ZhuJiaJiao (朱家角) and Soup Dumplings (小笼包)

ZhuJiaJiao (Literally: Zhu Family Corner)
ZhuJiaJiao (Literally: Zhu Family Corner)

Qing Official's Library
Qing Official’s Library

This morning started out with a typical, for Shanghai it seems, 1 hour drive to ZhuJiaJiao (朱家角), a water town on the outskirts of the city. There we are number of interesting sights including a Qing dynasty official’s “house” and gardens, and an old post-office. The day was hot but the rain held off… although by 1:30pm with the weather feeling “like 40” if not more it might have been nice. The hour long drive back in an air-conditioned van did help quite a bit, followed off by a long cool down in the room.

Soup dumplings (xiaolongbao)
Soup dumplings (xiaolongbao)

One of the things that we wanted to try in Shanghai was soup dumplings (xiaolongbao – 小笼包) and a quick search show up a restaurant 2.5km away from the hotel. We decided to walk there and grab a cab back from to the hotel. We got some rice for Heather, spring rolls and soup dumplings for the girls and me, and a surprise order of filled won-tons in soup, I mean we didn’t think that we had ordered it but it showed up at our table anyway. One of the hazards ordering food in a non-tourist area I guess.
suprise won-ton soup
suprise won-ton soup

Elspeth and I really enjoyed the dumplings where as Katrine liked everything about the dumplings except the meat, perhaps next time a different variety would work. Katrine also liked the soup for the won-tons, but did not appreciate the dark green vegetables inside which I loved.

Tim Tam Slams

Have you heard of a Tim Tam Slam?  It is, according to the girls an “awesome treat” from Australia.  I’d heard about it previously, but then I saw a demonstration and I knew I had to find some Tim Tam’s for me and the girls to try.  Luckily they are available in Canada in many supermarkets so a couple of packs later we were ready to try.

Step 1: Assemble the Ingredients

The "Ingredients"
The “Ingredients”
  • Milk
  • Tim Tams
  • Some willing participants

 Step 2: Bite off 2 corners

  • forgot to take a picture of this step

 Step 3: Use Tim Tam as a straw

Elspeth needed help
Elspeth needed help
Katrine going to town
Katrine going to town

 Step 4: Eat Tim Tam



If you need a more detailed demonstration, hit up ZiggyD’s How to Tim Tam Slam like a True Blue Aussie for all the details.

The Summer Palace (颐和园) and Puke!

The second missing blog post from when our computer was blocked in Beijing
August 16th

You don’t usually hear those two in the same sentence but that sums up the day. Katrine woke up this morning saying that her tummy hurt and she didn’t want to eat breakfast. We didn’t push the issue but she wanted to see the Summer Palace as long as she could sit with Baba on the bus. No problem, Elspeth is liking me more so she rode with me. Poor Glenn. About half way there, puke. Get that cleaned up and off the bus. She is saying that she is feeling better and there are really no taxis there. Okay, in we go. Lily takes the other families to look at the residence, marble boat and then to take a dragon boat ride across Kunming Lake. We walk the gardens beside the lake slowly.

Katrine is not her usual bubbly, energetic self but she is enjoying the scenery – giant water lilies or lotus flowers (one or the other not sure which), minnow darting her and there in the water, pagodas, boats, bridges and buildings on the far shores. She says she is getting hungry so we find some shade. While Glenn gets the girls popsicles we find our third Chinese mushroom which is a big deal to Katrine, my little mushroom girl. Peach popsicle stays down!!! No more complaining of our tummy.

I actually enjoyed just walking beside the lake. It feels peaceful. The shiny lake with a backdrop of rolling green hills. An impressive palatial residence set in one hillside overlooking the lake; what views they must have. A variety of bridges over masses of flowers leading to small islands with quaint pavilions. Chirping birds and whirring insects as nature’s music. I am sure that the palace, furniture and marble boat (which is actually wood painted to look like marble) are beautiful, but so are the grounds.

Thought that perhaps we should head back to the hotel. While asking about the taxis, they were amazingly overpriced, and Katrine said that she was feeling better. Back onto the bus we go and she falls asleep in the cool of the AC. Lily has arranged for our group to have Peking Duck at lunch when the kids will eat the most. She has also got Katrine her own can of Sprite to help her feel better. Takes a few small sips of Sprite while sitting in mom’s lap – PUKE! All over mom and the restaurant chair. Now it helps to have a sick child in a restaurant over here because they will go out of their way to get you a taxi and haggle over the price just to get rid of you before there is more puke.

Glenn and Elspeth stayed behind and enjoyed a variety of delicious dishes while Katrine and I journeyed through Beijing to our hotel without further puke. A bath and some medicine later, they joined us. I think that we all had the nap to end all naps – four hours in the middle of the afternoon (unheard of isn’t it?). Katrine woke up feeling great back to her old self. She ate some dinner and is keeping her fingers crossed that she will feel even better tomorrow morning because we are heading to the Forbidden City in the morning and then the Olympic stadiums in the evening and she REALLY wants to be there.

Surprise! Baby is underweight.

This in the first of the blog entries we could not post while our computer was blocked in Beijing
August 15th, 2011

This morning we got up early and headed out to have Elspeth’s immigration medical done. Our guide took us to the exact same clinic where Katrine’s was done 6 years ago. It went well over all. We discovered that little Elspeth has actually grown since June and has reached the height of 80 cm which puts her in about the 10th percentile for her height. She also has an upper respiratory infection which explains her cough but is viral so nothing to do but wait it out. The biggest surprise (not) was that she is horribly underweight. She is not even on the growth charts which begin at the 3rd percentile. We figure that she is actually around the 1st percentile for weight and we might even be being a bit generous there. Can you guess the medical advice? Feed her more protein. So, being dutiful parents, we went for dumplings last night and fed her two whole dumplings and the meat filling from another 6.

With the medical done, the last part of our adoption journey is done aside from waiting for her immigration papers to be picked up so that we can come home and then have them processed at Pearson. Now we fill the time with sightseeing.

Katrine had a very long morning of waiting so Glenn and I had planned something special for her. Our idea was that while Elspeth had her afternoon nap, Katrine and I would get a cab and go ice skating. She loves to skate and how cool to be able to say that she had skated in China. Went to the front desk and asked them to write out the name of the ice rink we’d found online in characters for the cabbie. Well, they did write something and the cabby took us somewhere but the ice rink no where to be seen. Maybe we just weren’t looking in the right place, let’s have lunch and then we will keep looking. I mean, how hard can it be to find an ice rink if we are at the right place (the ad online said that it was big).

Katrine chooses a Chinese fastfood restaurant and we ordered fried rice that turns out to be bacon pizza flavour. Yes, you read that right. It was rice, bacon, pizza sauce and cheese all mixed together. It actually was quite tasty. Now, we are back on the search….nothing….go to information and draw a picture of skating….get weird look…keep going…show new person picture while pantomiming skating…they ask a friend who shakes her head…keep going…repeat pattern about four more times. We give up because we’ve found Starbucks, Gap, the movie theatre (would’ve taken her but the Smurf movie was in English so what was the point) and sit down on some steps that look like piano keys to enjoy a popsicle. It was the most expensive way to get a lunch and popsicle. When we got back to the hotel Glenn made it up to her by taking her and Elspeth swimming. I was the official photographer so I got to stay dry.

After our dumpling dinner we tried to walk to Tiannamen Square but we got distracted before we arrived by a very loud insect that we are calling “Bird Cricket” on account of the fact that we debated whether it was a bird or cricket. In the process of investigating the sound we discovered a lovely little parklet beside a small river. At one end of the river there was an ancient lock originating from the Ming or Ching dynasties. It consisted of a heavy wooden beam with a iron dragon’s head on either side. Not sure how it worked but it was nice to look at.

I am going to share some sad news now. Two pieces really. As you may have guessed by our lack of updates, our computer was deemed “not compatible with the internet in Beijing” today by the hotel. They wanted to reformat the whole of Glenn’s computer which was not happening so we are posting these updates once we’ve got home. The second piece is of a personal nature. By the time you read this we will be home and telling Katrine so it is now safe to tell you all. My grandmother in Scotland passed away the previous Wednesday. Her funeral was last Thursday. I am heart broken that we will not be able to attend her funeral but it can’t be helped. Babies always arrive on their own schedule and adoption is no different. Grandma would’ve understood but it is hard not to be there to say goodbye. If you are wondering why my parents are not here to welcome us home it is because they really needed to be there. They won’t be meeting Elspeth until the beginning of September when they come home. That is how life unfolds and it can’t be helped so just send some extra hugs our way.

Nightcap at Bayi Square (八一广场)

Busy doing nothing on our free day in Nanchang. First I’d like to wish a Happy Birthday to my mom, aka Grandma Attwood, kisses and hugs from all.

We started on a quest to get stamps and postcards. Then we got a cute pair of squeaky flip-flops for Elspeth and a new “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf” sun umbrella for Katrine. Then we hopped in a taxi for a quick ride to the Nanchang People’s Park (pretty much every big city in China has a People’s Park). We walked around, had some snacks, fed the bubbling fish (again, but in Jiangxi not Guangxi this time) and found a place (thanks to an American family) where we could buy some popsicles and headed back for a quick lunch and a nap.

During Elspeth’s nap, Katrine got some much needed time to herself with Mom and went for a swim at the pool. Then Katrine, Elspeth, and I went on another quest for the “correct” ice lolly (the morning one being not quite right) and just as we opened the wrappers, rain… and I do mean rain. We ducked under a store front and waited the worst of it out and then hurried back to the hotel. Later we went for dinner with our friends at the restaurant we called “Golden Dragon” that is just down the street from the hotel we are at. The food was great, the service excellent, the orders come quick and the bill was very low compared to the hotel buffet.

Finally we regrouped back at the hotel and took a taxi to Bayi Square to take in the musical fountains which were quite impressive. Both Katrine and Elspeth were fascinated and the show lasted about 30 minutes, definitely worth the cab far. “Fast and Furious Taxi Driver (TM)” got us back to the hotel in record time for bedtime. Tomorrow we are going to try to go to Bayi Park and a Taoist temple in the morning, and then we fly to Beijing in the early evening so there will probably not be an update till the 13th. Enjoy the pictures.

Visiting the Pavillion of Prince Teng (滕王阁)

tl;dr: A quieter day of sight seeing and shopping, we give Mama a bit of love early on then have a few issues and want Baba even more.

We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow as we are heading to Shangrao to visit Elspeth’s orphanage by van (4 hour drive each way) so I don’t know how long this update will be. As well I will probably not post too much information on our visit tomorrow as it is pretty personal and the person it most involves is only 21 months old and can’t yet tell us what she is willing to share with friends and family.

Now today started with a visit to the Pavillion of Prince Teng which is right beside our hotel (I mean you could probably punt a football from our hotel to the grounds) but for some reason this required a 20 minute drive through rush hour traffic. The humidity was crazy even at 10am but we forged on. This morning both girls were vying for my attention, so I got to climb the 89 stairs with a girl in one arm and one holding my hand. Luckily it was Elspeth the lightweight in my arm or I would not have made it up. We then rode in an elevator (7th century China was really advanced) to the top to catch the show. Katrine was fascinated, but it didn’t really hold Elspeth’s interest for too long, so you have to ask Heather and Katrine if it was any good. After the show we headed down a level for some retail therapy and Katrine got to spend most of her pocket money for the day. Down another level and Elspeth was getting a bit too adventurous for my liking so I picked her up (all 16 squirming pounds) and refused to put her down. Well that meant it was time to see if Mama was any better. And for a while, including a snackage and drink break, all was well and then it was time for Baba again.

We got back to the Hotel before noon, so we decided to do a bit of functional shopping to replace the SD card reader that decided not to work once we got to China. In the meantime Heather had a lie down having eaten something that didn’t agree with her the day before. Walking up to the local pedestrian shopping district we walked right past the stores at the beginning of the street we were supposed to go to, ate lunch at KFC (when in China eat American fast food) and finally found a Sony store to full fill our technological needs. We headed back to the Hotel with Katrine downing her second ice lolly of the morning (at only 16cents Canadian I don’t mind indulging her). By the time we got back to the Hotel, Elspeth was 1 hour past her naptime so we put her down an sleep was gained within minutes. At this point Heather wanted to continue her convalescence and Katrine was desperate for some Baba time so we decided to go for a swim. The only real problem being that Elspeth woke up, found that Baba was not around and had a mini breakdown. For the rest of the day she wanted me real close by. This does not bode well for tomorrow, but given the rate of change in China if we don’t go now we may never get another chance.

Forever Family Day

tl;dr: We’re a family of four for good like it or lump it. Elspeth (Xiang Xiang as we’re calling her a lot for now) is a Daddy’s Girl but is starting to open up.

Fascinated by Daddy's Beard

Well the day started with a bit more crying. Hearing Elspeth playing with a ball in her crib I made the mistake of turning on the light. Realizing that the previous day was not a bad dream the tears started right away. We got her up and calmed her down a bit then tried a bottle. No go. I’m not totally sure if it was the wrong temperature or the wrong time. Since breakfast is not served till 7am, we fed her bits of a very salty rice cracker, and the leftover melon from the night before. After that she sat and started to play with Katrine and thus the journey out of her defensive shell began. As we were leaving for breakfast, Heather grabbed the, now slightly cooler, bottle. Well Elspeth’s eyes lit up. Heather, being a smart and experienced mom, shoved the bottle in the little mouth and in a flash it was drained. Breakfast was a bit of a bust because of a full tummy so we plan on giving her the bottle about 1/2 hour before breakfast tomorrow (and make it a bit cooler to start with).

A quick trip back to our room to prepare for the long day of paperwork and Elspeth latched on to me and wouldn’t let go. Well, nothing to worry about at least she chose one of us. Off we went on a 40 minute drive to sit in a un-airconditioned office, with people smoking naturally, to get various bits of paper work, photos done, and fees paid. Unfortunately, Elspeth’s choice in parent threw off the plans and Heather had to do much of the running around from place to place at the office. We did get to meet the director of Elspeth’s orphanage who was quite surprised that we had a friend in common. That, plus the gifts we brought for the other kids at the orphanage, broke the ice and we were invited to travel to Shangrao for a visit. We also found out from the director that Elspeth was close to her foster father and her choice of parent became clear. By 11:30am we were done and officially a family for good. And of course the kids were done as well. Elspeth was asleep before we made the hotel.

Nap time was followed with chips, apple, and other snacks for a light lunch that Heather picked up at the local super market while Elspeth napped. Then we were back in the bus to go the the police headquarters where they process the paperwork for the passports. While waiting on some benches we got to see a real breakthrough. Elspeth started by playing “tug” with me and some link rings. This was followed by the few baby/toddler action rhymes that I remember and genuine smiles and laughs were to be had along with a bunch of funny faces. She also showed that her little legs are working just fine as she climbed all over me and then grabbed Katrine’s hand and went for a walk around the waiting area. Finally we got through and the 5 minutes of paperwork and 2 minutes to take a photo were done and we left for the hotel 2 hours later.

Katrine decided that she wanted to go for a swim so we all went down with a swim diaper on hand just in case. At first Elspeth was quite nervous and just watched with, her now customary, death grip on Daddy’s shirt. Soon though she was feeling comfortable enough to walk around the pool, but once the other little boy came down and went in the pool she was sold and the swim diaper was on. We had a grand old time splashing. playing, and cooling off and she would have stayed for quite a bit longer, but dinner was calling. We went out to a local restaurant, recommended by our guide Tina, and had a wonderful dinner with great service and quite a few more smiles from Elspeth. Back for bed but baths and toothbrushing are low on our list of likes but I’ve now got two sleeping girls and a third who is ready for bed so I’ll sigh off for the night. Tomorrow we go sight seeing, Wednesday we visit the orphanage in Shangrao, and Thursday is our free day. Stay tuned for more updates!

What a day

tl;dr: Elspeth is here with a death grip on a hard boiled egg and lots of tears…

… and now the long version. As you probably guessed it’s be an emotional trip even before we met Elspeth today. As for today, it started with a 5:15am alarm in Nanning which didn’t sit well with Katrine at all. We made it to the airport and after a slight mix-up with out tickets said good bye to our guide Mary and got on a short flight to Nanchang. We basically went from a really hot city to the 4th hottest city in China… yeah. After settling in we got ready to do a bit of shopping before the kids showed up. This is when things got a bit much for Katrine and a few tears were seen (too be expected really) but a little bit retail therapy later and we were all good. After dropping the stuff back at the room we went downstairs to wait.

Waiting was required because the babies (toddlers really) were delayed due to traffic. In the meantime one of the other families received their little girl (from a different orphanage). At this point we were all beyond excited. Soon after that a van pulled into the hotel parking lot with what looked like a bunch of babies in it. We were ready to go. Our first view of Elspeth was a small girl standing next to a van in a onesie, knee-highs, and sandles – quite the fashion statement. She was brought in with several other babies and when we came close she began to cry, a great start but reassuring none the less. She also had the remains of a snack in each hand, cookies bits in the left, and a hard boiled egg (thankfully still in the shell) in the right. They did not leave her hands till she fell asleep. We tried giving a few snacks to her in the lobby, but they were all emphatically refused. And after a short time we returned to our room for a rest.

Once in our room, and with snacks refused once more, Katrine took over. Being a great big sister she first found a musical toy that helped sooth the savage beast and then proceeded to demonstrate the proper usage of may of the toys that we brought. A quick baby sign lesson followed along with colours and all sorts of other important information that much be passed from big sister to little. We managed to get a few mouthfulls of water down but all food was still refused. We sent out for room service but Elspeth was still refusing to eat, well that was solved by Katrine giving a small piece of melon, mouth opened, teeth chewed, the food was swallowed. After that we managed to get about 6 pieces of melon, a few small pieces of beef and a 2cm long piece of noodle down before Elspeth decided she was done.

After our dinner, such as it was, we strapped Elspeth into the baby carrier (to give Heather’s arms a break) and walked the hallway for 20-30 minutes till some droopy eyes were seen. So we headed back for our bedtime routine. Well to no surprise really, the bottle was refused but we did manage to get 3-4 more mouthfulls of water down. We changed her diaper (kidneys are functioning) and put on the PJ bottoms, but left the onsie as a top. Toothbrushing was right out and we didn’t even try for a bath so story time. She was quite enthralled by the pokemon story Heather read to Katrine but was obviously fading fast having probably missed her afternoon nap. We popped her into the crib and within 10 minutes she was fast asleep and finally releasing her death grip on the egg and cookies.

Tomorrow we do the big paperwork and everything will be official. We are also hoping a bit more food and drink go down. Updates as they happen, pictures as we get them.