Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tomorrow is October 1st.

Is it reasonable for me to start getting excited about Halloween yet?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Into the wild green interior.

You might have noticed me casting some green envy on Bali in a recent post-- well, I officially withdraw my envy. Bordeaux had an urge to get out of the city yesterday, so we loaded Japie into his basket, climbed onto a scooter, and headed off out of town. We had barely left behind the gray concrete of the city when we were suddenly and totally swallowed into the green of Taiwan's interior. We were surrounded by lush hillsides draped in bamboo and banana plants, dripping with vines and creepers. And really, we weren't anywhere that special-- a lot of Taiwan's interior is just like that. It's one of the surprising sides of the island that not many people expect when they think of Taiwan.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

around town/hsinchu: longing for a little style.

In most ways, we really can't complain about our life here in Hsinchu, Taiwan. We've found a great apartment that we're making into a very 'us' home, we're eating delicious and varied local foods, we've met some fantastic people, and we're enjoying shopping for produce at the little market up the street from us. I am much happier settled here than I have been in a long time. But if I am allowed one complaint, this is it: I wouldn't mind being surrounded by a little more style.

I definitely don't mean that it's totally missing. I'm constantly checking out well dressed guys and girls, and there is some incredible shopping here. Where it's mostly missing is in eating out. Cafes in Taiwan seem to have missed out on some style lessons, particularly on the lesson concerning minimalism. As soon as we enter a new restaurant in Taiwan, we always glance around for the requisite tchochkes, and we are always disappointed to find them. And especially, I should point out, Christmas related ones. Even restaurants that serve great food seem to make a least one big misstep: a wooden Santa Claus, a kitsch statue of a man playing a saxophone. It's certainly worse here in Hsinchu, but honestly, I'm rarely that wowed by interior style in Taipei either. Anyway, it's all a compromise. I can eat fantastic local food here, I just can't do it in great surrounds. I'll just have to use my vacation time carefully, and hit up some style centers abroad.

Pictured above, sadly, is not in Hsinchu. It's Square One Dining, a cafe my sister introduced us to last time we were in LA. It had great coffee, a tempting brunch menu including muesli with seasonal fruit and decadent waffles, and a nicely styled patio. And on this warm late-September morning, I wouldn't mind being there now.

Friday, September 24, 2010

out west/far east.

And I am trying to figure out a way to be both, at once.

Monday, September 20, 2010

things make me happy: paper lantern.

Part of the deal with moving into a Taiwan apartment is that you're tacitly agreeing to be bathed in florescent lighting no matter what room you're in. After almost three weeks of living in an undead glow, we'd had enough. The light in our dining room was the first to come down, and in it's place went a squat lantern of white paper. We have a different lantern waiting to go up in the living room, and plans for lighting changes in the bedrooms and the office. Even with just the one lantern up, I can really say I'm seeing my new home in a whole new light.

Ikea väte hanging lamp.

And on a terribly belated note, I was recently profiled on Girl in Asia's behind the blog feature. Check that out here. Thanks for inviting me to participate, Liz!

On the subject of white.

Here's how that look works on the other side of the Pacific. Shot taken in June in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, California. Sunglasses from Bangkok, T-shirt from H&M, shoes and shorts a mystery.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

White hot summer, Taipei.

Another reason I was lucky to snag my husband: he agrees that travel is not an excuse to dress down, but a reason to dress up.

White V-neck T-Shirt H&M, White Bangkok sunglasses, Navy Blue H&M shorts, white Muji espadrilles, Rooftop's Life @ Taiwan tote from Eslite.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Island living.

As I mentioned on Monday, I'm not actually on the island I've been writing so much about lately, but on another one somewhat further north: Taiwan. Aside from having so much to say about Bali, part of why I haven't written much about my new home is because things have been happening in stages (getting a job, going through the visa process, finding an apartment, trying to get the place furnished) so I'm still not feeling totally settled.

But I am pretty happy to be here. And though I came to the island repeating the mantra "this is a temporary arrangement", a few things have happened to make me feel more settled. They're blurring the lines between for me between expat living and just living.

1. Learning to love a scooter. Like a lot of Asia, the roads of Taiwan teem with motorbikes-- and in moving back here, I knew I'd have to be joining the speeding throngs. I never learned to ride a bicycle as a child, so the idea of now getting on a heavy motorized bicycle and speeding it into traffic seemed a little terrifying. So through a year living in Asia and two visits to Taiwan, I never even attempted to climb on. But when we moved here I decided I would have to make an effort. Within an hour of working up the nerve to try it, I had found that not only was it not that hard-- but that actually, it was pretty fun. I've now got my own Yamaha Vino, a handsome black retro-styled model, that I love finding excuses for zipping around town on.

2. Moving in. The search for an apartment in Taiwan was... depressing. We saw tiny new places with no space and no character, massive damp caverns plugged with heavy ugly furniture... and little else. So I'm still feeling incredibly lucky that Bordeaux found a cute old-fashioned apartment with green tile floors and some built in kitchen cupboards. It's within walking distance of several parks (good for item #3), near cafes and breakfast shops, and almost equidistant between our workplaces. Now if we could just bring in some non-florescent lighting...

3. Japie. My husband is not into dogs, and I'm not really into pets, but we've always had a weakness for French Bulldogs. So when on our first weekend in town we met someone who was looking for a home for her little Frenchie, it seemed too fated to question. So we agreed, tentatively, to foster him for awhile. But within an hour of Japie (pronounced Ya-pee, pictured above) crashing around at our feet and looking up at us (in two directions), we knew we weren't going to be giving him back.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A glimpse of paradise (good luck for Monday).

I should point out that due to a general slowness in posting, I am not currently in Bali as may be suggested-- I am back in Taiwan, currently working a 9 am to 9 pm schedule (only for four more days!). But I'll keep us on the island a little longer-- I thought maybe you and I could both use a shot of Bali green on this Monday to keep us going.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Order the pig.

I couldn't decide whether seeing the pig's head pointed at me was actually appetizing or not, but at the very least I was intrigued. My eyes had originally been drawn to the neatly arranged rows of jars and bottles at this Bali market's stand, but the pig certainly was an attention grabber. So I stopped, and tried to find out more about it. The woman behind the counter greeted me, and showed me to a glass display case containing bowls of fresh salads. "Lawar babi", she explained to me; the words meant nothing to me then, I would have to look them up later. She pointed to the pig again, and then her own cheek, indicating that if I tried the lawar, I would be treated to some of the animal's face. I wasn't hungry, but I had to try it. She grabbed a paper cone, scooped in some rice, then spooned on some of the lawar. To complete the dish, she ripped shreds off the pig's head, and folded them up into the parcel.

I didn't open the package until later, when we were sitting, legs tucked under the tables at Ibu Oka. Specializing in Balinese suckling pig, babi guling (a heap of which is pictured top right), Ibu Oka is famous worldwide. We had just had our plates set before us: waxy brown paper holding small mountains of rice, topped with tender shreds of pork and crispy squares of skin and fat. The first bite explained and validated the restaurant's fame: the crunch of the skin released a melting burst of rich, luxuriant pork flavor. 

Mid-meal, I remembered the package from the market still in my bag. It might seem like over-kill to pull out the lawar babi at this point, but I decided that if I was already indulging this much, I might as well just give in. I pulled it out, unwrapped it, and put it on the table to share. Amazingly, and this may just have been the rush of fat to my brain, it outshone the meat we had been consuming. While the pork in the lawar was not as good as Ibu Oka's-- the skin didn't crackle as much, the fat wasn't as tender-- the rest of the dish compensated: young jackfruit, green beans, shrimp paste, and shredded makrut lime leaves gave it an intensely exotic flavor. 

But either way, market stand lawar babi or Ibu Oka babi guling, order the pig in Bali and you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


While visiting the puras of Bali I was really struck by a feeling of balance. Yet while religious spaces may generally have an air of serenity, what makes these temples most striking is how that feeling comes from the drastic use of both the beautiful and the grotesque in the same site: a grimacing guardian may look over a pool of delicate lotuses. For while to my Catholic-school reared mind concepts like 'good and evil' exist in dichotomy, they cohabit in the Hindu traditions of Bali; creation and destruction are not discreet forces, and that which is the most terrifying can also be the most protective. And certainly, the beauty of these spaces would not have been as sharply illuminated without their equal use of the grotesque. 

Yet another product of my schooling I'm happy to leave by the roadside.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

culturedPRIMITIVE/stockist: Muji Hex Double-Ended Pens.

I love to travel and I love to sketch, but I've never been able to be the kind of traveller who sketches. I think that when I'm exploring a new place, I have an easier time pulling out my camera than pulling out a sketchbook and some pens. But I'm trying to change that. On this trip to Bali I packed a new sketchbook (in the hope that I would feel compelled to fill the clean white pages) and a variety of Muji's Hex Double-Ended Pens. With one end a felt-tip brush and the other a thin pen, I could vary my line without having to dig a different pen out of my bag. And with a variety of nuanced greens and bright tropical hues on offer, I was really able to capture some of my island surrounds.

Island of the gods.

Many people visit Bali just to do a little pura gazing, and understandably so; they're rewarded with some of the most spectacular Hindu temples in the world. Moreover, the beauty of many of these sacred sites are multiplied by the incredible natural environments that surround them, whether they are perched on the edge of a rice terrace, or hidden in a valley dripping with tropical plants. Perhaps the most spectacular was Ulun Danu (pictured above), which rests in a mist-enshrouded caldera lake in the island's breezy highlands.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Bali Bamboo.

I loved the abundance of bamboo in Bali, where it was seen not just growing alongside rice paddies, but also as a material for architecture and design. It's such an incredible material; easily renewable and incredibly strong, but also beautiful in a very subtle way. The above shot is of a building under construction, and while the bamboo is just a temporary frame for building, I think it would be stunning if they could complete the house with the tangle of bamboo visible and intact. Who wouldn't want to live in their own personal bamboo grove?