biscottes!

No running? …I managed to hurt my foot. Plantar fasciitis. It’s ok, I will try again when I am back from China in September (!!). I can’t risk not being able to walk as I have a lot of hiking ahead of me.

In preparation for my trip, I tried to think of FODMAP-friendly stuff I could take with me. I wisely cut off my internet time-wasting websites for 24 hours this morning before I left the house, which meant when I got home at 8pm this evening, I couldn’t default to my slumped-in-front-of-my-laptop default (I use a Mac program called Self-Control, where you can set a blacklist of websites and then tell it how long you’re not allowed to access them for. It’s a life saver when working on essays).

So this evening, in the 2.5 hours I’ve been home, I:
– Washed and hung out laundry
– Made myself quesadillas for dinner
– Worked through 3 huge piles of washing up (some of it from the weekend-before-last)
– Baked FODMAP-friendly banana chocolate chip oatmeal cookies for my trip (I am not even going to pretend that they will last me longer than the flight, but that’s already a huge deal)
– Made biscottes (which the internet informs me are generally known as “Zwieback”” by English-speakers?). I was trying to think how I could transport low-FODMAPS bread to Guizhou (which is hot and humid) without it immediately going mouldy. I came up with the idea of turning a loaf of my favourite Alpine Sour Rye bread into biscottes, which as long as they’re sealed in an airtight box, should be ok. Dry rusks may not sound terribly appealing but they’ll be most welcome if my stomach gets upset from too many FODMAPs.

 photo 431dd191-276d-4031-96a1-eec7f6c08d3d.jpg

In case anyone ever wondered about how to make biscottes — leave your bread out for about 24 hours so it can dry out as much as possible first, then put them in the oven at 150 C for an hour (I’m tempted to put “or two” as I saw online to put them in for 1.5 hours, or 100 C for 3 hours — but I put mine in for an hour and they were perfect, if somewhat brown for the lower rack).

return to Taipei!

I have been planning to move back to Taiwan for a few months next year, and my current holiday here is sealing the deal. I love being back in Taiwan (for the fourth time, albeit my shortest visit yet). I love it so much that I want to keep telling James over and over, although I’ve learned to suppress it a little as apparently it was getting old.

We landed very late at night/early in the morning and waited ages for a taxi. However when the taxi did eventually show up, the driver was lovely and we talked all the way to Fuxing Beilu, making me feel like maybe my rusty Chinese was still useable. When I was living in Sri Lanka, the Mainland Chinese I met through work often struggled to understand me (even though my Chinese was so much better then than it is now). Same when I visited Xinjiang and Beijing on work trips. Here, everyone seems much more willing to meet me halfway.

Despite only getting a handful of hours of sleep, the next morning I headed out to Hatha Yoga for a Bikram class.

 photo IMG_8950.jpg

Which was wonderful, even though the room didn’t have carpet but instead was lined with plastic-covered mats and we just practiced on towels. This wouldn’t matter except I was the only person sweating like a pig (I positioned myself under the heat as the room was much cooler than I am used to), and a puddle grew around me (especially in triangle pose), creeping towards my poor neighbours. Water poured off me but to be honest I liked it! Also I loved hearing the dialogue in Chinese. I wish I could have a recording of it in Chinese so I can practice both my Chinese and my Bikram at home. I am hoping I’ll get to come back to the studio on the Sunday morning we are back in Taipei.

Then I met up with James and we went for lunch. It turns out the studio was very close to Yongkangjie, behind Shida University, where I used to study back in 2005 and 2006. We sat in Yongkangjie Park and watched cute kids play and I reminisced and rejoiced in how much I love being in Taipei.

 photo IMG_8942.jpg

In the afternoon we walked a billion kilometres trying to find somewhere that would either have the flip-flops James wanted, or alcoholic beverages. This allowed us to visit Gongguan and Shida which was fun again for me as these are places I used to frequent a lot as a student, but frustrating as every bar I could think of was closed until the evening — I guess students don’t drink in the daytime!

Sneak peek of Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall as seen from the metro station:

 photo IMG_8953.jpg

Then I caught up with several of my friends which was lovely. and we finished the night at Taipei’s most famous 牛肉麵 establishment, where I had beef noodles and James had the “half beef, half tendon” noodles. The funny thing is, I came here many years ago (10 years ago, in fact) when the Taiwanese couple who were hosting me took me out for dinner with some of their friends. I turned my nose up at it all as it did not appeal at all to my sensibilities. This time of course I was thrilled. I guess I have improved with age.

 photo IMG_8955.jpg

That was my “one day in Taipei” as we flew out the next morning to Kinmen: at least one, if not multiple posts to come (I had to get this one out of the way first!).

struggle yoga

I went to 6am yoga on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and at some point in the middle of Wednesday night woke up and decided to turn off the alarm for Thursday morning yoga. I marginally regretted it throughout Thursday so that night I very carefully planned Friday 6am yoga, since I had an appointment at 8am. I prepared yoga kit, work clothes to change into, breakfast to grab, all my morning pills (I have to take a LOT of pills) in a little dish by the door with a glass of water so I could do it all in record time — I had it all rehearsed.

Then I forgot that my 5am alarm had been switched off, and woke up at 6:20 with some serious grumpyface.

My 8am appointment was with the psychologist. I was already full of rage at the world for depriving me of my morning yoga, and angry that I had to go to this stupid appointment. I angried my way there and waited, angrily. Of course it turned out to be a really fantastic session (about my anger) and I came out really glad I had attended.

Among other things, we discussed how Bikram helps me placate the rage inside of me, and how to cope when I can’t go for whatever reason (injury, time, location etc.). She suggested I run through each posture in my head, a sort of virtual yoga, and so on the tram to work, I pulled up a doodle app on my phone and drew each posture. It was such a soothing exercise that I almost missed my stop. I feel very reassured to have this option, given I won’t be able to practice when we’re traveling around Taiwan (although I am planning to visit the Taipei Bikram studio and do a class in Chinese).

 photo 54e895a5-b43f-4f7b-bee6-3cf17459cf70.jpg

Anyway, I was determined I would NOT miss Friday 6pm. I tried to get out of work 10 minutes early, but ultimately my tram connection betrayed me and the 75 just WOULD. NOT. COME. When it eventually turned up, the traffic was bad, and I was practically jumping up and down with frustration waiting to get off the tram at 5:47. I ran home, grabbed my yoga bag, ran to the studio, pulled my clothes off, and discovered I hadn’t packed my costume (of course, it was at the end of my bed). I dressed again, ran home and back, changed, and dashed to the room already soaked with sweat. I tried not to get ragey about the two girls whispering behind me (NO TALKING IN THE HOT ROOM!) and then a man walked in fully dressed including town shoes so he could put down his mat and towel (NO SHOES IN THE ENTIRE STUDIO GOD DAMN IT IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK etc. etc.) and promised myself I would not let anger distract me from my class.

My costume misadventure meant the teacher remembered my name. And boy did she use it. Over and over. “Rosie, suck your stomach in” “Rosie, spine straight!” “Rosie, higher on your toes” “Rosie, lock your knee, lock it, really lock it” “Rosie, shoulders down”… I know that sounds defeating but I *love* getting corrections from teachers. I love it when they tell me I’m doing it wrong. And I so pushed myself like crazy tonight, even though it was such a struggle. No anger there!

I was so exhausted at the end, and in the change room one of the other students commented on how intense the class had been. I agreed and said “Yeah… I’m Rosie, so…” and she laughed “Oh man, the whole class I was thinking this Rosie is really getting it tonight!”.

No rage. Also, I’ve stuck to the FODMAPS elimination diet for three consecutive days and feel so much better for it. There’s no way I can follow it while James is here or when travelling, but I am committed to doing it properly very soon.

mercury in retrograde

Title courtesy of James who was mocking my end-of-day bliss.

This morning I dragged myself out of bed at 5:20 and onto the tram. As usual by the time I reached the studio I was glad to be there, but when I bent down to straighten my mat, pain shot through my ribs and chest. Every time I bent forward, nerve pain darted around, and I realised this was not going to be compatible with yoga, aka bendy-bendy-pretzel-sport. The teacher and I agreed I would see how the first exercise would go — but from the first deep breath I was in too much pain to even contemplate it, so I went home.

This gave me time to lay in bed, gawk at shoes from Bared (I need new sandals), and research methods for cleaning silicon shower caulk. I spent a pleasant twenty minutes scrubbing bleach into grout with a toothbrush, then headed into work. And I struggled to believe it myself, but today was pretty good! I got several nice emails from clients, which I filed under my Praise folder, because, yes, I have one, and it’s pretty dusty most of the time, because Operations is a thankless, praiseless task. I got all my reporting wrapped up in time to go to Bikram for the 6pm Focus60 class and was pretty excited to get a second chance since my back had stopped spasming.

Yoga was great. It was one of those really easy classes that happens every now and then, where I nailed every posture and never felt dizzy or overheated. Standing head to knee pose, normally a trigger for hip pain, was strong with both legs locked. My triangle was deeper than it’s been for a month. Everything felt wonderful. During class, the thunderstorm that had been brewing all afternoon finally exploded above us, and laying in shavasana with deafening rain and thunder drumming over my head was just blissful.

When I came out, the combination of the muggy heat and the torrential rain felt just like Taiwan. Did I mention James and I scored ultra-cheap flights to Taipei? My eternal gratitude to Graham who texted me to say Cathay had return flights from Melbourne for just $733!! Amazing. We are going on the 23rd of April and I cannot wait. But in the interim, it felt like a Taipei typhoon day, and I was grinning like an idiot all the way home.

 photo IMG_8440.jpg

Then I came home and cooked dinner. Believe it or not, I appear to have cooked a healthy, fructose-friendly, vegetarian meal every night this week, often with leftovers for lunch the next day. I’ve done physio every time I do yoga, so every other day (which is how I’m currently planning my Bikram). Taking my ulcerative colitis medication religiously. My house is a complete mess, but I’m hitting lots of goals. This is in all likelihood linked to my purchase of an app called Way of Life, where you can set daily goals and habits and then check them off every day, building graphs. I love it so much. It’s the best $8 I ever spent on an app.

posit even

It’s so hard to stay positive! I am finding it hard to feel pleased with myself at the end of this weekend. I wait all week for work to be over, and then the weekend goes by and I have nothing to show for it but naps. What did I even do with myself?

  • I went to just one yoga class on Saturday, and none on Friday or Sunday, although it was a really good class. I’m starting to wonder if Bikram is more enjoyable going every other day instead of 5 times a week. Maybe if I set that as a goal I would stop beating myself up when I don’t go, too.
  • I taped up some boxes and packed up most of my books (they are always the easiest thing to pack, after all).
  • After a few issues, I finally installed the Blackboard application for the online workshop on intangible cultural heritage I have signed up for. The three sessions will be run on Thursday mornings in February from 10am to 12pm Melbourne time, which means I will have to be strong and determined and step away from my work for two hours, and not let anything stand in the way of that. I’m already worried about a meeting coming up this Thursday, which I’m pretty sure my boss hasn’t bothered to put into my diary but will want me to attend, but I will just have to put my foot down. The third session is the same day as an absolutely incredible-sounding lecture I want to attend at Deakin: Building Capacity for Reducing Disaster Risks to Cultural Heritage Challenges and Opportunities in Asia Pacific. So… so I will take the entire morning off work. Scary! But I have to get some small amount of study in, having otherwise given up uni this semester.

(This listing thing is cheering me immensely. This is why I have this blog, which is basically a long list of things I did)

  • I offered a load of my pre-loved high heels on Facebook to whomever amongst my friends wanted them. I was surprised by the positive response I had, and it feels really good to re-home them! Plus it means I have/will be seeing friends who come to shoe-shop, which is nice. James’ sister came over and picked up 3 pairs for a start.
  • Sent a huge pile of books off to donate to the op-shop.
  • Sorted through all my papers (and even organised them into an accordion file with little stickers and everything) whilst listening to the audiobook of Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, for old times’ sake. Polly and I listened to the Red Dwarf audiobooks at least 20 times over the course of our childhood, and it’s very soothing to me!
  • Found no fewer than 5 unfinished needlework projects (a scarf I have been knitting for several years, and 4 different needlepoint projects (a duck, some lavendar, some wildflowers, and another which I have already forgotten again). These can go in the queue behind the sashiko I am literally 30 minutes away from finishing.
  • Cooked egg fried rice and tofu, with leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Yes that was the only thing I cooked. I don’t even know what else I ate in the last 48 hours, apart from ice cream.
  • Spent lots of time Skyping with my wonderful, albeit monstrously hirsute, boyfriend, who I just am too lucky to have, even if he sometimes does weird things like send me unsolicited, unwearable onesies. Although he has also booked us an AirBnb bush retreat for when he gets back from Iraq so it evens out (also following mysterious requests for my mailing address, I am pretty sure he has also got me Pioneer Girl, the Laura Ingalls Wilder autobiography, which is pretty much sold out everywhere. Or maybe it was a salad spinner! both are highly coveted objects of desire…)!

So I suppose overall I have done SOME things. Eeeep it’s 10:45pm and I need to pack my bag for 6am Bikram… urgh… mornings… work… must resist temptation to get miserable again.

baked eggs and bikram

So it’s Thursday night and I’m almost done with week 5 at work. I started the week suffering from awful anxiety, and the entirety of Monday was spent trying desperately to hold on to my last French nerve (despite 6am Bikram); my whole chest felt tingly and I had a constant sense of dread. But the new office is actually quite a big improvement so far, quite unexpectedly. One of my biggest fears had been noise levels, but in fact everyone is uncharacteristically quiet and restrained, I haven’t had to wear my earplugs yet!

We’re on the 11th floor, and I have floor-to-ceiling windows right behind me and to my left — with the green of trees swaying and a huge expanse of bright blue sky, it really does lift my spirits when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I need to take more and better pictures, but of course most of the time taking photos for my blog is at the bottom of my daily task list.

 photo IMG_8376.jpg

I have also been making an effort to cook meals in the evening, but I tend to slip into apathy as the week progresses. Monday night I made vegetable and egg fried rice noodles, Tuesday night I made a huge pan of mashed potatoes and ate the entire thing with tuna and sweetcorn. By Wednesday night I was in a crappy state of mind… My dinner was crisps and popcorn and ice cream, whilst finishing Top Of The Lake, which was such a brilliant piece of TV (if you like stunning landscapes and bleak detective stories of course).

Today I redeemed myself somewhat. This is perhaps because I got through my work day without any sense of panic, and took training new staff and client meetings in my stride; I had a lunch with my boss where we discussed the changes he is implementing to try to keep me (which, I’ll confess, I’m really impressed with so far. He is unrecognisable and it’s changing our workplace so much). I also had a frank discussion with an employee who has been very difficult and hopefully it will improve our working relationship also.

I went straight from work to Bikram, where I had a KICKASS class. I am not generally a fan of 6pm classes and I had never seen this teacher before, but when she called out a “Good job Rosie” during awkward pose… my keener instincts kicked in and I pushed myself so hard! I was nailing posture after posture, going deeper and stronger and feeling incredible, even delivering four good triangle poses despite my hips! — and then I hit a wall during the spine-strengthening series. I kept thinking I was going to vomit, and suddenly noticing how hot it was; I sat out most of half-tortoise, camel and rabbit, shaking and looking like I’d been punched in the stomach whenever I saw myself in the mirror… and then got my second wind and crushed my last few postures. But by the time I crawled into the shower, I felt like I’d run a marathon! The water ran ice-cold and I couldn’t adjust the temperature or even move, just stood there, trying to remember the faraway dreamlike world outside that shower.

Now I feel fabulous. I even cooked baked eggs with mushrooms and cheese when I got home, and it was really good. And tomorrow I have an exciting nuclear medicine bone scan, as my new sports doctor is obsessed with my mystery shin injury which has been haunting me for over 3 years now and keeping me from running. Who knows what she will do with the results, but I am intrigued to at least get a diagnosis.

50 days until James is back from Iraq!

things

I took advantage of a Monday off work to try and pull myself together.

I made baked eggs from this recipe, and it was easy and delicious. It has spices! I want to get better at using spices because without onions and garlic, food gets boring very fast.

Raw:
 photo IMG_8324.jpg

Slightly overcooked (which is how I prefer them really):
 photo IMG_8326.jpg

These unsexy badly-lit pictures of my wardrobe? The result of extensive organisation and purging of what is habitually referred to as the Floordrobe. I’m proud, thus they are going on the blog.

 photo IMG_8335.jpg

 photo IMG_8338.jpg

Polly is rather keen on the hairdye scene, and we picked up some coloured hair chalks on the weekend. She experimented with blue and purple as usual, and for fun, I picked up the red, pink, orange and yellow to make a little Flame Princess makeover. I thought it would have washed out after Bikram this morning, but it turns out, I still have teensy reddish highlights (if you can spot them). I quite like them, although I trust none of my clients noticed today at work.

 photo IMG_8344.jpg

Speaking of Bikram and work: my backpack at 5:30am… again, boring picture for everyone else, but it holds: breakfast, lunch, two towels, my Bikram costume, my work shoes and clothes, my toiletries, and my water bottle. I was quite impressed with my packing and organisational skills. Onto the blog it goes.

 photo IMG_8339.jpg

I came out of a particularly draining call conference to find a parcel from mummy on my desk, with a fancy magical butter dish and a tapestry kit from Erhman Tapestry. I’m itching to get started but I must finish the sashiko first!! I’ve only got about an hour’s work left to do so I must knuckle down.

 photo IMG_8340.jpg

Work today was a 9 in terms of loathing. I shut myself away and cried in the training room at 9:30am, although things slowly improved over the course of the day. It’s nearly always the first day back that is the worst, I suppose I should not have long weekends…