greatest hits christmas

Our first Christmas without family creates new Read more

Merry Christmas

For the first time in history, I've managed to send out our Christmas card on time. Read more

christmas cookies

Christmas cookies gone wrong. Sugar cookie recipe meets Singapore Read more

a letter to Santa

Yesterday, Niamh wrote a letter to Santa. She covers all the key points... Read more

suck your stomach in!

"Suck your stomach in and put your shoulders back." How many times have I heard my mother say this? And Read more


raindrops on roses

Posted on by Dalton Dorné Posted in china, travel | 4 Comments

“Raindrops on roses ans whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Brown paper packages tied up with strings. These are a few of my favourite things,” sings Maria in The Sound of Music.

This line (quite obviously seared into my memory from childhood!) popped into my head in Beijing last week. If you’re new to my blog, you may not know yet that I lived in Beijing for almost 10 years – and I love it. In many ways, its also home.

We took a family trip up to Beijing last week, although a working holiday – where I got to work out of my company’s office in Beijing and see my colleagues – it was the first time we took our daughter back since we moved, so it was a homecoming of sorts for her.

Long story short, my daughter was born there and I’m American and her Dad is British. She’s only ever lived in China or Singapore and Chinese was her first language for 3 years. Basically, if you ask her where she is from, she’ll say Beijing. Usually a little white girl with curly hair claiming to be from Beijing is met with belly laughs from whoever is asking her (usually Singaporean taxi drivers) – until she busts out her native mandarin.

We were staying with family friends last week – who deserve a medal for putting us up aka putting up with us. Their son is a year older than my daughter, they grew up together and she affectionately calls him big brother (in Chinese). While the point of the trip was primarily to see them, get the kids together, catch up with friends and take Niamh back to Beijing – I still somehow had a detailed mental list of all the things I  wanted to do/buy/eat. And the list was MASSIVE.

Where to begin…

So when I realized there wasn’t enough time to do it all – a sad moment, I admit – I had to focus on a few of my favourite things…

And here they are.

Candied Hawthorne berries in Fall & Winter

These line the streets – yes they’re sticky exterior is exposed to the windy, polluted Beijing elements. So just don’t think about that, and enjoy.

Yanjing Beer – the beer of Beijing. Ahhhh

Good (and cheap!) beer, this 22 oz size usually retails for about 3 kuai – or 50 cents. You know what else is great? Almost every other Chinese beer! Beijing Beer, Tsingtao Beer, Harbin Beer, etc etc. And I love the small beer cups for quick shooter style consumption. Cheers and drain your cup is the name of the game – if you can’t hang, hire a professional to drink for you. Seriously, some execs keep them on staff.

Lao Beijing restaurant where VP Joe Biden ate

I miss ?? “renao” dining experiences. Renao is made up of two characters, the first meaning hot/heated and the second meaning noise. Together they basically mean a lively atmosphere – but I think a better translation is happy noise because volume is key to a renao environment. Like this Lao Beijing (old Beijing) restaurant we went to – packed on a random mid-week lunch. A feast of 4 shared dishes plus two bowls of noodles and drinks cost 50 RMB – about $8.50.  No wonder people are so psyched for lunch. It’s also where VP Biden ate so I felt very in the loop. Kudos to him for going somewhere truly local.


Xinjiang style cumin and chilli spiced lamb skewers – there really isn’t anything else like it. One of the best ‘ethnic minority’ cuisines.

Split pants potty training

Because its funny to see all those bare bottoms when its freezing out and they are bundled up beyond belief, except for where it really counts! The padded outfits and rosy cheeks (on the face!) are too cute.

Beijing pedicab inside a Hutong

Hutongs, or the traditional old alleyways, simply make me happy. I can’t explain it, I just love them. I love walking down them, eating in small local places, finding historic markings, cool shops…

798 Art District

I love the old 798 factory, which has been converted into an art district, complete with galleries, publishing houses, cafés, shops, bars and creative spaces. Its rapidly becoming very commercial, but the point is Beijing has a great underground vibe. Great art, up and coming music and such.

MuTianYu Great Wall

I know its cliché - but I love the Great Wall. It never ceases to be impressive. I would literally pay to not have to go to the Forbidden City again, its exhausting. But I just at every chance to go to the Wall. We missed on this trip as Niamh got sick, and I’m a little bit heartbroken. I wanted a Great Wall Christmas card…


Jakarta in pictures

Posted on by Dalton Dorné Posted in travel | Leave a comment

Recently I went to Jakarta for work. It was a much cooler, funkier, vibey city than I expected. Needless to say, it wasn’t a fundamentalist, jihad-hungry muslim state that the American media had previously suggested. In fact, the people were super nice and modern.

Here’s some cool facts about Indonesia. Indonesia has 17,508 islands and is the world’s 4th most populous country. It’s Facebook’s second largest market, and Indonesia’s biggest twitter personality is our Chairman’s daughter, Sherina Munaf – who as of today, has 1,126,298 followers!

Urban Road-side Art

Gado Gado with Rice Cake

Gado Gado without Sambal Sauce – even better!


i’m sold!

Posted on by Dalton Dorné Posted in china, chinglish, memory lane, travel | Leave a comment

Found some old photos from China when organizing my files last week.

This was from our Chinese New Year trip in 2005 to Guilin and Yangshou in south China. Several things went wrong with this trip, and the trip alone could be a chapter in my future book on hilarious China experiences.

We found these in our awesome hotel room, which was not reassuring…

christmas, a new year and a new blog

Posted on by Dalton Dorné Posted in holidaze, mommyhood, travel | Comments Off

Sorry about the break, I was busy enjoying the holiday season in England, including my first white Christmas(!), and this post will more than make up the break, I promise. So here’s the highs and lows of our holiday, and what’s next.

A highlight for me of course was having a white Christmas, it was beautiful. But I learned that asking for a white Christmas can be risky, Heathrow had major cancellations and I consider myself lucky to have made it in.

Our gift from the inlaws was a great date in London: tickets to see Warhorse at the national theatre, dinner at a London restaurant of our choice, and of course, them babysitting for us to go! So a couple days after I arrive we were off. It was such a fun date, the show was amazing and snowy London was picturesque. The hubby could even stand, possibly enjoy the show because it wasn’t a musical. While this normally rules out plays for me, the war horse is done with a life size puppet controlled by three people and is really amazing to watch.

That night, the inlaws took our sweet angel to a Christmas party with them in the village. I’m not sure if y’all know, but we have fears that we are raising the class clown. The reports from that night only confirm those fears. Niamh has long had an issue with the ‘pi pi’ song that she learned at her old pre-school in Beijing, or from someone there! ‘Pi pi’ means bum bum in Chinese. The song goes, “I wiggle my pi pi, I wiggle my pi pi” and is usually done in embarrassing and unfortunate locations, including but not limited to, friends houses, the grocery store, restaurants, and my personal favorite for maximum humiliation, the subway. The song is accompanied by bending over and shaking her bum bum, of course. Basically, she will do it anytime there is an audience, despite our best efforts.

Needless to say, I think you know where this is going. Of COURSE, she performed this song at the party, all dressed up in her red taffeta Christmas dress. Only catch is, most people think ‘pi pi’ is ‘pee pee’ as the rest of the song is in English, which makes it even more inappropriate. As if this wasn’t enough, lord only knows what possessed her to take this to new heights, but she pulled down her pants and mooned the entire party while doing it. Eleven times. This is England at Christmas time, this involved pulling down her tights and her big girl panties to achieve. Eleven times over the night, she mooned them!

My inlaws, who no doubt had romanticized showing off their grand-daughter to their friends, were rightfully mortified. Other party-goers laughed, therefore fueling the repeat performances throughout the night.

Now I have never been mooned by her nor have we ever mooned her, where does she get this from? I need someone to blame!

Obviously, the next day long and bizarre talks I never imagined having with a 3 year old took place, and I was assured her bare cheeks wouldn’t be making an appearance the rest of the trip. Or else.

We went to a party with the family on Christmas Eve that was very good fun, and I’m pleased to say Niamh was on excellent behavior. She went home to get in bed and I then went to midnight mass with a few others, in a state that is well, less than ideal for a Church setting. Smartly, we sat in the back. The Church in my husband’s village is gorgeous, a 14th century medieval Anglican Church, with a cathedral-like tower and stained glass windows.

The coolest thing about this Church is that it steeped in history. It was a sanctuary during the black plague and Latin graffiti is still visible on the walls, which was hand etched while people were hiding in the Church.

There was a plague 1000,three times 100, five times 10, a pitiable, fierce violent (plague departed); a wretched populace survives to witness and in the end a mighty wind, Maurus, thunders in this year in the world, 1361

The thing to do in the UK of course, is to go to the pub. So the Church spilled out with people heading that way, at about 1am. An unfortunate and unnecessary shot of tequila was consumed there, and once again, my first Christmas gift was a hangover.

This year was the first year the princess ‘got it’ and that is really a game changer. However, I don’t think it was until Christmas morning, after Santa had come, that she realized what exactly that entails, and well, what Christmas is complete without a few tears? The entire family had to momentarily delay opening presents on Christmas morning, as the knowledge that the presents weren’t ALL for her was simply too much to handle. Someone small had to go upstairs to collect themselves before we were able to start.

Once she was able to pull it together, excitement resumed and we had a blast. She had been a good girl this year, and Santa delivered. Niamh must have been saving up her naughty behavior for post-Christmas, because she let her Daddy have it on the way home.

The hubby and Niamh stayed on in England for a few extra days after I left; it’s a brave man that faces a 14-hour flight alone with a 3 year old. Of course, they were packed to the brim with entertainment: ipod was loaded with Shawn the Sheep, coloring books, a new toy, her baby-doll, healthy snacks and books to read.

Over the next 14 hours, Niamh refused to sit down, shook her butt at other passengers, terrorized the people in front of her by kicking their seat, stood up during meal time so that the woman on the other side of her had to eat with her arm up protecting her food from possible and likely disaster, and worst of all, talking back to Daddy whenever he told her to sit down, put her seatbelt on, be quiet, stop kicking, etc.

He said he even pulled the Mean Mommy move – where he made several threats through a whispered, unmoving mouth. Other mean mommies know what I’m talkin bout.

Her reply? Shouting “No, Daddy, YOU’RE so trouble!!!!” really loudly, to the horror of my husband, who is content in his role as the ‘fun parent’. His personal favorite though was when she yelled “don’t touch me!” so passengers several rows ahead turned around.

The fun parent/mean mommy irony makes this slightly funny to me – only wish a reality camera coulda been there. Instead of taxi cab confessionals, it coulda been ‘mayhem in 33E’.

Obviously, this can’t go on for 14 hours, so my husband took Niamh to the bathroom. He put down the baby changer and set her on it while he locked the door behind him. What should he see when he turns around? She is standing up on the shelf, mooning him, and singing the pi pi song. Well, someone’s bare pi pi got a smack and the rest of the flight went considerably better.

The other highlight of the trip was my super-cute nephew’s first birthday, which was a big to-do. I don’t think I’ve ever had that many friends at a party before! Niamh had a great time and we were all so worn out that we only just made it to midnight, and that’s only because the dog was afraid of the fireworks!

We’re all back in Singapore and defrosting nicely.

So what’s new this year? I’m over this non-budging weight, and I’m going to humiliate myself with this very public account of getting real and shedding it. Check out my new blog if you are on a similar mission, and I welcome you to drop by and give me support. It’s called Such a Pretty Face and is already up and running.

So that’s our Christmas, new year and new blog all in one, uber-long download.

One of my favorite bloggers, Jenny Mac of Let’s Have a Cocktail wrote recently about long-winded talkers. While I’m certain I’m not one of them, this blog post IS the longest blog post I’ve ever done. If you’ve finished it, I congratulate (and thank!) you.

Happy 2011.


things not to bring on the flight

Posted on by Dalton Dorné Posted in singapore, travel | Leave a comment

For my big birthday this year, we flew to Bali for 5 days of much needed rest and relaxation…and celebration! The surprise of my life was my parents and family friends, the Rockey’s surprised me in Singapore and went on the trip with us.

One of the best things about living in Singapore is its proximity to other fabulous destinations, 60-90 mins to Thailand, 45 mins to Malaysia, 2 hours to Bali, and the list goes on and on. What makes this even better are the really solid budget carriers in the region, since moving we’ve flown with both Air Asia and Jet Star – and would fly with both again! This means not only are you an hour away from a great vacation, but you can also afford to go.

For this trip, I booked baggage for the return trip, and got this bit of information in my confirmation email.

Guests can no longer carry guns and/or ammunition on flights to or from Indonesia

Air Asia has only been around a couple years, so this raises a few questions:

  1. When were you EVER allowed to fly with guns/ammunition?
  2. Is it a common occurrence for people to try to board with these?
  3. Why is this the last point on the list?
  4. Is this a joke?

Maybe the real question should be why this made me laugh, instead of cancel my flight… I guess that’s testament to how badly I needed the vacation.

talk about a 180

Posted on by Dalton Dorné Posted in politickin', travel | Leave a comment

Last week we spent five days in Bali for my birthday, it was a big one… More on the fun and surprises of last week later…

One of our first impressions was a large piece of artwork on the side of the road on the way from the airport to our villa, that was a painting of President Obama and Michelle Obama. You don’t expect to see paintings of the US President and his wife being sold on rural streets in Southeast Asia…

I’ve lived overseas for what will be ten years next year – basically my entire adult life has been spent outside of the US. In my time, we’ve been sympathized with (during 9/11) and in some cases snickered at (they got what they deserved) and mostly, spent a majority of the last decade being unpopular over our former President Bush and his actions in Iraq. For Americans living abroad, you are acutely aware of how the rest of the world feels about you.

Seeing this kind of artwork reminds me that we have come a long way in a short amount of time, in terms of getting on better terms with the rest of the world. In fact, I am amazed at all that has been achieved, and yet shocked at how much further we still have to go to get things right back home. But at least we are on the right path.

Another Obama original work on display at a market in Ubud, Bali

Of course, I’m sure there are some who would see this global support as ‘proof’ that he is not American or some other silly fear-mongering rumor.

All I know is it feels good to be liked again!

is this safe?

Posted on by Dalton Dorné Posted in china, just because, travel | Leave a comment

I was standing outside my office in Beijing last week, realizing in my haze of nostalgia after moving to Singapore – that I had completely forgotten how bad Beijing traffic is. Add a little rain to that scenario, and you have an all out pavement based war going on for desperate workers looking for transport home.

After having someone steal my cab more than once, I was starting to despair. Then I recognized the telltale signs of opportunity: a car creeping up towards me, window going down just a crack. This is where years of your mother telling you not to get into the car with strangers flies out the window.

I immediately jump in the car and start negotiating. Black market cabs are so common in Beijing – and safe. They’re just people with cars looking to make a bit of extra cash, usually on rainy days or busy areas. I have many friends in Beijing who still heed their mothers advice, but I got over that a long time ago. And I had somewhere to be!

As we start driving, he flips over what I assumed was a CD player on the console, and puts in a disk. Seconds later, we’re both watching James Bond, in Chinese.

All I could think was how unsafe it was to have a DVD player in the driver’s view?! Is that even legal? (Then again, are black market cabs legal?)When I read about the 9 day traffic jam from Beijing to Inner Mongolia this week – I decided that a dvd player for the driver is entirely safe…for their sanity!

adfab: thai jeans

Posted on by Dalton Dorné Posted in adfab, marketing mumbo jumbo, travel | Leave a comment

Some people do lunges, some people are born with it. Our friends in Thailand however, have the option of buying ass-enhancing jeans!

Even better than the actual product, is the ad itself!

In case the print is too small, here is the copy:

The Revolt Jeans

Ass Up Cut


The tagline makes you stop in your tracks! Would YOU buy a pair?

the old man and the sea

Posted on by Dalton Dorné Posted in travel | Leave a comment

Dom’s catch of a lifetime in the Keys…