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The PhD diaries

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Motivating March

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!

Here are some of my fav eats from March 🙂

Sultana and almond teacake (baked after so long….)
I have always loved pancakes but it’s hard to make them on a weekday. So, I made a big batch and chopped up pancakes into bite-sized pieces and paired with cottage cheese. Oh, so delicious!
Not the best photo of Chinese Broccoli…but I’ve fallen in love with Asian greens this month. My favourite type is Kangkung
Cacao spread on sourdough. This is another new obsession.
Rainy days call for my favourite comfort food ‘khichuri’. I have been obsessed with this ever since I was young, but the only difference is that mine is now packed with a lot more vegetables! Click here to get a similar recipe.
This is now go-to snack. I’m currently obsessed with corn thins. My favourite toppings include peanut butter, cacao and cottage cheese. I sometimes put two when I can’t decide!
White quinoa, lentils and veggies. I have recently rediscovered my love for beetroot and boiled egg. They are so great for work lunches.
Leaving my favourite till the last,  I made a big batch of oat banana pancakes and topped it off with chocolate chips. It also served as a weekday breakfast once cut up #winning 🙂

 

 

Fantastic February

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.

Here are some of my February eats 🙂

Banana pancakes topped with cottage cheese (savoury)
Sourdough toast with cottage cheese, figs and chia seeds
Still going strong with the homemade muesli + yoghurt + fresh fruits for brekkie 😛
Banana pancakes
A summery fruit platter to celebrate my parents wedding anniversary 🙂
An unplanned salad with quinoa and lentils + butter beans + leftover veggies (broccoli, corn, peas and beans) + seafood salad + cherry tomatoes + carrots + alfalfa sprouts
Banana and oat muffins
Tried getting a little creative for V day 😉
More banana pancakes with fresh fruits

Jolly January

Um, where did the first month of the year go? :O

I spent the first week of January holidaying in Fiji (blog coming up soon) 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 😀

Here are some of my January eats 🙂

Current summer breakfast: yoghurt, fresh summer fruits (mangos, or stone fruits) and muesli
White quinoa, lentils, salad, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and egg (keeping it basic after returning from holidays)
Fettuccine, mushrooms and broccolini for a #meatlessMonday (vegetarian)
Pumpkin, eggplant, green beans, capsicum, white quinoa and lentils (vegan)
White quinoa, lentils, broccolini, capsicum, and carrot, with pan-fried Nile Perch
Finally made the pancake stack I have been dreaming about for a while now 🙂
White quinoa, lentils, broccolini, olives, carrots and beans, with pan-fried Hoki fillet
Curried potatoes, eggplant and pumpkin (vegan)
Fettucine with olives and broccolin, topped with parmesan (vegetarian)
Work lunch with white quinoa, lentils, eggplant and pumpkin (vegan)
Banana pancakes, topped with cottage cheese, with a side of veggies
When dietitians do picnic 😉
Potato, chickpea and egg salad (vegetarian)
Gnocchi with mushrooms, broccoli and peas, topped with parmesan (vegetarian)

 

Disappointed December

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!

Here are my eats from this month 🙂

 

Sourdough with pumpkin puree and poached egg
Yoghurt and granola on sourdough
Work lunch with chickpea, potato, tuna, cucumber and medley tomatoes
#MeatlessMonday with broccolini, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms and asparagus
Greek yoghurt + summer stone fruit + mango + Mediterranean spread on sourdough
White quinoa, lentils mushrooms, chickpea, asparagus, tuna and carrots
White quinoa and beans mix, cauliflower, broccolini, carrot, baby capsicum and tuna
Red and yellow capsicum, broccolini, asparagus, cherry tomatoes and carrots, topped with cashew nut and chilli flakes
Zucchini, broccolini, cauliflower, carrot, red onion and capsicum
Yoghurt with granola, summer stone fruit and mangoes
Chicken, carrot and capsicum skewers
Garlic, butter and chilli prawns (Xmas day special)
Stir-fry with broccolini, red and orange capsicum, cherry tomatoes and zucchini (Xmas day special)
Roast chicken with potatoes, carrot and pumpkin (Stir-fry with broccolini, red and orange capsicum, cherry tomatoes and zucchini (Xmas day special)

Nightmarish November

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 🙂

Asparagus + wilted baby spinach + chicken meat balls + cheese on toast
Sweet chilli cottage cheese and avo spread for #toastTuesday
Asparagus + baby spinach + slawed veggies (carrot and cabbage), topped with chilli flakes
Broccolini and asparagus stir-fry for a #meatlessMonday
Veggie toast with leftover asparagus, beans and broccolini
Baby cucumbers, tomatoes and carrot with a fruity yoghurt toast
Leftover pasta salad with potato, chicken and carrot + stir-fried slawed veggies (cabbage, carrot, corn and baby spinach)
Veggie packed penne with baby spinach and slawed veggies
#toastTuesday with scrambled eggs and homemade ricotta
Veggie toast featuring homemade ricotta + leftover stir-fry veggies: asparagus, broccolini, mushrooms and carrot
Blueberry and yoghurt toast
Egg noodles with celery, carrots, beans and pea
Potato and tuna patties with salad
Blueberry smoothie
Dessert toast with Chobani mint yoghurt + chocolate crunch and rice crisps on sourdough

Home

Overwhelming October

I have literally a million things on my mind. I almost feel like I will never be able to reach a level where I am happy with the amount of work I am doing and not feel like I am behind! I am trying to get things done one at a time. I really hope it calms down for me soon. It is so hectic right now and it’s probably because I want to do a bit of everything.

I am working on a few different things right now which includes paper writing, finalising statistical analyses and recruitment for focus groups. Stats has probably been the hardest out of these because I tend to forget the steps once I switch to a different task. Recruitment has also been challenging because getting a bunch of humans to arrive at the same time is hard work!

On the bright side, I managed to finish a draft of one of my papers. That’s probably the only milestone from this month, other than additional lecturing opportunities. We celebrated 50 years of dietetics in Sydney which was an exciting event. It was so nice to be able to attend this event and learn about some of the pioneers in nutrition and their stories. It also made me realise just how far our profession has come in 50 years!

Here are all my eats from October 🙂

Avo and chilli flakes on sourdough
Muesli and yoghurt for #Wednesdaybreakfastclub
Green bean, zucchini yellow thai curry with Jasmine rice and roasted cashews (a HelloFresh meal)
Work lunch with broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, cherry tomatoes and sourdough
#ToastTuesday with omelette and a ricotta, honey and pistachio toast

 

San choy bau with minced meat and veggies
Chicken shawarma wrap with garlic sauce and salad
Mango smoothie
Two layer chocolate pudding cake for daddy’s birthday (my highlight of this month is always his birthday)
A simple stir-fry with asparagus, tomato and cashew nuts

 

Stagnant September

This month has been pretty intense. I set myself a large number of goals, both professional and personal. I probably made more progress on my professional ones which is still a good thing. My tasks this month included preparing two posters for a symposium and an international conference. I love making posters, but they can be so fiddly and always end up taking way longer than I plan. Unfortunately, I could only present one in person as the other one was in Argentina.

In other news, I have been working on redoing some stats analyses and have also started recruiting for next round of focus groups. The other important milestone from this month was delivering my first ever lecture. I had to step in to cover for someone so I only learnt about it last minute. I was pretty comfortable in a tutorial setting but preparing for a lecture took a lot of effort and I ended up spending an entire weekend reading.  Happy to say though, it ended up being a great experience. I am glad I took up the opportunity.

Overall, it has been a very busy month, filled with some new milestones. Unfortunately, new responsibilities come with longer hours. It has left me feeling a little burnt out and has severely hindered my PhD progress and work-life balance. But let’s hope I can adjust and things will settle down soon!

Here are all my September eats 🙂

 

Strawberry clafoutis to celebrate mumma’s return 🙂
Roast pumpkin, feta and sage tart with silvered almonds (a HelloFresh meal)
Broccolini + balsamic vinegar + baby spinach
A veggie-based pasta dish with broccolini, beans and capsicum
Cottage cheese on toast + pumpkin + broccolini + spinach
Almond, coconut and chia seed porridge
Stir-fry using capsicum, zucchini, carrots and broccolini
Daddy’s favourite plain vanilla cake for Father’s Day 🙂
Ciabatta with chicken and halloumi and salad
Egg noodles with zucchini, broccoli, capsicum and carrots
Stir-fry veggies, leftover chicken and bread
Eggplant and mushroom lasagne, topped with parmesan
Porridge with strawberries, blueberries and apple
Curried pumpkin on sourdough and salad
Leftover banana waffles and cottage cheese on sourdough
Cottage cheese on olive oil and garlic sourdough, topped with a sunny-side
Morning snack with apples, strawberries, tomatoes and carrot
Pesto halloumi burger with baked potato wedges (a HelloFresh meal)
Indonesian fried rice (a HelloFresh meal)

 

DAA conference | Hobart, Australia

Day 1 

I got very sick two days before my flight so I was feeling rather cynical during the flight. Part of me was wishing I didn’t have to go; I just wanted to be in my bed. But seeing this amazing view as we descend made me pretty excited again. I told myself I will do everything I can to speed up my recovery and enjoy my time here.

Let the #TasteTassie adventures begin!

We dropped off our luggage at our accommodation (Airbnb). We were feeling very hungry as it was almost 3pm. We ate at Brook St Pier and absolutely loved our lunch with a view. I loved the abundance of mushrooms in my dish!

We walked around the harbour to soak up more views; we all know that first day views are always the best!

We bought some groceries to make dinner and headed home early as it was getting very cold. Luckily, our cute cottage had a fireplace and one of my friends knew how to light a fire. While I tried to rest and keep warm, my girls made the most delicious pumpkin, red lentil and soup. It was one of the best I ever had and just what I needed for my throat!

Soup for the soul!

Day 2

Initially, we had planned to go to Wineglass Bay which is a long drive from Hobart. However, we decided not go as it would be too hectic to drive for 6 hours on the same day. Our plan B was to catch a cruise but we realised it would be super windy and might make our health worse. This also did not work out as none of us were feeling very well this morning so started our day quite late which left us enough time to have lunch and only see one place. We only had time for brunch and see either Richmond or mount Wellington.

Buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup and whipped vanilla cream

I’m so glad we chose to go with Mount Wellington. The view was absolutely spectacular, so breathtaking! We were freezing- it was about to 6 degrees but the chill felt like 2 degrees (according to our phones).

I had my presentation the next day so I decided I needed to rest my body and stayed indoors that night. I drank lots of soup and tea with lemon and ginger and hoped for an overnight miracle recovery!

Day 3

Let the conference fun begin!

Today was the first day of conference and I presented my first ever oral at DAA. To be honest, it wasn’t quite how I imagined it to be. I would’ve liked to have a healthier voice to speak, but at the same time, we can only control so much, right?
On a brighter note, I managed to get through 15 mins without having a cough attack 😛

We felt very tired after a long day at the conference. We went home and had soup + roast chicken. One of my girls had her 25th birthday today. Unfortunately, all of us in the house had a rough start to our day so wasn’t able to do anything during the day. But as we all know that birthdays must end with cake, one of my other friends was able to find this beautiful Belgian chocolate and salted caramel roulade from one of the top patisseries in Hobart. It was very rich but deeply satisfying!

Day 4 

Since my sickness didn’t improve yesterday, I had almost given up. We had our workshop today in the afternoon and I feel like I could have done a better job. I was feeling a bit disappointed with myself but I realised, I should stop beating myself up over it. This is not the end of presentations, there will be many more to come. So it is completely okay if one does not go as planned. We finished a little early and hit the shops. We were walking into town to find a place for dinner and came across the cutest welcome message!

We looked hard to find a nice place for dinner- this was supposed to be our big celebratory night so we wanted it to be something all of us would enjoy. I had planned to eat some Tasmanian salmon tonight but the sicker me ended up going with risotto when I saw it on the menu. I’m so obsessed with risotto, especially when I am sick. I must find it easy to go down. I’m so glad I did though because it was one of the best I’ve ever had, filled with a decent amount of eggplant, spinach and mushrooms (my favourite).

We came home and had some leftover cake from the previous night. Ending our last night with chocolate made it even more perfect 😉

Day 5 

Our checkout time was around midday so we needed to pack before we left. I always underestimate how long packing takes me. I thought there wouldn’t be much to pack as we had not purchased anything to take home at this point.

The weather was pretty spectacular today, didn’t have to wear my beanie and gloves for the first time!

After the conference was over, we went straight to Salamanca Markets. I had heard about this market from a few people, so was very excited to see an open-style market. Unfortunately, I could not purchase my souvenirs here as there were too many stalls, I found it hard to pick! Also, because some shops did not take card (tip for future self would be to carry cash to places like this!)

#FromWhereIStand

For lunch, we decided to try our luck at the famous café we had planned to come two days ago. Luckily, it was a short walk from the markets. Their menu was outstanding- I couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat. In the end, I decided to go with a dish that had salmon so I can get it off my list. This was one of the places on my bucket list and having salmon here just made it even better. I felt very satisfied after finally getting some Tasmanian salmon in my belly. For anyone who’s in Hobart, I highly recommend you visit this place- they have awesome savoury and sweets! You will not be disappointed 🙂

Nori and sesame crusted salmon fillet on black rice pickled ginger cake with buttered leeks

Calm before the storm!
Goodbye to our yellow door!
En route to airport

To make up for my lack of souvenirs, I shopped at the airport before I hopped on to the plane.

Home bound

Reflection

Overall, the last couple of days have been so incredible and has gone by so quick! I’m honestly so grateful for all the wonderful experiences I’m getting from my PhD journey. I always find conferences to be so great because it opens my mind and helps me put my work in perspective. Now it’s time to go back to work and THINK BIG for Sydney. I’ve always been and will be a Sydney girl, so can’t wait to showcase our city to the rest of the dietitians around the country 🙂
As for Tassie, I know my adventures here aren’t over yet, in fact this is just the beginning! I’d love to come back someday and explore more because this trip has made me realise how much there is to see in this beautiful land.

Summary

Travel month: May

Where we stayed: with Airbnb on Barrack Street (historical workers’ cottage)

Places visited:

  • Brook St Pier
  • Constitution Dock
  • Mount Wellington
  • Pilgrim Coffee
  • Rockwall Bar and Grill
  • Salamanca Market
  • Jackman and McRoss

 

Augmented August

I’ve made some dramatic changes to my sleep habits this month. I was struggling to get enough work done after returning from Canada. I knew this was partly because I had set myself way too many goals and some things did not go as I had planned. I was struggling with the cold last month so I decided to make a fresh start. I told myself that ‘I was not cold’ and ‘I can do this’. I knew I needed to make some changes in my day for this to happen. I have always secretly wanted to be morning person. But the truth is, I love my sleep way too much so I have struggled in the past. I decided to have another go and I started a new routine to get to work by 8am. I started drinking coffee regularly for the first time in my life and happy to say, my early routine lasted the whole month. Making a change to my routine and adding coffee to my list seemed to boost my productivity levels! #winning

For the first two weeks, I was also able to finish already which kept me super motivated (as it meant getting a glimpse of sunshine as I was getting home). However, the work hours got longer after I started teaching. The combination of an additional teaching load and a pending ethics application pushed my hours so long that I barely got to see daylight.

In other news, I have started working on a very special project this month. I have wanted to do this for a very long time but I wasn’t sure where to start. I’m so glad that I have finally made a start. I know it still needs a lot of work before I can reveal what it is. Can’t wait to share soon 🙂

Ricotta, strawberry and chia seed toast
Lentil soup with mixed vegetables and baked leftover chicken
Vegan lentil risoni with beans and carrots
Oats, sultanas, chopped nuts, yoghurt and a drizzle of honey
Work lunch featuring a veggie sandwich with cheese, carrot, pumpkin and baby spinach
Oats, ricotta and strawberry pancakes- featuring maple syrup from Canada!
Savoury zucchini pancakes
Broccoli, beans and cherry tomatoes for a #meatlessMonday
Big Saturday brekkie toast with avo, chilli, cottage cheese, chia seed and banana
Oats, berry and raspberry crumble
Sourdough with avo, egg and chilli + cottage cheese and strawberries

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