Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from our little China Family!  +Auntie Catherine & Uncle Justin
We hope you all have an awesome holiday! Eat lots of turkey and stuffing for us! Yummmm! 
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Halloween in November

No, we didn't celebrate Halloween in November. We did, in fact, carve pumpkins before Halloween, 2 weeks before to be exact, which that in itself is quite an accomplishment for me. Let me just set the record straight, I'm not one of those "IT" bloggers that have it all together. I quite possibly will always be behind in blogging, I'll probably blog about Christmas in February, and still have my tree up when I do it. It's a fact that I've come to live with and am okay with at this point in my life. So, alas. If you thought all the Halloween posts were over in the blog world, ring a ding ding ding (The Office, anyone?), here's another one!! 
So, you wanna know the deets to caving pumpkins in China? Well, I'm your girl. 
Now, you're gonna need the tools. Now, it should be noted that living in China forces you to be creative around the holidays. There aren't bins of pumpkin carving patterns & tools, aisles of cake mix boxes, baskets of wrapping paper or any of that awesome holiday-sort. You have to go back to the bare necessities. Thankfully, the tools needed for Jack O Lanterns are all tools you can easily find in your Chinese home. 
*I know I've said it before but I'll say it again, if you need a Pinterest designer, I'm your girl. I mean, check out that awesome cut & paste job/non matching background. It's pro fesh. 

1. A rice spoon. This is FANTASTIC for carving pumpkins. The edges of the spoon are thin enough and sharp enough to scoop out your pumpkin guts beautifully and the handle end works great for carving the face. If you don't have one of these spoons, they can be bought for a mere dollar at your local China town store. Also, they make great cereal spoons!
2. A permanent marker. In your Chinese home it probably won't be Sharpie, because those are like gold here, but any permanent marker will do. This is for drawing your pumpkin face of choice. 
3. A screwdriver set. For the rest of our Jack-o-lantern carving lives I am using a screwdriver set. These worked perfectly for carving the face! We drew on their faces, gave each child a mini screwdriver and let them poke holes all along the lines. Perfect!
4. Last but not least, a knife. No explanation needed. Except, maybe, don't let the kiddos use the big guns. **Also needed: Pumpkins & tea lights

Let's not forget the most important part, the pumpkin!! As you can see, at local markets and grocery stores they only sell the small, baking pumpkins. Though they were small, they worked great for the kids! **Qingdao tip: If you want bigger pumpkins in Qingdao, you can get them, but you'll need to take a trip to Lao Shan and buy them from local farmers. 
We started out pumpkin carving adventure with our students by letting them choose stencils from online. We printed them out, without thinking through the obvious, big stencils, small pumpkins. Instead of using the stencils on the pumpkins, we ended up using them as guidelines for drawing. **Obvious tip: Scale your stencils print outs to the size of your pumpkin, before printing. 
Their pumpkins turned out awesome! They had so much fun doing something that have never done before! It's such a joy to introduce kids to new things. They get so excited and it makes us feel like we're kids again, carving pumpkins for the first time ourselves.
Jake all night kept asking me if he could eat his pumpkin. Ha. I don't know why but he was pretty curious and set on eating it. I guess it wasn't has good as he expected. 
They were hams taking photos with their pumpkins. 
Jake's ghost Jack-o-lantern
Avril's cat
Ivy's reversible Jack-o-lantern. A face and a ghost. 
Gary's angry bird pumpkin.
Justin's skull pumpkin.
Next step, light those pumpkins up! :) The best part!
We were so proud of them on how they all turned out! And had so much fun carving pumpkins in China. It's those little things that really make the holidays feel more like home and help us appreciate those fun traditions we grew up with.

Home Sick

Lately we feel a little sad and a little lonely and honestly, we just miss home. This will be our 4th Christmas season overseas and you know, it seems like it's getting harder. I know home sickness probably comes in waves and the fact that we haven't been home in 2 years adds to those feelings, but still, we're feeling it more now than we have since being overseas. 
We miss home. We miss family. We miss the holidays. We miss being with family, comfortable, warm, laughing and safe on a family dinner night, get together or holiday. We miss just hanging out.  Our families & the BFF's we grew up with, may not know every detail of our life, but they still know us and we're safe and unconditionally loved. And we just really miss that. 
Anyways, all that to say, we miss you--you guys know who you are. Friends of old, friends who are like family and family, we miss you. And you know time away is good. It reminds you of how blessed you are, how amazing the family God has given you is, and how lucky you are to have them. 
*Also, thank you to all those friends that we have met since being overseas, and who we have now. We're so thankful to have you. Thank you. You have become family to us. You've loved us, laughed with us and shared meals with us. And we love you, too! :) Life abroad would often seem unbearable or definitely way less interesting without you.*
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Things I'll Never Understand

I'm unashamedly stealing this post idea from the lovely Erin at Living in Yellow. All credit for this clever post topic goes to her Readers.
^Why I haven't talked to this girl in years but think about her ALL the time and miss her like crazy.

How people don't like green tea lattes. They're just freaking delicious, like an Asian Thanksgiving in a cup.

How Chinese people can run away, scared of Chara when she's smiling, has her tail wagging and her tongue out while looking at them with the most innocent, playful of eyes.

How the majority of Chinese people live on such low, $300 a month, salaries.

Why the most annoying of songs never leave my head. What does the fox say, ya'll? And how exciting is it really that it is Friday?

How someone cannot like The Office. Pure comedy, right there.

I'm gonna have to agree with Erin on this one, how does someone go into Target and leave with only what they intended to buy? Did they not see the clothes section? Home decor? Office supplies? It's a mystery to me.

Why Zachary doesn't want to play with my hair every night for 2 hours plus.

How people stick to budgets. Zachary is working really hard on teaching me this one.

How I can ever not drink Starbucks every day. That might have something to do with the sticking to budgets one.

How anyone cannot think a maggot is the most disgusting thing ever.

How people can eat chicken feet. I don't understand how it's done. There's no meat on it.

Why plane tickets aren't free. I mean I guess I understand why they're not, but that would be awesome, right?

So, tell me, what don't you understand?


26th Birthday Currentlies

Today is my birthday. The big 26. I can hardly believe that it was a year ago that I wrote about my fourth of a century birthday. It feels like yesterday. On this 26th year of my life, I'm filled with joy and gratitude. The Lord is so faithful, good and loving. His grace is unending and His blessings never cease. I don't deserve it but He's just that loving and loves to lavish His children.
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Thankful that at 26 I can say I have been incredibly blessed with, 
an incredibly loving, supportive, patient (God knows we wouldn't survive without his patience!) fun and handsome husband (and so thankful for his love for the Lord)
4 grown and beautiful siblings, who are making their way in this world, in whom I'm so proud
1 little baby sister, who's full of joy and wonder and growing
8 living & healthy grandparents that are just frankly, awesome 
3  loving, hard working fathers & 2 ridiculously loving mothers
a loving and fun extended family
life long friends with babies of their own
a close circle of friends overseas
an overseas family
this blog
Christmas music playing right now. It makes my birthday feel oh, so cozy
6 Countries visited, and more to come, Lord willing
a snuggly, joyful Chara-girl dog
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I got in a taxi this morning to grab a Starbucks, because well I have to start my bday day with Starbucks :), and right before I got out Firework started playing. It was the perfect way to start this day, with an umph of "Ya! It's your birthday!" I don't particularly love Katy Perry, but I mean.... the girl did it right with this song. 
So freakin' good! 
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This week Zachary gifted me with an appointment to get my hair done. Finally! After almost 2 years, my "ombre" hair was in need of a good highlight sesh. :) He also gave me some new Mac Makeup, holla, some awesome body wash, roses and house slipper socks. He's so sweet! :) 
Go, Go, Go, Go shorty. It's your birthday. 
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This year the Lord has done some amazing things in my life. Honestly, it's amazing for me to say, but I have grown. I have changed. Just the other day a friend who I haven't seen in a while told me she could tell I was different. She said I just seemed to have "so much peace."I'm in awe of how good He is to heal me and not just leave me in my messy, broken state. In this past year I have become a person more at peace, more relaxed, less fearful and more trusting. I am less afraid of death & "evil" than I was a year ago. I trust God way more & am over all more stable in my emotions and thinking. This is miraculous for me, actually. To Him goes all the glory. 
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A friend gave me the daily devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young  for my birthday. I've been reading them each day this week. They're so encouraging and I love that they are all from Sarah's personal journal. I was really excited to read today's and had to remind my self several times this week to not look ahead to my birthday! I thought I'd share with you today's devo: 
November 16th. 
"As you look at the day before you, you see a twisted, complicated path, with branches going off in all directions. You wonder how you can possibly find your way through the maze. Then you remember the One who is with you always, holding you by your right hand. You recall My promise to guide you with My counsel, and you begin to relax. As you look again at the path ahead, you notice  that a peaceful fog has settled over it obscuring your view. You can see only a few steps in front of you, so you turn your attention more fully to Me and begin to enjoy My Presence. The fog is a protection for you, calling you back into the present moment. Although I inhabit all of space and time, you can communicate with Me only here and now. Someday the fog will no longer be necessary, for you will have learned to keep your focus on Me and on the path just ahead of you. Psalm 73: 23-24 ; 1 Corinthians 13:12."
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Thank you Reader. Thank you for all your comments and page views. They encourage me each and every day. I love that I have this place that I can go and share the common-stuff of life and even the difficult or more serious stuff, and know that there will be someone, somewhere, laughing, nodding their head in agreement, thinking of me or praying for me. Thank you for all your love and support by reading this little ole' blog and thinking that my words are worth a little time in your day. I'm honored and extremely thankful. 
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Thank you, Lord. Thank you for this life you've given me. Help me to live it well, for your glory. Help me to trust you with this life & body you've entrusted to me. Make me more like your son, Jesus. I love, love, love you! I praise you for who you have made me to be. I praise you for my gifts and talents. I praise you for the love you fill my heart with, the compassion and passion. I praise you for my curly hair and big smile. Use them for your glory, Father. I pray in this 26th year of life, that I'd grow even closer to you & know more and more each day your love for me and this world. 
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Harry Potter Murder Mystery: The Suspects

Hey friends! If you know us, you'll know that Zachary and I love Harry Potter. We spent the first year of marriage on the couch, sipping wine, and reading all 7 books aloud to each other. It was awesome and super romantic. We can't wait to read them with our kids one day. The Harry Potter movies are still on a pretty continuous repeat in our house. We each have our favorite, me, The Goblet of Fire, him, The Prisoner of Azkaban, but we love them all. They are feel good, happy movies for us. With our love of Harry Potter, we decided that of course, we needed to have a Harry Potter themed Murder Mystery party. It was awesome and so, so very much fun! I can't wait to share with you guys, through several posts, all the details of it, and where you can print out for FREE (heck, yes!) all that you need to have your own Harry Potter themed murder mystery party! 

Today, let me introduce you to the cast of Characters! The first step in the process of having a murder mystery party is picking a script, assigning characters and sending the invites! I sent each person an invitation to the party and what character they would be playing, with details about their characters thoughts, attitude and quirks. 
As the host, I played Professor McGonagall. My attire included glasses, a stern look, a black velvet hat, and McGonagall's trademark emerald green. 
Zachary played the unamused, shady Professor Snape. His attire included all black, with a black cape, and Snape's trademarked black stringy hair. 
Catherine played Bellatrix Lestrange with crazy hair, dark makeup, black leather and black drapey clothes.
Warren played a remarkably close Gilderoy Lockhart, with his blonde locks and purple cape.
Nicole played Ginny Weasley and made sure to carry Tom Riddle's Diary.
Eric played a brooding Harry Potter, with black dress robes, a Gryffondor scarf and his famous scar.
Rosana played Luna Lovedgood with some fun clothes, a fun head band and kept her long blond hair free.
Angie played a fabulous Rita Skeeter in all green, kitten heels, glasses and a quill.
Trent played Ronald Weasley with a confused look, and loosely fitted dress clothes.
Justin played a dark haired Draco Malfoy with smart clothes and his hair slicked.
Kate played Hermione Granger with a cardigan, white button up, Gryffondor scarf, and of course, a text book.
Abigail played Mundungus Fletcher, a guy. She did a great job playing this shady character by throwing on scarves, a hat and a flannel top. 

There you have it. The list of suspects, a.k.a. our totally awesome friends who went all out and did fantastic jobs playing their characters!

Next up: The Setting. <I am so very excited to post about this! It was, of course, my favorite part! The decorations and ambiance!

Have you ever had a Murder Mystery night? What was your theme? 


I gained 20 lbs in Asia

Gaining Weight??

That's right. I gained 20 pounds while living in Asia. I'll wait for the gasps. Gasp. I know. In the land of the skinnies, this girl gained 20 lbs, a whole Chinese 5 year old or something.

How did I do it? How did I do the impossible? Did I eat a Chinese 5 year old? Did I eat all of my coworkers lunches every day?

Well no, no I didn't. Let me let you in on my 5 point, how to gain 20 pounds in Asia, secrets.

1. Get a full time, 40+ hour a week job, teaching grade 1, 2 and 3. This will ensure that you are extra, super tired at the end of the day, leaving you no time to work out and little time to cook healthy.

2. Get a cold or sinus infection once a month for 2 weeks, further disabling you from starting any healthy routines. Because of those 240+ kids mentioned above, that are just swarming with the creepy crawlies, you'll most likely get sick atleast once a month.

3. Develop an anxiety disorder and have your first panic attack while working out. This will help keep you in that "no working out" for a year+ mindset that you really need to pack on the pounds.

4.  Develop a Starbucks' Green Tea Latte with whip cream addiction. Wait until your husband goes out of town for a week, so you're extra mopey, and in need of comfort foods. Since he's out of town this also prevents him from putting boundaries on your Starbucks spending, which allows you to really drink all the green tea lattes you want. Don't even worry about getting nonfat milk and sugar free syrup, I tried that every time, and here I am 20 pounds heavier. On second thought, do get the nonfat milk and sugar free syrup, because if not maybe you'll be writing a how to gain 25 pounds in Asia post. Continue this green tea latte habit for a whole year.

5. Get a real paycheck & live around super awesome Western food restaurants while living in Asia. A real paycheck enables you to actually eat at the super awesome Western food resturants and the super awesome Western food resturants will enable you to eat fattening Western food when ever you want. The "in Asia" part is also really important because that small little clause will put you in a weird mindset where you think eating burgers and french fries is the thing to do because supposedly you can't get them in Asia, and well, if you can't get them, you better eat them when you can, even though you never ate them or were interested in them in America.

And as a bonus,
Go gluten free for 4 months and then eat gluten for a whole week. This will give you a good 5 lbs, to add to the 20 goal.

And there you have it. My 5+ secrets, my herbs and spices if you will, of gaining 20 pounds while in Asia.

If you are interested in how to loose 20 pounds in Asia, just do the opposite of all the above, and you'll be good to go.

**If you're a 40+ hour a week workin', surrounded by kids doin', paycheck gettin', once a month sicklin', nonfat sugar free green tea latte drinkin', kind of girl and still managing to not gain 20 pounds, please, please for the love of this post and all it's snark, keep your comments to yourself, but please, please for the love of these thighs, email me all your secrets-I'll be sure to include them in my upcoming "how to loose" posts!**  


Chinese Flea Market

A few weeks ago Zachary and I joined an impromptu trip to the flea market. It was the last day for 3 weeks that it would be open, so we jumped on board, excited for a chance to  buy things photograph things.  Let me just tell you that if you add "Chinese" to anything, it's a picture worthy moment. (Not racist, it's just Chinese malls, food shops, beaches, events, etc. are so different from our malls, food shops, events, etc. Therefore, picture worthy and interesting. :) )  So, a Chinese Flea Market sounded like a good time to take out the camera. (Or borrow the camera of a friend, because yours is at home, time. Same diff.)
Ella and I on the way to the flea market! Ella was excited. Cheap toys and a date with her dad?! Heck yes!
Ella caught the memo about bring a camera, so she was sure to bring her trusty pink Vtech.
Sweet Potatoes. LOVE this street food. You can guarantee where there is street food for sale, this healthy, non-rat meat, snack will be there! It's a safe food as far as street food goes. They say to take off the skin, but I eat it anyways. I can't help it. It's just so delicious and full of vitamins!
Another delicious and healthy street food often available in China-melon on a stick! Loooove it.
A not so safe street food, dead meat carcasses! Don't those hanging carcasses just call you to come on over and buy some meat? I mean I don't know how we ever resist! As a side note that doesn't fit in to the crass, Chinese BBQ meat is actually delicious. It's hot off the grill and seasoned deliciously! And the meat carcasses hanging are actually to show customers that they in fact sale the meat they advertise, because I mean look, there's the carcass we cut it off of. As you can see this grill is ran by Chinese Muslims. This is also a good sign that the meat is clean because they must cut and treat the meat with Halal standards.
At the entrance to the market, the kids toys were already out. Ella was really wanting these cheap robotic dog toys!
Tons of Chinese style jewelry, coins and Buddhist prayer beads for sale.
There were tons of blankets laid out of books. Too bad we can't read Chinese! There was bound to be a good book in there somewhere.
You can buy anything at the market, as any good Flea market ensures. This blanket hosted all that Hepatitis & Tetanus  infested goodness. Need an old razor blade, scissors, pocket knife, food peeler, used knife? This is the place for you!
The flea market is set up in a dried riverbed and extends over a mile long. It starts with used cars, shoes & clothes, tools, & house goods, and moves into plants, foods, spices, kitchen supplies and pets. You can find almost anything there. No joke, I even saw multiple guys selling false teeth and veneers, with all their soaking tools, and teeth laid out on display. They wouldn't let me take a picture though. Can we say shady?!
This seriously reminded me of a picture I took 6 months after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in a neighborhood that bordered one of the breached levies. From afar the flea market really did resemble a slum or some aftermath of a catastrophe.
There were tons of clothes and shoes! I'm not gonna lie I tried on some of the shoes! There was one guy who had 4 to 5 pairs of super cute boots for winter that were my size! I rarely find my size in China. In another life, where God had blessed me with non fat muscular calves, I would have must definitely walked away with 4 very old & worn new pairs of boots for next to nothing. And it would have been awesome. But alas, me and my big calves had to walk away.
Jackets, coats, shirts, jeans! Oh My!
Just one of those perks of being Chinese and living in China, it's totally normal, and comfortable to take a nap anywhere. Ain't nobody care!
This lady was the sweetest and had the biggest smile. She kept miming things to me in Chinese. This is pretty rare, the miming, because so few Chinese people use or know how to use hand motions. We had a good laugh together.
You would think that we were in a toxic waste, hazard zone by this picture (okay, let's be real, by a lot of these pictures) but no, just another normal site in China, face masks, but not the super cool kind like a I fashion. If someone has a slight cough, it's not unusual to see them wearing a face mask. We also saw this in Korea. Or maybe we were in a toxic waste zone, perusing all the unwanted, probably dug up from the trash dong-xi of China. Maybe we should have taken note from this lady and brought out the head scarves, masks and gloves before taking the trip to the flea market.
Super high quality ;) flats with faces on them for sale. I had to really fight with myself to just walk away. ;)
There were several outdoor eating tents. One had this delicious looking and I'm sure highly flavorful goodness floating in a HUGE pot. I asked what it was but had no idea what she said. Tons of people were ordering it so apparently it must have been good. 
The famous infamous hot dogs on a stick. Just upon the smell of one of these dogs I gag. They're bad. Chara, naturally, LOVES them. Super smelly-score!
Fresh sugar cane for sale. 
$1.50 sneakers for sale.
Sweaters in all shapes and sizes.
These people were getting fancy with tables, instead of blankets, to display their stuff on. I imagine these are people with actual shops.
Baby clothes.
I can't wait for winter for when we start seeing all the little babies wrapped up in these super padded outfits! It's adorable. Like human size marshmallows.
Spices & Seasonings
"Fresh" meat for sale. No way in heck I would ever buy meat from the flea market. Do you see all the dirty buckets?! And there were tons of flies. It was bad. Okay. Ya. Let's move on.
Ah. That's better. Bags of nuts, in their shell. Clean and safe.
Mr. Mosby enjoying the flea market.
Wouldn't you love to join us on our next trip to the flea market?! ;)
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