Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What’s That? Wednesday: China’s One Time Zone

Here’s your fun fact for today…all of China is on one time zone.  In 1949 China dropped it’s 5 time zones and adopted 1 time zone for the entire country.  For perspective, the United States and China are roughly the same size, and the continental US has 4 time zones.

7:31 am, during one of our trips back to the US.
We were on our first day of battling jet-lag and had
been up for about 4 hours at this point.
When we lived in Suzhou, which is on the eastern side of the country, it meant that the sun came up really early!  This wasn’t a problem except that we had told our girls that they couldn't get up until the sun did.  That’s not great when sun rises at 4:30 a.m.  The city of Xi’an is about 2 hours inland and now the sun comes up at a more reasonable time!  


Now, go wow someone with your new factoid.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Surviving (and Sometimes Thriving) in Xi'an

We have made it through the first six months in Xi’an!  Some days it was merely surviving and other days we did thrive.  Because these six months have required a lot of living, there hasn’t been much time to write about it.  Although I did compose many blog posts in my head.  Does that count?

Here is our recap of the first six months…

Leaving Suzhou
We moved from Suzhou to Xi’an.  We watched our boxes be delivered to an incomplete apartment, which means we had no appliances, air conditioners, lights, etc.  We couldn’t actually stay in the apartment, but yet I needed to be there during the day to supervise workers.

And, arriving in Xi'an.  Bikes were the first thing
to be unpacked!

We returned to the US for a month to get in as much quality time with family and friends as possible.  We also had doctor’s appointments, check-ups and other not-so-fun things.  In the US, we would be able to spread those appointments out over 12 months, but we were on a time crunch, so it was all crammed into 4 weeks.
Happy 4th of July to us...on our way to the US.

In August we carted our 10+ pieces of checked luggage back to Xi’an and moved into our apartment.  It was livable, but still not complete.  On our first night in the apartment I really, really wanted to make myself an egg.  We didn’t have a lot of groceries and not all of our boxes were unpacked, but I thought I could make myself an egg.  Wrong!  The ignitor for our gas stove worked, but upon closer inspection, we realized that the gas line had never been installed to the stove.  That required another worker to come and drill a hole in the countertop and then run the hose to the stove.

Hmmm, what else have we experienced?  Well, I thought that after living here for 4 years that surely we had acclimated our digestive systems to most of the intestinal challenges we might encounter.  We battled a few rounds of tummy troubles (affectionally known as Suzhou-stomach in our house) after a some meals out and one afternoon barbecue in the mountains.  It might have been the local produce, it might have been that the knives that were used to cut our BBQ meat were washed in the nearby stream, or it could have been something else.  Needless to say, Xi’an still had some surprises for us.

New school and no uniforms.
All three girls started school and we worked through a new routine for drop-off, pick-up and homework.  We got a puppy, which hasn’t been as challenging as I expected….though, I did set the bar extremely low, so anything seemed positive.









We took Oreo with us to a barbecue in the mountains.


We traveled to Dubai for October holiday.  It was amazing and some day I hope to blog about that!
Our first desert safari.

LBean and I have been traveling to Shanghai every few months for her orthodontist appointments.  Our  2-1/2 hour plane ride for a medical appointment makes me wistful for when it only took 10 minute drive (and three stoplights) to get to the dentist.  You can read about the time we went to Shanghai on the wrong weekend for LBean's appointment here: Piece of Humble Pie.














There is a lot of water on my floor!
Oh, and there was that time the workers came to turn on the in-floor heating and our living room floor flooded.  And, it was one week before Thanksgiving guests rolled in…that was awesome.  We mopped up 5 buckets full of water, moved furniture and dragged our new rug out to the patio and now we get to watch the remaining water creep up the walls in our apartment.  It’s going to take a few weeks for the workers to tear up all the tile in our living room and dining room and then fix the problem.  Merry Christmas to us!













So, most of that was just surviving.  But, there have been lots of thriving days too.  We love the people we have met, both local Chinese and other expats!  We have really enjoyed having families over for dinner, hosting parties, and trying to build community with new friends. 
We can fit a lot of people in our apartment and I'm so glad!

I’ve done a lot of thinking and comparing of Xi’an to Suzhou and here is my chart of “Here versus There”:

Here (XI’an)
There (Suzhou)
Noodles! We’re in the north, people eat noodles.
Rice (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Rou jia mo (Xi’an hamburger-kind of)
Suzhou’s got nothing like this
Mountains
Water canals
Pollution (better in the Spring, Summer, & Fall)
Pollution (at least we have them beat in the winter)
Northern dialect (words end with the ‘r’ sound)
Southern dialect (no ‘r’ on the end)
American international school for LBean & EBean - one class per grade (9-12 students per class)
British international school for LBean & Ebean - 4 classes per grade (17-20 students per class)
ChinaBean’s preschool-2 mornings in English/2 in Mandarin
ChinaBean’s preschool-all Mandarin, all the time
Starbucks, what Starbucks?!  Just kidding, there’s now one 10 minutes away by car.
Starbucks?  Which one, I could walk to 5 within 10-20 minutes.
Heat!  We’re north of the Yangtze River, some places have government heat.
No heat for you!  South of the Yangtze, you’re out of luck.
IKEA - opened in August!
IKEA - 35 minute drive away 
Expatriate community - it exists, but smaller
Expatriate community - 3 times the size of Xi’an!
Apartment living - 9th floor, 2 floors
Apartment living - 27t floor, one level
Amazing community of friends
Amazing community of friends


Monday, October 5, 2015

Meet our newest family member!

Over four years ago we sat LBean down and tried to explain to her that daddy had a new job and that we were moving to China.  We might have hastily ended the conversation with “and we’ll get a dog!”  Maybe not the best way to try and distract/bribe/excite a child about moving to a new country, but we did.

Jamie and I had a dog for a few years early in our marriage.  Although Miles was a very ornery 70 lb lab/beagle mix, we loved him very much and we were sad when he had an unfortunate accident.  

At the same time that Jamie’s job was transferring us to China, we had also decided it was time to get a dog again.  We really thought we would get one in Suzhou, but for a variety of reasons we never did get a four-legged furry friend.  

Fast-forward 4 years and Jamie and I are discussing our possible move to Xi’an.  One of the first things we agreed on was that it was time to get a pet.  My brother got a dog (hi Gracie!) the summer before and our girls LOVED playing with her.  I had everyone convinced that a cat might be a better fit for our apartment lifestyle.  But, after seeing our girls play with Gracie over the summer, it became pretty clear that a dog would be really good for our family.

In September we began seriously researching dog breeds that were not only good for families, but also for apartment living.  Jamie’s administrative assistant and our driver helped us locate breeders and pet shops that might have what we were looking for.  

Jamie and I whole-heartedly support adopting dogs from shelters (like we did with Miles).  Beijing and Shanghai do have animal shelters, but that doesn’t exist in Xi’an.  At least not we’re aware of.  Also, it’s very common for cities here to have “pet & plant streets” where there are all kinds of animals for sale.  I’m not sure that all are for the purposes of being a pet…some probably end up on a dinner table.

We did have luck finding a pet shop on our side of the city that seems legit and offers boarding, vaccinations, dog grooming, supplies and is 500 meters from an animal hospital.  We visited the shop on a Sunday to meet two puppies, both male miniature Schnauzers from the same litter.  

We were smitten with the black and white one and we showed great restraint not bringing the dog home that day.  (We did not show the same logical thinking with our first dog Miles.  We had gone to Lowe’s to buy paint and decided to just “look” at the puppies.  We came home with a dog and not the paint.)  A national holiday was coming up in three days and we would all be home for 4 days to help potty train the puppy.  Because we all know that when everyone goes back to school & work, the dog becomes mom’s job.

As we planned for a new puppy, a few names were tossed around.  I was trying even out the glitter and princess influence in our home by suggesting something masculine, like Yoda.  Jamie offered the name Chewy, but I had already mentioned the name Oreo to the girls and they had latched on to the name for our new black and white puppy.







We are so glad that Oreo is part of our family!  He is very much a puppy and we’ve had our share of accidents (so glad we have tile floors), but I have joked that he is our therapy dog.  Now that ChinaBean has gotten over her “I’m not the baby in the family” feelings, all the girls love him very much and he has been a great addition to our family.  We hope he is a part of our family for a very long time!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Help! I’ve forgotten how to cook

Well, technically I didn’t totally forget how to cook, but moving sure seems to throw me off when it comes to creating meals in the kitchen.  I have never been accused of being an excellent cook, but I have had enough practice to sufficiently feed my family.

When we first moved to China four years ago there was so much to learn about where to shop, what was considered safe to eat, what import stores carried favorites from home (or at least what would make do when no favorites were available) and begin learning how to make some things from scratch because there were no other options.  It was overwhelming and I felt as if I had forgotten how to cook.

EBean enjoying some pizza & spaghetti
when we first moved to China in 2011.
Many of our first days in Suzhou we were eating out, but I can tell you that our girls got tired of chicken nuggets, cheese pizza, and spaghetti, which seemed to be the same three things on rotation on all the kid’s menus.  Once our air shipment arrived in Suzhou, I was really looking forward to cooking something, anything from home.  Our first meal in our Suzhou apartment was…pancakes.  Not terribly fancy, but I fed my children from my own kitchen.  From then on, I had a mantra of: find a meat and add some veggies, find a meat and add some veggies…

In Suzhou I was very spoiled and had an import grocery store within our apartment compound.  It was little and I affectionately called it my 7-11 import store because it was the size of a gas station convenience store, but it really did have most of what I wanted on a regular basis.  Within our part of the city was also a bakery supply shop, a few good bread shops, and two other import stores.  What couldn’t be purchased in Suzhou could possibly be delivered from one of the other larger import grocery stores in Shanghai, which delivered to Suzhou once or twice a week.

Our move to Xi’an this summer brought back a few of my cooking insecurities.  This time though, I knew what I wanted to figure out first, where to buy meat.  I can navigate a fruit and veggie market without too much trouble now and the large import grocery store, Metro, has most of what I want, but finding quality meat was a priority.  Now that I have that all figured out (Metro or Vanguard for chicken breasts, ground beef and roast from a meat market our Ayi knows about, and still looking for good ground pork), we are getting back into a cooking routine.  There are a few things that I haven’t been able to find at Metro that I’ll want to bring back from the US or figure out how to order off of TaoBao like vanilla extract, canned black beans and unsweetened Cheerios, but for now we are doing okay.

Again, I am no Martha Stewart or Pioneer Woman in the kitchen, but if you’ve moved to China and you’re wondering what other people cook, I am happy to share our family’s meal plan from the last few weeks.

Breakfasts:
- yogurt with granola (from Metro)
- tortillas with eggs, cheese and bacon (**)
- homemade bread (bread maker from Metro, put everything in the night before-as long as the recipe doesn’t include an egg, use the delay start and wake up to fresh bread)
- cereal (Metro has some cereal, otherwise we ration out what we bring back from the US)
- muffins/coffee cake/baked yummies
- bread machine cinnamon rolls (Thank you Julie for introducing these to me! http://moneysavingmom.com/2010/01/bread-machine-cinnamon-roll.html)
- smoothies
- homemade biscuits with chocolate gravy (http://faithfulprovisions.com/chocolate-gravy-and-easy-biscuits/)
- slow cooker applesauce (I put several peeled & diced apples in the crockpot, pour in some water, add a little cinnamon and let it cook all night.  We all wake up to fresh, warm applesauce in the morning!)

Lunch:
Mmm, pumpkin soup!
- pumpkin soup (ChinaBean and I love homemade pumpkin soup.  Thanks to my friend Sarah for the recommendation of putting cream cheese in your soup!  I roast the pumpkin first, add chicken broth, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, cream cheese and then puree everything.)
- veggie and ground beef soup with homemade noodles (the people of Xi’an eat noodles and it is very easy to find fresh & inexpensive noodles)


Dinner:
- meatloaf, green beans and mashed potatoes
- BBQ pork sandwiches (throw pork and BBQ sauce in a slow cooker and let it cook all day)
- Italian Beef sandwiches
- pasta bake with ground sausage (I make my own ground sausage, http://www.plainchicken.com/2012/02/baked-penne-and-50-grocery-card.html#more)
- handmade pizzas (use Pioneer Woman’s pizza dough recipe, http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/my-favorite-pizza/)
- mac ’n cheese with bacon
- poppy seed chicken casserole (http://www.market2meal.com/2011/02/poppy-seed-chicken-casserole.html) (I found crackers very similar to Ritz crackers in a Korean store outside our apartment building.)
- chicken shawarmas & hummus (you can make your own hummus really easily and buy white sesame seeds at the market to make your own tahini sauce) (http://www.market2meal.com/2010/03/chicken-shawarmas.html)
- pasta & ground pork meatballs
- Italian chicken and rice (I make my own cream of chicken soup for this, http://www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com/2009/07/crockpot-italian-chicken.html)
- baked potatoes
- breakfast for dinner (pancakes/waffles, bacon, sausage, eggs, etc.)
- tuna noodle casserole (This is a bit of a joke at our house.  Jamie hates canned tuna, so I usually only make it when he is traveling or has a business dinner. It’s become a tradition now.)
- beef stew with mashed potatoes
- Hawaiian toasted cheese sandwiches (http://houseofyumm.com/hawaiian-grilled-cheese/)
chicken pot pie (sorry, have to make your own pie crust here, no pre-made)
cheesy chicken, bacon, ranch pasta (http://flavormosaic.com/cheesy-chicken-bacon-ranch-pasta/)

That’s pretty much what I have made so far since we’ve moved to Xi’an.  Of course, every meal is paired with one or two vegetables.  Most of the fruits and vegetables that we buy are fresh and I shop for them every few days.  We will have other family favorites that I cook in the coming months.

You will notice that many of the recipes call for cheese, sour cream and cream cheese.  Every family has their splurges and dairy products is one of ours.  Fresh fruit and vegetables are so inexpensive here that we choose to spend some of our grocery budget on delicious dairy.

Some of the websites or apps that I use for meal planning are:
- Market 2 Meal (this website is written by a woman who lives in China, http://www.market2meal.com)
- Pioneer Woman (thepioneerwoman.com)
- Pinterest (I use the app and you can search for me.  Just look for kbmac1.)
- All Recipes (I use the app)

At this time I try to save (or pin) recipes of things that I know I can find in China.  Why frustrate myself with delicious-sounding meals that I can’t make here?

As encouragement to anyone who has moved to China and now feels like they are a pioneer living in the olden days, here are few of the things that I have learned to make from scratch.  If I can do it, you can too!
I found sesame seeds and pinto beans here.

- yogurt (got my yogurt maker from Metro)
- freezer jam
- ricotta cheese
- sour cream
- hummus
- tahini sauce
- grenadine
- breads & biscuits
- granola bars
- cream of chicken soup
- ground sausage
- enchilada sauce
- homemade Magic Shell (for ice cream)
- refried beans (you can find pinto beans at the market)






**There is a tortilla lady in Xi’an!  She makes several kinds of homemade tortillas, whole wheat buns, coffee cake, banana bread, pitas, bagels, muffins, etc.  If you place a larger order she, or her husband, will deliver to your home.  We have really enjoyed this! Send me a message if you would like her contact information.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Piece of Humble Pie

Remember that time last weekend when I hopped on an airplane with LBean to go to her orthodontist appointment and I realized half-way through the flight that her appointment was actually the next weekend? Yes, that was my weekend.  How about yours?

Let me back up a bit.  LBean is of the age where orthodontics is a regular part of our monthly routine.  When we lived in Suzhou, we would drive the hour to Hongqiao (a Western-suburb/neighborhood of Shanghai) for her monthly orthodontist appointments.  After we moved to Xi’an, we talked with Jamie’s company about how to continue her orthodontic treatment and if it was even possible to continue her treatment in Xi’an.  It was decided that it would be best that LBean and one parent fly to Shanghai for her appointments.  It’s a 2 1/2 hour flight each way, so think about that the next time you’re sitting at the dentist or orthodontist waiting for your appointment!

Thankfully LBean’s orthodontist suggested that her appointments could be spaced out every 2-3 months and we won't have to make the flight every month.  And, I found out that other families in Xi’an have flown to Chang Mai, Thailand for orthodontic treatment, which made me feel a whole lot less ridiculous about it all.  At least we were staying in the country!

Checked in and ready to go
Speed ahead to this past Saturday.  LBean and I packed our bags, hopped on our flight and were enjoying some great mother/daughter time.  About half-way through the flight I decided I needed to double-check the time of the appointment so I could better plan our day.  As I was reaching for my planner a few thoughts converged…hmmm, I never got a text reminding me of her appointment, and wouldn’t that be funny if her appointment was next Saturday.

I opened my planner and staring back at me was her appointment time, which was listed for the next Saturday.  Right next to it in the notes section of my planner were our flights.  Why I didn’t put two and two together, I don’t know.  I put my head in my hands and LBean became concerned.  “Are you crying mom?”  I lifted my head and I was laughing.  I mean, really, who does something like this?  I just couldn’t stop laughing.  I said, “Just wait till I call your dad.  He won’t be mad.  At least I don’t think so…”

Starbucks helps our subway ride go well
We got off the plane and I immediately called the orthodontist’s office.  “Can you please confirm my daughter’s appointment?  Hmmm, next Saturday, well now I get to admit something very embarrassing to you.”  Thankfully, LBean’s orthodontist has three offices, 1 in Hong Kong, 1 in Hongqiao (where we were staying) and 1 in Pudong (closer to the big airport).  We were in luck because the doctor was in the other Shanghai office.  Instead of walking out the front door of our hotel and across the driveway to the Hongqiao office, LBean and I trekked to the other side of a 24 million person city.

We dropped our bags off at the hotel, grabbed a quick lunch and started our 1 1/2 hour journey to the other office.  We stood on the subway for an hour where we changed subway lines three times and then walked about 25 minutes to the other office.  But, we made it!  In the process we discovered a whole new part of Shanghai that we had not been to before.  LBean was such a good sport about it all and had a great attitude.

LBean enjoying her new book and taking a break.

Still happy and standing in line in Marks & Spencer
To break up the 90 minute return trip, we stopped at West Nanjing street for a little retail therapy and a snack at Marks & Spencer.  That night we celebrated our success with a tasty hotdog and cheeseburger from Blue Frog. (And, our waitress did ask why she hadn't seen us for a long time).  I told Jamie that the extra 3 hours we spent getting to the other office was my penance for making such a big mistake.  


Just a few people at the West Nanjing Road subway stop
LBean and I spent Sunday morning going through the import grocery store stocking up on a few things that I haven’t managed to find in Xi’an yet (or haven’t looked for on TaoBao).  We stopped at the Pearl Market for a few gifts for the little sisters and enjoyed one last tasty meal.  
We brought two big suitcases for our overnight trip.
You can see why! 
That is a proper stack of nachos.
The weekend turned out to be wonderful, but I dined on a big slice of humble pie for my mistake with a huge scoop of grace on the side.  I was right, Jamie was not mad and he has given me a lot of grace for my mistake.


I will consult my calendar before the next appointment.  I promise.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Well, hello there!

I feel like I must re-introduce myself.  My name is Kara.  And I live in China.  Still.

We did not fall off the face of the earth, just moved our family.  It’s been a whirl-wind 6 months and we’re getting settled into our apartment, the girls are enjoying their new schools and we got a puppy.  Bring on the chaos!

As I mentioned in my last post, we fully intended/believed that we would be moving back to the United States this summer.  Needless to say the move to Xi’an was a bit of a surprise.

Let me take a moment to introduce to our hew city…

Name: Xi’an (pronounced something like “She ahn”)

Population: At least 8.5 million people (which is roughly the size of New York City)

Fun Facts:
  • One of the oldest cities in China
  • It’s the oldest of the Four Ancient Capitals of China
  • It is the start of the famous Silk Road
  • It is the home of the Terracotta Warriors
  • Xi’an people love noodles.  Generally speaking the people in the southern part of the county eat rice with their meals.  For those in the north, it is noodles.  

Beijing is in the NE corner of China.  Suzhou (our home from 2011-2015) is by the big red arrow.
Our new city is 2.5 hours inland by plane (by the blue star).


(All my facts are from Wikipedia because we know that everything we read on the internet is true.)



I am looking forward to getting back to blogging and introducing you to our new city.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

We're Moving!

After a few (okay, many) weeks of uncertainty, we are able to officially announce that...


As my dad quickly pointed out, "That's not in the US."  No, we are not moving back to the United States as we thought that we would.  It seems fitting that the first move to China was a complete surprise to us and so when Jamie was approached about a position in Xi'An we were equally surprised.

Xi'An is most famous for the Terracotta Warriors.  So, if you've been waiting for one more excuse to come visit us, I think you've just found it.  From what we have learned, it seems that Xi'An is a larger city than Suzhou, but the expatriate population is 1/2-2/3 smaller.  I think I will be saying goodbye to some of my favorite creature comforts in Suzhou!

Over the next month we hope to visit Xi'An and find our next apartment/home, decide on a school, pack up our Suzhou apartment, finish the school year at Dulwich, say goodbye to  our Suzhou friends and then unpack a few boxes in Xi'An.  The tentative plan is for me to be in the US with our girls for the month of July.  We'll see how that pans out!

Emotionally, everyone seems to be doing pretty well.  It was a shock to us all because we honestly believed that there was a strong chance we would end up back in the US.  However, at one point Jamie was looking at positions in 3 continents, so we knew that nothing was a given.

The morning we revealed our next city to our girls, we toasted daddy and his next job with sparkling juice.


We put out our miniature Terracotta soldiers as a clue to where we were headed next.



I guess that means the overseas adventure continues and maybe this blog too.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Nobody's Cuter Than You




See if you can recognize anyone you might know at 2:03 in the video...

This is where we sat for most of the weekend.
However, the majority of the time we were
in pj's, glasses, and no make-up.  I spared you that photo.
A few weekends ago my family and I took a quick trip up to Beijing to visit my friend Megan and her family.  They had recently moved to the capital from Suzhou and it was our first time to see their new apartment and neighborhood.

Megan and I planned to spend most of the 40 hours we had together talking.  We were pretty successful and managed to only waste 12 hours sleeping between the two nights that we were there.  

On Saturday night we were approaching our 2 a.m. bedtime and Megan said that we should watch the video trailer for a new book that is going to be released. One of our favorite authors, bloggers, and podcasters, Melanie Shankle, has a new book coming in April.  Megan's prompting reminded me that several months ago I had submitted a photo of the two of us after the author asked for pictures of friends to help promote her new book.  Well, about half way through the video Megan and I start giggling (and I might have shrieked a bit) because our picture was chosen to be in the promo video!  And, to prove what a great friend Megan is, she did not immediately strangle me after seeing that this is the photo I submitted…


Rest assured, we are the only ones in the video 1) on an E-Bike, 2) in China, and 3) wearing very stylish bicycle helmets!

Here are a few excerpts from the email I sent to the author describing my friend and what she means to me.  

…In the Spring of 2011 my husband was offered the chance to our family to China for his next work assignment.  In fact, he was offered the position on March 2, which was the day after all of our paperwork to adopt a little boy or girl from China arrived in Beijing. 

As any Type A, stressed out mama who was about to move her two little girls across the globe would do, I started looking for blogs about expats in China, specifically in Suzhou where we would move.  I found a cute blog called Apple Pie to Stir Fry and began reading about life in Suzhou, China and pouring over the author's photos to give me a visual of what I was about to experience.

Fast-forward a few months and our family arrived in China, we're living out of suitcases in a local hotel until our sea-shipment of household goods arrive and we take our family to church for the first time.  As we're settling our oldest daughter into Sunday school class in walks a very cute mama with her two daughters.  I break out of my introverted self and walked up to her and asked, "Do you have a blog?"  She looked surprised, and said "yes..."  "Is it called Apple Pie to Stir Fry?", "Yes..."  (I tease her now that she was suspicious, she swears she was just excited that someone was reading her blog).  I had finally met Megan in person!  

From the beginning Megan's hospitality (she's from the South, I'm a Yankee) and smile eased my homesick and over-whelmed heart.  At one point I looked at my husband and said, "I think she's the one", I thought I had found a best friend in China and I did.

Megan & I have now known each other for three years and we are each other's go-to person.  Texting, emailing each other book recommendations, forwarding blog posts, gabbing about new podcasts we've found (she introduced me to your podcast), and our bi-monthly "meetings" (we sneak off to Starbucks or the like on Wednesday afternoons, without children) cement our relationship. 

I feel a bit selfish because I think I am defiantly getting the better end of the friendship deal!  Megan & I know that our time together in China will be coming to an end and we're trying to treasure all the "meetings" we have left.  But, the gift of friendship, honesty, accountability and the example of Megan's relationship with the Lord will be something that I take back to the US with me and share with the three besties I left in Central Illinois.  When the time comes & we're not in the same country, all I have to say is thank goodness for technology! 

As for Megan's blog, it is no longer.  I encouraged her to let it go during one of our "meetings", it was stressing her out and not any fun.  I think the blog had already served it's purpose, it had brought us together.
I am sending a photo of Megan & I from this past spring.  As we were planning our next "meeting" she asked what I wanted to do and I told her I wanted an E-bike (electric bike) ride.  Most Chinese in our town have one and I'd never been on one.  Megan agreed to give me a ride.  Because we are responsible mothers who harp on our girls about wearing helmets, we rode bicycle helmets for our ride.  We're so cool!  I couldn't stop laughing because we were moving at approximately the speed of smell and I felt like we were stepping into the movie Dumb & Dumber.  Such a great memory!



I don’t think that I’ve ever plugged a book or product on my blog, but I am very excited for Melanie’s new book Nobody’s Cuter Than You which releases on April 7, 2015.  

Megan and I have decided that we will pay full price for it, we won’t even wait for it to be on the $1.99 Kindle list.  Maybe you should look into paying full price for it too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

2015 World Figure Skating Finals (Women's Long Program)



I happened to pick up a copy of the China Daily newspaper on a recent flight and was excited to find that the World Figure Skating Finals were going to be in Shanghai.  First thing on Monday morning I had some help tracking down tickets (because at the point you had to go to the venue to pick them up in person - will call would have been a bit handier).  
We spent Saturday enjoying some very talented figure skaters.  We had no idea what to expect and we didn't know that we'd be there for 4 hours and over lunch time.  In the US at a sporting event there would have been several options for food, most of them covered in processed cheese.  This being an event in China, I should have known to bring our own food.  I was not thinking!  The girl snacked on popcorn and suckers.  Towards the end of the event I almost got bold enough to ask the couple next to us for their extra chips.  The guy virtually had a grocery store in his bag...sandwiches, chips, and some other snacks.

Despite our hunger, we had a great time.  The staff at the event were so kind and polite and the spectators were amazing.  When the last 2 groups of skaters performed the audience pulled out flags for each of the performers respective countries, even those with complicated histories.  Very impressive!

It was very special to cheer on the US skaters while on our "home" soil in China.  We proudly waved our flags and screamed just a bit!


First competitor

Unless cousin Molly competes some day, I doubt
we'll be at another World Championship!

Flags ready and watching closely.

Impressive


US skater Gracie Gold 
US skater Ashley Wagner
Great job Ashley!
Waiting for the scores
Sporting some US pride 
US skater Polina Edmunds
The little skaters picking up the stuffed animals
thrown to the skaters.
This bear was bigger than the little skater
trying to carry it!
The winners...Russia, Japan and Russia.
Medals ceremony
I enjoy going to Shanghai to take advantage of the opportunities "city" has to offer! 

And, no, we don't have 4 girls now...we grabbed a friend of LBean's so she could enjoy the day too.  Jamie weathered the estrogen, Taylor Swift tunes and figure skating very, very well.  We appreciate his dedication to his daddy duties!