By this time of year, I’ve probably broken most, if not all of my new year’s resolutions. I vaguely remembered something about having better work and life balance (ha!) and exercising more (ha ha!) But for me, adopting and keeping new habits is hard, hard work. I decided this time around, instead of feeling guilty about the resolutions I didn’t keep, I’ll try to take smaller, more realistic steps, or shifts, if you will. For me, the concept of a shift still implies change, but they seem to be more gradual. One of the habit shifts that I hope to make is to have more control over my surroundings. I’ve moved houses quite a few times over the past few years, and I thought I had whittled my possessions down to a bare minimum. But lately, I’ve noticed that my space seems to feel cluttered and chaotic. So one area in my life that I really want to work on is clearing out my living spaces and making better use of what I have. It’s definitely a work in progress, and I thought it would be helpful to document the process here.
I recently read Goodbye Things: On Minimalist Living, by Fumio Sasaki. The book chronicles the author’s journey to a more minimalist lifestyle. He eliminated most of his possessions, and now lives with just the barest of necessities. He reduced his wardrobe down to three shirts, four pairs of trousers and four pairs of socks. In the process of saying goodbye to his possessions, he gained clarity of mind, and control over his living environment.
Information: @ 小房子 | Address: No.17, Alley 36, Lane 122, Kaishan Road, West Central District, Tainan City 700, Taiwan| Phone: 06-221-5328| 台南市中西區開山路１２２巷３6弄１７號
As I mentioned last week, we made whirlwind trip to Tainan towards the end of September. Don’t be fooled by the flurry of activities, it was actually a very relaxing mini-break. When we were wandering in the shopping area across from the Confucius temple, we discovered a tiny tea house tucked into one of the alleyways.
I just realized that I haven’t left the country, or even the city, in over a year. To make up for that in a small way, I went on a day trip to Tainan with my aunt and brother. We took the high speed rail from Taipei around 10, and arrived in Tainan in two hours and 20 minutes. Then we took the free shuttle from the high speed rail station into the city. Despite the short amount of time that we were there, it turned out to be the most relaxing day, ever. Probably because all we did was meander down the cozy alleyways and eat delicious food.
Our first stop right off the shuttle was for food. Right near the shuttle stop was a place for ba-wan (meatballs wrapped in a glutinous rice wrapper). These are the steamed version. Make sure to douse liberally with the sweet chili sauce!
Right next door is the Lily’s, which is one of the most well-known places to get fruit over shaved ice.
A lot of restaurants in Tainan offer outdoor seating- usually just tables set up near the sidewalks. My advice is to have someone in your party grab a table first. The menus are attached to clipboards and available at the front counter. Decide what you want, check the boxes next to the item, write down your table number and pay first at the counter.
Whenever September rolls around, I’m always reminded of the opening scenes of one of my favorite movies, “You’ve Got Mail,” when Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks stroll down the streets of New York City to the background music of Dreams, by the Cranberries. Bouquets of sharpened pencils, anyone? Yes, please!
1) Speaking of bouquets of sharpened pencils, one rainy afternoon, I took stock of all my writing utensils (pens, pencils, etc) and threw out all the worn out, dried out items. Now I have good idea of what I have (a lot) and what I need to buy (not a lot)
Information: Moment Cafe and Bakery | Address: Le Qun Road, Section 2, No. 55 (First floor of the Grand Mayfull Hotel) ｜MRT Station: Jiannan Road Station (brown line) Exit 2| Phone: (02)77223397| Hours: Monday-Friday: 10:00-20:00 | 台北市中山區樂群二路55號（台北美福飯店１樓 | 電話：(02)77223397 |營業時間：週一至週日10:00-20:00
I visited Moment Cafe and Bakery in between meetings, and the second I came out of the MRT station, rain poured from the heavens with no sign of stopping. I hopped into a cab to avoid being soaked, and it was only when I made my way back to the MRT station afterwards, that I realized how easy it was to walk to the Cafe. Come out of Exit 2 of Jiannan Station, and you will see the black New Square building. Turn left, and continue walking down the street, and after about 10 minutes or so, you will see the front door of the Grand Mayfull Hotel, where Moment Cafe is located on the first floor.
Two years ago, I bought this immersion blender online. Online shopping at night is dangerous. My defenses are down, and my imagination tends to runs amok. Suddenly, I became THE pulled together, healthy person who would serenely whip up a healthy smoothie everyday before work. In reality, all I usually have time for is a piece of toast, usually crunched down in a flurry of crumbs, while running around trying to find something to wear. So the immersion blender sat in its box, forgotten and lonely in a corner of my closet, until I found it recently in my bout of clearing out (more on that later). I decided to rectify matters (and to justify why another appliance needed a home in my kitchen) and put it into good use.
最近工作太忙了 差一點忘了我有買了一個 Immersion Blender. 是 夏天smoothie 或是冬天濃湯的好幫手。 有些人可能會好奇， 如果我家有了打果汁機 或是攪拌機， 還會需要另一個廚具嗎？ 後來查了一下資料， 發覺其實每一個功能都不太同。 果汁機能把食物液化 (liquefy) 。 攪拌機是能把食物結合, 但比較不能液化。Immersion blender 是手拿的多功能小工具，可以切，攪拌跟把食物液化。
When I was growing up in the U.S., Costco runs were a weekly routine. That routine fell to the wayside after I moved out on my own, and it was because the places I lived in didn’t have Costco, or because I didn’t have easy access to one. That has changed in the recent months. At first I didn’t bother getting a membership card, and just went with friends who had one. But, I eventually came to the reality that there is a certain freedom that comes with having my own Costco card. For me, it’s the chance to shop at times that are convenient for me (never, ever, ever on weekends). While I’m there, I can stay as long as I want~ sometimes I have very goal-oriented trips, where I am in and out of the store in less than 30 minutes. Other times, I like to take the time to browse the DVDs, magazines, or explore new baking supplies and household products, and then maybe have a treat at the end of my trip. I think those are good enough reasons to make the membership fee worthwhile.
I’ve had my membership card for eight months now, so I thought it would be a good time to share some tips on what has worked well for me so far. To give you an idea on my current lifestyle, I live in a compact urban apartment and I also mostly cook for one, at most two people. My kitchen is small, and I have limited storage space in both the cupboards and refrigerator. Given these realities, it’s not practical for me to buy certain items or ingredients in bulk because either I have no room to store them, or they may go to waste before I have a chance to consume them. It’s also easiest and most cost-efficent for me to utilize public transportation on my trips to Costco, which also of course limits the items that I can buy.
Before going to Costco, I always make a list, and bring just enough cash to cover the items on that list. This was a little difficult at first, because I didn’t know the prices~ but during my first few visits I took photos of the items that I’m interested in or would routinely buy and just compiled my list from there. If I don’t have the cash to buy an item, I also take a photo of the item and price tag, and decide if I still want it on my next visit. (It’s my second nature to hoard and to impulse buy, so I have to go to extremes to quash those impulses). My second most important tip is: never go hungry. The concession stand is at the end of the store~ after you check out. I don’t usually eat free samples (the lines are long) so unless I follow my advice and do some preventative eating, I’m hangry by the time I get to the check outs. The item placement changes each and every time I’m there. This is one of Costco’s strategies to get you to browse more. I happily accept this reality and I browse with an open mind (in that gloriously cool air conditioning) and the reassurance that with a list and limited cash on hand, there is not much damage that I can do.
This August just swooshed by. I finished traipsing around all the nooks and crannies of Taipei for work, wrapped up a major project and am going to enjoy a one week staycation… starting now! This is the first summer in two years that I am not changing jobs, traveling for work, traveling for pleasure, or moving. I thought I would miss the flurry of activity, especially the traveling, but it turns out I am really relishing the feeling of staying put…and staying put means I can indulge in my two favorite activities~ reading and putting things in order. 一轉眼八月也快過去了。這個月我看了好幾本好書，整理了一下家裡的小角落， 悠閒的在家裡吃了好幾次晚餐，還有幫弟弟慶生。提到慶生～我很愛送禮物，尤其是生日禮物。 但有時候真的不知道送什麼。 今年我們兩個終於想出一個很棒的方式：直接跟對方說想要什麼～ 另外一位就負債達成願望就好了。這個方式， 讓送禮物， 收禮物的人都很happy! 八月剩下的幾天， 我要讓自己放一個小假好好充電，準備好迎接忙碌的九月。
- Eslite is having a great summer sales program. I bought four books, and traded in some of my Eslite points for a some artwork by Japanese artist Noritake. I love the simple drawing, and of course the message. I’m framing it and hanging it up in my office.
2. I’ve read three of the books so far (Wonder, Big Little Lies, and Everything I Never Told You) and now I’m reading “Goodbye Things.” I was drawn to the title because I’m trying to adopt a simpler lifestyle. Some guidelines I’m trying to live by are, buying less, buying better. No hoarding. One rainy afternoon, I tackled the easiest part, my beauty supplies. I gathered all the items I have squirreled away in various corners of my apartment, and put them all into one drawer. Now that everything is one place, I can see what I have left before buying something new. I’m also keeping my empties this year, and trying to gauge how long it actually takes me to finish a product. Simplifying is a work in progress for me. It’s my inclination to have backups of everything, in case of… [insert possible disaster here] so trying to change this habit is a little unnerving. But I’m going to keep at it. Next, I’ll be taking on the two areas where the hoarding is the most severe: kitchenware and stationery. Stay tuned for updates.