super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Summing up the October blogging challenge

October has come and gone and so has the blogging challenge I set for myself.

I had initially decided to try to blog once a day every day during October which would mean I would get to the end of the 31st with at least 31 blog posts written. I knew it would be a busy month so thought that, if necessary, I would just post some YouTube video or whatever interesting Ted talk I had watched on a day when I didn’t have time to write anything else.

Then I decided that there was really no point in posting stuff like that just to fill up the blank space – the old “if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all” adage came to mind. After all, this was a challenge for myself, to try and get me into the habit of blogging (and writing) as often as possible. A YouTube video to replace a blog post wasn’t going to help that, really.

I started off well. In fact, I managed to publish on blog post every day until the 14th, when I didn’t publish anything. It was okay because I had published two blog posts the day before and then published another two the day after.

From the 15th onwards, things got slightly harder. I travelled through different timezones to Singapore and worked my butt off so couldn’t keep up with blogging and everything else. Nothing was published between the 15th and the 19th, when I sat on the hotel lobby and posted a quick recap of my Singapore trip. And then another break… travelling back to New Zealand (stopping over in Australia) took a total of 15 hours and I came back to the office with about 3.5 tonnes of work to do before setting out on an overnight hike, which I blogged about four days after the Singapore blog post. The next day, to try and catch up, I published another two blog posts. For some reason, I skipped the 25th and didn’t blog on that day, but got back into it the day after with another two blog posts (one of them fairly long). From then on, I’ve blogged every day until today, the 31st, including two blog posts on the 29th and three today (!).

In total, I posted 30 blog posts in October. I know I’m one short and I could quickly pick a funny cat photo or something else to put up here and get a better result on this challenge. But what would be the point? I don’t think that would make this self-imposed blogging challenge any more successful. I really feel like blogging as become a habit again and, regardless of whether some blog posts are more interesting than others, I’ve enjoyed documenting everything I’ve documented here this month.

Here’s a roundup of the most read posts from October, in case you feel like a trip down short-term memory lane:

  1. Leitch’s Track, Whareorino Forest, New Zealand
  2. lomo love
  3. distance means nothing
  4. crouch, touch, pause, engage!
  5. a photo tour of new plymouth, new zealand
  6. running randoms
  7. a small photo tour of Sintra’s many Sintras
  8. vanilla cupcakes with passionfruit icing
  9. Fado (and other weird expat behaviour)
  10. How much did this run suck? Let me count the ways. 
November will be a very different story. I’ll be focusing on my off-work writing efforts on NaNoWriMo and a lot of the rest of my free time will be taken up with half-marathon training. But I’m sure I’ll squeeze in the time to stop by as often as possible to document all of those things too.


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NaNoWriMo 2011

Starting tomorrow and for the next 30 days, I will:

  • try to remain just as productive at my full-time job
  • train for my second half-marathon, run said half-marathon and finish it injury-free
  • spend time on a pacific island and try to enjoy it as much as possible
  • maintain some sort of social life
  • write a 50,000 word novel (or 1666 words per day, to be more precise)
So apologies in advance if you say good morning to me and I respond by threatening to hit you in the face with whatever I happen to be holdingl. As you can see, it’ll be totally justified.


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apple and cinnamon turnovers

Not exactly the best looking treat I’ve ever made (also not the worst, trust me) but really tasty nonetheless. Inside, a mix of bits of apple, brown sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. Not sure about the quantities, just basically made a big mixture of those four ingredients in a bowl. Drizzled with a mix of icing sugar and milk on top, in a failed attempt to make them look slightly less boring. These had the added bonus of making the kitchen smell like Christmas.


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How much did this run suck? Let me count the ways.

As part of the training for the Kerikeri Half-Marathon next month, S. and I ran the Adidas Quarter Marathon in Auckland this morning. I wasn’t nervous at all about it and now I realise maybe I should have been, at least a little bit. Underestimating runs is a really rookie mistake and I’ve been entering these events since January so you think I would have learnt.

Last night, I was still awake at 1am, with the alarm set to wake me up only 4h30 later. I had all my running clothes set aside and ready, something I had done earlier in the day when I was sort of stressing out about having to get up so early. “Don’t stress,” said C. at the time. “You and Stacey do this kind of distance all the time.” I didn’t stress. There was no carb loading, no early bed time, nothing. And there should have been.

At 6:20, S. started ringing me. Still very much asleep, I wasn’t really sure at first why she was ringing me and it took me a few seconds to actually realise that OMFG we’re supposed to be at the start line before 6:45am! I raced to her house and from there, we got on her scooter and raced down to Victoria Park, near where the start line was meant to be. I was still putting my time chip in my shoe and S. was just coming back from the bag drop off area when we heard the run starting. We could see the start line in the distance and there was a fence between us and the rest of the runners. The security guards pointed us in the right direction to get around the fence and we started running right then but were still pretty much the last people to cross the start line, behind all the walkers.

Luckily, dodging the walkers wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected (certainly much easier than it had been around the same spot for Round the Bays, last March). About 1km in, I remembered that, in the mad rush to make it down there in time, I’d forgotten the very first thing I’ve been doing for the past 27 years as soon as I roll out of bed in the morning: going to the bathroom! I didn’t want to make any toilet stops and get stuck behind walkers again so I just focused on trying not to think about how much I needed it. Except focusing on not thinking about it makes you think about it even more. Small glitch in the plan.

I also decided to take my hydration pack for its first run, thinking it would be good training to take it to the half-marathon next month. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t adjust the straps properly or what else it was, but I ended up with burn marks on my shoulders from the straps rubbing on the skin with each step I took. Not fun. Now I’m considering not taking a hydration pack on the half-marathon but I guess I’ll make a final decision after taking it n a couple more outings.

Luckily, the course was flat and we felt good for most of it (other than some soreness, probably due to not having had time to warm up, and my desperate need for a toilet). As we crossed the finish line, I pretty much begged the lady who was handing out bananas to point me to the nearest toilet. At least running and hiking are forcing me to get over my mental block against public toilets.

(What’s that? Enough with the toilet talk, you say? Fine.)

After finishing the run, we realised the scooter had been towed and we had to walk all the way to where the mean people had taken it. More sunday-morning-run-related suckiness, of course.

I guess, looking on the bright side, we had a good run, managed to make up for starting so far behind, finished on a decent time and didn’t get injured. This is how I’ll probably remember it in a couple of days time. Except I’m writing this blog post now and not in a couple of days time and, right now, it sucked arse.

Time to go back to bed.

P.s.: Confused by the different times in the screenshot above? The explanation is here. Basically, net time is how long it actually took me to go from the start to the finish line. The official time is the time that it took me to cross the finish line from the moment the run started (back when I was still putting the chip in my shoe).


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a hot date with tea and cake

Here’s the recipe for a really good afternoon: bake a cake, get your pretty new vintage china out and pour yourself a cup of your current tea obsession (at the moment, lime and orange).

For this marble cake, I sort of followed the recipe from the Edmonds cookbook, but made a few adjustments. For example, the recipe tells you to divide the cake batter into three equal parts and add red food colouring to one of the parts to make it pink. I don’t think I’d ever heard of marble cake with three colours (am I just totally out of touch with the wonderful world of marble cakes?) so I skipped that step. I also added vanilla essence to the batter, to make the plain part of the cake a little less plain, and replaced the cocoa with drinking chocolate.

Anyway, you’ll need: three eggs, 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 cup of self-raising flour, 50g of melted butter, 2 tablespoons of boiling water, 2 or 3 tablespoons of drinking chocolate, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence.

Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees celsius. Beat the eggs until thick and gradually add the sugar in until the mixture gets thick and white. Fold flour into the mixture and then fold the butter and boiling water into it. Divide the batter into two equal parts. In one of them, stir in the cocoa/drinking chocolate. Leave the other plain. Grease a loaf tin and spoon the two mixtures into it diagonally. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

 


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caturday

Miss Blue Eyes here had her stitches removed today. In practical terms, it means she’s now allowed to go outside and my days of scooping poop out of her litter tray should be counted. In obsessive-kitty-mum terms, things might not work out exactly that way. Am I ever going to be able to let her out of my sight and risk her never returning ever again? I’m not so sure. Might just have to get used to scooping out poop until the end of times. She’s got a scratch post that matches her fur colour anyway so she’s sorted.


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lomo love ❤

It’s Friday evening and my brain has turned into mush. I haven’t made any sense in hours, keep misspelling words and getting confused about stuff I should know off by heart. It’s just been one of those days.

Instead of boring you with how lame today was or try to come up with something clever to say (and probably fail), I’ll just share some old photos. I came across these the other day and got thinking about how much fun it was to use up that roll of film with friends during a lomo competition. The photos even got me a first prize (who would have thought, eh?) and I scored a much loved Diana fisheye camera and – coolness of coolnesses – a fisheye submarine!

I brought the underwater case to New Zealand with me when I visited home last month. Now that I’ve sorta maybe kinda learnt how to swim, it’s time to head up to the islands and get this underwater thing where it’s meant to be. Roll on summer!


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running randoms

  • My friend and running buddy Stacey wrote a really good article about why we run for the magazine she edits. She speaks the truth, that one, especially when she says stuff like “we have stopped running so we can eat bad, and started eating right so we can run well”. Except I haven’t reaaaaally started eating as healthily as I should be doing… yet.
  • When I was in Singapore last week, I discovered yet another reason why running is awesome: if you’re in a new place for a really short period of time, it’s the perfect way to get some sightseeing done (especially if you combine running with jetlag and lace up your shoes when half the city is still asleep!).
  • There needs to be some sort of global campaign to make people realise running on a treadmill and running outside are not the same thing.
  • It makes me very happy that both my homes, New Zealand and Portugal, use the metric system. Saying 6 miles instead of 10km doesn’t sound nearly as impressive.
  • Rockmyrun.com, I did not know you existed. Finding you today made me happy.
  • Only 23 days until the next half marathon.


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Fado (and other weird expat behaviour)

What’s the weirdest thing about being an expat, other than the word expat? (I know you didn’t ask but just go along with it). Well, for me it’s finding myself feeling nostalgic for things I didn’t even realise I liked.

Growing up in Lisbon, it was sort of uncool to like fado. It was old people’s stuff, you know. In fact, you kind of had to go out of your way to find it, it seemed. And so I never did. Instead, I hummed along to whatever was fashionable back then (and okay, some less-than-fashionable stuff but lets not get into that).

As I was heading out of my teens, Mariza exploded and Fado slowly started making its way back (?) into the mainstream music circuit. Or maybe it was just that I went to the Faculty of Letters and started hanging out with intellectual folk and so higher culture became more common around me (whoa, that sounded snotty, didn’t it? Don’t worry, I was still licking my bowls after ice cream back then. Okay, I still do). It was the height of my hipster-like life and liking fado was kind of cool precisely because fado was uncool. Or something. But even then, I never made it past more than a couple of fado songs in a row.

Fast forward a few years and I’m inside JB Hi-Fi in New Zealand looking for a CD of Kiwi music to take to my auntie in Portugal for her birthday. Chris was happily browsing the CDs in another aisle when my eyes fell on The Rough Guide to Fado. And I had to have it. Because I loved the songs in it? Hell, I didn’t even recognise their names! But it was something from Portugal in New Zealand and I go all silly when I see Portuguese stuff in NZ (like the time I bought a disgusting tin of tuna because it said “Portuguese tuna” or the time I paid about $5 for a Portuguese tart in Sydney and it tasted like poop. But I love you, motherland!).

Fast forward again to about a month or so ago. A friend emailed me saying he was doing some research on Fado music and asked for some pointers. I put off writing him a reply because I knew it would be a long one (I tend to babble a lot when foreigners ask about my country because, well, my country rocks) and I was feeling particularly homesick at the time so I wasn’t looking forward to mess with those feelings like that.

Today, I finally replied to his email. Yes, I babbled. And I added a lot of YouTube links. And then I hit the ‘send’ button and spent pretty much the rest of the day at work with my earphones on listening to Fado. It took me coming to New Zealand to realise how much I love it.

And see, I’m babbling again. Don’t mind me. I just wanted you to listen to these and dare you not to be touched by them, whether you understand the lyrics or not.


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australian roadtrip encounters – teddy bears on trees

One of the great things about taking a roadtrip in a campervan is the ability to stop wherever pleases you for however long you feel like it because there is no set time to check into a hotel or any other kind of schedules. As a result, you might find yourself stopping for a quick snack bread or just to admire the scenery and find stuff like, oh I don’t know, teddy bears hanging from trees in the middle of nowhere in Australia.

Cute? Creepy? I’m not entirely sure. But photo-worthy either way, I reckoned. These photos weren’t even all taken on the same piece of road – we actually drove between each of them. The whole idea behind these bears on trees remains a mystery to me. Upon returning to this side of the Tasman, I spent more time than I’d like to admit searching for the reasoning behind this. Strangely, the internet hasn’t been able to solve the mystery for me.

This forum thread was the closest I could get to an answer. This Wikipedia entry about Kings Highway mentions the bears in the “notable features and landmarks” section but offers no explanation (except maybe an implicit relationship between the bears and the nearby “Pooh Bear’s Corner”, a small rock cave near the top of the Clyde Mountain pass. The bears are also mentioned here. Other than that, I found zero. nada.

Teddy bear spotting along deserted roads has all the ingredients to be a fun activity but I’d really like to know why there are dozens of these along this particular Australian road. Do you know?

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