On “lifestyle”

I’ve been thinking a lot about how important “lifestyle” has been to me. It was something I never really thought about because it was so easy to take for granted. But the past year or so have made me realise how lucky I am to be living this way.

I love living in an area where:

  • I get a fair amount of sun in my balcony where I can enjoy a cup of tea whilst doing my morning rituals.
  • I live close to a large riverside park and other walking tracks to other suburbs. (The park is popular with dog owners so have been giving pats when I can!)
  • My suburb is relatively quiet, but only a quick drive to major supermarkets and shopping centres.
  • There are good cafes that we can visit within 20-30 minutes of our leisurely weekend walks.
  • There is a small supermarket, medical centre, and chemist nearby.
  • I’m less than a 10 minute walk to the closest train station and ferry wharf and I can get to most places I need to quickly (or scenically).
  • It’s easily connected to major roads connecting to the rest of Sydney.

I’ve lived in multiple cities in several countries and I feel like I’ve had a few tastes of different lifestyles. There was living in an expat community on a man-made island in Japan; student housing in the US; a serviced apartment a stone’s throw from Orchard Road in Singapore; Manila suburbia; not to mention a few suburbs here in Australia before living where I am now.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there is no one place in which to be happy. But there is something to be said about knowing what makes me happy, and finding a location which has the best chances of bringing about those things that make me happy.

So as we think about where we might end up in the future, I think I’d love to live in a place that is:

  • Relatively quiet. Living in a busy city is not my thing. All right for working or catching up with friends or going out, but not for coming home to.
  • Close to a park. My daily walks/runs in the park have been so good for my mental health this past year.
  • Walkable to some neighborhood cafes, and having amenities like a nearby chemist or medical centre would be great.
  • Good transport links. I like not having to drive my car everywhere.
  • Not a high-rise. Haha. I really can’t live in high-rise apartment buildings.
  • Near the water! Yes I’ve turned into one of those people who would actively choose to live beside water given the chance. Probably a river in my case, properties close to the beach are super expensive.

Obviously usual things like low crime rate / friendly neighbours / etc. apply.

It seems like such a simple list but sometimes it feels like a lot! I feel a bit sad knowing that we won’t be staying in the place we are now forever. But I also know, wherever we end up in the future, we will be fine. There are other good places out there. There always are.


More than an old shirt

I like to consider myself – not quite minimalist – but intentional with the clothes I own. I usually wear my clothes over and over again until they’re ratty enough to be thrown out.

There’s usually no dramas there.

Lately, I’ve concluded that it’s time to throw out my “Red zone” shirt. It’s got numerous holes and the neckline looks like it’s been chewed by a small animal. But… still.

I got the shirt in 2008. I’d been in the US for around a month at that point, ready to start my Masters degree. It was the first football game of the school year, the first (and so far, only) football game I’d ever watched. One of my new friends had invited me to watch the game at the stadium.

I’m not much of a sports watching person, but how could I say no? So I went along. They were giving away free shirts to students, so we happily grabbed them as we went in.

I remember snippets of the game. I remember being in that massive stadium surrounded with the energy of several hundred (thousand?) other students. I remember desperately trying to make sense of what was happening on the field, jingling my keys when everyone else did. I remember the Stanford Tree and the Dollies.

It was a great start to what would end up being an amazing year (and a few months). Obviously, it wasn’t all roses – there were ups and downs as I struggled with homesickness and the stresses of grad school. But I look at that time fondly, over a decade on, and sometimes wish I could go back to that time. Isn’t that always the case, though?

Anyway. The shirt has always reminded me of that time, warts and all. I liked wearing it out and about as a nod to that time. It has “The Red Zone” across the chest, with “Stanford Cardinal” under the bottom. Not as in-your-face as shirts with a massive “STANFORD” emblazoned across the chest, but I liked the subtlety. And now it’s time for it to be chucked.

I’m actually wearing it right now, and when I take it off tonight, I think it needs to go in the bin, not the laundry hamper. I know it’s only a shirt, but ah! The memories.


March getaway: Bathurst

We’re not huge travelers, but after spending most of 2020 at home, we started getting pretty antsy. Since we can’t go overseas and interstate travel is still a bit risky1, we’ve been looking at places to visit within our very own lovely state of New South Wales.

Last October we went to Bowral, then Bundeena/Maianbar in November. Nothing fancy, just a few days away in an AirBNB or small hotel. Despite those holidays being relatively low-key, we found ourselves really enjoying having a relaxing weekend away. We’ve resolved to do more of those trips this year.

This March, we went to Bathurst, a destination I honestly would never have considered pre-coronavirus, haha. It’s a 2.5 hour drive away inland, past the Blue Mountains.

What makes Bathurst special is that it’s Australia’s oldest inland settlement and the site of Australia’s first gold rush. There was a lot of money coming in the 1800s which resulted in a lot of heritage buildings, many of which are still there.

Things to do

There are still many things we wanted to do but didn’t have time (like check out Mt Panorama and the gold rush towns of Hill End and Sofala) but at least we got to squeeze in the following (besides the usual wandering around):

Abercrombie House. I absolutely love exploring heritage buildings so this was our first stop. This mansion was built in the 1870s and has been lovingly restored by the Morgan family for the past 50 years or so. It was a treat wandering through the different rooms and finding out about the history of the place. The owners are super friendly and told us their personal stories about the house. Well worth a visit.

One of the best rooms in the house, now their daughter’s bedroom.

Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum. I love dinosaurs, and they have an actual T-rex skeleton inside. Enough said.

Machattie Park. There is a beautiful park right in the middle of town. We had downloaded the Bathurst Step Beyond app so got an audio tour of the park and the city centre. We didn’t get to do all the tours, definitely keen on doing that at a later visit.

MacHattie park during golden hour.

Where we ate

We initially tried to book for a weekend trip. Unfortunately, accommodation prices were astronomical. Turns out racing was on that weekend, so we booked for Sunday to Tuesday instead. We then found out that many restaurants we wanted to check out were closed on Monday and Tuesday! 🙁 Still, we had some pretty good meals!

On the way up to Bathurst, we went to Blackheath for brunch, then on the way down, went the other way through Bells Line of Road for apple pies. Yum!

Where we stayed

This was such a lovely place that it’s well worth a mention: the Original Hat Factory. As the name implies, it’s a former hat factory which has been converted into a series of short-stay apartments. They kept old-timey furniture and furnishings but at the same time, upgraded it with modern amenities. Would definitely stay there again.

All in all, a lovely trip. Now I’m more keen on exploring that part of the region, like Mudgee or Orange.

1 For my non-Aussie friends: Australian states have been managing themselves separately which means hard border lines are drawn. If there’s a sudden spike in cases in one state, we may get stuck out of state or need to quarantine when we get back home.


The month of cooking healthily

In line with my “new thing a month” schtick, February has been about trying to cook healthily.

We started meal planning last year. When the pandemic lockdowns started, we (like everyone else) could no longer go out to eat so had to prep everything at home. We also wanted to limit supermarket trips. So every weekend, we’d plan our meals, do a big shop, and hopefully not have to drop in during the week for items we’d forgotten.

Every year, we resolve to eat better, so this time we decided to marry our newly acquired skill of proper meal planning (haha) with cooking healthier meals. I think we were semi-successful, thanks to these two:

CSIRO recipes

S’s brother and sis-in-law recommended the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet. Although it’s got the word “diet” in its name, it’s more of a way to learn how to eat healthy with regards to portion sizes and the right ratio of protein/carbs/fats/etc. (In fact, when I took their screener, they didn’t recommend a weight loss plan for me, but a “4 week boost” where I could re-learn what health eating meant. I still think there’s a couple of kilos I could do without, though!)

The plan costs $199. You can get your money back if you follow the program to a tee, but we thought it was a bit too much commitment for the time being. Fortunately, the local library stocks their cookbooks so we borrowed those and tried the recipes on our own.

Although cookbooks don’t have the convenience of automatically selecting recipes for all our meals and creating shopping lists (as with the program), they were still pretty easy to go through, especially since we decided to only do the recipes for dinner.

The recipes were tasty and easy (read: easy enough for me to do) and there’s a couple of cookbooks we particularly liked so will buy those in the future.


I’d been looking at HelloFresh and other meal box delivery services previously but never pushed through. However when a friend offered me a free box, who was I to say no to free food? 😛

To be honest, meals come out a little bit more expensive than if we did our own meal planning and grocery shop, but sometimes it’s nice to have the convenience, especially if we’ve had a busy weekend and have no energy to meal plan!

Not all meals are technically healthy but we try to go with the healthier options when available.

So far the meals (yes, even the healthier ones) have been super tasty and relatively quick to prepare, say 20-40 minutes. (Takes me a bit longer though!) The portions are generous and on a few occasions there’s been enough left over for my lunch the next day.

In summary…

I’m proud that we started cooking healthier and that I actually had more of a hand in cooking this month. I learned some new cooking tricks (e.g. I never cooked with beetroot before!) and I’d like to think I’m a bit more comfortable chopping and trying recipes I normally wouldn’t. While S is still the cook between the two of us, at least I can now contribute!