Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Prescatarian Journey So Far

I'm glad to report that I hardly crave meat now. While I was in Australia I only had a small steak and a few "obligatory" omnivore meals. Aside from seafood, I did'nt get thrills from eating meat.

I now enjoy having lighter meals and my metabolism runs faster. A few people said I've lost weight. I feel healthy but there are two health issues which have concerned me since I changed my diet.

(A warning in advance for anyone who knows me outside the online world, this will be TMI.)

Firstly I've noticed my hairline is receding badly. It might be hormone related rather than nutrition. I'm not losing hair faster than usual anywhere else. So I'm getting a blood test to make sure vital levels are in check. Will post the results when I get them.

Secondly I have more benign breast lumps than before. I've always had a fibroadenomata in each breast but I found 2 new ones and had an ultrasound. It detected 5 in one and 2 in the other. One was 2 cm wide which is the biggest I've ever had.

Fibroadenomata are common with Asian women and sometimes shrink or disappear on their own. They are formed with hormonal changes which is why I think the increase in lumps is because of an uptake of soy in my diet. I was eating natto everyday and having soy milk in cereal and coffee.

Soy is high in phytoestrogens, which are plant chemicals that mimic female hormones. I'll quote from here that: "Soy phytoestrogens do have the estrogenic effect of stimulating the growth of breast cancer cells in tissue cultures. Several studies presented at a recent soy symposium showed that soy protein isolates stimulate the growth of normal breast cells much the way that natural estrogens do, and of course this would add to breast cancer risk if progesterone is not present."

Perhaps I'm sensitive to these hormones so I've switched to nut and hemp milk (as I'm lactose intolerant). I've cut down on eating natto from everyday to once a week. Hopefully this will reduce the incidence of breast lumps. I'm not due for another scan until next year but I'll self monitor the lumps in the meantime. Fingers crossed!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Off To The Beach

I'm so sad to be leaving Sydney tomorrow. *cries* 

My three week holiday is coming to a close. It's been like a waking dream, driving my car, riding my bike, spending time with family and dear friends. 

Today I visited a girlfriend in Randwick. She has a pet bearded dragon called Chubs. At first I was too afraid to touch him because of his scales and spikes but after a little observation, I realised he's extremely docile. He just looks scarier than he really is. 

We hit the beach at Bronte. It was cloudy at first but the skies cleared up and it turned out to be a smashing day. We did a bit of people watching (she spotted a lifeguard from the TV show Bondi Rescue). As it's Monday, the beaches were quiet. The crystal blue water was simply glorious! Heaven on earth. 

A walk around Tamarama Beach. 

Friends since the beginning of high school!

Afterwards we had family dinner at my sister's house. I like it better than going out for dinner. We had a delicious home cooked meal in the comfort of my sister's and I was amongst my loved ones. Who could ask for more?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sydney Food Safari

It's 11pm and I finally have the chance to rest for the day. It's been tiring and fulfilling in many ways. Here's what I did on my last Sunday in Sydney.

Met my cousin Lisa and her bf at the Fish Markets for a seafood feast. It was my only chance to pig out on oysters, sashimi and the freshest prepared sea urchin. They look like crinkly yellow cat's tongues. Horrible analogy, however these delicate morsels are divine if you're the type to suck the insides of prawn heads or enjoy the jelly texture of oysters. They are an acquired taste as I hated them the first time but on the second, I was hooked. These were an utter indulgence. And no need to grapple the creatures in their spiky armour.

Pork tonkotsu at the ramen joint in Eating World food court in Chinatown. My girlfriend raved about the food and she's right-the broth is out of this world. (And made without MSG.) So thick and tasty, it coats your tongue and sticks to the insides of your mouth long afterwards. It was the thickest tonkotsu broth I've ever had.

Then we had Yogurtberry before saying goodbye. I was really full by then. Went to Silverwater to visit friends and meet their cute pups. Then it was off to dinner in Marrickville for pho. I would'nt go back to where we ate because the broth was  bland and too sweet. However I got to catch up with more great friends and we shared laughs.

I decided to end the night there with friends but stopped at my sister's on the way home. Gotta get my last Lillee fixes before I go away! My cousin Lisa and her bf was also visiting and we watched TV together. It was wonderful to visit spontaneously and spend time with family. That's what I really miss when living in London.

I was so knackered when I got home. Need to catch some hard earned zzzzzzzs now.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Last Week Of Sydney

I visited a friend at Brighton Le Sands. Her flat has a wonderful balcony facing the sea. Is'nt this lovely?

When the mercury hit 46 degrees, Mum and I stayed in my sister's air conditioned house all day. It was lovely just us girls spending time together. Apparently when it finally rained, steam was coming off the streets!

Lillee's  growing quicker day by day. Sweet angel face!

A reflective pond at Olympic Park. Still riding in the mornings.

Brunch at Gnome on Crown Street Surry Hills. Their coffee is eyes-roll-to-the-back-of-your-head good. Or maybe I'm used to crap coffee in London. I had a mushroom, asparagus, poached egg on polenta ensemble...

And my girlfriend had scrambled eggs with home salsa on toast. The eggs are silky soft. I would love to come back again for this AND MORE COFFEE.

Raw prawn sushi (at the sushi train under Zilver, forgot the name). It tastes creamy and has a delicate crunch. It's one of the delicious things I've eaten in Sydney.

Only a few more days to go now! *cries*

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lillee's Homecoming

I had to restrain myself from uploading more pics of my niece, including an utterly endearing video of her with the hiccups. 

Lillee came home from the hospital five days after she was born. I see her alot because Mum makes numerous Chinese post natal herbal concoctions for my sister. So we bring them over and I get to coo and cuddle Lillee when she's awake. Tough life for an aunt, heh!

Of course like all babies she's mega cute and her mannerisms as a newborn are precious. Every gurgle she makes is heart warming and slowly but surely, she's more inquisitive by the day.

Tee hee. One of the hundred photos of Lillee I've taken.

I bought Chinese books for Mum to read to her when she's older. 

Mega cuteness!

A proud aunty and a lil bub.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Saturday In Sydney

One of the greatest pleasures of Sydney living is taking an early morning bike ride through Olympic Park. I get instant calm riding through cultivated bushland on one side and expensive apartments on the other. But honestly its an escape from the inner city grind and I get to see alot of wildlife too. 

One day when we had 43 degree heat, I nearly ran over a snake sunbathing by the bike path. It lurched out of the way but I got so close to it, I screamed like a little girl. Much to the bewilderment of the cyclist going past at the time. At that point I realised I should stop being a bogan and wear real shoes and not flip flops.

I usually go at 7am before it gets too hot, but today was overcast. I admit I have a boys mountain bike (so it can fit in my car) but it still rides better than The Beast in London.

The Parramatta River was especially high this morning. It's so peaceful here.

Family lunch at my sisters house. My aunt brought over the food. We had delicious Aussie watermelon for dessert.

Afterwards I hung out with a friend in Darling Harbour. We saw a rubber duckie.

My latest obsession is soft serve frozen yogurt, which has a new mass following here. I've spent stupid amounts on the stuff to keep cool in the heat.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Winter Wonderland Luzern

I get an overwhelming calm when I'm in Switzerland. The lifestyle here is simply but honestly good. To me, Switzerland is like the land of Utopia. Wholesome food, clean, efficient friendly people, no beggars, and naturally picturesque. Not to mention the bounty of chocolate and cheese!

Of course you have to pay for these wonderful things. Despite the rising cost, I still come here every year. Particularly around early December to experience Switzerland for how I'd like to remember it, as a winter wonderland. 

The weather leading up to our visit was promising, snowing every day in Luzern. When we arrived in Zurich, I was excited to see a blanket of snow at the airport. 

We took the train to Luzern, seemingly gliding through the countryside. The trains are a pleasure to use. They're fast, clean and extremely well designed. It was like being driven by a chauffeur without a single bump or clunk along the way.

I watched outside my window, gazing dreamily and listening to Jewel's Christmas album. (Winter Wonderland was my favourite song.) 

Snowflakes danced towards the plush snowy earth. By the time we arrived in Luzern, the snow was coming down in clumps.

When we got to my friend Fabienne's flat, we were warmly welcomed. She served us a Swiss dish, Älplermagronen which is like mac and cheese with ham and topped with applesauce. It was comforting especially after our journey. 

The next morning we woke up to this.

I really love staying in Fab's flat. She has an eagle eye for design so her flat's fun and eclectic.

 After a Swiss breakfast of rosti, breads and coffee, we headed out to the city and took a ferry ride to Vitznau on Lake Luzern. With the snow falling, the scenery was spectacular.

Pretty villages along the way.

From Vitznau, we took a cable car up to Mount Rigi. 

We are in the clouds. People were skiing and snowboarding from the top.

Real alpine country.

The clouds briefly cleared up and here's a cool looking snowtrain! 

Now where are we?

Hearty goulash for lunch.

A snow hike down to the next ski village.

The air is so cold and dry, the snowflake structure is preserved. They bounce when they land.

A second lunch in one of the ski hotels. Swiss cold cuts, french fries and gluhwein. 

Later at night we dropped by another friend's house for traditional fondue. Oh my!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Foods Aussie Ex-Pats Miss

If you're putting together a care package for a loved one living in the UK, here's what they miss from home (well atleast what I miss):

1) Savoury biscuits: Arnotts Shapes and Dixie Drumsticks. Pizza and BBQ Shapes are the best.
2) Candy Bars: Violet Crumble, Picnic, Cherry Ripe bars
3) Salty Snacks: Toobs, Burger Rings, Twisties, Cheezels
4) Sweet Biscuits: ANZAC biscuits, Tim Tams, Mint Slices Tiny Teddies
5) Candy: Redskins, Milko, Sherbies (do they make these anymore?), Minties

And Aussie mango with Blue Ribbon icecream!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Return To Sydney

I'll openly say that after having travelled alot, I still think Sydney is the best place to live.

I love being back. I get to ride my bike to the above everyday, drive my jelly bean car and be with friends and family. The only downsides is that everything's expensive (or everyone's rich), and the heat and sunshine is so intense, I can't do anything in the daytime. And I don't have air con working in my car.

After living in London for nearly five years, the usual first impressions of being home is:

1) Everyone I don't know talks like bogans.
2) Oh wait, I'm a bogan.
3) Why is everything in Australia so damn expensive?
4) The fruit and vegetable here are huge and taste like what they are.
5) Bugs will eat anything here, especially people.
6) Why are there so few freeview channels on TV? And two of them televise tennis and cricket all day.
7) Customer service people are actually nice and will humour your crazy rantings.
8) I don't want to go outside today because I'll have to slather on sunscreen first.
9) Waiting more than three minutes for train is ludicrous.
10)  Paying sixteen dollars for a cheese toastie and bottle of organic coke at a cafe is reasonable these days?

South Sweden: The Next Installment

After the improptu stay in the slammer, I made sure to behave for the rest of the time in Sweden.

We left Gotenburg and drove to the south of Sweden. On the highway, we were "chopping" (sychronised karate chop imitations above the head) to DJ idols Swedish House Mafia. When one of their songs came on the radio, it was a synchronised chop-fest between the two cars. Two girls in a adjacent car saw, apparently listening to the same radio station and chopped away as well! It was hilarious.

On the way we had a late lunch in BĂ„stad, a seaside town. 

Swedish crispbread comes packaged in frypan sized rounds wrapped in brown paper. You help yourself to it in restaurants and have it with your meal.

Our restaurant was re known for it's fresh seafood. So naturally I had the grilled stromming with creamy yellow mash and lingon berries. The berries are served with most dishes in Sweden, a slightly tangy accompaniment. Delish!

We arrived at the summer cottage of my friend's parent's. It was in the countryside and used to be the home of the Count's carriage driver. The Count's residence was on the property next door. And by that, I mean a huge block of land.

Boris lazes on his patch of grass.

We fired up the BBQ and kept it going till midnight. It was rediculously cold for the middle of summer. The toasted marshmallows were a hit.

This is what midnight looks like in Sweden. It seems like the sun is in the horizon all night in summer. 

The next day we went to a beautiful spa called Ystad Saltsjobad. The resort is located in front of the sea which is perfect for running out of the sauna and plunging into freezing cold water. There were apparently health benefits in doing this. Of course there was already a little plunge pool inside but we tried the real deal. Unfortunately the dash from the sauna to the ocean meant you had to run down a long pier before you can take the plunge. It was invigorating to say the least!

We were best off relaxing in the outdoor spa, watching the sea and chopping.

The next day we visited the Count. Or just walked to the Count's residence and explored the property for a bit. This is one of the cute worker houses in the fields.  

Pretty little daisies.


More thatched roof houses nearby.

The next day we packed up and drove to Malmo. We took a 20 minute train to Copenhagen and flew from there. We returned to London tired with amazing memories.