In which I try to cook again

While planning my goals for this year, I realised that they were all around continuing activities I already did. (I guess that’s the benefit of the “do something new each month!” thing I had two years ago. I got all the things I wanted to try out of my system.)

One goal is to be more comfortable with cooking. And I mean cooking properly.

I’ve always cooked for survival. I can boil pasta, make some kind of sauce and add veggies I have on hand. I can cook rice on a stove, fry an egg, fry random bits of meat, and make pancakes. Is my food edible? Yes. Is it delicious? Well, sometimes I get lucky. Would I serve it to anyone else? Umm, no.

I accepted eating mediocre food. When I’d arrive home, tired from work, the last thing I wanted to do was cook a culinary feast that would be gone in 5 minutes (and would require plenty of cleaning up afterwards). The flip side was that every time I ate out, I was really grateful at how delicious everything tasted. Haha.

Whenever I would share photos of tasty things we were eating at home, people would ask me, “Wow! Did you cook that?” to which I would reply: “I set the table.” Or maybe, “I made the iced tea.” Perhaps the vague, “I helped!”

After seeing S whip up deliciousness in the kitchen, I realised cooking was a skill I wanted to learn. I know that the more I do it, the better and faster I’ll be at making meals. So, this year, I resolved to cook at least one new recipe, properly, a month. (I say “properly” because even when I’d follow recipes, I’d take shortcuts. For example, I’d throw everything into a pot*, order and cooking times be damned. All the ingredients ended up there eventually, I reasoned.)

Last month, I ended up cooking this lamb kofte with salad from Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals book. I’ve had the book for years. This is the first time I’ve made anything from it. Haha. (It took me way more than 15 minutes.)

I definitely need to up my food presentation skills. But hey, the meal wasn’t half bad! Yay me! I’ve already committed to making brunch this weekend. And I’m going to make it a proper brunch to rival the hipster brunches that seem to be the rage right now.

I’m also going to try to bake healthier goods – but that’s another story for another time. 😛

* I found this yummy vegan one pot creamy garlic pasta recipe. I’ve already made it twice. I’m not vegan. I’m just lazy, and the recipe required ingredients I already had on hand.


How I got my allergies under control

I had intended to do a recap of 2018 but it’s a bit too late now given it’s midway through February! I had the vague theme of “Lifestyle design”. Whatever that meant – the vagueness meant I wasn’t as focused as I could’ve been. I did have the general idea that I wanted to continue crafting my life into one I was excited to live. This included shedding negative things, focusing on meaningful things, and fixing things that were broken. (My definition of “things” encompasses possessions, activities, habits, mindsets and relationships.)

One of my big wins from last year included getting my allergies under control! Woohoo! I’ve written about how I’d just accepted the fact that I had allergies. I would take an antihistamine nearly every day, otherwise I would break out in uncontrollable itching. I tried to wean myself off the antihistamine but I couldn’t stay off it for very long, and it would become unbearable. I had big red rashes all over my torso. I hated it.

I am proud to say that as of today, I no longer take antihistamines! How’s that for progress! 😀

And this is what I did, hopefully it’ll help some of my friends since allergies seem to be a common thing nowadays.

Drank tart cherry juice. This has to be singularly the most effective thing I did to wean myself off antihistamines. I drink 30ml a day. When I first started taking it, I went 6 weeks without needing to take an antihistamine. Since then, I’ve been going 4 months (and counting!) without needing to take a single tablet.

Sometimes, I wonder if I can stop taking tart cherry juice, but the thing is it has also helped with my muscle soreness and sleeping that I can’t imagine myself not taking it. Hah!

I use Dr Superfoods but my friends (who I’ve gotten on, and love it) use different brands and have had results too.

Invested in an air purifier and dehumidifier. The first night after I used my air purifier – I kid you not – I got three unprompted compliments from coworkers saying how refreshed I looked. Apparently being allergy-prone meant that I was having disrupted sleep at night because of the air quality. I’ve since bought a dehumidifier to help with the dampness and resulting mould and dust mites.

I’ve gotten mine from AusClimate after reading heaps of reviews.

Been more vigilant about cleaning. I make sure I vacuum and change my sheets at least once a week. (I mean, I know I was always supposed to be doing that, but sometimes life gets in the way, haha!)

After I realised that I was always getting angry red marks from where my clothes touched my skin I switched to a sensitive-skin laundry brand (Euca) and it’s been such a relief. I had seriously been considering just wearing flowy clothing if things didn’t improve, it was that bad.

Things I haven’t been sure that worked:
Switching antihistamine families. This was recommended by my uncle, who happens to be a doctor. The idea was to switch between different families (e.g. Cetirizine vs Loratadine etc.) so I didn’t get to used to one. I suspected I was suffering from “Cetirizine withdrawal”. However, I didn’t get to test this because I started taking tart cherry juice at the same time and no longer had to take tablets.

Eliminating certain foods from diet. Early last year, I had gone to a dietitian who recommended cutting out histamine-releasing foods. I cut some out but couldn’t really say it helped.

Taking supplements for gut health. I took Sonnes #7. I took Dandy Blend for dandelion root’s supposed liver detox benefits. I took probiotics. I drank turmeric mixes.

I can’t really say that none of those things worked. Maybe I did get some benefits from them, but allergy-wise, none of them contributed to the direct criteria of me not needing to take antihistamine pills.

Maybe one of these days, I can attempt to east shrimp/prawn again… 😛


Living in the moment

My nephew just turned two. He is old enough to have strong opinions about what he wants to do. Although he can’t fully articulate things yet, he says the odd word here and there; pulls out specific toys to play with or books to read; points to things he wants; gives big grins when he’s eating food he likes.

Since I live in a different state and don’t get to see him as often as I would like, I’ve resolved that when I do see him I want to spend quality auntie time. This means playing with him with 100% of my attention – reading books, cutting up Velcro fruit and building things to knock them down again.

Here’s one thing I learned: he could tell if I was distracted. He would frequently look at me after he did something, checking to see how I was reacting. Even if I wasn’t on my phone, I would sometimes get distracted by another conversation, or getting lost in my own thoughts.

While I’m pretty good at not using my phone in conversations or keeping it out of sight most of the time, he taught me that there is still something I could learn around keeping my attention continuously focused on enjoying someone’s company without thinking about what’s for dinner or the housework I would need to do or whether I’ve gotten a new message.

And what a gift to have the full attention of a tiny human who wants nothing to do but to play with me! I got teary eyed a few weeks ago thinking of a far-off future when my nephew would be old enough to not want to play with me as much.

(It also made me feel guilty about my own aunts and uncles. The way I dote on my nephew is also the way they likely doted on me, over 30 years ago. And now I don’t even call them! Here’s to keeping in better touch with my family.)


2019 theme: Savour

Yes, I’m aware that it’s nearly the end of January! The first few weeks of the year have been a blur, what with a longer holiday shutdown period compared to last year, entertaining overseas visitors, knocking off all the life admin tasks I procrastinated on in 2018, and more generally getting back into my routine.

I’ve been reading The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman for a few years now. I was struck by the December 23 meditation last month:

“Most of us are afraid of dying. But sometimes, this fear begs the question: To protect what exactly? For a lot of people the answer is: hours of television, gossiping, gorging, wasting potential…”

It made me realise that I haven’t always made the best use of my time. Yes, I do things I enjoy. I surround myself with the people I love (or at least like). But if I think back to last year, there was still a lot of mindlessly wasting time on the Internet or only going through the motions of life because I was thinking of other things I had to do.

This year, what I would like to really savour life. To live fully engaged in each moment. To have focus. To live with depth over breadth. And I have a few ideas how to do it:

Consume media less, but with more intention and understanding. I spend around an hour each day on public transportation. While this has allowed me to read around 3-4 books a month, I noticed that I wasn’t absorbing much. I could give someone a quick rundown of what I read, and I may have picked up one or two things, but that was it. I want to change that by being pickier about the things I read, reading slowly, and allowing more time for reflection. This also goes for podcasts or Netflix shows.

Take more time to recharge. I took better charge of my health last year and have seen a big difference. More than ever, I know that when I take care of myself (decent amount of sleep, less junk food, etc.) I am in a much better mood and have more energy. If I want to be able to fully enjoy life, I know that I have to be in the best health to do it. I’ve had these goals for a while — e.g. sleep better, meditate more, eat a healthier diet — but now I’m clearer what doing them will enable me to do.

Minimise my (digital) distractions. I have:

  • Resolved to only check my mail in the mornings and evenings, and not continuously throughout the day.
  • Unsubscribed from a whole bunch of mailing lists and podcasts.
  • Stopped using Instagram. It was fun looking at people’s photos, but I’d spend waaaay too much time trying to edit my photos (probably cos my phone would crash half the time) or mindlessly scrolling. Especially when I got stuck into the baby animal memes.
  • Stopped stalking people. Haha! Even though it was relatively harmless (e.g. awww, that celebrity’s baby is so cute!) it was a time waster.

Make the most of what I have. I’m proud of myself last year. I didn’t buy anything frivolous. The only clothes I bought were undies and exercise clothes to replace ones that had gone ratty. If I bought things, they were things I truly needed and still use often. I’m happy I’ve been relatively minimalist since a few years ago (though I don’t think I’ve ever been the shopaholic type) and I would like to keep things that way. There’s also something around being happy with what I have, realising that I’m not lacking anything and that I have all that I need.

Focus on what is important to me. Not multitasking. Giving people and activities my full attention. Not being afraid to say “no” so I can say “yes” to the things that truly matter. Understanding the things that truly matter.

So here’s to savouring life in 2019. So that when December 23 rolls around again, when I read, “to protect what exactly?” I know exactly what to answer.