FRINGE Zine/Winter Reading List

I started a project and- unlike many before it- I finished! (Funny how that happens when you impose strict deadlines.)

It’s called FRINGE and it’s a brief publication focused on everything I like- Food, fashion, art, culture. Basically, an extension of this blog, with more room for creative freedom.

I want ensure that I’m covering topics you like too- which is why I’m extending an invitation for suggestions, contributions, criticism.

The plan is for FRINGE to be released bimonthly, with both digital and physical versions.

Physical copies will be limited to used book stores and coffee shops around Greensboro. But if you live out of town (OR want to save paper OR want to see the issue in full color) you can check out the online mag by following THIS LINK.

It takes approximately 10 minutes to read, giving you plenty of extra time to check out my suggested winter reading list. It’s a roundup of the best poignant, surreal, culturally-focused and aesthetically-pleasing publications around right now.

ZINE(S)

Ugly Girl Gang, Issue #1 – Illustrations by Tuesday Bassen (Los Angeles, CA)

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HIGH* – Photos “celebrating weed and the boys who smoke it” by Carlos Santolalla (San Francisco, CA)

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The Bag I’m In – “Underground music & fashion in Britain, 1960-1990” by Sam Knee (London, England)

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COMIC(S)

Megahex– Stoner dark comedy-turned-commentary on sexuality/mental illness by Simon Hanselmann (Tasmania, Australia)

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Virtual Candle – A collection of comics, drawings and stick & pokes by HTML Flowers (Melbourne, Australia)

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SITE

Wine & Bowties – Art, music and culture publication (Oakland, CA)

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Remembering Australia: Veggie Sausage Rolls + Top 5 Ozzie Albums of 2015

As 2015 drew to a close, so did my time in Australia (home for the past half year). I packed my bags, headed back to Greensboro- with a brief detour in Asia- and am now trying to mentally prepare myself for the 6 months or so that lie ahead (read: last semester of undergrad).

But for now, I’m still on winter break with too much time to kill and think. So what do you do when you’re stuck at home, riddled with existential crises and lack of clear direction in life? Umm.. make food.

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It’s arguably the BEST way to spend your free time. You’ve gotta eat, right? And you’ve got all that crap stuffed away in the back of the pantry that needs to be used sooner or later.

And if you’re creative in any sort of way then this shit is your saving grace. What a great way to feel productive as an artist. You’re creating a real, tangible product that- unlike your historically fictitious short story or experimental KawaiiMetal EP- can’t be shoved to the back of the closet to finish never.

(And yes, food is art, haters. Doubtful? Just check out @TishaCherry’s IG).

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Sausage rolls are a hot commodity in Oz, sold at about every fish & chips shop and in the freezer aisle of Coles, Woolies and even NQR. Because my family never came to visit me while I was on the other side of the globe*, I decided to share a small piece of Australia with them through this recipe.

*I promise I’m not still bitter

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350º
  • Spread contents of crescent roll cans onto two separate nonstick baking sheets
  • Divide dough from each can into four equal-sized rectangles
  • Place remaining ingredients in food processor or blender and pulse until well-mixed but still retaining some texture
  • Scoop 1-2 spoonfuls of “sausage” mixture onto each rectangle of dough, and spread lengthwise along one side of the dough
  • Fold short ends of dough slightly over the filling, as if you were folding a baby burrito
  • Fold side closest to filling about 1/2 cm. over the center, then fold bigger side to meet it
  • Press long side of dough over short side to create a seal
  • Place rolls in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden-brown

If the thought of making veggie sausage rolls in stark silence makes you sad, pop on any of the following 5 albums. They’re some of my favorite records from the past year, and all happen to come from Australian artists.

I’ve provided a few video samples to get you started, but all of these albums should be enjoyed in their entirety.

High– Royal Headache

I’ve been playing this album on repeat for about 3 months with no signs of slowing down. The band emerged from the Sydney punk scene, but High comes across as more mod revival than anything. It’s Royal Headache’s second album and draws influence from fuzzy garage rock and 60’s Brit-pop ballads. The album feels familiar yet fresh, with soulful lyrics you can sing along to and plenty of hooks that’ll get you up and moving.

Down Time– Totally Mild

Totally Mild is a four-piece band hailing from Melbourne (best city in Australia). Despite comparisons to Best Coast and She & Him, I think the group really holds their own on this album. They opted for a cleaner, sleeker sound than their formative, lofi tracks. They still include beachy guitar riffs and a hazy tone, but it doesn’t seem overdone. Down Time is more haunting than jangly, which is a pleasant surprise coming from a band that could easily fall into generic indie-pop territory.

Currents– Tame Impala

Can you believe that I didn’t love this album when I first heard it? A long-time Tame Impala fan, I was convinced that InnerSpeaker was the best and nothing else would compare. Currents is different, no doubt, but great in it’s own right. Definitely more BeeGees than Beatles, but still retaining all the hallucinogen-fuelled prowess you would expect from the band. The album is dance-y and catchy and sad and reflective. Each song has it’s own identity, yet they bind together seamlessly.

Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit– Courtney Barnett

Don’t be turned off by Courtney’s deadpan upon first listen. She’s someone who I came to appreciate more with time- and now I’m obsessed. Also from Melbourne (via Sydney and Tasmania), she is lyrically inspired and a kick-ass guitarist to boot. Her latest release is beautiful if only for it’s honesty- but it has a whole lot more to offer beyond a raw look into Ms. Barnett’s mind. Her light grunge-inspired instrumentation appropriately balances her exposé of life’s banalities.

Man it Feels Like Space Again– Pond

My inclusion of this album has nothing to do with my deep found love of Tame Impala (although the bands have shared several members over the years). Sit down, get comfy and take a few deep breaths before listening because the compilation is a trip within itself. It’s psychedelia can be a bit chaotic, but in a way that’s entrancing rather than annoying. The band has historically been written off as cliché by critics. Frontman Nick Allbrook has even hinted that it’s all a bit of a joke, but it’s done well so who really cares? Ironic or not, this album is one to add to the list.

 

Guide to Hong Kong: What to Expect

In all honesty, I didn’t know much about Hong Kong prior to going. Unfortunately, many Americans fall in the same boat. I don’t know about your schools, but mine never went into extensive depth about Asian culture or history in general. We especially did not devote much time to the small territory south of China.

Most of my knowledge about Asia has come through pop culture and current events. As a result, India, Japan and Korea were highest on my radar for places to visit, because of their reputations for being so culturally rich and diverse.

Although these countries are larger and more conventionally popular among travellers, Hong Kong provides lots of cultural bang for your buck. Despite my complete disinterest in commerce, banking or anything of the corporate financial realm, I found lots to enjoy in the bustling international hub.

You might be surprised at what you find in the city of over 7 million people.

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Kowloon skyline, seen from Mount Davis Battery

First, let’s start with a few highlights:

-Food

It’s easy to eat out in Hong Kong and spend lots. It’s also very easy to eat on a strict budget- even as a vegetarian or vegan. You just have to know where to look.

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Hawker cart of roasted chestnuts, eggs and sweet potatoes

Street food is a no brainer. Cheap, fast, accessible, and surprisingly full of veggies (sometimes). Small, local restaurants are also a good bet- but it helps if you speak Cantonese (or have a translator), as many small joints have no English-speaking staff or menu.

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Egg tart, $5 HKD (about $.90USD)

As for vegetarian restaurants, they’re everywhere. This trend is supported by Hong Kong’s large Buddhist population. At almost all veggie restaurants I ate at, the food was entirely dairy-free and mostly egg-free.

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Tofu dish from Happy Veggies (Causeway Bay)

Again, price ranges vary greatly. The best discount spot I found was actually an accident. I wandered upon it the first night I was in Hong Kong. It’s called Jade Vegetarian, on the infamous Portland St. in Kowloon. My congee and vegetables were cooked perfectly and not over-seasoned, but not dull either. The menu was all in English, and the staff was really friendly. They even gave me a bunch of free Buddhist texts as I left.

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Looking down from Queen of the East

Another must-visit (on the opposite end of the price spectrum) is Queen of the East in Causeway Bay. My waitress was super sweet and my rice-stuffed squash was fine, but the real standout is the view from 25 stories up. Although, the ambiance was killed a bit by the staff member I caught taking a picture of me while I was eating…

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HK-style french toast and yuengyuend (tea and coffee mix) at Mido Cafe

Lastly, I must include a place that is not vegetarian nor particularly healthy, but was hands-down my favorite dining spot in HK. It’s called Mido Cafe and it’s a quintessential Hong Kong “cha chaan teng“. It’s been there since the 1950’s and has preserved the same aesthetic from that time. You can find locals of all varieties at this place- the young and trendy, the old and traditional, families, business people. There are over 100 menu items to choose from, all showcasing the Hong Kong take on classic Western diner food. But the old-school vibes are this place’s claim to fame.

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Charming interior of Mido Cafe

-Art

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Street art in Causeway Bay

Upon first glance, Hong Kong does not seem to be an especially artistic place. Sure, the city is littered with traditional Chinese ornaments and full of very intricate temples. But the modern creative scene lies beneath the surface. You have to dig for it among the industrial architecture and utilitarian culture.

So dig I did. My findings were just a toe in the water and an incentive to venture back to Hong Kong with more time and a larger memory card.

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Sculptures by local artist working under the name Miss FAT (at JCCAC)

One cool space I checked out was Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Kowloon. The top 8 floors are filled with studio spaces, and the bottom floor houses a gallery, cafe and health food store. The space holds events, courses and exhibitions.

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Another piece featured in JCCAC

SoHo (yes, Hong Kong has one) is a district composed primarily of ex-pats and their “Western” influence. It’s not exactly a place I would spend a lot of time, as I tend to shun familiar cultural experiences when in a new place. (In other words, I didn’t come to Hong Kong to eat at overpriced, American-style diners with a bunch of white people).

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That being said, SoHo does have some pretty interesting street (or “street-style”) art- especially through the Central–Mid-Levels Escalators leading to it. Murals are juxtaposed with several foliage installations, giving the space some charm. SoHo is also supposed to have some cool galleries (like Osage), but I didn’t get to any.

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Sculpture outside of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre

The Hong Kong Cultural Centre on the bay of Kowloon has an exhibition gallery that was closed for renovation when I was there. I did, however, get to see several outdoor works on the centre’s grounds (which- I believe- are constantly being updated with new pieces).

-Scenery

Just like the art, the natural beauty of Hong Kong is not something you notice on first (or even third) glance. Once you see it, however, it’s striking.

The shot below is the bay of Lamma Island– a fishing village and tourist hotspot just 30 minutes away from Hong Kong Island by ferry. It’s not a place I would frequent, per se, but it was nice for a few hours… Particularly to provide a break from the hustle and bustle of the main island.

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A fishing village-turned-tourist excursion

There are several nature walks you can take there, and gorgeous beach views (if you can ignore Lamma Power Station in the background, that is).

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Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower- a landmark of the area

Hong Kong boasts an interesting mix of both Chinese and British influence, which is reflected in its design. The clock tower above is an monument of the more British variety. If you didn’t see characters on the building in the background, you could think this snap was from anywhere.

It’s actually right behind Victoria Harbour, the waterway which separates Kowloon from Hong Kong Island. Here, you can find boats of various sizes, varieties and colors amidst the spectacular, aquamarine seascape.

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Bay view at the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade

Hong Kong has plenty of merit, but no destination comes without its difficulties.

Some slightly less pleasant things:

At sit-in restaurants, drink the tea because you’ll be charged for it either way. It gets placed on your table and added to the bill, regardless of whether you asked for it, drank it, or even like tea. Takeout/street food is one way you can avoid this one.

Bring your own napkins. Restaurants typically don’t provide them. It’s common for patrons to have a stash in their bag or pocket. You can pick up a pack at 7-11 (which are everywhere).

Bring your own TP. Lots of public restrooms don’t provide any paper products at all, so that pack of napkins will come in handy.

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Common Hong Kong bathroom stall

Be prepared to squat. In shops and restaurants there are often seated toilets, but most public ones I encountered were squatting only. This doesn’t bother me- in fact I embraced it. (Hey, it’s good for your health!) But I realize that some people might find this unappealing.

Learn a few key phrases (in Cantonese, not Mandarin, btw). Hello, goodbye, please and thank you are good places to start. Lots of signage in Hong Kong is in English, but most locals I encountered didn’t speak much, if any. It really makes it hard to get directions, identify food, be social. Plus, don’t you feel like a dick when you go to a country and don’t know ANY of the native tongue? I know I did. If you’re not cheap like me, invest in a local phone plan so you can use Google translate as well.

Get used to simple living. Hostels can be small and dingy (unless you’re spending big bucks). Hot shower water may be limited. Peace, quiet and personal space are not a given. Neither is the standard of cleanliness that you may maintain at home.

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Stairwell leading up to my hostel- this isn’t the worst of it

And the other stuff:

-Spirituality

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Buddhist shrine at Mount Davis Battery

Buddhism is the largest organized religion in Hong Kong, and over half of the population identifies with some religion. (Taoism and Confucianism are close followers). As a result, spiritual presence is everywhere- from longstanding temples to shrines and altars set up on the side of the road. Many restaurants and some stores are affiliated with Buddhism, and resources like texts and prayer beads can be found in most markets.

-Social/Political Activism

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I was impressed with the political presence I witnessed during the brief time I was in Hong Kong. I found myself in the middle of two different protests, which appeared to be associated with “Occupy Central“.

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Yellow umbrella rally in Kowloon

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In a place that has traditionally been pretty conservative, it was a surprise to see subtle rebellions littered around the city. I liked it, as it gave me a sense of connection with this place. Hong Kong residents were fighting the same fight I’ve fought, promoting the same ethics and values, trying to establish democracy and justice and equality.

I don’t know enough about Hong Kong’s government to speak much on the topic, but from what I’ve read there are a growing number of young, liberal activists.

 

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Hong Kong is full of quirks, like the Avenue of Comic Stars. You can find activities to suit any interest. The nature-lover, the shopaholic, the history nerd, or the anime junkie can all be satisfied. Foodies, yuppies, yuccies, hippies, “hipsters”, jocks, you name it. There’s something for you all.

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Have something to add to the list of suggestions (or precautions) for Hong Kong? 

How I Spent A Week in New Zealand for Under $500 (Airfare Included!)

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*Cue soapbox here*

This post is for those who think they can’t afford to travel** For the broke students, the starving artists, the struggling parents and people stuck to their day jobs.

This post is also for those who may have excess money, but prefer to be frugal. Regardless of how much I have in the bank at any given time, I still try to get the best deal for my funds. Why spend more if you don’t have to? Just think for a sec- more leftover money = more future voyages. It just makes sense (cents?) to save.

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The beautiful west coast of Auckland

Before you get too concerned, budget travel does not mean giving up comfort either. At this point in my life, I have learned to be okay with pretty basic amenities throughout my journeys. I’m 21- I don’t mind roughing it as needed. (Although I do also enjoy small luxuries- a private room with a shower, a morning coffee from the local cafe).

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Soy flat white and vegan blueberry chocolate-chip cake from Midnight Espresso (Wellington)

That being said, you don’t have to follow suit. You can take my own experiences as inspiration, and modify them as needed to suit your own travel desires. There are still plenty of ways to travel that aren’t quite as meagre, yet will still save you money. Just determine where your standards lie and go from there.

It’s about balance and going with the flow (which is crucial while traveling).

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Street art (aka museums for poor people) in Taupo

I spent the end of September in New Zealand (via Australia) and had an amazing time while still spending less than $500 USD (including my flights) the entire duration I was there. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty damn impressive. I didn’t deny myself while away either- I had plenty of food, cosy accommodation, and did tons of sight-seeing.

First, here’s the itinerary I followed:

(For times’ sake, I stuck to just the North Island for this go around).

Flew from Melbourne to Auckland ($119 through Virgin) and spent 2 nights there ($0)

Travelled to Taupo ($0) and spent 2 nights there ($48)

Travelled to Wellington ($31) and spent 2 nights there ($0)

Flew from Wellington back to Brisbane ($210 through Qantas)

The prices included above are just for transport and accommodation- totalling $408. This means that I spent less than $90 the rest of the time on food and experiences.

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Wondering how I managed this? I just followed these self-imposed guidelines and was well on my way to a week of wallet-friendly, island living:

-Look for flight deals (ASAP)

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There are tons of great student flight sites that will give you a special deal if you are enrolled in school, from elementary all the way up to graduate. You also get discounts if you are a teacher OR under the age of 26 (even if not enrolled in school). These two are the best, in my opinion:

If none of the criterion for these student deals apply to you, don’t fret. Airline search engines like SkyScanner, Hipmunk and eDreams take the work out of deal-searching for you by compiling the next best fares from all across the web. Sometimes they’re even better than what I’ve found on the student sites.

Three things to keep in mind when searching:

  1. The sooner you book, the better the deal (usually). I made the mistake of waiting too long to get my flight back to Australia- I had seen some a few weeks earlier for less than $200. Sometimes you can find inexpensive last-minute deals, but they are few & far between, so I wouldn’t risk it.
  2. Change the website home page to the country you are departing from. (On most sites, you can do this from the upper right-hand corner of the page). For instance, when looking for a flight from New Zealand back home, search using the New Zealand version of the website (airnewzealand.co.nz vs airnewzealand.com). This often pulls up better deals when you factor in the exchange rate from the origin country’s currency back to your own.
  3. Clear your cookies before buying tickets. Apparently, your computer keeps track of past flight searches you have made and somehow relays them to the search engines, which results in higher prices when you go to book??? (IDK how this works; I am not good with technology).                              I have mostly heard strong arguments for this cookie-clearing practice, in addition to a few opinions that are overwhelmingly neutral. But there’s been nothing to say that clearing cookies hurts the process, so it’s worth a shot. I have gotten good deals after doing so. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but you won’t hear me complaining about it. Oh, and watch out- deleting cookies also deletes web preferences, so favourite sites, passwords, etc. won’t pop up automatically anymore.

-Bring your own food

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$6- not worth it ):

I am, embarrassingly, that person who gets pulled aside for additional security screening because I have a bag of coconut flour in my carry-on. Or a papaya. Or a tupperware full of salad. (All real-life examples). But whatever, I own it. Because 1. airline food is fucking expensive and 2. there are few things I hate more than food waste, so I’m not about to let my unused veggies go bad in the time that I’m gone. (Bonus: veggies saved = money saved = see above example).

It does pay (literally) to be cautious with what you try to bring, as some countries (*cough* NZ *cough) have pretty harsh customs policies regarding food. Typically, dry goods and cooked food are safe while anything fresh/raw is not. If there are must-have items that may be more expensive in the country your going to, those can be good to bring with you.

-Get in touch with local contacts

I am not encouraging you to mooch. I am promoting normal, social contact with anyone you know in your travel destination. If they extend an invite for dinner or a place to stay, great! But if not, they may still be willing to show you around, fill you in on the best local deals, pick you up from the airport, etc.

-Couchsurf

I’ve used this site a couple of times now- mostly for short-term stays when passing through cities. It’s 100% free (although it’s nice to offer something when staying with a host). Maybe cook for them one night, wash dishes, bring flowers, share stories, something. It’s just common courtesy.

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Beach hiking in Auckland with my Couchsurfing host

In addition to being an awesome money-saver, Couchsurfing is cool because it allows you to meet locals who often have similar interests. I always check out people’s profiles before requesting to stay to make sure we would mesh well. Some hosts literally just want to provide accommodation without social interaction, while others are offended if you don’t want to chill with them, so be sure to do your research beforehand. I like talking to hosts to hear about their own travel experiences and get tips on what to do in the city. Just like your local friends, they might also have insight into the best deals around.

-Hitchhike

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Small-town New Zealand

I know this one is a bit controversial. I won’t deny that there have been many horror stories about hitching (on both the hitchers’ and the drivers’ ends). All I’ll say is that I hitched in New Zealand (from Auckland to Taupo) and it was a great experience. Granted, I was with someone else. I’m not sure if I would have been comfortable doing it alone.

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Bubbling mud geysers, courtesy on my hitchhiking saviour

Hitching to Taupo was quick, easy and allowed me to meet so many cool people who I never would have otherwise. One sweet, sweet woman even drove me to several tourist destinations and foot the bill of one! If you need even more convincing, hitching often takes you through smaller towns that mass transit wouldn’t stop at. You’ll get a real feel for that local culture. From what I’ve heard and experiences, NZ is one of the most hitching-friendly destinations. As always, though, trust your gut if something doesn’t feel safe.

-Stay at budget hostels

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Ah, hostels. The haven of dewy-eyed, alcohol-fuelled young travellers from all across the globe. For some reason, hostels have gotten a pretty bad rap over the years. Can’t quite put my finger on it. But then again, hostels can be great, depending on where you choose to stay. Personally, I like ones that are on the smaller and quieter side. These ones also tend to have a wider age range, albeit fewer social activities.

If you’re lucky your hostel may provide free coffee/tea, bread, or (gasp) maybe even towels! Most of them give you a handful of local coupons upon arrival, as well as a map of what free attractions are within close proximity. Like I said before, you can alter the experience to meet your needs. Pay premium (which is still pretty cheap) for a private or double room, or go with the bare-minimum 10-bed mixed dorm. Just be sure to bring earplugs and an eye mask.

-Cook yourself (and split costs if possible)

If there’s one thing that can suck your wallet totally dry, it’s eating out. A typical meal in any Western country will probably be between $10-20. Often times, I can make that same meal myself for a fraction of the cost. Sure, the ambiance in my hostel kitchen may not be quite as nice, but is the vinyl restaurant seat really worth 8 extra dollars because it’s making my back hurt anyway. And don’t get me started on the poor choice of lighting.

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For vegan fare, it’s especially economical to cook at “home” versus eating out. Beans, rice, potatoes, etc. cost next-to-nothing. Buy in bulk and cook with a partner and suddenly the price decreases to *practically* nothing. (My go-to: rice noodles + in-season veg + oil/seasoning stolen from the hostel pantry + maybe some tofu if I really want to splurge –> thrown in a pan and stir-fried to perfection).

I’m not a big drinker, but the same definitely applies for alcohol. If you want it, buy it at the store- not at the bar.

-Take a budget bus

In New Zealand, this will probably be Naked Bus or Mana Bus. (Pro: Mana has free in-bus Wi-fi! Con: The Wi-fi is shit- don’t trust it.) Wireless or not, these buses are the best bang for your buck (with the exception of hitching). Once again, book early for a better deal. If you book months ahead (props to you if you know your itinerary that early), then you can even snag $1 fares.

-Find local resources

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I like to hit up local classified ads, Meetup.com, or event sites like TimeOut before heading somewhere new to find low-cost or free things to do while I’m there. For eating, Groupon and LivingSocial deals can be a good bet (if you still insist on that restaurant experience). You can also eat for totally free through Food Not Bombs or similar community meals.

While you’re at FNB, chat with your anarchist friends about some local squats for you to hang at, gigs and/or rallies and/or protests to attend or free stores for you to cop shit you from.

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Wellington hot spot feat. library, bike repair workshop, etc.

**This is not to say that travel is cheap, necessarily. I realise that affording plane tickets, meals out, transportation, or simply time away from home is a privilege that not everyone has. But I will stand by my methods as inexpensive forms of travel in comparison to standard trip fees.

Vegan on a (Serious) Budget in Melbourne

There are definitely ways to eat vegan while spending heaps. Go out to the most bourgeoisie, organic, biodynamic (yuccie-mecca) restaurants. Buy all the vegan cheese and raw chocolate and superfood smoothies.

There are also ways to eat vegan for super cheap. All rice and beans all the time. (Or, ya know, air)**. Maybe some weed tea if you’re feeling fancy.

Or you could strike a balance. Eat well, have a social life, enjoy your food, and save cash. There’s tons of ways to do it if you know where to turn. I’ve only been in Melbourne about 2 months so far, but I’ve already discovered lots of spots to score cheap eats.

Check out my list and feel free to add your own suggestions!

-Hare Krishna restaurants (various locations)

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Mantra Lounge (Carlton)

They are everywhere here (especially around the CBD). And they are all SUPER cheap. Especially the lunch specials. Think rice + curry + veggies + bread of some sort (uttapam or dosa or roti) + sometimes dessert for downwards of $10. And most of them do all you can eat. (Did someone say thirds seconds?)

*I believe Mantra Lounge is Hindu-based but not specifically Hare Krishna. However, it follows a very similar structure to the others.

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Om Vegetarian (CBD)

Friends of the Earth (Collingwood)

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This co-op grocer/cafe is a great place to volunteer if you have the time. And you get a free organic/vegan/gluten-free meal on your shift! What more could you want? (Besides maybe money). If you can’t volunteer, you can still come grab a plate for a decent price (around $10-12).

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-Fruit and vegetable markets 

These places make my life. They typically sell produce only and they’re usually SO much cheaper than the big markets (Coles, Woolies, etc.) You can find them in most shopping centres and in random locations around the city- often they specialise in Asian imports. If you hit them up near closing, prices dip even lower than standard. You can get giant bundles of veg reduced for quick sale at a fraction of their original price- just use them quickly before they go bad.

-Lentil as Anything (various locations)

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Preston location

Lentils is such a cool concept. You can “pay as you feel” for your meal or trade a volunteer shift for food. I don’t know why there aren’t more spots like this in the States! Although the vibe is slightly bohemian, dining here feels like any other (slightly eclectic) restaurant. You can have the full “eating out” experience (sitting down, being waited on, nice atmosphere, etc.) without breaking the bank.

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Thornbury location

Food Not Bombs (Cooks in Brunswick, serves in Fitzroy/Footscray)

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This photo is from a FNB group in the States, but you get the idea

If you’re unaware, this initiative started up in the States in the 1980’s by a group of anti-nuclear activists. (Check out the whole story here.) It now manifests as free community meals around the globe made all from donated food. There are three serves in Melbourne on Monday (day), Monday (night) and Tuesday (night). You can drop by for a delicious vegan meal, or to lend a helping hand, or both.

*Bonus: I almost always get to take leftover prepared food and/or produce home with me.

-Dumpster Diving

dumpster_diving

About 50% of this meal was dumpstered

Ahh yes, good ol’ trash pickin’. Don’t be so quick to run away from the idea (or do- more for me!) One person’s judgment is another person’s 5-course meal. Honestly though, the amount of food waste in the Western world is quite disgusting. More disgusting than eating a bruised apple out of a garbage bin. (I wash it first, okay?)

There are several groups in Melbourne that dive. You may want to check those out if your a newbie so that you have some buddies to go with. And don’t forgot your gloves, plastic bags and headlamp!

I was spending a fortune when I first got to Melbourne (compared to my $15 a week grocery bill last year). Granted, I was living/cooking with 9 other people and eating out way less, but still.

Now that I’ve gotten in the swing of things here, I’ve been able to substantially cut costs. All of the aforementioned resources help me out so much. And I’m sure there’s tons more that I’m not even aware of or haven’t gotten to check out yet.

For instance:

What else am I missing? Have you tried out any of these suggestions? 

**I don’t actually condone breatharianism whatsoever.

Bojack Horseman: The Best New Show for the Socially Conscious (and everyone else)

IF you have not seen this masterpiece, refer to the guidelines below- if you have seen it (including season 2), skip them and carry on to the rest of the post:

netflix

Listen carefully and follow these steps- don’t ask questions until the process is done- work in a timely manner and make sure to follow directions exactly as they are told:

  1. Create a Netflix account (If you already have a Netflx account, skip #1)
  2. Try to remember the goddamn password for your Netflix account- Dog’s middle name? Zip code? Favorite flavor of special edition Doritos? Come on man!                                                 Alternatively, you could just reset your password I guess- but time is of the goddamn essence! (If you are creating a new Netflix account, skip #2)
  3. Forget everything else that you want to binge watch for the time being and don’t let yourself get distracted under any circumstance
  4. Go to the upper right corner of the page where you will find a little magnifying glass- then click that magnifying glass
  5. Type “Bojack Horseman” into the little rectangle- as you do, a new rectangle will magically appear, featuring Bojack’s beautiful face
  6. Click on his wonderful face, sit back (or stand) and view this program in all it’s deep, dark, funny, emotional glory
  7. Come back here and read this post so we can talk about it

Now, back to the good stuff:

(Please be aware that there will be some spoilers sprinkled throughout this piece, so please don’t read if you’re not yet done with the season- follow the above directions first, dammit!)

I just finished up season 2 this morning. If I had been working against my better judgement, I would have devoured the whole season in a day, but I knew I would regret that. Instead, I tried to savor each delicious episode. Let it linger on in my memory for as long as I possibly could. I tried to ride off the feelings of each 25 minute chunk of goodness for at least a few solid days before moving on to the next.

Some days were easier than others- especially when Netflix does that thing where it just starts the next episode for you. How could I possibly resist? I finished up the whole season in about 2 weeks, give or take.

This season left me with so many more feelings than last. Yes, sadness. Lots of sadness. But also hope- not just for my beloved characters but for the future of television (or web series) as a whole.

Here’s why:

     1. Bojack depicts depression in a real way– no sugar-coating, glamourising, or stigmatising

depression

Rarely have I seen a show exhibit depression in a way that is so relatable to it’s audience- and in cartoon form at that. Even if you have not ever been clinically diagnosed with depression, you have (I’m assuming) felt some of the things he’s felt, questioned what he’s questioned, or experienced what he’s experienced.

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(Maybe not bi-species relationships, but still).

As a voluntary participant in his fictional life, I root for him the whole way through. But you can see that is not the case with others who he forms relations with along the way. Others who actually have to put up with his mania and recklessness. In my own life, I have witnessed friends and family members give up on their loved ones with mental illness. This show holds true to that harsh reality.

Princess Carolyn, despite her caring temperament, knew she had to stop dating (or hooking up with) Bojack for her own mental standing. Despite ghost-writer Diane’s apparent connection with the titular character, she did not pursue a relationship with him either. She married Mr. Peanutbutter, an optimist actor-dog who would not feed her own depressive cycle.

In season 2, Bojack begins dating an owl named Wanda who just woke up from a 30 year coma. She seems to finally be the one who will stick around. She is independent and has no care (or knowledge) that Bojack was once a TV sensation. She is sensitive of his feelings yet is smart enough not play along with his victimisation. Yet even she has to walk away from him. She concludes, “when you look at someone with rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags”. (One of the strongest/saddest lines in the whole season, BTW).

I could go on forever about these characters and their behavior- but I won’t. I’ll leave that to all these other hyperfans.

In short, I want to say that if you are looking for a relatable, digestible depiction of mental illness, this is it. For myself, the more I watch the show, the easier it becomes for me to pick up on the signs of someone who is struggling. Maybe that person is yourself- maybe it is someone you know. Maybe (probably) both- as I am under the impression that everyone experiences mental instability in one way or another to varying degrees.

I highly recommend that you take some time with this show and it’s characters in order to fully understand the many facets of depression within our society.

     2. The show contains many strong female roles that don’t put up with mysoginistic and/or patronizing bullshit

The aforementioned Diane is the most obviously staunch character in the show. She is a self-declared third-wave feminist who is passionate about sticking it to the man and fighting for justice. In this season, she attempts to expose sexual assault allegations against television host Hank Hippopopolos (which seems suspiciously similar to the Bill Cosby allegations that surfaced in 2014). Despite the media’s backlash and her husband’s pleas not to rock the boat, Diane continues to spread the truth about Hank.

Diane’s conflicting relationship between work and her marriage is an overarching theme throughout most of the season. (Ah, what a common feminist theme. Can women really have it all?) But the show keeps things fresh when they could easily become stale & overdone. Take, for instance, the scene when a random man in the airport tells Diane to “smile” (which, in my and other’s opinions, is not okay).

Or in season 1 when Diane comments on Sarah Lynne’s uber-sexualised identity.

Diane isn’t the only one bringing female empowerment into the light in this show. Princess Carolyn shines when she takes control of her new business plan and owns her status as a single, middle-aged woman in the final episode of season 2. For the first time that viewers see, she holds her own and comes to terms with what she actually wants (which isn’t a calm, “perfect” life with a house, husband and 2.5 kids). Again, bringing to the surface that “working woman struggle”.

Other, more subtle feminist-friendly jokes appear in bits and pieces throughout the show. Show creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg consciously analyzes gender roles and male privilege when creating the show, which *should* be expected but usually is not in the powerful world of show business. I applaud him immensely at his efforts, as he’s done a great job so far.

My mega liberal arts school has made me acutely aware of all things left-wing/equality-related/PC, so I wonder how obvious these themes of mental health and sex/gender issues are to people not quite as informed. Is the show proving a point? Is it bringing awareness to these topics?

I sure hope so. When you look closely, the show is full of thought-provoking situations that might even raise more questions that answers. (Like what am I doing with my life? Am I happy? Can I love/be loved?) Yeah.. pretty fun stuff.

And even if you don’t want to get that deep right now, sit tight and stick along for the ride anyway. At the least, you’ll get a few good laughs and a banging soundtrack. Maybe even a tear or two.

I leave you with this song- the perfect tune to close out the final episode of season 2. Hope you enjoy.

7 Best “Non-Western” Cuisines to Eat as a Vegan (& thoughts on political correctness)

“Eating out as a vegan can be sooo hard.”

Q: How many times a day do I hear that?

A: Not as much as you’d think.

Granted, I don’t know many vegans personally, but I know myself, and I know that I eat pretty damn well. Also, I internet-stalk several other vegans who seem to have no problem finding vegan food porn on the daily and taking perfectly-lit pics to prove it (those lucky bastards).

With so many ex-pats moving to the States (and Australia, my current residence), finding veg-friendly cuisine is easier than ever.

I don’t know what everyone is complaining about with all this anti-immigration bullshit. We should welcome new cultures and their fine, fine delicacies!

Before their influence, most developed, Western countries were left to choke down sausages, meat pies, and apple pie with a heap of ice cream on top.

Now we can stuff our faces with the healthiest (and unhealthiest) vegan delights from all over the globe. We have the opportunity to open our palates to a world of new tastes and textures.

Now isn’t that exciting!

These are some of my favorite non-Western* cuisines to indulge in when dining outside the comfort of my bedroom (but actually just my bed).

Countries:

Japanese

macrobiotic

Clockwise- Macro meal (greens, tahini, tempeh, seaweed salad, brown rice), mango/cucumber sushi, miso soup

What else to try: veggie tempura, edamame, inari

Indian

curry

Clockwise- lentil dahl, eggplant and veggie curry with rice/papadum, lentil dahl and curried veg over rice, potatoes and peas over rice

What else to try: pakoras, samosas, papri chaat

Thai

vegetarian_vegetables

Clockwise- Collard wraps with tamarind, peanut, onion & fruit filling, coconut curry with rice, tofu stir-fry

What else to try: pad thai, rice wraps, grass jelly

Mexican

tacos

Clockwise- Black bean, avocado & veg tacos, plantain empanada, tamale/side salad

What else to try: guac (always), corn on the cob, gorditas

Regions:

Caribbean

plantains_beans

Fried rice, black beans, plantains, katuk salad

What else to try: mofongo

Mediterranean

falafel_hummus_dolmas

Falafel, hummus, pickles, salad, tahini, hot sauce and rice

What else to try: baba ganoush

*Now on a more serious note: Think for a second or two about what term you typically use to describe the aforementioned food.

Ethnic is probably one of the first to come to mind. The problem with this term is that it is “othering” the cultures in question, placing white, western culture at the forefront (i.e. making it the “norm”).

Yes, yes, white privilege is at it again.

While throwing around words like “ethnic” an “foreign” may seem harmless to you, it can be damaging to those who feel alienated because of these terms.

So what are we to say instead?

I’m not quite sure. As you saw, I said “non-Western” here and still felt like a slight douche bag.

Society’s increasing awareness of political correctness is an awesome step forward, but it is still lacking consistent standards for what’s “okay” and what’s not.

And who’s to determine that anyway? And how can we be sensitive without taking ourselves too seriously?

Too many questions and too few answers, atm. I am trying the best that I can, people! But I can always try harder, because of my privilege and whatnot.

I want to know: who else relates and what your thoughts are?

But in the meantime, I’ll shut up and let you go find your new favorite food destination.

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“Couldn’t Be Easier” Vegan Peanut Butter & Jelly Fudge

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Despite my recent diagnosis of a mild peanut allergy, I have been eating my weight in peanut butter #badassalert. Sure it messes with my stomach a little lot, but it tantalizes my taste buds and cures my cravings like nothing else can. How can something so wrong feel so right?!?

If your love for peanut butter is as strong as mine, you have got to try this fudge.

On second thought, if your love is really as strong as mine, maybe you shouldn’t make it to save yourself from eating the entire batch in one sitting.

But on third thought, that really doesn’t sound that bad. ‘Cause YOLO.

YOLO

Drake would definitely approve of you treating yourself in such a loving way. Peanut butter is one of life’s greatest gifts, after all.

If PB is not yo thang, feel free to sub any other nut, seed or other butter that your little heart desires (although results may vary). Cashew, coconut or sunflower butter would probably work pretty well. Almond butter or -even better- chocolate hazelnut butter (aka vegan Nutella) would also be amazing.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups creamy peanut butter (or other “butter” of choice)
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter (like this one)
  • 2 tbs. granulated stevia (or 1.25 tsp. liquid extract)
  • Sprinkle of sea salt
  • 2 tbs. jelly of choice (I used this)

Directions:

  • Combine peanut butter and vegan butter in small saucepan (or double boiler)
  • Melt on medium-high heat while stirring constantly
  • Once full melted, reduce heat and stir in stevia and salt
  • Line baking pan with wax/parchment paper and pour PB mixture into pan
  • Shake it* a little to make sure it’s nice and even
  • Put in the freezer for at least 2 hours
  • Once frozen, spread with thin (or thick) layer of jelly
  • Refreeze until ready to devour

FYI- If you’re trying to convince omni friends/family to join the vegan club, serve them this fudge.

They’ll be asking for another piece before you can say Daiya. Maybe.. just maybe.. it’ll be enough to prove to them that they can go sans animal products without giving up great flavor/texture.

*A lil throwback for you, feat. Miley’s big bro

Young & Twee- Ethical Fashion Picks for Spring/Summer 2015

As a “20-something”, “millennial”, “Gen-Y’er” or whatever other term is being thrown on our generation these days, I’ve struggled a bit with finding balance within the world of young adult fashion.

Trendy, fast-fashion is in. This stuff is not style that you can expect to last longer than the life cycle of the latest meme.

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However, we lust after it nonetheless- shirts that show our social/political awareness or skirts that insinuate our drug preferences probably don’t have long staying power, but they sure do sell.

One reason I find this problematic is that this is stuff you’ll see yourself coming and going in.

“How clever of me to find this cool, provocative clothing item on some obscure Etsy page. I’m so original!”
…..

“Oh, you have a slightly different variation of the same item? Well, damn…”

Okay, maybe if it doesn’t bother you to have the same shirt slogan as your bestie, roommate, and that kid in your Psych class.
But if you’re really the culturally and environmentally sensitive person your clothing choices make you out to be, you should reconsider your devotion to fast-fashion.

Continue reading

So fresh, so clean

“There is no growth without change”. 

Someone, somewhere probably said that at some point. And here I am repeating it now with no proper citation (!!) My English and Psych professors would be so proud. #sorry

All plagiarism aside, I am babbling on to say that this is a new take on an old blog, a fresh start, and a way for me to both hone and expand my interests, creative and otherwise.

I started Shugurcän (the old one) nearly three years ago, at the young tender age of 17. I was a new vegan, passionate about learning the ropes and sharing my knowledge.

While that’s still definitely an interest of mine (#veganandproud), there is more to my identity than health and dietary choices.

Shugurcän (the new one) is an answer to the other sides of myself. These are the areas that I wished I could address but didn’t think the old blog was the appropriate setting, or- in some cases- wasn’t yet comfortable enough with to air to the vast online world.

As I age, I learn to become more accepting of myself, my perceptions and their flaws, my likes/dislikes. So the purpose of this new blog is to share those other, more hidden sides of my life.

If you’re here just for recipes and health tips, stick around! There will still be more of that.

If you become easily offended at liberal musings/pseudo-propoganda, sarcasm, vague pop-culture references, or the overuse of #hashtags*, this may not be the site for you.

And if you’re looking for inspiration, perspective and relatability** sprinkled with some cool music suggestions, please stay and read and share with me!!

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*P.S. I know that hashtags don’t even make sense on this platform and IDGAF

**P.P.S. I also know this isn’t a word, but it works