Miss Gioia

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

So it turns out that Santa Claus is Chinese.

Who knew?

Hope your holiday is Merry and Bright!


Saturday, October 31, 2009


Halloween is not a big holiday here in Taiwan, but we managed to find an event to dress up for at the last minute. We attended a Halloween carnival in Da'an park hosted by a local English school. It was an interesting experience. They held a spelling bee for the first hour of the carnival. All the kids wrote the words on paper in the bee instead of saying them aloud, which was a bit puzzling. The crazy thing was that the kids got every single word right, for thirty or so words in a row. So then they went to a tie breaker, an exercise which used words that weren't on the list that they had studied. You can probably guess how fast it ended after that. The first word was "glad" and four of the five kids on stage missed it immediately. Then they did a round to determine who would get second place. It took like four or five tries. Those kids could not spell the words they hadn't studied to save their lives.

Gioia's costume was not very elaborate,* primarily because I wasn't expecting to find a Halloween party at all. When we realized we had an event to dress up for, I offered her two options for costumes - cat or princess - and she was way into being a cat. Princess was not cool at all. Which was great because every other little girl we saw in the park today was a fairy princess. Almost to a one.

Go Gioia.

*For the record, she also had ears, but she refused to wear them.


Monday, April 13, 2009

The Dress

Gioia's Easter dress has been waiting a long time for today's service. I made it a long time ago (13 or 14 years ago, actually) during a summer trip to visit good friends of our family who live in Ecuador. They graciously hosted me in Guayaquil for six weeks that summer. Looking back, I am astounded that they opened their home to me so completely, letting me experience every bit of their life and culture.

This dress was made that summer. The mom of the family I stayed with owns a factory that makes little children's clothes, mostly beautiful hand smocked dresses for little girls. Most days that summer, I accompanied her to work and was given my own task to work on - namely this dress. The lady that oversaw my stitching was very experienced and exact. I would show her my seams, and invariably she would say it was not good enough and make me rip it out and do it again. It was such a great learning experience. I had already been sewing and embroidering for many years before this summer, but it was in Guayaquil that I learned how to be so exact, how to do it right.

It was lovely to see Miss G wear the dress that I painstakingly created so long ago. It fit her beautifully. The proportions were just right: the puff in the sleeve, the bodice detail, the crisp sash.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Basket

Gioia is still too young for candy, so her Easter basket is full of toys and cute things. The highlight of this year's basket is one of Loobylu's Marshmallow Rabbits, which I bought in an auction to benefit the victims of the Australian bushfires a month or so ago. So she's not only super cute, but also philanthropic. In addition to the rabbit, we also found a spring lamb/bear.* Gioia's Ama (My mom) sent the little rabbit purse, which holds bunny socks, a chick cookie cutter and a painted egg. The playdough also came from Ama.

Chris and I are going to hide the Easter eggs around the house so that baby G can have a mini hunt before church tomorrow. I think it is going to be the kind of hunt where we "hide" an egg right in the middle of the carpet. Heh.

This is the first holiday that we celebrated with Gioia as a new family last year, so I am particularly excited for Easter morning. She is so much bigger, more communicative, more active than she was last Easter. This parenting jazz is CRAZY, man. Crazy.

*OK, so the bear is from Starbucks. Not very original. But the Starbucks bear designers sucked me in with this one. It was impossible to resist.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Eggs

She's not quite sure what this Easter thing is all about, but it sure seems fun so far. We dyed a whole bunch of eggs this morning - pinks, blues, yellows, purples. Gioia was quite jazzed.

More pictures from today are here.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Kuai Le!

It is that time of year again - another Spring Festival is upon us. Which means that it has been just exactly one year since we first met Baby G. Last year at this time we were frantically waiting for the one piece of paper that would give us permission to pick her up from the orphanage. I went a little crazy with the waiting. But we were allowed to go get her just before everything shut down for Chinese New Year. What a crazy time that was.

This year, we are all headed to Hokkaido for a few days of skiing. Not a big trip, just a little getaway while things go quiet in Taiwan. Apparently the snow is coming down hard, so we should have some good powder skiing. Not that I know anything about that, having skied on ice most of my days. So it will be interesting.

Tonight at dinner, Chris prayed that we arrive in Niseko safe and "sane" tomorrow. Which is a good thing to pray for after our crazy round-the-world trip of a few weeks ago. The trip which left me questioning any future travels to the US or Europe until after kiddo leaves for college. Chris says I will change my mind in a month, but I don't think so. We have been in recovery mode for two full weeks now. Gioia is mighty cranky when she hasn't had enough sleep. Mighty. Cranky.

Since we missed all of the Spring Festival preparations last year, we were pleasantly surprised to see the lobby of our apartment complex fill up with fruit, flowers and lanterns. All day Gioia has been handing out hong bao - to the guards, to our neighbor kids, to the dry cleaners' kids. People probably think we are a bit odd, but we are trying.

See you on the slopes!


Friday, December 26, 2008

Aya Sofia

Built by Emperor Justinian in 1532-1537,

the Aya Sofia was considered the "greatest church in Christendom" for almost a thousand years -

until the Seville Cathedral was built in 1520, that is.

Merry Christmas.

We hope your celebrations were fabulous, wherever you are.

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Apparently Gioia is afraid of animated dolls. We first noticed it when a friend gave us a giggling and shaking Zoe doll (something like this but with animation), whom she did not like at all. Last week, Chris also saw that she was terrified of the dancing and singing animated penguins at the mall.

So the Stitch bubble machine that I got her for Christmas... How do you think that went over? Ummm, not so well.

Not good that I made her cry when opening her presents. Oops.

More Christmas present pictures are here.

Labels: ,

Saturday, December 20, 2008


The stockings are hung, and the gifts are wrapped and under the tree. We celebrate our Christmas early this year, as we board a plane to Istanbul tomorrow night and will not be taking presents along.

It is a bit odd for us to be celebrating Christmas in such a warm place, but things are feeling rather cozy despite the warm temperatures outside. Even though I felt unprepared for the season a few weeks ago, everything seems to have gotten done. Cards were mailed last Monday. Gift baskets sent to favorite peeps back home have arrived on doorsteps already (according to UPS). We have watched the Grinch (new version) and Polar Express. All we have to do now is open our own gifts and board a plane tomorrow.

Oh and pack. That too.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Muji House

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I did some Christmas shopping at the Hong Kong airport. Well, not only did I buy presents, but I also bought a gingerbread house in a box. From Muji.*

While it doesn't look as cute as the picture on the package, our little house was quite respectable. It was a pretty simple endeavor. Except for the fact that the sticker on the box which translated the Japanese instructions to English was missing the part for the icing. But we winged it. And it is indeed cute.

Thank goodness for airport shopping.

*Have you read their message?


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

All Decked Out

Thank goodness we have a small apartment.

Decorating for Christmas can be done on a weekend morning.

Leaving plenty of time for lunch with friends.


Friday, November 28, 2008


Tis' the season, and all.

On the plane to Hong Kong last night, the Cathay Pacific flight attendant handed me a Change for Good envelope. It was exactly what I needed. For months I have been carrying around a stack of coins - Yuan, Sing dollars, US quarters. Too heavy to cart around, yet too difficult to remember to spend them when I am in country. So into the envelope they went. Chris hates it when I give my coins to Change for Good. He thinks I should better manage my inventory. But I think it is a win win for all. Someone takes my heavy useless coins away and gives them to someone else who can acually use them. Brilliant, I say.

Speaking of giving, we are in the midst of re-evaluating our annual giving plan. I am a big fan of Charity Navigator for this process. It is one of the most useful websites out there for determining which US organizations are good stewards of donations (here is one for UK peeps). Ever tried to see how much money Operation Smile spends to get your dollar vs on actual programs? Over 25% of income. Think that is a lot? It is.

As for Christmas giving, well... I am still not prepared. I bought some things today in the HK airport, but I still have much to do. Yikes.

Labels: ,

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I Am Not Ready

Normally all our Christmas gifts are purchased, wrapped and mailed by now. I am very much a "plan ahead" kind of gift giving person. As we travel, I like to pick up gifts and stash them in the present closet well in advance of the holiday season.

This year, though, we decided to go to Turkey with the family. That was gift enough for us adults, so I have had no need to plan ahead, to stash away gifts in the closet from March to September. As a result, I have almost completely forgotten about things that still need to be done, like figuring out what to get for people who lie beyond the Turkey circle. What to do for Gioia to make her first Christmas with us special. How to find a church in Istanbul with service on Christmas Eve. I have ordered Christmas cards, at least. But for all else, I am not ready, not as organized as usual.

We also just found out that both Chris and I have to be in the States for the first week in January. Which means that we have to rearrange our tickets, and fly from Istanbul to the US and then back to Taipei a week later, all with baby G in tow. Stressful and expensive, this little wrinkle in the plan. It will all work out fine, of that I am sure. But still, I am unprepared.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Attempt #2

Argh. I can't believe you are trying to make me take a picture with Frankie again, Mom. I am so angry. Watch me throw my Tigger. There - ha HA! I showed you!

So much drama, yet Frankie stays calm through it all.

Perhaps it is time for Plan B.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Christmas Card Photo - Attempt #1

Not happening.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dragon Boat Festival

Today is the Dragon Boat festival in Taipei. Long, long ago an ancient poet threw himself into the river to protest the corrupt Chinese government of the day. The local people were so upset that they threw rice in the river to keep the fish from eating his body.

This festival is celebrated with much enthusiasm in Hong Kong and Taiwan. On the Mainland, however, it was one of the traditional celebrations which was encouraged to "fall away." Perhaps because the whole point of the festivities was celebrating people who stood up against the government. Not good. But this year, China decided to bring it back as an official holiday.Maybe they are feeling more secure in their one party rule. Who knows?

The Dragon Boat festival is marked by two main things: serious boat races and steamed rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves (zongzi). We went to the river front yesterday to watch the semi-finals of the boat races. I forgot to bring the telephoto lens, so I didn't get any great boat shots. But it was cool to see the racers, all paddling in unison to the drumbeat of the leader in the front.

We had a great time at the riverfront. Frankie panted, Gioia walked around (with help from Daddy), and I got sunburned. All in all a good day.

More pictures here.

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter in Taipei

This was our first holiday as a family. It was such a lovely day. Gioia had a great time digging through her Easter basket. When you can't give someone candy, putting an Easter basket together is quite challenging. Two items were really for when she is bigger: a jade cross and a bunny charm. We had to watch her like a hawk when she opened those. We we sure she would put the jade bunny straight into her mouth and choke and die. The tiny bunny was a hit, actually. Chris had to wrestle it away from her in the end.

I really liked the recycled fabric bunny from Muji, but she really wasn't that into it. Perhaps she liked the one her Grandma sent better. And see the basket - which isn't really an "Easter basket"? Yeah, that's what happens when you remember at 11:30 the night before that you actually need something to hold all of the goodies. But, really, who needs a long handled basket cluttering up the apartment?

After the basket was opened and breakfast eaten, we headed off to mass with our friends. But we decided to take the subway instead of a cab, and...well...we got a bit lost. Did you know there are at least TWO 51 Zhongshan North Road places in Taipei? Yeah. We made it, though, just in time to light some candles and sing some songs. An usher gave Gioia a real hard boiled egg, which kept her busy and quiet for at least 20 minutes. After church we had fajitas and margaritas. It was excellent. Perhaps Mexican food can be a new Easter brunch tradition?

Sooooo let me tell you about Gioia's dress. I finished it last night at 11:44. Yes, nothing like last minute sewing. The truth is that I started it late. We just got back to Taiwan a month ago, and the materials I ordered took a couple of weeks to arrive from Australia. And wasn't Easter so crazy early this year!? As a result of all of that, I only started the dress a week and a half ago. I told myself that if I didn't finish for Easter, then it could be her birthday dress. But I finished, and it was really cute today.

I used Cherry Williams' Baby Bishops pattern as the base for the dress. The smocking plate and scalloped edge technique came from an article in an old Sew Beautiful magazine.* I made some silly mistakes,** but it came together quite nicely in the end. Here is a closeup of the embroidered chickies with french knot eyes. Precious.

More Easter pictures are here.

*I think this was the Spring 2007 issue. Hard to say, though, because I have been subscribing for so long that I have to sort through every magazine and save the articles I like in binders. The issue date is not printed on each page, so the articles and patterns can get mixed up in my files. The article was called "Chicken Scratch," and the designer was Linda Richards. Oh wait, good old google tells me it was issue #111 after all.

**Like forgetting that it is important to remove the smocking gathering threads AFTER finishing the neck binding, not before. Yargh.

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 8, 2008

Happy New Year!

The Chinese New Year (aka Spring Festival) is fully upon us. Yesterday baby got her first hong bao. Not quite understanding what to do, she tried to eat it. Following another tradition, Gioia put on a brand new outfit. New clothes for the new year.

Thanks everyone for the formula advice! We will be eating solid food before the bottle from now on (except for the first one). From what I read, it seems she will be getting enough formula even if we cut back on one or two bottles a day. Phew.

Labels: ,

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Long Road Home

Chris and I, seasoned travelers that we are, made a huge mistake last week. We decided to arrive at LAX at 5:30 a.m. for a 6:30 a.m. flight on the busiest travel day of the Christmas season. Hah. Of course we missed our flight last Friday (what were we thinking?) and our subsequent connection. We then spent 28 hours in Denver, trying desperately to get to Nashville. In a word - it sucked.

We managed to grab two of the last seats on a Frontier airlines flight on Saturday afternoon and arrived just in time to change clothes in the airport bathroom and race to see a performance of Handel's Messiah. After all of that, the two hour performance was really, really nice. We then made our way to Chris' parents' house, where we saw Mr. Frankie again.

Little Miss Gioia was very much with us this Christmas, even though she is still far away. Soon, very soon little one.

I hope all of your holidays are merry and bright.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 25, 2006

And the Stockings...

We have had a lovely Christmas this year. My mom and dad have come all the way from Atlanta to visit. They made their flight arrangements before we knew we were moving to Beijing, so Chris and I flew to meet them down south on Friday. We spent two full days in Shanghai, mostly eating. We went to the City Diner for breakfast, had drinks on top of the Peace Hotel on the Bund, then appetizers at La Luna in XinTianDi, finishing up with a little sushi at Shintori. It was delish. Yeah, we did some sightseeing too... but it mostly was all 'bout the food.

We flew back to Beijing on Christmas Eve, and it has been a non-stop stocking opening, present giving, chocolate eating, elf movie watching smorgasbord since we arrived. Speaking of stockings, there are some new ones this year. Here is the amazing cross stitch stocking that Linda, my mother-in-law made for me as a present last year. This thing took her an entire year to complete (can you imagine!?) It has a fabulous crafty theme going on, complete with a Singer sewing machine and a knitting basket. The embroidery was so incredible that I was almost afraid to stitch it up into the stocking shape.

Hope you all have had an equally lovely holiday. Merry Merry!


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Holiday Madness

Believe it or not, this is not a Christmas post; it is about Holidays in China. You see, there are three "Golden" weeks in China in which the entire country gets 7 days off of work. One is in May for the international labor day holiday, one is in October for National Day celebrations and the best one of all is in January or February - the Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year to us lao wai. To get the 7 days off, though, China's powers that be announce some work day rearrangements. You see, people do not get 7 real holiday days. They get 3 holiday days with 4 weekend days lined up nearby. In practice, this means that we are officially supposed to work either the weekend before or the weekend after the 7 day holiday period.

Chinese people do not bat an eye at this work day rearranging, but it would surely cause near riots in the United States. I mean, you cannot mess with a God-given right to a weekend! This week, the announcement came from HR that China has decreed December 30 and 31 as official workdays, with January 1-3 as holidays. So essentially, they moved the weekend to after New Year's Day. Jut because. And again, not a SINGLE person at work thought it unusual.

Now really, there must be a better way to boost your annual GDP estimate, isn't there?

Labels: ,