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

03 Sep '18  — environmental therapy

saltwater park shoreline

Last weekend my husband took me to the beach. Since it was a saltwater beach, the air was salty and seaweed-y. My nose hadn’t gotten that much exposure to such scents so it was exciting to smell while watching the waves.

Today I came across the concept of forest bathing. The concept was developed in Japan in the 80’s as a healthcare wellness treatment (being in the forest keeps the doctor away sort of thing).

I wonder if there’s a similar concept for each type of landscape. ‘Desert bathing’, ‘moss bathing’, ‘mountain bathing’…these are all things I’ve started practicing since moving to the Pacific Northwest. Over the mountains, we’ve got dry desert-y hills. There are wet rainforests, drier forests, green rivers and a lot of mountains.

I can attest to the benefits of mountain bathing. My mood drastically improves when I see layers of rolling hills and peaks.


25 Aug '18  — unexpected tastiness

almond cake

At first I said it was too sugary…

As I thought about how much sugar to reduce for next time, I started slicing slivers off. Just a couple at first, then half slices.

“How could this cake, which has just three basic ingredients, have so much flavor and be so good? Good enough to keep you cutting off slices and eating them out of hand. Good enough to make you want to whip up another one before the cake’s gone.”

I thought she was exaggerating.

Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan is a cookbook full of Parisian recipes wrangled from locals. These are real recipes that people actually make–not made up recipes to fill a cookbook for publishing. She even names people she gets the recipes from.

It’s a great book for me since I’m on a mission to have more desserts. The flavors are less familiar than American desserts and the recipes are simple using traditional ingredients (flour, sugar, eggs).

After reading several recipes, I decided on the plain and simple almond cake.

delicious to the last crumb

5 large eggs separated at room temperature
200 grams of sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
a pinch of find sea salt
200 grams of almond flour

I began by preparing my 9 inch cake pan. I cut a round parchment for the bottom and buttered the paper and the sides.

After separating the yolks and the whites, I added sugar to the yolks and beat them together. You’re suppose to add all but 2 tablespoons of sugar. At first, it was a rich dark yellow but slowly it became a lighter yellow. That’s how it’s suppose to look before whisking in vanilla.

Then I took a mixer and beat the egg whites with salt on medium until I got soft peaks.

Following, I added a quarter of the whites to the yolk mixture and mixed thoroughly. Then I poured all the whites on the yolk mixture along with a third of the almond flour and folded gently.

I asked my husband to turn on the oven for me at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t know why recipes always tell you to heat up the oven so early–isn’t it wasteful?

At this stage, I’m suppose to be gentle, folding the rest of the almond flour and egg white into the yolk/sugar. But I wasn’t sure how gently because the mixture is suppose to turn out homogenous. The almond flour is dry and the egg whites are so foamy. I was scared to mix too much.

I continued to fold. It become homogenous but I was skeptical whether the mixture would rise.

I poured the batter into the pan and shook it a little to even out the batter.

My oven was pre-heated and I put it in for 20 minutes then rotated the pan and baked for another 13. The cake rose double in size within the first 20 minutes.

The recipe says to bake for 33-38 minutes but mine looked quite golden at 33 minutes so I took it out.

I left the cake to cool 5 minutes in pan and then took a knife to the sides and flipped it to get it out. After that, I peeled the parchment and placed it on the rack to cool. Not for long though–I just had to have a warm slice.

I forgot to add the remaining sugar to the egg whites. It was sweet enough without it.

I would try making the cake with 23 of the sugar and see how well that goes. Although the idea of ‘almond cake’ doesn’t sound delicious (it reminds me of dry almond cookies I used to have as a child), it was super moist and one of the tastiest cakes I’ve had.

Gluten free appetit!


22 Aug '18  — making home life more luxurious

Dessert happens only on special occasions. Why not more?

There’s nothing more exciting than knowing there’s going to be dessert.

I’m pledging to take desserts seriously. I may have pledged before but I didn’t follow through. Why is it so hard to do something you want, even if it is to indulge?!

Of course, they have to be made from scratch, like the tiramisu I made earlier but less than $78 for materials.

I was reluctant to make desserts before because it’s just me that’ll be having most of it. My husband doesn’t like sweets, but I’ve learned to freeze small portions to reheat later.

Also, I’ve started exercising (a few days ago).


21 Aug '18  — converging selves

When I was 23, I imagined myself at 33.

33 year old me wore heels. She worked as a manager at some office and walked down long halls clicking her heels. It took her a decade to work herself up to the position and she was busy–she had a lot of responsibilities. 33 year old me carried a black designer bag that matched her wardrobe of dark trousers, blazers and dress shirts. She was tanned and toned all the time. If you find her outside the office, at a bar or cafe, she can be seen on her Blackberry.

‘I can’t wait to be a successful adult.’

At 23 I avoided uncomfortable shoes and clothing. I hated offices because of the cold air. I exercised excessively to make up for the time spent at the desk. I often ate cupcakes and never got tanned. I also believed Blackberries were inhumane.

Becoming an adult back then meant I had to grow into the things that felt uncomfortable.

The real 33 year old me is glad she has no Blackberry, no uncomfortable clothing and no fake tan.

What I still have is an idea of mature me. However, this version wears comfortable clothing in all sorts of colors and patterns. She’ll be doing something creative and she’ll be left alone, never on call.

The new version is someone who has more of what I enjoy today.


20 Aug '18  — the fear of sounding stupid

mountains index, wa

In posting anything I make, thoughts, photos, and videos, I have to live with myself after putting it out.

The next day (or hour), I may be in a different mood. Maybe I’ve changed completely and the ideas and perspectives I wrote previously don’t reflect how I see things. I’ve become a different person.

Maybe no one liked my work. On youtube, I can see when people stopped watching and whether people came to watch. When I’m hurt by low numbers–I start questioning my abilities.

As much as I hate it, the response to my work affects my self esteem. These ‘failures’, in not getting enough interested or unsuccessfully coming up with something clever, contribute to how I see myself.

‘Do I sound stupid?’

Of course I do–to at least some in this world. It’s impossible to have 100% approval. Why does it matter?

All I can rely on is myself at the time I create, write, post. If I like it at the moment–it’s enough.

Even if in the past, I hadn’t felt adequate about my previous works, even if I’m skeptical of whether others will like what I create–it’s the best I can do. It’s hard to remember, my work is all it can be. I can’t actually be better than myself.

In putting out anything, I have to prepare and understand that tomorrow, I may not like anything I’ve done. I also have to recognize that maybe the week after or months or years after, I’ll want to potentially distance myself to what I’ve made. It’s part of sharing what you make.

I would like to find a way to derive all self value from myself and not from others, and I do not want my self value to come from acclaim (or lack of).

I want to trust myself. To do so, moving on seems to be helpful. After completing something–move on. Stop thinking about it. Work on a new piece then evaluate whether that new piece is good only while working on it. Once it’s done, forget about it and move on.

At the moment of making, I’m the judge. Whatever happens after is out of my control.

Also, since I’m ever evolving, my work can never be a reflection of me.


20 Aug '18  — a harsh summer

cough cough no filter

For a week the skies have been orange. It feels like the late afternoon at all times of the day.

Forest fires from somewhere else are blowing smoke at us. My husband and I rode to the North Cascades and as we climbed higher, the air got smokier.

You could actually smell the wood.

At home we can’t open our windows, but the smoke has provided relief from the heat. It’s been much cooler without the sun hitting us directly.

And still, no substantial rain for three months. It’s dreadfully dry–I can’t believe I was complaining about getting drenched in summer rain last year in Berlin.


17 Aug '18  — mental holograms

How do I find myself fixating on a person so easily?

After watching John Wick 1 and 2, I read an article about Keanu Reeves. He met someone at a dinner party and began a collaboration to publish art books. ‘Keanu goes to dinner parties? I wonder if people fawn over him like fans on the street. How would he introduce himself to other guests?’

‘How can I be a person who gets to invite Keanu to dinner?’

My thoughts go on. He’s just a person, like any other human on this planet. He just happens to have a public story that’s interesting to me.

It’s fascinating how easy it is to fixate.

I’ve fixated on others but I’m perplexed by how a person can appear so much more than they are: a human being.

Now it’s gotten to the point that it’s professionally responsible to get others to fixate. Get people to buy into ideas, merch, movies, music and books. Charm people into thinking you’re more than regular.

It’s not their fault if I end up wasting time fixating. I’m the one in imaginary land–I’m the one who relinquished control. There may be people who SEEM better than most, but it’s up to me to continue the train of thought and convince myself that’s the case.

Although a part of me acknowledges that it’s not true, no human can be better than another–I’m still enthralled by those who seem to be.

How do I curb my enthusiasm? Do I simply just ignore my excitement?

It’s kind of fun to marvel at the illusion–a person’s extra-ness feels so substantial but at the same time, it can’t be.


16 Aug '18  — forced to keep me alive

Ever since I was little, my dad would tell me how he had to give up his artistic ambitions because he had to feed his children.

Whenever there’s a story about a guy getting fired, if the the story is meant to get sappier, a mention of how he’s got ‘little ones to feed’ shows up.

My dad loves to get sappy about his role in the world. Overtime, I learned that he loves identifying as a hard working dad who gave up something to feed his family. But at the same time, he’d rather do what he does, the work he ‘has to do’.

He may have not given up his dreams but he wants to be known as someone who did. It was his choice in the first place to have children.

Of course I’ve spent years feeling guilty. As a child, I believed I magically showed up in my parents home. It was an unfortunate event–they were unlucky to have been presented a child that they were forced to keep alive.

That was the only scenario that the story made sense.

As I grew older, the interpretation changed.

I saw my dad as someone who sacrificed for me. ‘His dreams! Of becoming an artist!’ When you think of someone sacrificing something for you, you end up feeling god-like. Chosen and special.

This is when I started believing others would sacrifice for me. By understanding that my parents sacrificed their dreams for me (for no reason), I started to believe that others would as well (for no reason). When I met people who seemed nice, I thought, ‘they must all be in favor of making my life go the right way. They must also be interested in sacrificing for my cause.’

I thought that was the reason they were helping me. Later, I understood that they had ulterior motives that were aimed to make use of me rather than to help. But understanding that someone sacrificed? Made me think too highly of myself.

In either case, I read too far into the idea that my dad ‘gave up’ his dreams.

He just wants to be identified as someone who had, but at the same time, he would prefer to live the life he’s always lived, one where he’s doing the work he does, which isn’t art.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking such statements people make are about me, when they’re anything but.


15 Aug '18  — a fear no one recommends facing

I fear people taking advantage of me–more than most things in the world.

Whether it’s purchasing something or meeting up with a person socially, I’m afraid that the others involved may get more from me than they are willing to give.

I’m so cautious that I’m unwilling to provide anyone with more value.

Have you ever felt like a pushover? In the past, some friends always requested me to go over to their place. Despite showing up repeatedly, they’d never meet me at my place or even halfway. Maybe I’m just not that special…but I get it. Perhaps they’re even more paranoid about giving at all until they receive a disproportionate amount–maybe they’ve been taken advantage of.

Of course, not all friends are like this. There are friends who actually enjoy my presence where meeting halfway isn’t an issue. I’d go far to meet them but they’d have to be the first to show a willingness to do so for me first. Which makes me think: I might have missed out on a lot of friendships. I bet there are plenty of people just like me, afraid to be taken advantage of.

Outside of friendship, I get worked up about getting a good deal. When buying something, I don’t want to get ripped off. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been ripped off before. I don’t want to feel like a pushover.

This fear, to not be taken advantage of–is dreadful. It leads to constant anxiety.

‘Should I have purchased that from them?’

‘I don’t think they’re willing to do the same for me…’

‘Am I being used?’

None of these questions can definitively be answered, even if it appears that I was being taken advantage of.

Instead, I should be more focused on what I’m getting out of these transactions. Regardless of what these other people are doing, whether it is ripping me off or giving me a deal, am I enjoying my time, am I enjoying what I’ve received?

Why does it have to be about them?

I have a problem and I don’t know how I’m going to fix it.


14 Aug '18  — turning dread into a vitamin

Having fun takes a lot of work. I’m anxious when making plans for vacation. ‘Will we be able to have a good place to stay?’ ‘Will our flight leave at the right time so we can check in before our bed and breakfast closes?’ ‘How do I make sure I don’t get robbed?’

There are so many things to worry about that I often just wish I could plan in one sweeping go–make all the decisions fast and get it over with. Just rip off the band aid.

‘I’m already enjoying my life. Why do I have to plan to escape it?’ That’s the first thought I have each time I have to do vacay planning.

I have to go because every time I go, I come back with a fresh perspective. I see the world differently and it takes a change in environment and habits to see that. My mind doesn’t easily change being surrounded by what’s familiar.

This isn’t about being able to afford a vacation–we’re going camping this year. It can be as simple as spending time in a place you hardly go.

Vacations hold an expectation: ‘You have to have fun!!!’ It is so much pressure, but no matter what happens, even if I do get robbed, even if my plane is delayed for two hours, I find a life altering experience once I find myself in a different place. I should think of vacations as a way to get out of my mold–and not necessarily to have fun.

When I consider taking time off in such a way, like taking a vitamin, I’m excited to plan. It’s not enjoyable but it’s necessary, like exercise–it’s good for me.

The dread from vacation planning comes from thinking of it as a pleasure seeking experience (that’s what it’s often sold as). I realize I don’t have to think of it in such an unappealing way–there’d no point–I’d rather not do it and I can’t stand planning to have fun–it’s just too much work.