A Week of $299 Bargains

On Saturday Luke was walking around our neighborhood in search of a new place to have his hair cut. He walked past one place that was handing out coupons for a hair cut and wash for $299 NT (about $12 NZD/ $10 USD). So he decided to try it out.

Here’s Luke before:

Here’s Luke after:

His hair turned out great! We both agreed it was the best cut he has had in Taiwan. The hairdresser gave him a few extra vouchers on his way out. This week I was booked to go and have a hair cut at a favorite expat salon. It’s a very nice salon but also very expensive. A women’s haircut there would be around $2000 NT (or $80 NZD). I thought about it awhile and then decided to cancel my appointment and try out the $12 place. My hair grows fast so I thought even if it turned out bad it wouldn’t matter too much as it will be longer again in no time. And so I went.

Here’s Mel before:

Here’s Mel after:

I thought the hairdresser did a pretty good job. It was certainly better than my last (and very expensive) Taiwan hair cut experience. The biggest problem was language. She didn’t speak a drop of English and I don’t yet know how to say things like, ‘layers’, and ‘bangs’. So I ended u having to pick out a haircut from her catalogue of  Taiwanese hair styles. I would have liked a few more layers but for $12 I thought it was pretty solid. Plus they gave me the most amazing shampoo/head massage. (Taiwanese Salons are really into giving really long and luxurious head massages).

My other $299 steal of the week was a pair of ‘made in Taiwan’ shoes. I’m a loyal Croc wearer – mainly because have been soft for me to wear with my bad knee and because they can get wet with no problem. But the other day I saw this on my friend’s Facebook page and had a ‘oh my god am I really a Croc-wearer?’ moment.

Source

So I decided it was time to swap out the Crocs for a new pair of shoes. The only criteria was they had to be super comfy as I am still recovering from my knee surgery. So I popped into a shoe store that was selling shoes priced from $150 NTD ($6 NZD) to $299 NTD. The ‘higher-end’ made in Taiwan shoes were actually made out of real leather and had a really cushioned insole. So I tried a pair on and my feet were floating on clouds. So I bought a pair after agonizing awhile over which color and style to get.

It’s been a bargain kind of week but today were are going to go to Costco and will blow all of what we saved on these deals plus some!

Freezable Vegetarian Burritos

I knew that I wouldn’t be very mobile after my surgery and that my ability to do housework and cooking would be limited. So before my surgery I cleaned the house and put in a big effort in the kitchen – making cookies and dinners to last us a few days. For dinner, I wanted something that could be easily pulled out of the freezer and popped in the microwave. So I ended up making vegetarian burritos. There are so many different recipes on the internet. I looked at a few, then looked in my cupboards, and came up with my own variation. They turned out perfectly and are so easy to make.

Freezable Vegetarian Burritos

– 6-8 whole wheat tortillas

– 1 can vegetarian fat-free refried beans (you could also use black beans or pinto beans)

-1 cup cooked brown rice

– jalapeno peppers (optional)

– 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used monterey jack but cheddar would be good too)

Directions

1. Lay the tortillas out on a flat surface and spread equal amount of the ingredients into each tortilla in the following order: beans, rice, jalapeno peppers (1 or 2 depending on how spicy you like it), cheese.

2. Roll up each burrito by tucking in the edges and folding over tightly.

3. Wrap each in plastic wrap and place into a plastic bag. Seal and place into freezer

To  heat and eat:

Oven method

-Pre-heat oven to 350 F

-Remove plastic wrap and cook for about 15 minutes or until done.

Microwave

-Remove plastic wrap and microwave for 3-5 mins

Operation Surgery Complete

My operation went great. I’m back home now resting, icing, and cuddling with the cats. I stayed at the Taipei Adventist hospital 3 days and 2 nights in total. I opted to get a single room which was very spacious and comfortable. It had a flat screen TV with quite a few American movie channels so my first night felt more like being in a hotel.

Dinner my first night was also very tasty, so unlike hospital food I have previously experienced. The hospital only serves vegetarian food but it was all very interesting and delicious.

But the hotel fantasy was ruined when on Monday at 6am a nurse woke me up, helped me into a hospital gown and then stuck a needle into my hand and hooked me up to an IV drip.

She didn’t speak any English and my Chinese wasn’t up to it so I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on. I had originally told Luke to come round about 7.30am, a half hour before I was due to be taken to the operating room. But instead I texted him frantically just after the IV was put in my saying ‘Come now quick!!!’.

So he came but nothing happened until around 8.30am when they wheeled me to surgery.

I went into the operating room around 9am and the last thing I remember was the nurse cleaning my leg and the doctor (as well as 4 other nurses) standing over me. Anesthesia kicked in and I was out. I woke up again in another room. I was drowsy and numb. I just remember being hooked up to machines monitoring my breathing. Then shortly after a nurse said I was okay and I was wheeled back to the waiting room where Luke was and we went to my room.

At this point I was starting to regain consciousness. My face was still very numb but I could move my arms okay. I looked down at my legs and saw this:

The worst part of the post-surgery part was not being able to drink (not even water) or eat for 4 hours after the operation. I had to fast from 12pm the night before and dinner was at 6pm, so I didn’t eat or drink for a good 19 hours.  It was agony. When I was finally cleared for drinking I sucked down water and Minute Maid like it was nobody’s business.

This of course led to me having to pee, really, really bad. I buzzed the nurse to ask if it was alright if I could get up. But in came four nurses and through a mix of Chinese and English I realized I was not allowed to walk for six hours after the surgery and so the only place my urine could go was into a bedpan. And so it went. I must have broken a seal too as it seemed I was buzzing them back in every half hour. The bedpan’s really not so bad once you get used to it. I just needed to block out the fact that  four nurses were standing round me waiting patiently for a little tinkle noise.

I slept a lot the rest of the day, waking up only for dinner:

and to watch a movie with Luke. Luke also brought me a welcome gift of Lattea.

Around 5am the next day the anesthesia finally wore off and I was in excruciating pain. I buzzed the nurse and she could immediately see I needed some relief so she jabbed me with a needle (assuming with some kind of morphine properties) and I experienced numbness once again. Later that morning the doctor came in to talk to me. It turns out that my knee was actually worse than what the MRI showed so he said it was a really good thing I had the operation. He fixed my tear and also removed my plica (which could also be a source of pain).

I was cleared for release around noon but quickly realized that I wold be unable to walk without assistance. I didn’t want crutches as my recovery is all about returning to normal use and strengthening so I opted instead for a Granny cane. Between Luke and the cane I was able to wobble down and into a taxi and make it home.

This next week will be all about rest and slowly rebuilding strength. I still feel very tired so I have been sleeping every few hours. As nice as the hospital was there is no place like home.

‘Twas the Weekend Before Surgery

My knee surgery is tomorrow so Luke and I decided to make the most of the weekend and get out and explore.

Friday after meeting with our Chinese tutors we checked out this place down the road called, ‘The Witch House’.

It’s well known for being a place where you can grab a drink, fried food, and play board games.

They are also very well known for having a very sexually explicit menu and for being a lesbian hang-out.

We indulged in drinks, fried foods, and a game.

Saturday was a beautiful day so after my last big pool swim, Luke and I took the car for a drive out to the Danshui. Danshui is a popular seaside town for locals to visit. It has a great carnival-like boardwalk and has great little cafes to sit and enjoy the view.

After hydrating we took a walk up to see Fort San Domingo from the 1626 to 1641 Spanish occupation. As well as the former British consular residence, located right next to the fort.

After we made our way back down to the waterfront and found a nice spot to watch the sunset.

After the sunset we walked back along the boardwalk which was packed full of families and couples.

It was a great way to spend our last evening together for the two nights. I’m off to the hospital now and will report back post-op!

Oh, and I of course I should mention that today is a very special day as Luke’s beautiful sister Abby turned 21!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ABBY!

Abby and her fiance, Brad

Abby and her fiance, Brad

We love you lots,

Mel and Luke

Cosplay in Taipei

A few weekends back we were walking past the University sports center and were confronted with huge mobs of people, some of which were in elaborate costumes. We soon found out this was  Cosplay (or Costume Play). Cosplay is a well-known a favorite pastime of young Japanese and, as we saw here, is also very popular in Taiwan.

This strange phenomena is a type of performance art where people dress up to represent a particular character or idea. The are characters influenced by pop culture – anime, comic books, manga, video games, and film. The impressive thing is that most of their costumes are handmade.

This particular event was a sort of expo but we didn’t even have to go in as there was so much to see outside.

As you can see girls often dress very sexy.

And tend to attract a lot of photographers.

Whereas the men tended to dress in some kind of warrior/fighter theme.

However, we were told by our Taiwanese friend that some men do use it as an excuse to cross-dress.

It was a hot day so I couldn’t imagine how these Cosplayers could pose for ages in their costumes. By the end of the day they must be exhausted. I spotted this scary pig head with a bloody knife taking a break from the paparazzi. He looked pretty knackered.

The crazy thing is that this wasn’t just a one day thing. No, these Cosplayers got up the next day and did it all over again. Here is a view from our apartment of the crowd on the second day:

It’s very much like a Halloween for young adults. We couldn’t quite figure out what motivated these Cosplayers. Perhaps they had a chance at winning a prize or fame? Whatever it was it sure was entertaining for us.

School’s Out

This week was our final week of classes. The semester concluded with a speech. This semester Luke and I did a joint speech on our trip to Nepal. We spent heaps of time preparing for the speech beforehand.

We practiced in our building’s ping pong room:

We practiced in the park:

At an outdoor cafe:

Until finally it was time.

We took our seats here, in front of our Chinese name plates, and gave our 10 minute speech.

It went great! It was good to see just how far we’ve come since our last speech. Unfortunately we couldn’t celebrate right after our speech as we still had one more class to get through so it was back to the library:

After class we were all about celebrating with Belgium waffles!

We also decided to venture out into the big smoke to have dinner.

We ended up going to one of our favorite food courts for Korean:

After we walked around enjoying the warm air and interesting city sights.

This weekend we are catching up on sleep, housework and all the other things we neglected during the semester!

Happy Birthday Little Sister!

Yesterday was Natalie’s birthday.

It has been a big year for her as she had a major operation on her ankle. The operation went well and for the last few months she’s been recovering.

To celebrate Natalie’s birthday I decided to make a little treat to enjoy in her honor. I woke up early and paid a visit to our local traditional market.

Buried amongst the other goodies you will see a large stalk of fresh young ginger. I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at homemade crystallized (or candied) ginger for quite some time. I know Natalie loves ginger as much as I do so it was the perfect birthday recipe to make for her.

I followed Alton Brown’s recipe found here and copied below. It turned out perfectly. Next time I come back to Ohio I’ll be sure to bring a batch with me for you, Nat.

Candied Ginger

Ingredients

Nonstick spray

1 pound fresh ginger root

5 cups water

Approximately 1 pound sugar

Directions

1. Spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray and set it in a sheet pan lined with parchment.

2. Peel the ginger root and slice into 1/8-inch thick slices using a mandoline (or a sharp knife).

3. Place into a 4-quart saucepan with the water and set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 minutes or until the ginger is tender.

4. Transfer the ginger to a colander to drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Weigh the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar.

5. Return the ginger and 1/4 cup water to the pan and add the sugar. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes.

6. Transfer the ginger immediately to the cooling rack and spread to separate the individual pieces.

7. Once completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

I saved all of the liquid the ginger was cooked in and and have been adding it to my green tea. It’s delicious.

I know Goose and Fern really wanted to wish Natalie a Happy Birthday but they were too sleepy  – I couldn’t wake them up!

Happy Birthday Nat. We hope you had a wonderful day!

Love, Mel, Luke, Goose and Fern

After the Typhoon

Typhoon Saola came and went. It left behind a lot of mess and a lot of these guys:

Everything shut down on Thursday as a result of the Typhoon so we had a day at home studying. Despite being inside things still got a bit destructive.

This wasn’t caused by the Typhoon but by my own stupidity.

Friday things were back to normal. We had classes in the morning then Korean for lunch.

And to kick off our Friday night we headed to Gongguan Night Market (公館夜市) located a short bike ride away from us to eat more good food.

We saw this stand with a super long line at this stall and were immediately intrigued.

Whenever you see a long line in Taiwan, you can bet your money whatever is at the other end of the line is worth the wait.

So Luke lined up and 15 minuted later he has this in his hands:

He was stoked with it. There was one big delicious mess of goodness inside there. If you ever come visit us in Taiwan you will have to try one of these!

The next long line we spotted was at this stall:

So we lined up again and again it was worth the wait. It was a delicious bready omlety thing. I could imagine having one for breakfast.

To polish our day of good food off we hit up our local shaved ice place for dessert.

We spent the rest of the night in a total food coma. Saturday night we took a drive to Maokong, a tea growing spot just outside of Taipei.

We went to YaoYue as we heard it was pretty tops.

It was very atmospheric set amongst the tea fields.

We sat outside and had tea.

And a few snacks to go with it.

It was a nice escape from the city and I foresee many many more trips to Maokong in our future.

We were lucky the Typhoon passed just in time for the weekend or else none of this would have been possible!