The Cricket Market

Your next pet? Very economical!

A group of men chat in front of the parakeet cages

Jeff in the cricket market near parakeets

Tiny water dishes for your pet cricket

A cricket vender trying to ignore the strange American taking her picture.

November 28, 2011

The Cricket Market

Want a pet but don’t have room for a dalmatian? Consider a cricket! They don’t take up much room, but they are noisy. Want something more colorful? How about a parakeet?
Last week Jeff and I met for his lunch break at the cricket market. Yes, you read that right. There is a whole cricket market in Shanghai. I brought some cheese sandwiches so we wouldn’t have to waste any time eating. It’s about a 15 minute walk from Jeff’s work. The market is only a few blocks north of us on Xizang Road. We live on Xizang Road, which means Tibet Road. There is enough interest in buying cricket pets that there is a whole market. You enter through an opening at the street, and go back to some little streets filled on both sides with little shops where you can buy crickets, cricket water dishes, cricket cages, parakeets, bird cages, rabbits, fish, turtles, and more crickets.

Apple Cake Recipe

German Apple Cake

2 eggs
1 c. oil
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c chopped nuts
3 c chopped peeled apples
1 tsp. salt
1 c. coconut
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Beat eggs and oil until well blended. Add vanilla.
2. Add dry ingredients, mix
3. Add nuts, apples, and coconut.
4. Bake in a greased 9 x 13 pan at 350 degrees for 45 min.

Grandma’s Carrot Pudding

Grandma’s Carrot Pudding

1 c. ground raw potatoes or sweet potatoes
1 c. ground raw carrots
1 c. sugar
1 c. flour
1 c. raisins
1 t. soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. lemon extract
½ t. cinnamon
¼ t. cloves (I omit)
¼ t. nutmeg (I double)
3 T. melted butter
½ t. salt

Steam in bottles and cans for about 3 hours. (In my pressure cooker, it took 2 cycles of 40 minutes each on the cake setting which doesn’t use pressure) Serve with cream sauce or lemon sauce. For cream sauce add lemon extract and powdered sugar to cream. Gail makes a sauce with sugar, cornstarch, lemon extract, and milk, instead of cream.

Sweet Potatoes for Thanksgiving

November 27, 2011

Sweet Potatoes for Thanksgiving
We had Thanksgiving here, but no vacation days. We did have
a Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving with some friends of ours, R. and J.  He is an important person in the Consulate
here in Shanghai. We and some others gathered around their large round
table in their beautiful apartment on the 33rd floor. The view was
spectacular. I should explain that the best shape for a table in China is
round. The food is usually served family style, with the dishes placed on a
lazy susan that rotates so everyone can get all the dishes. The lazy susan didn’t
work in this case because the American size platters were too big to allow all
the dishes to be on the outside edge.
The Chinese cook made the turkey taste better than most
turkeys in America. He also positioned the meat perfectly on the platters. He
even cut each piece of skin to look beautiful on each piece of meat. This is
hard, because the skin slides off the slices when you cut them. He hand cut a
long thin piece of skin separately and placed it at the edge of the slice. The
meat was more tender because he only cooked the turkey for two hours, and he
turned it over during cooking. I’m not sure if the stuffing was inside the
turkey. Probably not. I think we tend to overcook turkeys in America, which
makes them dryer.
On Saturday, Dad and I went to another Thanksgiving with the
empty nesters in our branch. I actually got that started with an email to all
of us without children at home. Our branch president and his wife offered to
have it at their house instead of a restaurant. They ordered two turkeys with
the fixins, and everybody chipped in to pay for it. We each brought side dishes
or desserts and had a lovely dinner. Around here, turkeys are not easy to get.
Duck is the more common bird. Duck is dark meat, so it is moister. In order to
get turkey, some people have gone to extraordinary lengths. Our branch
president’s wife piled all five children and a dog kennel in her van many years
ago and drove an hour and a half outside Shanghai to buy a live turkey for
their dinner. It took forever to find the farm, get a permission form to buy
the turkey, and then bring it home. By the time they got home, the children had
named the turkey and decided who got to sleep with it first. They cried when
they took it to the butcher, and didn’t want to eat their Thanksgiving turkey!
She says “be grateful for that packaged turkey at the grocery store!”
The potatoes here are exactly as Mark described them in Peru.
The regular potatoes are yellow, and a slightly different consistency than
ours. I’d like to try smashed potatoes. They might work better, like red
potatoes back in the U.S. We also have sweet potatoes, which aren’t as orange
as the ones in the states. And we have the dark purplish yams, also.
Interesting! There is an ex Navy British author named Gavin Menzies who claims
that in 1421 a huge Chinese expedition circumnavigated the globe. He says one
of the ships wrecked off Peru, and there are many Chinese artifacts and place
names there. Who knows—if it is true, maybe they took their potatoes with them
to Peru! Dad says the jury is still out on the Menzies idea, but it is still
interesting. Menzies now claims the Lost City of Atlantis is real. Might be too farfetched.
Speaking of sweet potatoes, when we lived in Atlanta I tasted
a sweet potato casserole that I loved. It was halfway between a casserole and a
carrot cake.  I don’t know if you
remember, but for many years I would experiment every Thanksgiving to try to
replicate that sweet potato casserole. It had shredded sweet potatoes, and
flour, but not eggs, I thought. I tried, but I was never successful. The sweet
potatoes would be hard, or dry, or tasteless every time–until this week. I
have Great Grandma Randall’s recipe for carrot pudding, which is steamed
instead of baked or boiled. It uses shredded potatoes and carrots, flour,
spices, but no eggs. I brought the recipe with me because it is one of the only
desserts I could make without an oven. I had a brainstorm. What if I replaced
the white potatoes with sweet potatoes? Then it would be a sweet potato dish I
could take to Thanksgiving. It’s kind of hard for me to cook very well in my
little kitchen without many pots and the foods we are used to, so I was excited
at the thought of being able to make something good. I made the sweet potato
casserole using grandma’s old recipe, and it was wonderful! I think I finally
found the recipe I searched for all these years—and it was already in my recipe
box. I guess many things in life are like that elusive recipe. We search for
them for years, only to find that we had the secret all along, stuck away on a

11-21-2011 The week before Thanksgiving

Statue from the Longhua temple

Monument to the Martyrs in Longuah, SW Shanghai

Monument to the Martyrs of the Revolution

Pagoda in Southwest Shanghai 11/19/11

The Longhau pagoda is near a temple complex and the Monument to the Martyrs museum in Shanghai

November21, 2011

Last week on Monday I substituted in the sixth grade at the same school where I taught before. It was kind of fun. I had wondered about the history and literature curricula. I looked through a history book and saw solid ancient world history. In English class, they were studying some of the same mythology that Classical School studies in second and third grade. These myths are about the right level of solid literature for students who started learning English in kindergarten when they were five years old.

It is flu season, so there was another teacher sick the same day. As I was writing my notes to the English teacher, another teacher came running in and asked me to substitute for a science class. They were studying volcanoes, a good earth science topic. I had taught about plate techtonics in the fourth grade class I taught the week before, so I had something pertinent to teach them while we waited for another student to get the video from the library. These students didn’t remember studying plate techtonics in fourth grade. I wonder if the curriculum has changed in the last two years, or if they just didn’t remember what they had been taught.

The school follows the IB program, which I am interested in because it has a good reputation. If I end up teaching here in Shanghai next year, I would like to see all the different topics that the schools here teach. I think many of them follow the IB program. I’m also interested in the Singapore and British schools, which also teach in English, and which are reputed to have strong academics.

The next day, I was sick myself. The school called me to substitute again, but since I couldn’t really talk, I stayed in bed. I am almost over the cold I had. Dad had a cold, which he cured in three days with zinc. Alas, my cold did not relent to the zinc prescription. I have had the cold for a little over a week. It is almost over now. I just have a bit of a cough left.

Saturday Dad and I went to a pagoda called Longhua Pagoda. There was a seven story pagoda, plus a temple complex with a bunch of temples with cool statues incense burning. I have decided that I don’t like the smell of incense, but Dad does. After we walked around in there we went to the neighboring park which is called the monument to the martyrs. It is dedicated to some revolutionary Maoists who were executed on the spot. The park is really beautiful even if you don’t agree with the politics. At the end of the park there is a huge statue of a man half buried in the grass. His arm is reaching out of the sod. He has a lot of muscles, but I guess he is one of the dying martyrs. The landscaping is peaceful and lovely, with treed areas, and open areas marked by walls of tall shrubs.

After that we went to Ikea, a large home products store with inexpensive furniture and housewares. We bought some silverware, plates, glasses, bathmats, a laundry hamper, spice bottles, and baking pans, and a small toaster oven. It is nice to have all these little things that make life easier. I finally have a little oven where I can bake if I want to. I haven’t used it yet. The business model of Ikea is interesting. Once you get in, you follow a serpentine path through the whole store. In the middle was a cafeteria. Theoretically, if you got lost and couldn’t find your way out you at least would have food to eat. While we were there we found the cheap bedroom set our landlord used for our bedroom. We took the subway home carrying all our purchases and then I started cooking for dinner the next day because we invited a cool family with three boys and one girl. They have grown up almost their whole lives in China. They could be you if Dad had moved us here fifteen years ago.

Yesterday was Sunday, and I taught Relief Society on signs of the Second Coming of the Savior. I loved some of the scriptures I read, like this one from Doctrine and Covenants 88:96-97 “and the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him. And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened: and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven.”

And as I was reading, I also saw scriptures which made me think of you on your mission, verse 84, “Therefore, tarry ye, and labor diligently, that you may be perfected in your ministry to go forth among the Gentiles for the last time, as many as the mouth of the Lord shall name, to bind up the law and seal up the testimony, and to prepare the saints for the hour of judgment which is to come.”

After church we had the delightful family for dinner. I was a bit worried about how to cook in my little kitchen with only two burners and a pressure cooker. I decided to make green bean casserole with a mashed potato top. The potatoes here are kind of different from the white potatoes we use to make mashed potatoes in the U.S. The potatoes are a bit gooey, like red potatoes. At first they tasted really weird to me, but after I put enough salt and butter in them they were okay.

This week is Thanksgiving. It won’t be the same without all my children and grandchildren. We will have dinner Thursday with some friends, and a different dinner Saturday with some friends. We have so much to be grateful for. We are the most blessed parents in the world to have you and your brothers for our children. Now we have three lovely daughters by marriage, and three adorable grandchildren. It is a wonderful life.

Substituting Again

Me inside a cathedral next to the observatory on Sheshan mountain.

Fourth graders I substitute taught.

Our friend at China's first telescope. Now a museum, it has been replaced by a bigger telescope on the same hill.

November 13, 2011

This last week was kind of busy. I substituted in fourth grade for Monday and Tuesday, which then was stretched through Thursday because the teacher I was in for was still sick. I think I am bad luck, because the last time I substituted for the kindergarten class, the Chinese co-teacher was ill, but just toughed it out and came to help me. This time, the Chinese teacher was also ill. She came the first day to help me, but then had to stay home, and I was on my own for the next two days. Wah, wah. Nobody at Classical School where I taught before has a coteacher, so what’s the big deal, right?

It is interesting working in a bilingual school. The students are so smart to know two languages. I am impressed by them. At the same time, I don’t see the rich literature in the curriculum that I would like. Maybe the students are doing well just to learn the English language and they leave literature for later years. I might find out tomorrow. I am supposed to substitute for a sixth grade teacher. She teaches two English classes and one maths class. That’s no typo. They call it “maths” here. I think it is the British influence. I also haven’t seen any history. It would be hard to make a history curriculum in an international school. Whose history would you teach? Still, I’m interested to see what history they teach.

It is possible that I won’t be teaching, though. I woke up with a bad cold on Saturday. We had a full day planned, so I just went on the planned outings, but then I was much worse this morning and canceled out of teaching Primary and having guests for dinner. I don’t know yet if I’ll be teaching tomorrow. I could probably just tough it out. I just don’t want to sneeze on the students!

Yesterday, Saturday, Jeff and I went shopping for food for the guests we ended up not having. I was going to make microwave lasagna. Then we went out to a western suburb of Shanghai to meet with two nice professors who are married to each other. She is a professor of nuclear science, and he is a professor of electrical science. They are pretty impressive. We went out to see them once before and they took us to a lovely restaurant near their apartment. Jeff called them Friday to tell them we were planning to be in their area, and would they like to get together. He told them it would be nice to have lunch together, and reminded them that it was our turn to pay. They made arrangements to go to the same restaurant we liked the last time. It was a lovely dinner. We spoke mostly Chinese, with a little English thrown in. Good practice. I suspected that they would try to pay the bill because they had made the arrangements for the dinner. At the end of dinner I said that I wanted to get a card for the restaurant so we could come back. While at the counter, I said I wanted to pay. While I was trying to pay, Madame host came over and pushed me away. I protested that it was our turn to pay, but it made no effect on her. She pushed me back to the table, but I held her hand so she couldn’t pay either. It must have looked rather comical to see two grown women in a shoving match for who gets to pay the bill. I lost. It stands to reason that she would be trickier than I am. She has a Ph.D. and I only have a master’s :).

After lunch they drove us out about 45 minutes away from their house to a hill on which there is the oldest astronomical observatory in China. It is no longer functioning, because they built a new one on the same hill. Next to the observatory is a Catholic cathedral which is in such good repair that I thought it was newly built. While we were there we saw some Koreans in a prayer service outside, and Chinese in a prayer service inside. The hill was lovely, with a nice view. The area has an amusement park with at least two decent looking roller coasters. The area also boats a golf course, a botanical garden, and a sculpture garden. Also, from the hill we could see a subdivision of mansions. The head of Jeff’s company lives in a mansion in that neighborhood. Supposedly, the most expensive villa in Shanghai is on the hill, although we didn’t see it. It was a lovely November day, and I realized that our temperatures in the 60’s were like temperatures our friends in Wisconsin had in September. I like that our warm fall weather.

After the hill, they dropped us off at the nearby subway line. There is a metro stop very close. That is good news because we can go back and see the other attractions without riding in Jiang Xiaomin’s car. Strangely, the metro is often faster than a car. We were able to get to our evening appointment in plenty of time. We had planned to have dinner with a friend who is Jeff’s Chinese teacher. We get together periodically with Frank and his wife, Ruby. Frank spent time living in the U.S., so he has perfect English, but he speaks in clear slow Mandarin so we can practice our Chinese. Our first choice of a restaurant, Coconut Paradise (Thai) was full, so we went to a vegetarian place instead. The food was pretty good, but not my favorite. I prefer vegetarian cuisine when it can include cheese, which Chinese restaurants don’t have. Dad was ecstatic about it. He has been looking for a vegetarian restaurant for some time, but every time we try to go to one, it is gone. Vegetarian restaurants don’t have a big clientele here where the Chinese really enjoy MEAT! We had a lovely visit, but my cold was getting progressively worse and I was going through lots of tissues. I didn’t touch any of the serving spoons and asked Jeff to put food on my plate in an effort not to contaminate someone.

The pollution here is visibly worse this week. Today I saw white when I looked out the window. The beautiful Oriental Pearl tower and the World Financial Center tower I love to see out my dining room window were obscured by a white haze, as if we had ascended into a cloud. I remember my Mom and Dad talking about the pollution that was in Nepal from people burning things to keep warm, or to cook. Stephen experienced the same thing in Buenos Aires. I wonder if that is the source of the worsening air quality now that it is getting cooler at night. Hmmm.

Life is good for us here, though. We don’t notice any lung problems from the pollution, and our health has been very good in general. My cold is the first health problem we have had. We can’t complain.

Mailing a package to Peru 10-24-11

I mailed a birthday present to my son Mark, who is on a mission to Peru. The China Post man said it should take about 15 days. It has been seven days now. I hope he gets it in a week. I hope he gets it period. I hope it doesn’t get lost or stolen. Not that the contents are valuable. . .

The way I mailed it was kind of interesting. I went to China Post with the package. I had printed his Peruvian address in Spanish, but I put the Chinese character for Peru at the bottom, and I looked up the way to say “Peru” in Chinese (Bilu). I went in and gave it to the clerk and told him “geng kwai” which means “more fast.” I also said “Bilu.” He nodded and proceeded to weigh the package. In the meantime, the police officer looked at the writing and gestured to another lady as if to say, “Who could read THAT? It’s not even in Chinese!” I tried to tell him in Chinese that I wrote the Chinese character for Peru, and when it gets there they could read it. The clerk finished weighing it. He told me it would cost 800 yuan, which is about $130. Then I said in Chinese, “That’s too expensive. Less fast.” Now the police officer started to pantomime swimming. I laughed and pantomimed paddling a boat. The officer laughed back and came over to stand by me as if to say, “we can be friends.” The clerk finished calculating a reduced price, and came up with 130 yuan (about $22). Then he gave me a customs form to fill out. This is a problem, because I can’t read or write characters. Fortunately, he knew how to say address. I proceeded to copy painstakingly the characters for my address, which I have on my business cards. (Everyone in China has name cards. One side is Chinese, one side English). It took me a long time to copy them, but finally I finished. Then I paid my cable bill right there at the post office. Utilities here can be paid to the post office or any little convenience store. That was my first experience with mailing something. Before I go again, I think I’ll practice writing the characters for my address.


Substitute teaching 10-14-11

Oct. 14, 2011

It has been an eventful week since we returned to Shanghai from Korea. We returned on Friday, October 7th. We were a little bit tired of Korean food. We had not had many good restaurant experiences in Korea. So when we returned to good old Shanghai, we immediately went to a great restaurant called Coconut Grove, which had delectable Thai curries with coconut milk. Yummy!

I had some assignments due Sunday for my online class. It was also Conference weekend for Asia. Saturday Jeff had to work. All of China had the week off, but to make up for it, everyone has to work on Saturday and Sunday. Jeff took off Sunday so we could go to conference. Saturday he went to work, and I worked on my class assignments. Sunday we went to watch conference at a different place than usual. We usually have church on the Pudong (East) side of the river in a very nice BMW dealership with a large beautiful auditorium. That is great, but our branch is the Puxi (west) side of the river. On conference day, we met at the clubhouse of one of the apartment complexes in Hongqiao, where most of our branch lives. It is about a 45 minute commute for us to get there since it is further to the west of us. We enjoyed the conference very much, especially hearing our bishop from Tucker ward, Elder Cornish, speak. He is now in one of the seventies quorums. We also enjoyed hearing Elder Clayton talk about his mission to Peru, since that is where Mark is now serving his mission.

Monday and Tuesday I substitute taught at a school in Hongqiao. My friend from church was on vacation in America, so I substituted for her kindergarten class. It was fun! The principal offered me a job the first day I taught there. They are opening a new English immersion class for third graders whose English needs more attention. I’m not really interested in working fulltime because then I can’t travel with Jeff. Still, it was very interest-ing to me to know that if I want a full time job, I can get one easily. The pay is very similar to my pay back in the states, maybe a little higher. Substituting is also about the same pay as subs back home. If Jeff’s job extends to a second year, I can get a job here. We’d probably move further west in the city so that I wouldn’t have a 45 minute commute to work.

The school actually curves around behind me.

I subbed for the kindergarten here

I enjoyed teaching at this school. I had 17 kindergarteners (they call them Primary Reception). The school is somewhat unique. It is an international school which follows the international baccalaureate curri-culum. It is also the only international school which is allowed to enroll national Chinese students. The students in “my” class all speak primarily Chinese at home, except for one boy whose mother is Philippino and father is Danish. There were only 17 students in the class, which was a very comfortable size for kindergarteners. I’m told the classes can get up to 23 students in them. The school is bilingual. Instruction is in English for most of the day, with one hour of mandarin instruction every day. The Mandarin teacher is there most of the day for translation support when needed. There is also a full-time ayi (maid) in each class. She cleans the classroom and provides support with paperwork and children as needed. She does not speak any English, and does not do instruction, but helps with crowd control.


The children are very bright. Even though English is their second language, they are learning how to read and write in both English and Chinese. They all know their letters, and can copy a sentence from the board. They are working on their short easy word reading right now, which is excellent progress for October of their kindergarten year. There is plenty of prep time because the children have music, art, computer, and Chinese specials. In fact, there are only 2-3 hours of homeroom instruction per day, depending on which specials they have that day. Having a second teacher in the room, and having students who aren’t fluent in English gives the teacher a little less control than I would like, but overall it was enjoyable to teach there. If we end up staying a second year, I would consider teaching there, or at another international school, or teaching English to college students. There are plenty of jobs available if you happen to speak English and have a white face. Rents here are very expensive, though. We have a western standard apartment with two bedrooms and two bathrooms for $1700 per month.

Tuesday afternoon Curtis and Julie Fullmer came into town! We were excited to have some more time with them. We saw them in Seoul and then again in Shanghai. I took a taxi from the school in Hongqiao to the shopping mecca at east Nanjing road where Julie and Curtis met me. It was great to see them again. We looked around, dropped their backpacks in our apartment, then met Jeff at Lost Heaven for a wonderful dinner. That evening we went to the bund and took pictures of the spectacularly lit skyline we took the ferry over to the Pudong side to see the buildings up close. Wednesday Jeff and Curtis had to work, Jeff at his office and Curtis from his computer, so Julie and I went to see the bund up close and personal. We met Jeff for lunch, then we went to the Aquarium, and then went up the tallest building in China, the World Financial Tower.

In the evening we went to dinner with Jeff, then visited the Yu Yuan Garden shopping area, where all the buildings are in ancient Chinese architecture, with the curving roof lines. Also, for our viewing pleasure, the roofs are lit with Ming Dynasty LED lights 🙂

Thursday we took a train to Suzhou and saw the beautiful Humble Administrator’s Garden and Tiger Hill. The Garden is so lush and lovely—a private heaven started in the 1400’s. Oriental gardens are different from European or American gardens. They are arranged to give the viewer many different kinds of views. They use three elements to form the views: rockeries (using rocks from Lake Taihu riddled with holes), lakes, and plants. I had never seen lotus plants before. They are like lily pads on steroids. The leaves stand up three feet or more from the water surface, and they are 2-3 feet across. The rocks from Lake Taihu are in piles as high as 20 feet, reminiscent of mountains. Then we went to Tiger Hill, where an 8-story Pagoda stands in a complex that reminded us of Monkey palace from Jungle Book. The view was beautiful, but wilder. The pagoda tilts at a 3.59 degree angle, like an Asian leaning tower of Pisa.

I was worried about my ability to navigate the train station on my own. Before, Jeff was always there to read the Chinese. Train station boards are completely in characters. The people there don’t speak any English. I was able to get us to and from Suzhou, although the return trip went to a different Shanghai train station than I thought. It was no further from our apartment then the train station we planned to take, so it worked out fine anyway.

Friday morning, we flew to Minneapolis for Jeff to attend the AIChE Conference. Busy week!

Jogging on the Bund 11-2-2011

November 2, 2011

Last Thursday Jeff had a great idea. I often get up at 6:00 to run on the sidewalks in a pretty place called Xintiendi. I have to be done by 7:00 because the streets start to get too crowded for running by then. Jeff decided we could take a taxi to the Bund and run on the wide walkway by the river where the old European stone buildings line the West side of the river, and the modernistic skyscrapers line the east side. He woke me up at 5:50 and said, “time to go run!” My alarm was set for 6:00, so I ignored him until 6:00. Then he told me the great idea to go jogging on the bund. It was beautiful. We saw many kite fliers with their lovely large kites way up high. Kite flying is a hobby not of children, but of men here. They have big round professional reels of string. The kites are large and beautiful. They go way, way up high. We also saw some other walkers and joggers, including one old man in his pajamas. Local folks think pajamas are great leisure wear. You will see pajama clad people in the stores, walking around, and on the sidewalk in the morning doing tai qi (slow motion exercises Jeff calls “mystic motions”).

After we jogged on the bund, we left the elevated wide boardwalk and went to the sidewalks, intent on taking a taxi or the subway home. On the way we had some “pancakes” which are fried, salty, and sometimes have green onions in them. It was a yummy breakfast, and a great idea to go jogging on the bund!

I had a Bible study group with some of the women in our congregation. It takes me about 45 minutes to get there. I take the metro for about 30 minutes, then walk about 15 minutes. It is worth it, though. The ladies are very kind, and we had a great lesson by my visiting teaching companion.

After the Bible study, we all piled into cars and went to a wholesaler who specializes in imported foods. We were so excited to see items we can’t easily find in stores, like cheese, butter, tortillas, cocoa powder, coconut milk, pasta, maple syrup, and Raisin Bran! We shared wheels of gouda and mozzarella. The small shop was in a sort of warehouse. All ten of us filled it up. Since we were joining together to buy wheels of cheese and cases of tortillas, it was somewhat complicated The shop workers were certainly glad to get rid of us! It will be less confusing next time because we will know the prices and collect orders ahead of time. The shop was a goodly drive south of the city, but it was worth it! I got one fourth of a wheel of gouda for about $10!

After the trip to the wholesaler a few of us went to the fabric market. It is a three-story building where you can pick an item of clothing and a fabric and they will make it for you. I needed a winter coat, so I went to the market and picked a coat style and a gray cashmere cloth. Now it is a week later and I picked it up. It fits really well. You have to bargain with them when you order the coat. I got this for about $75.

Friday and Saturday, Jeff and I went to Suzhou to see some more gardens. He has only seen the Humble Administrator’s Garden, and a temple/monastery/pagoda complex. Suzhou has many more gardens. We stayed overnight in downtown Suzhou. There are lots of great hotels there with large rooms and great reviews. I picked a Holiday Inn, which was really good. Large rooms right near a folk village next to the canal. There were lights on the buildings and lots of shops. It was fun to wander through them. I needed a purse, and found a nice one that was about $21. Jeff found a Jeep coat. It’s a casual brown coat with ARMS LONG ENOUGH! We were pretty happy. It is an XXXL . The arms are long enough, but it definitely would not fit a big wide man. I don’t think wide people can find anything ready made for them here.

Saturday we went to Lion’s Grove garden, which has huge rockeries, including a very cool labyrinth of rock passages. We also saw Lingering Garden, Tiger Hill, the Silk Museum and Beizi Ta (a pagoda). Last time we went we spent all afternoon on one garden because Jeff loves to take pictures so much. This time we decided to step up the pace so we could see more . I liked all of the sights, but the Silk Museum was most interesting. The cocoons that the silkworms make are soaked for 8 hours. Then, to find the end of the thread, a brush is gently swished among the cocoons. Like magic, up come a bunch of the thread ends from the cocoons, stuck on the brush. The thread ends are hooked to spindles, one for each cocoon. The spindles turn, and the thread from the cocoon slowly unwinds. I was also interested in the double cocoons. Sometimes, two silkworms are in one large cocoon. The threads are impossible to unravel because the two thread lines are intertwined. The silk from these cocoons is used to stuff quilts. We bought just such a quilt in ZhiuJiajiao, a water town Frank and Ruby took us to. I thought it was a terrible waste of silk, but we only paid either 180 or 280 yuan (less than $50) These quilts are supposed to be warmer and nicer than down comforters.

The silk for the inside of the comforter is stretched out in flat layers. Many layers make the inside of the quilt. Here’s how they make the thin layers of silk. The double cocoons are soaked for 8 hours. Then the worker removes the two dead silkworms. These are used to make face creams (ugh). Then she puts her fingers inside the cocoon and gently stretches it over a flat shape. The fibers separate a bit. Then she takes the fibers off the flat form and puts them over a bigger flat form. Finally, she takes the fiber mat off the bigger flat form and stretches them over a final biggest flat form. This makes the layer very thin. The thin layer of fibers is laid on the other fiber mats, and they put it in the quilt. Lovely! I bought a silk scarf at the museum store. Later, my Chinese tutor (who used to be a tour guide at the shop) told me the scarf is only a silk blend. She can get that quality of scarf for 40 rmb (less than $7.00). I paid 180 rmb (about $30).

This week Jeff went to Indonesia. I wanted to go, but his boss thought it wouldn’t work this time. Fortunately, he will be able to go back, and I should be able to go the next time.

We have a temple trip this weekend. We will leave tomorrow evening after work (Friday) and fly to Shenzhen, which is right next to Hong Kong. Flights and hotels in Shenzhen are much cheaper than in Hong Kong. We have a nice five star hotel for about $75. The flights only cost us about $250 each. Of course, that is still kind of pricey for a temple trip. I think there are only four families going from our branch. The youth will do baptisms, though. That will be a wonderful experience for them. We come back Saturday night, so it will be a whirlwind trip! I’m excited to go to the temple again. I always get a lift from the spirit that is there.

We have been having high temps about 70. It has been really nice. Tonight we went to the ultra modern Xintiandi area for dinner. It is only one subway stop away. It’s actually walking distance, too. It is where I run in the mornings sometimes.