Louvre was like a dream. We started the morning with a quick stop at a Starbucks for the free wifi so our maps would work, then we found our way to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which started construction in 1163. That is over 600 years before the United States of America was born! As often as we travel to places usually seen only on post cards, it's hard for me to still get goosebumps when looking at a building. But the beauty of Notre Dame actually made me short of breath. It also made me all hot and sweaty, but that was a constant theme throughout our trip to London and Paris, which took place just three months after my surgery when my hot flashe…

Monet in Shanghai, good for the soul

In October we had the amazing experience of visiting Paris. We had only four days there, and two of them were spent at Paris Disneyland and the Walt Disney Studios as part of our Year of The Mouse experience. Which left us with just two days to explore the rest of the city. We jammed in so much! It was very surreal... I expected to like Paris of course, but I did not expect to fall in love with it. How cliche, yes? Ah, but I was bit by the bug which latches on to so many who have the City of Lights tucked away in a small or large part of their hearts! I confess, as we sat on our train speeding our way from Paris back into London, I shed honest-to-goodness tears, which rolled down my cheeks as the gorgeous countryside whizzed by far too fast. We will go back! Of that I'm sure.
While there, we had time for just one art museum. And deciding to go big or go home, we hit the Louvre, racing through the halls just a few hours from closing to push our way to the front of the large room ho…

Happy Father's Day 2014!

Hey all you Dads! Today we celebrate your awesomeness! This morning our resident chef, Benjamin, made scrambled eggs for the family. Then Michael opened his gifts, which were the retro complete collections of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman and Robetech animated series for Michael and the boys to watch together. This evening we're taking Michael out for a steak at New York Style Steak and Burger, one of three favorite steak places we rotate through for his birthday, Father's Day, and our anniversary (a week from today!).

As per our usual tradition, we went downstairs to capture a photo of the boys + dog with Michael.

And here's my favorite photo of my Dad and I, when I was 18 or 19. We're at Disneyland (of course!) in front of the Matterhorn. This was a really rough time in my life. I'd had some big issues with my reproductive system and I'd just been told by a well-meaning OBGYN that I would probably never be able to conceive a child. I don't think that's…

Why my pancreas hates Starbucks

Starbucks in Shanghai does these tricky things to get me to buy their product. Like for instance offering a fully decadent Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappucino which tastes like Heaven in a frosty cold cup. But they only offer it for a short period, such as the month of May. And then, as if the drink itself wasn't enough, they also give you a punch card which they stamp every time you purchase one of their limited-time-offer beverages. Collect enough stamps, and you get a bracelet. Collect even more, and you get charms for the bracelet. 
Something you must know about me, I'm a sucker for bracelets. And I come from the school of more is more, stacking several at a time on my wrist. The quirkier and more uncoordinated (both with what I'm wearing and with each other), the better. (Side note to family and friends: yes, they make the perfect gift for me. Only 193 days until my birthday!). So when this year's bracelet from the Shanghai Starbucks was a brown leather cord with a si…

Shanghai Disneyland Resort Update!

I have been extremely careful to not post anything related to the Shanghai Disneyland Resort project that hasn't been officially released to the public. But golly (as Mickey Mouse would say), it's sometimes hard to keep your mouth shut when there's exciting news! Especially when you've been eating, sleeping, and breathing that news for two years with the guy who is working on it...

I'm happy to be able to report what was just released to the public today, the news that the Shanghai Disney Resort will feature a purpose-built theater especially made to bring in Broadway style productions (i.e. not just a "theme park" theater, but the real deal). And they just this morning announced that the first production will be THE LION KING! And hey, something even more special about this production... it will be the first ever Mandarin-language version! 
A quote from the press release:  The premiere of THE LION KING's Mandarin-language production will be presented…

Belly Season

Oh China... The weather is warming up (though we've found it doesn't get uncomfortable until July 1, like there's a switch on the cosmic calendar to "thermal") here in Shanghai. Which means it's time for my sister-in-law Holly's favorite time of year. The Belly Season.

It's time for all the men in China to hoist their tees up into their armpits and expose their flabby guts in an effort to cool down. Today was my first sighting of the year, as we sat at a red light in a taxi.
Of course, it's not really Holly's favorite thing, she's quite repulsed by it. As am I. I think I'd be less grossed out if they just took off their shirts completely. This just seems to draw more attention I think. Though probably the worst thing is being in a crowd and having someone's sweaty, hairy stomach brush against you while you cross the street. Holly just doesn't know what she's missing. But she's better for it, I think.
Good times. 

Quote me

Are you on Pinterest? I confess I was a very late adopter. I have several friends who tried pitching it to me right when we moved to Macau (hi Rachel!). I resisted for two reasons. One, if you don't know something exists, then you can totally live without it. And living in a place where things were hard to come by (it took me six months and a plea on Twitter to find a shop that sold yarn) meant it was much better to be in the dark about the latest trends and to simply be content with what I had. And two, I felt like it would reduce my own creativity and quiet my originality if I spent hours pinning everyone else's ideas rather than spending those same hours brainstorming my own projects or even better, actually making something.

I finally jumped in about a year or so ago when I was part of a creative team that used Pinterest to share ideas for things like stage design and graphic ideas. I felt so slimy, like I was compromising myself. But I have to say it's been a really u…

Where's the fire?

My building's lobby was filled with fire extinguishers this afternoon. 

So many questions! For instance, are these new to replace old ones? Or are they the old ones and the new ones are already in place? 

And more practically, is there one on my floor we can use in case of fire? Or my older son's question, are these for some awesome game and can he get in on it? Which makes me further wonder, what in the world goes on inside his head...

Creative Life

I value creativity very highly. We as a family do as well. We regularly do creative activities, and I try to find little things that help us to become more creative. Most of all, I love to help other people see that everyone is creative and to bring out their inner creativity. 
One of the best things I've done is to clear off the decorative items from the coffee table and instead cover it with a collection of things like colored pencils, washi tape, glue sticks, scissors, and Sharpie markers. We have people over all the time, and for the last four months we've invited the people who visit and sit on our couches to grab some of the art supplies and to make. Everyone does, eventually. Even the ones who say, "I can't draw!" My kids are more prone to draw or sketch or cut up paper and construct something because they have access to the materials at all times. 
It's amazing what can happen when the television isn't the center of your living space! 

Feeling the burn

One of the things I did on my personal creative retreat was to tear out a fresh piece of notebook paper and make a list of everything bothering me. Not things I can't change, like the high pollution levels in China, but more personal things which I could actually do something about. Here are two examples, and what I'm doing about them.
First, for the last several months I've had this overwhelming sense of being left out, or not quite fitting in. No matter what I'd do, how much effort I put in, how many people I invited over, I'd still feel like I was out of the loop, a dollar short and a day late. I've been stood up on several occasions by people who invited me for coffee and then ended up finding something better to do, but forgot to mention it to me. I'm a big girl, this is not the type of thing that makes me cry into my pillow at night. But it does start to wear on me, especially when there was a two week period where I was stood up six times by four peop…

Just Ducky

I'm back from my personal creative retreat, feeling so great! I spent my time writing, reading, painting, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and walking over 15 miles through gorgeous mountains and nature around a lake. I had lots of time to think and daydream. It was astonishing how peaceful it was. 
Our vacation style is to go cheap on lodging because when we go somewhere, we go-go-go and try to jam pack as much as we can into each day, using our hotel room just for sleeping and showering. This time around, I splurged on the lodging, booking a room with hardwood floors and marble, overlooking a lake in the mountains. There was no Starbucks within walking distance (or really any commercial enterprise). I booked in for a massage and facial in the hotel's spa, at crazy non-Shanghai prices (I've been so spoiled by the cheap massages here in China!). 
Thankfully, there was also a huge lack of guilt for being so blatantly self-indulgent. My husband pushed me to take this time a…