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.

Our Big Helpers

My  parents plane touched down in Taipei ten minutes after Toby was born on October 3rd! Luke called them not long after landing and told them the news – it was a pretty epic arrival. Thankfully we were able to organize a someone to pick them up from the airport. We were also lucky that our babysitter was able to cancel her other work and stay and look after Jude while I delivered. She put Jude to sleep and then stayed on until my parents arrived. I was really hoping to have a few days with them before baby to show them the ropes – ins and outs of Jude’s routine and how to get around the neighborhood. But it didn’t work out that way and so when Jude woke up in the morning he got quite the surprise!

IMG_2395Thankfully Luke was able to leave the hospital and show them around a bit.

IMG_5609It was great when Toby and I were finally discharged from the hospital and we were all back home together.

IMG_8775I was keen to capture Jude and his new little brother so one of the first things we did was have my friend take photos of us. It was an added bonus that Grandma and Grandpa were here for a few shots too.

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IMG_8727So happy we were able to capture the special occasion.

IMG_8722The rest of the three weeks they were here was busy – they helped out with EVERYTHING, especially keeping Jude busy so I could rest.

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IMG_9186There were lots of time where we just chilled out, too.

IMG_8882Jude especially loved watching Sesame Street on Grandma’s iPad.

IMG_8733And Toby loved getting his gassy belly rubbed by Grandpa, known in our family as the ‘Baby Whisperer’.

IMG_9151He has the magic touch.

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IMG_9293We managed a few meals out – Din Tai Fung,

IMG_8860And the Diner. Both were successful thanks to lots of toddler distraction devices!

IMG_8792Mom and Dad took a few mornings ‘off’ to hike up Elephant mountain and go up Taipei 101.

IMG_5767And  after getting Toby started on the bottle, Luke and I were able to sneak off for our first date night. We saw the awesome  flick ‘Gone Girl’.

IMG_5886Before we knew it, it was the night before Grandma’s and Grandpa’s flight back to America. They helped with bath and bedtime one last time.

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IMG_9270And in the morning we took one last group photo.

IMG_9298Jude and I dropped them off at the airport.

IMG_9302It was a very, very sad occasion.

IMG_9310We got back home and Jude ran right into their room. Grandma thinks he was just looking for her iPad but I think he was looking for them.

IMG_9318I can hardly even begin to thank my parents for all their generous support during these three weeks. They helped out so much, not only with the boys, but also with day-to-day chores. We were all very lucky to have them here and miss them tremendously! Hopefully we will see them again in Taipei in the not too far distant future.

Inside Playtime in Taipei

The summers in Taipei are brutal. High temps plus high humidity make it very uncomfortable to be outside (especially when pregnant!). But we can’t stay inside all the time either – apartment living with a toddler isn’t easy! Thankfully Taipei has an abundance of indoor play spaces – many of which are right in our neighborhood or a short MRT ride away. Here’s where we’ve been playing:

Playspace

We love this place!

IMG_6988It’s a montessori-based playroom, only two stops away on the MRT.

IMG_6991Nothing is off-limits, your child can just roam free exploring what he or she wants. It’s super low-key, clean, and just has a really nice atmosphere. The cost is also very reasonable. I bought a 10-hour pass for $1000NT, so every hour only costs us $100NT, or just over $3USD! Great value.

IMG_6990Outside they have an enclosed sandpit with a slide and bubble wands!

IMG_5315This is by far our favorite place to go – either by ourselves or on a play date.

Xinyi Sports Center 

Taipei has a bunch of community sports centers scattered throughout the city. Each one has a free indoor playroom. The Xinyi one happens to be a 5 minute walk from our apartment. So we go here a lot.

IMG_7046The room has a small jungle gym, it isn’t huge but Jude loves it and we can happily fill an hour here. A bonus is that there is also a 7-11 right next door so we can grab a snack after.

IMG_6425Daan Sports Center 

Daan has a bigger and better playroom than Xinyi. It’s a short 10 minute drive away but worth it for a change of scenery. Plus, the jungle gym at Daan is way more suited to Jude’s playground ability. At Xinyi, the structure is a bit taller and has some areas Jude could fall off if not careful, but at Daan it’s closer to the ground and more enclosed so he can pretty much navigate it without my help.

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IMG_7016Ho!d Juice Bar

There is awesome juice bar in the same building as the Daan Sports Center called Ho!d Juice Bar. It is designed to bring kids there. Half the cafe is filled with toys, books, a pretend kitchen, workbench, and kids’ tables. 

IMG_7021The perfect place to stop after a good session on the jungle gym for a juice and a snack. They have a very reasonable minimum spend of $80NT per person (approx. $2.70 USD).

Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Xinyi (A8)

This is a chain of department stores around Taipei. In Xinyi, where we live, there is a huge one and it has various buildings full of lots and lots of shopping. In A8, there are two floors of things to buy for babies and children. On both floors, there are play areas. On the 4th floor, there is an outdoor playground and train! Inside, there is a family-friendly restaurant called, ‘Gailey’ which has a great little childrens’ play area. The catch is that if you come here to play, you have to spend at least $250 NT (approx. $8.30USD) on food or drink.

IMG_4717On the 5th floor, there is a play center, which costs $220NT  (approx. $7.30USD) for the whole day. It crams a lot into a small space.

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IMG_4923The 5th floor also has a lot of free options. Most of the stores around the floor have little areas set up where kids can trial the toys for sale.

IMG_4711There are also little random spaces near the customer service desk for playing.

IMG_4713And near the elevators there is a cool interactive egg cartoon mural which  kids can place soft balls into.

IMG_6532Jude loves this spot!

Taipei Fine Arts Museum (Cosi O Cosi)

In the basement of the Taipei Fine Art Museum is an Italian restaurant with an awesome playroom for kids. It’s about a 20 minute ride on the MRT from our house but totally worth it for a good coffee, gelato, and playtime.

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IMG_5079McDonald’s

Our local McDonalds has a very small but sufficient playroom.

IMG_3380Plus, Jude LOVES their hotcakes.

IMG_5271IKEA

Ikea’s interactive shopping experience is great. Jude gets pretty antsy in the shopping cart so it’s great to let him stretch his legs and play in their play area.

IMG_6791Our closest Ikea is about a 10-15 minute drive. It certainly makes shopping for home goods a lot of fun.

IMG_6792Other Play spaces

There are a few other play spaces close by we have yet to try – Leo’s Play land and Kidsburgh. Leo’s is only one street over from us – it’s hard to believe we haven’t been but the cost is around the $400 NT mark, the same goes for Kidsburgh. I’ve been inside and scoped out both and they do look pretty amazing. Both have big ball pits as well a place you can eat. So maybe for a special treat we’ll check them out.

Two Special Visitors

Last weekend we has a collision of visitors. First, Dominica arrived on Saturday afternoon.

IMG_5407We spent the rest of the day showing her our neighborhood and later out for a bike ride to pick up our fav Vietnamese food court meal.

IMG_5400In the morning we took her to our local wet market and sampled some classic Taiwanese breakfast street food.

IMG_5414While Luke drove to the airport to pick-up our other visitor – his Uni friend Sebastian – we went with Minnie to get a glorious Taiwanese hair wash.

IMG_5419And then Sebastian was here! First stop: bubble tea.

IMG_5421It was completely random timing that these two came to visit us at the exact same time. Both coming from New Zealand, and both on their way to European holidays.

IMG_0878Their first day together they tried an American export to Taiwan, Krispy Kreme donuts, and then onto the famous Din Tai Fung for  xiao long bao.

IMG_5422With full bellies, we headed on the MRT to CKS Memorial.

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IMG_5432It was hot out so we made our way into the memorial museum to cool off.

IMG_5435We watched the changing of the guards, too.

IMG_5438Then after dropping Jude off back home with the babysitter, we headed out to Tianmu to watch a Taipei Brothers Elephants play ball.

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IMG_5451The Elephants won after one of the players hit a home run, it was pretty exciting.

IMG_0911The next day, after a Taiwanese breakfast, we made our way out to Longshan Temple.

IMG_5458Then onto Ice Monster for their famous Mango Ice. We also tried their Bubble Tea Ice and Hot Black Sesame.

IMG_5475For dinner we took Sebastian and Min to A Cai to try out some of our favorite Taiwanese dishes. The deep-fried fish eyeballs were surprisingly big hit.

After dinner, Ximending, to check out the bright lights and eat ice cream.

IMG_5509The next morning we were all up bright and early. Jude and I stayed home while the others walked up Elephant Mountain.

IMG_0920In the afternoon we headed to Maokong to our favorite tea house.

IMG_5492Jude happily went and sat with a Taiwanese family who fed him snacks while we waited for our tea.

IMG_5486That night we went to a Japanese Yakiniku place called Dawan for dinner. It was a delicious BBQed meat feast.

IMG_0935On their last day we took them to our favorite American breakfast place, ‘The Diner’.

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IMG_5574And then it was time to say goodbye to Aunt Dominica.

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IMG_5592Sebastian’s flight wasn’t until late at night so we spent the afternoon hanging out at a waterpark.

IMG_5607They had great big slides (which sadly, being pregnant, I couldn’t ride).

IMG_0982And a lazy river which we all floated around.

IMG_0968Jude loved it.

IMG_0990And then it was time to say ‘bye-bye’ to Sebastian.

IMG_5497It was such an awesome few days and hope to see them both again one day in Taipei.

Spending Time Together

We’ve been getting out and about a lot exploring our new neighborhood. Perhaps one of the coolest features of our new neighborhood is that there are mountains right next to us. The closest is 象山 (Elephant Mountain) and last weekend we hit the trail and climbed to the top.

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The top has great views of the city,

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And Taipei 101.

IMG_3375It’s been really nice spending time together as a family of three because in October,

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We’ll become a family of FOUR!

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And it’s another BOY!

 

Chinese New Year 2014

We stuck around Taipei for Chinese New Year this year.

IMG_0556We kicked off New Years with a hotpot lunch at our Taiwanese friend’s home.

IMG_0560Jude munched on tofu and enjoyed crawling around checking out all the different people.

IMG_0564The next day we went to a BBQ at our NZ friend’s house. There were two other babies to keep Jude busy.

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IMG_0603The rest of the week we spent doing more eating (homemade pizza, yum yum),

IMG_0612Cleaning up around the house (thanks to the cats…),

IMG_0557A bit of window shopping (I really love the cat ones!),

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Playing at home,

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And getting out and exploring Taipei. We went to a temple,

IMG_0566And to the Gongguan Water Museum.

IMG_0667In the spirit of all things new, Jude tried curry for the first time and was a fan.

IMG_0677We also spent a lot of time working on him being gentle to Fern. Him holding a cat toy actually stops him from clobbering her!

IMG_0626Luke and I also finished watching all of Breaking Bad (insanely good) and  started House of Cards (so far also excellent)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30

My 30th Birthday was last Sunday. I spent the morning like this:

IMG_0129Finally getting dressed to enjoy brunch at The Diner:

IMG_9925My first meal as 30 looked like this:

IMG_9927We returned home and found this cake on our doorstep:

IMG_9955Our wonderful friend made this and it was full of all the things I like.

IMG_9970Another friend dropped these off:

IMG_9964And later that night Luke and I toasted to a new decade.

IMG_9973My actual birthday was just the start of the celebration. On Tuesday a big box arrived from my Mom and Dad with this inside:

IMG_0065I also got a new iPhone from Luke (perfect for selflies of my 30 year-old-self):

IMG_0172Luke and I got all dressed up one night, got the babysitter in, and went to dinner at Osteria.

IMG_0176We ordered the Chef’s special set menu. It was amazing.

IMG_0182We were really impressed with all the components of each dish – super well thought out.

IMG_0188Dessert was the best tiramisu I have ever had.

IMG_0194It feels good be 30!

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Natalie in Taipei

My little sister, Natalie, recently came to Taiwan for a visit. She was only here for a week but in that time we covered a lot of ground. One of our first stops was Taipei 101.

IMG_8852We went early, at 9am, and ended up being first in line. It was a good thing too as it gets super busy with all the tour groups.

IMG_8846The view was awesome thanks to it being a totally clear, sunny day. I can imagine that if there was some cloud, or rain, the view wouldn’t be all that great. The one disappointing thing is that you can’t see much from the outdoor viewing deck because of the safety rails. So inside is the place to be.

IMG_8819 We decided to get a photo to remember the day.

IMG_9443I also took Nat along to Baby group one morning for coffee and cuteness overload.

IMG_8977We made cupcakes to give to a friend and to celebrate a belated birthday for Nat.

IMG_8983Luke babysat a few nights so we hit some of the nightmarkets including, Ximending:

IMG_8984Where we feasted on various ‘xiao chi’, small eats. Including, fried mushrooms, fresh mochi, and roasted corn:

IMG_8986For our dinner we stopped in a dumpling place where we had vegetarian pot-stickers and sesame paste noodles.

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One night we went out to Guting night market and got a hair wash after.

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On nice afternoon we drove up to Maokong, to our favorite teahouse, for tea,

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and snacks,

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and playtime.

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One hot afternoon, we took a short trip out to CKS Memorial.

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And to Yongkang Street for pearl milk tea,

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and mango ice.

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I treated Nat to a nice vegetarian meal as a belated birthday present.

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And of course, there was lots of Jude time.

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It was a great week and we hope Aunt Natalie will come and see us again in Taiwan!

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Jude in the US (Part 3)

After 5 days in Arizona  we said goodbye to Natalie and flew to Ohio.

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One of the first things we did when we got there was buy Jude a car seat and

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his own special chair to sit in.

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Even with all the extra hands around there were times when we just couldn’t hold Jude. Plus, there are times when he just doesn’t want to be held.  So a baby chair is a necessity.

IMG_7780One of the next things we did was to bring Jude to meet my Grandma at her nursing home.

IMG_7737Jude slept through the initial meeting but Grandma didn’t mind -she had a great time just looking at him.

IMG_7746 When he finally did wake up she had even more fun.

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For the next few days we hung out around the house.

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Then on Thursday night  Jude had more visitors- Aunt Jen and Uncle Rob from Chicago.

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Rob came in for the weekend and Jen was staying for the week. Natalie also came to Ohio for the weekend as it also happened to be Grandma’s 92nd birthday so we were all going to celebrate that with her.

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So with everyone present we headed back to the nursing home to celebrate with cake and presents for Grandma.

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The weekend flew by and before we knew it we said goodbye to Rob and to Natalie. I made scones the morning Natalie flew out and we spent had some family time.

IMG_1835Our last week in the US was a blast. Here are some photos from the week:

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And then all of a sudden it was our last day. Jude took a big long nap before we headed to the airport.

IMG_8004We took a few final snaps before we left (including Jude’s first time laying in grass)

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IMG_8022Then we said bye-bye

IMG_8035And made our way to our plane

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It was a long, exhausting journey but Jude managed to find some smiles for Mr. Lion

IMG_8046And of course more smiles for this guy when we finally got home.  We sure missed him.

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