Photography in Weihai

Last weekend I went to Weihai with Alicia on her company trip.

Steven, Laura, Sulu, Alicia, and June

The two butterfly photos below are by Alicia.  I taught her a little more about how to use her camera and she was really happy with these shots.  I agree – pretty!

(photos by Alicia)

The Great Wall

We took the cable car up to the wall, walked for quite a while along the wall, then took toboggans down the mountain.  It took a few hours and we were all exhausted by the end.  All except the two-year-old, who had her own personal Sherpa to carry her the whole way.

Our whole group (photo set up by Jon.)

The Schoolhouse

We stayed at The Schoolhouse in Mutianyu, which is a tiny town about an hour and a half outside of Beijing.  It was a pretty cool place.  The first day we just hung out, napped (after the late night and early morning on the train), watched the Rugby (Mike brought his projector and laptop, and streamed the game live in Slovakian to their make-shift AV room), ate, played games, and walked around the town.

Overnight Train to Beijing

On Friday we took the train to Beijing as the final part of Brendan’s birthday surprises.  He just thought it was a family trip – until there was a knock on his cabin door and Paul, Suzy, Mike, Casey, and Jon and I were there with a bottle of bubbles singing Happy Birthday! I think he would have fallen over if he hadn’t already been sitting down.

Mike and Jon got a hold of my camera and fisheye lens and took most of the photos in the gallery.  The tiny confine of the train compartment was a perfect place to use it.  More to come!

Time Lapse of Brendan’s Tattoo

Brendan’s Tattoo from Emily Minor on Vimeo.

On Sunday, we met at Crystal Jade for lunch to celebrate Brendan’s 40th birthday.

Johnna told Brendan about the tattoo she’d had designed in a song… and then told him the appointment was in 30 minutes! He didn’t back out and a group of us hung out while he was getting it done.  This is a time lapse video of Ting from Shanghai Tattoo.

This is what Brendan had to say about the day:

I turned 40 on the 25th of July.  With help from a lot of friends, and particularly Paul and Suzy, Johnna had been planning my 40th for many months. I had absolutely no clue what she had planned for me!

We started the day with a Dimsum brunch at Crystal Jade in Xintiandi, and then had a wonderful banana birthday cake made and decorated by Suzy.  At the end of brunch Johnna sang a song about me set to the tune of a Sonic Youth song!  The last verse was about my present; a tattoo!  I was pretty cool, calm and collected at that point because I had been talking about getting a tattoo for years.  That’s when Johnna told me the tattooing was starting in 30 minutes and had already been designed!  At that point all of the blood drained from my face.

Luckily, I loved the design and the whole story behind it.  In Chinese, a set of boy and girl twins is called “龍鳳胎”, or in English; a dragon and a phoenix.  This means the dragon/taniwha in the design represents Finn and the phoenix represents Jade.  Neve’s Chinese name is 白星, or “White Star” in English, so she is represented by the star.  The background is a traditional Maori Koru pattern.

At 2:30PM I sat down and Ting, the tattoo artist, got started.  All our friends sat around in the tattoo parlour drinking wine and beer and periodically coming over to check out the progress.  Jon provided some great advice on how to cope with the pain, and Mike provided cans of cold diet coke and a human fan whenever it looked like I was getting too hot!

It was all done two and a half hours later so we went downstairs and had a couple of quiet drinks.  The guys all performed a haka to bless the tattoo, and then we moved on to dinner at 1221 – a Chinese restaurant that has been our favourite over many, many years.  It was a great meal and a great way to end a huge day!

Photo-booth party photos

Nishant and Sandhya repatriated on July 1st, and Corinna and Andrew moved to Australia.  Jon and I also left for the US on July 1st, so we had a farewell party before we all left for different continents.  I set up my camera and laptop so everyone could take photo booth photos.


Lyle has an iPad! It’s pretty cool….. He got it to use as a netbook, which seems to be a good use for it. Everyone is getting used to typing on it. It’s much more ‘hunt and peck’ than typing due to the touch screen.


This week was restaurant week. Right now we are enjoying brunch at Cristal on the rooftop. It’s beautiful out, amazing food and free-flow champagne for 298 rmb. I can highly recommend this place!


We drove from Brisbane to the Gold Coast (Surfer’s Paradise.)  Dan and I took a dip in the ocean and then he dipped Alex’s feet in.  He didn’t really like it and pulled his feet up.  We also held hands with Wendy’s mom and walked out a little so the waves could splash up to her knees.

We ate at the Kurrawa Surf Club.  It was awesome to sit outside, have a beer and enjoy the view!

I was holding a sleepy Alex while Wendy ate (and the girls at the next table oohh and ahhed all over).

He was not so thrilled when I shifted positions on him.  (Notice his little finger.)

Lost Heaven

Lost Heaven is a well-known restaurant that serves food from the Yunnan province.  We’d never been so I suggested we go there.

We had a bottle of wine and some drinks at the bar on the top floor.  There was a nice roof top bar that would be amazing in the summer.  (We all are wearing the new glasses we’d gotten that day.)

Hanna mentioned something about singing, and we decided to go to karaoke around 2 AM.  Really, it is a totally Chinese cultural experience!   Here they are rocking out to Queen.

Hanna and Henrik’s Honeymoon

Hanna and Henrik stayed with us for a week in January, after three weeks in New Zealand for their honeymoon.  All of these photos are from their travel blog.  Here is their Shanghai entry.

Hanna’s post about the week:

Having a wonderful time with Jon and Emily. Daily schedule:
Wake up
= Vacation i Shanghai.

They went on a shopping tour I lead, along with 3 people from Spain.

We’re really stylin’ at the glasses market.

Jon finally bought a remote control helicopter like he’s wanted for 2 years (which is now broken.)


Two British friends and two Australian friends decided to go out for Thanksgiving dinner, so they thought they’d better invite me.  I mean, how can you celebrate an American holiday without an American present?


Thanksgiving dinner – a cold oyster, turkey, potatoes, broccoli, and “stuffing” which was a bit of gravy with chunks of things like nuts in it.  Stuffing?  Really?

IMG_0003thanksgiving“Pumpkin Pie” – everyone was disappointed in this and hardly ate any.  It taste like pureed nothing.  And it wasn’t even a PIE!!!

IMG_0004thanksgivingAfter the meal, we stuck around for quiz night.  We didn’t do too bad – the bonus round question was “What is this a picture of and where is it?”  It was Carhenge in Nebraska!!  We got it right, but even doubling our points didn’t let us win.

I also showed the non-American’s how to draw a turkey using your hand and what a Turducken is.

Baker Wedding


A highlight of the trip was Brad and Sarah’s wedding!  They held a big reception, buffet and dance in Brad’s parents’ huge machine shed.  It was a lot of fun!  (As you can see from the above photo)  I was their photographer. All photos can be seen here.

IMG_0313_sm(Just because I hardly have any photos of myself here!)


Jon was talking to someone who was shocked to hear he was from Nisland. (Local town, population about 150.)  She said he was the last person at the reception that she thought would be from there.  I guess it must be his dashing good looks, tailored cashmere coat and scarf that makes him look so urban?  When she found out he lived in China, she said, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Sorry for what?  Getting out of the state to see the world a bit?  I’m sorry for people that don’t realize that there is something outside of their own little bubble.

Cute kids

Johnna brought her whole family to the BBQ.  Almost-two-year-old N was quite the cutie.  She can speak Chinese just as well as English.  She always calls Suzy by her Chinese name – Sushi.  Too cute.







Picasso’s Birthday

Our friends Casey “Any Excuse to Party” and Mike “My Future Wife is a Crazy Cat Lady” threw a big BBQ a couple weekends ago.  The occasion was Picasso (their foster cat) turned one.  Picasso’s favorite toy is corks from wine bottles, so we needed to consume wine in large quantities as our gift to him.  It was a lot of fun – and made me miss doing this back home!  Our couchsurfers, Kelly and Ellie, came too and we had a great time hanging out.






Solar Eclipse

Daft Punk came to play Shanghai!

Actually, #14 welding glass is an approved method of looking at the sun. Steve got the whole mask to be extra safe. :-)

Steve, Jon, Dan and Wendy watching as the eclipse starts.


Decorating with frosting

Bonnie took a professional cake-decorating course in the US, and Claire and I wanted to learn, so she put on a little class for us. I’ve decorated several things before, but knowing the proper way to do it makes it a lot easier! We only learned a few basic things so I think we’ll have more classes later.

My roses look more like cabbage….

Bonnie’s Birthday

Steve graciously hosted Bonnie’s birthday party at his house. She made her own cake since she didn’t trust anyone else to do it! It was 3 layers of chocolate cake, with chocolate frosting and covered in chocolate chips. It was the richest cake I’ve ever had!

We played Twister and Wii most of the night, with a couple rounds of Mahjong and Mexican Train Dominoes. That was the latest I’ve stayed up in a VERY long time.

The Polo

Last Saturday 12 girls went to the Polo matches and celebrated Casey’s upcoming wedding. We all dressed up and had a marvelous time in the VIP tent!

Jo won the “best hat” contest with her cute little feathery thing.

Alicia had some guanxi – a friend with a few bottles of champagne after everything else ran out, and another friend doing a documentary on first time Polo spectators in China (the photos of me being interviewed).

And we all had a blast!

Wholesale Food Market

Bonnie has a custom baking business, and has learned where to get the supplies cheaply.  (All of the foreign stores are NOT cheap.)  We went to a market with at least 20 huge halls of vendors.  The vendors live above the stalls.  The stalls are filled with massive sacks of mushrooms, flour, rice, nuts, peppers, dried fish, cinnamon sticks, and all kinds of other things. 
We bought cream cheese, butter, almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, canned peaches, flour, corn meal, evaporated milk… and maybe a few other things I’m forgetting about!
The address is 1255 Lianhua Lu.

Saturday night

Last week, Steve and Sylvia, Shane and Bonnie, Amy and Casey, and Jon and I all went to DaMarco for supper.  We had a drink at the little bar close to it, and then went to play some more Guitar Hero.

KTV in Nanxiang

Singing, playing Liar’s Dice and drinking. Good times.

Nanxiang Dumplings

Yvonne invited us all to her hometown for dumplings, to wander in the park, and dinner with her parents. It was a great day!

I’ve only seen the dishes piled on top of each other a couple times. Usually there is tons of food, but not piles and piles of it!

Picking Strawberries

Saturday morning, a group of Dakkies with cars went to pick strawberries in Qingpu, which is on the outskirts of Shanghai. There are rows and rows of greenhouses. Cody negotiated the price for the group. They wanted 10 RMB per jin, but Cody negotiated to 9 RMB. He told the lady, “We have foreigners here. You must think about the international relations!”

Roc’s daughter Emma. All of us wore plastic bags on our feet because it was really muddy.

Jon and I picked 8 kilos of strawberries, which is almost 18 pounds. It cost 145 RMB ($21).

Rapeseed is planted where ever there is a little extra space.

Local Dive Bar

After the concert, we went to check out a little bar near Da Marco. It’s just through an alley from our apartment. It’s small, dark, and wasn’t busy. Perfect.


Last Friday, Steve, Jon and I meant to go to a jazz concert at twocities, an art gallery where a few of our friends work. Jon had just gotten back from Guangzhou, and when we arrived our friends Eva and Chelsea were just finishing cleaning up. This week we decided to be less fashionably late, though we were still quite late after waiting 40 minutes in the rain for a taxi.

The concert featured American fiddler Hanneke Cassel, who played with two Chinese men named Tom and Jerry. They played a blend of bluegrass/Americana and Scottish music stylings. (from the twocities website.)

Chelsea and I at the gallery. They showcase mostly glass work, which is a fairly new medium in China. They have some very beautiful pieces.


Recently when Jon was in Guangzhou, along with Aileen, Dan, Geoffrey, and Larry, a guy selling sketches approached them. They decided to see just what it would turn out like, fulling knowing this guy probably couldn’t really draw. (He also couldn’t spell the name of the restaurant they were at, even though it was right in front of him.)

Any guesses as to who is who? Put your answer in the comments below! (Hint: See the “women” on the far right? That’s actually a man.)

Dan’s birthday

Dan turned a year older on the 21st, so a group of friends went to dinner at DeMarco and then to People 6 to celebrate.

Probably the scariest photo of Dan ever…. BTW, he’s not 18. But perhaps he wishes he were.

What is a birthday without shots? The bar had a huge selection of bottles… unfortunately, they were all empty bottles for show! It took Mark over 30 minutes to come back with a shot of something, which turned out to be tequila. Someone decided Wendy needed to learn the American college party way of shooting tequila.

It started pouring rain. Steam was rising from the lights in the bamboo. Try clicking on the photo to see a little detail. It looked cool.

Las Vegas night – Feb 21st

My friend Bonnie hangs out with some of other American expat women and was given tickets to one of their events. It was a Las Vegas-style poker night, complete with costume contest, black jack and unlimited wine and beer. Her husband wasn’t too kneen on going, so we made it a girls night out.

We spent most of the night playing Black Jack. It was amazing… everyone kept winning! (Apparently the dealers weren’t so skilled.) We got free chips as part of the entrance and just expected to lose those quickly. Bonnie won a few bottles of wine after cashing in her big pile of chips.

After it was over, we followed a small group of new friends to Lane 274, a bar which one of them owned. The husbands and Steve (who’d been playing pool) met us there. We stayed out entirely too late, but had a great time.

Wine Tasting

At the grocery store today, Steve wanted to get a bottle of wine just because it had a cool bag covering it. Jon commented that he wanted to try a bunch of wines, but he was afraid he had too much against some of the Chinese wines. We noted the huge price difference in foreign wines, local wines, and the high end Chinese wines.

We decided to do a taste test.

We bought four bottles of wine, as pictured below.

We bought the lowest cost wine we could find – a bottle of Tesco “dry red wine.” It says “Imported From Spain.” Dragon Seal and Great Wall are Chinese wines – not known to be that great, but we wanted to give it a chance. Also, the Great Wall was expensive and a 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon. Lindemans is an Australian wine, a 2007 Shiraz Cabernet.

I printed out a wine tasting scoring sheet, and served, in random order, the wine to Jon and Steve for a blind taste test.

They both wanted to pour out the Dragon Seal wine with the bag Steve had liked.

Jon thought the Tesco tasted best, while Steve liked the most expensive one best (which Jon placed 3rd). Steve had placed the Tesco brand second. We agreed that for 15.5 RMB, the Tecso one was the best value and very drinkable. We were a bit surprised at that.

Final Placing – Jon
#1 Tesco
#2 Lindemans
#3 Great Wall
#4 Dragon Seal

Final Placing – Steve
#1 Great Wall
#2 Tesco
#3 Lindemans
#4 Dragon Seal


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