This morning I went with Ally to the gym and did the Body Balance class. It was great — led by a very handsome and adorable instructor, it was a mix of yoga, tai chi, ballet and I guess aerobics. I wanted to join her for the Body Jump class afterwards — cardio done bouncing on mini trampolines! — but the instructor seemed too worried about my running injuries and talked me out of it, so I did some elliptical instead. Afterwards I regretted not doing the trampoline class anyway though, as it looked really fun and low impact when I stared wistfully through the windows at Ally bouncing up and down.

After that, we wandered around Las Rozas, having a very important heart-to-heart girl talk. In the middle of some tearful and life-changing realisations about myself, I still had an eye for a bargain and picked up this ADORABLE Petit Bateau blazer for 30 euros, which is advertised on their website for A Fair Bit More. I have been wanting a navy blazer for ages so even though I stopped buying myself things a while back… I am actually quite proud of this purchase.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
And last but not least, James emailed to confirm he is coming to Madrid! So happy — when he left Taiwan a month ago I wasn’t expecting to see him again for ages. I’m looking at some very cute places on — wish me luck!


raw chocolate balls

Recently in the evenings I have been craving chocolate like it’s going out of fashion. This isn’t normal for me; I like salty foods like crisps or hot buttered toast or anything involving potatoes. In fact, due to unfortunate chocolatey events in France, Easter 1991, I went for several years repulsed by the idea of chocolate.

Anyway, back to the present, and I decided to make a variation on the recipes I have seen online for “sinless raw fruit and nut chocolate balls” (or some variation on that not very catchy title). It was not an easy task, despite the simplicity of the actual recipe (get nuts, get dates, get cocoa, blend, form into balls, DONE).

For a start, I live in Taiwan, so I can’t just pop down the local supermarket to pick up the ingredients. Finding dates in Taipei (insert lame joke about dating here) involved me hitting up Jason’s Market aka Officially The Most Expensive Supermarket In Taiwan. Jason’s actually did have “baker’s blocks” of pitted dates, and if the price wasn’t exactly reasonable, it was still affordable. I also found natural cocoa powder there, and in a moment of foolishness, purchased Hershey’s chocolate chips as I recalled seeing them included in one recipe. No vanilla extract available. I wanted to get the salted peanuts from my local supermarket, as I thought it would be cheaper… no salted peanuts available. Garlic peanuts, spicy peanuts, wasabi peanuts, coconut peanuts, yes all of those, but no salted peanuts! In the end I chose salted almonds instead.

Once home I threw everything in my blender. Result? A lot of black crumbs that were in no way sticking together. I considered chucking everything out, then remembered that I had forked out a fair bit of money for the ingredients and experimented a little longer… adding in some peanut butter did not help, but some warm water (unsurprisingly) did. I shaped them into truffles and put them in the freezer to firm up.

End result: well they were always going to look like little balls of crap, so I got Wazi to pose with them.

They taste good though! I wouldn’t bother with the chocolate chips in future though, as they are just a tad too sweet. One ball works out about the same as one Kinder Bueno bar in terms of calories, but obviously they are a teensy bit healthier as the sweetness comes from the dates and the fats are healthy nut fats. Without the chocolate chips and peanut butter (both of which I would leave out in future) they would be just 100 calories per ball.

Sorry for the crappy (hah) picture. To make up for them, here are pictures of some creepy red-eyed babies from my walk home (advertising raisins, apparently).

Today’s exercise: elliptical 45min, walking 2h15min, cursing at the blender 25min.

book from the sky, book from the ground

Yesterday I wiped myself out going hard on the elliptical at the gym, and ended up passing out at 5 in the afternoon. I promised myself upon awakening later than evening, bleary-eyed and furry-mouthed, that today would not involve exercise. In fact, it would involve art.

Would you believe that just a 20-minute walk away from me is a free exhibition of Xu Bing’s infamous work, Book from the Sky, as well as his latest work, Book from the Ground. When I was studying Chinese Art, Xu Bing was THE MAN (Ai Weiwei is obviously the guy everyone is talking about these days) and I have long dreamed of seeing his masterpiece Book from the Sky:

So I scuttled off to Eslite Gallery, which doesn’t allow photography sadly or I would have probably taken so many pictures. I did sneak a couple in though (no flash of course)… sorry Xu Bing! I just love what you do too much. I could wrote separate blog entries for each of his works but I’ll try to keep it short.

The front of the gallery shows off his recent “Book from the Earth” concept, along with his fascinating Square Calligraphy. More on both of these below.

Book from the Sky consists of a gigantic installation of hand-printed scrolls and books, the content of which is made up of 4000 hand-carved invented Chinese characters. Xu Bing sat down and took apart the existing thousands of Chinese characters and reassembled them so that they look like Chinese but are absolute gibberish.

The work involved in the whole process — designing new characters, hand-carving the reverse image of each character onto wood, printing by hand — is phenomenal and took him 4 years to complete.

Xu Bing’s work is fascinating for anyone who loves Chinese characters and language in general. Over the years, Xu Bing developed Square Word Calligraphy, a special way of adapting Roman letters to create Chinese-looking calligraphy. Any non-Chinese-reading person when confronted with this scroll would assume it was Chinese, and yet it’s illegible unless you have a strong knowledge of English.

Can you read it?
I’ll start you off: An Ascent – Poem by Du Fu
The wind so wild, the sky so high…

…the moody monkeys sorely sigh
This is a poem by Deng Gao (aka Du Fu) that has been translated in so many ways (this webpage lists 48 translations) — but Xu Bing’s calligraphy makes the translation almost illegible unless you know his trick.

The last section was about his recent publication, Book from the Ground, which I suppose is why Eslite is offering this exhibition at the moment, as they are the ones selling it. Basically Xu Bing has been researching symbols for the last 10 years, in order to develop a universal writing system that anyone can read regardless of language spoken. The book is a novelization of a 24-hour day and after a while, does in fact become legible once you have worked out the symbols and syntax. It was fun seeing the Chinese people around me being able to read the story just as well as I did, and wondering whether it truly is legible to everyone.

Xu Bing has even developed a special computer software where you write in your own language and it is transcribed into his “symbol” language. When it was my turn on the computer I wrote “I believe in Chinese Art” — love that he has a symbol just for Chinese art!

The symbol for Chinese Art is a portrait by artist Zhang Xiaogang. The symbol for just art was the Mona Lisa…

Oh and now you know the trick to reading Xu Bing’s system, can you see what it says underneath each symbol in my fuzzy picture of the gallery window? Men, Nursery, and Women.


Oops it’s been a while since I updated, again. I have been busy moving into my new place, which I love. I know my move to Xinyi has coincided with the apparent end of winter, as well as the end of school and a general new phase of my life, but this house makes me very happy, my bedroom is flooded with daylight from dawn till dusk and as someone who needs sunshine — it’s such a blessing. My new place in fuzzy pictures — I never got round to posting pics of my room in Muzha, but you weren’t missing much:

Gorgeous blanket design, n’est-ce pas?

Happy face!

One of the kitties that lives with us — this is Wupo (witch), I have a weakness for Wazi (socks) but she ran away from the camera

The sun disappeared when I tried to take a view of our rooftop garden and Elephant Mountain in the background… but you get the idea

I am now settled and trying to get into the “freelance” spirit, as sleeping till midday is ok for a week or so but really, I need to be productive in the mornings in order to feel good. My schedule mostly involves getting to the gym and sewing buttons back onto clothes for the time being, but Project Number 2 is underway as of this morning (1:35am, to be precise). I am working with David, the founder of Engaging Minds, helping him compile and edit some coursework materials. It’s really interesting and I feel like it’s a good way to ease back into working. New housemate Dan has kindly lent me a spare PowerBook so I now have an “office space” of sorts — it’s definitely helpful to keep the iPad for distractions and the laptop for working. I am also working my way through the filming schedule, researching for the travel/road trip movie which starts next Friday!

On the injury front, there is no real improvement, no doubt linked to my continuing incapacity to perform the exercises the Doctor gave me to do, but I have finally got access to an elliptical machine at the local sports centre so I am hoping that those workouts will allow me to compensate slightly for my lack of running. It kills me though as the weather is beautiful and I am missing the Hash ever more every day…