Letting Go of “Should”

Lately, I’ve felt so blah. As if I needed a Life Makeover. New clothes. New hair. New makeup. New body. New habits. New life. Nothing particularly wrong with my current life, yet still, I feel unsatisfied.

The problem with any makeover or getaway, however, is that eventually, you go back to your life. Your real life. And even with new clothes, hair, makeup, or whatever, someone, namely you, still have to maintain and live your life.

What use are nicer clothes if you don’t wear them because your kids will just use you as a human napkin anyway? (I cannot tell you how many times I have to repeat to my children, “I am not a napkin.”) What use is my fancy haircut if it’s in that weird stage of growing out and I just have no patience for it anymore but am too lazy to style? What use is all my expensive makeup that I never wear except on special occasions? (And don’t suggest that I wear it on a regular basis because then I will have to also wash my face on a regular basis and that idea is laughable.)

Really, why can’t I just outsource my whole life and only reap the benefits? Can’t someone spend time with my kids but they will still love me and search me out? Can’t someone cook for me or clean for me or work out for me? (I suppose given enough money, I could hire a cook and a house cleaner, but I really don’t have the inclination to do that, no matter how I complain.)

The thing is, I can do all these things, but I already feel crushed enough by an ever increasing list of “things I should do.” And it’s not that these things are even bad things. They’re all good things. Things and activities I legitimately believe will make me feel better about myself and my life.

However. I have realized (finally) that I tend to crumble when it comes to expectations. Some people rise to the challenge. I am not that “people.” One of the side effects of my childhood and the demands to be the best and never quite being good enough, as soon as I get wind of any expectations (no matter how reasonable), I worry about failure and not being good enough or perfect enough. Instead of working ever harder to achieve a goal, I make a bunch of exacting standards and rules and things to achieve and I look at that list and say, “Fuck it!” Because come on! I will never be able to do all of these things so why bother?

For example, when my friend, Fleur, initially floated the idea of spending the summer in Taipei last year, I was game – but I made very clear that I was only tagging along for the ride. She would have to find the preschool, tell me where and when to apply, work out with the teachers, find a place to live, and I would just throw money at her. The thought of me doing anything was horrifying and terrifying and paralyzing. I didn’t want her to have any expectations of me.

And for some bizarre reason, Fleur was ok with that arrangement. What can I say? She’s awesome. (And one could argue that she was going to be doing it anyway, I might as well benefit!)

Well, a funny thing happened. Once there was no expectation of any work from me, I actually did the majority of the research for where we would live and found us a place over a weekend. That’s about the only thing I did though. (Fleur still handled all the applications for the school, found us places to eat, and went to places for us to buy things. I just went along for the ride and negotiated for cheaper prices.)

Without the spectre of responsibility, I had no problem looking for a place. I had no problem conducting actual research (which is normally anathema to me). Go figure!

And that’s the thing: I wanted to be able to disclaim all responsibility in case of failure. Why? Because I take failure personally. As if I failed versus a situation not working out.

For instance when we finally arrived in Taipei and the apartment I rented for the summer (and there was a repeat of the scenario when we arrived at the apartment I rented earlier this year in January), my mother showed up at the apartments and just basically did her Taiwanese mother thing and ripped the place apart. I was livid. I took things personally – as if this were my apartment and my fault. When of course, how was I supposed to know? I could only do the best based on my research.

But nevertheless, I took my mother’s criticisms as an indictment of me as a person. She was baffled (and not more than a little pissed off) that I was so upset and angry with her comments. She kept asking, “Why are you so defensive? This has nothing to do with you!” Except in my mind, she was telling me I had failed and that yet again, I wasn’t good enough. My best was just not up to par.

Of course, there are decades of parent/child dynamics at play here (and my mother is pretty much impossible to satisfy), but in general, why was I so upset when my mother was merely pointing out facts and reality?

There is definitely more to say about this topic, but I am exhausted (and starting this post rather late in the night), so I will table that for another time. Suffice it to say, my therapist, Dr. T, thinks that the next thing that would be good for me to work on is to let things go. To not see statements of fact (or opinion) as a judgment on my worth.

I have to tell myself that it is a “good thing to do” versus another “should.”

It’s a vicious cycle, my friends. Also, I now have Let It Go stuck in my head. You’re welcome. (Sorrynotsorry.)

May you have a should-free day.

Taiwanese Eats

Ok. It has been about five weeks since we’ve been back from Taiwan and I am still dreaming of the food. Mmmm…. Many of you have asked for a list of the places we ate and I am FINALLY getting around to it. I have tried to arrange by neighborhood/area so you can hit up a bunch of them but it’s been five weeks and my memory may be blurry. I guess I’ll just have to force myself to go back in January in order to refresh my mind. The things I do for my readers. Nothing but sacrifice.

So, in no particular order (other than neighborhood), I give you the majority of places we ate. I am not really a great food blogger or describer of food so please don’t expect anything of that sort. I will just list the restaurants and perhaps tell you which dishes we thought stood out.

All photo credits belong to Fleur.

 

1) Miscellaneous Restaurants

a) 鼎泰豐(Din Tai Fung)
(multiple locations such as Xin Yi, Yong Kang Jie, Alley 216)

I was a big fan of the pickled cabbage, wood ears, pork xiao long baos, squash and shrimp xiao long bao, mini sesame buns, and their white wood ear/long yan soup for dessert. I forget what it’s called in English. But it is awesome and delicious and YUM. Pretty much everything here is delicious. You really can’t go wrong.

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(top) pickled cabbage|wood ear|pork xiao long bao (middle) veggies|fish dumpling|veggie dumpling (bottom) white wood ear dessert|steamed taro dumpling|sesame buns

b) 永和豆漿大王 (Yong He Dou Jiang Da Wang / Soy Milk King)
(Multiple Locations)

A yummy Taiwanese breakfast place. Super cheap and tasty. I am a big fan of then 燒餅油條 (Shao bing and Chinese Donut) along with the meat and veggie bao. The sweetened soy milk is a MUST of course.

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(top left) Shao bing, salty soy milk, chinese donut, veggie/meat bao, cold sweet soy milk

c) 欣葉 (Shin Yeh)
(multiple locations)
Address: 8F, No. 9, Songshou Rd., Xinyi Dist., Taipei City (A9 of Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Xinyi Place Branch, 8F

My favorites were: pork liver, marinated chicken with scallions, fried oysters, filet cubes, and of course, the almond jelly. Too bad Glow Worm is allergic to almonds so I couldn’t have any – but it is SO DELICIOUS. They are also famous for their sweet potato congee.

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sweet potato congee|fried oysters|peanut mochi|pan fried pork liver|marinated chicken|almond jelly|bamboo shoots

d) 林東芳 (Lin Dong Fang)
274 Bade Road, Section 2, Jhongshan District, Taipei City
台北市中山区八德路二段272號

Famous for their beef noodle soup and their spicy beef butter. It sounds disgusting but it was tasty. I preferred Old Chang’s soup and meat, but the noodles were more QQ (Taiwanese for springy and chewy and yummy). It is tiny and has two additional small rooms where you can eat.

veggies, beef butter

veggies, beef butter

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Before the beef butter melts

Before the beef butter melts

 

e) 金峰滷肉飯 (Jin Feng Lu Rou Fan)
10 Roosevelt Road Section 1, Taipei
台北市羅斯福路1段10號

This is a famous braised pork rice place and braised/stewed egg. The kids loved it. It was very delicious. Unfortunately, when we went, we found an unexpected guest in Fleur’s rice plate. So, I think it will be some time before I go back. shudder

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f) 阜杭豆漿 (Fu Hang Dou Jiang)
2/F Hua Shan Market, 108 Zhongxiao East Road, Section 1, Taipei City
忠孝東路一段108號2F

This is a Taiwanese breakfast place and closed on Mondays. Also, expect at least a 15-30 minute wait as the line winds down the stairs and out around the corner of the street. It is quite yummy. There are thick shao bings, thin ones, soy milk, Chinese donuts, Chinese donuts wrapped in shao bings, sugar bings, all sorts. The menu is only in Chinese. I would help more but my brain is useless this far out. Just randomly point. It’s all good.

salty soy milk, sweet soy milk, thick shao bing Chinese donut wrap, rice tuan

salty soy milk, sweet soy milk, thick shao bing Chinese donut wrap, rice tuan

g) Ippudo (一風堂)
台北市大安區敦化南路一段165號1樓
1F, No.165, Section 1, Dunhua South Road, Da’an District, Taipei, Taiwan

Beware: there is a line! So, go right at the open (which is 11:30am). Yummy ramen and lots of refreshing iced tea. I would skip the ox tongue. Bleh. I was very disappointed. But the bao and the ramen were delicious.

Bao, Spicy ramen, ramen, ox tongue

Bao, Spicy ramen, ramen, ox tongue

 

2) Alley 216 Area

Already mentioned the Din Tai Fung. Here are some other food places near there.

a) 東區粉圓(Dong Qu Fen Yuan / Eastern Ice House)

No. 38, Alley 216, Section 4 Zhongxiao East Road, Daan District, Taipei
台北市大安區忠孝東路4段216巷38號

They are famous for their 粉圓 (Fen yuan/tapioca ball) and basically, it’s a bunch of toppings in ice. Yummy and refreshing, but I prefer shaved ice/snow.

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fen yuan, fen guo, tang yuan

fen yuan, fen guo, tang yuan

b) Ice Monster
106, Taiwan, 台北市大安區忠孝東路四段297號
Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei 297, Sec No.297, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd. Taipei, Taiwan

Ice Monster is famous for their shaved ice. It is super delicious. Our favorites were the mango and the lime shaved snows. There is only one snow that has Fen Guo on it, but you can ask for it on the side and promise to pay extra. (They are not big on customization here in Taiwan.)

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Mung bean snow with fen guo and grass jelly

 

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(top to bottom clockwise) Latte snow, melon sorbet, mango avalanche, lime snow

 

c) 度小月 (Tu Hsiao Yueh/Slack Season Noodles)
No. 12, Alley 8, Lane 216, ZhongXiao E. Rd, Sec. 4
台北市忠孝東路四段216巷8弄12號

This place is famous for their noodles but I just found them alright. They weren’t bad, just not amazing. What was amazing was the tofu. It was SO GOOD that we promptly ordered another plate. It is crispy on the outside, but tastes like 蒸蛋 (zheng dan/steamed egg custard) and chicken brothy on the inside. So tender and juicy and BLERGH. This was my favorite dish of the entire trip.

(from the top left) drunken goose, fried oysters, pumpkin ice cream, fernlike veggie, noodles, fried shrimp roll, long yan jello, fried taro, tofu

(from the top left) drunken goose, fried oysters, pumpkin ice cream, fernlike veggie, noodles, fried shrimp roll, long yan jello, fried taro, tofu

 

3) 大安區 (Da An District) by 台大 (Tai Da/National Taiwan University)

a) 臺一牛奶大王 (Taiyi Milk King Ice)
No.82, Sec. 3, Xinsheng S. Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei City 106, Taiwan
106, Taiwan, 台北市大安區新生南路三段82號

Fleur and I ate here at least once a day. There is almost always a line through the door but don’t worry – it moves quickly.

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Shaved ice with mango, 愛玉 (nature jelly), mung bean, large tapioca

b) 妙媽媽 (Miao Ma Ma)
H/T to Marian Wu for finding the address!

台灣台北市大安區新生南路三段68-2號
No. 2, Alley 68, Sec. 3, Xinsheng S. Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei

We ate here several times. These are Taiwan Small Dishes and I enjoyed them very much. Just ask the lady to give you recommendations. That’s what I did each time.

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(top) garlic fish, ginger chicken, hong tao, veggies, spicy tofu and pork, chicken hearts

c) 藍家割包 (Lan Jia Gua Bao)
No. 3, Alley 8, Lane 316, Section 3, Luosifu Rd
100, Taiwan, 台北市中正區羅斯福路三段316巷8弄3號

This mostly just a stand/cart on the corner next to a Family Mart (or something like that). Be aware that they have peanut shavings/powder in an open container next to the meat that they usually put on the gua bao. I did not let Cookie Monster eat this even though I didn’t add peanut shavings. It was pretty likely for cross contamination. They have fatty meat, lean meat, and 50/50. Go with the fatty. It is 100x better than the lean.

fatty Gua Bao (Taiwanese hamburger)

fatty Gua Bao (Taiwanese hamburger)

 

4) 永康街 (Yong Kang St)

There is also a Din Tai Fung here. Worth eating wherever you happen to be.

a) 大隱酒食 (James Kitchen)
65 Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei
台北市大安區永康街65號
Hours: 11:00am~2:00pm, 5:30pm~12:00am

This place is very old school and I wasn’t a huge fan of their food. It was pretty good, but it could be a factor of me ordering the wrong things. I just asked the waitress and she recommended a lot of pricey stuff. The best was the fried oysters and Chinese donut dish. Such a weird but tasty combination. The chicken was good, too.

(top) fried oyster and Chinese donut, pig knuckles, squid with special sauce, chicken and scallioons, veggies

(top) fried oyster and Chinese donut, pig knuckles, squid with special sauce, chicken and scallioons, veggies

b) 老張牛肉麵店 (Lao Zhang Niu Roh Mien/Old Chang’s Beef Noodle Soup)
105 Aiguo East Road, Da’an District, Taipei
106, Taiwan, 台北市大安區愛國東路105號

SO TASTY!! The beef tendon noodle soup is so yummy. I am sure the other foods are good (they have pretty good side dishes) but I pretty much came here to eat the beef noodle soup. The beef is shot through with tendon and yumminess. YUM!! Did I mention, YUM??!

pork short ribs and sweet potato, spicy and regular beef tendon noodle soup

pork short ribs and sweet potato, spicy and regular beef tendon noodle soup

c) Smoothie House (思慕昔)
(multiple locations at Yong Kang St – just keep walking)
台北市大安區永康街9號
No. 9 Yong Kang St, Da’an District, Taipei

Even though Ice Monster has Fen Guo, I still preferred Smoothie House. Mostly because the music is 90s hip hop and R&B and reminds me of college. Plus, it’s atmosphere is nightclub-esque. Makes me feel cool (pun intended). I pretty much always get the mango avalanche, but we have also gotten smoothies as well.

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珍珠觀音拿鐵雪花冰(Tapioca latté snow)|mango avalanche

 

Alright. All done. Dear Lord, that was a lot of effort. To thank me, please eat as much as possible and enjoy. I won’t even mind if you comment and rub it in while I’m stuck back in the US.

For further reference, these were the articles Fleur and I used to find stuff we wanted to eat.

45 Taiwanese Foods We Can’t Live Without

A Hungry Girls’ Guide to Taipei

28 Reasons to Love Taipei

10 Things Taiwan Does Better Than Anyone Else

I’m sure there were more but quite frankly, I’m exhausted. It was definitely more fun to eat at these places than compile them! Happy Eating!

Taiwan Withdrawal

It’s been awhile since my last update. Many apologies! I’ve been trying to unstick my head from my ass. As great as it was to finally be home, Real Life is decidedly less fun than Holiday Life. I know, I know. Wah. Cry me a river et al. But it really has been quite an adjustment.

Some silly things that have been hard:

1) Jet lag. And it’s ensuing craziness. Hapa Papa and I likely would’ve switched back right away, but our kids made it very difficult because even though we might’ve been fine sleeping at night and being awake during the day like a normal human, you can’t stay up all night with the kiddos and still keep up during the day. Maybe back when I was a college student, but no more. I am weak sauce, people.

2) NO FOOD. I mean, yes, I could’ve gotten off my ass and gone to Costco sooner than I did, but see above paragraph. I finally made it to Costco (and was TOTALLY off my game – it was sad) but only because Glow Worm’s birthday party rather necessitated it. Can’t invite people over and tell them to eat cold cereal. Or I suppose you can, but that may be the last time people come for awhile.

Also, WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE TO FEED MY KIDS FOR EVERY MEAL?

3) Suburbia is great but after the ease and convenience of living in Taipei for a month, it was quite the culture shock. Why is everything so far away? Why aren’t there fifty restaurants in a square mile? Why is food so expensive? Why is everything so quiet? AND WHY ARE THERE SO MANY ANTS?!?!

4) I have way too much stuff. I could fit the entire two bedroom apartment we were renting in my master bedroom, closet, and ensuite. Yes, yes. Wah again. But the nice thing about living in such a small place is that there is limited space so you can only have so much stuff because otherwise, you have no space to live.

Hence, garage sale. To make room for all the toys and books I got in Taiwan.

5) Glow Worm hates the car again. 🙁

6) I miss Fleur and her kids. It was like being back at college again but with babies. I mean, I love Hapa Papa and everything, but he has to work (wth, right?) and can’t hang out with me all day mapping out where we are going to eat next.

7) I am dehydrated because I am not eating two shaved ices a day. Also, I am hungry because I cannot procure ready made meals for cheap here and I actually have to make food and that’s why I eat a lot of dry cereal. (Still no dairy.)

I’m sure there are more but it’s pathetic to be whining about how “hard” my transition back has been when really, it’s been pretty good and I am glad to be home.

Ok. Back to my exciting life. What do you do to ease your way back to reality after a trip? Let me know in the comments.