Happy Birthday, Gracie!

Birthday greetings to my mom (also known as Gracie by those who were her travel companions in China last week).  Unlike 2007, when she and an entourage of 12 came to Beijing to celebrate her 80th, this time she flew back to Minnesota before we could get a big celebration off the ground here.

We did have a fantastic time last week, though, and managed to pack in a boatload of activities, mostly centered around seeing people and eating.  Eating out of bowls.  Big bowls.  Gorgeous bowls.  Funky bowls.  It seemed like every restaurant we dined at my mom wanted to buy their bowls to take home.  I was especially relieved when her attempts to secure a giant granite bowl (yes, I said granite) from a Korean restaurant failed.  Guess who would have had to carry the behemoth home?

Here's a photo of Gracie with some delightful students:
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She probably would not admit to this being a highlight, but we did manage to drag her off for a foot massage one night (which begins with soaking the feet in a barrel of 'tea') where the young fellow working on her feet used a very sharp instrument to remove a nasty callous on her toe—thereby allowing her pain-free walking for the first time in months! 
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As we bounced around Beijing in taxis and mini-vans, laughing all the way, one of my friends dubbed us "Gracie's Girls Gone Wild."  Don't worry, we kept our shirts on.  Well…..most of us did anyway.  One friend opted for a traditional Chinese medicine 'procedure' that involves alcohol, fire, and funny-looking jars.  That night she had the best night of sleep she'd had in ages!
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