Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yingge Day Trip

Yingge is a small ceramics town about 30 minutes from Taipei by train .

First we walked down the Old Street and explored some pottery shops.

Watch out for the dragons!

Next we headed to the Ceramics Museum, which included an outdoor sculpture garden.

We ended our Thanksgiving day adventure by counting our blessings over coffee at a nearby 7-11. :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Speeding Leads to Regretting"

...was the title of this street sign:

Just to put it in perspective:

28 KPH = 17 MPH
39 KPH = 24 MPH

And we thought 65 MPH on the highways at home was too slow...!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

We celebrated Thanksgiving last weekend (since we will work on Thanksgiving day). Our cell group hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and invited two Taiwanese cell groups from our church.

We made traditional dishes and everyone chipped in to buy a turkey! (They are flown in from America just for Thanksgiving). We bought our ingredients from our local outdoor market (we made the vendors' day!)

Before dinner, everyone shared something they're thankful for and Kalan briefly told the story of the first Thanksgiving (our British and Taiwanese friends hadn't heard it before).

It was a fun night to share an American tradition and get to know some of our Taiwanese brothers and sisters better. Both Kalan and I are thankful for the relationships we've made in Taiwan. We are also thankful for our friends and family across the ocean.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Making 粥

This past week, Micah's social worker told me that I needed to start making him 粥 to eat.

"粥? What's 粥?" I innocently asked.

She and the other nurses were astounded.
"What?! You don't know how to make 粥?!" they asked incredulously. "If you want to be a good parent, maybe you need to read some books about babies," they seriously suggested.

Apparently, making 粥 is a basic parenting skill that I was lacking.

Foster parenting in Taiwan has been a cross-cultural learning experience. For example, the social worker requires Micah to sleep in our loft with us, because it's unthinkable to have him sleep in a separate room (even if it's just downstairs in our one-room apartment). The nurses make sure he's bundled up in a sweater and socks as soon as the temperature drops below 70 degrees F, even if his hair is wet with sweat. Also, we are required to bathe Micah after he poops to make sure he's clean. (In America, babies usually sleep in their own rooms, wear less layers, and are cleaned with wet wipes after a dirty diaper.) It's humbling to learn that our American way is not necessarily "normal" in most of the world.

Thankfully, my dear friend Michelle taught me how to make 粥 this weekend. (粥 is congee, a type of gruel made by slow cooking rice with a lot of water. In China and Taiwan, it's often fed to infants with pumpkin and/or small white fish). It turned out alright.

Hopefully I'm on my way to becoming a better foster parent!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gondolas and Games with the Girls

On Saturday all the women from our cell group headed to Maokong to enjoy some fresh air, a cozy cafe, and time to relax together. (The men went hiking in Jiaoxi).

We took the gondola up...

...and spent the afternoon chatting, snacking, and playing Dutch Blitz and Banana Grams.

Can't think of a better way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon!

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Love Veggies

A recent item on my thankfulness list was Taiwan's abundance of fresh and inexpensive produce. About 1/2 of our mini-refrigerator space is occupied by veggies and fruit each week.

Can you believe that this table of vegetables cost less than $3 US?

Our meals here are typically based on veggies, like this sweet potato soup. I love it. In the States we wanted to eat more leafy greens, but found that it was tough to buy a lot of produce while sticking to our grocery budget.

Vegetables...just another little thing I'm thankful for in our island home.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Breakfast at Brownie's

The Friday Brunch girls are back.

Last Friday morning, we met at Brownie's new restaurant! She now runs an Indonesian grocery store with a restaurant attached. She treated us to several delicious Indo dishes.

While Brownie cooked and helped customers, Michelle and I snacked on homemade banana chips and sipped Indonesian coconut juice.

It was fun for the three of us to catch up. It's been a year since we starting hanging out together, and a lot of big things have happened in each of our lives. We've helped each other through ups and downs. I'm thankful I get to share my life with these friends.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten-Free)

Last night I made gluten-free cookies using ONLY almond flour. Usually, for GF baking, I use a blend of rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch flour, and xantham gum. So only using one type of flour made the process much simpler. (Thank you, Binky, for mailing that flour all the way to Taiwan!) :)

The cookies were delicious. The almond flour gives them a light nutty flavor and soft, chewy texture.

Ingredients (Makes about 10 cookies):

* 1 1/2 cups almond flour
* 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 egg
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375.

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Mix in the egg. Next, add the almond flour, vanilla, salt, and baking soda and mix until it’s all incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!

(You can check out the original recipe here from the Wannabe Chef.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lottery Winners

One rainy Saturday morning, we sat down to count our receipts. In Taiwan, each receipt is a lottery ticket (it's a government promotion to encourage stores to give receipts). Usually we have a few $200 NT winners (about $6 US). But this time, we won big-time...

...with a $4,000 NT winner (about $100 US after taxes!) Grad school, here we come! :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Lattes

I miss autumn...I miss fall colors, apple-picking and homemade applesauce, and curling up in front of the fireplace with the Packer game on.

I also miss pumpkin spice lattes (a favorite from my Starbucks barista days). So on a rainy Saturday I concocted some homemade syrup. (Thanks for sending the can of pumpkin, Mom!)

Easy Pumpkin Spice Lattes

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp ground cloves
4 Tbsp fresh chopped ginger (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3 Tbsp canned pumpkin

Heat the water and sugar in a saucepan until clear. Add other ingredients and cook about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently (don't let it boil). After it cools, strain it into a large jar. It will keep in the refrigerator for quite a while.

Add a few tablespoon of syrup to a strong cup of coffee. Add some heated milk.

Here's to autumn! :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hiking Wu Liao Jian 五寮尖

Probably the most intense hike we've done yet...not because it was long, but because it was STEEP. For most of the trail we used ropes. At times I felt like we were rock climbing instead of hiking.

To get to this trail, you need to take the MRT to Yongning station (as far west on the blue line as you can go). From there, you need to take a taxi to the trail head (near Sanxia). We were blessed by a friendly, weathered hiker who took us under his wing and not only helped us stay on the trail, but also gave us a lift in his car after we finished. Yet another awesome experience of Taiwanese hospitality. :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hiking Tiger Mountain 虎山

We are on a quest to conquer the "Four Beast Mountains" surrounding Taipei. A few weeks ago we climbed Elephant Mountain, and most recently we hiked Tiger mountain. Tiger was a much easier climb than Elephant, though the trail is harder to find.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Halloween!

For Halloween we helped host a party at my school for students and their families.

This is Julianne, my co-worker and good friend. :)

And these are our awesome husbands. I was proud that mine chose to be a Packer! Yeah!

Happy Halloween!