Thursday, February 28, 2013

Week In Pictures

Life is and will continue to be a bit chaotic for about the next six months. We are beginning to wind down our time in Beijing. Kids are busy with spring activities at school. Repatriating back into the United States will be an interesting and learning process.
Let's do this!

My week and a half after our trip to Australia was great! Coming back to Beijing is more like home each and every time. I hosted book group at my house. We read The Shoemaker's Wife and since it is very Italian, I decided to make all the food things that I've learned from my Nana or mom. Of course, pesto was on the list. Unfortunately, I can't read basil in Chinese and bought four containers of mint instead. Plan B was jar pesto and mint water. 

Mint, not basil! Duh, now that I know it is very obvious the leaves are too small!
Mom's Homemade Pesto
2 C fresh basil leaves
1/2 C fresh Parmesan Cheese
1/2 C Olive oil (may need to add more for desired consistency)
1/3 C Pine Nuts 
3 medium cloves of garlic
salt and pepper to taste
Blend in a blender until smooth. Freezable. Serve over gnocchi or spaghetti with fresh green beans and parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

My very favorite cookie to make is homemade biscotti. The pure almond extract makes the house smell so yummy and the butter makes them melt in your mouth. 
Almond Biscotti before they are baked.

Homemade Almond Biscotti
1 C softened butter
1 1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp pure almond extract
3 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 C chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter, sugar, eggs and extract. In another bowl mix in flour, baking powder, salt and nuts. Add dry mixture to creamed mixture little by little until dough forms. Divide dough into thirds. Using floured hands, form 1/3 dough into logs that are the width of the baking sheet. BE SURE TO BAKE ON A SILPAT OR PARCHMENT PAPER. Leave about one inch between logs since dough will expand while baking. Bake all three logs on 350 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for no longer than two minutes. While hot, with a sharp knife, slice logs on a diagonal to form biscotti shape. Lay each cookie on it's side and bake for an additional 10 min on 350. One batch makes aprox 4 dozen cookies. Enjoy!

Book Group  Treats

Blue Sky dad with Galaxy Soho

An example of chic Chinese head fashion

Lunch with visiting teachers. Hand pulled noodles.

And here are the noodles.

The boys in my family were thrilled to be back in China for the remainder of Chinese New Year. That means fireworks!

Friends and fireworks!
The rest of my week consisted of getting the house and family ready for me to be gone for THREE WHOLE WEEKS! I have the great opportunity to fly to the US. For a week I will be in Southern California on a "fact finding" trip to see if we could relocate there. Then I will head up to Northern California to spend time with family and friends. Yay me!
The day before I left was actually a gorgeous spring day!

He always thinks he is coming with us.

In San Francisco this would be fog. In Beijing it is smog.
We still took off on time!

We used frequent flyer points for me to upgrade to business class.
This could be very dangerous! It was glorious!
Next stop: Los Angeles!

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Week in Sydney, Australia

Australia had always been somewhere hubby and I wanted to see. Being on this side of the world was the perfect opportunity to venture down under. (I will try super hard to leave out anymore cliché Aussie slang) Sydney did not disappoint!

After being in hot, humid Singapore we expected Sydney to be hot like we were warned. It was nice, but not hot. 

One of the first things that struck me was how quaint the city is. Notice one side of the street is very European and traditional an the other is modern. Don't forget to notice the bridge at the end of the street.
 I am warning you now that you will see an unearthly amount of pictures in this post, and many of them will include the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. 

We bussed from the airport to the hotel and were grateful they had our room ready since we had not showered since Beijing, two days before. We then hopped on a ferry and headed to the famous Bondi Beach. 
Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club

Bondi Beach

Despite it being cold, people were still on the beach.
A rare moment of sibling love on Bondi Beach.
The next stop was a tour of the Sydney Opera House. We were all pleasantly surprised at how interesting the tour was. It even prompted us to buy tickets for the opera.

The view of the Harbour bridge from the Opera House.
It became a solution to boredom for the teen to take "modeling" pics of the boy all over the place. 
The Opera House is surreal to see in real life. I never realized it was a tiled roof. I strongly recommend anyone visiting Sydney to learn about the story behind the building of the Opera House. It is fascinating. 
Up close.
It actually glowed red one night for Chinese New Year but we didn't catch a picture of it. 
Each day there was a different cruise ship in the harbour. 
The walls inside the infrastructure of the Opera House. 

D saw a pamphlet for Flight Experience in Sydney. It is a really cool place where an actual pilot teaches you to fly a 737 in a real cockpit. D got to spend an hour and a half flying in and out of different airports. Good news...we didn't crash!

After this experience he wants to fly even more now. 
He listened and learned a lot. Taxiing on the runway was his biggest challenge. 
The hubs in Darling Harbour.
One of the things that made the biggest impression on me was how recreational Sydney is. Everywhere you look people are jogging, biking and sailing on the harbour. It really seems like you can work and have urban city life along with beachy leisure time all rolled into one. Appealing!

Our hotel was right on the harbour and in the area known as The Rocks. It is the oldest area of Sydney and filled with shops and great restaurants. 
One of our meals was at a German restaurant and this is the yummy schnitzle. 

Hungry Jacks is actually Burger King.
The Rocks, Sydney 
Luna Park is an amusement park right on the water. It is modeled after a 1930's Coney Island. It is free to walk around, only paying for the rides. It is beautiful all lit up at night, despite the freaky entrance. 

Since the weather started to clear up we headed on the ferry to Manly Beach. It is a neat beach community that is a short ferry ride from circular quay. 
Since he mastered the boogie board in Hawaii it was time to upgrade to a surf board. Luckily his dad was quite the surfer back in the day and showed him all of his old moves. 
Instead of palm trees there are pine trees along the water. 
We enjoyed Manly so much we went back for another day.
There are palm trees after all.
This is The Corso, a pedestrian avenue from the ferry to the beach with shops and restaurants. 
From the ferry, at twilight. 
We were lucky to celebrate Valentine's Day on our trip. Hubby got tickets for E and I to see La Bohème at the Opera House. 
I was surprised with roses on Valentine's Day! Lucky me!
What a treat!

A memory I will cherish for a very long time.
We sure had fun!
 I think we both prefer Broadway to Opera though.
We were lucky to have this amazing view from the Sydney Harbour Marriott.
 We picked the perfect day to walk across the Harbour Bridge. Everyone we talked to said it was a "must" to do the BridgeClimb. However, it is extremely expensive. We decided to climb the pylons (still a small fee) instead and were satisfied with the amazing views!

You can see the bridge climbers in blue on the right.

 The kiddos decided they were done with mom and dad and headed back to the hotel to watch some American tv channels. Kids will be kids! So we headed over to North Sydney and had the best time wandering around the other side. 

 Despite Sydney not being known for great scuba diving, the three divers in my family did not want to pass up the opportunity to dive in Australia. They headed out to do two shore dives at Shelly Beach. That means I got the majority of the day all to myself. Unfortunately, the weather was not great and I had a cold. 

 I still managed to drag myself to the Guylian Chocolate Cafe for some lunch and then window shopping in downtown Sydney. 
Yay for scuba diving!

Yes, it was very good!
 I saved the best for last! We took a day trip to the Featherdale Wildlife Park and the Blue Mountains. Seeing Australian animals up close was so cool! We all loved it!

A wallaby. Here at Featherdale they just hop right around with the guests. So cute!
 Seeing the koalas was the highlight of my entire trip! 
They are precious!
If I didn't see it for myself I would've thought they were fake!


In New South Wales it is illegal to hold a koala.
But we still could touch them.

Penguins never, ever disappoint.

A HUGE croc eating a rabbit. 

After we were done at the Wildlife Park we had lunch and headed to the Blue Mountains to see the Three Sisters. This is what we were supposed to see but it was so misty that we couldn't even see three feet in front of us. 
We took an almost vertical tram ride down a valley. It was fun and would'e been unbelievable if we could see through the mist. 

At the bottom was a gorgeous rain forest that wasn't spoiled by the weather. 

On the bus ride back we stopped at Olympic Park.
Home of the 2000 Summer Olympics

 By far, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited! We had a lot of fun, as a family, eating ice cream and exploring Sydney. 

 I will never get tired of this view!