02 Nov '18  — Friday
I was heating up soup for lunch. Usually, I’d grab my phone, watch a youtube video, scroll through twitter, but today, I continued a book I’m halfway through.
It’s not as convenient as the phone. I was afraid of getting the pages dirty while stirring hot soup, but I did not get exasperated by anything. It’s been a cool 48 hours since I decided to block all internet chatter.
I’m sure there are plenty of others who have decided that stuff online (sensational stories, others’ lives) is not good for them.
Acquiring the ability to not look at stuff is huge–except it’s one of those accomplishments you can’t show off. There’s no prestige, just personal benefits. This is the kind of successes I’m trying to work more towards. (It’s hard in terms of motivation, no tangible recognition…why am I so centered on the type of success that leads to pats on the back over ones that improve my life?)
I watched the latest episode of the Romanoff’s and I was surprised how the theme was the opposite of the world I’ve cut out. The show was about taking a break from judging people harshly, especially if they are imperfect, like a person who constantly lies.
Some people need to tell others’ grand tales about themselves…it’s a lifestyle choice and they have the freedom to live that way. As listeners, we don’t necessarily have to believe. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions–a person can be very well meaning while at the same time have problems telling the truth.
01 Nov '18  — I'm not a horse. Or am I?
Love yourself. What does it mean?
In my twenties, loving myself meant indulging in cake.
I’m surprised how many sayings are thrown out without explanation.
‘Patience is a virtue’
Okay, so I’ll wait for a better dessert to come along. I assumed virtue comes with tangible rewards.
Cheesy advice only makes sense with age. As I reflect, I see how my younger self would have difficulty understanding.
I’ve discovered that I use love as a carrot. Just like a horse, I throw love in front of me as bait to move forward.
I learned to see myself as ‘unworthy’ of happiness. I can only get my treat when I reach the destination.
I learned it from my parents and they got it from theirs. I’m not allowed to play unless I do my homework. I’m not allowed candy until I finish my meal. I’m not allowed to do what I want with life until I do something ‘respectable/responsible’.
The horse gets a break. They get to eat carrots. But for me and my family, we continue to withhold the treat thinking the destination will be further, grander.
Instead, I get hungry and desperate. Without nourishment, it’s easy to lash out, make poor decisions. I’ve become weak and I look for love in all the wrong places. I start looking for recognition from others because I don’t have enough from me.
It’s time to enjoy some carrots.
31 Oct '18  — autumn resolutions
Is it possible to spend an entire month without the Internet?
I get so worked up with the news and click bait headlines all over the web, Twitter, Reddit, everywhere I look.
Today I actively stopped myself from looking for distractions online. I’m surprised how often I grab my phone or open the browser…is it even possible to restrain myself for an entire month?
Maybe November will be the month.
Apple and Google are now reporting on usage. I’m actually online a lot less than I think. It may say I spent a total of fifty minutes this week on social media, but to me, it feels like I spent 12 hours. Thoughts continue to run in my head after I’m exposed to the stories I read. So really, it could be ten times more than the recorded time.
November is the month to start over (I hope!).
30 Oct '18  — trouble speaking
I have a terrible time communicating through visuals. It’s incredibly difficult to convey ideas through pictures and drawings. I just don’t understand how it works.
I know enough to know I’m not getting it. How does one learn? It doesn’t seem as straightforward as other skills, like computer programming or cooking.
There’s a place to take art classes nearby. Studios like these often show examples of ‘good art’. The trees look like trees, the animals look realistic. But the works don’t convey much feeling, they don’t say anything different than most art that aims to be accurate.
Are there art classes where it’s about mood and meaning? Less about realistic accuracy but more about expression? It could be a dot on a solid background, but where the dot is placed is what is important. Or how lines are drawn. Ways to say something outside of words.
Maybe such information is not for people in the introductory phases?
29 Oct '18  — a terrible activity becomes a good one
In the last episode of ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’, Samir Nosrat mentions how people consider cooking as an activity that starts when you turn on the stove. In the ‘Heat’ episode, she makes marinated chicken and soaks beans overnight to demonstrate that cooking starts way in advance.
I hadn’t considered the activities prior to heat as cooking. When I chop veggies I often think ‘I can’t wait to get this over so I can start cooking’. Many times I wish I didn’t have to go shopping. ‘Why can’t these ingredients arrive at my home without me having to pick them up?’ But chopping and shopping are part of cooking.
Shopping, when seen in the context as cooking, becomes far more of a respectable activity. It’s not just a chore.
This year, I’ve started to go to shops with a shopping list. When I look over produce, I select the best version of the vegetable available. The freshness affects the taste so I’m already managing how my dish will come out way before the ingredients reach my kitchen.
A couple months ago, I tried Amazon grocery delivery. You can’t see your veggies. For the dry ingredients, there aren’t as many brands to select from. I thought the service could replace my weekly trips to the shop but after four weeks of deliveries, I had enough. I couldn’t see how ripe my tomatoes were, my leafy greens were often smashed under heavier objects in the bags that arrived, and different brands of dry ingredients make a huge difference.
I’d love to one day have my own vegetable garden, like all renown chefs have for their own restaurants. If growing produce is such an important part of creating delicious meals, shopping and procuring ingredients should be just as important.
I think there has been less emphasis on shopping as part of glamorous food culture. Of course there are weekly farmers markets, but the farmers markets near me all have stands that each sell an identical selection of produce: purple carrots, swiss chard, kale, speckled peppers and eggplant… To be practical, the grocery shop nearby is where everyone gets groceries. But it’s not glamorous enough to be shot for Netflix specials (unless you’re in the Bay area, where the tv show is shot).
That’s why I’ve hated the process of shopping. No one’s glamorized shopping at a large chain supermarket. Part of the reason I cook so much is because I get excited watching people cook on tv.
Understanding my drives, I realize don’t need anyone to glamorize shopping, I can take note how important and special shopping is to cooking food. Shopping becomes glamorized when I see it as part of cooking.
27 Oct '18  — active deletion is the key to life
one of my favorite spots, where I can hear water trickle from multiple directions
A few days ago I had to backup my files to free up space on my computer.
I couldn’t believe the number of photos I’d taken. So many bad ones that end up taking time to back up. They also get in the way of finding good photos when I want to retrieve them.
I want to have less but better.
It’s very natural for me to capture bits of my day, but things don’t always look exciting when photographed. I don’t know until I pull out my camera (or phone).
Today, I took several pictures and deleted all but one.
There were others that looked cool, but I reminded myself to be selective. ‘If you could only choose a photo to represent this moment, which one would it be? Is this the best frame? Is there a better composition? What would be the purpose of keeping the second best if you just take one good one that beats the rest?’
I tried harder to create each image, playing with the composition and perspective before snapping.
Today I ended up with one photo. :)
26 Oct '18  — the amazing option to quit
I had a freakish nightmare where I was in a Westworld kind of amusement park (although less amusing). There were different ‘quests’ visitors could slide into, many of them disturbing.
I was with a group of visitors and a lady comes up to us and asks us to help her tutor deformed youth. The youth had faces that were bulbus and asymmetrical, one eye was 5 times bigger than the other. My sister in law was going so I followed.
When I went into the classroom, I had to login at a computer. I could see myself on the monitor, as if looking at a self facing camera. Where was my sister in law? She strangely disappeared. There were several flashes, I felt as if I were being recorded and I got a bad feeling.
‘Sorry kids, I have to go!’
I felt bad, looking at the lady who requested help. I was sad to leave the kids but I felt even worse for not following through something I agreed to.
But technically, I had the option to leave. I didn’t feel safe.
Further in the dream, I got hypnotized by a large bulky man. He put his palm on my head and I felt incredibly relaxed. Then I realized he was inducing me into a state for some other purpose.
It took a lot of strength to push him off.
But it was too late. I’d been affected. I looked around and noticed malnourished babies. They told me it was just a matter of time before I would start lactating. The induced state I was in transformed my body into a milk machine.
Waking up, I realized how much I value the option to abandon.
Society always tells me ‘to stick with it’. I remember the first quarter of business school and I thought about dropping out. A fellow student encouraged me to ‘stick with it’. They told me their parents always told them to ‘stick with it’. It seemed like a ‘good’ thing to do, what honorable people do–they ‘stick with things til the end’.
Later, I came to realize no one knows what they’re talking about.
I ‘stuck with it’ expecting a reward. But nothing (relevant) came. I wish I had reconsidered.
It’s easier to stick to doing something where you don’t have to remind yourself constantly to stick with it.
I’ve been sewing in the past few months. I’d start on a project, feel overwhelmed, abandon, but somehow, I naturally come back. For now, I don’t need to remind myself to stick with sewing. If I return, it’s important to me. If not, there are other things I’m interested in.
I used to beat myself up about abandoning projects. There was a time I was interested in illustrating in 3D. I followed a tutorial and completed a donut but never went back to finish the coffee that went with it. I never went back.
There are countless activities I’ve begun with the intention of completing. For years I had a knitted scarf laying around, not long enough to wrap around the neck. In the spring I bought seeds and planters but they’re still in our storage. It’s frustrating to see evidence of things you meant to do but never did, but now that I’m transforming how I’m seeing these unfinished projects–these are evidence of freedom, I had the choice to abandon.
It’s not tangible, you can’t store or collect the option to abandon, because sometimes you don’t have that option–so it’s hard to be thankful.
There are so many situations where I don’t have the choice to abandon. So why not celebrate the activities where I had the choice? These unfinished projects are physical representations of that freedom.
25 Oct '18  — super convincing design
I was telling my husband how much I love the Nordic Bakery, a cafe in London that serves Scandinavian bread and pastries.
The cafe walls are lined with wood from ceiling to floor, I feel like I’m in a cabin but I’m steps away from Regent Street. I’ve spent many afternoons there, it felt like the safest place in the world.
Yesterday, I went to the library and got the Nordic Bakery cookbook. All the recipes use commercial yeast.
The whole time, I thought they were using whole ingredients, like sourdough, wild yeast. The breads and pastries served at the cafe are ‘fast food’. Not as healthy and wholesome as I believed.
“In 1857, Louis Pasteur first saw yeast under a microscope, and lo and behold, baker’s yeast was made. Isolated as a single strain of yeast from the wild yeast culture, baker’s yeast was a quick, flavorful and reliable leavener that began to replace wild yeast in industrial breadmaking.”
“The result? Cheaper manufacturing due to newfound speed and reliability. But the unseen effects on the health benefits of bread took a toll.”
“This all meant a significant change in chemical composition of a finished loaf of bread - higher natural and added sugar content, tougher starches, and excess single-strain yeast. Without the lactobacilli that come with wild yeast, grain proteins, including gluten, were now unchanged by the fermentation process, leaving them fully intact and hard to digest. Nutrients that became bioavailable due to a long fermentation process remained locked up once sugar became the fermentable ingredient instead of flour.” - Bread Srsly
Despite understanding the shortcomings of commercial yeast, the photos in the cookbook brought back memories of the cafe where I felt overwhelmingly whole. Design can convince people they’re getting something of higher quality (wholesome and healthy) despite using the same processes as any bakery out there.
Perhaps I’m holding the cafe to too high of a standard. The definition of wholesome has changed over time. It used to be making things from scratch, now it’s about using the best ingredients (no shortcuts) and having time to let nature do the work (fermentation).
I’m still interested in trying out the recipes (cinnamon rolls, ginger cake) because I still want to recreate the experience of visiting one of my favorite cafes. The pastries are still unique, there’s a finish pastry made from rye and cooked milk. I’ll have to figure out how to incorporate wild yeast into the recipes that require commercial yeast. It’ll take far more time and attention (watching how the dough rises) but I think it’s still possible.
Wouldn’t you want your food to be more nutritious than less?
24 Oct '18  — cream of chanterelle
A couple nights ago, I got around to making the first dish with the Chanterelles we foraged.
While the cream turned out perfectly, the gnocchi took some adjustments. It took a long time to make but it was worth it.
Take a look!
dinner from scratch
24 Oct '18  — where there's least acceptance
I watched Jada Pinkett Smith’s show, Red Table Talk, and I was surprised how progressive the talk show was.
The first episode featured Will Smith. The couple talked about their marriage and at one point Willow, the daughter, tells the story of when she looked into Will’s eyes and realized he wanted a family that wasn’t the one he had.
I understand that feeling very much. Whenever I speak with my dad, I see how much he wishes he had a ‘different daughter’ or a ‘different son’. But at the same time, desiring a different family is natural to him. How can I fault his impulse to want a ‘better family’?
These days, his frustration for ‘different children’ has gone much further. He spends evenings pouring over fortune telling books, looking up dates to compare his children’s fates with the children of his brothers and sisters. As he learns about our futures, he shakes his head, gets sadder, more frustrated. The futures of me and my siblings aren’t as bright.
On the talk show, Will Smith talks about overcoming the issue of wanting another family. He talks about how he was so scared of appearing selfish that he would tell everyone that he was building the huge house they have for his family (hiding the fact how the house was for him and his idea of how his family should live). By building something ‘for his family’, they owed him–they HAD to be grateful.
I found this similar with my dad. No one asked him to achieve the things he has. No one wants any of the things he’s built for us. All we want is him to accept us. But I don’t see him coming to the realization that he’s asking us to be grateful for things he selfishly wanted, without any consideration for us.
To flip it around, by examining my dad this way, there’s proof that I also wish I had a ‘different dad’. I wish I had one that was accepting, one that could be aware of how much he’s working for the benefit of himself.
That’s where the show reaches its limit. While the Smiths’ explain how much they overcame, they left out the unexplainable part.
How is one motivated to learn to love people who don’t complete their dreams? I believe there’s an unconditional element to it…I just don’t know how it figures in. And I’m not sure all happy endings involve everyone being together as happy and together as the Smiths’ seem.