Friday, March 6, 2015

Daily Beach Pic

I made this a year or two ago. It hangs in my kitchen above the kettle, thus the steam-curled edges.

During my month long holiday to America in February, I went to the beach almost every single day, if only to do a quick parking job by the strand to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. 


When we lived in the Los Angeles area, we went to the beach on a regular basis. Generally it was at the end of the work and school day, and we'd pick up sandwiches or a bucket of fried chicken before making our way to the sand with a big blanket. We'd eat, and then the kids would run around and make all the noise they wanted. It was the perfect way to let them burn off some energy while we adults enjoyed the tranquility that only a beachy sunset can provide.


I also had a routine where I'd drop the boys at school and then walk a mile or two along the sea, just high enough on the shore to not get my sneakers wet, but close enough that my glasses would be opaque, soaked with salty spray. I loved it. 


I always marvel at people who'd buy houses within a mile of the ocean but never actually go there. I remember telling someone about my near daily walks and hearing them say it had been several years since they'd even driven past the ocean, let alone put their toes in the sand. This actually made me sad, for I find it to be a place of peace, joy, energy, and solace, all for the cost of a few quarters in the parking meter. Or free, if you can figure out which day you're allowed to park on which street without getting a citation. When I told people that I was going to go to the beach every single day of this holiday, they thought it was in jest, even my own kids. Oh no. Not at all. 


In fact, upon arrival at LAX airport bright and early on February 1st, the order of things was this: pick up rental car, pick up SIM card for my mobile phone, drive to In-N-Out Burger, drive to the beach, soak up the sun with my sons on the sand. We ran into my bestie Jenny at In-N-Out Burger (she was visiting L.A., and running into her was a huge awesome surprise!) and she and her family joined us at the beach! That rocked.


Funny story: when we pulled up to the beach on the day of our arrival, I had all our luggage in the car and asked the boys if they wanted to change into their swimsuits. It was 82 degrees after all. Both declined and said they would not go in the water. But when we got to the sand, Benjamin pulled off his shoes and socks and then ran straight into the surf fully clothed, not even slowing down when he hit the water. Such is the call of the ocean!


I took photos and posted them to Instagram each day, the collection of which you can see here. On the days we didn't go, we were at Disneyland, so I got creative with my "beach" pic posts. Can you spot them above? One of my favorite quotes is the one at the top of this post, which hangs in my kitchen. The cure for anything is saltwater- sweat, tears, or the sea. I do believe that with all my heart. And this month of seaside saltwater up and down the California coast cured so much that was swirling inside me, threatening to overcome. And thanks to my collection of daily photos, I'll have plenty of my saltwater "cure" to ponder for a long, long time.

The day we arrived in America. Some people have been known to kiss the ground. I just let my feet kiss the surf. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hello, my name is Heather

I only started drinking coffee once I moved to Asia. I think this was partly (or mostly) a social thing. Speaking very generally, many people in the Asian countries we've called home do not entertain in their homes, but instead will meet you out for a beverage. In Macau, this happened very often. I'd meet a friend for coffee, and would scan the menu and find the sweetest, coldest coffee-containing beverage I could find, and then nurse it for the hour I was chatting with them. When we were meeting at Starbucks (there were a whopping two when I lived there), I gravitated toward the Frappucino, which is pretty much blended ice and sugar, with a splash of coffee. If I was somewhere else, I'd still stick with something iced and sweet.

On this trip to America, I got an iced coffee and my Dad, who drinks his cuppa joe hot and strong and black, kinda flipped out. You are drinking coffee?? he exclaimed. Yep. Sort of. I mean, I'm sure there's some in there, right? Also on this trip to America? The pleasure of seeing my name, Heather, spelled properly on a Starbucks cup.



The "TH" sound does not exist in Chinese or Japanese, so Heather (and my son's name, Nathan) always gets butchered. Side note: in all medical or professional settings, my first name has been completely lost and instead I've become the far-more-easy-to-pronounce Rose. It's technically my last name (when you add a hyphen and a Chase), but I've somewhat come to terms with the fact that in China, Heather is off stage in the wings, waiting until we're back in a western country to emerge. Oh well. I do think Rose is a pretty awesome name, or else I wouldn't have kept it!

All this to say that I've not ever seen Heather spelled anywhere near properly in Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, or China, the four Asian countries we've lived in or visited since I started drinking coffee four years ago. I've seen Heaven and Head and Heesaw and plenty of other mangled attempts. But at least they were attempts! I know were the roles reversed, I'd mangle plenty of Chinese names. At the Starbucks on my street here in Shanghai, which is small and quiet and generally only has two people working at a time, they don't even ask for my name, they just know it's me. So actually seeing Heather on a cup gave me a little thrill.

And speaking of thrills, the last time I posted about coffee here, I mentioned that I was giving myself diabetes by drinking a crazily decadent candy-laden coffee beverage so that I could earn a bracelet and charm from Starbucks. I also mentioned that if anyone wanted to get me a Christmas or birthday gift, a bracelet is the perfect thing because I'm crazy about them. And you know what? My most faithful reader, Rachel, took that to heart and did indeed get me not one, but two bracelets for my birthday!


I got them in the mail at my in laws' house the day before we left America. I adore them because they are my favorite color (green, green, I'm a queen), but also because of the story of how they came to be. They are made by children rescued from the streets of Kenya, little pieces of art which are sold to fund education and housing and medical care. They are made of little strips of colored paper, carefully rolled into beads! If you are interested in reading more about it, or in purchasing any products to go toward this amazing effort, please check the link here. Thank you so much Rachel! I love them! 

And one more thing that is coffee related... Come October, everyone in America flips out (for better or for worse, with love or hatred) over all the pumpkin flavored everything. And I have to say, this makes me sad. I love pumpkin flavored anything. And sadly, pumpkin flavored things here in China taste pretty much like raw pumpkin (I nearly wept into a "pumpkin cheesecake" I'd ordered, which was raw pumpkin with some cheese. Okay, I actually wept.) instead of the cinnamon-y sweet, spicy warm flavor my fellow Americans enjoy back in the US. While they get Pumpkin lattes, we get red bean lattes (kinda like sweet refried beans) and green tea frappes. Because I'd started drinking coffee after leaving America, I've never had the pleasure of enjoying (or possibly hating) a pumpkin coffee beverage. However! While on a binge-shopping trip to Target in Los Angeles, I came across a clearance priced package of Starbucks Pumpkin Latte mix. I brought it home. I made it.



I loved it. How much better must the actual, non freeze-dried version be? I will say this... if anything tips the scales and makes me want to move back Stateside, it just might be the plethora of pumpkin deliciousness that springs up come October. Just sayin'.

And also, just because this post isn't quite long enough, when we were going to France with our friends the Braden's, Glen Braden and my son Nathan were laughing about the stereotypes of the French, and how they make elevating ordinary things into an art form. I'm not sure who said it (probably Nat), but they said even things like going to the bathroom sound better when said with a French accent in French. Nathan asked if Starbucks was still Starbucks in French, or if it was something else, like Les Poux (the poo). While in France, we stopped into 4-5 Starbucks (for our mugs for our mug collection but also for some caffeine), and every time we did, my boys would practically fall on the ground giggling with laughter over being in Les Poux. So the irony of me drinking my American pumpkin Starbucks latte in a Les Poux mug from France (just happened to be the one I grabbed from the cupboard), gave me the serious giggles this morning. The things moms of boys find funny. Or it could just be the fever that seems to finally be breaking...

Monday, March 2, 2015

It's just a dinosaur

I love the Disney Pixar Toy Story movies. And while it's hard to pick a favorite character, I've always had a soft spot for Rex, the dinosaur with the tiny arms. It could be because he's green, or perhaps because he's so very earnest and anxiously enthusiastic about everything, despite things not coming very easily for him. 

My favorite line from any movie I've ever seen is from Toy Story 3, when Rex's love interest, Trixie, utters "It's just a dinosaur" to him when he discovers an online chat room where she's been conversing with another Dino toy. 

We use that phrase all the time, to mean any number of things. Things not going as planned? It's just a dinosaur. Deflecting praise? It's just a dinosaur. Banged your toe on the bed post? It's just a dinosaur. 

This trip to America, the boys and I visited Disneyland a whopping five times. My favorite time was when Michael flew in and my parents flew in and we all went together. Many attractions at Disney theme parks have you exit through the gift shop. One of my favorites is the Toy Story themed store you exit into from the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. When I saw the green Rex plush dolls, I got super excited and took a bunch of selfies. 


My Mom asked me if she could buy me the Rex toy. I quickly said no. I'm an adult, I don't need a stuffed animal! I recently even told the boys "no more additions!" to their collections of plush toys. But I still had a longing to take Rex home. He's so sparkly! My Mom sensed my hesitation and extended the offer again. Finally I said yes. Mainly because I couldn't think of any other time in life where my mother would ever utter the words to me, "Can I buy you that dinosaur?" again in life. And how could I say no to that? So, Rex is mine. Thank you Mom! 

He's the same size as Lucy. 


But Lucy is not impressed. 


That's okay. 

It's just a dinosaur.