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Saturday, March 31, 2007
The Death March and Mao
Today's plan included a trip to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the acrobatic show. I was a little nervous about getting on the bus this morning. Last night's dinner, a banana, didn't sit well. About an hour after eating it, I started feeling slightly nauseous. This morning when we headed down to the breakfast buffet, the food didn't do much for me. I had toast and yogurt for breakfast, but I felt better. I decided to go for today's events. After all, this is the trip of a lifetime.

I felt fine on the bus and was ready to go. The bus dropped us off at one end of Tiananmen Square, and we headed off. We went down a staircase that looked like we were heading to a subway. I was very confused because I couldn't figure out where the train would take us. Instead, we turned a corner and went up another flight of stairs. This was a safe way to cross the street and get into the Square. Trust me, you need a safe way to cross Beijing traffic.

When we reached the Square, our guide told us we had 15 minutes to make our way to the other end. She would be waiting beneath the flag of China. While we were walking, I started feeling sick again, so I told Jim to take plenty of pictures, but I was heading to the flag. I had misunderstood and thought that was going to be the end of our tour and then we would head off to the next spot. I walked with our guide as she was also heading directly to the flag. We chatted on the way, and I learned that she had lived in San Francisco for one year. She and I agreed that it was a wonderful city, and we'd both move there in a minute...if we could afford it! She's been working with our agency for 4 years.

While the rest of the group started gathering around us, the peddlers surrounded us. Several of the men in the group all bought the big furry hats and posed for pictures. They were hilarious. We have one little blonde girl in the group, and she also caused quite the sensation until her mother covered her hair with her hood.

We then headed down a ramp and below the street again to emerge on the other side. We went through a large red gate and entered the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was the home of the Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It's hard to describe how overwhelmingly vast this place is when you walk through it.

As we entered the Forbidden City, we saw the scaffolding and tarps veiling the next gate.

As we got closer to the next entrance, we realized that what we thought had been a view of the building behind a blue translucent tarp was, in actuality, a painting of the building. The actual building is completely veiled as they work on it. We saw a lot of scaffolding and construction as we passed through the squares.

The Forbidden City is a series of open courtyards surrounded by buildings. The entire area is surrounded by 10-meter walls. No easy escape route here! Jim took this picture as we were heading up the stairs through another gate into the next square. That's my back in the lower right corner wearing the blue and yellow jacket and the Land's End diaper bag. We were using it to lug our stuff this week. Trust me the view was better from the back as I'm sure my facial expression was pained.

Many of the buildings had signs up explaining their history.

Somehow the last line of this particular sign struck us all as incongruous.

Finally, after a 9000 (okay, 6/10ths) mile walk, we reached the Inner Gardens. The plants are starting to bloom, but, once again, I felt like we were a little too early to see this place in its prime.

We left the Forbidden City and actually had to risk crossing a Beijing street above ground. I thought we should place bets on who would make it across, but no one was willing to call the odds. Our bus wasn't there yet as there was a huge traffic jam holding up the driver. Our guide kept stepping out between the tour buses to hold her flag so that our driver could see her. I was turned to the side talking to another person in our group when I heard Jim start to yell our guide's name. As I turned to look, several more voices joined in. She looked up confused and waved to us. They kept calling her over and she finally came up on the sidewalk. Another member of the group tried to explain why everyone was calling, but she didn't understand. She explained that the bus we were all pointing towards was not our bus. We knew that. What she didn't realize was that bus was backing up and she was less than a foot away from it before she stepped out of its path. She had her back to that bus and she was standing right in the middle of it so there's no way the driver could have seen her. About ten minutes later, it happened again, but this time she jumped out of the way when we called her name.

We headed back to the hotel for a few hours of free time before we were due to meet for the acrobatic show. Jim and I first planned to eat lunch in the hotel, but Jim wasn't impressed with the offerings. The dining room that serves the breakfast buffet also serves a lunch and dinner buffet. I was feeling much better. The nausea had been gone for hours. I actually felt better when we left the Forbidden City than I had when we entered. We decided to head to the mall next door and try the pizza everyone had been raving about. We ran into about a dozen of our travel mates at this restaurant. The pizza was great, though very different from what we're used to having. The crust was very bready, but had a wonderful flavor. There was no pizza sauce, but a very mild flavored garlic sauce. The menu claimed it would have pepperoni, beef, bacon, ham, sausage, green peppers, onions, corn, and black olives. I saw all the vegetables, but the only meat I saw on it was a few pieces of ham and some crumbled sausage. You could choose between the cheese or no cheese version. After lunch, we wandered through the department store. We were very tempted by a set of the Olympic mascots, but couldn't quite justify the $60 price tag for this small set of plush toys. This was not a bargain department store. In the basement, they had a small market. We picked up some gelato for Jim and a Haagen Dazs bar for me. Now this may seem obvious in retrospect, but pizza and ice cream may not be the best lunch options when you were suffering from nausea earlier in the day. We sat on the bench in front of the mall before heading back to the hotel. We stopped in the lobby and changed our money for Chongqing, went up a floor to the business center and made additional copies we needed of our paperwork when all of a sudden, Mao took his revenge.

I spent the afternoon napping and the acrobatic show was a no show for us. I'm feeling better now. We ended up missing dinner with the gang tonight. I was going to pass, but Jim was going to go on without me at my insistence. Unfortunately, we lost track of time. He headed down about 10 minutes late and missed them.

It's time for me to go because we have about an hour and a half before they come pick up our checked bags. They're pretty much repacked, but there are still a few odds and ends to do. We are leaving the hotel at 9:40 and heading to the airport. We say good bye to Beijing and head off to Chongqing tomorrow. To get Jim's perspective, check out his blog. Only one more day before we see Sera.

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Friday, March 30, 2007
Beijing, Day 2
Yesterday, when we first left the hotel, it was gray and cold. Very shortly thereafter, the sun came out and it was a warm and pretty day. Today was not yesterday. We met at 9:00 am in the hotel lobby before heading out to the Great Wall. The Wall is about an hour from our hotel. From our research, we knew that it was always cool at the Great Wall. Today was absolutely frigid.

Jim ventured up a ways, but I decided to enjoy the view from the bottom. He promised, and delivered, to bring back plenty of photos.

These are the famous locks. Tradition says that newlyweds climb the Wall to place a lock. They then throw the key over the side. If they later decide they want a divorce, they have to find the key and remove the lock.
Here we are at the Great Wall. When we returned to the bus, we learned that this was the shot people were buying at the souvenir stand. They had their picture taken and then laminated on a certificate saying they had been to the Great Wall. We joked with friends of ours that they needed to scan their certificate, then we can PhotoShop our picture in place.

We left the Wall and headed to lunch. First, we had about another half hour bus drive. On the drive, our guide shared a local joke with us. What do Chinese men call the perfect life? Chinese food, American salary, and Japanese wife. What do Chinese men call the worst life? Chinese salary, American wife, and Japanese house and food. She got so worried about offending us, but the entire bus howled with laughter.

When we arrived at our destination, we toured the cloisonne factory before heading upstairs for lunch. The main floor is filled with souvenirs. This was a Friendship store. It is owned by the government. In most places, you are expected to bargain for your purchases. Here the prices are high and fixed - no bargaining. Lunch was awesome. We didn't get pictures of the food, but it was delicious. We certainly can't complain about the portions. We've not finished all the food yet. It is placed on a large lazy susan in the middle of the table. Each table seats about 12 people. If I remember correctly, we had kung pao chicken, whole fish, red bean dumplings, fried potatoes, pork dumplings, hot and sour soup, vegetables, sweet and sour pork, and the most amazing beef and onion dish.

After lunch, we drove an hour to the Summer Palace. I'm sure the Summer Palace is beautiful in the summer. Right now, it was cold, gray, covered in hazy sky, and drizzling. Parts of it were also underwraps as construction was taking place.

The Summer Palace is on a lake. I think that this picture that Jim took is beautiful.

This boat is made entirely of marble. It was one of the final sights we saw at the Summer Palace before heading back to the bus. Some of the members of our group arrived yesterday, so they missed the tour. Our driver drove past Olympic park and the Bird Nest stadium again for them. Here's the picture Jim had posted. This stadium is where the opening ceremonies for the Olympics will be held. It is still under construction, but will hold 70,000 people.

On our way back to the hotel, our guide gave us some updated information on Sera. She's still on formula and rice cereal for meals. She is also now eating 1/2 an egg as a snack every day. She also likes to sleep on her belly.

We have no plans for this evening as day two in Beijing has kicked our butts. We all dragged ourselves off the bus saying good-bye and see you in the morning. We talked about ordering room service or trying one of the hotel dining rooms. We had been in our room less than 20 minutes before Jim started snoring. It's now been an hour and a half and he's slept through the ending of one and beginning of another loud movie and housekeeping ringing our doorbell. I think he's done for the night. I think dinner will be some fruit out of our fruit bowl and a granola bar. I'm also planning to handwash some clothes tonight.

Tomorrow, we hit the Forbidden City and then the acrobatic show in the late afternoon. Sunday morning, we will finally head to Chongqing. We're ready to go!

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Thursday, March 29, 2007
Tips Along the Way
Well, after a good night's sleep, I did think of a few things to share.

I can't speak for all hotels, but the one we're staying in as these nifty outlets. You don't need an adaptor as they can take any kind of plug configuration. You would still need a converter if you're going to plug in anything that needs one. We only have our laptop and video camera and both can take the higher current.

Brushing your teeth. First of all, the wash cloth over the faucet is a great idea. It just makes you hesitate long enough to keep you from accidentally brushing your teeth with tap water. Now I've read for years about using the bottled water, but no one ever said how. The first time I tried to rinse my brush, I poured half the bottle and it still wasn't clean. Then it dawned on me. Pour a little water in the glass and swirl your brush around in it. Presto! Clean brush, and you don't use up all your water.

I survived my first squatty potty. It was at the airport in Beijing. The airport in Shanghai had the doors labelled, but the Beijing one didn't. There was a handicap stall, and I'm sure it had a western toilet, but the person in line in front of me went in there. It wasn't as bad as I feared, but I will wait for the western style whenever possible.

Oh, and dinner last night. All that food I mentioned came to about $25.00 per couple. It was a restaurant and a meal that would have easily cost $70.00 in the U.S. It was interesting to see that beer is cheaper than water. The beers were only .80. Drink up!

Since I know it's the pictures that really draw everyone. Here's one more from yesterday. We had just arrived at the Temple of Heaven. That's the back of my head in the lower right.

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Day One (Plus Travel)
Ni Hao!

What a day we've had. It started with the Breakfast Buffet at the Zhaolong Hotel. More food than anyone could eat. We tried many of the items. The noodles and fried rice were especially good. The rice was lightly fried with bits of egg in it. It was white instead of dark like we're used to. The flavor was very delicate.

We then met our group in the lobby. Our group is so large that they divided us in half and used two tour buses. We began by visiting the Temple of Heaven. Then we went to lunch at a Dai restaurant. The Dai are one of the minority ethnic groups in China. They're known for their singing and dancing. They had a floor show entertaining us with their dancing while we ate. The food was very good there. My favorite was the soup. It was a clear broth soup that tasted like mushrooms. It was wonderful. I also enjoyed the duck. It was served like a fritter with a cubed bread crust. After lunch, we headed to the Ethnic Cultural Park. This part is dedicated to showcasing the ethnic minorities of China. Visit Jim's blog for his take on our outings. Since he already wrote about them, I'll focus on the rest of the day.

We made it back to the hotel around 4:30 and read emails and rested until 5:30 when we met up with part of our group. We braved the streets of Beijing to a restaurant (okay, it was around the corner) where we had a great dinner and an even better time. There were 14 of us. We had fried shrimp, chicken & peanuts, char-grilled pork, chicken with strawberries, brocolli, asparagus, fried rice and the signature dish, Peking Duck. By the end of dinner, our stomachs ached from laughing. We're with a great group of people.

Chicken and Peanuts

Fried Shrimp

I'm going backwards here to give you a recap of travel day. We left home at 5:00 am when our good friend, E, picked us up and drove us to the airport - two hours away. We got their the recommended three hours early for international flights, so, of course, we sailed through check in and security. You're only delayed when you're late apparently. We hung out at the airport and waited for the other couple from our group who would be flying out of the same airport. It was our first time meeting in person. They're a great couple, and we really enjoyed spending our travel time with them...and it was a lot of travel time! We flew into Shanghai. Our flight actually arrived 45 minutes early. The Shangai airport is nothing to write home about. Limited, uncomfortable seating without a lot of amenities. It wasn't bad; it was just that we were there for almost six hours. Luckily, we had good company to make the time go faster. We finally boarded our flight to Beijing. We arrived around 9:30 pm. We were a little concerned when we couldn't find our guide. She was meeting other members of our group at the international gate. We came in at the domestic gate.

After a thirty minute ride, we made it to the hotel where we were given our room keys. I jumped in the shower, while Jim waited for our luggage to arrive. One thing to remember when you're exhausted and on little sleep is how to turn the lights on in the hotels here. After swiping your key card and the door opens, there is a place on the wall for you to place your card. This is what turns on the lights. When you remove your card and leave, the lights go off. You can remove the card while you're in the room and the lights stay on. It seems to be the combination of removing the card and opening the door that turns them off.

I know there were so many things that I thought about writing about throughout the day, but I'm going blank right now. Jim is snoring and the jealousy is making my mind go blank. I think it's time I got some sleep.

We're having a wonderful trip. Catch ya in 24!

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007
We're Here!
We left home 31 and a half hours ago. We last lay down in a bed 23 and a half hours before that. Yep, 55 hours. I probably got about 4 hours sleep on the planes; Jim about one. We really thought we'd sleep more on the planes.

The trip went smoothly. The Internet connection at the hotel is really slow. We'll try to get some pictures up tomorrow night.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007
And We're Off!

We're packed. The house is no where close to how I wanted to leave it, and we still have an awful lot of baby proofing to do. We'll manage.

At one point tonight, I was very panicky. It just seemed like the piles of stuff to add to the suitcases was growing exponentially. We finally got everything shoved in and brought out the dreaded scale. We used a mailing scale that Jim has for his business. Our checked bags came in at 44.3 and 44.6 pounds each. Our carry-ons are right around 25 pounds, and my backpack is 13 pounds. We're .9 pounds over in our checked bags, 1 pound over with my backpack (I think I heard 12??), and 15 pounds under with our carry on. I think we did pretty well.

We'll get pictures and post as soon as we can.


Sunday, March 25, 2007
Guinea Pig
Yep, you're the guinea pig. Or is it me?

I practiced with the video camera this morning. Please forgive the very rushed job and the really bad editing. YouTube would not take a file over 100 mb. My video was 175 mb. I didn't have time to reshoot or make the edits pretty.

Here's the video version of the nursery tour. I'll add some stills later. Time is getting shorter and shorter. Must run!!!

UPDATE: Okay, now that I've gone through this once, I have questions. First, let me apologize again for the choppy editing. It was baaaad. I had to do this because YouTube wouldn't let me load more than 100 mb. That was less than two minutes of video. That just isn't going to work if we want to upload the video when we meet Sera. Any suggestions or advice from those of you who've BTDT?

Also, we've returned from today's errands. The part no one tells you about in the adoption budget is that you will make a gazillion runs to Target, drug store, electronics store, etc... and that none will be less than $100, if you're lucky, more will be over $200. The funny part is that we don't even care because it is just days before we'll hold Sera.

And I remembered to get this t-shirt this time.


Saturday, March 24, 2007
Mail Bag
Okay, I really don't have a huge mail bag of questions, but there are a few. I figured this is as good a time as any to answer. Besides, I need a break from doing bills.

Ziploc Bags
We're packing anything that could possibly leak or break in a ziploc bag to contain the damage. I also packed all of Sera's clothes, blankets, etc... in the ziploc bags. By squeezing all the air out, I was able to make them pretty flat and easy to pack. I tried putting an entire outfit in one bag. I'm not packing Jim and my clothes that way. Our suitcases aren't the largest, but they're not the smallest either. If they take up some bulk, I'll be less tempted to overpack them. We have to watch the weight on these bags.

Bag Weight
Even though international flights allow you to check two 50# bags per passenger, domestic Chinese flights only allow one 44# bag per passenger. We will also be taking one carry on bag each, plus I will bring the diaper bag backpack as my personal item.

New Money
We have to bring uncirculated or as close to new looking bills as we can. The officials will actually check each bill as they count our payment. I've read stories of money being rejected because of a small tear, a pencil mark, or a paper clip crease. Banks will tell you they cannot order new money from the Federal Reserve. This is not true. They normally can't, but money for an international adoption is an exception, and they can order it for this purpose. The banks who say they can't may not be familiar with this process.

We were very lucky. Our bank didn't blink an eye. When I explained what I needed they said they'd done this often in the past. They had our money for us quickly, and it's brand spanking new.

TSA Regulations
Any liquid or gel that you want to take in your carry on must fit inside a quart-sized ziploc bag. You are allowed one per person. No container within this bag may be larger than 3 oz. The example given on the website states that this is the original container size. For example, a large tube of toothpaste squeezed down and containg less than 3 oz. would be confiscated. You must have a travel-sized tube of 3 oz or less.

Medications, whether prescription or OTC, are unlimited, but must be in a separate ziploc bag. When going through security, you must tell the screener that you have this separate bag and pull it out when you pull your personal ziploc bag out of your carry on.

You may bring snacks with you on the international flight, but cannot remove any opened products. If you don't finish your snack, you must throw it away before disembarking.

Within China, you are allowed to bring a bottle of water, formula, etc... on board with you, but must open it and drink in front of the security screener. This includes sealed bottles.

Here's one I wish someone had told me. When you receive your tickets from the travel agent, you will be told to call the airlines directly to confirm. With the domestic U.S. airlines, you can probably go online and select your seats. We did. These tickets will probably be e-tickets. If you are flying one of the Chinese airlines, you will receive the cardboard boarding pass tickets. You will be told to call the airlines 72 hours before your scheduled flight to confirm and get your seat assignment. What they don't tell you, and I learned when I tried to call today, is that the U.S. offices for these airlines are only open M-F during regular business hours. Since we are flying into Shanghai, we will be catching a domestic Chinese flight there to Beijing. I guess I'll be calling to confirm on Monday morning.

Many electronics sold today actually don't need a converter, just the plug adaptor. If you have one of those AC adaptors that you plug your cord into for your laptop, video camera, etc... then it can take the varying voltage. You just need to be able to plug it into the wall.

Before I go back to doing what I'm supposed to be doing, let me do a quick shout out to BillPay or whatever it's called in your neck of the woods. We've actually been using this for a few years and love it. It's a free service from our bank. I set up all our bills in it and they pay out automatically. You can set it for monthly, quarterly, and a bunch of other options. I'll usually sit down every other week or so with our mail and just double check amounts and dates, but it's been wonderful. It's nice knowing that even though we'll be out of the country, our paychecks will still automatically deposit and our bills will get paid.

Speaking of which, I'd better get back to that.


Friday, March 23, 2007
You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

And there you have....The Facts of Life.

First, the bad...

oil leak
freon leak
bad O-ring in A/C compressor
bad bearing in right front wheel
etc, etc, etc...

Then the good...

None of it could have been prevented, this stuff shouldn't have happened to the car, so it will be covered by the warranty. Well, all but about $400.00 worth of stuff they found it needed while they were looking, new plugs, and stuff. Since it would have probably cost a couple thousand otherwise, we're happy with this news.

The odd thing is that we park our car in the garage. Not a drop of any car fluids on the floor. Where was this stuff leaking to?

The even better...

Our bank rocks. About a month ago, we asked for new bills for our China cash. We told them we'd need it for the end of March. At the time, I thought I was giving us a week or two leeway. Hah! We ARE leaving in March. They called about a week later to say they had it in the vault and would hold it for us. We went to pick it up today. We ended up needing a lot less than we'd asked them to get as we were able to wire many of our fees. I figured I'd go through what they were holding to pick the best because everyone had been saying how hard it had been to get new bills. They had all brand new uncirculated bills waiting for us. The only mistake they'd made was to not hold some smaller bills for us. The clerk painstakingly and good naturedly went through her cash drawer and picked out perfect bills for us. Now that's service!

One more day at school My sub is going to go through the day with me, so I just have to be there in body, not spirit.

Last document notarized. All paperwork copied and assembled for travel.

Can you stand it????


Thursday, March 22, 2007
I'm Still Here!
I haven't disappeared yet.

Work ready for sub? Check!

Visit doctor and get prescriptions for travel meds? Check!

Have car decide to do some horrible shaking thing and then have Check Engine light come on? Check!

Take said car to dealership and prayed it's a warranty thing? Check!

Have pre-travel conference call with travel group and agency? Check!

Have house-sitter come over and synch her laptop to our wireless network? Check!

Gather all adoption paperwork in one folder to make copies and get vaccination affaadavit notarized? Check!

Busy day? Check!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007
We Have a Plan
We'll be in Beijing for four nights before moving on to Chongqing. We'll arrive there on Sunday and meet Sera on Monday, the 2nd, and officially adopt her the next day. The following Saturday, we'll head to Guangzhou. On Monday, she'll have her physical, then Wednesday we go to the U.S. consulate for the swearing in ceremony. We leave the following morning. Inbetween, it's free time, sightseeing, and shopping.

Funny note: We leave Shanghai at 4:10pm on 4/12 and arrive in Chicago at 4:45pm on 4/12. Not bad, huh? ;o)


Monday, March 19, 2007
I Lied

I think it is now getting longer each day.

I was hoping we'd get the in China itinerary today. We didn't. Others who are leaving around the same time we are have been told that Monday, April 2nd will be the day they meet their child. Still not sure how I feel about "gotcha". I'm hoping that it will be on 3/31. I know it's unlikely being a Saturday, but it's our seventh wedding anniversary. Wouldn't it be awesome if we became a family on the same day that Jim and I became a family?


Sunday, March 18, 2007
Nesting Daddy & Cooking Mommy
Sorry, still no nursery pictures. I have a plan, and if it works, it will more than make up for it.

This was a daddy nesting weekend. He spent a good part of last night making sure we had all electronics covered.

This morning, we got up and headed out to the park. It's Sugar Camp weekend. Sugar Camp always takes place one weekend in March. It's a joint venture between the Lions club and a local high school baseball team. They have an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast with real maple sugar. There are wagon rides that will take you down to the sugar shack where they process the maple syrup. You can all see the trees that are tapped and the lines carrying the syrup. Another area demonstrates how they used to process the syrup over a campfire. A third area shows how to make kettle corn over a campfire. Sometimes they have a huge tree and a double-saw and they "help" the kids cut off a slice of the tree. They then show them how to count the rings. Other times they'll have an ice carver out there. It's a lot of fun. Jim hasn't missed a year in over 10 years.

Afterwards, he cleaned out the car. Took it in for detailing, oil change, and all those things a car needs, then came home and installed the car seat. We ended up going with the Britax Marathon. I wanted the Olivia pattern, and Jim wanted the Platinum (booooring) pattern. Since I got the better car seat I wanted, I let Jim win this battle. He made a good point. There's plenty of pink in her life to balance out his gray, black, and red choice. Besides, you can buy spare covers on Ebay. I can still get my Olivia there.

While Jim was doing the car thing, I made congee and browned some ground beef for the freezer. I was going to make meat loaves, but Jim voted for the versatility of just having browned ground beef ready to go.

Congee is a common breakfast food in China. It's basically a thick chicken and rice soup that you add in different things when eating. It's one of the first foods given to babies and most chilren from China find it familiar and delicious.

I got this recipe from one of my travel mates, Therese. It's cooling now before I pack it up and freeze it. I snuck a taste and it's delicious.


1 rotisserie chicken (leftover is fine. If you’re going to use a whole chicken, remove the breast meat and save for later.)
4 qts of liquid (low-sodium chicken broth or water and chicken bouillion)

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, place the chicken, including bones, skin, jellied juices, etc… Rough chop your vegetables, and add them to the pot. Cover with liquid.

Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce to a healthy simmer, and set the lid askew to partially cover. Check every hour or so to stir and add more boiling water to keep the liquid level approximately the same. Allow to simmer for anywhere from 2 hours to 4 hours or so (the longer the better).

Remove from heat and strain broth through a colander and into another pot. Return broth to the heat, and heat to a low simmer. Once the broth is simmering, add 3/4 cup (or so) of dry, uncooked long grain rice. (You can also add left over cooked long grain rice instead. It works equally well. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked rice.). Don't add too much rice or it will cook up into a thick, pasty gruel. Allow this to simmer, covered, over very low heat for 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so, to keep rice from sticking to the

When the chicken and veggies are cool enough to handle, separate out the meat and shred by hand into bite-size pieces. Add to pot with broth and rice, and discard remainder.

After an hour or so, the soup will be very silky and smooth. The rice will cook down into a porridge-like consistency. You want something like a creamy, watery oatmeal consistency. Not as liquid as a soup, but not as thick as a stew. Correct seasoning by adding salt and freshly ground pepper, or a little more bouillon.

Off heat, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of finely grated fresh ginger root, to taste, and stir.

This stuff is SO GOOD. You can top with any manner of stir-ins: cooked chicken, chopped green onions, chopped radishes, steamed chopped asparagus, sautéed greens of practically ANY sort, etc...

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Friday, March 16, 2007
It's a Good Day!

Yay, I'm happy again. Our schools came through for us. We met with the superintendent this afternoon. He could not have been more gracious. We worked out the details and will be able to use our leave. Yesterday, I was worried about who I was working for. It felt like we were being tossed in the wind. Today, we feel affirmed and valued. It's a much better feeling.

My plan tonight is to get everything back in the closet, finish baby laundry (I found two more boxes of clothes), and vacuum the nursery. Tomorrow, we'll assemble the crib, put up the curtain rods, run to Target to get sleepers. I did tell you that I realized this week that we don't have even ONE sleeper that will fit Sera? All these clothes and not one sleeper. I have several for 18-month that would be huge. I even have a few for six-month that I think would be too small because of the length, but not one pair for 12-month. I'm also going to make and freeze some congee and a couple of dinners for when we return. That may stretch into Sunday.

I have about three pounds of fresh extra-lean ground beef from grass-fed local cows. Our local butcher was having an awesome sale. If you have any suggestions for a good freezer meal or two, feel free to leave it. My brain is having a hard time settling down these days.

I know I promised a post about swapping outfits with the orphanage. I now owe one on congee, too as I'm sure many of you are wondering what that is. I'll get to it this weekend. I promise.

Oh, and to clarify luggage questions. We're taking two 26" suitcases that we'll check, plus two 21" suitcases that we'll carry on. I'll also have the backpack diaperbag as my personal item/purse. I'm going to divide our things among the two 26" and one 21". The other 21" will carry electronics: laptop and cameras. I packed all of Sera's clothes and blankets in ziploc bags and they still filled a 21" by themselves. And that's without the sleepers!


Thursday, March 15, 2007
Don't Rain on My Parade!
I've calmed down a lot, but was I upset earlier.

We've not exactly kept this adoption a secret. From the very beginning, we let our school corporation know what we were doing and where we were in the process. All along everything has been peachy.

First, some background. Adoption leave is simply letting us use our accrued sick days to pay for our absence. We were both taking it for the trip. Jim is returning to work immediately while I take the remainder of the school year off. We realized that because we lost the snow days in the calendar and we're leaving about a week earlier than I projected we were going to leave, my leave was going to be about 10 days short of making it to the end of the school year.

Yesterday, I talked to personnel who told me that I could take the last two weeks unpaid. I asked if Jim could use the unused portion of his adoption leave and take those two weeks while I returned to work. They emailed back and said that would work.

This afternoon, about 30 minutes before the end of the school day, I received an email from personnel telling me that not only could Jim NOT do this, but Jim won't get ANY adoption leave. They only allow one teacher parent to take leave. Jim's time will be UNPAID. Now if this were something they'd told us all along, we could have planned for it. Plus, it's just not fair. We're being penalized for being married. They wouldn't tell a married teacher that because X company was giving their spouse paid leave that they wouldn't. And it's not as if the school is paying us anything extra. We're simply using sick days that we've earned and haven't used. In fact, the corporation has to pay us for unused sick days when we leave, if we're vested. It's money we've already earned.

It's just frustrating when you know that you have gone above and beyond day after day and the thanks you get is this.

Anybody hiring? I know two experienced teachers who are pretty annoyed with their present employer.

Okay, rant over.

On the good news side, we paid for our plane tickets today. We have tickets to China!!! Woo hoo!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I've circled the cities where we'll be staying in China. I didn't circle Shanghai, but if you look above Guangzhou and to the right, you'll see Shanghai.

We have confirmation. We're definitely leaving on March 27th. We'll be flying American Airlines flight from Chicago to Shanghai and then Shanghai to Beijing. Coming home we'll fly from Guangzhou to Shanghai and then on to Chicago.

It's really happening!

And now for the mail bag...

(Those of you out there who are more experienced feel free to jump in. I'm winging it.)

adaptors/converters - The converter is used to let our appliances work in China. I think this is where that 120/220 thing comes in. The adaptor just allows the plug to fit in the outlet.

thermos - It's used to carry hot water with you. The babies are used to very hot bottles. You mix the hot water with regular bottled water when mixing the formula.

ziploc bags - These are to protect and/or contain leaky items. It can also be used in place of packmates. A lot of people will pack an entire outfit in a ziploc and then squeeze out all the air. This reduces luggage space and organizes your clothes.

luggage - We're taking one 26" to check and one 21" carry-on each. I will also use the backpack diaper bag as my personal item. We're not filling the 26" as it would be too easy to go over the weight limit. This should give us plenty of room for souvenirs. Jim's carry-on bag will contain the electronics: laptop, cameras, and related paraphernalia. My carry-on will contain spare clothes, baby stuff, and emergency toiletries in case our checked luggage takes the scenic route. On the way home, we can always choose to check it, if necessary.

Okay, time to get back to work.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

All my bags are packed
I'm ready to go...
So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go
'cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane...

We have our consulate appointment! It's on April 10th, my sister's birthday. Our agency hasn't confirmed our flights yet, but they're tentative dates are leaving on March 27th (my nephew's birthday) and returning on April 12th. We'll be there for our anniversary (3/31) and Easter. It's an event filled time!
I've got to wrap up my errands: get our taxes done (we didn't procrastinate, we just got the last bit of info we needed), arrange for bill pay, finalize details with the house (and dog) sitter, pack our bags, buy a converter and some adaptors (I knew I was forgetting something), and whatever else appears on my list. We'll get our packing started by the weekend at the latest.
You'll never guess what else I forgot. Part of the reason why I wanted to pull out all the clothes, launder and sort them was to start packing what we'd take with us. Last night, I realized that while I have about a month's worth of onesies and socks, plenty of outfits, and even a couple of pairs of tights. I have three, count 'em, three sleepers. One is 6 month, and two are 18 month. I need to get some sleepers. Pronto!

Colleen asked me if I was going to always wash Sera's clothes separately. I doubt it. In fact, I threw a couple of my gentle cycle, line dry shirts in with the last load. I don't want to learn while we're living out of a hotel room in China that Sera is allergic to laundry detergent, etc... I figured a good washing in Dreft would help alleviate that concern. I've read so many stories of people who've adopted from China and there seems to be a common thread about sensitive skin issues.

Okay, time to step away from the computer and get back upstairs to work. I have so much to do, and I love it!


Monday, March 12, 2007
I've Discovered The Source!

The source of that wonderful baby smell. It's Dreft!

Still waiting to hear that we have CA (consulate appointment). Hopefully, we'll hear tomorrow, and hopefully, we'll leave in about two weeks.

In the meantime, I'm buried in laundry and loving it. I'm washing every stitch of baby clothing we have. We have a lot of hand-me-downs that have been stored for awhile. I sorted them months ago, so now I'm laundering, packing, and putting them away in the new dresser and armoire. I've never enjoyed laundry more.

See you tomorrow. Same Bat-time; same Bat-channel.


Sunday, March 11, 2007
Can You Ever Do Enough Shopping?

Even with all that shopping I did yesterday, I wasn't done. There were a few things I couldn't find at Meijers and still needed to do a Babies R Us run. When I mentioned it to Jim, he was quick to let me know he wanted to go. Since he'd never expressed any desire EVER to go inside Babies R Us to say I was startled would be putting it mildly. This morning I was thinking about it and even started wondering if he was upset that I did most of the shopping yesterday when he couldn't join me.

When we got in the car to head out, I asked him. Turns out his reason for wanting to go was two-fold. One, the weather is absolutely gorgeous this weekend. We have blue skies and temps in the 50's. It sure is a nice change from Wednesday's morning low of 5, plus he thought I said Toys R Us, not Babies R Us.

Since Toys R Us carries what I needed to get, I said we could go there instead. I bought the changing pad for the top of the dresser, a bottle of Dreft, and the outfit to give the orphanage in exchange. I also got a snack trap, cloth diapers because it seems you always need some absorbent material to clean up something, and a pack of diaper pins in case something needs pinning. Jim also bought Sera's birthday present to be revealed later. We even got a free umbrella stroller.

The only thing I wasn't able to get, and it was strange, was the cover for the changing pad. When I asked the store employee for a changing pad, he brought me a pack of Elmo disposable changing pads. I then showed him the pad I was buying and explained how in other Toys R Us there is a huge display of the covers right above them. They're all online, too. He went to the computer and found what I was talking about. He said that it was an item they were supposed to carry, but apparently didn't have a single one. He thinks there may have been a computer screw-up and the category got turned off for the purchasing department. That meant a stop at Babies R Us after all, but just for the cover.

A final stop at the grocery store for light bulbs for the lamps in the nursery and a few more gifts for the orphanage workers and the shopping was done for the day. Honestly, we're in really good shape. The only thing I can think of that we still really need to buy are the wallet-things. That's a good thing because this baby stuff adds up!!

Now, I'm off to play in the nursery. I have a huge closet filled with things that need to come out and get put away.

Tomorrow I'll explain why we're swapping an outfit with the orphanage.


Saturday, March 10, 2007
Oh, A Shopping We Will Go

Jim and I took advantage of our Saturday morning to sleep in and then lie in bed and watch last week's episode of Battlestar Gallactica. We know those lazy weekend mornings are numbered, and we're perfectly okay with that.

Our friend, D and his son came over this afternoon to help Jim put together the armoire and dresser for the nursery. They started at 1:30. At 3:30 when D realized they weren't even halfway done, he said he had to run his son to an event, but then he'd come back to help finish. Jim volunteered me as the chauffeur, and I jumped at the opportunity. I was feeling the need to shop and this gave me the perfect excuse.

I went armed with the list I've been compiling with the goal of getting most of it finished. I met my goal! We've got input and output now taken care of (formula, bottles, diapers, and wipes). I've purchased just about everything we'll need for the trip. There are just a few things left to buy, like the under the shirt wallets we'll need. Honestly, those and a couple of snack traps may be it. Oh, and a few more things for gifts. I swear, the gifts are the most stressful part.

I wanted to treat this as one of our last weekends because it's a very real possibility that it is. I'm planning on us leaving around the 27th of March. I don't have dates yet, but I think that may be close. I seriously doubt it'd be earlier. My only worry is that it could be later. One member of the October Yahoo group just learned that their travel dates will overlap the Trade Fair in Guangzhou. They'll have to move hotels after one week, and the rate goes up to over $300.00 per night. They may have to reschedule their trip to May due to the costs. Keep all body parts crossed that we can get in and out by April 15th. That's when the Trade Fair starts. That will also have us home for Sera's first birthday!

Oh, and they did finish assembling the furniture at 7:30 this evening. Those men put in a hard day's work. Tomorrow we'll vacuum the room, and I'll start unpacking the closet. If he has any strength left, I'll ask Jim to put the crib together. If not tomorrow, then one night this week. It shouldn't take too long at all. Pictures of the finished nursery will be posted soon.

Site Meter is frustrating me again! It looks fine, but it's broken. It's been stuck at 16,703 for three days now. It keeps telling me my traffic is zero. I tried removing the html and copying it in again. I have an email in to Site Meter, but it's been two days since I emailed and no response yet. Grrrrr...


Friday, March 09, 2007
Favorite Ingredients Friday - Irish Edition

Both of my maternal grandparents were Irish. That side of my family is very proudly Irish, but I must admit that I don't recall a lot of Irish recipes when I was growing up. After my grandfather retired, he discovered that he loved cooking. I moved back to New Orleans when I was 18 and lived there for about three years before going back and finishing college. It was not unusual for my grandfather to call my cousin and I and have us come over for dinner. It was ironic that this large, gruff Irish/German man who had mastered hiding his emotions became so maternal later in life. He'd worry that we were out gallivanting and not getting a good home-cooked meal. This was one of my favorites and very appropriate for today.

Abuelito’s Corned Beef

1) 3 1 / 2 – 4 lb corned beef
2) water
3) 2 T prepared mustard
4) 1 1 / 2 t horseradish
5) 2 T red wine vinegar
6) 1 / 4 c molasses

In slow cooking pot (I use a crock pot), cover corned beef with water. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours. Drain cooked corned beef; place on broiler pan. Combine mustard, horseradish, wine vinegar, and molasses. Brush on all sides of meat. Brown in 400 oven for 20 minutes or until brown. Baste often with sauce.

Go visit Overwhelmed with Joy for more fantastic Irish-themed recipes!

Past FIF recipes:
Sloppy Joe, Mac 'n Cheese Casserole
Shredded Chicken
Baked Bean & Burger Casserole
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
Crab Rangoon
Sausage con Queso and Ro-tel Cheese Dip
Blueberry Multigrain Coffeecake
Banana Bread
Bananas Foster
Old-Time Beef Stew
White Chocolate Snack Mix
Gorilla Bread
Ginger Shrimp
Roast Chicken
Tex-Mex Chicken Taco Soup
Shrimp Mold
Pasta Puttanesca
Pork Milanese
Pumpkin Dip
Oven-fried Chicken
Best Bundt Cake Ever
Hot Dog Casserole
Chicken & Rice
Peanut Butter Fudge
Omelets in a Bag
Shrimp Boil
Apple Cheese
Pulled Pork BBQ


Thursday, March 08, 2007
Is That Band Still Hanging Around?
is here!

Our agency said it will be a day or two before they can give us travel dates as they finalize our consulate appointments, but they are planning on us leaving late March/early April. It's time to enter "crunch-mode"!


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

As of 2/28/07, Sera was 28.8 inches long and 18.48 pounds. She has two teeth now, and her feet are 4 inches long. She looks like she's ready to come home.

Still now word on TA.


Monday, March 05, 2007
Strike Up The Marching Band!

It's a good day in adoption and our world today. Let me count the ways, not necessarily in order of importance:

1) Referrals today for those logged in between 10/14/05 and 10/24/05.

2) Our updated I-171H (U.S. immigration approval to bring home Sera)arrived in the mail.

3) TAs arrived at my agency today. They're working on our travel dates, but are hopeful for early April.

4) Jim and I both had to do our group presentation (different groups)tonight for a class we're taking to renew our teaching licenses. This should wrap it up for me. I can get that paperwork rolling now. Jim has one more class to take and will be doing it as a summer course. We'll be good for another five years now.

It's not such a good day for many of our friends who were very hopeful of a referral today. It's hard to get through even when you know you are next, and you are Colleen, Alyson, and everyone else.


Friday, March 02, 2007
Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler, Part Two, errrr Deux
I have a few more minutes now, and I realize what a bad bloggy hostess I've been. I sent you to go visit other blogs, but I didn't introduce myself to those of you who are coming here for the first time.

My name is Magi. My husband, Jim, and I are in the process of adopting our daughter, Sera. Sera is currently living in the Liangping County SWI* in Chongqing, China. She will be one on April 17th, and we hope to have her before then. We are currently waiting for travel approval from China, which will, hopefully, arrive next week. Today, we received notice that our U.S. immigration approval has been renewed.

We live in the midwest where we both teach. Jim is an 8th grade math teacher, and I teach high school business and ocmputer classes. We have a dog named Shadow, who was a stray. He is part yellow lab and part German Shepard.

To celebrate our immigration renewal, Jim and I went out to eat at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants in town. One we haven't been to in a very long time. Afterwards, we had a huge list of errands we were supposed to run. The weather has been miserable all day, but if you stopped everytime it snowed, you'd never get anything done. We left the restaurant and noticed in minutes that the streets had completely frozen over. Cars were fishtailing all over the place. We decided to scrap the errands and head home. The snow became so heavy and the wind so strong on our drive home that we were in near white-out conditions. Those errands will have to wait until tomorrow.

*SWI - social welfare institute. This is the name given to institutions which house orphans and senior citizens. If they live in the same one, their living quarters are kept separate.

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Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler

Ultimate Blog Party

Or let the good times roll!

It's time for the blog party. Go visit and find some new blogs. There are some very witty ladies (and men, too) out there. It's a great source for advice and new recipes, too. Have fun, and don't party too late!


Favorite Ingredients Friday!

Once upon a time there was a wonderful food message board at BH&G. Several months ago they made some major changed and not for the better. I haven't been there since shortly after the changes. It was a wonderful community of women and men that I got to know over the years. Many of them have since moved over the Southern Living boards, but it's just not the same to me. It's lost something, even though I do enjoy the SL site.

One of the mainstays of the old board, and now the new, is Joan. She usually starts the What's for Dinner thread every day. Her recipes are amazing. I've made several, and they've been winners.

This is one that I made one day when Jim was having some friends over for a little game playing. These men chowed down on this dish, yet I still had leftovers. It makes a lot! It's sure to please the men and children in your family.

Sloppy Joe, Macaroni & Cheese Casserole

Makes 10 servings

1. 1 lb. cavatappi pasta, elbow twists or plain elbows
2. 1 lb. lean ground beef
3. 1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes
4. 1 can (6oz) tomato paste
5. 1 pkg. Sloppy Joe seasoning
6. 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
7. 3 cups of half and half
8. 1/4 cup butter
9. 1 small onion minced, about 1/2 cup
10. 1/4 cup flour
11. 1 tsp. Coleman’s dry mustard powder
12. 1 tsp. salt
13. 1/4 tsp. pepper
14. 2 pkgs. (8 oz. ea.) finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese, about 4 cups divided

Cook pasta according to pkg. directions, drain, set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Coat a baking dish (8 cup) well with butter and place on a baking sheet. In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook the beef until browned, drain and return to pan. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in tomatoes and their juice, tomato paste and seasoning. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to allow flavors to blend.

Stir Worcestershire sauce into half and half, set aside. In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add onion; cook until just tender. Whisk in flour, mustard powder, salt and pepper. Cook 1 minute, whisking occasionally. Gradually whisk in half and half mixture until combined. Bring to a boil; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 1 min. Remove from heat; stir in 3 cups of the cheese until melted and smooth. Stir in pasta.

Spread half of the pasta into the prepared pan evenly. Put in all the Sloppy Joe mixture and spread that evenly over the top of the pasta mixture. Spread the remaining pasta mixture evenly over the top of the Sloppy Joe mixture. Coat a piece of tin foil with cooking spray and cover the dish. Bake on the baking sheet for 30 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the dish. Bake for 10 more min. or until cheese is melted and mixture is hot and bubbly.

Go visit Overwhelmed with Joy for more fantastic recipes!

Past FIF recipes:
Shredded Chicken
Baked Bean & Burger Casserole
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
Crab Rangoon
Sausage con Queso and Ro-tel Cheese Dip
Blueberry Multigrain Coffeecake
Banana Bread
Bananas Foster
Old-Time Beef Stew
White Chocolate Snack Mix
Gorilla Bread
Ginger Shrimp
Roast Chicken
Tex-Mex Chicken Taco Soup
Shrimp Mold
Pasta Puttanesca
Pork Milanese
Pumpkin Dip
Oven-fried Chicken
Best Bundt Cake Ever
Hot Dog Casserole
Chicken & Rice
Peanut Butter Fudge
Omelets in a Bag
Shrimp Boil
Apple Cheese
Pulled Pork BBQ


Thursday, March 01, 2007
Get a Hanky
This video has been all over adoption world the last few days. I decided to post it here for our friends and family who don't live in adoption world with us. Though not my agency, it does show you what we're going to be experiencing very soon.


Well, Are You?

Have you watched this show yet? It's fantastic! Jim and I have gotten such a kick out of it the last two nights. It's on again tonight, but it's against Scrubs. I'm not sure which will win that tug-of-war. It's on a bit late, but it would be great to watch with your kids. Jeff Foxworthy makes a great host. He may not be saying those redneck jokes, but you know he's thinking them.

Now on to American Idol, Marcia commented earlier today and echoed my thoughts exactly. Antonella has to go, and so does Alaina. Haley and Leslie can have really nice careers in a cover band or whatever lounge acts are called today. The rest of the ladies are awesome. Jordin is very talented, and with a little more experience and growth will be an amazing singer. She's so close, but you can tell she's young. I think she'll stay around awhile with the teen vote.

I love the stories behind Melinda and Lakisha, but I'm worried they'll cancel each other out. They're so much alike, in my opinion. I really like Gina's rock sound and thought she did a pretty good job with the Heart song last night. Sabrina was also excellent. I only heard the recap of Stephanie's song, so it's hard to say how she did. I will go on the line right now though and predict the final three will all be women.

To Do List:

Get referral - check
Get visas - check
Get I-171H renewal - hmm...not yet
Get TA - ::sigh:: not yet

Updated to add: Jim, play nice.
Edited again because I forgot that everyone doesn't speak adoptionese: TA = Travel Approval from China. Once we have that, our agency can make our appointment at the U.S. Consulate, then we can make our travel plans.

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