Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Goals Update

Happy New Year's Eve!

2018 was a year of big changes for me, and as a result, I became distracted and inconsistent with the goals I set in the beginning of the year. Overall, I think I accomplished what I set out to do--I made great strides towards my general theme of simplicity, positivity, and loving myself.



Goal 1: complete three monthly challenges
I can only remember completing 2 monthly challenges in 2018 and both were in November. I did a 30-day eat-at-home challenge and a 30-day plank challenge. This year's eat-at-home challenge was amazing--I've really grown to love this challenge, and I was able to step it up a notch this year because I had more time to experiment in the kitchen. I didn't make any frozen pizza this time around, and I only used bottled pasta sauce once. Eventually, I'd like to move away from bottled sauces altogether; however, I may still need to get my frozen pizza fix every once in a while.

My friend told me about the plank challenge, which basically consists of doing one minute of plank every day for 30 days. I'm surprised by what a difference this made in my core strength and stomach definition. This challenge helped me strengthen my core in time for the meditation retreat, and I had little to no pain in my back despite sitting for hours on end in half-lotus position. I'd like to continue doing plank on a regular basis in the new year.

Goal 2: wake up 10 minutes after alarm sounds (maximum one snooze)
I was pretty inconsistent with this goal, and there was a pretty significant dip in the months of April, May, and June. I was very stressed out in these months due to work, and quitting my job was constantly on my mind. I found myself unmotivated and uninspired, and I couldn't get out of bed as a result. Coincidentally, I submitted my resignation notice at the end of June, and my numbers improved from there. Now, I can pretty much consistently wake up when my alarm sounds. :)

Goal 3: give therapy a try (one to three sessions with a psychologist)
Even though I had every intention of meeting this goal, I never got around to booking an appointment. After I quit my job, I found myself in a much better mental state, so I will be pending this goal, and it will not be a focus in 2019.

Goal 4: read for 10+ minutes every day (physical book or e-book)
My Way of Life app tells me I was pretty inconsistent with this goal in the months of July and August. In these two months, I averaged around 50% with this goal. I don't remember falling off my daily habit of reading but the timing makes sense. In all other months (except December), I averaged around 80%, which is reasonable. I'm going to continue tracking this habit; however, it won't be a specific goal in 2019.

Goal 5: learn about wine with hubby
Usually, my goals are set in accordance with the SMART criteria, and they are usually much more measurable as a result. While this goal isn't really measurable in the traditional sense, I think I can safely say that hubby and I were successful with learning about wine. We're definitely not experts, but our knowledge of wine increased tremendously in 2018.

Goal 6: strength train two to three times per week for 10+ minutes per session
Again, I was wildly inconsistent with this goal. I thought I wanted to make this a priority in 2018, but I always found a way to talk myself out of strength training. This goal is going to make a reappearance in 2019.

Goal 7: meet my annual savings goal
Surprisingly, I was able to meet my 2018 savings goal, despite receiving my last full-time paycheque in August. I attribute my success in this area to reducing my expenses significantly in the latter half of the year.

Goal 8: try on all items before buying (clothing and accessories)
This was a fun goal for me, and had the unexpected benefit of triggering an accidental no-buy year in these categories! I spent little to no money in 2018 in the areas of clothing, shoes, jewellery, handbags, and other accessories. I'll be posting more on this in the new year!

Overall, I think I did fairly well with my goals, and 2018 was definitely a good year for me in terms of self-development. I'm eager to see where 2019 takes me. I hope you all have a happy and safe New Year's Eve celebration. Cheers to 2019! x

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Axe Throwing Power Hour at Escape Manor

Hubby and I went axe throwing with a couple of friends yesterday, and we had an amazing time! We went to a new venue in downtown Toronto called Escape Manor, which offers both axe throwing and escape rooms (two separate experiences). There's a bar/lounge area where you can order drinks and play games either before or after your experience. We booked the Axe Throwing Power Hour experience, where we had a quick lesson and played a few mini-games with our hilarious and friendly coach, Spencer. Everyone picked up the technique pretty quickly, except for me. I had a grand ole time throwing the axe on the ground or bouncing it off the target. The axe stuck in the wood only a handful of times for me, but two of those times were in the bullseye, much to everyone's surprise and to my delight. I've had axe throwing on my list for at least a year now, so I'm very happy I finally got to try it. If you've ever wanted to try axe throwing, it's a ton of fun and I highly recommend checking out Escape Manor.


Note: not sponsored. We paid for everything ourselves.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Currently Reading #4


Truth be told, I haven't finished the books in my Currently Reading #3 post, and I wasn't planning to post another installment of this series before the new year; however, I recently received a PR book that I wanted to read before my annual goal setting exercise. Change Bites by Marissa S. Costonis describes five change management strategies that can be used to transform your health. The book focusses mainly on food, but there are also "Business Bites" that describe how the strategies can be applied in a work environment. The last chapter of the book contains some tips to apply the strategies to areas of your life that are "Beyond Food."

Although food goals aren't really on my radar for 2019, I've been trying to shift my diet to incorporate more whole foods, specifically in the vegetable and fruit categories. I've fallen off a bit over the holidays, as I often do, so this book was a really good reminder of how to get back on track. I really like that the book is structured like a workbook, with sections you can fill out at the end of each chapter. I tabbed a number of pages, with my favourite concepts being the following:

Finding and customizing a food plan that works for you.
Dogmatic following of strict rules doesn't often lead to lasting change, I've often advocated tweaking concepts and guiding principles to suit your own needs. You know yourself best, so don't be afraid to adapt an idea to suit your lifestyle.

Implementing quick wins to start shifting behaviours towards your goal.
Again, I've practiced this in my own life--by making gradual changes and mini "experiments" (like monthly challenges) to gently nudge my behaviour towards my ultimate goal. It isn't always apparent what I'm trying to do (even to myself), but looking back, I'm sometimes amazed by how my practice of setting "win quick" goals have led me to where I am today. Baby steps really can result in big changes.

Identifying your personal best foods.
This is the section where I started finding tremendous value in the book. Chapter 3 includes a list of nutritious foods that you can use to build your own list of "personal best foods," which are whole foods you currently eat and enjoy. Coincidentally, I keep a running list of "Healthy Food I Love" on my phone in case I hit a mental roadblock at the grocery store. My list was compiled a while ago, and I haven't revisited it in some time, so I'm very excited to go through the prompts in the book to add to my list of foods that make me feel great.

Fostering food flexibility by having a list of base recipes that you can customize in numerous ways.
This is another strategy that works well for me. With four successful monthly eat-at-home challenges under my belt (three of which were completed when I was working full-time), I can truly say that the key to staying motivated to cook regularly is having some go-to recipes you can whip up when you're feeling tired or uninspired, simply by using what you already have. My current favourite base recipes are salads, risotto, rice bowls, garlic shrimp pasta, overnight oats, and chia seed pudding. I customize these recipes based on what I have on hand, so I'll often change up the individual ingredients. I'm eager to experiment more in this area now that I have time.

Celebrating success by expressing gratitude.
The final section I want to touch on emphasizes taking a moment to thank your own body. This is such an important concept, and I'm glad it was included in the book. I'm often very hard on myself, but I'm learning to let go and appreciate all the amazing things my body does to keep me healthy.

I want to end off with a tiny real-life example of how this book helped me change my mindset and realize success in a different way. I've been logging 10,000 steps every day since I quit my job, which is no small feat, considering I really have no place to go on a day-to-day basis. Yesterday, I spent the majority of the day getting organized, cleaning up, and editing a YouTube video. We then had an amazing night with our friends playing a variety of games and throwing axes (more on that in my next vlog). I knew I was short on steps, so I took a moment to walk up 20+ flights of stairs in my condo building and back down again, while my husband got our friends settled in with drinks in our home. At 3am, after our friends had left, I noticed that I had only logged 9,955 steps in the previous calendar day. I was disappointed and angry with myself that I missed my goal by only 45 steps. When I woke up this morning, I was still upset with myself, despite having an incredible time with our friends! I thought, "why am I so fixated on this? I made an effort to meet the goal, I got some exercise in, and I had such a good day." I don't want to be the type of person who prioritizes meeting arbitrary goals over spending time with family and friends, so I knew I needed to change my mindset. Then it struck me that I actually did meet my goal. I was way past 45 steps between midnight and the time our friends left. A calendar day is an arbitrary constraint, and my day wasn't done just because the clock struck midnight. Someone who is a stickler for the rules may argue that I'm rationalizing, but I call it being flexible and kind to myself. :)

***

Another book I'd like to read fairly soon is The Three Box Solution: A Strategy for Leading Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan (pictured above). This is a book that I found in our condo building's library, and it sounds intriguing. Once I've read this book, I'll update this blog post with my thoughts.

Update (Jan 25/19): My interests have changed somewhat since picking up this book, so I ended skimming it quickly. I liked the overall concept, but I wasn't too interested in the business cases or examples.

Note: this post contains affiliate links. Change Bites was provided to me for PR purposes. This post is not sponsored and all opinions are my own.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Kitchen Clean Out and Organization

There are only a few more days left until the new year, and it's time to clean and organize my kitchen again! Hubby and I did a huge Costco haul on Boxing Day so there was stuff all over my counters. I managed to clear it all off into cupboards and give almost all the shelves a good cleaning. I lost steam towards the end so I didn't finish completely, but it feels good to get done what I did. Here's a little before and after.


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Our Little Creeper

There were a number of topics I could have blogged about today. I did my annual kitchen clean out, hubby and I met our friends for dinner at a restaurant we love going to at this time of year, we went shopping at T&T supermarket, and we doubly resisted temptations to (i) buy a bag of Numb & Spicy Hot Pot Flavor Lays and (ii) redeem the Raptors 3-pointer offer for free McDonald's french fries (I must say I feel a twinge of regret at having so much restraint as those chips look delicious). It was an eventful day, but it's nearly midnight, so I decided to post this photo instead and save the rest for my next vlog. We took this photo when we returned our rental car this evening. I love how creepy Lulu looks in this photo--she's creepy in the cutest way.

The Holidays

It's been an amazing holiday season. Since coming back from the silent meditation course, I've been lucky enough to spend time with some of my favourite people on the planet, pretty much on a daily basis. Tonight, hubby and I spent an inordinate amount of time catching up with friends at King Taps. We chatted about everything under the sun, and the hours flew by. Afterward, we headed to our friends' hotel for a nightcap--we were treated to some delicious whisky and a beautiful view of Nathan Phillips Square. It was the perfect day.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Hope you are having a very lovely Christmas Day! Instead of our usual extravagant gift exchange, hubby and I opted to give each other perishable stocking stuffers this year. We somehow still went overboard, so we now have sweet treats to last for months. Overall, it was a rather relaxing and cozy morning, even though we were on a bit of a sugar high if we're to be completely honest. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Quick and Easy Goat Cheese Appetizer

Happy holidays, everyone!! I hope you're having an amazing Christmas Eve. I'm back today with the quick and easy goat cheese appetizer recipe that I learned from my friend. She's an amazing cook and I've made this recipe so many times (as you may have seen in my vlogs). A few of you were curious about it, so here it is.



INGREDIENTS

• A small log of goat cheese--approximately 140-150 grams
• Half a large red onion, chopped into thin slices--approximately 150 grams (you can use any type of onion except for the sweet ones)
• 1 pint of cherry tomatoes--I've been using a bit more to up our veggie intake, but approximately 250-450 grams would work for this recipe (cherry tomatoes are better for this dish, but you can also use grape tomatoes)
• 1 tbsp of cooking oil
• Salt and pepper to taste (I usually only use a pinch of salt when sweating the onions)
• Balsamic reduction to taste
• Artisan crisps

Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a light meal.

METHOD

1. Spread the goat cheese on a large plate in a thin layer.
2. Sweat the onions in the oil and add a pinch of salt.
3. Add cherry tomatoes and cook until softened.
4. Season with salt and pepper (optional).
5. Add the onion and tomato mixture on top of the prepared plate containing the goat cheese.
6. Drizzle with balsamic glaze.
7. Serve with artisan crisps.

Quick, easy, delicious, and healthy! Please let me know if you end up making this. Thank you to my friend, M, for sharing this recipe with me!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Photo-a-Day

My annual goals have historically included a photo-a-day project of hubby and me. I decided to make this a goal a number of years ago, because I was finding that we weren't taking many photos together once we became serious camera enthusiasts. We were still taking tons of photos, but the images were typically of (or for) other people. We started devaluing the casual selfies from our phones and point-and-shoot cameras, preferring the perfectly exposed images from our DSLRs. I started the photo-a-day project in 2012, and it's been consistently on my goals list each year since. Eventually, the daily selfie became so entrenched in our routine that I felt comfortable taking it off my list of 2017 goals. That didn't mean we stopped though! I'm a little behind, but here are the photos we took together in 2017.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Pick of the Litter

Hubby and I went to watch Pick of the Litter today, and it was such a feel-good family film! I welled up within the first five minutes, and you could hear the audience collectively coo, giggle, or whisper, "awwww" periodically throughout the film in an endearing (i.e., not annoying) way. If you like puppies or cute animals in general, I highly recommend it. Pick of the Litter is playing at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema until Jan 10/19.


Note: trailer courtesy of IFC Films.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Vipassana 10-Day Silent Meditation Course - My Experience

Around 8 to 10 years ago, I met up with a former colleague, and she told me about attending a silent meditation retreat north of Toronto. The more she told me about it, the less it appealed to me. No books? No writing instruments? No phones?!?! Just, no. I thought to myself, "you couldn't pay me enough to go to a retreat like that."

As the years passed, the little seed she planted started germinating. I became increasingly curious about the retreat. I looked into it several times over the years, but I could never convince myself to use 2 precious weeks of vacation to attend the course. So I shelved the idea repeatedly.

Until last August.

By this time, I had quit my full-time job, and I was in my last few weeks of work. The meditation course popped into my mind on August 9/18, seemingly from out of nowhere. I checked the Ontario Vipassana Centre's website, and there was a 10-day course that was open and accepting applications from new students. I re-read all of the information on the website and decided to apply. A few days later, I received confirmation that my application was accepted! The course ran from Dec 5/18 to Dec 16/18, and I share my thoughts in the below video.

Although we've since lost touch, I would like to thank my former colleague, T, for planting the seed so many years ago.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

OneZo Tapioca

My close friend and I met up today for our annual holiday dinner. We went to Cafe Cancan and ate until our bellies were ready to burst. After dinner, my friend suggested we go to OneZo Tapioca to try the bubble tea (and to exchange holiday cards). She told me that OneZo makes bubbles from scratch daily, and we were both eager to try it. Since it was later in the evening, I opted for the caffeine-free Taro Milk Tea (hot with 25% sugar and purple tapioca). It has been months since I've had bubble tea, and it was delicious! So delicious that I bought a second one to bring home for hubby to try. He likes it! :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

My 10-Day Emotional Roller Coaster - Vipassana Silent Meditation

In today's post, I wanted to take a deep dive into the roller coaster ride of emotions that I experienced during my first 10-day Vipassana silent meditation course. Here's a visual depiction of the ups and downs:


Days 1 and 2 were smooth sailing. I was getting accustomed to the daily timetable and trying to figure out what worked for me. I experienced minor ups and downs but nothing severe. I distinctly recall thinking to myself that I didn't understand why so many people experienced such severe emotions during the 10-day course. I thought perhaps I could get away with not feeling a similar level of intensity. How naive.

On Day 3, the novelty of being in a new environment was starting to wear off. The primary emotion for me on this day was homesickness. I didn't necessarily feel lonely, but I missed interacting with my family and friends. I regretted my decision to take the 10-day course, and I was very fearful that something would happen to my loved ones, and that I would never see them again. I kept thinking to myself, "Why did I come here? I didn't need to do this. I was happy. I'll never do this again."

I woke up on Day 4 feeling even-keeled. I was excited to be learning a new technique as we had concentrated on Anapana meditation for the first 3 days of the course. We started learning Vipassana meditation in the afternoon, but my excitement quickly evaporated. Coming into the course, I had read that this meditation technique involves awareness via the use of a body scan; however, I wasn't prepared for a very long and repetitive set of instructions. I became very impatient and frustrated during the 1.5 hour long audio recording that taught us the technique. It dragged on, lemme tell ya. I was expecting more insight, and I left the meditation hall thinking, "That's it? That's what I came here for?" There was one more group meditation session that evening. I dragged myself to the meditation hall and literally felt like bursting into tears. I reluctantly started meditating. After an hour, my mood had completely changed. I somehow came out of my funk. I'm not sure what happened during that session, but I thought to myself, "This technique works!!"

On Day 5, I woke up eager to try meditation again, but I found myself down in the dumps in the afternoon. During the first 4 days, the afternoon sessions were the most difficult for me. I had trouble staying awake, my mind would wander, and I would feel terribly helpless once the sun started setting. "How am I going to last 5 more days?" I went to the afternoon meditation session feeling again like I was going to cry. But then I started meditating and felt the sensations for the first time. These are basically vibrations you can feel on or within your body that feel a bit like tingling, numbness, and electricity all rolled into one. I was elated when I got out of this session and again thought to myself, "This works!" This was the day I decided to implement a daily meditation practice once I got home.

Day 6 was when I experienced pure bliss. My mind was bursting with creative ideas, and I felt so light that levitation crossed my mind (it didn't happen). I'm not sure what happened to make me feel such joy, but I felt incredibly strong and resilient. That being said, it was also a little frustrating, because I wanted to go home and get on with my life. I had so many ideas I wanted to pursue, but no outlet as I didn't even have a pen to jot down my thoughts. Even still, I felt happy and excited for most of the day.

Then the night arrived, and with it, the darkness. I was tired during the day, but I had trouble sleeping, which is rare for me. I had nightmares and woke up in a panic. I was filled with intense paranoia. I wanted to run away, but where would I go? How would I get home? I stayed in bed, paralyzed with fear, but I felt a little better on the morning of Day 7. The paranoia and fear I felt last night had subsided and I felt ok again. Not for long. That afternoon, after the group meditation session, I had what must have been severe anxiety. I was filled with irrational negative thoughts that were beyond anything I've ever felt before. I felt trapped, like I was suffocating. I tried meditate, but there was intense pressure in my chest, and I felt like I was being sucked into the ground. I thought I was losing my mind. Fortunately, the bell sounded for tea break, so I got up, turned on the light, and continued on with the evening. But I was shaken, and I felt anxious that I'd have another sleepless night. Fortunately (again), I had a good evening meditation session, and I was able to sleep through the night.

The next day arrived, and I felt pretty good. Day 8 was the day I felt the most consistently content. I was happy but not in a state of bliss. I went through the day feeling pretty good. I even saw a bird, similar to how Dan Harris saw one during his meditation retreat (as described in his book, 10% Happier), except mine was a white-breasted nuthatch, whereas his was a hummingbird.

I felt utterly exhausted on Day 9. I had started to have some mild headaches at around the halfway point of the course, so I knew I was experiencing some mental fatigue, but I wasn't prepared for the physical lethargy. I felt like my legs were about to fall off, and I barely had energy for my daily walks. I still wanted to get my steps in, but I did it at a snail's pace. Between the mandatory meditation sessions, I would go back to my room to lie down. Sometimes I slept. I thought I would be excited because we were so close to the end, but instead I just felt tired.

Day 10 was an exciting day. Not only did we practice the Metta meditation technique, we got to break noble silence! When our vow of silence ended, I felt a twinge of sadness. I really enjoyed this aspect of the course, and it took me a while to return to the speaking world. I found I wanted to be by myself quite a bit at first, but I gradually reintegrated, and it was really nice to talk to my fellow course participants. We also got a light dinner in the evening, which was a welcome change. This day went by reasonably quickly, and the next day was time to go home.

The 10-day meditation course is structured in such a way to allow negative emotions to surface in a safe environment. You are forced to experience your emotions to the fullest, as you're not able to distract yourself (with TV, books, journals, food, etc.) and essentially suppress them. When you experience these emotions, the key takeaway is that they are anicca--this is the concept of impermanence. Nothing lasts, good or bad, so just observe how you feel when the negative emotions arise and wait for them to pass.

I found it really interesting that my negative emotions mostly centered around fear, paranoia, and self-doubt. I thought I would feel more anger, impatience, and frustration, as these were front and centre before I quit my job. Instead, I didn't feel any anger--only a little impatience and frustration on Day 4. Having gone through the 10-day course, I can definitely see that I was a textbook case of repressed emotions. After all, I've spent years distracting myself through shopping, eating, travelling, planning--anything to keep busy.

I've learned to sit with (and observe) my feelings now, and I know they will eventually pass. I'm still rather new to Vipassana, so I have a lot to learn and experience, which is why I'll be continuing my practice. I've been consistently meditating for two hours per day since Monday. Time will tell whether this technique will work for me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A Day in the Life #3 - Vipassana Silent Meditation Course

The schedule at the Vipassana 10-day silent meditation course was very organized and rather intense. I spent the first couple of days trying find ways to optimize my routine within the confines of the daily timetable. Here's what worked for me:

3:45am: woke up and got ready
4:30am: meditated in the meditation hall
6:30am: ate breakfast in the dining hall
7:15am: napped, walked, and/or did laundry
8am: meditated in the meditation hall (mandatory morning session for all participants)
9am: received instructions in the meditation hall and then meditated in my room
11am: ate lunch in the dining hall
11:45am: met with the assistant teacher (AT), walked, and/or napped
1pm: meditated in my room
2:30pm: meditated in the meditation hall (mandatory afternoon session for all participants)
3:30pm: received instructions in the meditation hall and then meditated in my room
5pm: went for tea time and ate fruit in the dining hall (my shower time was 5:10pm to 5:30pm so I only attended tea time every other day)
6pm: meditated in the meditation hall (mandatory evening session for all participants)
7pm: watched the evening discourse (video lecture series)
8:30pm: meditated with all participants in the meditation hall
9pm: returned to my room and got ready for bed
9:15pm: turned off lights and slept

My sleeping pattern had gotten very erratic since quitting my job, so I made sure to wake up early at around 6am for a couple of mornings before leaving for the course. This helped immensely! I was able to adjust to the above daily timetable with no issues. I'm happy to report I've maintained a reasonable sleep schedule since coming home. I've been sleeping at around 10pm or 11pm, and I wake up at around 5:30am or 6am.

I've also been trying to keep up with the recommended two hours of daily meditation, and I've been successful so far. I meditate for an hour in the morning before hubby wakes up and an hour in the afternoon before he comes home from work. I'll be posting more about the entire 10-day experience very soon, but suffice it to say that I learned what I believe are some very valuable life tools--valuable enough to spend two hours a day meditating for the foreseeable future. And despite looking hella creepy while doing it.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Apples

I ate so many at the silent meditation retreat, mainly because I enjoyed using the apple wedgers. I wanted to buy one straight away, but decided I didn't need one. After all, I have knives. However, as the days went on, I ate apple after apple after apple after apple, and I changed my mind. By the end of the course, I had convinced myself that I needed this kitchen gadget in my life. I bought one today. I figured it's $5 well spent if we end up eating more apples.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Silent Scream (of Joy)

It's been a roller coaster ride for the past ten days, but the silent meditation course ended up being incredibly valuable and rewarding. I'm ecstatic to be back at home with hubby, Truffle, and Lulu. I'll be posting in detail about my experience very soon. Hope you're all doing great. :)

(Note: photo by Irina Fortey Photography)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Noble Silence

I'll be taking a short break from social media for the next 10 days as I will be attending my first silent meditation retreat north of the city. Hope you are having a great start to December--see you on the 16th! x

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Mauritian Napolitaines

One of my former colleagues (and friend) used to bring me the most incredible shortbread sandwich cookies. Her sister has pretty much mastered the art of making these traditional sweets from Mauritius, and she makes them every year over the holidays. Both times my friend brought me these cookies, I reluctantly shared them with hubby, but it has definitely crossed my mind to eat them all myself.

My friend warned me that it's a bit of a process to make these cookies and that her sister has tweaked the recipe by making many batches over the years. It's been on my mind to try making them so I did yesterday. Everything was going along swimmingly until I got to the icing stage. I was using this recipe, which worked out very well for the most part, but I couldn't seem to frost the cookies to my liking. I broke a cookie in the process of trying a few different techniques, so hubby and I shared that one, and it was DELICIOUS. Eventually, I decided to spoon all the icing onto the cookies and call it a night.

Not being able to nicely coat the cookies to my liking ate away at me throughout the evening. I read a few different recipes and decided to try another method today. I couldn't scrape off the icing from yesterday so I just turned the cookies over and frosted the other side. Lo and behold--it worked! The below image to the right much more closely resembles the Mauritian Napolitaines in my memory. I'm definitely going to make these again (and perfect the recipe) when I'm back from the meditation retreat.


Monday, December 3, 2018

Thai Pineapple Fried Rice

It's been years since I've made pineapple fried rice. It used to be one of my go-to dishes. Hubby remembers me making it all the time, and in my heyday of cooking, I would be really extra and serve the fried rice in the hollowed out pineapple shell. I decided to recreate the dish today and used this recipe as the base--as per usual, I made a bunch of substitutions including omitting the shrimp, cashews, and coriander. I also added scrambled eggs and a bunch of other seasonings. I presented the fried rice in the pineapple shell, just to see if I could still remember how to do it, and it turned out so well! It was surprisingly fun to make this dish, and the result was delicious--the pungency of the shrimp paste and fish sauce really came though.


The pineapple shell was literally just for this blog post though. I put all the rice back in the wok right after taking this photo (and a video clip). We had to heat up the rice anyway, because I had made it earlier in the afternoon, before I totally fell off the rails trying to frost some shortbread sandwich cookies. Hubby came home to find me covered in cookie crumbs and icing--and not in a good way. If you want to see some delicious tasting but terrible looking cookies, you'll have to tune into my vlog tomorrow. Back to the fried rice. I feel kinda silly for going so many years without making this delicious dish. In an attempt to make up for lost time, I'm going to cook this again tomorrow, minus the pineapple shell.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Fancy-ing It Up

We ran out of roti a couple of days ago, so I made another batch. I also made a west indies style chicken curry in the Instant Pot and another batch of rice and peas. I had half a can of coconut milk left, so I used it to make a half portion of this haupia recipe, which is a Hawaiian coconut dessert that hubby and I both love. It was super easy to make, but it had to set in the fridge for 8-24 hours, so I promptly forgot about it. Until today.


I cut us three little pieces each, but they looked kinda naked on the plate, so I decided to add some blueberries. The recipe called for some toasted coconut, so I thought, "why not?" Then I remembered we still have some of the taro condensed cream from the Filipino supermarket, so I decided to fancy up the plate even more. My "edible art" needs some work, but I'm more than happy to keep trying. The end result was delicious!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Travel Bug

Hubby and I went to an ARC'TERYX event tonight, and I got a twinge of the travel bug. It's been a while since I've felt this way. It felt exciting, yet a bit foreign. I kind of want to go to Africa again, but we'll see.

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