Playing the Lotto

25 Apr '17  — A vivid memory of being four

Back to the hen
or was it 7-elev again?

The pink lotto card, we were after
and dreaming of the finest green pasture

Grandma, like most
was interested in getting on the boat

Flush with cash she'd sail
to all her spun up tales

of the dresses I'd be wearing
of the girls that'd be glaring

As soon as we win...

Little did I know
She was doing some imploring
to pick up my feet,
to pick up my pace.

To get that ticket,
before having to retie

my shoelace.

An element of fantasy, found on the Peak Tram in Hong Kong

I remember walking with my grandma to the closest convenient store. It'd take 30 minutes to walk and I was four at the time. With short legs, I must have been slow. Also, I remember my shoe laces coming undone every few steps.

My grandma would fill out a pink sheet every week and I remember wishing I was 18, the requirement to play.

When I look back, I realized that she brought me along to keep her company. I felt like an accomplice but she was working hard to make sure I was entertained. She'd tell me all the incredible things we'd do together, the amazing dresses I'd wear once we had won.

I remember thinking winning the lotto was like waiting in line. My grandma had to show up each week and eventually, when her turn came, she'd have all the cash she needed to do what she wanted.

I'm glad she didn't win during this period, I wouldn't have had such wonderful walks.


Chia Oats

24 Apr '17  — It's what's for dinner

I've gotten to a point where it doesn't feel right if I go a week without making a video. I made a quick one of my dinner, which may not seem tasty but was.

The making of a meal

Plenty people have spent periods living off oatmeal. I had a roommate who found money for shoes by eating £4 bags of oatmeal.

Oatmeal can be made in so many ways. While in London, I was amazed how much porridge is served. There were so many cafes that served it with fresh cut fruit or stewed fruit that had been cooking overnight. The same places would often serve fresh granola and yogurt.

I wanted it all: fresh fruit, cooked fruit and granola. It's common to have one topping. Since I'm American, I wanted it my way.

Modest compared to my past

I remember getting anxious before ordering, having to ask before they filled the bowl, to make space for all three toppings. It's not common, but if you saw the fresh cut fruit, stewed berries and granola it's hard to choose just one. Knowing I was in the UK for a limited time, I wanted all the toppings every time I had porridge.

These hot breakfasts would leave me overwhelmingly full. I totally deserved feeling lethargic for filling up on too much at once.


Night of My Life

23 Apr '17  — Staying up on a Saturday night

The mood: like a ghost, wandering listlessly in a foreign city. This was taken in Hong Kong while jet lagged, a long long time ago

Have you ever been caffeinated to the point that you were awake an entire night?

I've never had the chance until last night. Sleepless nights happen, but never has it extended until the morning.

Yesterday evening, I made chai for the first time. In Germany, Chai lattes are served everywhere. It's usually from a powder and there's one company got a monopoly in Berlin, their chai is found in most cafes.

In the few places that don't carry that brand, chai is served in a tea bag steeped for seven minutes. Steamed milk is added after. I used to prefer this method because I thought it was the more authentic way.

Coming across a made-from-scratch method online, I found that the tea takes a lot more time. I've always wanted to try. The process involves boiling grated ginger and a crushed cinnamon stick for twenty minutes before adding cardamom and Asaam tea. Much longer than I expected. Then you add milk and cook until it foams. At least half an hour goes by before it's ready.

The flavor is so different. Homemade chai is far better than the powder or dry tea leaf form. I drank the entire batch. My original plan was to make extra and save some in the fridge for the morning.

I didn't know I was caffeinated until 2:30 in the morning when I was wide awake. I had done all sorts of tasks on the computer. It was strange being alert in the evening. I was enjoying the boost of energy so much, it was subtle enough that I didn't think to question it.

Without jitters, the caffeination snuck up on me. I forced myself into bed at 3 and tried to fall asleep. 5 am came and as the sky got brighter, I got more anxious about getting sleep.

When I woke it was 10am. I was happy I got at least some sleep.

As much as I love the tea, I don't want to experience that again.


A Comfortable Morning

22 Apr '17  — Unexpectedly smooth

Nice because it's subtle: a vintage pillow case I found at a thrift store.

I woke to drizzling rain. The atmosphere gave me a sense of accomplishment. By staying put, under my blankets in bed, I was doing the right thing.

One of my favorite things in life is to listen to the rain, tucked under blankets with the window open. I can feel the cool breeze, hear the tapping rain drops and appreciate that I'm dry, warm--protected.

When it stopped raining, I suggested to my husband that we go out for coffee. But where? There were many places but we've been to them all.

Bonanza coffee opened a roastery cafe in our neighborhood. It's been blogged about incessantly for it's interiors. Located in the back of the building, you have to make it a point to stop by.

I was curious when it first opened last year. I even walked up to the entrance, wandering all the way around the back of a building. Right before, I saw a sign on the adjacent building "yuppie coffee this way" with an arrow pointing at the entrance.

Realizing I was part of the problem, I decided not to step in. My guilt weighed on me as I took another 100 steps to return to the street.

Today, we got up relatively early. Under the cover of the morning, with less people up, it was the perfect time to go. No one will know.

When we arrived, I was happy that I didn't have an internal debate about going in. There weren't that many people there.

What greeted us was a glass pastry display. The chaussons aux pommes and almond croissants looked familiar. I was hesitant before asking whether they were from nearby. Could I have ogled at enough pastries in the neighborhood to know where they came from? Yes, they were from the French bakery we often visit.

We ordered two cups of coffee and two pastries. I was surprised how attentive the barista/servers were. Especially for a hipster coffee shop. In Berlin, you never get good service, especially on Saturday mornings. Bonanza's servers were not only enthusiastic but they didn't even try speaking German. I don't think they were from around, which made the place all the more accessible.

"If I didn't know these pastries were from Salon Sucre, I would've been like, 'Oh, wow, they make nearly as good of pastries but it's much closer.' Because I know where they're from, I'm not as excited. There's less filling and more dough...the ones at the French place are tastier." - my husband

Perhaps there's too many hipster coffee shops these days that it makes no sense to be snobby. Even the decor was less haughty than I expected. With mirrors, towering monsteras and wishbone chairs, it reflected a style that was 'cutting edge' a few years ago. Now, it's just clean and practical, no longer as snobby as it once implied. The atmosphere was far more accessible than I expected. I've never felt as welcome in a gourmet coffee place.

Of the four tables that were occupied, two tables had women pouring over a guide book.

It feels great to be anonymous. Not that anyone recognizes me, but you start seeing the same faces around. It's nice to go out to a cafe nearby and be in a place where no one will remember who you are.

In the audio version of this post, I recorded a sampling of today's rain. Hear what it sounds like from my bedroom window on Soundcloud or iTunes.


Competitive Focus

21 Apr '17  — You never know when you'll get a push

Alert and in the dark

I was so tired today that I took an hour and a half nap. I only take naps when I'm tired to the point I can't function.

Yesterday, my husband took interest in bread making. I got weirdly competitive and found motivation to pursue what was wrong with my bread--it hadn't been rising as much.

It was 2am when I finished a new loaf and went to bed.

My progress on bread making has dragged on for a very long time. I admit that I could have improved faster. But there was no need.

There's a dissatisfaction that comes with the inability to do something right. Having the competitive pressure, I saw the rewards of figuring things out more tangibly than before and it felt like the rewards outweigh the freedom to take my time.

But then I had an entirely unproductive day from being tired.

Everything seems to come at a cost. Seeing what's possible with a little pressure, I'm curious what other skills can develop, with more dedication. Hopefully, there's a way to plan things out so I can still get enough sleep.


Bohemian Details

20 Apr '17  — Happy arrangements

This was found on a wood carved awning over the top of a window

A few months ago, I flipped through a book on traditional homes in Mauritius. I don't know much about the island so I was surprised to find folk details, especially the lambrequins (even this word was unfamiliar until today).

Folksy patterns can be overwhelming and too serious. I found many arrangements that were elegant and fun. There's something about that shapes that remind me of bohemian cottages I've come across. Perhaps I'll collect my favorites and be able to use them in a DIY project for my future home.


There are plenty of patterns, but I only like a handful.


New Corporate Order

19 Apr '17  — The real battle

Looking yonder

I get emails in German.

Which is strange because I don't understand any German. I'm far from the only one in Berlin.

Spotify, Trello and Adobe are some of the services many people sign up for. They're suppose to be collecting our data, right? They act as if they don't know.

Whenever I'm sent a German email, I become conscious how different I am. Most people don't live outside their country. Since I only socialize with 'expats', I hardly think I'm outside the norm.

I'm usually not the first to know about a new trend. The fact that I'm living in another country confirms that a ton of people are doing it. Perhaps, it's becoming normal.

And why not?

If there's internet access all over the world, there are more people moving from place to place while being able to keep the same job.

I'm sure that will change how people settle across the globe overtime. But how?

I've been thinking about the relatively recent growth of corporations. There's going to be significant change in my lifetime. More and more companies are becoming larger than entire countries. Just like governments, companies provide services for their people. It's become clear that there's a direct competition between governments and corporations in providing service to the people.

"British government told: stop supporting your corporations, support your people" -

Perhaps the older generations feel connected to nationalism far more than the new because they went through a war. How long is the story of the war, the suffering of 'a particular people', going to hold? It's kicking hard to stay relevant. New movements are looking for ways to 'create history' and unify through conflict.

Chuck Palmer: A couple of them might stay, and then, voila they have something to write about. Because what do writers need?
Hannah: Money.
Chuck: Very funny. Stories. They need stories.

It's very hard for the ruling generation to understand the younger. The situation is described in an episode of Girls, when Hannah visits an older, accomplished author. While she marvels at his million dollar apartment, he expresses his thoughts on what's happening with kids these days. 'They need interesting stories.' Hannah doesn't even have a well-lit place to write.

For the government to compete with corporations, they have to understand that we're just looking for a place to write. The programs that led to home ownership and over excessive consumption created a legacy frame work where assistance today can only come in the form of cash.

We don't all crave for a family, or wish to move out. Don't assume we want something other than the flexibility to do whatever.

The companies I've worked for have all provided me with money, time and space to live out my dreams within the legacy framework. Corporations help pay rent. I'm reluctant to see how 'fuck the corporation' can be mutually exclusive of 'fuck the police'.

The government often takes credit for providing the infrastructure for corporations to exist. But if the government wants to stay competitive, they need to do more, than just take credit for what happens after they set things up.


Green Onion Pancakes

18 Apr '17  — Homemade Street Food

So green

I made Taiwanese street food last week. What I love about street food is it's small, packed with flavor, and cheap in places where it's common.

In our neighborhood, there's a street food event every Thursday in an old market hall. Since street food is a novelty in Berlin (outside of Doner and Currywurst), it's expensive. Going to street food Thursday, you can get a sampling of cuisine from all over the world. But it's like going for tapas, you pay a lot more for smaller portions.

Crispy, fried in cast iron

How I made it: click to watch the entire process

I used sourdough left over from my bread making and my stomach didn't get bloated from the dough.

I'd like to learn more about savory nibble-able cuisine from all over the world. On Easter, I had a Lithuanian filled pastry. It was unexpectedly delicious. Perhaps I'll try that next.

Adding the egg was a dangerous part of the process. Oil splashed everywhere.


Personal Value

18 Apr '17  — Another unlearning

A moment of transformation

I had wrapped my self esteem in my work.

I realized for the first time that I am not my work.

For most of my life I've believed that my work reflected me. It all started in school, when I was graded on everything: papers, hand writing, art work and even, how I threw a football.

The school doesn't explicitly say that the work is a direct reflection of a student, but the system implies it very much. As a child, my identity was built on how I compared with others. I didn't know any other way to see myself. For most of my life, I judged myself according to the work I put out.

It took a long time to unlearn.

Whether it's photos or videos, or even blog posts, I've felt potentially embarrassed if my work isn't seen in a positive way by others.

I used to show my husband my videos before publishing them. Now I know, they're just works I've created. They actually live on their own without me.

"I'm rather kind of old school, thinking that when an artist does his work, it's no longer his... I just see what people make of it."
- David Bowie

It's not that I'm going to slack off in creating, but sometimes I find myself unnecessarily upset. 'This photo sucks! Why did I have to take it that way.' 'I can't believe I wrote like that. And so many people read it!' It's even harder to deal with mistakes that can't be fixed.

There were a few times when I created work that, according to me, was unbelievably awesome. I had no need for external confirmation. Of course, I'd love this quality of work to happen every time, but it's not going to.

It's easier now to accept all the work I do: the bad, the mediocre and the good. It has no bearing on how I see myself.


Restarting Life

17 Apr '17  — Finding a life that makes sense


Exactly a year ago I started to write personal thoughts.

Prior to that, I wrote about fashion and design from a less personal voice. I was attempting to 'create' an identity/brand--someone who had 'good taste'. Like many, I wanted an aspirational lifestyle blog.

I grew out of the phase. I have no interest in making others jealous.

These days, I'm far more fascinated with life. There's so many awkward moments, so much internal turmoil. Life is a multi-dimensional roller coaster that I hadn't been enjoying to this extent until now.

I might jump from writing about home design to a video on food. While I've restricted myself in the past on what I post, I'm not going to anymore.

Everything I do here is me.

The one thing I've left out is who I am. I'm a person who spent her twenties doing things others approved. I didn't know what I wanted.

In hiding, like the guy with the cloth over his head

I moved to New York (everyone said it's cool, but I wasn't sure and I didn't have any idea where I wanted to live), I worked at startups in roles that required analytics (my peers considered spreadsheet work more prestigious, I wasn't sure why), and I got into yoga (that was trendy back then).

During that period, nothing made sense. I didn't know what I was suppose to be doing and I didn't know why others were driven to like popular things.

I spent an entire decade uneasy. Is what I'm doing respectable? Or should I do that other thing that seems to be rising in popularity? If so many people all agree something is respectable and cool, they cannot be wrong?

They were wrong in terms of what was right for me. When I realized this, I restarted.

Creating things for this blog, from home designs to food videos, all make sense--to me.

I can't describe why they make sense, but it feels right. Far more right than anything I did before.