Stay Tuned!

It’s the busy season for us. Between Brett and I we will have been to 6 countries in 2 months. So, writing will have to take a little hiatus. But oh, do I have so much to share with you!

Stay tuned and in the meantime, please check out our comings and goings on Instagram, and Facebook.

Just to give you a sneak-peak of what’s to come, Here are some photos of our family vacation to Koh Lanta, Thailand last week.27912912_1748643281854087_6179773266196307462_o27983075_1748908375160911_6266011326482601818_o28070547_1751060478279034_629171965260620998_o28070706_1753119328073149_3479403851579456444_o28235481_1753859011332514_7333357971112447549_o28336633_1753108428074239_3051830571559503622_o

Only in China!

A picture says a thousand words. Frederick R. Barnard

I love China!
My favorite aspects of living here are the things you see that get lost in translation, whether it be in words, or in cultural differences. I enjoy observing how our cultures differ and have learned much about tolerance and understanding when people do things differently than me. Many things here are the same, but oh so many are different.

These are a few of the many things we have experienced over the course of our two years living in Shanghai. They have made me smile and I hope will do the same for you. I can only imagine what the Chinese think when they come to America and see all the crazy things we do!

The Chinese tell it like it is




Food safety is always a top priority

I may not get hair in my food, but I sure hope they’ve washed their hands!
Yep, that’s a dog at the table behind me.
There’s nothing more appealing than fresh vegetables with a hint of cigarette smoke.
Steak, anyone?

Split bottom pants are all the rage with the youngsters

The locals are experts in efficiency



And they can sleep practically anywhere! 

Just another day in Ikea. But the thing I love is the empty bottle of wine next to him.
A driver taking a nap in a lobby

But sometimes things just get lost in translation

“magic seeds refresh your dream life”
I like this kind of health food!
Club B.M.? I wonder if they have nice bathrooms. Lol!
IMG_0597 2
 A life lesson for us all

Then there are those things that you can’t explain no matter how hard you try

A claw machine for cigarettes.
There are no words.

And there you have it! After two years, things here continue to make me smile. I hope these pictures gave you a little chuckle today. We all need things that are just a little different to help make our world a happier place.

A special thanks to Jenny Kuchel who shared some of the memories made during her 12 years living in China. 

Lost in Translation

I had an interaction today that reminded me how living in a foreign country is not always easy.

My son needed new gym shorts, so off I went to the school uniform shop. A simple enough task, right? Ha, why would I think that? Silly me!
Walking into the uniform shop, I greeted the lady behind the counter. Our conversation went something like this:
I said, “Hi! I need a pair of extra-large gym shorts please”.
To the reply of, “Gym…? What do you mean gym?”
“You know, gym…umm…like to work out…umm…exercise…?”.
Blank look in response. I walked over to some sample gym uniforms hanging on a rack and pointed to a pair of gym pants.
“Like these but short”.
To which she repeated her question, “What do you mean gym?” In an effort to understand what I was trying to say, she went to her computer and begin a search. I have no idea what her search word was, but the result yielded a picture of jeans.
“You mean this?”, She asked while pointing to said picture of jeans. At this point, I’m sure she thought I was utterly crazy coming to a uniform shop looking for jeans.
“No, gym…er…umm…P.E.?” Ding, ding, ding! I could see her eyes widen as realization set in.
Off she went to find the shorts. When she came back, she was holding two pairs of gym pants.
“No, I need shorts. You know, short, not long.” I explained while pointing to my knees.
Off she went again. Returning empty-handed she said, “we don’t have any men’s extra-large. Our largest size is children’s 16”.
“Well, according to your chart right here,” I began while pointing to their sizing chart posted on the wall, “my son would be a men’s extra large (While he is very tall, Chinese sizes tend to run suuuuper small). If you don’t carry anything bigger than a 16, what is he supposed to wear for gym? I mean P.E.”
Again, blank look. She tap, tap, tapped at her computer, looked up and said, “maybe he could wear shorts for P.E.”
“Yes!” I replied, more than a bit exasperated. “Do you have size extra large?”, I asked thinking we were going around in some sort of vicious circle.
“Yes, we do.”, She replied with certainty. With that, she turned around to the fully stocked shelf behind her and pulled down two pairs of size extra-large gym shorts.

I left having completed my task but giggled and muttered under my breath, “what the heck just happened?”.

I wish I could say I was surprised by this interaction but things like this happen on a daily basis. Some days I wonder if I really do make any sense at all.

Here are a few more examples of things that just get lost in translation:

Hey, who are you calling a loser?
Well this is a nice shirt for Disneyland
Shanghai good-looking corporate image planning. Nice!
I can’t make this stuff up!
“waring danger”

All in all, this is just another part of our adventure living abroad. I am thankful for frustrating yet ridiculously funny things like this that happen. I hope I made you smile through my story. Sometimes it’s the ridiculousness that makes life entertaining and keeps you giggling your way through this crazy thing called life.

A Day in the City. 3 More Things to do in Seattle.

Sometimes the hardest part of planning a vacation is figuring out where to go and how to schedule everything you want to do as efficiently as possible. Lucky for you, I’m here to help! Having done all the legwork for you, all you have to do is follow this itinerary, and you will see the highlights of Seattle in the easiest way possible.

So you’re in Seattle for a few days? Lucky you! This will allow plenty of time to take in many of the sites the city has to offer without rushing around trying to fit it all in. When planning your trip, make sure to check out this itinerary you can do on one of your days in the city: A Day in the City. 5 Things to do in Seattle. Of course, there are many more things to do in Seattle. These are merely a few our family found interest in. You could easily spend a week exploring all the city has to offer.

If you have even more time and would like to include some more unusual things in your trip, this post is for you: 11 Weird and Wonderful Things to do in Seattle.

The following can be done in 1 day and could take 4-7 hours depending on the level of interest. These three locations are all located right next to each other so walking between them is very easy.

1. The Space Needle

A person cannot go to Seattle without a visit to the Space Needle. After all, it is iconically Seattle. Even if you merely stand at its base, the Space Needle is an impressive sight to behold.
Seattle Center
400 Broad Street
(206) 905-2100/(800) 937-9582
Mon-Sun 8AM-12AM
Adult:$22, senior: $19, child: $14…Blast Pass (skip the line) $54 adults/$39 kids

2. Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)

Love music, television, movies? If so, this is the museum for you! Pop culture abounds here with everything from sci-fi television to famous musician’s guitars, and horror movie memorabilia. The building’s exterior architecture alone is worth the visit. It’s funky, futuristic, and cool.
325 5th Avenue N.
At Seattle Center, near Space Needle
(206) 770-2700
Open daily 10am-7pm
Seasonal hours may apply; check the website.
Adult: $31, senior: $28, child:$28

3. Chihuly Garden and Glass

An entire museum comprised of glass-blown works by Chihuly. Vibrant colors and interesting shapes take form in glass flowers, sculpture, orbs, and the like. This museum is a delight to the eyes and an inspiring location to take photographs.
305 Harrison St.

(206) 753-4940

Next to the Space Needle
Open daily; hours vary by season. Check website for current hours.
Occasional partial closures for special events.
Adult: $24, senior: $21, child: $14
*Website offers a discount for museum and Space needle (adult: $38, senior: $33, child: $24). If only doing these 3, this is the best deal. Purchase on the website.

An insider tip:

Consider Purchasing a City Pass or through Expedia
pass valid for nine consecutive days after first use
Adults: $79, Children $59
If you purchase online, you will receive a one-page voucher. Print it at the time of purchase or later by accessing the .pdf attached to your e-mailed order receipt. One printed voucher per order must be exchanged for CityPASS booklets at the first CityPASS attraction you visit
Space Needle
Seattle Aquarium
Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour
Chihuly Garden and Glass  OR  Pacific Science Center
Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)  OR  Woodland Park Zoo

We had a great time visiting Seattle. There is much to see and do. I hope these itineraries will help make the planning easy so you can get on with your trip without worrying about the details. Have fun, and let me know how it goes!

A Day in the City. 5 Things to do in Seattle.

11 Weird and Wonderful Things to do in Seattle

Please double check prices and operating hours as they may be subject to change.

A Day in the City. 5 Things to do in Seattle.

Sometimes the hardest part of planning a vacation is figuring out where to go and how to schedule everything you want to do as efficiently as possible. Lucky for you, I’m here to help! Having done all the legwork for you, all you have to do is follow this itinerary, and you will see the highlights of Seattle in the easiest way possible.

The following are the sites our family wanted to see while in the city. Of course, there are many more places and attractions to explore so more research may be in order. If you like to include some more unusual things in your trip, this post is for you: 11 Weird and Wonderful Things to do in Seattle. Have two days in the city? Make sure to check out A Day in the City. 3 More Things to do in Seattle as well!

The following can be done in 1 day. It could take 5-8 hours depending on shopping time.

1. Pike Place Market

Make sure to check out seafood vendors throwing fish and find Rachel the piggy bank, the market pig statue (under the market sign).
Allow lots of time. Pike Place Market has multiple levels and lots to see. Finding a restaurant is easy as there are many to choose from.
Market Hours
Breakfast: 6 a.m.
Fresh Produce & Seafood: 7 a.m.
Official Market Bell: 9 a.m.
Crafts Market: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Farm Tables: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Merchant Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Restaurants: 6 a.m.-1:30 a.m.; varies
The Market is open 363 days a year, closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
1st Ave and Pike St., Seattle, WA 98101
The easiest and most convenient place to park at the Market is the Public Market Parking Garage at 1531 Western Ave. or the MarketFront Parking Garage at 1901 Western Ave.
Best time to visit
Mornings before 12 pm are generally less crowded. Less-visited times are late fall, winter and, early spring, other than holidays. During peak summer months, weekday mornings are the best times to visit.

2. The First StarbucksIMG_6889

102 Pike Street (across from Pike Place Market)
*visit early. This store gets crowded. When we went to visit, the line was out the door and down the street.
 According to Starbucks, here are some notable store elements

  • The leather on bar’s outer facing was scrap obtained from shoe and automobile factories.
  • The walnut used in the tables, doors and bar top was salvaged from a nearby farm.
  • The signage on the bar uses recycled slate from a local high school.
  • The community table is twice reused; it was previously located at a Seattle restaurant and before that, in a home.
  • The restroom partitions are made from recycled laundry detergent bottles.
  • The wall tapestry is made of repurposed burlap coffee bags from our local roasting plant.

3. The Gum WallIMG_6873

Located at the left end of Pike Place Market, down Post Alley. This wall has been a Seattle institution for over 20 years. Make sure you bring a piece of gum to leave your mark on the wall!

4. The Great WheelIMG_6398

7 min walk from Pike Place
Pier 57-Miner’s Landing
1301 Alaskan Way (206) 623-8607
M-Th: 11:00-10:00PM, Fri: 11:00-12:00AM, Sun: 10-10
Adults: $14, Seniors: $12, Children: $9
purchase at the ticket booth or *website (to skip lines, but must print a ticket or have to wait in line)
10-15 min ride

5. Beneath the Streets Tour

This tour provides a fascinating account of Seattle’s growth and how it literally became a city on top of a city. Enjoy walking a few of the tunnels that made up “old Seattle” and learning about life beneath the streets. 

102 Cherry Street
Seattle, WA 98104

The tour begins downstairs at the corner of 1st Avenue and Cherry Street. Follow the Beneath The Streets sign down the stair under the Spooked in Seattle metal awning.
Tour times
10:30 am    11:00 am
11:30 am    12:30 pm
1:00 pm    1:30 pm
2:00 pm     2:30 pm
3:00 pm    3:30 pm
4:00 pm
Additional Tours:
Fridays – 4:30 pm
Saturdays -12:00 pm, 4:30 pm
Sundays -12:00 pm
Tours run rain or shine! 

Adults $19Seniors (60+) $17Military ID (active, retired, or family) $17Students (13-17, or with college ID) $17Children (7-12) $10
1 hour

This is a fun itinerary for all ages. It certainly has something for everyone. Happy planning. I hope you have a great trip to the beautiful Pacific Northwest!

Please make sure to double check times and prices. They are subject to change.

11 Weird and Wonderful Things to do in Seattle

Many times when traveling with kids we want to try to include things that will excite them. Stuff they will remember. Let’s be honest, not all kids want to spend a full day in a museum or on a historical tour. No. Kids want weird. They want wonderful. Heck, to be honest, we all want a bit of weird and wonderful on our trips, right? After all, sometimes that’s the stuff that makes them fun.

The city of Seattle offers many weird and wonderful attractions. Not all of them are well-known. One is merely sitting on the side of a busy road, and another is tucked under a bridge. But if you seek them out, you won’t be disappointed. These sites are not merely for the young, but for everyone no matter how old. They may be fascinating, different, and not something you will see every day. Visiting places on a trip that everyone will think is cool? I call that a picture of a pretty awesome family vacation!

1. The Mystery Coke MachineIMG_6384

A mystery indeed. This 1970’s-model Coke machine is said to be haunted. Sitting all alone in front of a hardware store on John Street, it is always full of a variety of delicious flavors of soda, but no one ever sees it get filled. All the selection buttons are “mystery” buttons so you have no idea what delectable drink will clunk it’s way to the bottom. My kids were convinced the machine would give you the soda your heart truly desired. I ended up with a Grape Fanta, so maybe they are right. It was pretty delicious!IMG_6385
918 East John Street
Cost: $1.00. This machine accepts quarters or dollar bills.
Time needed: 10 minutes

2. Ye Olde Curiosity ShopIMG_6725

Where the weird meets the weirder. This souvenir shop is located right on the water at Pier 54. But souvenirs are not all you will find here. Mummies, shrunken heads (yes, REAL shrunken heads!), swords, and other strange memorabilia line the walls of the store. Kids can grab a book at the front desk and explore the oddities from A-Z while you marvel at the peculiar collections before you.

1001 Alaskan Way. Pier 54. (walkable from Pike’s Place Market)
Cost: free
Hours: 10-6
Time needed: Depends how curious you are. 30 minutes to an hour.

3. Gum WallIMG_6871

Yes, you read that right. This wall has become a Seattle institution. For over 20 years, people from all over the world have come to this colorful location to leave a little gum souvenir for the city. The result is a rainbow alley of small spotted confections. As a mom, all I saw was an alley full of germs (gag), but it was still pretty weird and cool.

1428 Post Alley (at Pike Place Market)
Cost: A piece of gum 😉
Hours: always open
Time needed: 15 minutes

4. Chihuly Garden and Glass MuseumIMG_6615

A museum full of vivid colors shining through glass blown art? Yes, please! Chihuly found his calling in glass blowing, and the results of his artistic vision are stunning. You will experience beautiful, unique pieces, vibrant colors, and interesting designs. Take a stroll through the garden and look into the orbs that dot the landscape. Have fun taking pictures of the Space Needle through the colorful glass balls.

305 Harrison Street (you can easily combine this museum with a visit to the Space Needle and/or MoPop). Check out the City Pass for some pretty great savings.
Cost: Adult: $24, Senior: $21, Child: $14
Hours: Sun-Thurs: 10-7, Fri, Sat: 10-8
Time needed: 1 hour

5. Beneath the Streets tourIMG_6901

Did you know Seattle is a city built on top of a city? Whaaat?!? It’s true. Back in the 1800’s, the city was built at sea level. As the population grew, people quickly realized having a city at sea level on the water is a pretty terrible idea, because of…well…the sewage situation. When the tide rose, so did the poop. Eww! So city planners decided the best course of action was to merely raise the city up. So, they built the version of Seattle we see today right on top of the old city. It is pretty cool to walk the tunnels and see what became of the old city.IMG_6899
102 Cherry Street. The tour begins at the corner of 1st Avenue and Cherry Street.
Cost: Adult: $19, Senior: $17, Student: $17, Child (7-12): $10
Hours: Winter tours run 10:30-4:30. Check website for current times.
Time of tour: 1 hour

6. Gas Works ParkIMG_7174

If you are a fan of Steampunk, Gas Works is for you. It is what remains of a coal gasification plant that was in operation from 1906-1956. Industrial yet, dare I say, artsy. You may be inspired to take some pretty unique pictures amongst the old towering structures, or on the “Great Mound” with the Seattle skyline in the background.

3300 Meridian Ave. N. Seattle (Lake Union)
Cost: free
Hours: 6am-10pm
Time needed: 1 hour

7. Fremont TrollIMG_7119

Who wouldn’t want to set their eyes upon a massive concrete troll under a bridge? Sometimes finding random things in odd places is what makes traveling fun, right? This troll is huge. 18 feet high, to be exact (thanks, Wikipedia), and is actually clutching a real Volkswagen Beetle! If you’re a planner like me, here’s a side note: it is very easy to combine a visit to both the Fremont Troll and Gas Works Park on the same trip. IMG_7121
N. 36th Street at Troll Ave.-under the north end of the George Washington Memorial Bridge.
Cost: free
Time needed: 15 minutes

8. Ballard LocksIMG_7077

This is a fascinating location for both the old and young alike. I will try to explain this intriguing lock system as simply as possible. The locks connect the Puget Sound to Lake Washington and Lake Union. Sounds simple, right? Well, hold on a minute. The Puget Sound is salt water and Lake Washington and Union are freshwater Not to mention, the two bodies of water have up to an 8.8 feet height difference. Umm, how in the world does that work you may wonder? That’s where this cool lock system comes into play. So I don’t write a novel trying to explain it all, read more about how the locks work here. Crazy cool, right?

3015 NW 54th St
Cost: free
Hours: 7am-9pm
Time needed: 1 hour

Other things we ran out of time to explore but look pretty awesome!

9. Seattle Pinball Museum

Pinball anyone? Check out 25 vintage pinball games. The oldest is dated back to 1934!


10. Archie McPhee Catalog Store

According to their website, Archie McPhee’s is, “widely considered to be a Mecca for connoisseurs of the strange and one of Seattle’s top ten weird destinations, it is truly an attraction without a parallel. It’s a one-stop shop for party supplies, crafts, costumes, miniatures and the weirdest collection of toys and candy that you’ve ever seen.” Need I say more?


11. UP House

The iconic house from the movie Up exists in real life! You read that right folks. A little old woman named Edith Manfield held onto her home despite the city growing around her. Read about her story here. The tiny house still stands although it is now surrounded by a shopping center. Who knew?

As you can see, a plethora of unusual sites can be found in Seattle. Get out there and explore the city the way you will remember. Journey off the beaten path and check out some things that not everyone gets to see. After all, everyone needs a little weird and wonderful in their life, right?

*As operating times or prices may change throughout the year, please double check these details before you go.

Finding the EXTRA in the Ordinary

Sometimes something happens that is extraordinary. You may have experienced it a hundred times before, but this time it is different.

Last week it snowed in Shanghai. Some people referred to it as a blizzard. Schools across the city had a snow day on Friday. In reality, snowfall totals were about one inch. Back home in Michigan, we would hardly bat an eye to such a small amount of snow. However, here in Shanghai, one inch of snow is enough to shut down an unequipped city.IMG_7629

Now back in Michigan we are used to a few snow days per year. Schools actually add a week to their calendar to allow for such days. But a snow day here? Unheard of. A bad air day, perhaps, but never a snow day.

You can imagine the palpable excitement amongst the children when they woke up on Friday to find that not only did they have the day off of school, but upon looking out their windows discovered there was actually snow blanketing the ground. The neighborhood was buzzing with excitement and snowmen were popping up everywhere. This excitement was not limited to the children. Gardeners walked around in awe admiring the snowmen and trying to figure out how to clear snow from the roads. Some of the children in our neighborhood had never seen snow. In fact, some of the workers had never seen snow either. People stopped in their cars to take pictures of trees, and snow-covered rooftops. Watching others enjoy something for the first time brought new excitement and joy to me as well. I found a sense of newness in something I had experienced many times before at home.


Along these lines, I was reminded that since we are living abroad, away from our every day, things become new again. You are afforded a fresh perspective on life. It is such a blessing. Many times we fall into a routine knowing what to expect out of people, out of the weather, out of our errands, etc. It is such a huge opportunity to see things anew again and to get excited over the ordinary.IMG_7660

There is an old saying: “the devil’s in the details”. I beg to differ. I say God is in the details. When you look at life through fresh eyes, you experience new richness and detail you may have only walked past before. I took two long walks during our snowfall. Walks I had taken many times before. However, things look different when covered in a blanket of snow. A quiet hush falls upon the earth allowing you to walk and just be still. A bridge I have passed dozens of times before caused me to stop and take it its graceful lines and architectural detail. It looked beautiful dusted with snow. A small green bush with red berries dazzled in the sunlight because it was coated with a layer of ice. God is in the details. I am thankful for the snow. Because it was such an extraordinary occurrence here, I took the time to slow down and see His artistic hand upon the ordinary things I pass every day.

The snowstorm also reminded me to never give up hope. Sometimes we need the confidence of a child to remind us how to have hope, and that sometimes finding answers to your prayers may come when looking at the outcome from a different perspective. My 11-year-old, Jack said to me on Wednesday night, “tomorrow will be a snow day”. To which I responded, “it’s highly unlikely, don’t get your hopes up”. The next morning we woke up and school had not been canceled although it was snowing outside. While I thought Jack would be completely forlorn, he happily looked out the window and said, “see, I told you it would be a snow day”. Well, he was right! It was snowing, so it was technically a “snow day”. The next day school was actually canceled due to the snow. Jack simply said, “see, I told you we would have a snow day”. Wow! What an example of child-like faith, and always looking at things with a positive perspective. I know it sounds simple, but it was a powerful reminder to me to always have hope no matter how unlikely the outcome may be.IMG_7568

Every day things happen that are ordinary. My question to you is how do you take those things and make them EXTRAordinary? Take time. Slow down. See things from a fresh perspective. Find beauty in the details. Most importantly, never lose your child-like faith, and always hope for the best. One last thing, if you have snow where you are, put on your snow boots, get out there, and build the best darn snowman you have ever built before!