Saturday, July 28, 2012


Guess who won't be watching the Olympic games here in China?

Yes, it's upside down.
I'm too lazy to try and fix the image.

It reads" Olympic video on the internet is only available to users in the United States and US territories."

Guess those of us Americans living overseas are out of luck.

Thanks, NBC.

Friday, July 27, 2012

From the 25th Floor

This is what happens when you're up at 4:30 a.m. with a wide eyed baby.

You get to see things like the sun rising.

Gorgeous, isn't it?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Am I missing something?

Okay, a disclaimer...we've been spoiled with our son's overnight sleep habits from early on. I've got a few friends, they know who they are, whose children have an aptitude for late night shenanigans and WILL. NOT.SLEEP. So, I really don't intend to complain here, but rather give a little hindsight on how I just about missed a major  milestone!

What? You mean to tell me you actually need sleep, mama?
The past two weeks have left me pulling out my hair, wondering what I am doing wrong to cause my once "goes down at 7 and wakes at 4 and back to bed till 6" child to adopt the "fights going down at 7upat8upat9upat11upat1upat2willnotgobacktosleep unless mama is holding me" schedule. It's exhausting. It's sad. It was making me feel like I was going to lose my mind. Babies need sleep. Moms and dads need sleep.

So, then I thought I figured it out. It must be one of the solids he's been eating. Surely, it's gas. Eliminated that particular solid from his diet, and still....up up up all night long.

Then I blamed teething. But, a quick look in the mouth, and nothing. Nada. Zilch.

One day, he felt warm. Took his temperature. 101 f.

OH MY GAWD what a bad parent I have been! He's got a fever! That's why he isn't sleeping. Oh me, oh my, it's all my fault. How did I miss this?

I did give him Motrin, and monitored his fever. Up and down between 99 and 101 for a few days straight.

Okay, my baby is sick. But he acts fine during the days. Happy actually.

I had a pediatrician appointment scheduled for the 26th, and it was the 23rd. I could wait 3 days. Other than the fever and night waking, he seemed in normal spirits.

And then, on the 24th, as we were playing a game of pat-a-cake which is like oh so fun and evokes a ton of giggles, I saw it.

A tooth!

Yes, Sal cut his first chomper.

Hence the fever and the night wakings.

What a stud.

He took a trip to the pediatrician yesterday, and he got weighed in kilos, and measured in centimeters. It was all Greek to me until I pulled out my iconvert app and punched in the numbers. 15 lbs, 14 oz and just shy of 27" tall at six months. That's a 2 lb and 2 inch gain in 2 months. Not too bad! Since he has had a fever, we will be going back for immunizations some time in the next couple of weeks, once it subsides. The ped seems to think he may have a virus in addition to the teething, hence the prolonged low grade fever. Nothing serious, and it should run it's course. No sense overloading him, even if he is a stud.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Nick went out to grab a few beers and burgers with the guys last week.

They ended up here--Paramount-- and he got his first taste of nightlife here in Wuxi.

I don't think the boys lasted too long in the technotronic nightclub, but none-the-less this is proof that the Chinese can get down and rock out like nobody's business.


What kind of parent freeloads food from their own kid?

This mom.

Yes, apparently, pureed carrots are a delicious addition to my beloved oatmeal. I don't even recall what posessed me to try it, but it is divine. Tastes nothing like carrot cake. Cinnamon, raisins, oats and a cube of carrots. It's what's for breakfast.

I suppose I better make a double batch of carrots next time I hit the market.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I have one gear. Reverse.

Watch out world, he's mobile....

Sal has figured out how to get up on all fours, and move himself backwards.

He regularly ends up wedged under our entertainment center or his crib.

Time to baby proof!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Swollen Heart

I woke up to an email from one of my BFF's this morning which made my eyes fill with tears, and heart swell with gratitude.

12x12 blankets for Preemie Prints

When I emailed earlier, I forgot that I had other good news to share. It is news of a completed project, although I can't take credit for finishing it. My mom helped a lot. Back when Denise was born, you blogged about preemie blankets. I remember going right to JoAnn to shop for the project, I found adorable fabric and started sewing, J. came over to help one night -- we made a few, but didn't manage to put a dent in the fabric supply I'd planned. Then the project got put on hold due to sewing machine issues and my lack of true sewing skills. My mom finished our project last month, and she sent a whole pile of mini-blankets to Preemie Prints in Texas, in memory of Denise. The blankets turned out beautifully -- they're so soft and pretty, with just tiny tiny prints on them. Picture of a few is attached.

Lots of love, S. "

To see that people still think of, and do things in memory of Denise makes me feel an overwhelming sense of love and support, despite her having been gone 3 years. Millions of families are affected by premature births, and the need for these blankets will always be there. Here's a link to my original post, for anyone feeling crafty and charitable.

EDIT: Three days after originally posting, I received a link in my inbox worth watching. My college roommate/teammate/BFF, Dawn, and her MOMS club in Spring, Texas were featured on the local news for the itty bitty blankets that they had all made and donated. Again, I am touched, and feel so much gratitude towards the efforts made to help grieving families feel the love.

Here's the link to the news coverage...

Thank you Mac!

From the 25th Floor

Welcome to China...


Just a typical day of beep beep beeps around here.
This is the side street under our apartment building..not even a main thoroughfare. The main streets are even dicier. They have car lanes and scooter lanes to navigate.
And I must add, that here in China, driving is done on the right side of the road, just like the US. Unless of course, you're impatient, and like the drivers above--anything goes.

Only two lanes?

That's okay, we can share.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bouncin off the Walls

The candyland-esque play area
This morning, Sal and I joined our friends from Georgia on a trip to an indoor play area at a local mall. We met up with another newbie expat and her son from Germany so that the boys could play together in air conditioned bliss. The two older boys took to it like a moth to  a flame. LOVED it. Although Sal is a bit young for the play area, it was nice to be able to put him down and let him roll/attempt to crawl around on a padded area. Our floors here at the apartment are hardwood and marble. Not exactly comfortable to be learning how to crawl on. I'm surprised he doesn't have any bruises yet!

Sal got to bounce on a trampoline, ride a merry go round and sit in the hamster wheel. He wasn't so sure about the hamster wheel at first, but his concerned look switched to squeals of excitement when he realized it was actually fun.

Really, mom?

Bouncin with our Georgia friends while mama takes pictures

He seemed to enjoy himself, and we look forward to going back again and again!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Top 8 things we're missing

I've been asked more than a few times if there is anything we miss from home over here. Aside from family and friends ( which is a given), the answer is YES.

There are definitely things we miss from home, but all in all, China has been treating us well so far. We haven't found everything we WANT, but we do find most things that we NEED or things that will suffice for the time being.

So what do we miss?

1- Our bed. More precisely, our memory foam mattress. Our apartment came with a kingsize two metre bed, but the mattress leaves a lot to be desired. It's like we're glamping ( glamorous camping for those not in-the-know) everynight. I think our hardwood floors might be softer than the mattress. No joke. So, we're searching stores here for a memory foam mattress topper.

2- Our own vehicle. Hailing taxis is easy. Finding a taxi with working seatbelts to belt our son in the car is challenging. On average, we pass up 3-4 taxis each time we try to travel by taxi because of the lack of seatbelts. Also, if traveling during rush hour, and trying to get somewhere away from downtown, the taxi drivers will tell us they can't take us and pass us up! This is because they start their rides with a flat10RMB, and then charge additional for mileage. So they make more money doing a lot of short rides and collecting 10 RMB for 4 rides than they do if they take us somewhere further and charge mileage plus the 10RMB. It's ridiculously maddening when we finally find a taxi with seatbelts, get in, tell the driver where we want to go, and he won't take us there.
We usually have a driver during the week, which is nice because he helps me load the carseat and stroller into his car and will wait for me to do my errands. In fact, the other day, he took me and some of the girls out to lunch and literally gave us door to door service. But, there is nothing like being able to jump in your own car and head out to your destination. I miss the freedom of being able to go anywhere, anytime, with very little effort.

3- Cottage Cheese. I'm a cottage cheese fiend. Can not find it ANYWHERE here. I think I'm going to have withdrawls.

4- Ocean Breezes. Considering it's over 90 degrees and 90% humidity most days, I'd kill for a one gust of clean ocean air.

5- Target. Need I say more? Hey American friends, did you know that we're spoiled by having a one stop shop at our disposal? Uhm, yeah. We are. Just so you know. I've always loved Target, but I am quite certain it really is a shopper's paradise. I have dreams about being able to go to ONE store and find EVERYTHING I need and want. One day we shall be re-united, and what a glorious day that will be.

6- Rhineland Deli. Our Saturday sandwich joint. Oh-em-gee, we miss those decadent sandwiches piled high with deli meats, fresh produce ( mmm, avocado!) and cheese. Somehow, our hormel ham and american cheese sandwiches that we can make here just don't compare.

7- Surfing. I catch NZ watching youtube videos and checking surfline in the mornings. I think his boards will make the trip over here next time we go home. There are some fantastic surf destinations in Indonesia, which we are a hop skip and a vacation away from. It's hard to take the beach away from a boy born with sand between his toes.

8- Sewing & Baking. I swear that getting pinterest access here is a cruel joke someone is playing on me. I can pin my little heart out, only to realize that I have no way of making such projects. I have yet to find any retail fabric shops, and only one sewing machine ( at IKEA). Until I find fabric here, I don't see the point in buying a machine, and really, I'd prefer a Singer or Janome machine if I can be picky here. Baking is pretty hard to do with a countertop toaster oven, although it is possible. Just difficult. I successfully burnt a batch of flourless peanut butter cookies in the oven's maiden voyage a few weeks ago. I'm building up my confidence to give that celcius thermostat another go. One of these days I will bake the most beautiful 6 cookies this side of  Wuxi New District.

Other than those silly things we miss, it's been good here. I'm enjoying exploring shopping areas with new friends; Sal is enjoying playing with other babies, and feeding the koi with his dad;and Nick is enjoying evenings out  finding good sushi and burger joints with the fellas.

Pink slipped

Yesterday afternoon, when Nick opened the door to let our ayi in, he was greeted by Liu waving a pink slip of paper in his face, and charading to him what it meant--which didn't work out to well. She kept waving it in the air, then pointing at it, then at him, then pretending to write something and make a phone call..then came more pointing at the slip, followed by more writing, and well, you can see where this is going...

..right to a call to our translator, Irene.

Nick got Irene on the phone, and the Liu on the other end. After some animated and loud conversation ( have I mentioned how loud Liu speaks? She's loud.), Liu passes the phone back to Nick, along with the slip of paper and our translator tells him that it was afixed to our door, and it is from the gas company.
And just what did the gas company want?

They wanted us to write down our gas use for the month.

Yes. That's right.

We monitor our own gas use and tell them how much we used.

We asked our ayi to help us find the meter and she went to the kitchen and started to disassemble our cabinets under the stovetop! After Nick helped her remove a portion of our cabinet, we realized our meter wasn't under the stove. It took 5 minutes and three adults searching--Nick finally found ours outside on the fire escape.

Of course.

Outside on a fire escape is the perfect place for a gas meter.

26 units.

Our ayi then takes the slip of paper from Nick and charades that she will take it after he writes down the amount used.

Take it where?

(points to pink slip, then to self, then to door)

Yes, we get that YOU want to take it somewhere, but where?

Another call to the translator, and we are told that our ayi wanted to take it to the gas company for us. Nick explained the the translator that we have our utilities on automatic withdrawl from the bank, and the translator told Nick to call the bank and report with the units of gas used so they can pay it for us.

This will happen monthly..This whole pink slip on the door, and us having to report our own useage to the gas company and bank.

It seems so foreign to me---the trust in us to report the accurate useage, and trust in the bank to enter the correct useage amount and issue payment, etc. At home, a meter man comes and reads our accessible meter monthly and then reports it to the gas company, where they in turn mail us a bill and we pay accordingly.

I was talking to a couple of friends today, about our pink slip ordeal, and we laughed because we all have different experiences with the monthly slips. One girl says the meter man comes to her door and comes in and checks her meter, which is under her stove, and the other girl says she also gets a slip on her door. She writes the amount of use on the slip, and sticks it back on the door. A day or two later, the meter man picks it up and the money is withdrawn from her bank account.

One of these months, we will figure it out.

Or not.

Thank goodness for translators!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vegetable Market

This morning, Sal and I were itching to get out of the house and get some exercise. Just as I was about to load him up in the baby bjorn and hit the greenbelt for a little sweatfest, I got a text from Donna inviting us to walk with her to the vegetable market.

So, we switched gears, grabbed my wallet and passport and took the stroller instead.

We met up with Donna and walked the few block distance from our gate to the market. We can actually see the market from our balcony, I suppose that would make a good "from the 25th floor" post.

Anyways, after turning off the street, we walked through an inconspicuous dirt parking lot thingy and over the canal and into a  paved area which turned out to be "THE" veggie market. There are no signs for these things in China. No flashy billboards ( which is surprising because the Chinese LOVE their neon lights & bling) or anything. It was seriously an opening through a cement wall, which lead through a dirt lot and into a market area. I never would have known this awesomeness existed just minutes from my home, had she not shown me.

That's the sorta cool thing about China. There are surprises, both good and bad, around every corner. It's a great place for exploring, and for those who like to check out every nook and cranny, you might just find a hidden gem like the vegetable market.

For the folks back home, the best way to describe it is that it is similar to an indoor Farmer's Market.

Only, here, you can bargain--which I did not (I still struggle with their currency and coming up with the correct amount of yuan for my purchases) but still, you CAN.
And I will. In the future.

Beautiful produce
The produce looked great. Some booths looked better than others, but in general, all of the produce looked quite edible. We even found cilantro! For the equivalent of 15 cents for a huge bunch!
The pterodactyl shriek returns. Sal's epic meltdown.
After a half hour or so ( okay, so maybe 15 minutes) Sal had one of his epic meltdowns where he transforms from "lovely baby" to a raging pterodactyl. The ear piercing shrieks just brought more attention to his white little self and I was just dreading waiting for the paparazzi to catch that one.
I beat them to it. Out came my camera and I took a picture of the meltdown, cause, well, I didn't know what else to do. I was hoping he could laugh with me, but he didn't...and so we left.

Our poor jaloppy got a flat today.
 On our way home, we crossed paths with my beloved jaloppy, as featured in one of my "from the 25th floor" posts. And here I thought the motor would be the cause of it's broke down status....Boy was I cynical--it was a  simple flat tire. Just goes to show you, don't judge a book by it's cover. It may look ugly, but it runs like a rusty old lawnmower charm.
Wuxi walks in Wuxi.
And before I forget, we had another cutie joining us for our trip to the market. Wuxi walked almost the entire way! Not too bad for 2 inch legs!

So, now that Sal's napping, it's time for me to get to washing produce and steaming some yams.

Fun stuff.

And great discovery today.

You never know what's just beyond your front doorstep.

Friday, July 13, 2012

From the 25th floor

What do they experiment on?
In the center of this photograph, is a track. The building just below it..... Wuxi experimental school.

Just what are they experimenting on?

We can only imagine.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

SIX months old

Yay! I'm 6 months old!

Mom & Dad can't believe it!

Oh mama, enough with the pictures!

It's hard to believe that 6 months have passed since delivering Salvatore. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday, and others, it's hard to remember what it was like to have a newborn. I'd almost forgotten what those first few weeks were like, and thinking I'm ready to do it all again....that was, until the past few nights when Sal so kindly decided to be up every 3 hours or so. I'm not sure what it is, but I think we might have the trifecta of growing, gas and teething to blame.

I've been putting frozen fruit in his mesh teether and he just goes to town on it. Add to the fact that fruit over here is to die for, and well, his mama might have let him have too much nectarines this week. Tummy troubles kept him up well past bedtime a few nights. Lesson learned.

I think my favorite thing he's started to do ( well, most of the time anyways), is his pterodactyl shriek. He sounds like a bird/dinosaur and does it whenever he is excited. Sometimes we put him down for bed, and he will just do the pterodactyl till he tires himself out. It's not a cry, it's a happy little scream. Remind me in a month that I claimed to "like" it in this post. Haha.

Sal can get up on all fours, but has no idea what to do next. His attempts at crawling end there. Or on his face. Or about 3 feet behind the toys he was aiming for. He scoots backwards right now, but I have a feeling he will get those arms and legs moving together and take off pretty soon.

He got a BUMBO chair, and seems to like sitting up in it to eat. I have balanced him a few times to sit on his own, but he topples over with the slightest breeze. I know some kids crawl before they sit, so he will do it on his own time.

 We met some new friends and moms that are all expats over here and attended a playgroup for the first time. I'm looking forward to going to more and giving him a chance to interact with other kids near his age. It will be nice for him to have "friends" to play with as he ages, and it's nice for me to be able to hang out with a group of nice ladies.

Nap time

This afternoon, the three of us walked down the street to China Mobile to get my iphone set up so that I can FINALLY be connected after a month and a half of having no cell phone so to speak of. It's a really odd feeling, leaving the house and having NO way to get in touch in case of emergency.

Anyways, on our walk back home, we passed this man taking a nap on his scooter, off to the side ( but still in) the scooter lane. See his feet just kickin it? He must have been REALLY tired to pull up and think, you know, "this is a really good place to take a nap."

Thankfully he stayed asleep so that we could take a picture.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cloth diapering: Money in the bank

This week, NZ and I had to purchase our second pack of disposable diapers since we've arrived here in China. And, let the truth be told, Pampers and Huggies are just as expensive here as they are back home. Some things ARE cheaper here, but diapers are not one of them.We paid $20 for a 70 pack of Huggies.

If you remember back to this post, I was considering cloth diapering. In fact, I had started a trial run with the gPant system. My trial run has turned into a way of life. I find the gPant system so easy to use, and am happy with my choice to cloth diaper.

NZ initially seemed a little hesitant about it all, reminding me that "we can afford disposables"..and he was "more than happy to pay for them". But for me, being a cheapskate, and thinking cloth diapers are like totally adorable, and do-able, had to try them for myself.

Sal in his Gpants

But, here were are five months later ( I started cloth diapering at 7 weeks), and gPants are our primary diaper source. We do buy disposables, but use them only when out and about for more than a few hours, and at bedtime.

I'd say on a typical day, we use 1 to 2 disposables, and the remaining 7 or 8 changes are with cloth. Our kid pees A LOT. I was hoping for fewer changes as he ages, but he doesn't seem to be slowing down. Right now a 70 pack of diapers lasts us a little over a month, rather than only one week.

While at the store picking up the disposables this week, NZ stole my heart by exclaiming, "We really save a lot of money using cloth, don't we?". This got us to discussing just HOW much we're saving...and we came up with the following breakdown.

 (Breakdown is based on 10 diaper changes per day)

At $20 per 70 pack, and 4 weeks in a month, we're saving $60 per month using cloth for the bulk of our changes. Multiply that by 12 months, and we've got $720 more in the bank than we would have if we used only disposables.

We did luck out on the initial investment of the gPant system. I have a trade going on with my sister-in-law who also uses the same brand, as she has loaned me her mediums and I have loaned her my smalls. Sal's grandparents also gifted us 4 large Gpants, 12 soaker pads , 6 extra rubber snap in liners, and a few boxes of disposable liners, so NZ and I are really saving almost all of that $720 per year.  I have spent about $60 on the 3 small pants, 12 soaker pads and a box of liners. So to get really technical, we're saving about $660 per year after subtracting my investment.

I'd say if someone were to go out and buy the diapering system on their own, they'd be looking in the ballpark of $200-$250 to fit a child from birth to potty training age. I get by with 4-6 gPants, and 12 soaker pads for each size.

If Sal is to potty train between two and a half & three years old, we're looking at a savings of over $1,500- $2000.

That's money in the bank.

Makes washing poop out of diapers sound a lot more appealing now, doesn't it?

Friday, July 6, 2012

From the 25th floor

"Honey, quick! Come look. Here comes the jaloppy!"

I yell that out to NZ almost every morning. You see, there's this put-together vehicle, that passes by on the road outside our building every single morning. It's loud. Very loud. Sounds like it's going to die right under the building, but somehow, it keeps ticking. I'm pretty sure it runs on a lawn mower engine.

Hey, it gets them where they're going---it's just that I have never seen anything like it.

Mystery package

There are a few shopping websites that we have been told about by our peers. Of course, I love shopping, so I had to check them out. I've been a taobao(dot)com junkie for the past month, searching for items that I've not been able to find in stores here in Wuxi. At one point, NZ tried to set up an account so we could purchase some tamp  er, personal care items THAT DO NOT EXIST IN CHINA AND CHINESE WOMEN ARE CAH-RAZY FOR NOT USING THEM! for me, and I also wanted to get some mesh fresh food feeders for Sal, since he loves gnawing on frozen bananas and avocado through them.

I also looked at baby care items, like strollers and highchairs to see what's available here. Sal has been being lap fed, or propped on his boppy pillow, and it's not cutting it at meal time anymore. He's a squirmy little sucker. I looked at Bumbo chairs, clip on high chairs, space saver high chairs and the like, and couldn't decide what to buy.

In my quest to minimalize our posessions, I am looking for items ( especially baby items) that can serve more than one function, or can be grown into. The last thing I want to face three years from now, is having to sell or give away a ton of baby items we used for all of 3 or 4 months. I was spoiled back home by being able to borrow items from Sal's cousins. We returned them prior to our move, and I admit--I miss some of those luxuries! Namely, the baby bathtub and the swing! The swing doubled as a feeding chair during it's borrowed use. Not while in motion, of course. That would have been realllllly messy.

Yesterday, NZ got help from our tranlator in finishing out the registration process so we could buy things off taobao. I emailed him links to the tampo personal care items and the mesh food feeders I wanted to buy. He came home telling me that the order was successful, and we should expect them in a few days.

Anyways, in the ongoing saga of my taking-forever-to-get-here iPhone, we saw that after 2 weeks in Shanghai customs, it's finally made its trek to Wuxi via UPS. Surely it would arrive today, right?

Our intercom system rang at about 9:30a this morning, and I could tell from my video monitor that it was the delivery man.

YES! My phone!


A box of the above mentioned personal care items--but not the brand I had asked for. But, you know when you're desperate, any brand will do. I had brought over a couple of months stock, just in case, figuring that it was overkill, because surely they would have tam--ns here, because what woman doesn't use them? but they really don't exisit, like, at all in the stores. Seriously.

I thought it was weird that they weren't the brand we had ordered, but whatever.

Then around 3:00p today, we got rung again. I looked at the monitor. Delivery man.

My iPhone?


Instead, we received a big ol box.

What the?! My mesh feeders? In a box that big? But then again, this is China, and things don't always make sense. Maybe the box does contain my feeders.

But inside the box was a knock off BUMBO chair.

Yes, the bib says" I watch the Baltimore Ravens with my daddy".
Huh?! We didn't order that....and where the heck are my mesh feeders? How'd we get this?

We think we figured it out. Since I had browsed the items we received in the past, I must have somehow saved them in a cart ( unknowingly--obviously...the whole site is in characters). When NZ purchased the items from the links I sent, he also purchased whatever was in the cart that I had browsed.

He tried to look up the transaction history to see what else we may have unknowingly purchased, and well....all he can tell is the RMB amount we spent. Which, is about the equivalent of $60 USD..So I couldn't have gotten in that much trouble...but, today's delivery might not be the last of the surprises.

I'm going to lose sleep tonight over what the delivery man might bring tomorrow.

But, I guess we lucked out, cause Sal seems to love his new throne.

Gee, thanks mah, You shouldn't have!

mmm, nectarine..sooo good once it hits my lips!

We decided that although a mistake, the BUMBO-like chair was the right choice for us. He can sit up in it. It is mobile and light weight and he can eat in it.

But for now, his mama is going to stay away from taobao until we figure out what else she spent dad's money on.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Will work for Mexican food!


We miss Mexican food.

More than we probably should.

Our waist bands may thank us, but our mouths are watering at the idea of a big ol burrito & carne asada tacos from the 'Mo back home.

With tortillas being hard to find, and $6 USD per dozen, NZ and I set out to make our own. 30 minutes later, we had a dozen for about $1 total. Winning!

What's NZ's next culinary challenge?

Making pico de gallo.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Decisions, decisions

Decisions, decisions...

What toy should I play with next?

Just another day in the life of Sal.

It's much too hot and humid to go on our afternoon walk today, so he's enjoying some quality time with his toys while I make a mess for our Ayi to clean up slave away in the kitchen making lunches.

Happy 4th!

Happy 4th of July to everybody back home!

Here in Wuxi, they've been lighting off fireworks every single day since our arrival. I like to pretend they are giving America a birthday month (just as my friends and I would claim birthday months, which later slowed down to birthday weeks as we got older, and then eventually, we remember that yesterday WAS our birthday, lol).

Our balcony seat view to fireworks
The picture above was taken 2 nights ago, around 6:30p, while the masses were walking on the greenbelt below our building. Right in the center veranda, a man lit off a million fireworks. IN THE MIDDLE OF EXERCISE HOUR! WITH LIKE A BILLION PEOPLE WALKING!!! No one flinched, except for us, up on the 25th floor. We shot off the couch like a bolt of lightening.

I grabbed the camera and we watched in amazement from our balcony as schrapnel came up towards our windows.

Best seats in the house.

Wuxi walks in Wuxi.
As for our actual 4th, we met up with a few ladies  from our complex for breakfast, and then NZ went to work. Yep. Work. On the 4th. Something is wrong with that. LOL. Sal and I were treated to a little tour of our neighborhood by our new friends, &Wuxi (the cutest dog on earth) .

Buying produce
 I learned where to buy the best cereal, fruits and veggies (without going to an import market), and where the best dumpling restaurant in Wuxi was located. It felt good to get out and explore, and I am getting my bearings as far as feeling more confident in venturing out on my own. It was sweltering this morning. I have no idea what the temperature was--it really didn't matter--it's the humidity. Texas heat/humidity ain't got nothing on Wuxi!

Sal was less than impressed with the heat.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Babyfood on a dime

I've been dead set on making my own baby food since before I ever got pregnant. It was homemade babyfood and cloth diapering...those were my "musts" as a mom. I realize that not everybody has the time, patience or desire to do either of the following, but if you only knew how easy it was ( and cheap!) you'd probably try it just to see if I'm lying.

Part of my baby food making is out of necessity right now, so I am super glad it was something I wanted to do long before a move to China was in our future. If baby food making isn't your thing, then I'm sorry, this post will most likely bore the life out of you.

So, first things first, we purchased a blender at Carrefour. There were not many to choose from ( nor are the directions in English) so I went with the one that looked the simplest.

Two buttons. Mince and Crush.

Nice. Easy.

 I can totally run this machine! Another feature I initially liked were the small cups that you could blend single servings into, but after my first batch, I decided that the full blender was the way to go.

Why make just one serving when you can make a zillion and freeze them?

I bought  pears, broccoli and carrots this week.

Here's where living in China makes preparing baby food even more economical. I paid 4.11 RMB (64 cents) for 4 giant carrots, 2.99 RMB (47 cents) for 3 pears and 5.44 RMB (85 cents) for a head of broccoli. I was able to get 20  one ounce servings of carrots, 7 servings of pears, and 10 servings of broccoli from this bounty. The breakdown??

3 cents per serving of carrots
7 cents per serving of pears
9 cents per serving of broccoli

Not bad, right? Compare that to at least $.99 per jar of prepared baby food, and the savings add up quickly.

I thoroughly washed both the carrots and pears, then peeled and rinsed again. I chopped the carrots and sliced the pears into chunks the same way I would if making an apple pie. I have a microwave steamer that I use to steam. I fill a bottom reservoir with water, then I spread out the fruit or vegetables on a steam tray, put on the lid, and nuke for 10 minutes. From there, I pour my steamed food  into the blender, add water and blend till smooth.

Easy as wash, peel, chop and steam.

Once blended, I pour into ice cube trays, then let them freeze and set overnight. Once frozen, I pour them into gallon size ziploc bags, labeled with the food type and date they were prepared. They will stay good for up to 2 months, but I am sure we will power through this batch in a matter of a few weeks.

I currently use two ice cubes worth of food to equal one serving, because my ice cube trays here in China are 1/2 ounce each. Apparently ice is not as loved over here, and just finding an ice cube tray was a whole day expedition. When I finally found some that were bigger than the size of a dime, I jumped on them and bought four. I'll have to stock up on American size trays next visit home. I guess ice is no exception--in America, everything truely IS bigger!

So, there you have it.

Making baby food is EASY. It's HEALTHY. And best of all, it's CHEAP!

US Olympic Trials

June 2012. Olympic trials. Gymnastics. San Jose.

It was on my calendar and I was soooooo going to be there.

Made preliminary plans to meet up for a mini reunion of sorts with many of my former UCDavis Aggie teammates to watch history go down.

And then....

We moved.

To China.

And so the story goes that I did not get to attend the Olympic trials (which occured this weekend) this year, as I had looked forward to for the past year and a half. 

I'm very thankful for my friend/former teammate/roommate who kept me up to date with the results, as even those have been difficult to come by over here. I'm thrilled with the men's team selection, and also very excited for Gabi Douglas for not only making the women's Olympic team, but for coming into her own, peaking right on time and eclipsing Jordyn Weiber who hasn't lost a u.s. all around title since 2008 for the top berth. She's that feel-good Olympic story that I think will win hearts across the world, and her gymnastics is not only top notch, but she has the entertainment factor that is rarely seen in female gymnasts anymore. 

This is the first time since arriving to Wuxi that I have really missed home. Did I mention, I reaaaaallly wanted to go to trials? 

Just as I sat in my living room at 1:00a to watch the Beijing  Olympic coverage 4 years ago, I'll be staying up late again to watch the London games and cheering on team USA from China. I can't wait! 

I have Olympic fever.


On a bright note, the 2015 world championships will be held in Naning, China and I already told NZ that we're going. That will more than make up for missing trials. Three years and counting....

Sunday, July 1, 2012

One Month In

In our first month as Wuxians? Wuxiites? --whatever you'd call us, we've managed to learn quite a bit. By no means have we got it all figured out. I doubt we ever will. Some things have worked just the same as we were accustomed to, and others, well--let's just say there's a learning curve and the need for a high level of patience around these parts.

An open mind is also like, totally necessary.

Here is a top 10 list of things we've learned this month:

1. Papa johns has our address linked with our home phone number. We only had to struggle once with the pronunciation of our address, and now all we do is call, and 45 min later our lukewarm pizza arrives at our door by way of the bike delivery guy.  We've called them at least once a week since moving in. 

2. When shopping for produce at the markets ( Carrefour , metro) you must get your produce weighed and priced BEFORE going to the checkout counter. I had actually read about it prior to our first shopping experience, and we did really good on our first trip..I felt so proud of us for not being those dumb americans at the checkout holding up the line...that was, of course, until our second trip when a lone avocado made it to the checkout counter without first being weighed and priced..boy oh boy did we get an earful at the checkout register. Needless to say, that avocado did not make it home with us.

3. There's a whole lot of honking that goes on. Each honk has its own meaning. There's the " I see you" friendly double honk; the "get out of my way" multiple long honks, the "I'm right here, and I'm not moving" long single honk, and then there are a handful we're still deciphering. When lane lines are just suggestions, and you've got a woman walking down the middle of the street texting (between busses, mind you), honking is a way of life. It works for them. I'm so used to honking in America meaning one of two things. Either, "hey, @$$hole, you just cut me off", or "heyyyy, there's my neighbor". Such is not the case here. Chinese people definitely utilize their horn to its fullest capabilities. 

4. Fireworks. Daily. No kidding. Morning (7:00a wake up call, anyone?), noon and night. We had some let off just across the canal tonight. Someone had reason to celebrate something. It's like the 4th of July here everyday. 

5. Lost in translation. Read the "store name" at the top of the stroller add. 

6. Texting. Our bank, UFH (medical clinic), and many other places we deal with all offer to text us confirmations. This my friends, is extremely helpful. Especially when were dealing with a language barrier and difficulty translating addresses etc. We've depended on NZ's phone for everything. My phone is still stuck in customs. The update today was that we might see it by the end of next week although it's been in Shanghai customs since Tuesday. I'll believe it when I see it. Anyhow, back to the whole texting confirmation thingy...we love it. Our Chinese bank will notify us when any charge is made with our card--that doubled with a dynamic verification code each time we use the card, would help alert us and the bank to any credit card fraud that could potentially occur. 

7. The sidewalks have directional braille to assist the blind navigate a straight course. However, they must take care not to get snipered by the uneven sidewalk, missing tiles and random scooters that might also be on the path to their destination. I think the Braille is great and all, and perhaps when it's time to cross the street, they're better off not seeing every car, bus, scooter and rickshaw headed their way. I, on the other hand, have to get over my fear of playing human frogger each time we cross. 

8. Special cleaning powers...not mine. Our ayi's. I never knew how shiny marble floors could be until she started cleaning them. She also does dishes, laundry, irons, picks up dry cleaning and makes faces with Sal who adores her already.  I'm in love. 

9. Expatriate love. We've been fortunate enough to have met a few other expatriates who have shared every ounce of knowledge they have since they'd arrived here in Wuxi. We're still having to learn things on our own, but their advice is much appreciated and we've been able to cheat the learning curve on a few things with their shared knowledge. 

10. We can make a home anywhere. Right now, Wuxi is home. Of course there are some things we miss, like our family, friends, conveniences (Target, I miss you!), and our bed (oh how our extra firm feel-the-springs-through-the-mattress is no match to our tempurpedic that we left  back in the states), but all in all, things here are similar, yet not quite the same. We've gotten enough to get by, and in time, we'll muddle our way through new challenges until we've got this town mastered. 

Bring on month two!