two benjamins: crazy-colored and well-traveled

This is probably old news to most Americans, but I’ve been in China for the last two years so I’m not very accustomed to the new banknotes. And seriously? The new 100-dollar bill is weird. I mean … the COLORS! The blue! The orange! They’re supposed to be green. That’s what makes American money so special and wonderfully confusing to foreigners: they’re all the same size and all the same color – green.

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Can you still call them greenbacks or lettuce if they’re now multi-colored? Well I guess we call them ‘dead presidents’ even though Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin weren’t presidents, so like practically everything else with the English language … why not? I know the craziness is due to anti-counterfeit measures, but it’s still weird to see something so established change. THEY SHOULD BE GREEN! Sigh.

After calming down from the shock of color (id est, colors other than green), I noticed that the two c-notes were stamped on the back with a blue mark in Arabic. A US note from a Chinese bank with an Arabic stamp? Huh?

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After a bit of online Googling, I found out that it’s called a ‘chop mark’ and is still fairly common for currency circulating abroad, especially in the Middle East and Asia. Basically it’s a little stamp that someone (a private person or money trader, not the government) uses to indicate authenticity so they don’t have to constantly re-check if it’s real or not. Interesting, eh? In all my life in the States I’d never seen one, but then again, I never did handle many 100-dollar notes.

So I guess at some point these two Benjamins made their way through the Middle East. Ah, the curious travels of US cash.

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chillin’ on the west bund boardwalk

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It’s spring! Oh my, oh my! The weather these past few days has been amazing. Warm, sunny, vaguely blue skies! My perception of ‘sky blue’ has totally warped during my time in China. If it’s more blue than yellow, it’s blue! And blue-gray totally counts as blue. Yay spring!

Over the weekend I hung out down in the West Bund area and chilled for a bit on the boardwalk. Ah, so relaxing to just sit and stare out at sky and water. Reminds me a lot of Long Island City in the way that it’s technically still city and not too far from the action, but feels like it’s a world away. LIC is so much more awesome, but I’ll take what I can get!

goodbye expo 2010

Last year at this time, Shanghai was completely in Expo mode. The Expo was inescapable. There were tourists milling about, prices were higher than normal, statues of Haibao (the blue Gumby-like mascot) were EVERYWHERE, and the news was basically constant coverage of the Expo. It got to be really annoying, but when the Expo closed in October, it really closed. It got quiet. And the Expo was never heard from again. Sort of.

The statue of Haibao that was once prominently displayed on the campus of ECNU is still on the campus of ECNU. Except that once the Expo closed, it got moved to the storage/junk yard in the back corner of the campus. Where it still is. The only reason why I know it’s there is because I take a shortcut that winds between buildings. Depressing, but despite his ill treatment, Haibao still looks quite cheerful in his bright blue.

Oh, and remember this story? At the time I thought his comment about kissing him came out of left field, but now that my Chinese has improved, I realize that he was making a joke about my dismal Chinese skills. In Mandarin, 请问 (pronounced qing3 wen4) means “May I ask?”, which sounds awfully similar to 请吻 (pronounced qing3 wen3), which means “May I kiss?”. So yeah, mystery solved. Good gosh that was a long time ago.

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mia and muffins

Ack! It’s almost been two weeks since I’ve made a single post. Bad, bad me. So much has happened in the last two weeks and I just went to download pictures off of my camera today, so there will be a few posts in quick succession. First of all, the reason why last week was so busy was … wait for it … I GOT A JOB! Okay, it was a temporary job that ended on Sunday, but still! And it was with Mamma Mia! I sold programs and CDs before and after the show and during intermission, so the rest of the time I was free to do homework or watch the show – which was amazing. Bass Concert Hall is a beautiful space. The renovation a few years back made it really modern and simple, just my style. Although now I can’t seem to stop humming ABBA songs.

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But in the mail I received a silicone muffin pan from an online offer thing.

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So … because I had these spiffy new silicone pans, I had never used silicone before, and I was craving chocolate, I decided to make some oatmeal chocolate chip muffins. I love these things and they’re sort of my go-to recipe for yumminess. And the oatmeal makes me feel healthy despite all the chocolate. I’m not quite sure where I got the recipe from since I’ve had it for a while, but I’ve made it a few times (great each time). The recipe follows below.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup (+/-) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Process:

  • combine the oats and milk and let the mixture stand for 15 minutes – let the oats hydrate, otherwise the muffins won’t be soft
  • stir in the egg, oil, 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, and vanilla
  • stir the chocolate chips into the mix
  • in a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt
  • once you have the two mixtures ready, add the oatmeal mixture into the flour mixture until just moist
  • fill the muffin pans about 2/3 full
  • sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes

So what do I think of silicone? Eh, works okay. It’s kind of annoying because since the pans themselves are pretty flexible, you have to put them on a cookie sheet when baking so they don’t flop all around. Also, they don’t brown as nicely so the edges of my muffins looked uncooked and kind of weird. On the other hand, they did clean pretty nicely and they are blue …. They might grow on me, but for now I think I still prefer metal muffin pans and glass for everything else. But for just a dollar, could you find a better muffin pan?

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is reposted here for my own sake.]