Hello Hong Kong! Tap Mun (Grass Island) New Territories, Hong Kong 香港塔門一日遊

As I mentioned last week, I was in Hong Kong during the first part of August for some professional development workshops.  At the end of the workshop, the coordinators arranged for us to take a field trip out to Tap Mun (also known as Grass Island). Tap Mun (塔門) is located in the northeastern part of Hong Kong territory.  It’s an island that is 1.69 km in size, and consists of gentle rolling hills and grasslands.  The island is only accessible by ferry, and the workshop organizers were kind enough to charter one for our large group (of around 100 people or so).

We arrived at Tap Mun and one of our first sights was of the port, and some small fishing boats.

The day looked postcard perfect, but was positively sweltering.  We stopped briefly for lunch at the one restaurant on the island.  The food is served family style, and the menu consisted of hearty and simple Cantonese dishes.   Then, the tour guide led us up the hill

Don’t be fooled by the photo… it was about a five minute walk!

Along the way, we saw a few cows, nibbling away at the grass. They seemed  unperturbed by the groups of humans milling about their home.

Then we were greeted with this splendid view:

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Hello Hong Kong! Experiences of living in a student dormitory (as an adult)

Earlier this month, I attended a professional development program in Hong Kong, and part of the experience was that I lived in a student dorm at a Hong Kong university for 6 days.  The last time I lived in a dorm, Ethernet was fairly new, there was no Wifi, no smartphones, and definitely no Instagram!  (Admitting this probably ages me dreadfully, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice, for the sake of this blog post)

You may be wondering, what’s the big deal? But I realized about halfway into the experience, it really gave me some insights about my current lifestyle and living environment.

During the 6 days, I lived in a double room (no roommate) with shared communal facilities, such as bathroom, shower, and kitchen.

As you can see,the room was quite spartan, with a pair of single beds, closets, desk and chairs. I did like having the balcony, which let in a lot of natural light. I imagine it would be quite lovely to sit out there and read when the weather cools down a bit.

Obviously, there are some inconveniences involved in communal living…I thank my lucky stars my best friend from childhood Natalie, reminded me via email just before I left for the airport: Don’t forget a robe and shower shoes!!!! Of course, I had forgotten, but it turns out it was worth it to repack my suitcase to fit them in. Because this is what the shower looked like:

So, really no (comfortable) space to get undressed/dressed… and probably a bit iffy to go barefooted inside the shower. I also thanked my lucky stars once again that my robe had pockets…. because where else could I stash your room key while I was showering?  I had to do some clever maneuvering to avoid getting my towel/ robe wet while the water was on, but I got the hang of it by the second day.

However, despite these minor asides, I realized that there were some merits to dormitory style living.  The coordinator of the professional workshop mentioned: We’ve tried to make life as easy as possible by removing a lot of daily distractions. All you have to worry about is learning, the rest is all taken care of.  This strategy worked really well for me. I got a LOT of work done this week. In addition to attending (most) of the workshops, I also managed to finish a few smallish projects that have been hanging over my head at work. I think it boils down to the reality that all I had was this desk. And this desk, only had work-related items on it. I did some of my most productive thinking and work at this desk this week.

I used the other desk in the room as kind of a self-care station. I had my (limited) toiletries and cosmetics laid out for the day. Having everything  nearly laid out helped speed up both my morning and night routines.  Plus it was kind of therapeutic to line everything back up at the end of the day.

I also brought a fairly restrained wardrobe (dark pants and light tops) and this made getting dressed (and doing laundry) pretty easy. One load for darks, one load for whites. Simple.

In the 6 days I was here, the most significant lesson that I learned is, I need to streamline my routine. I always thought one of the perks of being an financially independent adult is that I could incorporate as much variety as I want into my life . E.g. why chose between one pen, when I can buy 10? Or, I really do need 3 different eye creams… they all serve different purposes!  In reality, it gives me a lot of decision fatigue and visual clutter.

Simplifying and streamlining is definitely a work in progress for me, and I’ve made some improvements along the way. But this week, I realized that there are a few more things that I can do to make my life easier…. and there’s no time like the present to do them.  A few things I will try in the upcoming month are

Monthly Roundup for June & July 2018

Hello! I’m still here. Summer is in full swing here in Taiwan.  I’m trying to get some extra projects completed when things are marginally slower at work, so time has really just sped by…and honestly, I am exhausted and could use a change of scenery. Luckily for me, I leave for Hong Kong for a few days in August, and I’m hoping that it will be a refreshing break.  Here are some of the things that have been happening lately:

As always, mangoes are one of the best part of Taiwanese summers.  This year, I was lucky enough to be sent these luscious ones from a friend’s family farm.

The de-cluttering project continues… this is one of the cupboards that I use the most often in my teeny tiny, but well-used kitchen. I cleared away all the unused, half-used, never-will-be-used items and scrubbed out all the containers and the inside of the cupboard.  (I have 5 more of these cupboards to sort through)

I also continue to edit my beauty drawer(s).  In addition to organizing all my goodies, I also took a moment to admire these cute miniatures that my friends collect for me from all over the world.  Miniatures and travel size are one of my weaknesses. I can never resist anything in a tiny container.

Lastly, I am trying to cook more meals at home.  It’s funny. I used to do this all the time without thought. In the past year or so, the habit has fallen to the wayside, most likely due to poor time management.  I’m trying to find some easy dishes that I can throw together after work. Tomato and fried eggs, over rice is one of my favorite dishes. Theoretically, when cooked properly, it’s a combination of sweet and savory, and the eggs and tomatoes mingle together smoothly, like printed silk.  It’s a work in progress for me. Sometimes the eggs are too dry, sometimes the tomatoes haven’t been cooked enough. So my efforts continue.  Wish me luck!

I am trying to get more blog posts organized and written soon.  I’m sure I’ll be inspired by new sights and tastes in Hong Kong in August.  Meanwhile, I’m a bit more active on Instagram lately, so make sure to pop over there for a peek.

Enjoy!

Discovering Blueberry and Lemon Friands

For the past few months, one of my go-to recipes (in addition to these brownies) has been Blueberry and Lemon Friands. Friands are light, fluffy little cakes, made with almond flour.

I learned to make them during my trip to Melbourne. They are so quick and easy to put together, that I baked them about 4 times during two weeks.

The recipe I used was from BBC, and I used almond flour from Woolworth’s, and lemon zest from lemons picked from my friends’ trees. I brought a few bags of the almond meal back from Melbourne….

But, I’m happy to report that almond meal can now be found at your local Costco right here in Taipei! I bought a bag during my last trip, and I’ll be merrily baking my way through it in the upcoming months.

These friands were baked in a friand pan, something that I wish I bought back from Melbourne.  Although, I think any small loaf pan should do the trick. The friands are a somewhat dense, yet moist cake. They have just a hint of almond flavor, but I think most of the flavor comes from the tanginess of the blueberry, and the sunniness of the lemon zest.

Blueberry and Lemon Friands 

Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 125g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 25g plain flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 3 medium egg whites
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, grated rind only
  • 85g blueberries

Directions 

  1. Preheat the oven to fan 180C. Generously butter six non-stick friand or muffin tins. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
  2. Sift the icing sugar and flour into a bowl. Add the almonds and mix everything between your fingers.
  3. Whisk the egg whites in another bowl until they form a light, floppy foam. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, tip in the egg whites and lemon rind, then lightly stir in the butter to form a soft batter.
  4. Divide the batter among the tins, a large serving spoon is perfect for this job. Sprinkle a handful of blueberries over each cake and bake for 15-20 minutes until just firm to the touch and golden brown.
  5. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack. To serve, dust lightly with icing sugar.

Recipe source

This was not a sponsored post. I paid for all items shown here, and all experiences and opinions expressed are my own. 

Monthly Roundup for May 2018

There is only one word that can be used to describe May this year:  Frühjahrsmüdigkeit, which is German for “spring lethargy.”  It’s the season where tasks seem to drag on and on… with no conclusion.  May is also the time of year to file taxes in Taiwan, so that adds to the general feeling gloom and doom.

  1. Currently, I’m generally behind in everything, including blog posts, so this cartoon from the New Yorker seems very appropriate, to describe the current state of affairs:

Cartoon from The New Yorker

2. Although, I’m proud to report that I pulled it together this weekend and managed a spot of spring cleaning.  I sort and put away my winter clothes, set aside sweaters and scarves for dry cleaning, and got out my summer clothes. I also rounded up all my skincare and makeup empties and took them to the trash bin downstairs.

Some of the products that I’ve repurchased over and over again are: the primer from Sofina (Primavista Ange) It’s lightweight, absorbs quickly, and has SPF 20. I also love the body gel from Curel for the same reasons. I’ve also gone through two bottles of Dior foundation(the Forever and the Star) ~ which I find that have good, medium coverage, and the ability to withstand the brutal humidity of Taiwan’s summer season.  My favorite perfume, Jo Malone’s Orange Blossom also deserves a shout out. I discovered this perfume about 12 years ago … (I literally followed my nose to the best smelling perfume counter) and it’s been my signature scent since then.  Products that are new to my repertoire are the morning and night masks (not shown). I think I am definitely more of a morning mask person. I keep these in my fridge during the summer, and I put one on while I’m making coffee.  I won’t be re-purchasing the night masks, because this particular formulation from Saborino has lavender in it, which I don’t enjoy. Plus, nighttime is the chance for me to use my other sheet masks, so adding another kind of the mix seems to be extraneous.

3. Lastly, it’s that time of year we have to run the air conditioning almost 24/7~ which translates to ginormous electricity bills at the end of the month.  So I’m thinking of all sorts of ways to maximize my time away from home to avoid turning mine on until the absolute last minute… I had success at this bookstore/cafe, around 5pm. In addition to a delicious white chocolate matcha latte, I also finished editing a paper.  Definitely a win-win situation. 🙂

Well, that’s it for May. Hopefully my Frühjahrsmüdigkeit will pass soon, and I can get back to regularly scheduled programming.  I’ve got lots of ideas for posts in the works, so please check back soon!

Enjoy!

 

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!

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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