Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Taipei Zoo

I think one of my favorite places in Taipei has to be the zoo. It's just beautiful! Especially if you hit it on a good day, if the weather is perfect it can feel as if you are a million miles from civilization roaming through a forest catching secret glimpses of wild animals. Even if the weather isn't perfect it's an awesome zoo.
The zoo's planners put a lot of thought into the layout of both the animal enclosures (I say enclosures because very few animals are in the traditional barred cages) and the paths the humans would take. Most animals have a pretty big pen with lots of grass and trees surrounding them. There is a continuity between the vegetation in the animal enclosures and the vegetation that lines the wide sidewalks and shades the sitting areas so that there doesn't seem to be much space between where the humans are and where the wild things are.
And the zoo is HUGE! I've been there 5 or 6 times (maybe more) and I STILL don't think I've seen all the animals (although now it's because we choose to hit certain places every time). You would have to be VERY dedicated and move fairly quickly to be able to see everything at the Taipei zoo in one day, if it is even possible. I know that it has to sprawl over several miles because some of the signs pointing you to various exhibits say things like Penguins 530meters, and that's after you've been walking through the zoo for some time.
We went on Monday for Babes' pre-birthday celebration and got a special treat as all of the animals were pretty frisky. We heard lions roar, wolves howl, saw penguins swimming, elephants splashing in the water, giraffe's walking and laying down, it was great!
Anyway, here are some pictures to give you an idea of the scope and prettiness of the zoo.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Yesterday we went into Danshui to stroll about and have some lunch while the weather was somewhat nice. Danshui is a suburb/city of Taipei about thirty minutes north of us. It's got a cute little river walk and some random British colonial stuff (a fort, a boat dock, some missionary missions). It also has a Mexican restaurant. Now we've passed this place before a couple of times, it's just off the main drag so it's easy to spot from the road. I thought nothing of it, other than OOH Mexican food. But since we are in Asia I thought it would be horrible (I know what you are thinking, how can you mess up Mexican food it's just rice and beans with some peppers thrown in, but OH it can be BAD!). But Vlad had it on good authority that it was good, so we went in.
From the start I knew that we were in for a treat, the restaurant was packed with, what I think were, Latin Americans (which is weird to say about a group of people in Taiwan, but they were speaking a combination of Spanish and English in a way that is unique to certain parts of the US). The restaurant itself had a very Californian Mexican restaurant feel. There were Mexican flags on the wall and lots of pastel. The feeling was enhanced by the waitress who had a VERY strong American accent.
Now, I have been to many a Mexican restaurant in Asia and, let me just tell you, they were not good. Maybe it's the ingredients they use, or just that the technique is so foreign, whatever the reason the food is no good. But this restaurant was great. The salsa was chopped fresh and had just the right balance of onion and tomato, the chips were crispy and salted just right. I had a beef and a chicken Enchilada both of which were perfectly seasoned and not gloopy or oversauced at all. It all left me feeling like we would walk out the door onto a California beach, and when we left (and didn't walk out onto a beach) I was sad. BUT I think I will be going back again soon!
(pics of fish tacos and enchiladas)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Random slice

Today as I was walking home from Babes' school I passed a man who was wearing a bright purple track suit, blue and white tennis shoes and carrying what could have been a Louis Vuitton man bag, while smoking a cigarette. I REALLY wished I had my camera because I would have figured out a way to surreptitiously take a picture of him. There was something quintessentially
foreign about the way this man was dressed, because really, except for his shoes (and I have to say those were a little outdated too), he did not have on one single thing that an American Man would wear. Be it the track suit, the man bag, or more and more recently, cigarette.

In other news, we picked up some weird fruit at the store this weekend. It tastes a little bit like an apricot mixed with a cantaloupe with the texture reminiscent of a watermelon. I wonder what these things are?

And finally, yesterday in a fit of baking I made a pineapple upside down cake. I used to hate these when I was a kid, but now I love them! I think I'm finding my southern roots as I get older. First sweet iced tea, now pineapple upside down cakes.... Next thing you know I'll be frying up chicken and biscuits!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Leftover Oatmeal muffins

The crock pot oatmeal recipe makes TONS of oatmeal and nobody really likes to eat leftover oatmeal (even though with the sturdier oat groats you totally could), so after a little searching I found this recipe for leftover oatmeal muffins. Which makes a really great breakfast muffin. I even cut the butter and sugar in half and it was still Yummy. I think I'm going to tweak it a little and see if I can come up with my own recipe. Anyway, they turned out great and look like this:

Monday, March 08, 2010

Whole Oat Groats

So in an effort to post more often I'm going to start adding some regular slice of life moments that are slightly different because I'm overseas, or maybe regular things that I wouldn't normally do but that I'm doing because I'm overseas. Did that make any sense? No? Well, since no one really reads this, it's ok.

We were in the grocery store last week and I came across these:

They are whole oat groats. Basically it's oatmeal in the most natural state that I've seen it in. To be honest it looks a little like rice. Babes LOVES oatmeal so I've been looking for steel-cut oats here so that she can have porridge in a crock pot (which she loves) instead of so much of the instant stuff. In case you don't know the steel cut oats look like this:

After a lot of internet searching I found a basic recipe of 1 part oats to 4 parts water. Which is very close to the way the steel cut oats are made so I decided to do them the same way. I put a little bit of water in the inside of the bowl to my crock pot, then I took a glass mixing bowl and put it in the water, and I mixed together 1 cup of oats and 4 cups of water, put the lid on, turned my crock pot on low, then went to bed. When we woke up the oatmeal was done and viola!

Which I have to say looks gross when you do a close up shot, but was actually quite tasty! The oatmeal is firmer and not nearly as gooey as the instant stuff. I am definitely convinced that this is the way to go. Tomorrow.... Leftover Oatmeal muffins!