Archive | July, 2010

Four Push-Ups

28 Jul

I suck at push-ups. When I was going to pilates 3 times a week a few years ago, I could do 10. That was my all-time crowning achievement in the land of push-ups.

Anyways, I want to rock at ‘dropping and doing 50 20′, so I’ve started practicing in the mornings before work. This morning, I could do four, which was twice as many as 3 days ago.

Baby steps, baby steps.

When bragging about my two push-up achievement last week, my colleague Susannah mentioned something about girl push-ups being better for women because, apparently, doing ‘man’ push-ups damages the womb. SAY WHAAAAAT? It turns out that was some urban fitness myth that’s been floating around the UK for a while.

My womb is safe.phew.

As far as Me vs. Gym, I’m pleased to say that ME has been the glorious victor since my last post. The gym is getting tired of seeing my red, sweaty face. Last week, my gym goal was 4 times…which I did. Last week, my gym goal was four times, which I BEAT.

I went to the gym 4 times + I went for a run on Saturday and cycled a total of 2 hours…which, on my sweet ride, is actually a pleasure:

Here's my baby

I also replaced my Asics, which was long over-due. For the last few months, my feet have been hurting after 30 minutes of cardio…not a good sign. Anyways, I ended up getting a pair of Sauconys:

New kicks

And the great thing is that now that I have changed my running technique…running on the balls of my feet rather than my heels (a technique that alleviates shin-splint pain), I no longer over-pronate. They filmed me running at the store, both on my heels and on the balls of my feet, and the difference was rather extreme. Good to know that I’m no longer limited to super-reinforced (and heavy) running shoes. Freedom! Anyways, the Sauconys are fabulous and they’re actually wider across the top of the foot than Asics.

As far as my other goals are…I’m happy to say that I’ve not had a drop of alcohol in a couple weeks and I’ve been eating extremely healthy. I haven’t touched the junk table at work, and even brought in shortbread cookies for the team yesterday, and I didn’t eat one.

I have lost just over one kilo since my last post, not too shabby.

I’m actually saving up my calorie-splurge for the hillbilly birthday party we’re having this weekend. I need to figure out how to make cigarette butts out of fondant to top my cupcakes.

My next post will be about the party, be prepared!

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Zombies eat BRAAAAIIIIN…cupcakes, right?

25 Jul

After work on Friday, I rushed home to bake zombie cupcakes for the outdoor screening of Night of the Living Dead next to a graveyard in someone’s backyard. I wanted to try a new chocolate recipe, so I went for Dark Chocolate Cupcakes from Cooks Illustrated American Classics 2009 after a very good review from the blog CAKE ON THE BRAIN. I picked up some Valhrona 70% dark chocolate on the way home, which, in my opinion, is the ONLY chocolate you should use for quality chocolate baking.

Before.

The recipe yielded 12 cupcakes, and I measured everything meticulously. To my surprise, however, there was actually enough batter to do probably 14 0r 15…either that, or cupcake/muffin tins have grown in size in America, and my Dutch one is too small. Either way, the cupcakes domed, which is FINE in this case, but would have been annoying if I was doing any sort of fancy decorating.
For frosting, I went with Martha Stewart’s Swiss Meringue  Buttercream under the promise that it held up well in heat. Since I’d be transporting the cupcakes to the park and we wouldn’t be eating them until after the picnic, I was worried about the frosting, the brains, melting. I still haven’t found my ideal buttercream for piping, so the journey continues. I added some blue and yellow gel food colouring to the mix and achieved a very zombie-like brain colour. I mixed some rasperry jam with water and icing sugar for a tinge of blood. They turned out pretty awesome:

After...zombie BRAIIIIINS with blood clots

And…a close-up:

success!

Unfortunately, the ‘brain’ didn’t hold up too well after a 10-minute ride jiggling around in my bike crate, so I’m glad I got photos before the transport. All in all, the cupcakes were tasty…super, super rich and chocolately. HOWEVER, it’s not my kinda cupcake. I much prefer the softer, airy texture than a dense cake-y one. My go-to chocolate cupcake is usually from Chockylit’s CupcakeBlog, but I’m always on the hunt for the recipe that I’ll vow to stick to for life.
If you have something you’ve tried and loved, let me know!
In the end, the screening was a bit disappointing. They played 4 ‘trailers’ before the main attracting…each ‘trailer’ lasting 20 minutes. And,  by ‘trailers’, I mean…a roughly-edited selection of the best scenes from start to finish. It was past eleven by the time Night of the Living Dead started, and Liz and Colin were already head-to-chest by that time. And by head-t0-chest, I mean they were sleeping sitting up.

One Million B.C. - the epic trailer

The setting was extremely cool, with the moon rising behind the screen. We were surrounded by woods…a great way to watch such a classic zombie flick. You can imagine our disappointment when they didn’t actually screen the entire film…only a ‘selection’ of 40 minutes worth of footage…with basically the entire ‘zombie’ part of the plot taken out. BOO EFFIN URNS #ZOMBIEFAIL.

Huh. I didn’t expect that.

22 Jul

My average blog read has gone from 10 to nearly 200. I was talking to my aunt on Skype the other night, and she was saying they were doing a segment on the radio about how blogging is now the ‘big thing’ in weight-loss motivation. I can imagine why. Going public forces you to be honest with yourself, which means admitting your failures and learning from your mistakes. And, of course, documenting the journey and hopefully the end result too. This isn’t really a weight loss blog though, ’cause I’m definitely going to be using this space to write about cooking, Amsterdam expat life, things I’m making and just general bitching. So, don’t pigeon-hole me just yet 🙂

I’ve been a long time ‘member’ of an online music community/mega-clique  (though, I wonder how much music is actually discussed  there these days), and there are some very, very cool people posting on there about a variety of topics, often ending in back-and-forth jabs and grade school name-calling, but amongst all the bullshit, there’s a thread called “Get Off your Ass and Exercise you Lazy Fucks”. I’s got 82 pages, 3,247 posts, and 33, 259 reads. There’s a lot of good motivational stuff going on there. Who knew that a bunch of indie dufuses could be so into exercising? It’s one of the very few things that makes me really lament that I’m no longer living in Toronto. I could so do with some kick-ass fitness buddies.

Stillepost.ca ya prucks

Anyways, I successfully made it through the entire day yesterday without a visit to the FAT table in the office. It’s looking like my colleagues did a tidy job of ploughing through most of it anyways.

Tonight, I go to Zumba.

Hips and Ass, Meet Europe.

21 Jul

So, as promised yesterday…here’s some photos of me carrying around 30lbs of Euroweight:

Sideview:

…and from the front:

My shoulders have always been quite small, which really emphasises the weight gain around the mid-section. I weighed myself this morning, and the scale blinked me the number 76.6, which is less than it was a couple days ago. I really wish I could change the kgs to lbs on the scale, but can’t quite seem to figure it out.

I know that a lot of people say it’s not good to weigh yourself very often, but I find it’s the only thing that ties me to a routine. So, I’m not going to enforce any hard and fast rule about it, but I will do it whenever I think the number has changed (for better or worse).

Like I said yesterday, I write down my gym goals in an agenda and here’s what July looks like so far:

Check marks mean that either I have gone to the gym, or I WILL go to the gym. A check mark not followed through is modified into an X. The first week is a write off because I was in France at a music festival, but I started getting back into a routine by the second week…and if you count Sunday’s as the first day of the week, I’ve gone three times so far this week.

At the top, I’ve written “FOOD GOAL – NO BOOZE UNTIL 31 JULY”, which is the night before my birthday. Since being back from the music festival, I’ve stuck to that goal with the exception of 2 glasses of wine at dinner last week when a friend was in town, and last weekend when we had someone for dinner.

Okay, so I haven’t really stuck to that goal. #FAIL. Not drinking in summer is HARD.

And here’s what else is hard…there’s a table in our office that is constantly filled with chocolate. Today I vowed that I wouldn’t touch the table.

Chocolate goodies from around the world...halp!

If I fail, you’ll read about it

20 Jul

I decided to blog about my struggle to lose my EURO WEIGHT. It’s the 30lbs I’ve gained since I’ve moved to Europe and been in a relationship with my hollow-legged boyfriend. You can find posts about this in my Me vs. Gym page.

That’s all for now. I’m going to re-watch the last episode of True Blood because there was a lot of shirtless Jason Stackhouse and Alcede the werewolf in this one.

Roadtrip to Eurockeennes music festival

7 Jul

Off we went in the Bumblebee, a 1985 brown and yellow VW van. Colin, the sole driver of our gang, with his chief navigator, Liz up front. Grant and I were the kids in the back. Our end destination was Eurockeennes, a music festival for ‘purists’ (so says a French fashion/gossip mag we were reading), located just outside of Belfort, France. The forecast for the weekend was hot, scorching, caliente temperatures (35+). We departed from Amsterdam at about 6:30pm on Wednesday night. The plan was to drive to the La Roche-en-Ardennes and camp overnight before finishing the trip on Thursday morning.

Amsterdam to La Roche-en-Ardennes, Belgium

We successfully got as far as Luxembourg (province) before stress, tiredness and doubt about the route kicked in. Uh oh, the gas gauge has dipped suddenly. Why aren’t the headlights that bright? Construction. Road diversions. Shit, shit, shit. After a stressful hour cranking that old van up hilly residential areas in god-knows-where looking for a gas station (Grant can’t remember what day it is, but he remembers what French he learned 10 years ago, weird), we finally made our way back to the highway at 10:30pm. Colin, what a machine, had been at the wheel after a stressful day of work for 6 hours before we finally got to our campground…which was gated and closed. Exhausted, we pulled out our tent and pitched it in the parking lot. I fell asleep with delirious exhausted thoughts of some bad 90s teen horror movie and wondered if some masked lumberjack would be plunging his axe through my skull at some point in the night.

halp!

We all woke up at the crack of dawn, our bladders all screaming for relief. The night before, I had tried out my SheWee and my stage-fright (the thought of peeing standing up was freaking me out) meant I just ended up squatting anyways.

penis envy in hot pink

I was determined to try again though, and I did at a cafe in the beautiful town of La Roche. Standing and peeing, imagine! I came back to the table with a huge grin on my face – achievement! We walked around La Roche for an hour in the scorching late morning sun, scoffed a pastry, admired some motorcycle tank relics in the window of the Ardennes War Museum and stood mouths-gaping at a Belgian bottle shop, stupefied over the incredibly low prices of champagne-sized bottles of Leffe.

a belgian nom nom nom

We stocked Bumblebee with beer, fruit, juice, sausages, and water and continued on to France with some much-needed enthusiasm.

Hey Liz, that's not our ride!

We arrived in Belfort easily enough by following signage once we got to Belfort. The camping area was a giant mowed-down hay field 3km away from the festival entrance. The area for camper vans was separated from the rest of the lowly tenters, so we had our pick of the land and settled on a corner of an intersection of caution tape. We had lots of space, were close to the portaloos/portapotties/shit shacks, but too far from the water, showers and food. We met up with Rhys, visiting from Australia, and Matt and Jenny, two intrepid friends of Liz & Colin’s that were cycling through Europe. Very cool. Once all settled with tents pitched, we fired up the BBQ and feasted on merquez sausages and salad. PARTY.

Colin cautiously chews cathartically.

Our posh corner lot

We are excited!

I ventured to the portaloo again, eager to master the art of peeing standing up using my new, hot pink SheWee. Standing in front of the least offensive ‘toilet’ I could find, I carefully got out the SheWee and positioned it accordingly, and then got paranoid that I was peeing on myself, panicked, and fumble-flung the thing right into the abyss of Koolaid blue sanitizer mixed with feces, gut gunk and piss. Glorp, glorp, glorp. Down it went and that was the end of SheWee. I’d resigned myself to a weekend of squatting. Ehn.

It's getting hot in he-ah, so take off all your clothes.

Friday morning, all of us (Liz and Colin in the Bumblebee, Rhys in his 2-man fart-box tent, and Grant and I in our 6-man tent) busted out from our giant, nylon ovens at 8am, gasping for air and a cool breeze. Tent broiling supreme, it was HOT out there. We had some breakfast (muesli, berries and warm yoghurt and/or rice milk), some surprisingly tasty instant coffee, and managed to drag ourselves to the shower queue in 35 degree heat for a painful ice-cold shower. I don’t care how bloody hot it is, the idea of standing under ice-cold water on PURPOSE makes me cringe. We got through most of the day chasing the shade around the van, downing water.

The festival didn’t open until 3:30pm, but we figured we’d head over early to take a dip in the lake that surrounded the festival site. A treacherous 3km walk down railway tracks in sweltering heat ended in heart-breaking disappointment upon discovering burly security men stationed in front of every goddamned entrance to the lake. NO SWIMMING FOR US.

NO SWIM.

Defeated and wilting in the heat, we were faced with two not-so-appealing options: continue walking past the festival and see what we find, or turn around and walk back to the camping area. We reached a consensus on the latter option, but thankfully came across a road-side stall that a local resident set up with cold beer, sausage sandwiches and more importantly, a HOSE. Thank fuck. The police trucks rolling by seemed to approve of our impromptu lawn drench.

So, now the shit part. We got back to the camp site and chilled out for a couple more hours. As we were leaving, Jenny suggested that everyone brings their tickets even though we already had on our wrist bands (just in case). Grant can’t find his, and Liz had thrown her and Colin’s out (we had a wristband, why would we need the tickets?) and Rhys couldn’t be bothered. Surely, it would be fine. So, we headed 3km (on a shuttle bus this time) back to the festival entrance only to be denied entry.

TICKET FAIL.

WHAT.THE.EFFFFFFFFFFF. After 40 minutes of bouncing around from one dumbfounded staff member to another, a helpful gal was finally able to bring us to the right person to re-print our tickets. Future Eurockeennes goers take note: keep that paper ticket.

THEN WE WERE IN THE FESTIVAL–> PARTY!

Day 1 was fun, but exhausting. I caught the last song of Suicidal Tendencies, as well as sets by Foals, The Black Keys, The Dead Weather and Jay Z. The Dead Weather were awesome, Liz and I both developed a mad girl-crush/envy for singer Allison Mosshart (man, she made smoking look cool). The Black Keys were impressive as usual, and we loved their set even though we’d seen them 4 days earlier in Amsterdam. Grant pooped out for Jay Z and headed back to the tent, so it was just Liz, Colin and I bouncing around, throwing up our diamonds. Fucking grand set, with a killer live band. Liz is a mega-fan and belted out pretty much every single word to every single song. I only know a few tracks well, but loved it nonetheless. I bailed after Jay Z, my knees and feet buckling from the strain of 16+ hours of standing and walking in the heat. I missed Hot Chip and Missy Elliot (who went on at 2am and was apparently horrendous to watch/hear).

I want to BE you, Allison Mosshart.

Jigga what?

Day 2, still scorching but the very slight breeze proved to be our saving grace in getting through the day while the sun was at its highest point.

Grant felt like the denim hot pants was the best option.

Grant and Rhys and Matt and Jenny all jumped on bikes to cycle into town, so Liz, Colin and I layed about the campsite reading before heading to the festival to check out Broken Social Scene (Liz and I were bored, Colin loved it). After that, it was Airbourne, a very popular Aussie metal band whose stage was piled wide and high with 20 Marshall stack amps. It was like watching an AC/DC cover band, only not playing AC/DC tunes.

20 amps, MERCI BEAUCOUP!

Comedy gold. And some sexy festival-goer attire, too:

Business in front...

and…

...party in the back1

Matt was so into the rock that he stripped off his shirt and threw it on the ground…Jenny’s got that classic video on her camera. Then we saw the impressive The XX, had a bit of a dance session watching Memory Tapes on one of the small stages, and had to take cover  and then capped the night watching the highlight of the festival, Janelle Monae. Seriously epic stuff, this girl’s going to be huge. Hadn’t heard of her before, Liz recommended we check it out. She played at the beach stage along the lake (which we couldn’t swim in) with a looming thunderstorm kicking off behind us. Andre 3000, with a long glossy black mane, played guitar in her band (he’s unmistakable). Best show, and really, nothing we could see after that would top it, so we retreated back to the abode for chocolate chip cookies, crisps, and vodka.

Day 3, Sunday. We slept a bit better because it was an overcast morning, so we poached a little less than the previous days. It was so cool, that Liz and I opted to skip the ice shower and just sponge bath instead. Enh, it was the last day and we were all a bit gross anyways. I was pretty keen to have a low-key day, so we ditched Julian Casablancas at the big stage, and sat down in the shade to see post-punk French band, Rien…and they were pretty damn good. We caught the melancholic pop ballads of Australia’s The Middle East, and after that, we watched Gallows ignite a massive audience into the biggest circle pit I’d ever seen.

Watford Punk

‘Highlights’ included front-man Frank Carter heckle an audience member with an ‘I anal sexed yer mum’ joke and a mimed wank session that culminated in a loogie spat into the crowd. Proper punk shit, eh? It was a brilliant set though, and though I was grossed out by the spitting, I do love how Carter makes a point of thanking the crew and insisting on a safe and respectful circle pit. Sadly, the call for a human pyramid was lost in translation by the French crowd, and our sad 5 person pyramid at stage right went unnoticed. We tried. We continued the day with an epic dance party watching LCD Soundsystem. After filling our empty stomachs with tagine (and, by the way, the day before we had Ethiopian), we caught the ear-shattering Health. At that point, the leery drunks started appearing and I made my exit back to the tent, opting out on Massive Attack (who I’d seen twice already). I slept like a baby.

Got up bright and early at 7:30 the next morning to disassemble camp and pack the van up. We said our goodbyes to Matt and Jenny, who were continuing on to Switzerland on their European bike trip. We drove into Belfort to drop Rhys off at the station and got a bit lost coming out, but eventually made our way through a few beautiful French villages. And then we passed a lake. Liz, Grant and I had our eyes glued to the window, whimpering like excited puppies. Hoping, hoping, hoping. Then Colin, our ring leader, capitulated with a ‘oh, yeah, I guess we could stop for a quick swim’, to which we all belted YES!!!!

FIST PUMP!!!! SWIM!!!

we so happy!

Seriously giddy with excitement, we pulled up, got our swimmers on and plunged into the placid, warm lake. I think we all felt like we were 8-years-old again. We got back into the van 20 minutes later, feeling like a million bucks. We had 12 hours in the van ahead of us. We didn’t get lost once, didn’t run out of gas, didn’t get stressed at all. We stopped at a roadside pull-off to pee and stretch our legs. Colin came out of the bushes with a look of horror on his face. “I look down and saw all these condom wrappers and thought ‘hmmm’ and then looked at the ground near my feet and saw all these used condoms!’. Sure enough, we looked around and realized that all the cars parked ahead of us and behind us all had single male drivers. They went into the bushes, but they never came out. Pulling out of the stop and giving a honk-honk as we drove by startled the circle-jerk of 6 or so dudes with their pants around their ankles, and two guys behind them doing…well, I’ll let you have a guess. Belgium!

All went well for the rest of the ride until the temperature gauge lit up near Tilburg, about 80km away from Amsterdam. We were forced to pull off the road to let the Bumblebee catch its breath and rehydrate. Colin picked up a cum cup on the side of the road (it was actually an empty cup, but after the scene in Belgium, we were a bit delirious with pottie humour)…we had an hour to kill, so what were we to do? How about, watch True Blood on the laptop!?!!! So we did. Nothing like watching raunchy vampire sexy times to de-stress a roadside situation.

SOOKEH!

We arrived in Amsterdam at about midnight, absolutely shattered. I felt like shit, my back was in knots…I can’t even imagine what Colin felt like. We made it home on our bikes and I had a warm shower(!) before collapsing in bed.

Amazing trip…

YIPPEEE!!!! GOOD TIMES!

and bitter-sweet ’cause I love Liz & Colin and they’re moving back to Australia in August. Mega sadness.

BAD TIMES.