Moving to the Desert

It has been just about a year since our last blog post. A lot has happened in that time, but we have struggled to find the motivation to keep up on our blog. We recently made a big transition by moving from Shanghai, China to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, with a couple month stopover in Iowa. Angela and I both wanted to get back into this, so be prepared for a recap of the past 12 months of our lives… Continue reading

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Shanghai Bachelor/Bachelorette Party!

As of today we have 8 days of school left.  8 days!   Now before you continue reading, this post is written by me: Angela.  I’m not as poetic as Jason and  I tend to use a lot of exclamation points!  Read at your own risk.

In April and May our wonderful friends threw us Bachelor and Bachelorette parties.  We are so lucky to have amazing friends here in Shanghai!  Jason’s party was at the end of April and was pretty low key.  Our friend Ross designed awesome shirts for everyone to wear that included all the things Jason loved: Luther, Camp Shalom, Beer and Iowa.  They turned out great!

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Great Bicycle Rides in Shanghai

One of the few challenges that we encounter living in the mega-convenient city of Shanghai is where to go for a nice bicycle ride. Over the past three years, my standards for great bike rides have dropped dramatically. I used to consider a great bike ride to involve open country and absolutely zero cars. Now, if I have a protected bike lane that I am sharing with a thousand scooters, next to a road with heavy traffic, I call it a good day. However, I can still appreciate a great ride when I find one, and I have found a few in the past couple of months.

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The Raleigh is ready.

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Nozawa Onsen Ski Town, Japan

After enjoying the historical and beautiful city of Kyoto, Japan, Angela and I were all set to travel into the mountains. We were traveling to the mountains west of Tokyo, often referred to as the ‘Japanese Alps‘. Up to this point, I had navigated our train travels throughout Japan with great success using an extremely convenient app called Hyperdia (a must-have for Japanese rail travelers). I became a little complacent with my skills, assuming that I was just awesome at this and little to no effort was required. We were traveling to Nozawa Onsen, and so I punched in the name of the town into Hyperdia, and was rewarded with the train station called Nozawa appearing as a valid location. I thought “must be close enough, same name!”. And so we happily boarded the JR Shinkansen and departed Kyoto for Nozawa. We found it odd that our train ride took us all of the way to the western coast, when Nozawa Onsen is in the mountains, but we chalked this up to being the only route available, but once we started going far to the north of where we should have been, Angela started to get worried. I was filled with faith in the system, and believed that we would soon turn south and somehow arrive conveniently at the door of our guest house. It wasn’t until I had the idea that maybe there was a Nozawa train station that was actually nowhere near Nozawa Onsen that I became worried enough to look it up on Googlemaps, and finally realized that there was indeed a Nozawa station far to the north of where we wanted to be. It was a terrible feeling as travel-panic washed over me, and I had no idea what to do. We decided that we had better jump off sooner than later, as the further north we went, the further away from our destination we would be. We ended up at a small, rural town that the train happened to stop at, and tried to ask the ticket man how we could book tickets to the right place. With some fancy internet skills, we found that we were not so far away, but had maybe overshot our destination by three hours or so. The extremely efficient and convenient system of booking tickets with my JR rail pass soon melted away as it was clear that the Japanese man in the ticket booth had never seen a JR pass before, and was frantically looking through his manual. He also spoke zero English, which was solely our problem because we did not speak any Japanese. Thanks to Angela’s researching skills, we jumped on a train without a ticket (totally possible with the JR pass) and after a stressful, but incident-free three hour train ride and a fifteen minute cab ride, we arrived in Nozawa Onsen. I was sweating a lot.

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Four Iowans Abroad

Angela and I recently hosted two very special guests. Angela’s mother Cindy and her grandmother Marjorie visited us for two weeks. It was awesome! They are both very laid back people, and were a pleasure to have around. It also gave Angela and I a chance to do a few things that we had not yet accomplished in and around Shanghai.
Arriving at the Airport!

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The Summer of 2015: Back in Iowa

After spending a week exploring Chengdu and Shanghai with Angela’s brother and sister-in-law, we flew back to where our hearts are:

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Iowa, USA! It is always such a pleasant feeling to exchange big city life with rural Iowa for a month. My dad met us at O’Hare, and took us home from there. It worked well, and probably saved us some time rather than trying to fly to Iowa from Chicago (although it cost my father some extra time…). We spent the first few days enjoying some of the things that we miss most about our home state. We will often talk with our friends about the meals that we have to eat while we are home. Below is Angela’s staple must-have, purchased from That Place near Marshalltown, Iowa.

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Visitors in Shanghai!

At the end of June, Jason and I had the pleasure of hosting my brother Jon and sister in-law Rachel in Shanghai. After spending a week in Beijing, Jon and Rachel flew in to Shanghai the day after our school let out. Before heading to Chengdu we fit as much in as we could as the weather was pleasant and the air quality was good.

On the day that they arrived, we took Jon and Rachel to our go-to tailor Tony and Helen at the local fake market that we frequent as they were interested in making some cheap tailored clothes.  On our way home, we stopped for lunch at a delicious Muslim pulled noodles restaurant near our metro stop (S. Shaanxi) on line 10. For less than 40RMB we ate some tasty hand pulled noodles.

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Sweet and Spicy Chengdu

Chendgu and Sichuan province are highly recommend in all of the China travel books, and with my family visiting we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit!   After a rare on time departure from Pudong we arrived in Chengdu late afternoon on Sunday.  Whenever arriving to a new place, I always try to arrange an airport pick up from the hotel.  Is this more expensive?  Yes!  Is it worth it?  Yes!  As a nervous traveler it’s less stressful to know that you’ll have a ride when you arrive!
We stayed at Mrs. Panda Hostel which was located right near the Li River and semi central Chengdu.  The price was decent and the rooms were more like hotel rooms than hostel!  The common area was very spacious and served beer and food!
Since we had all afternoon we decided to take the bus to the Wuhou Temple and Jinli Pedestrain Street. After exploring the temple and gardens we stopped for some snacks and overpriced beers before heading back to the hostel.  We had the option to get our ears cleaned by the locals but decided to pass.
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Mystery Foods
Since our hotel was near a university, the staff recommended a near by street with a variety of resturants.  We decided on one that had a picture menu so that we didn’t end up with something strange!  We ended up with standard Sichuan foods such as Mapo Tofu, green beans, egg plant, ribs, and some random cold meat dish.  All in all it was delicious!

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Shanghai Weekend!

Wow what a crazy week of highs and lows!   First off, we have to give a huge THANK YOU to the Shanghai Bloggers and all the companies for the amazing goodie bag!  Fields (an online grocery store) was very creative and gave us product that related to our blog!  Can you guess what it was?   Corn!    So if you’re looking for a way to keep up with all the Shanghai bloggers, download the app! 11412154_10101096512362613_5782021768617926288_n (1)Besides the amazing party, I had my week of concerts.  It was stressful and exhausting but well worth it!  This year Sean and I did 2 mini-musicals for grade 4/5 and 2/3.  Both concerts went extremely well and the kids had  a blast!   The past 2 years have flown by, but I have to say Sean and I have done a pretty good job! Continue reading

Cooking in Shanghai

Cooking in Shanghai can be difficult.  You are surrounded by restaurants, dinner dates, and then there is Sherpas, the website the delivers food right to you door!  But why is cooking in Shanghai difficult?  I mean even the groceries get delivered to your door.

The past few weeks I was selected to participate in a trial group for the app Sidechef.   Sidechef is a step by step cooking app with loads of recipes and drinks.  The app is great and easy to use, even my boyfriend was able to create some salmon burgers with it!  I loved the app because it got me out of my cooking rut and gave me new recipes to pick from!  So what did I make?  I started with yellow curry!  First of all, why have I never made curry before?  This curry was so easy to make and tasted amazing!   I used a pre-made curry paste to save on time and ingredients, the rest was chop and simmer!  The big mistake I made was using purple potatoes!  Note:  Purple and Yellow do not mix well together, add shrimp and you get all kinds of strange colors!  Thankfully it tasted good!  I then tried and failed to make a “healthy” broccoli salad.   I finely chopped broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower.  Added mushrooms and almonds.   My mistake was not measuring or following directions on the dressing.  I added the juice of 1 lemon, random assortments of spices (mostly garlic pepper) And then thought it would be a good idea to add greek yogurt!

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