January 26th – “After a few days of binge eating, a little exercise may be in order.”

Oh, how does my horoscope know when I’ve been lazy and gluttonous?!

I exercise regularly, but haven’t been doing as much as I could given the number of hours I lay on the couch, work on the computer, and read in bed. Today, I decided to jog a little further and extend my run past an hour. I only went 65 minutes, but that was still better my usual 45 minutes.

The latest study I heard is that it’s better to work out for 75 minutes straight 2 times a week rather than do multiple shorter work outs. I’m not sure if this applies to cardio, weights, or both. I don’t follow trends and scientific experiments like these because they often claim that their latest study has discovered the magic formula to a healthy body. The assumption behind many of these cases is that there is ONE method of exercising that fits everyone. That’s just nonsense! Each person has different genetic makeups and lifestyles. What works for one person may not for another.

While I do not take these studies blindly as truth, I do think there is an added benefit to working out past one hour. According to some other study that I have no citation of, that’s when your body starts burning fat. I don’t know if that’s true. What I do know from experience is that my body feels different if I engage it longer than an hour. I’m still going to do my short workouts, but I will extend a couple of them to get the added benefit of feeling more energized.

Now that I have specific writing projects to work on, it’s even more important that I pay attention to my health. I have realized that what makes goals (of any kind) difficult is that it’s often not just about completing tasks or steps to achieve a specific goal. It requires a lifestyle change. I don’t see writing as a “goal” but rather a new element that I want to bring into my life. For me, that doesn’t only mean reading and writing more, but also taking better care of myself so that I can accommodate those changes. When I’m at my physical best, my mind works wonders!

January 22nd – “You definitely need a break.”

Breaks are a great time to make cookies! I was reading an English novel and watching the British Bake Off, so tea and biscuits were on my mind.

My partner bought this ridiculously overpriced maple sugar yesterday, so I made peanut butter cookies.

img_86131

Maple sugar is rare to find in the West Coast, but if you’re in the East Coast (especially in the New England area), I’m sure you’ll find it readily available at your grocery store. This recipe came from the bag, so I thought it that it would be foolproof.

img_86121

(Chocolate) Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

½ cup peanut butter

1 stick butter

1/3 cup maple sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar (or 1/6 cup honey)

½ tsp vanilla

1 egg

Some unsweetened chocolate (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cream butter and sugar together.
  3. Mix in the rest of the wet ingredients
  4. Mix in the dry ingredients.
  5. Make into 1 tablespoon balls and drop onto cookie sheet.
  6. Flatten cookies with hand.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes

I thought it might be weird with both honey and maple sugar, but I didn’t really taste the maple sugar at all. Only the honey came through. This recipe is definitely a keeper!

January 21st – “Doing your homework will be critical.”

History doesn’t have to be boring. As a kid, I was tricked into thinking that history was about names and dates of things I didn’t care about. The people in the textbooks didn’t look like me and I couldn’t relate.

Now that I have access to so much more information, there’s really no excuse for my lack of interest in learning more about history! I have a few San Francisco-based writing projects, so my homework is to read about the city’s history.

img_86111

Reclaiming San Francisco: History, Politics, Culture offers a diverse range of articles including chapters on Filipino history, urban development, the Beat Generation, and suicide (the Golden Gate Bridge’s less popular history). This book is an excellent read for anyone who wants a nuanced understanding of San Francisco. There’s nothing boring about it at all! Even the chapter about the “unremarkable” Chinese Revolutionary Artists’ Club during the 1920s is fascinating and humorous. While the club didn’t garner national attention or even much local attention at that time, history is rich with forgotten people, places, and stories like these. “Unremarkable” stories can be just as important as what’s written in the textbooks.

It is no surprise that Reclaiming San Francisco is published by City Lights. City Lights is an independent bookstore in San Francisco which was founded in the 1950s and known for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s controversial poems. I’ve frequented City Lights on many occasions, and sadly, it’s the last bookstore standing in the neighborhood.

As kitschy as San Francisco can be at times, many tourists do come to the city because of its history of counterculture, activism, and arts. It may not be apparent to city dwellers who are busy at their nine to five’s, but people come from afar because they believe that the spirit is still there. I’ve heard countless stories from people who lived in the city decades ago and are drawn to return because it was and is a place of great meaning for them. Perhaps that San Franciscan counterculture spirit is somewhere next to the Twitter office on Market and Ninth, or on Brannon Street by Airbnb. It might be hard to spot with the city’s ever changing landscape, but I do think that spirit is still there. It’s just waiting for the right moment for its voice to be heard again.

January 19th – “Don’t you dare stay home. Get dressed and get out there.”

Last night, I went out into the world and explored the city science museum. It was packed because on Thursday nights the museum has comedy shows, food, and lots of booze.

The museum was filled with the usual natural history stuff (or taxidermy animals), live and dead sea creatures, a mini rainforest dome, gems and mineral, and a planetarium with a show narrated by George Takei. His voice is very soothing and he enunciates very well!

One of the highlights of the live exhibits is Claude, the albino alligator. When we visited him in what looked like a 20 x 20 feet tank, he was laying on a giant slab in the middle of the artificial swamp.  Claude was surrounded on all sides by people gazing at him as music blasted on speakers. I was tempted to take a picture of him, but I didn’t. It didn’t feel right. I don’t know how long Claude had been living there, but he turned 21 last September.

I have mixed feelings about museums, especially those with live/dead animals in them. Part of me appreciates the ability to see such wondrous creatures in my own convenience and comfort. The other part of me has strong sense of empathy for these collected animals, destined to live out their lives in captivity.

I expressed my uneasiness to my friend, “I feel bad for the guy. He can’t even get a quiet night alone!”

“He would die out in the wild. Here, he gets fed and gets to live,” he argued.

I replied, “I would rather be free and dead than live this kind of life!”

It was good to know that I still have some fight left in me.

January 16th – “You have the power to react to the situations however you wish.”

I may not have control of anything, but I do have the power to frame situations in a way that helps me get through life in one piece.

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend about tarot readings. She asked if I believed in tarot readings because I had been so receptive to my experience a few months ago. I wasn’t sure how to answer that question since I hadn’t framed tarot and astrology in that way.

Tarot and astrology readings are less about what the cards and signs say, and more of how each person interprets it and reacts to it. For me, astrology is a source of information, an insight into parts of my life that I had not considered. It takes me outside my own head and helps me see new ideas and opportunities. At the end of the day, it’s still up to me to make decisions for myself and determine what to do. Right now, I am also using astrology as a tool to get me motivated and excited about the day.

Astrology is not for everyone because it can reveal parts of our lives that are not so pleasant to confront. We have to be ready to accept all the ugly truths, as well as the beautiful flaws. When we do, we have the opportunity to have a deeper understanding of ourselves and shape our worlds with more meaning.

In short, I would say that I do believe in tarot, astrology, horoscopes, and all the other woo-woo stuff. I would also say that I “believe” in affirmations, life coaching, therapy, monetary rewards, fame, recognition, and anything else that could help motivate me. Do I really think that I will, “succeed in auditions, exams, first dates, and all other situations that put you to the test” today? Not really, but if I want be productive today, there’s no harm in telling myself that I’ll have excellent results.

January 14th – “Someone who you thought you would never see again will pop back onto the scene today, although probably not in person.”

People have told me that they rarely dream, and when they do, they do not remember their dreams. I have never been one of those people. I dream almost every night and remember most of them vividly the next morning. Sometimes they’re prophetic, sometimes there are those repressed thoughts that Freud theorized. When my health is declining, nightmares are of abundance. For the last two nights, an old friend popped up in my dreams and nightmares.

I’ve been fighting a minor cold, so it’s no surprise that I’m having nightmares. What is strange is that this old friend (who I am no longer friends with) is floating around in my unconscious. I am grateful that we no longer have a relationship because I can clearly see now that we were codependent.

In the first dream, my friend and I were taking the train in the city. On the ride, there was a group of young college kids wearing tuxedos. Naturally, I was curious so I started talking to them and found out they had just come from a ballet in which their friend was dancing in. We had a great time getting to know these folks.

In the second dream, we were having a party. This became a nightmare because everything went wrong. Guests were arriving and there was no food, not enough seating, and my friend kept inviting more people! I was overwhelmed and trying to pick up the pieces for her as usual.

What was my unconscious trying to tell me?

I have been thinking a lot about the city because it’s the subject of a few projects I’m working on. It’s been quite some time since I’ve been back to my old haunts and I have been feeling very nostalgic. The trouble with nostalgia is that we like to see what we want to see. We like to remember the past as something magical, perfect, and positive. We like to forget all the bad stuff and pretend that it never happened.

When I think of my best memories of the city, my former friend is in many of these images. We had a lot of fun, good times, and unique moments that I shared with no one else. With that, there were also awful moments that I do not want to experience again.

As much as I would like to see the city in a certain way, perhaps my dreams are a word of caution: beware of romanticizing the past or you’ll risk becoming a preservationist! Okay, maybe it’s not so dramatic, but it would be a good idea to take another look at my map if I see myself on the path to nostalgia.

January 12th – “Remember that you can never truly own anything, so do not get too attached.”

Attachments are hard. As much as I have been able to let go of material things, I find that attachment to ideas are much harder!

I’ve been attached to the idea that I could write XX amount of pages per day for my novel, but that has not come to fruition. It’s easy to feel disappointed and stressed out, but MUCH easier to be happy with the pages that I do have. After all, I worked very hard on those 16 pages and they deserve my love!

I often hear people talk about attachments in reference to Buddhism, so I thought I should see what that’s all about. Apparently, there is a lot of misconception about attachments because it gets conflated with separation. Based on my quick non-scholarly research, I found this explanation helpful:

[N]onattachment is exactly the opposite of separation. You need two things in order to have attachment: the thing you’re attaching to, and the person who’s attaching.

In nonattachment, on the other hand, there’s unity. There’s unity because there’s nothing to attach to. If you have unified with the whole universe, there’s nothing outside of you, so the notion of attachment becomes absurd. Who will attach to what?

Click here for the full article.

It’s funny to think that I don’t even own my own thoughts. I guess it’s true because my thoughts and feelings change all the time and have been shaped by my environment and experiences. One minute an idea is there, and another minute it’s not. It’s just part of who I am. I am mortal after all, and nothing about me is permanent.

This morning, I attached myself to the idea that there would be no more food porn on my blog for the rest of the week. When I got to work, an email informed me that there would be cake this afternoon, so I let go of that attachment right away.

img_86071

 

 

 

January 11th – “Your health is ruled by your head, too, so get in touch with positive emotions.”

There’s nothing like cake to put me in a positive mood.

My partner is not eating processed sugar right now, so I am still using honey and maple syrup as my sweeteners. I found this almond cake recipe years ago and it’s still one of my favorites. It’s obviously not nut free, but it is gluten free and only takes a few minutes to make!

img_86051

It goes well with a little whipped cream and fruit, or a drizzle of honey.

img_86061

January 5th – Unleash your inner turmoil into a constructive channel. Simone de Beauvoir wrote, “Art is an attempt to integrate evil.”

Art comes in many forms. When we put care, effort, and intention into what we’re doing, it has great potential to become art. Art can be ephemeral like a song, only to be enjoyed when played, concrete like web that a spider weaves, or abstract like an idea that changes how people think. Art surrounds us all the time. As much as critics would like us to think so, critics are not the ones who determine what art is. We do!

Art can be inspired by great moments of joy, pain, and even everyday monotony. This year I practiced the art of cat watching by observing interactions between my felines and their visiting friends who come to explore my ever growing catnip bush. It’s very fascinating! I didn’t experience any significant turmoil yesterday as my horoscope suggested, but I did have a busy day. Doing something creative after work was just what I needed.

I had dutifully followed my foodscope for most of the day. It advised, “Delicious it’s not, but keeping yourself healthy is worth it!” After a day of eating quinoa and vegetables, I didn’t feel too guilty about making these miniature edible art pieces.

Two Bite Kolackys

img_86001

img_86011

It’s a simple dough of flour, cream cheese, and butter. I didn’t have any more honey sweetened jam at hand so we used the regular stuff. It’s not the best thing that you can make, but certainly not the worst thing either!

Recipe is here.

January 4th – “Fitting in is important, but your dreams are much more important than that.”

Fitting in has rarely been my priority. In the few moments of my life when I did try to fit in it didn’t work out anyway. Fitting in means not being creative, not thinking for yourself, and not trying anything new. If we all fit in, the world would be devoid of cronuts, cruffins, and kouign-ammans! Do you want to live in a world like that?!  It also meant that I had to bite my tongue and not speak up about things I disagreed with. That was not okay with me!

My dreams have definitely been much more important than running with the pack. Had I followed the pack, I think I might be a dentist or be some sort of analyst. Oh, the horror! I can’t even envision myself in that type of scenario!

It’s not that I have a naturally rebellious spirit or a strong desire to be different/unique/special. A teacher once told me that I was “special” and I wanted to throw up. At that moment, I realized that there was so much she didn’t understand me and that our mentor-mentee relationship was doomed. In fact, there have been many days when I wished that I was just like everybody else. I could go to work, take home my paycheck, and call it a day. No worries whatsoever. Every day is the same. That sounds really nice and simple.

But no, I’m wired a little differently than some others. I’ve never really fit in and trying to wouldn’t feel right. It would probably suffocate me.

Not caring about what other people think and doing my own thing has helped me come a long way. In all of the decisions I’ve made by disregarding how others would perceive me, I have not had a single regret.

I’m thankful for the reminder from my horoscope today because it’s just the pep talk I needed. I’ve been doing too much research on fiction writing and need to stick to my guns. I have faith that my novel will work itself out even if I don’t know the plots for ANY of the characters of the stories yet. If I did know, it’s probably not a book worth writing!