Lessons Learned

When this year started, I had the intentions of blogging a lot more than I'm blogging now. Suddenly we're almost a third over with 2015 and I've probably blogged about three times since 2015 started which surely isn't doing me any favors. 

Time flies and bam, seven years have passed since I've first started blogging. 

There's something about New Tier of Education, New You (this sounded better in my head and a lot more catchier) that I've almost always believed in throughout my childhood. I was magically going to go through a transformation in high school (still waiting for my High School Musical transformation here), then as I got to college, I was magically going to become a butterfly.

JK, nope, still pretty awkward as evidenced by the seemingly lack of a transformation as 5-year old pictures show.

But recently, au contraire to what I think, looking back at my blog (seven years in the making in a couple of weeks), I have changed and learned a lot. Learning and growing is in the passive, fleeting moments, in the moments where moments where the world seems to be crashing down (#teenageangst), and in the moments where you're happy. I may not have everything I thought I'd have before reaching the grand old age of 20 but here are some lessons that I've learned over the years:

1. Workouts, including early morning ones, aren't as bad as they would seem.
Hitting the gym early means that it's not packed and I've learned to enjoy working out, which I never thought was possible. Grabbing a friend to go with you is key in the early stages, I've learned, since there's more motivation to get up and get to the gym when there's someone expecting you.

2. Saying no and that you can't please everybody.
It's not that "No" was never in my vocabulary because but it wasn't until recently I've learned to say no to people, even if there's an initial unhappiness. There's always going to be someone who's upset and it's hard for me to say no, especially when someone in the equation will be upset but believing in yourself and your ideas is important. It's taken me a really long time and it's still a work in progress to really reconcile myself with the idea that saying no will not really harm me in the long run.

3. The path to happiness is never a straight path.
There's a great graphic where people's idea of success is a straight upward path whereas in reality it's a bunch of squiggles that are somewhat in an upward incline. I do a lot of things for fun that leave a lot of people scratching their heads but it all makes sense to me. It's taken me a while to find what I like and dislike as well as my hobbies but I'm also thankful for the lessons I've learned along the way.

4. Do whatever the hell you feel is right. 
Of course there are limits to this but I used to, and still to do a certain degree, care what other people think. I used to get teased for reading classics when I was younger and it was something that I would hide but honestly, if I didn't read that many classics when I did, I probably would've never read them since I find myself a lot more strapped for time as I get older. My parents have always said for the longest time people whose judgements I fear, I wouldn't see again in the next few years and it turns out that parents are right. On a minor scale it's making a fool of myself at the Metropolitan Museum trying to imitate a Greek statue as seen above and on a larger scale, it's pursuing a career trajectory filled with two opposing disciplines.

5. Best friend inside jokes somehow will be amusing three years, five years down the line. 
Some things never change. The silly joke about alpacas and sheep, with it's original meaning long gone will always hold a special place. The joke about friendship will keep on going on even if one person has a blurry recollection of the initial event.

Maybe it's not about a transformation a la HSM but a slow maturation like Neville Longbottom. One can hope right?

Joking, joking.

What are some things you've learned over the years? 

DIY| Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng card

I have no idea how time flew by and how it's March already. It seems like it was only last week that I was standing on a chair on my tiptoes in the common room in my post-workout gear, shooting some of my favorite Asian food staples. It was early morning and much to my chagrin, one of my suitemates just woke up and came out, seeing my somewhat precarious situation. 

But looking back, a half-month full of early morning workouts and insanely cold temperatures (you know it's bad when you have no idea if the temperature you're given is in Celsius or Fahrenheit; is it -20 in Celsius or Fahrenheit? It turns out it was the latter.) has passed. Phew. 

The last DIY I made was about the book of 2012 book so it's only fitting that the next DIY I post is about the 2014 book. Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You is one of my favorite 2014 books and I'm so incredibly happy that it's gotten the recognition that it deserves and more. 

I adore the fact that it's about a Chinese-American family exploring a multitude of things-- family, identity, meaning of life, but I also love the fact that the book ultimately transcends race. It's not just a book about race, but a book about how to love, how to deal with grief, and more. There were so many moments where I was able to connect. 

If you haven't read the book yet, seriously, get on it. Even Buzzfeed has

CNY 2015 | Sheep in Literature and Pop Culture

One of my favorite holidays growing up other than Christmas was Chinese New Year. While Christmas was mostly an excuse to exchange presents (#consumerism), Chinese New Year was an excuse to eat good food, relax and be merry.

Since most of the time I never got Chinese New Year off (my school started giving the day off sometime in high school), my family just ate foods that took slightly more work than the foods we'd normally eat throughout the week. At night, my parents would turn on the TV to catch the elaborate Chinese New Year festivities that always aired on Chinese TV while I went back to doing homework.

I'm back to not having school off on Chinese New Year and last year, the dining halls made an effort to have some Chinese foods (though it was a far cry from Chinese food). I spent the night watching the broadcast of Chinese New Year Gala with some international friends from down the hall.

This year is the year of the sheep. My friends joked that it was my year since I tend to associate myself with sheep (it's less of a love of sheep and more of a play on words with my last name). I've decided to celebrate the sheep in literature and pop culture.

DIY// Valentine's Day Cards

Pablo Neruda Valentine's Day Cards

Your easy-peasy way to get Valentine's Day out of the way-- or at least the card portion of it. 

DIY Where'd You Go Bernadette Card

Winter break for me ended quite uneventfully (unless you count the plane ride back when a passenger broke the overhead bin or the fact that the x-ray machine for luggages broke for a good 15 minutes in security). I'm back in the grind of school and unforgiving chilly winds of winter with snowstorms here and there, which for me is the deal breaker in this whole whole business. Not the school part, just the weather part.

But the weather leaves me with a good excuse to stay indoors and curl up with a book or two while sipping hot chocolate or tea. Occasionally, I'll DIY something if I have time.

Over break, I made some bookish cards to send out and some to keep. Where'd You Go Bernadette was such a card that I kept. 

Where'd You Go Bernadette is probably the book of 2012. I bought it late 2013 but I didn't read it until last summer. It's an epistolary novel about a woman named Bernadette Fox living in Seattle who finds so Seattle insufferable that she has an assistant in India do even the most basic jobs. To her husband, Bernadette is opinionated. To her daughter, she's just Mom. Yet to other private school moms, Bernadette is a disgrace and a nuisance. One day, Bernadette takes off and Bee, Bernadette's daughter is left to figure it all out. 

I really liked the book as well as the cover so I thought I'd do a tutorial on how to make a Where'd You Go Bernadette card. For those who are curious, Keith Hayes, who's an art director at Little, Brown according to LinkedIn,  designed the cover. Talking Covers has a great interview with both Maria Semple, the author, and designer Keith Hayes about the cover

Travel// Welcome to New York

There's something about New York-- the perpetual flow of people no matter the weather and the liveliness of the whole city that makes it so incredibly fun to go to. My parents don't understand my fascination with the city-- what do you do everytime you go?

Go places, of course. There are so many quaint neighborhoods in New York and it's impossible to see all of them at once. On one recent trip, I went to East Village for the first time and it was really different from the usual New York that I see, with indie shops and for the first time in my life, I saw a part of New York where Starbucks aren't dotted all over the place.

The words "New York" always refer to NYC for me. When I went away from the East coast for the first time, I would say "New York" and people would ask, "the city or the state?". In my mind, it's always the city and sometimes forget that there's more to New York than the city.

New York is always and will be, an adventure.

Tech Meets Books// The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

I don't normally read science fiction but I made an exception for Fox Chronicles. I don't normally read fantasy (or books with love triangles either) but I made an exception for The Kiss of Deception. Mary E. Pearson always brings out the unexpected in me and I always find myself enjoying myself as I read genres I don't normally read.

It's either me or the book. 

The book is usually the right answer.

I adore Pearson's writing and I am quick to tell all my acquaintances to go read her books, much to everyone's chagrin because my thought flow only makes sense to me. Drinking coffee and talking about how organic chemistry is puzzling? Oh, you should read Fox Chronicles*. What? 

But it does make for a good blog post. 

I think. 

The first Tech Meets Books wallpaper was the one that I made for Fox Forever and it's strangely fitting that the last wallpaper that I make for 2014 is for Kiss of Deception because 2014 is the Mary E. Pearson Forever Year of Deception (I have no idea what that means but it's the best that I could do trying to combine the two titles. Please do not try to make any sense out of this because trust me, it makes no sense.)

Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson wallpaper
For the full-size wallpaper without the watermark, click below the jump

5 Gift Wrapping Ideas to Make Any Gift into a Book-Inspired Gift

Perhaps it's the DIY-addict in me but I love seeing presents that are personalized and wrapped. Even if you didn't get your book lover friend, neighbor, cousin, third-cousin-once-removed or best friend for life a book, there are always ways to make whatever you got your friend, neighbor, cousin, third-cousin-once-removed or BFFL into a book-inspired gift. 

Although this illusion only lasts until your recipient opens their gift, which I'm sure is amazing because you put it together, it's still a nice personalized touch. 

13 Places to Donate Your Books to This Holiday Season

I've been breathing Christmas as soon as finals ended. I jumped into making holiday cards (screw Buzzfeed, mid-December is perfectly fine time to make and mail Christmas cards.) The post office line was not kind but I did manage to save some time by buying holiday Forever stamps a couple of visits back.

Despite the fact that my family isn't into the whole Christmas thing and the fact that I am a bit too into the Christmas consumerist culture of tacky bright lights, ugly sweaters, trees and hot chocolate, I somehow manage to survive Christmas with my family.


But as the years go on and the books pile up from the months earlier, I've worried about the burgeoning state of my bookshelves (and my room) so this year, I've compiled a list of places you can donate your books to. I've tried my best to include local and national so I hope you can find somewhere that suits your interest!

Tech Meets Books// I like big books and cannot lie

I've been in a holiday mood way before Thanksgiving, much to my chagrin. It's not even Thanksgiving yet, my inner self screamed. Now that Thanksgiving is over, there's nothing stopping me from being in the holiday cheer, maybe except for finals.

I love a good sweater. I live in sweaters, especially now that the polar vortex is supposedly worse than last year's (yikes!). In the words of my friend, unbelievable. It's supposed to snow a lot more this year, which I'm not looking forward to, either. Where's the good weather? In lieu of good weather, I'm presenting you holiday vibes instead, because that and books will ward off all the nasty snow, cold and wind chill.


This winter, ugly sweaters and books unite.

Download the wallpaper without the watermark below the jump

Review// Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret C. Sullivan

Trends come and go but Jane is forever 

I've been a fan of Jane Austen for a long time now, since middle school but unlike my love for Winnie-the-Pooh, it wasn't love at first sight. Rewind two-years before my love for Jane Austen when I chanced upon Pride and Prejudice in the classroom library that consisted of Tupperware containers (yes, I was that young), I really disliked Austen. Granted, the only English classic I liked at that point was Sherlock Holmes, despite the fact that "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" scared me (It still does, a bit.) 

Fast forward to today--I've got a collection of Austen paperbacks and various Jane Austen products from a Pemberly pennant to a Jane Austen journal. Enter Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers from stage left. It combines a lot of things I really enjoy-- history, graphic design, and Austen. It's almost as if it had my name on it. 

Mobile Apps for Exercise and Health

Like most people my age, my phone is part of my life, as much as I wish it wasn't. I have apps to check my email, the weather, my schedule, online shopping, books, etc. The last time I did a mobile app round up was back in June when I updated my list of apps that I use to help me blog and be more productive in general and I thought I'd do another list of apps that help me be accountable with exercise and health. 

Mobile Apps for Health and Exercise

Let's Discuss// Balancing Blogging With Life

There's something fascinating about people who live dual lives. 

Blogger-slash-student. That duality has always fascinated me and I've invited some of my favorite blogger-students to share their experiences about balancing blogging with school and some of lessons learned. 

Social Media Grind

social media purgeBut in all honestly, I find it a little tiring that I'm bombarded with notifications and that there's an expectation to respond immediately

Over the past four days, I caught up on sleep (I've never felt this exhausted and so great after 12+ hours of sleep), shows and Buzzfeed.

One can never have too much Buzzfeed.

I realized that I really, sometimes just want to be a recluse, in a joking "I went outside and died" t-shirt kind of way. We live in a culture where everything is instant-- our foods are fast, our internet needs to be fast, our TV shows better be online within 24 hours, and that guy you like should respond to you ASAP.  I jokingly said to a friend that I was going to go on a social media purge and she looked at me.