Habit Shifts: Money Matters, Experiences with a 30 Day Shopping Ban

My weakness: face masks made from all different kinds of ingredients

Around this time last year, I tried to exercise some financial discipline~ I instituted a 30-day shopping ban, where I would try to cut down on unnecessary or impulse shopping. When I first mentioned this challenge to some of my nearest and dearest, I asked them to list out things that I couldn’t buy, and here are some of their responses:

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Monthly Roundup for October, 2018

The next few months for me are extremely deadline driven. I basically eat, work and sleep, with a little bit of a break on Sundays and Monday afternoons. Currently, I’m wrapping up projects from the previous year, while simultaneously working on new ones. It’s now gotten to a point where I’m having trouble keeping track of all my notes from each project, and I have papers flapping everywhere at work and at home. My solution for now is that I just put everything in one notebook, and use dividers to demarcate between each project.

 

I don’t know about you, but I never use up an entire notebook from start to finish with just one subject, so this method is a good way for me to get maximum mileage out of one notebook. Plus, the tabs are removable, so I just move them further back if I need more pages for a particular topic.  Such a simple solution, but I’m not quite sure why it took me so long to figure it out!

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Hello Hong Kong! Star Street Precinct, Monocle Shop, King-Tak Hong Porcelain Co., Wanchai (星街小區)

Information: Star Street Precinct, MTR Admiralty Station Exit F, follow the subway signs to the Three Pacific Place Link, which leads directly to the Star Street Precinct.

After my professional development workshop,I had just a little bit of time in Hong Kong for a short holiday.  Unlike previous visits, where I had detailed lists of places to go, sites to see, and desserts to try, this time, I decided to take it easy, and just schedule a short trip to see the “Star Street” area in Wanchai. Hong Kong Electric’s power plant used to be located nearby, but now it is home to a selection of eclectic shops, chic restaurants, and the Monocle shop.

The Star Street precinct is easily accessible by MTR.  Take the blue line and get off at Admiralty Station, and find Exit F.

It’s a pleasant walk in the Three Pacific Link. ( PS- If you need to stock up on snacks, the Admiralty MTR stop has a Marks and Spencer’s shop, a 7-11 convenience store and a Pret a Manger.  It’s definitely one of the better equipped MTR stations)

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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!

 

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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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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