September has been a slow month for me. I’ve had some minor setbacks this month as I realised that I required an ethics modification for my next project. Initially, I was a little disappointed as my original plan was to start recruiting this month. However, I strongly believe that every delay happens for a reason so I’m completely at peace.
I am calling it a slow month as I didn’t achieve what I had hoped to. While it certainly wasn’t what I hoped it would be, I still managed to get a few things ticked off. I submitted a paper, an ethics modification and presented an oral at a uni symposium. I’d like to think that this delay has been a blessing in disguise because it helped me refine the content for my upcoming intervention.
In other news, I have been very busy planning a personal milestone. It is something that I have been dreaming about for a long time now, so it was incredibly special when the good news came through. I am now patiently waiting for this long-awaited phase to unfold. Living in the present has never been so wonderful. I cannot wait to share the updates with you next month!
Our gut holds over 500 million neurons which connects to the brain and 95% of the serotonin (also known as the key hormone of happiness) is found in our gut.
The gut seems to be a hot nutrition topic these days. There is a lot of new research happening which is showing that gut is related to our mood, mental focus, immune system and even conditions like depression.
Given the importance of a healthier gut, it may be worthwhile to incorporate a few changes in our diet. Here are some simple ways to gain yourself a healthier gut:
Go high on wholefoods
If there is one message you are taking away from reading this article, it should be this. Eat wholefoods when you can and give refined carbohydrates or processed foods a break. Eating wholefoods will reward your body with the goodness of fibre and other essential nutrients our body needs for regulation of gut health.
Go slow on the sugar
While we have known for some time that too much sugar is not good for our body, recent research is revealing that it may also be changing our gut flora. Having lots of sugar in your diet will promote the growth of sugar-loving bacteria in our gut and can result in cravings for more sugar. Depriving them of sugar often produces bacterial toxins which can leave you feeling poorly.
Swap to better fats
A diet which is high in saturated and trans fat (also known as bad fats) has been linked to many chronic diseases, including gastrointestinal disorders. Polyunsaturated fats (which includes omega 3 and 6) help promote the growth of a healthy gut microbiota.
Water is our lifeline as it flushes out toxins and maintains fluid balance in our body. As a rule of thumb, an average adult needs about 8 glasses of water per day. If you are struggling to get enough in your day, you could try squeezing in more by adding citrus flavours such as lemons.
Don’t expect changes overnight
Recognise that this will be a long term process. Think of it as planting seeds in your garden today and expecting fruits in a couple of years. Much like a garden, your gut needs to be nurtured and looked after before you see the fruit.
The year is flying away like crazy! I’ve continued to spend a lot of time hibernating this month which really helps with writing (at times). It only works at times because I suffer from Writer’s block on some days. I managed to get somewhat close to finishing another paper. I say ‘somewhat close’ because I am not sure how much work it will require. I worked on revising another paper which is almost ready to go.
In other news, I’ve started doing a bit of teaching again and taken on an admin role at journal club. Sometimes, it really helps to change up tasks and expose myself to other activities. I’ve also been finalising the finer details of my last project which finally received ethics clearance last week. Obtaining ethics approval was definitely the highlight of the month as it has taken almost two months to come together. I am so looking forward to starting the next chapter of my PhD.
There are still a few things I need to set up but I can definitely see light at the end of the tunnel. I have written up a monthly plan for the rest of the year which is a little unusual for me (I only write one at the beginning of each month). While I know that things may not fully go according to my plan, I still find it really useful to write as it helps me stay focused. It is so easy to get caught up in the little project and lose sight of the big picture!
Overall, it has been a pretty productive month. I have tried to get around Writer’s block and adapt to the situation by constantly telling myself that the output I am producing towards my PhD will never be consistent. Some days will be super productive while other days won’t be. It is okay to have both.
Here are my eats for this month 🙂 I’m currently obsessed with strawberries!
6 sheets of Latina Fresh lasagne sheets
2 garlic cloves ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
1 large onion ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
1 chilli ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Drizzle of EVOO (I use Cobram Estate)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
100 g smooth ricotta ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
280 g broccoli
Italian diced tomatoes (2 cans)
415 g frozen mixed veggies
60 g grated parmesan ⠀
1️⃣ Heat EVOO on a saucepan. Add garlic and onion
2️⃣ Cook until soft. Add diced tomatoes and cover with lid
3️⃣ Once mixture has thickened, add broccoli (this will take longer to cook) ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
4️⃣ Add remaining mixed veggies 5 mins later
5️⃣ Spray baking dish with EVOO. Layer pasta sheet followed by veggies then ricotta
6️⃣ Cover top layer with ricotta and add parmesan
7️⃣ Bake for 35-40 minutes
8️⃣ Stand for 15 mins ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
9️⃣ Serve + pack away for work lunches ⠀⠀
Nutrition information per serve (serves 6) 🤓
1315 kJ or 314 cal, 17g protein, 4g sat fat, 37 g carbs, 270 mg sodium ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Another month down! It is crazy how fast the year is going. I have mostly been hibernating because I have been writing. One of the challenges that come with writing is that some days are better than others and I often underestimate the time it will take to do something (i.e. writing a section on X, finding a reference on Y). So, it can feel like I am not making progress on some days. However, the good news is that I have managed to finish the paper I was writing and moved onto the next one.
I have also been working on a few other side projects. It can often be quite rewarding to have tasks like this when I need to take a break from writing. Speaking of which, I went to a workshop on thesis writing workshop earlier this month. I found it pretty overwhelming because it made me realise how complicated and all the little things that I need to consider during write up.
In other news, I managed to finish my conference blog from Hong Kong. Overall, it has been a pretty stressful but productive month. I have realised that there’s so much left that needs to be done, so I am trying to pace myself as much as I can and priortise what needs to be done first.
I travelled with Qantas and caught a morning flight from Sydney. I could feel the humidity as soon as I stepped out of the airport. I met up with a friend and we caught an urban taxi to our apartment. We had booked our apartment in Glenealy through TripAdvisor. This was our first time booking trying TripAdvisor as I have always gone with Airbnb in the past.
It took quite a bit of effort to find our apartment (without Wi-Fi) and get our luggage up through the different style of lifts (lifts are much smaller and have an extra gate). It was 8pm by the time we arrived at our apartment, so we headed straight for dinner. It was really nice to go out but I also found it challenging to walk on the streets as it was very busy (it was a Friday night). We wandered around for some time and came across a nice Thai place. I found the weather to be very humid so opted for a cool salad. It was refreshing to have a coconut drink which kind of reminded me of Fiji. We went for a walk after dinner to get groceries. We bought a few things for breakfast from M&S and came home. It was finally time to take a much needed shower and sleep!
We started off our day at Hong Kong Botanical and Zoological Gardens which was closest to us. Here, we got the chance to see Bornean Orang-utans, Buff-cheeked Gibbons, Emperor Tamarins, Golden-headed Lion Tamarin, De Brazzia’s Monkey, Red-Crowned Crane and common squirrel monkey. I still remember how sad the Orang-utan looked. While it was nice to see some of these exotic species, it sometimes makes me sad when I think about the captive state they are in. We were sweating by the end of our walk and needed to go find some shops to cool down. We spent some time in Marks and Spencer and wanted to get a drink from a café. Eventually, we came across a nice hipster café and cooled down with a vegetable juice. After this, we spontaneously visited Jamia Mosque, Man Mo Temple and local markets. We were struggling with the humidity and needed to take another break.
We headed back to our apartment with some fresh lychees from the local markets. We had plans to have lunch at Tim Ho Wan; the closest one to us was located in IFC Mall. We made multiple attempts to find the restaurant and decided to give up after a while. We were starving by then so we just settled for Pret a Manager. The rooftop garden view here was pretty amazing and made up for the time we lost looking for Tim Ho Wan. We then went on the star Ferry to the other side of the island. We explored shops, Kowloon Park and watched the sunset from Kowloon Bay. We headed back to HK Central for dinner but found it really difficult to settle down for a restaurant. We ended up going to Big Sur which to our surprise, turned out lovely. We grabbed some food from Marks and Spencer and headed home.
We left home around 9:30am but I had to come back because I was feeling lightheaded. At first, I thought it would go away once I walked outside in the fresh air. But I soon started having really awful cramps and felt like I was close to passing out. Thankfully, one of my friends came to the rescue with some electrolytes. Initially I wasn’t sure why I got sick but then it all made sense once I factored in the dehydration from yesterday. We had walked way more than usual and I didn’t hydrate myself enough at night after I returned home. The symptoms were confusing at first, the cramps hung around all day. I assumed it was food poisoning because we had eaten at a small market place yesterday (in Kowloon). However, I later realised that it was due to heat exhaustion. I spent all day in bed and tried to nap with the belief that sleeping it off will make it better. I was so cooped up in my room and didn’t even step out to eat because of the nausea. Eventually, I felt well enough to be up and managed to go out for dinner. We went to Tasty Congee & Noodle Wantun Soup as it was recommended to us by our host. I decided congee here for the first time and loved it (was basically like a savoury porridge). We walked around the roof top garden at IFC afterwards and watched a mini lightshow at 9pm. The view from here was just as amazing at night.
Today was the first day of the conference. The ISBNPA conference was held in Wan Chai which was a 25 minute walk from our apartment. I presented my PhD research which was really exciting because the audience was larger than usual presentation. My favourite session from today was on reshaping food systems for health. It presented some major challenges that our food systems are currently facing (overweight/ obesity, diabetes, food insecurity, micronutrient deficiency) and made me realise the power of food because of the economic opportunities it provides while nurturing communities. It also got me thinking about how food can be leveraged for health. In the evening, I went on an antique tram tour for a conference networking session. The tram itself lasted around two hours but we also needed to catch a shuttle bus to and from the tram shed. It was really nice to network with fellow researchers and see the different parts of the city at night. I caught a taxi back and made it home just before 10pm.
We woke up super early because we wanted to go up to see The Peak before the conference started. We realised that early morning was our best shot because we heard about how busy the lines can be during the day. The view at The Peak was absolutely breathtaking; it was definitely one of my favourites. I would have loved to hike it up here if I had more time (only takes around 45 mins). It was another great day at the conference; I presented another poster and attended some great sessions. After the conference, we went to Hong Kong Park on our way back. It was nice to take a detour and enjoy the afternoon walk. When we returned to our apartment, we learnt about the level one warning for typhoon and felt puzzled because we weren’t sure what it meant. For dinner, I met up with my old mates who now live in Hong Kong. They took me a very hipster café. It was nice to catch up and hear about how the dietetic profession is different on this side of the world. Before heading home, I had a go at one of the traditional HK desserts which was pretty interesting.
We started off our morning at Grassroots Pantry for breakfast. I fell in love with this plant-based café the first time I saw it, and the food did not disappoint either. Unfortunately, the rain had started by then so we found it really difficult to find a taxi after we checked out of our apartment. We made it to the conference by morning tea. After the conference, we went to Goods of Desire for shopping and finally got ourselves an egg tart from Paper Stone Bakery. We caught the ferry to TST despite the bad weather and checked into Hotel Icon. Our room had a harbour view, it wasn’t the best view but still so much nicer than our apartment. It was so nice to be able to relax, so glad we decided to splurge after reading Heidi’s blog. As we were exploring the rooftop pool, we also visited the hotel restaurant on our way. To our surprise, they were able to book us in for a window table. It was fancy to be dining with a view, for change. We ordered two dishes that were of canton origin (was our most expensive dinner in HK). We were very tired by the time we returned to our room and fell asleep soon after.
Today was our last day in Hong Kong. I woke up feeling confused because the time showed to be 9am. We had been waking up early every single day so this was very late. I honestly couldn’t believe that we slept so much but obviously, our bodies needed the sleep. I woke up feeling very refreshed. We took our time getting ready while sipping coffee and munching on M&Ms from our mini bar. We then stored our bags and checked out of our hotel. We still had some exploring to do on this side of the island! We went to a tiny hipster café called N1 and worked out a plan for the day as we did not have much time left. We wanted to as much sightseeing as possible, as well as try some local foods and I also needed to purchase some souvenirs. We stopped at a few bakeries where I purchased some souvenirs and tried local items (pineapple cake from Hang Heung bakery; red tea walnut bread from A1 bakery). We had also looked up a place (Hoover Cake shop) that’s supposed to have the best egg tart in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, it took us a while to find it because we could not read the shop name and kept going past it. I tried a pineapple and peanut bun and the famous egg tart here. We found it difficult to communicate here because no one spoke English at this bakery. We walked through Flower city market which was a wonderful experience. We went to Kowloon City Walled Park after this. This park was like no other, it was so tranquil. We sat down and enjoyed our baked goods we had bought. We realised we had walked way too far from our hotel and decided to catch a cab back to our hotel. From there, it was another taxi ride to the airport. I ate my last egg tart and picked up some souvenirs in attempt to bring a piece of Hong Kong back with me.
Advice for future travellers
Be wary of hill and uneven surfaces – flat shoes are a must! I didn’t realise this until I landed but luckily the shoes I had packed were super comfortable. I would definitely recommend hiking- the mountain views are pretty amazing (The Peak was my fav).
Carry cash when possible. Hong Kong was just as expensive as Sydney (if not more). Most places will accept card but some of the smaller/ local shops may not, so best to carry cash.
Be wary if you are buying things at local markets. The prices can vary a lot depending on where you go. It is possible to bargain at some places but I didn’t even try because I am so bad at haggling!
We chose to walk to most places (when possible) but the transport here was pretty convenient. Taxi is another great option and worked out to be much cheaper than Sydney.
Make sure to visit the local bakeries, literally every single bakery is amazing! I would’ve loved to have tried out more foods, egg tarts were my favourite.
My month started off with ISBNPA conference which was held in Hong Kong this year. This was my second time attending this conference (after Victoria, Canada last year). I really enjoyed the conference as it is closely related to my PhD topic. I also had a chance to explore Hong Kong. It was nice to get away from the cold and take a mini break (click here to read the blog).
In terms of PhD work, I had a super productive month. I was bogged down writing a really big ethics application which will form the last section of my PhD. When I started, it seemed like an impossible task because I hadn’t done anything this big before. It took some time to come together, with the help of my supervisor and PhD colleagues. Honestly, I am so grateful to all the people that supported me, because I couldn’t have done it all on my own.
In other news, I’ve joined as a DAA Media Spokesperson this month. I had applied for this role back in April after learning that a position had become available in NSW. I started writing for the media last year and I knew it’d be the perfect opportunity to hone my media skills. I was so thrilled when I heard the good news, it literally made my week and was probably my highlight from this month!
On a personal note, I’ve had some past issues resurface this month. It has been tough and it has been giving me major anxiety at times. But I’ve mostly been trying to focus on the positives and reminding myself of the great things that happened this month. I’m going to keep my focus on the sunny side, just like my eggs!
Last month, I attended the DAA conference in Sydney. This was my third DAA conference after becoming a dietitian. Previous conferences in Melbourne and Hobart presented great travel opportunities. But I had a lot going on leading up to this conference (preparing for my oral presentation and another upcoming international conference) so I was kind of relieved that I wouldn’t have to travel anywhere.
Asking the BIG questions “How can we be the change we want to see in the world?”
The theme for this year’s conference was #ThinkBig. The conference started with motivational speaker Jeremy Meltzer who spoke about business as a force for good and millennial power. This was one of my favourite sessions as it really got me thinking big picture.
“Women entrepreneurs and business leaders are the fastest-growing economic force in the world”-Muhtar Kent (CEO, Coca Cola). Women are the greatest drivers of economic growth this century.
We also learnt about new terms like ‘nutribollox’ which describes the utter rubbish we are exposed to on social media. Another interesting one was ‘nutribabble’ which is not absolute rubbish but it is information that conflicts (like a popular women’s magazine).
Why do we so readily reject expert advice? One reason: as humans, we favour information that confirms our pre-existing ideas.
On Friday, I attended a breakfast seminar which was hosted by Australian Eggs presenting some latest research. A few people asked me about this on Instagram already, so I thought I’d put in a summary here as well:
Eggs are an economical, nutrient rich food and contain 11 of the essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, E and B12, as well as antioxidants, choline and lutein. The advice in Australia has been to consume up to 6 eggs per week. However, recommendations around the world have been much higher.
The latest Australian study (DIABEGG) looked at the of high-egg diet on cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes. It was a randomised controlled trial. This essentially meant that people either got a high egg diet OR low egg diet. The main findings from the study was no change in cardiovascular risk factors when compared between the two groups. They looked at a range of measures which included blood pressure, pulse, body fat, weight, total body fat and waist, total cholesterol, triglyceride, LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol) and novel markers to measure vascular and systemic inflammation.
So, what does this mean? This means it may be safe to include eggs in your diet more regularly (even if you are at risk of type 2 diabetes or have type two diabetes). “A healthy diet based on population guidelines and including more eggs than currently recommended by some countries may be safely consumed.” Click here if you want to know more about the published research.
Food fairness everyone’s business especially if we are going to feed 9 billion people by 2042. All stakeholders need to be involved and engaged. It’s time to advocate for change! Most would not think of food security in the modern age of social media where we see so much food porn and endless brunch posts when we are scrolling
On the last day, we had workshops on food security/ hidden hunger which was quite insightful. We are so caught up in the social media world with brunch porn and decadent desserts, we often forget how common food security can be. The plenary session ended with a great debate on the weighty issue which questioned whether BMI should be regularly used to assess obese patients.
BMI is a real issue but not the only issue. But it should not be reflective as a single measure of total health. Focusing on diet quality may be better for improving health and well-being rather than talking only about weight.
#DAA2018 has been my favourite DAA conference I have been to thus far. Happy to say, it sparked some really big ideas in me. #DAA2018 has gotten me to think bigger than ever before! Now I’ve got a million dreams that are keeping me awake! It has helped me realise that I need to work on rebranding my account and aligning my passion/ personal interests closer to my professional work.
My favourite sessions included the motivational talk by Jeremy Meltzer, workshops on engaging for success and creating your dream career. The latter workshop focused on branding and becoming an entrepreneur which was highly valuable. It all got me thinking about making changes in my personal and professional life so it aligns better with my passion.
While there is an endless amount of ‘nutribollox’ out there, it’s also an exciting time to be involved. Our profession is not headed in one direction, it’s headed in multiple directions. There is a lot going on which can be puzzling but we now have an international audience.
Here are my top 5 learnings:
We as dietitians need to connect over food and look out for each other (rather than competing). We really need to support the work that other dietitians are doing.
We have lost the enjoyment with food. We need to take your weight-centric glasses off! We should focus on improving diet quality and having a healthy relationship with food (rather than weight per se).
Despite having the expertise in food and nutrition, we must say we “don’t have all the answers”. We must stop saying sorry for changing diet advice. When the evidence changes, we should not be sorry and stand firm on evidence-based practice.
As dietitians, we have a lot of compassion in our profession already which is great! But we need to work on empathy- we should focus on how patients want to be treated rather than how we want to treat them.
Last but certainly not least, we must have courage, an evidence-based opinion and bring out our passion in everything we do!
Thanks for reading! Check out my Twitter if you’d like to see more conference updates from #DAA2018 🙂
Getting through winter is no easy task because the shorter, darker days often leave us with gloom and makes us want to hibernate.
We all know that feeling when your wake up on a cold winter morning and something doesn’t feel quite right. It starts off with a sore throat and you just know you’re coming down with something. You start wondering who you caught it from and whether you could have taken any precautions! Here are 5 tips to keep your wellness game strong this winter:
Keep colours on your plate
Fruit and vegetables are a source of antioxidant and nutrients that protect us against cell damage and infection. Try baking some seasonal vegetables such as pumpkin, sweet potato, broccoli, beetroot etc. You could also include them in casseroles or soups, perfect for some winter warmth!
Keep up with your fluid intake
Water is needed in lymph fluid which is part of your immune system and can help fight off illness. However, most of us struggle to drink enough water due to the cold. This is where hot drinks like tea can come in handy. Green tea is packed with antioxidants and can also provide comfort and warmth in the cold. You can also try drinking warm water with a slice of lemon or citrus fruit for added flavour.
Boost up your immune system
Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) have a key role in keeping our immune system going strong. Vitamin A is found in orange and yellow vegetables like sweet potatoes pumpkin while vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries. Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin can also help support the immune system. Sources of vitamin D include sun exposure, oily fish such as mackerels, salmon and sardines, as well as fortified margarines. Zinc is a mineral that can help with healing and is found in lean meat, poultry and seafood and smaller amounts in pepitas, sesame seeds and baked beans.
Statistics suggests that 45% of Australians are expected to put on 1-2kg this winter. Winter weight gain commonly occurs from exercising less, eating more snack and takeaway foods. While exercising in the cold can be challenging, it can also boost your mood and reduce your stress levels. Stress can have a negative impact on our body as it sets up chronic inflammation in our body. Producing excess amounts of cortisol (due to stress) can weaken the immune system.
Keep your hygiene game strong
This may sound simple but washing hands frequently is the number one way to stop the spread of germs. Experts recommend washing hands every few hours, especially after using the toilet and before eating. It’s also a good idea to wash them after touching someone else’s phone or keyboard at work.
Hope you enjoyed reading! Feel free to share other tips with me 🙂
It has been a rather strange month. At times, it felt like everything was in my favour while at other times, it felt like an absolute chaos. But happy to say, I am mostly starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. But there are times when I have been hung up on how things used to be and I am trying my best to get past this phase. I’m just taking it one day at a time and waiting on a number of different things to unfold in my life. Despite the uncertainty, everything feels like a miracle after having a recent disruptive change in my life. It almost reminds me of Albert Einstein’s famous quote, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.” I have always believed in miracles and I think they’re great because it gives you hope to go on under any circumstances.
In terms of my PhD, I spent this month preparing for my oral presentation, creating my posters for my next conference, finalising work on a student project, writing up a survey paper and planning the last chapter of my PhD. I attended the DAA conference which was held in Sydney (blog coming up soon). The conference was so insightful and probably was my favourite DAA conference out of the three I have been to. It’s only early days but I’ve been super pumped after the conference. I feel like I have now discovered a purpose and now I somehow just need to connect the dots between my core values and my love for dietetics. I haven’t figured it out all yet but definitely feeling more optimistic about everything.
In other news, I finally managed to finish my London blog after almost 3 months. It honestly feels like a huge accomplishment because I haven’t been able to blog at all and it felt like everything had come to a roadblock. I am spending more time in the social media space and working on planning some new content.
I flew over to London to attend the 4th CBC Digital Health Conference (Behaviour Change for Health: Digital and Beyond) at UCL. I was very keen on this one as I’ve heard lots of great things about this conference from other people in my research group. I also had an oral presentation presenting a section of my PhD research which was super exciting!
My friend and I spent quite a bit of time planning our trip when we went to Canada last year. However, this time, I asked a few of my friends for recommendations which gave us plenty of places to cover. We basically winged it on the spot. Well, technically we planned it the night before. I think it worked well in London because the Tube is so well connected and everything was pretty close (relative to Sydney).
We chose to stay at The Academy because it was located really close to the conference venue. It was listed as one of the top 10 character hotels. The hotel is from the Georgian period and felt very British/ old school, as you would expect. The room felt pretty congested at first but I reminded myself that that this was one of the bigger rooms I had shortlisted!
We were feeling very tired after getting out of the plane after almost 24 hours. It felt pretty awful at first but I soon recovered after I started walking. We caught the underground tube to our stop Russell Square which took almost one hour. Initially, the tube was fairly light (got a seat) but it got packed later. We found it hard to get out with luggage and almost missed our stop! The walk to our hotel was a short one and we settled down in our room which felt rather small at first. We went out for a late lunch/ early dinner to Thai Bushaba Restaurant. We went for a brief walk after dinner and settled for an early night.
We woke up super early and were out of the hotel by 7:30am. We looked up a breakfast place in Bloomsbury on Tripadvisor and arrived at Salt & Pepper. We were very hungry and we found their breakfast to be very satisfying. We walked to Madame Tussauds from here which took about 30 minutes. We arrived there before it opened so we decided to take a detour to Sherlock Holmes Museum. Exploring both museums took a long time; especially Madame Tussauds which involved taking a gazillion photos with the celebrities! Our phone batteries were exhausted and we needed to head home soon. We had lunch on the way at You me sushi which claimed to have the best chicken katsu in London. We headed home, rested and went to dinner at Mondello Italian restaurant. We headed for an early night again and was in bed by 10pm.
We were slower getting out this morning and left home around 8:30am. We caught a tube to Westminister and ate breakfast at The Red Lion. We had learnt about Big Ben undergoing scaffolding last night but we didn’t think it would be fully covered! We visited Westminster Abbey after this and took the self-guided tour. I really enjoyed learning about the tombs, monuments and seeing some of the finest architectures that goes back as early as 1200’s.
We visited London Eye after this which was a nice way to transition into the modern world. London Eye sits in the heart of London, opposite the Houses of Parliament on South Bank. I loved the views from here although I am sure it would have looked even better on a sunny day. We had lunch at Bao Garden which was the first Chinese restaurant in London. We visited Tower Bridge after lunch which was another walk through history. We both fell asleep around 7ish after heading back. It was supposed to be a nap but we found ourselves waking up 11:30pm and going without dinner!
Today was conference day. I was very excited for this conference as I had heard a lot of great things from my research group. Thankfully, we were only two minutes away from the conference which gave us the luxury to go out for breakfast at Le Pain Quodien. The baked eggs with salmon were delicious. My day was very well spent at the conference while my partner explored British Museum. We went to a Turkish restaurant near our hotel which exceeded our expectations. It was a really nice experience as I am not very familiar with Turkish cuisine (other than pide). I didn’t have much veggies at the conference so I chose to go with a vegetarian dish (loved the spinach).
Today was my presentation day and also the last day of the conference. I left feeling so inspired and a little sad because it had come to an end. But it was exciting at the same time, we still had a few things we wanted to tick off before we left for Sydney. We went to Pataya Thai to catch up with a cousin who I hadn’t seen in quite some time. We absolutely loved the night vibes at Oxford Circus because it was something we hadn’t quite experienced yet in London (thanks to our jet lag and falling asleep early).
Today was our second last day in London. We started our day at Dishoom for breakfast as we heard great recommendations on the egg naan roll. I am not a huge fan of most Indian foods but the egg naan roll here was absolutely amazing. It was nothing like I had tasted before! We then caught a tube to Buckingham Palace. We were there quite early which left us enough time to explore Green Park. The changing of the guards happen at a certain time but you really need to arrive early to get a good spot. Unfortunately, it was very cold that day. It was between 1-3 degrees and we were both freezing. We ended up with a semi-good spot and still had around half an hour to kill. The wait was excruciating because it was too cold to take my gloves and use my phone (we had to grab coffee to warm up after this).
We visited Tower of London next. I absolutely loved because it was almost like I had a ticket to visit the past! We took our time absorbing moments from history. However, we were starving when we finally finished! It was around 3:30pm and we needed to find food ASAP. We came across Wakanama which provided much comfort food and warmth (we had ramen and udon soup). For dinner, we had plans to go to Ottolengthi as it was recommended by a friend. However, we were a little disappointed with our order and had to leave already (there was a booking after ours). We explored more of Oxford Circus and grabbed another light meal at Wasabi before heading home. We got home just before 10pm. We were exhausted as we are normally in bed by this hour.
We had breakfast at Dishoom again because both of us had fallen in love with the egg naan roll. Today was our last chance to tick off some places before we hopped on the plane at night. Our list included Covent Garden, Hyde Park, Primrose Hill, Notting Hill, St Paul’s Cathedral, Covent Garden was a great place to hang for entertainment because there’s always someone to look at or listen to (in addition to shops). We walked around Hyde Park and decided to have lunch at Soho at Wildwood café. After lunch, we went over to the British Museum which was the last thing on my list (was recommended by many). Seeing British Museum was an eye-opening experience for me. It is the oldest museum in the world and I was amazed at their rich collection of treasures and artefacts from almost every corner of the globe. The Egyptian section was my favourite as it is one that I have loved since I was young.
The perks of jet lag and sleeping early helped us wake up early every single day. While it meant that we couldn’t have much of a night life, we still managed to see quite a lot in the short time. London is definitely a place I’d love to come back and visit again. To be honest, I don’t know when I will be back but here’s a list for next time, just in case I forget!
Within London (Primrose hill, Camden markets, Notting Hill, Kensington gardens, St James Park, Shoreditch and Sky Garden)
Outside of London (i.e. Scotland, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Oxford, Newcastle)
Other places in Europe (mainly Santorini, Switzerland, Paris and Italy)
I’m not even sure how to begin. The word ‘anxious’ barely covers the emotions I have felt this month. April has always been a happy period in my life as my birthday falls on this month. In my last post, I felt like things were finally looking up in my life. I could have never guessed that the glimpse of sunshine would move out so drastically and be replaced by pitch darkness.
A part of me wasn’t even sure how to write this out. But I felt the need to write something because I often find it therapeutic to write in times of stress. Moreover, I felt it was important to document my PhD journey despite the recent changes in my personal situation. I’ve had to take some time off to attend a family emergency. It has been really tough because family has always been my number one.
For the first week, I had to disconnect from everything in order to cope. I am a huge task planner so I felt very miserable when I didn’t know what was going to happen tomorrow or the day after. All my plans had become non-existent. Then I realised that I needed to pick up things from where I left off. I knew that I wasn’t going to make great progress because I’m not in the same mindset I used to be. But I knew that I am better off making an attempt rather than not trying at all. To be honest, I am still struggling but I am trying to normalise my routine to what it used to be. I have started to work flexible hours, communicate with others and appear somewhat active on social media.
In other news, I’ve had my ‘gestation paper‘ accepted for publication. It was probably my happiest moment from April that came out of my PhD. But I’ve also had a paper rejected which probably makes it even. My current priorities include screening for a review and preparing for upcoming conference presentations. Of course, there’s so much more that needs to be done but I am taking it one step at a time.
Overall, this month has been incredibly challenging and emotionally exhausting. There were times when I completely broke down and other times when I did my best to remain strong. I have come to learn just how unpredictable life can be, the hard way. So, I am doing my best to be grateful for the present and for the little things in life.
We visited the Blue Mountains to celebrate our one year anniversary. We had planned to keep this small because we had sort of celebrated early while we were away in Fiji last month. We celebrated in advance because we knew it would’ve been hard for us to take time off around this period. But it is always nice to do something on the actual day, so we decided to go somewhere for a weekend getaway.
I had heard a lot great things about staying in the Blue Mountains. Both of us hadn’t been there for almost a decade so thought it would be nice and close. We stayed at Hotel Mountain Heritage in Blue Mountains. We chose to stay here because of the view and spa. Unfortunately, the traffic on our way was horrendous. We had to stop at The Bunker Cafe Bar Restraurant in Springwood because we were getting too hungry. The wait was pretty long but the food here made up for it.
We went for our anniversary dinner to Pins on Lurline. Their presentation was very beautiful, and it was so great to be able to see it properly (their restaurant was well lit compared to other fine dining places I have been to). It may sound silly, but I want to be able to see my food clearly; because to me, we eat with our eyes. There’s no point in giving someone a beautifully presented dish if you can’t see what’s on your plate properly!
The next day, we checked out of our hotel and headed to Red Door Café. Someone recommended this to me a while ago, and it has been on my list for about a year (I rarely go out that west). After breakfast, we headed out to see The Three Sisters and Blue Mountains. I hadn’t been here for over a decade, so it felt like I was almost seeing it for the first time again. We went for a long walk, found it to be pretty crowded (I had no idea so many tourists came out so far to see the mountains).
We went to Zen-Sai Japanese Restaurant for lunch. We didn’t have anything in mind and randomly came across it on TripAdvisor as it was rated as #2 for Japanese in the area. In general, I am very biased towards Japanese food but this was delicious.
Overall, it was a wonderful getaway. It obviously felt too short but it was still nice to be able to celebrate 🙂
This was our first time travelling to Fiji for an end of year holiday. We decided to pick Fiji because my partner had initially suggested it for our honeymoon. However, we ended up going to Queenstown as that period happened to be the monsoon period in Fiji and I was advised not to go by a close friend. So, we decided to make Fiji our second honeymoon destination instead!
We travelled to Nadi with Virgin Australia which took around 4.5 hours. We stayed in Lautoka for the first two nights (an hour from Nadi airport). We caught a taxi for all of our travels. I had read some blogs earlier and learnt that tourists are often asked to pay much higher rates (both travel and activities). So, we asked our hotel to provide us with a quote and tried to put our haggling skills to use when getting a taxi (I say ‘tried’ because both of us are very bad at haggling). The remaining taxi fares were reasonable or were fixed rates.
Island life and adventure
During our time at Lautoka, we walked around our nearest streets but did not go out into town. We stayed in Yanuca Island at Shangri La Resort. We had initially thought about taking a day trip out somewhere. But we just fell in love with the resort as the whole island was one resort with lots of activities. I’m not a snorkelling person but I would highly recommend it if you are visiting Coral Coast as it is one of the best places to snorkel in Fiji. I tried kayaking there for the first time and I absolutely loved it!
We stayed at Tanau hotel for the first two nights and travelled to Shangri La resort for the remaining four nights at Yanuca Island. We booked our accommodation on hotels.com. Funnily enough, these weren’t our first choice as we had initially intended to stay at Denarau Island which is the main touristy hub. Back in hindsight, I’m really glad things worked out the way it did because we both found Yanuca Island perfect for relaxation and Lautoka enjoyable for a little exploration. I’d definitely recommend Shangri-La to anyone who is travelling to Fiji for a relaxation holiday and doesn’t wish to move around too much.
Food was probably my second favourite thing about Fiji (island views topped as the first). We ate some really amazing, wonderful food. However, we did not get to experience authentic Fijian cuisine as the menu served at hotels and resorts was very diverse (we ate noodles, rice, sushi, Vietnamese rolls, pizza, pasta, pancakes, wraps, salads etc.). Two of my favourite dishes were trying a traditional rourou (taro) and an okra and potato curry. Taro was definitely my favourite because I used to eat it as a child and have not had it for a long time. Okra, on the other hand remains one of my favourite veggies. Both of our accommodation included breakfast buffets which was great (breakfast is my favourite meal of the day). The breakfast options at Shangri La were pretty amazing; the mushrooms, waffles and pancakes usually made my day. Last but certainly not least, the fruits that topped my list pineapple, coconut water and pawpaw. The pineapple was incredibly sweet there so I’d highly recommend everyone to load up on it.
Everyone speaks English really well so we had no struggles communicating at all. We left knowing the same Fijian words we had started with (‘bula’ is for saying hi and ‘vinaka’ is thank you). As I previously mentioned, the purpose of our trip was relaxation (not exploration), so we left feeling very content. Having said that, I know lots of people who have taken part in adventurous activities including snorkelling, jet skiing, hikes to waterfalls, island cruises, village tours etc. The Fijian people were every so friendly and welcoming, especially at Yanuca Island (they would always wave ‘bula’ to us from far distances and sang us a romantic and a farewell song during our anniversary dinner).
Fiji was absolutely amazing and just the relaxation holiday we needed. But if you’d like to do something more exploratory, Fiji has just as much to offer. Here are 3 tips for any future travellers:
Make sure to plan your trip in advance if you are intending on doing lots of exploring. Fiji has 333 islands, so travelling to some islands can be quite a day trip!
Use cash, if possible. Some places may not take card or charge a transaction fee. We drew out Fijian dollars before we left Sydney.
Fiji is not particularly cheap. Most meals at the resorts will cost around the same price as Australia. Fijian water may also seem to be ridiculously expensive (we paid around $9.50 for a 1L bottle at the resort). But we told ourselves it’s okay, you’re on holidays. Don’t expect all gains; because you lose some, you gain some!
Thanks for reading. Keep scrolling down to see the full journey 🙂
I honestly cannot believe how fast the year is flying away! March didn’t start off all that great for me. I started on a brand new project, so there were some initial challenges. Thankfully, I was able to resolve them within a couple of days. I was also working on putting a summary of my conference learning. I find it really inspiring to attend conferences as it helps me think about the big picture (I sometimes get too bogged down with the smaller details).
Other major tasks this month included two paper revisions. I am back to do doing some teaching and supervising an interesting project (the semester started earlier this month). It is hard to juggle at times, but I still find it to be very rewarding and fun!
In other news, I am also working on creating some content for my blog. However, progress has been slow because most of the time I am in the ‘blog planning’ phase and struggle to find the time to put my plans into action. Happy to say, I am working on ways to manage my time better, so hopefully there will be more content coming up soon.
There were a few personal struggles too (was sick for a couple of days and dealing with an ongoing internal conflict which has been going on for longer than it should). But I know that it’s probably not going to stop until I get things off my chest. I know that won’t be happening anytime soon, so I decided to start a gratitude journal this month. I tried the #30daysofthankfulness challenge on Instagram last year, and I have been thinking about making it a regular thing since then. It has only been three weeks, but I like it so far.
Overall, it has been a pretty good month. I was able to tick off a few things off my list, so I feel like things are finally starting to look up, yay!
In today’s age of feeling good and eating better, annual food trends have become a real thing. You don’t always know what is coming up ahead but it is often possible to make predictions based on current popularity of particular foods. Here are five expected food trends that 2018 may bring out for us:
More plant-based/ vegan diets
Veganism has been incredibly popular diet in 2017 and it is thought that it will only increase in popularity through 2018. While there are other ways to decrease your carbon footprint, vegan diets have been regarded as environmentally sustainable by many. However, we cannot say that eating a certain type of diet (i.e. vegan) is any better for the environment. This is because it depends on several other factors which take production systems and waste amount into consideration.
Gut friendly food
Because let’s face it, gut health is the new thing and it’s on everyone’s mind! People usually think of fermented products or pickled veggies but it can include so much more. Eating adequate vegetables, fibre, prebiotic-rich, probiotic-rich foods and fluid intake can influence gut health. So, we expect restaurants and catering places to incorporate more gut friendly options this year.
Making food more accessible with tech
With technological advancements, we may see more apps like UberEats or apps that can filter restaurants to some of the popular diets we have seen (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan). There are speculations that drones may be taking up tasks such as coffee making or even delivery!
Single serve packs
There has been some in the market already but it is expected that this will increase further to provide convenient snacks for busy working individuals. It could include portion controlled snacks (i.e. chips) and options providing portable protein on the go.
In the previous years, we have seen foods like kale, quinoa, acai, goji berries take over the market so definitely know there will be some new superfoods coming in the spotlight. As hemp seed foods has been recently legalised in Australia, it is expected that this will become a trend with hemp being included in smoothies, ice cream and other desserts. Other super foods may include nut oils, maqui berries, tiger nuts and mushroom powders/ supplements.
Have you ever told yourself that you’d follow a healthier diet if you had more time? We are all so busy these days, studying, working, looking after family/ kids, and everything in between; it can be difficult to make time to focus on your health. Many of us seem to be using the excuse to convince ourselves that we are ‘too busy’ to make health a priority at this point in time. We are often stuck in a vicious cycle where we hope that there will come a time when the situation will improve.
But, the truth is that things are not going to change on its own unless you initiate them. Your tomorrow needs to start today, and right now. So, here are five simple ways to kick start your healthy habits.
1. Meal planning
Perhaps, the most important factor in healthy eating is meal planning because it simply gives you more control of what goes in your mouth. By planning your meals, you won’t have to purchase take-away meals from the corner shop. If you find it overwhelming to plan for the entire week, start by planning one or two days at a time (i.e. plan what you are going to eat tomorrow and so forth). Make sure to account for meals and snacks at work too.
2. Write it down
By writing a shopping list, you will be equipped with all the right ingredients which will assist with your meal planning. At the beginning, you may find it easier to write down the meals you intend to cook, as well as the ingredients required to prepare this meal. If you are old fashioned and prefer to write it down, there are plenty of templates available online to stick on your fridge which look similar to this. If you are tech savvy and prefer to record it on your smartphone, there are lots of great apps to help you do this. You could also consider shopping online and opting for home delivery or pick-up at the store which may potentially save you some time, depending on your location. All of the major food retailers nowadays offer this service. If you are not into online shopping and prefer to buy your foods in person, that’s perfectly okay. Writing yourself a list and planning ahead will speed up the time you spend in the store.
3. Meal prep
There are a few different ways you can do this. Some may prefer to cook in bulk over the weekend or assemble the ingredients (i.e. chopping) so it is easier to throw something together on a weeknight (i.e. one pot meals). While some may argue that meal prep results in a loss of nutrients if it is reheated throughout the week, it is still beneficial to meal prep as most nutrients are unaffected except for vitamin C, folate and thiamine. It is important to remember that a nutrient value of a food will always change to some extend once it is cooked. Adding less water and cooking over lower temperatures can help retain nutrients, as well as careful storage of food.
4. Make the freezer your best friend
Freezing your meals is not only convenient on a busy day, but also helps to reduce food wastage and staving off the monotony that you might otherwise have with eating the same meals for the whole week. Moreover, your freezer can also accommodate for frozen vegetables that can be used for convenience.
5. Finally, keep it simple!
Recognise that learning a new habit will always be hard at the beginning, so start with what you already know. As you build up your skills, you can slowly start experimenting with new recipes. Also, remember that you don’t have to prepare everything from scratch. There are plenty of ways you can save time. Frozen fruit and vegetables, as well as canned vegetables/lentils are very similar in nutrients to fresh varieties and can be cheaper too.
We travelled to Q station for a quick weekend getaway. It was only for one night but it was nice to get away and also learn about the history of this place. I’m going to share a bit of the Q Station story below which is also known as “Sydney’s best kept secret”.
This was a side of Sydney we hadn’t explored before and it was only on arrival when we realised just how big the place was. We had to leave our car at the reception and were dropped off to our room by a hotel minibus.
Q Station is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park. Like many beautiful places, this place also has a dark history. It used to be a quarantine station from the mid-1800s. People were often brought here straight from the ship if they were sick or suspected to have an infectious disease. People were very much segregated back in the old days. There was obviously a clear division between the healthy and the sick, but people were divided based on their class (first, second and third class). The medical staff were divided depending on if you were a doctor or a nurse.
As you can imagine, the treatment wasn’t so great back then. Many were able to return to their normal environment after recovery but many died from virulent strains of influenza, smallpox etc. Some of the residents made carvings on the rocks to pass their time, few of which remain today. Some of the original furnitures have also been kept in the facilities.
While I really enjoyed this trip, a part of me felt sad for the people who were suffering/dying in the same space less than a century ago. Our world has changed so much in the last 100 years, we now have better treatments, infrastructure, technology and better of almost everything! Most of us take this stuff for granted but coming here made me realise just how grateful we should be for the life we all have now.
This photo was taken from the Former Second Class Precinct. These building were planned when the plague hit Sydney in the late 1800’s but by the time it was built, the plague had already passed. The difference between first and second class is that the walls here were lined with rippled iron (rather than timber). The irony is that second class has a better view!
On our way back, we stopped to have lunch at Fishbowl. It was nice to try their famous poke bowls. I really like how veggie packed they can be!
Overall, we had so fun exploring a different part of Sydney. It was intriguing to learn why this place has been called #sydneysbestkeptsecret 😉
The highlight of this month was my trip to London. I flew over to attend the 4th CBC Conference at UCL. I’ve heard lots of great things about this conference from other people in my research group. Since then, I started envisaging about going there at some point in my PhD. I was super excited for this one!
The conference was so great, probably my favourite thus far. It was a relatively smaller conference, so I was able to network with several people (unlike previous large conferences where it was often rather overwhelming). In terms of sightseeing, I didn’t end up doing any trip planning because I knew I would only be there for a couple of days. I asked a few of my friends for recommendations which gave us plenty of places to cover. I won’t say too much about my trip here because I’ll be writing up a separate travel blog for London soon. In other news, February wasn’t super productive in terms of making progress with my PhD. I spent the first two weeks working on my presentation. Some days felt slow because it needed a lot of tweaking. I also tried to write up a new paper as I waited for ethics to come through.
Overall, it has been a very adventurous month. Even though I was only away for a week, it felt somewhat longer because of the long flights and winter? I was starting to freeze in London as it got down to minus one! Let’s just say that I’m happy to be back and thankful for the weather we have here now.
I spent the first week of January holidaying in Fiji and taking a break has sort of helped me get a fresh start. The good news is that I finally had a pretty productive and positive month! A few people had expressed their concerns about the way I had been naming my blog posts towards the end of last year. Yes, I have had some pretty dark times. But I am finally starting to see the light at the end of a tunnel.
I’ve finally submitted my ‘gestation paper’ after almost 1.5 years. I started this paper towards the end of my first year and been carrying it since like a baby. While I know that it still has a long way to go until it goes out to the world, it was nice to get it out of my hands (for now at least). I’ve also been busy writing up a new ethics application which is one of those things that always takes much longer than you anticipate. But I am pretty happy with how things are coming along so far.
In other news, I have been focusing on lots of self-care routines this month. Some of you would know that 2017 has been a very overwhelming year for me. It was crazy and hectic; I can’t remember a time or month when I wasn’t out of my comfort zone. There were so many ups and downs in the same week or sometimes, even on the same day. I’ve tried my very best to keep my focus on the sunny side, but it hasn’t always been that easy. Nonetheless, I’d like to think that I am stronger and in a better space now. But one of the things I realised in 2017 is that I have been a ‘people pleaser’ more often than I should be. So, my goal for this year is to show more of the real me, engage in regular self-care and posting more blogs! Let’s do this 😀
Have you made your New Year Resolutions yet for 2018? Perhaps, you are still contemplating on them; or maybe you’ve come up with a few and realised that it isn’t going to work for you.
New Year Resolutions are great; but let’s be honest, we always tend to come up with goals that are overly ambitious or vague (i.e. I’m going to start eating healthier). Most of the time these goals don’t stick with us because we make them too hard for us and we don’t define it clearly in our mind. For example, eating healthy will mean different things to different people.
Here are some ways you could be more specific about your goals to lead a healthier lifestyle-
1) Losing weight
The most common goal people may have might be to lose weight. If this is you, don’t just say “I am going to lose weight this year.” Ask yourself, “how much is it that I want to lose?” If you have a very large number in mind, remember that you can realistically only lose 0.5-1 kg per week. If you are losing any more than this, it’s not likely to be sustainable. Australian statistics suggest that the most conscious group are 25-34 years, with the most common weight loss goal being 10kg.
2) Saying yes to brekkie
Most people already know that breakfast is a very important meal as it fuels us with energy for the day. However, many struggle with having a proper breakfast due to reasons such as time constraints. But it is possible to step up your breakfast game by prepping it the night before (i.e. portable-breakfast options) or keeping breakfast at your workplace.
3) Eating vegetables
Ask yourself, “When are the times I want to eat more veggies?” Adults need around 5-6 serves of vegetables, and it is not practical to be consuming it all in the one meal. It is best to spread it out during main meals and snacks.
4) Snacking healthier
Many of us don’t plan our snacks and often end up reaching for a bar of chocolate or something from the corner store when they get ‘hangry’. If this is you, it may be helpful to invest in snacks so you can keep it in your bag or at work. Examples of healthier snacks can include a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, carrot sticks with hummus.
5) Being more active: a lot of people tend to set exercise goals as it closely aligns with losing weight. Statistics show that a higher number of gym memberships are purchased in January, compared to other months. However, gym membership sales drop by March as autumn hits. Before rushing to join a gym you may never use, ask yourself what kind of exercise you’d like to do and how long you’d like to commit each day.
Remember to start slow and be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that it takes time to build good habits!
Initially, we had thought of far locations like Hawaii and Santorini for our honeymoon. But both of us had leave constraints at the time and going to the other side of the world just wasn’t practical. We wanted to keep it close to save ourselves from the jet lag and long flying times. We were down to two options, Fiji or New Zealand. We ruled Fiji out after learning about the cyclone season in Fiji during summer, and decided we would visit Fiji another time.
A bit about our trip
Where we stayed:
Day 1-6: Hilton Queenstown Resort and Spa
Day 7: Peppers Bluewater Resort, Lake Tekapo
Day 8: Rydges Lakeland Resort, Queenstown
Places visited- highlights
Where we ate:
Stacks Pub (Part of Hilton)
Mee Chinese (Part of Hilton)
Wakatipu Grill (Part of Hilton)
The Ballarat Trading Co
Minus 5 Ice Bar
The Lake Island Café (Part of Hilton)
Minamei Jujisei Japanese Restaurant
Walter Peak gourmet BBQ dinner
Skyline Gondola buffet dinner
Poppies Cafe, Twizel
Kohan restaurant, Lake Tekapo
Finz Seafood and Grill
Saigon Kingdom Vietnamese Restaurant
We were super excited as we landed at Queenstown airport. I will never forget how thrilled we were seeing the beautiful view of mountains as our plane descended! The airport was small and I loved how it just opened up to nature, I really appreciated the beauty of this airport coming from a busy, chaotic city airport like Sydney.
We had organised a car and drove our way to the Hilton Queenstown Resort. On our way, we could not stop appreciating how beautiful everything was looking. It was pretty as a picture! We got to our hotel room and we were even more amazed at the fabulous views our room had from both sides. We had lunch at Stacks Pub and dine outside and enjoy the view, but it was starting to get a little chilly. We started to realise that maybe Queenstown wasn’t going to be that warm after all.
Later that afternoon, we explored our way around the Hilton and walked around trying not to get lost! We were still in awe at how beautiful our surroundings were. The heavy pasta lunch was overly satisfying and carb-loaded so I wasn’t very hungry for dinner.
We had to be up super early for our Shotover Jetboat ride which was located outside of the city. We had a very quick breakfast at Wakatipu Grill and left early to allow ourselves plenty of time to get there. Shotover jet was freezing with the cold morning wind but it was absolutely the most incredible thrilling ride ever! I highly recommend this one- there are other jet boating places but Shotover Jet is said to be ‘New Zealand’s most thrilling boat ride’.
As much as I loved the experience, but I was freezing from the cold-water splashes and wind. We decided it was time to hit the shops for lunch and clothes-hunting. We made our way to the Queenstown CBD, we were expecting a huge mall coming from a big city like Sydney. I had a very interesting dish for lunch which was salmon ceviche. It was great, but I just wish I had something warm because I was still freezing inside from the Shotover Jet.
We explored Queenstown Gardens in the afternoon which was located very much in the heart of the CBD. It was pretty scenic and we both enjoyed the walk. After having a very satisfying dinner at Ballarat Co. We went to Minus Five Degrees Ice Bar. Thankfully, they had hoodies and gloves for us to wear before we enter the ice. It was fascinating to hear that all furniture (tables, chairs) were made from ice, even the glasses cocktail/ mocktails were served in! It was nice to be able to experience a cold temperature I had never been in previously, we lasted about 25 mins.
We took our time getting out of bed this morning as there was no booking to rush to. We started our day with a very big breakfast in the city (to fuel our hike at Queenstown Hills).
Neither of us expected it to be as intensive as it was because we are both pretty good when it comes to walking flat surfaces. The hike itself was not a long duration so we did not expect it to be super intensive. However, what we didn’t realise was that it demanded medium to high level fitness due to steep and uphill surfaces, as we discovered. It was incredibly challenging but overly rewarding because the views got better and better as we hiked up. I do like to call myself as being ‘pretty fit’ so I wasn’t going to give up so easily. We were determined to push our way up and made it to the top! We had each other and the view that kept us going and we loved the stunning view once we got to the top, we felt it was worth it. Luckily, the descend was much easier, we were able to do it in 35 mins (going up took over thrice the time). On our way back, I convinced the hubby that we would hike more this year and work on improving our fitness.
By the time we got back, most restaurants were starting to close or had closed. We were able to find one which was still open and it served perfect as a post-hike meal. We were pretty exhausted so we headed back to the hotel and relaxed for the rest of the night. We had dinner at Hilton’s Wakatipu Grill which was pretty fancy, as you would expect.
We started our day late as our heli tour wasn’t until about 11am. The heli tour had spectacular views, and also came with a surprise (snow landing). We didn’t think there was going be a snow landing so we were absolutely freezing in those few minutes. But the view was probably worth the cold.
We headed to the CBD afterwards for lunch. Unfortunately, it had started to rain so we didn’t get to walk around to explore a lunch place. We settled for what was closest to us which happened to be Japanese. The only Japanese food I have eaten a million times is sushi so I was excited to try other varieties in this cuisine. I absolutely loved the sashimi salmon don.
For the afternoon, we had booked for Walter’s Peak cruise and BBQ dinner after someone local had recommended it to us. It was still raining so it wasn’t very much cruise mood. They took us a to a lovely countryside place for buffet dinner which was pretty nice and we watched an hour of lamb shearing after dinner. It was a great to learn about how it’s done but we both felt the duration could have been shorter. The cruise itself was pretty uneventful, but we made some special memories that night so it’s going to be a cruise we will remember and cherish.
Today was Valentine’s Day. Hubs had planned a Skyline dinner for us ages ago; he made sure he booked well in advance and secured us a spot. We had nothing on until the afternoon so we took our time getting out of bed. We did not want to drive all the way into the city for brekkie so we went for the buffet breakfast at Wakatipu grill again. In our attempt to burn it off, we went for a short hike following the Queenstown trail to increase our capacity for the buffet. We also opted for a light soup lunch because we wanted to save space for our big buffet Skyline dinner.
We took the Gondola up to get to the restaurant. The view from up there was absolutely breathtaking. It was however very cold and windy, so we found it hard to be outdoors for long. The buffet dinner itself was outstanding; I don’t think I can think of a time in my life where I had eaten so much! They had a huge variety and covered many cuisines, I tried to make sure I covered most of them. We were absolutely stuffed by the end and in food coma #thestrugglewasreal.
We had an early start this morning because today was our Milford Sound tour. We were very much excited to be seeing the 8th wonder of the world, but did not like the idea of spending 12 hours on the bus. I had planned on staying awake to watch the scenery but we both fell asleep multiple times. The driver made sure to stop at the scenic spots and gave us time to hop off and take photos.
Milford Sound was very beautiful; the photos I took honestly don’t do justice to how it looks in real life. The ferry ride was very chilly, I tried to spend some of it indoors and be out for some time to take photos. It was a very exhaustive ride back. We got dropped off at a far location from our hotel, we just decided to walk there instead (probably was about 3km). We got back to our hotel just before 9:30pm and packed our bags as our stay at Hilton had come to an end.
We started our journey to Lake Tekapo which is located 250 km from Queenstown. Unfortunately, our navigator decided to take us on a detour and took us to a private road which is sometimes closed off (we realised something was fishy when it landed us at a salmon fishery!) But at least we were able to enjoy the lookout stops on the way and had lunch in a little town called Twizel.
My favourite stop was Lake Pukaki, the colour of the water was absolutely breathtaking. I was expecting to see some beautiful scenary but I had no idea it was going to be in my favourite colour teal, which made it even better.
We checked into our resort in the afternoon which ended up being a two-bedroom townhouse with multiple living areas. I found it quite hard to adjust despite having a much bigger space, perhaps because we had the Hilton Standard in our minds. Since we did not have long here, we wanted to make sure we have dinner at a well rated restaurant. We ended up going to Kohan restaurant which is rated #1 in the region on TripAdvisor. There was a bit of a wait to get a table, but the food was so worth it. The teriyaki salmon I had was very flavoursome. I wasn’t feeling too well (possibly fatigue and adjusting from the luxury at Hilton), so we headed home for an early night.
We started our day with buffet breakfast at the Bluewater Resort. Again, we thought the variety of food choices weren’t enough, but they had pancakes on the menu which kept us pretty happy (both of love pancakes). After fuelling ourselves with brekkie, it was time to hit the road to Queenstown again. We made an effort to stop at the lookouts again, this time Lindis Pass being my favourite.
After reaching Queenstown, we looked around to find a relatively fancy place that was still open for lunch. I decided to be little adventurous than usual and tried Paua shell which is a native food. We checked in to our last hotel at Rydges and took a long nap to recover from the drive- this was one of the best naps I’ve ever had.
For dinner, we explored options on TripAdvisor for a well-rated seafood restaurant. I decided to try something a little different and went for pan-seared tuna which was delicious. To celebrate our last night, we went to a very popular patisserie that we had been eyeing for some time now. The passionfruit cheesecake we had was deeply satisfying and it nice to end our last night on a sweet note.
There was one place on our list where we really wanted to have breakfast. We tried coming here twice before but at the wrong hour. Unfortunately, the brekkie was quite pricey and did not end up tasting as good as I had hoped for. After breakfast, we had a quick look for souvenirs and headed back to our hotel and checked out for the final time. We wanted to leave us enough time to fuel up and return the car.
We got to the airport and had plenty of time so we decided to have lunch before we board. We treated ourselves with burger and pancakes. The compote was very sweet but both of us love pancakes so we didn’t mind. We had a final stop at the airport souvenir shop and caught our plane back to Sydney thinking about when the next getaway would be.
Queenstown is such a beautiful place and I will never forget how I felt when I first the majestic mountains. While our honeymoon ended up being more exploratory than the usual kind, we absolutely loved every bit of it. Also, glad to see our destination made it to top 10 honeymoon locations on Bruised Passport’s blog who happen to be one of my favourite travel bloggers. I’d definitely recommended travelling during summer months (November-February), unless you want to experience the freezing cold 😛
I decided to push myself to the max this month and was trying harder than ever to finish my two papers. I was spending most of my time working on revisions and was feeling hopeful that I’d be able to submit before Christmas. It was coming along pretty well until I hit mid-December when I realised it wasn’t going to happen like I had planned. This meant that I wouldn’t be able to submit anything until next year. I felt quite demoralised after this point; it felt like none of my goals will get accomplished. But I told myself that every delay happens for a reason.
I tried to finish up other pending tasks but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to tick off all that I had on my list. Again, I was a bit disappointed initially but I have decided to remind myself that it is okay. I have done the best I can and they will eventually be finished. No one really looks at anything over Christmas, anyway!
Saying goodbye to my desk for the year was bittersweet because I hadn’t accomplished what I wanted to. But I told myself, it’s okay, because there’s always next year, right?
In other news, I completed a teaching course this month which was an eye opening experience for me. I’m not sure if I will end up taking up teaching, but it was interesting to learn about it from a student perspective. The other good news that made my month was hearing back from a conference that I had put in my abstract for and really wanted to attend!
The average Australian gains 0.8-1.5 kg over the Christmas period. While this may not seem like a lot, research has shown that the weight gained during this period is rarely lost. Unfortunately, this means this weight gain often accumulate over the years. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could enjoy all the Christmas festivities without having to worry about the extra kilos? Well, the good news is you sort of can! Here are 5 possible ways you can make the most of Christmas this summer without worrying about the bulge:
There is so much food everywhere, whether it is the family gatherings or the work parties. The abundance of food often makes us crave things simply because it is sitting there in front of us. It is important to remind yourself that you are allowed to eat anything and everything you want. So, do not deprive yourself from any of your favourite foods, but remember to keep your portion small.
At large gatherings and work parties, food often tends to arrive slowly and you often don’t know what’s on the menu. Go slow on the starters because mains and desserts may get even better. If you know you are going to be feasting all day, be selective with your choice. You don’t have to try absolutely everything that’s in front of you. Say yes to your favourite foods and give yourself permission to enjoy those foods slowly.
Practice mindful eating
Mindful eating is about being fully present in your surrounding and eating in a way that allows you to experience food with all your senses (i.e. seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling and feeling). We often tend to eat more when we are with people as we don’t pay as much attention to what we are eating. To save yourself from this situation, take the time to chat to the other guests to slow down your pace.
Think about what you will be doing during the course of the day and plan your meals accordingly. If you know you will be feasting at a dinner party, make sure to eat a lighter lunch. Most of us feel the need to spoil our guests when are hosting a party. It’s important to remember that all of us are susceptible to sensory-specific satiety which means we are attracted to variety foods that are different in shapes and colours. Remember, to fill your menu with lots of salad and vegetables and consider making smaller sized dessert treats.
Physical activity can do wonders
Fortunately, we have a warmer Christmas in Australia which makes it much easier to go outdoors and be active. We all know the concept of energy in, energy out so, being more physically active during this time will help you burn off the excess energy. Christmas parties tend to be overly well catered so make sure to get in lots of walking throughout the day and some extra workouts, where possible.
Finally, remind yourself that it is okay to indulge a little during the holiday season. Happy holidays!
This month has been a relatively terrifying month for me. I thought I was getting close to settling down but it ended up being quite the opposite. To be honest, a part of me was very reluctant to write about that other fragile side here. I usually try not to bring up personal sides in these monthly posts because I want them to be purely about the progression of my PhD. But my emotional health has not been at its best this month. Safe to say, I am in a slightly better space right now, but I am well aware that this is temporary and it may just hit again. But unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do now other than waiting for the right time and hope for the best!
Whoops, that ended up sounding mushier than I intended, but I am kind of glad I got that out of the way. Now let’s move onto the more exciting parts of my life, shall we? I have been really trying to push myself with my current tasks because I really need to pick up my game. I have set myself a few targets that I want to achieve before the year ends. I am working on a few different papers right now which is really exciting because I have never worked on so many at any one time. But it can sometimes be hard to juggle!
Overall, this month has been very rocky but one of the things I really enjoyed was the #30daysofthankfulness challenge on Instagram. It kind of forced me to be thankful about something every single day. It was challenging on some days but it made me realise that we often get so caught up in our own tangles, we forget to cherish the blessings we do have in our life. You can read more about it from my Instagram.
Finally, here are my November eats from this month 🙂