Photo #267: Time for a Makeover

November 21, 2012

Our living room has been out of date for too long… we’re finally giving it a facelift! First step: Sort everything to either store, donate or keep in living room. This project is ALL I’ve been doing these past few days back in Canada so I hope it turns out nice. I haven’t screwed up yet, which is always a good sign!

Home: Comforts and responsibilities

Like many people say, home is where the heart is. But after being away this year, I felt a little estranged walking in. I guess it’s simply because certain things changed and I wasn’t around to witness the process. Even little things like a replaced mat, a new appliance and small cracks in the old paint are taking me by surprise. I’m actually spending time staring at them!

I’ve also almost forgotten how much busier you can be when living in a family household, especially as the older sibling/eldest child. Someone can always use a hand, something here or there can always be done, and there is so much catching up to do when you’ve been away for so long!

I’ve come back right in the middle of home renovations, which are always such a joy! (Note: Sarcasm) Completing renovations is always very satisfying, but the potential long journey to that point is often tiring and can really test your patience. However, there are still good aspects of undertaking such projects, such as hanging out with family and using my non-existant muscles – which are already feeling the burn. We’ve barely made a dent in anything so I can’t wait to see how happy my body will be by the time we’re done. (Note: Very serious, no sarcasm meant. I really need move my butt)

The current state of our study. Hopefully the next time you see it, there will be no messes!

Besides family (and friends whom I have no time for yet) and the bed, there are many other comforts of home I often take for granted, primarily FOOD.

Things like, Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal… the taste you can see!

Vietnamese dishes I would never make myself like warm Soy Bean Pudding with ginger syrup, perfect for the cold weather!

Additionally, I’ve forgotten how many delights a fridge stocked by my mom can contain! 😛

My sister still has her claim on my old bed. She’s joined both our twins to make a massive… king sized? So she’s stuck with me in ‘her bed’ along with her life-sized teddy. I sometimes worry he might come to life and kill me in my sleep.

She’s also bought a new pet – a 5 month old yellow bellied slider turtle, which she named Franklin. Very original name, I know 😛 As you might see, his shell looks pretty unhealthy. Franklin’s previous owner didn’t take the best of care (provided no proper heat/UV-B lamp… the poor turtle) so my sister is making sure he’s getting a lot of love.

I’m also still debating on whether or not I will write the USMLE Step 1 and if so, when I will be writing it. In the meantime, I’m still going to study over the break. Pocket medicine was the only physical book I brought back with me, but everything is on my iPad, so should be fine! I’ve decided to begin studying by going over Pathoma lectures, starting with Chapter 1 today. We’ll see how that goes before I plan anything further! 😛

And while you’re here, I wanted to share with my year book profile – written by Roger and Christine with a few things added by Michael and Yoni (yes, we were supposed to get our friends to write one for us). After reading the profiles of many other classmates, I’m quite thankful my friends are nice and don’t have a cruel sense of humour! 😉

Home: The plane ride and first night

November 18, 2012

(Warning: This might be a long one! And I didn’t even take many pictures to make it easier to read)

Mike and I woke up bright and early to get ready and head to the airport.

We were so proud of ourselves getting in the taxi and at the domestic terminal by 5:30ish… only to be told we were at the wrong terminal and needed to get ourselves to the international one. Frig! Our itinerary didn’t tell us that, and the same flight last year flew out of the domestic terminal! Luckily the shuttle bus came immediately and there was no one else on it. We hauled our luggage on and told the driver what happened. She asked us, “Did you know your flight’s delayed til 10?”

What… we did not!

Checked in at the international terminal only to have the Qantas representative go “Hmmm…” *clack away at keyboard* and then leave us standing for 20mins to go “sort this out.” So we had no idea what was going on but only hoped we didn’t have to wait until tomorrow to fly out.

He finally came back to tell us that for some reason, the Qantas leg of our flight had been canceled on their system so they hadn’t known to make alternative flight arrangements due to our delayed flight. Oh no! Leaving at 10am instead of 7:30am would make us miss our connection flight to Canada. Luckily they were able to put us on an earlier flight. But, we had to go back to the domestic terminal.

Yes, we groaned too! Before even asking, the rep spared us more trouble. He checked us (and our luggage!) in and let us leave our bags there where they would be transferred to our plane – hooray!

With boarding passes in hand, we hopped on the shuttle bus to go back to the domestic terminal… and ran into the same driver. And yes, she obviously laughed at us.

We were told there was someone sitting between us on the flight to Sydney and started joking, “Maybe this person is really big and booked a middle seat hoping no one else would sit beside them.” We boarded the plane only to have Warren (not fat, in our class, also from Ottawa) come up to us and say, “Looks like we’re stuck with each other!” Little did he know, he would’ve had the whole row to himself if not for us! But it was nice to see familiar faces (Tom was flying with Warren) on such a long trip home.

All flights and transfers went extremely smooth. My butt became numb about 4 hours into the leg from Sydney to Vancouver. By the 6th hour, my sacrum was crying and needed a heat patch to numb the pain. I’ve always hated this part the journey!

The airplane food was surprisingly a lot tastier than we expected! Which was nice because I actually ate my meals and at got at least a tiny fraction of my money’s worth. Too bad we didn’t have enough time to grab Tim Horton’s at Vancouver though – we barely made the connection!

Had a big welcome party at the airport in Ottawa. Big thanks to everyone (mom, sis, bro, grandparents, Cau Hai’s family, and Di Nam) for picking me up! 🙂 I felt special. Also nice to briefly see Mike’s parents too before we went our separate ways.

Got home around 6pm to enjoy my first home cooked meal – Bun rieu, yum!

My sister… always ruining pictures!

Unpacked my luggage! Then brought my Australian gifts over to hang out with my grandparents for a bit. We tried some of the goodies together and by 11pm I was ready to call it a night.

Came home, called Michael (miss you!) and finally showered after 2 days – gross.

Photo #265: Settling a Craving

November 19, 2012

Shawarma!!! I’ve missed you so! How can you not exist for me to eat in Brisbane?! Oh, hi family! Thanks for the food! 😉

(So between Brisbane and coming back to Ottawa – there was an extra day in the calendar that I can’t really account for. In order not to confuse myself, especially since I will magically lose a day going back to Brisbane, I’ve decided to switch over to Canadian time for my photo-a-day project for the duration of my stay in Canada)

Last day in Brisbane!

Today is sadly, our last day in Brisbane before heading back to Canada for the holidays.

Clearly, Brisbane is EXTREMELY sad to see us go, check out how hard it was crying:

This video was taken while Mike and I were trapped at King George bus station. We had a reservation for High Tea at 11am but couldn’t weather the storm to walk a few blocks to the restaurant so had to cancel instead.

All jokes aside, it’s been quite a day. The first storm hit around 11am (in the video), with more than 11 000 lightning strikes across Southeast Queensland. The second one started around 10pm tonight and is still going strong! Thunder and lightning non stop! Read more about it HERE

For our last meal in Brisbane, a long overdue dinner with Mario at Madtongsan II – my favourite Korean restaurant! We’ve been often enough as it’s been mentioned here, here, and here!

We arrived around 5:30pm and the spacious restaurant was already packed. We were quickly seated, given water and glasses were brought for our champagne.

Michael and I love the Bi Bim Bap here so that’s what we ordered – I got tuna and Mike got beef. Mario chose to have a pork belly stir fry with vegetables and rice! We also got a dumpling appetizer to share. Our dishes came out very quickly and mmm – the food never disappoints!

Crispy dumplings

My stone pot! Doesn’t that look delicious?!

Michael’s dish

Mario’s spicy, but delicious, dish that was making all of us cough 😛

So good, all gone!

The meal costed $49 between the three of us – not bad! 🙂 And more importantly, we made it home before the second storm 😉

Madtongsan II on Urbanspoon

Soft shell crab yumminess at Gambaro’s (@ Emporium)

Geez, I know it looks like it from my recent posts – but I haven’t been eating 24/7, I swear.

Over these past few months, Mike and I have bought a number of vouchers for restaurants around the city. We are quite in love with these deals, as it gives us many opportunities to try new places, well within our financial means.

One of the last vouchers we used this week was for 2 imported iced teas, 2 gourmet soft shell crab burgers (normally $14.50 each) and a large bowl of chips to share at Gambaro’s (@ Emporium).

The voucher was being sold by Groupon for $19 but because I had a $10 Groupon coupon, we paid only $9. What a deal!

The voucher stated that we had to make our booking online, however, because we went to book the day of, the system wouldn’t let us. Instead we were told to call the restaurant to make a booking. I tried calling twice between 10-10:30am but no one picked up. So we decided to head down anyway!

Gambaro’s was less of a restaurant and more like a cafe with a limited number of tables. We explained to the lady working that we tried to call but no one picked up. She seemed a little unhappy but told us to take a seat and she would bring out our food shortly. We decided to sit outside and enjoy the nice weather.

The imported teas were 2 TeaNY drinks (founded by electronic musician Moby) made in USA. One was vanilla berry hibiscus and the other peach berry green tea. Both were good! The package and taste (diluted, weak flavours) reminded us quite a bit of Vitamin Water.

Unlike many negative reviews on Urbanspoon complaining about the wait times and quality of food – our food came within 15 minutes and not only looked delicious (definitely looked better than the picture in the voucher) but tasted great as well.

The crab burgers were seriously yum! On a nice bun with japanese mayo, a variety of greens and slices of tomato, cucumber and red onions. I wouldn’t have called the bowl of chips ‘large sized’ but we certainly didn’t need any more fries!

During the hour or so we spent dining, the place quickly filled up. With diners getting takeaway, redeeming vouchers or just having a normal meal. Everybody seemed to be attended to promptly and food was quickly served as well.

Upon leaving, we said thanks and good bye to the lady who served us. She seemed a lot happier as the day got busier and thanked us for coming. With a little hesitation, she handed me a card and asked us to leave a review regarding our experience on Urbanspoon. She seemed quite unhappy regarding all the negative reviews people have been posting. I told her we’d be more than happy to talk about our positive experience, especially now that I’m regularly linking my blog to Urbanspoon.

Would we come again? Yes! But not while we’re on a budget! 😉

Gambaro at Emporium on Urbanspoon

Lunch at Cicada with a doll!

A doll with big beautiful blue eyes! 😉

A final get together with Kristen on Nov 15 at Cicada before heading back to Canada!

Mike and I had passed by this place since last year with the intention of trying it out so I was glad we finally did it, and with good company too!

We went on a Thursday around lunch – super busy! Even so, we were promptly shown to our seats and service was quick and very attentive. I did not expect to be checked on so many times, so that was nice! The seating and decor both inside and outdoors were varied but lovely – catering to all sizes of groups, whether for meals or just to have drinks.

We ended up getting drinks and sharing a plate of calamari, salt & szechuan pepper, soft leaves, cucumber, cherry tomato, vietnamese dressing and 2 servings of shoestring fries with aioli sauce. The calamari was nicely cooked (although so little!) and the salad was fresh with a nice light dressing. Is it a vietnamese dressing though? Well… I’ve never had such a dressing in my life. 😉 but still tasty!

Prices were within the range we were expecting – $18.50 for the calamari dish. Would we come back? Yes, but probably only if we were in the area!

Cicada on Urbanspoon

Nov 14: Visiting Byron Bay for the 1st time

I have to dedicate this post to Fiona – for being so lovely and planning this little road trip for us to Byron Bay. Not only was it a great time hanging out with her, Christine, James and Andrew (too bad Kristen couldn’t make it) – Mike and I also got to visit a part of Australia we’ve never been and always wanted to see. 😀 Thank you dear!

Couldn’t have asked for better weather or better company! 😀

On the road bright and early! It was also during the solar eclipse, which we could sort of see with our naked eyes 😛

We arrived shortly after 10am (NSW time) and first stop? Enjoying the sun and a dip in the ocean (at Main Beach or Clarkes Beach I believe), what else!

We also drove up to see the Cape Byron Lighthouse – Australia’s not only most powerful but also most easterly light! During the walk up to the lighthouse, you can see Tallow Beach – absolutely gorgeous!

A beautiful day with hot weather demands an ice cream break

Will never understand why James prefers to go barefeet

Most easterly point of the Australian mainland

Chilling for lunch

There were dolphins!

A stop at Wategos Beach on the way down

And finally, a drink at Beach Hotel to end a great day before heading back to Brisbane! Love you guys!

Full album HERE!

Photo #259: Macaron Fail

November 13, 2012

Christine Q was over to make macarons today but sadly, they failed horribly. 😦 Haha! So rather than let our lemon curd filling go to waste, we put together some lemon puff tarts instead. Next time, we will succeed!


Saturday Nov 10: Halfway Dinner

After a wonderful spa day with Fi, Kristen and Christine the day before – I was looking forward to our Halfway Dinner.

Mike and I were really bad at planning our attire for that evening because we were so focused on studying. I eventually decided to wear a dress I brought from home back in first year (even though it didn’t match the theme of “Summer Glamour”) because I couldn’t be bothered to spend hundreds of $$ here for a new dress.

That meant I still had to buy shoes, because I do not own a single pair of heels here. Yay, shopping, my favourite… not! So, Mike and I went shopping Saturday morning and luckily were successful! Found shoes and Mike even found a nice red tie to match my dress. We also ran into Kristen and Matt at the mall doing some last minute shopping as well 🙂

Our group decided to rent a room at the Mercure, where our dinner was being held, for a little pre-party. Everybody looked stunning!

Group shot!


Boys being silly 🙂

PBL 25 love

James & Kim

Matt & Kristen

Mike’s sleazy ‘stache 😉


This is how James and Harrison actually went to dinner

Our dinner table: Matt & Kristen, James & Kim, Mike & I, Fi, Christine, JJ and Harrison

Thank you Christine for this lovely photo!

Yay, we found Roger!

❤ Fi!

With Mabel!

Mabel, Mario, Lauren, and Stacy

Roger & Chen

PBL 36! (Christine’s cam)

With the boys

Many many more pictures HERE and a few from Roger’s cam HERE

Nov 8: Last exam = Halfway through medical school!

At around 11:30am on November 8th – we all completed our final exam of the year: Ethics and Professional Practice.

We’re now half doctors!

If we passed all our exams that is! Haha, we’ll find out soon enough 😉

A few happy things occurred that day:

1) I wrote my last exam – duh! It was only an hour long but the exam itself was lengthy and most people were scribbling until the very end.

2) I promised friends and family that if they helped me raise $100 for Movember by Nov 8th, I would wear a moustache to my final exam. And those wonderful people made sure it happened! It was quite embarrassing up until the point I stepped out the door. Then it became fierce proudness. Look at me world! I’m proud to support a great cause!

Yes, of course I got looks as soon as I left the house, but most people knew what it was for and gave me friendly smiles. Some people burst out laughing – which I thoroughly enjoyed. I didn’t have time to go buy a fake ‘stache so I drew one on with eyeshadow and eyeliner, praying that it wouldn’t melt off my face by the time I made it to campus.

(Josiah and I)

And, feel proud because I didn’t wash it off until after we had taken our class picture! Christine was also the only other person who wore a ‘stache with me – props to her! 😉

[If you would like to donate to me (and my team, UQ Med), please visit]

3) We took a new class photo. Thanks again to Zac R for organizing it for us and being the phtoographer!

4) We could finally reeeelax! Had a super chill evening at Fi’s place with the gang and then headed into the city for the Oschner send off party. Most of our American students go back to the states and complete 3rd and 4th year in New Orleans. Additionally, many of them are preparing to write their USMLE so it was a last opportunity to see them and wish them luck 🙂

A few photos from the send off party at Birdees. Photo credit again goes to Zac R.

Yay! Done 2nd year!

MOS Burgers for Lunch

We stopped at MOS Burger for lunch on Nov 7 after our second exam. Eating out is so quick and easy during study time – who could say no to such convenience? 😛

Mike’s last time at a MOS Burger was years ago in Taiwan and I’d never been so we were both looking forward to lunch.

The staff were super friendly and greeted us loudly as soon as we walked in the door. The menu itself is very simple with a variety of burgers, rice (buns made of rice!) burgers and hotdogs. Additionally, you can choose to add on chips and a drink or soup to your meal. Mike decided on the Spicy MOS Burger and I chose the Gourmet Wagyu Cheese Burger. We also bought chips and a cranberry iced tea to share.

The total came to around $15 and after placing our order, we headed upstairs to grab a seat. It was nice to see tons of room, even a tatami area!

Waiting for food and thinking about another exam tomorrow = 😦

What I was waiting to eat…

The awesome drink in a photo of the day I mentioned a few posts back. Iced tea with fresh cranberries and blueberries – amazing!

Our food quickly arrived!

Mike’s Spicy MOS Burger

My Gourmet Wagyu Cheese Burger

The chips were standard and even though the burgers don’t look like much, we both agreed they were quite tasty! I especially liked the fresh thick slices of tomato and the wasabi kick in mine, but Mike wished his burger had been much spicier. We both agreed that the bun was great quality – very thick, chewy and quite filling which was an unexpected surprise!

With our stomachs happy and our brains fueled, we crossed the street to King George bus station to head home and hit the books hard for our last exam – woo hoo!

Would we come back? Yep!

MOS Burger on Urbanspoon

Breakfast at Chez Nous Cafe

With our first exam (Nov 5) down and 2 more to go (Nov 7&8), Mike and I headed down to Roma on Nov 6 for some breakfast and a few solid hours of studying.

We had paid $19 for a voucher at Chez Nous Cafe worth $48. It included 2 breakfasts or lunches and 2 drinks.

The location couldn’t be more convenient – just across the street from Roma St Station.

We walked inside expecting a limited menu to choose from as part of our deal but it was a pleasant surprise to be told that we could pick anything off the extensive menu. The prices of each item would be added up and if the total was over $48, then we would just pay the difference.

We both ended up ordering the big breakfast with a coffee and a can of lemonade. There was plenty of outdoor seating, but we opted to sit inside with airconditioning and a slightly quieter atmosphere.

The food arrived quite quickly, and it was the nicest plated breakfast we’ve had in Brisbane. Most other places we’ve been to haphazardly chuck everything onto the plate so it was nice to see a little effort into food arrangement.

The big breakfast consisted of 2 pieces of buttered toast, 2 eggs, a lot of bacon, a sausage patty, 2 hashbrowns, 2 big slices of grilled haloumi and a serving of tomato relish. Everything was really nicely cooked, which was definitely a nice change from the last few breakfasts we’ve had out.

Our dishes were promptly cleared from the table and we settled into studying. Nov 6 was also Melbourne Cup Day so it became pretty busy and loud as more people came in to watch the horse races. But that was alright, we headed home for more studying on the comfort of our couch 😉

Friendly staff, fast service, good food, nice atmosphere… would we come back again? Definitely. Even without a voucher!

Chez Nous Cafe on Urbanspoon

Photo #257: Almond Coconut Brownies??

November 11, 2012

We are trying to clean out the fridge before going back to Canada on Sunday. We have around a dozen eggs to use up. Naturally, that meant Eggs Benedict for breakfast (which is always a delicious treat) and baking in the evening. With a few other ingredients we had lying around, I decided to attempt creating an almond coconut brownie recipe. Moist and yummy!

Photo #256: Halfway Dinner

November 10, 2012

Tonight was our Halfway Dinner to celebrate the end of our second year of medical school. I had a great time with this gorgeous group of people (and company of course!) – last year’s PBL 25!

Thank you James, Christine, Kristen, Fiona and Andrew for being amazing people! Love!

Photo #254: We’re Half Doctors!

November 08, 2012

Around 11:30am today, we finished our Ethics and Professional Practice exam – the last one of second year, woo hoo! We are now halfway through medical school – if we pass our exams that is! 😉

Huge thanks to Zac R. who organized and took this class photo for all of us!

(You won’t be able to find me, but I am standing on the left ledge)

(Photo cred: Zac R, 2012)

Photo #253: The Taste of Fresh Cranberries

November 07, 2012

Believe it or not, today was my first time having real cranberries and oh my – they are delicious! Mike and I stopped to have lunch of MOS Burger after our exam. For a limited time, they have cranberry iced tea as part of their meals. What a treat to have a drink with not only fresh cranberries but blueberries as well – delicious!

Photo #247: I’m a Mo Sista this Year!

November 01, 2012

Movember has launched! This year, for the first time, I’m taking part in this amazing cause to raise awareness and money to help fight prostate cancer and depression. As part of the UQ Med team, I have been asking friends and family for donations to reach a personal goal of $100 before Nov 08 – the day of my last exam. If I reach my goal, I will wear a moustache to school, to sit and write my last exam. I will also wear it for our class picture afterwards. 🙂

If you would like to help a great cause, please donate and/or spread the word!