Friday, December 21, 2012

I'll Be Home For Christmas

Having celebrated a majority of the holidays over the past year in China, Matthew and I are beyond thrilled to be back in the States for Christmas. This blog will be quieter than usual for a few days while we eat our weights in cookies and cheese, laugh with our friends, and catch up with our families. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and we will be back to posting soon.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fashionable Favorites

Shanghai is an incredibly fashionable city. Coming from a small town where the nearest mall was thirty minutes away, I'm not the most in vogue. So in an effort to seem a little more hip (which I clearly am not), I've decided to showcase two trends which I have seen repeatedly since our arrival in Shanghai.

First up, glasses. I have a lovely set of eyes with 20/20 vision so I've never had the need for glasses. But everyone looks smarter with a pair of spectacles. You'd trust anything this girl told you, right? She's clearly pondering how to stop North Korea from launching another rocket. Or perhaps curing cancer. Regardless, she's clearly so much smarter with those frames on her face.

But here's the thing about the glasses trend. If you don't really need glasses, the lenses can be distracting and cumbersome. So for fashion's sake, the Chinese simply wear the frames. See, no lenses (and I take back everything I said about this girl looking smarter with glasses on).

The second trend to note is wearing animal adorned clothing. I know what you are thinking, "But Kristin, animal print is worn everywhere!" and this is true. But in China, they don't just wear animal print, they wear clothing that looks like animals. As in, has ears and tails.

Exhibit A

And no, that isn't a 15 year old girl rocking that tail. In Shanghai, it's perfectly acceptable for any self respecting adult to wear animal inspired clothing. See, even my cat shirt looks smarter with glasses.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Happy Holidays Giveaway

Update: This giveaway has now ended. Thank you for your entries.

I love the holiday season. Snowmen, icicles, glitter on EVERYTHING, and most importantly, presents. I obviously love to receive them, but I'm going to get all cheesy and admit that my favorite part about presents is actually giving them. I love watching someone open the gift I painstakingly picked out months ago and wrapped tightly with a bow (or if you are my sister, wrapped in prefect precision with enough tape to wrap the equator twice). So that is why I have decided that I want to give a gift to YOU. That's right YOU. To celebrate this holiday season, I am giving away a present to one lucky reader.

And in keeping with the theme of this blog, I'm going to gift this lucky someone with something I purchased at a local market, a pair of genuine fresh water pearl earrings.

How do you score this gift? Simply answer the following question in the form below: What is your favorite thing about the holiday season? For an extra entry, like our fan page on Facebook.

This giveaway is currently open to residents of the continental U.S. only. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 7, 2012

Beijing: Cloisonné Factory

Growing up, I remember seeing cloisonné in my grandmother's antique shop and admiring the bold colors and intricate details on each of the pieces. At the time, I had no idea how cloisonné was made or that I would one day be living in a country which still produces these masterpieces. So when our guide suggested we stop at the Cloisonné factory on our way back to Beijing from the Great Wall, we enthusiastically said yes. 

To make cloisonné, you start with a metal base (in this case, a copper pot).

Beijing: Cloisonne Factory

A craftsman then bends small pieces of copper wire to create a design on the surface of the metal base. By doing this, they also create small enclosures, known as cloisons (French for partitions). The enclosures are then pasted or soldered onto the metal body.

Beijing: Cloisonne Factory

Beijing: Cloisonne Factory

A glass paste or enamel of varying color is then added with an eye dropper into each of the small enclosures.

Beijing: Cloisonne Factory

Beijing: Cloisonne Factory

The item is then fired in a kiln at a relatively low temperature (around 800°C or 1470°F). The enamel often shrinks after firing, so the process is repeated several times to fill in the designs. Once this process is complete, the surface of the pot is polished until the edges of the cloisons are visible. The remaining metal is then gilded, often in gold.

Beijing: Cloisonne Factory

Beijing: Cloisonne Factory

We enjoyed our tour of the factory greatly but be warned, many tour companies make a commission off anything you buy and can therefore be quite pushy in the gift shop. We specifically booked our tour through a company that does not participate in this practice.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Beijing: The Great Wall of China

Our third day in Beijing brought us to perhaps the most iconic tourist attraction in China, the Great Wall of China. To avoid the crowds, we ventured an hour outside of Beijing to the Mutianyu section of the Wall. Here, we boarded cable cars and road to the top of the mountain. I could barely contain my enthusiasm as the Wall began to peak out from above the tree tops.

Contrary to popular belief (and what your guide will most likely tell you), you cannot see the wall from outer space. Still, the Great Wall is nothing short of impressive. My dad simply stared in awe at our surroundings for much of the time there, remarking that he never imagined he would see the Great Wall in person.Visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World was rather surreal for all of us.

After climbing endless steps and taking hundreds of photos, we prepared to leave the Great Wall. And like most things in China, even getting off the Great Wall was an opportunity for some toursity fun. So we hopped on single person bobsleds and tobogganed down the side of the mountain. Totally fun, totally unsafe, and totally worth the overpriced ticket.

To get to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, I would highly recommend hiring a guide and driver. While there are many companies which offered guided trips, I greatly enjoyed our experience with Hi-tour Travel. 

Barry Xu 
Director of Marketing 
Hi-tour International Travel Service 
Cell Phone: 13901107220
Telephone: 86-10-63961002

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend

Two weeks ago, we celebrated our first Thanksgiving in Shanghai. As I posted about previously, we are extremely fortunate to have a vast network of friends here who helped us celebrate. Over the course of one weekend, we managed to celebrate the holiday twice, attended a Swedish Christmas party, and even made our way to an Elton John concert.

Our first Thanksgiving was a small gathering, which included an Australian couple who were experiencing turkey for the first time. Or rather, experiencing good turkey for the first time. They had eaten a horribly dry, overcooked bird once before and stated that they weren't sure why anyone would choose to consume turkey ever again. After one meal of well cooked, moist turkey, I think they understood our obsession.

A little Elton John in the middle of our holiday

Our second gathering was a larger affair comprised of mostly Americans with a few Brits thrown in for good measure. The food at this dinner was divine. From my experience with holiday dinners, most families have one or two dishes which they excel at making while the rest are generally just average. But when you are coming to a potluck of expats craving holiday fare, you will no doubt put your best foot, or in the case food, forward. This meant we had juicy turkey which had been slow roasted in butter, gooey macaroni and cheese, and divinely crusty fresh rolls. Heaven I tell you. Heaven.

While we may have missed out on Black Friday shopping  and the Macy's Day parade, we certainly did not miss out on the things that really matter, good food and even better company.
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