The Hot Pot Blog

January 28, 2012

Dear 6-Month-Old Will,

Dear Will,

6 months, 6 months!  Good grief, child, wasn’t I just baking cheesecake bars while counting the minutes between contractions?  Was that really 6 months ago?

Of course it was.  Time has flown and you change so much everyday its hard to keep up.

I know I must have loved you the moment I met you but it feels like everyday I love you even more than I thought I could the day before.

I don’t know if it’s those chubby cheeks, that big scrunchy-nose smile, that raised eyebrow you sometimes give me.  How cute you are as you frantically try to swim out of my arms and across the bathtub to retrieve your rubber ducky.  I think it’s all of it.

I love the way you are always trying to wriggle onto your belly and out of my arms these days, as if you could crawl across the air if only I would let you.  The world around you is far too interesting for you to enjoy staying in one place anymore.  You sit up all by yourself now and you like pitching forward, trying out the whole hands/knee combination, just to see what it feels like.

The other night you did a full push-up, digging your toes into the rug and sticking your sweet little bum high in the air.  It was the most amazing thing we’ve seen you do yet and you looked about as surprised as we felt.  Ever since you’ve been perfecting a sort of earthworm maneuver, butt up in the air, chin on the ground, trying desperately to move forwards instead of backwards.

For now, forward locomotion is still just out of reach but you can turn easily in a circle and you’ve scooted backwards across the room on more than one occasion.  I think it’s only a matter of time before you start to figure out crawling.

You still love to put everything in your mouth and it’s funny now to watch you develop genuine preferences among your toys.  You’ll even whine and try to reach back if I pick you up and take you away from something you were playing with.  You are so good with your hands now, we have to be very careful what we leave within your reach.

You love spoons, baby spoons and big people spoons.  You don’t actually like to eat food off of spoons though and you’ve thus far spit out every attempt to feed you in this way.  On the other hand, you are very happy to gum on a stalk of Chinese broccoli.  Honestly, I’m a little proud of you for that.

You love bath time, toys that rattle, music, your rubber ducky, tickles, and singing.  The other day you and your daddy were laying on the bed and I managed to tickle both of you at same time.  Watching you lying together, noses almost touching, laughing like crazy was probably one of the most fun moments I’ve ever had.

Speaking of Daddy, after giving him the cold shoulder for so many months, it seems you are finally back on the daddy train.  When he gets home from work you grin from ear to ear and you will even fall asleep in his arms again!  He loves you so much and it’s one of the nicest things to see the two of you playing together.

You still don’t sleep through the night, or even in your crib most of the time, but you fall asleep more easily now, sometimes even on your own.

And while it would probably be ideal if you would sleep in your own bed all of the time, I will really miss you when you do.  I love falling asleep at night with your daddy on one side of me and you on the other.  You like to curl up as close to me as I’ll let you and clutch my hand until you fall asleep.  I love your little baby sighs and your sweet cereal breath.  Will, why do all babies smell like cereal even if they’ve never had any?  Just a thought.

I read somewhere that in the next few months socialization will take a back seat to exploration and I can see how that is true.  You are still such a smiley baby, so happy to indulge anyone around you with a smile, but at home the “baby in the mirror” is no longer as interesting as the toy or spoon or plastic bag that you spot out of the corner of your eye.

baby eating red block

Speaking of plastic bags, you find them fascinating, which is sort of unfortunate since they are really not safe for babies.  You are also fascinated by the humidifier in our room, you try to grab the steam and get so disappointed to open your hand and find nothing inside.  You like books too, eating them, that is.  I’m hoping we can transition to enjoying them for their non-culinary attributes soon though.

baby eating the very hungry caterpillar

Lately you’ve been giving me “hugs,” especially when I pick you up in the morning or after a nap.  You pinch my neck and shoulders in your hands and bury your head in my chest and it’s just about the sweetest thing ever.

You’ve known your name for about a month now and you will also respond to a few of your Daddy’s nicknames for you.  You also respond when I say “Hello!” to you.  It sounds nothing at all like the word “hello” and at first I thought nothing of it, but after listening for a few weeks now, I’ve realized that you are actually trying to mimic what I’m saying, it’s just you haven’t figured out the sounds quite yet.  You like to grab my mouth while I’m talking to you, as if trying to figure out how it works.

Sometimes I worry a little because you don’t have many sounds of your own yet but I think you understand quite a bit now, things like “diaper,” “bedtime,” and “eat.”  It’s fascinating to watch you when I switch from English to Chinese to chat with Ayi.  You become perfectly still and just stare at us intently at first, then you start smiling.  You know we are speaking a different language and you understand parts of it, but it takes you a few seconds to switch gears.

You love the Chinese language, and you love all of the kind Sichuanese people who come up to you all the time wanting to make you smile.  You nearly always oblige them.  In fact, all I have to say now is “ni yao xiao le ma?” and you give the group a bashful little smile.  Everyone is so kind to you and you should feel so flattered by all of the compliments you get!  I’m almost glad you are too little to remember this, I wouldn’t want it to go to your head!

As I wrote earlier, you are still blond-reddish-haired and blue eyed, but you are getting much chubbier than ever before!  You went through a growth spurt a few weeks ago and every since, its like you are a different baby.  Whereas before you were always too small for most of the clothes sized for your age, now you are too big!  Especially your legs, they are getting so long!  Your hands and arms are so much chunkier now and your tummy is finally all round and plump.  You are by no means a fat baby, but you are definitely not as skinny as you were for so long.  It’s amazing looking at the pictures of you from your first week home and the ones we take now.

Will one week old

Will at about 1 week old

You loved your first trip to Thailand, you loved all of the people wanting to smile at you and hold you, you loved hanging out with your Ahyee, Nai Nai, and Grandpa, you loved the sunshine and all of the colors.  Not that you aren’t happy in Chengdu though too.  You love cold air for some reason.  Whenever we take you outside you get this big goofy grin on your face as you suck in the cold air.  It’s like a funny game to you.

Speaking of Chengdu, we have only a few more months here before it’s time to go back to the U.S. and then on to India.  You will celebrate your first birthday in America, six months from today. Your daddy has already requested a bushel of fresh blue crabs for the birthday party menus.  6 months used to seem like a long time to me but now it seems like nothing with you in our lives.  I can’t even imagine how much fun we will have with you between now and then.

Happy half-birthday little man.  We love you so much.

baby laughing

January 25, 2012

First Meal…

If you can call it that.  We planned on the first meal being much more about “exploring” food rather than eating it.

We weren’t disappointed.  The table ate a lot more of our yuppie organic probiotic brown rice cereal mush than Will did.

As I suspected would be the case, he thinks rice cereal is gross and he is far more interested in holding the spoon for himself than in anyone else doing it for him.  Rice cereal is no more interesting when we add breast milk, sweet potato puree, or even prune puree.  He spits it all out.  According to all of the supposed “signs” though, he’s ready for solids.  He sits up by himself, he’s lost the tongue thrust, he shows interest in our food, etc, etc.

I don’t know how I feel about this whole “baby food” thing.  We’ve given Will a lightly-steamed stalk of Chinese broccoli to gum on a few times for fun and he’s loved it.  Ditto with the bit of banana he swiped from me the other day before I could stop him.

What’s the deal with giving babies bland purees? If breast-milk is spicy or garlicky or whatever flavor I’m eating, wouldn’t Will want more of the same?  If he likes gnawing on solid toys, wouldn’t he enjoy gnawing on solid foods more than mush?  He doesn’t mind putting a very, very, very tiny piece of cucumber in his mouth (though he won’t swallow it) but he screws his lips shut if we try to give him anything mushy on a spoon, even though spoons are one of his favorite “toys.”  Could it be because he’s already 6 months old in a few days?  Maybe we missed the mushy food window?

I’m not sure how I feel about hard-core baby-led-weaning, but I’m thinking we might experiment with more solid, solid foods for the time being.  We can buy imported avocados here right now, albeit for a high price, so we might try that.  Aren’t those supposed to be a baby superfood?  Or maybe some yogurt?

In any case, I think we may be getting more use out of these neat little products than the little baby bowls and spoons we bought him.  “Food is just for fun until one” right?

Did your baby like mushy foods?  What was the first food your kid liked?

January 24, 2012

A Few Changes & Some Hot Pot Housekeeping

Apropos of nothing, the above notice hangs, unheeded, in every Chinese men’s room.  Thank you to Chris for finally documenting it for me.

I’ve been waffling for months now over this blog.  Whether to keep it, whether to trash it and start over with something new.  Whether to self-host, rebuild it from scratch, purchase a domain name, pay to tweak the CSS, or just leave it as is.  Lots and lots of waffling.  An absurd amount of waffling.

When I started writing nearly 3 years ago, I fancied it an almost-but-not-quite-food blog, with some mid-Atlantic flavor thrown in.  Then Chris joined the foreign service, we got married, blah blah blah, we moved to China, and pesto!  A life-in-China blog was born!  And what better name for it than Hot Pot?  How fitting!

But then we decided to have a baby!  And now, what do you know, we have a baby!  He’s lovely.  So lovely in fact that I can’t stop writing about him or taking pictures of him, much to my own chagrin and the nausea of any poor readers who arrive at my site looking for something interesting about life in China and instead find themselves inundated with all things baby.

And here’s the thing, I do want to write interesting things about China, about world events, about society and culture.  I want to write about them with proper punctuation and without the first-person pronoun.  I want a place to write the sort of things that I hope someday someone will pay me to write.  A place where I can even send these “someone-somedays” to take a gander at some of the topics I care about that don’t cover me in drool or flour on a daily basis.  Hot Pot isn’t that place so I’m working on building it.  From scratch.  Learning XHTML, CSS, and everything.  It might take a year to get it up and running but its coming, oh is it coming.

And Hot Pot won’t be going anywhere in the meantime.  I considered starting all over, with a new name, new focus, new everything but decided against it.  There is something a little bit virtually cozy about having 3 years of archives in one place, crummy writing, bad photography and all.  I am doing some tidying up around here though and that’s what I wanted to share with you today.

From hence forth, I’m going to own what this blog has become: this is something of a mama-blog with a twist.  It’s a place for me to share my adventures exploring the places we live, learning how to parent, learning how to keep a house and raise a family overseas.  Some days hopefully I’ll share thoughtful pieces about Mamahood, about family, about living our crazy (and sometimes utterly boring!) life abroad to its fullest.  Some days will be all trivial tidbits about daily going-ons.  Some days there will be nothing but pictures of our kid.  I think that’s what makes sense for this blog right now.  If you are looking for more hard-hitting journalism, I’ll be trying my damnedest to provide it over on my new site when I finally get it up and running.

In keeping with the somewhat new direction of this blog, I’ve updated my “About” page to hopefully give readers a better idea of what they can find on this site.  You can find the hyperlink to the About in the upper-right in the sidebar, that’s the only way to get there for now.

I’ve also done some reorganization.  My categories should now make more sense than they did before and you can find a sampling of them underneath the header.  Hopefully they will also make navigation quicker and easier, especially if for instance, you only want to read about our travels, for instance, or only want to read baby-related posts.  Most of them should be self-explanatory but, in case you are wondering, Around Town will feature the sort of “we went to an interesting temple!” “I went to the tailor today!” and “yay for Adam’s Morgan Day!” posts, everyday life but hopefully the more interesting or exotic bits of it.

Around the House will be those sort of random domestic-ish topics that occasionally come up, things like moving and broken washing machines.  Travel posts are about the places we visit, either locally (at the time) or across the world.  Baby is everything kiddo though I hope to start adding to a Activities & Play category soon too.  Thoughts are whatever is on my mind, both the serious and the more trivial.  I’ve kept a China in Photos category and may do something similar for Delhi.  Food is, well, food, things we cook, restaurants we visit, thoughts on food, etc.  I’ve also tried to cross-categorize to make things easy to find so if I write about a fantastic spot for pancakes in the DC area, you should hopefully find it in Around Town, and Food.

And speaking of food, I’ve hidden my embarrassing excuse for a “Recipe” page for now.  It wasn’t up to date, half of the “recipes” were, in reality, only links to far better food blogs than mine and most of the photography for the posts was downright awful.  The thing is, I love cooking, I cook almost everyday and I try out new recipes at least once or twice a week.  I have plenty of great recipes to share but I want to make sure they are well-tested and well-documented before I post them.  So I’m going to slowly rebuild my Recipe Index and I’ll put a link back up once it’s growing nicely.  Until then, you can still find all of the old recipe posts in the Food archives.

So thanks to everyone who reads this little digital scrapbook of mine, please let me know if there are any other changes I can make to make this site easier or more interesting to read.  Let me know if there are any topics you’d particularly like to read about or even any that you’d like to see less often.  I’m always glad for your thoughts and comments!

January 23, 2012

“I know its hard to hear me over the end of the world going on out there…”

…but wow, Chinese New Year.  Our bed shook last night as families lit industrial-strength fireworks off of their tiny balconies in the apartment complex next door.  Across the street the very high-end restaurant/brothel put on it’s own, admirably professional-grade, show.  The volume of noise was actually indescribable.  It was as if each restaurant and apartment building in the area was its own small town putting on a Fourth of July fireworks show, except all within a few block radius, at the same time, and for hours on end.

I don’t have any pictures due to the very sick and very unhappy baby who refuses to leave my lap (or sleep anywhere but my lap) but I wish I did.  In spite of the fact that the ringing booms and occasional ambulance sirens went on an on until 3am, I couldn’t help but be impressed.

It was truly an experience I’ll never forget, although I could do without having to repeat it for the next few nights, or ever again for that matter.

I also wonder how parents of young kids here feel about it.  In the States I know some parents get crabby over a few errant fireworks on July 3rd.  In comparison CNY sounds like a 20-story building getting demolished over and over for nights on end.

Then again, everything in this country is loud, from the legions of sales people in grocery stores shouting into tinny microphones at truly ear-splitting decibels, to the scooters and buses all badly in need of new mufflers and brake pads, to the upgraded horns on the black Audis indignantly honking at pedestrians to get off the sidewalk they wan to drive on.  Maybe kids here just get used to loud noises and so Chinese New Year is more like a blip on their radar rather than the “omg is someone INVADING?” that it sounds like to us.

In any case, we remain incredulous.  Amazed, incredulous, and only slightly crabby.

Happy New Year from China!


I had no photo of fireworks so I thought I’d share this photo of Will attempting to eat a New Year’s Dragon toy.  Read into that whatever you will.

January 22, 2012

The Little Recessive Gene Lottery Winner

baby in thailand

At nearly 6 months old, it looks like our little one-quarter Chinese, three-quarters assorted European heritage baby has won the recessive gene lottery of sorts.  He’s still got those baby blue eyes, fine reddish-blonde hair and a skin tone so pale I’d call the shade “translucent chalk.”

In Thailand we took to calling our pale little Scandinavian-looking baby “Sven,” as we tried mightily to keep him coated in sunscreen. Admittedly, he might look a little more Irish than Norwegian but Sven seemed funnier at the time than calling him Patrick.

While I think, deep down, before he was born, we were looking forward to seeing some of his Asian heritage play out across his features, now that he’s here, we just love him to bits the way he is.  My mother has blue eyes (and red hair) and Chris’ dad also has blue eyes, so his looks don’t come out of nowhere.  They just aren’t the looks we assumed he’d inherit.  And that’s ok, in fact, its more than ok, we think he’s beautiful.

When we are out and about in Chengdu, we sometimes overhear people studying our family and declaring that obviously my husband is not the father of our son.  In this homogeneous country where the language doesn’t even have words for hair and eye-color, it probably seems inconceivable that our white-looking son could have a half-Chinese man for a father.

But he does and even if the busybody types can’t see the resemblances between them, I do.

Will sneezes in pairs, just like his Daddy does.  He is grumpy and dazed early in the morning, just like his Daddy.  And when I look at baby photos of Chris and Will side-by-side, I see such striking similarities in their expressions, it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Chris, about 5 months old, in Bangladesh.

And while I might have at one time hoped for a little mini Chris-look-alike to chase after, I’ll gladly take my little Sven-I mean Will, who looks up at me everyday with his Daddy’s smile.

January 19, 2012

My husband went to Shangri-La and all he brought me was a billion beautiful photos…

…and a gorgeous bracelet of prayer beads.  Blessed by a monk pulling gift shop duty at the monastery.  True story.  Monasteries in China have gift shops.  Anyways, it’s beautiful and I love that Chris asked the monk to say two prayers on it–one for me and one for Will.  I don’t know what kind of prayer the monk said for Will but the kid sure likes trying to get the prayer beads off my wrist and into his mouth any chance he can get.

I also love all of the photos Chris took.  I would have loved to go with him to the fabled home of heaven on earth to do some exploring while he worked, but its too high up in the clouds to take the wee one before he turns one, maybe next time.  To make up for it though, Chris took approximately a billion pictures to show me the sites.  He’s pretty handy with the camera these days, so without further ado here are a few of my favorite shots of his with just a few tweaks:

Shangri La is a controversial place in China, it was majority Tibetan and its only barely hanging on to that distinction as Han Chinese entrepreneurs move in and money from the central government flow freely to promote tourism in the area.  Deforestation is a huge issue in the area, as is visible in at least one of the photos above.  If you are into feeling depressed about environmental issues in China or just want to feel a little better informed, I highly recommend When a Billion Chinese Jump by Jonathan Watts.

January 17, 2012

Why We Won’t Be Sleep Training During Chinese New Year

In a city of 14 million people it would make sense that you would need a fireworks stand on every other street corner before the biggest celebration of the year.  Right??  At least we weren’t sleeping much before the Spring Festival anyways!

January 14, 2012

Thinking/Thankful on Thursday (a little late…)


1. Tiny little Chinese oranges.  They are like clementines, only cheaper and only in China.  They can brighten up dreary winter days of which we have plenty here in Chengdu.

2. Entertaining.  I love that I have the ability right now to stay home with Will during the day but I’d be lying if I said I don’t really miss grown-up company and conversation sometimes.  That’s why hosting a little “Welcome social” for a new spouse here in town was so much fun for me this week.  I love coming up with new recipes to try out on everyone, I love toys strewn all over the rug, I love little kids running around screaming and playing, I love people leaning back in their chairs, laughing, talking, reaching for one more scone or one more cookie just because.  With Will in our lives now, I think we love brunch even more now than we did before.  Dinner can be dicey but mid-morning is mighty nice for hanging out with old friends and making new ones.

3. This baba ganoush recipe.  I subbed some Chinese sesame paste for tahini but I think the real money shot adaptation was my decision to roast half of the garlic.  Love me some roasted garlic.  The flavor is mellow and full and goes well with the super smokey eggplant.

4. As long as we are talking recipes, this orange, chocolate cake recipe is also something to be thankful for.  Not only do I like it, but Chris’ Chinese colleagues like it–which is something of a post-Christmas miracle.  My only previous success with providing desserts for the office were super spicy gingerbread.  Chinese and American tastes in sweets are very, very different.  Often they will say a typical American dessert like a chocolate chip cookie or a brownie is “too sweet” even as many of the most popular desserts here are almost icky-sweet to American tastes.  I think it comes down to the fact that “sugary” is not the same as “sweet.”  Chinese don’t like sugary desserts, they like sweet ones, preferably with some fruit in them.   Hence, this cake went over well.

5. TeuxDeux.  Deux Yue Teux Deux?  🙂  Seriously, this simple little to-do list is open on our computer every single day.  It’s also one of the only two i-whatever apps I’ve ever purchased (the other being Hipstamatic).  The normal browser version is free though and it keeps me sane and happy.  I love crossing things off a list and I love using the “Someday” category as a place for me to jot down stories I’d like to write, movies I’d like to see, recipes I’d like to try and books I’d like to read…you know…someday.  Yes I have Pinterest for that too but simply jotting a note on my Teux Deux list is usually faster and easier.

6. Will’s antics.  We’re in that sweet spot–that time after baby transcends cute-lump-ness to become a full-on social butterfly, but before he becomes totally mobile and requires all sorts of baby-proofing, etc.  Will loves laughing, loves cooing, loves playing in the bath, loves grabbing anything and everything and putting it in his mouth.  He has a weird fixation with my blue Nalgene bottle and loves to mouth on the edge of any cup, glass, or mug I have in my hands.  He loves to lunge out of our laps and over our legs to explore everything around him.  For now, he can only scoot in one direction–backwards.  He’s always sort of torn between being happy that he’s moving and being frustrated that he’s moving further and further away from the toy he was hoping to reach.  To us, its kind of funny.  His other new fun thing are the big, drooly, open mouth kisses he likes to give me now, on my chin, my cheeks, and my nose.  I’m perpetually covered in slobber but I’ll admit I love it.

7. The Bellagio.  No, not the Vegas casino.  The Taiwanese restaurant chain.  Sichuanese food, though delicious, does get a bit oily and monotonous, especially after nearly 2 years of eating it regularly.  The sweet and sour flavor profile of Taiwanese food offers a refreshing contrast and the Bellagio does it so well.  Chris took me for my inaugural trip last weekend and we are actually considering going back every weekend until we leave so we can try everything on the menu before we leave.

8. Heat. I’m a cold-blooded creature  and we have a warm house and for that I am always thankful.  I’m also thankful for the nice warm “Fuggs” Chris found for me in Shanghai last winter.  I used to swear six ways to Sunday that I’d never wear such boots but I eat my words every day now and my frost-bite damaged feet are eternally grateful for it.

I have no idea why my Nalgene is such a source of fixation, maybe because Will sees me drinking out of it all day everyday?  It is now the perfect “toy” to give Will whenever I need 5 or 10 minutes to get something done in the kitchen.  He sits and plays with my Nalgene, I cook, we “chat,” it’s win-win.  If Nalgene wants to send me a spare bottle so I can have mine back for drinking, that’d be great.  (Just kidding!)

January 10, 2012

Will’s Nai Nai

Some people may look at the truly absurd number of photos I take of Will and assume that I am just totally off-the-rails nuts about preserving my son’s baby-ness for posterity.

This is actually only partially true.  I love taking pictures of Will because he’s my son and because I think he’s just about the greatest thing ever, but more than that, I like taking pictures of Will for 2 very unsentimental reasons:

1) He doesn’t pose;

2) He doesn’t protest.

Photography is a hobby of mine in the truest sense of the word.  I have no innate gift for it, I just truly enjoy learning the skills and the art of taking a great shot.  Once in awhile I succeed, many, many more times I miss.  The only way to get better though is to practice and Will makes an excellent practice subject.  He’s available 24/7 and he doesn’t whine or make faces at me when I pull out my camera-yet.  I’m sure those days will come.

The nice thing about going on vacation with Chris’ family though (besides their company of course!) is that between all of the distractions of environment and each other, and the ever-present need to determine exactly where and when we should eat our next meal (I love a family where this is THE big decision of the day), no one really notices when I start snapping away with my camera.

And so I get to take photos of people who aren’t posing, aren’t protesting, and aren’t my son.


Chris’ mother is one of my favorite subjects.  I love the way her energy and her joy just radiate.  The woman has more energy than anyone I know, besides my own mother, and I’m just about the luckiest girl in the world to have her as my mother-in-law.  I’ve learned so much from her, how to cook countless dishes, how to arrange a room, how to never take no as a final answer, how to imagine possibilities outside the box.

Living overseas I miss my own mom terribly.  We email and talk on Skype almost everyday and it’s never quite enough to make up for being in the same place, hanging out in the kitchen and chatting and cooking.  If my mom would ever react to my camera with anything less than a scream of horror and a mad dash to the other room, Im sure I would have many beautiful photos of her.  Love you Mom.  🙂

I am lucky though to have Chris’ mom here in China with us.  It makes missing my own mom a little bit easier.  She’s an amazing and beautiful person inside and out and I’m just glad I had the chance to get these photos of her in Thailand.

January 8, 2012

2012 To-Do List

Taking a break from Thailand recaps, I’m a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions but I think I’m am even bigger fan of to-do lists.

I have resolutions, the sort of immeasurable things like “Show Will all of the beautiful and wonderful things in the world that I can” and “Spend more quality time with Chris everyday,” “Be good,” “Start running 4-5 days/week again as soon as we leave Chengdu’s “fog”/really creepy little compound gym.”

Those things are great but it’s also nice to have a list of concrete things to look forward to and ultimately check off the list.

I’m sure I’ll add to this list once we get to Delhi but for now, here are a few (ha!) of the things I want to do in 2012:

1. Get the house organized for pack-out, to include buying lots and lots of giant plastic bins, cleaning out our closets, making a list of all of the supplies we need to stock up on in the States.

2. Take Will to Tokyo (my first trip too!)  Eat ramen, sushi, takoyaki and all sorts of deliciousness.

3. Visit the San Xing Dui museum just outside of Chengdu-this has been on my to-do list pretty much since we got here.

4. Do a photo walk of Yulin Market and the little alley market off of Nijiaqiao.

5. Buy a sewing machine finally and make Will a pair of these pants out of some of Chris’ old dress shirts that are worn out around the collar.

6. Throw a Pack-out Party before we leave Chengdu to share all of the wine, booze, and food we can’t take with us.

7. Eat multiple bowls of dan dan mian, rabbit, yue xiang zhe zi, and all of my other favorite Sichuan foods.

8. Take Chris to see Chicago-not just the airport.

9. Take a family road trip to Madison to hang out on the terrace, visit the farmer’s market, eat Ian’s pizza.

10. Take Will to his 3rd diner, the Pancake Place in Green Bay.

11. Go to MN to see one of my best girlfriends get married.

12.  Leave Will with my parents for a night and go out with Chris.

13. Go to this awesome photo festival in Charlottesville.

14.  Eat at the Blue Moon Diner, Mas, Tavola, and all of our other favorite Charlottesville restaurants.

15. Eat at 2 Amy’s, Ray’s the Steaks, Ren’s Ramen, and all of our other favorite D.C restaurants.

16.  Brunch, lots and lots of brunch.

17. Run a road race.

18. Go to the Folklife Festival.

19.  Take Will to the Air & Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, The Sackler, The Sculpture Garden and all of our other favorite Smithsonians.

20. Run along Rock Creek Parkway.

21. Introduce Will to our Saturday morning Open City croissant and coffee followed by a walk through the zoo tradition.

22. Go for “Honeymoon Coffee” (back story: Chris and I didn’t take any time off work after our wedding so the Monday morning after we got hitched we stopped at this coffee shop for a quick morning break and the cafe has been known as our “honeymoon coffee” place ever since).

23. Eat lots of Vietnamese, Lebanese, Thai, Japanese and pretty much every kind of non-Indian food as we can in D.C.

24. Splurge on all sorts of fun stuff at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods at least once while we can.

25. Take Will outside every single day we are in America.

26. Have a family 4th of July picnic on the Mall to watch the fireworks.

27. Take Will hiking in the Shenendoahs, maybe even overnight?

28. Look for a plot of land, maybe buy?

29. Go to Annapolis to eat crabs.

30. Throw one epic dinner party in D.C. to celebrate the abundance of good food in America.

31. Throw one quiet but fun first birthday party for Will.

32. Sort of out of order here but: eat at our favorite Taiwanese fake meat restaurant in Chengdu one more time

33. Take Will on at least one but hoepfully many  night walks in D.C.

34. Take Will to “The Farm” in Door County.

35. Try making croissant again.

36. Make cream puffs just because.

37. Take Will to the Chesapeake.

38. Find part-time free-lance work in Delhi.

39. Have at least one writing piece published not on my blog.

40.  Visit Foamhenge in VA.

41. Design and build a professional/non-baby self-hosted website to write about non-baby things (my tentative due date: April 14)

42. Move baby/home/food stuff to a new WordPress-hosted blog (still need a new name, any thoughts?)

43. Go on our annual Labor Day Hike.

44. Host or co-host Thanksgiving.

45. Host friends and family in Delhi.

46. Visit Kerala.

47. Finally see the Taj.

48. Visit Jaipur.

49. Plan Christmas vacation.

50. Write story(ies) based on interesting people I interviewed in Chengdu’s restaurant business.

51. Start interviewing at least one interesting person a month and publishing the story or interview on my soon-to-be-created non-baby blog site.

52. Write my “why do foreigners stay in China?” story.

53. Start working on a novel just for fun.

54. Read at least one book a quarter.

55. Meet up with all of my Ashoka people, we’ll be living close by so hopefully this will be easy!

56.  Introduce Will to his Smith-side NY family.

57. Introduce Will to his Jhin-side NY family.

58. Introduce Will to his Great-Grandpa Dumm.

59.  See as many of our East-coast friends as many times as possible.

60.  Meet as many of our friend’s new babies, puppies, significant others as possible.

61. Try Momofuku pork buns.

62. Go out for one absurdly delicious tasting menu in NYC while someone else watches Will.

63. Celebrate our anniversary for real this year, perhaps with the above tasting menu.

64. Convince my sis and her man to come visit us in India.

65. Host a Halloween Party.

66. Buy a new swimsuit that is modest enough to chase Will around the pool in in Delhi and cute enough that I want to wear it everyday.

67. Scan all of Chris’ mom’s old photo albums for her.

68. Ask my parents to sit down and tell me their life stories, write them down.

69. Do a family photo shoot for someone not for money but just because I like taking photos of people.

70. Find a good tailor, all of my new favorite grocery stores, and my new favorite markets in Delhi.

71. Find an Indian Ashoka Fellow to volunteer for.

72. Visit Bombay and Bangalore to see some of our favorite India people.  Hang out with all of our favorite people in Delhi.

73. Experiment with a few new bread recipes.

74. Can a bunch of seasonal fruits and veggies in India.

75. Continue my quest for the perfect tomato sauce.

76. Make avocado fries in my mom’s deep fryer.

Are you still reading?  Wow, sorry!  That list got long and there is even more I could add!  2012 here we come!

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