Miss Gioia

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Last Taiwan Party

We had a little White Elephant party last night (Dirty Santa, Yankee Swap, whatever you call it...). Before everyone came, we tried to get Gioia to pose for a picture in front of the tree. The problem was that she wouldn't hold still for the shot. She was too busy dancing to the Christmas music.

In true Taiwan fashion, we had to stop halfway through the party to wait for the earthquake to finish shaking the house. It was a long one. Someone said they saw the chandelier swing so violently that it hit the ceiling. Now that's a rockin' party.

It would totally suck if we got buried in rubble less than a week before we left this little island. Yikes.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Taiwan News Re-enactment of the Elin-Tiger Smackdown

This is the funniest Taiwanese news story EVER.


Saturday, October 17, 2009


We heard firecrackers and drums outside this morning, so we grabbed the camera and ran downstairs. Dancing dragons and lions, large puppet men, lots of firecrackers and smoke. We were not sure what it all was for, but it sure was interesting.

Gioia thought it was a little loud, but she had fun anyway. As we walked away, she said "Bye bye monsters." Perhaps we have been telling one too many Halloween stories around here.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

National Museum

I have lived in Taipei for almost two years now, yet I had never been to the National Palace museum. Until today, that is. The bronze collection was not as large as the one in the Shanghai museum, but oh the ceramics! The ceramics collection was the largest and most unique that I have ever seen.

We had a great brunch afterwards at a little spot in TienMou. Gioia did super well today. It was our first "big girl panties" day, and she did not have an accident all morning. Let's see how the after-nap stretch goes.

We also took some pictures for the 2010 Fuling Kids Calendar. We got some pretty good shots. Hopefully she will make it in the calendar again this year.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Why My Blog is Banned in China

Yesterday morning, we noticed an inordinate number of tow trucks prowling the street where we live. Chris (correctly) surmised that something was up. Later we saw some Falun Dafa (Falun Gong) people handing out literature in bright yellow T-shirts by the 101. Truthfulness. Benevolence. Forbearance.

Then this afternoon, Gioia and I heard a marching band outside our apartment (which is not an everyday occurrence in Taipei). After the snare drums and horn section passed by, I realized that it was a large Falun Gong parade. I was astounded for a moment, soaking in the boldness and spirit of democracy that is here in Taiwan. Gioia and I grabbed the camera and a stool so she could peer over the balcony edge.

I don't know much about the Falun Gong beyond the facts that the Chinese government calls them a cult. But here they were, marching peacefully in Taipei, with children and drums, calling for Truthfulness.

Gioia is too young to understand when I talk about "freedom of expression." But I hope one day, she learns. I could not read any of the signs carried by the marchers, but I can only imagine what they said. I guess that the people in the image above were carrying photos of people either killed or imprisoned for their beliefs. Below is a vignette of people in chains, with guards standing close watch.

Pretty brave, the people on this little island.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sweaty Days

It is that time of year again, when Taipei is so sweaty and sticky that you wind up taking two showers a day. Luckily our air conditioning works great now, so we don't have to escape to the Hyatt like last year. We spend our weekend days going outside on an adventure to entertain kiddo and then coming in and resting in the cool dark house, gathering energy to go back outside again. As I type, we are resting up in a quick break between a park outing and a grocery store run.

Speaking of running, Gioia was a tasmanian devil at the park this morning. In the picture on the left, you can see her little feet lift off from the ground in a blur. We saw turtles and ducks, flowers and kites.

More pictures are here.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Umm.. Who is Shaking My Bed?

I have lived in Taiwan for almost two years, but I have never really felt an earthquake. Until last night that is. Holy cow! I woke up confused and disoriented at around two am. Apparently Frankie was roused out of bed too because we met in the living room and stared at each other, wondering what was going on. It felt like the floor was bubbling, which was really weird because we have marble floors.

The pictures were rattling and I had absolutely no idea what to do. Should I grab Gioia and get in a doorway? Yikes. Even though I was born in LA, I left when I was little, so I never had earthquake safety. Tornado safety, yes. But not this.

It stopped soon though. And I went back to bed. With Frankie. I guess I need to go make an earthquake plan now.


Saturday, June 20, 2009


Gioia, Frankie and I took a little stroll to the flower market this morning. We bought two gorgeous pink lotus flowers and a huge green pod, almost eight inches in diameter. One of the flowers has opened up to reveal a small yellow pod in the center. This is one of the perks of living in Asia - finding unique things that you would never see in a grocery store floral department back home.

Can you imagine what the lotus farm looks like right now, flowers all in bloom and waiting to be cut?


Friday, May 1, 2009

Every Day in May 1

I have decided to take up the Every Day in May challenge: To do something creative every day in May. I am not sure I will do the same thing every day. But today, I started with a little photography as we walked around the 'hood this afternoon. This was my favorite shot.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Elephant Mountain

This morning we took a little walk up a "hill" behind our friends' apartment building. At least, they called it a hill when they sold the outing to us. It was more like a small mountain. Apparently, I am a bit out of shape, my heart racing as I climbed the 500+ steep steps up the side.

So pretty, though. Taiwan is full of these lush tropical hideaways. Once we got up the vertical stone stairs, the paths leveled out and meandered around trees and flowers. At one of the many stations, there was a stamp device, which you could use to create an embossed record of your visit up Elephant Mountain (see, it is even officially deemed not a hill...)

We hiked around for about an hour. My legs were jelly by the end. After we stumbled down the last steep step, I saw a map of the mountain. The area that we hiked was only a small square, a mere morsel of the vast trails and terrain. It was a bit discouraging. More for another day, I guess. Additional pictures are here.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Yum Coconut

It always cracks me up that the flour in Taiwan is marked DIY on the package. Either the "do it yourself" craze has gone a little too far here, or it is a commentary on the baking habits of the average Taipei household (none to speak of, really).

Some of Gioia's bananas were past their prime last night, so I made a quick batch of coconut banana bread from the B Clayton bread book. You toast the coconut in the oven for 15 minutes, and it gets all crispy and crunchy. Awesome.

It was a very nice recipe. Even Chris gave a favorable review. Well, what he actually said was: Hey, this is better than the last banana bread you made...

I count that as a success.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Zoo Again

My Dad is in town for the weekend, so we took a trip to the zoo to see the new Pandas who are on loan from China (which is a big political hoo ha). The exhibit was a bit disappointing because we were shuffled through so fast. I barely saw one Panda bottom before the guard was hollering - move along!

This was the second time we have been to the Taipei zoo. We went last February after we arrived home with baby G. Look at what a difference a year makes! She has gotten so big.

Pictures from today are here and from last February's trip are here.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tapiei License Plates

These two scooters were parked side by side.


Saturday, February 21, 2009


We went for a little bike ride in downtown Taipei today. As we loaded the bikes in the van at the start of our outing, Gioia burst into frustrated tears. She could SEE the bike but couldn't HAVE the bike. Toddlers are not very good with delayed gratification, apparently.

There is a long river which cuts through the center of Taipei, bifurcating North from South. We rode along the bank for about an hour or so. It was very post-industrial and surprisingly peaceful. Gioia had a ball. Right up until she fell asleep, that is.

Biking with my sweeties and friends followed by excellent Indian food in Tianmu. Very nice. More pictures from today are here.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Lantern Festival

Taipei is celebrating the lantern festival this week. Technically, the Lantern festival is supposed to be celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month of the new lunar year. I believe that would be Tuesday Monday, but practically speaking, the party has already started. We are just down the street from a big display at the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. Last night, we went for some ice cream and a stroll through the lights. I forgot the camera, so we will just have to make do with a picture of the souvenir Ox lamp (above) that now resides at our house.

Chris came back from a business trip to Japan yesterday, and we have had a nice little relaxed weekend. Gioia is really growing up. Not really a baby anymore. She still likes some of her old board books, but she is staring to bring us longer and more complicated books to read, like The Little Engine that Could. She actually sat through Peter Pan this evening. Granted it was a simplified Disney version. But still. It was not a ten second book.

Such a big girl.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008


We had a team outing in Nantou this weekend. Unfortunately, I had to miss the first day of the trip for a last minute meeting in Hong Kong. But I flew back late last night, and Chris and Gioia met me at the airport with a car to drive us to central Taiwan. We pulled into the hotel parking lot at 1:30 am. It was rough.

But we woke up refreshed, with no small thanks to Chris, who coaxed Gioia back to sleep for another hour after she popped up at 7 a.m. Once we all got rolling, the group went to a botanical garden and then to a bai jou factory (Chinese rice wine, basically). The fresh air, lakes, mountains and green things were a nice change from city life.

Today was a good day, despite the hectic schedule. I was glad that I was able to join my team. Now we are back home and I am trying to get some food made before our belated Thanksgiving celebration tomorrow. The pecan pie is in the oven and the pumpkin is for the morning. It smells fabulous here.

More pictures from today’s outing are here.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wawa Wah!

As we walked by Sogo yesterday, we saw a Christmas charity booth at the entrance. It was one of those "pick a child's wish and grant it for Christmas" dealios. I love those things. Usually I prefer gift drives where I can make something, but this one required a swift trip to Toys R Us.

We picked two cards - one from a child who wanted an airplane, and one from someone who wanted a baby doll. A doll that spoke. A doll that the giftee could take care of. The request was very specific.

So as we perused the baby doll isle at Toys R Us, I was struck by two things. First, these crying, wiggling, bottle drinking, diaper soiling baby dolls are creepy. Really creepy. And not especially well made either.

Second, there are no Asian baby doll options in the Taipei Toy R Us. None. Only Caucasian babies. Shelf after shelf of Caucasian babies. Why is that? Really, why?

It makes me very sad.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Yingge Take Two

We went back to Yingge today to have lunch at the nice restaurant from last time and to browse the shops. I originally planned the outing for two reasons. First, I thought Chris was still going to be in Australia and I needed something to entertain kiddo. Second, my friend J had never been so it was a good excuse to hire a driver and return for the day. Chris came home early, though, and it wound up being a fun little adventure for everyone.

Gioia was originally dressed for the outing in the pinafore I mentioned yesterday. But as we rode the elevator down to the lobby of our apartment building, she threw up a granola bar all over the front of her dress. So we had to turn around and change her clothes. The day got better though.

We saw dogs and cats and birds and fish and horses. Gioia was tickled. She even threw a bit of a fit a couple of times when we had to walk away from the dog (or the cat or whatever it was). She is fierce, alright. She is just realizing that Mom and Dad will say no to certain things, which makes her indignant and frustrated. When she throws a tantrum in public, we get the oddest looks from people passing by. They seem shocked and confused, not sure what to make of these wai guo ren with a Chinese baby who is howling and stamping her feet in anger. I am just waiting for someone to come up and accuse us of abducting her.

More pictures from Yingge the sequel are here.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Shanghai in 80 minutes

For the past year and a half, I have been flying back and forth between Taiwan and the mainland, always having to change planes in Hong Kong. Beijing to Taipei took 10 hours; Shanghai to Taipei took six. It was awful. You can understand, then, how this NY Times article nearly made me cry today.*

"The planes will also fly in a direct line between cities over a route north of Taiwan. Charter flights between China and Taiwan currently take a longer route through Hong Kong airspace because of security concerns. Under the new routing, direct flights between Taipei and Beijing will take two hours, and flights between Taipei and Shanghai will take 80 minutes."

And then I thought about all of the tourists about to descend upon Taiwan, and I cried for real.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Popcorn Chicken....Feet?

We ordered pizza tonight from Dominos. On the little flyer that was left in our mailbox (which led to the ordering), there was a little picture of a bucket full of fried chicken poppers. Oooh. Popcorn chicken! Let's get the popcorn chicken too (Says I).

I tried one. It tasted good, but there was some cartilage in the chicken. Hmmm, weird. Perhaps they just cut that piece wrong. Let's try another. Mmmm. Still crunchy. How about a third piece?? At this point, Chris looked at me and asked, why is the chicken crunchy? We were confused for a while, staring at the chicken pieces, dissecting them to get a better view of the crunchy bits. Umm, that looks long and pointy. They all do. Kinda like....a....toe.

Fried chicken toes. With my Dominos pizza.

Notice something about the picture? The box is half empty. Yeah, that's how long it took us to figure it out. We tried to fool ourselves once the truth was discovered. Well, it tastes OK. You just have to suck around the toe bone.



Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Red House

On weekend mornings, we are usually searching for something to do, primarily to keep kiddo entertained in the long stretch before her nap. This last Saturday, we took the subway to the Red House, which is a cute little attraction tucked away in a busy downtown shopping district.

The Red House itself was not too large, but it had some marginally interesting exhibits. The cakes and tea at the little cafe caught my eye, but unfortunately we had filled up already at the western imperialist hot beverage store. Oops. Perhaps I need to come back at teatime one day.

We also saw some funny life size dolls. With very large heads.

Gioia had a big time walking around and climbing things. She is in an over/ under phase these days, just like Skippyjon Jones. She clearly needed lots of napkins for going OVER the ottoman.

More pictures from the outing are here. Good times.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Our neighbors just hung this decoration outside their door. Perhaps I have been out of the US for too long, but somehow this doesn't seem quite right. I wonder - will they take this down after Halloween? Or leave it up until Thanksgiving?

I could not make this stuff up if I tried.


Monday, October 6, 2008

New Restaurant: Paul

A new breakfast place has opened down the street from our house. I discovered it one day on a walk back from getting my hair cut. It was full of very stylish looking people: people wearing all black, carrying big purses, peering through fancy sunglasses and smoking. And it was packed, PACKED. Hmm, I said. What is this? "This" turned out to be a Parisian(esque) bakery and cafe.

Now, I am too old for long waits at restaurants and have little patience for smoke filled rooms. But I like eating breakfast out on Saturdays. And I like fancy sunglasses and wearing black. Sooooo. Perhaps it was worth a try.

We arrived early in the morning, before the night owls rolled out of bed and began lining up outside. We were seated right away, and they even had a baby chair. The menu was limited, but the food was AWESOME. Gioia had yogurt, a hard boiled egg and oranges. Chris and I had crispy/ chewy french baguettes and cheese eggs. All simple food, but insanely fresh and well prepared. And no one was smoking at 8:30 am. Bonus.

Must go back. Must definitely go back.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tai Feng

The Mandarin phrase for typhoon is Tai Feng, or great wind. Yesterday at around 6:15 the government said - Everyone go home. And so they did. People take typhoons very seriously around here. They don't say, "Well, I think I'll just wait it out in my trailer park on the beach." No.

We hunkered down at home today for the storm. But it was Saturday, and we had come to the end of our weekly food supplies for the adults in the house. Frankie had a large bag of dog food on the porch, and Gioia had a freezer full of baby food. Chris and I, on the other hand, were facing a weekend of Kraft macaroni and cheese.

So today, we watched the storm and tried to gage the best time to venture out for some vittles. The wind kept getting worse and worse, so finally we just ran for it. Luckily the grocery store next door was open (and curiously full of people, perhaps in the same boat as us).

When we got to the dairy section, we found that the container of whole milk that we buy for Gioia was nowhere to be found. What to do? I know that whole milk is labeled in blue, while low fat milk labels are green. So I bought a container similar to the one we usually buy, one with a blue label.

After we trudged home though the rain, we gave the milk to Gioia. She kept making a face while drinking her sippy cup, so we investigated. Ah, not milk. It was a drinkable yogurt-like substance. Probably made with whole milk, but definitely not milk itself. So I trudged back out into the storm to 7-Eleven (which was also open, interestingly) and bought another jug.

For the record, it was an easy mistake to make. Behold the evidence - the container on the left is milk, while the container on the right is the yogurt drink. Most of time, I get by on my little handicaps and tricks, but not this time.

But all is well. The storm has abated. Gioia got her milk. And now we know how to distinguish the jug of drinkable yogurt from the jug of milk.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Yang Ming Shan Lunch

In July, we met up with some of our friends for a lunch at the top of Yang Ming Shan mountain, which is in the North part of Taipei. It was a very cute outdoor-type place, with excellent mountain and city views. We met up with the same friends for lunch today (Mexican this time), and they gave us a DVD with some great pictures from the previous outing.

Gioia was not walking yet on her own when we went to this lunch, but she still looks like such a big girl. The shoes she is wearing are now too small, though - further evidence that she keeps growing and growing.

Mmm... Cool mist, margaritas and friends. The only way to pass a hot summer in Taipei. More pictures here (mostly of Baby G).

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Catching Up

I have been a little discombobulated lately, primarily because I took a quick little business trip to Macao this week, from Sunday to Tuesday night. I forgot my camera, which was frustrating. It was probably just as well because I never left the Venetian during my entire stay. The rooms there were quite fancy, as was the spa pedicure I sneakily arranged after my official day was done on Monday evening.

If you have been to the Vegas version, then you would recognize the Macao one for sure. But the interesting thing is that in Vegas, everyone drinks while gambling but no one smokes indoors. In Macao, everyone is sober, but the cigarette smoke is so thick it could kill a horse.

It was a good time, though. Not a bad place for a conference, really.

While I was gone, Chris took Frankie to the vet to see if a spot on his tummy was cancer. It wasn't. Thank God.

Speaking of medicine, Gioia went to the doctor today for her 15 month check-up and Japanese Encephalitis shot. Because ... WOW.* Yes, we let the nurse stick Baby G in the leg with a big ol' needle. Last time, with the MMR shot, she cried out in surprise and anger, one of those silent screams which break your heart to watch. You know the one: the scream where she squeezes her eyes super tight, opens her mouth in a noiseless yowl, and turns bright red, shaking with rage. Ya. Scary.

But this time, it was more of an indignant scream. A "what in the world" and "ow, my leg" kind of scream. Baby G is growing up. She is fierce and independent. On the way out of the hospital, she walked all by herself. We kept offering her our own hands as support, but she kept shaking her head - no. No.

* Full disclosure - I was worried about safety and efficacy, so I did a *little* research. Reassuring.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Xiao Tai Bei Tu Zi

I walked out of my apartment door this evening to take Frankie on his last walk of the day. In the middle of the common driveway between my building and the identical one next door sat a little bunny rabbit. I stopped. Frankie bristled and grew still. We watched the bunny for a few minutes. I wished I had my camera, but I knew that if we turned around to get it, he would be gone when we came back. So we just stared. How odd, I thought. Little bunny, how did you get to my urban front door?

Finally, Frankie and I moved towards the “yard,” turning left around the corner. Simultaneously, the bunny twitched and ran; we watched him go. Then from a dark corner in the left, a little lady shrieked and tore after the bunny. She stared at us like we were monsters, aliens. Two big white beings who materialized out of the darkness.

It dawned on me: This was her bunny, her pet. She had come down in the night to let him roam free. Free to run in the street if startled, free to be hit by a car or lost. And she looked at us like we were the weirdos – we who were safely joined by halter and leash.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Playdate: Yu Kids Island

Gioia had her first playdate today with a daughter of one of my co-workers. We met up at a Yu Kids Island outlet, which was basically a playcenter full of balls, slides and bouncy things tucked away in a corner of a shopping mall. Gioia was very tentative at first, but by the end she had to be carried away kicking and screaming because she was having so much fun.

Gioia seemed to like the ball area most of all. She didn't even care when an older boy pelted her in the head with a big bouncy one. Intentionally, I might add.

It was a good day. The little ones didn't really play with each other, more around each other, but I think that is normal social interaction for 12-14 month olds. We need to find more opportunities for Baby G to get out an socialize, though. Chris and I decided to put her in a Yo-yo Ban (which means toddler) class at a local Montessori school, but that will not start until January. We want to make sure she learns how to play nicely with her peeps before then.

More pictures are available here.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rainy Day Snail on the Porch


Wednesday, August 6, 2008


We have been making Gioia's baby food from scratch since we brought her home in February. Which means we have made a whole lot of trips to the grocery store looking for things to grind up in the Cuisinart. I don't think I have ever bought as many vegetables in my whole life as I have in the last six months. Of course, that statement doesn't count the summer we belonged to our Chicago-area CSA and had a bunch of excellent goodies delivered once a week. But for that, I basically just wrote a big fat check in the fall and boxes stuffed with greens and vegetables arrived the following summer. So while I bought a lot of veggies then, it really wasn't *intentional* veggie buying like we do now.

The problem is, though, that there is not really a big variety of veggies to be bought round these parts. Gioia has been living on weekly staples of winter squash (in tropical Taiwan, yes), sweet potato, lotus seed, broccoli, cauliflower, edamame, tofu, beans, and peas.* The carrots here frighten me with their scary florescent orange color, so I haven't made more than one batch of those. Carrots also have a high concentration of nitrates, so probably best to avoid homemade versions anyway. Spinach is also not safe for little bitty kiddos, which has made me wary of all kinds of greens. Chinese people eat a lot of greens, so that rules out half the supermarket.

There is not much else to be had. I am sure she is sick of the same old vegetables day in and day out. I am. Where is the summer squash, the zucchini? I did find sweet corn a few weeks ago, but that was after months of hunting.

So three weeks ago I broke down and ordered a bunch of seeds on the internet. Lo and behold, they actually made it through this little island's customs department (even though the package was clearly labeled SEEDS). When I was in Chicago last week, I bought 72 little seed starting pellets, the kind that expand with water.

It is quite late in the year to be starting seeds. But there are two reasons why I am going to try. First, Taiwan is pretty temperate. Even in the winter it is still above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Second, I am really, really bored of the blah blah blah I keep dropping in the grocery cart every week. Even if I try and fail, well, I will have tried. And perhaps I will learn something for next spring's round.

*Lest you think we are negligent, she eats other foods too, like yogurt, chicken, whole wheat noodles, fruit (apples, bananas, mangoes, pineapples) and Cheerios. Of course there also is the super baby cereal (with dried beans) from this book, which we mix with egg yolks every other day.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Butterfly on My Porch

The plants that my Dad and I planted in hanging baskets on the porch are full and lush now. I looked outside this afternoon and saw this ginormous butterfly. It is hard to get a sense of scale in this picture, but he was at least four inches wide. As I snuck outside to try to get a closer shot, he took off and flew around for a while. He looked almost like a little bat, all dark and fluttery.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sweet Corn

I have been jonesing for some sweet corn lately. It is hard to find around here though. The last time we bought some fresh corn at a farmer's market, it turned out to be feed corn - all bland and chewy. I was bitterly disappointed. For the last two weeks, I have been quite depressed about the corn situation, even thinking through places when I could grown my own.

But today as I walked home from yoga, I saw a nice lady selling corn. Tien de ma? Is it sweet? Of course, she says. Hmmmm. Which one is sweeter, the white or the yellow? Well, they are both sweet, she says. OK. Let's try again.

And what do you know, they were indeed sweet. Luscious summery sweet corn. We ate them ALL. Life is infinitely better now.

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Sunday, July 6, 2008


We are so freaking hot here, it is unbelievable. Our wimpy air conditioning has gotten even worse over the last month. Now we don't even bother running it at all because there is no point. We have had numerous technicians tromp through the apartment, had twenty years of dust blown out of all of the vents (at our own expense), installed ceiling fans (at our own expense), and sent a couple of really strongly worded emails to the rental agent.

We have heard all sorts of stories, from "it will be fixed on Monday" to "there is some cold air coming out." Chris finally snagged a true air conditioning guy, the same person who has been replacing units in this building for 10 years. He took one look at our units and said - yep. Those are 22 years old. They are highly inefficient, which explains why our aircon fees are 8 times higher than anyone else in the building yet we are still sweaty. Apparently everyone else in the building has replaced their original units, but not our landlord. No.

So we have four options.

1) Do nothing and be miserable this summer and next (and maybe longer, but that is a story for another day).
2) Buy new air conditioning units at our own expense (about US$5,000).
3) Try to convince the landlord to pay for at least a part of the replacement fee. He probably would cough up about a grand, but that still leaves a crazy chunk for us to pay for an apartment that we do not own.
4) Buy some stand-up air conditioning units which we could maybe move around the apartment as we got hot. Seems like a lot of bother though. And we already have a ton of ugly electric devices lurking in corners around here.

The bottom line, though, is that something must be done. Chris works out of the apartment most days, and he simply cannot continue in that sweltering office.

In more cheerful news, some good friends of ours are getting married in Tuscany next May AND WE GOT INVITED. To a three day celebration. In a castle. In Tuscany (did I mention?)


Monday, June 23, 2008


On Mom's last day in Taipei, we took a quick trip up to DanShui. It was hot as fire, so my impressions of the little town at the far north end of the subway line may not be as favorable as they could have been were I not dripping with sweat from every pore of my pasty white body.

But Gioia paid for tea, so that was good. About time she started earning her keep around here.*

More pictures from the day are here.

*That's a joke, y'all.


Saturday, June 21, 2008


We took a little trip to Yingge today, which is a small town about forty minutes outside of Taipei. Yingge is famous for its ceramics and pottery. I went with low expectations, actually, but was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. I thought it would be store after store selling little brown teapots (like these). Instead, the stores had a varied selection of low to high end items, from teapots and bowls to beautiful bronze art pieces.

We had a fabulous lunch in a little modern cafe. We liked the water mugs so much that we bought them right off the table. Gotta love China (I mean, Taiwan). Everything is for sale.

The sun was bright and hot, but we cooled down by dipping into stores and sampling the air-conditioning. The town's famous ceramics museum was closed, but we had plenty of fun just wandering up and down the "old" street. More pictures from today's outing are here.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mr. Ma

Holy crap! Full speed ahead.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dragon Boat Festival

Today is the Dragon Boat festival in Taipei. Long, long ago an ancient poet threw himself into the river to protest the corrupt Chinese government of the day. The local people were so upset that they threw rice in the river to keep the fish from eating his body.

This festival is celebrated with much enthusiasm in Hong Kong and Taiwan. On the Mainland, however, it was one of the traditional celebrations which was encouraged to "fall away." Perhaps because the whole point of the festivities was celebrating people who stood up against the government. Not good. But this year, China decided to bring it back as an official holiday.Maybe they are feeling more secure in their one party rule. Who knows?

The Dragon Boat festival is marked by two main things: serious boat races and steamed rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves (zongzi). We went to the river front yesterday to watch the semi-finals of the boat races. I forgot to bring the telephoto lens, so I didn't get any great boat shots. But it was cool to see the racers, all paddling in unison to the drumbeat of the leader in the front.

We had a great time at the riverfront. Frankie panted, Gioia walked around (with help from Daddy), and I got sunburned. All in all a good day.

More pictures here.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Mother's Day Outing

This has been a crazy week. We are at the peak of the peak season at work, and it is hard for me and my team. As a result, I am writing about our Mother's Day outing almost a whole week late.

While Mother's Day may be a bit of a commercial holiday, designed to get people to buy cards and flowers and things, it is nonetheless nice to have a whole day in which you are reminded every minute that is is a sweet and wonderful thing to be a momma.

People take Mother's Day very seriously in Taiwan. The restaurants and sidewalks were packed with families in their Sunday best. Everywhere we looked, we saw little girls in nice dresses and mothers - young and old - with flower bouquets.

Our family went on a walk to the flower market to buy a tree for the balcony. Then we stumbled upon Da'an park, which is a large and verdant space very close to our house. I was so excited by the farmers' market at the entrance. We bought seedless (!) grapes, corn and other delights. The corn turned out to be gross (fit for only pigs back home), but everything else we bought was yum.

I have always been puzzled why Chinese people eat chewy tasteless feed corn. Why not plant some sweet corn? Do they just not know how delicious a good ear of sweet corn is in the summer? Lately I have begun to wonder, though, if they really do prefer the non-sweet kind...But I digress.

All in all, it was a lovely Mother's Day. We walked around in the sunshine and breezes, bounced to the beat of a group of geriatric drummers marching in the park, and snacked on street food and stray grapes. Wonderful indeed.

More pictures here.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Just So Wrong

We went to SOGO yesterday, which is a Japanese department store in Taipei. The first floor was crazy crowded, and it took a long time for us to push through the masses to get to the elevator. From far away, we saw that there was some sort of promotional event going on at the MAC makeup counter. Above the heads of the crowds, it seemed that the counter staff were wearing sailor hats. Oh cute we said. Some sort of makeup party. And then we got closer. And saw this guy.

I grabbed Chris and said "Holy ^##$%#@. Give me your camera phone."

True story. Behold the evidence.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Jade Market

Some scenes from our quick jaunt to the Jade Market on Sunday.

More pictures here.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Zao Shang Hao

Riding to work this morning in a taxicab, I heard the following message over the (English) radio:

Be aware that there is a chicken loose on the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Highway this morning. Please try not to hit it so he can avoid becoming roadkill.
True story.


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Tea Time (Again)

I went back to the tea mountain yesterday, this time with my family - Chris, Gioia and my Dad, who is in town for the weekend - and some more good friends. We waited in a looooong line to get to the top. Dad said that the only bad thing about the experience was the gondola line. Well, true, but it was a cool ride in the end.

The top picture was taken on the way up the mountain. Our twenty minute ride to the top led us directly to a restaurant overlooking farms and tea plantations. We ate and ate. And had beers. Good beers.

Then we walked around to a second place, where we had a nice pot of tea and some cakes. The poor lady who served the tea had only been working there for three days, so we actually knew more about how to pour the tea than she did. Which is to say, she didn't know very much at all.

On the way back to the gondola station, we saw lots of pretty flowers, commented on the plethora of ducks, and made jokes about how awful the line was going to be. But the line turned out to be quite short, and we were all sated.

More pictures of the tea mountain are here.


Monday, March 31, 2008

Cheezy Dining

This weekend we tried a restaurant close to our house called Swensens. It turned out to be some kind of 1970's American throwback joint, replete with stained glass hanging lamps and dark wood booths. I was pretty sure this place was something that could only survive outside of the US, but it seems there are still some locations stateside.

For some reason, I love eating in restaurants here that I would be snotty about visiting back home. Like this place. And Outback Steakhouse, where we also ate this weekend. I cannot explain it. Sometimes I just want a steak. Or some eggs and toast. Perhaps I left my dignity at immigration.

It wasn't all bad because Miss G made a new friend. And I got to sit in a pleather booth facing a stack o' pancakes. Yummmmm.


Thursday, March 20, 2008


We returned yesterday from a quick visa trip to Hong Kong. Chris stayed with the baby while I continued on to Shanghai for two days. When I came back to meet them on Tuesday night, I found that Chris had taught Gioia to wave HI on command. He took this great picture of her waving at her reflection in the bathtub. She is fascinated by waving now, and will get quite confused if the recipient of her enthusiasm does not wave back.

In related news, the visa trip was successful. For certain reasons, we were a bit worried that she would not get it (long boring paperwork story which has to do with the fact that she was born in China and trying to live in Taiwan), but it looks like this long road indeed leads to a residence card.

When we checked in for our flight to Taipei yesterday, the counter agent said, "Make sure you get to your gate early because of all the travelers." And we said - Yeah, what's up with all of the people going to Taiwan on a random Wednesday? Hah. The election. Everyone is flying home to vote. Crazy times.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Home at Last

Chris turned to me at lunch today and said, "Man, I am glad we aren't in a hotel anymore." Me too, baby. Me toooooooo.

We arrived home on Friday around noon Taiwan time. The house had a completely empty fridge and looked like a tornado hit it about 20 minutes after we walked in the door. But it was oh so lovely to be home.

Miss G was super grouchy on Saturday because of the jet lag. You can see the crabbiness in her eyes in the picture above. She is looking at the camera like, "I don't know why I am irritated, BUT I AM." Thank goodness, she slept for 14 hours last night and was back to her perky self today. Chris was cracking her up in the high chair at dinner. It is a long story that would probably bore you, but suffice it to say that her squeals and giggles had us in fits of laughter. Good times.

We have been using the stroller now that we are back home. Gioia is not quite sure if she likes it. We went on an exceptionally long walk today to IKEA and back, and halfway home she refused the sweet ride and demanded to be carried. We walked everywhere with her on our chests in China and Hawaii, so it makes sense. But man is she heavy without a carrier to distribute the weight. Lesson learned: bring the mei tei on long stroller trips.

And doesn't Gioia look stylin' in her stroller blanket? Aunt Mary Beth and Uncle Hugh have great taste.


Monday, December 17, 2007


A 45 minute trip on a slow train headed northeast of Taipei will get you to Jiufen, an old famous mining town on the coast of Taiwan. We shopped, we ate, we squeezed through narrow alleys filled with teeming masses....

The town was cute, and the surrounding hills and coast were really quite pretty. Even though no one mines gold in them thar hills any longer, the waterfalls were still full of shiny metallic flecks. Did you know that the Mandarin word for waterfall is pronounced "poo poo"?

It was getting dark by the time we made it to the sea, but we were able to see the waves crashing against the shore before we traipsed back home to Taipei. It was nice. More pictures from our day trip to Jiufen are available here.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Crape Wine

It really doesn't get much funnier than this, y'all.

The Korean food was good, but man the wine was crape.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Tea Time

If you take the brown subway line to the very southernmost stop in Taipei (the zoo stop), you can ride a gondola up to the top of a little mountain and see cute little tea houses and hiking trails. Unfortunately the gondola line was crazy long by the time we arrived yesterday afternoon, so we settled for a taxi ride to the top.

We found a sign for a little tea house and followed the creaky wooden steps down a hill to the serving area. As the sign said, the tea and the view were "well," but the kareoke was ...ummm...not so good.

The server showed us how to steep and pour the tea in a complex ritual which involved brewing in one teapot and transferring to a second one for pouring, washing the cups with the first leaf brew, smelling the tea aroma in a pre-cup cup (see picture below), and finally drinking.

I think I would like to go back - to actually ride the gondola, to spend more time wandering the trails, to take more macro pictures of bees, and to drink tea at a house without a karaoke machine.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Funny Things

We are much more settled. The (new) washing machine and dryer work great. The internet is on; we have the web AND our beloved Vonage phone up and running. So, we now have had more time to experience normal life in Taipei. Here are some snipits from the past few days.

* While ordering baozi from a neighborhood stall, we turned around to see a motor scooter with two women and a medium-sized pig standing in the floorboard. This was two blocks from the Taipei 101 building.

* Bought a chicken from the grocery store and took it home to roast, only to find that it still had its head and feet. I made Chris chop off the head, but then I overcame my squeamishness, picked it up and helped it to sing a ballad. Chris was not amused.

* Chris was walking home on Friday and saw a line of little kindergarten kids crossing the street in neat little rows (like Madeline). They were diligently following their teacher. The very last one in the line caught sight of him, however, and immediately burst out laughing. Bwa ha ha! You silly looking man. How funny are you? So many little kids here are fascinated by us. Pointing and commenting while their parents turn away in embarrassment.

* Tried to take a taxi to IKEA. The first cabbie did not understand. At all. For the second cab, we stood at the window to make sure we had someone who could get us there. While we were talking, a lady came out of Starbucks, came us to us and said - can I help? She talked to the cab driver for us, made sure he knew the streets, and then went back inside to her latte with a wave. If you haven't lived in China, perhaps you don't know how astounding this is. But it was BIG. Bottom line is that Taiwan people are unbelievably nice and helpful.

That's all for now folks. Have a lovely weekend.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Tai Bei Ren

We are now officially in Taiwan. Chris arrived last week, and we are settling into our new apartment in Taipei. We have had some minor hiccups. The washing machine died, for example. Chris tried valiantly to fix it, but it seems that we may need to make a trip to Costco tomorrow for a new machine. Speaking of Costco, that place is the bomb diggety if you are homesick for a taste of the US of A.

In other news, the social worker came to visit on Saturday. Once we get our Taiwan police clearances and FBI fingerprints updated, we are ready for our referral. Only two (?) months away! Yipes!

Taipei is going to be a great city for our family. It is way less polluted and stressful than Beijing. And it is so dog friendly! Everyone is walking a dog here - big ones, little ones, yippy ones (see picture), silent ones. Frankie will fit in just fine when he is allowed to come over. For now, an empty dog bed and a crib await our babies who are far away.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Just Wrong

Halfway through eating some Singapore noodles from the deli downstairs last week, I noted the odd package design.

What is that all about? Why do I have insecure white babies parading all over my noodles? And do they really sing? For goodness sakes, I just want to eat and get back to work. Now I am highly confused and disturbed by the creepy babies.

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Sunday, September 2, 2007

House Hunting

Chris and I have spent all weekend looking for a new place to live in Taipei. It has been a bit of a struggle, though, for two reasons. First, we want to live downtown and not in a suburban expat area. Second, we have a dog. Not a small toy dog that can fit into a purse, but a big dog. So when we first gave our criteria to the relocation people, I said that we wanted to live in Taipei City and that we had a dog. The immediate response (by email) was: I am sorry to inform you that you cannot bring your dog to Taipei.

What!? Are you kidding?

If we hadn't known the real story - which is that we have to send Frankie back to the States for six months before he could come - then we would have freaked out. What kind of insensitive idiot says crap like that? Especially untrue crap like that?

I immediately called the guy and set the record straight. Oh, OK, he said. Now I understand. But he didn't understand. The next communication I received from him (as I stepped off the plane and checked my blackberry on a Thursday evening) was - I have not been able to find any properties in Taipei for you to view. So we will go to Tien Mou on Saturday.

Again, What!? Tien Mou is an expat suburb that is 40 minutes away from the office. At this point, I was beginning to think that our relocation helper was having a hard time grasping our basic requirements. I immediately called him again and reiterated - no suburbs. He responded with - Just to be sure, is your dog a must?

Thank goodness I was not talking to him face to face. I said, my dog is my son. He is a must. The next day, I called his boss and explained that perhaps he was not suited to understand and meet our needs. Believe it or not, I was quite nice, given the circumstances. What an idiot.

After all of that mess, we did find seven properties to view. The choices were not inspiring and crazy expensive. However, we think we may have found a place. If everything goes well with the landlord negotiations, then we can move in October. Just so I don't jinx anything, I will only show a little sneaky peaky.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Moving to Taiwan

Yep, Chris, Frankie and I are moving to Taiwan. I was offered a great opportunity there in my existing firm, and we jumped at the idea of a new city. Because, truthfully, Beijing is a hard place to be. The pollution is unbearable, the crimes and rules against dogs are inhumane, and the commute to downtown is soul sucking.

So we are pulling up roots again (twice in two years) and starting over in Taipei. I am quite excited about living in Taiwan. First, it is not Beijing (did I mention that already?!). Second, it is very tropical with blue skies and beautiful natural scenery - mountains, lakes, and cliffs. Third, the people are incredibly friendly and maintain all of the traditional Chinese traditions which are sadly lost in modern China. Fourth, the food is outstanding.

The only major downside that I can see is that everything is twice as expensive as in China. You don't believe me? The same IKEA couch costs roughly US$400 to 500 in China (depending on the cover) and US$1,000 in Taiwan (see pgs 36-37, upper right corner). Purchasing power parity, my ass. Looks like Chris and I need to do some serious furniture shopping in China in the next month before the movers come.

OK, another downside is that dogs cannot be imported directly from China to Taiwan. That means that Frankie has to go back to the United States for six months before he can come to Taipei. Then he has three weeks of quarantine before he can and join us. What am I going to do without my sweet puppy for six months? The thought alone makes me tear up.

And what about the adoption, you ask? Well, we can move to Taiwan without jeopardizing our expedited status, but we do have to update our homestudy. Which means a new social worker visit, more paperwork, new police clearances in Taiwan, etc. Our LID is November 24, so that means we will probably get our referral in mid-Dec or early January. We move in mid-October, so we have just enough time to update everything and pick her up. Just.

So pray for us - or think of us, if that works better for you - as we go through all of this change in the next few months. Frankie, Gioia, Chris and I will need all of the support we can get.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Taipei Night Market

The small night market.....apparently there is a much bigger one. Although, this one has lots of shrimp fishing and saucy mystery meat in pots. What more can there be?

Can you tell I am seeing little girls everywhere I look?


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Din Tai Fung

The food here in Taipei is outstanding. Chris says that it is "how Chinese food in China ought to be prepared." On Sunday, my peeps and I went to the original Din Tai Fung, which is a famous dumpling house. I cannot, unfortunately, share the food with you. But I do have some pictures.

Here is a shot of everyone waiting outside for their turn to eat.

You order in advance, while you wait, so the food gets delivered almost immediately after you sit down.

When your number is called, you pass your order sheet to the hotstess and then climb up the stairs to your floor and tables. Then come the dumplings and the veggies and the soups....yum.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Battered and Bruised

I am in Taipei for nine days or so. Today was my one weekend day, and a friend and I checked out a spa nearby the hotel for a little sauna and massage action. It all started well, with a nice shower and steam room, followed by some lounging around in a comfortable chair with healthy snacks and a Vogue. There was a lot of nudity, which kind of weirded little ol' American-me out a bit. It was a women's only spa, and they all jumped in the communal baths naked as jaybirds.

But I digress. This story is about the Chinese-style massage, the one that made me almost cry for 90 minutes straight. The massage that hit every single nerve in my entire body. The one where I had to ask a "little" less pressure THREE times.

I should have known better. Chinese massages in China are rough affairs, so I avoid them in Shanghai and Beijing. I was thinking maybe they would be a little westernized here in Taipei. But no. Amber, the masseuse, even took great pride in telling me that she studied for two years in China.

Just for the record, I am not a baby. I like strong massages, unlike my husband. His perfect massage would involve no pressure at all, only a feather. But this - this was a sumo wrestler on steroids. I hurt way more now than I did going into the spa. At least I won't get breast cancer now, though. That's what Amber told me, anyway.

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