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Blondes in Beijing!!

18 Jul
Two blondes in a sea of beautiful Beijing brunettes (both from South of the Mason-Dixon Line).   Unfortunately…I am the extremely short one (and according to the Beatles Cover Band that was playing that night, I am dressed as Aladdin).  Thanks Chinese Ringo.

Morgan Hutchinson & Sarah Wilson

Engagement Photo Shoot in Beijing

16 Mar

Our engagement photo shoot in Beijing had everything a girl could ask for…a Bride, a Brett, and a plate full of bugs! Okay – scorpions, silk worms, and a star fish to be exact.  BTW – scorpions and star fish are not so bad – but silk worms…they are disgusting!

Thanks to the wonderful photographers at GIB Studio, our day of picture taking out and about in Beijing (albeit freezing cold Beijing) was a true success.  We wanted an authentic Chinese feel to them – and I think we got it! From bug eating on a snack street in Wang Fu Jing to sightseeing at the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, we had a blast celebrating our engagement Beijing Style.  We also spent a little bit of time in the studio.  I have to admit that is was hilarious to see what a little ham I am about to marry!

For information on hiring GIB Studios for your next photo shoot please contact them directly:

  • 186-0127-5025
  • gibphotostudio@gmail.com
  • www.gibstudio.com
  • Valentine’s Day in Beijing

    21 Feb

    Referred to as “Ai Ren Tian” – which literally translates to Lover’s Day, the Valentine’s Day celebration in China is a fast growing trend. In fact, they have already learned to jack up the price of roses by 100% or more at every flower market in town.   Heart shape chocolates line the shelves of most markets (not just the western ones) and restaurants advertise Valentine’s Day specials. Though unlike New York – you don’t have to make a reservation 2-months in advance! Unfortunately though, my personal favorite – the classic pink velvet heart shape box of chocolates by Russell Stover (found at any local Duane Reade in NYC) is a NO show in the Old Peking. Although on a positive note: Dove, Toblerone, and many fine European chocolates make a strong showing.

    Valentine’s Day happened to fall on the day after we arrived home from our trip to the states. Needless to say – jet lag played a big roll in our decision to avoid the crowds and have a nice night at home.  I surprised Brett by dressing myself and our dining room chairs up as Cupid.  I think it is a pretty clever use of red feathered wings…

     

    Valentine’s Day Table Decor

    I also decided to get a little more creative with my centerpieces in order to avoid the crazy mark up on roses. I used bundles and bundles of baby’s breath (a filler that I don’t typically like) to create the look of a giant fluffy snowball.  It was really cute…and really cheap!  Not to mention the fact that Valentine’s Day was over a week ago, and the arrangements still look just as fresh as the day I created them.

     

    Fluffy Baby’s Breath Arrangement

    I also surprised Brett with one of his favorite meals: creamed spinach and a Wagu beef filet prepared rare.  He surprised me with 66 beautiful red roses!

     

    A Treat from My Valentine!

    I give our Valentine’s Day in Beijing 5 Blondes out of 5!  Of course if you happened to spend it with someone who you don’t particularly like…the score could be much lower.

    3 Weeks…7 Company Parties

    31 Jan

    Well – one thing is clear – the Chinese certainly finish out the year (the lunar calendar year) with an endless series of parties.  Here are a few pictures from our Nianhui (annual party) Marathon!

    Xi'an BMW Showroom Grand Opening. FASHION: Ivory Silk Dolce and Gabanna Jacket with a Black Wool Pencil Skirt

    We kicked off the celebrations with the Grand Opening of a new BMW Showroom on Xi’an’s newest and most prominent International Shopping Street.

    With Chris – The Most Darling Girl from Xi’an!

    Chris is the assistant to Harris, the General Manager of the Xi’an stores.  She is such a doll.  Not only does she help us plan our trips and arrange our entertainment during our stays – she also talks Gossip Girl with me!  (And let’s be honest – with Brett too. He is a shameless fan!)

    Brett, Morgan, Oscar, Brandi, Fancy Nancy, and Terry. FASHION: Taupe and Black Lace Dress from Forever XXI with Leopard Print Stockings

    Dinner with some of Brett’s Team – from accounting to IT.  Lucky for me – we didn’t have to discuss numbers or motherboards! And, I was able to speak Mandarin almost the entire meal.  Ok -it might have been 2nd grade Mandarin…but you have to start somewhere!

    Nancy, Morgan, Brett

    Fancy Nancy (as I call her – due to her love of bedazzling every office accessory on her desk with pink crystals) is Brett’s amazing assistant.  Her english is outstanding (after studying in New Zealand) and she is just a ball of fun!

    Me and My Xi'an Boyfriend Edward. FASHION: Black and Royal Blue Polkadot Strapless Dress from Tootsies circa 1986

    At the Xi’an Nianhui with Edward (Marketing Director of Xi’an stores and MC of the annual party) who introduced me as a Hollywood Movie Star to the crowd of 500 guests.  Who knew all I had to do was move to a country of brunettes to be considered a star?  Hair dye…worth it’s weight in gold!

    Morgan and Brett Xi'an Nianhui

    Seating assignments are taken very seriously in China.  In fact – there is a well known science to it.  Most (if not all) of the tables are round and seat up to 12 guests.  The guest of honor is seated in the center seat facing the stage – to the right and left are the next round of important guests (or me if I am with Brett!) and so on and so on.  The special seat is marked with a napkin folded to look like a dragon.   In a private room or residence, this seat would be placed furthest from the door, and it would be assumed that the person sitting in the special seat would pick up the check!

    Urumqi Nianhui. FASHION: Lavender Silk BCBG Runway Cocktail Dress with Traditional Urumqi Headgear

    Urumqi – a city in the most western province of China that borders Kazakhstan and has a population of over 2.5 million – was absolutely freezing!  I wore open toed shoes of course and lost feeling in my toes after hoofing through the snow.  But I mean – boots just don’t work with a cocktail dress.

    Urumqi Nianhui Mask Game

    In all fairness, Brett was blind folded when he drew this.  But should I be concerned if this is how he pictures me when his eyes are closed?  I sort of look like Sloth from The Goonies.

    Filling the Ice Sculpture with Champagne at the Beijing Nianhui

    This was actually pretty cool.  It originally looked like a big plain block of ice – but as it filled with the Champagne  – all of the NCGA brand logos (BMW, Porsche, Jaguar, Volvo, and Mini) magically appeared!

    Beijing Nianhui

    This picture was taken seconds before Brett climbed into a black magic box to “appear” out of nowhere in front of the 1000+ guests.  After mysteriously emerging from the box – I was asked to verify his identity – which I did entirely in Chinese!  Maybe even 3rd grade Chinese!

    Group Pic at Beijing Nianhui
    Beijing Jaguar Showroom Grand Opening

    This showroom (the largest in all of China) is absolutely stunning.  Hats off to the designer!  Also – a live band performed and at one point, Brett and I thought they were actually playing an Alicia Keys CD.  The singer was phenomenal!

    Jaguar Showroom Opening

    Brett and I with Fiona (left) one of the in-house attorneys and Sherry (right) the VP of HR.

    Driver Dinner

    Brett and I with our dear driver Allen whom we also consider to be our 21 year old son!  We (along with others and their drivers) treated him to Peking Duck and presented him with his Hong Bao (a red envelope filled with his year-end bonus).  It was his first time to try Maltai (a Chinese Wine that literally burns your throat and makes your face turn bright red!)  Needless to say – we provided him with a driver to get him home.  No drunk driving aloud!

    Solena, Morgan, Allen, and Brett at Driver Dinner

    Solena (our Chinese teacher AND friend) joined us for the dinner.

    Allen and Brett

    This season of company parties, while a bit exhausting, was also so much fun.  I love to experience new ways of celebrating!

    Welcome 2011!

    29 Jan

    New Year's Eve 2011 at Maison Boulud

    Maison Boulud is Daniel Boulud’s restaurant here in Beijing.  It is clearly the best “pretty” french food in town.  Although, we prefer Brasserie Flo for the classics like steak tartare and frisee salads!

    NYE 2011! FASHION: Vintage Silver Lame Animal Print Strapless Dress with a Thin Black Patent Leather Belt, Michael Kors Pewter Platforms, and a Black and Silver Tulle Fascinator

    I wanted to get a full length picture before the meal – or should I say…before the I put a giant food baby in my belly!  The dress was already a bit tight!

    NYE 2011

    The grand entrance to Maison Boulud – which at one time was the American Embassy.  It is absolutely stunning!

    New Year's Eve Wrist Corsage

    Like I said before (in the Christmas Eve Blog Entry)…I am trying to bring the wrist corsage back.  I actually just ordered 2 dozen elastic bands from a floral supply  store in the states.  I will be bringing them back to Beijing after our trip home next week!  Can’t wait!  The options are endless here as far as flowers go – and they are soooo cheap!

    New Year's Day at Union Cafe in Sanlitun

    We went to Union Cafe (a western restaurant that caters to expats) in search of Black Eyed Peas, Pork, and Greens…no luck! Hopefully – this doesn’t mean 2011 is going to be a bust.  Fingers crossed!

    Happy 2011 to you all!  Or better yet…Tu Nian Kuai Le!  Happy Bunny Year!

    Miracle on Xiang He Yuao Road

    28 Dec

    Christmas Tree Lot - Beijing Style

    The title of this blog might be a bit of a stretch.  I don’t mean to insinuate that either of us defended the existence of Santa Claus within the Chinese court system (although best I can tell – the court system here has one simple step: a payoff).  I do believe; however, that we did have a little miracle of our own here on Xiang He Yuao Road (our street). It all began with our first Chinese Christmas Tree…

    We were thrilled to learn that our favorite flower market was selling live Christmas Trees of a respectable size.  It was Griswold time – Charlie Brown style wasn’t going to cut it for our first Christmas away from all of our family.  I wouldn’t say that a glow of heavenly light surrounded the glorious pine – but we were both instantly drawn to the same 3 meter douglas fir with an endearing floppiness to it.  While the tree keepers cleaned and trimmed our chosen tree, we headed inside to buy lights and other trimmings.

    Our Griswold Tree - It Hits the Ceiling!

    The selection of ornaments and garlands was staggering.  I was actually expecting to have to decorate the tree with my collection of bangles – but no need.  We bought tons of twinkle lights, balls of every color and size, oversized bells, crystal ice cycles, and meters upon meters of garlands.  But the highlight of the day was finding our over the top tree topper – a flashing red light reading Merry Christmas – so tacky it was cute.  Of course it wasn’t intended to be a tree topper – so we convinced the electrician on call (as if such a thing existed  – it was a sales clerk) to rewire it with a cord long enough to read the top of the tree.  In retrospect this was our dumbest idea ever.

    The tree was delivered about an hour later (still with its roots in a giant barrel mind you…making it quite a bit taller and quite a bit more Griswold than we anticipated). With It’s A Wonderful Life on in the background, we strung our lovely tree with hundreds of twinkle lights and decked it with glittering ornaments.  Then, we snuggled up on the couch with a glass of champagne each to admire our work.  It was lovely.  A little scrappy – but lovely nonetheless.

    Sheng Dan Liwu - Christmas Gifts

    We dozed off at some point – lulled to sleep by Christmas music and the sweet glow of our tree.  Somewhere between falling asleep and total dream zone I awoke to a loud pop.  I could tell something was different about the room…and then, it hit me like a Mack truck. The lights on the tree blew out.  I woke Brett to give him the bad news that we would have to start all over tomorrow.  Oh well…we both agreed.  Worse things have happened.  Actually, worse things were about to happen.  FIRE!!  The entire surge protector (some protector, right?) was engulfed in flames rising quickly up the cords just centimeters away from torching the curtains, the wall, and obviously the entire tree.  I ran to get a big blanket to snuff it out while Brett carefully pulled the cords away from the wall as best he could.  Luckily, he put it out before it caused any major damage.  But we definitely learned our lesson…don’t Clark Griswold your tree.  (FYI – I went to IKEA the next day and purchased extra cool, energy-saving lights…I wasn’t going to take any chances. And, although the topper remained in place, it was never turned on again.)

    Christmas Eve at Jaan - 1920's Style. BTW- I am going to incorporate wrist corsages into my daily life. Love them! FASHION: White Iisly Bunny Fur Shrug with Silver Sequined Trim, Black Strapless Ted Baker Silk Jersey Gown and Feather Headpiece

    Other than the tree fiasco, we had a lovely Christmas, just the two of us, here in Beijing.  We started the festivities with a Pre-Christmas Eve dinner at the Kunlun Hotel’s Summit Club.  It is on the top floor, and we were able to see all the lights of the city which actually included a lot more Christmas lights than one might think.  On actual Christmas Eve, we went to Jaan, a French restaurant with beautiful art deco decor in the Raffles Hotel downtown.  They did such a lovely job. We enjoyed a five-course meal in a 1920’s themed setting with 2 different live musical performances.  First a string quartet and then a jazz band with a saxophone player that oddly bore a resemblance to Stevie Wonder and Jon Hamm as “Sergio” in the SNL Digital Short: “Cursed”.

    Yes...we realize we look dorky. FASHION?? Matching Red Waffle Print Long Johns from Red Envelope

    On Christmas morning, we feasted on chocolate muffins, sausage, and champagne while we played Santa in matching red long johns.  Unfortunately, the majority of those pictures (any showing us from the waist down) are not suitable for my blog.  I will just say that long johns look hilarious – and very Cousin Eddy.

    Of course we wish we could have been with our families and loved ones for the holidays – but I think we found the best thing Beijing had to offer this Christmas…time with each other.

    Merry Christmas!  Sheng Dan Kuai Le!

    How Much is that Turkey in the Window?

    23 Dec

    In Our Turkey Day Aprons

    Well…I never thought that buying a turkey would stress me out financially – but then again I never thought that a generic frozen turkey could cost over $100…and I have bought turkeys in NYC!  The truth is – turkey is quite a commodity here in China. But I wasn’t about to cook a Thanksgiving Dinner for Brett and all of our expat friends sans gobbler.  So – I forked over the money to the sweet lady working at the supermarket who giggled and said, “Tai gui le” – which means too expensive.  To which I replied, “Wo tong yi” – I agree.

    With the turkey in hand (or in the trunk) I began the search for the other accoutrements.  Corn, potatoes, shallots, even finding butternut squash was a cake walk – but endives, chestnuts, canned pumpkin, and fresh cranberries?  Forget about it.  5 stops later – I gave up all together on the cranberries (eventually I just threw some craisins in a pot of hot water and plumped them up as much as possible before using them in my spicy cranberry relish).

    One of my favorite things about the shopping excursion(s) was running into every other

    Sharpening His Carving Knife

    expat “homemaker” (I can’t believe I just called myself that…although a spade is a spade) out and about in search of all the same things.  I actually exchanged email addresses with a few of the other turkey day trackers, and we are now friends!  One of the markets swarming with expats is called San Yuan Li.  This local market was established years ago to cater to all of the embassies in Beijing.  So – if you can’t find what you are looking for at Jenny Lou’s or April Gourmet – San Yuan Li is the next stop.  I would have gone there for everything – but it is outside and therefore cold, and they do not have champagne, wine, or bourbon – all of which are necessary ingredients for the type of Thanksgiving I like to host!

    The Menu

    Because The Mayflower did not stop in China on its way to the US of A, Thanksgiving is unfortunately not a Chinese Holiday.  So – we decided to celebrate on Saturday when no one had to work. I began the preparations on Friday by making the items that would keep: butternut squash soup, creamed corn, 14 miniature pumpkin pies (one for each of us), and the chocolate torte.  This left a lot for Saturday itself – but I had a plan.  I knew that my alma mater would be playing its number one rival that day at 3:30 AM Beijing time.  So, with game day bells on, Brett and I arose before dawn to cheer on The Crimson Tide and cook a Thanksgiving Feast.  To Tom and Donna – you did an amazing job with Brett.  He is such a great helper in the kitchen!  He carved out all 14 baby pumpkins (we used them as bowls for the butternut squash soup) while I prepped the turkey and made the oyster dressing.  He peeled the potatoes while I popped green beans, and he poured the Maker’s Mark into our Diet Cokes when it was late enough in the day to not feel like total degenerates! (I mean how do you watch SEC football without at least one bourbon and diet coke?)

    Turkey Day Table

    With the place settings, candles, and fresh flowers (from our wonderful and freakishly cheap flower market) on the table – we were ready for our guests to arrive.  There were 14 of us in total with representatives from England, Russia, Canada, and America – specifically: Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, California, Texas, D.C. and Virginia.  Surrounding ourselves with so many wonderful new friends helped ease the pain of being away from our families, and it made giving thanks especially easy.  How blessed we are to have celebrated the most American of all holidays in such a far away land.

    Zai Jian 20’s…Hello Big Blonde 3-0!

    29 Sep

    In the 3rd grade we took a family trip to Chicago.  Of course after all of these years, many of my memories blur together; however, one exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Chicago has stayed with me – a traveling treasury of Ancient Egypt.  I knew at that moment that I must someday visit that amazing country.

    Turning thirty seemed like just the right time to explore the only country with the last standing wonder of the ancient world.  In fact, I actually found myself counting down the days with excitement and happiness.  And, as we all know, living in a world of botox, chemical peels, and $300 an ounce face creams claiming to make our faces feel like baby bottoms, getting older is typically not welcomed with a giant smile.

    Anna, Sara, Morgan, and Brett at Carmen

    Before I start to share the details of our voyage to Egypt, I must first thank my precious twenty-something ladies in Beijing for including an “old lady” like me in their September Babies’ Birthday Bash!  Below are some pics from the small group dinner at Carmen for tappas and homemade cupcakes (par moi) before the bigger party at The Beach (an outdoor rooftop bar with a sand covered dance floor).

    Look how the cute 20-somethings pose for the camera, while the hungry 30 year old can't wait to dive into the cupcakes...

    Realizing that I totally jumped the gun. Oops!! (Sara, Lauren, me, and Sarah)

    Here is a recipe (courtesy of The Food Network) for the infamous Magnolia Bakery cupcakes that I used.  I must admit that I still managed to down them at my normal rapid rate even after discovering the amount of sugar in the icing alone!  See for yourself below…you might get a sugar high just reading it.

    Magnolia Bakery Cupcake Recipe

    Long time – No blonde… I mean blog!

    28 Sep

    Enjoying time on the water this summer before Beijing got too hot!

    Summer has come to an end and it appears that things are moving toward a more normal life. Basically what I am trying to say is that after a couple of busy months…the Blonde is back!  I am ready to talk (okay – write) travel spots, shopping and dining tips, and insight into the wonderful world that is China.

    It has been an eventful summer. We have traveled to a few great places, eaten at new restaurants around Beijing, shopped at hidden gem boutiques, and met so many wonderful people along the way.

    Although it is a bit backwards (I mean I am blonde and from Kentucky – so backwards is a pretty comfortable spot for me) I am going to blog in a reverse order.  I will start with our most recent adventures.

    Please stay tuned!

    Dancing with Wolves

    21 Jul

    Mr. Li Jiwei's "Yun. inForm. 798"

    Several weeks ago we attended a party hosted by the German Embassy and BMW.  The event launched a new BMW inspired exhibit by Chinese born artist Li Jiwei.  Though Li Jiwei’s art  installation was engaging, the far more remarkable work was created by a relatively unknown Chinese artist.  An artist who must have a thing for wolves…

    After the gallery unveiling of Mr. Li Jiwei’s exhibition, Revolverheld, a German rock band, performed an open air concert in the 798 Art District Originality Square.  As we walked into the space we were immediately taken aback by the sight of over one hundred life-size bronze wolves.  It was as if a pack of wolves decided to have a night out of the woods to listen to a classic rock band.

    Wolf pack rocking out to Revolverheld. They are so into it!

    Brett and I pretty much spent the rest of the evening taking photos of ourselves riding the wolves and posing with other various pieces of art.  Clearly, we are very classy art connoisseurs!  I expect a call from the Met any day – begging me to take the head curator position.  Here are a few of our masterpieces….

    Taking in Revolverheld on a wolf bench

    Riding a random white horse. There is an entire series of these...not intended for public viewing!

    Oh yes...this is Brett in the most cliché pose of the night. I am sure I convinced him to do this!

    I am not even sure what this is...a big baby angel? I am pretty sure; however, that I wanted to take the picture because I thought my blue jumpsuit matched it perfectly!

    Brett...looking cute as always!

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