Tag Archives: china

Bye-Bye Beijing

24 Jan

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

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

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

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


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


VIew from the ground


One of our little “duckie” friends!

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

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

The Living Room

The Living Room

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

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

custom china place setting

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

Feathered Headdress purchased on our honeymoon in South Africa.

Feathered Headdress purchased on our honeymoon in South Africa.

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

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

Entry Way/Bar Area

Entry Way & Small Bar Area

The Study

The Study

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom and inspiration for A Blonde in Beijing artwork.

Master Bedroom and inspiration for A Blonde in Beijing artwork.



Guest Bath

Guest Bath

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

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

Carnage from the Barbie American Flag...

Carnage from the Barbie American Flag…

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

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

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

With mom on the Great Wall

With mom on the Great Wall

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

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

Lotus flowers are the Summer Palace.

Lotus flowers at the Summer Palace.

With Mom and Joe at the Summer Palace

With Mom and Joe at the Summer Palace

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

Amazingly - Brett is somewhere in the middle of this crowd

Amazingly – Brett is somewhere in the middle of this crowd

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

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

As well as Santa Advent Calendars….

And so are Santa Advent Calendars….

Our bounty!

Our bounty!

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

van with luggage

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

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

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.

Harlem Globetrotters at Hua Xin Hospital

28 Apr

Volunteering as Magic Hospital’s Playtime Coordinator has proved to be a truly rewarding experience time and time again.  Yesterday’s Playtime visit to Hua Xin Hospital with the Harlem Globetrotters was no exception.  In fact, it was utterly unforgettable!

I am so thankful to the Harlem Globetrotters for partnering with our organization to bring ear to ear grins to the faces of these sick little ones.  While I was familiar with their basketball skills, I had no idea just how amazing they would be with the children.  It was a blessing to watch, and I am just grateful to have played a small part.

Spinning the ball like a B-ball superstar! What better way to prep for his upcoming heart surgery?

Measuring in at 7 Feet 8 Inches, "Tiny" as they call him towers over everyone. He is certainly someone to look up to!

On behalf of Magic Hospital, I would like to thank the Harlem Globetrotters and the wonderful staff at Hua Xin Hospital for making this magical day possible!

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!

A Portrait of China

16 Jan

I recently saw this painting in a restaurant here in Beijing.  Of all the chaos happening in this picture, can you guess which item or action I haven’t seen yet with my own two eyes???

Answer coming soon….

China Daily – Are you kidding me?

29 Dec

In every issue of China Daily (the English paper here in Red China) there is a column entitled Language Tips.  I typically find it quite useful.  For example in the Better Chinese section of the column today, I learned how to say, “Don’t speak ill of others” (don’t we all need this reminder from time to time) and “Think before you speak.”   I think we can all agree that these are common helpful phrases.

It was actually today’s Better English section that threw me for a loop. It is seriously one of the oddest passages that I have read since moving to China (and that is saying a lot!).  I mean – of all of the buzzwords they could select…they picked this one.   Plus, they described it in such a Debby Downer way.   There is no doubt in my mind that there has been a rise in educated and talented women who choose to live life as they please – but is this really how it needed to be explained to non-native English speakers?

Excerpt from today’s China Daily (12.29.11)



A freemale is a woman who opts for a single life, valuing friendships rather than pursuing extended romantic relationships.  Some freemales also choose to live childfree, choosing not to have children for a variety of reasons, while others decide to become single mothers.

There are a variety of reasons to choose to live as a single woman, including a desire for an unencumbered lifestyle, the rising divorce rate and an inclination for asexuality.  The freemale demographic is very intriguing from a real estate perspective.  Single women are putting pressure on housing markets to provide homes that are comfortable for single women living alone.


I mean is there truly “an inclination for asexuality”.  I find this hilarious.  Please send me your thoughts…

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.

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?

Is Fashion Worth Fighting For?

16 Sep

Moya Li, Morgan Hutchinson, & Brett Hutchinson. Outfit: Purple Alice and Oliva dress with leather side panels on the skirt paired with Marc Jacobs belt. Neon yellow gladiators purchased at Jiayi Market in Beijing.

I believe fashion is worth fighting for in the case of protecting designers and their creations against counterfeit goods; however, I do NOT believe in physically fighting over it.  Last night I was witness to a knock down drag out between a Chinese man and woman over a gift bag at a fashion show.  This is how it went down…

Moya Li, Zhala, & Morgan Hutchinson at Bread & Butter Spring 2012 Ready-to-Wear Show

The night started so lovely.  Beijing is finally granting us some nice weather.  It was cool, there was a breeze, and you could almost see a star.  We were in the middle of Chiananmen 23, a beautiful outdoor space in front of Maison Boulud, Daniel Boulud’s Beijing restaurant, with dozens of waiters with trays full of Champagne.  You really could not ask for a more pleasant evening.  And then, there was the show, which was highly entertaining.  The dramatic set-up for the runway made for a great presentation.  High pitched tents surrounded the space to give it a carnival feel and magicians started the pre-show with a grand finale trick of making 3 models magically appear from a box that was previously “empty”.  This set the fashion show in motion and dozens of models began to strut their stuff down the catwalk.

Here are a few of the looks… (honestly – the clothes were not as impressive as the production itself – but the hair was super big – therefore super fantastic!)

During the very last look of the collection…the clouds began to roll in and big raindrops started to fall from the sky.  There was a mad dash to the covered spaces or to the exit (the show was over after all).  Another spot of action was the gift bag table.  After being informed that there was an umbrella in the bag, I scurried over to pick a couple up for Brett and me.  It was very chaotic, so I suggested to Brett that he stand toward the front gate so we wouldn’t lose each other.  I charged through the sea of people to the location of the bags (it was raining quite significantly at this point).  As I bent to grab one – I was pushed…hard.  I looked up to find a young Chinese guy punching a girl (mid-twenties) in the face.  Seriously – punching.  My natural instinct was to step in.  I mean…how could I possibly stand by and let this girl get the crap beaten out of her over a what…compact umbrella covered with the Bread & Butter logo?  The scenario quickly changed, and I found myself holding her back.  She was not going out without a fight.  At this point, the guy realized that it was two against one, so in order to even his playing field (I guess) he pushed me with all the strength of his skinny little arms (which was more than I was prepared for) and I went flying to the ground.  (My 5-inch heels didn’t help the cause).  This was my cue to excuse myself from the situation.  So I did just that.  I picked myself up off the ground and ran to find Brett (no gift bag in hand).

I really underestimated the impact the situation would have on Brett.  I was startled of course immediately after the incident– but when I saw the rage take over his face – like a big Papa Bear – I knew that we had to get out of there.  He peppered me for the identity of the “girl-beater”.  What am I am fool?  I would never have told him.  I could see the future disaster about to happen just by looking into his eyes.  Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the fact that my husband wanted to kick the “hiney” of anyone who would hurt me…but nothing good would have come from Brett taking on a scrawny Chinese dude.

Luckily we were able to hop in our car and head to another party for the Italian label, Ermenegildo Zegna at Beijing’s Today Art Museum.  The food spread alone took his mind off of the “fashion fight”.  A boy and his belly….

1/10 of the food spread at Zegna party. Very clear that it is a men's fashion line.

Brett and Morgan Hutchinson

I will say this….the story made Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.  I was mentioned as the “other woman trying to break up the fight”.  Of all the reasons to be on Weibo, I could have never predicted this one!

One more side story of the night.  Immediately before the show started, Brett went to the restroom.  By the time he returned – everyone had taken their seats.  We were in the center of the second row – so it was very difficult to get to.  His strategy was to climb over the guests in the front row.  As he divided two Chinese young ladies to straddle the bench in order to get to his seat, our friend Moya began to giggle.  She then informed us that Brett had basically “shoved” (very gently of course) China’s most popular movie star (at this time) out of the way.  Love it.  At the end of the show, I asked to take my picture with her so I could add it to the blog. Can you see in her face how delighted she was by my request ?

Morgan Hutchinson and Yang Mi. I think she sort of looks like a Chinese Snookie.
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