A quick reminder:
You can click on any photo to view it larger.
25 September 2015 -
I'm actually posting a current family event! I didn't think that could/would be possible considering how far behind I am in posting photos from our summer in the USA.
This morning the IST Elementary School hosted a Mid-Autumn Festival assembly celebrating this Chinese holiday.
Personally, I think this a beautiful and poetic holiday - it's about coming together and celebrating & feasting with loved ones. The moon ties into this holiday...you can find many Chinese folktales and legends that involve the moon. They even eat 月饼 Yuèbǐng (moon cakes) to honor the moon. Last year I tried making my own moon cakes using one of the wooden molds I'd purchased on Ancient Culture Street. I used chocolate hazelnut butter for the filling however that is not the traditional moon cake filling. I've tried moon cakes filled with a variety of sweet and savory (and sometimes both sweet and savory in the same cake...not good in case you're wondering!). I prefer the sweet cakes (red bean paste, strawberry or other berry flavors) over the savory ones. Here's more information on the Moon Festival.
Now, where was I??? Oh, right. The assembly!
Ava and several other grade 4 students hosted this entire elementary school assembly. She dressed for the occasion by wearing one of her qipaos.
Finally! Here's Ava's much-talked-about fan dance with her grade 4 classmates. From the looks of the rest of the assembly this might have been the only rehearsed part of the entire assembly. ;-) (It's ok, cute kids make up for any number of errors.)
Zhongqiu Kuaile! 中秋快乐！
May 2015 -
I can you - one thing I'm passionate about gardening. Growing flowers, growing vegetables, growing plants.....and trees...and, well, just gardening. And the animals and birds that come with gardening.
I have over the past three years purchased house plants from the local flower market. For example, orchids are an inexpensive treat. Some of my houseplants are still alive, some die, and some are limping along. Just because I love plants and gardening doesn't mean I'm a Master Gardener or even keep any or all of my plants alive! It does mean that I still love to keep trying and learning.
This May I decided to try and add a little bit of color to our tiny back yard. I bought hanging baskets which I crammed full with beautiful flowers (mostly Calibrachoa, aka Million Bells, geranium, petunias, marigolds) I purchased at the local flower market. *A side note: From what I can tell, it's actually amazing that any of those plant starts manage to thrive and grow considering the materials they use as starters. I don't think most people that purchase plants from the market expect them to grow/live more than a week or two. When you see a flower display in the city- take a closer look at the display. You'll notice that they don't actually plant the flowers. They keep the flowers in the plastic "pots" (more like tiny plastic bags) which I'm sure means they can change it out quickly. It also means the plants never have a chance to grow or thrive since their roots are restricted.*
Mark and I designed some very simple, (literally) rustic hanging basket stands that we had made at the local metal market. Thank you Mark for installing the stands!
Check out the nice garden area we created... I think of this lovely spot as being my Mother's Day gift. Behind the chairs I planted two hydrangeas, four rose bushes, scented geraniums, lavender, and petunias. That's not including the mint that I planted the first summer we lived in China. The mint is thriving!
The hanging baskets growing in the shade of the trampoline and a tree are loaded with coleus, wax begonias, and a few other (hopefully) shade loving flowers:
I bought these metal plant hangers at Ikea. I repotted all the flowers but kept them in individual pots for easier maintenance. I picked up a variety of flowers at the local flower market: impatiens, begonias, million bells, chrysanthemums, geranium, and salvia.
I sat outside every morning and drank my coffee outside while sitting and watching the birds flit about the houses and trees. I even observed a pair of unique woodpeckers (sure wish I could get close enough to them to take a good photo of them).
Fast forward to August/September: While our ayi (I think & I hope) tried to take care of the flowers while we were in the USA this summer- most of them died. WAAAAAH!!!! She tried replacing the flowers which was a sweet attempt. I know I should be grateful to her for doing that but they look so sad now since she planted one tiny flower per hanging basket. I feel a little sad every time I look at them. I suppose I could replant them but fall will be coming soon and the hanging baskets will be finished anyway. You know what though? Just typing this makes me re-think this...maybe I should replant those hanging baskets!
On the upside, interesting & surprising news: roses don't need much care! I planted the roses and scented geraniums next to each other and they seem to be thriving. Also, the coleus in the shaded hanging baskets are still growing by leaps and bounds.
Thank you Mark for allowing to me to indulge in my passion for flowers.
It seems that whenever Annika has a spare minute or two she's squirreled away in her room making these absolutely adorable oven-hardening clay figurines...which we call Mippets.
Here's one lovely creation...I think I'll call her Rainbow Fairy...and I think you'll see why I call her that when you see her:
Back of Rainbow Fairy Mippet:
And here is Soccer-playing Mippet she created:
Oh! That reminds me...I really need to take photos of Annika's summer mippet creations (many, if not all, of them are Harry Potter related).
I bought this can of spray oil from a reputable(ish) imported goods grocery store in Beijing. If you take a close look at these photos you'll notice that somebody (not sure who) put white tape across the word "organic". I've noticed this repeatedly in all the imported goods grocery stores I shop. (all of the cans had the same words taped out):
Now why do you suppose they do that??????
April 2015 -
Ava has been begging to make a volcano for weeks.
So, let's gather scrounge up some materials to make a papier-mâché volcano! We'll need a piece of cardboard, masking tape (or painter's tape), empty plastic water bottle, paper, flour and water. We used recycled materials or things we already owned so this was a very environmentally friendly project!
Step 1: build the frame-work for the volcano. We placed the empty bottle in the center of a square-ish piece of cardboard and attached long, narrow strips of cardboard from the edge of the lip of the bottle to the edge of the board (leaving the bottle open). If you're Ava it's best to do this while wearing pajamas:Step 2: Once the board is covered with strips of card board then cover the entire piece (except the opening) with masking tape.
Here's our taped volcano ready for the papier-mâché:
Step 3: At this point the volcano was transferred to Milla's house to receive its papier-mâché treatment. You can see the girls were busy laying strips of paper using a flour and water mixture as glue:Step 4: Transfer back to our house and let completely dry (this will take a few days).
Step 5: Second-most fun activity: paint the volcano! Ava and Milla are Official Volcano Painters:
Step 6: Let the paint dry and then comes the best part...creating the actual spewing volcano using vinegar, liquid dish soap, and baking soda. And apparently I forgot to take photos of the chemical experiments. Whoops!!!
11 April 2015 -
I've lost track of the number of times we've visited this part of Beijing! However, I do think this is the first time Mark has come with us to ogle the amusing, the beautiful, the odd, the "what the heck were they thinking?", and "so, is that what they call art these days?" artwork in the 798 Art District.
Perhaps I've mentioned this before but I think that this district occupies renovated Cultural Revolution Era (???) factories that have been transformed into unique and large art galleries. There is one small section we visited where you can see examples of the types of machines that were used in the factories. For the most part the factories are just empty shells - I wonder what stories the walls and floors could tell if they could talk?!?
We slowly browsed through a few of the art galleries as we were constrained by time. I'll admit to you - my favorite art installations weren't the ones found inside the galleries.
Even the man-hole covers are smiling at us!
It's already time to go....it's been fun!
Weeeeell, perhaps I shouldn't have waited so long to post photos!
Here are a few random-ish, wonky-ish photos from this past April that I nearly forgot about.
I'm going to start with the Bad...and go from there. We'll see where it takes us!
This lovely area is covered, and I mean COVERED, in litter, trash, filth...whatever you want to call it. This place isn't that far away from our housing complex. It just amazes me that this is okay with the people living here. And yes, I'm well aware that other countries aren't perfect (UGH! Just thinking back to spring break-up in Anchorage...it was amazing how much junk the snow could hide!). But HOLY COW this place is just trashed!Moving on now....
Why the air quotes??? (I'm sure you detected that those were air quotes, right???)
Well.... you tell me...is this snow in the photo below?
And this charming bucket of whaaaaaaaaaat the heck is that? Ummm, a big NO THANK YOU to anything with the word "semen" in it. Just say no.
27 May 2015 -
It's the Elementary Spring Show tonight!
These shows are always great fun.... especially when it comes to watching the wee little ones singing and dancing up on stage. The Nursery and Preschool ages kids just love doing their own thing which makes them absolutely hilarious to watch. We were cracking up...laughing so hard that we were crying. Whatever would we do without those precious little children????
Here is the IST Elementary Choir singing "Sunny Day":
These third graders are too cool for school....and they're superstars! (song: "Superstar" by S.H.E.)
Did you see those funky, weird pants she's wearing?? Oh my!!!
The entire elementary school singing "Wavin' Flag" by K'naan: