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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Life in the Xindian New Taipei Area with Kids

We live close to Xindian Station. While we like living here, there are both pros and cons to our area.

Let's start with the downsides...

1. Limited food options

One of the biggest perks about living in Taiwan is all the great (and cheap!) food. But sorry... if you live in the Xindian area, you'll find a hard time finding good food. And the few places that are good will be expensive.

The closer you live to the Xindian/Wenshan border (that is, the further north you live), the less food troubles you'll experience. But if you live close to Xindian Station (or further south), expect to cook for yourself regularly. Delivery services like Food Panda even have limited options for our area.

2. It takes forever to go anywhere

If you live in the center of Taipei, you'll find that public transit can get you anywhere in the city within a matter of minutes. But if you live at the very end of the line (or, in our case, a 20 minute walk from the end of the line), plan on an hour or more if you want to visit all the fun attractions... such as the Children's Amusement Park, the zoo, the parent-child play centers, the toy bank, etc.

I feel like we would go out a lot more often if we lived closer to the center of the city.

So... if life in this area is so inconvenient... why do we still live here?

We like our area because there's still some significant perks to living in Xindian.

1. It's quiet and peaceful 

Here's a view of the bitan recreation area

You'll find us and our kids walking through this area often. 

2. We are close to nature with great kids friendly hiking and biking trails. 





This is the hei mei mountain trail just to the right of the bridge down below. Our kids at age 3 and 2 could go through this trail. 

There's also a bike rental place with kids bikes suitable for those 2 and up and also bikes with baby seat at the front and back for families wanting to bike up the trail. 


Further up the metro green line, there's other kids friendly mountain trails.

One stop up from the end of the line at Xindian to the the green line at Xindian district station you'll find the little lion head (shi tou) mountain trail that's kids friendly but before the age of 3 we haven't hiked this trail.



Then a few stops up, at Jingmei station you'll find the fairy prints (xian ji) mountain trail that we also have yet to hike up. 

3. Kids friendly shopping areas - Carrefour Xindian and IKEA Xindian

IKEA has awesome kids' rooms that my kids love to pretend they live in. I do the same thing with their show rooms.



Carrefour has these great carts that are cars on bottom and grocery rack on top that works well if you only have one child. But not so well if you have just one adult and two kids. Often on the weekends you'd have to go early to grab one of these carts as it gets quite crowded with families. 

Then there are the pre-schools options if you have infants to toddler.

If you copy and paste the words: 幼兒園 (youeryuan)



The ones that seem to be concentrated are near Xindian district office station on Zhongxing road. We saw at least half a dozen on that road just walking up and down on it. 

The one we wanted to go to is called cute mama kindergarten at No. 203 section 1 of zhongxing road. 



There's also a chain preschool by the name of Filex Kids that are around the area: https://www.filexkids.org/2017C1/

Kid castle also has a lot of branches all over the island:


Easy recipe: Instant pot eggplant and carrots curry

So I ran across this recipe and thought it would be great as eggplants are difficult for me to cook on the stove. I tend to either overcook or undercooked them when I do eggplant curry on the stove so figure out an easy way to cook them in the instant pot when I saw this recipe:

https://www.cookwithmanali.com/instant-pot-eggplant-carrot-curry/

Here's my easy version of it:

Ingredients:
1 whole onion - chopped
2 long eggplants or 1 if you have the bigger thicker ones - cubed
2 small carrots or a bag if they're the snack bags - cubed or thinly sliced
2 cans of coconut milk
2 cubes of the curry spices or you can make your own from the receipt linked above
4 cups of water (or 4 in the cans of the coconut milk)

Optional:
3 tomatoes
basil
tofu or any meat on hand




Instant pot
You can do the saute steps like in the recipe linked above or you can just put in all the ingredients and press the soup option like I do.





Travel adventures: Fulong beach

So for my birthday, we traveled to Fulong beach.

We were there for the sand sculpture festival that usually goes from 1st of June until the end of July I believe.



You can take the local or express train from Taipei main station to Fulong station. I'd suggest doing this on a weekday as weekends and holidays the train is very crowded. The round trip for adults are around 150NT each and kids half of that. 

There's also the entrance fee into the beach area, for adults I believe the tickets are 100NT and kids 3-12 are 50NT. 

 Here's the map of the park.


 Our favorite sand sculpture is one that depicts the pandemic heroes. See the mask?

There area is very hot so definitely bring sun hats, umbrellas, shoes that are washable and put on lots of sunscreen and bring a lot of water or hit up the convenience stores in the area.

We actually ate lunch from the stores that are right next to the train store, apparently, the bento boxes are famous from this area. 


Audio book review: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

For awhile I was a working mom. My commute times tend to be around 2 hours every day so that leaves me with plenty of time to explore the world of audiobooks and learning apps. I've been learning Python from several courses on edX and the SoloLearn app. But I do switch it up with hearing an audiobook when I can't sit down to view my phone.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of battling giants
Read by author: Malcolm Gladwell
Time: 7 hours

Overall view: some good insights into how we think of advantages

My personal motivation for wanting to read this book was when I heard the author re-discovered Christianity when he met a couple he describes in the book, Cliff and Wilma Derksen.

What struck me the most about the book was the ways in which we view advantages may not be so advantageous after all.

The story starts with the familiar story of David and Goliath, however, Gladwell points out that the stone David used could be comparable to a gunshot. Seen in the context of an infantryman versus someone armed with a handgun the infantry man's large size does not seem to be such an advantage. So ironically it seems Goliath was the sitting duck, not David in this case.

From there Gladwell delves into people's personal stories and translates scientific research into laymen's terms. His ability to do this reminds a bit of C.S.Lewis's writing that is able to translate complex ideas into simpler analogies or stories that are more understandable. That's something that I'm hoping to work towards.

Overall I like the book although it gets a big long-winded ins some parts. But I'm definitely a fan of Gladwell's writings and will be checking his other books in the near future.

Easy recipe: Zha jiang mian or fried noodles sauce

So I actually got this recipe from my mother and it's not inspired by any recipes on the internet but if you want an equivalent that seems to be a good match or better measured, this one here should work:

https://jeanetteshealthyliving.com/zha-jiang-mian-recipe/

Ingredients:
1 TBSP oil or sesame oil
1 onion chopped - I actually use ginger instead sometimes like photoed here
1/4 cups of soybean sauce
1 TBSP corn starch - we use tapioca starch here in Taiwan to be mixed with 1 cups of water
1 lb of ground pork (or beef, or turkey or whatever you have, this is very flexible)

Optional:
If you have leftover vegetables like I did with mushroom you could put them in also. This is a very forgiving and flexible recipe.

Steps:
Stir-fry onions until soft. Then pour in the meat until browned. Mix the cornstarch with water and the soybean sauce and pour into the pot. Mix for 3-5 minutes on medium heat.

Cook whatever noodles you have on hand and mix it in.

You can put in whatever vegetables you have for garnish also.


Here's the end result.

You can use whatever sauce you have on hand:


Covid 19: keeping toddlers happy at home - part 2

Yes, the timeless toy, blocks are the key to keeping toddlers happy at home. Also, we are not an affiliate of any of these toys so the toys are just my own opinion with no monetary incentive for endorsement.

We have all kinds of blocks at home and other similar toys that I'll post the pictures so that your kids can model after them or just use their imagination.

So in Taiwan here, there's a bunch of blocks called "Gigo" which is very similar to legos but more flexible.


These ones are called their storyline assembly blocks. They also have engineering blocks. 


There are some of these animals I still haven't been able to figure out. There are also the cars that my son seems to like.





It takes hours to try to figure out how these are put together so it's been fun for both the kids and I.



Matcha or green tea cakes

Being in Asia, there's plenty of matcha or green tea powder around so I usually grab one when I shop and have them on hand.

Here are some of the recipes I've done that the kids taste-tested and were good.

Soft green tea/matcha coconut soy milk cake

2 eggs - separated into yolk and whites
1/4 cup of coconut oil
1/4 cup of soy milk
3/4 cup of cake flour
1/4 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tbsp of matcha/green tea powder

Egg whites mixture/meringue
Beat the egg whites, I always add 1/4 tsp of vinegar to make it easier to form peaks (The acid in the vinegar helps to break down the coils of amino acids in the egg white's proteins so that they can repeal each other and form the foam that you see: https://www.ourstate.com/bakers-basics-meringue/)
1/4 cup sugar added in 3 different times to not disturb the forming process
Apparently, meringue is especially hard to do in humid weather like we have in Taiwan so I usually need to do at least 10-15 minutes on low-medium/high egg beater.

Combine the cake ingredients in another bowl. I usually have to heat the coconut oil to get it into a liquid form unless it's the middle of the summer.

Shift the cake flour into the bowl. Mix well.

Then mix the meringue into the cake four in 3 batches.

Then bake at 130 degrees celsius or 265 Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes.



The bunny is looking a bit doubtful here but it tasted great, just didn't rise as I probably didn't put in enough baking soda.