Sunday, 11 March 2012

Making a Home

Today is exactly a month since we left the UK. Then there was snow on the ground and F spent the afternoon having a go on his kiddie skis in my MIL’s garden.  The day before, we  finished moving out of our house (which is always so much harder than I expect).  We left in the evening from Heathrow and flew away into our new lives. It seems like a year ago already.

Recently we have been seeing the first signs of spring, some trees have blossoms and there have been a few milder days. Today however is back to cold and we've finally worked out why I’ve had sore itchy hands since we arrived: chilblains. How Victorian.  Ailments aside, life is good and as time passes, we are settling in more and China is starting to feel like home. 

Yesterday we visited some English friends we’ve made and going to their flat was like stepping into a little British oasis.  A cosy, comfy living room, proper tea and coffee brewing in the kitchen and a feeling of instant homeliness. It is still very much a Chinese flat but they've really made it their own. They haven’t imported everything and they certainly don’t live in an expat bubble (not sure that would be possible in Mianyang anyway) but they’ve added little personal touches to make it into a really lovely home.

We returned home to our bare chilly flat inspired and determined to improve it. Before we arrived we expected to be living in a tiny flat but the one we were allocated is really quite big, perhaps because by Chinese standards we have such an enormous family.  So last night we shifted the furniture around to make the living room feel smaller, certainly the first time we’ve ever had to do that! We now have a living room area that does feel cosier. Our walls here are white but very badly marked with no prospects of redecoration so we are planning to hang some more pictures and print some of J’s photos. Also, for the first time in our adult lives, we’ve allowed a telly into our house.  In the UK a few streamed programmes on the computer was enough for us and we didn’t want one, but now having one seems sensible. It'll increase our language exposure, enable F to watch some Chinese cartoons and hopefully make language learning for all of us a bit easier. Still, it feels odd, this big machine in my living room, aesthetically I’m not a fan but hopefully we’ve managed to stop it being the centre of attention. We don’t want to spend a lot or acquire items we don’t need, but I think adding texture to our home will improve it too. Our flat has cold hard floors so a bit of softness should help it feel less austere. Staying true to living local, we’re on a hunt for a good bamboo mat for the floor and some plants. I'm really determined to make this house feel like a proper home.

I’d love to know, how do you make a new house feel like yours, especially when you no longer have all your belongings to make it feel familiar? Any suggestions gratefully appreciated!

photo by


  1. Hi Alisa,

    I am reading your blog from Ontario Canada. 13C today but still we maintain the luxury of central heating.

    You are doing a great job of making this blog interesting to read. I'm glad I found it at the beginning of your journey.

    I am interested to know what you are eating. Are you eating at home all the time or going out to restaurants? What are the spices?

    I would love to see a photo of your apartment.

    Stay warm!

  2. Hi Erin,
    Lovely to hear from you, it's great to know who my readers are. Thanks very much for your kind words about my blog, it's still a new venture for me so thanks for the encouragement.

    I'm pretty obsessed with the food of this area so I'm going to do a post about it sometime in the next week, so thank you for asking some pertinent questions! Short answer- we eat out a few times a week but we're mostly eating at home. We're learning how to cook Sichuan style so a tour of our spices etc is to follow.

    Watch this space...
    Thanks again,

  3. Hi Ailsa,
    I just spent a good hour reading your and Jay's blog. They are both brilliant, and such honesty throughout. Can't wait to read more.
    Love to all and let us know when you are skype-available.

  4. I love your blog. I am living this adventure vicariously through your experiences. I applaud you for doing what YOU want to do with your life and not allowing society or anyone else to stop you.
    I will be interested in the language aspect as I am a former French teacher. I tried learning Mandarin phrases on my own. I know they don't speak Mandarin where you are but a different dialect.
    I am especially interested in how fast your daughter picks up the language.
    Thanks so much,

    1. Thanks very much Jill, that's very kind of you to say so. Both of our boys are picking up the language really quickly (so much so that I need to start making a big effort with mine!) It is Mandarin that we're all learning. You're right that there is a local dialect (and my youngest has a bit of a local accent from his nanny) but everyone has to speak and use Mandarin at the University and in schools etc. so it makes sense for us to focus on it.

      My husband's the linguist and he's wrote a blog about our 'bilingual parenting manifesto' at and I've written more here

      Thanks very much for your interest and I hope you keep reading.