Merry Christmas

Hot Pot Holiday

Last night, the foreign student department took us out for a special Christmas dinner, CQ style.

Hot pot.

Not for the faint of heart (I’m dubious, Michael adores it), hot pot is a local specialty where you boil various meats and veggies in oil and then dip it in more oil to cool it down before eating. The outer ring of the pot is spicy, the inner ring is not. I wish I liked it–I really do–but at this point I think I’ve resigned myself to toleration and am not hoping for much more. However, lots of friends here swear by it. And there is something fun about the communal element of going to hot pot with a group of friends and the hours you spend around the table while waiting for your food. Let’s just say, I appreciate the pot.

Noah came along for the ride. I think he shares my uncertainties when it comes to hot pot.

Two of our teachers flipping out over Noah. Foreign babies are a hit here.

That would be intestines. Nom nom.

Michael was not super thrilled with the last post, when he looks like someone who belongs in jail. In an effort to redeem myself, you should all know that this is what he looks like these days.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Michael’s Holiday Look

Michael and baby. File under: disturbing things.

Thankfully, short-lived. This one-day wonder was a post-Thanksgiving special. Against their better judgement, our friends Alan and Shannon allowed creepy Michael to hold their new baby for a picture. I’m still trying to forget…


The small things bringing me joy this Christmas season.


He’s a hoodrat, mischievous, smart as a whip, and completely spoiled rotten. We love him, and there is nothing greater than cuddling up on the couch with this puppy. He’s the bestest.

Creamer, coffee, and Christmas mugs.

I’ve recently discovered, thanks to Pinterest, that it is possible to make coffee creamer on your own. Where we live, the only coffee creamer available is the powdered kind, which is gross to me. This simple recipe (14 oz milk plus 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk plus 2 tsp vanilla) has been a game changer this December. We just ran out of peppermint extract (note to self: this must be at the top of our next “America request” list) but for a good week or so we added it to the creamer concoction for Christmas in a mug.


This wreath is still lacking a bow but I’ll get there soon enough! Just hot glued lima beans to a wreath form and then spray painted white. This is making me smile every time I look at our door.


I was just beginning to get nervous that we would have next to nothing to open on Christmas morning (disclaimer: nervousness is attributed solely to the local post office) when the packages from our families arrived. Unfortunately (ahem, Albus) we can’t put these lovely gifts under the tree quite yet but we are so grateful these goodies came in.


Yes, friends, we have them. That dreaded non-friend known as the rat.

They’ve always been around… lurking, scurrying into the bushes before you’re absolutely positive what you saw, hiding in a trash can (my friend Erika used to tell her little girl  they were a special kind of local squirrel!)…. but this is another level. You see, this year we have our own wheels. I drive an electric scooter (saving the environment!), Michael drives a gas-powered one (saving his back when he doesn’t have to lug the battery upstairs every few days). Our parking “lot,” otherwise known as the pavilion just beside our building, is overrun with the rodents.
At the time when we moved into our apartment building, we could just park our che downstairs in the lobby. Sure, every few days the management office (the wuguan) would leave a notice on our che about parking outside in the officially designated area. But we ignored those–no one else was parking out there, either–until one day when we arrived home to find the lobby cleared and our vehicles moved to the pavilion just outside.

Fine, no big deal. EXCEPT. The pavilion is also the spot where the apartment complex workers like to leave huge bags of trash. You know what that means. Open garbage bags = rats. Even closed garbage bags = rats chew holes in the bottom and then spend hours nosing around inside. It’s gotten out of control. It’s to the point where, every time I go in there, I see at least one, usually more like three, running away to hide in the bushes. I mean, really. To tell the truth, they’re not even that scared of me. And the garbage just stays there, all the solitary day, rotting in the corner. My friend and neighbor Cat said last night that even though the visible rats leave when we arrive she’s noticed the bag itself keeps moving. Ugghhhh.

Yesterday Michael asked the wuguan to please stop dumping trash in the spot where they make us park our che. They seemed shocked that we have rats (really?) but said they’d look into it. Nada. The garbage bags have stayed, the rats are still at home. Today when Michael went in again to complain, our helpful  management workers laughed in his face. Rats are not really a huge concern, it seems. Not OK.

Michael, determined to prove the point that this is not OK, dragged one of the garbage bags into the street on his way to class and it was gone when he got home. But garbage bag #2 had not been moved, and the rats? Still there. I’m not sure what’s about to happen but y’all! It is NOT FUN being scared (because I am) every time I head out.

Updates to come… and, by the by, I realize this is not earth-shattering or truly horrible. Just a little shiver-inducing. That’s all.