Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Room for Baby

Now that the baby is home and we are all settling into our new routine, I think we finally managed to finish baby's room! I had originally thought we could just "do whatever" and move forward without an official "baby room,".....but ultimately I admitted to myself that this is the first baby! Of course I want everything to be fun and perfect, and feared I might look back with regret if I didn't put my best effort into everything for him :)

[Noteworthy ~ In Taiwan most rental apartments have all white walls. It is fairly uncommon to find a rental apartment here with brightly colored walls or a landlord that would grant you permission to paint. Luckily for us, we have negotiated with our own landlady and she is very cooperative (as discussed in previous post).]

I wanted to be sure we have some pictures to show baby Gerock when he's older what his first home looked like in Taipei!

Wall at Entry: Freshly painted room, Super challenging puzzle completed by Yours Truly,
new IKEA chair (not a traditional rocking chair, but it rocks a *little*)

We hunted across Taipei for the perfect rocking chair and could hardly find any contenders. Apparently, the Taiwanese have yet to be introduced to a good wooden rocking chair on a nice big Southern porch... Thankfully, this IKEA chair is designed with some give and can serve the same purpose.

Wall at Right of Entry: New wall stickers,
dresser/diaper changing station, drawer labels by Mom (me)

I discovered many cute wall stickers online from a Taiwanese auction website and much to my dismay I was unable to order them (my inability to read the Chinese on the website and lack of a local credit card). After resigning to the a room without fun stickers... I discovered the exact set I'd had my heart set on at the nearest night market by our home (RaoHe Night Market)! :)

Removable wall stickers above the diaper changing station ~
baby Gerock already enjoys gazing at them while we change his dipe

I made a few labels for the dresser drawers
For the window I had some new curtains made. I had a blast hunting for fabrics at the fabric market and finally settled on a nice Texas themed country curtain ;) Since we don't really have a baby "theme," anything goes - and I picture us using the curtains as education / entertainment for baby as he learns to look/listen/read/etc. [The bedding came with the apartment, and I have yet to update it...]

New curtains, selected and made at the Yongle Fabric Market

Close up of our Down-On-The-Farm curtains
We picked out a simple table lamp for those late night diaper changes... It gets used a LOT...

Ta Da!
And finally, here is photo of the puzzle we had framed for baby's room. This is buy a popular local artist. The picture is called lucky apple. This was THE hardest puzzle I have EVER completed! I figured I wouldn't have much time for puzzles after baby's arrival. Glad I finished this one in time.

We may not have a theme, but if you know me well, you'd also know I love elephants... What is that you say reaching up into the tree branches on the puzzle?

Monday, October 8, 2012

2 Years in Taipei

I can hardly believe it - in both directions - Could I really have been here for 2 years already? ...And... Is that all?  

The adventure continues, even though in many ways it has mellowed out a bit.
You never know what you might see or do that is "out of the ordinary" any given day. Or maybe it is ordinary? :)

So, since I've been busy navigating the city and prepping for baby's arrival - Just thought I'd share a few of the typical and not so typical happenings of late:

Dogs on Scooters: Seen it.
Dog on Motorcycle... This was new...  

This is what a large IKEA dresser in a very small bedroom looks like.
So glad we finally have storage space for baby's things!
Especially since this room has NO closet.

The dresser movers actually gave us 2 glasses as a gift.
It's marketing, but also how you know you paid too much...
[Nonetheless they were very efficient & kind]

Policeman waiting to freeze the lights for important traffic in front of our house.
I wonder how long he stood there? I gave up waiting to see who the big deal was...

Recently on a trip to Bangkok Jam @ ATT4Fun (delicious Thai food),
discovered Bar-Rito...
Now I love them  both!

Flavored mooncakes from clients for the recent Moon Festival holiday :)
Even Starbucks offers mooncakes here...

A new salad/wrap/sandwich place has opened and
filled the void of healthy dine-out options in my life!
This is "Dressed" ~ and I am already a repeat customer...

Been browsing the fabric market recently

For baby curtain ideas
(This is the winner!)

With endless choices

It takes hours to make any purchases!
Love the fabric market!

Thought I had posted this 2 weeks ago... my the time is flying these days...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

week 103_Street Artist Portrait

After a recent dinner out with friends on a Saturday night, I was walking home -with nothing better to do- and decided to stop to give one of the street artists a bit of business. Living downtown within walking distance of the Xinyi district means we are never without food, shopping, or entertainment.

 I decided that it could be really neat to have my portrait drawn while pregnant, and I specifically noted to the artist that I would really love it if he could sketch not only my face, but all the way down to my belly. I sat for what felt like ages on a hot evening, but at least the sun was down and there was a gentle breeze occasionally.

My face starting to take shape
Apparently, I was quite the spectacle to see. Hubby was at work, so there I sat, just a single foreign pregnant woman for all the locals to gawk at! Truth be told, I attracted the artist quite a little gathering of onlookers ~ hopefully, he got some extra business out of the deal.

Pregnant me, Sitting still for what feels like a long time!
The usual portrait fee was $100 NTD ($3.38 USD), but I paid a little extra at $150 NTD to have my belly in the picture.

[Amateur photographer passerby decides to take our photos]
 The artist was very kind and worked quickly, glancing up and down from his paper every second. At one point when a passerby began to photo our little session, I asked the artist to pause so I could give him my email address. Success! He sent the photos to me the same night. :)

It's me! Only slightly more Asian...
In the end, I feel like the artist took some liberties with my appearance (can we say 20 lbs. lighter and almond shaped eyes, long nose?) but it was a fun way to pass the time. I'm thinking I may try again with another street artist sometime... Just to see if I still turn up with an Asian Lizzie picture. ;)

Monday, September 10, 2012

week 102_Ghost Month Bai-Bai

August was ghost month, and as a closing ceremony at end of the month, our office held the annual bai-bai to pray for prosperity to our business in the coming year. We will soon be relocating to a new office location, so I imagine there were many prayers sent up for the speedy and easy transition into our anticipated place of business.

Our building holds multiple tenants, so our table was sandwiched among the other bai-bai offerings at the front of our building. Just a few pictures from the day...

Another Tenant's Offering Table

During the first bai-bai session (early afternoon) we all break from our work to go downstairs and pray. All incense is placed in one jar together at the front of the table.

Our Company's Offering Table
 The gods obviously don't mind a drink either...

1st bai-bai: Incense placed together in urn
 And of course, in year of the dragon, some fresh dragon fruit!

Dragon Fruit & Goodies
 A neighboring tenant gathers to burn paper money as offering to the gods.

Neighbors burning paper money offerings
During the second bai-bai session (later the same afternoon) we all break from our work to go downstairs and pray again. This time the incense is placed among the offerings on the table. 
2nd bai-bai: Incense placed among offerings
 At the end of the day... the truth is... all of the offerings are brought inside!
Fresh dragon fruit for everyone!
 I didn't have an official snack drawer before, but I am all set now!
The spoils ~ The new snack drawer at my desk!

Friday, August 31, 2012

week 101_sampling moon cakes

It's not every week that our office counter tops are covered with moon cakes, but just twice a year we get lucky ~ once for the preview/sampling of what we might send to clients, and once when the clients send us moon cakes during the Moon Festival holiday!

Since the Moon Festival holiday is fast approaching (it rotates with the Chinese lunar calendar, falling on September 30th this year), last week we got to try out boxes of moon cake samples from all over Taipei. :)

As mentioned in last year's post, the moon cakes come in all assorted flavors and varieties, but the basic idea is consistent: very dense, and lightly sweetened treats with an outside pastry or sweet shell and the inside is thick and chewy.

Best combination of presentation & flavors:
The Westin Hotel
(ex: Raspberry Blueberry or Grapefruit Ceylon Tea)

I actually kept the box on my desk (since it was headed for the trash) and it will make a great little organizer, but is still very attractive when closed up. :)

Traditional Chinese Moon cakes with Egg Yolk Center

Moon cake presentation with dried fruits

Great Box (but I didn't love the moon cakes!)

Fancy moon cake boxes from the Grand Hotel
~ one tasted coffee flavored, I like it best!
I'm not sure which box won in the end, but one of these will be sent to our professional friends and clients in the next few weeks.

Monday, August 27, 2012

week 100_Can you believe that?

100 weeks in Taipei. 

Sounds monumental I think! 
I can hardly believe I have been here for (almost) two years ~ and at the same time, sometimes it feels like it has already been five...

I'm happy to report that Taipei is still fresh and entertaining. With so many places to see, explore, and new adventures to be had, there is never a dull moment - just a lack of time on my calendar! I've been keeping busier than ever recently with personal fitness training sessions, Chinese lessons, a book club, work (obviously!), doctor's appointments, and preparing for baby.

However, the most significant thing to note over these past few months, I believe, is how truly "local" I have been feeling recently. I can at least see significant improvement in my own geographic and language abilities. Not to mention I've been introduced to the vast network of English speaking parents in Taiwan - which is sort of like this massive community that must have always been right in front of my face but I never noticed. It's interesting how quickly I've learned from them, and not just about children/baby activities, but generally about where to find things in Taipei and what is going on at all times! 

100 week local status:
  • I've finally gained the ability to direct taxi drivers 75% accurately (left, right, intersection, take ___ street, MRT station, air port, past that stoplight, u-turn here, address names, etc.). This is immensely helpful ~ and most taxi rides cost less than $10 USD ~ a splurge I'm willing to make sometimes
  • I can read many of the Chinese characters. I can rarely read anything in whole, but can almost always (75% of the time) read something in part.
  • I know where to find great food. Whether it's a street vendor cart for breakfast, a or an authentic Mediterranean restaurant, I can find whatever my craving heart desires! In fact, sometimes I tell my local friends where to find things... :)

34 weeks preggo.

Also pretty darn monumental!
Just like my time in Taiwan, the time being pregnant has seemed rapid and slow at the same time. Now that I'm in the home stretch, I am ready for baby to get here! 
(Well, sort of... depending on your definition of ready)

34 weeks preggo status:
  • Ailments such as stretch marks, swollen hands and legs, inability to shave my own legs, etc. ~ Not Yet! and Holding Out as long as possible!!!
  • 100% ready for the following items to come back into my life: Blue cheese (fresh, dip, or dressing), medium rare steak, deli meat, margaritas, sushi, beer... the list goes on...
  • Need to Finish: Baby's room, shopping!, maternity photos, arranging child care, pre-washing all of baby's many clothes/blankets/diapers, childbirth classes, a little light preggo related reading, my Chinese text book, next month's book club assignment, and many tasks at Work!!!

Our Front Door
J's sweet grandma sent me a collection of crafty supplies (buttons, ribbon, glittery stars/ shapes, and lots of colorful art papers) awhile back, and I finally put some of them to good use on our apartment's front door. I like seeing the numbers go down, and since people love asking when am I due, I figure the neighbors are probably watching too...! ;)

Friday, August 17, 2012

week 99_Asian Figure Skating Trophy 2012

It's hot here (this seems to be the trend everywhere this month ;) --- poor Oklahoma and Texas!), so last week when I heard tell of an ice skating competition, it sounded like a great way to beat the heat. I've recently started paying more attention to online English forums for parents in Taipei, and it turns out they are constantly finding new activities to entertain their kids and get out of the house. Who knew there were so many destinations and events going on in Taipei that I've never even heard of?... And many of these are things that I'd just like to see - kids or not!

So last Friday on a warm and muggy evening when the husband happened to be off work as well, we crossed the street from my office to Taipei Arena to check out the Asian Figure Skating Trophy 2012 competition. We've been watching the Olympics recently (hasn't everyone?) and it was fun to actually see a sporting event in person. The portion of the competition that we caught was the "Senior Women's Short Program," (senior implying late teenage and early 20's) and a variety of Asian countries were represented in the competition - Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Kazakstan, and more.

It was great to watch the girls but we also cringed at every missed step or fall! The differences between the countries was fascinating. The Korean skaters had better speed and faster lifts/spins, but the Taiwanese girls had better personality, always smiling and acting the part. It turned out to be a great idea for a leisurely Friday night with the hubby. We took some videos too, but my blog is not cooperating this morning...

The competition is over now, but the Taipei Arena 'Ice Land' hosts other ice sporting events year round (skating, hockey), and is also open for public ice skating in between. I definitely want to go back next summer (post-pregnancy) when I can stretch my legs out, try to remember how to ice skate, and enjoy a nice cool escape on a hot summer evening!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

week 98_Another Typhoon & Another Anniversary

So far in our married life, we have managed to do something unique on each wedding anniversary. Each year has been a little different than the next, but at least we always manage to celebrate together and treat ourselves in some way. 

For our 1st wedding anniversary, we attended a Rangers baseball game at the ballpark in Arlington, TX. We like watching baseball but rarely attend the games in person, so it was a special treat for both us with a few souvenirs as our keepsakes [I think that Rangers t-shirt is around here somewhere...]

For our 2nd wedding anniversary, we shared a fondue dinner at the Melting Pot in Dallas, TX. I love fondue, and hubby hadn't had any in years so he needed to be reminded of how delicious it is! It was a fancy dinner and a small splurge for us, but a great choice for a nice romantic evening. 

For our 3rd wedding anniversary, we had spent the majority of the year living on separate continents! Thankfully, Jason had finally joined me in Taipei a couple of months earlier, and though we were planning to have a nice dinner together, I ended up having a business dinner to attend the same day! In the end, I snuck out of my dinner early and hubby met me for a special dessert at a Haagen Dazs shop nearby (in Taipei, Taiwan). 

{{{ For those of you who don't know, my husband and I met when we were working together at the Marble Slab Ice Cream shop 10 years ago. So cute! And I can still remember those days! Since ice cream holds a special place in our story, it is our perfect anniversary treat. }}}

This year, for our 4th wedding anniversary, we were magically given the day off work together ~ amazing! Due to another typhoon passing near the island, many offices and schools were closed. There was some wind and rain to be dealt with, but it was so fantastic to have a lazy day off work together! Not to mention, perfect timing :) We slept in, ate a late lunch, went to the movies, and finished the day with homemade ice cream sundaes. The typhoon caused little to no damage in our immediate area, so we just tried to stay dry and enjoy the day off! 

Our selection of flavors and "mix-ins," purchased from the Family Mart downstairs for convenience :)
(as we weathered the storm) + 2 brownies from the Aussie Dessert House down the block


Hoping you were all also spared by the typhoon, and enjoyed the day off! :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

week 97_Taipei Zoo

After 96 weeks in Taiwan, it's about time we made a visit to the Zoo (don't you think?)!

For some odd reason, the idea to visit the Taipei Zoo struck us on a particularly hot & humid day this past weekend. Hubby and I had just finished a late lunch and had no plans, other than to beat the heat, until we started pondering a visit to the Zoo. True, it was scalding hot outside, but it also sounded more exciting than heading home to sit on the sofa! [In retrospect - excellent thinking on our part]

By the time we came to this conclusion and hopped on the MRT it was already pretty late in the day. As we rode the MRT brown line south towards the last stop on the line -Taipei Zoo- I checked the website on my iPhone and was distraught to see the published hours said the Zoo closed at 5pm daily. It was already 4:30pm... but I didn't feel like bursting our bubble, so I kept my lips sealed in hopes that the website might be wrong, and --- Yes! --- It turns out the Zoo is open until 9pm! :)

We arrived just before 5pm and entered the Zoo by swiping our Taipei Easy Cards (MRT cards). The entrance fee was $30 NTD (= $1 USD); easy and affordable.

Not only was the Zoo open later in the day, but we were also pleasantly surprised by the size and quality of the park. With the sun sinking lower in the sky and plenty of places for a pit stop, it turned out to be a lovely adventure for a Saturday afternoon. There were various places to stop for drinks or snacks, stroller and wheelchair rental available (we joked that I should get a wheelchair since I'm preggers), shaded seating areas, indoor exhibits with nice cool air conditioning, and plenty of large outdoor habitats for the biggest critters.

One of the highlights was the Giant Panda exhibit, home to two pandas, gifted to Taiwan from China (apparently China is the only place to find Pandas anymore). There were all of the regulars too - elephants, hippos, giraffe, zebra, etc. We're animal lovers all the way around, so we enjoyed everything we saw. In total we probably only saw 1/4 of the zoo. We will have to go back another day!

Not too shabby for a Saturday afternoon outing. After almost 3 hours of sightseeing, it was time to rest!
Just a few pics ~~~

Posing with an 'Elephant'

Their flamingos didn't seem as pink as I expected

Gorgeous Owl in the Nocturnal Exhibit

Monkeys on the move!

Bambi, and bambino

A real panda bear!

Bird & Wildlife refuge area