Superbowl snacks

http://loldamn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/funny-Sandwich-stadium-food-art.jpg
http://www.chowgirls.net/documents/Rumaki.pdf
http://www.skinnytaste.com/2010/02/lighter-buffalo-chicken-dip.html
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/guacamole-recipe/index.html
http://www.pillsbury.com/ (football pizza)
http://www.designsponge.com/2009/08/in-the-kitchen-with-eliza-jane-curtis.html
http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/07/bacon-wrapped_j/

Blanket of love

My current project was inspired by this daily row project I found. Some counter-cultural crocheters were inspired to crochet a row a day based on the color of the sky. Only I misunderstood and thought they were doing a row a day based on how they felt. And then I thought that if you could do a scarf, why not a blanket? And I realized that this year, on New Year’s Eve, my boyfriend and I were moving into our new house. And this is still a kind of new relationship in that we haven’t been living together very long, and we were moving out of his small place into a much bigger place where we could start a life together, and all that inspired me to start working on a blanket that could be a record of our first year together.

I like how the blanket marks the beginning of our life together in a new house, but the timing could be a little awkward. If we hadn’t moved in c. January 1, then it might just be a blanket. But I decided it would be a blanket for us and a record of this year, which would be almost arbitrary if we’d been dating for a while already or

I haven’t been able to keep up with the daily row thing. I think it’s a great idea. I think the fact that I can’t sit still for literally ten minutes and do this one thing every day is an indication that I have too much going on and too many little things to stress about. Also, I have always know that I have the attention span of a ferret on crack, so this is just reinforcing my self-image. But that’s fine. In the end, I’ll still have a very cool blanket. What interests me the most is the way the colors and patterns interact. Somehow its imperfection, its organic evolution, its lack of intention intrigue me. Did you know there is such a thing as freestyle crocheting? How badass is that? No patterns, no rules, just hooking and knotting. And the results are beautiful – undeniably artistic.

Five wineries in one day

 We took to the hills this weekend for an epic wine-tasting adventure that brought us to five local vineyards in one day. Virginia wine is growing at a fantastic pace right now, so the industry is diverse and confused and there is still no “right” way to do it. Lucky for us as travelers and customers, we get to sample wine made from a range of grapes that aren’t normally found on grocery store shelves, in magnificent estate houses or humble tasting rooms, poured by directors of hospitality or the vineyard owners themselves. 

King Family Vineyards, picture from examiner.com
Tip for visiting a lot of wineries in one day:  You don’t have to swallow. You shouldn’t get much wine per pour anyway, and you don’t need very much just to have a taste. There’s no need to be acting like the tasting room is a mosh pit by 5 p.m. because you can’t find your knees.

King Family Vineyards

Our tour of King Family Vineyards was one of the most personal we’ve enjoyed so far, so it was the perfect star to a long day. The tasting room was cozy, done up like a hunting lodge decorated by . When we got there at noon, one of the bars was already well-surrounded by customers, and by the time we finished our tour, a big group had taken over the coffee table and piled it up with all the fixings for an indoor picnic, perfect for an unseasonably warm January day.  We enjoyed their wines so much we had trouble choosing our souvenir, but ended up getting their port-style Seven (2009) because we liked the fortified wine as much as the unique bottle. We’re most excited about coming back for the free polo matches they host ever Sunday after Memorial Day. Our tour guide described it as “a party like tailgating, but different.” I love horses and we both love wine, so I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. 
King Family Vineyards, picture from examiner.com
After enjoying their 2010 Viognier at home, we were really excited to get to White Hall Vineyards. Their tasting room was elegant and the grounds were beautiful. Our tour itself was pretty standard, but the wines were just as amazing as the reception was unremarkable. We left with a bottle of the 2006 Edichi, a port-style wine positioned as a dessert wine, and vowed to buy the sold-out Viognier wherever we see it in town.
From Virginia Wine in My Pocket

Stinson Vineyards
To be honest, we wouldn’t have even made it to the recently-opened Stinson Vineyards if our tour guide at King Family hadn’t been so generous as to recommend the Turk Mountain Vineyards table wine sold there. Since it was almost right next to White Hall, there was no reason not to stop. And I’m so glad we did. The ambience in the tasting room was as comfy as a downtown deli. The owner himself was pouring and I am pretty sure the lovely ladies on either side of him were his wife and daughter. Even the dog was helping out, greeting customers as they walked in. We really liked everything there, but were sold on the Turk Mountain petit verdot (Afton Rouge 2010) because of its overwhelming specialness. This is kind of winery that I get most excited about visiting: A “reconverted garage winery”/”family-run boutique vineyard”, the tasting room just opened in July, but they are already making a name for themselves. It’s not the kind of place you would consider for a wedding venue, but if you want good wine made by someone who gives a shit, stop in.

Photo by A. Lowell at Virginia Wine Guide

Jefferson Vineyards
We enjoyed everything here except the actual experience. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived, and everyone else that had hit the wine trails that day had hit it pretty hard, and there’s nothing like a herd of drunk and pretentious winos to make wine tasting unpleasant. Still, we suffered through and our pourer remained pleasant and unflappable even as he simultaneously led five groups through the tasting menu. We went for the easy to enjoy Vin Blanc since we already had a couple of reds and we weren’t feeling the Chardonnays.

From Wine about Virginia

Trump Winery
This place was a joke, but to be fair, we’d been warned before we went there that we should go just to experience what a joke it was. Buddy tried to sell us on the overpriced tasting (everything else was from $5-$10 and two of the wineries we’d visited included glasses in the price) by telling us that every sample was at least two ounces, which was a lot more than we’d get anywhere else. Considering we were on a wine trail and not a bar crawl, I was not impressed. My first instinct was to run back out the door we’d come in, but in the end, we ordered two different tastings to share.
Maybe it was all the other wine we’d been drinking, but the little plastic ice cream cone cups of wine we were served just made us laugh. We’d spent all day carefully swirling, sniffing and sipping our wines, but here the only thing we could do was try not to drop our silly cups. Honestly, I was embarrassed for the tasting room manager. To make matters worse, while I’d enjoyed my three sparkling wines, my partner had opted for what turned out to be three of their lesser varieties and we were really dissatisfied. Ultimately, however they were the only vineyard we’d visited with a tasting menu printed in color, and that’s what really counts.

From Virginia Wine Time
After having had such good wine everywhere else, it was a bummer to end on a bad note, but we salvaged the evening with dinner at Peter Chang’s China Grill. We ordered mostly from the appetizer and snack menu so we could try as many different dishes as possible without spending a small fortune on what would end up as takeout, but we really enjoyed the meal. Except for the soup dumplings/小笼包Those were really disappointing. But still, I am definitely going to have to make some lamb skewers for dinner one day day soon. 

As tasty as I remembered them from Shanghai,
but with less fat and about ten times as expensive.

What did you do this weekend? How was the weather where you live? 

Weekend reading: Packing light, dream houses, and a USB shot glass

Pretty much every woman I want to be has at one point put everything she owned on Craigslist to travel the world for a year, so I loved Smith Schwartz as soon as I read her Well-Designed Travel post on Apartment Therapy. She made it three months in South America with like three t-shirts and five dresses. Adorable dresses. I have to confess that I have never packed that light except for maybe a weekend trip to Pittsburgh to see the fam. Oh also, she’s a photographer.

The Smith suitcase in all its pretty efficiency! 

Chinese New Year is over, but I really enjoyed this article about Chinese cuisine in England and how it’s evolving from General Tso’s slop and chips to dishes with recognizable roots in Chinese regional fare. I know I can find good Sichuanese stuff in bigger cities, but not everyone has got the memo in the U.S. 
I finally found my demographic! I would exclusively watch TV online if I could, but when boyfriend and I started dating, he actually had cable. And I didn’t get it, because there were lots of commercials, you had to watch your shows on a schedule (no TiVo for this little Luddite of mine), and it was really expensive. But here I am! I totally hate Two and a Half Men and I love watching Modern Family on Hulu! And now the difference between people who watch TV online and the suckers who watch it on the telly is going to be like the difference between people who shop at Target and those who shop at Walmart. (Yeah, not really there, but still a good way to draw a pretentious line between you and “those people”.) 
Looking for creative ways to get back in the black after the holidays? Here are some tips on increasing your cash flow by rearranging your office furniture from the ladies at my favorite financial advice site, LearnVest. That’s right: feng shui can make you rich. And yes, I will implement some of the steps. Boyfriend already has an OSU banner hanging in our office, and I will let it stay there without protest because it’s red and therefore lucky. Boom. 
Five women who are too cool for any man you know. And the men know it, too. And a slideshow of female boxers who could kick their asses. In pink sequins. 
From WSJ
Holy dream house, Batman! So the WSJ is asking Scene Asia readers to choose between a mansion-hut on the beaches of a sparsely populated (but soon to be rampant with rich people) island in Thailand, a mansion-cabin in the mountains of Japan, and a magnificent “two houses in one” in Hong Kong. Personally, I was torn. I’ve always imagined myself and a dozen of my closest millionaire girlfriends lounging on the edge of my infinity pool beside the ocean on a private island in Thailand, but I love Hong Kong and not even sharp, modern edges can push me away. Besides, all that black and white would just match my clothes. Wait, I’d probably have to get new clothes. 
Shut. Up. This USB shot glass comes with it’s own Power Hour playlist of sixty short songs written by graphic designer by day, musician at night Ali Spagnola. A CMU alumna, she’s positioning the device, which comes on a lanyard, as the “fanny pack of shot glasses.” I’d like to get one because I imagine it’d be a great way to foster closeness between me and my work friends.

Zardoz: Why Sean Connery is wearing a red diaper

My friends and I have started a weird movie night series. The inaugural film was Sean Connery’s 1974 scifi? weirdness Zardoz.
I don’t recommend this movie, especially not if your sober and definitely not if you’re alone. We made it through because we were bound together by friendship, respect, and a shared inertia. Also the host provided chips and salsa and I will never leave while there’s still salsa.
It wanted to be profound, but the outdated special effects and the wardrobe choices were very distracting. Everyone who wasn’t a hairy, well-muscled man in a red loincloth (think 300 but when body hair was cool) was wearing crocheted tops and floral pants of the variety expats wear on the beach in Thailand when they don’t expect to run into anyone from back home.
This was easily the strangest movie I’d seen, but as it turned out, the plot rested on a pretty mundane observation about human life. If you’re interested in weirding out friends and family, you can get it from Netflix.
What’s the weirdest movie you’ve ever seen? When did you watch it? Would you recommend it to anyone else?

Crochet like a boss

I enjoy crocheting because it’s relaxing, productive, and I work myself into a hypnotic state watching the hook slide between the loops as it makes tiny knots in the yarn. This lack of conciousness is achieved in stages and comes in waves:

  • Stage 1: Boyfriend tries to interest me in Seinfeld reruns, the hole in his sock, and his score in the frisbee golf game he played three weeks ago as I try to count stitches in my chain. I huff and puff and leave the room, chain curled up like a Slinky, after the third time I’ve lost count.
  • Stage 2: Settling into the silence around me, I start over, working a long chain that is straight enough to use. With the first row, my eyes adjust to the subtle ridges in the yarn, but my fingers could proceed without my looking. 
  • Stage 3: I work myself into a stupor watching the knots increase and seeing my piece evolve toward its final form. I am no longer myself pulling yarn with a hook: I am Fate, weaving the course of human lives.
  • Stage 4: Rows deep, I regain consciousness long enough to realize that my “blanket” looks like the base of an equilateral “triangle.” Goddammitalltoeffinghell. Pull out everything and start again. 
I think someone like me has a lot to learn from a craft like crocheting. First, there’s the way I learned it. My mom tried to teach me how to chain stitch years ago, but I was so impatient and easily frustrated that I never moved beyond that. After college, I attempted a few ambitious projects, but they were well beyond my skill level: the tote bag I wanted to make turned out like a top hat and the baby blanket morphed into a giant afghan. Then two years ago, I was in between jobs and had a lot of free time. Infinity scarves were popular and I watched a tutorial on how to make one. It seemed really easy. I bought some beautiful cranberry-colored wool yarn and got to work.

Fred the Head is styling in my cranberry scarf.
It took me a couple of days to make that first scarf, but that seemed like a really short investment of time for such a cool return. I had a thing! A thing I made and could wear! I had become a producer, not just a consumer. After that, I made a few more scarves as Christmas gifts for friends and family. I told myself I was going to crochet all the time and learn how to make even cooler things.
But then I got a job and got busy and the last couple of skeins I bought sat in a pretty bag on my closet floor. I felt guilty and wasteful for investing time and money in yet another hobby that I wasn’t commited to. Except when this Christmas came, I got all excited about the chance to make gifts again for the special people in my life. I made even more gifts this year than I had last year, and I tried new scarf patterns and made my first throw blanket. 
Apparently, I roll like a septuagenarian bag lady.

That was a learning experience for me. There are so many things I think I have to commit to on a daily basis and I get really down on myself when I don’t meet that bar. But with crocheting, I have slowly improved over the years without ever making it a chore. I think cooking would have a similar learning curve for me, except even when I don’t feel like trying something new and fancy, I still have to find a way to feed myself. 

Furthermore, crocheting requires the patience I don’t usually have. I definitely like patterns where you can fudge the stitch count, like that first infinity scarf, but no matter what you’re making, if you start to skip stitches or add too many, your piece is going to change sizes. And if that’s not the intention, it’s just going to look warped. I always want to gloss over my past errors, call them learning experiences, and move on. But in crochet, you don’t get to make a mistake and ignore it, even if it’s your first time. I’ve learned that if something is off, I had better stop and pull out my stitches right away. Many times I’ve tried to ignore some miscount only to realize that three rows later, my piece is becoming something else entirely. In crocheting, the ends and the means are the same and there are no shortcuts. For me, it requires a lot of self-discipline to just get it right. And if I make a mistake and have to start over, it doesn’t do me any good to be annoyed or frustrated. I am learning patience, perseverance, and integrity: there are no short cuts to doing it the right way. 
Crocheting can also be badass. I broke a hook making my first blanket, I’m so hard (or my stitches were too tight) (or my hook was too cheap).

I will break you.

What’s your favorite creative hobby? What have you learned from doing it? Share links to any posts or pictures below!

The best day in the life of me

I have been participating with a couple hundred other women in this awesome program called the The Reinvention Project. It was launched by the very enthusiastic Paige Lysaight of Virginia Health Coaching. She enlisted a handful of remarkable women as guest lecturers including CenterStageWellness.com‘s Stacy Spensley, TheFresh20.com‘s Melissa Lanz, and my personal favorite, Sarah Von, blogger exceptionelle at yesandyes.org.
All the talks have so far been both encouraging and challenging. Listening to motivated, successful women talk about about how they made brave changes and worked hard to get where they are today is like coffee for my soul.
My favorite talk so far has been the interview with Sarah on creating your dream life. She managed to convert her experiences traveling and working into a very cool career as a full-time blogger and generally creative person. I can’t say that I want to be her (because that is not only creepy but also I’ve loved the road that brought me to where I am today, which happens to be a lovely place), but it’s nice having a positive example like her laying just on the outskirts of my daily existence.

Thanks jsorbieus!
Every lecture comes with a couple of exercises to help us focus on taking small steps toward positive change. For Sarah’s lecture, I had to think about what my perfect day would look like as a step toward imagining a perfect life. Here’s what I came up with: 
I wake up from my firm cot where I sleep in my hut on the beach. It’s barely dawn as I walk down to the ocean for a quick skinny dip with my English bulldog, Pixie, by my side. Once the sun has risen, I wrap myself in a silky sarong and walk back to the hut where Dang, my Thai houseboy, has poured me a steamy cup of coffee. I sip it while reading books on Chinese anthropology. Dang rubs my shoulders while my banana pancakes sizzle in the pan. The smell of breakfast cooking rouses my sleepy pony, Stormy, who peeks her head in my kitchen window in search of her breakfast apples.

Thanks texascooking!


After breakfast, Pixie and Stormy lounge in the grass by the porch, where I’m typing from my perch on an overstuffed chair. I’m working on my journal-memoir detailing my latest fling with Jake Gyllenhaal/Ryan Gosling/Jason Statham/Seal (now that’s he available), the third in a series that has been selling remarkably well. Before you know it, it’s time for my Chinese lesson.  My tutor, Taiwanese superstar Wang Lee Hom, arrives with worksheets and a basket of fresh tropical fruit. After an hour session, we break for a lunch of sashimi and nachos.

Exhausted by the morning’s exertions, Pixie and I cuddle up for a quick afternoon nap. When I wake up, the hottest part of the day is over. I get dressed and slide a saddle on Stormy. We take off into the forest, leaving Pixie barking and whining in our wake. We’re on our way to the waterfall where the baby deer come to drink at 4 p.m. I take pictures and post them to my Facebook album “Cutest ever baby deers!!!” When I get back, Dang’s left for the night, but there’s a pot of curry still warm on the stove. I fix myself a bowl and sit down to watch the channel that only plays Misfits, Skins and other quality British programming.

Thanks cheesy42!



My agent comes over after dinner with a couple bottles of wine. We watch French movies and drink wine in the hot tub until she leaves at a time that is neither too early, leaving me feeling disappointed, or too late, leaving me feeling resentful. I lay in bed and look at the stars through the skylight until I fall asleep with Pixie at my feet.


Now that I’ve visualized my perfect day, I can start taking small steps toward making my dreams a reality. I’ll start by budgeting for domestic help. What does your perfect day look like?

Book fast

Late in 2011, I decided that I wasn’t going to buy any books or clothes in 2012. I didn’t make that decision because I hate learning or looking good, but because I am in debt and and books and clothes are my biggest indulgences.

Thanks nSeika!

“But reading opens up new worlds! Knowledge is power! Are you a fireman?”

No. And for the record, “not buying books” is not the same thing as “not reading.” I probably own a hundred books that I haven’t read as of this moment, the take from my early 2011 binges when I was settling down to life in the U.S. and enjoying my first paychecks after a long drought. Between the nearby Green Valley Bookfair, the local library’s annual book sale, and my habit of buying things on Amazon.com as a way to kill time, I filled up two big shelving units in a very short time.

Oh, and I got a Nook for my birthday.

I’ve observed over the years my tendency to indulge every interest of mine with a book purchase. I do love to study Chinese, but beyond the one or two texts I occasionally work on,  I have a pretty solid collection of Chinese textbooks that I rarely use. I also have books that I haven’t read on learning French, art history, symbolic logic, linguistics, homosexuality in the Philippines, and St. Teresa of Avila. At some point, I decided that owning a book on a subject was just as good as actually learning about it.

Not buying books is my horsehair shirt this year. I want to read the books I have and concentrate on learning about the subjects that genuinely interest me. I probably have enough books to last me the year, but I’ve also tried to think of it as an opportunity to read books I might not have read by borrowing from friends or going to the library. I will say, however, that I was pretty disappointed in the local library’s selection last time I went.

Most popular search: Large-print books
Most popular book: The Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Most popular author: James Patterson

And it seemed like for every book on the shelf, there was another book offering Jesus’ perspective on the same subject. I couldn’t find any of the anthro books I was looking for and not much even caught my eye. I was surprised because I bought a brown bag brimming over with books  (for only $5!) last time they had a book sale, but maybe I already bought everything I wanted. I may just be sniffing up the wrong tree, however, as a lot of peers recommend the local university library.

A little corner of heaven…thanks Oyvind Solstad

Right now, I just nerded out over Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia and I’m in the middle of both Chinese Femininities, Chinese Masculinities and Women in Taiwan: Sociocultural Perspectives. What are you reading?

Work pho: The journey and the destination

I love to cook, but since I love to do about a dozen different things, I don’t always have time to prepare a meal at home. And if I don’t cook at home, I am without leftovers for lunch. It’s long been a mission of mine to find a way to have my most favorite meals at work.
Also, I am picky. Some foods just don’t microwave well, like delicious sautéed greens, so I don’t take them for lunch. I don’t like microwaveable meals on principle, unless it’s Indian food. I love all kinds of Asian food: Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, you name it. So for the past few months, I’ve been questing after something that I could easily make at work that would be satisfying enough to keep me from ordering out.
My journey began with with instant Ramen and frozen vegetables. This isn’t a bad meal in a pinch. Here’s my favorite way to prepare it:
  1. Cook the noodles and a handful of frozen veggies in a bowl of water in the microwave.
  2. Drain most but not all of the water and toss the noodles and veggies with the packet of Ramen seasoning.

Obviously, this is incredibly cheap and easy, and if you have a freezer at work, you’re all set. You can even add some protein like hotdogs or tempeh. I also keep soy sauce and Sriracha so I can make a salty, spicy mess of anything.
Thanks rovingl!

As you can imagine, though, grown-ups with full-time jobs get sick of eating instant noodles more than a few times a week. And I also found out that other grown-ups who also love cooking will make fun of you for eating instant noodles doused in salt.

I looked into making different styles of noodle soups and learned that the magical components were merely broth, noodles and whatever else I wanted to put in it. I wasn’t sure if cooking the noodles in a microwave was feasible, but then I realized I could use rice noodles or mung bean vermicelli. These kinds of thin noodles shouldn’t actually be boiled in water the way spaghetti noodles are prepared. They only need to be soaked in very hot water for a few minutes. I experimented and found out I could cook them in the microwave for two or three minutes and get edible results.

After a recent trip to the Asian grocery store, I had everything I needed to make a passable pho at work. And in a stroke of good luck, I forgot to bring the broth that I had left over from making white cut-chicken (白斬雞) the night before. I was going to replace it at lunchtime with some chicken broth from the co-op, but I ended up getting a quart of pho soup base. On sale. How perfect!

Now I present to you:

Office Pho
Ingredients

  • 2-3 cups of pho soup base or any kind of broth (water will do if you keep soy sauce or other condiments handy)
  • a handful of mung bean vermicelli or rice noodles (the thinner the noodles, the faster they cook)
  • fresh Thai basil, scallions, mung bean sprouts, cilantro, lime, hot peppers or anything else you like
  • a few slices of the protein of your choice, if you like
Directions
  1. Pour the soup base, broth, or water into a microwave-safe bowl. Partially submerge the noodles without breaking them. 
  2. Cook the broth and noodles on high for about a minute. Stop and stir them to get more of the noodles submerged into the broth.
  3. Add your protein if you have any and cook the soup for another minute. Stop and check the noodles. If they are still too firm to eat, put them back in for a third minute.
  4. Carefully take out your soup and top with Thai basil leaves, cilantro, scallions, mung bean sprouts, hot peppers, and a lime wedge. I also douse mine with some bonito-flavored soy sauce (much more office-friendly than fish sauce) and Sriracha. 
Ta-da!
Work pho: make some for your friends!

10 things I love about Taiwan

I lived in Taiwan for five years as an English teacher and was well in love with the island when I left. Here’s a list of my favorite everyday items and experiences from Taiwan:

1. Beaches and mountains

Taiwan precariously straddles two fault lines in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The earthquakes that regularly rock the island are responsible for the jagged mountain ridges in the middle and along the east coast, which is breathtakingly beautiful in its severity. The infamous Highway 11 curves along the outermost edge of the island, hugging the cliffs on one side and plunging to the ocean on the other. Taroko Gorge in Hualien, despite the tour buses and winding roads, is easily the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Stopping to admire the view, I would be speechless, my eyes too small to take in all that beauty at one time. The nicest beaches are in the south, which is considerably warmer. If you’re a nature buff, there’s no end of things to do in Taiwan. 
Thanks B-Cool!
2. Pearl green milk tea 
Milk tea stands are ubiquitous in Taiwan, so finding my favorite pearl green milk tea was no trouble. A decent cup is less than US$1 and the sweet, chewy tapioca balls can substitute for lunch. 
Thanks Gandalfar!
3. My scooter
When I first moved to Taiwan, the scooters zipping around like legions of flying monkeys were so terrifying that I vowed never to ride one. That is, until I did. As soon as I felt like I was part of the urban jungle instead of an imminent victim of it, I was hooked. Scooters are tiny, fast, and they use very little gas. You can park them on sidewalks or drive them the wrong way down one-way streets. A quick trip that would seem like a hassle in a lumbering car is quick, easy, and fun on a scooter. I carried groceries, moved to new houses, and drove around the island on mine, imagining myself as either a centaur or a velociraptor dodging brontosaurus buses.
My scooter parked at the Tropic of Cancer marker on the east coast of Taiwan

4. My students

I miss hugs and secrets and smiles and crayon pictures and twenty pairs of eyes that look at me like I know everything. I miss watching them grow from timid new students who have never been far from their mothers’ hips to bold little boys and girls who want to take on the world. Teaching wasn’t a career for me, but I’d take another day with my students any time. 
5. Bars that close at 4 a.m…or later
Thirsty teachers spent a lot of time in bars, but I don’t drink as much or as often as I did anymore. I can chalk that up to getting older and outgrowing the drunken party girl phase that starts in college and lasts til the onset of exhaustion or wisdom or to the fact that there just ain’t no party like a Taiwan party in my little town in the Valley.  Nights out with friends in Taiwan could last for twelve hours, from dinner to breakfast, and whatever happened in between was the stuff of urban legend. By 2 a.m., when the bars are already closed in the U.S., the bartenders at my local in Taiwan might have been as drunk as the customers. And if there were still people hanging from the railing on the ceiling at 4 a.m., the doors wouldn’t close until we left. It just doesn’t seem like much of a party when everyone  is still wearing all their clothes and shoes at the end of the night. (I would like to point out that we lived within walking distance of the bars in our town and also that taxis were very cheap, which is not the case here.)
6. Breakfast shops
If you left the bar at dawn, that was the perfect time to get breakfast. It seemed like there was a shop on every corner serving up danbing (egg wraps), sandwiches, steamed buns, turnip cake, chicken fingers, noodles, and hash browns. Best of all, you could get a danbing made to order and cup of warm soy milk or terrible instant coffee for about a dollar. A really decent spread wouldn’t cost more than three dollars. There’s no debate about making breakfast at home to save time or money because breakfast shops have efficiency down to an art. 
7. Street food, especially barbecue 
I love a greasy spoon after a night out at the bar, so it took some getting used to the teppanyaki restaurants and street vendor fare that people in Taiwan eat when they’ve been drinking. But scallions wrapped in pork and seasoned with the spicy local barbecue sauce is suprisingly easy to get used to. And then get addicted to. My favorite memories of Taiwan pretty consistently involve some kind of food on a stick. 
Thanks kodomut!
8. Night markets 
I miss night markets in large part because I miss street food, but even my favorite vendor on the corner can’t substitute for the rush of human flesh and activity that is an Asian night market. Vendors pedaling hermit crabs, snacks, clothes, sex toys, pirated DVDs and CDs, hamsters, shoes, Ferrari-wear, scented oil, linens, and cheap baubles line narrow alleys and pedestrians ebb and flow like a river. I almost never buy anything at night markets besides food and milk tea, but I love letting myself get caught up in the crowds. 
9. Subsidized healthcare and cheap contacts
It might be un-American of me, but I took great comfort in knowing that a visit to the doctor would cost  a consistent US$3 and that a few days worth of medicine would be about the same. The crowded waiting rooms and the sometimes-crowded examining rooms took some getting used to, but for $3, I was willing to let other people watch the doctor stick a tongue compresser in my mouth. Also, contacts were cheap and easy to get there. As in I could walk into the equivalent of LensCrafters, tell them my prescription, and get a few boxes of what I needed. The whole transaction took just a few moments and cost me half of what I have to pay in the States for the same lenses. And while I’m grateful that I even have health insurance in the U.S., the hoops I had to jump through last time I tried to buy a box of contacts online have me thinking I should just stick to glasses. 
10. Green Oil
I still dab this stuff on my nostrils when I’m feeling sleepy or I have a stuffy nose, but now I rely on friends to send it to me. The sensation is similar to using Vick’s VapoRub, but Green Oil smells amazing. It’s made from wintergreen oil, menthol oil, camphor, eucalyptus, and clove oil. And it’s not just for nostrils: You can rub it anywhere you have muscle pain (like you would do with Icy Hot), on your temples if you have a headache or are experiencing motion sickness, or put it on mosquito bites to relieve the itching.

I’m working toward taking a trip back so I can relive my highlight reel. What’s do you miss most about any of the places you’ve been?