January 2013 Archives

in eating and drinking |


I have 10,000 airmiles expiring today, so I was searching to redeem those miles. Last year I exchanged 15,000 miles for a bottle of Ardbeg 10yr plus a tasting glass. Initially I was tempted again but decided I have far too many bottles of whisky at home. Besides, the Ardbegs I really want are Uigeadail or Alligator. The standard 10yr is really nice, but the others are nicer.

What I did end up getting for 8,000 miles was a Riedel Swirl set of 4 wine glasses and a decanter. The glasses look good and are perfect for everyday drinking. I have a selection of traditional stemmed and contemporary unstemmed glasses, and these are a great addition to the collection. I don’t have a wine decanter, so this is a plus.

While browsing the food and dining section of the miles catalogue, I saw a bunch of Manny O wines available for only 3,500 miles. I’d never heard of this brand of wines, and my first reaction was that they are plonk. A little googling revealed that it’s a custom wine blender from the Philippines, of all places, that have won some awards. I thought the rosé was interesting but it was out of stock so I got the 2009 Sumiler from Yecla, Spain — apparently from 40 year old vines. There are 2 bottles in the set, let’s see if they are any good.

in how the day went |


I went to bed before 9pm and was out as soon as my head hit the pillow. Woke up for a couple of hours at 3am, which was to be expected. By the time I opened my eyes again it was 2pm. Wow. Sleepyhead.

I’d cleared the fridge but there’s still a lot of food in the freezer and in the cupboard, but I just had my usual tea before heading out to the market and the supermarket. Got fruit and veg at the street market and did a big enough shop at the supermarket to get free delivery — coke zero, wine, comfort, toilet tissue, olive oil, campbell’s soup all add up.

Met mm for a glass of wine so we could update each other on what’s been happening the past 10 days. She had to go visit a friend’s mother at hospital so she couldn’t stay for dinner. I got the bus home and watched tv for a while. I know there are 800 pics waiting for me to sort out, I’ll try to get to them soon.

in going places |


Long layover at Dubai, and in the middle of the night. At least there was enough time and we weren’t rushed. I hopped into the duty free and bought a bottle of Dalmore 18 that also came with a bag. Explored the other shops. There’s a Mcdonalds there selling chicken big mac. The food shop had the usual chocolate, biscuits and nuts but also milk and cheese. Lots of people waiting for planes there, seems to be a big hub. There’s a flight to Manchester and another to Gatwick. I wish I were on those.

in going places |


We had to leave our luggage outside our door by 1am and check out of our cabin early. After a long leisurely breakfast we headed to the theatre to wait for our turn to disembark. It was pretty boring, waiting. And then we were off, and had to claim our luggage from the carousel and find our bus to the airport. I guess they had to stagger the process to avoid overcrowding, but it just seemed to drag on and on. We were too early at the airport and had to wait for the Emirates desk to open. After that, it was getting on the plane to Dubai and on our way home.

So, end of my first cruise. Interesting experience. What I liked — different ports every day, watching the ship slowly arrive and leave was mesmerising. The food was okay, the ship was pretty. What I didn’t like — far too many mainland tourists, every drink had to be paid for and the rip off excursions. I brought a couple of bottles of coke with me, and managed to buy them at convenience stores at the ports, so I was sorted.

in going places |

med573marboat med590marboats

After 3 days in Italy, we come to France. And I knew there’s a reason I like France, and especially this part of the country, in Provence. It’s like coming home. We didn’t venture this far south last summer, but next time we’re in Provence I think we’ll stay in Aix and then I’ll get to take mm to Marseille. Sigh.

Shuttle from the ship to town was €15 return. The bus stop was just around the corner from le vieux port, and even though it was sunday, there was an interesting fish market underway. Fresh fish from boats that were sold a meter from where the boats docked, how fresh is that?

med612marcoast med640marnotredame I would have liked to walk, but after so many days, the rest of the group was tired. Opted for the open top bus. I got on, asked for tickets for 1 adult and 4 seniors, and the driver charged us for 5 seniors. Hahaha!! In this occasion, I don’t mind being a senior, if it meant saving a few euros. The bus took us along the scenic, if very windy, coast and up the hill to the Notre Dame de la Garde. Beautiful cathedral and beautiful views of the city. Glad we took the bus, would have been more difficult to wait for the regular bus.

We went to the other side of the port to hunt for lunch. Even though the restaurants looked quite touristy, they were busy and we found a decent one. The set menus at L’Ecailler were only €12-15, and for that we got 3 courses, can’t complain. I had mussels, bouillabaisse and lemon tart. The fish in the bouillabaise had a lot of bones, so may be I should have had something else. Tasty enough though. Ordered a 50ml bottle of rosé for the table which also went down well. The best thing was I understood almost 90% of the menu and was able to translate and order for the group.

Got instructions for a small supermarket, more food shopping. Tried to find lavender but wasn’t very successful. More excuse to return to Provence. Got the 4pm shuttle back to the ship. Finished packing and went on the balcony watching other people come onboard. The last shuttle was 5pm and there was only 1 passenger, everyone was safe and punctual. I like watching the ship leave every port; the pilot would come up in the fast small boat and then we were off.

Last dinner at MDR — moules, salad, bean & pasta soup, veal, bread pudding and a carafe of house red.

in going places |

med483genoarise med494genoaferrari

Absolutely gorgeous sunrise at Genoa, was watching it on our balcony. I’m quite happy we had a balcony cabin, I enjoyed watching us dock and leave. We didn’t join any tour today, and our friends were tired so it was just parents and me. As soon as we stepped off the boat we were accosted by the open top bus tour at €10 per person. Grabbed their map and I said I saw a sign for the metro so let’s look for that first. It’s only literally across the road from the dock! For €1.50, it’s only one line with a few stops.

The centre of town at Piazza de Ferrari was quiet early in the morning and we ended up walking around in circles. Found a charity stall selling oranges and honey. We asked about market and was given instructions to go to the mercato orientale. On the way we found panettone on sald €15 for 2, yay! The market was not a disappointment. Easily spent an hour looking at the stalls and being annoyed we could only buy spices and a little fruit and veg. Lots of produce and seafood.

Found a discount supermarket and a Coop (wow, remember them?) to stock up on chocolate, more balsamico and I bought a bottle of grappa. Rested at Mcdonalds before metro back to ship. Again, they didn’t bother with my grappa. Late lunch, rest and more reading. Italian night at MDR — cold cuts, salad, osso bucco with risotto, steamed veg, rum baba, lemon sorbet. I had a glass of chianti and limoncello in the souvenir MSC glass.

in going places |

med383vatican med456rometraianei

The ship docked at the port of Civitavecchia, which was just a port. We hopped on an excursion that took us 1.5hrs to Rome, transport only. The coach drop off was conveniently located next to the Vatican, which was a lovely as I remembered. Could have spent a lot more time inside. There were a couple of chapels that didn’t allow photography, for praying only, and they were the prettiest of chapels. Sent a postcard to my niece, with Vatican stamp and all.

med416romemkt med421romebrushetta

Asked at the tourist information for the way to a street market. Ended up at one, which I think wasn’t the one we were told, but was still nice. Covered market selling fruits, veg, pasta, dried goods. Bought polenta, porcini mushroom and dates. Had lunch at the snack bar inside the market — simple sandwiches and pasta.

Took the subway and continued our walking tour of Rome, hit Spanish steps, Trevi fountain, wedding cake building and Colosseun in quick succession. Subway back to Vatican and back on the coach for transport back to the ship. Our coach was one of the last to arrive back, almost 6.30pm. Late dinner in MDR again — rice ball, salad, fish soul, beef roll with cous cous, cannoli and a sugarless ice cream.

in going places |

med320palmkt med334palchurch

Palermo today. The ship docked right next to town so no need for excursion. It was a rainy and dreary day so it spoiled a little. We got right off the ship and got a map at the tourist information booth, and another map from a hop-on-hop-off stop. Headed straight for the street market. Very nice! Lots of fresh fruits, vegs, meats, fish. Just a shame we couldn’t buy any of it. We did end up at a shop that sold spices, sweets, oils, vinegars and such. Mum asked the young man if he knew somewhere we could grab a snack and he directed us to the café next door, run by his mother and sister. Had calamari, potatoes, pizza and gratin. €20 for 5 people.

Visited small church opposite, very pretty. Then walked to the cathedral, which was actually not as pretty. There was more walking, and most of the group was tired so they headed back to the ship. Mum and I had a final bout of shopping at a deli near the dock, bought limoncello and balsamic. The ship’s policy is that they take your alcoholic purchases away and give it back to you when you leave, but they didn’t touch our purchases so all was well.

Read a bit in our cabin and then it was another gala evening, which we didn’t know about. Marlin salad, tagliatelle with veal, grilled king prawns, baked alaska and a chef parade.

in going places |

med185tunismosque med201tuncarpet

I had been looking forward to today, but ended up feeling ripped off. The cruise offers lots of shore excursions, and we thought that this was the one location we should join, because none of us had been to Tunis. For €70 they would take us to the souk at Medina and then to a pretty Mediterranean fishing village.

I had visions of mountains of spices and coffee at the souk, but we were just taken to tourist trap shops — a perfume place, a carpet place that also sold tacky souvenirs. Seems like that particular corner of the souk was for tourists only. Even walking outside the designated carpet souvenir shop, all we could find were more souvenir shops and gold shops. Nothing of interest. Where are the spices?

med243sidiview med241house

Then it was on the coach again for a 20 min ride to the village of Sidi bou Said. The village was picturesque, with its whitewashed houses and uniform blue windows and doors. But again, very touristy with pushy sellers of souvenirs. A tiny mixed pack of herbs and spices was €7. There were isolated spots of beauty, thankfully. The sky was gloriously blue and the sea and the view was fantastic. Look away from the main street and the houses are postcard perfect. Even the orange trees were photogenic.

Late lunch on the ship, more comfort food. Found the gym and ran a little. Only 25mins allowed per person, so only 3km. Dinner at MDR — cod, salad, awful penne not homemade, pork escalope, clafoutis, ice cream. Went to theatre for a show of mediocre tribute singing, altogether a day that had so much promise but ended up falling a little flat.

in going places |


Today was an at sea day whilst we sailed from Barcelona to Tunis. Good day for rest after the long flight. Up early at 7.30am after a pretty good night’s sleep. Big breakfast at the buffet — sausage, bacon, ham, eggs, baked beans, baked apple, waffle, tea. Did some walking around the ship. Can’t find the gym but there’s a sort of walking trail around the top deck.

Lunch at the other dining room — salad, cheese croquettes, five cheese penne, turkey schnitzel, pistachio ice cream. Gonna gain 10 pounds on this cruise. Afternoon rested in cabin, started reading Sea Legs, and finally connecting the dots for some of the terms and cruise experience.

Gala evening, supposed to dress up. Okay, no jeans for me. Free cocktails at the bar and chatted with a few UK guests. The ship is mainly Italian, German, Japanese and mainlanders so not so many English speakers. The captain never showed up so we headed to dinner. Roast veal salad, ravioli, lamb, pear in red wine and I ordered a pannacotta for the table to share.

in going places |

med003ship med041stairs

Sunday night I left home at 8pm for a 12.35am flight. Early yes, but because it was a group ticket I couldn’t check in online and besides, my parents and friends H&F were getting to the airport early too. I did not expect to be all checked in and on the train by 8.20pm.

It’s the first time I’d flown Emirates. Being at the back in steerage class is pretty awful actually. Watched tons of 30 Rock, tried to sleep, arrived at Dubai at 5.45am. The plane was parked all the way out at the edge of the airport and took 10 mins on the shuttle to get to the terminal. Then it was walking to the other side of the terminal only to get on a shuttle again to somewhere remote to board another plane. Dislike. Impressions of the terminal — crowded, pretty run-down, definitely not what I expected of Dubai.

Watched even more 30 Rock, had an interesting mezze breakfast, before finally arriving at Barcelona. Flew past the port and thought I saw our ship. Shuttle direct to the port meant no chance of exploring Barcelona at all, this was one of the biggest regrets of this trip.

Embarkation to the MSC Splendida was straightforward and we were in our cabin by mid-afternoon. Or should I say stateroom. It felt more like a cabin. Like a Best Western hotel room, small compact bathroom and a balcony. I had the sofa bed and my parents had the main bed.

Had tea at the self-service buffet, explored the ship a little, then went to the emergency drill. The buffet was okay, filling but not exciting food. The ship is huge — several pools and whirlpools at the top deck, shiny atrium with crystal staircase, long corridors with plenty of cabins. A little drama when we sat down for dinner — we’d been seated with other people in a table of 9 and we wanted our own table. Food was okay, I had salad, risotto, beef and ice cream. There are 2 fixed time seatings for dinner, we had the first one at 6pm. The menu had 6-7 courses and we could order all courses or just a few. Had to order water with our dinner, and we had a bottle of gewurz too. There are drinks packages available, but no one in my party drinks so I’m going to have to no think about the lack of wine and beer all trip.

in going places |

So tonight I fly out with my parents and a couple of family friends to Barcelona and will join the MSC Splendida for a cruise around the western Mediterranean. The routing is: Barcelona -> Tunis -> Palermo -> Rome (Civitavecchia) -> Genoa -> Marseille -> Barcelona. Apparently my parents sometimes go on holiday with Auntie F and Uncle H, who are both retired and have been our family friends for decades. I have never been on a cruise, nor have I travelled with both my parents and people my parents’ age so it will be interesting. Or, in other words, a test on my patience. The ship will sail at night and dock during the day, so there’s a few hours every day to go onshore. We intend not to join the official excursions; we know Italy and France well enough, and it seems fairly straightforward in Tunis.

I’ll bring my kindle and even though wifi will be costly, I’m bringing the laptop, if only to download pictures. Never want to repeat the experience of losing a camera towards the end of a trip, like I did when mm and I went to Provence and Paris last summer. If I manage to get online, it’s a bonus but I’m thinking I’ll be out of contact. Like I said, test on patience.

The online reviews for this cruise ship and cruise line are mixed. It’s an Italian company, so most of the staff and probably customers are non-English speaking. There are negative reviews of nickel and diming, which I guess is only to be expected since the cost of the cruise is pretty reasonable. They don’t serve tap water, and tea/coffee after meals are extra. I brought my travel kettle so we can boil water in our cabin. Most of our meals will be at the buffet or may be we will try the restaurant. There are also a couple of gala nights, and supposedly there is a dress code. Well, all I have are a couple of shirts.

I’m trying to contain my expectations — going in with no, or lower expectations means things can only look up, right? Check back in 9 days.

in eating and drinking |


Doesn’t this look nice? Fresh mixed vegetables. Carrots, mushroom, beans.

in being healthy |


Huh. I’ve been doing weights using the trx recently, and almost every time I’ve felt dizzy and slightly nauseous afterwards. It’s weird. I don’t feel like I’m over-exerting myself, not more than when I was using actual weights. It seems to be a mixture of new type of exercise, breathing or lack of hydration. Have to be careful going forward.

in being healthy |


13.02km 1.45.58hr 8.08min/km (13.06min/mi)

I don’t know if it’s lack of practice or that I only had a bowl of soup beforehand, today’s run was hard work. Started off fine, then around the halfway mark, I ran out of steam. Luckily I had some sports beans with me, but they only helped for a bit. At around 10k my knee started to hurt. Sigh.The last 1km was slow, and the last 400m was pretty much all walking.

in eating and drinking |

snakesoup claypotfroglegrice

Met up with mm for lunch of soup and rice. Sounds normal enough? Ha!! The soup is thick and savoury, made with snake, chicken, mushroom and topped with chrysanthemum leaves and crunchy crackers. And yes, snake tastes like chicken — a little tougher chicken, as if it’d been boiled for too long. Tasty, very tasty.

The rice was cooked directly in a claypot. We ordered two, the first was topped with frog’s legs and more mushroom, the second was snake liver and fish swim bladder. Probably scary even just reading about it, right? The frog’s legs were our favourites, and they taste like very tender chicken. The snake liver and fish bladder were okay, a little crunchy, as if they needed a bit more braising. The rice was almost burnt, so the bottom is like crunchy rice cracker. Nice.

in eating and drinking |

mincedporktower steamedfish

Food I’ve had recently. This was at a local restaurant where the service was quick and, to be honest, not very good. Food was freshly made though. Steamed minced pork in a tower, with a salted duck egg. The pork was soft, juicy and not oily. Perfect with plain rice.

The second dish was steamed fish. Just cooked, with a nice sauce. Another great dish with plain rice. We ordered clams also, but as part of the bad service, it never arrived. In a way it was okay because we were pretty full with the pork and fish.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |

I was watching 2 different Jamie Oliver programs. The first was his food revolution program where he was in an American elementary school and kids couldn’t even recognise a fresh potato, or tomato, or eggplant, or any fresh vegetable. They could all recognise french fries and fried chicken though. The second was an old Naked Chef program where he visited his old school in Essex. He brought out some buffalo mozzarella and asked the class if they recognised it, and most of the class said yes.

The point? It is a sad state of affairs in the US, where kids have never seen nor come into contact with fresh food. Is it typical? I’m no expert, but anecdotally, I can say that America is where I have found the greasiest, most processed, hugest portions of food as well as the least adventurous eaters. I must say, I’m not immune to a big steak or good pizza myself, but there has to be a balance between fast food and fresh, home-cooked food. And NO EXCUSE for parents for bringing up kids who can’t even recognise a potato.

It’s slightly better in the UK, though it seems that the trend is alarming skewing towards obesity caused by fast and processed food. At least people in the UK are more accepting of non-British food. Chicken tikka masala is the national dish, after all (and I say this with sarcasm because it’s certainly not a true Indian dish.) McDonald’s in France feels less like fast food than in America, it’s still McDonald’s.

Which brings me to another part of the world, where palates are developed early in life and food is for enjoyment, not just sustenance. On buzzfeed recently there was an article about a Japanese toddler called Rino who loves trying new food. The youtube channel is called Rino which eats world various dishes and ignoring the slight Engrishness of the descriptions, every single video on there is worth watching. Repeatedly. The construct is simple,

a few shots of food prep — pad thai in one video, a Spanish tortilla in another — then many many shots of Rino shoveling the food in her mouth, usually with total delight

There is no need to understand Japanese, the delight is easy to see. Watch this one where she tries pho. At 2:10 when she picks up a tail-on shrimp and takes out the tail. Then at 3:40 when she claims her meal as her own. And good manners too, at 5:58 when she says thank you. She’s 3 years old and other videos in the channel show her trying bibimbap, tiramisu and tortilla. Very cute.

in how the day went |


In the morning I did a fairly deep clean, the sort that involved dusting the top of cabinets and vacuuming behind furniture. More strenuous than normal cleaning; with all the furniture moving I was sweating up a storm. At least the flat is cleaner now. The new lighter floors means I can see every single speck of dust, which bothers me more than it used to. May be our standards of housekeeping change over the years.

Weather was nice, the sun was out and it wasn’t too cold. Went out for a walk, and ended up walking for over 2 hours. Went to this store called Gateway, which I think is trying to emulate Costco — they even have Kirkland branded stuff, bulk buy sizes of cereal and everything is displayed in a warehouse-like basement space. Prices are high though, higher than supermarkets, probably due to shipment. More attracting expats who miss home than bargain hunters. Things like A&W root beer, jello, cranberry sauce, steak rub seasoning that isn’t available at normal stores.

The rest of the day was spent watching a bunch of Man vs Wild episodes. My Sis gave me a flint and a credit card sized survival tool, she’s always on about survival in the wilderness. I keep thinking, it’s more likely that we’d need urban survival tools rather than in the wilderness. Like if there’s a natural disaster or alien attacks like in the movies. It is worth packing an emergency bag, time to do some research.

in arts and media |

I was watching some music programs on tv, where a young musician was singing a well known song from the 1980s. The presenter asked him how he knew about the song and he said that it’s one of his father’s favourites. Ack!! Those are the songs from my childhood, and I realised that the singer wasn’t even born when I was listening to those music. Remember making your own mixed tapes and giving them to people or playing them in the car? I still have half a box of cassette tapes in my possession, I don’t even know if I can find a cassette player anywhere anymore. Feeling old. And then I read an interview with Stevie Nicks. It’s 40 years since Buckingham Nicks. Holy moly. Definitely feeling old. Anyway, I just had to go listen to some old Mac songs.

in being healthy |


8.27km 1.17.53hr 9.29min/km (15.16min/mi)

There’s a route that goes uphill all the way from my home to the Peak. I hadn’t tried it before so it’s about time I did. It really was a very steep incline. The start was 1-in-7 and there were some parts that were steeper. And no barriers either. Needless to say I wasn’t able to run all the way up, there was a lot of walking involved. Once I got up to the Peak, I ran around the relatively flat circular trail before heading back the way I came. Going down was pretty tough too, lots of pressure on the calves because of the downhill motion. It’s a nice trail, a bit too quiet and isolated in places, it’s best to go during the day when there are people around.

in evidence of my insanity |


I followed the exercises on the trx dvd, 2 x 30 seconds for 9 exercises, and got a better idea of how to use the suspension training system. Didn’t feel I exerted myself too much, but then got hit by dizziness. Yikes, not good. Probably a bout of low blood pressure or lack of blood sugar, so I ate some biscuits and heated up a can of cream of mushroom soup. Sat watching tv for a couple of hours and it got a little better.

Sis came to pick up her chairs and being outside really helped. We went to the restaurant next to her place, all 3 of us had steak. It was happy hour so I chanced a beer. This place is famous for peanuts, not the unlimited supply, but how they encourage customers to throw the discarded shells all over the floor. The steak hopefully replenished nutrients, I’m not sure I’ve been eating all that well lately.

in in the news |


The first Tube journey took place150 years ago today. We complain about it, of course. Crowded, old carriages, constant delays, stifling hot in the summer. But its importance is illustrated by the facts: over 1.1million passengers made 1.1billion journeys per year. And the Jubilee Line held up during the Olympics, phew.


The iconic map was based on circuit diagrams, and designer Yuri Suzuki, as part of the Designers in Residence program at the Design Museum, made a working radio with circuits that look like the tube map. Very cool, very intricate.


in being healthy |

My Sis bought me a trx a while ago, but I only just got round to trying it out. They call themselves a suspension training system, which is basically a glorified name for resistance bands. Initially I couldn’t get it properly anchored at the door, they sell a couple of pieces of accessories that did the job but I don’t have them. Came across a brilliant method of using just a towel to act as anchor. Works like a charm.

The system came with a dvd and an instruction booklet. There are also tons of videos on youtube. I did a few basic exercises, to get the feel of the system. Chest press, fly, row, pushup and such like. It feels different than working out with weights. I only did 2 sets of 12, but I wasn’t breaking out in sweat so I think I can up the intensity and the number of sets.

It’s very convenient, and the exercises range from fairly easy to difficult. I like it. By just changing where I put my feet I can make an exercise harder. I need to practice getting my feet into the hoops for the floor exercises. A nice change-up to my regular weights.

in habitat |


I had a maintenance person come in to replace the seal on the washing machine door. The machine is 3 years old but there’s a lot of grunge and mould on the seal cos the tenants didn’t take as much care of it as they should have. The cause of this common phenomenon? Using only cold wash, modern bleach-free washing powder, liquid detergent and keeping the door shut all the time are the main culprits. Now I know to do a hot wash once a month, and wash bedding at higher temperatures. I already leave the door open to air every time the cycle finishes.

I tried cleaning the seal with vinegar, one of the 1001 uses for vinegar known to man. I even combined it with sodium bicarbonate. But I’m not satisfied with the results. So a new seal it is. It’s out of warranty so I had to pay for it, sigh.

in esoteric meditations , photography is life |


The day after twelfth night is Epiphany. Do I have any profound thoughts? Nope. None at all. Aside from about 40mins out running hill repeats, I stayed home all day. I sorted some more pictures, that’s it. Reminds me, this is one of my all time favourites, and it wasn’t photoshopped or anything. I took this at the Chicago air and water show 2010; in the background are the Blue Angels doing spectacular air acrobatics, in the foreground is a seagull. One of those perfect moments. Seems appropriate for a day like today.

in eating and drinking |

nybbmm02kilbasa nybbmm03crumble

If I had Christmas decorations it’s the day to take them down, it’s twelfth night. Anyway, I didn’t have decorations. But mm did come round for our New Year celebration meal. Because of traffic jam she didn’t get here till almost 3pm so I wouldn’t call it lunch.

We started with jamón ibérico and cantaloupe melons; the ham we bought at an expo at Christmas. Easy peasy starter. For mains it was also easy, we made inroads into the stockpile of sausages I had in the freezer, these were from Prague. Ah, memories.

For dessert she requested apple crumble so I made that. Added some cranberries I had left over, I think adding berries to apple crumble gives it a nice kick and makes it look more appealing. As per instructions from the guardian I made the crumble mix in the morning, sprinkled on some water and put in the fridge before baking.

Ham from Spain, sausages from Czech Republic followed by a very British dessert. A European New Year meal. We opened the bottle of Kavalan whisky from Taiwan, but also tried a drop of Edradour and Ardbeg.

in being healthy |

I do weights with my dumbbells and barbell. Bench using 2 dumbbells at 20lbs each, which wasn’t too smooth when I started the weights routine again. But as I’m getting better and my form smoother, I think that it’s time to add another plate. I’m so pleased I bought these quicklock interchangeable dumbbells, I can add in increments of 2.5 or 5lbs. This guy’s set goes up to 160lbs, my set only goes up to 75 but it’s plenty enough for me. He is also doing bench presses with 2x80=160lbs total. Yikes. Going from 40 total to 50 total is progress enough for me.

in eating and drinking |

pizzaopera01meal pizzaopera03plate

I saw a photo and article about a ridiculous pizza from Pizza Hut called the cheesy opera which consisted of a thin crust pizza on top of a twisted cheese crust. I went to their site and saw that I had a credit card offer that included the pizza, some pasta, a couple of sides and sodas.

People make New Year resolutions like go to the gym or eat more veg. So I bucked the trend and thought, why not try this ridiculous thing as an experiment. I can split the food into enough meals for several days. It’s frugal.

Turned out, if I ordered online, I get even more: an extra pasta and more soda. The total of $298 is equivalent to US$38 or £25. I got: smoked ham pizza, clam spaghetti, chicken pasta, seafood rice, meatballs, spicy chicken wings and 6 cans of diet pepsi (oh yes, I ordered diet pepsi so there’s at least one “healthy” item on the list). It was delivered on time at 12.30pm and I spread it all out on my whole coffee table.

It’s called cheesy opera, but it’s a translation from “stage” — the concept is that it’s like in the theatre, with pretty decorations on a smaller base sitting on a larger base. One thing I had forgotten, is that portion sizes are different than in the US. It wasn’t as large as I imagined, about 13” in diameter. The smaller base was the size of a large tortilla shell. The twisted cheese crust was rather flat. Manageable quantity of topping. All in all, it was an attempt to market an ordinary pizza hut pizza with a slightly different name and concept, and it tasted of generic pizza hut pizza too. I had 2 slices; I ran 7.5k today so I had the appetite.

There was a lot of pasta that came with the meal. I tried the clam spaghetti in black pepper sauce, it was baked and the pasta wasn’t overdone. Quite rich and stodgy though, I had about 1/4 of the portion. The rest of the pasta and the meatballs went straight to the freezer.

Would I order it again? Probably not. Chicago has ruined me for deep dish, and around town there are better pizzas available.

in being healthy , objects of desire |


When I’m training, I try to rotate between 3 pairs of shoes. I’ve been using just 2 for a while, so it’s quite exciting to “open” a third. Nike dual fusion I got on sale. Will it make me faster? Probably not, but it’s orangey-red and really bright.

in going places , how the day went , on the relationship front |


Didn’t sleep very well, ended up getting up and reading. Sigh, unfamiliar bed at mm’s. We didn’t get up till 10.30am. Had brunch of bratwurst and fried eggs, I played on her mbp and she practiced piano for a bit. Leisurely headed out to catch the ferry to the “opposite side” — a sort of traditional fishing village that served lots of seafood. Nice view of the boats moored in the typhoon shelter.

Caught a minibus into town, aimlessly walked around, then found another ferry to take us back. Dinner at a market restaurant, very very busy but very very good food — golden prawns, stir fried squid thai style, vegetables, fresh fish congee. I ordered a beer, which came served in a chilled bowl. Heh.


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