Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Yohan Visits Shanghai

Once upon a time there was a fabulous fellow named Stanley.  Stanley got smashed by his bulletin board and now is flat.  He takes his current situation in stride by circumnavigating the world and reporting the joys of visiting new cities and countries.   His cousin, Hobart Indiana native Yohan, is also in a similar predicament.  Yohan came to visit us in Shanghai thanks to Melanie!

Flat Yohan traveled 11,751 KM or 7301.73 miles to experience life in China!  While he was here, he had a great time!

When the Yohan arrived, he was greeted by two horses who were celebrating Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year.  He realized he needed some warm clothes!  
Thankfully, his new Terra Cotta Warrior friends hooked him up with a qipao!
While he was here, Yohan noticed many doors had red signs on them.  People put these signs on the door to scare away the monster who may visit during the Spring Festival.
Yohan also had a great time seeing the many lion statues that protect various buildings.

On a nice Spring day,  Yohan visited the Jing 'An temple!  The temple is a Buddhist temple.

He had a great time watching people make wishes and throwing coins in the large incense burner in the middle of the temple grounds. 
Yohan enjoyed smelling the pink blossoms in the park. 
He also had a great time line dancing and practicing tai chi in the park!

After tai chi, he wanted to take a ride on a boat!  For 2 RMB (30 cents) his dream came true!

All of the dancing, walking, and tai chi made him very hungry, so he gobbled a bowl of noodles and mushrooms!  He did a great job using chopsticks!

He also found a new favorite food, xiaolongbao.  Xiaolongbao are soup dumplings with meatballs in them!  Be careful to suck the soup out of the top of the dumpling before you chew them.  Otherwise you may make a mess!

Yohan also had a chance to meet some students at Shanghai Daning International Elementary School!  Notice how all of the students wear uniform coats?  This is because they don't turn on the heat in the classroom!  Brrrrrrr…

If Flat Yohan were to visit us again in the winter, he would need to bring a very heavy coat so he won’t freeze.  If he were to visit us in the summer, he would need to bring a swimming suit and shorts because it gets HOT!

Everything about Shanghai is exciting!  Especially the city at night!

This is downtown Shanghai at night!  Yohan loved Shanghai! 

I hope all is well in Hobart, Indiana!!  Thanks for the visit Yohan!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Hunger Games: Shanghai

While on Chinese New Year holiday, Chris and I watched Catching Fire.  As the final credits scrolled across our TV screen, I decided I wanted to channel my inner Katniss Everdeen and test my shooting and archery abilities in Shanghai.   

Chinese gun culture is significantly different from American gun culture.  In fact, several sources have told me it is next to impossible for a civilian to get a firearm over here.   In China, you can’t purchase guns at Walmart, however kids are allowed to bring toy guns and other various toy weapons to school.   

The toy weapons were quite popular on Halloween.
Folks are allowed to shoot handguns and rifles at the East Shanghai Shooting and Archery Club.  When I found out the East Shanghai Shooting and Archery Club had a shooting range, an archery range, KTV, a bar, and more, I decided I needed to investigate.  I grabbed some of my people and headed out for our version of the Hunger Games! 

For 99RMB, I was able to shoot 10 bullets in a handgun, shoot 24 arrows at the archery range, and hang out for an hour in the game room. 

I was so surprised I was able to shoot a handgun in China.

Fortunately, the range had a shooting instructor who showed me how to hold the gun in broken English.  The range also had TV monitors in the range so I could check my accuracy.
I think it is pretty safe to say I won't be pursuing a career as an assassin anytime soon...
After shooting the handguns, we headed to the archery range.  The instructors were quite helpful and friendly! 
I preferred the bow and arrow to the handgun.  

I was actually pretty accurate when it came to archery.  However, I didn't catch the picture of my arrow that struck the target next to me.   Ooops...

After our shooting fun we headed up to the game room to check out the games.  
The KTV was not set up in small rooms.  It was more like western karaoke. 
Foosball was also available! 
If you feel the need to pound out your aggressions after shooting targets, there is a miniature Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf whack-a-mole machine.

For 99RMB, we had quite an entertaining afternoon.  If you decide to visit the range, make sure to bring a passport or photo ID (if you are local).  For information on how to get to East Shanghai Shooting and Archery Club, click here.  May the odds be ever in your favor!

Monday, February 10, 2014

MacGyver Cooking: Ranch Dressing

Many people have asked me what part of the US I am from.  While Chris and I moved from Charleston, SC, I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri.  (This is in the middle of the country for those not familiar with the US.)  Growing up in the Midwest, Ranch Dressing was a staple of my diet.  My mother would frequently serve our family iceberg lettuce salad that was topped with a cool, creamy, garlicy sauce that made eating veggies delightful!

As I grew older I learned ranch was for more than salad.  Chicken wings, potatoes, burgers, chips, and so many other foods tasted better with ranch.  I admit, I became a bit of a ranch addict.

When we moved to China, we quickly learned that ranch dressing, especially that of the Hidden Valley varietal was difficult to find.  While some Chinese branches of American restaurants, like California Pizza Kitchen and Hooters, had pretty good ranch dressing it was NOT the same as the stuff from home.  I found one brand of ranch in City Shop, but it was pretty sour.  As I was going through ranch withdrawal, I realized I had a couple of options to satisfy my ranchaholism. 
 1)   I could eat Hooters every night.  (No.)
 2)  I could have someone ship me bottles of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.  (Bottled ranch dressing always had a weird tang to it.)
 3) I could have someone ship me Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing seasoning packets and I could mix it together in Shanghai.
 4) I could make my own ranch dressing.
 5)  I could live without ranch.  (Not fun…)

Initially, Santa Claus, Chris, and my Mom provided me with ranch dressing packets.  In fact, one of the highlights of my Christmas packages from the States were packets of dressing.  When we returned to the States for our annual home trip, we made sure to stock up.  (I have to admit, nothing is better than the look on a cashier’s face when checking out of a supermarket with 30 packets of ranch dressing.)  Fortunately, we have been recently living a ranch filled existence.

I am an addict. 
Even my dogs love some ranch dressing action. However, DON'T feed your dogs my homemade ranch.  The onions could make them extremely ill!
Recently, I have been wondering if there is an easier way for expats to have access to quality ranch.  There had to way to make ranch dressing out of local ingredients.  To find an answer, I turned to Google. 

One of the first sites I saw was that of the Pioneer Woman!  She posted a great ranch-dressing recipe that used ingredients I could easily find in Shanghai!  I modified the recipe to fit my taste, and am now in homemade ranch heaven. 

I normally don’t blog about cooking because I’m a slacker in the kitchen and a lousy cook, but this recipe was too easy.  Here is how I made my ranchy dreams come true.

Here are the ingredients: a 250g container of sour cream, a small box of milk,  a middle sized container of Kewpie mayo (the recipe calls for a cup of mayo, but I find this size makes the perfect amount), 1 green onion, 1 clove of garlic, a pinch of dill, a pinch of parsley, and salt.

I started with a clove of garlic.  (Not the whole bulb, a clove.)

I minced the garlic with my mincer.  If you don't have a mincer, just use a knife or fork to make the garlic a paste.

Then I added a couple twists of sea salt.  The recipe called for 1/8 tsp. 
Then I added about 1/8th of the green onion.  If you wish, feel free to use chives instead.  

I then added a pinch of the parsley.  Feel free to add more or less.  If you are a culinary overachiever and want to save money, feel free to add fresh Italian parsley to taste.  This is what I had so it did well.
I then added a cup of mayo to the mix.  BE CAREFUL WHEN SELECTING YOUR MAYO.   I wouldn't use the sweet mayo or Miracle Whip, it messes up the flavor in my opinion.  

Then add about half of the cup (1/2 cup) of sour cream.  If you want to be healthier, light sour cream and plain greek yogurt work well also.

I then added a couple of squirts of milk from the milk in a box.  The recipe calls for a half cup of milk, but I usually like my ranch a little thicker so I will say start with a couple of splashes, then mix.  Add more milk to taste. 
I then used an immersion blender to mix it up.  If you don't have an immersion blender, just stir it up.  Again, I am a slacker in the kitchen. 
I'm obsessed with dill, so I put about 3 pinches of dill in the dressing.  Feel free to add as much or as little as you want.  Then mix again.
When you are finished, put the dressing in the fridge to chill for at least 30 min.

I think the ranch turned out well!!  Warning, if you don't like a kick to your ranch, use less onion and garlic.  
Sustainable ranch dressing IS possible in Shanghai!

Bon Appetit!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Chinese New Year 2.0

For many Chinese folks, Chinese New Year is the time of year to head home and celebrate the New Year with family and friends.   For many expats, it’s a time to take a week to explore new countries.  This year, Chris and I decided to use this time to recover from our trip to Australia and celebrate Chinese New Year in Shanghai.

Many people decorate their homes with small orange trees.  The fruit is supposed to give people luck and money for the New Year.
We also ate xiaolongbao for good luck.
Chinese New Year Shanghai is quite different from regular Shanghai.  The only sound on the street is that of fireworks being lit to scare away monsters and catch the gods’ attentions.  Except for some Western restaurants, most eating establishments are closed or run a limited menu.  The grocery stores have shortened hours.  Business pretty much screeches to a halt for a week.  If you close your eyes and forget it’s New Year, it feels kind of like a post zombie apocalypse.

The area around our apartment was quite empty for a week.
The emptiness of the city and post vacation blues made it very easy for me to feel homesick.  In an effort to combat these lonely feelings, Chris and I decided to celebrate New Year’s Day the best way we knew how: at the Yu Bazaar.  I think every person in Shanghai headed to Yu Bazaar on New Years Day!  Masses of people ventured out to see the beautiful lanterns!

Welcome to the Yu Bazaar, the place to be on Chinese New Year's Day! 
Some of the lanterns symbolized health and good fortune for the New Year!

Other lanterns told fairy tales.

The mix of lanterns and people cured my homesickness!  Click here for directions to Yu Gardens.  Xinnian Kuaile!