Thursday, March 25, 2010

And the Heavens Smiled Upon Me...

Today my long, arduous search finally came to an end. Yes, my friends, I finally found... a crockpot!

Now, I'm sure you may be wondering why on earth it was so hard for me to find. Slow-cookers are available in pretty much every appliance store in China; however, almost all of them have an orange clay insert, like this one:

While the clay is supposed to add beneficial nutrients to the food, its rough, untreated surface is not ideal for cooking anything other than broth-based soups, something I learned the hard way with a potato-egg breakfast casserole - talk about stuck-on food! So for months I've been searching high and low for a slow-cooker with a glazed ceramic insert. Imagine my joy when I finally found this "special buy" ceramic crockpot - for only $14 US to boot! (The clay ones run around $30 and up. I think mine was so much cheaper because it's considered "inferior" to the clay versions.) Now, if I was in the States I would have gotten a stainless steel finish, or white... here I get orange and green stars. That's China! But hey, it cooks just fine. By 6pm we had chili bubbling away and a loaf of quick-bread just coming out of the oven. Perfection. Who would have thought that a simple little crockpot could suddenly make us feel so much more "at home?"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Boy, what a week have I had! Some friends-of-a-friend needed a place to crash overnight during their travels, so of course I said yes. Unfortunately, since we've been back from Thailand I've been fighting a nasty cough/head cold thing, and of course the house was a wreck from my lack of housekeeping energy. I immediately launched into frantic deep-cleaning mode, with my perfectionist tendencies taking the reigns. I couldn't have total strangers remembering us as "those Americans with the giant dust bunnies in every corner," now could I? Pair this with my recent realization that we've lived here almost a year and our place still looks rather like we just moved in, and as you can imagine, mayhem ensued. There was a trip to Ikea for bathroom accessories and a coffee table (which I then spent the next four hours assembling). A vacuum cleaner was purchased (I shamefully admit it's taken us ten months to buy one - but in my defense, our floors are all either wood or tile, and the vacuums here are outrageously priced). I aired out blankets, fluffed towels (we air-dry everything, which lends itself to crunchy towels unless extra measures are taken), windexed and scrubbed and mopped and dusted and straightened. Even the dog was bathed and brushed. Everything was perfectly in its place. All so our guests could crash at our place for six hours, five of them sleeping. Yes, I may have gone a tad overboard. I know Seth thought I had gone completely crazy. But as I told him, I'd rather they just have a vague recollection of a few hours spent in some apartment in Shanghai than to stick out in their memories for all the wrong reasons, know what I mean? What can I say - it's a sickness, I tell ya. But hey, now I have a tidy apartment with a new coffee table, a vacuum cleaner, and a fresh-smelling puppy. Who could complain about that?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Our Rainforest Adventure

A few days ago I mentioned a little adventure we took while we were in Thailand. We were lucky enough to get the opportunity to spend a day up in the mountains outside of Chiang Mai doing this: Flight of the Gibbons 

Can you see me?

Look closely - I'm right in the middle of the picture. Yep, I'm flying through the trees on a zip-line. Here's another shot:

I can't even begin to describe how exhilarating it was. SO much fun! This will give you a better perspective of how high up we were:

At some points we were 70 meters high! We spent about 3 hours zip-lining from platform to platform. It was amazing. I am so glad Seth and I got to do this together - it's an adventure we'll never forget!


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Feathering Our Nest

This little guy followed me home from Thailand. I found him peering out at me from a little stall filled with an assortment of pottery - it was love at first sight. 

Lately I've been feeling the urge to make more of an effort with our apartment. In less than 3 months, we'll pass the one-year mark - the longest we've lived in any one place in our 13 years of marriage. So far I've been reticent to do any major decorating - let's face it, usually about this time we'd be gearing up for yet another move - the less "tear-down" we have to do, the better. Paint the walls? Change out all the beige curtains for something more colorful? If we're only going to enjoy the benefits for a year (or less), why put money like that into something we can't take with us (when there are craft supplies and purses and shoes to buy)? But now I think I'm finally ready to commit. To commit to a real color scheme - with paint and curtains and even pillow covers. I want to buy a big piece of artwork, not just the little pictures that are easily packed. I'm tired of the cheap, it'll-do-for-the-next-nine-months-and-then-we-can-always-toss-it kind of decorating we've been relegated to. And you know what, I think I'm finally going to change out our light fixtures - because this is most definitely NOT my style:

What do you guys think?