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A random post about nothing, grocery shopping and a cute panda video

2 Mar

Hello, friends, family and internet strangers (especially those of you who found me through my Priceline refund post, I’m so happy it’s been helping people!).

I feel like it’s been too long since I last posted, yet I don’t really have anything to post about. I’m not sure one can use the word “boring” about living in central London, but no matter where you live you tend to fall into a routine — work, run, somehow get caught up in the changing of the guard while trying to cut through Horseguards no matter what time it is, eat, more work. The usual.

Our new place is finally starting to feel like home, even though we still haven’t painted or made the cosmetic changes we’ve been talking about for months. (Finding a reputable, reasonably priced builder is surprisingly hard.) But I’ve gotten used to the location and know all the best shortcuts to get around the tourist-infested streets. I can’t seem to break my once a week grocery shopping habit though. At our old place we lived over a mile from all the best stores, so every Monday I would lug my little trolley to Aldi, Iceland, Sainsbury’s and sometimes other stores to stock up for the week. But now we live reasonably close to a Tesco so I could go every day if I wanted to. I don’t need to buy vegetables on Monday for Friday and worry if they’ll still be fresh. And yet I still find myself doing a big shop on Monday, just because Monday has been grocery shopping day for so long. I can’t even wean myself off my Aldi habit. Not only are their prices so much better than Tesco, they sell things Tesco doesn’t have, like frozen cherries and blueberries. So now about once a month my trolley and I take the Tube up to Aldi and I wipe out their supply of thousand island salad dressing, frozen fruit, and dark chocolate (at least that’s what I go in intending to buy — I always leave with a trolley so full I have to bring my giant tote bag for overflow). It’s such a hassle and I keep telling myself I should stop — I can deal with the subpar, more expensive dressing at Tesco and can use other fruits in my smoothies, but the Aldi lure is just too strong. I’m looking forward to checking out Aldi in the U.S. on my upcoming visit, they just built a nice new one by my parents’ house.

Hey, I just made a post about grocery shopping, just like in the good old days of the blog!

I’ll end with this amazing baby panda video. I know they say when you work with pandas you mostly just clean up poo and prepare bamboo, but I totally wouldn’t mind doing that with this little guy in tow!

(Though I really want to tell iPanda it should be “Nanny, you can’t resist my cuteness!” Do you think they’ll accept my editing services in exchange for baby panda playtime?)

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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

Hitting the wall at mile 2

10 Feb

Yesterday I got a notice that they would be turning the water off in our building from 10am to 2pm. At least they gave us advance notice this time — a few weeks ago I found out the water was out only when my washing machine gave an error message halfway through the cycle. For most people who work in an office building, like Stephen, having the water turned off for 4 hours during the day has no effect whatsoever (aside from that sudden surge of water that comes out that never fails to scare the crap out of you even when you’re anticipating it). But for someone like me who works from home and usually takes a post-run shower around 1pm, it’s a huge nuisance. But since I knew it was coming, I could plan for it. I filled my Brita pitcher up to the top at 9:30am and decided I would do my usual morning routine of breakfast, work, run, I’d just have to push the run back a little bit so I’d return home after 2 to shower. This seemed feasible. But at around 12:30 I started getting really hungry. I ate a Belvita breakfast biscuit but it didn’t help much. I didn’t want to eat too much and be weighed down on my run, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would be starving come 2pm.

I’ve heard many times by many runners that running is mostly mental. Sure, your legs, feet and lungs can hurt, but it’s your mind that can really hold you back. After today I can attest that this is 100% true. When I left my flat I told myself I would do 5 miles — I’m slowly trying to up my weekly and daily mileage and the 5 miles I ran yesterday went well. I had a course in mind and an audiobook playing through my headphones, but there was a voice in my head that couldn’t be silenced: “You’re gonna be hungry. Are you hungry yet? You ate breakfast awhile ago. There’s no way you have enough energy to do 5 miles. Are you feeling tired yet?” After mile 2 I gave in and listened to it. Suddenly I felt completely drained, exhausted and hungry. The voice was right — there was no way I could do 5 miles. Unfortunately I was still 2 miles away from my flat. I trudged along doing a run-walk mix, walking because I was tired, running because it meant I could get home to food faster. The cold wind whipped through my Thanksgiving Day Race shirt and I almost felt embarrassed to be wearing it — people who run 10K in under an hour don’t hit the wall after 2 miles.

baby panda falling

Except of course they do. Every runner has bad runs, caused by everything from the weather to diet to their own state of mind. I’m guessing what separates the good runners is how much they dwell on their bad runs. As Alexander would say, some runs are like that, even in Australia (or a sunny day in London).

As soon as I made it home I made a beeline for the bag of mixed nuts I was saving for our Valentine’s Day chocolate fountain. The mix of salt, fat and protein really hit the spot, even if my insatiable hunger was half mental. To be honest, a bad run like that questions my ability to ever run 13.1, but I just have to remember to shake it off. (And take tomorrow as a rest day since the water will be off again).

Speaking of 13.1, I haven’t quite bitten the bullet yet and registered, but I’m considering the Richmond Half Marathon in September. It’s a bit further from me than Hyde Park, but running through Kew Gardens and Old Deer Park would be pretty awesome. Now I just gotta work on my mental (and miles) game…

helpless baby panda.gif

Where does the time go? Does anyone know?

21 Apr

When I was growing up my parents used to always play this “Eternal Love” compilation CD in the car. I think they either got it for free or from the dollar bin, but it was quality. One of my favorite songs on it was “Where Does the Time Go” by Julia Fordham. I never got what she was singing in the beginning though.

“If I could have a pound for every moment I’ve spent worrying

On all the little things in life that frankly there’s no hurrying

Then I would be a rich girl, I wanna be a rich girl soon”

“How would she be a rich girl?” I used to wonder. “Wouldn’t she just be a fat girl with all those extra pounds?”

…And then I moved to the UK and suddenly it all makes sense. Although I feel like in the US the saying is often, “If I had a nickel,” although perhaps it has evolved to a dollar, thanks to inflation. (Still, that song is from 1989, so a 1989 pound was worth quite a lot. Surely she’s a rich girl now).

Where was I going with this… oh yes, where does the time go?! It seems like only yesterday my friend was here — I haven’t even had a chance to post about Paris yet — and now my parents are coming next weekend. I had to make a To Do List of everything that I need to accomplish before Saturday. It ranges from the not fun — clean bathrooms and wash the kitchen floor (which involves scrubbing on my hands and knees, yuck) — to watch “Sound of Music.” (Because we’re going on the “Sound of Music” tour in Salzburg and how foolish would I seem if I hadn’t watched it recently?!) I also need to finish a painting I’ve been working on and bake muffins, not to mention do some extra work since I’ll be essentially taking two weeks off. I guess my To Do list isn’t too bad after all, although everything takes time, which I never seem to have enough of lately. I don’t even have time to properly finish this post, so baby pandas on a slide:
panda slide

Going on holiday…

21 Aug

Tomorrow I am “going on holiday” and will not have Internet for two whole weeks. That will either be a really good or really bad thing. I wanted to post more this week, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. In an attempt to make up for that and to keep you entertained for the next two weeks, enjoy this panda riding a rocking horse:

(Click on it, it moves!)

Hello, London. Hello, jet lag.

26 Sep

We made it! The flight went by extraordinarily fast, thanks to my reclining business class seat and array of movies and shows to watch. It was absolutely gorgeous in London when we arrived–an actual blue sky and sun! But before going out to enjoy it, we decided to nap…for six hours. I didn’t think jet lag would affect me so much. I figured it would mess up my night sleep schedule for sure, and it did, but not quite how I expected–I went to bed at 11pm and woke up at 2pm. That is 13 hours of sleep. Luckily I’ve got months and years to enjoy London, presuming I can eventually wake up.

Being here is still a bit surreal. I haven’t had a chance to really experience London yet, but I’ve had a few “Wow, this is England” moments already, like when the taxi driver exclaimed “Bloody hell!” when lifting one of our six suitcases. I’ve been watching a good amount of UK television, which, as my dad warned me, “sucks.” The commercials really crack me up though. I’m also learning a bit of British English. For instance, they pronounce “vitamin” with a short “i” and “zebra” with a short “e.” I know this because I’ve been watching a show called Zoo Borns all morning. Turns out not all British TV sucks.

The other thing I noticed is that the British love the word “mind.” This is clear from “Mind the gap” made famous in the Tube. But there’s also “Mind the step” written above our bathroom. In the airport yesterday a guy was trying to get a line of luggage carts through the door. This other guy was standing near the door completely oblivious to the near hundred carts coming at him. “Mind the door!” the guy with the carts shouted. When he didn’t get response he tried other variations–“Mind yourself!” “Mind the trolleys!” I was standing there laughing, both at the use of “mind” instead of “Excuse me” or “Watch out” and the oblivious guy who still wasn’t moving.

I’ll leave you with next week’s weather forecast, which makes me glad I brought my new hooded trench in my carry-on and sad that I slept through what was likely the one sunny day of the month.

The best advertisement ever

7 Sep

Stephen gets TradeWinds shipping newspaper at work. He showed me this ad on the front page, which is quite possibly the best advertisement I have ever seen. It is made even greater by the fact that they chose to capitalize “panda” but not the second half of their company name. I guess I’m just in copy editor mode these days.