Friday, 2 March 2018


By now I should be home in Scotland with my family ready to begin a new, and very happy chapter of my life. However I hadn't bargained on Mother Nature thwarting my attempts.

I left my apartment in Shanghai at 3-30am on 1st March, some 12 hours later I arrived in Dubai, so far so good. It was a long but good flight. On arriving in the lounge in the airport it became clear I would be going no further, not today at least. I know the weather forecast for UK was not good with a lot of snow arriving, but I was hoping I might just be ahead of it. No such luck. An hour later I was in The Meridian hotel with the temperature outside touching 30c. Not bad you might think, but remember I am headed to Scotland where it is very chilly and I am dressed accordingly, boots and cashmere scarf included. My luggage would remain in the airport as I am booked onto the flight the following afternoon. Thankfully I have enough packed in hand luggage to see me through.

After contacting family and letting them know I was stranded I decided all I can do is to suck it up. After all I wasn't exactly roughing it.

So nothing to do but make the best of it. After all a lovely hotel cannot be sneezed at. A nice bath, dinner in my room and I settled down with my magazine app, READLY, if you haven't tried it I urge you to do so.  My iPad provided me with TV, nothing much apart from news channels on TV here, and if I see another weather warning I may scream, so the night passed uneventfully.

I awake to more disastrous weather reports. My predicament is truly a third world I problem, I do realise that, but it soon became obvious I may not be going home today either. So now I am really not a happy bunny. No amount of food and baths are going to cheer me up today if this is the case! So decided to blog my woes. A problem shared as they say..........

I enjoyed a delicious breakfast, slightly spoiled by some very noisy Chinese people in the restaurant, and I thought I was getting away from it all. Chatted with others experiencing the same issues as I have and the general mood seems to be positive. Still at this point there was still the possibility of us getting home today. Stopped into the shop to buy a deodorant and came out five GBP lighter.

By late morning it became clear all flights were indeed cancelled. So I will hunker down for another night and hopefully get home tomorrow.

This will be my last post as "thecelticcookinshnghai" I will be starting a new blog to reflect my new life. I will keep everyone updated and I hope you will follow me on my next journey in life.
Thanks to everyone who follows me and to those I have come to know through the comments.

ZAI JIAN Shanghai

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

COUNT DOWN................

Today is February 1st 2018 and it is the first day of my last full month in Shanghai. It's almost 6 years since we first arrived and its been an amazing journey. However, as with all good things it comes to an end, and I'm not sad about it, I'm looking forward to going home after almost 24 years travelling and starting a new adventure. I am, however, feeling a bit in limbo at the moment. We have moved out of our Shanghai apartment and almost everything we own in the world is on a ship heading out on an 8,000 miles trip across the high seas. It's always quite a nervous time hoping in 6 or 7 weeks time we will be reunited.

In the meantime it is hotel apartment living. Home at the moment is a luxury one bedroom two bathroom small apartment which has a totally out of proportion sized kitchen. Double oven, induction hob, which I am practising on for my return as I decided to have one put into my new home in Scotland, I am loving it, and a large fridge freezer. Now normally I would be in my element in this kitchen but it has very minimum utensils and crockery so everything I decide to cook has to take some careful consideration, and definitely minimum effort. I have relented and made a few purchases, grater, masher and whisk plus a few bowls. Making lots of soups as all I need is a pot and knife. No smooth purred soups though more the chunky minestrone type. Stews also no problem so we definitely won't starve.

The apartment is part of a mall so without ever going outside I have shops, restaurants, cafes, pool and gym all on my doorstep! This is especially good at the moment as the weather in Shanghai has been so cold, the coldest winter I've experienced here. Also trying to visit all the restaurants that have become our favourites over the past 6 years, and at the same time trying to visit the places we have always planned to visit but never got around to going. So life is pretty hectic. My husband is out of town next week so I think I'll have a quiet week and try to visit the pool more often than the restaurants, lol.

This kind of living is great, sheets and towels changed every two days, room service 24 hours a day if required, a light bulb goes out someone changes it, wifi problem someone is here within a few minutes. You can see why I could get used to it. But it is hotel living and that comes with a state of mind which says "I'm on holiday", so finding it difficult to motivate myself for anything other than having fun. Ok, so maybe not a big problem I hear you say, and I totally agree, no sympathy from you I'm sure, a first world problem my kids tell me, but I so long for normality. I don't have any personal stuff apart from my clothes so there really is nothing I can really do. I don't have my craft stuff, my cookbooks or anything else I can amuse myself with. So happy to trade it all in for my own home again surrounded but not only my "stuff" but with family and friends who I miss every day. I've made lots of friends here who have helped make my time in Shanghai a great time in my life, but the ones I've known for most of my life are there to catch up with and of course can't wait to be spending more time with kids and grandchildren.

This may not be my last post as the celticcook as I'm sure there is one more adventure waiting to be told. So for the next few weeks I'll keep eating, drinking and saying goodbye to all the wonderful people I've met here. No great hardship, and then there's that wonderful light at the end of the tunnel, and that is the big smiles on my grandchildren faces when I get home.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Christmas in Shanghai

Who'd have thought that Christmas in Shanghai would be so lavishly aglow with Festive lights and every mall awash with the most beautiful trees and decorations. In the five years I've been here I have seen it become more and more Festive, or perhaps I should say more and more commercialised. Everywhere you look there is a shopping opportunity. However it is not a holiday here and business will continue as usual on the 25th. You'll still be able to visit the hairdresser at 10-00pm, buy fruit from the corner until 11-00pm, very handy when you run out of a lime for a G&T! and pick up your laundry until they decide to close up for the night. This truly is a city that hardly sleeps.

Now who wouldn't like to see their parcels coming from under this tree? This was the first tree I saw this year, but it wasn't long before there were many more adorning the streets and occupying the many malls.

Moose were the decoration of choice in this mall but the thing that I was most was excited about was the Dolce & Gabbana window in the same mall. It was a table full of all the excesses of the Season. Fruit and candelabras, china, glasses and so much more. Opulent is really the only way to describe it. I loved it. I felt like a child staring into a sweetie shop window.

The hotels also have wonderful displays and an early December coffee morning at The Waldorf started that Festive feeling that arrives with the sighting of the first decorations of the year. Every hotel does a wonderful job of decorating.

I could go on and on with description and photos, and each one would be my idea of a "perfect" picture of how Christmas should be. I just love the twinkling lights and hanging ornaments, I am not a believer in less is more at this time of the year. If there is one time you can really go wild with decorating then this is the time. 

This year for the first time in 43 years my husband and I will be spending Christmas alone without the family. I'm struggling with it a bit but as we are returning home early in 2018 we thought we'd spend our last Christmas in China, in the sun on an island called Hainan Island. We will be in a hotel in Sanya, alone together. I have no idea how Christmas will be celebrated, not even sure I want it to be celebrated. Without my daughters and grandchildren it will just not be the same, although be assured I will certainly be making it avery traditional family Christmas next year!

Although we won't be here over the holiday I have decorated the house. I have done my annual Christmas dinner party and also hosted my book group so really wanted people to get the Christmas feeling.
 So here is a little glimpse of my Christmas decor.

So wherever you are this Festive Season have Fun, Eat, Drink and be Merry. If you can't let your hair down and indulge at this time of the year then when can you? 
Have a wonderful Christmas and a Very Happy and Prosperous 2018.
Thank you for taking the time to drop in on my blog and I hope it gives you an insight into life here in Shanghai and into my life here. 

Wednesday, 1 November 2017


One of the delights of living in Shanghai is seeing all the fruits and vegetables piled high when they are in season. I love seeing the year unfold through the stalls at the market. One of the things I love is when the new ginger comes into season. I love the smell and the pinky hue of the still very young stem. Of course ginger is a very popular item here in China as it is used in almost every dish and you see people buying huge bags of it. I, on the other hand, buy smaller amounts but I still can find myself with too much.

So apart from cooking with it, Chinese Style, I was wondering what to do with it when a friend was telling me he wasn't happy with his gingerbread, he wanted a bit more of a ginger flavour. I told him I like to put some the syprup from the stem ginger jar into my baked ginger goodies. Now there was where the problem came. No stem ginger in Shanghai. No problem.  I didn't think it could be too difficult to make and it would be a great way to use the abundance of ginger around. A quick google showed many recipes and after reading through them realised they were more or less all the same. A quick play around and I found what I felt was the easiest way, all take a bit of time but little effort.


Equal amounts of peeled chopped fresh ginger and sugar.
Slice ginger into slices about 3cm thick.
Put ginger into a pan which it just fits into and cover with water.
Bring to a boil.
 Turn to simmer and leave until a knife easily pierces the ginger.
Top up water if necessary.
When soft add the sugar and simmer until sugar is dissolved and you have a sticky syrup. 
Put into sterilised jars and seal.

Told you it was easy.
Here are my ginger nut biscuits with added chopped stem ginger to give them that little kick of heat.

Trouble is I can't stop eating them. But I guess that's what they're for! Enjoy 

Thursday, 5 October 2017


This week is a big holiday not only in Shanghai but China. It is the time to look forward to a good harvest next year and to give thanks for this year's crop. A bit like our own Harvest Festival. It is a time when many millions of people head home for the holiday, a time when I really want to stay at home away from the mayhem and chaos.

It is also the time when people give mooncakes (yue bing) as gifts. These come in amazing boxes, from simple to the most elaborate. Hotels, shops and restaurants all have their own, with their logos on them. I love the boxes, what's in them not so much! They look to an untrained eye a bit like a pork pie, so far so good, and then you bite into them, at least if you are new to them, anyone in the know will first of all cut into them to establish the filling. Generally it will be a bean paste, red or green, or some kind of preserved fruit,  perhaps a pork mixture bringing it back into the pork pie category but this is all random. I'm sure somewhere it is indicated but so far I have not been able to tell. So I have to admit that my course of action is complete avoidance of the offending offering. I really do not care for the flavour or the texture of the fillings, and the texture is such an important factor for me. Anything I don't like will usually because of texture not flavour.
However, I love the boxes and use them for storing my craft items. Some come with drawers which is perfect for what  I use them for. The mooncakes? generally re-gifted. Sorry!

You can buy beautiful mooncake moulds to fashion the top of your own homemade cakes and these I love. They will be perfect for biscuits and shortbread when I return home. The moulds are wooden and come in many different designs. I am sure they all have some significance but sadly I have not established just what they all mean. Something to get on to.

This will be my last Moon Festival here. Perhaps on my return home I can start a tradition in the family of making shortbread with the moulds at this time of the year, something which will always remind me of my time here in China and something that hopefully can be passed on to future generations. In theory This sounds a wonderful idea, in reality? Well who can tell. I'll get the grandchildren onto it next October.

                                            HAPPY MOON FESTIVAL EVERYONE

Saturday, 23 September 2017


I have had visitors staying with me for the last two weeks and as usual when they leave the place seems so quiet. With my husband being out of town it's even quieter. It was a wonderful two weeks and I really enjoyed not only showing them around Shanghai, but also going along on their trip to Beijing. It's amazing how showing people around opens up your eyes again to the city. I guess having been here for over five years now the sights and sounds which were all so exciting in the beginning have become normal to me. I'd forgotten how scary it is crossing the roads with traffic coming in all directions, and of course now the weird and wonderful stuff on sale in the supermarkets don't even register with me any more. But with friends seeing it for the first time it brought those early days all back.

A trip to the supermarket opened their eyes. Not everyday you see snakes, turtles and frogs, all alive, on sale. Something tells me they don't particularly want to see it again.

Having the second tallest building in the world right outside the window took their breath away and they were soon loving wandering through "my Shanghai",  getting a glimpse of my life.

Strolling along the river on what was a beautiful sunny day soon I was feeling as if I was on holiday too. Shanghai is a really amazing city to visit, and to have been fortunate enough to have been able to live here is quite unbelievable. I have been so lucky and so happy to have been able to share it with family and friends who have visited. It always good to see people from home.

The food of course is a huge part of life here and after initial fears about using chopsticks (kuaizi) they soon got the hang of it and tried all that was on offer. We ate all kinds of foods, not only Chinese and they enjoyed it all I'm glad to say.

Empty plates testifying to the fact that the Chinese cuisine was embraced.

Our trip to Beijing started off at a very busy and mesmerising train station. We were catching the Bullet train which would whisk us all the way to Beijing in five hours at speeds of 310km per hour!. It left on time and arrived on time. Soon we were enjoying all Beijing had to offer. The Great Wall was first on the agenda. It's about 3 hours outside of the city but well worth the trip. It didn't fail to impress. A cablecar ride up and down made it not quite a strenuous as it might have been. I cannot in my wildest imagination think about how they built it.

Of course The Forbidden City and Tian'anmen are other attractions you can't miss when in Beijing and we were certainly not going to miss them.

A trip to the night market and a search for a Peking Duck restaurant was next on our agenda. Turned out it was just around the corner from the hotel! We wandered along the market and decided against eating anything that looked remotely like an insect, and certainly nothing that was still wriggling around. We enjoyed all the sights and smells of this bustling street.

Finally we arrived at the restaurant and were able tho enjoy delicious duck, carved at the table, and managed it all with chopsticks. 

It was a great trip and I was so happy to have gone along.
I think I can say that my friends enjoyed their China trip and they certainly embraced all that was on offer. I certainly enjoyed sharing a little part of my life with them. 
However started to think they were getting a bit too comfortable and feeling to much at home LOL!

My time in Shanghai is now beginning to run out. I'll be home next year, so in the months I have left I must make the best of it. It is a wonderful life here, although most certainly not a normal life. I  always knew it was temporary but that only made me embrace it even more. I'm sure there more fun and strange adventures still to come. I wait with baited breath.

Monday, 14 August 2017


I have just returned from an amazing trip to India, to Agra to, see the Taj Mahal. It is something I have always wanted to visit since I first learned about it at school, many, many years ago!
Finally I got there and I was not disappointed. I was staying in an hotel, The Oberoi, which was located 600m from the Taj Mahal. Imagine my delight when the door to our terrace was opened there it was right in front of me. It was perfect, and I was so happy. Getting up at 4-30am to see the sun rise over the the Taj was no hardship. At this time it wasn't so busy and there were lots of opportunities to take photos. Of which I took many! I was just so happy to be here at last. I never imagined as I listened in school about it that one day I would actually be there. I realise how lucky I am being able to achieve this long time wish.

As if that wasn't enough the hotel was amazing. And on the first night we ate a wonderful Indian meal. The staff were so friendly and willing to chat about the food and the preparation which suited me just fine. I was in heaven.

To top off a wonderful evening I was invited to tour the kitchen. Here I met the chefs, saw all the preparation areas. The tandoori ovens were so hot I could barely stand in the room. I was told the chefs who work there only work for 20 minutes at a time. I am not surprised. I was given a demonstration on how to make kebabs from one of the chefs. My holiday was just getting better and better. 

                       It really was interesting seeing how the orders came into the 
kitchen, including the room service orders, and how they were dealt with. Everything was laid out ready to go when the food was ready. Trays, trolleys and all the sundries which  
come with your food were arranged to make the process as quick and simple as possible. No scurrying around trying to find milk jug, spoon or a napkin here. 
I never thought about how the food gets to the room before, about how many people were involved in it arriving hot and delicious. From the person sitting in a little glass box taking the orders by phone to the person setting up the trolley and trays, not forgetting the chefs involved in cooking it and finally the person delivering it to your room. All very efficient. I will never eat a meal in an hotel room again without thinking about what goes on behind the scenes.

Meeting the chefs was really good. However, I did notice there were no females cooking here. A few in the background of the kitchen but not doing any of the top jobs. When it was time to leave I was given a box of spices which when blended together would make a garam masala mix and told to call if I ever needed any information or help. This amazed me, but don't think I'll put it to the test. I have still to use the mix but I will in the near future. I don't expect to produce the delicious food I was served in The Oberoi, but it will bring back lots of wonderful memories my holiday. 

Travel and Food, two of my favourite things, and with both highlights of this holiday I can say it was one of the best trips I have taken.
I am one very lucky lady.