Ten green bottles hanging on the wall…







And this is another reason why I love riding my bike in Beijing.


Baby Led Weaning Banana bread recipe

So, after the first time I go out super late to watch my husband’s band play, the baby is awake early and completely misses her morning nap. So, what to do now that I’m up? Bake.

I went searching online for something sugar-free to bake so that I could also pack some in the freezer for future baby feedings. I found the original recipe here, but I tweaked it a little to suit my tastes (I always add more spices than the recipe says) and contents of my kitchen.

Oh, and the little one loved it!

Sugar-free banana bread

Mix together:

  • 4 mashed bananas
  • 1/3 cup of oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • two eggs worth of a bit of extra oil and water (since I didn’t have any eggs)

Then add,

  • 2 cups of flour (I used 1/2 plain 1/2 wholemeal)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

I can’t give you the exact temperature, because my crazy oven doesn’t have a temperature guage. It just has ‘hot’ and ‘crazy hot’. But it was around 180 for about 30 minutes.

I’m starting to wonder why I ever bake with sugar now… it should just be bananas all the way. Just like my pikelets.


(Can anyone tell me what the difference is between banana bread and banana cake? I’ve been wondering for a while…)

What’s inside the brothel?

So… we live next door to a brothel. It’s called the ‘Pacific Club’. Just like Casino Royale, but not so classy. It’s always been a bit of a mystery. We’ve never been inside. But it’s under renovation at the moment, and all sorts of things are pouring out the door.


Here it is in all of it’s glory (that’s our cool pink building looming behind). Roman columns and all.


Yes, all those bags are the rubbish coming out from inside. And the truck is full of furniture.


Snow-covered rubbish.


A brothel resident. She’s already lost limbs to frostbite.


Pieces of ‘marble’. I imagine the whole inside was covered in this!


Plastic palm trees and gold birds??

Who knows what’s going to come out next??

Tag toys

Ah, creative people…. I love having them in my life.

One of the lovely mums at our playgroups surprised us all with a crafty activity to keep us entertained whilst the little ones prodded each other’s faces, passed toys back and forth and pushed each other over – slow-mo style.

It’s basically a small bean bag (we filled ours with rice and small beans that wouldn’t be a choking hazard if it came apart) with ribbons around the edge, creating ‘tags’. And anyone with a little one will know, babies love tags.

It was an instant hit with Adella. She loves the sound it makes, plus the range of tags keeps her little fingers busy for ages!


(Thanks to Kate for this photo of us!)


Testing and poking.


Oooh! I like it!


My finished toy.


Kate’s toy product – hers looks so animal-like!! I love it!!

There were heaps more, but unfortunately I don’t have any more photos. Ladies, send them in if you have them!

I just spotted this online too…a free pattern for a tag monster from one of my faves – craft schmaft.

Cultural differences – writing processes

At a recent discussion about writing in the classroom, a Chinese colleague of mine asked if she could draw a diagram on the board. She drew this:


She explained that the first diagram was of how Western kids are taught to write. They have a topic/goal/main idea in mind and they write directly towards that with support and evidence. From the outset, you know the topic of the essay and you pretty much know where it is going.

The second is of how Chinese kids are taught to write. They start big. Maybe with the weather, their feelings or a descriptive passage. Their writing evolves from here and it is not until the final paragraph or sentence that you actually know the topic or opinion of the writer.

Different, huh?

And the more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I can see this around me here in China.

At school, changes are made to our curriculum with the end goal in mind, but no adjustments are made regarding the day-to-day teaching process.

When you ask a bank clerk ‘why’ he has to photocopy your paperwork for the nth time, you get an answer that goes around the point, but doesn’t actually reach the actual reason.

When I used to teach writing for IELTS and Toefl exams, I had so much trouble getting the students to construct a logical, step-by-step essay, let alone a paragraph. But clearly, I was fighting something that was ingrained from primary school.

It really does seem to relinquish the control from the students and shift it back into the system. The analysis step seems to be missing from the writing process, in a country that prides itself on creating mathematically-superior kiddies!

Alternatively, regarding medicine, the Western approach is very direct and you will be prescribed a pill that directly targets the problem that you have. The Chinese approach treats the big picture, your whole system, which will consequently and indirectly treat your medical issue. 

So, perhaps there is an upside to be found?

These are just my observations, and I would absolutely love to have any comments from others who have similar observations, or even better, someone who has been a student in both systems!

Cultural differences

My husband is a free-lance musician here in Beijing and he got an SMS the other day from a Chinese musician asking “Am I the first Chinese musician you’ll record with?”

We both thought this was a strange question. Not knowing how to reply, we consulted our on-hand-chinese-expert: our ayi (nanny/cleaner).

She said, “You must say, yes! He wants to feel special that he’s the first you’ve worked with.”

We found this such a weird concept. Back in the west, we would automatically say ‘no’, wanting to show and emphasise as much experience as possible.

Is this opposite of ‘saving face’ – ‘creating face’?

Tangyuan – a newly found love affair

The last day of Spring Festival is Lantern Festival. To celebrate this festival, everyone eats tāngyuán (汤圆-roughly translated as ‘soup balls’). I distinctly remember being introduced to these sticky balls many years ago in Australia. Our good Chinese friends kindly brought some over for dessert one evening. But, it was not a good memory. I remember the glutinous texture coating the inside of my mouth, making it difficult to swallow. And when I did swallow, I remember trying to hide the fact that it made me want to retch.

A lot has changed since then. I no longer turn my nose up at ‘red bean’ flavoured goods. Strangely-flavoured icypoles no longer gross me out. And tangyuan is now one of my favourite desserts. I’m not kidding.

The most common flavour is black sesame (黑芝麻 hēizhīma). And it’s super good. Not too sweet and you still have the graininess (??) of the sesame seeds.


However, of course, someone made non-traditional chocolate ones. And man, they are sooooooooooo good. These ones had little chunks of peanuts inside. If you’re looking to try tangyuan for the first time, go for these.


And of course, would it be a trip to a Chinese supermarket without me buying something silly? I ummed and ahhhed between strawberry and orange. I decided strawberry would probably be so super sickly sweet that I wouldn’t eat them, so orange it was. And the result? Glutinous fanta. That’s the only way to describe it.


They are so simple to cook too. Just throw them in boiling water for a few minutes until they rise to the surface.




Our local sichuan restaurant serves these boiled in a little bit of booze, and that’s also delish. I’m not sure what they use, but there’s definitely room for experimentation. And I should probably learn to make these too! Though the supermarket is a very easy option.

I was also told recently that there’s another type called yúanxiāo that are made with a special technique that can’t be replicated by hand. I’ll have to try these out next year… has anyone tried them before?