Thursday, September 23, 2010

Photos of the most beautiful day of the year

I seem to go on posting sprees, so maybe you should just take all these one day at a time because I'm likely to slow down again at any time. But I wanted to share some pictures with you since my roommates are off camping in a typhoon and I haven't talked to anyone face to face in over 24 hours--not that I'm complaining. The weather has been beautiful today because of said typhoon which cooled the temperature down by 20 degrees since Monday.

I stayed inside for most of the past two days working and drinking tea with the cool, crisp breezes blowing in, but I just had to catch the afternoon light on my bike this afternoon.

I ended up finding  so much good stuff. I clearly have not explored the area enough. On the list of discoveries today--The old Shanghai Waterworks with beautiful brick buildings circa 1920s. Doors were closed so I'm planning to go back. Also lots of construction, not that exciting except for the sheer mass of yellow cranes. 

Then on my way home I found an old alley with a herd of half torn down old buildings--sad but still beautiful in their deterioration. It was mostly dark by the time I found it so I'm planning to go back there too in the daylight and take some better pictures.

My favorite one for the day. I love all the lines of machinery.

The old houses. There were people living in the buildings on either side of this one. Man.

Zhong which is 'middle' in Chinese. Not sure what it's the middle of--just saw it on the door of a construction site.

See what I mean about the beautiful day and the cranes?

And a brick wall. I's not that original to take pictures of brick walls, but isn't it cool cause there are Chinese characters in the picture too?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A few pics of late

I haven't been taking many pictures lately--or doing anything besides writing and editing, but here a tiny handful to keep my hand in the game.

Up first...this is what an angry sky looks like in Shanghai. I suppose we all have our moody days, but at 2 p.m. in the afternoon...

Up-Inception trailer mashup

This mashup of the cartoon Up (which I haven't seen...eek) and Inception's trailer (which I want to see again) is perfecto. The Huntington Post has the top 12, but this is by far the best. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shameless NGO Promotion: Qing Cong Quan Autism Center

Qing Cong Quan Autism Center is an NGO based in Shanghai that my company has worked with a number of times. Autism is a hot topic in the US, but here, people here have hardly ever heard of it.

QCQ is doing great things to change that and help parents who have few other options for their children. I had the privilege of interviewing QCQ's founder, Chen Jie, for CNNgo, which you can read here.

If you want to know more about QCQ, please shoot me a message!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion: Song Fang Maison de The

As you may recall, a few months ago I found the best, most peaceful place in the whole city called Song Fang Tea House (well...Maison de The technically). Now I have turned my find into a bit of profit. The article went up today at CNNgo. If you have any other ideas of good things to write about, I'd love to hear them.

Check it out here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Just Finished: Never Let Me Go

Sometimes, particularly when I'm out in this big city with customs I do not understand, when someone has just ogled me because I look different, when everyone who walks past me at the grocery store assesses and comments on the contents of my basket I begin to dehumanize people. It makes me so mad that I think I'm better and that they are less worthy of compassion than people I like or that they are less intelligent than me. Not good. Not good at all.

Books like Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go do me a great service in reminding me how important it is to always give humans the benefit of humanity. I really really hated Ishiguro's When We Were Orphans, but the trailer to NLMG was so compelling that I picked up a copy, which was an unbelievably good decision.

The story is narrated by Kathy H., a student at Hailsham school somewhere in England. It doesn't take long to realize that there is something different about these kids and very subtly, about the world they live in. They grow up knowing vaguely that they are different from the outside world–they can't have children, they will one day become "carers" and after that "donors", which, not to spoil too much, means they will eventually donate their organs. That is what they were created to do.

I didn't quite trust Kathy at first, mainly because the narrator in Orphans was such a crazy, convoluted character who was completely untrustworthy. But Kathy's voice is so genuine and her voice so normal (along with her name) that she feels genuine.  Besides Kathy are her two best friends, Ruth and Tommy with whom she eventually leaves Hailsham and experiences a little of life on the outside.

The more they are on the outside, the more they come to question some of the things they've always been told, yet in many ways, they never break escape their imposed destiny. It's heartbreaking and it becomes clear by the end of the book how skilled Ishiguro is at creating his characters. All of them are could be in the room with you, so matter of fact and layered are they. Yet they don't always do what you hope they will, they leave you longing for something more.

In the subtle science fiction of Ishiguro's England, there is something unsettlingly real about this story because it addresses how society uses people. And how, when everyone is doing it, injustice can easily become the norm, even for those who are subjected to it. We have to look at individuals and remember they each have worth.

Read this book.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Kitchening: Smoked Salmon Mousse Cucumber Cups

That is quite the mouthful, ya? I was trying to decide what appetizers to make for catering at twocities gallery a few weeks ago, and an old Martha Stewart Weddings magazine on my shelf had this recipe. No, I'm not married, and no, you should not judge me for owning Wedding magazines...I promise they're all Martha's, no Southern Bride or Bridal Living.

First, I bought some English cucumbers (Chinese ones are long, skinny, worty, and have more juice so not the best for this experiment.) Then I hollowed them out and I've got this picture right here just to prove that even if you don't hollow out the cucumbers all pretty, no one will be able to tell. Also, I made them sort of striped by running a vegetable peeler down 3 sides (I know...cucumbers don't have sides). Even though they weren't even, it was hard to tell once they got cut into bite sized pieces.

I say all this so you won't be scared away by these little gems. They were a bit time consuming, but lots o' fun to make.
 Also, I made a double batch, which ended up with a lot of leftovers despite some 50 or 60 cucumber cups. Next time--more cucumber less mousse.

Smoked Salmon Mousse Cucumber Cups
adapted from Martha Stewart Weddings

1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons boiling water
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons wasabi (or 2 to-go packets)
6 ounces smoked salmon
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/8 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce
1/8 teaspoon paprika
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
4-5 English cucumbers (maybe more)

Dill sprigs, for garnish (after an unfortunate and unintentional binge of dill one summer, it's not my favorite herb, but it does go well with salmon)

  1. Put the lemon juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons cold water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and let it soften for about 5 minutes. Whisk boiling water into gelatin mixture until incorporated. 
  2. Puree gelatin mixture with onion and wasabi in a food processor until smooth. Add salmon, creme fraiche, hot-pepper sauce, and paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Nobody wants lumpy fish mousse.
  3. Whip cream in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold the cream into the pureed salmon mixture until mostly incorporated. Mine was a little streaky, but I thought it looked more interesting that way.
  4. Slice cucumbers 1 inch thick. Scoop out some of the seeds from each slice to create a the cup. Had I a little melon balller, it would have worked perfectly. (Cucumber cups can be covered with a damp paper towel and stored in a plastic container; refrigerate for up to a day before using.) Using a pastry bag fitted with a fancy star tip of some sort, pipe mousse into cucumber cups. Garnish with dill. Chill cucumber cups until mousse is set, about 30 minutes. Pop into your mouth immediately.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion: RealChina Travel article on CNNgo

That's right boys and girls, another article! This one is about a socially responsible tourism organization in China.

It's just in time for October holiday if you're in the chicken shaped country and although I will probably be stuck in Shanghai for the duration, perhaps I can live vicariously through one of you...or you could invite me. It could be your good deed for the season.

Here's the link.