today is my 28th birthday.

or, as my grandfather would say... I am starting my 29th year.

[I love my Papa, but I'm not ready to have anything to do with the number 29 just yet. so we stick with turning 28.]

I woke up this morning with amazing second-day hair. I'm in desperate need of a cut and Taiwan is crazy humid, so that pretty much never happens. here's hoping my hair is becoming tame in it's old age. or at least that this is a sign for what's to come.

I hope to do my best to make the next year the happiest and most adventure-filled one yet. I think a great way to do that will be to not set a list of goals for the year. instead, I want to be open to changing plans. living in the moment. embracing the unexpected. looking beyond the to-do list.

today I will look forward to what comes next. I will wash my hair that doesn't really need washing, and head to Taipei with Husband for an afternoon of fun and adventure. without much of a plan.

but, you know me. I love my lists.

so I will leave you with 27 things I accomplished while 27 years old. [it was kindof a big year.]

1. quit my full-time job.

2. narrowed my wardrobe down to three suitcases.

3. moved to the other side of the world.

4. learned to live without a car, dishwasher, or dryer.

5. kicked my morning coffee addiction. twice.

6. got over my initial fear of driving a scooter and became a master of loading it up after a Costco run.

7. fell off the scooter. but more importantly...

8. got back on.

9. taught a month's worth of classes in total to grades 1, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12.

10. took a yoga class.

11. survived being served shellfish four times.

12. painted two chalkboard walls and one chevron wall in our apartment.

13. fostered two dogs.

14. added eleven stamps to my passport.

15. ... and one annoying stapled-in entry slip.

16. shot my first roll of film.

17. [accidentally] stayed in a hotel that rents rooms by the hour.

18. learned to bake in a toaster oven.

19. became infinitely less stressed and much more calm.

20. ate the world's best broccoli at a night market in Hong Kong.

21. wrote 15,000 words of a novel, and counting.

22. bought an instant camera, and started another 52 weeks project.

23. sang karaoke in front of people I had just met.

24. traveled by car, boat, bus, train, plane, tuktuk, gondola, tram, subway, and scooter.

25. came up with an idea for my future tattoo.

26. learned to be comfortable living in a place I thought I would never go.

27. started this blog and published 125 posts in just under a year. [friday is the blog's birthday]


sunchild, burning bright

// walking the beach in boracay

I've always been a creature of the sun. reading, running, walking, even just sitting in the sun for a few moments cheers me up. I think there's some truth to the sun's rays causing happy chemicals and endorphins and whatnot. I don't really need to know the science. I just know it works for me.

it's been rainy and grey more often than not these past few weeks. we're entering the rainy season soon. but today? today is beautiful and bright. so I'm off to soak up some warmth while I can.


eating local

tonight we tried a new restaurant in our neighborhood - new to us, anyway. Husband and I left the pup with the neighbors, intending to to hit up the pho place again... but they are closed on sundays. so we decided to venture out and try the wood-fired pizza place between the Korean place and the Indian place. [up Jinsan, hang a right when you hit the temple square.]

we walked in and immediately knew by the smell that this place was legit. 

side note: you know how sometimes your clothes or hair will soak up the smell of a restaurant/bar? I remember nights in college coming home and having to wash the second-hand cigarette smoke out of my hair so I could sleep. and I hate when clothes need to be washed after only a few hours of wear to a greasy diner.

well. right now I smell like wood fire smoke, and it's delicious.

anyway. the owner walked out to seat us and hand us menus, and we were pleasantly surprised to find he spoke English. he asked where we were from... how we ended up in Hsinchu... how long we had been here... so we asked his story in return. he just came back last summer to Taiwan after living in Europe for 22 years. mostly in Munich. but he had gone to study with a pizza master in... Ireland.

he convinced us to order the Hawaiian because he uses fresh pineapple, never canned.

our pizza came out and it was as good as he promised. toppings under [not over] the perfectly melted cheese. thin crust, crisp and toasted but not burnt. and then we had a conversation with the owner about how to make good pizza and what temperature the over should be to change the molecular structure of the cheese. [food science, I love it.]

until this point, Husband and I have been ordering Pizza Hut out of desperation when our pizza craving hits. never again. and even though this pizza had gluten, you could tell he was using real and fresh ingredients. and so I have a bit of a stomach ache... but I don't want to curl into a ball and die. 

[in case you were wondering, my gluten free pizza attempt was very successful. but we ran out of gf flour and our specialty store is out of stock. silly Taiwan and their lack of inventory management.]

but one thing I love about life here is finding local places like this one to become "regulars" at. like our Indian place where the guy grows and grinds his own spices, and always greets us with a huge smile. and Rick's burgers where Rick himself grills every burger, and when we walk in they already know our order [single no bun with fries and a green salad]. or the pho place where the owner offers us shots and travel advice with our dinner. 

I love going to these places because the food is good, yes. but also because they know our names. and we know that when we pay our check at the end of the night our money is going in their pocket, and supporting a worthy cause: someone who loves good food as much as we do.


railay: the last sunset

tragedies happen, life goes on. dogs are walked. words are written. photos are edited.

these are the last of my Thailand photos: our last night in Railay. we spent the afternoon drinking at the pool and playing cards, but managed to hit the beach for dinner and sunset. the tide was low and the crowd was out in full force. there were kids playing soccer and some guys doing what must have been a muy thai kickboxing demonstration? it looked like dancing and fighting at the same time. sadly, no pictures of that. but we have sunset and longtail boats aplenty...

to be honest, the sunset was a little lame and my pictures went a little wacky. but we sure had a blast running around the shallows and hopping onto boats.

Railay, you were wonderful. relaxing, tasty, and full of adventure. I can't wait to go back...


keep running

my Dad crossed the finish line in Boston today an hour before the bombs went off. he and my Mom were walking to the train when they heard the explosions. they were far away enough that they didn't realize anything was wrong until they were evacuated from a train. thankfully they are both safe and unhurt in their hotel.

and while I'm relieved that my loved ones are ok, my heart is heavy because I know others are not. there's no news yet of who did this or why, but honestly all I can think is... what kind of an asshole bombs a marathon?

these people have spent years or even decades of running and trying to qualify for this event. they spent months training and hours racing. and all the spectators - there to support both loved ones and strangers as they attempt the world's most famous 26.2, cheering on their hard work and dedication. only to have it culminate in a senseless act of violence.

but in the midst of fear and destruction, the world shows us that people can be good too. the bombs went off and people rushed to help. not just fire and police, but everyday people.

there is bad in this world, but there is also good.

so for everyone out there: runners, spectators, citizens of Boston, ones who have no connection to this event other than they are human and have a heart... keep doing good, keep believing in the good. keep living, keep loving. and keep running.

// Husband, myself, my Dad after the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot in Detroit 2011


life with a pup

this morning, I packed up my laptop and headed to Starbucks. and I sat and I wrote until my battery drained down to the danger zone. and it. was. wonderful.

go ahead and make your Bourdain-esque "citizen of laptopistan" or judgemental "typical blogger/writer wanna-be" remark. sometimes, a girl has got to get out. and a place with hot coffee and plenty of tables and no one who speaks English or will bother you is just the thing.

this morning, Husband told me he would take the dog and let me have a little free time to myself. you see... this pup we are fostering is quite adorable. and playful. and fluffy. but she's got issues. [who doesn't, right?] probably because she was dumped in the park and abandoned by her old owners, she kindof freaks out when she sees anyone leave. and especially when you try to leave her alone.

so, aside from times when our friends can puppy-sit... I've been stuck at home. not entirely terrible. I've read three books this week, finished editing photos from Hong Kong, hung up my origrami prints, watched a lot of West Wing curled up on the couch with the pup, and organized my closet. but still, a girl has got to get out. quick walks around the building in pouring rain don't count. [thank you, husband. and thank you, friends who puppy-sit!]

thursday night, we went to a new place in our neighborhood called wonderpho with a group of friends and it was wonder-pho. pho is a vietnamese dish which is a giant bowl of broth with rice noodles [yes! gluten-free!] and veggies and your choice of meats. and with all the rainy chilly weather we've had lately, a big bowl of warm soupy noodley comfort is just what you want. it was so good that we actually went back there tonight. we had a nice chat with the owner and his friends, who were hanging out playing drinking games while we ate. they offered us shots... why not? I really love finding places here that make you feel welcome, and I think it we will quickly become regulars there.

so. back to the pup. we had risked leaving her alone, and made it out the door without an episode. we came home after a nice dinner to find our upstairs neighbor peering down the stairwell. she had heard a ruckus and asked us if we had seen a dog wandering around outside. nope, just the dog in our apartment. apparently the pup had heard some people walking up the stairs and started barking and howling. and then our neighbor dog started barking and howling back. and the two of them went at it for... quite some time apparently.

our friends on the fourth floor came down to try and get in to our place and calm her down, but our door was locked. our friend on the first floor sent us a message saying "hey I hope she didn't chew up all your stuff" we were lucky that she wasn't destructive, but it means we won't be leaving her alone again anytime soon.

now if you'll excuse us, President Bartlet is busy running for a second term...


DIY photo wall display // 52 weeks project

back in 2011 I completed my first 52 weeks project: one photo a week, for one whole year.

I knew I wanted to work on another photo project after we moved to Taiwan, but I wanted to give myself some time to get settled before starting. my 2011 project was self portraits, and this time I settled on a new challenge: instant film. just before New Year's [regular, not Chinese] I purchased an instax mini instant camera. since then I've been snapping at least one photo per week.

the first five weeks were easy... the excitement of a new project, traveling to Thailand and the Philippines and being surrounded by beautiful beaches. I actually brought a whole extra roll of film which I shot in Thailand.

then we came home. and it rained. and I struggled a little to find things to shoot and at one point considered giving up and only using the instax for "fun things". but I didn't quit. yesterday I shot week #14. which means I am already 1/4 though the year! and I decided it was about time to share. so I slapped up my weekly shots on my chalkboard wall with some washi tape to show them off.

  1// Guan Gong at the statue garden
  2// our backyard
  3// ferris wheel in Bangkok
  4// Railay beach
  5// Husband and I in Boracay
  6// rice paddy outside the Kalibo airport
  7// spring arrives in Taiwan
  8// a walk in the park
  9// mini temple gazebo at the lake
10// my chevron wall
11// gouache ampersand artwork
12// earth hour in Hong Kong
13// big bowl of produce from the market
14// Lady in the grass

I really love the chalkboard / washi tape display. but usually I use my chalkboard for other things, so I have been keeping my project photos up on a different wall. I wanted a way to display my instax photos that was easily re-arrangeable and that could be added to as I took more.

all it took was twine, tiny clothespins, and 3M hooks.

since I've used up this much space already [only 1/4 through the year] I've been thinking of adding another display similar to this elsewhere in our home. I could dedicate the wall in the office to the photos from my project, and mix the other instax shots with prints from my holga, regular 3 x 5s, and maybe some instagrams.

working with film has definitely been a challenge for me. I've grown so used to the world of digital photography that I don't always stop and think before I shoot. but using the instant photos for my project has helped me to be more thoughtful with what I shoot, and to be more accepting of the imperfections.


who's that Lady?

this morning, our phone rang. 

thirty minutes later we were out in front of our building looking at a sweet ball of fur curled up on the pavement.

one of Husband's co-workers was walking through the park and this little pup followed her home. literally. she would have kept her, except this is the fourth [fifth?] stray that has tried to adopt her. she's already kept one. and though she is in better shape than most stray dogs we see roaming around here, she needs some love and a home.

I am not a dog person. I am not a dog person. but how can you say no to that face? this little lady is an unbelievable sweetheart. and her ears are super soft and fuzzy and fluffy and irresistible. so she's kindof staying with us until she finds a more permanent home. [for now we are sortof splitting with our friends upstairs who previously fostered Mr Bojangles.]

the four of us [her foster parents] took her for a walk around the lake this afternoon. right now she's curled up snoozing in front of the tv. we haven't officially decided on a name, though we've been testing out a few. she's a beautiful creamy milk tea/ white russian color, I was calling her Bambi for a while, but I think I like Lady the best. 
[cue the Isley Brothers, and out.]


earthquakes, gatsby, pizza, and other things

welcome to this week's edition of rambling long list of seven things, accompanied today by some recent shots from a mini-hike in Hsinchu's botanical gardens [which are mostly trails through a hilly forest.]

1. I subbed for 10th and 12th grade English last week, and I was actually quite excited that the 10th graders are reading The Great Gatsby. it was one of my favorite pieces I have ever been required to read, and one of the very few I have gone back and read again voluntarily. part of me wishes I still had my old notes and could see what my thoughts were on the story at 16. the novel definitely has a different meaning for me now, though that's one of the best things about great literature... you can read it over and over and still discover something new about the story and yourself.

2. I am also really pumped for the movie coming out in a few months- I think Leo will make a perfect Gatsby. absolutely perfect. [side note- the generational gap becomes obvious to me when the kids in class refer to him as "that guy from Inception" and all I can think is "never let go, Jack!" it's probably also telling that watching the older Gatsby was my first exposure to Robert Redford. oh, the formative teenage years...] I really hope they release this one to Taiwan because after reading the book I am dying to see the new movie.

3. another note on teaching... I know that it's not a career I want to pursue full-time, but subbing really isn't that bad. yes, waking up early sucks. yes, sometimes I feel like a glorified babysitter. but some of the kids are starting to interact with me, say hello, ask me questions. and that's a good feeling. plus, it melts my heart every time those 3rd grade girls yell "Mrs Walker!" and run over to hug me when they see me walk by.

4. we had an earthquake the other day, and I didn't notice. it was a 6.1 [not exactly small] and the school enacted their earthquake protocol and announced that everyone should evacuate. well, except for the students taking the national standardized test. apparently the quake hit just before the start of 3rd period, but I didn't notice anything. thankfully they made an announcement. and my students knew what they were doing. maybe there's something wrong with my internal balance... or maybe I just didn't have enough coffee that morning?

5. even though I haven't been posting about it, I've been keeping up with my happiness project. I've decided to make it more of a journey and less of a to-do list. this month I am focusing on photography: trying new things, finally sharing the 52 weeks project I've been working on, and shooting + posting a daily instagram [or #dailygram as I've started calling it] I think it will be good to have a little fun with my photography, especially given the mountain of vacation photos still waiting to be edited. I do promise that eventually you will see the rest of Thailand and the Philippines.... eventually.

6. I've been trying out the different blog readers I posted about here to determine a google reader replacement. and I find that feedly is the closest to a google reader setup, though it takes a while to figure out which views make the most sense. [hint: "latest" looks most like the standard reader feed.] I also found it easy to sort my blogs into different categories, based on what I read most or food vs beauty etc. I have to say I really love the idea of hellocotton. it's great for discovering new blogs you might be interested in. but they just announced they are shutting down. wah, wah. bloglovin? it's just not for me. I'm probably going to use google reader until it dies, and then switch to feedly full-time.

7. today I bought yeast, and this coming weekend I am going to attempt a gluten-free pizza dough. ambitious, but I'm excited to try. pizza seems to be the one glutinous thing I just can't resist. back in the states, there was a great pizza place that offered gf [Buddy's!] and Whole Foods offered a decent frozen go-to we could always keep on hand [against the grain] but here in Taiwan I have not seen any gluten-free alternative. so I am going to try a dough, and if it works then when Husband says "pizza?" it won't mean my choices are salad or stomachache.

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