Friday, November 11, 2016

Inked in Beijing.

On October 7th, I got a new tattoo.

This is something I've wanted to do now for about a year. I wanted to have a memory of these very important years of my life that I've spent living in China. I knew immediately that I didn't want anything in Chinese writing. Not my style. Too cliché. (Then again, I have a compass on my ankle. Soooo, who am I to judge being cliché!?) So, I started to think about things that reminded me of China, specifically Beijing. A lot of my thoughts, of course, went immediately to food. But, I can't say I was ready to jump at the commitment of tattooing a dumpling on my body. 

My absolute favourite time of the year at home in Canada is fall. No question! The colours, the smells, the feelings, the coziness, the flavours. I. Love. AUTUMN! However, Beijing's autumn isn't quite the same. My favourite season in Beijing is spring. The colours, the smells, the feelings, the coziness, the flavours. I. Love. SPRING (in Beijing)! 

After a lot of thought (like, almost a year of thought) I decided that I wanted to get something connected to my love for spring in Beijing. And I came up with Chinese plum blossoms. These beautiful pink flowers come out in full force around April/May in Beijing. They brighten the place up after a grey, smoggy, and dark winter.

There's also the symbolism that comes with spring: rebirth, new life, and growth. Which is exactly how I see the symbolism of my life (so far) in Beijing. I've discovered a lot about myself over these four years - I've grown as a person, as a teacher, as a traveller, as a global citizen. I've opened my mind to many different lifestyles, cultures, and ways of life. I've seen a lot of things I never imagined I would. I've been reborn as someone who is internationally minded and aware, as opposed to my closed minded, small town self from six years ago.

I asked the tattoo artist to design the image with closed buds at the bottom of the branch, opened flowers in the middle of the branch, and then closed buds again at the top. To me, this represents the transformations I've experienced while living in China. The bottom buds symbolizing the me I was before moving abroad, the flowers representing the change and growth I have experienced, and the buds at the top of the branch symbolizing the growth and transformations I will continue to experience later in my life.

I love my new tattoo and what it represents. I love that it's unique and original. I love that'll always be a constant reminder of how important it is to discover yourself, to grow as a person, and to experience all that life and the world has to offer.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


As promised, I'm making cooking a priority again in my journey to #bebetter and focus on what makes me happy. I'm really good at telling other people to take care of "Number One" that sometimes I forget to heed my own advice. 

Over the last two weeks since making my presence again on the blog, I've created three new recipes, documented some "oldies by goodies" in my cookbook journal, and brainstormed some ideas for future kitchen adventures. Most of the time, my recipe ideas come to me when I'm walking the aisles of the grocery store. I LOVE the grocery store and fruit and veggie markets. I love looking at all the ingredients, trying to come up with inspirations and ideas, thinking about what food adventure I could go on next. 

Ok, so who doesn't love tacos?! Seriously though. Tacos are AMAZING. And very versatile. Hard shell or soft shell. Corn or flour. Chicken or beef. Or fish! Salsa or sour cream. Or dare I say BOTH!? The options are endless. These tacos came from...well...a walk through the grocery store. I knew I wanted to make a taco recipe for the book, but wasn't sure what direction to go in. I have had this pico de gallo recipe in my back pocket for a few years now. So I knew I wanted it to have that. As I walked the produce section of the grocery store I go to here in Beijing, I saw the avocados. And the rest is kinda, sporadic. I just grabbed ingredients and went with it. And this is what I came up with: 


Avocado Creama
+ 2 avocados 
+ 1/2 cup greek yogurt, plain 
+ juice of 1/2 lime 
+ cilantro 
+ salt & pepper 

Pico de Gallo
+ 2 tomatoes, seeded, diced* 
+ 1 clove garlic, minced finely 
+ 1/2 red onion, finely diced 
+ 3 tbsp cilantro, chopped 
+ juice of 1 lime 
+ sugar
+ salt & pepper 

Shredded Chicken 
+ 2 chicken breasts
+ 1 tsp garlic powder 
+ 1 tsp chili powder 
+ 1/2 tsp paprika 
+ salt 
+ juice of 1/2 lime 

+ 1 cup purple cabbage, julienned 
+ juice of 1/2 lime 
+ hard corn taco shells 

*If I had my choice of tomatoes for pico de gallo, they'd be roma tomatoes. Not as juicy, which means your finished product won't be watered down. I haven't found roma tomatoes yet in Beijing, so I opt for "hot house" type tomatoes. If you have access to romas and you are making this recipe, use 4 tomatoes as they are generally smaller in size than hot house.  


1. Poach chicken in 4 cups of water for 12-15 minutes. Remove and shred with forks. Add garlic powder, chilli powder, paprika, pinch of salt, and juice of 1/2 lime. Mix with hands. Taste and add seasoning as needed. 

2. While chicken is poaching, assemble pico de gallo. Combine chopped tomatoes, garlic, red onion, cilantro, lime, pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Mix together and let sit for 5 minutes. Taste and add lime or salt as needed. 

3. Now, assemble avocado creama. In a blender or food processor, add avocado, lime, greek yogurt, and a handful of cilantro. Pulse until the ingredients have combined together into a smooth mixture with no lumps. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and mix with a spoon. 

4. In a small bowl, combine julienned purple cabbage and the juice of half a lime. Toss together. 

5. Once all components have been made, it's TACO TIME! 


7. Serve with a side of creama, pico, and a lime wedge. 

I'm pretty proud of this recipe. The flavours work really well together. The tangy bite from the pico, the sweet & smooth flavour of the creama, the crunch from the cabbage and hard shell, the spice from the chicken. I ate three...and I'm drooling again thinking about the idea of getting to eat the leftovers for lunch! 

Something I'd like to try next time is adding cheese. Maybe crumbles of queso fresco (if I can find it in Beijing) would add another depth of flavour? I'm a woman on a mission for Mexican cheeses now! Watch out, Beijing! 

(Links to my Twitter & Instagram pages on the right!)-------->

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cookbook • UPDATE

May 18th. The last time I posted on this blog. 5 months ago. I don't feel guilty about it, but I also don't want to quit blogging. I love writing down my thoughts! I love being reflective. And I am in a very reflective mood this week. I need to hit a big ol' red reset button and get back to focusing on ME. And the one thing that never fails to make me happy - COOKING

Yes, I am still writing my cookbook. Not as often as I'd like to be. I've never stopped creating. I just haven't been writing down my recipes as promptly and frequently as I would like to be. 

I cooked A LOT this summer. I had so many amazing summer recipes I wanted to try. A lot of them I never got to, but some of them I did. I documented a few, but I also forgot to document a lot of them. But what I am certain of is I had a wonderful summer back home in New Brunswick (blog post coming SOON!) 

So, tonight I am sitting with my good friend Amanda at one of our favourite restaurants, Moka Bros, sipping wine by candlelight, writing recipes and blogposts. Getting back to working on me. Because that's what I need to do right now. For me. 

Stay tuned for recipes of some of my favourite recipes I'm making right now, including my homemade Greek Pasta Salad, Sundried Tomato Stuffed Chicken, and Mango Pineapple Salsa. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mom!

It's my Mom's birthday! I've written many, many posts about how amazing and loving my mother is, and you should read them (here, here, here, AND here). I always read through them again prior to writing these birthday posts, and it just reminds how lucky and truly blessed I am to not only call her my Mom, but also one of my best friends!

Kind, thoughtful, supportive, loving. These are just a couple of the many words that can be used to describe who my mother is. But one word that stands out above the others: selfless. My mother constantly puts others before herself. She is always there when you need her, even when you're on the other side of the world. Life is tough sometimes, and something I know to be true is that no matter how old you get and how independent you are, sometimes you just need your Mom.

I could honestly go on forever about how much I love my mother. Family is extremely important to me, and it is the values that have been instilled in me by my parents that have really influenced the person that I am today. What I love the most about the relationship that I have with my mother is how open and honest I can be with her, and I always know that she will be there to listen, give advice (even if it isn't what I want to hear), and to no matter what love me through thick and thin. I can't emphasize enough how truly grateful I am to consider my mother a friend.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I so wish I could be there to celebrate with you! But alas, we are 36 days away from being reunited. I miss you, I love you, and I appreciate you! xoxo

Sunday, May 15, 2016


I did a good amount of cooking last week, which made me SO HAPPY! I wrote in my "Still Here" blogpost about how busy work life had been in April. I foresee it getting busy again in about a week or so as the school year is quickly wrapping up around here. BUT, until then, I'm focusing at home on cooking and building up my cookbook. Last week I added three recipes to my cookbook: Pad Thai (which I learned how to make in Thailand 2 years ago SLASH I'm just looking back now and realizing I didn't write about my cooking class in Thailand. Sad face!), Chicken with White Wine Mushroom Sauce, and Rosemary Roasted Potatoes. 

The chicken recipe was good, but it needs some work and some tweaking. It wasn't QUITE what I had pictured when I drafted the recipe the night before. Notes that I wrote in my cookbook journal include: "Flavour is off. I added salt, but was afraid to add too much because my side of rosemary roasted potatoes were on the salty side. Other flavours that could be added next time: thyme? parm cheese? (maybe as a crisp garnish"?) ????") So, I'm not ready to share THAT recipe yet. 

However, the potatoes I made were brilliant. And they are so versatile. You could substitute so many different herbs if you aren't a fan of rosemary. Or if you are a fan of rosemary, but just like to try new things and explore, like me!

They'd taste amazing with thyme as well. 

And also, grilled on the BBQ. I mean, summer is just around the corner guys and nothing says summer like a BBQ cookout! 


+ 20-25 baby potatoes
+ extra virgin olive oil (appox. 2 tbsp)
+ 2 tbsp roughly chopped rosemary
+ salt and pepper

Rinse potatoes and dice them in to similar sizes (this is really important to make sure they cook evenly!)

Put potatoes on a baking sheet and coat with extra virgin olive. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and the chopped rosemary. Use hands to mix and make sure everything is coated evenly.

Bake at 350°C for 30-40 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender and crispy on the outside.

PS - Make sure you flip and turn potatoes over half way through the cooking time.

Let me know if you try out this recipe! And let me know if you substitute with other herbs or flavours. I think the next time I make them, I'll use thyme and garlic. Garlic on everything makes it so much better!

And also, thank you everyone for the amazing support and feedback about my goals and new journey! The messages and comments have been an amazing motivator and I'm beyond thankful for all of you who are reading this!

(Links to my Twitter and Instagram pages on the right!) --->

Monday, May 9, 2016

5 Years.

This date always looms over me. And over the last couple of days I've been reflecting, reading old blog posts, and thinking about how I feel. Of course, I feel sad. And I always miss home more than normal today. And, I'm a little breathless and at a loss for words thinking about the reality that it has been 5 years since Grandad passed away.

How does time fly by so quickly? So much has changed in our family, and it makes me sad that he isn't here to see it. I feel like these are the best years of my life recently, and I feel like a completely different person than I was when he died. I've grown immensely, and so has our family. Huge milestones have happened, memories have been made, and journey's have been taken. And I guess I'm in this limbo of feeling sad that he is gone, but also sad that he's not here to be part of our growth. 

And for some people, being "here" doesn't have to be a physical thing. For some people, there is a stage in their mourning where they feel their loved one lost is with them spiritually or in faith. Dealing with Grandad's death has taught me even more that I don't know what I believe. It's very rare, but when I do have a dream about him, I think I feel that his presence in my dream is him being present in my life. "Spiritually." But trying to find happiness and comfort in the idea that Grandad sees what I am doing and he "knows" doesn't work for me. I need him here, in the flesh. I need him here to talk to. I need him here so I can see him. 

Last summer, our family had a little reunion in Saint John. Uncle David came East from Vancouver, and before I fled back to China, we all gathered for fun, food, and family. This. This is when I feel Grandad with us. In the way Uncle Mark smiles and hugs me, the way Brad laughs, the way we dance like fools on the back deck busting a gut laughing, the stories Uncle David tells about their childhood. But most of all, I feel him with us the most when I see how happy my Grandmom is in those moments.  None of this would be our reality if it weren't for her and Grandad. Our successes and growth are reflected in their relationship, their leadership, and their love. 

I love my Grandad so much. I miss him so much. And he continues to be one of the greatest motivators in my life. Always and forever. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Still Here!

YAAASSS QUEEN!! Julia knows what she's talking about! I snapped this picture when I was in Ubud in February because I knew it'd bring me joy every time I looked at it.

It's been a busy couple of weeks in the life of this teacher. Besides the regular grind of being a teacher that includes lesson planning, marking, and instruction, I've been immersed in helping with the school musical. Last week and this past weekend I pretty much spent at school. I was home long enough to wind down for an hour or so, and then go to bed. While it was exhausting and a lot of work, I enjoyed every single minute of it! These students are extremely talented, and I had so much fun working with them. 

But now the show is over, and I am back to focusing on me (and the piles of marking and planning I still have to do/catch up on!) I have some recipes sketched out and planned in my journal, and I'll be doing some heavy cooking this week and next. Except a new recipe in the very near future!

PS - Home in 50 days!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Beginning of a New Journey.

Guys, I'm writing a cookbook! A book full of my own original recipes. Cooking has always been a big passion of mine. I can't remember a time where I didn't love to cook. My dad shares this passion with me, so maybe it's in our genes?! But since moving to China, I've lost some of that passion. Partly because my kitchen isn't ideal (toaster oven and a hot plate have proven to be challenging at times), and it has become so easy to just order food at the end of a work day. But, still, when I do cook, I remember how much fun I have and how good it makes me feel to create. 

If I'm being completely honest, I feel like my life has been in a rut lately. I haven't felt any spark of passion for anything in a long time. I just go about my daily routine, and at the end of the day, I sometimes feel lonely and lost. A lot of that passion came from creating in the kitchen. I love entertaining and cooking for other people, and I love messing around with flavours and ideas. I love going to a grocery store and spending hours (seriously, HOURS) going up and down the aisles, looking at the produce, the cheeses, the meats, the spices, the possibilities! I'm literally grinning from ear to ear thinking about being there just a couple of hours ago! I truly do believe that a part of my life is meant to be devoted to creating delicious, feel good food in the kitchen. 

How did I come up with this idea? As most of you know, I'm a teacher. Last week, our grade ten students presented their personal projects to the school; a year long project they've been working on. They decided on something they wanted to create that they were interested in learning more about. Kids created stop motion movies, haute couture gowns, and pixel art. I "jokingly" said to a fellow teacher: "Man, I'm leaving here seriously motivated to create something of my own!" Little did she probably know, I honestly WAS motivated. That night, I thought about it more, and I decided that what I need to do is make a cookbook. I can explore my interest more, learn more, and ultimately decide if I want the culinary arts to be a hobby or more of a career-type thing. This is what I hope to get out of this "personal project" of my own. I'm on a mission, a journey, to find my passion and love for cooking again!

So tonight! The journey began. I went out, I explored the grocery store, and I came home the ingredients to make my first entry into my journal that will one day become my cookbook. I intend to blog some of my recipes, and others I'll keep only in my journal. I'll be Snapchatting my journey and posting on Instagram. You should follow me! My handle for both is mel_dickinson. Come find me!

So here it is. My first recipe!


Pesto Sauce:
+ 2 cups fresh basil leaves
+ 1/4 cup pinenuts, toasted
+ 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
+ 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
+ extra virgin olive oil

Put basil, pinenuts, cheese, and garlic into a blender or food processor. Begin mixing on low and slowly add oil to the blender. Continue to add oil gradually while mixing until desired consistency.

Pasta Bake:
+ 1 package of your favourite pasta (I used large elbow macaroni. Penne would also be great!)
+ 8 slices bacon, cooked, choppped
+ 1 small onion, diced
+ 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
+ 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
+ 1-2 cups of spinach, roughly chopped
+ 3/4 cup of heavy cream
+ 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
+ salt and pepper to taste

Cook your pasta in heavily salted boiling water according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside, saving 2-3 tablespoons of the cooking water.

Cook bacon in a frying pan until crispy. Set aside and chop once cooled. Use the leftover bacon grease to sauté the onions and garlic together. Once the onions become softened, add the spinach to the pan and cook until wilted. Add the sundried tomatoes and cooked bacon to the pan. Mix.

Add all of the pesto sauce from the blender or food processor to the pan. Mix. Stir in cream and mix until combined. Remove from heat. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Mix sauce with pasta in a baking dish. If it's difficult to combine the sauce and pasta together, add some of the reserved pasta water to the dish to loosen up the sauce. Top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 350°C for 20 minutes.

That's it folks! If I served this to my friends, I'd maybe add some chopped basil and a few crumbles of goat cheese to the plate. Eating myself, I just threw it in a the bowl and it was DELICIOUS with a glass of red wine.

When the timer on my toaster oven dinged after 20 minutes, and I took this dish out of the oven, I literally cried a little bit. I had to step away from the counter once I set it down and compose myself. I created this! I took things I knew from watching others, from reading cookbooks and recipes, and from my own palate and I created this dish! I tried something I've always wanted to, and I made homemade pesto. SO EASY! This is the result. Feel good food, and I'm feeling so full of passion and motivation, I can't wait to try my next recipe. I think it's going to be something sweet using inspiration from a family cookie recipe.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. For being interested in me and what's going on in my life. And if you try this recipe out, let me know!

(Links to my Twitter and Instagram pages on the right!) --->

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Bali New Year.

Bali is just one of those places you always read about. I feel like it's one of those places Beyonce goes to get away from her hectic life of being a celebrity and escape to a glamorous life of staying at some 5-star resort, getting a massage on her balcony, wining and dining on lush and lavish food and drink. I'd never actually dreamt of going to Bali, but I can recall moments in my life growing up hearing my friends talk about wanting to go to Bali, or reading in magazines and books about how gorgeous and exotic Bali is. Since moving to Beijing, I have had close friends travel to Bali and other areas of Indonesia and rave about how amazing it was. Time for me to go and see what the fuss was all about! 

My goals for this 2-week vacation included (in no particular order): relax on a beach (and by the pool), eat ALL OF THE YUMMY food, explore, hang out with a monkey, and try not to get a sunburn. I accomplished all my goals...minus the sunburn. And before I go any further, let me tell you about sunburn in Indonesia! I never got burnt at anytime extremely bad. I got burnt once on my forehead and once on my shoulders. After a couple of days, when the burn started to peel, it left my skin really discoloured. It happened to some of my friends as well. I don't know if it has to do with the fact that the equator goes directly through Indonesia or not, so the type of sun we were exposed to, our bodies are not used to. Nevertheless, it was gross and it hurt and I hate getting sunburnt! Despite the amount of sunscreen I put on and the shade I sit under, my poor fair-skin just can't handle it. 

We spent the first 3 days in Sanur, located on the eastern side of Bali. Sanur is a quiet area in Bali. The hotel we stayed at, Hotel Segara Agung, had an amazing pool only 15 steps away from out hotel room. It was also a 2-3 minute walk from the beach. And the side streets in Sanur were filled with cute little shops and restaurants. We ate breakfast every morning pool side, which I loved! What better way to wake up then to breakfast, coffee, a pool, blue skies, and warmth! We spent our days by the pool or at the beach relaxing, swimming, and reading. Evenings were spent at restaurants eating and drinking. It was a very peaceful first 3 days of vacation!

What's better than a cold beer on the beach?

The walkway from the street to our hotel was beautiful! The grounds of the hotel were equally as serene. 

We found a gelato shop down the street from the hotel (which was also recommended to us by Amanda!). 2 scoops on a cone for $2. Can't get any better than that! I was a fan of mixing flavours; this one was Nutella and Toffee Almond, I think.

It rained almost every day we were in Bali. I guess that's what you get for traveling there during rainy season. Most times it never rained for more than 15 minutes. One afternoon in Sanur, we got caught in a right out downpour. So, we found a perch at a covered-patio on the beach, ordered some delicious Indonesian food, and drank sangria. No complaints! 

After Sanur we traveled to Ubud, which is in central Bali. No beaches; instead we were immersed in lots of sight-seeing and touring. During our time in Ubud, I felt like I really learned a lot about the Indonesian and Balinese culture. We saw a traditional Balinese dance performance, drank luwak coffee in the jungle, watched the creation of traditional wood carving and oil painting, the Teglalang rice terraces, watched a bathing ritual at the Tirta Empul Temple, and had lunch at Mount Batur, an active volcano in Bali (even if it was a teeny tiny bit foggy and it blocked some of our view). This was probably my favourite touristy day! It poured rain the whole time we visited these locations, but I was extremely gracious and humbled to witness a few pieces of the Balinese culture and it really made me appreciate the place I was visiting.

We also visited the Monkey Forest in Ubud. The hotel we stayed at, Champlung Sari Hotel, was across the street from the entrance to the Monkey Forest. I could have spent all day here! Despite being bitten by one little monkey, it was so much fun watching the monkeys interact with each other and with other visitors of the forest.

This was NOT the little guy who bit me. I just love the way the gentleman beside me is holding on to my leg all protective and such!

We spent about 3-4 hours at the forest. It all came to an end when Alexis was mauled by a monkey. He took a big chomp at her side and hung on by his teeth. There were screams, points, and maybe a little bit of laughter. She's alright, and luckily the monkey didn't break her skin. At that point, we'd had enough and quickly left the forest. Despite the bites, I'd highly recommend anyone to go to the forest. Don't look the monkey's in the eyes, and don't bring any loose items with you. They WILL take my sunglasses.

He eventually did let them go once he was distracted by something else he could grab. But he had chewed them and dragged them everywhere, and they quickly went in to the garbage can. Luckily, they were cheap things I bought on the side of the road, and easily replaceable.

After Ubud, we spent a week in Gili. Gili is three small islands off the east coast of Bali. We stayed at Gili Trawangan. We originally weren't going to go Gili, but after talking to other friends who visited Bali & Indonesia in the past, we were convinced that it was worth the trek over to the islands.

Alexis and I rented bikes one day and biked around the island. It's small! 3km all the way around I think. We stopped a few times for pictures and were back at our hotel in an hour. It was a fun way to see the whole island! (Even if my butt was in A LOT of pain afterwards...that bike seat was hard!)

I tried two nights to see the sunset. The first night it was too cloudy, and the second night I saw most of it. But eventually the clouds covered the actual setting of the sun. It was gorgeous either way.

Gili T is beautiful! The island runs on solar energy, and there are no gas powered vehicles on the islands. You get around by walking, biking, or by horse and buggy. When I read about the horse and buggy system online, I almost didn't believe it. But it's true, folks! You get used to the horse smell after a few minutes of being on the island.

The water was crystal clear. Alexis and I also went snorkelling one day on a mission to find some sea turtles. We saw two BIG turtles on our adventure. We followed them around for a while, until I had to get out of the water because my poor, fair skin can't stay in the direct sunlight for that long. I managed to be a beach bum for a week in Gili and come out of it sunburn free!

I also took a cooking class in Gili! We made 7 different Indonesian dishes. Mie Goreng (noodles and vegetables), Gado Gado (vegetables and peanut sauce), and Tofu Satay (fried tofu and peanut dipping sauce). The chefs at Sweet and Spicy Cooking School we're the most fun! They played music, sang, danced, and told hilarious jokes. They had as flambeing, singing, drinking, and laughing! Even if you don't like cooking, I recommend doing this.

Our final day in Indonesia we headed back to Bali and drove to Uluwatu. This was a last minute visit decision when deciding what to do with our last day. Do we go back to Sanur and relax? Or go somewhere new and see one last piece of Bali? We decided for the second option.

We watched the sunset over Uluwatu Temple while watching a traditional fire dance ceremony. I had read and heard from friends about the beauty of the sunset in Uluwatu. I mean, I am a SUCKER for a sunset! Sunsets all day, every day please! I can't explain it, but I just feel at ease, peaceful, and thankful all at once when I watch the sunset. That I get to be on this planet, seeing the things I'm seeing. I get all reflective and sentimental thinking to myself during a sunset. There are no words.

And with the final sunset in Uluwatu, my Indonesian adventure came to an end. I boarded a plane the next day headed back to Beijing. This trip was amazing! I love Southeast Asia, and I love Bali!

Maybe you'd also like to check out my past adventures to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand (2014 & 2015), and Philippines.