The Chronicles of a Strange Vannessa

Life in allergies, healthy living, and being a mermaid on the beach.

Clean bibimbap

“You have never tried bibimbap?!”

That was the usual reaction I got from anyone who talked about bibimbap, was thinking of eating bibimbap, or was already devouring the mix of eggy yolk over a whole bunch of colourful looking ingredients in a heavy stone bowl. Well, I tried a pretty crappy “healthy” version of it this year. So I decided to re-create a healthy version of bibimbap on my own. (I really ought to be trying an authentic bibimbap soon actually)

It’s hardly any different I think. Instead of rice, I replaced it with quinoa tossed in lemon and a drizzle of sesame oil. And while I had beef bulgolgi still, I had raw grated carrots and cooked Chinese spinach and beansprouts on the side. A very simplified version of bibimbap. I’ll probably attempt a more adventurous/complex version further down the road. But this will do for now!

Ingredients
1/2 packet Chinese spinach
1 cup beansprouts
1 carrot, grated
Beef bulgolgi
1/2 cup quinoa
1 egg
Sesame seeds

Instructions
1. Cook the quinoa in a 1:2, quinoa:water ratio. Salt the water slightly for some flavour if you like. I toss my cooked quinoa in lemon juice and sesame oil after!
2. Cook beansprouts until it just turns translucent
3. Cook spinach in boiling water & drain
4. Grate carrot
5. Fry your egg
6. Plate ’em up & toss in gochujang sauce! (I made a healthy gochujang sauce out of honey, chili, sesame oil and minced garlic but wasn’t too happy about it although my mom loved it) (Get gochujang from your regular Korean mart for an easy fix!)

melbourne

Today, I stood opposite the Parliament House and watched the national flag ripple in the wind, at half-mast. I looked forward, at the guards standing watch in front of the gates, and back, at the dozens of bouquets and letters that lay on the ground in a makeshift memorial.

Tears welled up in my eyes. I didn’t quite know why. I’d never thought I would feel this way, or this much maybe, for a place I’ve longed to leave for the years in my youth – to embark on a life somewhere else across the world. But it’s funny how certain perspectives grow stronger and hit you harder when things change. When you start to see the good rising above the bad even more, when you realize that you’re leaving a place that will always be close to heart, behind.

Here I am. Spending my last year living in Singapore before I move to Melbourne permanently. And as I stood there watching the enormity of respect and reverence that hundreds of thousands of people had for this one man who changed an entire nation…I was thankful. Thankful for having the chance to grow up in a city that was safe, with such low crime. Thankful for learning the importance of harmony and respect amongst different races and religions. Thankful for growing up in a plethora of diverse cultures and perspectives at my fingertips, and having the chance to look at many things with open eyes – to truly allow myself to grow as a global citizen.

There are always trade-offs. But rising above the trade-offs are some undeniable remarkable things about this little island I’ve called Home for the past 23 years of living.

I am thankful for having such a good life here in Singapore. We are so lucky. And the next time we complain about the new laws, or increase in ERP prices, or the MRT that has broken down…we just ought to remember that. We have it good. Real good. In saying that, we should never forget about the people who fall through the cracks, and of course we have given up some things in exchange for others. But every country has its merits and faults. I just wish and hope for our little island to never lose sight of its identity, and its stories to tell.

I may be in a new place, a new country next year. And I know I’ll find myself settling right in, and eventually calling a new place my home. But I know a part of me will always be here.

I don’t want to ever forget where I’ve come from. With all the good and the bad.

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There was an evening where I somehow found the time to drive out to ECP for a run – something I’d always loved doing last year, when I picked up running after a long hiatus from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Muay Thai. The sunset was, as always, beautiful. I ran past a Caucasian woman poised in a meditative state, facing the sea; large families fanning furiously at glowing embers of charcoal at barbeque pits, Chinese uncles perched on lone benches having kopi talk with old friends, makciks unboxing tupperwares of homemade snacks on picnic mats. The familiar smell of grilled chicken wings and the sounds of children squealing on brand new tricycles and scooters.

Different pieces of what makes Singapore, Singapore, along a 10km route I used to frequent by the sea. I thought to myself, “This is truly home. And what I love about it.”. ECP must’ve held many different memories for many Singaporeans growing up – whether it was camping out, chalet stays during the days of our lives in secondary school or the open barbeques in the cool of the night. And how many more runs do I get to enjoy along this route in a little over a year, before the big move?

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Time and time again, I’m always going to be circling back to the “big move” in what will seem like endless, boring drones of conversations centered around nostalgia, memories, and missing the best parts of Singapore. But I guess I’m just that way – I like treasuring things while I still have them around, and even more so when I know of a rough timeline that I get to have them within. Maybe everyone’s going to think that I’m going mad here – thinking about occasions in a different perspective.

Like how this year’s Christmas, is going to be my last one in Singapore before I move away. Next year’s Christmas will be my first one living permanently away from home. Or rather, I’ll have a new country and place to call my “home” then. Or maybe my heart will always be split into two.

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But my answer to that, I feel, has some ground to it as well. Nobody will really know how all this feels like unless they’re in a similar situation too – preparing to move away from home, to an unfamiliar country with little friends, a new career, brand new networks to be made and settling down in a different place that is now home. You get the gift of being able to see Singapore with all its merits, and less of its down points as we have all grown up griping about. You miss the friends you have made growing up, and the easy familiarity of being a local in your own country.

But on the flip side, you also get to see the brighter horizons that comes with a new place as well – a work life balance, surfing, longboarding and snowboarding and everything in the outdoors within reach, fresh produce for cooking, not raising a family in the pressure cooker that has become of Singapore’s society.

It’s two different blessings depending on the way you look at things. I’d like to think that blessings, are blessings and it’s also all about your perspective on things. These are all gifts and it’s how we make of things to be.

vday

On Valentine’s Day, I received the most hilarious card and gorgeous bouquet from Sean – who’d arranged for this with dear Guo Wei (also my to-be wedding florist – go find @tweedtwigs on Instagram!) from 6000km away. I was miserable for the entire day thinking I wasn’t getting any flowers (I actually do love bespoke bouquets) and most girls out there were on romantic dates PLUS I was having a very lame but cute Masterchef cook off with Sean on Facetime for our Valentine’s date.

For the friends and colleagues, cousins and uncles and aunties and every single person who has been nothing short of supportive and so loving and happy for Sean and I – I cannot thank you all enough. It’s so strange how 180 degree changes in life paths can show you the true hearts behind the people around you, and while it hasn’t been easy…I am so glad for all that has happened to me – the good and the bad.

I am notches stronger in holding my own and not being affected by what people’s opinions are on me or my decisions. And it really helps when family, and even the friends who have known you for years (yes, even with rare catch ups), are able to love unconditionally and support you willingly through it all.

Goal (finally) in completion for 2015: To not be easily affected by what people think about me anymore.

skate1

I took this baby out on the empty Mindef track near my house to give it a go, and wound up spending 2 hours learning to skate on my own. Last Monday, I brought my longboard to work and had a ball of a time with colleagues between 1 longboard, 1 skateboard, and a brand new scooter won from the Microsoft guys who came by to present at our office LOL.

skate2

After Facetiming with Sean for a bit on the eve of CNY, I headed out to ECP to go skate for a bit before picking Joey up from camp. Got a tiny cut on my left palm – not from carving (carving is BEYOND FUN) but from when I was tired and just rolling along slowly and about to take my phone out from my back pocket, and then my board hit a hardened, smashed palm fruit stuck on the pavement. I flew forward from the jerk and broke my fall with this hand haha. I’m such a doofus.

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Can’t wait to feel confident enough to hit some slopes and carve at a downhill speed…but I really really need to get some safety gear for that.

Longboards are gonna be my best friends in between surfs during Melbourne summers for sure!!!

15 more days before I get to see Sean again. YESSSSSSSSSS.

I’m not entirely sure where to begin.

It’s been a long while since I’ve dared to put a story out there – and not in the meandering topics of articles that I once wrote at Poached Mag, but in true, honest posts mulling about thoughts and growing up and where life has taken me in the past week, month or year.

How do I begin a story that puts a comma to end a part of my life, and then leaps over to a brand new sentence for the next?

How do I begin the reasoning that comes with telling a questioning eye, that I’ve met a guy in the most ridiculous of chances or fate, or God-willing circumstances if you’re a person of faith – and that I know with every ounce of my being that this is the man I’m going to be with for the rest of my life? And that this comes with falling fast, but also falling cautiously. Laying out perimeters and talking with open, honest hearts. Testing grounds, with each day passing faster than the next.

Vietnam Sapaly Train

12 days: A first date, 5 days of traveling alone for the first time in Vietnam, Christmas, my 23rd birthday.

12 days: Seeing a shooting start I’d prayed for my whole life on our first date. 5 days of finding myself amongst the Sapa mountains and quiet waters of Halong Bay. Watching my brother play game after game of Fifa with him, after family had left and Christmas was a little quieter, like he was the older brother he’d never had. My birthday waking up in tears and knowing that today was the day he was leaving me to go back home to Australia.

12 days: Discounting the conversations, parallel lives and coincidence after coincidence we uncovered til 3am on a Monday night. 5 days of brand new prayers – pleas of harbouring raw, abandoned emotion; asking quietly for guidance and signs once more. None of this was supposed to happen; I wasn’t ready. I needed time to myself; I hadn’t healed enough. But I had asked, and the answers came. All throughout and beyond the 12 days.

Sapa

Halfway through the trip, sitting on high grounds overlooking the rice terraces – my first answer came. I reconnected that odd feeling I couldn’t place a finger on – the one where when he turned around to say hello, with the biggest smile on his face, that I stopped for a moment because I was sure that this wasn’t the first time we had met; that I had known him from some place before. And I reconnected it with a dream. One that I’ve dreamt of 4 times throughout my life. The first when i was 10 and had started going to church. The second, third and fourth time when i was 15, and had started going to church with feverent faith once more, after backsliding for the years in between.

So here’s where the fun part begins. I’ve had strange dreams before. I’ve dreamt about a body floating in a sack down a canal, the night my aunt had gone missing, only to wake up to find that they’ve found her body stuffed in a sack, floating down the canal at Kallang. (Not kidding, go figure, that story was all over the news) I’ve had the tendency to remember all my dreams in startling vivid details when most people forget their dreams the moment they wake up. And i get a fair share of deja vu, which is always my favourite part.

The thing is, I don’t believe a single thing about it. I don’t believe in soul mates. I don’t believe in happy ever after. I don’t believe in things that are “meant to be” or “fated”. I believe in the real life. I believe that you choose the path you want to take and the choices you want to make. I believe in hard work, faith and brutal honesty. I believe that love fades away and marriage comes down to 2 people who work well together as a team. I believe in a life led by calculated decisions, never a life paced by a rolling dice.

sapa train

I believe in all of this but when it came back to this dream – this dream that I’ve grown up waking from and telling my childhood sweetheart excitedly about how I think I might have met my soulmate (and that it wasn’t him), and my best friend in school that I’d dreamt of that guy again and God, how I wish I’d meet him someday. But then life got messy, and I stopped going to church, and things got in the way. That dream though? I never saw his face. Which makes it even harder than it already is to try to convince the people I love that I’m not going crazier than I already am.

In that dream, it was always the same. Same dream, 4 times, over 5 years. In that dream, I’m standing outside a one-story building – it’s a restaurant of some sort. I’m standing just outside the glass doors of the place, facing the open carpark. There’s gravel beneath my feet and I’m standing there with my arms folded, shivering a little from the cold and shuffling my feet in the night. It wasn’t a snow kind of cold, kind of like a San Francisco kind of cold, 12 degrees thereabout. I’m waiting for the guy I’m with. He’s behind me, behind the tinted glass doors, at the counter seemingly settling the bill for the dinner we just had. I could see his silhouette through the doors, and I don’t know why I knew that he was ABC (American-born Chinese/Australian-born Chinese/whichever loose term that’s appropriate but that’s what I grew up with lol). I’d hear his voice then, “Ready to go?”, and I’d turn around to see him – and that’s always when I wake up.

But in that dream – it was late, and I was tired, but this was it – all those details could fade away from my memory right now but the one thing that had brought me back over and over again to this dream was this feeling I remembered right there. And this feeling had stuck with me throughout the years before I lost faith in a whole bunch of things and let go of the dream entirely. Feelings can jolt you back to memories you’d thought you’d forgotten and people, and places, can throw you back in time.

It was strange. But I remember feeling this sense of…peace. The kind of peace that only comes with true happiness and content. I knew the man I was with. It wasn’t the first time I’d been on a date with him. We’d been doing this for a long time, and everything was comfortable and at ease. I knew the man I was with. He was the person I was spending my life with. We weren’t new to the notion, but we were infinitely blessed, thankful…and happy. Happy together.

halong bay

Feelings can jolt you back to memories you’d thought you’d forgotten and people, and places, can throw you back in time. I reconnected that feeling on a lonely cliff in Sapa, and had almost burst into tears at the sheer fear of it all. I had wanted so badly for that dream to be true, but when it comes barrelling in your direction – what are you supposed to do with it? Where do I toe the line between ambiguous events that occur in my sleep, and the reality of a person with feelings, and flaws and everything that comes with the human condition?

So I put that dream aside once more. If anything, it was a bonus and the strongest gut feeling I’ve had in my life, but I needed to draw the safety lines and rationalise things with every ounce of mistrust and skepticism (haha) in my soul. And so I did. And he’ll have you convinced that the number of times he’d looked me in the eyes to tell me not to trust his words, but to allow him to prove himself by his actions – a dollar for each time could have us fed for a long time. And perhaps we’ll never quite be able to explain the insanity that went behind the conversations we had about the real things in life and futures we dreamt of, and how everything matched up and fell into place – enough for us to ascertain after my family falling completely in love with him, and his taking to me as well, that we were going to give this a crazy…CRAZY shot.

12 days later, he flew home to Melbourne on my birthday. The next time I saw him would be in March, when I had to clear leave from 2014. But a whirlwind later, I found myself packing a bag in an hour, and flying over New Year’s to Melbourne. I crossed over from 2014 to 2015 being 30,000 feet in the air. I landed in Melbourne on the January 1st, 2015, 7.50am. And his face was the first familiar face I saw at the start of the new year. We spent 5 blessed days together with him and his family, and I flew back home landing to see my mom’s warm smile, asking what our plans were for the future together, because moms were allowed to have “gut feelings” too.

And so now, it’s 3 weeks until March 6th, 2015 – when I see him again. We’ve mapped out our timelines together and set our goals both personally and financially for the future. To a ton of “WHAT IS HAPPENING?!??!?!?”s from our closest friends, colleagues and family on initial reactions, that turned into some very wistful, bittersweet feelings of being happy for me, while being sad to watch me relocate to Melbourne mid-2016. With my rock and pillar in life that is my brother, engaging in a tear-filled heart-to-heart conversation that one morning, as we both realised we were all grown up now and not kids anymore. Time to go our own ways.

vietnam airport

For anyone reading this, it sounds a lot like the foolish, unlikeliest love story to ever come about. One that will eventually end in an avalanche of tears and heartbreak. But from my Godma, who listened to me as I talked about him that Christmas before he came by – dismissively, and cautiously, in order not to put too much weight into my words and heart…she was a prime person who convinced me that I wasn’t completely mad. Because she knew what it felt like. And it was that day that I found out, she had met my Godpa years ago in Bangkok, on a conference she tagged along with my mom on a work trip back then. 3 days later, he’d sent her flowers at the airport. They dated for a period of 1.5 years, met 7 times when he flew over from Hong Kong to Singapore, and wrote letters in between (no such thing as email then), and then got married. Now they have 2 kids, and are still very much in love.

She had turned to my mom to warn her coyly, that long distance relationships have a tendency to move at a much faster rate. Distance propels couples quickly apart, or quickly together with such stringent testing grounds for relationships.

I blurted out, “How did you know that…uhm…”

“That he was ‘the one’? If that’s what you want to call it,” she smiled.

“Yeah I guess.”

She looked at me endearingly and tilts her head to the side, “.” (rely on your gut feeling)

And I heave a sigh of relief. I’m not crazy after all.

For all the blessings that have been showered upon us so generously thus far, in words and wisdom and people and the all-important factors like work opportunities and the grace of our families – I am so thankful. Never in my wildest dreams since I’d repeatedly given up on moving to the U.S., would I have dreamed that this would happen. Well I mean. Technically there was a dream but. Man…my brain can’t deal with that shit right now lol.

I’ve penned this down virtually, as a moment etched in time. I’d like to remember what it’s like to connect with people through words again and to remember how to write with my heart once more. I’ve been journalling on pen and paper since the end of last year, and am still going strong. May this journey ahead be one bound by faith and love, and here’s to the next few years of intense, intense change :)

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His name is Sean, and he’s the person who’s lifted me to embrace all that I’ve ever wanted to be and more.

‘Til we meet again <3

pomegranate & sunbutter granola bar

Along with my late discovery of Sunbutter, comes the incorporation of it into some form of a breakfast bar. Solely because Sunbutter has been, by far, the closest thing I’ve been capable of eating to peanut butter, that won’t kill me/send me into a week of being very sick. I tried a hand at making roasted pumpkin seed butter before but I wasn’t entirely happy with the texture.

So yes, it’s gotta be Sunbutter for now.

sunbutter breakfast bars

These bars are dairy-free, sugar-free, and completely raw & vegan with a nutty, chewy texture. The buckwheat groats give little pockets of crunch when you munch, so all’s good in my eyes :) Don’t laugh at the instructions below. They’re just that simple.

Ingredients
1 cup buckwheat groats
1/2 cup psyllium husk
1/2 cup raw hemp hearts
7 medjool dates
2 heaping tbsp of Sunbutter
Splash of oat milk

Instructions
1. Blend everything.
2. Mould into bars.

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Received this lovely subscription box last Christmas (I’m beyond late on this and while I would like to conveniently blame my life for being tossed up in the air – that’s not justifiable, sorry!!) and I’ve been meaning to follow up my post on Instagram with a quick review of this cardboard box of gifts. intheBOX is a quarterly subscription box service chockfull of trial sized, high quality, natural, healthy and eco-conscious products. Perfect for the consumer who wants to try EVERYTHING but not blow their money on full-sized products (i.e. me).

I was hit by strong, relaxing aromatherapy scents upon unboxing and honestly, there’s nothing quite like unveiling a box full of surprises because EVERYTHING consists of “OMG WHAT IS THIS DOES IT HAVE A SMELL?????”. I got soy wax melts in the scent “Ocean Breeze”, Japanese green tea, Sunyata aromatic dough, organic moringa powder, Theo10 natural balm, Coco Shambhala shower gel and lotion and a delicious (and very large) vegan cookie to nibble on. Subscription boxes tend to give consumers a whole load of crap to be honest, but intheBOX does a great job curating their products. Plus, the people there were so immensely kind to ensure none of the products in my box had any nuts in them (cue my nut allergy). And that alone completely made my day.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThe soy wax melts were my favourite – look at that colour!! As well as the organic moringa powder because well, I’m Smoothie Queen for a good reason. And I need to talk about the Sunyata aromatic dough because I was honestly just…a little bewildered at the thought of “aromatic dough“, but I read the instructions and took it out of its case. You’re supposed to mould and play with it and be relaxed by the specific essential oils infused into that blend. Kind of like Playdoh for adults.

So either I’m 1. Not all grown up yet or 2. Have a strange obsession with squeezing and pressing dough between my hands – I LOVE THIS THING!!!!! God bless my inner hippie. I am a 23-year-old child.

You can check out more info about intheBOX at their website here!

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