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Because I hate plants…

I don’t know what it is about 2014, but with only a quarter of the year gone, I seem to be committing myself to quite a lot of lengthy challenges. With my #100happydays finally drawing to a close (only 15 days left!) I am about to embark on the most difficult journey yet! And it is not abseiling down a Melbourne CBD skyscraper for foster kids (although I’m doing that too!) No, I am going vegetarian, and mostly vegan, for the month of April. And I have roped a couple of friends into joining me!

[TL;DR: click here | give your support]

I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals, I’m a vegetarian because I hate plants” – I keep recalling this quote of mysterious origins that I heard as a teenager, even though it’s completely absurd, and obviously not true for any vegetarian (… I think?). Only now, after Googling it 15 years later, have I found out that the sentence was first uttered by a stand-up comedian by the name of Alan Whitney Brown. Heh, this is not really important, is it?

Anyway, for me, both parts of Brown’s quote are technically true, sort of. I do adore animals, but I also don’t really like plants – flowers, to be precise, set off my allergies, so I have a deep-seated resentment of them. Botanical gardens are my worst nightmare! God, I’m barely joking. However, I’m not actually planning on eating many flowers in the next month, so unfortunately I am not really able to take out my revenge on the right set of plants. Hrrmph.

So, why am I actually doing it? As a lifelong omnivore, I live with that mental compartmentalisation that most omnivorous animal lovers employ – I’m accustomed to separating meat, which is food, from animals, who are friends (kind of like separating plants which I, err, hate, from vegetables which I love?) I’m not saying this is morally a good thing to do, but it’s actually not a thing that is unique to this situation for me. Generally, I’m a pretty detached person who can be intellectually and by principle outraged at the world’s injustices, yet not exactly passionately or emotionally engaged in the debate against them. This is just the way I am.

Like the majority of kids brought up in meat-eating families, I never gave much thought to human consumption of animals as food, but as a teenager and even into my early 20s I still failed to see what was wrong with the meat and dairy industries. I was an intelligent, well-read young woman and if I had stopped to think about it, would have seen very clearly that the quantity of meat now consumed by the average person in the developed world (or even developing world) has increased many, manyfold in the last century. Perhaps, if I had done that, I would have also wondered how that was possible? Where were all the extra animals coming from? Eventually, I would have arrived at the harsh truths of factory farming, and been as disgusted by them as I now am. Besides, the negative environmental impact caused by factory farming was not only an animal welfare issue but a problem for future generations of humans.

Farming of animals specifically for food has evolved into something completely unrecognisable, and the sheer scale of it is inconceivable to digest, pun unintentional. Gone are the days of only eating the animals you could hunt down and kill for yourself and your family, and gone even are the days when you ate meat, dairy and eggs from your own or your neighbour’s farm. What is worse is that the product of this mass breeding, mistreatment and premature slaughtering of animals feeds into the most horrible industries with no real value to civilised humans – fast food, for example, is artless, bland, unhealthy and contributes to national obesity problems all over the world, including in developing countries.

It started with the eggs. As long as I’ve lived out of home and bought my own groceries, I have bought free range eggs – is there even anyone who doesn’t these days? There is no excuse. I didn’t realise at the time that supermarket “free range” eggs did not have to meet particularly strict criteria to be labelled as such, and besides, without a car or access to markets (of which there are almost none where I lived in Auckland), I couldn’t really purchase eggs from anywhere else on a regular basis. So I didn’t really buy eggs on a regular basis, and still don’t. Then there was meat. Once no longer a poor student, I could no longer condone factory farmed chicken when I could buy free range chicken, or free range pork, and so on. I do not eat veal, ever. But I tried not to think about the fact that the Asian takeaway joints I sometimes ate at must very likely be using the cheapest meat of any origin they could find.

So my habits as a consumer was where I started, but in the last two or three years, I’ve been thinking about things a little more and getting a little more pissed off at how unnecessary all of it is. I grew up in a meat-eating family, yes, but I also grew up in an Asian family. It was not “meat and three veg” – my mum cooked Chinese dishes which were mostly staple carbohydrates, lots of vegetables and a relatively small percentage of meat (perhaps 10-15% of the bulk of the meal). Sometimes, we had fish that my dad caught. We hardly ever ate steak except when dining out occasionally. As an adult, I still prefer to cook Asian dishes (although I have a more diverse repertoire than my mother had, including many South East Asian dishes) because I find them both tastier and more nutritionally balanced, and having travelled extensively over Asia, I have definitely observed that the average diet in most Asian countries consists of less meat than the average Western diet. What is more, they made much more use of offal – the idea of throwing out the majority of an animal after selecting its most “premium” cuts of meat always seemed very sad, silly and wasteful to me – and on top of that, they used dairy far less in their savoury dishes. Dairy. Don’t even get me started on the horrible things I have learned about the dairy industry in the last couple of years.

I began to settle into a lifestyle where I not only ate predominantly Asian dishes with their fairly small ratio of meat, but did not eat meat for many meals, and often for a few full days per week. I rarely bought cheese and began to drink only soy with my coffee. I started to wonder if everyone ate the same quantity of meat and dairy as I did or even less (for I was willing to go further), the corresponding industries would be far less intense, factory farming would be less necessary and the world would be a better place. The truth is, and I probably knew this, even if it would be enough (which is doubtful), there was next to no chance of it happening unless these industries imploded on themselves one day. We have gone down a road that is hard to tread backwards on, and even poorer countries are popularising fast food chains and increased meat consumption. Too many futuristic dystopian books I have read depicted a world where meat was no longer readily available because we had destroyed the ecosystem in some way.

At the risk of hate mail, I may as well state that I do not personally have an intellectual issue with the humane taking of the life of an animal for food; but – I have huge a issue with the torture and prolonged suffering of animals (who feel pain and sorrow) for the purpose of feeding a ridiculously excessive industry that churns out more product than humans should even healthily consume. Many vegos would argue that it is not a human right to take the lives of animals for our own use on any scale. I wouldn’t say that it is, either – but there are no “rights” involved in nature at all.

I will not insult anyone’s intelligence by dragging out the comparison of a lion hunting down its prey because it’s obvious that, unlike big cats in the wild, as humans we have many other ways of getting the nutrition we need without killing other species if we so choose. Evolution has transformed us so that we have become more intelligent than other known animals on Earth, including some very intelligent mammals that I am not at all underestimating. Largely because of this, we have been omnivores for very many, many, many thousands of years. We may have invented hunting weapons followed by agriculture followed by industralised machinery, but we did not “invent” human intelligence – we have simply used what cognitive abilities nature gave us to devise ways to get “what we want”, through the accumulation of knowledge over time.

I’m not saying this is commendable of our species, I am saying that’s what has happened. But that is not to say that we can’t draw the line wherever we want to draw it!


So my line is here:

  • I do not want to condone factory farming.
  • I do wish to greatly reduce my (already modest) overall animal product consumption.
  • I want to limit my routine dairy consumption to a three days per week, and aim to reduce this to one or two days over time.
  • I want to limit my routine meat consumption to a maximum of three days per week, indefinitely.
  • I want to always give more thought to where and when I eat meat and eliminate, wherever I can, eating dishes that may have used meat that is likely to be factory farmed.
  • I will investigate the true story behind a “free range” label and, when I can, buy meat supplied by farms where I know truly humane farming is practised.
  • I WILL live as a mostly vegan vegetarian for at least 30 days in order to calibrate myself with this adjusted lifestyle and to put my money where my mouth is.
  • I want to repeat this challenge at least once every year going forward.

I also would like to use this month to raise some awareness among my friends and acquaintances of the issues I have brought up today, and animal welfare in general – more on this below!

What I don’t want:

  • Abuse or judgement from anyone reading this post, though I am open to hearing differing opinions and am all for healthy discussion.

deerkitten

Why have I posted about this?
I wanted to publicly express my views on these issues, and I wanted to prepare you for some delicious, simple vegan recipes coming up on this blog; but most of all, I want your help. My friends and I have set up a fundraising campaign to support our challenge in which everything raised will go to a local animal rescue organisation or animal welfare organisation. Who it ends up going to will depend on you. When you make a donation, you may nominate a relevant cause that is close to your heart, and the winning two non-profits will split the final campaign total! Here is where you can donate:
http://gogetfunding.com/project/april-veg-challenge

The reason I am not going 100% vegan for April is, in part, because I may still be using non-dietary animal products such as leather boots only if I already own them, but it’s also a psychological thing. It’s to ensure the success of my challenge and make it much more likely that I’ll stick to it, with the knowledge of just a small window of lenience that I may not always even use. At home and during working hours, I will be 100% vegan. During my social commitments, I’ll still try to be as vegan as I can, however, it would be a huge adjustment for an omnivore today to go to a restaurant tomorrow where the only vegan option is a leafy side salad without dressing (for example) – in these cases, I would choose a vegetarian dish if I couldn’t adapt anything to be truly vegan. I understand this is something “real” vegans actually face in meal outings without cheating, however, as a newbie I need to start less hardcore, and perhaps graduate to this in future challenge months.

It’s actually been over six weeks since I decided to set out on this journey for myself. Just this Sunday, I went to a Vegan Market Day held by Animal Liberation Victoria where a stall was displaying fliers about the “Vegan Easy Challenge“, which is, you guessed it, a program that challenges you to go vegan for 30 days! I took the pamphlets and information booklets, as I thought they’d come in handy, but I didn’t sign up for the program as I had already made up my mind to do my own thing. However, I do encourage my readers to join!

50 Happy Days and what I’ve learned from them

It is now #day52 of #100happydays. I can’t believe I’ve lasted this long.

DAY 2 - #100happydays #yindilah #costco #giantteddy #friends #cute #babes #softtoy  #cuddles #sleepy #shopping (repost credit to @_southeast ) #100happyindienomdays

DAY 2 – #100happydays #yindilah #costco #giantteddy #friends #cute #babes #softtoy #cuddles #sleepy #shopping (repost credit to @_southeast ) #100happyindienomdays

DAY 3 - #100happydays #100happydaysday3 #day3 is #pho with #friends to break up the #workday #lunch #phoma #foma #foodcoma #foodporn #vietnamesefood #omnomnom #nomsandrambles #phove #phocoma #pholove #100happyindienomdays

DAY 3 – #100happydays #100happydaysday3 #day3 is #pho with #friends to break up the #workday #lunch #phoma #foma #foodcoma #foodporn #vietnamesefood #omnomnom #nomsandrambles #phove #phocoma #pholove #100happyindienomdays

When I first heard about the 100 Happy Days Challenge, I wasn’t sure if there was any point in my participating in it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m that annoyingly positive person who is happy every day with few (but not zero – I’m only human) exceptions; but because I consider myself as having a calm, inwardly-directed sort of happiness, not derived from any specific excitement or experience, I wasn’t convinced I could think of one tangible or photograph-able thing each day to depict it. Secondly, I’m hopelessly bad at regular Instagram-ing or any sort of routine social media update. I’m online everyday, yes, but I don’t like the pressure of having to contribute or output something everyday.

DAY 8 - #100happydays #100happydaysday8 #day8 #ladydate with @c0uc0u #nomming #gyoza  and #liquidnitrogen #gelato ! #japanesefood #japanese #dumplings #soup  #foodporn #spicy #miso #mushroom #teppanyaki #gyozadouraku #wiat #instafood  #fooddiaries #popcorn #saltedcaramel #chocolatebrownie #thelab #100happyindienomdays

DAY 8 – #100happydays #100happydaysday8 #day8 #ladydate with @c0uc0u #nomming #gyoza and #liquidnitrogen #gelato ! #japanesefood #japanese #dumplings #soup #foodporn #spicy #miso #mushroom #teppanyaki #gyozadouraku #wiat #instafood #fooddiaries #popcorn #saltedcaramel #chocolatebrownie #thelab #100happyindienomdays

DAY 11 - #100happydays #100happydaysday11 #day11 #packing for a #weekend in #Sydney  #trip #holiday #flight #luggage #bag #Sportsgirl #duffel #plaid #purple  #travelpillow #clothes #100happyindienomdays

DAY 11 – #100happydays #100happydaysday11 #day11 #packing for a #weekend in #Sydney #trip #holiday #flight #luggage #bag #Sportsgirl #duffel #plaid #purple #travelpillow #clothes #100happyindienomdays

After thinking it over, however, these turned out to be the precise reasons why I decided to go ahead and take up the challenge. Let’s think about what this whole “100 Happy Days” thing is for. What it is is simply posting a photo each day for one hundred days depicting something that made you happy that day – but why do it? To quote the official website: “while the speed of life increases, there is less and less time to enjoy the moment that you are in. The ability to appreciate the moment, the environment and yourself in it, is the base for the bridge towards long term happiness of any human being.” Upon a first skimming, I thought “oh yeah, it’s saying that people need to take the time to stop and think about how good the little things – the ‘moments’ – in their life can be, as this will help them to achieve happiness… well, I don’t need to do that, I already have happiness.” But then I stopped a beat and tried to recall some of the everyday things that made me a happy person, and they didn’t all immediately leap to my mind. Mostly, I just thought “FOOOOOD! OMNOMNOMNOMNOM!”

DAY 13 - #100happydays #100happydaysday13 #day13 - a #beautifulday in #Sydney today,  just the perfect strolling weather! #koreatown #koreanfood #kimchistew #mandu  #tartan #dress #tartandress #riverisland #ootd #wiwt #instafood #instafashion  #fashiondiaries #chunkycanvasshoes #pittstreetsydney #sydneycbd  #meritonservicedapartments #nomsandrambles #100happyindienomdays

DAY 13 – #100happydays #100happydaysday13 #day13 – a #beautifulday in #Sydney today, just the perfect strolling weather! #koreatown #koreanfood #kimchistew #mandu #tartan #dress #tartandress #riverisland #ootd #wiwt #instafood #instafashion #fashiondiaries #chunkycanvasshoes #pittstreetsydney #sydneycbd #meritonservicedapartments #nomsandrambles #100happyindienomdays

DAY 14 - #100happydays #100happydaysday14 long overdue #catchups with really  #oldfriends. Like, as in, we are #ancient! #Sydney #sydneycentralstation  #friendship #oldtimes #memories #reunion wishing @cherryb33 was here!

DAY 14 – #100happydays #100happydaysday14 long overdue #catchups with really #oldfriends. Like, as in, we are #ancient! #Sydney #sydneycentralstation #friendship #oldtimes #memories #reunion wishing @cherryb33 was here!

The fact is, I am happy and in sync with life because I’m lucky enough to be very content with and secure in myself as a person, and in turn that makes it easier for me to get out of bed and face the world with a sense of safety and a positive energy, embrace most events as essentially positive, and appreciate what my day has to offer. But I’m not aware I’m doing all of this. Or, I know I’m doing it, but I’m not paying attention to what’s actually happening most of the time, and I let too many days slide by because they seem to be routine, when in fact they’re often filled with lots of minor things that keep me in my usually upbeat mood.

That was the first reason why I decided to participate in #100happydays – I already know I’m happy when it comes to the big things in life, but I wanted to pay more attention to the details. That was the big goal.

DAY 16 - #100happydays #100happydaysday16 #day16 #onlineshopping #deliveries of  #cutethings ! #modcloth #puppy #blouse #chiffon #dailylunchdatetopindogs  #betseyjohnson #beminetote #quilted #quiltedtote #handbag #shoppertote #jeffreycampbell #shoop #jcshoop #platforms in #redboxwhite #redshoes #pumps  #tbar #maryjanes #chunkyheel @modcloth #100happyindienomdays #nomsandrambles

DAY 16 – #100happydays #100happydaysday16 #day16 #onlineshopping #deliveries of #cutethings ! #modcloth #puppy #blouse #chiffon #dailylunchdatetopindogs #betseyjohnson #beminetote #quilted #quiltedtote #handbag #shoppertote #jeffreycampbell #shoop #jcshoop #platforms in #redboxwhite #redshoes #pumps #tbar #maryjanes #chunkyheel @modcloth #100happyindienomdays #nomsandrambles

DAY 19 - #100happydays #day19 My favourite thing to do in #Melbourne is trying out  #new #eateries! #mensousai #mugenramenbar #ramenbar #wafu #ramen #dashi  #curry #tsukemen #aburichashu #chashu #pork #housemade #noodles #blighplace  #flinderslane #japanese #japanesefood #foodporn #wiat #instafood #fooddiaries  #nomsandrambles #100happyindienomdays

DAY 19 – #100happydays #day19 My favourite thing to do in #Melbourne is trying out #new #eateries! #mensousai #mugenramenbar #ramenbar #wafu #ramen #dashi #curry #tsukemen #aburichashu #chashu #pork #housemade #noodles #blighplace #flinderslane #japanese #japanesefood #foodporn #wiat #instafood #fooddiaries #nomsandrambles #100happyindienomdays

My other goal: to stop being a commitment-phobe. I’ve never been great with that feeling of obligation and I have years of overdue assignments and turning down personal trainers to prove it; and when it’s a regular commitment, well that’s even worse. Even if it’s enjoyable, I often still have trouble – because the activity is not the point… I just don’t like being told what to do, even if I’m the one who put myself in a position to be told. This is something I’ve never really tried to “fix” about myself, but I’m grown up enough to start trying.

As a bonus goal, I wanted myself to stop thinking about food as the main “superficial” source of my happiness. I could see the challenge stretched out in front of me, probably 90 out of 100 days of just food porn photography. But out of all my other daily experiences, what else makes me smile?

DAY 20 - #100happydays #100happydaysday20 #day20 #grinding #fresh #herbs and #spices  for making #delicious #vermicelli #salad omnomnom! #mortarandpestle  #lemongrass #chilies #chilli #chillies #ginger #garlic #coriander  #nomsandrambles #cooking #food #foodporn #bunboxao #100happyindienomdays

DAY 20 – #100happydays #100happydaysday20 #day20 #grinding #fresh #herbs and #spices for making #delicious #vermicelli #salad omnomnom! #mortarandpestle #lemongrass #chilies #chilli #chillies #ginger #garlic #coriander #nomsandrambles #cooking #food #foodporn #bunboxao #100happyindienomdays

DAY 21 - #100happydays #100happydaysday21 #day21part2 #pointnepeannationalpark #beach  #observatorypoint #royalbotanicgardens #cranbourne #watersaving#garden  #futuregarden #summer #beautifulday #morningtonpeninsula #mum #nomsandrambles #australiangarden #100happyindienomdays

DAY 21 – #100happydays #100happydaysday21 #day21part2 #pointnepeannationalpark #beach #observatorypoint #royalbotanicgardens #cranbourne #watersaving#garden #futuregarden #summer #beautifulday #morningtonpeninsula #mum #nomsandrambles #australiangarden #100happyindienomdays

So, standing here at the halfway mark, what have I learned? I’ve definitely discovered more about myself and how I tick on a daily basis than I thought I would. Here are some of my observations:

Forcing myself to pay attention to the little things that make up my day has made me much more aware of my mood
The fact is, though I’m happy with life in an overarching way and I’m very seldom sad or angry, I go through more days in an ambivalent, “neutral” sort of mood than I thought. I would estimate those lacklustre days to be about once or sometimes twice per week; I don’t find myself “unhappy” on those days at all, just a little bit “whatever” and robotic – they are the times when I take a few minutes longer to post my photo, to remember what made the day special. This isn’t necessarily a horrible thing, but it’s just slightly at odds with how I thought of myself – as this bubbly individual who springs out of bed everyday in a nauseatingly good mood. Nope.

DAY 25 - #100happydays #100happydaysday25 #day25 #froyo with @findapenny_ on a perfect  #sunny day #summer #harbourtown #frozenyogurt #wildberry #coconut #mango  #chocolate #poppingboba #mochi #strawberries #foodporn #dessertporn #wiat #lychee #nomsandrambles #fooddiaries #yobar #selfserve #100happyindienomdays

DAY 25 – #100happydays #100happydaysday25 #day25 #froyo with @findapenny_ on a perfect #sunny day #summer #harbourtown #frozenyogurt #wildberry #coconut #mango #chocolate #poppingboba #mochi #strawberries #foodporn #dessertporn #wiat #lychee #nomsandrambles #fooddiaries #yobar #selfserve
#100happyindienomdays

DAY 32 - #100happydays #100happydaysday32 #day32 the #littlethings that make me happy!  Getting #deliveries of my favourite #haircare range and a bucket of  #jellybelly for my #birthday #party and the boy bring me a big #boost  #smoothie ! #boostjuice #osmo #parcel #candy #dryshampoo #shampoo  #colourrevive #blonde #silverising #mangopassion #mango #juice #100happyindienomdays

DAY 32 – #100happydays #100happydaysday32 #day32 the #littlethings that make me happy! Getting #deliveries of my favourite #haircare range and a bucket of #jellybelly for my #birthday #party and the boy bring me a big #boost #smoothie ! #boostjuice #osmo #parcel #candy #dryshampoo #shampoo #colourrevive #blonde #silverising #mangopassion #mango #juice #100happyindienomdays

I’m more aware of the things that improve my mood throughout the day even if I didn’t wake up like a Disney princess.
An achievement at work, something sweet the boy did for me, an online shopping parcel received (that was a popular one!), spreadsheet-OCD satisfied, travel planning, a good conversation with a friend, a well written article or engaging book, certain social events, and yes, food. All the food. It’s not that I was completely clueless about the effect these things had on my happiness before, but now I’m just more acutely conscious of it happening, and while it’s happening (often thinking, I should take a photo right now).

DAY 33 - #100happydays #100happydaysday33 #day33 taking #selfies while #shopping at  #Sportsgirl before #birthday #dinner at #Rockpool ! #GingerFizz #dress #asos  #tonybianco #wedgeheel #platformheel #strappyheels #sandals  #rockpoolmelbourne #ootd #ootd #wiwt #fashiondiaries #instafashion  #fashiondiaries #girl #100happyindienomdays

DAY 33 – #100happydays #100happydaysday33 #day33 taking #selfies while #shopping at #Sportsgirl before #birthday #dinner at #Rockpool ! #GingerFizz #dress #asos #tonybianco #wedgeheel #platformheel #strappyheels #sandals #rockpoolmelbourne #ootd #ootd #wiwt #fashiondiaries #instafashion #fashiondiaries #girl #100happyindienomdays

DAY 35 - #100happydays #100happydaysday35 #day35 It's my #birthday! And I had a  #summer #rooftop #party - it was a #gorgeousday #sunny #beautiful #friends  #babes #bmvic #blackmilk @blackmilkclothing #bmtartanskaterskirt  #bmgalaxypearlmaxidress #staffbymaff @staffbymaff_official #alligatorblouse  #balcony #richmond #abbotsford #view #nomsandrambles #100happyindienomdays

DAY 35 – #100happydays #100happydaysday35 #day35 It’s my #birthday! And I had a #summer #rooftop #party – it was a #gorgeousday #sunny #beautiful #friends #babes #bmvic #blackmilk @blackmilkclothing #bmtartanskaterskirt #bmgalaxypearlmaxidress #staffbymaff @staffbymaff_official #alligatorblouse #balcony #richmond #abbotsford #view #nomsandrambles #100happyindienomdays

My life reeeally isn’t particularly exciting, especially during the week.
While I have numerous social engagements on weekends and struggle to fit all the wonderful things from each Saturday and Sunday into the one photo (usually I just end up posting multiple), the things that make me happy every day from Monday to Thursday are much the same. Aside from the odd after-work girl date there’s: food, parcel deliveries, good weather, relaxing with a girly TV series marathon, interspersed occasional evening activities such as crafts and jigsaw puzzles. This takes me to the next point.

DAY 41 - #100happydays #100happydaysday41 #day41 #100happyindienomdays #mexican for  two from @fondamexican #tacos #fishtaco #pulledpork #quesadilla  #chipotlechips #salsa #fonda #braisedbeeftaco #chipotlemayo #foodporn #food  #foodie #instafood #wiat #fooddiaries #nomsandrambles

DAY 41 – #100happydays #100happydaysday41 #day41 #100happyindienomdays #mexican for two from @fondamexican #tacos #fishtaco #pulledpork #quesadilla #chipotlechips #salsa #fonda #braisedbeeftaco #chipotlemayo #foodporn #food #foodie #instafood #wiat #fooddiaries #nomsandrambles

I want to be doing more with my life.
I spend an awful lot of time on my daily routine and organisational activities due to being as pedantic and obsessive compulsive as I am so I won’t even go into them, but with better managed time, I could be doing more, and have in the past done more. What happened to my blogging? What happened to experimenting with new recipes? What happened to going to book club meetings, going for a riverside walk in the new suburb I just moved to and taking some photos? What happened even to constructing beautiful, creative outfits out of my way-too-large wardrobe and photographically noting them (yes, that is a fancy way of saying “moaaar selfies!”)? Happy though I may be, I seem to need a kick up the arse – I need to stop squandering my time, clearly.

Let’s not even talk just talk about the “productive” things I mentioned above – what about making more of an effort to get out during the week and do fun things? Most of my social engagements seem to revolve around food, and maybe it’s because I’m getting “old”, stagnant and boring, but I could also go to the beach, go to gigs, go for a long, leisurely bike ride, take Japanese lessons, see more arthouse films, have a picnic in the park.. the list is endless. I don’t think I’ve done half of those things this entire summer, and the ones I have were probably once or twice! I feel I need more excitement in my day-to-day life to lift my mood on my “whatever” days, and even though a good mood isn’t equal to true happiness, I have no excuse for letting life pass me by while I just sit around boringly contented, either.

DAY 43 - #100happydays #100happydaysday43 #day43 #100happyindienomdays trying and  failing to figure out my #new #sewingmachine ! #noob! But hey, it's #pink and  that's what's important! #brother #unboxing #sewing #bc2100prw #projectrunway  #brotherbc2100 #computerised #cute #birthdaypresent

DAY 43 – #100happydays #100happydaysday43 #day43 #100happyindienomdays trying and failing to figure out my #new #sewingmachine ! #noob! But hey, it’s #pink and that’s what’s important! #brother #unboxing #sewing #bc2100prw #projectrunway #brotherbc2100 #computerised #cute #birthdaypresent

In spite of the areas that have room for improvement I’ve spotted in my life, out of 50 days, I only had one sad day
For one day, I felt very low and it all came crashing down quite suddenly due to stress and a number of other factors. It was quite distinct from a mere “meh” mood sort of day. Still, it didn’t take long for me to realise that it was my amazing friends who helped get me through that. Guess what my photo for that day was of? I’m grateful that, if this sample is representative of my life, this means I am only unhappy 2% of the time.

DAY 46 - #100happydays #throwbackthursday #latergram #day46 #100happydaysday46  #100happyindienomdays Had a crappy and stressful day #yesterday and totally  forgot about this challenge... But then I realised what amazing people I have  in my life and how they make even the worst days worth living! #cheese  #friends #friendship #girls #bmvic #love #bestpeopleonearth #yindilah  @missmiadoll @charliana @yennipenni @_southeast @meooowcat @n2melbourne #holliava #bmvicxmasparty2013

DAY 46 – #100happydays #throwbackthursday #latergram #day46 #100happydaysday46 #100happyindienomdays Had a crappy and stressful day #yesterday and totally forgot about this challenge… But then I realised what amazing people I have in my life and how they make even the worst days worth living! #cheese #friends #friendship #girls #bmvic #love #bestpeopleonearth #yindilah @missmiadoll @charliana @yennipenni @_southeast @meooowcat @n2melbourne #holliava #bmvicxmasparty2013

DAY 47 - #100happydays #100happydaysday47 #day47 #100happyindienomdays  #abbotsfordconvent #suppermarket #market #nightmarket #food #foodtrucks  #foodstalls #stalls #taiwanesefood #chicken #waffle #nutella #nutellawaffle  #abbotsford #melbournesummer #iskindoffreezing #foodporn #wiat #motd  #instafood #fooddiaries

DAY 47 – #100happydays #100happydaysday47 #day47 #100happyindienomdays
#abbotsfordconvent #suppermarket #market #nightmarket #food #foodtrucks
#foodstalls #stalls #taiwanesefood #chicken #waffle #nutella #nutellawaffle #abbotsford #melbournesummer #iskindoffreezing #foodporn #wiat #motd #instafood #fooddiaries

At around Day 40, I did a big audit of all of my photos so far and and determined that just under half of my #100happydays photos were of food
For someone whose Instagram account featured almost exclusive food and #ootds before, I think that’s not half bad!

DAY 48 - #100happydays #100happydaysday48 #day48 #saturday #lunchdate #burgerdate  #burgers #brunswickstreet #fitzroymelbourne #melbournesummer #melbournefood  #brotherburger #veganburger #food #foodporn #instafood #fooddiaries #shopping #impulsebuy #cushions #puppies #kittens #cute #froyo #berrissimo #wildberry #poppingboba #nomsandrambles #bmvic #bmau

DAY 48 – #100happydays #100happydaysday48 #day48 #saturday #lunchdate #burgerdate #burgers #brunswickstreet #fitzroymelbourne #melbournesummer #melbournefood #brotherburger #veganburger #food #foodporn #instafood #fooddiaries #shopping #impulsebuy #cushions #puppies #kittens #cute #froyo #berrissimo #wildberry #poppingboba #nomsandrambles #bmvic #bmau

As I said, I can’t believe I’ve lasted this long… but I know I have because the insight into my life that this exercise has given me makes me feel like it’s worth completing. It’s also a little addictive!
For the next 50 (or rather, 48) days, I hope to make some adjustments to my daily life that will help add more colour and excitement to my challenge photos. Curious to see how I’m doing down the track? I’ve given my photos their own unique hashtag of #100happyindienomdays

DAY 48 (almost day 49) - #100happydays #100happydaysday48 #whitenight #whitenightmelbourne #melbourne  #lightshow @sleepykitten @missmiadoll @charliana @findapenny_ @quietwhore #whitenightmelb

DAY 48 (almost day 49) – #100happydays #100happydaysday48 #whitenight #whitenightmelbourne #melbourne #lightshow @sleepykitten @missmiadoll @charliana @findapenny_ @quietwhore #whitenightmelb

The search for Taiwanese noms

Good Taiwanese food hasn’t been easy to find in my adopted city of Melbourne. Granted, it’s not exactly something every Aucklander would know where to look for in their own city, either, but since I’m Taiwanese-born and Auckland-raised, I kind of had to make it my business to know.

Although I had favourite haunts in Auckland, I’m not convinced that anything ever compares to the traditional Taiwanese street food sold on the streets of Taiwan. I’m sure every Asian foodie says that about the street food of their home country, but let me tell you, I’ve been to all of your countries, and the street food is bloody good but I can find at least one or two places here in Melbourne that can do it as well or almost as well. Not so in my case.

And it has nothing to do with authenticity.

So what is it, then?
1) Outside of Taiwan, true Taiwanese eateries are few and far between, compared to everything else there is (Vietnamese, Malaysian, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Indian etc etc)
2) Following on from point 1, the lack of competition doesn’t exactly inspire going above and beyond in your cooking. More competitors means everyone has to raise their game! No competitors means your average home cook could run a restaurant.
3) Also because of point 1, most Melbourne Taiwanese eateries feel that they can’t specialise. They normally have a large menu that tries to give you a taste of many traditional Taiwanese dishes. Everything in one place sounds good, right? but…
4) This means they just can’t possibly get as skilled at making each of the dishes as those market street vendors in Taiwan that just churn out serving after serving of exactly the same thing for 8 hours a day to a never-ending queue of local patrons, who, by the way, are also bound to be pickier about quality.

The pertinent problem in Melbourne is that when almost anyone thinks about Taiwanese food, they think about this fairly awful place called Taiwan Cafe on Swanston Street. They serve a huge variety of my favourite Taiwanese street foods, all of them every traditional “authentic” dishes and snacks… and they do them all very badly.

Perfectly understandable that they’re well known and always packed, because the eatery is on one of the busiest streets in the CBD on a very prominent corner, and has great signage – but that only proves that location and marketing work. I’ve been to Taiwan Cafe about five times now, each time hoping that it would get better or that I remembered wrongly about how tasteless the food is, but each time being disappointed. I won’t ever return again.

You’d think that avoidance would solve the “problem” for me, but the real issue is that I’m a huge advocate for Taiwanese food and it’s hard to be convincing when such a crappy restaurant is the primary example that comes to mind for everyone when the cuisine is mentioned, purely because it’s well located and blah, blah, blah, and it’s even worse that they service supposedly authentic food.

Taiwan Cafe on Urbanspoon

The truth is, in inner Melbourne, there don’t seem to be any very good eateries serving traditional Taiwanese. There’s one that’s ok in the CBD – certainly a few notches above Taiwan Cafe – Taiwan Canteen on Exhibition Street. It’s not amazing by any means, but the food is decent, and doesn’t taste like cardboard; so if you’re the middle of the city and you want to try some Taiwanese food, please walk past that busy Swanston Street corner and just go up a few blocks. It’ll be worth it.

Taiwan Canteen on Urbanspoon

So, what about wider metropolitan Melbourne – where else can you go for actually good Taiwanese food? Well, I haven’t quite finished discovering that myself. We’ve talked about Peko Peko, but there is one more spot in Northcote that I have tried, loved and can recommend. Again, it’s not as strictly traditional as other (far inferior) eateries you’ll see around… but more on that later!

Disclaimer: This rant may or may not just have been an excuse to show you photos of Taiwanese street food from my visit back in 2011.

Preparing my great escape

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever bought off eBay? For me, it’s a Mexican SIM card, Fedexed to Australia.

Yeah, I know, right? Random.

Before you get all envious of my adventurous life as a badass rogue eBay purchaser of outrageous things, let me just remind you: there’s some pretty insane stuff out there in the eBay-verse. Like, you can buy spirits to haunt your house, if you’re into that, or a toastie that looks like the Virgin Mary, or you know, small Californian towns… Therefore telecommunications items from central America = really pretty mundane in comparison. And the next most interesting thing I’ve ever considered getting was a peanut butter Kit Kat.

Mexico SIM

So anyway, I just bought this Mexican nano SIM because I found out from a friend today that apparently it’s not very easy to buy a prepaid SIM card in Mexico if you’re a non-Mexican. You’re “not supposed to”. I don’t know if that’s because they don’t want dirty foreigners stinking up their cellular… air… frequency… wave things (can you tell I work for a telco?) because we cause air cancer, or because they just don’t like non-residents taking advantage of local phone plans and want to make revenue off incoming roaming to their network instead. Either way, I’m not keen on the drama of being asked to leave my passport behind until I return with the SIM before I leave the country, which scarily enough can reportedly actually happen!

Luckily, I found out about this potential nightmare. Unluckily, I found out about it 4 business days before I was supposed to fly to Cancun. Hence the Fedex. And the big bucks spent; and the self-flagellation for knowing I won’t be able to survive without regular intarwebz for two weeks.

I’m pretty excited, though! I’ve never been on a beach holiday as an adult, as neither the Kiwi Panda (henceforth KP) nor I are ones to waste our precious annual leave days lying around doing nothing; however, anything has got to be better than being stuck in the life-sucking cold of Melbourne right now. I live and work in Docklands, and I tell ya, the wind chill here cuts to the bone.

But if we’re going to do the relaxation thing, we might as well go all out, so for the first couple of days we’re going to be staying here.

Just in case you were too lazy to click on that link, here are pretty pictures:


Secrets ResortSecrets Resort
Secrets ResortSecrets Resort
All Rights Reserved Expedia.com / Secrets: The Vine, All Inclusive Resort, yada yada

Yeah, I wasn’t sure about all-inclusive resorts at first either. Especially the dining aspect – what good is included food if the food is crap? Anyone knows I’d rather hunt down deliciousness in my own time than suffer mediocre “free” food. That’s why I’m even suspicious of breakfast packages in any sort of accommodation! But I did some research and this place seems pretty good on that front, plus, ok, they sucked me in. Don’t be surprised if I end up blogging about eating 30-peso-tacos on the side of the street.

In fact, definitely don’t be surprised at that, because it’s just what we intend to do for some of the time. While this trip is half luxurious resort vacation, it’s also going to be half long bus trips, cheap hotels, and driving around the countryside visiting Mayan ruins. Those are the parts I’m really looking forward to! (My bank account isn’t – we’re still strategising on ways of hiding bribe money).

While I’ve been poring over books and websites trying to figure out the best places to go for insights into ancient Mayan culture, KP has been watching YouTube videos about Yucatan cuisine. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this little role switcheroo! But in any case he tells me that there’s going to be a lot of pork, and that makes me happy. On the other hand, his research into the Mayan side of things extended about as far as asking me if we’re going to Tulum because “it’s got the old triangle stuff” I want to see. Thanks, babe. (For those who don’t know him, that was definitely weird humour, not lack of knowledge of what a pyramid is.)

A map of the Yucatan and photos of "old triangle stuff"

A map of the Yucatan and photos of “old triangle stuff”. Do you like my filter? Note that I tried to make it match the old triangle

Wow, you must in awe of my ability to ramble on about actually nothing. Like, I haven’t even left the country yet, and already I’ve written over 800 words about this trip. You can only hope it’s because I lack photos so far, and photos are what you’ll be spammed with upon my return rather than more pointless rambling.

So yes, in summary: relaxing beach time, fancy resort, driving on the wrong side of the road, preparing to possibly bribe dodgy cops, and lots and lots of Old Triangle Things! Oh, and did I mention that one of my closest friends is getting married on the Riviera Maya in two weeks?

Watch this space!

From cheese to nylon

With the advent of social media, having a web presence today is much easier and simpler than it was a decade ago, and no longer reserved for the invisible, nerdy teenager or overweight, middle-aged gamer. But for me – from my sign up to dozens of free personalised email addresses in the ’90s to pretending to be a 16 year old blonde in chat rooms (while actually 12 and Asian), to countless failed and semi-successful attempts at websites and blogs – being “on the internet” has always been about leaving an imprint of myself in the great big expanse of the World Wide Web.

Cheese Cottage

This is a drawing of a cheese cottage. Yep, literally a cottage with a giant slice of cheese in front of it. When I was 15, I “commissioned” a friend to draw this for me to use as a web graphic for a website I was launching called – *drumroll* – “the cheesecottage”.

Fast forward 10 years and I’d realised that websites with a focus or single topic just “work” better and have a steadier following. So I chose to blog about food because my friends kept telling me I should write about it instead of just constantly dishing out adhoc advice about places to eat, and taking endless photos when we dined out, their dishes slowly getting cold while they sat around waiting for me.

That turned out to be one of the better projects I’d accomplished to that point and even gave me the opportunity to meet and talk to some interesting people! But it still didn’t last long. There were too many rules I’d imposed on myself, plus it pigeon-holed me and made me feel like there was nothing more to me than “girl who loves food”.

And there most definitely is more – why shouldn’t I acknowledge that, if I’m going to have a web presence at all? The real challenge is to avoid the “scattered and pointless” trap personal websites often fall into. In 2002, I gave my website the name “pointful thingses” thinking this would help. Yeah, that worked about as well as you can imagine. Similarly, “the cheesecottage” wasn’t actually about cheese, or cottages… or anything in particular. I think that today, I have a better awareness of the things I care about that also have some relevance to others who aren’t me – owing mostly to Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, you get the idea. Will my Noms and my Rambles survive the 21st century web?

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