Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shanghai rocks my world.

Loved Shanghai. LOVED. I couldn't help myself from listing the ways I prefer it to Beijing (I wrote the list while I was there):

1. Less pollution, wow! What a difference.

2. Where is the traffic?! Amazed at the lack of traffic here. In Beijing, at any given time of the day, anywhere in the city, you are stuck sitting in terrible traffic.

3. Better food! Sure Beijing has good Chinese food, but I'm talking Western food.... Shanghai has much more options. I've eaten the better this week than I have in the entire 7 months I've been in China.

4. The subway is more efficient and way less crowded. You can actually take the subway at rush hour here without wanting to cry. It also goes all over the place! There are a lot of places in BJ you just can't get to from the subway, or you have a long walk from the nearest station.

5. Shanghai has real bagels! WHAT?!

6. Shanghai is cleaner than BJ.

7. Really pretty architecture, much is European influenced, in some parts of the city you can imagine you are in Paris and in others NYC.

8. Every taxi driver we came across was so nice! And in some subway stations they actually STOOD IN LINE! My friend said it was due to all the World Expo behavioral training the city's residents were recently exposed to.

OK OK I'm ragging on Beijing a little. Beijing is awesome, too. In fact, if you are a tourist, you'd probably be better of coming to Beijing if you can only see one... Beijing does have all the history! But if you were going to choose to live in one of these two cities, in my opinion, the quality of life in Shanghai is better. Just sayin'.

We had a fantastic time! Now we are back in Beijing, which is super cold right now, by the way! Today it was 15 degrees. You shouldn't have to wear 3 shirts, a sweater and a coat just to go outside... and talk about a pain in the butt - gloves and scarves and hats, and then bending down to put on boots.... such a pain! But the sky has been blue so I shouldn't really complain :) I just wish it would snow! I hate being so cold with no reward (i.e.: snow). I don't know what I am going to wear when we go to the Ice Festival in Ha'erbin this January.

Well, that's all I got. I have an apple pie baking in the oven... I highly underestimated the difficulty of making a pie crust. Betty Crocker would cry if she saw what is in my oven right now. LOL. Hopefully it tastes good.


P.S. Can you believe I only have 5 months left here?! And still don't know where we are going to end up!

P.S.x2. Check out what is waiting for me in the U.S! My new car! I debated getting such a small car but I decided it is the perfect time in my life to go for it.

I'm already picturing cruising down Pacific Coast Highway with the top down. :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Our China-tree and heading to Shanghai!

Yeah. We ran out of lights near the bottom. LOL! I swear it's not as noticeable in person, HAHA! Oh well, I think it's pretty decent for a China-tree! And my favorite ornaments are these Beijing specialty Jingtailan ornaments:

Aww Pandas!

Anyway, I'm heading out to Shanghai so I'll have some fun new pictures sometime next week! Everyone have a great week!! IF you have any Shanghai recs please share!:)

OHH... I had some awesome Black Friday scores, one which involves Rebecca Minkoff, and the other Linea Pelle.... details next week!


P.S. - it's noon right now, and 34 degrees! Hello winter!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Beijing in the fall

is so pretty! We had over 2 weeks of blue sky days... it was absolutely amazing. I knew it had to come to an end soon, and when it did, it was with a vengeance! The embassy was getting pretty funny with their air quality read-outs... instead of "hazardous" they chose "crazy bad," which was hysterical to me. Yesterday, the pollution read-outs were off the charts, so they literally had to write "beyond index." Hopefully we get some wind and it clears up!

Beijing has been really pretty in the fall and I thought I'd post a few pictures to show the change of seasons. These pics are from all over Beijing - random streets, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall at Mutianyu.

At the Forbidden City

In this picture, we wandering down a hutong and stepped in to show my parents where the cook lives for the cooking class I go to. These two women, mother and daughter, used to live in the house back to the left... they left in '62, when the daughter was just a baby. We all went back and the people currently living in the home invited us in and showed us around. It was so cool to have the opportunity to see the inside! My husband and the older woman not only spoke Chinese together, but practiced their Russian as well.

Pretty fall leaves on a random Beijing street

The Great Wall at Mutianyu

The hubby and I at my favorite park in Beijing: Beihai. See that tree? It was COLD that day!

At the market with the chef, shopping for our cooking class. Sometimes the uggs need to be worn, what can I say? They are so warm and super comfy to walk around in for me (but my feet don't really have an arch, so that may be why I find them so comfy to walk in for hours on end).

"What's this called?"

Making dumplings

Mmm the yummy Sichuan noodles we made. SO delish! 担担面


Thursday, November 11, 2010

桂林山水甲天下! Guilin and Yangshuo, Guangxi Province

How beautiful. Like something out of a movie. Definitely my favorite place in China, not a single thing disappointed me or made me think it looked better in the brochure. Before going to Guilin, we had been in Guizhou Province, one of China's poorest provinces. We didn't see a single other Westerner the entire time we were in Guizhou. When we arrived in Guilin, it was Westerners galore... but, for good reason... it was really amazing, no wonder people flock there in droves. If you are coming to China and limited on time, the Guilin area is definitely something not to be missed.

Cruising down the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo. Highly recommend - from the river is the best way to see the mountains.

Look familiar?

The view of the village we stayed in from Moon Hill

The view from our room... how amazing is that?

The night we arrived, we went in a boat alongside this cormorant fisher so we can watch him work! What they do is take a string and tie it around the cormorant's neck... that way when the bird catches fish, he can't swallow the fish... the farmer keeps the bigger fish for himself, and feeds the bird the smaller ones.

Some fishies he caught.

Yes I actually held the bird, even though birds in general scare me... hah. And yes. I was creeped out. But I did it! haha!

The next day our amazing guide took us to the village she grew up in. It was about an hour and a half boat ride away from Yangshuo. It was so amazing to be out on a part of the river where we were basically the only ones out there!

Harvesting the rice. My favorite photo.

Some village children peeking around the corner to check us out. They stayed there all day! too cute.

Our guide took us to her own parents' home... they made homemade springrolls, dumplings, and yes, snails, for us.

This is our guide's father, who was trying to teach me how to play the erhu.

This is right near where Edward Norton and Naomi Watts filmed The Painted Veil

Basically, it was really freaking awesome and I recommend it to everyone!

I also highly recommend the hotel we stayed in: The Yangshuo Village Inn, and our guide, Jessie Lu. If you want any of their contact information, let me know!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Giveaway Winner and my dress for the ball!

After counting all the comments and omitting any duplicates, there were 45 comments total. I used random.org to generate a random number... # 23!

Congratulations to one of my long-time readers, TMWAY! You've won my giveaway! I sent an e-mail to you for further details so be on the lookout for that!

In regards to the ball - thank you guys so much for commenting on which dress you think I should choose. The majority of you said the red velvet dress... so I, in typical Steph fashion (just ask my husband), went with the green dress. lol. I just couldn't get the image of Mrs. Claus out of my head with the red velvet.

After receiving the green dress, I am thrilled with it. It is beautiful in person - the stock photo truly did not do this dress justice! It's amazing! The beading detail on the shoulder is gorgeous and the fit is perfect. The green velvet is rich and luxurious looking... I couldn't be happier with my choice!

The ruching (on the right side in the picture) makes for a very flattering fit.

I'm planning to do my hair like this... large waves/curls with one side pinned back (to see the shoulder detail!)

I'll post pics after the ball. It's still not for a few weeks!

Pictures from my last trip still to come - Guizhou Province, and Guangxi (Guilin, Yangshuo).