What I’m Into: May 2015 Edition

Have you ever noticed that the moments you are most enjoying your life are always the ones that seem to got the fastest? Since the weather warmed up and the world turned green and we had some long weekends to travel life has been pretty enjoyable this month and it’s also flown by. We are about 2 1/2 months from leaving Korea and as excited as I am to go home, I sort of wish I could make time stand still. Life here is comfortable and there is so much unknown ahead.

I am linking up with the lovely Leigh Kramer for this little reflection on what I’ve been into in May.

What I’m Reading:

Since I took two trips this month I had lots of plane/train/waiting room time for reading. I read 8 books so I won’t go into too much detail on each one.

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. This is a YA fantasy trilogy that I devoured. I thought it was great. Highly recommend for those who enjoy slightly lighter fantasies.

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. I’ve never read Rubin’s first book on happiness (The Happiness Project) so I can’t compare it, but this book was only all right for me. It was mostly her making a lot of resolutions which mostly made me feel tired and stressed rather than empowered. Maybe that’s just me.

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. I wrote a full review on this here, but the short version is that I loved it and it’s had a huge impact on me as I look towards moving back to America and thinking about church.

Story Story: How I Found Ways to Make a Difference and Do Work I Love by Kola Olaosebikan. Kola recounts her winding path through the corporate world and then out of it as she searches for meaningful work. I could certainly relate to her winding path and appreciated how she addressed the practical issue of finances, something a lot of “I quit my job!” people never explain. I wish she’d explained more at the end about what she’s doing now, but this was a very quick read that reminded me I’m not alone in what feels like floundering about trying to find meaningful work. (As full disclosure, I was sent this book for free from the author).

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor. To be honest, this one wasn’t my favorite. It just felt a little more rambling than her other books, less focused and less insightful. I did appreciate the idea that darkness isn’t always sinister and that we shouldn’t expend so much energy trying to avoid hard emotions and instead let ourselves feel them.

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan. (Crossed this one off my “sitting on my kindle” list!) I really liked this memoir which is about being in the middle place between being a child and being a parent. Corrigan, a mother of 2, is diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36. As she goes through treatment, she relies heavily on her father who has always made her feel like the most important person in the world. When her father is diagnosed with cancer himself a few months after she is, Corrigan must deal with what it means to move from being the cared-for child to being the caretaker, for her children, for herself, and for her father. It’s a very moving book.

What I’m Watching:

Television we keep up with: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, new season of Community, and New Girl. Still watching The Good Wife, the occasional Friends or Bob’s Burgers and Graceland which just became available on Netflix. We finished Fresh Off the Boat, a big hit for us.

Last night I saw Pitch Perfect 2. The story was pretty generic and I didn’t find it nearly as funny as the first one, but the music was great! I watched two movies on airplanes, Still Alice (really good, but so sad) and Song One (also kind of sad). It was good, but nothing spectacular.

What I’m Eating:

Finally kicked it into gear and have been eating really well (aside from my travels). I started eating these banana pancakes most mornings that are literally just two eggs and a mashed banana. They are surprisingly delightful – they taste like banana french toast with just a slightly chewier texture.

I also tried a lot of Taiwanese and Japanese snack varietals while traveling, mostly with great success.

Follow me on Pinterest for more of what I’m cooking.

On the Internets:

Loved this Open Letter to the Church from Non-Mothers that came out around Mother’s Day.

And this from Sarah Bessey, “Why Not Let a Woman Preach.”

This list of 13 Things to Remember if You Love a Person with Anxiety because it is SPOT ON.

This post on God’s intense love for the Cosmos is beautiful.

Really really loved this post from one of my faves (Jamie, the very worst missionary) about prayer and remembering its purpose.

And this clip of Amy Schumer on Ellen which made me laugh so hard even on the 3rd viewing.

On the Blog:

This month I got to write two guest posts for friend. This one on Sacred Spaces and this one on Rituals. I also got to host a bunch of guest posts in my Thankful Thursday series from writers RoxJackie, Karissa, and Melchee

I continued my 52 Weeks of Adventure with our trip to Taiwan (parts 1 and 2), seeing an original musical, and going to Tokyo’s famous Robot Restaurant.

I wrote about what’s on my kindle, reviewed Searching for Sunday, and made a list of summer reading suggestions.

My most-viewed post this month was Karissa’s “I’m Thankful for my Body” guest post, followed by my post about living life in the in-between.

If you just can’t get enough of me, you can like my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more things I’m into.

Beauty Bits:

After much contemplation I sprang for the Urban Decay Naked eye shadow palette (the original one). This is my first high(er) end eye shadow palette and let me just tell you, it really is that much better than anything I’ve ever tried. I didn’t know eye shadow could be so creamy. It’s like my eyelids are covered with baby unicorn magic dust. For realz.


What I’ve Been Up To:

Ugh. Trying to find a job. Job searching is the worst, but it’s especially unpleasant when you’re doing it from another country. Other than that, we’ve been trying to enjoy our favorite things about Korea as much as possible – going to favorite restaurants, taking walks, runs, and hikes, and hanging out with our friends.

As I mentioned before, we traveled to Taiwan and Tokyo this month which was bittersweet since those were our last trips before returning home. We’ve come to love traveling so much that it’s hard to think about going back to a life where international travel isn’t easy.

A IMG_8635

I’ve been on the ball about taking care of various tasks we need to do while still in Korea. For example, we went to the dentist last week even though that is my least favorite thing in the whole world. I think that is what you call “responsible,” thank you very much.

Also, I got this shirt in Tokyo (much to hubster’s chagrin) and I am very, very into it. For obvious reasons.

Best Shirt Ever

So, that’s me. What have you been up to?

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 19: Hot Springs and Chicken Feet

Although our Taiwan trip was short, it did technically span two different weeks which let me split it up between two weeks of adventure posts.

Our second day in Taiwan we looked at the forecast and were told there was 100% chance of rain with some severe thunderstorms. We spent a long time debating what we should do. Eventually we decided to head out to see some hot springs that were located near the end of a subway line. We didn’t want to go anywhere too far out in case of storms and we didn’t want to do something like the zoo or the mountain gondalas which would be ruined by a thunderstorm.

As it turned out, the forecast was completely wrong. It sprinkled once or twice, but there was certainly no heavy rain or severe thunderstorms. Thankfully, we enjoyed our trip to the hot springs anyway.

AA IMG_8360AA IMG_8370

AA IMG_8366

AA IMG_8375

After checking out the hot springs we stopped for lunch at a small shop in the area where we had Taiwan’s most famous dish, beef noodle soup. It was delicious.

Beef Noodle Soup

After our scrumptious lunch we headed on to another temple. This one is particularly well-known for being the place to go if you need matchmaking services. When we arrived there were lines of people waiting for their turn to receive some sort of blessing from what appeared to be some sort of lay people who were equipped to do blessings using incense.

AA IMG_8382

AA IMG_8386

AA IMG_8394

After checking out this temple (but trying not to interrupt the locals who were there) we decided to head to Taipei 101, the tallest building in Taipei and  the tallest building in the world until the Burj Khalifa was finished in 2010. It started to rain right as we arrived at the base of the building, but luckily the first few floors are a fancy shopping mall, so we popped inside and took a short break at the food court.

AA IMG_8397

A lot of other people seemed to have the same idea because the food court was very crowded. We eventually found a table, but soon after we sat down an elderly Chinese couple came up and asked if we could share the table with them. (At least, I assume that’s what they asked. I only speak two words of Mandarin). Of course we said yes and then proceeded to have the most awkward snack of all time when the elderly couple pulled out a giant bag of chicken feet and started digging in. I hardcore stared at my seaweed chips to avoid looking.

Seaweed chips

Went back to our hostel a bit later to regroup before heading out to another, different night market. This night market had a really cool temple at the front of it that was all lit up for the evening and lots of fascinating foods inside of it.

AA IMG_8409

AA IMG_8412

AA IMG_8415

Hey, more chicken feet! Just raw this time!

Hey, more chicken feet! Just raw this time!

We also inadvertently stumbled upon something called the Rainbow Bridge which was kind of nice in the dark, though it’s possible that the water is all brown and murky in daylight.

AA IMG_8420

Day Two in Taiwan concluded with another food success, the discovery of these Coconut Oreos at the local 7/11. If you like coconut, these are simply phenomenal. I can’t believe we don’t have these in America. Oh the things you learn by traveling!

Coconut Oreos

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 18: Taipei in a Day

Friday, May 1st was International Labor Day, a government holiday in many countries including Korea. In the US the holiday calendar has sort of been manipulated so that many holidays (Labor Day, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, etc.) are always celebrated on Mondays. This allows people several long weekends each year to take short trips. Of course, there are exceptions for holidays whose significance is associated with a particular date, like the Fourth of July, but in general the US government holidays are designed for people to easily enjoy them.

In Korea, holidays are celebrated on specific dates regardless of when they fall. If, for example. the government holiday falls on the weekend, then it falls on the weekend and you don’t get any days off of work, even though you would have if they happened to fall M-F. This spring/summer the calendar was not treating us kindly. Three public holidays (March 1st, June 6th, and August 15th) all fall on weekends in 2015 and several others fell on random Tuesdays or Thursdays which were nice breaks, but it wasn’t possible to travel or do anything especially exciting on those days because we had to work the day before and after.

This year, May 1st was a holiday, but Tuesday, May 5th is also Children’s Day in Korea.We had a similar situation last year where May 1st was on a Thursday so we had Thursday off as well as the following Monday, but last year we had to go to work on the Friday in between so we were surprised and delighted when our schools decided to declare Monday, May 4th a “temporary holiday” so that everyone could have a 5-day spring break.

We decided to use part of our break for a quick trip to Taiwan.

Why Taiwan? you might ask. It meets a few major criteria. First, we haven’t been there before. Second, you can take a direct flight from Korea and arrive in 2 hours. Third, it is really affordable in terms of the cost of food, lodging, etc. Fourth, we’ve had friends visit and they’ve all been positive about it.

And so, with almost no knowledge of where we were going or what we were going to do once we got there, we set off to Taipei.

We had a fantastic time.

Since our stay was only three days (including a travel day) we tried to cram as much as possible into the short time that we had. We stayed at a fantastic hostel located down this only slightly sketchy looking alley near Taipei Main Station. The owner of the hostel was a guy named Chunky (who, for the record, was actually quite slim). Chunky spoke impeccable English and was very helpful. After we’d arrived and he’d showed us around the hostel, he pulled out a map and showed us exactly where to go and what to do. The Taipei subway system is excellent, very cheap, and very easy to use, so getting around was a breeze.

AA IMG_8316

First we headed to the Longshan Temple. Longshan Temple was built in 1738 and is one of the oldest temples in Taiwan. I really enjoy the architecture of Chinese temples with all the ornate dragons and the eaves that turn up at the corners of the buildings. I find Korean temples very squat and plain in comparison.


AA IMG_8199

AA IMG_8189

From there we visited the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial. Part of the memorial was being renovated and was covered with scaffolding, but we were able to enter this part which reminded me of a cross between the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington D.C. We were also able to witness the changing of the guard at the memorial, an elaborate ceremony that occurs once every hour. All I can say is, if anyone actually wanted to attack the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, the changing of the guard would be the perfect time to do it since it took about 15 minutes for the guards to actually change places.


AA IMG_8227

AA IMG_8232

AA IMG_8238

AA IMG_8271

From the memorial we stopped for lunch at the famous Din Tai Fung restaurant where we had their world famous dumplings. These dumplings have a very thin skin and are filled with broth, meat and veggies. You have to use your spoon when eating them to catch all the yummy juices dripping out. They were amaze-balls. And even though this is a Michelin starred restaurant, our whole meal cost about $18 USD.


I didn't know we were ready to take the picture...

I didn’t know we were ready to take the picture…

Taiwan is famous for their food, so I tried to get as much of it in as possible in our few days there. I drank approximately 52 bubble teas and they were the best. (OK, I think I had 3 actually). Again, so cheap. Each one cost about $1.25 USD. You can find bubble tea in Korea, but you pay around $6 USD a pop for them.

After eating we headed out to hike the Elephant Trail, which gave us a terrific view of the city. Unfortunately, it was raining off and on through our whole hike, so our view wasn’t as clear as it could have been, but we still enjoyed getting a little past the city and being able to look down on it.

AA IMG_8336

AA IMG_8339

AA IMG_8342

That evening we went to the Shilin Night Market. There are many Night Markets in Taipei, but unlike in other countries we’ve visited, these markets are not really aimed at tourists. Instead, they are a place for locals to shop, hang out, and eat lots and lots of street food. The Shilin market is known for having lots of cheap shoe stores. I obviously had to buy a pair. These cuties were only about $11 and there were plenty of shoes for even cheaper than that.




After all of that excitement we were exhausted and headed back to our hostel for the night. Even after such a short time we were impressed with how polite the people were, waiting in organized lines for the subway, giving up their seats for the elderly or people with children, and generally being very considerate of others around them. This was such a novelty to us as it is standard in Korea for everyone to push their way onto the subway before the people exiting can even get off and saying “excuse me” or “I’m sorry” for bumping someone is unheard of.  I also appreciated being somewhere new and interesting, but without having people stare at me all the time. Even though there weren’t tons of foreigners in Taipei, it seems to be enough of an international city that the two of us weren’t worth making a fuss over.

I have more Taipei adventures to share next week, so stay tuned to read about the rest of our trip!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.