Thursday, September 30, 2010

yolking my mane

Today ends the 10th day I've lived shampoo-free! Having long hair and being somewhat vain (or maybe just fastidious?), it has been quite an adventure. And there is not yet an end in sight, as I suspect many other experiments will follow. The no 'poo thing is a movement and each participant must make their own way as their poor scalp tries to detox and readjust to a whole new ballgame!

So far I've done: two baking soda washes followed by black tea/rosemary rinse, one clay wash followed by apple cider vinegar rinse, and another bs wash with acv rinse. In between I've done a few dry shampoos, a couple using cornstarch & rice powder and one with oat flour that wasn't as good.

If that sounds like a lot of washing, well, it is. Because, for those of you unfamiliar with the no 'poo thing, there's a transition period where your scalp continues to produce the same amount of sebum as it was producing when you used harsh shampoos that strip your hair down and then coat it with silicone! Also, I'm actually really brushing my hair now (rarely did before), to move the sebum along to condition the ends.

Anyway it's not looked dirty (well, maybe on day 3 or 4) but it does feel extremely different, sort of waxy, as if I went to the salon and they put some styling product in it (I never use stuff like that). Reminiscent of a horse's mane compared to my old synthetic wig! It actually has had moments of looking quite fabulous. It's noticeably thicker and heavier.

Nonetheless, I'm worried the baking soda is building up or something. I want to cut the waxy feeling and so dug around some more forums and found my next recipe. Egg yolk, cinnamon and essential oil wash, followed by a vinegar orange oil rinse. I'll be sure to follow the cold water instructions for that one as I don't want to be picking omelet out of my mane.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

strike on a bike

So today in Spain, you may have heard, there was a general strike protesting austerity measures. In case you didn't know, Spain's unemployment rate is still a distressingly high 20% and the govt's latest financial recovery plan doesn't exactly make job/income security look any easier.

Anyway, in our corner of Madrid (which is quite, uh... bourgeois), it was not very noticeable. Nonetheless, public transport was on slowdown and this had the positive result of getting Alain on his bike for the first time since we left Tokyo! His office is only a 7 minute cycle away but he's been paranoid about getting his sleek charcoal Tokyo Bike thieved during the workday as the only bike rack at his supposedly green office tower is in a secluded spot and Madrid is notorious for rip-offs (including stripping the frame of parts if the lock is un-bustable). But post strikeday, his fear has diminished and he claims he'll be taking it more often.

Another habit revived was that yesterday after work he went running to and played some basketball at our new favourite park: La Huerta del Obispo (the Bishop's Farm). G-dog and I speed-walked there behind him (which takes 25 minutes), played some fetch, socialized with some other 4-leggers, and then swung by the courts to pick up the very sweaty A for a family walk home.

The place is really awesome. Nice and green, lots of other doggies but also some secluded spots where I can let G off the leash to chase her ball, also some exercise equipment to do chin-ups, sit-ups, teach-the-doggie-to-jump-ups, and such. Not to mention the lavender bushes for my enjoyment & the soccer and b-ball courts for A's! Maybe we'll do it again tomorrow.

Monday, September 20, 2010

bad batch

Note to those who'd like to hear more about Madrid and are disappointed with my hermit-like life that leads to me posting only dull day-to-day nonsense like what I'm about to talk about in this one: I'm changing my work hours/habits and so as to allow me to live up to my new resolution of getting out and exploring at least twice a week.

See the decision to divide my two days per week job into five mornings was fine when we were in San Juan because there was frankly nothing else to do in that small town so it was okay to put in extra hours. But here in Madrid it has gotten a bit out of hand, with me ending up working double what I should be and thus not having time to get out much and explore.

That is also because my other duties as the part-timer in the couple include the lion's share of daily housework (which in this huge place is quite a load) and the majority of cooking. I try and also do the production of food for the G so A doesn't have to work on that on the weekends very often (I'm nice, no?).

So, on to that topic! Lately I'd decided to switch up our usual dawg food formula after discovering the site of a holistic vet and reading her recommendations. I've decided to cut down on how much rice and pasta we give her and to instead use legumes and potato/sweet potato for the carb portion of her diet. I also bought some brewer's yeast and started adding a bit of it, some olive oil and some flax seed powder.

The batch before last, I made lentils, which she'd never had before. She didn't love it, but if we were sure to mix it well into the meat, she ate it. On Friday, I cooked up a new batch of pork and potatoes. There was some pulp left after Alain made melon juice for his mom (his parents spent a few days with us here last week). So I decided to pour a bit of that in before topping up with a dollop of green beans.

Well, little Miz Scarfer was not her usual lick-the-dish-till-it-shines self and was leaving food in her bowl, to our complete and utter shock. At first we thought it was because she simply wasn't hungry as her visiting grandparents were spoiling the heck out of her and feeding her copiously from their plates at every meal (no matter what we asked them, which was not to, of course). But we finally realized it was the watermelon. We are thankfully able to pick apart the 3 stratas of each meal and remove most of the melon gunk since we don't usually mix her food when we portion it into containers to freeze.

Also, to counteract any remaining watermelon taste/smell, last night I used the sardine grease that dripped down into the roasting pan when we broiled our dinner (sardines are one of the few fish I allow myself to eat) to coat some bits of bread to add to each of the meals in this batch. Dawg is Japanese to the core and loves her some fish!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

it's not what you think

to poo or not to poo

So I've been trying to go no-poo for awhile. But it's not what you think! i'm talking about giving up standard hair shampoo folks, in case you never heard of the no-poo thing.

See, as most of you know, I've got super-sensitive skin (combined with a general decision to forego unnecessary carcinogenic chemicals & perfumes) and I had attempted several times before to use only all-natural shampoos, but because of my hair type (and how henna has altered my hair), the pure kind gives me the awful stringy/greasies.

These days I'm trying a new thing (apple cider vinegar and, maybe later, baking soda) and it seems to be working better. Please share your no-poo (hair!) experiences, if you have any, folks.

Those ain't hot

So last night we went to try a nearby Asian restaurant (called Hong Kong but has a mixture of Vietnamese, Thai & Chinese food) and we were so excited to revisit our recent culinary past.

Of course, as luck (reality?) would have it, it wasn't 'all that'. I ordered the "spicy" Ma Po tofu and when it arrived at the table, Alain said "Oh-boy", thinking he wouldn't be able to share it due to the rampant red bits of pepper in the sauce.

But to my heat-loving disappointment, it was mostly finely diced sweet red peppers in there.

Over all, the food was fresh and the service great (they let us bring G inside the restaurant cuz their was a weird windstorm going on last night and the patio was a battle ground) but the food was unfortunately very Westernized.

We've yet to try a Japanese restaurant, probably because we've yet to see one that wasn't so totally obviously either Westernized and/or expensive. But there is hope: we found one not far from our place the other night that has a decent menu that includes tempura soba, katsu don and some other stuff that we might chance when we're "homesick".


I realize now, a few days after originally posting, that I forgot a "it's not what you think": my new favourite cold Spanish soup. It's called salmorejo and is even yummier than its cousin gazpacho. So yes, tthat's right, it is indeed not salmon-based but rather tomato-based yet smoother, creamy and more filling than good old gaz. Going to make myself some tomorrow as this recipe is just child's play!

 Salmorejo (aka Cordoban Gazpacho)
  • 4-inch piece baguette, crust discarded
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mild olive oil
  • 2 lb ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (or to taste)
  • 12 whole blanched almonds (optional)
Garnish with
  • finely chopped hard-boiled egg whites
  • thinly sliced & julienned serrano ham or prosciutto (which I omit, of course!)
Soak the bread in water 1 minute, then squeeze dry. Throw almonds in a food processor/blender & whiz until very finely chopped. Mash or mince the garlic then blend it, the bread, and almonds. Add oil in a slow stream with motor running, blending until thick and smooth. Then add tomatoes and vinegar and blend until as smooth as possible, about 1 minute. 

The Epicurious recipe says to strain it through a fine sieve into a (glass) bowl (pressing firmly on solids) but I don't know if that's necessary if you peel your tomatoes first and seems like you'd therefore be wasting the almonds by straining them out... For the lazy out there, the Nibbledish version of this dish is a bit simpler but has raw egg yolk.

Chill, covered, until cold and then baby, believe me, you will enjoy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

supervising the fly hunt

Not much new around Palacio Grace these days, as I was telling my friend Yuko via Skype this morning. For example, the most exciting part of today so far (aside from talking to Yuko-chan, of course!) was the fly hunt in which I just assisted the G-dog.

See I've got to supervise the mutt's favourite indoor pass-time because she tends jump madly onto whatever may be closest to where the fly flits and would not hesitate to take down a lamp (as she once did in Tokyo), plant, bookcase, curtains, etc. After 10 minutes, I'm afraid I had to intervene and, having failed at shooing the damn thing out a window, hit it with a rolled periodico (newspaper) and let her finish it off. Normally I'm a "why kill a nice little insect" type but hey, when it comes to houseflies, it's survival of the fittest I'd say.

However, when it comes to the dullness of my routine days, two things speak to an upcoming change in policy. Yesterday, in needing to go the the historical centre area south of our place for an appointment, I got another taste of the more interesting bits of Madrid (our neighbourhood is quite residential and doesn't possess much of historical/cultural interest unless you count the soccer stadium) and resolved to get (the hell!) out more often!

[I just remembered that the second most exciting thing about yesterday was my invention of some delicious calabacín (a type of squash) pancakes for dinner. Grated up my squash, added some curry powder, salt, pepper, then fried it up in olive oil until it was soft. Next I removed it to a bowl and mixed in two eggs. Fried dollops of it, spread out in a hot pan briefly in some more olive oil. Presto. So good! Postscipt: I've now modified this recipe by frying the curry/Garam Masala/cuminpowder in hot oil first, and by adding a tablespoon or two of flour.]

What's more is that this week marks "Vuelta al cole" (short for colegio, so "back to school") and boy what a difference the end of the summer vacation period (whole month of August, as I've mentioned) makes! There is actually life (and traffic) in our neighbourhood. The shops are all reopening and parks are full of kids in the evenings. Welcome back, Madrileños. Let's see how we get along.

Finally, our palace (the more time passes, the less I can believe we actually live in this apartment!) life if very close to being completely settled. Tomorrow we get our last bits of missing furniture and can unpack the final boxes of books and CDs onto bookshelves. Pictures will eventually follow.