The 2015 Nutshell

I started 2015 wrong, plain and simple. Erroneously and regretfully with the mindset that there was no way fifteen could beat the incredible journey of fourteen. In 2014, I saw things. Did things. Lived on another continent for six months, travelled to fifteen cities, interned at a magazine I adored, got my first job in an industry I saw myself working in long term and had my written work published and paid for. I was the reflection of the Instagram girl I wanted to be, living a purposeful and beautiful #wanderlust #gratitude life.

Still I tell myself, while 2015 wasn’t as picture perfect as 2014 and I wasn’t “doing”, there was a lot of introspective thinking and personal development. My Gen Y tendencies which oftentimes lead me by action, slowed down a lot particularly in the second half of this year. I had my career heart broken once and so many existential ‘What am I doing with my life’ moments it was starting to get funny. I was privileged enough to meet more incredible people this year and experienced lots of great ‘together’ moments and also time alone. Particularly in the last couple of months, a lot of constants in my life have fallen away. The summation of everything I have been through this year has made me feel older with thickened skin and a harder heart that only bleeds in cases of emergency.

1. Write a novella
I made more progress this year than I had in 2014 but again, it didn’t really work out. Resolution failed.

2. Write a diary at least twice a week
This also did not happen. Resolution failed.

3. Be less hard on myself
Constantly a work in progress.

4. Complete all cooking challenges
Looking back at this resolution, I don’t even know what I meant by ‘challenges’ but since moving out on my own my cooking ability has constantly been improving and I am quite proud of that.

Samanthawxlow homemade tasty meals

There’s a distinct difference in what I cook for people and what I cook for myself. When it’s just for me I tend to opt to boil or bake everything for easy clean up and as the healthiest option although it leads to pretty average tasting food. By putting a little bit of effort though I found that I don’t necessarily have to suffer in my day-to-day food and by actually treating myself at home I can keep the cravings for fatty foods at bay. Here are just a few examples of overlaps in the tasty/healthy Venn diagram.

black sesame buns

Making these black sesame and earl grey rolls was fantastic. They taste better than anything I’ve had by *insert your local Asian bakery* and they ended up being a good bartering tool with my neighbour when I needed someone to save me from a cockroach.

samanthawxlow matcha matchamon homemade baked goods

Having the “matchamon” recreated by a bunch of talented ladies was such an incredible feeling. I was deathly afraid that the recipe was going to be a dud.

samanthawxlow brownies matcha

That week where I was up to my ears with brownies for work and decided to just roll with it by making matcha brownies and black sesame brownies.

cherry pie
Most recently and probably most challenging was the orphan Christmas picnic which saw me make two kinds of pasta (green and red pesto for the festive feels), a cherry pie and tackling the intimidating turkey with Wina and Jordan’s expertise. There was also a guest appearance of Jordan’s cheese scone which is basically all I ate during exchange in Sweden.

Christmas turkey
Pretty little turkey

Photo Dec 25, 12 55 31 PM
We had a really great spread of food thanks to Gabriel’s curry puffs and Quinton and Rachel’s dedication to Krispy Kreme donuts and whatever drinks 7-11 had since none of the supermarkets were open. All in all: Resolution accomplished.

5. Even out the ratio of food to lifestyle to book blogs
As a general overview of my blog, I think I was pretty consistent with writing in it regularly until the second half of the year. Despite that, I’d like to think the quality of the posts has gone up and while I’m not reviewing every single restaurant I’ve gone to, I’m doing the kind of writing I am proud of. Strictly speaking I guess I failed this resolution but I’m getting closer and closer to determining the kind of content I want to produce. This resolution was more about diversifying into non-restaurant reviews and I think 2015 was pretty good for that. Resolution accomplished.

6. Visit a new city
I was lucky enough to be travelling a fair amount this year but in terms of ticking this resolution off, New York turned out to be that new city which is about as huge as it gets. You can check out my New York blog posts below. Resolution accomplished.

7. Continue consistent fitness regime
Since Sweden I’ve definitely been a lot more regular with exercising. I definitely feel a lot better and more energised on the whole this year. With consistent exercise comes better sleep (quality and quantity) which has also improved my overall productivity. It really makes me think how far I’ve come from being overweight in Malaysia and the fact that I weigh less now than I did when I was 10 years old. Resolution accomplished.

8. Complete my double degree
I started writing this section and it somehow took on a life on its own and became over a thousand words of rambling about the struggles of being a not-so-great law and business student who still tries pretty hard anyway. I’ll post it up soon but here is an excerpt from the concluding paragraph.

‘The end of 2015 was the projected completion of university and it has hung over me these past five years as both a finishing line and a death row sentence. There were times where I was sure I had a failed a course or two and would be forced into extending my degree thus disappointing myself and everyone I cared about. Being in institution after institution since the age of six also meant that the prospect of complete and utter freedom was terrifying because I no longer had a study plan, no longer had any one teacher, lecturer or course coordinator to outline expectations for me. But a few weeks ago, as I clicked through to the page that announced what was to be my last exam results report ever, I allowed all that fear, apprehension and self-doubt to wash away for just a moment. The first thing I did was call my mom to tell her that her only daughter is now a graduate.’

Resolution accomplished.

5/8 resolutions completed is a great improvement from 2014! I am very disappointed that I have failed the important writing-related resolutions. But as per ‘be less hard on myself’, I am going to be optimistic about completing them in the near future. Although I should probably just remove ‘be less hard on myself’ as a resolution because it feels like approaching infinity, I don’t think I will ever actually get there. It’s probably something I will spend the rest of my life working on which I am more than okay with.

Resolutions for 2016

1. Write a novel/novella/something fiction-based that is longer than a blog post
2. Improve my Japanese through practice and continuing lessons
3. Pick up Mandarin again
4. Keep this blog alive with regular updates

And now, some highlights of my 2015

My dad came to visit me
Between my short stays in Malaysia and both our busy schedules, I don’t get to spend as much time with my dad as I’d like to when I go back. This year he managed to take some time off to come to Sydney purely to see me and our tightknit extended family, his first trip to Sydney since 2009. I’ve been away from Malaysia for a long time now and by extension, a long time from the days where I used to stay with my dad, my stepmom and my brothers on a weekly basis. For his trip I basically cleared my schedule to do all the things I planned to for awhile now like bringing dad to see my university (like the kickass Gehry building), a Devon Café meal to shame all brunches in Malaysia and an induction into whatever is trending in Sydney. Dad also did his tertiary education in Sydney so traipsing around the city and watching him marvel at how much it’s changed since he lived here was a lot of fun.

Photo Mar 07, 11 03 46 PM

Food was also impeccable, hitting up all of my uncle’s and grandparent’s favourite haunts closer to the west, eating sea cucumber and that one night my grandaunt made the most beautiful batch of Johor laksa. This is beginning to sound a little like a primary school short story where you write about ‘A Fun Day with My Parents’ or something but I really value family time now that I live away from home.

While I have a serious love-hate relationship with Instagram, there is only love for some of the people I’ve met through the platform. I was once told that I have a near sexual relationship with food and it was nice to be able to meet other people who feel the same way and share a meal with them.

One of the biggest meet-ups was the dinner we had at Kim’s that isn’t just my favourite Korean restaurant but one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney, overall. I’m actually going to spend my New Year’s Eve here too!

Ramen Ikkyu in Sydney
When ramen is abundant in Sydney, it’s fantastic to be able to bring people to try one of the best by one of the humblest chefs I know.

Shinsengumi omakase dinner in Sydney
Have yet to do my write-up on the omakase dinner at Shinsengumi but I would never have been able to find this absolute diamond in the rough without Instagram awareness.

A random chance in applying for an inter-university entrepreneurship program led me to meet some incredible people from all over the world and hear their stories. I also received fantastic guidance from the mentors which leads me to the next highlight.

My first hackathon

I’m terribly indebted to Claudia, one of the facilitators I got to know through Interchange. She not only gave me her time despite her busy schedule but was able to provide valuable insight that was no-nonsense about being an international living in Australia. She invited me to the Fash Hack launch night, which I ended up participating in. It was equal parts awesome and terrible in that the culture and energy throughout the three days was infectious but at times it still felt like I was doing insane assignment group work for 48 hours. This then leads to another highlight. Fash Hack summary here.

Meeting Sorted Food

I probably spend about half my adult life watching cooking videos on YouTube. About three quarters of that is watching the silly guys of SortedFood, one of my favourite channels on YouTube. My trip to New York wonderfully coincided with their New York fan meet, literally the day after we arrived was the day of the meet up. Mom and I spent an exhausting but fantastic day with them and other Americans of all ages seeing what food New York at to offer. It’s always a little bit intimidating meeting people you’ve only ever seen on a screen so it was great that Sorted are pretty much as nice and as funny in real life. Post on Sorted Food here.

Quitting my job and finding another
I’ve been very lucky to be given various opportunities to work while I’m still trying to figure out my career. I ended up quitting a job that I loved because of circumstances beyond my control but the time I had there, how much I learnt and some of the people I worked with really made by time there memorable despite the hiccups at the end.

Once again through Interchange, Claudia and Fash Hack I was able to meet lots of interesting people but by far the best was meeting Liz the CEO of You Chews who has been my boss as of September this year. Working in a startup has got to be one of the most challenging but also stimulating things I have done. I love the ‘get sh*t done’ attitude and the constant need to upskill yourself because well, who else is going to do it? A You Chews highlight is having to help organise a Hack Food (Australia’s first food themed hackathon), only months after attending Fash Hack, my first hackathon! This year has been a lot about mentorships through people in my network and also friends who happen to be a lot older than me.

Law Ball
Five years of law school would be impossible without the friends I have made along the way. Because you see them so often in an academic setting, it really does creep up on you how much they end up meaning to you as you approach the end of your degree. Law Ball 2015, my first and last UTS Law event was the perfect place for all those feelings to culminate. Such a fantastic night of photos, drinks and dancing underneath a glorified tent floating in the middle of the harbour.

Nagasaki Reunion
While I was hitting the usual travel spots this year (Hong Kong, Tokyo, write-ups to come soon), one particular trip that stood out was being able to return to Nagasaki, the place I went on exchange to in Year 10. Through the amazing help of Sonoda-san, Megumi and Justin, I was even able to coordinate meeting two of the host families I spent the most time with, the Ujifuku’s and the Matsuo’s. Coordinating the dinner wasn’t too easy when both parties have a limited grasp of the other side’s language, Google Translate becomes your best friend. But coming together at dinner you realise language isn’t really a barrier as long as everyone is earnest, honest and has good intentions. My parents who speak no Japanese and host parents who practically speak no English got along like best friends, despite meeting for the first time. Megumi also arranged for Miho to attend the dinner, another girl I had gone to Nagasaki Commercial High School with. The latter part of my trip when I was in Tokyo, was when I finally got to see Megumi in the flesh who was doing an internship there. Nagasaki isn’t the biggest or the best city in Japan but being able to bring my parents to see what I saw seven years ago, particularly the Atomic Bomb Museum (which still sends shivers down my spine), and then meeting the people who made that trip so transformational for me is what really makes this a highlight. Part of me will always be with Nagasaki.

2015 continues to blow my mind as the year I pretty much decided to grow up. I usually leave this last paragraph as a place to thank everyone whose supported me, but rather than just type it up here I hope to really spend 2016 showing the extent of my appreciation. So if you don’t know who you are yet, you will soon. There have been some incredible times this year and some absolutely trying moments but in the wise words of Yeezus, “- th-th-that that don’t kill me, only makes me stronger”. Hello 2016.

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  1. Happy New Year Sam! This was a fantastic read – almost makes me feel I should write a 2015 recap, though mine isn’t nearly as interesting. ’twas quite the insight into your year – I almost felt like we had a catchup without one actually happening! Speaking of which, hit me up when you’re free in your busy schedule for our (VERY) belated one!

    1. Happy New Year Shen! I feel like I should have made you one of my resolutions to guarantee our catch-up haha. Definitely want to see how you’ve been going so let’s arrange something over Facebook.

      1. Sam pls, if I were a resolution, I wouldn’t know what to do with all the attention *shies away*.

        And why am I still messaging you here? Not sure – but FB leggo!

  2. […] in 2014 because I wanted to recap every bit of travel I did while on exchange in Stockholm. For 2015, I wanted to hold myself accountable for yearly goals that I had set for myself. 2015 marked the […]

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