Sunday, November 21, 2010

People In My Neighbourhood: wanna buy a cricket?

If you were an old man in China, you might wander up to Wuyi Lu (three blocks away) to check out the cricket vendor's latest offerings.  For anywhere from 1 RMB (17 cents), you can own a tiny pet that you keep in a tiny box designed specifically for crickets.  You can feed your cricket leaves, bring it out for a cricket walk around the neighbourhood in the morning (still in its box, sadly, not on a tiny leash), and, on Saturdays, you can bring it to a local market for the weekly cricket fights, in which one cricket emerges victorious, having ripped the limbs from all other crickets.

Finding this cricket stand explained why one of my neighbours' blue toque always seems to be cheeping.  He keeps his cricket and its cage tucked into the brim.

I dream of purchasing my own cricket and training it to play Debussy, a la Chester in The Cricket in Times Square.  But what should I NAME it?  Prize for the best cricket moniker.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The only way to eat French toast

People, I've invented something wonderful.  You know when you crave French toast 'cause it's comforting and also reasonably protein-rich, but you also crave reading time, 'cause it's comforting and you've recently overdone it with America's Next Top Model?


Gone are the days when your reading is interrupted by toast-cutting, and syrup gets all over your fork when you flip the page.  Behold: the French Toast Stick.  Simply stack yo' toast and hack it into strips.  Pour maple syrup into a wee dipping bowl, and SHAZAM!  You're ready to read and dip, read and dip.  You can even work the couch into the equation.  At the end, you're full of comfort food for your tummy AND your brain.  Now, that's just efficient.

My powdered sugar went moldy, but just use your imagination.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Melissa visited!

Before last week, the last time I'd seen Melissa was when I was about twelve.  We went to Sunday School together at the wonderful Garneau United Church in Edmonton, the most welcoming and diverse church community I've ever known, and where Grandma played the organ. 
So.  When Grandma and Melissa's mom discovered we're both living in China, we all made short work of planning for Melissa to come up from Macau - I'll go down there when it's time for a visa run in a few months.  It was a reunion with funness of epic proportions, and between reminisces of hymnals and Christmas pageants, we tore up the town.  Art supply shopping, gallery browsing, Bund strolling, Expo adventuring, dignitary meeting, fancy dinner eating, wine sipping, trendy bar going* - two days?  No problem. 

Highlights included:
  • Me getting attacked by a Japanese toilet in a very fancy art gallery (I admit I shouldn't have pressed all those buttons)
  • Skipping the four-hour line to the French Expo Pavilion by flashing our Canadian passports and walking haughtily through the VIP entrance
  • Narrowly missing being lit on fire along with the bar at Bar Rouge - those bartenders are showy buggers

Thanks for the good times, Melissa!  Can't wait to hit the slots in Macau.  Just kidding, Grandma.

*Cute stuff in the mail to whoever can tell me where the heck I should put dashes in that sentence.

Oh haiii, Pearl Tower

Let the Expo shenanigans begin!  That's the China pavilion behind us.
*Sip* You were saying, Minister?  
Expo is culture-sensitive.
There is a Hershey's store.  And they have Reese's.  EEE!!!  *Wiping chocolate peanut butter off face*
Vino at Glamour Bar - a definite thighlight

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rainy Saturday bliss: a simple equation


Toaster oven-scale roast chicken and veg 

Gravy, obviously

Tiny bread pudding


Friday, October 22, 2010


You know when it's tough to live in Shanghai?  When you wake up needing the kind of day where you quietly go about your tasks, listening to your iPod and, should you feel ambitious enough to cook, reflecting about what you might make for dinner later.

It's all fine if you can spend the day at home watching Seasons 1-5 of Project Runway.  (Oh, it's happened.)  But when you have stuff to do, there's just no way to do it without getting sucked in by the city's frantic pace.  I'm talking about an end-of-the-conveyer-belt-into-the-slaughterhouse kind of atmosphere.  There's noise.  There are people.  There are people's elbows.

Here are the two things that put me over the edge, and by "over," I mean, "in need of," and by "the edge," I mean "an ice cream cone to bring me down":

1.  Yup, I speak Chinese.  I went shopping for Christmas wrapping paper down on Fuzhou Lu.   

ME:  [in Mandarin] Hi, how much is this coloured crepe paper? 
VENDOR:  Three kuai [RMB].
ME:  Oh... hmm - [about to explain that I usually buy it for one kuai - which is true - but will offer him one-fifty]   
VENDOR:   [to other salesperson]: Stupid foreigners.  You can charge them anything.
ME:  I can understand everything you're saying.
VENDOR:  [ignoring me and holding up three fingers.  In English:]  TREE!  TREEEE! 
ME: [still in Mandarin]  Forget it.

2.  Um... thank you?  I took my usual Line 2 back home, crushed against a pole by the rush-hour crowd.  These women were so intimately close to my body that when they spoke, I could feel the condensation from their breath on my neck. 

WOMAN 1: This foreigner's scarf is a strange colour.  [It's mustardy yellow]
WOMAN 2: Yes.  It makes her skin look worse.
WOMAN 1: But she is nice and pale.

Let it be known that Baskin Robbins' Cookies 'n' Cream ice cream is as effective a sedative as any.  And now, back to Project Runway.