Saturday, December 29, 2012


I've mentioned a time or two that Sal has an affection for all things car related, and has even started making car sounds.

We love it.

(Note: turn the volume up)

It's really neat to watch him develop an imagnation--or at least we would like to think that's what's happening, as he spends up to an hour racing them back and forth, and up and down the sofa.

What's with the white stuff?

One of my questions was answered yesterday.
I had been wondering if it ever snows here.
The answer is yes.

Is it springtime yet?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas 2012

Christmas for our family was very different than normal this year. Moving away from our families for these few years-we knew we'd miss out on celebrating with family as we usually do-but what I wasn't prepared for was the utter lack of Christmas spirit in the air.

China does not really celebrate Christmas. At least not like we do in America.

The malls aren't packed. Nobody drives around with antlers or red noses on their vehicles, and if our calendar didn't show that it was December 25th, we really would've just worked right on through Christmas day.

NZ did end up having Christmas day off, so we kicked off our Christmas Eve with dinner out at our favorite jiaozi place. We joked about having Peking duck, like the family in "A Christmas Story", but that would have required a drive clear across town, and frankly, we were too lazy to call our driver, load the boy up and head out, so we stayed close to home and filled ourselves silly on jiaozi.

Christmas morning will go down in history as one of the most chaotic, random Christmases ev-er.

Since China doesn't celebrate Christmas, it was business as usual for most folks. This means that at 8:15a, we had NZ's assistant over at our house to greet a heating and AC repairman that we had requested come to clean our ducts. Little did I realize it would be on Christmas morning. Lest I forget, we also had the concrete man pouring new concrete in our shower stall at the same time. Plenty of folks  filling our home-none of them family. Not exactly how we had planned it, but hey--it's China.

Santa really goes down the chimney like this? No way, dad.
After the hustle and bustle of our morning was over, we joined our friends from Catalonia at their place for a nice Christmas lunch & afternoon cocktails. This was by far the highlight of our day. Sharing stories & laughter with people who have become like family in this far away land. As the day turned to evening, we  took the party back to our house with a brief intermission for Sal to open his presents before bedtime.

Santa brought him some wooden blocks and stacking cups. Friends and family also showered him with gifts. He got his first "mobile phone". It speaks in both Chinese and English, and his mama might even learn her numbers, how to say cat and dog, and "let's play" in Mandarin after playing with that toy for a few weeks.

Stockings from Stephanie
We received a few packages from the States and inside one of them were three stockings stuffed full of goodies for us. We had a lot of fun opening them and discovering some highly sought after goodies in them! Swedish fish, taco seasoning, gum and yogurt melts..SCORE!

Once gifts were opened and the boy was put in bed, our friends came to our house, where we ordered Pizza and watched "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". It might not have been a typical Christmas day for us--but it's alright--cause we had each other...and we have Sal in our lives now, which is the best gift I have ever received.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Come to mama

And with the simple phrase, "come to mama", my son took his first two steps and fell into my arms on Christmas Eve, eve.

My favorite part?

NZ was right there by my side.

As far as milestones go, we've been pretty dang lucky.

Dad got his first laugh, but I was there to hear it.

We have both been present as Sal has mastered crawling, saying "dada" and standing for the first time...and now, both being there for his first "steps" has been more than I could dream of. Dads tend to get left out of these things a, for NZ to witness them all so far has been quite special.


It could be that I have a Dad's boy, who will wait for dad to be home before he surprises us with a new found skill.

Who knows?

All I can say is that having his first steps on the eve of Christmas Eve is a milestone I won't forget anytime soon.

Impeccable timing, son.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Out with a bang

Our friends, the Royals went out with a bang .
The farewell crew

Last Saturday, a bunch of us gathered together with enough fireworks to make our Chinese neighbors jealous, and set them off as a farewell for our friends, Donna and Kyle.

As I have noted before, fireworks are an every day occurance here. In fact, just about 5 minutes ago, my sky lit up like the 4th of July--and it's 9:00p on a Thursday here. No reason, whatsoever. No national holiday--just an average Thursday evening in Wuxi.

Most new expats learn about fireworks within their first 24 hours in China.

Usually at some inappropriate 5:00am on a Monday.

Mr. Royal is ready to set this place on fi-yah!
View from above. Front row seats on our balcony.

What better way to send a bunch of expats home, than ending it the way they arrived.

NZ Taiwan Trip

A few pictures from NZ's recent trip to Taiwan.

The tallest building in Taipei.

And.....Sushi that makes his wife envious...

Taiwan got a positive review from my ol man--and is on the list of weekend getaways before our time in Asia ends.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

ELEVEN months

I can not believe that Sal is only a month away from his first birthday. Part of me wants him to stay a baby forever, and the other part of me can't wait to watch him develop into a little man with opinions & likes all his own.

Showing his personality..
Mama, I want to be outside with you!!! Why you lock me in here?

He has started showing little signs of his individuality this past month. He has never been a pacifier kid, or very attached to anything for more than a day or two at a time. However, we are seeing signs of favorite toys--he digs in his toy basket for them and plays with them above and beyond all others.

His favorite toy?


We also think that one of his words might actually be "truck".

Or, it could be "fuuuu--fillintheblank"...

Vroooooom goes the fuhk tuhk.
..we're going with "truck" since he is head-over-heels for anything with four wheels these days. He drives his trucks across the floors, over the coffee table, and our sofa making  little spitting raspberry vroooom noises.  

He has a best big buddy here that he tries his darnedest to keep up with. Both boys share a love of trucks and other four-wheeled-vehicles, and I love watching them interact with one another.
Sal has also taken a liking to a particular blanket that his auntie Charlee made for him. It's got minky dots on one side, and plaid on the other ( I take his monthly pictures on it/with it). I started hanging it on the side of his crib when December 1st rolled around because I thought it made his room more Christmasy to have a white cuddly blanket hanging on his crib to go with his red and white sheets. Well, he pulled it down one day during nap, and now it lives IN his crib. He grabs it as soon as we lay him down, and cuddles with it.

"the" blanket.

So darn cute and innocent.

Bedtimes have improved since last month. The 10:00p waking still occurs from time to time, but he seems to put himself back to sleep MOST of the time--It's about time. NZ and I have actually gotten to sleep through the night on a regular basis. I had almost forgotten what it was like to have a good night's sleep.  
Mama, please tell them how much I enjoy smearing myself with eating beans.

Our little man still loves goldfish  crackers, apple slices, green beans and meatballs. He prefers to feed himself, so I've been trying to make everything "finger friendly" that I can. He's got great dexterity, and has outsmarted our attempts of placing vegetables under a goldfish in hopes that he will swoop in for a handful. He is able to perform surgery to get his goldfish free.

Our ayi brought us a load of fruit last week, which included some fruits I wouldn't typically buy, and he liked them both. One of them is a dragon fruit, white fleshy inside with little black seeds...he loves them, but I'm gonna have to remember them as a great natural remedy if he ever gets constipated. We'll have to limit the amount of dragon fruit consumption from here on out after a couple near blow-outs.

A & Sal. Notice a trend here?
 Lots of stroller rides together.
The colder weather has limited our outings to Starbucks, indoor malls and friend's homes. We usually walk to the vegetable market once or twice a week, and on a quick errand or two on our own. Sal's great grandma gifted him a "footmuff" for our Quinny stroller, and he LOVES riding all cocooned up in it.

Mama,  I move this chair to your bedroom, okay?

He has thought about taking unassisted steps, but has yet to do so. He's a speed demon around the house pushing furniture to-and-fro, and his furniture pushing has evolved from dining room chairs to our sofa. He does balance checks every now and then--so someday soon, I'll be posting videos of my son walking like he's the only kid ever to walk in history.

Finally sitting still for a picture

Happy ELEVEN months Salvatore!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lunch with the ladies

This afternoon, a few friends and I headed out to do a bit of shopping and lunch together before we all part ways for the Christmas holiday. We made a pit stop at Starbucks (mmmm, peppermint hot chocolate) and then hit H&M to clean out their sale racks. It should serve no surprise, that this California girl is hurtin' for an appropriate winter wardrobe. Not that H&M really has heavy duty winter clothes, but they do have some nice thick sweaters to wear with leggings and boots. Someday I will give in to the land of thermal underwear and puffer jackets, but I won't go down without a fight.
The boys balancing our H&M bags on their strollers

After H&M we headed through downtown towards an Italian restaraunt that my girlfriend had been raving about. To my knowledge there are two Italian places to eat in Wuxi...and I've eaten at one, and was about as impressed with their pasta sauces as McKayla Maroney was about her olympic silver on vault. When  you've got an Italian husband who makes the bomdiggity aribatta and marinara sauces, it makes it difficult to win me over with restaraunt made sauces. Just sayin'. 

And here's when another, this ain't America realization sets in...

We get to an intersection flanked by shops and a Chinese restaurant. My girlfriend exclaims, "Here it is." and goes on to explain that we will have to carry our strollers up three flights of stairs. I'm thinking to myself, Italian restaurant? All I see is a Chinese one. And then, she opens the doors, and we proceed to walk through the Chinese restaurant, to a flight of stairs. We climb the stairs (thank you to our friends who helped carry the boys up for us), and at the top, we are greeted by a waitress wearing a Santa's helper costume and the colors of the Italian flag are all over the place.

Welcome to Trattoria Ferrara, says the assistant manager (in fantastic English).

Really? An Italian restaurant at the top of Chinese restaraunt stairs?



Fantastic service, selection and the best company.
The boys & Barb check out the view from Trattoria Ferrara

I will definitely go back again. Although its odd to not have its own signage and storefront, it is the definition of a hidden gem. These types of finds are one of the things I love about China. You never know what you're going to find!

Best lunch I've had in a while.

Now, its time to go burn those calories off.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wanted: Good News

I have to admit, I have started three or four posts over the course of the week, and erased every single draft.

I am simply at a loss for words.

They say bad things happen in threes-well--I can prove that superstition wrong, because over the course of the past week, there's been a mall shooting in Portland (I used to shop at that mall, once upon a time),   A mass shooting of schoolchildren and teachers in Conneticut, a mass stabbing of children in Beijing on the very same day, and just when it my heart strings couldn't be pulled anymore, news of 7 year-old Santa Barbara native Daisy Merrick's continuing battle with cancer. Her grandfather, Al Merrick is a famous surfboard shaper, and her father, Britt founded Reality church which has spread in popularity across America.

Children shouldn't know pain like these children who have witnessed the brutal killings, or pain like Daisy with her cancer treatments. They should have their innocence. They should be protected.

I'm ready for some good news right about now.

A miracle, perhaps?

To read more about Daisy Love go to

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

California Kid

I finally found paints!

And canvases!

And brushes!

Here's a peek at my first project for Sal's room.

Those of you familar with state flags might recognize this as the California Republic flag.

California kid

I found it fitting for a "name plate" for Sal's wall, so I replaced California Republic with his name, and voila.

I'm just so darn excited to have found something that lets me be creative again.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Football Night

Being 16 hours ahead of California, we miss most of SNF ( it's more like MMF here). The Steeler game inevitably comes on at 8 am, just as NZ is getting his shoes on to leave for work.
I think this makes Monday's even harder to leave (=
Thankfully, Australia Sports Network replays MOST NFL games during the week, so although we don't get to watch live football, we do get to catch the game at some point.
My favorite are the six o'clock replays.

Sal tipping one back. No idea where he learned how
to drink with such enthusiasm.
I pull Sal's high chair into the living room, order pizza, grab a couple of beers and we all kick back and watch the Steelers game.
It's a small taste of home that I am so glad to have.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Card 2012

This was my first year ever that I can remember not making my own cards. My sister and I usually get together during one of the first weekends in November, scrapbooking and stamp supplies in hand, and spend the day making cards. Unfortunately, the lack of supplies ( & my sister) here made it impossible for me to continue my tradition.
I did however, get some of my creative juices flowing by setting up a DIY photo backdrop (shout out to pinterest) out of balloons that I bargained for at "stuff mart". I taped them to the wall behind the boy. I borrowed a Santa hat from Mrs. Barcelona, baked a couple cookies and got down to the business of taking pictures...
..or so I thought....
See all the balloons on the floor? The two second tornado hit.
...before I could grab him, down came the balloons. I got a couple of shots before the boy went ape$hit on those things. He LOVES balloons. More specifically, he loves to see how tight he can squeeze them with his dagger like fingernails until they pop.

So, I had to act fast. I blew up a few more balloons and taped them back up while holding back a determined young man. I grabbed the plate of cookies, purposefully placed them at least four feet in front of where I planned to seat Sal ( to buy myself time to run and get my camera ready), then plopped him on his bottom and snapped away.

look how fast I can get to the cookies, mama!
hmm, Santa doesn't need TWO cookies. Maybe I can have one?

He wasn't so sure about the cookie at first. He is an observer. Always watching, always judging curious. Eventually, his curiosity partnered with my slow reaction time meant that he got his first taste of cookie.
Hey mama!!!!!Look!!!!! balloons on the floor.
You better go fix dem while I eat dis cookie.

I rained on his parade by taking it away, but his spirits quickly rose when I started pulling the balloons off the wall for him to chase around.
How bout a truce, baby?

oh yes, balloons are much better than cookies.

After a few hours choosing a layout on, we had ourselves our 2012 Christmas card.

Warm wishes from our family to yours

Merry Christmas from the other side of the World. We love and miss our family and friends, and hope that you all have a wonderful holiday filled with good food, laughter and love!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Yowza, Jiaozi!

A chilly Saturday walk to jiaozi
I may have proclaimed our love for mentioned that we have become big fans of jiaozi over here.
Little bitty dumplings made of minced meat ( pork?) and vegetables.
mama, Can I use these chopsticks to poke my eye out?
Today we ordered three plates of jiaozi to share. I think that Sal may have out-eaten his dad! The kid demolished the insides of at least one plate alone as the audience gasped at the fact that we white people let the baby show off his stellar self feeding skills. See the lady behind us? This was a rare moment when she wasn't turned around with eyes glued to our table. I had just reprimanded her for touching Sal while he was drinking.
He mows.
Puts a hurt on those things.

A full bellied happy boy

It's the cutest thing, ever. Ev-er.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas Tree

Looks like the Dollar Tree threw up on our table

Here in China, our Christmas tree, purchased off a chinese site which is a cross between amazon and eBay, came with lights, a fake tree which stands about 4 feet tall, and a HUGE bag of decorations that look like someone had a shopping Bonanza at the dollar tree.

It's not what we would have at home, by any means, but it is our tree this year, and Sal seems to dig it.

Thank goodness kids are so easy to please.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Little Hands Wreath

Little Hands make perfect Christmas wreaths.
All I had to do was get Sal to hold still long enough to do a rough tracing of his hand to be used as a pattern. I cut out 9 little hands, overlapped them and glued them together ( which failed). My glue wasn't strong enough to hold them together, so I ended up stapling them, but if I were in the States I would have just used my glue gun or Aleene's craft glue. I had a left over bow from our Christmas Tree explosion that I topped the wreath with  and hung it from a 3M command hook which seems to be our ONLY option for hanging things here.
An easy, cheap way to commemorate baby's first Christmas.