Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Maybe I am my mother's daughter

My mother is notoriously known for her baking. She can improvise, mimic and create all sorts of delicious baked goods. Well after the first cake I made in Taiwan, I somehow convinced my current roommates that I am skilled in the culinary art just like my mama smith and they have all requested I make them homemade cakes for their birthdays.

Building the cakes and designing them are 1/2 the fun (I'm sure you know the other 1/2). Too bad you can't taste them, but I'll give you my 9 judge's (roomies) verdicts on the recipes.

Susan's Carrot Cake: 1st Place


  • 2 cups flour                                         
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 cups finely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • 4 eggs

Grease and lightly flour  2- 9” round pans.  In a mixer bowl combine the first 6 ingredients. Add next 3 ingredients, beating with electric mixer till combined. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Turn into pans. Bake in a 325 degree oven 40 minutes for the round pans. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 3 to 4 cups powder sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Milk 
Erin's Banana Cake: 2nd Place

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons soda
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3)
Mix and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • One 8 ounce cream cheese
  • 1 cube butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
(I used hazelnut chocolate spread & cream cheese frosting between the layers and on top. Ferro Rocher's chocolate & bananas were also used for decorating. Creating 4 layers made this cake a little too dense; 2 layers would have worked much better.)

Sunny's Ice Cream Cake: 3rd Place

  • Start at least one day before you need to serve the cake.
  • Take the ice cream out of the freezer and allow to thaw for 20-30 minutes.
  • Mix Vanilla ice cream with 4-5 Oreos. (1.5 quarts will fill a 9" cake pan).
  • Line the round cake pan with plastic wrap. (chill the pan prior if possible)
  • Fill the pan with softened ice cream
  • Cover with plastic wrap, then foil. Place it in the freezer overnight to re-harden.
  • Bake your favorite white cake recipe at least 6 hours before serving. The cake must be cool before proceeding.
  • Assemble the cake by layering it above & below the ice cream with whip cream, chocolate syrup and bananas.
  • Decorate quickly with whip cream, Oreos & chocolate syrup.
  • Place in freezer for 3 hours so it can set.
  • Remove from freezer 15-20 minutes before serving time.
Megan's White Layered Cake: 4th Place

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 egg whites
Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add butter, milk and 1 tsp. vanilla & mix (batter will be thick). Beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Then add the unbeaten egg whites and beat for 2 more minutes.

Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake at 350 F for 30-40 minutes. After cool, decorate with vanilla frosting and whip cream.

The Indigenous Asian Cherry Blossoms

A few weekends ago a group of us (3 teachers, our friend Kevin and his 'gym' friend) headed to Alishan National Scenic Area. Taking off early Saturday morning we expected to arrive at our destination by car in a few hours...well it took 5 hours (after many wrong turns- even narrowly escaping the complete entrance onto a freeway from the off-ramp).

After winding around the mountain to the top for the last 1.5 hours, we made it to the Alishan town and scenic parks to look at the cherry blossoms.

I usually don't mind taking pictures with the locals but I especially don't mind when the locals are cute guys with cute glasses.

Our group from L to R: Me, Kevin's 'gym friend' who doesn't speak a lick of English, Kevin, Whit & Susan

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Our Dearest Sir Muffin Poo Two

April 1995-March 2010

Thanks for being born to Nitzi Poo with your family (litter) of five in 1995. You made an eight year old, puppy lover's dreams come true.

You were the perfect fit for our family! You're fun loving personality helped counteract your ornery mother. You loved belly rubs, sunshine, and food.

Thank you for your ability to endure so many things: bi-weekly wagon rides down Lostwood; weekly (okay, not always) dog washes followed by extensive blow-drying maintenance and scissor haircuts around the eyes; long drawn out walks that resulted in carrying you home; getting dressed up in doll clothes; performing tricks after tricks just to get an off-brand dog biscuit; sled rides; being carried like a teddy bear; being fed diet dog food most of your life; obediently listening to the infamous song "cages dogs, cages"; being stuffed in a dog cage with your mother for countless hours; being a good sport about the relentless teasing.

You are probably happier than ever! I miss and love you. I can't wait to see you and Nitzi again.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Cat's Out of the Bag

Someone out there leaked vital information: I will pretty much do anything! Or am I completely transparent to configure that it even happens cross-culturally?

It apparently didn't take the director of the school, Francis, too long to figure that one out.

For my first introduction to most of my student's parents, I was on stage acting like Francis' estranged Taiwanese twin sister. For this lucky opportunity to stun and awe the parents during the student's Chinese New Year program, I not only had apparent hygienic issues (ratted hair and lipstick practically to my ears) but I also appeared to be quite the airhead that feels inspired to express myself freely through spastic dancing.

Francis' envisioned plan for this scene of the program was to have the entire audience laughing hysterically at my expense. But I have to say, it's not too hard to get the Taiwanese giggling or flushed when I am just at a restaurant casually moving my head to a fun Chinese song. (If you understand the principle of 'losing face' in Asia, you'll understand that they never put themselves in these types of situations.)

I think there were some good laughs (I was too into the movement to keenly listen) so how about you be the judge.

Enjoy the pictures and videos:

If the parents went home questioning the credibility of their new son or daughter's English teacher... at least they could go home knowing their kids looked adorable.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just a Good Old Saturday Outing

Early last Saturday morning, Susan, Erin (fellow co-teachers) and I all headed out with alacrity for a day trip to a small town south of our local Feng Yuan. The three of us are the minority that don't have to teach on Saturday mornings and believe me, we have no qualms about it!

After some re-planning and a splash of spontaneity after we couldn't see what we originally planned for until later, we went further south and added the town of Ji Ji to our itinerary. It's a quaint town void of the urbanization we see in most places. Cobble stone streets, flora and fauna scenery on the back roads, no electronic machines near or at the train station, and of course with any Taiwan town-friendly people.

On our quick stop to this town, a kind teenager escorted us on the back roads to get us to a beautiful temple that was destroyed in the 1999 Taiwan earthquake.

Random Taiwanese enjoy getting their picture taken with us (in front of the earthquake temple).

We then headed to Ershuei where we planned to see some wild monkeys. We couldn't see them earlier in the day because they were supposedly napping, but they sure were awake when we stopped by.

We had rented these bikes from the "So Funny" bike company for the day and we used them to explore. No matter the town, Taiwan is good for finding yourself some blended Daoist-Buddhist temples.

We found these:

I had Susan snap a photo of me jumping off the stairs. On this particular attempt at a 'jump' photo, she used her skilled knowledge to count to three in Chinese. It caught me off guard and this is the photo that resulted:

After climbing a treacherous hill with our bikes in the hot sun, we entered this beautiful temple. The temple hosts were so sweet to give us the traditional winter drink...steaming hot water. We appeared to look appreciative when we dumped the water in our empty water bottles when they weren't looking.

That night a group of us saw Alice in Wonderland in 3D at the theatre (my 2nd 3D movie in Taiwan). We always listen keenly to the private tutorial we get about their particular and precious 3D glasses....we of course don't understand a thing.

The movie is a Tim Burton production. If you know his style or seen the movie you know the dialogue, acting and cinematography can be a bit wacky. We (us Americans) wonder how the movie was perceived after Chinese translation.

Coming out of an American movie in Taiwan can always be a self-esteem booster; I literally had a line of people that wanted to take a photo with me and a few others in front of the Alice In Wonderland poster boards. Here's a shot we snapped quickly: