Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Ginger Obsession

Reader, does it strike you as odd that I like ginger but I don't actually like eating them? Let me explain. I like the taste, which means I love lots of ginger in my stir-fried veggie, soups and stews, and in meat dishes when I ate them (I consciously avoid meat these days, but that's another long story). I don't, however, pick up the ginger slices and eat them. The only ones I'd have are those finely shredded and fried to crisps to top dishes with, or made into omelettes with Chinese wine. Those are absolutely yummy... That isn't so odd, is it? I know I shocked many, through the years, when I say I don't eat raw cucumber. Just the other day, I caused several pairs of eyes to go wide by declining mandarin oranges (which are like staple, during the Chinese new year season) because I don't eat them. Well, I've digressed. As usual.

Some weeks ago, I came across a little shop selling all sorts of dried and candied fruits. I picked up my favourite dried mangoes and then saw some candied ginger. I cannot remember having ever seen candied ginger, or tasted them before. The nice lady selling them gave me a little piece to sample, and... there was no turning back.

I bought a pack, and had to, literally, exercise tremendous amounts of self-control to not keep popping the slices into my mouth. Unfortunately, it was still gone in a couple of weeks. I went back to the shop, and they were sold out. I went back the following week, they were still out. The lady told me the factory making them were out of supply.

I wanted candied ginger and I must have them. Reader, do you know how it is to be obsessed? No, of course I don't, either. And no, I'm not in denial. *Ahem* Anyway, I wanted candied ginger and I must have them. I went to two supermarkets until I got my hands on a whole pound of fresh young ginger, googled "candied ginger" and copied the recipe from the first link in the results page. Did I mention I wanted candied ginger and I must have them?

The process was, in a gist, not so hard. Sure, cleaning and thinly slicing so much of ginger all at once was tedious. But hey, what are a climber's strong (relatively, that is) hands for when not currently climbing? The cooking took more than an hour, but that's just the stove and candy thermometer working... all I needed to do was run into the wet kitchen every 2 minutes to check on them. And no, I do not agree that that was a sign of being obsessed. *Ahem* It was kinda fun watching my (proving-itself-very-accurate) thermometer register 100 degrees Celsius the whole 45 minutes the water took to boil away.

Once done, I spread the drained slices on a baking tray and let them slowly dry over two days. Yea, where I live, it's pretty humid.

The cooked sugar crystallized so beautifully over the ginger slices it made me happy to just look at them. And yea, these taste great.

The author of the recipe wrote that people get scared when they hear of a recipe requiring a candy thermometer. I've used mine several times in such recipes, and seriously, having to use it isn't half as bad as cleaning the cooked sugar off it afterwards. Seriously. So, Reader, if you chance upon a recipe of something you really love, but which requires cooking sugar, just go ahead and do it.

Thank you, David Lebovitz!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Year of the Snake

My roomees say my snakes decor look like worms. I think so too, but that's OK... they're cute =P

May everyone have a splendid year ahead with abundance of love, happiness and most importantly, excellent health! Gong xi fa cai!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Trango Cinch

When I first started climbing, I did only bouldering. I should think that is the logical manner to begin, for, when not yet certain if one will indeed take to this extreme sports, anyone with half a brain should know it isn't wise to invest in gear. A pair of reasonably-priced beginner shoes was the furthest I'd gone.

About six months into climbing, I got my own harness, ATC belay device and carabiner, and started top-roping regularly. It was a fortunate thing for me for having learned most of the basic stuff on the bouldering wall, for it afforded me more focus on overcoming my fear of heights (altophobia) and fear of falling from a high place (bathophobia) while top-roping.

A side note: I haven't come very far in those aspects... at present, I'm still scared, though at a relatively lesser degree.

Several months into top-roping, I was introduced to lead climbing. That was about a year and a half ago. All the while, for all the climbs, I used the ATC belay device.

An odd side note: ATC stands for Air Traffic Controller, and I have no idea why.

With the ATC, the belayer has to be on the alert, and focused on the climber all the time. If the climber takes a fall, his life will be, literally, in the belayer's hand. The right hand, in my case. Assisted-braking belay devices, on the other hand, have mechanisms to stop the rope according to the direction of the rope being pulled. The arguably most well-known of these is the GriGri (or now, GriGri 2) by Petzl. But no, we didn't get that.

We got Trango Cinch. I've never the opportunity to use a Gri Gri so I cannot fairly or accurately compare them both.

The Cinch is easy to use - the rope is enclosed inside, the climbing and belaying ends clearly marked.

The first time I used it I belayed a lead climber under the watchful eyes of an expert climber. As is the case with any new gear, it took some getting used to. For me, it was mainly the feeding - it took me several runs belaying for lead before I managed it fully smoothly and stress-free.

The "automatic locking", once the braking mechanism is set in, means the climber's life no longer rests in the hand of the belayer alone, although climbing safety rules dictate that the belayer should not let go of the free end of the rope at any time. Well, in case the belay device fails.

To be honest, though, the chances of the device failing probably will not be higher than that of the belayer panicking and letting go of the rope (during an unexpected fall), so I do think using the Cinch is safer than the simple ATC. Having said that, however, I also think it is important for new climbers to start off with ATC. I felt that the responsibility that came with using it trained me to really pay attention to the climber - not to take my eyes off him while he's climbing (as opposed to resting on tightened rope), and not to be distracted by sudden loud screams from the far corner of the climbing gym or a great-looking shirtless climber passing by... that sort of things. This sort of focus, I believe, is crucial, regardless of the type of the belay device used.

I don't believe I had ever posted so many photos of a single piece of gear here... this baby is just so pretty!

Climb safe, and don't take anything for granted.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Eyeball Poke

My computer's Desktop, as is probably common, is most of the time rather cluttered. I'm usually too lazy to be bothered but every now and then, when the icons obscure too much of my lovely wallpaper (a stunningly dramatic shot of an old olive tree against a darkening sky taken by JS, used with his permission. *click to see containing post*) I do clean up some. Sometimes, I come across forgotten photos.

Like this one:

I was making crochet eyeballs and the tucking in the ends of the yarn resembled poking them right in the middle. I found it hilarious enough to be preserved in pixels. I must have intended to post it somewhere but then usual procrastination must have pushed it out of my mind.

In case you're wondering, Reader, I was making a stuffed FSM. The acronym had always meant the Finite State Machine to me and it wasn't until these recent couple of years that I learned that it also stood for something very different. I find FSM cute, and I thought a crochet stuffed version would be adorable.

Isn't he? (yea, I'm a little - just a little, OK - narcissistic... thanks, Reader, for putting up with me =P)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pre-Dawn Hike

We learned our lesson at Tabur really well. Seriously. Hiking is not a walk in the park, and the non-experienced should just start with the easy peasy hills.... like the very popular Broga Hill. We so should have started with this one. The ascent was practically walking all the way, no more tiring than going up flights of stairs. No climbing required. No precipitous rocks and ledges to overcome. Absolutely no risk of falling to death.

Since we wanted to reach the top in time to view the sun rise, we decided to start hiking at 6am. Well, we got there on time, but spent quite a while looking for a parking space (yes, this hill is that popular). I don't know what time it was when we actually starting hiking up the hill, but it was still dark. In fact, it was dark all the way and if I hadn't my little LED torch with me, I wouldn't had implied the ascent was easy. Despite 2 or 3 short rests along the way, we made it before 7am. It was still rather dark, but the fast breaking dawn afforded some dramatic shots of the sky and the village below.

(photo captured using my phone, edited using Instagram)

We fiddled with the settings on our cameras in eager anticipation of the glorious rising sun, and waited patiently along with hordes of other hikers (did I mention this hill is really popular?) The sun did rise eventually, but behind heavy grey clouds, to everyone's disappointment. 

Shortly after 7, we started our descent. Though for most people, this would be a piece of cake, I managed it far, far worse than I did the ascent. My shoes were the culprit. They were not very old, but worn such that the tread was almost non-existent. The terrain was mostly sandy and I had literally no hold all the way down. There were parts I had to slide on my feet and bum, and endure being laughed at by strangers (which was fine... I laughed with them). 

Am I the only person who thought coming down a hill is worse than going up it? *sigh*

On the whole, we enjoyed our hike. I did, honestly. However, I am considering never hiking Broga again. The main reason is the crowd is simply too huge. On top of that, some were really rowdy - loudly chattering, laughing, shouting at and to each other, smoking, littering... I have disliked crowds for a long as I can remember and even more so those which do not respect Nature enough to behave appropriately. I regret to end this post with such a negative insight, but things are what they are. 

My friend suggested Gunung Nuang next. Errr... *unsure*