Saturday, October 31, 2009

Caramel Apple-tinis

Last night I made my very own caramel apples. I've been dreaming of caramel apples all month, and the other day at the grocery store they just happened to have perfect, unblemished Granny Smith apples imported from the States. (I'm of the opinion that the perfect caramel apple starts with a nice, tart, Granny Smith.) I quickly gathered the rest of my ingredients (a can of sweetened condensed milk and some salted peanuts), and I was set. The process took a little longer than expected (caramelizing the sweetened condensed milk took forever), but the results were everything I'd hoped for.

The martini glass is an idea I saw years ago at a party (they also had red candy apples displayed this way, so cute!). I bought my glasses at Ikea for the sole purpose of recreating my own "apple-tinis," but I've discovered they're a fun and chic way to serve all kinds of dessert!

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Trip Down Memory Lane

When we left Xi'an three years ago, we couldn't imagine why we'd ever want to go back, save to see a select friend or two. The city was polluted, dusty, a little behind the times; our day-to-day life was consumed with the tediousness of language school, and all we could think about was the day we'd finally be able to move on to the city of our own choosing.

And how did we find Xi'an on our return? Well, Xi'an is still horribly polluted, dusty, and a little behind the times (especially compared to fashion-forward Shanghai). Westerners are still a novelty - we drew our fair share of glances, stares, and gestures. One local woman in her mid-30s who was walking about 5 yards away from us, met my glance with a start of surprise
then loudly exclaimed in Chinese, "Foreigners! Two of them!" as she gestured for her young son to come quickly for a closer look. We just had to chuckle.

What amazed us was how much the city has changed. Our old apartment complex, which used to be off of a quiet road at the very edge of town, is now surrounded by a busy intersection - with its own McDonalds!
A previously nondescript thoroughfare has been dubbed "Art Block" for the scores of sculptures and statues that have been erected along its length. What once was a sleepy nod to the advent of Buddhism in China in the form of a tilted, crumbling pagoda (pictured above) has been transformed into a bustling pedestrian area filled with fountains, statues, parks, and restaurants, all constructed in traditional Chinese style.

The best part of the trip was the time (short as it was) spent catching up with old friends. Of course, socializing in China revolves around food - every meal for the whole three days was spent with a different set of friends! Our bellies and our hearts were full.

It was good to see how our little town has grown up. Revisiting it not as students but as "old friends" allowed us to experience it through fresh eyes, as a place of nostalgia and not simply as a means to an end. It was just the closure we needed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Road" Trip to Xi'an

This weekend we're going on a little trip - technically not a road trip, since we're flying, but a fun little trip all the same. We're heading back to where it all began, the first city we lived in in China. We'll be seeing some old friends, making some new ones, and reminiscing about language school days. I'm especially looking forward to the food - it's garlic-y and salty and spicy; so flavorful, and so cheap! I miss it. The food here in Shanghai just isn't the same.

We'll take the dog over to the kennel this afternoon, then finish packing and tidy up the apartment a bit. Tomorrow morning our little adventure begins!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Take That, Interwebs!

It is a happy, happy day. My dear, sweet, wonderful husband signed us up for a vpn service, which means that I have full access to all the blogs, videos, etc. that were previously deemed "unsuitable" for China viewing. I am positively giddy! The very first thing I did was head over to kwernerdesign to see how many videos I'd missed. My, oh my, I'd forgotten how much fun it is just to watch a little cardmaking video! And my blog here - all the functions are back. I can manipulate photos, change the font, add links without having to type in my own code... Yep, life is good.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Less Than 10 Weeks Till Christmas!


I spent the afternoon listening to Christmas music and leafing through digital copies of Scrapbook Trends’ 2009 “Holiday Cards” and “Holiday Idea Book.” Have you tried these things? They even have a little audio “rustling” sound as you click through the pages. I still prefer a real paper version, but there’s NO way I’m spending $185 for an international subscription – a digital copy every now and then will just have to do.

I am proud to say that I have all of Seth’s Christmas presents ordered. Every year we say we’re going to plan out our Christmas shopping early enough to order things from America, and every year we procrastinate and end up trying to scrounge up gifts for each other here in China at the last minute (not a pretty sight). But not this year! Of course, since most online stores won’t ship to China, it involves having the various packages sent to my in-laws’ for them to box together and ship here (we’ll pay them for the overseas shipping costs, of course). A tad complicated, but so worth it in the end!

Next I’ve got to figure out what kind of Christmas cards to make; I’m having a hard time narrowing it down. I also still have a couple of fall projects to finish – these end-of-year holidays all just seem to rush together, don’t they? But I’m not complaining – not one bit. This is my favorite time of year!

Friday, October 16, 2009

M's First Sketch Challenge


I came across this sketch challenge the other day, and I just knew I had to participate! Emma is 5 years old, and she designed this sketch herself – great work, M!

The flower was cut from a gorgeous tiffany blue envelope I got at the oddest of places - the visa office! When we went to pick up our passports, it's what they were filed in - I think I was just as excited about the envelopes as I was about finally getting a residence permit, lol. The card pretty much came together around the flower - once I picked the chipboard center, the rest just fell into place. Bright and cheery, and I hope Miss M enjoys it!

Card Supplies:
DCWV pp, Georgia Pacific White cs, tiffany blue envelope; ribbon (unknown); Colorbok chipboard circle; Cuttlebug; Sizzix “Flower Layers” die; Dymo labelmaker, woodgrain label tape; corner rounder punch (small); dimensionals

Thursday, October 15, 2009

China Had a Birthday


October has been birthday month around here! China had a birthday (Oct 1st - the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China); Seth had a birthday (Oct 2nd); I had a birthday (Oct 9th)…

Seth’s birthday was a quiet affair. We chose to stay in due to the crazy huge 8-day national holiday that was in progress (our city alone had over 5.8 million tourists) – public transportation would have been a nightmare! (A lesson we learned the hard way during previous holidays.) So, while the rest of the city was out celebrating, we stayed at home and had a special treat of taco salad and homemade carrot cake.

My birthday fell the day after the holiday ended, so things were much less crowded. We tried out a little Italian restaurant (it wasn’t bad, by China standards), and listened to live jazz later that evening. But I think the best part of the day was walking hand in hand around a park after dark: cool autumn breezes; city lights reflecting off the surface of the glassy lake; couples sharing private moments on secluded benches; the off-key warble of karaoke drifting on the night air. (Yes, that’s right – it’s a common sight here to see large groups of people by the side of the road, crowded around a portable karaoke machine and taking turns belting songs into a microphone. On this particular night, some of the more competitive participants had even come in opera costume – including headgear. Fun times.) All in all, it was a pretty special birthday. No fancy presents or expensive dinners, just time spent with the guy I love more than anyone else in the whole world. What more could I ask for?