Through my eyes: doorways of Tokyo

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Monday morning. Bleh. You’re meant to feel well rested and ready to take on the week on Monday mornings; as I type this on Sunday night, I know that’s probably not gonna be the case.

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The past few weeks have been a little stressful. Mum and dad have been travelling (yes, I’m one of those kids who worry about their parents). We had Christmas. A sibling struggling with her health. Trying to do the work of three people alone (in an unexpectedly busy period) while the others took annual leave. Adjusting to some new medication. A few migraines. Lots of social engagements. Health issues. A seemingly never ending to do list. And it all came to a head this week, the busiest one I’ve had in recent memory. I’m spent.

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After spending the morning on the road, checking out Anglesea’s Riverside Market, enjoying some tea in the sunshine, and celebrating my beautiful little niece’s birthday, the washing and dishes are now done, house tidied up, dinner (and lunch leftovers) cooked, and I’m kicking back with a pile of travel magazines by my side to flick through after I’ve written this.

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Following a (just) stifled anxiety attack earlier today, I got to thinking about the things that calm me. Reading, writing, scrolling through the Instagram feeds that inspire me, taking photographs, being in new places, visiting chaotic markets, travelling… Funny that an anxious introvert finds so much comfort in foreign, often busy places. I thought of the last trip, to Tokyo, which was so good for me.

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Walking around, alone, with just my camera and my thoughts was relaxing, therapeutic. And some of the photos I most enjoy taking when I’m travelling are of doorways.

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I love the idea that I have no idea what lies behind them; the possibilities of the stories contained within are endless. And, as the owner of a fairly active imagination, that fascinates me..

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But today, it’s Monday again. I’ve got home made okonomiyaki for lunch and 73 sleeps until my next adventure. Sometimes busy gets uncomfortable, but that’s what life is all about. It’s about being busy and uncomfortable and stressed and overwhelmed, but also about the opportunity to learn and imagine and discover, to find your own peace and joy in amongst the mayhem. And I’m grateful for the chance to prove myself worthy of it every morning 🙂 Happy Monday! xo

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Eat. Travel. Blog. The 2015 highlights :)

Holy wow, 2015 is over… I never believed mum when I’d hear her say “the older you get, the quicker it goes!” I hate to admit it, but she’s kinda right… It simultaneously feels like it was only a few weeks ago/it was all a big dream that we were on our way to America for our mega-trip, but it was this time last year we were half way through it all!

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It’s been a pretty big year for me. Among other things, this year has seen me:
– turn thirty  >_<
– travel to America, Canada, Mexico and Japan
– get closer to some friends and finally shed some toxic ones
– start a new job
– finally acknowledge my depression/anxiety/disordered eating and get help for it all
– acquire a few new tattoos
– complete my first 5km fun run, and a consequential 8km run
– thoroughly enjoy Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club
– discover that I’m lactose and fructose intolerant
– start getting back to who I used to be

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It’s been big. It’s been fun. It’s been challenging. It’s been heart breaking and joy bringing and all the rest of it. Because that’s what life is. The other thing 2015 gave me was the opportunity to write. I love blogging; I love being able to do what I love, whenever I want. And the fact that there are so many of you out there interested enough in what I have to say to read along means more than you can possibly imagine! From the bottom of my heart, thank you all so much for reading along from time to time; I’ve been writing and recording since I was old enough to put pen to paper, and I’ll continue to do so for as long as I can still hold a pen in my hand 🙂

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I thought that I’d follow suit with so many other bloggers and take a little walk down memory lane at some of my most popular posts over the last year…

It seems that my readers enjoy my food review posts the most, with these Melbourne eats getting the most views:
1. Yu-U
2. Kustom Burgers
3. Supernormal
4. Cheshire
5. Mamor
6. Bad Boys
7. Leyalina
8. Addict Food & Coffee
9. Mankoushe
10. Good Ovening

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For the record, my favourite Melbourne eats of the year are a little different; my favourites were, in no particular order:
1. Lievita
2. Sookie La La
3. Rockwell & Sons
4. Gypsy & Pig
5. 1090
6. The Gem
7. Shortstop Donuts
8. Addict Food & Coffee
9. Tipo 00
10. Two Little Pigs

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This year’s most popular international eats looked like this:
1. Bangkok’s ice cream truck
2. Nong Ploy, Koh Samui
3. The Halal Guys, New York City
4. Eataly, Chicago
5. Momofuku, Toronto
6. Ben’s Chili Bowl, Washington DC
7. Eggslut & Tumbras, Los Angeles
8. Shake Shack / In-N-Out
9. Central Grocery, New Orleans
10. Kanga, Toronto

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Again, my favourites looked a little different:
1. The Joint, New Orleans
2. Four & Twenty Blackbirds, New York City
3. Tartine Bakery, San Francisco
4. The Great Burger, Tokyo
5. Tsukiji Fish Market sushi, Tokyo
6. Yummy Yummy, San Francisco
7. Momofuku, Toronto
8. The Halal Guys, New York City
9. Au Cheval, Chicago
10. Cafe du Monde, New Orleans

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Recipes weren’t as popular as reviews, but the most viewed recipes were:
** Pork, macadamia, cranberry & sage sausage rolls – even though this wasn’t a 2015, it had over 350 more views than the next most popular recipe this year!! Amazing!
1. Red beans & rice
2. Poached egg & polenta
3. Tea infused porridge
4. Peanut butter granola
5. Zucchini choc chip cake
6. Quick 6 ingredient cookies
7. Coconut matcha porridge
8. Spring onion zucchini omelette
9. Cornbread pudding
10. Roy Choi’s ketchup fried rice

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And just for the record, the recipes I enjoyed most this year were:
1. 6 ingredient fried rice
2. Microwave matcha pudding cakes
3. Cranberry gingerbread granola
4. Coconut pandan oat & matcha chia parfait
5. Cornbread pudding
6. Crispy salted sage, hazelnut and cacao nib cookies
7. Olive oil chocolate zucchini cake
8. Fluffy protein pancakes
9. Chocolate pretzels
10. Tea infused porridge

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Your favourite travel related posts?
1. Dong Xuan Night Market, Hanoi, Vietnam
2. 10 Books Every Traveller Must Read
3. Through my eyes: Nutella crepes in Phuket, Thailand
4. Through my eyes: Santa Monica & Venice Beach, Los Angeles
5. Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Beechworth part 1
6. The New Orleans School of Cooking
7. USAdventure days 26-33- New York
8. TBT: Crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
9. Pure freedom: cruising Isla Mujeres
10. iPhoto essay: The Californian Redwoods, Warburton

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And my favourite travel experiences this year (other than those 10)?
1. “Finding myself” in St Louis Cemetery #1, New Orleans
2. Inside the hospital of Alcatraz
3. Through my eyes: Jomyo-in Temple, Tokyo
4. Through my eyesL crossing the Brooklyn Bridge at sundown
5. Through my eyesL New Orleans, 10 years post-Katrina
6. Urban paradise: Milton Lee Olive Park, Chicago
7. Toronto Islands, Canada
8. Through my eyes: The streets of Kagurazaka, Japan
9. Greystone Mansion & Park, Los Angeles
10. Flashback Friday: A night at the Temple of Edfu, Egypt

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And last but not least, because I do my very best to keep it as real as possible on here, the most viewed personal musing posts this year have been:
1. Sometimes you DO get to choose your family
2. I believe the time has come for me to re-introduce myself
3. The importance of pizza and a strong father-daughter relationship
4. Welcome to my book nook
5. You’re not alone
6. Wanderlust 108: Melbourne 2015
7. Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be? [Escape part 2]
8. S2, Ep2: Eat. Travel. Blog. It’s been a big weekend
9. Ways to keep your love & friendships strong: Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club
10. There is NOTHING wrong with being real

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From the bottom of my heart guys, thank you so much for reading this year 🙂 Writing is my biggest love and passion in life. It’s what I’ve always done, truly, since I was as young as I can remember. I write primarily for me, but having other people read and appreciate my work is absolutely the biggest, kindest compliment I have ever been paid. So, whether you’ve been reading most days or just read one or two posts this year, thank you so so much 🙂

Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year’s Eve saying farewell the year that has been, saying thank you for the lessons learnt, and getting ready to take on 2016 with reckless abandon xoxo

You’re not alone.

Happy Monday people! I know, Mondays, not really such a happy day for the majority of us who had to drag our tired asses off to work this morning after a weekend that almost certainly wasn’t long enough, and are now dragging those same, even more tired asses back home to cook dinner, do laundry, pay bills, blah blah blah… But I’m trying to be a little more positive and optimistic, so HAPPY MONDAY! Congratulations on getting through!

Anyway, I thought I’d do something a little bit different with today’s post. If you’ve been reading for a while, you may have noticed that while I share a little, I’m not inclined to be as super open and sharing as a lot of other bloggers. That’s no reflection on you guys, it’s more a character flaw of mine; I tend to be extremely reserved, introverted, a closed book. But recent happenings in my life and resulting conversations with a few trusted friends have led to some realisations that while we are all fighting our own battles, we do not necessarily have to fight them alone, nor do we have to simply shut up about them.

Sometimes the bravest thing is not to keep your problems to yourself and deal with them stoically and alone. Sometimes, the bravest thing we can do is to share our battles and vulnerabilities, in the hopes that others fighting similar battles can see that they’re not alone and find courage in that, to maybe fight a little harder themselves.

So, let me be brave. After many, many years of struggling alone (I’m talking over a decade), let me say that my personal struggle is with depression, anxiety and disordered eating. Let me say that it’s not easy to deal with it, and that I’m not special; there are millions of people who deal with these things every single day, most of whom will never share these battles. You may have absolutely no idea that someone you care about is fighting; most people who know me will have absolutely no idea whatsoever. And I’m not writing this because I want people to know what I’m dealing with . I want no attention, no being treated any differently, no fanfare, no bullshit.- I’d quite happily continue dealing with my shit alone. I’m writing it because what’s helped me most so far is realising that there are other people out there dealing with the same thing and making progress, so while I hate to share, if my sharing helps even one person out there to know they’re not alone, and makes a difference to or even saves just one life, that’s worth it.

Depression, anxiety, disordered eating – they’re really shitty things to deal with. The stigma around it all is still there. Because there aren’t generally many physical symptoms, not like with other mental illnesses like anorexia, for example, people don’t take it as seriously. “Just cheer up, your life isn’t that bad, there are people out there who have it way worse than you!” May as well tell a diabetic to just “get your shit together and regulate your insulin levels!” Just because we look “normal,” doesn’t mean we’re not drowning on the inside. You can’t see the black cloud that follows us around, sucking up all our energy and happiness. You can’t see our scars, emotional and/or physical. You can’t see the self-hatred behind the fake smiles. You can’t see the panic attacks over what to order at restaurants before you leave the house, or the binge eating that goes on behind closed doors, or the after-math of that. You don’t see any of it. But, it’s there.

AFL footballer Mitch Clark recently and very bravely spoke out about his personal battle, and I think this post he wrote a few weeks back on Facebook sums it up pretty well…

People think depression is sadness. People think depression is crying. People think depression is dressing in black. But people are wrong. Depression is the constant feeling of being numb. Being numb to emotions, being numb to life. You wake up in the morning just to go back to bed again. Days aren’t really days, they are just annoying obstacles that need to be faced. When you’re depressed, you grasp on to anything that can get you through the day. Even in a strange way you fall in love with your depression because you think it’s all you have. It’s not being able to see a way out, to see something good, to feel normal. That’s what depression is, not sadness or tears, it’s the overwhelming sense of numbness and the desire for anything that can help you make it from one day to the next. Please don’t suffer in silence and alone. Reach out and ask for help.

 

So, as I finally put on my big girl pants and reach out and ask for help after half a life time of trying to go it alone, I hope that others can start to do the same. I hope those of you who are fortunate enough not to be dealing with these issues first hand can be gracious and understanding and non-judgmental of those of us who are. Remember, you’ve only got one life; you should never be too busy to save it  : )

And this weekend, as a kind of thank you to myself for finally dealing with all of this, I got myself some fresh ink… allow me to introduce to you, the owl…

The attribute of the Goddess of Wisdom & a symbol of knowledge 📚 they live a solitary existence & are efficient hunters 🍃 they are a symbol of the moon, giving the gift of second sight 🌙  it is also a companion of the Goddess of the Underworld, able to guide the souls of the deceased into the afterlife ✨ the presence of the owl announces change 🔑

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S2, Ep1: one year on, a blog facelift, leaving my heart in New Orleans, and thanking you all :)

Don’t worry, you’re in the right place – it’s still me, I’ve just decided as a first birthday present to the blog, I’d honour the journey of the past 12 months a little better with a new and more fitting name, a facelift and a bit of a make over! A whole year… crazy!

I started this blog because I needed an outlet, and writing is what I’ve always turned to, as both a creative and emotional outlet. I’ve spent my whole life writing; even as a kid, I never went anywhere without a pencil and paper. When I started writing here 12 months ago, I was finally starting to find myself and what makes me happy instead of putting all of my energy into trying to conform to what I thought I was “supposed” to be. In short, I was feeling pretty ordinary. I had crazy dreams, but I, myself, felt an ordinary little thing. It’s a hard lesson to learn that you actually don’t need to give a damn about what other people think of your choices, nor do you need to justify what you’re doing to anyone else. The things I like doing are what this blog is all about – travelling and eating and cooking and reading and learning and exploring, hence the name change! It’ll also hopefully make things a little easier for people to find me in cyberspace amongst the plethora of other blogs out there.

I read something ages ago, and can’t remember where I read it, but someone had been interviewed and said that they thought of blogs as a sort of a high tech time capsule – once something’s on the internet, it’s there forever, like it or not. I like the idea that in 100 years, maybe someone else sees some of this, and knows what the world was like for me and my generation. How extraordinary our dreams were, what we worked for, what we ate and what we read. I don’t flatter myself that I’m interesting or important enough for that, but you never know…

So, even though I write this primarily for me (which is why I write and post pretty much every day; it is literally my outlet and keeps me sane!), THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to everyone who’s read what I’ve had to say over the past year. Thank you for taking time out of your day to look at my photos and read my stories and leave your comments and share it all with me – now, I’m writing for you guys, too!

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I’ve also given the site a little change in appearance and photos – I thought after a year it was time 🙂 This post explained a bit about why I chose that photo I took in Egypt as the photo you’d first see when you visited my blog. That’s changed now; the first image you’ll see now will be New Orleans. For the same reason that you saw Egypt for the first 12 months – that city changed me, again.

It’s hard to really explain why. It’s another world. It wasn’t America, it was something all it’s own. You couldn’t pigeon hole it or really pin it down. It didn’t really conform to anything or fit any one definite box. That’s how I felt as a person when I got to New Orleans. Which, ironically enough, made me feel like I finally did fit and belong. People there did their thing, their own thing, without any fear. They were free. As someone who’s spent the best part of her life held back by fear, I was hypnotised by the thought of it. I had a lot of time to sit and think, over a cup of tea and some Café du Monde beignets. I wanted to make some changes in this new year. I felt like 2014 was my warm up, my pre-game. I was preparing myself, mentally, for shit to get real. I had all these things I wanted to do, but was too scared to actually just try them. I might fail. People might judge me. It might be the wrong thing. Maybe I’ll regret it later. Maybe I’ll regret not doing it…

I saw a psychic in New Orleans. We’d never met, obviously, but she was disturbingly accurate on everything she told me. It wasn’t a case of “you’re doing to die at this time and win the lotto with these numbers;” rather, she put a voice to my inner thoughts. Things I’d been thinking for a long time and hadn’t shared with anyone, not my sister or best friend or husband. She confirmed everything I had been thinking about. It was almost like she was my way out of fear, the “it’s meant to happen for you, so just get on with it” that I needed. I bought myself a silver ring at a little silversmith on a tiny street to remind me of that.

I’m back home now and, having taken her advice seriously, things are changing. Or, rather, I’m changing things. I’m starting a new job next week. I’ve booked a trip to Japan for later in the year. I’m making time for real friendships and letting go of toxic ones. I’m trying to trust more and love more, despite the possible consequences. I’m looking after my body a little better. I’m making time to read and write and draw again and tinker on my piano. And the hardest part of all, cliche be damned, I am trying to follow my heart and disregard the preconceptions and judgments of others. So, instead of welcoming people to my “ordinary” life from now on, please join me as I eat, travel, read and blog!  To make life easier for both myself and everyone who’s reading along, I have kept the URL for the site the same – we’re still at http://ordinarygirlextraordinarydreamer.com/ so no need to re-direct anywhere new!

I might have only been there a few days, but New Orleans was so good for me. It changed my soul. I felt like a completely different person there, and I’ll never be able to fully understand why. Maybe it was being around musicians and cooks and writers and artists and bohemians – I’m a bit of all of those at heart. It gave me the one thing I desperately needed. I can’t tell you exactly what that was, but I got it there, and my soul feels so much happier now  : )  So, thanks for sticking with me this long, I hope you guys hang around for a bit longer, because even though I started this for me, it wouldn’t be the same without all of you! On that note, let the adventure continue!

Home sweet home :)

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Was that photo really only taken a few days ago? Damn…

After 6 weeks, I’m finally back home! It’s been crazy, amazing, unbelievable, testing, emotional, all of that. I missed Marley like hell. I also missed cafes that know how to make tea properly, and my stomach missed soy milk. And I missed having a washing machine instead of a small bathroom sink or a shower. I’ve missed easy access to healthy breakfasts and cooking my own meals. And knowing how the public transport system works without having to concentrate so hard.

Weirdly enough, I didn’t mind living out of a suitcase, not at all. I found the constant movement, flying from one city to the next, strangely therapeutic. The cold was refreshing, both physically and mentally, and I can now seriously layer like a boss. I loved walking everywhere, even when my feet and dodgy hips ached like nothing else. And just stopping to take it all in whenever I felt like it, because we really didn’t need to be anywhere in a hurry, like we do back at home.

It was an adventure like nothing else, and I’m so thankful now for all of the hard work that went into this trip; all of the saving, sacrificing, budgeting, researching. It was totally worth it, every bit! But, no matter the adventure, there’s truly no place like home, and I am glad to be back  : )

It’ll also be nice to be getting back to this blogging space; I’ve missed having the space to write every day! I kept a travel journal, too, which should help me write up all of the posts I can’t wait to share – I had so many wonderful experiences that I’d highly recommend to others travelling in those cities, and a lot of them I originally found through blogs as well!

But right now, my body is telling me to call it a night – jet lag is kicking my ass, my shoulder is still aching from a fall I took a few weeks ago in New York, I’ve got a sore throat and lost my voice, as is customary for me any time I take a flight that lasts more than 5 hours (seriously, it’s so bizarre! Don’t feel sick at all, voice just vanishes for a few days! Anyone else get this?!)… yup, time to get some sleep! Hope all of my fellow Australians have a fantastic Australia Day long weekend!

Eat here: Levain Bakery, New York, USA

Levain Bakery
167 W 74th St, New York
http://www.levainbakery.com

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If you’ve been following me for more than a week, you may have noticed I’m a bit of a sweet tooth. It’s not my fault. I’m Italian. And I inherited it from dad. Uncontrollable. Anyway, I really love sweets. Unfortunately, I’ve also been pretty sick, on and off, for the past 12 months or so. Initial investigations have proven that my infant-lactose intolerance has returned, and my body also isn’t a massive gluten fan. Low FODMAPS investigations shall continue post holiday, in the mean time, I’m trying a bit of everything, sharing it all with the husband, and trying to note what I’m feeling crap after (this trip is kind of a last splurge for me, after much thinking and life analysing, I know I need to make a lot of changes after this trip, including my diet!). Chocolate and pastry is up there on the “feel shit later” list, but a sweet tooth can’t visit New York without trying a famous Levain cookie!

They do four types of cookies only, and they do them bloody well, which draws the well deserved crowds. When we walked in not long after opening time this morning, there was already a small queue, and the human traffic didn’t stop or slow up the whole time we were in there.

Because we hadn’t had any breaky before we got there, we grabbed a cup of tea each and decided to grab a pastry, too (they have a mouth-watering range on brioche/pastries/scones and what not to go with the cookies). The brioche with chocolate chips was rich, full of chocolate chips and really good.

The cookie I went with was the chocolate chip and walnut, the favourite of the people from what I gathered. Fresh out of the oven (the chocolate chips were still a little melty), it was every bit as perfect as the hype claimed; I’d struggle to think of another purchased cookie I’ve eaten as good as that one *slow claps it out* absolutely magnificent, wish my stomach could have tolerated another, totally worth feeling a little ill for!! Anyone else visited and tried the other flavours??

Travel thoughts: what I want.

So I’m sitting in my hotel room with my sister, only a few short days left in Vietnam for us. I’ve been forced to sit down and delete some photos from my phone as there is apparently no room left for new ones (surprise surprise), when I came across this quote I had saved quite some time ago, that pretty much sums up what goes through my head 28 times a day…

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I’ve been thinking on this a bit before I picked up my phone to type. That really is what I want to do with my life, and I’m finally starting to actually do of these things. I’ve made plans to enable me to travel. I read, a lot, every day. I drink so many cups of tea, and they’re delicious. And I write. When I saved that quote a year ago, that was where I wanted to be; was nice to look back and realise how far I’ve come, and how much further I still want to go.

Also, I’m a little bit smitten with Vietnam… If you’ve been following the adventure on Instagram, you’ll probably be able to see why! More posts to come when I get home 🙂 xo