Hi, I'm Tina. Welcome to my journal.

13 Jun '17  — A way to relax

Need more of...soothing scene near Snoqualmie Falls.

My husband and I went to a cafe bar and sat there for more than an hour. This isn't normal. Whenever we leave the house to grab food, it's more like a chore we can't wait to complete.

This evening we wandered around looking for a place to eat. All the places we had in mind were closed.

While heading home, we stopped in a cafe I'd once admired. 'Let's stop for drinks and while we're there, figure it out.' I was skeptical about the food at the cafe. Cute cafe bars are usually all about drinks, brunch and snacky cold food. I couldn't imagine there'd be anything tasty.

The interior of Ein Laden is filled with flea market finds, antiques. There are old windows, stained glass repurposed to create separations between the dining space and kitchen. Exotic dried plants and fresh flowers make it feel like an herbal apothecary. The wooden surfaces add cozy warmth. Although all upcycled, the place is more elegant than most Berlin cafes.

The cafe front was opened and we sat behind a couple facing the street. There was plenty of fresh air and a bit of rain had started sprinkling. When a musician came to sing and play his guitar, I found myself wishing I could also sing and play. I felt like staying.

Looking at the menu, I didn't know what to get. Antipasti, burrata, salads, and maultaschen, the menu is identical to cafes in the area. I didn't think anything could be that tasty.

A voice inside encouraged me to give it a chance. 'These menu items are so common, served differently in so many places, you don't know until you try.' Other guests were having dishes that looked great. Just because I had a cold sandwich at a place similar doesn't mean it's always going to be subpar.

We started with antipasti. There was a variety of veggies and baby red onions. I've never had it before. It was surprisingly sweet and mild, unlike raw onion. All veggies were tender, flavorful and refreshingly light.

The anitpasti was served with bread that came with pumpkin seeds. So soft, the bread tasted freshly baked.

Now that I tested the food, I was convinced they'd do a good job. I went for the maultaschen. It's a German dish that's kind of like stuffed pasta but the filling is not Italian in flavor. It's a filled dumpling.

The maultaschen was better than expected. It's comfort food, makes me lazy, but it was served in pesto sauce along with a side salad which made it less heavy. My husband and I slowly shared bites. I was unprepared to have such a pleasant dining experience.

Even my drink, thyme tea, was something new. Since it was herbal, I felt cleansed. My husband had his beers while we nibbled on veggies and talked.

I haven't felt that relaxed in a while. Maybe this needs to become a regular occurrence.


13 Jun '17  — Youtube exercises

Post exercise recap

It takes me a while to understand certain YouTube characters, particularly their wavelenght of energy. But after coming across Shameless Maya a few times, I found her quite reliable and informative. It was her butt video that got me inspired to start moving.

Afterwards, I was reminded of another video I found two years ago. The workout instructor is the founder of Model Fit Fitness where the workouts focus on toning. I want to end up with small muscles, like 'what models have'. The style of workout seemed much gentler than the typical aerobics instructor.


12 Jun '17  — Veering away

Where is this going?

Sometimes I feel like I don't know what I'm doing with my life. This month, it happened several times.

Am I doing something wrong?

Since I started this blog three years ago, I've learned a lot. Recently, I realized how disinterested I am in making things look pretty.

I've styled photos and I've gotten good results, but it's rarely fulfilling. Also it takes a considerate effort to get baseline good.

I have to let that go.

Whenever I start putting effort towards an aspirational skill that isn't 100% me, I start veering. Making things look pretty, styling photos--that's not natural to me. Although I like drawing, it's also not natural to me. But I have been putting effort towards it, even in moments when I didn't feel like it. Just improving, spending time figuring things out...as slow as it is for someone like me, I eventually get to a place where I'm better. But I'd rather be somewhere else.

I want to be in a place where I am even better for far less effort. It's like having buyer's remorse. For me, these skills aren't worth the effort. I should be getting more. Perhaps I should lower my expectations. They can have a place in my life as hobbies. The cost for me to delve into these skills is far higher than for others who naturally find themselves performing such activities.

I've found myself naturally pursuing bread making. It took me 9 months to figure out how to make decent bread. Or learning to to design my blog. My fascination with fonts and arrangement made the hours worthwhile.

Maybe I feel directionless because I'm not doing things I feel worthy of spending my time on. Or maybe I'm not spending enough time doing the things that come natural. Although I spend time editing videos, adjusting photos, and drawing, none of those activities come as natural as writing. When I glance at my laptop, I've got dozens of pages open and only a handful of visual work.

I'm not saying I'm a natural, that I'm extremely good, but writing is an activity that I find myself doing without knowing I'm doing it. Having been out of my element for too long, I feel out of place.


11 Jun '17  — Law of other attraction

Marble of a young lady from the 18th century.

"If you told me today there’s a magic potion that can take you back to 25, I would never take it." - Salma Hayek on an 'epically bad dinner party'

I don't know anyone who'd want to relive their twenties. I hang out with thirty year olds but even back at 25, I was desperately wishing I was 35. Salma Hayek, 50, also doesn't want to relive it. So why are models in advertising always so young?

Like most people, I used to think 'oh, youth is attractive. Everyone's obsessed with looking young.' 'They can't sell anything if they don't put it on someone young.' Cutting the whole culture slack, it was further justified with the idea that 'everyone hates wrinkles.'

I never questioned the human obsession with youth.

A few months ago I found a photo of a woman in Cuba. She was sitting in the shade and the photographer caught her in a natural relaxed state. (I wish I could find it online again. Looked for a long time, but it's lost.)

She had so many wrinkles. They lines gave her gravitas. I instantly aspired to be her. She could sell me anything and I'd buy it. I saw other artists do renditions of the same woman.

There was post production on the image, color and contrast adjustments were made. But not as much as what they do when a young 20 year old model is used.

The young are so flexible

By assuming that we're all spellbound by youth, I was perpetuating youth obsessed culture. It's possible that an ad can get attention in other ways than the most basic strategy of attraction.

I thought about people I've been attracted to. It's a different characteristic each time. Haven't you had crushes on several people at the same time, all for different reasons?

Attracted to looks, attracted to thoughts, a person's voice, how they walk...it's hard to imagine going through life attracted to only one aspect.

But somehow, the idea of being attracted to youth, flawless beauty, has been replayed millions of times, as if there was nothing else to marvel about human beings.


09 Jun '17  — The ethical way

Inspired by Miami: the land of butts

Today I went on youtube to look up exercises. I don't know of any.

I found myself watching a video on toning the butt. There's nothing like vanity to get me motivated. But then I reminded myself how my ultimate goal is to be less driven by vanity.

Should I do the exercises or not? Simple things have a way of becoming major dilemmas.

I enjoyed a few sets and surprisingly, my back feel better. I sit too much so my lower back feels tight. Relaxing my muscles is good enough. I'm conscious not to push hard despite the encouragement in the video.

It's also a mental exercise not to let vanity dictate my life. If I get a sliver more of butt as a byproduct, I'll be more than happy. It's a sustainable/ethical way of exercising: not to indulge in self-importance while helping my body.


08 Jun '17  — Worn out

Today's mood: faded, left alone

A couple days a month, I can't figure out what to do. I can't easily start on work but I don't want to do nothing. So I end up thinking about starting something, then stopping five minutes later, then switching to another activity just to get back in the cycle of stopping again.

Even if it's watching a youtube video, a podcast or a song, I can't stand anything for more than 5 seconds. Everything feels wrong.

Today is one of those days. Hours after I got up, I completed nothing. I become even more frustrated.

Overtime, I've started to be more patient. I used to hate myself, wishing I were more disciplined to pull through days I'm unable to focus. But days like these happen consistently.

There are days where I'm extremely focused. There are enough 'focused' days to offset the 'unfocused'. It's just part of a cycle.

Sometimes work feels easier, sometimes it doesn't. But no matter how I feel, I generally do the same amount.

Is it that important to pay attention to how things feel? Today feels like a drag, but tomorrow, that feeling will be lost. I may feel like I'm moving at 5 mph but I'm doing the same amount as when it feels like I'm moving 35 mph.


07 Jun '17  — What does it mean to be afraid?

Life on a rock

I've always wondered what it meant to be afraid of death. When you're dead, you're dead. You wouldn't care. So it's really the alive part of you that fears death, not you when you are dead.

In conversations with my dad, he's always afraid of illness and physical ailments as part of getting old. Whenever I suggest that he might be afraid of death, he's quick to clarify. He's NOT afraid of death. He's afraid of being uncomfortable if he happens to be alive. There's stigma attached to being one who fears death.

Today I was putting on my shoes. I noticed my body slightly tense up. I couldn't wait to get over. But why? Being aware of the phenomenon, I loosened up.

Then I tensed up again. While locking the door I realized: I couldn't wait to get it over.

As I neared the street to cross, the light changed to red. 'Uh. Wish I'd made it.' There was a sense of urgency. 'Why can't the light change back faster!' I wanted to cross so bad.

I noticed these moments and started to see, these are the moments I feel the fear.

The person who has her shoes tied, ready to go. That's who I was urgently trying to be. That idea of me dies if I'm not quick enough to get my shoes on.

The person who already has the door locked and is on her way...I can't be her if I don't hurry up.

The person who smoothly walks onto the train, with no obstructions. I can no longer be that person with that life if I don't make this light.

Ideas of me are constantly facing death. I am scared each time.

When I felt the urgency this morning, I started to get accustomed to the fear. It can be there, I don't need to do anything with it, least of all, be driven by it. Maybe by getting used to one death at a time, I'll be able to one day, not fear death at all.

I don't want to spend most of my energy during my life fearing death. But that what I'm doing. The fear of death manifest in my desire for control.

To actively live is to be free, not under the spell of fear, or the desire for control.


05 Jun '17  — sourdough success

Entering a tunnel into a new world...

It's been over half a year since I first attempted Chad Robertson's country bread recipe. Today, I finally made it!

After months of trial and error, kilos of wasted flour, hours of frustration, I finally, made bread that was foamy, light, with a crunchy thin crust.

During the first attempts, I couldn't imagine this day would come. Nothing worked no matter how close I followed the instructions. Learning from my errors, I was able to decipher the instructions. The recipe started making sense when I started to understand the forces behind fermentation, flour, water and temperature.

Bread making from today...I failed so many times, I wasn't expecting to suceed

I documented many of my frustrating attempts. The first attempt was in September. I was optimistic and naive. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I feel like I've gained something magical. The ability to transform simple ingredients into something delicious is truly extraordinary.


04 Jun '17  — Homemade life altering experiences

Yesterday, one of the original youtubers came back on you tube. She posted an animated story describing about her addiction to success.

I came away thinking: 'I'm SO glad I'm not addicted to success.'

'Good thing life changing success has never happened to me.' It might seem self deprecating but it's not.

I don't know what I have, but when I get the flu, I now need to spend weeks in bed. My body gets extremely tired. I don't cough or sneeze as much as when I used to get the flu, my body reacts in a different way--it's extremely tired. When you've experienced so much weakness, it's a miracle to able to sit. I'm reminded of that every time I get sick, which is often enough.

The miracle of being able to sit up, stand and go for a walk without getting tired--I'm more successful every second than I'm not. The variance in health allows me to be thankful.

I may not be addicted to success but I am addicted to sugar and caffeine. It's officially one week I've gone without either. I hear it takes 2-4 weeks for the withdrawal symptoms to go away.

This isn't about beauty or health.

A diet transforms the physiological workings of my body. It's about becoming someone else.

To go cold turkey on something, whether it is caffeine or sugar, or animal products, symbolizes my ability to immediately morph into a new mode of being.

It's not that I don't want to me anymore, it's more like going on a journey, moving to a new place. Getting a new job. You become someone other than who you previously identified with.

Right now, I'm constantly irritated, anxious, I can't sleep well. I feel like there's a demon coming out of me.

I'm also inspired by ayahuasca, the hallucinations and the puke. It's a purging of the old that allows for new. So the agitation I feel now, as irritating as it is, is relatable to the hallucinations, the puking.

I don't need to travel to Peru to have a life altering experience. Just getting rid of sugar, a substance I'm deeply addicted to is my homemade version of the ayahuasca experience. It's more mild in flavor.


03 Jun '17  — A studio visit

One of my favorites: 'Zu Verschenken'

Tara Deacon is a South African artist I came across half a year ago. I was drawn to her leafy foliage and everyday objects, from chairs to pottery.

I got to see the brushstrokes.

There's so much online it's difficult to immediately tell whether something is special. Many works appear exciting at first, but upon another glance, they lose appeal.

Several months went by before I came across Tara's work again. Not knowing it was her, I fawned over multiple illustrations until I came across the ones I was first attracted to. The same paintings won my heart even more--my eyes hadn't tired.

Perhaps it has something to do with the amount of nature featured in her work. It's refreshing to look at. But color is the strongest component that makes Tara's paintings stand out. No matter the combination, her works all suggest a cohesive flavor of optimism. Her paintings give me a feeling of warmth, happiness and freedom.

One of my recent favorites is an illustration of cardamom. The wavy strokes on the exterior of the pods looked as if they were softly coming alive.

"Sometimes I visualize the colors before I start." Other times, Tara experiments with different shades before deciding.

Producing a consistent style hadn't always been easy. She mentioned how long it took to find her own voice. This was a challenge only after she found herself as an illustrator, which hadn't been straight forward.

Having studied industrial design, she started playing with watercolors while au pairing in Holland. Eventually, Tara created more illustrations, and moved to gouache, the paint that first sparked her interest back in high school.

After graduating, Tara had a decision to make: should she work for a furniture manufacturer? With her background, she had expertise in injection molds and product design. But it didn't feel right.

Green palettes: "I don't wash them out. I leave them in unless I really want to start over. I'll use them for reference, maybe use a few shades in the next illustration."

I related to her experience. I didn't know what truly felt right until I felt something that really didn't feel right. Having frame of reference helps point out a direction. Even if it feels less secure.

At one point Tara held two jobs to make ends meet, and tried her best to reserve enough energy to continue painting. Pouring over her notebooks, I saw that she shared similar insecurities.

"Maybe I should get a real job"

Although I consider it less and less, I do consider it from time to time. But I've come to realize that the cost of taking your own path comes hand in hand with feeling insecure. You don't know what will happen. No one's gone your way. Even if they've come close, they haven't done it specifically your way.

An Italian beach: a page from Tara's travel notebook

I'm excited to see more of Tara's work as she illustrates for a variety of upcoming projects.

Find Tara's vibrant illustrations at taradeacon.com.