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Bye-Bye Beijing

24 Jan

I am very aware that my last post has left me in a frozen state of 29 weeks of pregnancy – and well, that is obviously not my reality.  I am happy to announce that we have a beautiful and healthy baby girl (but more about that later).  For now, I would like to focus on why I was not around to finish my “Bump in Beijing” posts…or any other posts for that matter.  You see – the very day after I posted the Bump in Beijing Weeks 25-29, my darling husband came home after work with big news.  He announced that the company had sold, and we now had to make a decision…stay in Beijing or head to the mother land.

Honestly, it was a no brainer.  While we loved our time in China’s capital city – it was time to move back, be closer to family, and share our bundle of joy with her grandmothers!  (Not to mention saving her precious little lungs from Beijing’s off-the-charts pollution.)  The preparations began immediately.  Movers were hired and goodbye parties were planned.  We were on a very strict 3-week time table before I would be on the NO-FLY list – so we couldn’t waste a single second.

Very grateful for the adrenaline rush created by the thought of an international move at 32-weeks preggers, my energy level soared to new heights, and I was able to cram in lunches, dinners, and shopping excursions with all of my favorite ladies.  I finalized projects and Brett and I checked off some “Beijing must-sees” that had been overlooked during our 3 1/2 year stay.  We even squeezed in one more visit from my parents.  It was a jam packed 3-weeks – to say the least, but we survived!

A couple of days before the movers came to pack us up, I took several photos of our apartment.  I realized that I had never posted images of it before.  I will always think back with fond memories of this apartment…the first place Brett and I lived together, the countless dinners, the get-togethers with friends, the 3 Thanksgivings and Christmases, the many Saturday mornings we woke at dawn to watch Alabama football and drink pink champagne, and finally the place where our sweet baby Olive was made.

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Our apartment, Dong Dai MOMA – a collection of seven towers linked together by skyways and centered around ponds, outdoor cafes, and an artsy movie theater (inside the gray structure).  This view is from our apartment.

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VIew from the ground

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One of our little “duckie” friends!

Inside our living room.  I had the "Ni Hao" artwork made here at a local sign shop.  One of my favorite creations.  My version of a welcome sign…it means, "HELLO!"

Inside our living room. I had the “Ni Hao” artwork made here at a local sign shop. One of my favorite creations. My version of a welcome sign…it means, “HELLO!”

The Living Room

The Living Room

Chinese dragon - these things are a dime a dozen over there.  Always amazing to see what they sell for in the States.

A Chinese dragon – these things are a dime a dozen over in Beijing. Always amazing to see what they sell for in the States.

custom china place setting

Custom china we had made in honor of our little Olive “Bee” Hutchinson.

Feathered Headdress purchased on our honeymoon in South Africa.

Feathered Headdress purchased on our honeymoon in South Africa.

Vintage Gucci and Pucci scarves made into throw pillows.  Precious Chinese baby face art in the background.

Vintage Gucci and Pucci scarves made into throw pillows. Precious Chinese baby face art in the background.

Entry Way/Bar Area

Entry Way & Small Bar Area

The Study

The Study

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom and inspiration for A Blonde in Beijing artwork.

Master Bedroom and inspiration for A Blonde in Beijing artwork.

Kitchen

Kitchen

Guest Bath

Guest Bath

Guest Bedroom (i.e. Morgan's closet).  Complete with Barbie American Flag.  Why use stars when you can use Barbie Heads?

Guest Bedroom (i.e. Morgan’s closet). Complete with Barbie American Flag. Why use stars when you can use Barbie Heads?

Carnage from the Barbie American Flag...

Carnage from the Barbie American Flag…

Our last week was packed with activities…we squeezed in one last trip to the Great Wall, finally visited the Summer Palace, and had a “yard sale”.

With Mom and Joe on the Great Wall.  My last visit to this wonder of the world.

With Mom and Joe on the Great Wall. My last visit to this wonder of the world.

With mom on the Great Wall

With mom on the Great Wall

We finally made it to the Summer Palace.  Probably would have enjoyed it more when I wasn't almost 8 months pregnant.  LOTS of hills!

We finally made it to the Summer Palace. Probably would have enjoyed it more when I wasn’t almost 8-months pregnant. LOTS of hills!

Lotus flowers are the Summer Palace.

Lotus flowers at the Summer Palace.

With Mom and Joe at the Summer Palace

With Mom and Joe at the Summer Palace

All the last minute sight seeing and visiting with friends was great – but honestly, the highlight of our last week was hosting a Chinese style yard sale.  After cleaning out and organizing the apartment so the movers could come to pack everything, we needed a fast way to get rid of all the junk we had accumulated.  For months we had been fighting the traffic outside our building due to a make shift Saturday morning market that brought the locals out in droves.  Now it was our turn to get in on the action.  I had to do some convincing to get Brett on board.  He feared that we (okay he) would have to haul whatever items didn’t sell back up to the apartment.  So naturally  – his idea was to just trash everything.  I, on the other hand, was confident in my understanding of the local Chinese.  If we were selling Western goods (and I don’t mean cowboy boots) – they were buying.  My hunch proved to be more than right.  We couldn’t even make it to the sidewalk before a swarm of 75+ Chinese people started pawing and grabbing everything in our hands.  It was mayhem…bedlam…anarchy – I honestly don’t know how to put it into words (nor does the thesaurus).  And sadly, it happened so fast that my pictures do not even do it justice.  FYI – Beijing might be the only place in the world where you can practically get dollar for dollar (or RMB for RMB) back for the crap you bought at Ikea.

Amazingly - Brett is somewhere in the middle of this crowd

Amazingly – Brett is somewhere in the middle of this crowd

The carnage.  Apparently, pink Easter grass and Easter eggs are lost on the Chinesel.

The carnage. Apparently, pink Easter grass and Easter eggs are lost on the Chinese.

As well as Santa Advent Calendars….

And so are Santa Advent Calendars….

Our bounty!

Our bounty!

After a busy week of goodbyes, it was finally time to head to the Beijing International Airport one last time.  Somehow – although we came to Beijing with only 5 suitcases each, it took a shuttle bus to take us in order to hold all of our bags (not to mention the 76 boxes on the way to America via slow boat).

van with luggage

And just like that, after 3 1/2 wonderful years – full of once in a lifetime experiences, we said, “Bye Bye Beijing.”

Please stayed tuned for A Blonde in Beijing’s big blog move…coming soon!

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Better Late Than Never: Hutchinson Visit

27 Jul
Better Late Than Never, Right?  Here is a very tardy post of our wonderful visit with the Hutchinsons last November.

What a treat it was to be able to spend time with Brett’s parents, his brother Cory, and beautiful Kara here in Beijing.  There are just some things that cannot be expressed through words or photos – which is why we love visitors.  It actually enables us to really show what our life is like in this crazy, polluted, overcrowded…but still pretty fascinating foreign land.

Unfortunately, their visit fell on an extremely busy week for Brett (which I think the majority of you, through deductive reasoning, will be able to tell by the absence of him in the photos below) which left us all missing him and forced the Hutchinsons to see China through the eyes of a Blonde in Beijing.  I am hopeful that a good time was still had by all!

In addition to celebrating Brett’s Big 4-0 at Maison Boulud, we were able to show them quite a few of the sites  – The Olympic Village, The Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, Wangfujing Snack Street, Tea Street, and The Forbidden City.  And of course – we made sure that they tried all the top foods – Beijing Duck, Din Tai Fung dumplings, and don’t forget the street meat.  (Okay – I don’t think Donna actually tried this…but Cory & Kara braved a variety of interesting delicacies – i.e. scorpions, silk worms, etc.)

As their tour guide for the week, I did my best to document the trip for them (a service I only provide for true VIP visitors!)  Here are some of my favorites…

This would be a fantastic Christmas card if Cory was their only son! The Great Wall Mutianyu – November 2011

Tom & Donna Hutchinson. The Great Wall – November 2011

How cute are they? Seriously. The Great Wall – November 2011

Tom with his D-in-L’s. The Great Wall – November 2011

Kara & Cory – The Great Wall.

Perhaps I got a little camera happy with the happy couple….

Up, up, and away! Riding the chair lift to the top of the wall.

Kara cruising down the slide. The best part of visiting the wall at Mutianyu!

Quite possibly my favorite picture of the trip. Clearly, Cory is not pleased with Tom’s choice of speed. His face is the physical definition of boredom.

Tom and Donna in front of The Bird’s Nest. Olympic Village – Beijing.

Brett finally makes it! Family dinner at Mao’s Red Capital Club. This restaurant, hidden in an ancient hutong alleyway, serves tasty food – but the main reason to visit is to step back in time and soak in a bit of “Mao’s China”.

Walking into the gardens surrounding the Temple of Heaven. We were so lucky to have such a beautiful Beijing day. A rarity to say the least.

Donna, Cory & Tom at the Temple of Heaven. Beijing – November 2011

Temple of Heaven – Beijing

I would say I was trying to be artistic…but perhaps Cory is just too tall! I still like it though. Temple of Heaven – Beijing, China.

A tiny Donna at the Temple of Heaven. It is terribly difficult to capture an image with no other tourists. I didn’t crop the original for this very reason. I love the emptiness of it. Temple of Heaven – Beijing, China

The beautiful and extremely old Cypress trees in the grounds that surround the temple. Temple of Heaven – Beijing, China

Tree Gazing. Temple of Heaven Grounds – Beijing, China

Another potentially great Christmas card if Tom and Donna only had one son and also decided to adopt a random blonde from Murray, Kentucky… Temple of Heaven Grounds – Beijing, China

Old school online dating?? We stumbled upon a mass of middle-aged, local Chinese men and women in the gardens surrounding the Temple of Heaven with dozens of papers like these taped to the ground. After chatting with a few of them, who were actually willing to talk with me in Chinese – I was able to learn that they were all there to find mates for their children. These “papers” are actually dating profiles including personal details such as height, age, and occupation. Some even go so far as to say if they are home or car owners. Amazing!

Okay…so this is obviously Cory, not Brett. But for those of you who truly know Brett…you know that this is an impersonation of his “intense face”. Complete with the drumming of the fingers. Nice tribute, Cory.

The Forbidden City – Beijing, China

Kara & Cory – Forbidden City, November 2011

The Forbidden City – Roof Tile Detail.

The Forbidden City – Beijing, China

Tea Tasting on Tea Street. Somehow I didn’t snap a picture when they put Kara to work separating proper tea leaves from the bad ones…what a missed opportunity. I have a feeling that her daily wage might be more than they are used to paying.

This is the coup de gras of photos from the trip. Apparently, my harassing comments to Tom about the fact that of all things to bring to Beijing, he packed his “Turkey Trot 1997” t-shirt hit a nerve. His response to my torment was to jokingly wear it under his sport coat for Brett’s birthday dinner and party at Maison Boulud. Loved it. He did change – although I think I would have preferred him like this.

Better Late Than NEVER: Grease is the Word…

9 Jul

Due to my unfortunate procrastination – I think it is high time that I start a category of posts called “Better Late Than NEVER”.  This will give me the opportunity to write about things that happened weeks ago (or most likely months ago) whenever the “blog bug” hits me.  So let’s start with a fun one….Grease is the Word!

Morgan & Brett channelling Sandra Dee & Danny Zuko

Back in December, The Red Headed Sisters – Megan & KC Connolly, threw a bowling birthday bash in Beijing to celebrate KC’s big 3-0.  And what better theme for a bowling bash than GREASE!  Every single guest came in full on Grease-worthy gear.  A custom soundtrack not only blasted through the overhead speakers to set the perfect tone, but also went home with each guest as a party favor on individual CD’s.  From cheeseburger shaped cupcakes to french fry cookies with red icing “ketchup” – these pink ladies thought of everything!

BOWL OFF: Sexy Sandy VS Not-So-Sexy Sandra Dee

Look at those amazing forms! Morgan Hutchinson with Birthday Girl KC Connolly

Sandra Dee & Rizzo: Morgan Hutchinson & Megan Connolly

Eating one of the delicious “burger” cupcakes!

Sandra Dee & Danny. Doesn’t Brett has the perfect “Zuko” Hair!?

Cutest cupcakes and french fry cookies ever!!

Those cute Connolly’s really know how to show their guests a good time!  Thank you for the wonderful memories!

Rydell High forever.
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