March 2012 Archives

in being healthy |


20.0km 2:21:51hr 7:05min/km (11:25min/mi)

Well no, I wasn’t running with just compression socks. Running naked means no music. Easy-ish 12 miles today at Hyde Park. Good conditions, not too crowded.

The taper is going as well as can be. The pain at the top of my foot persists and is slowly spreading to the ankle and calf. Not serious enough to hinder the race I think. Hope.

I bought a pair of compression socks to test them out. I’ve seen people wearing them at races and it seems that they do work somewhat. I thought about wearing them whilst running but decided to wear them as recovery instead. So I’ve been wearing them since the end of my run and shower, all evening. They were tight to put on, which is the whole idea. Comfortable, with slight pressure at my ankle, which is what I need. May be it’s just a placebo effect, but even it it’s all mental, I’ll take any and all advantage I can.

in being healthy |


Runners are one of the biggest groups of drinkers I’ve known. At least in Chicago races, there will usually be beer at the end. Free, or cheap. The good stuff too, 312 or Goose Island. I mean, we’re not all Chris Hoy, who has Olympic gold in sight.

But too much alcohol isn’t good for marathon training. So for the next 3 weeks, I’m going to limit alcohol to weekends only. This includes the 4-day weekend that is Easter.

in arts and media |

I was telling mm about a newly discovered lost composition by Mozart that was supposed to have been written when he was 10 or 11. It was recently premiered by pianist Florian Birsak on Mozart’s own piano in Mozart’s home. I’m not a very good musician, but mm is, and she’s learning a Mozart piece right now, so good timing.

in outside interests |

Newspaper grape purple
image courtesy flickr user ns newsflash

I spilled some of the sauce from my lunch inside my backpack and there’s salmon smell everywhere even after I cleaned up. Lots of ideas on how to get smell out including baking soda, coffee grinds and activated charcoal. Hmm, I have none of that, or may be just a small tub of baking soda. I do, however, have newspaper. I sprinkled a few drops of lavender scent and stuffed a few wads inside the backpack. Hey presto, it worked.

in being healthy |


5.20km 33.20min 6.21min/km (10.19 min/mi)

I’m so glad it’s taper time. I’m still feeling the effects of the 20 miler — top of foot is slightly swollen, calves very tight and generally achy everywhere. Instead of the scheduled 5 miles, I did 5k around the track to try to loosen the muscles. Not sure if successful, still achy everywhere. I didn’t want to completely skip the run though.

in eating and drinking |


No danger of not eating enough today, I couldn’t stop what with jammie dodgers and M&S rhubarb cookies. I was watching The Truth About Fat on iplayer over the weekend and they were saying that obese people have different levels of hunger and full hormones to normal sized people. That normal sized people have a higher volatility, ie gets hungry, but then drops. Obese people have lower levels of both hormones but are mainly straight lines, so they are always slightly hungry and never totally full. Sometimes I wonder if I’m like that — occasionally when I have a craving or eating something, I can’t stop. Gives me a chill, to remember 4 years ago before I started running and watching what I eat, that I was on the way to being a balloon. Brrrr.

in in the news |


Clocks changed last night; it’s 7.15pm and still just about light out. summer is here, wait till it’s 10pm and still light. Looking forward.

in being healthy , eating and drinking |


‎32.22km (20mi) 3:58:35hr 7:24min/km (11:56 min/mi)

Second 20 miler of this training cycle; and then the taper begins. It was a hot day, luckily there was some wind. I ate a big ham & egg sandwich for breakfast and took off at 9:30am. So happy that the water fountains are back on, I was running out of liquid at one point. Refilled and immediately drank half a bottle. Managed the full 20 miles in just under 4hrs, a bit slower than the first 20 miler, pretty pleased with the pace.

I was exhausted when I got home. Didn’t have any energy to do anything but sit on my sofa with my feet up for half an hour before my calves stopped hurting so I could go shower. Then mm whatsapped me, and Mum wanted to skype. Sigh.

The upside of running 20 miles is…I can eat whatever I want. I got this bone-in rib from Whole Foods a while back, it was on sale. 700g (24oz) for £9-something. At Hawksmoor, it’s £9 per 100g, so this was bargain compared to eating out. I know, can’t compare restaurant food with home-cooked food. Instead of Hawksmoor’s extremely hot charcoal grill, I grilled mine slowly on the hob and had it with cavolo negro (black cabbage), carrots and mushroom. Tasted great. Couldn’t eat the whole thing, may be about 2/3rd.

in eating and drinking , objects of desire |


Since I’m over here, I’ve decided drink less new world wines and go back to old world or at least focus on European wines. I’ve started drinking more Valpolicella, Chianti and mm likes Rioja and Gewurztraminer. Beaujolais noveau doesn’t really count. Anyway, I got this bottle of Rosalcy Lalande-de-Pomerol 2008 at Whole Foods. I figured, start with a simple Bordeaux. Needed 2 hours of breathing. I think I need a decanter. Deep and rich. Not sure I’ll return to it, I’m still not a big merlot fan.

in being healthy |


I’m not eating enough, it’s a little alarming. I eat biscuits and pizza and noodles and stuff like that so it’s not like I’m skimping. But i can’t seem to get up to 1,288 net calories, my dailyplate goal. I don’t feel hungry or deprived. I need to try a new strategy; with 3 weeks till the race, I should slowly increase my carb intake. It’s just that I’m not used to too much carbs, we had pizza at work today and it gave me pretty uncomfortable stomach upset this evening. Frustrated.

in being healthy |


5.47km (3.4mi) 29.47min 5.26min/km (8.46 min/mi)

For once in a long, long time, I managed to get some speed. Lots of it, in fact. Everything fell in place — a bit chilly, no rain, enough space to run on the track, didn’t feel tired at all and was able to open up especially down the back straight. The only blemish was, and it’s now becoming too much of a regular occurrence to be annoying, the nike+ wasn’t working. I knew that 2.5 laps = 1km, but when I checked it was showing 0.6km. Restarted, and then it showed 0.8km for the next km. Ridiculous.

The distance and time was all Garmin. At the end of the run, I reset the app and recalibrated. Walked 100m. Seems to be back working now.

in evidence of my insanity |

I know, I know.

in eating and drinking |


One more possibly for the US shopping list is chocovine, described as

a combination of ingredients, including Cabernet red wine, Dutch chocolate and cream

It’s calorie laden, but may be quite interesting to taste. Available in the US, but alluding to a Dutch origin. I wonder. Everyone loves Bailey’s and I remember mozart liqueur so this could be quite good.

in how the day went |

To Do's
photo courtesy flickr user courtneyrian

On Friday I gave myself a weekend to do list:

  • start taking winter clothes to dry cleaners — done
  • laundry — normal and sheets done
  • Brussels hotel — looked through kayak, and eurostar, I think A’s suggestion is a good one
  • running 12 miles — ack, garmin showed 12 miles, but nike+ was just under at 11.8; claiming the 12 anyway
  • skype sunday with family — done
  • cook the quails I bought at Waitrose — done
  • make duck for lunch this week — done, made duck fat potatoes, carrots and kale too
  • make chicken stock — done, although I think I made random poultry bones collection stock, I’m sure there’s duck bones, guinea fowl bones as well as chicken in that ziploc bag I fished out of the freezer
  • replenish fish balls supply — done, I went to the Thai shop at Westbourne Grove instead of schlepping all the way out to Leicester Square
  • Gino Gelato — part of the not schlepping all the way out to Leicester Square meant I didn’t go to Japanese Gelato Day at Gino Gelato. I can go another time, I really didn’t want to go out to Covent Garden on Mother’s Day just to get a free sample
  • books — not on the original list but I happily bought 7 new e-books

in eating and drinking |


I like shopping at Waitrose because they have more unusual stuff. Yesterday I saw prepared guinea fowl and quail. I haven’t had small game birds for a while so I bought the quail to try. They are already trussed up ready for the oven. Season and roast for 25mins at 190°C, basting a couple of times, and they are ready. They are quite small, so 2 of them, especially on a running day. Great to eat with fingers. Very tasty, succulent and not dry at all.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |


Watched riveted as Masterchef champion was announced after weeks of gruelling competition. Remember this name: Shelina Permalloo. She was born in Southampton and lives in Tooting. Her family is from Mauritius and her food was described by Gregg Wallace as

sunshine on a plate


a restaurant waiting to happen

She was consistent, joyful, and calm. She never made bad mistakes and she was always on time in tasks. And her food. Wow. In the beginning, like all amateurs, it was great tasting but did not have professional presentation. By the end, oh wow again. This was her octopus salad starter from the final — beautiful and apparently full of flavours. If she opened a restaurant I’d be there in a flash.

in being healthy |


Only one month to go till the marathon. Unlike the other two, I have to travel to it. (Okay, last year’s Chicago marathon I flew all the way from London; but staying at Car’s house and driving to Millennium Park in my own car is a different type of travel.) It adds another layer of organisation and, well, stress.

I’m going down on Saturday, the race is on Sunday and I’m coming back on Monday. I have my train ticket £6.60, resisting the temptation to get first class, which at £25, isn’t that expensive, but for a 50min train ride, not worth the extra expense. Hotel is the boutique Artist Residence. Let’s hope the room actually looks somewhat like the picture on their website.

in habitat , objects of desire |


I go on the Metropolitan Line every day, it’s the one that goes all the way to Amersham and Watford. The trains are large and long, almost like regular railway trains and not part of the tube. TFL are gradually replacing the older trains with new ones — those are nice, bright and just seem so…modern. As part of the refurbishment, they have rescued a limited number of the distinctive luggage racks. They are not new, but

approximately 50 years old and will bear the patina of service to millions of Londoners. Scratches, abrasions, slight buckles and dents are all part of the authenticity of a decommissioned original.

I like them, and can think of where one can fit in my own home. If it weren’t for the £250 price tag, I’d seriously consider getting one.

in being healthy |



5.01km 28.54min 5.46min/km (9.17 min/mi)

Apologies that I’m so obsessed with my running and training. Only 4.5 weeks to go, I have to be obsessive. With the iffy ankle I substituted the planned 5-miler with a simple 5k around the track.

It felt good from the get go, I wasn’t afraid to go faster because I knew I won’t run out of stamina. That’s the whole purpose of the training; having done 20 miles on Sunday, a 5k should be a doddle. Splits look good. Fastest km at 5:39 is 9:05min/mi pace. And the ankle held, I didn’t even notice it was stiff.

in being healthy |


Woke up with sore thighs, which was expected; and a left ankle that felt like it was slightly sprained. Not badly, just that range of movement was restricted. Hopefully it’ll go away in a couple of days, otherwise I’ll need to get those ankle braces that Andy Murray has been wearing.

in being healthy |


nike+ didn’t pick up first 3km: 32.2km (20mi) 3:55:28hr 7:18min/km (11.46min/mi)

It was a nice day, sunny with some winds. I was all prepared. Time for the first 20-miler of this marathon training cycle. The usual route down to Hyde Park. I had planned on coming home after 13-ish miles, replenishing water and then going over to Regent’s Park, but it turned out I was doing fine and I stayed at the park for the entire run.

Mid-week running with the backpack must be working, it felt great to be running with just the water belt. The nike+ didn’t pick up the first 3km so I was relying on the garmin. Took 3 walk breaks at 8, 13 and 17 miles. May be about 2 mins each time. Those breaks were good, I ate a banana, a gu and a cereal bar and my legs felt rested. By the time I thought about my rapidly emptying powerade bottle I was already only 4 miles from home.

Pace surprised me in the nicest way possible. I was tired the last mile, but looked at the watch and realised I was going to break 4hrs. I think it’s the first time I’ve done that for 20miles, I’m pretty chuffed.

in eating and drinking |


RM and I had lunch at l’atelier de joel robuchon at covent garden. Chef Robuchon calls this restaurant a theatre of senses, and we had high expectations of this 2 michelin star place. We picked the more casual ground floor counter concept, where we could sit facing the open kitchen watching the chefs at work. We’d seen this on masterchef, and can’t imagine the amount of stress the chefs come under — to perform, cook, plate right in front of the customers. The head chef looked pretty young, but she was very poised and organised. Even when telling her sous chefs off, she wasn’t shouty or anything.

ldnjoelrobuchon015lamb ldnjoelrobuchon021pear

I got there first and ordered a cocktail while waiting — vodka with beetroot, cranberry juice and ginger. We both decided on the 3-course set lunch with wine pairing £45, which turned out to be pretty good value for money. We had an amuse bouche of foie gras cream with foam. For starter I had chestnut velouté, which was a warm creamy soup of chestnut and celeriac — I didn’t have a chance to take a picture before the waiter poured the soup onto the filling. It was creamy and felt very decadent.

Mains I had confit saddle of lamb on haricot beans. Very rustic, but with a classy presentation and cooking. The lamb was fall-off-the-bone tender and perfectly seasoned. We got a small pot of cauliflower cheese as side dish. For dessert I had pear with chocolate mousse and pear sorbet. Hard to go wrong, again very delicious.

2 michelin star restaurants like this, we expected to see tiny portions with more flair than substance. We were pleasantly surprised. While not huge steakhouse-like portions, it was not stingy and we were both full afterwards. The wine pairings were great, and at an extra £10-ish over the regular menu price, it’s a bargain for 3 glasses of wine. I’d definitely come back, and take Mum and mm when they visit. They also do tasting menus for over £100, but I’m happy enough with the set lunch.

in eating and drinking |


So SM, AT and I went back to princi for dinner. We thought it would be really crowded but we got lucky, it was still early and we got seats easily. Started with aperitifs — £7 for a cocktail, a plate of snacks and a small bowl of chips. Not bad. Then we moved onto pizzas and salads for mains and then from the bakery for dessert. I had a chocolate slice that was far too rich. I had some valpolicella and they stuck with beer. Afterwards we found a pub and had a nice drink and chat. They are good friends.

in being healthy |


I’ve been following the training plan pretty closely and seems to have solved the problem of the mid-week run. An 8-mile day is simply running from the office; a 5-mile day is starting at Euston Square station then into Regent’s Park. One loop around inner circle followed by the anti-clockwise part of outer circle to my normal exit. One loop around the track and it’s exactly 8km.

I even have a mini-streak going, and so even too, 5 miles every day. That will end tomorrow cos it’s a rest day.

in techtalk |



So this morning first thing, I logged in, as usual. Every tab loaded except facebook, which gave me a server error. Oh horrors! Immediately I checked on downrightnow which reported likely service disruption. Okay, so no mafia wars. I can live with it.

The most hilarious thing was, downrightnow then got very slow. Someone on twitter remarked that it was slow because everyone was checking on facebook status. What I get out of this is that it’s so easy to check on anything. In the past if a website is down, we’re never sure if it is them or our own connection. That scenario doesn’t apply anymore. One of another of the social sites will have something reported. That’s the power of social media.

in workstuff |

I’ve been in limbo for a few days, waiting for other people to finish their work before I can proceed. The anticipation is frustrating.

in going places |


My friend Carleen posted in her blog (she posted in her blog, that’s already something amazing) about her town, Blue Island. It’s a suburb of Chicago and has history that is really interesting if you dig deeper. I won’t go into it, google is our friend. I do remember my first visit, almost 6 years ago. I had never visited Chicago, everything was fascinating and unusual and new. The tiny unmanned train station, the street she lived on — cute detached houses and pretty front gardens. The fact that it was not that pedestrian-friendly and we drove everywhere.

Everything was so big. What are these giant structures in the middle of the field? To this day I don’t quite understand why water has to be stored in these ginormous tanks perched on top of towers in the middle of a field. Alas, I looked through my flickr account and I never took any pictures of that huge Blue Island one, or the one at Alsip or Merrionette Park that we drive by all the time.

There were tons of grocery stores. The first time I went to one I was flabberghasted by the amount of stuff on these shelves that seemed to stretch miles and miles and miles. The local gas station is called Thornton’s, just like the chain chocolate store in the UK. Pizza came in squares (and is delicious). Drive-thru banking, which always brings the “what? seriously?” when I tell my non-US friends. There’s a street where you have to drive at snail’s pace because a golf cart might suddenly decide to cross the road. Or you might get stuck at a railroad crossing for 20mins while a freight train passes. And cemeteries everywhere!

After that first visit, none of us were sure we’d ever see each other again. It was a long way to travel (28 hours door to door). I believe it is God’s gift that I was able to return (6 times in 2008, talk about extremes), and definitely a blessing to have spent 2 years living there. Being able to bring my parents to visit my Chicago family…there are no words.

For the longest time I got my directions mixed up because google maps had their house in the wrong street. What should be north was south and vice versa. There is a sort of grid system in the south suburbs that should make it easier, but it took me a few years actually until I was able to shake the wrong google map image. Then it was easy. Streets that go east-west increased the further south you go. Vertical roads had a pattern — Western, Kedzie, Pulaski, Cicero. Foreign sounding names that I eventually got to grips with.


What struck me about BI, again and again, was how family-oriented it is. It’s not the Gold Coast with its $1mm apartments, or the West Loop where all the yuppies live, or Belmont or, well, Andersonville, where all the gay hipsters hang out. (I’m not a gay hipster even though I lived in A-ville! Nor a granola-sandal-yoga new age…person, either.) It seems comfortable in its own skin. As Car said, people looked after each other. She already told the story about her lovely neighbour when her grandmother was taken ill. The neighbours surely got used to my car visiting after a while, and after the first few times, somehow I never attracted too much of a second glance. I certainly was fine with walking around during daylight hours. In fact, the last day I was in BI, I walked over to the nearby Aldi’s and then to the ice cream shop and had a very nice ice cream.

Car’s post is about her town. It’s not my town, Blue Island. But while I was living in Chicago it was sort of mine too. I don’t really have “my” town because I don’t have any affinity or loyalty or emotions about one particular place. “Where is home?” people ask me. “Where my furniture is,” that’s my answer. My life has been too strange and transient and a little disorientating. I will count Blue Island as one of the towns and cities I’ve hung my hat, so to speak.

in eating and drinking |


I bought a whole side of salmon 1kg, half price at £10, a great bargain. Instead of slicing into individual steaks, I baked the whole piece in the oven at 180°C, with butter and fresh lemon thyme. Ready in 25mins. I can get 8 very generous portions out of this, fantastic.

in eating and drinking , how the day went |


Met SM and his wife for dim sum. I’ve started to take people who are unfamiliar with dim sum to New World. Not that I’m impressed with their food, service or décor. It’s just that it’s one of very few remaining places with trolley service. It’s always great to show people choices and let them pick the dishes they want to try. We had lots, including lotus rice, all the usual dim sum and crispy fried noodles. Beer too. £15 each is very good value.

We didn’t have dessert, instead walked up to Soho and had cappuccino at algerian coffee. This place was established in 1887, and is a treasure trove of all things coffee, tea and chocolate. Fresh, organic espresso or cappuccino from an authentic coffee machine, oh the smells. I don’t drink coffee, and I had a cappuccino that I thought was very good.

Onward, and we walked along Wardour Street towards Oxford Street. Wow, so many new food and drink places. We found ourselves at princi — pizza, salads and all manners of scrumptious cakes. Semi-self service. I had a ricotta cheesecake, SM had a chocolate cake and AT had a passionfruit cheesecake. Love the design and concept of the place.

We said our goodbyes and I went to Waitrose at John Lewis. Bought vegetables and a bottle of Caol Isa cask strength that is apparently discontinued and therefore discounted to £25.

in techtalk |


Bandwidth is getting used up faster than I liked, even though I disabled comments sitewide and added the offending IP & domains to the protection control panel. Looking at the stats last night, that did nothing to keep the spammers out, so I emailed my ISP support. Ack, how could I forget? Using the control panel doesn’t work, it has to be done using the .htaccess file. Suresupport kindly added the few IPs I mentioned as well as the awful 163data domain.

It looks like all of this spam is from China, one of the worst spam producing countries. (I was surprised the US is #1 and twice as bad as China, I guess it’s email spam and not this dreadul comment spam.) A little research told me that I could block entire countries by IP. This is exactly what I’m looking for. I copied the entire IP block allocated to China into my .htaccess and denied them all. Yes, it means my website cannot be accessed from anywhere in China, ie if mm and I go to her flat for holiday (moot point, she has no internet there). But it can’t be helped. I’ve been monitoring the stats all day and it seems to have stopped the spam attack.

in techtalk |


An unexpected consequence of the comment spam attack was that the website exceeded the 20GB monthly bandwidth limit. A normal month, I’m probably at 2GB, and the whole of 2011 totalled 30GB, so this was a big spike. I didn’t even realise it until when I logged in a couple of days ago and saw the error message. Ouch. I had to wait till today to get access back and the first thing I did was to disable comments sitewide. Then it was a matter of going through the stats, picking out the offending domains and IPs and adding them to the blocked list. There are honestly too many, and I’m not sure blocking will do the trick. I’ll have to be extra vigilant. And make time to upgrade to MT5.


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