Archive | August, 2016

Everybody wants you in Regents Park

30 Aug

The other day I was running in Regents Park. I use the term “running” loosely, as it was my one weekly Poke-run that I have allowed myself, in which I run while playing Pokemon Go, which usually translates to run for 20 seconds, stop to catch Pokemon, run for 5 seconds, stop to catch said escaped Pokemon, run to next Pokegym, stop to battle, etc. I had been playing for a good hour, my phone battery was on its last legs, as were my, well, legs. I was hot and irritable and Pokemon Go had randomly stopped working. I decided there was only one thing that could get me through the last mile: I had to listen to the song that had been playing nonstop in my head. There was just one problem: I didn’t know the song’s name or artist. I only knew one line, which I kept singing over and over again: “Everybody wants you.”

So I typed that into Spotify. Do you know how many songs are called Everybody Wants You? A lot. Usually when I don’t know the name of a song I just google some of the lyrics. But I didn’t know what line came before or after “Everybody wants you.” It was definitely an upbeat, older song. I tried googling “Everybody wants you 80s song,” but that only brought up Billy Squier, and that was not the song in my head. I wasn’t even sure how this song got in my head — was it playing at the restaurant I passed in the park? Does the restaurant in the park even play music? Was the heat making me delusional? Why was it so important that I listen to this song right now?

And then a girl approached me as I was sitting on the bench in Regents Park having this Pokemon and music crisis.

“How do I get to Regent Street?” she asked.

“Regent Street? The shopping street next to Oxford Street?” I replied.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just want to buy a tent. There’s a camping store on Regent Street.” I had so many questions — why did she need to buy a tent — was she planning on living in the park? Why did she not look at a map before she left, did she think Regent Street was in Regents Park? And what 20-something-year-old these days doesn’t have a phone with GPS maps? But I kept my questions to myself and opened up Google Maps.

“You can get on the Tube at Baker Street and get off at Piccadilly Circus,” I told her.

“I don’t want to take the Tube,” she said.

“Oh. Then you can take the bus 13.” I told her.

“Hmm. The bus might be hot,” she said. I agreed.

“You can walk 2 miles then. I do it all the time,” I told her.

“I don’t know if I want to walk that far.” She stood there contemplating her options. I stood there wondering if “Everybody Wants You” was even the name of the song, and since I spent a good 5 minutes giving travel advice to this girl, if it would be out of line to start singing and ask her if she knew the song. I snapped out of it, though, and the girl was still just standing there. Did she want me to walk the 2 miles with her? Her simple request for directions was almost turning into a stop and chat. Good thing I wasn’t timing this run.

“So basically you can take the tube, ride the bus or walk. Those are your options,” I said in a hint-hint PokemonGo is back up and running and I need to go manner.

“OK,” she said, and wandered off. I wonder if she ever got her tent or figured out that Regent Street and Regents Park are not the same thing. I did what I could to help, but I still had my own problem. As I walked I continued to search Spotify, playing every “Everybody Wants You” song one by one, but none of them were the one. I was getting way too frustrated. I remember when I was at university my basic how to build a website class visited the computer science lab. A team there was working on a program like Shazam that could identify a song just by you humming a few bars of it. This would have been the perfect moment for that service, I wonder if they ever got it off the ground.

I got home, took a shower, ate lunch and then played some SongPop 2, the other mobile game I am hopelessly addicted to. And there — in the Top Hits 1983 playlist selected by the Australian chick I’ve been playing for the past 3 weeks — was the answer to my musical conundrum and the answer to the round: Give It Up by KC and the Sunshine Band. I couldn’t find the song because it isn’t called Everybody Wants You — that’s just one of the lines — one of the lines that SongPop 2 frequently uses, which is likely where I first heard the song that caused it to get stuck in my head in the first place. Problem solved. I am still grossly underprepared for my half marathon in less than 3 weeks (!) and utterly addicted to PokemonGo, but…
Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na / Baby give it up / Give it up / Baby give it up / Everybody wants you / Everybody wants your love….

kc sunshine band dance.gif

I think I might be in love with a kitchen appliance

24 Aug

For years now I’ve been lusting after a Vitamix blender. This blog post from 2013 proves it. Last month I convinced my friend to take me to Costco so I could buy their Quest Bar rip-offs (they’re amazing!), but also because I wanted to eat so many samples I didn’t need to eat lunch (mission accomplished). There was a nice girl doing a Vitamix demo so my friend and I parked our cart and did nothing but eat her delicious blender creations for an hour (I’m not exaggerating. We were pretty much best friends with the Vitamix girl by the end). Watching her make tasty smoothies, soups, ice creams and dips in minutes renewed my longing for a professional-grade blender. So I went home and immediately started looking for Vitamixes for sale in the UK.

For those of you who don’t know, Vitamix is the Rolls Royce of blenders. Every professional food blogger (and chef, likely) uses one. They are amazing, high-powered machines. But they are also stupidly expensive. In the U.S. they’ll cost you an arm and a leg, but in the UK they’ll cost you an arm, leg and a foot. Even a used or refurbished one is pricey. I was reading reviews on Amazon, trying to convince myself that I should throw down £399 ($500+) on a small kitchen appliance, when one of the reviews mentioned the Vitamix competitor — the Electriq iQMix. I thought I knew of all the professional blender brands, like Blendtec and Ninja. I had never heard of this Electriq iQMix. So I looked it up.

Electriq iQMix
“Vitamix is a great blender but why spend £400 when you can get the same results from the iQMix for under £100?” The website asked. Good question. I studied the specs and read all the reviews and was sold. I ordered my iQMix blender on Sunday and spent the next three days obsessively refreshing my email waiting for shipment confirmation. I am almost embarrassed to admit how excited I was at the prospect of a new Vitamix-like blender. (I’m actually devoting an entire blog post to it now, aren’t I?)

It arrived early this morning, so I spent my whole run thinking about the chocolate avocado ice cream I was going to make when I got home. Of all the creations we tasted at Costco, the chocolate avocado ice cream was my favorite. It legit tasted like a Wendy’s Frostie, even though the movie Mr. Deeds taught us it isn’t possible to make one at home. But I was going to try! I used the recipe the Costco Vitamix girl gave me (I told you we were buddies!), but realized I was missing one key ingredient — a buttload of ice. In what may come as a shock to my American readers (like my dad), I never have ice in my freezer. I don’t use it for drinks and I’ve never had a blender that can properly handle ice in a smoothie. So I filled one tiny ice tray last night, not realizing the recipe called for 2 to 3 cups of ice. So my chocolate avocado ice cream came out more like a smoothie, but it was still everything I dreamed it would be. And based off this one experience and this one recipe, I would highly recommend the Electriq iQMix to any of my UK readers who don’t want to spring for a Vitamix.

I have a pokeproblem

18 Aug

It just dawned on me that I’m scheduled to run a half marathon in a month. One month! It feels like ages ago that I signed up for the Richmond Half, still bitter about not getting a spot in the Royal Parks Half (side note: my doctor in Kentucky ran the Royal Parks Half years ago. She said even then it was tough to get a ballot spot!). I can’t believe it’s a month away now. I felt more ready to run it in May than I do now. That’s partly because I’ve been traveling for 2 months now, and although I tried to run frequently, I wasn’t doing many long runs because this was the forecast every day:

hot as balls forecast

There’s also another reason my training has been slacking. And it’s name is Pokemon Go.

For people like my brother who spend most of their day on a computer inside an office or at home on the couch playing video games, it really encouraged him to get outside and exercise. But for people like me who were already Fitbit-obsessed, it turned my usual long runs into stop-every-2-minute gotta-catch-em-all walk-runs. Not part of the Hansons half marathon training plan.

I started playing Pokemon Go in early July, right after I got back from my Milwaukee and Chicago adventure. So for the first month I only played in suburban Kentucky, which it turns out is actually the worst place to play. There was only 1 Pokestop near me, and by “near me” I mean I still had to run over a mile to reach it. In London I am surrounded by Pokestops — my actual flat itself is a Pokestop. (For those unfamiliar with the game, a Pokestop is where you can collect free items like pokeballs. You need pokeballs to catch Pokemon. So if you don’t live near any stops, you won’t get many balls, and you won’t be able to catch many Pokemon. This was my life last month). The few times I went into downtown Cincinnati I went a little nuts hitting up Pokestops and catching Pokemon. It was like I was used to getting one bowl of rice a day and suddenly I was at an all you can eat buffet.

And then I went to China, where Pokemon Go has been banned because it uses Google Maps, which is also banned. I couldn’t play at all for 10 days. To continue with the analogy, I was starving. And then we landed in Hong Kong and had 8 hours to kill before our flight to London, so naturally we went to Hong Kong Disneyland. And suddenly I went from starving to eating at the midnight buffet on a cruise ship. I couldn’t contain myself. Every few feet there was a Pokestop or Pokemon. My finger couldn’t swipe fast enough.

pokemon go hong kong disneyland

Screenshot I took at the entrance of Hong Kong Disneyland. The 75% battery was already causing me anxiety.

“Wow, you’re catching a lot!” Stephen said. At first he was amused by it, cheering me on as I caught a wild Dewgong by the Jungle Cruise. But then he started getting annoyed. “Just one more,” I told him. “I know I need to stop, my phone battery is dying.” But I couldn’t stop. My proverbial stomach was full at the buffet, but I couldn’t stop eating. I had been depraved for so long.

“Stop playing Pokemon!” Stephen shouted at me as we tried to leave the park during the Paint the Night Parade. There were people everywhere and it was tough enough to walk through without staring at the screen.

I definitely have a problem.

And while I’d like to say I’ve learned my lesson and am now “eating” or playing Pokemon Go a sensible amount, I’m afraid it’s only gotten worse since I’ve gotten back to London. My flat is a Pokestop! There’s a gym just steps away! Regents and Hyde Parks are teeming with Pokemon! I’ve gotta catch ’em all!

….

Dear god, how am I going to run 13.1 miles in 30 days?

….

How am I going to go 2+ hours without playing Pokemon?

Uneventful adventures in China

9 Aug

Greetings from China!

I met Stephen here the other day. He flew in from London, I flew in from Cincinnati and we met in Shanghai. It seemed like blog material waiting to happen, especially since I would have to find my way to the hotel all by myself. Sure, I was nervous, but I’ve been listening to Pimsleur Chinese lessons for months now and it was all leading up to this moment. I even studied on the plane. And then the minute I landed the only thing that came out of mouth was English. Because it turns out the people who exchange money and sell sim cards at the airport speak English. So my I arrived in a foreign country all by myself story was rather uneventful — I cleared immigration, exchanged some money into RMB, bought a sim card, texted Stephen, and caught a taxi. The only minor hiccup came when I tried to use Uber. I couldn’t figure out where to meet the driver and couldn’t call the driver because my sim card was data only (and also I don’t speak Chinese). So I had to take a taxi, which was reasonably priced and easy. What a boring blog story.

It’s been years since I’ve flown from the US to China, but I knew it was going to be rough. 14 hours on a plane is rough, but it’s even rougher when it’s a 747 with no individual TVs. Luckily I expected this would be the case and loaded up my iPad with movies and TV shows. 747s sure can transport a buttload of people, but transporting them comfortably is apparently not a priority. (For the low price of $1,000 I could have upgraded to business class though!) The entertainment options may suck, but at least they feed you well on a 14-hour flight. Every time I was about to reach for my snack bag, there was another snack or meal on its way. I look forward to crappy airplane food entirely way too much on a long-haul flight. But what else is there to do? I tried to break the flight down into manageable chunks. When there was 8 hours left I thought “only a flight to London now!” At 6 hours left it was a Megabus to Chicago. At 4 hours it was a drive to Cleveland. At 3 hours it was DEAR GOD HOW MUCH LONGER, I CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE OUTSIDE THIS AIRPLANE. And then whatever meal you eat at 11pm Cincinnati time, 11am Shanghai time came and everything was OK. The obvious solution to not going crazy on an insanely long flight is to sleep. And believe me, I tried. But sleeping sitting up with your feet crammed against a laptop bag is no easy feat. I think I dozed on and off for an hour or two before I gave up and watched another movie. Thankfully our return flight from Hong Kong to London is only 12 hours. 😐

sleepy panda.gif
One final thing — I still may be afraid to speak any Chinese, but I’m amazed at how well I can understand it now. When I really focus I can pick up the gist of Stephen’s conversations. The key there is “really focus,” which isn’t easy, especially when insanely jetlagged. Most of the time my brain decides to just tune it out and focus on eating all the things. (Like xiaolongbao!) Also, have I mentioned before how Asian jetlag is the worst? Because it is. Even after being here for a few days and finally — FINALLY! — sleeping through the night Sunday night, I legit fell asleep on the toilet last night at 9:30. Stephen’s boss’s words still ring true: “You don’t sleep when you go to Asia, you just take a series of long naps.”

jet-lag gilmore girls.gif

Excuses and parking achievements

2 Aug

Yesterday I parallel parked in one shot. I’ve still got it! You can take the girl out of Chicago…

I haven’t blogged in ages, yet somehow decided to lead with parallel parking. As usual, my time in America has flown by. I had so much quality time with friends and family, though, so I guess it’s OK if my blog had to suffer as a result.

Something weird has been happening on this visit though. I’m not buying things. OK, I’m buying things, but I’m not BUYING ALL THE THINGS. A visit to the homeland has always involved 3 things: seeing friends and family, eating all the things, and buying all the things. I’ve certainly been eating my share of American delicacies (my recent cholesterol test results can attest to that), but I haven’t been going crazy buying all the things just because they are a £ or 2 cheaper than in the UK. Does this mean I’ve finally learned my lesson and packing won’t be a dear-god-please-be-under-50 lbs struggle? I sure hope so. For my sanity, but also because leaving the US doesn’t mean I’m going back to the UK — I’m meeting Stephen in China for a little vacation from my vacation. Which means all the crap I pack will be essentially traveling all around the world with me (you hear that, buttload of protein bars?) (OK, I guess I did buy some things. I may have a slight Quest bar addiction)

In short, this is me checking in just to say “ni hao.” Hopefully my upcoming travels will be more blog-worthy (but not too blog-worthy, because the most blog-worthy stuff is never good).

panda falling over.gif