Sunday, June 24, 2007

Virtual Birthday Party

Yesterday we had a birthday party for my mom. We had cake and tea and sang "Happy Birthday, dear Nana". We took pictures and e-mailed them to her on the other side of the world. The kids loved it, and so did she. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Here are the kids getting ready to go for a swim...

Fun! Flattering! Frustrating! Sorta Icky!

Hi, everyone! Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I guess I've been lazy, or maybe just too busy. Probably both. I now have a fairly thriving cake business considering I've done no advertising and nothing, really, to have all these people call me for cakes! I've had two or three orders each weekend, usually due at the same time. The thing about cake in China is that they really just don't get it. Cake here, even from the "French" bakery, is flat and very bland and just not much fun. It's usually got whipped icing and glazed fruit on top - there aren't too many "decorated" cakes around. So, I made a cake for a my friend's daughter (as a gift), who then hired me to do a cake for a baby shower. After the shower I got more calls from people I don't even know. It's been really fun and quite flattering, and also pretty frustrating. Frustrating because the ingredients, the ones I can find here at least, are at least double or triple what they cost in the U.S. Most I can't even find (like cake flour...). I didn't receive the pans I carefully packed so I've been making do with sheet cakes and the one racecar cake pan my mom sent. But, really, it's forced me to be more creative, which has been fun. I like a challenge as long as I can do it : )

So, I've been busy brainstorming and preparing and decorating. The best part? Somebody else cleans up afterward! Am I awful or what?

Tim is in the U.S. this week with MY mom. Eating at MY (OK, OUR) favorite restaurants and seeing our lovely former neighbors (Hiya, Heidy!). He's also working his hinder off trying to make it a short trip so he can get back home to China. What a guy. Skype is a wonderful thing, because he can see us and we can see him so it's not quite so lonely. We all can't wait until he comes back.

Today I went shopping at an outlet where they sell all the designer samples for stores. Most items only come in one size, but they have all sorts of fancy-pants labels for dirt cheap. The only problem is you can't try anything on. China is a strange place. No place to try stuff on, you can bargain if you don't like the price, and you're never really SURE if it's the brand the tag says or if it's really the size it says it is. Also, they go absolutely gaga over children here. My friend's baby had her picture taken about 20 times (I'm not exaggerating) and lots and lots of attention. I think it was partly her beautiful blue eyes.

We went to Disneyland this past weekend, which was pretty fun. We went on just a few rides, and tried to go on another ride but it was closed. Do you want to know why it was closed down? Then I'll have to give you another reason why China is a strange place. In many parts of China, little kids don't wear diapers. They wear these open-backed pants (think of Cher in the 90's) and they just do their business wherever and whenever the urge hits them. My mom witnessed it in a restaurant and on streets here - I've only seen it a few times on the sidewalk, the mom just holds the kid out and lets it fly. So, back to Disney, right? Yeah, you guessed it. Little kid, excretion of the smelly kind, and people who walked on it and really spread it around. Icky. Stinky. Not going on THAT ride for a long, long time. We went to the hotel after that and had a ball in the hotel pool, going down the slide and playing in the water. Watched a movie and had a nice time together. The next day Tim left in a cab for the airport, and I took all three kids on a bus, on three different subways, through customs twice and onto the ferry to China. It was a tad nerve-wracking thinking about it ahead of time but it all went quite smoothly and the boys were really excellent, well-behaved and helpful.

I promise to post more pictures and keep up with this thing better in the future. My English class will be over this Friday, freeing up my time more cakes. Next week we're going to Japan so you'll hear all about Japan in the near future. All I know right now is it's supposed to be super-duper expensive. I'll let you know! In the meantime, be thankful for Huggies, be grateful for cake (eat a lot of it) and be making plans to come visit us!! (Yes, I'm talking to YOU, Alyssa, Aleah and Ariel's parents!)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

My birthday

My birthday was last Monday. Ella had a doctor's appointment so we had to go to Hong Kong that afternoon. Then, Tim and the boys were to meet us and we were going to go to Hard Rock Cafe for my birthday dinner. Our dear friends from Hong Kong had other plans, however. I was met at the ferry station, taken shopping and to the doctor appointment, and then we all met for dinner. We decided to stay on Hong Kong island rather than trying to get to Kowloon during rush hour, so my friend made reservations at a really, really nice restaurant.

We had a lovely supper in a restaurant that overlooked a huge park. If you can figure out the date of my birthday and subtract 18 years, you will hopefully be able to recall the terrible events of that day here in Asia. As we watched throughout the evening, thousands of people filled up the soccer pitches with candles as a moving and sobering reminder of the events that transpired the day I turned 21. It was a little tough explaining to the boys exactly what the people were holding vigil for and what happened that day, especially since news reports are still fuzzy. But it was also cool in a way to be a part of remembering and to hear the music and speeches and to see how many people still take it personally and keep the memory alive. Our friend explained that when the event happened, millions, literally, millions of Hong Kongese filled the streets - there was no traffic, just people marching. The whole city shut down, which is like New York City shutting down!

It's been really stormy here in southern China the past few days again. Last night there were terrible storms. Today when we went to Sea World for lunch, we saw that all the restaurants on the lower level were filled completely with dirty, muddy, nasty water up to the door transoms. We could see the tops of the table umbrellas underwater. It is so sad, because I am quite sure insurance doesn't work quite the same here for the people who own those restaurants and shops. I think if those business ever do open up again, it will be a while, if ever, before I'm comfortable eating at any of them. Cleanup will be long and tedious and done by all the sole proprietors whose source of income is right now under a bunch of sewer water. We were just at a birthday party last evening at one of these restaurants.

My cake business is picking up here on this side of the world. Today I decorated a graduation cake, which I've never done before. I'm not especially proud of the results but I do know it's going to be a tasty treat for the people who eat it. Cake here is severly lacking in texture and flavor - it's normally very flat and tasteless. I hope they appreciate the cake, at least, if not the design. The problem is that I can't make black or red icing, it just takes too much food coloring and they taste bad and the colors are still muddy-looking. I used to purchase them ready-made at the cake supply store, but can't get them here. So I am quite limited in the colors I could use (the school colors are, yes, black and red) as well as some of the equipment I used for similar cakes back home. A photo cake would have been nice, or some sugar decorations having to do with graduation. I ended up making it look like a diploma with her name on it, and then adding Chinese characters for "congratulations" "graduation" and the school name. I hope it's okay with them... Tomorrow I have a princess cake due for a little girl. I really wish I had my shaped cake pans, I could do so much more. Oh, well....