This month as pumpkins and ghouls started cropping up in stores, I jumped on the bandwagon early by busting out a bag of stringy, messy fake cobwebs waiting to be stretched across my front porch, and thus began our preparations for Halloween. I love how holidays are so theme specific--when else can you hang a skeleton above your kitchen sink and leave over-sized vegetables laying around the house? 

For whatever reason, I have been really determined to throw a Halloween party. Chris and I had one last year (very last minute--we called our friends at 11:00 the night before to invite them in true Gilbert fashion), and had a blast. This time around, we went all out. Chris scuttled up the side of the house to plant spotlights on the roof used to light up our side yard. We strung orange lights around our stump of a tree, decorated inside and out, and made lots of caramely, sticky, treats that are never going to chip off my dishes, and had a very good time. 

We had a bbq, played games, carved pumpkins, and lit our pumpkin on fire (apparently a "Gilbert Tradition" since we did it last year). 

Chris and I were a double rainbow. DOUBLE RAINBOW... what does it mean?! (From the viral Youtube video in case you live under a rock.) And yes, those are cotton balls. It was last-minute. And yes, they are kind of falling apart. It was a long night.
How cute is Chris? He went to the store and bought those little striped stockings and came up with this idea. Ding dong the witch is dead.  

The finished products:

Ang and Blakes' Pumpkin. 

 The artistic wonders of Cori and Eric.

My Pumpkin.

It casts a star on the wall which I was very happy about. 

And our new family tradition...

Gone wrong. Combo lighter fluid, nail polish remover, and hand sanatizer. We are definitely not old enough to start having kids yet. 



Sometimes Chris and I tend to run a little extreme. Besides being extremely attractive and extremely well liked, we also have some extreme views. And don't mind that our intense opinions jump between fads as fast as you can say fickle. We're all over the place and this week was no exception.

Forks Over Knives 

Chris and I are big into documentaries. Not only do they add fuel to our conspiracy theories (which frightens my dad), they are the only thing worth watching on Netflix. Last Sunday, Chris and I enjoyed dinner and the movie Forks Over Knives. We ate our pitifully off-balanced meal of steak and a few sorry slices of buttered up zucchini while watching how meat and animal bi-products cause disease whereas plants reverse the damage. 

There we were with hunks of meat sitting in our stomachs when Chris turned to me and suggested we try a vegan diet for a month. We didn't even make it a day before he amended the conditions and shaved it down to a vegetarian diet for 2 weeks. We made it 5 days. Like I said--we are extreme, and extremely fickle, but that's usually what it takes just to drag us to the middle of the road--going wayyy to one side, then wayyy to the other, then finding a happy medium. But we have been eating healthier, Chris has stopped drinking soda, and we both went jogging tonight. Besides, our fridge got a glorious makeover when Chris was still in his fanatical stage and stocked up on $70 worth of organic veggies.

The U.F.O. 

I love driving westward at night because I always end up trailing behind a line of three or more planes also heading west toward the airport. Most people wouldn't find this interesting, but hey... I grew up on a farm. Planes were far and few between and usually maxed out at 35,000 feet. 

Anyhow, I'm a big night sky observer because of this plane business and noticed a cluster of planes coming from the opposite direction on Saturday night. Only what I saw was grouped all bizarre, didn't have blinking lights, looked orb like, and would flicker on and off, only to trigger the illumination of neighboring orbs. 

At first, I jokingly commented, "Woah, check out those weird planes. They're probably UFO's." Chris agreed... and then we flipped out. I was screaming for him to pull over so we could watch this rare phenomenon but there was a house blocking our view so he crossed the median and drove into 3 lanes of oncoming traffic and eventually ended up screeching into some vacant parking lot as the last orb extinguished. Hubbie wanted to call the cops and report what we saw but I didn't think the authorities would find U.F.O.'s 911 worthy. Besides, I want to be a reputable source when I call in with incidences--I can't go tainting my good name. But we did check out latest-ufo-sightings.net and Emily from Gilbert reported seeing the same thing so we aren't the only wack-a-doos out there--Chris and I are among friends. Ooooohhhheeeeeeooooohhhh. 

Trash Truck

Scenario: You are driving along side a vehicle when the passenger rolls down his window and blatantly chucks out a bag of trash. But wait--the bozo is in a company car that has a big vehicle i.d. number on the side. Do you call the company and snitch on their idiot employee? Is that too extreme? I wimped out, but now I feel lame for not following through. Littering is just so lazy. To call or not to call? Your call--so submit your votes. 

Copper Chopper

The other night Chris and I were enjoying a little midnight stroll in our classy, super-safe-to-be-out-past-dark neighborhood (false) when our good old friend, the police helicopter (a.k.a. The Copper Chopper), made his almost nightly appearance circling the block. 

Anyhow, I was wondering what it would feel like to be spotlighted and apparently we looked suspicious enough because we got beamed. I beamed back with my smile (I have very reflective teeth) and gave them a big wave. I guess the cops didn't find me amusing because they gave up on finding whatever creeper they were looking for. Oh that's cool. We love it when the forensics van shows up a block from our house because you never found the felon. Don't let me stop you. 


Mountain Man in the Making

Chris openly wishes he was a hard core mountain man but his suburban upbringing turned him into a softie before he could develop the callouses necessary for wilderness survival. So we enjoy the luxuries of an i-phone, car, and air conditioning daily, but whenever we go camping, my wanna be mountain man comes out of hiding. He grows out his beard, walks around with a hunting knife clipped to his skinny jeans, and justifies spending all of our hard earned money on mosquito repellent candles and portable propane cook tops (not true mountain man form in my opinion). So this past weekend before I buckled down and started work again, we packed our gear and headed to the mountains with Dan and Jen for a final hurrah. 

We spent the trip eating all of the delicious campfire foods you can't cook in an oven, revisited a competitive game of Kanasta throughout various points in the day (Chris and I were victorious), explored neighboring lakes and streams, and spent the nights warding off gargantuan daddy long legs that were attracted to our lanterns. It was like Arachnophobia. The spindly things were crawling all over us, over crowding the ground, and sneaking into our tents. Naturally my nightmares were tangled with webs and spun with spider babies. 

We did make friends out of the nice bugs though. 

We brought Snoopy and he received lots of praise for walking through the creek. Big accomplishment for a dog that's more domesticated than me. 

We went fishing for crawdads. 

It was a big success. 

And in the unlikely event that the men would have to defend the women, they held target practice. 

And shot pine-cones. 

Dan won. I guess it's lucky we didn't encounter a bear because I would have been lunch while Jen would have watched from behind the safety of her slingshot champion husband. 

It doesn't get any better than dutch oven dinner. 

With Chris overseeing the campfire, it's a miracle we didn't burn down the greater part of northern Arizona. Smokey the Bear would not have been pleased. Look at Chris' face--even he was amazed at the extent of the damage he could have caused. 


Home Again

Home Again Jigedy Jig.

Not only am I back in the states enjoying all things American, but visiting Wyoming immersed in the feeling of home. I've spent my time here enjoying the crunch of fresh garden corn, the smell of harvested fields, homemade ice cream, fishing in flooded rain boots, watching grasshoppers explode like popcorn from the grass, and spending time with family.

Last week my brother just returned from a 2 year mission in the Dominican Republic. He has turned into an outstanding young man, but considering that he left home for two years, learned a second language, spent every day discussing religion with strangers, and only contacted our family via e-mail and letters... I would hope so. Now that's devotion--and he's only 21.

 One of our favorite Wyoming activities--jumping off a waterfall used for irrigation purposes. We know we're a little hick.

 Homemade ice cream. Made with lots of ice, salt, heavy cream, churning, more churning, and love.


Conclusion: Wyoming is the most beautiful place on Earth and I somehow didn't see it before. It took traveling to many other places and years away from home for me to realize it, but there is no comparison to home.


Cultural Observation #7: Beetle Nut

Picture yourself chewing a raw hard fibrous nut the size of a grape and wola--you have beetle nut--the Taiwanese equivalent of chewing tobacco. These little nuts are wrapped in opium coated leaves and look like little green pigs in a blanket. Maybe something a bunny would serve at a Super Bowl party for his herbivore friends. 

But beetle nut is not that cute. The inside of the nut is red which gives the chewer a distinct red mouth and explains the ketchup-colored splashes of spit all over the sidewalks. Talk about a dentist’s worst nightmare. What teeth a chewer still has from gnawing on nuts are coated in fuzzy red plaque. Mmmmm.... kissable. This delightful product is sold by scantily clad girls in Vegas worthy glass boxes. Their flashy neon lights are advertisement enough eliminating the need for signage. Beetle nut is not Taiwan’s best feature, especially when it's stuck to the bottom of my flip flop.  

The aftermath of a "chewed" nut. 


Two Months Too Late

How typical that we would discover Taiwan's most beautiful beach our last week here. It was a four hour-long bus ride to this particular spot, but unlike Sun Moon Lake, there was joy in the journey. Sometimes getting "there" is as enjoyable as being "there," as was the case. 

It made for a great beach day.... 

Sand sculpture of Buddha who unfortunately lost his face.

Dinner on the beach.

A few of my favorite finds. 




Nature has a rhythm. It’s mesmerizing, and relaxing, and recharging to the soul but the problem is finding time to enjoy it.  It’s the same rhythm a fire makes as its unpredictable flames lick the air and vanish leaving the burning logs cracked, pulsing red hot, and coated in fine ash. You find yourself staring into the flames despite the heat on your face and smoke into your eyes, almost hypnotized by its beautiful irregularity.

Although the Rhythm's everywhere in nature, I rarely ever soak it up, but Saturday I had no choice. We traveled an hour to the ocean on the same day a hurricane passed by the island. The lifeguards closed the beach, I was without a book, and I left my Cannon at home, so I was forced to sit and watch the angry waves that kept me out of the water as they tumbled over themselves forming impressive swells.
I don’t know what it is about taking time to quietly observe nature, but it’s like getting an emotional recharge. Maybe because it calls to the profoundest part of my soul reminding me that I’m not born of concrete,  manufactured items, and urban crowding. It allows me to get in touch with my roots.  Or perhaps it’s because I realize how menial and helpless mankind is in comparison with the authority of Mother Earth. She can rattle everything that makes us feel stable—put us in our place. A fire can go rampant burning a city, an ocean can over throw its bounds, and a breeze can become a wind that picks up houses. Or maybe it’s because when I take time to study nature that I also take notice of the ever changing beauty and craftsmanship of God’s hand.

Either way, I got lost in nature’s powerful rhythm this weekend without any silly things to distract me. I just sat and stared into the sea and watched the impressiveness of it unfold. 


Cultural Observation #6: From a Foreigner's Perspective

    The Taiwanese have a fondness for Americans. It has resulted in a few free dishes (courtesy of our favorite restaurants), confidence boosting compliments, an eagerness to be helpful, and an outpouring of general kindness. The younger generation thinks Americans are either radically liberal like Lady Gaga or live fabulously glamorous lives in Hollywood, and since both are true of me (right), I’ve been getting my celebrity on lately.

     It’s not unusual for strangers to approach and ask for a photo. It’s also not unusual for creepers to bust out their thousand dollar Cannon which everyone seems to own (I need to find the black market they are selling those things on) and indiscreetly snap photos as we go by. The paparazzi love me. Ok, I exaggerate.

      But not really. We made national news. 

When we toured the island we were quite the spectacle in some of the more obscure towns that never see foreigners. The best was when we stopped at Ruisui for dinner at 7-11. As we ate our microwave curry in front of a large window facing the road, people would pull their cars up to the window and stare. We were the drive through entertainment for the night. One mom even rolled down the windows so her kids could hang out of the car and point at us like zoo animals.

I never appreciated America’s diversity. It's the big copper pot which melds together every nationality and produces mixes within mixes of those different nationalities. We are used to diversity, it’s nothing new. There is contrast. There is red hair, blonde hair, brown hair, black hair. Blue eyes, green eyes, hazel eyes, brown eyes. The possibilities are as endless as the people—each one so apparently different. It’s not the same here.

    Everyone has beautiful almond eyes with straight black hair, pale skin, full lips, and thin bodies. I have never spent this much time out of the states, and it has almost become shocking for me to see a foreigner—and I am one! (Granted, I non-vainly spend more time looking at others than myself.) But I'm always struck by how large a foreigner's nose and eyes are, or by the rosy undertones in their skin or lightness of their hair. I forget that I'm an out-of-place spectacle myself, and after spending so much time here, I have become very fond of Asian beauty. It is soft and creamy, and warm, where as I look in the mirror and seem sharp faced with awkwardly proportioned features. I guess I just need to get back to the States where I’m just another fish in the sea of diversity. Big Blue--I'm coming home! 


Cultural Observation #5: Nightly News

Aside from scaring people into their facemasks, national coverage includes minor moped wrecks (which I’ve seen re-created with play-by-play computer generated animations), food alerts (i.e. a sports drink that has been found to make men’s gonads shrink),  and creepers on the loose (the latest being  a man who rides the subway and rubs his leg against the leg of the girl sitting next to him). It’s terrifying stuff.

Their lack of rattling news is a reflection of how extremely safe Taiwan is. It’s refreshing not to turn on the TV and feel like your nation is crumbling, your money is worthless, and terrorists are out to kill you. With all of their spare air time, the Taiwanese news networks cover stories about cute things animals have been taped doing, newly opened restaurants, and nice places to visit around the island. The big news this week was that someone accidentally dropped $1000 NT (roughly $30 USD), which someone else picked up without returning it to the owner--all caught on a store’s security camera. I feel like I’m living back at BYU-Idaho—a utopian society with almost humorously honest people. 


Cultural Observation #4: Fear of Illness

-         Bring on the face masks! They are sold just about anywhere, and while I can understand wearing one during a major health scare like Czars or Swine Flu, your outfit’s not complete without one here. I can hardly blame people though—half of the nightly news coverage is devoted to dramatizing some freakish disease that no one is ever going to get.  What I don’t understand is how such a health conscious people can eat raw seafood (80% of which is parricide ridden when uncooked), meat sold off a hook in the street, and lay on the msg, without batting an eye. It’s a mystery. 


1/2 Day Trip

Another mountainside village today--Jiufen. It overlooks the ocean and is well known for its view, winding bustling street market, and unique local treats. It's also the one place in Taiwan where wood postcards can be found. Initially the wood postcards were my main incentive to go, but they didn't come close to meeting my expectations. So if I promised to send you a Jiufen wood postcard... sorry! 

The unique old street with it's spiderweb of secret alleys and undiscovered treasures did provide some snap worthy sights though. 

Peanut shavings from this large block are topped with ice cream and served with this flat bread.

Lion carved from soap--finest smelling store on the street. 

Chris discovered this steep alley. So naturally we explored. 

Alley sign. 

Back in Taipei we ate at a newly discovered brick oven pizza joint. Although the local food is really beginning to grow on me (Shocking, I know. The Queen of Complaints is finally complying), it was still good to have a slice of home... or at least of Italy.