Hello Fresh

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Before I was forced on to the very low carb diet, I was getting Hello Fresh boxes delivered. I begrudgingly cancelled it because there was usually a rice/pasta/bread based dish more than once a week and my life is sad now and I am not supposed to eat all that.

I meant to write about my general happiness with Hello Fresh earlier on, but never quite got around to it. It is a great service, and I really recommend it for busy people, especially busy singles or couples (might be a bit exxy for families, but it is definitely still cheaper than takeout).

For those who haven’t heard about it, they send you all (with the exception of basic staples i.e. olive oil) of the ingredients and recipes to make either three or five meals a week. Saves you having to be creative and saves you from having to go to the shops. Each meal takes less than half an hour to make. I ordered the box for two people, and always had one serve for dinner and one serve to take to work for lunch.

Vegetarians are catered for, they can choose the veggie box. The one major downside is that there isn’t options available for those on restricted diets (i.e.gluten free, low carb, low calorie, vegan, lactose intolerant and so on). Maybe in the future. You can modify the recipes, but that costs you extra money when you have to buy substitute ingredients, so I decided it wasn’t worth keeping it up. I do miss this service, just like I miss refined carbohydrates. I found that there was usually one standout recipe each week, and the other two recipes were good. I don’t recall any bad meals, only a couple of times I was annoyed when there was a salad in the middle of the freezing Canberra winter.

Anyway, if you want to try Hello Fresh and would like a $30 discount on your first box, use this code: N8DS9D.

Here’s some of the meals I made in my couple of months on it… sorry for the less than amazing photographs, all were taken on my phone only, fast and furious just like my weeknight cooking:

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@hellofreshau walnut and rosemary crumbed chicken with wedges and salad. Nom.

Very low carb + sugar diet making me feel awful, this helped.

I was so pumped to see my @hellofreshau box today. No brainpower for cooking.

#hellofresh Cajun chicken with feta and pearl couscous

Last night's #hellofresh was meatballs and mash. If you want to try out @hellofreshau and get a $30 discount, use my code: N8DS9D.

 

 

Hipster hotels in Jakarta

Jakarta is so freaking hip, it does not surprise me that there are a multitude of hipster hotels now. I stayed in two different ones on each end of the conference (Artotel Thamrin and Morrissey), and also had lunch and went to the rooftop bar at another one nearby (Kosenda). I would highly recommend all three, though I can’t speak to the rooms at Kosenda (I can speak to the fun rooftop bar, Awan Lounge, very highly though! The food was also very good at their Waha Kitchen).

Here’s a rundown and some snaps of the two I stayed in.

Artotel Thamrin

I got a great deal here, only paying about $37 AUD for a night on Agoda. This hotel is in a great location, just next to Sarinah and in walking distance to Plaza Indonesia and Grand Indonesia, as well as good eating spots in Menteng (walking in Jakarta, I know, I must be crazy…).

The outer facade is splashed with art, the lobby and restaurant area has a great design, and the rooms are all painted with murals by local artists. There is also apparently a rooftop bar opening there soon. It doesn’t have features like a pool or gym, but it is a great place to base yourself when you are going to be out on the town. Also, convenient to car free day if you stay on the weekend and fancy a Sunday morning wander with thousands of others! The rooms had free WiFi (of course, like all affordable Indonesian hotels… why have other parts of the world not caught on to this?) and as a nice touch, a Dolce Gusto espresso pod machine for coffee. My room was designed by Oky Rey Montha. I really love the concept of using the hotel rooms for showcasing the work of Indonesian artists.

Artotel Thamrin is cheap (about $40 a night) and awesome. And totally instagrammable #jakarta

Art all around at artotel Thamrin. #jakarta

Morrissey Jakarta

This place is too cool for school, so of course I loved staying here. Also very conveniently located on Jl Wahid Hasim, just by the corner with notorious Jl Jaksa, there’s lots of food and stuff nearby and it is only a short taxi or ojek to the Bundaran HI area or Menteng (or Monas and other attractions, if you are actually a tourist in Jakarta rather than a returnee like me).

My room had its own kitchen, which would have been great if I was staying longer as eating out all the time can get dull (wait, no… it never does in Jakarta. That is a lie!). I don’t think my photos do it any justice, so check out their website instead. I absolutely loved the pool area, and the gorgeous residents’ lounge on the roof. The lobby was charming, they had bikes that brave guests could use, and free WiFi. The included breakfast, served next door at Ocha and Bella, wasn’t amazing I have to say (though I had just come from four nights at the Mandarin Oriental), but it was fine. Ocha and Bella’s lunches and dinners though are very good. Really good value–I paid around $75 AU a night booking through Agoda.

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Residents’ lounge (there was also a gym, I didn’t photograph lest person working out there felt I was being pervy!)

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Residents’ lounge

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IMG_2626Ocha and Bella restaurant, downstairs

Giant salad.

Giant salad at Ocha and Bella for lunch. Managed to pretty much stick to my low carb diet (except for a couple of cocktails and a little bit of rice and one croissant at brunch at Koi when there were no low carb options at all) for the whole week. Quite an achievement in the Jakarta context!

 

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Back in Jakarta (fleetingly)

Pagi. #causindy #jakarta

(Staying at the Mandarin Oriental for the conference=not too tough)

I was back in Jakarta for a week a couple of weeks ago to attend the Conference of Australian and Indonesian Youth (CAUSINDY). It was certainly nice to be back. I enjoyed the conference and spending time with the other delegates, and also managed some catch ups with former colleagues and friends who are still in town (though not enough and there are many people I wanted to see that I didn’t get to! Jakarta makes cramming things in to a tight schedule so difficult, the traffic is not any better than before!).

While I really enjoyed being back and it was nice to be in a ‘real city’ for a week, and I certainly miss the Jak, I didn’t feel pressing pangs to move back. There was new stuff, there were things that were much the same, and there are definitely huge parts of my life there that I miss (friends, the people, the bars, the affordability of restaurants, nasi Padang, the affordability of amazing massages, cheap haircuts and cream baths, having someone else do my laundry and cleaning, speaking Indonesian and practicing it… unlike now, being able to run around the archipelago on the weekends and see amazing places, etc), I think now I’m in my extremely late 20s (for six more months, eeeek) I have other priorities, as much as it pains me to say it. If I could combine all of my priorities and all of the things in the above list, I totally would, and maybe I can in the future, but at the moment that would involve too many tradeoffs. It’s hard not to feel nostalgia when I go back there though for the extremely interesting life I had there for 2.5 years all up.

But anyway, enough of the pondering. Here’s a few photographic highlights.

Skye bar

Last time I was in Jakarta this place was too popular, but now there are other rooftop bars so the crowds are a bit more dispersed. It’s pretty cool! We had some crazy drinks and enjoyed the sunset views and then the twinkling nighttime ones. Canberra does not have bars on top of skyscrapers, this is one of its shortcomings.

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(I see one of my old apartment blocks, Sudirman Park!)

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Not a bad view.

 

 

Skye #jakarta

#jakarta

 

A couple of CAUSINDY shots

I didn’t take too many, I was too engrossed in conversation I guess. But here’s a couple.

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John vs John debate at #causindy

Some of my fellow delegates of #causindy in action.

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And here’s a couple of others courtesy of others.

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(Thanks ABC/Tribunews)

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(Thanks Pandu)

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(Thanks Luke)

New hair

Hardly groundbreaking, but I did get an affordable hair chop in Jakarta at Irwan Team in Grand Indonesia. After the pretty trying few months I have had as I wrote about in an earlier post (and unfortunately am still having to some degree), needed a fresh look. I should have bought a tongsis (selfie stick) in Jakarta though to improve my selfie skills. Couldn’t believe how popular the tongsis were, people using them everywhere!!

When in selfie-land...

 

 

Some Instagrams of Canberra’s finery

Even though I’ve been flat, and Canberra has been cold, it can still throw on the charm.  Here’s a couple of recent photos, all cameraphoned only.

#braddon #canberra #lonsdalest

 

Mise-en-scene in Lonsdale Street.

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Early morning walk, Dickson

Sulfur crested cockatoo in the newly blooming wattle #canberra

Cockatoo in the wattle, Ainslie

Everything is frozen! Great morning for a walk (-6 Celsius...) #canberra #canbrrra #dickson

 Dickson Wetlands covered in ice on a -7 degree morning.

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Walking by the lake at dusk.

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Early morning trees.

It's beginning to look a lot like spring! #canberra

The past few months…

I haven’t blogged since May, which is when I went to Melbourne for my 29th birthday. It has been a bit of a slog since then through a frosty winter and more, and I am shocked now (and somewhat relieved) to find myself in September with wattle and blossoms starting to spring up all around. Thank god.

So what was the slog?

 

Continue reading…

A weekend in Melbourne — food

#melbourne

 My favourite Instagram photo from my Melbourne trip.

I spent my birthday weekend down in Melbourne, and among shopping and general milling about with friends and catching up, I also got the chance to check out a few cool bars and cafes. Which was pretty much part of the whole Melbourne plan, obviously.

Oh hello. Salmon pastrami with saffron potatoes, smoked yoghurt and crumbed egg at Pope Joan. Amazing!

Salmon pastrami, saffron potatoes, golden egg, cucumber, yoghurt @ Pope Joan ($19)

1. Pope Joan, East Brunswick

This place is gorgeous–beautiful interior, great outdoor area, and most importantly, fabulous food. I spent a wonderful rainy Sunday morning here with my Kindle (currently reading Americanah by Chimamama Ngozi Adichie, it’s a great book). If you come early it is calm but it becomes busy fairly quickly with the brunch crowd.

2. The Alderman, East Brunswick

A great little wine bar on Lygon St with a roaring open fire, which is excellent for wintry nights and gossiping with friends. Check out the toilet that has the rather eyeopening mural depicting various options for sexytimes. There also seemed to be gorgeous dogs that just lived at the bar? So Melbourne.

Shakshunka eggs

3. Bowery to Williamsburg, City

A cool little New York subway-themed cafe, tucked away in a laneway in the city. I always find it amazing how you can get great food in the actual city in Melbourne–in Sydney, the ‘burbs shine and the CBD leaves much to be desired. I’m sure it is very busy during office-fooding-and-caffinating-hours (i.e. before work and lunch) but in that snippet of time in between it was calm and very satisfying. Pictured above is their shakshuka eggs with pastrami–they also had lots of Americana-themed foods on the menu. The coffee (Padre) was very nice too.

4. Two Little Pigs, Brunswick

Charcuterie meets coffee house. Nice coffee and a very nice pork roll.  A sweet little spot with friendly people, good prices and some nice boutiques nearby.  Light and bright. Not too far to stroll to Savers either.

I also had some non-food experiences as well, and by that I mean shopping. I’ll get into that in a separate post.

New glasses from Bonlook

So I decided I needed a spare pair of glasses around the place… but I mostly had just been looking at Bonlook for ages and wanting to order a pair.  So I did.  Well. I ordered two pairs. But for $99 US a pair, I figured I could take the gamble.

I actually really like both the pairs that I got, which is great. I was a bit hesitant about whether the sizing would work etc, because when I go to a glasses store I usually try on so many pairs that just don’t fit well, but I had no problems. I was also a bit hesitant about the looks, whether they would be a bit too hipster for me to pull off, but I think I can manage them.

I’d really recommend reading all the advice on Bonlook about measuring temple length, etc, or basing it off the measurements of a pair of glasses that you already have, to find the right size frames. They also have some good tools that make suggestions.

So here’s the pairs that I ordered from Bonlook (apologies for the selfies):

 

My new (spare) glasses arrived from #bonlook! Yay! $99 FTW. #whiskyThese are the Whisky frames in Chocolate Tortoise.

OK so maybe I ordered two pairs of spares. Yay! Online glasses shopping FTW. #bonlook #dylan

And these are the Dylan frames in Cinnamon Brown.

I think the Whisky frames are my favourites, but I do like them both.

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For comparison, these are the glasses below that I paid more than $400 AU for from OPSM last year (before my private health cover got reactivated from me being overseas).

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They are Ray Bans. I do really like them and I will probably still wear them the most. But I don’t think they are four times better quality than the Bonlook glasses. And there was basically nothing cheaper in the store when I was trying them on. Everything was designer branded and $400+ with lenses. It’s good that we can end this rort on fashion frames….

For those wondering how long it takes from ordering to delivery in Oz for Bonlook, it was just under two weeks for me.

I know some people have had troubles getting scripts out of their optometrists, I was fine on that luckily. But remember, they actually have to give you the script, they can’t just blackmail you into buying overpriced glasses from their shop. I just took a photo of the script and send it to Bonlook, and the glasses are sharp and clear and everything they should be.

If the looks at Bonlook don’t tickle your fancy, another friend told me about Sneaking Duck. The benefit there is that you can claim against your Australian health insurance if you have private cover — I couldn’t claim back my Bonlook glasses. So I may trying Sneaking Duck as well, since I won’t have to pay for a pair with my insurance… I’m tempted by the Sorbet or Red Comet for a really bold look! And Sneaking Duck have a free try on at home service, so I might just take advantage of that. Oscar Wylee are another Australian option with this service.

Good to see glasses being able to be more fun and affordable thanks to online shopping! I am probably going to collect a lot of pairs of spares now…

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Returnaversary

It’s been more than one year now since I came back to Canberra! It has gone super quickly. I’m feeling quite happy and settled, which is nice. Sure, the Can still annoys me sometimes, but my overall feelings toward the place are positive, largely thanks to the many wonderful people I know here.

Given that this is the first time I have spent more than a year in one place since Jakarta Stint 1 (2008-2010), it’s quite a nice and unusual feeling to not be thinking about the next move and just living in the moment.

Gorgeous sunrise this morning when I was hitting the gym.

Why I’m doing Walk in Her Shoes this week

This week, I’m walking 50km for the Walk in Her Shoes challenge, to raise funds for the work of CARE Australia to help women and girls living in poverty in developing countries. You can sponsor my walk here. Every little bit helps.

There’s a few reasons why I am doing it.

1. Some of my lovely colleagues decided to do it together in a team, and it’s fun to be cheeky and hassle each other about how many steps we have done, as well as to walk together.

2. When I was living in Timor-Leste and Indonesia, I saw how poverty disproportionately affects women and girls. Things such as having nearby water supply or sanitation facilities can make a huge difference by reducing the amount of time women and girls have to spend carrying water, by reducing the risk of them being attacked, etc. This isn’t just fundraising rhetoric, I have seen how important this is first hand, particularly when visiting remote villages in Timor-Leste. Getting water from far away sources eats up time. More free time means girls get to go to school, or women can grow vegetables or do other work to earn livelihoods. And when women have an income, they are more likely to pull their family out of poverty by spending on the important things, like health or education. Girls with education raise healthier children and have fewer children. It’s all connected, so I’m enthusiastic to raise money to support projects working on these issues.

(On a somewhat related note, imagine having your period and not having access to water, sanitary products or toilet facilities? What a nightmare. I wrote about this issue last year.)

There’s another reason. And it’s certainly not the main reason, but it is a reason none the less. At the risk of sounding irritatingly Gen Y, self-absorbed, first world problems and everything else…

3. Most people think I am lazy and it isn’t true!!!!

It’s so irritating, being a fat person, that people just make the assumption that I come home from work and flop on the sofa (yes, some days I do that, but not most). That I do my groceries at McDonald’s rather than at the farmer’s market.

Even if it doesn’t look like I do, I go to the gym at least three times a week. In summer, I was swimming multiple times a week. I regularly go for walks. I buzz around doing errands and cleaning and whatnot. I was doing Zumba and now I’m looking at doing floor barre. Even if I do come home and flop, it’s usually because I’m trying to write something or finish things off. I’m no angel, I’m not some crazy Paleo crossfit machine, but I do try. There have been times when I’ve been trying more (like when I used to run, yes, run, across the harbour bridge and back five times a week) and times when I’ve been trying less (being stuck in Jakarta traffic jams didn’t help the cause). But I’m not lazy. Yet I have basically been the same size I am now for well over a decade, so go figure (except for losing from dehydration when I caught giardia and paratyphoid when working overseas — yet another good reason to have improved access to clean water in developing countries!)

People are too quick to judge a book by its cover. For girls in many parts of the world, they are told they can’t do things simply because they are a girl and that judgement, compounded with other expectations based on gender, is actually the thing that holds them back. If I only did the things that people expected of me because of stereotypes about the shape of my body, I would have missed out on a whole lot of fun and many opportunities (i.e. did I mention that some people think fat people are stupid? Yet I work at a think tank.).

So this is an exercise in dispelling stereotypes, while supporting something that will empower women and girls in developing countries to smash the damaging stereotypes that persist in their communities.

I actually haven’t found it hard to hit the 10,000 steps a day target and I’m ahead of schedule on my KMs for the challenge. As long as I go for at least one walk a day or go to the gym, and then just do normal life stuff, I’ve hit 10,000 steps or more every day.  But it’s good to have a conscious reminder of it and to have an added motivation to drag myself out of bed at sunrise to go for walks (the picture above is a gorgeous sunrise I spotted on Tuesday). That being said, it’s also kinda inconvenient when you are busy, which is the whole point of the exercise I suppose. And I’m also very glad I don’t have to carry 20 litres of water with me while I do it.

It’s good to be able to prove a point while also raising funds to support women and girls who have to deal with far bigger challenges and problems than I do. So get on board and support the cause if you can.

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Rise and shine

It was a pretty gorgeous morning by the lake today. I should make more of an effort to get up early and go down there for walks. The sun is already rising later than it used to, so time is running out before wintriness sets in.

I also need to make the effort to take more photos. The camera phone on my new iPhone is much better than the old one. But I’m thinking I should practice more because I enjoy it and I think I haven’t really improved my skills at all in a while.

 

Much #canberra love this morning. I should get up early more often.IMG_1735

There was also a gorgeous sunset last night when I was walking back to Civic after work (well… after after work drinks).

#canberra

Skywhale

Her Majesty the Skywhale

I have loved Skywhale since I first saw her and her ten pendulous breasts.

But until now, I had never seen her in the flesh! I am feeling a bit off colour at the moment with some sort of minor bug or something, and I went to bed stupidly early last night and hence woke up stupidly early. I decided to go for a walk by the lake. Unbeknownst to me, the Canberra Balloon Spectacular had not yet finished and I was able to see Skywhale in all of her majesty. What a delightful way to start the day.

(If you haven’t heard it, the Ode to Skywhale song is worth a listen…)

Bow down before our breasty ruler, people of Canberra.

 

Boobpreciation. #skywhale #canberra

 

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She's so happy. #skywhale #nofilter #canberra

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Skywhale gathers her comrades. The time is nigh. She will liberate her people and form a new government, where breasts and their owners are given the respect they deserve.

PS. You may have noted that I have redesigned the blog! If you have any feedback, leave a comment.

Enlighten 2014

The weather here is strange lately. It looks like it is going to rain, then it doesn’t rain, yet it somehow surprisingly  then erupts into brilliant sunshine after you’ve already resigned yourself to cloud. I didn’t do much outdoorsy stuff on the Canberra Day long weekend because of this strange weather, but on Sunday evening I did go for a wander around the Parliamentary Triangle to look at some of the architectural projections for the Enlighten festival. They are always quite cool. And it was a beautiful clear and starry night, even though it had been hinting all day that it wouldn’t be.

 

Bless this mess?

New year.

I haven’t written on the blog much at all since New Year. It has actually been an incredibly busy month and a half, it has really felt like a whirlwind. Some of it has been good busy, some of it just busy busy.

So what have I done besides work…

I got a haircut because my hair was totes feral. (I always laugh when the hairdressers imply I should come back every 6-8 weeks. Yeah, cos I have $100+ and a couple of hours during the work day to burn every two months for a cut… sure.)

Curly:

Not even curly fro is making me enthusiastic that it is Monday. So sleeeepy.

Straight (kinda):

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I don’t know why I have cynical face in both of those photos. I should do that less. But it is so hard in the current environment. Reading the stories about what is happening on Manus is just shameful, not to mention everything else. And my bus keeps running late. So it’s hard to avoid cynical face under these circumstances.

I have started taking French classes, which is kind of fun but also a bit infuriating at the same time. I’m not exactly a patient little butterfly and I want to learn things quickly!

I am going to the gym a bit more. Next month I am doing the Walk in Her Shoes challenge to raise funds for CARE Australia, so if you would like to sponsor my walk for a good cause, check out my fundraising page.

Also, a project I’m helping out on a bit for survivors of family and sexual violence in PNG got funded, so that was exciting.

I have already failed on most of my new year’s resolutions, particularly the ones about saving money (i.e. my iPhone died and had to be replaced). So it’s good to get that out of the way early in the year.

I can now play two songs on the ukulele (Riptide and Hey Ho), mostly because I learned them while procrastinating on writing.

Other than that, generally things are good. Except I keep accidentally stumbling upon really hateful comments or articles on the internet about fat people or women lately, which is just a bit shit in general and really dents my mood when I’m too tired to get indignant about it.

But I think I need to go on a holiday somewhere this year. It’s been a year since I was last overseas and frankly it feels a bit unnatural to be in Australia for such a long period of time without a break. So now I’m starting to think on that.

So I should probably try to start saving money I guess.

At Penny University in Kingston

Penny University

I had been reading lots of hype about Penny University on Canberra blogs. Seeing lots of great photos. And hype hype hype.

So when little sister was in town we took a break from the multicultural festival and ventured Southside to Kingston to check it out. It was pretty impressive and nicely done. It was packed, so we were seated in the cute courtyard out back, which was pleasant enough, with its green wall, keeping the cutesy vintage theme of indoors (thankfully it was the morning so not too hot, might have been less fun out there later in the day in the recent heatwave we had).

Penny University courtyard Kingston

We were there for brunch, so obviously I needed a coffee. It was pretty good — I wasn’t blown away or anything but it was definitely a good coffee. Sister ordered avo eggs (saving me food envy because I am allergic to avocado!) and I ordered the Cazuela.

Sister brunch. No food envy since allergic to avocado.

Nom nomWe were both suitably enamored with our breakfasts. We also ordered the homemade iced teas, which were rather fabulous–the drinks menu had lots of very tempting options too, like shakes and juices.

Ice tea

All in all, it is a nice little spot. Great interior design, good food, good drinks, nice atmosphere, good service too (I was worried we would be forgotten out in the back courtyard, but thankfully not so)… but the usual Canberra hipster prices.