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

21 Sep '18  — a healthy relaxing meal to make

cooking ratatouille

Last night I made another recipe from Nadine Levy Redzepi’s Downtime: Deliciousness at Home cookbook. This time roasted ratatouille. I’ve been trying so many of her recipes because they’re easy. Earlier this week I made a butternut squash soup from the same book. The ratatouille was fun to arrange–the pace of this recipe, not having to do much at the same time, made it extremely relaxing. If only cookbook recipes were arranged by how easy going they are… While baking I had time to cut fresh pasta.

My husband thought it was a little too ‘healthy’. There’s not much fat, just olive oil and a little butter. The veggies steam in the oven so the entire dish was extremely light. I, on the other hand, appreciated how ‘healthy’ it was.

cooking ratatouille


20 Sep '18  — It's so hard to stop listening to anyone.

I used to blog about things that didn’t make sense. I’d describe how my thoughts weren’t rational, how things in the world were hypocritical…I felt compelled to write because I wanted to explain, make sense of what should be–like everyone else.

Back then I loved coming across opinions I agreed with. ‘Yea, that’s how it should be…’ Now I find it less interesting. Things are how they are…at a particular second, they cannot be anything else. There are no alternative realities.

Perhaps I have more courage to accept the world. The things I see as ‘wrong’ are purely inconvenient and they exist with or without me wanting them to be there. And it’s not because I didn’t work hard in the past to prevent them from being there. It’s becoming less and less of a problem, many things are not going to go how I want it or how I think it should be. Why should it?

This morning I came across the photographs of Trine Søndergaard, an artist based in Denmark. She took a series of photos of empty rooms in abandoned manors in Denmark.

The rooms are immaculate. They look like dreamy shabby chic spaces used for photoshoots in design magazines.

“the images, like the buildings, are uninhabited. The only human traces captured in the waning light are ghostly footprints, and words scratched into the petrified dust on an attic window that can no longer be closed.”

There’s barely any dust. I feel a huge human presence in every photo. Who cleaned up?

There are plenty of abandoned manors in Europe and most don’t have floors in perfect condition. There are human touches found in every room.

However, the photos capture the romance of what it’s like to live in Europe. Abandoned manors with huge windows, herringbone parquet, winding staircases…lots of space to move.

Every picture reveals painstaking effort taken to preserve the structures. They are nicer than the manors people live in today, split into apartment homes.

‘How can they expect people to believe this?’ I became annoyed. The work isn’t representative of truth.

There should be an explanation. ‘This isn’t how abandoned mansions are, it’s wrong to perpetuate such an idea that there are abandoned spaces, free for the taking.’

The photos are inviting to explore. That’s why I bothered to look at them. They’re interesting because they suggest a fictional world of abandoned buildings that seem ready to move in–so much potential. And perhaps I’m wrong (?!) and there are places in Europe where immaculate manors are plentiful in supply.

I’ve just got into the habit of believing that things that were ‘wrong’ should be corrected. I’ve been exposed to so many people demanding me to think certain things, understand how something might be bad or good that I got into the practice myself. There’s an urgency to explain to the world why it might be ‘wrong’. I found myself doing so looking at Trine’s photographs.

Is it possible to come across anything that doesn’t tell me how to think?

I don’t know how I came across the ability but I’m starting to ignore the opinions of others. I might be persuaded at first that their opinions have validity (maybe I should calm down more, be more mindful) and I might change my perspective and behavior for a short time. But slowly, I’m listening, absorbing, but then forgetting it all when I consider how I should live.

As I’m gaining this new ability to ignore input, I’m also gaining the ability to not demand others how I believe the world should be seen.


19 Sep '18  — what's smelling

floral teas

Right before leaving Berlin, my husband and I got into perfumes. We sampled European perfumes, it was a delight to smell all sorts of scents. One of my favorites was described as evening dew on an stone wall on a ruin in Italy.

Despite the intensity of the scents, after a few minutes, you don’t notice the perfume you’re wearing. You haven’t stopped smelling, you’re just not aware of what you smell like. Quality perfumes smell for days even with showering.

I got into perfumes because I wanted to smell different things but recently, I’ve discovered a different way. My husband and I were gifted an aromatic tea. It’s not something I would ever procure myself since my mom provides us with a constant supply of Chinese tea.

Jasmine, Oolong, Pu erh…I’ve gotten so used to them. While these scents are a delight each time, they are expected, too common in our home.

Florals, however, are new. Secret des Anges from Maison Bourgeon was not only tasty (a blend of green and black tea, hints of papaya and pineapple) but incredibly aromatic.

I was inspired to pull out a rose tea from my back shelf. While the dried rosebuds steeped in hot water was aromatic, it lacked flavor. I was still surprised how much aroma comes out of a tiny cup!

English Breakfast is the most common tea I grab for in the morning for warmth and caffeine, it’s nice to experience different options with scents.

Aromatherapy usually involves essential oils, candles and incense, for some reason it’s never promoted as much in the form of tea.


18 Sep '18  — end of cocktail trolleys?

spirit bottles

Every time my husband and I have people over, we end up with a collection of buds from local dispensaries. They sit in a variety of packaging, from plastic baggies to decorative glass containers. I’m not as interested in getting high as I am in the culture of marijuana.

Will it partially replace alcohol consumption? Or will there be more hybrid enjoyment? Cocktail trolleys are often used in home decor to “enhance” the ambiance. A small table with glittering spirits, warm cognac and whiskies, an ice bucket… The idea that someone will come home and fix themselves a drink brings warmth to a space. While I’ve seen trolleys and trays featured in home decor shows and period tv dramas I’ve never been to a home that actually had such a cocktail bar.

I agree. It’s relaxing, a little tray full of spirits, a table with shades of warm whisky…I’m brought to a time when people fixed drinks Mad Men style. Crystal glasses also make me think of British period dramas, where there’s a post dinner discussion over whisky in a wood paneled library. Alcohol is so romantic.

But who is going to dust those bottles? Who would bring clean glasses over to replenish to bar?

We have alcohol in our home but it’s tucked away–there’s no need for it to be outside the kitchen. It sits across from the cupboards with glasses so anyone can help themselves without fear of spilling. But marijuana buds aren’t appropriate for the kitchen. What if the food smells effect the buds?

I’m sure others have the same issue, how does one make a collection of accessories and buds look more appealing?

I’m curious to see this new culture emerge. What will it look like to glamorously come home to a bud bar?

How will future home renovation shows introduce bud bars to enhance the ambiance of a home?


16 Sep '18  — outer space on a river


While sitting by the river this week, I spotted so many patterns on rocks. The same forms you’d find in space but in bright colors.

These patterns are subtle out in the wild, they don’t stand out. I only noticed after looking close, having nothing to do hanging out with my husband and sister while they were fishing.

river rocks on the surface, they seem to all look gray…


10 Sep '18  — how can anyone tell you how something tastes?

My mom gave her friends a sample of her homemade kombucha. Some thought it was incredibly sour, some thought it was super sweet. She noticed how people have different flavor palettes.

I’ve been thinking how I get so affected by certain situations for no reason. I can’t rationalize why I get so upset or uncomfortable at times but it’s clear there are social situations I’m more sensitive to than others. I’m sure others are sensitive to situations I don’t feel don’t notice, feel anything for.

It’s not about empathy in cutting others slack for their inability to handle a situation. It’s more that I’m starting to understand that people have different tolerance for different situations because they’ve been exposed to different things. Everyone’s taste palettes are different.


07 Sep '18  — am I just sustaining myself or am I living a dream come true?

Since moving out of Berlin, my husband and I started eating a lot more at home.

At first, I didn’t think it was possible. Living in the city, we ate out a dozen times a week. We’ve successfully transitioned to 2-3 meals out per week.

I feel like I never accomplish much in a day. I’m doing a lot of food prep. I’ve started making sourdough biscuits, english muffins and tortillas. In the beginning, we ate a lot of microwaveable mac and cheese. Now, I make our own mac and cheese and freeze it into microwaveable meal portions. It’s all made from whole milk, organic cheese and organic pasta. I even slip in onions and other veggies.

While I’m doing a lot, it doesn’t feel like I accomplish anything at all. The act of feeding oneself is treated as a task that supports more important things, like work, a successful career.

I’ve been brainwashed to consider cooking and meal prep as something not important. Feeding yourself isn’t a valid goal to have in life–right?

Well, I do want to feed myself well. Part of the reason why I started making bread was because I saw all sorts of ingredients in store bought bread. How could bread have so many ingredients outside of flour, water and salt? Have you ever purchased English muffins? They don’t taste like English muffins made from flour, water and salt. There’s some other funky taste.

Every single meal goes into my body. The strange chemicals that go into processed foods accumulate. Is feeding myself so ‘unimportant’ of an activity to ignore?

There’s no measurable result. I can’t see the benefits of having home food. I can only understand it from the business of food. The incentive to create food fast, cheap and tasty are important for restaurants and food products–you can’t get someone back if the food doesn’t taste good.

I can see the impact from people who get sick from food. My sister’s body reacts violently when exposed to American wheat, commonly used at cheap fast food chains and pizzerias.

Taste is measurable and cheapness is measurable. I also understand how much microwaving and plastics go into food prep in restaurants. There’s no way they can cook up a meal if they hadn’t chopped the veggies much much earlier. Tomatoes in a fast food Mexican chain are chopped way in advance and frozen.

I want to have food that is freshly chopped. I don’t want to ingest mysterious ingredients. As humble as this goal seems, it’s quite difficult to achieve. I have to adjust my expectations–eating well is a lofty goal.

When I was working at a coworking space in Berlin, each day at 11:30 am, the Italians would come around and ask who wanted in on a homemade lunch. They’d collect two Euros and grab groceries, come back and prepare food. The veggies were freshly chopped. This happened every day.

Some people do take it seriously. Because I’m not around enough of them, I have a hard time believing I’m doing much by preparing homemade food everyday. It’s difficult, but I still don’t have to fall into the trap of thinking I’m not accomplishing much with my life.

This is what I want. Homemade food everyday is not something many can have.


07 Sep '18  — a wish was magically granted

summer plants things veer in mysterious ways

I started sewing clothes a few weeks ago.

When I was young, the number one thing I wanted was to play dress up with fabric and bed sheets at home. I spent hours draping and fastening cloth over my sister and cousins.

I did a bit of sewing but I never had enough patience to make an entire garment. Somehow, a few weeks ago, I was granted the patience required to finish a piece of clothing.

It wasn’t like I’d been sewing anytime before. My mom happened to have left her sewing machine at my apartment.

What’s even more strange is that I learned how to alter patterns by watching hours of instruction on youtube and going through pattern books. After finishing the first dress, I imagined a shirt based off the bodice. I made a prototype and learned how the shoulders and armholes needed to be aligned for any pattern to work. It was like a science experiment, taking a hypothesis, making a shape I believed the cloth needed to be to look a certain way then testing whether it was correct by sewing the garment together.

I don’t know what kind of magic appeared, but all of a sudden, I’m able to do something I’ve always wanted to do. The dedication came out of nowhere.

I never thought this was possible. Clothes making was always considered a skill beyond anything I can comprehend.

Maybe it was just the right time, I’m finally old enough to not have ADD? I can never judge anyone for not being able to do what they want.


06 Sep '18  — yummy outside my tummy

Sometimes I get hungry looking at colors. I wonder if it is a health condition–maybe I’m lacking nutrients and I start salivating when I see a color resembling food that contains what I need? I can’t possibly be special enough to have synesthesia.

mint raspberry mint and plum on ivory

lemon lemon and caramel over milk chocolate toffee bits

cream on basil and wafers


04 Sep '18  — an activity that's all about the journey

mountain layers

I didn’t understand what a joy ride was until this year.

My husband had a motorcycle when we were living in Berlin, but we didn’t go on many joy rides. There were rural areas to ride but there wasn’t much variety.

It was fun riding through farm towns on the border of Poland and Germany. We would often pass by old churches, medieval walls, and all sorts of old structures. But most villages looked the same amongst rolling hills of crops–the most exciting were the neon yellow canola crops when flowers were in season.

from European rides

There are lot of windmills in Europe, I always felt like I was in a commercial for allergy medicine. I’m not sure why I associate windmills in an open field with allergy medicine commercials (maybe I’ve seen them in commercials? Why would they put in windmills?).

We were always riding to a destination, whether it was to Berlin or to my husband’s parent’s house on the border in Poland. We never rode for no reason.

Now that we’re here in the Pacific Northwest, where the landscapes are vast, we’re doing a ton of riding–not to get anywhere.

It’s the best thing in the world. One second I’m at 1500 feet at the start of a large mountain, the next minute I’m at 3600 feet staring beyond at layers and layers of peaks.

I never thought I’d be so into joy riding. It’s something that cannot be done by car. Those turns on high slopes just aren’t as easy to maneuver.