night market magic

About 4 blocks away there is a bustling night market that opens around 6pm for dinner and stalls of bargain goods. It is about 3 blocks long, completely shut off to traffic – so people can walk freely and enjoy the sights. The street completely transforms within minutes – while restaurants bring out tables and chairs to eat outside. You can watch guys making handmade noodles, frying chao mien, or barbequing kebabs of all types. It’s a lively atmosphere – and always fun to see the different types of food to try.

Shy lady making dough for noodles and baozi - by hand!!
Sweaty man over the barbeque - all types of meat, from all parts of the animal!!
Chao mien guy - action shot!!
Daddy and the girls roaming the market area


Q&A with my friend Bianca Jane

"Hi McNabb clan! ….so exciting to hear the doors are opening for your Ice Cream business! What kind of shop will it be? Cold-Stone style or are the flavors already set...or do you deliver? Such a fun/interesting business – I’m curious how it came about!" ~ Bianca

Well – we are always eager to feature new Q&A times on here – so thanks for the great questions!

The ice cream business requires a ton of time & work. We finally got our business visas approved, but actually getting it up and running requires a bit more time & energy. Right now -- we have a tiny production site that is ready to go. There is a small kitchen, with all the machines we need to make our special dessert. We don't have a sit-down shop YET, but that would be a great by-product once the ice cream begins to make a profit. We decided to start small at first, which also helps with the amount of money we needed to invest up front.

We will launch (hopefully) in early June -- with about 8-10 flavors. We'd like to have seasonal ones too, but it’s hard to know what we can maintain at first. The basic flavors: vanilla/sweet cream, strawberry, coffee, almond, cookies & cream, banana, red rose tea -- those are the ones for sure. We are hoping to experiment with chocolate (hard to do well out here), melon, peanut butter, green tea, and a few seasonal ones like pumpkin, peppermint, pomegranate, peach/apricot....we will see. We have to get our recipes figured out....so those seasonal ones are still experimental. For each ingredient we have to get a supplier, which is hard out here!! We have to get paperwork, quality clearance, etc. More work than we thought!!

We also deliver! We are hoping to supply nice restaurants and cafés around the city – so we bought a delivery van! Justin made a Styrofoam cooler to go in the back – and we will deliver the ice cream buckets in the van. We still need to get our logo put on the side – but it’s a great mode of transportation! Justin is working on getting his drivers’ license already (which is a story in itself)!

Here's a pict of the shopfront!!


honey truck guy

Today we saw a man selling honey (蜂蜜 fēngmì) off the back of his truck. We thought it was interesting, so we stopped to talk and ask about his special honey! He said this honey was better than the stuff you buy in stores – and he let us taste some right out of the barrels. If you look closely, there are lots of bees that think his honey was good too. But now they are stuck in it. Just wanted to share some picts of this random sight in our neighborhood....we are always learning over here!


south park 南湖公园 party

A beautiful spring day calls for a visit to the park! A little friend (小朋友 xiao pengyou) turned one today so we all gathered to celebrate her! Kids from 4 nationalities all came to celebrate her first year! The grass is so green and fresh – I just LOVE springtime!


our little girl is growing up so fast!

Eden Sofia is getting so big! I still remember the exact moment she was placed on my chest four years ago – blue-faced and so quiet….skilled hands safely delivered her even with the cord wrapped around her neck. Her precious life is a miracle and she is an amazing gift to our family. Turning four feels like a milestone to me – almost overnight she seems like a mature little girl. She is full of spunk & joy – and her playful spirit pervades everything she is. Her outlook on life is a breath of fresh air! Everything she does is full of imagination and wonder! She loves to jump or run or bounce everywhere – and she keeps us on our toes. She loves being outside, shopping at the market, riding her scooter or running at the park. She is already eager to write and spell like her Jiejie (姐姐 big sister)!

This year she requested a butterfly party – so we got creative! Eden does not like lots of attention – so we invited 3 little girls over for games, learning crafts & butterfly dancing. Each little girl went home with butterfly antennae, a purple skirt and colorful wings! I admit that the prep was a bit time-consuming – but I started early and the kids loved having their own butterfly costume to take home. I also loved having a smaller party, which helped Eden not get too overwhelmed. I love that each of our girls are so unique in their personalities and loves. We are incredibly blessed with our sweet 4-year-old who is growing into a beautiful & imaginative little girl!!
Elvira, Asia, Amina, Sydney, Jennifer, Eden!


Xinjiang Food: NAN BREAD

A five minute walk from our apartment will bring you to this tiny hole-in-the-wall Uyghur Bread Stand. It’s almost impossible to walk a city block without spotting a Bread Stand…or smelling its lovely aroma! The bread sold here is called “Nan” or “Nang” depending on who you talk to. Nan is a leavened, oven-baked flatbread. You can find all types of Nan bread across Central Asia – baked differently according to local recipes. The Uyghur people have various types of Nan – but most are similar to a medium sized pizza crust, topped with sesame seeds or onions. They are crisp & toasted on the outside, and soft on the inside. The flat ones are perfect for homemade pizza! We have also found harder bagel-sized breads, or small buns filled with mutton & onions. I have heard there are over 50 kinds of Nan!

Our local Bread Stand consists of a small, dark room with a large wooden counter and a stone/clay oven. One guy prepares the dough, while another bakes the flatbread in the Tandoor. A Tandoor is a large stomach-shaped clay oven, with a small mouth opening at the top, heated below by coal. The men place the Nan into the small opening and slap them against the side of the clay oven to bake in the heat. Nan is best when served fresh from the oven, basted with chopped onions or sesame seeds. Each piece of bread only costs 1-2 kuai (14-28 cents), and they travel well. We pack them for picnics outside the city, make PBJ with them, pizza crusts, or dip them in soups or curry: the possibilities are endless.

Operating a Bread Stand is a family affair. Often each stand is run by many different family members with special recipes known only to them. For many – this is their livelihood, a skill that is passed on to each generation. The family that runs our local stand has three generations that we know of helping to sell their delicious breads! This family is so precious. The father’s eyes are so kind and he always tells me what time to come for fresh bread. His 2 sons work long hours over the hot oven – but always smile when we come. Their two younger granddaughters always play close by, and love to greet our girls as we visit. We are huge fans of them as well.

Nan Bread Etiquette: Bread = Life. It is bad etiquette to eat Nan bread while walking along the road. You never want to waste it or drop crumbs along the street. When serving Nan in your home, you must first break/tear it in half to share. You always break off smaller pieces from the larger whole.

Enjoy these pictures of this beautiful family and their yummy bread-stand!


spolied by the clan.

How amazing to be a mommy! I had a great time reflecting today on motherhood, and the gift it is to ME - not just to my kids. I have grown so much by having these three beautiful souls in my life. They bring so much joy!

My day was amazing. Daddy let me sleep in - and I got up to breakfast being made! We took the girls downtown to look for some last minute party supplies (E turns 4 this week). We ate lunch at a Caribbean Cafe (called "The Vine") and on the way home - I got dropped off for a massage! Massages cost about $5 for 90 minutes! We definitely take advantage of this on special occasions! When I finally made it home in the afternoon - I was greeted with homemade cards, artwork, a beaded necklace (from Asia) and a video that dad+girls created! It was hilarious to watch.

Later, I joined another mommy-friend for dinner at another cafe in town. I didn't cook at all today, which might be a first. It was great to have some mommy-conversation, and be with my sweet friend.

I am so honored to be the mommy of these three gals. They have literally changed my life forever, and have given me more than I could ever have dreamed. I am convinced that I get the best end of the deal! They are such treasures!


Happy Labor Day 2009!

May 1st is a holiday in most countries around the world! ...celebrating the 8-hour work day, and taking a HOLIDAY! We decided to brave the masses and get outside as a family.

We went out to Singaporean food for lunch (yum) and the girls each got a bubble tea (45 cents each). They absolutely love the tapioca balls at the bottom, which provides some entertainment as well.

Then we walked the crowded sidewalks, holding hands tight - and enjoying the sights and smells all around us. People were EVERYWHERE! - Swarms navigating their way without any real flow of traffic. It makes me laugh, because my mom always taught me to "stay to the right" when you walk down a sidewalk, or down a path. I grew up with a deep sense of predictable etiquette. Here, that does not exist. You just head in the direction you want to be, and push your way to get there. That's why we have to hold hands.

Later we hopped on a bus to get home - which is always a highlight for the girls!

Happy Labor Day everyone!!