Wednesday, December 29, 2010


For our Anniversary this year, we didn't go to the hotel we have for the past few years. With an infant that is currently refusing a bottle, we decided it wasn't worth taking her along and we couldn't leave her with anyone.

So instead I decided to remodel our bedroom as a gift to Nathan. Last summer when we returned from the US I swore that I was going to make our bedroom a nice place to relax. Well, after looking at Ikea and having a heart attack from their prices, (Nathan told me, no, I could not spend three hundred and fifty dollars on a mattress pad), I was discouraged.

So a few weeks ago, I was re-energized to start again, this time with a due date. Our bed before was a queen, and this land lord one is a king, so the first thing I looked for was a king sized duvet. Two weeks, and nada (at least that I liked). They were either too cheap of material or too ugly. Finally I found it. And fell in love with it. It was not just a duvet, but a set with a bottom sheet and pillow covers as well. Totally more than I wanted to pay for it, but after leaving, thinking, justifying, and looking again, I decided to splurge.

Next I needed curtains. Our previous ones were landlord curtains, deep maroon with transparent flowers that let in WAY too much light. I had also been looking for these as ready made (thinking I didn't have time to get them made) in the markets, but had had no luck. Finally two days before my deadline, I broke down and went to curtain street, where there are thirty+ stores with hundreds of types of curtains but all have to be tailor made. Luckily I had remembered to take measurements before I went, and after begging and paying five extra dollars for expediting, I had my curtains ordered.

Third, there was the issue of lamps. I had bought some a couple years ago, but the frosted glass was not thick enough and they are nearly too blinding to use at night. The landlord had left a bunch of lamps in our apartment, so Nathan was using those for the time being but they didn't match my new decor. :-) A sudden inspiration made me think to cover them with a textured paper. Perfect.

Lastly, I had to clean and set up. Since I was rushing the tailors I figured they probably wouldn't be delivered until late afternoon, so I sent Nathan on a shopping trip after our lunch and appointment. While he was gone, I removed everything unnecessary from our room, cleared off our dresser tops, put on the new bedding, and finished the lamps. The curtain people even installed the curtains for me! I finished about 30 minutes before Nathan replied.

Needless to say, he was a bit surprised :-)

Here are the before and after pics.
From Apartment JinHai

From Random

Monday, December 27, 2010

Grated Butter

The other day my Chinese helper took me to a new baking store she had found. Among many other things, they sell butter and mozzarella cheese by the jin (a half kilo or a little more than a lb). Unfortunately, since the portions are chopped off of bulk blocks and repackaged, and the packages of cheese and butter look remarkably similar. Same clear plastic cover, same white label with black chinese characters.

When I went to drop off a jin of mozzarella to a friend who had asked me to pick it up for her, in my hurry, I didn't look very closely. It wasn't until I got home and unpacked my own that I realized I may have given her the wrong one. But I couldn't remember how many I had bought of each, so I asked her husband to check, and later sent her a text to ask her.

By this time, it was a couple days later, and she was out of the house. She said she had asked her Chinese helper to grate it, and that her helper had mentioned over the phone that it was "mushy".

Sure enough, when she got home, she found two large piles of grated butter...

Since I felt bad about giving her the wrong one, I switched with her. Now I'm trying to decide what to do with more than a pound of grated butter.

Nathan is actually fairly excited about the concept. He's amusing me by coming up with ways I could potentially use it. He thinks it will melt much faster on toast, pancakes, and anything else you usually spread butter on. Me, on the other hand, is not sure how to measure it out properly. I guess I could just melt it down and start over...not sure what that would do to the composition of it though :-P I guess this is a lesson in buying ingredients with labels you can't read.

From Random

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Grandparent's Christmas Gift

We made these for the relatives as gifts on Shutterfly, and they have the option of sharing it on your blog. Who knew? Hope you enjoy!

Lizbeth's 1st Six Months

Click here to view this photo book larger

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yesterday I cried. And not even for a good reason.

My mission was simple. Three days before Christmas and I needed to find wrapping paper. Due to past experiences I know that it is hard to find, and not even the same as American paper. In America, you buy it in rolls. In China, when you can find it, it is in 2'x2' square sheets. And Christmas wrapping paper is nearly nonexistant.

I found some in a market a few weeks ago, but the market is a $7 round trip taxi ride away, they are still thirty cents a sheet, and they only had three designs. I should have bought more when I was there, but the sheets were rolled up and I didn't realize they were individual package sized.

So we were in the Japanese shopping center today, and they surprisingly had a huge kiosk with Christmas decorations and presents, and they were even gift wrapping what you bought with wrapping paper. I thought, maybe they sell Christmas wrapping paper! I asked, and they said no, but to check a store on the second level of the shopping center.

So up I went. I found a store with beautiful decorations, and the most beautiful wrapped boxes underneath their Christmas Tree. I thought, surely they have wrapping paper, and cheerfully went in to ask. They said no. So I asked her where I could buy some. She said I couldn't. So I asked, where did they buy theirs? She said the company makes it themselves. Grr... Completely unhelpful and seemed irritated at my questions to boot.

So out I went, on to the next store. The shopping center has a large department-like store, so I thought I could check the stationary and gift bag section. Looked around, didn't see any. Looked for someone to help me. No one around, so I went to another section. They told me the stationary section had some. I went back, looked again, found an attendant, she said yes, they have some (by this time I would be happy to have any wrapping paper, even if not Christmas), but another attendant came up and said no, in fact they don't. Grr again.

This is the point I cried. Nathan met up with me from his shopping and asked what was wrong. He suggested that I just ask the original place if they could give me some of their wrapping paper they use to wrap what people buy. I thought this was unlikely (Chinese are very unlikely to go outside of what they are expected to do), but worth a shot. Down we headed. There was a line, and obviously these gift wrappers had never wrapped presents before (I guess Chinese always give gifts in bags?) Two people in front of us, and after five minutes of waiting I decided to finish my grocery shopping while Nathan asked.

Sure enough, 15 minutes later he shows up proudly with five and a half sheets of "Jusco Wishes You A Merry Christmas" wrapping paper. Apparently the cute baby he was holding helped. And because they lady couldn't sell us the paper, she just gave it to him.

Now one might ask why I cried over such a little thing as wrapping paper. I don't know, but weirdly I feel as though it is delayed culture shock. As Nathan pointed out, last year we were in America and they year before we had just arrived and had too many other things to worry about than having an American Christmas. On top of the failed Live Christmas Tree project, and the desperate shopping for a baby Christmas dress, I guess I'm missing home more than I thought. I miss our families, the excitement built up over weeks of anticipation, the smells of pine, the individualized ornaments, decorative candles, real wreaths, and so many other things. I didn't realize how much I love Christmas, and how deeply ingrained my ideas of what Christmas "should" be are.

Christmas here is different. The first year we were here, even simple decorations were hard to find. Since it is not traditionally a Chinese holiday, few celebrated it or even knew what it was. Every year they have more things to sell, but everything is generic and chintzy. Fake trees often have oodles of fake snow spray painted on them, or pink flashing pine needles. The only options for ornaments are balls, and they come in silver, gold, red, and blue. Without the rich cultural background that is ingrained in nearly every American, Christmas is nothing more than another holiday to sell and buy "stuff".

On the one hand, it is a good thing. It's a good discussion topic, and Chinese love to ask you how you celebrate it. They equate it with their Lunar New Year, when they all travel across the country to their hometowns, sit around together, play games, and eat nuts.

But on the other, it lacks meaning and depth. I'm realizing how hollow Christmas is without what makes it so important to us.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Chinese "Live Christmas Tree"

Last week Nathan and I were putting up the fake Christmas tree and we were discussing how much we miss the smell of a live Christmas Tree. I got the idea to look online, on a website called taobao that is similar to Amazon. Sure enough, they had advertisements for 生命圣诞树, which literally means "Live Christmas Tree". Well, I knew it would be a flop, but by this time Nathan was excited about the prospect and it was only $30 including shipping, so I thought how bad can it be? At least it will make it smell like Christmas.

Well, Friday we learned just how bad it could be. Remember "Charlie Brown's Christmas"? Well we found his tree. It even has the roots attached and the top even bent over when we put on an ornament.

From December 2010

And the worst part is, it doesn't even smell good.

Although it does look a little better with the ornaments on.

An Addendum

I've gotten so much ribbing over taking pictures of Lizbeth crying, I thought I would post this one of me rescuing her as a follow up :-) And by they way, her daddy was the one with the camera.

From December 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Eye Color

A lot of people back home, and even here, ask me what her eye color is. Well, we haven't exactly figured it out. As Nathan says, it's almost undefinable. Some have called it brown, some green, others said it's the color of a precious metal. What do you think?

From December 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Morning

This morning, we thought Lizbeth was so cute, and the sunlight was just right, we just had to take a photo shoot.

From December 2010

From December 2010

From December 2010

After the first few pics though, Lizbeth wasn't so thrilled.

From December 2010

From December 2010

From December 2010

From December 2010

From December 2010

Aren't these pics just so stinking cute though? That little trembling lip can break even the toughest heart.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Last week Lizbeth and I took our first trip on our own. Our good friends up in Tianjin hadn't met Lizbeth yet, and suddenly I realized that with them only a five hour train ride away there was nothing stopping me from jetting up there overnight to hang out. (Nothing except busy schedules, I mean)

So after securing a train up there and a flight back, off we went.

Lizbeth sitting on the train
From November 2010

Kim and Patrick are friends from home in Austin. They first told us about the company way back in 2006. They were home for awhile, and decided to help us move into our house. We thought it was so cool that they lived in China...I guess it wore off on us!

Now they have two kids, and we have one, and we all live in China. A couple of times a year Patrick has a business trip down here, and we get to catch up a little, but it's never enough. We're trying to convince them to move down to beautiful Qingdao, although secretly I think Tianjin is pretty cool (and so much cheaper than Qingdao!)

Here Kim is reading a book to all three kids. I really like this book, it's called Where's Baby's Belly Button and it was interesting to all three ages. Lizbeth 6mths, Keturah almost 2yrs, Moyer 3 1/2yrs.
From November 2010

You can catch more pics of our visit on their blog here

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our Apartment

Months ago I promised pictures of our beautiful new apartment. We are very blessed by this upgrade to a spacious three bedroom, two bath apartment. The area we live in is very beautiful, and we can even see a little of the ocean off of our balcony/drying room! The one downside is that it is at least a five minute walk out to the road to get a taxi or bus, but this walk is along the ocean, so who can complain? I also love living so much closer to the Carmans!