Thursday, July 23, 2009

U-Pick Berries

Our berry-picking outings started this year as of July 13. Blueberries and blackberries are in season in the Green Acre farm right now.

Starting with blueberries:


Fresh Blueberry Muffins:

Audrey loves fresh-out-of oven muffins:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Taking a bath in the dinner hostess' house?

I have to write something about Audrey based on what happened last night.

We were invited to a dinner at a couple friend's house last night. We have never been to their house before. It happens that we all work at the same U and I am Chinese as well. I got to know the wife N via a Taiwanese neighbor. I talked to the wife a few times and never saw the husband T before. My hubby and Audrey met the wife a couple times with me, not to mention the husband.

We got to their house in a heavy rain. Audrey just woke up from the car-nap and was not active until dinner started. Over the dinner, Audrey became herself, playing peek-a-boo with a young guy cross the table, calling him Uncle, sitting on his lap, poking his face... Of course, she got very comfy with the husband T and wife N in no time, too.

After dinner, we were talking about science, career and the like. Wife N was so nice that she took Audrey to the living room that the husband T could tell us all about his vision and experience as a retired U professor.

After a while, Wife N came out asking me for a diaper because Audrey wanted to take a bath. I could not help bursting into a good laughter. Looking at Audrey's expecting and serious eyes, I went to the car to get her a diaper. We went back to our talk with our heads shaking in disbelief. Some time passed, Audrey and Wife N walked out again. I could not believe my eyes. Audrey was in a very pretty orange night dress, long to her ankle, hair neatly combed to the side. To be honest, my breath was taken by her beauty at that moment. The long hall way from the living room to the dinning room became a red carpet for Audrey. She was proudly waiting for compliment. That was so Audrey!

Audrey took a bath at our first visit to this couple's house. I could not understand how a toddler thinks. She is so unafraid of strangers. She can make herself so comfortable in such a short time. In my eyes, this is a good merit. Of course, my cautious hubby thought of the down-side of it, too. She can be easily taken away from strangers as well.

I wrote this down so that I will recall this clearly years later and tell her matter-of-factly. It is a pity that I did not take a picture of her at that moment.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The first day-trip we took - BOSHAN CAVERN

This is a stalagmite cave discovered by the local farmers when they were taking a break from their field work back in 1949. Now it has been developed into a touristic place and is being called the cavern of its own kind in China.

Almost the whole family came along. Got a tour guide and ready to go:

These are the amazing structures formed by the stalagmite:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The FISH Feast

Everybody wanted to see Audrey. One day, we went to my brother's office upon request. They cordially invited us for lunch. The lunch place was in the country side, which was famous for their fish feast. So we gladly accepted the invitation and drove to the country.

The place was amazing, designed completely as a dining island.

This feast was nothing but fish, different types of fish, the same fish cooked in different ways.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The last day of "self-quarantine" at my grandma's birthday party

Before going to the restaurant for the birthday lunch, we had a family picture taken. Audrey did not let anybody sit next to her, so you see the big gap between her and Lishan, who, I guessed, was angry at the irrational and bully Audrey.

There were two separate rooms for all the families and relatives. Traditionally, man and woman sit at separate tables at this sort of occasions. However, I had to translate for Chris and I did not want to sit at the smoky man's table, my Dad decided that two tables were grouped by generation. My grandparents are apparently not our generation, but we thought they would not do any harm to us, so we agreed to let them sit with us. Am I kidding? Why was there an empty seat? That must be the creator of the below picture. By the way, the big yellow picture or chicken scratch (Chris' definition) on that big red background is "longevity" in Chinese, just in case you wonder. And, the colors are exactly the same as our national flag. Such an auspicious sign!

Below picture was taken by me. My Dad urged us to go to my grandparents' place relatively early on the birthday. In my opinion, 10 Am was pretty darn early. However, 9:30AM, the rushing phone call already came. I barely jumped out of the shower. Anyhow, we rushed to grandparent's place. The weird thing was I felt so strange to my grandparents. In order to get acquainted quickly, I had the idea of taking some pictures of them. Grandma's smile was so precious that I had to ask her a few times before I saw this one with a small smile.

My sister hired a professional photographer. Audrey became his favorite model immediately. I have to say, quite nice shots he captured.

2nd day in China - meeting my Dad

After the KFC visit, we wandered around my parents community. It has a park next to it. Audrey missed grass, so did we. It was very sunny and quite warm, upper 80F, and perfect for a leisure walk in the park.

See, how much we were relaxed and enjoying the limited green nature there:

After about 10 minutes in the sun, we started seeking for some shade. The ally along the condos was perfect. We then walked along there. Guess whom we saw? Of course, my Dad. Since we were self-quarantining at my parents home, Dad decided to stay at my grandparents' place for about a week. In this way, he could take care of my his parents and also go get things when needed for us. Thus, up to this point, we had not seen him yet since we came to China.

From the distance, I saw Dad. I told Audrey to call "Lao Ye", grandpa in Chinese. She was then calling and running toward my Dad with two arms open. Skype, thank you! It was so cute. Dad soon saw us, too.

We were supposed to be isolated from people, see what we were doing:

Of course, Audrey had to try on Dad's "Two Legs", which are the Chinese characters written on his bike basket:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2nd day in China - escape the self-quarantine.

The second morning after we arrived at my parents' place, Chris started missing coffee, or he wanted to wake up in the morning. After all, we were very much jet lagged. Day became night and night became day to us, so it was not easy to stay sharp during the day. However, we were suggested to stay home for 7 days because Chinese party was afraid of us coming from swine flu spreading country! To us, this was a joke! Fortunately, no guards were watching us, so we escaped the house on the 2nd day.

Well, coffee is not a popular drink in China yet, especially in small cities like my home town. Thank to the successful penetration of Western fast food chains, a convenient KFC is just around the corner of my parents condo community.

Of course, KFCs are equipped with kid play area with slide, which is one of Audrey's favorites. Chris got the coffee, then Audrey started her fun time in the KFC. Certainly, mama had to play with her. So I became a kid with age below 8 for once.

The waitresses at the KFC got so excited at seeing a Chinese-American mixed baby. They took turns coming to us. One of them later handed Audrey a bunch of KFC toys. It was very nice of them.

It was very nice to get out of the house, indeed. Everybody was happy when we were leaving KFC and starting another adventure later.


Audrey is a super curious girl. She wants to do whatever other people are doing. Here is one example. She calls it Smooth, or Smoo..

Thursday, July 9, 2009

June. 7th, 2009, going to China.

Our 1st flight was at 9:35AM. Our lovely neighbor, Pasty, rang our door bell at 7:15AM as expected to take us to the airport. I just woke up Audrey and barely got her dressed. Soon, the car was loaded and we all got into the car and drove off in less than 10 minutes.

Soon, I suddenly realized that Audrey's favorite pink blanket was left behind. Hubby immediately made a U-turn and drove back home (of course, he was grumpy about my forgetfulness). Before the car was fully parked, I already ran out the car, my cell phone flung out my jacket pocket and smashed on the stone pavement. Picked up the phone and ran in and out with the blanket. OK, all set. In about 15 minutes, we were in the waiting area of the airport. We were well 1.5 hrs at the airport before the take-off.

From this point on, our journey went quite smoothly. We took advantage of Audrey being an infant to be able to board early on each flight.

It was still the H1N1 spreading period in the States, but, people were not scared at all. However, at the terminal of EWK, we saw white masked faces the moment we were near the gate to China. And they were Chinese. It was amusing to see that. They would be shielded from the virus on the plane!!! Anyhow, they felt secure, I bet.

It was a 14-hr flight from EWK to PEK. Luckily, we got the bunk head seats, just behind the business class session. We had tons of leg room and even room for Audrey to sleep on the floor. The flight was landed on time, 14:00 local time! But, we were not allowed to leave the plane yet, BECAUSE the Chinese side would send some doctors to measure our temperatures. Fortunately, the 2 little Chinese student doctors/nurses walked through the aisle pretty quickly. Even more fortunately, nobody on the plane had fever, so we were good to go.

We were ordered to go through another check point for temperature control. Lines were moving slowly and steadily. After we passed the spot, we saw some people in the temperory quarantine room on the side. We knew, they would have a long time at the airport, that is for sure.

We were debating how to go through the customs since I am Chinese and Chris and Audrey are Americans. We need to go through different ways, but Audrey was so super clingy to me that we guaranteed that she would cry loud the whole time she was with Chris. Before we figured out our perfect strategy, an officer directed us to go through the Green-Pass. Yehhh, nice to have an infant/toddler on the stroller to push along at that moment. I thanked the stroller and its cargo from the deep of my heart.

Next was to claim luggage. No problem. Immediately, one airport porter came up to us and offered help. I overheard from a lady who was about to use another porter that the help was not free. What was the matter? I did not want to lug 3 huge suitcases by ourselves. Money could help hubby's back, and mine, too. The porter was good, found out that we needed to take a bus to go to another airport. It was good to hire him.

The airport bus took us to the right domestic airport to fly to Ji'nan. After we bought an infant ticket for Audrey and checked in our luggage, we still had almost 4 more hours to kill till 18:50. Hubby was dying for coffee, so we went to the Starbucks there. A cup of coffee and a cup of tea cost nearly RMB50, wholly-molly. This was expensive, actually more expensive than in the States.

One hour before the take-off time, we walked to our gate. Audrey did not miss her chance to play in the kid play area on the way to the gate. Just 30 minutes before the scheduled take-off time, a very unwelcome announcement came to our ears: our flight was delayed by the stormy weather... Now our waiting started. People got anxious when they knew the flight was still in Ji'nan. It was not raining or stormy in Beijing at all, so the explanation came that some where in between Beijing and Ji'nan had thunder, bla, bla, all sorts of excuses. A few hours passed, nobody knew when the flight would come and take us to Ji'nan. I immediately called my parents using a Chinese's cell phone. He was very kind. I learned that my sister and brothers were already driving to the Ji'nan airport. It is only 18:00.

Audrey was playing around, running around and climbing the seats the whole time. She finally got her leg caught between chairs. I tried to get her leg out, but it seemed that her leg was thicker than the gap. How the heck did she get in there? Hubby rushed over, in vain. I ran to the counter to get help. After I came back, quite a crowd was hovering over little Audrey. Somebody shouted water could help, while I went to my bag to fish for water bottle, somebody also spit some saliva on her leg to lubricate (I knew this later when Hubby warned me not to kiss Audrey's leg). Before I found the water bottle, I heard relieved sighs. Audrey's leg came out. She came out when she kicked while Hubby tried to take off her shoe. All was good, finally.

Finally, Audrey could sit on my lap. We were eating Goldfish, all of sudden, I noticed that her head was nodding. She was falling sleep. I laid her down on the seats and let her sleep. I finally got some time to rest.

Audrey was sound sleeping on the seats at the Beijing domestic airport: (her little leg stuck in between those seats)

Around 21:00, the annocement told us to go get free dinner and drinks at the gate. We ate and then continue waiting. Numerous rumors came to us on what was happening to the flight. Of course, the agument I was sort of expected happened at some point. Some passangers were verbally complaining about the airline and practically they were yelling at the staff. Oh, it was so Chinese in that regard. I called my sister, again, borrowing other person's phone. This time was the airline staff's. Sister was still patiently waiting and they would wait till whenver...... I was so touched.

Anyhow, our flight finally came at midnight. We boarded at 00:30. Our waiting time here was a long 10 hours.

Sister and brothers were picking us up at the Ji'nan airport around 1:30 on Jun 9th, 2009. We drove home on a mad highway filled with overloaded semi. It was 3:00AM when we finally got to my parents' home, thankfully, in one whole piece.

Altogher, we took three flights and spent over 30 hours on the way.