November Expenses

Life in Taipei has been a lot of fun but it can get expensive very fast if we're not careful...

Review of Christmasland in New Taipei City 2018

If you're a foreigner living in Asia, then Christmas can be a bit different. But there are festivities here...

The Cost of Moving to Taiwan: The First Month

How much does it cost to move a family overseas? One important question to consider when moving abroad is: How much will this international move cost?

How to compare cost of living between countries

Will I spend more money in Taiwan compared to my home country? Less money?

Toy bank - aka the Taipei City Parenting Resource Center

Those of you who are parents probably know that kids tire of toys very quickly. So the Taipei city government has this great resource for parents with kids ages 0-6 years old, the toy rental bank!

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Travel adventures: Kenting

So we get a 4 day break and since I've started work we took it for a family vacation to Kenting.

We didn't realize that the railroads don't follow their 10 days before to order tickets rule when it comes to national holidays. So we totally missed out on the slower railway tickets that are cheaper but did manage to get a high speed rail ticket.

Here's the adjusted schedule for 2019: https://www.thsrc.com.tw/en/News/Detail/ce89b49d-345e-47b0-9b0c-12da8102d770/1
Notice they do not follow the 10 day ahead ordering schedule. We rode the HSR to Zuoying and got off to take the kenting express bus (9189). If you get the round trip, it would 600NT, a one-way is 400NT but you can use a EZ card or the metro card from Taipei (which is what we used). The HSR took about 2 hours and the bus was around 2 hours (google thought we'd have a ton of traffic so predicted 5 hours for the bus).

We orderd our room on agoda with Bay View Inn as they were only 5 minutes away from the beach at Nanwan that we wanted to go.



Apparently this was good spot for surfing. We saw many surfers here. The weather was perfect that first day that we were there with being not too sunny/hot and not too cold.

 Our kids loved playing in the sand, which was really smooth and soft.
That’s pretty much allwe did for our vacation.


Here's our son looking over the beach.

For food we mostly did 7-11 as everything was tourist priced but we did go into the kenting night market and eat korean BBQ. 


For the way back we did the bus and then the slow train. 

Audio book review: Be anxious for nothing by Max Lucado

So had time to listen to this short audio book written and read by Max Lucado. The title is "Be anxious for nothing" and I wanted to check it out as Lucado does have another book on happiness coming out.

But this book did not represent any refreshing new ideas. Most of it was very cliched, such as the adage: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I'm not sure if anyone has not heard of that adage or heard the advice given in this book elsewhere in sermons or from Christian friends.

The only key take-away I got was to pray with words from the Bible such as: in Psalm 23 you promised to walk me through the valley of death. As Lucado says that God likes to hear that we do read his word and remind Him of His promises to us.

The key Bible verse in this book seems to be Philippians 4:6-7 which reads: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

However, I may be too harsh as most things we already know as Christians but from time to time we may just need some reminders. The story/analogy I liked was the graper grower sitting down to talk with his grape vines who are "whining" about how they are not able to produce grapes. The grower tells the vines that they are trying too hard, all they have to do is hang onto the branch and let the fruit grow. The analogy is to Christians who try to produce fruit of the spirit on their own will but really just need to hang onto the cross of Christ.

ESL activity for the very young: animals - 3 little pigs

Recently we started an English club for the families at our apartment complex and the kids are very young or beginning levels of English. Here are the activities that we have done:

Warm-up
Duck, duck goose
This is a great game to get the kids energy out and to learn the simple words: duck and goose

Guess the animal
The kids got to pick an aminal flashcard to act it out and let the other kids guess

3 little pigs role play
The kids got to do the role play with masks that I made while koala narrated the story of the 3 little pigs

Bonus game:
Big bad wolf - what time is it


Chanko Nabe

Lately, our family has been trying to gain weight (you have to walk a lot here and the kids appetites have been better) so I've been on a hunt to try to find recipes that will help you to gain weight, not surprisingly most recipes are for those who are dieting (><) and the only people I could think of who would be wanting to gain weight are sumo wrestlers and cancer survivors.

So here's a recipe from a sumo wrestling champion:
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/8qejkb/chanko-nabe

for the meatballs:
1/2 lb ground pork
1 each egg
1/2 teaspoon miso paste
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 tsp sake
onion, minced

for the soup:
6 1/4 cups fish broth
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons sake
3 tablespoons mirin
1/4 cup daikon, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1/4 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch nira, chopped (smaller green onions)
1 bunch green onion, chopped 1-inch pieces
handful cabbage, chopped
handful bok choy, chopped
12 ounces firm tofu, sliced

Directions
1. Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together. Using wet hands, roll meatballs into 1-inch balls and refrigerate until ready to use.

2. In a medium-sized pot, warm up the fish broth, soy sauce, sake, and mirin until hot.

3. Add chopped daikon and carrots to the pot, and cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes.

4. Add pork meatball in pot and cook 10-15 minutes.

5. Add shiitake, nira, green onion, cabbage, and bok choy, and cook for 10 more minutes.

6. Lower the heat and add sliced tofu (do not boil in high heat), cooking over low heat for 5 minutes.

7. Add salt and pepper, and soy sauce if you like.


Easy stir fry from costco vegetables

As a busy mom I tend to look for short cuts for healthy meals whenever I can. One that we've discovered is the bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables from Costco with their Japanese BBQ sauce. Basically, you get this bag and add a bit of oil into a wok, put the Japanese BBQ on top. Make some rice and you have a great healthy meal.


Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) in the Instant Pot

It has been a while since we've posted so here is another recipe for the instant pot:

This is one of our favorites for the summer as in the instant pot it means no turning on the stove or oven!

This recipe is adapted from the Chinese site here: https://icook.tw/recipes/273411

For 4 people:
Minced pork (or ground beef) - 150 gram or around a quarter or half pound
Tofu - two boxes (I like to cube them)
Onions and green onions (minced also) - about 1/4 cup
Oil (olive or sesame works) - 1 TBS
Rice wine - 1 TBS
Soy sauce - 1 TBS
Brown sugar - 1/2 TSP
Soybean paste - 2 or 3 TBS

To thicken:
1 TBS tapioca starch (or corn or other kinds of starch)
1/2 cup of water

To make:
Have the setting on "saute" for your instant pot, on ours, it is the waterless setting for chicken
Put the oil into the bottom of the pot
Put in the minced meat and the onions
Put the soybean paste, mix
Then put in the tofu cubes
Then pour the rice wine, brown sugar, soy sauce mixture over the tofu

Reset the setting to beans on pressure cooking - close the lid to not let the water run out.

Then it beeps and it is ready!




Taiwanese 3 cups chicken in instant pot

Recently we got a great deal on an instant pot. I've always wanted one of these but we had too many cooking appliances in America. Since coming to Taiwan, the ingredients are a bit different and our schedules require a bit more hands-off dishes. So I'll share some recipes.

The Taiwanese classic dish is 3 cups chicken or in Chinese 三杯雞  Sān bēi jī

This version for the instant pot is in Chinese (https://icook.tw/recipes/55521) so here's the English translation:
If you don't have an instant pot, this is supposed to be a good recipe with youtube video available here in English: http://bit.ly/1bybbta

1 package of chicken (recipe said 14 pieces that are already cut up)
Ginger - 5 slices
Garlic - 2 cloves - mashed/pressed
Sesame oil - 20 ml or 1 cup

Sauce
1 cup rice wine
1 cup soy sauce
3 TB of sugar (I used brown)

1. Put in chicken pieces in boiling water to rinse (aka skim the scum)
2. Put the instant pot on the "no water" setting for ribs, put in the sesame oil and ginger
3. Put the rinsed chicken in with garlic
4. Put in the sauce, you can put the lid on or off here. (I usually put it on)
5. Wait until the pot tells you it is ready.

Here's what my pieces looked like:



It was a big hit - definitely "koalaty" tested:


Now I'm on the lookout for some good ribs and soup recipes.