Eat It All – A Culinary Viewpoint

 

As the primal way of living starts to seem more appealing to increasing numbers, it begs the question, why not be conscious of something beyond the way we eat? Let’s look at what we miss out on eating. Our ancestors did it right, they generated very little waste, and this little was biodegradable as well.

The amount of food thrown away now, before it even gets cooked, is atrocious, not to mention what happens to leftovers.

With chefs bringing back the nose to tail approach when it comes to meat, the food revolution has been brewing for a while. This too, isn’t something new, as humans have been doing it for years before things like prime cuts and the coveted hanger steak became ways to mint money. With just a possible maximum of 1.5 lbs of hanger steak per steer possible, it makes no sense to base entire menus on it. The same is true when it comes to many fruits and vegetables; the possibilities of utilising the scraps that end up in the landfill nearest you are like the landfills themselves – endless!

If the idea of eating waste seems unappealing, let’s start with taking that word off the table. Much of what we throw away is, in fact, not waste at all. All it takes is a bit of awareness, an open mind and passion in the kitchen. Even things not classified as food can be delectable if treated right, take dandelions for example, every part of this plant is edible – root to flowers, raw or cooked. From making wine, salads, and frying the entire flowers, this weed is legal. And delicious. With a slightly bitter flavour reminiscent of radicchio or endive, it is low in calories and so good for you. Most likely, a delicious addition to your cooking repertoire lurks in your garden right now!

There is probably already a world of possibility in your refrigerator, especially if you shop at the farmer’s market where they retain the leaves, stalks and roots of the produce. Go have a look in your fridge, have broccoli in there? Next time, save what you usually throw,  peel the outer layer of the stalk, slice it up and take a bite. What you’ll find is a nutritious crunchy snack without the need for a dip even. Alternately you can add the sliced stalk, along with the leaves to your stir fry. The leaves can be treated the same way as kale, crisp them up in the oven, and you have a snack from what would have ended up of no use to anyone.

Most root vegetables, such as carrots, beets and radishes have green tops beckoning you from their roost at the market, yet they’re promptly snapped off and thrown into the compost heap once you get home. These greens are delicious additions to salads and pastas, and can even be used to make pesto. The thing to keep in mind is flavour, for example, turnip greens are probably best cooked, while you can munch on raw beet greens in a salad as you do some deep thinking.

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Quinoa, fish and greens.

With so many cooks and chefs embracing vegetables and fruits in their entirety, inspiration is just a click away. Onion skins can be used for colour and flavour in stocks. Speaking of stock, it is the best way to get the maximum out of your meat and veggies in one go. Bung in the bones collected from a few sunday roasts (they can be frozen until you have enough), add in peels from vegetables, add roots of herbs, basically almost everything you’d have swept off the kitchen counter. Then just add water, as they say. What you have is a massive punch of flavour, any day of the week. A top tip is to freeze stock in ice cube trays to allow a meal for one to be as easy and accessible as it should be. Cook your quinoa in it, add a cube to a quick stir fry, be creative.

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Chicken soup in a jiffy.

There are even options which may seem outrageous at the outset, such as egg shells. With a good scrub, crushed and baked in the oven, they can be your next source of calcium. Don’t worry though if it sounds unpalatable at this point, as with everything, it’s best to start somewhere. Try the broccoli stalks. The choices are astoundingly vast, all it takes is a healthy bit of research and you could be well on the way to eating much better for half the price!

 

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A Gem in the Middle of Sydney City

I came across this most magical of places by accident, as I seem to do with the majority of the things I love in life. What can I say, except to lift Paulo Coelho’s romantic idea from The Alchemist: “Maktub”.

The Chinese Garden of Friendship!

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Map of the Chinese Garden of Friendship

I set off one afternoon, stopping by at Emperor’s Puffs for a snack on my way. I thought it was apt – a Chinese snack before a Chinese garden. What are Emperor’s puffs you ask?


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Well, only the most iconic little bonbon you can get in Sydney’s China Town. It’s an institution and the lines snaking around the narrow street are testament to the cream puff’s goodness. Served from 12pm to 9pm, be clever and pick a time when people are likely to be at work or school. Oh and don’t pop them in your mouth whole and chomp down – they’re frickin’ HOT!! My burned tongue has so many horror stories to tell.


So three cream puffs (and a couple of barbecue pork buns) down, I made my way to Darling Quarter where this little haven of a garden is situated. Right next to the bustling Darling Harbour and with new construction happening all around, it really is a bit of peace and quiet amidst the chaos.

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Don’t tell me this doesn’t make you want to go in!

I find Far Eastern aesthetics fascinating, their attention to detail, the intricacy with which every element is gathered, joined, juxtaposed and displayed. It inspires me! This was what Bali did to me as well, if you remember. I was mesmerised there, as I was here. My mother back home, who has been saying she’ll visit someday suddenly declared that she wants to come here ASAP and go to this garden when I sent her some photos.

<<Warning>>: If you have ornithophibia, stay away. There are ibis everywhere, they have their nests in the trees all around. However, they are also harmless, only interested if you have any food. BUT there are small, over-protective birds that swoop down on your heads if it’s egg-hatching season. I kid you not, I nearly lost the hair off the top of my head.

While wandering around, rather quickly as it was nearly closing time, I snapped over a hundred photos. I surprised myself too, except every little thing here is photo worthy. And I have vowed to go back better prepared, with more time to spare, so I can soak in some culture, slowly…, sipping on some Chinese tea in the Teahouse.

The really magical thing is that once you have crossed the threshold, it is very difficult to remember that you are in the middle of a very busy city. Time slows; the steel, glass and concrete monsters a few metres beyond the walls melt away. It’s just the beautiful trees, buildings, flowing streams, bubbling waterfalls and birds. Oh, and a few people, but you won’t really notice them either.

I shall leave my words here and let my pictures do the rest of the talking. If you’re in Sydney and haven’t been here yet, shame on you! And for those planning a visit soon, you MUST add this to your bucket list.

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I was lucky it was a sunny winter evening – just look at the colours.

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Symmetry, beauty, natural and manmade.

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More beautiful colours and the Dragon Rock.

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Red and black – quintessentially Chinese.

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Poser pauses fishing to smile for me.

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Another model.

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“Do you think they’ll notice if we sneak in late to the meeting?” “Shhhh…”

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Adjacent to the Teahouse.

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As you can see, I can’t get enough of these trees and their drooping branches.

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Hall of Clear Shade. I just fell in love with this gnarled grey tree with fuschia flowers!

 

10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Sydney

Preface: I really don’t know where the time flies in this country. And I am not even busy fighting off kangaroos for my burger or rescuing people from getting eaten by sharks. I genuinely have no reason or excuse for why it has been 21 days since my last post.

– Sincerely Shamefaced.

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So I’ve been here in Australia for close to five months, almost half a year. Where does time fly when you’re having fun, eh? My Master of Design education is wonderful and stimulating, and hopefully continues to be challenging in the coming semesters. I have made some wonderful friends, watched my little sister bloom into a confident and beautiful young woman in a supportive environment, and pinched myself more times than I can count, at all the beautiful things I’m surrounded by.

While it’s easy to wax lyrical about all the great things about the city I’m calling home for some time, there are many that I wish I’d known before I moved here. Not because I woudn’t have still chosen to live and study here, only so that I could have been better prepared as an international student.

  1. The popular stance is that the winter here is unworthy of being considered winter. Cue *eyeroll* and a lot of *shivering*. Pack your thermals if you have them, bring your coats and throw in those extra socks and gloves too. If not, don’t worry, H&M is bound to have sales before you freeze to death.
  2. Crows in Australia, I’m forced to believe, didn’t get the memo on what noise they’re supposed to make. They sound like dying cats or someone retching violently after an alcohol fuelled night. Why do I wish I’d known this? So I could have slept through my jet lag the first few nights without feeling like I was an unwitting participant in a horror movie.
  3. The price of bread here is pretty ridiculous, that is if you want to eat anything other than the ubiquitous and nutrition deficient soft white variety. 5 dollars for multigrain bread. Really!?
  4. You can’t really watch the sunset from the famous beaches in Sydney – no, Siree, not from Bondi or Coogee or Maroubra. Because it’s the east coast. So if you’re like me and have no hope of ever catching a sunrise, you’re going to have to kick the ‘watching our big happy star go to bed in the sea’ habit.
  5. While I have not experienced peak summer here, let me tell you, the Tasman Sea is a chilly, chilly woman! I cannot, with complete confidence, say I will ever go swimming here if the water doesn’t heat up beyond 25 degree Celsius! Which isn’t likely either from what I can glean from the wise ol’ Internet.
  6. If you wear anything below AU size 6 shoes, your hopes for finding inexpensive shoes or even cute thongs (flip flops, for the uninitiated) are very narrow, my friend. Read: Bring all your shoes!
  7. Be prepared to get lost, quite literally. The road system here is tricky at best, as baffling as the Mad Hatter’s riddles at worst. If I had a dollar for every time I got lost in Sydney, I’d be cozying up to a glass of expensive bubbly as I relaxed in my very own hot tub.
  8. Which segues nicely into the activity of walking. If you no like, no come here. Seriously. I’m not saying there aren’t buses and trains to everywhere but you’ll still have to put your pins to good use. Upside though – great legs, come bikini weather!
  9. You will want to eat out very often. Even if you’re an avid cook like me, the temptations at literally every corner are sometimes too much to ignore. Heavily leaning towards, though not limited to, all things Far Eastern, the aromas are irresistible. This can also be interpreted as ‘work on your willpower, because your pockets may sometimes be threadbare’.
  10. And lastly, clothes shopping isn’t expensive enough to be prohibitory. Unless they’re that great, avoid stuffing your bags with excess clothes and instead bring all your teeny tiny shoes!

Thanks accepted in the form of cash or presents. Please contact me for address and bank details! :p 

Until next time! Which I can’t promise will be less than 21 days. 

I am back!

Who is back, you ask? Ah, I don’t blame you if it’s hard to remember. I have been away rather a long time.  And that would also answer the question of whether I have learned to manage time better. But I remain optimistic as always, and hope to be a way better keeper-upper with this blog that means so much to me.

Life has been filled with the usual and so many not so usual moments. If I feel a frown coming on, I think to myself, “You’re in Australia! Where you’ve dreamed of being since ’09!” That sure turns my smile back on. This country is not without its flaws, to imagine it as perfect would be a lie. But it is awesome in my eyes!

I will keep this one short, give you time to get used to me being back. I promise, however, to be back super soon with a post that I’ve wanted to write for months – What No-one Tells You About Sydney. So watch out for that one, my lovelies! Until then, look at all the gorgeousness I have captured in this beautiful city and let me know if you like!

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Time Flies And I Can Hardly Keep Up

It has been so long since I last even opened up WordPress that I think I just saw a tumbleweed blow by! Where has the time gone?? This is clearly proof that I need to:
a) Learn to manage time better.
b) Prioritise my activities.
c) Get back into super-student mode that I had down pat back when I was a student last. *cue crickets*

I don’t know how successful I’m going to be with those goals, but I’m sure going to try. I think I need to break up with social media or at least take a break for a while. And even though I hate the getting-lazier-by-the-day-generation that needs to abbreviate everything, FOMO is real. Yuck. Can’t believe I wrote that. Forgive me. Let’s pretend I didn’t, and get to the point. I’m just afraid that I’ll log back in after a considerable break and find that 10 more of my friends have had babies, or gotten engaged, or married, or heaven forbid, have had something bad happen to them and I won’t know. Not a particular risk I want to take.

Seriously though, I’ve lost my juvenile mastery over mindfulness. My ‘living in the now’ philosophy has gone hiking, and didn’t invite me. I didn’t even know it had left me, that’s how mind-less I’ve been. Hopefully, being aware of it will be the first step in trying to win it back.

So, while I know you’ve all probably lost interest in anything I have to say anymore, I’ll try to win you back too.

What’s taking up my time? University, mostly. I haven’t been a student for a while, and getting back into it without losing all track of time and reason is taking some extra time. Assignments, research, reading, while super fun (ok, not all the time) and inspiring, are depriving me of a social life. And those with social lives in the neighbourhood are depriving me of sleep. See? Lose-lose.

Let me leave you with some nice photos to make up for my lengthy absence. See you soon(-ish).

Warning: The photos are fresh out of my phone; haven’t even had time to edit or watermark. Kindly, do not steal. Thanks!

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It Feels Like Love!

I cannot believe how long it’s been since I last wrote here! Apologies, to myself, and to the few people who look forward to my posts. I bet I’ve lost your interest too by now. Sorry!

So, for those who don’t follow me on Instagram, guess where I am?! Answer: AUSTRALIA!

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That’s right, after almost 9 years of dreaming about it, I’m finally here!! Sometimes I don’t believe it myself, and have to give myself a hard pinch. *ouch*

So, firstly, how is it going? Glad you asked! I love it here! Once I got over the jet lag (and even during), I was just so grateful to be here. Yes, the weather is unpredictable and mostly hot, but I’ve never loved the feel of the sun on my skin more. Secondly, what am I doing here? I’m also pursuing the Master’s program I’ve wanted to since ’09, at last. I’m so excited that I sometimes just spontaneously want to break into dance!

It’s orientation week at my university this week, so I’m usually on my feet, walking around all day. (Oh, and that’s one thing about Sydney I didn’t know before I got here. Sydneysiders love to walk everywhere, and you kind of tend to just do the same once you’re here.)

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Next week, I start classes and then, hopefully I’ll be able to be a bit more organised. Ha! Wish me luck y’all! And until then, enjoy some of my pictures of Sydney!

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The beautiful Central Mall building

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My Penny’s Worth: Photography

Firstly, I know I have been terribly delayed with my posts. I have been unable to keep up with my schedule, and that is due to a variety of reasons. The Australian Open being just one of them. The meaty details will be let out in a matter of a couple of weeks, and then you, my dear readers, will completely understand.


Now, as someone who enjoys taking, and sharing, photos, there are a few things that I believe make a good photograph. Almost everyone today has access to a camera, be it in the form of their phone, a digital ‘point and shoot’ or a DSLR. For this mere mortal, fiddling about with buttons and settings, a degree here and then another there has never been anything to write home about. For the few months that I did have a DSLR, I  admit that I thoroughly enjoyed its power, but it is also true that I did not dedicate too much time to learning many settings.

If you are new to photography and want to up your game, I’d say, join Instagram. You will find tonnes of inspiration, and will be able to observe how the pros do it, and pick up tips. Read on if you want my penny’s worth of advice on what I believe are the golden rules to good pictures. But since they come from me, they might just be silver. I’ll let you decide.

What I’m about to share with you all is in no way an exhaustive guide, nor are they rules; do what makes you happy.


1. Lines: If the object/subject you are clicking has lines on/behind/under them, either vertical or horizontal, frame it in such a way that those lines are straight. Or at least fix the skew before you post it somewhere public. I find that it gives a more finished look to the photo, like you actually cared to spend more than a second to p&s.

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Lines, lines, they need to be parallel, and perpendicular, unless you’re deliberately trying to piss people off.


2. The Horizon: When shooting a landscape, sunset and such, if you take the time to ensure that you frame it in such a manner that the horizon line is, well, horizontal, it will make a world of difference. It is one of my pet peeves to have a skewed horizon line in photos.

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While this may still look skewed due to the colours, I assure you, that horizon is as straight as a ruler!


3. Editing: It is absolutely okay to touch up your photos a bit. Sometimes you just don’t have time to spend ages perfecting a shot, or what you’re clicking might be time sensitive. The above points can be achieved with a tiny bit of tweaking. However, bear in mind that you might lose the periphery of the image as the tilt is adjusted into a rectangle or square.

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A tricky demo, this one, as I was standing on a ramp. See, my flip-flop clad feet were visible in the original. Then I had to adjust the image so that it’s straight, and lost out on the feet. Terrible business.


4. Focus: No matter what kind of hurry you’re in, taking a couple of seconds to check that the subject, say, a bunch of sunbathing turtles is what is in focus. And not, say, the abundance of foliage in the foreground, as can be seen below.

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5. Over editing: Ugh, seriously, I hate this. When was the last time you saw cobalt blue trees or buildings that had halos around them? Some people just don’t know when to stop. However, having said that, if you mean to go for that effect, it can be stunning. But I’d still suggest you use that super power sparingly.

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What’s not to like about purple clouds and ombré waves, I ask! Surreal? Yes. Just remember, the watchword is ‘sparingly’.


These are just the bare essentials, and I would like to share more of what I believe helps to make a great photo. So keep a look-out for that one. Also, comment below with your personal tips and tricks for great photos; let’s compare notes! 🙂

 

 

 

A Promise, a Dream and a Plan

 

This year, while still very young, has me feeling old. I know no-one likes a Debbie Downer so I’ll keep the downing to a minimum. Essentially the hit my immunity took a couple of months ago has left my body a wreck, prone to falling ill again and also making the recovery very slow. Not one to pop pills, my new best friends are ginger, lemon, honey and hot water. Oh, let’s not forget good old black pepper. That leaves me thus: a blocked-nosed, pallid-faced, lackluster little dreamer.

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Dreaming got me here, after all!

Oh no, the dreaming must not stop. Though I read something profound on a traveller’s page the other day, about not thinking of something as a dream, but as a plan. Inspiring. That’s what it was. Why do we relegate the things we want with every atom of our being into those wispy puffs of fantasy that disappear faster than the sleep we rub from our eyes each morning? Why must it be a dream? Why not a goal, a plan? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful thing to dream, I’d be lost without it. However, for a dream to have substance, there must be some work to propel it forward from the ether.

As you can see, in all the time that I try to force myself to nap (and fail over and over again) in a bid to regain some energy, I do some thinking. And I thought, in relation to the promise I made myself this last birthday, why was that trip so monumental? I mean, it wasn’t like I went on an ayahuasca (which I didn’t know existed until a few months ago) self-revelatory trip to some obscure town in South America. No, I did something most people would probably find tame, I went on a trip, albeit alone, spent a week there and thoroughly enjoying myself, came back a happy kitty.

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So, what changed? It was the promise. It was this: before, I’d always waited around for things to happen. Waited for someone to make me feel special on my birthday and ended up disappointed. But in all fairness I had said I didn’t want a fuss (when an over-the-top fuss was what I did want). Something about the way I was brought up to refuse offers of gifts, help or food. Don’t ask, I’m as stumped as you are! And let me tell you, refusing food when your tummy is growling like an angry Bengal tiger isn’t very convincing.

What changed was that I decided I’m not going to wait around any longer. My happiness, my responsibility. Did I have to travel to another country to figure this out? Not really. But you know what, having all those beautiful, endless views of the sea, the gorgeous food, and first-time experiences didn’t hurt! Not one bit.


How is your 2016 going so far? Any new life philosophies picked up along the journey of the last one? Also, any advice on how to shake a pesky cold & cough?

 

Start 2016 The Right Way, With Giftxoxo

The mad rush of Christmas shopping and gifting is over, and now everyone looks for that perfect dress to wear to the New Year’s Eve party. Arm candy having been secured, all that’s left is to pop open the bubbly, count down the last seconds of 2015 and hope the next year will be even better than this one. Now, for someone such as myself, the perfect way to start a new year would be with a new adventure, a trip somewhere or learning something new. Begin as you mean to go, as they say.

imageThis is where Giftxoxo comes in. The brilliant people over there have compiled and curated the best form of gifting there is: the gift of experiences! 

I am someone who likes to receive and give personalized gifts, not neessarily handmade, but with enough thought in them to be meaningful to the giver and receiver. If there is someone special in your life and you want to show them how much they mean to you, look no further. Giftxoxo has eliminated the time-consuming need to browse identikit gifts on shelves, virtual or solid, trying to find some semblance of a personal touch. From the comfort of wherever you happen to be, you can choose unique gifts that will leave lasting impressions. Be it an adventure, a painting class, a very special way to propose or an unforgettably decadent meal, it’s time to gift memories.

Giftxoxo has certainly widened my options and let me tell you, they’re putting the ‘joy’ back into the joy of giving.  They have a wide range of activities, adventures, getaways and sheer joy-inducing offerings such as this wonderful chance to learn to bake with friends and family. Why not send your hardworking mum, wife or sister on a spa day, and end it with a special dinner for two at that restaurant she’s been talking about for months? Or surprise your dad with some golf lessons? A few clicks is all it takes to rekindle romance, spend some one-on-one time with busy ones, and just show that you care.

As the years go on, we all realise that the best memories are never tied to things, but to people, to places, and experiences. In our busy lives we often forget that we don’t know how long this adventure called life will last, and that we must make time to let people know how much we love and appreciate them. If that sounds anything like you, what better time to put in the effort and make fresh memories than the occassion of a new year? With options in over 20 cities, I’m sure you’ll find just the right present this season at Giftxoxo. Go on, gift someone a new you, and who knows, maybe a new them.

An Impossible Love: The Time Traveler’s Wife

 
I read a lot, and I mean a lot! The only times that I didn’t were when I felt the most disconnected from who I am. Books have been my companions through homesickness, then later through farsickness. Whether I am grounded or 30,000 feet in the air, rare is the moment when I am not accompanied by one of my trusty friends. There are many books that have touched my heart, leaving me broken at the end, sobbing like I’d lost my love, and ones that left me wistful (because it was over) but happy and glowing. I don’t usually talk too much about books I’ve read or ask for suggestions because tastes vary wildly. 

This is an exception though. Maybe because it was that much of a blind path I set down with this one, The Time Traveler’s Wife. I hadn’t heard much of this book, and didn’t personally know anyone who had read it. While flipping channels many months ago, I did feel intrigued by the title of this book (as a movie) among a string of others. I never watched the movie though, and got the book as a back-up read for my recent trip to Bali. I wanted to start December with ‘After You’, but then I knew I’d race through it and want need another one to keep the sadness of not having another Jojo Moyes offering for a while at bay. The Time Traveler’s Wife was my pick, I didn’t even glance at the author’s name, just hit ‘Buy’ on my Kindle.

It might seem weird to many of you, but one of the things I most like about getting a book by an author I’m not familiar with on Kindle is that I don’t check whether they’re male or female. It makes reading the story more interesting for me, guessing who penned those words. So, diligently not skipping the author’s note (no name mentioned there), I started the book. It took just a few pages to know I’d care deeply about this book, that I would be left devastated at the end. After I finished, I did find out that it was written by a woman, and I wasn’t expecting that for some reason, which made me love it even more. 

As is my usual style, I galloped through the story. And then forced myself to slow down, only taking small bites of the book at a time; a feeble attempt to eke it out for as long as possible. Then towards the last quarter, knowing the inevitability of imminent heartbreak, I tried to get it over with sooner rather than later. Like yanking off a Band-Aid.

Oh, this book touched me, it moved me. I haven’t read any others based around the theme of time travel before, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. But why should it be compared? This is only my opinion and my experience of it, after all. Relatable human emotions, flaws and stupidity woven together with the eternal feeling that haunts us all in one way or the other: love.  It made me laugh, cry, and cringe. It made me angry sometimes and it also made me believe. I’m not talking about the concept of time travel and chrono-impairement though. I will keep this book close to my heart. And when I have a house of my own that has more bookshelves than any other type of furniture, this one will be up there with the favourites. Oh, and I wish Audrey Niffeneger would finish writing Alba’s story soon!