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Barbie Baby Shower in Beijing

7 Aug

It is no secret to those who know me that I am a lover of all things Barbie.  So when my dear friends here in Beijing decided to throw us a baby shower – the theme was apparently a “Barbie Doll Brainer”…i.e. a no brainer.  Not to suggest that creators behind the famous doll do not have brains…it is just that if you literally squeeze the doll’s head, it is hollow – there is no plastic brain.  Perhaps something Mattel should think about adding…

While my Ken doll, Brett, was in the know, the shower was a total surprise to me!  What a fun treat to find all of my Beijing beauties dressed in their “Barbie Best” to celebrate the upcoming arrival of Baby Olive Bee.  And while the actual brunch baby shower was a surprise, I was not surprised at all to find that these special ladies had covered every detail – including a preggers Barbie centerpiece!  I will now let the pictures do the talking…

The brunch menu – complete with my face super-imposed on the Original Barbie. Each place setting came with its own pair of shoes and matching handbag…Barbie size of course!

Playing with the pregnant Barbie. She and I really bonded that day as we were the only guests not partaking in the free-flow of pink champagne!

Preggers Barbie Centerpiece

How cute are these custom Barbie cupcakes??

More of the cutest cupcakes… by Lollipop Bakery in Beijing

Brett and I with KC Connolly – i.e. Ghetto Fabulous Barbie!

2 of our Barbie Hostesses with the Mostesses! Neon Barbie Megan Connolly and Lena Abed as Skipper.

The very pink party table sprinkled with Barbie Shoes…

GIFT TIME! The must-have onesie for our future New Yorker.

Thank you ladies for all of the amazing gifts…snuggly blankies, her first Qipao, the cutest teeny tiny socks I have ever seen, and enough clothes for me to change her “look” multiple times a day. Let’s just say…you all know me well!

With our very own petite size Happy Family Set – Ken, Barbie, and Baby!

It is tough to get this many Barbies to focus at the same time… Thank you to our wonderful hostesses!

Outside of MODO, a fabulous choice for the Barbie Brunch Baby Shower, in Sanlitun village.

I would like to say another BIG Barbie THANK YOU to all of our sweet friends who organized this celebration in honor of our little one.  Being pregnant and planning to give birth in China is certainly a unique and sometimes challenging experience, but having the love and support of  such great friends is a true blessing.

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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.

Beach Babymoon

20 Jul

While the word itself…”babymoon” seemed to turn my husband’s stomach – he had absolutely no problem with the concept of actually taking a fabulous trip before our little munchkin arrives.  Personally – I don’t care what you call it.  I will take a romantic get-away with my husband any chance I get!  So off to the Maldives we went to celebrate the upcoming arrival of Baby Hutch.

After rave reviews from my sweet friend and newlywed, Brandace Wilson, (who just returned from her honeymoon) we knew we must take advantage of the direct flight from Beijing to Malé while we still had the chance.  And while it was difficult to choose a resort (because they are all quite amazing) – in the end we went with the W Resort & Spa on Fesdu Island…just 1 of the 1,200 that make up this beautiful island nation situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

On the W Jetty waiting for our seaplane take-off. The W has its own lounge full of cool drinks and tasty treats while you wait for “fins up”.

The sign of a good trip…the seaplane had my monogram.

The vast majority of our time in the Maldives was spent in our own little ocean oasis.  When your “hut” has everything you need including direct ocean access, a plunge pool, a well stocked snack station and minibar, and the best in-room service…why leave?  So – we basically didn’t.  Except for breakfast.  This preggers couldn’t resist the delicious spread of the buffet and the “fruit man” who created custom fruit plate masterpieces to suit one’s individual tastes.

Outdoor space on our Ocean Oasis. The W also offers beautiful beach bungalows – but I think the over-the-water option (with glass bottom floors inside) is the more interesting and fun of the two.

Brett’s backflip into the ocean off the deck. Reminding me that I was truly not cut out to be a “boy-mom”!

In-Water Dining! Even if it is a bit warm outside…the W makes sure that your feet are cool by allowing you to give them a dip while enjoying your morning meal.

One of many “bump” pictures…

One perk of traveling to a Muslim country while pregnant…the “mocktail” list is almost as long as the “cocktail” list!

The bird and the bump!

We decided to do a little photo shoot after breakfast one morning (mainly because I had finally washed my hair for real in a legitimate shower…as opposed to an ocean one!)

One night we decided to take advantage of the W’s In-Room BBQ Service.  They provide all the “fixings”  and you can choose between American or Asian style.  Clearly, with the current lack of American BBQ in our lives …we opted for the potato salad and grilled corn-on-the-cob option.  All that was left for us to do (after they delivered the spread and set-up the grill for us) was to actually throw the meat (ribs, burgers, and wings) on the grill and eat it!

My Grill Master!

Great food. Great view. Extra great company.

The proximity to China and the lack of visa issues for mainland Chinese makes the Maldives a great destination for Chinese honeymooners.  Here were some of our favorites…

This couple wore matching outfits everyday. Not your typical “trousseau” to say the least!

Although we only caught a quick glimpse of their husbands, these ladies went all out for a not-so-impromptu photo shoot around the tiny island wearing formal gowns. We see this constantly in the Mainland!

On our last day at the resort, before heading back to Malé for a quick tour of the world’s smallest capital city and then back to Beijing, we decided to allow ourselves the ultimate cliché in destination drinking…Pina Coladas!  (A virgin one for me of course!)  But who could resist this packaging??

Puckering up for his Pineapple! His was much better than mine…I did have a tiny sip!

Until next time beautiful blue water and soft silky sand!

A parting message in honor of our little beach-bun-in-the-oven!

 

Sunny Singapore

3 May

On a whim, Brett and I decided to take a last-minute trip to Singapore during the Chinese May Day Holiday.  After almost 3 years of hearing numerous friends tell us of its greatness, we thought we should see it for ourselves.  I am so pleased that we did.  It truly is a great little country.

Several airlines offer non-stop flights from Beijing, but Jet Star (a division of Qantas) offered the best red-eye option, and as an additional bonus – they were running an online special for business class fares.  It’s no Emirates – but the flights were on time, the service was friendly, and we arrived safely.

We landed in Singapore at 8:30 AM with an entire sunshine filled day ahead of us.  So – our natural first stop (while waiting for our noon check-in) was the hotel pool.  Beijing hasn’t quite grasped the concept of an outdoor hotel pool – so we are starved for the smell of chlorine, cucumber infused water, and cool hand towels smelling of eucalyptus.  A morning of vitamin D (not from a bottle) and lunch al fresco was just what the doctor ordered.

There are many lovely hotel pools in Singapore that offer beautiful views of the city and the bay including classics like The Fullerton, as well as stunning newcomers like the Sands, but after doing a bit of research – the rooms at the Mandarin Oriental pushed me over the edge. Also – The Fullerton Hotel and The Sands are tourist attractions in and of themselves. Fun to visit for a cocktail or afternoon tea, but the crowds could be a bit much at times if you were staying there.

Mandarin Oriental Pool in Singapore

The picture below shows our view of The Sands Hotel from our room. The entire 57th floor is an outdoor observation deck complete with 2 restaurants, a lounge, and a magnificent pool surrounded by palms. The ground floor and basement levels house the casino which now also houses some of our money! While lucky in love…not so lucky at the blackjack table.

The Sands Singapore. The white structure in front, resembling the bottom part of an artichoke is the Art & Science Museum of Singapore. To its immediate right (unfortunately not in this picture) is the floating Louis Vuitton store – that’s right, it is on the water.  That soccer field is floating too!

For first time visitors (like us), I strongly suggest staying around the harbor. The views are spectacular and taxis can easily and quickly take you to other parts of the city…like Orchard Street for shopping! That said, you will find plenty to do around the bay – all within walking distance. Or, you can take a water taxi, which is fun.

Morgan & Brett Hutchinson Singapore May 2012

We decided to take a little cruise on the water to see the Singapore sights.  It really is a charming city with colorful outdoor cafés lining the banks of the river.  Beautiful and intricate foot and motor bridges are found at each turn and old, deep south looking trees with roots the size of humans flank either side.  Along our journey we saw many historic buildings and heard the brief history of the city’s development.  There are a couple different companies that offer these hour-long trips (around $20USD per person).  We chose the Singapore River Cruise Company – but they all appear to be about the same.  It was a great, easy way to learn about the city.  But be sure to apply sunscreen before setting sail…my pearly white, hadn’t seen the sun in months skin (thanks to BJ’s not so friendly skies) was fried by the end of our short cruise.

Brett on the river cruise boat

This set of bronze sculptures captures the joy of little children, who years before Singapore’s commercialization escaped the heat by leaping into the cool river.

On the river cruise admiring Singapore’s famous MerLion (half-fish, half-lion). Over 1 million tourists come to see her and her cub (which is currently under renovation) every year.

Brett taking in the sights…

While there seems to be an endless amount of things to see and do in Singapore – theater, music, breathtaking golf courses, lush parks filled with colorful blooms, etc. – we opted for a more leisurely stay with loads of pool time and delicious cuisine.  In the picture below – we are winding down on our last night with very happy (and VERY full) bellies after having eaten at Cut, Wolfgang’s amazing steak house. Excuse my ignorance  – but I had no idea that Guy Savoy, Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Daniel Boulud, and countless other top chefs all have outposts here!  Well played Singapore.

Nighttime view of the Singapore Bay from our hotel room

Thank you Singapore for such a rejuvenating long weekend.  I am very much looking forward to our return!

NYC BOUND!

6 Apr

Cue the music because — We are COMING TO AMERICA!  The city that never sleeps to be specific.  Farewell Beijing (well…for 10 days or so).

I am so excited to SEE, EAT, BUY or DO the following:

1. Blue Sky (sans loads of smog)

2. Cafe Habana Corn

3. Visiting with old friends & family

4. Pink Berry (there is just something a little funky about Chinese frozen yoghurt…Although, I can’t put my finger on it)

5. Buy smalls and mediums (trying to fit my non-chinese caboose usually involves buying XL over here)

6.  Easter Brunch in a land that celebrates the true meaning of Easter!  (That would be our risen Lord, not bottomless bubbly – although there is no harm in that.)

7.  Magnolia Cupcakes, any legitimate NY cheesecake, and Crumbs Black & White cookies  (a pretty even tie…and the reason that I may have to buy XLs after all)

8.  Chop’t salads

9.  Window shopping (the concept really doesn’t exist over here – unless you consider getting mobbed every 5 seconds with relentless offers such as, “Hey lady, I give you good price!” to be the same as cruising in Nolita or up Madison Ave).  Personally – I do not.  Although…don’t get me wrong, I do love to bargain at the markets…but you just can’t beat strolling the city streets in the fresh spring air.

10. Happy Hour at the Carlyle – Bemelmans Bar to be exact. Our special spot!

11. Duane Reade…I am allotting at least a 2-hour window to peruse their glorious shelves.  The Easter candy and card aisles alone will keep me entertained for quite a while.

12. Weekend get-away to the Hampton’s – it will still be chilly…but seeing the ocean and snuggling by the fire with my husband is a MUST!

13.  Being on the same time zone with my mom and the twins

14.  Uncensored news (although I must admit, I have enjoyed not being bombarded with campaign nonsense!)

15.  Zero calorie, orange flavored vitamin water (it’s the small things in life…)

16. Toothpaste that doesn’t taste like lavender

17.  High speed internet

18.  MAGAZINES!!!!

19.  Yankees game!

20.  Vintage Shopping (though the Chinese have a far older and more intricate history than the USA…they have nothing on our vintage fashion)

AND…too many other wonderful things to mention!

My big Beijing blues – they are melting away….
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it  – in old New York
If I can make it there – I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you – New York…New York!

Royal Russia – Day 4

9 Feb

I woke up on our 4th day in Saint Petersburg with ballerinas on the brain.  The night we would go to the Mariinsky theater to see Swan Lake, starring one of Russia’s Prima ballerinas, Diana Vishneva, had arrived.  The Mariinsky, now in its 229th season opened in October 1860.  Music by Tchaikovsky (and other famous Russian composers) was heard here for the very first time.  I was so excited I couldn’t stand it!  But it was still hours before curtain call…we had plenty of time to explore more of Saint Petersburg!  So – to the Yusupov Palace we went.

Mirrors and crystal balustrades were used in the ballroom to make it appear even larger.  Because even though they were not part of the Royal Family, as one of the wealthiest families in Russia before the revolution, the Yusupovs wanted nothing more than to impress their peers…and the Romanovs for that matter.  The Yusupov palace certainly leaves quite the impression. (Recognize the kissing couple in the mirror??)

While the ballrooms and music rooms of the palace were rather magnificent, it was the private theater that amazed us most.  Can you imagine having such a theater room in your home for you and your closest friends? Much less one with its own “tsar box”.   A bit pompous to say the least!

The Yusupov palace was one of our favorite sites in Saint Petersburg.  In addition to all of its splendor, its history is remarkable.  Knowing that Rasputin was murdered within its walls just before the start of the revolution gives it an extra eerie and mystical feeling.  I highly recommend it!

We worked up quite an appetite touring the palace – so we headed to a nearby restaurant for a late lunch before  returning to the hotel to get ready for our night at the theater.

I honestly can’t say that Brett and I are ballet connoisseurs, but I don’t think that one has to see a million ballets to know that Diana Vishneva is the real deal – a real show stealer.  Her movements are nymph like – graceful and absolutely beautiful.  It is hard to take your eyes off of her.  That paired with the perfect backdrop of the Mariinsky Theater created a truly magical moment.

A quick photo opportunity during one of the two intermissions.

They flutter around so much that it was very difficult for me to snap any clear images.  That said, I actually like the way the pictures turned out.  I think they show just how quickly the dancers pirouette about.

Following the ballet, we went to The Russian Empire Restaurant.   While the style of the place is a bit clichéd, we couldn’t resist having a meal inside the Stroganov Palace.  Where better to have Beef Stroganoff, am I right?

There is a  famous “tale” told of Catherine the Great visiting the palace for a dinner in which the Count promised her the most delicious olive in the world.  As it turned out, her olive was basically served to her in the predecessor to the Turducken.  As the story goes…she was first presented a full cow, within it a full pig, within it a full lamb, within it a goose, and so on and so on until a tiny squab held inside the most perfect and delicious olive within it.  The restaurant tries to keep this legend alive by serving what I considered to be an extremely tasty olive.  Stuffed with sturgeon and served in a succulent sauce, it offers a very unique and enjoyable flavor. So although, The Russian Empire is not avant guard in terms of modern cuisine or style, I would still recommend it.  In a city like Saint Petersburg…it is actually quite fun to be a tourist – to allow yourself to live and dine as Russian Royalty.

Royal Russia – Day 3

6 Feb

The majority of our 3rd day in Saint Petersburg was spent strolling through the room after room of the majestic Hermitage.   Of course we only saw a tiny fraction of the treasures that the Hermitage holds (it would take 365 days of touring for nine years to see every item in the collection) but what we did see was remarkable.  In actual fact, the building itself is outstanding even without its contents.

My wonderful husband intently studying one of the exhibits in the Hermitage.  I couldn’t stop myself from intently studying him!

Then…I suppose – he was studying me!

Snapping a photo of the above hallway – one of the more famous ones in the Winter Palace would have been nearly impossible in the summertime.  But again, we were rewarded for braving the cold and had much of the Hermitage to ourselves.  The only downside being that the Museum workers snapped at me for wearing high-heeled boots that made “too loud of a noise” when I walked.  Had others been around…I don’t think they could have singled me out!

Honestly, I don’t know the name or anything about the artist of this statue – but of all the things we saw that day, it was my absolute favorite.  Most likely because it reminded me of my two darling and very best friends – Mary Kay Bowden and Kimmy Willson.  Not that they look anything like the statue!  It just reminded me of our days as little girl ballerinas dancing together.

After hours of art and culture – we decided to treat ourselves to proper cocktails and appetizers at the Lobby Bar in the Grand Europe Hotel just off of the Nevsky Prospect.  Great company, great drinks, and great people watching.  The furs alone made my mouth water.  Sorry PETA.

We ended our night with a divine meal at Mix – the new Alain Ducasse restaurant in the W Hotel.  Once again we filled our bellies to the point of explosion!  Below are two images of our favorite dishes…

Our first courses were our favorites. LEFT: Brett's Chicory Ham and Black Truffle. RIGHT: My Soft Boiled Egg, Tender Lentils, and Toasted French Baguette.

Just as expected, day 3 in Saint Petersburg did not disappoint – but just like the 2 previous days, we were absolutely spent at the end of it.  There is so much history to learn, so much beauty to absorb, and so much food to eat that our brains and bellies needed to rest!

Up Next: Royal Russia – Day 4…Off to the Ballet!

Royal Russia – Day 1

3 Feb

After the airport debacle in Moscow, we decided to live it up Russian style.   Like a Tsar and his Tsarina, we would rule the town (in our minds anyway!) for the remainder of our trip.  Let them eat beluga!

We touched down in Saint Petersburg – after a quick and painless 1 1/2 hour flight from Moscow around lunchtime.  By 1PM we had already checked into our room at the wonderful Hotel Astoria.  Choosing a hotel is always a little difficult when there are several of interest to you, but I feel confident that we chose right!  The Grand Europe Hotel is too dated now and the new W Hotel is just well…too American.  Don’t get me wrong, I love America – but I wanted something a bit more authentic.  That said, it didn’t stop us from eating dinner one night at Mix, the new Alain Ducasse restaurant inside the W.  Delicious!

By 2:30PM, we were in the car with our tour guide for an afternoon of sight seeing.  This is when our love affair with Russia officially began.  Here is our journey through pictures:

In front of the Church of Resurrection – also known as Church on the Spilled Blood as it was built on the site of the mortal wounding of Emperor Alexander II who was assassinated there on March 1, 1881.

Brett studying the gorgeous mosaics that cover almost every inch of the inside of the church.  It took over 24 years to complete the church’s interior decor.

Standing on one of the many bridges of Saint Petersburg with the LOML (love of my life) –  Church on the Spilled Blood in the background.

The Peter and Paul Fortress - Saint Petersburg, Russia

Whispering my secret wish into this creatures ear.  According to Russian superstitions…it will now come true!  We shall see….

View of the Hermitage from across the frozen river

About to enjoy an amazing meal at Palkin – one of the top Russian cuisine restaurants in Saint Petersburg.  They pretty much had to roll us out after our meal…

I love to watch my husband study a menu.  His intensity is endearing and amusing at the same time.  This  dedication always results in an amazing meal experience, and this meal was no exception.

From the Herring & crème fraîche cocktail starter, to the vodka & caviar tasting with warm buttered blinis, to the cevette (mushroom) soup, to the homemade strawberry sorbet palette cleanser, to the Beef Stroganoff....

To the grand finale...a whole Sturgeon - filleted table side. Also, the wine carafe (and the wine in it of course)was fantastic!

At the end of our 4-hour plus meal…we were spent.  To bed we went to get our beauty rest for another full day of Royal Russia – starting with Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin, just outside of Saint Petersburg.

Stayed tuned for our full day of regal palaces!

 

Today = 2 Years in China!

28 Dec

Two years ago today, Brett and I (along with 700 pounds of my clothing) boarded a plane in Newark bound for Beijing.  To celebrate this exciting anniversary, I would like to share photos from our Chinese Wedding party from this past August.  I think you will see that I went all out to play the part of a Chinese bride (short of dying my hair of course!)

Brett and Morgan Hutchinson

Brett and I knew that we didn’t want to host our Beijing wedding celebration in a Western style (for those of you not living in Asia – that means that we didn’t want an American or European style venue…it does not mean that Brett and I were considering a Wild-West Hoedown).  When in China, right?   So when we stumbled upon Gui Gong Fu, a restaurant famous for its history, as well as its imperial cuisine, we were sold.  Housed in the former residence of the Empress Dowager’s little brother, Gui Gong Fu set the perfect backdrop to our Chinese wedding party.  Although we didn’t hold a actual ceremony (we saved that for just he two of us in South Africa – see Chitwa Chitwa: Part 3 for more details) we did host a traditional Chinese, family style dinner for 150 of our dear friends and colleagues here in Beijing.  It was quite a feast! Luckily, Brett and I went for a tasting before hand as I don’t remember us sitting down long enough to eat any of the meal on the actual night of the party.  Between visiting each table to drink a shot of Mou Tai (Chinese liquor) with our Chinese guests and being toasted with Champagne by our Western guests…there was little time to do anything but “Cheers!”  Thankfully, I do remember being giving a bowl of rice by the lovely Connolly sisters to coat my tummy with something.

Here is the evening in pictures.  It really was such a memorable night.

Cocktail Hour. Explaining this concept to a very traditional Chinese restaurant was no easy chore. Passed hors d'oeuvres is just not the local way of doing things at a Chinese Wedding. In the end - they got it! Brett and Morgan Hutchinson

Costume change! While it is actually a Chinese custom for the bride to change from her red dress into white...I didn't need an excuse for a second dress!

Notice the size of Brett's Mou Tai glass. We are no fools! The smaller the glass...the less you have to drink! By the way...I am holding my wine glass, NOT my Mao Tai glass.

These little Chinese women can drink! Look how she is showing off her empty glass. Bottoms up!

Thank you to all of our friends in China for celebrating such a special time with us.  Thank you to Michael and Natia Davitiashvili for joining us, two great friends from New York who just happened to be in town and gave their only Saturday night in Beijing to us!

While I am in “thank you” mode…Thank you Beijing for 2 very exciting years.  We have had our moments…and let’s be honest, I have certainly “hated” you from time to time – but overall it has been loads of fun.  You have brought me dozens of amazing new friends and countless once-in-a-lifetime moments.  Most importantly though, you have given Brett at I the opportunity to share a life-changing experience together, and for that I will be forever grateful.  Xie Xie!

All images courtesy of www.sweetvision.com.  The same amazing photographers who did our engagement photo shoot.  Click here to have a peek.

It’s All About the Elephants

27 Dec

Safari on Elephant Back - the famous Jabulani himself to be exact!

At Camp Jabulani, a Relais & Chateau property located in the private Kapama Game Reserve, everything is elephant.  In fact, there wouldn’t even be a Camp Jabulani without the inspiration of a tiny, 4-month old baby elephant whose herd was forced to abandon him when he got stuck in the mud of a silt dam.  It took over year (along with the help of a sheep named “Skaap” who acted as a surrogate mother) to nurse the little guy back to health.  After baby Jabulani (his name means, “rejoice”) was healed, numerous efforts were made to release him back into the bush.  He was not having any of it.  These humans were his family now, and he had no intention of leaving them.  Luckily, or as they say at The Camp…”fate stepped in”.  Just five years after rescuing Jabulani, it was discovered that 12 Zimbabwean elephants needed a new home as the farm they currently lived on had been seized by war veterans.  These ellies would have been collateral damage if it hadn’t been for the rescue efforts of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre and what eventually became the Camp Jabulani that exists today.

In my opinion, this type of operation could have easily become a “cheesy” petting zoo type experience.  On the contrary, Camp Jabulani is quite the opposite.  It is a true luxe safari experience.  With its 5-star quality lodges (each with private pool),  beck-and-call service standards, on-site spa, and let’s not forget the gourmet food that blew us away at each meal.  Seriously – the food is incredible…edgy flavors, beautiful presentation, and to top it off – the chef shares her recipes!  Although, last I checked they don’t sell Wart Hog or Antelope at any of the markets here in Beijing – so it might be a while before I can actually test any of them myself.

Brett and I truly loved our time spent at Camp Jabulani.  Safari on Elephant Back was a completely different experience.  You really have a bird’s-eye view of the bush – not to mention the tranquility of it all.  Plus, watching the elephants have their “play time” in the watering hole and visiting the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre to play with baby cheetahs were unforgettable moments.

Even though this little baby is too small to take guests on safari just yet, she likes to join the herd so she can stay close to her mamma. Nature is so precious.

The ellies play!

Just a second after I snapped this shot...the little ellie lying on his side lost his footing and crashed into the water. It was equally hilarious and heartbreaking. More incredible though - was the way that the entire herd rushed to the little one's aid.

There are more than just elephants at Camp Jabulani. Expect to see all of the Big 5 as well - from elephant back if you are lucky!

Wild dog! Check out that crazy hide.

It was all I could do to stay in the jeep! I just love giraffes.

We figured out that if we ask for the biggest ellie - we could ride on safari together. Much more fun! BTW- safari on elephant back was much more comfortable on my burned back than bouncing around on the primitive paths in a land rover jeep.

These little wart hogs have no fear. OK maybe...it was me that had no fear! They are so ugly they're cute - and I just had to get a closer look. If you look closely, you will see that they are actually on their knees, snout to the ground searching for food. Hungry little buggers, right?

One gorgeous sunset + my gorgeous husband = perfection.

Our view during Camp J "sun-downers" - what South Africans call cocktail hour. Stunning.

This beautiful surprise set-up was waiting for us after the sun-downers. The five-course meal to follow was also to die for, and it put both of us into a fantastic food coma.

On our last morning at Jabulani - before leaving for the Blyde River Canyon, we visited the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. These two charming cheetahs were rescued from the wild after injury.

Playing with a cheetah cub born at the center. This cutey will be trained to live in the wild by older cheetahs who split their time between the wild and the center. That's right - these smarty pant cats have realized that when things get too tough in the wild...they can take a vacation to a place where humans provide them shelter and serve them food and drink. Brilliant.

Shortly after this picture was taken, this little kitty had to be put into "time-out". He became a little over zealous and started to climb on my back. Under normal circumstances - no biggie, but with 2nd and 3rd degree burns from the fire-pit fiasco...it was a less than ideal situation. In the kitty's defense, our ranger did tell me that if I stayed in one position for too long, the cubs would want to climb on me. I suppose I was just too distracted by their cuteness to keep track. Wouldn't you have been?

Up next: Our voyage to the Blyde River Canyon  – the 3rd largest canyon in the world and it is completely green and a spa retreat at Cybele Forest Lodge.  Stay tuned!

A special thank you to the team at Camp Jabulani for an incredible South African adventure!

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