Monday, May 23, 2016

Birchbox | May 2016

A very summer themed box. Usually I am not the biggest fan of summer, but this year, I am getting excited. I'm envisioning camping trips, days by the beach, and nights on city rooftops. I'm liking this assortment of Birchbox samples to keep the summer glow. Now to get that the self-tan going....


Box Breakdown
Vita Liberata Fabulous Self Tanning Gradual Lotion
Obliphica Professional Seaberry Hair Serum
Coola Daydream SPF30 Mineral Makeup Primer
MDSolarSciences Mineral Moisture Defense SPF50 for Body
ModelCo Lip Lacquer in Creme Brulee



What did you get in this month's Birchbox?




Sunday, May 22, 2016

Souvenirs from Taiwan

[Sheet Masks]

I hope you enjoyed the pictures from our adventures in Taiwan. Today, I thought I'd share some of the souvenirs we picked up. We didn't have much time for shopping, and I have been working on a no-buy (more on that to come), so we didn't make it a priority. We did want to bring back a few things to share with friends and family and to serve as reminders of our trip.

One thing I knew I had to get while in Asia was sheet masks. I had so much fun going from Watsons to Watsons trying to find a bunch of different kinds. And laughing at some of the funny ones, including 'Girl on Period'. I ended up with a few from Korea and made in Taiwan. I am excited to try them out with friends in a typical sleepover situation, and I sent a few to my mom and sister to try. Preston & I used the panda heating eye masks on the plane, made the 16 hours much more comfortable.

[Pineapple Cakes]

[Alishan Oolong Tea]

We couldn't leave without bringing back some tea. Alishan is famous for their oolong. We brought back two different kinds. A little goes a long way with oolong as the tea leaves unfurl, so we will enjoy these for awhile. Every time I open the pantry,  I am remind of our trip. I love seeing that cute red train.

To go with our tea, we brought back a box of pineapple cakes. Now, these did not last long. We sent a few to family to try and pretty much ate them all in the first couple of days back.

[Ocarinas]

For my brothers, I found these handmade ocarinas. They had just got back from Puerto Rico where they got wooden frogs (the ones where you rub the stick on the back to make sounds), so I thought these turtles would be a good pair.

[Washi Tape]

[Coloring Book]

And then, I couldn't resist a few new stationery items. I found the little animal washi tape at a Japanese themed discount-type store. The succulent and the gold bamboo are better quality and from the brand Dailylike. I got those at the Eslite bookstore. I could have been in that stationery section all day. In Chiayi, we passed by a bookstore and decided to go in. I instantly saw this 'A Million Cats' coloring book and knew I needed it. I mean we had a long plane ride coming up. I picked up this mini pack of colored pencils at the airport- just in time for the flight. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Photo Diary | Beitou, Taiwan

We left Hualien in the morning and made it back to Taipei by the afternoon. That day was reserved for meeting up with my Taiwanese friends. I met them through a summer foreign exchange program when I was in high school. It was amazing to be able to see them again after so many years and so many miles apart. We spent the day doing as the locals do-eating cake at secret cafes, walking around Treasure Hill, eating some more delicious food, and chatting at a cat bar. Yup, it's a thing. I didn't take too many pictures that day as we were catching up. For our last full day in Taiwan, we went to Beitou, famous for its hot springs.

We were able to see the source of the green springs. Definitely not where you jump it, if you couldn't tell by the steam. Nearby resorts and hotels pipe the water, reducing the temperature.



We went to an outdoor public spring. The water was too hot for us to stay in long, but we enjoyed people watching. We even bought a couple of popsicles, reminiscent of days spent at community pools or water parks.

We then headed in the direction of the Taipei Zoo to ride the gondola up to Maokong. We rode in a crystal bottomed one first to see the green a couple hundred meters below our feet.

Maokong is another area known for tea. Though, not much is grown there currently. There are tea houses and restaurants with great views of the city.

We ended up getting a green tea ice cream cone and taking pictures of interesting caterpillars. I spent hours googling to discover their species to no avail.


We ended the night with another night market and felt bittersweet that our trip was ending. The next day, we had a last brunch with my friend who took us to another great local spot for bagel egg sandwiches, an ode to the typical New York breakfast.

More from Taiwan


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Photo Diary | Taroko Gorge, Taiwan

Our next destination was Taroko Gorge. Since we were heading from Alishan, we were on the total opposite coast, with no easy way to cross through the mountainous middle. So we had a full day of train travel to ride up the west to Taipei, then back down the east. The train ride down the east had views of the ocean, so it wasn't a bad way to spend the day.

We again opted for scooter transportation to explore the marble gorge. It was more difficult to rent scooters in Hualien. It's more of a tourist town, full of hostels and backpackers. My guess is people have been burned by tourists wrecking scooters. Preston's passport was held hostage, which increased my anxiety as a constant catastrophizer.

The clear waters, smooth marble, and tall mountains were spectacular. We had been so lucky with everything on our trip that something bad had to happen. Good news-it wasn't the end of the world. Bad news-all my pictures from this day and the next got set to a lower resolution and small size. As you can probably guess, I was devastated. Preston was able to talk me down and remember that we were able to experience it, in real life, not through a photo, and that the pictures we have are still able to spark that memory.

This was my favourite part of the Taroko Gorge. Frog Rock named from the shape resembling a sitting toad. The gazebo at the top of his head reminded me of a fairy princess castle.



I love all the scarlet bridges against the green forest and bright, white marble.

Down this path were hot springs piped from the mountain. Preston dipped his feet in.



More from Taiwan

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Photo Diary | Alishan, Taiwan

We took a break from the city to explore the mountains. After a train ride down the west coast, we rented a scooter in Chiayi. Preston made sure to get his International Driver's Permit before we left the U.S., and it was the best decision. It was an amazing way to travel through Alishan. We were able to see and feel the distance, much more so than if we took a bus or car. It is very dangerous, the mountain roads were tiny, no lanes, and evidence of landslides surrounded us. Little blue trucks and cement mixers would zip around the winding turns.

The distance you could see was unbelievable. The mountains were surrounding you. The air kept getting cooler and thinner. The hillsides scattered with tea farms and bamboo forests. We stayed in a tiny town called Rueili. We made it to Plum Blossom Villa in time for a golden hour hike.


The trail led us to a bat cave, swallow cliffs, and a suspension bridge named for lovers. And of course, it was comprised of what felt like a million stairs.

We loved having this view every night and morning. We would see swallows flying past and sitting on the telephone wire.

That night our host, Scott, took us to see the fireflies. It was the most amazing thing I have seen in my entire life. I wasn't able to capture it in pictures (These are a couple from Scott. He had the camera set-up for these types of shots down). Though it still doesn't compare to standing in the middle of it all.  It was like being surrounded by thousands of Christmas lights. Even more spectacular that it was created by nature. We even came across tiny little phosphorescent mushrooms. They could have easily been overlooked as a firefly unless you noticed the glow wasn't flashing on and off.


The next morning we took the scooter to the Alishan park, passing through farms, small towns, and a stretch of congested tour bus filled highway.

We were just past cherry blossom seasons, but a few trees remained.

The red cypress trees were magnificent. It was interesting to learn the history of the cypresses and how many were chopped down when Japan colonized to make tea tables. To be planted in their place-cherry blossoms.

We walked the trail between the two railway lines. The train was adorable. This is the caboose.

Before we left, we mailed post cards from the Alishan post office.

We ended the day with a Taiwanese beer and a trip to the next door neighbor's tea farm. We were able to smell the fresh tea leaves and see the machines that dry and roll the infamous Alishan oolong.

We didn't want to leave! Scott and his family were so nice, including shaved sheepdog, Xiong Xiong. We were eating delicious food every night, including vegetables we had never even heard of before. It was an unforgettable experience.

More from Taiwan