Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday mountain trip

This morning we woke up earlier than usual on a Saturday (well, Alexander anyways) had French toast for breakfast, showered and headed into the mountains.

People often complain about how much city there is in Taiwan and how little nature. But on the contrary, in pretty much any city in this country you are always less than half an hour from mountains with incredible forest greenery and clean fresh air. All you need to do is get onto your bike and head in the right direction.

It was Alexander's first time into the eastern mountains of Hsinchu and Miaoli county (I think we were in bordering Miaoli...) and luckily he brought his camera with to capture some of the scenery, like this tree covered in white egrets...

... and farmers working their rural rice paddies viewed through verdant bamboo. We stopped at a cafe along the way, an old favorite where I used to stop for coffee and cheesecake on mountain trips years ago. We enjoyed light sandwiches for lunch and a river view.

On the way home we stopped by this friendly lady to buy a big bag of passion fruit. She spoke no English, but I understand enough Chinese to know that she was explaining that her spot was just gorgeous and loads of people stop there to take pictures of the scenery.

Of course, we took Japie with for the ride. He has to ride in the basket otherwise he moves around too much. Don't worry, he enjoys the basket and viewing the world go by from it. And yes, he is giving us all a side-eye in the picture on the left.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guest Blogging- A Perfect Moon

I've been invited by darling Dorothy Black (fellow blogger and seriously good friend) to do some occasional guest blogging over at her blog A Case of Nerves. Here is an excerpt from my first entry on her blog...

Earlier this year, when Alexander and I were visiting Taiwan for the winter, I was talking to a guy online.

He lived in a city northeast of Taipei and was on break from school for the winter holidays. 

He was single and complaining to me about how small his prospects are for finding the right guy. I couldn't understand why he was having such a hard time finding a boy for a relationship or just some fun. There are loads of very handsome and very available men in Taiwan. Just look at any gay-dating website around here, plenty of handsome and available men looking for love or a good time.

For the rest of the entry go here. And do yourself a favor and check out the rest of her blog. It's full of insights and musings on sex, being a woman, dating, men, single life, dating life... a bit like Sex and the City, only better and way more real.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dapper man at the market

We moved! We found an awesome place and we've moved in and are settling in nicely. More about that in a later post.

First, I was walking home after a coffee out through the morning market on our lane yesterday (!), when I spotted this handsome gentleman walking a gorgeous Frenchie and carrying a beautiful traveler's palm behind an old lady zipping through the market.

I kept an eye out and spotted him again later, this time without any obstructions. Of course I invited him home, who wouldn't? He said yes and moved in with the dog, plant and lots of style.

Yes I know it's my husband but allow me the fantasy please. Don't you think this picture could work for Sartorialist?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Typhoon pancakes

After a summer that's been otherwise dry and incredibly hot, we are currently feeling the effects of three typhoons in the region. Kompasu, Lionrock and Namtheun have all been making their presence felt since Sunday night with constant rain, sometimes hard, sometimes soft.

It makes for unpleasant driving on scooters, but it does bring a very welcome relief to the heat and the world is looking clean and fresh again. Both Alexander I noticed how you could smell food being cooked everywhere yesterday, instead of the usual exhaust fumes.

I'm not working this week and decided to make some simple banana pancakes for breakfast this morning. We enjoyed it in bed with cloudberry jam from IKEA and a heavenly sweet and thick caramel Alexander's parents got me in Bali on their recent trip (some pictures of the trip that Alexander joined here), while enjoying views of the green hills and the rain.

We're moving into our own place tomorrow. We've been house-sitting for friends who's been away for two months and trusted us with their house and dogs. I'm excited about having a place of our own, but I am going to miss the area they live in, surrounded by lush forest with the sounds of tropical birds during the day and frogs at night.

I'll try to post some pictures of our new place very soon. I can't wait to move!

Monday, August 30, 2010

I desire- a Butt towel

The first time I saw these fantastic towels I was in the company of my sisters-in-law and Alexander. I was so excited that I shouted "I want a butt towel!" My enthusiasm for a butt towel was met by shocked giggles from the ladies and a disapproving look from Alexander, who was actually the one who pointed the towels out to me.

It's a few months later and I still find myself desiring a Butt towel. Who wouldn't want a towel in this sexy magazine's (site NSFW or Starbucks) instantly recognizable pink with a hot man sprawled over it? You wouldn't? Curious, I can think of nothing that would make me happier.

So if my happiness is important to you (and it should be) hurry on over to American Apparel's website and order me one of these babies. Or two, one for me and one for Alexander. It's still summer season here and we need to give those people at the pool something more to look at besides us.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Since Wednesday I've had Bjork on random on both my iPod and the computer. It has been a long-long time since I've listened to her, and now I can't seem to stop. I'm loving every second of driving around Hsinchu with her voice in my head. Beautiful.

Bjork, some Tori Amos and a bit of U2 helped me survive my final year of high school back in the early nineties. Mostly Bjork helped me survive my first year at university which was potentially the worst year of my life. So we go way back. And I still love her and her music every bit as much as I first heard her voice in my high school dorm room in '94.

Here's some vintage Bjork for you on this lovely Friday.

And then something more recent, a beautifully haunting collaboration with Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons.

And if you're interested, go here for a short NPR interview with Bjork for 50 Great Voices

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tropical fruit cake

Hear this, the Chinese name for passion fruit is 百香果 (bai-shiang-guo). It literally translates as hundred-smells fruit. Our good friend Jing-guo explained that it means it is the fruit that smells better than a hundred other fruits. Beautiful isn't it? I'm only using it's Chinese name from now on.

百香果 is in season at the moment, along with lots of other tropical fruit delights like mango and banana. I bought a bunch of all of them at the market one afternoon, but in the crazy July heat everything ripened incredibly fast and the next day I was sitting with some over-ripe fruit on my hands. What to do, what to do?

Bake, of course!

So I trawled the web for some banana bread recipe, decreased the banana and added some mango. Baked it, made a passion fruit syrup and poured it over the cake. The leftover syrup I mixed in with our cereal and yogurt in the morning. I baked the cake for Jing-guo and his sister who were helping us in our apartment hunting. His little nephew insisted on having the cake for breakfast, so I guess it was popular with him at least!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Return of the blogger

Man alive I am a lame blogger. I knew it would take some time before I start blogging again, but I never expected it to become months. My excuse is that I've been terribly busy with school. Working more hours than I have in almost two years was a shock to my old system.

Besides working we've also been getting back into the swing of living in Asia, visiting markets for fresh produce, teaching Alexander how to ride a scooter, finding the best places for baking ingredients, trying out new dishes and places to eat and visiting big cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung over weekends. And becoming parents to a one-year old French bulldog!

We barely got back when a friend mentioned that she knows someone who cannot take care of hers anymore and is looking for someone who can adopt him from her. We were immediately curious and I think we made a decision even before we saw him.

His name is Japie, he is a beige Frenchie and he is adorable. He has brought about quite a shift in our lives. We're now cooking big batches of dog food once a week, give doggie baths, spend a ridiculous amount of time in pet stores looking for toys and have regular discussions about his bathroom.

He was named (by us) for an Afrikaans boy hero I learned about as a kid. When I told Alexander the story years ago he decided that if we should ever get a dog he should be named Japie, so there you are. I don't think ours is very brave, but he is quite the hero of our hearts.

Yup, he is all I talk about these days.

I'm going to try my best to post more very soon. We're still apartment hunting and that is quite a mission here, so I'll keep you posted on that (I think we may have found a place), I've done some baking and Alexander had his camera ready, I'd like to share some of our market experiences with you and our adventures back in Asia.

I'll be back soon, I promise!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Mmmmmm potjiekos. Some foreigner I encountered on my travels long ago referred to South African food as bland and specifically noted potjiekos as a good example of how bland it can be. I was rather unhappy about this unfriendly statement. I agree that some South Africans enjoy their food bland or over-salted, but we also have some awesome cuisine with influences from Africa, Europe and Asia. And potjiekos falls into the latter.

Potjiekos literally translates as pot-food. I know, the name is actually quite bland, but the food shouldn't be. And if someone ever ate bland potjiekos then the person who made it is to blame and not the meal. This food is traditionally cooked in a round-based three-legged cast iron pot. It's a slow stewing process and can be made using just about anything. It is incedibly popular in South Africa and I grew up with several regional and national potjiekos competitions taking place all the time.

The preparation of the meal, like a barbecue, is a social affair. You start by building a fire and watch it turn into coals while enjoying a drink with friends. When the heat is right the pot, well-oiled, gets put on the coals. A fair amount of onions and garlic and in my case ginger gets cooked in the hot pot using a large wooden spoon. The meat of your choice (or other vegetables if you want to make a veggie potjie is added and browned. Next comes your liquids— water, wine, or stock can be used. And then some flavor. My potjie was a chicken curry so I made a mixture of curry powder, turmeric, chutney, and some dry white wine. Other ingredients follow— potatoes or sweet potatoes (in this case sweet potatoes worked wonderfully) carrots, beans. Whatever you feel like. The pot gets covered and everybody relaxes around the fire while it cooks, checking often to make sure there is enough liquid in the pot.

When everything is cooked the pot gets moved from the fire and everyone helps themselves to the delicious stew. We served ours (which we made for Father's Day) with some brown rice and a fresh summer salad Olivia made. If I may say so myself, the chicken curry potjie, which was my father's recipe with a couple of minor tweaks made by me, came out superb. Nothing bland about it, the sweet potatoes worked perfectly with the curry and the chicken was super tender (I used thighs).

For dessert Alexander made another South African favorite, malva poeding, no idea what that translates into, but it was awesome. He baked the pudding in a muffin tin so everyone got their own little dessert. He also added a bit of brandy to the sauce and sprinkled some nutmeg over everything. It was incredible and as I type here my mouth waters for it. And he did it all using an Afrikaans recipe book while I was out teaching!

South African food bland? Bah!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Poolside Kate

I may have mentioned before that I am nuts for Ms. Moss. I probably have a bit of a crush on her actually. She has just always been so totally gorgeous and hot. I'm always thrilled when I see her on the cover of a magazine looking fantastic. The new issue of French Vogue made me especially happy. Poolside Kate looking siren hot. Love her.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dancing on my own

I love-love-love the new single from Robyn. It's fun, it's sad, it's beautiful and makes me want to dance. My favorite line, 'I'm not the guy you're taking home', reminds me of my pretty miserable gay younger years when I was still a pretty sad homo, always crushing on some straight guy and feeling sorry for myself. Thank goodness those days are over.

Anyhoo, something for you to bop to.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Eating in LA

Since arriving in Los Angeles last Thursday we've been spending a lot of time eating at the city's many fantastic restaurants and cafes. And of course also enjoying the atmosphere, the architecture and the company of Alexander's sisters. Olivia flew out here for a couple of days, while Genevieve has long been a resident of the city.

Here are some pictures of a couple of meals we've enjoyed over the past few days.

Breakfast at Square One Dining on Fountain. Fantastic fruit, freshly baked scones and muesli. The seating on a patio out back did not hurt.

Lunch at Joan's on 3rd. Excellent food and despite the fact that they expanded they are still as great as ever. I was convinced of seeing Naomi Watts. I didn't.

And of course, cupcakes at legendary Sprinkles on Little Santa Monica was the perfect place for a late afternoon bite.
Saturday we wandered around Silverlake, where I still won't mind living.

We headed to the Silverlake Farmer's Market...

... for some fresh produce...

which resulted in an awesome dinner...

... and breakfast the next morning.

We enjoyed lunch at the super fun Lemonade on Abbot Kinney. We all had salads, awesome salads, and the lemonades were something else. I had cucumber and mint, while Alexander chose this bright watermelon and rosemary. Super refreshing.

I did not spot any celebrities around there like my first time in the neighborhood, but this handsome piece kept on popping up everywhere.

Lunch on Monday was tacos from the Yuca truck on Hillhurst. Really flavorful and well prepared. And not at all heavy, just perfect. Oh, and for breakfast we had coffee from Peet's on Larchmont where we spotted Molly Shannon grabbing a cup. Yay!

And now it is Tuesday and we continued the good eats. But no pics yet. Tomorrow we leave for Taiwaaaaaaaan! Yes, I'm excited. But I'm sad to leave LA, and the US. Quite sad. I'll be back though.

I'll try to post fairly soon after our arrival, but I do not promise anything. Till Asia then!

Friday, June 25, 2010

I desire- A small Utah Ranch

I’m in love with Utah. I know it’s supposed to be pretty conservative and the state of conservative Mormons who are in a big way responsible for Prop 8 getting passed in California, but I can’t help it. I’m in love. And I desire-desire-desire a ranch in Utah.

It does not have to be big. I’m not asking for much, an acre (that’s not too big is it?) or even half an acre would be fine. Really, size doesn’t matter. As long as there are some trees and a creek where I can go cool off in summer I’ll be happy.

If there is a small cabin on the property, and maybe a barn, bonus! If not that’s fine. I’ll be more than willing to build my own little cabin where Alexander and I can go hang out if somebody would just give me the land. Send the contract and let me sign.

And you’ll be more than welcome to come visit and cook with us, swim in the creek, build a fire in winter, go for hikes in the mountain. So if you know someone who would gladly give me a ranch in Utah (somewhere around Capitol Reef would be perfect) give them my number.

Monday, June 21, 2010

On our way again

After almost 3 months in the States we are off to some new and some old destinations. Over the next couple of days we'll be taking a short road trip to LA and after a few days there we'll be flying out west back to Asia.

First we head from Albuquerque NM to Utah where we will spend two nights exploring some of what is called the most beautiful state in the US. We' spend one night camping out in Canyon Lands National Park and another in Capitol Reef National Park.

Wednesday night we spend in Las Vegas! It'll be second time in that monument to decadence and tackiness and hopefully I will be less overwhelmed this time round. I'm planning to spend the whole time there soaking up some rays next to the pool, sipping on a trashy cocktail every now and then.

Thursday we arrive in LA. We'll be staying with Alexander's sister Genevieve at her Los Feliz apartment (ENVY!) and hang out with her and Olivia who will fly out there for a couple of days. We'll be there for almost a week, visiting some old spots like the Farmer's Market, LACMA, and Little Ethiopia. We'll also try out some new farmer's markets like the one in Silver Lake and spend some time around Culver City where I haven't been yet. We're also going to catch up with some old friends we have not seen in a while and hopefully eat lots of fun meals.

And then on the 30th we fly direct from LA to Taiwan, (the picture above is an old one of Sun Moon Lake in central Taiwan). And here we'll be settling in for a while. The plan is to go back to teaching and live in my old Taiwan hometown, Hsinchu. We'll probably be there for the next two years. If I had my way maybe longer! I'm looking forward to blogging to you from a new home. Hopefully, after an initial blog drought I'm sure, I will be able to write to you about our adventures with cooking, traveling and life in my dear Taiwan.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Entertaining with South African food

For our last Wednesday dinner I offered to cook a South African dinner for the family. It's been a while since I used my fun Tradisionele Suid-Afrikaanse Respete (Traditional South African Recipes) book, this seemed like the perfect occasion. From the book I selected a dish called smoorsnoek and for dessert a pineapple yskastert. I pulled a recipe for a green bean salad from the net.

Smoorsnoek is a fish and rice dish that's traditionally made using snoek, a fish popular at South African fish barbecues. It's got a quite distinct gamy flavor and is also pretty bony, as a result I hated it as a child, but these days I always look forward to going home and have my dad throw one on the fire. Of course, there was no snoek anywhere to be found in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Thanks to some guiding tips from Jeanne from Cooksister I managed to pull off a dish that came pretty close to the smoorsnoek my mother made when I was growing up.

The green bean salad is something that my grandmother used to make for big family dinners. It's simple combination of crunchy green beans, onions, lemon juice and pepper and it went well with the main dish.

Dessert was an old childhood favorite of mine, yskastert. It translates as fridge tart and is quite honestly a seriously trashy dessert. There is absolutely no fresh ingredients in it and is the kind of thing I totally try t steer clear of these days. But as I have not had it in decades I thought it would be fun to try and make one. I was hoping to make it with passion fruit, but I could not find the right ingredients so I ended up making a pineapple version.


(This recipe is for if you do not have access to snoek. Thanks Jeanne for the tip)

1 piece of of smoked fish (I used a white lake fish)
2 pieces of halibut, broiled together with a bit of olive oil salt and white pepper
2 cups cooked rice (I used brown)
2 onions chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 small pepper chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
white pepper
fresh parsley for garnish

Flake the fish together and set aside. Heat oil and butter, add the onions and garlic and saute until soft. Add the pepper and tomatoes and gently stir through to heat. Add the fish, mix through and white pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving dish and serve.

Green Bean salad
2 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 cup white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup oil
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper, 1/2 teaspoon each

Cook the green beans until they just start going tender. You don't want them all wilted. Drain. While boiling the beans, whisk the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add the green beans and onions and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

(You can use any kind of fruit combination and I am sure you can even attempt to make a fresher or at least healthier version that this one if you like.)

1 box jelly (jell-o)
1 tin evaporated milk
1 tin canned fruit (drained, reserve some for the topping)
graham crackers

Prepare the jelly according to instructions and leave it in the fridge until it just starts to set. Whisk the evaporated milk until it is foamy and thickens somewhat. Mix the jelly into the milk. Mix in the fruit. Place a layer of the crackers in a dish, top with the mixture, place another layer of crackers, top with mixture. Finish with a layer of the mixture. Top with the reserved fruit and leave in fridge until it is set. Cut and serve.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Entertaining with family

After our first spring dinner we decided to have regular Wednesday dinners where we all bring something else to the table. For this dinner I was in charge of cocktails and dessert, Alexander made salads and his sister Olivia got the main course.

To kick the evening off I prepared gin and limeade cocktails, inspired by the Panaka recipe from A Life(Time) of Cooking. Although I was very curious about the ghee and cardamom powder I skipped these two ingredients as I did not have time to search for them. It was a pretty refreshing drink and tasted great nonetheless.

Alexander outdid himself with the salads. They were perfect for spring. The salad on the left was an asparagus and roasted heirloom plum tomato salad. The one on the right consisted of fresh strawberries and pecans tossed with salad greens. Incredible salads. I think I could totally survive on this kind of salad for a while. Fresh!

For the main dish Olivia made an awesome pasta dish. Slices of spicy sausage tossed with broccoli, soft cheese and whole wheat penne. An excellent combination of textures as well as flavors and it worked brilliantly with the two salads.

Dessert was a Norwegian rhubarb cake. The easiest cake ever and a truly fun dessert. I got the recipe from Cooking Books. I could not believe how easy it was to prepare and it tasted perfect. So much so that I baked it again two nights later, but this time with blueberries.

I'm most certainly going to miss these Wednesday dinners when we're gone. Hopefully we can recreate a similar experience in Taiwan.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

We've been outed! Homos eat poo-poo and fist!

Thanks to the National Task Force Against Homosexuality in Uganda (a task force!) your worst fears about homos have been confirmed.

Yes people. Gays and only gays participate in a practice off anal-licking. I did not know this but apparently this automatically results in pooping and then the gays slobber that up too. Gays and only gays also participate in the practice of shoving whole arms down another man's anus. And gays and only gays take drugs too, to numb the pain. I know. Those gays. Filthy.

Hey! This guy has a Macbook. It's kind of paradoxical.

I'm moving to Uganda. You can watch gay porn in church! How awesome is that? I know, I should not make light of this insanity. But what the fuck else are you going to do?

Let our thoughts be with gays and lesbians (although I don't think these bigots are aware of lesbians so maybe they're safe) of Uganda and most other African nations. With all of this being shoved down people's throats I would hate to know what some idiots will do if they discover someone is gay.

* Via The Lost Boy

I desire- several more pairs of espadrilles

I was checking out a pair of yellow espadrille from Urban Outfitters for about a month before I finally picked up a pair for myself this week. They are pretty simple, but totally campy. And by far the most comfortable shoes my feet have ever encountered. I am absolutely and totally in love. It's like walking on air. Or something.

They add a fun element to my style, which goes very well with the great summer weather we are experiencing here in Albuquerque. I can see them doing well in Taiwan too, where silly trendy and bright colors seem to make an appearance on the streets every summer.

For the first time in my life I want to go back to the store and buy more shoes. I desire several more pairs of these babies. They also come in blue, white, grey, red, and black. And at $14 a pair for something this fun and comfy it's a steal.

Sadly they do not come in purple, which seems to be becoming a staple in my wardrobe. I have seen a pair of purple canvas plimsolls at Urban Outfitters. Tempting...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Something to celebrate- Malawian Gay Couple Pardoned

In a completely unexpected turn of events, the president of Malawi Bingu wa Mutharika, officially pardoned the gay couple who got sentenced to 14 years in prison a couple of weeks ago. Miracles doth happen.

They were immediately released from prison, following a visit to the president from the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. The president still said that homosexuality was illegal and not part of Malawian culture, but that Tiwonge and Steven were released on humanitarian grounds. The country has been criticized by international groups, celebrities like Madonna and Elton John and foreign countries.

Although the news was not met with great cheers from most Malawians it may just be the start of some much needed change in the country. And one can only hope this kind of change will spread to other African countries like Zimbabwe and Uganda and further into the continent.

* Full article at the New York Times

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Take me back to your house- my future home?

Our flight to Taiwan is booked. On July 1st, late at night, we will be landing on my favorite island in the world. We're trying to sort out work and accommodation to some extent before we get there. I'm not doing so well on the former, but on the housing front things are looking up.

We fantasized about having an old second story flat above a shop in downtown Hsinchu, but knew that was kind of unlikely to happen. So we were preparing to settle for a typically bland Taiwan-style apartment— lots of white paint, tiles and neon light fixtures. The best we could hope for was to have it some place near the hills with a view of bamboo forest or that it would have a decent enough balcony to have a garden on.

But then, through some sifting through facebook, I got the email address of a person whose family has created a hip and organic community in the mountains close to town on what used to be a family farm some 20 years ago.

The community is called Casa Chile and it consists of various buildings with different styles of housing. There's plenty of lawn (a rare sight in Taiwan) and the property is surrounded by natural forest, hills and bamboo groves.

Six kinds of structures make up the accommodation with some of them in apartment styles with shared cooking facilities and some private apartments with more bedrooms. And it is not all hippy-like. Not at all. All the buildings are hip and stylish, some have small wooden patios with lawn views, others have views of the bamboo groves. One of the buildings have Japanese-style bathrooms in the apartment. Awesome!

Just the idea of living almost in the city but not and having a place that is stylish and fun was tempting. But then I discovered that the owners will be making some small plots available to tenants who wish to have their own gardens. Here you can plant veggies, fruit and herbs as long as it's organic. And...and...and... you can keep a hen for egg laying purposes! Ah yeah I think I am ready to sign that lease now!

We're hoping to find a place at Casa Chile. It might be a bit further from work and town, but I will gladly deal with driving the distance if it means I can return home to a sunny patio, some weeding and harvesting and watching my hen peck at chopped carrot tops. From my own garden.

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