Monday, October 22, 2018

Let It Linger

One thing I'd like to work on during my gap year is the art of lingering. This was part of The Busy Boycott Challenge, and I'm slowly getting better at it, but I used to be terrible. Being a hardcore planner, I would rush from one thing to the next, failing to enjoy the moment, because I was overly preoccupied with what happens next. I was very future focussed, and that prevented me from being fully present.

In the past month or so, I've really learned to slow down. I don't sweat the small stuff as much. I take my time, I look around, I talk to people. I am much more present now. Of course, this is a function of having more time, but I think it would have been possible for me to linger even when I was working nine-to-five. Perhaps if I worked at a job that fulfilled me. Perhaps if I wasn't stressed all the time. Perhaps if I hadn't scheduled myself so stringently. Perhaps if I didn't have so many things on my list. I rushed to experience everything, and may have glossed over some key moments as a result.

I've always wanted to linger. I often tell hubby that I wish we had time in Puerto Vallarta to relax on that secluded beach we found during our hike, or I wish we had time in London to sit and watch the parkour performance, or I wish we had time in New York to stuff our bellies with food at the Chelsea Market. The list goes on. I've never thought much about lingering in our home town, but I should, and I will.

Today was a day with almost nothing on the agenda. I took a walk in the afternoon with the intention of picking up a few things, and I lingered. I stumbled upon the World Press Photo Exhibition 2018 at Brookfield Place, and rather than passing by and heading straight for my destination, I stopped. Or rather, I passed by, paused, contemplated, and doubled back--some habits are hard to break. I ended up spending around 20 minutes looking at the photographs, reading the descriptions, and thinking about the world outside my little bubble.

In a crowd of business people, tourists, and students, I felt myself become completely absorbed into the exhibit. Some of the stories and photographs presented were disconcerting, even more so when I took the time to ruminate on them. I've seen many powerful and moving photo exhibits in the past, but my mind was usually at least partly somewhere else. This is one of the first times I've felt so present at an exhibit, and it was a humbling experience.

The World Press Photo Exhibition 2018 at Brookfield Place will be on until 6pm tomorrow (Tue Oct 23).

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Filipino Supermarket Adventures

Hubby and I ventured out to the west end yesterday to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday. After a belly-bursting lunch at Congee Queen (YUM!), we took a look at the Filipino supermarket that opened last year. Seafood City Supermarket is jam-packed with delightful Asian goodies. Feast your eyes on these beautifully colourful Filipino desserts!

We went in for a specific item: nori sheets for our sushi burritos (and temaki). Success!!

I haven't had pandesal in years, so I had to pick up a package. I ended up eating two pieces last night after dinner. This lightly sweet bread, edges slightly crispy from the toaster oven, can be extraordinarily addictive to the carb-obsessed. NOM NOM. I quickly froze the rest to avoid stuffing my face even more.

Hubby is obsessed with condensed milk and went all googly-eyed when he saw these. We nearly bought them all until we read the list of ingredients. We ended up purchasing two to try (buko pandan and ube).

We wanted to try Jolibee SO BAD, but we were so full and the lines were so long. We still considered it but ultimately decided to part ways with the ever-enticing fried chicken and spaghetti--for now. We settled for a photo with the mascot to remind ourselves that we must go back one day.

We ended up buying around $23 worth of groceries and snacks, including a box of assorted mini kakanin, which we shared with our family. DELICIOUS.

Saturday, October 20, 2018


It's been almost 2 years since we made sushi burritos, so we thought we would give it another go today. They're more difficult to roll than I remember! I ended up switching to temaki after our first sushi burrito fell apart. Hand rolls are my favourite anyway, and the bonus is that they are SO easy to roll. Hubby continued making sushi burritos, since you can squeeze in a whole lot more salmon, and seemed to develop a knack for it. He preferred not to cut it in half though, so we'll never know if his would have fallen apart too.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Little Box of Happiness

During my walk today, I stumbled upon a Pablo Mini kiosk right smack in the middle of the concourse in Scotia Plaza. I stopped dead in my tracks, and contemplated. I knew I'd be making shrimp risotto for dinner--would we have enough stomach capacity to eat a cheese tart? Maybe I should stick to buying just a mini or two? Who are we kidding here. A full-size original cheese tart came home with me. Our bellies are very very full but oh so happy.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Monthly Food Expenditure

I re-balanced my portfolio today, so I'm in a bit of a finance mood. I decided I would chart my monthly food expenditure over the years to see if I could spot any trends. I started tracking my finances in 2001 or thereabouts, but I can't seem to find the first few years of data, so the below chart shows my average monthly food expenditure from 2005 to 2017, and also for the Jan/18 to Jul/18 period. A couple of key dates:

Q4 2006: We took occupancy of our condo, so we practiced a lot of "fiscal restraint" as we wanted to pay off the condo as quickly as we could.
Q4 2011: We paid off the condo in 5 years and became debt-free. My monthly food expenditures started tracking upward steadily after that.

Note: the below charts represents my monthly expenditure only, i.e., my half of the grocery bill, my half of meals at restaurants with hubby, and my personal expenses when I go out for food with friends. It doesn't take a statistician to see that the trendline was going up.

At the height of my extravagance, in February 2016, I spent nearly $2,000 on food in one month. By this time, I was pretty much going out to eat multiple days each week and buying takeout (or ordering in) the rest of the time. I knew I needed a pattern interrupt, so I tried the eat-at-home challenge. Here's what happened when I did the eat-at-home challenge in November 2016.

The amazing thing about the eat-at-home challenge was that the effect lingered. The reduced spending continued in subsequent months. Not so much in December, because there were celebrations to be had, but January and February 2017 were relatively low. I did the eat-at-home challenge twice in 2017: in March and in November. The November results weren't as impressive, because I started getting really into wine, partly due to work stress. We ate at home a lot more throughout 2017, but we also drank more frequently--pretty much every day towards the end of the year--and that significantly impacted our "food" cost, since I track alcohol in the same category.

The good news is, despite having spent money rather excessively in recent years, I'm actually really really good at not spending money. In fact, I've lived the majority of my life being rather frugal and conservative with money. Now that I've made the ultimate pattern interrupt of quitting my job, I can get back to being myself. It's not a new normal, it's just my plain-old normal. I'll update the below chart once my Q4 2018 results are in, but I'm pretty impressed by the drastic reduction in my average monthly food expenditure in August and September!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Dinner for One

Today I realized that meals have become really important rituals for me. I like to take care in making my food, sitting down with intention, and eating slowly with no distractions--even when it's frozen pizza! Gone are the days when I would eat while staring at a screen or eat on the run. I started eating with no distractions long before I left my nine-to-five, so it is possible to eat mindfully even when you're busy. I'm even slower and more intentional now that I have more time. We only had enough leftovers for hubby's dinner tonight, so I took the opportunity to make myself some Sundubu Jjigae (soft tofu stew, aka soon tofu at a lot of Korean restaurants in Toronto). The little bowls surrounding the soon tofu contain pickled onions, pickled carrots, store-bought kimchi, and store-bought umeboshi. I also made some steamed rice. Hubby doesn't like tofu, so his meal roughly mirrored mine, except he gobbled up the rest of the pork dish I made yesterday.

Soon tofu is one of my favourite things to eat, and this recipe is quick, easy, nourishing, and filling. I made a few modifications, but the result was still so tasty. I only had half a cup of dashi left (I made a batch a while back and froze it) so I added half a cup of chicken stock. I omitted the beef/pork and black pepper. I omitted the red chili pepper flakes but added a heaping teaspoon of gochujang. I omitted the scallion but added a bundle of watercress. The photo pictured above was the first serving of my meal. I went back for seconds and polished off the soon tofu. The recipe is supposed to serve two, but tonight it served one hungry pear.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Food Journal

My friend and I went to a talk this evening on gut health with Laura De Sanctis (in collaboration with Consonant Skincare), and I was inspired to start a food journal. Laura recommends tracking your mood before eating, what you eat, and how you feel after eating - for around a week or so. I thought this would be perfect leading up to my November eat-at-home challenge, so I dug up a little Moleskine notebook and will be starting tomorrow. I'm feeling rather excited about this. Do any of you keep a food journal?

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