Saturday, April 28, 2007

Frozen Seaweed

I delight in cleaning out the fridge (not be confused with actually cleaning the fridge).

I delight in throwing away old food - I don't know why. I consider it one of life's simple pleasures.

So I decided it was time to clean out the fridge this morning.

As I now share the fridge with Flora, I didn't really know what to expect. Thankfully there were no chicken heads. But I did come across things I never thought I'd find in my fridge - or freezer. Frozen crab, seeweed and something I couldn't identify. I think it was dumpling dough?

Anyway - now my fridge is clean - er. Hmmm, what's next?
Maybe Chase's closet?

So what does this all mean? Watch out world (and Hubs), I've started Spring cleaning.

Six Pack Of Chicken Heads

I was at the market the other day and came across a six pack of chicken heads.

I don't get queasy easily - good thing because there are many unusual items for sale here - but I have to say that the sight of pre-packaged chicken heads made my stomach turn. But then I started wondering, how does one prepare chicken heads? Are they best for soup? Where's the meat? I mean, what's the point of eating something with so little meat?

So I asked a friend tonight how one prepares chicken heads. She said she wasn't really sure but she had one at a Chinese BBQ - on a skewer.

Good thing BBQ season is right around the corner - now I know what I'm putting on my kebabs!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Tailor Update

So I made what must be the 5th trip to the tailor today - he can't quite seem to get the pants right. First they were SO tight. Then he said he said he took them out, but I didn't see a difference. When I got them back yesterday they were big in strange places.

SO frustrating.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Four Mondays

"I've had four Mondays in a row," Hubs informed me last night.

With another big holiday on its way, the Government has issued "guidance" that businesses are to be open on Saturday, Sunday and Monday as usual, but closed Tuesday through Tuesday (which means people get the following weekend "off" - Hurrah?).

Now that's a noodle I can't seem to untangle. How can it possibly make sense to make people work eight days in a row - and over weekends - in exchange for days off?

To Catch A Fish

So I asked my language teacher about how to select fish at the market (there are so many kinds and I am not familiar with any of them).

She explained that the Chinese classify their fish by the number of bones; they believe the fish that has the greatest number of bones also has the greatest flavor, because the meat is precious.

She also explained that there are fish from the river and fish from the sea, and that the fish from the sea has a strong fish flavor, so the Chinese prefer the fish from the river.

Eau De Sewage

The one down side of living where we live - in the specific apartment we selected - is the scent (some times it is stronger than others) of raw sewage. It seems to come up through the bathroom drain pipes - odd, because we live on the 6th floor. Maybe if we lived on a higher floor, it would not stink as much.

We've already plugged the main drain (despite Hub's concern that the gas will collect and eventually explode) - but it seems to be working itself into the room through the shower, bath and sink drain now.

So I complained to Flora (my Aiyi's new English name). I told her I wanted the building management to fix this problem. She sat down with a pen and paper and drew a map of Dalian, explaining that when the wind comes from the South (when it comes in from the Yellow Sea), it smells bad and when the wind blows North, it smells nice.

Apparently the wind is the problem - not exactly something the building management can solve.

Just Relax...

The dentist said to me as she started drilling into my front tooth - without first using Novocain.

Just as I started to believe she wasn't going to hurt me, she got close to the nerve and I could feel the pain. "Oh, I know, I know," she said to me. "Don't worry, it's okay."

Seriously? Sure, it's okay because she's the one with the drill and I'm the one in the chair with white knuckles.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Her Smile Lights Up The Room"

The above is a lovely quote from a friend; she also took this photo.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

No Sheep Is Safe Tonight

The following has subject matter unsuitable for parents and grand-parents, so those of you related to me in any way, shape or form, please stop reading now.

Our driver, Qin, who drives slowly and carefully when Chase and I are in the car, must be starting to feel a little more comfortable with us - or maybe he didn't want to wait in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

This afternoon he surprised me by driving the wrong way up a freeway off-ramp and then proceeded to make a U-turn to join the vehicles that were speeding by us in the opposite direction. A bold driving maneuver, I must say. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

Maybe the thing that surprised me most is that I wasn't actually terrified for my life, I was concerned, but the driving here is so whacky that it didn't feel as scary as it would in the US.

At this point, I can just chalk it up to my list of crazy driving experiences - like when I was in a taxi and the driver made a left from a far right lane (in front of oncoming traffic), or when I was in a taxi and the driver sped toward a red light in the oncoming traffic lane, so that he was the first car to hit the intersection when the light it turned green. Oh, and then there was the time in Shanghai when our taxi driver decided to set the speed record in transport from the airport and Hubs had to bang on the window and yell at him to slow the *@^# down.

I have never been more terrified than I was on that day.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Patrick Anderson

Our good friend, Patrick Anderson, paid us a visit over the weekend. We had a great time, but now I can't seem to find the camera. Meanwhile, Patrick left his camera here. Sounds like bad camera karma to me.

The funny thing is, we can never seem to take pictures of the Anderson-Sunilas when we are with them - and finally I have pictures of Patrick - and boom - the camera goes missing. Strange.

We had a lovely time. After pancakes on Saturday morning, we took Patrick to the boardwalk. Hubs rode a Segway. From there, Hubs and Patrick (aka Scandal Anderson) hit the road to enjoy a real bonding/team building experience at the hot springs. After they returned, we went to Labor Park (none of the amusement rides were open) - and then out to dinner (Chinese food).

Sunday morning, I woke Patrick up and took him first to one cafe to pick up cinnamon rolls and then to our local coffee joint (one of the few places in town where one can find good coffee).

From there, we headed to Walmart (where he saw pig face, feet, chicken feet and other items in the prepared food section). Then it was back to our place, where we ate breakie before heading out to one of the many parks to see locals practicing Tai Chi, Kung Fu, singing, and playing the erhu. After we had worked up an appetite, we headed to the Shangri-La for some lovely Dim Sum.

Next up - a huge underground shopping plaza, followed by Russian street. As it was late afternoon, we decided to take a quick drive down Binhai Road (the Chinese Riviera). And then it was back to the apartment, in time for Patrick to iron-dry his clothes and pack for his flight the next morning.

We had a crock pot special for dinner. As mentioned in prior posts, it is impossible to find ingredients for most of my recipes, so I have resorted to crock pot cooking. Not great but it gets the job done (most times).

And now he's gone back to England and we really miss him!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Finding My Way Through

Dalian has been hard city to get to know, as there are so many underground markets, outdoor markets and night markets - oh and all the signs are in Chinese.

As I do not know Chinese (don't ask how language classes are going), I have to rely on people I meet along the way to help me find the things I need.

Earlier this week I met with a woman who knows the city quite well. She told me about a flower market that sells herbs (mint, rosemary, basil). I can't describe in words how happy I am at the thought of having my own herb garden. Finding fresh herbs in the markets has proven near impossible.

I've also been on a hunt for large carpets (in an effort to protect Chase from our hard, marble floors). YP is on the lookout, so we should have the carpet thing sorted next week.

And then there is the fact that I just can't find ingredients for Western recipes (I used to think I had it bad in Zurich - not so).

So today I went shopping again with my friend Ruth; she really knows her way around this town. She took me to a little market, under a park, that smelled of fish - no wonder, as I found out later that it is "the" place to go for fish.

On the floor above the fish market, she showed me a little shop that sells mozzarella cheese (one of only two shops you can buy it) - along with some other Western ingredients.

She then took me to another shop and asked one of the shop ladies for cupcake cups (whoa!). The lady dug around under a table covered in various dried and salted things and pulled out a couple packages. Crazy stuff.

Ruth also let me know that there is a place where you can buy cinnamon rolls. But you have to buy them on the right day, as they make them once every three days. She called me this afternoon to tell me they are fresh today, so I should mark my calendar.

Should I be concerned that I am counting down the days to a fresh batch of cinnamon rolls - or that I have to go to a fish market to buy mozzarella cheese?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


My helper, Yu Peng, asked me to give her an English name today.
I have to say, it feels a little strange naming an adult.

What makes it harder is that Chinese names have meaning.
My language teacher's English name is Sunrise, because that is when she was born.

Americans tend to select names based on how they sound.

Oh, and it has to be something she can pronounce easily.

Hmmm... the pressure is on.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tight Pants

My (skin tight) pants came back from the tailor on Monday.
Looks like I'm going to have to go back and ask the tailor to let them out a little.
I don't want to look like I've been poured into my clothes, for goodness sake.


I'm having fantasies about Dunkin' Donuts. Nothing scandalous; I could just really go for a small box of donut holes and a large, jump-in-and-swim-around-in-it, cup of iced coffee.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rainy Day

Today is so dark.
Rain has been coming down hard all day.

I'd like nothing more than to find a coffee shop with a fireplace, order a mocha and curl up for the afternoon with a good book.

No such luck.

I did, however, have a lovely time at the fabric market this morning.
I went with a British friend.
She might well be the only British woman in Dalian.
And I am lucky enough to have her living in our building.

The fabric market always cheers me up. The possibilities are endless. While we were there I put in another order - and cost out a couple things I've had my eye on - one of which is a full length, silk, sleeveless, high-collared brocade dress. Very Chinese, but really a must have. The cost? About 250 yuan (US $32.45)

I also stopped by one of the many yarn booths at the fabric market, to see how much it would cost to have a sweater knit for Chase. Turns out, it would cost 1oo yuan, which is US $12.94. That's for someone to spend hours hand-knitting a custom sweater.

My helper looked at me like I was crazy for even considering it. Why? Because machine made garments are much less expensive. For example, I came across super cute baby shoes earlier this week that cost 25 yuan (that's US $3.24).

Totally outrageous. I love it here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Worldwide Caution

This just out from the US consulate in Shenyang.
I really hate that we live in a world like this.
Why can't everyone just be friends?

This information is current as of today, Wed Apr 11 13:10:22 2007.
Worldwide Caution
April 10, 2007

This Public Announcement updates information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against Americans and interests overseas. This supersedes the Worldwide Caution dated October 11, 2006 and expires on October 9, 2007.

The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. Current information suggests that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics to include assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings.

Ongoing events in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East have resulted in demonstrations and associated violence in several countries. Americans are reminded that demonstrations and rioting can occur with little or no warning.

In August 2006, British authorities arrested a significant number of extremists engaged in a plot to destroy multiple passenger aircraft flying from the United Kingdom to the United States. The September 2006 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Syria and the March 2006 bombing near the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan illustrate the continuing desire of extremists to strike American targets.

Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests. The bomb attacks targeting buses carrying foreign workers in March 2007 and December 2006 in Algeria, a series of bombings in Thailand in May and September 2006 that targeted commercial and tourist destinations in the far south, and the bombings in the the Egyptian resort town of Dahab in April 2006 all illustrate how terrorists exploit vulnerabilities associated with soft targets. Additional examples of such targets include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas and locales where Americans gather in large numbers, including during holidays. Financial or economic targets of value may also be considered as possible venues; the vehicle-based suicide attack on an oil facility near Mukalla and Marib in Yemen in September 2006 and the failed attack on the Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia in late February 2006 are such examples.

In the wake of the August 2006 plot against aircraft in London, numerous terrorist attacks on trains in India in 2006, the July 2005 London Underground bombings, and the March 2004 train attacks in Madrid, Americans are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems. In addition, extremists may also select aviation and maritime services as possible targets.

U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security. For additional information, please refer to "A Safe Trip Abroad <> " found at

U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. Americans abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its Consular Information Program documents, available on the Internet at In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. or outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Out And About

I met a woman last weekend who knows Dalian like the back of her hand.
She took me to a handful of her favorite shopping spots today - it was totally outrageous.

On the way I decided to snap some pictures. It occurred to me that I see these things every day, but they are probably unusual sights for most people. These places are all very close to where I live, but they are tucked back, away from the main road.

Every day I am reminded how lucky we are.
Every day I count my blessings.

Gorgeous Girl

Monday, April 09, 2007


One of the strangest things I have encountered here are women who, I believe, issue greetings.

When you arrive at some of the airports in China, you are greeted by women who show absolutely no emotion. They sound like robots. It's like you hear someone say something, you turn, and look, and the woman looks right through you, like you are not even there. Like she has not said a thing. It's really weird.

Today I had a similar experience. I heard a woman say something, so I turned to look and caught her as she was finishing her sentence. She made a short bow, but didn't look directly at me. I smiled at her, but I got no love back.

So I kept walking. But YP was behind me, following up on something for me, and I wanted to ask her a question. So I walked back by the woman who issued the greeting - and bam! - she did it again. Same little bow. Same lack of expression.

And then I decided to have some fun. I proceeded to walk by her two more times. Each time she issued the greeting and bowed. It was as if her manager said, "every time someone crosses this imaginary line, you greet them."

I think he must have forgotten to say, "you don't need to say it again and again to the same person."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Recap

Yesterday, Easter, was a beautiful day. The sun was out. The sky was blue.

We started our morning with an Easter basket hunt. We then went to a Church service, held in the home of a friend of a friend. There were close to 40 people in attendance, most were Canadian - almost all affiliated with the Maple Leaf School. We met some really nice folks there.

We had to leave the service a little early though, as we had also been invited to a brunch, hosted by a friend who is hooked into the European community (most were German), and loads of kids (most of which were 3 years or older). There was a Chinese clown. Balloon animals for the children. A cookie painting station. An egg decorating station.

I thought that Chase would be overwhelmed (I was) by the number of kids. They were all so loud - running around in circles - totally high on sugar. But Chase wanted to get right into the middle of it all. It didn't seem to matter that she was only half the size of most of these kids. So we took her into the heart of the madness (several times); she laughed and played until she was so tired she literally leaned into me, closed her eyes and fell fast asleep.

Chase even had a chance to taste a chocolate Easter bunny for the first time. She was sitting in Hub's lap. We were both engaged in conversation with the couple across the table. It occurred to me that I hadn't heard a peep from her. So I turned to look at her. She was nestled snuggly against Hubs. Sucking intently on chocolate easter bunny, which had been wrapped in tin foil. The bunny was now in two pieces, the foil twisted to tiny bits. Chase's lips were brown. As were her hands. She looked so up as if to say, "can I help you with something?"

On the way home from the brunch, we stopped at a park and bought a kite. We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sunshine.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Hippety-Hoppety Easter Is On Its Way

Easter is around the corner and I am sad to report that there is a distinct lack of Easter spirit here.

After searching high and low for Peeps, I settled on dried squid for Hubs' Easter basket.

Just kidding.

On the friend-making side of things, I'm pleased to report we've been invited to an Easter Brunch by a couple German friends, which is actually a huge deal, because they tend to hang out with other Germans and rarely ask others to join. Maybe they think we're okay because we lived in the German part of Switzerland?

We've also been invited to a Church group gathering. It consists of a group of 40 people that meet every Sunday at different people's homes - the details around the religion part are a little fuzzy, because it appears to be all inclusive. I've got my fingers crossed there is a nice woman there with a child Chase's age, who speaks English and has nothing better to do with her days then come over and hang out.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Walking Walking

Chase is really moving now.

It only took her one day to realize that the "walking" thing is pretty cool!
She adores welcoming "Dada" when he comes home from work.
Her stiff little legs. Her big smile. A delighted squeal.
Totally priceless.

Thanks to her flashy, red, plastic, Fisher Price walker, she is unstoppable.
She has even mastered corners - which is quite a feat, as the front wheels don't turn.

Last night Hubs decided to take the walker for a spin.
Chase burst out laughing. So did I.
She thought it was about the funniest thing she had ever seen.

So now it's time to seriously think about carpet.
How does one carpet over marble?
I think the answer is by using a huge carpet.
No nails. No glue. Just a really big carpet.
I'll tackle that next week.

Mission Possible?

Today, makeover mama and littlest Lolly headed to the fabric market and tailor to order some new, stain-free, clothes. We pick up the clothes in 10 days. If the "test" subjects are well made, I will begin designing clothes for myself and my littlest lady. Fingers crossed for pants that fit!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Makeover Mama: Phase 2

Now that I have made a commitment to re-introduce exercise to my daily routine, I feel so much better. Actually making time for excercize is another story entirely.

So what's next for Makeover Mama? Well, I spent an hour yesterday getting the most intense foot massage ever. I never knew I could have a knot in my big toe. I actually got really sick in the afternoon.

Not sure if it was the foot massage or dodgy shrimp dumplings. All I know is I felt really dizzy, my body ached all over, I felt so weak I couldn't pick up Chase and my feet were so hot they felt like they were on fire. The last symptom makes me think my illness was as a result of the foot massage - as hot feet are usually not a symptom of food poisoning.

I went to bed early last night. I feel much better now, but my lower back is still a bit tender. Strange, because one of the pressure points that hurt the most while it was being massaged was linked to the sciatic nerve.

I'd like to believe that the massage has made me better in some way. Like the release of toxins was a good thing. But I don't feel better. Maybe next time I'll just ask for a standard massage.

Chart courtesy of

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Happy Birthday To Hubs!

Chase, clever girl, has been planning a big surprise for her daddy's birthday.

Besides having flowers delivered to her daddy's office today, she also decided to take her first steps!!! When Hubs arrived home, she took her first two steps - right into her Daddy's arms.

Absolutely amazing. We managed to catch one walking session on film (short movie).

She walks a bit like the Tin Man, in the Wizard of Oz. Her knee joints need to be oiled. Once she gets the bending of the knees down, she will be unstoppable.

We will be in big trouble.

Ladies Luncheon

"You'll be surprised by the number of women," I was told by an expat who coordinates a quarterly ladies luncheon in Dalian.

I was. Sixty ladies attended.

There was a handful of Europeans, many of which I knew. There was also a large number of Japanese, Koreans and Chinese ladies, all who all hung out with each other. There were 5 Americans, 4 of which were from Portland, Oregon (no kidding), 1 of which has a 14 month-old-son. I gave her my number - and thought - "please be normal so we can be friends."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Birthday Thanks!

To Grandpa Mark and Oooh La La, thank you for the birthday card.

To Nana Cris, thank you for coming out to China for Chase's birthday.

To Kevin, Megge, Sean and Julia for the lovely outfits, stuffed animals and cupcake sticker! She loves them all!

To Jeff, Victoria, Olivia and Jack, thank you for the lovely dress and adorable book.

To Sarah and Lockett, thank you for posting your birthday wishes.

I really wanted to get pictures of her in each and every outfit, but time just seems to be slipping by - and I have no good excuse.

I wanted to make sure I thanked everyone for thinking of Chase, before we get too far into April!

15 Min.

I ran for 15 min today. I can't believe I am THAT out of shape.
I guess carrying a 25lb baby isn't the best for cardio.
The good news: I don't have to spend any time lifting weights - I already do that all day, everyday.

I have to say that jumping on the treadmill was like catching up with an old friend. That said, it would have been better if I had my best girlfriend from home running along beside me.

She was always more fit than I, which made me try harder in a "I wish I was as fit as you" competitive way.

I was a little afraid that I would feel a little extra skin bouncing around, but I didn't. I was a little afraid it wouldn't feel good, but it did. I didn't want to leave my darling girl at home with YP, but I know she is in good hands, and I know I need this time for myself.

I just can't believe how hard it is for me to walk out of the door without her in my arms.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Makeover Mama

Have you ever looked in the mirror and felt like a Glamour "don't?"
Maybe it's the baggy clothes, covered in stains and crusty food.
Maybe it's the hair that has grown too long and is now permanently "up."
Maybe it's the minimal make-up (just enough to hide the bags under my eyes).

Time to start working out again.
Time to spend a little time on myself.
Time to start thinking about clothes again.
About makeup. About hair.
About feeling feminine, feeling glamorous.

And, since we live in China, it's time to have my energy (chi) professionally evaluated.
I'm pretty sure my chi is pooling somewhere - rather than flowing freely.
Maybe it's caught behind my knee or it is stuck in my elbow.

Hopefully it's nothing a little acupuncture, herbs and bamboo cupping can't cure.