Back from traveling abroad

For those of you who follow me on social media, you probably know that I am back from a lovely trip abroad to Singapore (home!) and also Taipei (a new favorite city!). Initially our trip was only going to be for 2 weeks but as luck would have it, we were able to extend it out for over 3 weeks and we savored every second of it.

I would like to document the trip in my blog over the next couple of weeks. More for my memory-keeping but I thought that you might find some good tips or ideas of where to eat from the posts.

We had been gone from Singapore for almost exactly 7 years. The last time home, I was in such a different place. This time was such a wonderful time back, many reunions, eating good food and visiting my favorite parts of the city. It is interesting to travel back to where you spent a good part of your life and feel like you lose a little of the place every time. So many thoughts and emotions circle around whenever I go home. Over the next few posts, you will probably get a taste of this.

I hope you join me on this little recap journey.

It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you. – F. Scott Fitzgerald

November Favorites

It’s almost mid-December. I am mostly ready for Christmas, a couple more gifts to buy and of course, stocking stuffers.

Drinking:
Gin & tonics with this “new to me” gin, Monkey 47. It’s so flavorful.
Pour-over coffee with Mike’s new Chemex. The coffee does taste much fuller.

Eating:
Hot pot/steamboat – it’s been really chilly around here so this is really the best comfort food. Also, it’s easier to use an portable induction cooker instead of a portable gas cooker.

Listening:
A Time and a Plate – I love Claire’s new food history podcast as she takes us across the world and in time.
Other food podcasts like A Splendid Table, America’s Test Kitchen
True Crime podcasts like Someone Knows Something – the stories do get a bit gut-wrenching but missing people and cold cases deserve our attention.

Watching:
Gilmore Girls – A Year in the Life
Westworld
Fantastic Beasts – Newt Scamander. That is all.
Pride and Prejudice – rewatching this because of Colin Firth.

More favorites for December to come.

What have you guys been up to?

Friday Favorites

What’s not to love about Fridays? The sun came out this morning for about an hour and then rain fell hard. I was on the phone with some folks in Dallas who laughed when I told them about how it’s raining and grey here but only because I did not rub in the fact that it’s beautiful out here in the PNW. I didn’t want them to be envious.

I’m feeling much better today. Still a little foggy but am so glad it’s the weekend. And a long one.

Here are some things that has helped me through this week:

Matcha Coconut Oil and Honey Tea
I mix half a teaspoon of matcha powder with a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of coconut oil into a dark green paste then add hot water. Stir well and it’s a delicious healthy drink. It’s not oily but makes the matcha richer. Wakes me up every morning.

Clementines or Baby Mandarin Oranges
We buy them by the bag and go through 2 bags every week. Sweet and tart and juicy. Helps to round off anything savory.

Broadchurch Season 2
I watched Season 1 a while ago and it was at times, difficult to stomach the pain that some of these characters carry but it was done so well and the acting was impeccable. It took me a while to get back into watching it because of how I empathize with the pain but Season 2 was even better. I just completed all 8 episodes this week. I like how UK series don’t try to overdo and extend their storyline until they “jump the shark” (Happy Days). Worth the watch.

Trader Joe’s Dried Pineapples
These are so sweet and taste very much like pineapples and not sugar. It would be good in a trail mix but on its own, they are a nice little healthy dessert. I like how they are sliced crosswise and when dehydrated, look like little crinkled chrysanthemums.

Homemade Boba Tea
I made some boba tea right after Whole30 with these slow cooked tapioca boba, some black tea, milk powder and honey. I was in boba heaven. This brand is recommended by boba aficionados so I bought some to try. The texture is wonderful.

It was a crazy week, not as bad as last week but I surrounded myself with things that made me happy. It helped with my perspective.

Impact

The trouble with being the Prime Minister’s sister is, it does put your life into rather harsh perspective. What did my brother do today? He stood up and fought for his country. And what did I do? I made a papier maché lobster head.” – Love Actually

If you have watched the movie as many times as I have, you will probably remember Emma Thompson’s character say the above to her husband.

As I was browning some pork shoulder chunks in my new Instant Pot to make some chile verde, this quote struck me. It’s always been something that made me think, that somewhere someone is doing so much more and making such a difference in the world. Here I was, making a pot of stew. It’s not that it won’t be delicious or that my family would not enjoy it. I simply feel these days, that I need to make an impact, a difference with this one life that I have. Some days, I don’t feel like I am doing “all I can” to make lives better.

It’s not about being famous, I’d be happy to do it anonymously. I think it’s about making the most of one’s talents and time.

I’m sorry if this seems to be a sort of ramble. I felt like this was the best place to say this. To send this out into the universe so that maybe, it will be echoed back at me often. To remind me of this desire.

Who are we, if not measured by our impact on others? That’s who we are! We’re not who we say we are, we’re not who we want to be — we are the sum of the influence and impact that we have, in our lives, on others.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

First Snow

We saw our first snowflakes this afternoon, it’s not cold enough to stick but I just enjoy watching those fat flakes fall. I look forward to some more snow since we are now closer to the mountains.

Mike is making pot roast with mashed potatoes, I’m salivating over my laptop.

I spent quite a bit of my afternoon researching left-handed brush hand lettering. I need to find some good but economical (since I’m still very much a rookie) round watercolor brushes. I also plan to starting using my new Tombow Dual Grayscale brush pens. A Christmas gift for myself.

I bought some practice sheets from Random Olive. It seems like a good place to start but I might also look into an online class. Maybe on Skillshare.

Some inspiring leftie type designers that I’ve been following on Instagram: Winston Scully, Neil Secretario and Matt Vergotis.

Another goal for 2016: to spend a little bit of time with the things that “spark joy”. (Thank you, Marie Kondo!)

感激 (Thankful)

I really love these copper wire LED fairy lights

A photo posted by @astromei on

2015, like most of the recent years in my life, has flown by. Although the Thanksgiving holiday is this Thursday, we had Thanksgiving dinner this past weekend. Because of that, I feel like I have a lot of time before Christmas and the New Year rolls around. A good head start. Maybe we should move Thanksgiving up every year!

I think that the additional time (at least in my mind) is good for us since this is the start of Sagan’s true love with Christmas. He is going to soak up every bit of it, I can tell. We have a stuffed elf on the shelf, his Advent calendar is waiting for him and we even have plans to go cut down our own tree since we live out where the tree farms are. We’ll see, I might get distracted by the cider and ask for help instead.

Whoa whoa, I know what you are thinking – stop it, Stef, we are not yet even eating our Thanksgiving meals yet! Alright, I’ll refrain 🙂

Here are a couple of November favorites:

Story Corps app – I plan to make recordings with my mum, Mike and Sagan. Now we can record on our phones and have it archived for the future.

You know that I do Southern cooking. This podcast has been keeping my belly hungry for it. The recent episode has me adding a soul food restaurant in LA on my Yelp bookmarks.

This year, I made my favorite Thanksgiving dish again (3 years and counting) – Ina Garten’s Leek and Mushroom Bread Pudding. So flavorful. Gruyere is one of my favorite cheeses.

Current favorite cocktail: Ginger Whiskey

And something to make the holiday more meaningful: The Thanksgiving Reader

Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” Hansa Proverb

Home from travels

I have been away from home for the last 2 weeks, one week in Vegas for work and the next week in Portland and the Oregon coast. It was good to spend some time away from the office as work has recently been weighing on me. I am trying hard to avoid a burn-out. From previous experience, burn-outs are no fun, to say the least!

My time at the work conference was ironically inspiring. I love the product that I support and work with, it’s always good to bond with likeminded people. What I enjoyed even more was the company of my coworkers as well as a very inspiring talk by Sal Khan, found of Khan Academy. I’ve been trained in Arts and Social Sciences all my life, but now I feel there is a chance for me to learn about physics, chemistry and astronomy!

Even while traveling, I tried to keep up with my meditative practice. I think that it has kept me sane thus far.

The time on the Oregon Coast was short but it was just a joy to see S run all over the beach, chasing gulls, picking up shells and running through frigid waves.

What a beautiful day! #pdx2015

A photo posted by @astromei on

Here are some of my recent favorites:
Gnocchi with any kind of sauce – creamy crab parmesan sauce last week and bacon arrabbiata last night
Pear Cider – any brand
Lush’s The Comforter Shower Cream – berries, bergamot and vanilla, need I say more?
Rimmel Oh My Gloss in Snog – not sticky, smells good, lovely pigments
1940s big band music
The Martian – I saw the movie this week and I am going to start reading the book tonight!

There is a trip to the pumpkin patch in the books and more fall loves. Stay tuned!

Sparks

If you have heard about the new organization movement (KonMari) by Marie Kondo, you would understand the title of my post. My main take from her method is that you would want to only keep or obtain things that spark joy in your life.

Everyone, these are my current sparks:

Borns – I love 10,000 Emerald Pools and of course, Electric Love. But one of my favorites is Seeing Stars and his new single (The Emotion) from the upcoming album (Oct 16), Dopamine, has been on repeat.

Cassava Tortillas made with cassava flour (not the same as tapioca starch which is more chewy and gummy). Grain-free, gluten-free and nut-free. Amazing texture.

Journal prompts
– I wake up and write down 3 things that I am grateful for, ask myself how I am feeling and at the end of the day, write down my favorite part of the day.

Boxing – Mike installed the heavy bag he got me a few years ago in the garage and I am going to put on these pretty pink gloves and show it who’s boss. Ha! Really, I’m starting slow at a moderate pace. Three to Four 2-minute rounds of basic punches, such as jabs, crosses, hooks and uppercuts, with one minute rest in between rounds.

I finally completed my 30-day foundation course with Headspace and have recently begun a new pack. This has helped me so much.

What are your current sparks?

Picking up

Hello friends,

It’s been such a long time since I last wrote. 2014 was a very trying year for me and my family. First, we had to say good-bye to my amazing and strong da. I miss him every single day and am slightly comforted by the bits of him that I recognize in Sagan.

We had a spade of home break-in’s and before long, I knew that, in order to keep my sanity, I had to leave Scarlett and the place we called home. We have now moved into a new space, it’s not in the city anymore but I still work in the city so I do get to spend time there. It was tough leaving a community that I felt connected to but it was time. Sometimes you feel it and no words can truly explain.

I am making a new commitment to update this blog again. I’d like to share updates about my life, show you how much S has grown and maybe start taking more pictures again. Let’s see if I can do this once a week.

I have missed you guys. I don’t even know if you would even read this but HELLO AGAIN!

2 years + 81 days

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My dear boy,

I can’t believe how time flies every day and no matter how much I remind myself, I am still afraid that I forget to be grateful to be your momma. Some nights when I’m tired from a day of keeping up with you or exasperated by your obsession with your cars, I still find myself looking back at pictures that I have taken of you. I marvel at how quickly you learn and how you don’t want to be a baby anymore. You are only 2, my son, slow down a little.

You started carrying around your Lightning McQueen backpack a couple of weeks ago. You pile all of your cars into it and try with all your might to put it on your back. You funnily call it your “hand bag”.

Some of your favorite things to eat are bacon, sausage, chicken wings, curry, mushrooms and prawns. You love prawns. Just like I do. And you seem to be hungry a lot these days. I don’t think that 11 hours of sleep would leave anyone THAT hungry when they wake from it. Especially if they ate well just before they went to bed.

You are definitely honing your negotiation skills. With words and mostly, with the sprawl-on-floor-leg-kicking trick.

You put on your own boots, albeit mostly on the wrong foot.

You call everyone buddy and are very polite, especially when someone brings you food – “Thank you, buddy! It’s lunch!”

You are definitely favoring your daddy these days and you don’t know how happy that makes me to see you two together. The two people that I love most in this world.

I know that I will not be able to remember everything, even if I write them all down but my boy, you can be sure that momma cherishes every moment that she shares with you.