It’s been almost 2 months since I've left Sydney and it’s amazing how quickly time has flown by and how much has happened, both in the months and collectively over the years.

A reflection on the past
Back in 2010, I decided to leave home.  The decision didn't come easy as the familiarity and steady paycheck from a previous job provided comfort, but there was an inkling that had been kicking me for awhile.  It’s called, the TRAVEL BUG.

So I took action: researching options of where I would go, how I was going to go about it, and I took a leap of faith.  Not everything was planned, in fact, not much was planned like the rest of my life (finish college/university, intern, travel, work for a few years, save, etc.) so the idea of having so much flexibility was novel and quite nice.  I ended up in Sydney, Australia and the next thing you know, 2.5 years passed and today, I sit here writing upon these reflections.

It wasn't always an easy, breezy journey – in fact, they were some of the most trialing times but it’s these experiences that add to your character and who you are in the present day.  With me are memories that I’ll never forget, the times that I've shared with friends and much more.

Before leaving Sydney, I thought to myself, “What will I miss about the city?  Is it the breathtaking view of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House? Is it the beaches with the cliff-side walks?  Is it being able to take public transport: the trains, the buses, the trams and the ferries?”  While I do miss all these, I found myself busy with a “MUST EAT BEFORE LEAVING” list.  One of those places was a local bakery in the Surry Hills neighborhood called BOURKE STREET BAKERY and it was certainly going to be a place I missed.
Ever since trying it for the first time, I knew I was going to be trouble.  And so began my regular trips down Bourke Street….

A friend of mine had gifted the Bourke Street Bakery book to me (more like a bible) and I was in awe, mouth agape and everything.  The pictures were all so beautifully taken, the layout, the stories, the recipes, I couldn't help but give the book a big hug (yes, I give attention to inanimate objects).  Anyhow, before leaving Australia, an idea popped into my head: I was going to get the guys at BSB to sign my book.

I wrote a love letter of appreciation telling them how much I thoroughly enjoyed the fluffy and delightful carrot cake that forever changed my life and the amazing-ness of their pork and fennel sausage rolls (among the other savory pastries) and how it was a joy to experience it flaking off so easily.  Just talking about this makes my mouth just water (yes, I am a nerd).

My e-mail bounced back.

I tried again and it bounced back again so I let it go.  Then, I refused to let it go and tried again (this time, I changed the subject line) and VOILÁ!

Pressed under time, I began to think that I wasn't going to get it in time and would need to get it shipped out, but everyone there was so accommodating and made it work so that I got it before I left.  Can we say WHEW?! FTW (For The Win)!!!

So a HUGE THANKS to Bourke Street Bakery for making it possible that I went back home with a signed copy of the book and for all the delicious treats and memories that will remain intact.

Yes! It's happening alright; this Sunday, I'll be participating in City2Surf, one of the world's largest running events. It also happens to be on my list of things to do: enter a sporting event/race and finish it.  Mind you, I'll actually be walking with a group of folks from the studio where I work.  The streets here in Sydney will be jam packed as 80,000 people make their way from the city, in a 14km (8.7 miles) trek, to the infamous Bondi Beach.

In doing so, I decided to use this opportunity to raise funds for a not-for-profit (non-profit) organisation called Sustainable Table.  It uses "food as an entree to explore sustainability issues," and increases our "awareness of how today's industralised food system affects our environment."  By working together, we can help to overcome challenges, such as this one.

A BIG AND FLUFFY THANK YOU to those who have supported me for this cause! Especially you anonymous people I can't write a personal thank you to.  I will be thinking of you guys when I cross the finish line (which will probably be done in-style by dancing some Bachata in some silly 80s outfits).  So let's hope blue skies and the sun will emerge in time for Sunday.

And for those who would still like to donate, you can still do so by clicking here.  Cheers!
Last year, I went to the Good Food and Wine Show as a spectator.  This year, I was on the other side of the table working 2 days of the 3-day event (one of those days was reserved to see LADY GAGA!!) as a volunteer for the Chef's Table, which featured celebrity chefs Adrian Richardson, Anna Gare, and Miguel Maestre from the Lifestyle Food Channel.

During lunch, I did have a few moments to wander around the various stalls and stock up on some products as well as sampling some of the things that were being prepared.  

Most of the hours were spent in the kitchen and on the floor. Each of the chefs prepared 3 dishes - most had 2 savory and 1 sweet and the other chef had all savory plates.  Let's get down to the photos I snapped while I was in the kitchen, enjoy!
Avocado Carpaccio with Seared Scallops
Leek Tarte Tatin
(upside-down tart where the filling is caramelised first before baking)
Pork Sausage with a Soft, Herby, Cheesy Polenta
Choc Date Nut Torte (center, amazing!!!), Leek Tarte Tatin (upper right), Beetroot Cured Trout
Looking at these pictures is surely stimulating my appetite but it could also be that I'm posting this pre-lunch. If you're interested in getting the recipe from any of the above, let me know and I'll send them your way.  
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Excuse the cheese for a bit, but it's time for me to take a look back.

It's been a little over a year since I've left home, the city of Angels, and embarked on this journey called life.  My love for traveling and exploring more of this world has certainly been an eye-opening experience and that's what I love about it: I never stop learning.  It's through the problems and challenges we are faced with that each time that we are able to grow from them.

As Thanksgiving is a time to sit back, reflect, and give thanks, I do have to admit - I'm quite the fortunate person to have so many wonderful people in my life and for that, I am grateful.  When people ask, "what do you miss most?" I simply respond with my 3 F's: "Family, Friends, and Food."  The ongoing support that I receive is what holds me together.  Though I may be miles kilometres apart from some, there's no doubt in my mind that those relationships can still flourish.  Sometimes, it's as easy as picking up from where you last left off.

After being here in Sydney, Australia for quite some time, it was only within the recent months that I've felt at "home."  Home for me will always be LA but for right now, it's here.

Little could I predict the circumstances that were going to happen.  A year abroad over here nearly meant giving up something that was a part of my life everyday: BANANAS.  Yes, yes, (pause) I said bananas.

No frills, no glamour shots.  Just simple.
Okay, maybe not an entire year but still.  Eating and getting my daily potassium was not only tasty but also beneficial for my health.  When a major cyclone (Cyclone Yasi) hit northern Queensland, Australia, the crops were affected for a good amount of time.  People gave up bananas because they got too expensive averaging about $15AUD/kg (or about $7USD/lb).  But now the prices have finally returned to normal and I've eaten more than just a bunch.  Linda the Monkey has returned.

All things aside, I'm sitting in a park finishing this blog post on a rather beautiful and sunny day.  The cool breeze is blowing against my skin and I can't say how appreciative I am of my friends and family so thank you for everything, really.  Hopefully everyone is well rested and ready for the week!

"Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling." - Margaret B. Runbeck
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It's been a whirlwind of a couple weeks and I realize that this is long overdue, oops.  When there aren't any deadlines to meet, this is what happens and my draft sat there waiting to be finished.  It became one of those to-do things you spend more time thinking about than the actual time that it would take to actually do it.

Moving on, sometimes I get people asking me, "Why do you volunteer?"  What they're trying to say and sometimes bluntly ask is, "Why do you work for free?"

Volunteering is not just an extracurricular activity in the past.  I'm not here to preach about it but rather, outline my experiences from it and share the outcome.  I volunteer to give back: whether it's for a certain cause, to give back to the community, or even simply just the passion for it.

Being a part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival, especially the World Chef Showcase, was a truly remarkable experience I wouldn't trade for anything.  Hard work and long-hours (nothing compared to the staff who actually work the entire festival) was worth it and it became one of those reaffirming moments where I just knew that my involvement with the food community and culture was only just beginning.

A few months ago, I started reading MoVida: Spanish Culinary Adventures, then eventually went to MoVida Next Door for dinner in Melbourne.  Fast forward some time, then I was watching chef-author Frank Camorra give his demonstration on Spanish cuisine and working alongside the wonderful writer and TV producer Richard Cornish.  It's funny how things work out sometimes.

Others included:

Okay, no more name-dropping!  Wherever you guys live or if you're traveling to any of the places mentioned, I'd recommend to try the restaurants.  There's a reason why they were out here and chosen to represent various countries.  

Done and done.