Saturday, June 27, 2015

Three Years and Counting…

It’s really hard to believe three years ago, my best friend and I started an adventure halfway around the globe that completely changed my world, as I knew it. 

It is amazing how much we have changed over the last three years.
The longer Chris and I stay in Shanghai, the faster the days fly by.  I am so thankful that we have had so many incredible adventures over the last year.

After we got settled in our new place, we had a great time visiting our family in the US.

I had a great time hanging with my nieces!
After we returned from the US, I had a great time exploring the sites around Shanghai,
and meeting my husband's colleagues at Qiandaohu.

We also learned how to make my favorite Shanghainese soup dumplings.
It was back to school on September 1st.

Unfortunately I lost my voice for most of the month, so I learned about Chinese remedies.

Fortunately I recovered in time for the Color Run.

October started in a very rainy Thailand,

and ended with a school wide Halloween celebration.

In November we celebrated Chris' birthday in Guilin,

and fed some water buffalo. 
We rounded out the month with a lovely Friendsgiving!

In December, we celebrated the holiday season with lots of pictures and the return of the man in the hat!
In January, we rang in the New Year in Shanghai.
We also had some fun in Harbin,
and learned what it felt like to be frozen.
After freezing in Harbin, we defrosted in romantic Bali in February. 
After we returned, we celebrated Lunar New Year with my parents.
In April we took a quick trip to Hangzhou for Qingming.

We celebrated May Day by exploring Kyoto, Japan.

May ended with a wedding crashing, birthday celebration.

In June, another school year came to a close and I said goodbye to my fifth graders. 
Now that we are fairly certain that Shanghai has a looming expiration date, I am willing myself to focus on the original reason why I started the blog.  When I started sharing our story, I was terrified and wanted answers.  I wanted to know what I needed to do to survive living in a foreign country.  I wanted to know which places we should visit, and what I needed to thrive professionally.  Most of all, I wanted to share my adventures in Shanghai.

Stay tuned for some big updates! Thank you for another wonderful year, dear readers!

Friday, June 26, 2015

More Chocolate Fun…

My name is Anne, and I’m a chocoholic.  I embrace any opportunity to see, smell, make, or especially eat chocolate.

Now that school is out for summer, I have a little more time to explore some places that I’ve been meaning to visit.  My first field trip of the summer was to a place where I could satisfy my sweet tooth… the Zotter Chocolate Theater.

At the theater, I was able to see (and taste) how this Austrian chocolate company makes their goodies from bean to bar. 

When I first entered the theater I was warned that if I tried to pull a stunt like the founder on the wall, I would be forced to walk on the bund without cleaning my head.  According to Julia, the founder's daughter, everyone would attack me because I would look tasty. :)
The first part of the tour included a video which included info about the Zotter family, and a virtual trip to Nicaragua to see how the cocoa beans are grown.  The film also taught us the proper way to eat chocolate.  Tasters are supposed to let the chocolate melt then take a sip of air to experience all of the nodes in the candy.
After the movie Jack, a student at the British International School, took me on a tour of the plant.   The day I toured the plant, multiple students from different international schools were completing work study programs at the plant.

The tour started with a taste of a bitter cocoa bean.

Then I tried some of the processed beans.
The unsweetened chocolate syrup was extremely bitter...

...but I was able to sweeten it with a variety of sugars.
Zotter's vegan non dairy chocolate was surprisingly yummy.
I was ready to start tasting the more traditional chocolates when Jack encouraged me to taste a passion fruit lightbulb.  Apparently they will give you good ideas when you eat them.
After I nibbled on a lightbulb, I had a wonderful time smelling and guessing different ingredients the company uses in their chocolate.
I was quite excited to taste more chocolate, and make a take home treat in the mixing room!

First I selected my mold.

Then I chose a milk chocolate and caramel flavored liquid for the base of my cow.
Then I sampled and selected some goodies to add to my masterpiece.
When I finished decorating my chocolate with strawberry eyes, a passionfruit nose, and coconut fur I continued on with the tour.
After creating my candy, it was time for some serious tasting.  Chocolate dispensers lined the staircases and walls.  I was overwhelmed with the number of samples.
The crispy caramel chocolate was one of my favorites.

I was also a plan of the White Goddess.
There were signs all around the tasting room reminding us to savor the chocolate.  
After three or four samples, I was starting to get a little overwhelmed.
After sampling rounds of chocolate, it was time for a chocolate milk break.   Zotter sells chocolate bars that are specially designed for melting in warm milk.  At this point, I was starting to vibrate from the amount of chocolate I consumed.
I continued to feed my chocolate high with a trip to the amaretto nougat machine.  Zotter sells this treat in medicine syringes.  So yummy!!!
After the nougat, it was time to taste chocolate covered goodies.  The sour cherries were delicious.
Some restaurants have a sushi conveyor belts.  Zotter has a candy bar conveyor belt. 
By this time, I was one step away from hallucinating chocolate bunnies.  However, I had to try  a couple of Zotter's candy bars.  The Happy Birthday bar was DIVINE!
In case you don't eat enough chocolate on the tour, they have a gift shop with many go their products at the end.  The prices are high, but the product is good.
The tour was a lot of fun, but there are some things to consider before taking the tour.  While you eat a lot of chocolate, the tour is pricey.  (The tour costs 180 RMB per Adult plus 55 RMB for the mi-Xing-bar.)  Also, you may want to want to avoid all sweets before the tour, and plan to eat a salty meal when you wake from your post tour chocolate coma.  The tour has hundreds of combinations of chocolates and other goodies, so it is vital to take your time and PACE YOURSELF when tasting.

Have a great time in chocolate paradise!