Sunday, May 03, 2009

My Birthday

Every year it's the same old story. Boy craves red velvet cake for his birthday. Boy's mom sends boxed cake across the ocean. Boy waits 3 weeks until the actual date of his birthday. Boy reads directions. Boy bakes cake. Boy mucks it up. Boy decides that cream cheese frosting makes him just as happy. :)

Such is my story for the third year in a row. I promise I follow the directions (at least I did this time). The first couple times I forgot to add either eggs or water. Usually it turns out looking like a dense red brownie. Somehow, though not surprisingly, I messed it up again. In the spirit of playing with food (as I haven't quite grown out of that phase of my life), I decided to decorate.

Meet Mr. Red.

He was happy until I started eating out his brains "return of the living dead" style.

Luckily, the second layer turned out better.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

My New Oven

After 2.5 years of living in China, Chinese food is starting to get boring to me. Well, it isn't so boring. I do still love it. Maybe I just haven't found that really good restaurant yet like Up Down in Yichang. Another reason might be that there isn't an easily accessible Snack Street with all the goodies and quick foods that I have been spoiled to. And yet another reason could be that I have access to all kinds of western food products. Yeah that could be it. So in the spirit of consumerism, I decided to buy myself an oven in which I could cook all the western dishes that I remember from home. Unfortunately I don't have any casserole dishes so Tator Tot Casserole has been put on the back burner for now. This weekend I decided to break in my new oven with Italian Stuffed Tomatoes. I really wasn't in a gourmet mood. I just had 2 tomatoes left over from last weeks food plan and thought what can I do with tomatoes in my oven. They turned out ok. I used a recipe that called for 6 tomatoes. I only cooked two. I now know that the recipe doesn't include enough cheese. I used the same amount the recipe called for with 6 tomatoes and it still wasn't cheesy enough. Plus I should add some more bread crumbs. All in all it was a neat little experience. I am psyched about Tator Tot Casserole for next weekend. Yes, tator tots are sold here in Shanghai. I can't wait!

Friday, January 30, 2009


It is over. Just this last Sunday night, China ushered in the new year. A little behind, right? Actually, the new year holiday the Chinese people just celebrated is based on the lunar calendar. Where as our new year in the states is always on January 1, the lunar new year can range from sometime in January like this year and sometime at the end of February. It always is a source of great consternation for me. In planning my vacations ahead of time like most people do, I frequently inquire about such dates as the Chinese new year. No one ever knows until a few weeks before. Of course, I suppose I could utilize this great thing called the internet to do things besides Geo-challenge like look up the exact dates for the Chinese new year. Maybe next year.

Anyway, as part of the new year festivities, Chu Si (the fourth day of the Chinese new year) is as my boss calls it, Wealth God Eve. The simple explanation is that if you make lots of noise on this particular day (my last night, Thursday the 29th), the god of wealth will hear you and come bless your household. I didn't do a lick of noise making, but my neighbors sure did. If racket (in the form of firecrackers from 10 pm to 12:30 am and then restarting around 4 am) is any indication of the level of wealth that will fill a person's house over the next year, you will all want to be very nice to me because I am going to be rollin' in it! Money money money money...MONEY!

And now I am going to sleep for I am sleep deprived.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Egg Nog

This blog is in honor of my mom who makes many holiday things possible for me. I love to drink egg nog each year at Christmas. Since I live in China, good milk products are hard to come by, plus the great malamime milk scandal of 2008 just made the problem worse. but because of my mom, I had egg nog! It was quite simple actually. Find carton of milk from a company that has proven itself as reputable through the malamime scandal and add to it a few tablespoons of egg nog powder. Viola! Instant egg nog. Now, we all know that instant products are never as good as the real thing, but I must say that it was incredibly good. From the smell to the taste to the texture, I felt like I was drinking real egg nog. This and a mango paste filled pastry makes for an amazing bed time snack! Thanks mom for making my day!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Da da da da da da da da!

I so wish I could do music clips on my blog...because if I could, the title would make more sense.

During my time in Mengzi, the most convenient mode of transportation is by bicycle. It is quite a ride from the university where my friends live and work; however, it is beautiful and a nice way to get some exercise. Well, every time I would get on the bike with the huge comfy seat all I could think about is the music from Wizard of Oz when Ms. Gulch is riding her bike in her pompous posture in the tornado. That would have been the theme music to my riding the bike if my life had a soundtrack.

Anyway, I just wanted to post a few more pictures. I mentioned before that Mengzi has this beautiful lake in the middle of the city. We stopped and took some pictures.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jack - Two Thousand EIGHT - Thanksgiving

So as I continue rambling about my trip to Mengzi over the holidays, I just wanted to make sure you got to see some of what Thanksgiving was like for me this year.

It began waking up to this incredibly beautiful city, which I had only seen at night so far. The sky was blue. The air was clear. The temperature was comfortable. It was perfect! An incredible break from the big city. About lunch time, we headed over to the Kim and Katie's friends' house before we headed off to lunch. I got to meet the Rice's. Such neat people. Their 2 children went with all of us to eat at the Brother's Jiang. It is apparently some very famourse noodle place they eat at every Sunday. It was good but I am not a big fan of noodles. It was however, very enjoyable to be riding bikes everywhere. When we got back to the house after lunch, we started gearing up for the Thanksgiving feast. I played games while everyone else helped do something useful for the feast - my normal role. At home in America, it is mom who cooks all the dishes. It is dad and mike who wake up around 5 am to smoke the turkey. It is mine and Kris's job to relax and be entertainment...or is that be entertained? Well, whatever it is and whatever I was doing at the RIce's was not much different from what I would be doing at home. It was so familiar. They had a piano too. I got to play. Unfortunately, I have never sucked so bad at the piano. Maybe I am not that good after all. Still, it is fun to tickle those fake ivory keys. We also played Chinese Checkers. You know, the Chinese checkers we play in America with the star shaped game board. I am pretty sure it isn't Chinese at all.

Well, eventually it was time to eat. I was so excited. There was everything you could imagine to eat: deviled eggs, strawberries dipped in chocolate, carrot cake squares, turkey, gravy, jello, desserts, sweet potato pie, and vegetable sticks. Amazing. We even had football going in the background...never mind that it was 3 years old. I wonder if it will continue to be played if only as a tradition from now on. I kind of like that. I never watched the games anyway. It was just always nice to be around my family while they were screaming about plays and tackles and whatever other football things they know about. I really missed being with my family for the holidays but it was nice to be around people that reminded me of my family back home and how blessed I am.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Journey to the center of Nowhere: 3D

As some of you know, I had the blessing of spending Thanksgiving with 2 of my old friends for Yichang where I used to live. No they are not Chinese. They are Kim and Katie. They have been in China for maybe 6 years now - several years in Yichang and they just moved to Mengzi in Yunnan Province. It was a great vacation from Shanghai but it started out as expected.

I left my apartment on a Wednesday morning. Apparently, I have never been up that early because the whole area I live in is pitch black before the sunrise. I mean all lights were off. Even the 24 hour convenient store had turned off its outside lights. Its early and the only way to the airport that is 20 mins away is by taxi. Of course, in their normal fashion, the taxi drivers speeding by in packs of 20 or 30 would just look at me as I was waving one of them towards me and they would wave back. Maybe I have the signal down wrong because often they just wave back they don't stop to pick me up. After walking for 35 mins in the dark and frigid Shanghai air, I finally got one to pick me up. My flight leaves in an hour and a half.

As I walk into the airport, my heart begins to race. 1 hour and 10 mins to go and all 171 ticket counters are lines at them. (Oh and I am not kidding about 171.) I find one that is moving quick at get checked in. No problems. Phew, I am at ease...until I see the security line. 50 something or so counters of people have to go through a security check point that is made up of only 3 lines. My heart begins to race more. I think this time things start to go black but I fight the anxiety. I get in line. I wait. My plane now leaves in 45 mins. Somehow I made it through the check point with 20 mins to spare and less 1 anti-bacterial hand sanitizer bottle. I suppose I could have caused some real damage on the flight: Die you bacteria scum!

20 mins to spare and on the plane. I am happy and ready to be leaving Shanghai for the first time since I came back. Well, turns out there was more waiting to do. We sat on the tarmac for 1 hour and a half before take off. They served us part of our breakfast while we waited for Air Traffic Control. In a lapse of judgement, I turned to my neighbor and said, "What is the deal with this waiting? The weather is beautiful and the airport just opened. How can we be backed up? Was there a plane crash?" She wasn't the same after that.

We landed in Kunming after 40 mins of circling the airport with the plane banked at what had to have made us nearly perpendicular with the ground. By the way, I loved it, my neighbor...terrified we might crash. I flew out of the airport on to make next stop: a drive through McDonald's. I have never seen on in China until that day. Very cool. But nobody was using. "If you build it, you will probably lose money." I hopped on a bus to Mengzi and enjoyed the ride down. It was good to be in the countryside away from buildings, smog, and traffic. One thing I want to mention about the trip down: Kim and Katie both said there is construction and so it will take longer. It took about 4.5 hours. No big deal. What they didn't tell me was that by construction they meant the whole road was missing for near 1 hour of the trip. I lost my cookies. And by lost my cookies I mean they fell out of my cookie bag and onto the floor to be crunched by all the passengers who found out why they believe all Americans are fat.

Anyway, around 8:30 or so I finally made it out to Mengzi - the center of nowhere. Kim and Katie met me at the bus stop and quickly whisked me through town on a whirlwind introduction of Mengzi which included massive government buildings, a beautiful lake, a hotel that reminder me of that pink hotel in Florida, shanti town, and my personal favorite the golden calf. It is the largest steel sculpture I have seen in China yet. At night with the lights on it, it is golden. It is just ridiculous. (Sorry no picture of it. We were too busy stuffing our faces with Thanksgiving and leftovers.)

Here are some pics. My arrival in Kunming.

The drive through McDonald's. It would be better if you could read Chinese.

The floating heads. Picture fun.

Saved by the Bell? Anyone?

And the highlight of my day (besides seeing K&K): A desk full of my favorite snacks: Little Bear Cookies!