Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Going to a ball! Help me pick a dress!

As a Marine Corps wife, I get the opportunity at least once a year to dress up for the annual Marine Corps Birthday Ball. It's the birthday of the corps, which was formed way back in... blah blah blahgetty blah.... all I know is I get to dress up. (OK, before people get mad, I kid, I kid. I appreciate the significance of the event.) Apparently, for the event in Beijing, they really go "all out" and it's supposed to be one of the best birthday balls, ever.

Last year, I was absolutely obsessed with a David Meister velvet cocktail dress... but I didn't want to take the plunge on the price of the dress. This year - having borrowed dresses the last 2 years (I hate having a closet full of worn-once fancy, expensive dresses) - I am buying a new one.

The dress I lusted over last year is no longer available, and would still be my first choice this year. Pictured below:

I don't know if you can tell, but the dress is velvet and is a pretty purple color. Unfortunately, it's only available on ebay, and not in my size.


The dresses up for selection this year are the following:

1. Emerald Green, One Shoulder Velvet Gown

As you can see, it's REALLY similar to last year's dress! The shoulder strap is thinner than last year, and the embellishment is smaller. Also, the color is a jewel-toned emerald green. When I zoomed in on the site, the fit looks more flattering than it does when just looking at the first picture.. (think it has to do with the picture being a little bit dark in the places that would really show you how it fits the model). I love the sort of retro feel it has. If you want to zoom to see how it fits better, click here.

2. Red, One Shoulder with Feather Velvet Gown

Again, you need to be able to look past the crazy photoshopping (why? why do they insist on doing that?!) Similar to the other dresses: one shoulder, red velvet, with feather embellishment.

Out of the two available choices, my husband prefers the emerald green. I like the red, but kind of think it's not the best color for me... and red velvet kind of makes me think of Santa Claus.. so I am leaning towards the green as well.

What do you ladies think?! I know there are a couple things about these dresses.... from what I have learned, people either love or hate one-shoulder pieces, and they either love or hate velvet. I'm obviously digging both.

Here I am again for reference:

If you've seen any dresses no more than $350 that you think would be absolutely perfect, feel free to share.

Oh and yes, I could have a dress made specifically for me here in China, but that involves way more effort than I am willing to put in.



Monday, September 27, 2010

Loving: Fall in Beijing

If you plan to visit Beijing, Fall is definitely the best season to do it! Right now, we've been having gorgeous blue-sky days, fresh air, and temps ranging from 55-75! It's been amazing. Look what I see when I look out my window right now.... gorgeous! I've loved the chance to actually open my windows and let the cool, fresh air in.

I've been so absent - bad bad bad, I know! but my in-laws have been in town and my husband and his dad went on a 20-hour hard seat train ride to Anhui Province, so I've been showing my mother in law around Beijing.... well, for the part of the time we weren't sick! My mother in law and I have had (are still having?) a run-in with a bout of food or water poisoning. Poor mother in law has to fly home today, a very long flight and not feeling her best at all.

I'll be back to posting regularly as soon as I've recovered completely.

Everyone take care, I hope everything is right in your world, and wherever you are, you are experiencing this glorious fall weather!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Exercise Accountability Update!

Hey guys! sorry I've been a little MIA. I've been a little homesick lately. Luckily my in-laws are coming next week ... and I am so happy to have some family coming! I think it's just what I need to rejuvenate myself.

Last week was my first week of this "challenge" and... it's been challenging, ha ha!! I worked out 3 days last week. Hey that's up 3 times from what I was doing before, so I'm not being too hard on myself. I did 2 weight lifting days and 1 cardio day last week. This week is going alright - I've done 2 cardio days so far and today and tomorrow I am doing weight lifting. That's the plan and I WILL work out today and tomorrow. I had a certain goal of how many days I'd lift weights and how many days I'd do cardio, and I know the reason I have been choosing cardio over weights is because of my gym. Like many places in China, there are many people working somewhere - way more than needed, so some people really don't have anything to work on. Last Friday as I was doing bicep curls at the gym, the trainer, who is not training me, was standing 3 feet away from me staring at me the entire time. Awkward! I know he probably has the best of intentions but let's face it, I'm a little antisocial sometimes and when I'm lifting weights, that is definitely one of those times.

I think I may have chosen a bad time in general to start a challenge like this - the in-laws will be here for two weeks, and in those two weeks we will be doing a lot of sightseeing and traveling! I don't know how I will workout on the road, so I might have to be a little forgiving of myself - or just count the extensive walking and hiking we will do (we are going to Huang Shan in Anhui Province).

So, let's see - that's 3 days last week and it WILL be 4 days this week. One of my readers pointed me to an article with the theory of doing things gradually - so, maybe this is how I am supposed to do it.... 3 days the first week, 4 days the next, and 5 the third week, which of course was my goal (as well as consistency).

And I leave you with the 5 things I miss most about home:

1. my dog

2. good Western food
3. driving myself everywhere instead of relying on the subway (sardines) or taxi drivers (potential attitude)
4. the ocean

5. fresh air and blue skies (see above)

.... but I also thought it would be good to think about 5 things I like about China

1. the adventure of never knowing what to expect
2. cheap massages
3. the history practically everywhere you look
4. the beautiful parks great for people watching
5. the opportunity to use my Chinese


Friday, September 3, 2010

Cooking class #2, with recipes!

My husband and I took another cooking class last weekend. The first time, we learned how to make fresh jiaozi (dumplings) and a few other cold vegetable dishes. This time, we chose a class that included a lot of meat! Braised pork, dry pepper beef, fish flavored eggplant, garlic spinach, etc. It was another amazing class and we made a lot of recipes that will be easy to make at home. I think for those of you outside of China (um, yeah. almost all of you!), the difficult part would be getting certain ingredients, but if you have a local Asian market, its definitely worth a try - because the food is easy to make, and its delicious.

#1: Canton Style Braised Ribs (广东烧排骨(shown in the picture on the left)


500g ribs

Seasoning 1:

a few pieces of sliced ginger

Seasoning 2:

dark soy sauce, 1 tbsp
light soy sauce, 2 tbsp
sugar, 2 tbsp
Chinese white wine (more than 30% alcohol), 1 tbsp


1. chop rib into section (the ribs we chopped into 2 inch pieces approx.)
2. season wok with 1 tbsp oil (canola oil is fine), add ginger, ribs, stir about 30 seconds until fragrant, and then add 200ml water.
3. add all of seasoning 2 to the wok, cover, cook over low heat for about an hour until the water is gone.

How easy is that? SIMPLE, minimal ingredients and hardly any work! And these were so amazingly delicious.

#2: Fragrant Spicy Beef (香辣牛肉


Beef, 250g


salt, 1/4 tsp
light soy sauce, 2 tsp
wine, 2 tsp
starch, 4 tsp
If meat looks dry, 1-2 tsp water


dry chilis, julienned(干辣椒) - how many you use depends on your personal preference for spiciness
sichuan pepper (these are the sichuan peppercorns 花椒), 1/2 tsp
ginger, julienned, 2 tsp
leek, 6 pieces, only the white part, julienned
coriander (we call this cilantro in the U.S., and its also known as Chinese parsley), a few pieces


sugar, 1 tsp
dark soy sauce, 2 tsp
sesame oil, 1 tsp


1. cut beef into 5cm long and chopstick thick, mix with marinade for 15 minutes.
2. Julienne all ginger, leek, and chili
3. season wok with 2 tbsp oil over high flame, turn down heat until oil is not smoking, add dry chili, sichuan peppercorns, then ginger, turn heat to high. When chili and sichuan peppers are fragrant and chili has turned a brown-red color, add the beef. Stir slowly until beef just changes color and separates, then add leek, sugar, dark soy sauce. Stir until leek is soft, turn off heat, and add coriander and sesame oil, mix, and take out.

#3. Fish Flavored Eggplant (鱼香茄子)- and no, it does not taste or smell like fish, nor is there fish in it.


Eggplant, 500g, cut into small finger sized
Minced pork, 2 tbsp (you can omit the pork, or you can even add pork strips)


3 pieces of pickled chili, minced and seeds removed (泡辣椒)pictured below

ginger, minced, 3 tbsp
garlic, 5 cloves, minced, about 2 tbsp
spring onion, 3 pieces, minced, about 4 tbsp

Seasoning 1: (add during cooking)

salt, (now follow me here...).... use 1/2 of 1/4 tsp
sugar, 5 tsp
light soy sauce, 2 tbsp
wine, 1 tbsp

Seasoning 2: (add at the end)

vinegar 1 tbsp
sesame oil 1 tsp


1. season wok with 1 tbsp oil, turn to medium low heat, add eggplant, stir until eggplant becomes soft, then take out.
2. season wok with 2 tbsp oil, low heat, add pork, stir until pork separates and changes color, add chili, ginger, garlic, and stir. Add wine and 200 ml of water.
3. Add salt, sugar, soy sauce, and add eggplant. Cover. Cook on medium low heat until the water is gone.
4. Add vinegar and mix well. Turn off heat, add sesame oil and spring onion, mix, and then take out.

YUM! Totally delicious!

The garlic spinach was sooooo good, too.... and it was simple. We just took a bunch of garlic, minced it, and threw it in a seasoned wok with oil, added the spinach, some salt, and stir fry until done.

Let me know if you try any of these things! I was told if you can't find the pickled chilis for the eggplant dish, you can use fresh red chili as a substitute.