THANK YOU

800 year old Douglas Fir tree in Cathedral Grove. Still going strong.

800 year old Douglas Fir tree in Cathedral Grove. Still going strong.

I can say without a doubt that this past year has been the greatest milestone i’ve achieved in my life. And no…i did not put more letters behind my name, got married or landed a million-dollar job (i wish!), but because I’ve started to really embrace this gift we call life and have learned to become more content with simply being Jenny. It sounds simple but those who know me well,  I used to be pretty hard on myself and very uptight (in general).
    I would say one of the best decisions i made in my life was deciding to travel for 2.5 months and see the world for its true colours – to throw myself into the unknown and spontaneous life of a backpacker. It’s hard to believe one year ago today, i was all stressed out trying to stuff my backpack with summer and winter clothes and “the essentials” for my trip to Europe and Morocco, all the while pulling back tears from a break up that I had partially blamed myself for.
      The trip taught me one of the commandments i set for myself at the beginning of the year: Lighten up and smile when in doubt. Somethings just don’t matter if you look at the grand scheme of things. “The essentials” that i packed were really not THAT essential compared to how Moroccans live their day to day life. For instance, at my host family’s house, i had to ask for toilet paper. It wasn’t something that was essential for them. Even the quality of the paper was sub-par…not one-ply by American standard. On top of that, I showered with a hose and flies flying everywhere. I could choose to be miserable about it for a month, or make light of it and be glad i have running water. I now laugh at myself for having stuffed the last empty space in my backpack with 20 granola bars….(just in case those moroccans didn’t feed me well!) LOL.
        The next commandment was : No judging. Coming from a Chinese family, we judge a lot. Parents judged other families and their kids, aunties and uncles judged their friend’s daughter’s husband’s blue-collar job, neighbour next door judged what car you drive…so on and so forth. Traveling and meeting people from all walks of life meant i had to hear their story first without judging what kind of clothes they wore, what they smelled like, or what their skin colour was.  I was amazed that when i stopped forming an opinion of someone without knowing them first, I met some of the most amazing people, including an Argentinian guy named Jose that bunked below me in Ibiza and offered to brew me tea that he brought all the way from his country and using his own teapot to cure my hangover.
          Some of the other commandments were:
          1. Slow down and enjoy the process. *Check – to continue* ie. instead of rushing in the morning to get ready for work, i now set my alarm 10 mins early so i can enjoy my coffee and breakfast, and watch some news before i head to work. This sets off a good tone for the rest of my day and i feel more relaxed.
          2. Be truthful to self. To not be in denial. *Check – to continue* ie. Sure i liked his sail boat, or his fancy stereo, or how hot he looks in a wet suit…but if i’m not in it for the right reasons, let’s not waste each other’s time.
          3. Be generous: *Check – to continue* I wanted to be generous with my time.  For those who know me well, I’m very much a ME-TIME person. I wanted to share more of my time with friends and people that matter most to me. Thanks to that, great company helps to boost happiness and i also made some wonderful friends along the way!
          There are others but I’ll have to write the Happiness Project V. 2 if i carried on further. I do highly recommend that book. Some of the above is adapted from Gretchen’s best-selling book.
            And with all that said, isn’t that something to celebrate for? I would not have been able to do this without my fabulous friends, and my supportive-and-at-times-critical sister. Each and everyone of you are a gift in my life. As i’ve seen recently, health can take a 180 degree turn overnight. So i’m so grateful to be able to do all the things i am able to do – going surfing, getting better at swimming, finally joining a sports team…all of these things i’m so happy to be a part of. And to my most loving mother who brought me to this world 27 years ago today, I miss you so so much. In the end, you taught me that only love and happiness really matters.
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                Summery

                Wow! It’s been a while since my last post but summer is always packed with friends’ visits, weddings and the miscellaneous dinners and parties. The last two weeks, I also found myself feeling completely exhausted and I had to force myself to take my iron supplements again. It’s finally kicked in after 10 days and I’m feeling more rejuvenated. My write-up on iron supplements will be posted soon when i stop procrastinating on that project.

                This week, i’m reminded of how lucky I am to have such amazing friends in my life. My last fb status was about how true friendships can last no matter the distance or time between us. Having moved to the island, the friends that i grew up with or went to school with are still a big part of life whenever I go home to visit. There’re those that live here on the island who are super active and fun to be around. They influence me in a positive way and I’d say without them, my island living won’t be as fulfilling or as active as it would be. Finally, the ones that live miles away, thanks for the calls/ texts/ likes!

                While laying in bed at 2pm sat afternoon trying to fight my headache, I picked up a call from a friend living in calgary and I probably would not have picked up otherwise if it weren’t him since i hadn’t heard from him in a over a yr. back in high school, there was a healthy competition between us in physics. years later, he still calls me once in a blue moon to check up on me and we’d pick up from where we left off. If you’re reading this, I have so much respect and admiration for you after what you been through. You’re an inspiring friend and a true success story!

                Picture highlights from the past few weeks

                A get-together and fare-well party at Darcy's

                A get-together and fare-well party at Darcy’s

                At Niagara Falls. First stop on an up-island excursion with Adam who came all the way from DC.
                Niagara Falls of the West Coast – First stop on our up-island excursion with Adam who came all the way from DC.
                Goldstream Park
                Goldstream Park

                Kinsol Trestle

                Kinsol Trestle

                One of my besties visiting from Vancouver

                One of my besties visiting from Vancouver

                Quality time with my new table-top easel

                Quality time with my new table-top easel

                Buck-a-Shuck Time!

                Buck-a-Shuck Time!

                Jazz Quartet featuring Noah on the Sax, Hermann's Jazz Club

                Jazz Quartet featuring Noah on the Sax, Hermann’s Jazz Club

                Farewell Party for Max. An amazing couple <3

                Farewell Party for Max. An amazing couple <3

                Hiking with Jess and Zoe at Mt. Work/ Gowland Tod.

                Hiking with Jess and Zoe at Mt. Work/ Gowland Tod.

                Finally, I’d like to share with you my hearty Sunday Night Dinner.

                Roasted root vegetables with rosemary; Israeli Couscous and roasted tomato; Caramelized onion on grilled chicken

                Roasted root vegetables with rosemary; Israeli Couscous and roasted tomato; Caramelized onion on grilled chicken

                Roasted Vegetables: From Jamie’s Food Evolution Cookbook.

                Boil desired root vegetables (i used potatoes, yam, beets, radish, garlic) in salted water x 9 mins. Drain well and drizzle with olive oil, s & p, and desired herbs (i used rosemary and basil). Bake at 400 until golden and crisp. Around 45 mins.

                Israeli Couscous with Red Quinoa and Italian Orzo: purchased a bag from costco. Cook with instructions provided.

                Caramelized Onions: Absolutely to die for and goes well with so many things!
                I added some mushrooms, a pat of butter and 1 tsp of brown sugar towards the end. Trick is to constantly stir and scrape bottom every 3-5 mins. Total time: 30 mins stovetop.

                Lime-Honey Baked Chicken: I would marinate it for 2 hours or less next time to lower the saltiness. Also added cayenne pepper and cumin as suggested and a dash of sesame oil. Baked for exactly 20mins. Perfectly moist and complements perfectly with the Caramelized Onions.

                Thank you so much for reading! Have a fantastic week ahead.

                Summer breeze

                Spent a lovely Canada Day long weekend in Vancouver with my family and friends. It was yet another fun-filled weekend under clear blue skies and hot sunny weather. Contrary to popular belief, vancouver doesn’t rain all the time. In fact, summer is always gorgeous and temperature hovers around low 20s. I sometimes wonder why people choose to travel and leave beautiful Vancouver during this season. It’s the best time to be in this city! And of course, Victoria as well.

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                Sunbathing, Spanish Banks

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                With birthday girl Teresa

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                Wedding dinner at Brix Restaurant

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                Bought a perfectly ripe pineapple

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                And cut concentrically into nice looking pieces…thanks to a lesson taught at the Dole Plantation a few yrs ago. No sweat!

                Natural High from Del Mar

                Tofino is one of my favourite hot spots in this entire planet and what makes it such a fabulous place for me to visit is its small town feel, beautiful scenic drive along the Pacific Rim, and has some of the best waves for surfing all year long. It is home to local fishermen and native people and within a few blocks of this tiny town, you will find yourself with some of the finest foods of the Pacific coast – restaurants that offer fresh seafood and locally sourced organic foods that help support the island farmers.

                After an afternoon out in the water and completely famished from surfing, my girlfriend and I hit up Sobo, a local restaurant that offers exactly what I described. I always order their cornbread which is the best I’ve ever had, and their tofu pocket stuffed with rice, smoked salmon, and avocado in a wasabi soy sauce.

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                The perfect drink to have after a day of surfing is their famous margarita made with 3oz of tequila and is limit to 2 per person. They make their own lime margarita mix daily from freshly-squeezed lime juice.

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                House-made lime margarita

                After 4 of these margaritas (between the 2 of us) and 3 hours of laughing over silly jokes and chitchat, we had just enough time left to watch the last of the sunset.

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                The perfect way to end a fun day with my cool friend Juna.

                Spring Carrot Cupcake

                Made these carrot cupcakes for a co-worker’s birthday today. I must say they turned out better than I thought after committing an awful baker’s mistake which is not checking the time i started my baking. I technically did look at the digital clock on my oven but didn’t realize i was looking at the temperature and not the time. It’s what happens when i bake on a Monday night I guess!

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                IMG_2927These were made with carrots, crushed pineapples, and coconut topped with a cardamom cream cheese frosting. Still they turned out to be moist inside and baked just right!

                Some people ask me why I bake and how I find the time to do it. I bake because I love treating other people to food & dessert and seeing their (mostly smiley) faces when they taste it. People are happy when they eat cupcakes. I really think they help with releasing endorphins and serotonin – all the happy hormones! After all, cupcakes has boomed into a multibillion dollar industry in the last few years. It’s easier to find time to do the things we love and are passionate about. Whenever I’ve collected all my ingredients from the store, my heart leaps with a little excitement every time, like a child waiting to open her gifts on Christmas day. You never know what you’re gonna get as the final product!

                A Weekend of Art, Music & Food

                Hope you all had an amazing weekend!

                My weekend kicked off with a fabulous concert at the local art gallery featuring Kytami, a Canadian musician and violinist born in Vancouver. She played along side her DJ who mixed music from all genres, from rock to classical, with a predominant Irish theme that was upbeat and dance-worthy. I’ve never been to a concert quite like it before – in the middle of an art gallery, surrounded by paintings, a wooden staircase and a chandelier in the room. The atmosphere was warm and cozy, everyone was well-dressed and out to have a fun and relaxing Friday night.

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                If you live in Victoria and haven’t been to the Art Gallery on Moss Street, I recommend checking it out. Hint: it’s a great date night idea! The gallery is small but has quite a few paintings from Canadian artists including Emily Carr, the famous Canadian icon whose works portray the lives of indigenous people and landscape of the Canadian Northwest Coast.

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                A few pictures to describe the rest of my weekend

                Saturday afternoon bike-riding

                Galloping Goose Bike Trail

                Galloping Goose Bike Trail

                Girlfriends over on Sunday afternoon

                Homemade Nespresso with handmade truffle from Spinnakers

                Homemade Nespresso with handmade truffle from Spinnakers

                There’s been a lot of hype around this healthy smoothie lately that I decided to give it a chance.
                I must say it was not bad! Really refreshing after a work-out.

                Kale Smoothie

                Kale Smoothie: 1 cup kale, a few frozen mango chunks, 2 heaped tsp greek yogurt, 1 tsp chia seeds, 1/2 banana, 1/4 cup almond milk, honey to taste

                Sunday night dinner

                Kale with three bean salad, Homemade green onion roti, Tandoori Chicken Curry, Homemade Raita (yogurt)

                 

                Last but not the least before I sign off, I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to everyone reading my blog!  A few of my friends have messaged me in the past couple weeks sending me sweet & wonderful comments. It means a lot to me that you all take time out of your busy lives to browse my blog. And to the silent ones there also, thanks for reading <3

                Tying the Shoelace

                Lately, I’ve been feeling exhausted after coming home from work and finding it difficult to get out the door to do my runs or go to the gym. Most of the time, 90% of my effort is really putting on my runners and getting myself out the door and the rest tends to follow.  But this time, i knew something else was going on…as i don’t usually have a hard time staying awake at work and even tying on my shoelaces seemed to be quite an effort! A simple blood test came back that I had probable iron deficiency, which is quite common, especially in vegetarians (I am not one myself as I still eat chicken, but no red meat). So i grabbed an old bottle of Proferrin (an iron supplement) that had been sitting on my shelf since last year and I started taking it again. Mind you, I’m the least compliant when it comes to taking pills. Being a pharmacist…i should know better right? So I did some research on what some of the best food sources of iron are for those vegetarians out there. After all, taking one less pill is better right! Here’s a list of foods that I like that are rich in iron:

                - Green leafy vegetables: kale, bok choy, broccoli, spinach, swiss chard
                - Quinoa (contains 8% of total daily intake of iron in 100gm cooked quinoa)
                - Beans and chickpeas – contains 34% of total daily intake of iron in 100gm
                - Nuts like almonds, cashews (8-10%) and Pumpkin seeds being the king of all at 30%

                Yes…brussel sprouts is a good source too but I’m not a huge fan. Looking at this list, I already include a lot of them in my meals and snacks, but sometimes, it’s just not enough. More on the different types of iron supplements at a later time. As a brief note, Proferrin has been my go-to iron supplement of choice because as i said, it is the only heme iron available which is more readily absorbed by your body than non-heme iron. It also tends to be better tolerated than other forms of iron and isn’t affected by caffeine or food consumption as much.  If you’re feeling fatigued, having difficulty concentrating, soreness in the mouth, looking pale, short of breath, having cravings (more than usual), then maybe ask your doctor about getting your iron levels checked and a vitamin B12 level as well.

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                On a different note, I did manage to drag myself out on the weekend for a beautiful hike up Mt. Douglas and rode on the maiden voyage on my new bike.

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                While riding on the Lockside Trail, a beautiful scenic route from downtown Victoria to the ferry terminal, I came across this little booth selling rhubarb. I remember seeing it last year and it was selling organic fresh eggs back then. This time it was rhubarb. Simply drop the money by the cooler and take as you wish. I was tempted to pick up some on my way back, and as I almost arrived, an elderly man came out to take the cart back. I asked if he had eggs for sale and he said to come back next time. Love small town people.

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                Time for a rhubarb pie next time maybe? Then i need to carry a bigger packsack when i go for my next bike ride :)

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                Close with nature :)