One Day in Taipei

Jet lag be damned!  With only one day off, I needed to make it count.  So, I set out on Sunday to explore Taipei and found a delightful city filled with temples, art, shopping, easy transportation and friendly folks.  What’s not to like?

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I always love to just walk a city to get a feel for the people and culture.  Taipei 101 is THE building in downtown so off I went to get a view of this famous building.  Along the way,  many shops had opened and the shoppers were out in force.  As in many China cities, there are little clothing boutiques and drugstores (no OTC meds just beauty items) everywhere along with the high-end luxury brands like Gucci, etc.

I was first struck by several differences between Taipei and Shanghai, where I lived a few years ago:  drivers of cars and scooters seemed to actually obey traffic signals and stay on the roads vs. driving on the sidewalks as they often did in Shanghai.  Crazy! I felt a little safer in Taipei though I still was cautious crossing streets.  The streets were clean yet I didn’t see the street sweepers that you would on mainland China who cleaned up after everybody.  I’m thinking the Taiwan citizens seem to be very tidy and I’ve yet to see the many smokers or public spitting/urinating that I got used to after living in China.  Not knocking my former home in Shanghai because it was awesome but the differences were noticeable.

After seeing Taipei 101 in the distance and it is a lovely unique skyscraper, I jumped on the blue line subway and off I went to Longshan Temple.  The subway was clean, staffed and signed in English.  For less than 50 cents, I arrived across town and walked through a lovely park where groups of men were playing games and socializing, very similar to Shanghai life on a Sunday.  Packed with locals burning incense and praying at the Temple, I was one of the few Laowai’s enjoying the experience.

A fellow traveler from Warsaw, Poland was nice enough to snap my pic at the koi pond, where a cat stalked from the roof above.  I love meeting new people on my adventures.  On the subway, a mature lady smiled as I sat next to her and, though not an English-speaker, she gestured at my map and seemed excited when I got off at the Temple stop.  Another lovely gal in the subway was toting her pup in a front-facing backpack.  I need to get one of these for Thor!  He would love to be carried around to see the sights.

After taking in the Temple, I was off on the subway again-first the blue line, then transferring to the red line and finally taking a cab the rest of the way to the National Palace Museum which was on the outskirts of Taipei by the mountains.  Tour groups of China tourists dominated the galleries where for only about $12.50 US, you can view three floors of treasures from jewelry to vases to calligraphy, all ancient and beautiful.  The only gallery not packed with people was the Tibet exhibit.  Hmmm…  Every item was behind glass to protect from the hordes taking it all in.

The jet lag finally kicking in, I jumped in a cab to get to the red line, then the green line and arrived back at the Westin ready for room service and a good night’s sleep.  Wish I had more time in Taiwan to explore-a vacation with Thom is definitely now a necessity!  Monday we start meetings and then off to Hong Kong on Tuesday-the journey is just beginning!

 

Getting Old Sucks (not me, of course, I haven’t had a bday for years!)

As I do NOT celebrate another birthday this week, I am surrounded by signs that everyone around me IS getting older and my body is starting to betray me.  WTF!  Dr. Ken was kind enough to work me into his rotation today after I procrastinated months to visit after suffering with shoulder pain.  Dr. K. informed me that, despite overall crazy good health, I probably had a “frozen” shoulder from taking a shove from the well-meaning dog who was jostling for premium positioning on my lap–my 60 pound lap dog that he thinks he is.  Now, in most people’s minds, especially children, “frozen” is cool and popular in the movie sense.  Not so much when that “frozen” settles in your shoulder restricting most movement and requiring assistance, Thank You Thom!, for clothing changes as needed.  What do people do who don’t have lovely partners to assist when the tough times hit?  I can’t even imagine that type of life and hope it never happens to me.  Scary and sad!

Bum shoulder=wine or Aleve but not both
Bum shoulder=wine or Aleve but not both

So, off to the Ortho Dude I go!  Thousands of dollars later despite having insurance, I will probably go through the MRI machine and get some cortisone shots as well.  Now, this also could well be the Curse of the Frozen Shoulder and Izaak was just a pawn in the bigger mystery of the universe.  See, my sis also had frozen shoulder(s) when she was my age, not that I age, so is this just coincidence or a family genetic curse???  Who knows but it hurts like hell and now wine or Aleve are my go-to’s for support to get through a happy day.  However, as the optimistic Dr. K. pronounced, “It could be worse!” So, living up to my motto from way back, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (shout out to Kelly Clarkson who sings it so well!), I will take my pain and put that happy face on it for as long as it takes to heal…WebMD says could take a year.  Blah!  Need to buy stock in Aleve and purchase my own winery I’m thinking.  Hmmm……

Just like the shirt says
Just like the shirt says “Happiness Rocks”

In the meantime, we enjoyed some awesome rock last night as KEXP sponsored a lovely evening of music played off the roof of Pike Place Market and featuring iconic artists:  Mike McCready, Duff McKagan (both from Pearl Jam), Barrett Martin and Mark Arm just banging it out with thousands crowding Pike Place Market on a lovely August evening.  Rock on!

We’re also gearing up for the kids (Baby Mia!) to come and visit us in Seattle over Labor Day–Children’s Museum, Aquarium and playground time galore.  Then, it’s off to Amsterdam for a week of urban fun on our fall vacation.  I foresee lots of biking and lovely photos to share with everyone.  When I tell folks where we are going on vacation, it seems like EVERYONE BUT US has already been to Amsterdam.  Time to catch up with the masses who all love it there.

A few days after we get back, my best friend Patti comes to visit with her husband Larry and we will show them all around our hometown as well as take the train to Vancouver for the weekend.  In addition to a burlesque show at our new favorite club, The Triple Door, we’ll just have to Ride the Ducks with them….SO FUN!  We do like to have fun wherever we go.  Damn, life is good even with a bum shoulder!

My Love Affair with Lower Queen Anne

Today Thom and I walked the pups, Thor and Izaak, under the Space Needle and past the Seattle Center Fountain, then I went on a quick grocery run, ambled over to Palm Sunday services at First Methodist and that was all before noon and all in Lower Queen Anne, the wonderful place I call home now.  Yep, I’m definitely in love.

Thor loves walking around Seattle Center every day
Thor loves walking around Seattle Center every day

When we moved back to Seattle from Shanghai, we considered living closer to my work across the Great Divide-Lake Washington-so that I could reduce my one hour (at least) commute in clusterf*#k Seattle traffic. Giving up the rental car after our 30 days upon repatriating was an easy decision after the infamous $410 traffic ticket I got after accidentally crossing a solid white line while merging into lanes. I vowed then to stop the commuting madness and either live closer to work or take the Connector work bus and leave the liability to someone else. Even thinking about NOT living in an urban environment was crazy. What was I thinking??? Thank God we realized we are city people now and forever and chose to live in our old neighborhood, Lower Queen Anne, hereafter referred to as LQA to lessen my word count.

Even better than our last spot, the condo we were lucky enough to get is right in the heart of the LQA action and Seattle Center is truly our backyard, being only one block away. The dogs are so happy going on their multiple walks around Key Arena with Izaak able to stalk squirrels aplenty. Fascinating study in animal memory behavior because, while Izaak always remembers exactly where he has seen squirrels on past walks, he seemingly can’t recall the millions of “NO’s” we yell at him when he eats the trash in the bathroom. This bad behavior has caused us to now keep the trash can in the shower when not in use to keep it safe, which didn’t work well when I forgot it was there, turned it on and ended up with a very watery trashy mess. IZAAK!!! NO!!!!

But back to LQA, as I sit on my red Ikea loveseat hauled all the way back from Shanghai, instead of gazing upon the Huangpu River which I do miss greatly, I gaze down the Avenue at the busy Starbucks, which opens at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m. and the Mediterranean Inn above it. A few weeks ago we had company over and while Skyping with baby Mia, I glanced over at the Inn and saw a pole extend slowly out of one of the hotel windows, at least 16 feet or so long with duct tape holding several pieces together and a small bale of hay hooked on the end. WTF????  Where do you even buy straw in LQA?   The pole dangled over to the rooftop adjacent to the Inn and shook, dropping the load into the alleyway and missing the rooftop. WHY???

Two more times it came poking out, both times dropping it’s straw load but these times, dropping it’s load onto the roof. Curious, we ran across the street to examine the alleyway only to see straw bundled with cord and nothing more. We’ll never know who, what, when or why this mysterious prank happened but it was fun to watch it unfold. Think you could see something like this in suburbia? I don’t think so and so, for us, the adventure continues in urban Seattle after our wonderful journey in Shanghai, China.

Walking by the water and seeing the sea lions play is so fun!
Walking by the water and seeing the sea lions play is so fun!

So, with five months into my new job and settling down a little, I’ll start writing again, we’ll enjoy going to the Uptown Cinema and seeing cool, happening documentaries and shop for vinyl records at Pike Place Market, a long walk but close enough. I’ll cherish the charming used book store, clothing boutique, nail parlors galore and Mud Bay Pet Shop, where Izaak can get free treats from the doting team members–all within blocks of our hip, urban nest that I hope to get to enjoy for a long, long time.  LQA, I’m loving you.

Bring on the dragons and vinyl-an urban weekend in Seattle!

Chinese New Year and TET Celebrations in Seattle collided this weekend with far less pollution and far fewer people than last year’s adventure in Shanghai and Hanoi.  While it was awesome to be in a crowd again while visiting the International District, I missed the craziness of the scooters in Hanoi during TET.   I did find my favorite Taiwanese crackers at the Uwajimaya Supermarket and sampled some egg tarts-always tasty but the crust seemed so heavy after the light airy layers of pastry goodness found at the KFC’s in China.  Warm buttery heaven egg custard deliciousness in my hand…ahhhh…I miss it so.

We celebrated CNY and TET with dragons and performances and food
We celebrated CNY and TET with dragons and performances and food

To get everywhere we needed to go, we took advantage of multiple transportation options since we don’t have a car here in Seattle (Enjoy our Kia, little Mia!).  For lunch on Friday with David Axelrod giving a talk at my work, we booked a Zipcar and enjoyed hearing all about David’s journey working with Obama.  His book looks like a winner and I can’t wait to read it.  Thom, hurry up and read, read, read or I’m stealing it.  SERIOUSLY.

I got to ask David the inevitable question–How does HIllary win in 2016?  He felt she got beat by Obama because she was too confident going into the Primaries thinking she was destined to win without too much effort and also she wasn’t as authentic as Obama when campaigning.  This time around, hopefully she will be herself and make history as the first woman President.  I’m here to help her in any way I can.  Go Hillary!

David Axelrod signing his book for me,  Very smart and funny guy.
David Axelrod signing his book for me, Very smart and funny guy.

On Saturday, Thom and I jumped on the Metro Bus first, walked ALOT to get to the International District and then found another bus to go to the SoDo district to explore highly rated Silver Platters for our first vinyl purchases (at least in the last 20 years).  What goes around, comes around and the cool hipster thing to do now is to use the cloud for your music on the go but go retro and use vinyl records at home for a leisurely music experience.  Well, this year Thom got spoiled rotten with a turntable and speaker for his birthday.

New hobby!  After wandering the streets by the stadiums to find a Car2Go, we finally found one after exploring some cool home stores (handmade desks for only $1800.00-what a steal) and finding the main Macrina bakery–it was a high carb day for sure!  Can you say half price day old potato rolls???  We really just went in to use their bathroom after being locked out of the Starbucks facilities in the International District.  Upon asking for the key to the Starbucks ladies room, I was informed that the store had “closed the bathroom for the day”… at 2 p.m.  WTF!!!  Even paying customers were s%#t out of luck, literally.  I get that on a busy day with the CNY festivities that they might not want to clean up hourly but that’s just basic customer service 101.  Shame on them.  Luckily for us, Macrina was awesome–bathrooms AND bakery products.  Win-Win.

Thom's new obsession-Vinyl!  He got the complete package for his birthday.
Thom’s new obsession-Vinyl! He got the complete package for his birthday.

Sunny beautiful skies welcomed us outside to walk the dogs around Seattle Center.  Back home, we found a table at CostPlus World Market that would hold our new turntable and Bose speakers, so we hopped into the closest Prius Zipcar and off we went.  You have to rent it for at least a hour so we grabbed the table and raced to catch the sunset from Kinnear Park that overlooks the city.  Scores of tourists from France and a wedding party were also enjoying the city lights.  Gorgeous!  A must see for tourists and city residents alike.

Sunday dawned a new day and I had to get a start on the week with LOTS of work to do starting at 6 a.m. and continuing pretty much all day.  Why must I be one of “those people” who feel a need to work hard to be the best.  Shame on me. But I’m lucky to have a great career that allows me to take care of my family so work I will.  On Friday, I leave for a journey to the Midwest where I hope to combine work with a visit to see Mom and Becky, snowy roads not withstanding, next weekend.  If thwarted by crappy weather, at least I will get to see my best friend and sister from another mother,  Patti, in Indy and will wind up somehow in Detroit on Monday to work for a week.   Oh boy–Detroit in the middle of winter–what fun.  NOT.  At least my busy weekend was capped off with another incredible sunset-it never gets old and I will be dreaming of returning to it (and Thom and the puppies) as I toil away in Motown.

Another outstanding sunset caps off a busy weekend
Another outstanding sunset caps off a busy weekend

But where are the dancing ladies?

Walking with my Thor enjoying the mild weather
Walking with my Thor enjoying the mild weather

Where are the dancing ladies/couples and the families with their tents camping out for a day in the park???  Seattleites, take a cue from the Chinese who know how to have fun in their parks and get to socializing.  Wake up and smell the coffee (preferably Stumptown) and realize that life is short so stop and enjoy this fine, fine weather, aka Global Warming.  Whatever, it’s warm and sunny in February in Seattle.

Enjoying El Nino to the max, Thom and I spent the weekend wandering about and walking around town, usually with the puppies.  Yet, I couldn’t help but compare the park culture here and Shanghai as we traversed downtown Seattle.  In February in Shanghai, if the sun came out with temps way above average, every park would be filled with families socializing, flying kites, dancing, drawing calligraphy on the sidewalks, and celebrating the good fortune of being able to be outside during the winter instead of being shut inside their typically small homes with no heat.  Here, while you do see folks out and about, it’s definitely more of a “get to where I’m going” vibe as people move through the parks  with purpose on their way to something vs. just being in the park with friends & family to enjoy being together.  While we have the dogs as the main reason to walk around, we are also guilty of moving with purpose as well.  On a typical weekend in Shanghai, we would go to Fuxing or Century Park just to soak up the culture, always seeing interesting people enjoying the outdoors.  I miss it.  Lots.   Don’t miss the foul pollution though.   Wearing masks are no fun and neither is chronic bronchitis.

So, we enjoyed the sermon today from Rev. Moe-so relevant with social media references to “liking” comments on Facebook and tying in the scripture with a movie quote from one of my fav movies, You’ve Got Mail–encouraging parishioners to ” Go to the mattress” from The Godfather to parallel Jesus telling the disciples not to give up in their religious journey.  Funny.  After meeting Cowboy, the dog who enjoys church services with his owner, we ran home to get the pups and take them to the dog park near our home.  Izaak used to go there all the time but Thor is new to the dog park culture and doesn’t quite get it, though he made a friend and started to learn to chase the tennis ball he couldn’t quite fit in his mouth.

Puppy cuddles during nap time
Puppy cuddles during nap time

After all that fresh air and sunshine (sorry friends in the Midwest/Northwest enduring snowpocalypse), it was nap time.  Izaak threw his long arm over tiny Thor and they spooned together like the Brothers from a Different Mother that they are.  Cuteness x2..seriously.  It’s just like having kids–you take them to the park and run them ragged to wear them out so they will give you some rest when you get home.  Only difference–you can throw them some bones to chew on to get added peace and quiet.  Dog park fun:

At the end of the day, Lord I pray for more wonderful weekends like this to enjoy life as good as it gets.  Thank you, God!

Gorgeous weekend capped off by a spectacular sunset
Gorgeous weekend capped off by a spectacular sunset

Be Kind-Simple Words to Start the Week

I will start my week with today’s sermon theme in my heart and my head–BE KIND.  Simple yet imagine if everyone in the world would remember to be kind to everyone and then proceed to see what happens…politicians out there take note and quit snipping at each other and be kind to one another and work it out.  Get stuff done that helps those who elected you…just saying.  And not just politicians–I’m constantly surprised in the workplace by people who are blatantly unkind to their peers.  HELLO you people who do that, your unkind behavior doesn’t make anyone feel good, including you, or get anything accomplished.  It’s a lose-lose experience for all involved.  So BE KIND this week and hopefully you and everyone you interact with will have a happy and prosperous week.  I hope to!

Speaking of the sermon, we went back to our local First Church today and got to have “Pizza with the Pastor” to get to know more about their church programs.  Sitting in a small conference room, 10 people and the pastor, the diversity of the groups was interesting to say the least.  The church partners to run a homeless shelter for men as well as provide free breakfasts on Sunday to about 300 people every week.  I’m looking forward to volunteering and helping in any way I can as I truly believe there is no better way to help others than providing food and shelter.  In our group were two of the homeless men who used the shelter.  Hearing their backgrounds and touching on their issues, I was able to get a glimpse into the struggles they faced daily.  As one guy nodded off after eating some pizza and enjoying the warm surroundings, we continued to share our religious paths, with Thom always drawing smiles with his Catholic upbringing stories.  Also getting smiles are the puppies in the pews as our church is “pro pet” and dogs are welcome to attend with their owners.  No one has complained yet so Pastor is going with it until someone does.  I noticed Cowboy, the white cutie in the next pew, really had his tail wagging when we were singing hymns.  So Seattle!  Unfortunately, Izaak and Thor aren’t quite so well behaved so they won’t be attending services anytime soon but we may throw caution to the wind and let them attend the Blessing of the Pets coming up soon…stay tuned for stories on that adventure.

My backyard
My backyard

As far as the rest of my lazy weekend, I got to spend some quality time with the “boys” who need constant walking in our backyard, the Seattle Center.  We love the lights at night, the fountain spouting to music and the vitality of this gem of a park for Seattlites to enjoy.  Blessed we are to live so near to enjoy it daily.

Walking Izaak in the rain to his favorite lawn area by the fountains to do his business, I suddenly reached for the baggies and realized Thom had used the last one the previous night.  Oops….now most people would just forget about it but we actually went back a little later on the next walk and hunted down his business so we could pick it up.  Wish everyone was as conscientious!

On the walk home looking at the debris left over from a busy Saturday night of partying, I think I may have to get one of those metal handheld picker-uppers to keep the streets clean in my neighborhood.  I’m kind of OCD (no laughing please) and can’t stand seeing dirty streets and, unlike China, there are no street sweepers on every block to maintain the appearance.  I do miss many other aspects of Chinese life.  So, maybe I’ll start a trend by pitching in to keep our streets looking good. Think anyone will help me???

Talking with families, friends and going to the gym rounded out a truly relaxing weekend capped off with watching the Grammy’s–who else always loves the unique pairings of music icons that you just don’t see anywhere else??  Hoping this year is no different and we see some truly spectacular performances.  Here’s also hoping that Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj used LOTS of tape on those “cleavage cut to their navel” dresses they have on or there will be nipples galore at the Grammys!  No. Thank. You.

Fashion Challenge Ends So Let The Shopping Begin!

Polka dots galore!
Polka dots galore!

If that Banana Republic package filled with 50% off bargains doesn’t show up until next week, then I will have done a decent job not buying any more clothes in January for my challenge.  Damn those seductive emails tempting me with great deals!

Go Seahawks!
Go Seahawks!

How can one resist??  Having gone through 30 days and not worn all the clothes in my closet is a wake up call.  First, I have too many clothes.  Not too many shoes, of course, because there is no limit to how many shoes a person should have in my world at least.  Second, my daughter needs to come and visit me soon to edit my wardrobe and take some outfits home to Boise with her so I can shop again.  It’s all about sustainability and recycling–I’m so “green” I could be Kermit.  Come see me Hannah and, oh, bring along Mia too!!!  Nai Nai needs some Mia time.

This week was all about Super Bowl prep and so I broke my fashion rule not to wear football jerseys to work.   Yes, I caved to peer pressure.  Sue me!   Friday was the company tailgate party complete with Seahawk face painting, fried chicken/potato salad and 12th man dress up contests so, in order to retain my employment, I bit the bullet and wore my China version of Wilson’s jersey to fit in.  I even decorated my boss’s office with Seahawks themed party goods–it looked like a green and blue acid trip.  She loved it!  Score points for me!

Travelling woman-all you need is a scarf and necklace and pretty overnight bag!
Travelling woman-all you need is a scarf and necklace and pretty overnight bag!

 

 

I also got to travel to Dallas and enjoy 80 degree sunny weather (for the few minutes I wasn’t working inside a stuffy conference room).  Not that I would ever live in Texas but, hey, at least it’s not cold and rainy.  Not that I don’t love you Seattle but the winter here is gloomy.  Working fourteen hour days and travelling calls for my comfy Toms wedges and size 2 black pants-yep, I’m not delusional and totally realize they must have been labeled wrong but it still feels good.  Still, somehow I’ve lost a little weight not living on carbs like I did in China (didn’t have to worry if it was rat or cat if it was a bakery product there–or at least you hoped)– lots of fruits and veggies here in the good old USofA.    I am loving the huge salad bar at work when I actually take a lunch break.  Chopping up all those veggies is too much work at home so I appreciate it being done for me to enjoy.

This weekend it’s all about the Seahawks hopefully showing that the team that has good karma wins because they don’t cheat.  Yes, I’m calling out the Patriots for their lying, cheating and other bad karma-deserving behaviors.  Seattle will pull together as a team, never stop trying and believing in each other and rally around Russell Wilson.  I BELIEVE!  Go Hawks!