Thursday, July 28, 2011

I got it from my mama.

Something that makes me happy is sporadically ditching my normally-hectic M.O. to slow down and enjoy something. Tonight that something is cooking.

Maybe it's college that instilled the cook-as-fast-as-you-can so you can eat-as-fast-as-you-can method in me. I tend to eat things that are extremely easy to make and often (and sadly), microwaveable. Tonight, since I knew I had to cook for lunch at work tomorrow, I headed to the grocery store.

I spent a good amount of time picking out a recipe by browsing through magazines and searching online and finally settled on Chicken Piccata, courtesy of the lovely Giada De Laurentis. I took my time at the store, a place I often hurry through, and carefully picked out ingredients. 

Then, I went home and made dinner before beginning cooking lunch. (For dinner I attempted to recreate a rice dish with ground beef, spinach, red pepper and lemon juice that a friend's mom made last night). (It was good, but I really need that recipe). 

I admire my friends and family who spend a lot of time cooking and making delicious meals. It's important to nourish your body with good food, especially when you have the means to do so. Come to think of it, everyone who reads this (who I know of) is an excellent cook. Consider yourself envied.

On a side note, when I told my mom I was making chicken piccata, she said she would love some chicken ta-ta-ta, just like the dance cha-cha-cha. 

Where'd I get my crazy from? I got it from my mama.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Warning: dates in calendar are closer than they appear."

Sorry for the week hiatus. It's been a busy one! I had a cooking class with a friend, made a short trip to the farmers' market, met with another friend I never get to see (and the fire alarm at the Pracna went off falsely because of humidity), went to a dinner party, attended the Twins game, had too much fun at a Christmas in July party, then headed over to Tour De Fat, saw Trampled by Turtles at an outdoor plaza and topped it off with some physical exertion at Warrior Dash.

Which led me to the idea--is it good or bad to be so busy?

I tend to lead my life in the fit-in-everything-you-possibly-can sort of fashion. Maybe I inherited the lifestyle from my parents--they were always working, attending a social function or a concert, anything. Just as long as they weren't sitting at home doing nothing. Or maybe I got it from my sisters who pack everything into their lives that they can; I wouldn't call any of them homebodies. Maybe it's because I like to make other people happy too so I arrange events to gather them together. 

On the upside, I have the privilege of seeing a lot of different groups of friends on a pretty regular basis. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote down the names of everyone I saw that week and to see a long list of names made me happy. (I even included Mom and Dad on this list). (You should try this). And as long as we're being honest here, I included seeing different groups of people on my resolutions chart (courtesy of The Happiness Project). In other words, it's a monthly "goal" of mine to spend time at least once with each of the different groups I am a part of.

On the downside, this means a lot of going places and running around and since I'm late to almost everything (I am still working on this, I promise), it means many more opportunities to be late. It also means a lot of driving, because I live far away from everything, like I mentioned here. And the biggest downside is that my extreme lack of sleep inflates to greater proportions. 

Still, I like to be busy. It gives me lots of things to do so I'm never bored, and I obviously do take a breath--once in a while.

"I'm less interested in why we're here.  I'm wholly devoted to while we're here."  -Erika Harris 

**All photos were taken by yours truly, 
except the one of the shoes at Warrior Dash. Thanks MV.

Monday, July 18, 2011

10 Thoughts on Whole Living

I came across this list in the magazine whole living: body + soul in balance

1. Rather than try to fix your body, focus on how you want it to feel.
2. The mark of true confidence is the ability to look someone in the eye.
3. Let the seasons guide your diet. The earth grows what you need, when you need it.
4. Respect your feet. They've mastered the art of staying grounded while moving forward.
5. Take charge of you own reflection: stop letting the mirror win.
6. Enlightenment doesn't always make a grand entrance. It slowly transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.
7. Change happens somewhere between the acceptance of now and the anticipation of what's to come.
8. Don't obsess over weight loss. Wellness is about making you life bigger, not smaller.
9. Surprise yourself: push yourself past your physical limits.
10. Nothing connects you to who you are quite like the people who knew you when.

Here are my responses to this list:

1. Brilliant. It's so important to focus on how you feel, not just how you look.
2. Two of my HK friends who now live in Chicago told me that something had changed about me since we were last together. I think this something was confidence.
3. Try to buy foods in season. They taste better anyway.
4. I have neglected my feet since I was little. Now I'm appreciating them for letting me run, walk, jump and play.
5. This is a work in progress.
6. Everything worth something takes time and effort. Take it from my friend, who blogs about incremental change.
7. I feel like I'm at a point in my life where I'm inside a cocoon, anticipating what is to come.
8. I like this idea.
9. Today I ran at 8.5 mph. I used to be able to only go to 7 mph.
10. I spent last Sunday with my best friend from grade school. We reminisced about our lives from age 9 to 24.

What would be on your list of 10 thoughts on whole living?

Friday, July 15, 2011

"To be, or not to be, that is the question:"

My internal monologue is in a fight with itself.
It can’t decide whether or not it wants to pursue grad school.
It’s been thinking about it ever since it was in college.
It has always thought this was the path for it.
It now has its doubts.

Now that I’ve exhausted my need to talk in the third/odd person, I’ll get real. Academics have always been an integral part of who I am. If I wasn’t making a ridiculously intense study guide for a test that only counted for 5% of my grade, I was overachieving on a PowerPoint presentation with just the right amount of bells and whistles. CSOM at the University of Minnesota requires that you work for two years in a real, big-girl (or guy) position before attempting graduate school. Naturally, my path was going to be to graduate, work for two years, then apply for graduate school. I even was going to take my GMAT and apply early to ensure that I would begin class at the start of the end of my two years of working. Wrong.

It has now officially been two years and a month since I began working in my big-girl job. And while I still have the GMAT in the back of my mind, the test preparation book is collecting dust on my bookshelf that is crowded with materials I actually want to read.

I’ve been looking a lot to the people who surround me for inspiration or motivation in one direction or another.
Two of my best friends are in the psychology field, so basically grad school is already on their life plate. I think this has slightly influenced me. If my friends are going to be so highly educated, maybe I should be too.
Another friend who studied himself crazy for the LSAT for months decided that he actually didn’t want to take it, nor did he want to be a lawyer at all. Then, he moved to Taiwan to study Chinese.
Yet another friend went to grad school and now cannot find a job.
Then I have all my friends who are happily working and would not go back to school even if they were paid to.

The pros are:
Learning from professionals with work experience
Meeting new people who have similar interests
Challenging myself to balance work and school
Having the opportunity to study abroad again (a month at most)

The cons are:
Paying ridiculous amounts for tuition
Buying books and other materials
Driving at least an extra hour each day
Paying for parking
Only being able to do it part time
Balancing work and school
Reducing the size of my paycheck by at least fifty percent
Studying, taking tests, writing papers, doing homework, giving speeches, writing dissertations…

Anyway, some of the things on the cons list are petty, but the fact that I routinely list them as cons probably means that I’m trying to make the cons seem more intense so that I can justify not going to school. Part of me feels like a failure for admitting that I’m not going to have more than an undergraduate degree. The other part says, "who cares?"

I feel a teeny bit excited to finally put this to rest and pursue other things I am passionate about. I’m currently working on a project that has taken up a lot of my time, but because I think the research is fascinating, I know it is important to me. [More on this later].

Is there anything in life you wish you did, but didn’t? Is there something your internal monologue is arguing about?  

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Music is what feelings sound like."

Music has a way of soothing souls and catering to any emotion. Today I am listening to particularly uplifting music that is only making me happy.

Today’s tracks:
One Day – Matisyahu (My newest obsession)
Wavin’ Flag – K’Naan (Not K'Naan, but inspirational)
Anything’s Possible – Jonny Lang (No official video available?)

What songs lift you up? 

[Excerpt from One Day]
All my life I been waitin' for
I been prayin' for, for the people to say
That we don't want to fight no more
They'll be no more wars
And our children will play, one day...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A tale of one city.

Can we just talk about Chicago for a minute?

Can we talk about how it’s one of the best cities in the world? 

How it’s breathtakingly beautiful? 

How despite it being a huge metropolis, it has a lot of green space?

How the city’s architecture is a blend of old and new?

How it's a corporate world, yet filled with art?

How the river and lake bring the beauty of water in?

How it has the feel of a big coast city, but the kindness of a humble Midwest town?

How it is a big tourist city, but has an ever-present residency?

Can we talk about Chicago?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

You can have your salad, and eat it too.

Despite what I want to think, cake sounds better. But better for you? Negative. I found out this past weekend that you can go on vacation and still be healthy. It sounds like an oxymoron, but I feel great having eaten good foods while I was tempted by others.

I met my lovely long-distance friend in Chicago this past weekend and saw how healthy and fabulous she looked. This inspired me to also be healthy and fabulous. Our first mission together was getting lunch. After walking around downtown Chicago for a while, we found a place using Yelp that led us to Water Tower Place. The cafĂ© ended up not being inside the mall, but we discovered a gem anyway. On the M floor of Water Tower Place, there is a “food court.” This food court is a little better than most because there are a lot of healthy options available. We decided on a salad bar that was packed with good stuff. For lunch I had vegetables, a bit of quinoa, a bit of bulgur and some zero-everything dressing. It was delicious!

For dinner, we had sashimi and some sushi rolls and I enjoyed a seaweed salad. Although the rice in the sushi wasn’t what I would call healthy, the meal was still fresher than if I had opted for pizza or pasta.

The next day, we had Mexican food for lunch. I’ll admit I indulged in some chips and guacamole, but I ditched some of the tortillas that came with my tacos and watched my portions. Then, for dinner, we both had salads. Her dressing was fat-free vinaigrette and mine was not so healthy, but on the side, so I ate very little of it and ignored the sad little croutons.

Finally, for breakfast on Sunday, we headed to one of my favorite breakfast/brunch joints,
Yolk, which serves the best food and in a great atmosphere. I’ve been to two locations, and they’re both always hopping with long lines but short waits. We both had egg white omelettes with spinach, feta, and tomatoes and then I had roasted potatoes and wheat toast (dry). It was only in January, on my last trip to Chicago, that I realized you could order toast “dry.” 

Next to the million miles of walking and the two hours of biking we did, the meal choices made me feel good about being healthy. And the most astonishing part of it all was there was absolutely ZERO snacking. What?! The only “snacks” I had were Perrier and Wrigley gum.

But this isn’t just about being healthy on vacation for the purpose of looking good. It’s about health in general. It’s not just about losing a pant size, but about having a healthy heart. And about preventing disease. I want to grow old, and if that’s going to happen, then I must be mindful of what foods and drinks I consume.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt to feel good about the way you look.

"The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage."

In spirit of the American holiday, I'm taking a moment to reflect on what it means to be free.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed." And to demand your own freedom takes a lot of courage. Courage that I don't think I have. I think of all of the people in Egypt who went to the streets to demand something more. I don't know if I could even do that. Or the people who escaped war-torn countries in search of something better. Or the ones who marched on Washington or the ones who escaped sexual trafficking or the ones in any war. To demand freedom from oppression is definitely something commendable.

Maybe it is because I have never felt oppressed that I have never done anything monumental to fight for freedom. I can't imagine joining the armed forces and risking my life for the better of everyone else. It sounds selfish, but the whole idea of it sounds so scary. So I have a lot of respect for the ones who do put themselves out there.

Some of my work supports the soldiers who are fighting for freedom. Some people tell me that I'm supporting war and the killing of innocent people. I think of it as protecting the people who are risking their lives, all for freedom.

What is freedom? 
It can be seen in terms of a country being independent and governed by itself. It can be the freedom to not be held as a slave or hostage by anyone. It can be personal. It might mean that you have the freedom to wear what you want and eat what you want and do what you want and say what you want.

But some might not see those things at small.

What is freedom to you?

One last tidbit from Maya Angelou:

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.