Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Learning to Cook 3.0

Trying to be vegan for the second time around (the first time was two years ago for about three or four months) is like learning to cook all over again.

Luckily it's nothing too difficult, as I had to relearn cooking basics when I went vegetarian a few years back. Therefore I am more apt to trying new things, using new ingredients, and trying to find ways to cook yummy food at economical prices.

But it sure requires some planning. With the training, I need to make sure I'm getting lots and lots of carbohydrates and eating enough calories. I'm not calorie-counting or restricting any foods, but the long runs often suppress my hunger, and I occasionally have to force myself to eat large enough portions. I also need to make sure that I'm getting lots of protein and not eating completely like a rabbit. So I've literally sat down with pen and paper and made a list of meals that I deem appropriate to cover all my nutritional requirements and started to check them off.

Since I decided to try veganism in January, I've had many days when I definitely was not: days of lying in bed with a sinus infection and not wanting to cook so succumbing to frozen pizza; the copious amounts of chocolate that I received for my birthday; the vegetarian meals prepared specially for me in social situations (could I really ask them to make it vegan then?); and the week in Istanbul where vegetarian in itself is a foreign concept.

But I can proudly say that the last several days were 99.5% vegan! I had just a dollop of yogurt splashed atop a curry dish that was prepared for me at my bible study on Monday. Until I figure out how to do this completely on my own within my own four walls, I'll still feel slightly obligated to eat vegetarian food prepared by other people.

Some of the things I've enjoyed so far have been:

  • gnocchi with vegan white sauce and mushrooms
  • spaghetti sauce with tempeh
  • wraps of all sorts with hummus, avocados, beans, veggies
  • sweet potato curry soup with Adzuki beans (highly recommend it-- recipe here
  • sweet breakfast rice with raisins, nuts and fruit
  • banana and peanut butter cookies
  • tomato chickpea spread
  • leek and veggie quiche
  • soy pudding cups
What I've found works is simply finding things that look good and making a plan, or at least keeping in mind the tasty recipes that I've seen online or in cookbooks. 

Also having fun with it makes it easier. 

Getting Faster

I've finally entered the phase in my training plan where I have to start running longer distances at fast paces. With the two week sinus infection keeping me in bed, in addition to the one week in a very not-so-runner-friendly Istanbul, I'm actually slightly behind schedule, and I should have been doing these faster long distances last week.  I skipped over many of the build-up runs, in which one starts slower and ends on a fast note, and jumped right into the fast running to make up for lost time.

Simply put, it was HARD.

Give me an eight or nine mile run at a comfortable pace and that's no problem. But running a five mile at a pace two minutes faster per kilometer than I'm normally used to doing made me feel like I was just getting into running for the first time.

Fast runs are supposed to be challenging, and apparently they are necessary. If I incorporate fast runs during my training plan, it should help me to improve my overall race time. However, I have no time goal. I just want to finish. According to this customized plan I made with Asics Online, they think that their recommended three month training plan should have me running at a pace of 6:21/km, finishing at 2 hours and 13 minutes. I'd be thrilled if I managed to do that, considering losing about 2.5 weeks of vital training.

I'm not looking forward to making myself run fast again tomorrow. I've got another 5-miler scheduled at that slightly uncomfortable pace that I'm not used to. Hopefully these fast runs will become easier with time. After all, I never thought I could go for a 100 minute jog, but I did a week and a half ago!

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Today I jogged 13km / 8 miles, albeit slowly. The half marathon is in less than two months.

I'm confident that I'll be able to finish with no problem!


Snow in Istanbul-- the Blue Mosque

Who knew there was so much Christian artwork here? Mosaic in Haghia Sophia

Turkish coffee + Turkish delight at a sit-on-the-floor restaurant

I love the detail in Istanbul-- Topkapi Palace

Mosaic from Chora Church, where they have the most preserved Byzantine mosaics in the world

Cats! So many cats in this city. I think I better move there now.

360istanbul --> A must

Istanbul from the water

Istanbul, Turkey

Last week I traveled to Istanbul, Turkey with three of my friends. The trip can be summed up as followed: upgrades, VIP service, and wet feet-- among all the culture and history that we took in.

We had a free apartment upgrade and stayed in a nicer apartment than where I currently live (and in Eurasia of all places).

Locals loved to try to figure out where we come from. Most of them thought Scandinavia, Holland or Germany. When they found out we are actually American, they got giddy with excitement and said things like: "California!" "Los Angels" "Coca Cola" and "Barack Obama!"

That said, the locals were the friendliest people I have met in the many cities I have visited. If Vienna were a person, it'd be a cold old woman in a fur jacket with her nose pointed in the air and no desire to help tourists. Istanbul, on the other hand, was like the person who wants to be your best friend so badly. People gave us insider recommendations, helped us find the way, and kindly answered our many questions about culture and history. No one hassled us at all!

Despite all the things we heard prior to leaving, like to watch out because we were four young blonde Americans traveling to a Muslim country, we felt so safe everywhere we went. Sure, we stuck out like sore thumb with our guidebooks, maps and Starbucks in hand (not a fan of Turkish coffee), but people were eager to help us out, give us free tea, and practice speaking English.

We experienced a bit of culture shock when we heard the call to prayer bouncing off the buildings five times a day. It was like a choir in Istanbul; once one started, you'd hear another begin down the road. It was like a free concert five times daily. We visited the two most touristy mosques and enjoyed the artwork inside. I never knew how pretty mosques were!

Unfortunately the weather wasn't very good. There was a major European freeze taking place, and all of Europe was covered in snow and ice. That meant in Istanbul it hovered around freezing, and we had to trudge through snow and rain most of the days. It was quite a sight: snow atop palm trees!

As far as our itinerary goes, we saw the major sites: Haghia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Chora Church, the underground cistern, Topkapi Palace We also took a boat tour on the Bosphorus Straight the one sunny day. One of the highlights was wining and dining at 360istanbul, the city's hottest restaurant and club. 

I hope to visit the city again once it's warmer, as it tops the list of my favorite cities.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


One of the best feelings ever is that moment right after your ear pops for the first time in two weeks. Ahhhh. This means I'm becoming more and more human again, meaning I can actually try to go for a run in nearly two weeks :D