Friday, December 18, 2015

The Time Has Come!

Bags are packed. Double and triple checks have been made. Farewells and holiday wishes have been said. Now it's time to get on the plane because....


To say I'm excited is an understatement. I don't think there is a word to accurately describe my feelings about going home for the holidays. I haven't slept well all week because I'm constantly day dreaming and thinking about what it's going to be like to be home. I love my job, but this week has been LOOONG! But now the time has come! In just about 24 hours, I'll be home in New Brunswick for the holidays. After two Christmas' away, I have a feeling that this one is going to be extra special! 

See you soon, NB! xo

Monday, December 14, 2015

Recipe: Baked Salmon with Lemon Dill Sauce

I eat a lot of salmon. I have one go-to recipe and I usually stick with it every time I eat salmon, which is usually once a week. Sometimes I get bored of said recipe and I need to mix it up a bit. My friend Amanda was telling me about this "Lemon-Dill Sauce" she got at Ikea that she put on her salmon one night and really liked it. Just listening to her describe it made me drool! The next time I made salmon, I decided to try and make my own lemon dill sauce to top my basic go-to salmon recipe with. My first attempt at making it was a flop; way too much dill! The next time was better. And then the third time was OUT OF THIS WORLD good! I definitely don't think I'm a chef, but I certainly like to pretend I am one. My plating needs work (see sad attempt at plating in photo above), but I definitely think I got the taste nailed down! 

My "go-to" salmon recipe is simple: Salmon on a baking sheet; lightly coat with olive oil and squeeze of lemon; sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a little chopped fresh dill; top with two lemon slices; bake for about 15 minutes. 

Lemon-Dill Sauce for Salmon

  • plain yogurt, 7 tbsp
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise 
  • 3 tbsp chopped, minced fresh dill
  • 1 clove garlic, minced finely 
  • 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste


1. Spoon about 7 tablespoons of the plain yogurt and 1 to 1 and a half tablespoons of mayonnaise into a bowl. Mix together with a spoon. 
2. Finely chop the fresh dill and garlic and add to the bowl with the yogurt/mayonnaise mixture. 
3. I like my sauce bright with lots of lemon! So, I add the juice of the full lemon, but this might be too much for you. I suggest adding half a lemon first and tasting and if you want more, then add the other half. 
4. Stir together. 
5. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. 

I served my salmon with rice and a side of garlic roasted asparagus. I garlic roast all my vegetables lately: broccoli, green beans, brussels sprouts. I SLATHER my plate with this sauce. I went "light" for the photo op, but then sat at the table with the bowl of sauce beside me adding more and more. I mean, it's made from yogurt, so it's healthy right?! 

Try out this recipe and please comment and let me know what you think! Was it to lemony? Too dilly? Just right? What ways do you like to cook salmon? Let's share! 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Weekend Getaway to Shanghai.

At the beginning of November, I got a phone call from my friend Ken. He asked me if I'd be interested in going to Shanghai at the end of the month with a couple of other friends. Of course I was on board! Who doesn't love travelling and taking spontaneous trips just for the heck of it!?

So, on Friday (November 27th) I rushed to the train station after work to catch the bullet train to Shanghai with Ken, Alexis, and Andy. (Sidenote: Andy had to work later than he would have wanted and didn't make it in time to catch the train. So, our group of four turned into a trio for the weekend. Sorry Andy!) 

We got to Shanghai around 11:30pm that night and to our hotel at 12:30ish. A little part of us was hoping that Andy would already be at the hotel after maybe hopping a flight to Shanghai. Sadly though, he was not there. After settling in to our rooms and taking a short wander around the streets outside our hotel, we made a plan for the next day: good food, touristy things, see MIGUEL! more good food and drinks. Sounds like a plan to me!

I had visited Shanghai with Amanda in May of 2014. It was a holiday long weekend and we did a great job of seeing as much of the city as we could in such a short amount of time. This time around, I was going for a normal weekend with two people who had never been before. We agreed that the Pearl Tower and the Bund were a must! So after eating an amazing brunch at Boxing Cat Brewery (which I had eaten at last time I was in Shanghai), we hopped the subway to the Bund.

Oh, another thing! The weather in Shanghai was a treat that weekend! We left smoggy, cold Beijing wearing winter coats and scarves. The layers were shed in Shanghai where the sun was shining and the air was (almost) clean! It made for some awesome pictures of the Bund and city skyline.

After getting our scenic shots, we headed across the water to check out the Pearl Tower. Cliche as it sounds, the pictures really don't capture the view from the top of the Pearl Tower. And they also don't capture the feelings you have while you are up there. You really just need to check it out for yourself! I remember thinking to myself while looking out over the vast and enormous city, how eerie yet mind blowing it is that when I'm down there walking around those streets, there's this whole bustling city around me that stretches for what really is MILES! I'm just one little ol' person in a sea of millions of people! It's crazy! Really.

After going back to the hotel to "freshen up", we met up with my kindred spirit, Miguel! I love this little Peruvian. He makes my heart happy! And I'm so excited that he'll be living in Shanghai for the next couple of years because YAY VISITS! We had dinner at a delicious Thai restaurant called "Coconut Palace" and then we went over to the Shanghai Brewery (which I also ate at last time I was in Shanghai) to have some drinks and continue our hilarious night. Seriously guys, I haven't laughed so hard so frequently in a LONG time. My "abs" hurt from laughing so hard on Saturday! I loved it.

Sunday, we had time in the morning to grab some brunch at KABB with Miguel. Miguel and I share a passion for food. We had discussions about how dining out should be an experience. I think Alexis and Ken might have given us a stare down or two, or maybe just an eyebrow raise, but Miguel and I truly are foodies. Brunch was AMAZING! I'm in love with all combinations of eggs benedict, and KABB's eggs benedict, topped with truffle hollandaise was...there are no words. (Dad, I see you drooling!) 

And then to the train station we went back for home. Of course, the train ride back to Beijing felt like an eternity compared to the train ride to Shanghai. Most weekends, I like to spend time with friends while also finding some time to relax from the craziness that is full-time teaching. While there wasn't much relaxing done in Shanghai, there was friends, laughter, good food, good drink, sunshine, and lots of happiness! Now, that's how weekends should be! 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Addicted |1|

I am currently obsessed with wearing lipstick.

The love affair with lipstick started at the beginning of the summer. Well, actually, in the spring it was birthed. I had gone to Hong Kong with some friends and we hit up the Lush store. They had some samples of lip tints so I tried one. I remember confiding in my friends about my uncertainty with wearing lipstick. That I thought it would make me look weird or it just wouldn't look nice on me. "Clown-like," ya know? Despite it all, I bought the lip tint. I used it quite a bit and got some compliments on it. So, I then bought another lip colour that was brighter and more vibrant. Before I knew it, I had gathered a whole collection of colours. Reds, pinks, mauves. I am addicted. In fact, last week I went to Sephora and spent almost $20 on a tube of red lipstick. Oopsie. 

I wear it all the time. Right now I'm obsessed with red lips. Bright red lips! I've been pairing it with gold-toned eye shadow for a holiday-type look. I'm no makeup genius, but I think it looks good! It makes me feel good, anyway...and that can't hurt, right? 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Happy Birthday, Amanda!

Today is Amanda's birthday - one of my dearest friends. She is turning 26 and I was so to happy celebrate with her last night because A. she's my friend and I love her and B. she is finally the same age as me again!  

I've written birthday blog posts to Amanda before: the "here's to the time" post, the reflection post, the "23 things" post, and the first birthday post. Take a gander at all those posts and if you can't figure out why this girl is my friend, then you are insane! If you want the definition of a giving, thoughtful, kind, honest, and loyal friend, you'll find Amanda's name. If you want someone who listens, offers sound advice, and puts others before herself, Amanda is your girl. If you want to know what makes a great friend, just think of Amanda. She truly is one of the most kind hearted and thoughtful people I know. 

We celebrated her birthday last night with a trip to Haidilao Hot Pot (a dining love that we share) with a small group of friends and family. We came back to her apartment and had birthday donuts, junk food, and watched Halloween movies. (Yes, I "watched" a scary movie - not scary for Amanda, but frightening enough for me who doesn't like any sort of scary movie!). 

I was in Amanda's bridal party at her wedding this summer. I wrote a speech for the reception that had me in tears because while I wrote this speech and recited it, I was overwhelmed with this feeling of "LOOK AT HOW LUCKY I AM!" One of my goals in life is to be surrounded by love, and I am so lucky to have a select number of close friends who I truly love and feel loved by. Amanda is one of those friends. 

Amanda, I want to wish you a Happy 26th Birthday! I hope that you have felt special all weekend and that you continue to feel special all year. Because you, my friend, are a good egg and I aspire to be the kind of friend you are every day. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

I Voted!

I live in China and I voted. I'm two years away from being #Harpered*, and I voted. It started by printing the application, filling out the application, scanning and printing a copy of my passport, faxing it all to Canada, calling and finding out they didn't get it, finding out from Amanda that I can apply online, applying online, getting a special ballot in the mail 5 days later, casting my vote, giving it to the Vice Principal so she can deliver it to the embassy, and done! 

If I can do that 3 week process, you can take 20 minutes out of your day to vote! Please take the time today to have your voice heard. VOTE! Do the thing that many people around the world don't have the right to do. VOTE! If you don't know who to vote for, check out this website: Strategic Voting. VOTE! I'm a firm believer in "if you don't vote, you don't get an opinion!" VOTE! 


I'm not trying to be all "look at me and what I did to vote, I'm amazing!" Because I'm not. I just want to motivate everyone to get out there to the polls today and vote! 

*Stephen Harper has made it impossible for people who have lived outside of the country for 5 years to vote. Many of my colleagues and friends here in China don't have a choice - they can't vote. You do! VOTE!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015.

This year's Thanksgiving was a bit different than my past Thanksgiving's in China. Usually, it's surrounded by a number of people, involving a potluck, and getting to try all kinds of different foods that people associate with their traditional Thanksgiving dinners. This year, I was kind of sad at thinking I wouldn't get to take part in that tradition in my third year living in Beijing. In fact, up until the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving weekend, I had zero plans to celebrate Thanksgiving. I told Amanda how I felt about it, and in an instant we had plans to celebrate Thanksgiving that coming Saturday!

We called a local restaurant and ordered a turkey (which may or may not have cost $123) that they would cook for us, including the gravy. We decided we'd cook potatoes, green beans, squash, and potato dressing. There would be pickles, and cheese, and apple pie with ice cream for dessert. Wine would be poured and games would be played, and we would go around the table and tell each other what we were thankful for. We decided we would just have a small dinner for four to make it more intimate and family-like. So it was me, Ken, and the Zhang's. They were gracious enough to host us! 

It was a great Thanksgiving in Beijing! We laughed and reminisced and shared stories. It made me so excited for Christmas time and getting to go home. All I could think about (besides how fortunate I am to have such amazing friends in Beijing to celebrate this Canadian holiday with) was my family and how much they mean to me. I have said it time and time again on this blog, but I am so thankful and blessed to come from such an amazing, rock-solid family. We are so close and love each other unconditionally. They are the greatest support system and I am filled with so much excitement to think that after 2 years away for the holidays, this year I'll get to sit around that table on Christmas day sharing in the joys of being together and and the warmth that comes with the Christmas season.

I have so much to be thankful for this year. I am thankful for my family and my friends that feel like family (Amanda said this at our Thanksgiving dinner, and it sums up perfectly how I feel about my friends), my students, getting to travel and see the world, FaceTime & Skype, good food, and where I come from.

I know it's a couple of days late, but Happy Thanksgiving!

PS - Read about what my students are thankful for and my Thanksgiving getaway to Vancouver in 2012. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Summer Recap.

This summer was a WHIRLWIND. And that's kind of an understatement. I just don't know any other word that can convey what this summer was. But before I continue, let me back up a bit. 

Last summer (my first summer back in Canada after living in China for year) was also a bit busy. I visited friends and family, went on two trips to PEI, and spent time running the roads of New Brunswick. I remember reflecting on the summer after returning to Beijing and thinking to myself (and also saying out loud) how "Next summer I'm going to spend much more time RELAXING!" HA! HA! HA! But, in my defence, I didn't exactly know 100% that I'd be transferring schools at the end of that school year which drastically changed the length of my summer vacation this year. Transferring from my prior school of two years, BCCSC, to its sister school in the city, CISB, meant that my school calendars changed. My old school wrapped up around the 10th-ish of July and started up again at the beginning of September of each year. My new school wraps up around mid-June and opens it's doors to a new school year mid-August. This means that my summer was cut in half. Instead of having the normal 7-8 weeks off, I was down to 4. I know some people out there probably are thinking "OH, poor Melissa. 4 weeks off from work and boohoo-ing about it!" But teaching is a unique job (and I'll open that can of worms another day) and when you've been living on the other side of the world for a full year, the more time at home the better! So 4 weeks was exciting because I was going home, but also a bit sad because I knew it would go by in a flash and that I wouldn't have time to truly relax and take in the gloriousness that is summer vacation! 

So, there's the back story. 

I had many goals for summer vacation that I wrote up here. Let's recap! 

+seeing my family and us all being together in one place.
This was a success on SO many levels! We gathered to celebrate my Grammy Dickinson's 80th birthday and even had family photos done. My cousin Michelle and I made comment on how we don't remember a time with ALL of us being in one photo together. It was a milestone birthday for Grammy and it was captured in photos which I am so glad we have now! 

My Uncle David also came to visit from Vancouver this summer! I was so excited about this - I love catching up and visiting with this man. The final weekend I spent in NB before departing for China was spent in Saint John. We gathered as a Farwell clan and had such an amazing day/night. We did a scavengar hunt of downtown Saint John then had a Mexican feast for dinner back at my Uncle Mark and Aunt Carolin's. The dancing and laughter that happened induced by some fine tequila was gut-busting funny and a memory I won't soon forget. 

Seeing my family and us all being together in one place = CHECK! 

+ hugs from my parents. They give the most amazing hugs!
The hugs that I got from both my Mom and Dad at the airport when I arrived super late (or super early, depending on how you look at it) were THE BEST! I cried, of course! I just love them so much and feel so grateful to come from such a rock-solid, beautiful family. 

Hugs from my parents = CHECK!

+ sitting on our back deck, sippin' a Dooryard, breathing in the fresh summer air, listening to the sounds of my quiet town.

While I didn't have much down time at home this summer on my back deck, I was able to relax and enjoy a Dooryard or two back there. No photos, so you'll just have to take my word for it! Instead, I'll show you a photo of my view when I was sipping those glorious, citrus-filled, Dooryards.

Sitting on our back deck, sippin' a Dooryard, breathing in the fresh summer air, listening to the sounds of my quiet town = CHECK!

+ bonfires with neighbours and good friends.
One of my all-time favourite summer activities is camp fires. Partly because of the s'mores, but mostly because of the people who are there and the conversations we have around the fire. Every summer, the Johnston's (my second family) and the Dickinson's take a scoot across the border to Maine and go to this absurdly oversized serving "diner-type" restaurant called Grammie's in Linius. We eat ungodly amounts of food and then gorge on ice cream and head back home for a bonfire in our backyard. It's become a summertime tradition that I always look forward to and we always make time for. I've grown up with this family, and (Little) Brad and Nicky are like two more younger brothers to me. Rob and Tracey treat me and (Big) Brad like their own. I love them!

Bonfires with neighbours and good friends = CHECK! 

+ traveling to Fredericton every chance I get to spend time with the best friends in the world.
While I would have liked to get there more often, I did get to Fredericton a couple of times. I got to celebrate my best friends 27th birthday with her and her friends. We even had a couple classic sleepovers! And saw Magic Mike XXL together on the whim (and was pleasantly, AND HAPPILY, surprised by the quality!) I got to take part in another best friends wedding (more on that in a minute). I visited with friends at the market and in downtown Fredericton. Sometimes it was when I passing through from one city back to Florenceville, other times it was to stay a couple of days. I'm just so happy I got the chance to see them! My friends mean the world to me, and I am so thankful that we can be apart for so long and still manage to keep in touch and pick up exactly where we left off! 

Traveling to Fredericton every chance I get to spend time with the best friends in the world = CHECK!

+ Amanda and Tony's wedding!
This was a much anticipated event this summer! Amanda asked me to be one of her bridesmaids in her wedding and I was happy and excited to accept the honour. Kudos to her for planning a wedding from China that would happen in Canada. I spent an evening or two with her planning and helping her to make some phone calls to businesses at home and while sometimes we laughed and broke out in to hysterics, there was also an equal amount of frustrations and annoyances. Regardless of all that, the day of was magical, beautiful, and unique. 

It happened in Fredericton at O'Dell Park. The day of was a bit chilly, but it didn't rain as forecasted so that was a big YAY! It was a very small wedding with family and close friends. It was intimate and special, and I shed quite a few tears when they exchanged their vows. What an honour to watch them say "I Do!" Happiness and love were exuding from both of them. I already knew that they loved each other, but watching them that day I could tell just how deep their love really is. I could tell you so much more about the wedding, but you should read it from the bride's mouth/blog herself (and here, here, and here!

PS - the beautiful photos were done by Kandise Brown. Talented woman!

Amanda and Tony's wedding! = CHECK

+ Snooty Fox!
Snooty Fox is one of my favourite places to go in Fredericton. I spent many a Wednesday (and Tuesday, and Saturday) night at Snooty Fox during my university days. I always enjoy going back there when I visit Fredericton. The first time I went this summer was for Amanda and Tony's wedding. I had eaten at their reception and was too full to eat the spinach and artichoke dip I ordered. I had two bites and remember crying to my friends that I wasn't going to be able to finish it. I was able to go back again with Mom, Grandmom, Uncle David, and Sara for lunch and ordered the dip again and finished the whole thing washed down with a Dooryard. Success! 

Snooty Fox = CHECK! (And another photo cred to Kandise Brown!)

+ driving! I can't wait to be behind the wheel again.
The jamming I did by myself and with others road tripping around was epic! I love driving!

Driving! = CHECK!

+ PEI with the family - golfing, eating, and creating new memories.
I love that at 26 for me and 23 for Brad, we still go on family vacations. He and I are both in the beginning years of our careers, I live in China and he travels all over the province, but at some point in the summer we are still able to all get together, just the original four, and get away for a couple of days. This year we headed back to PEI and stayed at the same place in Cavendish that we did last summer. Brad and Dad went deep sea fishing again, Mom and I went and saw "Anne the Musical", we ate Cows Ice Cream, and dined at some "new-to-us" restaurants. We had a round of golf and I ended up laying down on the rough of the 18th hole sulking because I couldn't hit "the god-damn ball!" Mom and I explored Victoria by the Sea and talked about how next summer we want to try kayaking. We found us a lighthouse, and Brad got offered a new job on one of our drives. It was a great vacation away! 

PEI with the family - golfing, eating, and creating new memories = CHECK!

+ seeing my Mom for the first time with her new knee! I can't wait to see her walking around pain free for the first time in many years!
WOW! After Mom had her knee replacement surgery in the spring, I only heard about the progress and had to envision it in my mind. All I could see is how I had left her at the end of Summer 2014 - in pain, stiff, and struggling to get around. When I arrived home and watched her walk around the airport, I had to squint to see the slight limp she had (and she only had it because she'd been standing for quite some time). As the summer went on, I watched her climb stairs, get in and out of cars without any pain, and go for walks around the block! What a difference. I'm so happy for her!

Seeing my Mom for the first time with her new knee! = CHECK!

+ Road trip to Nova Scotia to visit A & C.
I worked with Andrew and Christina during my first year living in Beijing. We became good friends during the second half of the school year. Christina was an amazing friend, but also offered me some great advice when it came to teaching and the job. I was really sad when they decided to move home back to Nova Scotia permanently but super excited for their new chapter. So, this summer Ken and I made plans to spend a couple of days in Dartmouth visiting with them. We made the road trip and helped them move to their new HOUSE! So happy to have helped them, so happy we got to visit, and so happy to call them my friends!

Road trip to Nova Scotia to visit A & C = CHECK!

+ visits from Uncle David.
I was so excited when Grandmom told me that Uncle David was coming to New Brunswick this summer! He planned his trip so he'd be in New Brunswick while I was home too. I was able to spend 5 days in Saint John before going back to China visiting with him and the rest of the family. We got to explore a new part of New Brunswick (St. Martin's) to us, searched tirelessly for a lighthouse and FOUND ONE FINALLY, we had some yummy meals, we had some great conversations, reminisced, and laughed A LOT. From now on when I hear "Benny and the Jets", I will remember him dancing with Brad, Rebecca, Rachel, and I on the deck. What a night! 

Visits from Uncle David = CHECK!

It's hard to believe I jammed all of this in to 4 weeks. I didn't have a single day where I had NOTHING planned. I wish I could have visited with more people, I wish I could have gone to more places, I wish I could have had more spare time to myself and relax. However, you can't have your cake and eat it to (speaking of which, why the hell not!  This cliche, while I understand it (I think), still doesn't make sense to me. I eat cake all the time! That means I have it, right? Ouch! My head...).

I love my home. I love it so much! It's always amazing to go home again. And this year, I'm COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS! Oh, I can't even begin to express how extremely excited I am for this. It's definitely it's own blogpost soon to come! 71 days, people! 71 days!