Category Archives: Reading

Times Up


Ok, I did it, I’m done.  I left for China a year ago tomorrow (Tuesday, September 11th) and read my first book on the plane.  It was a Nora somebody book that was on a shelf in the back of the plane and the flight attendants said I could have it.  It was something like 2 or 3 of her shorter books in one and was quite fluffy.  I ended today by spending an hour and a half in Barnes and Noble reading the Tao Te Ching.  It’s 82 poems.  Ha!

It wasn’t so hard reading 52 books in 52 weeks.  I kept up without really trying most of the year.  The problem came with all the traveling this past month.  I was right on track when I left China, but then read one book in 4 weeks, which left me with 6 books to read in 2 weeks and we still had a week of company and traveling.  So what it came down to was me reading 4 books in the last 4 days.

But it’s done now and I’ll write up a complete book list for y’all in rough chronological order.  Later.  Right now I’m busy making black bean soup and resting my wimpy pregnant body.  I could never have imagined that sitting could be this uncomfortable.

Also, baby alien has the hiccups.


Goodness, gracious


Oh jeez.  I know it’s been about a month too long since I last wrote.  I’m good!  Jesse’s good, baby alien is good (actually sticking a knee in my ribs right now) and we’re attempting to settle into our awesome (and expensive) new apartment.  There are kids running around everywhere and our apartment backs up on a park-like patch of grass.  The weather in Berkeley is just as perfect as we’d imagined and all is quite well.  There are quite some characters hanging around town and it all seems a bit big city-ish to me just now.

I’m afraid I can’t write a whole bunch for another week.  I have to read 4 more books by next Tuesday to finish up my 52 books in a year thingy.  I was all caught up when I left China, but all this traveling messed me up and I have had to really buckle down the last few days.

Everything is going great, though, and I love and miss you all!

Not Toasty


Shanghai is famous (at least among the expat population) for being freakin hot and miserable over the summer and bone-chillingly cold and miserable over the winter. This means I have nearly endless (and boring) writing material about the weather. All that to say, folks! It’s cold outside! It’s been down to about 4 degrees C at night and up to, maybe, 9 C during the day. Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense to any of you back home, but it doesn’t to me, either. Jesse always computes it in his head for me. He’s not here, so you all get is the TV’s version of the weather. The real problem with this cold (which is not so cold, I know) is the same issue we had up north in Japan in winter. Houses aren’t insulated or provided with sufficient air-warming devices. Our “heater” is actually our air-conditioner, and unfortunately for it, when the weather reaches it’s typical extremes both in summer and winter, this device fails to either cool or warm up the apartment. It’s just too “breezy” in here. I can feel the air wafting in even 8 inches away from each window. Where all the pipes – be they water, fan, or AC related – exit the apartment, there are large holes in the house around them, like the workers misjudged the width of the pipe by 3 times. On the gustier days, there is literally a breeze through the apartment. So, anyway, it’s cold!

On a positive note regarding the coldness, Jesse and I have been spending more time in at night, with me cooking, rather than eating street food, so our bowels have been a little less disturbed (only a little less, though. I believe I will not be regular until we’ve been back home for a few months). Especially fortunate is the wintery, bone-padding food I’ve been making, which is adding to our bulk to keep us a bit warmer at night. Seriously, I made Alfredo sauce last night! I’m hoping all summer it will be too hot to cook or eat, so we can lose this weight. I really need to stop making dessert. In the month since we bought the (glorified toaster) oven, I’ve been industrially proving to Jesse just what I CAN do with a little butter, flour and more butter. My latest best-dinner-ever was Chicken Chili Verde and beer bread. All made with random interesting substitutes that are possible to find in China – no poblano peppers or tomatillos here. The beer bread was awesome and easy. Very yeasty and dense and I used dark brown sugar, so it was extra tasty.

I could talk about all the decadent dishes I’ve made over the past few weeks, but that’s probably only exciting for me. I have updates to make on my 52 books list but haven’t gotten around to it. I am currently reading Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld and can’t put it down, so I think I’ll go back to the book!



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~

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.