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Solo Trip: Bali Bliss

I have caught the traveling bug and while some may say it’s an expensive addiction, I think it’s priceless. Without travel, you can’t really know and appreciate the place you’ve come from. That may seem like a weird concept to someone who hasn’t travelled but it’ll hit home once you see a few different countries. It makes you appreciative of the life that you’re fortunate enough to have. Traveling opens your eyes, it broadens your horizons and more importantly it’s empowering.

I have mentioned before that I’ve been fortunate enough to get a position this year which allows me to travel from time to time. Later this month, I’ve got an opportunity to do some trials out in the middle of nowhere in Western Australia. We’re going to be there for a week with no internet, phone reception, or civilisation. What are we doing there? Blowing things up! Okay, so that makes the no connection to the outside world shock a little easier to bare. I’m quite excited for this because it’s not an opportunity a lot of others would ever get, and one thing I’ve learnt in the past few months is to cease every single opportunity you can get. You’ll learn something from every experience and it’ll make for a good story if things go pear shaped. I have been told that all you can see is a red horizon and a clear night sky free from the city smog.

The advantage of working straight for two weeks is getting a long time off work right after. This is where my next bit of news comes in: I’m going to Bali for a short vacation. Oh, and I’m going alone.

I’ve never been one to shy away from a quiet night in. I love me-time, but it’s completely different when you’re in public surrounded by groups of tourists who are either with their significant other, family, friends or someone of importance in their life. Being alone in public is probably one of my biggest fears, and possibly our generations. Who doesn’t freak out at the thought of people thinking they are a loner? And so we hurriedly grab our phone and start typing a message to a particular no one. This is one of the reasons behind why I decided to challenge myself and travel somewhere alone. 

Those of you who know me, or have been following my posts know that I like to quote Elizabeth Gilbert a lot. I found her journey of self-discovery inspirational and one I think is important for everyone to experience. You could almost say that I’m amongst the thousands of women that are following in her footsteps and taking the plunge. I have already explored my fair share of India being brought up there, I’ve eaten my weight in carbs in Italy and now I’m venturing out to enjoy some solo Bali bliss. Honestly speaking, I never planned to do a trip alone, I never planned for it to be Bali, it just all fell into place thanks to some circumstances.

I think this trip is important for me because I want it to be a journey of self-discovery. I want to be able to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations. I have never really had a problem in asking for directions, or being proactive whilst traveling, and for these reason a solo trip is easier for me than for some others. I love engaging with locals and letting the journey unfold so the physical discovery of Bali and in particular Ubud is what excites me. What terrifies me is what will be waiting for me: feelings of loneliness and awkwardness. I almost want to embrace these feelings and let them bring me back to centre. I’ll have no one to rely on, but on the other hand I can do exactly as I please on my trip, because that’s exactly what it is – my trip.

Romeo

I’m going to take on the controversial topic of love today. Controversial, because everyone seems to have their own meaning, one that they’ve devised to justify to themselves their current state and make it more socially acceptable – or at least in their minds. So why shouldn’t I have a crack at this?

Elizabeth Gilbert’s opinion on a soul mate is one that I empathise with. “People think a soul mate is your perfect match, and that’s what everyone wants. But, a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back. They tear apart your ego a little bit and show you your obstacles and addictions. A true soul mate is probably the most important person.” She goes on to say that it’s too painful to live with your soul mate forever, but I’m not in the business of denying myself simple pleasures like love.

Julio Cortazar hits the nail on the head. “What most people call love consists of picking out a woman and marrying her. They pick her out, I swear, I’ve seen them. As if you could pick in love, as if it were a lightning bolt that splits your bones and leaves you stalked out in the middle of the courtyard. They probably say they pick her out because they love her, I think it’s just the opposite. Beatrice wasn’t picked out. Juliet wasn’t picked out. You don’t pick out the rain that soaks you to a skin when you come out of a concert.”

Love isn’t something we choose to do. It just happens. As crazy and stupid as that sounds it happens, and love is blind and love is painful but it’s also probably the most wanted feeling in the world. So why shouldn’t we spend as long as we can with our soul mates? Sure, it’s painful, but if all we did was toss our soul mate out after we had gotten what we needed from them, doesn’t that make us selfish? Was it even love then? Or are soul mates and love two completely different entities?

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Italy: Life Is A Combination Of Magic And Pasta

I cannot stand people who do not take food seriously.

Thank you Oscar. Thank you for understanding me.  Thank you for letting me brag about the exquisite food I witnessed in Italy by standing behind your quote. But,  in all honesty – If you’re not  a fan of food, we cannot be friends.

In the week and a bit that I spent in Italy, I cannot think of one day where I had just three meals. I was constantly eating and I didn’t put on a pound. Sounds like the dream doesn’t it? It pretty much was. The stagnant weight was most probably because I was walking everywhere, so don’t get too jealous.

Rather than sharing the photos of the beautiful gondolas in Venice, or the Duomo in Milan, or the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum or Vatican in Rome, or the Leaning Tower in Pisa. I thought I would share with you my food journey in Italy. You can google photos of Italy and find thousands of photographs of the landscape, and from real photographers too. I thought it would be more interesting to share with you my thoughts on the food I witnessed, because those will be unique to just me.

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This is a Sachar Torte. An Austrian cake by name but one that can be found in Italian menus. I couldn't have more than two forkfuls without feeling somewhat ill. It is a beautiful, dense and just so chocolatey. I think a dollop of cream would've really helped one eat it all, but then again I had just had a big dish of pasta before diving into this.
 1891472_10152055731631234_582135800_oTruffle Fettuccine. This  was wonderful - creamy and full of flavour in a small restaurant a few streets away from the Colosseum.  I couldn't figure out what that taste was and had to translate the Italian to find out that it was Truffle. Once I did, I felt so high-class. Only the food snobs seem to be able to afford Truffle anything in New Zealand!
 10006027_10152055736071234_1863501577_oA beautifully light Buffacchitto. Now, I've googled this and it doesn't really exist - but I swear that is what it was called on the menu at Rosso Pomodararadi in Naples.
 1064489_10152055736466234_1991670114_oPizza Vera Napoletana. Thank you Liz from Eat, Pray, Love. Thank you for telling me about Naples, thank you for telling me that the pizzas are to die for. Because you know what?  It is the best pizza I will ever have in my life.
  1658722_10152055739096234_50740220_oThis is a dessert called Sfogliatelle. A pastry filled with passion and love, and also ricotta. It is my favourite Italian dessert because that cheese really helps balance the sweetness. This pastry is native to Naples so I'm very glad I did my research and tried my very first one in Naples. I tried another one at the train station in Rome and it really let me down, so if you're ever going to try one - please do it in Naples.
1973369_10152055752086234_916345335_oQuick Coffee Gelato stop next to the Vatican - only 2 Euros!
1960863_10152055752301234_1496332646_oMinestrone Soup and Pasta at a restaurant opposite my hotel in Rome. I ordered too much - but I finished it all, because you're in Italy so why the hell wouldn't you?
 1669865_10152055752351234_1332364064_oA selection of desserts from a local shop in Pisa. They were all very disappointing. Pisa was just not a good food stop. Mediocre, Mediocre, Mediocre - but then again I had been having amazing Italian for the past few days so by normal Western standards this was still pretty great.
 1275523_10152055754251234_2034061440_oMy gelato from a local shop by my hotel in Venice. It was my first gelato in Italy and I couldn't stop smiling. I was also alone, so it was a tad creepy.
 1966257_10152055730826234_851601962_oMy very first dome pizza opposite our hotel in Milan. They did not speak much English but they kept the restaurant open late just for me.
1796869_10152055736531234_1698813958_oRavioli in Milan. I would pay $50 for this but it was only 10 Euros. Here's a tip, go to a crowded restaurant where no one speaks English, that is how you will find authentic cuisine. 
10001020_10152055737696234_243989518_oNutella Burger. Don't think it needs an explanation.
1974167_10152055738231234_2019935283_oThe coffee cost me €1, the chocolate croissant €1.50. They were both delightful in a small cafe in the streets of Milan.

 

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Dark Chocolate Adventures

I’ve been quite the dare devil in the kitchen lately, alongside trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I think it’s imperative that we do our absolute best to eat well and develop good habits. I’ve tried to cut out processed foods, takeaways and refined sugars. Count chemicals not calories is what I’m striving for. I’ve always been an advocate of juicing but cooking with natural ingredients, incorporating more vegetables and less processed and refined foods is something I’ve just recently adopted. This doesn’t mean I don’t eat any junk food, I’m human after all and do give in to my cravings! However, it does mean I’m making  a conscious effort to eat clean. I’m not a huge fan of dessert but lately have been having quite a few sweet cravings. I thought I would share a few dessert recipes containing dark chocolate with you.

Bliss Balls

photo 1Ingredients: 
Rolled Oats
Almonds
Sunflower Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds
Dark Chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

Method:

1. Fill a large pot with water and place a smaller heatproof bowl inside. Bring the water to a simmer. 

2. Break your chocolate block into smaller portions and place in the bowl.

3. Adjust the heat as needed to ensure that the dark chocolate melts. Use a metal spoon to stir the chocolate.

4. Once melted, remove from heat and add rolled oats, almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds to the bowl. 

5. Give it a good mix and then use two spoons to form bliss balls. Do this step fast as the chocolate hardens quickly!

Note: You can use your hands like I did but make sure you keep them moist with water so the chocolate doesn't stick. I don't recommend this because the chocolate is very hot and not everyone's hands are as insensitive to heat as mine. 

Dark Chocolate Homemade Bounty Bars

photo 2Ingredients:
Shredded Dried Coconut 
Dark Chocolate
Honey 
Coconut Cream (Coconut Milk)
Method:
1. Add two teaspoons of coconut cream to a saucepan and bring to simmer. 

2. Add one cup of shredded dry coconut to the saucepan and stir. 

3. Ensure that the consistency of the mixture is not runny and that it's just soggy. 

4. Take off the heat and add honey to taste to the coconut mixture. 

5. Line a one inch deep baking pan with cooking paper and compress the coconut mixture into it. 

6. Leave in the freezer for 30-40minutes. If you prefer you can leave it in the fridge for a longer period. 

7. Once the coconut mixture is cooled but not set, remove the whole lot from the pan with the cooking paper. 

8. Using a sharp knife cut rectangular bite size shapes. If they fall part just use your hands with a bit of water to pat them into shape - they will become a little rounded but that's fine!

9. Place them back in the fridge or freezer to set till they're cool. 

10. Using the method mentioned above, melt dark chocolate in a bowl. 

11. Remove the bars from the fridge/freezer, dip in the melted dark chocolate and place on a baking paper lined tray. 
Note: It's important to ensure that the tray is lined otherwise once it sets, the bar doesn't come out clean and breaks. 

12. Leave in the fridge to cool and set.

Peanut Butter Fudgephoto 4

Ingredients:
Shredded Dried Coconut 
Dark Chocolate
Rolled Oats
Cashews
Almonds
Peanut Butter - crunchy or smooth
Sunflower Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds
Butter
Milk
Method:
1.Take a muffin tray and line it with baking cups. 
Note: It's just as easy to use a baking pan for this and line it with cooking paper. 

2. Melt the dark chocolate as mentioned previously. 

3. Once the dark chocolate is melting away in the bowl, add half a cup of milk and one tablespoon of butter. Allow this to mix properly by stirring constantly. The mixture should be of a creamy consistency. 

4. Take this off the heat and bring it to your working bench, closer to the ingredients. 

5. Using a spoon, add a tablespoon of chocolate to each baking cup. I made six muffin sized fudge out of 600g of dark chocolate. This forms a flat base for your fudge. 

6. Using a different spoon, spoon some peanut butter into random spots. 

7. Add the rolled oats and dried coconut into your remaining melted dark chocolate. 

8. Spoon the dark chocolate mixture into the baking cups. 

9. Sprinkle almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds when you desire. 

10. Top off with another layer of the dark chocolate mixture. 

11. Add spoonfuls of peanut butter in random places in the baking cups, as well as the nuts and seeds. 

12. Finish off the dark chocolate mixture by covering all of the baking cups with a generous amount of dark chocolate. 

13. Sprinkle the top with any remaining nuts or seeds.

14. Place the muffin tray in the fridge for 2-3 hour to set a little. 

15. Remove the tray and peel the baking paper of the chocolate cups. 

16. Using a sharp knife, cut the muffin shaped fudge into fourths.

17. Place back in the fridge to set for an hour or two and ta-da!

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10 Things You Learn in Your First Real Job

I’ve been a Chemical Engineer now for 75 days! This means many things: 
A. I haven’t blown anything up (I have actually fired a shot i.e explosive, but that was meant to happen, so maybe I should be saying I haven’t blown anything up that I wasn’t suppose to.)
B. I’m a grown up! Okay, the fact that I’m referring to myself as a ‘grown up’ may mean that I am not quite there yet but in terms of having a full-time job, responsibilities, etc – I theoretically am. 
and C. I have learnt a lot. So here is a list of lessons I devised, condensed from 1662 learnings to 10.

1. Coffee is your friend. Your best friend. 
There will be times – more specifically, afternoons where you’ve had a big lunch and just want to nap – where you will not be able to concentrate. No matter how much you want to read the journal articles (reading in this context includes understanding, unlike Uni) you just can’t. Coffee is your resuscitator.
We have a coffee machine in our office which makes terrible Lattes, Cappuccinos, Mochas, but for some reason I’m a fan of instant. A large mug of instant later – I’m alive! I can concentrate. I can’t speak highly enough about the magical powers of coffee. Don’t even try and resist it. I was off coffee for a few months because even though I love it, I wanted to be caffeine free but when you’re working full time, it’s just not possible. That sexy brown bean will seduce you and then satisfy your cravings (so it’s okay).

2. You’re going to have to remember what you learnt in your degree. 
Just the other day I was on the verge of pulling my hair out because I couldn’t figure how to solve a problem that had been presented to me. I finally gave in and asked my boss, who replied : “You use the Ideal Gas Law“, and then went on to explain how to solve my problem in two different ways.

Now you may be thinking, what’s wrong? Your boss sounds lovely – well yes, you’re right! He’s wonderful. The problem is, that I forgot the Ideal Gas Law. PV= nRT, the very first equation a Chemical Engineer learns and gets drilled into their brains for the next four years of their degree. I forgot how to utilize what I had learnt throughout my degree! Take note people, you’ll have to remember things you learnt at uni. All that cramming for the exam the night before may have worked before, but  now you have to dig out that information jammed in the corner of your brain and use it again.

Also, I’ve just shared a highly embarrassing anecdote as a Chemical Engineer here so let’s stop laughing (and/or pitying me) and admire my bravery for admitting this. Thank you.

3. You still don’t know anything. 
A supplier rings you up and questions the information you sent to him, “So what kind of signal would you like on your valve? Do you want a 4-20mA or pneumatic? I’m not quite happy with your upstream pressure, do you have a regulator before the valve?” Did that sound like gibberish to you? Same! I understood what he was saying, but I had no idea what the answers to those questions would be.  Tell me to recite the types of mass-flow controllers, I’ll do it easy (Yes, this may be hard to believe after my second point) but I will. Because, although I know all the types of mass flow controllers, I’m yet to learn how to apply that knowledge to real life situations. And, guess what guys? That’s okay! (Or so I’ve been told).

Your first year on the job is the hardest, because you don’t know the lingo. You’re not expected to know these things. So, just tell the supplier, “Alright, I’ll have to check on those points, can we schedule a meeting for next week”, and go and ask someone who knows. That’s how you’ll learn. You’ll feel stupid – believe me you’ll feel stupid – hell you might be stupid, but you’re learning, and that’s important!

4. You’ll pick up a hobby that you didn’t particularly think you were interested in i.e Cooking. 
I come home from work and I have nothing to do for a good few hours. What do I do? I cook. I have got the time and I’m enjoying experimenting with different ingredients. I’m becoming quite the masterchef (but then again, I’m the only judge hah!).

5. You’ll suddenly become more homely. 
“I’ve to vacuum the house tomorrow, it looks so dirty.”
“Wow, that spice rack would look great in the kitchen!”
“Well yes, I do need new linen and pillows to decorate my bedroom”
” I just purchased 18 mason jars online and I can’t wait till they arrive” 
“Scented candles, yes please! Every flavour? Why not!” 
“Oh my god guys, in case any of you wanted to go shopping this week. Harris Farms has beetroots for $1 per kg.”

Oh and by the way, I’ve done/said all of the above.

6. You will romanticize college. 
You know why? Because humans can never be happy in the present. Don’t fall into this trap! Working is awesome, you’ve lots of free time (minus the full time work), you have money, and you’re heading somewhere. Don’t let endless parties, staying up studying till 12am with best friends cramming for a test, or not turning up to classes if you don’t feel like it put you off. Oh wait…. Noooo!

7. People bitch. 
a lot. It’s like being back at high school. This has possibly been the most shocking revelation for me. I thought past a certain age, people outgrow these childish habits, but it seems that people just love to talk about other people. Correction: Put down other people. Just take note of it and sit back and don’t participate. Just observe and you’ll learn a lot about people, and be able to pick out the ones that you can trust and befriend. Because, friends, good friends at this stage in life are very important.

8. Taxes Suck
WHAT?? How much percent of my salary is going to towards taxes? Are you for real??? I’m paying for these bogans’ beer who can’t get up off their ass and get a job?

9. You’ll learn to always keep (healthy) snacks at your desk.
You’ll get hungry, and you will want to go out to the vending machine and grab a Coke when you’ve sworn off carbonated drinks and are doing pretty well. Hide muesli bars in some drawers, cereal in others (this should probably be packed in a box first), wholemeal grain crackers in another drawer, and fine have that odd chocolate hiding somewhere.

I may have over 100 mini chocolates in my drawer right now but they’re courtesy of a role I do at work and are just left overs. Left overs which are depleting, day by day. uh oh!

10. You’re worth a lot more than you think.
There will be crappy days, days where you think, why did they even hire me? You may feel like you need to be super(wo)man and do everything well, and perfectly because they chose you, they chose you of all the people who applied! But don’t. They hired you for a reason, so just remember that. Remember that when you’re having moments where you want to break down because you just can’t seem to get your excel sheet to work. Go to the bathroom, go to the kitchen, or go do whatever you do to procrastinate when working, come back and smile – because you deserve to be there, they chose you, and you’re worth it! Side note: Have I been watching too many L’Oréal ads?

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Change Is The Only Constant In Life

This morning, at a farewell morning tea for a colleague she quoted Heraclitus saying: Change is the only constant in life.

The quote really resonated with me. For someone who has been a ‘hippie’ for the last five to six months of her life, I could relate – heck I embody it’s meaning.

Just last week, after being in Australia for two and a half months I was starting to feel a sense of belonging in my new place – I was almost at the stage of calling it my home. Then, a five day trip to Melbourne later I once again felt a bit unsettled. Looking ahead to the next two or three months – I’ve already got two overseas trip back to New Zealand planned, another one to Melbourne, and a couple more inner state travels, not to mention my soon to be planned trip to somewhere exotic. I’m a testament to change. I wasn’t feeling grounded, travelling from one place to the other – living out of a suitcase. However, now that I think about it change is not only something we must accept, but it is actually something to celebrate!

I’ve never been one to embrace change, always scared to dive into something new. Yet, my experiences are teaching me to welcome change with open arms. It’s a new adventure, everything you do in life will teach you new things. So while other things are changing around you, you, personally will also change and grow as a result of that. Looking back to the 2013 Anna, I’ve changed in so many ways. I’m living in a country where I have no immediate family and I’m living for myself. I’m my own sole provider and instead of feeling lonely and alone like the 2013 Anna would, I’m starting to love being independent. I’m beginning to embed this mindset that if every decision I make is the right decision and that there is no going back, then even if that decision may not be the right one, I will change to make it that way. This way – I will have no regrets. If you tell yourself that the choice you’ve made was the right choice for you then you will adapt faster to change, and if change is the only constant in life, wouldn’t it be nice to embrace it?

A lot of times when you lose something you will say, “Holy crap. I was happy and I didn’t even know it.” Learn to look at your life in a positive light. It’s a journey – and that is always more important than the destination.

I’m now feeling a whole lot happier.

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man.

and perhaps happiness…

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