Tag Archives: Panda

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?)


The time is nigh

16 Sep

Last night as I was planning my tube journey to Kew Gardens and researching tapering, it happened. Amidst the panic and fear, I felt a pang of excitement for this half marathon. Of course it was fleeting and I went right back to “What if the train is delayed? What if my knee or hip starts hurting in the middle of the race? How am I going to get up at 6:30, I’m going to be so tired!” — but it was there. I hope it comes back when I’m standing at the start line.

There’s not much I can do now though. I’m not even sure I tapered correctly — maybe doing my longest run ever only 6 days before the race wasn’t the best plan? I think I’ve had enough time to recover. Nobody seems to agree about tapering though. Some sites say you don’t even need to taper for a half. Some say don’t run at all 2 days before the race. Others say do a short “shake out” run either the day before or 2 days before. I did a Pokerun yesterday and walked a bit today, but I’m on the fence about whether I want to do my usual 4-mile run tomorrow. I’m leaning towards no, since I want to be as fresh and not-sore as possible Sunday morning, but I also know it’s sometimes hard to do a long run after too many days off. The struggle, man, the struggle.

Since this is my first half marathon, I haven’t set a time goal for myself. My primary goal is just to finish and not take too many walking breaks. I want to be able to say I ran a half marathon, not just that I finished one. I’m a little concerned about the running 13.1 miles nonstop bit though — my 10 miles I ran earlier this week was punctuated with stoplight breather breaks. I really wish they had those during races. Hopefully the excitement will carry me through!

Here’s to 13.1 and before-I-turn-30 goals that seemed like a good idea at the time!

baby panda running.gif

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

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

The great half marathon conundrum

5 Feb

Sometime last year a friend and I were talking about a very specific kind of “bucket list” — things we wanted to do before we turned 30.

My friend, who has run half marathons in the past and had a baby in 2014, said she’d like to be done having kids by the time she turns 30. I never really thought much about my before 30 to-do list, but just then it was out of my mouth before I could take it back: “I’d like to run a half marathon.”

I started running in May 2013 with the couch to 5K program. Since then I’ve run two 5K and 3 10K races and got under my goal 10K time, but for the most part I’ve been stuck in a run 3-5 miles 3-5 times a week rut. A half marathon seemed like the perfect goal to work towards. And since London and the Royal Parks have played such a big part in my running journey, I decided the London Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon would be the perfect first half for me.

I knew training for a half marathon would be hard. I knew running for 13.1 miles would be hard. But I didn’t expect securing a spot in the race to be the hardest part.

I went to the website a few months ago to do some preliminary research and see when registration opened. I thought the course through central London and the royal parks looked amazing — and apparently 100,000some other runners thought so too. It turns out the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon is so popular that there is a public ballot to secure a place. A metric crap-ton of runners enter and only 16,000 are chosen. I entered the ballot last week and crossed my fingers.

royal parks half ballot.png

I tried to keep my hopes up — 16,000 is a lot of spots, surely one of them could be mine! — but the more I browsed the half’s official Facebook page, the more I lost hope. People have entered every single year and never won a spot.

At 11:34am today I received an email titled “The Results Are In.” The fact that it didn’t say “Congratulations!” made it feel like a small envelope from a prospective university.
Sure enough, I was right.

royal parks half ballot email.png

I was gutted. This was supposed to be my grand plan for 2016, and just like that it vanished.

The email assured me that charity spots were still up for grabs, so I went to check them out. Maybe I could run for a breast cancer charity in celebration of my mom being cancer-free for 10 years. Or I could join WWF’s Team Panda (!!) which comes with this kit:

wwf half marathon kit.png

There’s just one little issue with claiming a charity spot: it comes at a cost. A big one. You must raise £400. I really, really hate asking my friends and family for money. I get flashbacks to slinging Girl Scout cookies, magazines and wrapping paper as a kid. I spent days canvassing the neighborhood and harassing distant relatives, but in the end my only customers were usually my parents and grandparents. I hate bugging people for money so much that I’d probably just put up all the money myself, which is equivalent to $579 at the current exchange rate. As my cursor hovered around “Get a WWF place,” it hit me — what are you doing?! Are you really going to spend (or beg your friends and family for) $600 so you can fulfill some stupid before-I-turn-30 dream?

If I want to run 13.1 miles before I turn 30, there’s nothing stopping me (well, aside from my exercise-induced asthma and general out-of-shapeness). Doing it on an official course with cheering crowds and a medal at the end would be nice, but it’s definitely not worth £400 (even if that £400 goes to a good cause).

Maybe I’ll try the ballot again next year or time a visit to Cincinnati around one of their half marathons, like the Flying Pig. But until then I guess I’ll save my money and keep hitting the pavement, slowing working my way up to a long run of 13.1.

Spontaneous Scottish train trip

27 Aug

About two weeks ago Stephen came home from work and asked if I wanted to go to Scotland. So last week we went to Scotland. Normally I don’t do well with last-minute trips — I was still working on planning our upcoming Istanbul and Cannes holiday — but I decided to embrace it. We overpaid for the train and hotel thanks to the Fringe, but we made it to Edinburgh. I was apprehensive about visiting in August, when the population of Edinburgh allegedly doubles because of the festivals, but it surprisingly wasn’t bad. There were crowds of people on the Royal Mile where the festival was headquartered, which was to be expected, but elsewhere like the castle we didn’t have to wait in line (I’m sorry, “queue.”). I really enjoyed Edinburgh as a city — even with the festival and people, it had an authentic aura. I was impressed that there wasn’t a souvenir stand on every corner like in some tourist-heavy cities (just the occasional kilt-wearing storm trooper posing for pics). Stephen kept comparing elements of it to Harry Potter, like the stadium adjacent to the castle for the Edinburgh Tattoo (JK Rowling allegedly wrote a lot of Harry Potter while in Edinburgh. The local cafe has capitalized on this). Side note: If there are several different festivals and events going on in Edinburgh during August and one of them is called “Edinburgh Tattoo,” would you also assume it would be full of people with full sleeves and face tats? Nope, it’s a military performance. Apparently I have zero knowledge of military terms.

Does this make you think of Hogwarts and quidditch?

edinburgh castle tattoo

(Click photos to enlarge)

edinburgh castle stadium

Shows for the Fringe were publicized everywhere. I don’t know who this comedian is, but if the pug is part of his act I really should have gone.

edinburgh fringe pug

And now some random photos I took around Edinburgh and hastily edited.

edinburgh treeedinburgh rose edinburgh houseedinburgh cemetery

edinburgh arthurs seat   edinburgh street

We were only there for about 29 hours, and while we saw a lot — and walked a lot, 9 miles each day according to my FitBit — I would not mind going back again. It so happens that the only pandas in the UK are at the Edinburgh Zoo, but the exhibit was closed while we were there because they suspect the panda is pregnant. If a baby panda is not the perfect reason to go back sometime, I don’t know what is.

Regent Street Christmas Lights and How Jessie J Made Me an Amoeba

20 Nov

Yesterday I ran around Christmas shopping. I mean that in the most literal sense — I laced up my running shoes and ran three miles to Oxford Street, then on to Regent Street and Piccadilly, awkwardly hugging my shopping bags as I weaved in and out of crowds of pedestrians, all of whom gave me rightful odd looks for being the crazy person who dared to run on what have to be three of London’s most congested sidewalks (what they call “pavement.”)  I like to think it was practice for my big race on Thanksgiving where I may have to weave around walkers and fellow runners. My run to the first store was purely exercise and training, but running between stores was more out of necessity because I was freezing. In fact, I stopped at Lillywhites to buy some thermal base layer shirts because it’s getting a little too cold to just layer on another T-shirt, and it’s not exactly easy to move when you look like this:


Since I often head back to the US for Thanksgiving and stay through Christmas, I don’t have any problem with London getting into the Christmas spirit in early November. (There’s no Thanksgiving to get in the way of Christmas magic!) The other day my friend asked me if I’ve been taking any photos lately, and it dawned on me — that used to be what I enjoyed and blogged about before my life was consumed by looking for a flat, moving, unpacking, and lately, working. So last Tuesday, the first day it wasn’t raining, my camera and I went down to Oxford Street to do a little shopping and take in the lights.

I came out of a store around 4:30 pm and was surprised that the lights were not on yet. Then as I made my way to Selfridge’s, I noticed more and more people gathering on the sidewalks and the street had been blocked off. When I came out of Selfridge’s, I could barely move. I crossed the street to try to avoid the crowds, but they absorbed me. We moved like a giant amoeba as police officers guided us around the block, denying us access to the stage in front of Selfridges because of the crowds. Thanks to the rubberneckers and inquisitive onlookers, we moved slower than a snail’s pace, but I learned that that night — the night I chose to leisurely walk around and take photos and shop — was in fact the night that Jessie J was to perform and officially switch on the Oxford Street lights. I just wanted to get to the other end of the street! Eventually the bottleneck broke and I was free to take back roads to Regent Street, where the lights had been turned on days earlier.

regent street lights

The lights were similar, if not the same, as last year, showcasing the 12 Days of Christmas.

regent street christmas

I like the above photo because you get the effect of almost getting run over by a double decker bus, which happens all too often.

london christmas lightsMy next stop was Carnaby Street, a tucked away pedestrian street that always has an impressive Christmas display.

carnaby street 2013

They also have some quirky shops, like the place that sells this panda getup that even I wouldn’t wear:

crazy panda outfit

And then my hands got too cold so I took the bus home. From the window of the bus I saw the hordes of people trying to get into the Oxford Circus Tube Station after the performance was over — it had to have been at least 20 people thick on all sides, just trying to get INTO the station, never mind onto a train. The Evening Standard said queues were up to 30 minutes! Score one for the bus wankers!