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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Cooking Project: Miffy Curry Rice (inspired by Rilakkuma Cafe)

Recently, I tagged along with my friends to the Rilakkuma Cafe in Taipei.  The food was abysmal, but the presentation was irresistible.   So even though the rice was dry, the chicken hard and flavorless, everything tasted more exciting because it was molded into the face of Rilakkuma.

In the end, I was so charmed by the effect that I decided to recreate the experience at home with my favorite cartoon character…Miffy.  I did a quick search online, and found a Miffy rice mold.

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Field Trip: Heritage Bakery and Cafe

Information: Heritage Bakery and Cafe: Hankou Street, Section 1, No. 73-2, Taipei City, Zhongzheng District| Phone: 02 2311 1079| Website: |台北市中正區漢口街一段73號之2

I grew up in the U.S., and I will always have nostalgia for some of their more hearty desserts, such as carrot cake, chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon rolls, and cake with thick buttercream frosting.  In the past, when cravings struck, I usually had to roll up my sleeves and make these desserts myself.  However, this has all changed  upon my discovery of Fika Fika Cafe, and most recently, Heritage Bakery and Cafe. Both cafes serve carrot cake the way that it’s supposed to be~ sweet and cinnamon-y, with visible carrot shreds, and most importantly, topped by a generous swirl of cream cheese frosting.

Heritage Bakery Cafe is located near Taipei Main Station and Ximen Station. (If you are a camera enthusiast, you will be familiar with this area, because there there are several camera stores grouped in this neighborhood).

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