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Hi. I'm Erica. Thanks for visiting. Stay a while. Have a look around. Leave a comment. Let's talk, k? 

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Stella and I have returned from behind the Wall of Great Fire, back to the land where Gbps are plentiful and speedy and Twitter, Facebook, and blogs flow freely. And while we are both so happy to be back home, not least because we get to see Mr. Chef and the fur boyz, I'm having a major vacation hangover. I had, like, the best time in the history of times in China. And now I'll all like, oh, wait a minute. Real life that's not filled with friends and wine and yum cha, nor does it boast built-in babysitters or Sichuan pepper, vibrant markets, near camera thefts, train rides, pigs penises, insane taxi drivers, or lunch in the clouds. Real is full of dishes, and laundry. It's quiet, boring and clean. Real life can, therefore, shut the front door.


I'll tell you all about everything after a good night's sleep. But in the meantime, let's use pictures to pretend that we're time traveling back in history to a mythical land of free and unencumbered Chinese Internet, and I'll say, ni hao from Beijing.



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Past the tipping point

Let me confess something to you.

I have never written on a blog before - or not that often, if you take my occasional comments on my wifes Blog into consideration. Yet, when my wife started packing last week to go visit her friends in China I just somehow thought it would be rather cool to write a Guest post on my wifes Blog as Mr Chef.  

I should have thought about that a little bit more before I managed to convince my lovely wife to hand me her log in credentials - which by the way was probably not easy for her to do given her experience with me and her Facebook account. 

So, here I am, past the Tipping Point, and I still have not managed to post a Blog entry. It really is not that easy. I thought, I just wait til I have a day off, sit down, write something really cool about being a Chef and how it is not like Mr Anthony Bourdain makes it look like. I mean, thanks to this guy a majority of people assume every Chef lives like a Rock star, enjoys live a little bit too much and goes on about values of the industry while selling himself out. 

But then, who would want to read about 14 hours days, irregular days off, phone calls from Team members in the middle of the night about yet another Bacon crisis and last minute cancelled vacations. Totally true but really boring. 

So here I am, trying to write down something witty, smart or potentially interesting to my wifes readers. I look at some of the past posts my wife wrote to get inspired - and inspired I am. But when I read some of her past posts, look at what I wanted to write about my days as a chef. I just thought to myself, wow, how does she do that ? 

I mean really, we are in a small City in a Country with a language that is not that easy to learn and managed to get pregnant in our 1st week here. Most days, I am gone for 12 to 14 hours and regular days off is something that only recently came into our lives. Yet, my wife is doing a fantastic job raising our beautiful baby Girl while keeping the cats in check, writing her blog & articles while doing most of the house work and still greets me with a smile when I come home yet another hour later than promised. 

And I think to myself, that instead of doing yet another show with Mr AnthonyBourdain that maybe they should do a show about the wifes behind the Chefs. Who put up with all the insanity we Chefs seem to need in order to have satisified work life. To me really, those wifes are the real Hereos. 

So Erica, thank you ! Thank you for being a huge part of my life and giving me the support you do while being the best mum ever ! Without my 2 princess in my life, I could not do what I do every day. 

Now, you might wonder what this all has to do with the Past the tipping Point title ? As any Husband knows who has been alone for extended period of time the Tipping Point is where you wonder wether you should do the laundry or wait til the wife is back - hence, past the Tipping point... ( Hi Erica )

Oh, and yes, of course I did the laundry. I even mopped the floors while watching an Oilers game.

I am learning. 



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Sound Check

NorthSouthEastWest: Expat Dispatches

Moving abroad sends our senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell into overdrive, and in this month’s NSEW offering, we explore an element of expat life through one or more of the five senses.

In Sound Check here on Expatria, Baby, Linda (North) finds that it is distinctive sounds that remind her where she is. In Bottling the Essence of Beach Life, Russell (South) walks us through the multitude of sensory experiences found at the beach. In Tastes that Tell Our Stories, I (East) admit that I do, in fact, cry at Cheerios and roasted chicken. And in Nasal Manoeuvres, Maria (West) knows that no-one knows France like her nose knows France.



Sound Check

by Linda A. Janssen

Every place has its own distinctive pattern to be discerned by our five senses. A unique signature, if you will, that identifies exactly where we are or where we've been.

When I think back to living in Mexico many years ago, I can easily recall the sickly sweet smell of the meat carcasses displayed in the local mercado, the pungent odor of unwashed bodies crammed into the hot confines of the raggedy old bus slowly winding its way to the pyramids at Teotihuacan, and the gentle, fragrant breeze of indigenous flowers wafting through Cuernavaca.

In travels far and wide, I remember the dry, hot wind blowing across the Western Sahara, the coarse sand between my toes in Majorca, fingertips clutching a coin to toss in Trevi fountain in Rome, snowflakes brushing against my cheek in the frigid Czech Republic, the sticky tropical humidity of the lowlands of Jamaica and the rainforest of Panama.

Visual recollections are far too numerous to catalogue: who can forget the overwhelming splendor of the Hermitage Museum, the Louvre, or the Prado, the view from the Pont de la Tournelle in the City of Lights, Mount Etna rising majestically out of the Sicilian landscape, the Sphinx in Giza or Urquhart Castle standing silent watch over Loch Ness?

And tastes? Don't get me started. The velvety creaminess of fine Belgian chocolates, the smoky richness of Hungarian goulash, the tang of fried ox blood after cold cerveza with lime in a tiny Mexican village bar, a sizzling steak in Buenos Aires from cattle grass-fed on the Pampas, a baguette (any baguette) hand-selected from just about any French boulangerie, freshly caught Alaskan salmon and crab, bracing white Maltese wine, the most amazing ravioli with gorgonzola cream sauce in Florence...

But when I think about the Netherlands, my home of almost three years now, the sense most deeply ingrained into my memory is that of sound.

My other four senses have certainly been fully engaged, natuurlijk.

There are the windmills, of course, old and new standing side-by-side in the flat countryside. And then there's the light. It's a little difficult to explain, but the light is different here. (Isn't that often the case?) It's filtered somehow, almost gauzy in springtime. How else to explain the glorious genius reflected in certain paintings of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Rubens, early Van Gogh?

The magnificent beer, fabulous cheeses and delicious appeltaartje met slagroom. The smoother texture of Euro bills and the added effort of maintaining your balance while strolling on old cobblestones. The sweet smell of chopped onions mingling with the briny sharp scent of the fish during herring season.

Yet it is a host of sounds captured by my sense of hearing that most clearly inform me 'you are here, you are in Nederland':

49604sk6o62c48bA North Sea wind howling across the reclaimed Dutch polder.

In the warmer months, the sporadic cry of seagulls in The Hague, even a mile or more inland.

The thwap and immediate little splash of a voetbal landing in a field-side canal.

The calls of the fishermen after a hard day's work as they dock in harbors up and down the coast.

The low-key hum of bicycle tires, the tinny trill of the bell reminding you not to step into the bike lane as you turn to cross the street.

The steady clop clop clop of a horse as it cantors past, its rider lost in reverie under the dense forest canopy.

The singsong quality of the high-pitched 'Dooie' heard as Dutch women and children bid their farewells.

The clackety clack of trams busily transporting people from one stop to the next.

The distinctive pop of an opening swing top on a Grohlsch beer bottle, forever immortalized in a current television commercial.

The simple melodies and catchy refrains of levenslied (life songs), an accordion-based music popular here.

The phlemmy-throated sound of the Dutch letter 'g' that always brings to mind my cat coughing up a hairball.

Even the eerie silence of the modern windmills is itself a thing of beauty.

These are the sounds that tell me where I am, root me to the present, and will always remain in my heart and in my mind.


Image credit: Photostock, portfolio 2125, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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I'm behind the Great Fire Wall. And the powers that be have decreed that my random ramblings and pictures of my dissident child are too sensitive for the eyes of decent Chinese people. So, basically....there will be a whole lot of silence going on up in here until I'm back on the other side.


Until then, wish me luck as I descend the length of half the country in a train with my one-year-old, about 100 kg of luggage, and all the goats and chickens.



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Evening afforded a little extra time tonight. Time for playing trucks. The couch was the tunnel. And oh, did we laugh.


I just love this kid. 


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Small Style, Mini High Fashion Edition

We're working on posing.


When I ask Miss S, "Go stand over there so I can take your picture," she does this:




Cute, yes. But we need to work on our listening comprehension. While she is "over there" she is neither standing, or is she in a particularly photogenic position. We're working on the concept of high fashion posing. You know. It's an important life skill. I want to set this kid up for success. I want her to know her flattering angles, and how to take a million selfies so that she can post them on her blaaaaawwwwggg, and then pin those pictures on pinterest so that she can show the world what impeccable taste she has. Critical, important life changing things like that. Forget the violin, I'm teaching my kid how to look cute in front of a camera.

(Do I sound like an a-hole? Because I'm totally making fun of all you fashion bloggers out there who take pictures of yourselves and post them on your blog.)*

(Oh shit. I do that too. *cough*I'madouchebag*cough*)

Anyway...moving on. Here, we're making progress.



I dunno. We're working it out.


Stella Wore

Jacket: (Gigantic, for next year, but well, if there's something new in the closet, it needs to be worn now.) Baby Gap

Pants: Tea Collection

Leg Warmers: Baby Legs

Boots: See Kai Run




Oh hey? how bout a vote on Top Baby Blogs? I kind of hate myself for caring about stuff like this, but, well I gain an enormous amount of validation as I watch our numbers climb** and so obviously a vote for me is a vote for meantal health. 


*Totally kidding. I love blogs like that. But I also love making fun of myself. 

**We're currently number one billion.


Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

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So, I guess we're doing blossoms two days in a row. But there's one bloom on the tree in front of my building, so obviously I had to climb up on a wall to get this shot, because, well, it suggests that spring is around the corner, and the unrelenting rain and cold and frigid feet and housebound days might just be behind us soon. So whatever, there will be more of these up in here. Way more.



Oh, wait. I couldn't decide. I got this one too, and I love it, kinda.




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