Thursday, January 31, 2013

Quintana of Charyn

It's taken me a while, but I finally finished the third book of the Lumatere Chronicles by the author Melina Marchetta. She is by far my favourite author. Some of her other book titles include Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, On the Jellicoe Road and the Piper's Son. 

At this point, the Lumatere Chronicles is one of the best book series I've read; following Harry Potter of course. Nothing tops Harry Potter because I grew up with those books, and the memories of one's childhood are usually better than the reality. I will type for hours if I decide to give a review of these books. Just read them please!

The Lumatere Chronicles in chronological book order:
1) Finnikin of the Rock
2) Froi of the Exiles
3) Quintana of Charyn

P.s. I'll be away in Sydney for the weekend and I have yet to decide if I'll bring my laptop. So even if I don't post my 'something new' for the next three days, I'll put it all in one blog when I get home. Have a happy weekend :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Memory jar

A good friend of mine told me about the memory jar that she made where she writes a good memory on a piece of paper and pops it into the jar. Even when she first told me about it, I thought it was a nice idea, especially when it's a bad day and you're in need of a good memory. Anyhoo, I came across a website called Day Zero Project which is where you create a list of goals to be achieved. You can browse through other people's lists and find some inspiration for your own. I found that 'Make a memory jar' was on a lot of people's lists and so I decided that I would too start my own. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A bit of this and that

I've picked up more shifts for work, and even though it takes up most of my day, I'm still determined to try and do something new everyday. 

Today I made banana-wheat germ muffins using a recipe from my Veganomnicon cookbook. Wheat-germ is the most nutritional part of the wheat grain. It's known to be high in protein and folic acid and is loaded with lots of other nutrients necessary for good health and well being (find out more about it here and here). 

For a bit of decoration I put from dried banana on top which I made using my dehydrator. I served these babies while they were still warm with a bit of vegan almond ice cream that I made. I love when all the non-vegans in my life like the food I eat, and my family seemed to really like these.

I also got around to watching the movies My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke which are both directed by Hayao Miyazaki. My Neighbour Totoro was a totally cute family friendly movie. My brother really enjoyed it, and it was a very short movie, so it's great for anyone with a short attention span. 

I thought Princess Mononoke was a good movie. I didn't like it as much as Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle - two movies also directed by Hayao Miyazaki - but it's still worth watching. I love a good love story too, and this movie had a nice one :)


Monday, January 28, 2013

Freo at sunset

I've been to Fremantle before, but today I went down to the wharf/harbour which I had never done before. On our way home from Rockingham, my family and I stopped by Fremantle. We came at sunset and we walked down the wharf along the wall of giant stones, taking pictures and just enjoying the sights. 

I don't go on many outings with my family, so in a way this was something new. We ate at the popular restaurant Cicerellos and went for gelato afterwards. 

Life pulls you in different directions sometimes, so I really cherish days like today when everyone is together.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Loving El Salvadoran food

I had my first taste of home cooked El Salvadoran cuisine made by the hands of my friend's awesome mum. The dish we had today was pupusa with tomato salsa and a side of curtido. Pupusa is like a thick tortilla with fillings such as cheese, pork and refried beans. This version had cheese, spinach and red beans as the filling. 

My friend's mum was kind enough to make me a vegan friendly version which just had the red bean. I love when my friend's parents make vegan friendly meals especially for me. I can't even describe how lovely it feels when people do that for me. 

The curtido is a pickled salad with cabbage, onion and carrot. We ate in the tradition of using our hands, and I swear it made the food taste better. The meal was absolutely delicious, and luckily for me there were leftovers which I got to take home in a doggy bag :)

Saturday, January 26, 2013


First of all, happy Australia day! 

Today's something new was crepe making! I haven't had crepes since going vegan and even though I haven't craved it, I think after making these vegan ones, I'll get more frequent cravings. 

I decided to make both savoury and sweet crepes. I rustled up some sweet potato and leafy greens and sauteed them together with onion, garlic, ginger and spices. I followed the recipe found here for the sweet potato. The roasted spice mixture smelt so good. I had left overs so I put them in an airtight container and will definitely use them again in another dish.

I used the crepe recipe in my Veganomicon cookbook for these. This crepe recipe was really good. Not only did they taste yum, but they had the same texture as crepes (from what I remember from before my vegan days) and the mixture was easy to manipulate around the pan. I didn't have a crepe pan and so I was a bit scared they'd go wrong and turnout ugly but luckily they looked really nice and didn't break on me.

For dessert I had my crepes with the vanilla ice cream that I made with my ice cream maker, and drizzled maple syrup on top. So good. Nuff said.

Friday, January 25, 2013

DIY shoes

I bought a pair of $7 oxford shoes last year from Valley Girl and although I like them, I don't really wear them because I don't like the fact that they're completely black. They just look a bit boring. Rather than leave them under my bed, I decided to pimp my shoes today. 

I googled black and silver oxford shoes for some inspiration and managed to whip up the required equipment. I used silver spray paint that my mum uses to decorate flowers. Pretty sure if you don't want the paint to run the minute you get the shoes wet then you should go and buy proper spray paint for leather/material. Hopefully I can just go buy some of the waterproof spray stuff and that will do the job. I used up so much masking tape, covering all the areas which I didn't want spray painted silver.

Ok, so my tip to you: use gloves and do this outside. Luckily it was such a nice day today. I brought out my ipod & speakers and chilled out to some music while I did this little project :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Icy pops

Technically I made these icy pops yesterday, but they needed a day to freeze so I could only eat them today. I've been wanting to make icy poles/ice pops/popsicles (whatever you want to call them) for awhile, but could never find the moulds. It was only after I told my mum that I wanted to buy the moulds that she went out to Target and Big W to buy me some. She's sweet that way. 

I spent last night searching for fruity recipes, but a lot of them took more effort than just whizzing it up in the blender. I found heaps of great recipes which I will try later, but as soon as i saw a banana and peanut butter recipe, I had to try that one first. I love the banana and peanut butter combination. It's the perfect marriage of creamy, salty and sweet. 

I got the original recipe from here, but I made a few alternations and they still turned out yummy.

My vegan version of the Crunch Peanut Butter-Banana Icy Pops:
2 Large bananas
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
5 tablespoons 100% crunch peanut butter

Method: Blend everything in the food processor and pour into ice pop moulds. Leave a bit of space at the top as the mixture will expand as it freezes. 

Note: Before you take them out of the moulds, place them in some warm water so that they can be removed easily. 

My little brother enjoying his icy pop :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tuck Shop

My attempt to try something new each day brought my friend and I to a nice little cafe called Tuck Shop on Newcastle street in Northbridge. I've seen heaps of people post up pictures of their food from Tuck Shop on Instagram and so that's how I first came to hear of it. They even have a review for it on yelp (which is big in America)!.

Our visit to Tuck Shop was a little treat after doing Jacob's Ladder again. By the end of the meal, we were so glad we went. The service was great. Our waitress was so friendly and she helped me pick out a meal that the chef could 'veganise'. I got bruchetta, avocado, tomato, mushroom and basil salad. It tasted so good that my meat lover carnivore of a friend loved it too and even preferred it over her poached eggs and toast. The presentation was lovely also. 

The only fault that we found was that it took ages for the food to come. But hey, I'm not one to dwell on the negatives, so something like that won't stop me from going back; plus I think it just seemed like a long time for the food to come because we were starving. Nine out of ten for you Tuck Shop!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Handmade cards

Yesterday my awesome friend gave my brother a Christmas gift. I was completely awe struck at how thoughtful it was. My brother is the precious age of eleven, and he's into his video games. My friend had already lent my brother a whole stack of PS3 games, and so he added to the pile and got him a game called Skylanders. I cringe on the inside at the thought of how much the game would have cost, because it came with the game plus the figurines and the portal stand that you need to play the game. 

I am determined to make sure my friend knows how thankful I am for making my brother's day and although I'm totally poor from my trip to America I decided to start small and make my friend a handmade card. 

If you've never made someone a card (or anything for that matter) then I totally recommend that you do. There's just something about receiving a handmade gift that makes you feel special. 

I hope the post man gets my card to it's destination, because I have a friend out there who deserves to feel special. 

Note to self: must invest in a better camera which has better focus! (stay tuned, I will definitely save up)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jacob's Ladder (of death)

Wanting to do this whole vegan thing the right way, I make sure that I do my research and eat a variety of foods that enable me to get all the necessary nutrients. A healthy diet isn't enough though; we also need exercise. 

When it comes to the exercise department, I'm not pulling my weight. I decided to get up and do something about that today. My good friend and I pushed ourselves to do Jacob's Ladder at Kings Park. Jacob's Ladder is 242 steps worth of thigh aching pain. Before today I had only heard of it. One thing that I enjoyed seeing was the amount of people taking up the challenge at 5:30pm. 

Now, the steps are pretty narrow, so I felt so bad for creating a traffic jam every time I slowed down as a result of my leg muscles not wanting to work so hard anymore. Yes, it burned on the way up and my legs almost buckled every step on the way down, but it felt great afterwards, and I love a good workout where I plead with myself to just go that little bit further. I use these physical challenges to train my will power. Even though my first time doing Jacob's Ladder was exhausting, I'll be back at it again I'm sure.

The gorgeous view of the Swan River at the top of Jacob's Ladder. I must invest in a good quality camera and take better photos which will showcase just how breath taking it really is.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ice cream sammiches!

Towards the end of 2012 I bought an amazing cookbook called Veganomnicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook. Just in case you didn't know, I've been vegan for over a year and a half. I did it for health reasons and I've felt so great after making the lifestyle change that I don't intend on reverting back anytime soon. Seeing as i'll have so much free time this year, I'm determined to cook as many recipes from the cookbook as I can.
Today I use my ice-cream maker for the first time and made vegan vanilla ice cream and then went one better and made double choc chip cookies from the cookbook to make an ice cream sandwich. Oh man, it's been so long since I've had anything even close to ice cream. That ice-cream maker is now my best friend. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Little Lebanon

So because I'm still new at this blogging thing, I still can't seem to get my "about me" section to include a text box for me to explain to people who pass by my blog what it is exactly that my blog is about. So, until i figure that out, I'm just going to repeat it every couple of days. 
The mission: make the most of my gap year and do something new everyday.

I went to dinner tonight with my nursing friends to a Lebanese restaurant. Not only was it my first time eating there, but I also saw my first belly dancing show. I even got up and danced with her. I don't think it's physically possible for my hips to swing as sexy as hers, but it was fun none the less. 

I managed to video the belly dancer as she came to our table. Bravo to the elderly man who then got up and danced with her.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Real fruit, seriously flat

Yesterday I finally got the chance to use the dehydrator that my sister bought for me as a graduation present at the beginning of last year. I've been itching to use it but I could never find the time, and when you dehydrate something you have to commit because it takes hours and hours. 
I've read recipes for making fruit leather but have never tried it before, so yesterday I found some canned crushed pineapple and a tiny mango that my mum picked from our mango tree, whizzed then up in the food processor and made fruit leather.  
It took 16 hours for it dehydrate, but when it was done, it tasted so good. It reminds me of the Uncle Toby's Fruit Roll-ups that I ate as a kid. This fruit leather that I made wasn't as sticky and it was guilt free because I didn't add any extra sugar. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New things at any age

I've been wanting to take my dad to the movies for a long time. The last movie he's been to was 30 years ago when he first came to Australia. At that point, he couldn't understand English very well and so he had no idea what the movie was about. All he can remember was that he went to an outdoor cinema in Innaloo and that it was a Western.

I took my dad to go see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey yesterday with my little brother. Dad has been obsessed with Lord of the Rings after watching a feature on New Zealand and all the places that LotR was filmed. Dad was so excited about seeing the movie and we made it a truly legit cinema experience by buying popcorn and a drink. I love that you can still be doing new and exciting things and any age. 

Monday, January 14, 2013


I've missed the past two posts because I was on the journey home to Perth and just didn't have the access to my laptop. Excuses excuses, i know. But seriously, it's hard to make the most of the day when you're on a 16 hour flight.

However, I now am safely back at home and I had my first family dinner of 2013. It feels so great to be home but I'm tired as anything so it looks like it's a short post today. I hope you managed to save some kittens, make a baby smile or helped make someones life better today.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dad wisdom #1

Unfortunately I don't have anything new to report today, but I'd like to share with you something that my dad told me once. I'll probably end up posting a lot of things my dad shares with me. My dad is my numero uno rock and he almost can always pull me out of whatever rut I'm in. I'll post up whatever wisdom he gives me in the hope that it may be of some help to others too.

It has taken me 5 years to finally get into medicine. Those 5 years have consisted of a lot of hard work and persistence and my dad has always been my one-man cheer squad. He believed in me when pretty much no one else did, and on the days when I didn't think I could make the cut, he was always there to tell me otherwise. 

I remember talking to be dad in the car a few years back when he was driving me to uni. I can't remember exactly what I was upset about, but I remember that it had something to do with medicine and how horrible it felt having failed to get in so many times. My dad then told me this story:

A daughter is telling her mother how everything is going wrong; she's failing algebra, her boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend is moving away. Meanwhile, her mother is baking a cake and asks her daughter if she would like a snack, and the daughter says, "Absolutely Mom, I love your cake." 

"Here, have some cooking oil," her mother offers. "Yuck," says her daughter. "How about a couple raw eggs?" "Gross, Mom!" "Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?" "Mom, those are all yucky!"

 To which the mother replies: "Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake! God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!"

I remember the moment so well. We had just turned onto Riverside drive heading towards uni. I'm so glad my dad was there to tell me that story. It's been in my mind for the past 3 or something years now and it's been one of the many things that keep me standing strong despite whatever challenging things I perceive to be coming at me head on. 

Hearing the story really helped me  to accept the fact that sometimes things get/are bad before they get good. It may not help everyone as much as it did me, but remember the story anyways just in case someone you know needs to hear it. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Turtle time

Today's adventures in Dallas Texas were things like shopping, eating and going to the Perot Museum. So it's stuff that I've done before and not really worth blogging about. However, what I did do today which I've never done before was hold a turtle! If you live in America, you may not think that's such a big deal, but in little old Perth, Western Australia we're not allowed to keep turtles as pets (according to this source anyways) and so this was so exciting for me. If I'm not mistaken, it was a red bellied turtle and it was oh so cute. Not slimy, not gross; just the friendliest turtle I've ever met. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gen Z

I like when the things that you didn't plan on happening turn out so good that you're glad you didn't get the chance to see 'what if' if it did. Some miscommunication led to me having a quite night in with the relatives. When I first met my young 11 year old cousin a week ago in Chicago, she was very quiet and despite attempts to talk to her, conversation didn't last long between us. I had given up hope that she'd come to open up to me. As I've been spending so much time with my other cousin, I haven't had that much of a chance to try and reconnect, but today since I was at home, I told her that I've missed her over the past couple of days and I gave her a hug. That was the turning point. For the rest of the night we chatted in her room about all the things you talk to 11 year old girls about. We bonded over our mutual love of reading and she told me about her ambitions for the future. It's conversations like this that make me love spending time with kids. If you've ever been in the same situation, maybe you've seen just how much of an influence we have on them and how much they feed off of our encouragement. 

This blog definitely isn't one that will dictate how people should live, and every relationship is different, but kids shouldn't be ignored. I know there are some kids out there who'd like to be left alone, but for all those who just want an ear to listen, we should offer both of ours.

A conversation with an 11 year old totally made my day, and who knows, maybe I made hers too. 
Today made me think of the movie School of Rock and how great it can be when you take the time to bond with kids.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fish out of water

Now, I like making new friends, and even if I'm feeling shy, I will still make an effort to get to know people purely because I'd feel rude if I didn't. I found myself in a situation today where my cousin invited me along to hangout with her friends. That sounds fine right? Well, let me put this into context. I'm pretty terrible at speaking Vietnamese and my cousin is an international student who moved to the US 5 years ago from Vietnam. All of her friends at this particular gathering spoke Vietnamese as their first language. I felt like a big fat fish out of water at first, but after getting past the initial shyness, the night turned out to be pretty good. I guess I was lucky because my cousin stayed close the whole time, but thinking back on it now, the fun only started when I really threw myself into this unfamiliar situation. It's never occurred to me before what people my age from other countries do when they hang out, but this gave me a nice idea of exactly that...and you know what, we're all much the same. Tonight we played Dance Central on the Kinect, ate bucket loads of snacks and sung karaoke. No matter what language is spoken, when friends get together like this, everybody understands what it means to have fun.

Another road trip

The original plan was to write up a post everyday but I'm a day behind because my relatives and I were on the road all day long and I didn't have Internet access. There wasn't really a chance to make the most of the day but I did get a chance to go into Fort Sam in the city of San Antonio which is something I'll probably never do again in my life. It was very eye opening to see soldiers in real life in their army uniforms and I've grown a feeling of deep respect for them. My cousin who's in the navy was telling me about her daily routine and it's crazy how intense their training is. We saw a whole group of them with their giant knapsacks that they use to carry what seemed to be like practically everything they owned. So that was something new that I did the other day.

Something that I wanted to touch on though, was dad and daughter relationships. My relatives and I had to drive about 3 hours from Houston to San Antonio. The purpose of the trip was to deliver some goods to my cousin. My mum's uncle (i.e. my cousin's dad) had already done that insanely long 18 hour drive the day before and now he was back behind the wheel determined to get to Fort Sam in time before my cousin had to report back to base. We were cutting it so close but he drove the 3 hours straight. Now, we had breakfast that day, but then from 12 noon until 6.30pm he drove us around Houston and then to Fort Sam. He didn't stop to eat. He just kept driving. Even from the back seat I could see his determination to get to his daughter in time. This just made me think of dad and daughter relationships. I've really grown to love the relationship that I have with my dad, and he's the type to drive all night just to deliver me some of my belongings from home. My dad does a lot for me and as normal as that seems to me, I've come to realise that not everyone is as lucky as I am. Anyways, all this reflecting got me thinking about all the movies where there are great dad and daughter relationships. Here's a list of a few of my favourites:

To Kill a Mockingbird - The relationship is there throughout the whole movie.
Sixteen Candles - The scene when they're on the couch.
Mulan -The blossom speech & at the end when Mulan comes home.

Monday, January 7, 2013

No fresh prince in this 'Bellaire'

It has been so challenging trying to find decent vegan food for the past few days. We've been on the road a lot and most of our stops have just been at the big fast food joints. We arrived in Houston today on our way to visit another of my mum's uncles. We went to the Grand Buffet in Bellaire and it was vegan galore. One of my favourite Vietnamese dishes is banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe/pancake) and normally it's eaten with fish sauce. At this particular restaurant, they even had vegan "fish" sauce. Heaven. Just heaven. It was the best meal I've had in days, and even though it's not anything special, I've never been to a buffet which had so much Vietnamese food and this is something I definitely won't forget and something that makes me have love for Houston.

Apologies for all those people out there against instagram photos of food, but there was just so much good vegan friendly food!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Road tripping

I'm a little late with my post today because I've just come back from an 18 hour road trip from Chicago to Dallas, Texas. We drove from 5.30am to 12am. I saw both the sunrise and sunset and all the landscape in between. I've never done such a long road trip before and by the end of it I was itching to be anywhere but near a car, but I'm glad I had the experience. 

We didn't drive through any big cities or anything like that; mind you, i slept through most of the car ride. Of what I did see, it all reminded me of Amish barns and houses. It wasn't the kind of road trip with the window down and the hair blowing in the wind Thelma and Louise style. It was six people in a car (four crammed in the back) with What is love by Haddaway playing far too many times for my liking. By the end of the trip, we were listening to a Mexican radio station...don't ask me why. This is definitely something I don't do often, and I tip my hat to those who love road tripping to far off places. You must have butts of steel, because mine is numb as anything. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

At new heights

Chicago is beautiful! 

The houses are so cute and every church we drove past looked amazing. I went to Chicago with the expectation that it was this flash town but the buildings don't have much colour and the streets are pretty quiet in winter because it was so cold. The city reminds me of Gotham City from Batman. It's got this eerie kind of feel to it; but i really love it.

Today i went up the Willis building onto the Skydeck. It's the tallest building in Chicago with 
its 103 floors. We got there at around 4 while the sun was still up but the lines were so long and at first it was a real dampener on the day but by the time i finally got up there, the sun was just setting and it looked beautiful. A great end to my day.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Chai latte love

I didn't mention it in my last post, but my day yesterday wasn't the best. However writing my little reflection about how much I enjoyed going to a museum for the first time helped me to go to bed feeling happy. I guess that's what i wanted to achieve with this blog. I want there to be something that I can still feel grateful for no matter how my day went. You may think that making a whole blog dedicated to achieving this is unnecessary but I've tried doing something similar without getting the results. I have a little whiteboard at home which i tried to write something that i was grateful for each day but I found that there were days where I just felt too lazy to write something down. I'm hoping that because there's an audience on this blog (even if it's a small one) then I'll be more motivated to make the most of my day. 

My day started with a soy chai latte from Starbucks. I've never been to a Starbucks before, as there are none back home in Perth and so this was an exciting first for me. Now, I'm vegan (just for health reasons) and I'm pretty sure there's milk solids in the chai powder, but I'm on holidays and so for this one time, I'll let ignorance be bliss. 

I hope you find something to be grateful for today. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Getting my intellect on

The family and I took a day trip to The Field Museum in Chicago today. I feel really jealous of the kids (and everyone else) here who have the opportunity to come and soak in all the knowledge that this place has to offer. I won't go on forever about it, and anyone who ever gets the chance to visit Chicago should most definitely pop in. The admission cost is good and if you went and read every bit of information on the walls/displays, then not only would you make for great dinner party conversation, but you'd have to make two trips to the museum I reckon. I can't remember if I've ever been to a museum before but this one had me so captivated. It was anything but boring. Opportunities to explore places like this make me so grateful that I have eyes to see, an ability to read and the brain capacity to understand and be in awe.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

I was on a plane flying from Las Vegas to Chicago with my mum and Grandma when the clock ticked over to 2013. Unfortunately there was no big countdown. No one opened a bottle of bubbly or popped party poppers. In terms of a new years kiss...I kissed my mum and grandma on the cheek...does that count? 

One of the reasons I've been looking forward to 2013 is because a friend of mine gave me a one year Bible. It's set out all nicely so that you read a bit of scripture everyday and by the end of the year you would have read it all. It was one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received. There wasn't even an occasion. She gave me the Bible just because she knew I'd like it. I love it.

My trip to America was very spontaneous. My family found out that my grandma was in hospital so mum and I booked tickets a week before we flew out. My new years eve may not have been a lot of people's idea of starting the year off with a bang, but it was pretty great for me. I guess I'm just strange that way. So how was your new years eve?