Saturday, January 30, 2010

Weekend

I went out with N. & her friends C., E., & A. to celebrate N.'s February 2nd birthday. We started off at a Japanese restaurant just east of the 中山MRT station, by 南京東路一段 & 新生高架道路. I feel like we had everything on their menu... it  was a lot of food. There wasn't any sushi or sashimi though. I guess it was authentic Japanese dishes. It was good. We had plum & rice wine over dinner. C. knew the owner so after the food was done, they brought out another glass of plum wine for everyone & a bottle of sake on the house. Considering the amount we ate & the amount of alcohol we ordered, it was pretty cheap... $150 for 5 people.

After dinner, we taxied over to Opus, a lounge by 敦化南路 & 市民大道. Apparently E. is a shareholder of Opus. Makes sense why he walked in as if he owned the place =p We got through a bottle of vodka playing drinking games. They really love their drinking games in Taiwan. At first I didn't care to play, but it's actually quite fun when you win, especially when you're a newb & everyone's expecting you to lose hahaha.

We played 2 different games: a dice game & this hand game... so the dice game is kind of like bull-sh*t. You get a cup of die & shake it up & you go around the table saying how many of whatever die is on the table amongst everyone but you always have to be increasing the number of die or the number ON the die by at least one digit. I'm good at calling peoples' bull-sh*t. The hand game I think is pretty hard 'cause you need to go fast in order to win, but if you're tipsy, it makes it hard to react =p Basically you take turns calling out 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 while changing your hands from closed/open position (the number referring to fingers). The object is to not put out the number that the other person calls. If the number put out by the two sets of hands is called by the other person, then they get to go again and if they call the right number again, then you drink. Probably sounds more complicated than it is. Some people take that game very seriously and are really really fast.

Anyhow, we left after finishing the bottle of vodka. It was a very small lounge. It had 2 floors to it, but the first floor only had one big booth with a long bar and standing room. The 2nd floor had 3 big booths, 4 little round bar tables, and a big bar that took up the center of the floor. It was dead at 10, but was filled by 11. N. has pics on her camera, so I will post when I get those.

Today we spent the day in 淡水 (Dan Shui), which is at the north end of the red MRT line. It cost just over $1USD to get from the apartment to the north end of the city (about 40 minute ride). I still can't get over how cheap transit is here. 舅婆 (maternal grandma's sister-in-law) has moved into a nursing home up there and is going into her 2nd week there. It's SO nice there! So not like the nursing homes I've been to in Canada/US. It's like a college residence. Gorgeous campus. You can see the ocean and the mountains from most of the rooms. And it doesn't smell like crap. Each room has a twin bed (though it seemed wider... definitely not a double though), a 36" tv (not flat screen though =p), a small fridge, bathroom, closets, desk, water heater (the Asian kind), and a rice cooker. If only college residences were like that too!

Dan Shui has some nice scenery. The air feels fresher there because it's by the coast. We did a lot of walking and got back home around 5pm. I was sooooo tired from the night before. Probably just going to rest tomorrow. Sorry for the lack of pics... I'm too lazy to upload. Check back tomorrow =p

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Coat

So the coat... ahhh, the coat. It is such a smart looking coat. Perfect for California winters. The quality of the fabric isn't cashmere or virgin wool like the $300+tax Aritzia coat I wanted but it feels nice enough and might I remind you it was only $65! There are pockets but they seem to not have made it in this shot.
From Coat

And I just love love love the buttons. I don't understand why so many coats like this have such plain buttons. Lovely buttons like these give a coat a much richer feel.
From Coat
Sometimes I feel like I should go into the coat-making business... there are too many plain-looking coats that do not deserve to be so expensive.

This coat came in black, navy blue, and grey. I was going to go with classic black but I think the grey was a better choice because it's not very common. But at $65, I could get one in every color and still have saved money over buying the Aritzia coat! I am almost tempted to go back...

Wu fen pu

Dinner didn't agree with my stomach tonight so I will update while my stomach settles before I get to bed =p

 Thursday was busy. Cousin N.'s friend, K. was in town for a very brief visit and since N. had to work, she left K. with me for the afternoon. K. was super sweet and fun to hang out with. I met up with N. & K. on N.'s coffee break down at 101 and then K. & I were off to 五分埔 (wu fen pu) for an afternoon of shopping.  五分埔 is a shopping district with intertwined alleys lined with clothing stores. It can get confusing in there with many of the shops looking so similar, so the key to navigating it is to follow the pseudo-grid pattern that exists. Most basic clothes are less than $10. My jacket was $65 and that's one of the more expensive things you find here so you can imagine the good deals you can get! Anyhow, so the only thing that really stood out to me was this one coat at one of the shops we first passed by. After asking the price, we thought maybe we can find it cheaper somewhere else since a lot of the shops carry the same/similar things. But after weaving through what seemed like every alley we came across, that one coat was the only thing that peaked my interest so that is the only thing I bought after walking around for over 3 hours. I will save the coat for a later post because it's so epic (for the price) that it deserves it's own post. Plus I'm too lazy to photograph the coat right now so no point in talking about it without a photo for reference.



After shopping, K. & I went back to the 101 area to meet up with N. for dinner. N. ended up inviting her friend D. as well. N., K., & D. are former co-workers so it was a mini-reunion for them =) (N.'s other former co-worker T. joined us after dinner.)


From Taiwan - Day 10

For dessert, N. ordered this fried steamed bun (it's first steamed & then fried to get the crispy shell) that you dip in sweetened condensed milk. It was so delicious that I didn't remember to take a photo until the plate was half eaten =p

From Taiwan - Day 10

Oh, and fyi: we ate at a reggae/blues "bar". They served traditional Taiwanese foods as well as American foods. And there was a white guy with dreads at the bar. He must've been hired to complete the reggae vibe =p

From Taiwan - Day 10


五分埔

Today was tiring. I went shopping at 五分埔 (wu fen pu) with my cousin's friend, Kristina. Found an awesome coat for so cheap. Details & pics to come tomorrow...!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dumplings

From Taiwan - Day 8 & 9

*drool *

I've eaten so many frozen dumplings this past year that I've forgotten how good freshly made ones are. I can only eat 10-12 frozen dumplings in one sitting, but freshly made ones I can eat over 20 (and they're bigger too!). For the filling, I've been taught the following recipe but you can put whatever your heart's desire! Though I would argue shrimp & pork as the meat base is the best ;) The following recipe is for a big pot of dumpling filling since I usually wrap over 100 dumplings to store in the freezer.

I generally eye-ball the quantities, so I wouldn't stress over it.
  • Ground pork.
  • Minced shrimp, shelled & deveined. I use about 1 lb of shrimp & 2 lbs of ground pork (whatever the quantity is they sell it in at the grocery store). Use more shrimp if you like.
  • Minced nappa cabbage. 1 head of cabbage is enough, unless they're miniature, in which case get two. Chop it until it's about 1/8" cubed. Assuming you use a food processor for this, squeeze out as much water as you can from the chopped cabbage before putting it in with the rest of the ingredients.
  • Minced ginger. My aunt recommends putting in grated ginger to get a more homogenous flavor of ginger throughout. You'll probably need a piece of ginger about 1"x1"x1.5".
  • Minced garlic. You'll probably need 2-3 bulbs, depending on how garlic-y you want it.(edit: my mom said the garlic would throw off the taste of everything else so leave it out)
  • Minced green onion. You'll probably need 5-7 stalks.
Season with soy sauce (use enough to color everything slightly), sesame oil (use about half of what you used for the soy sauce), 2tsp of salt, and ~1/2 tbsp of powdered white pepper.

Mix everything together by hand. I've never used a food processor for this so I don't know how the mixture behaves afterwards, but just don't let the stuff blend into one homogenous mixture. 1) It's weird & gross and 2) you lose the texture of the meat & cabbage, which I think is an important part of the fresh-dumpling experience.

Cover & put the mixture in the fridge for a few hours (preferably overnight) to let everything marinade &  to make the mixture more sticky, which will help the dumpling wrapping. I would drain out the juices that have come out of the mixture overnight, but my aunt argues that it makes the dumpling more juicy to mix the juices back in before you wrap. The dumplings did taste very good, but I don't think keeping the juices makes that big of a difference, except more of a struggle with wrapping. As a first timer, I would recommend draining the juices. To wrap, buy dumpling wrappers where ever they sell them in your area and scoop as much as you think you can fit in there and still be able to close it up. It's a bit of trial & error here. The better you get, the more you can put in but I still have issues with this so don't force it! I personally don't like my dumplings filled too much. Dab some water on your finger and run it around the dumpling wrapper and then squeeze the two sides together to seal. When you get better, you can put in some folds to make it prettier.

My mom & aunt have always had more filling than dumpling wrappers leftover so the extra filling usually gets turned into meat balls.

Storage: If you want to freeze the dumplings, freeze them spaced out on a tray/plates that have been floured. Once they are frozen, you can transfer them to a bag for long-term storage. I think frozen dumplings are best steamed or pan fried because they don't hold up well in boiling water.

Cooking: To cook freshly made dumplings, bring a pot of water to boil and put the dumplings in. Once the water is boiling again, add a cup of cold water to the pot + turn the heat to medium + cover the pot. Wait for it to boil again and add another cup of cold water & cover. Repeat once more and then the dumplings should be done. I'm not sure what the purpose of the cold water is, but I'm sure there's a good reason for it 'cause that is the traditional way of cooking dumplings.

Grandpa

He was a cute, funny man =)




This is of him in Holland. He loved to travel.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Stationery

One thing that I love about Taiwan that I haven't mentioned yet is the stationery. I would say Japan too since a lot of the stationery in Taiwan is from Japan, but I've never been. Anyhow, point of this post is that I am so pumped to stock up on Japanese washi tape! US importers mark up the price so much. It's only $1-2 for a 2-pack here vs. ~$8 for a 2-pack from US sellers. I know, I know, they have to count in shipping costs etc, but still. Luckily for me, shipping doesn't cost anything because it's going in my checked luggage ;) muahaha. I am trying to figure out uses for it, though. I know I want to incorporate it into our wedding stationery, but I don't know for what soooo I need to figure that out before justifying filling my suitcase with it =p

(photos from http://www.cutetape.com/)
Other online sellers I've found include thetintedminthappytapeUGUiSU, PrettyTape, & washimatta.

Out & About

Not a lot of updates today. I went out shopping with high hopes for Esprit* because they've always had stuff I loved but alas... I got my hopes up too high 'cause I didn't see anything I liked. Maybe it was the Esprit I was at... it was pretty small. But NET was right next door and I ended up buying a sweater dress from them.
 +   










I think it will look really cute with a braided brown belt, which I have one of sitting in my closet back in Cali, and black leggings. NET's logo reminds me of the GAP, but their style is definitely better at NET. GAP has gotten more and more boring over the years. Anyhow, I digress. After shopping, we hunted down this one place that sells red bean cakes.


From Taiwan - Day 8

They are allegedly one of the best in town. It smelled and looked soooo yummy, but I think it's overrated. I think people like it so much because they feel like they're getting more than their money's worth. For NT$10, you get this red bean cake 2" in diameter filled with a crap load of red bean. One thing I will praise them on is that they're not too sweet, so you don't get sick of eating such a huge red bean cake.

One thing I haven't mentioned so far is the home cooking. My aunt makes all three meals every day (well, today we ate out for dinner) and this morning for breakfast she fried up some radish cakes. mmmm... I love the crispy parts.

From Taiwan - Day 8
Her cooking is pretty awesome so I've been trying to learn some new dishes to cook. Ooo, and I learned a new way of cutting green onion, which I think will make life a little easier.

*Note: Esprit Asia is different from Esprit Europe/Americas

Monday, January 25, 2010

Carrefour

We just got back from a long shopping trip at Carrefour. Something I thought that was really neat was the shopping cart. Instead of having you insert a coin to release a cart, you insert a key. You could still cheat it if you really wanted to, but everyone just puts in a key with the rest of their house keys dangling. If anything, this is way more convenient than digging out a coin, especially in North America where most people use credit cards and don't carry change.


From Taiwan - Day 7

Something that I find odd here is that eggs aren't refrigerated. My aunt refrigerates after she buys them, but they don't come refrigerated in the stores. They just sit on a shelf along with the bread.


From Taiwan - Day 7

Oooohhh, the bread... so many choices! I found this one section with apple, strawberry, blueberry, & chocolate bread. mmm....


From Taiwan - Day 7

The samples here are awesome. This guy kept feeding us! So different from US/Canada where it's taboo to get more than one sample.


From Taiwan - Day 7

And then the bulk section was also full of free samples. I snacked so much here. This area is set up for snacks people fill their house with around Chinese New Year. You can get these snacks off season too, but I guess they've brought all the CNY snacks to one area to make it easier for people to stock up for the holidays.


From Taiwan - Day 7

I.S.: look at all the drinks! I took this photo for you. Just wanted to let you know that you can still get Milo here + a bajillion other things too =p






From Taiwan - Day 7

oooo, and the bakery was filled with walls of goodies.



From Taiwan - Day 7

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lazy Sunday

Well, I guess that's not exclusive to Sundays =p

We went out for lunch to my uncle's favorite beef noodle soup place.


From Taiwan - Day 6

Started off with some cold dishes. The eggplant was my favorite.


From Taiwan - Day 6

I got the spicy beef tendon noodle soup.


From Taiwan - Day 6

Afterwards, we went to the flower market.

It was insanely huge. Probably spanned 500m? It was huge. Though there were a lot of repeats. Lots of people selling orchids, bonsai trees/plants, and roses. Not a lot of variation in the orchids, either, which was kind of surprising.


From Taiwan - Day 6

eeewwwww..... totally just saw a cockroach!! blasted... now I have to hunt it down before I go to bed.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A blog of ampersands

Clever.

Cauliflower

So I made a cauliflower thing for lunch today and I realized that cauliflower looks a little different here than in North America.
From Taiwan - Day 4,5

More frilly, eh? Less beefy too.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Getting lost

Slept over at cousin N.'s place last night after KTV 'cause she was too drunk to get herself home and so I took the bus back this morning. Well, I walked more than I bussed, but read on for the details... I woke up at 6:30am and couldn't fall back to sleep, even though we didn't get to bed until 4am, so I got up at 7am and left. I knew where I needed to catch the bus so I walked there (as opposed to taking another bus to connect to it) 'cause I felt like going for a long walk.
I wasn't really counting the stops when I was on the bus so I ended up getting off a stop early. I thought I knew exactly where I was when I got off so I started walking.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Magical Boxes

I just learned of this and it blows my mind.


I want a box that takes me to a magical place.

Bikes

I miss my bike, especially after passing a row of these down near 101.


The idea behind these bikes is that you can borrow the bike for free for the first 30 minutes and NT$10 for each additional 15 minutes. The bike is supposed to help connect you between your last bus/subway stop to your final destination or between bus & subway stops. It's a great idea, but I have doubts about their ability to expand this beyond the XinYi district considering just how many motorscooters there are, how bad the roads are, and how BAD the drivers are here. Unless they make dedicated bike lanes that have some concrete divider to deter motorists from cutting into the bike lanes, I would not feel safe biking here. It's unfortunate though because I can just imagine all the potential emissions reductions/air quality improvement if people traded in their motorscooters for a bicycle & the city re-paved the roads. These are just my initial thoughts after reading about these bikes...I'm sure the city is doing studies on this, I just haven't read up on what progress they have made on this.

In other news, I am having annoying allergy attacks here. I need to find me some anti-histamines 'cause itchy eyes & nose are no fun.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Taiwan - Day 3

My first night of good sleep =D Yesterday I woke up to my uncle yelling, "get up! get up! Time for breakfast!" even though he had already eaten... oi. Oh, & welcome, A., to my blog =) It's very exciting knowing that people are reading my blog now =p So while the food & shopping & metro here are awesome, there's just one little thing my body rejects: the air. My skin & eyes are itchy all the time =(

One another annoying thing here is that when I do a google search in the Chrome browser address bar, my results are in Chinese because google thinks that if I'm in Taiwan, I must be able to understand. I keep having to search by actually going to google, which defeats all the conveniences of having the Chrome browser in the first place -_-



Anyhow, time for lunch... be back later!

***

We taxied over to the 101 area for lunch at this restaurant near the "military families park". They had a little museum showing the living conditions of residences built for military families back in the day.

From Taiwan - Day 3


The food was good, though I was expecting more 'cause my uncle kept raving about this place.

From Taiwan - Day 3


Finally got to skype with the 老公 =) He's off to Kirkwood for a long weekend of boarding. So jealous. I really hope I don't lose all that I've learned with this month of being away! I re-uploaded the videos from the Kirkwood 2 picasa album since picasa really sucks for videos. I don't understand why google hasn't integrated youtube into picasa yet... they should really get on it.



The other video is still uploading as I type. I don't think the internet here is very good 'cause everything is going super slow. boo. Until next time! Probably shopping tomorrow =D

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Taiwan - Day 2

Yesterday was tiring, but definitely a lot better than flying out from EST. Saved me probably an extra 8 hrs of flying/layover time by flying from SFO. I felt like I ate a lot yesterday 'cause I packed 3 steamed buns + leftovers of this tofu thing I made + an orange + an apple and I also ate both meals served on the Tokyo flight. They served a meal on the flight from NRT to TPE but I just had the bread 'cause it seemed like I ate enough food already within ~15 hrs.

During the Tokyo flight, they handed out ice cream sandwiches as a snack, which was a nice surprise =)

I'm pretty sure most of my entries will be about food 'cause it's pretty epic here. Will post pics from today later.

***
First off I want to say hiiiiiiii to my new readers (aka J. & M. =D ) Welcome to my blog =)

We just back from dinner, but first: breakfast!


This is the first thing I eat when I get into town. Rice noodles + meat sauce + bean sprouts + green onions: my favorite food in the market =) The market is about half a block away from the apartment and its filled with fresh produce/meats/baked goods.

So for dinner, we went out with my grandma's cousin-in-law + her son-in-law (lots of distant relatives here) to this Shanghai-style restaurant. It was OK. I couldn't really enjoy the food 'cause I didn't have much of an appetite & my stomach was feeling weird & hollow =( But I got over it after we left the restaurant. We took the bus+subway there & back. I miss good public transit.
I love the buses here 'cause even though they don't always have dedicated lanes, the drivers are crazy-fast and you have to wave the buses down to get the driver to stop to pick you up or else they just wizz right by, which helps speed things along, though sometimes it stresses me out.

I've figured out where the nearest MOS burger is from our bus ride home so I am set to get back into my MOS burger addiction =p

The spicy cheeseburger. Amazing. It's basically a regular cheeseburger but with this special spicy meat sauce. The gym is the next thing I need to find here =p

Anyways, I digress. We spent the afternoon helping my grandma's cousin-in-law pack for her move to the nursing home.
From Taiwan - Day 2

She's only going for a trial month-long period. It was the first time I've ever met her. She's pretty funny. She's paranoid her son-in-law will throw out stuff she leaves behind so she tried packing everything =p She's got SOOO many pairs of shoes (that are all the same, just different colors) and socks & underwear all unopened. oi. She also had over 20 packets of cinnamon tic tacs from 4 years ago and some weird things like these fabric book covers she got from the Disneyland gift shop. So random. Anyhow, it was cool hanging out with a relative whom I met for the first time.

Nothing planned for tomorrow yet... probably going to visit my other aunt & uncle & my cousin.

Oh, for those of you wondering: I've only had one cup of bubble tea here so far and it was sadly disappointing =( It didn't have much flavor. But it's OK: It was cheap & I know of where else to go to redeem my bubble tea experience =p Got a milk tea drink at the bakery earlier in the day, which was yummy though =)

Taiwan - Day 1

My flights were all good, security went smoothly, and now I'm ready for bed. Here are some pics from my day in the mean time while I get some sleep to give a proper update of my day, tomorrow!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Passive-aggressive


Hahaha... these are great.

Password questions

I hate it when whoever-the-website-belongs-to forces you to choose from their list of questions because 80% of the time I don't even know how to answer those questions myself!

Best childhood friend. I had a couple who carry that label, so which do I pick??
Father's middle name. Not applicable.
Name of city mother was born in. It was in Taiwan and that's all I really know.
The make & model of your first car. Never had one 'cause I always had access to my parents' car. Not applicable.
What is the name of your favorite book? Too many!
What street did you live on as a child? We moved at some point when I was a kid so which street do I use?
What is your first pet's name? Never had a pet. Not applicable!
When you were a child, what company did your father work for? Again, he changed jobs when I was a kid so which company do I use?
Your first grade teacher's last name. How many people actually remember these things?






Packages

So painfully true.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happiness


I think I've been forgetting lately. This is a sweet reminder. See more from the artist here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm not an ambi-turner.. I can't turn left.

A day trip to Kirkwood. I definitely like the simplicity of a day trip. No over-night bags to pack helps to minimize the stress.

And yeah, I can't turn left.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Not allowed to be Mrs. S

The Social Security office is a funny place. I went there today to change my name in light of October 2nd and after waiting for close to an hour for A38 to be called, I was told that they cannot change my information because I'm not on a work-visa. And so my future CA driver's license will also not reflect my married name since my SSN has to match my DMV records. Blast the system and their stupid rules. I guess the only place that will recognize my new name on paper is Canada, except I don't want to pay $87 for a new passport just to get my name changed. If there is anything to hate about being married, it's the stupid paper-work and red-tape and fees and hours spent in waiting lines at horribly inefficient government agencies' offices that are involved.

Monday, January 04, 2010

New

The knives have arrived!
As you can see, we ended up going with the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Four Star 8-Piece Knife Set with Block because we were able to get it via Bing cashback from Macy's for $150 less $30 for the cashback. I'm glad we finally ordered something because all the knife choices were driving me crazy!

In other news, I'm getting ready to pack for Taiwan, which is pretty exciting since I've never been back during the winter before. I'll be missing out on some prime snowboarding time but we should be able to squeeze in one trip before I fly out. And hopefully this jacket gets in this week and fits me! It popped up on tramdock.com for $86, down from $228 retail ($115 on backcountryoutlet.com) so I definitely got sucked in by the price. I'm praying that this jacket has what I want (warmth, good powder skirt, & lots of pockets) because I am tired of shopping around.

*edit
The jacket arrived and it fit, but
1) The "bottoms up" powder skirt is literally an upside-down powderskirt, so the elastic ends up at my waist, above my snow pants. It's a terrible design for people who wear snow pants, but would work for someone with a bib.
2) The collar was restrictive when zipped up the whole way
And thus, it is being returned. It seemed like a very well-constructed jacket otherwise. That powderskirt was just ridiculously disappointing.