Tag Archives: Food

New Year’s Eve traditions

For as long as I can remember, no matter where I’ve been or who I’ve been with, my New Year’s Eve tradition is having Chinese food for dinner, watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve until the ball drops in Time Square, and heading to bed shortly after midnight.

I’ve had a few New Year’s Eves where I didn’t stay up until midnight, but there are few of those. Having Chinese food is my favourite part of NYE. As a family, we’d get a good variety, always one thing picked by each of us that was our favourite at that time.

I always liked the sweet and sour chicken balls when I was younger, then it changed to chicken fried rice, and now my favourite is General Tso’s chicken with rice. And of course, finishing with a fortune cookie. You can’t have Chinese food for dinner without the fortune cookie.

When I was living in China, I was excited for New Year’s Eve because I had an even better selection for dinner!

Do you have any traditions for NYE?


Binging – good or bad?

I’ve been binging these past two weeks of two things – TV shows, and food. I should stick with the TV shows and not the food but that’s not been the case at all!

I should not go to the grocery stores when I’m hungry – I’m just going to leave it at that! No wonder I have heartburn every night- I started out eating healthy food and then succumbed to chocolate. Good thing my grandson will be home soon and I’ll be playing with him and going out for regular walks!

But I’ve also been binge watching television shows. Two in particular. The Big Bang Theory’s entire series is being shown on one of our national channels here in Canada, and the Food Network holiday cooking shows. My first week alone I spent watching only the Food Network.

I love watching cooking shows, baking shows – almost all of them I enjoy. The holiday baking shows are always fun to watch to see what is being made, and taking notes of what I could make. Baking is my favourite thing to do and while I may not have a lot of counter space, I can still manage to bake anyway. I have learned to scale back the recipes that I like. This does not help the binging of the food though.

While I have wasted my days away binging on these shows, I’ve become lazy. I’ve been making myself go out each day even for just half an hour for a walk – to step away from the kitchen and the TV.

Is binging a bad thing? Or do you see it as a way of relaxing? Food binging is bad – binging on my favourite shows I think is okay.

It’s been a good two weeks regardless!

My best meal!

I love food. I love trying new food. I’ve eaten in so many different places, in different countries, all kinds of cuisine from Thai to Chinese to Peruvian – there are so many great meals I’ve had – but one stands out from all the rest.

When I was traveling through Chile, I went to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar for a week. I was staying in a lovely hostel up one of the hills in Valparaiso. It was close to the metro train which I would take to go to the beaches and different areas. But I also would buy food to make in the kitchen of the hostel to save money.

The owners of the hostel – a lovely man and his wife – told me about the daily menus in Chile. Most local restaurants would have a daily menu – a set menu usually served after 2pm which would include an appetizer, an entree, a dessert and a coffee or cold beverage, all at a very inexpensive price. I was intrigued and asked them if there were any close by. There just happened to be one about a 5 minute walk down the hill from the hostel. They highly recommended it to me, so one of my last days in Valparaiso, I decided to go and try it out.

I walked in and right away there was someone there to sit me at a table. It was not busy and I was able to take my time looking around and checking out the menu on the wall. Of course, the daily menu was on a placard at the door outside so I already knew what it was. I decided I was going to try the daily menu, and let the waiter know.

This restaurant was so quaint, and they prepared the food behind the bar so you could smell the aromas throughout the restaurant and watch them cook. The meal was pork chops with mashed potatoes and peas. There was a soup to start. The soup was delicious – one thing about Chile is their cazuela – it was more like a stew than a soup. They were all so hearty and delicious wherever I had it. So I finished the soup and bread, and then came the main course. The pork chops melted in my mouth and the mashed potatoes were silken and smooth and buttery – even now when I say this my mouth waters. For dessert, it was a crepe with strawberries and chocolate drizzle – a perfect end to the most delicious meal. I also discovered during this meal a Peru soda – Bilz – which I became quite addicted to while I was traveling through Chile.

This is definitely the best meal I’ve ever had, one that conjures up memories of Chile and still makes my mouth water.

Shepherd’s Pie

Tonight was a comfort night for dinner. I wanted a comforting meal to cook so I decided to make my shepherd’s pie. It’s a pretty basic recipe but fast, easy and delicious!


1 package ground beef (or chicken or turkey)
1/2 onion, chopped
3 medium sized potatoes, diced
Can of corn, drained
1/2 cup frozen green peas
Broth (beef, chicken or vegetable)
Salt, pepper, spices
Milk and butter
Shredded cheese

It’s a simple recipe and really the only thing that varies are the spices you like. I use minced garlic, rosemary, whatever I have on hand, I add. Tonight I used an Epicure product – a shepherd’s pie seasoning – which is very easy. I love Epicure! So yes I used that package tonight, and it made a lovely gravy for the beef.

Sautee the onion with 1 tablespoon of butter until soft, then add the ground meat and brown. While the meat is cooking, boil the potatoes until soft enough to mash.

To the meat, add salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic, to taste, and any other spices you might like. Add some broth – about 2 cups. This will create a nice gravy to season the meat.

Mash the potatoes with butter and milk until soft.

Layer the pie – first the veggies, then the meat mixture and then the mashed potatoes. I add shredded cheese to the top of it all in the casserole dish. Cook at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, to melt the cheese and cook the vegetables.

So easy, delicious and so comforting!

Chocolate-Mocha Brownie Cookies


  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon hot coffee
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour (or plain flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used sea salt)
  • 1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, (add more if desired)


  • Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line 2 cookie sheets or baking trays with parchment paper (baking paper).
  • In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, white sugar, butter and vegetable oil. Beat in egg and vanilla until fully incorporated.
  • Add the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir the dry ingredients first before mixing them through the wet ingredients until a dough forms (do not over beat). Fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Scoop out 1-2 tablespoonful of dough and place onto prepared baking sheets. Press them down as thick or thin as you want your cookies to come out. 
  • Bake in hot preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. The cookies will come out soft from the oven but will harden up as they cool. (Be careful not to over bake as they will dry out.)
  • Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool.

One week ago….

It is hard to believe that it has been one week since I left China.  According to my body clock anyway – it was last Thursday evening that had me flying to Tianjin on my first stopover of a very long journey to Santiago!  It seems like a lifetime ago.


Andy, giving the peace sign


One week ago, I was a “superstar” in my neighbourhood – shouts of “Louisa!” were music to my ears because I knew young kids would be running up to me and giving me a hug.  I miss that.  I miss seeing Andy, who was always so willing to hug me and tell me he loved me.  I miss Leo, who would playfully poke me in the leg, arm or belly, just to make me run after him.  I miss Shirley, who would want to show me how well she was doing with her dance lessons (and stretch her leg way up over her head – oh to be young and agile again!).  I miss Lucy, the shy young girl who would barely talk to me when I first met her and who I discovered knew so much English, we could talk for almost an hour in English.  I miss Judy, who despite only being in the second grade, could easily have been in grade 4 or 5, so advanced was her English.  I miss the kids a lot.


A Brazilian couple I met


However, I am now in a country where I fit in.  I may not look Spanish, but I blend in a lot more here.  I don’t get the stares that I did in China.  I don’t get pointed at and laughed at (at least that’s what I presume they were doing – what exactly were they laughing at anyway?  I never wanted to know).  I can walk down the streets of Santiago and not feel self-conscious that I am “fat” and will be told that.  I am aware of my weight, and didn’t like being told that by any of the Chinese.  It’s nice to be blending in and not a strange sight for people to see.  Of course, they haven’t yet seen my colourful tights – I may get stared at then lol.


Barrio Italia

I am enjoying Santiago very much.  For me, it’s a walking city.  I have walked for hours all over the city.  Barrio Lastarria, Barrio Bellavista, Providencia, Barrio Italia – so many areas to see all with their own unique qualities.  Would I want to live here?  No.  It’s a city I would definitely come and see again, if, God willing, I am granted that privilege.  I don’t feel enough of a connection though to want to live here.  Perhaps I haven’t seen enough of the city.  It’s possible there is an area I would like to live in.  For now, I am enjoying the wondrous beauty of this city that lies at the foot of the Andes.  I am enjoying the food.  Completo hot dogs with a bebida.  Empanadas.  Pastries (that’s something I need to STOP enjoying haha).


Completo Hot Dog and lemon soda


On Saturday I head to my next destination in South America – Valparaiso!  I am looking forward to being near the ocean, and to explore a new city!  In the meantime, I have one more full day in Santiago and will make the most of it!!

Saying so long to new friends

I am an outgoing person.  I will strike up a conversation with anyone, pretty much wherever I am.  If I see someone who looks like they probably speak English, I always say hello!  And that in turn has the person saying hello back, and we start a conversation – where are you from?  What are you doing here?  Almost always it is another teacher!  I have met people here in Changchun from South Africa, Australia, Morocco, USA, Canada and of course China. 

Chinese people can be very friendly once they get over their nervousness of trying to speak English.  About a year ago (end of August 2016), I had decided to explore Changchun and got on a bus not knowing where it was heading to.  I stayed on until the end, and discovered a beautiful park.  I wandered through it, and hoped my GPS on my phone would help me find my way back.  No such luck.  I did find a street that I recognized, but I had myself so turned around that I had no idea what way to go.

 Instead of panicking, I decided to wing it and just wander around until I found someone who might be able to help me.  I knew where I wanted to go and I knew the Chinese name for it. So off I went.  I remembered in the Czech Republic, my instincts always said ask a younger person because they will in all likelihood be studying or have studied English – and they will understand.  Well, I approached a young man at a bus stop, and asked him which bus I should take.  He understood me enough to be able to point me in a direction that would get me there.  I said thank you, and crossed the street to the other bus stop.  About two minutes later, he was there tapping me on my shoulder.  He had found an easier way for me to get to my destination, and walked me to the right bus stop.  We exchanged numbers and off I went.haha

Well, this very nice young man has become a very good friend of mine.  Zero is his English name (I cannot pronounce his Chinese name).  He introduced me to Cinderella and Nancy, and the three of them have all become very good friends.

Tonight we all got together and had a nice dinner together and then went to KTV, to say so long (I never say good bye!), and enjoy each other’s company one more time as a group.  They are all wonderful young Chinese people.  The two ladies are Chinese English teachers, and Zero works with computer software for schools (that’s what I understand anyway!).  The generosity (and I use that word a lot here in China but it’s so appropriate) of these people is overwhelming.  I am going to miss the three of them very much.  Zero wants me to come back next May for his wedding (sorry but I don’t think that is in my plan!). 

It’s amazing how getting lost in a foreign country can help you find lovely people that become close friends! I am very grateful for becoming friends with these three people.  It has made me enjoy my time here very much!

Lessons I have learned in China

In less than a month, I will be leaving China.  Am I excited?  Yes!  I cannot wait to explore more of the world, and to be honest, I am excited to leave China.  I have learned a lot about myself while here, and I know I will be taking with me some newfound knowledge of China and of myself.

So what have I learned?  And what have I not learned?  I have not learned Mandarin, or at least not very much of it.  It is a very difficult language to learn.  I have learned to count. I can understand, if they speak very slowly, how much things cost.  I can say hello (ni hao), and I can say good bye – this is the easiest because they all say Bye Bye!  (ha – easiest Chinese lesson ever!).

I have learned that authentic Chinese food is amazing!!  So many dishes – chicken dishes, jiao zi (dumplings), bao zi (which is a steamed bun with a little bit of meat inside it), tofu (dof), noodles, rice.  So many delicious foods, so many names I don’t know how to pronounce or write.  I have had a few dishes that I have not enjoyed, but I would say 95% of what I have tried here has been so good.  I have even enjoyed the cauliflower concoction (for lack of a better word) that they served at the school.  With hot peppers in it.  Hot peppers and cauliflower together – two things I would never eat in Canada – and yet here, so good!!

I have learned that the Chinese people, where I live, are some of the most generous people that I have ever met.  From helping me find somewhere (actually taking me there, even if it is a 15 minute walk out of their way), offering me drives (people I know have done this), buying me meals, and just being patient with me while I try to understand what they are saying.  I will never forget the generous nature of the people in Changchun.

I have learned patience.  Not just from my teaching either.  This country has tried my patience on many occasions.  Between miscommunication and non-communication about work matters.  About salary issues.  About times for meetings.  I have learned that being patient is the only way to deal with it.
I have learned to live in the moment.  This relates to the patience as well.  Does it matter that I am early and the others are late?  No not really.  Does it matter that it starts to rain while I am out with groceries in hand and no umbrella?  No – it’s just rain.  I will dry off when I get home (this happened yesterday haha).  Does it matter if the bus is overcrowded? No – I can wait for another one or take a cab.  Patience, living in the moment – it all works together.  I am now at a place in my mind that getting upset over some things really isn’t worth my time or energy.  I just now go with the flow as much as I can.
I have learned to overcome my fears.  My fear of eating in a restaurant where I don’t know how to read the menu.  Fears of unknown food and how I will react to it.  Fears of being lost in a foreign city.  Fears of not being understood.  I understand now how it must feel for foreigners and immigrants coming to Canada for the first time, trying to read signs or menus, or just trying to communicate on how to get somewhere.  It is daunting and, as a solo traveler, it can be scary.  Overcoming my fears has been my biggest challenge here.  When I first arrived in Changchun, I was scared.  I was looking at the signs, and only seeing Mandarin, I thought – my God what have I done?  I can’t read anything, I have no idea where I am – it was the scariest moment in my life.  But I overcame that – and for that I am very proud of myself.

I think what I have learned most during my time in China is how strong I am.  And how brave I am.  It was not an easy decision to do this, and while it was very scary, I did it.  I know I can go anywhere now and survive.

Don’t be afraid to get out there and try new things.  You will not be disappointed!