Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Frantic French Food Fixin'

This winter break is one of the few times in my teaching career that I have not disappeared to another country at the sound of the final class bell in December. Due to our travel restrictions and local obligations, we are staying in Taichung this holiday. Who would have thought that vacation could be so jam-packed and busy but so far it is shaping up to be a hectic ride.

Monday felt like our first true day of the break and we planned to use part of the day looking at baby schools. We toured a couple and may have settled on Paradise - I just like the idea of sending our little one to paradise each day...Getting home, we remembered that a guest was coming for an early dinner. It was 1:30 and the meal needed to be prepared and the house cleaned. Take a deep breath, let's start racing!

This kind of all over the place activity was much easier when four hands were 100% available to the task at hand, but Xian has the canny ability to require three to six. As I began cooking, Krista worked on cleaning with baby in tow (have we mentioned that Xian absolutely hates being put down during the day and will scream, scream, scream)

I had two and a half hours to bake a loaf of bread, prepare a tarte a l'onion,a salad and a chocolate mousse. In between cleaning spurts, Krista sprinted upstairs to our 4th floor garden space to clip a few herbs (basil, oregano and rosemary) for the bread. Thanks to a birthday gift from my parents, we are slowly attempting to transform an upper level balcony space into a garden.

The garden deck in September - unfortunately several of the plants did not make the winter transition but the herbs are going strong!
Yeast gobbled up sugar in a warm water bath until loads of flour were poured on top with garlic, herbs and a dash of salt. The magic of the bread machine then took over - the timer let me know that the baking would be finished just in time.

The next time sensitive item was the chocolate mousse. Chocolate needed to be broken up, melted, mixed with other ingredients and then chilled to a wonderful, tasty dessert.

Below, I'm frantically chopping garlic for the bread as eggs are prepared to add to the mousse.

Melting chocolate and beating egg whites at the same time. A non-hands-free mixer mixin' it up by itself.

The first impression of most people when asked if they would appreciate a tarte a l'onion, or onion pie, often begins with disgust but moves quickly to a polite response using the word "interesting". It does sound a bit odd. Who would make a pie with onions? But, I am yet to meet someone that later describes the taste of the pie as interesting. The person is usually asking for seconds so quickly that he or she has no time to comment on the fact that they are enjoying a pie full of onions. Labor wise, chopping vast amounts of onions can be brutal but this time I was able to quickly chop without a crying fit (what's your onion chopping trick? The latest I've tried is to hold water in my mouth as I cut. This sometimes works...)

As the clock ticked towards our guest's arrival, all was in good order. The pie was baking, the bread was finishing up and the mousse was chilling.

One of our best purchases in Taiwan - a counter top oven! Here, the tarte a l'onion bakes its final minutes.


I haven't run out of steam and I'm certainly not giving up, I am however, taking a break. The next few posts for the 17 days of 3400 NTD will be clustered together. This ultimately will make complete sense. It also gives me a chance to take a break from fashion and talk about family. Tomorrow is the day we go to court for Xian. You see, we are still in a state of limbo with the adoption of our darling daughter. Tomorrow is a major milestone and one that we have been waiting for since the day Xian was placed into our arms. So today, court. Hopefully soon, a home visit and shortly following, the final decree. Wish us luck!

take a look at those cheeks, totally pinch worthy

Daddy can't resist em!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Free Size

The markets here in Taiwan are fantastically spectacular. A person can find absolutely anything they could possibly need, or not need as the case may be. The one down side is you can try nothing on. You have to hold the outfits up to you and hope they fit okay. Outfit number 3 fell into the category of didn't fit too well once I got home. I solved the problem by adding a belt to tighten everything up. Leg warmers were an absolutely necessity due to the chill in the air. The great thing about this outfit is that it is incredibly comfy. I even wore it for a little hike later in the day. The shortness proved a bit uncomfortable for me but hey, sometimes a girl's just gotta show what she's got!

For hiking, I lost the belt for a much more comfortable hiking experience. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve with a Touch of Love

Tonight, I experienced something truly magical: acorn nut roast. For those of you who have never tried this wonderful concoction of nutty goodness, I seriously tell you your life has been lacking. We were invited to a friend's house for Christmas Eve dinner and were introduced to this tasty bit of goodness. I wish I had pictures for you, but pictures would hardly do this dish justice. We had a wonderful time meeting new people. Xian had her first party, and I donned my 2nd outfit of 17 days. Upon heading home from the market, I noticed that almost everything I had bought was black and white, which makes this outfit one of my favorites due to the splash of red over a zebra print dress. . .YUMMY!

Of course the dress was short and so it was paired with chevron print tights and gray boots.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Disney is a Don't

First and for most.. . the loot. Here it is in all its glory!

When I emailed my sister in law a sneak peak of today's outfit, her response was, "AAAAHHHH!" I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. However, I can say that I was comfortable, warm and ready to deal with the screaming baby I woke up to (growing pains, ugh!). It also kind of reflected my mood. . . dark.

There are several styles in Taiwan that I have become accustomed to, and some I have even embraced. That said, there are a few styles even I have difficulty with. The two that come to mind immediately are: bow adorned sweaters, the other: Disney character clothing. Don't get me wrong, I think it is completely appropriate for a five year old to become all excited by their favorite Disney princess T-shirt; however, I find it quite disturbing when adults become all twitterpaited with said garb. This brings me to my first outfit. I knew I needed to rock an oversized sweatshirt, after all, I am in Taiwan. That, coupled with a very tired mommy, this outfit was pulled together. Comfy, cozy, and so very Taiwanese. . .

My head is absent from this photo due to my exhausted state 

Game ON!

My shopping excursion last night proved to be quite successful. After only 3.5 hours at the market, my money was spent and my body was exhausted. However, I did accomplish what I set out to do. 14 outfits were purchased, not a penny more than 3400 NTD was spent. Thursday night at Feng Jia was quite manageable, with only the food streets being barely passable. My friend brought along her baby, Ella, and so the stroller proved to be quite an effective battering ram, clearing the way for us to shop.
Baby stroller + night market = pathways created

Feng Jia, thankfully, wasn't too busy

a quick dinner of cheese balls

I quickly noticed that I had to keep my purchase price somewhere around 150 NTD per item, roughly $5.00 USD if I was going to make budget. This really limited my selections. I found myself perusing the sale racks out front of the stores. Bling was out! Too expensive at a whopping 300 NTD per shirt ($10.00 USD). All in all, I feel as if I accomplished quite a bit and am excited to share my purchases with you over the next few weeks. Tomorrow I'll share my first outfit, and even post pics of my spoils. Game ON everyone!

Preparing for Feng Jia

Well, this is it. The last post before my big night out at the Feng Jia night market. In order to get in the mood, I am dressing in night market-esk garb as I venture off on my task. A few things race through my mind. . .is 3400 NTD really enough money to show case the night market’s many wonders? am I really young enough to rock the fashions I will find (short and tight)? what really constitutes a complete night market outfit? I don’t know if I have the answer to these questions; however, I have been working on the last one. Shoes don’t count. . .PERIOD! I am a girl who truly feels as if shoes will make or break an outfit but really, I only have 3400 NTD-not nearly enough for a complete make over. I suppose I need to clarify “outfit” by saying: major pieces of outfit must be from the night market; however additional pieces may be added from my current wardrobe to complete the outfit. In addition, pieces may be recycled throughout the 17 days as long as they are worn in different ways.


A run down on my Feng Jia shopping attire, if not explicitly stated, items were purchased at a market in Zhu Hai, China.
hot pink leggings: $4 USD
black lip stick tank: $3 USD
Black jingle jangle shoes: $3.5 USD
Black zipper shrug: $5 USD
Black Ice Breaker top: $19.99 USD purchased from Steep and Cheap
Total outfit cost: $35.49 USD.

Okay the Ice Breaker top totally blew the beauty of how cheap a night market outfit can truly be, but a girl’s gotta stay warm shopping. Plus, the jingle jangle shoes may be replaced for a much more comfortable pair of walking shoes. I do have a lot of shopping to do after all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dong Zhi: Winter Solstice Festival

A cup of sugary pink balls was placed on my desk by  a student today. With it came the following message:

“Winter Solstice Festival or the Extreme of Winter (Dong Zhi, December 22), is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other Asians. During Dong Zhi, sunshine is the weakest and daylight is the shortest. The origins of this festival can be traced back the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. Traditionally, the Dong Zhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One popular activity is the making and eating of Tang Yuan, or balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize reunion.”

The odd little balls were strangely tasty. This is a tradition I could get used to!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Girl's Always Gotta Look Her Best. . .

Right? Well, that's what Xian thinks anyway. A mirror is her new favorite toy. She loves to gaze at herself in its reflection. With day time naps being almost non existent, we were elated to discover that Xian adores laying face down on the shiny surface and passing out. Is a future fashionista in our midst, or perhaps we're creating a monster. . .

Every girl knows a mirror should always be within reach, even when sleeping.

Mirror, mirror on the wall. . . 

At times, vanity is a good thing. Sleep well little angel.

Miracle Cure

We’ve been struggling with reflux and massive gas cramps with Xian. Poor baby has a hard time staying asleep more than an hour at a time and often only gets 20 minute naps during the day. Off we went to the doctor hoping for a miracle cure. The answer: massage her belly 30 minutes before eating. I don’t know if any of you have children, but mine certainly is unwilling to wait once she decides she is hungry. It’s been a frustrating battle, knowing Xian is in pain and yet, hoping against all hopes that she’ll just go to sleep. Then, a miracle cure was placed into my hands: Gripe water. I tell ya, I was hesitant, but my friend, Allison, who shared it with me said it couldn’t hurt. So last night, I measured a teaspoon into the bottle and then left Xian to chew on her hands in her crib. 20 minutes later, not a sound was heard. 8 hours later, Xian still was sleeping! AMAZING! We woke her up to eat, then put her right back to bed. 11 hours of solid sleep isn’t too shabby. Of course, Frank and I didn’t sleep as we were constantly in her room making sure she was okay.  Now I’m placing an order to the states for the miracle cure.

Xian's passed out pose

Sunday, December 11, 2011

17 Days of 3400 NTD

With the arrival of the above birthday card from my darling daughter, Xian, coupled  with my sister-in-law, Kristie’s, fantastic blog, Style Me Mommy, an idea was spawned. Being that I was getting a night out on the town and that I love fashion, why not spend my 34th birthday paying tribute to Taiwan’s night market culture? So, that is exactly what I am going to do. 

Next Thursday, I will be making the trek to Taiwan’s famous night market: Feng Jia. I intend to bring with me exactly 3400 NTD (a little over $100 USD) in honor of my 34th birthday. This 3400 NTD must be used to dress me the entire winter break, all 17 days of it. Prepare yourselves for short shorts, boots, and bling that won’t stop. The 17 Days of 3400 NTD is quickly approaching. Stay tuned for an introduction to Taiwan’s night market culture.

(Fair warning to all: Taiwan’s fashion is a tad bit different than that of the good ole Pacific Northwest. Very few fashion rules apply. Plaid and polka dots? no problem. T-shirts with the word “excrement” written across the derriere? Okay. Micro mini shorts with an over-sized Minny Mouse sweater? Of course! As far as I can tell, the only rule is: the shorter, the better, just remember to add tights.)

A Girl's First Teddy

Is there anything cuter than a baby and her teddy bear? Thanks Grandma Pat and Grandpa Tom for baby’s first teddy bear. Xian loves it and she’s finally bigger than the bear!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Heading out & coming up...

Xian is all bundled up and ready to go to her 2-month doctor's appointment.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Coming up Smiles

After reading about the many milestones babies are supposed to hit and when, I became worried. Baby Xian wasn't making any of them on time; however, I was reminded by my level headed husband, that Xian was 4 weeks premature. That said, I was over the moon when I captured this on camera. . .

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Quilt Square

A month or so ago I received a request from a former student. As part of the celebration of her 16th birthday, she was to have a quilting party where each person would make a square to be assembled into a larger quilt. What a great idea! Then, as things happen around here, I completely lost track of time (baby brain...) as hours compressed into days which incredibly became weeks. An email...unfortunately I missed the quilting party - and really that was my loss. This girl is an amazing cook and I am sure that the party was fantastic. The final quilt would be assembled towards the end of the year and would I be able to contribute? Yikes!

In all honestly, I was quite intimidated by this task. The student is the type any teacher would love to have in a class. Highly intelligent, super organized, always wishing to learn and (to my constant need) an amazing artist. I always knew a class mural, art project or anything else needing an ounce of artisitic / craft ability, of which I have none, would succeed with her around. But now, the tables were turned. She was giving me the assignment and the due date was looming.

Fortunately for me, I have a wonderful wife who is quite talented and Krista provided me with lots of technical assistance. I wonder how much I owe her this time...The theme was decided - her name in Chinese characters to represent where I am now and her desire to travel the world, Mt Hood - I'm excited that she is spending more time outdoors exploring, and a river and a leaf to represent the three years of Sunnyside (this is the school where I taught and the three years of curriculum were themed mountain, river, forest). The needles came out and today my quilt square contribution begins its journey across the Pacific Ocean.

Happy Birthday!