Friday, December 30, 2011

The Little Things: Static!

Beijing's air is DRY. As in no frost on car windshields and no crunchy frozen grass. As in constant chapped lips and bloody, cracked knuckles after washing a few dishes.  I was warned about this though and brought a Costco size tub of Cetaphil (if you're looking for a good lotion, it's amazing!)

What has shocked me is the static (pun intended). More than once I have felt like the embarrassed women in the Bounce commercials who can't keep her skirt from clinging to her legs as she walks down the street. Each night we are treated to an electrical show of sorts as we draw the covers over the girls and miniature bolts of lightning arc from the blanket to the bed, lighting up the dark room. I'm still surprised when I get that little prick when I test the temperature of the bath water.  And Brian exclaims almost every time he pushes his hands down hard enough to get out of bed and completes the circuit with the mattress springs. In order to turn each little prick into something that doesn't draw tears after any human contact, these little shocks, in our house, mean that the two people love each other a lot. We hope this doesn't cause too much confusion for the girls if they have a shocking encounter with a stranger.  Or think that we don't love them any more when the weather gets more humid...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Words of the Week: Candy-Candy, Person, Ubberbuddy, Ointmeal

Ointmeal (noun): a cooked breakfast made from ground or rolled oats

Ubberbuddy (pronoun): every person

Candy-Candy (noun): a stick of hard candy with a curve at one end, usually peppermint-flavored with red and white stripes

Person (noun): a small bag, pouch or case for carrying things, usually used by women**

Video Examples:

**This one, that has been said for weeks, corrected itself before I got it on video. So sad.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Maggie Cam: Christmas

Maggie cam pictures have been few lately, because we haven't gone outside much due to the cold weather. Well, and life has been crazy. But her grandparents gave her a digital camera of her own for Christmas, so hopefully, there will be more of her documentation in the near future. 

Dora's birthday cake. She's five today.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Rushes

Sending our love to you from Beijing. We hope you had a wonderful holiday and a happy new year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chinese Kitchen: Tastes of China

I was a little disappointed when I showed up for what I thought was going to be Chinese Winter Comfort Foods and found myself at Tastes of China. I had been looking forward to comfort food for weeks but got the time wrong by six hours.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Street Food: Kettlecorn

This Beijing Street Food sends its tendrils of intoxicating smell that make you turn your bicycle around in search of the sweet-salt goodness, unlike some other aromatic Beijing street food, it does not disappoint.
It comes with Chocolate or Strawberry "Smell" or Extra Sugar.

One morning after enjoying a bag of kettlecorn for dessert, Magnolia lead Kaleia on sneak expeditions to eat the leftovers. Definitely our favorite Beijing snack! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Our First Beijing Snow

Walking home from school -- pretty exciting!
It was a two hat kind of day, one for your head and one for your stuffed animals.

They found these cute guys near our house.  When I got home, the first thing out of her mouth was "Forks and Spoons!!" Brian had to explain her excitement came from these snowman appendages. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Words of the Lately: Frigate, Gark, Psy-ged, Dopdopdopdop, Freppery

Frigate* (noun) 1) a modern warship that is smaller than a destroyer 2) the first formal academic classroom based learning environment, usually composed of children of ages 3 or 4, alternate pronunciation: Pre-K
"FRIGATE 1B! FRIGATE 1B! Line up, line up! It's time to go outside!" - Teacher Magnolia, clapping her hands to get her pretend students' attention
*This word was recently changed from Cricket. 

Gark (adjective): having very little or no light
"'s a gark" - Kaleia, age 2

Psy-ged (adjective): emotionally aroused, usually shown by scrunching up ones arms close to the body, fists near the chin, quivering
"So psy-ged. I habba pack-pack. I gonna see Teacher Day-bed, Teacher Kara." - Kaleia, age 2, on the way to school

Dopdopdopdop (command): Halt

Freppery (adjective): tending or liable to cause slipping as on ice, oil, or wet surfaces

"Dopdopdopdop! Floor's freppery!" - Kaleia, age 2, copying her parent's warning to her sister

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Date!

My school was closed for Thanksgiving and the day after. Maggie and Kaleia's school didn't. So Brian and I took advantage of the "babysitting" and had our first date since August. We visited one of the art districts here in Beijing. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Street Food: Jianbing (Chinese Savory Crepes)

For weeks, I passed many of these cooking stations equipped with a hot flat griddle and attached to a  bicycle (everything in Beijing seems to be attached to a bicycle), with their delicious smells tempting me. I love crepes, but it took several colleagues recommendations before I overcame my timidity for street food and let my curiosity and stomach brave this Beijing breakfast staple. At first, I mimed my request for just a little spice. But now, I'm a regular Beijinger. I have my favorite vendor and I take the full hit of spicy goodness. Now that the weather is colder (by colder, I mean freezing!), an added bonus is the warmth this pocket of goodness provides as I walk from the subway to my bus stop.

Directions: (I've yet to try it at home, but I'd love to perfect it)

  1. A ladle full of batter is spread over the hot griddle.
  2. Then an egg is cracked on top and gently scrambled until it is set into the crepe.
  3. The best chefs sprinkle cilantro and chives on to the egg before flipping the crepe.
  4. Once flipped, hoisin, plum, chili or fermented tofu sauce is lightly painted on with a brush. I have no idea which my vendor uses. 
  5. Next, the bing -- a deep fried cracker -- is placed in the middle.
  6. Quickly, the crepe is folded around the bing, cracked with a metal spatula and scooped into a plastic bag.

Delicious, filling, and only 3.5 yuan (55 cents!).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Little Things: Wedding Photography

Yet another thing you probably won't find in a travel guide: young Chinese couples are crazy about wedding photography.  All the photos below were taken in the span of little more than an hour on a sunny September day in Chaoyang Park.  You couldn't turn a corner without stumbling upon another costumed couple or three.  Photographer friends, if business ever gets slow in North America, take note. Click "Read More" to see all the photos.

I should mention, it's not any of their actual wedding days.  Apparently they take these images well in advance to display them at their reception.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

*Red* Cup

Just after Halloween, many friends were posting on facebook about the arrival of the Red Cups. So I decided to take the longer walk to the Liangmaqiao subway station to see if they made it to Beijing.


I was surprised. Afterall, red is China's color. I got my Chai Tea stand in -- Black Tea Latte, and headed to school. 

Then, a week or so later, I headed back to my favorite local Starbucks for a pick me up. I frequent Starbucks way more here than I did at home. Partially, it is their amazing Honey Raisin Muffins. But, mostly it helps soothe homesickness. The caffeine doesn't hurt either. 

This time, the store was decked out Christmas style. When my order was complete, I was handed my Red Cup. I never really understood the craze over the Red Cups. But this year, it felt like home.

Now, if I could only get them to import some Chai Tea...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Little Things: Augmented Horticulture, Part 2

In part one, we shared how fake plastic leaves were mixed in with real ones. Fall arrived and the imposter green leaves were removed, leaving the real ones to fade to red, orange, brown and yellow. 

Then, I happened upon this.

An army of horticulture augmenters: one carefully stripping the tree of its naturally beautiful yellow fall leaves, two attaching swags of faux yellow leaves (note the neat pile above). And one to sweep up those pesky real ones. 

I suppose it does get all the clean up done at once. But for some reason it just doesn't seem right. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Trick or Treat 2011

After a week home sick, our Ladybug and Dancing Monkey were able to go to preschool just in time for their Halloween festivities.

The Ladybug's class toured around her school and our apartment complex, chanting "Halloween" and "Trick or Treat" as they marched two by two. She got five pieces of candy. After eating one at school, she decided that she had the perfect amount of candy for our family of four. She proudly presented each of us with our piece of candy from her loot when we all got home.

Our Dancing Monkey's class had a special field trip to a restaurant owned by a classmate's parents for their Halloween party. She came home pretty worn out with three fake tattoos and a blinking LED pumpkin pin.

Our Ladybug "flying" home

It has been a rough few weeks with lots of "tricks" but we're hopeful we are on an up swing and there might even be some "treats" in the near future.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chinese Kitchen: The Essentials

My first actual cooking class at the Hutong was The Essential Chinese Kitchen. We first learned about typical pantry ingredients. Tasting small dabs of different soya sauce on the back of our hand we experienced the difference in taste between light, regular, and dark varieties. We also got a lesson in the Chinese beliefs about the balance of foods based on seasons and colors as well as some of the foods affects on the body. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Liang Ge Superstars

Question: What makes Chinese people laugh?
Answer: Sponge Bob Square Pants, foreigners trying to pronounce Chinese words, and this.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Maggie Cam: Summer Palace

This week our Bellingham friend, Kelsey came to Beijing to meet up with her sister, Sara, who is teaching English in Nanjing. We joined them for a day of sightseeing at the Summer Palace. Here is Maggie's documentation. (If you are reading at Rushcapades, be sure to click "Read more" below to see all of her pictures.) Look for more pictures from the rest of us on our flickr page soon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Words of the Week: Shrockwet, Racamoni, Medium

Shrockwet (noun): a preparation of the seeds of cacao, roasted, husked and ground, often sweetened and flavored, (especially good with added sea salt)
"Mama, what's in your mouth? Shrockwet? Ahwant some!" Kaleia, age 2

Racamoni (noun): small, tubular pasta made from wheat flour
"Ganks for the racamoni, Mama.  rrYummy!" Kaleia, age 2 

Medium (noun): 1) a middle state or condition
                            2) an assembly or conference of persons for a specific purpose

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Maggie Gets a Bicycle

True to Magnolia form, she thoroughly inspects her new possession, apprehending it intellectually, prior to first use:

The less kinesthetic of our daughters, she surprised us by quickly mastering this new skill.

Zoom, zoom.

The Hutong

On the long flight to Beijing, Brian learned from our first China friend, Park, about a cool Beijing community education center and cooking school, called The Hutong. Knowing that it is one of my goals to learn to cook Chinese cuisine, Brian surprised me with my first class shortly after we moved into our apartment. 

It was a Market Tour, and while not a cooking class, it was the perfect introduction. Our teacher guided us through a local Chinese market, explaining the different sections, quizzing us on various familiar and unfamiliar produce, and suggesting common uses for foods and spices. Then she helped each of us make purchases -- a bag full of fresh produce for only a few dollars. 

Afterward, Brian and I ended up talking to one of the Hutong chefs after our tour and he invited us to a charity event later that evening. We had good food, great margaritas, and got to know some new friends. I'm looking forward to more Hutong learning, starting tomorrow with The Chinese Kitchen: The Essentials!  

The Hutong sitting room

The Hutong kitchen preparing for the charity event

Entrance to the art room and stairs to the balcony

Courtyard from above

Hutong rooftops

The Hutong upstairs patio

Fresh produce!

Familiar and unfamiliar

Peppercorns and chilies - so many great spices