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

20 Nov '17  — I was in pain but I didn't know.

“I can feel THIS good?!”

That was the first thing I thought when I took my first sip of kombucha a few days ago.

I hadn’t had kombucha for many years. The last time it happened was ten years ago in New York. GT’s kombucha started showing up at all corner shops. My coworkers and I would take kombucha breaks and feel a slight buzz after one bottle.

Then the city shut down access to kombucha. There was a slight amount of alcohol in each bottle and the companies making it were not licensed to distribute alcohol. No wonder we felt good. For a time, there wasn’t a place to buy them. Kombucha was removed off all shelves.

Until a few days ago, I didn’t know I was going through pain. After taking a sip, I realized how much better I could be feeling. I’d gotten used to feeling uncomfortable. I became aware of the dull throbbing heat coming from my stomach after the kombucha wore off. Usually in the afternoons, I get extremely tired. The discomfort seems to have something to do with the fatigue.

Since arriving to the US, I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep. I have, however, indulged on all the delicious American food I’d been missing. American veggie burgers, fries, mac and cheese, chowders, putting American cheese on everything, quesadillas, tacos…

Perhaps my body isn’t used to the food yet. I noticed that the bread I make tastes completely different from the one I make in Europe. The flour looks the same but the flavor isn’t.

Now that I’m aware that there’s something wrong, I’ve changed my diet. In the last two days, I haven’t made anything with cooking oil. Morning eggs were boiled instead of fried. I ate a lot of oatmeal and baked sweet potatoes. I’m still feeling the pain but overall, my body feels stronger.

anti inflammatory foods

I don’t think I can survive on oatmeal, bananas, sweet potatoes and boiled eggs so I’ve started looking up anti-inflammatory foods.

Bread is inflammatory. But I made sourdough this morning. I had to have a few slices. It was tragic leaving out butter.

What a perfect time to go on a diet. Right before Thanksgiving!

No, it should be possible to have delicious food while on this diet. Just nothing processed, preserved. I made a split pea soup that was just veggies and beans. I was surprised how much flavor it had. I need more recipes like that.

I’m going to the shop and getting a ton of beans and veggies to make soup. I’ve got barely, black rice and other whole grains.

I’ve always wanted to eat healthy but never had the drive. Feeling the dull pain in my stomach is forcing me to do what I’ve always wanted.

journal

19 Nov '17  — I'll sit this dance out

My parents and my brother do a recurring dance. They go through phases of being upset, trying something new, finding hope, then they get back where they started.

My brother is 21. He lives at home and plays video games.

My parents nag him to go to school. That’s where the cycle starts.

He has re-registered for community college multiple times. Each time, my parents have hope. “He’s getting his life together.” They give him extra cash. They buy him clothes. But he only registers so they’d stop nagging him. For a while it works.

A week in, he starts skipping classes. My brother makes a ton of excuses as to why he doesn’t need to be on campus. Week after week, after paying tuition, my parents find him going to sleep at five a.m. after a whole night of hardcore gaming. Towards the end of the semester they get disillusioned. “He tricked us!”

This cycle happens over and over. The latest version involves him going to work.

“Well if you’re not going to school, you should get a job.”

He gets a job. “We’re so proud!” They’re off his back.

After several months, my parents tell him “You’d be better off going to school and getting an education so you can have a better job.”

He quits immediately because the only reason he held a job was to please them. With more free time, he rekindles his romance with computer games. He has no time to have a single meal with my parents.

They get upset. Again.

While these cycles are happening, my parents try to pull me in. “Can you talk to him? You know he listens to you.”

“Your life would be worse with a brother who can’t get himself together.” When flattery doesn’t work, they try to instill fear into me.

“What kind of sister are you to not help this situation?” Finally, they insult me.

Hmmm. ‘So this is what a ‘toxic’ situation looks like…’

It is difficult not to respond. But now, staying at my parents house, I can feel the force coming from both my brother and my parents. My brother goes out of his way to be inconsiderate. He wants me to complain to my parents about him. Both sides want me to tango.

It’s difficult to stay out.

These people, my parents and brothers are just random souls on this planet. They just happened to be placed in a situation of a family. When I think in those terms, an experience of the world as a universe of random souls, there’s no hierarchy. There’s no mother, father, respect for elders. My brother doesn’t owe my parents an education.

These souls were put together in a situation. They never question why they are going through this flavor of misery. They replay the misery over and over.

I am a soul magnetized to the situation. Based on my relationship and the context of my soul’s identity, I’m set up to jump into the dance.

Although I do find myself at times getting into the fray, I’ve found that my involvement has never helped. The situation perpetuates with or without me. The best I can do is listen–and not react.

Just as these souls elect to get tangled this way, I elect out.

journal

19 Nov '17  — Fermented dreams

kombucha My first batch

I’ve been drinking store-bought kombucha for two days and I’m sold. My husband bought me a starter set and I made my first batch.

My bread levain is taking extra long to ferment today. While waiting I watched my husband brew a batch of beer. The kitchen smelled like autumn spices after the malt, hops and grains were put in.

Why are normal kitchens so tiny? If we’re to do projects like these we need a living room full of space. Why are homes made with larger living rooms? I don’t see anyone spend that much time in one.

journal

17 Nov '17  — New day, new remedy

blossoms

I.

After I made apple galette the other day, I thought, “What other desserts don’t require sugar?” I love desserts but since I’m getting older, I can’t handle sugar as well.

It’s like riding an emotional roller coaster. Nothing happens immediately after a sugary dessert but right after the following meals, sometimes a day after, I’ll eat and get extremely silly as if I were high. My husband cannot stand me. I can barely keep up with myself–I undergo mania of some sort. Soon after I crash and I can barely hold myself up. I’m forced to lie down.

I only started noticing the connection after I quit sugar for a few months. At first, I thought I had diabetes, but multiple doctors confirmed I had nothing of the sort. I have no idea what my body is doing but I’ve learned to avoid sugar.

I still want desserts so I have to find a way to make desserts with less sugar. Recently, I came across Mimi Thorisson’s salted butter chocolate cake. The recipe calls for semisweet chocolate (which has a ton of sugar) in addition to 1½ cups of sugar. Usually desserts are overly sweet so I’m wondering, what is the minimum amount of sugar I can put into this cake and still have it tasty?

I’ve ruined so many cakes by putting too little sugar. I think the only way to do this is to bake mini tester cakes with varying proportions of flour, butter and sugar.

II.

“Maybe I can make croissants?!” The flaky and buttery crust of the apple galette gave me confidence. Croissants were the original reason I started making sourdough bread, although, I hadn’t dared to attempt them. I was drawn to making bread with the thought of surprising my family in the morning with an array of Viennoiserie.

III.

At Trader Joe’s this morning, I picked up a bottle of kombucha. I hadn’t had it in a while. After my first sip, I was surprised how great I felt.

I hadn’t been sleeping well and I’m experiencing general discomfort–I had no clue where exactly it was coming from. But after that sip, my entire body felt better. I’m self diagnosing, but I believe my digestive track is the culprit.

Should I make kombucha? Am I the type? I might try. I thought it was for people who were super hippies but I guess it works for normal people too.

journal

16 Nov '17  — I've officially become an adult.

After years of not being able to find my clothes, I’ve found enough incentive to hang up my clothes. It never made sense before.

I have a lot of black clothing. In my last apartment, whenever I’m about to leave the house, it’d take fifteen minutes longer because I’d have to go through piles of black clothing before locating the one I want to wear. It feels good to know where things are.

I even make my bed! It feels great to crawl into a nicely made bed in the evening.

I don’t know why it took so long for all this to make sense. In my twenties I never bothered and I was totally fine. What is happening…

journal

15 Nov '17  — End of the rainbow

misty road Life seems like a series of mysterious feelings

I finally watched Eyes Wide Shut. I didn’t know what to expect. While watching I was interested enough to continue since the plot seemed to be heading somewhere. “What is this mysterious secret society all about?”

The movie ended without explanation. I was a bit disappointed but I did enjoy the entire film. There was something I understood but I couldn’t describe.

If Kubrick had made a movie that explained the secret society…it would have been a cheap story. Easily ruined by someone telling me what happened. Instead, I’m left with impressions. Different emotions flowed from scene to scene.

The movie felt like going through a regular day. There are so many things I feel yet there’s no story at the end. I was helping my mom clean out the garage. I felt attached to a hand print I made when I was four. “Oh, that was little me!” Then I realized I didn’t need it in my life. It was hard to throw it out. The handprint drew out memories of being in kindergarten. In the evening, I went to the library to check out a DVD. When I got home, my husband popped it into his Playstation. Unfortunately, the Playstation was purchased in Europe where the DVD zone is different. The DVD couldn’t be played. Memories of DVD zone issues from ten years ago popped up.

A single day is filled with random feelings that may or may not have anything to do with another. Eyes Wide Shut made perfect sense in that there was no sense.

journal

14 Nov '17  — You can't determine what's better without a crystal ball

My mom socializes with people her age so she comes home with stories of people going to the hospital.

The most recent story was about a guy diagnosed with cancer. The same guy went to our neighbor, also a doctor, with x-rays. “You are fine. You don’t need to operate. I don’t see cancer.”

But the guy was scared and went ahead with surgery to remove cancer. When the doctors opened his body they realized there was nothing wrong. The procedure was invasive and he seems to have caught something. He’s sick all the time.

My mom went on and on about misdiagnoses and how to avoid them. “Keep all your x-rays and records. They didn’t have his earlier charts…” I started to think about the concept of ‘misdiagnosis’.

A person could have been ‘saved’ by a proper diagnosis only to live a day longer and get into an auto accident. They had a chance to die without pain and lived longer to die completely in pain.

Is it a misdiagnosis if a person ends up living a week to catch another disease and live out two more decades in pain?

People understand that a longer life isn’t necessarily a good life. And many also understand life isn’t more or less worth living with more pain (up to a certain amount). But going by the principles behind a culture that fears misdiagnosis, where doctors are suppose to get patients to a purely ‘better’ physical standpoint–how could anyone know what is better? Outside the physical body of a patient, without knowing the future, these doctors can never completely know for sure that their treatment leads to ‘better’.

Doctors have helped me get ‘better’. I’ve felt less pain instantly. I would rather they diagnose me without the anticipation of the future. When I’m in pain I want less immediately. In these moments, I don’t know what’ll happen next and I don’t care. But I probably have to pay later with unknown side effects of substances I put in my body…

Listening to my mom I found myself not agreeing to fear misdiagnosis. For the first time I saw that it’s possible a misdiagnosis could have impacted a person positively. No one would know. It’s also possible proper diagnoses have led to plenty of bad things. No one would know.

journal

13 Nov '17  — Therapeutic dinner making

gnocchi making

“The general Roman consensus seems to be more or less 2 ¼ pounds potatoes, 2 whole eggs, and 3 ¼ cups of flour, give or take the odd very strong opinion.” - My Kitchen in Rome

As cheesy as it sounds, I was transported to Italy making gnocchi this evening. No longer was I in the cold rainy Pacific Northwest. For a brief hour I was cooking in a Roman kitchen. That’s how Rachel Roddy’s book makes me feel.

I didn’t have much in the kitchen so I flavored the gnocchi with rosemary and garlic butter. An hour earlier, I prepared caramelized onions to go with it. The dish was topped with shaved Parmesan.

My mom wanted me to make gnocchi. She mentioned it several times last week so I finally did it. Glad she pushed me into it…

gnocchi making

Shout out to my husband who took photos while my hands were super sticky!

food

13 Nov '17  — Colorful shapes

summery lady

I wanted to see how Pierre Boncompain’s images are created so I recreated one of his paintings.

Sketching first in pencil, when I went back to color in, I realized the arm of the chair wasn’t right, or details like how her skirt wasn’t sketched at the right angles. Whenever I draw I become more conscious how unobservant I tend to be.

I thought Pierre was just painting ladies as he saw them, but it’s clear that the proportions are distorted to allow the colorful shapes flow and dance across the canvas. The spirit of these women and the summery settings emerge from the colors–not from the face or the bodies of the women themselves.

Why are color pencils come in colors that are saturated and dark? There are so many lighter, less saturated shades but for some reason, the standard box does not include those.

art

12 Nov '17  — Pure elegance

Alice Waters’s apple galette is one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.

apple galette before baking

The first time I made apple galette was a couple weeks ago. At the time, I wanted to make a covered apple pie so I prepared a Martha Stewart recipe for pie dough. After slicing apples, I realized I only had enough for a tart. I switched recipes and followed Alice Waters’s recipe for galette.

I didn’t use any glaze or sugar this time around. I wanted to see how tasty the tart could be without any processed sugar. Sugar makes me extra unstable.

The apples weren’t dry but if I had prepared a sauce with only cooked with apple peels and cores, it would have been just the perfect amount of moist. The apples are like sponges that soak up additional water. When I first took the tart out, there was a pool of liquid in the center. After 15 mintues the liquid disappears.

The crust came out flaky–I’m going with the original pie crust recipe from now on.

I’m amazed how simple this recipe is. It’s so simple, yet the satisfaction is so much greater than all the desserts I’ve had in my life. How is this possible?!? The natural taste of local fruit, now in season, is perfect.

Just apples on buttery dough

There are so many different versions of this recipe. I thought the Smitten Kitchen version was confusing since it called the sauce a glaze. It’s better to go off the original, from the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook.

journal