Department of Coffee and Social Affairs coming to Canary Wharf

While out for a walk this morning, I noticed that there’s a new coffee shop coming to Westferry Circus here in Canary Wharf: the brilliantly-named Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. I’ve only visited one of their outlets, the one around the corner from Liverpool Street. If memory serves, the coffee was delicious – but I was in a rush.

I’ll check them out once open and will of course report back here. It’s a short walk from my apartment and could be a new Saturday morning routine hangout, if they don’t mind me hanging around the place…

Again, what a superb name for a coffee shop!

Sunrise in Canary Wharf

I snapped this photo on my way to work yesterday morning, looking down the dock at Canary Wharf towards the new Dollar Bay building.

The sunrise was amazing, so while walking, I grabbed my iPhone and snapped a pic before turning left to go and catch the DLR. I was worried that Dollar Bay would spoil this particular view, but actually, I think its silhouette adds something to the landscape.

The sunrises have been superb in London over the last week. It almost makes up for the biting cold and arctic wind.

Almost.

An accountability update

Since I so publically committed to shedding some of my inappropriately acquired flab, I thought it would be useful to provide a bit of an update. Accountability and all that…

Things I’m happy with

I’m less fat! In terms of shedding weight, I’ve gone from 68.8 to 66.6 kilos since I started the year. Not bad, seeing as we’re only two weeks in and I’m now back in the swing of business – and business travel. Which always makes eating well more of a challenge.

I’ve managed to keep up a vaguely healthy eating habit. (But…see below). More to the point, I’ve been happy with my willpower in turning down opportunities to gorge on cake, fries, beer etc.

I’ve not touched any booze, which is great on a number of levels, but also probably due to the fact that people don’t tend to party as much in the first two weeks of January! I’m going to keep it firmly in the ‘special occasions’ bucket. December really was the outlier when it comes to the last few years. Cocktails when on holidays, bubbles for birthdays. Tonic water at all other times.

For example, last night, I had an hour to kill in an airport lounge in Dublin. There was temptation all around me, but I stuck to a single Diet Coke and avoided the mountains of Tayto crisps. Actually, I’m extremely proud of this, as I usually can’t stop at a single pack and tend to eat three or four in one sitting.

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I also managed to avoid the delicious cakes on offer at the workshop I was facilitating in Dublin. I stuck to soup and had some coffee. And I did not go hungry. I just had to keep the cakes out of my direct line of sight!

And last time we went to Wagamama, I opted for the very delicious chicken chili ramen and avoided the Chicken Katsu curry which has about three times the calories.

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Again, I did not go hungry and really enjoyed every mouthful. It’s really about making good choices from what’s available, not necessarily depriving yourself.

I’ve maintained a healthy activity habit, combining runs with trips to our gym, where I watch ‘The Crown’ while on the cross-trainer. This allows me to watch something entertaining (I know I’m late to the party) while burning about 600 calories per visit. Fun and fit!

Things I’m less happy with

Well, since the last update with my neurologist, I’ve had to up my meds. In practice, this means taking anti-seizure medication every night and then a further, smaller dose first thing in the morning. I won’t go into all the side-effects, but it leaves me so very tired. And a bit dazed. So I’m not really a morning person anymore.

Not that I ever was.

This makes it harder than ever to sneak in a bit of exercise in the morning. Almost impossible. I just need to work around it.

This afternoon, after a nice long walk around the Isle of Dogs, we went to Shake Shack for lunch. It’s just opened here in Canary Wharf, so I was keen to try it out. This was a mixed experience, as I went for a double cheeseburger (boo!) but stopped myself ordering the usual fries (yay!) and had a diet coke instead.

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I’m glad I had the experience, but also a bit disappointed at the temporary failure in my willpower. I’m not saying I was dragged into the Shake Shack and had the burger forced into me and I’m not saying I walked in mindlessly and ‘accidentally’ ate 740 calories of oh-so-delicious cheeseburger.

I did it of my own volition, but now I have some regrets. It’s good to own this, to remember this and to use the memory next time I’m tempted to eat like this on a day I’m not going to the gym.

All in all?

All in all, I’m pleased. It hasn’t been too much of a chore and I haven’t ‘suffered’. Not a jot. It’s been a pleasure seeing the weighing scales give me good news for a while, but also enjoying exercise in the gym again.

I don’t want to do extremes. I want to do everything in moderation: exercise, eating, thinking about eating…

So what’s been a help?

The things that have helped me so far are:

  1. Having a gym in my apartment building, where I can go to exercise in relative privacy. I can go there any evening and even during the day if I’m working from home. It takes me no time at all and I have everything I need. No barrier to exercise!
  2. I’m using My Fitness Pal to track what I’m eating and drinking. I’m not obsessing over calories – really, I’m not! – but I find that the act of writing in what I eat makes me both more mindful of what I’m consuming, but also more aware of how it makes me feel when I eat at different times of the day.
  3. Huel has also been a life-saver in terms of making quick meal replacement shakes easy and tasty. I don’t suffer from spikes in blood sugar or sudden urges to snack anymore. And the Huel bars really are brilliant for taking in your bag when out and about.
  4. My Apple Watch and the Apple Fitness and Health Apps keep me up to date on weight, exercise and general movement. I have exercise goals to meet every single day and the watch keeps me on track. Without that, I’d be using my memory and that’s about as reliable as a chocolate teapot these days.
  5. Doing all of this with @FrankDJS has been fantastic. We don’t have any ‘tempting treats’ in the apartment, having donated a ton of post-Christmas chocolate and other stuff to the concierge team in our apartment building. If it’s not here, it can’t be eaten.

What’s next?

More of the same, with a goal of getting my weight down to something a lot more reasonable before we go to Spain in April (no way of hiding love handles on the beach!) while also increasing my regular exercise. Hopefully, this will include some longer runs, once I get my shoulder sorted out.

I’m also going to build in a cheat day each week, where I’ll allow myself to have a meal that wold normally be verboten.

I won’t obsess, I’ll just enjoy every mouthful.

I’m good at that.

 

 

A lunchtime dash

Being my own boss and working from home regularly means I can ‘step out’ of work when it suits me. And today at lunchtime, it definitely suited me.

Although really cold, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. I’d spent the morning huddled over my keyboard, furiously re-writing a new workshop, so I needed some exercise.

Shoulder-pain aside, I was up for a run, so I grabbed my gear and headed out into the sunshine and the riverside. I love running by the Thames as there’s such a sense of space and there’s always something interesting to look at.

Even if it’s the hordes of other runners who take a lunchtime dash around the docklands. I’d forgotten about them!

I got as far as Tower Bridge and headed back through St. Katherine Docks and around Shadwell Basin, which despite its name, looked glorious in the sunshine… plenty of wildlife floating on its eerily-still surface, while the Canary Wharf skyscrapers were almost perfectly reflected in the water.

I’m still using Apple Fitness on my Apple Watch, rather than Nike+, to track my running. It seems accurate enough and I just want to maintain a log so I can see performance improvements. I’ve no triathlons in the calendar this year!

9km in 50mins isn’t my fastest ever run – not by a long shot – but I was trying to avoid aggravating my shoulder any more than necessary and was also plagued by some unhelpful cramp in my calf muscles. Humph.

All the same, it was really enjoyable and something I really should do more of seeing as a) my boss is such a supportive (and good looking) chap and b) I live so close to the river.

Beating the meat sweats

I’m really not proud of myself this evening. I’ve done absolutely nothing except eat far too much and then regret my actions. 

Let’s start at the beginning. Yesterday evening, @FrankDJS booked us brunch at the local ‘Big Easy‘, kicking off at 11:30am. My plan was therefore simple: get up early, go for a run, then reward myself with an all-you-can-eat brunch of various meats. It’s worked well in the past. 

It worked out beautifully. Except I spent an extra hour in bed instead of a run and I consumed enough meat to feed a small family. The BigEasy’s ‘Big Pig Gig’, outlined below, gives unlimited food and prosecco for the extremely reasonable price of £29.50. My deeply unscientific estimate is that I consumed about three time’s that amount in meat alone. Not counting the few glasses of prosecco. 


I’m not critiquing the staff at the Big Easy – the service was great, they were attentive and generous with the food and drink, and had no way of knowing that my stomach resembles a black hole when it comes to buffet or all-you-can-eat situations. Rather than a marketing gimmick, I see this phrase as a challenge and almost always rise to it. 

We finished eating at just after 1:30pm. Two solid hours of pulled pork, BBQ beans, ribs, chicken, corn bread and Prosecco. I’ll admit there was some conversation thrown in too, but not much. We two became a meat processing team. And the team at Big Easy refilled our plates regularly and with glee. Our glasses too. 

Despite finishing our meal-slash-pork-orgy so early in the day, I haven’t touched food since. No mid-afternoon snack, no coffee, no dinner. Only water. I was hit with big-time meat sweats and @FrankDJS had to have a lie down. I managed to stay awake and then spent an hour in the sauna to expedite the sweating. I think it actually worked, as I feel a lot more human now. 

But still, there’s no chance of me eating anything this evening. I’d like to say I’ve learnt my lesson, but I think we all know I’ll be back at the Big Easy again soon. It’s too tempting an offer and too good a meal to pass up. 

I’ll just need to clear my calendar for the rest of the day.

Finally! Matcha green tea frappuccinos in London

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They’ve been a guilty pleasure on every trip I’ve taken to Asia…a visit to a Starbucks for a delicious matcha green tea frappuccino. Malaysia. Singapore. Japan. It’s always the same.

That said, I’m not normally a frappuccino drinker – if I go to Starbucks, I have a very ordinary coffee. No syrups, no cappuccino, nothing flash. And especially no pumpkin spice abominations!

But the green tea frappuccino is something else. Made with matcha, ice and some cream, it’s ice cold, definitely not too sweet and very refreshing. I know that matcha is an acquired taste – but it’s one that I acquired on my first visit to Japan four years ago.

And despite the extensive menu in London’s Starbucks coffee shops, they’ve never offered this delicious green tea concoction here.

It was purely by chance that @FrankDJS came across them within the Starbucks app. A couple of hours later, we were in our local Starbucks in Canary wharf, quaffing one each and reliving some very tasty memories.

I’ll be honest. It doesn’t taste 100% the same, but it was enough to trigger happy memories of drinking one while looking out on Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo and that’s fine by me.

They’re definitely not an ‘everyday’ drink, given how calorific they are, but for an occasional treat, they’re excellent. Let me know if you’re a fan or if you’ve been inspired to  try one!

Testing the iPhone 7 Plus camera

I’ve had the new iPhone 7 Plus for a little over a week, but I’ve still managed to put it through its paces, indoors and out, and I thought I’d share a few of those photos here. Overall, I’m really impressed with the quality of pics.

The camera app seems faster and more responsive than in my iPhone 6s Plus (of course, it could be my imagination!) and the focus is sharper. But have a look below and let me know what you think. Photos were taken in a variety of locations and conditions – there’s no central theme at all!

I’ve included a few shots from last week’s overnight trip to Dublin and some from outside a local bar here in Canary Wharf.

I haven’t shot any video with it yet, but might do during this week’s trip to Barcelona and Sitges. At this rate, it’s beginning to feel like a high quality camera with a mobile phone attached.

20km across London

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I went for my longest half-marathon training run this morning, hitting the 20km marker. Leaving Canary Wharf, I followed by usual route, looping round to Green Park, but then continuing down to Waterloo station. Where I paused for breath before hopping on the tube home.

I have to say I enjoyed every step of the run, feeling strong and confident as I went. I did slow down towards the end, but I have to say it was mostly due to volume of people on the pavement, not fatigue. But that’s what I get for running through Central London on a Saturday morning!

What was most pleasing was that I had plenty left in the tank for a final kilometre to reach half-marathon distance. My PB at this distance is 1:42, and I made 20km this morning in 1:45:56. So if I can repeat this in a month’s time, I’ll come in well below my 2:00 target.

The ‘Nike Running Club’ app seems to be behaving itself a bit more, now that it’s been updated several times. Voice updates working again, maps are back and I can track my progress in kilometres, not miles. I still think the interface is ugly and far from intuitive, but at least it’s going in the right direction.

I’ve taken the rest of the day at a slightly slower pace. Some lunch, some planning for our trip to Japan next month and now, some time in the sauna and jacuzzi.

More meaty goodness at Boisdale

@FrankDJS and I had an early dinner at Boisdale, Canary Wharf last night. I won’t beat around the bush – it was superb. I’d completed a bit of a run earlier that day and had worked up quite the appetite.

Dinner at Boisdale. Won't say no to some top quality haggis while I'm here! #canarywharf #food #Boisdale #haggis #hankmarvin

A post shared by Richard A. MacKinnon (@macpsych) on

I began with a super starter portion of haggis, neeps and tatties and a glass of very tasty prosecco. Every mouthful was a delight. It’s something I don’t think I could be bothered to cook for myself, with all that potato-peeling and turnip-wrestling. So I always order it when I see it on the menu. Vegetarians look away now. Oh, and don’t click on that link explaining what’s in haggis.

Haggis, neeps and tatties! Delicious. #Boisdale #haggis #canarywharf #food #london

A post shared by Richard A. MacKinnon (@macpsych) on

This was followed by a wagyu beef burger and the most amazing chips. The burger came topped with a fried egg, perfectly cooked with a liquid yoke – which is how I like it. Seriously, there are few things that can’t be improved with the addition of an egg or two. Preferably with a runny yoke.

The chips were definitely fried it something in something a little special – my guess is duck fat – and came cut thickly and perfectly salted. I had a hard time finishing all of this, but like the gastronomic hero that I am, I just about managed it.

Sadly, I don’t have a photo of the burger. I tucked into it with gusto (and a knife and fork – I’m not an animal) and was almost finished before I realised my mistake. Take it from me – it was large, tasty and filling.

There is no real story to tell here, except that I’ll gladly sit down to some haggis at the drop of a hat and there’s something wonderful about being able to walk home after a nice meal out. Night Tube or not, a trip on the Underground takes the sheen off a nice meal. Oh, and I’d recommend Boisdale to anyone looking for a nice meal in Canary Wharf.

It’s not all banks and bankers, you know…