Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Running Diary – Countdown to Malakoff 2011

Fave Running Playlist:
Marry You by Glee Cast
Superman by Super Junior
Dog Days Are Over by Florence and the Machine
Blow by Ke$ha
Who’s Next by 4Minute (feat. BEAST)

21 Nov 2011
Location : Gym
Distance : 5.62 km
Oh god. Not yet 2 km, and I am already panting. My last run was Standard Chartered, and that was about six months ago. This first day after such a long break is such a torrrturreeeeee… Only 15 minutes had passed, but it felt like forever. I want to quit. Oh hoh. Mommy. C’mon, you can do this. Hit 5 km, or 40 minutes, whichever comes first, then you can stop.

22 Nov 2011
Location : KLCC Park loop
Distance : 5.72 km

I always ran clock-wise on the loop. Why, you ask? Because everyone else’s run counter-clockwise, following the 0 – 1300 m direction. But when everyone run in such a way, all you see is other people’s behind. I ran clock-wise, in the opposite direction of others, so I can see every single faces that pass me by. This is important as there are a lot of cute runners, with sexy legs, on this track. Am I clever or what?

29 Nov 2011
Location : KLCC – home, along an undisclosed route
Distance : 11.69 km

Decided to run home today from the office because a friend, who I am competing against in a Nike+ Challenge, spilled that she was about to add in another 17 km with two upcoming races. There and then I decided that there’s no way I should allow her to have such a huge lead and I know I am not motivated to run far when I’m on a treadmill, so after office, sneakers on, and off to home!

(Stopped by a stall for a char kuey teow dinner and durian at Seri Rampai area before completed the last leg home. Aishhh, macam mana nak kurus kalau tengah berlari boleh makan kuey teow?!)

30 Nov 2011
Location: KLCC – home
Distance : 10.5 km

Decided to run home from the office again. I followed the same route as yesterday. I think this will also be a perfect route if I ever decided to cycle to work one day – flat, and it has good pedestrian pathway for most part. But there’s no one else running along this route – I felt so lonely...

2 Dec 2011
Location: KLCC – home
Distance : 4.21 km
Argh, something is wrong with the chip. It only recorded half the distance covered. Penat je lari jauh-jauh hari ni, haishh…

8 Dec 2011
Location: KLCC Park loop
Distance : 4.75 km
Today’s run is to recalibrate the chip.

9 Dec 2011
Location: Gym
Distance : 4.48 km
Hmmphh, no eye-candy in sight.

13 Dec 2011
Location: Gym
Distance : 3.15 km
Aaahh, after a 40 minute run, I checked my iPod, and it only clocked in 0.1 km. Apa kes, 100 m jerrr? Helloooooooooooo? Only than I realized that, earlier, I changed the playlist as I started to run, but forgot to switch it back to Nike+, thus explaining the lack of recording. Ahh, penat je lari. But if I didn’t clock in anything today, then I can’t keep up with my friend on the challenge (who looks like she has been running everyday now. Ughhh, crazy horse).

So back on the treadmill. For another 3 km. Buhooo, I could have gotten 7 km today.

14 Dec 2011
Location: Gym
Distance : 4.33 km
Today is such a good run. I wish I could have run longer, but I was in a rush for a dinner meeting. I don’t know why, but today’s breathing is perfect, the pace is consistent, my legs are cooperating and I do not feel lazy or tired at all. Perhaps because I was flanked by two very handsome fella on the treadmill next to me? Awesome motivation!

15 Dec 2011
Location: Gym
Distance: 10.19 km
Ah, rain, rain, rain. The gym again, looks like it. I aimed to complete 8 km.

But I pushed my self and went for 10 km instead!

Tomorrow will be the last run, insha Allah, then Saturday a rest day, and then Sunday - hello Malakoff! Hello 12 km, over a torturous and hilly Bukit Kiara!

Friday, December 9, 2011

From The Kitchen: Vietnamese Fresh Spring Roll

Besides the beef soup and the drip coffee, this spring roll is my favorite Vietnamese dish. It is so refreshing, light and healthy. But with the lack of Vietnamese restaurant around town and since the only place I could find them is at KLCC (read: it is just so expensive to eat frequently), I decided to make them. Oh goodness. Awesomely delightful. 3-4 rolls are enough for a light dinner, and it is really delicious that you don't feel deprived of good-tasting food if you are in the midst of a diet. You can of course substitute whatever ingredients you want, and make you own unique rolls.

Ingredients for the roll:

Rice paper - Cold Storage @ KLCC sell this. Look at the shelf where they keep the sugar and instant ketupat etc.
Prawn - Shell off and deveined. Then poached, or lightly boiled. I put two pieces of prawns in each roll.
Salad leaves - just because. I have some in the fridge. Tear them into smaller piece.
Mango - thinly sliced
Fresh basil and mint leaves - these are the secret ingredients. The 'freshness' taste of the roll comes from these two fellas.
Bihun - depends on how much you want to put in the roll. I usually overestimated and had plenty of leftover. Isk. Soak in hot water and toss. Drain the water off as much as possible, because if it is too soggy, then your rolls will be too soggy too. I find that if I prepare and toss the bihun the earliest before I start preparing the other ingredients, it will be just ready when it is time to assemble the roll.

1. Prep all the ingredients so they are nicely ready for the assembly: sliced mango, poached prawns, salad leaves and fresh herbs, and bihun.
2. Soak the rice paper in warm water, one at a time (don't soak in multiples, or they might get stuck). It is quickly soften too, so don't just leave the rice paper in the water to soak and go to do something else. Gently hold it with your fingers in the water until it is soft.
3. Spread it on a clean tea towel to get rid of the excess water. I usually skip this, because I don't have clean tea towel. So I just try to give the rice paper a little shake here, a little shake there, hoping that enough water will fall off.
4. Assembly time! The first time will always be messy. You might put too much or too little. Don't worry, have fun! It will still taste as good. The rice paper is also transparent, so you can experiment with how you lay down the ingredient. I love putting the basil and mint leaves first, so that they will be 'displayed' nicely once rolled.

Ingredients for the dip:

Fish sauce
Warm wate
r - 1/4 cup
Peanuts - crushed them into little, little pieces. I just put them inside a zip-lock bag and smacked them with a wooden ladle
Chopped garlic
Bird eye chilli - optional. I just like the dip slightly hot. 2-3 pieces of this, chopped, should be fine.
Lime juice - a quarter of a lime is suffice

Okay, the dip is definitely a try-and-taste thing. The first time I did it, I put in too much fish sauce and vinegar. Uggh, nasty, even though I'd followed the recipe to the T. So the second time around I tried to adjust it bit by bit until it taste almost like how the restaurant usually prepare it. Start by mixing in 2-3 tablespoon of sugar in 1/4 cup of warm water. Then mix in one teaspoon of vinegar and a few dash of fish sauce. Taste and adjust. You might want to add some more water, sugar, or vinegar, or fish sauce - up to you. Once you get this part to your liking, add in the rest of the ingredients - lime juice, chilli, peanuts and garlic.

Dip in and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Travelogue Cambodia (July 2011): Zooming Through

One of the most enjoyable things that I did in Cambodia was the ATV ride tour. Unfortunately though, since I did not have a driving license, I have to be the passenger. The seat was so wide that my short legs were just hanging at the side. I got leg cramps by the time we ended, boohoo. That was the only bad thing about the tour, for the view was breathtaking and tranquil. Of course, it looked quite similar to any kampung in Malaysia, but somehow the sky is bluer and the grasses greener. The rice field stretched as far as the eyes can see. What I love most was getting a peek at how the locales live, which is always a highlight wherever I traveled as I find it more interesting than actually being at a tourist attraction. The kids that we saw along the way – either shying away or running towards our roaring machines and giving us a wave; the wooden huts along the river that looked like it may crumble anytime soon, yet still function as a barbershop or a sundry shop; a group of dark, sweaty teenagers playing volleyball at a dusty, humble field – what an interesting glance at life.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book: Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Walcott: Tomorrow will be better.
Amy: But what if it’s not?
Walcott: Then you say it again tomorrow. Because it might be. You never know right? At some point tomorrow will be better.

Short summary: Amy’s father died, her brother is in rehab, and now her mother is relocating the family from California to Connecticut. Having moved first, mom needs Amy to bring the car over; however, due to trauma related to her father’s death, Amy doesn’t want to be behind the wheel. In comes Roger, a childhood friend who needs to visit his father in the East Coast, thus is tasked to drive the car. Though her mom has thoroughly planned their itinerary by mapping their route, booking the hotels for them, and expecting them to stick to her arrangement, the kids have their own plan. Thus begin one of the most memorable road trips ever.


Love, love, love, love this book. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable ones I have read this year.

This book definitely falls in “Book That I Wished Will Never End” category. It is the perfect Young Adult book – light, easy-to-read writing, with appealing characters and interesting storyline. I am also a sucker for travel stories, so this particular book about a long road trip across the US scores some bonus point in my book (also, bonus points for the road trip play list. You can’t have a road trip without good music!). The scrapbook elements featured in the book is also cute and interesting and I also love their encounters with the other secondary characters, especially Roger’s friends.

If you have read enough Young Adult book, you’ll find that a lot of books featured boy-meets-girl story, which I greatly enjoyed in principle, as long as the book does not feature the following:

1. when the girl immediately swooned over the guy (who is always somehow the bad boy in the neighborhood) the instant she laid eyes on him
2. the girl and boy falls crazy, crazy, crazy in love (note the emphasis on crazy) barely a few days after meeting each other
3. the boy is some hundreds-years old sparkling vampire and the girl is the most helpless heroin ever (yeah, I am talking about Twilight)

Yes, I love a story that makes me all giddy and warms my heart, but an author should at least establish a good reason/foundation/storyline on how the characters become attracted towards each other. Don’t just put a hot boy with issues and a girl who somehow always thought she was not pretty when she actually is and expect us to believe they are in love when nothing barely happens between them. Unless the writing is exceptional and poetic (case in point: Lauren Oliver’s Delirium, which fulfill the first two criteria above, but I absolutely love the poetic, flowing words of the author, so I cut the book some slack) or the book features some really amazing twist in the storyline, most Young Adult book leaves me disappointed when it comes to dealing with this instant love crap.

So that’s why Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour is rather refreshing. Both characters are dealing with their own personal baggage in the story, and these become a good window in learning about their personality and dilemma. The setup was perfect – spending four days in a car ride with someone, you’ll bound to learn a lot about the other person – thus the friendship that grows between the main characters is structured in a believable way, that towards the end, I was the one willingly wanting for something to happen between the two of them. It was as if you are rooting for your two best friends, who you can see are just so perfect for each other, to fall in love.

(They do did something that I think is rather soon at that point of their relationship, which I am not going to elaborate here for it is a spoiler. That's my only beef with the story, but I'll forgive that)

If you like this kind of Young Adult novel or just looking for something light and fun (but not crappy) to read, I highly recommend this book. I find Ms. Matson is such a good storyteller too, so I am looking forward to check out her future book as well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Travelogue Cambodia (July 2011): Introducing... Siem Reap

Siem Reap is a city that moved at a leisurely pace, almost slow motion, despite the throng of tourists bargaining at the market, marveling at the ancient temples, snapping photos with their all-powerful camera as if the moment will forever be forgotten had they not capture it at that particular second. It was July and unbelievably hot. I was literally melting.

It is a city that thrive from its past. The sprawling complexes of temples, still proud and erect, still defying the forces of nature - water, sun, jungle - that are slowly eating them away. Its past was the reason people come from all over the world. It was supposedly the low season, but the crowd that trampled across the sacred ground of Angkor Wat was, already to my standard, huge. I can't imagine how the place looks like in the height of tourist season. Would one be able to feel lost among the grand stone structure? Would one be transported to the past, imagining ghosts of past priests and kings and villagers roaming around, when one was surrounded by touring groups chattering away in French, Dutch, English, Japanese, and pretty much all major languages of the modern languages?

It is a city that despite it's popularity, is still holding back. There are a couple of modern boutiques, bars, and restaurants - obviously catering to the foreigners - concentrated in the city center, but not yet overwhelming. Perhaps in a few short years, the modernity and tourism are going to go full-blast, and new buildings, squarish and common, are going to loom over the beautifully carved venerable temples. Perhaps. But as of now, the vibe that envelops the city comes from three or four decade backs, as if time has not move much since then, and it fits Siem Reap perfectly.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Travelogue Dubai & Oman (Oct 2011): The Three Amigos

A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles – Tim Cahill

Oman and UAE are never high on my places-to-go-before-I-die list (a list which currently includes Bhutan, Maldives, New Zealand, Patagonia, Machu Picchu, Tibet, Austria, Kashmir, Jordan, Korea… among others. It is quite long, aahh). If not for my two dearest friends who reside there, I probably would never arrived.

But as Aldous Huxley said, “ To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries”. With the power of observation, even mundane sights become enlightening, and the people become entertaining to watch. There is always something to discover and new things to learn in a foreign land – no matter how ordinary a city is, if you open your eyes and heart, you bound to be what you aim to be: a traveller.

But most of all, sometimes, it is not so much of the destination that make or break a trip. It is the companion that you keep. You could have been anywhere, but with the right person next to you, it would have been a trip of a lifetime.

So thank you girls, for such a wonderful, wonderful time. Thank you for all the hospitality and pampering (never knew it is so nice NOT to backpacking and living in a hostel for once, hahaha) and great meals (I gained 2 kg, thank you very much). Thanks for the love.

Monday, July 25, 2011

From The Kitchen: Pasta with Cream Sauce

I've been a bolognese girl through and through, but pasta with cream sauce is surprisingly much easier and less hassle to make (and certainly will be harder to shave off the fat later!)

Garlic - finely chopped. I used three cloves to cook a portion for one.
Butter - enough to saute the garlic
Cream - the sauce is going to be very creamy, so I usually use just enough cream to coated the pasta, depending on the portion.
Fresh mushroom - sliced
White ground pepper
Grated cheese - I use parmesan. The amount? Up to your level of cheesiness :)
Parsley - chopped
Spring onion - chopped
Chopped chicken/shrimp - cook it separately, simply saute with olive oil.
Spiral pasta

Cooking instruction:
1. Cook the pasta as per the packet's instruction. Drain and set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a pan, then saute the garlic till browned.
3. Add in the cream. You can thin it with a bit of water or milk, and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add in the mushroom and chopped parsley. Mix well for one minute, then toss in the chicken or shrimp.
5. Add the cheese. Stir until it melt. Season with pepper and salt if needed. Done!
6. Toss in the pasta and serve with sprinkled chopped onion on top.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Uzbek Troopers

Interestingly, when three photographers travelled, even when we had five camera bodies and seven lenses between us three, we only had one photo of the three of us together.

Only one group photo... for the whole two weeks of travel.

And the rest of the time, we took pictures of each other taking pictures of other people.

Of the three of us, I was the most amature and less-equipped (one body - D40 je lak tu - and one lense), and I learn so much from these guys, like: waking up super early to catch the perfect sunrise shot (though I am the laziest when it came to this. I ended up asking them to just go, and met me for breakfast later), hunting for the perfect spot for sunset shot and waiting patiently in the chill of the dusk, chasing after a perfect subject, or just sitting idly at one spot to wait for the perfect subject to wander into our frame. It helps also that the Uzbek people that we encounter were rather sporting. They posed for us, or if they don't want to be photographed candidly, they simple turned their head or covered it with their hands, which will be our cue to lower down our lenses off their face. At least tak de aaa kena kejar or marah, heheh.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Travelogue Uzbekistan: Tashkent

In 2009, Tashkent celebrated it’s 2200th anniversary. Just imagine 2200 candles on a birthday cake! Can you even comprehend the depth and wealth of the history of a city with such an extensive existence? Well, it turns out, a lot of prominent cities in Uzbekistan could make the same claim, boasting such an ancient lineage. The country was a part of the old Silk Road, the 6437-km trade route that connected China to Europe as early as 200 B.C, so scattered around Uzbekistan were towns and cities that became important trading points, and in time, evolved into significant scientific, cultural and knowledge centers as well. Conquerors came and go, molding the nation and leaving their marks. Of the many countries I've been to, Uzbekistan is on top of the list of countries with the most fascinating history, from its ancient beginning down to being part of the Soviet Union decades ago.

What struck me most about modern Tashkent is how clean the city is. Like, very, very clean, Singapore-ish clean. Streets are lined with trees, and parks are abundant, providing a shady respite for people lunching outdoor. It does remind me of the romantic, lush boulevard of Paris, against a backdrop of 1960's boxy, streamlined architecture. Most of the signage are still in Russian, one of the remain of its Soviet past.

You won’t see many tourists here though – the reason being that most tourists will be whisked away to other more touristy cities as soon as they arrived in Tashkent. Truth be told, compared to Khiva, Bukhara or Samarkand, there’s not much interesting, culturally rich thing to do here. It is just another busy, bustling city. It’s like when foreigners ask me what’s great in KL – mmm, tall buildings, shopping malls, so-so museums and zoo, all the things you could easily find in your own hometown? “Why don’t you go to Malacca, Pulau Perhentian, Penang or Borneo instead?”, I would’ve suggest.

We also read so much about the police and photography restriction that we barely took out our camera. For three photography enthusiasts, that pretty much killed the mood. When we were in Samarkand a few days later, we met with a fellow traveler from Israel who claimed "When I arrived in Tashkent, I thought I make a big mistake of coming to Uzbekistan. There's nothing to do there".

But fret not. If you are stuck here for one or two days, there’s still plenty to do:

1. Chorsu Bazaar
It is a sprawling, multi-complex market that sells everything under the sun. Fresh produce of vegetables and fruits were abound, and same goes for all kind of nuts and dried fruits and spices. Great photo op and people watching. There will be some men who will walk past you and whispering an offer for money exchange. The ‘black market’ rate offered by these guys are much better than what you’ll get from the bank, but do so at your own peril. It is illegal.

The pretty lattice-like dome of the Chorsu Bazaar. The stalls were arranged in circles.

There were also sellers outside, selling fruits and vegetables in a small basin. The moment they saw the police, they scatterred away.

Nom-seller. Nom is THE bread in Uzbekistan - you eat it for breaksfast, lunch and dinner. Each region has it's own unique-looking nom.

2. Metro stations
Surprisingly, the best part of Tashkent is its metro stations. I was flabbergasted. Each of them is uniquely, beautifully designed – a work of art of its own. One even reminded me of a set from Harry Potter - with lines of decorative grey columns along the platform. Unfortunately, no photograph is allowed (and don’t even try to snap one secretly! Plenty of polices monitored the stations) so I could not show you how impressive they are. If you have the time, bought a ticket and hop on the metro from one end to the other and enjoy the beautiful design from the platform. Be prepared for the police to check your bags and passports upon entering.

3. Amir Timur museum
It is a small museum, very unassuming from the outside, but quite impressive in the inside. The moment you walked in, you'll find yourself under a huge, beautifully gilded high dome with a huge chandelier dangling down, surrounded by high murals on the walls depicting the life of Amir Timur (also known as Tamelane), the nation hero who founded the great Timurid dynasty (and his descendant later established the Mughal dynasty in India) and whose military conquest comparable to Alexander the Great and Gengis Khan. Get someone to explain the significance of the murals and the exhibitions inside to better appreciate what you are looking at – otherwise, it is quite a bore. I could still remember bits and pieces of what my professor taught me on the history of art and architecture of this region, so to me personally, it was just nice to put things in perspective. Our guide did a good job too telling stories and history, so we rather enjoyed the trip to this museum.

My friends were swarmed with schoolchildren, asking for autograph (???), posing for photo or were just trying to converse in English.

4. Khast-Imam Square
Perhaps the highlight of our short excursion in Tashkent, though if you came here after you've been to Khiva and Samarkand, the place paled in comparison. It is a complex of buildings consisted of a mosque, madrasah and mausoleum. In here was kept the Qur’an of Khalifah Uthman. Stained with his blood, the Quran was brought into the country centuries ago by Amir Timur. It was then seized by the Russians and taken as a war trophy to Saint Petersburg, but was later returned to Uzbekistan. The small cells of the madrasah had been turned into artisan workshop and souvenir shops. When we were there, school was just out and it was about time for the Friday prayer, so we got a lot of shots of schoolchildren and people convening for the prayer.

This sweet old man was being led to the mosque by the young fella. He came towards us, shook hand with my friends, and gave me some raisins. So random, but so sweet of him.

I was rather amused that the school kids carried rather grown-up looking handbag to school. I saw this trend everywhere I went.

Our travel agent. She was so nice to even act as our tour guide.

Monday, June 27, 2011