Friday, September 26, 2008

Shanghai Botanical Garden

Good evening!

A few weeks ago, my new friends, Lynne, Denice and Jane and I took a field trip to the Shanghai Botanical Gardens. It was over 100 degrees that day and we walked the paths. They had a lovely lake by the conservatory and check out the orchids in the lovely blue pot!

As I've told you before, I really have a thing for the blue and white pottery. We saw this table - it's in two parts - at the tea house at the Botanical Gardens. It was sitting in the middle of a deck with those plastic white chairs surrounding it. I pushed them off to the side so I could take this photo. Then, the other day we went to the Flower Market and there was a gold fish bowl that was for sale. If we were allowed to have "pets", I'd pick that up in a heartbeat. But, here at Shama - no pets - no kitties, no doggies, no fishies.

We've been pretty busy here the last few weeks. Most of the expats have returned from their summer vacations and I have to admit that I'm still wearing white and it's way past Labor Day. I hope my Beaver girlfriends are not embarassed by that. I'm sure Kate is crawling under a rock right about now. But she knows that fashion here in Shanghai is a whole new ballgame. People wear the oddest things here. Like pyjammas! Yes, they even spell it like that! I went on a tour yesterday and the tour guide, a lovely Aussie woman told us that the Chinese wear pyjammas because they are well off and they can! It means that if you are Chinese and you can afford pyjammas, you wear them outside on the street. So sometimes you see cotton and sometimes you see silk. No robes - just pyjammas.

Mike and I went to the Expat Show here in Shanghai with our friend and colleague Jacques from Belgium. It was basically your typical expo that showcased various vendors of healthcare (hospitals and clinics), restaurants and gelato purveyors - yum yum, travel agencies, car rental companies and furniture companies. Beautiful antique Chinese furniture that is breathtaking. Very expensive and one-of-a-kind pieces.

The best thing about this show was the Dutch cheese. The vendor, Beemster had maybe six different varieties of cheese and it was selling like hotcakes! We bought a chunk of their classic Dutch cheese and their garlic cheese. I cannot tell you how great this was. Maybe because the usual cheese we get is Land O Lakes and a few miscellaneous French pieces (Brie and Cammenbert) so this was a real treat for us.

We also visited many wine stalls - French, Italian, Californian. There was one vendor that showcased a very interesting new way to deliver the wine. It reminded me of the wine "cellar" at The Westin Convention Center in Pittsburgh. Every glass is fresh - I just don't understand how they do it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Good morning friends,

Well, last week was very busy. Lots of expats are returning to Shanghai after their summers abroad or home, as the case may be.

Every week we are meeting new people and making new friends. Last Wednesday we had coffee in Xintandi and took a walk to the Antique Market. I didn't know what to expect but it is basically a Chinese Flea Market that is so cool. We saw lots of interesting things. I bought some Cloisonne hair pins for Christmas gifts for friends with long hair (I hope you all like them) and some porcelain bracelets too. There were lots of odds and ends to check out.

We met lots of pets along the way too - a lovely German Shepherd who nuzzled me for quite some time and made me shed a few tears for my Snowball. I wonder how she is. And a tiny kitten not much bigger than Kate's kitten was when she got her.

The thing that is so funny when you go shopping in China is that the sales clerk will tell you she/he will give you "the best price" or "best friend's price" or "the-first-sale-of-the-day-price".

We met a man whose family - cousins, uncles, aunts - own different stalls. He's been highlighted on CNN - he told us that was important to him. He had a lovely corner stall that featured pottery and porcelain. Denice bought a lovely translucent bowl and he asked her not to share the price with her friends - us. At another stall across the street - owned by the same man - I bought a blue & white tea mug with an infuser for loose tea. His niece sold silk goods close by.

Then we all walked to a great wine bar - yes, I know you are all wondering about the wine - I'm not drinking it - it is just that the best restaurants are those where good wine is sold too! :) Great lunch - Chicken sandwich on a baguette with tomato, lettuce, basil.

Another day we went to the Pearl Market again and I bought a lovely traditional figurine. My friend, Debbie told us that she has a collection of these figures. She explained that you can tell which women are aristocrats because they have dangle earrings that look like they are made of jade. The peasant women have circle earrings and portray women who live or work in the countryside. I bought a woman playing a traditional Erhu (it reminds me of a violin - see it above) and Denice bought one that has chickens at the woman's feet. They are all lovely and there were many different women - there was one feeding some fish, one with ducks, one with some sewing items. I liked them all (of course) and the price is right and affordable so maybe this will become the start of a collection for me. As you can see, the dress is lovely and the colors are amazing. Debbie displays them at her home in Philadelphia.

Friday we went to the Fabric Market. I wanted to take two dresses to be altered and pick up my linen shells I had made. My shells fit perfectly. Our friend, Debbie is having a dress made there for her niece's wedding in November. She wanted something classy but not something that everyone else would have. It has royal blue silk with some black chiffon and lace overlays. It will be beautiful after it is done. She needed another fitting and it should be ready this Friday. My dresses will be done then too. I saw some beautiful green silk that I want Elena to make me a blouse with. I went online to the J Jill and Coldwater Creek webpages and will take her some photos of what I'd like to have made. After we were done with Debbie's fitting we went to some of the bridal shops nearby and watched Debbie try on gowns for her daughter's wedding next May. We had a great time.
Over the weekend, Mike and I went to the Hongmei Lane Pedestrian mall - it's a walkway with lots of restaurants near the Pearl Market. We ate at The Big Bamboo - a western restaurant with very bad service. The food was good - the service was bad. I think that sometimes the young waitresses just don't have the command of the English language and of course, we don't speak enough Chinese yet to order so you have that language barrier.

Then we walked across the street to the Pearl Market and Mike got some cards for the golf store where he bought his clubs and I bought some pashminas and some tea. It was a nice way to enjoy the day together. He did see the figurines at that shop I told you about above. He liked them. I hope to get more. . .

Sunday we went to Mass and to Enoteca for breakfast with some church friends. What a great breakfast we had there. I had French scrambled eggs with thinly sliced apple, pear and orange, a warm baguette with butter and French jam, some brie and emmenthal cheese, fresh squeezed orange juice and Italian coffee - only 75RMB which is about $10. Then it was off to the Antique Mall so Mike could see what I had experienced earlier in the week. I bought a lovely vase at the "friend's price" from the man highlighted by CNN. And another tea mug for Mike so now we have 2 - maybe I'll get more . . .
This week is proving to be very busy as well - every day we have something else new and exciting to see and do. Stay tuned. . .