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. 

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.

Shanghai Walks: a trip back in time

There is something in Shanghai that is very exciting and alive – the idea of a city with two different souls, one from today and another from a long time ago, is amazing.

-Alessandro Michele

The city of Shanghai paints a somewhat unusual picture. It is difficult to describe the discrepancies you find here on so many levels. The have’s and the have-not’s; old art-deco buildings amongst new futuristic skyscrapers; glitz and opulence a neighborhood away from street food, entire families sharing a two-bedroom apartment with no heat and laundry hanging from windows. All this and more is what makes the city such a fascinating area to explore.

Last weekend we pulled out our trusty Shanghai Walks book and did a walk entitled, “Suzhou Creek & the Real Shanghai.” For about 2 1/2 hours we wandered up and down the streets behind The Bund learning about the British and American Settlements in Shanghai in the 1920’s, as well as the Jewish migration from Europe and Japanese take over in the late 1930’s. To walk the streets of so much history is fascinating.

Our walk began on The Bund. For those of you who do not know the area, Shanghai is essentially divided into two parts by the Huangpu River. On one side sits the new section, or the Financial District, also known as Pudong. The other side is the old section, called Puxi. A river separating the future from the past. You don’t get any more literal than that. So, our walk began on the historical side of the city. We walked out to the river to look across at the towering skyscrapers that make up the iconic Shanghai skyline. The Oriental Pearl Tower looks like something you would find on the moon with it’s three bubbled levels and smooth silver detail.IMG_7411

From there, we turned around and headed into Puxi. Our first history lesson was that in the 1920’s the British and Americans established settlements in neighboring areas of this side of the river. Just looking at the buildings along The Bund convey the strong British influence during the time. It seems more like you are walking up and down the Thames than the Huangpu River. Gorgeous neoclassical marble buildings with ornate detail all convey an old-world European charm.

Money and culture flooded into Shanghai during this time. Theater, religion, and recreation all became popular pastimes amongst the ex-pats and wealthy locals living in the area. It is fascinating to walk along the Art Deco buildings in this section of town and feel so far removed from Asia. These buildings hold many stories, and opulence remains with stores like Cartier, Patek Philippe, and Gucci lining the streets.

It seems the British and Americans lived in harmony with the Shanghainese until Japan invaded in the late 1930’s. At this time, Japan bombed the city then proceeded to invade, taking over the once peaceful area. The lower-class Shanghainese were forced to move a bit farther away from The Bund, establishing their own neighborhoods. Our next walking point took us through these communities. What a contrast to the wealth we saw a mere two streets closer to the water. Dirty streets, laundry hanging out to dry from every window, local street food vendors offering some great (and not so great) looking dining options. No Ferraris or Rolls-Royces roll through this area. Here, they are replaced by scooters carrying entire families, chickens, and who-knows-what. But even in this section of town, the culture is rich. Perhaps not rich in monetary terms, but in their deep culture. I’m sure just as we observed in the streets closer to The Bund, these roads have changed very little. I can imagine walking down this area in the 1930’s and experiencing many of the same sites, smells, and customs that we do today.

Turning back towards The Bund is a large area under construction. Out with the old, in with the new. The remnants of thoughtfully designed Art Deco apartments stand in a crumbled heap. If those walls could talk, I’m sure they would tell tales of the glory days when the future looked bright and money and opportunity endless. I understand the push forward to make new and refresh cities, but it saddens me when there is not a middle ground. Back in the day buildings were not necessarily made to last here. They were put up quickly and lived in hard. Many of them could not be restored even if building crews wanted to, so they must be torn down and built anew. I suppose you could look at it as an opportunity. New walls to hold new stories. But I love the past and grieve a bit when it is not preserved.


Our walk concluded back where we started, standing in front of the Peninsula Hotel on The Bund. We put our pinkies up and went in for a much deserved afternoon cocktail. I thought as we sipped our delicacies what a contrast it was to an hour earlier when we paid 25RMB for our lunch made by street vendors on the local streets.

Shanghai is deep and layered in its history. It was fascinating to walk the streets and imagine life here in the 1920’s-’30’s. Shanghai is also a contrast of past and future, of the wealthy and the poor. But through it all, despite our history or backgrounds, we still manage to come together and make the city special.

Our walk opened my eyes to many things I have passed time and time again but never took time to really “see”. If you have the chance, step into history. Don’t just read about it in a book. Walk the streets. Stand where you are and take it all in. Imagine a time of days gone by when life was different, yet somehow much the same as today. I am thankful we did, and I know you will be too.

Special thanks to Barbara Green, Tess Johnston, Ruth Lear, and Carolyn Robertson for walking the Streets of Shanghai and writing The Streets of Changing Fortune: SIX SHANGHAI WALKS so we could too!IMG_7522


Take A Walk

I lived out my teen years in Hawaii. For a few years, we lived up the road from Pearl Harbor. Like, literally right up the road. You could see the famous harbor’s sparkling water sitting right at the bottom of our hill. Do you think in the 5 1/2 years I lived there I ever went down my hill to visit the historic location? Nope. Not once. The same went for Diamond Head, surfing, and visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center. Ok, I will chalk some of my anti-sightseeing attitude to the lack of coolness I perceived in the role of playing tourist. I was a teenager, after all. But, now that I am grown I view it as a tremendous missed opportunity.

One of our goals in moving abroad has been to see and experience as much as we can in the short window of time we have here. As you may have read, we have already done some fantastic things. Check out a few of our crazy adventures here: Get Lost! (in Nusa Lembongan), Terrific Tucson, 2016: Changes, Chopsticks, and Chicken Feet But, recently we took a step back and realized we were going out having all these amazing adventures in other places, but all the while not fully exploring our own city. Living here for two years found us settling into a routine: going to the same restaurants, shopping at the same markets, and doing the same things each weekend. I didn’t want to look back on this experience as I do Hawaii, regretting not exploring our own hometown.IMG_7397

And what a hometown Shanghai is. At 2,448 square miles and 25 million people, there’s a lot to see! Not only are things constantly changing, but the history here runs deep and can be found in practically every corner of the city. I have learned through our travels over the past two years that many times the best way to really see an area is to get out there on your own two feet. Sure, you could take a drive in a car or a bus and get a feel for the area. But taking a bike, a scooter, or best of all, walking affords you such a richer experience. You can take your time looking at things of interest, or pull over at will and really explore an area that might merely whiz by from the inside of a car. Getting outside allows you to hear the sounds, and smell the smells. I’ll admit though, while it sounds cool, this is not always the best experience in China…imagine smelling what you think might be cooked dog, and the incessant hocking of big, juicy loogies. But my point is, you can just stand in one place and take it all in, allowing your experience to be deeper.

You would totally miss a sight like this if you were driving by in a car…well, maybe that’s a good thing. 😉

That being said, Brett and I have laced up our tennis shoes on a few occasions, pulled out one of our trusty Shanghai Walks books, and headed off for an afternoon of adventure. It has been so enriching walking through neighborhoods, learning about the history, architecture, and life of the area. Our appreciation of this city we call home has become more layered and deep as a result.IMG_7434

We have driven through the neighborhoods of our walks countless times and missed so much of the detail within their walls. Getting out of the car and taking a walk allows us to really learn and experience a small part of this city we call home. I highly recommend you take a walk; whether it be on your next trip, in your home city, or even just around your own neighborhood. Sometimes slowing down to take it all in can offer a rich and rewarding perspective on a pretty interesting little nook of the world you may not have noticed from the inside of a car.

Be sure to check out one of the 5 Shanghai Walks books by Barbara Green, Tess Johnson, Ruth Lear, and Carolyn Robertson. They are very well-written, and the walks are detailed and easy to follow. You can find a link to the first one here: