Tag Archives: celebration

Happy Chinese Lantern Festival!

11 Feb

Happy Lantern Festival!  Tonight is the night (15 days after #ChineseNewYear ) when the Chinese light paper lanterns and send them up to the sky.  

My picture wasn’t very good 😭 I’ll post a better one later. But the #moon sure was pretty! Here in Zhengzhou, we have the highest smog records for the country, so the moon is a rare night.  Today was perfect for the festival! Clear skies, brisk air, and a good wind. 😄 

Wishing you all the best and a great upcoming year! 🍀

#China #travel #festival, #traditions #lifeabroad #international

Merry Christmas from China!

24 Dec

Great Christmas Eve! 🎅 Went to breakfast and shopping with mom. Saw totally cute gift ideas!! 😊 Then my friend Harry came by and we made peanut butter and ritz cookies, had delicious dinner, walked the river looking at the lights, saw the fireworks, etc. ❄ Even saw an electrical fire! 😱 Then the lovely cafe owner’s wife gave me a cupcake for Christmas 😍 Even though China doesn’t really celebrate Christmas, lots of locals stopped to wish me Merry Christmas. Then woke up this morning to awesome gifts, delicious breakfast treats from a friend, and a spa day. Tonight I party with some friends here at the foreign housing.  A real wonderful life!

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My Student Serena made me this wreath – isn’t it adorable?!

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My student Serena made me this wreath – isn’t it beautiful?!

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

15 Sep

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Happy Mid-Autumn Festival from China to you!

Today (September 15, 2016) is the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie). The festival will fall on the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar, which just so happens to be today for 2016.  Although today is the official day of the holiday, most people in China will take a 3-4 day weekend to celebrate. 🙂 For example, at our university all classes are cancelled for Thursday – Saturday, with Friday’s classes made up on Sunday.
Based on the lunar calendar, on the 15th of the month, the moon should be a full moon, shining bright and beautiful.  So a lot of the stickers and pictures being sent around WeChat (Chinese version of Facebook) are full moons or things shaped like full moons. 🙂 

The moon has a special place in the world of Chinese art and culture, with many of my students great enthusiasts of the “romantic and beautiful night sky.” So during the Song Dynasty, the Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival was created to celebrate the Harvest Moon. This is supposed to be the brightest, biggest, most beautiful moon of the year. 

One of the best and largest part of the Mid-Autumn Festival is the tradition of eating what are called “Moon cakes” (月饼 – Yuè Bĭng).  Moon Cakes are little pastries or cakes about 4 inches around and 2 inches thick.  The pastry crust tends to be pretty thick and then inside are any variety of treats or fillings. Most common in Henan is the red bean or Jujube paste, but there are many others with nuts and fruits inside.  (I’m not terribly fond of the paste ones, but a few of the nut versions are pretty good.)  The pastry top will somehow be stamped with a Chinese character of good fortune luck, peace, happiness, etc. They are usually passed around to family, friends, teachers, business colleagues, etc. Visit a Chinese shop before the holiday and for at least two weeks they will be selling these cakes like crazy.  

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According to legend, the moon cake became a holiday tradition during the Yuan dynasty. China was under the control of Mongolian rulers at the end of the dynasty, and the Ming Chinese were fed up. They decided to stage a revolution, but had a difficult issue in the logistics of communicating their message to the people without tipping off the Mongolians. The story says that the leader Zhu Yuanzhang and his adviser Liu Bowen came up with the brilliant idea of using moon cakes. They started a rumor that a horrific and deadly disease was spreading through the area and that special moon cakes were the only possible cure. Of course the people began buying up moon cakes and hidden inside each moon cake was a message telling them the date and time for the revolution (Mid-Autumn Festival).  The Chinese revolted, the battle was won, and moon cakes became a permanent staple of the holiday! 🙂 

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Another famous legend about the festival is that of a tragic romance. In the west, our culture has the beloved Man on the Moon, but in Chinese it’s the beautiful Chang’e, Lady on the Moon.  The story says that centuries ago there live a famous hunter, Hou Yi, and his wife Chang’e. At the time, the world was surrounded by 10 suns and they were burning the earth and its people to death. A brave man, Hou Yi took his bow and arrow and went out to shoot down nine of the suns. He saved the world in the end. As a reward, he was given a special potion that contained immortality. However, because he loved his wife so much and because the potion was only enough for one person, Hou Yi refused to drink it. After this, he was very famous and many people came to learn from him. But some also came to steal from him, including one wicked man. One day while Hou Yi was out, the evil man snuck into the house and attempted to steal the potion from Chang’e. She realized she could not keep him from taking it, and so drank it herself. The potion immediately gave her immortality, and her body flew up, up, up and up to the moon. Heartbroken, Hou Yi came home and prepared a feast on a table under the moon in honor of his wife and in the hopes that she would see his efforts and know how much he missed her. So (according tot the legend), ever since the Chinese like to eat big meals under the moon to remember her sacrifice and to celebrate their own families. 

Life in China ~ Hungry Ghost Festival

17 Aug

My Chinese friend called today asking to hang out. When I asked what was up, she said she intended to go home today but her brother called and warned her not to travel today. Apparently today the province is celebrating the Hungry Ghost Festival.

It falls on the 15th of the 7th lunar month. According to my friend, they believe that today many ghosts are able to travel around the country. This is why my friend couldn’t travel- she has to leave the way clear for the ghosts instead. Instead many adherents will go to the graves and leave lots of food for the hungry wanderers to eat.

Our Delicious Dumplings 🙂 

They also make hand-made traditional dumplings out of long noodles. They are long so you can wrap up your ancestral ghosts in the strand and keep them close to you in the future. Funnily enough, we went to the little Chinese garden here and ran into 5-6 grandfathers out with their grandkids. They had been tasked with entertaining the kids while grandma made the dumplings. To participate, my friend and I had beef dumplings at the local street market and she promised to wait until tomorrow to go home :p



4 Year old and her 6.5 year old sister. The older sister starts English classes tomorrow, and they both knew the ABC song!




Twin 4-year olds. They start Kindergarten this  year and are excellent Bubble-blowers!


Hello from Shanghai!

20 Apr


I don’t post a lot of pictures of myself, because I’ve never felt comfortable being in front of a camera. In fact, I’ve avoided pictures like the plague for about 15 years. However, this past tomb-sweeping holiday I went to Shanghai, partly for the trip and partly to celebrate the fact that I have lost 70 lbs since coming to China in 2014!  I still have a long ways to go, but I’m so much healthier than I was before. 

The Struggle

Probably 1/3 of my weight issue was the fault of a childhood accident, 1/3 due to stress and lack of sleep, and 1/3 was my own stupidity and love of cooking/sweets (especially when stressed). 

I was actually really energetic and active as a child. However, when I was 11, I accidentally crushed one of my feet in an exercise bike.  It severely shattered most of the bones in the front part of my foot (where you put pressure if you wear high heels), and my doctor didn’t believe me when I told her it was broken. Claiming it was a bruise, she had me try methods that actually worsened everything. It ended up being permanently damaged and to this day I cannot wear heels and my foot swells a lot if I’m not careful. I’m not supposed to run really at all even now and for years walking long distances would cause me a lot of pain in that foot.  Trying to protect my foot, I threw out my whole body structure and let’s just say it got bad.  

It kept me from exercising for many years and I starting packing weight on ridiculously. Matters were worsened by the fact that I genuinely love baking as a stress-reliever and often cooked with the kids around me for entertainment. My specialty (if you noticed on my site) was treats and that is not conductive to an exercise-less life.  Still, I had lost about 60 pounds when I left high school. Then I hit college, and while I was finally starting to get back to exercising through rehab for my foot, the stress began to hit. Since college started, I’ve averaged about 4-5 hours of sleep a night and tried handling 21 hour semesters. Now, I genuinely had no time for exercise even if my foot could handle it. And I was eating at the school cafeteria every day (and ours was a good cafeteria tragically). At first I lost a little more, but then I started pounding it back on again.  Entering law school then made my life a misery of epic proportions, saved only by my visits abroad.

The Cure

I discovered that I actually was a lot healthier whenever I went abroad. The first summer in Japan and Korea, I walked and walked and walked and walked and climbed stairs and walked some more, climbed mountains, hiked tourism streets, climbed temple stairs, and walked a little more again.  I found that eating with chopsticks just naturally causes me to eat less, if only because my hand gets so dad-blamed tired before I finish anything. 😛 And the food around me was healthier. I don’t particularly care for Asian treats and there are so many vegetables and fruits and fresh foods added to it all that I just naturally ate better. It also seemed to do wonders for my breathing and other health issues that I experienced in the States. I’m just genuinely more healthy almost the moment I enter Asia. I lost 30 pounds the first semester (gained back in the following year of law school) and then 40 pounds the second semester (gained back in the following year of law school).  

It would have taken an idiot not to realize the pattern here, and so I decided to take the leap and just move abroad. My house here has no kitchen so I never make treats anymore. Perhaps a loss of entertainment, but better for me in the long run. I walk everywhere and have been doing my foot rehab exercises regularly (at least I try). I eat lots of fruits and vegetables (Hot Pot in China is the BEST!) and I try to avoid snacks too much.  It’s been a long road, but the Chinese have been amazingly supportive.

You know it’s funny, but we all know that most Chinese are fairly thin. Not all of them (apparently that is more of a Southern trait than a Northern one), but still. The highest size (1x) in a Chinese shop is on average a medium in the US. When I first came, I couldn’t wear anything Chinese.  And I really, genuinely thought that it would be hard for me emotionally to try to live here. I thought they would make comments or treat me weirdly, but really they have been incredibly supportive.

My students and the locals in the area genuinely worried about me when I first came, but they were never ever rude about it nor do they try to ply me with sweets as a “show of friendship.” I’ve had students randomly come up and say “teacher, we need to go for a walk today.” “Teacher I think you need to eat more vegetables so here are some tomatoes.” “Teacher, you drink too much soda, it’s bad for your healthy. Drink this water I got you” “Teacher, you are too round. You are so beautiful and you will be even more beautiful if you are less round.”  It probably sounds mean to you, but for me it is incredibly wonderful. They never say it out of meanness–they genuinely care and want to help. The little old guy at the convenience store started giving me free water because he wants me to stop buying soda. They add fruits and vegetables to my plate. They never ever try to take me places with lots of sweets or get dessert. They frequently call me up and ask to walk with me in the afternoon because it is “a beautiful day.” They encourage me to go to the track with them and to do activities.  Instead of repeating how I need to lose weight if I want to find a man, their response is more along the lines of “you will find a much richer man if you lose weight.” The suggestion being that I am okay now, but will be better later. They worry about my stress instead of adding to it. They tell me to sleep more, ply me with soothing teas, encourage me to drink hot water, etc. 

Their approach to my weight has been a weird mixture of brutal honesty “You have gained too much weight this week, I think no dinner for you maybe? Yes?” and unfailing kindness “Here is a new tea that will help you lose weight. Now drink it every day and I will give you some more. It will make you more amazing!”  And it’s been great for me. I walk with them, my stress levels have dropped so much (My blood pressure was in the normal range this week!), they take me out to eat healthy meals, I’m happier and just all around more healthy.

The Results

And finally, the results are showing! I’ve officially lost about 70 pounds since I got here, and I am so much more fit than before. I can keep up with the tours and hikes, fit through all the stupid skinny gates, wear actual Chinese sizes (the bigger ones, but such an improvement), I’ve lost one shoe size at least, I’ve lost at least 3 US clothes sizes. I am actually dressing up and feeling attractive for the first time since I was in High School.  I’m putting on make-up, posing for pictures in front of cameras, agreeing to photo shoots and interviews for local activities. I went this week for my annual physical and it was like night and day! I don’t take up extra room on a bus anymore. I was not only able to easily sit in the airplane seat, I had to pull the seatbelt tighter. You don’t know how close I was to crying on that plane to Shanghai.  

I even flirted with a guy in Shanghai. Yes, me, flirting. Who would have thought! And he flirted back! 🙂 SO awesome! My confidence levels are so, so, so much better now!

My trip to Shanghai was to celebrate this, to enjoy the changes and to try something new as a new woman. And to honor that, I’m sharing with you the first real picture I’ve posted publicly in years other than my required professional one!  Thanks for my readers. You all didn’t know it, but you are part of what encourages me to be better. I want to be healthier so I can take more trips, share more pictures, and find more beautiful things to share with you. You steady readership has been a great benefit. Thank you! 



22 Feb


According to traditional custom, today is the Chinese lantern festival! It’s a day when they light the paper lanterns and send them up as symbols of hopes and dreams for the future. A beautiful tradition!


Always on the first full moon of the new lunar year.


Lanterns are available for about ¥5, and come in many colors! Mine was red 🙂


Lights are shining!


Fireworks blasting!

Happy Lantern Festival!

Happy Birthday to China!

9 Oct


This is the week where China celebrates its birthday!  Lots of Fireworks!

Happy Days!

11 Jun


I have yet to see a day where Balloons on a Blue Sky don’t make me a little bit more cheerful!

Chinese Fireworks!

19 Feb

This video was taken by a friend of mine (I’ll upload mine tonight too), and I thought it did a great job of showing you just how many fireworks were going off all at once around the city. It was mind-blowingly cool!  I counted at least 10 places setting them off at the same time, and from the roof you could see them for miles!

Life in China: Christmas in Henan

30 Dec


It’s a little late to be saying this, but Merry Christmas from the beautiful province of Henan, China!

 This is my very first Christmas to be traveling abroad, indeed my first to be away from family and friends. Even in college, I always came back home with my mom to stay at my Aunt and Uncle’s home in Illinois. We always went overboard on the shopping so the room was covered in packages, and we had wonderful traditions. Lighting the hope candle, visiting midnight services, baking cookies, and getting up early to visit family nearby. Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays, and I was a little concerned about how it would turn out this year.   Continue reading

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