Showing posts from July, 2014

Oh Daiso!

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

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-…


I always (always!) think summer is going to be a time to slow down and relax. It never is. Ever. But the good news it is always filled with so much great stuff so the busyness isn't a drag the way the rest of the year seems to be.

We've still got five weeks left of Summer Break, so I'm not sure things will wind down all that soon, but in the mean time we're weary but happy. We've been having people over for dinner at least three nights a week. Two are planned and regular, but the third always seems to slip in there. I'm so far past my quota of "14 dinner parties in 2014" I've lost count. Michael, who has always promised to do the dishes if I do the cooking, is somewhat regretting that promise as we're generally entertaining a party of 10-14 people several nights per week. Now is when we wish we were like all the other expats who insisted on only looking at homes with dishwashers!

But it's worth it. It really is. Mainly because at least thr…

Parenting a teen

In the last month, there have been three instances where total strangers have freaked out when I told them I am the mother of a 13 year old. None of the people doing the freaking out seemed to be less than authentic in their shock. I admit this makes me feel pretty good, as I'm rapidly approaching a huge milestone birthday which feels like midlife, and I'm slightly freaking out myself.

Now granted, we are just eight months into this parenting teens adventure, but right now I can cautiously say it's going pretty good. It feels somewhat like parenting a toddler all over again, but at least this time I'm better rested and a whole lot wiser. 
Maybe I'm just more relaxed this summer, with the gaping hole of social media temporarily boarded over. Maybe it makes me look younger? I just hope they aren't simply being polite! 
Today my highest compliment came from a local real estate agent. Good friends of ours left Shanghai a year ago, and miracle of miracles, they are …

Venice of the East

We're back from our weekend in Suzhou. I'll write more about it later, but I have to share how there are hundreds of water towns in eastern China, several of which we have visited, with more on our list of places to go. The funny thing they all have in common is how they each proclaim they are the Venice of the East. 
Now I've never been to the actual Venice, only the Disney version at Tokyo DisneySea in Japan, which is a pretty spectacular copy. And honestly, I've never really wanted to go to Venice. But now that I've been to a dozen Chinese versions, I must admit I'm curious about the Italian original. Because frankly many of the water villages we've visited have been so stunning in their simplicity and authenticity, that I fear I'm always going to have a bias toward Asia. 
Suzhou is a place I'm definitely going to need to visit again. Considering the bullet train got us there in 30 minutes for just over $5.00 USD, I think it's a realistic optio…

The Playground

When I wrote this post, I mentioned I was about to embark on a new venture. Well, I'm happy to report it's been launched!

On Monday evenings we gather up a group of people from a handful of backgrounds and countries to eat a meal together and then do a creative activity. Watercolor painting, birthday celebrations, practicing four disciplines that are guaranteed to make you more creative... But most of all, just doing life together on a regular basis with the same group of people. Though it's all adults, we call it the Playground. I was thinking back on childhood and how easy it was to make friends the minute you stepped into the sand at the park. I wanted to recreate that same feeling, but without the slides and swings. Though I haven't ruled out something along those lines for the group just yet! To create the group, we looked outside our usual group of friends and ended up with mainly youthful single career professionals or newlyweds, all without kids. It's alwa…

Blue Nankeen

I love cloth and fabric, and especially love the handmade kind which is such a beautiful form of art. Here in Shanghai I am lucky enough to be surrounded by fabric markets which house just about anything you can imagine, along with tailors who can sew up whatever you like in a few days' time. I've been sewing since I was a very small child, and have enjoyed making clothes and household goods as well as crazy costumes for many years.

Having access to cheap fabric and tailors here has made me question whether it's the end result of something made especially to fit me I like most, or if it is the process of making something by hand. The jury is still out. I've been fortunate enough to have every garment I've had made for me be a hit. I have friends who've had a long line of misses, which is too bad.

I heard about a place called the Nankeen Exhibition Hall in Shanghai which is where a specific type of fabric called blue nankeen is created. It's a traditional ar…

Happy 4th of July!

It's after midnight, and therefore actually the 5th here in China, but in America everyone is just waking up and preparing for a day of BBQ and fireworks to celebrate America's national day.

We too had a BBQ as part of our normal Friday night summer routine at a friend's house, but the heavy rain today meant no fireworks (though if there are going to be any, as part of China's normal almost-every-night burst of fireworks somewhere in the city, they tend to start around 2:00 a.m. The night is still young!). 
Today marks 11 years since Benjamin's heart surgery and one year since my hysterectomy. His surgery was done at Stanford, and my surgery was done by a local Chinese doctor who trained at Stanford. I love the synchronicity! We're both doing pretty splendid. 
We waited an entire year to wear those American flag shirts above, purchased on clearance from Old Navy's website right after last 4th of July and then brought to Shanghai in a friend's suitcase l…

Baby Love

One of the strange things about life as an expat is you don't get to experience all of the normal seasons in the cycle of life that you might if you were in your home country. For example, funerals and weddings.

People die all the time, of course, but in the expat community you generally don't have people who are quite old. If you live in a foreign country, its mostly because you are working there or going to school there. The countries we've lived in so far are not countries where one would go to retire and live out the rest of your years. And yes, people we know and love have passed away while we've been gone, but with the exception of my Uncle Louis' funeral where I traded in our airline miles and made a very fast solo whirlwind trip, we've not attended any funerals since living abroad. Again, making general statements, if you're an expat in one of the countries we've lived in and find you have a terminal disease, you tend to head back to your home c…

Bathing Beauty

We have seen so many strange things for sale on our street. I once remarked you can get everything but a kitchen sink if you just hang out long enough. 
It's no kitchen sink, but there's a nice deep soaking tub with air jets if you're in the market...