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

11 Oct '18  — living The Shining everyday

I’ve started to realize my ability to ignore is the key to survival.

Last week, I watched The Shining. I couldn’t believe how relatable the story was with my life. You’re walking around a boring looking corner and a flash of freakiness shows up.

I often try to have a normal day, a normal second, but my mind often flashes with things that cause me extreme anxiety. It can be thoughts on how others perceive me, it can be a distorted memory, my mind can interpret others’ behavior as intentionally causing me harm…these flashes of thoughts cause extreme anxiety.

‘Viewer discretion is advised’

If they’re putting this warning on videos, a milder form of an experience compared to life, they should put this warning in the hospital as the first thing you see when you come out. Life can be traumatic and it’s not what I see, it’s what could pop up in my head.

Sometimes, my thoughts can be twisted, similar to when Wendy, in the Shining, starts freaking out when she sees a guy dressed as a bunny on a bed with another guy.

But I found relief in Danny’s imaginary friend. It’s not real, they’re just scary images. Just ignore them.


10 Oct '18  — let's keep out of touch

This is the first year a bunch of friends stop responding.

Every year, a couple messages are sent between me and old friends. They’re people I’ve worked with, went to school with. We haven’t seen each other in many years, but there’s always an email that goes out followed by a short exchange.

This year, most stopped responding.

It seemed like just the right amount of time had passed. No one bothered to visit, the relationship might as well not exist. Time is too precious to be used to maintain such a thing.

I didn’t anticipate this happening. But perhaps, because I’m not on social media, I’m more aware of the phenomenon.

The only info I receive from friends is through the email I get from them. I can’t infer what happened in their lives from photos or comments they make on different posts. I’d have to be significantly more interesting than anyone else they follow. The cost to ‘stay in touch’ is lower with people on facebook. I’m basically charging a premium to be friends.

I was a bit sad, but then again, perhaps I am no longer the same person when I was close to them. I feel like friendships are driven by certain wavelengths, similarities in how you see things and think at a particular time of your life.

If the work to keep in touch isn’t worth it, the friendship is probably not worth it. That’s part of the reason why I got off facebook–too many convenient friends who are in touch–I ended up spending too much time with people who weren’t exactly in the same wavelength.

There are other old friends, however, who continue to respond. Wavelengths may not last forever, but for the time being, some still overlap. And if lost friends veer towards my wavelength again, they’ll serendipitously fall back into my life, just as they had serendipitously fell into it before.


10 Oct '18  — a love for taking direction

I’ve noticed that I’m checking twitter trending hashtags a lot more.

I want to know what is going on this second. ‘What is the significance of this moment?! Someone tell me why this seemingly boring moment could be interesting…’

Before, I went to news sites. But they don’t update often enough. It feels like nothing is going on. I feel like life is so insignificant, not much is happening…(but isn’t that more true?)

I have a need for someone else to tell me how to experience now.

‘Oh this is where I am in the universe’. It gives me stability to know what part of the story I’m in (I’ve watched too many movies, started to believe life is a story and not just a set of random events). I’m in this country that has trade issues with others, I’m in this country where people are angry, angrier than they’ve ever been (so I’m told–whatever is happening, it’s never been as serious as now).

But do I need to be told how to experience this world? Do I need to be instructed on how to react, get excited for the moment?

I’m part of a studio audience, clapping when the applause sign goes off.

I didn’t realize how much I love taking direction.

If I were to get outside my comfort zone, it’d be not to take direction, ignore the applause sign, the laughter and just laugh and applause (or not) when I think it’s appropriate.


08 Oct '18  — how to not make the best of the situation

Sunday morning was drizzly and cold but I wanted to get a donut.

My husband an I headed to the donut shop and when we got there, I decided to get two donuts. How can you go for only one?

Of course, two turned out to be overwhelming. My apple fritter was larger than my face and the maple bar almost as big. I felt so tired after the sugar rush.

I wanted to make the most out of being out on a cold drizzly day. I thought getting two would make me happier than getting one. Tthe donuts are quite cheap, go all the way there and spend one dollar and come back? It probably cost more in gas.

It’s so hard to stop thinking quantitatively, how much more am I getting (per dollar, per donut, per effort exerted), and evaluate things from a qualitative standpoint–I’m going to feel sick if I eat more than one donut.

I can’t measure how bad I feel. I couldn’t anticipate how many dollars I’d pay not to feel so bad after I ate too many donuts.

There’s a huge part of modern culture that’s obsessed with numbers and it’s hard to shake that habit away.


07 Oct '18  — A new trend in escapist entertainment

I’ve been watching Stay Here, a show about renovating vacation homes. Each week, Genevieve Gorder and a ‘marketing guy’ visit a vacation rental. They redo the interiors and exteriors, they take photos and write about the place in a different way so it attracts people on vacation rentals sites like AirBnb.

There have been more and more people making a business off of airbnb but I don’t think a significant chunk of the population got into vacation rentals. The show is on Netflix so it reaches a lot of people and it’s a new twist on home renovation because it’s common to hear talk about how profitable it can be.

The show provides escapism. ‘What are you going to do with the extra dwelling you have’ ‘How do you get people to come and pay for it?’

In many episodes, the marketing guy projects the owners to make six figures.

After each show, I feel like I learned something useful. First, week SEO, buy keywords specifically for the type of unique home you have. If it’s a house boat in Seattle, buy up ‘Seattle Houseboat Vacation Stay’ or something like that. Then I learned I should create an area that is instagrammable so visitors would take photos there and make sure they use a consistent hashtag. (You want to leverage your opportunity, get free marketing from your customers…) An instagrammable space is usually one with a vibrant backdrop or a set of hanging chairs that overlook the ocean. My vacation home should be niche, whether it’s a vintage cottage in the vineyards or a poolhouse in Austin, I need to make sure my guests use a consistent hashtag.

While I feel like I came away with info that’s useful, there are better pieces of info that are more suited to me. None of them have anything to do with vacation rentals.

‘Usefulness is not in the eye of the beholder…’

I’m told how practical this info is and I buy into the practical knowledge…just as I’ve picked up a ton of practical knowledge from a lot of youtubers online. And if you talk to people in general, info on SEO, getting hashtags used, is ‘useful’, except, if you’ve got no overarching plan for people to use it–it’s really not useful.

While usefulness should be in the eye of the beholder, often it’s not. It’s in the eye of what the public deems is useful.

If something is truly useful, the knowledge is applied and used–not discussed or talked about on a tv show.


05 Oct '18  — the last place I expected to be creatively stimulated

There’s a subtle difference between the life I have access to and the life I wish I had access to.

Yesterday, I watched On the Other River Banks In Berlin: Sasha. During an artist residency program, Liu Xiaodong, a Chinese artist, paints a beautiful trans woman. It was so storybook Berlin. People flock to Paris for croissants and the Eiffel Tower in the same way they flock to Berlin for a certain flavor of queerness. The artist paints inside an alt bau building, similar to the ones I’ve lived in.

However, the Berlin I lived in was nothing like the city expressed in the film. I knew artists who weren’t as fancy. My life was more similar to flea market art. Everything I made was not refined, less technical in skill and consideration, often derived from some other cool idea. Lacking confidence, I didn’t dare to be original. Since I wanted to please, my work lacked a sense of creative freedom. Just an unnecessary mess.

As much as I’d love to make ‘living in Europe’ part of my story, it’s not.

When I got back to the US, I gained an extraordinary amount of confidence. I’ve been able to explore and create in ways I never had the confidence to.

How is it, in the suburbs, that I find such creative stimulation?

The life I have access to is the life in the American suburbs, where things I need are taken care of. Everything is accessible, I don’t have to trip through a foreign language in order to get simple things done.

A part of me has bought into the story that Europe, especially Berlin, is a place for artists. I could make my life in Berlin, it could technically be a life I have access to. However, it’d take an enormous amount of work every day. And if it takes that much work, then I have less time to make things.

So that’s the fine line. I’ve been provided already with an opportunity, but often, I see my opportunity elsewhere, in a particularly inaccessible place.


03 Oct '18  — an unexplained mystery

About twenty years ago, I recreated a meal I saw on The Naked Chef. I remember finishing mini trifles (so British, exotic for a high schooler in the suburbs of Chicago), layering custard, fruit and cake in glasses for my ‘guests’ (whoever was around at home). Over the past few weeks, I’ve been recreating meals from Jamie Cooks Italy.

I’m easily inspired to cook. Or maybe Jamie is really good at getting people into the kitchen? His recipes look so simple and they’re different from normal dishes I’m bored of making.

How is it that others don’t feel like cooking after watching an episode? I’m ready to grab ingredients for risotto first thing tomorrow.

I’m reminded that people’s worlds can be very different. While I was strongly inspired to recreate dishes I saw, my husband–not so much. And I’m sure other people who watch the same show wouldn’t feel as compelled.

That’s how different everyone’s worlds are. A tv show can get me to physically move, drive to the shop, and spend money, yet, it can be totally ineffective in causing anything to happen for someone else.

Although it seems obvious, we’re all inspired by different things, the force of an individual’s interest is strange and mysterious. There’s no reason behind why we’re each interested in what we’re interested in but it drives a lot of our decisions.

While it’s easy to believe I know what’s going on in someone’s head, it’s actually quite hard to fully know.


02 Oct '18  — an unexpected direction

“many people have never actually had the pleasure of wearing a garment that fits them well. The fact is that much of what we call fashion today is designed to look best on extremely young and slim bodies” - Natalie Chanin, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns

Most of us wish we looked young and slim, is that why we continue to buy clothes displayed on young and slim bodies? There’s a reason why the fashion industry continues to show bodies of only one kind. They must have a strong effect on the consumer.

Maybe one day, we’ll all agree we’re not all young and slim and stop buying clothes that look good on such bodies. Some fashion shows are putting in real people, it’s refreshing but I don’t know how long the ‘trend’ of using normal people will last.

I remember in high school when I learned that clothing from stores was not made for me. Pants were always too long. Shirts were always too short. I have a longer torso than the average body. Other kids didn’t look like they had an easier time, but there were a few girls in the class, skinny with long legs. Clothing looked perfect on them. That’s when I realized that the pants in shops were made for that fraction of the population.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to realize, but the most amazing thing that could happen is if I acquired the skills to make my own clothes. Not only clothes that fit but also for design.

If I see a neat design, I want to be able to create it in any fabric of my choosing and take out details I find extraneous. Whether it’s using natural materials, cotton, linen, wool, or choosing the color and pattern, having the ability to create my own garments is something I’ve always wanted.

It’s strange at this age to finally recognize a dream of mine. I’ve never pursued it because I never thought it was possible.

‘Me? Make my own clothes? It’d be too good to be true.’

The skills required seemed impossible for someone like me. Back in high school, I did a lot of sewing by altering clothing but I could never finish an entire garment.

I didn’t have the patience, to pour over the directions and redo the stitching when it was less than perfect.

But now…I’m starting to see that it’s possible to learn and improve. A seemingly impossible dream has suddenly become a possibility.

At first, I thought my newfound inteerst was magical. But now, it’s opened me up to thinking, perhaps this is what I’ve always wanted–I just ignored it because it didn’t seem in line with the success I was taught to wish for and acquire (career success in terms of a highly respectable job in an office).

This dream of being able to make my own clothing is specifically mine. I wasn’t taught it.

Although I’m just getting started, already, I’ve been able to create a shirt close to what I imagined. It feels so empowering.

I’ve got a couple pattern books and I’ve been measuring myself to create custom patterns.

We’ll see how far this goes, but for now, it’s hard to get enough.


01 Oct '18  — if my marriage were a dish

bigos stewing after four hours

Having lived as an expat for many years, I’m accustomed to using only ingredients I can easily get a hold of. They’re often different than what recipes call for.

In Germany, there was no vanilla extract and cheddar cheese was hard to come by. That wasn’t going to stop me from making chocolate chip cookies or mac and cheese. I used vanilla sugar (found in every store in Berlin–no one wants vanilla extract??) and Emmental and Gouda for mac and cheese.

Today I’m making bigos, or ‘hunters’s stew’, and instead of regular cabbage, I’m using Taiwanese cabbage. I can get regular cabbage but I thought it’d be fun to add a cross cultural twist (as if I were stuck in Taiwan). The cabbage tastes the same, it’s just less dense, bigger and the shape is more of a flattened sphere. Bigos is traditionally made with a mixture of meat (that you hunted). Since I’m vegetarian, I’m leaving meat out.

My husband tells me in Poland, sometimes they let the cabbage cook down for a week.

chop and carmelize

The shredded cabbage takes a lot of space. I added a bit of water to steam the veggie until the volume went down. Then I added fresh amounts and a bit more water until all of it softened and fit into the pot.

Garlic, caramelized onions, bay leaves and peppercorn were then mixed in. We had dried mushrooms from our last trip to Poland so I included some as well.

This dish is meant to be slow cooked on low heat, perfect for the crockpot. I put ours on the stove at the lowest heat.

After an hour and a half, the green from the cabbage disappeared. Looks ugly but smells delicious!

so much flavor

After three hours, the cabbage became mushier and I placed tomatoes in for the last 10 minutes.

Lastly, my husband seasoned the pot with salt, pepper, one drop of smoked liquid and a few shakes of smoked paprika.

The bigos came out far more flavorful than I expected. A perfectly warm dish for today’s rain.


30 Sep '18  — the longest I've spent without lunch

worth the work

“Should we sign in?”

My husband asked at the trailhead.

“No, this will be easy. We won’t get lost and it’ll be over quickly.”

I should have signed in. There were moments I thought I’d never make it back.

While I’m aware how little I move daily, I don’t ever think I can’t handle physical activity.

Reading reviews of Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene trail, I expected the hike to take 4 or 5 hours. Others took 3.

We came back after 7.

view from Bridal Veil Falls looking up at the falls, views in all directions

The hike to Bridal Veil Falls was easy. We got there fast and the payoff for the amount of exercise wasn’t bad.

‘Lake Serene should be the same.’

The trail started out by going downhill. ‘Where is this lake anyway?’ Later I realized Lake Serene is at the top of the mountain, above the water falls. I didn’t realize how high the mountain was, and while the trail began with a slope down, we eventually had to climb all the way to the top.

There were so many stairs, so many moments where my legs felt like lead. On our way up, my husband and I made a long stop to rest.

“We have to be almost there! How much further can this hike go? The peak is right over there!”

sheets of water and unmelted snow on the lake

Unfortunately, we were only halfway there.

I couldn’t turn back–I worked so hard. I’ve never physically worked that hard in a while, there was no way I wasn’t going to get my reward.

So we continued, taking a lot of breaks while heading up. There were other hikers we’d meet on the trail, they’d pass us, then we’d pass them. Everyone was taking breaks to catch their breath.

The last quarter of the trail gave us views of the entire valley. I’ve never been at that altitude, but from our vantage point we could see all the hikes we’ve done in the area. We could also spot endless layers of mountains in the distance with snow covered peaks.

I started to get cold. Completely drenched in sweat, I wished I had brought another jacket, one that was dry. Would I be able to stay and enjoy the lake? It’d be too chilly. I’ve been sick for most of summer, really didn’t feel like getting sick again.

As we got closer, we passed a couple hikers who encouraged us to keep going–“just one mile left!”

came across a prettier waterfall on the way to Lake Serene

‘Yes!!! Just one mile…’

They were joking. Five steps further we saw the lake. I didn’t know how to feel. I was confused, delirious. Looking into the teal waters, I couldn’t believe it.

As I slowly realized that I’d made it, I started to panic. ‘How am I going to get down?’ We sat on a steep boulder looking over the water. There was snow. As a bit of ice collapsed we heard a grand echo from the stone wall. The lake is tucked into the peak, an insulated space warmer than the trail. There were mosquitos.

My husband spotted fish in the water. No one was fishing here. Perfect spot.

Going back, my calves trembled and my legs were so tired that I started tripping. There are many sharp rocks on the trail and it’s quite steep–I saw how dangerous it could be.

hiking lake serene trail

We took our time heading down. I couldn’t believe how long it took to get to the car.

But… we made it!

Super hungry, we ordered Papa John’s. The garlic sauce was cleaned within minutes.