Book Review: Three Souls by Janie Chang

For this month’s book club meeting the ladies honored my book suggestion by reading this novel that was originally gifted to me by another lovely lady and I had been wanting to read it for a while now (when people find out you love to read you become that woman everyone loves to gift books to and you end up with so many that you no longer have to seek new books on your own).

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(For the purpose of privacy, I have blurred out the faces of the other book club members)

And to nourish our own souls, we indulged on high tea. Per tradition, the book club documents the books we read every month with a photo of my gloved hands holding up the book we read so I hand modeled in juxtaposition to beautiful tea cups:

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(Click here to purchase the gloves I am wearing)

The ladies of the book club are in agreement that the novel illustrates the enduring strength women had to go through in being married into families during the time period (the 1920s and 30s) and making the most of their situation or the hardships and consequence they endured when they chose other paths. It does also explore the concept of “what if” in how different each character’s lives would have turned out to be had the protagonist Leiyin not interfered.

Though the story has tragedy (ie. the novel does start off at the funeral of Leiyin so death is a constant overshadowing presence throughout the whole book) I was pleasantly surprised at how the women treated other women and their children with respect and kindness since mother-in-laws are traditionally very mean to their daughter-in-laws in the Chinese culture and even in modern times (regardless of the culture) stepmothers aren’t always nice to their stepchildren either. And while a majority of the prominent male characters turn out to be horrible, Leiyin’s husband Baizhen was thankfully an exceptional spouse (and student) to her and a father to their daughter. In a way, it all balanced out with the dark sides of the story about all the passion, secrets and betrayal.

The book pokes at the age old question about whether it’s better to lead a peaceful but long, dull life or risk a short-lived life of passion and hardships. Though I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people end up having a mix of both to a certain extent. And while some situations are beyond our control we must all live (or die) with the choices we make.

Overall, the book did end up having a good amount of twists and turns even if you know from the very beginning that the main character is dead. And as I was progressing through the book I did keep wanting to know what happens next. In a way, a lot of the book club ladies agreed that we all still felt that way when we reached the end of the book since there were questions hanging around of what ended up happening to this character or that character or how things were going to ultimately happen (like movie endings when it’s ended before you really get a chance to see what actually happens so you are left to imagine what you think would have happened).

I would give the book a letter grade A-

M

The Watermelon Dress 3 Ways

As an avid dress wearer, I decided I wanted to get one of those watermelon dresses I’ve been seeing around lately. And frankly, I couldn’t decide between all the different options of gloves, hats and shoes. So here’s 3 ways I’ve worn it (which doesn’t include other looks I have since then played around with):

Click here to buy the watermelon dress I’m wearing

Look#1: The most indoor-event friendly and hugging/kissing other people-friendly option. The fascinator makes me think of the vintage swim caps a bit which is also season-appropriate. Since it’s the only hat option that doesn’t come with a wide brim it does make it easier for the kissing/hugging of people. However, it is also very securely fastened by a band onto my head and would actually fare well in windy conditions if I were to be out and about. The minty, sea foamy sage green gloves and shoes were also with the lighter green color scheme that you see in the thin stripes of light green near the hem of the dress.

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Look #2: The farmers market look (especially if I’m picking up some watermelon there). It’s the most casual look out of the three and would also be the most practical when it comes to protecting myself from the sun. I did end up wearing the same shoes as look #1 but would ideally pair it with something of a darker green to match my darker green gloves (which I would have on so that it wouldn’t get dirty as easily as the lighter green gloves when I’m picking out fruits and vegetables at the farmers market and such).

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Look #3: The derby, polo or wedding look. This one is definitely the look I would go for at festive events where it would be acceptable for me to show some flare. The green gloves were appropriately matching the color of the fascinator and are satin so I went with a pair of one of my favorite satin heels that went with the fuchsia color of the watermelon.

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Along with my cucumbers, I have been enjoying some good watermelons lately with my balsamic vinegar and mint leaves. So whether you are eating them or wearing them as a fashion statement, I hope watermelons and all the refreshing fruits in season will help you stay cool this summer!

– M

Book Review: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

IMG_1952One would make the assumption that with times changing (along with the technology and the introduction of online dating) that things have changed in the land of pursuing romance in the modern world.

However, in reading Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, that the author and my fellow book club ladies are in agreement that many things have not changed. Though a good chunk of communication that used to be done via phone calls have now been replaced by text message exchanges, that silly rule of waiting to call or text someone so that you don’t appear too eager/desperate still is very much commonly practiced.

Though before the internet it’s probably very unlikely that men you didn’t really know yet would send you a dick pic enclosed in an envelope to your house. As Ansari pointed out, unless you had your own photo development set-up at home most places would not have printed out a dick pic for you during the times when photos were all taken on film anyways.

Needless to say, this book definitely lead to quite an interesting an extensive discussion amongst the ladies of the book club in regards to dating in general. We all agreed that we found the field research done in Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Paris fascinating. Living in a region of the States where we have people from all over the world, it put things into perspective of how it would be a cultural shock for both parties involved when dating someone who have different views on things like cheating, chasing, etc. In spite of these differences, it is definitely universal that marriage is becoming commonly delayed in all of these countries if ever pursued. Thank goodness for the pressure easing off for us to get married by a certain age, especially for us women.

One of the things I appreciated Ansari doing in the book is the thorough illustration of the pros and cons of technology in the modern world of romance. A lot of us remember the social stigma that used to exist about meeting someone online back when online dating was still relatively new. Such stigma still exists for newer forms of online dating such as Tinder where the common view for that App today that it’s more for casual hookups. But it was interesting to have it be pointed out in the book that when we meet someone in person (ie. at a bar) you do pretty much the same thing where you make a snap judgment/decision as to whether you are interested in that person based on something superficial like their physical appearance. So the argument was that something like Tinder would be much closer to how we would decide whether we were interested in someone or not in real life.

It admittedly has been less than a year since I have owned a smart phone and one of the features I did appreciate immediately was the ability to block phone numbers. I can delete the phone numbers I used to list as “Stalker #1,” “Stalker #2,” so on. And while I am not someone interested in getting to know someone I just met via a texting dialogue, I do think it’s nice to have the kind of ease now in being able to share things like photos and videos that you can take anywhere with someone you want to share them with. But in case it wasn’t already clear to any man reading this, please don’t send an unsolicited dick pic to a lady you just met or have not even met yet.

-M

Usage for Decorative Boxes

You may often come across these types of decorative storage boxes that are sold when you go into a store. And I personally have become quite fond of finding different uses for them so I would like to share:

1. Wine Boxes for flowers

I first did this for my mother’s birthday when I had bought some tulips for her at the farmers market and brought them into a restaurant with me. At the time, I had double layered plastic bags and filled it with a bit of water for the flowers, securing the hem of the bags onto the edge of the box opening with a rubber band. But as you can see above, you can also place a glass bottle en lieu of that as well.

2. Photo boxes for toiletries 

The bathroom sink I have does not come with drawers so this is how I store my toiletry items. Since I have an nautical anchor theme going on in this room, I keep decorative boxes on shelves that go well with the theme.  I also prefer keeping the tissue box design to also look oceanic for that reason!

3. Parties and Special Occasions 

Parties too often have some sort of theme to them and I recently helped chip in for a friend’s baby shower by providing party favors that coincidentally also went well with my ongoing anchor and nautical theme I had going on in my bathroom. So I went and got another larger photo box that had the nautical look to it and customized the lid with the baby’s name in hopes of it becoming useful for the nursery since I kept with the look the parents-to-be came up with for the room. I stuffed it with heating/cryotherapy pads I had made to go with the “relaxing” beach theme that was requested for the shower (for which I also used nautical anchor printed fabric to stay consistent).

4. Hat storage 

When people discover my love for hats and gloves and realize how much of it I own, one of the questions that usually come up is how/where I store them. Since most of my clothing shopping is done online, my hats do not come with a hat box like they might if I were to purchase them at a fancy hat store. The deeper rectangular shaped ones are great for storing some stacked sideways (this works for hats that do not have wide brims) and the smaller, rounder shaped ones make for great use in traveling with relatively compact-sized fascinators and hats that you don’t want to have be crushed inside your suitcase by the rest of your items.

These decorative boxes are typically categorized as nesting boxes. Though the wine boxes might be a bit more difficult to find online they can also be called nesting boxes.

Though there’s the phrase “think outside the box”  —- I would like to think that I am thinking about what to put inside the box.

-M

The Way I’m Eating Fruit

For the last several weeks, I’ve been trimming down a bit in preparation for a martial arts tournament and promotion exam. One of the things I have started doing is making a tweak to the way I eat fruit for breakfast. I have typically had a small serving of fruit with some mint leaves for breakfast with my oatmeal omelet (as described in my book), but to that I’ve recently been adding/replacing some of it with slices of cucumbers, a drizzle of peanut butter and a sprinkle of chili flakes:

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A lot of people forget that cucumbers and tomatoes are actually fruit too but they tend to be treated as vegetables because they’re not as sweet as what is traditionally considered fruit. And the concept of putting on peanut butter is not that new or revolutionary considering the fact that it’s been eaten with slices of apples or celery as a classic snack here in the states. And the concept of sprinkling on chili flakes is not that weird too since fruits like mango are often dried and spiced up as well.

The combination of all of it is beneficial though:

  • The addition of chili flakes have the benefit of keeping insulin levels low following the meal (aka you’ll feel less hungry).
  • As mentioned, cucumbers have less sugar than the other fruit I’ve been having them with (ie. the photographed examples above from left to right are: mangoes, strawberries, and apples). So instead of completely eliminating these other fruits (which also have their own health benefits) I’m simply replacing some of it with cucumber slices.
  • Peanut butter adds some healthy fat and protein which will also help you feel fuller.
  • There is also a health benefit to my choice of consuming fruit with mint leaves in that mint leaves promotes digestion and also stimulates a digestive enzyme that helps absorb nutrients from food and converts fat into usable energy (as opposed to having it be stored in your body)

While I love having mint leaves with my fruit (to the point where I often think it ends up being more of a mint leaf salad with fruit in it), I’m also going to be looking into getting some basil leaves in the near future too since they have been coming back to the farmers market with the return of the warmer season.

As a form of size/quantity reference, one of the red mini ramekins I used in the photographs above contain approximately 1.5 large strawberries (or 2 small strawberries) chopped + 4 or 5 slices of cucumbers. So it’s really not a lot. And I do more or less the same amount of fruit + mint leaves combination for having with my non-fat Greek yogurt  (with a sprinkle of cinnamon, chia seeds, and nuts) at night as my last meal of the day.

So here’s to a colorful diet and everything in moderation,

-M

Film Review: Beauty and the Beast

I did get to go watch the currently popular box office hit Beauty and the Beast this week. And I can see why it’s popular:

  • The film’s story line was richer than the original animated version Disney did, explaining details such as the reason behind why Belle didn’t have a living mother.
  • All the original songs were still sung, but there were additional new songs that got added in.
  • The costumes were true to the animated version and I personally liked the take they had on the white/blue dress Belle had in this one which seemed like it would fit in more with the setting.
  • Those who had been turned into household objects in the castle were gorgeous pieces. I thought the metamorphosis of the broom/duster from the animated film being a peacock bird duster in this one was an elegant choice.

It is one of those films that I feel like you can enjoy it whether you are a child or an adult. And you’ll most likely still like it regardless of whether you’ve seen the original animated version or not. So I personally recommend watching the film [if you haven’t yet]. I give it a letter grade A.

I decided to go with the spirit of the film and gifted my friend who went to go watch the film with me a single red rose as well! So just a fun little suggestion if you decide you don’t want to dress up like the characters or do anything too over-the-top.IMG_1579

Enjoy!

-M

 

Journaling with Self Kindness

I journal every night without fail before going to bed.

This past week I had a very emotional moment as I kept going back and forth in my journal entry that night between how I was really feeling vs how I thought I “should” be feeling. I think in the self-improvement/self-motivating culture that sort of mentality is common. You want to remain positive and grateful so you try to shut down your negative feelings and emotions.

I finally couldn’t take it anymore, driving myself insane, and Skyped with a very good friend in Germany. She then proceeded to make me a gift that I have since then printed out to paste on my journal cover:

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I want to be that kind of friend/person who is there for someone when they really need me, the one that makes you feel like you matter. So that is why I choose to be kind and thoughtful as much as possible —- Because one person can make the difference.

And as I refer to myself as my “twin bestie” in my book, my friend in Germany gifted this book cover to remind me to be kind to my twin bestie too.

-M