Monday, December 5, 2011


In my new role as a burgeoning illustrator, I got my first rejection letter today. It was kind of like being punched in the gut. That sounds bad, until you compare a gut punch to a gut kick, or worse, a kick in the teeth. All in all, it could have been worse. This is what Storybird had to say:
"While we have considered the work, unfortunately it does not suit our needs at this time."
That, of course, is never pleasant to hear, but it wasn't as if I was going to make any money off it, and the pressure of making work to put up on their website was going to take a lot of time away from working on Molly, and if I want to have her ready to submit to the SCBWI's contest due on February 15, I can't really afford to get distracted. So it's fine, really.
Also - just look at the artwork on Storybird. I mean, not to knock the artists on there, there's some good stuff going on. But you can tell most of it is strictly digital, and we all know that's cheating, right?
This last picture is what I came up with for my submission for the Tomie de Paola award. We were challenged to illustrate Chicken Licken in a new, exciting way. I think it's safe to say no one's ever illustrated it in quite this manner before. Whether or not that'll win me the prize, who knows, but I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A River Runs Through It

Actually, a canal runs through it. Or in Hangzhou's case, a lake.

What can I tell you? I've been MIA for almost two months now. I said I was going off coke for good in my last post. I lied. Not only have I been on a very long coke bender, in October I kind of gave up on the whole "diet-and-exercise" thing altogether. After busting my ass and watching what I eat and not seeing any results I kinda went, "Screw this poop." (I might have used stronger language than that). I know that this is not exactly productive, but I was in a funk and I have yet to get out of it. I'm working on it.

Part of working on it has been to get the heck out of Shanghai regularly. I started with a place nationally renowned for its beauty - Hanghou's West Lake.

Here's one of it's poetically named scenic spots - "Remnant Snow on the Bridge in Winter" - and the lake all around. There are some nice hills around for climbing...

in which you can visit pagodas, temples, and this sunrise pavilion.

There is also a island in the middle of the lake, reachable by ferry, which is a famous spot for viewing the moon. It's another one of those poetic names: Three Pools Mirroring the Moon. This is not a photo of the pools; it is instead, on the ferry going toward the causeway. You can see Leifeng Pagoda in the distance (that was the last touristy thing I did before I decided to give up and go find food, which turned out to be Macca's and I gotta say, after a full day of walking it tasted pretty dang good!) If you want to go to Hangzhou from Shanghai, I recommend the fast train. Takes about an hour and costs about 130 yuan. Once you're on the ground in Hangzhou, it's not hard to get to the can tell the taxi driver XiHu, but he's going to assume that's where you want to go, anyway.

Last weekend I ended up going with Kate and an acquaintance on an excursion to Zhujiajiao led by our expert guide, Meen. (She's actually an expert chemistry teacher, but her Mandarin skills are top notch and she has a gift for finding awesome restaurants). Zhujiajiao is supposed to be where part of one of the Mission Impossible movies was filmed - it's been so long since I saw it that I couldn't even compare to see if I recognized it. We were a little worried that it was going to pour on us, but all we got were a few sprinkles and that was enough to keep away the hordes of Chinese tourists (yay!)

At the first big bridge we came to (pictured with Meen and Kate, above) there were ladies selling fish and turtles and other things. I was sure they were going to be someone's dinner until Meen explained that this was the "Letting Them Go" bridge, and for good karma, you could buy a couple of fish and set them free. We spent some time speculating that the fish were probably thinking, "Stupid laowai! They're just going to catch us again and resell us tomorrow." But it seemed like a cool idea, so we went for it.

Zhujiajiao was full of quirky little cafe's and shops. This was one of my favorite signs.

Me and the canal. It really was a lovely little village...

...especially after dark in the orange glow of the lamps. We taxied back, but took the bus to get to Zhujiajiao; fearless leader Meen did some online research and found out we could depart from the bus stand outside exit one of East Xujing metro station on line 2. There's a bus that leaves from outside the zoo, too, but it does so less frequently. Takes about an hour to get there.

But personally, I have to say that I like Tongli best of all the water villages and old towns I've been to (not that there's been that many, but still). After Hangzhou and Zhujiajiao, one might be tempted to say, "If you've seen one water village/old town, you've seen them all." Well, it wouldn't be true, especially in the case of Tongli, home of China's first (possibly only) sex museum.

That (almost) says it all. Actually, it was a very tastefully done exhibition including pieces from China's sexual history from ancient times. If the museum is to be believed, almost everything represents something sexual. It was very interesting to learn some of the Chinese beliefs; for example, that most sexual instruction was given from mothers to daughters, rather than fathers to sons. These are "trunk bottoms" - ceramic pieces that mothers kept hidden away until it was time to give the birds-and-bees speech to their little girls.

The museum used to be located in Shanghai before it was moved out here. It's currently located on the grounds of a former school, and I've got to say, I thought the setting was fantastic.

But the town itself was great as well. I felt that the buildings kept their original flavor much more than in other areas I've been, and the canals, of course, were quaint as always. At one spot, where three bridges meet, there is a man who keeps cormorants, and for 10 kuai you can see how they help him fish.

Another thing that I loved about Tongli was the fact that it has several beautiful gardens, so you get the best of Chinese history all rolled up in one. This garden was part of the Pearl Tower.

It made a great day out, and I hated to come back to the city (a fact that I've found interesting on these day trips...when I traveled from Seoul I couldn't get back quick it's been the opposite). If you're interested in Tongli, I recommend taking the bus from Shanghai Stadium (the bus center is under stairs 5). I showed up at 7:30 this morning, bought my ticket, and was off at 8:30. Supposedly you can book online or over the phone, but the online link didn't work for me and the girls I talked to over the phone told me they couldn't do it - I got on the bus, one way or the other, and was off less than two hours later (traffic). The cost of your ticket also includes admission to four (?) of the sites (other than the Sex Museum), which is really convenient and, let's be honest, about as many sites as you're going to want to see, about as many sites as you're going to have TIME to see before getting back to the bus for your 4:30 return to Shanghers. There's an electric cart that takes you from the bus stop into the heart of old town - it's all really accessible.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fabric Market Fun

Please note...the next installment may be called Fabric Market Folly. See, I decided I would be a "risk-taker" this weekend. I went out on a limb and brought the leather shop a sweater, asking them to copy it as a leather jacket. Only time (approximately two weeks) will tell if this turned out to be a good idea or a collosal waste of money.

One of my favorite things about Shanghai (right after JoAnn and our new PE teacher, whom I'll call Iron Man (he is not only smart but bears a vague resemblance to David Tennant AND has an ass you could bounce a quarter off of), is the fabric market. JoAnn and I finally got into it last spring, and for the last month of school we were going every Saturday. It. Was. Wonderful. Except when it wasn't. Let me explain. There's this building, three stories tall, jam-packed with little booths filled with fabric of all kinds and tailors to go along with it. And I do mean little...this is one of JoAnn and the Sarahs' favorite tailors - it can get claustrophobic at times, and some people (ahem, myself) may wander off to check out other things.

So, as you can see, there are samples hanging up all over, and in theory, you can walk in, pick out a garment you like (some of them copies of famous designers), select fabric, and a week or so later you'll have brand new clothes. I say "in theory" because sometimes this turns out to be a catastrophe. I've done this and had clothes come out that just will not work. They fit, but they look terrible. They look fine but the fit is uncomfortable. Whatever. You try your new clothes on, and the tailors do their best to fix them, when something is wrong, buuuuuuut...sometimes there's no fixing it. And sometimes you have to kind of compromise. Of the clothes I've ordered from examples, only one dress has been right the first time. The much safer route is to bring in something you already own and telling them to copy it. EVERYTHING I've brought in to copy has worked the first time, and this is one of the reasons I did SO much shopping this summer.

Which brings us to my sweater. I got it at Lord & Taylor while I was shopping clearance racks with the Evil One this summer, and it turned out to be really flattering. Sometime since then I've convinced myself that it would be a REALLY cool leather jacket, and JoAnn had success with one of the leather shops last spring, so I decided to take a chance. They had some concerns, but we agreed on a price and leather and they took my sweater and my measurements.

However, that wasn't all I ordered this weekend. I was going to punish myself for backsliding/encourage myself to lose weight by making myself wait until I'd taken off ten pounds. Then I spent Friday morning trying to figure out what I was going to wear to school on my dress up day (ie, the day I only teach one hour of art), and I realized how GOOD new and interesting clothes made me feel. I've been struggling to find a balance between accepting my body as it is and not giving up on trying to improve it. Well, wearing nice new clothes makes me feel a lot better about the shape I'm in (as does having the doctor tell me that my blood sugar and fat are totally normal, but that's a story for another day), and when I feel good, it's easier for me to make good choices, so roll on, South Bund Soft-Spinning Market! In the end I ordered five shirts, my leather jacket, a cushion-sized fitted sheet to go on the couch-cushion in my window seat (that's the sheet/quilt store above), and a Chinese-style floor pillow made with four different patterns of silk brocade (that one was a whim, but one that I'm really excited about!)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

You Take the High Road...

...and I'll take the low road, stopping at sweet little beaches along the way. Because the high road is a little scary on a vehicle you're not sure you can control yet (don't worry, folks - I took the high road on the way home, although this isn't it. The above photo is on top of Profitas Ilias, the highest point on the island. The beach below is Paradise Beach...yes, I know, I said Katharos was paradise, but actually, it's better than paradise).

This is the story of a crazy redheaded girl, who took her friends' advice and rented a four-wheeler for the day (which she nicknamed the Blue Bandit for some reason), in spite of the fact that she's much more comfortable on a motorcycle (because for some reason, there is a special license required for motorcycles, which ATV's don't need, which is just stupid because a motorcycle is SO much easier to handle than an ATV, in my humble opinion). Why? I don't normally rent vehicles on vacation, but then, I didn't realize how big Santorini is. Look at the above photo from Profitas Ilias, then look at the cluster of little white dots on the upper left part of the island - those dots are Oia. Totally not what I expected in some ways.

So yeah, I caved to Bronte and Joe's advice and took out the ATV. It was a bitch to get moving at first. Four-wheelers are way heavier than motorcycles, and they don't turn as quick, so I took the coastal road at first, then started directing myself at whim - taking turns to see places I'd heard Bronte, Vasilis, and Joe mention.

Pyrgos Kallistis was one of those. It was less touristed than Oia, yet still really charming, and gave me a chance to stretch my legs. Then I headed up Profitas Ilias, and after coming back down to the south, saw the sign for Red Beach, which Joe had told me about, so I stopped and changed for a little swim and some tzatziki by the seaside. I wanted to wander further - once I got used to the ATV it was a lot of fun - but I was sunburned and exhausted and it was going to be a long night, as that was the night the Tamuz Jazz Trio played at Katharos, so I headed back to the other end, stopping in Fira along the way to grab a gyro and salute the sun as it started its descent to the horizon.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Oia: Day, Dusk, and Night

Santorini is that island you always see in calendars or postcards, with beautiful blue-domed churches against white walls and blue water. It's kind of like a dream. A dream with lots of tourists, but when in Greece you can't even get that bent out of shape over tourists. It's Greece, for crying out loud! Anyways, I thought I'd share some shots that I took of the caldera in Oia (most of what I did in Oia can be described with three verbs: photographing, shopping, eating.) As I mentioned in the last post, Santorini was a volcano once upon a very long time ago, and the caldera is the inside edge of the crater. Villages are sprinkled along this rim, with Oia being the last one on the largest island.

The whites are brilliant in the sun, and as much as I love monochromatic color schemes, I like the way a little bit of contrast makes everything pop.

I've always been a fan of the way the sun paints everything golden as it starts to hunker down on the horizon.

The big church in Oia rings its bells as sunset nears - it was really cool to watch them ring them.

And I've gotta say, night might just be the best time of day here. The winds died down, it cooled off, the lights along the caldera came up...I find myself wondering why I'm not there still....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Imagine you're on vacation in the Greek islands, let's say, Santorini. Specifically that most beautiful, most chillaxed of all villages along the caldera - Oia. Well, it's an island, right, and you feel like going to the beach, and decide to follow the signs downhill to Katharos beach. Don't let the wind-y road fool're going the right way, and at the end - voila!

A black pebble beach. Santorini after all was once an active volcano; hence the black. It's a good beach - it doesn't have the chairs and umbrellas but it's close to Oia and isn't too busy. After a nice swim and soaking up some sun, you are hot and hungry. Fortunately as you walked down from the parking lot you noticed a little cafe perched just above. Really cool music comes floating out of there, and you decide to head up and get a drink, and maybe some food.

This is Katharos Lounge. My friend Bronte and her Greek husband met here 5 years ago, and last year purchased it from the previous owner. Since last season they've completely overhauled the place - not just the physical building but the menu and I'm guessing (since I didn't manage to visit until this month) even the ambiance.

Oia's famous for its sunsets, and Katharos - with its amazing food and drinks - is a great place to have dinner and watch the sunset and (to my mind, even better) the afterglow of sunset. This sunset in particular had "Teardrop," by Massive Attack on the soundtrack, which was special to me, as it's one of my belly dance choreographies. Bronte's always been an amazing cook, she taught me how to cook Korean and Greek foods both, and her cooking has only gotten better since the last time I visited. All the food is made from scratch, including the dolmades (which take quite a bit of work...I know, as she taught me how to make them).

If you stay past sunset, the sky gets dark, the moon comes out, the candles get lit, the breezes blow - it's magic.

The Saturday that I was there, Bronte and Vasilis had the Tamuz Jazz Trio performing. The fourth musician, that stud on drums, is none other than GDA-survivor Joe, who pulled out the bongos and added some rhythm at the end. It was an ideal venue for their sound, and I was grateful I got to visit for it.

Around the World in Forty Days

So it's 5 in the morning and I've been awake for an hour and a half. Welcome back to jetlag. I thought by making my way back to Shanghai in a more roundabout manner I might manage to bypass it, but apparently no such luck.

As you might infer from the title, I have actually been around the world in the last forty days (which is half the time it took in the book, take that, you fin de siecle sci-fi pioneering nerd!) This has kind of brought to a close a year full of GDA reunions as I hung out with Joe, Bronte, and Vasilis in Santorini. I've actually seen 12 of my former colleagues in the last year (Ben, Kate, Crissy, Roisin, Nam-Hee, Veca, Mark, Emily, and my Dark Lord and Master), and I expect to see Doug and Curly Sue in the near future, as they will both be back in Korea by the end of the year. It just says something to me about the kind of place that GDA was, and the kind of people I worked with, that I actually put forth effort to see them now that the party's over.

Okay, well, actually, Bronte and Vasilis just have a sweet location. I mean, hello? Santorini. Who wouldn't want to visit there? And I'll write more about that next time, I swear I will, but for right now, let me attempt to catch more zees with this parting shot: I spent the night in Athens rather than taking an early flight back specifically to visit the poet sandalmaker of Athens ...and it may have been a fly-by morning, but damned if I didn't get my sandals!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Birthday on the Lawn

I've been 32 a week now. I suppose this post is overdue, but I've been kind of busy since then. Busy vacationing, that is. But my 32nd birthday was a pretty good one, and I thought I'd tell you about it.

Evil One and company had talked about going to see Casablanca out at Wolf Trap. They do this thing there where they have the National Symphony Orchestra play the orchestration for movies, and this was one of them. I thought it sounded pretty cool, so I gave them the green light. There's not much else to say about that part of it. Music = good. Movie (which I had never seen) = good. As Evil pointed out, it isn't, when you really think about it, all that romantic, but then, which of the great classic romances are?

The thing about these movie nights at Wolf Trap is, in order to see the screen you have to get there early to claim your corner of the lawn. So we got there an hour and a half early.

What are six wild and crazy girls to do with an hour and a half? Stuff our faces, that's what. However, in picnics past, in my crazy family, we've brought things like sandwich meat and bread. Silly, I know. These girls broght normal things: crackers, cheese, and fruit.

Come to think of it, I guess those aren't half bad ideas. It was what they DID with said food items that I found so appalling! FRUIT on top of your cheese and crackers??? Have you ever heard anything so absurd?

However, it was my birthday and I'm a big girl now, so I thought I'd try something new. Turns out fruit on cheese and crackers is not so bad. Pepperjack and green apple is downright tasty. But if the truth be told, next time I'll take Korean barbecue for my birthday feast...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Shop Til You Drop It Like It's Hot

Maybe it's Michelle Obama. Maybe it's Kate Middleton. I don't know. For whatever reason, the American fashion industry has actually started making clothing that is modest enough for us Mormon girls, and I'm in heaven. Last year was an abomination. Last year my super summer shopping spree turned out to be a bust - I bought a mere handful of shirts that I then spent the rest of the year being bored by. I was resigned to more of the same for this year, thinking that if I could find a handful of good clothes, I'd take them back and make the tailors copy them ad nauseum.

I was pleasantly shocked when I went into Westroads Mall that first weekend home with my sister and ACTUALLY had things to try on...and as of last night I was still shopping. Although that has to stop. No, really. My suitcase is completely full. I could tell you how much I've spent on clothes in the last four weeks, but my parents read this sometimes...suffice it to say that I've done my part to support the economy while I've been home.

What makes this season work so well for me particularly (as opposed to other Mormon girls, who just need sleeves)? There are a lot of cowl necks and ruching. Ruching helps hide lumpy bits (which I seem to have more of after a month home - gah!), and I just like cowl necks. All of the clothes in my New York posts, and any in upcoming DC or Santorini posts - in addition to these are from these seasons. Now I just have to see what the Shanghai tailors can make of them, and whether or not they are creative enough to adapt them with long sleeves and heavier fabric for winter...

And yes, that's Rupert Jee, of Late Show with David Letterman fame, posing with me and my Babysis on our last day in the Big Apple!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nerding Out

My ideas on what to do when loosed upon the Big Apple quickly devolved into the realms of the tourist. I wasn't too nerdy last summer - I didn't have the energy for it. So last Thursday I decided I'd go to MOMA via Central Park. It's not really on the way from Times Square, but, you know, whatever. When we were talking about this trip the day before Babysis and I left, our mom expressed some concerns about going to Central Park. I wrote this off to the fact that most of what my mom knows about New York comes from watching Law and Order. However, as I was walking through the park, I started thinking about my Dark Lord and Master, who once counted himself amongst the denizens of Manhattan, and I happened to remember a night when he, B, and myself went out to dinner, passing a neat looking park in Bundang. I said something about going to the park, to which he replied, "I'm from New York. We don't do parks at night." Hmm. Maybe there's something to that.

Next, on the roundabout way to MOMA, I found something to eat, and took it to Tiffany's so I could have - Breakfast at Tiffany's! Probably I should have dressed up or something but it was hot and I was in the middle of a walk.

Babysis quickly glommed onto the idea of buying CityPass booklets to take care of most of our sightseeing needs. They were about $80 each and included admission to 6 of the city's hottest tourist destinations. I - being totally cheap - felt that I needed to use ALL of them, to make sure I got my money's worth, which had the result of making my 2011 New York experience a little more frenetic than it otherwise might have been. I already mentioned the 3 museums that were part of it. The Harbor Lights Circle Line Cruise was another. It let us get "Face to face, cheek to cheek with Lady Liberty," but just the feel of the boat and the totally different vantage point on New York, as the lights of the city came up, was pretty cool...and we had a really knowledgeable old dude sharing facts and figures about "Gotham" with us, which made it that much more interesting.

After the cruise we decided to go for the Empire State Building. The line was horrendous, but as long as we waited, we knew we were lucky it wasn't longer - there were plenty of roped off areas that we didn't have to walk through, and thanks to our CityPass we did get to jump at least a little bit of the line. It's a beautiful building, and the view from the top is just incredible.

The next night we followed up the Empire State Building with Rockefeller Center (aka, 30 Rock! Yes, I know, I am totally a nerd). The entrance we went in through took us straight past Radio City Music Hall, and the wait was not nearly as tedious as for the Empire State Building. The view was similarly spectacular. It's not a bad building to look at by daylight, either.

What's that, you say? We didn't go see a show???? Yes, as a matter of fact, we did. Babysis left it in my capable hands to get us tickets. I was supposed to stand in the TKTS line and buy us something good and cheap...but...well, I took a look at the line. Then I took a look at what was playing (the big name musicals Babysis had already seen). Then I heard a voice say, "Avenue Q - New World Theater - $55!" and I decided that we'd go to a show that I'd been wanting to see for two years, ever since Bobby talked it up at B&N when it came to Omaha. Avenue Q isn't exactly your traditional musical production...think Sesame Street meets Rent. It may kind of ruin your childhood - and you will totally be okay with it. Obviously I don't have any photos from it, but here for your viewing pleasure, is....Everyone's a Little Bit Racist, from Avenue Q!