Everything is covered in dust and my lungs are full of plaster: flat renovation 2018

17 Jan

When we moved into this flat over a year ago we immediately started planning how we were going to renovated it. We were going to get rid of the ugly wallpaper in the bedroom and the ugly floor in the kitchen. We were going to add more kitchen cabinets. We were going to remove the cornice and frieze from the reception room and add more majestic ones, complete with ceiling decorations that made it look nicer than a room at Buckingham Palace. New Year’s Eve 2016 we were showing our friends possible designs, musing how much better our living room would look this time next year.

And then life happened. Stephen got caught up with work, we struggled to find a reliable builder for a reasonable price, and, mostly, we got lazy. This is why people do renovations before they move into the property. Because once your furniture is set and everything is unpacked, the thought of moving everything around and living in what feels like a war zone does not sound appealing.

But we’re finally doing it. Last weekend just the two of us moved all the living room furniture into other rooms in the flat and laid down carpet underlay to protect the wood floor. Then the builders came yesterday and removed all the cornicing, creating a dust storm to rival those in the Sahara. They made a makeshift plastic curtain to block off the living room, and we made a makeshift plastic curtain out of recycling bags to block off the hallway, plus we closed the kitchen door, and yet my kitchen countertops are covered in plaster dust. I was working in the second bedroom down the hall — the farthest room possible from the living room — and started to notice dust coming in under the door. Then I realized it was on the desk. And in my hair. And in my drink. And (likely) in my eyes and lungs. I thought the noise would be the worst part of the demolition, so when I realized it was tolerable, I decided to stay instead of going to a cafe. I didn’t even think about the dust!

I asked one of the builders if it was bad for us to be breathing in this plaster dust all day.

“Um, we do this every day,” he replied with a smile and a shrug, which now that I think about it, isn’t really an answer. They wore masks during the demolition, but took them off when they were cleaning up and the dust was settling. I probably should have worn one too while I was working. Or, you know, left the flat for the entire day like a wise person would.

The loud and dusty part is over (I think), but this week is probably a good time to catch a West End matinee and get out of the house. I may have complained a little to Stephen that working from home means I have to deal with all the renovations while he gets to escape to the office. His response? “You’re the one that will get to enjoy the finished product while I’m always at work.” Touche.

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A look back on 2017

5 Jan

And just like that, it’s 2018. 2017 really flew by, so I figured I’d pull myself out of this jetlag fog to remember all the things I did last year.

-I became an expert in cholesterol and became obsessed with lowering mine, only to find its genetic and there’s not much I can do
-I got to meet Cherry, my parents’ new Chihuahua-corgi rescue, and promptly fell in love with her (The amount of photos of her butt alone that I have on my phone is probably cause for concern)
-I got to see my Chicago and Milwaukee friends twice
-I ran a 5K race in under 30 minutes and completely wiped out in a 10K race and still finished in under an hour
-I got to see my favorite band Over the Rhine twice, once at their farm and once in Over the Rhine
-I saw Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell the Musical twice from the front row
-I finally visited Greenwich
-Stephen and I had an epic holiday in Prague, Budapest and Tuscany
-We finally visited the Buckingham Palace state rooms
-I road a camel
-I got to meet my best friend’s daughter at the hospital a day after she was born
-I reached level 38 in Pokemon Go and still continue to play every day
-I saw Hamilton in Chicago
-I saw 16 West End shows, smashing previous years’ record of 9
-I became pescetarian in September and kept with it aside from a bit of turkey on Thanksgiving
-We rang in the New Year with new friends and a killer fireworks display in London

I don’t like to make formal New Year’s Resolutions, but there are some things I’d like to focus on in 2018. I’d like to continue my pescetarian diet at least until my next cholesterol test, just to see if it’s making any difference. Though to be honest, I don’t really miss meat that much. I think I’d also like to have another go at a half marathon this year, either the Flying Pig in Cincinnati or the Royal Parks Half in London (if I can manage to secure a ballot spot! Third time’s the charm, right?). On the hobby front, I’d like to pursue calligraphy and lettering more. I got into it a bit last year, but I got some nice pens and paper for my birthday this year that make me want to do it more. They say you should have at least 3 hobbies — one to keep you healthy, one that allows you to be creative, and one that makes you money. At least I’ve got the first two down! (Does writing and editing count as a money-making hobby if it’s your job?)

Here’s to a great 2018 — may I not spend the entirety of it jet lagged! (I’ve been back in London 6 days now and it’s starting to feel like I just might)

doug the pug new year

Wipeout deja vu

9 Dec

Lately I’ve been entertaining the thought of running another half marathon. Heck, I even let the thought of running a full marathon enter my mind. My hip and knee injuries from the Thanksgiving Day Race have all but healed. I’ve even been keeping up with my running in the treacherous weather. This morning I did what all the running blogs and magazines say to do and laid out my kit the night before. I got dressed the minute I woke up, before I had a chance to talk myself out of it. It was freezing outside — literally, the temperature was in the 20s. Even Pokemon Go warned me that it was extreme weather conditions and I should be careful. But I still ran. I was actually feeling pretty good given the conditions. I ran a decent mile. And then my headphones battery died. And then my fingers started to go numb through my two pairs of gloves.

And then I wiped out.

Again.

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In the very same manner I did in the race, ripping open the very same wound on my knee that was finally getting better. I laid back on the sidewalk and actually screamed out “Really?! Again?!” It didn’t seem possible, but the pain in my knee was very real and all too familiar. I contemplated how long I could lay there before one of my parents’ neighbors would see me. When I finally stood up I noticed the woman across the street getting into her car — did she witness the whole thing? If she did she didn’t seem at all concerned. I thought about shaking it off and running home, but I wasn’t in a race anymore. Instead of an adrenaline rush I was feeling anger and frustration. How did this happen? Does cold weather somehow change my gait? Did I step on a sidewalk crack and mess up my knee instead of my mother’s back? Was it because I was wearing the same shirt and socks I did during the race, and hadn’t worn since? That last one is a bit ridiculous. But I can’t help but wonder what’s going on considering I went a good three years in between running wipeouts, and suddenly I have two within weeks.

I know one thing’s for sure — I need to take some time off from running to let my knee heal (again). I have a lot of work to do before I go to Chicago and Milwaukee next weekend, and I want to be able to focus on spending time with my friends instead of racking up the miles. I’m pretty sure my knee is just skinned and bruised, so hopefully I can get back to running (without falling!) in a week or two.

2017 Thanksgiving Day Race recap

4 Dec

2017 thanksgiving day race.jpgI did not have high expectations for this year’s Thanksgiving Day Race. Thanks to Pokemon Go, I hadn’t trained as hard as previous years. My A goal was a PR, but I would settle for a B goal of finishing in under an hour. And after I did a 2-mile shakeout run the day before to test my new trainers and thermal compression shirt, a C goal of just finishing seemed more attainable. I was used to running on the flat park paths of London in 50-degree weather. The forecast for 9am on race day was 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 C).

In the past we’ve always gotten to the race too early with nothing to do but stand around and shiver, so we left later this year, only to find they really do close the roads at 8am, so it was nearly impossible to find parking. My parents dropped me off near the stadium while they searched for a spot. I had just enough time to queue for the loo (can I say that in America?) before I walked to the start. I was feeling ambitious and lined up with the 9-minute mile crew. I took two puffs of my inhaler and soon we were off.

The problem with the Thanksgiving Day Race (and a lot of other races that aren’t serious marathons) is that no one takes the timing corrals seriously. Immediately after I crossed the starting line I was boxed in by a crew of walkers, only to get around them and encounter slow runners. All my runs on tourist-infested Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus prepared me for this, so I maneuvered around them effortlessly, hopping up on the sidewalk, then down on the road, then back on the sidewalk. I was feeling good. I had my music blasting, my two pairs of gloves were keeping my hands warm, my new thermal compression top was doing its job, and I let myself think that maybe — just maybe — I had a personal best in me after all.

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And then I was on the ground. It happened so suddenly, but at the same time felt like slow motion. I could feel myself falling, but couldn’t do anything to stop it. My right knee and left hip hit the sidewalk hard and my brand new iPhone went flying. (The fact that it didn’t get damaged is a testament to my Speck case!) Runners around me stopped to make sure I was OK. I quickly got up and gave a little kick to make sure my leg wasn’t seriously injured. I was so close to the starting line that I could easily have called it quits and walked back. I decided I would try running for a minute and if it didn’t hurt, I’d continue on. I quickly discovered that a pain-masking adrenaline rush is a very real thing, and I felt faster and stronger than ever. It was also so cold out that it probably had the same effect as icing my knee. So when Britney came through my headphones and told me to “get to work,” I took off, as if the spectacular wipe out never happened.

I ever started to get cocky around mile 3. I opened Pokemon Go and started spinning stops for items as I ran. I even placed a Pokemon in a gym along the course. MapMyRun was telling me my pace was around 9 minutes a mile, which I knew wasn’t right, but I still felt like maybe my shot at a PR wasn’t lost. And then the final bridge came. I didn’t walk it, but it definitely slowed me down. The last mile of a race always seems to go on forever. I sprinted the last bit, but it wasn’t enough. I crossed the finish line in under an hour, but a minute slower than my time from two years ago. Not too shabby considering I wiped out in the first mile and almost didn’t continue.

By the time I met up with my parents and Cherry and collected my swag, the reality of my injuries started to kick in and really hurt. Blood was seeping through my two layers of pants. My hip didn’t begin to hurt until days later, but my knee was extraordinarily bruised and beat up. I spent the rest of the morning icing it while watching the parade. It’s now 11 days later and it’s still bruised and scabbed. I’m quite fortunate that I wasn’t seriously injured and that it only hurts now when Cherry jumps up on me or I forget and slam a cabinet shut with my knee. My hip was really bothering me last week to the point that I almost went to the doctor, but I tried some stretches I read about online and it really made a difference.This whole week I’ve felt 30 going on 70 complaining about my hip and knee pain. Getting old is the worst. I thought running was supposed to keep me young and healthy?

How is it mid-November already?

17 Nov

Is it just me, or does the time between the end of August and Thanksgiving go by in about 10 minutes? I swear we were just getting back from our summer holiday, and now I’m looking at the massive amount of Christmas presents I’ve purchased over the past few weeks and am wondering how I’m going to fit them all in my suitcase when I head back to the U.S. on Tuesday. I’m seriously contemplating not packing any clothing — I have a closet full of sweaters at my parents’, and we already have plans to hit the outlet mall on Black Friday. The only thing I need to bring is running clothes for the Thanksgiving 10K. I keep checking the Thanksgiving Day forecast for Cincinnati hoping for it to warm up. It has changed from snow to rain to sun, so we’re headed in the right direction, but my body is definitely not used to running in freezing temperatures. A PR would be nice, but I’m not sure I’ve trained enough for one, so I may have to settle with just finishing.

I was hoping to fit in one more West End show before my trip back, but I couldn’t manage to score lottery tickets to see Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones) in Venus in Fur and didn’t want to see it badly enough to queue for day seats. I only managed 3 day seat queues this year, which is impressive considering I saw 16 shows. I finally got out of the 9 shows a year slump! 16 is a nice even number to go out on, and is setting the bar high for next year. And while I may be done with London shows for 2017, I’m not done with theatre for the year — my friend and I got tickets to see Hamilton in Chicago next month! We’ll see if it lives up to the hype (and believe me, at the insane ticket price and the non-stop “OMG HAMILTON!!” on social media, my expectations are sky high).

As per tradition, I walked around Oxford Street yesterday to take in all the Christmas lights. It’s the same display they had last year (and possibly every year), which is beautiful, but like most things in life, would be even more beautiful if there weren’t so many people everywhere. I was particularly intrigued by the conversation this couple walking next to me was having.

“Look how impressive this is now, just imagine how it will look once they turn the lights on!” the guy said to his girlfriend.

I did not take any photos of the Oxford Street lights, so I’ll post one from Time Out.

oxford st lights

That’s what the street looked like. As the American saying goes, “It was lit up like the 4th of July.” From the stores to the hanging bulbs above the street, the whole area was awash in light. No bulb remained unlit.

What was he talking about?!

He kept repeating it too. “It’s gonna look so cool with all the lights on!”

“All the lights are on, you nitwit!” I wanted to shout.

Perhaps he was confusing Oxford Street with Regent Street. Oxford Street turned their lights on on November 7, while Regent Street waited until yesterday. I walked down Regent Street in the early evening yesterday and the lights weren’t on yet, and it was very obvious to tell. I’m not sure what additional lights he was hoping would be turned on on Oxford Street. He certainly needed to turn on the light in his head.

What does healthy eating even mean?

8 Nov

It’s hard to eat healthily. Not just because unhealthy things like cake, french fries and pizza are so delicious, but because it’s hard to define what actually is “healthy.”

Is “healthy” just about losing weight? If so, technically you should be able to eat whatever you want as long as you maintain a calorie deficit, as this nutrition profession’s junk food diet showed.

Is healthy about getting the most nutrients, vitamins and minerals in order to lower cholesterol, avoid disease and prolong life?

According to the popular paleo diet, eating healthily is emulating the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors — which means eating grass-fed meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts and seeds. Grains, beans and legumes are a big no-no, as are processed foods and sugar — there were no Oreos or Doritos in paleolithic times, after all.

Celebrity fitness trainer Vinnie Tortorich claims you can lose weight and eat as much as you want as long as you follow his NSNG philosophy — no sugar no grains. He also calls it being a “Carnivorous Vegan.” Load up on the eggs, red meat, full-fat dairy products and butter! Just as long as you stay away from the candy, bread and oatmeal. And watch the fruit, as he says your body does not know the difference between fructose from an apple or high fructose corn syrup. (Definitely no fruit juice, even if it’s fresh and “green.”)

The Netflix documentary What the Health says sugar is OK in moderation — it’s actually meat that’s increasing your risk of diabetes! According to the movie, if you want to reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease and be a super strong Ninja Warrior, you should follow a vegan, plant-based diet. No meat, fish, eggs or dairy (sorry, Vinnie!). Whole grains, beans and legumes are actually OK and encouraged (take that, paleo hunter-gather ancestors!).

And then there’s the Mediterranean diet, touted for its heart-healthy benefits. The Mediterranean diet, contrary to the pizza, pasta and gelato diet I followed in the Mediterranean, focuses on eating whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, plus healthy fats like fish, nuts and olive oil. Red meat should be kept to a minimum, but grains and beans are fair game.

It seems like the only thing every diet can agree on is that vegetables are good for you.

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But wait… I forgot to mention Tom Brady’s diet! The superstar quarterback’s diet consists of 80% organic veggies and whole grains like quinoa, millet and beans, then 20% grass-fed organic lean meats like steak, wild salmon, duck and chicken. Though he eats a lot of vegetables, he doesn’t eat nightshades like tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms or eggplants, because they’re not anti-inflammatory.

So we can’t even agree that all vegetables are good for you?!

You can see why I’m struggling. All my favorite “healthy” food — oatmeal, salmon, chickpeas, edamame, mushrooms, eggplants — could be considered “bad” if I followed any of the above diets. The only one that doesn’t forbid any of those things is the Mediterranean diet. I’d say what I eat falls mostly into that diet, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself. In fact, for the past six weeks now I’ve been pescatarian — basically a vegetarian who also eats fish, but no other meat. But I’m not sure I want to commit to the label or lifestyle either. Because as much as I want to “eat healthily,” I never want to be THAT person at a party or gathering — the “I can’t eat that” person. I may have severely cut back on my meat intake, but on Thanksgiving I’m going to have turkey. I’ve also cut out sugar, but I’m going to eat some Christmas cookies when I bake them, and on my birthday I’m going to have cake. And as much as I want to say I’ve given up processed foods, I can’t kick my Quest protein bar habit, especially now that they’ve released a birthday cake flavor!

Apparently there’s a term for this diet — flexitarianism, or as The Guardian describes it, “vegetarianism with cheating.” (“A solitary pack of bacon in a fridge full of beans and tofu.”) I eat what makes me feel good, which is usually whole, plant-based foods. But sometimes I want a birthday cake protein bar. Or actual birthday cake. Or meat. And that’s OK.

I’m getting old and may be losing my mind

30 Oct

pug sleepingI completely forgot about the time change yesterday. I don’t mean I woke up, saw the time on my phone and clock were different and got confused, I mean I woke up, went about my day as normal, and it was only when we were at lunch with friends and one of them mentioned the time change that I found out about it.

“You mean I lost an hour of sleep without even knowing it?” I exclaimed.

“No. You got an extra hour of sleep without knowing it,” our friend clarified.

When I lamented my misstep to my mom over text, she said I’m either getting old or lead a relaxing life with no time restrictions. It’s probably a bit of both. Though it’s because my phone and Fitbit automatically adjusted that I didn’t realize the change, and was not an hour early to lunch. Back in the day there were always a handful of people who showed up an hour late or early to church or other events on the Sunday after the time change. Now, thanks to technology, we can completely forget about the time change and not be all that affected.

I am getting old, though. The other day I had a “senior moment” in Tesco. I brought my shopping trolley because I was planning on buying some heavy items. I wheeled it around the store in one hand, and wheeled a shopping basket in the other. When it was time to checkout, I got in the queue and figured I should remove my tote bag from my trolley to make it easier to pack. Then panic struck. Where was my trolley? It was gone. I was only wheeling my shopping basket. Had I even brought it with me? Yes, I remembered wheeling it into the store. But where did it go? I jumped out of the queue and ran through every aisle. Luckily even the bigger Tesco Metros are still tiny compared to an American supermarket, and I only had to gaze down 4 aisles before I saw my trolley abandoned by the bananas. I had absolutely no recollection of leaving it there. Aren’t I too young for “sometimers” moments? The only thing I can think is that muscle memory kicked in — since I wheeled the trolley all the way to the store, my body was used to wheeling something behind me in one hand, so when I wheeled my shopping basket around, that felt like the trolley. It does feel unnatural to wheel things in each hand, which is what I have to do with a trolley and basket.

If getting older means experiencing more and more of these moments, I am not looking forward to it!