Monday, 28 October 2013

PEACHES!

Bring me peaches, lots of peaches.  They are the best thing evaaaaaaaaar!!!  Okay, maybe I can think of some things that are better than peaches, but oh my.  Breakfast this morning was out-of-this-world good.  I know I'm a little unusual in that I'll happily sit at the computer or on my phone for an hour or so debating with myself about which breakfast recipe I should try next.  For example, last night I was flicking back and forth between peach breakfast bake, peach oat smoothie, or some other peach and oatmeal concoction (such as baked peach almond oatmeal).  You'll see the recurring theme here - peach.  I had half a peach left to use up, after having made grilled peach oatmeal the previous morning.  Which, by the way, was amazeballs:

I had a drizzle of maple syrup on top - delish!

I grilled the peach in the oven and just used normal rolled oats because I still haven't bought any steel cut oats (which I'm happy to see are now available at the supermarket.  Also now available at the supermarket - Sweet William dairy free milk chocolate.  Win!!).  So after much deliberation, and getting a little sidetracked with thoughts of a PB&J date smoothie (tomorrow perhaps - I happen to have four medjool dates left in the fridge) I settled on the peach breakfast bake.  I don't have shredded wheat so I used two Weetbix instead (basically the same thing, right?), and cut down the recipe to approximate 1/3 measurements (in other words, I basically just winged it), baked it for about 30 minutes (maybe more like 27 - I got impatient) then dished it up with some peach and mango soy yogurt:


OMNOMNOMNOMNOM!!!

Let's just say I'm glad I only made one serving, because if I'd made a three person serving as per the recipe, I'd have eaten the whole thing.  Damn, that was good!  Sadly, I am once again out of peach.  Oh well, perhaps I should start working my way through the pears in the fruit bowl...

The veganised cinnamon rolls were a resounding success - they were eaten by no less than eight family members (I had some extended family that just happened to be passing through at the time - we'd met them at the airport and they called in briefly for breakfast before heading up north with mum and dad).  Sadly, it didn't occur to me to take a picture of them in the dish before I'd served them up.  But oh, they did look so very pretty.  This batch (only the second batch I've ever made) came out looking so much better than the first, which was all wonky and not very well rolled.  And it tasted awesome.  Dad didn't say anything about the taste, so I can only assume he didn't notice they were made with soy milk and olivani spread.  Which I found kind of funny since he put something in the fridge the day before, on top of the olivani with the comment that "I won't be needing that".  Haha!  I was almost tempted to make another batch just so I could take a photo...  Luckily I came to my senses and just ate T's leftovers instead.  I promise to take a picture next time, which will probably be the Christmas batch.  Can't wait!

Our long weekend has been pretty good.  We went to Armageddon on Saturday.  It's a really neat event but unfortunately is now so crowded with random people just being nosy (ie: not fans) that it is very hard to move around and see everything.  I'm not comfortable in large crowds, and apparently neither is X.  T was being carried on Deane's shoulders most of the time, so I was in charge of X, who would wrap my arm tightly around his neck and cling on to it like a burr.  I was basically glued to him and had to shuffle carefully so as not to trip us both up.  Not the easiest or most comfortable way to walk!  A couple of hours was enough for us to have a look around, and I was more than happy to escape the sea of heaving bosoms and painted flesh for a bit of fresh air.

On Sunday I went for a longer-than-planned run in the morning.  I had decided to do a 15km - my current favourite route up Hepburn, along K Road and Carlton Gore Road, down Ayr Street and around Shore Road to Tamaki Drive.  I figured I wouldn't be out that long so I didn't put on sunscreen or take my hydration pack or any refueling snacks and decided that if I happened across a shortcut, I'd take it.  I had noticed the last time that there was a walkway - Hobson Bay Walkway - that cut around the hillside, and I was curious about it.  The walkway is visible from Orakei Road.  I thought that perhaps it would join up over the other side of Hobson Bay and I'd be able to shorten my run by a kilometre or two, being conscious of the fact that the half marathon is next weekend and I'm supposed to be tapering so I have enough juice for the race.  So when I found a start point to the pathway just past the Shore Road Reserve, I took it.  It was a rather nice little detour:

After this view, I had the Teddy Bears' Picnic song stuck in my head for the rest of my run.  'If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise...'






Unfortunately, it had a dead end.  Or at least I thought it did.  I went up these stairs which took me to Logan Terrace, because it looked as though the path ended.  I had no idea where Logan Terrace was, or how to navigate home from there, so decided my only option was to head back the way I had come and run the original route.  This ended up turning my 15km-or-less run into an 18km!!  Oops...


I had a look at several online maps when I got home (after some yoga - my hips needed a good stretch after all those hills!) and it would appear that the pathway does continue on much further than I thought.  Having said that, it appears to end in Hobson Bay, and doesn't seem to join up with (or near) the Point Resolution Bridge in Point Park, which by the way would be really handy... It looks as though the Council are working on the walkways around the area though, so I'll keep an eye out for any new developments.  In the meantime I guess the only way to get from one side of Hobson Bay to the other is to go around the outside, or cut through parts of Parnell.  Maybe take the pathway through Awatea Reserve up to Awatea Road and carry on to St Stephens Ave.  I also noticed there's a new walkway around Orakei Basin on the other side of the bridge.  Hmm, new running route...?

Perhaps it wasn't the best time to be doing it, but I enjoyed going exploring.  It was out of the ordinary for me (I'm usually quite firmly in the 'stick to what you know' camp), and I think I'll have to try it again some time.  What better way to learn about the place than to go adventuring?

Later that day we took a walk down to Queens Wharf to check out the tall ships that are in port for the long weekend.  Very cool!  The boys were only mildly interested though.  They're tough to please - they merely shrugged their shoulders when we took them to Disney World and Universal Studios in the US.  Kids these days ;)

We have now arrived at the last day of the long weekend.  I still haven't worked on my assignment.  I guess that will be my mission for today then.  I hope you're enjoying some good weather wherever you are.  Go out and soak some of it up, and spare a thought for me...

Friday, 25 October 2013

Labour Weekend

This weekend I will be labouring over my assignment that I still have not managed to complete because it is taking waaaaaaaaaaaaay longer than I thought it would, and is proving far more challenging than expected.  Surprise!  The long weekend is going to be boring and not at all filled with laziness, reading and crafting.  Sad face.  I will most definitely be going for a run on Sunday though.  I think it'll have to be about 15-16km at the most, since the half marathon is next weekend (eek!).

I had two great runs this week, complete with pictures.  Here's some from my 12km on Tuesday:




Such pretty colours.  I sometimes wish there wasn't any traffic around to ruin the peacefulness of the early morning.  But then I'd feel a little less safe about running at that time, so I suppose it's a trade-off.

For Thursday's 14km, I got out the door before 6am and oh, it was beautiful:


Would you just look at that?  Gorgeous, isn't it?  That was actually on the way back.  I happened to look over my shoulder to see the sun peeking up over the hill and just had to stop and snap a picture.  Absolutely stunning.  On the way out to Okahu Bay (my turnaround point) it looked a little more like this:



Still pretty but not quite as spectacular, don't you agree?  I'm a little bummed that my phone camera doesn't take very good night shots, because the Sky Tower has looked rather neat the last couple of months and is usually still lit up when I head out.  It's been pink all this month, and was blue during September.  My particular favourites have been when it was rainbow coloured for pride week and when the marriage equality bill was passed, and sometimes they do a cool orange and purple combo.  Fun :)  But I digress...

My run on Thursday morning, as I said, was fabulous and filled with lovely views of the sunrise, but my GPS tracking had a meltdown and clocked my run at 19km.  Um, don't think so...  Especially when it tried to tell me I had run 4km at 0'00" pace!  It stuffed up all my 'best' records, giving me new fastest 1km and 1 mile times of 0:00, a new fastest 5km time of just over seven minutes, and a new fastest 10km time of half an hour.  Ha!  Not likely!  I've emailed the Nike support crew and they're going to fix it for me.  Bless them.  Although I'm pretty sure it was the new auto pause feature on the running app that caused the problem in the first place, in combination with me taking photos without properly pausing the tracker first.  Note to self: stop taking photos during runs!  I took some sport beans with me for that run to try them out.  During the run they were fine, but I had some issues about half an hour after I got home.  Not sure if that was the sport beans or the espresso coffee though...  Or the lack of breakfast pre-run.  Perhaps I'll stick to Dextro tabs for the half, just to be on the safe side.

The 'rents are heading up as I type this post and should arrive early afternoon, around the time the boys finish school.  They're not staying the whole weekend though (heading further up the island for a spell before stopping by on the way back down at the other end of the weekend) so hopefully I will be able to sequester myself in a room to work on my assignment with minimal distraction.  Fingers crossed.  Perhaps I should lay out a large plastic sheet and stick a big bin full of food and drinks in the middle of the lounge floor first, so as to avoid interruption...

Food-wise, I think I've settled on vegetarianism, with minimal dairy and egg, and no honey.  It appears I just can't quite give up milk chocolate.  Plus I think I'd probably cave to the occasional cheesy indulgence (still thinking about that cheese and apple grilled sandwich...).  I can happily go without most dairy though - soy yogurt is delish (if you get the right ones), and there are all sorts of alternatives for sour cream and mayo - both tofu and nut/seed based are good.  I've rather enjoyed tofu mayo (third recipe, scroll down the page), tofu sour cream and pumpkin seed and cashew 'cheese' in some wraps this week with various combinations, along with this salad and other bits and pieces (avocado, cherry tomato, iceberg lettuce, cucumber...).  Omnomnom!!!  As for the wraps, I've been a bit lazy and haven't made any lately, but have found that the Farrah wraps (I'm using sunflower and linseed at the moment) don't split or crack, so you can wrap them without it all falling apart.  Hurrah!  I also found a ridiculously easy and delicious kale and lentil soup.  It is crazy good.  Although that may have something to do with the vegetable stock I used.  This week what with the enriched soy milk, tofu, grains and lentils, not to mention the oatmeal (I'm getting to that) and my recent rediscovery and enjoyment of scroggin (aka trail mix), I think I've done a pretty good job of getting my important proteins, amino acids, iron, fibre, vitamins, healthy fats, etc etc etc...

I splurged on a delicious, big, juicy peach the other day at the supermarket (I say splurged because that one peach cost $4) and split it into two.  For the first half, I made peach cobbler baked oatmeal.  It was yummy, but I found that the cobbler was too stodgy.  It needed quite a large splash of soy milk to accompany it.  For the second half I made a peach and strawberry oatmeal, based on this peach pie oatmeal recipe.  I just added strawberries because I thought they'd go well with the peach.  I was right ;)  I enjoyed that peach so much I decided to buy another one for another two breakfasts.  I ain't sharing my peach with nobody!  Of course, nobody else in this house wants it anyway, so that makes it easier to keep to myself ;)  Deane's allergic, and the kids don't like them.  Yay, more for me!  I adore the smell of peaches and nectarines, and have a tendency to try and inhale them.  They smell like summer.  I'm slightly weirded out by the fuzz on peaches (and apricots) which is why I'll usually opt for nectarines, but sometimes a fresh, juicy peach is so alluring I can look past its velvety outer skin.  Covering it with other things like oatmeal helps ;)  I'd really like to try grilled peach steel cut oats (or just normal oats) next.  Yum!!

Other foodie plans for the long weekend include making another lentil walnut apple loaf.  I ran out of my freezer stores, so it's time to make another one.  It is so yummy, and really great to have on hand in single portions.  I'll be having this for dinner tonight while everyone else has roast beef.  Tomorrow morning I'm planning a veganised version of cinnamon rolls - I'll let you know how they turn out, and whether anyone notices ;)  I figure it'll be a good test run for Christmas.  Mum enjoyed them so much last Christmas she requested them for this year as well.  I'd hate to try and alter the recipe for Christmas morning only to have it not turn out, so being the good forward-thinking planner that I am, I'll give it a whirl now so I have time to iron out any kinks.  With extra people on hand to help eat them, I think this weekend is an excellent time to trial an adapted recipe :)  I'll be making a half batch (which will be a quarter of the original recipe) because this recipe makes a ridiculously large amount of cinnamon rolls!

So, how about you?  Got plans for the long weekend?  Or if you're from somewhere other than New Zealand, got plans for your normal-length weekend? ;)  See you next week!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Oops, I did it again...

I got a book out of the library and had to return it before it was finished.  Even worse, this time I didn't even start the book!  Ugh.  Sometimes I'm not very good at managing my time to fit in all the things.  This isn't to say that I haven't read anything at all.  I recently finished Summer Knight by Jim Butcher (not to mention half a statistics text book and all the online reading for my two papers) but I don't have the time to read everything I want to read.  A common problem for many, I'm sure.  My reading list grows longer by the day!  (Most recent additions, the two books written by Eleanor Catton - congrats to her for winning this year's Man Booker prize with The Luminaries!!).  I would say 'roll on Christmas holidays' because this often means lots of relaxation time and therefore more reading/knitting time, but I'm doing another paper over summer so there won't be quite as much as usual.  Oh well, we all make sacrifices ;)

My weekend was a pretty good one.  We got a new oven (thanks landlords!), I made that apple butter (it's yum), turned some of it into apple cinnamon peanut butter which was delicious on wholegrain toast with sliced banana,  I squished in two runs (a long-ish one and a short one), went to knitting, and ate lots of yummy food.

I enjoyed a 15km run on Saturday, heading out at around 9.30am.  It was already pretty warm by then, reminding me of why I started running early mornings again.  Still, it was nice to get out.  I did a reverse of the 15km loop that took in Ayr Street, instead choosing to have the killer hill (Hepburn Street) at the beginning to get it over and done with.


Which meant I got to traipse happily down Ayr Street instead of up it.  Much easier!  This did of course mean I had to run up Shore Road and Orakei Road instead.  Thankfully, they're not as brutal ;)  Nothing particularly noteworthy about that run although there was some nice scenery to take in, but I didn't stop to snap any pics.  Perhaps next time.

My Sunday run was only 5km and I had a wee break in the middle of it - the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year exhibition is on display in Wynyard Quarter so I stopped for a while and took in some amazing photography.  Beautiful pictures.  If you're in Auckland Central, be sure to stop by and have a look, it's worth it.  The exhibition is on until 13th November:


Later in the day during my walk to knitting at Mezze, I partook in some more visual delights, this time in the form of the Love Your City display in Lorne Street across from the public library.  Some really neat candid snaps from around the Central Auckland area by amateur photographers, uploaded to Instagram with a specific hashtag.  Which has now made me want to sign up to Instagram.  Like I need another time suck app...

In foodie news - I'm trying to figure out a fail-safe baked oatmeal recipe base that I can adjust depending on what additional ingredients I have on hand.  I started out with steel-cut oats (with mashed banana and fresh strawberry for the first batch, and medjool dates and strawberries for the second batch), but now I've run out and have reverted to normal rolled oats.  Not surprisingly, the bake went much quicker and turned out better (the third batch had dried cranberries and apricots, and some sliced almonds).  I'll get some more steel-cut oats soon, but the likelihood of me making more baked oatmeal in the near future is pretty slim since the weather is quickly getting more summery.  Hmm, might be time to get into the overnight oats...  Oats are a great source of iron and protein, particularly when paired with enriched soy milk.  Perhaps one of the reasons why I enjoy eating them so much.  I find you often eat what it is your body needs (if you're paying attention and listening to it that is.  And of course ignore the part of your brain that screams SUGAR!!!  Or maybe that's just me...)  Deane's starting to get a bit pissy about the protein and amino acids I could potentially be missing out on by not eating meat.  I'll be sure to keep an eye out for signs of deficiencies.  But for now I feel great, and have stopped calorie counting and over-analysing my nutritional intake.  I'll just continue eating a well-balanced (mostly plant-based) diet, and maybe up the tofu.

I've been trying out different tofu products, to see which I prefer.  They all vary in consistency, texture and flavour, which makes for some interesting outcomes.  I bought some Soy Works tofu the other week, and was pleased to find that it was entirely a New Zealand product.  The soy beans are grown in New Zealand, and the tofu is manufactured here as well.  Sadly, I found the tofu to have a rather strange burnt taste to it, and it was too dry for my liking.  I made some protein fries with it and they turned into chewy, rubbery sticks that weren't terribly pleasant to eat.  Perhaps if I'd cooked them for half the time they may have been okay.  I believe the other dish I made with this tofu was fine (the crumbed tofu if I remember correctly), but that's when I first noticed the burnt flavour.  Don't think I'll be buying this brand again, much as I'd love to support a wholly New Zealand business.

I made a spinach avocado and tofu salad with some Bean Supreme organic tofu, and again some protein fries (love those things!) - I was happy with both.  Yum!  The texture of the tofu was better than that of the Soy Works tofu, and it wasn't overly dry.

Next on the list is Tonzu organic tofu.  I'm not a fan of their soy yogurt - its fine to have in a smoothie or something, but on its own the consistency is a little lumpy.  Tastes fine, just looks a little dodgy ;)  However their tofu is fabu!  I had some for lunch today, simply fried in a light spray of olive oil and drizzled with a little tamari sauce.  Yum!  And for dinner I made the remainder of the block into sour cream to have on a baked potato.  Omnomnom!  I would happily buy this one again.

If I can be bothered going slightly out of the way or if I remember while I'm passing by, I usually just go to one of the Asian markets in the area and buy non-brand-specific tofu because you get a lot more and it is much cheaper.  I haven't had any problems with quality so far.  But if I'm being lazy, it's supermarket tofu :)

Knitting-wise, I'm making good progress on my versio hoodie - I'm mostly done with the body now, having passed the waist shaping.  Now I just have to knit until I'm happy with the length and do the bottom hem.  After that is the sleeves and hood, and I'm done.  Still no pics... (lazy, I know).

As for running, I read a couple of fellow Auckland runners' blogs this morning (Run to the Mountains and run kiwi run!), and they were both talking about the upcoming half marathon that we're all competing in.  It would appear that we're all in the same boat - nerves are starting to kick in, and we're obsessing about nutrition and hydration, timing (getting to the race on time), pacing (what speed to run at/what race time to aim for), what to wear etc etc.  Coincidentally, both these ladies ran an 18km over the weekend, which makes me wonder if I tapered too early?  My 18km was two weeks ago!  ::Trying not to hyperventilate...::  I guess I just have to be confident in the knowledge that I have run this distance several times over so I know I can do it.  I'd like to beat my North Shore half marathon time of 1:49:55 but I'm not sure I'm up to that pace at the moment.  I guess I'll start behind the 1 hour 50 pacer and see how I go.  If I feel like I won't be able to keep it up, I'll fall back.  This time I'm planning on wearing my hydration pack so I don't have to worry about pile ups at the water stations, although I'm not sure whether I should take Dextro tabs or sport beans.  I haven't had sport beans recently, but I remember they didn't cause any problems when I tried them back in January.  Bit of a gamble perhaps...  maybe I should stick to the Dextro tabs for now.  Decisions, decisions.

Right, time to go do something else - I've been staring at this computer screen all day working on my assignment.  My eyes need a break!  Have a great week people, I'll see you later ;)

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Bliss

Two mornings this week I have been up before dawn, running the streets of Auckland.  Oh, how I missed those early mornings!  It's good to have them back again.  Tuesday morning wasn't the best of mornings to be out and about.  It was very windy, although I didn't notice much until I hit the open areas of Tamaki Drive where the wind was coming straight off the sea.  By golly, it nearly blew me over!  And the sky was cloudy and moody looking, so I didn't get any nice sunrise pictures.  I was happy to just run my 11km and head on home for breakfast before the rain arrived.

This morning was a slightly different story.  The night before I set my Nike app to remind me I wanted to go run at 5.45am, and made a steel cut oatmeal bake ready to go in the oven when I got back.  When I got up I grabbed that out of the fridge and set it on the bench, then I was out the door at 6.01am.  The birds were singing, the air was crisp but just a little bit warm, and the streets were already buzzing with boot-campers, runners and cyclists.  Tamaki Drive was vastly different to Tuesday - the water had barely a ripple in it.  The sky was still cloudy, but not so bad.  I did get a few sunrise pictures on my way:

This one was looking out to Rangitoto Island, before the sun started peeking up over the clouds. 

 It occurred to me that I never really take pictures in the other direction, so here's one looking back towards the city centre

Street lights are still blazing, but the sun is starting to come up.  I love the reflection on the water.

The happy protest man was out again, calling out his cheery good mornings to the passersby.  I guess I've never mentioned him before... He stands on Tamaki Drive most mornings with one sign or other (this morning I believe it was GCSB/CIA or something along those lines) protesting something the government is doing or not doing.  But he's so friendly, waving to all the cars, chatting and saying good morning to everyone.  So I call him the happy protest man (in my head, not to his face).  I think he ran for mayor in the latest election.  Wonder how many votes he got...?

There's something about getting up and out of bed early just to head outdoors.  Most people are still asleep so the streets are quieter than usual, the birds are very vocal, the air is fresh, and there's just so much to enjoy.  Then you've got the whole day ahead of you!  Tuesday was very productive for me - not only did I run 11km, I did all my gardening, a weeks worth of washing and had dinner mostly cooked all before lunch!  Then the afternoon was spent writing up and submitting an assignment.  I felt more than okay with sitting down and knitting that evening (have finished the sleeve increases on my versio hoodie, working my way down to the body increases and splitting off the sleeves).  Today... slightly different.  I've run 12km, but now its 10am and I haven't really done a lot.  My excuse was that I was waiting for the new oven to be delivered ;)  Better get my hustle on - kids shoes and plant pots to buy (for the basil and mint - I'm going to try not to kill these ones...) and I'm going to see if I can hunt out some barista soy milk (so it froths better for my lattes) and some cheap apples (I'm hanging out to try some apple butter).  I hope you have a lovely weekend!

Monday, 14 October 2013

A new addition

To the kitchen, not the family, before anyone starts freaking out or getting over-excited ;)  We went shopping on the weekend in order to purchase my birthday present - a shiny new espresso machine, red to match my knife man and various other kitchen accessories:


Of course, we also had to buy a milk jug, some espresso cups for Deane, and some cute little cups and saucers to go with.  I've checked - normal-sized coffee cups don't fit.  Not to worry, one does not need a large espresso coffee.  One can just have two!  ROFL!  It is rather straight-forward to use, and took all of a few seconds to figure it out.  Sadly, soy milk doesn't froth nearly as well as cows milk (I've done a comparison - I made the boys a fluffy each yesterday).  However, I still get a decent amount of froth and can make a latte either with the little paper coffee pods (in the jar in the picture) or with normal espresso ground coffee:

Coffee by kreachr ;)

Its fun playing with my new machine, but I have to limit myself to two coffees a day since any more than that can cause havoc with my digestive system.  Not to worry, there's still plenty of room for tea :)  I do have Deane to make espresso for though.  And he drinks a lot more coffee than I do!

I had originally set my sights on a Nespresso machine and have been coveting one for over a year.  I remember wanting one for my birthday last year, but ended up getting a TV for upstairs so I could watch the Olympics in peace without having to war with the kids over screen time.  But after much research, thought and discussion, we decided to go with the one we got (it was cheaper by half, and you aren't limited to Nespresso (or other) aluminium pods which may or may not be recycled, and that you have to drop off to the Nespresso store in Newmarket - our machine takes paper pods or normal espresso grind coffee).  I'm very happy with our decision.  Plus, it was way cheaper than getting an iPhone 5, which is what Deane was planning to get me.  Sure, my phone's a little banged up and it's had a hard life, but it still works perfectly and I take it on runs so there's potential for more damage.  Might as well wreck the old one rather than a new one.

Aside from my birthday, last week was a long, slow, uneventful week.  We took the boys to the Auckland Museum - the ocean exhibition was fascinating, and there were many lovely exhibits throughout the museum.  I practically ran through the war memorial floor though.  I always get a little teary-eyed when I think of what people had to suffer through, and the millions upon millions of people who died in horrible conditions (particularly during the holocaust).  I know there is horror and heartbreak and bad things happening all over the world, but I try not to think on it too much - I'd be a completely incoherent emotional wreck if I did.  I have enough trouble with everyday life sometimes (I get emotional over TV and radio ads, that's how ridiculous I am.  Some days I just avoid the news entirely), without adding in historic events I had nothing to do with and no control over.  Ahem... moving on...

I only managed a 5km run on Tuesday and nothing else during the week which, combined with the copious amounts of chocolate consumed and several muffins,* I really needed to get out on Sunday.  After having driven through Auckland Domain on our way to the museum on Monday and seeing how lovely it looked, I really wanted to run through it and enjoy some of the sights.  So off I went, up Hepburn Street (once again, not a good way to start a run.  That hill is a killer!) and along K Road and Grafton Bridge to the Domain.  I snapped a few pics on the way around:

Valkyrie Fountain Statue 

Random tree with a rather impressive root system.  Just found it interesting... 

The Auckland Museum; War Memorial.  And a field of daisies and buttercups.  Pretty. 

Auckland Museum; Main Entrance

It was a lovely sunny day, and I forgot sunscreen yet again.  However I did manage to avoid getting burnt, yet again.  We're coming in to summer though, so my luck with that is sure to run out soon.  I may attach a bottle of sunscreen to the front door handle as a reminder...  There were plenty of shaded areas during my run, particularly through the park and along Symonds Street.  I did get a little lost through the Domain (as I expected I would) but had some fun exploring.  There are quite a few sculptures I missed entirely so I think I'll have to go for another run through there again soon to see if I can spot them, and try a few different paths.  Perhaps even run the Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile and time it to see how long it takes me, now that I know where it is ;)  The rest of Sunday was back to being lazy, in preparation for the boys going back to school (woohoo!!!)

It is now Monday morning, the house has been quiet for over an hour (ah, bliss) and it is time for me to get on with such things as study and housework.  I got the mark back for my second Accessing Information assignment - 92%!  My highest mark yet!  And it has a 40% weighting for the overall grade.  Gotta be happy with that, right?  Now it's on to the last bit of work for the two papers, and trying to decide what paper to do over summer.  Probably Business Communications.  Or perhaps Organisation and Management.  Maybe even both!  Hmm, lets not get crazy...

*Yes I cheated.  I totally, completely did not achieve my self-imposed (and lets be honest, slightly ridiculous) challenge of no baked goods for all of October.  But seriously, who really cares?  In all fairness, I have cut back significantly compared to recent months.  That's something, right?

Friday, 11 October 2013

Turning 34, and becoming a stalker

Today I am 34.  Yesterday I was 33.  Odd how you're suddenly a whole year older but you still feel exactly the same.  My plans of a run at Cornwall Park were scuppered this morning - I had to stay in bed so Deane and the boys could bring me breakfast (PB&J and banana on wholegrain toast and a cup of tea, as requested at 3am during an unusual moment of Deane being awake in the middle of the night - what better time to put in your breakfast request?) and give me gifts wrapped in fabric and tied with safety pins (someone's been rifling through my craft supplies again) - two large blocks of Whittaker's chocolate, and two tubes of Olay moisturiser with SPF50 sunscreen.  The message, one can only guess, is "eat more junk, we're sick of all the vegetables, and don't get burnt when you're running this summer, your tan lines already look weird enough".  Deane then had to go to a meeting which meant I couldn't go out for a late morning run.  In any case, it's a little wet and chilly outside.  This gives me the perfect excuse to be lazy and knit instead ;)  I've started the Versio sweater (using the pattern notes for a modified hood by another Raveler - I'm not one for big collars) and am working on the sleeve increases at the moment.  I knit a swatch yesterday and found that although my gauge was a little tighter than the pattern recommended, it was easily stretchable to the correct size so will block out quite easily.  Having read through some people's notes, I've decided that knitting the medium size (which is the size needed for my wide shoulders) and not reducing down to the extra small size (for my non-existent boobs) will probably work fine for what I'm aiming for - a relatively loose-knit, kinda floppy light sweater that can go over a bikini or tank top when the weather gets a little cooler on summer evenings, or when we're at the beach and I want something light to throw on.  Whether this will actually work in practice is another thing, but we'll see how it goes.

As for the 'stalker' part of my post title, I was in the kitchen the other day and realised that several of the things I'd eaten recently or was planning on eating, and the stuff I was looking at in the jars on my bench all came from one website - Oh She Glows.  I was starting to think that if Angela was magically transported into my kitchen and saw my menu board and the jars sitting beneath it, she'd think I was some crazy stalker lady.  Maybe she already does.  Maybe that's why she didn't acknowledge my last tweet...  hahaha!

But seriously, she has some amazing recipes.  The latest I've tried have been the black bean and potato nacho plate:

I skipped the nachos - the wedges were more than enough!

Yesterday's lunch was a tropical mango, banana and pineapple kale salad:

YUM!!

I was going to have the same for lunch today, but ran out of pineapple.  Hmm, quick trip to the dairy across the road...?  The dressing is seriously good, and just enough coconut milk that I can handle it but not feel ill.  Yay, a happy balance :)  I quartered the dressing and halved the other ingredients since the salad was just for me.  Easily repeatable, once I acquire more pineapple :)

Dinner last night was another vege burger with some cashew sour cream (from the layered taco salad recipe - I also used it on the black bean potatoes), lettuce, avocado and tomato sauce.  Every time I have one of these, I remember all over again how awesome they are.  I still have four patties left in the freezer, and no you can't have one.  Make your own!

To be fair though, I haven't focused solely on one website for recipe inspiration.  I've also been poring over Post Punk Kitchen's delights.  I tried the sunflower mac earlier this week (good, but not as good as their mac and shews) and tonight, for my 'birthday cake' dessert, we're having raw strawberry cheesecake.  I've invited friends to come and help us eat it :)  I've had a little trouble getting the filling to set, so if I were to make this again, I'd cut back on the strawberries.  I'll admit I probably went a little OTT using 900g (four full punnets, minus two strawberries).  The recipe calls for 32 oz (which is 907g), but says to take out nine strawberries for the decoration.  Well, I didn't.  I added ALL THE STRAWBERRIES.  Therefore, my filling was a little too liquid to set properly.  I'm hoping the addition of some xanthan gum will firm it up a bit.  If that fails, there's always the freezer ;)  I'm not making the frosting or berry sauce to go with it.  I figured the amount of nuts and strawberries in the cheesecake itself was more than enough.  Plus, I'd run out of cashews and strawberries... I can't wait to dig in to it this evening after dinner, which will include roasted asparagus and baby carrots that I'm really looking forward to.  Fresh fruits and vegetables really are the best, aren't they?

I've been pretty good at not baking, but I did make a batch of double chocolate chip muffins yesterday for the boys and their friends that had come over for a few hours.  I ate about a third of a muffin that T had left behind.  I'm such a cheater ;)

Right, back to blobbing out and knitting!  There's some chocolate that needs to be eaten ;)  I think I'm going to need a long run this weekend...


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Warm

I had a wee hunt back in my Ravelry archives for when I first started making squares for my Ron blanket.  I was surprised to discover that it was the third swap round way back in April 2009.  So this blanket has been four and a half years in the making!  I finished tacking the block corners this morning, after spending a good chunk of yesterday sewing the fleece backing on and tacking some of the block corners.  I gave up some time around 9 pm - my fingers were getting quite sore.


I absolutely adore it, in all its oddball glory.  It's very heavy, and oh so cozy.  About 30 people in total contributed to this blanket.  How awesome is that?!?  T has had it on his lap for the last hour or so (I'm surprised he's not sweating profusely.  It's not exactly cold today...)  I can't wait until next winter now, so I can wrap myself in its awesomeness.  So much love for this perfectly imperfect blanket.

We had some lovely heavy rain yesterday afternoon which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Sadly, only one measly lightning flash and thunder clap.  Lamest storm in history.  Oh well, the rain kinda made up for it.  I'd been for a run earlier in the morning before it got too hot, and got all my washing done during the day so I was happy to stay in, enjoy the rain on the roof and sew.  The rain got me thinking of warm breakfasts (being forever hungry, I often think several meals in advance), which in turn brought me to thoughts once again of the oatmeal trials.  This week's herb with the Foodbox was basil so I ordered some to accompany the usual eggs, fruit and veg.  I'd been wanting to try The Oatmeal Artist's strawberry and basil oatmeal for some time, and finally got to do so this morning:



All I can say is YUM!!!  I love strawberries, especially now that the strawberries available are flavourful and juicy, unlike the early season anaemic-looking Aussie imports.  I used to only have a few strawberries out of a punnet at the most and reserve the rest for X, being the good mum that I am and knowing they are his favourite.  But no longer!  I love strawberries too, and am not ashamed to say I will happily buy up to half a dozen punnets a week.  Even better is that Deane isn't currently eating fruit in any form, and T doesn't like them.  So X and I get the lot to ourselves.  Mwahahahahahaha!!!  I leaned a little heavy on the strawberries in this batch of porridge, using six medium to large strawberries in the porridge itself, and another couple for garnish.  I was a little heavy with the balsamic vinegar also, adding at least twice what the recipe recommended.  Strawberries and balsamic are perfect for each other, don't you think?  And with the addition of basil... fabulous.  Just fabulous.

I was very happy with this week's Foodbox - KALE!  ASPARAGUS!  CHERRY TOMATOES!  GOURMET CARROTS!  I'm only disappointed we don't eat more vegetables.  The larger box (the Crowd Pleaser) got courgettes and kai lan.  I want courgettes and kai lan! ::pout::  I suppose I could just go buy some... nah, then we'd end up with vegetable overload.  Although I'm getting very good at making stuff with what we have on hand.  Last night's dinner included some cauliflower chickpea pancakes and a cucumber salad with baked potatoes (and sirloin steak for the boys) because that was pretty much all we had, except for some frozen peas and 3/4 of an onion (hmm, peas and onions anyone...?).  I find it's best not to rely on the Foodbox arriving early enough to make dinner on Tuesdays.  Sometimes it's here just after 5 pm, other times it doesn't arrive until closer to 7 pm.  I should've been a Girl Scout.  I live by the motto 'Be Prepared' ;)

My muscles weren't prepared however, for the return to squats, crunches and yoga.  It's only been a couple of days and everything's a little sore.  I'm trying to get back into the habit by doing 50 squats, 50 crunches, 20 push ups, and 30 minutes of yoga a day with at least three runs a week.  I remember when 250 squats and 200 crunches were a breeze.  It's amazing how quickly your body loses its form.  Oh well, a little hard work never hurt anyone, right?

Speaking of hard work, today is housework catch-up day.  Yay (not).  A spot of lunch (lentil walnut loaf and salad, yum!) and then it'll be all hands on deck.  Well, mine at least.  Deane and the boys are doing their part by getting out of the house. Works for me :)

Monday, 7 October 2013

Only one race left!

I ran the fifth and final Unitec series race on Sunday.  Gosh, it feels good to have those done and dusted.  I've enjoyed running them, but its getting to the point now where I'm about ready for a break from the seriousness of the training.  I want my runs to be a little more spontaneous.  Not yet though, there's still the Auckland (Half) Marathon to go.  I am looking forward to it, mostly to conquer my fear of that harbour bridge ;)  It's probably not that bad, I'm just making it seem like a mountain in my head.  But for now, back to Sunday's race!  I woke up bright and early, before the 6.30am alarm as usual.  I often wonder why I bother to set the alarm, but know that the one time I don't I'll sleep in and miss the event!  Murphy's Law can be a b**** sometimes...  I chomped my way through some apricot and granola oatmeal:


I made the oatmeal the night before with steel cut oats, then warmed it up in the morning, splashed on some extra soy milk and topped it with buckwheat granola.  Yum!  Then I proceeded to get ready for the race while visiting the bathroom multiple times.  You'd think I'd be used to this whole race thing by now, that I wouldn't have to deal with the nervous stomach.  Apparently my delicate stomach has other ideas :/  I jumped in the car just before 8am and discovered that the battery was flat, so once again had to take Deane's ridiculous car.  At least this time I had plenty of time to spare, and there was no stress.  I got a park close to the event (hurrah!) and I ended up being half an hour early.  Enough time for one more toilet stop (ugh) and to stand around soaking up the atmosphere.  It was warm and sunny, so there was no need to worry about trying to dump a jersey or tie it around my waist for the race.  It did make me a little concerned about hydration and sunburn though - I'd forgotten to put on sunscreen (I didn't get burnt, in case you're wondering).

This time around I was towards the front of the pack at the start, and that may have caused me to go out a little fast - I'm not very good at judging my pace when surrounded by other runners.  At the 1km mark my pace was pretty quick - 5'03".  The next two kilometres weren't any better, I actually sped up to 4'53" and 4'59" respectively.  By the end of the first lap I had managed to slow down a little bit, back to 5'10" pace, most likely aided by a bit of a walk when I reached the water station.  It's not easy chugging water from a plastic cup when you're running!  During the second lap, I had a much longer break at the water station because the guy manning it had not been able to keep up with demand.  He was filling cups with the energy drink but neglecting the water so myself and a couple of other runners had to stop and fill our own.  That kilometre ended up being the slowest, at 5'59".  The rest of the race was at about 5'15" pace, still relatively fast for me but slower than the first lap (and the whole time I was cursing myself for running that 5km the day before).  My lap split times were 39:59/42:01.  Definitely slower!  I got a little annoyed with a girl that would run ahead for a distance, then walk for a while and wait until I'd caught up then run off again.  It's like she was using me as a marker for her to keep ahead of.  Rather irritating.  I was mentally shaking my fist at her in frustration.


My official finish time was 1:22:01, and I was 10th female of 137, and 34th of 224 overall.  My lowest female placing out of all five races, but also the largest field.  I'm cool with that :)  I paid a visit to the osteo students once again, and the guy I got was pretty good.  He kindly pointed out that my lack of yoga and cross-training over the last several weeks has been detrimental to my poor, hard-working leg and hip muscles and tendons.  So I guess it's back to squats, crunches and stretches for me then.  No more excuses.  I want my legs to keep working so I'd better look after them.  My Nike+ phone app also alerted me to the fact that my favourite running shoes have done enough kilometres now that I need to think about replacing them.  Hmm, they might last until Christmas... (hint hint, Deane.  More running shoes for Christmas please!)

Now there's less than a month to go before the Auckland Marathon, and my long runs will be tapering down in the lead up to it.  No more 20km+ weekend runs until race day!  I'm a little sad about that, but I don't want to overdo the training now and miss out on the race entirely.  Yes, I do have some common sense.  Surprising, I know ;)

Food-wise, the last week was a little bit all over the place.  I ate some chicken when we had dinner at some friends, and I had a small square piece of kingfish last night when we had some other friends over with fresh catch.  There was no way I was getting out of having a bit of the lauded, hard-won fish!  Otherwise, no red meat.  I have had some dairy (milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt.  Okay, a lot of dairy...)  I was so intensely curious about this cinnamon apple grilled cheese sandwich that I just had to try it.  It was totally worth it.  (My sandwich had edam cheese, not that weird bright yellow American stuff).  A strange combination perhaps, but very delicious!  It appears I'm all for weird combos lately - last night's salad was spinach with strawberries, cucumber, walnuts and peas.  Not your usual salad...  The dressing was a little too strong for my liking, but otherwise it was good.  It was a rather large salad though, so next time I'll scale it back by half and tweak the dressing.

I've been pretty good at the 'no baked goods' thing, except for race day.  My treat to myself after completing the fifth and final race in the series was a cronut.  Something I'd been hanging out to try ever since I'd heard of them, and seriously, the only time I'd ever eat one would be after a long run.  These babies are hoarding somewhere between 500 and 700 calories a pop!  We called in to Farro Fresh to grab a couple for lunch (T and I had one, Deane and X had slightly healthier food), then we came home and I sat down and devoured the whole thing:


Filled with creamy custard, covered in cinnamon sugar, and so very, very bad for you!  I will never eat another one, but it was certainly an experience.  Something else I vow never to eat again (because it is just that good) - Puhoi Valley custard.  So new, it's not even on their website yet!  There are two flavours, vanilla bean and butterscotch.  The butterscotch is absolutely divine.  Which is why I'll never buy it again.  Tried it, loved it, know its so good I'd be in danger of eating the entire container if I ever bought another one, so have put it on the 'banned' list.  That's usually how it goes ;)

I feel like the last week has been a bit of a dairy glut.  It started out slow with some milk in my tea when there was no other option, and it spiralled into all things creamy.  Pressing the restart button now...

I've nearly completed the Ron Weasley blanket - I have one and a half rounds left to go on the edging, and I have the fleece backing all ready to sew on:


It's pretty weighty so I think it'll need tacking in quite a few places as well, perhaps in each of the block corners.  I'm looking forward to having it finished, and am slightly disappointed that we're having such nice warm weather now that I have no need of it.  Bring on next winter!!  LOL!

Well, time to get dressed and get on with the day - we're heading to the museum to visit the marine exhibition.  This second school holiday week should whizz by pretty quickly.  I have study to get on with.  I finished my second stats assignment and got 88%, hurrah!  Guess those workshops really do help.  Still waiting on the results of the assignment for the other paper.  Fingers crossed it's a good mark.   Enjoy your week!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Vegetarian?

The vegan trial month finished on Monday.  So far I've had Whittaker's Milk Strawberry chocolate (I ate half the block in one evening.  Oops...), and some cow's milk in a few cups of tea while I was at my stats workshop the other day because there was no soy milk available.  Otherwise I've stuck to the plant-based foods so far.  We're having dinner at someone else's house this evening and I have no idea what's on the menu, so perhaps I'll be eating my first meat dish since August...

I found a smoothie with spinach in it that I like too, which is a good thing considering we have two large bags of spinach leaves in the fridge.  For last week's Foodbox I asked for extra spinach instead of grapefruit and pears, and ended up with two bags.  I managed to get through one on my own, but there was more spinach in this week's Foodbox, so I still have two.  I'm certainly not complaining, I'm absolutely loving fresh salads at the moment :)  But yes, I decided I needed to find ways of getting through it a little quicker, plus the extra nutrients wouldn't hurt.  After posting last week about disliking the green monster smoothie and preferring berry smoothies, it occurred to me that I could combine the two and have the best of both worlds.  Rather than having the spinach as the focus of the smoothie, have it equally sharing the limelight with blueberries and banana, and omit the nut butter.  I'll admit the colour isn't terribly appealing so I didn't bother photographing it (although that can easily be fixed with more blueberries), but the taste was fantastic!  Win!!  And still no added sweetener, because the banana does a fabulous job of that all on its own.  Yay!

Lunch yesterday was something I'd been eyeing up for a while - the roasty soba bowl with miso tahini.  I quartered the recipe (since I was only making one serving) and my miso tahini sauce looks quite different because I used whole tahini made with unhulled sesame seeds, but it was delicious!  Definitely something I'll be having again:


I didn't have any fresh herbs to sprinkle on top to make it look pretty, but I have a tendency to pick them out anyway.  It was very filling too - the soba noodles and brown lentils combined are really great for filling the hunger void.  The boys and I had spent a couple of hours wandering around MOTAT and I was starving.  Mind you, I'm hungry most of the time... ;)

I made some Indian spiced swede cakes (with leek instead of onion) for dinner.  Following the recipe I tried shallow frying the first batch and they were a complete disaster:


(Although Deane still ate three of them, haha!)  Plus, the amount of oil was grossing me out so I got out the non-stick frying pan and put a very small amount of oil in to cook a second batch, and they turned out beautifully.  They went really well with a salad and some roasted asparagus.  Mmmm, the first asparagus of the season.  Drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, roasted at 180°C for about 20 minutes.  Delish!


I've been having salad for at least one meal a day for the last few days.  They're so versatile, you can add anything to them.  I headed out for a 12km run this morning (my first since Saturday, one of the downsides of school holidays combined with late sunrises and a paranoid husband that won't let you run unless it's full daylight) then had a spinach, avocado and strawberry salad for breakfast.  Perfect!  (I had a second breakfast of soy yogurt and a mandarin after my shower, and a cup of tea and some freezer fudge for elevenses.  Technically the fudge isn't baking...  I'm such a hobbit).  I think for lunch today I'll give crumbed tofu a go - based on this recipe, although I'll probably alter it slightly and reduce the amounts since nobody else will be eating it.  It should go nicely with the rest of the swede cakes.

Edit: lunch was yum!


The crumbed tofu was lovely with some tomato sauce.  I only needed to bake it for 20 minutes, because my slices were quite thin.  And as you can see, the swede cakes turned out much better when not completely drowned in oil!  Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Deane decided he didn't like the plain almond milk I was making because the acidity of his coffee would cause it to split.  Although it tastes fine and doesn't have a lumpy texture, it looks rather unappealing.  So we're experimenting with different ways of emulsification.  In yesterday's batch I added a teaspoon of lecithin granules, and added a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla for flavour.  Much better!!  The milk is very palatable on its own, unlike the plain almond milk which I found to be too strong in almond flavour to drink by itself (although it was fine on cereal or in tea).  Next I'll try coconut oil.  I have a feeling I'll be sticking to the lecithin though.

In crafty news, I've been surprising myself with the rate of progress on my Ron Weasley blanket.  I've connected all the blocks into rows, and am halfway through joining the rows together:



Joined rows at the top, unjoined at the bottom.  It's proving to be quite challenging fitting all the different-sized squares together.  They were all supposed to be 8" square, but this is not a perfect world and everyone used different fibres, different patterns, and clearly had different ideas of what 8" actually is so they're all quite varied.  This blanket will definitely need an edging to help square the blocks around the outside, and will also need a backing to hide all the seams and loose ends that I am most definitely not weaving in.  It's an odd-ball blanket, but it's beautiful in an ugly kind of way.  I'm falling in love with it already :)  I quite enjoyed reading all the names of the people that had made the blocks while I was joining them in rows, and look forward to sending them all a wee message with a picture of the finished blanket when I'm done (which could still be some time from now, but hopefully before Christmas).  Unfortunately, this blanket isn't terribly portable so I'm going to need something else to work on for when I'm out and about.  Perhaps I'll wind the laceweight yarn and print out the pattern for that hoodie...  Summer is on its way here if the recent weather is anything to go by.  I was in shorts and jandals yesterday while traipsing around MOTAT.  Luckily, it hasn't taken long to break in my summer jandal feet.  The first time you wear jandals in the new season always feels really weird and at the end of the day your feet are a little sore, but it doesn't take long to readjust.  Sadly, my jandals are coming to the end of their life.  They've been with me for about eight years or so, and the sole of one has worn through to the leather.  The other isn't far behind.  I'll be sad to see them go, it'll be like saying goodbye to a good friend :(  Maybe they'll last just one more summer...