31 December 2014

Happy 2015!

It's gonna be a good year with Mickey, uh huh.

29 December 2014


I dare say that making tea drinking a serious hobby is probably one of the best things I've done this year.

The only contender would be taking school less seriously. Both has reduced my stress a lot. I remember there was one day in high school that I was on the verge of tearing up after receiving a not so great mark (physics I think?). In my (former self's) defense, that was probably a trigger for something else I was upset about. Luckily I get over things quickly.

Back on topic.
Sitting down and having tea is an easy way for me to step out of whatever I'm currently worried about. Making and tasting tea well (not implying that I'm good) requires an absurd amount of concentration relative to what you'd think. I'm especially bad at describing the smell and taste of tea. The particular flavour always seems so familiar yet I don't know how to pin it down to an exact word. So after focusing on deciding the exact vegetable that the particular Taiwanese oolong taste like (sweet pea? corn??), whatever I was previously stressed about is diminished.

In other (buzz)words, tea helps you focus on the present. I'll stretch the experience further by linking it to the concept of ichi go ichi e (一期一会, means the same thing as the Chinese characters), as every brew will never be the same.

For those whom I've had the pleasure of having tea with, hopefully you'll pick up the hobby too :D
And for those whom I haven't, you're always welcome.

ps. as if tea itself is not deep enough of a rabbit hole, there's always pots.

26 December 2014


In the spirit of boxing day, I've been thinking more of the clothes I wear in attempt of formulating a cohesive "wardrobe philosophy".

But first, other bloggers who have thought & wrote a lot more of this matter that I particularly admire: The Nife En L'air (I adore her entire blog) and Sloane Conde (and her archive at Je Vis Je Meurs)

The couple words that currently describe the direction that I want my wardrobe to head in is "luxuriously simple". Plain cashmere sweaters are a good example of what I mean. In worse terms, its like boring looking clothes that probably cost a lot. But obviously not every item has to fit into this description (this was actually the source of a lot of pain until I realized cohesive =/= without exceptions), such as today I just bought a jacquard leopard print skirt.

The motivation for having simple pieces is really just to avoid the "there's a million pieces in my closet but somehow I still feel I have nothing to wear" syndrome. By simple, I mean the following criterias:
  • Mostly neutral colours (which to me, encompasses black/grey/white, navy, browns/caramels) to facilitate greater compatibility between each item.
  • Items that align with my current lifestyle so I don't have unwearable pieces.
And the luxurious descriptor is to elevate simple beyond boring. By luxurious I mean:
  • Quality material, which most of the time means natural (eg. silks and wools) but some higher end pieces use synthetics beautifully. 
  • Evident that attention has been paid to the details (eg. neat stitching, buttons)
The combination of the two above usually equate a high price tag. I'm also a sucker for handcrafted / heritage / ethically sourced stuff, but have not yet been putting my money where my heart is (is Everlane a good start?). 

Some next steps:
  • Gather data of how frequent I wear each item to better allocate money for upgrades. Did a preliminary list of what I frequently wear in the winter, which was a lot more sweater and a lot less of other tops. Also mostly pants, which I plan to change to more skirts & dressed focused. 
  • Get better at maintenance, especially regarding shoes. 

25 December 2014

merry christmas

24 December 2014


Arup you are so amazing.

It's refreshing to hear something so ambitious, especially in regards to synergy between efficiency and quality (and also sustainability with delight, which I feel is equivalent to eating healthy and delicious) rather than compromise between the two.

22 December 2014


End of the year means reviewing time! First up is finances:

The results were rather surprising. To start, my methodology was to sum up all my credit card expenses (as its my primary form of payment) over the past 9 month since living by myself by categories, then average the total.

Compared to an random estimate from the beginning of the year, I spent less on food (both groceries and eating out) but more on clothing, entertainment, and personal care items (like those skincare hauls...). Especially personal care, since it's easy to forget a lot of the expenses in this category, such as laundry detergent, toothpaste, etc. Also it's expensive setting up a new place "orz The good news is that, even with a safety factor, I can afford my current lifestyle on close to minimum wage!

I'm proud that I've reduced the quantity of my clothing acquisition, which consist of the following over the entire year:
  • Uniqlo: back up cardigan, heattech leggings, something else I'm forgetting
  • Jcrew: purple cords, not the greatest buy but still useful since its winter half the year 
  • Gloves (gift)
  • Baggu small pouch
  • LOFT: black dress pants, grey tank top, linen tee, skirt
  • Sam Edelman Trina sandals
  • Talula black blazer
  • Printed scarf (gift)
  • MEC rain jacket
  • Everlane cardcase, sleeveless silk blouse
  • Black ankle boots
  • Thrifted cardigan
  • Talula dress and gloves
However, the reduction in quantity is offset by the increase in each item's price. So from a purely saving moneys point of view, this is not a success. However, I give more expensive purchases more consideration, which results in higher satisfaction.

Food-wise, I'm satisfied with how often I cook. Not eating out frequently makes an incredible difference in spendings. An addition benefit of cooking is a great destressor / break from studying. The following strategies has worked well for me:
  • roast meat (1, 2), seriously. cheap, very little active cooking time, last a long time.
  • noodles / pasta for when you can't be bothered.
  • Metro has really good deals on meat sometimes. One time chicken breasts were $2.99/lb. Also buy the value packs, meat last a long time in the freezer.
  • Farmers markets are not as expensive as I thought (or maybe it's more true that grocery stores has both expensive and crappy produce), especially for fruits in season. There is also a huuuge gap in how much better they taste (N=2, fruits and honey).
  • Snacks are a giant money sink.
  • Coffee / bubble tea are a even greater money sink. I vow to never buy them again, aside from social situations. But really all the money I saved from this plus not drinking goes straight into funding my tea purchases. 
  • Living downtown places you in proximity of way too many great restaurants. I've limited myself to only eating out for social situations and never because I don't have food.

21 December 2014


Exam times were not good for tea, here's two cups of pu-er from before and after.

19 December 2014

maxwell con't

Today's a good day, done exams so I made progress on Xillia. Still only reached chapter 2 though.

(image via)
But the end of chapter 1, shipping Jude x Milla so much. Are they not so adorable? They are so adorable together, like here, here, here, and especially here!!

16 December 2014

Silver Spoon 2

This series is like the spiritual successor to Honey & Clover, which is just about the highest praise I can give to a slice-of-life anime.
(Not to mention that the main character's brother has a scene at Japan's northern-most point on a motorcycle, hnnng)

While I strongly feel that this series should be at least 36 episodes (I wouldn't even mind 50), there is enough development for at least the main character in the limited time. However the supporting cast is rather static as a result, whereas H&C had the time to development almost everyone. Both series have a superb balance between hilarious antics and serious moments.

Recommended for anyone who still feels like they have growing up to do.

(It's been a while since I've watched an anime eh)

13 December 2014


I really like this window ledge, and this particular arrangement of objects under that moment's lighting.
& this reminds me of a beautiful quotation from Love in the Time of Cholera:
the ephemeral splendor of another afternoon that would never return

PS. droughts are sad, farming is tough.

12 December 2014

time flies, but you keep breaking its wings

^is that not one of the best lines of lyrics ever? (plus the godly 方文山 ofc)

I really like how the lighting is done in the MV.

11 December 2014


Little joys of living downtown: seeing golden speckles of the sunset reflected in the glass facade of tower.
(as pretty as they are, complete glass facades are still a terrible idea)

10 December 2014


Dave and I celebrating half way done finals with some brownies.

08 December 2014

I could know

More gemini club to accompany copious amounts of moisture and heat transfer.

Worth reading the explanation on their official tumblr.

07 December 2014


One steamer meals have even less cleaning to do than one pot meals. Plus it reheats leftovers at the same time.

Plus steamed eggs, leftover rice and vegetables. With only plates & bowls to wash afterwards, I am impressed.

But noodles are always good too.
(the egg whites are so overexposed that they look like they're badly photoshop'd in haha)
Happy to be eating more vegetables again, although my fridge still has a disproportional amount of meat (go metro sales).

06 December 2014

limit state design

I do definitely feel screwed for steel. Lots of past finals to go through with epik high playing.

Favourite song of the album

01 December 2014

building science 101

Today's studying music:

30 November 2014


I feel slightly accomplished:

Of course this was throughout the semester.
I should really study harder for finals ;_;

29 November 2014


Waited in line for a long, long time.

Very much worth though.
I need to refrain myself from heading into MUJI often.

28 November 2014


Here's to clearing my backlog of food related photos:

 African peanut soup at Harvest Kitchen. Very tasty soup, great brunch spot overall. Service is very very slow, but the food and ambiance balances that. I've heard that their breakfast burrito is amazing.

 The best pasta sauce I've made to date. It was also the most time consuming, but definitely worth it.
  1. Base layer of the flavour is really browned onions. By really browned I mean around half an hour of gently sweating it, with some sugar. Admittedly I'm rather bad at this and burnt some pieces. Will follow these tips next time.
  2. Next layer of flavour is some herbs and spices. This time I've used a combination of oregano, rosemary, and garlic, for no reason other than the fact I had them. The trick is to first crush them with a mortar and pestle with some salt before adding them to the pan.
  3. Next is meat, ground beef to be exact. I added it in along with the herbs and spices, and seasoned it with some soy sauce for bonus umami.
  4. The first appearance of tomatoes is in the form of tomato paste, to add some depth. This is also added with the meat.
  5. After the meat is mostly cooked, add in tomato sauce, with some more onions (cause I'm a fan) and some finely chopped carrots. Simmer for as long as you can stand, which for me was about 15mins. 
The above steps will make a pretty good sauce, but the important part is to get the flavour absorbed into the pasta. This is accomplished by draining the pasta slightly undercooked, and transfering it into the sauce to finish cooking. Also add a few ladles of the starch-rich pasta water to  help the sauce stick better.
It's a lot more trouble than dumping a jar of ragu, but trust me it's worth.

Next is roast meat, which I've previously talked about here.
 Here's a photo of all the ingredients to make your life easier. The quantity of spices is exactly how much I used, for umm... 1 chunk of shoulder. I realize not quantifying the meat defeats the purpose of quantifying the spices. Also note that the middle jar is not jam, but chili oil.

 As much as I love potatoes (which beautifully thickens the sauce), carrots are my new favourite vegetable add-in. It becomes incredibly sweet after a long braise.

Finally, upping my breakfast game with some steel cut oatmeal:
They require a very long soak in case you want to avoid cooking them. I rather like how chewy they are without cooking, but that results in taking a longer time to eat breakfast which is not desirable on school days.
They're also better overloaded with toppings, in this case: apples, walnuts, flax seed and honey.

26 November 2014


A couple conclusions I've recently come to:
  • Baking is a great stress reliever because I can take out my frustrations while creaming butter and sugar. Doesn't hurt that there's a tasty by-product. 
  • Success is being able to be there for what I care about, and having the freedom to walk away from what I don't. 
  • The perfect amount of keen is being ahead enough to take breaks without falling behind.

25 November 2014

shui xian

I'm so sure that yan cha is my favourite tea type. They're perfect.
Thanks to Tien who gave me some shui xian to try side by side with my da hong pao.

They look so similar that the different gaiwans are my only way (well aside from taste) that I can tell them apart. Actually the first brew tasted pretty much the same too.

 水仙 (shui xian)
Overall this was very smooth, with a strong floral flavour (it is named from a flower). This would be my perfect daily drinker as it has the floral component of greener oolongs, but also the earthier notes from more roasted oolongs. Can't wait to try this in my yixing to see if it taste any different.

大红袍 (da hong pao)
Definitely more mineral tasting than the above, with sour notes coming through the later steepings too. This one is tricker to brew right as well, which I need lot more practice on.

23 November 2014


A train platform and window.

The curtain would be fun to render in pastel.

22 November 2014

floor area

The last design of apartment buildings in Malaysia is brilliant. By designing the building in the form of an inverted pyramid, he minimized the low value bottom floor spaces and allowed for significant tree coverage.
I am so impressed.

19 November 2014


My best friend is all dressed up :')

18 November 2014


Hlin makes good studying music. Tis my favourite from the new album.

17 November 2014


First thrifting experience was a success! Got a thick, cream coloured wool cardigan for $20 harhar. (it's really similar to this)

Also updates on the boot front: bought a pair on a spontaneous trip to TheBay a while ago. Quite happy with it has it is a) simple b) has a slight heel and c) leather is said to be water resistant! But my point in bringing this up now is that I finally made my way to gravitypope yesterday on my thrifting trip and was disappointed in all my previous pickings cause they all have toeboxes that are too round -o-"

16 November 2014


I thought I'd try being more scientific about steeping tea. Well I was only measuring one variable, steeping time, so it barely qualifies as being scientific. Really ought to measure water temperature as well.

The tea under examination is a dong ding from Tea From Taiwan.

Steep 1: 30s
Smell: not much tbh, a little creamy?
Taste: a little floral? sweet, pear, like boiled pear with rock sugar
Note: leaves not yet unfurled

Steep 2: 45s
Smell: sweet, peaches/nectarine
Taste: sweet, fruity (prob peaches), light mouthfeel
Note: leaves starting to unfurl, decreased water to leave ratio as not much leaves left

Steep 3: 60s
Smell: back to not smelling like much, maybe a hint of sweetness?
Taste: a little of the floral smell came back in taste, not particularly fruity anymore

Steep 4: 1:15min
Smell: back to fruity! I think this note is released because of the higher temperature of the water.
Taste: still a little floral, a hint of bitterness

Steep 5, 6, 7: 1:15-1:30min
Smell: fruitiness is not as pronounced as before
Taste: getting some sweetness back

Steep 8: 2:30min
Increased steeping time to see what other flavours I can get out of the leaves. The fruity notes reappear, but more mellow.

I had the ambition to make a gif of the tea liquor, but didn't take good enough photos. The taste is also quite different from the first time I made this tea. This time is far less fruity, which I was disappointed in. The sweetness is dominate taste, true to the website's description.

As dong ding is a heavier roasted oolong, it does taste quite different from the greener Taiwanese ones. Would definitely try out more of this from other vendors.

11 November 2014


One more midterm left and I think I survived alright. Feeling remarkably unstressed about school, which is far more important.

A variety of food photo gathered over the month:

 Roasting squash, which I must admit I'm not very good at.

 Avocado toast is the breakfast of champions (y). Super filling and good contrast in texture.

酸菜鱼 (pickled vegetables fish, or 'sour fish' as I call it).
First time making it from scratch as I now am a proud owner of a pickling jar. The broth turned out alright (would be better if I had fish stock), but the actual fish pieces were bland because of my fear of overcooking the fish meat. Hopefully it'll be more flavourful as leftovers.

28 October 2014


Haven't had a nice view of the sunset in ages, thanks to tall buildings that block the view in virtually every direction. 
You win some and lose some by living downtown. 

Lots of the buildings have full glass facades, which really sucks in term of building science, but do make for a pretty picture reflecting the sunset. 

27 October 2014


Sometime ago I read on the internet about cooking mushrooms in butter and seasoning it with soy sauce. Yesterday I tried that and it was so fucking delicious.

Okay I added rosemary too, which made it all the better. Be good with some garlic too.
It's a simple and quick dish too, especially if you buy pre-sliced mushrooms. Takes < 5mins to come together. In fact I went and bought 2 more boxes of mushrooms today just so I don't have to run out of this.

In other news, persimmons are also an autumn fruit. Think their season just started now that we're ending the apple season. 

Yes this is the mushroom tray, complementary colours ftw.

26 October 2014

The Garden of Words

I'm pretty late to this but Shinkai's latest movie was great. It's my new standard for visual quality now, the opening screen can honestly be mistaken for a filtered photograph.

Everything, and especially the mundane things, are animated so beautifully. The whole movie is just beautiful, of course this includes the soundtrack.

I made the mistake of watching this dubbed and I must say the english voice acting is really annoying. Both main characters just sound a lot more whiny in english, smh. This could just be I'm use to hearing japanese for animes though.


The ending was satisfying too. If 5cm's ending was more bitter than sweet, then this ending was more sweet than bitter. The progression from Takao's confession to him yelling at Yukari to her finally speaking out to the parting and then when he left the shoes at the pavilion was so perfect. It goes to show that their relationship was a success despite not ending up together.

21 October 2014


More tea photos, because of Parkinson's Law (work expands to fill the allotted time).

I really appreciate the ritual of making tea, it forces you to slow down and be mindful of the act you're currently performing. I would definitely feel overwhelmed with school without this act of slowing down. (And this is coming from a week without midterms, but then I just schedule all the extracurriculars now ha..ha...)

Grinding spices for first try at making masala chai.
To be honest it turned out lackluster. Going to try using evapourated milk and a higher tea leaf to water ratio next time to intensify the flavour.

First and second steep of Zhong Shu Hu oolong (slowly making my way through the Tea From Taiwan samples).
Very, very floral, and somewhat sweet. The floral does transform from a high note to a deeper note as the infusions progress.

17 October 2014


A cup of random shou pu er, cold weather calls for darker teas.

This is not a particularly good tea, tasted rather earthy. Might have detected a hint of fish and then mushroom. One day I'll make an order here and try the good stuff.

14 October 2014

stolen days you don’t give back

Although I'm not 100% happy with Apple's direction with the iPhone 6 (here's hoping my 4S lasts forever, actually, I didn't like 4S' shape when it first came out either haha), free U2 album is a nice touch.

This is my favourite song from it.

13 October 2014


After a very stressful 2B term, my attitude towards school this term is a lot more lax.

This change might have been triggered by reading the Mexican fisherman story. It made me accept that not enjoying the present for the sake of the future implies that when the said future becomes the present, I'm equally likely to sacrifice it towards some other "better' future I could be having. Like what this quotation says:
If, while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea[as reward] that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance ... we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact, we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can't wash the dishes, chances are we won't be able to drink out tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future - and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life
(by Thich Nhat Hanh, a buddhist monk)

In that spirit, I did the minimal amount of schoolwork this long weekend and read Eden, its an endless world until pretty late into the night. David highly recommended it, but I thought the story was a little all over the place. (spoilers follow) The ending also seem to say that everything that happened in the story was totally pointless. This does echo the motivation of the "antagonists", which is to create a alternate universe to our current absurd one where almost everyone dies in meaningless ways. The manga does have a good share of everything: adventure, action, emotional scenes, fan service, etc. Thought Swallowed in the Sea would be a good theme song for this.

11 October 2014


Chives' seed pods and other things that are still alive back at home.

09 October 2014


The never-ending boot hunt, updated:

  • Black
  • Covers ankle
  • Narrow opening
  • Preference given to quality leather & craftsmanship 
  • Comfortable (currently at the low points of my sinusoidal affection function for heels)

Leaning towards to the fluevog because their quality is suppose to be good. All depends on that heel height.
Otherwise I'd love the bottom Church pair (minus the price tag, but I can accept that) if the leather wasn't patent. Maybe the Cole Haan would be good, need to check leather quality in person though.

For now I hope this pair gets made in black. 

08 October 2014


Happy to be invited to the Catalyst Canada Honors dinner today, it was tres inspirational as expected.
(cool fact: one of the champions was the mind behind the Dove real-beauty campaigns)

The dinner is to honor those in high level corporate positions who champion for inclusiveness.

A memorable quotation regarding how we've progressed:
The standard went from "look like a lady, act like a man, and work like a dog" to "look however you want, act like yourself, and work like a dog". The last part is hard to get rid off.
Or as Alex says, "hustle is universal"

But the main take away is how these people are using their influence to provide opportunities for others to advance. Things to think about:
  • How to best be a mentor?
  • Generate dialog amongst everyone, men and women, minorities, about inclusion. 
  • What impact do I want to have?
  • Get these people as speakers for the WISE conference haha.

06 October 2014


The good thing about taking photos in manual is there's so little post processing to do.

Presenting sandwich #2:

This time with rye bread, brie cheese, steamed sweet potatoes and beets (better than baked), and basil. If flavour profiles were colour combinations, this sandwich would be analogous. Whereas sandwich 1 would be complementary.

Yeah I don't have much to say these days aside from food.

05 October 2014


This is a green tea that I really enjoy, sorry dragonwell.

According to my mom who very kindly brought it back from China, this particular grade is "sparrow's tongue" (from the leaves' shape I guess). My attempt at tasting notes: vegetal, sweet, and light bodied. Unfortunately the taste only lasted about 3 infusions, but that's partly because I used a very high water to leaves ratio.

 The leaves really do stand up :D


Clearly I care more about cooking than my problem sets. Lots of fall vegetables to round out my last couple meals of meat+grains.

Top left is a tomatillo sauce, recipe via Helane, which is great for dipping steamed root vegs in. The sour kick complements the sweetness of the vegs well.

30 September 2014


First attempt at 回锅肉 (twice cooked meat):

Forgot the most important step of stir-frying the meat to evapourate the moisture before adding veggies, thus did not get a nice char on the meat. T'was still good tasting though.

28 September 2014


Note to self: midday sun does not make for flattering lighting.
Another photography related note: my room gets a brief period of beautiful afternoon light, how does one go about capturing that on camera?

Had a short conversation with my YNCN mentor about not cooking from recipes. Personally, it's out of laziness, it's too much work referring back to a recipe everytime (which is why I rarely bake the same thing twice, even though I loved it the first time). Instead, I want to focus more on ingredients and techniques, which are more versatile. I'll attempt to write future food posts with a focus on those two.

Today's feature is how to construct a sandwich.

This is a successful example of a sandwich. Successful for the following reasons:
  • Bread with substance: aka not homogeneously textured bread from a plastic bag. This bread is via budgetbytes and was a tad overbaked due to my carelessness. Despite that, it still has a fluffy interior and chewy crust.
  • Complementary primary and secondary ingredients: this is a roasted beets sandwich complemented with slightly pickled cucumbers. I'd describe roasted beets as soft, sweet and warming, where fridge pickled cucumbers are the opposite: crunchy (cause homegrown :D), sour and cooling. One bad thing about beets is that it literally stains everything and anything, one must exercise the utmost caution when eating this.
  • Brighter notes of flavour: which is the basil and heavily pickled radish (which is intensely spicy thanks to the pickling jar being filled with chili). A change I would make in future iterations is to arrange the radish and basil in a grid, because the radish easily overpowers the basil, which actually goes quite well with the beets. Previous iteration had mint as the herb, which wasn't as good.