Thursday, August 26, 2021

a trip to IKEA.

Last week, my friend Dani and I made a trip to IKEA. We talked beforehand and agreed we were in no rush and were okay with taking our time, browsing, chatting, dreaming up ways to make our apartments and classrooms better.

I had a (short) list of things I knew I wanted to buy, but was so glad Dani was happy to browse. We spent 5 hours(!!!) shopping, but the time passed so quickly. It helped that there were a few funny moments.

+ A couple of young guys approached us, trying to sell us shoe cleaner. This is common in malls and other public spaces. Dani told them no, but they didn't listen, and one started to bend to show her how the cleaner would work on her shoes. That's when I told them (in Mandarin), "She said no! She likes her dirty shoes." One of the guys looked surprised, but the other one laughed and we did too. They left us alone though!

+ Towards the end of the fifth hour, I wandered over to a wall and was looking at some hooks. I didn't realize I was talking to myself about whether I should get silver or gold until a young girl beside me asked (in Mandarin), "What?" Without thinking, I responded in English, "Oh, I'm just talking to myself." She gave me a nervous look and moved away. I turned around to find Dani laughing at me. *insert face palm emoji here*

I wanted meatballs!

We even laughed (after a few minutes of whining on my part) about the restaurant being closed and having to eat our IKEA hotdogs outside. 

On a completely different note, I remembered Bridget's Target posts, and was inspired to share the things I wanted to buy at IKEA, but didn't: 

I spied these ottomans (they come in yellow and black) and thought they might be perfect for Mabel and Clarke in our entryway. The kids are always plopping down onto the floor to put on and take off their shoes, and while I'm sure they don't mind, it might be nice for them to have a place to sit. Plus they have storage! This would be greatly appreciated for hats and mittens once the cold weather arrives again. I didn't buy them because I need to measure the space, but they're on my wish list. 

Mabel has been asking to paint her bedroom walls pink, and while I'm not ready to commit to that, I did tell her we could get more pink accessories for her room. I spotted this pillow and took a picture to see if it met her approval. 

I can't decide if I would love or hate this coffee table for storage. Good for things like blankets or will I be annoyed that I can see everything?

I want a new lamp for the living room but haven't found any I love. Maybe this? Or is it too short? Too office-y? 

Okay, I'm not sure I like the look of these, but thought one might be good on the wall in our small bathroom for storage? Or maybe on the wall of the entryway? I showed T and he ixnayed it, but I'm still pondering, especially after reading this article

Would love this Hemnes shoe cabinet for the entryway. I don't think I'd use it for shoes though; I'd use it to corall a bunch of our junk. 

We have an art area for the kids where we keep paper, markers, watercolours, etc. The paper is all just stacked, but I want some kind of storage for it to keep it organized. These are a possibility but I'm wondering if they will be sturdy enough.

These organizers remind me of similar ones at Muji, but for a fraction of the cost.

This cart and the cutting board on top would be great as a side table in a small apartment, wouldn't they?

We're supposed to sort our garbage, recycling, and compost, and I'm still looking for an easier way to organize it all in our small kitchen. I want to check if this can be attached to the inside of a cupboard door under the sink. 

Another pink thing for Mabel. I actually ended up ordering this for her in pink and it's already hanging on the side of her bed, storing the Junie B. Jones book we read every night at bedtime. 

Also ended up ordering these pink storage containers. Mabel and Clarke put their "treasures" in them as soon as they arrived. 

I don't need these bowls, but I want them. They remind me of Tupperware we had when I was growing up. Perfect for making and storing taco salad or cuddling up on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn. 

I wasn't sure if Tony would want this storage container for rice, but my hunch was right and he did! Unfortunately, it was too big for our space (luckily I measured before we ordered it), so we ended up getting this smaller container instead. 

I can't stop thinking about this lamp. If it was available to order online, it would be on my bedside table already. It'll have to wait until my next trip. 

Pretty storage; need I write more? 

I actually ended up ordering this mirror too. I like it, but not sure I love it. I just don't like clutter and don't use a small mirror very often. 

I'm so happy I live in a city that has IKEA. Not so sure my bank account is though. 

Do you have any fave IKEA purchases or something that's on your wish list?

Saturday, August 21, 2021

happy saturday!

Will I ever write a blog post other than a "happy friday!" (on a Saturday or Sunday) post? That remains to be seen but stick with me. 

I did my best to soak up the last few days of vacation and I think I did alright. Here are some things that made me happy this week: 

+ A delicious lunch date with T at Larry the Bird. We got into a great routine of 1-2 lunch dates a week this summer. I'll miss them, but they'll be replaced by weekly date nights! 

+ We walked home again from Sanlitun. I'm really trying to get into the habit of moving my body more in everyday ways. So far so good. 

+ An IKEA date with Dani. 5 hours there and most of it was wonderful (except the part where the restaurant was closed—womp, womp). 

+ Successfully updating my info at the bank, and opening Alipay and Taobao accounts! My fellow expats in China will understand that this is reason to celebrate!

+ Clarke saying great job and giving his version of a thumbs up. 2 is one of my favourite ages (so far). 

+ My first visit to The Cheesecake Factory. It won't be my last!

+ A yummy pumpkin chocolate chip muffin made by thoughtful colleagues. Made me excited for autumn! 

+ Celebrating the first day back to work with HeyTea (for me) and DQ (for the rest of the fam). 

What made you happy this week? 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

happy sunday!

This Sunday is my last Sunday without the "Sunday Scaries" because my summer vacation ends this week, as long as Covid doesn't have other plans again. (I was supposed to go back to work on August 4 and kids were set to return to school on August 9, but that was delayed because of a few new cases of Covid in BJ.)

I've been struggling a little with enjoying the last days of vacation. It's a mix of the kids being home all day, every day (even though we're lucky enough to have a nanny); not having fully processed the last year and a half; and wondering what this new school year will bring. 

But this blog post title has the word "happy" in it, so let's get to it! Here are some of the things that made me happy this past week: 

Shake Shack Beijing

+ I ate at Shake Shack for the first time! It did not disappoint, and it felt a little extra exciting because of my love for NYC

+ A dinner date at Taco Bar with Dani and Krista. Their "buy a drink, get a taco" happy hour was greatly enjoyed. (I recommend the Burro and the fish taco!)

+ A lunch date at Mosto with Tony. Eating lunch out feels extra special because being a teacher means it doesn't happen often September-June. 

+ Walking home from Sanlitun along the canal after each of the above dates. 

+ Getting new furniture for our bedroom! My love for IKEA's Kallax continues. 

+ My hunch that Clarke and Mabel would love these folding gym mats from IKEA proving correct. So far the mats have been used as couches, beds, snack tables, yoga mats, forts, and a stage. 

+ Krista and Dani urging me to start blogging again. 

What made you happy this week?

Thursday, March 11, 2021

chinese new year 2021.

Chinese New Year was very different for our family this year (and for lots of other people, too). We stayed in Beijing to celebrate because we weren't able to travel to Tony's hometown in Henan to see his family like usual.

It's the Year of the Ox.

Mabel is old enough to remember past celebrations, and she kept talking about seeing family members. She also talked a lot about the hongbao she got from her teacher last year filled with chocolate coins and the dragon dance they did at school. Since we couldn't see family, and school had moved online for the two weeks prior to the CNY holiday, we tried to ensure she and Clarke would have special memories from this year, too. 

T and I bought special outfits for the kids. Normally they would wear more traditional clothes to school for the CNY celebration, but we decided to go with something more "fun" and that they could wear regularly throughout the year. I want to remember that we almost didn't buy the red headband for Mabel but I'm so glad we did because she was most excited for that. I also want to remember that for days after we gave them the clothes, Mabel would ask if she could wear her "Chinese New Year clothes" and Clarke was so happy to be the "same" as Jiějiě ("big sister" and what we often call Mabel). 

We put up special decorations to bring good luck. I want to remember that Mabel showed the ox on their doors to anyone who came over and that Clarke wasn’t interested in hanging the decoration until he realized it meant climbing on a stool. 

We made dumplings with friends. The kids loved it, especially Mabel! But even after all her hard work, she only ate one. I was surprised, because normally she eats a lot of dumplings, but I think it was because she was more interested in running around and playing hide and seek than eating.

T's older brother and parents would usually give the kids hongbao (red envelopes with money) and they still did, but digitally, by transferring money through WeChat. So for the first time, T and I gave the kids hongbao from us. Mabel didn't really care about the money, even after we told her she could use it to buy a toy; she kept talking about the hongbao with chocolate from her teacher. Luckily, I had told Auntie Jo, our best friend, and she made sure to bring the kids hongbao with chocolate coins. I want to remember that she also brought hongbao for Tony and I. His had money, and mine was empty but taped to a bottle of wine—such a funny and sweet gesture!

We ate hot pot for dinner, and then when the kids were in bed, the grownups drank champagne, enjoyed a charcuterie board, and played What Do You Meme? Tony was the winner! We also watched the CCTV New Year's Gala, which is tradition!

We FaceTimed with T's family and they sent us a photo of their dinner. I counted extra bowls and chopsticks and when we asked them about it, they said they set places for us. It was really touching. This was the first year T hadn't been with his family for the holiday. Hopefully next year we'll be there!

How did you celebrate your big holiday this year?

P.S. Chinese New Year 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Friday, March 05, 2021

happy friday!

Mabel took this photo and I kind of love it. It's interesting to think of how she sees me.

The first half of this week felt like it dragged by, but the second half feels like I blinked. Here are some of the things that made me happy: 

+ The whole family—me, T, Mabel, and Clarke—doing Just Dance videos in the living room. 

+ Clarke asking for a "cuddle" right before I put him in his crib for bedtime. (He always emphasizes the second syllable, "Cu-DDLE!")

+ Dinner out with friends. We ate at Amazing Thai. BJ friends, go there and order the seasonal curry and pineapple rice. 

+ This water bottle! I'm finally drinking water! 

+ A student saying, "Please don't go, Ms. Amanda. I want you to keep working with me."

+ We have bedside lamps that work now! (The lamps are built into our nightstands and haven't worked since we moved into our apartment 6 months ago. We swapped for ones that work and it's been a great reminder that little things can make a big difference.)

+ Mabel woke up yesterday morning at 6AM but then said, "I want to sleep more" and went back to bed. (Why can't this happen on weekends?) 

+ These library holds became available. 

+ An acquaintance won a 60 min massage but isn't able to use it so she gave it to me! I was so surprised and grateful. People can be so kind. 

What made you happy this week?

Monday, March 01, 2021

book report / january and february.

Every year I set a reading goal of 52 books. So far this year, I've read six books, which sounded pretty good until I realized I had read fourteen(!) by this time last year. I think this is a sign that I need to put my phone down and pick up a book...

Here are super short reviews of the books I've read so far: 

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel / It took me awhile to get into it and I kept wondering why so many people loved it. Now that I've finished it, woah. Intense, well-written, thriller-esque, and I thought about it for awhile afterwards.

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory / It was light and fun, but not my fave in the series.

*A Promised Land by Barack Obama / Happily listened to all 29 hours (at 1.5x speed) and am eagerly awaiting the second volume.

*The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo / I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a while. When I wasn't reading it, I wanted to be. The writing was exquisite; I wanted to highlight so many passages. Highly recommend if you love long family sagas.

*They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School by Bev Sellars / I recommend this to anyone, but especially my fellow Canadians. I learned a lot and kept thinking, 'Why wasn't I taught about any of this in school?' 

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite / I liked the premise but was left wanting more—more twists, more character development, and a more detailed plot.

Do you have any recommendations for me?

P.S. More book reports.

P.P.S. If you want more frequent updates about what I'm reading, I share every time I finish a book in my Instagram stories.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

book report / 2020 faves.

I read 60 books in 2020 (the most books I've read in years), which I was pleasantly surprised by because I remember periods where I did not feel like reading and really struggled to concentrate. I guess a global pandemic will do that to you.

Anyway, here are my fave books from last year (all of the ones I gave 5 stars on Goodreads): 

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb / One of my fave memoirs of the many I've read! Interesting and felt like a breath of fresh air. Made me want to see a therapist. I listened and the narration was excellent too.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett / I absolutely loved this sprawling story about a house and a family spanning decades. I had never listened to a novel before, but kept seeing rave reviews of this one narrated by Tom Hanks, so I figured if I was ever going to, this would be a good one to try. I loved it! I found myself going for walks just so I could listen to more.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson / An important, heartbreaking book. I saw a NYT review that said it "will make you upset and it will make you hopeful"—that's true. (If you're interested, there's a young adult version too.)

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball / I thoroughly enjoyed this—so much so that I volunteered to do bedtime with Mabel on nights when it wasn't my turn so I could have more time to listen. Before listening, I wouldn't have said I was interested in farming (but I'm always interested in learning how other people live their lives), and now I'm 50% "I want to be a farmer!" and 50% "I could never be a farmer!" A truly fascinating memoir and the narration was perfect. (I listened to the sequel as well last year and enjoyed it almost as much.)

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett / Loved, loved, loved. It was beautifully written; I found myself highlighting so many sentences. And it had plot points I wasn't expecting which is always a plus for someone like me who is good at predicting what will happen.

All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson / Some books should be required reading for everyone; this is one of them.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller / A beautifully written book that shouldn't have needed to be written, but should most definitely be read. (I recommend listening to it as it is read by Chanel.)

28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand / One of my fave Elin novels to date! It made me smile, it made me angry, and it made me cry.

What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer / Beautiful and relatable. I'll be anxiously awaiting Kate's next book of poems. 

What were your fave books of 2020?

P.P.S. If you want more frequent updates about what I'm reading this year, you can follow me on Goodreads or Instagram.

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