Monthly Roundup for April 2017

Spring is here.  It’s not my favorite season, because it means the long, humid days of summer will soon be here, and all my actions will be based on when, and where I have the most access to air conditioning. But, hopefully there are still a few days of cooler mornings and nights left to enjoy. April started off quite mildly with a public holiday, but then steamrolled ahead into a 11-12 hour work days.  Definitely no work and life balance this month, but I’m ever optimistic that I will do better in May.

  1. After a particularly trying, yet unproductive and extremely grouchy day of errands, I happened upon these beautiful hibiscus in full bloom.  I snapped a photo and sent it to a friend, and she said “wow, it’s amazing that with all that you have on your mind, you still have time to take photos!” I thought, why yes of course, I will always and forever have time to admire beauty.

2. Last year was the first year that I had a Costco membership of my very own,  and to be quite honest, when I got busy at work, I didn’t use it as much as I should have.  This year, I’ve decided to share a membership with my brother. We’ve now incorporated Costco shopping into a bi-weekly ritual, and have collected a few more tips and tricks to share.  I will share new tips in an upcoming post, but you can read my previous tips here.

3. In the beginning of April, my dear friend Peter came to Taipei on a whirlwind visit.  I can’t believe how much we did in 3 days.  We ate, we talked, we laughed, we shopped. I also got to take him to a few of my favorite places to eat in Taipei, one of them being this family-run restaurant in Yong-Kang street, called 豐盛食堂 , which serves up hearty, home-style dishes, made with fresh ingredients.  Even though I’ve been there multiple times, I still can never locate the restaurant on my first try.  While my sense of direction hasn’t improved, my Chinese reading skills have. I am pleased to report that I can read over 90% of the menu now! Everyone at this restaurant is friendly and outgoing, and they make the entire dining experience feel warm and homey. If my place was big enough, and I could cook proper Chinese food, this is the kind of food I imagine I would be serving all my friends and family.

4. A visit to Taipei wouldn’t be complete without dessert, so we also stopped by for dessert at one of my favorite places, Chantez.  Unfortunately, one of the wait staff tipped half an iced coffee into my handbag, so the first part of our visit was spent frantically wiping up coffee off of my wallet, and everything else in my handbag.  Luckily, the desserts were good enough to make up for it.

5. The arrival of spring also means cleaning and putting away all my winter clothes and accessories. This year, I’ll be doing this incrementally, starting with the warmest items. I’ll try and separate each increment into a separate bin. Next season I can unpack them gradually and avoid bedlam.  Right now, the situation is so messy that I’m embarrassed to take a photo to show you. But I will keep you updated on my progress.

Enjoy!

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Product Review: All Birds Wool Loungers

A few months ago, I finally got a chance to try “The World’s Most Comfortable Shoe,” by the company All Birds.  This winter, their Wool Runners and Wool Loungers seemed to be all over my Instagram feed, and I’ve always wanted a pair of shoes that feel as cozy and soft as I imagine walking on clouds to feel.  In terms of aesthetics, I really like the look of their Wool Loungers~ which are free from logos, and have a softly curved toe.  I also liked that the sole of the shoe matches the fabric~ so black for the black option, light grey for grey, and pink for pink, and so on. I think that makes the shoe look much more pulled together.

Unfortunately, All Birds do not ship to Taiwan, but luckily for me, they ship to Australia, so I leapt at the chance to purchase a pair during my trip to Melbourne.  They arrived about 7 days later, in a sturdy cardboard box.  The box was so cleverly designed~you can just open up the box without having to deal with scissors or strands of sticky packaging tape.  Frustration-free packaging at its finest!

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Hello Melbourne! Field Trip: Top Paddock

Information: Top Paddock| Address: 658 Church St, Richmond, Melbourne, Australia| Phone:03 9429 4332| Email: info@thetoppaddock.com| Hours: Mon-Fri: 7am – 4pm Weekends: 8am -4pm (Kitchen closes at 3 pm everyday) |Reservations can be made Monday-Friday

During this trip, I learned that one of my friends can only eat savory foods for every single meal.  Luckily for me, I have no such qualms or limitations, otherwise I would have truly missed out on something spectacular: Top Paddock’s ricotta hotcake.

When walking into Top Paddock, you are greeted with a large, bright airy space, filled to the skylights with design inspiration.  We chose to sit at one of the large communal tables, so we could settle in comfortably for a leisurely brunch and conversation.

Luckily for us, the menu at Top Paddock has a colorful collection of both imaginnative sweet and savory entrees, made from ethically sourced farm-to-table ingredients. There are classic brunch options  such as Eggs Benedict, homemade sourdough toast and jam, and more inventive options, such as: Seasonal & Farmwall mushrooms, smoked pomme puree, kipfler potato crisps, truffle oil and poached egg, and white anchovies, Brussels sprouts, fried eggs, garlic and bone marrow butter on toast.

One of my favorite Melbourne restaurant customs is that they always ask you for your drink order first, and then leave you to read (and discuss!) the menu in leisure.

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Monthly Roundup for March, 2017.

March, unlike the other months, seemed to just inch along.  It felt as if I was running on a hamster wheel full speed, but at half battery power. Probably not a huge surprise that I’m glad to see the back end of this month and ready to jump into April.

1. After my rather indulgent trip to Melbourne in February, I decided that I really needed to make more time (and money) for travel. (PS- I still have a few blog posts about my trip, so come back next week for those!)  To kick start that goal, I  implemented two new savings plans:  The first one is the 52 week challenge, and the second one is the 52 day shopping ban.  The 52 week savings challenge has been floating around the web for years, and this is actually my second year doing it.  The first year, I wasn’t AS successful because I kept forgetting to transfer the money weekly.  This year, I made it easier on myself, and just transfer 4 weeks worth of savings as soon as I get my paycheck.  I also reverse the savings amount, by starting with the highest amount, which mentally seems a bit more motivating to me. I usually deposit it into my long-term savings account, and try to forget that it ever exists.   In addition, I automatically transfer a certain amount to an account earmarked for travel.  I’ve observed that if I never see the money, I don’t usually miss it.

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Hello Melbourne!: Mörk Chocolate Brew House (and the best brownies, ever)

Information: Mörk Chocolate Brew House  150 Errol Street, North Melbourne| Phone: (03) 9328 1386| Hours:  Tuesday to Saturday 8am–5pm, Sunday, 9am–5pm |Website: morkchocolate.com.au

One of my top travel activities is researching local ingredients for favorite recipes.  So, in addition to our leisurely brunch at Auction Rooms, our day also included a stop in Mörk Chocolate Brew House, located nearby on Errol Street.   Mörk (which means “dark” in Swedish) is  best known for their ethically sourced hot chocolate in Melbourne.

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Field Trip: Hello Melbourne! Brunch at Auction Rooms, North Melbourne

Information: Auction Rooms Address: 103-107 Errol St, North Melbourne VIC 3051, Australia|  (03) 9326 7749| Monday-Friday, 7:00-5:00, Saturdays and Sundays 7:30-5:00

One of my favorite past times is brunch.  I love it, because I don’t have to wake up early and afterwards, I still have plenty of appetite for afternoon tea.  Luckily for me, I was absolutely spoiled for brunch choices in Melbourne, because there are so many different possibilities.  In the interest of time, Peter helped me narrow down my list with some of his favorite places.  One of his first recommendations was Auction Rooms, located in North Melbourne.

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Field Trip: Hello Melbourne! Queen Victoria Market and Books for Cooks

Information: Books for Cooks:  Address: 129-131 Therry St Melbourne VIC 3000 [opposite the Queen Victoria Market] Phone: +61 3 8415 1415| Hours: Monday-Sunday, 9 to 5. Most public holidays 11-5. Closed on Easter Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day & New Year’s Day

When I was living in Melbourne, I made weekly trips to Queen Victoria Market, (or Vic Market). For a student on a limited budget, the Market was a wonderful place to hunt for fresh produce, fruit, and an occasional bunch of flowers. 10 years later, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Market for the most part, still looked largely the same.  One “new to me” addition that I really wanted to explore was Books for Cooks, which is located on Therry Street, just across from Vic Market.  Books for Cooks is an independent culinary bookstore, filled to the brim with new and old books about food and wine.

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Monthly Roundup for January ~ February 2018

The last few months of 2018 can only be described as a tumult.  I lost my grandmother this past December.  She was a feisty, strong-willed woman, with a quick laugh, and was actively present in my everyday life.  When I first came back to Taiwan, before college, and afterwards to work, I would stay at her house, and we would spend hours together cooking, watching TV and chatting.  I think the reason why my conversational Chinese improved so rapidly over the years was because I always had an enthusiastic grandmother to chat with.  (My parents always found it a little amusing that she also picked up my speech patterns in her everyday speech, such as “uh-huh” and “ok,” “yeah” and “天啊” tian-ah~ a Mandarin version of, “oh my!”)

Until a year ago or so, she always used to say to me “I feel like a young person in an old person’s body.” She loved doing what she referred to as “young people’s activities,” such as going to Starbucks and playing Angry Birds and Fruit Slice on her iPad.  As her only granddaughter, I was indulged and protected by her love,  and this is something I will remember and carry with me for the rest of my life.  I’m not sure how I will get used to not having her around, but I am trying my best.

I had originally planned a trip to Melbourne for this winter, and I almost didn’t go. But my mom and dear friend Peter convinced me that a change of scene would do me good. Aside from a few wobbly moments during the trip~ one was while shopping and realizing I didn’t have to bring back a present back for my grandmother, and one was after arriving back in Taipei, when I absentmindedly dialed her number while waiting for my luggage at baggage claim, for the most part, I really enjoyed the trip; it really helped to be in a completely different environment, frame of mind and pace of life.

The last time I was in Melbourne was 10 years ago, and the city has changed so much since then. This post will highlight 10 of my favorite moments from the trip, in no particular order, just as they pop into my head. In addition, I will write a “Hello Melbourne!” series,  which will be more organized, and similar to my other travel posts (Hello Tokyo! , Hello Seoul! and  Hello Hong Kong!)

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