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Newcastle, Australia

We visited Newcastle during the Easter long weekend in April. We chose Newcastle because we hadn’t really planned anything properly to be travelling far distances. Also, two of my close friends grew up in Newcastle which has always made me want to visit this place after hearing stories from them 🙂

Since Newcastle is just over two hours over from Sydney, it was a trip we were able to wing without much planning. All we needed to do was find a hotel to book and drive off.

Trip duration: 2 days

Where we stayed: Noah’s On the Beach

Places visited:

Highlights:

The Brazilian BBQ at Meet was definitely my favourite food memory. I’m not a huge fan of BBQ places as they tend to lack in other options, particularly vegetables. But this place was absolutely wonderful, they are ever so vegetarian friendly and I was spoilt with so many choices! These pictures barely even show half of what we ate as most of it was brought to us gradually. They are equally as good with their meat. If you live anywhere near Newcastle, I highly recommend you check this out. But make sure you go there on an empty stomach as they only have a set menu to choose from and serviced buffet- you keep your cards up and stay in the game until you are full!

Quad biking at the Sand Dunes was another great experience as it was my first time quad biking. One of the challenges we faced was finding places that were open on an Easter Sunday. We eventually started calling up restaurants before driving over to them. I would highly recommend future travellers to take this into consideration. Other than that, nothing else can really go wrong with a trip down to Newcastle because it has beautiful beaches and pretty good food 🙂 what more do you really need?

Smoked salmon fettuccine and steak

Brazilian feast at Meet

Brekkies are better with a flatlay 🙂

Roasted mushroom bruschetta
Fish Tacos
The naughty Ferrero Rocher shake

Jerky July

July has been a very rough month for me; anyone that has watched me closely would have noticed a difference. Coming back from Canada, I set myself a million goals this month.
Perhaps, I had set myself way too many?
Perhaps, I wasn’t productive enough?
Perhaps, I could’ve done better?
These are thoughts that haunted my brain almost every single day last month. What I failed to recognise at the time was that I was having a ‘mid-PhD crisis’. July was the official half-way mark for me; I honestly cannot believe it has been 18 months! I knew that feeling the mid-PhD blues was a thing because I had read about it here a long time ago; but I just didn’t realise I was having the symptoms, until recently.

I also ran into a major statistics problem which has taken me a long time to figure out. It wasn’t that I didn’t try. I was trying to recover from the situation I was in, but I was feeling quite unmotivated. On top of that, I was under the weather for a couple of days which added to my misery. I felt cold, sleepy and lacked energy more often than usual. I started wondering if it was due to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) AKA the ‘winter blues’. I could see that my drop in productivity levels was starting to take a toll on my health. I knew I needed to push through and just keep swimming, so that’s what I tried doing. Happy to say, I have somehow recovered from my ‘mid-PhD crisis’ and was able to change my mindset! But I don’t want to talk about this just yet as I feel it is still early days. I am certainly not where I want to be, but I am in a much happier space, will reveal more on my next post 🙂

In other news, I’m still cooking lots of soup due to the cold. But I’ve tried a few different things this month to help me uplift my spirits! Here are my July eats:

Apple and cinnamon porridge, topped with walnuts and almonds

Morning toast with homemade ricotta, banana and chia seeds

Green, yellow split lentil cauliflower and carrot soup, with leftover lamb

Homemade ricotta, walnut and pear toast

Avo on toast with pepper, chilli, lemon

Linguini with avocado, pesto, pea and parmesan

Banana, walnut and chia seed porridge

Big batch of mixed lentil, celery and carrot soup

Veggie and prawn stir-fry using pretty much everything I had at home (cauliflower, broccoli, beans, carrots and pea)

Roasted Brussel sprouts with EVOO, pepper and chilli

Strawberry, chia seed and peanut butter porridge

Italian soup mix with green beans, carrots and celery

Hoki green curry with green beans

Lentil soup with carrots and beans, topped with leftover roast chicken

Joyful June


I had one of the most adventurous months, ever. As some of you would already know, I was away for most of June. I flew to Canada to present my first ever oral at an international conference. I had been to an international conference in Melbourne last year; however, it didn’t quite feel as international for me (flying there from Sydney). But I knew this conference was going to be an entirely different experience.

One of the biggest challenges I faced before leaving was having to pack for a range of weather conditions and ticking off the tasks I urgently needed to finish before I left. As usual, I ended up leaving my packing until the very last day (this always happens). It felt a little strange to be leaving home for almost three weeks which is a long time for me because I rarely go anywhere without family. Nonetheless, I was also super excited for the adventure that awaited on the other side of the world.
The International Society of Nutrition and Physical Activity (ISBNPA) conference was a wonderful experience; though I am still yet to figure out how I can incorporate all the things I have learnt in my current work. I’ve tried to take a lot of notes which should assist with this, but conferences can be very overwhelming! Working out what’s most relevant to you often takes time. After the conference, we explored Victoria and travelled to Vancouver (including a four-day Rockies tour) and Toronto (including Niagara Falls). I won’t say too much about my trip here because I am hoping to post a full blog on this trip later. It might take a while because I am currently juggling a lot of things since I’ve come back; catching up on everything you’ve missed is always the hardest!
As you’d expect, I’ve barely cooked at home this month. Here are my June eats at home. Click here to see my Canada eats, I had some amazing food up there 🙂

Porridge with pear, walnut, coconut and honey
Lazy lunch with steamed veggies and homemade ricotta on toast
Lentil lasange with 4 bean mix, beans and peas
Eggplant, tomato and red kidney bean stew

Memorable May

My health hasn’t been in the best shape this month, so it has been a hell of a hard month for me. The main highlight I had for this month was the DAA conference, but I found myself getting sick right before my travel. Luckily, it was only a domestic flight, so I was able to drag myself out to Hobart. Unfortunately, travel and sickness don’t make a good match; it was challenging. But it still ended up being a wonderful trip, mainly because Tasmania is such a beautiful land! I would love to go back again someday (Hobart blog will be up soon).Getting sick this month has made me realise the blessing of good health, once again! It’s something we don’t appreciate enough until something hits us. The past few weeks have been quite stressful; I could almost tell that I had reached my breaking point and was going to get sick. Honestly, I’m so grateful to my mum for flying home this month. Her presence in the house makes a big difference in my life. To the world, it may have looked like I was doing okay, but I was struggling inside without her, perhaps more than ever. We often don’t realise just how much pressure we put on ourselves until we start breaking down. Hopefully, this will act as a future reminder for me as I tend to be very hard on myself.

In terms of work, I have managed to get a lot done. Because I am working on multiple projects, I am still finding it hard to switch back and forth, especially with statistics. But happy to admit, it is getting better. We finished conducting our focus groups earlier this month which was a huge relief. I’ve had another exciting news that has come through after a very long wait (will share in due time).

Overall, it has been a tough run, but I feel blessed for the experiences I’ve had this month. Now it’s time for me wrap up my work here and pack my bags, this time to the other side of the world!

Finally, here are all my May eats 🙂

Vegetarian pasta with mushroom, beans and carrots (#MeatlessMonday)
Spicy yellow and green lentil soup
Sourdough with avo, chilli + pepper and leftover lentil soup
Roasted sweet potatoes + carrots + whole chicken with lemon and sage
Spinach and ricotta cannelloni
Yoghurt + muesli with sultana, walnut and honey
Oat, banana and cottage cheese pancakes

Active April

Gosh, I honestly don’t know where the month has gone! Yes, I know you’re going to say that I say that literally every month. But I suppose time does fly quicker as you are getting older. Speaking of which, I turned 24 this month. My dad insisted on celebrating, but I think I am just getting to the age where I prefer to keep my birthday a quiet business and hide away. I got spoilt with some great presents and cake, of course! I had a lot of cake this month. I have had a few moments of hibernation this month, it does help with my internal struggle sometimes which is still ongoing, but I’m trying to deal with it in a different way (some of you would probably know about this from my previous monthly blogs).In terms of work, I have been juggling endless things this month. The student projects have been quite time-consuming, particularly because I needed to obtain ethics approval for one of them which needed a lot of work. The good news is that we were recently approved and currently recruiting for our focus groups! I’m also trying to work on my statistics paper, but it has been difficult to switch back and forth with this. I feel like statistics needs a mind of its own and I am still finding it really difficult to juggle it with other things. Unfortunately, I have not made substantial progress with this, really hope things change over the next couple of days.

In other news, I attended FameLab NSW as a semi-finalist (this was the news I mentioned last month). It was very exciting to be chosen for this. We received training for this on the day which made us feel even more underprepared! However, it was such a wonderful evening because I got to meet so many like-minded researchers from many disciplines and we talked about all things science. The presentation itself was very nerve-racking as it was given to a large unknown audience, but it was such a great learning experience. As a result of this, I also had the opportunity to attend two radio interviews with Dr Karl. Meeting this science legend was a very memorable and special experience; he was very supportive and so down-to-Earth. I’m honestly so grateful for the opportunities that I am getting from my PhD journey.

Click here to read about a media piece from this month on ‘The French secret to beating obesity’.

Finally, here are all my April eats 🙂

Curried sweet potato and cashew nut soup (recipe here)
Snapper Saddletail curry with tomato and parsley
Pearl barley and vegetable soup (recipe adapted from here)
Roasted aubergines with yoghurt and mint (recipe adapted from here)
Hearty lentil soup with tomato, carrot and capsicum
Pearl barley, apple and almond bake (recipe adapted from here)

Our Wedding Day

Engagement + wedding band: I did not have any specific requirements, except I wanted something in yellow gold and a solitaire. Mashayek went with Australian Diamond Brokers and revealed very little as he wanted to keep it as a surprise. I absolutely adored both rings and how beautiful it turned out.

Wedding planning

Planning duration: four months

Our approach: we set ourselves a very tight goal and we found ourselves on go-go mode the whole time. The upside was that we did not dwell on one task for too long. We picked a job, assigned responsibility, completed the work and moved on to the next one. However, this also meant that many of the tasks were rushed and we did not have time to do it as well as I would’ve liked.

Vision: my own first priority was finding photographers who would understand our culture and would be able to follow with our style. Photography is very close to my heart and I looked into this right from the beginning. I wanted to keep the styles different so decided not to have the same photographer for all three events. I’m also a huge lover of details, so I sat down and began brainstorming with my bestie. Luckily, she had prepared a list for me to work from so I had something to work off.

Wedding shopping: I was not very fussed about the kind of outfit I wore, except I knew I wanted something in teal, light blue or purple (my favourite colours). I knew I definitely did not want to go with red as it is not a colour I feel very comfortable in and I did not want to go with a colour that has been an all-time traditional wear in our culture. However, I realised I would have to compromise due to time constraints and differences in opinions with family members.All my outfits were purchased from overseas, so we were really pushed for time and had a terrible time facing the traffic in Dhaka (getting from one place to another was our biggest hurdle). The second biggest challenge was finding the item I had pictured in mind. It often did not match with expectations, so I ended up settling for something halfway (for example, I picked a light gold lehenga which had a purple border).

Wedding events
Wedding duration: 3 days, over two weekends
Wedding theme/ style: Bengali
Events
  1. Pre-wedding function- holud/ haldi ceremony, Saturday night (blog coming soon)
  2. Wedding Ceremony, Friday afternoon (keep scrolling this page to read more)
  3. Wedding Reception, Sunday noon (blog coming soon)
Wedding ceremony
Style: simple and laid-back as both of our events were quite formal so this event was kept very casual.

Overview & highlights: We started off the ceremony just after 5pm, getting to the venue took longer than anticipated as there was unexpected roadwork near our venue. Luckily, we had allowed ourselves a bit of an extra time for travelling and managed to reach just on time. The ceremony was followed by canapés, outdoor photo shoots with all guests, dinner, speeches by family and friends and cake cutting. It was nice to have an intimate gathering, although this meant we had to exclude some families who were very close to us.

 
The details:
  • Seating arrangement: DIY place cards
  • Cake: supplied from Wolfies
  • Bouquet: made by best friend
  • Boutonniere: made by best friend
  • Bride outfit: Mone Rekho Sarees
  • Groom outfit: Hugo Boss
Key professionals
Photography by DC Images: we chose Dale because of his strong track record in the wedding photography industry. He certainly did not disappoint us with his amazing photos but I felt it have been made more personal if we had the chance to build further rapport earlier on. Unfortunately, both of us were running on a tight schedule in the last few weeks so it was hard to make enough room for this. I highly recommended meeting up with your photographer/s in advance, especially if you are particular about how you want something to be shot. Overall, we really enjoyed getting shot by Dale that night. He matched with the outdoor lighting and planned our sunset shoot, which happened to be my favourite part of the night.

Videography by DC Images: initially, we weren’t sure whether we should hire a videographer. I have always been very big on photography so I wasn’t very picky about this. I contacted a few videographer/ cinematographers but realised it was easier to go with one company taking care of both. Jeff from DC images shot us on the day. We haven’t received our video yet so cannot comment on how it turned out (usually takes about 3 months).

Hair and makeup: I contacted around 21 makeup artists in total. I wanted to step away from the heavy South Asian/ Bengali bridal makeup that most brides opt for. I was after an artist who would work to enhance my natural features rather than change it all completely. I wanted to be able to still look recognisable (most Bengali brides end up looking like someone completely different!) The main problem I had was that most make-up artists want to do a trial with your outfit so the brides can get a feel for the look. But my outfit was stitched and brought from overseas so I did not receive it until a week before the wedding. As a result, I left my trial till the very last minute which limited my choice of artists. I was not entirely happy when I went for my trial with her few days before the wedding. The look she did was very different to what I had shown her. I will refrain from giving out her name as I was not satisfied with her service. However, I was able to find a very talented artist for my reception (will share more about her on the reception blog
Henna/ Mehendi artist by Glam YOU: I contacted a few artists but chose to go with Supriya after seeing her work at our pre-wedding Henna stall. She was absolutely amazing, the guests loved her and that’s when I knew that she would be the perfect one to get my bridal henna done with. I decided to go with a very simple pattern because I think less is more, especially when all of the South Asian bridal accessories tend to be very bold. Supriya did a fabulous job following the designs I had picked out.

Reflection

I have delayed in writing this blog as it was initially very hard to sit down and have to think about something that was so overwhelming (click here to read about last month). I was waiting for my feelings to settle and I’m starting to realise, this is probably as good as it’s going to get. I have told myself I will focus on the positive and keep the rest to myself (for now at least).
Here are some tips to help any future bride or groom reading this blog:

1) Take charge early: It is never too early to start planning early. We did our entire wedding planning in less than four months, and it was only in the last three we took it up very seriously. I’m a huge planner so I would always research information whenever I had spare time. I had a million other things from work on my mind, so I put every single detail down on paper to help me remember. I struggled to find the time doing a full-time PhD and working on the side at the time, so I made use of my commute on public transport, breaks at work and squeezed in some browsing before bedtime.

2) Plan, plan, plan: Make sure plenty of wedding talk takes place between bride and groom so you are familiar with how things will run on the day. Go through every single detail you can possibly think of and write it down (if you have a bad memory like me). We tried to incorporate a lot of this in our regular every day conversations, but it was difficult as we were living in different cities and most of the planning was done over the phone. We tried to prioritise and set ourselves weekly deadlines which helped us complete tasks on time. But there were times when I set myself too many goals and felt disappointed for not doing enough.

3) Make sure to prepare a run sheet: It is likely that some things will fall apart but having an order in mind will help you get through it on the day. Go all out and plan a few extra things, the chances are you won’t get through all of them, but at least you will have a few moments when some gets ticked off.

4) Learn to rely on others if you can: I have had some mixed experiences with this, but that does not negate the importance of relying on others. Start delegating tasks based on the expertise of others. As a bride, you can only do so much movement on the day, so I relied on my closest family and friends and I constantly bugged them whenever I was stuck.

5) Keep your focus on the sunny side: Let me just tell you frankly, this is not an easy one. I still continue(and probably will continue) to struggle with this. You should expect that some things will not go as per plan due to external conditions (i.e. weather) but the problem turns into a different matter when it is internal. The latter is complex and not as easy to let go as the former, especially if the act was deliberate and intentional.

Last but certainly not least, enjoy every moment of the planning phase and of course, on the big day as any other married couples would tell you. Unfortunately, I was very much on the go the whole time, I did not get to cherish my planning days as much as I should have. You will miss it once it’s over, especially the company of having your family and friends lending you a hand through the stressful times. I would like to acknowledge the people who supported me every step of the way- my mum and dad, my cousin and niece from USA and my best friend from Melbourne. I would say thank you to these amazing human beings, but even ‘thank you’ a million times would fall short for the amount of support they have given me. I hope you enjoyed reading about our wedding day blog. Check out more pictures below and feel free to leave me a comment from ‘contact me’ page. Stay tuned for the remaining parts 🙂

NB: all used photos were obtained from DC Images and cropped if required. No other edit or colour adjustments were made.
 
Useful links and resources
·        The Crimson Bride
·        Easy Weddings (website and app)

Manageable March

I started this month feeling overwhelmed and out of control, both emotionally and physically (playing the catch-up game with my workload). As I have said, I have had a lot going in my life in the past couple of months. While the majority of it has left a very positive influence in my life, there are some areas of it where negativity continues to tingle. I have told myself I will focus on the sunny side of it, work around this to normalise it as much as possible. The good news is that I have succeeded; I have managed to focus my shift back to work, and it has been working so far. However, there are occasions when my mind starts drifting away into the other land. But happy to say, I have been pretty productive this month, managed to get through ethics applications, two paper revisions (almost) and a few other things.

In other news, I have finally started working on our wedding day blog. It took me a while to start because I wanted to wait until my ‘mental load’ reduced a little. We haven’t received the pictures from our pre-wedding function and reception yet, so I am going to blog it in parts and work on the rest when they become available.

Lastly, I have some exciting news to share about something that’s coming up in April (will write about this next month). I have also been busy with travel planning. I have at least two upcoming trips this year. I’m not very organised with planning big trips, so I’m trying to work on this early.

I have recently started cooking again. My mum took off this month, so I’m back to being in charge. It was so nice to have her around, she has provided me with a tremendous amount of support in the last few of months, and I’m so thankful for her presence. Here are all my March eats 🙂

Pearl barley, feta, corn and zucchini ribbon salad (adapted from here)

French lentil with mix rainbow veggies

Asparagus, French lentils with leftover beef (click here for my recipe)

Dutch carrots with honey and feta  (adapted from here)

Pearl barley risotto with chicken, mint and parmesan (adapted from here)

Fabulous February

I did not write properly last month as I had a million things on my mind. There is so much that has happened, and there is so much I want to write. But I can only write so much in this one post. So I will write the main updates here and save the rest for future.

As some of you would probably know from Instagram, I got married earlier this month! I would have liked to have made a big announcement but I decided to go into hibernation instead as I was feeling very stressed. I was starting to crumble under a lot of pressure leading up to the wedding as there were many unfinished tasks (both work and wedding related). Having to work right before the day of the wedding was no easy task, but I managed to get through with a lot of support from my parents, family and friends. I am so grateful for the people in my life who went out of their way and travelled long distances to be here for me.
I won’t say too much about the actual wedding in this post as I will blog more about this later on. In short, it went pretty smoothly and we managed to tick off most of the things we had wanted. However, there were certain elements of it which should not have happened. I have decided to speak about the good for now, as I am not ready to speak about the bad yet. I do want to be able to speak about eventually, but not sure how long that would take. I will start posting some photos once we receive the official photos from our photographers. The events we hosted included a colourful pre-wedding celebration, an intimate ceremony and a big reception. We went to New Zealand afterwards for our honeymoon, and it was so wonderful to be able to switch off and just live in the present!
In other news, work has been rather crazy since getting back. I was away for two weeks this month so this month feels even shorter for me! I have taken up a very exciting side project (will reveal next month). I have been busy making revisions for old papers and organising two student projects.
Here are the February eats for this month, there’s not many as I was away and just starting to get back to the habit of cooking again 🙂
Quinoa and lentil mix with broccoli and leftover lamb
Teriyaki tofu with quinoa, lentil and beans
French lentils with garlic and carrots

Jittery January

Hope everyone is having a good year so far?
I cannot believe the first month is over already!Unfortunately I don’t have any food pictures to share this month because I haven’t cooked much at all. Even when I did, it was something that I had no time to take a photo of.My mind is preoccupied with something else, and it has been really difficult to get things done. To be honest, this month has been a hell of a month for me. It was stressful, exciting, crazy, painful  depressing…(the list goes on).
There were times when I was very close to giving up. I don’t think I have felt the range of emotions I experienced this month in any other time in my life. I can’t really explain how overwhelming it was, without bringing in the context (will reveal soon).

 

Derailed December

 
This month has been a very relaxing month for me. I travelled to Melbourne for International Congress of Behavioural Medicine conference, click here to read more about my wonderful trip. 
 
I did very little cooking this month as I have been away for most of this month. I have been trying to rest as much as possible, and not think about the work I need to do when I get back. I told myself I would not be hard on myself for the things I couldn’t do this year and enjoy the break, for now.
To be honest, I feel like I have gotten out of track and but it does feel nice to be letting my brain go.  
 
Here are my December eats 🙂
Prawn, spinach and cauliflower spaghetti
Bean sprouts, snow pea and chicken with rice vermicelli
Stacked Moroccan chicken, roasted tomatoes with greens
Mango and chicken salad
Filo pastry rolls with red cabbage and beef, topped with sesame seeds
Pumpkin and asparagus curry
Pan fried chicken and mixed stir-fry veggies

International Congress of Behavioural Medicine | Melbourne

 
My flight faced major delays due to severe thunderstorms in Sydney. We had to wait for over two hours, most of which were on the plane so it was incredibly exhausting. Thankfully, the weather in Melbourne was much better. It was pretty cold and windy, it felt nice to get out of the scorching heat 🙂
Leaving behind a stormy Sydney
After reuniting with the bestie, we went out for dinner to a local Malaysian restaurant close to our home.
Sweet and sour prawns with rice 
Nasi Lemak

Pineapple fried rice and seafood stir-fry
I had one whole day to myself before the conference began on Wednesday, and we wanted to make the most out of this. 
 
Oh, hello there, new friend!

We had breakfast at Myuna Farm which was a few mins from our house. I loved their veggie focacia. 
Brekkie at Myuna Farm 

 

Veggie focacia ($9)

 

 
Sweet treats at Myuna Farm
Next stop was archery, my bestie has been an archer for sometime now, and we have been wanting to go for a long time. But majority of the archery clubs don’t offer try outs. I loved my first experience of archery, it was initially challenging to get my arrow to go in the right direction. It did not look like a much of a physically demanding sport to me, but it does get quite exhausting after sometime. 

Archery time 🙂
We had lunch at Dosa Bite, it was nice to try proper dosa for the first time but did not like it that much.

Dosa Bite
Last stop for the night was go karting. It was a thrilling experience! Initially, I did not like it because I’m not really into speeding or car racing of any sort. But part of the reason was the freezing wind, my fingers were freezing! The second ride however, was much more enjoyable. Perhaps, I had gotten used to the wind by now and had a better control of what I was doing. 

 

Go Karting in Dandenong

 

Always there to greet us at night
The next day was conference day. I was living near Dandenong so it was a long commute from home. I caught a bus, train and tram to get to the conference at Albert Park. Last time, I was reluctant to catch the public transport alone, but this time, I felt more comfortable travelling on my own.
 
First day of conference, with a rainbow!

 

View from the conference hotel
This conference was quite different to the last one. It was a much bigger conference. There were people from all over the world (every continent except Antartica). They were from a range of professions, including psychologists, medical doctors and nurses. The presentation topics were very broad so it was often difficult to find a session that was fully relevant.
 
Albert Park and Lake
During my lunch break, I went out to explore Albert Park and Lake which was just across the road.
Albert Park
Albert Park and Lake
 
 

 

 

My bestie and I stayed home that night and cooked together for the first time! 
Grilled salmon and egg salad + ricotta and spinach agnolotti with creamy mushroom sauce 

 

“Can you stop taking photos of me and give me food?”

Melbourne showed its true form the next day, it was pouring in the morning.  We went for dinner after the conference in St Kilda, and was very close to getting drenched! 
 
Calamari salad at Bistro Bakini
On Friday, we went to Dex2rose and did some late night shopping. 
Dex2rose at Little Bourke Street

 

 
Salted caramel and mango sorbet
Obligatory cone shot
 
Charcoal Chocolate Chip Belgian Wafflles ($17.95)
We ordered a Belgian waffle and an ice cream. Sad to say, we were very disapointed with the waffle. I had not seen a waffle before that looked so dark. I was wondering why it looked like a ‘tyre’, the flavour of the waffle just wasn’t right. The matcha brought further disappointment because it tasted worse once the matcha was poured. I had seen a lot of matcha being used on Instagram so I was curious to try it. The rainbow meringues were done well. The only thing that made this dish somewhat okay were the ice cream, but there wasn’t enough of it. So we ended up wasting most of the waffle. The waffle was a huge letdown because we travelled for a long time to get there and faced city traffic. 

 

Little Bourke Street

 

Tasmanian salmon + brown rice + Greek salad (~$18)

Saturday was the last day of the conference and headed home back to Sydney after that.

Goodbye furry friend!

 

En route to airport
Highlights
1)      Although we planned a lot of outdoor plans for us to do, my favourite moments were made in the home. I got to spend a lot of quality time with my bestie rambling about anything and everything!
2) Motivational interviewing workshop at the conference- it made me realise the importance on the collaboration between a patient and counsellor.  
3)  Salmon and brown rice at Costi’s- this was definitely my kind of takeaway I could eat everyday. It was my bestie’s favourite too, so we ended up eating it twice!
 
Trip summary
 
Food
  • Local Malaysian Restaurant near Doveton
  • Vietnamese Restaurant in Springvale
  • Myuna Farm, Doveton
  • Dosa Bite, Point Cook
  • Dex2rose, Little Bourke St, CBD
  • Steve Costi’s Famous Fish, Fountain Gate
  • Bistro Bakini, Mantra, St Kilda
 
Other places
  • Pullman Melbourne Albert Park
  • Albert Park and Lake, St Kilda
  • Le Mans Go Karts, Dandeong South
  • Liverpool City Archers, Moorebank
  • Westfield Fountain Gate

Nettlesome November


This month has been a range of feelings. I’ve finished up with my linear regression model I was working on, which means I’m done with the statistics (for now). My aim was to have this paper completed before the end of the year but I’ve realised that’s not going to happen. I decided to focus on a simpler task that would be easier to finish before Christmas. 
 
So I’ve gone back to working on one of my old papers. It was really difficult to get myself into that mindset again, after not having worked on it for so long. It was really daunting at the beginning, but safe to say, it did get easier after having a few go’s. I really wanted to be done with this paper but I just couldn’t do it due to time constraints. I managed to get close but it wasn’t enough. I really wish I had an extra week at least to finish up what I needed to do. At one point, a part of me wished I didn’t have the conference to attend in December, so I could just keep on working to finish my paper. 
 
I was a bit disappointed with myself for not being able to finish either of the tasks I had set for myself. Then I had a chat with a friend who told me that she made the same mistake; she was too hard on herself in her first year and couldn’t enjoy her holidays because of this. Since then, I’ve told myself that I will let it go and start fresh once I get back.
In other news, I have started a new business account on Instagram. I have been thinking about doing this for a very long time but never got around to doing it (like the many other things I keep putting off in my life). I’m glad I finally did it though, now let’s hope I can remain equally active on the blog and Instagram 🙂
And finally, here are my November eats 🙂
 
Asparagus and broccoli frittata
Sauteed eggplant, mushroom and asparagus
Brown rice with mixed veggies and chicken
Baked salmon fillets, steamed snow peas and coriander chutney
Baked eggs, asparagus and spinach
A healthier baklava with walnut, pistachios, topped with honey and lemon syrup
Marinated chicken with pomegranate molasses, dukkah and green beans
Red cabbage,broccoli and leftover beef stir-fry
Bulgur pilaf with mixed veggies and egg
Bean sprouts, snow pea and chicken with rice vermicelli
Salmon, asparagus and mushroom curry
Stacked Moroccan chicken, roasted tomatoes with some greens

Floriade 2016

Hello everyone!
Please excuse my lateness for posting Floriade pictures. I can’t believe it took me well over a month to get this out. The past month has been very busy and I somehow forgot about this?!

My visit to Canberra was a very short one but enjoyed every moment of it. It kind of made me realise that I should go away more often. I came back feeling very refreshed and happy!

The last time I went to Floriade was 2014, so it was nice to come back after two years. I tried to do a little experimenting with my camera, and happy to say, I think I’ve improved from last time 😛
I’m starting to realise my love for detail photography, the close up flower ones are probably my favourite.
Hope you like the pictures 🙂

Trattoria La Vigna

Today was my first time at Camden which is in South West of Sydney (past Campbelltown), we saw some farms and country scenic views on our way.

The atmosphere of this restaurant was lovely. The restaurant has an overlooking vineyard. I knew it was going to be a special, memorable lunch already 🙂

I haven’t made pasta in the last few weeks, so I was pretty excited to try some authentic Italian food. We were welcomed by a friendly staff with a very strong Italian accent, almost made us feel like we were in Italy!

The garlic prawns we tried for entrée were delicious, and prawns were cooked well. It was nice to have some tomatoes in there (the only vegetable in our meal). The olive oil was great for dipping the bread.

Gamberi all ‘aglio- Garlic Prawns ($20)

However, I was slightly disappointed with the mains. The gnocchi I tried was swimming in a plate of creamy pesto. Don’t get me wrong; I love basil pesto. But there was just too much of it. It kind of makes reminded me of the old saying of ‘less is more’.

Gnocchi Gamberi e Pesto –Gnocchi prawns and pesto ($27)

Ravioli di mare  – Seafood ravioli ($29)

Similar case with crab ravioli, there was too much of the rich heavy sauce (as you can tell from the pictures). But other than that, it was delicious. There was good flavour balance in the pasta itself. I would’ve enjoyed it far more with a dash of sauce, rather than what they provided.

To end on a good note, we had their tiramisu for dessert. It was so very delicious. We weren’t able to finish it as the portion was large but left feeling very satisfied.

Tiramisu ($13)

Overall, I had a wonderful time coming out to the country and loved the Italian vibes of this place. The staff were pretty friendly and attentive. In terms of price, it is more on the expensive side, but great for special occasion celebrations like we did today.

Trattoria La Vigna
3 Argyle Street, Camden
NSW 2570
http://trattorialavigna.com/

Oriented October

Happy Halloween everyone!

I was super late last month, so I wanted to redeem myself by getting my post out on time this month. This month has been a huge learning curve for me. It has been super busy and crazy, as usual. I spent most of it doing statistics, but the good news is I am starting to get the hang of it. I feel more comfortable doing the analyses now, and I have started keeping good notes of what I am doing so I can go back when needed.

Besides statistics, I conducted a few focus groups with another friend and attended an UCL behaviour change workshop, both of which have been very helpful. There was also a sad happening this month which left me feeling down for a couple of days, but I am reluctant to write about here at this stage. I am trying not to think about it for now because I know I should be focusing on the positive things. Other than that, it has been a pretty good mix of quantitative and qualitative work.

In other news, I went to Parramatta Lanes and made a cake for daddy’s birthday.

Here are all my October eats 🙂 I just noticed the lack of variety in my food while uploading these photos; looks like I had more of the same!

Aspagarus, prawn and mushroom stir-fry

Broccoli, snow pea and mushroom stir-fry

Dukkah pumpkin, chickpea and tuna salad

Snow pea, capsicum and tofu stir-fry

Roasted dukkah potatoes, beans and chicken

Potato, cauliflower and chicken lasagne

Eggplant, zucchini and tomato curry

Okra, snow pea and asparagus stir-fry

Asparagus, capsicum and pumpkin curry

Sultana, almond and spiced crystallised ginger cake (click here for recipe)

Spiced cauliflower, salmon and brown rice

Zucchini spaghetti, mushroom and chicken

Daddy’s birthday 2016 | Sultana, almond and spiced crystallised ginger cake

As usual, I asked my dad what kind of cake he’d like. He initially said “plain cake.” After much pressing, he gave me three ingredients he would like on the cake sultanas (they are his favourite), almonds and crystallised ginger. 

Recipe adapted from: https://www.sanitarium.com.au/recipes/a-z/almond-and-sultana-spice-cake

Sultana, almond and spiced crystallised ginger cake

Ingredients

125 g butter

100 g sultanas

125 g self-raising wholemeal flour

125 g self-raising plain flour

½ tsp ground cardamom

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

½ tsp vanilla esssence

125 g brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup skim milk

¼ cup flaked almonds

40 g crystallised ginger

1 TB flour

 
Methods

1)      Preheat oven to 180 C

2)      Grease springform pan with baking paper

3)      Melt butter in a saucepan, add sultanas and cook for 10 mins or until sultanas have softened

4)      In a bowl, sift flour, spices and sugar

5)      Add crystallised ginger, tossed with 1 TB of plain flour

6)      Mix eggs, milk and vanilla essence

7)      Gradually add egg mix into the flour

8)      Fold in sultans and butter mix

9)      Pour batter into pan

10)   Sprinkle with flaked almonds

11)   Bake for 35-40 mins or until firm, test with skewer

12)  Cool on a rack and enjoy!

Note: ideally, I would use margarine but I like to use butter for Dad’s special day cakes because that’s what he prefers 🙂 

~ A special note ~
Happy birthday to the most special daddy on the planet! You are my favourite man in the whole universe, and I cannot say enough to thank you for all the ways you continue to provide support for me. I may like to call myself an adult to the rest of the world (because I’m 23), but secretly I know, without you, I wouldn’t have survived a single day! Despite being a full-fledged adult, I can still be an immature child around you; maybe because I know I don’t need to be an adult around you and I take full advantage of expressing the inner-child in me and throwing all sorts of tantrums. But you always managed to remain calm and composed; I will never know how you can be so patient with me. It’s only because of you I’m able to maintain my sanity. If it weren’t for you, I would have sunk in darkness long ago. I cannot thank you enough for being my support and guiding light. It is true that I take you for granted most of the time, and don’t appreciate you enough. This is something I really need to work towards because a perfect daddy like you should never be taken for granted. I hope to be a better person one day, who can fully appreciate every little thing you do for me.

From your little girl,

Love you always and forever xo

Parramatta Lanes


I heard a lot about Parra Lanes last year so I thought I’d make a time to see out this year. At first, we had a lot of trouble finding out where we needed to go. I’ve heard Parra Lane gets spread across over multiple stations to distribute the crowd. However, the problem was that the places aren’t always easy to find. After walking around for some time, we managed to get hold of a map from a security staff.

My main reason for coming was to try some knafeh; I’ve heard so much about this dessert from people who came last year. But we realised this particular shop was furthest out from our location.

First stop was Koi Dessert Bar but there as a long line. While waiting in line, I decided to try the strawberry watermelon gelato from N2. I’ve always been a huge admirer of the strawberry watermelon cake from Black Star Pastry. I thought it’d be an interesting combo to have it in a gelato form. It surely was, I quite liked the gelato cake, it had a very strong flavour of the original. It felt very light to be eating it, much like the cake. The pistachios and rose petals added further reminders to the original cake. But one thing I really hated was the syringe; I’m so glad I squeezed a little bit on one side of the gelato to try it first because I did not find it palatable. It completely ruins the taste of the gelato!
Black Star Pastry’s famous strawberry and watermelon cake smashed with vanilla gelato ($8)
SWC Smash ($8)

By the time we finished eating the gelato, we had gotten closer to our line with Koi. As usual, this place has too many beautiful divine looking desserts so it’s always hard to make up your mind, plus you all know how indecisive I am when it comes to ordering food! I ended up trying a new flavour called Berry cheesecake. It was absolutely beautiful; I loved the cheesecake part of it. It was so soft and just melts in your mouth. The middle of the cheesecake had a berry sauce filling which I did not like. I felt it ruined the flavour of the cheesecake. Thankfully there wasn’t too much of it for me to hate this dessert. Another thing I did like was a biscuit base at the bottom. I found this hard to break and eat.

Berry cheesecake ($9)
We continued exploring for a little while until we walked past a pretty donut place. They had some nice looking donuts. We tried their Golden Gaytime, but it was awful. There was barely any flavour from the original ice cream; it was dry to eat, and the outside coating was too sugary. There was nothing good about this donut.
Gaytime filled donut ($5)
We knew our last food going be knafeh so we followed the map closely and found it close to the Emporium Cafe. However, there was a ridiculously long line. The vibe was very different on this end with loud music, bearded men singing and dancing while making knafehs. It was enjoyable for the first few mins, but soon the waiting got boring. At one point, I even regretted ordering the knafeh. Finally, after a long wait, we received our knafeh.
It tasted nice, but it wasn’t anything special. Nothing stood out to me in terms of flavour; it tasted a bit like a pudding. Sad to say, I was very disappointed with this dessert, I don’t understand what the hype is about? I reckon I could have made a similar dessert at home. So it must be the singing/ dancing that’s making this place popular than it should be?!
  
Knafeh ($8)
Overall, I really enjoyed coming here and seeing the transformations Parra has undergone for this event (see pictures below).

My fav 🙂

Struggling September

This month wasn’t a smooth month for me, as you can tell from my major delay in getting this out. I’m finding it so hard to keep up lately!

I officially started working on SPSS this month. To be honest, I have never had a good relationship with statistics, and it has never really been my area of interest. I decided the best to go about it would be to remain optimistic, but this wasn’t always easy. There have been days when I felt confident after picking up a new skill, and there have been other days where I felt very lost and barely made any progress at all. But the good thing is that I submitted my systematic review paper. I know I won’t hear back for a long time, but at least it’s out of my hands for now. Hopefully, this will give me more time and energy to work on the statistics.

In other news, we had an EMCR symposium in our building. I’m part of the organising committee so we needed to do lots of prep beforehand. While I wasn’t in charge of many things, I still found it hard to get any work done around this period. But I very much enjoyed learning about other people’s research and left feeling very inspired!

Fun happenings this month were Father’s Day and my mum’s birthday (see pictures below). Also, I went to Canberra this month over one weekend. It was a very short visit, but it was wonderful to get away because I rarely ever go anywhere, especially out of Sydney.

Here are all the September eats 🙂
Peach and raspberry flan (made for Father’s day)

Moong dal, zucchini and prawn curry
Okra, snow pea and teriyaki tofu stir-fry
Lemon-dukkah salmon with broccoli and peas
Red lentil and aubergine curry

Peach and cinnamon clafoutis

Zucchini, potato and ricotta slice

Mixed veggie stir-fry (cauliflower, broccoli, potato and brussels sprout)

Potato and zucchini patties

Ricotta, blueberry and strawberry cheesecake (made for mum’s birthday)
Strawberry and cream cake

Chocolate coated ricotta slice (made by mum)

Deux Bar + Kitchen


We came here based on a friend’s recommendation who liked one of their desserts. I could feel the funky hipster vibes as we entered. We were not hungry as it was early in the afternoon; we decided to go with a light snack.

The menu we got handed out was very short. I remember I had seen a broader range online, but I realised later that their menu is time specific (ours was 4-6pm). We decided to try the battered chickpea eggplant and chicken crackling.

The chickpea battered eggplant was probably a better deal. It had a very strong eggplant flavour. It tasted pretty good, but nothing stood out in terms of flavour.  I really enjoyed the smoked chilli mayo though (helped me eat the food).

I was quite disappointed with the amount served for chicken crackling and felt it was overpriced. The raw kingfish tasted quite nice but very salty! I’m not big on raw seafood (except for salmon), but this was prepared well with smoked eggplant, caper and togarashi.

Overall, Deux café was a bit of letdown and did not live up to my expectations. I probably wouldn’t return here unless it were to try a different menu (lunch or dinner).

Chickpea battered eggplant $12

Chicken crackling $14

Deux Bar + Kitchen
98-104 Parramatta Road
Camperdown
NSW 2050

Father’s Day 2016

Happy Father’s Day! I’m going to follow the trend from last year and write another open letter-

Dearest daddy,
I cannot say enough to thank you. Everything I have become today is from the great guidance you have provided me. I don’t know how you did it- raising a teenager + having a full-time job + running the household. I’ve never thought of it from this angle because I had always been focused on studying. But ever since I started work this year, I have gained the insight to what it’s like to be working in a full-time role in the real world. It is so much harder than I ever imagined. I have no idea how you did it with the amount of responsibilities that came with your job. I have always tried to appreciate everything you have done for me but after getting a taste of full-time work this year, I have learnt to respect you at a whole new level!
I have no idea how you can be so selfless, it’s probably something I will never fully understand. I can’t possibly comprehend how difficult it would’ve been for you to have a long busy day at work, then coming home from work and looking after a crazy teenager, lending a hand with her homework or assignments, and be the sole person to manage the home. You are a true superhero in my eyes because you are always there to rescue me whenever I come across a bump on the road. You are always one-step ahead of me; you know how to get ahead of me and you know when to pick me up on a cushion to comfort me. You are my strength and weakness. I’m truly blessed to have someone like you to lookout for me.  I honestly don’t know what I would do without you; I would barely know how to function! I’m truly blessed to have a father like you to guide me in this journey called life. I hope I can show you just how much you mean to me this Father’s Day.

Love you always and forever,
From your little girl xo

Father’s Day bake: Peach and raspberry flan

Recipe: Australian Healthy Food Guide Magazine (February 2016)

Adamant August

This month was a one hell-of-a-month for me. I still had a lot of work left to do from the major revisions of one of my old papers which took me a really long time. I was trying really hard to finish this because we had a deadline. But then, I got caught in the last wave of flu. I don’t get sick very often, but when I do, it’s really bad. I would’ve liked to take some time off to recover, but I knew I needed to push myself to meet the deadline. Working during that time wasn’t easy, it was tough. There were times where I struggled a lot, but I refused to give up. I ended up working from home for two days which helped me work and recover at the same time. 

The next task was revising my other paper which was nearly done. I hadn’t worked on this for a while, so I had sort of forgotten what I was up to. The good thing was I did a writing workshop this month where I used this paper as an example. I found this to be incredibly useful because it helped me get into the mindset again. It took me just under two weeks to prepare my second draft. 
Finally, I was ready to start my new paper. It will be quite different from my previous papers because there will be lots of statistics and data analyses. I think I have made a good start so far as I have done some introductory background reading. But there are so many things I have no idea about, but I feel like I’m ready to tackle the hurdles now!
Overall, it has been a productive, super intense month but I’m happy with what I have accomplished because I managed to work on three papers (this is a first for me)!
Here are all my August eats 🙂  
Places visited this month are El-Phonenician and The Vogue Cafe.
Teriyaki tofu and mix vege stir-fry
Lentil and bulgur kofte with dukkah

Snow pea, okra and cashew stir-fry

Danish pastries with custard and almonds

Crispy skinned salmon and pumpkin with dukkah
Oat pancakes with ricotta and strawberries
Sweet potatoes and ricotta cannelloni

Eggplant and ricotta bake

Chicken (marinated with tikka masala and yoghurt) and veggie bake

Green split pea and carrot curry

Zucchini and avocado slice
Chocolate dipped strawberries

El-Phoenician Restaurant

My homie just got back to Sydney so we caught up for dinner! We haven’t had middle eastern food together so we decided to go with Lebanese cuisine.

It was pretty light because we went on a weeknight. As usual, we took a very long time to decide what we wanted to eat. The staff kept rushing us asking if we had made up our mind. We did not like this one bit because we always take our time to order, and we felt it was unnecessary to pressure us into ordering because the restaurant was almost empty!
 
Eggplant dip was the best; it was smooth, soft and creamy. It was my favourite. I could literally eat this every meal; eggplants are one of my favourite vegetables (yes, I have too many favs when it comes to veggies!)
Hummus and Lamb was an average dish. It didn’t really stand out to me; I didn’t hate it, nor did I love it. It turned out to be our least eaten dish from the night, and it’s one dish we wish we didn’t order.

Mixed platter was pretty good, seasoned well – the lamb was quite tender though I personally preferred the chicken strips.

Salad and Pickled olives-  this was an excellent choice because it added more veggies on our plate. We loved the variety in this. My favourites were the radish and pickled turnips.

Halloumi stacks-  we loved it, it’s one of those things that I hate the saltiness of but enjoy the taste at the same time.

Tabbouleh- this has been one of my favourite Lebanese dishes for a while. It was fresh and seasoned well. I really enjoyed it. I probably could’ve eaten more of this, but I was trying not to fill up (so I could save space for dessert).

Overall, we had a great time; we would’ve liked it more if the service had been a tad friendlier. But other than that, we enjoyed the food. We would definitely order less next time.

Grilled haloumi stack: Served with mesculine salad, tomato and a balsamic reduction $18

Chick Pea (Homous): A puree of chick peas blended with tahina and lemon juice with lamb  $19

Eggplant (Baba Ganouje): Smoky chargrilled eggplant blended with tahina and lemon juice $13

Mixed marinated pickles (Kabees): A plate of kalamata olives, pickled cucumbers, turnips, and whole chilies $17