Archive | June, 2016

Greetings from the land of cheeseheads

30 Jun

I have this theory that your body is just naturally attuned to the time zone you were born in. It’s always easier for me to come back to Eastern Standard Time. That being said, my body does not like Central Time. It never has. I lived in it for several years, and even then I still referred to EST as “real time.” I’m in Milwaukee now, which is on Central Time, and my body has decided that 7am is the time to wake up. This works fine when I pass out at 10pm, but was not too peachy when I went to bed at 2:45am after a successful bachelorette party. I still can’t believe I pulled it off. Planning a bachelorette party/hen do is not easy to begin with, but doing it from the other side of the world is a whole different challenge. Everyone had a good time, I got to ride a party bus for the first time, and the only reason I felt crappy the next day was because of jet lag, not a hangover. I’d call that a success. I also ate cheese curds for the first time, because Wisconsin. They tasted like … cheese. Although perhaps I should try them deep-fried if I want the true experience.

Besides the time change, I’ve also been experiencing some reverse culture shock. In no particular order:

-American power outlets are rubbish. I was brainwashed into thinking they were the best, because, well, America, but they’re horrible. Every time I plug something in it feels so flimsy I’m not sure it’s going to stay. I bought a cheap American curling iron since my British curling tongs aren’t compatible with 120v. Halfway through I noticed my hair wasn’t curling. I was about to blame the cheap iron, but then I realized the plug had just fallen out of the socket. Yes, British plugs are big and unsightly, but they certainly get the job done. In fact, in a recent Reddit thread I believe they were voted best plugs in the world.

-American grocery stores are overwhelming. I’m staying at a hotel near a grocery store so I find myself there practically every day to pick up a meal or snack. I wanted some Greek yogurt. In the UK if I want the legit, high-protein stuff, I have 3 options: Fage Total, Liberte or Skyr. They each have a handful of flavors, but I usually just get plain. At the store here there was an entire aisle of Greek yogurt options — did I want it whipped? With a layer of chocolate on top? With oatmeal mixed in? With nuts mixed in? With a little flippy side full of sweets that turn a healthy snack into a sweet treat? And then there were the flavors — not just strawberry, blueberry and honey like I’m used to, but things like cherry cheesecake, salted caramel and key lime pie. I’m not exaggerating when I say I spent a good 15 minutes standing in that aisle just trying to choose a yogurt. I would say American and British grocery stores carry most of the same basics, but the American ones just have way more varieties of everything. (Don’t even get me started on the cereal aisle…)

-People are really friendly. I’ve walked into stores or hotels and been greeted by people who don’t work there, people who just for some reason want to say hi. I don’t understand this. Also apparently you’re supposed to acknowledge other runners and walkers when you’re out. I thought maybe this was just a suburbia thing, but I’ve been running in downtown Milwaukee and a lot of people do it. This is also weird to me. I will say, however, that Milwaukee is a brilliant city to run in. I took advantage of the one day it wasn’t butt-hot and did 6 miles along the lake and trails. Apparently I’m out of practice because I took a lot of walking breaks, but we’ll blame it on the humidity and desire to take in the scenery.  Like this lighthouse:

milwaukee lighthouseTime has really been flying by, I can’t believe I’ve been here for a week now. And more importantly, I can’t believe my best friend is getting married in less than 2 days!  I think I’m ready to tackle my maid of hono[u]r duties (like saving her a maple bacon doughnut. God bless America!).

2 recent feats that should not be impressive

20 Jun

You’d think by now traveling between the US and UK would be old hat for me. I am traveling to Milwaukee for a friend’s wedding soon and have already lost sleep over packing. When Stephen packs for a big trip, he often does it the morning of, expertly folding clothes into his bag in 10 minutes. For me it takes days — sometimes even weeks — to decide what clothing and items to bring. This is always because I declare that I am going to get rid of a lot of my clothes, and by “get rid of” I mean leave them at my Kentucky home. I tell myself I will wear them when I am there and thus will not need to pack so much next time, but it never works that way. Each time I bring more and more back and end up buying more and more that I want to wear instead. Last week I sorted through my closet and piled a mound of “take back” clothes on the bed. “There is no way that is all going to fit in one sub-23kg suitcase,” I thought. So I did what I should have done years ago — I tried everything on. “If you would not walk out the door right now wearing this and feel confident, you are not going to wear this in Milwaukee or Kentucky, and thus it should not take up valuable suitcase space,” I told myself. And just like that half my “take home” pile went into the “donate” bag. I have a problem in which I get too sentimentally attached to inanimate objects, particularly clothing, so for me to get rid of a big pile of it was a big step. And now I can actually see what shirts are in my closet now, and hopefully my suitcase will not be overweight. Just once I would like to go to the airport without overweight bag anxiety — just once!

I accomplished another minor feat this weekend: I did not eat the last xiaolongbao. Let me back up a bit. We went out to lunch in Chinatown. As is customary in Chinatown (and China, for that matter), one must order at least twice as much food as the amount of people in your party should reasonably eat. Each dish we ordered could have been a shared meal in itself, and we ordered 4 of them. During the week I try to eat healthily and count calories, but on the weekend, everything is fair game. Ever since I was little I was taught to clear my plate — that not stuffing yourself after you’re full was someone rude to the cook and to the impoverished children of the world.

louis ck meal full.jpg

I ate way more than I should have at that Chinese restaurant this past weekend, but I still left food on my plate. There was one lone xiaolongbao left — I even went so far as to reach for it with my chopsticks, but I reminded myself that the food was already a sunk cost, and there was no need to make myself feel sick. Let’s face it, I probably should have stopped eating 3 xiaolongbao and 2 ribs earlier, but the fact that I didn’t completely gorge myself shows that I’m making progress. Maybe there’s a chance I won’t gain 5 pounds in America like I always do!

The time I saw Prince Charles, Jesse Eisenberg,Theon Greyjoy and Raj Koothrappali in one day

10 Jun

Things that happened yesterday:

– I carried a banana peel over a mile because there were no trash cans on the street. A couple days ago there was a “What was ruined for everybody by one person?” Ask Reddit thread. What should have been my contribution: easy access to public garbage cans in London. Thanks, people who put bombs in litter bins. (Though I guess technically more than one person ruined it because there were multiple bombing incidents over the years and now *fun fact* the few litter bins in London are actually bomb-proof.)

– I saw Prince Charles! Or rather I saw him drive by… or rather be driven by. I was walked along Wigmore St just north of Oxford St when I heard a policeman on a motorcycle whistle. He stopped traffic and then a Bentley followed by a Range Rover zoomed by. The Bentley’s glass was surprisingly not tinted, but I only got a quick glimpse of an older gentlemen and a chauffeur with a sweet hat. I’m assuming it was Charles (for the sake of a good story), but otherwise it had to have been some important old dude.

– I saw my 40th London show. 40 plays and musicals! Feels like yesterday I was experiencing my first day seat queue. I saw Jesse Eisenberg’s play The Spoils, starring Mark Zuckerberg, Theon Greyjoy and Raj Koothrappali (aka the guy from the Social Network and a crapload of other movies, the guy from Game of Thrones who has it really rough, and the Indian guy from The Big Bang Theory). It got so-so reviews, so obviously I was just seeing it because of the star-studded cast. And they did not disappoint, every one of them was brilliant, especially Alfie Allen. (Holy crap, I just realized his sister is the singer Lily Allen, thanks Wikipedia!). He is an English actor, but was playing an American Wall Street douche, so it was hilarious! The play itself was a bit depressing, but had plenty of laughs. I’d probably give it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars, but would recommend it solely because of the cast. I scored a rush ticket on the Today Tix app, which seems to be quickly replacing my need for day seat queuing. I can’t complain.

the spoils.png

Summer is the worst

7 Jun

Have I mentioned that I hate summer? Specifically running in the summer? I found this handy chart that explains how heat affects your running goals:

running temperatures.png

When I set out today at 1pm it was 79 degrees (26C), which according to the chart is “extremely oppressive” and I probably should have skipped the run. But instead I decided to just lower my mileage. Instead of my normal Tuesday long run, I’d do a “short” long run of 6 miles. I stopped in my usual spot to stretch and get my audio book started before I set off. I’ve been listening to audio books on my long runs to help me pass the time and power through. Right now I’m listening to Game Change, which is all about the 2008 US presidential election. I was looking forward to today’s listen because I had finally gotten to the Palin chapters. But when I opened up iBooks, Game Change was gone. So were all my other audio books. I hadn’t updated my operating system or synced my phone, so I couldn’t figure out why they disappeared when they were there yesterday. I clicked on a bunch of tabs and finally opened up the music app, thinking maybe they somehow got moved. That’s when I realized all my music was missing too! Apparently all my audio files on my phone can just magically disappear without touching anything.
not even mad amazingSo it was not a good start to my run. Luckily I had just reactivated my Spotify Premium subscription this morning, so I listened to Tegan and Sara’s new album as I plodded along. The heat and humidity were oppressive though, and my “I’ll just do 6 miles” turned into “I will be lucky it I can do 4 and not die.” 4 is still better than none though!

And I know what you’re thinking — why don’t you just run earlier? That’s the obvious solution. Except it’s not easy. I like running, but I like sleeping even more, and I’m pretty sure getting a good night’s sleep is the healthiest thing you can do for your body. I could run first thing after I wake up like a lot of people do, but I don’t like running on an empty stomach. I’ve got a good system going that involves waking up, eating my overnight oats, working for a few hours, and then running. Why you gotta try to mess it all up, summer weather?

I’m experimenting with my summer running kit and added two new items: a visor and wrist bands. I picked them both up in the golf section of Sports Direct. I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I never understood the purpose of wrist bands until about two weeks ago. Sweat bands I get — they keep the sweat off your face, but wrist bands? Do they keep the sweat off your hands? Who gets sweaty wrists? But then I saw someone using them in a workout video and realized you use them to wipe away and absorb sweat from your face. Seems like a better idea than just using a tissue like I’ve been doing. I got the visor to protect my face from the sun. I always wear sunglasses and sunscreen, but lately I’ve been noticing more freckles and wrinkles on my face than I’d like and was hoping the visor would help. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of both my new kit items. The visor helps a little, but it also adds an additional layer to my already overheated head. The wrist bands work OK, but not with the visor as the brim prevents my wrist from reaching my sweaty forehead. They also got a little wonky when I put them in the washing machine even though I let them air dry. Alas.

pug exercise

(When I got home I synced my phone with my computer and all my audio files came back, which is good, but I’m still curious how it happened in the first place and worried that it could happen again. I’m also mad I lost my place in Game Change. I am blaming summer for all of this.)

What’s today? …October?

2 Jun

It appears Time Out London reads Reneedezvous and stole their email subject line from the title of my last post:

you know nothing john faustus.png
Or, you know, we both came up with the same obvious Game of Thrones pun. I like to think it was the former though.

So I have no idea what day it is. A lot of people have that problem after a Monday bank holiday, but for me it’s more about grocery shopping. Every Monday I do my weekly grocery shop, which involves dragging my little trolley to at least 4 different stores over the course of two hours. But since Monday was a holiday and Stephen was home, we went to see X-Men, so I didn’t shop. And then Tuesday it was insanely windy and rainy, so I didn’t run or shop. So I did my grocery shopping on Wednesday, which made Wednesday feel like Monday, and I did my long (8.5-mile!) run today, which makes today feel like Tuesday, even though it’s Thursday.
panda falling.gifI was able to put off my shopping because I just discovered Itsu’s half price sale. Am I the last person in the UK to know about this? Itsu is a sushi fast food joint by the people behind Pret a Manger (which no one can pronounce so we all agree to just call it “Pret”). It’s really popular with the 9 to 5 lunch crowd because they have fresh ready-made sushi boxes and salads for takeaway. But since they focus on freshness, they can’t carry over today’s leftovers into tomorrow, so they sell it all for half price a half hour before closing. I know what you’re thinking: half-priced leftover sushi? Isn’t that food poisoning waiting to happen? I was a little worried about that too, but it’s the same food they were selling full price a minute before the sale, and the Internet assured me that sushi is good for 24 hours. But that brings me to my next point: who are these people who literally fill a shopping basket with a good 10 boxes of sushi?! Do they just really like sushi? Are they throwing a house party catered by Itsu half-priced sushi? Do they realize that fresh raw fish is best when it’s, well, fresh? And do they realize by essentially wiping out the stock 5 minutes before the half-price sale even starts, the rest of us are stuck getting either the salmon and tuna box or an unsealed salmon box? (Yes, I was so desperate and craving sushi that I bought a box that was not sealed. This was 6 days ago and I have not died or been violently ill yet, so I think I’m in the clear). This was also the Friday before the bank holiday so I think things were especially crazy. When I went Tuesday night I was spoilt for choice, but that also could have been because the weather was wretched. More half-price sushi for me then! I’ve been several times now and I think I’m finally figuring out the art of the Itsu half-price sale. You have to show up a little before the sale starts and just stand there awkwardly holding your spoils (no pun intended!) until the 30-min-to-close mark. You also will find slim pickings if you go on a Friday night.

And now here’s a red panda inexplicably eating what appears to be sushi out of a box:

red panda sushi.gif