Our Last Christmas and NYE in Taipei

We stayed home for the holidays and enjoyed a low-key Christmas and New Years; our last in Taipei. This year instead of painting a cardboard tree we picked up a small fake one from Carrefour for $20. Decorating it provided a whole afternoon of entertainment for the boys.

img_0775We painted popsicle sticks and used the glue gun to make some ornaments as well as a star for the top of the tree.

img_0779Jude was all about presents. Anytime I would take him to a store he would ask me to take a photo of the item he wanted to send to Santa.

Even thought Christmas isn’t an official holiday here, the Taiwanese still like to celebrate it. The boys school spent the week before Christmas making ornaments and decorating their own classroom trees.

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img_1821The Friday before Christmas the school had a big Christmas concert where each class performed to songs they had been practicing. Jude totally nailed his song and dance and adorable Toby started of great when he heard the music and then when he looked out at the audience froze and then finally decided to exit stage left!

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img_1524We didn’t do anything special Christmas Eve. We had hotdogs for dinner and then Luke ran out to the toy store to buy the boys a present each.

img_1552They opened their gifts in the morning and were pretty happy with their new superheroes.

img_1565We had a lazy Christmas Day hanging around home. The highlight for the boys was getting to Skype with Santa Claus.

img_1575A few days later Christmas came again when we received a big package from Grandma and Grandpa.

img_1590The boys both got a remote control car- what a hit!

img_1612They also got loads of adorable PJs and some new books. So spoiled.

We had a low key New Years Eve as well. Luke and I put the boys to bed and drank some bubbly. At Midnight we ran outside and watched the Taipei 101 fireworks. They were amazing.

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And on New Years Day we celebrated by going out to brunch at The Diner. A very special treat for the boys as we hardly ever eat out!

img_1760img_1759Now its the New Year and we have a mere 3 months left in Taiwan. It’s going to be very sad to say goodbye to this place we’ve called home for the past 5 years.

New Zealand Holiday 2015

Arriving in New Zealand always feels so nice after a long flight. The air is so clean and the people are so friendly. So despite being exhausted, we were also all quite buzzed about being back and getting to see all our family, and especially, the cousins.

IMG_1492The day after we arrived, we left the boys with Grandma and flew to Wellington, where I would be receiving my New Zealand Citizenship.

IMG_1509It was great being back in Wellington and getting to walk the streets and reminisce. We even stopped in for a beer and fries at our favorite old Belgium Bar, Leuven.

IMG_1506That evening at Te Papa, I officially became a citizen.

Citizenship Ceremony at Te Papa with Deputy Mayor Justin LesterAnd after we celebrated with burritos and margaritas with Pearl, Nick, Faith and Axel.

IMG_1537The next day we were back at the airport lounge toasting a successful trip but also excited and anxious to see the boys again. IMG_1528Grandma gave us a glowing report when we returned. Toby has no problem taking cows milk before going to sleep and Jude was apparently very helpful.

IMG_1673The next few days we spent relaxing and enjoying all the things we missed about New Zealand.

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IMG_1610We popped in for a visit at Luke’s Oma’s house and Toby and Jude had an awesome time playing with their second cousin, Travis.

IMG_1550We also hung out at Abby and Brad’s one sunny afternoon and lucky Jude got to ride a 4-wheeler and help herd the cows for milking.

IMG_1649On the weekend, we visited Grandma and Dean’s house on the coast. They have several cows grazing and the boys went nutty trying to pet them.

IMG_1627They also loved picking the delicious strawberries from her organic veggie garden and helping to water the plants.

IMG_1630At the time, there was a lot of tough days for us with the boys being sick. Toby was so clingy and difficult when he had his cough. It was really exhausting for me.

IMG_1679And on Christmas Day we had such a tough morning at the ER with Jude that it took us awhile to get into the Christmas spirit. But once we were at Abby and Brads, with everyone, it didn’t take long.

IMG_1717Here are the gorgeous hosts and the incredible table Abby made all by herself!

IMG_1719Lovely ladies.

IMG_1701Happy Auntie.

IMG_1727Another happy Auntie.

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We had so much fun and a lot of laughs (especially during the water fight).

IMG_1763It was so cool to have all the cousins together in one room, and then on one couch. It’s going to be awesome to see them as they grow over the years. Little Harriet and Eli, the youngest, will surely be walking and talking next time we see them. So hard to imagine.

IMG_1784On Boxing Day, the family got together again for a belated celebration of Faith’s 21st Birthday. Jude and I stayed behind at Grandma’s house as he needed to rest up before our trip to the South Island. I was sad to have missed it as it looked like a great day at the beach.

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And the next day we flew down to Christchurch, rented a car, and after a 2 hour drive arrived in Hanmer Springs.

IMG_1799We rented a house with our dear friends. The last time we were all together was 3 years ago in Singapore.

IMG_1808Excitingly, these two lovely ladies are both pregnant so we had a lot to chat about.

IMG_1831Hanmer Springs is a great little holiday destination. It has a cute little town, gorgeous moutain views, and hot spring…there’s not much else.  So we didn’t do much besides eat, swim and sleep.

IMG_1856The exception to this being a trip to a small animal park that we caught word of.

IMG_1858It was awesome and turned out to be a big highlight for us.

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IMG_1857It was such a nice, relaxing time and thankfully Jude was able to recover from his croup while we were there.

IMG_1865It was certainly sad to say goodbye to our friends as we don’t know when the next time we will all be together will be.

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IMG_1839After Hanmer, we flew back up to Auckland and spent a night in the airport hotel before flying back. (Well, before Jude, Toby and I flew back. Luke had to take a different flight because of a last minute issue he had to deal with.)

IMG_1855Our dear New Zealand family and friends, we miss you so! Thank you for all the great memories! And for those we didn’t get to see on this trip, hopefully next time!

Our First Christmas As Three

Since this Christmas was the first as a family of three, we were keen to start some of our own holiday traditions. The one I came up with was making our tree rather than buying one. My parents had sent Jude a rather large box of Christmas presents which I was keen to utilize. After a google search I found a tutorial.

IMG_0020It was surprisingly easy to do and it only cost $2 for the paint.

IMG_0024Then I started trimming the tree using old bits of wrapping paper I had saved and ribbons. I made a star out of doilies for the top.

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The rest of the ornaments had been given to us as presents in the past. After arranging the presents around it really start to look and feel like Christmas.

IMG_0521I thought one of the benefits of the cardboard tree would be that the cats wouldn’t eat it, like they would for a real one. Instead they thought it was fun to climb up it and knock it over.

IMG_9931Another tradition we started, which we always did in my family growing up, was make Christmas cookies.

IMG_9888I used a basic sugar cookie recipe and a buttercream frosting. Rather than eating them ourselves we gave them away to our friends and Luke’s colleagues.

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Since it was Jude’s first Christmas, and we are in Taiwan, I thought it would be fun to take him to get photos with a Taiwanese Santa.

IMG_0064He was really confused about what going on. When I put Jude up on his lap, the people waiting behind us in line all went crazy snapping photos of Jude. I guess it’s not everyday you see a Western baby sitting on a Taiwanese Santa’s lap! Jude was a good sport and only started letting out a cry at the end!

IMG_0068On Christmas morning Jude woke up an hour earlier than usual and so at 5:30am we started our morning routine. First bottle,

IMG_9932then breakfast (scrambled eggs and toast),

IMG_9933and then we let him loose on the presents.

IMG_9936We Skyped with my parents and Nat while we opened everything so they could see his reaction.

IMG_9947Jude clearly did not know what was going on,

IMG_0094But he really didn’t mind as he had all these cool new gadgets to discover.

IMG_0099Funny though, the best part for him didn’t exactly seem to be  the toys but the wrapping that they came in!

IMG_9951So he continued to play in the garbage pile until nap time.

IMG_9954After his nap, we got our things together and drove 3 hours south to Nantou where we were staying the night with some friends.

IMG_9972We were booked in these nice cabins at a hot spring resort.

IMG_9969We spent the first afternoon hanging around in the hot springs – which Jude looooved!

IMG_9971Our friends all had kids too, five between us. And in fact three of them were born this year! So it was pretty special having three babies’ have their first Christmases together.

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After the kids and babies were all put to bed, the adults hung outside the cabins and had a Christmas BBQ feast. We had ham, sausage, chicken, roast veggies, salads, and amazing desserts. After we hit up the hot springs and drank wine until there was no more left!

IMG_9970The next day we awoke to more clouds but they soon disappeared and the sun was out! So we lounged around in the grass letting the kids play,

IMG_9978while the adults drank coffee and chatted.

IMG_9982And after morning naps we went for a group hike up a grueling hill.

IMG_9981But it usually is always worth climbing as you’re bound to get a good view. It was a wonderful and speciall first Christmas as a family of three.

IMG_9983It is still so hard for me to believe last year at this time we were like this:

IMG_7814We are very much looking forward to all the Christmases to come and continuing with our little traditions and making new ones.

Christmas

As I mentioned in my last post our Christmas didn’t go as planned. We had planned on having spending half of Christmas Day with my Grandma at her nursing home and then coming home after and having a nice Christmas dinner. So that morning my Mom went over to the nursing home before lunch to get Grandma ready for our arrival and found her in a bad way. She had had pneumonia for the past week and was progressively getting worse. On Christmas Day she was completely out of it, wasn’t talking, and had a badly swollen lip and legs. So no question about it she had to go to the hospital. So off they went in the ambulance to the hospital and my Dad joined them there.

Meanwhile, the rest of us stayed at home and had the lunch we prepared for Grandmas. We decided to carry on as normal and after lunch got to work on Christmas dinner. We received regular updates from Mom and Dad about Grandma. By the time she was finished being examined and placed into a room it was well into the evening. And it was almost 9pm by the time they finally got home.

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As soon as they got back we cracked a bottle of bubbly, toasted

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And dug into the appetizers Luke and Rob had prepared (Pigs in Blankets).

IMG_3215Yum, yum

IMG_3222And after we sat down to a very late but delicious Christmas dinner.

IMG_7597Then it was time for presents.

IMG_7633Here’s Nat with a Weiqi board from Luke and I.

IMG_7637Jen with a fancy face tool to make her look younger from Mom and Dad.

IMG_7642Rob in a Taipei Elephants Baseball jersey.

IMG_7667Dad with practice chopsticks to help him prepare for their upcoming trip to Taiwan.

IMG_7679Luke and Rob gave eachother the same book.

IMG_7670We got a subscription to the Economist and a bottle of whiskey from Mom and Dad.

IMG_7681We had a great time but of course missed getting to see Grandma. So once she was feeling better, a few days after Christmas, we headed over for a belated Christmas visit. (I had to wear a face mask to protect my pregnant self from getting pnemonia).

IMG_7707Grandma loved her gifts, which included a lot of tasty treats and a cool photo calendar from Nat.

IMG_7739She wasn’t really supposed to be eating anything other than what the hospital gave her but we decided to live dangerously.

IMG_7728It was nice to spend time with her even if it wasn’t as we had planned.

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Before Christmas

Sometimes no matter how much you plan life doesn’t always follow that plan. Our trip to the USA was a great example of this.

I was due to fly out a week before Luke and meet my parents in Arizona for a short getaway but ended up having to miss it and re-schedule my flight due to something coming up here in Taipei. Once I finally made it, and Luke had joined me, we planned to spend a few nights in Chicago but snowstorms across the North East led to a number of flight disruptions and our flight was cancelled not once, but TWICE (even after we switched airlines and purchased a new ticket with an airline who hadn’t made any other cancellations). We spent 12 hours at the Cleveland Airport trying to get to Chicago. Had we known, renting a car and driving would have been the better option. The last thing to throw our plans up in the air happened on Christmas Day when my Grandma had to be rushed into the hospital. She had caught pneumonia before I arrived and on Christmas Day my Mom found her in a not so good state so had to bring her in. This meant that my parents spent all day at the hospital curtailing our original plans of visiting Grandma and then coming home in the afternoon for Christmas dinner and presents. Well, we still had dinner and presents but it all happened much later after my parents had returned from the hospital around 9pm. So it wasn’t the holiday we had planned for but we still had a great time just being together.

So I’ll recap my trip in three posts- Before Christmas, Christmas, and Baby Shower. And after I have finished those, I will do one on New Zealand (where I was for a week after the States).

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The week before Christmas was busy.

It was filled with visits with Grandma.

IMG_7519Playing patty cake with Grandma.

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A Cavs game.

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They lost but we still had a great time.

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IMG_7541A trip to the Farmparks to see a Christmas Light display and check out farm animals.

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The light display was so-so but this global warming snowman was pretty clever.

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Luke and I went to a sports park where he tried out baseball for the first time (and did awesome!).

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We also braved the cold and went snowshoeing a few times.IMG_7583

IMG_7591We balanced out all this activity with some eating, including:

Pie at Bakers Square:

IMG_3171And Arby’s Roast Beef sandwiches

IMG_3204Natalie and I also managed to find time to bake up an assortment of Christmas cookies:

IMG_3208And of course, we did a lot of Christmas shopping. And apart from the whole day we spent at Cleveland Hopkins Airport it was a great week.