flashback: mackinac island

back in the states, in Michigan, there is a small island that sits between the lower peninsula and the upper peninsula. the only way to get there is by boat. and once you arrive you have three choices: horse, bike, or foot. the water is cold and the shores are rocky, but the views are magnificent.

this past July, before Husband and I moved to Taiwan, we stayed there for a week with his family. I hadn't been since I was 12. but even though I ate a lot less fudge on this trip, I still loved biking around the island, building rock piles on the shore, and hiking to Arch Rock. we also discovered that Mission Point has Angry Orchard cider on tap, and the Seabiscuit Cafe does a mean molasses bourbon bacon.

I am just now [I know, I know] getting around to editing the last of the photos and thought I would share. we have our first visitor coming this weekend - one of Husband's old classmates from undergrad - so I'm sure I'll be back next week with more pictures and stories.

happy weekend!


a few incredible things

life here? is kindof incredible. our daily routine that we've settled into, making dinner every night, feeling like a weight has been lifted, enjoying marriage like newlyweds all over again, finding vermouth and being able to make martinis... 

even just the fact that we are here, really here, and have been here for nearly two months? is incredible.  

and because I'm going to be using that word a lot in this post, I've gone and looked up the definition for you:

in·cred·i·ble: so extraordinary as to seem impossible.

oh, and it fits.

that I made it through my first rosetta stone Mandarin lesson? incredible.

that I've become the kind of person who hangs their laundry out to dry in the sun? incredible.

that I have free time every day I can use to create? write, draw, paint, take photos? incredible.

that there are bananas in my backyard? seriously. BANANAS.



today I miss... fall

the brief stint of cooler, less humid days has passed. I know in the states it's officially fall now, but here in Taiwan we are 87-feels-like-96. at 10am. I'm trying to enjoy dresses and shorts and tank tops, and warm nights on the back of the scooter. but deep down the midwestern girl in me wants to curl up in a hoodie and jeans on the couch with a good book and a punkin ale.

so, I've plundered the archives of my photographs for bits of fall.

late september usually means heading to the orchard for "apple fest". cider + rum. apple cake pops. friends over to watch football. baking, and baking, and baking. walks by the canal or at the park with my camera and golden light. a rainbow of reds and oranges and golds in the trees. running on the trail to the sound of crunching leaves. a mug of something warm in the evening...

yeah. I miss fall.



making: a bright necklace to wear [DIY post coming soon though it was crazy easy.] I hit the jackpot at the craft store last week and have enough goodies to keep me occupied for a month. I've been playing with my paints still, and planning to cover one wall of my office with art.

polishing: I tried out a watercolor manicure and kindof fell in love. the perfectionist in me wanted to stop halfway through, but I'm glad I stuck it out. [that's another post coming, too!]

sweating: Husband and I signed up for memberships at the local gym. unfortunately, as we discovered at 6am this morning, the weight room doesn't open until 10. what the heck? we worked out anyway... some of the teachers here are running a 1/2 marathon in december and I'm 85% sure I'm going to sign up, so I need to get my butt in gear.

reading: writing at the kitchen table, a biography on Elizabeth David. Husband bought it for me for my birthday in April and I'm just getting around to reading it. [which, by my usual standards, is fairly quick for reading a book someone gives me]

loving: the break in the weather. it's only dropped from high low 90s to high 80s, but the humidity is down around 60%. and it feels AMAAAAAZING! Husband and I scooted around yesterday and it was so nice... I even sat on the roof and read for an hour or two. really really hoping this weather sticks around. it's not midwest autumn, but it's almost as good!

eating: a group of us tried out an Indian place on friday night. the owner said he knew our friend Peter and so he cooked us a FEAST. [turns out our friend Peter is not his friend Peter, but the food was still delicious!] on sunday Husband and I tried out "the deli" and I drowned my football sorrows in a big bowl of mexican layer dip. I have pretty high standards for mexican food, but this place got bonus points for frying their own chips.

organizing: I'm trying to find a good way to plan meals and workouts so I can get myself on a schedule [that still leaves time for laundry and dishes and blogging and crafting]. I wish I could find chalkboard paint here because I would totally turn a wall into my weekly planner. I've heard you can DIY chalkboard paint but not sure I can get supplies for that here. ideas/suggestions welcome.

that's about it for now... heading to Costco [which also doesn't open until 10 - seriously?] and then throwing together some beef stew in the crockpot for dinner. happy monday!

["currently" post inspired by Danielle at Sometimes Sweet]


eighteen peaks and ONE GIANT SPIDER

today I went out on an adventure with my neighbor, Sean. his wife is a teacher and he [like me] is not. so we thought we would scoot out together to try to find the famous 18 peaks mountain park that resides in Hsinchu.

I should be clear, and tell you that the name of this park is a little misleading. the highest peak in the park is actually just shy of 132 meters tall. but there were plenty of hills and trails and stairs, pavillions and picnic tables, and of course the musical rocks. [because really, what's a hike in the woods without a little elevator music?]

I hope to do some further explorations to see if the trails around the flat end of the park are easy enough for running. asphalt isn't ideal for my knees, but running around Lake Placid involves a lot of paver bricks and navigating a maze of metal doorways and gardens.

however, the park may have one very LARGE downside...

I think I'll be avoiding that trail next time... eek.

on bravery


I've read it often enough in books to know that bravery is not the absence of fear, but rather having enough courage to act in the face of that fear. 

I'm trying to live my life here bravely, though I've had a lot to be afraid of. scooting, for one. I would get the heebie jeebies just riding on the scooter at first. every bump we went over made my heart leap. then driving alone... eek. and while I'm still not totally comfortable driving myself on the big roads in heavy traffic, I can relax enough to enjoy riding "shotgun" with someone else. in fact, the other night while riding I had the urge to spread my arms and legs out in the rushing wind and maybe shout something silly like "wheeee!" I obviously didn't because I like my limbs attached thank-you-very-much, but I had the thought.

the truth is, I am scared a lot of the time. I mean, what if I get lost and can't find my way back because I don't speak Chinese? what if I take a turn too tightly and fall off the scooter? what if I try tutoring and I suck at it? what if I can't find a place here I like to run? what if I accidentally order something with shrimp paste in it and go into anaphylactic shock? what if I write a post like this baring my guts and you all think I'm silly?

but there's really only two things you can do with fear. you can wrap it around you like a blanket and hide behind it.

or you can face it.

so I can sit at home and be scared, and do nothing but think of "what if"s. or I can go out and explore. I can drive the scooter and risk making an idiot of myself and try new places and things and always carry my epi-pen. I can be silent. or I can be brave, and hit that little orange button up there marked "publish".

because maybe the worst fear is this: what if I'm so afraid of everything that I don't really live?


9/11, 11 years and 1 day later

the first time I visited New York, the World Trade Center was just a gaping hole in the ground.

but I remember the day it happened.

history class, junior year, we were "reading silently". another teacher came in to whisper something to the teacher. she didn't tell us what happened, she didn't say anything. a few minutes later the bell rang and the hallways were full of whispers and rumors, but not enough time. some plane had accidentally flown into a building in New York? I walked into AP biology and the news was being projected onto the big screen in the front of the class. we all sat down, hushed, trying to make sense of what what happening.

and then the second plane hit. and we realized: this isn't an accident, it's an attack. and I was so confused. I couldn't understand, couldn't fathom, why someone would do something so awful. I was 16 years old and so, so young.

we watched as the towers burned and crumbled. we saw the pentagon on fire and flight 93 crashed in PA. we all started to panic as the news speculated they would sweep the country and hit iconic buildings in every major city. we knew the Chrysler building, a few miles from our school, was being evacuated. we knew all the airports were closed.

I remember watching and hearing the sounds of bodies leaping and falling out of the towers. I remember seeing a reporter with a camera running through the streets as the towers collapsed, trying to both outrun and capture the giant cloud of smoke and debris that chased him. I remember the days and weeks that followed, the search through the rubble for anyone left.

a year and a half after 9/11, I went to New York for the first time. we went to ground zero, and saw what was left. a big, gaping hole. they were still cleaning out debris. there were names and hand made memorials left along the construction fence. and that famous cross that they pulled out of the wreckage, I remember that was standing tall.

I never went back after that. even when I moved to New York in 2007, I just never went back. I've seen the Freedom Tower/One World Trade Center from afar, but haven't been back. last year, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I was at the Jets home opener. this year, I'm not even on American soil. but it still makes my chest tight to write this.

I still remember.


summer stripes [the nail files]

it might be september, but summer's not over. the days here in Taiwan are still up in the 90s, and with the humidity it feels like 100+ by mid morning. I've always loved summer: the sun, the beach, the dresses, the tan lines. though I will admit a small part of me is craving a midwestern fall chill with cider and sweatshirts - it's most definitely not fall here yet. and when winter comes it will be sweatshirts [not parkas] and plenty of chilly rain. so, I will try to embrace the summer heat while it lasts.

we went to a teacher potluck friday night and everyone asked if I had my nails done local. [but once they saw there were no rhinestones or glitter, they believed I did them myself.] I've only had a professional manicure twice in my life, but I'm thinking I need to check out a salon over here if only to see what they come up with.

I used these essie orange, pink, and purple shades because they reminded me of a summer sunset. my secret weapon to diagonal stripes? scotch tape. let your base color dry completely and then tape off half your nail diagonally. paint the uncovered nail, let dry and peel off the tape. then repeat with a third color by taping off about half of the second color. I think scotch tape works better than painter's tape here because you can see the other line to make your tape parallel. dry, peel, topcoat, done.

ps. I found this metrocard in one of my wallets from the last time I went into New York and it kindof made me want to cry. there are a lot of things I love about our new life in Taiwan, but I do still have moments where something [even as small as a metrocard] will give me heartaches for home...


the joys of domestication

a part of me feels like I'm betraying the liberated sisters of my generation by saying this, but I kindof love just being a housewife.

the second week of school is nearly gone, and we are finally starting to settle into a routine. a routine of Husband going to work everyday, and me staying home. the first few days were an adjustment, to be sure. that helpless what-do-I-do-with-myself feeling crept in on me. because let's be honest, I'm used to being the "breadwinner".  I'm used to having a thousand things to do at once and being drained by the end of the workday, only to come home and face a mountain of cleaning and cooking and dirty laundry that neither myself nor Husband have the energy or desire to tackle.

but that was life in New Jersey. life in Taiwan... totally different.

Husband works, I don't. though I should mention that Husband works now at a school where he only sees 90 students a day [compared to 190] and teaches 2-5 periods a day [instead of 6 every day] and his commute is only a 2 minute walk [versus 30 miles in route 1 traffic]. so when I say he works, I mean he actually has the time and resources to put into his work and is therefore not slaving away until midnight at home each night. he comes home and is just... home.

my "job" now is being a housewife. and I've started to discover some strange things about myself. somehow, laundry becomes almost enjoyable when it's just one load a day. methodically arranging it to dry on the rack appeals to that OCD part of me that likes everything neat. it becomes part of the routine. like washing dishes. washing dishes- by hand - I have even grown to savor. turn on some tunes, just start scrubbing and dancing.

before, even with a dishwasher, I hated cleaning the kitchen. despised it.

but now... I want to clean the kitchen because I want to have a clean house. and I actually have time to do it. I used to dread doing these things because they were just something I HAD to do. and now something as simple as hanging up sheets to dry on the line outside can be a small joy. making the bed in the the morning just makes the whole day feel more organized. arranging the dishes perfectly so they the dry and don't fall over is kindof like a zen-jenga moment for me.

and if washing dishes by hand every day means my manicures don't last as long... oh please, twist my arm and give me an excuse to paint my nails more often.

the other day I scooted to Costco, all on my own. and while I was there I bought cleaning wipes. and I was strangely excited to use them. so much that after I wiped down the kitchen, I decided to to the bathroom as well. and after I wiped off the counter, I decided to reorganize it. and at that point... you may as well clean the toilet and swipe the floors and do it right.

that got me thinking about what else I could organize... I have these mason jars left from spaghetti sauce and I've been trying to think of a way to use them. I also needed a way to store my nailpolish. I kindof love the way they look, but I'm not sure they're entirely practical. I might use my polish too often to want to dump the jars out each time I have to find a color. [plus that glass-on-glass noise makes me nervous]

the other bonus to being a housewife? I have time for me. coffee and blog reading in the morning. sometimes a run or circuits or a boxing class at the gym. and then those glorious few hours in the late afternoon where I can sit and create. write. paint. read. photograph. anything. now that I don't have the stress of work, I can finally relax. I haven't had any major this-is-what-I-should-do-with-my-life epiphanies. but it just feels good to embrace the potential.

I fully admit that in a few weeks it's possible the honeymoon will wear off and I'll be itching to start tutoring, or subbing, or to find a consulting gig. but for now, I'm content to live in the moment and enjoy my newly domesticated lifestyle.


to market, to market

while we were at the Hsinchu flower market, we discovered that only a part of the market was dedicated to plants. the rest was full of brightly colored booths and a jumble of scents and flavors. there were plenty of booths with toys and purses and clothes and games, and even small fish and turtles. but what topped the scene was the food.

noodles and fried rice piled high... and giant dishes of fish guts and other things, ready to be dished out. I'm going to come clean right now that I wasn't brave enough to try anything at the market. [partially because the smell of stinky tofu was dominating the air.]

it seemed like the majority of the booths were serving "fair food". if we had been in the states I bet it would have been popcorn and elephant ears and cotton candy and corn dogs. they still had corn dogs, but a few other unusual items served on a stick: fried squid, seasoned ears of corn, and quail eggs.

whenever I see someone post pictures like this that were clearly taken in a busy, public place I wonder how they did it. you know... isn't it embarrassing to walk up and stick your lens in the food when you aren't planning to buy?

here's the truth: it is. but if you're going to be stared at for being a white girl, you may as well be stared at for sticking your camera all up in the booths too.

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