Thursday, December 30, 2010

Such an Imagination

I don't know how my kids got such an imagination. Kids come up with the craziest and funnest things to do. Each of my kids has this gift but Vika is the topper. She can create a game or characters out of anything. We would go out to dinner and she would quickly have the forks, spoons, knives, toothpicks, sugar packs, anything she could find talking and playing as if they were her little puppets. Her thing now is to get the mop and broom which become her "playmates" and they will talk and dance around the house. Our Ayi replaced our mop a few days ago so instead of the nasty dirty one, she has a nice clean one with beautiful golden hair. Just about everyday I will find her out on the balcony playing with her mop and broom friends. Such an imagination. It has been very easy for her to find something to entertain her. Maybe this is because we just haven't bought very many toys for our kids so they have to use their imagination which has saved us tons of money. The toys we have bought end up lost, broken, or in the bottom of the toy box so why bother when all it takes is a simple kitchen object to make Vika happy.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

Christmas Day finally came. Of course it comes a day early here compared to back in the States. The night before we do a "sock dance" where we play Christmas music while everyone runs around the house to find the biggest sock for Santa to fill. Of course they always go for Gavin's socks but Rachel and Jonny were smart and found their soccer socks which are really long.
We traditionally come into the room biggest to smallest. This year we did it by height instead of age, which Jonny is now the tallest of the kids.
Everyone had an orange, a rather large orange, candy, and other goodies in their socks. Rachel called these "mutant" oranges because they were so large.
This may not seem as exciting to most people, but American magazines are a rarity here. Jonny was excited to get a new edition of Slam, a basketball magazine.
Rachel gave Gavin and I these cool puppets from India. We have become quite the collectors of unique things from around the world and these will become part of that collection.
Rachel got an edition of Paris Vogue and Italian Vogue.
Of course Christmas always includes new clothes. Occasionally it gets cold here, which today it was rainy and cold, so everyone got new jackets.
Vika was very excited that Santa remembered her Princess makeup that she asked for.
A good thing about China is that there aren't any copy laws so you can get anything copied. Rachel found a picture of Kobe on the internet and took it down to a photo shop to have made into a poster. I think we will get some life size posters made before we leave.
Rachel was so excited to get a certificate for H&M store. She gets to go down and pick out a complete outfit. Again, may not seem so exciting but when it's hard to find clothes here that you like and fit you, it is extremely exciting to get the opportunity. H&M is a European clothing store. They have several in Hong Kong that we have been to but they also have one in a mall about 45 minutes from our house.
Jonny has become quite the ladies man and was excited to get some Adidas cologne. Again, not an easy thing to find here.
I, of course, was extremely happy to get a Prada purse. Of course it's a knock off, but who will know? I won't tell.

Nicole and her Mickey dangling earrings.
Wow...100 RMB. Looks like he's rich but remember it's RMB with an exchange of 6.6 to 1 US.
Nicole and I found these fun puppets at IKEA and got one for each of us. Of course, they will end up as Nicole's and Vika's but it was fun to each get one.

Our Christmas Day would not be complete without the Bramwell traditional breakfast of baked eggs, bacon, teepee oranges, and pull apart or monkey bread. This has been a tradition in my family for my entire life (which I won't put in years) and even before that when my Dad was a kid. Can't let that tradition get lost.

We had a great morning which ended with a Skype video call to Oma and Opa in Arkansas. They were just finishing up their Christmas Eve when our Christmas morning was ending. Love technology today when I can talk and see my family 1,000 of miles away.

So far this has been a great Christmas. I'm a little tired of eating but that's just part of Christmas. Today was a cold rainy day which made it feel a little more like Christmas. This past week has been warm but today was perfect.

Merry Christmas!!!!

Christmas Eve

For the past two years we have traveled over the Christmas break but this year we stayed here in Shekou. Since we were here, I decided to do the traditional Christmas Eve dinner. At least, as traditional as I could make it. Several years ago, probably more like 15 years ago, we were spending Christmas with my brother Dave and his wife Susan in San Clemente, CA. Susan said that it was tradition to have the big dinner on Christmas Eve. I adopted that tradition after realizing how easier it made life on Christmas Day. You can spend all day on Christmas Eve preparing the dinner so that on Christmas Day your time can be spent just with the family. I loved that idea, so now it is our tradition as well.

I was fortunate to find a ham here but had to pay an arm and a leg for it, so we had ham, scalloped potatoes, homemade rolls, green beans, and vegies. I know there are several items missing to this traditional dinner, but we are in China and some things just aren't available or just too expensive. One other alteration I had to make is the dessert. The three years we have been here, I've yet to find a pie pan or even pie served anywhere. So, I had to make an Apple cobbler instead. I need to make sure to bring pie pans with us where ever we end up next year.

We invited two of Rachel's friends, Blair and Nancy, for Christmas Eve. Blair is from Oregon but has been in China for about nine years. She lives here with her Dad but has become part of our family. Nancy is Asian but calls Venezuala her home. She and her brother basically are on their own here. She is 16 and her brother is 15. Their parents have lived in Venezuala for the past few years while Nancy and her brother have lived here. Their parents have moved back to China but live about an hour away and are gone on business quite often, so she has become another addition to our family.

We didn't do the formal sitting at the table and just served it buffet style while we watched the Jim Carrey version of "The Christmas Carol".
Of course Christmas Eve has to include the traditional pajama presents. The kids always get to open one present on Christmas Eve and it is always pajamas.

Vika hasn't quite caught on and was a little disappointed that it wasn't a toy. They all quickly got their PJ's on and were off to bed so Santa could come.

Hong Kong Disneyland

Whenever possible we try to make it a tradition to go to Disneyland at Christmas time. This was a lot easier when Gavin worked for Disney and we lived close to one but we have still tried to keep this tradition. On our way to the Hong Kong Disneyland, Rachel found her Christmas present. We tried to keep it a surprise LOL...this was in the Kowloon Elements mall in Hong Kong where we stopped for lunch on the way. It was quite the bling bling Mercedes but Rachel said she would take it.
Most of Disneyland looks the same as the one in Anaheim just a smaller version with only a handful of the same rides but it still is the happiest place on Earth. I think this water fountain would be more appropriate in California with the surfing Mickey.

I'm sure this is just supposed to be a contemplating Donald but it kind of looks like he is sitting on a least that's what Gavin said.
Yes, this is Hong Kong not Anaheim. One give away is it's not crowded and we are the only blonde white American's around.

One of the rides that we really like and is very different from Anaheim is the Jungle Cruise. The one here has shooting water and volcanoes that shoot fire.

When you line up you have a choice of English, Cantonese, or Mandarin. Even though we chose English, we still couldn't quite understand the guide because of her strong accent which didn't matter, it was still fun.

The workers at Disneyland would give the kids these stickers all throughout the park and they thought it was funny to stick it on us without us knowing or in places that we can't reach to remove. Actually, Gavin is the one that started that but the kids caught on quickly to the game.
Vika was finally tall enough to go on Space Mountain. This was the picture from her very first ride. She was a little scared at first, but came off saying it was her favorite ride which meant that she wanted to go again. The lines were very short so we were able to go on the ride 4 or 5 more times. The kids have figured out where the camera actually takes pictures so they try to do funny things such as Rachel plugging her nose like Jonny stinks and Gavin grabbing onto Nicole.

or Jonny and Nicole pretending to be asleep.
Rachel's only chance to drive here in China is on the Autotopia. She still needs a lot of practice, especially on keeping her eyes on the road and not letting her passengers distract her.

Rachel, Nicole, and Vika love the Carousel ride. This is a tradition for Rachel. She always wants to ride the Carousel. I'm sure she has been on this ride at Disneyland over a dozen times.

The main reason we go to Disneyland at Christmas is to see the tree and all the lights. You can't help but get into the Christmas spirit here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Cookies

We have become quite the little bakers this Christmas but what would Christmas be without sugar cookies? I was lucky enough to find some Christmas cookie cut outs at Ikea so we spent a day baking and decorating cookies.

Vika loved using the colorful sprinkles and of course the M & M's to decorate with.
Nicole and her friend Kate joined in to decorate a few but Vika did the majority of the cookies. Of course they didn't last long around here. We took some to some friends and then the cookie monster named Daddy finished most of them off. We just might need to spend another day making these so we can have them to leave out for Santa.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Gingerbread House

A Christmas tradition that I remember from my childhood was the Gingerbread house my mom would make just about every year. She would spend hours decorating these beautiful creations and then on New Years Day we would get to demolish and eat them. I've never made one from scratch on my own and decided that I wanted to create this tradition in our family. Being here in China, I wasn't sure if I would be able to find the right things needed but quickly started my search. Day one Vika and I spent mixing the gingerbread dough. We were fortunate enough to find all the right ingredients and with the help of the internet we found a good recipe with patterns and directions. Vika and I spent a few hours trying to find the different candies needed and although we couldn't find all the things we wanted, we found enough to make our houses.

I let the dough refrigerate overnight and spent the next morning rolling, cutting, and baking the different pieces needed. Then Nicole and I were off to IKEA to see if we could find some cake decorating tools for the house. We had lunch there enjoying the Swedish Meatballs (for only $1.50) and were happily surprised to find the things we needed along with some Christmas cookie cutouts for Sugar cookies.
That evening we started the construction of the houses. I was a bit nervous if it would all work. I used the icing recipe suggested and with a little holding and molding, we were able to construct the houses. I made two houses so that Vika and Nicole could decorate one all by themselves (or with a little help from me) but mostly on their own.
The creativity began and we ended up with two beautiful masterpieces. It was so fun and I love looking at them sitting on our tables. The aroma of gingerbread and beautiful houses makes it really feel like Christmas. I don't know why we didn't do this before and it will definitely become a tradition in our home.
The IKEA icing bags became very sticky as the the icing seeped through the sides. Another thing to add to our list of things to bring with are good cake decorating bags and tools.
Rachel was our photographer here and was able to capture the beauty of our creations.