The Amazing #Art of #Food and #Fruit

I enjoy entertaining at home

I enjoy entertaining at home. Cheers!

Many people know that there are three essential elements in Chinese cuisine, namely, vibrant colours, aromatic flavours and mouthwatering tastes.

Yes, it does not have to be Chinese food that has these main characteristics – all gourmet food, French, Italian, Indian, Mexican, Spanish, Thai, wherever the origin, they have to smell and taste good. In my book, no matter how simple a dish, it has to look good too.

In Chinese cooking, ‘colour’ comes first of all. It is really a matter of appearance and presentation. It is where ART comes alive. I don’t know about you, but a colourful dish arouses my appetite, especially the ones vibrant with bright and diverse colours. It is not the only reason, but one of the reasons that I always use a lot of red and green chillies in whatever food I am cooking. Check out my Kung Bao chicken – don’t the different colour peppers do wonders for the final presentation of the dish?

My Kung Bao Chicken

My Kung Bao Chicken

I have conducted a number of cultural training sessions over the years, and one of things I enjoy talking about is the difference between British Food and Chinese Food. I hope that my British friends would not be offended by the comparison.


Huge variety of Chinese food

Huge variety of Chinese food

I live in a Bi-cultural household, and I often cook a variety of foods to entertain friends and family. My husband is probably as English as one gets. While he loves his Full English breakfast, baked beans and potato mash, he also adores my brand of Fusion cooking, basically Sichuan style with lots of chillies and Sichuan Peppers, as well as my innovations by taking advantage of other exotic cuisines I love, as long as they are fiery and spicy.

Thai Spicy Prawns

Thai Spicy Prawns

Spanis Tapas

Spanish Tapas

Following a number of healthy debates as to which kinds of food are the best, John and I agreed on one thing: The Brits regard food as Fuel, and the Chinese regard food as Art – we happily include the French and other food lovers into the second category.

Western food can look good too. LoL

Western food can look good too. LoL

As Chinese New Year of 2015 is still under way, I have been eating out a lot, as well as entertaining at home. Recently we have had Tao at home too, and he has been perfecting his dish of Chongqing Chilli Chicken. It is one of our favourite dishes and we always order it when we go to a Sichuan style restaurant.

Entertaining at home is my fav pastime

Entertaining at home is my fav pastime

Out and about in Brum with colleagues

Out and about in Brum with colleagues









I have a confession to make: I cannot bake. Guess it’s not totally my fault. I did not grow up in a household with a oven and having desert is not a Chinese tradition.

I love fruit though. So whenever I entertain at home, I always make a big bowl of fresh fruit, mixing some of my favourite fruit on earth: mango, pineapple, grapes, strawberries and whatever tropical fruit in season.

Check out some of these amazing fruit art below, and if you have time, try and do something similar.

Too cute to eat?

Too cute to eat?

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 11.14.42 Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 11.17.17

Posted in Food & Cuisine, Social Media & Photography, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

#Music Monday: The Prayer and I Believe in You is the fifth day of Year of Goat/Ram/Sheep, and many people all over the globe is still celebrating. Unfortunately for those living and working overseas, we do not have the luxury of two or three weeks’ winter holiday, like some of our colleagues working in Chinese universities.

So how do I continue the celebration without taking time off? How about a bit of music to start the week?

Nearly twenty years ago when I was studying in Leeds, I travelled to Sheffield with friends one Saturday night. We went to the concert of Celine Dion. She was hugely popular at that time and to hear her live was a lovely treat.

I remember the supporting band, no other than the Corrs, who was just starting out and later became massively successful with hits after hits. Anyway, Celine Dion was bigger and proved that she had staying power.

Today, I’m sharing her duet with Andrea Bocelli “The Prayer”. It seems highly appropriate at a time for renewal and new beginnings. Let’s pray that 2015 will bring us all joy and happiness, wisdom and peace in the world.

I found the Chinese translations for the original lyrics (English and Italian) which I have copied below.

The Prayer 祈祷


每个夜晚 当满天星光黯淡
(强烈的信念 )



Shall we listen to another of Celine Dion’s duets, this time with another of my favourite band Il Divo? I also had the fortune to watch them when they performed in Birmingham a few years ago. Enjoy!

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#Chinese Year of #Sheep, #Ram or #Goat: What Will 2015 Bring?

21f58PICKRz_1024Many of you educated readers know that in the West you have twelve zodiac signs in a yearly cycle. Yes, there are a number of animals in the Western horoscope, and it begins with a Ram, myself a proud, fiery Aries.

In comparison, Chinese astrology boasts twelve animals signs, beginning with Rat, followed by Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Money, Rooster, Dog and Pig. So on Thursday, 19th February 2015, we welcome the Year of Sheep, or Goat or Ram, whichever you prefer to call it. In Chinese character it is simply 羊 ( pronouncing as ‘Yang’).

imagesSo what does it mean?

I am no expert in Chinese horoscopes, except that I know that I was born in the Year of the Ox, and I am supposed to be hardworking, reliable yet somewhat stubborn. It is also said that Oxen people excel in endurance and discipline, happy with the familiar and do not like change. Well, I am actually not sure how true that is. Personally I like adventures and I embrace change – how the else do you explain that I uprooted myself from where I was born and raised, choosing to live in a foreign country thousands of miles away across oceans and mountains?

I am a metal Ox

I am a metal Ox

Anyway, let’s forget about the Ox, as I have always thought that the Western sign Aries sums up my personalty much better! Let’s count Sheep instead. Does that really help you to sleep? I’ve always wondered why people say ‘count sheep’ when we suffer from insomnia, as I do. It has never helped me. Maybe I should try counting a different animal next time!photo 2

The Sheep Personality: Calm, Gentle, Sensitive, Thoughtful and …

People born in the year of the Sheep are generally considered to be gentle, mild-mannered, shy, stable, sympathetic, amicable, kind hearted and fair. It is also suggested that although they may look gentle on the outside, they are tough on the inside, often insisting on their own opinions, showing strong inner resilience and having excellent defensive instincts.

What's your sign?

What’s your sign?

Well, as I said, I have no idea what Sheep people are really like, and what I wrote above is based on what I read. I just checked and found that my father was a Goat. The rest of my family, we have another pair of farm animals – Tao and I are Ox, while John is a dog, as well as one of my brothers. The other brother is a dragon while my mother is a monkey.  Guess who had the upper hand within the family when I was growing up?

If you are a sheep, ram or goat, do you know which kind? Check out the picture below to find out your element: gold, wood, water, fire or earth?

If you're unsure whether you're a goat, ram or sheep, pick one you like :-)

If you’re unsure whether you’re a goat, ram or sheep, pick one you like :-)

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 15.22.42

So what will 2015 bring to the Sheep?

your-chinese-zodiac-explainedApparently, 2015 is the Year of the Green Wooden Sheep, which contains Earth, Fire and Wood. If your element is one of these, 2015 will bring you good fortune. The strongest element of 2015 is Earth, so those born in the year of 1979 will enjoy most benefits in 2015.

Here is a disclaimer: If you are lucky this year, you can thank me. If not, don’t blame me, as I am only parting knowledge that I acquired from other sources. I am no astrologer or fortune teller, Chinese or otherwise!

Do you know any Sheep, Ram or Goat? Share this post if you do!

How are you celebrating this year? Although in the UK, we do not make a big fuss about Chinese New Year, I shall make an effort this time around: With a little help from colleagues, I am decorating the office with Chinese paper cuts and ‘Happiness’ characters.

42bOOOPICca_202In China, this celebration lasts about a month. Here in BCU International Office, we’re having a Chinese Culture week where I have a few surprises, including a not-yet-known Chinese restaurant for a feast on the CNY day! Are you coming along?

If you are celebrating at home or with friends, and wonder what you should cook, check out Traditional Chinese New Year Treats or Celebrating Chinese New Year in Chengdu.

Wishing you all a great Year of Sheep, with Success and Satisfaction, in everything you do and achieve!

Chinese New Year Greetings from BCU's International Office

Chinese New Year Greetings from BCU’s International Office

Posted in Arts & Culture, China & East Asia, Social Media & Photography, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Goodbye, Freelance #Interpreting, Goodbye, Xuanwei Zhang!

IMG_0276Dear Dr Kirk,

Hope this email finds you well.

I have a request to supply a Mandarin interpreter for Warwick Crown Court, to assist witness to give evidence on the 8th of January 2015. Can you please let me know if you’ll be able to attend and your quote for this assignment?

The email arrived in my inbox on Christmas Eve while I was sunning myself in tropical Tenerife. Would I want to attend court as an interpreter?

Once upon a time, I receive emails and calls like that all the time, and there was a period when I was going to court, all around the UK, on a weekly basis, and sometimes every day of the week.

Then came 2012 with the most unpopular Ministry of Justice framework which outsourced Court and Police interpreting to an agency (I have written several posts on this subject before and HERE is one of them) – it spelt the end of legal interpreting for me, and a number of other professional interpreters.

Various protests around the UK in 2012

Various protests around the UK in 2012

So my last court job was nearly three years ago, do I miss it?

The Parents outside Xuanwei's flat

The Parents outside Xuanwei’s flat

Of course I do. Should I take the job offered by the agency who contacted me on Christmas Eve?

Two reasons that made my mind. Firstly, I knew what the case was about. It was the trial of a police officer from West Midlands force. According to BBC news and local Birmingham papers, he was ‘responding to reports of a stolen vehicle’, but his unmarked BMW was driving at 62 miles per hour which was reduced to 52 miles per hour when approaching the zebra crossing at Newtown in Birmingham, where Xuanwei Zhang, a Birmingham City University student was hit, flying more than 20 metres away and later died in hospital. He was going across the road to buy dinner with his friend who stood right behind him.

Some of my blog readers have read my previous post – As a result of working with the parents in the past few years, I have known this case really well.

The mileage should be 30 miles per hour

The mileage should be 30 miles per hour

Part of me wanted to be there, to hear what the court had to say about the charge against the Police Officer, “causing death by careless driving”, and supporting the family and friends as I had done before. Part of me did not want to be there – I know that I would become very emotional if I did.

This is where I work

This is where I work

Secondly, with my full time job, the first two weeks following the holiday season has been extremely hectic. The family had informed John and me that they would fly over to the trial. I wished them good luck and prayed that there would be justice for them after more than three years of waiting and fighting for their son’s sake.

The agency contacted me again during the trial, soliciting my interpreting skills. For the reasons above, I turned it down. I knew that I would break down if I were in court.

During the 10-day trial, Mr Zhang updated me on a regular basis via the phone. When it was over and the police offer was cleared by the court, he called me that very evening. John and I had already seen reports on Birmingham local papers as well as various social media comments. Cleared: Policeman Found Not Guilty over Chinese Student Road DeathBBC News: PC cleared over Birmingham student crash death.

I could not even begin to tell you how the parents felt. Mr Zhang was interviewed by a Chinese newspaper. UK Chinese Times devoted the first three pages to reporting this trial. Understandably a much longer piece compared to British media reports – see the pictures attached at the end of this post, and if you read Chinese, you’ll know that Mr Zhang accused the British court as ‘hypocritical’ and no wonder they felt let down by the Justice System in the UK.

Personally, I was disappointed in the verdict, and I feel sad for the family. I had shared so much of their grief over the loss of their son Xuan Wei.

Happier times when we took them to Kenilworth Castle

Happier times when we took them to Kenilworth Castle

I was relieved that I did not have to be in court, to listen to the defence. I am glad that my freelance interpreting days are over. There were too many headaches and too much emotional drain on me which were associated with those days in court, in police cells and in prisons.

These days in my still relatively new job, I still do interpreting from time to time, but these occasions are limited to business meetings and campus tours. I do not have to put in too much emotional energy in the process.

BCU campus where Xuanwei used to study

BCU campus where Xuanwei used to study

So finally, I bid farewell to free-lance interpreting. Former clients and agencies alike, take note. I am no longer available! However, I probably will continue to blog about interpreting and translation. After all, I have spent almost half of my professional life as a Mandarin interpreter, and how much I loved doing it once upon a time!

Front page reporting about the trial

Front page reporting about the trial

photo 2

Posted in China & East Asia, Reading & Writing, True Life Story, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments