Monday, February 24, 2014

Please Cease And Desist

I desperately need to send a cease and desist letter to my in-laws. Tomorrow is my last day of vacation and those 2 troglodytes keep popping up like a bad rash, interrupting my last moments of relaxation before I go back to work. I know they want to see Raelynn, but it's not like they won't get to spend all of Wednesday and Thursday with her while me and the other teachers suffer through our teacher workdays.

This morning, our land line rang. It was FIL. He said he wanted to come over to bring Raelynn some balloons to make her happy. Yesterday, during the great shopping adventure, my husband had bought Raelynn a big, shiny helium balloon. It was a pink unicorn, just like the balloon we bought her a couple weeks ago.

It had actually lasted a while before it deflated and now we fear throwing it away because of what happened yesterday.

I kept telling her to hold the balloon tightly. I tried to wrap it around her wrist but she wouldn't allow it. She is SO stubborn sometimes! Gah! We somehow managed to get her and the balloon into the car and off we went. When we went to get out of the car, Raelynn insisted on holding her balloon, and again, wouldn't listen to me. So it came as no surprise when she let go and it started to blow away in the wind. I tried to catch it but up, up, up it went. I wanted to cry too. Stupid pregnancy hormones. Raelynn was very upset about the balloon getting away, but she learned her lesson because she keeps telling me next time she'll listen to Mommy and hold on tight to her balloon.

Anyway, last night, my in-laws had stopped by to annoy us see what coat we got in exchange for the ugly yellow one and bring us some snacks from Taiwan that another family member had brought back for us. And that's when Raelynn told her grandparents about the balloon that got away.

So how could I refuse FIL coming over with some balloons for Raelynn? It was sweet. Granted, he didn't go get her a helium-filled balloon (he just brought some plain old party balloons and blew them up himself) but it was still nice nonetheless. He didn't stay long either and that was just fine by me.

Tonight, I made a fabulous eggplant parmigiana and a cucumber dill salad. We were happily digging into it, talking about how the day had been for each of us when the land line rang. It was MIL. She gave us THE lamest excuse ever for wanting to come over and invade our privacy. Are you ready?

And the award for the lamest excuse in the universe goes to MIL for this gem:
I made too many dumplings and now I need to bring the rest of them over to you.

PUH-LEASE! OMG! Just. Stop. STOP IT. We don't need your crappy-ass dumplings. We've got my classic eggplant parmigiana and it kicks your dumplings' asses. Jeremy kept telling her we were almost done eating but she invited herself over anyway. Cow.

So she gets here with her stupid dumplings, which were the oyster ones AFUCKINGGAIN incidentally. And she also trots out this terrible, insanely oversized thing for Raelynn...
She smiles triumphantly, like she's finally picked something we won't despise. Immediately, Raelynn screams she doesn't like it. At least she has some sense. This is definitely much better than many things MIL has chosen in the garment category but this cheap, frilly thing around the collar makes me stabby. It looks like cheap hospital gauze. I hate hate HATE when people, especially MIL, pick out old-lady-style clothes for little girls. HATE!

Here is a closer look at that gauche gauzey thing around the collar and that old-lady doily trim. As if this isn't enough to make you barf up your intestines, it's about 5 sizes too large, just like the ugly coat we had to exchange. *facepalm*

The good news is that Jeremy is in full agreement with me that this thing should be shoved into the vortex of ugly clothes with this, this and this. When she does things like this, it is exactly why I cannot stand her. She is so pushy and interfering. That being said, she should take this damn thing back and wear it herself. It's closer to her size and it looks like it would suit her perfectly.

Let's hope my last day of vacation is in-law-free!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Exchange Has Been Made!

Last week, my in-laws came over for dinner. And when they did, MIL presented us with a urine-colored coat for Raelynn. Despite its' hideousness, I had to applaud MIL for leaving the tags on so we could exchange it for something else.

Which is EXACTLY what we did yesterday.

We went on a shopping trip of epic proportions. It made me wish I didn't have an ever-expanding pregnant belly or I would have wanted in on that action too. Instead, I lived vicariously through my precious Raelynn as we went back-to-school shopping. I'll show you the replacement coat shortly. But first my friends, please check out these amazing clothes we found in the women's and babies store out in Taidong...

We found all of these items at one shop inside this big store. The shopkeeper was totally awesome. We were initially drawn in because in the front of the store, there was a bin with shirts and bottoms and she'd marked it as everything in the bin was 15 yuan. That's INSANELY cheap. The blue shirt here was not in the bin though but that's okay...she gave us an amazing discount on that too. Look how freaking cute this all is!

 When Raelynn saw this Dora shirt, she went bonkers and wouldn't let go. It was 15 yuan plus it came with these adorable shorts. Yes way!

 Seeing how fond our daughter was of Dora, the sales woman handed us this other adorable set.

I picked this shirt for Raelynn because I wished I could fit into it. And I thought it was darling. She agreed it was pretty cool too. Good girl!

This skirt came from the 15 yuan bin. But the shirt? It was originally 169 yuan at Annil, which is where the ugly coat came from. We found a better coat to exchange that barfy one with and because the coat we picked out was cheaper, we could pick out a couple other things. So we said hello to this precious little shirt. Keep scrolling down to see the new coat though...

Next, another 15 yuan skirt. I should also mention that Jeremy picked out all the skirts you've seen in the post for his daughter. That might make you go "awwwww" as he did quite well picking these out. But you should have seen some of the crap he held up at the stores before we found these things. "How about this?" he'd ask in all seriousness about a very vomitous-looking obviously male-fashioned shirt. Oh well. At least he's learning.

This is another Annil shirt we got when we exchanged the coat. Wait until you see the coat we got too! Keep scrolling!

We also bought this Minnie Mouse t-shirt which Raelynn demanded to wear today. She refused to pose for a good photo though. Already a diva. Oh, and check out the bow in her hair. We bought her a bunch of new hair accessories including this one.

Check out Raelynn's new kicks! She picked these out herself. She loved them so much she wanted to wear them out of the store. The little bunny on the side will definitely match the one on her new exchanged coat too! Drum roll please!

Ta da! Here is the coat we exchanged the other one for. Why couldn't MIL have picked this one in the first place? They had some other ugly coats but there were quite a few that were cute like this. Annil is a Chinese brand but I was actually surprised by the quality and style of it. You usually find the kinds of things I've blogged about before that MIL will come trotting over with as if she's some style queen. How she came to find this little place inside the upscale mall in Taidong, I will never know. What was she doing there in the first place? When you walk into the bottom level of this mall, it is filled with make-up and beauty kiosks from all the high-end brands. L'Occitane. Lancome. Misha. If you can think of a brand, it's in there. Everything is. The ascending layers of the mall are filled with expensive clothes. It blows my mind that she would even enter a place like this, let alone BUY something from there.

Here is a close-up of the Annil jacket, with just one lone rabbit from the company's trademark. This is SO much better than the coat MIL picked out. I want it in my size, dammit! Maybe sans rabbit though.

The woman at the Annil counter was so kind and helpful too. I was absolutely shocked. Normally, you get shitty service everywhere you go in China. It was so nice to have someone who actually cared about helping us exchange the item for something more suitable. I almost felt like I was back in Seoul shopping with all the lovely sales girls there, ready to help with anything. Almost.

Now that all this shopping is done, Raelynn is ready for school, and pretty much anything with a wardrobe like that. Can this new baby PLEASE be a girl so we can use these awesome clothes again? I sure hope so. We hope we can find that out soon so stay tuned because as soon as I know, I'll be announcing it to the world.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I Don't Want To

Lately, Raelynn's thing has been to tell us "I don't want to..." I have to give her mad props for being grammatically correct when she's speaking, and for expressing herself, but I can't give her any leeway on these.

It started a week or so ago when we were in the car. She wanted to sit on me. In our car, we have a car seat, which is unusual for China. Even though they passed a law stating that people needed to start using car seats for their children, no one pays it any mind. But we're no fools. The only time I hold her on my lap in the car is when we have to take a taxi, but that's not too terribly often. Anyway, she kept insisting on sitting on me but I kept denying her request. And that's when it began.

"I don't want to sit in my seat," she said.
"Well, that's too bad. You have to. It's safe," I told her.
"I don't want to sit in my seat," she said again.
"You must," both Jeremy and I tell her.
"I don't want to sit in my seat. I don't want to sit in my seat. I don't want to sit in my seat. I don't want to sit in my seat."

This went on and on for the duration of the car ride, escalating from statement to shrieking exclamation. Somewhere along Nanjing Road is a large chunk of my sanity.

And now for every car ride, we must endure her complaining. "I don't want to sit in my seat." I have to sit in the back to keep her from weaseling out of the restraints. On the most recent car ride, I decided to film her when Jeremy had stopped off at a vegetable vendor on the side of the road. I started to make a song about it, which you can hear me singing in the backround...
We expect it to go multi-platinum.

We'll be coming out with an album. It will have other great hits on it, such as "I don't want to sleep in my crib." Or how about "I don't want to sit in my tub," a one-time hit tune she came up with when her daddy was at a business dinner and couldn't be home during her nighttime routine.

We also have "I don't want to sit in the van," which was performed live in front of a real audience inside of, you guessed it, a van. It was the van from the play group, which takes the moms and kids down to the main road so we can attempt to flag down a taxi. Otherwise it would be quite a long walk. I'm sure she'd come up with another song, like "I don't want to walk on this street" or something to that effect.

Stay tuned for my own bonus track coming soon. It's called "I don't want to go back to school." Seriously. Why can't they pay me to be on vacation forever? Sigh.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Latest Yuck

Yesterday, my in-laws came over. And MIL made us dinner. She'd made a very large steamed fish which I must say was extremely tasty. And then she made dumplings, predictably. Though I didn't mind so much since we hadn't seen her in about 2 weeks. When I saw her assembling them, I thought it was my favorite kind of filling - the one with leeks and beef. But as it turns out, they were made with oysters. Now, I like oysters. Truly, I do. If I'm honest, I love them raw on the half shell, which makes me think of back home in South Florida. Specifically, a wonderful little place called Southport Raw Bar. And thinking about that takes me back to some of my earliest memories. If you are reading this and you are anywhere near this place, GO! Go now. Go and get the clam chowder. Go get the Old Bay shrimp. Go get the oysters on the half shell. Go get one of everything on that menu NOW and eat it for me.

Okay, sorry. I am back from my tangent. Where was I? Oh yes. Oysters. So I love them raw, but to have them massacred and steamed into dumplings? Not so much. I wanted so much for those dumplings to have beef or even pork in them but no. At least they were WAY better than those fish dumplings she made. Yuck!

And speaking of yuck, that leads me to the latest yuck. After the revenge of the yuck and all other previous yucks, this one is at least much tamer.
It's our crappy little rolling pin. Covered in flour. She put it back into the drawer of kitchen utensils just like this.
Here's another view of it.

See? Not as disgusting as all the other yucks but still. If she does this with floured items, imagine what she does with other things. Oh God. I think I'm going to be sick. Ack! Think happy thoughts! Think happy thoughts! Puppies! Kittens! Rainbows! Chocolate! Donuts! Milkshakes! Oh yeah...milkshakes. That's better.

Monday, February 17, 2014

MIL Confuses Pea Coat With Pee Coat

Oh MIL! You had to break the streak with a bang, now didn't you?

I'm happy to report that MIL is feeling better. So much better that she did a little shopping. Sigh. When will she learn to leave the fashion up to me?

Today, I'd gone out for a couple hours to meet at Redstar magazine to discuss articles for the upcoming issue. I'm excited to be doing some freelance for them and build my portfolio while abroad. So I had my in-laws come and watch Raelynn. Since we hadn't seen MIL in a while, Jeremy had suggested we have dinner with them and I agreed to it just to get it out of the way. It turned out to be a blessing since I had THE worst migraine come on and I totally didn't feel like cooking when I got home.

My FIL, the hero, went for a walk while MIL cooked. He stopped by their house and brought a bag that MIL was so excited to show us. What was inside?

This. THIS! This drab, yellow Stay Puft peed-on marshmallow coat. She must have mistaken a pea coat for this pee coat. Raelynn didn't like it either. She screamed when MIL put it on her and said, "No! Don't like!" Good girl! Perhaps in another color it wouldn't be so atrocious. It just looks like something an ugly boy would wear. Also, it's hard to tell from the photo but this coat is enormous. I've no idea why she bought her a new coat that is 5 sizes too large when winter will soon be over.

Incidentally, Raelynn has a purple coat that she loves. That still fits her just fine, I might add.

But that's MIL for you. Always buying something ugly and useless. If there were a show where contestants had to find these kinds of things, MIL would win. Hands down.

Let's get up close and look at the pattern of cracked out rabbits, shall we? I wish it made me think more of Rabbids Invasion but, sadly, it does not. I just think of pee. With rabbits.

Thankfully, MIL left the tags on it so we can exchange it. So she's FINALLY learning that if we don't like something, we shove it into the vortex of ugly clothing, never to be seen again. We told her we'd like to get it in a slightly smaller size and a different color, perhaps a color Raelynn actually likes, like pink, purple or red.

By the way, do you see the price on this thing? 769 rmb. For a child's coat. My husband says they got it discounted at 400 rmb but still! We bought Raelynn's purple coat on sale for 200 rmb. My coat that I bought nearly 3 years ago was 500 rmb. Honey, time to buy your sweet wifey a new coat please! Just make sure it is more like a pea coat. Not a pee coat.

FIL Saves The Day!

 Raelynn gives her grandpa a big kiss.

My FIL can be a handy guy to have around sometimes. Sure, he does stuff like this. Or this. Or this. And he never disciplines Raelynn when he watches her, prompting her to be bratty and manipulative. But when it comes to problems involving the electricity, he's the man.

This morning, I noticed my husband was making more noise than usual as he got ready for work. Apparently, the satellite wasn't on. But neither was part of the electricity in our room. Whoever wired the buildings here was probably drunk or crazy, perhaps a bit of both. Sometimes, fuses will blow but all the ceiling lights will stay on and anything plugged into a wall outlet won't. Normally, you just flip one of the switches and it solves the problem. This time, my husband was perplexed because all the outlets in the house were fine except for the ones in our room.

He called his father who soon showed up to check it out. I explained how the ceiling lights were fine as were the electrical outlets in all the other rooms except for our bedroom. So he began poking around the power strips, trying to find the source of the problem. The light on my nightstand was working, we discovered, and suddenly, this propelled him back into the living room to inspect the connecting cords that run along the wall under the couch and through the adjoining wall to our bedroom.

And that's where we found that this whole thing was caused by the most simple of things. The plug from the connecting power strip had slipped out of the outlet. I was so happy that he fixed it, I gave him a hug, which I instantly regretted because he smelled like he desperately needed a shower. To ensure this wouldn't happen again, he went and taped the plug into the outlet because of course. Whatever. As long as it works, it's fine.

Three cheers for FIL! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

These Dreams

When you're pregnant, you have some pretty strange dreams. At least I do. Apparently, many others do too, largely due to hormonal fluctuations and waking up more during the REM cycle of sleep. Some nights, these dreams are really cool. Other nights, I've had horrid nightmares. But by far, the most interesting theme that keeps coming up for me are...


Yes. I keep dreaming about milkshakes. I know when you have cravings, it's your body's way of telling you that you need more of something. But I've been getting plenty of dairy. I've been eating lots of yogurt and most mornings, I make a banana milkshake, using milk, cinnamon and vanilla extract to make it taste deliciously evil yet still healthful.

And that banana milkshake is wonderful. Creamy. Sweet. Banana-y.

But my milkshake dreams have involved chocolate milkshakes.
Get out of my dreams and into my belly!

The first one was about a month ago. I dreamed that I was at Denny's of all places. I was eating with friends, though can't say I recall who, and I ordered a chocolate milkshake. It came out before my food and I remember the waitress putting the tall glass in front of me, along with that metal milkshake container that had the bit that couldn't fit into the glass. I looked at it and it was just like any other chocolate milkshake. And then, I started to drink it through the straw. I could seriously TASTE this thing. It was amazing. So perfectly chocolatey. So creamy and frothy all at once. As I got to the bottom of my glass, feeling so satisfied and happy, I woke up.

That's when I realized I was in China and there are no Denny's here. I cried and cried.

My milkshake dreams are always like this. I order a chocolate milkshake and then it's in front of me and I am enjoying everything about it. It feels so real every single time.

A few nights ago, I had my most recent milkshake dream. This time, there were Oreos in it. It was chocolate with Oreos. I don't recall being at a Denny's this time though. All I remember is the milkshake.

So what do these milkshake dreams mean?
According to this website,  "To dream of drinking a milkshake foretells happiness and peaceful times with family. It may also suggest that you want to strengthen your bonds with friends and loved ones."

Meanwhile, this one claims quite the opposite: "If you see or drink a milkshake in your dream implys (sic) that you are not very happy with the direction of your life. At this given moment your life feels shook up a bit. Somebody who is very close to you my be overwhelming at times."

That one is the only negative interpretation I've found. Here's another, which I think I like the best though I don't feel like pasting the whole thing.
If I wanted a milkshake like I had in my dreams, I needed to go to the supermarket and get some ice cream. But it wouldn't taste the same because Chinese people do odd things to chocolate. Unless I buy an imported brand at a ridiculous sum, I will have to compromise on the taste. It just lacks something...sugar, perhaps? Something is off about Chinese chocolate flavors. Or...I could get vanilla and buy Hershey's chocolate syrup. I've seen that in the import aisle. Now there's an idea.

And perhaps that is exactly the meaning of all these milkshakes...maybe my brain is saying, "Hey prego, move your ass to the store and make me a real milkshake." Hells yes.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Can You Feel The Love Tonight?

So, it's Valentine's Day. I should be ecstatic that my husband has made us reservations at the Shangri-La for the 3rd year in a row. I should be. But he's made our reservations for tomorrow, which is technically STILL Valentine's Day in the US, for part of the day at least. Why would he do that? Well, it's more practical and economical. Because if we go TONIGHT, then we have to pay quite a bit more than we will tomorrow. EVERYWHERE in this city, and presumably in this world, is overpriced on Valentine's Day.

I'm not upset by this. Some women would give their husbands the cold shoulder over something so tedious. We'll be enjoying our evening tomorrow. With our little Valentine too. You probably think we're insane to take her along but she's come with us the last 2 years and well, we love the kid. On our anniversary though, she stays home.

What I AM upset by is that this happens to be some small little Chinese holiday called the Lantern Festival. It's tradition to consume these glutenous rice balls that are filled with either a sweet sesame paste or a peanut butter-like filling. God, I just read that sentence over and thought, "Ewwww," but seriously, these things are quite tasty. I'm not upset that I had to eat the little rice balls either, incidentally.

 Here's a whole one...

 And here, I've bitten it in half to show you the filling. This one is the black sesame filled rice ball. 

It's WHO I had to eat them with.

No, no, MIL is still sick. So that means it's just FIL. I didn't want Valentine's Day to be tarnished with bad Chinese food and bad Chinese cable TV. I do kind of feel bad for FIL that his wife is ill and that we'll just be celebrating with him. But still!
FIL brought over some food that we pray has not been contaminated with whatever illness MIL has come down with.

It makes me think of our first Valentine's Day in China. I never wrote about this because I had not yet started writing this blog. But now I will tell you the story of how my FIL ruined our first Valentine's Day in China, which was our very last Valentine's Day before we became parents.

Jeremy will probably turn a deep shade of crimson when I tell you we were being quite affectionate. We stayed home, making a romantic meal together. We were giggly and groping like teenagers. We were just about to enjoy our sweet little dinner. And then the phone rang.

It was MIL. During this time, my in-laws were renting out the house that they currently live in now, the one that is just a 10-minute walk from our home. Instead, they were living at their house out by Laoshan Mountain (this house), which would take them about an hour and a half by bus to get here. Buses here end their run times very early. I think the latest bus in the city stops at 10pm, though they might have changed it since then. But this bus to Laoshan? The last bus into Qingdao departed at 6:30pm. And FIL was on it, MIL explained, coming to stay with us for the night because he had some meeting to attend for the factory he once worked for early the next morning. I am totally not even kidding.

I heard Jeremy trying to protest but at the time, my Chinese was horrible (and my husband will tell you that he STILL deems my Chinese just as poor but that's another story) and I didn't understand what was being said. He hangs up the phone and looks annoyed and apologetic all at once. And then he tells me. I screamed so loudly, I was shocked that our windows didn't shatter. While the younger generations of Chinese people go all out on Valentine's Day, people in my in-laws' generation do not. They don't even give birthday gifts or have birthday parties (just a simple dinner of noodles works for them). So it's no wonder they were oblivious. I could forgive that. But what I could NOT forgive was them assuming they could just stay over here whenever they felt like it.

This was before we'd fixed up Raelynn's room and made my in-laws take out their piles of extra clothes they'd shoved haphazardly into the closet along with all kinds of odds and ends, and the twin bed. I know MIL had been counting on us to leave that damn bed in there so she could stay with us and the baby and constantly be invading our space. But soon after this particular Valentine's Day, my husband gave me the best gift of all - he made them remove all of these items, especially that extra bed. And ever since, they've never been able to just impose on us like FIL did that one night.

What had angered me was that no one thought to call us beforehand and ask us if this was okay. But now that I know much more about Chinese culture, I know that no one would ask us this. The older  generation sees nothing wrong with this sort of behavior. We're family so I should just be able to show up and stay whenever I feel like it. Oh hell to the no.

As for this evening, just having my FIL around was pretty chill. And he didn't overstay his welcome. After 2 hours, he went back to his home.

By the way, you know what sucks about this Lantern Festival? All the idiots are letting off fireworks. AGAIN. God, China. Give it a fucking rest!

Here's hoping our lovely dinner goes well without tantrums or any wackiness. I'll leave you with this darling photo of Raelynn eating some rice balls. She kept calling them "snowballs." Awwww! She's just so darn cute!

The Streak Continues

Where have my in-laws been?

And now it has officially been 2 weeks since seeing MIL.

My in-laws were supposed to come over for dinner earlier this week on Tuesday. Jeremy had told me they'd come around 4pm to spend some time with Raelynn. I wasn't bothered by this since they'd given us some space. In fact, I think when an interval of this much time has elapsed between visits, I don't feel cornered or intruded upon. I feel happier to see them when they aren't constantly in our faces and in our business.

But 4 o'clock came and went without any sign of either of them. I called my husband to make sure I'd heard him right. He did say it was for that night, right? Indeed, he did but unfortunately, MIL, who had been just fine the night before when he'd spoken to her on the phone, was quite ill. I felt bad for her. What, you think I'd gloat over something like that? I'm a bitch but not a heartless one.

Jeremy brought her medicine and he and his father had to drag her to the hospital for treatment. Now before you completely freak out about that one, in China (and Korea as well) you go to the hospital for check-ups and non-emergencies too. Each hospital is specialized. Some are for emergencies. Some are for maternity and babies. Some are for cardiovascular problems. You get the idea. When I lived in Seoul, I had to get over the whole gasping shock I'd emit when someone told me they went to the hospital for something. In the states, you only go to the hospital if something is seriously wrong or you're having a baby. Here, things are quite different.

MIL doesn't take good enough care of herself which is a shame. Several weeks ago, she was complaining about her teeth. She said it hurt to chew and she was only eating soft things, like dumplings and noodles. Things that don't require much chewing. With the help of Jeremy, I lectured her about how foolish it was to not take care of herself. She refused to go to the dentist. We even told her not to worry - that WE would pay for it - and she STILL refused. She is as stubborn as a mule which is exactly why they had to drag her to see a doctor at the hospital.

This morning, FIL came over by himself to watch Raelynn for a couple hours while I went to see about doing some freelance work for Qingdao's city magazine, Redstar. It's my hope that I can keep building my portfolio while out here so that when we move back to the states, I have some recent work to show. That, plus my prior experience plus the experience of living in 2 different countries should hopefully count for something. When I returned, I asked FIL how MIL was and he said she was very bad. Even though my husband did so the other evening, I grabbed a bag and filled it with apples for her. I wanted to do what my husband adorably calls "show your nice"so that she would know that I wished her well.

I guess with FIL coming over it kind of ended the streak, huh? Oh well. Anyway, here's hoping MIL does feel better soon.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


About a decade ago, when I was still an advertising copywriter, I was working on an account for a large homebuilder. This was when I had one of my good bosses, Steve, who was always tons of fun to work with (my bosses in later years at that company were untalented, evil and made work even more horrible than it already was). One day, Steve asked me to write a song that the homebuilding company would play to its' staff for an upcoming conference about mold. They wanted to bring awareness to the people at the company responsible for building the homes about how to store the wood to keep it from becoming moldy. Steve told me he wanted me to use the tune of "Ghostbusters" and let me loose on the project.

To this day, when I think about the song I wrote for him and how we laughed so hard we cried and cried, it was probably my absolute most favorite thing I ever worked on. It was a fucking great song, if I do say so myself. I even remember some of the words:

If there's something strange
Growing in the wood
Who you gonna' call?

If you see some spores
And they don't look good
Who you gonna' call?

I think what made us laugh hardest was that I got to use "spores" in a song. And as I think about that song now, I laugh and cry. But today, it was mostly cry when I found mold. Not tears of sorrow, but rather, tears of anger.

Because even though my in-laws have not bothered us in a week and a half, the things my MIL does and then covers up seem to run rampant through our home. There was the blender situation. There was the yucky bag of rotting vegetables on the side of the fridge. There was this unknown substance hidden in our cabinets. And there are many, many, MANY more if you drag your lazy ass through my blog archives and look for them.

Let's call today's find Mold of the Day, shall we?

Regretfully, I have no photos. I apologize, but I was in the middle of making a pie for my husband. He'd bought a ton of apples yesterday and with him plotting to make Valentine's Day special for me, I thought I'd surprise him with an apple pie. So this image I found from a Google search will have to do even though ours was not quite this moldy.

Our cutting board had patches of blobby, old dried dough and random patches of green, fuzzy mold. 

Anyway, I took out this large wood cutting board that I don't use very often. I have a different one I use daily but this large wood one is the thing I use when I make dough and need to roll it out. MIL apparently favors this for her dumpling dough as well. I've seen her use it. I should therefore not have been surprised at all when I pulled it out of the cabinets and found it still caked with lumps of floury dough.

I let out an exasperated sigh and started to complain to myself when I noticed that I had so much worse to deal with than just some old caked up dough bits. IT WAS MOLDY! That idiot! Gah! I had to put my pie on hold while I scrubbed the dickens out of this thing. I scrubbed it 5 times with scalding hot water and gobs of soap. Then I patiently waited for it to dry. This cow. She just uses things and then puts them back dirty. Why bother washing it? Try as I might, I will NEVER understand this woman. NEVER! On the plus side, my pie turned out lovely, once I was able to get to rolling out my dough...
I'm hardly a brilliant food photographer so it looks a bit ugly and it's hard to see I've made 3 hearts on the top. Oh sure. Go ahead and fucking laugh. Let's see YOU make a pie from scratch. Not as easy as pie, as they say. Jeremy is always saying I should go on Masterchef but I just can't. Sure, I'm good at cooking and baking but I'm not THAT good. And while I'm good at making things taste great, I suck at making things look pretty. I once made a cake so ugly it looked like someone had kicked its' ass. But it was one of the most delicious cakes ever. I cannot be counted on for making anything pretty. Except children. I make pretty children.

It's Oh So Quiet

"It's Oh So Quiet" by Bjork.

It's been quiet around here. Too quiet. So quiet, I almost half expect Bjork to come bursting through the windows singing this little ditty in some weird snuggie-like creation. Oh Bjork, never change.

Seriously though, my in-laws have not come by. Since the last time we've seen them! It's a new record. The last time we went this long without seeing them was when we were in Shanghai getting Raelynn's US passport. Ok, so that was a longer duration. But still! It's been bliss.

We haven't seen them since the 1st of February. That's when I wrote this post. And now, it's a whole 9 days later. We were supposed to be tortured with MIL's cooking the following day. I was preparing myself to endure eating things I didn't want to eat. Somehow, my prayers to be spared from the torture were granted. They went to their house out by Laoshan Mountain and my husband said we'd have dinner with them when they came back into the city.

Earlier this week, we actually saw MIL crossing the street while we were in the car. We were on our way to get orange juice which I'd begun craving (and promptly upon receiving, guzzled down 2 juice boxes of it without stopping). Jeremy suggested we should eat lunch with them but I requested we not do so because 1) he wanted us to drive over to their home and you know how I feel about that place (if not, just read through this blog) and 2) it was Jeremy's last day off for the Chinese New Year. I suggested we plan another time for a dinner.

He called them later and asked them to have dinner on Saturday. But they, get this, were actually busy! Good for them! Then tonight, while I was drying Raelynn's hair after her bath, our phone rang. I'm quite sure it was them. No one else calls our home phone. I asked Jeremy about it but he didn't tell me anything, which is odd considering if we were forced to do something with them, he'd mention it.

So how long will my in-law-free-streak continue? Well, that remains to be seen. It's a lovely early Valentine's Day gift not having to endure their company at least. Oh. GOD. Please don't let them show up on Valentine's Day. PLEASE! I'm dreaming about steak, steamed crab, chocolate cakes and candies. Not HER cooking. I think Jeremy knows I'd claw his eyes out if he let that happen. Honey, you DO know that, right? Any day but Valentine's Day, PLEASE!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Top 12 Nastiest Bathrooms In Qingdao

Lately, my mind has been in the crapper. Quite literally. I've spent much of this winter vacation potty training Raelynn so she can come to school with me. We've been extremely successful, with the exception of visiting other toilets. She has yet to go in one. For her Sunday church play group, it's held in a 5-star hotel. Those bathrooms are nice. And clean. But she had 2 accidents. Since then though, she seems to have learned to hold it in, which is quite an accomplishment. I can't say I blame her at some of the places we've been. They're so vile, I'd much rather pee in my pants than suffer in the stench and filth that declares "toilet" so brazenly on the sign.

My husband and I were discussing this yesterday when we'd gone to Metro, the German-owned Costco-esque store I've written about before. I'm too lazy to link it up so feel free to dig through the archives. Raelynn was acting a bit bratty and driving us crazy while we were shopping. I noticed she was acting a bit like she might have to go to the bathroom, so I asked her if she needed to use the potty. And suddenly, she stopped acting out and said she needed to use the potty and asked me if I'd take her to the bathroom. So off we went. One thing that sucks about Metro is that the bathrooms are just before the entrance. And they absolutely refuse to let you go back through the entrance to get to them. You have to go out through the exit, walk in the blistering cold outside and then re-enter the store to go.

Another thing that sucks about Metro is the bathrooms. Which is what inspired this post. Jeremy and I were marveling about what bathrooms we thought were the 12 absolutely most fucking disgusting places in Qingdao. If you live here or have visited, perhaps you have your own suggestion to contribute. I'd love to hear from you if you do.

Anyway, let's count it down...
12) Jumu's house.
This gross bathroom can be found in MIL's brother's house.

It's pretty gross and unsanitary with it's half-assed plumbing and all, but there are definitely far worse places to go to the bathroom than at Jumu's house. If I had to take a shower in this place, I would feel dirty even after bathing. Ugh.

11) The smelly bathroom at Jeremy's aunt's house.
Also discussed in this post, I have no actual pictures of it. It is larger than Jumu's bathroom though just as disheveled. And there's a shoe rack in it too. But it beats Jumu's in nastiness because of the stench. Even with the door to the bathroom closed when we first entered their apartment, the kind of smells you'd find in a Chinese public bathroom burst right into our faces.

10) The discount technology market in the old downtown area.
Every time my husband suggests we go to this place, I gracefully bow out and send him on his own. Not only is it very noisy and disorienting, but it also is home to one of the most horrid bathrooms I've ever been forced to use in this country. The last time I had to use it was when I was pregnant with Raelynn. It was so gross I actually considered just peeing in my pants. Little did I know that it would look nice compared to others I've been in.

9) The bathroom on the first floor of the Qingdao #7 Hospital of Infectious Diseases.
Back when we first moved to Qingdao, when we had no car, we had to walk, hop the bus or take taxis everywhere we went. This was before Jeremy had gotten a job and we were still getting settled in. He wanted to save as much money as possible so we were walking somewhere. Unfortunately for me being as pregnant as I was, I had to go to the bathroom constantly. As we walked to a nearby bank, I could no longer hold it and so we walked up to the nearest building, this decrepit hospital. I should also mention this was before we found the nice hospital where we had Raelynn. I was so traumatized by my brief visit to this hospital that I cried. This was when I discovered that hospitals in China were very unlike American hospitals. They were not sanitary and the conditions in that bathroom truly frightened me. I still shudder to this day whenever we drive past it. 

8) Carrefour on Shandong Road.
Please note that this is NOT a photo of the Shandong Road location. This is for illustration purposes only.

There are several Carrefour locations in Qingdao. The closest one to our home is the one on Shandong Road. We actually stopped going to this location and will drive all the way out of our way to go to the one on Hong Kong Road because the service there is better. Because of my encounter with the deplorable bathroom at the Shandong Road location, I refuse to use the bathroom in any other Carrefour. Perhaps the Hong Kong Road location has a better, cleaner bathroom. I don't know and I won't know unless I am seriously about to burst my bladder. The Shandong Road location had a bathroom that was so visibly filthy WITH a cleaning staff pushing useless mops around that did nothing to improve the condition. It also smelled so horrendous that I could feel the vomit rising in my throat. It is exactly why I always wear perfume...just in case I come face-to-face with another stench like that again.

7) The big cloth store in Taidong that makes qipaos.
This is the place MIL took me to when she had that ugly wedding jacket made for me. Some of the fabrics in this store are just amazing. It's where I had my qipao (the traditional Chinese dress) made for our vow renewal. But it has a bathroom that is absolutely atrocious. Of course, being China, it was dirty and smelly. What made it stand out as even worse than other bathrooms is that the stalls are small. Not as in you have no room to turn around. I'd prefer that to this. What I mean is that when you walk in and are standing up, people can see most of your torso above the door. If someone were to walk up while you are squatting, they could look down and SEE you. Dear Lord! Another place I hold it in with all I've got.

6) Book City on Hong Kong Road.
The first time I ever had to use this bathroom, I was pregnant with Raelynn and had just moved to China. This bathroom was like the store in Taidong that I mentioned above except the stall walls weren't quite as short. It was just so completely filthy in there that I couldn't believe this bathroom was in a nice book store. This was one of my culture shock moments of moving to China. I had to use this bathroom once after Raelynn was born out of sheer emergency. As I waited for an available stall, a woman came in with her young son and helped him pull his pants down, then let him pee all over the floor. No wonder this bathroom is so gross!

5) A common Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood.
I've always complained about our neighborhood. I hate living on this side of town. It's the only place you can't walk to a McDonald's or KFC. My friend Andrea had once called it "the part of Qingdao that time forgot." But on our street, we do at least have some decent Chinese restaurants. As we've lived here, we've given each one a chance. And there's one that wasn't too bad as far as the food went, but the place was so dilapidated, I didn't want to go back. We'd gone with an old colleague of my husband's and were toasting with many beers. I couldn't hold it in any longer and needed to use the bathroom. When I tell you this one was even smaller than Jumu's bathroom and even more disgusting, just scroll back up to those photos. Then imagine a squatter instead of a toilet. And imagine that it hadn't been cleaned it what looked like a decade. Eek.

4) The tushuguan (library).
From the outside, it looks like a nice place. But inside is a whole different story. It's not inviting and cozy like American libraries. It's cold and uncaring in there. I hate when a library gives me a bad vibe. But the worst part of it is the bathroom. It looks like it hasn't been cleaned since it was built. It smells so bad that you can actually smell it from over 50 feet away. There was also shit on the floor of one of the stalls! Shit! On the floor! I hate this fucking library.

3) Metro.
I began to mention Metro in the beginning of this post. And now I'll finish it. This bathroom is truly heinous. No water in the sink. Oh, and I should have mentioned before that NONE of these bathrooms have soap in them. Except, oddly, at Jeremy's relatives' homes. Here is another bathroom that smells so bad, you can smell it from afar. As Raelynn and I approached it, I had to keep from gagging. Of course, upon sight of this bathroom, she became afraid. "I don't want to go potty," she tells me. "That's ok, Honey." I tell her even though I'm annoyed and KNEW she would do this. Instead, I tell her I have to go. Being pregnant, I have to go fairly often, though not as often as I did when I was pregnant with her. So I take her into the stall with me and as I squat, I give her the lowdown on squatters and not to ever touch them with any part of your body. I invite her to try to go after I do but she still refuses so off we go as I silently pray that she won't have an accident in her pants. My prayers were answered. She made it home without a problem. Go Raelynn!

2) Qingdao Technological University.
There are few places in this world that could possibly make the slit trench-style bathroom I encountered when we got lost on our first trip to Shanghai look more appealing. Incidentally, the slit trench looks like this:

Imagine that running continuously under a row of stalls. No flushing. So gross! And this is BETTER than the Technological University here.
When we first moved here, we walked over to this place in hopes of placing a few handwritten ads around the message boards to find me a Chinese tutor. As Raelynn was dancing on my bladder, I soon had to use the bathroom. We walked into one of the buildings and that is where I found a bathroom so beyond vile that I actually sobbed. SOBBED! It had shit on the floor but even worse than the library. It looked like animals had just been let loose in there to shit in all the corners. Given this information, you can bet it smelled as awful as it looked. If anyone was in charge of cleaning this bathroom, they obviously gave zero fucks. GOD.

1) The bathroom at the home of people who owned cherry orchards near the Huadong Vineyard.
Last May, we spent a lovely day at the Huadong Vineyard with some Chinese friends. Later in the afternoon, we went just nearby there to a cherry orchard. We got to pick cherries and sample them. It was really nice. The people who owned this property were very nice. They invited us in for tea and were crazy about Raelynn. Between the wine and the tea, I had to pee. So I asked where the bathroom was. Outside. In a concrete outhouse. The smell emitting from this place made my eyes tear up. I couldn't even bring myself to fully enter but I could see the conditions were absolutely the worst I'd ever seen. A glorified hole in the ground that was probably never cleaned since it was built. I cannot even imagine living in a place like that. I certainly couldn't even imagine going to the bathroom in it.

What's that you say? Where's MIL's bathroom? Ah, well since she updated hers last year, she's off the hook. Her bathroom isn't what smells anyway, unless you count that sorry excuse for soap they use. And so, my friends, this concludes my personal list of the 12 nastiest bathrooms in all of Qingdao. If you've got one that's not on here, please tell me about it!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A New Year's Surprise From MIL

Since my husband rushed us out of the house so quickly yesterday morning in order to visit the other relatives, I barely had a chance to eat any breakfast. And by breakfast, I mean the handful of Lay's Sour Cream and Onion chips I quickly gobbled up. Hey, that's better than nothing. If I'd gotten enough sleep the night before, perhaps I would have risen earlier and been able to make us all eggs.

Our day was so busy and if you read that last post, you know I was forced to eat lunch at my in-laws' stinky-stanky home. For dinner, we just heated up the leftovers from the big Chinese New Year dinner. So I didn't discover MIL's secret surprise for us until this morning.

A dirty, unwashed and greasy frying pan!

Unfortunately, this image I found off a Google search will have to do to illustrate it because I was just so aggravated and hungry that I didn't give a fuck (or 2 fucks, or even 3) about taking a photo. She put our frying pan away with grease and grime all over it still. She hung it where we usually hang our spatulas and other often-used cooking utensils. I also discovered a trail of greasy oil running down from where the pan had been hanging. Oh thank you, MIL! How sanitary!

Tonight, we feasted on barbecued pork, au gratin potatoes and baked beans. Because tomorrow, we'll be subjected to MIL's cooking AGAIN. I don't recall being tortured this many times during the holiday last year. Will she make her good dishes? Or will she make the kind of vomitous barf that she makes on every other day? Will she leave me more greasy goodness? Stay know I'll be documenting this.