The Chronicles of a Strange Vannessa

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

Over the weekend, I booked my flights to Hanoi and back from Hai Phong. Meanwhile, I’m wrestling with my train ticket to Sapa with the B&B I’m going to be staying at…and the Hai Phong part of my trip has yet to be figured out haha. I finally settled on Vietnam for a couple of reasons.

1. I’ve never been to Vietnam
2. Would do Cambodia, but I’ve been to Siem Reap already and will probably head back to cover it more thoroughly, with Phnom Penh as well
3. Was advised that Myanmar is a little tricky to travel alone
4. It’ll be nice to go up north for a little bit of cold, and then come back home for Christmas :)

It’s still a little surreal that I’m really going at it alone. I’ve tagged along with my dad on his business trip to Germany & Switzerland, and explored Zurich myself in the day while he was at work, and his boss’s sons took me around in Germany while he was working. I went about Siem Reap on my own as well while my mom was in seminars all day – woke up at 5am to catch a tuk tuk in the dark, bought my entrance ticket to the Angkor Wat and explored the temple away from all the tourists clamouring for that iconic sunrise shot across the lake. It was amazing. I went into the empty grounds and it was just me, 2 wandering monks and a backpacker or two. I climbed up the narrow steps of an ancient library and sat at the top, dangling my legs precariously over the edge and waited for my own view of the sunrise. Beautiful and so breathtaking. The rest of Siem Reap was smooth going solo and every bit as amazing as I had anticipated it would be. But yeah, those were lone explorations as well and I came back to someone I knew at night. This time it’s me and me alone all the way. I think I’ll do an entire post just on the thoughts for it next time.

But on to my main point: the people over at 1872 Clipper Tea are one of my favourites to work with! They’d previously sent me lots of tea and then even more (!!) :o with the new launch of their online store. Now that Christmas is coming, they’ve very kindly sent over their latest collection of tea, “A Season of Magic”. I’m usually not a fan of cloyingly sweet teas, so I was quite surprised when I fell in love with these teas just from a single whiff. Plus, the tea blends even LOOK like Christmas – complete with pretty Christmassy sprinkles and all.

1872 Clipper Tea

These are the descriptors for each of the teas:

Shoemaker’s Elves: A merry blend of smooth green tea, orange peel, sweet cinnamon with a splash of sunflower petals, blue mallow flowers and safflower. This sweet, floral brew also tastes wonderful when iced.
The Nutcracker: A rich and luxurious blend of black tea and decadent white chocolate, laced with rose petals for a light, floral accent and topped with holly sprinkles for that added festive cheer.
Rudolph: A rich and luxurious blend of black tea and decadent white chocolate, laced with rose petals for a light, floral accent and topped with holly sprinkles for that added festive cheer.

My favourite’s The Nutcracker! :D

My mom thinks I have too much tea but SERIOUSLY there is no such thing as “too much tea”. Or candles. And maybe perfumes.

Definitely chocolate.

Nom.

A little while back (before this blog existed), the lovely people from SuperNature contacted me with a proposal for a pretty cool collaboration! I got invited down to their store at Forum Shopping Mall and got to pick a whole bunch of goodies to make a series of breakfast smoothie bowls, courtesy of SuperNature :) They delivered my picks to my home thereafter and I was INCREDIBLY excited to create breakfasts with products I’ve always wanted to try!!

supernature organic

The organic produce I had consisted of red kale, golden beetroot, white and yellow peaches – I LOVE PEACHES. Kate from SuperNature very kindly threw in organic/vegan chocolate that I’d been ogling at in the store and honestly…that bar of yogurt/mango/coconut white chocolate is quite possibly the best white chocolate I’ve had. I mean, I REALLY FELL IN LOVE WITH IT. I’M PRETTY CAPABLE OF WIPING IT OUT IN ONE SITTING I’M SURE. Bits of coconut & mango in a yogurty white chocolate is just. Beyond. Greatness. A girl’s gotta have her chocolate fix ;)

peach smoothie bowl

Peach smoothie bowl with sliced yellow peach, vegan mango coconut white chocolate, coconut flakes & bee pollen

Ingredients
2 frozen bananas
1 white peach
1/2 yellow peach
A splash of soy milk to blend

Top with vegan chocolate, sliced peaches, coconut flakes & bee pollen

maqui berry raspberry smoothie bowl

Maqui berry & raspberry smoothie bowl with banana, organic berry granola, vegan goji berry chocolate, raw hemp hearts & coconut flakes

Ingredients
2 frozen bananas
Handful of raspberries
1/2 tsp maqui berry powder
A splash of soy milk to blend

Top with sliced banana, organic berry granola, Ombar goji berry chocolate, raw hemp hearts & coconut flakes

kale smoothie bowl

Kale & beetroot smoothie bowl with sliced white peach, dried black figs & bee pollen

Ingredients
4 stalks red kale
1 small chunk gold beetroot
3 frozen bananas
1/2 white peach
A splash of soy milk to blend

Top with sliced white peach, dried black figs & bee pollen

maqui berry superfood bowl

Maqui berry, blackberry, blueberry & raspberry smoothie bowl (bursting with antioxidants!!) with organic berry granola, fresh berries & vegan goji berry chocolate

Ingredients
Handful of frozen blackberries, blueberries & raspberries
1/2 tsp maqui berry powder
1 1/2 frozen banana
A splash of soy milk to blend

Top with organic berry granola, Ombar goji berry chocolate & fresh berries

cacao smoothie bowl

Cacao-maca smoothie bowl with a peppermint spinach swirl, topped with raw cacao nibs, hemp hearts & bee pollen

Ingredients
3 frozen bananas
2 handfuls spinach
1 tsp peppermint extract
1 tbsp raw cacao powder

Thank you SuperNature for providing me with the opportunity to do a collaboration that was so yum! xx

It’s a Tuesday and I’m still gathering myself, while working from home. Everything feels like I’d just tossed it all in the air, and am still waiting to catch them when they come back down. The past 2 days have been an uncertain pause while everything still moves at a glacial pace – an extension of my feelings when I let myself feel it; an unfamiliar weight gracing familiar spaces.

Everything is new again. I guess after 3 years of doing things a certain way with someone…everything is new again now.

I’m waiting for my mom to come home from Taiwan because the house feels too empty with my brother in camp. It kind of feels like I’ve a habit of transiting out of relationship statuses when my mom is out of town. It matters a little when I feel sorely young and inept at life once more, and a couple of words from an older perspective helps.

This coming December, I will spend it exhausting myself – beaming at everything (and part of my work) coming to life on a certain big day. Then I will clear some of my leave and carry the remaining days over to 2015. I will spend a couple of days alone in a Southeast Asian country somewhere before coming back for Christmas and my 23rd birthday. I’ll blow out the candles on my birthday cake with my best friend, and the people who have been nothing but pillars for me will be there too. I’ll say goodbye to 2014, with its entirety of love and graduation and newfound jobs and growing up. I’ll start 2015 being in Bali for a couple of days and maybe, just maybe…I’ll be a whole lot better by then.

Here’s to bravery and courage, faith and hope, life – and a whole lot of love one day.

One Sunday morning, I came across a red silicone baking tray made up of many tiny little squares…and figured THIS was how I was going to make raw chocolatey brownies, freezer-style, without potentially hurling a metal deep dish of vegan brownies across the living room. Silicone trays = cute pop-out brownies! And a certain level of sanity. I had been looking at a particular recipe of @acrunchyhazelnut on Instagram for a while now (my god, that girl’s feed is just spot on) and made a nut-free adaptation of it!

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Ingredients
8 medjool dates
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
50g dark vegan chocolate
50g coconut oil
30g + 2 tbsp raw cacao powder
2 tbsp dried coconut flakes
1 tbsp maple syrup
Pinch of salt

Instructions
1. Blend 8 medjool dates, 2 tbsp dried coconut flakes, 2 tbsp raw cacao powder, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds & a pinch of salt
2. Press mixture firmly into squares (or any pan you’re using)
3. Warm in a pan until liquid – 30g raw cacao powder, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 50g dark vegan chocolate, 50g coconut oil
4. Pour on top of brownie mixture & put in freezer until set

*I keep them in the freezer and only pop out however many I want to eat when I want to eat it! Alternatively, you can keep them in a tupperware and put them in the fridge or freezer :)

Other healthy substitutions
For brownie mix: Replace sunflower seeds with any nuts, pumpkin seeds, or even buckwheat groats

 

Biggest hit amongst all my friends and family who were kind guinea pigs for my adaption of this recipe from @beautifulsimplehealth on Instagram! They turned out much better than I’d expected – decadent and chewy with a citrusy hint of mandarin coming through the caramel sweetness from medjool dates. They’re my go-to clean treat and one I’m extremely unafraid to stuff my face with :) Enjoy!

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Ingredients
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup golden flaxseeds
7 medjool dates
4 mandarin orange slices
4 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp raw cacao powder
Zest of 1 orange

Instructions
1. Blend 1 cup rolled oats & 1/3 cup golden flaxseeds into flour. The flaxseed oils released will help bind them slightly.
2. Add 7 medjool dates, 4tbsp coconut oil, 1 tbsp raw cacao powder, orange zest of 1 orange, 4 mandarin orange slices & blend.
3. Mould paste into squares & top with dark chocolate chunks

Vegan brownies

..which is kind of weird, to be honest. To me, he’s still that 18/19-year-old boy fumbling with the settings on my DSLR. Occasionally, he’s the annoying 8-year-old who takes all my stuff without my permission. And sometimes, he’s the toddler that I love SOOOO much, my parents have to pry his feeble body from my suffocating hug.

Whenever someone asks me how old my brother is, I actually pause to count back 2 years from my own age – which my brain has very kindly chosen to remember as 21-turning-22. But no, i’m actually 22-turning-23. My brother is an all accomplished chef-to-be/future entrepreneur in everyone’s eyes, an ex-Food Editor, been published overseas, graduated with a stinkin’ high GPA and is well on his way to being an Officer in approximately 1 year. And I’m just kind of…here, wondering how the hell that all happened.

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I sit alone at home with the last bit of Brie cheese that has gone stale, cracker crumbs on my Macbook as I write this down. My brother turns 21 today and he’s somewhere in the jungle while my mom is taking a well-deserved holiday in Taiwan. What can I say? Happy birthday little brother!! The house is always a little lonelier when you’re not around. And it’s a little strange to think that you’ve been away a lot actually – for the 7 months (or was it longer?) on your internship in Los Angeles, before hopping around the region for a bit and then enlisting for the army.

Remember when you were about to enter the departure gates – and I’d sworn to you that I was going to be a hot mess – before I started SOBBING into your shoulder? I’d miss you so much. And several months later, being in San Francisco and calling you, calling you on that damn American number trying to find you in a grimy BART station and suddenly recognising your face. Me squealing “Joeeeey!!!!!”, and running into a big, welcoming hug with tears in my eyes. Priceless. You were my best Christmas present that year.

Some people admire our bond while some are rather perplexed by it – brothers and sisters often fight, and siblings in general are well…amicable really. But they don’t know how I’ve always been the protective bigger sister while you grew up, before you started protecting me against the demons I couldn’t fight. They don’t know that when it’s the two of us, we can break barriers and knock down walls that anyone puts up for us – and one day, we’ll find a way to turn our dreams into a hustling and eventually, thriving business.

joey

Happy birthday little brother. I’ll have you know, I laughed at your Facebook caption when I read it. In my eyes, you’ve hit “successful” a long time ago, and I’ll say it again and again, even before you open the doors to your first food venture. Mom will (hopefully) be beaming with pride and I’ll be right there beside you, snipping that red ribbon for the cheesy “Huat ah!” photograph.

No eggs. No flour. No baking soda. No…dough!! No bake? But they’re kind of baked – just enough to harden it into shape at least. But these are your throw-in-a-bowl-and-mix-’em type of cookies – MY FAVOURITE. Shape them into cookies and shove them in the oven. Any impatient person/lazy bum’s favourite (i.e. me).

I found the original recipe somewhere and it started off as a simple 4-ingredient cookie. You can whittle it down to 2 ingredients actually; a banana oat cookie. I made it a 7-ingredient cookie simply by adding my share of little superfood seeds. Since these cookies are so darn simple, adding a heap of health benefits to it won’t hurt!

cookie

Ingredients
2 bananas (mashed)
1 1/2 cup rolled oats (uncooked)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup golden flaxseeds
1/8 cup chia seeds
1/8 cup raw hemp hearts
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions
1. Dude, seriously. Just mix it all in a bowl & make them cookie shapes.
2. Bake ‘em for 10 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius :)

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Other Healthy Alternatives
Nuts – if you don’t have a life-threatening nut allergy like me, toast chopped hazelnuts/almonds/cashews and add them to your cookie!! You can also add a spoonful (or 2, or 3) of peanut butter to the mix and it’ll be a great binding ingredient aside from the mashed bananas.
Dried berries or fruits – swap out chocolate chips for dried cranberries or raisins for that sweetness.
Vegan – exchange dark chocolate chips for raw cacao nibs to make it completely vegan! Unless you’re already using vegan chocolate chips :P

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