Friday, August 31, 2012

week 101_sampling moon cakes

It's not every week that our office counter tops are covered with moon cakes, but just twice a year we get lucky ~ once for the preview/sampling of what we might send to clients, and once when the clients send us moon cakes during the Moon Festival holiday!

Since the Moon Festival holiday is fast approaching (it rotates with the Chinese lunar calendar, falling on September 30th this year), last week we got to try out boxes of moon cake samples from all over Taipei. :)

As mentioned in last year's post, the moon cakes come in all assorted flavors and varieties, but the basic idea is consistent: very dense, and lightly sweetened treats with an outside pastry or sweet shell and the inside is thick and chewy.

Best combination of presentation & flavors:
The Westin Hotel
(ex: Raspberry Blueberry or Grapefruit Ceylon Tea)

I actually kept the box on my desk (since it was headed for the trash) and it will make a great little organizer, but is still very attractive when closed up. :)

Traditional Chinese Moon cakes with Egg Yolk Center

Moon cake presentation with dried fruits

Great Box (but I didn't love the moon cakes!)

Fancy moon cake boxes from the Grand Hotel
~ one tasted coffee flavored, I like it best!
I'm not sure which box won in the end, but one of these will be sent to our professional friends and clients in the next few weeks.

Monday, August 27, 2012

week 100_Can you believe that?

100 weeks in Taipei. 

Sounds monumental I think! 
I can hardly believe I have been here for (almost) two years ~ and at the same time, sometimes it feels like it has already been five...

I'm happy to report that Taipei is still fresh and entertaining. With so many places to see, explore, and new adventures to be had, there is never a dull moment - just a lack of time on my calendar! I've been keeping busier than ever recently with personal fitness training sessions, Chinese lessons, a book club, work (obviously!), doctor's appointments, and preparing for baby.

However, the most significant thing to note over these past few months, I believe, is how truly "local" I have been feeling recently. I can at least see significant improvement in my own geographic and language abilities. Not to mention I've been introduced to the vast network of English speaking parents in Taiwan - which is sort of like this massive community that must have always been right in front of my face but I never noticed. It's interesting how quickly I've learned from them, and not just about children/baby activities, but generally about where to find things in Taipei and what is going on at all times! 

100 week local status:
  • I've finally gained the ability to direct taxi drivers 75% accurately (left, right, intersection, take ___ street, MRT station, air port, past that stoplight, u-turn here, address names, etc.). This is immensely helpful ~ and most taxi rides cost less than $10 USD ~ a splurge I'm willing to make sometimes
  • I can read many of the Chinese characters. I can rarely read anything in whole, but can almost always (75% of the time) read something in part.
  • I know where to find great food. Whether it's a street vendor cart for breakfast, a or an authentic Mediterranean restaurant, I can find whatever my craving heart desires! In fact, sometimes I tell my local friends where to find things... :)

34 weeks preggo.

Also pretty darn monumental!
Just like my time in Taiwan, the time being pregnant has seemed rapid and slow at the same time. Now that I'm in the home stretch, I am ready for baby to get here! 
(Well, sort of... depending on your definition of ready)

34 weeks preggo status:
  • Ailments such as stretch marks, swollen hands and legs, inability to shave my own legs, etc. ~ Not Yet! and Holding Out as long as possible!!!
  • 100% ready for the following items to come back into my life: Blue cheese (fresh, dip, or dressing), medium rare steak, deli meat, margaritas, sushi, beer... the list goes on...
  • Need to Finish: Baby's room, shopping!, maternity photos, arranging child care, pre-washing all of baby's many clothes/blankets/diapers, childbirth classes, a little light preggo related reading, my Chinese text book, next month's book club assignment, and many tasks at Work!!!

Our Front Door
J's sweet grandma sent me a collection of crafty supplies (buttons, ribbon, glittery stars/ shapes, and lots of colorful art papers) awhile back, and I finally put some of them to good use on our apartment's front door. I like seeing the numbers go down, and since people love asking when am I due, I figure the neighbors are probably watching too...! ;)

Friday, August 17, 2012

week 99_Asian Figure Skating Trophy 2012

It's hot here (this seems to be the trend everywhere this month ;) --- poor Oklahoma and Texas!), so last week when I heard tell of an ice skating competition, it sounded like a great way to beat the heat. I've recently started paying more attention to online English forums for parents in Taipei, and it turns out they are constantly finding new activities to entertain their kids and get out of the house. Who knew there were so many destinations and events going on in Taipei that I've never even heard of?... And many of these are things that I'd just like to see - kids or not!

So last Friday on a warm and muggy evening when the husband happened to be off work as well, we crossed the street from my office to Taipei Arena to check out the Asian Figure Skating Trophy 2012 competition. We've been watching the Olympics recently (hasn't everyone?) and it was fun to actually see a sporting event in person. The portion of the competition that we caught was the "Senior Women's Short Program," (senior implying late teenage and early 20's) and a variety of Asian countries were represented in the competition - Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Kazakstan, and more.

It was great to watch the girls but we also cringed at every missed step or fall! The differences between the countries was fascinating. The Korean skaters had better speed and faster lifts/spins, but the Taiwanese girls had better personality, always smiling and acting the part. It turned out to be a great idea for a leisurely Friday night with the hubby. We took some videos too, but my blog is not cooperating this morning...

The competition is over now, but the Taipei Arena 'Ice Land' hosts other ice sporting events year round (skating, hockey), and is also open for public ice skating in between. I definitely want to go back next summer (post-pregnancy) when I can stretch my legs out, try to remember how to ice skate, and enjoy a nice cool escape on a hot summer evening!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

week 98_Another Typhoon & Another Anniversary

So far in our married life, we have managed to do something unique on each wedding anniversary. Each year has been a little different than the next, but at least we always manage to celebrate together and treat ourselves in some way. 

For our 1st wedding anniversary, we attended a Rangers baseball game at the ballpark in Arlington, TX. We like watching baseball but rarely attend the games in person, so it was a special treat for both us with a few souvenirs as our keepsakes [I think that Rangers t-shirt is around here somewhere...]

For our 2nd wedding anniversary, we shared a fondue dinner at the Melting Pot in Dallas, TX. I love fondue, and hubby hadn't had any in years so he needed to be reminded of how delicious it is! It was a fancy dinner and a small splurge for us, but a great choice for a nice romantic evening. 

For our 3rd wedding anniversary, we had spent the majority of the year living on separate continents! Thankfully, Jason had finally joined me in Taipei a couple of months earlier, and though we were planning to have a nice dinner together, I ended up having a business dinner to attend the same day! In the end, I snuck out of my dinner early and hubby met me for a special dessert at a Haagen Dazs shop nearby (in Taipei, Taiwan). 

{{{ For those of you who don't know, my husband and I met when we were working together at the Marble Slab Ice Cream shop 10 years ago. So cute! And I can still remember those days! Since ice cream holds a special place in our story, it is our perfect anniversary treat. }}}

This year, for our 4th wedding anniversary, we were magically given the day off work together ~ amazing! Due to another typhoon passing near the island, many offices and schools were closed. There was some wind and rain to be dealt with, but it was so fantastic to have a lazy day off work together! Not to mention, perfect timing :) We slept in, ate a late lunch, went to the movies, and finished the day with homemade ice cream sundaes. The typhoon caused little to no damage in our immediate area, so we just tried to stay dry and enjoy the day off! 

Our selection of flavors and "mix-ins," purchased from the Family Mart downstairs for convenience :)
(as we weathered the storm) + 2 brownies from the Aussie Dessert House down the block


Hoping you were all also spared by the typhoon, and enjoyed the day off! :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

week 97_Taipei Zoo

After 96 weeks in Taiwan, it's about time we made a visit to the Zoo (don't you think?)!

For some odd reason, the idea to visit the Taipei Zoo struck us on a particularly hot & humid day this past weekend. Hubby and I had just finished a late lunch and had no plans, other than to beat the heat, until we started pondering a visit to the Zoo. True, it was scalding hot outside, but it also sounded more exciting than heading home to sit on the sofa! [In retrospect - excellent thinking on our part]

By the time we came to this conclusion and hopped on the MRT it was already pretty late in the day. As we rode the MRT brown line south towards the last stop on the line -Taipei Zoo- I checked the website on my iPhone and was distraught to see the published hours said the Zoo closed at 5pm daily. It was already 4:30pm... but I didn't feel like bursting our bubble, so I kept my lips sealed in hopes that the website might be wrong, and --- Yes! --- It turns out the Zoo is open until 9pm! :)

We arrived just before 5pm and entered the Zoo by swiping our Taipei Easy Cards (MRT cards). The entrance fee was $30 NTD (= $1 USD); easy and affordable.

Not only was the Zoo open later in the day, but we were also pleasantly surprised by the size and quality of the park. With the sun sinking lower in the sky and plenty of places for a pit stop, it turned out to be a lovely adventure for a Saturday afternoon. There were various places to stop for drinks or snacks, stroller and wheelchair rental available (we joked that I should get a wheelchair since I'm preggers), shaded seating areas, indoor exhibits with nice cool air conditioning, and plenty of large outdoor habitats for the biggest critters.

One of the highlights was the Giant Panda exhibit, home to two pandas, gifted to Taiwan from China (apparently China is the only place to find Pandas anymore). There were all of the regulars too - elephants, hippos, giraffe, zebra, etc. We're animal lovers all the way around, so we enjoyed everything we saw. In total we probably only saw 1/4 of the zoo. We will have to go back another day!

Not too shabby for a Saturday afternoon outing. After almost 3 hours of sightseeing, it was time to rest!
Just a few pics ~~~

Posing with an 'Elephant'

Their flamingos didn't seem as pink as I expected

Gorgeous Owl in the Nocturnal Exhibit

Monkeys on the move!

Bambi, and bambino

A real panda bear!

Bird & Wildlife refuge area