Thursday, October 18, 2012


My sister with Grandma this summer
I feel like the title home fits well with this post as it has multiple meanings for me right now.  Home is here, in China.  I feel like this is our home.  Home is family.  Part of our hearts are always with family in the states wishing we could be closer.  Home is heaven, with Jesus.  A promise made to those who choose to follow and obey.  Home is the life we used to have (familiarity) and the life we now live (reality).  

On Sunday, my Grandma went home to be with Jesus.  She was surrounded by family as she took her final breath.  Family was there all weekend singing to her, encouraging her and spending time by her side.  I am confident that Grandma could not have asked for more and was at peace knowing her family was by her side.  It's a hard reality for us, being so far away, and not being able to jump in the car and join everyone with Grandma.  But yet, we know we are where we need to be. 

Home is here.  In China.  Today I was in a taxi driving across the city and I just kept thinking how normal it all felt.  Even though my heart is heavy and I am sad not to be with family, I feel like I am home.  There is nowhere else we're supposed to be.  This reality does not dampen the heartache of losing those we love in the states.  I think grief definitely looks different when you are half a world away, the feeling of closure isn't a reality for me.  However, I still feel the loss.  The knowledge that Grandma no longer with us and the heartache that brings.  Thankfully, no matter where I would be living, we all have great peace in knowing that Grandma loved Jesus and is now with Him.  She had a homecoming the day we experienced a goodbye.  

This week we also found out that our (former) dog Coco had to be put down.  She got into some medications and it fried her central nervous system leaving her paralyzed.  Her new family did all they could, but there was nothing left to do for her.  Reading this news was heartbreaking in so many ways.  We are sad, we know her new family is incredibly sad and the tragedy of it all is just hard to think about.  Coco was, technically speaking, no longer our dog.  However, we had her for almost three years as part of our lives.  "Home" in the states consisted of her in it.  I think it was even harder for me because over the past several weeks I have been thinking of both Coco and Nala several times, remembering their personalities and the joy of having them be part of our lives.  

Home is in China.  Home is with family.  Home is heaven.  Home is here.  This is our new reality.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Food: What I've been making

**UPDATE 10/15 - Links added in for ones I have!**

**I was going to add links to all these recipes, however our Internet is running super slow and so you are lucky you all got the link for the first one. Boo. Sorry! If it gets better in the next few days I will add the rest of them in. If you have links to any of these recipes, please leave them in the comments! Thanks.**

Yes, I thought it was time for a post about food. With all the changes in what is readily available, I've had to remake my "go to" meal list. Not a bad thing, but definitely time consuming. These days, I've taken to Pinterest to help me find simple dinners & desserts - and it has not disappointed (though I have yet to try most of those). Here's a rundown of the successful & not-so-successful recipes I've attempted...

Cheeseburger Soup. Or otherwise known as the-most-expensive-soup-I've-ever-made. Why? At the time I made this (just over 10 days in), I still hadn't found the best place to buy hamburger and ended up paying almost $10 for one pound. Yikes! Add to that, $5 for 8oz of cheese and $3 celery and you have one expensive recipe. However, I am willing to forgive myself because 1) I was desperate to make something I knew & loved and 2) it turned out excellent. 

Pasta. Seriously the easiest meal to make here. Penne and spaghetti are cheap & I can get a large can of Hunts or Del Monte pasta sauce for around $3. Just throw in some sautéed veggies & hamburger (no longer the expensive kind thankfully) and you have a meal! Sides for this have included garlic sautéed bok choy, bread, steamed asparagus, and corn on the cob. The corn was excellent, but it has since went out of season (I think, because I haven't seen it for a few weeks). However, just yesterday we found asparagus and I know there's no way that is in season here, not sure how that works.

Speaking of veggies, I buy most of mine from the supermarket (because when I'm there on the second milk run for the week it's fast and easy). However, the last few weeks I have started going around the corner to a couple of fruit & veggies stands/trucks that sell great stuff. I had to go to several different places to get exactly what I needed, but it was good produce. 

Let's see...what else...

Stewed tomatoes. Yup, I did stew my own tomatoes. Which is much cheaper than paying $4 a can. I actually have about 25 tomatoes in the fridge waiting to be stewed. I need to get on that!

Pasta casserole. Did I say pasta was easy? Well I used some of the aforementioned stewed tomatoes, some butternut squash (at least I'm pretty sure that's what is was), some onions & mushrooms and made a GIANT casserole that fed us for five days (at least). This was a "go to" in the states, however usually I use zucchini & brussel sprouts. I could not find either, so I swapped for the mushrooms & butternut squash. It worked perfectly. 

Taco salad. So easy. There's an amazing import store in Shanghai called City Shop & they deliver to Nanjing on Fridays. I got a big container of fresh greens from them for $1.50 (like two of the pre washed salads you buy packaged in the states) & found decent tortilla chips at Carrefour.  Add in a jar of salsa from City Shop and taco meat (I brought over my own seasoning) and voila - awesome taco salads. Delish.

Apple cake. It just sounds good. So yummy. I got "green" apples from the market (I don't think they were Granny Smiths, they weren't sour enough) and whipped up a yummy loaf of apple cake. It was so good! I didn't have vegetable oil & the recipe called for applesauce, so I also made applesauce and used it to also substitute for the oil. Making the applesauce was also easy. Just peeled, cored & chopped the apple and cooked it on the stove with some sugar and water and then mashed it up. Simple! Who knew? Although I was a little disappointed mine looked more brown than the yellow I saw in all the pictures of homemade applesauce on Pinterest. The cake was a huge hit with everyone. Even our Chinese friends loved it!

Meatloaf. Yup, another "go to" in the states. This one I only substituted the type of BBQ sauce I use (yes, I put BBQ sauce in my meatloaf). It was a little runny, but tasted excellent. 

Orzo with Parmesan & Basil. I think this is the Hubby's favorite side dish. It's just so yummy! I was excited to find that City Shop had orzo & I found a block of Parmesan at an import store. So happy to find Parmesan cheese! 

Cookies. So far I've made no-bake cookies & the amazing Wallace cookie.  No-bake was an easy choice before I had an oven. The Wallace cookie was made possible by a local friend having butterscotch chips at her bakery! Yay! 

So there you have it, a little run down on the yummy foods we have been eating over here. I feel like we hit our stride a few weeks ago making life a little less chaotic and cooking a little more feasible. I'm so thankful for all the helpful friends who have advised where to find things and what to look for.  There are also a few helpful blogs that have aided me so far. 

Oh, and another blessing - we got a free oven! Ok, we're just borrowing it, indefinitely. One of our friends here knew a family that went back home to the states and let her keep their oven "until they return". She doesn't use it (she's Chinese, they don't really bake) and so offered for us to have it. I'm not sure when her friends are coming back, but it sounds like they left awhile ago. The bonus is that it is the biggest size you can get here, almost full sized (one large cookie sheet fits snugly side-to-side). Extra blessing! 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chinglish Monday #3

I missed last week, but this should make up for it!

Francebeef!  One word or two?  "Beef" isn't even in the characters at the bottom of the circle.  They are the characters for the countries - Germany, Italy, USA & France (not quite in that order).  Where did it come from?  Is France always associated with beef?  Maybe it's a special dish...thoughts?  Conjectures?  

**We did not eat at this restaurant, but not because they had a mistranslated sign...**

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

If I lose my hearing, it won't be from loud music...

It will be from weekly occurrences of very loud, very long fireworks displays, like the one in the video below.  We experienced this display right outside our back gate while waiting for the bus.  It was very, very loud.  The amount of black smoke pouring through the sidewalk from the firecrackers actually had me a bit worried.  It's a little hard to see, but there are lots of flowers also on the sidewalk in the middle of the fireworks.  The people setting these off were opening a new store and fireworks are typically used in the ceremony whenever you buy something new - a new car, new store, new apartment.  I think they are also used frequently at weddings.  I've had it explained to me that fireworks are good luck and help to ward off any "evil spirits".  An interesting cultural perspective!  Although, I would guess that today many people do it because it's fun and awesome to light off fireworks - and any excuse is usually a good one.