Friday, November 20, 2015

Obsessed with Sambal


I have recently been quite into perfecting my sambal ("spicy paste") to have it readily available as a condiment for our meals. 

I had a phase (and still do) of craving for spicy Malaysian food such as the nasi lemak and curry laksa, both of which I have not cooked from scratch before.

OK, I think I attempted the nasi lemak sometime in 2014.

Creamy chicken curry, fruit rojak and steamed rice with condiments
of fresh cucumber, sambal toasted anchovies and peanuts

This time I have managed to get the toasted ikan bilis ("anchovies") and peanuts done nicely. It was a far cry from my first ever attempt in 2014!

And the chicken curry that you see in the picture above was a different one from my usual simple recipe. I quite like it as a wider variety of spices were used which made it more aromatic.

Hard boiled eggs with shrimp cooked in sambal, stir fried choy sum and pickled cucumber and mango with steamed rice.

A few days later, I decided to try another sambal recipe (which looked pretty similar to the first recipe I tried for the earlier meal) and ... it still tasted the same but a tad bit more fragrant as the shrimp paste (belacan) was toasted before it was blended with the garlic and shallots.

I think I'm getting the hang of it!

But it sure is hard work.

As a treat, I decided to bring lunch for my colleagues a few days ago. Yeah, it was my imaginary tuck shop. :)

Steamed rice with chicken curry and condiments!
Made onion sambal to tone down the spiciness.

My colleagues enjoyed it, and so did I. Haha! I don't mean to blow my own trumpet but I was testing out a different way of cooking the chicken curry. I tweaked the recipe and used a few different ingredients.

I must say that the curry tasted way much better 2 days after it was first cook.

Just for the record, both the nasi lemak and chicken curry are traditionally cooked with coconut milk added to it. For all my cooking done above, regular full cream milk was used for the chicken curry and plain steamed white rice was served. None of that rich and fragrant steamed rice with coconut milk ... a shame as my meals would be have been so much more delicious.

Nevertheless, it's a sacrifice for a healthier meal. :D

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Keeping The Family Entertained is Hard Work

My family came over last month two months ago (September 2015) for a short visit. A week is definitely a short visit, especially when there's so much on the itinerary to cover.

Day 1 - We visited the Werribee Open Range Zoo. I remember enjoying my visit back in 2006 and prayed that it would not be any different this time, if not better.

The best bits:
1. going on the ride that brought us around part of the Park. It kills 20 minutes and you get to rest your feet. You'll also be amazed with how much land they have for the animal to roam free!

2. Seeing the gorillas up close. They have 3 gorillas and they looked magnificent. If you were as tall as a 4-year-old, you'd be almost face-to-face with them.

Niece refused to pose with me.
[Bin's pic.]

The not so good bits:
1. Weekends are always packed and it's not easy to find a picnic table and seats for a group of 7 for lunch.

2. It was a warm day and everyone was tired from walking.

Photo credit: Bin

3. Did not cover the entire place because my parents were too tired from walking. My niece was getting bored, she just wanted to go home to do some painting with me.

Day 2 - It was a long drive along the Great Ocean Road and got as far as Wye River to spot the wild koalas. But seeing that the koalas were high up in the trees and were doing nothing, it was the birds which attracted my niece's attention.

She was more interested in the birds. A kind lady offered her some bird seeds to feed the birds but my niece ended up throwing the seeds onto the ground as she was scared of the birds.

Wild koalas in the trees outside of BIG4 Wye River Caravan Park.

Day 3 was spent shopping in DFO South Wharf, before picking Bin up to head out to Lygon St for dinner. I don't seem to recall the name of the restaurant ... it goes to show how much of an impression the food gave me. :P

After dinner, we headed to Il Dolce Freddo for gelato, which I tell you, is probably the best on Lygon St. They have durian and ferrero rocher flavours! Bin and I tried Casa Del Gelato, supposedly the oldest gelato store in Melbourne before and it was disappointing. 

Day 4 was spent walking around in the city before heading off to Squire's Loft, Albert Park for ribs. Yeah, I confess that Bin and I were quite tired of eating out but our guests were insistent that it was their holiday and might as well eat out and enjoy themselves. The beef ribs were pretty good as we found the pork ribs a bit dry.

Tea at Laurent, 3 hours before dinner.

I didn't even have a chance to bake Bin a birthday cake that day. :P

Day 5 was a long drive to Yarra Valley for lunch in a vineyard. We stopped by the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery before lunch. The niece was happy with the free chocolate tasting.

Playing Lady and the Tramp with a breadstick.

We had to rush off to De Bertoli for our lunch reservation. I think Bin and I had the rabbit and lamb dishes, while everyone else had pasta. My niece had a shock of her life when I told her that her aunt and uncle chase little rabbits and lambs for their meal. She moved away from us to sit with my sisters for about 15 minutes. :P

Yummy rabbit tasted like chicken ... oh gawd, I can't look at it right now!

We made a quick pit stop at Healesville Sanctuary for my dad, sisters and niece to pet the kangaroos. We only had 2 hours to cover the place before it was closed for the day! Saw the dingos, wombats and Tasmanian devils, and platypus!

Photo credit: Bin

Right after that, we drove all the way to Chadstone shopping centre because they wanted to do some late night shopping, seeing that it was a Thursday night after all. Bin and I were exhausted, so were my parents, I could tell, but we had to soldier on.

It was a long drive home and we were all knackered.

Some of our chocolate stash from the Chocolaterie.

Day 6 was their last day in Melbourne and it was time for some last minute shopping. We met up with my uncle (mum's elder brother) for dinner that night at Lazat, Sunshine.

After they left the next day, the house felt pretty empty. It's always sad to see your family go after such a brief holiday, but everyone has their work commitments and probably missed sleeping in their own beds!

I had to adjust not having a little shadow following me around anymore and insisting I sat with her during meal times so we could chat and eat together. OK, it probably involved me feeding her as she takes forever to finish her meal. 

My temporary 'mini me'.

Keeping a toddler entertained is HARD work!

For the past few times we have been on Skype, she tells me that she is coming to visit me again really soon, and asked if I could go home for a visit really soon as well. :)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Oh My, Camping For The First Time!

I've never ever been camping before in my entire life. Most of the people whom I tell it to seem rather surprised. The hubs wasn't impressed with that revelation and called me a 'city girl', which I always strongly disagree. :P

I've explained to him that my first camping experience should be a kind and gentle introduction, and our backyard would be a great place to start with!

And, should we ever want to venture into the outdoors, it would be a better idea for the campsite to have proper loos. As much as I'm used to peeing in the bushes (during hikes), I don't think I'd be able to poop in the wild. :D

About three weeks ago, I nonchalantly suggested to him that perhaps we could go camping over the weekend. Just for a night.

Wonderland, Grampians.

The hubs thought he was dreaming and looked at me with disbelief.

"Are you serious?"
"Er, well, make sure the campsite has facilities!" I replied, almost changing my mind.

We made last minute arrangements to camp in the Grampians National Park over the AFL finals weekend (read: Australian Football League and Friday, 3rd October 2015 was a public holiday in Victoria).

Just for a night!

I think I was quite nice to suggest camping in the first place. Wifey brownie points for me! Two nights might have been a bit too much for a gentle introduction to camping!

Walking Silent Street.

We drove for 3 hours before arriving at the Grampians. First stop was The Pinnacle, where we took almost 3 hours for a return hike. The place was busy with plenty of visitors going up and down, and everyone was looking for the best spot for photos of the view.

We decided to wash our hair with the available supply of rainwater beside the toilets (at the car park) before heading to our campsite. I forgot to read the description of the campsite and wasn't quite sure whether there was water supply. Heh.

Anyway, good thing we did, because the campsite was packed! Almost every camp area was taken up.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Surf Coast Hell Run 2015 - Relay Team Challenge

When: Saturday, 5th September 2015.
Where: Lorne, Victoria
Time: 7.00am
Distance: 21.1km (half marathon)

So, Bin and I kinda retired right now. That's right. 

Then Jon invited Bin and I to be part of his 21km relay team less than 3 weeks ago. 

Best team name ever!!!!!
We spent Friday night at Lorne Foreshore Caravan Park and spent the of race day at Sheoak picnic area.

Due to too many events taking place in August and September, the crowd at the inaugural Surf Coast Hell Run was a small one. It felt so much more cosier this way, which I rather enjoyed, although I'm sure any race director/organiser would prefer it the other way round.

The 21km runners were flagged off at 9am.

There were 4 categories: 7km, 21km, 42km and 63km. Except for the 7km, the rest of the runners had to run a 21km loop which consisted of a U-turn point at the 11km mark. The 63km runners needed to do 3 loops and the 42km runners would do 2.

The route was described as, 'up, up, up, and then down all the way.' Despite the undulations and 'gentle' slopes, the route was mainly made up of 4WD tracks with no trail technicality involved.

"WHERE'S MY TEAMMATE??" Jon panicked.
"Hello????" I furiously waved my arms in the air to catch his attention.

SCTR Laksa Lovers was the 1st team to sign up, with SCTR Catch Me If You Can signing up at the last moment. There was friendly ribbing between the 2 team captains Gavin and Jon a few days leading up to race day.

Clueless me went into the race thinking our team was just in it for a relaxing weekend run. Haha!

Gavin and Jon were the 1st runners for the teams, with Gavin coming in at 2:11:xx and Jon at 2:18:xx, giving the other team an 8-9 minute head start. I was pretty impressed with these 2 chaps!

"I'll just keep ... running ... until ... that tree ... over there ..." I huffed.

The weather was nice and cool that day, with occasional showers. 

The first 4km of the run was filled with teasing undulation, which made me think, "OK, this isn't too bad!" until 4km. The next 4km involved trudging up (with the help of 2 sticks) and a few seconds of flat after every 1.5km.

It probably doesn't make any sense to you, so don't bother doing the maths!

"Let there be a view!"
 7km in, the slopes were a bit kinder to the legs... kinda.

No view.
I was looking forward to the aid station!

The one and only aid station at the 8km/14km mark.
John Yoon and George Mihalakellis were there to greet me, with George telling me hurry up as Ken was 14 minutes ahead!

I was like, "Whatever..." :P

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hello September, Goodbye August!

Time flies, and it's zooming by really quickly.
Where are the brakes?
I don't want the year to end so soon!!

It's been 2 years since I've moved to Melbourne and there's so much I've yet to experience or see. We probably need to speed things up a little but it's hard when a) they can cost a bomb and b) we just want to stay at home and do some gardening, or go trailrunning, or catch up with friends.

Winter has been tough, in a sense that we don't feel so inclined to go out there and run. We found ourselves doing a bit of workout in the comfort of the gym and I have to say that multi-tasking (watching TV while running on the treadmill) makes me a happier person - I wanted to watch Masterchef Australia!

Now that Spring is coming, we can't wait. More daylight means being able to tend to the garden when we return home from work! We'd feel more energised, too when we arrive home after work. Winter's dark evenings kinda sucked the life out of us that made lazing in front of the TV more tempting than going out for a run.

Last weekend saw us taking an hour drive from our place to Olinda, Dandenong for a 20k trail run. Jon wanted to recce the route for the Dandy Hipster Run (taking place on 26th Sept) and seeing that we needed some training for our race this weekend, we succeeded in dragging our fat wobbly arses out of bed at 5ish am. 

Disappearing into the wilderness.

Photo credit: Jon.

We felt so alive! Wooooo....

We walked up this stretch and joked about setting up a few mobile coffee stands along the way.

I thought it was the end of our run but turns out that we had another 2k to go after this this.

It was great running in the Dandy's again. We love love love being surrounded by the lush green and tall trees and the muddy trails. I rolled my left ankle when I tripped over nothing and it took 10 minutes of rest before I could continue on. With 5k to go, it seemed like a huge feat but somehow, I could walk OK, especially on the inclines. Once my ankle felt much better, I managed to jog the last 3k as the route was flat. I was pretty pleased; thank goodness no major injuries. *mixed feelings*

Yet somehow I managed to twist my RIGHT ankle a few hours later. In my tired state of mind, my foot slipped off the pavement while we were walking towards Freedom. Arghhhhhhhhhhh!

Now that hurt 10x more than the earlier incident!
I sat around on the sofas in Freedom while waiting impatiently for Bin to make his purchase and go.

I hobbled around most of the day and it was only at night (after our dinner guests had left - we invited them over at the last minute so we could continue catching up) I managed to ice and heat both ankles.

Anyway, to cut the long story short about my being a heroic idiot with 2 injured ankles, I haven't been able to walk properly not because of them, but because of my very sore quads! My ankles are good, albeit just a little swollen. :)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Quick Chat with Siqi WU

Two Bays Trail Run 2014
It came as quite a shock to know that our running buddy, Siqi a.k.a. Ricky, a.k.a. Smiling Assassin, was leaving Melbourne so soon (this Sunday) to return to his home country. 24-year-old Siqi has been here for 2 years and recently graduated from the University of Melbourne. 

A few of us were lucky to have the opportunity to spend a little time with him for lunch today. 

Von: What will you miss most about Melbourne?
Siqi: That will definitely be the friends here.

Von: What about the trails??
Siqi: Definitely the Alpine area! 

Von: Dandenong's?
Siqi: Yeah! Pretty good.

Gary: Surf Coast!

Von: Among the trail events, or running events you have done in Australia, which one is the most memorable one for you?
Siqi: Memorable one ... I would definitely say last year's Buffalo Stampede when I got lost and while climbing Mick's Track. It was already dark and it was raining, I couldn't see anything. It was right after 14 hours of running. I got lost with a bunch of guys.

Mucking about at Buffalo Stampede 2014.

Von: How many events did you take part in (Australia and New Zealand) since your stay in Australia?
Siqi: About 15 to 20. I have done 2 events in New Zealand. This year, I did about 2 events per month this year.

Von: If you were to return to Australia in the near future (very soon again!), which event would you like to do again?
Siqi, Oh, definitely Alpine Challenge! That's my only DNF, 'Did Not Finish' race.

Von: Which distance would that be?

Jon: He would not leave home for anything less than a 100 miles!!
Bin: Yeah!

Siqi: I think 100km is pretty good, but if I can, I might try the 100 miles. To do it now would be beyond my capability, I would say. I did not finish that 100k race and I need to finish that!

With Yuan, after they both completed 2015 TNF100 Australia.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Runner Profile: Yuanchao Cheng

Say hello to this ever-smiley friend of mine who is better known as Yuan (among us). He's pretty shy, I think, but with an ever-ready smile on his face, you'd be sure to spot him from a mile!

I have to confess that I have been dying to ask him whether his polka-dotted shorts was his favourite running attire, so ...

1. Tell us, Yuan, are these your favourite pair of running shorts? :D

(YT: If you don't know what I'm referring to, it's this one, but lately, he hasn't been wearing it so often!)

Haha. Yes they are. I’m a very boring man at my daily life. So I want to try something different while running, like wearing some colorful fancy pants...

At the 2015 TNF100 Australia.

2. It feels like the last time I saw you was when you were running towards the finish line at the 2014 Surf Coast Century 100KM. Since then, you have been hopping from one ultra event after another. What has been your most memorable event so far?

I would say 2015 Two Bays Trail Run would be the one. Even though I have done a couple of 100k events, this year’s Two Bays 56k was the hardest one I ever ran. It was the only one I had a goal to achieve from the beginning to finish. So I pushed myself very hard and hurt me a lot...


3. How long have you been running?

Nearly 3 years. I stopped smoking in Feb 2012 and noticed that I had put on too much weight. Suggested by a friend, I started running since Sept 2012.


With the family at Tarawera Ultramarathon 2015.

4. What's your favourite food? Do you follow a strict pre-race diet regime?

I grew up in North China, where noodles and dumplings are the traditional food over there. So I still love noodles and dumplings, even all kinds of breads more than rice.


No, I don’t follow any pre-race diet regime. I even had fish and chips for dinner before Great Ocean Walk 100 (GOW 100) (Siqi Wu’s idea).


5. What do you think about when you're running long distance?

During a race, I usually just focus on my body and the race itself, like my running form, pace, nutrition, hydration etc. At training, I just purely enjoy the moment to be alone, I'm not thinking too much.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Quick Getaway to Gold Coast, Queensland

Friday, 3rd July 2015

We flew into Gold Coast via Jetstar and landed at the airport before noon. As we queued to picked up our rental car from Budget, the lady at the counter asked the hubs if we were there for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. :D

We were pleasantly surprised to have been given a new red car, woohoo!!

We decided to stop by Burleigh Heads for some lunch as our tummies were beginning to grumble. Unsure where to go for food, we found ourselves outside the fish and chip shop.

Might as well!

Shared a single platter for $17. No biggie but good enough to keep our tummies happy. :)

Walked towards to beach after lunch for a quick look-see.

We were rather too chilled for words - instead of stopping by the expo to pick up our bibs, we headed straight to our accommodation to check-in, rest a bit before heading out again.

We found ourselves at the unofficial Main Beach parkrun because some friends said they'd turn up. *no names mentioned* While waiting for team McCleish to arrive, we chatted with Trish, a runner from Brisbane. She was there with her husband and running buddy, and they were doing the half marathon on Sunday.

The crowd began to build up and Tim (General Manager of parkrun Australia) kicked it off with an opening speech and introduced several people to the crowd. There were a couple of elite runners that day, but for the life of me, I don't remember their names.

SCTR represented!

The legs felt good. We were stoked to find ourselves mostly running on a track instead of a concrete pavement. Most of the run was on a track and it was pretty cool - I would say it's a light trail for beginners, with a little undulation every now and then. Every now and then, we'd catch a glimpse of the aquamarine sea beyond the trees on the route back to the start area.

The pictures I have don't do the route justice. I have to say that it's a pretty good parkrun route. In fact, I loved it!

If you're in Gold Coast for the weekends, do join their parkruns on Saturday mornings at 7 am.

After that, we rushed off to Surfers Paradise to meet up with our friends from Malaysia for dinner. We didn't expect it to be so difficult to find a parking spot!

*sigh* There is always a photobomber trying to be funny!

Bin and I were clearly under dressed for that rather breezy evening. :D

We were indecisive where to have dinner and eventually decided on Belly Busters. We took a while to decide what to order (we were pretty clueless) but after 15 minutes, we made our selections reluctantly. The whole stack of ribs was huge!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Recap of Asics Half Marathon at 2015 Gold Coast Airport Marathon

I signed up for the Asics Half Marathon at the 2015 Gold Coast Airport Marathon for 2 reasons; a post-exam weekend getaway to celebrate the end of a full-time 6 month course, and to provide myself a goal to keep fit and keep myself in check lest I lose my fitness altogether. The trip itself was also to catch up with some friends. :)

Being too busy and exhausted with studying during the past 6 months certainly took a toll on my fitness. I gained weight, felt less of a runner, and my frustration ate into whatever I had left of my confidence. Every day after work and every month after an exam, my respect for working mothers increased by a notch – how did they juggle everything??

One of the long runs with Bin and Eugene at Altona Beach.

Studying and training

When I signed up for the half marathon in April, on the last day of the early bird registration, I only had 2 months of strict training (haha) to follow. This forced me manage my time properly, giving me a perspective of what I wanted to achieve in the evenings, besides cooking dinner, studying and completing assignments.

Getting involved in running again definitely made me happier, and parkruns on Saturdays reflected the progress of my training. I was gaining my speed once again, although not as speedy as I was 2 years ago.

While waiting for a table at Vapiano for dinner the night before the race.
Photo courtesy of Foo.

The gloomy winter evenings didn’t help things. It was always easier to say, “It’s too cold, let’s skip the running!” rather than change into running gear and get our butts out of the door. It was hard work.

I told myself that even if I did minimal training, I would manage to comfortably finish in 2:15 so I need not put too much pressure on myself to chase the sub-2 finish that has been eluding me for all these years.

At Vapiano, standing in line to order your food before a designated cook.

Was my training enough?

Like the last 2 (full) marathons, I adopted a training plan which I was comfortable with. I did a half marathon trial 3 weeks before the event and despite how difficult it was for me, I was surprised to finish in under 2 hours. Granted my posture was horrible and I was panting like hell, but I was happy to know where I stood - the sub-2 was within reach. 

No more doubts about it!

Managed a group photo despite being late. We got lost in the crowd!
Photo courtesy of Jamie Pang.

Race Day – Sunday, 5th July 2015

We stood at the end of Corral B and couldn’t see the start line at all. It took us several minutes to cross the timing mat but I wasn’t sure how long it took. I tried looking for the clock but I don’t think there was one at the start gantry. Or maybe it was facing the other direction.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Surf Coast Trail Marathon Recce Run

Monday, 8 June 2015.

We were on the verge of changing our minds that early morning. It was easier to snuggle up under the covers than to get out of the warm bed, shivering.

Nevertheless, I reminded ourselves that we had to get our long run done, by hook or by crook, and we also needed a bit of a social run. :)

We made it to Bells Beach's car park in time to join the first group - we started early but ended up being the last few to finish. We were that slow. :(

Anyway, I was curious to see how I'd fare. 30KM is an unnecessary distance to run when you're training for a half marathon but I believe in hard and unnecessary work. I needed to test whether my endurance was still intact. 

Bells Beach.
By starting at Bells Beach and heading towards Anglesea, we were skipping the first 10km of the route.

Every glimpse of the sea made me go "Wow" and I was thoroughly enjoying my run.

We bumped into Robbo who was running towards us from Anglesea. He had started from there and was basically doing a reverse loop. While some of us were on our way to Bells Beach, he kept sharing photos of the surf coast on Facebook to tell us that he was on his way (to meet us)!

Photo credit: Sandra Henry

I thought to myself, "Thank goodness I decided to come out today!"

Chris Ord, the RD of SCTM.

The second group caught up with us and went ahead, thereby becoming the lead group. It consisted of 2 race directors, Rohan Day of Two Bays Trail Run and Chris Ord of the Surf Coast Trail Marathon event itself.

The trail is fairly runnable, but not when the trail starts going up, up, up. As it leads you away from the coast, you'd lose sight of the beautiful view.


I still do not enjoy running on the beach. 

It's so difficult and frustrating!

But that wasn't even the hardest part yet.

This made me smile. :)
We arrived at Anglesea, the start and finish line for the Surf Coast Century 100KM event (takes place in September annually). I forgot to take a picture, but we got our shoes wet as we had to cross a .... patch river stream.

I was not a happy cow.

In fact, I was very annoyed.
My socks bunched up inside my shoes, making my toes uncomfortable.

I should have brought an extra pair of socks!

Photo credit: Matt Hosking

We took longer than expected to reach Anglesea, missing the group photo opportunity with the other 30km group and the 15km group (who started at Anglesea).

This made me extra grumpy.

From then on, things were going downhill.

It was an extremely long stretch of beach running that was no fun at all. There was headwind - wind was blowing and sand was getting into our eyes. It took like forever just to clear the beach - after huffing and panting for a while, I'd think we would have covered at least 500m but when I checked my watch, it would tell me that I had only covered ... 150m.



So I took the opportunity to munch on my snacks.
Might as well.

There were plenty of surfers out that day. I was told that crazy weather makes it a good day to catch waves.

I was quite pleased when we arrived at the lighthouse, because it meant that the end was near! Not near enough, but sigh, it didn't matter, it still meant that the end was near.

Only that I might have misunderstood Dion when he told me that I should not be able to clock 30km+ as it could be slightly under.

I ran past the lighthouse faster, hoping that it was just 500m away to the designated finish point, but I was utterly gutted when I realised that it really was actually 2km away.

whaaaaaaaaaaaaat ...

I was just all out cranky then and wished I hadn't come this far for a social 30km run because it wasn't fun at all.

Nope nope nope nope nope.

However, chatting with the few friends and being served tea, scones and cookies after run made it all a bit better. We could whinge about it together. :)

I must apologise that I am very out of date with everyone's blogs. Exhaustion, work and studying does not leave me in a very good state of mind for blog reading. Hopefully I'll catch up with all the goss once my exams are over. :)