Monday, July 29, 2013

Tropic of Cancer, Taiwan

Sometimes when you're traveling, you have to stop and take the touristy shots that everyone else takes. You have to fight your way through the crowd and get your two seconds to pose quickly in front of whatever monument or sight is around. So, Pipkin and Domo took their turns in front of this tower that was erected (giggle) to mark the Tropic of Cancer.

You have to do the "group shot" - or in this case the couple shot. Either you set a self-timer or you ask a kind tourist you trust to not run off with your camera to please take a photo. This is always challenging when you don't speak the same language. Then you smile real big and if you have a sense of humor, you hope someone is photobombing. Not sure if this qualifies above, but that lady on the left has a sour expression and a shirt that proclaims oh no she didn't!!

Next you grab the camera and take a selfie with the camera all up in your face.

And, at least one of you has to do some sort of funny pose, so you turn it around on your friends and let them go crazy. RAWR! It's like Domo's got some sort of portal to the heavens going on here. Or maybe a strange growth out the top of his head.

Shihyusan - The Stone Umbrella

Pipkin and Domo continued up the eastern coast of Taiwan and hopped along Shihyusan Recreation Area, where they had gorgeous views of seawater carved potholes, arches and caves.

The park's famous Stone Umbrella stands on a large spit of rock that extends nearly a kilometre into the sea.

It looks rather small in the photo above (in the center, it stands above the spit) but it is rather tall if you were to stand underneath it.

There's a calm, cozy bay by the spit, but Pipkin didn't feel like going for a swim and providing the local sharks with dinner. Labbit is quite a rare treat here!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Labbits Fuel Up With: Bacon & Chocolate Chip Chocolate Cookies

It's been a while since the labbits put up a cooking post. It's been far too hot in New England to bake and besides, it's salad season in farmland paradise! There's been a lot of arugula salads with strawberries and blueberries, and greens with shredded raw beets, yum yum! The heat wave ends tonight so there may be some heat in the kitchen as the labbits cook up some summer squash and zucchini burritos.

Summer is also triathlon season for Masher McBuns and his friend Doddy Blue. Labbits are (mostly) vegetarian, but for the serious triathlete, and for the plush mini labbit, sometimes a little BACON is in order. And so, Masher and Doddy decided to bake these Bacon & Chocolate Chip Chocolate Abominations Cookies. These are decadent. These are sinful. These are for the labbit who MEANS BUSINESS. These are the moath amayznghf ookiesh. Oh - pardon me. Was just eating one. :)

Doddy Blue did his first 70.3 triathlon in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, so he was a labbit who meant business. Here's how you make the best cookies ever. Print the recipe here.

Bacon & Chocolate Chip Chocolate Cookies
12 strips Applewood Smoked Maple Bacon
3/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Cook the bacon on the stove until browned; break into bite-size pieces (not crumbles). Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons of bacon grease and mix in with the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla and remaining ingredients. Do not over-mix! Form cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 350 °F. Allow to cool on a wire rack before storing in an air-tight container. Because these cookies have bacon, store these in the refrigerator for up to one week (if they aren't eaten by then) and microwave on low for 10 seconds to warm them up and get those chips gooey. Enjoy!

Boy is it ever tempting to eat these cookies pre-baking. Mmmm, maple bacon chocolate chip cookie dough...*drools*

Yields: About 3 dozen 2" cookies.

Recipe: Adapted from Kim Youngblood

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Water Running Up

Humid days will fog up a lens...

It was another hot and humid day in Taiwan when Pipkin and Domo visited "Water Running Up" - a 1.8 km irrigation canal from Dulan that flows...upwards?!

This pretty park's thin canal winds through gentle slopes where small leaves and flowers will fall into the canal and get whisked away upstream. Pipkin's little mind was blown but Domo quickly solved the mystery. (SPOILER ALERT!)

The trees and landscape surrounding the park create an optical illusion that only makes it appear as though water is flowing uphill. In fact, as measured by Domo's iPhone level (there's an app for that!), the canal actually goes downhill.

Pipkin was disappointed that he was fooled so easily, so he hopped off to enjoy the flowers in the park and to eat some grass. Since Pipkin wasn't going to talk to Domo, Domo decided to strike up some conversation with the locals.

After Pipkin got over feeling so airheaded, the pair headed to north to the Tropic of Cancer.

Cute Buns at the Fu-Kang Hotel

No, this isn't some sort of joke after the whole fake Asiana pilot name gaffe. Pipkin and Domo really did stay at the Fu-Kang Hotel. It was a cheap hotel in Taitung County, Taiwan, with quite possibly the worst shower ever, with electrical wiring running through the inside of the shower!

Pipkin thinks the hotel spent their shower budget on all these custom toiletries. You can wash and comb your fur with their Fu-Kang shampoo and comb! Brush your labbit teeth with Fu-Kang toothbrush and toothpaste! Keep your ears dry in the electroshock shower with a custom Fu-Kang shower cap!

The hotel did have an upside - the breakfast was pretty good, and they served up these cute little bunny buns.

Almost too cute to eat. Almost.

That's a lot of Fu-Kang buns in the oven!

Dem buns! So cute!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Race Report: Give Peace A Tri 2013

Race results are IN! Masher competed in this year's Give Peace A Tri sprint race benefiting Mothers Uniting, a group that works to create a non-violent and just world for all children.

Due to damaging floods in NH, the race was moved at the last minute from Surry Mountain Lake to nearby Otter Brook State Park. You can read more about this in the previous entry regarding Masher's pre-race intel. The course thus went from pancake flat to hilly, but Masher's preview made him confident he was ready for the challenge.

He arrived at the race to see parking, the swim course and the transition area all well marked. These pretty prayer flags, decorated with local school childrens' visions of peace, lined the chute from the swim to transition. It was a beautiful touch and made the race feel celebratory.

Masher signed in, got his bib number and timing chip, got Sharpied up with his race number, and hit the racks to set up transition. Having two triathlons under his race belt he felt at ease this time about set-up.

This year he was a lot less nervous and he left plenty of time to get in a warm up swim.

To his surprise, there were a lot more racers in wetsuits this year. Masher thought the water was chilly but just fine. He HTFU and hopped in the lake sans wetsuit. (Okay, he does have that insulating layer of fur...)

After a warm up swim around half the course, he splashed around in the water to stay warm. Once the pre-race announcements were done, he waded into knee deep water with his wave (hmm, knee deep start really gives the taller racers a bit of advantage) and...GO!

He was off! Last year, being a brand new swimmer, he got dropped by his wave, swam alone for a time, and then the wave after him caught up, chewed up the water around him and spit him out. After all his time with Masters Swimming this fall and winter, he got more confident in the water and stayed with his wave. He even passed people in wetsuits! Swimming in a crowd means the water's a lot choppier and he did get stuck behind a few people he couldn't pass, but he is super proud of keeping up with the big boys this year.

A quick hop through the peace banners and Masher was off on his favorite leg of the race - the bike! This was a HILLY course. He kept a good pace on the hills but got passed by quite a number of really strong cyclists. He pined for last year's pancake flat course (mmmmm, pancakes!) but huffed his way along.

On the run he enjoyed the shady path through the park and a sunny patch along the dam. He saved some energy on the bike ride (not going all out on the hills) and gave it all for the hilly run.

Swim, bike, run and DONE! The smell of pizza greeted Masher as he crossed the finish line and hit the food tent for some amazing pizza by Little Zoe's Pizza, some strawberries and blueberries, and of course - a cookie.

Masher's got MUCH to be proud of this year. Last year, he was nearly dead last in his division and at the bottom third in overall rankings. This year...drum roll please...

Masher McBuns
Total Race Time: 1:16:52
Overall Rank: 74/163
Labbit Division Rank: 10/31
Swim: 11:01
T1: 1:56
Bike: 32:34
T2: 1:13
Run: 30:11

WHOO HOOO! Great times for a hilly course AND, way to move up in the rankings! Another thing to be happy about: no flat tire this year!

Masher's busy now getting his McBuns in shape for his first olympic distance tri: The Otter Limits Tri on September 14, 2013. Way to go Masher McBuns!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Masher's Pre-Race Intel

Masher McBuns was pretty psyched to check out the new course for Give Peace A Tri 2013 and find the buoys had already been set up. Last week he went to Surry Mountain Lake to get in a swim before the race and found the place had been severely flooded. The gate to the park was closed with a sign explaining why:

Surry Mountain Lake is a flood control area. The dam will purposely allow the lake to flood to save surrounding townships from flooding. Masher hopped past the gate and the park ranger's hut and didn't get very far before he saw the flood waters from all the recent rain in New England. You can see in the photo above that there's dampness around the ranger's hut.

Behind the hut there was lots of rock and debris from when the water was at its highest. Just beyond the speed limit sign you can see where the water was as of July 7th, 2013.

That's a lot of water. To give you an idea how just how much water that is, this should be a driveway that leads between the trees. Behind the group of trees on the right is a large parking lot. Beyond the trees on the right is a large grassy area where last year's transition area was. And beyond all of that was the beach and then the lake. Here are some shots from Masher's race last year:

Transition area.
The beach.
Park, picnic area and parking lot. Front gate beyond the tree line.
The transition area, beach, picnic areas, and parking lot you see above? All under water, making it impossible and unsafe to race at the lake. Instead, Robyn, the race director (she's in the beach photo above in the blue shirt, giving the pre-race info session) worked hard to move the race to Otter Brook State Park in Keene, NH. It's no easy feat to plan a multisport event, and to move one at the last minute was surely stressful. Masher gives a special big thanks to Robyn and her husband and all the volunteers who made this race possible!

Back to race intel! Masher checked out the new course site so he would know how to get there, and he lucked out because the buoys were already set up and he could swim the exact course. He did an easy hop along the run course so he could prepare himself mentally. It was pretty hilly...certainly not pancake flat like at Surry Mountain Lake, but he's ready to race! GO MASHER MCBUNS!

Dem buns!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sailboat Rock and Eluanbi Park

Nothing but heat and humidity in Taiwan, but Pipkin and Domo continued south on their travels. At least on the shores of Taiwan there was a nice breeze coming in off the South China Sea. They did a photo stop by the famous "Sailboat Rock" - so named because from a distance it resembles a sailboat.

Then they pressed onward to Cape Eluanbi, the southernmost tip of Taiwan, where they went to Eluanbi Lighthouse. The lighthouse was constructed in 1888 during the Qing dynasty.

This lighthouse suffered from frequent raids by neighboring aboriginal tribes, and so it is the only armed lighthouse in the world! It has a trench surrounding it, and gun holes in the fortification walls.

Eluanbi Park is a nice size and there are lovely shaded walking trails along the grounds. There's an area with small caves too, unfortunately they were closed off to visitors that day. They were still able to find their way down the hill from the lighthouse to the shore, where a boardwalk provided a sunny and very windy walk along the coast.

Pipkin: Wow, it's so WINDY here!
Domo: What? I can't hear, it's so WINDY here!

How windy was it? So windy, Pipkin and Domo needed some help having the wind blocked while posing for this photo so they wouldn't get blown away:


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tainan: The Phoenix City

After their visit to Sun Moon Lake and the Night Market, Pipkin and Domo continued south in Taiwan to Tainan, Taiwan's oldest city. Originally the capital of Taiwan during Dutch rule and after Dutch colonists were defeated in 1661, Taipei then became the capital after 1887. Tainan, having gone through several renewals and comebacks,  earned the nickname "The Phoenix City." It's known for its old cultural rituals, its temples and the first Confucian school, established in 1665. Above, Pipkin and Domo stand in the doorway of one of the Confucian school temples.

They climbed the steep steps inside this shrine, dedicated to Confucius' ancestors and lit some incense.

After checking out the view from the top, they visited Old Fort Provintia, a Western fort built when the Dutch colonized Taiwan. The fort was surrendered when the Dutch were defeated, and there's a rather humorous statue of the Dutch General looking rather, well, defeated, as he surrenders to Koxinga.

You can see the old fort walls underneath the Chinese styled towers built when they took over the fort. Today Old Fort Provintia is known as Chihkan Tower.

Pipkin liked the turtles holding up plaques, the white rabbit over this doorway, and the grinchy looking character on the roofline.

A little out of place at Old Fort Provintia was an ice cream stand, but Pipkin didn't mind. He went for a mango soft serve decorated in fruity puff cereal. This is the second ice cream he's had in Taiwan with cereal on it. Why not? It's still served with milk, technically...