Tuesday, February 24, 2015


It was my first day back at work after a 2-month paid vacation. Thankfully this week, we don't have any students or classes as the school has gone through a massive remodeling project. So even though we must spend the rest of the week cleaning and redecorating our classrooms and all that jazz, we don't have to be at work until 10am.

Jeremy doesn't have to be back at work yet because his company is still on holiday (many of them are) so he offered to drive me. We were enjoying breakfast as a family when MIL arrived just before 9am.

She sees what we're eating - eggs, toast with butter and jelly, and cereal with milk. We also had strawberry yogurt. Raelynn had left her container on the sofa until I'd called her over to come eat some cereal and eggs. MIL sees the cereal and instantly starts clucking with disapproval. She thinks milk is evil because it is cold. But she has no problem with cold yogurt. Well, until today.

See, my friends, today, MIL got a little payback. And it was so glorious. Regretfully, I have no photos of this because if I'd rushed off to grab my camera and started snapping photos, I think Jeremy would have been most pissed.

Remember where I said Raelynn left her yogurt? It was on the sofa. MIL, as she's busy complaining about the evils of a Western-style breakfast, pays no mind to where she sits down on the sofa. And she sits right down on - yup, you guessed it! - Raelynn's strawberry yogurt!

It squashes with a noisy crunch and splat sound. Then MIL jumps up, realizes what she's done and at least laughs at herself for being a careless cow who doesn't watch where she sits. She has a huge splotch of yogurt right in the center of her giant ass. I'm done. I cannot even stop laughing. It's all so funny from the noise to the mess which she's scrambling to clean up to Raelynn, who is now in tears and saying the most hilarious things: "My yogurt! She smushed my yogurt! Oh no! I'll never have yogurt again. My straw is gone!" On and on this commentary went. I thought for a moment I might choke to death on my own breakfast.

Even though I had to leave my sweet precious children with my in-laws today (Raelynn will come to school next week when classes start), I got to leave with a smile on my face thinking about how MIL finally got her just desserts. Or should I say just breakfasts?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Morning After

Once the smoke settles from the fireworks that were lit to celebrate the official start of the Chinese New Year the night before, you pry yourself out of bed and dress nice. Then, you take your hungover self out to visit all your older relatives. You start with the oldest and work on down to the younger ones, bringing each a gift of some kind. If you haven't yet read about last year's old people visits, better go here to check it out.

Each year, we have brought beer. It's always well-received. Chinese people sure love their beer. I can't say I blame them. MIL of course had the dumbest present of all. Well, I thought it was dumb. She would of course pick the lamest thing to give someone - a giant box of eggs. Yes, chicken eggs. They sell them in these huge, red boxes around this time of year. I think because she's a boring old lady, she has to give out a gift as dull as she is. Maybe the recipients are happy to get eggs but I suspect the beer is a much more treasured gift.

We went to pick her up from her and FIL's house, just a few blocks away. Jeremy went upstairs to get her while I waited in the car with Raelynn and Seoul. FIL had to stay at their house to receive the visitors that would come for them. MIL's 2 boxes of eggs were almost as large as our 2 cases of beer. She wound up having to ride with them on her lap in the front seat. I stifled a chuckle as she struggled to figure out the seatbelt. She has this problem EVERY time she rides in the car and Jeremy has to help her. I didn't realize seatbelts were that complicated, but there you go.

Anyway, we went to MIL's older sister's house again.
She's the one in the light pink on the left. Notice I said pink. MIL is wearing bright pink and I forget how the one in the middle wearing actual red is related to everyone. Keeping Jeremy's relatives straight is very difficult!

This year, the smog situation was much better. You could actually enjoy the view from their 19th floor apartment.

 Hello, Qingdao!

Unlike last year, Raelynn is now happy to pose for photos with the relatives. Good girl!

I kept having to restrain Seoul from trying to grab at the coffee table. It's customary to put out little snacks of fruit, nuts and seeds. Additionally, you serve tea to your guests. It's kind of nice.

After about an hour and a half, we then packed up and ventured to MIL's older brother and his wife Jumu's house. But this year, there's an exciting twist...they moved! Yes way!

See, Jumu grew up in the Taidong part of Qingdao. I've mentioned it before as it's a great place to shop. According to Jeremy, Jumu missed the Taidong area and wanted to move back. Never mind that her dumpy apartment was just 15 minutes away. In any event, now they're renting a new place. I'm not sure what they've done with the old place, which they own. Maybe they are renting it but I cannot even fathom who would be stupid or crazy enough to rent that place out. Yuck!

So, I bet you're wondering how Jumu's new place looks? Of course you are! Come see!
I'll start with the most shocking of all - they have a nice, big bathroom! A real toilet that flushes! Amazing!

 And a real sink. No bucket underneath it to catch the water. That's real plumbing!

The entry behind me isn't too bad. So much better than what they had before. You could barely get in or our without smashing into the walls.

 I believe this is a new sofa. Or new coverings for it. It was much cleaner than in their old place.

And now, feast your eyes on this! It's that special alcohol with ginseng and opium! I asked to give it a try. Jumu and her husband were happy to pour me a glass. You know I had to try it. As they poured me a glass, Jeremy explained that there was a seahorse somewhere in there. I kid you not. Still, I had to give it a whirl. Seahorse, a bunch of weird Chinese herbs and things, and supposedly opium.

How did it taste? It wasn't as bad as I was expecting. It was just a bit spicy in the way alcohol can be. How about the opium? Well, after a few sips of this stuff, I felt really pleasant and happy. I have no idea if it was caused by the opium or if it was just the alcohol (or the seahorse! aren't they happy?). Jumu kept offering me food to eat with it since Asians tend to eat food and drink at the same time. They find it odd that Westerners don't always eat while they are drinking.

Jumu also offered me cigarettes! Ha! I don't want to smoke, thank you, and even if I did, I would never ever EVER do that anywhere near my children.

Jeremy chats with a cousin of his.

Now Jeremy gives me that I-know-you're-taking-photos-for-your-blog face. I think he's still upset about that haircut.

Raelynn plays with a sliding door to a room after ingesting more candies than we'd have liked. Everyone kept giving them to her. Sigh.

Here's MIL's brother and Jeremy's cousin sitting about, drinking tea.

This mug made me laugh because of how completely far off from the real definition of "coy" it is.

Shriveled testicles? That's what I thought when Jumu set this down in front of me. But it's something much more benign. It's dried figs!

Hello, dried figs. I am so glad you're not testicles!

Raelynn's face here says it all. Remember the bad cook lady? Well, now Jumu has stolen the title of worst cook from her. The bad cook lady is in 2nd place, and MIL is now 3rd. Jumu insisted on feeding us. I had declined repeatedly, saying I wasn't hungry. And this is precisely WHY I kept declining. I had a feeling the food would be gross. I was right. Jeremy ate a few dumplings to be polite, as did I. And some of the chicken. I would not touch anything else. It's just all so nasty. You know it's inedible when MIL won't eat it. It seriously was the worst food I ever had. To top it off, crazy ol' Jumu put coins in some of the dumplings for good luck so she said to be careful eating them. She says this after I put dumplings on Raelynn's plate. Thank goodness she hadn't started eating before I cut them all open. None of them contained coins, thankfully. That's the most bizarre custom I've ever heard of here. Then again, this is Jumu we're talking about.

Finally, we get to leave and when we do, Jeremy takes us to KFC. I happily snarf down a sandwich and fries, and share a hot fudge sundae with Raelynn. We take MIL back with an extra sandwich to give FIL. But now we're being forced to go upstairs....noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I don't want to go there! Gah! Not again!

At least Jeremy had fed me KFC first or I would have been completely stabby. Now he was handing me a beer while MIL was trotting off to make gross food. But nothing could ever top the grossness Jumu served up, and for that I was grateful.

It's some meat dish with those rubbery black mushrooms and some other weird vegetable, perhaps bamboo? It wasn't too terrible but after KFC, I did not want this.

 She served a xifan which she didn't offer me. She's learned I don't want to eat it. She's also served up tofu ribbons with bits of green vegetables in it...I think it was bok choy. This was so bland this time around. I hate when she makes something that looks good like this and tastes so blah.

 And then finally, we were able to go home. Seoul needed a nap, and so did Mommy.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chinese New Year Fireworks

Trippy photo I took on CNY 2015 as the sun was giving the final salute for the evening and the fireworks were just beginning to pop.
It's been a busy few days. We rang in the official Chinese New Year and then the next day, we went around visiting with the older relatives in my husband's family. You may recall we did that last year as well. Yes, I'll be blogging about it but we've been keeping busy to keep from being sad that my folks aren't here. So sit tight...I'll get that written and posted as soon as I can.

In the meantime, you can enjoy these videos that I made of the fireworks outside our bedroom window. Enjoy the progression of noise, my inane narration as well as my progressing intoxication throughout the holiday evening!

This video is the first one I took, as things are just getting started, around 6:30pm, just after the sun set.

And here's another video I made a little while later when it was getting noisier. Thankfully this year, no one let off loud ones near our building too late. Either that or Seoul just wasn't as bothered by them as Raelynn was. Anyway, hope you enjoyed seeing what it's like outside in the night sky on Chinese New Year with me!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Happy Year Of The Sheep!

Happy Chinese New Year! It's the year of the sheep, ram or goat, depending on who you ask. The Nanfang has a great article about that one, if you're interested in learning more. I'll just go with sheep since it's what my husband first told me and what he calls himself when asked about his birth year.

So how was our celebration? Well, to be honest, I think the food last year was much better. The food during last small CNY was also better.

But this year, we put out nuts, seeds and fruit as a snack. Which is very typically Chinese thing to do. Also, we began drinking before the real food came out. Scandalous! Jeremy's parents were not keen on drinking before the food. They think it's strange to drink without eating at the same time. Oh and I found one of our last beer mugs! I'd thought all of them were destroyed by the in-laws. One survived!

Slowly, MIL adds food to the table. We don't mind the slowness of it, since it's only about 4:30pm at this point. This is some cooked beef that they serve cold. It's cooked with Chinese spices that I don't even know how to explain but that other foreigners who've been here will go, "Oh yeah, THAT beef." It's not bad but I really can't stand to eat more than a few pieces of it. I also get annoyed with this dish. Because they serve it COLD. But if I try to drink a cold glass of water or milk, or eat a cold American dish, watchout! Because it will kill me, yo!

 Gah! It's that century egg with ginger on top. I do not eat this weird fermented egg thing. I can't. It makes me gag. Plenty of other people find it delicious though. If you're one of them then good for you. I skipped this.

 Meanwhile, my husband has forced me to turn the satellite channels off and put on the Chinese cable. Boo. But wait...this is interesting...some crazy lady with an ugly dress. Also, dig on the cutesy wootsy ram digital ram in the corner. That is SUCH an Asian thing to do. It makes me want to scream.

 Speaking of things that make me want to scream, see this dress. WTF?!? All I could think of was my friend Aaron Gordon and what he'd do if he saw it. Like always, he probably heard my laughter from here.

Ok, look, I don't mean to be a bitch or anything but if you're going to dress up in a gown that resembles an overfertilized flower market from hell, leave your glasses at home. Get contacts and put them in for this one event. Or just grope around blindly. It makes you look like Old Mother Hubbard bought herself a dress from the town dump.

 More ham. Because she probably bought a giant slab of it when she shopped for the stuff she made for small CNY.

 She made la pi at Jeremy's request this year. She made it so much better last year. Seriously. This was very blah. La pi is a potato noodle and vegetable dish. It's served cold with a garlicky, peanut sauce and also has bits of ham. She did a very half-assed job on this one.

 She slopped this on the table too. Garlic sauce for that ham. Sigh.

Cabbage and jellyfish salad. Very tasty!

Also, please notice Raelynn's little fingers snatching more ham. We moved it away from her because she gobbled up so many pieces. We wanted her to eat other food as well. But of course, FIL disobeyed our wishes causing her to disregard the things we say. Urgh...

 The table is filling up fast with food now! Here's a very ugly but tasty store-bought chicken. Also served cold. Also cooked with those odd Chinese spices. I miss American seasoning on things. I was happy the breast was there though. I like white meat. My in-laws think I'm strange for that. I think THEY are strange for many reasons of course, but because under that meat you see, there are chicken feet. Blah!

 Somebody took a nice long nap so Mommy could enjoy some food and many beers before doting on her. Thanks Seoul!

 Now we have some very jumbo jumbo shrimp. They were so good!

Seoul is trying to steal things off the table while Raelynn is making some sulky face. I'm not sure why...maybe because we took the ham away?

She made abalone but instead of making a soup like she did last year, she served them like this. I didn't find them very delicious this time.

 Raelynn busts out her busted demon bunny. This thing is so much worse than I thought. FIL put batteries in for her before the dinner. It squeaks but thankfully, not too loudly. And it hops around.

You can't tell from the photo but it has a broken leg. This is how he gave it to her, incidentally. she did not break its' leg! Oh and photobomb courtesy of Jeremy's foot.

This is a soup with scallops and cucumber slices on top of a steamed egg. It sounds and looks vile but it's incredibly tasty.

 You can see the egg better in this photo. What annoyed me though was when MIL brought this out, FIL took his chopstick, stuck it into the broth and put it in Seoul's mouth. I shouted at him about it and my husband said it wasn't nice to yell at people on the holiday. Look, I let a lot of things slide from those 2 morons but sorry, he needs to wear his ass as a hat for this. He could have made her very sick! She's only 7 months old. She can't have eggs yet. Or seafood! What an idiot! Even MIL yelled at him. I did not apologize. And I won't. I can't wait to move my children away from that dangerously stupid man. MIL is incompetent too but she frightens me much less than he does.

 Just some meh-dish with pork, that weird black mushroom thing and some leafy green that's like spinach but is not actually spinach. This was like what she'd make us any other day of the week.

 Here's the head troll holding the baby. She's wearing her green vest she wore the other day. This time, she's paired it with a pink shirt. Which pisses me right off. Not because it's pink but because Chinese people constantly refer to pink as red. It. Makes. Me. INSANE. Red is the color for CNY and to wear it is lucky. When people get married, red is a lucky color too. And then they cover sewer grates and ugly things by the newlyweds' home in PINK paper. Because. They. Think. Red. And. Pink. Are. The. Same. WTF China?!? Augh! Stop it, please. I lectured my husband about the difference between pink and red. He's got 2 daughters. He NEEDS to know there is a difference between these colors.

At this point in the meal, I felt the beer was making me very full. I wanted to maximize my drunk and salute my folks who were unable to come visit us this year. So I switched to baijiu, a very strong Chinese alcohol.

Cheers, Mom & Dad! It was like they were right there at the table with us. Sort of, anyway.

 Big steamed fish time! Meal is almost over now. Fish was fabulous as always. She has never messed this one up.

 Dumplings had come out at some point while I was in our bedroom putting Seoul to sleep. Despite all the loud pops and bangs that night, she slept very well. How were the dumplings? Not bad, but not her best either.

And now, I leave you with a couple photos from bad Chinese cable TV specials. May this CNY be prosperous and wonderful for you all!