Noon Memories

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When I watch this video I almost wish I had the foresight to collect this type of stuff about my Nan. Sometimes I feel like I didn’t do enough when I see things like this video, but I realise that this video is made only of the best and most perfect and sublime moments. I remember at the end that Nan would forget things a lot and repeat herself, but under all of that was her assertive, strongly independent personality. Along with that came her pride, which I think was important to her. I don’t think Nan liked the incapability that came with getting older, and she sometimes would get frustrated when she couldn’t put her thoughts into words or at the home she would hide her dirty clothes and would change clothes herself so that the staff would not see that she hadn’t made it to the toilet on time. I miss her a lot… I think when we discuss or see things about older people that they’re idealised (or even worse, considered ‘cute’) and we ignore the realities that come with it.

Things to ponder while you have lunch: What is it to live a long life? How is it to forget? Do you have any regrets when it comes to your older relatives? Do you fear getting older and what comes with it? Do you try to look after yourself now to ensure a smoother ageing process?

 

 

Noon Menagerie

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Y5Pgmdy

 

I recently stumbled upon this short story, The Paper Menagerie, by Ken Liu, which won the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Awards. I like how the fantastic elements of the story are presented in a pedestrian way.

One of my earliest memories starts with me sobbing. I refused to be soothed no matter what Mom and Dad tried.

Dad gave up and left the bedroom, but Mom took me into the kitchen and sat me down at the breakfast table.

Kan, kan,” she said, as she pulled a sheet of wrapping paper from on top of the fridge. For years, Mom carefully sliced open the wrappings around Christmas gifts and saved them on top of the fridge in a thick stack.

She set the paper down, plain side facing up, and began to fold it. I stopped crying and watched her, curious.

She turned the paper over and folded it again. She pleated, packed, tucked, rolled, and twisted until the paper disappeared between her cupped hands. Then she lifted the folded-up paper packet to her mouth and blew into it, like a balloon.

Kan,” she said. “Laohu.” She put her hands down on the table and let go.

A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.

I reached out to Mom’s creation. Its tail twitched, and it pounced playfully at my finger. “Rawrr-sa,” it growled, the sound somewhere between a cat and rustling newspapers.

I laughed, startled, and stroked its back with an index finger. The paper tiger vibrated under my finger, purring.

Zhejiao zhezhi,” Mom said. This is called origami.

I didn’t know this at the time, but Mom’s kind was special. She breathed into them so that they shared her breath, and thus moved with her life. This was her magic.

#

Dad had picked Mom out of a catalog.

One time, when I was in high school, I asked Dad about the details. He was trying to get me to speak to Mom again.

You can read the rest of the story on io9 here.

What do you think about the story? Do you identify with the narrator’s struggle to fit in? Why do you think the narrator took out his struggle on his mother? Was it because she was an easy target, or an ‘Other’? Have you ever done something when you’re younger that you reflect on as an adult and feel deep shame about? Do you feel like this story is sci-fi or fantasy or neither?

I suppose this too is a bit of a late Mother’s Day post. I love you mum! You’re the best!

mumandme

The author and her mother in Tanzania

Em out

 

The 2015 Niagara Open

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Pull up and sit down for an amazing display of mediocre grappling

Pull up and sit down for an amazing display of mediocre grappling

So I actually attended the Ontario Open this past weekend and remembered that I should write about the Niagara Open, which happened at the end of March. Remember how I wrote earlier about the cut for this tournament being not so great and wanting to do better? It’s because I only just made weight this time with little room to spare, but thankfully nogi was the same day, so it wasn’t a problem. Going to Niagara Falls was kind of fun and it had a road trip-ey feeling to it. I haven’t been to the falls since I was a kid, so I was excited too to see the falls up close again (spoiler alert: it was too dark and cold so we just walked up and looked at it from a fair distance then walked back to the car). The tournament was in the convention centre, which is apparently a fairly new construction. The building was nice enough; there was a dance competition the same day so it was a bit surreal walking through crowds of costumed girls with more flexibility than I can ever dream of. The contrast was fascinating.

The main problem I had with the venue was that it was very dark over the mats, which was apparently a ballroom. I wonder if it was possible to turn the lights up more, since the mood lighting was a little weird, and it made taking photographs difficult, even during the day.  Also, the sound system was so loud that it was difficult to hear the referees or being called for the weigh in. I was otherwise pleased with how the tournament was run.

Anyways, onto the matches and results!

I guess this is the match (and the tournament) that helped me learn that I really need to get mentally ready to roll. I’m experimenting with changing how I warm up, though it is hard sometimes because the warm up mats are always a little too small in some respects. Though the beginning is missing from the video, I felt that I should have been more active in general, which is what led to the point at which the video starts. Since then I’ve worked on improving my half guard and plugging all the little holes that are in it. I also started to understand that I do only have 5 minutes to work with, though a theme with me is that if I had only a little more time I could come back from the losing side. I do like the thrill of the reversal or the sweep and getting on top after being stuck on the bottom, but it’s obviously not a tenable strategy to win a BJJ match.

Up next is my absolute match, which I really felt ambivalent about. I ended up losing in the last second by an advantage, but fair is fair, I suppose. I thought that her penalty would count against it, but I was wrong. I have to brush up on the rules for advantages and penalties I think. She was a heavyweight (two weight classes above me), and I was stuck in her closed guard for most of the match. It was difficult to do the standing guard break, but I tried and succeeded in opening it a few times. The advantage happened because I didn’t think to stabilise myself and stayed on both knees – this is inherently an unstable position in open guard situations, and I got bowled over, but turtled up (hence the advantage). I’ve been practising standing guard breaks since the tournament, and Jeff gave me important advice during one of our fundamentals classes: don’t look at them and stay really postured and straight. I treat it now like I treat squatting heavy weight – I look up at a certain point where the wall and the ceiling connect to keep my posture strong.

Patricia clarified the points/advantages/penalties situation for me on Facebook, so I’ve decided to amend the post with what she told me: penalties come into play when the score is tied only; the advantage was awarded because time ran out, but if there was more time, she would have had sweep points if she had stayed on top (2) as turtling only prevents guard pass points, not sweep points.

This division was the one I was most disappointed by in and of itself, mostly because I thought we were doing best 2 of 3 matches since there were two of us, but the referee told us we had to agree on it, and my opponent said she was too tired to continue, which is fair, since she was also in my gi division and had a hard match (but in a separate part of the bracket). Now I know to ask the referee before any matches in a small division whether it’s possible to do 2 out of 3. She ended up doing an anaconda choke, which in my experience is always neck cranky – I didn’t feel like I was being choked, but my neck began to hurt, so I had to tap. I try now not to let people have that head and arm control necessary for anacondas and d’arce chokes, since I hate how they feel. She worked really hard to get the grips, so at least my defence is somewhat effective, however, I have to be careful with turtle and I can’t stay there too long – which is my main problem I think.

I do really enjoy doing absolutes, and I have faced Michelle before at the Ascension tournament earlier this year, though in gi absolute. Michelle has good energy about her, is great at jiu-jitsu, and it’s always a blast to face off with her or to see her at tournaments. This match helped me learn to try to stay strong and keep my posture and have confidence in my abilities. She won by americana from top half guard, so again, this was something to add to my obsessive ‘perfecting’ of my bottom half guard game – trying not to give up any underhooks, ever, because they’re all mine. I’ve figured some quarter guard stuff out in the gi with an overhook, but it’s not as effective as the underhook and it doesn’t work in nogi.

Since there were four competitors in the nogi absolutes, the organiser was kind enough to let us have a third place match. What made me happy about this match (other than that it was the only one that I won) is that I hit the one arm mounted guillotine butterfly sweep thing that I was shown in nogi once (from turtle, not standing) and have drilled a whole lot. I didn’t manage to finish it due to posture, but I really like it as an option from standing or turtle. Johnny showed it to us after seeing it as a finish in a recent(ish) UFC. I’m happy too that even when I was on the bottom I managed to regain position – like what I wrote before about the thrill of the sweep, though reflecting on the omoplata sweeps I did, I didn’t really hook the leg and relied a little too much on my (robust, reason I’m in middleweight) legs. Also rewatching it near the end, I do what I always do to stay up by posting with my face. I think it’s ok, though I had to learn not to post too much towards my nose because it kept getting squashed. I really enjoyed my match with Greta; she had good heart and kept working even though I’m bigger than her. I met her again at the Ontario Open, and she might be coming to visit our gym soon.

Result - 3 bronze (middleweight gi, absolute gi, absolute nogi), 1 silver (middleweight nogi)

Result – 3 bronze (middleweight gi, absolute gi, absolute nogi), 1 silver (middleweight nogi)

After the tournament was over, we decided to go look at the falls, even though it was cold and dark. The concierge at the convention centre gave us good advice about parking and walks, and we were off. We decided to ride the Ferris Wheel, and I wanted to take photos, but it was a bit too dark. Also, we didn’t realise but it was Earth Hour, so the falls weren’t lit up until later.

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Ferris wheel, though it’s so dark you can’t see the falls.

After the Ferris wheel, we walked down Clifton Hill to go look at the falls, but it was cold and dark and lonely once we passed out of the main part of the street. I found the whole experience simultaneously over- and underwhelming. It seemed much bigger when I was a kid but the strong, tacky-tourist focus of Clifton Hill (where we were advised to go) was equal parts nostalgic and off putting for me. I don’t like spending too much time in loud, bright places like that. I understand why other people like it and revel in it, but I think it’s just not for me all the time. I’m glad that we went though, because the falls are wonderful, and I love them. I’d like to visit again in the day.

The American falls; the only good shot I took

The American falls; the only good shot I took

After sort of completing the walk to the falls, we stopped at Wendy’s because we were a) lazy and b) cheap c) weight cut reasons. I learned you can ask them to make your food fresh. I also took the opportunity to revive my favourite genre of selfie; I like selfies of reflections a lot, but I also like selfies where I, the subject, am very small.

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Anyway, I suppose I’m digressing a bit far from the tournament-oriented nature of the post, so I’m going to leave it here, and hopefully in another few days I’ll write about the Ontario Open (famous last words). I’m really hoping to update more frequently; I was just ever so busy this past month.

:<

:<

Em out

 

The (Great) Breakfast Sandwich Experiment

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So after the tournament on Saturday (which I’ll write up soon, I promise), I wanted to make myself something breakfast-ey and unhealthy. For most tournaments, I have to cut around 5lbs, though I’d really like to cut less, since the last day is miserable. Since at the next tournament I have to weigh in on two days, I am trying to lose weight earlier so that I don’t have to cut hardcore. I’m aiming to lose about 7 or 8 pounds before the next tournament in May, so I may or may not write about dieting, but I do want to write more about food and recipes. In any case, without further ado I present the (experimental) breakfast sandwich:

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The final result

Experimental Breakfast Sandwich

3 slices of Wiltshire bacon (if you’re using streaky bacon then use 4 strips per sandwich, or you could use peameal bacon)

1/2 of an avocado

1-2 slices of cheddar (I later realised a sharp cheese would work better, however, so you’d need just about enough to cover the muffin)

1 English muffin

1 egg

malt vinegar

salt

1. Start to cook the bacon on the stove-top on medium heat, turning frequently to ensure even and crispy cooking. Make sure the oven rack is placed directly below the broiler and turn the broiler on ‘high.’

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Frying the bacon – this is not close to done

 

 

2. While the bacon is cooking, toast the English muffin until just brown, and set a pot of water to boil. Add approximately 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few dashes of the malt vinegar to the pot. The pot should be large-ish because you’re poaching the eggs in it.

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Toasting the muffins

 

3. After the English muffin is toasted, carefully place the cheese on one half (making sure it doesn’t overhang) and put into the oven on the top rack under the broiler. If you’re using a pan, you should put foil over it to prevent any mess. At this point, the pot of water should be boiling. The bacon may be done at this point too (or maybe earlier), and if it is, put it on an oven-safe plate, cover with foil, and put in the oven on the lower rack.

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Broiling the cheese and keeping the bacon warm

 

4. Break the egg into a small-ish dish or saucer, and then stir the boiling water in the pot into a whirlpool. Drop the egg in. You do not need to keep stirring this. I am going to admit right here, though, that my mum made the eggs for the sandwiches, since I don’t have the confidence to properly poach eggs. They are lovely, though. It should take about 2-3 minutes to poach the egg (to a hard yolk) and less I suppose for a softer yolk. Make sure to keep checking the English muffin under the broiler, because if you forget about it, it will burn.

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(Mum) poaching the egg

 

5. If you haven’t already taken the English muffin out of the oven, do so now. The surface of the cheese should just be starting to brown and blister and bubble and look super delicious. At this point, you’re ready to assemble the sandwiches. The avocado should be prepared to your preference – you can add lime to it, but I’d advise against salt, since the bacon is generally salty enough on its own. In this case, I just used a spoon to scoop chunks out and put them on the sandwich. I put the egg on top of the cheese, then the bacon, then the avocado, and then the top of the muffin. You can re-toast the top of the muffin if you think it’s too cold.

Sandwich assembly

Sandwich assembly

Now, I have some thoughts on the breakfast sandwich I made. It was an experiment for a number of reasons. First, I rarely make breakfast sandwiches, and I wanted to try making one for myself. Second, we poached the eggs instead of frying or grilling them – in my perception for breakfast sandwiches I buy outside of the house, the eggs are not poached. Thirdly, I decided to broil the cheese onto the sandwich, however, we used medium cheddar slices, and both my mum and I found that it didn’t add anything to the sandwich. I feel, though, that using a sharper cheese (Welsh cheddar, perhaps) would justify the use of cheese, but in future, if I don’t have sharp cheese, I’ll leave it out. I may have put a little too much avocado on the sandwich too, since it was a bit messy, though I suppose that’s not really a big deal. This is definitely not a healthy food, though – it has roughly 600 calories – so the next breakfast sandwich experiment will have to wait until after the next tournament.

diet feels

diet feels when writing this post

What do you think about breakfast sandwiches? They seem really popular. I suppose mine is extra large when it comes to them, since the ones at Tim Hortons range from 290 to 500 calories, though if you exclude the avocado from mine (since none of the options seem to have any hint of vegetation to them), it’s a much more reasonable 450 calories. Taking off the cheese too, which I didn’t find very good, makes mine 340 calories, which puts it near the bottom of the range. I guess they can be made more healthy, but I’m probably just going to stick with my Greek yoghurt and tea breakfast for now. The weather is getting warmer, and oatmeal, to me, doesn’t suit spring and summer.

the winter has been so, so long...

the winter has been so, so long…

In any case, I think I’m going to track my diet on the blog too with weekly posts and maybe even recipes, if I can get my arse in gear. I hope that you’ll like it too.

Em out!

Noon Colville

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My favourites

My favourites

So I recently (or not really recently at all, now) saw the Alex Colville exhibition with my dad at the AGO. I really enjoyed it. I remember going to the Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) with my dad as a kid and seeing Colville’s Horse and Train (see above right) and being captivated by it. Colville has an interesting style that I find calming in its own right. The exhibition was comprehensive, and I learned a lot about Colville the person as well. What I liked is that his wife was his muse, and he painted her extensively. You can almost feel how much he cared about her through his paintings. The exhibit featured paintings of her from her youth through to old age.

I also really liked his paintings of birds, particularly the painting Seven Crows (see above bottom). They look really dynamic, and it’s almost as if it’s painted from a bird’s perspective.

What do you think about Colville’s work? Do you think that his love for his wife is evident through his paintings?

Grappling Industries Toronto (March 2015)

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I’m disappointed, or I was. After a progression in my tournament performance that seemed like it reached ever upwards, I hit a wall. I started writing this post soon after the tournament, but I decided to wait and reflect on it some more before expressing my feelings. I want to be honest in this post. I was upset after, but I didn’t show it or at least I tried not to, because my teammates were happy, and I was in a corner of myself so happy for them and their performance. I love being part of a team, and I love to see my teammates do well. All I could feel inside about my performance, though, was shame. I felt like I let the team down, even though I did win one match and get bronze in gi for that (1-2 record for this tournament, 3-12 record total). I feel like these emotions carried over into nogi, and I performed really poorly in that division, and I ended up with silver (by default, as there were two people in the division).

I felt the same way about the competition for days after, but I was afraid to express these feelings. I felt a gloominess hanging over me, and the time between the tournament on Saturday and my return to BJJ class on Monday seemed to stretch on forever. I, of course, slept in on Sunday and forgot about daylight savings time, so I skipped class that day. It was the beginning of weave pass week (at our gym we have themed weeks by position or technique). The weave pass really spoke to me, and as I understood it better as the week passed by and as I managed to complete the pass during rolling, I felt better about my jiu-jitsu. As time passed I felt better about my performance at the tournament, and a bit embarrassed about how fragile I was after, but not embarrassed enough not to joke about it later. I thought maybe I was burnt out, but in reality, I just didn’t have a good day in terms of performance and I let it affect me too much. Having spent the time to reflect on this has really helped me improve both my physical and mental ‘games.’ Doing tournaments, in my mind, only helps me get better in a numerous ways, and I’d recommend it to everyone.

Anyway, enough waffling on about feelings and stuff, I’m going to recap and share some of the photos from the tournament:

Before it all started

Before it all started, after weighing in. Photo by my teammate, Geoff.

Since Grappling Industries has a round robin format, everyone is ‘guaranteed’ four matches. Going into my division, which was called an hour early, I thought I had four. It turned out I didn’t. This made me really irritable after our division finished, because I thought that I honestly had another chance to turn things around, and I really just want to have the maximum amount of matches. I think someone may have dropped our of our division, but still. “Guaranteed” means something different to everyone, I suppose. I may have got mixed up in terms of the order of my matches, but I don’t think it matters that much…

Dana and I side-eyeing some people in the warm up area

Dana and I side-eyeing some people in the warm up area

I didn’t feel tired after my matches, excepting my first match in gi where I almost passed out. I thought that I was fine, but then I realised just as I was about to fall asleep that my nose and mouth were completely covered by her gi. I know I need to work on being more aggressive. That being said, I tried to go into the second match with more of it.

That feeling where all the lights go out in your head

That feeling where all the lights go out in your head. Photo by Joey Simoes

I lost my second match on points. I’m going to focus this month on learning better turtle escapes and reversals. My March focus has been practising inversions (inverts?) and I’ve gotten okay at them, though I still need practise. I feel that if I don’t give up my back so much that it will be much harder for me to lose on points. I give away too many back points. My opponent, Kat, posted our match on Facebook, so I’m using her video here:

Starting with the grip work and trying to be aggressive

Starting with the grip work and trying to be aggressive

I did much better in my third match, though it didn’t help my mood. I managed to stay on top for most of the match, but Karin is very skilled and turned the game around so I had to work from closed guard, which I don’t really like very much, since I prefer half guard. She almost got the armbar at the end, and I remember that moment with utmost clarity. Jeff was yelling the time left in the match and everyone was screaming not to tap, but I knew that since I had her leg, that there was plenty of space to turn in and get my arm back (which I had also turned to prevent the armbar).

Check out the scoreboard :)

Check out the scoreboard 🙂

Where is my body and why is my arm over there

Where is my body and why is my arm over there

Just escaping the armbar and freaking out my coach :<

Just escaping the armbar and freaking out my coach :<

My arm, all miiiine

My arm, all miiiine

 

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Podium pic by Karin

bronze

I got a bronze medal that looks kinda goldish I guess? #bronzelife

Nogi really bummed me out, to be honest. I wasn’t looking forward to it because my mind was already foggy and I didn’t feel very good about competing. I decided to suck it up anyway, but I did rather poorly, though in my second match (we did two out of three because there was two of us) I only lost on the back points (again…). Unfortunately, I don’t have a video of those matches, but I do have a podium picture. Ooops.

nogi

Default silver in nogi life.

I actually just competed in another tournament this weekend, so I have yet another long-winded grappling post to write for all of you. I felt much better about this past tournament than Grappling Industries, but sometimes you have to feel badly in order to grow and improve.

I guess pretty much how it went

I guess pretty much how it went

 

Noon Knausgaard

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The autumn forest, by me

 

The following afternoon I went to Dad’s. I had put on a white shirt, black cotton trousers, and white basketball shoes. In order not to feel so utterly naked, as I did when I wore only a shirt, I took a jacket with me, slung it over my shoulder and held it by the hook since it was too hot outside to wear it.

I jumped off the bus after Lundsbroa Bridge and ambled along the drowsy, deserted summer street to the house he was renting, where I had stayed that winter.

He was in the back garden pouring lighter fluid over the charcoal in the grill when I arrived. Bare chest, blue swimming shorts, feet thrust into a pair of sloppy sneakers without laces. Again this getup was unlike him.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” I said.

“Have a seat.”

He nodded to the bench by the wall.

The kitchen window was open, from inside came the clattering of glasses and crockery.

“Unni’s busy inside,” he said. “She’ll be here soon.” His eyes were glassy.

He stepped toward me, grabbed the lighter from the table, and lit the charcoal. A low almost transparent flame, blue at the bottom, rose in the grill. It didn’t appear to have any contact with the charcoal at all, it seemed to be floating above it.

“Heard anything from Yngve?” he asked, of my older brother.

“Yes,” I said. “He dropped by briefly before leaving for Bergen.”

“He didn’t come by,” Dad said.

“He said he was going to, see how you were doing, but he didn’t have time.”

Dad stared into the flames, which were lower already. Turned and came toward me, sat down on a camping chair. Produced a glass and bottle of red wine from nowhere. They must have been on the ground beside him.

“I’ve been relaxing with a drop of wine today,” he said. “It’s summer after all, you know.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Your mother didn’t like that,” he said.

“Oh?” I said.

“No, no, no,” he said. “That wasn’t good.”

“No,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said, emptying the glass in one swig.

“Gunnar’s been round, snooping,” he said, of my uncle. “Afterward he goes straight to Grandma and Grandad and tells them what he’s seen.”

“I’m sure he just came to visit you,” I said.

Dad didn’t answer. He refilled his glass.

“Are you coming, Unni?” he shouted. “We’ve got my son here!”

“OK, coming,” we heard from inside.

“No, he was snooping,” he repeated. “Then he ingratiates himself with your grandparents.”

He stared into the middle distance with the glass resting in his hand. Turned his head to me.

“Would you like something to drink? A Coke? I think we’ve got some in the fridge. Go and ask Unni.”

I stood up, glad to get away.

Gunnar was a sensible, fair man, decent and proper in all ways, he always had been, of that there was no doubt. So where had Dad’s sudden backbiting come from?

After all the light in the garden, at first I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face in the kitchen. Unni put down the scrub brush when I went in, came over and gave me a hug.

“Good to see you, Karl Ove.” She smiled.

I smiled back. She was a warm person. The times I had met her she had been happy, almost flushed with happiness. And she had treated me like an adult. She seemed to want to be close to me. Which I both liked and disliked.

So I’ve been reading the “My Struggle” series by Karl Ove Knausgaard. I’m almost through the third of six books, and the fourth book is coming out fairly soon. I was excited to see an excerpt of the fourth book published on Vice. You can read the rest of it here. It’s a good way to while away part of your lunch hour. What I like about Karl Ove as a character (since the books are ‘fictional’) is that I relate to him. I have similar anxieties, even if my experiences are completely different. What I wonder is if other people feel the same way.

What do you think about Knausgaard’s work? Have you read his books? Do you relate to Karl Ove the character? How do you feel about semi-autobiographical works of ‘fiction’?

Tea Review: Whittard Russian Caravan

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For some reason my phone decided to turn perfectly adequate pictures into blurry nightmares. Sorry, friends, but I can’t fix it for some reason.

I wanted to try the “Russian style” of tea. My mum was going to England, and I knew I could get this tea at Whittard. Whittard has not disappointed me with the quality of their teas, and since I knew that she was going there anyway to buy tea for her friend, I asked her to get this too. .

Type: Black

Instructions from packet: Use fresh water. Water left in the kettle loses vitality and makes tea taste dull. Rinse the pot with boiling water to bring out the tea’s flavour. Add 3-4 teaspoons of tea to a 6-cup pot. Pour in boiling water and leave to brew for 3-4 minutes. Pour through a strainer; add milk to taste. Whether you add milk before or after is open to debate.

Description from packet: A blend of China teas, the name comes from the 17th century when camel caravans transported China tea to Europe. During the journey, the teas took on the smoky taste of the campfires. We launched it just after the First World War and it still captures a spirit of adventure. An aromatic and full-bodied tea with a sweet, malty taste.

Ingredients: 100% black tea.
The look: The tea is a mixture of leaf cuts: some are fine and coiled whereas others are long and straight. The leaves are a rich brownish black colour.

The smell: The tea smells very strong with a soft maltiness to it too. There’s something fresh and sweet about how it smells, too.

First steeping: A very, very strong black tea with a mellow smoky flavour. This tea is bold! As you drink it, it mellows out a little bit, but that sweet (but not sickly), pleasant maltiness remains. This blend has apparently existed for almost a hundred years, and I can understand why. It is a very enjoyable cup of tea.

Second steeping: I suppose you can steep this twice, but the second steeping conjures up images of builder’s tea in my mind. It’s acceptable, but it doesn’t have any of the complexity of the first steeping.

Rating: 9/10

Alternately, slightly manic smile with claps

Alternately, slightly manic smile with claps

Games I have recently played (part 3): Animal Crossing: New Leaf

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My first house – the tent

I’ve always loved Animal Crossing. I lobbied my parents relentlessly to buy it for me for my 13th birthday. As a somewhat lonely kid, I liked the colourful world filled with animal friends. I think what I liked the most is that it gave me a sense of maturity and agency that no one really has as a child. You get your own house, you have a job (briefly), you have neighbours who you help, and you make your own money to pay off your mortgage. Responsibility and adulthood are self-driven; you decide what to do with your time, though in Animal Crossing there aren’t any consequences for not paying your mortgage. I’ve played every other incarnation of the series, though I found I preferred the portable editions. With that in mind, I asked my parents to get me Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which came out when I was in Tanzania. Caren brought it for me and I proceeded to throw hours into it, my village of Emstan, as we were restricted in our movement at night.

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“Now go outside and do something meaningful”

I really like spending time in Emstan. There’s so much to do, and you can pick it up and put it down for a while and everything is still ok.

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This shark is like, 5 metres long. Does that mean my character is really, really tall??

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Animal Crossing me is surprisingly calm with respect to horrors.

 

Catching fish is probably one of my favourite parts of Animal Crossing. It’s relaxing and there’s so many different types – I still haven’t caught them all, since fish are seasonal and I always miss at least one. Fish are also pretty lucrative; you can sell them for a fair bit to the second hand shop. I like too how you can catch fish like the sharks which are bigger than your character. There’s also bug catching, but I’m not as good at it, because it requires more skill, in my mind. I did win both the fishing tourney and the bug catching competition though, which made me feel pretty good. Now I just have to win a BJJ tournament.

Fishing tourney win

Fishing tourney win

Bug catching competition win

Bug catching competition win

Fortune telling

Fortune telling

I like all of the strange characters who come and go from the village too (like the animals who hold the competitions), especially Katrina, the fortune teller. I’ve always liked fortunes and horoscopes. I think they’re a lot of fun, even if they’re not really accurate.

oh god oh god oh god

oh god oh god oh god

Another character who’s interesting to me is Gracie, the fashionable giraffe. She eventually opens a boutique in the department store, but you have to pass her fashion checks first. What I both like and dislike about them is that they’re based on the attributes of the clothes (cool, cute, modern, and so on), but if you put together an outfit that’s mixed but looks good, you’ll fail the check.

Just wandering around Emstan, my village (or town?) is really fun too.

Outside my house

Outside my house

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A sleepy late night stroll

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Oops, I fell into a hole.

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Blowing dandelions is fun

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Fireworks day is the best

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The big fireworks have gone off!

There’s also lots of holidays and events. Sometimes it can just be a mushroom hunting month, and other times it can be something like Thanksgiving where you have to hunt down ingredients for a feast (but it’s not actually called Thanksgiving).

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Autumn is coming!

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A thanksgiving feast!

Summer days

Summer days

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You also get to celebrate your birthday with a party!

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And cake!

The animals are sometimes oddly obsessed with foods of all types, so they say things like this:

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In New Leaf, you’re the mayor, so you can declare ordinances (like “Keep the town clean” – why does this have to be a thing, shouldn’t we be cleaning anyways?) and create projects like building more bridges or other infrastructure.

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I built a café and my assistant claims villagers contributed, but in truth, I paid for 99% of it. Collective action wins again!

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But the problem with the café is that you can only have one cup of coffee per day

I guess one part I do like too is decorating my house, but it can be a pain, since you have limited storage space where you can keep extra furniture and clothes. For the most part, you can reorder things you bought before from the department store, but some items are not orderable.

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Bonking my face on the wall like I do in real life :<

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That moment when you wake up and realise that you’re late for something and there’s a wolf in your living room

Some people are a lot less eclectic than I am when it comes to décor. They can be very creative, and it’s fun to see what people come up with. When you streetpass someone, they appear in the “streetpass village” area and you can visit their house and see their rooms. I get a little anxious that my house is awful, but it’s not as if they can comment later on it… I did like this house that was decorated like a restaurant, though.

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I’ll have some tea and stuff please

I do like Animal Crossing a lot, and I pick it up now and then for a few days at at a time. I don’t play every day any more, but I do like seeing my village and making new plans for it. Talking to the villagers and helping them with things is fun too. I checked my 3DS (well, now my New 3DS XL, which I bought as a thesis-defense-finishing gift for myself) to see how many hours I’ve spent in Emstan. It’s a little scary, to be honest, but I’ve spent about 130 hours there. I’d recommend Animal Crossing to everyone, since I think it appeals to a variety of tastes.

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Noon Dior

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Tailoring is so interesting. I always like watching these haute couture process videos. Like other trades, it feels ‘lost to time’ in its own way. I always imagine owning these beautiful  clothes too, but of course, they’re out of reach. I want to learn some of these techniques to make my own clothes to measure, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the level of skill it takes to make something so beautiful. I remember watching my cousin (a tailor) make trousers and it was fascinating.

What do you think about made to measure clothes? Do you have any? What about haute couture? Do you ever dream about owning beautiful clothes?