Thursday, May 24, 2012

Weighty Concerns

Laughing Buddha carved out of a Cliff - Hangzhou

The weight was just falling off! That's how it felt when we first arrived in Nanjing,China for our three-year adventure as ex-patriates of the USA.  The excitement of a long-term move across the world, the emotion of leaving my cherished job of ten years, instantly retiring and leaving loved ones behind...well, all of it had us eating less and moving more. Initially arriving in the Jiangsu province we found it challenging to find 'acceptable' food for our western palates. So, we did LOSE weight, which is a desirable outcome at our age and
ever-slowing metabolism.

Soon we became accustomed to the Nanjing cuisine. With time I could tell the difference between a baozi and a jaozi and even dim sum. Condiment selection went from catsup, mustard, fresh ground black pepper and Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce to Zhenjiang vinegar and red pepper flakes. Our taste was slowly becoming more local.

In the USA this 'lily-white' turned her nose up at anything laying claim to the word "tofu."  Asian cooks often use tofu in their dishes, here it is much less expensive. With time my tofu 'vocabulary' has expanded. I'm still trying different forms of  tofu/bean curd in all sorts of protein packed ways with it's zero trans-fats.  There are many, many choices. Blocks, sheets, cubes, you name it, they've got it. Our neighborhood grocery store has a tofu selection that rivals a delicatessen's cheese counter back in the USA.  

With that said, (and I just can tell by your smirk that you know where THIS is headed) it is no surprise that the weight we initially LOST has been creeping back ON. Our weekends  revolve around food, drink and laughter and only the last one is non-caloric. 

Now with less than 6 weeks to go before we come home for a summer stretch we have a goal in sight of losing weight. It will take discipline and more physical activity, right?  Oh, and yes, oh wise ones, less caloric intake of fat and carbohydrates.  That is always the spoiler, isn't it?  We don't want to look this way, it just sorta happened.

Lo and behold, as we've traveled among the seemingly perpetually thin people of China we've been toting our EASY PEASY scope to discern their secret.

 It's not the tried and true putting LESS food in their mouths, let me make that clear right now. All these people do is snack ALL DANG DAY. There are aisles of snack foods hanging on pegs in the grocery store and residing in bins awaiting purchase. Most seem to be sodium soaked and deep fried too.They love savory snacks and jellied ones.

It didn't make any sense to me. But earlier this month I happened upon a lean in because I've figured it out.

I am here to share this magical- wonderment- super-deluxe discovery and an 'Ancient Chinese Secret' aka the BEST WEIGHT LOSS SOLUTION on the PLANET! 

You won't believe how SIMPLE it is!

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::Green Tea::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: 

Yep, Green Tea...

Here's the back story:
We traveled to Hangzhou (Hong-Jo) in the Zhenyang Province for a 48-hour tour with twenty-five other  "thrill seekers" in a small touring bus. This Nanjing International Club (NIC) sponsored tour was our first venture into group touring.  It was as simple as:

A) Pay the Fee
B) Provide your Passport
C) Pack your Bag
D) Get on the Bus
E) Follow the Red Flag
F) Be Respectful of Others and Adhere to the Scheduled Itinerary

The NIC expat group from UK, USA, Germany, Canada

Tour guide Jason sharing history, telling a story or singing a song

And so we did.
And it was a lot of fun and so stress-free that I'd highly recommend it.

In the past we've prided ourselves on the research and independence of what I like to refer to as "discovery tourism."  We would slurp up history and culture and come across awesome places on our own with the help of a Lonely Planet or Frommers travel guide. This works well without a language barrier or lack of personal transportation. We have Nanjing friends who prefer "discovery tourism" and I admire them. Their photos and adventures are unmatched.  <See Kim Kim's Far East Adventures blog below for her most recent trip.> 

But during this trip the Big Guy and I became flag-followers in China.

It was easy to follow the lady in the orange hat

Hangzhou is the tea capital in China so we visited a tea plantation while there. The surrounding terrain reminded me so much of the California wine country and photos of Tuscany.  Lush green undulating hillsides, sunshine and pretty blue skies.

A tea demonstration was on our itinerary and we were all savvy enough to know that we were going to get "the pitch" to purchase, but oh, well, what the heck.  The demonstrator showed us how to steep  :::::::Green Tea:::::::.   in our glass cups touting a plethora of benefits.  

One such benefit was the cure for tired and sore eyes.  She told us to place one eye over the steeping tea glass.

We all followed directions in a sort of "monkey see - monkey do" sort of way and placed one eye and then the other over the steaming brew. 

I laughed to myself as if on a game show. I imagined two prankster demonstrators hedging bets beforehand on the likelihood of getting their target audience to do this or that.  This time, in my mind the bet was ON for putting our eyes over the glass. 

And so we did.

What will it be the next time? Maybe get the next group to dip both elbows in the broth simultaneously to bring good fortune?   

Compliant believers and even non-believers followed suit as seen below.

Monkey See - Monkey Do
Of course the benefits didn't end there -  

Here are some of the words she spewed to get us caught in a swirling
 :::Green Tea::: Coma:

.....packed with antioxidants
 ........cure for sore eyes
.............a natural diuretic
................less caffeine than evil coffee
....................a bargain since each pinch of tea can be brewed up to 5 times
.......................their Emperor brand is ONLY sold in Hangzhou, never exported
 ..........................a significantly lower incidence of cancer
...............................amazing Heart Health

and then she threw down a Royal Flush (pun intended):


Well, at that point our eyes were clear, the room was steamy and she and her counterparts were pretty and thin. That's all it took for the Big Guy to give her the signal to hand-pack us a green tin full of it.  (Thank the good Lord there were NO time share properties offered by these petite beauties!  I wouldn't want to commit to 2 weeks a year at the "White Tiger Tundra Resort" of Inner OR Outer Mongolia, thank-you very much.)

No surprise, right? 

If you are Chinese, it is imperative that you ask me how much we PAID for our purchase. This legitimate question is always considered rude in the USA except among the closest of friends, but not so in China. However, I'm not going to divulge our "get me outta here" price just in case you want to travel to Hangzhou on your own, sometime.

After our weekend away we bought our very own personal double-walled glass tea containers and we've been drinking the :::Green Tea::: (not Kool-aid) ever since.

Chances are the weight will be falling off......soon.......very soon...yep, any day now...shouldn't be too much longer...and if not...well there will be more to Hug when we return home (USA) from the land of perpetually thin people (China) for that summer visit!

Thanks for Reading,


Some Photos from our Hangzhou Trip
Nanjing International Club - NIC - Hangzhou Trip - May 2012

Fire to light the Incense stick offerings in the Temples

Two Older People we Happened Upon

Pete and Angie- USA
Big Guy Striking the Bell 3 Times to make 3 Wishes

 Cooper, Jim, Natalie & Brady - USA
<see The Bond Family Adventure Blog below>

Professor Bruce and Doreen Wiltshire - UK
One of Several Buddahs

Buddies not Buddahs

Brigit- the NIC co-president  - Germany

Two Wise Guys

Resting near the Drum Tower in Hangzhou
Sisters Doris and Rita - Germany
More than just Brothers

Enough Photos!  Back-off Paparazzi!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Breakfast Special

One "Breakfast Special" Attendee from Thailand/Livonia, Michigan

Calculating the cost to visit us in China adds up pretty quickly.  The 14-hour Delta flight from Detroit, Michigan rings in at approximately $1500 USD/1100 EURO/ 9500 Yaun.  A tourist visa costs as much as $300 USD/225 EURO/1900 Yuan and has the added concern of timing and inquiring Chinese government authorities. So when someone announces "we're coming to visit!" we are delighted.

Our friends and super deluxe Michigan neighbors, Patrice and Mike, recently traveled to China for three weeks. They experienced a Yangtze River cruise, meandered the Three Gorges near Chongqing, visited Shanghai and more.  They concluded their trip in China's current capital, Beijing, and scaled The Great Wall.  In the middle of their trip we had the pleasure of hosting them for 4 nights. It was a great time to be in Nanjing - during the annual Plum Blossom Festival.  Our city bursts with blossoms of pink and white and in all corners of town there are pansies planted in flower boxes and around traffic circles. The huge sling-shot shaped sycamores that line many city streets stretched and awoke the week they arrived. Spring in Nanjing. We were delighted to host them about town and up Purple Mountain. There was 'hometown' pride in our sight-seeing, which made me giggle - since we have no business claiming the "Made in China" surroundings as our own, even though we have been here one year.
On the steps of Sun-Yat-Sen Mausoleum
Hosting friends always includes one or two 'special occasion' breakfasts.  At the Johnson's that means "Dad's Pancakes" or "Mom's French Toast." On the second morning of P&M's visit the Breakfast Special was "Dad's Pancakes."

Arriving while the pancake batter was just being measured into a mixing bowl, our Ayi (household helper) was fascinated with the process of someone making both pancakes & bacon.  She had never had either. 

Starting with two packages of very lean bacon, the Big Guy fried (horrors!) the bacon until extra crisp, just the way we like it.  Extra crisp for us means that if one accidentally dropped a piece off the counter and onto the floor, it would shatter into shards and literally disappear into the mouth of a lurking little black schnauzer. Chen Ayi had never tasted bacon and when handed a small piece, she popped it into her mouth and agreed it was "hao che" - "good eats." Now, you know and I know, that making bacon is not rocket science, but to Chen Ayi it was nothing short of fascinating. <The Big Guy DOES like to fascinate while teaching.> 

Next was the batter bowl and measuring cup.

Thankfully we still had several months supply of USA  pancake mix from our sea shipment to make this Breakfast Special.  As the Big Guy wire-whisked away, Chen Ayi watched very carefully not knowing what a pancake looked like or tasted like. She asked questions in Mandarin. He responded as best he could with answers and a demonstration. They chatted on and on while the rest of us set the dining room table, poured the juice and patiently folded the napkins.  We were amused by her attentiveness and his expertise and Mandarin explanations.  Our break-feast was starting to waft our way but not before I snapped up the Nikon to record some  'blog-worthy' moments.

Best Purchase in China - A Griddle with 220 voltage

Chen Ayi & the Big Guy

Hot off the Griddle and on to the Chopsticks

Imported Log Cabin syrup and some Lingonberries from "our Ikea"in Nanjing

Our Super Small 'Chinese' Kitchen sporting two Cooks

Our kitchen is so small. 
How small you ask? Let's just say that Grandma's black wrought iron Pennsylvania Dutch plaque that said: "No matter where I serve my guests it seems they like my kitchen best," cannot begin to portray that impossibility. One person will fit, two is super tight and three, well you may recall playing Twister, when you were 15, at your first boy/girl party?  Yeah, that close - but without the blushing.  

Left Hand - Green!

A month later we hosted our friends Nick and Bethe who are on assignment with FORD of Thailand and part of our church family in Livonia, Michigan. They and their three PERFECT children had "Dad's Pancakes" before we toured them through Nanjing. I swear it gave the kids extra super powers for the hide and seek sessions down the Sacred Path to the Ming Tomb.

Taking a Break Before Climbing MORE STEPS!
The "W-Five" from Thailand - FORD

And this week one of our FORD Nanjing Normals, Rita, came for "Mom's French Toast." 

I guess what I'm saying is that if you've made it this far despite the obvious travel obstacles, cost and time constraints, there is a Big Guy with a griddle ready to produce a Breakfast Special just for you.

He expertly grinds his own coffee beans for the java jolt that many Americans expect, too.

All in all, It's been a very fun entrance into Spring 2012 with our many friends and family visitors. 

Our Breakfasts have been Special. 

Now that it's May, the reality of so many high-caloried breakfasts has us trending back to oatmeal, juice and coffee. This will lower our cholesterol and carbohydrate intake, right?

Something's gotta give and I am NOT finding it comical that The Dragon-Lady of Nanjing moves the buttons inward on the waistline of our pants in the middle of the night.  I hate her. 

Thanks for Reading,