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Tag Archives: Beijing

A Blonde in Beijing Becomes…

28 Jan

A Blonde in Beijing becomes…

Blonde with a Baby!

blonde with a baby

I hope you will follow me on this new journey – full of blonde motherly moments, fashion advice for the spit-up savvy, fun tips on traveling with a tot, and must-have product reviews.

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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.

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

Tying the Knot in the PRC

17 May

Celebrating the Chinese Nuptials with Champagne at Aria in the China World Hotel

We got hitched!  And, we did it Chinese style.  Honestly, it was a wonderful, hilarious, and completely crazy experience. While we absolutely feel like husband and wife – I must admit that at this point we sometimes refer to it as a hybrid.  I think you will see why after I explain the way I stopped being a “kept woman” (my sweet grandmother’s words…not mine) and we became legally bound here in the PRC.

It all started with an affidavit. Very Romantic.  We made an appointment at the US Embassy and before we knew it we were raising our right hands and swearing our eligibility for marriage under oath.  Surprisingly, US Citizens can not actually get married at the US Embassy – so we were off to an official, Chinese government approved translating office to translate the affidavit in order for the Chinese Marriage Office to recognize it.  Clearly, it would have been much too easy for the US Embassy to provide the four sentence document in a bilingual format, right?  Sarcasm intended.

FASHION: Red Silk Birdie Bass Bustier with a High Waisted Fuchsia D&G Skirt

Unfortunately, we realized upon arrival at the translation office, that the process takes a few days…so even though I had dressed for the occasion in a very special red ensemble (the Chinese color for a happy marriage) it was not going to be our Chinese Wedding Day just yet….

While waiting for the document, we did our research and gathered all other necessary documents for our meeting with the Chinese Marriage Office.  Passports…visas…birth certificates…Brett’s work visa…a copy of our lease…my temporary registration with the police…and 3 photos.  I bundled everything together in a cute pink folder, and we (Brett, his assistant Fancy Nancy – our wonderful witness, and I) retrieved the translated affidavit and went directly to get ourselves hitched!

Our super cute Chinese Marriage Certificates that I annoyingly showed every stranger at the restaurant!

Lucky for us (well maybe…keep your fingers crossed) the Chinese believe it is lucky to get married at the beginning of the week…not the end like we were doing.  But since we are not Chinese, and we don’t believe this, we were absolutely thrilled to walk in and be helped right away.  I don’t think we have ever been anywhere in this country without 50 people waiting in some semblance of a line.  (The straight line has not really caught on here just yet.)

Other than Hello! – no one spoke a lick of English at the Marriage Office. Fortunately, Nancy could translate whatever was above a second grader’s vocabulary to us (that is as far as I have made it so far).  They asked for each document one at a time and eventually requested the 3 photos. Silly me assumed that this was to prove our true love and commitment to one another and avoid questions of a permanent resident visa scam – so I didn’t just bring 3, I brought 7.  Some from our travels, some hugging, and others which might show the length of our time together.  The representative gladly took them from me, and began to thoroughly review them – even showing them to her colleagues.  After about 5 minutes of flipping through the photos, she handed them back to us, giggled, and told us that the 3 photos required should be official marriage portraits taken at a studio with a red background – measuring exactly 4cmX6cm.  Clearly, she could tell instantly that our photos were not correct, but I just love that she thumbed through them for her own enjoyment – secretly laughing at the stupid Blonde in Beijing.

As it was getting a bit late in the afternoon, we rushed to a portrait studio to take our “official” photos.  I was wearing a red silk bustier (for good luck) which basically made me look like a floating head against the backdrop – so we thought it was best for me to wear my jacket (which by the way is the same jacket I was wearing the night that Brett and I shared our first kiss on the streets of New York!)  The nice photographer quickly photoshopped out the shiny sweat on our foreheads (due to our quick jog to the studio) and we made it back to the Marriage Office before closing.

This is where is gets particularly funny…I assumed that we were in for a treat with a Chinese ceremony or some form of oath in the native tongue – but no.  It was nothing like that.  After we turned in the correct photos – the clerk typed our information into the computer and ask us to pay the 9 RMB fee for our certificates (that is the equivalent of $1.50…Dad, I will send you the bill shortly).  Money exchanged hands, and we were given 2 red folders (like little red passports) – one with Brett’s name stating his marriage to me, and the other with my name stating my marriage to him.  And just like that…I became Mrs. Brett Hutchinson! (Of course, there were many other hoops to jump through to make my name change official – but on March 25, 2011 – Brett Hutchinson and I were married in the People’s Republic of China.  For all of those who didn’t think Brett would ever even get married…I imagine that you never thought that if he did – it would be in China of all places!

Receipt for our 9RMB ($1.50) Wedding

I hope that you can see why we are referring to it as a bit of a hybrid – we still haven’t actually said our vows.  Those will take place in September in South Africa (just the two of us).  But before that – we will have a Stateside celebration in August with our beloved friends and family, and a party with our friends here in Beijing.

We would like to send a special thank you to our friends in Dalian who surprised us with a traditional style celebration.  See the pictures of us below in full Chinese Marriage Garb.  BTW – Brett might be the only bearded man to have ever worn this.

On stage in Dalian in traditional Chinese wedding attire. That headpiece weighed about 20 lbs! Also, check out the big screen behind us!

A look of doubt?? Of course not!!

With our gift of 99 red roses for a happy life!

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!

    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.

    Coco & Karl

    15 Dec

     

    Channeling Chanel - Cigarette = Prop!

    I have to go a bit back in time for this one.  Not all the way back to the time before January 10, 1971 when

    Cloning Karl

    the world lost one of the greatest designers of all time – Coco Chanel – but back to October 31, 2010 – when I channeled Chanel and Brett cloned Karl (Lagerfeld) for a Halloween celebration…Beijing style.

     

    We hit the town with a fantastic group of friends dressed in a variety of costumes including:  a Piece of “Bad Press”, a Greek Goddess, a French Painter, a Bride and Groom, and my personal favorite – Barbie and Ken.  The night started at the Saddle Cantina (one of our favorite spots) to fill up on mexican food and margaritas.  Although, I am pretty positive that Coco would have preferred Steak Tartare and Champagne….if she ate at all!

    Coco "Taking-In" Barbie's Dress

    After dinner we set out for an official Halloween Party at LAN Club – a Phillipe Starck designed restaurant and lounge.  The party was packed with locals in fabulous costumes.  I was thrilled to see how much the Chinese love a costume.  I would wear a costume everyday if I could.  Perhaps in Beijing…I can.  At the party we spotted  a Lego, a variety of Pandas and Disney Characters, and of course a slew of girls dressed as scantily clad as possible – because after all – that is what Halloween is all about, right?

    Coco with Bride Moya Li (She didn't even recognize me!)

     

    The music was a big highlight of the party.  There were 3 rooms with completely different genres of tunes – so if we got tired of one – we just danced our way to another area.  Because LAN is also a restaurant, we were able to find a deserted private room to rest our feet and avoid the long lines at the loo.  It was a win – win!

    Halloween in Beijing.  I give it 4 Blonde’s out of 5!

    **Please NOTE – The cigarette is a prop.  It was never lit!

     

    Karl + Coco

     

     

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