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

On Career Crises – from The Book of Life

Have you heard of The School of Life? I first heard of it a few years ago – my sister told me about a friend of hers who was travelling to London (where their HQ is based) to attend the “school” for 2 weeks, I think it was. The School of Life focuses on developing emotional intelligence, addressing every day issues that a lot of people have issues with. Things like finding love, achieving calm, changing the world, little things like that. They’ve now expanded around the world to cities as diverse as Paris, Belgrade, Melbourne and Tel Aviv, as well as selling some beautiful products online.

Another little something they do is The Book of Life; in their own words,

The Book of Life is being written by many people over a long time; it keeps changing and evolving. It is filled with images and films as well as texts. By floating online, it can grow a bit every day or so, as new things come along and it can be equally accessible all around the world, at any time, for free.

And the best part about it is that you can subscribe online and get a bit of the book emailed to you each week; I love that time of the week 🙂 Anyway, last week, one of the links in the email was to this particular piece – On Career Crisis, from chapter 2 (WORK). It’s a really interesting piece, and one I’d recommend to most people – instead of regurgitating it all here, though, I thought I’d touch on some of the more interesting parts…

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While I’m certainly not going through a career crisis, I am feeling a little stuck. I’ve never looked at work or career in the same way as most people. I’ve never been too bothered about having a “career;” having accepted early on that my passions would most likely never be my career, I settled on looking for jobs that would enable me to earn enough money and allow me to work reasonable enough hours that I could pursue my passions outside of work. This is mostly because my parents are incredibly hard working and sensible people; while they’ve always encouraged us to dream and chase those dreams with abandon, they’ve also always encouraged us to be sensible about it – no sense in being a homeless, penniless writer. That may have been romantic a few centuries back, but now that’s just irresponsible and silly.

 

I’ll come back to that, but first, here’s how that piece opens:

In 1700, in Western Europe, there were some 400 different kinds of jobs you could choose from. Nowadays, there are approximately 500,000. No wonder if we sometimes have a bit of trouble settling on what we might want to do.

For most of history, the majority of humans have believed that this life is not the only chance we get to fulfill ourselves. There will be other lives beyond death, in which we will be able to correct the errors made here on earth. Career anxiety stems – in part – from a growing inability to believe in next lives.

An average life might be – only – 600,000 hours long. Identifying fulfilling work requires a judicious blending of fear and haste – with self-examination and patience.

We pin our hopes for happiness on Love and Work. And yet in relation to both, refuse to plan methodically, to understand ourselves thoroughly, to train relentlessly and to go into therapy before we act. We worship instinct in precisely the wrong places.

Got your attention yet?! As it continues, questions are posed. I’ll run you through some of them, and attempt, as I go, to answer them as honestly as I know how.

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All parents unwittingly (or not) create a sense that certain jobs are not possible for their children: because the jobs are too lowly, or too high – or just because people in our family don’t do that kind of thing. Reflect on 10 occupations that might have been plausible but were (psychologically) off the table back home.
– Writer
– Journalist
– Photographer
– Artist
– Jedi (actually, dad may have been right about that one…)
– Egyptologist
– Historian
– Archaeologist
– Airforce pilot
Back to my earlier point about my parents, they did passively discourage a lot of these paths, because they wanted to me look at fields where work would always be available, so that I could always have the best chance at being employed and therefore never know financial hardship. So I can’t be too mad at them for that. At the same time, part of my soul would love to know what it’s like to earn money and recognition in the fields I’m most passionate about…

Which of these are you – in the end – best at: numbers, words, images, people?
Words. Always.
And, luckily, I’ve always had a lot of recognition and  encouragement to write from my parents.

Every successful business is at heart an attempt to solve someone’s problem: what are – for  you – mankind’s most interesting problems?
– The lack of happiness so many people suffer from, despite the fact that a lot of us have and know more now than we ever have.
– Restricting self-beliefs that we all have – how much is our potential held back by them?
– How so much of the world still suffers from poverty, hunger, racism, sexism, problems that should have been eradicated decades ago.
– The frequent lack of connectedness between us all. Also, solutions to breaking down some of the barriers by something as simple as food, which has the power to connect so many.
– The fact that everyone has a story, and that they should all be shared – every story shared is more knowledge that comes into the world.

If I was forced to run a shop, it would sell…
Books and home made cookies and tea. And you wouldn’t have to force me into it; running a second hand book and tea shop where I bake and sell cookies daily is a massive dream of mine. If anyone has the financial backing to make this happen before my 50s, I’d love to hear from you hehe

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I believe the time has come for me to re-introduce myself…

For someone who rarely struggles to find something to write about, I’m finding it really hard to know where to start this post… If you’ve been reading for a while now, you’ll know that I’m struggling a bit at the moment. I’m not the same person I was 18 months ago when I started writing here, and given that this space is more or less my “journal” of sorts and I’ve always written my way through hard times, I think that’s something I need to acknowledge here.

Before I go on, I realise that the honesty in the post might lose me some “followers,” and that’s OK. If some of what I write about makes you feel uncomfortable, or you’re just plain not interested in it, that’s perfectly fine. That said, I also can’t ignore what is increasingly an enormous part of myself and my life, and I’m pretty sure I can’t keep faking it to you guys either 🙂

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So, allow me to re-introduce myself…
Hi, I’m Jess :)I work in corporate travel by day and moonlight as a food & travel blogger.
I love to travel, I love to cook, I love to eat, and I love to write.
I live in Melbourne and love this city to bits.
I’m a bookworm, a tea enthusiast and a market fiend.
I’m a classic shy little introvert, and as such have seriously honed my skills in “faking it” and keeping up a happy, confident facade in public.
I’m currently dealing depression, anxiety and disordered eating.

Depression has been part of my life since I was about 16 years old. I think anxiety has been around for a while as well, I just haven’t known what to call it. The disordered eating is relatively new to the party. They’re all really hard, in their own ways.

It’s hard to wake up some mornings feeling as if a dark cloud has formed over your bed while you’re sleeping. It’s hard to get out of bed at 5.30am after only a few hours broken sleep so you can exercise before work, every morning, no excuses. It’s hard trying to explain and defend over and over again why you can’t just “be happy” when you have a perfectly lovely life, and there’s really “nothing wrong” with you and so many other people have it so much worse than you do. It’s hard wondering what the hell is wrong with you and having no rational reasoning behind it.

It’s hard to come home feeling miserable and flat with absolutely no explanation for your husband other than “I’m just having a blue day…” It’s hard knowing that you’re putting him through such a hard time. It’s so hard to feel like such a burden to the one person who’s been through it all with you for the past eleven years and still feel like you’re no closer to being “better,” when all you want in the world is to be better for them. It’s incredible to see how strong he always is, without hesitation or complaint, which makes it harder still to have one of those days; you just want the pressure to be taken off him from now on. 

It’s hard when your family don’t know or understand what you’re going through. It’s hard to realise that you haven’t got many friends left, because not many people are willing to stick around when you’re going through this shit. It’s hard to keep up a brave face in front of the amazing friends you do have left even when they do know what you’re going through. It’s hard driving to meet a friend for brunch and panicking the whole way there. It’s hard sitting in the cafe with your “happy happy food blogger OMG I love all of the food!” face on when you’re freaking out inside. It’s hard sometimes to post happy and upbeat writing on my blog when my heart is breaking. It’d be harder not having this space and place to write at all though – it’s a big part of what keeps me sane on the bad days!

It’s hard to be so scared of food some days when you’ve always loved it. It’s hard to be invited to lovely meals out that you can’t totally enjoy because you’ve spent two hours studying the menu for the “healthiest” option, then freak out completely when you get there and order the “unhealthiest” option possible, plus sides, plus dessert. It’s hard to come home feeling like a failure, and continuing to eat because you’ve already ruined everything anyway. It’s hard to feel so ill you can’t sleep. It’s hard to throw it all up. And as if that’s not all hard enough, throw in lactose and fructose intolerance!

It’s hard to realise that you really just can’t handle it on your own anymore, and that if you really do want that happily ever after, you’re going to have to enlist help. It’s hard making that first contact with a “professional.” It’s even harder turning up to that first appointment. Hardest of all is looking at a complete stranger, kind as they may be, and still trying to smile through the tears as you tell them that you just don’t know what to do anymore. That you’re depressed and anxious and you really don’t want to be. That despite your degree in exercise science and decade working in the health and wellness industry, you’ve still somehow become one of “those” women who hate their bodies and often binge and throw up and “restrict” calories. It’s really, really hard to own that. And it’s really hard to share that to God-only-knows how many strangers.

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I think it’s silly and unfair and dishonest for me to keep writing here as if there’s nothing wrong, as if my life is a shiny, perfect bundle of travelling and adventuring and cooking and eating (side note: it feels unbelievably good getting all of that off my chest! I’ve hated the last few weeks feeling like an imposter here!); that’s what I’m working towards, but we’re not quite there yet 🙂

I also wanted to tell you guys that while I may start to write a little more about this side of my life (now that I’ve actually acknowledged both to you guys and to myself what’s really going on), this is still going to be first and foremost a food and travel blog. Writing is my solace. Travel is what sets me free. Food can go either way, but I’m hoping that with a bit of help, I’ll be able to add that back to the “good” column! So if you’re just here for recipes and suggestions on places to eat at and things to add to your bucket list, don’t worry; those posts are gonna keep on coming!

Anyway, a huge thank you to everyone who is still following my adventures on here – it still amazes and humbles me so much to know that there are people out there who are still interested in what I have to say! And the online blogging community is amazingly supportive, which I’m super grateful for 🙂 To anyone else who’s fighting their own battle right now, my thoughts are with you guys – never be afraid to reach out for help, because there’s something better out there if you do! But right now, I’m kinda tired so I think I’m gonna try to get some sleep… Here’s to more tea, more travel, more books and better days coming!

xoxo

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Eat here: favourites revisited – Rockwell & Sons, Nieuw Amsterdam and Shortstop Donuts, Melbourne

Wednesday afternoon – congratulations friends, we made it past half way this week already! And honestly, if you’d asked me on Monday night, I wasn’t even sure I’d get to Tuesday arvo! Remember back on Monday when I said it was gonna be a long, trying week? Well, yup…

Monday night saw me teaching my second class at Laneway Learning, which was scary, but I got through it! And hopefully I was able to help some fellow FODMAPpers enjoy their sweet treats while looking after their stomachs 🙂 Last night was an even tougher one – I realised last week that I was starting to go under again, so I pulled on my big girl pants, and made an appointment to see a new psychologist who specialises in eating disorders, because if I’m being honest with myself (if I’m feeling really ballsy, I might even try to write a bit about it), that’s something I really need help with. And it’ll be really nice to have someone on my side to help!

Not that I’m totally alone right now – I’m one of those lucky clichéd bitches who can honestly say they married their best friend. Over a decade together, and I can truly say that he has always been there. He’s seen me at my best, but also at my worst. He’s knows me better than my friends, my sisters, my parents, anyone. When he sees me struggling, he reminds me that more often than not, I’m actually strong enough to fight my own battles. But if I start to drown, he’s there, without hesitation, questions or judgement, to scoop me up and bring me back. It’s never been an option for him not to support me; I shudder to think of how things would have ended up for me without him.

But here we are, two best friends who love each other to bits, occasionally shit each other to tears, and wouldn’t want to spend a weekend in the sunshine eating good food with anyone else! As I wrote on Monday, Melbourne stepped up with a beautiful, sunny spring weekend – we kicked it off with pancakes in our backyard on Saturday morning, and visited a few favourite spots over the rest of the weekend for some backyard exploration and some amazing eats.

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I haven’t written a heap about the disordered eating portion of my current shit storm, but basically I’m dealing with a bingeing/throwing up/restricting cycle. Over the weekend I wanted to just enjoy some down time with my husband and some good food sans guilt, so I challenged myself to eat at some of our favourite spots without overindulging, without bingeing, without feeling the need to throw up afterwards or restrict my food the next day. Mission mostly successful, food completely delicious, and still highly recommending these places upon second blog reviews! Here’s how the weekend played out on the plate…

 

Rockwell & Sons
288 Smith St, Collingwood
http://www.rockwellandsons.com.au/

Original review: March 2014
Re-visits since:
three
Order this:
There’s really only one thing you can order here – the double patty smash burger ($12).

We tried adding bacon this time around, but it was actually pretty disappointing – super dry and cardboardy. This is one of the rare burgers that actually does not need bacon to improve it. It can’t be improved. Just order it as is, and enjoy the magic that is a truly perfectly smashed patty. Oh, and don’t forget the fries with the malt vinegar aioli… wow.

Rockwell and Sons Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 


Nieuw Amsterdam
106 – 112 Hardware St, Melbourne
http://www.nieuwamsterdam.com.au/

Original review: June 2014
Re-visits sinc
e: three
Order this: the lunch menu is amazing at the moment. Get a Cubano sandwich ($12) piled up with pork, ham, swiss cheese, mustard and pickles on a perfectly soft and yet still somehow crunchy roll. And add chips for $3.00.

Also, seeing as they do BBQ particularly well, get yourself a meat tray – we went with a large serving of brisket ($13) + a small serving of ribs ($9) served with fries, slaw, pickle and a few slices of super perfect bread (+ $6).

Still a favourite place of mine. Also, try the cheeseburger – you won’t be disappointed!

Nieuw Amsterdam Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 


Shortstop Coffee & Donuts
12 Sutherland St, Melbourne
https://www.short-stop.com.au/

Original review: October 2014
Re-visits sinc
e: three
Order this: everything. Order everything. Just get all of the donuts. This particular visit entailed a whiskey maple bacon raised donut ($4.50), which we both agreed was the best, best donut either of us had ever had. And if you’re a regular around here, you know I eat a fair few donuts. Light. Fluffy. Soft. Perfect.

Also, a cake style peanut butter, caramel and chocolate donut ($4.50). Chocolate cake donut. Gooey salted PB caramel. Salted peanuts atop chocolate frosting. It was like a cakey Snickers, but better.

Yes, I know, $9.00 for two donuts! So extravagant! So much money for dessert! SO WORTH IT!!! And you just won’t get it until you try them, so just go and do it this week – take my word for it, you will not regret spending that donut money!

Shortstop Coffee & Donuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

 

Now, how can you possibly have a bad weekend when you’re enjoying food like that in the sunshine with your best friend?!

Cook this: fluffy chocolate protein & almond meal pancakes (low FODMAP). AKA dust yourself off & try again (& again) breaky.

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One step forward, two steps back.
Fall seven times, stand up eight.
If plan A doesn’t work, there are still 25 letters to go through.
If at first you don’t succeed…
And so on and so forth.

Fair warning – this isn’t just a recipe post, it’s also a bit of a it’s-my-blog-and-I-need-to-get-some-shit-off-my-chest-because-writing -is-my-outlet post. Feel free to scroll to the bottom if you’re just here for the recipe; it’s so delicious I won’t be offended!

Anyway, let’s not sugar coat it; it’s been a rough few weeks. I’ve been slowly but surely sliding back into that deep, black hole. I’ve been anxious and skittish and completely on edge. I’ve spent nights crying my eyes out, nights with no sleep, nights forcing myself to throw up everything I’ve just binged on, nights panicking and heart fluttering. And then, after maybe 4 or 5 hours of very broken sleep, dragging my ass out of bed at 5:30am to exercise for an hour before going to work and trying to keep my mask intact and my shit together  until I can go home and briefly let my guard down again. But not too much and not for too long, because I’ve got too much to do. That’s one of my go-to coping mechanisms; the more I feel myself slipping, the more I commit and over commit to. I try to keep myself too busy to actually stop and think about what’s going on, to stop and acknowledge that I’m struggling and to deal with it. I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, because each time this happens I inevitably crash and burn and breakdown. But until then, I just keep going.

I know that inevitable crash and burn is coming; I can feel it. But it’s kinda hard to stop and acknowledge the problems and to deal with it all before we get back to breaking point – I just don’t have time for it! Dealing with this stuff isn’t something you can just do on a Saturday afternoon and bounce back by Sunday so you’re ready to go back to work on Monday, and I can’t just take a week off work while I cry and panic and seek professional help to get my shit back together! So until I can come up with a better plan, as a temporary measure, I’m trying to at least slow things down a little more on my weekends.

Saturday mornings so far this year have involved husband getting up early and jetting off to coach his footy team, while I get up at the same time and hit the gym, followed by breaky and getting on with my day. But with footy season finally over, the Melbourne spring sun shining, and the end of a really rough week all through which my man stepped up (yet again) and had my back without hesitation, I figured Saturday morning was the perfect morning to finally slow things down a little and sit out in the sunshine with some pancakes 🙂

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OK, recipe time now. We’re both a bit obsessed with NuZest’s chocolate protein, as you may have noticed in some of my other recipes, so I thought I’d look for a recipe I could make using protein powder. A ton of recipes involved mashed bananas (*gag*), so I kept scrolling – I eventually came across this one at Move, Nourish, Believe, but I didn’t totally love it… I screwed around with it a little and nailed the ultimate light and fluffy protein pancake! And the best part? Still low FODMAP! So happy!!

What you’ll need for pancakes for 2:
– ⅔ cup plain flour (use gluten free if needed)
– ¼ cup almond meal
– ¼ cup protein flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– ½ cup milk (I like almond)
– 2 eggs
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 2 tbsp maple syrup
– 2 tbsp vegetable oil
– a little butter or oil of choice to cook with

Cook ’em up…
1. Combine the dry ingredients (flour, almond meal, protein powder and baking powder) in a large bowl.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (milk, eggs, vanilla, maple syrup and vegetable oil).

3. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry. If it’s too runny, add a little more flour; if it’s too dry, add more milk.

4. Heat a non-stick fry pan over medium heat, and add a little oil or butter to coat the pan. Add about a quarter cup of batter at a time to the pan, and cook for a few minutes – until bubbles start to form.

5. Once you see bubbles, flip your pancakes and cook for another minute or so, until both sides are golden. Serve up with your choice of toppings – we went with some plain yoghurt, toasted cacao nibs, goji berries, shredded coconut, fresh berries, maple syrup and homemade lemon curd (husband’s favourite).

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So the pancakes were absolutely delicious, and the sun just kept on shining over the weekend (yes, Melbourne!) 🙂 This week is going to be a testing one, but before it all kicked off this morning I was lucky enough to spend a fantastic weekend with the husband, hanging around some of my favourite areas like Collingwood and the little city laneways I love so much, discovering some new shops and street art, and enjoying (actually enjoying) some really good food (disordered eating challenge for the weekend was eating at some of our favourite spots without it spiraling out of control into a binge/throw up/starve myself cycle). Pop back again later this week for more on the favourites we re-visited over the weekend and food porn to go with it; until then, thanks for stopping by and listening to my vent, I feel much better now and am all ready to face the first big challenge of the week tonight – stay tuned, more on that tomorrow!

Music in my life… And on the streets of New Orleans

IMG_6716When we moved into our current house, we decided to take my childhood piano with us; for various reasons, I didn’t feel like I could keep it here anymore, and so my sister took it with her this weekend as she and her boyfriend moved into their new home. It was a little strange to see it roll out of my life once again; I knew it couldn’t stay, but it still hurt a little to see it leave…

Music has always been a big part of my life. I remember my mum and grand mothers singing to me as a child. I cant tell you why I remember this, but I vividly remember mum singing “Under The Boardwalk” to me as a teeny tiny kidling (probably one of my earliest memories of life, actually), and her mum singing in Italian to me, “farfallina, bella bianca, vola vola, mai si stanca…” (Butterfly, beautifully white, flying flying, never tiring…).

Music was in dad’s blood, too – he played guitar, exceptionally well, and I grew up listening to his records-  Queen, The Beatles, Neil Diamond (and yes, we had an actual record player in our house). And his father loves music almost as much as he loves pasta (anyone who knows my Nonno and knows that he eats pasta pretty much daily, will know what a big deal that is). Despite being well into his 80s, he’s the first one on the dance floor, dragging my giggling Nonna along with him, at any family wedding, party, what have you. The look on his face, eyes closed and smiling serenely when he listens to his favourite music, will be forever ingrained in my mind, for which I am so grateful.

I grew up playing the piano and singing a little, but rarely for an audience; I was a painfully shy child who did her best to go through life appearing as mediocre as possible, so as not to ever risk standing out in a crowd. I was talented, learning mostly by ear and memory, and usually only using the expensive sheet music my parents bought me on the first play or two while learning a new piece, and then discarding it and playing by ear (much to mum’s chagrin), but I was so damn shy; the day the school choir director finally plucked up enough courage to tell me she wanted me to sing the solo at the next big school assembly, I promptly burst into tears and ran out of the school chapel where we practiced, effectively quitting on the spot. But music is still in my blood, I’ve always loved it. It’s always been there. To this day, the three things I can’t leave the house without are a book to read, a notebook to write in, and my iPod; I need to have music. I can’t work in silence at my desk for 8 hours each day – when everyone else is working away like pantomimes, I have one ear bud in, listening to something, anything, to keep me sane. I can feel music in a way I can’t actually explain or describe… Without realising, as I listen, my fingers often start playing away on my thighs, as if playing along on a piano keyboard.

That was another reason why New Orleans felt like home to me; music is everywhere. It’s on the streets and in the bars, it lives within the concrete footpaths and the bones of the locals. It is everywhere. And it is GOOD. I don’t actually know why I have any other music on my iPod at the moment – I have a play list that consists of a few Rebirth Brass Band records, a few Trombone Shorty records, and the first and second Treme soundtracks; I’ve been listening to that same playlist for around 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, for the 3 or 4 months last year leading up to our trip to America, and ever since we got back in January. Almost the only time anything else is played is when I’m at the gym running on the treadmill (entitled “Move, Bitch!” plays then. 5 points to anyone who knows gets the song reference there).

In a city where everyone has more talent in one finger than most of us have in our entire bodies, you see musicians everywhere, and every single one of them, from the kids to the grown ups, manage to create magic…

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Cook this: quick & healthy – spring onion & zucchini omelette (gluten/lactose free, low FODMAP). And an open letter to crappy doctors.

Ohhh it’s been a long week. And it’s recipes like this one getting me through at the moment – cheap, quick to throw together, a few simple ingredients, and FODMAP friendly. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking and spending time creating, but some days I’ve only got like 10 minutes worth of energy left to make dinner so it needs to be QUICK!

But, before we get to the recipe, a letter to the medical “professionals” out there who brought me to the point of trying this whole low FODMAP thing. _________________________________________________________________________________________
Dear shitty, unprofessional, uncaring, uneducated doctors,

I’m a few weeks into doing my absolute best to stick to a low FODMAP diet. Why? Well, I’ve had stomach problems, nasty ones, on and off for the past few years. Yes, years. Why the hell would anyone put that off for so long? In a word, YOU. Doctors. Specifically, the really shitty ones out there – you know who you are. I’ve seen four of you in my quest to get my stomach issues sorted, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more frustrated dealing with a group of “professionals” in my life. Let me tell you why.

The first of you I saw was the family doctor. You’ve been looking after me since I was a kid. Yes, granted, I understand that we have a hypochondriac in the family who’s probably annoyed the crap out of you over the years, but surely the fact that you rarely see me tells you I’m not of the same pedigree. The first time I saw you with my concerns, you told me that it’s a common problem, it’ll go away when it’s ready. When I come back to you a year later with the problem having gotten worse, you first told me that another girl you saw around my age recently presenting with the same problems ended up having cancer. Three minutes later, after my asking what we could do to find out exactly what the problem was, you said we could maybe test for gluten intolerance, but not to expect to find anything – just because it was the “trendy problem” that all the kids wanted to have these days didn’t mean it was an “actual thing.” Wanna know what isn’t trendy? Vomiting, diarrhea and crippling stomach pain. Asshole.

The next one of you helped another family member of mine, the aforementioned hypochondriac, with some other problems. I’d also seen you with concerns about my mental health when I felt my depression and disordered eating were spiralling out of control. Your advise? “Hmmm it sounds like it’s just stress. Try finding a way to relax, you’ll be fine.”  So glad I had the privilege of paying you $80.00 for that little nugget of wisdom.

Next up was the doctor I found walking down a main street near our house. You were on time, you seemed almost genuinely concerned, but you had absolutely no F-ing idea. Not a damn clue. I walked out shaking my head, none the wiser to what was going on.

Lastly, another doctor in the local area and a clinic with a slightly better reputation than the first. I saw you because honestly I was at the end of my tether, had been in tears all night, and booked an appointment with the first doctor I found via Google who could fit me in on the same day. Unlike the first three of your contemporaries, it actually sounded like you knew a bit about gut problems. You lost me though when you greeted me with “oh good, you’re here early, that means I might be able to actually leave this place at a decent hour tonight.” Are you f*%#ing for real?! You rushed me through it all at a pace I never would have believed possible, ordered a few tests and pushed me out the door with referrals containing no real instructions. I made my appointments to get the blood and breath tests done (by the way, I’m still waiting on results for tests I had done a MONTH ago), and called you as per your instructions after the final breath test for the result. Remember the chat we had? I do.

“Well, it seems that you’ve definitely tested positive for fructose intolerance, so that’s probably the main problem for you.”
Ohh ok… so where do we go from here? I asked, knowing a friend who’d been through the same thing then had a few further tests done, saw a nutritionist, etc
“Umm… just don’t eat foods with fructose in them”
Forever? Is there anywhere I can go to find some information on this? Do you have any resources on what to avoid and how long for?
“Just Google it. Good afternoon.”

Just Google it. That’s the culmination of all this. Just Google it. You doctors whinge and bitch about the self-diagnosing culture making your jobs so difficult, and the over medicated generations and the stupid amounts of “food intolerance” you didn’t have back in your day – you know what might help? GET EDUCATED ABOUT ISSUES THAT ARE AFFECTING PEOPLE TODAY AND ACTUALLY HELP YOUR DAMN PATIENTS INSTEAD OF BRUSHING IT OFF AS BEING NOTHING WHEN ACTUALLY YOU JUST PLAIN DON’T KNOW!!!!

So, shitty, lazy doctors, I consulted Dr Google, who did NOT make me wait an hour to see me, who did NOT charge me ridiculous fees and who did NOT laugh me off as just wanting to be diagnosed with a “trendy” problem. Dr Google recommended a low FODMAP diet for 8 weeks or so, after which point I should try to reintroduce some of those FODMAP foods. So, that’s what I’m doing for now, because quite frankly, I don’t want to invest waste any more time or money on “professional” opinions.
Sincerely,

Jess
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And now, to my lovely readers; if the letter above brings up issues that you’ve faced too, I’m so sorry. No one should have to deal with that crap. There may not be a ton of information out there yet on gut problems, but they are very much real. So, instead of trying to offer medical advice that your doctors can’t/won’t give you, I’ll help the best way I know how – another quick, healthy low FODMAP recipe 🙂


Ingredients for one:
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup grated zucchini
– 2 spring onions, finely sliced (top green bits only!)
– FODMAP friendly (no onion, garlic, etc) mayo, fresh coriander and toasted sesame seeds to serve.

Method:
1. Lightly sprinkle the zucchini with salt and set aside for 10 minutes while you chop the spring onion and toast the sesame seeds if they’re not already toasted.

2. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl and add in the spring onion.

3. Squeeze the excess liquid out of the zucchini and add that to the eggs.

4. Lightly spray a non-stick fry pan with cooking oil and set over medium heat. Pour in the omelette mixture and tilt to coat the pan. Cook over low-medium heat until almost cooked through.

5. You can muck around with it a bit at this point: if I’m super hungry, I’ll fill my omelette with brown rice, vermicelli noodles, chicken, more veggies (grated carrot, grilled capsicum and bean shoots are all favourites) – whatever you want!

6. Fold your omelette over, and serve topped with a little mayo, fresh coriander and toasted sesame seeds.

 

Fellow FODMAPers – if anyone else has any quick & easy recipes to share, any information to share or questions to ask, or if anyone just wants to vent about their experiences around it all, consider it open forum!!