Serotonin (not the neurotransmitter)

Serotonin (n.)- A phenolic amine neurotransmitter C10H12N2O that is a powerful vasoconstrictor and is found especially in the brain, blood serum and mucous membranes of mammals.

I’m surprised the dictionary definition lacks one of the most vital functions of Serotonin- a hormone used to regulate sleep, appetite + digestion, memory, and most importantly, MOOD.

It’s the happy hormones! (aside from the ones that you get after some hard core chest presses or HIIT cardio or something up in the gym, that’s another different story).

Pretty sure many of us (or at least I do, fo’ surree) need a HUGE jab of this hormone, at least for sleep and mood purposes anyway (something to whisk away the hanger and these massive Gucci eye bags on my face right about now).

Now before you click away thinking this is yet another Chemistry tutorial, please don’t, because this has nothing to do with Chemistry.

Serotonin is a biological hormone, but it IS also a pretty dang cool name for a hip, contemporary cafe tucked away neatly in the surburban streets of Burnley (subtly in Richmond, but it’s literally next to Burnley Station).

This cafe oozes molecules of chic and simple style, adorned with elegant indoor lighting and floral, plant-y centerpieces.

Yet it’s not just your typical minimalistic, Ikea catalogue look-the cafe also holds its own little quirks- tiled tessellations for walls, conical flasks and beakers for water and sugar storage, and my personal favourite- every table has its own specie of cacti nestled snugly in its own geometrical pot.

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After alighting the train and getting a little bit lost  (as with my sense of direction, i’m sorry Surina for making you walk under the blazing sun too), boy were we glad to finally step into Serotonin.

What made us even MORE glad was the fact that we were offered places at the cafe’s swing seats- the next defining feature aside from its menu.

That’s right, my two girlfriends and I were seated on large, gentle, wooden swings, suspended cleanly from the ceiling. We overlooked the street, facing a large open window that allowed natural elements to seep in. One could feel the nostalgia of outdoor childhood play, just minus the pinching, chafing feeling of a harsh rubber seat and the strange metallic smells of the playground chains.

And just like a little child on the swings, I was hit with a thrill- a thrill of finding something that belonged outside so organically and wittily placed indoors, complementing and somewhat revolutionising my cafe experience.

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Today we just ordered drinks- a gingerbread latte, a green bluice and a fruit bluice.

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I’d dare say Serotonin could be the only place in Melbourne where your coffee graces you with a smile that you unconciously give it on first glance.

The menu offers a wide variety of plant based dishes and drinks, all carefully crafted with wholesome, nutritious ingredients to leave your serotonin levels peakin’ and your intestines smiling (clean, unprocessed eating is always key).

Today’s bluice (a blended juice) for me was Green- complete with kale, banana, mint, granny smith (apples) and lemon, topped with slices of chia coated apple, large dessiccated coconut flakes, a hunk of lemon, and a velvety piece of raw kale.

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Chia-seed coated apple slices securely strung through a smoothie straw? HELL YEAH!
For all a smoothie mason jar/glass, this is actually a really good idea. Away with precarious floating of extra fruit and toppings on the surface of a painfully cramped little opening and goodbye messy spills all over the table before that perfect Instagram shot can be taken.

The only thing I wasn’t so sure about was the piece raw kale- was I meant to eat that? (ate it anyway)

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A mellow, cool wind caressed our faces like a new kabuki brush as we swung lightly, sipping on our beverages. The sunlight lit the cafe softly, exuding authentic summer vibes.

In the background, small chatter of affluent cafe visitors and sizzles from the kitchen window gently overlaid the whimsical zen soundtrack that played. Time seemed to slow to a calming speed as the swing I was perched on moved rhythmically in time with the light breeze.

People came in groups, pairs and singulars, relaxed with drink in hand, leisurely reading and holding casual conversations.  I couldn’t have asked for better company- basking in the unique atmosphere of this cafe in the presence of my two beloved gal pals, speaking about anything under the sun (after cute snapchats and photos) was the true highlight of my Serotonin experience (thank you for tolerating me and taking photos for this).

As far pricing goes, well, it is your typical Melbournian brunch place after all. Do be prepared to cut into your dollars a little bit, but hey, swing seats and nerdy decor!

Not a bad place to swing by for a dose of happy hormones.

Visit Serotonin at 52 Madden Grove, Burnley VIC 3121 😀

Oh yeah they were also filming an episode of Postcards, a travel/lifestyle (?) series on Channel 9. I believe that’s Shane Crawford there with his back to us.

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Spinach and Salmon for a Sore throat

my throat is on fire.

Hot, fiyaah flames.

And I don’t mean this in a “look-at-you-go-you’re-on-fire” type of way, I mean this as a dry, burning sensation down the insides of my neck, caused by nothing but the body’s very own inflammatory functions in response to some bacteria that I’d probably picked up yesterday.

That’s right. Yo’ girl here, is sick.

When swallowing becomes a chore, and moving vocal chords feel like scraping sun burnt skin with a rough wired sponge, it was difficult to stay alert today, let alone remaining motivated to do anything or talk to anyone.

…Going to the gym probably wasn’t the best idea either, but in my defense, I didn’t exactly realise how much my throat actually hurt until after i’d scraped through shoulder boulder day today, and then coming home to collapse in my seat.

Feeling somewhat heavy, weak and a little bit delirious, I sat in my chair, head heavy and balancing precariously on my tired, flimsy neck. I was rapidly falling asleep to a food recipe video i’d added into the “watch later” list on Youtube yesterday (no offence to the youtuber- your video was amazing, my body is just sick.), but as usual, was startled awake by my Asian father, ironically yelling at me to take a nap in my room instead.

Sometimes I wonder what one has to do just to get a mere 20 minutes’ of peace and silence while living with a pair of Asian parents.

Anyhoo,

I’d decided to scrape myself off the chair. No more wallowing in self pity and agony anymore.
What does one do when one is sick? That’s right. Soup.

Tonight’s menu was a Salmon and Spinach soup. Packed full of nutrients and protein to aid those immune system cells in blasting away the nasty infection residing at the back of my throat.

We didn’t have very much on hand in the fridge as we are leaving for a trip to Singapore on Saturday (desperately trying to clear off food), however I managed to find some silken tofu, frozen winter veg and an egg to nutritionally supplement the soup.

Tofu cubes in a bowl
I was always told that the secret to the porcelain smooth skin of ancient Chinese princesses lies within the copious amounts of silken tofu they were consuming. Packed with iron and oestrogen, tofu is especially good for the ladies- but of course, the protein amount is also beneficial for both men and women in achieving those lean gains.
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Rich in Omega 3 and 6, the good fats that’ll never make you fat.
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Don’t be put off by the fact that the veg is frozen- freezing it actually preserves its nutritional value, ensuring that it remains from the farm, to the supermarkets at Aldi, and then into your gut.

Spinach is actually one of the most nutritionally dense vegetables ever to grow on earthly soil, and is packed full of iron, vitamin C, calcium, vitamin K, A, B12 and many other nice things, like dietary fibre and folate (no wonder it makes popeye swole and strong).

I love it in a soup, as it wilts like magic, becoming SO simple to eat (good for the aching throat and injured taste buds).

A healthy hunk of salmon for soup never disappoints too- a great source of vitamin D, friendly fats (polyunsaturated omgea 3 and 6 galore), and best of aaall, protein for the lean muscular gains.

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Watercress Spinach, high in iron, vitamin C and dietary fibre.

Making the soup itself wasn’t too hard of a task either. (if a sick, low-key grumpy teenage girl can do it, i’m sure you can too.)

First, add 1 to 1.5 cups of water into a pot with some chicken stock powder, and bring that to a slow simmer.

Add your frozen veg, and wait for THAT to boil.

As soon as it starts simmering, placing your salmon on top of the veg, and turn the heat on medium to low. Close the lid of the pot and wait for about 3-4 minutes, allowing your salmon to sort of boil/steam until it is juuust cooked (fear not if it is still slightly raw in the middle).

Once you see it change colour, take your salmon out of the pot and into a bowl to save it from overcooking.

Next, dump your tofu and spinach in, and wait roughly about 4 minutes for it to cook and wilt. Adjust your heat to medium depending on the pot, and how much ingredients you put in.

At this point here, I added a little bit more chicken stock, and about 1 tablespoon of this bonito sauce that was bought from Daiso.

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My absolute favourite for anything salmon- also works well as a soba noodle dipping sauce

If you can’t find this in your local Daiso, you can substitute this for some low sodium soy sauce (and perhaps start with half a tablespoon first, before adding more according to taste). I absolutely adore this dressing however, it is so versatile and its flavour doesn’t domineer like soy sauce can sometimes do.

Once the spinach has wilted and your soup looks a more liquidy, crack in your egg, and place your salmon back into the pot to heat and finish off cooking.

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Nearly done

I personally like my egg yolk runny (so its sauceyy at the end), so I switched the stove off once the first hints of cooked translucency appeared through the egg whites. If you prefer your eggs a little more cooked, leave the soup simmering for 1-2 minutes longer.

Serve in a bowl, or eat straight from the pot (I decided to serve in a bowl today, for photograph purposes)

Looks like a tornado flew around in my bowl before you came (don’t lie, you sang that didn’t you), and the egg yolk I was so SOOOO carefully trying not to break, broke like my heart did when I saw it breaking. 😥

But you’re left with a silky, warm broth that’s slightly sweet and salty, slightly milky from the salmon, and packed full of nutrients from wholesome ingredients.

Glutinous Rice Dumplings (粽子)

I love my grandmother. A short-ish, easy going, humble little old lady of 80 years of age never ceases to place a smile on my face (genetics also didn’t hesitate to place her nose on my face too).

My grandmother usually resides in the tropics of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but for the past two months, she has been visiting us (and slowly getting used to the erratic weather here). It has become tradition that on every visit, she would spend one day in the kitchen wrapping her family famous ‘sticky rice’ (glutinous) dumplings, complete with bamboo leaves and all.

Hooray! This means at least a week’s supply of dinners, a taste of grandmummy’s love and most importantly, some quality time with my grandmother, learning what can basically be considered our traditional ‘family recipe’, before it phases out into a cultural extinction.

My grandmother had begun wrapping the first batch of dumplings bright and early at 8 am this morning. The large pot for cooking these gems in was up and at a rolling boil by 9 am, and the house was filled with its whistles as all of us patiently waited for the dumplings to cook.

Glutinous rice dumplings, also known as ‘sticky rice’ dumplings, or 粽子 (in mandarin, pronounced Zong Zi), are pretty much what they are- a mound of glutinous rice stuffed with hearty fillings such as savoury chestnuts, pork, mushrooms and wrapped in a fragrant bamboo leaf. They are usually eaten around the Dragon Boat Festival (端午节) period, around the month June in the Gregorian calendar (in May for all you Lunar date-ers out there!).

Today, my grandmother chose her classic dumpling combo- dried shrimps with shiitake mushrooms and five layered pork belly braised with chestnuts in oyster sauce (I know it’s not June, but time does not restrict an opportunity to glutinous rice dumplings. That not how it roll.)

I think we  underestimate the amount of work, preparation and time that really goes into wrapping these dumplings, a large portion of it going to re-hydration of many components of the dumpling itself- soaking the bamboo leaves, raw glutinous rice, dried shrimps, and the dried shiitake. Of course, cooking the fillings also take time… all the effort and hard work  that my grandmother put in behind the scenes leading up to today, before we arrive to her station in the kitchen and see everything neatly segregated and placed in separate bowls, ready for wrapping.

My grandmother would always reminisce at the old days- raising a family of 6 children in the 1960s in Malaysia was no walk in the park.

“When a family has no money, one just needs to learn how to do it yourself,” (translated from Cantonese) she would say.

Even though now we have money, and inevitably, machinery that can easily manufacture these dumplings, there is nothing better than having a real-life teacher at your dispense, showing you the genuine method in wrapping these dumplings.

“Everyone’s too busy in this day and age to learn this type of old fashioned thing,” mused by grandmother, as she carefully inspected another bamboo leaves for holes. She was right! Why let our traditional recipe cease here?
Grasping the leaf between her forefinger and thumb, my grandmother looked at me expectantly, and before I knew what I was doing, I found myself with a bamboo leaf in my hand, perched onto a stool next to the master herself.

A large part of the flavour in these dumplings are in the bamboo leaves. Back in the old days, they’d come fresh from the bamboo plant (probably ones that grew in your backyard), but unless you live in China next to a panda farm or something now, I think your local Asian grocery store should sell them in convenient (and very generous) packs for just a little over 5 dollars.

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The dried bamboo leaves were soaked 3 times for 3-4 hours each time, or until the water it soaks in remains clear. On its first soak, the bamboo leaves will leave the water a murky, dirty yellow colour, and one may find sediments or soil. Keep washing and soaking it until it is clean.

Not forgetting the real stars of the show- the dumpling fillers.

Now my grandmother cooks by feel- meaning to say that she follows no recipe, and virtually eyeballs everything, so I do apologise that this cannot be an exact, detailed tutorial on cooking the ingredients. I can only piece together snippets of instructions given to me by grandma in broken, lay-man’s Cantonese (which is what I grew up speaking, being raised by my beloved grandmother).

As my grandmother fiddles with the half completed dumpling in her hand, she tells me about the first filler (and my personal favourite), the stir fried dried shrimp and shiitake.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetThe dried shrimp and shiitake mushrooms are first soaked in plain water overnight, then stir fried with shallots, garlic and sauces.

First start with some canola oil in the pan. Add 4-5 small shallot heads (for a large-ish bowl of shrimp and about 250-300g of mushrooms) and 1 large clove of garlic, frying them in the oil until your kitchen is redolent of the delicious fragrance.

Add in the rehydrated ingredients and toss to cook. Add in 1-2 tablespoons of oyster sauce, a little bit of brown sugar (white works fine too), and a little splash of black (dark) soya sauce for that rustic, dark colour.

The second dumpling filler is no other than braised 5 layer pork belly with chestnuts.

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Again, the meat and chestnuts are braised in dark soya sauce and oyster sauce (green onion and/or ginger may be added according to liking). Place the meat in a pot with the chestnuts and sauces and braise on low heat for a little over an hour (I think there was close to 1 kilogram of pork belly here), or until the protein is tender and chestnuts are able to be split in half with a poke, but still holds its shape.
Grandma’s tip: If braising this as a dish to go with rice (instead of as a dumpling filler), leave the pot boiling for about 1.5-2 hours, so the chestnuts cook fully through.

And of course,  not forgetting the binder of the entire delicacy- the glutinous rice.
The raw rice is soaked in water for a couple of hours, before being tossed with what my gran calls the ‘shallot oil’, which is literally her frying some spare shallots in cooking oil and then pouring the concoction into the rice. This allows the dumpling to slide smoothly off its outer covering after its cooked (saves me from scraping remnants of rice off the leaf  with my teeth like an animal really).
Grandma’s tip #2: If you are lazy to fry up some shallot oil, or run out of fresh shallots to do so, one can always use the packaged pre-fried shallots that can be bought at your local Asian grocery. Just toss some in the soaked rice and you should be good to go.

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As I watch my grandmother wrap the dumplings, I notice her hands, I mean properly notice her hands for the first time. My grandmother’s hands appear weathered, freckled from raising a family of 6, from cooking and cleaning over the years. Her hands appear seasoned from changing the diapers of her 5 grandchildren, from spanking us when we were being mischievous, and from taking tender, loving care of us.

Despite all this however, her hands do not lack vigour. They are still as strong, agile and move with dexterity as she swiftly works her magic, producing a perfectly firm, triangular glutinous rice dumpling, tightly secured with a thin little ruffian string.

Her firm grip holds my clumsy, stiff fingers into a curved position as she teaches me her technique to dumpling wrapping- “you cannot hold the dumpling too tight, or it won’t hold its shape, the leaf will crack.”
Now that was ironic, yet my grandmother had a point, very much literally and metaphorically.

“if you keep gripping the dumpling too tight and being afraid that it’ll fall over and injure itself, then it’ll split, and cannot hold together when it’s being cooked in the pot,” my grandmother elaborated. (translated quite literally from Cantonese)

Very true hey, sometimes, we just need to trust that everything will hold together and let go. For me, it translates into letting go of many worries and stresses and just trusting God to fight my battles for me. Holding on too tightly injures no one but yourself- like my grandmother explained, it’ll cause brittle cracks and holes in your leaf, and therefore cause a leaky, insecure disaster.

Letting go is the only way to move forward, to learn from past mistakes, to be forgiven and to have the space to repent, so that one may survive and thrive in further tribulations (like those dumplings surviving 3 hours boiling in a 100 degree pot of water without coming loose and spewing its contents everywhere).

 

Holding the cusp of the dumpling in place, it is then filled in layers; first with a little bit of rice, then filling #1, filling #2, and then more rice to cover, before reaching the most technical part- sealing the dumpling.

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Fill, fill, fill
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Opt to have a salted (century) egg in the middle of the dumpling if you like!

I must admit, I thought I was doing fine, until I got to the last step of the wrapping process, which is sealing the dumplings and then tying everything together with the ruffian string.

Easier than it looks really, but it involves holding everything together, understanding the contours and shape of your dumpling, before folding the chock-filled cusp of the dumpling over and onto the rest of the leaf.

Make sure that the corners are folded, and the part of the leaf that makes the corners of the dumpling are pinched outwards. This ensures that the innards of the dumpling remain as innards during the long cooking process.

Somehow or rather, she manages to wrap a killer dumpling, and it is all tied and held solely together by a flimsy piece of ruffian string. The kitchen is filled with chit chat, as my grandmother happily speaks to us all, and instructs her friend next to her. Her hands move as if they had a mind of their own- never missing a step, never stumbling.

As my grandmother completes roughly 8 dumplings, stringed together in a cluster, my aunt comes around with a plastic bowl, transferring the bunch from my grandmother’s station to the stove, submerging it into a deep pot of boiling hot salted water, where it’ll cook for the next 3 hours.
Grandma’s tip #3: Add a little bit of chicken powder and salt to the water for boiling the dumplings in- chicken powder just brings out that little extra flavour.

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I love my grandmother. She is a short-ish, easy going, humble lady, standing strong at 80 years young. She is always happy, and sees the glass half full, even when there’s water spilled all over the kitchen top. Her patience, love and sacrifice in being the pillar- the mother of the family inspires me, and I thank God for her.

 

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Cheese from a non stressed out cow (Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart)

Cheese.

Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tarts.

And suddenly, these delectable, palmed sized cheese tarts have taken the snacking scene on social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat by storm.

But what exactly are they? Is it savoury? Is it sweet?

As far as i’ve heard, there are only two shops in Melbourne so far dishing out these Japanese cheese saucers, one on La Trobe St in the CBD, and one tucked away humbly in the corner of Boxhill Centro next to the Carrington Rd exit.

According to the large sign on display, the Hokkaido Baked Cheese tart all started in Kinotonya, a long established Western confectionery store located in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

The secret to these cheese tarts is, well, undeniably in the cheese. (Not going to lie though, I personally found the tart pastry quite the star of this snack, but more to that in the later paragraph)
Being the dairy source of Japan, Hokkaido-ian cheese is most often recognised for its silky smooth texture, and its unique mellow taste.

Aside from that, it is also apparently the most ‘ethical’ choice of cheese- these tarts claim to be comprised of cheese manufactured in Hokkaido from the milk of a ‘non-stressed’ cow.

But is this tart really worth the line up, the wait, the excitement and the price?

It was around quarter to 7 in the evening when I stumbled upon the little cheese tart store in Boxhill on the way home, and as if it were meant to be, there was not a single person in line. It was literally a clear, all access path to one of the most lined-up for snacks in town at the moment- why give up this opportunity to finally experience the hype of it?

It was AUD 3.90 for a single tart wrapped in their signature yellow paper bags- which is quite a fair bit to pay for a single palmed sized cheese tart for my liking (perhaps for the effort in keeping those cows as zen as possible?).

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I took a bite before deciding to blog about this alright?

The first bite wasn’t breathtaking, but it wasn’t bad either- my taste buds were left in a… texture shock. I was pleasantly surprised at what lay under the nicely seared skin of the tart-a pale, semi-liquefied glob of very mild, slightly sweet tasting cheese (similar to a silky cream, only less oily). Just looking at it from the top, one would have expected it to be a little firmer, similar to the texture of a Cantonese egg tart or a baked new-york cheesecake.

I must comment that the pastry was awesomely baked- not overly crumbly as to leave the front of your black t-shirt specked with dandruff like crumbs, yet not overly hard as for my grandmother to chip her teeth on. It wasn’t dense either, and didn’t leave you feeling like you’d just downed some room temperature butter rubbed carelessly into flour.

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It’s so liquid-y that the centers still wobble (but do not tumble over) when I grasp this in between my fingers and shake.

I can’t deny that I like the flavour and feel of this tart- it isn’t sickly sweet, tastes rather natural, clean, and the paper lining isn’t transparent coated with oil.

However, I am still unsure as to ALL the excitement over it, especially at its price and sizing… don’t get me wrong, it is a delicious, delectable and delightful little thing, I just wouldn’t stand in line for more than 30 minutes for it.

Overall, this tart gets a 8 out of 10 from me, I personally quite liked the juxtaposition of the crispy pastry with the silky cheese paste (and I guess knowing the fact that this cheese came from a cow that was probably treated tenderly like a child), however my gal pal I was with commented that it was quite like an under baked cheese cake- but she does prefer her tart fillings a little firmer.

Worth a try if you’re in the CBD area or Boxhill as an occasional tea-time snack I say.

Stores located at:
LG19A, 211 La Trobe St, Melbourne VIC 3000
&
Box Hill Central, 1 Main Street, Box Hill, Melbourne

 

 

 

Sun shines Brighton the beach (a photostory)

So fine was this Thursday morning.

Waking up to the mellow glow of the rising sun, air soft, cool, and refreshing like a spritz of minty body mist.

…Aaand nope. That only lasted about 2 hours, and by 12pm I wasn’t sure if I was sitting on my chair or on the top wire rack of an active 250 degree oven.

I’d had enough. No more sweltering at home and complaining about the heat (and wishing we had some AC around here), I had to get out.

Now it comes to my attention that there has been incidents of human faeces tainting the pristine shores of many renowned Melbournian beaches, but trust me, when you’re suffocated by the pressing, tyrannic heat wave in a relatively poorly ventilated house, human faeces suddenly become the least of any concerns.

So off to Brighton beach my best friend and I set off for. What I really love about this beach are its clean sands, clear waters, cute beach houses, and candid blue skies. It’s about a 30 minute train ride from Richmond station (Sandringham line), and the train station (Brighton Beach) is literally on the beach (okay maybe its a road crossing away in reality, but one can smell the sea and feel the sand immediately).

Recommend/10! It’s less populated than the other city beaches! ;D

It was idyll. The sun shone strong, and the wind complemented his heat, cooling our skins down with her gentle sea breezes.
The sand was spotted with little specks and spicules of treasures from the sea-  oddly shaped pebbles weathered smooth by the water, seashells streaked with colourful, idiosyncratic marks and sticks of dried algae and coral, strewn lazily across the sand.

In the distance from our funky little picnic blanket makeshift (a disposable Christmas tablecloth- believe me, this was practicality at its best), people lazed, baking to a golden brown under the sun, and children darted energetically in and out of the water. We watched as the wind got a little too excited, uprooting a lady’s beach umbrella and taking it some distance away from its frazzled and rather shocked owner.

The water hugged the shore extra tightly today, each and every wave rolling boldly toward land before crashing vigorously, leaving our feet sinking in the crumbly sand, submerged in a mound of icy white sea foam.

There was not much to see, but heaps to observe- repetitive waves lapping the shore, incessantly collecting loose little pebbles and stringy seaweed,
skinny little sea birds leaving footprints across the firm, moistened sand,
fluffy clouds urged by the sea breeze, moving in slow motion across the blue sky. Families uniting, mothers and fathers overjoyed, trying to electronically document their children’s momentuous first dip in the sea.

My best friend and I usually never stop talking- yet we needn’t say anything today, the crisp, audacious sound of the water hitting the shore filled all silence.

Today was a breath of fresh air (very much in a literal sense), and there’s nothing better than basking in God’s amazing creation with quality company.

Massive thank you to my best friend for your company, for your laughs, snapchats, photos and many more! Happy 1 year and 1 month since the last time we’ve come to Brighton beach! (it’s like a mini anniversary in this 9 year and running friendship yes) There’s no one i’d rather share these awesome experiences with than you.

There’s enough description from me for today, now to some photos (and some aloe vera vasaline for my skin that’s the colour of a slice of burnt strawberry jam toast)

Minds to the (leg) Muscles

Inhale, aaaaaannd exhale.

Now that all that crazy Christmas rush and that fluffy few days of transition in between to the new year (don’t lie, i’m sure we were all equally as phased and a little lost as to what to do on December the 27th right?) is over, I’m real glad to finally be able to wake up, not having to meet any deadlines or pressing to be at work, or anywhere really.

…Aaannd, because it is Tuesday, the first leg workout of the year is complete! (being real honest here, my entire lower half aches sourly and probably detests me right about now)

Not entirely sure how the professional bloggers and vloggers do it, but here is a try at documenting what I get up to on booty day, starting with a sweaty Sabrina, a shitty little Samsung S4 camera and trying to avoid weird glances from that guy on the adjacent squat rack as I stand on boxes to try and take photos.

So this workout comprises of 2 super-sets, 2 tri-sets and 2 single powerlifting moves.
YES it sounds like a whole heap, but before you leave me, please hear me out!
I generally only work legs once a week, and I like to keep repetitions low and weight relatively heavy, especially on the powerlifts.

For beginners, I’d recommend this workout with very light weight, or even substituting it with free weights.

WARMUP
I like to do 5 minutes on the stair climb machine, especially for leg day. Focus on stepping up, driving from your heels and squeeezing the deep inner muscles of the glute. Step 2 steps at a time if you can.

After that, I like to do fire hydrants, 10 on each leg.
Get onto your hands and knees, hold your core in, and rotate your leg from the hip,bringing it in towards you and then extending it out onto the side in one smooth motion.

By now your hip flexors, joint and boooty should be nice and warm, ready to get downn and dirtyy.

POWERLIFT 1
I like to start with squats. Weighted barbell squats.
Take it in your stride, working with a weight that is appropriate for your fitness levels. (please please PLEASE do not go too heavy without proper form. If you’re a beginner, start with no weights or a very light free weight.)

Do 4 sets of 8-20 reps, starting with a warm-up weight. For me, I like to start with 40 kilos, keeping the core tight, feet firmly planted slightly shy of shoulder width apart.

One GOLDEN rule: Ass to the grass.

And of course, all that usual, knees behind the toes, driving up from the heel as you come up, contracting your gluteus muscles (butt cheeks!) to stabilise your hips. You should feel it in those smaller, deeper booty muscles that we activated before on the stair climber machine as well.

I like to increase my weight as the sets go on to eventually hit 60 kilos on the last set.
If you find the weight is too heavy and it compromises your form, drop the weight gurl, and reset your stance.

SUPERSET 1
Barbell good Mornings (x 8 reps)
+
Barbell calve raises (till failure)
Do this for 3 sets

After squats, we go straight into superset 1 after 1-2 mins’ rest. Remember not to get distracted and rest too long, take advantage while your legs are still warm and perked up.

I like to do a set of 8 barbell good-mornings paired with calf raises till failure. You know, just cause it’s easy with the barbell already, and I’m lazy.

If you haven’t done a good morning before, its basically holding a weight over your shoulders, standing with your knees straight (not fully locked) and bending over until your body makes a 90 degree angle with your legs, and then activating those hammies and butt (hamstrings and gluteus maximus) muscles to raise your torso back up.
Imagine you are wearing a corsette, keeping your core sucked in VERY tightly, and your back kept dead straight without rounding.

Beginners, I’d recommend not holding any weights to start, and just practice getting your form correct. Bend over, and connect your mind to the hamstrings and glutes as you come up. Feel the stretch. Feel the burn girl.

Now without resting, go straight into weighted calf raises. Raise your heels off the ground, squeezing your calves tightly to stabilise yourself.

POWERLIFT 2
Deadlifts. 4 sets normal + 1 sumo set.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
This is what I like 70 kilograms to look like.

Don’t round your back, keep your chest up and bend your knees, making sure they do not go over your toes.

Grip the bar with your two hands, one with a over head grip and the other with an underhand. As you come up, tighten EVERYTHING from the waist down, including your abs, and thrust your hips forward ever SO slightly.

Today, I was able to hit 10 reps on 70 kilos, and 3 reps on 75. It wasn’t a walk in the park at all, mentally or physically, but keeping your mind focussed on the muscles and the strength you will be gaining makes that one last, painful rep worth it.

SUPERSET 2
Single-leg step ups (8 reps on each leg)
+
Side bar squats (8 on each forward leg, total of 16 squats)
Do this for 2 sets

These exercises are on the smith machine, and I absolutely love this variation. Take this as a active ‘rest’ set from the heavy weights, and go at a lighter weight. Its a smith machine, which can be quite restrictive, so go lighter, and do not compromise your form.

Place the bar over your shoulders, and a box or a bench in front of you. Step onto it with one leg (knees behind the toes please!), and fully extend your leg, driving again from your heels and feelin’ the burn in your butt cheek (don’t be alarmed, you might be some distance away from the floor). As you come down, you may use your other leg to assist you in the next rep if your muscles are fatigued, but go hard or go home, right?

Hahaha, just kidding. Listen to your quads and your booty- if you can go without assisting, go for it!

Now side bar squats.. Turn towards one side, place the bar (a shoulder pad is a MUST) onto one shoulder, and squaaaat.

If you turn to your left, the bar will be on your right shoulder, and you’ll be working your right leg. Because the weight here is not heavy, really focus on squatting LOW towards the ground (as low as those apple bottom jeans).

A  side smith machine squat with the shoulder pad in place, left leg in front
so baby just squat lower with one side turned to the mirror check your form before you go, with the bar right on your shoulder.

TRISET 1
Leg press (10 reps)
+
Side step ups (8 reps on each leg)
+
Box glute bridges (10 reps)
Do this for 3 sets

Two feet placed on the leg press machine before the set
Moments before the leg press killed me (Disclaimer: this is NOT how you place your legs on a leg press machine. This is just me procrastinating the set by taking a photo)

A side step up onto a box.. its like a normal step up but onto one side. Place one leg onto the box, with your toes pointed slightly outwards (sumo position), and step up. Feel the contraction at the top of your booty. Add a weight if you like.

Next is a glute bridge, but placing your feet up on the same box that you side stepped off. Add a resistance band across your thighs if you need some extra weeerk (these ones from rogue fitness at the gym are ace), but it works equally as fine without. Slightly.. JUST SLIGHTLY skim the surface of your glute on the mat (don’t go all the way down, i’m watching you), and come back up.

TRISET 2
Quadriceps extensions (on the machine for 8 reps)
+
Hamstring curls (on the machine for 8 reps)
+
Butt lifts (optional, 10 on each leg)
Do this for 3 sets

Machine work should be explanatory, try to hold each rep for a little before releasing. Isometric holds are the best. enough said.

Unilateral butt lifts start with a fire hydrant position, and, raising one leg and keeping the sole of your foot towards the ceiling, pulse for 10 times (use the weight on the hamstring curl machine for extra resistance)

AND GURL, YOU ARE DONE.

A large dog lazily sleeping on the ground
Our gym mascot in the middle of his usual afternoon snooze.

The gym owner brought our mascot in today, and if you’re wondering how I looked like after this leg workout, well it’s something similar to him right about now.

HE’S SHO FLUFFY IM GONNA DIEEE

and here’s a post workout lunch, which is pretty much everything tossed together in a bowl with tuna and toast over a bed of mixed mesclun and spinach leaves (I was holding the bowl to the window for natural lighting okay? 😛 ).

Tuna salad with avocado, roma tomatoes, beans and lentil mix.
Post workout feeds- my go to is always a salad, because it allows you the freedom to eat whatever, whenever. My salad filler will ALWAYS be a four bean mix or a lentil mix- packed with protein, dietary fibre and essential vitamins for health.

Hitting 75 kilos on deadlifts and 80 leg press today was far more than I had thought i’d be able to lift today. I’d been at a leg plateu for a while now, but finally I have been able to lift just that little bit more. It’s all about what you set out to achieve, connecting that mind to the muscle, and of course, squeeezing that booty tight! You’d be surprised at what your body can really achieve once you change that mindset and tell yourself that you can do it.

For me, lifting at the gym isn’t just about aesthetics, it’s about strength and control over your own body. Rather than to focus on how the body looks, I’d like to focus training this year on achieving strength that can be used outside of the gym, especially for work and everyday life. Heck, the gym trains me not only physically, but also strengthens my resilience, persistence and patience.

Once again, thanking the Lord up there for protecting me through weightlifting and preventing injuries (I like to say a little prayer before beginning!).

Thank you for sticking with this post thus far, and I hope you have a great day ahead.

2016 + 1 = 2017

so every year on New year’s day I always tell myself, “new year, new me, I’m going to blog in attempt to document life.”

So this finally happened after 3 new year’s days (yes, it’s taken me 3 whole years..) and I must say, thinking of a domain is ultra-supa-doooopa hard work! How do ya’ll do it and not feel like you’ll regret this in the next few years like a 19 year old cringes at her 10 year-old self while creating a hotmail?

Anyhoo,
If you’re reading this, i’d like to say a massive hello! and welcome to a little snippet of my life.

My name is Sabrina, and i’m here to share the experiences of this year as I will be ditching the number 1 in front of my age and swap it for a 2 (a current 19 year old turning 20 in june).

I wish I could proudly proclaim this blog as a fancy food blog, or a lookbook, or a fitspo or lifestyle blog, but at the moment I think it just might be a little toss of everything that comes our way…. kinda… like sitting at a teppanyaki restaurant and catching bits and pieces of aromatically seared food hurled swiftly in your direction right? (totally worth picking food out of your messy bun for.)

I’m currently studying this thing called radiography, which is really another fancy word for x-rays and medical imaging. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad profession, but it does keep me on my toes a fair bit! In a nutshell, it’s a little like whipping out your camera, snappin’ some shots and then vsco-cam or instagram photo editing, but just for pictures of some human’s clinically questioned innards instead of your girl next door’s soft shell crab croissant for brunch. Hopefully more to come as I attempt to keep consistent blog posts throughout the year!

I am a melbournian, but have been raised in Singapore for a large chunk of my childhood. I have no pets, and take pride in raising 3 cacti on my windowsill (the youngest one’s a real prick!).

Other than my trusty ol’ bed, my next favourite place is the gym. So far on this journey, recovering health and gaining strength + mass is one of my target goals for 2k17! I hope to be able to share and embark on the rest of this experience with all of you, and I apologise in advance if yo’ girl here becomes a little.. juuuust a little bit of a quad-zilla over the next year okay?

So thank you, for reading up to thus far.
As the first 48 hours of the new year sobers to an end (and we all eventually sober up from the new year’s eve celebrations hey!), I can’t help but feel so thankful to the Big Man up there (Jesus!) that we’ve made it again through another year safe and sound.

I am going to enter into 2017 without any fancy resolutions or high expectations. My only desire for this year is to practice more patience, to love and serve others more, and to learn how to appreciate life as it already is.

Well I guess that’s enough from me for now, I’d like to wish you all reading this a happy, warm and safe new year ahead! 🙂