Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Team Christmas

The day after Christmas, we had our team celebration. We also had a short prayer meeting before. We ate snacks goodies and exchanged presents.


Another one of my traditions is to make this fruit tree for the kids. I use Granny Smith apples which are pretty expensive here, but it is tradition and Christmas is only once a year. I made it to share with the team, but I think that my kids ate most of it.


We drew names for Christmas. I had Jason's name and got him some mocha powder and caramel sauce from Starbucks. (no picture)


Jon had Josh's name and got him lots of Chocolate. He seemed happy.
Jason bought Jon a dozen donuts!

Cec. got Yan this cool bracelet. It has a dog on it (Caleb's sign) and a Tiger (the new baby's sign) very sweet.

Caleb got a truck!
I am so glad that we have a team that we enjoy spending time with.

Christmas Day

I think Santa has come!


Look, someone changed the countdown!


Someone ate the cookies we left (well, most of them)

Look at all the stuff. Stockings are full and other stuff too!

Hallie got an mp3 player!
Eryn likes the stickers from her stocking.
Yeah, he will probably shoot his eye out....
Liam got several transformers, Jon is trying to figure one of them out.

Jon cooked a big brunch for us with Christmas shaped biscuits!
We got to talk to Jon's family on Skype.

Eryn is dressed up to go out to eat.


We had plans to go eat dinner at a Western buffet a couple of blocks away. We dressed up and bundled up and set out to walk there.
We also brought a bag of apples.
Apples are a symbolic gift for Christmas here.
The kids handed out apples to the guard at the gate and several of the workers that sweep the streets. It was fun to see the kids give them an apple and wish them a Merry Christmas (in Chinese). I was not able to get any good pictures of it.
When we got to the buffet, we found out that they added an extra 100 yuan to the price because it was Christmas day! We thought that was too much so we walked back home, ordered pizza, and watched The Muppet's Christmas Carol. We promised the kids we would go back to the buffet in a few days when the price was back to normal.
It was a good day, but a long one. We had a great time, and were exhausted!


Merry Christmas! Sheng dun Kuai le!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Eve

It is our tradition to have a nice meal on Christmas eve. When we are in the States we eat with Jon's family. Here in China it is just us. Last year I made a roast this year we had HAM!! We ordered it cooked from the Hyatt. It was pricey,but oh so yummy. The rest of the food (mashed potatoes, green beans, and sweet potatoes) I cooked. We invited Frank to eat with us.
We ate until we were stuffed (we also had leftovers!).



We gave Frank a Christmas present.


When Frank left, we finished decorating the cookies.


Then we called Poppa and Granny on Skype and opened presents. Poppa and Granny got up very early to watch the kids (and us) open presents. After we cleaned up the mess and calmed down, the kids put out cookies and milk and settled down for a long winter's nap...





Stockings!

You know, we have some pretty strange holiday traditions. Usually we don't think about them, they are just traditions. But when you are faced with trying to explain them to another culture... well, the results can be interesting to say the least.

An example?
Christmas Stockings...picture it in your head. As Westerners we all know what a stocking looks like, but now try to translate that into Chinese. hmmm... socks!

Some of Jon's students got together and gave him a gift of Christmas stockings. I thought it was great!
They tried to find smaller socks for the kids but could not. Liam and Hallie can wear theirs but Eryn's feet are still too small.
Oh, yeah, they put candy in the socks too!


Another example along the same line is this picture. I noticed something odd about this mannequin. Can you spot it?



here is a closer look:




Yep! Those are stockings!
Makes sense to me!

Chinese Christmas party

The Sunday before Christmas we were invited to a Christmas party hosted by the W3 group (or the local family).

The Chinese version of a party is very different than our idea of a party. The biggest difference is that they almost always have performances. This party was no exception. They also had games. And this time, square dancing! I tried to video the dancing but it was just too crazy to make any sense on the video.





Jon is telling the story of the first Christmas, and Shelly is translating.
This is Chuck and we can't remember her name. They sang a song in Chinese. Chuck is one of the guys that Jon studies with on Sunday evenings.

You can see Joseph in the background here. Notice all the peanut shells, and orange peels? You can't have a party without snacks!
The party was very well organized, we think by George. We left right before they played "dirty Santa" but that is always a lot of fun too. I will look forward to this party every year.

Christmas traditions at our house

I saw on facebook, a friend had an album based on traditions and decorations they put up each year. I thought it would be interesting to see how we (the Hardins) decorate for Christmas in China.

The holidays in another country can be very strange. We have a mix of our old traditions and we make some of new ones. The next several blog entries are about how we celebrated this year. This is our second year in China so we did not have to buy as many new decorations this year.

We have had this guy for several years. I think I might have got him at the Young married class Christmas party (dirty Santa!) The kids like to keep up with how many days are left...




We have a tradition of taking a picture of the kids in matching Pj's in front of the tree.




This is one of Jon's favorite decorations. I remember having one when I was a kid too. You light the candles and the angles move and make the bell ring. We need to find replacement candles for next year.

This was a new tree this year. The kids wanted a white tree, so I said if we found one, I would get it for them. We found it for only about 20 yuan! A great deal! This stayed in the school room most of the time.


I found this guy last year. I have one similar to this at home, but did not bring it. I love snowmen!


The top box was one that a gift card came in a few years ago, but it is great for packing small ornaments in. The bottom one held some of my favorite ornaments that I bought last year.

Every year my dad and Karen (a.k.a. Poppa and Granny) give us a family ornament. This is the one for this year. They also gave the kids Hallmark ornaments and we let them choose a new ornament. I brought all the kids yearly ornaments when we came on the survey trip before we moved here.


I found this little guy at Toys R Us. It is small and wooden. The kids really like it. It will be a tradition from now on.




Every year we make cookies and some of the cookies we make and decorate are the ones we leave for Santa. The kids love to do this.






Last year we bought the biggest tree we could find. Almost all the trees in China are pretty Charlie Brown, even the tall ones, but if you put enough garland, lights, and ornaments it does look pretty good. It is still magical, even if it is a little different.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's begining to look a lot like....

...fall.

Just last week, I noticed a small tree along the path outside our building. The leaves, were bright red! I started to look around and noticed that some of the trees have changed color. I don't remember ever noticing the fall colors here. Most of the trees are not the kind that change color. I know the leaves changed a while ago back home. After I noticed the change, I got my camera and snapped a few pictures. Hangzhou and Shan shui ren jia (our apartment complex) is really beautiful.






a closer picture





This is my favorite picture, it is now the background on my desktop.



this one is near the lake.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thanksgiving

Once again, our apartment was the place to be....

We hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for our team, and others. We held the dinner on Friday because of teaching schedules. We had tons of food, it was so yummy.


We actually got a turkey this year!!! Heather ordered one from Shanghai, and she got a hotel to roast the turkey. It was gooooood. We ate green beans, carrots, dressing, corn, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, turkey, brownies, homemade bread, pumpkin bread, pie, pumpkin pie, apple cider, and boiled custard. We were stuffed. It was a good evening of good food and fellowship. We are very thankful!!
Jon carved the turkey, and Jeff helped.
The spread!
Everyone eating...
Eryn eating the turkey
Hallie eating the turkey
Now that Thanksgiving is over, it is the holiday season! Please remember us in your prayers. The holidays can be a hard time for us since we are away from the States. The holidays in China, are not the same. I have had some homesickness lately. Still, we love what we are doing and where we are.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Halloween

Halloween is one of those American holidays that has not really caught on here yet. That did not stop us from celebrating. Last year we went to a party that someone else hosted for their students. This year none of us were having a party so we decided to go to Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut is a treat for us anyway, and Pizza hut is usually decked out for Halloween. All week the workers were wearing costumes. However on the day of Halloween, they were wearing their regular uniforms. We were disappointed but we still ate pizza!


Hallie was Hermione Granger, Liam was Harry Potter, and Eryn was Tinker Bell (in the arrival dress). We caused quite a stir on the bus and walking to Pizza Hut. The kids often turn heads, but it was a little more pronounced when they were in costume. See the attached video.
video

We met up with Jeff, Cathy, and Tanner at Pizza Hut. They brought along some of their students. The students gave our kids candy!
Nothing say celebration like pizza!
It was not quite an American celebration, but it was fun!


Weird weather

One question lots of people ask about China is "What's the weather like there?" I almost always answer that is pretty much like it is at home. Some parts of China (north) are very cold and some parts (south) are very hot. Where we live, is about the same at home, (maybe a little warmer). One thing that is different is that we do not usually get thunderstorms. Actually, when we lived in central China, I only heard it thunder one time all year. Hangzhou gets a little more thunderstorms, but usually nothing like what we have in west Tennessee.


However, the other day we had a big storm. The sky got dark as night, literally! I have seen it get dark in Tennessee, but nothing like it did here! I took a picture. It was so dark for a few minutes that I wondered if there was an eclipse that I forgot about.
This picture was taken about 3:00 in the afternoon. It was already beginning to get a bit lighter.
Liam is terrified of thunderstorms, and I really don't like them that much either. I do NOT miss this kind of weather. I am thankful that we do not have to deal with this often!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Party!

I feel like we have had one party after another the last few weeks! We have had a bunch of people in our apartment lately. The last several Sundays we have had about 20 people too! Phew! We have been busy, but I love it!

I am so thankful that we have an apartment that people feel comfortable visiting. I have several events that I need to blog! This past Saturday, we had a party for Hallie's birthday. She chose who she wanted to come. I made a cake (from a mix, thanks!). We also had pumpkin squares (from scratch), brownies (from mix--Jon made), and peanut butter cookies. Sugar rush!!!

Hallie opened some presents too. Actually she has been opening presents for three days! She opened the gift from Grandmamma on skype on Saturday morning. She got an American Girl doll (Kit). She loves it, and does not let it get too far from her sight.

Saturday night she opened presents at the party. Sunday morning she opened more presents on Skype (from Poppa and Granny). Finally, this morning she opened gifts from her brother and sister and parents. She has been very busy playing with her presents. Tonight we will go to a new restaurant for the final celebration!



notice the doll in the background?


Yep, this about describes how we all feel! But that cake sure was good!!!