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The PhD diaries

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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

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)

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

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

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

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)

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

Jumbled July

This month has been rather depressing because I’ve been all over the place and didn’t get to do what I made plans to do. I was progressing at a steady place trying to finalise my systematic review. But then I heard back from the journal I had submitted my old review to which requires further revisions. Initially, I thought it’d take me around a week, but there are so many little things I need to look into. I’m still not done, but hope I’m closer than yesterday.
In other news, I did a short statistics course. I’ve been trying to find a relevant course for months now, but most courses were out of Sydney or ridiculously expensive. Finally, I found a good one; it was using a software called GraphPad Prism. To be honest, it was overwhelming because stats has been my area of weakness and I did it a very long time ago. But I’m really glad I did it because now I’m armed with somewhat confidence.
Overall, it has been a really challenging month. I feel like I haven’t been as productive because everything has been jumbled. But let’s hope that the happy days are just around the corner!
Here are all my July eats 🙂
Sweet potato and date brownies
Lahme bi ajeen made with lamb, tahini and mint
Polenta, rocket and mushroom tart (click here for recipe)

Milk vermicelli with sultanas, almond and pistachios (click here for recipe)

Roasted salmon with spicy cauliflower and mashed sweet potatoes

Yoghurt mint marinated chicken with sweet potatoes
Penne with eggplant, basil pesto and pine nuts

Bitter melon, capsicum and sweet potato

Tofu and capsicum stir-fry
Kale and sweet potato gratin

Baked chicken with beans and sweet potato mash

Blueberry and custard pancakes

Mushroom, green beans and cashew stir-fry
Spaghetti with basil pesto and Brussels sprouts

Juggling June

I spent all of this month writing up my paper. I focused on writing my discussion for the first two weeks. Soon after I started writing, I realised, there were other small things I needed to finalise as well, like how I wanted my tables to look, supplementary information, etc. Getting everything together and trying to tie up loose ends has been harder than I imagined, but having some experience with systematic review write up (from last year) was sort of helpful. I was also trying to juggle a few other things on the side (more about this later). 
Overall, it was a super intense month for me, but things are looking better now because I can almost see the finish line! The good news is that I’ve managed to meet the deadline I had set for myself, so I’m happy (for now).
In other news, I was doing ‘Junk Free June’ this month which is an initiative run by Cancer Council Queensland that encourages people to give up a junk food for the entire month. I picked my top 3 snack foods which were chocolate, chips and biscuits. To be honest, it was quite difficult because I’ve never restricted myself from any food before. Biscuits and chips weren’t that hard because I don’t eat a lot of those but staying away from chocolate was hard! But I’m really glad I did it because I discovered some other substitutes which worked just as well as a distraction (dates and nuts were my top choice). I’m looking forward to devouring some chocolate now, in moderation, of course 😛
Here are all my June eats 🙂 I also went to Khaybar Restaurant and saw Vivid.
Recipe is up for Moong dal and pumpkin curry.
Pear and almond cake
Banana pancakes

Red lentil and pumpkin soup
Pasta with mince and Brussels sprout
Hokkien noodles with zucchini pumpkin (plus leftover lamb and cashews)
Curried chicken, pumpkin and sweet potato soup
Eggplant, zucchini and pumpkin curry
Moong dal and pumpkin curry
Roasted pumpkin and capsicum with dukkah

Roasted capsicum and tomato soup
Carrot, zucchini and feta slice
Roasted salmon, beans and Brussels sprout
Eggplant and sweet potato moussaka 
Couscous with orange, date and walnuts
Baked kibbeh with mixed veggies and pine nuts

Marvellous May

This was probably my best month this year because I had my first ever conference/ mini holiday.
But it didn’t start off that great, I had to learn how to use a software called Stata for statistical analysis.
I struggled a lot in the beginning because I had no idea how to set up the data or what code to use. (Stata has a command interface). It took me a really long time to figure out what I needed to do. I went through a long process of trial and error and seeking help when I got stuck. 
The first part of the analysis didn’t take as long but the rest of it took me longer than I expected. I had set myself a deadline to finish it before I leave for the conference (but failed). However, the good news is, it finally worked in the end! I felt super accomplished after getting all my outputs. I think I’m slowly learning to be persistent!
I thought I would be ready to write up after this but turns out, I still have to do another quality and tool validity assessment. But almost there!
Overall, the conference was definitely my highlight and like I said, that one piece of paper made my month. It’s a nice feeling to be getting recognition for your work 🙂
If you’d like to see my Melbourne food shenanigans, please click here.
Here are all the eats from this month 🙂   
Broccolini, capsicum and choko stir-fry
Veggie mix and legumes
Couscous, egg and feta
Rainbow veggie mix with tofu

Carrot cake with crumbled walnut topping
Spinach, zucchini and lentil spaghetti
Salmon, beans and tomato with dukkah

Spicy okra and zucchini

Steak and zucchini with dukkah
Apples roses (Mother’s Day special)
Pumpkin, sweet potato and broccoli

DAA conference | Melbourne

Being a tourist 🙂
Day 1:
Reunited with the bestie at the airport.
*Incessant chattering*
Next stop was food.  
First sunset photo


We chose an Italian restaurant called ‘Vapiano’, based on another friend’s recommendation. It was quite busy; we had to wait to get a table. We decided to order both pizza and pasta.
Ordering pizza was pretty straightforward. However, the pasta line took forever. It took so long that we received our pizzas but still hadn’t been able to order the pasta.


We tried garlic and one zucchini and eggplant pizza. I liked the latter but the garlic one was a bit hard, it got a bit cold by the time we started eating.
The pasta was quite nice and flavoursome but nothing extraordinary and not worth an hour wait!
Vapiano
Spotted a cute florist, on our way to dessert
For dessert, we wanted to go Om Nom but unfortunately they had no space so ended up going to Pancake Parlour Lovely. It’s meant to be a Melbourne version of Pancake on the Rocks. We ordered plain vanilla pancakes and chocolate pancakes to get a combination of both, along with milkshake and coffee. However, we were quite disappointed with the pancakes. Vanilla ones weren’t too bad, but the chocolate one wasn’t done right. Chocolate is one of those things that tastes great with almost everything, but the flavours weren’t balanced for this one. The presence of the chocolate chips made it worse, in this case.
The Pancake Parlour Lovely
Vanilla pancakes stacks + chocolate and strawberries (~$45)
Looks can be deceiving sometimes!
Nightlife
Day 2:
I did not sleep well at all. I kept waking up few times during the night and stayed awake after 5 am. We left the hotel just after 7 am and we were starving! We wanted to go to Hardware Lane but it was in the opposite direction to the conference, and we knew we wouldn’t make it back in time for registration.
7:30AM: ready to go!


We decided to go somewhere else but had a hard time picking and finally went to Five66 Cafe. To be honest, we were reluctant to order here as the inside atmosphere didn’t look very inviting. However, the food wasn’t that bad (don’t judge a book by its cover!)
Big brekkie ($20)
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre


After the conference, we walked along Yarra River and went to DFO (retail therapy), then caught a metro from Southern Cross station to Melbourne Central Mall (found nothing to buy here). We kept dinner relatively simple went for sushi.
Yarra River – afternoon walk
It rained!
Melbourne Central: first time on a Metro!


Day 3:
I slept much better than I expected. Maybe I’m getting used to the hard pillow after all. We also turned on the air con so it was cooler to sleep. We had a fairly relaxing morning and had plans to brekkie at a famous crumpet place (Cumulus Inc.)
Beautiful morning!


It took us nearly 30 mins to walk there, and there was a line. We had a workshop to get to so we decided to go elsewhere. On our walk back, we picked Café Kinetic. We all ordered the same dish: smoked salmon and poached eggs with creamy hollandaise.
Kinetic Atlantic: soft poached eggs, smoked salmon, creamy hollandaise on wood fired Turkish bread ($14)


It was really yum. I haven’t had smoked salmon and eggs together in a while so I loved it. Their service was relatively quick; we had spare time to take a long walk along Yarra River. We went to St Paul’s Cathedral and accidentally discovered Graffiti Lane. Unfortunately, there was no good graffiti to take photos with so we left after taking one picture.
Beautiful interior detailing at St Paul’s Cathedral
Hosier Lane Graffiti Art
Other side of Yarra River


After the conference, we went to Greek restaurant for dinner called ‘Tsindos’. We had originally booked elsewhere but changed our mind because we realised the other place would be too loud to make conversation. 

This Greek place turned out to be pretty amazing; we started with a big entrée and got full without even starting our mains. We didn’t realise how big their portions would be, or we would’ve ordered less between us. We did not want to waste a whole plate of food; we sat there for a long time and tried to eat as much we could!

Eggplant dip ($7.50) – one of their famous dishes


Saganaki ($10)
Mix platter
What we ate- minus the mix platter and Moussaka mains (~$190)