Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sydney trip: exploring the city

(I just finished a maths assignment due tomorrow, which means time to write about Sydney!)

I arrived in Sydney Thursday evening and left Monday afternoon. The Rubik's cube competition was on Saturday, which gave me plenty of time to explore the city.

I met up with another competitor when I got to Sydney. His name is Edouard, and he is from France, but he just happened to be in Sydney at the time. (If you look at his competition statistics, you can see that he used to hold many Rubik's cube world records!)

Edouard was really nice and took me all around the city, starting Thursday night! (I originally had planned to just rest after arriving on Thursday, but then I would have missed out.) That night, I saw:

Sydney Opera House!
Sydney Harbour Bridge!
I suppose the Opera House and the Bridge are the two big icons of Sydney, which means I finished all my major tourist business on my first night! But of course I didn't stop there. Some other places that I visited during my time in Sydney included:

Chinatown! I spent so much time in this area that I should write another blog post about it!
Darling Harbour!
Darling Harbour at night!
Circular Quay!
ANZAC War Memorial in Hyde Park! (ANZAC Day was on Wednesday 25 April.)

Royal Botanic Gardens! Unfortunately, the gardens closed soon after Edouard and I entered, so we didn't get to see much. We did have a nice short walk.

The Rocks! This is a historic part of Sydney, filled with lots of old buildings from the first colony.
Umm... Apple Store! I suppose every big city has one!
I looked up Sydney's weather forecast back when I had not yet left Melbourne, and I was disappointed to see rain, rain, rain - every single day when I was there! But I ended up being really lucky because the weather was really good when I visited! There was no rain (except Monday, my last day), and the weather was warm enough that I could walk around the city at night without a jacket! (How was this possible? It's almost winter in the southern hemisphere!)

I originally planned to buy a public transportation pass when I arrived, but following Edouard's example, I decided to do most of my commuting via foot. After just the first night, my legs were super sore, and my knees hurt when I bent them. I learned the hard way that Sydney is very very hilly. Looking back, I don't know how I survived "hiking" around Sydney all those days! It was really good exercise though!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sydney trip: an overview

Yikes! I have been falling really behind in keeping this blog updated! This is because I have been spending the last few days catching up on schoolwork after returning from Sydney.

Wait... Sydney? Oh yeah, I forgot to say! I went to Sydney last Thursday (4/19) and came back this Monday (4/23). There was a Rubik's cube competition there on Saturday (the Sydney Autumn 2012), so I decided not only to attend, but to spend a few days before and after the competition exploring the city!

It was a very nice trip. Despite Easter break being over, I felt like I was on vacation! Well, actually, my Easter break didn't even feel like a vacation at all, because I was spending most of my time working on the two papers I had. But I finished them just in time for Sydney, so I didn't have to worry about schoolwork during my trip!

I think I'll break up my trip into separate entries so I don't have a super huge blog post. I'll find time to write the other entries in the next few days. For now, here's a picture!

Taking a picture with the Sydney Opera House while on a ferry!
(My camera had a total of 610 pictures of Sydney when I got back! But after removing lots of bad picture, I had 429. Not bad!)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cooking over Easter Break!

7 April 2012 Dinner

garlic, onion, green onion, ginger, red chili pepper, red bell pepper, cabbage, 豆干/dòugān (dry tofu?), mirin
I was loosely following a recipe I found in a Chinese vegetarian cookbook. I like the nice, bright colors! (Or is that because of my camera?)

8 April 2012 Lunch

egg, onion, green onion
sweet potato, cilantro
The onion and green onion added to the fried egg was a nice touch! (Would this be considered an omelet?) So was the cilantro added to the steamed sweet potatoes! Yay for spices!

8 April 2012 Dinner

red curry paste (shallot, garlic, galangal, lime juice, lemongrass, cilantro seeds, cumin seeds, kaffir lime leaf, red chilli pepper, olive oil), coconut milk, green bean, broccoli, baby corn cob, cilantro, basil, Japanese ramen noodle (I'm typing this list from memory. I have a feeling I forgot something!)
In the morning, I decided I would try a recipe I found for "red curry with cashews" for dinner, so I went out to the Queen Victoria Market to gather all the ingredients. (I couldn't find some, so I left them out.)

The recipe didn't look so bad, at first. But making it took forever! First, I had to make the red curry paste, which involved a lot of chopping. Then I had to do more chopping. And I cooked some Japanese ramen noodles on the side while doing all the other preparation. This was a bad idea because I couldn't keep track of everything.

Finally, I had everything ready for stir-frying except the coconut milk. So I took the can of coconut milk and a can opener, and proceeded to open the can. Except I couldn't figure out how to use the can opener! After 10 or so minutes, I realized I was working with the wrong end of the can. So I turned the can upside down and spent another 5 minutes before I figured out the proper angle to hold the can opener. Sigh...

But everything worked out after that! And I think it turned out well! There were so many different flavors coming from all those ingredients!

Making the dish took me well over 2 hours! I was super exhausted by the end. I think I need a break from trying out new dishes. Especially if they are all this tiring!

9 April 2012 Dinner

garlic, green onion, broccoli stalk, carrot, dou gan, cabbage, basil, egg
Like I said yesterday, I needed a break after that super complicated recipe. Nothing exciting tonight. I'm just trying to get clear out the refrigerator.

10 April 2012 Dinner

I'm still in the process of clearing out the refrigerator! I was thinking earlier about what I could do with all the vegetables, and one thing I thought of was: pasta! Except I didn't want to use pre-made tomato sauce, so I attempted to make my own sauce with absolutely no idea how to proceed. What I ended up doing was using a can of tomato paste. The result was nice, but nothing like tomato sauce that I am used to.

12 April 2012 Dinner

More tomatoes! This time, I used a can of diced tomatoes instead. And I added a bunch of spices in an attempt to make a tomato and egg curry.

15 April 2012 Lunch

Before break started, I was looking online one day for ideas with fried rice, and found one that used pineapple! When I saw the pictures, I knew I had to try something like that, so I'm glad I was able to get to it on the last day of my break.

I even did the whole pineapple-bowl thing, which was lots of fun!

The dish turned out super sweet!

15 April 2012 Dinner

Some fried quinoa here. Nothing super exciting really; I'm just trying to clear out the refrigerator some more. I had some leftover "red curry paste" (in quotes, because I don't think it turned out correctly!) which I had made for an earlier dish, so I decided to throw some of that in.

And that ends my Easter break cooking spree. I wish the ending was a bit more exciting.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

End of Easter break already?

I can't believe it's already Sunday night (9:50pm local time). How did my Easter break pass by so quickly? Did I even get anything done?

Looking back at the past week, I've spent a lot of time at the university library working on two papers, one due this Wednesday and the other due next Monday. That was not so exciting. And this is my first time writing a university-level history paper and a philosophy paper (at any level!), so I experienced a lot more frustration and confusion than I would have liked.

Other than passing hours in the library, I did spend some time outside enjoying the nice weather... when there actually was nice weather! The first few days and last few days were all sunny and warm. However, in the middle, it became super super freezing, and it rained for a few days. The break started off feeling like summer, then all of sudden it became winter, and now it's summer again. But it's actually supposed to be fall now! Melbourne weather sure is crazy!

I did spend Saturday afternoon at the Melbourne Central food court hanging out with some other cubers!

Everyone sure looks happy! (I took the picture after most cubers left. There were a lot more cubers there than this!)

Oooh, I also did a lot of cooking! But I should probably save that for another entry. (Coming soon! Except I should work on my papers...)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

More cooking!

Thanks for everyone's support on my first blog entry on cooking! It's really encouraging! Here are some more pictures of dishes I came up with, mostly by mixing random things together. Hopefully I'm getting better?

Now that I am on Easter break, I plan to spend more time cooking and learning how spices and sauces and seasoning and everything else works, so that I won't have plain vegetables all the time. So maybe the next cooking entry will be better. (Or maybe not!)

24 March 2012 

Butternut squash! (Or here, they call it "butternut pumpkin.") I had never tried this until I went to Princeton, and I loved it so much that when I saw it at Costco back home, I asked my mom to buy some!

25 March 2012 Lunch

Butternut squash noodle soup! With an egg added! I think I am getting better at varying things!

25 March 2012 Dinner

Between lunch and dinner, I biked to the Queen Victoria Market, and bought some fruits and vegetables. Among other things, I bought some cabbage and sweet potatoes!

31 March 2012 Lunch

I only used half of the sweet potatoes the previous time, so I tried to steam the rest. First time using a steamer!

31 March 2012 Dinner

I visited an Asian supermarket between lunch and dinner, and saw Japanese ramen noodles with "great for stir-fry" on the packaging. How could I not buy that? I mixed the noodles with celery, red bell pepper (or "red capsicum" as it's called here), carrots, mushrooms, and... what is all that tiny mushy white stuff? Tofu! I didn't intend for it to become like that, but I liked how it turned out!

1 April 2012 Lunch 

Fried rice! (Except it's kind of moist.) And I used up the remaining tofu. Not surprisingly, it ended up in the same condition as the previous time.

3 April 2012

Quinoa with some vegetables!

5 April 2012

I decided to try cooking some sweet potato in the same pot as the rice. I think it turned out nicely! I also tried to fry an egg, and it mostly stayed in one piece! (It was very dry though.)

6 April 2012

I used the same cabbage from a few days ago! And there's still a bunch remaining. Ahh! I'll be eating lots of cabbage in the next few days! (And I only bought a quarter of a cabbage too!)

Also, I don't know if they're very visible, but I started off cooking with some cumin seeds! Trying to spice things up, literally! The seeds starting popping up from the pan like firecrackers, which kind of scared me, but I learned that it's actually normal for that happen.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday!

Wow! I'm surprised that I "survived" Good Friday! Here in Melbourne, nearly everything was closed! My parents were surprised when I told them that, and people here are surprised when I tell that Good Friday isn't that big in America.

Anyways, I'm on Easter break! Today was the first day, and I have the entire next week off! I can see myself doing a bunch of work on assignments due right after break. I guess that is part of university life...

But I'm also planning to spend more time cooking, so that all my dishes don't look the same. Which reminds me, I have plenty new cooking pictures that I need to put up!

Since everything was closed today, I spent some time at a park doing some reading for my ethical theory class. I also decided to go for a run. I ran down Smith Street and up Brunswick Street, two big shopping centers in the area, and saw for myself that everything was closed. Well, everything except for a few restaurants, bars, small grocery stores, and... a bookstore!

Yesterday, while I was on campus, there were some Easter-related events.

Some of Melbourne Uni's Christian clubs were giving out hot cross buns. I had no idea what they were until yesterday! I thought "hot cross buns" was just a song! But now I know that people eat these on Good Friday. Except I'm still not quite sure why...

They had boxes and boxes of these!
Also, the Student Union Environment Department (the word "department" is used differently here), organized an Easter egg hunt, with "Easter egg" replaced by "water fountain"! They gave out a list of questions, and we went around campus looking for all the different water fountains, which contained the answers to the questions! The message that the Environment Department was trying to tell us was: bottled water is bad bad bad. In the end, I got a chocolate egg and a water bottle. Yay, environmental awareness!

Here's me with Ruthi, one of the leaders of the Environment Department.
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