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Great Bump Pics from The Great Wall

25 Jan
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Morgan and Brett Hutchinson

From the day we found out we were expecting little Olive Bee, we joked about how one day she would reach an age when telling people that she was born in Beijing, China would seem like bragging rights. Well…since we stripped her of that joy – we thought the least we could do was take photos of her in utero on The Great Wall of China. A big thank you to photographer Diego Ferrini and to make-up artist Meili Autumn.

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Brett and Morgan Hutchinson

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Morgan and Brett Hutchinson
Photography by Diego Ferrini. Make-up by Meili Autumn.

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

All images courtesy of Diego Ferrini.

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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.

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!

Ice Fishing???

24 Feb

Only in China can you find two men “ice fishing”, on a Wednesday afternoon in below freezing temperatures from a shallow, trash-filled stream in the middle of Beijing.  With cold fingers and a red nose, I watched them for quite some time.  Unfortunately – but not surprising at all…there was no catch of the day!  Love the dedication, Zhong Guo Nan Ren!

Only in China: JAMMED!

21 Feb

While it was certainly not the first “JAM” I have spotted in China, it was one of the more intense.  It is also Reason Number 486:  Why I will not be driving a motor bike anytime soon.  Reasons 1 through 485….I am a terrible driver.  Period.

A Portrait of China – REVEALED!

5 Feb

For some reason this post never actually POSTED! Sorry for the delay…

The one thing that I have not seen in almost 2 1/2 years of living in China is…

 Chinese People Making Out!

Congratulations!  Over 47% of you got it right!

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.

Red Soles in Shanghai

22 Dec

Not only did Christian Louboutin create a beautiful book of his best works to commemorate his 20 remarkable years in the land of red leather soles, he is also trotting the globe to celebrate with his diehard fans.  Lucky for us, he made a stop in Shanghai (only a 2 hour flight away).  Even more lucky for us, our dear friend Kara got us on the list!

Brett and I decided to make a nice little weekend it out of it, and since the cocktail party for CL happened to be at the Long Bar at the Waldorf Astoria on the Bund… it seemed that we should book a room for ourselves there as well!  I am so glad that we did.  It was the perfect little retreat from China…I mean Beijing.  You see – Shanghai is China Light.  Actually, it is China Extra Light and at this time year, at Christmas, when we miss our families and the city that never sleeps, we crave little reminders.  With it’s perfectly decorated tree, an outpost of The Peacock Alley Lounge, and a service level that puts Tokyo to shame – the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund was just what the non-chinese medicine doctor ordered.

We arrived at the hotel around 4PM which left plenty of time for enjoying the view of the city while munching on an authentic reuben with home fries before the pre-party primping began. By 7:30 we were on the elevator heading down to the Long Bar to meet Mr. Red Sole himself.

It was as if the party had been taken from the pages of his book.  Special edition and collector pieces graced the feet of almost every female guest.  I have never looked down so much at a party before!

Entrance to the Long Bar with the signature Christian Louboutin bird-cage. The entire bar was filled with them. So cute!

The Man of the Hour - Christian Louboutin and Me. Congratulations CL on 20 impressive and over-the-top years.

Spinning some tunes with the DJ! Isn't he pretty? That's right...all the way from Thailand, this beautiful boy puts most ladies to shame. You should have seen him dressed and performing as Rihanna. Gorgeous!

After the party, we walked across the lobby to Pelham's for their delectable tasting menu. From 4 courses to 12, and any number in between, you can create your own tasting experience. These bellies only allowed for 4!

View of the Shanghai skyline from our room.

The Waldorf Tree

We decided to enjoy a proper bloody mary back at the Long Bar before heading to the airport on Sunday. It really is a LONG bar...right?

And then we discovered this special edition Blanton's. As a Kentucky girl...I had to try it! Obviously, Brett didn't make me drink alone.

 

Only in China

22 Sep

The only way in which my words can possibly complement the images below is by merely explaining verbatim the situation that is occurring in each one.  Not to suggest that you can’t see what it going on in the photos with your own eyes…but even after witnessing these actions with mine, I had a hard time believing it.

Picture This:  Bumper to bumper traffic across 12 lanes in pouring rain on the streets of downtown Beijing.  This makes the work of a New York City garbage man look like a cake walk.

Picture this:  A metal ladder balancing on a plastic bucket turned upside down, resting against live power lines.  Seriously.  You can’t make this up.  Also, look closely…no hard hats or any sort of protective gear.  Where is OSHA when you need them?

Birthday Love from LUDA!

19 Sep

As if Brett’s birthday wishes weren’t enough (and they totally were!)…Mr. Dirty South himself, Ludacris showered me with birthday wishes backstage at the Black Rabbit Music Festival here in Beijing.

Backstage with Ludacris. One more perk of being Blonde in Beijing...it is much easier to get the attention of the people in charge of backstage passes when you are blonde in a sea of brunettes!

This was the inaugural year for the Black Rabbit Music festival  – which made one-day-only stops in Beijing and Shanghai.  The craziest part – Ludacris wasn’t even the headliner.  It was 30 Seconds to Mars.  We skipped out for that and went over to see Grand Master Flash. Sorry Jared.

Morgan and Jared Leto. He is an odd bird - very nice but still...odd. I think I liked him more as Jordan on "My So Called Life" than front man for 30 Seconds to Mars.

The festival was fun – but I really credit that to Brett and our wonderful friends who came with us…and Luda of course!  His portion of the show was great.  But as far as festivals go, Black Rabbit has a lot to learn.   My favorite oddity of the night was that the VIP Area (this was just a perk to an upgraded ticket type – which I wouldn’t recommend except for the parking and easy entry access) only served wine.  Who drinks Merlot with a hot dog?  Or better yet who drinks Merlot at Grand Master Flash? I guess the answer in this case is – me. When in China, right?

Our Black Bunny Crew: KC Connolly, Lena Abed, Sara Wilson, Megan Connolly, Brett and Morgan Hutchinson (picture is missing Moya Li and David Soffer!)

Morgan and Brett at Black Rabbit (I prefer Bunny) Festival in Beijing

Morgan and Lener Beaner!

This picture was taken just after “THE GIRL” finished crashing the stage at Grand Master Flash. By the way, Mom, can you guess who “THE GIRL” was? That’s right…your 31-year old daughter! I use the phrase “THE GIRL” in quotes because after my exit from the stage (okay maybe it was more like a removal…) GMF yelled out, “Give it up for THE GIRL”!  To this, my friend Megan replied, “Couldn’t he have at least said THE BLONDE?”  I couldn’t have said it better.

Morgan sporting the Black Bunny Mask with Megan & KC Connolly and Moya Li.

For a first attempt – I think the Bunny people did an okay job.  Is there room for improvement?  Of course.  Can they do it?  No doubt (well…as long as they ask for some outside help).  We will definitely give it another go next year!

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