raspberry lemon coconut bars

since realizing I was gluten intolerant, the amount of baking I've done has dwindled down to almost nothing. in Taiwan it's rare to find gluten-free baking mixes, and they are always even more overpriced than in the states. so when I discovered this recipe for raspberry bars that uses NO FLOUR whatsoever, I was really excited.

I spent 5 minutes staring at the preserves section of the import store trying to decide what I wanted... then gave up and just bought both jars.

I returned to my tiny kitchen hungry and excited. I pulled out our second-hand food processor to start crushing the nuts for the crust and realized... I only had about 1/2 cup of almonds while the recipe called for 2 cups. rather than wait [or go back to the store] I decided to improvise by using what I had on hand. I added 1/2 cup cashews to the almonds, and 1 cup of coconut flakes that I processed into a powder.

I really wanted these to have beautiful swirls with the raspberry and lemon but they sortof just blended together. oh well. they still tasted amazing. you should also know that cutting and stacking these immediately will result in all your slices fusing together to create one mega-slice which [let's be honest] is only a problem if you're planning on sharing. if you plan to eat said mega-slice with a spoon while curled up on your couch watching Frozen on a lazy afternoon... then you're golden.

recipe adapted from glutenfreeveganlove

1 cup almonds, or mixed almonds and cashews
1 cup shredded coconut [unsweetened]
1/3 cup liquid coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

process coconut until it forms a coarse powder, then remove. process nuts until they start to bind together, then add back in coconut, oil, vanilla, and egg. process until well blended into a dough.

press dough into a parchment-lined 8in x 8in pan and bake for 20 minutes at 175C/350F in your toaster oven [or your conventional oven.] spread preserves over the crust then return to oven for another 5 - 10 minutes. let cool, cut into squares, enjoy!

these squares are the perfect way to treat yourself! speaking of... today I'm co-hosting the treat yo self thursday linkup with Nicole of Treasure Tromp and Alicia of Jaybird. feel free to link up your latest post below and make some new friends!


markets and more in central Ubud

when we decided to stay in Ubud, I was picturing a sleepy village surrounded by rice paddies. something quiet and out of the way. definitely not crowded or touristy. [are you guys starting to sense that I was not very well-informed about Bali?] the area was definitely more developed than expected. I mean... you can sip your Starbucks while staring at a temple. but it was still beautiful.

everywhere you turn in Ubud, there is something to see. the Balinese architecture is ornate and full of gorgeous stone carvings, and the moss-covered grey is often punctuated by backdrops of bright orange. it's so unlike anything I've ever seen or visited. what surprised me most is that all of the buildings seemed to carry this distinct architectural theme. when you are in Bali, you know you are in Bali.

walking through central Ubud is loud and crowded. every five steps someone is hollering at you, asking if you'd like a taxi ride, would you like to take a tour? there are temples and shrines tucked in among all the hubub, mostly only distinguished from hotels and residences by being gated off from the public.

between the temples and cafes, there are plenty of shops. everything from DVD stores to the "Cha Cha Cat Collection." and then there are the markets. if you head up Karna Street it will lead you to the main market buildings. we found the enclosures to be a bit... overwhelming. there is a narrow aisle between stores to walk, jammed with people and various merchandise that reaches out to grab you. my claustrophobia was much relieved when we decided to stroll the open stalls instead.

there are certain things I think you'll find in every market in Southeast Asia [cheap sundresses and sarongs, fake RayBans, fabric tote bags, keychains and wooden carvings etc.] but Ubud seems to have at least two unique offerings. the first - paintings. gorgeous artwork depicting scenes of the island was available, from beaches to rice paddies to even this very market. the second is a more unusual souvenir. bottle openers with long wooden handles that have been carved to look like... well, you know.

the cup of coffee that fueled the writing of today’s post was sponsored by Jenn. she drinks her coffee with Truvia + almond milk and blogs about lifestyle + home improvement over at Near and Far Montana.


a visit to Nanliao Beach + a giveaway!

like most things in Taiwan, the beach at Nanliao turned out to be not quite what we had expected.

the first time we went there, I had high hopes. [some people just never learn.] the beach is not exactly one you'd like to visit for swimming or sunning. but there's enough of interest in the area to keep us coming back from time to time.

Jackie and I have been going on adventures together lately. we like to get out and explore, have life chats, and play with our cameras. I'm trying to keep up with posting these adventures because I want you to see Taiwan. and also, I have so much Bali I need a break sometimes. a few weeks ago our adventure destination by scooter was Nanliao Beach.

Nanliao is a strange place. it's a fishing port that thinks it wants to be a beach town. [I'm hoping to make it down to Taiwan's actual beach town of Kenting in a few months, where the beach is what you picture when you think of a beach.] on breezy days you can find people flying kites of all shapes and sizes, and you can also rent bikes to ride up and down the coast. there is an intense looking seafood place that we haven't tried, and a very tasty wood-fired pizza spot that we have. the boardwalk sports some interesting artwork crafted from what I assume is local driftwood.

it was much colder than we had expected, so we stopped at a local cafe for some wine + coffee to warm up. we wandered around the boardwalk and the nearby temple [I can never resist dragons] then headed out to the seawall.

to get up to the top of the wall, you have to climb your choice of rickety driftwood ladders tied with rope. the wind whips your hair into snarls, but when this hazy view of the Taiwan Straight is all you can get... it grows on you.

oh. and beware the bicycling lobsters.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

and now, I want to share this giveaway hosted by Nicole at Treasure Tromp. myself and her other sponsors this month have pitched in to offer up $50 to Amazon and three months of ad space. the best part is that if you are following me [and since you are reading this I think you might be] you already have qualifying entries! just input them into the rafflecopter gadget below and you'll be entered to win. good luck!

March Giveaway with Treasure Tromp
The Bradleys || ink + adventure
Jaybird || Independent Travel Cats || And So I Did
Found Love Now What || Treasure Tromp a Rafflecopter giveaway
The giveaway ends on April 2nd at 12AM EST. The winner will be notified on April 2nd and will have 48 hours to respond. If the winner doesn't respond within 48 hours another winner with be picked. This giveaway is open internationally.


balancing life + blogging [and an ad sale!]

I had a very different post in mind for today, but this little thing called life got in the way of it.

balance between life and blogging can sometimes be difficult. making time to reflect and share with the world prevents you from doing other things that you'd like to do sometimes. consistency and reliability are great things to have, and readers love them [or so I hear.] but if we don't get out there and actually experience life, what are we going to write about

I've found especially as of late it's been harder for me to make blogging time. I've been working hard on my book and the weather has warmed up enough that I don't want to spend my mornings and my afternoons staring at my computer.

a part of me feels like I should offer an apology, and yet another part feels that "blogger guilt" is complete bullshit. we share our lives because we love to share, but that doesn't require us to always do so. I've seen so many people struggling with what to share and how much of it to share and how often to share it... and the truth is I won't judge if you decide you need a break. go ahead and post only 3 times this week instead of 4 because it's finally spring and you should get out and enjoy it. 

and then, next week, you can tell us all about it. or not. your blog, your choice.

and in the spirit of celebrating spring, I've decided to host a little ad sale through this weekend. 

use the code SPRINGFLING to get 30% off any size ad.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and a very happy start to your spring!


let's talk about money: envelope budgeting system

I've been lucky enough that I've never had to worry about money. yes, I've had times where I was limited in what I could spend until the next paycheck rolled in. but thanks to my parents through college and landing a well-paid job after, I've always been able to afford everything I need and most of what I want.

but even now in Taiwan as a single-income household, we are fine. better than fine. we've been able to save, pay more than the minimum on Husband's student loans, and [as you may have noticed] still be able to travel. we don't spend an outrageous amount on frivolous things. sometimes we splurge on food at the import store, or buy an entire tv series [ahem, Parks and Rec] on iTunes. but for the most part we have been trying to cook and eat at home, and not waste money on things we don't really need - and will have to be shipped elsewhere when we leave Taiwan.

this past week Husband and I have been doing some serious thinking and planning. I've mentioned before that we will be traveling back to the states this summer [and traveling all around once we are there.] we are also planning a trip to New Zealand next Chinese New Year. those will both be pricey, and need to be saved for. but there are also things like IRAs and our safety savings and someday children that we'd like to plan for too. and so we decided it was time to actually pay attention to what we're spending.

we sat down and went over our income and our savings goals, and came up with a budget that should help us tighten up spending but [most importantly] is also realistic. with all our dedicated saving and expenses accounted for, we should still have a few hundred dollars per month in case we run into anything unexpected. and if not - more for savings!

we decided to use the envelope budgeting system to help us keep track, and I taped some labeled envelopes with our cash to the wall. [I might try to make something more cute later on, but we're starting this this. please excuse my sloppy handwriting.]

each month, we will withdraw the cash we need and place it in the monthly envelopes. then every week we will withdraw from the monthly stash and add to the weekly. the main reason why we are allowing "flex spending" across weeks is because... Costco. one trip to Costco lasts us most of the month, but costs about a week's worth of money.

our main cost is food - groceries and going out to eat. our goal is to only eat out once per week, but with a set money amount we could possibly get two meals depending where we go and if something has rolled over from the last week. gas for our scooter costs about $4 US each time we fill the tank [maybe once per week] so we decided to lump that into our miscellaneous category. included in that will be non-food things, trips to Starbucks, and other "fun" things.  I should also mention that our rent is covered by the school, and our utility bills have direct debit so neither of those categories are noted. what we are listing below is just for what we will spend in cash.

taking into account our current income, savings goals, and cost of living in Taiwan, we settled on the below weekly budget:

groceries: 3,000 NT [about $100 US]
going out: 1,000 NT [about $33 US]
miscellaneous: 1,000 NT [about $33 US]

some of you might find this highly ambitious, others may think we aren't really scaling back. I know that plenty of people out there live on less than this. and we could totally be saving more. but this is the amount that [we hope] will still allow us to live comfortably while still achieving all of our goals for saving, and then some.

this budget has been in effect for about 4 days, so I'm sure I can't accurately say that it's working yet. since we started halfway through the month, that means we plan to spend only 10,000 NT until April. that would be about $330 US.

I've certainly been paying more attention to what we're spending. I admit that I had a panic attack while making a list for Costco, but it turns out I spent less than I had feared and we won't be living off the dregs of our pantry for the next week and a half.

last night I had the urge to go out for a bottle of wine and a bag of potato chips. it helps to think of the scenery of New Zealand, or all the tasty tacos I'll east this summer in California and Texas. [actually. that just makes me more hungry.] I didn't go, but our miscellaneous fund is still intact for this week, and I have high hopes of some sauvignon blanc gracing my fridge this weekend...

I'm curious: do you use a budget? what tips do you have on saving money? help me out!

linking up with Nicole


Ubud // Lotus Temple

in central Ubud, tucked behind a Starbucks of all places, you can find the lotus temple. the ponds are calm and the area is quiet, shielded from the bustle of the main street.

Pura Saraswati is small but beautiful. I'm sure this place is beyond gorgeous when all the flowers are in bloom, and we were lucky to find one lone pink lotus in the pond.

on Thursday nights they do Balinese dance demonstrations, so if you look closely you can see where they are wired for lights and a sound system... but despite this temple being built to cater to tourists it was one of my favorite that we visited.

for one, there was no one there. Jackie and I had the place to ourselves, save a group of local boys who ran through. and secondly... I did mention it was behind Starbucks right?

I wouldn't dis the local Indonesian coffee by ordering that here, but they did offer a lemon iced tea that was fantastic for cooling off from the heat. there is also a small cafe opposite of Starbucks that [I assume] would offer a more local selection.

I suppose this is as good a place as any to tell you about these little offerings. walking around Bali you will see hundreds of these small arrangements. each one serves a specific purpose - everything from "for good business" to "for pool safety" depending on where the offering is placed and what it consists of. there are persons who have the designated task of setting these offerings in their place and lighting the incense. these ones are outside the temple, but they are placed everywhere - in doorways and next to the pool and by small shrines.

we really enjoyed out visit to the lotus temple... plenty of interesting things to photograph and no one elbowing you out of the way. it really is a hidden gem in the heart of Ubud. I would definitely recommend stopping by if you find yourself in town and in need of a quiet escape.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...