This year and a bit has been super hard. It’s also been really hard to sometimes ask for help, or to articulate how much being ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has impacted on me emotionally. But this video is such a wonderful explanation of the difference between empathy and sympathy. Those who have treated me with empathy have had the biggest impact this year–I’m in a situation where there aren’t many solutions, so what I’ve needed most is support. I hope ‘at least’ that going through this experience will make me better at being empathetic to others. I’ve definitely been guilty of being sympathetic at best, or diving into problem solving mode, when presented with a friend’s problem that seems too big for me to help them with. We all want to try to fix things and alleviate the pain of those we care about. But sometimes empathy and support is the best thing to offer up.
Really like this new Ellie Goulding song. Apparently, it’s not a romantic love song, but about her best friend.
I went on a mini Melbourne trip this week–less than 24 hours. The big reason was to appear on a panel on international volunteering, which I enjoyed participating in. I think it went well. It was kind of a big deal for me to do something like that after being so sick this year, and also having grappled a lot with my confidence and fright-or-flight response and so on since getting ill. I did get a dizzy spell during the panel but managed to act normal and ignore it, and when I looked at my heart rate monitor afterwards it was pretty high… I also got a little bit tongue tied from being tired right at the end, but only very minor things, only noticeable to me. So that was really positive. In the whirlwind trip, I also managed to see two of my friends, eat a great breakfast, and grab some clothes from H&M and Myer (which had a 40% off sale). I now have fatigue-shopping-visits to the Melbourne CBD down to an art– get off tram, go to H&M and the plus size section of Myer, then down to the food court of Emporium to recover (there’s a place there that sells good banh mie). Then back to the tram. My one cafe pit stop was Auction Rooms in North Melbourne, which was close to where I stayed. It was great–a beautiful high-ceilinged rustic space, great coffee and an innovative and delicious food menu.
I had the roast cauliflower, crispy buckwheat & sautéed kale with sago rösti, salsa verde and goats’ cheese & pea frittata. I really enjoyed it. The sago rosti was particularly surprising–really delicious. The dish had this great zingy freshness about it, from mint and salsa verde.
Today I am really sick though–a fatigue crash. But it isn’t a surprise one and I had factored it in. Feel pretty horrendous and am quite a bit of pain, but at least it is for a decent reason.
It’s been one year since my so-called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome really started messing with me.
It’s kind of upsetting to think about. A whole year, and no improvement.
So instead of dwelling on it, I decided to try to do something a little more useful with that energy instead.
I’ve written this story on Medium, called ‘What it’s like to wake up one day with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome‘. Hopefully it helps more people understand what it is like to have the condition, even a more ‘mild’ case like mine. Do take a read.
Banner image credit: Sleep walking. By Anne Marthe Widvey, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
I’ve quite honestly had such a hard year and a bit. The hardest ever for me. And sometimes I’ve made it even harder, by being extremely hard on myself. I’m trying to be kinder, trying to lower the expectations I have for my own productivity and performance and trying to look after my resilience for this whole unfortunate situation, but it’s hard work to shift lifelong traits and sometimes the energy to do it just isn’t there.
And it is hard to look after yourself or make yourself feel good when doing the dishes or laundry wipes you out, and when you are (beyond) broke. And when you feel that with the limited energy you have, you should be using it to catch up on things you are behind on and do work.
But self-care is important. All of the chick-blogs and sick-blogs out there tell me so.
So I’m trying to not feel guilty about spending a little money here and there on things that make me feel slightly happier or looked after, even though overall I’m really worried about my finances. Realistically I want to be spending my money on travelling the world or doing something exciting or life-establishing. So some small indulgence is barely even compensation for that… right?
One of the many many crappy things about being sick a lot is that sometimes I just don’t have the energy to cook. It’s especially been the case in winter, where it’s been too cold for easy things like salads (my summer staple) and just staying warm seems to use up extra energy. I usually have enough energy on the weekends to cook a big pot of curry or soup or something to last through the week, but some weeks it just doesn’t happen (last weekend for example– I used that energy to give the bathroom a clean, and today I used it to do heaps and heaps of laundry while the sun is out). During the week, I don’t have a lot of spare energy in the evenings to cook anything fussy, and if I’m really tired, chopping and cutting foods can make me more achey. So I have definitely been relying on convenience foods far, far more than I used to (though thankfully not all the time! Still been able to cook some good things every now and then). I also was lucky enough to get a microwave given to me earlier this year (I haven’t owned one for years and years and years), which has opened up doors to more fatigue-friendly options.
So I present to you a list of convenience foods I have found at Coles and Woolworths that are not too terrible. I can’t say this is the most cost-effective way to eat, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s the chronically fatigued guide to eating with minimal sadness about eating sad food and minimal energy depletion.
Veggies without any effort. And they are always there in the freezer, for whenever you have been too tired to either go to the supermarket or organise online shopping in time. Unless you have already eaten them all, then you are screwed and you better hope you have some of these other things kicking around.
Steamfresh Plus: Pearl Couscous with Chickpeas or Quinoa with Brown Rice
Once again, veggies that are always there, but with carbs included. These are a good little meal or side. I like the Pearl Couscous one best, and I add cheese or extra veg (like baby spinach) to make it more of a meal.
Woolworths Frozen Tropical Fruit or Mango
This is a really good snack for when you can’t be arsed to chop up a pineapple.
McCain Healthy Choice Wholegrain (Woolworths)
Microwave meals are always a bit sad, but at least these ones appear to have a low GI and are made with wholegrains. The ones I like best are the Beef & Chia Meatballs with Wholemeal Spaghetti or the Malaysian Beef Curry with Brown and Wild Rice.
SuperNature frozen meals (Coles)
Again, frozen meals are pretty high on the sad scale, and they only get a play when I’m super tired, but these ones are the best ones I’ve had–they taste good and seem reasonably healthy. They aren’t cheap though ($6+) and never seem to be on sale. My favourites are the Steam Malay Yellow Chicken Curry with Brown Rice; Chicken, Asparagus and Pearl Barley Risotto; and the Beef, Kale and Red Quinoa Lasagne. Oh, and the salmon miso noodle one. Oh, and the Mediterranean Polenta one. Actually they are all pretty good.
Frozen salmon/fish that can be microwaved
There’s a couple of brands of frozen salmon fillets that come in steam/microwave bags, some with marinades. Easy protein, to go with some easy veggies.
Other microwavable or non-cooking options
Coles Gluten Free Quinoa and Brown Rice Cups – Moroccan and Mexican flavours
These are an easy snack, lunch or side and are fairly tasty, and low GI. Add some steamed vegetables, or a bit of grated cheese, or a bit of sour cream, and you’ve got a reasonably balanced meal, I think. That’s what I tell myself anyway. There’s also plain pre-cooked quinoa cups, which are a good alternative to rice with curries etc.
Little bags of broccoli/beans/cauliflower they sell in the veggie part of Coles
These little bags of fresh veggies steam in the microwave in 90 seconds. You can then just eat them with whatever you want on them. Super easy, the only guilty thing I feel about them is the plastic waste, but that applies to basically everything on this list.
Baby brussel sprouts
At Woolies, they sell trays of baby brussel sprouts. The baby ones are great for microwaving (I used a microwave steamer like this one), and you don’t even have to cut them in half like with the bigger brussel sprouts, which when you are having an achey or dizzy day is a big bonus. I like to eat them tossed in some Nuttelex, with a splash of Kewpie Roasted Sesame Dressing (the dressing is totally unhealthy, but it tastes really good, and you can totally justify it by eating a big bowl of brussel sprouts though, right?).
Another extremely low-effort vegetable that can be quickly steamed in the microwave and doesn’t need chopping.
I hate standard tinned baked beans–I have made my own beautiful baked beans at home before, and so it saddens me to return to the supermarket offerings. Plus they are often wayyyyy too salty and don’t even taste like they’ve ever encountered an actual tomato. But, Heinz Spanish Style Beanz are pretty good for supermarket ones. With some sautéed baby spinach and toast, they don’t make me too food-sad.
The staple of students everywhere, it goes on anything and with anything. But I go through tuna phases, and then forget about it as an option for ages, and then am like… that’s right, tuna would go with this! And then I eat tuna on everything for two weeks and then get over it again. Tuna with sriracha sauce on Woolworths Select Brown Rice Crackers may not be the most balanced of meals, but it is there for you if things get really tough. There’s also the packets that are tuna mixed with beans, they are kind of OK too if you put some veggies with them.
Chobani yoghurt with steel cut oats
For the days when putting some muesli in a bowl and then putting yoghurt on top of it seems too hard, Chobani has put the yoghurt and some steel cut oats in a little squeezy bag all together that you don’t even need a spoon to eat (lets be real… if I have been sick for a week, sometimes all the cutlery in the house is dirty). Coconut flavour is my favourite, but all of them taste OK and are easy for days when even toast seems hard, or are good for on-the-go breakfast.
Pitango or Momo’s Meals soups
They have a good variety of these upmarket ready-soups at my local IGA (Ainslie). They taste pretty nice and are easy and are not too unhealthy.
Other foods that can be made with minimal effort
Pre-sliced mushrooms, baby spinach
Saute, eat on toast. Add an egg perhaps.
Seriously a lifesaver. Among supermarket breads, I like either Burgen Rye, or Bill’s Organic Bakery Ancient Grains Sourdough (Woolworths). For things to go on the bread, beyond Vegemite, I really like the Mayver’s range of spreads, especially the peanut and coconut butter.
Put it on toast with cream cheese, baby spinach or sliced cucumbers. Or with some steamed asparagus and an egg.
Turning Coles veggies that are already chopped into things
At Coles, they have bags of shredded kale, and diced pumpkin. Add a can of chickpeas, chop up an onion, and add curry spices, and you’ve got yourself a curry with minimal exertion. (Microwavable brown rice bags are your friend if you can’t even deal with a rice cooker–at Coles they have a nice one that has Ancient Grains). There’s also stir fry veggies at Coles and Woolies that just need to be stir fried with some sort of flavour.
Already chopped soup
At Coles, they have pre-diced vegetables for making vegetable soups, some with a soup base included. It’s very easy to make and tastes significantly better than soup from a can. Add a can of four bean mix to the chopped veggies for more protein, or add a bit of harissa or other spice to the soup to give it some kick.
Jamie Oliver meats at Woolworths that already have flavours on them
Good if you have the energy to cook some chicken or meat, yet not enough energy to do anything interesting to it.
Sometimes you haven’t stocked up the larder before a fatigue smash. And sometimes you are just sad and annoyed about being sick and want takeaway that is naughty or yummy. For delivery in Canberra, EatNow is very convenient. My favourite places to order from are the Lao/Thai Two Sisters restaurant, or 7 Village Indian. I really wish my favourite Vietnamese place, favourite dumpling place and favourite Laksa place would get on board with this site though!
Also, I’ve ordered delivery from Coles and Woolworths when I’ve been too tired to do a big shop, and it is quite convenient. It saves a lot of energy, especially as they bring the bags right into your kitchen. Though I have to say, they have each stuffed up my order once– Coles forgetting all my frozen things, Woolworths trying to deliver me 20 bottles of flavoured Pump water (eww, did not want) in addition to my groceries. But generally pretty good. Other options include services like Hello Fresh, or health food grocers like Doorstep Organics.
Anyway, that’s my list. Obviously I’m not doing paleo/super low carb right now… my next point of call since I have had no improvement in my condition might be more alternative therapies (though I am hugely skeptical), but if they tell me to do some crazy restrictive diet then most of these things won’t work. But at the moment, these are my not-too-terrible lazy options.
I haven’t written on here for two months. It’s probably because it has been a particularly hard two months, though I guess overall it’s really been a hard year. My fatigue hasn’t gotten any better, I’ve had flare-ups of the dizziness and autonomic problems, and I tried some new medications to control the symptoms… one of which appeared to help for a while but then made things worse, the other of which came with several weeks of terrible initial side effects. I’ve stacked back on weight, and I’ve just felt like being sick has really been grinding me down. I’m always broke now, which is demoralising, and it’s also been quite bitterly cold, meaning some days I get achey and sore, and some days I just can’t get warm at all. I’m just hoping that this all turns a corner soon… maybe Spring will be the solution?
On the upside, nice things have happened among the mess. Yesterday, I saw two friends get married in a beautiful and touching ceremony, and enjoyed celebrating with them. The weekend before, I was able to attend at least part of the hen’s party for the bride. I’ve managed to enjoy snippets of sunshine when the weather gods have graced us with sunny winter days. I read an interesting book on life for the elite in North Korea (“Without you, there is no us” by Suki Kim) and listened to some good episodes of This American Life. I had a really nice (though of course bittersweet) time farewelling a colleague with my work people. I managed to cook a few good things (including cooking this awesome Ottolenghi soup from Plenty More three times…). I watched lots of Amy Schumer clips on YouTube, and the third season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. And people are still being nice to me and patient with me. I can’t believe that they are. I feel so guilty about all of this, like I’m letting lots of people down. And so frustrated with myself that I’m not doing better or doing more. But some people are being nicer to me about this than I could ever be to myself, even after all these months.
Anyway, some random pictures to show that I do get out of bed sometimes.
I do try and go for a dedicated walk at least once a week, even though I can’t go very far. Fortunately, there are pretty spots and paths nearby in my neighbourhood. I miss being able to go for big walks like I was doing last year. When driving over Lake Burley Griffin the other day, I thought “I’ll really feel like I am pretty much back to normal if I can go for a walk around the lake”. So I guess that’s a goal. At the moment, 2km (with a break in the middle, and walking pretty slow) is pushing it.
Anyway, this ramble is all just because I wanted to post some pretty autumn photos.
I went to Melbourne for the long weekend, for a friend’s birthday and to catch up with people. And just to get out of town. In hindsight, it was perhaps overly ambitious, and I was pretty overtired the whole time, and then for a few days when I got back to the office. It’s back to ‘normal’ now. I did manage not to have a total crash though, no bedridden/barely able to stand up days, so I guess that’s a win! I’m feeling a bit more optimistic as this whole health situation seems to have taken minuscule steps in the right direction… finally getting some treatment for the POTS/dysautonomia/tachycardia/not-clearly-labelled-yet symptoms has started to help, and I feel less frequently/intensely dizzy (it is by no means gone though and is still a big problem) and I feel like I have a bit more energy (we are talking very, very small additional quantities here! But something is better than nothing!). But it still can be very variable by the day, and I think a Melbourne trip (by road) for such a short time period overdid it. Also, in the city you tend to walk a lot more, and the weather is cold right now. This Melbourne trip felt much harder than the Bali trip, which is weird, perhaps it was because it was more compressed.
I know it seems crazy to keep going on these trips when they come with a backlash, but the little trips help me have something to look forward to, and they are always to catch up with friends which I always want to do. I also can’t resist the experiment, secretly hoping that I won’t have any problems and it might prove I can consider ‘real’ travel again soon… unfortunately the experiments have so far not really yielded that result…
Anyway, there were some nice moments in there among the tiredness catching up with people, eating good foods and so on. I did wander a little and take some photos, but of course I couldn’t do too much. We stayed in Collingwood, and good places that we/I ate included Proud Mary, The Commoner, Neighbourhood Wine, and Archie’s All Day.
Here’s some random pics.
I’m trying to find new music, because listening to it is one of the only things I can really do sometimes at the moment. I’m mostly finding pop, because I guess I need cheering up. My car radio/CD player doesn’t work, and I tend to listen to Radio National these days so I’m not exactly picking up sick new beats as much as I used to. Sometimes I find stuff through Spotify, but when I was young (!!) and in Sydney I used to go to live gigs all the time and it was so great, I miss that. But I haven’t really been doing the whole ‘engaging with new music’ thing for a while. I felt so super old when I barely knew any of the songs on the Triple J Hottest 100 this year. I think that’s an official hallmark of getting old. Apparently, on average you stop listening to new music at 33, so I only have a couple of years left to widen out the collection. (… which raises the question, will I still be grooving in the kitchen to Beyonce when I’m 70? I hope so.)
This is my favourite song at the moment — I am a huge Belle & Sebastian fan from way back, and this (Nobody’s Empire) is my favourite from their latest album (the whole album is great, it is called Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance). I started liking the song and playing it a lot, not thinking too much about the lyrics, and then I found out from reading an article in The Guardian that the song is actually about the lead singer Stuart Murdoch’s long battle with ME/CFS. Interesting coincidence. I can’t pick a ‘favourite ever’ B&S song, but this one is definitely up there (other favourites are Dress Up in You, basically the whole Tigermilk album, Like Dylan in the Movies, I want the world to stop, Lazy Line Painter Jane, Get me away from here I’m dying, ok there’s heaps more I’ll just stop now). I was a bit sad because Belle and Sebastian played some gigs in Sydney earlier this year and I would have loved to go, but a trip up to Sydney for a weeknight concert seemed way too tiring, like something that would end up leading to several days of sick backlash. Camera Obscura is also a long-time favourite band… all a bit twee I know!
I also love Sia’s Elastic Heart… I think the video clip is amazing as well.
Even though this isn’t a new song, I recently re-found Solange’s Losing You in my Spotify and have been playing it a bit.
For pure pop, I was playing this Ellie Goulding song when out on walks before getting sick. It was one of the tracks for the Body Pump class I was going to each week.
I am also a bit of a fan of Jessie J, Arian Grande and Nicki Minaj’s Bang Bang — it’s just a fun song. I really feel like I shouldn’t like it because I am not huge fans of any of them really and it is so Top 40…. but it is catchy.
And then, of course, there’s Bey, for dramatic kitchen karaoke.
It doesn’t hurt that she samples one of my favourite authors, Chimanda Ngozi Adichie.
Crawling back from another sizable fatigue crash. Don’t know what I did wrong this time. Perhaps I’m being punished for vaccuuming the floors for the first time in more than a month. Or for going to my friend’s housewarming for a couple of hours on the weekend. Or for having a busier day at work on Monday. Or for buying some groceries. Who knows. All I know is that I’m punished the most for doing the things I want to do, and it’s cruel and torturous.
The crashes really scare me, because nobody can assure me that they won’t get worse. When I have a crash day/s and feel awful, I’m terrified that I’ve perhaps accidentally reset the illness to a new, more terrible baseline. When you read other people’s experiences of ME/CFS, it happens–they can be sick like me, and then make it way worse by doing too much. They can plummet from the level I’m at now to being bedridden and unable to work. Writer Laura Hillenbrand had this happen [pdf], from taking a cross-country car trip. There’s plenty of similar stories in the terrifying world of the internet.
But nobody can definitively tell me if I should do even less or try to hang on to what I have. Sometimes I feel like I’m clinging on to it all by the tips of my fingers and it’s really hard to hold on, but I really don’t want to let go and fall off the illness cliff, even though that’s what some people seem to advocate. One ‘expert’ says I have to cut back more (I’ve already cut back and given up so much, I don’t know how much more I can bear to lose), another says I should be going for walks and trying to do “as much as I can manage”– which is what I do. But then the crash comes. They all tell me constantly that I should be losing weight, yet nobody can explain how since diet isn’t working without exercise, especially since I’ve lost all my muscle tone in the last seven months. Some shame me for doing too much, others for not doing enough. And then there’s the ones who have made assumptions that it is in my head, or that I must be lazy because I am fat so I probably just don’t want to do anything or work hard, which is of course total bullshit. Since I have orthostatic intolerance problems, it’s also suspected now that I also have either Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or some sort of similar partial dysautonomia causing tachycardia when I stand up or do even the smallest amount of activity–apparently a common comorbidity with ME/CFS. So I am trying some medication to try to help with that–little luck with it so far. So while I’ve encountered some clinicians who are trying to help with the symptoms or who are at least sympathetic, it’s hard not to feel like nobody can really help me, and that barely anyone understands.
With an illness nobody really knows anything about, there’s a lot of useless information out there, and a lot of lies. Crackpot cures without the faintest trace of scientific evidence. Blogs by the undiagnosed yet conspiratorial. Advice from those looking to make a dollar out of desperation. And then the lies to my face. After being told it would take a year to see improvement by one health professional, the logical follow-up question–have you ever known anyone who has recovered in a year?– was dodged more speedily than the treasurer would dodge a question about where the budget emergency has gone. So I’m guessing that’s a no.
Despite my innate skepticism of all things loopy, I find myself edging towards the path of taking more ‘alternate’ measures, even when my rational self urges restraint and wants to see some evidence. But I still wonder…. should I get the flat completely cleaned by professionals to check there’s not toxic mold? Will a maca supplement, or baobab powder, or spirulina help? I felt worse after drinking a some juice the other day, could I have fructose intolerance?
I would definitely say that ME/CFS is not caused by crazy, but it’s understandable that it can turn you somewhat nutty pretty quickly in the absence of real help or treatment.
There’s only been a couple of useful resources I’ve found in all my trawling. I guess I was ‘lucky’ to get diagnosed around the same time as the new Institute of Medicine report on ME/CFS came out in February, so there was a flurry of media coverage of the plan to give the illness a new name and of the more serious recognition of it in the report. One of the better articles on this was in the New Yorker by Meaghan O’Rourke, who writes on chronic illness.
I like this line:
“the fatigue that affects ME/CFS patients is as different from regular, end-of-the-day tiredness as Ebola is from the common cold”
This op-ed in the New York Times around the same time was also good, as was this piece in The Atlantic. Emerge Australia is one of the better local resources. And these guidelines [PDF] for GPs in South Australia are also a decent overview of the condition (if not somewhat depressing, citing the average window to see some improvement as 3-5 years).
But none of them have answers. So I’m still frustrated, sick and stuck in the middle of lots of conflicting advice.
*Banner image from Hyperbole and a Half.
It’s my 30th birthday tomorrow, which in some ways is quite unfortunate. I’d really hoped to have my shit together much more when entering this new decade. Early last year, I had things in my mind laid out that I needed to achieve, a loose plan (yet I never muttered it aloud to many people, keeping up my facade of complete indecisiveness). I was even considering adult steps like getting a mortgage of my own instead of paying off my landlord’s. Then as I got more tired and then sick, everything went kaboom.
Now I’m turning 30 feeling quite directionless, unsure if my previous plans are feasible or smart anymore, feeling like I’m in a big waiting room, or flying in a holding pattern. It’s not even a holding pattern where you can just distract yourself with other things, like going on inevitably terrible dates or drinking or buying clothes you don’t need or ambling around Southeast Asia pondering the meaning of life or just exercising and exercising. It’s a grinding, broke, energy-less holding pattern where so many things seem to be going backwards that you’re just hugely thankful for the ones that are standing still.
So I guess I wish I could put off this milestone until I had my act together again, but unfortunately aging doesn’t work that way.
I haven’t been feeling very well for the last week or so (a period of ‘noticeably worse than my baseline level of crap, but still able to get up and go to work’). I was also feeling kinda gloomy. I don’t think the change in weather is helping the whole fatigue situation, as all my aches and pains have intensified, adding to the general ‘living an old person’s life before my time’ atmosphere.
As a distraction, and because I can’t do anything more productive, I’ve been rewatching the early seasons of Mad Men, one of my favourite shows. It is finishing up in the US and the final episodes have so many throwbacks to themes from earlier episodes that I had to stretch my memory to recall, so I decided to start from the beginning.
Peggy is my favourite character, and Peggy and Don’s somewhat unlikely friendship is also one of my favourite parts of the plot (I’m not one of those weird people who wants them to get together though). Also Sally Draper’s plot!
Anyway, I’ll try not to do spoilers, but in Season 7 Part 1 there is this brilliant scene where Peggy tells Don she just turned 30 and I just loved it (terrible quality video below). It seems like angsting about what you have or don’t have, or have done or haven’t done, is basically a hallmark of all adult birthdays, and the big ones pull the biggest triggers… and it probably only gets worse.
There’s also a brilliant scene in Season 2 (in a brilliant episode), where there is a flashback to Don coming to see Peggy when she is in a psych ward after her surprise baby delivery (ok, I guess those are spoilers, but if you haven’t watched Season 1, you are way behind). I can’t find a video. Don, with his beautiful yet troubled face, leans in and whispers to the heavily medicated Peggy: “Peggy, listen to me, get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.”
Even though doctors keep telling me this isn’t going to go anywhere for a long time, using plurals like “years” to describe any recovery period, I really hope that my current situation is like this. One that, soon enough, will be forgotten. Where I’ll only remember the good parts, like the people who helped and who were kind. Where I’ll be too busy making plans, and perhaps even acting on them, to remember the unpleasant details, and where I’ll be going forward instead of standing still.
Going out for a nice dinner every now and then with some friends is one of the things that has been keeping me emotionally afloat lately! My strict diet from last year has relaxed simply due to being too tired to deal with it in the last few months (though I need to get back on it as with basically no physical activity, the weight is creeping back even while still eating healthy 90 per cent of the time… another frustration…), but at least taking a break from my calorie counting app means I don’t feel too bad about eating out every now and then! Before it would wrack me with pangs of guilt as I tried to estimate the calories in obscure menu items. Dinners are also manageable with my day-to-day fatigue, as long as I plan/rest in advance, and am not having an especially bad day. My friends must be commended for not only being awesome in so many ways, but also for acquiescing to ridiculously early dinners so that I don’t flake out before we get to dessert. You have a space at 6.15pm for dinner? Yes please, book us in! 8.30pm, sorry that’s far too late. Tragic!
Anyway, I’ve tried out two places lately that I would rave about — Akiba and Eighty Six.
Eighty Six in Braddon has been around for a while, but I went there for the first time last night. It is a great space, with the music adding to the buzzing atmosphere, and our server was really friendly and helpful. My ‘Jessica Rabbit’ cocktail was pretty great, great enough to order a second round! Though one of my friends tried a cocktail with mescal which was a bit overpoweringly smokey for all our likings — I’ve had mescal before, but I must have had a cheap and mild version that was way less smokey, as this was full on. All the food we ordered was fantastic — the duck buns, Asian-style steak tartare and pulled pork terrine. The blackened chicken with buttermilk slaw was the winner of the night though, so tasty! The chicken was beautifully cooked and the marinade was perfect– spicy but not overpowering. We also had the banoffie pie and caramel popcorn sundae for dessert — the banoffie pie was to die for, so good! The sundae was also great, but the pie was definitely the winner of the two desserts. The desserts were quite intense, definitely for sharing. As with basically every restaurant in Canberra these days, the whole set up was a share-plate type arrangement. I would definitely go back again, and I just saw on their Facebook page that they do Sunday brunches, which I didn’t know about but would be very keen to try! My one comment would be that there didn’t seem to be a lot of options for vegetarians.
Akiba in Civic opened towards the end of last year (pictured up top), and I’ve been twice in the last couple of months. It was great both times — very attentive service, a great cocktail, beer and cider list, and above all else, fantastic food! It is another buzzing, well designed space. It even impressed visiting Melbournian friends, so that’s always a good sign. There is lots of attention to detail in the cocktails, and also with the food, which has an Asian fusion bent (though predominantly Japanese influence). From the various things I have tried there, I would recommend everything, but especially: the kingfish sashimi with coconut, nam jim and coriander; shitakke and water chestnut dumplings; the beef short rib; the soy cured salmon belly; both the pork belly and soft shell crab buns; and the kimchi & angasi pancake. I’ve also had the fried rice and soba noodle salad, and they were both very good, just not highlights like those other dishes. I’ve also tasted or drank the Clover Club, Spiced Rum Sour and Fukushima Zombie cocktails and they are all thumbs up good. The $45 ‘feed me’ option is good for groups who can’t decide what to order. They are also doing yum cha on the weekends, which I’d be keen to try out.
(I also went to Monster in New Acton at the end of last year, which is in a similar price point/share plate/quality/hipsterness/design level — we really enjoyed it, but it was too long ago for me to write any kind of more detailed review–keen to go back sometime soon though!).
Now on to the other end of the hipster food spectrum, the food trucks….
I recently checked out the food truck hub on Lonsdale Street in Braddon called The Hamlet. It’s a cool concept (though as the weather gets cooler, tempting people outdoors might be a challenge–I think it is only going to be a temporary set up though before the block gets redeveloped for apartments, though it also doesn’t look tooooo temporary, so might be around for a while). All the food that our group tried was enjoyed — I had a hotdog from Broddog (the Broddog itself, though there are heaps of other options), which was very tasty though not a cheap snack (It made me think, I don’t think I have actually eaten a hot dog since I was living in the US nearly five years ago!), and an old school milkshake from April’s Caravan, which was also yum (my god though… $7-$9 for a milkshake, that right there is Canberra hipster pricing). There’s also a pizza shop in there, a place doing spit roast rolls, a Peruvian street food place, an Indian street food place, a place selling pies, a place selling coffee. And you can buy some beers at the bottlo across the road and bring them across to enjoy with your meal, which is great. So it’s a good place for very casual dining with friends. It also gives that food festival vibe the whole year around, which Canberrans love, though there are a lot of ‘meat on bread’ type foods so it would be good to see more of a mix.
Just some miscellaneous Bali instagrams to round off my set of Bali posts. I flew out the day before Nyepi, as I’ve stayed in Bali for Nyepi in the past, so I didn’t see the ogoh-ogoh parades and needed to get back to Australia to try to rest for a couple of days before going back to work, but we did see some of the preparations, including a street party outside a local temple one night.
And there’s also a couple of very short videos of the dancing and gamelan.
And now some more miscellaneous Bali photos:
And that’s it from my post-holiday Bali blogging. I’m wishing and hoping that I can go on a trip overseas again soon! I’m still sad that backpacking though India/Nepal seems out of the question for a while now, which was what I had planned for this year, but maybe I can manage somewhere easier like Japan once I am more recovered (fingers crossed) and less broke (fingers crossed).
So as I have mentioned, I didn’t do anything on my holiday in Bali except make sure that the places we went to for breakfast, lunch and dinner were excellent. That goal was achieved.
At the hotel we stayed at in Sanur, the traditional ‘mid range hotel included breakfast’ was on offer. Sweet white bread, a sad looking omelette, some super salty mie goreng and some fried bananas. That was the only culinary lowlight of the trip.
So here’s the other places we visited that were great in Bali (Seminyak, Ubud, Sanur).
Perfect place to curl up in a corner with a coffee and a book (I was reading Indonesia Etc, I wrote a quick review over here. I also read Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, another excellent book from one of my favourite authors) or to catch up on emails with the free WiFi. Revolver bills itself as a coffee specialist, and the coffee was really good. I also got breakfast here twice and it was affordable and yum (I had the ‘Bang Bang’ fruit, yoghurt and granola one day and the ‘AK 47’ eggs with salsa on sourdough another day). The small space fills up pretty quickly around ‘people on holiday breakfast time’ i.e. 10-11am, so I’d recommend getting here a bit earlier, which is what I did. They also have another small shop around the Petitinget/Batu Belig area.
I’ve been here before, and it is still great for a high quality, good value, relaxed European lunch.
We came here for a quick coffee and breakfast after arriving in Ubud. Our driver for the day was challenging to say the least (he disappeared halfway through the day as we went for a walk around the block and ‘didn’t tell him’ and my sister and I were actually relieved, even though it put us out of pocket! He also made romantic advances on me, and when they were rebuffed, decided to try them out on sister… super awkward and tiring, and disingenuous, when I wasn’t feeling energetic anyway. I had forgot that annoying feeling of someone trying to hit on you so clearly for visa/economic reasons, it’s just icky). So our Ubud day was somewhat tainted by that. I was just too tired to put up with the BS. Anyway, he basically refused to take me to this coffee shop, alleging that it was owned by foreigners and I should go to the Kopi Luwak tourist trap that he would clearly get a kickback from for taking us to. (He also told my sister she shouldn’t go to class at the Yoga Barn for the same reason and that he could teach her instead…). So I had to fight with him to come here.
To be honest, after the battle royale with the driver I was in a pretty bad mood. It was good though, the coffee was very nice, and like Anomoli they showcase Indonesian beans. The way they presented the coffees on boards with a glass of water and a little rice cake was a nice twist. (My coffee was iced, that’s why it was in a jar — hot coffees were in cups)
We ended up in a kind of overflow space downstairs that wasn’t very atmospheric though, as this place is really popular, and the seating down there wasn’t comfortable. The main area looked much nicer. It’s very close to the heart of Ubud and the market etc, so it is little wonder it has many fans. They also run a cold brew bar in the afternoons and evenings.
The cafe’s motto made me laugh though: ‘imagine you know what you are doing’. Hmm yes I can only imagine that. It suited my current malaise.
4. Anomoli Ubud
Since I was pretty tired on our Ubud day trip, I didn’t walk far before needing to sit down again, so I stopped in at Anomoli. A reliable favourite for coffee fans in Indonesia, this was my first time to their Ubud outlet. It’s conveniently located, a big space, and the drinks are reliably good. They also sell their beans and other coffee paraphernalia, continuing the very good cause of promoting Indonesia’s coffee culture and the diverse varieties available from across the archipelago. I was a bit surprised that the Ubud store had more of a Starbucks set up rather than table service, but maybe I’m remembering the Seminyak and Jakarta set ups wrong. Definitely far better quality than Starbucks!
5. Ibu Oka’s
I’ve been here multiple times before, but Britt was yet to have traditional babi guling, so off we went. It was very tasty as usual, though I was a bit disappointed that they had renovated their store near Ubud Palace and it no longer had the lesehan (sitting on the floor) style tables and the kind of jumbled and random outdoor seating it used to have! It was all a bit too bland now for my liking, I preferred the old chaos that made it feel more like a proper warung. But it seems they have expanded and have more seating out the back now. Still a reliable babi guling option though.
6. Taco beach, Seminyak
Another option I have had before, that we found ourselves near just before Britt had to fly back to JKT. The babi guling tacos are still tasty, though I have to say Motel Mexicola was definitely more impressive (but pricier too).
7. Warung Kolega, Seminyak
This was the warung lunch I had been dreaming of. I actually made the ill-advised decision (considering my current health problems) to trek 1km here in the midday heat carrying all my luggage after checking out but before going to the airport. I think it probably contributed to my post-holiday fatigue crash. But I am pretty sure it was worth it? I wanted to eat everything they had in the display case. Definitely recommend for those looking for a warung in the Seminyak area (one of my other favourites is Warung Melati, which is closer to Legian).
8. Warung Aneka Rasa, Seminyak
This warung is conveniently located amid the fancy restaurants and boutiques of Jl Laksmana in Seminyak, but is super cheap so great if you have been spending too much cash. By late dinner time, when I managed to stumble down there to eat, there weren’t a huge amount of choices, so perhaps don’t leave it too late in the day, but it was still a good cheap option in a very convenient location.
I’ve been to Grocer and Grind in Seminyak before, a few years ago, and I didn’t really rate it. But we had a great breakfast at Grocer and Grind in Sanur, the perfect breakfast for me to recover after my friend’s wedding. It’s a great space as well.
Bali’s preoccupation with organic restaurants can only be a good thing. There was no shortage of chia seeds here (though we did overhear an Australian woman pronounce it as chaiiii seeds — chai is not quite the same). We got a great, clean and healthy veggie nasi campur here and some nice smoothies and juices. It was a nice space as well.
(fierce Instagramming was a hallmark of the trip…)
11. Best meal of the trip – Merah Putih restaurant, Seminyak
We sort of ended up here by accident. It’s quite high-end, and you should usually book, but they found some space for us. I didn’t take any photos, but check out their website. Wow. It’s an amazing building, with stunning high ceilings. But the food was even better. It offers Indonesian fine dining, adding contemporary twists to local classics and showcasing a cuisine that I have always argued has been totally underrated and underappreciated. It’s great to see it given some reverence, as well as an injection of creativity. All the food we ordered was fantastic. The duck rendang was great, as was the perkedel kepiting, Aceh cured Yellowfin tuna and tahu isi terong. The drinks were also very good, there was a sound cocktail list and also refreshing non-alcoholic drinks like infused iced teas. If you come here, you definitely need to have dessert. Britt had the ‘madu’, a cornetto icecream made with Borneo honey with chocolate, coffee and ginger, and I had the ‘kelapa’, which was ‘es teler’ fried ice cream in coconut milk with calamansi and melon. Both of the desserts were so good! Definitely a great place for a fancy dinner.
OK, that’s it. I think I have basically posted about every place we ate now!