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in challenges , random words |


Task #15 of 101.1001 is to complete nano 2015. Got to 50k on day 15, but to truly complete means having it validated on the nanosite and getting the winner’s badge. Validation started today, and I validated at 52,219. Scrivener gives me 52,282 and google docs 52,199—there’s always a discreprency when using different tools.

There’s an achievement badge for updating wordcount 30 days in a row, so I’ve been writing a few hundred words a day to keep it going. I’ll try to remember to continue until the 30th. I think badges reset every year so I’m not entirely sure why I’m so keen to get the badge. I suspect it’s OCD, that I can’t bear to have one greyed out badge amongst the entire set.

in challenges , random words |


6297 words | 50345 total

Done. I’m surprised and happy about finishing on day 15. I barely managed the goal 2k during the first week (blue vs red on chart). Once I got some peace and quiet and am mostly over jetlag it got better (blue line growing exponentially). Did a big push today, and the characters helped. Resolved a big conflict and made a lot of progress in the relationship. These are good characters, I quite like them. There is a good crew of side characters too. Originally I didn’t think this story is publishable, now I think there are possibilities.

If novels were 50k in length, I can type in THE END. But they are not, so I’m giving the characters another adventure. A change in location, trying to find a little conflict, developing the relationship further, happy ending. I say this every year, that I’ll try to contine writing until the story is finished vs stopping at 50k, but I never do. Let’s see.

The traditional statistical part of the yay, 50k post:

  • 50,345 words in 15 days = average 3,356 per day
  • highest wordcount day = day 15 at 6,297 words
  • lowest wordcount day = day 03 at 1,305 words — I was surprised I got any words in, that was the day of my flight
  • dares used = 1 — Mr Ian Woon only, didn’t even look at the dares thread
  • total nano years = 11
  • lifetime nano words = 568,301
  • finishing on day 15 is the average finish day
  • quickest finish = 10 days (2004)
  • slowest finish = 23 days (2011)

Validation is from the 20th this year. Oh, remember the book I was reading? I got distracted by #paris news cycle, I finished nano before I finished the book. Wrist pain update: painful from the first day, relieved by wearing brace all day and using the smaller foam roller on hand, wrist and arm.

in challenges , random words |


3633 words | 44048 total

Woke up to the sad news of the tragic terrorist attack in Paris. So awful. Spent the morning glued to the livefeed from the guardian and NYT (they took down the paywall) as well as twitter. Hence no writing got done.

The target was to get to minimum 2000, so am happy that I found more. It’s a day off for the MCs, They started the day with declarations of love (yay!) and then spent the day touring a chocolate factory (yay!) and more kissing. Going okay.

in challenges , random words |


5096 words | 40415 total

For most of the day I had the flat to myself. Distracted with reading and cooking. Just managed to squeak past 5k.

The thing about the middle third of a novel is, there never seems to be enough material to go around. I can’t just have one conflict, one suspicious act, then it all gets resolved straightaway. Have to drag it out, have more discussions, more layers.

Today is also love your ML day. I have friend who was ML for a while, when nano was still small. Don’t know if she’s even involved anymore. #weloveML

in challenges , random words |


5116 words | 35319 total

Some years I’m done by day 12, it’s my highest ranking finish day—4 times in total. Anyway another 5k day is worth feeling good about. I finished the book I was reading and immediately moved to the sequel. It may become a race, finish the book first or finish nano.

And finally at 35k we make a move to act 2. A little intrigue, some suspicious behaviour and look! first kiss. The story and characters are surprising me in how well they are coming together. I shouldn’t jinx anything though.

The next nano event is backup day, which falls on the middle sunday, I think. I hope I’m sufficiently backed up. I’m writing in scrivener, which gets copied every day to google docs and a word doc. The scriv file, the word docs and the xls tracker are saved on the mbp, dropbox and my flashdrive. Basically everything is on the mbp, somewhere in the cloud and on my flashdrive.

in challenges , random words |


5025 words | 30203 total

A 5k day to get to 30k, it’s all good. Which is a relief because I started reading a book last night and: a) it’s a good book; b) I shouldn’t be reading during nano. It acts as a good reward system though—get to x and read a chapter.

For a nano that wasn’t well planned, the pieces are coming together quite nicely. I don’t just write, I do research and look stuff up as I go along. So far, I’ve have information not just on work travel but mapped out the past trips of MC2, who’s been doing this for 9 months. Other research include flight departure & arrival times, art exhibtions at airports, a brewpub beer menu, shower facilities at a beach, the nearest mcdonald’s to an airport, alaskan tribes, ATV riding on sand dunes, sunset times, rice & water proportions to make congee for a layman. I quite like this doing research as I’m writing, in fact I haven’t taken out my handwritten planning sheet yet.

Mr Ian Woon has made his annual appearance. This year, he is an outfitter ATV expert who takes guests from the ranch on four wheeler trips on the sand dunes of southern oregon.

Of course at 30k, my left wrist has been hurting for a few days. Hurting a lot today, I have the brace on almost the entire time.

in challenges , random words |


3958 words | 25178 total

Halfway on day 10. Reasonable progress. I’ll be fine if I finish on the 20th; I hope I can finish earlier.

Chapter 4 is done. MC2 completed her long journey to the destination and MC1 was the volunteer who picked her up from the airport. The sign spelled her name was wrong so they had a humourous introduction. There’s already some mild flirting.

in challenges , random words |


3685 words | 21220 total

I think this is the first full day I’ve stayed in, without going out. I suppose I have to start running again some time. Ah well.

Received some very sad news in the morning, that our friend had passed away. Lots of tributes and heartfelt posts on fb. She would have wanted us to carry on living our lives in full as before.

Took it easy with the writing, didn’t stress myself out too much. Around 1k in the morning, more in the afternoon and another 1k after dinner. Finished chapter 3, MC1 arrived at the destination and met a bunch of side characters. I took time out to create the side characters in scrivener. In chapter 4 it’s MC2’s turn to travel. A longer flight, with 2 layovers. They will meet at the end of the chapter.

in challenges , random words |


2500 words | 17535 total

Went out to Jamie’s Italian for my niece’s birthday lunch, had a mussel pasta that was actually quite bland, the gelato dessert made up for it. Too full for dinner, just had a plum.

Got to an even 2500 words for the day and it’s a good point to stop. Not very often do you get even wordcount like this.

MC1 had breakfast at the airport, then boarded a flight heading west. There was a layover, which added words. It’s an actual flight, I got the details on departure, arrival times, layover times and even layover terminal map. She arrived, got a rental car and found a place to have a late lunch. Everyone is proceeding to the destination slowly.

in challenges , random words |


2022 words | 15035 total

It’s #doubleupday, and we’re encouraged to:

  • double your wordcount or daily goal
  • donate $25 to get $50-level goodies
  • enter into the Grand Prize and hourly prize draws

I didn’t double my daily goal or anything ambitious. Tired today, so utilised an old trick to add wordcount, wrote 1000 words explaining sharing economy. Seeing that MC1 is the CEO of one such startup, it’s not too far off track. In the editing process, information dump (or writersplaining, a sibling to mansplaining) like this will be deleted or dramatically cut.

Anyway, day 7 and I’m at 15k, which looks more impressive when it’s converted to a pie chart. It’s a good achievement considering I spent almost one complete day travelling and the next 4 days jetlagged. But if I’m only at 30k next weekend, I’ll be disappointed.

Just started chapter 3 after 2 lengthy introductory chapters. MC1 is in the process of flying to the destination, hence the discussion about uber vs taxi and airbnb vs hotel. She’s not even at the airport. There will be some more padding about flying tomorrow, hahaha. MC2 isn’t on the same continent, so she needs to find her way there. Not before saying tearful goodbyes with her friends.

in challenges , random words |


1735 words | 13013 total

Tired. Napped in the afternoon, went out with mm to happy hour then quick dinner. The very low expectation goal was 1000 words, glad I got more than 1667 to keep on track.

in challenges , random words |


2253 words | 11278 total

It’s Bonfire Night. Celebrated with a whisky, small one because I’m sleepy. Woke up at 5am, went out to the post office to pick up a registered letter and stopped off at the supermarket to get food. No fridge, so limited in selection. Bought carrots and kale to make carrot soup. The kale came in a big bunch so used the stalk in the soup too which was an improvement in flavour.

Continued with chapter 2, it’s dragging a bit now, but good for nano. Averaging 2256 words after 5 days, extrapolating finish on the 23rd.

in challenges , random words |


1305 words | 7080 total

My flight is at 2pm so there was time in the morning to get some writing done. It would have been nice to get to the 1667 minimum but I’m pleased at the progress. Chapter 2 introduces MC2, sitting at a bar with a view of a nice bay sunset. I’m not being very creative this year, I’m using locations I’m sure I’ve used before, but these are locations I’m familiar with. If/when this one ever gets moved to the possibly publishable list, then I’ll rewrite.

in challenges |


Completed, sort of.


  • overall run 200km / 125 miles // 207km / 129 miles done
  • week 1: follow training plan, long run at least 25km / 16 miles // done — 17 miles long run
  • week 2: follow training plan, speed work or hills, long run HM under 3hrs // done (sort of) — followed the plan; ran HM distance in 3.05 in hot and humid conditions, I’m allowing it and calling it done
  • week 3: follow training plan, long run at least 30 km / 18 miles, preferably 32km / 20 miles // done — switched with week 2 to get 20 miles long run
  • week 4: follow training plan, speed work or hills // done
  • other exercise: weights or circuit x2 // x2 done

food & drink

  • non alcohol days x20 // x 20 done — this is normally my nemesis, I have to watch the days very carefully, can’t have a little bit of whisky on a day I feel like it
  • celebrate bourbon heritage month // done
  • vegetables x24 // x30 done
  • fruit or juice x24 // x29 done — missed one day
  • plan ‘cooking with friends’ menu // done


  • family activity x1 // done
  • bbmm activity x1 // done


  • renew website // done — sometimes I wonder why I’m paying $100 a year when I could get it free on oh wait, I like the control
  • things for sale // done — I’ve identified the things, photographed the things but haven’t put the notice up yet
  • photofriday x1 // done
  • plan nano // done, sort of — not fully mindmapped, this is probably the one year when I don’t have a strong idea or detailed plan

in challenges |


Not too bad. Running is on track, this is the most important. Need to get on with the other tasks.


  • overall run 200km / 125 miles // 120km / 75 miles done
  • week 1: follow training plan, long run at least 25km / 16 miles // done — 17 miles long run
  • week 2: follow training plan, speed work or hills, long run HM under 3hrs
  • week 3: follow training plan, long run at least 30 km / 18 miles, preferably 32km / 20 miles // done — switched with week 2 to get 20 miles long run
  • week 4: follow training plan, speed work or hills
  • other exercise: weights or circuit x2 // x1

food & drink

  • non alcohol days x20 // x9
  • celebrate bourbon heritage month
  • vegetables x24 // x15
  • fruit or juice x24 // x15
  • plan ‘cooking with friends’ menu


  • family activity x1 // done
  • bbmm activity x1 // done


  • renew website
  • things for sale
  • photofriday x1 // done
  • plan nano

in challenges |


The focus for this monthly challenge has to be #chimarathon training. That said, I don’t want my entire month to be nothing but running, so I’ve included the usual other goals.


  • overall run 200km / 125 miles
  • week 1: follow training plan, long run at least 25km / 16 miles
  • week 2: follow training plan, speed work or hills, long run HM under 3hrs
  • week 3: follow training plan, long run at least 30 km / 18 miles, preferably 32km / 20 miles
  • week 4: follow training plan, speed work or hills
  • other exercise: weights or circuit x2

food & drink

  • non alcohol days x20
  • celebrate bourbon heritage month
  • vegetables x24
  • fruit or juice x24
  • plan ‘cooking with friends’ menu


  • family activity x1
  • bbmm activity x1


  • renew website
  • things for sale
  • photofriday x1
  • plan nano

in 101.1001 , being healthy , challenges |


Task #40 of 101.1001 is to complete the walk to mordor challenge of 1779 miles / 2863km.

Today I reached milestone 3: from lothlorien down the anduin to rauros falls at 1309 miles / 2106km. According to people who keep track of such things, this part of the journey took 11 days and was mostly paddling on the river. From then on the fellowship breaks up and continue independently: frodo and sam 470 miles to mt doom; merry and pippin 355 miles to isengard; aragorn, legolas and gimli takes a longer route of 484 miles to isengard.

There are only 470 miles left on the task, I will be able to complete this. A goal is by the end of the year; B goal is by the end of Q1 next year. I’ll probably do the back part of there and back again: after being rescued by giant eagles there is the 1625 miles from minas tirith back to bag end.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


A lot of people when they take part in monthly challenges or personal bucket lists include tasks like giving up smoking or giving up soft drinks. I didn’t, and I don’t do the lent giving up thing either.

I used to drink 2 cans of coke (diet or zero) a day, then I cut back to one. I fooled myself that because it’s zero calories, it’s better than regular coke. At the back of my mind, I know that diet drinks aren’t that much better than non-diet drinks, there’s a correlation between diet soda and belly fat, and soft drinks in general lead to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Time to give up.

We were in Italy 2 weeks, during which I had may be 3 coke zeroes total, because a) it was more expensive than wine so I got wine instead; b) served in small portions (200ml isn’t unusual) and c) mm was nagging at me. Now that I’m home, I’m back to my old bad habit of one a day. That said, I skipped it yesterday.

Most people are addicted to coke because of the caffeine hit and the fizz, and I don’t think I’m any different. I’m going to tackle it by getting my caffeine from tea and fizz from sparkling water. Or plain water. Not going to cut the coke entirely, will do it slowly. Every other day, then twice a week and so forth. Let’s see how it goes.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #97 of 101.1001 is to stop using as much salt and substitute with herbs &amp spices.

One of the biggest advantages of staying at an airbnb is home comforts like a kitchen. The flat we stayed in London had a nice kitchen with proper hob, oven and utensils. The downside is that you’re limited to what is already present, unless you buy or bring your own flavourings. I was making roast lamb shoulder. There were olive oil, salt and pepper. Although half a drawer was full of herbs & spices it was chilli, curry powder, star anise and the like. I could use them, of course, but what I really wanted was rosemary, which wasn’t available. I didn’t get any fresh sprigs when I bought the lamb, so I improvised with other dried and fresh ingredients.

I used some italian seasoning, s&p. The side dishes with the lamb were roasted fennel and asparagus. I finely chopped bits of fennel and asparagus offcuts, and used those as the fresh herbs.


It’s definitely the quality of lamb, but I’m hoping the improvised seasoning helped too. The lamb was roasted to perfection and the side vegetables were really good.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #69-73 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new restaurants in 5 different cities. This is #5 of 5.

Our friend invited us to dishoom behind king’s cross for lunch. Our first impression was how the area had completely changed. Where it used to be dangerous and derelict, it’s now modern and stylish full of office buildings and fancy restaurants.

Dishoom’s theme is Indian street food. The restaurant’s decoration is a mix of old school colonial train station, gentrified godown and steampunk. Great atmosphere. There were a large number of small plates to share. We ordered chilli cheese toast, okra fries, calamari, lamb boti kabab, greens with a fabulous chilli & lime dressing, daal, naan and roti. Everything was delicious, we ordered extra lamb. For drinks I had a bhang lassi, which had mint, ginger, candied fennel and coconut milk.

The small plates were less than £6, the lamb less than £10 so pretty good for London prices. Lots of flavour, and different flavours too, to the usual curries and biryanis. Indian food has been described as Britain’s national dish, and if all Indian food were like Dishoom’s, then it’s not a surprise. Definitely worth returning. Repeatedly.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #69-73 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new restaurants in 5 different cities. This is #4 of 5.

We were in Dublin for my birthday and based on previous experience, I picked butcher grill in ranelagh and made a reservation a few weeks in advance. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed the oysters and côte de boeuf, even though the service was quite arms-length. We didn’t have a lot of time in Dublin and when I read about a new-ish restaurant specialising in less popular cuts of meat, I was afraid we wouldn’t have time to try it out.

As it happened, we made time to go to bear in south william street just west of grafton street. Having read that they didn’t take reservations for two, we went early and got a nice windowside table. There was a bar parallel to the front of the restaurant with the rest of the tables on a mezzanine behind. The wait staff, who were the poster boys & girls of hipserhood, were a little distracted preparing for guests but we’d just come from Italy so were in slow food mode.

Aside from the usual ribeye, sirloin, chicken and ribs they also had, as expected, some unusual steak like rosary cut, feather, bavette, flank and onglet. Well, actually I thought bavette and flank are the same, obviously not. I’ve cooked bavette before and liked the flavour. It was what the waiter suggested so we ordered that, to share. For sides we had cauliflower cheese and crispy kale.

Yes, the bavette was tougher than sirloin. I’d say it was even tougher than rump. It was quite lean and the grain more pronounced than on other steaks. With lesser chefs and lesser quality meat, it’d be more a stir-frying or stewing beef. For us, it was perfect. Bags of flavour and didn’t need any sauce. Slightly underseasoned, solved by a little s&p.

I was very good (or mm was an effective controller), didn’t have any wine or beer. That said, we’d been at tullamore dew earlier so I’d had a couple of whiskies already.

The steak was €40, with sides the bill came to €50, good value for steak dinner in a city centre. We’ve been talking about it since, and will be one of the first places to stop if we visit Dublin again.

in challenges |


Kept forgetting some of the days during travelling, somehow got it done.

  1. run/walk/bike 60mins // done
  2. run/walk/bike 90mins // done
  3. take the stairs // done
  4. weights/trx/resistance band // done
  5. do more than one type of exercise // done
  6. do something relaxing // done
  7. sleep early // done

  8. food & drink
  9. 3 different vegetables in a day // done
  10. 3 different fruits in a day // done
  11. no red meat day // done
  12. no alcohol day // done
  13. no snack day // done
  14. new food // done
  15. new drink // done
  16. new recipe // done

  17. looking inward
  18. gratitude for the day // done
  19. keep calm and… // done
  20. participate in prayer or service // done
  21. say a prayer for family // done
  22. silent retreat // done

  23. photography
  24. 10 photos: a colour // done
  25. 10 photos: a shape // done
  26. 10 photos: directions // done
  27. 10 photos: loud // done
  28. 10 photos: morning // done
  29. 10 photos: next to me // done
  30. 10 photos: numbers // done
  31. 10 photos: old // done
  32. 10 photos: people // done
  33. 10 photos: water // done

  34. bonus
  35. rest day — no challenges today // rest day not needed

in challenges , going places , photography is life |

Started the day feeling dizzy with a heavy-head headache. Managed to walk a couple of blocks to a nearby bar café for some vegetables before needing to head back to our room. [TMI]Promptly threw up the food.[/TMI]. Slept for a few hours until around 3pm. Did about 12mins of mindfulness meditation, ate some pasta, drank lots and lots and lots of water and juice. Feeling a more human but still slightly dizzy. No idea why I suddenly got sick, and we decided it wasn’t worth speculating. The important thing is to quickly get better. I feel bad about wasting a day but mm, bless her, doesn’t see it that way. I leaned on her all the way walking this morning, and she ran up and down to the vending machine and across the road to the supermarket to get stuff. In a way, today Good Friday was as good a day to get some rest. We’re at halfway through our trip and aside from 2 masses (the next one is Easter Sunday mass) and the Sistine Chapel (which we covered yesterday), we don’t have anywhere pressing to go. If I continue to feel under the weather, I’ll try to hold on until London so I can go see my GP.

I did manage to upload the photos that were tasks #21-30 of 30.30: take 10 photos over 10 days. I set these tasks deliberately knowing that I would be travelling the second half of march and figured it would be easier. One would have thought that there were plenty of opportunities in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Belgium, Florence, Siena and Assisi to take 10 simple photos. I don’t know if it’s the subjects I picked but it wasn’t as straightforward, may be it’s because I kept forgetting. Managed to get 10 photos in the end. Posting thumbnails, click for full size.

21colour 22shape 23direction 24loud 25morning
26nexttome 27numbers 28old 29people 30water

  1. a colour
  2. a shape
  3. direction
  4. loud
  5. morning
  6. next to me
  7. numbers
  8. old
  9. people
  10. old

Challenge is done. I’ll post the final update.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Task #39 of 101.1001 is to run/walk/bike 1001 miles. I originally put 1001km, then I upped it to miles. I went past 1001km in novembe. The red line shows the growth in mileage lately as I’m building base for marathon training, it looks like a taper for the last datapoint, but bear in mind March is only halfway gone.

I crashed my knee on sunday’s race which scuppered the planned 10 mile weekend long run. I should be resting but I did a fast 5k around the neighbourhood:

  • I noticed I was only 3 miles from the 1001 milestone and I’m not going to let poxy ITBS stop me from getting there
  • I don’t know how much time I’ll have to run on the trip, so it’s like a final run before we fly tomorrow
  • I wanted to stretch the knee out a little

The initial 1km up the hill was uncomfortable, the knee kept wanting to give out. I changed to a flatter route and by the end of the run the knee was sort of okay. I rollered the IT band together with my back and boy, it was painful.

This task is done, but there’s still #40 walk to Mordor, next milestone is 1309 miles from Lothlorien down the Anduin to Rauros Falls. If I can consistently hit 80-100 miles a month, I’ll get there hopefully by June or July.

in challenges |


Somehow managed to get at least one task a day despite not being very motivated. Haven’t needed to use the rest day yet. Deliberately leaving photochallenges for the trip.

  1. run/walk/bike 60mins // done
  2. run/walk/bike 90mins // done
  3. take the stairs
  4. weights/trx/resistance band // done
  5. do more than one type of exercise // done
  6. do something relaxing
  7. sleep early // done

  8. food & drink
  9. 3 different vegetables in a day // done
  10. 3 different fruits in a day // done
  11. no red meat day // done
  12. no alcohol day // done
  13. no snack day // done
  14. new food // done
  15. new drink // done
  16. new recipe // done

  17. looking inward
  18. gratitude for the day // done
  19. keep calm and… // done
  20. participate in prayer or service
  21. say a prayer for family
  22. silent retreat

  23. photography
  24. 10 photos: a colour
  25. 10 photos: a shape
  26. 10 photos: directions
  27. 10 photos: loud
  28. 10 photos: morning
  29. 10 photos: next to me
  30. 10 photos: numbers
  31. 10 photos: old
  32. 10 photos: people
  33. 10 photos: water

  34. bonus
  35. rest day — no challenges today

in 101.1001 , challenges , techtalk |

Task #3 of 101.1001 is to become proficient in evernote.

As a nano winner, I got 3 months of evernote premium, which just ended. I’ve been using EN for a while, and now have over 250 notes. I know, I know, proficiency isn’t measured by quantity. However I think that I can claim to have at least basic proficiency. Like many tech services, I signed up for an account ages ago but never got round to using it until later. When I did get started it was just playing around with to-do lists. I read up on how other people use it and I really appreciated its power and functionality when i started using it to organise travel. And then I started using it more. The rest of this post is how I currently use EN. Warning: may be boring for some, not everyone is into organising their lives in such detail.

in challenges , going places |


I set a task in 30.30 that was a play on the keep calm and carry on posters that were a hit once upon a time. The idea was to take some time during our holiday to get into a peaceful state of mind.

I find, though, that I needed to remind myself to keep calm and not get too stressed out the past few days. The reason I’m stressed out? I’m doing all the bookings and planning for our trip.

To give a scale of the amount of work done:

  • 7 flights on 4 different airlines — interesting to note the difference between carriers like BA/CX who behave normally and EI/EZ (Aer Lingus, easyjet) who nickel and dime everything, £16 for luggage, £5 to select seats, admin fee, online fee…but are still cheaper than the regular airlines — it’s something that has been around for a while in US domestic airlines and budget European airlines, I guess I’ve just been shielded from the madness
  • 1 long distance train journey + seat reservation — top tip, use italiarail rather than the official trenitalia because a) english; b) ease of navigation
  • 2 regional train journeys that I have not booked, but have gotten times and details
  • 1 car rental — as usual, go to the UK site, avis UK gave me a 15% discount
  • heathrow express — duo express return saves £20 for 2 people if booked online
  • 3 convent stays — monastery stays booked everything and sent a comprehensive package that included an introductory letter in italian for each convent, list of amenties and travel directions; very impressed with the service and promptness (I booked on saturday, got everything on tuesday which basically meant a 24-hr turnaround)
  • 4 hotel bookings — top tip: browse on or but check out individual hotel websites for offers like free wifi or further discount if booked on their site, I also paid attention to reviews and took posted pictures with a grain of salt
  • 1 airbnb booking (another one was unexpectedly unavailable so had to switch to hotel) — we specifically didn’t want Central London and went through around 10 potential choices, the flat we booked is 2 stops away from where I used to live, quite happy about our choice
  • 1 restaurant booking — for our birthday dinner I chose butcher grill, I visited in 2012 and said it’s worth returning, they have a special offer of côte de bœuf for two at €45 on mondays and tuesdays
  • maps and directions for airports, train stations and accommodation
  • 8 notes in evernote for each city / region we plan to visit with research on sights, transportation, food & drink — I’m quietly amassing lots of EN notes on travelling
  • expenses spreadsheet — because there will always be a spreadsheet, especially for a trip this long and this complicated

I haven’t even started the packing list. There is still stuff to do, like get EUR, arrange travel insurance, take passport photos, book appointment at passport office, get haircut, pay/pre-pay bills.

in 101.1001 , challenges , photography is life |


Task #20 of 101.1001 is to reach 1001 instagram/vine/snapchat total. I tried vine and it was fine, but instagram offered similar videoing functionality and I’m used to using instagram, so my vine count is still under 10. I never got round to using snapchat.

Without me noticing it, I reached 1001 instagrams a couple of weeks ago. This was taken when mm and I drove out to South Bay on a nice cool evening and the place was empty. The lifeguard towers looked sad and forlorn on the beach.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #15 of 30in30 is to try a new recipe.

Mum felt like onion soup so she bought a ton of onions. I don’t like onions so I usually relegate it to a flavouring as a component in mirepoix. Although IIRC I never made onion soup, I don’t think it’s something that requires a recipe. I mean, cook the onions, add liquid and simmer, right?


There’s a good discussion about the various methods for making onion soup. The type of onions to use, how long to caramelise the onions (from Michel Roux Jr’s 30-40mins to Thomas Keller’s 5 hours), the type of stock, additional seasoning (balsamic) and even what alcohol to add (cider, brandy).

Here’s what I did. I chopped 6 large onions and cooked them in butter for about 1.5hrs. I stirred like crazy towards the end, and left the lid off to reduce the liquid and break down the onion further. Most recipes call for beef stock which I didn’t have, I compromised by adding about 100g total of cubed beef with the onions.

After 1.5hrs the onions were soft and mushy and turned a nice medium brown. I then added vegetable stock I had in the freezer. Brought the whole lot to a boil and kept at a rolling boil for 20mins. Seasoned with s&p, thyme, worcestershire sauce, a dash of balsamic and soy sauce. Recipes tend not to include worcestershire or soy sauce, but they are my secret ingredients for adding umami to soups.

The cheese toast was made from baguette and shredded cheese. Proper cheeses like gruyere or comteé are simply too expensive and difficult to find so I used processed, sigh. I toasted the croutons on both sides before melting the cheese on top. Sprinkled more cheese onto the soup.

I was fairly pleased with the results. A tad too watery, I could have done with another 10-15mins reduction at the end, or taken half the soup and blitzed it. Still not a fan of onions.

in challenges |


My friend R asked if I wanted to do another challenge or take a break; it’d be 3 months in a row. The Europe trip starts the second half of the month and doing challenges on holiday can be, well, challenging. But that’s why they are called challenges, right? (I’m thinking an editor will frown at this paragraph, with so many instances of challenges, snerk.)

Switching to the 30.30 format. I am fully aware that march has 31 days, but I’m keeping the tag as 30.30, and given myself one day with no required task. I’ve listed more photography challenges than usual because: a) I find I’m doing photo-a-day type challenges anyway; b) I’ll have more opportunities to take pictures.

  1. run/walk/bike 60mins
  2. run/walk/bike 90mins
  3. take the stairs
  4. weights/trx/resistance band
  5. do more than one type of exercise
  6. do something relaxing
  7. sleep early

  8. food & drink
  9. 3 different vegetables in a day
  10. 3 different fruits in a day
  11. no red meat day
  12. no alcohol day
  13. no snack day
  14. new food
  15. new drink
  16. new recipe

  17. looking inward
  18. gratitude for the day
  19. keep calm and…
  20. participate in prayer or service
  21. say a prayer for family
  22. silent retreat

  23. photography
  24. 10 photos: a colour
  25. 10 photos: a shape
  26. 10 photos: directions
  27. 10 photos: loud
  28. 10 photos: morning
  29. 10 photos: next to me
  30. 10 photos: numbers
  31. 10 photos: old
  32. 10 photos: people
  33. 10 photos: water

  34. bonus
  35. rest day — no challenges today

in challenges |


All done. Ran a lot more, but walked less than last month. Non-alcohol days just made (phew), the rest were straightforward.


  • run 80 km (50 miles) // 113km (70 miles) done
  • run/walk/bike 120 km (80 miles) // 165km (103 miles) done
  • weights or circuit x4 // done
  • crunch 60 reps in 1 set // done
  • check out Chicago summer races // done — nothing suitable


  • new recipe // done pikelets
  • old recipe // done banana bread
  • non alcohol days x20 // 20 done
  • vegetables x24 // 28 done — veg everyday
  • fruit or juice x24 // 27 done — missed one day because I got home late and too full
  • within daily calorie goal x 20 // 27 done


  • visit parents x15 // 19 done
  • family activity x1 // done
  • bbmm activity x1 // done


  • research for april trip // done — it’s now march trip
  • photo-a-day challenge // done
  • photofriday x1 // done
  • LL edits x3 // done

in challenges , photography is life |

Get the flash player here:

This photo-a-day challenge is actually from feb-2014. They post one item a day over the month, instead of posting the whole list at the beginning of the month. Seems to be quite interesting anyway. Full set here.


Probably my favourite is 18magic, the stack of rocks my niece built at the beach. I thought it was pretty magical.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Task #40 of 101.1001 is to complete the 1779 miles walk to mordor challenge.

I reached milestone 1: hobbiton to rivendell or 458 miles in august-2014. Today, as I reached 87 miles for the month of feb-2015, I passed milestone 2: rivendell through moria to lothlorien for a total of 920 miles. More than halfway, 859 miles to go. I’m ahead of scheule—marathon training has me running a lot, and I’m still only at the base building phase. Proper training starts in june.

in challenges |


On track. Marathon training has me running a lot. Need to work on LL edits and research on April trip; and have a few more non-alcohol days.


  • run 80 km (50 miles) // 64km (40mi)
  • run/walk/bike 120 km (80 miles) // 85km (53mi)
  • weights or circuit x4 // 2 done
  • crunch 60 reps in 1 set // done
  • check out Chicago summer races // not many listed yet, will wait to check again at the end of the month


  • new recipe // not started
  • old recipe // done banana bread
  • non alcohol days x20 // 9 done
  • vegetables x24 // 14 done, veg everyday
  • fruit or juice x24 // 14 done, fruit everyday
  • within daily calorie goal x 20 // 14 done, hit target everyday


  • visit parents x15 // 8 done
  • family activity x1 // done
  • bbmm activity x1 // done


  • research for april trip // started on travel
  • photo-a-day challenge // 16 done
  • photofriday x1 // done
  • LL edits x3 // not started

in challenges , photography is life |


This week’s photofriday challenge is weather

title: rain along highway
description: driving along the highway somewhere in Idaho or Montana, trying to outrun the heavy rain
date: july-2014
also available to view full-sized

©invisiblecompany 2014-5, all rights reserved

in challenges |


My friend R has taken over cheerleadership of the 30 day challenges and wants us to go straight to another month. Okay, challenge accepted, mostly it means resetting the challenges. Because it’s a short month, I’m keeping the same running goals as January.


  • run 80 km (50 miles)
  • run/walk/bike 120 km (80 miles)
  • weights or circuit x4
  • crunch 60 reps in 1 set
  • check out Chicago summer races


  • new recipe
  • old recipe
  • non alcohol days x20
  • vegetables x24
  • fruit or juice x24
  • within daily calorie goal x 20


  • visit parents x15
  • family activity x1
  • bbmm activity x1


  • research for april trip
  • random from photo-a-day
  • photofriday x1
  • LL edits x3

in challenges |


All done. Happiest about the running mileage, other tasks are pretty standard.


  • run 80 km (50 miles) // done 96km (60 miles)
  • run/walk/bike 120 km (75 miles) // done 166km (103 miles)
  • weights or circuit x4 // done x4
  • crunch 50 reps in 1 set // done
  • check out wall climbing / boxing / tai-chi course // done


  • non alcohol days x20 // done x22
  • vegetables x24 // done x31 — veg every day
  • fruit or juice x24 // done x30 — missed one day when I forgot to have fruit after dinner
  • within daily calorie goal x 24 // done x26


  • visit parents x20 // done x21
  • cook for family x2 // done x2
  • family activity x1 // done
  • bbmm activity x1 // done


  • 3 completed 101.1001 tasks // done [1] [2] [3]
  • random from photo-a-day // done — did the whole challenge
  • photofriday x1 // done
  • lookback post x1 // done
  • LL edits x5 chapters // done x8 chapters

in challenges , photography is life |

Get the flash player here:

The problem with doing 30 day photo challenges is finding interesting material when I spend most of my time at home. I can only take so many pictures of my desk. That said, I thought I’d go through this month’s instagram to see if I can fit them into this photo-a-day challenge. It’s not the right way of doing a challenge, so the results are mediocre at best. Anyway, start with the list:


01 new is the january 2015 calendar page; for #02 change I scattered some coins on my desk (the desk had to make an appearance somehow); #03 organise is dragonboats stacked up at Stanley beach. And so on. Applied a bit of creative licence on a few, like #05 clean is laundry hanging to dry, #19 ice/icy is space food ice cream and #21 noise is an empty stand at the track (think about the noise when it’s full of people).

12texture 16happy
22whereistand 28traitquiet

A few were decent attempts. #12 texture is the mat we have on the balcony, it turned out quite texture-y; #16 happy is halves of two pastries I shared with mm, it was only when I looked at the pic that I realised they made a smiley face; #22 from where I stand is a shadow. #28 is supposed to be a personality trait. I think you’re allowed to be creative, so I used one of the water bird perched on a log at sunset. I thought it was quiet and peaceful.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #49-58 of 101.1001 are to try 10 new recipes. It’s great that the 10th one turned out so nice.

I’ve mentioned before that even though I’ve been baking for a long time, it’s usually cakes and biscuits. I only tried bread a few months ago and choux is the only pastry I’m comfortable with. I rarely work with the most basic pastry of them all: shortcrust.

So we were watching MKR4 repeat and I decided to try the double chocolate tart one team made, because it looked so indulgent.

for the pastry:
150g cold butter
185g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
50g icing sugar
1 egg yolk

for the filling:
350g chocolate
80ml cream
50g brown sugar
2 eggs + 4 egg yolks

Sift the flour, cocoa and icing sugar into a large bowl, mix butter until resembling breadcrumbs. In the recipe they use a food processor but I couldn’t find mine, and besides I’m not sure it works anymore. Takes longer using hands but it’s not too bad. Put the mixture back in the fridge for 5mins to cool, then add the egg yolk. Combine into a dough. Initially I thought one egg yolk surely wasn’t enough to bind so much dry ingredients, but it worked after a bit of elbow grease. Knead on a flat surface briefly. Chill dough in fridge for 30mins.

Roll out dough to a tart tin. Well, I don’t have a tart tin, so I used half the dough and rolled out into a regular small cake tin, mending gaps where necessary. I tried to trim the side so it was flat. Cool the pastry in the fridge for 5mins, then blind bake at 180°C for 15mins with baking beans, followed by 10mins without. Didn’t have baking beans at parents’ place, so substituted with rice.

While the baked pastry case cools, make the filling. Melt chocolate and cream in a bain marie. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolk and sugar until frothy. Combine with melted chocolate carefully then pour into pastry case. Bake at 160°C for 30mins. Cool at room temperature, then in fridge until set.


The pastry was quite short, may be a tad too short, but I like it. The filling was rich and, yes, indulgent. Should have served it with strawberries or raspberries but didn’t have it. Added to the richness by pouring a little cream over. I’ll have to buy a proper tart tin, it’s one of those desserts I’m going to add to my repertoire.

in challenges |


Running and exercise on schedule. Food & drink on schedule. Family activities on schedule. Need to get started on LL edits and call the YMCA about wall climbing.


  • run 80 km (50 miles) // 45km (30 miles)
  • run/walk/bike 120 km (75 miles) // 75km (46 miles)
  • weights or circuit x4 // 2 done
  • crunch 50 reps in 1 set // done
  • check out wall climbing / boxing / tai-chi course // not started


  • non alcohol days x20 // 10
  • vegetables x24 // 15
  • fruit or juice x24 // 14
  • within daily calorie goal x 24 // 12


  • visit parents x20 // 10
  • cook for family x2 // 1
  • family activity x1 // not started
  • bbmm activity x1 // done


  • 3 completed 101.1001 tasks // done [1] [2] [3]
  • random from photo-a-day // shortlist started
  • photofriday x1 // done
  • lookback post x1 // done
  • LL edits x5 chapters // not started

in challenges |

One of the tasks for the 30 day challenge is to look back on old posts.

one year agolookback

I deliberately chose today because the post on 14-jan-2014 was…a lookback post hahaha. One year ago, the lookback post looked back to 2013 with a delightful video series of Rino the Japanese gourmet toddler. To 2011 with a surfing video, to 2009 with thoughts about BRICs and to 2004 about bonuses.

Yep, meta.

three years agorestaurant: goodman


Three years ago, I was in London. RM and I visited Goodman steakhouse at Canary Wharf. We’d visited Hawksmoor previously and wanted to try the other well-known steakhouse. Similar cuts, but instead of sourced from one farm, the steaks were sourced from around the world. I had a charcoal-grilled 650g (23oz) bone-in sirloin and a side of truffle mac-n-cheese. I was in the middle of Brighton marathon training so that big a meal was okay for me then. I note from the post that I enjoyed the steak, but thought Hawksmoor was better.

I miss London.

five years agoweekend plans

eggpotatoskin02 muffinblueberry02

Five years ago, I was in Chicago. It was a friday and I was making plans for the long weekend. I was quite excited about the Martin Luther King holiday because I never had it (although not getting Boxing Day the December before was horrible). I wanted to do some cooking, and I ending up making tons of stuff including braised turkey legs, roasted brussel sprouts, eggs baked in potato skin, chicken & mashed potato for the rest of the week, and blueberry muffins.


As if that wasn’t enough, I also planned, and managed to go skiing at Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin. Well, it’s more like a hill covered with man-made snow, but I hadn’t skiied for a while, I missed it and it was a nice day out. Turned out, I didn’t get many more opportunities to ski since then.

I miss skiing.

ten years agoback to the gym

Heh, I forgot I used to be a member of the gym near my then office. That was before I started properly running. I went for a few months, mostly at lunch time. No record of my speed or distance from then; I hadn’t started keeping track. Most of the post was about this woman at the elliptical who was impeccably made up, with a fancy watch and loads of jewellery. Apparently she was also wearing tights underneath her shorts, plus socks and the obligatory cute sneakers. Unfotunately, even ten years on, there are people who go to the gym like that.

Sometimes I miss having the facilities of a gym, especially a treadmill with intervals setting. But I’ll make do with going to sis’ place occasionally.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #64-68 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new whiskies. This is #4 of 5.

I finished the dalmore 18 fairly quickly, about 6 months, probably because I didn’t quite like it. The next in the mainland rotation should be either the magnificent dalwhinnie, a strangely-named ancnoc from my sis, or perhaps mortlach 16. But I opened a bunnahabhain cruach-mhona instead, because…I don’t know why. May be it’s because I had 2 bottles? Anyway it means I currently have 2 islays open, this one and laphroaig PX. Co-incidence much? Both are duty free only.

Bunnahabhain and laphroaig are like heaven and earth when it comes to peatiness. Bunnas’ peatiness is subtle, while laphroaigs are peat monsters. I loved visiting both distilleries though. Bunna was closed when we went there, but the location and the weather that day brought home how wild and unfettered the distillery was. I’d love to go back there when it is open.

Anyway, I love Bunna 12 and I completely adore Bunna 18. Cruach-mhona in gaelic means peat stack, although its peatiness is nowhere near laphroaig or ardbeg. It’s un-chill filtered and uncoloured, resulting in a very light golden colour, like sunflower oil without the viscocity. NAS and doesn’t taste very old, may be 10-12 years. Peaty and seaweed on the nose. In terms of taste, slightly smoky, sweet, smooth with a long finish. Reviews are average and Mr Murray gave it a not terribly mind-blowing 83 points. I like it myself, I’m sold on the smoothness and the long finish.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |

Task #47 of 101.1001 is to make a list and photoset of 101 food & drink items that are on popular bucket lists. These lists are subjective: exotic to one person may be normal for another. I’ve tried a number of items from the ominvore’s 100 and various food challenge lists, i’m at 92/100 on the foodie list. This list combines typical bucket list foods with food from a specific place.

Pics are clickable thumbnails, there’s also the full size set

in 101.1001 , challenges |

Task #87 of 101.1001 is to make a list of 101 notable things and activities achieved, excluding food and travel. These are tasks/goals that are popular on bucket lists—when I started putting this challenge together I was like, “drat I’ve done this, it can’t go on my list.” Sometimes referred to as a reverse bucket list.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Task #94 of 101.1001 is to pack an emergency go-bag. This started with Sis, who is obsessed with survival. She’s had an emergency duffel bag for a long time, and I bought her some survival stuff and a few MRE packs in the US last year.

Supposedly, a go-bag should have enough supplies to survive for 72hrs when evacuating from a disaster. Some people pack for longer, and there are dependencies for factors such as climate and location. Typical survival programs talk about surviving in the wilderness but realistically, I think my go-bag should cater for an urban environment since I live in a city. We can even buy ready packed emergency bags, even deluxe editions, for 1, 2 or 4 persons. Mine is from stuff I already have, supplemented by a few specialist survival items.

  • backpack — one of the company swag I got from Communications, good regular size with outside pockets
  • food — one MRE pack, cereal bars. gu, chewing gum, sweets
  • drink — 500ml water, empty water bottle, lifestraw water filter, tea bags
  • small keychain hipflask with whisky — because whisky is important
  • medicine in a ziploc bag — painkiller, anti-histamine, band-aid, mentholatum, mask, tissues
  • toiletries in a ziploc bag — toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, shampoo, deodorant
  • spare clothes — t-shirt, zip-off pants, hat, underwear, socks — I should find a lightweight jacket or something long-sleeved to add to the kit
  • spare glasses
  • notebook, pen, sharpie, chalk — the notebook has personal information, contacts, passwords and passport photocopy
  • wallet with money and a few photos — photos for ID and to show people if I need to search for family or mm
  • carabiner with keys for my place and parents’ place
  • flashdrive with documents and personal information
  • hand-cranked radio torch with USB port — supposed to be able to hand-crank enough charge to make phonecalls, which is all that is needed in an evacuation or emergency
  • world adaptor, charger, cables for iphone, ipad, microusb
  • small towel
  • survival blanket
  • survival pouch — flint, waterproof matches, whistle, parachute cord, ties, rubber band, sewing kit
  • swiss knife, nailclipper — may want to swap for a leatherman
  • survival quick guide leaflet

Everything packs neatly inside the backpack and I can carry it comfortably. I’ll need to grab the iphone if I need to run, and I’ll just have to contend with whatever shoes I have on me at the time. It’s not a perfect kit, but it’ll do if there really is an emergency. I could pack more, or use a bigger bag, but I decided a backpack is the easiest and most flexible.

I’ll check and swap out food items every year. The idea is that the bag will never be needed.

in challenges |


My friend R challenged us to another 30 day challenge. I thought I’d go back to the original TDP challenge format, after doing a couple of 30in30 last year. I realised my life is pretty boring, sometimes it’s tough to find something to do for the day.


  • run 80 km (50 miles)
  • run/walk/bike 120 km (75 miles)
  • weights or circuit x4
  • crunch 50 reps in 1 set
  • check out wall climbing / boxing / tai-chi course


  • non alcohol days x20
  • vegetables x24
  • fruit or juice x24
  • within daily calorie goal x 24


  • visit parents x20
  • cook for family x2
  • family activity x1
  • bbmm activity x1


  • 3 completed 101.1001 tasks
  • random from photo-a-day
  • photofriday x1
  • lookback post x1
  • LL edits x5 chapters

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Update for 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge.
tl;dr version: 365 days, 58 tasks done, 43 tasks remaining

No need for a sophisticated chart or analysis to see that the challenge is going well. I hesitate to use ahead of schedule because of the relative difficulty / time-consumingness of the tasks.

I picked off some low hanging fruit, like use my library card, make a cocktail and make a list of 101 places to visit. I was also incredibly lucky to go with my parents to new countries, try the foodcarts in Portland and spend a day at a korean spa with mm. The strangest task was eat an insect and I ended up finishing the whole cup. I made bread for the first time and invested in a worthwhile cause.

I’ve managed to complete at least one task in each of the 11 sections, and have made a start on some of the ongoing tasks. Of the remaining 43 tasks, some are potentially harder than others. Need to do a bit of strategising.

on track — ongoing or cumulative tasks:

  • 3. become proficient with Evernote — I’ve done a lot with EN this year, and I’m in the process of migrating my instapaper clippings to EN
  • 5. 1001 posts on website — currently at 439, since I aim for at least one post a day, this is one of the tasks that will go almost all the way to the end
  • 16. finish Lamplight — the second (or third?) draft is done, so technically I can claim this task is complete, once the current round of rewriting is done I’ll claim the goal
  • 17. outline book ideas — mostly done
  • 20. 1001 instagram/vine pics — at 367, which averages to just over 1 day day, need to do better but should be on track
  • 39. run/walk/bike 1001 km/miles — 1001km is done, at 660 miles with 341 to go should be no problem
  • 40. complete walk to mordor challenge — at 660 miles, with 1119 to go, been averaging over the required mileage, so don’t forsee a problem
  • 47. make a list and photoset of 101 food already tried — list is done, just need to revisit a few foods and take pics
  • 59. make vanilla extract — vanilla pod has been soaking in bourbon for a few weeks, need to add a few more used pods
  • 74. put away $10 for every goal achieved — this will be a task to be completed on the last day, but no big issue
  • 75. set aside $1 for every goal achieved for charity — again, a last day completiong, no big issue
  • 80. scan 101 family pics — scanned 24 already
  • 87. make a list of 101 things achieved — list is done, need to scan and sort some old pics
  • 94. pack a go bag — on track, gathering items
  • 99. find a race and train for it — at week 8 of the 52 weeks marathon training program for chimarathon 2015

doable — haven’t started but are doable:
  • 15. nano 2015 — nano #11
  • 18. design a book cover — have ideas, need execution
  • 30. new country (#3 of 3) — technically I can claim Palestine, I’ll see if I get to go to another new country, if not I’ll retroactively complete this
  • 42. db bench PR — slowly working up to it
  • 43. 101 crunches — also slowly working up to it
  • 58. new recipe (#10 of 10) — one more new recipe to complete the set of 10
  • 60. open a cookbook and make whatever comes up — choose the cookbook carefully
  • 61. plan, make and serve a 3-course meal with wine — need an appropriate occasion, I have a good idea of the menu
  • 67. new whisky (#4 of 5) — have idea of which bottles to follow in rotation
  • 68. new whisky (#5 of 5) — see above
  • 72. new restaurant (#4 of 5) — next time we travel, may be London or Chicago or Tokyo
  • 73. new restaurant (#5 of 5) — see above
  • 76. make a will — keep needing to remind mm to lend me hers
  • 83. new family activity (#3 of 3) — sometimes we do new stuff but it’s not so remarkable to write up
  • 90. leave an inspirational note in a book for someone to find — I forgot to bring a postcard when I was at Portland, otherwise it would have been awesome to leave it in a book at Powell’s
  • 97. stop using so much salt and substitute with herbs & spices — I do this already, I want to come up with a really good dish
  • 98. travel to one of the 101 places to visit — technically I’ve done that, gone to Athens and Jerusalem and Alaska, I should write it up retroactively

need work — harder tasks for various reasons:

  • 1. upgrade macOS at least once — the mba is still on snow leopard, but it works great so I don’t want to upgrade it to mavericks or yosemite, I may tweak this task to target upgrading iOS instead
  • 7. new musical — there are lots of musicals I want to see, it depends on travel plans
  • 8. old musical — depends on travel plans and timing
  • 19. write a short story — I used to churn them out like clockwork, but haven’t had much inspiration lately
  • 25. find colour in an unusual place — this is a task left over from the original 2007 challenge, I kept forgetting it then, and I keep forgetting it now
  • 41. break a running PR — I’m 1-2 minute per km slower than my baseline speed, it will take lots and lots of training to get this
  • 45. take a tai chi, yoga or martial arts class — thing is, I’m not that interested in them right now, I don’t belong to a gym and I haven’t bothered to look at places that offer first class free
  • 46. rock climbing — there are only a handful of places here, I should enquire at the YMCA, I think they have a wall and classes
  • 88. make a list of 101 favourite things — surprisingly this has proved difficult; I’m stuck at 52 things
  • 95. learn how to rocher — I need materials and a container to practice
  • 101. be more grateful to family — how do I determine if I complete this task? it’s so subjective

in 101.1001 , challenges , family first |

gsisxmas2014005 gsisxmas2014036

Tasks #81-83 of 101.1001 are to participate in 3 new family activities or go to 3 new places. This is 2 of 3 and task #82.

I went to 2 family events today, first with my own family then with mm’s family.

In the morning, I braved the long bus journey (that didn’t make sense geographically speaking) to go to my niece’s school’s christmas bazaar. The bazaar was split into 2 buildings and 2 main areas. One had stalls selling all sorts of stuff: christmas decorations, chocolate, gluhwein, stollen, jams, cards, clothing and bric-a-brac. The other area had food & wine stalls selling sparkling wine, wine, beer, bratwurst, raclette, asian food, cakes and waffles.

We wandered around the selling area and mum bought biscuits and chocolate while I bought a couple of stollen. In the food area we had bratwurst and waffles. I tried a couple of their beers.

Very tired. I conked out on sis’ sofabed for 45mins in the afternoon.

whbbq008pig whbbq041cake

The evening activity was mm’s niece’s birthday. Her parents organised a bbq at a large outdoor bbq establishment. The staff set up our pit and we had a set of the usual: pork chop, chicken wing, scallop, prawn, fish balls, sweet potato and the like. The main attraction was a whole suckling pig which we grilled ourselves on a rotisserie set up over the pit. The suckling pig had already been partially cooked so it was just a matter of browning the meat and crisping up the skin.

When the skin was crisp enough, the staff came and chopped it all up for us. Yes, definitealy crispy skin and juicy meat.

Ice cream birthday cake to follow. I had 2 portions. All in all, a family day and very tired.

in 101.1001 , challenges , random words |


Task #14 of 101.1001 is to complete nano 2014. It’s one of those tasks I put in there because I knew I’d get it done. It’s not me trying to show off or anything, the fact is that I’ve finished all the nanos I’ve started, so the odds are very good.

I’m very pleased they opened up validation on the 20th this year, I think it’s the earliest they’ve done so. Actually I don’t see why validation isn’t available on day 01, since there are people who challenge themselves get to 50k in one day, and the validation code surely hasn’t changed in years.


Anyway, I validated at 60k words, but actually only 57k was written in november. I could have deleted the pre-nano words when I copied over to validate, but I couldn’t be bothered. Details, details. I got to 50k on day 12, which is pretty good. (My average finish is day 15.) Since day 12, I’ve slowly written a few hundred words a day. I’m not sure if I’ll finish it now, or leave it till later. It’s not a bad story.

in 101.1001 , being healthy , challenges |


Task #39 of 101.1001 is to run/walk/bike 1001 km/miles. It started off as 1001 km, but then I changed to 1001 miles, since I was going for the 1779 mile walk to mordor (task #40) anyway.

Of course there’s a spreadsheet, keeping track of actual km/miles as well as progress needed to complete the 3 goals of 1001 km, 1001 miles and 1779 miles in 1001 days. I count running, walking, cycling and swimming too.


I’ve tried to follow the mordor target (green line), so the actual (red line) fairly mimics it. Today’s run of 5km brought me past the 1001km mark. Almost 1 year, from 01-dec-2013. More walking and stationary bike during the summer months, more running to come with winter and marathon training.

in challenges , random words |


3050 words 50081 total

Another year, another nano finished. The story isn’t done, let’s see if I have the interest and motivation to finish it this month. I may be able to carry on this year, I’m not tired of the story yet. There’s a good 10-15k left, and if I can stretch it out to 20k, it brings me to 73k overall and a good length. Even though there is A LOT of editing and probably deleting needed. That’s the point of a first draft.

in challenges , random words |


3254 words | 47031 total

I spent most of the day frustrated. In the morning, firefox updated to v33.1, and then decided not to load all google sites. This meant no search, no google maps and no google docs (plus no gmail, no youtube—it’s amazing how we rely on google). Important because the next chapter was about the MCs going on a road trip and I need to look at distances, routes and sights. I tried skipping to the next chapter but I find that I can’t write out of order. I was pretty mad.

I’m extremely glad I’m writing on scrivener and not google docs this year.

I was able to get search working by using, and I google maps worked perfectly fine on the ipad. The problem was solved after dinner by deleting all google cookies, clearing the cache and restarting the mba. I should have thought of it earlier but it never occurred to me that updating firefox would screw things up like this. Not sure what happened.

Yes, even though it would have been good to push to get to 50k, it doesn’t matter. 3000 words needed tomorrow, I’m relaxed.

in challenges , random words |


3374 words 43777 total

Today is my niece’s birthday. We went for dinner at the crêpe restaurant near their home, her choice. I was busy in the afternoon, and we left early to go to the market beforehand. Great dinner, good food. I had buckwheat crêpe with ham, egg, emmental, roquefort and salad, we had a couple of large bottles of cider. Little one was very happy with her presents.

In terms of nano, today was a short day. 3000-odd words is not bad. I’m not in any hurry because, touch wood, there is no way I won’t make 50k. Let’s see how I feel, whether I want to finish the novel or finish at 50k.

I incorporated one of the dares:

have your characters get involved in a food fight
BP: if it takes place in a place you wouldn’t expect a food fight
DBP: if it takes more than 1667 words to describe
TBP: if it’s important to the plot

So MC2 got fired because she called her boss on him taking money from the restaurant’s bank account. Although ultimately all profits go to him, as the owner, it wasn’t the right thing to do. So her best friend decided to hold a food fight party to cheer her up. That satisfies the dare.

BP: best friend’s family owns a swimming pool supply and maintenance business. The food fight party took place there, they had pools and gardens set up on display so it was easy to clean up.

DBP: the entire section of party planning, the actual party, the fight and the après fight party was 4568 words; the part dealing specifically with fight prep (had to prepare all the food), actual fight and declaration of winner was 2089 words

TBP: was it important to the plot? The entire story is going from party to party, as the MCs’ relationship strengthens. This food fight party was to transition between MC2 getting fired and the next section, of them going on a road trip. I guess it’s important to the plot.

in challenges , random words |


5000 words | 40403 total

No one sets out deliberately to write exactly 5000 words in a day, and neither did I. When I came to an appropriate stopping point at the end of today’s writing—the end of a section—I saw that I had 4999 words. So it was easy to add a single word to the last paragraph bringing me to exactly 5000. I’m now at 40k for nano, 80% done. Not bad.

Today is Remembrance Sunday. I was delighted to see I could get a poppy the other day when mm and I had lunch at the Marriott. There are still some isolated pockets of Britishness left, it’s one of the unspoken aims of #occupyhk, to retain the heritage. One of my favourite quotes for Remembrance Sunday is from Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen, which was first published in The Times in September 1914:

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them

I can’t incorporate Remembrance Day into my story, since it’s set in Nashville and my characters are too young. I did have them have a discussion about Memorial Day menu in the restaurant where MC2 works. I could have written a poppy in, but it would have felt forced.

Coming up: a food fight party and a surprise party for MC1. The entire story has been written from MC1’s pov so I guess the trick is to establish the surprise party without her knowing about it and then having the surprise element.

in challenges , random words |


5369 words | 35403 total

What is surprising is I’m 35k (actual total 39k) in and I’m not hating the story. There’s enough to story to write on, and my MCs have only been together 4 months. May be I’ll bring them to 6 months together, or 1 year. Find other events and parties. End on a high note.

Today is what the nanofolks call #doubleupday. They want us to double our daily wordcount target, double the time we write, and in return they will double the rewards for donation. Since my A goal is 2000 words, I’ve been doubling up almost every day. I’ve done 10k days before; but with my wrist in this condition, it’s not something I particularly want to do these days.

Anyway, the first saturday or sunday is usually back up your novel day. I make sure I have backups. I’m writing in Scrivener for the first time this year, the .scrv file is copied to dropbox and the flashdrive every night. I also copy what I’ve written to both google docs and Word every night, the .doc is copied to dropbox and flashdrive. So basically there are copies on the mba, google docs, dropbox and flashdrive. That’s more than doubling up, right?

in challenges , random words |

The Collywobbles
flickr / ministryofstories under CC

4458 words | 30034 total

I got to 30k. Looking at last year, 30k was on day 8 so I’m one day ahead. One of these days I’ll do a chart comparing daily progress of all 10 nanos. That’d be a busy chart, heh.

All but about 300 words written today was for one chapter. And I had the MCs spend the entire chapter making lunch. Cooking, discussing about cooking, tasting and eating. At the beginning of nano, Carleen posted as one of her words of the day the word collywobbles, and the word made me laugh so much that I said I’d include it as a challenge. So here is the passage:

Melody settled on her usual seat against the open counter and watched as Samantha marinated chicken in a soy, honey, mirin and ginger sauce, then checked a pot of simmering mushroom broth to which she added a tablespoon of miso paste. On her chopping board were diced onions and crushed garlic.

“Asian styled chicken?” Melody asked.

Samantha sighed. “I wish.” She picked up a packet of arborio rice and shook it at Melody. “Lenny challenged us to a cook-off. He and Rich wanted to add deep fried teriyaki chicken with a miso and mushroom flavored risotto to the menu.”

Melody made a distasteful face. “Gives me collywobbles just thinking about it.”

“Collywobbles, that’s perfect. May be we can name the dish fried chicken collywobbles with risotto,” Samantha said.

This is also the point in the story that I feel as if I’m repeating myself. I keep having those déjà vu impressions that I wrote the risotto cooking scene already in another nano, but I can’t remember which one because I don’t re-read them. May be it is time to re-read and edit some of them.

in challenges , random words |


3658 words | 25576 total

Had lunch with mm at the marriott lounge — salad, noodles, curry, a little pasta, dessert. She had a 50% off card she borrowed from a friend so we took our time and sampled as much of the food as we liked. Afterwards we walked around occupyhk main site, it’s the first time she visited. Still lots of tents and more artwork. We came across an origami station and a display table with umbrellas, pikachu and giant duckies. Very cute.

Got home at 7pm, so with futzing around and shower, writing started at 9pm. Two hours and 15 later, I got to 25k. Halfway in 6 days, that’s about right, looking at the past few years.

This is the point when the story gets a little rambling, some of what I wrote will definitely need to be either rewritten, moved or deleted altogether. I’m not bothered, it is what it is. The point is wordcount, nothing else. Heh, I’m not only preaching to the converted, I’m preaching to myself.

in challenges , random words |


3607 words | 21918 total

Happy Guy Fawkes!!

No fireworks, and I have more than 8335 words. At almost 22k for nano it’s pretty good for day 5. Also, I know I’m only counting nano words, but overall the novel is at 25k, which is a nice landmark to reach.

Most of the latest chapter was at Vegas where the MCs’ best friend and sister eloped to get married. It’s sort of a portend to what may happen to our MCs, somewhere down the line. Their friend is stinking rich, so they got the best suite, superstar service and had a 5-star wedding banquet (as much as a meal for 4 can be a banquet).

Oh, and Mr Ian Woon showed up. He was the officiant at the wedding.

in challenges , random words |


3239 words | 18311 total

Went running and then a little bit of shopping at the market. Barely hit 1000 before dinner. I noticed I’m too distracted during the day and most of my writing is done for around 2-3hrs at night. Decided to finish early today, before 11pm. Want to read a bit.

A fb conversation led me to post about my tracking spreadsheet. I didn’t make it, someone shared on the nano forums a few years ago (I just went to look at the original, it was 2009, back when it was called a report card). I’ve used this every year, changing the dates at the beginning of each nano. There are other versions floating around. I fixed some of the charting idiosyncracies so people using it won’t have to manually adjust. So far, about half a dozen people have asked for it. Good stuff.

in challenges , random words |


5064 words | 15072 total

Another 5k day, good stuff. MC1’s best friend gets introduced and there’s another party. This one wasn’t as successful as the previous one, ending pretty much in disaster and tension all around. I was reading nano2005 yesterday to get a sense of how these character feel about each other, and I wanted to foreshadow the tension. The sequel takes place 13 years after this, but first impressions are so important.

I also managed to, gasp, write a 300 word sex scene. The last few years sex scenes have taken the form [insert sex scene here] so I’m quite pleased I got this one in. I remember one of the most important writing lesson of show-not-tell, and I was afraid that I wasn’t showing my MCs more in love. Hence the little sex scene.

in challenges , random words |


5880 words | 10008 total

Yay, 10k in 2 days.

Started in the afternoon, took a while to hit the 1667 mark, but once I got over a small hump, it was fairly smooth sailing. I got to the end point of the short story, with MC1’s planned party successfully completed. Trying to add some more background and family interactions. There is a bunch of side characters (both MC’s best friends, MC2’s family and sakura festival people) still to be introduced and of course more parties to be planned.

The wrist is…okay. Need to wear the brace whenever I type.

in challenges |


A bit of planning needed to manage the daily tasks due to travelling. Another monthly challenge completed, happy now.

  1. run/walk/bike 30mins // done 20-sep-2014
  2. run/walk/bike 60mins // done 27-sep-2014
  3. do more than 50 squats in one set // done 06-sep-2014
  4. do more than 50 crunches in one set // done 07-sep-2014
  5. weights/TRX 3 sets of 10 // done 19-sep-2014
  6. weights/TRX 3 sets of 12 // done 10-sep-2014
  7. mindfulness 10mins // done 02-sep-2014
  8. mindfulness 20mins // done 17-sep-2014
  9. sleep early // done 04-sep-2014
  10. turn off electronics 1hr before bed // done 14-sep-2014

  11. food & drink
  12. 5 different vegetables in a day // done 18-sep-2014
  13. 3 different fruits in a day // done 03-sep-2014
  14. mostly water (1 tea, 1 coke zero only) // done 22-sep-2014
  15. no red meat day // done 01-sep-2014
  16. no alcohol day // done 13-sep-2014
  17. no snack day // done 23-sep-2014
  18. new food/recipe // done 28-sep-2014

  19. personal/family
  20. family activity // done 25-sep-2014
  21. bbmm activity // done 26-sep-2014
  22. scan 10 family pics // done 05-sep-2014
  23. gratitude at 1:11 or 11:11 done 21-sep-2014
  24. celebrate a bizarre holiday // done chocolate milkshake day 12-sep-2014

  25. creative
  26. 25 squares // done 30-sep-2014
  27. do something creative // done 09-sep-2014
  28. outline nano 2014 // done 15-sep-2014
  29. 1000 words PP // done 16-ssep-2014
  30. read a new author // done 08-sep-2014

  31. photography
  32. photofriday challenge // done 11-sep-2014
  33. random from photo-a-day // done 29-sep-2014
  34. random from instagram challenge // done 24-sep-2014

in challenges |


Task #29 of 30in30 is a random pic from the sept photo-a-day challenge. Many possibilties, the one I liked was square.

This was a tile mural taken on today’s walk around the Ihwa mural village. We walked over 2km in the pouring rain to get to the village, it was worth it.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #48 of 101.1001 is to eat an insect and task #17 of 30in30 is to try a new food. I’ve never knowingly tried insects before, so we bought a small cup of beondegi or silkworm pupae at namdaemun market. This is a typical Korean street food, the pupae were boiled and eaten with toothpicks. One small cup was KRW2,000 or two dollars so it was worth trying.

When I initially set this challenge, I envisioned trying the cricket chocolate from Wittamer, but the box went mouldy on me. I have been reading a lot of articles about the benefits of eating bugs — they are sustainable, nutritious and 80% of the world’s cultures already eat insects. As global population grows exponentially, there is a lot of thinking that the future human population will turn to insects for protein source. I guess people in 200, 500, 1000 year’s time will look back on our diet with the same shock as us looking at the diets of people hundreds of years ago.

I wasn’t really prepared to try bugs that look scary. I don’t think I’ll let anything with legs come near me, so spiders, grasshoppers and ants were out. I was okay about trying mealworms so when I read about beondegi in the course of my seoul research, I thought it may be alright to try.

First, it’s served hot, in a seasoned sauce. People complain about the smell, but it was no worse than other meat-based street food. You eat the whole thing, just pick it up with a toothpick and pop one in your mouth. The outside had the texture of boiled peanuts, a little crunchy, a little soggy. The inside was a little gamey, like mild liver. I won’t say I’m in any hurry to try it again, but if offered I won’t refuse it.

in challenges , going places |


Task #2 of 30in30 is to run/walk/bike for 60mins.

We spent the day exploring the bukchon hanok village area followed by the Insadong area. Total walking probably more than 2hrs. I’m counting 2-3miles,

in challenges , going places , on the relationship front |


Task #83 of 101.1001 and task #19 of 30in30 is to do a new activity with mm. We are in seoul for holiday and as soon as we got off the plane and deposited our luggage at the hotel, we headed to a jjimjibang spa to rest and pamper ourselves. We got the deluxe package at KRW100,000 (USD100). We ended up staying from 10am to 5pm so it was worth it.

The spa says it’s the largest in Korea. At a sprawling 7 floors I can believe it. There are sauna, steam areas, baths, massage rooms, sleeping rooms, relaxation hall, restaurants, a rooftop garden, internet café even a cinema.

First we got keys to our locker. The key was a regular locker key as well as a smartchip that recorded any purchases or treatments. We had a quick shower at the large bath area. Korean baths are like Japanese baths, sexes are segregated and you don’t wear anything inside except a small towel to strategically cover certain areas.

First stop of our treatment was the herbal steam bath. We were seated on wooden stools with an opening in the middle. The herbs and water were heated and the steam rose up through the opening. We were covered in a sort of plastic tent to keep the steam in. Quite surreal, the herbs smelled really nice though.

After the shower and steam we changed into standard issue pajamas—t-shirt and shorts. Everyone inside the facility was dressed in these pajamas. The massage part was 90mins of a mix of acupressure and thai style. The young technician got almost every troublesome spot in my shoulders, lower back, arms and definitely hit the ITB around my left knee.

At the end of the massage it was around 1pm so time for lunch. The spa had a cafeteria and 2 restaurants. We went to the self-service korean restaurant and had tofu soup and beef rib soup. Came with banchans and I had a tasteless beer.

We found massage chairs in the main hall and fell asleep for around 1.5hrs. One of the features of traditional korean spas is the sight of people asleep at sleeping rooms and areas. Admission is 24hrs so some people stay the night.

Then it was time to check out the heat rooms. The traditional pine scented one was so hot inside we could barely walk, our soles were burning up. Lasted 10 seconds inside there, max. The himalayan salt room was a pleasant 52°C, blankets were provided so we lay down and rested on pink salt crystals. The charcoal heated rooms were good too, we went into the high temperature one, around the same as the salt room. In between rooms, we sat in the ice room to cool down, and then on the floor.

Last stop was the baths area. There was a steam room and half a dozen baths at different temperatures. We like the outdoor ones for the fresh air, the ones with jetstream massage and the cold 24°C cooling pool.

Great day, and the perfect cure for a night spent on a red-eye flight.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #18 of 30in30 is a family activity.

Originally I was gonna go trampolining with sis and my niece over the weekend, but tiredness and too much homework scuppered that plan. Sis and I could have gone one morning by ourselves but we wanted to wait for my niece.

Anyway sis had a cocktail event tonight with IC MBA alumni. She asked if I was interested (I’m an IC MBA alumni too) but I had zero interest in these social events. Instead I volunteered to babysit my niece so sis can go. Not really babysitting, a 12 year old at home requires minimum supervision. I was responsible for making dinner so I teenager favourite food — steak, mashed potato and cherry tomato. Sis opened a bottle of red wine for me too, I had a glass.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Since yesterday was no snack day, today is let’s have a snack day. Snack also is one of the entries in the random instagram challenge I came across. I only later realise the post is 1 year old, but the entries still work.

The snack in question is very simple cheese & caramel flavoured popcorn. A small bowl, I guess it’s not heavy on the calories.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #16 of 30in30 is to stay away from snacks.

What, no crisps, no biscuits, no cheese, no popcorn? It’s fine. I managed. Although I had a couple of slices of lemon curd toast for tea. In my mind tea is a meal, like breakfast, lunch or dinner, so doesn’t count as snack.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


A combination of task #96 of 101.1001 and task #13 of 30in30: drink more water, drink mostly water.

We all know that water is good for us and we should drink lots of it every day. I don’t know if it’s circumstances or age or becoming healthier, I don’t mind drinking water as much as before. I’ve always drunk a lot of liquids, when I was working it was soda water and coke zero all day. In the US I bought these gallon containers of arizona green tea. Then of course there were the beer and wine and whisky. And the vital cup of tea in the morning.

Don’t have access to gallon containers of tea anymore, and I’ve cut down the coke zero to one can a day. Alcohol consumption is down too.

I’m making up the quota with water. Here we boil our water then let it cool to room temperature. Tastes bland. I kinda miss the mineral taste of London hard water. I keep my room temperature in a glass bottle I bought at John Lewis. I also keep bottles of water in the fridge. I find cold water tastes much better than room temperature or warm water and I can drink more of it. It’s surprising how quickly I finish a bottle of 500ml ice water.

in challenges |

Apparently it’s also world gratitude day.

in 101.1001 , challenges , random words |


Task #13 of 101.1001 is to read Mythology for Dummies. This is one of the incomplete tasks carried over from the 2007 list.

I didn’t have an arts education. Although I read steadily as a kid, it was fiction or those big general knowledge books. I knew about various myths but never paid much attention to them, and certainly never remembered much or was able to associate mythology references in books I read.

There are a lot of books on mythology. A lot of general, beginner, summary type of books. The dummies series seem to tackle subjects in a casual manner. The tone of the writing was definitely on the silly side, with chapter titles like “Snow, Ice, and Not Very Nice: Norse Deities.” Almost 1/3 of the book was devoted to Greeks and Romans. Extremely superficial coverage of European, Middle Eastern, Eastern and American mythology. Some of the sections were more description of religions than mythology.

It was an easy read, and I like that the authors didn’t try to make mythology sound mystical or serious. May be too light-hearted in places. What did I learn? Mythology around the world and along history was remarkably similar. Some version of a god or gods creating the universe, some gods bigger and older than others. Lots of murder, jealousy, incest and illogical behaviour. They married each other (sometimes at the same time), bred like rabbits, had a tendency to fight or kill each other off for no good reason, then are consumed with remorse.

I was interested in the Greeks but lost interest in the Romans. Had a hard time keeping track of the names and relationships. Nordic mythology was interesting, as was the legend of King Arthur and his Knights at the Round table. Too brief on the rest. I guess a book I’ll keep around for reference if and when I need it.

in being healthy , challenges |

in being healthy , challenges |

I wanted to go running but it was a) 35°C b) so muggy I could see the pollution and then c) thunderstorms came. A day to stay indoors and work on weights.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #11 of 30in30 is to have 5 vegetables in a day.

What better than to make a salad. Easy carrot, cucumber, pepper, sweetcorn and tomato with a japanese sesame dressing. Added a couple of small taiwanese sausages I grilled.

I had enoki mushrooms for lunch so i actually had 6 vegetables today. That, plus walking for 1.5hr while listening to a mindfulness walking mp3 made me feel sort of healthy.

in being healthy , challenges |

Task #8 of 30in30 is to do mindfulness meditation for 20mins.

I’ve been diligently doing sb&t daily and although I’m not sure I’m seeing results, it’s a nice way to close my eyes and slow down for 10mins. I particularly enjoy the body scan meditations, which is just slowly becoming aware of parts of our body moving through head, neck, shoulders, back, arms and legs.

I found this 20min guided mindfulness exercise that is 100% body scan. It took me a few beats to get used to a new voice — this one is a British guy vs the usual American woman on sb&t. Once I got past that, I was able to follow the meditation.

I even tried a few steps of mindful walking when I was walking to the bus stop. May be I’ll download something to the iphone to listen to next time I’m out and about.

in challenges , random words |


Task #26 of 30in30 is to write 1000 words for PP.

I said I wanted to build up some momentum for PP, so I made myself sit down in the afternoon to get 1000 words. Start wordcount=2472, finish wordcount=3604 so actual words written=1132.

The story is set in Franklin TN. Here’s when I wish I still lived in Chicago. It’s about 8hrs to drive there, so research in person is feasible. Lots also to do in nearby Nashville. Important things happen during the cherry blossom festival in April. MC1’s dad worked at Nissan and they even offer factory tours. Plus of course, the bourbon trail distilleries are on the way from Chicago to Nashville.

in challenges |


Chugging along. I look at the list every night and decide which task I’ll tackle the next day. The first half of the month is easier, I’ll have to plan more towards the end of the month, especially since we’ll be away from the 26th. Have to reserve some tasks for then and complete other tasks I can only do at home.

  1. run/walk/bike 30mins
  2. run/walk/bike 60mins
  3. do more than 50 squats in one set // done 06-sep-2014
  4. do more than 50 crunches in one set // done 07-sep-2014
  5. weights/TRX 3 sets of 10
  6. weights/TRX 3 sets of 12 // done 10-sep-2014
  7. mindfulness 10mins // done 02-sep-2014
  8. mindfulness 20mins
  9. sleep early // done 04-sep-2014
  10. turn off electronics 1hr before bed // done 14-sep-2014

  11. food & drink
  12. 5 different vegetables in a day
  13. 3 different fruits in a day // done 03-sep-2014
  14. mostly water (1 tea, 1 coke zero only)
  15. no red meat day // done 01-sep-2014
  16. no alcohol day // done 13-sep-2014
  17. no snack day
  18. new food/recipe

  19. personal/family
  20. family activity
  21. bbmm activity
  22. scan 10 family pics // done 05-sep-2014
  23. gratitude at 1:11 or 11:11
  24. celebrate a bizarre holiday // done chocolate milkshake day 12-sep-2014

  25. creative
  26. 25 squares
  27. do something creative // done 09-sep-2014
  28. outline nano 2014 // done 15-sep-2014
  29. 1000 words PP
  30. read a new author // done 08-sep-2014

  31. photography
  32. photofriday challenge // done 11-sep-2014
  33. random from photo-a-day
  34. random from instagram challenge

in challenges , random words |


Task #25 of 30in30 is to outline this year’s nano.

Original plan was to write spotter this year, but I don’t feel like it, mainly because I’m having too much fun with it in my head and writing it down will take the fun away. In any case I want to get some momentum going for party planner, so I’m going to tackle PP this year. And since it’s already outlined, I’m sort of cheating on the task, but whatever. I’ll call it auto-completed.

I’m also cheating on nano because there’s about 2,000 words already written. Technically, nano is supposed to be writing 50k words from scratch. But hey, I’ve been doing nano enough years to know that it’s the spirit of writing 50k new words that count and it’s about time I joined the nano rebels group for a year. I just did a calculation and this will be my 10th nano.

in challenges , techtalk |


Task #10 of 30in30 is to turn off electronics 1hr before bed.

Everyone will agree that we are too dependent on being connected. Our blackberrys chime and we are compelled to look at it, even though we know it’s work and we hate it. We can’t help but check fb or twitter constantly, in case we are missing out on…something. There’s a lot of advantages for unplugging occasionally, and the national day of unplugging is in March.

Anyway, I’m coming down with something. Cold, cough, flu, whatever. Tired all day. So I shut everything down at 8.45pm. It’s fine to turn off electronics, the only difficulty was I couldn’t use the ipad to read, so I had to find a paperback. I think next time I’ll unplug from internet but I can use electronics for standalone tasks like read books or use the calculator.

in challenges |


Task #15 of 30in30 is to have a no alcohol day.

I haven’t been drinking a lot, so It’s no big deal. I think up to this point in the month, I’ve had one whisky and one beer. I can do no alcohol week too. I’m quite happy about this, taking a rest from alcohol, not completely but a nice balance.

in challenges , eating and drinking |

Task #22 of 30in30 is to celebrate a bizarre holiday. Since I have homemade vanilla ice cream, it’s perfect to celebrate chocolate milkshake day. All I did was blitz together 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate milk. It seemed the easiest, without having to buy chocolate syrup or cocoa powder, which are the usual ingredients used. It wasn’t chocolate-y enough so I melted some 70% chocolate into the mixture. Why 70% chocolate? I only have baking chocolate in my fridge.


Very rich, a little to sweet for my taste, which I know because the ice cream was too sweet. Chocolate isn’t my first choice for ice cream or milkshake, so if it weren’t for the national chocolate milkshake day, I would probably just had the vanilla ice cream on its own or with some fruit. I can’t imagine how many calories, I made myself go running for 5 miles in torrential rain for this.

in challenges , photography is life |


Task #28 of 30 in 30 is to participate in a photofriday challenge.

This week’s theme is nightfall. This was taken from the balcony of our cruise ship cabin at Glacier Bay in May. I was taking a picture every few minutes waiting for the perfect sunset shot, this was around 9-10pm.

in being healthy , challenges |

Task #6 of 30in30 is to do 3 sets of 12 weights or TRX.

Lots to do tonight: sort out some spreadsheets, update apps, buy the all-season pass for run zombies (on sale for $9.99), defrost my fridge (again) and other stuff at home. In between I found time to get a TRX workout in, because: a) it’s one of 30in30 and b) I haven’t done TRX for a while.

I don’t usually do so many TRX reps. Two sets of 10 or 12 is what I usually do, so 3 sets of 12 was a little more strenuous. And it was great! My shoulder and triceps are already telling me they got a workout. The TRX is one of the best things sis ever gave me.

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tok001mosiac tok026chirashi
tok345meiji tok310mosiacwater

Task #24 of 30in30 is to do something creative.

Lots of possibilities here. Since task #26 is to write 1000 words and tasks #28-30 are photo challenges, I should try something else. Draw something, crochet a blanket or make bunting. Ack, no good at any of those. No artistic talent there.

What have I been doing recently? I sorted through the Tokyo pics. 414 pics and 2 videos into 2 sets: tokyo 01 | tokyo 02. So may be I can do something fun with them. I don’t like photo montage apps but I did use a webapp to create a mosiac out of all 400+ pics. Took a few minutes to upload and compose, I picked the bowl of chirashi from tsukiji market and the water bath outside meiji shrine as base pictures. I think the results are pretty cool.

Did that count as something creative? Or should I have drawn something or folded an origami swan? It’s creative enough for me. YMMV.

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Task #27 of 30in30 is to read a new author. Appropriate, considering today is international literacy day.

Sis asked me for my recommendations for science fiction books for my niece. Ah the memories. I can’t remember if I started reading scifi books at 12, definitely at around 15-16 I was going through the shelves at the library — hitchhiker’s guide and the foundation series came first, because they were there alphabetically. I can’t remember half the ones I read now. I switched to fantasy soon. I still have both sets of David Eddings’ Belgariad as well as his other books, all (I think) of Katherine Kerr’s Deverry series on my shelf, even after downsizing from 2 full bookcases of fiction to half a bookcase.

So when sis asked me, I went and looked to see what physical books I had left that I could lend to my niece. Anne McCaffrey and Philip Pullman. I’d love to introduce her to the world of Pern but I think I’ll start her with The Ship Who Sang. I also got a few recs from my fb friends. It’s enough for her to borrow from the library or get on kindle.

I also noticed the couple of Ghosts of Albion collectible hardbacks, and then I remembered I still haven’t read Amber Benson’s Calliope Reaper-Jones series. The first one, Death’s Daughter, was published in 2009, and I went to the signing in Chicago. I wanted to see if I can recommend it to my niece.

I’m a bit of an Amber fan. Tara of course. I have a small signed Chance poster framed on my wall. I remember reading that one of the locations for Ghosts of Albion was St Mary’s le Strand and it brought warm fuzzy feelings.1 I follow her on twitter and fb and instagram (but not in a stalkery way, I don’t think I’ve ever DM or commented on her posts.)

The publisher’s blurb for Death’s Daughter:

Calliope Reaper-Jones so just wanted a normal life: buying designer shoes on sale, dating guys from Craigslist, web-surfing for organic dim-sum for her boss.

But when her father—who happens to be Death himself—is kidnapped, and the Devil’s Protégé embarks on a hostile takeover of the family business, Death, Inc., Callie returns home to assume the CEO mantle—only to discover she must complete three nearly impossible tasks in the realm of the afterlife first.

Reviews for the book is mixed. Some outright fan fawning vs people who don’t think actors should write. I’m not a fan of these reviews. Actual reviews of the book are also mixed. And I can see why.

Callie is forced to return to the family fold after her father is kidnapped and she is the designated person to save him and the family business, Death. Reluctantly she drags her tank-topped and Jimmy Choo-heeled self to Hell (literally) and back in order to complete 3 tasks before a) her allocated time and b) her competition beats her to them. She’s whiny, contradictory, frustrating and basically bumbles along with help from friends, her sister and various mythical beings. Everybody talks like a SoCal teenager, even though they are mythical being or, in the case of Callie, a twentysomething immortal who lives in New York. There’s Bollywood dancing and an inordinate amount of ogling of the male body. On almost every page there are numerous pop culture references.

But that’s the point. I don’t think it’s supposed to be taken seriously, it’s not like it’s the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Yes, Callie is, like, annoying, but her heart is, like, in the right place (that’s, like, how she speaks). I can get past the juvenile speak and get behind snarky Callie. Yes, the mythology is mixed up, with a Cerberus that acts in a surprising manner and the Indian goddess Kali acting like a mean girl and using words like “dipwad.” So what. It’s tongue-in-cheek, people.

The story itself is your standard do-3-impossible-tasks-to-save-the-world deal. Interesting twists on all 3 tasks. A flawed, reluctant heroine (like Buffy s1 or General Buffy s7) who is more concerned with shoe shopping and boys. The cover has a tough looking girl with short dark hair but for some reason I picture Lindsay Lohan (the actor with some talent, not the drug-addled failure). Hotter than hell…Hell, a castle with walls made from tortured people, a bottomless black pit and a 14-room house in New England are some of the locations. Plus a supporting cast of misfits. I can see it as a funny indie film.

It’s not a perfect book. Needed tighter editing to fix the spelling mistakes and superfluous parts. The dialogue doesn’t flow in all places and the plot jumps with no reason—they are screaming and yelling at each other then suddenly her dog bites her on her ankle.

The motivation for reading is to see if it’s suitable for a 12 year old. The story itself, yes I think a 12 year old will enjoy it. The silly speak and sarcasm too, i think a 12 year old will get the funny. I won’t be recommending it to my niece though, not until she’s older. There are too many inappropriate words and sexual references. It’s a shame, because these were the superfluous parts that didn’t add value to the story.

Death’s Daughter is the first of a series, there are 4 books now. I like this first book enough to want to get the other 3. Now here’s the problem, ebook vs paperback. In order of cost:

  • 3 used paperbacks shipped to US = $12 (I can get all 3 at 0.01+3.99 shipping)
  • 3 new paperbacks shipped to US = $21.57 (7.19 each, free shipping if I borrow the use of Prime)
  • 3 new paperbacks at paddyfield = $24.61 (64 each — paddyfield is a local online bookseller who sells English books from US/UK at almost direct fx conversion)
  • 3 new paperbacks shipped here from amazon = $26.56 (7.19 each plus 4.99 total shipment)
  • 4 kindle = $31.96 (7.99 each)

If I get the paperback, cheapest is used shipped to the US which means I have to wait till July. The advantage of ebook is obvious, and I’ve been 100% ebook for a few years now. I’ll think about it, I’m not in a big hurry.

1 St Mary’s le Strand is a tiny church on the Strand rather pitifully divided by 4 lanes of traffic rushing either on the Strand or turning left onto Waterloo Bridge. It’s also directly opposite King’s, so I would have walked past it at least twice a day for 7 years.

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Task #4 of 30in30 is to do 50 crunches in one set.

I find crunches harder than squats so although i was able to do 50 (not perfectly) I couldn’t get to 101. I did end up doing one set of 50 and 2 sets of 25.

in challenges , family first |


Task #20 of 30in30 is to scan 10 family pics.

Both my grandfather and father had cameras when we were small; my dad still has his camera and my grandfather even took 8mm videos. Before the age of digital cameras and social media, photographs were carefully composed on 35mm film, developed at a shop and stored in photo albums. We have a lot of family albums. A couple of shelves in their cabinet and I have 2 boxes myself. It’ll take a long time to organise and scan them all, I want to make a start somehow.

These are small 3.5”x2.5” pics of me and sis. I love the small format, these are firm favourites. There are 16 double-sided pages in this album, each page holds 8 pics so 256 total. Scanned the first 24, all b/w, I was about 4 or 5 years old. Still good quality albeit a little yellowed, adds to the charm.

p.s. image is deliberately small and blurred, I don’t want our faces to be recognisable.

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Task #9 of 30in30 is to sleep early.

I haven’t been sleeping well. I wake up in the middle of the night, usually 3 or 4am, then can’t get back to sleep until 5 or 6am. I don’t know why. I don’t think I’m stressed. I don’t drink anything with caffeine after around 3pm, I don’t eat anything substantial after 8pm and because I don’t need to get up for work there are days when I’m in bed till 9 or 10am.

There’s so much research on sleep. Every so often there will be articles on why we can’t sleep, how many hours of sleep we really need and the science behind sleeping. All sort of interesting, but doesn’t solve my can’t sleep problem.

I’m going to bed early tonight. I hope I get some quality sleep.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #12 of 30 in 30 is to eat 3 different fruits in a day.

I had 13 giant peaches in the case from tokyo; one was extremely squashed and three were quite squashed. The figs I bought were also a little squashed. I had diced giant mangos in the freezer so it was an easy job to assemble a fruit salad. Even the extremely squashed peach had good bits, and 2/3 of a squashed peach tasted just as delicious as a whole peach.

I went to sis to give her the ikura, a few peaches and the pokemon soft toy to my niece. She had watermelon so total I had 4 fruits today.

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Task #7 of 30 in 30 is to do mindfulness meditation for 10mins.

Today was a travelling day. We did tons of walking, shopping and pushing suitcases along the streets of Tokyo before flying home. Got home around 11pm, unpacked and showered. So it was good to sit quietly, close my eyes and listen to the meditation for 10mins.

in challenges , eating and drinking |

30302014091401sushi 30302014091402cake

Task #14 of 30in30 is to have no red meat during the day. The last time I did 30in30 was april 2014, and it also coincided with bbmm going to Japan. Co-incidence much.


It’s so easy to skip red meat in Japan. We had sushi for lunch, cake for tea and went to a fugu restaurant for dinner — the first time we tried the infamous poisonous pufferfish. In between, we sampled some potato snacks and red bean sweets at stalls around the Sensō shrine. If we hadn’t bought a couple of skewers of squid and chicken liver for snack, i could say it was a no meat day.

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Time for a new 30 tasks in 30 days challenge. Tried it for the first time in april and it was a good challenge. To recap, 30in30 is 30 tasks, each should be achievable in a day.

  1. run/walk/bike 30mins
  2. run/walk/bike 60mins
  3. do more than 50 squats in one set
  4. do more than 50 crunches in one set
  5. weights/TRX 3 sets of 10
  6. weights/TRX 3 sets of 12
  7. mindfulness 10mins
  8. mindfulness 20mins
  9. sleep early
  10. turn off electronics 1hr before bed

  11. food & drink
  12. 5 different vegetables in a day
  13. 3 different fruits in a day
  14. mostly water (1 tea, 1 coke zero only)
  15. no red meat day
  16. no alcohol day
  17. no snack day
  18. new food/recipe

  19. personal/family
  20. family activity
  21. bbmm activity
  22. scan 10 family pics
  23. gratitude at 1:11 or 11:11
  24. celebrate a bizarre holiday

  25. creative
  26. 25 squares
  27. do something creative
  28. outline nano 2014
  29. 1000 words PP
  30. read a new author

  31. photography
  32. photofriday challenge
  33. random from photo-a-day
  34. random from instagram challenge

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are to try 10 new recipes. This is #8, the third savoury and only the second meat recipe.

One of the classics in tv cooking history was Jacques Pepin deboning a whole chicken, stuffing it and making a galantine, a truly amazing demonstration of butchery and cooking skills. Nowadays I see chefs on masterchef and cookery competition programs making ballotine of chicken, duck, veal or another meat. There are many names: Pepin’s galantine, Americans favour roulade and ballotine seems to be used in the UK and commonwealth. It all comes down to the same concept: meat swiss roll with some stuffing (meat, vegetables or a combination) rolled up in an outer layer of meat.

This is a recipe I worked out myself, inspired by bonappetit. Serves 4 with sides, or 2 very hungry adults:

  1. pan fry 2 chicken thighs, season and dice to small bite-size pieces
  2. dice mushroom into small pieces, cook with chopped reconstituted dried porcini and sun-dried tomato, season
  3. combine thigh with mushroom mixture to make the filling and leave to cool
  4. butterfly 2 chicken breasts, cover with clingfilm and flatten slightly — not as flat as an escalope, around 1cm thick, season with s&p
  5. layer jamon, fresh basil, emmental slices on top of the chicken breast — jamon because the packet I bought was from spain, I was initially aiming for prosciutto; emmental because that’s what I found in the fridge, mozzarella or provolone will work just as well
  6. spoon on filling and roll carefully, secure with toothpick if necessary — it was difficult to roll so I used another slice of jamon on the outside
  7. sear in a pan until golden brown
  8. transfer to oven and bake at 180°C for 10mins
  9. rest for 5mins then slice


Served the ballotine with roast potatoes, mushroom and cherry tomato. I made some sauce by combining the mushroom cooking liquid with the water from the porcini and sun-dried tomato. It tasted really good, I only cooked the chicken breast for 10mins so it was still juicy.

in 101.1001 , being healthy , challenges |


Task #40 of 101 in 1001 is to complete the walk to mordor challenge, following Frodo and Sam’s journey from Hobbiton to Mt Doom. It’s a total of 1779 miles.

No, I haven’t gone that far yet, though I’m determined to finish this task by the end of 101.1001. I’m happy to say that I’ve reached a milestone: 458 miles from Hobbiton to Rivendell.

This was from a combination of walking, running and cycling (both real bikes and stationary bike). Didn’t keep details of how many miles by each method, I think at the end of the day it’ll balance out.

Next milestone is 462 miles away. This is where Frodo and Sam set out with the Fellowship from Rivendell, through Moria, to Lothlorien to get to 920 miles total.


So it’s taken me 265 days to complete 459 miles. I’ve used up 26.4% of my time allocation to achieve 25.8% of my goal, so I’m very slightly behind. I have 736 days to cover the remaining 1320 miles, at just over 1.79 miles per day. So far I’ve averaged 1.73 miles per day so I just have to ramp it up a notch and I’ll be back on track.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are to try 10 new recipes. This is #7 and the 5th baking recipe so far.

Mum went to lunch at the restaurant of a training hotel the other day. She had chocolate mousse (“like really bad ice cream”) and tried her friend’s key lime pie (“it was good”). Sis and gis had key lime pie recently and liked it. It’s my dad’s birthday. So all these events combined mean I should make key lime pie.

Yes, it’s quintessentially American, but the recipe I trusted was from bbc good food because: a) hob nobs!! and b) grams not cups.

300g hob nobs
150g butter
3 egg yolks (I used 4 because the eggs were small)
1 can (397g) condensed milk
zest and juice from 4 limes (these were tiny limes so I used 5)

Make the base from crushed hob nobs and melted butter. Allow to cool. Whisk egg yolks for about 1min, add the condensed milk and whisk for 3mins. Add lime zest and juice, whisk for another 3mins. Pour over base, bake at 160°C for 15-20mins. Leave in tin to cool overnight in fridge.


I tried to make candied lime peel. Blanched lime slices in hot water then simmered in a simple syrup made from equal quantities of sugar and water for 15mins. Was still quite bitter (from peel, not pith) so I didn’t use it to decorate. Instead I whipped up some cream and used strawberries. Couldn’t be bothered to break out the piping bag so I just quenelled the cream.

Everyone seemed to like it and no complaints. I thought it was an extremely simple recipe, I liked that it was loaded with lime flavour and wasn’t too sweet. Next time I’ll make mixed citrus peel, may be that’ll work. Or just grate lime zest over a heap of cream.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Tasks #64-68 of 101 in 1001 is to try 5 whiskies. This is #3 of 5.

Next in the highland/speyside rotation is the bottle of The Dalmore 18 I bought at DXB last year. It was on special offer, and I couldn’t help remembering that Dalmore boasts the most expensive whisky in the world, a very limited (12 bottles total) edition of the 1962 sold at Chiangi airport for US$250,000. My flawed theory was, if they can sell the world’s most expensive whisky, their other offerings must be good, right?

Well, not so much. I found the 18 to be flat and abrupt with barely any finish. It’s smooth enough, I must say. Some notes of bitter chocolate or bitter something. The first few sips were disappointing, then I got used to it and was prepared for the lack of finish. Not quite sure why it gets such good reviews, may be it’s my palette.

It costs around the same as Macallan 18 and even though I’ve pretty much gone off Macallan, I think the Dalmore compares poorly with Macallan and other high street 18s. The problem with Dalmore is that they’re trying too hard to market themselves as a premium brand, with a distinctive bottle, stag logo that screams county squire, and gimmicky £1 million pricetags.

Yes, there are people with more money than taste who will throw money at something very expensive because it is expensive. But to make it as a premium brand, the product itself has to be of sufficiently high quality consistently. In the crowded 18yr category, I’ll take Highland Park 18 any day, or Bunnahabein 18 (£70 at TWE, a bargain) or the stunning Yamazaki 18 (a bit higher in the price bracket, but I can get it when I travel to Japan). I think I should have saved my money or gone for the 12 or 15 if I wanted to try Dalmore. Mr Murray gives the Dalmore 18 a disappointing 76.5 points and I think it’s about right. Nice bottle design though.

in 101.1001 , being healthy , challenges |


Task #100 of 101 in 1001 is to try meditation.

Most people will agree on the benefits of meditation. There are many different types and practices of meditation, some relating to religious practices. I didn’t want to get into religious meditation, and didn’t want anything too fancy or new age-y or deep. A free app is perfect for trying. Stop, breathe and think is

a friendly, simple tool to guide people of all ages and backgrounds through meditations for mindfulness and compassion

I’ve used the app daily for a week now. It’s a simple process — check in, note physical, mental and emotional status and the app will present a few meditations to follow. For a few minutes, it tells me to close my eyes and be aware of my breathing, then it tells me to think about happiness and compassion and noticing what is around me. It may tell me to think about my current position, then expand to the room, the city and then the whole world.

Before I started reading up on the app, I thought meditation was basically sitting there with your eyes closed and not thinking. As usual, that’s over-simplification. The SB&T app teaches mindfulness, which a fellow user aptly describes as a non-judgmental, neutral state of mind:

mindfulness is all about acceptance. Feeling shitty? Want to rip your hair out? Waiting for Tylenol to kick in? Super jealous of your friend’s new car? Want to punch that guy in the face? Well, ok then. Just feel that for now

I like the just let it be part of the teaching. If I had to state a goal for trying meditation (aside from checking off another 101.1001), it’s to temper my constant anger towards people, because they exist. Whenever I have to venture outside, I look at all the people around me and I wish they could be exterminated. The other extreme is I completely don’t care about anything or anybody. I think I need to find some middle ground that acknowledges that, like it or not, other people exist in this world and I have to tolerate them. May be mindfulness meditation can help.

It’s only been a week, too early to tell if it works. I try to focus and follow the app, but i must admit I still get distracted sometimes. Instead of getting uptight about it, I allow myself to be distracted while the rest of the meditation plays and I can usually get back to it. If I don’t want to follow the recommended meditation I can go to the main menu and select another one. There are longer meditations available as IAP but for the time being I’m sticking with the free ones.

There are loads of mediation apps, including best selling mindfulness meditation and headspace. I already have apps that play relaxing melodies or white noise. Lots of resources.

in 101.1001 , challenges , techtalk |


Task #4 of 101 in 1001 is to complete an online course.

I was working on a javascript coding course on codecademy but have sort of given up because I got stuck and the instructions weren’t clear. So for just for the hell of it I started browsing around other online education places and came across some simple short courses on graphic design at udemy.

The free courses are all very basic. The one on introduction to graphic design took less than 30mins to finish and I took away some theory:

6 elements in design = line, form, colour, texture, mass space
5 principles of design: alignment, balance, contrast, proximity, repetition

I also took one called real life graphic design: photoshop and illustrator. I learned how to darken a blue sky using gradient, add a sunset, use curves in photoshop — all of which I know. The course also touched on Illustrator, which I don’t have much experience or confidence in using. I learned basic manipulation. There was one comment in the course, that the instructor went too fast. I totally agree. I know what he was doing in photoshop because I’m really not a beginner, he was clicking and telling us what he is doing without explaining where the controls are or what settings. That said, I think I can start practicing using Illustrator for simple graphics.

It’s a good way to spend a couple of hours, better than playing a game. I get nifty completion certificates too. I’ll definitely go through some more free courses on the site, not ready to pay for anything yet.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places , on the relationship front |

taio017houses taio010bridge
taio026village taio028village

Tasks #85-6 in 101 in 1001 are to do 3 new things with mm. This is 2 of 3.

We met up after mm’s piano lesson and took the train all the way to the end of the line, then another bus for almost 1hr to go to the fishing village of Tai O. It was an extremely hot day, the queue for the bus was long and it was crowded. We discussed for half a second whether to go, and decided that we should persevere since ee’d been talking about going there for ages. The village itself is more a tourist attraction now, although some of the traditional activities like fishing and preparing dried seafood still remain.

We walked to one end of the village, doubled back and shared a snack of fried rice and squid with shrimp sauce at a local place. Walked to the other end and went through the market and the pretty waterways area. One of the attractions of the village is houses on wooden stilts, many were destroyed in a fire in 2000, thankfully some are still standing. Other houses in the village were constructed from metal, tin or aluminium I think. They must be scorching inside, although some have been modernised with air-conditioning.

Right at the end of the waterfront is a hotel converted from the old police station. Very colonial in architecture and with great views out of the pier and sea.

A nice afternoon out, very hot and we were grateful for some shade and areas where we could feel the breeze. I didn’t have my camera, so everything was taken using the iphone. Not a bad set.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Tasks #31-33 are to visit 3 new US states. Tasks #31 and 31 ware Wasthington and Alaska respectively, when Mum and I went on the Alaskan cruise. I had to decide which state to use as task #33; on the roadtrip from Chicago to Portland and back I visited 7 new states: nebraska, wyoming, utah, idaho, oregon, montana, south dakota. Nebraska was a drive through, wyoming had yellowstone, utah had salt lake, idaho had twin falls, oregon had portland, montana had part of yellowstone and an interesting prison museum. I decided on south dakota, the last new state, because of: a) it’s a state I’d never expected to have the opportunity to visit and b) there were so many things to see.

Trip posts: deadwood and crazy horse, mount rushmore, bear country, badlands | flickr sets: deadwood, mount rushmore, bear country, badlands

We stayed in a motel straight out of the 1950s called dakota cowboy inn:


ate buffalo steak:


visited Deadwood, a wild west gold rush town with a dubious history, which it tries to maintain today:


got a rock from the crazy horse mountain, knowing that the monument won’t be completed in our lifetime:


suitably awed by the mount rushmore national monument:


drove amongst bears at bear country:


and entered an alien landscape at badlands national park:


in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |

port077foodcart port073foodcart

Tasks #69-73 are to visit 5 new restaurants in 5 cities. This is 3 of 5, and instead of the traditional concept of a restaurant, I’m stretching the definition to include food carts in Portland because eating at food carts is a very Portland thing to do, with over 600 operating in the city.

The dictionary definition of restaurant is an:

establishment where refreshments or meals are served to paying guests

or quite simply:

a place where you can buy and eat a meal

Honestly, if Mcdonald’s is a restaurant, the far superior quality of food served at any of the portland food carts qualifies them as a restaurant. A group of food carts is called a pod and I visited a couple of them during my visit.

Visiting the food carts was definitely a too-many-choices situation. I was tempted by hawaiian, ethiopian, vegetarian, middle eastern, mexican, american barbeque and many others. Not tempted by the korean, chinese and japanese carts though.

port085lunch port187lunch

Visited on 2 consecutive days. The first day I had dumplings, stuffed flatbread and salad from a georgian cart, the second day I was really hungry and went for a 4 cheese grilled cheese sandwich washed down with a vietnamese iced tea.

in challenges , photography is life |


This week’s photofriday challenge is simplicity. This was an accidental shot taken at the Chicago Air and Water show a few years ago. I was focused on capturing the US Navy’s Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornets as they flew past in formation. I didn’t even see the seagull until I sorted the pic.

I like this because it’s also as if the seagull was flying straight towards the planes, but of course it was just the angle. Seems so much like a photoshopped image, but I know it wasn’t. And anyway, I had a nice day, even though it was hot and I spent hours sitting on the hard concrete of the jetty at north avenue beach.

If ever I make a poster of my work, this will be a good contender.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Tasks #31-33 are to visit 3 new US states. #31 was Washington, this is the second one, I went to Alaska.

Alaska is the biggest state and one that is on many, many bucket lists. I read several books set in Alaska and the theme is very similar—city slicker goes to Alaska, has adventures, falls in love with the environment, perhaps even fall in love with someone living in Alaska, ends up moving there. And no wonder, the scenery is fabulous and it’s so peaceful. That said, it can be rough, lonely, cold and living standards isn’t as high as the US mainland leading to a high crime rate. So there are romantic notions, but reality may be very different.

It’s all moot anyway, I was only there as a tourist. Going on an Alaskan cruise is also on many, many bucket lists. We did a roundtrip from Seattle to the Inside Passage and saw the usual places: Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan.

There was water in its liquid form:


Water in its solid form:


There were whales:


and bald eagles:


and we ate a lot of delicious king crab:


The Inside Passage is only a small sliver of the state, there is still vast areas of Alaska worth exploring. Definitely worth returning.

posts: Juneau | Skagway | Glacier Bay | ketchikan
flickr sets: set 1 | set 2

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |


Tasks #31-33 are to visit 3 new US states—visit, as in stop, go to places, photograph and experience as opposed to drive through. This is the first one, where I visited the Pacific Northwest for the first time.

I travelled to Seattle via Vancouver with mum to go on an Alaskan cruise. Got there a couple of days beforehand as we’d never visited that part of the US before. Saw Pike Place Market, Space Needle, Chihuly Garden & Glass. People say it rains a lot in Seattle; aside from a little rain in the morning, we had really good weather so no complaints.

The highlight was definitely Chihuly garden. Well worth the price of the combo ticket with Space Needle. On the whole I liked Seattle (notwithstanding the homeless behind Pike Place market). It’s relaxed, pretty and doesn’t have the manic busy feel of New York or LA. They have fresh seafood at Pike Place market, access to great wines from Washington state and Oregon plus lots of craft beer choices. If I were a coffee drinker, it’s a big coffee city too.

Full writeup: here | flickr set: here

in 101.1001 , arts and media , challenges |

As soon as I read about Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle as part of our cruise research, I knew it was a must visit. Situated next to the iconic Space Needle, the museum is a showcase for the works of glass artist Dale Chihuly. I remember seeing the glass ceiling at the Bellagio in Vegas and thought it was brilliant.


The museum is organised into separate galleries that holds pieces that are colourful, intricate and breath-taking in detail. The first gallery has an early piece, Glass Forest, with vertical blown glass lit by neon. Just beyond features a room with an American Indian feel, of large glass bowls/ baskets and a tapestry made from blankets.


Then it’s the sealife room with a huge tower of blue seaweed and golden sea creatures hidden in the swirling mass.


The Persian Ceiling gallery had flowers in all colours suspended from the ceiling. Lighting effect brings the colour to the walls and floor of the room. This was the first room where I felt a big wow.

The next gallery was even more wow-worthy. Called Mille Fiori, Italian for a thousand flowers, it was like a big garden where everywhere you looked there was something new, something to study and discover. Many different shapes including spheres and stalks and leaves. There was just enough messiness for it to feel like it was based on a real garden.


Talking about spheres the next gallery was all about them. The Ikebana and float boat had perfectly formed glass spheres apparently inspired by blowing glass into a river in Finland. After the large hectic garden, this felt more peaceful as if the rowing boats were really floating on a river.


The small room next had chandeliers, and it brought us to the Macchia Forest. The pieces shaped like bowls were actually very technical in terms of colour. Instead of simple solid colours or patterns, there were unexpected specks scattered in the glass made by rolling the molten glass in other pieces of coloured shards before blowing. Truly great.

sea313chihuly sea316chihuly

The second part of the museum was the outside garden. The Glasshouse, the centrepiece of the museum, dominated the garden. A 40-foot tall conservatory with a 100-foot long piece in autumn colours. Seen from the right, the Space Needle loomed over it through the glass panels of the glasshouse.


And then we reached the garden, with a mixture of real plants and glass plants. A new vista at every angle and every perspective. Many of the spheres reflected the Space Needle in the background, giving a different backdrop.

A great find, a great museum, so happy we visited.

in being healthy , challenges |

This is the actual post on medium, I figured I should have a copy over here. As of about 20hrs after publication I have 3 views, so there is no danger of my invisibility being compromised.



The Challenge is a Fresh Challenge

I started taking part in fitness challenges back when it wasn’t awkward to hang around the livestrong website. Do x number of crunches, run y miles, track z calories. It was fun and, like most goal-driven tasks, gave me a sense of achievement when I was able to give myself a pat on the back when I completed the challenge. Go me!

The internet caters to many tastes and personalities and “people who like making lists and following them” are particularly well served. Bucket lists, wishlists and a proliferation of challenges abound. We can lose weight, take photographs, read books, design quilts—if you do it, someone will do it with you in the world wide web.

Or so it appears.

Initially the motivation for doing a challenge was for personal improvement and, as mentioned, a sense of achievement. I was happy operating in my cozy personal challenge bubble. Often my immediate family and friends only have a vague idea of what I was doing. Like an alcoholic or someone with a comic book addiction I hid my challenge activities in plain sight around daily routines.

Then came social media.

Nowadays it seems that nothing happens in life without it being broadcast on social media. Unfortunately I too have succumbed. It’s not enough to self-participate in a challenge, it has to be done with my facebook friends and every minute detail tweeted to my twitter followers. I cry silent tears if no one likes my status updates, and there is an unspoken competition with fellow challenge-takers—challengers?, challengemongers?—for the most original, the most fun, the most popular, the most challenging…challenge.

I run. I run alone. I do not like running in groups. So stop obsessing about impressing people who you’ve never met or only see occasionally and go back to basics. Stop labeling it. Give myself a set of goals for my own benefit, because ultimately I am the only one who matters.

in challenges |


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

  11. 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

  20. family
  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

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

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

in challenges |


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.

in being healthy , challenges |

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.

in being healthy , challenges |

in challenges , random words |


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.

in challenges , random words |


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.

in being healthy , challenges |

Tasks #2-4 of 30 in 30 are to do levels 1-3 of 30 day shred. I’d delayed working on these until my knee feels okay. Level 1 is fine, there was a little sporadic weakness that’s all.

in challenges , random words |


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.

in challenges , photography is life |


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.

in challenges , photography is life |


Continuing on photochallenges, task #29 of 30 in 30 is a photochallenge topic of travel.

I just finished sorting and uploading the hokkaido pics. Here’s one of the loop tram at sapporo.

in challenges , photography is life |


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.

in 101.1001 , challenges , on the relationship front |


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.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


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.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


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.

in challenges , family first |


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.

in challenges , eating and drinking |

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.

in challenges |


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

  11. 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

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

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

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

in being healthy , challenges |

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.

in being healthy , challenges |

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.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Tast #19 of 30 in 30 is a treat for my birthday, which was last week while we were on holiday. We had a great lunch and travelled to the first of our onsen hotel, where we enjoyed the spa before and after dinner. Dinner was served in our room, which was a treat in itself. So I had lots of treats for my birthday. To top it all, the day before we set off, a package got delivered that made me super excited.

Earlier this year, TWE had a lottery for Karuizawa whisky 1984 sherry cask #3663 bottled in 2013 at 56.8% . Karuizawa is a Japanese distillery that is no longer in production, and is 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, while 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 another 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 £300+ 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 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 to me, because I’m not an investor. Will I ever open the bottle? Eventually. Have to be a special occasion, I think.

in challenges , photography is life |


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.

in challenges , eating and drinking |

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.

in challenges , going places |

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.

in challenges , going places |


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.

in challenges |


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.

in challenges , going places |


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.

in challenges |


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.

in challenges , eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


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.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #12 in 30 in 30 is to have three fruits in a day.

I try to have at least one serving of fruit after dinner, sometimes I mix it up with different fruits. So it’s easy to put a fruit salad together with what I have in the fridge. An apple pear, a sweet ripe mango and red grapes that I’d peeled and deseeded. Peeling the grapes means I have a quarter cup of grape juice to finish. Good stuff.

in challenges , eating and drinking |


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.

in being healthy , challenges |


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.

in being healthy , challenges |


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.

in challenges |


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

  11. 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

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

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

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

in 101.1001 , challenges , techtalk |


Task #2 in 101 in 1001 is to get a new idevice. Originally I thought it’d be an iphone 6 or later, seeing that my iphone is 3 years old. Then my kindle stopped charging. Nothing wrong with the battery, I just wasn’t able to get the pin to connect to the jack, something inside seems to have shifted and no amount of wriggling or even turning the device upside down could get the parts to click together. It seems to be a common problem with many complaints and a repair that involves taking it apart and soldering the jack to the motherboard.

I could claim that the kindle problem is an excuse, but it isn’t really. I was always going to get an ipad mini, it was just a matter of time and which generation. I was gonna get it at Christmas but never got round to it. Now this is supposed to be an early birthday present from parents and sis. I paid for it myself, I’m sure they will reimburse me.

First order of business, make sure I have epub versions of my ebooks. I usually buy in epub format, even when I only had the kindle — I would just convert to azw in calibre. But it wasn’t as easy as just uploading the epubs into ibooks. I have to complain to publishers one of these days, there are 2 things I really hate that they do: a) what possess them to add tags to their books? If I want tags, I’ll add them myself. Plus having tags for “science fiction,” “sci-fi,” “sci fi,” “science fiction fantasy” and all the different permutations by different publishers is NOT helpful; and b) do they think I am stupid when they automatically give their books 5 stars?

The least said about the DRM on kindle books, the better. Hate. That’s why unfortunately I don’t have books by authors who are primarily only available at amazon.

The most time consuming part of setting up is to get the apps in. To stay consistent, the ipad has the same apps and the same layout as the iphone. There are a couple of apps that are iphone only, and of course there is no phone on the ipad. If there is an ipad version, I went through the trouble of downloading it.

So far, works like a dream. Reading is just as good, and it’s a lighter and thinner device so a plus. I have to start games from the beginning, which is a good thing, I like going back to level 1 on angry birds and making my way through the series.

in 101.1001 , challenges , money business |


Task #78 of 101 in 1001 is to have a money-free weekend.

Which is easy to achieve by simplly staying at home. There was enough food at parents’ place to last a while, and I made glazed chicken wings and ribs for dinner on saturday night. Instead of running outside I used the stationary bike. Most of Saturday was spent reading.

Sunday I did research for the April trip to Hokkaido with mm. Put all notes and links in an evernote notebook, including hotel details, maps, things to do, restaurants, bars and transportation. What I don’t like is you can’t print a whole notebook, you have to print individual notes separately. I printed them to pdf them combined them into a master pdf document. Our accommodation is finalised — start with 2 nights at a regular hotel in Sapporo, then 2 nights at 2 different onsens in Jozankei (5 mins’ walk from each other, so no problem with transferring), then back to Sapporo for 3 nights at an apartment I found on airbnb. It’s the first time I used airbnb, last time in Kyoto it was the more established homeaway/VBRO. Looking forward to the food there — king and snow crab, fresh sashimi, uni, salmon roe, even the famous sweet melons. And of course our visit to Yoichi distillery.

I guess not going out was a sort of cheat’s forced way of having a money-freen weekend. Then again I could have gone on an online shopping spree. And of course there’s the overhead spending — electricity, utilities, food already in the fridge. There are loads of other ideas, I like ideas such as having a cupboard potluck, organising one’s finances / house / junk, pottering around at home and generally doing stuff that is more relaxing and simple. We could all do with a simple weekend.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Task #64-68 of 101 in 1001 : try 5 new whiskies. This is the second new one.

I finished the Ardbeg 10, which I exchanged for airmiles a few years ago, so I looked especially carefully at the Islay selection at Dubai when I was transiting there. May be Caol Ila, may be Lagavullin, may be stretch the category to island and get a Talisker. In the end, I couldn’t resist the temptation of Laphroaig PX Cask. I already have a bottle, so I bought one I won’t feel guilty at opening. Something like £60-70 I think.

First time I tasted PX was at Heathrow with RM when we were on our whisky binge that year. Heathrow didn’t have any in stock — it’d just been released and quickly snapped up — we eventually found them at Aberdeen airport.

This PX Cask has no age statement, but is distinguished by the type of wood casks it matured in, which seems to be a trend nowadays. It’s also duty free only, which seems also to be a trend. There are the regular single malts (10, 12, 18yrs) and then increasingly there are ones matured in various casks and carrying various special names. It’s hard to keep track. It follows the successful Quarter Cask and Triple Wood and sits on the duty free shelf together with the QA Cask.

I love Laphroaig. I love Islay whiskies anyway, and have very fond memories of the fantastic distillery tour. While the likes of Bowmore don’t even let you photograph inside the distillery, at Laphroaig we were encouraged to stick our fingers into the spirit safe to sample the freshly distilled spirit. What a difference. The tasting at Laphroaig was also memorable.

It’s no secret also that I prefer sweet, sherry-cask matured whiskies. This is a lovely combination of Laphroaig peat and top notch Pedro Ximenez (hence PX) sherry cask. 48%, which is what I like too. The smoke is heavier on the nose than the palate, which is smooth with vanilla and not too strong caramel.

Mixed online reviews. Some feel it’s too young and not peaty enough. Some like the sherry taste. No different from many whiskies, there will be people who like it, and people who don’t. I don’t have the most recent book by Mr Murray, so I don’t know if he has a view on it.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Task #29 in 101 in 1001 is to visit a new country. Israel makes it new country #2 of 3 for this challenge.

jer027oldcity jer102sepulchre

I never planned on visiting Israel. Never thought I’d have the chance. Yes, I know people who have gone on pilgrimages to the holyland, but those are not for me. I’m not Jewish, nor is Israel on a layover route.

I’m so glad I got the chance to visit. To me, Jerusalem is holy. To be immersed in so much spirituality and so many places that are mentioned in the Bible, it’s impossible not to be moved. The old city, the wailing wall, the church of the holy sepulchre, the different atmospheres in the different quarters. Probably too risky to visit on our own, but part of me wanted longer at the holy sites.


In contrast, Haifa was a pretty port with a world heritage hanging garden. Great to spend half a day because there wasn’t an excursion to the Dead Sea. Like the saying goes, Jerusalem prays, Tel Avia plays and Haifa works. It’s true.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Task #28 in 101.1001 is to visit a new country. As part of the cruise, I visited Greece for the first time.

There are a few places I’m surprised I hadn’t visited, or taken me so long. Spain, Portugal, Greece, the land of packaged holidays (may be that’s why). But Greece’s history and significance means it has to be visited, someday, somehow.

gre054olympia gre165shop

First stop was ancient Olympia. Coming 2 years after personally attending the Olympics, and in the middle of a WInter Games, it’s poignant. I was surprised at the sheer size of the site, imagine the thousands upon thousands of spectators cheering their champions. Sports has changed a lot since then of course, and Olympia will forever have its place in sports history.

Second stop, Heraklion in Crete. No time other than to go to the market and do shopping. The market was fascinating, a mix of tourist shops and local shops. We bought €1 coin holders at a local shop, went to a supermarket, then doubled back to a touristy shop to buy ouzo, spices and typical souvenirs. There are other sights on Crete, hopefully I get a second chance.

gre325parthenon gre358view

Third stop, Athens. And to stand in front of possibly the most important structure in the history of earth. The parthenon was obscured by a giant crane and it was an awful rainy windy day, but its grandeur was no less diminished.

I thought what I saw and experienced was only the tiniest tip of what Greece has to offer. There wasn’t even an opportunity to have a sit down meal, I consider it luck to have at least tried a few pastries and a souvlaki to take away. It’s not merely checking the country off on a list, I really hope I get another chance to visit and see the sights as they are meant to be seen.

use 1 mar as post date

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |


Task #38 of 101 in 1001 is go on a cruise. This was carried forward from the 2007 challenge; in those days we hadn’t started our cruise career.

I finally finished uploading 860 pics and writing up the entire cruise. I have different feelings after this cruise than after the Norway cruise. I loved the Norway cruise, the fjords, the mountains, Bergen, Oslo — all places I wanted to go to and enjoyed going. I was oddly indifferent going into this cruise, even though the itinerary was stunning — Greek islands, Athens, Jerusalem, Rome — all the classics and so many important world heritage sites. I think I was just (correctly) dreading how frustrated I would be because of the lack of decisions and therefore the need for me to be free tour guide throughout.

Anyway, enough complaining. You get given such a chance to travel, make the best of it. And aside from family frustrations, the places we visited were definitely awe-inspiring. Highlights for me: running at the athletics stadium in ancient Olympia, touching the spot where Jesus was born in Bethlehem, everything in Jerusalem, stepping on the marbles at the Acropolis.

Posts for the trip:

flickr sets:
msc fantasia
greece: katakolon, heraklion, athens
holyland: jerusalem, bethlehem, haifa

in 101.1001 , challenges |

Day 100 into 101 in 1001. According to the official list I have completed and written up 25 tasks, but because it’s so close to the end of the trip, there are a few I hadn’t written up yet so the unofficial count is 29.

    technology — need to get some of these done
  1. upgrade macOS at least once
  2. get a new idevice — the plan was to get an ipad mini at christmas but I’d been dragging my feet so I may wait for the next iteration
  3. become proficient at Evernote — what is proficiency? using it daily? if so, then this is completed
  4. complete an online course
  5. 1001 posts on website (start count=3,775) — 102 done so far

  6. arts, media, books
  7. visit an art exhibition / museum**
  8. new musical — wonder what’s showing in Chicago this summer?
  9. old musical
  10. use my library card** // done 12-feb-2014
  11. read 101 books — 32 read so far, so definitely on target
  12. finish a book in one day // done 20-jan-2014
  13. finish all the Harry Potter books** // done 10-jan-2014
  14. read Mythology for Dummies**

  15. writing
  16. nano 2014
  17. nano 2015
  18. finish Lamplight (seriously, get this done, no excuse) — technically it’s done, just need to edit it a bit
  19. outline book ideas — on track
  20. design a book cover — have idea, just need to execute which is easier said than done as I’m not good at art
  21. write a short story

  22. photography
  23. 1001 instagram/vine/snapchat total (start count: instagram 452+vine 1 = 453) — 102 done
  24. 20,001 flickr photos total (start count=18,555) — will get above 19,000 once trip pics are uploaded
  25. complete a photo challenge using a photo app (was lomo)** // done 12-dec-2013
  26. complete an alphabet photo series // done 12-dec-2013
  27. try one of the challenges on // done 18-feb-2014
  28. tues’ assignment: find colour in an unusual place**

  29. travel
  30. make a list of 101 landmarks and notable places visited // done 06-feb-2014
  31. make a list of 101 places to visit // done 07-feb-2014
  32. 3 new countries**: 1. should add greece
  33. 2: should add israel
  34. 3: not sure if I should add palestine, its status as a country is controversial
  35. 3 new US states**: 1.
  36. 2:
  37. 3:
  38. make a list of World Heritage sites visited // done 09-jan-2014
  39. 3 new World Heritage sites: 1. greece — archeological site of olympia (23-feb-2014) and acropolis athens (01-mar-2014) // done
  40. 2: israel — old city of jerusalem and its walls (26-feb-2014) and baha’i holy places in haifa and western galilee (27-feb-2014) // done
  41. 3: palestine — birthplace of Jesus church of the nativity and the pilgrimage route bethlehem (26-feb-2014) // done
  42. go on a cruise** — definitely done this, need to write it up

  43. health/sports
  44. run/walk/bike 1001 miles — 177 miles done
  45. complete the walk to mordor challenge — 1779 miles from Hobbiton to Mt Doom (bonus return trip 1625 miles from Minas Tirith to Bags End) — 177 done, long way to go!
  46. break a running PR
  47. db bench PR
  48. 101 crunches — up to 50
  49. 101 squats — up to 50
  50. take a tai chi, yoga or martial arts class**
  51. go rock-climbing (real or wall)**

  52. food & drink
  53. make a list and photoset of 101 bucket list foods already tried — list is done, need to get pics
  54. eat an insect
  55. 10 new recipes: 1. lebkuchen // done 16-dec-2013
  56. 2: chocolate log // done 24-dec-2013
  57. 3: baked cheesecake // done 23-jan-2014
  58. 4: roast belly pork // done 04-feb-2014
  59. 5: roasted cabbage // done 09-feb-2014
  60. 6:
  61. 7:
  62. 8:
  63. 9:
  64. 10:
  65. make vanila extract — just need to gather ingredients
  66. open a cookbook to a random page and make whatever comes up — have an idea
  67. plan, make and serve a three-course meal, with wine** — in planning stage
  68. make a cocktail // done 31-dec-2013
  69. go to a wine/beer/whisky tasting**
  70. 5 new whiskies (bonus if they are in 101 whiskies book): 1. auchentoshan three wood // done 22-dec-2013
  71. 2:
  72. 3:
  73. 4:
  74. 5:
  75. 5 new restaurants in 5 cities**: 1.
  76. 2:
  77. 3:
  78. 4:
  79. 5:

  80. home & finance
  81. put away $10 (or equivalent) for each goal achieved — $250, pretty good
  82. set aside $1 for each goal achieved and donate to charity - $25, I wonder if I can get people to match
  83. make a will**
  84. build net worth calculator // done 21-dec-2013
  85. money-free weekend
  86. invest in a kickstarter-type project — invested, waiting for product to be made and shipped

  87. family
  88. scan 101 family pictures
  89. 3 new places/activities with family: 1. gingerbread house // done 12-jan-2014
  90. 2:
  91. 3:
  92. 3 new places/activities with mm: 1.
  93. 2:
  94. 3:

  95. personal
  96. make a list of 101 things already achieved — sort of done
  97. make a list and photoset of 101 favourite things — this is proving to be more difficult
  98. make a 101 someday list // done 06-dec-2013
  99. leave an inspirational note inside a book for someone to find
  100. take pictures of all my hard rock café polo shirts** // done 13-dec-2013
  101. count how many swatches I have** // done 14-dec-2013
  102. make a font from my handwriting // done 04-jan-2014
  103. pack a go bag — in planning stage

  104. 7 things: this is another dayzero project — an alternative to boring new years’ resolutions
  105. learn how to…rocher (single spoon quenelle)
  106. start…drinking more water
  107. stop…using as much salt and substitute with herbs & spices
  108. take a vacation to…one of the 101 travel wishlist places (see #27) — done, need to write it up
  109. find…a race and train for it — found the race, need to train
  110. try…meditation
  111. be more…grateful and patient with family

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Tasks #35, 36, 37 in 101 in 1001 are to visit 3 new world heritage sites.

The cruise actually took me to 5 (new ones, vatican and rome have already been checked off the list), so I’ll group by country. More detailed description in daily cruise trip reports.

cruise001olympia cruise002parthenon

#35 greece: a) archeological site of olympia, visited 23-feb-2014. This was where the ancient olympic games were held and some of the temples as well as the stadium ruins remain; b) acropolis athens, visited 01-mar-2014. One of the most important historical sites in world history, with the parthenon and the erechtheion both still standing

cruise003westwall cruise004crucifix

#35 israel: a) old city of jerusalem and its walls, visited 26-feb-2014. The prayers at the wailing wall, the ancient via dolorosa (road of sorrows) that traced Jesus’ path up to his crucifixion, the church of the holy sepulchre which marked the crucifix and tomb. Very crowded, but still very significant and powerful;


b) baha’i holy places in haifa and western galilee, the baha’i hanging gardens at haifa visited 27-feb-2014, although only from the outside as we didn’t go inside to the shrines


#37 palestine: birthplace of Jesus church of the nativity and the pilgrimage route bethlehem, visited 26-feb-2014. Going into bethlehem involved crossing the border into palestine-held west bank. We were able to squeeze into the church before it closed for service and there was a scrum down to the grotto. It did not take away the emotions that came with touching the spot where Jesus was born.

in 101.1001 , challenges , photography is life |


Task #24 in 101 in 1001 is to try a challenge at They take photography very seriously and post weekly challenges aimed at stretching participants’ photography skills. The submissions are great, and even though I joined their flickr and facebook groups, I’ve felt too imtimidated by the quality of work there to attempt myself. They also encourage submissions of work taken during that week, and sometimes I don’t have time or am in the right place to participate.

The challenge in week 7 is still life: camera. And because we are preparing for our trip next week, we have cameras on our mind. I asked my dad if his old camera is still easily reachable, and it is! Just hiding at the back of his wardrobe.

The camera is a Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35S and it’s older than me. Fully manual, and still in its now very stiff leather casing. The protective UV lens is fogged up and useless now, but is easily replaced. It’s taken all our childhood photos, and I remember my dad lugging it around with us. It’s less heavy than I remember, probably because to a young child, it would have felt quite heavy. I still have a few rolls of 35mm film in my freezer, so I may play around with the camera one of these days.

Not much still life composition or special lighting or background to speak of. Just natural light from the window onto the desk in my room, which thankfully is a neutral grey colour. Ideally I’d use my big camera, but it’s at my place so I’m stuck with the s110.

The one I ended up submitting is the one with camera and paraphrenalia scattered around, supposedly tastefully. I also took a couple from traditional angles.

icarexcamera02 icarexcamera03

I uploaded to their flickr group, not confident enough to upload to their fb group yet, I think people on flickr are more welcoming and tolerant than on fb. May be it’s just perception. Hopefully I get some good comments.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |


Task #9 in 101 in 1001 challenge is to use my library card. This is carried over from the 2007 challenge, mainly because I was working and travelling and moving countries during those 1001 days that I never got round to using libraries.

Going with parents and family friends on a cruise next week. Cruise #3 for us. Itinerary is Greece (Olympia, Crete, Athens), Israel (Haifa with shore excursions to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Dead Sea possible), Italy (Rome). Time to do some research.

Mostly, I research online and summarise my findings in evernote. Additional research for cruises is always necessary because some ports are not next to town. The cruise company obviously hardsells their excursions, but personally I hate the cattle herding feel of guided tours. Interesting to read cruise forums, most people are not DIYers, I would say they err very much on the safe and timid side. I guess it’s the sort of people who go on cruises a lot.

That said, I’m travelling with 4 seniors, so that needs to be factored in.

Guidebooks are useful, and have lots more information than a webpage. Afterall, they’ve done the research already. The problem is that guidebooks become outdated and there’s a limit to how many you can buy and carry.

Sometime during my stay in London, when I was making lots of small trips, I started getting guidebooks from the library. I’d get a few before a trip and may be bring one with me during the trip. It has worked absolute wonders, and I’m so glad libraries stock such a great selection of travel books.

These are from the small local library. Also came with maps, which is super helpful. I find it’s easy to borrow English books here, even in a small library like this one. It’s the minority language afterall. I have to go to a bigger library to find an Israel guidebook though. Off to start reading…

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #53 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 5 of 10 new recipe.

I was making honey soy chicken wings (strictly speaking, also a new recipe — marinade chicken wings in soy sauce, honey, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, mustard, olive oil and roast at 180°C for 30mins) and was looking in the fridge for vegetables. Found a small cabbage, perfect. Normally I’d be boring and just boil it, but anyone who has ever suffered school lunches will have dire recollections of overboiled cabbage and brussels sprouts. Speaking of brussels sprouts, my favourite method is to roast them at high heat with olive oil and lots of salt so the edges of the leaves are almost charred. I was sure this method also works for cabbage.

Yep. Recipe from thekitchn, who recommended roasting cabbage wedges with bacon. They were positively gushing about the end result,

the high-heat roasting gets rid of any cabbage funk and makes the cabbage sweet and flavorful — all that bacon grease certainly adds to the irresistible aroma. The bacon pieces were crispy and chewy, and the bacon fat seeped into the cabbage, making it tender and juicy in the middle and crispy and browned on the outside

Wash cabbage and remove any outer leaves that have wilted. Cut the whole cabbage in to quarters, remove some of the core and cut in half again, ending up with 8 wedges. Roughly cut up 4 bacon rashers and sprinkle on cabbage wedges. Drizzle olive oil and season with pepper and mixed herbs (no salt). Roast at 180°C for about 30mins until slightly charred.


I now know the reason behind the gushing. It was crunchy on the outside and sweet on the inside, none of the boiled cabbage smell or flavour. The bacon was a perfect accompaniment — the bacon I found in the fridge wasn’t crispy American bacon or meaty British back bacon but something in between that is ham-like and didn’t render a lot of fat — still worked okay with the dish.

I don’t think I’ll ever make boiled cabbage again, roasting was so simple and so delicious. Served it with the equally successful chicken wings and some cheese grits I found in the cupboard. See, I don’t always eat strange food.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Task #27 of 101 in 1001 challenge is to list 101 wishlist travel places and experiences. I have deliberately left some places vague. For example, burma or baltic states: i want to visit, I don’t have specific itineraries or destinations in mind. Activities, then by country (** world heritage):

    Barges on the Canal du Midi at Argeliers 2
    image courtesy flickr user DBarefoot

  1. activity: cycling holiday
  2. activity: canal boat norfolk broads, provence or portugal
  3. activity: clam/abalone fishing
  4. activity: cookery class france, italy or thailand
  5. activity: go into space
  6. activity: marathon/ destination race
  7. activity: ski in canada or usa
  8. activity: ski in japan
  9. activity: ski in norway
  10. activity: sports game, baseball, basketball, cricket, rugby
  11. activity: stand on the tropic of capricorn
  12. albania
  13. antarctica: cruise or visit, this will make it 7 continents
  14. argentina/brazil: iguazu falls and national park**
  15. austria: concert at wien musikverein
  16. australia: great barrier reef**
  17. australia: tasmania

  18. Pinnacles Desert Nambung National Park Western Australia
    image courtesy flickr user iansand

  19. australia: western australia food and wine country, pinnacles desert, nambung national park
  20. baltic region: estonia, latvia, lithuania
  21. bhutan / nepal (kathmandu**)
  22. bolivia
  23. brazil: amazon rain forest
  24. cambodia: angkor, siam reap area, kampong fishing villages
  25. canada: poutine in old quebec
  26. canada: vancouver and other parts of BC
  27. caribbean island
  28. central asia: azerbaijan, georgia
  29. chile/argentina: patagonia region
  30. chile: easter island

  31. Huangshan 黄山 - View from Flying-over rock 飞来石
    image courtesy flickr user Kwong Yee Cheng

  32. china: anhui hongcun ancient village (安徽宏村), huangshan (黄山)
  33. china: sichuan jiuzhaigou (四川九寨沟)
  34. china: terracotta army xian
  35. christmas markets in europe
  36. croatia: old city of dubrovnik**
  37. cuba: sip rum and smoke a cigar in havana**
  38. egypt: pyramids**
  39. finland: dog sledding
  40. finland: northern lights and lakes
  41. france: brittany
  42. france: long stay at provence, camargue
  43. france: wine tasting
  44. germany: brandenberg gate
  45. germany: oktoberfest in munich
  46. gibraltar
  47. greece: acropolis athens**

  48. Santorini Cliffs
    image courtesy flickr user andos_pics

  49. greece: santorini, island hop
  50. greenland
  51. india: taj mahal agra**
  52. indonesia: bali
  53. iceland: blue lagoon, surtsey**
  54. israel: holy jerusalem**
  55. israel/jordan: swim in the dead sea
  56. italy: assisi**
  57. italy: carnivale at venice
  58. italy: mount etna and pompeii**
  59. italy: south coast campania, calabria, puglia regions

  60. Tuscany Cipresses
    image courtesy flickr user maarten van hoof

  61. italy: tuscany
  62. japan: cherry blossom festival
  63. japan: hiroshima peace memorial**
  64. japan: hitachi seaside park hitachinaka, ibaraki prefecture
  65. japan: ice breaking ship and sapporo ice festival hokkaido
  66. jordan: petra rock structure**
  67. korea: jeju volcanic island**
  68. malaysia: penang
  69. mali: timbuktu
  70. malta: valletta**
  71. mexico: chichen-itza**
  72. mexico: drink tequila, eat real mexican food
  73. myanmar
  74. norway: hurtigruten cruise
  75. norway: north to svalbard, lofoten islands, finnmark

  76. Trolltunga Hike
    image courtesy flickr user aram k

  77. norway: trolltunga overhanging rock
  78. pacific island: tahiti, fiji, samoa, png
  79. peru: try cuy
  80. peru: historic sanctury of machu picchu**
  81. portugal: aveiro canals
  82. russia: st petersburg, kremlin and red square moscow**
  83. sahara: sleep in the desert with bedouins
  84. seychelles: beaches
  85. south africa
  86. spain: barcelona (works of gaudi)**
  87. spain: san sebastian 3-star restaurants
  88. spain: coastal regions
  89. sweden: stay at the ice hotel
  90. switzerland: geneva (seriously)
  91. taiwan: bike around sun moon lake
  92. tanzania: kilamanjaro national park**
  93. tanzania: wildebeest migration
  94. thailand: songkran (water festival) or loi krathong (floating flowers festival)
  95. tunisia: star wars canyon
  96. turkey: grand bazaar istanbul**
  97. turkey: step between asia and europe
  98. ukraine: klevan tunnel of love
  99. vietnam: halong bay, danang, dalat
  100. vietnam: pho at a street stall
  101. uk: distillery on scotland mainland
  102. usa: alaska
  103. usa: grand canyon national park**, antelope national park or any other national park
  104. usa: new orleans
  105. usa: one world trade center
  106. usa: pacific northwest

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |

roastbellypork01 roastbellypork03

Task #52 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 4 of 10 new recipes.

The actual recipe for making roast belly pork is straightforward, it’s the execution that is difficult. This is sort of based on a jamie recipe.

Score the skin of the belly in a criss-cross pattern. Dry vigorously with kitchen towel, I actually went as far as blow drying it. Rub in lots of garlic salt, some thyme, a few peppercorns and about 2 tbsp olive oil. Place on top of sliced garlic, carrot and celery pieces.

Preheat oven to its highest setting, in this case it was 240°C. Supposed to blast the skin in the hot oven for 10-15mins until it starts to blister and turn golden brown. After 25mins, mine turned golden brown with just a little bubbling. Pretty pathetic. I turned the oven down to 170°C and roasted for 1hr. After 1hr, time to some liquid for the slow cooking. The recipe uses white wine, I used some bitter beer that we reserve for cooking because it’s a bit undrinkable. Continue slow cooking for 1.5hrs.

Supposed to turn the oven back up for the last 30mins to finish the crackling. I did that, but no crackling. Disappointing.

I ended up having to take off the skin and fry in a frying pan to finally get crackling. It gave a satisfying crunch all right. The meat was tender and easy to pull apart. Next time, take the skin off and poach the whole joint in milk or cider.

in challenges |

image via flickr user echoesofstars

Good challenge, some tasks were even exceeded even though there were duplicates. Happiest about the summer races and finally finishing LL rewrite. And now back to the 101.1001 challenge.


  • run / walk / bike 55 miles (88km) // 60 miles done, need to keep it up to complete walk to mordor by aug-2016
  • weights or callistentics x8 // 8 done
  • squat 50 reps in 1 set // done — will add 50 rep bw sets as a regular exercise
  • check out June/July Chicago races // done — sundowner registered, proud to run registration hasn’t open but I’ll likely register for it too


  • non alcohol days x20 // 21 done
  • vegetables x24 // 31 done, veg every day, yay
  • fruit or juice x24 // 29 done, missed a couple of days because I got home late after dinner out and just wanted to brush my teeth and shower
  • new recipe x1 // cheesecake done


  • visit parents x20 // 25 done
  • family activity x2 // done [1] [2]
  • bbmm activity x2 // done [1] [2] [3]


  • 5 completed 101.1001 tasks // done [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]
  • finish reading Harry Potter books // done
  • 3 LL chapters // done, finished the whole MS, now figuring what to do next
  • first draft of awards presentation template // done

in being healthy , challenges |

Been trying to figure out if I can fit in a race when I’m in Chicago in the summer. I like races in Chicago, they’re usually well organised and I know the paths around the lake very well. Narrowed it down to a few options:


  • 28-June: proud to run 5k/10k $35
    pro: part of pride week, my “home” course around Montrose, good value
    con: I arrive only the day before, I’ll be jetlagged

  • rnr1013turn

  • 20-July: rock’n’roll chicago Half Marathon $85
    pro: it was my first HM, so a bit of nostalgia
    con: expensive, overly commercial, expo on 18/19th, not sure if I’ll be back in chicago from portland

  • espritdeshe

  • 24-July: esprit de she 5k/10k $45/$55
    pro: date is good, easy 5 or 10k near the lake, same day packet pickup
    con: never heard of this event before, they seem to be combining a beauty treatment event with a running event, plus the free shirt is this girly purple sleeveless tank that i will never be seen dead in, ugh

  • sundowner

  • 24-July: sundowner 5k $35
    pro: date is good, easy 5k, low price
    con: in Joliet, clashes with esprit de she

Although I really would like to do a HM, I’m leaning towards either the Proud to Run or Sundowner. Pros and cons with both. Heck, I might register for both.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


I usually make chilled cheesecake rather than baked, but after this one I think I’ll switch to baked. Recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course. I used blueberries instead of his raspberries.

500g cream cheese
150g sugar
3 eggs
2 tbsp flour
zest of 1 lemon
200g blueberries

Mix cream cheese and sugar, add eggs a little at at time, then flour and the lemon zest. The mixture looked a bit thick at that point so I added the juice of 1/2 lemon. Stir in the blueberries and transfer to baking tin. Tap firmly to get rid of air bubbles and distribute blueberries. Bake at 180°C for about 45mins-1hr.

Like I said, I don’t usually make baked cheesecake. I forgot that you’re supposed to let it cool completely in the tin before removing, so when I took the outer ring off like I would do with cake, I ended up with Michelin man cheesecake that had bulged in the middle like belly fat. Argh. Put the ring back on immediately and let it cool overnight in the fridge.

That said, it was delicious. Rich, good taste and texture. The recipe doesn’t have a biscuit base, and I don’t think it needs it.

in 101.1001 , challenges , random words |


Task #11 in 101 in 1001 is to read a book in one day. Something I have done quite often. Not one of the Potter books I’d just finished, especially the later ones. Of course, one of these classics would have been okay.

I had the pleasure of meeting Gerri Hill last summer at Dallas; and I’ve read many, if not all, of her 20+ books. Her newest is Weeping Walls which has the same MCs as a previous book, Keeper of the Cave. It’s something she has done several times before, using the same characters or bringing back characters as side characters. It works, because these are good characters.

This book is somewhere in between a mystery, paranormal adventure and romance. The FBI team works well, the 4 agents have distinctive personalities and their interactions are realistic. Also it’s great not to have superhero characters, one of the characters is afraid of ghosts and the others also have their hangups and shortcomings. We don’t need heroes who can fly, walk on water, write prize-winning novels and knit a scarf at the same time.

The case the agents are investigating is a missing person that links to cold cases and involves a haunted house. The paranormal aspect was unexpected, although after the prior book, I should have known. It wasn’t rammed down my throat, and I appreciated not being scared shitless — I don’t read horror stories and there’s a reason why.

The romance is not about two people meeting and falling in love. They did this the other book. This is about what happens after the initial falling in love, and there is skill in writing this stage of a relationship.

I read Keeper of the Cave over a 24hr period too (started late on one day and finished the next). When it comes to sequels I like to read the entire series from the start, and I didn’t mind re-reading. Weeping Walls is a solid, great read. If there is another book with the same set of characters I look forward to reading it again.

in challenges |


Spent most of my free time reading Potter; now they are finished, I’ll continue with the other tasks. Everything seems to be on track.


  • run / walk / bike 55 miles (88km) // 35 done, thanks to mum’s stationary bike
  • weights or callistentics x8 // 5 done
  • squat 50 reps in 1 set // done, was quite easy so I think ramping up to 101 is on track
  • check out June/July Chicago races // I want to do the RNR half, trying to figure out timing


  • non alcohol days x20 // 12 done, wine over New Year’s was the culprit
  • vegetables x24 // 15 done, veg every day
  • fruit or juice x24 // 15 done, fruit every day
  • new recipe x1 // I have an idea what I want to make, just need to make it


  • visit parents x20 // 14 done, heh I’m practically living at their place
  • family activity x2 // [1
  • bbmm activity x2 // [1


  • 5 completed 101.1001 tasks // [1] [2] [3] [4
  • finish reading Harry Potter books // done
  • 3 LL chapters // 2 done, deleted a whole chunk and useless side characters
  • first draft of awards presentation template // have idea, need to put to ppt

in challenges , photography is life |


Been a while since I participated in a photo friday challenge, this week’s challenge is climate.

title: parent child clouds
description: the parent and child oak trees at Biei, Hokkaido, Japan
date: august 2008
link to full-size original
© 2014 all rights reserved

in 101.1001 , challenges , family first |

Task #81 in 101 in 1001 challenge is to try a new activity with family.

I’ve never made gingerbread houses, never ever. No special reason, just never had the chance. Sis bought a couple of kits but we never got round to making them over Christmas; doesn’t matter, we can still play with them in January.

Pretty fiddly actually, especially since the walls of my house were broken and had to be repaired with icing. The icing bag also broke so instead of piping, I was using a knife to spread it on — not as delicate and my fingers were soon covered with icing. I picked quite small sprinkles also, and arranged some all around the seams, the windows, the roof and scattered some marshmallows around the house for effect.

All in all, a lot of fun. Sis decorated hers with savoury snacks and mine (the last one on the right) was voted most colourful.

in 101.1001 , challenges , random words |


Task #12 of 101 in 1001 challenge is one carried over from the previous round.

I got up to Order of the Phoenix when it came out. It wasn’t my favourite, it felt like it was the Empire Strikes Back of the Potter series with endless exposition of Grimmauld Place, stupid Dolores Umbridge, grumpy Sirius and teenage angst with all the hookups and jealousy. The Dumbledore’s Army arc was great, so that was a silver lining.

I dutifully bought books 6 and 7 when they came out, but then sort of lost interest so they’ve been sitting on my bookshelf following me around the world for years. I saw all the films of course, so I knew what was going on.

It was time to finally finish reading the series. It seems like some sort of cultural heresy that I hadn’t. So I started with Philosopher’s Stone, and the magic came back. Yay! Hard to pick a favourite, I’m going say Deathly Hallows and Goblet of Fire. Despite all the despair and trudging around the country searching for horcruxes, DH was extremely well written. Plus, Neville! Easily my favourite character outside the three. Goblet of Fire I loved the whole idea of the Triwizard tournament, and it was IMO when Harry started growing up. Shame about Cedric, I hadn’t expected it when I first read it, was still sad upon re-read. A strange tidbit is that Mum’s copy of Goblet of Fire is an American version (all mine and all her others are UK) so it was odd to read about people running toward something and all the other American spelling. Didn’t really fit with such a British book and set of characters.

The great thing about reading the books now is that I don’t have to rush to find out what happens at the end. And hats off to the filmmakers, the casting was so spot on that I can picture very clearly all the characters and scenes while I’m reading. Made it very, very enjoyable. In fact, I might re-read the whole series again in a while.

in 101.1001 , challenges , going places |

Task #35 of 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge: make a list of World Heritage sites visited. This is as of January 2014. 45/981, by country:

  1. australia: blue mountains — first visit was 1999
  2. australia: sydney opera house — same visit in 1999, then many many subsequent visits

  3. wh003schonbrunn wh004vienna
    schönbrunn | vienna

  4. austria: palace and gardens of schönbrunn outside vienna — visited twice, once when I was very small on a tour with parents, then in 2001 with mm, but I never wrote up that trip
  5. austria: historic centre of vienna — same as schönbrunn visits, such a beautiful, walkable city
  6. belgium: la grand place brussels — twice in 2012, once during chip and choc walk and then with mum
  7. chile: historic quarter of valparaiso — part of my big trip in 2007 to visit my friend K
  8. china: imperial palaces beijing — beijing tour, sometime when I was still at school
  9. china: summer palace bejiing — same tour
  10. china: temple of heaven beijing — tour again, this was actually quite nice
  11. china: great wall — all I remember was how crowded and unruly the people there were, a tourist trap
  12. czech republic: historic centre of prague — first visit was in 2000 when the eastern european bloc were just opening up subsequently visited in 2011 and 2012
  13. france: palace & park of versailles: with parents on that european tour
  14. france: banks of river seine at paris: not going to count how many times, most recently in 2012
  15. france: historic centre of avignon — avignon was our de facto base of operations during our provence trip, beautiful historic town
  16. hungary: banks of river danube at budapest: same trip as vienna in 2001 that I never wrote up
  17. italy: historic centre of florence — been there several times, first with parents then the fortnight with mm in 1997
  18. italy: piazza del duomo at pisa — parents tour trip, pisa was a bit of a tourist trap

  19. wh018venice wh020verona
    venice | verona

  20. italy: venice and its lagoons — long weekend from zurich 2001 with my friend tan
  21. italy: historic centre of rome — so many places to visit, colosseum, spanish steps, wedding cake, trivoli fountain, something to see everywhere; multiple visits, most recently during mediterranean cruise in 2013
  22. italy: city of verona: long weekend from zurich 2001, really a city of romance
  23. japan: historic monuments of ancient kyoto — there are so many historical sites, temples and palaces it will take several visits to cover them all, we did a few on our first trip 2013
  24. korea: changeokgung palace complex at seoul — on our birthday trip 2006
  25. macau: historic centre of macau — usually don’t associate macau with world heritage sites, but it is worth visiting and there are more to see than casinos and furniture shops
  26. new zealand — te wahipounamu south-west new zealand including mount cook national park and fjordland national park visited during the two week driving trip 2005

  27. berg109harbour wh030lauterbrunnen
    bergen | lauterbrunnen valley

  28. norway: bryggen — the old wharf at bergen was part of the cruise trip 2013 with parents
  29. norway: west norwegian fjords — also on the same 2013 cruise trip we sailed around the fjords with geirangerfjord being one of the highlights
  30. switzerland: st gallen abbey — easy train ride to st gallen from zurich 2000, we went there to visit the olma, an agricultural fair
  31. switzerland: old city of bern — the swiss capital was kinda boring, but worth a visit
  32. switzerland: 3 castles, wall and ramparts of bellinzona, switzerland — the italian part of switzerland was a bit further to drive but so beautiful, went there a few times either to lugano or on the way to italy
  33. switzerland: swiss alps jungfrau-aletsch — took the train up the jungfrau during christmas 2000 and then with mum
  34. tunisia: medina of tunis — what we visited was a world heritage site? perfume shop, carpet shop, tourist traps
  35. uk: city of bath — to think that I almost did my first degree there — bath accepted me for chemistry before king’s came through the last minute
  36. uk: blenheim palace — back when we felt like we were tourists we did blenheim and oxford in a day

  37. wh034canterbury wh042stonehenge
    canterbury | stonehenge

  38. uk: canterbury cathedral — my college friend came from there and she invited me to stay, and then of course mm went to school nearby
  39. uk: cornwall and devon mining landscape — what a beautiful part of the country, last visited cornwall
  40. uk: devon and east devon coast: pretty sure we’ve stopped off there
  41. uk: old and new town of edinburgh — first visited when young, then with mm and a bunch of friends, then with RM and mum 2012
  42. uk: maritime greenwich — lots of changes there, much more to see now
  43. uk: royal botanical gardens at kew — in my mind kew = M4 roundabout, but there is the renowned Kew Gardens there
  44. uk: heart of neolithic orkney — even though the purpose of going to orkney was to visit the highland park distillery, the standing circles at stenness were very impressive when we visited 2012
  45. uk: stonehenge, avebury and associated sites — went to stonehenge when we first came to london, in those days it wasn’t roped off and we could walk inside the stone circles
  46. uk: tower of london — visited when we first came to london, then never again
  47. uk: palace of westminster and abbey — seen it, ran past it, drove past it
  48. usa: statue of liberty — visited when young, when we could climb all the way up to the crown
  49. vatican: vatican city — every catholic should go at least once

in 101.1001 , challenges , easily amused |


Task #93 of 101.1001 is to make a font from my handwriting.

It’s one of the simplest and most fun things to do on the list. I used a free site called paintfont: downloaded a template, filled it in with a black sharpie, scanned the 3 pages and within a minute or so the font was ready for download. Had to go back and fix some dots in photoshop to eliminate extra white space but still easy.

Not exactly how I’d write a sentence, because handwriting tends to join up the letters, but if I had to write something in print, this is close to how it would turn out. The 7 things card was written in my font.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


I don’t normally set new year’s resolutions, they seem kinda generic. For quantifiable tasks and goals I do the odd monthly TDP challenges, scheduled challenges like nano, or photo challenges that crop up here and there. I just started the 101 in 1001 challenge, which will give me structure for the next 2.5 years.

Anyway, the people who brought us 101 in 1001 have come up with an alternative to boring new year’s resolutions with seven prompts to get people thinking about what they want to achieve in 2014, like learn how a new skill, start a new habit or try a new thing.

It’s still kinda generic, but I thought I’d give them a go. I incorporated them into 101.1001, because I was thinking about it in December. I’ll come back at the end of 2014 to evaluate these 7 tasks.

in challenges |


I’m 30 days into the 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge, so this is a good opportunity to see how I can incorporate some of those tasks into a monthly challenge.


  • run / walk / bike 55 miles (88km) — task #40 is walk 1,779 miles from hobbiton to mordor, which averages over 1001 days to 53.3 miles per 30 days
  • weights or callistentics x8
  • squat 50 reps in 1 set — the end goal is #44, 101 in one set
  • check out June/July Chicago races — #99


  • non alcohol days x20
  • vegetables x24
  • fruit or juice x24
  • new recipe x1 — #51


  • visit parents x20
  • family activity x2
  • bbmm activity x2


  • 5 completed 101.1001 tasks
  • finish reading Harry Potter books — #12
  • 3 LL chapters — #16
  • first draft of awards presentation template

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


Task #62 in challenge.

Although I have a big alcohol collection, it’s mainly wine, whisky and some beer, hardly conducive to making cocktails. The best candidate for cocktails would be the whiskies, particularly the bourbons so I was on the lookout for whiskey cocktail ideas. This one of bourbon sweet tea looks good, and uses ingredients that I can get readily. I halved the recipe and converted to metric.

1.5 cup (350ml) water
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
1 tea bag — I used earl grey
1/2 cup (120ml) bourbon
1/2 lemon
1/2 lime
1/2 orange

Dissolve sugar in boiling water and let tea bag seep for 5-10mins. Remove tea bag, add sliced lemon, lime and orange and bourbon. I have a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 open which at 55% is a bit stronger, so I only used 100ml. Chill in fridge or serve over ice.

Quite strong, both in bourbon and tea taste. Easy to make and easy to drink, good with steak or sweet dessert.

in 101.1001 , challenges , money business |


Task #77 in 101 in 1001 challenge: build a net worth calculator.

Personal finance websites talk a lot about calculating net worth and balancing chequebooks. I’ve always been a bit confused about why it’s such a big deal, and why it’s apparently so hard to figure out net worth. It’s a simple spreadsheet exercise. Add up assets, add up debts, take one away from the other.

Took me about an hour, to find all the statements or log onto bank websites. The only current liability is credit card debits waiting for the next statement. I didn’t include this because: a) trivial amounts and b) they’ll get paid once I get the next statement. Since it’s impossible to have the exact figure — statement dates, some investment accounts only report annually, fx etc — it will always be an estimate. Everything got converted to GBP and USD to create the sum total.

Data is summarised by currency and by subtotal of banks vs investments vs property. I don’t know what is an optimum ratio between cash and investments. Advisors say have at least 1 year’s worth of expenses available as cash, so I think I should move more cash to a safe vehicle to generate a return as opposed to it sitting there doing nothing.

in 101.1001 , challenges |

Task #92 in 101 task in 1001 days challenge: count how many swatches I have.

I was a bit of a collector when I was younger. Stationery, coins, stamps, stickers, matchboxes, pencils all had their place. My first watch was a seiko that my grandparents gave me; when I started college I started wearing swatches and then I started buying some more. I wouldn’t say I’m a hardcore collector, I just buy the ones I like the look of. It’s been a while since I last bought a swatch though, so my collection isn’t likely to grow by a lot. Currently it stands at 158, with the majority unused and still in their original box.

This video was taken on my coffee table, 6 separate instagram videos edited together in imovie. The music is a piece called the syncopated clock by leroy anderson performed by markus staab. I picked it because of the watch/clock theme, and also because syncopated is a new word for me. In musical terms it means off-beat, which can also be applied to this quirky collection and typically wonky instagram video.

in 101.1001 , challenges |

Tasks #22 and #23 of 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge.

The challenges were to complete a photochallenge using a photo app and to complete an alphabet food challenge, ie 26 pics of food from a-z. Two challenges for the price of one, I did an alphabet food & drink challenge using instagram. The list of foods:

  1. apple — a frozen apple dessert
  2. beer —- at humperdink’s dallas
  3. cheesecake — homemade for dad’s birthday this year
  4. doughnut — cruise breakfast
  5. egg — baked in potato, delicious
  6. fish & chips — in fake newspaper print paper
  7. grapes — frozen, which gave it a different texture
  8. hummous — from the food court in dubai
  9. ice cream — nice
  10. jelly — with raspberries
  11. kale — with tahini sauce, i miss kale
  12. lemon — with mini grater
  13. mango — cut up nicely
  14. noodles — fried noodles with eel
  15. okra — grilled at high temperature at home
  16. passionfruit — recently discovered a great market stall
  17. quiche — at a party
  18. raspberry — on the vine at parkside pyo farm
  19. steak — this was in dublin
  20. toast — over open fire
  21. uni — sea urchin sushi
  22. veal chop — from whole foods high street kensington
  23. waffle — and chicken at ihop
  24. xialongbao — taiwanese small steamed dumplings
  25. yogurt cheese — made by straining plain yogurt overnight
  26. zinfandel — could have used zucchini, but they are courgettes to me

in 101.1001 , challenges |

Task #89 of 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge.

This is a list of things I’d like to do someday, with varying degrees of achievability. There is some overlap with the 101 places to visit list, I got tired of trying to distinguish between them. Seems like I need to plan on doing a lot of driving, eating and running.

  1. build a sand sculpture
  2. buy a second home
  3. car owner —- again
  4. cater a dinner party and get paid for it
  5. climb a mountain
  6. dig for abalone, clams, mussels
  7. draw/paint a picture — of decent quality, I can’t draw or paint
  8. draw a picture on an app — that’s wishful thinking, that an app will help drawing skills

  9. ldn086bus praha085cartour
  10. drive a bus — preferably double decker
  11. drive a classic car
  12. drive a convertible — can combine with #10
  13. drive a hummer
  14. drive a jetski
  15. drive a race car around a race track
  16. drive in sand dunes
  17. earn money from baking

  18. cwall164creamtea ledbury020turbot
  19. eat all the omnivore’s 100 — i was at 73 in 2008, around 80 now
  20. eat at a three-star michelin restaurant — been to one- and two-stars
  21. eat something deep fried on a stick — at one of those big fairs
  22. encourage someone to start a bucket list challenge (bonus if 101.1001)
  23. experience zero gravity
  24. explore a cave
  25. extreme couponing
  26. fishing

  27. hksaikung013kite sf200dbike
  28. fly a kite
  29. get a motorcycle licence
  30. get published
  31. go surfing, bodyboarding or flyboarding
  32. hot yoga
  33. in the credits of a film or tv program
  34. jump on a trampoline
  35. hunt truffles
  36. learn a dance step
  37. learn a magic trick
  38. learn to change a flat tire
  39. learn to code / write an app
  40. learn the alphabet in ASL (already know BSL)
  41. leave a 100% tip
  42. make a classic dish
  43. make a list of 101 things I would never do (some people’s definition of a reverse bucket list, more like an anti-bucket list)

  44. brus324brewery ldn067milkcart
  45. make own beer / wine / whisky
  46. make own cheese — ricotta counts
  47. milk a cow or goat
  48. own business
  49. pan for gold
  50. participate in the greatest international scavenger hunt
  51. pay for the person in the queue behind me
  52. photobomb someone
  53. photography: bokeh
  54. photography: take a “frame and hang on wall” worthy photo — some of these may work
  55. plant a herb garden
  56. plant a kitchen garden
  57. play 18 holes of golf
  58. play the drums
  59. read from modern library’s best 100 novels list
  60. retire and live on investment income
  61. ride a bike around a velodrome

  62. runningmedals01 tall038bounty
  63. running: sub-25 5k
  64. running: sub-60 10k
  65. running: 5.00 marathon
  66. running: 4.30 marathon
  67. running: 4.00 marathon
  68. running: big sur marathon
  69. running: marathon du medoc
  70. running: northern lights marathon
  71. running: tokyo marathon
  72. running: trail race
  73. sail a boat
  74. scan all documents
  75. scan all photos
  76. scuba diving
  77. ski a black run confidently
  78. ski cross-country
  79. skydive indoors
  80. sleep in a hammock
  81. slide down a fireman’s pole
  82. start a fire without matches or flint

  83. ara202bamboo ldnhawks009cocktails
  84. stay at a silent retreat
  85. stomp grapes
  86. take a bartending class
  87. take a course at a cookery school
  88. take a first aid class
  89. take a flying lesson
  90. take a photography class
  91. take an advanced driving class
  92. take up archery or shooting for real
  93. transport: 25 different modes of transportation
  94. try a new sport
  95. try pottery
  96. volunteer, help build a house
  97. walk on hot rocks
  98. watch a drive-in movie
  99. wear a tuxedo
  100. weights: 101 pushups
  101. weights: 30 day shred
  102. weights: at least one pullup
  103. weights: bench 25% body weight
  104. weights: bench 50% body weight
  105. whitewater rafting
  106. write a readable letter left-handed
  107. zip down a zipline

in 101.1001 , challenges |


So I started my 101 goals in 1001 days challenge yesterday and started working on those goals already. I made notes and folders in evernote for all the lists I should be making — places travelled, places to visit, food tried, achievements, books read, walking distance tracker. But mainly I worked on the places and foods list. But then I realised, I should be putting those lists together at the end of the project and not the beginning. Ack. Now I need to work on other non-list goals.

in 101.1001 , challenges |


Between 1 December 2007 and 28 August 2010 I participated in the 101 things in 1001 days challenge. The mission is to complete 101 preset tasks in 1001 days (2.75 years).

I ended up checking off about half the the original list, the reasons for a rather poor completion rate:

  • timing — 2008 was a big business trip year for me, that was the year I clocked 100,000 miles, which was great for my airmiles account (#45) and getting upgraded to first (#44) but not so great in terms of getting other challenges done
  • lack of opportunity — for instance, I never got a chance to visit San Diego zoo (#40) or go rock climbing (#51)
  • overly ambitious — visiting India (#41) was more a someday goal, buying another property (#70) when I only paid off the mortgage was definitely a pie in the sky
  • too many sub-tasks — 10 new restaurants in 10 new cities (#67), that was one task when it was actually 10 tasks — together with all the subtasks, I was working with 232 tasks, which made it much more difficult and demotivating
  • laziness — it would have taken an hour to count all my swatches (#96), so i should have completed that one

I’m a very task-driven person, I function best when I have preset achievable goals in front of me, preferably in an organised list. I was pretty disappointed I didn’t do better, and it sort of put me off long term challenges for a while. I did a few TDP monthly challenges, but I always deliberately set goals that were achievable, to the point that they were too easy.

Not that I’m bored with running x km or staying away from alcohol for y days, it’s now time to go back to the 101 in 1001 challenge and push for completion this time. So I made a new 101 things in 1001 days list which will run until sunday 28 August 2016. Some of the incomplete tasks from 2007 I rolled over, the ones that I’m interested in completing and have a realistic chance too. I didn’t buy a lomo last time, but it’s pointless to do it again when I have plenty of lomo apps on my iphone. No more subtasks either, so visiting 3 new countries are #28-30.

The tasks vary in difficulty, but this time they should all be achievable. Some I know will get done, #38 is go on a cruise, and it’s already booked for Feb next year. The lists 101 of things done (#87), places visited (#26), places to visit (#27) — those should be easy to do. The ones that are harder include #1 update macOS, since I’m still wary of updating to Mavericks, I tend to update only when I buy a new machine. Walk to Mordor, or 1779 miles from Hobbiton to Mount Doom (#40) will be interesting to track, since I usually track running only. I don’t yet have a solution for tracking yet, there are plenty of options but not all are suitable, that’s a post for another day.

The dayzero people don’t have an app yet, so I’ll be tracking progress here, posting when a task is completed. In progress tasks will be tracked on Evernote; after all, I want to become proficient in it (#3).

Google “101 in 1001” and there are a lot of other people doing or having done the challenge. There is a top 101 goals list and it’s interesting to look at other people’s tasks. Current top 10:

  1. donate blood — which I can only do in the UK; the American Red Cross still claim people who lived in the UK between 1980-1996 have vCJD aka mad cow disease, so most other countries follow
  2. write a letter to myself to open in 10 years — I find communicating with future selfs a bit odd
  3. get a tattoo — no, no, a million no
  4. sleep under the stars — don’t like camping, too many bugs and dirty ground
  5. leave an inspirational note inside a book for someone to find — I like this, and have included as #90
  6. answer the “50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind” — these inspirational quote things always make me laugh
  7. don’t complain about anything for a week — don’t complain much, don’t talk much
  8. kiss in the rain — sigh, not gonna happen
  9. fall in love — no comment
  10. watch the sunrise and sunset in the same day — I can just imagine it being an extremely stressful and busy day

So, let’s get it started.

in challenges , random words |


The nanosite is always very generous, google docs and word both counted 50365 but the site validated at 50370. Fantastic. I get the usual winner’s certificate and a bunch of images. In the past the images were random square or horizontal or vertical banners. This year their sizes are targeted towards appropriate social media sites so there are ready-made fb, twitter etc images. I’ll keep my avatar till the end of the month, unless I’m feeling particularly obnoxious I won’t change my profile pic.

I’ll see how the next year goes, whether I have time to write Spotter. I should finish LL as a priority so Spotter will likely be nano 2014. This is the earliest I’ve ever planned and outlined a nanonovel.

in challenges , random words |


Wordcount validation starts every year on the 25th, so I was looking at the nanonovel for the first time in almost 2 weeks. Played around with tag clouds. It’s quite obvious the story is about 2 characters called Indy and Pete, and about building a house. Cool stuff, the website has a random button that changes font, layout and colour. I had a fun 10 minutes randomising.

in challenges , random words |


4350 words | 50365 words total

Done it. 50k in 12 days, good stuff. Second fastest nano, the 3rd time I’ve done it in 12 days. 10 days in 2004 is safely tucked away as the fastest and unlikely to change. In stealth mode too, aside from my online friends and mm, my RL friends and family don’t know about nano and didn’t know I was doing it. It’s not something they are either interested in or are bothered about.

The next part of the story brought them to a wedding. Since one of my MCs was an ex-banker I went back to LL and inserted her in as a very minor character. This wedding was between my LL MCs, so it was an opportunity to bring back some old characters. Fun. After that I had about 1,300 words to 50k and it was either write something simple and easy or start another chapter. I opted for enjoying a soak in the bath and then a small accident the next day at the site. Nothing serious, cuts and bruises.

I’m not sure I’ll continue with this story for the rest of the month. I should spend spare time finishing said LL, that task is years overdue.

Anyway, good timing for reaching 50k. Lots going on the next 7-10 days.

in challenges , random words |


5888 words | 46015 words total

Had the morning and almost the whole afternoon to write, and got to the end of chapter 10, which sees the relationship between the MCs develop in a good way. The roof lining, windows and doors have been fitted, so the house is sealed and protected from the elements. Lots more to do, finish the exterior walls, finish the deck and porch, plant the roof plus all the interior work.

I have (I don’t want to jinx myself but it seems feasible) one more day of writing to reach 50k. The story is only about halfway at 50k so it depends if I have time or motivation to carry on. I’ll see when I get to the finish line.

This evening was dinner to celebrate my niece’s birthday. Went to a dumplings place because she saw these chocolate dumplings in a magazine and wanted to try. They were very good, like chocolate fondant with the melted chocolate oozing out when I made a hole. A good choice.

in challenges , random words |


3764 words | 40127 words total

Alright, I sort of cheated. I knew I was going out on sunday, so I finished at around 8pm on saturday, saved all the files, submitted my wordcount and filed it all under day 9. Then I wrote some more so I can bank some words for day 10. All in all, 9000 words for the weekend and does it really matter I wrote 7k on saturday and 2k on sunday vs 5.5 on saturday and 3.5 on sunday? It’s just so psychologically the daily wordcount chart looks prettier. I’ve missed whole days before.

The point is, I got to 40k. 80% done.

So at 40k in a romance, it’s time for the first sex scene between the MCs. I don’t write sex scenes during nano, only

[insert sex scene here]

and later

[another sex scene]

When / if this story is edited, I’ll work on those scenes. Oh joy (not).

Anyway, they had a great weekend, visited the art museum, saw some new architecture, had some good food, and spent a lot of time in bed getting to know each other. It’s now the end of chapter 9 and they’re back home. Complaining a little because they have to spend the night apart back at their respective homes to run errands — laundry and sorting through bills and stuff like that. But there is a promise of being together back at work on the site and also nights to come.

In some books, and stuff I’ve written, when things go so well something angsty happens that the MCs have to overcome so their relationship gets back on track and becomes even stronger as we near the end of the book. This story I don’t feel like putting up roadblocks to ruin their relationship. Not the huge ones like being disowned by family or an abusive ex showing up or a natural disaster, may be a elating to the construction or a minor injury.

So, where did I go today? Went over to mm’s, our plan had been to drive out to a new spot at the country park and go hiking. Had to postpone due to bad weather. Instead we stayed at her place and watched bbc lifestyle, drank a whole bottle of prosecco and polished off a whole bag of prawn chips. Nice afternoon. I was home by 8.30pm.

in challenges , random words |


5428 words | 36363 words total

A boring kind of day reading, watching tv, writing. It’s also nano marathon day:

Join us on Saturday, November 9 for day-long noveling madness in person and online, and donate to help us reach our $50K goal. Keep NaNoWriMo running the course for years to come! All the glory of a traditional marathon, none of that pesky training. Just you, your novel, and a deep and abiding love of helping others discover the joy of writing.

I can’t go to an in-person event obviously, but I did follow on twitter for a bit. I’m at 5.4k for the day and 36k total just after dinner. Good point to save everything. I’m using writely (aka google drive), saving to word and the doc is also saved on my flashdrive and this year there’s the additional backup at dropbox.

In terms of the story we’re now at chapter 8. The rest of the roadtrip passed by uneventfully. “Mostly roadkill” as one of the MC described it. They checked into their hotel (one room, two beds) and visited the green roof supplier whose name was, ta-da, Mr Ian Woon. Lots of opportunities for exposition about types of green roofs, growing medium and what vegetation to use. Then it was onto dinner at an Italian restaurant, drinks at a nearby pub and at the end of the section they were asleep wrapped in each other’s arms. Awwww.

in being healthy , challenges , random words |


4307 words | 30935 words total

5.10km 40.47min 8.00min/km (12.52min/mi)

The 5k is going over to the small park and running around the jogging track, the football field and the basketball court. I sprinted the last 200m to try to get the pace down below 8, got it to 8min exactly, need to run faster.

The 30k is getting to the 30k mark in nano. I said I was gonna do it yesterday at 26k, and I did it. I’m using well-used nano tricks — road trip, dream sequence and talking to yourself. We’re now at the beginning of chapter 7, and they just started driving. The dream sequence, which included a nice intimate distraction, and the talking to yourself both occurred in the car. There’s the whole night and a long way to go. Who knows what will happen next.

I’m getting into the story, the MCs are growing on me. They also made me laugh in this exchange. Indy and Pete (Petra) are the MCs, Anders is Pete’s brother and Indy’s architect. When edited, the clunky language, the “she said” will all be edited out. This is nano, only wordcount matters.

“Who says I’m having a house warming party?” Indy challenged.

“Oh, you’ll want to. You’ll definitely want to. How else will you get to meet The Great Anderski,” Pete said tantalizingly.

“The Great Anderski?” Indy felt stupid, repeating what Pete said. The Great Anderski sounded like—

“The Great Anderski hails from coldest Siberia and is the greatest magician that has ever come out of the great country of Russia,” Pete said dramatically, rolling the r of Russia. “Or, well, Anders when you’ve fed him a couple of glasses of vodka.”

“That sounds like enormous fun. I’ll make sure I have a house warming party, with casserole and vodka,” Indy said. “Do you become someone after you’ve had a couple of glasses of vodka? The Great Anderski’s sexy assistant Petralicious?”

in challenges , random words |


3308 words | 26628 words total

Happy about my 2 achievements today. I finished a deck consisting of the case design, case outline and background material and sent them to the professor. I hope that if I get the chance to write more cases, it’ll take me less than a week to complete this first step. Then again mm was so encouraging, she said that a week is good progress regardless of whether it’s my first time or not. She looked through my previous draft and liked it, even though I completely rewrote it for the final draft.

Achievement #2 is getting to the halfway mark on nano. At this rate, according to the nanosite, I’ll finish on 14 November. Depending on how much time I can spend on it this weekend, it may or may not be the right date. In any event, I’m at or about where I’m comfortable. I think the past 3-4 years I’ve settled into a routine. My official goal is still 2000 words, but I’m able to hit 3000 so it’s working for me. Tomorrow I’ll aim at hitting 30k.

Chapter 6 is finished. Work started on the frame for the roof — a strong lattice of plywood is needed in addition to the steel wall frames to support the soil and turf. I rewatched the Grand Designs episode this is based on, and the soil and turf isn’t as heavy as I thought — they also use a thick layer of wood as the base for the roof so I’m on track. The personal story gets better, they have an unexpected and unexpectedly sweet first kiss and are about to hit the road on their road trip.

in challenges , eating and drinking , random words |


3236 words | 23,320 words total

Had a nice lunch with mm, at our usual happy hour place. The first time we’d had lunch there. I got there early, because they didn’t take reservations, and got us a good window seat. Carrot and lemongrass soup, roast rump of lamb with cous cous and ratatouille, lemon meringue pie. The portions were not that large, well suited for lunch.

Stopped off at the supermarket, then had to wait a long time for the bus. Half the afternoon had gone by the time I got home. Sorted some of the papers I needed to read then got started with nano.

Finished chapter 5 at a good place, the MCs got to know each other better over dinner. Chapter 6 is about putting up the roof frame and going to a supplier to pick out what plants to go on the roof. I know one of the rules of nano is no editing, but I realised that with soil, plants and water the roof will need a huge amount of extra reinforcement and support I had to go back to add a steel frame to the wall frames — can’t have just 2x4s and OSB supporting all that.

I also placed the supplier at a place 12 hrs’ drive away. A road trip is on the horizon.

in challenges , random words , workstuff |

3675 words | 20084 words total

I signed and sent back a service agreement and spent almost the whole day researching. Because I’ve now been hired as a researcher for the business school at the local university to research and write a case study abot a large conglomerate. The service agreement is per case, so I don’t know if there will be any more after this. The morning was spent looking for background information on the company and the afternoon writing the case synopsis. It’s slow-going. I’ve never written an MBA case study before and I find I have to think about what to write and how to write it. I’m only halfway through the case synopsis.

So after 5-6hrs of internet searching, clicking around and typing what did I do for the rest of the day? I typed some more. Wrote a bit before dinner, had dinner, showered then wrote some more. It’s great to reach another milestone, 20k in 5 days is pretty good. I’m now on chapter 5 and they are putting the walls up on the house. I learned about the difference between plywood and OSB (which I typed out fully as oriented strand board every time — 3 words vs 1 word, it’s a cardinal nano rule), that 16” on center is the standard spacing between 2x4s in the frame, and the importance of studs in giving support for large windows. Paradoxically, although the walls of the house are going up, the personal walls between the MCs are starting to break down, they actually went for dinner together after work. That’s the writing for tomorrow, to write the dinner conversation and interactions.

Oh, and Happy Guy Fawkes Night!! Since nano and bonfire night will always overlap, I thought I’d combine the two and make an avatar.

in challenges , random words , techtalk |


3549 words | 16409 words total

Most of the afternoon was spent looking for and buying a printer. After speaking with the salesperson and getting information about how much ink cartridges cost, eventually I got an HP 5520 over an HP Envy 4500. Seems that over time the running costs are lower, we’ll see. Around US$110, but with credit card points and a supermarket voucher gift, the actual amount spent was around $85. I did have to spend over 2 hrs setting it up. Had to download the drivers and work with Mum’s slow internet. Repeat for her laptop. Stupid HP, installation was easier on Mum’s windows machine and there are still glitches when scanning to my mba.

What with Monday night being a busy TV night (Deadliest Catch, TAR and there used to be MKR), I tried to fit in nano whenever I can. Happy with the wordcount today.

I should add titles to my chapters, corresponding to where they are in terms of house building. If chapter 3 was the first meeting between the MCs, then chapter 4 is tearing out the defective floor frame and starting fresh. Things are going pretty well with the house, but the MCs haven’t moved beyond the sort of awkward formality of people who have just met.

in challenges , random words |


6067 words | 12860 words total

Five, six thousand words on a Sunday that I stayed home all day is okay. I’m pleased that it’s only taken 3 days to pass the 10k mark. Not completely liking the story so far, too much exposition. It’s kind of turning into a step by step guide to how to build your house. But I need all the filler I can incorporate because I haven’t planned on a drawn out story between the MCs. At least they have met and begun to build (pun not intended) a tentative working relationship. They are circling each other, trying to get their professional interactions on the right track, no wonder after all the set backs that our homeowner had to suffer through. Personal interactions will develop out of this hopefully.

in challenges , random words |


3676 words | 6823 words total

Started at 4.30pm, with distractions and other stuff, finished at 8.30pm. Still working on backstory. First chapter is done at 4000-ish words. Now comes the first obstacle, there is a danger the house won’t get built or there will be a long delay. Setting up for the MCs to meet, may be at the beginning of chapter 3.

In other news, I need to look for a printer.

in challenges , random words |


3147 words

It’s November, which means it’s nano time again. I see all these people on fb and social media telling their friends about nano and how they’re gonna do it or how they can’t / won’t / don’t know how to do it and I want to shake my head and ask them “have you been doing nano since 2004? Where were you November 2004? Stop talking about it like it’s the newest thing that you just discovered and are now imparting your discovery to the world.”

And then I read about these people who have already written x words and want to add 50k words to their novel, or people who want to write 50k as blog posts or a play or a technical manual, or people who want to edit 50k of their manuscript and I want to tell them that nano is defined as writing a 50k+ word novel in 30 days from scratch. These people are writing, congratulations to them, but they are not doing nano.

And then these people on the forums who have already reached 50k — there are always people who get there in a day and there are always others who cry “cheater” — I tend to give them the benefit of doubt. Then I remember, yet again, that nano is all about achieving my own goal and I’m not competing against anyone and I shouldn’t give a shit what others are doing, whether they are nano-ing or whether they have low IQ and dont get nano or whether they cheat.


I had a meeting this morning, so I didn’t start until mid-afternoon. The experience from the past couple of years is to set a reasonable daily target of 2000 words instead of 5000 words. At 3000-odd I’m partway through the first chapter, which is mostly backstory; in a finished novel it’ll probably get heavily edited or rewritten elsewhere, but it’s fine where it is right now.

I’m also sticking with the outlined novel about building an eco house by a lake. This has not been the story in my head lately, the other story is about a parallel world where some time travel element has eradicated all wars and disasters in the past thousand years. Supposedly good, but the world population has grown to a point where there is not enough food and water. Drastic measures are being taken by the ruling governments where the plan is to create a catastrophic event to eliminate most of the population. Spotters are sent out all over the world to mark those to be eliminated first. The personal story is about a spotter who accidentally marks someone she is attracted to and their struggle with a big brother system to try to overcome that. Anyway, it’s an outline for another time. Need to focus on green roofs, larch cladding, an idealistic homeowner and a by-the-book contractor. Sparks need to fly!

in challenges |


Monthly challenge #11 done. Hey, it’s not my first rodeo. There’s a part of me that wants to set really challenging goals as opposed to a glorified to-do list, but another part that is simply happy to have achievable goals. We’ll see.

Didn’t register for the race, not for want of trying. Going to count it as done, even boycotting is an action.


  • run / walk / bike 50km // done — 43 running, 11 walking
  • weights or calisthenics x8 // done
  • register for feb 2014 race — HM registration starts 22/10, 10k starts 29/10, opens 7am // consider as done — atrocious registration website, boycotting the event


  • try the 5:2 diet x1 // done — can’t say it made much of an impact
  • non alcohol days x12 // done
  • vegetables x24 // done
  • fruit or juice x24 // done
  • new recipe x2 // done [1] [2]
  • old recipe x2 // done [1] [2]


  • visit parents x7 // done
  • bbmm date x2 // done


in challenges |



  • run / walk / bike 50km // 31km done (23 running, 8 walking)
  • weights or calisthenics x8 // 5 done
  • register for feb 2014 race — HM registration starts 22/10, 10k starts 29/10, opens 7am // site not open yet


  • try the 5:2 diet x1 // 1 done
  • non alcohol days x12 // 9 done, a few nights out means wine and beer, sigh
  • vegetables x24 // 15 done, vegetables every day is not hard
  • fruit or juice x24 // 13 done, missed a couple of days
  • new recipe x2 // [1
  • old recipe x2 // [1


  • visit parents x7 // done — lately I’ve stayed with them more often than at home
  • date with sis / niece x2 // 1 done, yacht club breakfast
  • bbmm date x2 // done — I’m surprised, I didn’t set a higher number because I didn’t think we’d be able to spend a lot of time together


  • finish nano outline // almost done
  • research and write intro for case study // not started
  • figure out what to do with homepage // not started

in challenges |



  • run / walk / bike 50km
  • weights or calisthenics x8
  • register for feb 2014 race — HM registration starts 22/10, 10k starts 29/10, opens 7am


  • try the 5:2 diet x1
  • non alcohol days x12
  • vegetables x24
  • fruit or juice x24
  • new recipe x2
  • old recipe x2


  • visit parents x7
  • date with sis / niece x2
  • bbmm date x2


  • finish nano outline
  • research and write intro for case study
  • figure out what to do with homepage

in challenges |


All done except installing the magnetic knife holders which I couldn’t do without a hammer drill. The will was there, the equipment wasn’t. The easiest task was surprisingly limiting my soft drink consumption, considering a few years ago I was on 2-3 diet cokes plus at least the same number of soda waters a day. The hardest task was finding the time to meet up with mm 4 times, not including the 4 days we went on holiday together.


  • set up training plan for Feb HM race — done
  • run / walk / bike 50km — done 50.15k run, 10k hike, 10k bike = 70k total
  • weights or bw training x8 — 9 done
  • foot or body massage — done, went for foot massage with mm


  • non alcohol days x8 — 11 done, thought I’d have more but between Christmas, wine, mulled wine, cider and whisky…
  • one soft drink day x8 — 26 done, easier than expected and some days I didn’t have any at all
  • fruit or juice x24 — 27 done, I love this one, it reminds me how much I enjoy fruit
  • vegetables x24 — 29 done


  • move back home — done
  • finish unpacking study — done
  • finish unpacking kitchen — done
  • install knife rack — this won’t happen, needs drilling and I need to buy / beg / borrow a hammer drill
  • test oven — done
  • (bonus: cook something with oven) — done too


  • go to at least one of my niece’s activities — done, went to her school’s christmas concert, and we spent lots of time together
  • bbmm date x4 — done, it was quite difficult to do and we only just managed 4, not including the 4 days holiday
  • update CV — done, now I need to update linkedin
  • port LL to Scrivener — done
  • codecademy javascript course units x4 — done

in challenges |


Back from long weekend at spa resort town. Rented bikes, went hiking, walked across a rope bridge.


  • set up training plan for Feb HM race — done [post]
  • run / walk / bike 50km — 22km run, 10k hike, 10k bike = 42k total
  • weights or bw training x8 — 5 done
  • foot or body massage — done, went for foot massage with mm


  • non alcohol days x8 — 9 done
  • one soft drink day x8 — 18 done, easier than expected
  • fruit or juice x24 — 17 done
  • vegetables x24 — 20 done, not hard to eat veg everyday!


  • move back home — done
  • finish unpacking study — done
  • finish unpacking kitchen — done
  • install knife rack — this won’t happen, needs drilling and I need to buy / beg / borrow a hammer drill
  • test oven — done [post]
  • (bonus: cook something with oven) — done too


  • go to at least one of my niece’s activities — done, went to her school’s christmas concert
  • bbmm date x4 — 2 done
  • update CV — done, all I needed was to change my address, phone number and a couple of dates
  • port LL to Scrivener — done, just need to do a post on it
  • codecademy javascript course units x4 — done, didn’t like the course, switched to html/css track

in challenges |


I’m on holiday on the 15th, so to change it up I’ll do 10 day updates.


  • set up training plan for Feb HM race — done
  • run / walk / bike 50km — 10km done, need to stick to plan
  • weights or bw training x8 — 2 done
  • foot or body massage — done, went for foot massage with mm


  • non alcohol days x8 — 6 done
  • one soft drink day x8 — 9 done, will continue throughout month
  • fruit or juice x24 — 7 done
  • vegetables x24 — 10 done, not hard to eat veg everyday!


  • move back home!
  • finish unpacking study — done
  • finish unpacking kitchen — done
  • install knife rack
  • test oven
  • (bonus: cook something with oven)


  • go to at least one of my niece’s activities — done, went to her school’s christmas concert
  • bbmm date x4 — 2 done
  • update CV
  • port LL to Scrivener — imported, need to re-organise chapters and add character / places cards
  • codecademy javascript course units x4 — 2 done, not liking this course at all, may switch to html/css track instead

in challenges |

badly drawn doodle

A monthly challenge is a good way to get back to some semblence of normal, otherwise I’ll just procrastinate. Same type of goals as usual, but I’ve adapted the win criteria somewhat. Walking is okay this month, and since I’m still at parents’, vegetarian days become ensuring I get lots of veg.


  • set up training plan for Feb HM race
  • run / walk / bike 50km
  • weights or bw training x8
  • foot or body massage


  • non alcohol days x8
  • one soft drink day x8
  • fruit or juice x24
  • vegetables x24


  • move back home!
  • finish unpacking study
  • finish unpacking kitchen
  • install knife rack
  • test oven
  • (bonus: cook something with oven)


  • go to at least one of my niece’s activities
  • bbmm date x4 — at last I can do this! 4 years living on different continents not conducive for this type of goal
  • update CV
  • port LL to Scrivener
  • codecademy javascript course units x4

in challenges , random words |


Validated at 50,758 words. Winner’s goodies collected. Another purple year.

in challenges , random words |


3,579 words | 50,755 words total

My 8th nano is done. At the rate I’m going, this particular novel will reach 100k, there is still quite a long way to go with the story. The missing friend has been found, having been in a car accident somewhere up north. Our MCs go visit, and more intrigue is revealed. Once they get back home, the friend’s son gets into trouble, and MC1’s status as anti-terrorism sleeper agent is put at risk, as is her budding relationship with MC2, because of the need to keep undercover. But I’ll stop here, if I have the inclination to write, I should work on the LL rewrite rather than continue with this story. There are many other stories ahead of it in the queue.

I think I may have hit upon a nano-winning method. I’ve learned to write filler. Lots of it. The words add up when I use descriptions and spend a chapter or so on backstory. Bear in mind that I’m not a descriptive writer, and my method of advancing the story is usually dialogue — short dialogue — it’s not very natural. A large chunk of these 50k words will not pass the first read through test, so a 100k first draft is reasonable, expecting 10-20k to be cut.

I’ve also learned that having a smaller 2,000 word daily target as opposed to tough 5,000 words is better, and I don’t get too stressed. So I don’t finish on the 10th, it’s not the end of the world. Carving out a 2 hour block in the evening is good discipline too.

There’s hope for me. I may become a real writer one of these days.

in challenges , random words |


1,295 words | 47,176 words total

Was out from 6am to almost 11pm, went with parents to a large airshow. It was interesting, except that it took a good 5-6hrs each way to get there. Parachutists, biplanes, space rockets, tanks, commercial planes, various aero acrobatic displays, and more. Tired, tired, tired.

But I didn’t want to log a zero words day, so I sat and wrote the beginning of chapter 10. Time to get some police resources moving on finding the missing friend.

in challenges , random words |


3,300 words | 45,881 words total

Chapter 9 is done, and it’s loosely the end of Act 1 — setting the scene. After the burrito breakfast, it’s time to get back to work. A couple of developments bring the story to the next act. The missing friend’s son (the prime suspect in her disappearance) suddenly re-appears but is resistant to questioning. Then I throw in a clue about why he might have taken her away — it’s all to do with money and a race to identify beneficiaries to an inheritance. It’s always money isn’t it.

Today my left wrist starts to hurt really badly. Every year it’s the same. Every year I complain. Too much typing and my left wrist protests. Well, not long to go now, so the left wrist just has to grin and bear it.

in challenges , random words |


3,524 words | 42,581 words total

The start of chapter 9 brings the morning after the night before. But fear not, all is good and there is no awkwardness which again speaks to the chemistry between the two MCs. They wake up, chat comfortably, get themselves organised logistically, and enjoy a cooked breakfast together. This is a relationship that doesn’t seem to have angst or conflict. Yet.

And on day 15, more than 40,000 words in, Mr Ian Woon finally makes an entrance. He is mentioned as an instructor specialising in teaching Mexican food in a cookery school.

in challenges , random words |


2,275 words | 39,057 words total

Two thousand odd words in 1.5hrs isn’t bad, especially considering we’ve come to the love scene part of the story. I’m glad that our two MCs have good chemistry and are able to communicate easily, taking away a lot of the first time awkwarness. The scene wasn’t hard to write per se, all I can say is that I used to be much better at it. Lack of practice.

in challenges , random words |


4,045 words | 36,782 words total

I wrote over 4,000 words today. That’s really good. They’ve now gone to the police about the disappearance, and there’s nothing else to do tonight. Oh, except to go talk to MC2 and get to know her better. Here’s the romantic part of romantic mystery.

in challenges , random words |


2,513 words | 32,737 words total

Continuing at my rather leisurely pace. Chapter 7 which is mostly background, is finished. A whopping 7,972 words. That must surely be a record. Now that the MC has seen what the son did to her friend, it’s time to involve the local police. Meanwhile, the MC’s romantic interest, our second MC, has appeared but up to now is still a secondary character, albeit one on whom our MC has a gigantic crush.

in challenges , random words |


2,014 words | 30,224 words total

The first few years I did nano, I wrote and wrote and pushed myself furiously. 2004, 2005, 2006 I was done by the 10th or latest the 15th. Last year when I finished on the 23rd was the longest I’ve taken for a nano. This year, I’m deliberately slow. I wrote 2,000-odd words this morning, and even though I could have gone further than the 30,000 total, I took it easy. 2,000 words a day isn’t to be scoffed at, it’s just a lot less than my usual nano speed. However, I think this is more realistic and I imagine more like how real writers write. (If any real writers are reading this, and write more than 2,000 words a day, feel free to chastise me for being presumptuous.)

I’m still working on the backstory bit. It’s now the turn of the son of the MC’s friend who has gone missing. His point of view, what went through his mind, what brought him to that point where he did what he did.

in challenges , random words |


2,148 words | 28,210 words total

My niece’s birthday today. We went to an indoor skiing place, where the slope operated like a conveyor belt. I tried both snowboarding and skiing. Very strange experience. Absolutely nothing like a real slope. And I’m out of practice.

In terms of nano, I did my writing in the morning before I left. Got my soft daily target of 2,000 words. I’ve detoured a bit, started writing some background. Our MC was watching some CCTV surveillance tape, so I wrote what she saw from her POV (the story is in first person) then I wrote the backstory of what actually happened. Things are getting interesting for our MC, who is trying to search for a friend who has disappeared. The surveillance tape showed the missing friend meeting her son at a cafe, having a heated discussion and then he grabbed her and dragged her away.

in challenges , random words |


2,728 words | 26,062 words total

Chapter 6 is finished, at a whopping 5,606 words. Made some headway into chapter 7 too. The massive chapter 6 helped push me past the halfway mark. Nice.

in challenges , random words |


2,066 words | 23,334 words total

I was going out for after work drinks with mm, so I did my writing in the morning, bookending lunchtime and hitting my target of 2,000 words for today. It’s going pretty well. I’m dragging out the action and including a lot more trivial stuff and description and repeating dialogue than usual. Still working on chapter 5.

in challenges , random words |


2,543 words | 21,268 words total

Spent the morning watching the results of the US election start to come in, quite exciting. Had to leave to go to SZ to pick up my other 3 lights. Bless my parents, they came with me and between the 3 of us we managed to get the bulky boxes on the train back home. By the time we got on the train we saw that President Obama had won re-election. It’s a good thing. I trawled the news sites for articles to get updated.

The custom is I write after dinner. Today I finished at 10pm. And here is the state of play after a week. Pretty much on track with plenty of story left. It’s good.

in challenges , random words |


3,382 words | 18,725 words total

Got my first light, the ceiling light for the living room, and lugged it by myself up to the flat. It wasn’t heavy, just a big bulky box. Came down to the office to see mm and worked out where we should go for a short break. Had a glass of rioja with her also, at the place nearby that had cheap HH prices.

Becoming a habit now, start writing after dinner. I gave myself the target of 17k words, then I can watch tv or read or play a game, but I didn’t need the reward, I just carried on writing. Chapter 5 is done. It helped that this chapter has more dialogue than the previous ones. Boy I’m a rambling fool this year. If I ever revisit this novel, I need serious serious editing. But then, that’s the point of nano. I remember not being very keen on last year’s, but reading it a bit before I started this year made me realise there’s some potential if I ever get round to working on it. May be in a year’s time I’ll feel the same about this one. Ah well, no judgment until 50k words.

in challenges , random words |


2,675 words | 15,343 words total

I had to go order the living room lights, go to the flat to check out the progress of the windows, and wait for the gas people to deliver the hob. Then went to Ikea to look at narrow shelves for the kitchen.

TAR was on at 10pm so that left after dinner and after TAR. Managed to hit 15,000 before the start of the show, so that’s where I’m leaving it for the day.

in challenges , random words |


5,083 words | 12,668 words total

Didn’t go out today. Hit 10,000 words mid-afternoon which meant I had a little reward of playing on the wii for a bit. Just tennis and baseball, nothing special. The rest were written after dinner. Chapter 3 is finished and I’m about halfway through chapter 4. Narrative is all over the place, but I’m doing a good job padding. Not feeling too stressed, I can continue writing for another hour or so, but I’m done for the day. A 5,000-word day and 12,000 words total, those are good milestones.

in challenges , random words |


2,522 words | 7,585 words total

Went with my parents to SZ to order lights for my flat, we went mid-morning, had lunch, went to the shop, walked around some other shops, had dinner and took the train back. The end result is, I only got started after 9pm.

2,500-ish words in 2 hours, not too bad. Very rambling though. We’re at the end of chapter 2 and barely into the scene setting. I had one character ask my MC a question, then had the MC think about her response to the question for a couple of paragraphs before she actually replied. So, thoughts and dialogue were almost exactly the same. Good old nano tricks.

in challenges , random words |

2,756 words | 5,063 total

Had to get up early to go over to the flat. Spent almost 5 hours there, waiting for deliveries: oven, air-con, extractor. Since there’s no furniture, I had to either stand, walk around, or sit on the floor. Brought the kindle so I wasn’t bored. Could have brought the mba to write, was too tired, so decided against it.

Home by 5pm. Chatted to mm, played a little. Settled down to write at around 7pm. Got distracted by dinner (big bowl of fruit) and parents coming back from their days out. Target was to reach 5,000 words, and it’s done.

in challenges , random words |


2,307 words

I had lunch and dinner plans and was out all day, so it didn’t leave a lot of time. Luckily I didn’t need to leave for lunch until 11.45am, so I did my best to fit in a couple of hours in the morning. Happy about the good start.

in challenges , random words |


November tomorrow. Time for nano. I’m as ready as I can be, considering. After 8 years, I know what prep I need:

  • story outlined — this year there’s even a drawing!
  • spreadsheet updated for 2012
  • google doc ready and saved
  • flashdrive for backup at hand
  • new icons uploaded

Not making any predictions or target. Relax and enjoy it, that’s my motto for this year.

in challenges |


All done.


  • run 50km — done 55.42km total, not a good total for me, I need to find a race to train towards
  • weights x8 — done 8, mostly the same sets
  • keep to maintenance calorie target x24 — -done 25, eating out was as always the biggest threat, as well as not enough running


  • vegetarian days x4 — done 5 days total; peas are coming into season, and I made fresh pea and broad bean pesto which went down very well
  • non alcohol days x8 — done 12, meals out and the need to finish the open bottles of whisky the main culprits to not achieving an even higher total
  • fruit or juice x24 — done 28, I like that i have the motivation to have a constant supply of fruit at home
  • eton mess — done: post with pics


  • defrost freezer — done, happy to have worked through a lot of excess food in the freezer
  • make list of stuff to sell — done, sis wants the sofa bed and I measured everything to realise that I can fit the bar table and stools so no need to sell the big items
  • make list of stuff to buy — done, bought towels, duvet cover during the sales
  • clothes and stuff for charity shop — done, took a couple of bags down to the shop and another bag for the clothes bin down the road


  • book all components of bbmm holiday — done
  • outline idea for this year’s nano — done, a romantic mystery, I even have a location, I’ll go take some pictures next time I’m over there
  • LL rewrite at least 2 chapters — done 6 chapters actually, or 22,420 words making the total wordcount 43,173 — about halfway

in challenges |


Been a busy 2 weeks with sis and mm visiting, so a lot of days out. Not too bad, still on target. Fewer plans for the second half of the month, so I should be able to complete this challenge.


  • run 50km — on target, 30km done
  • weights x8 — on target, 4 done
  • keep to maintenance calorie target x24 — on target, 13 days under


  • vegetarian days x4 — on target, 3 done
  • non alcohol days x8 — on target, 6 done
  • fruit or juice x24 — on target, 12 done
  • eton mess — not yet, didn’t have time to make it for mm


  • defrost freezer — still have lots to eat up before I can start
  • make list of stuff to sell — done
  • make list of stuff to buy — done
  • clothes and stuff for charity shop — have a couple of bags of clothes and a box of stuff, almost ready


  • book all components of bbmm holiday — only need to book Paris hotel
  • outline idea for this year’s nano — there’s a vague idea, need quiet time to just think
  • LL rewrite at least 2 chapters — part of 1 chapter done

in challenges |



  • run 50km
  • weights x8
  • keep to maintenance calorie target x24


  • vegetarian days x4
  • non alcohol days x8
  • fruit or juice x24
  • eton mess


  • defrost freezer
  • make list of stuff to sell
  • make list of stuff to buy
  • clothes and stuff for charity shop


  • book all components of bbmm holiday
  • outline idea for this year’s nano
  • LL rewrite at least 2 chapters

in challenges , random words |


The validator opened today, so I did the usual, got my 2011 novel validated. They gave me 50,264 words, so writely was only 3 words out. Lots of winners badges in different sizes and a pdf cert. Another purple year, yay.

in challenges , random words |


2195 words | 50267 words total

Another nano done. Yay! What better than to end with the MCs finally getting time alone — perfect hotel room, nice walk, excellent dinner, hot tub and then spending the whole night to get to know each other. There is still some more story, if I wanted to continue. But things are so perfect between them, it seems a good place to end this year.

in challenges , random words |

2944 words | 48072 words total

Less than 2000 to go. And things are just starting to heat up between our MCs. I have things to do tomorrow night — watching Masterchef and baking a cake for a colleague’s leaving party. It’ll be great if I can finish tomorrow.

in challenges , random words |

2275 words | 45128 words total

800 words at work. It’s quite distracting so I’m grateful for any writing that I manage to do at work. Went running after work, for the first time in a month. 5k at just aound 6min/km, pretty good. There are still far too many people on the track, grrr.

Now that I’m only 5,000 words from the 50k target, I can afford to skip some descriptions. The MCs have driven the lost boy back to his mother, and I wanted to describe the village that his mother lives in, but I don’t have a visual. So I just put in a placeholder and moved on with the chapter. Chapter 14 is done, and Chapter 15 starts a new act in the novel, so to speak. They’ve reunited mother and son and happily moved on. Now time for both MCs to get to know each other. Thing is, I suspect I’ll just stop at 50k, and there’s tons more story to write after that. We’ll see.

in challenges , random words |

2337 words | 42853 words total

It’s an odd feeling, to have a nanoday starting with 2-, still. It’s Mum’s last day, we went for a nice lunch at Bayswater then she spent the afternoon packing while I tried to write a little. I made her a nice steak sandwich to eat on the plane, we were too full for early dinner and I knew she won’t get fed till very late London time. Got the zipcar at 5.30pm, got her to heathrow at around 7pm. She went inside immediately so I came home. It’s quiet without her.

Writing is okay, the story is slowing coming along. I wish I had the motivation to really get into turbo mode and do the usual 5000 words a day. I’m close anyway, and I’m actually more inclined to continue at this 2000 words a day pace so I finish sometime this week.

in challenges , random words |

1084 words | 40516 words total

I knew we were going out the whole day, so I tried to write as much as I could in the morning before we went out. Went to the Christmas market at the Southbank (disappointing), then to Westfield Stratford (horribly crowded, never again) and then to visit RM. Had Turkish dinner near his place, after dinner sat at the coffee shop and chatted for a long time (nice).

It’s been a long day, so I’m going to call it a night. I’ll try to catch up either tomorrow or next week.

in challenges , random words |

3007 words | 39432 words total

Wrote 1100 words at work today, nice. Took Mum out to dinner at Belgo’s, but since there was nothing on TV, I still managed to start on the nano at around 9.30pm. This is the most I’d written in a day this year. It’s the morning after the night of many kisses for the MCs. Time for a special breakfast and then making plans for the road trip to take the boy back to his mother.

in challenges |

2273 words | 36425 words total

Busy at work today, the usual stupidity. Only got 300 words written. Rest were written at home. Chapter 11 is finished, it’s all about reflecting on that first kiss.

in challenges , random words |

2549 words | 34152 words total
Wrote 800 at work, and then finished the rest of chapter 11. Chapter lengths are a bit longer than usual, at over 3000 words. Anyway, end of chapter 11 = first kiss.

in challenges , random words |

2201 words | 31603 words total

Well, I made 30k. Took until day 15, ugh. This is my slowest progress in 7 years of nano. Comparison of day 15 results:

  • 2004 — 50,078 | finished on day 8
  • 2005 — 50,141 | finished on day 15
  • 2006 — 50,305 | finished on day 10
  • 2007 — DNS
  • 2008 — 50,277 | finished on day 15
  • 2009 — 50,057 | finished on day 12
  • 2010 — 41,106 | finished on day 18
  • 2011 — 31,603 | target to finish on day 24

I have good reason, and to be honest there is a certain relief at writing at this slower pace. The go-getting Aries in me is protesting wildly, but the part that wants to spend more time with Mum has won. Even though it’s just eating dinner at the kitchen bar table or watching TV together, I want to spend the early part of my evening this way. I wrote 675 words at work today, to ease some of the pressure. I only needed another hour at home to get up to the 2,000 word daily target that I’ve set myself. It’s all good.

in challenges , random words |

2142 words | 29402 words total

I wrote about 600 words at work today, a first this nano. Just typed in an email and sent it to myself. It’s so inconvenient to have google docs blocked, and can’t save anything onto flashdrives. I think I’ve done a great job of dragging things along this nano. The MCs and the boy were going to go shopping for clothes and stuff for the boy and they are still stuck at mcdonald’s and only just managed to get into MC1’s car. I thought the novel would be crap (after all, that’s my definition of a nano novel), but it’s gradually growing on me.

in challenges , random words |

2020 words | 27260 word total

Went to Camden market then Leicester Square with Mum. We’ve been out every single weekend for 4 weeks and the crowd was getting to me. Too much interaction, no, not even interaction, it’s proximity, to people is very draining for me. I need people to be away from me, far far away, and it’s getting on my nerves.

I had to cook dinner as usual, so not able to start on nano till around 8.30pm. Not in the mood, but I have to carry on. Chapter 9 is done. Our MCs finally got in touch with the lost kid’s mother, who is on her way to her weekend country home for some function. After getting over the disbelief that someone would abandon their lost child to the company of strangers, the MCs made the no-brainer decision to bring the kid to his mother. Cue start of road trip.

in challenges , random words |


2572 words | 25240 words total

I didn’t expect to be able to get this much written today. Went to Borough Market, Canary Wharf and South Bank with Mum today. Still managed to get home to watch Strictly. So didn’t get started till almost 9pm. Quite tired from walking all day, and carrying all our shopping.

At this rate, the story will be 100k words. The MCs just met, and have found a lost child. They are working together to get the child back to his mother, but his mother is too busy and it’s difficult to coordinate. All this is to lead up to the road trip portion of the story. We’re already at Chapter 9 and they are still on the phone with the kid’s mother.

in challenges , random words |

2344 words | 22668 words total

Went out for Le Relais steak with Mum tonight, so I’m happy that I still managed my informal 2011 daily goal of 2000 words. I’m pretty tired, time for bed soon.

Anyway, nano won’t be nano without my wrist pain flaring up. I keep cracking it, and the pain and discomfort continues. It’s the same every year. Like I said earlier this week, it’s a routine now. Left wrist pain is a nano routine.

in challenges , random words |

2242 words | 20324 words total

Alright. Got to 20k. Good progression. Chapter 7 just finished. All nonsense of course, the main part of the story hasn’t even started.

in challenges , random words |

2366 words | 18082 words total

This week has been very routine-like: I get home, shower, cook dinner, we eat dinner, watch Masterchef plus anything else interesting on TV. Then I get some free time, mostly about 2 hours, for nano. Compared to past years, I’m extremely slow. But this year is different and I don’t think I’m doing too badly.

One thing missing is running. I’ve only run once since Mum is here. I was walking in the park this morning thinking about running. Then I read probably the most moving race report on rw and I’m thinking to myself, I want to go running. Argh.

in challenges , random words |

2483 words | 15716 words total

The MCs just met and they’re starting to have small talk. Slowly slowly, I’m dragging everything out. Spent a large part of the evening watching TV with Mum, still pretty decent wordcount.

in challenges , random words |

2012 words | 13233 words total

Sort of back on track. I think I’ll aim at around 2000 per day, which is a tame target for me. Spent a couple of hours watching TV with Mum. Not wasted, just a different allocation of time this month.

I found the dares thread, I missed it cos it’s stickied. Anyway, I managed to include both Mr Ian Woon and Marin Woon. They appear early this year, in Chapter 4. Our MC2 was sorting through letters for tenants who occupied the flat she just moved into.

Mr and Mrs Ian and Marin Woon were subscribers to mountain biking and triathlon magazines that were super keen to have them become valued subscribers again

Did I mention that the novel sucks?

in challenges , random words |

1127 words | 11221 words total

Considering we went outlet shopping at Bicester, followed by Indian dinner at Brick Lane, ie I as out all day, I didn’t do too badly. All this was written in 1 hour. Need to go sleep now. There’s a part of me that wants my peaceful life and quiet weekends back, but the other parts are saying don’t be so rude and spend more time with mum.

in challenges , random words |

331 words | 10094 words total

I’d be happy if I get one word today. Drove 2+ hrs to Sussex to visit my niece’s other grandparents. Set up skype for them, had a nice lunch and walked around their harbour. By the time we got home it was past 7pm. Took the bus to Bayswater to have dinner at Nando’s — fast becoming mum’s favourite. Not a lot of time. Fireworks going crazy outside. Too tired to do much writing. Whatever I can get this weekend is a bonus.

in challenges , random words |

2056 words | 9763 words total

Mum and I visited our old neighbour; it was so fantastic to see her. We didn’t get home till 8pm so dinner was late at 8.30pm. Then we watched a documentary about Susan Boyle and I didn’t start working on nano till after 10pm. Wrote gibberish for 2 hours.

in challenges , random words |

2487 words | 7707 words total

So far, doing a chapter a day, today it’s introducing MC2. Sorry about the obsessively boring posts. This will continue until I finish.

in challenges , random words |

2797 words | 5220 words total

Not too bad. 10.4% complete, projected completion 18 Nov-2011 according to my nifty spreadsheet. One thing I love about nano is the stats.

There was a post on the writing prompt thread (used to be dares, I wonder why they changed the name) that gave,

It all started with a paper cut

I used this as my first line. The idea of how to expand came suddenly to me as I sat down after dinner to write, and I wasn’t even in the bathroom! Got a whole chapter out of it, and good basis to develop part of the story. I think I can be quite pleased with progress so far.

in challenges |


12.02km 1:28:48hr 7:23min/km

Hal Higdon sez it’s week 10 and I need to do 8 miles mid-week, and who dares question Coach Higdon? Okay, I’m running it on Thursday and not Wednesday, so I’m already a deviant.

Even if I left work on time at 5pm, by the time I get home and start running it’d be almost 6.30pm. Knowing that it’ll take 1.5hrs, I didn’t want to finish at 8pm. The obvious solution is to run home from work, saving the tube commuting time.

Good in theory, but the implementation needs refining. I roughly mapped out the route, knowing that I need to get to Barbican and then cut through to Russell Square and then to Regent’s Park. Surprisingly there weren’t as many impeding pedestrians as I thought and actually I met quite a few other runners. The biggest problem was my backpack which was too large, too heavy and was swinging about too uncomfortably. I have to do the same mid-week 8-miler next week, so I think I’ll just leave the backpack in the office and bring a smaller bag just to take my wallet, phones and keys.

in being healthy , challenges |


This month’s focus on Marathon Training was a success, I was able to complete all tasks.

  • 100k total // done 137.75k (85.6 miles) — the next milestone will be 100-mile month
  • at least 3 runs a week // done — 4 runs a week for week 1-2; 3 runs a week for week 3-4
  • 20k (12miles) long run // done twice — 21k and 23k weekend long runs
  • sub-30min 5k// done 29:20min — I got down to 6:09min/km for a while on one of the 6k runs, getting sub-6min/km should get easier

in challenges |

Not quite at 50% completion, still on target for mileage and # of runs. Need to work up to the 20k. To recap, there is only one goal for July, MARATHON TRAINING:

  • 100k total // 44.27k, by the end of week 2 it will be 56k
  • at least 3 runs a week // week 1: 4 runs; week 2: 3 so far, will do a LR at the weekend
  • 20k (12miles) long run // probably nearer the end of the month
  • sub-30min 5k// done 29:20min

in challenges |


There is only one goal for July: MARATHON TRAINING:

  • 100k total
  • at least 3 runs a week
  • 20k (12miles) long run
  • sub-30min 5k

in challenges |

I consider this challenge mostly done. The 2 items I didn’t finish, there are good reasons.

  • run 50km // done 109.56km (68.08miles), that’s pretty decent but why didn’t I run that extra 0.5k today to make it up to 110? grrr
  • sub-30min 5k // done 29:44min
  • keep to maintenance calorie target x20 // done 25 of 20
  • measure bp // done between 128/78 and 134/89, borderline I know

  • food
  • fruit or juice x24 // done 29 of 24, usually I have grapes or strawberries, this month there’s the addition of some fabulous passion fruit and these huge pears
  • vegetarian day x4 // done 4 of 4, one day a week
  • alcohol under 21 units total // done 19 of 21, this was harder than expected especially with the hot weather and having a couple of days out

  • home
  • skype with mum // kinda, did with sis and niece twice, mum was either out on a day trip or at dinner with her sis
  • buy living room furniture // selected but not purchased, I’ll get them when I’m back and can organise delivery
  • LL rewrite up to chapter 10 // done up to chapter 12 actually

in challenges |

Three goals met. The others are on target, except I probably will delay getting the furniture till after I come back.

  • run 50km // done 54.14km (33.64miles), should get to 75-80k
  • sub-30min 5k // done 29:44min
  • keep to maintenance calorie target x20 // 12 of 20
  • measure bp

  • food
  • fruit or juice x24 // 14 of 24
  • vegetarian day x4 // 2 of 4, one day a week
  • alcohol under 21 units total // 12 of 21, should never have opened that bottle of wine last week

  • home
  • skype with mum // nope, but did with Sis
  • buy living room furniture // probably not doing it till I’m back
  • LL rewrite up to chapter 10 // done

in being healthy , challenges |


5.01km 29.44min 5.56min/km

It’s frustrating. Routinely going sub-30 for a 5k should not be this difficult. I know the solution is to run more. Does it really help?

I had a conference today that I didn’t need to be at till 10am, so I had an hour. I thought I’d try running in the morning. Did some sort of fartlek on the home straight of the track — 300m normal speed, 100m faster speed. In reality it was more like 250m normal speed, 75m faster speed, 75m snail’s pace.

in being healthy , challenges |


garmin: 4.68km 28.05min 6.00min/km

Race #3, I did end up registering for the beat the banana race.

It was held at Hyde Park at 6pm, so I left the office at 4.30pm to get there to pick up my bib. Received the t-shirt in the mail earlier this week. I’m glad it wasn’t that hot, and it’s a short distance. It was a nice cotton (sigh) t-shirt, but cotton and racing are incompatible. But, this is a fun run, so can’t expect more. About 500 people, and one guy dressed as a banana. No chip, so I had to time myself. The distance was advertised at 5k, but the garmin said 2.91miles (4.68km), which seems right. I wasn’t going particularly fast and 28min for 5k didn’t feel right. Pace was exacly 6.00min/km so I would have just made it to the 30min mark.

The race is supposed to beat the banana guy, who had about 20 seconds headstart. But when I rounded the last corner towards the finish line, he was coming down the course, running with some people for a few meters and encouraging the rest. I got a high five. Such a nice gesture, he either finished or didn’t cross the finish line until after the last person was done.

This was a charity run. I had a low profile campaign, raised a modest £125 for the world cancer research fund. I got a medal and a goodie bag — water, banana, and a few WCRF booklets on healthy living and healthy recipes. Got a bus home, and was showered and having a curry dinner by 7.45pm.

in challenges |

Rachel set this challenge leading up to GCLS, from 8 May to 7 June. It bugs me that it’s not calendar month, because I’m neat that way, but it’s that’s just me.

  • run 50km
  • sub-30min 5k
  • keep to maintenance calorie target x20
  • measure bp

  • food
  • fruit or juice x24
  • vegetarian day x4
  • alcohol under 21 units total

  • home
  • skype with mum
  • buy living room furniture
  • LL rewrite up to chapter 10

in being healthy , challenges |


nike+ time: 9.82km 1.03.11hr 6.26min/km
chip time: 10k 1.02.45hr 6.16min/km

My first UK race, miles for missing people 10k at regent’s park. Differences between this race and chicago races:

  1. bib was mailed to me, there was no packet pickup
  2. t-shirt given out at the race itself, cotton not tech
  3. 10.30am start
  4. only 600 runners (I think they ended up with 650)
  5. no corrals — in fact the 10k, 2k fun run and walkers all started together
  6. rudimentary chip, which had my number handwritten with a felt tip pen and was attached to the shoe using disposal wire ties
  7. no idea if I’ll get the results, I can’t find even a link that talks about results on the website

All in all, less slick professional organisation, but in the typical “amateur” british way, it was endearing and worked well. I got a zipcar for the whole day (brent cross and tesco in the afternoon) and by sheer luck parked at the right entrance, only 5mins walk from where the race tents were.

I guess they couldn’t have more than 600 people, the start was a narrow gate that led out to a path that must be only 10ft wide. They had 3 events — 10k, 3k fun run and a walk. See #5 above, everyone started at the same time. This meant the first 1k I ran faster than I usually do, to get some room for myself. I faded towards the middle, and got passed by a ton of people. Doesn’t matter. I don’t know if I’ll get the results by mail or email, there’s nothing on their website.

What I really enjoyed was rock choir singing before and after the race. Some of them took part in the fun run and walk too. I’ll have to explore a little more about them.

Overall, it was a good race. The fastest finishers were all sub-40, and they had wine and chocolate as prizes. Sue Cook was there to present the prizes, now that’s a name I recognise.

ETA: I got the results via email in a spreadsheet. Had to do my own calculation for placing:

  • overall: 333/505
  • gender division: 126/262
  • age division: 13/22

in being healthy , challenges |


Very tempted to register for this, the beat the banana 5k fun run at Hyde Park on May 12th. The idea is to try to outrun the human banana, it’s that simple. Sounds silly, but I’m all for themed races. And it is becoming more and more obvious to me that races in the UK are very charity-driven. I think that with a “beat the banana” hook, it may be fun to get sponsorship.

in challenges |

Towards the end, I knew I wasn’t going to complete the challenge. I am a goal-orientated person and not completing a task is a) unusual and b) disappointing. Considering what’s been happening this month, I think I did fine. Tonight’s the first night at my new home, so I’m not surprised / bothered that the home challenges are only partially completed. Good thing I didn’t put “track blood pressure” as a goal, I think most days it’s through the roof.

  • run 10 times // 4 of 10, I’m still in non-running mode, but with the HM coming up in less than 3 weeks I have to ramp it up
  • plan this year’s races // printed out the calendar, marked off the ones I’m interested in, registration for Chicago marathon starts tomorrow
  • keep to maintenance calorie target x20 // 20 of 20, though I might have under-reported occasionally

  • food
  • soup x4 // 4 of 4, thanks to mm who made all the soup
  • fruit or juice x24 // with very few exceptions, at least one a day
  • apple crumble for mm // I owe her this

  • home
  • unpack // I’m about 20% done, it will take 1-2 months but I’m calling this one done cos the packers have come and gone and I’ve made a start
  • sell / donate furniture // I’m going to finish all packing then get one of those house clearing companies to come in and take scads of stuff away
  • install utilities and internet // relo company did utilities, there’s a problem with sky so I’m using a USB dongle for the time being

in challenges |

I’m thinking I’m not going to make this month’s challenge. Still in temp apartment, stressed out about moving, work and, to use an overused word, utterly discombobulated.

  • run 10 times // 3 of 10
  • plan this year’s races // I have a general idea, but too many moving parts
  • keep to maintenance calorie target x20 // most days above

  • food
  • soup x4 // 2 of 4
  • fruit or juice x24 // this one is on track, fruit every day 16
  • apple crumble for mm // we have too much food in the fridge!

  • home
  • unpack // tomorrow
  • sell / donate furniture // need to wait and see
  • install utilities and internet // relo company did utilities

in challenges |

Rachel started another 30 day challenge, in time for January. I think it’s a great idea to have a challenge now because the beginning of the year is the time for resolutions. I’m going to set easy goals, because my life is still turned upside down and I probably will be in temp housing for most of the month.

  • run 10 times
  • plan this year’s races
  • keep to maintenance calorie target x20

  • food
  • soup x4
  • fruit or juice x24
  • apple crumble for mm

  • home
  • unpack
  • sell / donate furniture
  • install utilities and internet

in challenges , random words |



Another year, another nano. All done.

The story is not finished, we’re only at mile 2 of the marathon, there’s 24 miles to go. Not to mention the post-race celebration. Plus two more races.

IRL I have other things to do, so I’m leaving the story alone till I have more time. It’s not like me to not finish, but I have good reason. Announcement soon.

Writely wordcount is 50,289; Word wordcount is 50,313. I’m going with the former until the official countmeter is available next week.

in challenges , random words |

3,382 words | 47,406 words total

Hopefully I can finish tomorrow, there’s only 2,600 words left to get to 50k and I’m at chapter 10. This should be okay to write, it’s October and we’re at the Marathon. Did I mention this story is about all the races I ran in this year? And which one was the most important? Hmm, I wonder.

in challenges , random words |

2,918 words | 44,024 words total

Almost there. Not sure if I can make 3000 words a day for the next two days, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be done by the weekend. The conflict was short-lived, the MCs are trying to resolve it already. Yeah, definitely an angst-lite story.

in challenges , random words |

3,950 words | 41,106 words total

This was the first time this year I had a chance to write at work. I emailed myself the latest doc and spent a little of the afternoon fixing and expanding the latest chapters. We’re now in August and September, lots of events. Many long runs. And the relationship is being put to the test by a series of miscommunications. Ah, angst.

in challenges , random words |

5,084 words | 37,156 words total

I’m fine with not getting to 40k. Spent too much time doing other things — running, shopping, made lamb stew, had some wine and popcorn with my downstairs neighbours. This is the first time this nano I’ve reached over 5000 words. Considering the story, I’m okay with it.

in challenges , random words |


2,024 words | 32,072 words total

I went to the outlet and did a massive amount of shopping — black trousers for work, black shoes for work, replacement baking sheets, silicon baking moulds, a pair of Nike Free 3.0 v2 shoes; looked for chinos but didn’t see any I liked. On my way back, went to Target and bought bubblewrap, lunch boxes and a bunch of other household goods stuff.

Which means the time I wanted to spend writing was spent shopping or driving. I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine, and when I re-read something I wrote and it did not made sense — all of a sudden talking about “the work clothes era” in the middle of a sentence on half marathon results — I knew it was time to quite while I was ahead.

Plan tomorrow is go for a run, do laundry, vacuum, then spend as much time as possible to write. A plan is 40k; B plan is 37; minimum is 35.

in challenges , random words |

2,598 words | 30,048 words total

On target for today, I wanted to get to 30k to give myself a chance of 40k by the end of the weekend. We’ve reached the huge ramping up that was August and September — mileage, injury and 2 HMs. Also starting to add some possible conflict and angst. Can’t have everything perfect in a relationship too early, right, otherwise the resolution is less satisfying. I’ve also realised that apart from the 2 MCs there are barely any other characters in the story. Very talking heads. Nothing to worry about now.

in challenges , random words |

2,113 words | 27,450 words total

Total writing time, less than 2 hours so not too bad. I’m tired, have been waking up before the alarm. Bedtime.

in challenges , random words |


2,585 words | 25,337 words total

Well, here’s the big sigh of relief at reaching 25k. Halfway to target. I only just started chapter 6 of 12, so perhaps this will be a 60k story. Unlike past years I haven’t done the how many words per chapter statistic, I know chapter 4 was long and chapter 5 was shorter, but I don’t have the wordcounts. Feels good to be not so numbers obsessed, fretting about reaching a certain goal for the chapter. The overall goal is enough.

Bobbi posted a question on my fb status, asking why I do nano. It’s a great question. I nano because it’s what I do in November, it’s as simple as that. With one exception, it’s been like this since 2004. Why do I write, in general? That is a more complex question and today my answer is that i write because I used to be good at it and I want to rediscover that ability. Is it a good enough reason? I don’t know.

in challenges , random words |

2,244 words | 22,752 words total

Every year I complain that the story is crap. Every year I write my nano novel and feel dreadful while writing it. At the back of my mind I think whether I can make anything of it. Every year I promise myself I’d go back, edit it and whip it into decent shape.

Every year, after I finish, I never go back and read it again. Sometimes I’d skim parts, and then I get embarrassed at how bad it is and go straight to the end.

A little below the 2,500 target today. I’m tired, want to go to bed.

in challenges , random words |

3,410 words | 20,508 words total

Woke up at 5.30am, couldn’t sleep. Took care of mafia wars, then wrote a little bit, may be a few hundred words. I got home early from work, had dinner quickly and started at 7pm. I could continue, it’s only 10.45pm now, but I’m going to read and go to bed. I have a 7.30am call tomorrow so it’s another early wake up.

I haven’t spent any time on the nano forums at all, too busy at work. Even if writely hadn’t been blocked I wouldn’t have been able to write much during the day. I’m reasonably happy at my wordcount progress even though it’s my lowest day 8 total:

  • 2004 — 43,177
  • 2005 — 28,136
  • 2006 — 42,801
  • 2007 — DNS
  • 2008 — 25,106
  • 2009 — 35,202
  • 2010 — 20,508

The spreadsheet is predicting a completion date of 18-Nov. I want to pick up the pace and be done by the 16th, which is the latest I’ve finished. I’ll never be able to replicate the spectacular 2004 effort; that first year will forever remain the most memorable and best performing nano in my writing career.

in challenges , random words |

3,775 words | 17,098 words total

Came home at around 2pm, spent the rest of the afternoon putting around — watched an ep of Bones, tidied up the boxes from the yard sale, replied to email, cooked lunch for the week, played games, took a shower, did laundry. The only thing I didn’t do was write, grrr.

Wrote a little after dinner, then watched TAR. Mom phoned just as it was finishing, then mm phoned. So I had a couple of distractions. Went on a little streak after finishing with mm, got a decent total.

in challenges , random words |

1,240 words | 13,323 words total

Race this morning, and now I’m visiting car’s house. Early dinner but we ended up playing monopoly so there was little opportunity to write. My A-plan weekend goal seems daunting; I should come up with a B-plan.

in challenges , random words |

2,806 words | 12,083 words total

Although I got home early, I watched an episode of Bones, laid out my gear for the 15k race tomorrow and did one load of laundry before settling down to write at 8pm. Was distracted still. The overall feeling is I’m not enjoying writing lately and the story is moving along far too slowly. It’s April and the MCs had only just gone out for their first meal. Plod, plod, plod.

in challenges , random words |

1,154 words | 9,277 words total

I only had 1 hour, so I’m reasonably satisfied. I went out after work for drinks and dinner with my colleagues — we hadn’t gone out for a long long long time. I had 3 glasses of wine and too many slices of pizza. Not the best for writing. I’m okay with the more modest daily target this year, I know where I’d like to be by the end of the weekend, hopefully I can make it. The story? A thousand odd words isn’t going to move it forward by much.

in challenges , random words |

2,043 words | 8,123 words total

Started late at 10pm, only 2 hours available for writing today. Still, not too bad in terms of output. The running and racing part of the story is going well, but the relationship isn’t developing. I have to work on that.

in challenges , random words |

3,354 words | 6,080 words total

This is a mindset change for me, to aim for 2,500-3000 words daily as opposed to my “high-flying” normal target of 5,000. I haven’t settled into a routine where I can both write and run yet, my running is taking a back seat right now.

Chapter 1 is done. 5,019 words. Bang on target. The story is kinda bleh. LOL that’s no change. Every year I complain about the story. Every year I end up being okay with it. Not that I plan to show anyone any time soon, if ever, so it doesn’t matter.

in challenges , random words |


2726 words

So busy at work today there was hardly time for lunch, let alone writing. Besides, google docs is banned, and we can’t copy data to flash drives. This means limited opportunity to write at work, unless I email a file to myself every day.

Started at around 8pm and wrote for about 3hrs. The story started very slow, only 1 scene completed and nothing much happened aside from the 2 MCs meeting each other and some conversation went on. I don’t have a very good feel to how it will develop. I think there is enough for 50k words but I can never be sure. This is probably the slowest start in all my nanos. I have a busy november, plus lots of tv and mafia wars, I’ll have to work very hard to keep to my target.

in challenges |
  • run 75 miles (120km) // done: 94.4 miles (152km), could have done another 8k to get to 100 miles; but as I’ve run something like 250 miles in the last 3 months I’m not bothered
  • PR HM // done, took 9mins off
  • cross-train (bike, weights, whatever) at least once a week // done: 2xweights, 2xcycling
  • monitor bp and heart-rate // done, with disappointing results and not much of a solution except go see a doctor which, um, I haven’t done yet. may be I need another challenge to add it as an item

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4 // done: I did 4 vegetarian wednesdays, I may make this a habit
  • new recipe x2 // done: 1, 2

  • other
  • finish that roll of film in the lomo and develop it // done, with quite pleasing results
  • build a new lightbox // done
  • LL rewrite: 10,000 words // done: 10,380 words, 65,000-ish to go
  • outline this year’s nano // done: a (for me) non-angsty novel backdropped by 12 races over 12 months

in challenges , random words |


It’s almost that time of year again. Compared with last year I’m actually late with the planning, cos almost 100% of my attention is on marathon prep. But I sat down the last few days and outlined it.

The story this year, not surprising, is about running. 12 chapters, following a year of races. It’ll also be a romance. The progression and ups and downs of training / racing will be echoed by the development of the relationship. For a change I might tone down on the angst. Let’s see if I can manage that.

in challenges |

The end date of 8-oct threw me, this is the more-than-halfway update.

  • run 75miles (120km) // on target: 59.66miles (96km)
  • PR HM // done, took 9mins off
  • cross-train (bike, weights, whatever) at least once a week // on target: one bike, one weights
  • monitor bp and heart-rate // done, with disappointing results and not much of a solution except go see a doctor

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4 // on target: 2 of 4
  • new recipe x2 // done: 1 and 2

  • other
  • finish that roll of film in the lomo and develop it // taking it to the apple fest tomorrow
  • build a new lightbox // ooops, keep forgetting to do this
  • LL rewrite: 10,000 words // epic fail! 0 words
  • outline this year’s nano // in my head, just need more details and to write it down

in challenges , photography is life |

October 10th, A most auspicious day

Heather Champ issued this challenge:

On October 10, 2010, take a photo (analogue, digital — whatever your pleasure) at a time that’s convenient for you. There’s no specific theme, direction or time requirement. When you’re ready, share your photo in this Flickr group

Me? I’m doing the chicago marathon. I’m taking my camera.

in challenges |

I got tagged for a 30-day challenge, between tomorrow and 8-oct. Fitting because the last tdp challenge I set for myself was a year ago. Usual format:

  • run 75miles (120km)
  • PR HM
  • cross-train (bike, weights, whatever) at least once a week
  • monitor bp and heart-rate

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4
  • new recipe x2

  • other
  • finish that roll of film in the lomo and develop it
  • build a new lightbox
  • LL rewrite: 10,000 words
  • outline this year’s nano

in challenges |


18.20km 2:05:00hr 6.51min/km

The training plan is based on an easy run, a tempo or speedwork run and a long slow run every week. Additional easy or tempo run optional. This weekend’s LSR is supposed to be 19km at 7.16. So I did 18km at 6.51, I was already shuffling and being passed by all and sundry, I don’t think I can go slower!

I guess with the limited training time this is the taper for the half-marathon next week. The idea of a taper is not to hit the race distance in the weeks before the race, but to come close and let adrenaline carry the extra distance at the race. It makes sense. If I can get to 18k, it should be ok to go the additional 3k under race conditions.

Back to today’s run. Yes, it’s a distance PR (though i’ll break it next week). I’m less interested in the distance as I am with how I feel. I started slow and took it very easy all through. It was hot, but fortunately dry and occasionally breezy. The lessons learned: don’t be too ambitious with speed, carb-load beforehand and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


A croquembouche is a showpiece dessert of French origin that is popular at big events such as weddings and anniversaries. It’s basically a tall tower of profiteroles. Lots of recipes and writeups about it.

I have a foolproof choux pastry recipe from the Sainsbury’s home baking book. I’ve been using this recipe for years and years and years.

  • 4oz butter
  • 300ml water
  • 5oz plain flour
  • 4 eggs

Heat the butter and water until boiling. Remove from heat and add flour all at once. I’d double sifted the flour beforehand. Beat with wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the saucepan. Add eggs a little at a time, combining well. Spoon onto a lined baking sheet and bake at 200°C for 25mins until golden. Make a slit at the side and cool. I used regular whipped cream sweetened with a little icing sugar for filling. This made 24 small profiteroles.

Carefully melt caster sugar in a heavy pan. When caramelised, dip profiteroles one by one and arrange. The caramel acts as glue to bind the puffs together. To make the sugar decoration, dip a whisk in the caramel and flick it across 2 sticks (I used planting sticks, although rulers might have worked better).

Normally croquembouches are very tall, hence their centrepiece nature. Mine was more like a mini version.

in 101.1001 , challenges , photography is life |

Get the flash player here:

26 things for feb 2010:

  1. structure
  2. follow
  3. covet
  4. triple
  5. hands
  6. eye
  7. fancy
  8. time
  9. rainbow
  10. sadness
  11. stack
  12. line up
  13. wheels
  14. an insect
  15. into the air
  16. direction
  17. new
  18. half
  19. set up
  20. 10 mins away
  21. in my mailbox
  22. sometimes
  23. bottle
  24. behind the scenes
  25. corner
  26. a door

In the middle of all the holiday eating, meeting with people, shopping stuff, I decided to do this month’s 26things in HK and completing another 101.1001 task, which is to use a colour theme. It wasn’t hard to decide on red. Click on each pic for brief notes. Link to full set: here

in 101.1001 , challenges , random words |

This was written for the author’s challenge for the radlist yahoo group. It used to be that there were more published authors on the challenge but recently more first-time / unpublished writers have sent in their contributions. I know I need to transition to “real” writing, with my own characters and stuff. So when I saw the signup invitation I started thinking about what I could write. This time the theme is “surprise party” and we could interpret freely.

I’m glad I have an archive of shorts and 5 nanos. I focused on nano 2005, which I hadn’t looked at since more than half of it was lost in the NZ flashdrive death incident. If I were to rework it to an original, most of it had to be rewritten anyway. The most exciting bit was finding that I still had the mindmap, so all isn’t lost.

Then it was a matter of writing building the back story (including changing the gender of one of the MCs) and writing the challenge. The result, party planner, is a nice prequel. The original title of the main story was tight, and I’m tentatively changing it to Melody’s on Church. The setting is now at Franklin TN, where Nissan has its headquarters — I met a Japanese HR manager at a networking event and he was telling me a little about life there. The title is the name of the restaurant, and I’ve further defined its cuisine as Japanese-fusion.

The short is the story of how the MCs met. I’m pretty pleased with it, yes it’s a bit fluffy, but hopefully not clichéd. It’s kinda cute and sweet.

in challenges |

I’m not setting resolutions because I think the phrase “new year resolutions” gets associated too much with well-intentioned failures. Too often, people want to change for the better, but make the changes too drastically or without sufficient planning or set the bar too high. Resolutions also get associated with giving up certain things, usually “unhealthy” stuff like butter or cream cakes. That’s my problem, giving up is so negative, it shouldn’t be giving up full fat milk, but rather gaining a taste for skim milk.

Anyway these are my goals for 2010. Yes, the initial reaction is probably “is that it?” since they are not much different from the monthly goals I set regularly. But that’s the point! Goals and targets, and alright — resolutions — should be practical and achievable.

  • 12 races
  • 1000km (620 miles) total
  • 5k PR
  • 10k PR
  • distance PR
  • finish nrolw

  • food
  • more vegetarian weeks
  • eat out more — this may seem odd but I’ve decided that I should live a little more often

  • writing
  • finish at least one of the three planned manuscripts
  • 3 short stories

in 101.1001 , challenges , eating and drinking |


The idea is always the same: brown the protein, add vegetables, add liquid and cook slowly for 2-3hrs until the meat is tender. Serve over some sort of carb that can mop up the sauce.

I saw oxtail and I was so excited. It’s been a long time. I braised it with a bottle of guinness and several ice cubes of chicken stock. The vegetables were standard mirepoix plus canned tomato. I let the finished product sit in the fridge overnight so the extra fat can solidify to be scraped off.

This was served over potato and turnip mash.

in being healthy , challenges |


My last race of 2009, the santa shuffle 5k at Lincoln Park this morning. It was cold, luckily sunny. All racers were given a hat, beard and santa t-shirt so there were lots of red around. Some others dressed more elaborately in santa costumes, and some were in flannel pajamas — they looked warm.

The race and course itself wasn’t that great. The gear check was one corner of one table with 2 pretty inexperienced people, good thing I dropped my backpack early, some people didn’t make gear check and had to carry their stuff on the race.

The course was a loop up to the zoo then back. The highest number I saw as 1100-something so I’m thinking around 1200 people. On the narrow paths of the park, initially on the pavement along the road then there was one stretch where people running up and down were sharing the same path. Any more runners and it would have been very crowded.

My nike plus picked today to run out of battery, sigh. I had to rely on the official clock, which told me I finished at 31.29mins, the fastest I’ve been recently. Some people were saying the course was over 5k, I dunno.

Afterwards there was a breakfast buffet and beer at a pub over at Webster. It was over 1 mile and I walked over. Usually after runs we get bananas and energy bars so a hot breakfast (with Bud Light) was welcome. They had bacon, sausage, egg, bagels, french toast, pancake, something with gravy (American gravy, ie white sauce) and an egg filled deep fried thing that was actually spicy and really nice. Well worth the mile walk. There were a lot of runners and the queue for the food was long, I was lucky I got in line early and was within the first 20 people. I wonder how it was at the end, whether they had enough food.

in 101.1001 , challenges , random words |


Am I being a jerk if I say “that was easy”? Because, well, it was. I made good progress every day, not always hitting the 5k target, which I later revised down anyway. I got to 50k by the 12th, and this year I even typed it all with capitalisation and punctuation. None of those time saving tricks for me. Plus I didn’t use any dares.

Officially the wordcount is 50,038, which is lower than the Word and writely counts but I don’t really care. There are parts still missing, and will likely remain forever missing.

How do I do it? I think it’s definitely a case of practice. And being relaxed. I have no deadlines except the 30th; my own soft target is always the 15th. I’ve never found writing difficult, provided I have a story. And I outline. For nano I always outline by chapter. For a project manager like me, having a set goal and an outline is something so familiar that I can slip into the process as soon as the first day of november comes round.

I have to think of a decent storyline for next year’s, because this year’s story is the worst I’ve written in my nano career. Heck, my entire writing career. But hey, quality isn’t the point of nano. A lot of people forget that.

Which brings me to a little rant. I’m a nano purist, I make no apologies for it. I’ve been at it long enough to earn it. I see people who are writing a continuation of an existing novel, or rewriting an already written novel, or worrying about editing, and I cringe. That’s not the point. The point is to write a 50k novel from scratch, without editing. We have edmo in march for editing. And I would have thought ‘from scratch’ is self-explanatory. Ah well, that’s other people. It’s a self-challenge and in theory someone can write a single word 50,000 times and still win. Everyone’s mileage varies. nanochart

in challenges , random words |


I reached 50k yesterday and I’m stopping. Yes, there are still missing chunks but I’m not invested enough in this story to continue. Certain passages will likely end up in other stories.

For those new friends witnessing me do nano for the first time (the witnessing, not the my doing it), it may seem like I’m some sort of writing machine. But really, I’m not. This is my normal nano speed. Bear in mind that this is nanowrimo, when it comes to writing other stuff I ‘perform’ differently. The point of nano is to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch, and write with abandon, ie no editing, no overthinking. And I achieved this. Other notes on this year’s nano:

  • finishing on day 12 is snap bang within my average. I’ve finished between 10 and 16 days since 2004
  • average words per day 4,171
  • 25 chapters
  • average chapter length 1,999
  • longest chapter 3015 | shortest 1152
  • I didn’t do any dares because they moved the thread to the plot doctoring forum and I kept looking for it in the reaching 50000 forum
  • this year’s Mr Ian Woon is a partner in the law firm of Appleby, Esterhaus, Kowalski, Woon and Gregory
  • I donated to OLL and will continue to do so every year
  • I didn’t buy the t-shirt

I will take advantage of the createspace offer of a free proof copy. But not this novel, I’m probably going to ssend nano2006 instead. It’s time I worked on that one, it has a better story. Chef and I have been casually emailing about writing and submitting for publication. My plan is to have at least 3 novels in good shape before submitting my first one. I like to have reserves always ready. In comp terms we call it keeping some back in the attic.

in challenges , random words |


2,883 words | total 50,057 words

I finished. The big push yesterday really helped, as did the 1000 words I wrote at work today. I only had 2000 words to write at home. There was absolutely no excuse.

There are no more chapters to write, the end had The End. Not all chapters are complete, where I couldn’t write the rest of the scene I put in [more], so one of these days when I want to finish this novel completely I’ll go and write those missing parts.

in challenges , random words |

5,753 words | total 47,174 words

I left work early so I had an extra hour. I should have used it to do weight training but I was lazy and opted to write. That’s the eternal dilemma isn’t it, too little free time, too many other things to take care of.

The last few chapters have been long, the story is hitting that ‘final push’ place. I’d like to get to 50k tomorrow, cos I like even numbers and 12 days sound better than 13 days. Fingers crossed.

in challenges , random words |


3,153 words | total 41,421 words

Yeah, the stupid wrist pain has returned. At least it waited till day 10. (Actually day 9 cos it was hurting yesterday.) The end is almost here anyway, so I can live with the pain. I’ll be in wrist braces tomorrow, both of them, looking like those steampunk gloves that my vampire wars character has. Anyway I’ve reached the 40k milestone, which is psychologically huge.

The characters continue to defy my attempt to give them angst, they’re simply too happy to have re-discovered each other. Who can blame them? I’m writing both chapter 21 and 22 at the same time. Chapter 21 is about a nice evening with “steaks and vegetables on the grill followed by whipped cream and rich chocolate mousse spread thickly over her body for me to lick off all night.” Chapter 22 is about helping the SEC inspectors in a fraud investigation. I’m literally writing 1 or 2 paragraphs of one chapter, then turning to the other chapter and writing a passage. Strange how my brain can switch between such different topics. LOL

in challenges , random words |

3,066 words | total 38,268 words

I had a meeting that was cancelled at lunchtime, so I managed to write 600 words at work. I’ve decided to be less demanding of myself and reduce the daily target from 5000 to 3000 words. I suppose I can do that cos I’m ahead, and even with the smaller target I’m aiming to get to 50k by the weekend.

My characters have gone away for a much needed weekend trip to the coast. They’re enjoying each other’s company, going out for great seafood and visiting local attractions. My MC went for a long run along the beach. I wish I were them.

in challenges , random words |

4,181 words | total 35,202 words

I stayed later than usual at Car’s house today. We went to the supermarket, then to the cemetery. Early dinner of a nice big steak her mom cooked for us. I headed out at around 5pm, and got home just after 6pm. By the time I showered, unpacked all my purchases over the weekend and made lunch for tomorrow it was 6.45pm. And TAR started at 7pm. I was too distracted to even watch Iron Chef, the secret ingredient is almond which I don’t like. I’ll catch it on repeat during the week.

To add insult to injury the flapper valve on my toilet broke. Now I have to figure out where the nearest plumbing supply store is. grrrr.

Back to the novel. I did a pretty good job of writing filler material today, padding what was originally one chapter into two. I’m averaging 1,956 words per chapter, meaning I will need a total of 25.6 chapters at this rate. I’ve only outlined 23 so from somewhere I need to find 3 more chapters, or make each chapter longer to catch up.

in challenges , random words |


3,168 words | total 31,021 words

Been up since 7am, we went to the outlet mall at Michigan City. I bought 2 pairs of Timberland shoes, a pair of black Crocs with lining, salt & pepper shakers, a couple of storage jars, a long sleeved Nike running shirt and running gloves. I’m pleased at my haul.

Even though we got home at 4pm and was finished with dinner by 5.30pm, writing was tough. I was bored and had zero motivation. The story crawled along, and I was so distracted that I was hitting word count every hundred words or so.

I’m at chapter 16. I notice that I’ve been doing 2 chapters a day. I’m also not following the outline, I strayed away a bit yesterday and today’s 2 chapters were quite a significant departure. It’s okay though, the main plot is still there. It will just take a different route.

So, some stats after 7 days:

  • Total word count: 31,021
  • Average words per day: 4,432
  • Total hours writing: 25hrs
  • Completion: 62%
  • Projected completion: 13-Nov-09

in challenges , random words |

5,147 words | total 25,229 words

I managed to write about 1000 words at work today, which made the task easier when I got home. I was also home early enough to fit in a run, my first this week. I’m not getting my workouts in…fail.

The novel turned nice today. I had wanted to write more ‘difficult relationship’ stuff, but the characters decided they were having none of that and preferred to spend the weekend in each other’s company, mostly in bed. Hahaha. I love it when characters decide to throw the outline completely out of the window and go all tangential on me.

There’s a group of us doing nano this year. I’m privileged to be writing buddies with actual published authors. And I’m one of the ones who are ahead of the 1667-a-day official target. Except my target is 5000 a day. This is nothing new, I’ve always had a big daily target, and I always finish early. I think I’ll freak out if I ever fall behind.

in challenges , random words |

4,078 words | total 20,082 words

If it’s even possible, I was busier today than yesterday. Booked solid from 9am to 4.30pm, only able to sneak lunch when the 11.30am finished early. So exhausting.

On chapter 11 already. The 2 chapters I wrote today were better. Better flow, better direction. It’s getting towards the middle section of the novel and things are starting to happen. I just wish I can get more rest. At this point, I’m relying a lot on my nano experience to get through the next few days. Just type the words. Keep an eye on the wordcount. Discipline.

in challenges , random words |

3,355 words | total 16,004 words

It was a long, intense day full of meetings and discussions. I was so tired when I got home. Luckily I had leftover risotto, so I didn’t have to cook.

Writing began at 7.30pm. I decided that I hate my novel. There is no story and the premise is thinner than ice. I’m not writing any descriptions and it feels like I’m just writing a very long blog post. This is gonna be a tough, hard slog.

in challenges , random words |

5,023 words | total 12,649 words

Barely managed 180 words at work today, there was just no time. Got home and decided to make mushroom risotto, which turned out to be tasty but time consuming.

Started writing at 7.45pm, got to 9000 words at 9pm — the reward was ice cream and baseball break for 15mins. I just finished, almost at midnight. I’m at chapter 7, but I’m not liking this novel at all. It’s hard to write and it’s not making sense. But I’ll hack away at it.

in challenges , random words |


7,626 words

I started around 10.30am, after the race and shower. TV off, heating on, outline ready. Wrote steadily albeit slowly till lunchtime, when I reached 2200 words. Got majorly distracted by mafia and vampire wars, and still managed to get to 6000 words at 7pm. I had an ambitious target of 10000 but once TAR started I knew I won’t make it. There was TAR, Next Iron Chef and Iron Chef — 3 hours of TV that cut into writing time. I’d done pretty good today, so I’m happy.

I outlined 22 chapters. I was able to split chapter 1 into 2, and that gives me another happy.

in being healthy , challenges |


Woke up at 6am (argh, on a sunday) to do the hot chocolate 5k. Didn’t get a fantastic start — the stupid bus ran the stop, and the other passengers and I were like “the hell?” As I was checking the bus schedules, the red line pulled up so I had to sprint up to the platform. Pulled my thigh a little, and was uncomfortable leading up to the start of the race.

It turned out to be a beautiful morning, perfect for running. I kept the running jacket on, thought I got hot and should have checked it. Finished in just over 31mins.

Afterwards, the food was chocolate fondue. It was a small plate of: 1 apple slice, half a banana, 1 marshmallow and a couple of biscuits. Pretty puny. There was also a small cup of hot chocolate. Still, better than the banana and cereal bar combinations we get at other races. There was also a Nike+ tent, and by showing the run on the ipod, we were eligible for a prize draw. I got an armband, which is timely cos my existing one is showing signs of old age and use.

Home and showered by 10am. Dealt with fb game stuff and the rest of the day will be nano.

in being healthy , challenges |


The first run I logged in my nike+, which to all intents and purposes was the beginning of my running career, was on 29 October 2008. So what have I achieved in 1 year:

I have enough goals and tasks already, but generally in the next year I want to try to run one race a month, run faster and move up to half marathon. Achievable? I think so.

in being healthy , challenges |


Even though I signed up for the nike human race that is supposed to happen today, I seriously doubted that I’d be able to do it. Today was Gram’s funeral and I’ve been up since 6am, driving down to the house, then we were at the funeral home, church, cemetery and the luncheon. It was a sad day for the loss of such a wonderful person, and yet a day where family and friends gathered together.

I got home just after 6pm, and the run was tickling at the back of my mind. The other concern was of course that I’m sick and the only exercise I’d done in the past 3 weeks was the one run at Ptown.

I thought to myself, no harm trying. If I get to tired, I can stop before 10k. I didn’t run to the lake, just made the rounds up and down the neighbourhood streets. And no, I didn’t get tired. I finished in a fairly normal time of 1hr 6 mins.

in being healthy , challenges |

Finished 7/8 tasks, the first time I’ve not achieved 100% completion.

  • run a full 10k // done
  • nrolw complete stage 1 // done
  • deadlift half my body weight // done
  • full pushup // did that one nrolw workout

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4 // done
  • quinoa recipe x1 // done

  • other
  • sort gcls videos // sigh, I’m not sure when I’ll get round to this
  • 6-word novels x20 // done

in challenges |

Mid-month update.

  • run a full 10k // not yet, may be this weekend
  • nrolw complete stage 1 // at s1-6b, 7 to go
  • deadlift half my body weight // next weight increase at s1-7a
  • full pushup // did that one nrolw workout

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4 // 2 of 4
  • quinoa recipe x1 // this week

  • other
  • sort gcls videos // ooops
  • 6-word novels x20 // done

in challenges |
  • run a full 10k
  • nrolw complete stage 1
  • deadlift half my body weight
  • full pushup

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4
  • quinoa recipe x1

  • other
  • sort gcls videos
  • 6-word novels x20

in challenges |

Final August TDP challenge results — all done.

  • run 50km // 50.11km
  • 5k race in under 36mins // 33mins
  • weights x8 // 8 of 8
  • 1000 squats, lunges, abs // 1034 — since I started NROL I’m also counting deadlifts and step-ups

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4 // 4 of 4
  • meet calorie goals 24 days // 24 of 24 — I gave myself a margin of error of 10 calories

  • other
  • organise story outlines // done
  • get driver’s licence // done, got a car to go with the licence too

in being healthy , challenges |
  • run 50km // 27.05km
  • 5k race in under 36mins // 33mins
  • weights x8 // 2 of 8
  • 1000 squats, lunges, abs // 400

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4 // 2 days
  • meet calorie goals 24 days // 11 days

  • other
  • organise story outlines // procrastinating
  • get driver’s licence // done

in challenges |

I want to get back to setting monthly goals. I didn’t reach my goal for GCLS, those last 2-3 pounds are proving extremely stubborn. If anything, I haven’t been watching what i eat as carefully as before and i’ve gained 2 pounds. That said, several people have remarked that I don’t need to lose any more, which suggests to me that I’ve reached, or am close to reaching, my optimum weight. Each person has a default weight that their body is comfortable with, trying too hard to get below that tends to backfire, causing more harm than good. So, I’m not going to stress out too much about it.

I realise I should switch to tracking body fat % instead of weight. So I got a $4.99 body fat caliper. I’m still trying to learn to use it, my BF% range from 22-25%, and according to my scale it’s 30%. Yikes, that’s not good.

So anyway, goals:

  • run 50k
  • 5k race in under 36mins (allowance for knee)
  • weights x8
  • 1000 squats, lunges, crunches

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4
  • meet calorie goals 24 days

  • other
  • organise story outlines
  • get driver’s licence

in 101.1001 , challenges |

I’m not going to set any exercise or food challenge. With me moving in, a business trip to London next week and various summer festivals/events coming up, I think I’d be too stressed out to, say, make sure I run 50k or do 500 squats.

I am still going to set some goals, cos it’s fun. So the challenge for June is: complete 10 goals or sub—goals from the 101 tasks in 1001 days list.

Background: way back in December 2007 I set 101 tasks to be completed in 1001 days. I have until August 2010. I kinda screwed up by setting tasks into sub-tasks, which meant I had to finish 238 tasks. Silly me. Anyway, I’m not doing terribly well, so it’s time to try to catch up.

in being healthy , challenges |

Exercise and food goals were met. Didn’t do any writing. Still debating whether to set June challenge. Business trip and moving — too many moving parts.

  • run 50k || done 62.89km
  • 5k in under 30mins x4 || done
  • 500 crunches || done
  • 500 squats || done

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4 || done
  • meet calorie goal 24 days || done

  • other
  • find an apartment! || DONE!!!
  • finish writing WS || nope

in challenges |

Week 3 of the TDP challenge was dominated by the orporate challenge on thursday. OTOH I don’t think the writing is going to happen. What remains to be written is a pivotal love scene and expanding on the bit when the MCs confront the villain. I haven’t been able to write love scenes for a long time — I know i can do it, but just not recently. sigh.

  • run 50k || done 54.56km
  • 5k in under 30mins x4 || 3/4
  • 500 crunches || 350/500
  • 500 squats || 350/500

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4 || 3/4
  • meet calorie goal 24 days || 20/24

  • other
  • find an apartment! || DONE!!!
  • finish writing WS || difficult

in challenges , workstuff |

so I did the corporate challenge today. Almost 25% of our Chicago office people showed up, most of them participants. There were also lots of volunteers. We had a big tent, and the atmosphere was nice.

The start was a bit crowded, it took a while for me to get to the starting line. But I used my nike+ as timer, starting only when I crossed the start line. It was a nice run. Officially 3.5miles, or 5.63km. I got 5.80km. I was looking out for our company’s shirt throughout but didn’t see many.

When I crossed the finish line my time was 37mins, but my nike+ gave me 35.17 so I’m taking that. Of course there were people faster, our fastest runner clocked 20mins.

There was a nice barbeque, beer and fruit. I even took away some leftovers. It was a great event, i’d do it again next year.

in challenges |

Week 2 of the TDP challenge went pretty okay, especially the finding a place to live bit.

  • run 50k || 33.88/50
  • 5k in under 30mins x4 || 1/4
  • 500 crunches || 300/500
  • 500 squats || 250/500

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4 || 2/4
  • meet calorie goal 24 days || 16/24

  • other
  • find an apartment! || DONE!!!
  • finish writing WS || working on it

in challenges |

update after week 1 of the TDP challenge - May. Getting sick earlier in the week really put the challenge back, but the last few days I’ve tried to pick it up.

  • run 50k || 20.42/50
  • 5k in under 30mins x4 || 0/4
  • 500 crunches || 100/500
  • 500 squats || 100/500

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4 || 1/4
  • meet calorie goal 24 days || 9/24

  • other
  • find an apartment! || still looking
  • finish writing WS || nope

in challenges |

After the mostly successful completion of the March challenge, i thought I’d pick it up again and do a May challenge.

  • run 50k
  • 5k in under 30mins x4
  • 500 crunches
  • 500 squats

  • food
  • vegetarian day x4
  • meet calorie goal 24 days

  • other
  • find an apartment!
  • finish writing WS

in challenges |

I signed up for the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge, a 5k run/walk to take place at Grant Park on 21 May. I don’t know much about it, other than it’s a run, the company will pay for the entry fee and it has to be done as a company. It’ll be good to run.

in challenges |

Results of the March TDP challenge.

  • run 50k // done 79.10km
  • intervals x8 // done 9/8
  • strength training x8 // done 8/8
  • increase bench press weight by 10lbs // done 24—>40
  • track every day // done 31/31
  • 2 veg every day // sort of done, I haven’t counted exactly
  • meet calorie goal 24 days // sort of done, if I give myself a cushion of 50 calories, then I met my goal for 26 days
  • finish editing nanonovel // done round 1 edits, need to write a couple of missing scenes

in being healthy , challenges |

mid-month update for the TDP challenge.

  • run 50k // 37.8/50
  • intervals x8 // 3/8
  • strength training x8 // 4/8
  • increase bench press weight by 10lbs // done 24—>40
  • track every day // 15/31
  • 2 veg every day // 15/31
  • meet calorie goal 24 days // 11/24
  • finish editing nanonovel // 10/25

in challenges |

I track food and calories at dailyplate. Basic exercise, to the extent I’m able to using a free account. Detailed exercise I twitter.

On the TDP forum there’s a monthly challenge, which I think is pretty cool. So I’m gonna post my March challenge, and progress every week. A bit late for week 1, whatever. I’ll take the opportunity to update as of today.

  • run 50k // 12.5/50
  • intervals x8 // 1/8
  • strength training x8 // 2/8
  • increase bench press weight by 10lbs // done 24—>40
  • track every day // 4/31
  • 2 veg every day // 4/31
  • meet calorie goal 24 days // 4/24
  • finish editing nanonovel // 10/25