Thursday, March 29, 2012

Things that make you go hmm...

Over the weekend, we checked out a restaurant supply store. I have no idea what Belie Clean is, but apparently it can impregnate your dishware.

We also found this insanely large pot. I have no idea who could possibly need a pot this large. Except perhaps a wicked witch who plans to boil children whole. I imagine they would fit nicely in here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tim Gunn It

I was insanely hungry for some lasagna last week. Sadly, I had trouble finding lasagna noodles and when I finally did, they were much more expensive than I cared to spend. Thankfully, my super smart husband came to my rescue. He suggested that I use wonton wrappers instead of noodles. For 3 rmb (about 50 cents), I was able to pick up an entire package of wonton wrappers.

 I layered them just like noodles and ended up with a tasty dish of comfort food. I'm just glad we could "make it work".

Monday, March 26, 2012

Out of Order

I apologize for the lack of posts last week, dear readers. I came down with a nasty bacterial infection and did not leave the bed for a few days. The resident furball did not mind this in the least, but it led to a less than exciting week for the rest of us.

What IS exciting however is that our air freight finally arrived! For the past six weeks, we have been living on the few pieces of clothing we brought in our suitcases. Of course, now that we are here, we both wished that we had packed in a significantly different manner. Oh well. I'm sure my 15 Penn State t-shirts will come in handy at some point.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bringing Your Pet to China

As you all know by now, we were fortunate enough to bring our cat with us to Shanghai. We knew that having her along for this journey would help make Shanghai feel like home. Plus, I told Matt I wasn't going unless she was. While not too hard, there were a number of steps we had to take in order to bring our favorite furball with us.

First, I should mentioned that we did contract a pet relocation company to help us figure out the logistics. While I am pretty sure we could have navigated the import process on our own, we both felt better knowing someone else was helping us along the way.

In order to bring Snowball into China, we needed two forms of paperwork: a rabies vaccination record and an international health certificate. The requirements for each of these were fairly specific. 

The rabies record was easily obtained from our usual veterinarian. Animals entering China must have received a rabies vaccination at least 30 days before your departure to China and no more than 1 year prior to entry to China. Thankfully, our cat had been to the vet in November for her usual shots and was fully covered for her rabies requirements.

We also obtained an international health certificate, which was needed by the Chinese government upon our arrival. We were provided this document by our relocation company. No more than seven days prior to leaving, we had to have Snowball examined by our vet to ensure she was in good health. Once the vet had signed our international health certificate, we sent the form to the USDA office in Albany, NY. Once the USDA had certified her certificate, they shipped the form back to us. While not a hard process, we only had a short timeline to complete this form.

There are a number of ways to actually transport your pet into China. You can ship them as air cargo, you can check them as excess baggage, or like us, you can carry your pet onto the plane. Just not in your actual luggage as my cat apparently thought.

Once we arrived in Shanghai, we had to take Snowie and the certificates to the Plant and Quarantine Office. Because we had used a relocation company, our agent took care of the quarantine fee (about 1000 RMB per animal) and had already provided copies of our information to the quarantine officials. After a quick photo shoot of us and our cat (to ensure she was returned to the proper owners), we had to leave Snowball in order to complete her mandatory quarantine. All pets are required to be quarantined for 30 days. The first 7 days are completed at a government quarantine facility. After the initial 7 days, if the animal is approved as healthy, home quarantine may be allowed for the remaining 23 days. Thankfully, the vet gave Snowball the stamp of approval to come home to us after one week. While we certainly did not love the idea of being away from her for a full week, our pet relocation company checked on her each day and reported back to us in order to let us know she was okay.

And how is Snowball doing now that her entire 30 day quarantine is up? Well, you can be the judge.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Favorite Things: Some Like It Hot

I love wine. Living in the Finger Lakes for 6 years surely has further increased my love of the rich, fermented grape juice (that really isn't an appealing description, is it?). Which is why it was totally uncharacteristic of Matthew and I to order cocktails while out to dinner last week. I have never been more glad though, because I otherwise would have missed this amazing concoction, the ThaiZeed.

Yes, that's a chili pepper inside my drink. Swoon. We had this amazing cocktail at Coconut Paradise, a Thai restaurant located not far from our apartment in the French Concession. While the food was excellent, this salty-sweet drink was by far the highlight of the meal to me. Sadly, the restaurant keeps the recipe a secret which means I won't be reproducing the ThaiZeed at home anytime soon. I guess that just means we have to go out to eat here more often!

Coconut Paradise
No.38 Fumin Rd, Jing'an District
Shanghai, China

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rain, rain, go away

Our first week in Shanghai was cold but sunny everyday. Since then, I can count the number of sunny days we have had on one hand. I asked our Mandarin instructor if it always rains this much in Shanghai. Her answer was that yes is does, as Shanghai is a rainy place. Boo. This much rain wasn't something I had bargained for.

Imagine my surprise when I cracked open Shanghai Daily this week to see an article with the headline "Longest Stretch of Grey Days in 32 Years". Another article boasted that the 20 solid days of rain we just had was "smashing a 136-year record for the longest continuous downpour". Apparently this much rain IS NOT normal. 

At least I had an excuse to rock my rain boots.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Scavenger Hunt

Every Sunday, we venture out to buy our groceries for the week. I have taken to calling these trips our grocery scavenger hunts because you never quite know where you are going to find certain items. One day, the store may carry it and the next weekend, it is no where to be found. And I may have had to visit two different international grocery stores before finding ricotta cheese this week.

In order to find the food that we want, we shop at a number of different stores. We generally start off at the Chinese grocery stores. We have one around the corner from us and we also visit Carrefour, which is about 10 minutes away. Technically, Carrefour is a French company but the store stocks mostly Chinese products with a small international section. This is where we buy water, soy sauce, fresh noodles, flour, sugar, etc. We sometimes buy produce here but I prefer the selection at the vegetable markets.

Produce section. Can you spot the fish tank?

 This is the Carrefour dried meat section. That big stack of red is dried sausages.

After the Chinese grocery, we usually stop at the vegetable market for our produce. It's similar in feel to a farmer's market. We found a stall that we like where the woman is patient with our limited Chinese and always throws some extra herbs, garlic, and hot peppers into our bag.

Our final stops are usually at the international grocery stores. We have a small one called City Shop located in the basement of our building. We usually pick up our meat here as well as hard to find items like cheese, spaghetti sauce, and spices. There is also a larger store a few blocks away called Ole. Ole has similar products to City Shop but is much larger and therefore usually carries more items. The prices are similar between the two stores so we often visit the one we happen to be near.

You can see that Ole looks a lot like grocery stores in the US, except that all of the seafood is still swimming in tanks. This took me by surprise initially, but at least you know the food is fresh!

There are many other places to shop around the city as well, but these are the places we tend to frequent. Apparently there is a Walmart as well as a place called Metro which allows you to buy in bulk like Costco. There are also numerous street vendors and markets along the road. For example, there is a fish seller near our apartment.

While certainly different than grocery shopping back home, we have managed to find most the ingredients we want thus far. And unless we are buying expensive Western ingredients like cheese, our grocery bills are usually quite small! Now I just need to get more adventurous with my cooking!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I've had a few people ask me questions about our life in Shanghai via Facebook or the comments section on this blog and it makes me realize that many of you probably have more questions you would like us to answer. So feel free to comment on this post and we promise to address whatever you want to know about us, our cat, Shanghai, or anything else that comes to mind. Except politics. Oh, and Lindsay Lohan. But otherwise, it should be fair game. Because while this blog is a journal of our life abroad, I also want to make it interesting for everyone reading.

And because my posts have been lacking in photos lately, here is a photo of Matthew with a cat. Or a lion. No, maybe it's a dragon. Actually, I'm not really sure what it is.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pizza Perfection

I know you were all dying to know how our pizza turned out. Okay, maybe not, but in case you were, here are our homemade pizza results.

Not too bad for making dough without any measuring cups, if I do say so myself. It was also much tastier than any of the pizza we have found in Shanghai thus far. So as you can see, we are eating pretty well here!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Favorite Things: Rainy edition

I'm going to start a semi regular series on this blog which features some of my favorite things about Shanghai. It may be food, it may be a product, it may be a place. But all of them will be things that make me adore my new home.  Up first, my favorite item for rainy days.

Bicycles are a commonly used method of transportation in Shanghai. However, we are currently in a very rainy part of the year here. I think it has rained for almost 3 solid weeks now. For people in the US, this would mean the end of biking, but not in Shanghai. In Shanghai, people simple cover themselves and their bike with one of my favorite things, the bike poncho. Tell me that isn't brilliant!?!?!?!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Work it out

I'm going to be honest with you, the gym situation in China is strange. I've had my fair share of culture shock in the past month, but going to the gym in Shanghai is totally unlike the gym in the US.

We have a small gym located on the first floor of our apartment building. This makes it easy to grab a quick 3 mile run in the morning or to do some simple weight lifting. Most of the time, we stick to this gym because it is convenient and suites most of our needs. But when we are in need of additional equipment or group classes, we head across the street to the Spartan Club. And that ladies and gentlemen, is where things get strange.

Last Monday, I took a pilates class. Despite the card which said the instructor was named Stephanie, she was clearly Chinese and spoke no English. That's not entirely true. She knew the word no and for an hour and a half, said it often while pointing at me. As a side note, no one uses their real names here. People often have an English name and Chinese name. So don't let names fool you into thinking the person is Western, because chances are, they have no idea what name they were given by their employer for Westerners to use when addressing them. Anyhow, back to pilates. Most fitness instructors are not certified in China. Anyone can teach a class, so I wasn't entirely sure what I had signed up for. Thankfully, it was a great class and I got a nice workout. The funny part was that I was the only person in workout clothing. The girl next to me had on a dress and tights. The person to my left wore a long winter coat during the entire class, fur trimmed hood and all. While pilates is by no means a sweaty sport, I was a little surprised to find people in their everyday clothing. But as I walked through the gym, I realized that hardly anyone is dressed in what we would consider to be gym clothing. There was an elderly woman sporting three heavy sweaters and dress pants walking on a treadmill, a girl wearing a jumper and Uggs on the stationary bike, and my personal favorite, a woman decked out in acid washed jeans and high heels taking Zumba.

This trend continued when Matthew and I headed to a cycling class last night. Once again, the instructor spoke little English yet could sing along perfectly to the many Britney Spears songs he played during class. The woman on the bike next to us wore a pair of bib overall snow pants during the entire class. I was a sweaty mess in a t-shirt and bike shorts and cannot fathom how she did not pass out or overheat by the end of the class. Another man had on jeans and a pair of combat looking boots. As if we don't already get enough stares just for being Westerners in a mainly Chinese gym, our workout clothing surely sets us apart.

The other strange thing about the gym is the locker rooms. Clipping your toenails in the sink while completely naked is totally normal here. And while I have no personal knowledge of this, apparently the hand dryers in the men's locker room get a whole lot of use by males drying off their nether regions. Don't worry though, the locker rooms aren't entirely disgusting. There are numerous signs stating that "No Spitting" is allowed.
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