Tag Archives: london

I caved and joined a gym

23 Jan

I resisted for a while. “Why should I pay to run on a treadmill when running in London’s gorgeous parks is free?” I always thought. But the one thing I didn’t think about when I signed up for a half marathon in March is that my training would take place in January and February, the coldest months of the year. While London’s “cold” is nowhere near Midwest and East Coast America cold, I still didn’t want to do my long runs in 30-degree weather. That, and we are finally starting renovations on the master bedroom next week (something we’ve been talking about for more than 2 years now), and I don’t want to run and shower while the builder is here, and don’t want to run when it’s dark after he leaves.

So I joined a gym.

I chose the gym nearest to me, which also happens to be the cheapest. It’s cheap because it’s no frills — there’s no pool or sauna, there’s not even someone to check you in. When you sign up online they email you a code, and you type that code into a keypad before you enter the glass chamber that permits you entrance to The Gym. That wasn’t a Trumpsque bout of random capitalization syndrome, that’s its actual name — The Gym.

I made my first visit to The Gym yesterday as a bit of a trial run before my 8-mile long run today. I am in week 5 of the Hidgon Half Marathon plan, which means my long run this week needs to be 8 miles. I didn’t want to just hop on a treadmill and bang it out, I wanted to ease myself into treadmill running, so I thought I’d knock off the easy 3-mile run in this week’s plan. I successfully entered The Gym through the almost claustrophobic chamber and immediately hopped on the first treadmill I saw. I didn’t want to be seen wandering with that newbie look in my eyes, I wanted it to seem like I belonged there. I started walking as a warmup and put on my new favorite podcast to run to, My Favorite Murder. It got me through last week’s 7-mile long run, so I figured it would make these 3 miles blow by.

I didn’t want my walking time to affect my distance and pace measurements, so I started a new session when I was ready to run. I figured I’d start at a 10-min mile pace, then slowly increase and bang out these 3 miles in less than 30 minutes. I set the distance to miles and the pace to 6. I started running, allowing Karen and Georgia to regale me with the tale of Rebecca Zahau’s murder… except it wasn’t working.

I watched the boxing class happening in front of me. I watched the people walking by outside through the window. But mostly I just watched the numbers on the screen in front of me.

Has it really only been 2 minutes? I wondered.

Then my thoughts began to wander. I needed to pick up mushrooms at the store on my way home. Maybe I should get broccoli too. I wonder who convinced the sheriff that Rebecca Zahau’s death was a suicide when she was so clearly murdered? Why do people tamper with dead bodies instead of immediately calling the police? I bet broccoli would be good in my new air fryer. I bet it’s been at least 5 minutes now.

14 seconds had passed.

I had forgotten how mind-numbly boring treadmill running was. Outside it was so easy to escape into my podcast or music and Pokemon Go, but here I couldn’t stop obsessing over the time and distance. Which, by the way, I realized suddenly wasn’t adding up. 10 minutes had passed and I hadn’t run 1 mile yet — not even close. I slowly increased my speed of 6 to 8.5. It said my pace was 7 something. “I am really flying!” I thought. “Treadmill running is easier than I thought! Now the miles will really fly by!”

Except they didn’t. I was still running slower than a 10-min mile pace. I googled treadmill pace cheat sheets and couldn’t figure out why my numbers weren’t lining up. What unit of measurement was 6 or 8.5 if not mph? Just “speed”?

30 speed

I could think of only one reason why the distance wasn’t displaying correctly — the treadmill was broken! It was a cheap gym with cheap machines that were obviously not calibrated correctly. After the treadmill clock hit 30 minutes I started the cool down. I had probably run 3 miles even if the display didn’t show it. I hopped off and decided to explore downstairs, which I just discovered existed.

It was a lot more crowded than the upstairs, so I reasoned that was where the good machines were. I would do my 8 miles on a treadmill down here tomorrow.

The next day (today), I headed straight downstairs. I knew podcasts and music weren’t going to cut it for essentially an hour and 20 minutes of running in place, so I came armed with my iPad loaded with Netflix shows. I hopped on a treadmill that reeked slightly of body odor, so it had been used recently and at least wasn’t broken, and decided to do a little experiment. This thought occurred to me yesterday while I was running, but it didn’t seem right so I didn’t test it out. What if the distance was in miles, but the speed was actually in kilometers? So if I wanted to run 6 mph, I had to set the speed to 10 kmph. I tried it for 10 minutes, and sure enough my distance was 1 mile. Which meant that whole time I thought I was running fast yesterday, I was actually running really slowly. I knew it felt a little too easy, but I chalked it up to all my training. I settled in at 10 kmph, which is slower than I was hoping to run the half, yet still somehow felt strenuous. Man, I hate treadmill running. My iPad at least covered the screen so I couldn’t watch the time and miles tick by, even though I lifted it up to check every 5 or 2 minutes. I watched the first episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which I was hoping could become my new favorite running show, but I didn’t love the musical aspect of it (and I love Broadway and West End musicals, I know). It helped me kill 45 minutes though, and then I switched to The Great British Bake Off. I’m still deciding if watching a show about delicious desserts while you’re burning calories is the best or worst idea ever, but it helped distract me so I could power through. I ate Jelly Babies for fuel at miles 5 and 7 and pretended they were made of Victoria Sponge and not just cornstarch-dusted glucose. And I did it. I ran 8 miles on a treadmill!

The iPad definitely helped, but I still think treadmill running is the worst, especially on a treadmill that measures distance in miles and speed in kmph. Next week the long run on the schedule is only 6 miles, which I’ll be doing outdoors racing the London Winter Run. I run a 10K on Thanksgiving in Cincinnati every year, but I’ve never actually raced a 10K in London. I’m actually a little excited for it and pray the weather holds up. There’s no iPad and treadmill option for races!

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A look back on 2018

7 Jan

It’s that time of year again, friends. That time when I reflect on the past year and completely ignore the fact that I’ve neglected the blog for the majority of it.

As an adult I’ve come to realize days, weeks, months, and years all tend to melt together, but I have to say 2018 was a pretty great year. I kept two of my resolutions — I didn’t eat meat at all in 2018 (aside from fish) and I learned calligraphy. I didn’t manage to run a half marathon in 2018, but I just registered for a half marathon in March, so that’s my 2018 resolution sorted in 2019.

A look back on 2018:

-We renovated our living room, a project we’d been talking about for over a year and finally got done. It took approximately three months even though it was supposed to take 2 weeks, but we feel like we’re living in a palace now.
-I fell head over heels in love with calligraphy, particularly brush lettering and pointed pen. I amassed over 1,200 followers on my calligraphy Instagram account. I am by no means a calligraphy master, but my work looks a lot better than it did on day one!
-I got to visit my friends in Chicago and Milwaukee not once, but twice!
-I attended Milwaukee Pug Fest with my best friend
-I got really into skincare and spent a small fortune on it, but I was able to reduce some of the sun damage on my face caused by running outside. Always wear sunscreen, kids! Even in England in the winter.
-I ran a 5K race with Cherry in 90+ degree heat (well, I ran it, she walked it)
-I voted in my first U.S. primary and midterm elections and vowed to never not vote again
-I went to New York City and saw two Broadway shows (Come From Away and The Donna Summer Musical)
-I was in the studio audience for a taping of The Daily Show
-I survived the worst heat wave in UK history, but not without complaining every 5 minutes about it
-I reached level 40 on Pokemon Go, which is the highest level. I wish I could say I quit the game then, but I still play daily, though not as obsessively
-We traveled to Croatia, where we fed wild peacocks and bunnies, explored Game of Thrones filming locations, and learned the hard way that we are not cut out for sea kayaking
-I went home for Halloween and made Cherry a Wonder Bread costume
-I got a 10K personal best in the Thanksgiving Day Race
-We traveled to Tenerife in the Canary Islands where we fed monkeys and guinea pigs, saw dolphins and whales, and went on an epic buggy safari through Teide National Park
-I got a Vitamix blender for my birthday, something I should have done years ago
-I saw 9 West End shows, which was not a record, but still an impressive and enjoyable feat

2019 is already starting on the right foot. We spent New Year’s Day stripping wallpaper in preparation for our bedroom renovation. I pray once we get the builders in the job really does only take two weeks! Then maybe we can focus on the kitchen, which started as “Let’s just repaint and add some more cupboards” but has evolved to “let’s just completely gut it!” Gulp. Meanwhile I just finished week 2 of my half marathon training plan and crushed my 5-mile “long run,” so at least that’s going well. Ask me again once the long runs get longer than 6 miles though! I’m also still working on my calligraphy and want to try new things like iPad digital art with Procreate and making process videos. Maybe this will be the year I get off the proverbial bench and start selling my work and services(!). Addressing all 30 of our Christmas cards made me think I might be able to do envelopes and place cards for a wedding one day… a small wedding, at least!

doug the pug 2019

Image courtesy Doug the Pug

Here’s to 2019!

My latest addiction

4 Sep

I have a problem. I am addicted to mobile live trivia games and it’s kinda sorta ruining my life.

It started innocently enough. My brother’s girlfriend introduced us to HQ Trivia. We were sitting around the kitchen table at my parents’ house a few months ago when her phone pinged at 2:58pm.

“Hey, it’s almost 3pm, we can play HQ Trivia!” she exclaimed.

We gathered around her phone as Scott Rogowsky asked us 12 multiple choice questions. The live aspect of it was appealing — playing against people all around the world in the moment. But the prospect of winning real live money was even more appealing. However many winners there are split the prize pot, which is usually $5,000 or £1,000, and on Sunday nights is $25,000 or £8,000.

After my brother and his girlfriend went home, both my parents and I downloaded the HQ app onto our phones. Because I have a UK phone number, I could only play the UK game. The US game (which apparently everyone in the world can play except for those in the UK) airs at 3pm and 9pm EST on weekdays and only 9pm on weekends, while the UK game has the same schedule only in BST. Which means when I was in the US I was playing 4 HQ games a day — the UK 3pm game at 10am EST, helping my mom with the US 3pm game on her phone, playing the UK 9pm game at 4pm EST, then at 9pm EST my parents and I would stop whatever we were doing to play HQ.

It was fun at first. It brought us together and gave us a chance to show off our random knowledge. On the Sunday night big prize games, UK players can play the US version, presuming they can stay awake until 2am, but it worked out well for me when I was in Kentucky. Each game each day brought a new thrill — maybe this time would be our Slumdog Millionaire moment, when each question relates to our own life experiences and expertise and we win big!

That’s part of why it started to become a problem. If any show could be my winning show, missing a show became difficult. I had to revolve my life around being on my phone at 10am, 3pm, 4pm, and 9pm. One night we thought about going to see a movie in the evening, but decided against it because we wouldn’t be able to play the special NBA Finals $400,000 prize game.

I thought things would be different once I got back to the UK and could only play twice a day. But then I discovered HQ isn’t the only mobile live trivia game. So I started playing Q Live at 1pm, HQ at 3pm, Q Live again at 8pm, Cash Show at 8:30pm, and HQ at 9pm. I had to plan my run or errands so they would fit between 1:15pm when Q Live ended and 3pm when HQ started.

“Maybe we’ll stop playing once we win,” my mom said a few weeks into our HQ obsession.

But then she and my dad both won on the same night — a whole 17 cents each. Because that’s the thing — if the questions are easy enough for you to win, they’re easy enough for a lot of people to win. The thrill of winning was sweet, but fleeting — we wanted to win a bigger prize.

I won my first UK game on August 1st. I was especially proud because the UK show is harder for me as an American — a lot of the questions are about UK history, football or TV shows I’m not familiar with. I won £2.65, which is $3.47. I was elated. But I didn’t stop playing.

HQ had a special 3-show night to celebrate its 1-year birthday on Sunday, August 26th. The first show started at 8pm EST, which was 1am BST, around my bedtime. But I stayed up to play. I got out on the 8th question, but my dad ended up winning — 40 cents! Then Scott said the next show would be at 8:30pm, 1:30am for me, but it was only 15 minutes away, so I decided to play. And I won! $7.22!

hq trivia win

There were questions about Chinese culture and ancient Greek language — it was my Slumdog Millionaire moment! I should have gone to bed after winning, but there was another show in 15 minutes, and with my adrenaline pumping there was no way I’d be able to go to sleep before 2am anyway. So I played and lost.

Since my big win I’ve been trying to ween myself off. But they recently added a new feature that rewards you with an extra life (an ability to rejoin the game if you get 1 question wrong) if you play 5 days in a row. Way to reel people in, HQ. Besides, if I don’t play, I can’t win, and who’s to say the next game won’t be my biggest win yet?

Send help. And extra lives.

The heatwave that never ends

26 Jul

When does a heatwave stop being a heatwave and just become the weather? This is the fifth week of this heatwave. Is this oppressive heat just what English summer is now?

English summer used to be 2 or 3 days — it didn’t even have to occur during the proper summer, it could happen in April, July, or October. The sun would come out, the temperatures would soar into the 80s, half of the population would flock to the park or beach to sunbathe, and the other half of us closed the curtains, cranked up the fan, and got on social media to complain about their face melting. Then it went back to 60s or low 70s and overcast and all was well.

I miss that summer! I do not like this new summer one bit. It is 96 out there right now. 96! That’s 36C. Someone posted this on Reddit:

london summer heatwave

Yesterday I went to see a matinee solely because I wanted to sit in an air conditioned theatre for two hours. But I got so sweaty walking to and from the theatre that it all felt in vain (except, of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the show, Fun Home). This weather is taking a toll on me both mentally and physically. I hate everyone and everything and have no energy to do anything. After weeks of suffering in my unairconditioned flat, I have come up with a solution: water. Not drinking it or swimming it, but covering myself with it. The minute my hair starts to dry after I take a shower, I wet it again. Whenever I wash my hands, I splash water on my arms and neck. I look ridiculous, but working from home has its perks. Then I sit 6 inches from the fan and wait for this whole heatwave to blow over.

wait for this to blow over gif

Except it’s not, because this isn’t a heatwave, this is summer now, and deargodimgoingtodiecanistartsummeringiniceland?sdajfksdja kldsfjaksldfjaklsd

3 things that are surprisingly more expensive in the US than in London

30 May

homer that sounds expensive.gif

London is expensive. That’s often the first thing people mention when I tell them I live there. Things like housing, petrol/gas, and movie theatre tickets cost way more than they do in Chicago or New York, yet alone suburban Kentucky. But on this recent visit back to the states, I’ve realized there are three things that are surprisingly expensive in America compared to London.

Groceries, especially produce

I first went to Aldi in the UK a few years ago. Produce is generally cheap at Tesco (a major supermarket chain), but produce at Aldi is a whole ‘nother level of cheap. I raved about Aldi so much I inspired my mom to check out the Aldi in northern Kentucky. She agreed that the produce deals couldn’t be beat. But it was only when I went to the Kentucky Aldi that I realized we had different definitions of “cheap produce.” For example, a stalk of broccoli at Aldi UK costs 39p, approximately 50 cents. At Aldi KY it’s $1.99. At Tesco I can get organic mushrooms for £1 ($1.33). At Kroger that would be $3.99. At Tesco a red bell pepper is 55p (73 cents). At Kroger it’s $1.50. The U.S. prices don’t even include sales tax, so they’re actually even higher! I’m comparing the most expensive city in the UK to one of the cheaper cities in the U.S., too. I recently read an article on Business Insider comparing London supermarkets with New York.  London’s Tesco Express won by a landslide! Who would have thought Tesco would be one thing I’d miss when I’m back in the U.S.?

Toilet paper

I never realized I was a toilet paper snob until now. In London there aren’t many options, so I just buy Tesco Luxury Soft Toilet Tissue, which always seems to be on sale 2 for £6 (that’s two nine-roll packs for £6, so 18 rolls for $8). It’s generic for Andrex, which is British for Cottonelle. But it turns out that even though they both use cute puppies in their ads, British Cottonelle is very different from American Cottonelle, which I recently discovered is the worst toilet paper ever created. My mom bought it because it was on sale and she had coupons, and even then it wasn’t that cheap. Without any coupons, a 6-roll pack of Cottonelle costs $8! In the UK, I get 3 times as much TP for that, and it is not the worst toilet paper ever created. I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to buy my own toilet paper when I’m visiting my parents, which is probably why I forgot how much American toilet paper costs, but I hated the Cottonelle so much I decided to buy my own 4-pack of a different brand, thinking it’d be like $2, since a 4-pack in London is £1.75. A 6-pack of Charmin still set me back $5 (it was on sale too and I had a $1 off coupon – normally that 6-pack would be $9.49!) and it’s only marginally better than the Cottonelle. I’d still prefer the generic Tesco tissue. Considering Americans are known for their horrible eating habits which inevitably leads to horrible bowel issues, you’d think they’d have the toilet paper game down. Or maybe that’s exactly why it costs so much. All I know is I’m tempted to throw a 9-pack of Tesco TP in my suitcase for my next visit!

Theatre tickets

I’m going to New York next week to meet up with Stephen. While he’s in meetings, I figured I’d take in a Broadway show. So I started looking at shows on the TodayTix app to decide which one I wanted to see, and I realized something: Broadway shows are freaking expensive! That should seem obvious (it’s Broadway!) but I’m so used to seeing West End shows for so cheap. Thanks to day seats and the TodayTix app, I rarely pay more than £25 ($33) for a ticket. TodayTix seems to function differently in New York and has way less lotteries and rush tickets than they do in London. They mostly just give 30 to 50% off, which means the tickets usually still cost more than $100. I’d really like to see Come From Away, a musical about the small Newfoundland town that took in 7,000 stranded passengers on 9/11, but a matinee ticket on TodayTix is $227. I could try the TKTS booth when I get there, which is what every tourist seems to do, but there’s a chance they won’t have that show, and even if they do, a ticket will likely still set me back more than $100. It’s not just Broadway shows that are pricy, either. Part of the reason I think I wasn’t enamored with Hamilton when I saw it in Chicago last year was because I kept thinking about how expensive it was (and we got the cheapest seats possible!). Even seeing the Nutcracker in Milwaukee set me back more than a West End show. London theatre scene, you’ve truly spoiled me!

Despite my papercuts (cheeky Hello Internet reference there!), I’m having a lovely time visiting friends and family back home. It’s oppressively hot which has made running and basically everything else outdoors miserable, but I’m trying to keep my weather-related complaints to a minimum of 8 times a day.

That time I ate so much nutritional yeast I got a rash

26 Apr

nutritional yeastAre you familiar with nutritional yeast? If you’re not a vegan, vegetarian or health nut, you probably aren’t. I remember I went in search of it 6 year ago(!) when my health nut phase was just beginning and no one in the UK had ever heard of it. In fact, they sold me brewer’s yeast, which is absolutely not the same thing. (I wrote about it in this post, where I also marveled at the concept of almond butter. Funny how quickly things change, almond butter is all over the US and UK now and while still expensive, it’s way cheaper than £11!)

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is grown on molasses. It has a nutty, almost cheese-like flavor, which is why it’s popular with vegans. It’s also popular because it’s high in B vitamins and often fortified with B12, which is normally only available through animal products. I’ve been enjoying it for years now, sprinkling it on pasta, soup and sweet potatoes, but ever since I went pescetarian 6 months ago, I’ve been eating it even more.

A few days ago I was making one of my favorite dinners — lentil and chickpea pasta with kale, mushrooms and pesto, and got out the container of nutritional yeast so I would remember to stir some into the pasta at the end. All of a sudden it hit me how hungry I was, and there was no way I could wait 9 minutes for the pasta to be done. I needed to eat immediately. So I got out some stale rice crackers and sprinkled them with the nutritional yeast (or “nooch” as those in the food blog community often call it). When I finished the rice crackers, I grabbed a pinch of just nutritional yeast and sprinkled it into my mouth. Then suddenly I had a spoon in my hand and was shoveling the nooch into my mouth like it was cereal. This was not a proud moment, but I convinced myself it was better than binging on nut butter, and nutritional yeast was nutritional — it has it right there in the name! I wasn’t keeping track of how much I was eating, but considering a serving size is 5g, I probably ate at least 50g, maybe even 100g. Did I mention I’m not proud of this?

I finally cut myself off and got to prepping the vegetables. I boiled water for corn and reached my arm across the hot pasta burner to get the corn pot. I didn’t think much of it, but a few minutes later my arm started to burn.

“I didn’t get that close to the burner, there’s no way I burned myself!” I thought. I looked down at my arm. It was red. Really red. In fact, both arms were. They were covered in hives like I was having some kind of allergic reaction, but there was nothing around for me to be allergic to. My skin was hot and itchy like I had a sunburn. I ran to the mirror and saw that my face and ears were also red.

“What is happening to me?!” I said out loud.

I ate my pasta with one hand, the other hand imputing my symptoms into Google on my phone. The only culprit I could think of was the nutritional yeast, even though I’d eaten it hundreds of times before. There was no way I could be allergic to it!

I searched nutritional yeast and hives until finally I got an answer.

Niacin.

Nutritional yeast is high in B vitamins, one of which is niacin. I remembered reading about niacin as a possible cholesterol lowering supplement, but when I asked my doctor about it, he said it’s not usually recommended anymore because of the flush.

The flush.

I was having a niacin flush. I had consumed so much nutritional yeast I gave myself a niacin flush.

I looked at the nutritional label of the nooch. A 5g serving has 17mg of niacin, which is already 107% of the recommended daily amount. If I ate 50g of nooch, that would be 170mg of niacin, and I probably ate more than 50g of nooch. Google tells me that consuming 100mg or more of niacin can trigger a flush, so that had to be what I was experiencing.

I was relieved to find the cause of my reaction and embarrassed that my binging had such immediate physical results. It was definitely a wake up call that just because something is healthy doesn’t mean you should consume spoonfuls of it. Even water can be toxic in extreme amounts!

I laid off the nooch for a few days, but I’m happy to report that I had some on my pasta tonight with no adverse effects. There’s nothing like a good red, hot rash all over your body to make you conscientious of recommended serving sizes!

Love at first ink dip

4 Apr

Remember how I said I’d like to focus on lettering and calligraphy in 2018?

I have been. Perhaps even a little too much.

I started with basic brush lettering. I didn’t really know what I was doing and my work was pretty sloppy, but I made an Instagram account and started posting photos of my work. I was inspired by all the great stuff posted by other hand lettering artists and calligraphers, and tried to copy some of their styles.

Then this idea popped into my head: I should take a class. As an anti-social introvert, this was a big deal. I always wanted to learn pointed pen calligraphy, so I signed up for a class at Quill London, a little modern calligraphy shop near Angel. I was nervous —  more about the social aspect of the class than the calligraphy — but the instructor and fellow students were all welcoming and lovely. And the minute I dipped my nib into the ink for the first time, I fell in love. Pointed pen was what was missing from my life. I was able to achieve those distinct thin and thick lines I had been trying for with brush pens. The class consisted of a little instruction, but mostly it was just dedicated practice time. The instructor walked around and corrected our form and answered our questions. Honestly, I should have taken advantage of her more, but I was entranced. I wrote out the alphabet repeatedly, then tried a few words. By the end of the three hours my hand was cramping and sore, but I was riding an inexplicable high.

It’s hard to explain the thrill I get from what is essentially fancified handwriting. There’s something calming about the repetitive movements and the sound of the nib scratching on paper. And of course there’s the Instagram likes. I try not to do it just for that, but when the likes and follows start to flow in from Internet strangers, it’s hard not to get caught up in it. For now it’s just a hobby, and I’ve told myself I’ll keep doing it as long as it brings me joy. The minute I feel like I “have to” create and post something instead of I “get to” or “want to,” then I know it’s time to stop.

reneedezvous