30in30 challenge — april 2014 final


All done. No excuse, although towards the end of the month I had to plan ahead which task to tackle on which day. This is a challenge format I will use again, definitely.


  1. do more than 50 squats in one set // done
  2. do more than 50 crunches in one set // done
  3. 30 day shred level 1 // done
  4. 30 day shred level 2 // done
  5. 30 day shred level 3 // done
  6. run/walk/bike 30mins // done
  7. run/walk/bike 60mins // done
  8. take a walk somewhere with fresh air // done
  9. do something relaxing // done
  10. sleep early // done
    food & drink

  12. 5 different vegetables in a day // done
  13. 3 different fruits in a day // done
  14. no red meat day // done
  15. no alcohol day // done
  16. no snack day // done
  17. new savoury recipe // done
  18. new sweet recipe // done
  19. plan 3 course menu // done

  21. treat for my birthday // done
  22. treat for mm birthday // done
  23. activity with family // done
  24. gratitude at 1:11 or 11:11 // done

  26. finish outline for PP // done
  27. 1000 words PP // done
  28. find font for LL cover // done
  29. read a new author // done

  31. submit to a photography challenge // done
  32. photo topic: box // done
  33. photo topic: travel // done
  34. photo topic: water // done

30in30 #24: write 1000 words PP


Task #24 of 30 in 30 is to write 1000 words for PP, which just got outlined.

This ended up being one of the harder tasks. It’s usually not a big deal getting 1000 words, but I kept getting distracted and the fact that the short story was already finished proved to be a big mental block. I ended up splitting the short story into 6 sections: they meet, they meet again, disaster 1, disaster 2, plans, party. Each section will be expanded to around 7-8000 words, mostly beginning with what is already written. Hopefully this approach will bring me close to 50k (heh, a nano!) and the rest will be new material culminating in a second party.

So the first chapter when the MCs meet starts with 1200 words from the short story. I need to cover MC1’s interaction with her family, her community and her church which will be the backstory. Again I kept getting distracted doing research but I hunkered down and wrote about dinner with her mom. Total word count is 2357 so the daily task is complete at 1157 words.

p.s. I love scrivener. That’s another post for another day.

30in30 #5: 30 day shred level 3

First time attempting level 3, it’s hard. On paper, not so much but all the exercises were complex multi-muscle group moves. Plank jumps, plank pull up with leg raise, squat clean with weights, jumping jack with weights, travelling pushups. I had to drink half a litre of water, scoff down a few biscuits and take a nap after the workout. And I was mainly following the beginner’s portion.

30in30 #23: PP outline


Task #23 of 30 in 30 is to finish the outline for PP. Working title Party Planner, this is supposed to be the next writing project since LL is finished (again) and a few people have very kindly offered to help beta read it.

PP is already a short story so the challenge is to expand and build from 4,000 words to 70-80k. I wrote it for a challenge a while ago and I think it was Carleen who said I could make it into a full length story. It’s a sort of prequel to nano 2005, which in turn is a sort of prequel to nano 2006, so some of the characters and situations have to tie in. It’s good because I can foreshadow. How many people have books 2 and 3 in draft form when they start working on book 1?

Outline is surprisingly not complicated, just a series of people relationships. The story progression is pretty straightforward too. I wonder if there is enough material for a full length story. We’ll see.

30in30 #25: LL cover font


Task #25 in 30 in 30 is to find an appropriate font for the cover of LL.

I have some ideas for the cover, currently evolving around a faint background of grids and the title displayed like a stock ticker. Not yet at the stage where I can put it together in photoshop. I went looking for some LED display fonts that are free for personal and commercial use. Just tried them out in yellow against a green background.

From top: TPF, ride the fader, bazaronite, krungthep, TRS million, repetition. Not sure if any one of them scream out to me, I guess I won’t know until I actually attempt to put the cover together. Right now they all look like some sort of theatre / circus announcement and not ‘financial’ enough.

#21: 20,001 flickr photos


Task #21 of 101 in 1001 is to reach a total of 20,001 photos on my flickr account.

Considering the start count was 18,555, this was always going to be an easy task especially since I’ve already been on several trips since the beginning of 101.1001. But silly me, I forgot to keep track of exactly which photo was #20,001 so I had to backtrack and count. The page numbering system on flickr is currently broken but I think this is the one. This was at kushidori yakitori restaurant, of the young chef tendering our precious skewers of food.

30in30 #26: new author


Task #26 in 30 in 30 is to read a new author. The author is Sandra Moran and the book is Letters Never Sent.

For some reason I didn’t manage to speak with Sandra at Dallas last year, although I obviously saw her and took this pic. I was running around too much and too focused on getting pics I guess. I certainly hope she will be at Portland this year. I found out that we both run, so hopefully we have something in common to talk about.

One of the first things Carleen told me to do after the con was to get Sandra’s book and read it. Part of it was set in Chicago against the backdrop of the World’s Fair; she told me how realistic the description was and how I would recognise the street names, buildings and the atmosphere of Chicago in the 1930s. She also said (and read her review) that it’s a must read book and I always listen to her recommendations.

Here’s the blurb:

Three women, united by love and kinship, struggle to conform to the social norms of the times in which they lived.

In 1931, Katherine Henderson leaves behind her small town in Kansas and the marriage proposal of a local boy to live on her own and work at the Sears & Roebuck glove counter in Chicago. There she meets Annie—a bold, outspoken feminist who challenges Katherine’s idea of who she thinks she is and what she thinks she wants in life.

In 1997, Katherine’s daughter, Joan, travels to Lawrence, Kansas, to clean out her estranged mother’s house. Hidden away in an old suitcase, she finds a wooden box containing trinkets and a packet of sealed letters to a person identified only by a first initial.

Joan reads the unsent letters and discovers a woman completely different from the aloof and unyielding mother of her youth-a woman who had loved deeply and lost that love to circumstances beyond her control. Now she just has to find the strength to use the healing power of empathy and forgiveness to live the life she’s always wanted to live.

I usually pick thrillers or paranormal stories before ones that have historical elements, mainly because I’m not that interested in history. That said, I thought the way the book weaved between the 1930s and 1990s was done brilliantly. I loved that the 1930s wasn’t written as flashback, or as told by a storyteller in the 1990s. There were more details and we learned more about the characters and interactions of the older MCs, Katherine and Annie. And then we come back to the 1990s and we see how the daughter, Joan, was affected by the story of her mother. I also loved how the story unfolded, there was so much depth that it was a delight as each layer was revealed.

So often, we get characters who are tall, dark and impossibly beautiful, who are CEOs in their twenties, live in huge mansions and can walk on water while juggling. Ugh. We don’t get this in this book. America in the 1930s was economically and socially a very different time from now, and the hardships and social pressures were depicted realistically. Some of the actions and decisions made by the characters weren’t stellar either, and that makes them so real and so compelling to read.

There was a twist at the end of the story but I figured it out quite early — very shortly after Joan arrived at her mother’s house. The middle part of the book I wasn’t quite sure I’d gotten it right, and I was so happy when it turned out to be true. (I’m trying to be vague and non-spoliery here). I wasn’t obsessed with the clue though, I was busy being caught up with the story itself.

I have a couple of small criticisms. There was a mention of London Times, just in passing. It’s one of my pet peeves because there is no such paper. Secondly, there were two tiny, minute geographical inaccuracies about Chicago that only someone who is OCD will notice. Or perhaps streets were different in the 1930s and therefore I am wrong. Sometimes I get caught up with these small things and I end up not liking or even finishing the book, but it wasn’t the case here.

It’s a testament to the quality of the writing that I finished it, and immediately scrolled back to the beginning to read it again. It’s one of those books that stay on your mind long after you finish, and you can’t help but think about the characters or the setting or a particular scene.

30in30 #28: photochallenge box


This is the final photo challenge task of this month’s 30 in 30, the topic is box.

I saw a few possibilities for this topic, like a stack of fruit boxes at the supermarket or discarded polystyrene boxes at the side of the road or an overflowing box for charity clothes donation. But none have the impact of this street performer squeezing herself into a 16” box. This was taken in December 2007, a beautiful summer weekend day at Circular Quay Sydney.

30in30 #27: photofriday textures


Task #27 of 30 in 30 is to submit to a photo challenge. This is for photo friday: textures and is from Sunday’s outing to Deep Bay. One part of the bay is a small fishing village where there are oysters and various dried fish. I’ve tried to show the contrast in textures between the rough and sharp oyster shells which are discarded along the bay and the flatness of the water. Not sure how successful it is.

101.1001 #84 | 30in30 # 22: easter thanks sunset


This is a combination of #84 of 101 in 1001, a new activity with mm and #22 of 30 in 30, to give thanks at 11.11.

Woke up early to go to mass with mm, I should try to go to mass at least at Easter and Christmas. We then lunch with her family before driving out to the NW, to a couple of places near Deep Bay.

First was Lau Fau Shan, which is famous for its dried fish and oysters. The oysters can’t be eaten raw, they are either braised, barbequed or deep fried. Quite a rich flavour and texture, great for snacks since we weren’t hungry.

About 20-25 minutes’ drive along a narrow winding and surprisingly busy road was Ha Pak Nai, just a tiny village with some fishing ponds and a couple of houses. A muddy path led to marshes at the bay, and quite a lot of people had gathered there to watch the sunset.

It was a hazy day, but we were still able to catch some of the sunset. It was a nice evening, not too hot yet and a little romantic. The first time we’d gone specially to watch a sunset. Went back to her place to watch Sherlock. I looked up and it was 11.11pm, sometimes it works this way. Perfect way to end Easter Sunday.

101.1001 #54.6 | 30in30 #17 new sweet recipe


This is a combination of task #54.6 of 101 in 1001 and task #17 in 30 in 30 is to try a new sweet recipe.

This is a recipe for no-bake blueberry truffle tart that has been bookmarked for a while. I made some adjustments, mainly in the ingredients and making of the base. The idea remains the same, make a biscuit base, make a ganache, top with blueberries.

225g crushed biscuits — I used half oreos and half hob-nobs, the recipe used just oreos
75g butter
225g dark chocolate
250ml cream — should be 300ml but the carton was 250ml
1 punnet blueberries

Crush the biscuits, I put them in a ziploc bag and whacked them with a pestle but a rolling pin or food processor will work. Melt butter in pan, add biscuit crumbs and transfer to lined tin. The recipe used individual fairy cake tins but mum didn’t have that tin so I improvised and used a square tin. Allow to set in fridge (around 20-30mins).

Melt the chocolate on a bain marie and stir in the cream. Can do it the other way round, heat cream and pour over chocolate. Either way, stir until chocolate has melted and the mixture glossy and smooth.

I sprinkled half the punnet of blueberries on the biscuit base and added the ganache. Set in fridge for about 10mins, then sprinkle the rest on top. Return to fridge so the ganache sets. I left mine overnight.

Usually we combine chocolate with raspberries or strawberries but blueberries work very well too. The ganache was extremely rich, and the fruitiness of the blueberries in every bite was a good contrast. A small slice is more than enough.

30in30 #16: new savoury recipe


Task #16 in 30 in 30 is to try a new savoury recipe. I made skordalia, a greek styled potato and garlic dip that is halfway between regular mashed potato and hummus.

The first time I heard of skordalia was when Torode cooked it on masterchef. It seemed to be an interesting alternative to mashed potato, a good source of starch for a dish. Based on the recipe I found at the guardian.

Roughly chopped 4 potatoes and boil until soft. I don’t have a potato ricer so I passed the cooked potato pieces through a sieve, which proved harder to do than I expected. Made a paste of 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper and mixed into the potato. Added olive oil, juice of 1/2 a lemon and further seasoning. Topped with crushed peanut for decoration.

It sort of looked like a cross between mashed potato and hummus, erring to the side of potatoes. At first I didn’t add enough olive oil and the bitter-sourness of the lemon juice was too overwhelming. It was better when I added more oil and more seasoning. Although it’s described as a dip, I served it with braised lamb shanks, which technically we shouldn’t be having since it’s Good Friday. Ah well.

30in30 #21: activity with family


Task #21 in 30 in 30 is family activity.

Most of our family activity is around food. Yesterday we had an outing to a small diner for…egg and beef sandwich, which seems too mundane for an outing, but really, it was very, very good. Softly scrambled eggs with juicy beef and toasted bread. Yum.

Today we went to the lunch buffet at one of the crowne plaza hotels. I’d heard that they had a birthday month discount offer, where during the month of someone’s birthday, they get age decade % discount. So someone who celebrates their 60-69th birthday this month gets 60% off. Someone who is 100 eats free (if I had a restaurant, I’d let every 100 year old eat free year round). Parents get senior discount anyway so it’s great that all 3 of us had a discount.

Food was okay. Typical buffet food of salad, oysters, sashimi, roast, pasta, noodles, dessert, ice cream. Not a great deal of choice and fairly mediocre in taste. The best were the oysters, I had 9, but I had to yell at the chef to not rinse mine in water before serving. I mean, gee.

They had a chocolate fountain with the usual cake and marshmallow and fruit for dipping. I took the ice cream mochi and made my own chocolate coated ice cream mochi, it was one of the better food. Our conclusion was that it’s nice to try a new place but we’ll likely not return.

30in30 #18: plan 3 course menu

Task #18 in 30 in 30 is to plan a three course menu. Note, it’s plan not execute. Two reasons: I had wanted to do a homecooked 3-course meal for my birthday but a) it was met with general skeptism (“are you sure you don’t want to go out for a meal? So much trouble”) and b) I was on vacation. But I still want to plan this, because I think it’d be fun and it’s a task in 101 in 1001. Which means I have until 2016.

In thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that there are at least 2 different menus. One is the menu I want to cook and the second is the one I will end up cooking because of time, skill and also to fit the tastes of other people in my family.

ideal menu

salmoneggroll RIMG0011
xmas11004ballotine queenofpuddings01

starter — salmon three ways
salmon sashimi with ikura (salmon roe), grilled teriyaki salmon bites, salmon egg roll
Salmon with ikura is pretty standard sashimi fare, I’m thinking of dicing the salmon and serving it with the ikura on a spoon. The teriyaki recipe I haven’t tried, but sounds straightforward. The salmon roll is a Donna Hay recipe from one of her books: smoked salmon and crunchy greens rolled in a thin omelette. I made it for an office pot luck it was very popular and it’s an easy recipe to follow. The good thing about all three salmon dishes is that they can be served cold.

main — ballotine of duck with roasted beetroot, sautéed potatoes, pumpkin purée and red wine jus
I’ve made poached chicken using the ballotine, or roll, method. I’ve also cooked with duck. Found a recipe for duck ballotine that involves rolling it in pancetta. Sounds good. Instead of duck trimmings and assorted herbs for the filling, I think using a combination of smoked duck and duck offal will work. Hopefully it’ll look like the three birds ballotine from m&s I bought a couple of christmases ago.

I’d like to use red and yellow mini beets, but I know I won’t be able to get them, sigh. Duck goes with fruit like orange or plum or berries. I think though that with the beets and pumpkin there is enough sweetness in the dish and just a normal red wine reduction will work better. May be a squeeze of orange juice.

dessert — queen of puddings
This is one of the great british puddings I haven’t tried yet. It’s basically a breadcrumb custard topped with meringue. I’m looking at a couple of recipes, one by Mary Berry who is the queen of puddings and baking, and one for manchester pudding which is the same as queen of puddings.

I rather like the idea of serving in individual glass ramekins, except I don’t have any. My ramekins are ceramic for soufflés, and my glass dishes can’t be used in an oven. Ah well.

actual menu

surfturf02 bakedcheesecake03

starter — salmon three ways
I think I can stick with the salmon three ways starter. I do need to find myself a rectangular plate though.

main — surf and turf
If I’m making something for the family, or for a birthday, it’s better to make crowd-pleasing items. What’s better than surf and turf? I used to have a tradition of making it for my birthday, back when I was in Chicago or London and can actually get good quality steak at reasonable prices. The surf part can be either lobster or prawns, to be honest I prefer the latter.

dessert — baked cheesecake
Another crowdpleaser and something I made before. Again, suitable for birthdays and family gatherings. Best thing is, it has to be made the day before.

30 in 30 challenge — april 2014 midmonth update


15 days. 15 tasks done. I set the challenge knowing that I will be on vacation for part of it, with tasks generic enough to complete wherever I was. I don’t think it affected the quality of the challenge.


  1. do more than 50 squats in one set // done
  2. do more than 50 crunches in one set // done
  3. 30 day shred level 1
  4. 30 day shred level 2
  5. 30 day shred level 3
  6. run/walk/bike 30mins // done
  7. run/walk/bike 60mins // done
  8. take a walk somewhere with fresh air // done
  9. do something relaxing // done
  10. sleep early // done

    food & drink

  12. 5 different vegetables in a day // done
  13. 3 different fruits in a day // done
  14. no red meat day // done
  15. no alcohol day // done
  16. no snack day // done
  17. new savoury recipe
  18. new sweet recipe
  19. plan 3 course menu

  21. treat for my birthday // done
  22. treat for mm birthday // done
  23. activity with family
  24. gratitude at 1:11 or 11:11

  26. finish outline for PP
  27. 1000 words PP
  28. find font for LL cover
  29. read a new author

  31. submit to a photography challenge
  32. photo topic: box
  33. photo topic: travel
  34. photo topic: water // done


30in30 #6: bike 30mins

Task #6 in 30 in 30 is to run/walk/bike for 30 mins.

Continuing the “back to exercise” and “slowly letting the knee heal” themes, I did 30mins on mum’s stationary bike. The gears had come loose earlier but they recovered all on their own and I can go back to adjusting the tension. The electronics are still kaput so I continue to use the 1 mile per 5 minute estimate.

I’ll get back to running soon, I promise.

30in30 #2: 50 crunches

Task #2 in 30 in 30 is to do a set of 50 crunches.

Even though it was mainly seafood, I ate more than usual on holiday and it’s time to get back to working out. I tested the knee and it was just about okay to do 10 squats, not sure about more vigorous sets or running. Crunches are fine for knees, I did 50 each of regular crunch, reverse crunch and oblique crunch, very slowly.

30in30 #19: treat for my birthday


Tast #19 of 30 in 30 is a treat for my birthday, which isn’t till next week. But today a box got delivered that made me happy, and it felt like a birthday treat.

Earlier this year, TWE had a lottery for Karuizawa 1984 sherry cask #3663, bottled in 2013 at 56.8% from a single cask. Karuizawa is a Japanese distillery that is no longer in production, and is quite in demand by collectors and investors. I put my email in the lottery for fun, and got the confirmation after the lottery closed that, as expected, I wasn’t allocated a bottle. I thought, next time we’re in Japan, we’ll continue looking for interesting Japanese whisky.

Then in March, I got another email from TWE that I had been allocated a bottle of the Karuizawa. That was a surprise, because I’d already forgotten about the earlier lottery. I guess people either were disqualified because of too many entries, or people who were allcoated didn’t follow through with the purchase, or some other reason. The fact was, I was being offered an opportunity to purchase one of a limited supply (reputably 240 bottles) of a highly rated whisky.

I didn’t decide straightaway, because of the £325 price tag. That’s a lot, even for a 29 year old single cask rare whisky. I did some research first. nojatta said,

If you manage to get your hands on a bottle of this, you really have won the lottery

whisky investor fb page said,

Strong buy. Any single cask releases from Karuizawa are towards the top of the ‘buy’ list

In the end, I decided that I would probably regret it if I didn’t get it. I saved on VAT, but had to pay shipment and customs, which added to the total cost. I handled the bottle very, very carefully when the delivery person came, and it’s now safely tucked away on my whisky shelf. All the talk about whisky investment is irrelevant, because I’ll have to be destitute before I begin to think about selling my whiskies. Will I ever open the bottle? May be, eventually. Have to be a special occasion, I think.

hokkaido day 8: sapporo, travel home

sap218centralmkt sap221centralsalmon
sap232cuttlefish sap236crab

Woke up at 7am and left the apartment at 8.15am. Drove to the central wholesale market, which turned out to be immediately behind the curb market. Huh. Lots on sale there, at wholesale prices and unfortunately quite large portions too. Walked over to curb market for brunch: uni & ikura rice (never get tired of it), live cuttlefish sashimi, whole crab. Bought some fresh seasonal asparagus, nicely wrapped up for the flight. Went back to central market and was a little panicked when many stalls had already closed. Oh no!! The stall i wanted to get king crab legs from was still open, but we couldn’t find one that sold soy ikura. With the language problem we resorted to fishing out a pic on my camera and we were so blessed that the young man we asked led us to another stall and talked to that stallowner for us. Phew. Must remember next time that the wholesale market closes before 11am.

sap530ichiro sap531ichiro

Then it really was time to head to the airport. Returned the car, got the shuttlebus and was at the terminal by 1pm. The check in counter wasn’t opened yet so we browsed around the shops and then looked for a place where we could sit and have a drink. Our blessed trip continued when we walked into a bar, thinking we’d have a yoichi or miyagikyo and then discovering, hidden on the top shelf, several bottles of ichiro’s malt. Wow. Ichiro’s malt is produced by the chichibu distillery, a smaller, independent distillery unlike the corporate suntory or nikka groups. We opted for a glass of the oak barrel blend and a glass of the ten of diamonds of the card series. The oak barrel was smooth and full of character, the outstanding one was the ten of diamonds which was rich and packed a punch. Sigh. What a great end to our trip, to find rare whisky at the airport.

We were probably overweight at check in, but the nice counter agent let us through. She also suggested to us that we should check in our seafood, wrapped in cold bags because the ice pack was considered liquid and couldn’t be taken as hand luggage. Combining our suitcases, the pillows and the seafood we checked in 5 pieces.

After check in, there was just about enough time for last minute chocolate and snack shopping and then duty free. Sigh, the prices inside the duty free were much lower of course. By then we were both whiskied out and didn’t dare buy any more. For future reference I guess.

Like the flight coming over, the flight was around half full. We had 3 seats between us, so we were comfortable. Dinner was fish, rice, macadamia biscuit and I had a beer. Watched Hobbit 2 and some of the Fall. Divided our seafood shopping at the airport then caught the airport express and taxi home. Tired, loved the trip and can’t wait to go back.

30in30 #30: photo challenge water


Task #30 in 30 in 30 is a photo challenge with the topic: water.

This is a panorama of the lake at the absolutely beautiful historical village of hokkaido which was taken using mm’s iphone. We chose the coldest, windiest day to visit the outdoor village and it actually started snowing heavily when we were there. At that point we were probably the only visitors on site. But we wouldn’t have missed it for anything. At one end of the village was a small lake, which was partially frozen. So pretty and now that our trip is over, I want to continue with all things hokkaido for as long as I can.

This is just a self challenge, this week’s photofriday challenge is glorious, which I think fits this pic too. But I guess using an iphone panorama pic isn’t quite the thing to do for a photo challenge.

30in30 #13: no red meat

00sap15lunch 00sap16crab
00sap17tuna 00sap18roe

Task #13 in 30 in 30 is to have a red meat free day.

Reason #1 I can live in Japan: delicious, fresh seafood. Everything so appealing, visually and taste. I like my red meat, but given a choice between never eating steak or never eating seafood, I’ll stick with the seafood.

Otaru today. For lunch we had uni and ikura don, abalone sashimi, grilled cuttlefish and steamed king crab claws in broth. A luxurious and sumptious meal. For dinner we went back to the conveyor belt restaurant and ordered our hearts out.

hokkaido day 7: otaru

otaru011road otaru026market

We slept in a little today, no onsen or laundry to do early morning. Left at 9.45am to drive to otaru. Since we were going to be there more or less the full day, we drove a little further from the central canal area and found a reasonably priced car park. Maximum for any 24hr period was ¥1000, which was acceptable. The car park was also near the central market, and we did some seafood shopping there with a friendly shopowner. Bought salmon roe, mentaiko (pollock roe 明太子), squid pickle and nori pickle. We were close enough to the car to be able to take our shopping back. It was cold enough, I wasn’t worried they they would spoil.

otaru042lunch otaru049crabbroth

The walk to central otaru was around 20mins, by then we were quite hungry as we hadn’t had breakfast. Lunch was at a branch of the same restaurant we went to at sapporo curb market. More uni & ikura rice, grilled cuttlefish, abalone sashimi and a sweet bowl of crab legs in clear broth.

otaru077chocstraw otaru057icecream

The main attraction of otaru’s main street is shopping. Our shopping was mostly chocolate and snack focused, although mm also bought 2 handbags. Instead of getting large boxes, we found small individual packs of chocolate and biscuits to bring back to our families. The thinking was that we didn’t need the fancy box packaging. Bought chocolate covered strawberries, mochi and truffles. Sampled a fair number of chocolate, cake and biscuits too at various shops.

Tea treat was ice cream. They had one with 7 flavours, but we were quite full so we opted for 3 flavours: grape, milk, melon. More chocolate shopping, glassware browsing, we slowly made our way back to the car.

On the way back to central sapporo, we stopped at shiroi koibito chocolate theme park. The park itself had closed so we just went to the shop to buy their famous biscuits.

Headed to susukino and double parked so we could visit a whisky shop. I bought a miyagikyo NAS 500ml and miyagikyo 12. Didn’t dare buy anymore because of the weight, eeek.

sap491hanamara sap515price
sap497fishroe sap503searsalmon

Dinner was back at hanamaru, we got the hang of filling out the order sheet and I even managed one myself. Back to the apartment to pack our bags, really not wanting our holiday to end.

hokkaido day 6: sapporo

We woke up early to do laundry, which was one of the advantages of staying at an apartment as opposed to a hotel. All told the apartment wasn’t that much cheaper than a hotel, we wanted a different experience for our trip. We had bought brioche from café denmark yesterday so we had breakfast in the apartment while waiting for the laundry to finish.

Destination in the morning was the historical village of hokkaido. I’d read about it on my research and really wanted to go. Luckily we had the car, it would have been a bit of a hassle to go by public transport. We were also lucky to have a coupon from the shiraito onsen hotel.

sap300street sap311noodle

sap398temple sap420stationmaster

The village consisted of 50-60 buildings from all over hokkaido, dating from the mid-1800s to mid-1900s. There were all sorts of buildings: inns, shops, post office, distillery, newspaper building, temple, church, farmhouse, residental homes. Some, if not all, the buildings had exhibits inside of furniture or equipment from that time. A guidemap suggested a 1 or 2 hour walk, but to explore the outside and inside took longer. We didn’t mind, we were completely enjoying ourselves. It rained and dropped sleet and was very windy so we were running from building to building. It also felt like we were the only visitors at times. Again, we didn’t mind.


We were quite cold by the time we finished the tour, having covered about 75% of the village. Stopped at the cafeteria for much needed coffee and tea.

Next destination was outlet shopping. We had lunch at the food court, a great value meal of seafood donburi, tempura and soba for only ¥1080. The outlet itself was a bit of a let down and we quickly finished browsing through all the shops including the more interesting farm shop.

nikkabar192barcollection nikkabar206flights

Parked the car back at the overnight car park near the apartment and took the subway to susukino to visit the nikka bar. It was still quite early so we were the first customers. A nikka whisky fan’s dream bar, it had all the nikka whiskies plus a lot of other whiskies and liquors. We sat at the bar and had 2 flights: yoichi 10, 12, 15 and miyagikyo 10, 12, 15. It was the first time we tried miyagikyo and I like it better than yoichi. Guess we’ve decided on the next distillery visit, heehee. To finish, we tried a simple taketsuru NAS.

sap472kushidori sap477beefveg

Took the subway back to JR sapporo and had dinner at kushidori, a chain yakitori restaurant. Even after 9pm we had to wait for a bit, and were lucky to sit at the counter with an unimpeded view of the grilling stations. Had beef, ox tongue, chicken gizzard, chicken gristle, pork with asparagus, okra, mushroom, pepper and I had a half & half beer (half dark, half light).

30in30 #11: five different vegetables

00sap10lunchset 00sap11tempura
00sap12mushokra 00sap13pepper

Task #11 in 30 in 30 is to have five different vegetables in a day.

I didn’t specify 5 portions or 5 different vegetables. If I were at home I’d aim for 5 portions, but since we are still on vacation and eating out, having 5 different vegetables is okay for this task.

Lunch was at the food court of an outlet. Sushi rice bowl, tempura and soba for only ¥1,080. There were green pepper, carrot and lotus root in the tempura. Dinner was at kushidori, a yakitori place. We had grilled mushroom, okra and small green peppers. So actually, six different vegetables in a day.

#69: new restaurant sapporo: hanamaru

sap260hanamaru sap264hanamaru

Tasks #69-73 are to try 5 new restaurants in 5 different cities. This counts as the first one.

After an extraordinary busy day of travelling that brought us from jozankei to nikka distillery to otaru to sapporo, we checked into our airbnb apartment and thought about where to go for dinner. We had researched and seen the queues at the famous hanamaru conveyor belt sushi restaurant and thought we should see if the queue was a reasonable size. And because it was already past 8.30pm, there were only about half a dozen people in the line.

sap269order1 sap274order2

There is good reason why there is a permanent queue outside. The food is fantastic. Fresh and simply delicious. We asked for an english menu and quickly figured out how to order like a local. We had uni, squid, ikura, ikura soy, crab roe, salmon, blue fin tuna, medium tuna, scallop — total stack of 14 plates. It was a feast.

hokkaido day 5: jozankei, nikka, otaru, sapporo

joz331bfast joz337tofu

Another early wake up day to soak in the spa, we went back to the outdoor one. Breakfast was as delicious and as extensive as dinner. Salmon, rice, tofu, egg and bacon cooked at the table, natto, soup and orange slices. We said goodbye to the proprietors, who were so fantastically hospitable and old fashioned they waited till we were in our car and bowed goodbye to us.

Our last exploration in Jozankei was the small shiraito waterfall the hotel was named after. Very small falls, and the bridge was not accessible because of snow. A very pleasant half an hour walk before we left for our next destination.

nikka008building nikka027distillery

About 1.5-2hrs’ drive brought us to the nikka yoichi distillery where they make, duh, single malt yoichi. What a magnificent distillery. Architecturally looking like a distillery in Scotland, with many of the same features and equipment. We were free to walk around the grounds ourselves to see the mill, mash ton, fermenter, pot stills and warehouses. A series of videos in various languages inside many buildings gave commentary on the whisky making process.

nikka106tastebar nikka116taste

The walk ended in the tasting room where we sampled yoichi 10, tsuru blend and an apple wine. Beautiful view of snowy mountains from the tasting room, it gave the whole tasting an unforgettable atmosphere.

We had lunch at the onsite restaurant. Lamb shabu shabu in two broths — whisky and red wine. After lunch we went to the museum bar for more selection. We picked special ones and were pleased that the bartender was generous with his pours:

  • yoichi single cask 15 — cask strength, quite strong
  • yoichi 20 — slightly peaty, smooth
  • yoichi apple brandy barrel — bit rough, not our favourite
  • taketsuru 21 — no wonder it won all sorts of awards
  • taketsuru 25 — brilliant, brilliant blend, at ¥1600 for a shot pretty expensive but top quality

Spent a lot of time at the shop deciding on what to buy. They had everything and we wanted to buy everything. Had to balance want against space in our luggage. In the end I bought:

  • yoichi 20 — one of the ones on my list
  • single cask 10 — small 180ml bottle
  • single cask 15 — small 180ml bottle
  • single cask 20 — small 180ml bottle
  • yoichi 10 small 180ml bottle — may be for silent auction
  • taketsuru 17 small 180ml bottle — also for silent auction
  • taketsuru 21 4x180ml bottles — worked out to be cheaper than 700ml


On the way back from yoichi to sapporo we passed otaru and we couldn’t resist stopping. It was around 5pm and many shops were closed or were closing so it was just a short visit. Went to the canal to take night time pictures as we had never been to otaru after sunset.

sap251spt sap253apt

By the time we got back to sapporo it was dark. Luckily the gps found our apartment easily, we double parked while we unloaded. I found this apartment on airbnb, on the 10/F of an apartment block near hokkaido university. Quite dorm like the building and the apartment, which was very small with a tatami room, a kitchenette and tiny bathroom. We went back downstairs and spent a little time trying to find an overnight car park. The saving grace was the pocket wifi that came with the apartment which meant we could use google maps.

sap263hanamaru sap273order2 

sap275ikurasoy sap271bluefintuna

After we got sorted and parked it was around 8.30pm already. We headed to 6/F stellar place to see if the famous hanamaru conveyor belt sushi. We only had to wait for about 10mins because it was late. No wonder there is a permanent queue outside. The sushi was fresh and fantastic. We observed other customers who didn’t take their plates from the belt, instead ordered freshly made by writing their order on an order sheet. Undeterred, we asked for an english menu and were happy that it came in 5 languages. We were able to copy the mainly kana (as opposed to the more familiar kanji) characters from the menu to the order sheet. Elated when the chef delivered our plates, meaning they understood our writing, yay! Okay, mm did all the writing, but I contributed by helping to read the menu. We had uni, squid, ikura, ikura soy, crab roe, salmon, blue fin tuna, medium tuna, scallop — total stack of 14 plates.

Did some basic grocery shopping at the station kiosk — milk, coffee, snacks. Negotiated the tiny shower and went to bed, another happy day.

30in30 #8: walk somewhere with fresh air


Task #8 in 30 in 30 is to take a walk somewhere with fresh air.

Did more walking yesterday around lake shikotsu and jozankei itself. This morning after we checked out of the ryokan we walked to the small waterfall that the ryokan is named after. We could see how much snow there had been, the roads were all ploughed but parts of the pavement had a bank of snow and ice more than 3 feet high. There is a bridge that crosses the part of the river in front of the waterfall but it was inaccessible, all iced in. There was an access road that led to an electricity plant that was behind the bridge so we could take pictures — the bridge is in the foreground.

Not too cold, definitely lots of crisp, fresh air.

hokkaido day 4: jozankei, shikotsuko

joz136spa joz138spaoutdoor

Woke up at 7am to soak in the other onsen at the hotel. They switch in the morning, so this one was the male onsen at night. Two indoor spas, an outdoor one and a steam room. I like this outdoor one, the temperature was perfect. We tried them all before breakfast.

joz143bfast joz152salad

Lots to enjoy at breakfast too. Salmon, stuffed squid, rice, soup, fish balls and freshly squeezed apple and vegetable juice. We weren’t in any hurry so after breakfast we decamped to the lounge to chill before it was time to checked out. After we paid our bill we even managed to fit in a visit to the shop and bought massage pillows. Then it was off to explore the Jozankei area for the day.

joz169road joz178snowtrees

First stop was the dam, which also had a viewing platform over the valley. Unfortunately it was still closed for the winter. We could see how the area had much more snow than in Sapporo proper. The roads were all ploughed, but the packed ice at the side was quite thick. There was also an extremely loud continuous announcement that sounded ominous — probably telling whoever was in the area that the dam was closed, or perhaps it was so loud to scare off the bears, who knows.


joz193shikotsuko joz198shikotsuko

Drove about an hour to lake shikotsu 支笏湖. When we rounded the corner and saw the lake for the first time we said “wow” at the same time. So beautiful. It’s the second deepest lake in Japan and is surrounded by 3 volcanoes. There is a small touristy development with hotels, a visitor centre, some restaurants and in the summer there are paddle boats and sightseeing cruises. Not a lot open at the off season, still nice to walk around the breathe crisp fresh air.


joz237tempura joz252owlcafecoffee

Lunch was tempura and soba at one of the few restaurants there. Simple family style restaurant producing quality food. Stopped off at café owl for coffee and tea. Another small quaint place we had the whole place to ourselves. Ah, that’s the life.

joz289hotelroom joz295spa
Drove back to Jozankei and there was enough time to explore the park and part of the river. There was a suspension bridge over the river but access was blocked by ice. So we went ahead and checked into our next hotel, shiraito onsen, a small family-run ryokan. It was funny, communicating with the elderly lady who ran the place. Mostly using sign and body language.

The tatami room was more basic than at the shogetsu grand, as was the onsen. The so-called outdoor spa was one bath probably max 3 people with a glass door opening out to a courtyard. Enjoyed the soak though.

joz303dinner joz318grill
Another fabulous kaiseki dinner, and we realised we were the only guests at the hotel. Lovely dinner, huge menu with course after course after course served. Starters, salad, sashimi, chawanmushi, tempura, soba, rice, soup, a gigantic platter of grilled crab, fish, ribs and finished with yuzu ice cream.

Tried the indoor onsen after dinner — two spas that were quite, quite hot. Long day, quite tired so we turned in early. This hotel was small enough not to have wifi, so it was a good excuse to get some rest.

30in30 #10: sleep early


Task #10 in 30 in 30 is to sleep early.

Woke up early today, and fit a lot in: onsen before breakfast, drive around jozankei, drive to lake shikotsu, check into onsen ryokan, more onsen, scrumptious dinner. The hotel we woke up in and the hotel we ended the day in are actually only 5mins’ drive from each other although very different in style.

A lot of waking up early, lots of travelling, a lot of spa, all in all it meant I was really really tired. No internet so after dinner I read for about 15mins before flopping down on the tatami bed and falling asleep at 10pm.

hokkaido day 3: sapporo, jozankei

Woke up to mm wishing me happy birthday, yay. Breakfast was a the café denmark inside the station shopping complex — egg curry roll, brioche and I had a royal milk tea which was basically normal tea made stronger than their normal weak standards. Checked out of the hotel, not before trying the free massage chair at the lift lobby and also discovering they had a lounge with free coffee. Ah well. Had some difficulty finding the car rental place, we were a little confused with google maps before realising that the office was next to Sapporo subway station and not the JR station. It was actually just a couple of blocks from our hotel on the same side of the street. Ah well.

sap184curbmkt sap191curbcrab

Drove 20mins to curb market and found a parking space around the shops. Unlike the covered nijo market, curb market had seafood shops lining both sides of a stretch of the road. Lots and lots of crab, crab and more crab. We had lunch at an upstairs restaurant, which we remember from last time. Uni & ikura rice, grilled cuttlefish, grilled corn and a bottle of beer to share. Yummy. Dessert was melon slices from one of the shops on the street.

joz011cafe joz014cake

After lunch it was off to leg 2 of our trip, to Jozankei onsen. It’s only about 45mins’ drive from Sapporo, on a regular main road. Small village with several hotels, a couple of shops and some cafés. It was too early for check in so we stopped at a traditional café. Tea, coffee, toast and pound cake. Very quaint and European style, down to the delicate china and wooden tables.

joz022hotel joz046honey

We were staying at two different onsen hotels at Jozankei. The first is the Shogetsu Grand, a more commercial and larger place. Lovely view of the river valley from our tatami room. We unpacked and made our way to the lounge for tea, coffee and to sample their honey bar. They had something like 15-20 different types of honey to try, from flowery ones like lavender and rose to fruity ones like apple and pomegranate to odd ones like sunflower and something woody. Crackers and yogurt were available to go with the honey. So relaxing, just sitting there at the lounge.


joz070spaoutdoor joz072spaoutdoor

Even more relaxing was the onsen itself. A very large spa with 3 indoor pools at different temperatures, an outdoor spa and a steam room. Obviously you’re not supposed to take pictures in an onsen, but we sneaked them while no one was around. Great soak for about an hour until it was time for dinner.

joz083setting joz101papillote
joz115riceeggsoup joz122dessert

Dinner was amazing. It was served in our room, and like all kaseki meals it consisted of neverending courses. Umeshu appetiser with small plates of starters, fish, sashimi, pork meatballs cooked in broth at the table, pumpkin and pork rib en papillote, chawanmushi, flavoured rice, soup and a seasonal sakura pudding with blueberry vinegar. Even though we were full it wasn’t the type of bloaty fullness associated with overeating. Most of the dishes were vegetable or seafood, only a small amount of red meat.

After laying around and allowing the food to digest, we headed down to the onsen for another soak. The relaxation was topped off with 10mins at the massage chair (¥100) and then it was time for bed. What a great day.

30in30 #9: something relaxing


Task #9 in 30 in 30 is to do something relaxing.

Day three of our vacation, drove a short 45min down from sapporo to jozankei where we have 2 nights at 2 different onsen hotels. Today is at shogetsu grand. We visited the onsen before and after dinner. The onsen has 4 different spas and a steam room. One large spa, a cooler one with space to lie down, a really hot one and our favourite, the outdoor spa. Although outside, it is covered and secluded so there is privacy. Very important since at japanese onsens no clothes are allowed. We’re also not supposed to take cameras and mobile phones inside but we sneaked our iphones and took some pics and video while the place was empty.

hokkaido day 2: sapporo


Buffet breakfast at the hotel. We saw the offer yesterday when we checked in, of ¥1030 per person and thought we should try it. Great Japanese breakfast of rice, fish, noodles, salad. Went back to our room to call around for car rental and got a good offer at Nissan, we’ll pick the car up tomorrow.


sap044clock sap053tvtower

Lots of walking today. First to the red brick former government building, clock tower, odori park and nijo market. It was a little cold and because it’s low season, not so packed with tourists everywhere. Nice. We even found a large ¥100 shop where we bought some chocolate, bargain chapstick, coke and folders.

sap081nijooyster sap088nijoclam

At nijo market, we stopped at one of the shops and had the most exquisite oyster and clam, freshly shucked in front of our eyes. Less than ¥2000. One thing great about Japan, even the public loos at a market are clean and have heated toilet seats.

sap100susukino sap117ramenalley
sap125ramencrab sap126ramenpork

We continued walking to tanukikoji shopping arcade. By that time my knee was started to be a little painful so we took things slowly. Not too much to see or shop, although we walked almost the length of the arcade. Next stop was susukino, the entertainment district. A kindly traffic policeman directed us to the ramen alley, we picked one place that served miso ramen and watched as the chef made the dish in front of our eyes. I had crab leg ramen and mm had pork ramen. Delicious late lunch.

sap140cake sap146cake

It started snowing a bit as we walked back towards the station. Stopped at mitsukoshi to scout out their whisky selection — not extension although we tried this great ¥5400 sake that was tempting. A little further along we spotted a sort of dessert food court, just in time for tea and to rest my knee. Out of the large selection, we both picked strawberry cake. One was a feathery chiffon cake and the other had an outer wrapping of pancake, interesting and gave a different taste and texture.

sap155uniikurarice sap157squidriceokra

Back to hotel and rested for a bit. Dinner was at a restaurant on 6/F Stellar Place, one of the station shopping complex. It was a pre-birthday treat for me, we had deep fried asparagus, live squid sashimi, uni & ikura rice and umeshu. Lovely peaceful setting, with a window seat looking out at the city lights.

Walked around the shops after dinner and got some coffee, dessert and a beer from the convenience store.

Lots of walking today, from 10am to 4pm, with rest stops. My knee survived the day, the discomfort wasn’t as much the actual walking, it was more to do with wearing the brace all day.

30in30 #7: walk 60mins


Task #7 in 30 in 30 is to run/walk/bike 60mins.

Day two of our Hokkaido vacation. Today our plan was to cover the main area of downtown Sapporo. We walked to the red brick government building, the clock tower, odori park, nijo market, tanukikoji shopping arcade, susukino, ramen alley and back to sapporo station to our hotel. Lots and lots of walking. Quite a lot of pictures. It was a little chilly, there was still some snow on the ground and late afternoon we got some heavy sleet.

We set off at 10am and came back to our room at around 4pm. Not all walking, there were stops at nijo market for oysters and clams, at ramen alley for ramen and at a fabulous cake shop for fabulous strawberry cake. All in all though, I think we walked for something like 3-4hrs today. My knee held out, it got a bit sore towards the later part of the afternoon, which was why we went back to the hotel to rest before dinner.

hokkaido day 01: travel, sapporo

sap002station sap006hotel

Woke up at 5.30am, showered and out of the door at 6.20am. Already checked in so depositing bags was easy and fast. I had 12kg and mm had 13kg, fully prepared for lots of shopping.

Breakfast of macaroni and toast at the fast food place opposite the station, then it was train to the airport and a looksee around the duty free. Tasting of various Glenfiddich samples before boarding. The flight was only about 40% full and we had first row bulkhead. Lunch on the plane: vegetarian pasta, pickled salad, macadamia biscuit. I watched American Hustler for the first time, it was good.

Arrived at Chitose around 3pm. Fast immigration and luggage retrieval. We walked around the huge airport shopping mall, trying to resist starting our shopping. JR train to Sapporo station and our hotel was located directly across the station. The room was a semi-double, we declined to upgrade for an additional cost.

sap011yakitori sap015chickenveg
sap017friedcheese sap022tofu

We collected a bunch of leaflets from the lobby to figure out where to eat. Decided on yakitori and identified a place north of the JR station. About 10mins’ walk through the station shopping complex. It was a nice meal: chicken skewers, vegetable skewers, sashimi, grilled fish, fried cheese, tofu and umeshu. I also had a glass of fuji blend whisky that was cheap and quite strong. One thing about izakaya places is that they allow smoking, so when we started getting surrounded by smoke, we beat a hasty retreat.

Walked around the shopping complex looking for dessert. At the ESTA food court, found gelato. I had blueberry and mm had mint choc. Then it was back to the hotel, shower and rest.

30in30 #20 mm birthday treat


Task #20 in 30 in 30 is to treat mm for her birthday.

Our Hokkaido vacation is partly a treat for both our birthdays. We arrived at Sapporo and checked into the hotel late afternoon. First order of business was to find dinner. I’d already suggested that our first dinner here would be at yakitori, so we could enjoy a drink and order a bunch of skewers. We got a restaurant map at the hotel and found a small but popular place about 10mins walk. We both had umeshu and we ordered mixed chicken, vegetables, grilled fish, sashimi, tofu. Made a toast for her birthday, a great start to our vacation.

30in30 #14: no alcohol day


Task #14 in 30 in 30 is to have a day without alcohol.

I woke up today with the knee swelling way down and I was able to walk around without the walking stick. Still a bit stiff and I am limping but the acute pain is gone, just a lot of stiffness. Happy about the quick recovery. The doctor at the hospital gave me a course of NSAIDs for my knee. So it’s time to stay away from alcohol for a couple of days. Even when I went out for dinner with sis and my niece, I had a virgin margarita. This is the first time I ever ordered a virgin cocktail, because I’m of the opinion that if you can’t handle a cocktail, order a coke instead. The margarita tasted like iced lemonade served in a martini glass, it was okay.

30in30 #15: no snack day


Task #15 in 30 in 30 is no snacks in a day.

Yes, I completed the task, but under annoying circumstances. It was slippery out, I tripped and fell on my bum, didn’t hurt my bum or back but 3 hours later my left knee got very painful and swelled up like a balloon. Had to go to the hospital to get it x-rayed and checked. No broken bones, a sprain with swelling. Argh!! And two days before we’re supposed to go on holiday.

With all the fuss and loss of appetite because of the pain, all I had today was pork chop for lunch and a pear in the evening so I could eat something with the medicine. The swelling seems to have gone down and less painful now. I’m using the walking stick, don’t want to graduate to the crutches yet, I can’t actually find the purple crutches, they should be in the closet but they are not.

30in30 #1: 50+ squats


Starting 30 in 30 from the top, although the intention isn’t to work down the list daily. Task #1 is to do more than 50 squats in one set.

Squats are not difficult, but they are not easy either, especially to keep to good form towards the end of a long set. I ended up doing 3 sets @75 reps per set. Knees are a little sore, but it’ll pass. I think I can work up to a 101 rep set soon.

30 in 30 challenge — april 2014


I thought I’d try another monthly challenge format. This is 30 tasks in 30 days. There are many versions around: fitness, photography, diet or personal development related. Some are no more than prompts for blog posts and then there are some downright odd ones like this manga challenge (day 3: your favourite manga character).

What I’m going to do is a simplified version of the on-going 101 in 1001 challenge: 30 tasks, each should be achievable in a day. Let’s see how this goes.


  1. do more than 50 squats in one set
  2. do more than 50 crunches in one set
  3. 30 day shred level 1
  4. 30 day shred level 2
  5. 30 day shred level 3
  6. run/walk/bike 30mins
  7. run/walk/bike 60mins
  8. take a walk somewhere with fresh air
  9. do something relaxing
  10. sleep early
    food & drink

  12. 5 different vegetables in a day
  13. 3 different fruits in a day
  14. no red meat day
  15. no alcohol day
  16. no snack day
  17. new savoury recipe
  18. new sweet recipe
  19. plan 3 course menu

  21. treat for my birthday
  22. treat for mm birthday
  23. activity with family
  24. gratitude at 1:11 or 11:11

  26. finish outline for PP
  27. 1000 words PP
  28. find font for LL cover
  29. read a new author

  31. submit to a photography challenge
  32. photo topic: box
  33. photo topic: travel
  34. photo topic: water