Friday, 27 February 2009

Keep up the good awesome

'I could tell you my adventures - beginning from this morning,' said Alice a little timidly; 'but it's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.'
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I'm so excited I can barely sit still to type piano arrived a couple of hours ago!! It stayed at my parents when I moved out but I finally have room for it where we're living now so after many years apart (okay, so I would go round to their place pretty much just to visit my piano!) we are finally reunited...and I've been playing pretty much nonstop since then!

The keys look like slabs of white chocolate with licorice strips...I must be hungry! Actually, it reminds me of when I was quite little and my eldest brother made me a piano cake for my birthday. Mum joked it was his first engineering masterpiece!

Anyway, as you may know, J and I were away last weekend competing in the Great Lake Relay round Lake Taupo. The night before we left for I had dinner out with a group of friends at Thai Eden. Thai has to be one of my favourite foods. You can't go past a creamy coconut milk curry filled with tofu and veges. Fills in all the gaps.

By the time we ordered I was starving so I shared a starter with another of my friends doing the relay with us...Pak Tod, a selection of tempura vegetables with sweet chilli sauce. They even had tempura baby corn!

For my mains I decided to indulge in the Panang Tofu, a rich coconut milk red curry. When I make curry at home I don't use nearly as much coconut milk so it's a real treat when I go out to a Thai restaurant. Not the best of currys but hey, it was still delicious.

The weather was not looking too promising when I got up on Friday and our drive down to Taupo was often in torrential rain. But arriving in Taupo itself the weather seemed to have cleared up quite a bit and there was 
definite promise of some easing in the weather. Our event started at 2am (the start times depend on the grade you are entered in - anywhere from 9pm on Friday night to 3am on Saturday morning) on the Saturday morning so the night crew (J and I included) were up by 1am and piling into our support van to get to the start.

The early hours saw us pulling out some crazy "encouragement" for the other runners and our team mates. "Keep up the good awesome," and "The sun rises from the East for everyone," were some of the most memorable ones.

Fueling up on a lara bar before my first run at around 6am - a 10.1km leg mostly of steady uphill as the sun came up. See the leg
here. The best thing about this leg is you start off in the pitch black and as you run the sun slowly comes up so by the time you get to the transition area it's broad daylight!

Above was our first view of the lake after several hours on the road. It must have been about 9:30am but it felt like the afternoon considering we'd been up since 1am! The first part of the course winds along farm roads and it's not until you turn onto SH41 and head up the hill that you finally get a view of the lake (and a sense of scale of what you're doing since you can't see the other side of the lake except for the odd misty shadow on the horizon.

Above is the grind of Hatepe Hill, a steady 3km climb in the middle of my 6.1km second leg around 1 in the afternoon. Pictures always make hills look flatter than they really are! You can see the leg

Here's Lake Taupo near the finish line as we wait for our final runner to come past. What was scheduled to be a cyclone never really turned into much. Look, blue sky!

Coming in with a total time of 13 hours 1 minute and 39 seconds we came 30th out of 157 running teams and were nearly 40 minutes faster than last year - we rock!

Speaking of the lara bar I mentioned above, Katie from Chocolate-Covered Katie (which is a truly awesome name because being covered in chocolaty goodness would be delicious...and did that just sound really weird?) has this amazing competition going at the moment to win a box of Jocalat bars (they're kind of like the chocolaty, decadent version of lara bars). Go here for more details.

Back to my piano now...

Thursday, 19 February 2009

I promise I'm not crazy

It's important to know that no one can give you self-confidence; nor can you give it to someone else. You can't inherit it or hand it on to your heirs. You can't borrow or steal it; nor can anyone take it from you. Confidence is something that only you can give yourself.
- The Confident Woman by Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz

How do you fit training into an incredibly busy schedule? Well, you incorporate it into your daily commute (okay, not every day but once a week?). J meets me at Mt Eden and we run the rest of the way together. The best thing is some times I get to pass traffic. That's enough to keep you buzzing the whole way home.

Of course, with all that training you've gotta have some good food to fuel you up. Training often doesn't leave us that much time to cook anything exciting during the week so nights with takeaways or eating out are always exciting. There's a food court near J's work in town that has claypot.

What could be in here I wonder?

It's spicy tofu and vegetables on rice - one of my all time favourite dishes to have when we eat out. I love how the rice goes crispy on the edges of the pot!

Pizza is also awesome. Though nothing beats homemade pizza, Hell is not too bad. Plus they do kumara chips which I can never pass up.

Here is their vegan pizza, with the enticing name of Sinister, with added mushrooms and cashews served with kumara chips and sweet chilli sauce on the side. Awesome (and quick)! Of course, this only shows about half of what I ate. It's pretty easy to devour an entire snack-sized pizza especially when you've had a hard day.

Of course, I have been concocting the odd thing in the kitchen...cupcakes!

These are based (very loosely) on the hazelnut cupcakes from VCTOTW. They're more almond and coconut cupcakes with mocha vanilla mousse filling and a plain vanilla icing. I've never seen hazelnut meal in our shops and I didn't have the time to make my own so almond it was.

Above is a terrible photo of the inside. We now have a whole lot of mousse in the freezer waiting to be eaten. Don't you love how battle-worn our kitchen bench looks?!

It's only a couple of days to go until the Taupo Relay and I'm already lacking in sleep. Since the grade we're entered in starts at 2am on Saturday I'm not exactly hopeful of catching it up before the race. I can't wait but it sure could get interesting with a
tropical cyclone on its way!

Anyway, for those of you interested, we spent our Valentines day putting in some mountain bike training. Funny that!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Just a little stroll around the mountain

The sun struggled feebly with the mist, tried to impart a little warmth here, shed a little light there, but clearly today was going to be just another long haul across the sky.
Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams

J and I have several events that we are training for in the coming months which is certainly keeping us busy (and in a constant state of tiredness).

The next big event is the Great Lake Relay, a running race around the edge of Lake Taupo in the central North Island. J and I are the team organisers (part of this role is organising who does what leg which is always a logistical nightmare). Another part of our role is getting the team motivated (or at least trying our hardest!). As most of our 10-person team is based in Auckland some of us have been doing team training runs round One Tree Hill in the weekend (random fact: U2 wrote a song named after this hill).

The best part of the team training is, of course, the indulgence afterwards...

How about waffles with berries, various indulgent sauces and topped off with various chunks of chocolate? I love my waffle maker (so does my team naturally!) ☺

Our last team run was on Friday,
Waitangi Day over here. What better way to finish off a training run than with a traditional kiwi BBQ in the summer sun.

An awesomely huge vege burger filled with baby spinach, avocado, grilled mushroom, onion, grated sheese, J's Mum's spicy tomato sauce and this very tasty new vege pattie J's Aunty discovered for us in the freezer section of the supermarket. We stocked up and bought several packets!

As an aside, at the Ocean Noise presentation last night all the food was vegetarian...I was quite amazed! Also impressive was the almost full house. Yay!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Whale songs and leftovers

Every day, I choose, sometimes gamely and sometimes against the moment’s reason, to be alive. Is that not a rare joy?
The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon

Not that there are many people who read this from Auckland, but if you are then please think about coming to
this event. Whales are embedded deep into traditional Maori and Pacific history and culture and thus into the hearts of many New Zealanders. At work I have been working with images taken during the recent whale stranding on Perkins Island in Tasmania and it's pretty heartbreaking.

Right...moving on to food.

Despite having quite a lot of refried beans and nachos while I was away one of the first meals I made upon returning home was nachos!

Admittedly these were a lot more luxurious than those on the trip with
Pico de Gallo flavoured corn chips and sheese grilled in the oven. Gotta be one of my favourite dinners (plus it makes leftovers for lunch the next day although J and I have to fight over who actually gets to take the leftovers)!

The smell of curry is always tempting and when you don't have much lying around in the pantry and fridge, well a chickpea curry solves everything (we always have some green curry paste in the fridge - it's so strong that you can only use one heaped teaspoon at a time!).

Curry is also one of the prime candidates for leftovers since I always end up making heaps. Leftovers for lunch at work are like paradise!

It's been really hot here recently so often you don't feel in the mood for something heavy at dinner. Homemade pizza is awesome (I swear the heat is turning my brain to slush so I can't form decent sentences)! 

The dough mixture I make is usually enough for two medium-sized pizzas (one for J and one for me) and if you're good and don't eat the whole thing at once then you'll get leftovers (yes, I like leftovers)!

I haven't had quiche in a long time and had been eyeing up one of the recipes in
The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook.

I couldn't be bothered making the crust so I decided to attempt it without one. It kind of fell apart when I tried to serve it (hence no pictures of it on a plate 'cause it looked more like a scramble by then!) but I still thought it tasted okay. Could definitely do with some tweaking though.

Of course, if you don't really want to cook, you can always pop to your nearest Indian grocer (we have two only a few minutes walk away!) and pick up something there. Put some couscous on while you pop out and by the time you're home and your meal is heated it'll be ready to serve!