Saturday, December 22, 2007 unique clock

Talk about clever advertising for the holidays. Uniqlo has a video clock with cheery music and sweaters and cashmere that just look so light and comfy and cozy.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Pumpkin pie brownies

I got to celebrate Halloween exactly the way I wanted to, by baking pumpkin pie brownies, inspired by a recipe for the same from the Post Punk Vegan Kitchen. Except mine wasn't 100% vegan, as I have conventional brownie mix to use up. It was still yummy!


pumpkin pie brownies

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Joshua trees, dolmas, stomach flu, oh my!

Since it's almost Halloween and I haven't posted since last month (where o where does the time go?), I thought I'd post a few photos from my last trip back to the States.

Trying to be a Joshua Tree at, where else? Joshua Tree National Park

Vegan nachos at Real Food Daily in Santa Monica:

The. best. ever. dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), made at the "My Big Fat Greek Cooking Class" at HipCooks (highly recommended!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

One night in Bangkok...

I just returned from a last-minute trip to meet the hubs, returning from a business trip to Europe, in Bangkok this past long weekend. Cashed in some miles (that were expiring soon) and flew in style. I've been working so much that it slipped my attention that we would have a 4-day weekend owing to Mid-Autumn Festival. Anyways, the trip was a welcome respite. I did my usual do yoga-eat yummy food-get massages routine.

On my flight back, I started reading the September issue of GQ. Skip the girls and the silly fashion spreads - go directly to the cover story on Barack Obama, which is one of the best written political profiles I've read. It doesn't just profile a candidate, but goes into the strategy and calculus behind the long march of a presidential campaign. Also very good: an article on early-onset Alzheimers - an article I thought I'd just skim while trying to find the continuation of the cover story in the back pages of the magazine - turned out to be an incredibly moving portrait of not just a man, but of his incredibly selfless wife as well, as well as a philosophical discussion on self and identity. Good reading, folks.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Of independence, IDs, birthdays, and cakes

July and now, most of August, has blurred in a haze of multiple birthdays and farewells. Certainly time has never passed more quickly, or been marked as multiple periods end.

So here's a quick visual summary of my summer:

Perhaps ironic, yet somewhat fittingly, I got my Taiwan ID card on Independence Day, and a few days shy of my birthday. Certainly, for me it means freedom from the bureaucratic rules that shackle foreigners here.

Then it was a combined mass birthday celebration and farewell dinner at Din Tai Fung, followed by a quiet weekend that included hiking.

The following weekend was a farewell party, art show closing, and another friend's birthday. Plus, we mustn't forget Harry Potter mania!

More farewells, and birthday parties followed. (Will people stop being born in the summer, and stop leaving Taiwan?) ;-)

I made a surprise birthday cake for Neil:

Complete with crushed coconut cookie "sand," palm trees, a surfboard riding a cake wave covered in foamy "ocean surf" frosting, and Goldfish crackers frolicking in the sea.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Diamonds Are a Girl's Worst Friend

As usual, long overdue in posting, and much of my posting lately has been of a political and social commentary nature. Here's another, from Slate magazine, on how diamond engagement rings are, besides being one of the greatest marketing ploys ever pulled on the public, but also a symbol of a man's financial commitment to his prospective bride and "the status of a woman's sexual currency."

Writes Meghan O'Rourke, "it's telling, for example, that in many parts of Scandinavia, where attitudes toward gender are more egalitarian, both men and women wear engagement rings." Huh. Now that's a thought.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

the end of the seas...coming soon

I just read this fascinating article on overfishing at - read it if you want to be shocked at how poorly managed fisheries are around the world. And, if you want to do something about it, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Oceans Alive have great guides on better choices at the fishmonger. And, if you're like me and live abroad, is an amazing fish database. If you've ever wanted to know what grouper is called in Chinese, as well as all the various grouper species, fishbase is the place.

Now I just need to make my own handy guide for the fish market...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Buy One, Give One

Help light the world - with this great concept, you buy one solar-powered flashlight for yourself, and they will send another one to the developing world to help kids study at night, keep women safe, and make providing or finding health care easier. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Food blog recipes

I just made a lemon banana cake because I've got my baking itch. We'll see how it comes out (it's in the oven now), because I got the recipe from a food blog. The recipe seemed to check out okay—a mix between a pound cake and genoise—and I realized she forgot to put the measurement for the melted butter (likely 3/4 cups). No problems there. But, BUT, when I poured the batter into the specified 9" round cake tin, I realized she probably meant a springform pan. Way too much batter. I've baked enough to know this was going to spill over and cause disaster in the oven, so I quickly grabbed my ice scream scoop and a small muffin tin. So now there's 6 little cupcakes waiting it's turn in the oven...

I'll let you all know how it turns out.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

We love tag sales

Yesterday I took the High Speed Rail (for the first time!) to Hsinchu to check out a moving sale. We scored some nice stuff, including a lovely mid-century modern walnut china cabinet for about a third to half the price of a particleboard item from IKEA. It's nice getting quality furniture at bargain prices. And infinitely better than having the same IKEA as everyone else, although this site, IKEA Hacker, has some creative ideas for personalizing that ubiquitous and affordable IKEA stuff (much of which I love, btw - design for the masses!).

Monday, April 30, 2007

A State of Mind

Last Friday, Sophie, Neil, and I went to see A State of Mind at the Urban Nomad Film Fest. Despite "donating" a lot of blood to the voracious mosquitoes out that night, we thoroughly enjoyed the movie and got to chat with the producer, Nicholas Bronner, afterwards. The movie is a documentary of the Mass Games in North Korea, the world's largest choreographed spectacle with over 100,000 participants. The documentary follows two girls as they prepare for their roles in the Mass Games, and it is an interesting and fascinating look into such a mysterious country.

Here's a music video of Faithless' I Want More, with video footage from the movie. Amazing stuff.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Yeah, but...

There's a saying, "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." Yeah, but all societies have crazy people, and there is a difference with what is easily accessible to them. There's an interesting article in the Economist this week about how politicians in America have avoided talking about gun control.

Did you know that "since the killing of John Kennedy in 1963, more Americans have died by American gunfire than perished on foreign battlefields in the whole of the 20th century. In 2005 more than 400 children were murdered with guns."? I didn't. That's an amazing figure.

Writes the Economist:
No phrase is bandied around more in the gun debate than “freedom of the individual”. When it comes to most dangerous products—be they drugs, cigarettes or fast cars—this newspaper advocates a more liberal approach than the American government does. But when it comes to handguns, automatic weapons and other things specifically designed to kill people, we believe control is necessary, not least because the failure to deal with such violent devices often means that other freedoms must be curtailed. Instead of a debate about guns, America is now having a debate about campus security.

No civilian needs an AK-47 for a legitimate purpose, but you can buy one online for $379.99. Guns could be made much safer, with the mandatory fitting of child-proof locks. A system of registration for guns and gun-owners, as exists in all other rich countries, threatens no one but the criminal. Cooling-off periods, a much more open flow of intelligence, tighter rules on the trading of guns and a wider blacklist of those ineligible to buy them would all help.

Let's hope the rest of American develop louder voices than the NRA.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

fun *and* helpful party accessories

You know how at parties, people always confuse whose drink belongs to whom? In the end, you have to toss out unclaimed drinks. Well, I hate waste. As soon as I saw the Wine Lines from See Fred, I had to have them (we got the Vintage version). They're great because now everyone can identify their glass. What's not-so-great is the print started rubbing off after the first time we used them, and they only work for wine glasses.

See Fred also says Beer Bands, but today I found these clingy labels from Betsybaloo, that would work just as well. All options are reusable - you just have to remind guests not to toss them, if you happen to be using disposable cups.

Paper for your Email

I missed GMail's April Fool's Day joke, but I finally caught up. You have to love their humor: "The cost of postage is offset with the help of relevant, targeted, unobtrusive advertisements, which will appear on the back of your Gmail Paper prints in red, bold, 36 pt Helvetica."

Friday, March 30, 2007

Shark fins & scallops

I chose not to serve shark's fin at our wedding for environmental reasons. Defying tradition, said some guests. Now, more proof about the environmental impacts of overfishing shark: the New York Times today reported that besides devastating the populations of large sharks, it has also devastated the bay scallop fisheries on the U.S. Eastern seaboard. How does that work?

In the absence of large sharks, the researchers say, the smaller sharks, skates and rays that they feed upon have thrived. In turn, the study shows that as one of these middle links in the food chain, the cownose ray, has become more abundant, it has wiped out scallop beds in North Carolina.

Just another example of how humans wreak havoc on the ecosystem's balance.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Clearly we're bullocks!

We've strung together video clips of our little adventure and added some music so that you can experience river boarding itself from the comfort of your armchair.

While in New Zealand, we went river boarding on the Kawarau River with Mad Dog River Boarding. It was fun, but not as scary as we were led to believe. Maybe it's terribly thrilling for some, but as surfers, we thought the rapids were...tame.

But, we did enjoy the scenery and the super-clear and clean water. Neil enjoyed the +20m rock jump at the end, and Berta enjoyed the hot showers (the glacier-fed river is really cold!). The staff were professional, and the activity well-run. We might some nice people doing the activity as well.

Overall, we'd recommend the activity. Of course, you must be able to swim and be comfortable in the water.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

...and we're back!

We finally came back from our (slightly delayed) extended honeymoon. Yup, over the course of 25 days we traveled to New Zealand, Fiji, and Bangkok. We did things from attending New Zealand's largest wine and food festival to river surfing to visiting museums to seeing seals, penguins, and dolphins. We caught up with some old friends, and made new ones. We SCUBA-dived (and saw a few sharks!), river rafted, and lounged around. We saw the sun rise and the sun set. We read books and got mosquito bites. We ate good food and learned to cook some Thai dishes. A great vacation!

Pictures, details, and reviews to come later...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

convert docs into pdfs...for free!

I personally haven't tried it yet, but it's a widget on the Google homepage and it sounds helpful - will convert your documents into PDF files for free.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Foodie Bliss!

Recently, department store powerhouse Sogo opened their latest branch in Taipei, at the Zhongxiao-Fuxing MRT station. With a CitySuper and Din Tai Fung on the premises, there seemed to be no reason to go to Breeze.

But today, Sophie told me that she had seen Dean & De Luca there. Originally, going to Breeze for lunch seemed to far, but once she mentioned Dean & De Luca, I had to make a pilgrimage to the renowned New York City purveyor of fine foods. Real salads, not limp leaves of iceberg! A selection of fine salts! Chocolates, including Scharffen-Berger! Quite exciting, indeed.

We had a little soup and mix-and-match salad plate, which at NT$250, is pricey for Taipei but still affordable. I had a cold spaghetti salad with poppy seeds and cherry tomatoes, grilled vegetables, poached fish in a vinegary sauce, and sliced roasted duck and onions along with vegetable soup. For dessert, I bought 3 dried figs. Yummy.

In other food-related news, Michael Pollan exhorts us to "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

To which I think I accomplished quite well at lunch today.

Thursday, January 18, 2007