Tag Archives: food

Waking Up in Hanoi

On my first full day in Hanoi, I got up fairly early and grabbed breakfast before I headed out for a massage. This is something I had been looking forward to for a long time. In the last decade I’ve probably had two massages, as I’ve not had the cash for real ones and my husband doesn’t like to give them (should be a divorceable offense, good thing he’s awesome in other ways).

Breakfast was at the hotel on the main floor. It includes eggs, toast, coffee (or tea) and fresh fruit. It isn’t a spectacular breakfast, but it is free and fills the spot. I’ve been pleased with it each morning. Belly full, it was time to head out into the heat (oh the heat!) to a massage place I had read about online. Unfortunately, I had awoken too early and the place wasn’t open yet. Not sure what to do with myself, I headed on to grab some “egg coffee“, a specialty in Vietnam.

I went to Cafe Giảng to give this a try. It is supposed to be one of the older cafes and still run by the same family. I was ushered upstairs to a small table and ordered my coffee. It came quickly and looked much better than it sounded.

eggcoffee.jpg

I gave it a stir and gave it a sip. I know it sounds strange, but it was honestly delicious. To me, someone who usually drinks their coffee black, this isn’t something to drink every morning. But I would definitely get another cup of it. And at just 25,000d (about $1.10usd), it was a reasonably priced treat.

From Cafe Giảng I headed back towards Van Xuan on Ly Quoc Su in the Old Quarter. I did some research and I wanted cheap but awesome. Which is what I got. My hour long full-body massage was only $9. It was definitely not fancy; there is no spa music and I was in a room with other beds and other people getting their massages, too. But the girl doing the massaging did a great job and I was happy with it. I think next time I would go for just a foot massage instead, as it looks like it would be just a thorough with more focus on the feet, which is always so heavenly.

massage

After the massage I went back to the hotel for a shower. To say the least, I have showered a tonne this week because I am the sweatiest person on the planet. I certainly hope I acclimatise to the heat and humidity here before it really kicks off next month.

I was met at the hotel by Zach, a friend of a friend from Korea. An American teacher having lived in Hanoi for nearly a decade, my Korean friend thought he would be a good person to be in touch with. She was right; Zach was awesome.

We went for lunch at Xôi Yến, which is apparently well-known for its sticky rice. It was a very tasty dish.

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lunch.jpg

Xôi Yến was extremely busy, so once we finished eating we went across the street to Cộng Càphê for coffee, which I have since found out is a chain in Hanoi. It is very cool inside, but I only nabbed one quick picture before we sat down with our coffees and started chatting about everything I could think to ask questions for, from sorting garbage to which district to look for housing in.

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Zach put up with me for over two hours and was an amazing source of information. I was very reassured after speaking with him about getting on in Hanoi. I was feeling guilty for taking up all of his day, however, so I said my good-byes. He offered to give me a ride back to the hotel, but I was happy enough to walk as I am still trying to get a map of Hanoi etched in my head.

I walked about the Old Quarter for a bit, looking for a pharmacy. I had woken up with a severe headache (no doubt brought on by travel, dehydration, and lack of sleep) and wanted some tablets. Pharmacies here are everywhere though, once you know what to look for. There’s not standard symbol so it took me awhile to recognise them. I bought my tablets (which happily I haven’t even needed since) and walked on.

I decided that I would get a manicure and pedicure. My nails were a mess as I hadn’t dealt with them all the time I had been travelling. I was hopeful for upcoming interviews, and I didn’t want to be a mess for them (what a great excuse!) so I did some quick looking online to find a decent place to get them done.

In one of my numurous Hanoi Facebook groups, someone had recommended Van Nguyen Hair Salon, so I headed there. When I saw the prices, I decided to get a hair cut (also desperately need) as well.

For a pedicure, manicure, sweet-ass head massaging shampoo of awesomeness, and a haircut I spent less than $18. With a tip. I’m enjoying this city!

Back to the hotel and grabbed another shower. Then out again to meet my friend Juu and her family, who just happened to be travelling through Vietnam and had arrived the day after I did. They invited me out to dinner, and had chosen Avalon BBQ Garden. It was delicious and the night views of the lake were amazing.


It was a great first full day in Vietnam. So much good food and good company.

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Williamsaurus

William is Korean aged 10. He is a very smart and sensitive third grader with the cutest dimples when he smiles… so I’m always trying to make him smile.  He’s almost always got food on his shirt and he’s a funny kid although his sense of humour is sometimes strange. He is full of saliva and always smacks his lips when he reads. And he reads like a mini Korean Shatner.

So the other day in class there was some weird sort of brown spooge in his workbook. He had been eating chocolate when I came in the classroom so I said, “Ew. Is that chocolate?”

Without batting an eye, William scratches off the brown smear and sniffs at it. For a moment, I seriously thought he was going to eat. I would have let him. I’m a bad teacher sometimes.

How was your Chuseok holiday?

My Chuseok holiday was awe-to-the-some. Three glorious days off and a visit from the ever-lovely Craigface. It was great.

First things first: What the eff is Chuseok, right? If you are too lazy to check out the wiki page I linked there for ya, basically Chuseok is Korean Thanksgiving. Except we got three days off instead of one and no one got trampled in a sale.

My Chuseok celebration started at school on Friday, with all the kiddos coming dressed in their traditional Korean garb – the hanbok. I actually only took one photo, but it is an extra cute one.

chuseok hanbok kindergarten

Kelly, looking very grown-up for 5 years old.

We made songpyeon (which, I won’t lie, looked totes sick with how the kids manhandled it) and played traditional Korean folk games. Which the foreign staff was expected to judge/referee… even though the rules never were explained in English.

But the best part that day was the arrival of my friend Craig, who managed to make it all the way to my ‘hood all by himself. I walked him to my place in the morning and after school, had our first night out.

photo 2

CRAIGFACE!

I’ll spare y’all the details of our visit, but there was a lot of shopping, a lot of food, a bunch of booze and even the occasional foray toward the odd cultural this and that (like the temple in the picture above). It was super fun.

It meant a lot that Craig came to visit me all the way in Korea for just those few days. Thankfully he liked it enough that he plans on coming back to visit next year.

Speaking of feeling thankful on Thanksgiving (even if it is K-stylE), my fabulous landlord stopped by (at the asscrack of dawn, which I can’t thank him for, after the long nights Craig and I had) on Chuseok day to bring me food. Songpyeon (which is pretty gross even when the kids aren’t the ones making it) and some fruit.

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Best. Landlord. Ever.

Overall, I had a great Chuseok which I am so thankful for. I had a lot of laughs and a lot of fun. I wouldn’t have asked for anything more.

Happy Friday from Korea!

There are some things I loved and have found I still love about Korea. As my first week draws to a close, I’d like to share a couple of those things.

Say Cheese!: Part One

Tomorrow I’ll be going to have some medical tests done (more on that later) in order to get my alien registration card (which I need in order to get a Korean bank account). I had to get four passport sized photos taken tonight so I could bring them with me to the hospital.

There is a place that does this on the basement floor of the Emart across the street from my house. I just had to go there, point at the size of photo that I needed, and we were good to go.

Before picking up the camera, the girl taking the photo tucked my hair behind my ears for me and then brought my hair back forward. She straightened any strays, got my face in the right position, and said “okay” before she took the pictures. It was so sweet I think it may have given me diabetes. That sort of care and attention to how you look for a “passport photo” definitely wouldn’t have happened back home!

Say Cheese!: Part Two

I decided to pick up some pizza while I was waiting for my photos as a “Hooray I Survived My First Week” treat. There is a Papa Johns right near the Emart and, as I was looking for the familiar, that’s what I opted for. I was hoping they would have pizzas like “home” (either London or Canada) and their menu was looking promising.

There was a pizza called something like “Potato Pizza for the Irish” (it definitely had both “potato” and “Irish” in the name) and, happily, they had a page with a description of the toppings in English. I love me a pizza with potato… but this one also had sweetcorn. I’m not a fan. Thankfully last time I was here I learned how to say “don’t give me any corn” in Korean (I learn all the important stuff). So I pointed at the picture of the pizza I wanted, the size, and then said “don’t give me any corn” in Korean. She responded in Korean, I said (in Korean – like I said, I know the important stuff) that I don’t understand Korean. She said something else in Korean, smiling the entire time.

She then turned to the cook and said something to him. He responded and she went over to him saying (I’m guessing at the translation here), “No, no. The Irish. Regular. Sheesh” in Korean. Then she looks at me, rolls her eyes gesturing at him and says, “My husband”. IN ENGLISH.

In English! After she let me stumble around for ages trying to order in Korean. So I said, “You speak English!” And, of course, her response was “No, no. A little. No.”

She was adorable. Huge smiles and we laughed together. I missed that too… how they’d let you try and get on in Korean and then just respond in English. And then tell you that they don’t know how to speak English.

Also, pizza comes all dolled up wrapped in a ribbon with sweet pickles and dipping sauce. Pretty awesome. It’s a Good Friday.

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Obsessive Compulsive Predicament

Although generally my obsessiveness with certain… perfections… can be helpful, there are times I worry that I go to far.

I have been doing a detox for the month of February. And now, on the last day… I’m so glad this month is over. Because although I have been eating well, the extremely strict rules I’ve subjected myself to means that I haven’t been enjoying much of a social life these days.

Have I mentioned the rules? My rules? The rules I’ve put on myself like a bully? No? Well, here they are:

1. No booze.
2. No wheat.
3. No gluten.
4. No coffee.
5. No sugar.
6. No preservatives.
7. No dairy.
8. No fruit.
9. No artificial sweeteners.
10. No legumes.

So what have I been ingesting? Mostly meat and vegetables. And it has been wonderful. I’ve had fresh scallops pan fried in purified butter with farmer’s bacon, roasted oak-smoked garlic and freshly cut cilantro. I’ve had bunless burgers with home-made guacamole and salsa served with sweet potato fries dipped in chipotle mayonnaise. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

But that was here, in my house. Where I can control each and every ingredient. You know where you can’t do that? Everywhere else. So I haven’t been eating in restaurants. The lack of alcohol (or really, any alternative drinks one would normally have in a pub, like Diet Coke or juice) means that I’m not really into going out for drinks. So I haven’t been out much.

The upside is that I’ve saved enough money doing this that I was able to buy two pairs of new shoes. Mmmm…. new shoes.

So what’s the issue? I’m obsessive about details.

This means I haven’t slipped. Not once. For the entire month. I couldn’t relax about it. Even the fact that I wouldn’t go out and risk accidentally eating something on my “No no, bad Jodi” list is sort of wrong. Don’t you think?

Not weird enough? How about the fact that I’ve been dreaming about breaking the rules? Obsessive.

Now that I’m  the end of the month, I’m not going to go back to my old way of eating. Because that would also be stupid… it’s how I got to be a chubbo in the first place. But I do need to relax a bit or I’m going to drive myself insane.

When I wasn’t eating well at all (helllOOOOooo pizza and beer), it didn’t matter if once (or even twice) a week I ate a good, healthy meal. I still packed on the weight.  What I need to remember  now is that the opposite also holds true:  If I am eating well most of the time, it won’t matter if I eat something unhealthy once (or even twice) a week… I’m not going to suddenly get fat(ter) again.

So what was the result of this bloody experiment? I dropped some weight and some inches… but I think that would have happened anyway. And I don’t have any additional energy – less in fact as I’ve been too restrictive on the calorie intake. A positive take-away is that I don’t seem to have any sensitivities to any of the foods I restricted. YAY COFFEE!

I’m glad it is over and that I can go back to eating in a less restricted but healthy way. I certainly won’t do it again. My personality just doesn’t allow for it.

Accuracy

I know I still need to write my review about my Fitbit. (Short review: I love it and it loves me. I know this, because it told me that once.) But I do have something to say around measurement and accuracy. And I’ll have to bring the Fitbit up because it is doing a lot of that measuring for me, bless it’s wee little heart.

In my attempt here to lose weight and be a healthy size (finally), I am using a few different tools for measurement:

1. A Withings scale – to track my weight, BMI, fat mass and muscle mass
2. The Fitbit – to track my food, activity, sleep
3. Runkeeper and Fitocracy – to track my exercise
4. A kitchen scale and all the little measuring cups and such
5. Measuring tape.

These are my measuring cups. Cute, eh?

 

None of these things are always 100% accurate.

The Withings scale I know is weighing me light. When I went to the doctor’s office, I weighed in heavier. And I don’t completely trust it for the body fat percentage either.

The Fitbit doesn’t know my heart rate, so how can it measure my caloric burn exactly? And some of the time when I enter food, I over-estimate. Or I over-simplify… surely not all “chef salads” are the same, so wouldn’t there be some caloric variances from that salad from the salad I ate if I choose that?

Runkeeper and Fitocracy are as accurate as the information I put into it. But I think the GPS on Runkeeper gets lost sometimes. And I can’t always find the exercise I am doing (like Tabata sprints or reclining rope pull-ups) on Fitocracy, so it doesn’t get recorded.

And the measuring cups and spoons? I may not always fill them properly. I don’t think everyone does. It’s either a smidgen too little or a little too heaping.

And I’m pretty sure I have no idea how to properly measure myself with that tape thing. In fact, I know I don’t.

This is definitely not my body. Yet.

But does this matter? I don’t think so. It isn’t that it is 100% accurate that matters. What matters is that you are getting feedback about what you are doing and how you are doing it. It matters if you are becoming more aware of your actions.

As an example, the  scale that (very kindly) weighs me light by a kilo or so… does that matter? Fuck no. What matters is that the number keeps getting smaller. That’s the part I should focus on.

Same with the Fitbit. It doesn’t matter if it is 100% accurate about my caloric burn versus the intake. What matters is that I am paying attention to what’s going into my body and how active I am being. And I can see that it doesn’t matter that I went to the gym that day if I’m going to eat an entire large Papa John’s pizza that night.

I think that’s what I need to keep in mind. It doesn’t matter if I’m measuring accurately. What matters is that I keep things moving the way they should be.

Who let me in the kitchen?

Yesterday Tyran bought this mixer machine thing. I’m pretty sure that’s what it said on the box.

like the window full of herbs and lemons?

There it is! It has other marvellous attachments (like a blender… Welcome to Margaritaville : Population – Me).

You can see in the picture I made some mayo (that’s the gloop in the jar, and I’ll write more about that later). But the very first thing I did was cut myself on the fucking thing. Twice.

first boo-boo

 

second boo-boo (the big cut)

After some emergency first aid (and a hell of a lot of whinging) I used the machine to first make mayonnaise and then the MOST GARLIC-FILLED GUACAMOLE IN THE UNIVERSE.

five cloves of garlics. and a shallot. vampires beware.

Now that I had some deliciousness happening, I decided I should probably pull something together for lunch. I had a butternut squash hanging around, so I thought I would roast that as a start.

I usually buy the squash already cut up (I’m lazy, yo), but this time I had a whole squash to cut up. Fresh-cut butternut squash smells good. It is like pumpkin… but more apple-ly. I was surprised that there were seeds in there. I don’t know why I was surprised. I suppose that’s what happens when you are used to buying all your food already processed.

lookit all those seeds!

Seeing those seeds gave me an idea: Could butternut squash seeds be roasted just like pumpkin seeds? They sure look the same. So I thought I would give it a try. Win! They did roast up exactly the same and were super delicious.

In the end, my lunch ended up being home-made mayonnaise (with chipotle paste – so good) with roasted butternut squash, guacamole (again, home-made – I rock) and tuna wrapped in seaweed with glutton-free soy sauce and with butternut squash seeds to finish. SO YUMMY.

I also had fresh iced tea. I used the blender to crush the ice for it (fancied it up a load, didn’t it?). It is just rooibos tea with ice and a sprig of mint. I’m getting very used to iced tea with no sugar or other sweeteners. Some teas (like rooibos) are fairly sweet naturally, so you don’t need to add anything to it.

nom nom nom

This lunch was WAY too big. It ended up being 1067 calories. I should have had half the amount and saved the seeds for a snack later. But it worked out okay – I ate this late in the day and just didn’t eat again, so I came out ahead of my ‘allotted’ calories that day (thank you Fitbit for tracking all that for me!)

It’s been an interesting month of eating well. It is delicious but a hella lot of work. I would definitely make this again – but would eat less of all of it.  Either just the tuna and avocado wrap or the squash… or half servings of both.