Monocacy Creek

Monocacy Creek

Levi at Monocacy Creek


Monocacy Creek Park

My boys playing at the park

My boys playing at the park

We took our dog, Levi, to the park over MDW to celebrate his 1st Birthday and to enjoy the beautiful weather — as you can see, he loved it!

30 Minute Diaper Cake



Diaper Cake


I was hosting a Baby Shower for one of my friends, and had always wanted to try making a diaper cake.  I started searching on Pinterest, and of course I found way too many options.  I did not have a lot of time to put this together, so I tried to pick one that seemed easy enough to do – especially for a first-timer.

Honestly, it only took me 30 minutes to put all of this together!  First, I shopped at Michael’s to find the ribbon and flowers I wanted.

What You Will Need:

1. Flowers — I suggest getting a bundle of the plastic flowers that have detachable leaves, because you will want to use those leaves to decorate the tops of the tiers.

2. Ribbon — For the base ribbon layer, I suggest 2-3inches wide (enough to cover the rubber bands!) and the second ribbon layer should be 1/2-1 inch wide.

3. Diapers — I bought a pack of the Pampers Swaddlers Size 1, which was less than $30 (but I’m sure you can find them cheaper) and had about 60 diapers and I still had a handful leftover.

4. Cardboard Paper Towel Roll — Make sure you save the empty roll when your paper towels come to an end, you’ll use it for the base of this cake!

5. Rubber bands — Make sure you have small and large ones.

6. Tape or Hot Glue — you’ll need this to secure the ribbon on the cake.

7. Platter/Tray — you will need a base for the cake to stand on…it can even be a piece of cardboard if you have some lying around.

Ok, now that you have all of the materials you need, let’s get started!

1. Roll each diaper from closed-end to open-end — make sure the sides are even so when you stand them up they aren’t lop-sided — and tie a small rubber band around the center of it. You’ll want to do about 55 of these.

2. Once all of the diapers are rubber banded, grab your paper towel roll and stand it upright.  Start placing the rolled diapers around the bottom (standing upright) — you should be able to fit 6 diapers around the circumference of the paper towel roll — get a large rubber band and tie it around all of the diapers you just placed in a circle.

3. Repeat this step again, but around the first layer of diapers…so you should be able to fit 12 or 13 diapers around the 6 diapers.  It may be easier for you to place the large rubber band around the first few diapers, unless you have a helper that can put the rubber band around them for you!

4. You’ll repeat this one last time for the bottom layer.  You should need around 20 diapers to do the last ring.

5. Your base layer should now be set.  Repeat this process for the middle and top tiers, except your middle tier will only get the first two rings of diapers and the top tier will only get one ring of diapers.  If you feel that the tiers look too small, add another layer of diapers to each one.

6. Now you must hide those rubber bands! Get the wider of the two ribbons and wrap around each tier’s center, tape or hot glue the ends — make sure it’s nice and tight or the ribbon will slide.

7. Do the same for the smaller ribbon, but place on top of the wider ribbon.

8.  After you disassembled your flowers and leaves, start organizing them around the cake.  It’s all a matter of preference when it comes to this.  I started out with a bunch of flowers, but started to take some out as I thought it may be too busy. You can place the leaves on the tops of the tiers, lay them out about an inch a part from each other.

Voila! 30 Minute Diaper cake complete!

This makes a wonderful gift and a beautiful display for any mother-to-be!

If you have any tips or suggestions for other readers, please comment below 🙂


Eggplant Parm Recipe

If you know me, you are aware that I have never been a domesticated woman.

Since living with my boyfriend, I decided it was a good time to get acclimated to the “House Wife” lifestyle. That entails laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, and of course, cooking!

I have always been intimated by the idea of cooking. Like anything else in life, you won’t know if you are good/bad or if you do/don’t like, unless you give it a try.  Pinterest has become my go-to for delicious recipes on the fly.

One of the first recipes I searched was Eggplant Parm. I found several different recipes, but I wasn’t fully satisfied with any particular one.  So, I daringly combined three different recipes and crossed my fingers that the end result would be decent.

Well, to my surprise, the boyfriend loved it! Which says a lot, because he is usually the one that does the cooking 😛

I’ll share my recipe with all of you, in hopes that you can wow your significant other too 😉

Prep Time: 1 hr   |  Cook Time: 30 min   | Total Time: 1 1/2 hrs


2 Medium sized eggplants

1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (I chose a ‘Three Cheese’)

1 8oz package of Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

2 cups of Grated Parmesan Cheese

2 cloves of Garlic

2 eggs

1 cup Skim Milk

2 tablespoons of Flour

2 cups of Italian Seasoning Bread Crumbs



Olive Oil

Basil (optional)

Let’s Get Started:

First wash eggplants, peel and then cut them into 1/4″ rounds.  Sprinkle salt on both sides of each slice of eggplant and place them in a colander (I ended up needing two) with a plate underneath. Let them sit for an hour or so.  This is to take out the moisture and bitterness.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Whisk 2 eggs in a bowl. Combine 2 cups of bread crumbs and 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese in a different bowl.

Take slices of eggplant out of the colander(s) and place them on paper towels. Wipe off excess salt from each side of the eggplant slices.

Dip slices into eggs and then dip into the bread crumb mixture. Place the slices on a cookie sheet (you may need two) after you’ve drizzled some olive oil to prevent sticking.

Place cookie sheets in the oven and time for 10 minutes, flipping the slices after 5 minutes.

While they are in the oven, you can make your sauce.

Take 1 cup of skim milk, add to skillet or sauce pan, whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour, 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1/2 cup of your favorite pasta/marinara sauce. Keep on HIGH until sauce comes to a boil, then let simmer for a couple of minutes..let sauce thicken off heat for a few minutes.

Your eggplant slices should be out of the oven at this point.

Spread 1/2 cup of your jarred marinara/pasta sauce on the bottom of the baking dish (I used 8×8″).

Start placing slices of eggplant in dish (single layer).

Pour some of that sauce you just made over the slices, sprinkle mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan cheese on top.

Place your second layer of eggplant slices and repeat with sauce, mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan cheese.

If you have slices leftover for another layer, go for it! If you have any of that sauce you made left over, pour remaining on top, if not, I just used 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce and topped off with more cheese.  Note* if you have basil, add some to the top!

Place dish in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Serves 3-4 people. You can serve as-is, like a casserole, or you can place over top penne pasta like I did 🙂



Escape to Baiji Mountain

The past two weeks have been extremely hectic.  Last weekend I found myself indulging in some random “Shanghai Water Fight” that a group of people organized…basically, a flash mob.  I was sent a text the night before with instructions for the following day.  We were to meet at 3pm by the water fountain at People’s Square.  The fountain was not running at the time, but turned on precisely at 3pm, which was our signal to whip out our concealed water pistols, guns, super soakers, etc. and just go at it. It started out small, but people kept appearing and kept it going for awhile. The best part was all of the tourists and local families just stopping to watch us.  Even some of the little kids joined in.  It was a good half hour of kid-like fun in the sun.  Last year’s “Shanghai Pillow Fight” resulted in a YouTube video, so if the same happens with this, I’ll be sure to post.


Later that afternoon, I went to the bar with my friend, Fi, to watch a rugby game and cheer on her Aussie team.  Afterwards, there was an organized Rubix Cube party outside of a convenient store, called ‘Lawson’s’.  Since alcohol is sold in just about every corner store, the idea is to raid their stock of beer and hang outside, in front of the store.  The Rubik’s Cube theme didn’t stretch too far, as only a few people showed up in 6 different colors of clothes.  So they were undressing and exchanging clothes in the middle of the street to become one color – quite funny. Of course their stock was too low to handle the number of people flowing in and out, so they actually had a truck deliver more around 11pm to keep the party going.  It was a day full of random events…a good Shanghai day.

I actually had to work both that Saturday and Sunday, so that was the extent of my fun all weekend.

This past week was probably the most stressful, workwise, due to a project deadline.  Thankfully, my team managed to get everything done, just in time for my long weekend away.  Work has really drained me the past few weeks, and I just needed to get out of the city, away from everything and everyone I know.  I found an organized group trip that was traveling to Baiji Mountain in Anhui province for hiking and rafting, so I booked it without hesitation.

The buses departed Shanghai around 5:30pm on Friday and the drive was a good 7 hours because we stopped so many times, and with 60 people, each stop takes at least 20 minutes.  We arrived in Tunxi by midnight and spent the night at a hostel.  We woke early, had breakfast, and got back on the bus to head to Baiji Mountain.  This drive up the mountain was unsettling.  It reminded me of a trip I took with my family to New Hampshire and we drove up Mount Washington, which has the smallest driving path up the side of the mountain, no guardrails or anything to keep your vehicle from rolling down the mountain.Image

I think this drive topped that, in scariness, though, since we were on a coach bus. We had to get off the bus half-way up the mountain because of a landslide, along with other vehicles trying to get past. At one point, our bus stalled out and started rolling backwards. It may have been 10am, but that’s when everyone started to pass around the liquor to help settle nerves. A few swigs of “Big T’s” scotch, some TsingTao beer, and I was able to make it through the rest of the ride. Image

We arrived in a small village at the top of the mountain where we sorted out rooms and ate breakfast before setting out on our hike.  It took about 45 minutes until we reached the first waterfall.  It was beautiful – in the middle of all the green, feather dusting, Suessical-looking bamboo trees. Image

The hike there wasn’t difficult, though very rocky and damp.  We were able to swim in the waterfall, which was extremely cold, but very refreshing.  There was a strong current due to the weather the past few days, so we weren’t able to go directly under the waterfall. Image

After hanging around for an hour we decided to walk further to see two other waterfalls.  They were too strong and water levels too high so we weren’t able to swim in those, but still a beautiful site!

The hike back was a little over an hour, and a little more difficult because it started raining and it was uphill. I preferred the rain though; I think I would have been miserable trying to hike in the extreme humidity we are often subjected to in Shanghai.  Once back at the farmer’s house, I took a short nap before enjoying our traditional Chinese dinner.  After dinner, a mini-bonfire was created and the drinking commenced.  There were groups playing catch-phrase, card games, etc. and we created a beer pong table, using cups two sizes smaller than the preferred solo cups, and indulged in some college-drinking-game fun.  It was the first time I’d seen beer pong played in China, and quite amusing to explain the rules to other foreigners who have never played.  Since there was a fire going, we had to have the traditional campfire treat: s’mores!  A fair amount of foreigners had never heard or tasted a s’more, so it made it fun to teach them how to create one and watch their eyes grow big and light up with a “this is so f***ing good!” look when tasting it.

The party continued on, I was tired by 11pm so I decided to call it an early night since we were expected to be ready early AM for the next day’s activities – also, I really wanted to read more of Fifty Shades of Grey (this book is addicting).

The next morning, after breakfast, we set out down the mountain – a much smoother ride – to the rafting site.  A small van took groups up to the top of the river where we picked out our 2-person raft and were pushed down a considerably steep drop to begin our rafting adventure. Image

ImageThe water was mild compared to any other rafting I’ve experienced in the states, but it was very jerky and there were a lot of surprise drops that made it quite fun.  It was a short run, maybe 40 minutes long before we reached the bottom, or end of the course.  Everyone changed into dry clothes and we left Baiji Mountain, headed for Shanghai.

I had such a great time meeting new people, taking part in fun activities and experiencing a completely different area of China than what I’ve seen living here thus far.  It was so nice to just pay, show up, and have everything else taken care of for me.  If I’m looking to get out of the city for a weekend, I don’t have the time to plan on my own, so this was an extremely viable option, and I plan to take full advantage of their future organized trips, which usually happen once a month.


Spring in Shanghai

It’s been so long since my last post that I don’t even know where to begin with this one.

Let’s see…shortly after my last post, my project manager left the company, leaving me in charge of a big account. So, needless to say, the past month has been a busy one.

On top of that, our office moved from Puxi to Pudong. Which means I no longer have the luxury of waking up 20 minutes before needing to be at work. Now, I wake up almost two hours earlier every day because my commute is close to an hour each way. I do love the new office though.  It’s in a great location – right across from Times Square – so there are plenty of shops and restaurants (and foreigners!).

ImageImageThe first week has been hard to adjust, but it is working out lovely because now, my roommate and I practice our English/Chinese – her English, my Chinese 😉 – to and from work each day.  I think I learned more in this past week than in 9 lessons of Pimsleur.

Anyway….The weekend following my last post, I went to the fabric market, again. This time, I was having a dress tailor-made for the black-tie event, Brawl on the Bund – more on that later.  I spent almost two hours in a corner stall, with no air conditioning, trying to decide what style I liked.  The one I wanted, conveniently, couldn’t be made.  So, I ended up mixing three different style dresses into one.  I had no idea on color, I just knew I didn’t want to stand out too much, so I decided on black with sexy red silk as lining. The following few days I was beyond nervous for how it would turn out.  Reason being, if I didn’t like it, I would be left running around searching the malls for a dress to fit me – something I had no time for.  Thankfully, my first fitting ended up being the only fitting – it was perfect. Well, almost perfect. The slit on the side was originally 3 inches higher, but I showed her, by breaking out into dance, that it was in no way suitable, unless I wanted to give everyone a show! She laughed and sowed it in 10 minutes and I was out the door!


That same evening my co-worker/roommate, Tracy, and I met up with some of my friends for Ladies Night.  A few bars near our house offer free cocktails to Ladies from 9-11pm on Thursdays – free Mojitos and champagne are hard to pass up, especially after a long day(s) in the office.  On our way home, we stopped for a bite to eat at a shop near our apartment.  The shop owner had the cutest puppy tied up outside & in our state, we thought – more like thought – buying this puppy would be the best idea ever. Image

We talked for almost an hour & got him to agree on 200rmb ($35) to cover his cost, or else I could have had the puppy for free.  Good thing I had trusty Tracy with me, who talked me out of buying the pup that night because, clearly, we do not have the time to take care of a pet.  I was initially upset, but very grateful the next morning 🙂

Friday, a group of co-workers organized dinner and KTV (Karaoke) after work.  Image

Karaoke was definitely an experience.  First of all, my co-workers are all Chinese, so every song they sang was in Chinese.  Except for Yimo, who performed a few Eminem songs – hilarious! Image

What I liked the most was that every party is given their own room. I have never been to a Karaoke place like this before. So, for someone like me, who does not like to sing in front of a crowd – unless I have had a few to drink – it’s perfect because you’re just with friends. After KTV, Tracy and I met her friends at a club & ended the night soon after her friend’s phone was stolen.

Saturday! The big event – Brawl on the Bund.  It is an annual event, this being it’s 6th year, where about 1,200 people gather to watch white collar boxing and raise money for a charity. ImageI knew a few of the guys fighting & I am so happy I was able to attend, because this event was just plain awesome.  Everyone is all decked out in their best black-tie wear, receiving free flow of drinks, enjoying a four course meal, all while watching our peers fight in the ring. Image

The boxing event lasted close to four hours. Afterwards, shuttles drove everyone to a bar on the Bund for the after party. Of course there’s an after party for the after party, so I ended up at another bar with some friends until 5am. What an enjoyable night.

So enjoyable, that a bunch of us had to reconvene for brunch and more drinking the next day!  Image

It was a perfect Sunday.  Unfortunately, I had to call it an early night, not because it was Sunday, but because I hadn’t packed yet, and my flight to Macau was at 7am the next morning!

I slept a total of 3 hours before heading to the airport at 4:30am.  The flight was a quick two hours, which put me in Macau by 9:30am.  Check-in wasn’t until 2pm though, so to kill time, Chris and I decided to take a tour of the city via rickshaw. Best idea ever.  Our guide was too funny, posing us in front of the landmarks as if he were a professional photographer.  It was only an hour long, so afterwards we walked around to other sites, got our pictures, and went back to the hotel to relax by the pool.  

I should have prefaced, this trip was arranged by our boss, because our visas needed renewed, so it was a short stay. Since I had 48 hours away from the office, I just wanted to relax and not do anything that required great effort. Once I saw what I came to see, I rested by our resort’s pool until there was no more sun to soak up. That evening we went back into the city for a big dinner and to check out the casinos. Macau is a neat place to visit, but you only need a day or two there.  It’s very small, so you can literally see everything in that amount of time.  It reminded me of Portugal, which makes sense, since it is a former Portuguese colony. It’s not nearly as beautiful, but it does have some areas that resemble the streets of Lagos.  

The return flight landed us back in Shanghai yesterday afternoon.  Literally, as soon as I turned my phone on I was bombarded with work.  There was no way in hell I was going to the office at 5pm after a flight – you gave me 2 days, so I will take 2 days!  I really think these people don’t know how to have a life outside of work. It is really starting to wear on me – if you couldn’t tell!

Apologies for the mini-rant – it’s the stress talking. I love Shanghai, the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made, and I would still stay here if that option were available to me.


Ladies Day

On Saturday, I enjoyed meeting up with some friends for Ladies Day with the Shanghai Tigers – a local Australian football club.  Two buses took the lot of us to the field in Pudong, where they had tents & refreshments set up.  I don’t know the first thing about AFL, but I do know that I enjoy watching the men play!  

After all the games, everyone stuck around to drink a bit & take part in a kicking contest – a traditional event – for ladies only.  We were to steal a “footie” from a player & then attempt to kick the “football” into the goal.  I did not do that well – it didn’t help that the shoe I had on was twice the size of my foot! It was all in good fun though.

Shafl Mascot

The bus ride back was rowdy, as you can expect after a day of drinking, & more games were played until we reached The Camel (sports bar).  I had my friend Joey, this cute little Irish gal, meet me so we could catch up & then Chris and his friend Ray joined later to play some pool.  It turned out to be a great day – can’t beat free champagne, homemade treats, & good company!

Sunday, I had to pick up my skirt at the fabric market.  To my dismay, it was not ready, so they offered to deliver it to my apartment that evening free of charge.  I was disappointed because I had hoped to try it on there, in case it needed alterations, & if I liked it, I planned on having another made.  Chris’s shirts needed alterations, so he was having them delivered also.  I kid that if he keeps eating 20 eggs a day, like Gaston, he’ll need alterations every week!

We went back to the fake market to look around for some good deals, though I wasn’t too pleased with what they had.  Of course, the only time I am looking to buy a pair of flip-flops – I have previously seen in almost every store – they suddenly disappear from the shelves!  I did a lot of haggling and got good deals on a dress, some jewelry, & a purse.

Bargain shopping is fun, but takes skill, in my opinion.  You have to go from shop to shop to see what is offered, & find out the different asking prices of whatever item you’re interested in buying. Most of the time they are all in the same ballpark, but you have to find the right seller that will really bargain with you.  Some of these sellers will tell me my offer is a “joke price” & let me walk away, while others will chase me down & work with me until we meet a price we’re both satisfied with.  I think my skill level has increased twofold since arriving here. Now, instead of taking them seriously when they say “joke price” & walk out empty handed, I just tell them their price is “joke price” & I can get the exact same thing for much less at another shop. That’s when they change they’re attitude & call themselves my friend & give me “serious, friend price”, which still isn’t good, so I haggle more until I pay what I want to.  They say “you very clever girl” & tell me to come back again – ha!

So, I had to cancel dinner plans with some girlfriends that evening because my skirt was supposed to be delivered.  It wasn’t until a quarter after midnight that the doorbell rang! Can you believe that? Thankfully I hadn’t fallen asleep yet.  And I am very pleased with how the skirt turned out, so I will most likely make a trip back to the fabric market next weekend.  I wish custom clothes were this inexpensive back home – I may return with a whole new wardrobe!

Speaking of my return…I’ve been here just short of three months, & the one question that always pops up in conversation is “will you stay longer?”  At this point, I could see myself staying past September.  My boss brought it up the other night, & I shared my thoughts. I think it surprised him to hear how much I enjoy Shanghai.  If that will actually happen, I cannot say, but should an opportunity arise, I would go for it.

On another note…it’s Shanghai’s first Beer Week this week! Hopefully I will find the time to check out some of the events.