Saturday, September 22, 2012

Noodles & anniversaries

The Muslim noodle joint across the street from our complex just re-opened after sticking burger and fry decals to the walls remodeling. The place is grungy, dirty and has the BEST NOODLES around.
I ate there last week with the girls, and had been hounding NZ to go with me. I just knew he would love them. When I returned from Suzhou on Friday, he called me and told me that he, his assistant and our driver were on their way to Sal and I joined them for lunch.
It's my new fave, and NZ's second fave ( he still likes Dumplings more).

We even spent our 6th anniversary there today for lunch.

Normally we celebrate at a  nice steak house, but being in China and all--we thought we'd go rogue this year and enjoy local fare instead.
makin noodles
Noodle maker extrordinaire
They pull the noodles right in front of the store, and then cook them in a huge pot out front... You can add meat, veggies and spices. It reminds me a bit of Mongolian BBQ, made into soup, minus the pork option.

Watch him in action...
For 7 RMB ( $1.10) per bowl, it can't be beat.

Oh...and I got flowers. Lovely flowers.

Happy Anniversary, sunshine!

Friday, September 21, 2012

High Chair

Our little prince got a high chair today. While he and his pop had a boys morning, I hopped in a cab IKEA bound.

He's been eating out of the Anbebe chair I accidentally ordered off taobao this summer, but he is able to push off the floor/table/chair with his feet while sitting and tip himself backwards. Although a circus of fun for him--not so much for us trying to feed him, and obviously, it's a safety issue.

So, the time has come for us to give in and add another piece of baby gear to our apartment. So much for living minmally!

 I found a basic high chair at IKEA. I like that it can be broken down, wiped clean and has both a tray and safety belt. For it's price, I won't mind finding someone to give it to when he outgrows it. He also has a Brica travel booster that we will switch to when he is old enough to sit at the table with us, and then we'll be able to streamline the baby gear once again.

As soon as I got it home, NZ went to assembling, with help, of course.
Dada, I helpz you.

Fit for the prince.
 Now we can all enjoy a safe meal time, and he can start to self feed from the tray. We tried some self feeding this afternoon, and all we ended up with was mashed banana backwash in his sippy cup.

Later, gnocchi. A bit more successful , but still a mess.
It's a start.

From the 25th Floor

I slacked off onthe Friday installments of "From the 25th Floor"...never fear, I still have an artillery of funny sightings from our balcony--it's just that I have had limited computer time as of late. Add to that an iPhone that took a crap on me, and I feel completely unplugged!

Anyways, here's a "from the 25th Floor" for this week.

Throughout the summer, this court has been slammed with players from 4:30 a.m. til midnight. There is definitely a whole lotta love for basketball here. And yes, the court is also part of the recycling center. Multi function property is what  call it.

Suzhou Pearl Market

Suzhou Pearl Market
Some of the girls and I took a trip to Suzhou this morning to the Pearl Market. Store upon store selling pearls. It's amazing that they string them one by one by hand. Makes my hands ache just watching them!

Out back of the market, there's the opportunity to pick your own oysters and create one of a kind pearl jewelry ...which sounds pretty cool...just not with a grabby McGraberson 8 month-old Bjorned to your chest. He had a field day grabbing at all the beautiful strands of necklaces.

I'll definitely have to venture back!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

So, you want to move to China...

I thought I'd write a post to help anyone who might stumble upon my blog that is thinking of moving to China. I don't know who you are--but just in case that one person finds this post--here it goes...

So, you want to move to China?
A "shipment" of necessities

Don't leave home without bringing:

1. Deodorant
I have seen the fa brand of roll on deodorant here at a select few stores that cater to Westerners, but most locals use perfume in place of deodorant and anti-persperants. I don't know if the Chinese, or those who have lived her a long time just acclimate to the humid summers or what--but I don't notice them sweating as much as we foreigners do. Just trust me--bring deodorant. You'll want it.

2. Tampons
I had actually heard about the lack of tampons prior to our arrival, so I brought a couple months worth, thinking, "No way they don't carry them somewhere in Wuxi..." Well, months later, and many store aisles searched ( and boxes shipped from home), I can say, " They don't carry tampons in Wuxi." Sure, sure, I saw a pack of OB at Tesco, but really, who on earth uses those? Ive heard that Shanghai and Beijing sometimes have them, but as a general rule, don't expect to find them in China. Bring a supply.

3. Seasoning packets/Dip packets
We love the beef we have been buying from METRO, but the chicken, both from City Shop and METRO, leaves our taste buds wishing for more. Simple to pack--seasoning packets like Lawry's or Hidden Valley Ranch can doctor up any bland chewy chicken enough to make it edible. My favorite seasoning is the chili packets. Chicken chili is delicious and hides the poor quality of Chinese chicken quite well. Seasoning packets are easy to pack, and provide a sense of home in more ways than one. All of my friends and I peruse pinterest looking for recipes in which we actually HAVE all of the ingredients to make.

4. Laptop with VPN router & camera
If you plan on maintaining contact via the social networking sites from China, you'll want to get a router with a VPN. There are many reputable servers available. Make sure you know how to use the camera function on your computer. Skype is a godsend for keeping in touch with those back home.

5. OTC medicines
In the unfortunate event that you get ht with the World's worst cold in the middle of a frigid winter day, save yourself a trip to the pharmacy where you'll inevitably be trying to determine what medicine treats your symptoms while a pharmacy staff member breathes down your back trying to sell herbal remedies to you. A small bag with cold medicine, anti-diarrheal meds,  sore throat drops, and some sort of pain relief pills would be a sufficient start. If one must buy medicine at a local pharmacy, try to select ones made in Singapore or Hong Kong.

6. Clothing
This is a big one. I've got an average American Woman size foot at a "7". Here in China, a "7" is usually one of the biggest sizes they carry. Clothing sizes run about 2 sizes smaller than the U.S., as I tried on a pair of Large Jeans last week and couldn't even zip them up over my American size 2 booty. Talk about a punch in the gut. LOL. It is possible to have tailor  made clothing for relatively affordable prices, which is what my husband will probably end up doing. Shoes, however, are purchased on trips home, and brought back with us...Oh and don't forget underwear and bras. A men's size LARGE underwear currently fit my friend's 10 year-old-daughter as sleep shorts..and women's bras..Well, if you're a slim 32 or 34 A or B, you can manage, but anything bigger...bring it from home.

7. 90 day supply of prescription medicines
I learned this the hard way. Ask your physician at home to prescribe you a 90 day supply of your prescription medicines ( this includes contact lenses). This will give you time to find a physician to take over management of your condition and refill prescriptions. Not all drugs are available in China, and take if from me, you don't want to find out your drug isn't available AFTER you've run out.

8. Smart Phone
Call me spoiled, but having gone from not having a smartphone in the states, to getting one here, I now feel like it's a MUST HAVE item for anyone living abroad that doesn't speak the language. There are apps out for the smart phones like google translate ( translates any language to another by both voice activation as well as typing) & iConvert ( converts any measurements, currency, temperature, etc) that I simply can't live without.

I realize not all of the items listed are necessities, but they are all things that I find make living here more comfortable for my family and me. It's a thin line that we all balance, trying to adapt to a new culture, while still needing our creature comforts from home.

Walking Wuxi Wednesdays

Walkin Wuxi Wednesday
A group of girls from my apartment complex and I have decided to start walking to different parts of Wuxi on the third Wednesday of  every month. The weather here is finally nice and we are soaking up every minute of outside time we can get, cause winter is a'comin.

This morning we met up at 9;00a and set out on foot. We  headed right down Changjiang Bei Lu. We walked a total of 9.1km in just about two hours.

Take a look at our voyage!

Heading out for a walk with Mrs. Barcelona, Mrs. Georgia, Mrs. Singapore & Ms. Turkey

Not even a police man will let pedestrians have the right of way here. Cross at your own accord.
1st stop: baby Spa to see if there were any babies getting dunked with a floaty around the neck.

Split pant babies. It's the norm.

Quilts, anyone?
Sal says, "Hey mama, where is my hat? Dis sun is bright!"

This woman can multi-task. I need lessons from her. Baby & groceries. Alone.
Sal's stroller gets a lift. Muscle up, girls!

Everything is barricaded to keep scooters ( & unfortunately strollers) out.
We're gonna have big muscles after three years of lifting strollers together!
Water delivery. Love these guys.

Totally OSHA compliant, right?

Anyone heard on the news about what's going on around here?
Here's some Grafitti in support of the country we live in.
Painting. The ropes they're using? Also OSHA certified.

Game of frogger, anyone?!

Trendy Plastics. A plastic surgery center.

We made it all the way from Changjiang Bei Lu to Nanchan by foot! This was no small undertaking, but we did it and enjoyed the entire walk, snapping away with our cameras, playing tourists.

Add in the audio of a man moaning and rocking, and it made even me want to give him money.
I have yet to give a beggar money, but it does pull at your heartstrings to see disabled elderly on the streets.

E-Scooter parking lot outside Nanchan

Tuckered out. Both boys fell asleep midway for a nice little snooze.

The girls ( minus pregnant Mrs. Barcelona who caught a taxi home) at Nanchan

Canal at Nanchan

Rental Bikes. Watch out Lance Armstrong!
We finished out our walk at Starbucks at Nanchan and this is where I learned that I did not pack a back up onesie for Sal. Hence the shirtless boy in the photograph. Mama packed pants, but no top. Add in a leaky diaper and it spells disaster.

So, he was left to flex his pecs for the ladies, and no one seemed to mind much at all.

Shirtless in Starbucks
We all decided that we had enough walking for the day so a call was put out to Mrs. Georgia's driver who promptly picked us up in the van and brought us home.
Looking forward to our next walk.
There's so much more of Wuxi to explore!

p.s. thanks hratliff for the use of some of your photos!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

NFL in China

To our surprise and enjoyment, we actually ( gasp!) get NFL coverage over here in China, via the Australian Football Network. Most of our channels come via Singapore or Taiwan, and the AFL channel is included.

YAY for us!

Nevermind the fact that we're up at 6:00a on a Monday to watch the Steelers play Sunday Night Football? Nothing like starting out your work week with a big ol W for the boys in Black and Gold.

Many of our friends here hail from Europe, so they are not familiar with the NFL...but tonight, Mrs Georgia hosted everyone for the Panthers v. Saints game on the NFL network. Our European friends got a crash course in American consumption...And beer.

And it was fun.

Watching football is a taste of home, half a world away.

Today was a good day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Learning Mandarin

Bānmǎ hé xióngmāo ( the zebra and the panda)
So, NZ and I haven't started taking Chinese lessons, but we have learned a few key words, and we use them often. Too often. My ayi laughs at me, because the only words I say with certainty are nihao,  xie xie and Míngtiān. That's "hello", " Thank you" and "tomorrow". She in turn, knows "hi", "I go" and " shank you". She's taught me a few other words, like Píngguǒ (apple) and Lěng ( cold--she's always telling me that Sal is cold), but I often get self concious about my pronunciation, so I mangle it and probably say something totally offensive instead of what I meant.

Maybe that's why she laughs at me so much?

A few of my friends here who have taken lessons, suggested buying kids books and school charts with common items pictured and written in English, Pinyin and characters. I found a stack at Tesco this week, and for less than a dollar a book, Sal and I are reading Mandarin, yo!

Well, actually, I enter the English word into google translate, then listen to the pronunciation, and theeeeen I repeat it to Sal. When Liu reads to him, I try to listen, but she's so dang fast, and anybody who's read to an 8 month old knows, it's more about the taste of the book's cardboard pages than the pictures.

Sooner or later I will have the vocabulary of a three-year-old. I will know my numbers, my directions, fruits, vegetables and random zoo animals.

You know, in case we see a zebra at the zoo or something.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

P-p-p-poker Face

Last night NZ hosted his first poker game since moving here.
The boys pulled our kitchen tble out onto our balcony and enjoyed the ( finally!) nice weather we've been having. I'm going to pretend I don't see that they used Sal's special quilt as a table can be washed, though..right?

Pere, Johnny, Nick and Rock
What did the ladies do?
Went to Hagen Das, of course.
And after ice cream??
 We walked it off checking out all the drunken Chinese men stumbling out of the Canal walk nightclub where a she-male Lady Gaga impersonator was singing.
Oh, China.
Always something to see.

Wuxi International Club

I keep talking about all the support that NZ and I have received since moving to China. We joined a club for expats and Nationals alike, that hosts functions on a regular basis. The group is called Wuxi International Club, and most of our friends are also a part of the organization.

Here's a few photos from our recent coffee morning.

Sal was cutting FOUR teeth at once ( all uppers) so he was having a tough time, but I am really trying my best to get out and about and soak in  everything that this experience has to offer--whether it be making new friends, seeing new sights, or just plain getting out of my boring old routine I had back home.

Sal & his best big buddy go everywhere together!

Sal met a new friend--and he thinks she's pretty swell. I see play dates in our future.

Quite a turnout!

Friday, September 14, 2012

EIGHT months old

Eight is great!
Sometimes I look at how quickly time is passing, and just want to scream "NOOOOOOOOOOO!". My baby is growing up way too fast. Kenny Chesney's song "Don't Blink" couldn't be truer. I am so afraid that when I wake up tomorrow Sal's going to be graduating High School.

He's doing awesome.

Mmmmm, kitty food. Bet it tastes soooo yummy!

This past month was a huge one in terms of growth and motor development. He has now found that he is not limited to the living room--and this new found mobility means he has found a number of things to get into. He's going to get sick of hearing his mama say " Stay Out". It's "Stay out" this, and "Stay out" that. "Stay out of the shoes", "Stay out of the cat food", "Stay out of the shoes..." Yes--I just said "Stay out of the shoes" twice in this post....that's pretty much his go-to item these days. DIRTY ol flip flops. Sooooo tasty!

Mama, wherez all the DVD's go?

He even got called by his full name ( that's how you KNOW you're in trouble!) this past month for getting into Beaver's litter box. I swear, I turn my back for a split second and the kid has his hand in something I'd rather he not. With the threat of toxicplasmosis, I felt that the stern "SALVATORE NICHOLAS" was warranted.

The "Oh shit What mama?" look on his face was priceless. It was all I could do not to smile and laugh. But playing in litter boxes is a HUGE no-no. I'm currently on the hunt for a baby gate that will fit our doorway to avoid the situation all together.

Sal has also been working on FOUR upper teeth all at once. He's been a trooper, and I hope that he gets a little break from cutting teeth long enough for us to have an easy flight to the states and back in a few weeks. A mom can wish, right?

My favorite thing that he's begun doing more often are the huge belly laughs. They come from deep inside and once he's on a roll, it's hard to stop him ( and who would want to stop such cuteness, anyways?). He is one happy boy.

Our nights ( don't kill me Amy!) have been stellar. Most of the time, he sleeps from 7:00p to 5:00a without waking for a feeding. Most being the key word. We still have our nights, but he spends a greater percentage of nights sleeping through than not. I wish I could say the same for naps. I have contemplated removing one of his morning naps, in hopes of a nice long afternoon nap, but so far, it's backfired on me--all we end up with is a cranky napless son come 5:00p. I'll keep trying until we get it right. So much of parenting is trial and error. And no two moms or babies are the same. That's for sure. I'll keep my nights over naps if I have to choose.
Mama, I think I needs a bigger pool.

Other milestones this month were solo taxi rides with mama ( it's not easy taking a baby anywhere by taxi here..between stroller, car seat and groceries), a trip to Nanchan Temple, lunch dates, coffee dates and play dates at his buddies house. I've also been filling a plastic tub with water and he really gets a thrill out of splashing in it out on our balcony.

Sal is a very social baby, and I hope he continues to have his dad's gregarious spirit over my shyness. The move to China has been good for his social development, that's for sure! So many friends, so much attention, so much love--he's one lucky kid!

Annnnd, some outtakes from our monthly onesie shoot.....

Mama, how much longer does I has to smile? Can I play yet?

What da???? What is dis behind me?

Dat's it..I'm outta here.

I think I'll lift some weights instead

Ahhh, my sippy cup. I love guzzling water and making a spill proof cup, Spill.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Oh no she di'int!

Oh, yes I did.

Fiending for something--ANYthing--creative for the past few months, and not being able to find anything more than colored pencils and busts of Mao Tse Tung that I could paint ( What would one do with a painted bust of Mao??? Pin the nose on the dictator?) I realized I would just have to get resourceful.

And so I did.

NZ and I finally hung some artwork in Sal's room last weekend. I had printed up a few California themed pictures in white IKEA RIBBA frames. I felt like I had a good collection until we finally hung all 8 frames and I realized, whoa--I need to add more!

I started to peruse Pinterest since I have access to that without a VPN, and found the cardboard letters that everyone in the States can get at the local Hobby Lobby or Michael's. I wanted an "S" to add depth and interest to his wall. Finding them here in China? Ha ha. Yeah right. I searched pinterest for DIY cardboard letters and whaddya know..I found a DIY pinata tutorial and was able to adapt it to make my project.

Into the pantry I went, searching for cardboard. Shhhht, I just threw out a Huggies box--Then....ooh ohhh ohh, what do I see? An unopened box of Rice Krispies--Oh, Snap..crackle and POP! I ripped into that bad boy like there was no tomorrow, and chucked the bag back onto the shelves.

Oh, snap! Look who's getting resourceful.
My RC box had no idea what it had coming its way. I carefully pried open the seals so that the entire box lay flat as if it jad just come out of production. I went at one side of it with a highlighter pen, marking a big, boxy, letter "S" with my steadiest hand. Once satisfied with my "S", I cut it out, and traced a second "S" onto the other side of what was once the backside.

wrapping the 1/2" spacing strip proved challenging.

3-D "S" for Super Awesome Project gone right
To make it 3-D, I then cut 1/2" strips from the remaining box, and used them to space the two "S" shapes apart. I used scotch tape to join the two sides together with the 1/2" strip spacing them all the way around.

So, there you have it. MY very own, DIY letter.

The next day, I added an "A" and an "L" to my artillery. Not sure if I will use them or not, but at least now I have options.

I like options.

They're sitting on our bookshelf, buck nekkid right now, awaiting the purchase of a map that I plan to tear up and paper mache over it to look like this inspiration piece below. 

Photo from little white dog on etsy
If I don't find a map of my liking in the next few days, I will probably paint a CA State flag on them, drawing inspiration from the British flag covered letters below.