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.
We had been planning our long trip for a while, and because of external factors, had to push the timing up. We went to the travel agent earlier in the week to finalise our in- and outbound flights but there’s a lot of other stuff in between to research and book. We fly in and out of London, then we get extremely ambitious:
Amsterdam — will be staying with our friends L&P, whom I haven’t seen for something like 20 years (mm has seen L more recently, L is more her friend really) — a bit too early for tulips unfortunately but can’t be helped, there’s still a lot to see and do and catch up
Florence — have to figure out the best/cheap way to get there, currently looks like easyjet to Rome then train. We are looking into staying at monasteries and convents; which are fairly abundant in italy, offering peaceful and safe b&b accommodation. Of course not 4- or 5-star hotels but a special experience, and at €75-100 per night with en suite bathroom, good value. We’ll spend a few days in Florence, then take day trips out to Tuscany, probably Siena and hopefully Lucca and the Chianti region
Assisi — train from florence; this is the sort of pilgrimage part of the trip, another monastery stay, we found a convent directly opposite St Francis’ basilica
Rome — more monastery stay near the Vatican, we’ll get tickets for general audience or mass with the Pope. I’ve been to Rome twice in the last 2 years so it’ll be repeat visits to the main sites. Interesting, despite visiting Rome for so many times, I’ve never been to the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel, will try to brave the crowds this time
London — markets, food places, Bicester and may be a musical or even a day trip if we have time. No convenient monastery stays, may have to do airbnb if regular hotels are too expensive. We keep saying we don’t need to stay in zone 1 or 2 but I keep gravitating to W9 and NW3. I saw a garden flat in little venice that got me excited, until I noticed it’s a sofa bed. We’re frugal, but not that frugal. While we are in London, we may as well renew our passports so need to call for appointment
UK / Ireland side trip — we debated between Ireland, Scotland and the Lake District and tentatively decided to look into Dublin then driving around southern Ireland. That doesn’t leave us much time in London, perhaps we are being too ambitious
There’s all the flights and trains to book; car rental; all accommodation except amstersdam to find. And then to build research notes on every destination. Lots to do, not a lot of time.
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.
This is too cute for words. Three year old Sophie Wong recites the taekwondo student creed at her academy in Leeds. I can’t really hear all the words said, but the enthusiasm is unmistakable. It’s great that 3- and 4-year olds are learning the discipline of martial arts.
I have a small 10-12 day window in July between my arrival and our trip to NOLA for a Chicago race. The CARA race calendar is surprisingly disappointing, nothing in July except a few in the suburbs.
Another race site is more useful, listing races that were held in 2014 with the expectation that they will be held again in 2015, useful for reference:
stars and stripes 5k tinley park on 04-jul — fun run, probably full of families and kids
bastille day 5k/8k 10-jul-2014 at lincoln park — this is the most promising in terms of date and location
chicago challenge 11-jul-2014 — it’s a scavenger race for teams of at least two, so unless I can find someone to team up with, this won’t work
chinatown 5k 12-jul-2014 — chinatown is mile 21 on the marathon, the last stretch where there are crowds before the long stretch home, the location is pretty good for a race
Confirmed 2015 races:
bubblepalooza 18-jul-2015 — this looks so fun! Running through bubbles. The biggest downside, it’s at libertyville, more than 50 miles from where I will be staying, sigh
rock n roll half 19-jul-2015 — would have been perfect except a) we are probably starting our trip to NOLA that day and b) I missed the one day coupon code because I wasn’t paying attention to my twitter feed, RNR races are expensive and a discount code is definitely needed
tl;dr: as of today, I have no Chicago race in the summer.
It’s taken 20 weeks for the first major injury, so I guess it’s not too bad. This week’s long run is the furthest in the program so far, 9 miles = 14.5km so I set a 15km target. Uphill and around to a new park, then across to the usual park.
The discomfort in my knee is always there, so I try to ignore it until it suddenly gives out when I’m running or walking or going up stairs. It’s currently manageable.
About halfway through the run, I started getting an acute pain at the top of my foot, near the ankle joint. Felt like a sprain. It’s my right foot and with pain in my left knee, it was impossible to limp. I plodded my way through the second half.
There are a lot of articles about ITBS and plantar fasciitis but fewer people seem to be suffering from top of foot pain. From what I can gather, it may be due to tying shoelaces too tightly (not likely, if anything I tie them too loosely) or pressure on ligaments and tendons rom barefoot or minimalist running (again not likely, the lunar racers today have seen at least one marathon and a few hundred miles). I just have to monitor the pain and hope it doesn’t turn out to be a stress fracture.
Stupid headphones gave out on me towards the end. I was close enough to my target to stop and walk the remaining 1km home. I was really knackered and hungry and thirsty for the rest of the day. Definitely staying in and doing very little tomorrow.
Family lunch at middle island. We got there early, my niece and I even ran on ahead to catch the small boat whilst sis walked slower with parents. Sat outside on a day that was hotter than it’s been all winter. Should have worn short sleeves.
Ordered a mixed bag of food—calamari, pizza, fried rice, steamed veg. The main course was BBQ steak, prawns, salmon, sausage and chicken satay. The great thing about middle island is the big BBQ pit that the staff start and tend for us. I was put in charge of the cooking, and luckily I got everything cooked properly.
Went down to hang out at the beach for a while after lunch. My niece and I scrambled around the rocks (or rather, she scrambled around nimbly and I carefully negotiated the rocks), threw stones and she made a zen rock formation. Took a family selfie too, but no selfie stick, heh.
Was really tired, so it was a good thing we got home by 3pm. Took a nap even.
Had lunch with mm’s family, then we went back to her place to plan our easter trip. It looks like our original plans will need to be changed. Ah well.
Drove out to isolated south bay beach for a bit of peace and quiet. The beach was virtually deserted, the whole time we were there we saw only 2 other groups of people. By the time we left we were the only car there.
The weather was great, the sound of the gentle waves hitting the beach quite soothing. People had been there earlier, there were the remnants of a sandcastle.
We found a bench and sat there for a while. So wishing we could enjoy such quietude and fresh(-ish) air more often. The beach was deserted, even the lifeguard tower looked lonely. We even managed to catch the sunset.
The obligatory CNY greeting. Year of the sheep this year. Woke up, hugged parents, got red packet from them, sent greetings to sis and mm, spent the day reading and watching tv. Had a chuckle to see the previews of the Great British Sewing Bee; I don’t think it’ll be as popular as Bake-off. Yes we had the non-vegetarian version of the traditional vegetarian dish 齋 for lunch accompanied by abalone and turnip cake but that was it.
I’m at the point in the training program when I’m starting to get more hungry more often. We ran out of eggs and a few grocery items so I went for a quick 5k (quick is relative, at 7.23min/km it’s not speedy by any means) then dropped by the supermarket. For only running 5k I shouldn’t feel so hungry afterwards, but I was. I had to limit myself to just a few of the blueberry pikelets I made yesterday. 5k is only around 300 calories which is a croissant or 6 pieces of chicken mcnuggets (not including sauce).
Came across this graphic on twitter. I think it originated from food and wine magazine. The article from 2011, which is probably still relevant, compares fast food items against wine in terms of calories. So a krispy kreme glazed doughnut is aound 1 2/3 glasses of wine and mcdonalds large fries at 500 calories is equivalent to 4 1/3 glasses of cabernet sauvignon.
I always track on the basis that a glass of red wine like cab is 125 calories making it 4 glasses instead. Nevertheless, I know which 500 calories I’d rather enjoy.
a type of pancake found in Australia and New Zealand
stage name of Australian musician Evelyn Morris
a North Staffordshire delicacy, a thicker form of oatcake with raisins added
all of the above
The answer is (5). Most commonly the recipes I see are either (1) or (2). Complicated ones like this from Bake-off’s Ruby Tandoh that makes flat crumpets, I want to try this one day because, well, Ruby! and crumpets!!
What I used was a simple pancake-like recipe. I added blueberries because I felt like it.
150g SR flour
pinch of salt
1 punnet blueberries
Make a well in the dry ingredients, add egg and milk. Whisk slightly until no lumps, add blueberries. Drop 1 dessertspoon of the batter into olive oil/butter and cook till bubbles appear on top, flip and continue cooking till golden. Serve with blueberries and maple syrup.
Makes around 25 pikelets around 6cm (2.5in) in diameter.
So easy, and very tasty. They are small, so it’s easy to portion control. A combination of drop scones (with holes) and crumpets (less thick). Unlike pancakes, which go soggy when refridgerated, these are small enough to keep in the fridge as snacks, reheated in the microwave or eaten cold.
And because it’s pancake day, I made mushroom crêpes for dinner and served them with Ikea meatballs.
I popped over to the market after running today to get mirepoix ingredients for making stock. I usually go to a particular small stall. The stallholder auntie ended up making me buy a bag of these unknown vegetables, and then she threw in a couple of bags of edamame beans, peas and another unknown veg.
The edamame beans are at 5 o’clock in the pic, they are beans that are a little older so she’s already stripped them out of their pods. They are good in a stir-fry with other vegs or in a soup. The other freebie is the root at 12 o’clock. I don’t know the name. These are good in stews.
The big bag of unknown veg she sold to me (cheaply) are the other 3 items on the plate. She kept telling me the name and I simply couldn’t understand the words. My dad cooked them, and he said, “ah, these are [same name] veg” and again I can’t understand the words. They have already been peeled and to me, look like water chestnuts. In their raw form, they taste like raw potatoes. Cooked, they taste somewhere between potatoes, yam and water chestnut. Apparently they are good for stews or to make puddings similar to turnip cakes.
I tried googling, and found one or two references to waterlily chestnuts. Not entirely sure.
p.s. still no clue about the name but my dad tells me that apart from the edamame, all the other veg are the same thing—one is in its natural form the other is peeled. Heh.
Saturday was Valentine’s Day. What I did: running, market then teenager-sitting my niece whilst Sis and BIL went for dinner. I made poached salmon, carrots, mashed potato and purple sweet potatoes. My niece approved, the salmon was just cooked, still a little pink in the middle. She ate it all, including all the veg and potatoes, so there were no leftovers. I’m particularly pleased about this, becuase she is a picky eater.
What mm did: went to a seminar on St Francis. I guess I could have gone with her if I didn’t have to spend time with my niece. Hmm, thinking about it, nope I wouldn’t.
I went over to the massage place to have a body massage—I haven’t been for probably 1-2 years and there’s still credit on my account.
It’s not one of those soothing massage that makes you go ahhhh and fall asleep. This one hurt. The therapist focused on my problem areas—lower back, arms and calves. He hit the pressure points way too well, some spots were really painful. But I know it’s for the good.
Even though I roller my back all the time, there’s still a lot of stiffness and soreness all around because of modern living, posture and running. I wish I can remember to go more often, if only to get my lower legs and especially the IT band loosened occasionally. The left arm and wrist, well they won’t get better so quickly or readily unfortunately.
Did the 8-mile long run scheduled for the weekend today, I mix up days, as long as I get all the runs in sometime during the week. From home to the end of the bowen road running path is 6.2km or 3.8miles, so I did a few short doubling back at straighter parts of the path.
It’s been a while since I ran all the way to the other end. I’d forgotten about the city limit marker over there. The marker is dated 1903, and the plaque says that it’s one of the remaining markers that marks the then city of victoria. Not a lot of history available, the city of victoria was established in 1843, and this marker is one of seven placed in 1903. As a sign of the attitude towards history here, one of the seven disappeared in 2007 during slope renovations.
Was at mm’s to look at the travel books she borrowed from the library. She practiced the piano whilst I was reading, it was a nice background. The piece she’s learning now is Schubert’s Impromptu op 90 no 1 (d899). I always think Schubert is difficult and kinda boring, but this wasn’t. I like it. I like the C minor key.
Looking at the score, it’s difficult. Then again, everything that mm has been playing is difficult for me—she’s past grade 8 and I’m at approx grade 3 level.
Met with my FA, and remember why I’m so glad I don’t need to brave the traffic jam and huge crowds every day to go to and from work. The flipside of not working is, of course, the need for money to pay the bills. I don’t spend a lot, so it’s an easy request for her to make a small withdrawal from the account. Hopefully by the time I need the next withdrawal, the portfolio will have regained that amount…and more. We’re switching out of Europe into UK, and exiting Latin America. There’s some in Energy that has gone down, but we’re not panic selling.
The CNY decorations are up. The Landmark mall has a display with clouds and sheep and a big tree in the atrium. Not sure why clouds, but they look quite cute.
We keep seeing chefs use popping candy to make desserts, from Heston to home cooks on MKR. Mum said to me to get her some next time in Chicago. I was like, we’ve had popping candy (we know them as pop rocks) since we were kids, you mean you never tried them? She said nope, she doesn’t remember trying them.
I figured, I don’t need to wait till I go to Chicago or London to get them, surely they are common enough. I turned to my trusted source of information for sweets and all sorts, my niece. I lined her and she replied when she woke up—she’s seen them at 7-eleven. Lo and behold, I found exactly the same ones she showed me at 7-eleven. Easy enough.
I figured out that I probably came down with stomach upset after eating peanuts. It’s strange, because I’m not allergic to them. I can eat peanut butter by the spoonful. I snack on peanut butter and apples during marathon training—fast energy, easy to digest, great flavour combination.
These were really nice peanuts in the shell too. A little salty, crunchy with a good mouth feel. I ate some a week ago and had stomach upset too, but I didn’t think much of it then. Two weeks in a row, and both after eating peanuts? A bit of a coincidence.
My niece apparently developed peanut allergy last year. Sis, being the helicoptor / snowplough parent that she is, immediately bought a ton of stuff including an epi-pen (I guess that’s prescribed by the doctor), a practice epi-pen, badges and circulated literature on allergies. She even gave me her nutmeg because she didn’t want to chance my niece’s nut allergy. I know allergies can be extreme, but I can’t help feeling that parents overblow things like this.
I was watching a travel & food program and remember seeing the presenter trying street noodles in Vietnam. He expressed concern after seeing the street vendor liberally sprinkle the noodles with peanuts. His guide, a Westerner who has lived in SE Asia for a long time, replied tellingly,
there are no food allergies in the third world
I don’t think the guide was trying to say anything bad about the developing world. He was probably just saying that when you don’t know where and when your next meal may come from, you simply don’t reject food, any food.
Severe food allergy on a massive scale seem to be a first world problem. Studies suggested that food allergies have risen 50% in children since 1997; with occurrence of peanut allergy tripling between 1997 and 2008. That’s staggering. Some of the increase may stem from better awareness, but a lot has to do with external factors.
Why are we allergic to naturally occurring material like nuts, seafood and pollen? There are several theories that on initial examination seem to be contradictory but on reflection may be cumulative:
clean air, better sewage treatment and fewer bacteria means our immune system has nothing to attack, so it mistakes harmless allergens (food proteins, cat hair, pollen etc) for something invasive that has to be attacked — this is the popular hygiene theory and partially explains why allergies are mainly first world problems
too much exposure to antibiotics means our bodies’ natural immune system have either been destroyed or have become overly dependent on medication, therefore unable to handle the stimulation when exposed to allergens
we spend too much time indoors and vitamin D deficiency correlates to increases in allergies
This doesn’t explain why I all of a sudden reacted to a handful of peanuts. I don’t think I’m allergic per se, may be a mild intolerance to this particular batch, or the stomach upset is due to something else. I should eat them in moderation and check for stomach symptoms afterwards.
In the meantime, as spring approaches, I’m mentally preparing myself for another miserable year of allergies. I know I’m badly allergic to dust and pollution. There were days last year when I needed 3 antihistammines a day, when the normal dosage is one a day. I need to move to a country where the air is better.
An upset stomach together with niggly aches and pains provided the perfect excuse to skip running today. I wasn’t entirely delinquent, I did 45mins on the stationary bike. Someone, somewhere posted that we should substitute elliptical or stationary bike for running by doing around the same amount of time with similar intensity. So, 6km was approx 45mins.
I tend to watch mindless discovery shows while on the bike, because it’s so old that the sound of the belt covers a lot of the sound from the tv. The shows tend to involve small groups of people fighting against each other in auctions to buy stuff cheaply, they then fix them and hopefully sell for a profit. The stuff range from old cars in Texas, houses in Arizona or abandoned storage units in California.
One theme that runs through these programs are how nasty most of the buyers are. There’s a lot of trash talk and boasting. Probably exaggerated for the cameras but by and large I find people on US reality tv to be rude egomaniacs. Of course everyone wants to win or get a profit, but they can’t seem to do that with even a modicum of manners.
If I can catch it, I watch 24hrs in A&E, which is as different to those trashy, trash-talking US reality shows as night is to day. It’s described as a medical documentary and is filmed in an A&E department round the clock for 28 days straight.
First of, it’s filmed at King’s. I’ve long ago gotten over the fantasy that I could have studied medicine there rather than chemistry. Some of my undergraduate friends lived at KC Hall over at Camberwell, so I know the area well. Even with gentrification, this is still a working class, gritty area. Not the posh Britain of Downton Abbey or Sloany Britain of Ab Fab or Privileged Britain of Sherlock.
One theme that shines through is the dedication of the staff, even though they are working in a busy, underfunded inner city hospital. I love the end when the patients are interviewed, most of them obviously having recovered. It’s been described as exploitative, then again which documentary, especially one that takes a fly-on-the-wall approach, isn’t? The patients and their friends & family are shown sympathetically. This snippet about a 5 year old with burns [youtube, can’t embed] brought in by her dad is typical of the realness and the professionalism of both the production and the staff at KCH.
Met sis for dinner at a new place called winebeast. It’s a bistro in a narrow street behind the market, next to a couple of other new hipster-looking place. The restaurant itself was incredibly small, with barely any room for the staff to walk between guest chairs. We didn’t have a reservation, got a couple of seats at the bar.
The owner recommended a bottle of cornas—I was looking at côtes-du-rhône and châteauneuf-du-pape and cornas is from the same region, priced somewhere in between the two. It took 20mins of breathing, then it tasted great.
Sis had beef tartare, she thought it was too sour from the vinegar or citrus added. I thought it was quite nice, although I did go for a 12km run earlier and was hungry. I ate half her portion, since she had a late lunch and still full. I ordered slow cooked lamb shoulder with chickpea purée, carrot, mushroom and a mango & kumquat sauce. Well cooked, perfectly medium rare, although the fat wasn’t all rendered off properly. Pleasantly surprised by the generous portion—I expected fine dining portion sizes and sis reminded me that it’s a bistro, with a french owner and french chef.
I tried the dessert of poached pear with mulled wine ice cream. The pear was just poached and the ice cream was more like a sorbet, which worked out well.
A very nice meal. Not cheap, but we didn’t feel cheated.
We’ve been meaning to go over to the outlying islands for a while, so we met up at the pier and took the ordinary ferry over. It took around 1hr, twice the time of the fast ferry at half the price—we weren’t in any hurry. Surprisngly for a weekday there were quite a substantial crowd. We had a leisurely lunch at a small café and then headed out for a walk along one of the beaches at the side of the island away from the crowds.
After the beach we headed inland with a soft target of one of the retreat houses. There are a few retreats there on the island—away from the main streets it’s peaceful and quiet. The Salesian retreat wasn’t actually open, but the hike was pleasant and we came across some nice views.
We came back to the main street and spent some time at a tea shop that was closing down. Dinner was quick noodles and congee. Another slow ferry back and we discovered that we both had direct buses home. A great day out.
The results of the Japan leg of the World Whiskies Awards 2015 are out, these are the contenders that will be brought to the WWA final in London:
best single malt: yamazaki 18 (other finalists miyagikyo NAS & 12, yamazaki 25)
best blended malt: taketsuru 17 (other finalists taketsuru NAS, 21)
best blended: hibiki 21 (other finalists super nikka, tsuru 17)
best grain: fuji-gotemba blender’s choice
Yamazaki gets the nod for best single malt again, although it’s interesting that the 18 beat the 25. I’m happy about since it keeps our beloved Nikka whiskies a little bit under the radar.
Interesting remark #3, that from Nikka the preferred whisky is Miyagikyo, when it’s been Yoichi the past few years. When we tasted the flights at the Nikka bar at Sapporo last year, I told mm that I preferred Miyagikyo—Yoichi is slightly smoky and Miyagikyo is smoother. We visited the Yoichi distillery in Hokkaido but it’s unlikely we’ll visit Miyagikyo in our lifetime. The distillery is located in Sendai, site of the devastating 2011 tsunami; and only 50 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant. There’s been speculation about how “safe” the post-2011 batches of Miyagikyo will be—now is the time to stock up.
And I didn’t know Hibiki is blended as opposed to blended malt. No wonder a) it keeps winning all these awards; b) I keep trying and trying and trying and I never ever like it. It’s not snobbery, I have yet to find a blended whisky I like. The only ones that came close are Naked Grouse and some of the Compass Boxes, but I’ll never buy them. At the £30-ish price range, I’d rather spend my money on Highland Park 12.
This banana bread recipe from the Mary Berry era is so old that the measurements are in oz. It is so tried and tested that I didn’t convert to grams—113g butter sounds funny.
2 large eggs
8oz plain flour
3 bananas, crushed
handful dried cranberries
1 vanilla pod
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Add bananas, cranberries and scrape vanilla beans from pod. Fold in flour, bp, add a splash of milk to loosen the mixture. Bake at 180°C for 45-50mins until a skewer comes out clean.
Traditionally it’s banana & walnut bread but I’ve never used walnuts because I don’t like them. For a slightly modern twist I added a handful of dried cranberries, taking inspiration from chocolat et zucchini—if Ms Dusoulier can do it, so can I. The cranberries added a tart taste and made the whole thing less stodgy.
We had it straight out of the oven so it was extra nice. Everybody liked it because it wasn’t too sweet.
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.