Kelly the Culinarian: June 2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Worst run ever

I'm still dealing with jet lag and not sleeping soundly. Plus, I think the craptacular airplane food made me sick Thursday, but I was feeling fine Friday morning and thought I'd knock out the 14 miler on my schedule.

Worst decision ever.

First, I waited too long, hitting the road around 8 a.m. I also failed to recharge my phone and Garmin, which died a half mile short of home. The portion of the trail that I chose had a significant detour, which just threw off my mojo. I wasn't properly rested or hydrated, but thought I'd just shuffle through the miles. But I wore the T-shirt I won from Kim's blog, so at least I looked bad ass.

I ended up laying out on someone's driveway in hopes that a break would help. I eventually gave up on trying to keep pace and switched to survival mode, running and walking to get home. There was a downpour for the last mile, so I ended up a soaked, soggy mess.

I feel discouraged, but keep trying to remember that one bad run doesn't make a bad runner.

Just looking at me exhausted Napoleon, who claimed all of our couch pillows in the name of France. He looks so cute post groomer that I didn't have the heart to snatch back a few of the pillows to prop up my legs.

I hope my race Tuesday morning goes better. I signed up for, the I Run Because ___ 5K, a free race put together by Lululemon near my work. I hope they give away some gear, because I love their stuff but am too cheap to actually buy it (remember the $100 running top I lusted over? Didn't buy it). Any freebies will gladly join the free yoga mat I scored there last November.

Friday, June 29, 2012

South Korea Recap: What we saw

After a great vacation in China, I soldiered on to my work assignment in Busan, South Korea. I won't do a hotel recap since that was business related, but if anyone wants to talk accomodations in Busan, e-mail me for details.

What I will say about my hotel was that it was clean, had great amenities (like the spa) and was close to the facility where my work's conference was. I walked to almost everything, but cabs were cheap, too. I realized when I was typing this that none of the things I saw cost any money, so this was a cheap little jaunt for me.

Because the flight was so long, I got a rest day, which I spent sightseeing. We first took a cab to
Haedong Yonggung Temple, a beautiful Buddhist temple with great views of the ocean and amazing architecture. 

 What was cool about this place (as opposed to some of the sites we saw in China) was that people are still worshiping here and it's not at all a tourist trap.  We were there at a time of worship and I took the opportunity to observe. The temples are gorgeous - paper lanterns hang from the ceiling and small statues everywhere reflect the light from within the temples.

Another interesting aspect of this temple was the offerings - I enjoyed looking at all the little Buddha statues people left, along with the food and monetary gifts people left. This was one of the many things I wish I knew more about when I was there.
 There was a really cool market outside of the temple, too. There was a variety of souvenir items, snacks, drinks and clothing.

We had high hopes of going to the beach that afternoon, but it was colder than we thought it would be. In fact, I didn't use my swimsuits at all on this trip. What a waste.

Instead, Kelly and I visited Shinsegae, the world's largest department store. It wasn't quite what I expected. It was far more like a mall than a department store. It had a Banana Republic, an ice rink, a gigantic spa, a driving range, a grocery store and several food courts.

I managed to squeeze a trip to a museum in between work shifts, too. The Busan Museum of Art is massive and new, but doesn't have a lot in it. It took us a little less than an hour to see all the artwork, which included contemporary/modern art and more classic, traditional Asian art. My favorites included a massively large print from a wood carving and a montage of five large-scale photos of an urban area.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Beat the heat cooking strategies

I took Napoleon to the groomer today and one of the digital signs at the bank next door said it's 102 degrees. Fantastic. Yesterday, I was in Busan, Korea, and it was 75 degrees. I'm having a hard time adjusting, so I'm staying out of the kitchen completely. But, we have to eat, so here are my tips for keeping the house cool and your tummy full.
  • Try a crock pot recipe. A slow cooker doesn't give off much heat, but can produce great "baked" dinners. If you're concerned about the heat your unit creates, you can set up your crock pot in the garage or basement, then bring it up to the dining room when it's time to chow down.
  • Go with lighter, no-heat-required meals, like salads. No one wants to eat lasagna or deep dish in this weather, anyways.
  • Try grilling. I personally loved balsamic grilled veggies or whole-wheat pizza on the grill.
  • Don't discount microwave cooking. Pair with fruit and a salad, a microwave protein muffin can make a light lunch.
  • Sandwiches are always an easy way to whip up a meal without turning on the range.
  • If all else fails, just order in. Papa John's is happy to take the heat for you. Better yet, go out to a place that has air conditioning.

What I missed while I was gone

Of course, these two.
Napoleon did not miss me, but he's also afraid of the steam mop, so I'm not taking it personally.  I missed blogging, driving, watching television and sleeping in my own bed (it rivals any fancy hotel bed I've ever slept in).
I also missed my garden going wild. Check this out:

I think I'm going to have to eat salad for every meal from now until August.  Soon, I'll have tomatoes and zucchini to add to my salads.

But, my bed is calling now. I managed to stay awake until a normal time and get up early this morning, but a quick run and trip to the grocery store turned out to be more than I could handle. Time to recharge.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I'm finally home!

After a scary delay on the Korea to Beijing portion of my flight, I was literally the last person to board my 13-hour flight to Chicago from Beijing. Had I missed that flight, this blog wouldn't be happening because I'd be spending the night in Beijing, a place where blogging doesn't exist (along with Facebook, Twitter and almost every Web site I love).
By the numbers, I traveled for 17 hours, watched five movies, finished off the remaining two available episodes of Dexter and ate four really crappy airplane meals.  I swear, the meals were better going there than coming back.  I mean, WTF is this?

Not good. Not at all.
What was good was the tiny little bottle of Bailey's, along with the teeny tiny pretzels.

Also good was Napoleon's report card from the dog walker.
Also good? This package I received from the Fort2Base Race.  What's inside? Surprises and goodies for me and you.
Unfortunately, a dry cleaner and housekeeper are not in this bag, so I'm off to unpack and tackle Mt. Washmore.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On the road again ... maybe

I'm attempting to leave South Korea and make the 17-hour journey home. So far, the first leg of my trip is delayed by an hour. I only had a one-hour layover to begin with, so we'll see what happens. Fingers crossed I'm home by Wednesday night!

In the mean time, I used my remaining currency at 7-11 to buy a juice box filled with pina colada and a protein bar. This lunch is full of win.

Want a self-esteem boost?

Try visiting a spa in South Korea. After my adventures in China, I traveled to South Korea for work, where I remain for now. I knew there was a sauna and gym in the basement of our hotel, and one of my coworkers was so kind as to give me a pass he received to go check it out. After my seven-mile pace run today, I stopped at the sauna.

It was a fantastic spa featuring several pools of different temperatures, a sauna and a steam room. All of which required you to be nude. All the time. Every where.

After my initial glance over the place, I decided "When in Rome (or Korea) ..." and disrobed.

Thankfully, none of my coworkers have discovered this gem of a spa and if other people were staring at me, I couldn't see them without my glasses or understand them speaking Korean, so it was all good.

Once I got used to being naked, it was a great afternoon at the spa. The coldest therapy pool was like taking an ice bath for my whole body, which was soothing for my post-run aches and pains. I really think I need a steam room and lavender-scented pool at home now, too.

It got me thinking about our cultural constructs concerning nudity. We come into this world naked and spend the remainder of our lives picking out expensive clothes and accessories to cover it with. It's an interesting dichotomy since we also spend a considerable amount of time, energy and money on our bodies, worrying about the food we eat and the workouts we miss, but are apprehensive to show off our hard work (hence the Sports Bra Challenge).

It made me think about how I view myself. I've skipped out on invitations to pools and beaches because I'm not 100 percent OK with how I look. That's pathetic. I work out, I eat OK and this is how I look. We are who we are, naked, clothed, young and old.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

China Recap: What We Ate

China was such a whirlwind! We were there, we saw a million things, then we left. Before we knew it, we were leaving our hotel for the airport. But a girl has to eat, and I only had one snack that didn't settle well with me.
A snack I snagged on the trip was from McDonald's, strangely enough. The McDonald's are all McCafes with with counters where you order specialty coffees and desserts. This one was a square of white cake wrapped in a soft chocolate layer and rolled in coconut. Yum!

One of the nights we ventured out, we went to a restaurant called Tai Wan. We ordered beer and it came out looking like a spit of champagne.

The beer was excellent - it's very light and has a minimal amount of carbonation.  I got the "steamed vegetables and mushrooms in a nutritious sauce" with rice.  Whatever nutritious sauce means, it's tasty. It was a savory sauce and the mushrooms were tender and flavorful.

At the Summer Palace, we were starving and had to eat whatever came out way. We went to a food stand and ordered steamed buns and hot dogs. The hot dogs were not our cup of tea and did not get finished. The steamed buns were really good. I always find the color of steamed buns off putting, but the flavor here was excellent. I normally don't eat meat, but a girl has to do what a girl has to do. These were filled with seasoned ground pork and onions.

Another place we tried was a traditional Chinese hot pot place. Kelly and I both opted for the vegetables with noodles, along with a side order of Chinese-style pancakes. Again, excellent choices. The noodle dish featured thick, wide pasta-style noodles along with glass noodles and assorted vegetables and mushrooms in a hot broth. It was hard to eat with chopsticks, but we managed. The pancakes were great. It was just a bit of fried dough with salt, but the end result was flaky on the outside and chewy on the inside. It was a combination appetizer/dessert, even though it was savory instead of sweet.
The final place we stopped was a bakery chain near our hotel. Kelly got a mushroom pizza stick and I got a pastry called a strawberry sweetheart. I also picked up my favorite iced coffee of the trip, which was the perfect combo of sweetness and creaminess. I couldn't read the menu, but I think they added coconut milk. The pastry was OK - the filling was strawberry jam, but i would have preferred really strawberries. The exterior of the pastry was almost too perfect to eat, so maybe I just ordered the wrong type of filling. The answer is chocolate, I should always order the chocolate option.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

China Recap: What We Saw

When we checked into the Red Wall Garden Inn last week, it was only 3 p.m. To avoid keeling over in exhaustion and screwing up our internal clocks, Kelly and I went for a walk in the neighborhood near the hotel. We stopped at a really cool farmer's market (at least, that's what we think it was). The produce all looked so fresh and foreign to us.

After we slept like rocks and had the best showers ever, we ventured out. Our hotel was near everything we wanted to see, so we started with visiting the Forbidden City, a Chinese palace complex that housed emperors for almost 500 years. It was 60 Yen to enter (a little less than $10) and another 40 Yen for an audio headset, which was worth it.

It was gorgeous, but not what we expected. It was completely jammed packed with people and hotter than hell. Plus, other than a few buildings with pottery and porcelain, you couldn't go inside any of these places.
After a little break from the heat, we headed over to Tienanmen Square. It's the largest of its kind in the world and the site of countless milestone moments in Chinese history.
The next day, a driver Kelly found who calls himself Johnny Yellow Car met us at our hotel. We paid $120 for the day to be taken to different sites of our choosing and have him wait for us. If you go this route, research your driver. It's possible to get lower rates, but then the driver will most likely make you stop at a silk factory or some other such tourist trap so he can get his kickback there.

First, we went to the Great Wall. What an amazing piece of human ingenuity. It's massive in scale and scope, spanning for as long as you can see. For 125 Yen, you get a ski lift to the beginning of the wall, then a toboggan ride back down when you're done.
Once we got to the top of the wall, Kelly and I climbed around for more than an hour. It was tough hiking there with some of the steps as big as we were. Thanks to Garmin, I know our elevation gain was more than 1,000 feet. But damn, you can't beat these views.

We also visited the Summer Palace, which was named a masterpiece of Chinese architecture and landscaping. It's massive, it's beautiful, and again, it's pretty crowded. We paid 30 Yen to enter and walk around at our own pace.
All in all, we saw a ton in China and didn't spend that much money. I'm glad we hired a driver rather than a tour guide because it gave us the freedom to travel at our own pace and see what we wanted.  We were also able to get an early start to avoid traffic and crowds (mostly). I was so happy to visit China and highly recommend it, if you get the chance. In the U.S., when we say something is old, it's like 500 years old. In China, you can visit buildings that were erected before the pilgrims every thought about colonizing America. Pretty neat.