The Queen of the Shanghai tattoo scene – ZhuoDan Ting. 

Ever since I met my husband, Glenn, he has wanted a 2nd tattoo. He got his first when he was 18 and let’s just say that he’s not overly proud of it. 😁 So shortly after Christmas this year, he decided it was time to act and his 45th birthday in March was the perfect time to pull the trigger. He started researching tattoo artists in Shanghai and planning on designs for his half sleeve tattoo. 

His research, unequivocaly, pointed to ZhouDan Ting, who is known as Ting. She comes from Harbin in Northern China and once she outgrew the Harbin tattoo scene, she moved to Shanghai and set up shop. She is internationally known and has been featured on the CNN travel website and numerous publications around the world. Glenn had found his artist. 

There is a two month wait list to get an appointment with Ting so back in January, Glenn met with her, put down a big downpayment and booked his ink dates. He had two sittings last week that were 4-5 hours each!  The result is incredible.  There are 4 other artists who work in the studio so you may not have to wait as long with one of them. 

Funny story….Glenn has a torn alc and has to have knee surgery to repair it. As it turns out, the surgery was scheduled for the same day as his coveted first ink day. He contacted Ting to see about rescheduling and the closest day was in June. Glenn then called his orthopedic surgeon and he was quickly able to delay the date of his knee surgery by a few days. In Shanghai, it is easier to reschedule a knee surgery than a tattoo appointment with Ting. She is that good! So tomorrow is knee surgery day….positive thoughts are appreciated 😁😁 We’re very lucky to have Glenn’s brother, Darrell, here from Newfoundland for a visit to keep Glenn company while he recovers. 

Our photographer friend, Lisa Browne from came to the second sitting and took some amazing photographs. She’s also coming to the final sitting on April 11 so stay tuned for another post. Thank you so much for these photos, Lisa. You’re incredible!  ❤❤

ZhuoDan Ting’s studio is located on the 4th floor at 1 Maoming Nan Lu, right on the corner of Yan’an Lu. The studio has a cool vibe and I was happy to hang out and write away on my laptop while sipping a Goose Island IPA. Check out her website

All the photos below are courtesy of Lisa Browne @capturingthefabulise 


Happy Birthday to my love!  I am so thankful for the joy this experience is giving you….you SBTE….Sexy Bearded Tattooed Executive. 😂❤

Until next time!

Only joy, only love,




The impact of a kind word

A couple of months ago, I was having a particularly stressful day.  I was ‘wound tight’ and felt like I may snap at any given moment. That’s a gross feeling.  It was taking a lot of conscious postive energy to speak patiently and kindly to my children.  This particular  day I  had to get groceries so the girls and I headed off to our local store, City Shop.  Their behavior at the store was fine but they were acting up a bit and I was feeling hyper sensitive and was trying to get them to be well behaved, respectful human beings….it’s a lot of work 🙂 It was especially a lot of work when my patience was maxed out.  Anyway, as we were shopping we kept bumping into this lovely older gentleman who reminded me of my Dad (who’s an pretty incredible individual). He was observing me interacting with my daughters and then as we were ready to leave, he made a point of stopping me and saying so sincerely “you are doing a great job”.  At that very moment, it was exactly what I needed to hear.  A little bit of encouragement, understanding and support in this world from an outsider who didn’t know shit about me. He could tell I was trying hard and my girls were benefitting from my effort.  I was thankful.

I have a theory…..if you think something nice about someone….you should tell them.  If it comes in your head say it out loud.  Be genuine and never doubt the impact your kind word can make on someone’s day or life.

Until next time!

Only joy, only love,



The 1st of many posts from the ‘Easy and Wonderful Tea Shop’ Series

China has a beautiful Tea Culture and Glenn and I have certainly embraced it since we moved here. And really, all Newfoundlanders love a drop of tea. We’ve taken our interest to an entirely new level recently as Glenn purchased a ‘tea table’ for the office outside our master bedroom.  We are enjoying the process of making the tea; from scooping the tea leaves to pouring the water at the perfect temperature.  It is very calming.  When I was in Thailand, Glenn and the girls stopped into the Easy and Wonderful tea shop on the 3rd floor of the Hongqiao Pearl City Market and spent some time with the owner, Heidi.  What a lovely woman! They learned a lot, made some purchases and promised to bring me there as soon as I returned.

I met Heidi this week and spent some time in her shop drinking tea and learning some tidbits of information.  My favourite quote that she said was “China makes everything and sends the good stuff to the rest of the world…..except tea. The good tea stays in China”. How lucky are we to get to enjoy and learn about this. When we were ready to leave the store, I felt so completely relaxed… I had just had a massage.  The energy was so zen that it wiped all my tension away.  It was a beautiful experience.  One that I’m planning to repeat again and again.  Heidi has agreed to teach myself and Glenn all about Chinese tea and the tea culture after hours in her shop.  I am going to write a whole series of posts that will focus on what we are learning and we’ll post videos, lots of photos and tons of interesting information.

We have been drinking Heidi’s special tea that she developed called “Healthy Tea”.  It is a blend of scented tea, green tea, black tea, white tea and oolong tea in perfect proportions for maximum health benefits according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  I also love her black ginger tea and red rose tea.  So many teas… little time. 😂😂

Here are some photos from our visit with Heidi this week.

The shop owner, Heidi, and myself. She is a beautiful person and has over 20 years experience in the tea business.
Heidi’s tea table has so many pretty dishes and she prepares every cup of tea with such care and precision.
Tea cups have always been a favourite of mine so this store is right up my alley.  The tins that the tea leaves come in are so pretty too.  IMG_5603IMG_5621IMG_5605


This is our new tea table. The whole process from boiling the kettle and getting it to the perfect temperature to popping the top on the tin of tea and trying to eyeball 3g of tea on a hand crafted bamboo scoop.  The whole process is so ritualistic and calming and is quickly becoming a form of meditation for me.
I think pouring the water is my favourite part. The kettle pours in a perfect, laminar stream.  It’s very beautiful.
And finally, this is where I sit and write and drink my tea from a gift that Heidi gave me…..a dragon cup because my Chinese horoscope sign is the dragon. I treasure it.

Glenn and I are both excited for this project.  Hope you’ll follow along.

Until next time!

Only joy, only love,


Happy International Women’s Day! ❤❤

Happy International Women’s Day to all the beautiful women in my life!  I am blessed to be surrounded by amazing, strong women all around the globe. May you always find peace and happiness in your days. 

I didn’t realize that today was Women’s Day when I booked it but I had the 1st half of my full medical today and spent the morning getting blood work and polked and proded. In the afternoon, I had my first mammogram which wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated 👍😀.  I’m glad to have the process started after scheduling and cancelling it twice already because of conflicts. Women’s Day is a fitting day to check another item off my self care checklist and have a baseline for my overall health. 

Much love to you all and remember to get your paps and mammograms. 😜😘  You’re all incredible women! 

Until next time!

Only joy, only love, 


Our favourite Taiwanese noodle joint

Taiwanese Noodles have become a real comfort food for Glenn and I in Shanghai. This place is about a 10 minute walk from our house on the corner of Hong Mei Lu and Yan’an Lu. It is a small family run business and Glenn and I often go there for breakfast. I never would have imagined eating wontons for breakfast before moving here! But they are so delicious. The wontons are stuffed with pork and mushroom or pork and shepperd’s purse which is a green, weed like vegetable…kind of reminds me of dandelion greens. The wontons are in a super tasty soup broth and you can add spicy chilis in oil to it. Glenn adds two or three heaping spoonfuls of chilis to his while I prefer half a spoonful.

I even made Georgia walk up with me early one Saturday morning for a bowl but she wanted me to to pick her up a croissant on the way to enjoy with her soup. I’m pretty sure she still has her pajamas on but hey, we’re in China. It’s not unusual to see people out for a walk with their pjs on.  😂😂

We often bring friends and business colleagues that are visiting us there for lunch and sometimes grab a couple beers from the convenience store next door to enjoy with the spicy goodness.


So on Sunday afternoon, we found ourselves home with no kids as they were at a friend’s house playing and we wanted noodles…..didn’t want to necessarily leave the comfort of our quiet home. So Glenn hopped on his scooter and drove up there. The thing with ordering the noodles for take out is that they can get too soggy if they are sitting in the soup broth too long. So this time, the owner gave Glenn all the fixings to make them at home!  DYI wonton soup and I think tasted even more delicious 😋

Thanks to Glenn for taking all of the photographs below. You can cook me wontons anytime, babe!❤❤



Come visit us in Shanghai and I promise to introduce you to this deliciacy which, by the way, costs ¥12 a Bowl….less than $5 Canadian dollars for two bowls. 👍👍They do have vegetarian options as well but the pork and mushroom wonton soup and pork and shepherds purse wonton soup are definitely our favorites.

Until next time!

Only joy, only love,



Why “Only Joy, Only Love”?

People have asked me many times why I chose “Only Joy, Only Love” as my tagline for this blog. More than a tagline, it is actually my mantra.  This is what this post is about. It’s a bit long but I wanted to give you some background about me, our life and the experience of moving to China 3 years ago.

Living in Shanghai has challenged me and helped me grow in ways I could never have imagined. It is a highly sensory city with 26 million people. That is not far off from the entire population of Canada.  Think about that??!! It is loud with cars honking and people spitting and talking really loudly. It can be overwhelming in such a different culture and a very foreign language, especially at first. When we moved to Shanghai, I went from being a busy working mom with a career I adored to being a stay at home mom in a foreign country. It felt pretty lonely at times and was a huge adjustment, to say the least.  It wasn’t my first time being a stay at home mom.  My first daughter was born in Calgary, Alberta in 2007 when I was working with the Canadian Petroleum Institute. I did not work for three years after she was born but we moved from Calgary, back to Houston and then back to Newfoundland in those three years so I was very busy and I dearly loved my time home with my daughter. It was a beautiful time in our lives. Shanghai was a different beast all together.

The first year in Shanghai is a bit of a blur……kind of like treading water. Figuring out the basics like where to buy groceries – which can feel like hunting and gathering somedays because you just cannot find everything in one place – and getting around the city was enough to fill a day. Then there was the language. I felt so ignorant not being able to communicate and simple tasks were incredibly difficult. However, I quickly enrolled in mandarin lessons and I was so excited to be living with my husband and girls in the same city after 4 years of him spending more time working in China than being home. It was and still is such a blessing.  Shortly after arriving, I did go through a period of mourning my job and life in Newfoundland. I missed my people and I loved my career where I worked as the Director of Marketing and Development with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra.  I was able to work through that and embrace our life in Shanghai. I said “yes” to invites, went to every coffee morning and get together to try and help me and our family meet people and settle in. When people asked me how our first year in Shanghai was my response was always that I totally felt like I was dating again. 😂😂  My oldest daughter would say “Mommy, can you please keep smiling at people so we can meet them”. It was a good lesson for us all…..everyone is a potential friend. It was a busy and fun time, sometimes overwhelming, but I connected with people and made and still continue to make some amazing lifelong friends. The year just flew by.  At the end of the school year, the girls and I travelled back to Newfoundland for the summer and my husband met us for the last couple of weeks.  Time to reconnect with family and friends there and give the girls real experiences, memories and connections to Newfoundland. That will always be important to me no matter where in the world we live.

The second year I had learned some of the language and knew the drill.  I felt less like I had to put myself out there constantly and was settling into a routine.  Both my girls were in school and it gave me time to explore the city and continue learning the language. But something was missing. It happened gradually…..kind of just chipped away. I didn’t even realize it but I wasn’t finding joy in every day situations anymore. I have always been a positive person and could usually see the good in all situations and people but that “talent” was becoming harder to summon. I wasn’t living positively or purposefully. I was being reactive instead of proactive and a little complacent. I have never been a complacent person.  I’m a doer!  I get sh*t done, personally and professionally, but I just wasn’t motivated. Out of the proverbial steam and I guess it was the accumulation of the past few years catching up.  It had taken its toll. I’m not saying it wasn’t a good year but I had lost sight of a piece of myself that makes me, well….me.

When we returned for our third year, I recognized that something had to change so I could feel more productive, positive, and settled. I didn’t want life to pass by and I wanted to appreciate Chinese culture, the people, and our life, in general. I started caring for myself more and connecting to the person that I was and knew I could be.  So here I am. Trying hard to be the best person, wife, momma, daughter, sister and friend possible and most importantly, trying hard to handle life with grace, positivity, patience and purpose.

So this is where “only joy, only love” comes in. Shortly after returning to Shanghai from Canada for our third year, I had an experience that greatly affected how I deal with situations.  One day at the grocery store, an old lady literally pushed me out of the way and cut in line at the cash register. It is totally cultural and this is a pretty regular occurrence. Locals just don’t line up in China and they also rarely stop at a crosswalk which has caused me to cuss more here than ever before. 😜 As a Canadian who holds doors open for people, smiles and says thank you, people aggressively cutting in line is sooooo foreign. When it happened this day, I SAW RED and almost flipped out on the poor old lady….what the heck?  That was not me! I didn’t like the person I was becoming. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love old people. But thankfully, I paused, took a deep breath and said to myself “only joy, only love”.  The words just echoed in my mind and instead of freaking out, I genuinely smiled at her and told her to please go ahead of me. She looked shocked, smiled back and then thanked me.  HOLY CRAP!  I can still see the reaction on her face so clearly.  It was that experience of almost taking down an old Chinese lady (a little bit of an exaggeration but not really) that I learned the power of pausing before reacting to all situations and “only joy, only love” became my mantra.  That short pause and reminder gives me perspective on how my words and actions affect myself and the people around me. It has definitely made me appreciate living in China more and made me a better mother cause you know how those kiddos can push one’s buttons sometimes.

It doesn’t mean that China and life still doesn’t have it challenges and that I don’t lose my patience from time to time.  Mother Teresa I am not 😂 but I am a work in progress and feel like I am making positive changes to lead a purposeful life. Personally, as a couple and as an entire family we are working to embrace and enjoy life and be tolerant and appreciative. Pausing, taking a breath and remembering ‘only joy, only love’ has helped me live a more peaceful life.  Because no matter how hard one has to look, there is joy and love in every situation. It really is perspective.

So the second half of our third year is filled with a renewed sense of hope and purpose. Our daughters are so happy and content at their school (YCIS Hongqiao) and just thriving socially and academically. After 7 years of diligently and tirelessly working in China, the environmental company that my husband runs (Shanghai West Mountain Environmental) is making positive progress. I am starting a consulting company, focusing on writing this blog and connecting with people all over the world! It’s an exciting time for our family, things are coming together and we are all stoked!

Thanks for coming along on our journey.

Until next time!

Only joy, only love,



P.S. This is a picture from our photoshoot with my friend and amazing photographer,  Lisa Browne (@capturingthefabulise).  This man was just lovely. It’s amazing the beautiful people you can meet wandering around alleyways in China.

Photo Credit: Lisa Browne @capturingthefabulise

To My Intrepid Friends

I recently celebrated my 41st birthday and I had a wonderful weekend with friends and my family in Shanghai. I also heard from people all around the world. I received so many thoughtful messages. Incredible. Connecting with people and keeping in touch brings me a lot of joy. I am thankful to have met each and every one of you throughout our journey and have so many wonderful memories…..from my teaching time in England, to Glenn and I moving around North America every couple of years and now, China. Thanks for keeping in touch and being part of our lives.  

I received a beautiful compliment the other day when a friend of mine replied to a comment I made on Facebook. She referred to me as her “intrepid friend”. Intrepid is not a word that I use and I had to think of what that actually meant. So I did what I always do when faced with this situation…..I asked Siri for the definition of ‘intrepid”. (I just love that woman!) When the words “fearless” and “adventuresome” popped up, I was over come with emotion. I don’t always feel fearless, although I am working on that with varying degrees of success :-), but it felt really nice to have someone view me like that. So thank you, Becky. You just never know when words of kindness can really resonate with someone. I’m thankful to have met you during your visit to Newfoundland and love getting to know your beautiful family through your photos. 

So to my intrepid friends…be fearless and adventuresome and dauntless. Those are great adjectives to live by. I’m having a lot of fun. I love you and want to thank you for loving us. We have a beautiful life and the incredible people we connect with along the way really do sustain us. 

41 is pretty fabulous so far! Thanks again for the wishes…..they meant the world to me.

And in case you needed a reminder…😂😂😂

Until next time.
Only joy, only love,