Monday, June 27, 2016

Confidence, Anxiety, and Allergies

In a rare moment of respite from the ceaseless demands of teacherhood, I find the time to expand upon an old draft. The idea is this: allergies is to health as anxiety is to confidence. Both are permanent, but not continuous, and they are not opposites to their respective measure. I find it very frustrating when people conflate anxiety as the opposite of confidence. I am a very confident person; I also happen to have anxiety. Most people are, for the most part, robustly healthy. These robustly healthy individuals may also have allergies, but they are not considered "unhealthy" simply because they have allergies. It is a condition that causes symptoms, but in no way impacts one's measure of health. Same goes for anxiety. A confident person may have symptoms of anxiety from time to time, but having such symptoms does not diminish their confidence level. Sometimes someone who has anxiety may not be confident, just as someone who has allergies may be unhealthy, but it is in no way a pre-condition that permanently impacts health. ◊

Friday, June 24, 2016

Food Friday #028 — Famous Bao

Again, this is a scheduled post from my week and a half in Berkeley. This time, Kelly, Kyle, and I visited a brand new restaurant on Durant Avenue: Famous Bao. Contrary to their name, they don't serve baozi (steamed buns) yet, but their noodle soup is amazing. Pictured is the ox-tail noodle soup, which is one of the few non-spicy options. The meat is cooked to perfection and the noodles are hand pulled. Of all the Chinese food I've eaten in Berkeley, this is definitely the most authentic. The wait staff are a little inexperienced, so they could definitely work on service development, but since I am bilingual, communication wasn't an issue. ◊

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

#obsessed: Once In a While — Timeflies

Surprisingly, it's been a while since I've done a #obsessed music post. I guess I've been busy with finals and moving around. Also, I've gotten back into EDM (somewhat) and catchy pop tunes have taken a back seat. They've made a comeback as the background music of Breakthrough orientation, so, recently, I "discovered" this song from Timeflies, whom I have done a post on before. Not only does it have the most catchy xylophone-esque hook and a funky, fun music video, the lyrics are also pure gold. Examples include:
"Once in a while, I ask myself // What am I doing? // Once in a while, I need your help // But once in a while I feel like // I just wanna dance // I feel good" 
"I live life like my blood type, B positive"
"I've been looking at where we're going // There's no slowin' down to go back // And thinking of where we've been // No one's ever been given a road map // Say "Slow down, turn here, graduate and work here // Come and get a raise when you finish up your first year" // No, if you're doing it, you're doing it right // Keep it movin', now tell me what you're doing tonight // Cause sometimes we're up, sometimes we're down // Don't worry about anyone else"
While we're on this happy topic, I'd also like to shoehorn in some thoughts about "trigger warnings." Today I had an eye opening experience about trigger warnings and their purpose in life. Contrary to many a popular opinion about their existence as "The Coddling of the American Mind," trigger warnings aren't meant to induce a mass exodus of sensitive crybabies from college classrooms because they wish to avoid participation. On the contrary, they're there to ensure that those who are sensitive are better prepared mentally to participate in a discussion, and won't miss it due to being caught off guard about these topics and subsequently having a panic attack, as I experienced today.

It's the same logic to why someone says, “High five,” before holding up their hand and swinging it towards you. You have a second to react and process that info so you can hold up your hand as well, instead of them swinging their hand towards you unexpectedly and inadvertently slapping you in the face. This New York Times article does a wonderful job of rebutting the Atlantic article linked previously. I realize that I have not been considerate of using trigger warnings either, but from now on, I strive to make it a part of my everyday interactions. It's simply polite, takes no time at all, and makes the experience enjoyable for everyone. ◊

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunny in Sacramento

End of the semester in Berkeley, two weeks in Almaden, a week in Seattle, a week and a half back in Berkeley, and now, I am currently in Sacramento, where I will stay for the next nine weeks teaching 7th grade writing in a summer program.

I arrived via train, with more than my weight in luggage. The train is pleasant. The walkways have plenty of space, the windows wide and full of light, the seats are cushy and clean. There is no crying baby, no turbulence, no weary smell of tiredness to disturb my contemplation. The ride through central California is a tranquil experience. Occasional glances outside reveal rolling swathes of golden fields upon endless golden field; ships so large and utilitarian and far away that they look like nothing more than a lego piece; a sign on the side of a house reads "Banjo Lessons." Further inland, the ground is so flat that it is impossible to discern between earth and water. The ships, lying in view, unobstructed, resemble ambling rhinos in the savannah. The minutes fly by seemingly in the blink of an eye, and the ships are nothing more than a hazy, surreal memory.

It was a struggle, but I made it out of the train station and into the van that took me to my homestay. I hit the jackpot: the single house was empty, the family on vacation yet the pantry still stocked, the school where I work is right across the street. I settle in, exhausted, and sink into a dreamless sleep.

The first few days are orientation. The real work has not yet begun, but I have not been so tired in a very long time. I find myself pushed back into to pre-college routines: early bedtimes, early mornings. I swallow my social anxiety and dash out the door, and I'm instantly punched by a burst of energy that doesn't die throughout the week. My energy dwindles day by day, my outfits and hair become progressively more and more disheveled. Saturday is not the weekend, we train and we visit the city. The white and grey buildings stand out crisply against the endlessly blue sky. We see the capitol building, a church, the city hall, a comic convention. Today finally brings rest; I allow myself to laze around in bed until noon. Then there's work to be done. Make postcards, design t-shirts, blog, grocery shopping, and go to bed early to get up on Monday again. ◊

Friday, June 17, 2016

Food Friday #027 — Kimchi Garden

Being back in Berkeley without a meal plan means A) getting extremely creative with limited ingredients (think chili ramen) or B) giving up on cooking and eating out. The second day, after chili ramen options were exhausted, I headed out with Kyle and Kelly to try some more of the local food options. I meant to do that during the school year, but being tired every day and having meal points to burn meant I ate at the dining hall more often than not. Luckily, I made up for that in the week and a half I was here.

We arrived at Kimchi Garden, a place a bit further off the beaten path, as it is inside a corridor near Asian Ghetto. Not knowing what to get, I ordered the special of the day, the chicken teriyaki plate. Ordering was super easy as the cashier was extremely helpful and patient. The service was quick and the food was decent, but I feel like I can't comment legitimately on that as I was feeling nauseous that day. The portion was huge; I could only finish about 2/3 of the plate. My only criticism would be the atmosphere, as the setting was quite bare and the entertainment/decor amounted to a TV screen playing inaudible rap music videos.

 I'm not in Berkeley at the time this was published, but I wanted to space out the Food Fridays to Fridays only, so the next few are probably scheduled as well. To be honest, I'm not sure if I should continue this series because I don't enjoy writing these posts as much. It would be more useful and interesting to make home recipes. However, it does encourage me to get out of the house a bit more and try new things, so even if the posts aren't great, they do serve that purpose. ◊

Monday, June 13, 2016

Doing Things & Lip Creams

As my week and a half in Berkeley draws to a close, I find myself scrambling to complete all of the things I've procrastinated on. After settling in on Sunday, rallying on Monday, voting on Tuesday, powering through readings and responses on Wednesday through Friday, and shopping on Saturday, I find myself with only two days left to take care of all the miscellaneous adult things, like housing, that I need to do in Berkeley. On another serious note, in light of all the recent tragedies (Christina Grimmie, Orlando nightclub, and more) and a sleepless night due to coffee and social anxiety, I have found myself mentally and emotionally overwhelmed.

A bad habit of mine, which is unfortunately a go-to coping mechanism, is stress shopping. The first item on my to-do list was the Livescan fingerprinting, but Apple maps sent me to a location that was not the Livescan office. It was on Telegraph Avenue, but this far down Telegraph was unfamiliar territory. I wandered up and down the street until I decided to go into a large establishment to ask for directions. A block down was a CVS, where I saw a stand for NYX through the window. I had heard a lot of good things about the NYX Soft Matte Lip Creams, but I've looked for them multiple times at Target and they've always been sold out. When I saw them in the window at CVS, my impulses got the better of me. I immediately swooped in and grabbed three, despite the markup. I reasoned that I bought one for each of the things I did (or would be doing) today: completing my Livescan, mailing out all my forms, and figuring out housing.

Many shades were sold out, but I picked out three that I was familiar with and knew were popular: London (mid-tone beige), Stockholm (mid-tone beige pink), and Copenhagen (matte rich plum). They remind me of the Kylie Lip Kit, though I'm not sure which ones they're exact dupes for. Right now I'm wearing Stockholm, which I'm very satisfied with, but I'm not going to post a photo because the rest of my face is icky. I wish London were a slightly darker shade of brown as it somewhat blends in with my skin, but the next shade is far too dark.

The formula and applicator are easy to use, but I wish I had read the reviews before buying. My lips are fairly full and I have a lot of ridges in them — this lip cream shows every single one of them (though it's not too bad from a distance). Also, it's something I'd be more likely to wear on an "airbrushed" face of makeup to achieve a flat, smooth look with a well defined lip instead of something I can pop on just by itself. The three of these cost just over $20 with tax, so it's not a horrible loss if something goes wrong, but I'd have to wear them more to really see the value. ◊

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Day Off

Despite the fact that I haven't done much this past week, I decided to officially take the day off today. This week has been a mess of stress and social anxiety, so it was quite nice to reset from the grouchiness. Kelly took a Zipcar to the Bay Street Ikea, so I tagged along for the ride in order to watch X-Men: Apocalypse at the AMC Theater. Berkeley's theaters are nice, but I feel that action movies should always be watched on the biggest screen possible to get the best effect. Plot-wise, the movie was a bit disappointing, but I wanted to watch it because I absolutely love the X-Men as characters, so I don't regret it. I'll write more about the movie further down in the post, so if you haven't watched it you can avoid mild spoilers.
While I was at Bay Street, I also went shopping. I arrived at 10:30AM, but the movie wasn't until 1:30PM so I had three hours to kill. Originally, I only needed to buy a one-piece bathing suit. I'm working at a summer program in Sacramento so I can't wear a two-piece, but all the stores I went to — H&M, Old Navy, and Forever 21 — didn't have any suitable one-pieces in store. I also checked at Ross, but they didn't have anything under a size 8. Also, I figure if Sacramento summers are going to be hot but I'm not allowed to wear shorts, then the next best option is to have a lot of dresses and skirts on hand. I'm glad I decided to go shopping because H&M has a ton of affordable summer dresses and skirts right now. I bought a versatile black skater dress and a maxi skirt with the color/pattern of the background of the movie ticket photo. Ideally I'd have more belts to accessorize with, but that takes effort, so this will do.

Every time I'm at Bay Street, I can't resist visiting Lush. Somehow I always end up buying far more stuff than I need, but I can't help it! Everything smells so good (and now I smell good too). Their current theme was Father's Day products. In the first photo of this post, on the left is the 'Thanks Dad' soap. It's a bit of a smaller soap, but it's not as expensive either. It really is that neon color in real life and it smells amazing, like sunshiney oranges. I honestly don't want to use it because I'd rather keep it on my desk for scent. In the middle is 'The Modfather' bubble bar. It doesn't smell as strong as the soap as it is a bubble bar, but the in-store demo created a beautiful blue color. It also is less expensive than a typical bubble bar due to its size, but I figure I could get three or four uses out of it in the tiny apartment bathtub. On the right is the 'Buffy' body butter. I was hesitant about buying this one for a number of reasons. One, it was the most pricey of all the things I picked out. Two, I've tried the Rub Rub Rub Body Scrub, and while I really wanted to like it, it completely melted in the shower (it was tragic). Three, it's listed as a body butter, while I was looking for more of an exfoliating product. However, after the sales associate gave me a demo of how it worked, I was hooked. It's a very gentle soothing exfoliation. I usually don't feel comfortable chatting with sales associates in stores, but Lush has that atmosphere and the associates are always super friendly and expert at finding what you need. You'd think that Lush is more intimidating because the associates are always trying to rub soaps and whatnot on your arms, but while some people really hate it, I love it — it's quite relaxing.

Finally, to make a visit to Lush truly worth it, there are the samples. My main concerns were summer weather and splotchy skin, but it's difficult for me to invest in expensive Lush products without knowing how they'd react to my skin. Two associates helped me with this actually, and one said that Vanishing Cream was the product that fully fixed her skin. It's almost $50 a unit, so this sample was a must-try. The bottom sample is the Ayesha fresh face mask, which is the only fresh face mask to date that I have not tried. I don't know why I've overlooked this one because from its description it sounds perfect: "refresh tired-looking skin," "soothing red areas." I suppose it's because I lean towards exfoliating face masks, but I'm excited to try this one out.
I spent way more time in Lush than I had anticipated so by the time I left the store, there were only 20 minutes left until the movie was scheduled to begin. I had a chicken and bacon slice at what I believe was my first time eating at Pizza My Heart. For some reason every time some kid in elementary school brought leftover Pizza My Heart to school for lunch the next day, it always looked really unappetizing, so I assumed that I wouldn't like it. There weren't any other fast food places available so I didn't have much of a choice, but to my surprise, I really liked it!

Now, for the movie. Potential spoilers under the image, so read at your own risk.

Regarding the movie, despite negative reviews, I decided to watch it because I love the X-Men, even more so than the Maximoffs in the Avengers (though arguably the Maximoffs are X-Men as well due to their connection as Magneto's children in certain plots). Magneto is always a fascinating villain because he is so good at heart and he was truly the star of the show in this movie as well (Apocalypse-who?).

Unfortunately, time travel confuses the f*ck out of me, so I would have liked to have gone in with a better understanding of the consequences of the previous movie, Days of Future Past. The main villain seemed to have come about fairly spontaneously rather than as a consequence of a previous action, which is usually more compelling. For those who watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Apocalypse is reminiscent of Hive. Hive:Inhumans::Apocalypse:Mutants, in a nutshell.

As a result, the movie spent a lot of time setting up the plot, but somehow the Four Horsemen weren't very well introduced (Psylocke is who??). They also spent a lot of time building up Apocalypse as a Big Bad, but it didn't make much sense. I remember looking at the time and wondering how they were going to solve the problem, but of course, Jean Grey does a Jean Grey thing and everyone lives happily ever after. Still, it was great to see some of my favorite characters again —  Mystique, Nightcrawler, the Beast, and many more — as well as a really cool cameo of by far one of my favorite characters ever in the entire Marvel universe, Wolverine (though he was more of a deranged beast-man than the snarky Logan from earlier movies, see gifs). Constantly proving himself as another of my favorite characters in whichever studio universe he exists, Quicksilver's scenes were pure beauty.

The movie felt more like a clean-up for Days of Future Past to set the line straight in order to have a solid foundation for future movies than a good standalone movie. The plot is fairly predictable. I would even go as far as to say that the trailer is an adequate summary of the movie. If you like the X-Men go watch it, but if you want a really satisfying movie, it's not worth the ticket. ◊

Friday, June 10, 2016

Food Friday #024 — Sushirrito

On June 7, 2016 I travelled a total of five hours from Berkeley to San Jose to vote for the first time. Unfortunately, I forgot to save a picture of the ordeal, but this was an important moment. Not only was I completing an important rite (pun intended) of adulthood, but the year being 2016 meant it was a presidential primary. The previous day, I had travelled a total of three hours to attend a Bernie Sanders rally at Crissy Field in San Francisco. When we arrived, the line stretched further than the eye could see. The weather was foggy and damp, but the mood was not.

Unfortunately, now that the California primaries are over, there's nothing else to say there. This being a Food Friday post, let's talk about the first two pictures instead. On the way to the bus station from the Bart station, Kelly and I walked past what I would bluntly describe as a hole-in-the-wall. To our surprise, the signage above said "Sushirrito." If you are unfamiliar with the San Francisco born concept, it is exactly what it sounds like: a sushi in the size and form of a burrito. The establishment has no seating, just a kitchen with an order window. The sushirritos are ordered off the tv screen menu with very little modification allowed, though I did ask for the wasabi powder to be left off because I can't eat spicy food.

In terms of review, I would say that the sushirrito was worth what I paid; I couldn't finish an entire sushirrito. It's great for on-the-go because the service is fast and it comes pre-cut in a paper box. I would have liked if they had more non-spicy options, but that's bearable. Would I visit again? Probably, but only if I didn't have any new options to try. ◊

Thursday, June 9, 2016

#obsessed — Montalbano Solid Shampoo Review

If you've read this blog before, you probably know that I'm a huge Lush fan. I love their bath bombs, bubble bars, lotions, soaps and face masks. Unfortunately, not all of their products work for me as they cater to a diverse range of skin types. It takes me a while before I am ready to try a new product and work it into my routine, especially without a sample, so I was initially skeptical when I bought this solid shampoo bar. The Lush associate recommended it based off of my description of hair that gets very oily at the end of the day, the need for volume and shine, and my love of citrus scent. She explained how to use it as rubbing the bar around my head three times and then using my hands as I would with normal shampoo, but I found that I needed a bit more scrubbing with the bar than a light go-around. My primary concerns were that it wouldn't lather, would be drying, and would crumble in the shower, like the Rub Rub Rub Solid Shower Scrub did. To my delight, it exceeded all expectations. I briefly introduced it in this post, but a friend requested that I do a review once I use it so she would be able to know what it was like, so without further ado, a few more details.

First of all, this made traveling through the TSA a cinch. I would have had to bring so many travel size bottles for a weeklong trip, but this little bar has 80 washes, so there is no chance that it would run out. My first thought when I actually used it was that it made my hair incredibly easy to brush through. With liquid shampoo, I like to brush out my hair in the shower while the water is running through it and it is full of lather so that it doesn't tear as easily when it dries. Even so, I often comb out large wads of hair. With the shampoo bar, the brush glided easily through my hair, even though it didn't create large volumes of lather. When my hair dried, I combed through again, and it was just as easy without ripping out large chunks of hair. I was also amazed at how smooth and soft my hair was without conditioner. It did give my hair volume as well, with the added benefit of not feeling like I had product or residue in my hair. One con that I might mention is that it doesn't bubble up as quickly as liquid shampoo. It doesn't affect the shampoo's performance, but as a person who typically uses a lot of shampoo, it feels like something is missing.

Overall, I am highly impressed with this shampoo bar. Hopefully, as time goes on and the bar gets smaller, it won't disappoint. If this entire bar performs as well as it has in these first two washes, I am making the switch permanently to having solid Lush shampoo in my routine. ◊

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Seattle: A Summary

All good things must come to an end, and thus did my trip to Seattle conclude. On the second to last day, Friday, we visited the University of Washington and made another trip to Pike Place. UDub was admittedly very pretty, but I still prefer Berkeley. Suzzallo Library's soaring, arched, Collegiate Gothic ceilings remind me of Hogwarts, but are a bit dark for my taste, compared to the Neo-Classical style of Doe Library here.

One of the things I miss most about Seattle (this is #basic, but bear with me) is the abundance of Starbucks. There is literally a Starbucks every two blocks. I was able to try the Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, which might be one of my new favorite drinks (very well balanced flavor), though I was unable to find a store that offered the Nitro Cold Brew. Pike Place is also the home of the original Starbucks store, but I've heard that it's not worth a trip inside due to the line.

Finally, we went back to the DonutCat stand. I don't know what it is about them, but DonutCats are amazing. They come in two sizes, regular and mini, and between the both of us, Kelly and I bought three mini DonutCats. Seeing how much we loved the toys, Skye Saylor, the creator of DonutCats, allowed us to take the Mon DonutCat out and about Pike Place. We went to the Seattle Gum Wall, Beecher's Handmade Cheese, and Piroshky Piroshky Bakery (if you walk past and smell it you will know why it was a must-try). It was an incredibly fun experience, and it made that day oh-so sweet.

I also made a vlog of the trip, something I've been meaning to try for a long time. I did forget to vlog a lot of parts, such as hiking near Mount St. Helens, visiting the University of Washington, and taking Mon DonutCat around Pike Place, but overall, the vlog turned out just fine. The clips are set to the Owl City song "Hello Seattle" (and thus ads may appear by the copyright holder) which I found fitting to the experience. I may continue to vlog in the future if I travel more and it's not too much work, but overall, it was a wonderful trip and a fun project to work on. ◊

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Mount St. Helens & Pike Place

Pike Place Public Market Center Farmers Market
There are two things in Seattle (that I've experienced so far) that never go as predicted: a) the weather, and b) plans. That's not necessarily a bad thing; the forecast called for sunny skies in the upper-70's/low-80's this week, but instead, this afternoon has brought a healthy dose of the cloudy grays Seattle is known for. Later this evening, a soft rain seems eminent. I dodged a bullet coming here, as it will be high 80's and 90's in San Jose.

Mount St. Helens and Spirit Lake Panorama

As for plans, the week began with a dearth of ideas, though by Monday evening, a tentative schedule emerged. Tuesday, Pike Place and Chihuly Glass; Wednesday, hiking local hills; Thursday, University of Washington; Friday, Pacific Science Center; Saturday, flight to Berkeley. Unfortunately, the hike at Mount St. Helens on Monday wore me out more than I thought it would, so Wednesday turned into a day of rest. Thursday morning Megan was sick, so UDub was postponed as well. Luckily, these two days have given me plenty of time to catch up on blogging. I'm still quite exhausted so this writing is not my best, but I wanted to share some of the amazing experiences I've had so far in Seattle.

Mount St. Helens

To review, Monday was a hike at Mount St. Helens, almost 100 miles south of Seattle. The lengthy drive along the highway led me to muse about the distinctions between cities of the West Coast. I found only subtle differences between Seattle and San Jose — the land off the side of the highways a little more rugged, the trees growing a little denser, a little greener. The parks, however, were all the same — piles of rock with green stuff. I've never been a fan of hiking, but Megan is. To her, the 8 miles we climbed that day was just a "little walk." To me, it was the most exercise I've done in months. When I took a shower this morning, I'm pretty sure it looked like my legs were purple. It was a new experience, but not one that I'm eager to replicate any time soon.

Cascade Range and Spirit Lake Panorama

Tuesday, in an attempt to combat the soreness by "walking it off," we went to downtown Seattle via bus. At first, when we arrived at Pike Place, I wasn't sure what there was to do. After walking around a bit, smelling the delicious baked goods at Piroshky Piroshky, seeing the first Starbucks (as the birthplace of Starbucks Coffee, there is a store literally every two blocks, and I'm desperate to try out the new cold brews that are only available in Seattle), and eating a very scrumptious, very overpriced Caribbean pork sandwich, it seemed like there wasn't much to do at all. Feeling mildly disappointed, we walked into the marketplace itself. Strolling around for a few minutes, I understood why Pike Place was a landmark. The market is amazing. It has so many things, from farmer's market peaches bursting with aroma, to local artisans with handmade crafts, including the adorable DonutCat. We even saw two rounds of the famous fish toss. Reenergized, we took another trip around, stopping by the Local Color coffee shop, Beecher's Handmade Cheese, and Ellenos Greek Yogurt stand.

Ellenos Greek Yogurt at Pike PlaceDonut Cat Pastry Pals Snap and Share Keychain by Marnin and Saylor

Next was the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. The pieces were beautiful, but fairly repetitive. My favorite display comes close between the Persian ceiling and the Mille Fiori room. There's no way to describe it through words and do it justice (at least, not without prodigious talent out of my reach). To keep this post from stretching on too long, I'll let the photo collages speak for themselves. I'm sure there are plenty of photos online as well if you're interested in admittedly better quality or larger images (or visit in person if you're ever in Seattle!) With that, the day was over. We're definitely going back on Friday to explore a bit more (and hopefully I won't be as sore).

Chihuly Garden and Glass Chihuly Garden and Glass Display Collage Chihuly Garden and Glass Display Collage