0 In awaken

Reaching Goals / Keeping Resolutions

Bah, I can’t believe January is basically over. How is everyone doing with their resolutions? 🙂

Did you know the second Friday of the year is known as “Quitter’s Day?” Apparently, that’s the day most people start quitting their resolutions. 12 days! I sort of understand – when people make resolutions, they also have these grand images of themselves being a better person. A different person. The problem is, change is a process, and progress can be slow. You don’t just suddenly become fit or successful. The imagination of motivation can only get you so far.

After I posted my resolutions a couple weeks ago, I got discouraged pretty quickly. Actually, I’ve been discouraged every week, haha. Mainly because of my thesis. I have 9 weeks to do this thing; I’m already in week 4, and way behind. It sucks to feel like you’re behind. And having a deadline for presentations? It is very anxiety-inducing.

I’ve also felt discouraged about other things, like how I’ve been spending a lot of money this month, even though one of my big goals is to spend a lot less. Granted, 97% of the purchases were necessary and it also includes the amount Will and I spent on our road trip. In my mind, I *know* I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I still do. (Also, how crazy is it that Will and I have only been in Philly for less than a month? Feels like a lifetime already!)

Anyway, there have been many times this month that I felt like a failure, or like I was starting the year off on a bad note.

I know why people give up on their resolutions so easily: we are so discouraged by not living up to the expectations we have for ourselves. We’ve pictured the montage of ourselves working hard and changing into this wonderful and better person, only to be disappointed by the reality. We are still the same as we were, and we aren’t seeing results. We give up because we feel we are unable to be the person we thought we could be, and it’s easier to go back to old habits rather than stick to new ones that may not necessarily produce the results we are looking for.

What to do when you’re feeling discouraged

  • Acknowledge your successes and give yourself a pat on the back
  • Evaluate why your goals are your goals – are you doing it for yourself, for your family?
  • Pinpoint the true hurdles that are keeping you from accomplishing your goals
  • Switch up your routine, add a habit, or do something different that will help you overcome your hurdles

The practical side of me knows what I need to do to change my perspective. Resolutions and goals are about becoming a better person, NOT about being the best right away. Making a resolution does not mean we all of a sudden become a different person. I had/have to learn to stop beating myself up for not living up to the “new me.”

I also realized that, as the first month of the year, January isn’t necessarily about “new year, new me”. Instead, it’s a time of self-evaluation and self-encouragement. It’s good to use the new year to decide what areas of one’s life needs to be changed and improved, but the time can also further be spent self-evaluating the mental (or physical) hurdles that are in the way. It’s about taking the time to pinpoint those problem areas and learn how to move forward and tackle them.

Like I said, the practical side of me knows that. The practicing side of me, however, is slowly learning and still applying. But it’s ok – slow learning is better than no learning at all.

If you’re not achieving your goals in full swing, I want to encourage you to acknowledge what you HAVE done. Maybe you didn’t do it perfectly, or maybe there’s still a ton of stuff on the to-do list that you hoped would have been finished by now, but give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far. I’m not really saying you need to be happy with where you’re at, but don’t let your shortcomings overshadow your accomplishments. Value the work you HAVE done, and then move on to tackle the next.

If you’re thinking of giving up, whether it’s letting yourself skip a gym day or waiting another day to start any creative pursuits, my challenge to you is this: ask yourself if you really want to achieve those goals. If the answer is yes, then figure out what exactly is keeping you from reaching those goals. Is it because it’s hard? Uncomfortable? Are you just being lazy? Is working towards your goals more time-consuming than you thought? Whatever the root issue is, you can’t problem solve until you’ve determined exactly what it is. But the key is to try and stay positive. Easier said than done, yes, but so important. Because the more you feel down, the harder it will be to keep going.

Tomorrow is February, but all we’ve got is time. Don’t get caught up in who you were yesterday, but start being the person you want to be tomorrow. Keep it up, and don’t give up.

0 In awaken


It is almost two weeks into the new year and so much has already happened – Will and I have settled into our temporary apartment and bought some winter clothes to match the weather. Will got into a certification program for IO psych and an HR internship (it seriously all happened so fast!) I started my first day back at school at the same time my hours for writing doubled. Wowzaaa!

I’ve never really been into New Year’s resolutions. Actually, I used to really hate resolutions, which started because when I used to go to the gym, January brought in all the resolutioners that crowded the equipment. Then I thought, “Well, people should be trying to improve themselves all year round, instead of just the beginning of the year.” I know, what a snooty and pretentious way of thinking.

It’s true, we should always be trying to improve. It’s important to set goals for ourselves when we need them, not just at the beginning of the year. But I have realized that having a new slate can be really helpful for people to refresh and reset. This year already feels so different from last year, which was only just eleven days ago. I had a really epic year last year, and I already have plans for this year that look nothing like 2017. So it’s kind of scary, but also a little bit exciting.

A few people I know have already posted their goals for this year, and one that I really enjoyed reading was James’ post, where he mentioned SMART goals. I love the idea of creating goals that are more specific and measurable, rather than relative, emotional, and easier to give up on. 2017 was full of accomplishments, including paying off my debt, finding a new job that paid well and allowed me more flexibility with my time, and signing back up for school. I was also able to travel a whole lot, which was awesome, and even though I don’t see myself traveling as much this year, I do want to continue on this “freedom” trajectory!

My 2018 Resolutions

Read 24 books: Not only did I just get a new library card this past week, but Will gave me his old Kindle, which means there is no excuse not to read more books! I also learned about myself that I hate reading computer and phone screens. It hurts my eyes. I used to read so much when I was younger – almost 100 books a year! I hope to change that and start reading more books again.

Read 6 Chinese books: In addition to reading books in English, I have a bunch of books in Chinese that I want to tackle. Even though I can speak Chinese, my reading skills are terrible and definitely something I want to improve.

Keep blogging: This has been kind of difficult with all the road-tripping and getting settled into the new place, but I hope to keep blogging about once a week, both here and BlenderBrain. I actually have a few plans of changing Tinispace around (again…) that I think will make it better fitted for what I’m envisioning.

Make 1 video a month: Blender Brain is a project Will and I have been working on for a few years, although we really started to think more about it towards the second half of last year. We made a couple of videos that have been semi-successful and popular. And even though we don’t post new videos, we keep getting new subscribers to our channel! My mother-in-law’s library actually has a really cool video studio set-up, too! This means there is no excuse for not creating more, and better, video content! It will also be a great skill to hone.

Write 120,000 words: This is 10,000 words a month. I don’t know if I really need 120,000 words, to be honest. Basically, I’m in the middle of writing a book. I hope to have it finished by the end of the year!

Work out 3x a week / be a size 6: Will and I got gym memberships! When I was working out before our wedding, I noticed a lot of positive changes in my breathing and stamina. I want to make sure I’m doing some type of physical activity at least 3 times a week. Eating wise, I do pretty well; I eat lots of veg and don’t snack that much. So it’s important to me to start adding exercise into my routine for ~top notch~ health. Ideally, I want to measure my body fat and reduce my body fat percentage. I just don’t know how to do that right now. So the specifics “measurables” of this goal are subject to change.

Master the Instant Pot: So…I started using the Instant Pot I bought two years ago but never opened. Actually, I started using it last month when Will and I were in a hotel. I felt that we should eat more home-cooked meals instead of restaurants. My first attempt of making simple steamed broccoli turned out terrible. Seriously, a disaster. Second attempt? Also not great. But all the soups and stews have been delicious! My goal is to make 1 Instant Pot recipe a week, which I’ve already been doing so yay!

Spending freeze: I really want to be more conscious of the way I am spending. Before our road trip, I actually minimized my wardrobe to just one suitcase, which felt really amazing. This year, I hope not to spend any money on anything except food and necessities (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) I am going to allow myself a budget of $150 for yarn, though. Because ya girl needs ta knit!

0 In awaken

Goodbye, 2017!

Happy New Year’s Eve! Will and I have been on a road trip from California to Philadelphia this past week. So far, we’ve gotten a flat in Reno, seen mountains in Salt Lake City, ate loose meat sandwiches in Omaha, and hung out with my bff Susan in Chicago! We are currently hanging out with Will’s aunt in Indiana, where it is 1-degree fahrenheit, and we eating food we just made in her new air fryer.

I’m a little bit sad that 2017 is ending – I tied the knot and traveled a lot (yay rhymes); I had a freakin’ epic year. 17 is one of my favorite numbers and I feel like I’m going to remember this past year forever! I think one of the reasons why I’m sad for 2017 is ending is because I’m skeptical 2018 is going to be just as good. Maybe it’s because I know a few things that are up ahead, and it’s just so different from how I started this year, but I am going to stay positive and make the best of 2018!

I’m still contemplating my resolutions and goals for this year, but here is a reflection exercise Susan sent me that I thought was pretty cool. Try it yourself and share your year, too!

The Big Life Events

  • Getting married, woo!
  • Traveling all around Asia for 2.5 months
  • Roadtripping back to Philadelphia

The Highs: What I’m proud of

  • Paying off all my debt – I am now DEBT-FREEEEE!!!!!
  • Job promotion and raises
  • Quitting two jobs that made me feel terrible
  • Starting a new job that gives me location independence
  • Seeing new places and catching up with old friends
  • Seeing one of Blender Brain’s youtube videos reaching 10k views!

The Lows: What didn’t go so well

  • Hitting a curb during our road trip
  • Fighting with my mom

The Wishes: What I wish I did differently

  • I wish I had more confidence in myself in certain situations
  • I wish I had spoken up more when people were being rude or insensitive
  • I wish I had regimented my schedule more so I could’ve accomplished more in my projects

The Worries That Weren’t: What I was worried about that ended up being totally fine

  • Wedding planning
  • Quitting my job
  • Going back to school
0 In wander

Five Coffee Shops in Oakland to Visit

Two and a half years ago, I made the drive from Philadelphia to Oakland. And this upcoming Monday, Will and I are going to making the drive back! Yes, if you haven’t heard already, we are going to move back to Pennsylvania, at least for a few months. Now that we’re leaving, I’ve been discovering a ton of places that I want to explore and eat at. I keep wondering to myself, “HOW have we been here for three years and we never went to THAT place?!” But then I remember – cooking at home saves money, and we actually like to cook! I guess it always happens like that, though. You sort of hate the place you live but then once you’re about to leave, you start meeting new people you could have been friends with and you start finding new favorite restaurants. Womp womp.

One of the things I really loved about being in Oakland is that it actually reminds me a lot of Philadelphia. I find the people in Oakland are more down to earth, and there are pockets of culture all around the city. Many neighborhoods here also remind me of specific neighborhoods of Philly, which is pretty cool. Oakland has a lot to offer, and is a great place to visit or live. There are so many local businesses and definitely many coffee shops in Oakland! I love spending time working in cafe’s, and this year, I’ve learned to enjoy my coffee black, which also means I’ve learned to appreciate the flavors of different types of coffee. There are so many places one could visit, but here are a few of my recommendations for coffee shops in Oakland 🙂

Black Spring Coffee Company

I stumbled across this coffee shop on a walk around the area as I waited for Will to finish a doctor’s appointment. It’s spacious and a great place to come work on your computer, read a book, or meet a friend. If you stay in and get a coffee mug (instead of a to-go cup), you get free self-serve refills! They have two or three canisters that are different types of coffee, so you can try a mug of each flavor if you really wanted to. I’m not a big fan of coffees that are too sour or acidic, and apparently, neither is the store owner, who serves an Indian roasted coffee that is known to be the least acidic. I’ve found the coffees at Black Spring to all be really great! They are also known for their Malabar drink, a shaken drink involving 2 shots of espresso, sugar syrup, and milk. Even though I didn’t get to frequent this shop as often as I’d like, I would consider Black Spring to be one of my favorite coffee spots of all time.  2930 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609 (Pill Hill Neighborhood, near Piedmont Ave) Continue Reading →

0 In awaken

Marriage Lessons #1

photo credit: studio kibo

It’s been six months (minus three days) since Will and I got ~*married*~! Time really flies, huh?

I think it’s easy for people to view older couples as jaded. Like once you’re a certain age, it’s easy to lose interest in your partner. Some people feel that a successful marriage doesn’t last forever. There is a Humans of New York post where the subject said, “If you talk to most people my age, and they’re really being honest, they’ll tell you that they’re dissatisfied with their partner. But then they’ll shrug their shoulders and say: ‘Where else am I going to go?’” That painted a really depressing picture of the future for me. It’s not that I disagree some people’s relationships may get exhausted over time. But to assume that the majority of marriages go downhill is super discouraging!

When I was working as a Costco vendor, though, I had the privilege of meeting some really fantastic older couples. You can really tell when two people are happy together. They have a special type of rapport that outsiders might not fully understand. There’s a way they smile and look at each other, even when talking about boring things like what type of cheese to get. Once couple started telling me about their marriage once. I had told them I was about to get married. The way they were so nostalgic and excited when looking back on their relationship was so encouraging. Even more encouraging was how joyful and content they were in the present. I could tell they were still going strong.

Not that I’m an expert or anything, but I’m sure everyone can agree that a successful marriage doesn’t follow any single specific formula. People are different. The way people communicate isn’t always the same. Circumstances change. You can’t account for it all. It’s really easy to judge what you think other people are doing wrong in their relationships, but my gosh, when it comes to YOUR relationship? It’s so easy to believe you’re always right! Your partner is wrong! And why can’t they just agree and listen and follow what you’re saying?! This goes for both men and women, by the way. Basically, everyone sucks.

My biggest takeaway from observing and chatting with other couples is that relationships should be ever-growing. If a relationship isn’t growing, then there’s no room for it to strengthen. With no room for strengthening, the foundation of a relationship becomes weak. And a weak relationship can only live for so long. Relationships are meant to be challenged, to grow, and to change for the better, but only if you let it. So, anyway, here are 3 big lessons I’ve learned so far, that I wish I’ll keep in mind in hopes of a successful marriage: Continue Reading →

0 In wander

Six Days in Hong Kong

It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve returned from Hong Kong, and I am still thinking about that dim sum. Seriously, I didn’t even know I could love dim sum even more than I already do!

English is one of Hong Kong’s national languages, so it’s a great place to travel to if you’re an English speaker who is worried about language barriers. I really enjoyed my time in Hong Kong, and I would love to come back again soon.

Hong Kong has the modern qualities of Seoul, but the craziness and intensity of Vietnam. The streets and crowds can get pretty crazy, and people are always moving! Everyone’s always in a hurry, and even the escalators are running at top speed. You think I’m joking, but actually – be careful on those escalators!


The real estate in Hong Kong is limited, but it’s still a hoppin’ city and it was as expensive as being in Seoul or LA or SF. We stayed at an Airbnb right on Sneaker Street in Mong Kok and got moved around a few times. The first night, our room was tiny. Will and I had two suitcases and a backpack each, and there wasn’t room for them! We ended up stacking all our suitcases into a tetris tower for the first night. On the second night, our host moved us to a bigger room (for our honeymoon :D) and it was a lot more comfortable. They ended up moving us a third time to accommodate a bigger party they had – it wasn’t ideal and we could’ve said no, but we just tried to be nice about it. It was poor planning on their part, but eh, I’ve had worst hotel experiences.

Just like Seoul, it’s good to stay within walking distance of the metro. The metro and bus’ are very convenient here! If I had to rebook, I might’ve looked on the Central side rather than Tsim Sha Tsui because we ended up crossing the river a lot, but I’m also not sure if it really made that much of a difference. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, we were in a pretty good location. We were in walking distance of many good restaurants and bakeries, and just a couple blocks away from the Ladies Market, which ended up being a great place to shop and bargain.

Things to consider when looking for accommodation: being walking distance of metro or bus stop, stay in a walkable area to reduce commuting times

If you’ve never used Airbnb before, feel free to ask me any questions about my stays, and sign up using my referral code to get $40 off your first booking! Continue Reading →

8 In wander

Five Days in Seoul, South Korea

me nerding out in front of the coffee prince coffee shop 😀

Seoul is a lot like being in LA, but with a convenient metro system. Everyone is really stylish and it sort of makes you embarrassed to not look your best. It was such a different feel from Vietnam, where we flew in from, which was raw and grungy. Seoul is hip, fresh, and modern…not to mention, the traffic-laws seem more up to date!

The first thing I noticed when we got off the place in Seoul was the temperature. It was cold! Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam were all hot and humid, and that was the type of weather we had packed for. Fortunately, we had our new custom-tailored jackets that we had just bought in Hanoi. We planned our trip here to match up at a good time to visit his Uncle, and we also got to catch up with my friend, Zoe, whom I hadn’t seen since I met her…6 or 7 years ago? Crazy. As always, I love meeting up with friends in new places; actually, I’ve come to realize that I generally like going out to eat with more people than just Will and I, because that means we can order a wider variety of food 😀

As with every trip that’s under a week, I regretted not being able to stay in Seoul longer.  We stumbled upon a lot of random street fairs and festivals, so there’s always something going on and always something to see. There are so many other parts of Korea that I want to visit, and things to see/do/eat, but I can safely say that I had a good first-round this time. I ate all my favorite foods, bought enough skincare products for a whole year, and got to spend time with some of the best people.

Continue Reading →

3 In wander

5 Tips for Haggling at Nightmarkets

One thing I love about Asia is the markets, from Weekend markets in Thailand to the Night markets of Taiwan. The closest thing in America would be a flea market, but the markets I’m talking about aren’t flea markets. They sell “brand name” products, toys, bags, clothes, wallets – basically, any souvenir you’d like, you can probably find at these markets.

Western tourists are the best types of shoppers for these vendors, mostly because many Westerners aren’t as aggressive at haggling. Since many Asian countries have these types of markets, most will know the drill to bargaining. Haggling, though, is certainly an art form! I’m certainly not always great at it; there are times when I’ve paid too much, and other times when I got a really great deal.

Actually, the times I pay too much are enough to empower me for my next shopping trip. A few days ago, I paid a little too much for a few items, because I was feeling too stressed out and shy to haggle. I know it sounds insane, but it was really agonizing for me to think about, and I was filled with buyer’s remorse. So when Will and I went to shop tonight, I was ready to learn from my mistakes, and it was great. Today, I will also share with you the tips that I use when I’m at my highest level of haggling, with examples of how I used them to negotiate 😀 Continue Reading →

0 In awaken

Birthday #27 (& 7 Things I’ve Learned)

living my dream life

This past Saturday was my 27th birthday! Will and I went to Taipei’s National Palace Museum, and then ate our way through Shilin Nightmarket with my cousins. Yesterday, we celebrated some more by spending the night at a hot springs resort. We bought a sushi platter and a tiramisu from the nearby Costco to eat in the hot tub. #dreamlife!

I’m excited because 27 is my favorite number, so that means it’s going to be a great year. I am now in the advanced stage of my late 20s, and feeling pretty great. Growing up is kind of crazy – I’ve always thought that, as we grow older, we start to get our shit together. I think part of getting older is realizing that that is not true, and, actually, no one really knows what they’re doing. Even the people who seem like that have it all together…there’s always something going on. You just never know.

This year was a really great one. Left a job that made me unhappy, and excelled at a new one in a short amount of time. Got married. Traveled A LOT. Picked up a freelance job. I’m so lucky. I love my life.

I’m sure I could list 27 things I’ve learned in my lifetime up until now, but that’s a little excessive, so here’s 7 things I’ve learned (and am still learning) from the past 27 years. Continue Reading →

4 In wander

Nine Days in Hanoi, Vietnam

the balcony view from l’etage cafe

Cost Breakdown: 9 days, 9 nights in Hanoi, Vietnam(?)

One way flight ticket DAD to HAN – $55.72/person
Accommodation – $197.79 total for 9 nights
Transportation – $30 total (Ubers to and from Airport/Airbnb, various around the city)
Food/Drinks for 9 days – $140.25/person
Attractions/Activities – $1.75/person (Admissions for Women’s Museum and Heritage House)

Total: $425.51/person

Our last stop in Vietnam was its capital, Hanoi, which was a great balance of Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An. In my early research, I embarrassingly kept mixing up Hanoi and Hoi An because, to the uninitiated, their names look similar. In fact, the cities are quite different from each other!

People may compare being in Ho Chi Minh City to being in New York, and Hanoi to being in Washington, D.C. I definitely prefer Hanoi to HCMC. Hanoi is still pretty crazy and crossing the street is still an ordeal, but I didn’t feel as anxious or “on-guard” all the time like I did in HCMC.

Many other people prefer HCMC over Hanoi because they say more people speak English there. Thus, they claim it’s a little easier to navigate through the city as a foreigner. Truthfully, Uber is so cheap it was easy for us to go anywhere we wanted! Personally, I prefer cities where the people are more stand-offish and ignore me, haha. I feel it’s easier to feel a city’s essence and “live like a local”. I mean, when you’re a local, no one bothers you! Anyway, if I had to choose one over the other, I would recommend Hanoi over HCMC. But since many people think the opposite, it’s worth visiting both if you’re planning a trip! Continue Reading →