Monthly Archives: November 2007

Fall Soup


I wrote this a few weeks back to go with some pictures that are now on flickr. That orange-y soup and the picture of cheese? They go with this story

I improvised a fantastic soup the other day. I wanted something homemade, and something I could make in one (small) pan. What I really wanted was some hot soup. Not ramen, not hot and sour, not local. I wanted my mom’s potato-cheese soup. I had everything I’d need except for milk and potatoes. Our local supermarket likely wouldn’t have potatoes and they’re not everyday food here, so are a bit spendy.

There are, though…

Wait, I have to interrupt, I’m watching the most surreal thing on TV just now. It’s a game show, sort-of, and a woman was 1st challenged to hula hoop 8 hoops all lashed together while standing on a 20 foot (or so) tall podium. She did that, then, hula hooped in a large circle, hopping on one leg, and then, while hooping, picked up (off the ground) 3 razor blades and 5 nails, and now she hula hooping while also cutting out one of those Chinese cut-out-designs from red paper. It’s a butterfly. She folded the paper and cut out a string of butterflies while hula hooping folks. Every one of these activities was done to edge-of-your-seat type music. Maybe it’s a “weird talents” type show? There’s a new guy on and so far, All I can see that he can do is pour water from one glass into another. I’ll keep you posted.

There are, though, street venders selling roasted yams (or sweet potatoes) on nearly every corner in fall. So Jesse went out and got me a few of those and I went to work. Yam and Cheese soup doesn’t have the same ring, but I figured it would taste very autumn-y.

Oh my. there’s a man on TV squirting water out of his eyes and putting out candles with it. It’s coming from his tear duct that you can see there on the inside of your eye. He put out 12 pillar candles. It was…kind of gross.

OK, um, soup. You know what? I’m losing steam here with my soup story! The TV show is far more interesting, and I’ll bet if you were here next to me and I was telling you about my soup, you say “mmhm” a lot and then when I finished and said, “So what do you think?”, you’d say, “Huh? Yeah, potatoes sound great.”

So first I cut up a bit of bacon, browned that, and added some onion and garlic. It was important to let this stage brown a bit, as I wasn’t using stock and the flavor of some browned onion goes a long way. After a little, I added some cold water to the hot pan and scraped up all the brown stuff that had stuck to the bottom of the pan. I halved my roasted yams and scraped out the insides. This went in the soup. I then cut up only the skin of one half a yam and put it in the soup, because after that I realized the skin was really dirty. At home I’d have spread butter on the skin and then eaten it, but here I tossed it.

If you’re wondering about the show, some kid played the drums and sang at the same time and another did what I must assume was a comedy routine. But I think some strange stuff will be on after a commercial, because they showed a man standing in front of a row of maybe 20 small bowls with an egg yolk in each.

Can you pay attention to my story now? Uh…soup…browned…yam, right. So here’s where I stepped back and let it bubble for awhile (bubble, bubble), adding a lot of salt and pepper as they are the only spices we have so far. When it had cooked long enough that it tasted good (10 minutes?), I turned it off and added some grated “Tasty Cheese” (what? That’s what it’s called). Last in was some chopped up fresh parsley that I’d gotten on a whim for some pasta that was never made.

It was put in bowls, topped with more cheese and Jesse said it was delicious. So did I.

And the TV show must’ve ended because the news came on. I think it’s going to rain in Beijing.




I’m at the tail end of a pretty darn nasty headache this morning and that’s a relief. Yesterday was Jesse’s day off, which means it’s not a day we want to just sit around, but the longer the day went, the worse I felt. Sometimes all I want to do is lay down, but I just hate giving up and giving in. I never took anything for this headache, some stubborn part of me wants to stop relying on ibuprofin and soldier on through.

I have a little exam today, “for fun”, in my Chinese class and the competitive part of me is angry that I haven’t studied enough, don’t know the vocabulary, and won’t be the best in the class. Humph. I was having fun learning Chinese until this whole test thing. I tried studying yesterday and it was just frustrating and made my head worse. Grump.

I finished a new book this morning, Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler. It was good, absorbing, but a bit unfulfilling in the end. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was good, but it won a Pulitzer and I have to say, I’m not sure why. It didn’t seem to break new ground or smash stereotypes or even make me think a whole lot. It was a lovely story, though.

I started a new book today, the cheapest one at the store, and it’s, ta da, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants! I’m looking forward to reading a bit of nonsense, actually. I’m trying to get over my shame at reading girly books and this includes admitting when I do. So there! I’m going to update my books read list and also would like to give a shout out to Mary, Heidi and Erin, who have all said they’ll see of they read 52 books a year. I’m sure we all do.

Did you all check out those pictures linked to on flickr on that sidebar over there? I added some of Jesse and I about town, and some food pictures, including our less than spectacular “thanksgiving turkey”. There are also a few shots of that old Chinese canal town I visited.

OK, that’s all, bye~

Oh, Pumpkin Pie


Oh! Pumpkin pie, how much I love you,
yet, how unfortunate, you love me, too.
From the kitchen, you beckon to me,
delicious with a cup of coffee.
You are best the morning after,
eaten from hand tastes all the better.
Thinking of you, as a toothsome treat,
I think of watching the ocean, with dogs at my feet.

My ode to pumpkin pie, thanksgiving, and Cayucos. I have one piece left, for tomorrow morning. Delicious! Every thanksgiving, as I’m chowing on pie, I think I should make pumpkin pie more often. Then again, if I did, it wouldn’t be so special, would it.

2 Dumb 2 Use Internet


I’ve been having the darndest time with my computer lately. I think it’s so terribly infected, it makes me sad. I’m actually having a hard time completing work (the kind I’m paid for), too, which is what really makes me angry. I feel like they’ve gone out on a bit of a limb, having me work from China. Now something, either in my computer or because of the Great Firewall of China, blocks me from transferring from one document to another, a crucial part of the beginning of my work day. It means I get a slow start, trying over and over, until it suddenly does go through. By this time I’m nearly hurling my laptop across the room.

I finished Gone With the Wind and am a little flabbergasted at the ending, but it was a fantastically absorbing 1000 pages. I’m ready to read something else, though.

Jesse and I have plans for thanksgiving tomorrow. They revolve around eating a lot of starch-based foods and maybe also chicken. There will be a lot of sitting around and, hopefully, figuring out how to post a few pictures up here with my woefully bare-bones version of WordPress. Usually, there’s a simple button you push – “link picture” – put in it’s address and it pops right up. The firewall blocks WordPress now and my access to it is through a secret hole, using an address out side China or some such nonsense. Anyway, when taking this curving road through cyberspace to get here, wordpress loses all it’s handy, fancy buttons and I’m left in figure-out-html-for-yourself-land. So I’ll work on it and bring you some visual updates of China. UP NEXT!! My hair looks longer! Look how messy our apartment is! Small tourist towns in China (that cost $10 to enter) are very pretty!

Gone With the Zhouzhuang


Oh, I’ve been soooo busy and things are terribly hectic and I hardly have time to sit still for a moment.

Huh. “Yeah, right.” you say.

I can’t get my head out of Gone With the Wind. It’s like 5 books in one. I’m hardly more than halfway through and I can’t imagine how there can be another half to the story. It really makes me want to spend some time in the south and see this old America I hardly know about.

I went on a day trip this last Wednesday (despite stomach distress, but what else is new) to Zhouzhuang (no, I don’t expect the town name to ring some bell for you). It’s an old canal town that has been kept in pristine condition by tourism. It’s almost like a chinese disneyland with no rides or people in costume. There were quaint bridges, old architecture, a lot of cheap touristy goods and fair number of tourists.

I went with the visiting mother of Jesse’s boss and his wife and they were fun. We took it slow (didn’t try to go on every ride), had a leisurely lunch overlooking a canal, and took a short boat ride, very venician-style, down the canal.

This is definitely the place to bring visiting family. I’ll share some pictures to get you all excited about it once I get them off the camera.

So, how was your week?



I’ve come down with a small doozie of a cold. My head feels sort of like a throbbing balloon filled with peanut butter (I think I just came up with the weirdest analogy ever, yuck!) and I’m sore all over here and there where my lymph nodes are swollen. I left Anatomy and Physiology before we studied the lymphatic system, but I can pick out where many things are going on by the soreness in my neck, back and hips/thighs. Anyway, I’m cranky and sneezy. Jesse brought me tea in bed this morning (and I brought him coffee).

I finished “The Handmaid’s Tale” and it had an ambiguous ending, the kind you have to make for yourself. In these cases, as the optimist always will, I devise the happiest possible outcome. I remember finishing “Life of Pi” (**SPOILER** don’t continue if you plan to read it) and not even really considering that the tiger and the kid were one and the same; I guess I agreed with the storyteller (and author? I don’t remember terribly well) that it made a better (and happier) story the way it was written. I sort of thought the author was leaving it up to you to decide. After Jesse read it, he informed me that there was no deciding, the author wrote it the one way, as in “what makes a better story?”, not “what makes a better truth?”. I think all that might not make any sense, sorry, I’m a little fluffy-headed. I’ll have Jesse check that paragraph to make sure it’s somewhat coherent. (side note: Jesse’s not sure it makes sense, but, too bad, this is my head-rambling and you came to read it, so there.)

I’ve moved on to reading Gone With the Wind and, though I chose it for it’s 1000+ pages, I also think it’ll be fun to read. I think I need to make a rule for myself. No books under 400 pages; they go too fast.

Jesse and I bought the DVD set of “Desperate Housewives” the other night. It’s seasons 1, 2 and 3 all together on only 3 DVD’s from a street vendor and it looks terrible. Way too fuzzy to watch. The soundtrack, of the entire thing, is about 2 seconds ahead. It’s OK, though, we spent just over $2 on it.

Well, then, this just about gets you up to speed.

In response to Emily’s comment on the previous entry, we have gone to see one movie, it was that cook in NY movie, um, “No Reservations”, that’s it. We were the only ones laughing, but not very much because it wasn’t very funny (or that good). And, Emily, it IS expensive in Shanghai! And not too late to see Suzhou, come on over!

In response to Kathy’s, I thought Eva Luna was awesome, BUT, I liked Daughter of Fortune better. It’s one of my top books.

In response to Nordli’s many sweet (and funny – you cursed!) comments, thank you for all the lovely “hello’s”. I think a 6 month motorcycle trip around North America sounds terribly adventurous and romantic.

And Allan, hi! Happy Birthday to all and to all a good night.

Good Tuesday


I’ve nearly finished the Margaret Atwood and it’s good. I’ve had to put it aside for the day so I don’t finish it too soon. The thing that’s rough about getting really sucked in to a good book is then it’s over and you’re left with that feeling of, “What? What just happened? Where am I and why aren’t I Cambridge in the post-apocalyptic future?”

I’ve had a lovely day. It didn’t start out so hot, as I keep waking up in the morning with these awful back-of-head and neck headaches and I’m blaming it on bad posture and a new pillow. I have used the same pillow at home, taking it to Japan and Spain, for the last, oh, 10 years? I didn’t bring it here as I thought it was getting too flat. I think I was wrong. Here’s the thing, it’s old, right? But it’s feather and it smells like home. It has been so squished over the years that there’s hardly pillow left of it. It was still soft and fluffy and squishy, but crumpled up into almost nothing when under my head. I miss it.

But, about my day. Jesse and I went to breakfast, which was delightful, and then I came back home to work and was still a bit down, missing family, blargh. I got the sweetest emails from Erin and Momm and things just went up from there. Momm’s email made me laugh out loud and I had to call her right then and there so we could laugh together about her dog (who ate a bag of chocolate covered espresso beans and was cuckoo all evening) and talk about good stuff. That conversation was just exactly what I needed. I think it did her some good, too.

Then Jesse came home and we went out walking, finding small alleys, old markets and discovering what’s behind the façade of new, modern China. It’s all still back there, on side streets, in alleys, and behind apartment buildings. There were markets selling thrashing fish; crabs getting away down the street and being fetched back into the box by children. We saw a cute old man set up on the sidewalk with an ancient sewing machine (black enameled, painted with bright flowers and characters, pedal-type) taking on random people’s mending. There are also fruit and vegetable stands galore and huge piles of garbage – not quite as picturesque.

Of course, we forgot the camera again.