No Bake Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese

I think the last time I had Mac and Cheese was when I was in a school cafeteria, at least five years ago.  It’s not really a dish that’s served in Hong Kong – it’s more likely to be found as a pasta dish with a creamy sauce that combines five different cheeses.

So on Saturday night, I attempted to make a no-bake mac and cheese dish from this recipe. I’m still a beginner chef when it comes to savoury foods, so I figured I would modify the recipe and use cheaper cheese options. The result was fabulous, with a sauce that wasn’t too creamy or too cheesy. I skipped the cornstarch for a runnier texture as well as the bread crumbs to keep cooking time under 30 minutes and served up a simple dish of veggies on the side.

Easy Macaroni and Cheese Recipe – modified ingredients
2 cups of elbow macaroni
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup of milk
1.5 cups of Cheddar cheese (shredded)
1 cup of Gruyere cheese (sliced as I couldn’t find my grater)


Sometimes: Remember Eczema Doesn’t Define You

Image source

The weather in Hong Kong has been rainy, rainy, rainy and the past few weeks have seen several scary thunderstorms. The change in weather hasn’t helped my eczema at all. I find I gravitate to this blog when my eczema gets bad and when it gets better, I move on to pretty and happier things, like my Pinterest, which I add to daily, as well as a home interior and food blogs (you can take a look at some of them, I’ve added a blogroll section).

I’ve been looking back to the beginnings of this blog and I’m trying to remember how I managed to stay so upbeat about the skin condition. I feel the worst in the summers (I think… or maybe it’s in the winter during a super dry spell) because the heat means there’s no covering up my skin. It’s embarrassing. And I always want to question the Gods, WHY, WHY, WHY do I have to have eczema? I get jealous of other girls, who are natural and pretty and seem to put in zero effort to maintain their looks. Lack of sleep doesn’t make them flare up or break out. Too much of sweet / spicy / salty / flavoured / insert-allergy-triggering-foods-here foods don’t cause them to break a sweat, and their skin certainly doesn’t angry just because they forgot to moisturize once or twice. I feel awful about myself and that my body can’t handle the same stress.

It’s the first question I ask when I’m fed up of trying to ignore an itch, wishing the whole itchy drama would stop or figuring out an appropriate fashion combo to cover up my rashes. WHY do I have eczema? But the thing is – it’s a question that everyone asks at some point. Why do I have to be fat? Why do I have to be short? Why did I have to get cancer? Why am I unpopular? Whatever the problem is, you can be sure that someone has it.

The truth is that life isn’t perfect – for anyone. And often times it’s just important to remember and appreciate the things you DO have – I appreciate that I have a good job, that I’m able to travel the world and soak up different sights and cultures, that I don’t have any other major health problems, that I have great relationships with my family and friends. Sometimes, when your eczema gets you down, you just have to remember – life doesn’t actually suck so bad. It could be much worse.

Still on Chinese Medicine

01 Chinese Meds
The stuff looks potent! Two cups a day, after meals.

02 Chinese Meds in a pack
Powdered form, so much more convenient.

It’s been a long break and I’m slowly easing back into the blogging world.  Life has been busy – changing jobs, family “stuff”, travelling for work etc etc.  My eczema has flared up a few times since, and last month I had the beginnings of an eczema attack on my face.  I bought and attempted to slather a ton of Physiogel AI on my face.  It didn’t get better.  The lower part of my face was starting to swell and I immediately called my dermatologist, freaking out.  There goes another HKD2000, my God he’s expensive!  A round of antibiotics, Aerius and Pepcidine (to be combined with Aerius) later, my face recovered and I had beautiful skin for about two weeks. I did a bit of travelling, suffered from jetlag (i.e. lack of sleep) and the eczema is back!

I haven’t stopped taken Chinese medicine (except when it would have overlapped with Western meds). The practitioner I’m with now is very good and I generally feel better after taking the medicine. I had to go to London last week and couldn’t take my usual vacuumed liquid packs, so instead, I got the powder. Much more convenient but I can’t help to think the medication is more potent when boiled straight from the herbs.

P.S. I’m not a doctor, so please don’t go running off and buying whatever meds I mentioned! I just wanted to share what my doctor prescribed and how I reacted to it.

Taking a month-long break…

Happy holidays! Hope everyone had a very merry christmas filled with joyous festivities and plenty of good weather!

taking a break
Image source

You may have noticed that I’ve been absent on the blog for a few weeks. I’ve been deperately busy in the office and trying to quit my job at the same time, unpacking and moving things around in my new home … a busy, busy bee! My eczema is still, and I think will always be, an issue. I just hope I can control it so that eventually the flare ups are fewer and much farther apart. I started this blog because I wanted a place to vent, to document how my eczema was progressing, and a place to jot down my thoughts as I still try and figure out routines that will please both my eczema and me! (And yep, in that order. Maybe my eczema before myself…) I do still plan on blogging about eczema but for the time being, I need to take a break and catch up on other things before I can dedicate more time to the blog. You can still catch me on Twitter and Pinterest (I’m always Pinning away as I’m figuring out how to organise my new home).

I hope you all have a very happy holiday and I wish you the very best of skin health in 2012! See you in February!

Photos of Taiwan IV: In Food

I’m not at all a foodie but I love to take pictures of food. Food photography, when done right, makes my mouth water so much more than actual food does, and so I love to try and capture a good shot. I think it’s also a great way to practice using my camera, with macro functions and bokeh.

Everyone says there’s a ton of delicious food in Taiwan but I find that unless you know where to go, it’s hard to find something “authentic”. I think that’s true for most holidays, unless you happen to be in a busy area. We were in a real rush for most of the trip, trying to catch trains and buses and so were just glad to be able to pick up any food at all. I may hate major brands (Starbucks!) for chewing up the Mom and Pop stores but I have to admit they’re a life saver when I’m in an unfamiliar place and in a rush.

bibimbap kaohsiung
Yup. I had korean food in Taiwan! Bibimbap.

Shin ramen. Always reliable, especially at night, at a convenience store in the middle of nowhere!


Love the chalk menu!

Dumplings. My all-time favourite food!

Hotel breakfast. I get really hungry in the mornings.

Just to had to throw these in. So lively!

kids in taiwanballroom dancing in kaohsiung

Photos of Taiwan III: Tainan and Taipei

I promised to post the rest of my trip to Taiwan and here they are! I pretty much finishd up Kaohsiung in a day so we headed to Tainan to see the countryside and also spent half a day in Taipei.

Outside Kaohsiung train station.

Leaving Kaohsiung train station, and on route to Tainan.

I love train stations. Xinying station in Tainan.

Xinyi District. Lots of finance buildings and the most “urban” place I saw on the whole trip!

Taipei 101 and a sleeping Buddha.

Eczema Back with a Vengeance, Thanks Dan Ryan’s

Way too salty lasagne.

Very good brownie with vanilla ice cream.

I knew I couldn’t expect my week-long eczema free bliss to last (oh super smooth skin, how I miss you!), but I didn’t think it would come back so vengefully! I can honestly say it was easily the worst eczema nights of my life. I’m going to have to shake my fist at Dan Ryan‘s! Here’s how my night of terror went:

7:30pm – Dinner at Dan Ryan’s. The potato skins and brownie + ice cream were fine, delicious even. The lasagne was way too salty and it felt off even as I was eating it. I’ve had bad experiences with Dan Ryan’s mains before (not eczema-related) but I hadn’t been there in so long that I guess I just forgot. I managed to get through a third of the lasagne, decided not to waste the rest and asked for it to be packed.

Midnight – I’m about to sleep. At this point, I’ve been itching for two hours since I got home from dinner. My skin is dry and flaky but luckily no rashes had popped up yet. I take an antihistamine, add an extra layer of moisturiser and drnk two more glasses of water before I sleep. I feel like I have my eczema-prevention routine down, right?

3:30am – I’m so itchy I could die! I am woken up from an intense itch. I’m already having a nightmare and scratching, so I’m half awake at this point. The itching is so intense that the shoulder area actually HURTS, like a fresh wound being exposed to oxygen. I get up and drink some more water, just trying to bear with it. I only get about 15 minutes sleep when the pain wakes me up again. It feels like something is burning, and it’s itching at the same time. I turn on the light, FRUSTRATED. I’m also mad because I need the sleep – it’s been a long week already and I know my body needs to catch as many minutes of sleep as it can.

3:45am – I get up and turn the light on to look at this monster. WHAT is happening to my body? Why is it itchy AND painful? There’s nothing on my skin, it’s barely even red. I try and take a picture of it with my phone in my sleepy state. It looks fine, but sore when I touch it though. Close my eyes and drift off for about 10 minutes when it itches again. I apply some steroid cream on it.

4am – The steroid cream is not working! Check Twitter to see what’s happening and Tweet about this disaster. Almost decide to take part in Modcloth’s I Spy Thursday giveaway to distract me from the itching, but I can’t concentrate! I should be focusing on trying to get back to sleep anyways.

4:15am – I think I’m okay, time to turn the lights back out. Except that it’s not okay. I can’t even take my hand off it because it hurts less when my hand is applying pressure on my shoulder. Drink more water and clip my nails.

4:30am – FRUSTRATED. Nothing is working and I NEED to sleep! I grab an ice pack to freeze the skin – it’s one of my last resort remedies to immediately relieve itching (it doesn’t last though). I fall asleep like that, with a towel-wrapped ice pack under my armpit and finally manage to make it to 7:45am. Was obviously very late for work this morning.

What a disaster. What do I think caused it? I’m not too sure. My best guess is the food. My lack of sleep throughout the week probably set up me such that the E monster would be easily triggered, by anything. I’m thinking it was the salty lasagne, specifically salt, MSG and the tomatoes. I’m usually fine when tomatoes are cooked and not raw, but when you’re body isn’t at it’s strongest, I guess even unusual triggers will get to you. Spanish food tonight with friends, I’ll just try and eat less to avoid making it worse. Maybe I’ll just chow on some plain bread instead.

How was everyone’s eczema this week?

Photos of Taiwan II: Kaohsiung by Night

Incredible graffiti by the pier. The entire pier area is done up as an art centre. The graffiti almost looks like chalk, but it’s not. The surface is very smooth so I’m not quite sure what material it is.

As soon as the evening rolled around, Kaohsiung came alive. The city is so quiet during the day, but it’s bustling at night. Where do the people hide during the day? Pier 2, the art hub, was by far my favourite time in the city. The bright colours and creative artwork under the street lights immediately transport you to another world. So magical!

. A doorway in the shape of a door! Very cool indeed.

The Love River at night.

Fireworks at the end of an Adidas Fitness event.

Photos of Taiwan I: Kaohsiung by Day

View from hotel.

Finally managed to sort through, resize and upload photos from my weekend getaway for sharing. Here’s the first of a few posts of Taiwan. The plan was actually just to head to Kaohsiung but I think we pretty much exhausted Taiwan’s second largest city after walking around for eight hours. Kaohsiung, and Taiwan generally, is so different to what I had in mind (mostly to what I’ve seen on Taiwanese dramas). It’s not at all urban and reminds me very much of Hong Kong in the 70s, or present-day Guangdong. The city is so quaint and the Taiwanese people are so charming. I’m so happy it was a relaxing trip and that it completely cleared up my eczema!

Park outside Kaohsiung Cultural Centre. Looks like a magical forest.

Beautiful, sunny, sunny weather and palm-tree-looking trees. I can’t get LA out of my head when I see this picture, even though it’s nowhere near the same.

The carpark needed some decorating…

Tons of Japanese influences in Taiwan. Not sure what this cat is doing here though.

The Love River is one of the main attractions in Kaohsiung and is particularly pretty at night. I didn’t feel the romance though, but it was a spectacular view.

View from Kaohsiung 85 Building, tallest building in Kaohsiung. Such an incredibly dense city.

Back From My Weekend Getaway and Eczema Free!

View from train to Tainan

I’m back from my weekend getaway to Taiwan and I’m excited to share photos, as soon as I have time to upload them this weekend! The trip was relaxing, spent wandering around the old cities and travelling by trains to Tainan and Taipei. Taiwan is generally a lot less urban than what I had expected – for some reason I had the idea that it would be more similar to Hong Kong and Seoul.

The best part of the trip, aside from coming back completely relaxed? It’s that I’m eczema free! YAY! This is usually what happens to me when I step outside of Hong Kong for more than a few days. I was eczema free when I lived in Toronto; my eczema cleared up within 48 hours after I landed in London, Antwerp and Seoul. Who knows why? I chalk it up to me being allergic to something in the air in Hong Kong. But this is my home and although I’ve thought about it many times, I wouldn’t move out of the city just for my eczema. Or maybe I would, but my eczema isn’t so severe that it’s driving me out of Hong Kong yet. Whenever I arrive back into the city, my eczema-free state usually lasts for an hour and sometimes up to 48 hours. I’ve currently been back in the city for 72 hours and I’m still relatively eczema-free. My dry skin is a little bit itchy (humidity levels are down to 60% again) but aside from that, I have no rashes. I will be busting out the last of my tank tops and strapless dresses for this Indian Summer because I can finally show some skin and I’m so glad I can do so before winter gets here in a few weeks!

How’s everyone’s eczema doing?