Life in Shanghai: November 2014

French Concession, November 2014 by Expat Edna

My monthly wrap-ups are for me to share more of my daily goings-on; the little things that make up my life abroad. For previous months, see here

While putting this month’s photos together, I realized: it’s been an incredibly food-heavy month. Possible side effect of Thanksgiving lead-up — or more a sign that I’m too old to care about ‘the scene’ anymore and only leave the house these days when there’s something to be eaten or drank?

The latter. Very much the latter.

Beerfest, Shanghai 2014 by Expat EdnaBeerfest Shanghai 2014 by Expat Edna

Kicking things off straight after Halloween was the fourth annual Shanghai International Beer Festival. Held right along the waterfront, there was a surprisingly fantastic selection of beer and food (including some not-terrible Chinese homebrews), the Latin tents threw together a dance party that made me feel like I was back in Madrid, the so-atrociously-bad-he-was-good DJ kept me in stitches half the night, and I found La Guillotine for the first time since leaving Europe. Best way to start a month.

Brunches at home, Shanghai by Expat Edna

I also started hosting regular potluck brunches every weekend, partly because my huge apartment was feeling lonely and this extrovert needed company, but also because I have a proper kitchen for the first time as an adult and hadn’t been using it at all except as a place to store yogurt and beer.

I’d even mastered Ann’s ridiculously simple crêpe recipe (*I also tried my hand at salted caramel, but burned said hand, and will not be attempting again in the near future) and have been making (and obviously eating) sweet and savory crêpes nonstop since, breakfast lunch and dinner.

Without a doubt I am absolutely not a cook — but this is when I learned: people, making good food is NOT that hard. Seriously. If I can make crêpes — me, whose cooking skills regularly risk burning the apartment to charred pieces on the ground with a hint of salted caramel — anyone can do it.

SideChef wrap party

Relatedly, I’d also started hosting the brunches to help a friend test her company’s cooking app during a three-week ‘test kitchen’. It was pretty darn successful (again: I COOK NOW) and in mid-November there was a fun, very filling wrap party, complete with foodstuffs from various Shanghai expat entrepreneurs: homemade hummus, British cakes, Belgian waffles, banana bread, almond butter…

See, when I lived in Shanghai five years ago, you couldn’t even buy limes. LIMES. This city has changed so fast it’s unreal

Miss Ma's macarons, Shanghai by Expat Edna

Potluck brunch clothing swap: Now this is an event I would have gone to anyway, but the draw of more food cinched the deal. While there — vainly attempting to not bring home more clothes than I’d brought (a failed mission in the end) — I discovered the best macarons I have tasted this side of Paris, with the eyebrow-raising flavor combinations to match (spinach and wheatgrass? espresso and fairy dust? I ate about twenty of those).

Funny story: I told a Chinese colleague I was going to a clothes swap and she asked what that meant, so I explained the concept of going to a party with clothes you no longer wear, and swapping them with strangers as a budget- and eco-friendly way to ‘refresh’ the wardrobe (with whatever was left over being donated to charity).

She thought about it for a second, then politely remarked, “That sounds very American.”

Angelina Paris in Shanghai by Expat Edna

In other food news, I was walking down West Nanjing Road when I noticed Angelina’s has opened up a branch in Shanghai — again, not really surprising because what chain doesn’t have a Shanghai location by now — so you can get your hot chocolate coma on this side of the world now too.

Baoism popup in Shanghai by Expat Edna

And finally, my old friend Jenny’d been telling me for ages about the restaurant she’s opening next spring, Baoism. After many months of bad timing, I finally got to one of her pop-ups to sample the baos and White Rabbit soft serve, and man it’s going to be good. If you’re in the city between now and March look out for them at more pop-ups — but also because who doesn’t love a good pop-up?

Thanksgiving blue, Shanghai by Expat EdnaFlowers on Changshu Lu, Shanghai by Expat Edna

In non-food matters, Shanghai was sitting pretty all month in a warm weather wave that saw most days sunny, clear, and hovering around 70F. The two photos above were taken on Thanksgiving (which, in case you forgot because it’s really hard to remember through the rays of sunshine, is the last week of November…).

Boxing Cat Thanksgiving, Shanghai by Expat EdnaBoxing Cat Thanksgiving 2014, Shanghai by Expat Edna

On said Thanksgiving, I had a quiet dinner at Boxing Cat Brewery with about ten colleagues — only two of us were American, and so we introduced to the Australians, Brits, Chinese, Indians, and Thai among us how to slowly make your way towards obesity in the name of tradition and tasty, tasty carbohydrates.

Bok choy garden, Longyou, China by Expat EdnaChickens in the backyard, Longyou, China by Expat EdnaKung pao chicken translation by Expat EdnaLibrary build, Zhejiang by Expat Edna

My Black Friday and Saturday this year were spent on a work trip in a rural Chinese town four hours away, covering (and somewhat contributing to) a library build. Despite the 5:30 starts, it wasn’t so bad: the school grows their own vegetables (I’m thinking those chickens also go the way of the vegetables) which I found far more fascinating than I probably should have (oh, so that’s where bok choy comes from!).

In the end the new library turned out to be pretty impressive, given that it was only four bare white walls and totally empty at the start. Hooray for doing productive things!

Thanksgiving sweet potato mash by Expat EdnaThanksgiving spread 2014, Shanghai by Expat EdnaThanksgiving artichoke dip, Shanghai by Expat EdnaThanksgiving baked ham, Shanghai by Expat EdnaThanksgiving cranberry sauce, Shanghai by Expat EdnaThanksgiving turkey from Madison, Shanghai by Expat EdnaThanksgiving 2014, Shanghai by Expat EdnaThanksgiving 2014 in Shanghai by Expat EdnaThanksgiving desserts, Shanghai by Expat EdnaFriends at Thanksgiving 2014, Shanghai by Expat Edna

And of course: the main event, Expatsgiving 2014.

I was so excited to finally host at my place for the first time in my six years abroad (I’d hosted before, but by bogarting someone else’s apartment and oven). In fact, the first thought I had when I found my apartment — back in JUNE — was, I can’t wait to host Thanksgiving here! 

And then it nearly didn’t happen.

Due to the unexpected work trip, and scheduling conflicts, and people generally being flaky, I nearly gave up on having an Expatsgiving at all — but two friends rallied and helped me pull together a spectacular dinner at the last hour (wasn’t last-minute, but close).

Overall our group represented six countries from five continents — Australia, Colombia, England, Philippines, Turkey, USA — and boy did we have a gorgeous spread (apparently all of my male friends know how to cook and/or create drinks, it’s very handy). The day was pretty cozy and perfect; I couldn’t have planned or wanted a better first hosted Thanksgiving, with some of the friends I’m most thankful for in this town.

Also: leftovers for days.

Oh, and I finally have a flatmate!

After two painfully frustrating weeks of showing the apartment, I was hours away from giving up and putting the spare room on airbnb when Jo came along. We got along like a house on fire and she moved in two weeks later, just at the tail end of Thanksgiving dinner — after which we cleaned up, promptly started blasting Christmas music and singing along to Wham! together. December is going to be a treat.

What’s next: Holiday parties, another encounter with the Irish president (we’re going two for two now!), Melbourne for Christmas and Sydney for New Year’s!

How was your November?

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  1. White Rabbit Soft Serve sounds the actual bomb, I absolutely love the sweets and always make sure to buy them when I pop into Chinatown (please tell I haven’t got the wrong end of the stick).

  2. Your photos of food are making my mouth water! And congrats on making the crepes – I love crepes. So delicious.

    Hope you have an amazing time in Melbourne and Sydney over Christmas / new year. Have you been there before? I spent new year in Sydney a few years ago, and it was incredible. The firework display in Sydney Harbour was out of this world!

    • Thanks Katie! I’d been to Sydney once before, and we went back again because I’d loved the NYE fireworks there so much!

  3. Wow, Edna, life sounds pretty exciting right now! I love that you are hosting brunches- I wish I could come to one!

    • I wish you could come to one too — especially since I never had you guys over in Paris (except for that one time I brought your iPhone from the US haha) — I have so much more space now, I wish you could see it!

  4. Just came across your blog and I love it! Expatsgiving is always so fun…I had one last year while I was abroad!

  5. What a November! Looks like your Thanksgiving was an absolute success! That food spread looks amazing! I’m glad you rallied despite the obstacles in the way and were able to pull it off. And that picture of you behind the table with all the food is the cutest! You are a much more graceful hostess than me – I’m just happy I remembered to take off my apron halfway through our Expatsgiving and didn’t have food caked in my hair or anything :-)

    • Thanks Sara — so wish you were there for it! Funny enough, I only had the apron on for the five seconds we took photos, my friend brought it over for me just for fun!

  6. Edna I have a million and one foodie recommendations for you in Melbourne! Hit me up!

  7. Looks like an absolutely delicious November! Glad the Expatsgiving went down well. I wish I had a big apartment to cook up a storm for a bunch of people!

  8. Looks like you had a tasty month! Have you been to Sydney for New Year’s before? It is definitely the best new year I have ever had, hands down. Enjoy!

    • I had — and this year did not disappoint! Can’t wait to write about it and post the photos!

  9. Such an exciting month and filled with so much deliciousness! And that’s wonderful you found a great flatmate! (your flat looks really cute, by the way!)
    Annnd… your post made me really miss having girlfriends to do fun things like clothing-swap parties! All expat friends here are all dudes (thumbs down). I think I’ve forgotten how to have girl friends. Or how to make them, at least.
    Also, super jealous of your New Years plans! I thought last year was good but man, it is getting better! Hope you have a lovely December.

    • Thanks Cynthia! The flat _is_ super cute, I got so lucky securing it. I should write a post on that sometime maybe, the Shanghai housing market is so fast-paced…
      And funny thing is, I actually rarely have girlfriends (even at the clothes swap the person who invited me was a girl I met once at a party), my friends are usually all dudes!

  10. does “that sound very American” mean it’s a good thing? I’d totally swap clothes with you haha.. Think I just gained 5lbs reading this post. Congrats on pulling off Expatgiving and yay in the new flatmate!!!

    • Haha it was a polite way of saying she didn’t understand — I don’t think the concept and benefits of swapping second-hand clothes has quite made its way into Chinese culture yet, they’re very much in a ‘let’s all buy new things!!!!’ phase right now.

  11. This makes me want to visit so bad. I feel like while I’m here, I really need to grab the opportunity. My friend is even thinking of moving to China once her contract’s up here.

    • YES! You really should, let me know when you’re free to come for a weekend or something!

  12. Christine says:

    Hi Edna, Shanghai is my absolute favourite city in China. I was born near Shanghai, and grew up in Canada. I love how the city has developed so quickly over the years. I went there last fall and couldn’t believe how much has changed! It’s become quite Westernized. Also, I want to tell you that your blog is very inspiring to me. I’m moving to London, UK as an expat in August. It’s the first time I’m moving away from home. I’m both very excited and nervous about this opportunity. Reading your blog has shed some light on what it’s like to live as an expat for me, so thank you!


  1. […] the greatest, of course, being able to host expat Thanksgiving at my own place for the […]