Play hard

The Comparison game

I think one of the worst things a parent, a grandparent, or a relative could do to a child is to compare them with other children. I am thankful my parents never did that. I am also thankful my parents advised me to never compare myself to other people. I am sure I started this self-flagellation of comparing myself to others as early as elementary school…maybe even sooner? I think into my 20s it was pretty bad because I was concerned about career and life satisfaction. Now in my 30s, I am actively fighting against it.

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My year of Declutter

Declutter was my 2021 word of the year. How did I do? I actually did pretty well surprisingly. I’ve experienced quite a bit of challenges such as having a baby and differences in lifestyle with roommates (read: BILs). I could have given up and let entropy do the job, but I am not the type of person who sits there and does nothing. Here’s how it went over the past year:

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Covered in paint from head to toe

If you come to my house for coffee, you’ll probably find me all covered in paint from head to toe but that’s because I’ve been painting my kid’s room. I know I paid someone to paint Lana’s room a couple of weeks ago, but there’s this one wall in Lana’s room that was not painted and it’s a plywood wall that scream the 1950s. This house was all built in 1953 after all. I was not sure if I wanted to keep the plywood wall or replace it with drywall. The painter said if I were to put drywall, he can come back another time to paint that wall for free. But after much thought, I decided to keep it but I’m going to paint it myself. Over the past week, I’ve cleaned, repaired some of the panels, spackled, filled gaps, and sanded. Today is the day for priming and painting. Working on the plywood wall is more work than painting the drywall. I can’t imagine how much more the painter would have charged me.

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DIY vs. Delegate

This is the weekend I finally catch up on sleep. My husband came back from training — which was a relief. But of course he’s catching up on sleep this weekend because he’s going back to work to his regular job on Monday. I’ll admit the last two weeks were difficult — especially when Lana was sick and then I was sick. When my husband is away, I like to use that time to work on a bunch of projects — it could be an art project to display in the dining room, plant something in the front yard, etc. But lately I’ve been too tired to do basic things.

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A Heavy declutter weekend

It’s great day to have a coconut sundae! Yup, I am still writing about ice cream for my July “Eat Around the World” challenge. Don’t be intimidated by how indulgent it looks. It’s less of a sugar bomb compared to the ice cream sandwich I had the other day.

I can’t wait to share the other ice creams I’ve had this past month! I even made a couple of ice cream popsicles.

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No…I do not want your sloppy seconds

I understanding preparing for a baby can be expensive. It is tempting to accept all the free stuff you can take, however, I’ve had a lot of terrible experiences with inheriting second hand stuff. As much as I want to think people are coming from a good place, the truth is I find it is an excuse for them to buy newer, shinier stuff when I too have the funds to buy new myself.

I find we have to deal with the hassle of getting rid of the second hand stuff as soon as we get it. One time I got a Christmas tree and decoration to only find out most of the parts were broken. We tossed it and decided maybe that year was not the year we finally decorated our house of the holidays. Besides we enjoyed our tradition of exploring other places to enjoy holiday decorations.

We also have to deal with the hassle of repairing items too. My sister-in-law gave us a washer and dryer. The condition for the most part is usable, but occasionally, the washer leaks. This is the reason why I don’t want to inherit their “perfectly good” fridge because who knows what problems will come up once we take it. I pride in our “old fashion” white box because we kept ours in great condition after having it for many years.

I had a roommate back in college who always liked to pick up stuff she found on the sidewalk on the way back home. Her treasure finds tend to come with pests.

Look, I am not against receiving used items. I have inherited many items from my parents and grandparents that been in optimal condition. I was taught to keep my stuff in good shape. When the time comes when I want to give it away, I want in good conscience to know whatever I am giving something away where it does fall apart upon arrival. It’s just messed up to give away stuff because you want something newer and shinier.

With a baby on the way, the only things I am willing to take are clothes, bed sheets, swaddle cloths, and books. I don’t want to following and here are my reasons:

  • Toys: I was not intending on having lots of toy for the baby especially if it does not benefit the baby beneficially. Also, I see in the future I’ll be doing all the work where I get rid of the toys.
  • Walkers: There will absolutely be no walkers in the house. Besides walkers impede on needed muscle building a baby needs to crawl and eventually walk.
  • Furniture like pack-n-plays, cribs, drawers: If it falls apart, how are we going to return it?
  • Car seat and stroller: See reasons above. It’s a safety thing too.
  • Mattress: I don’t know why people think it is okay to just give away a mattress. I’ve inherited mattresses that came in terrible conditions like the spring popped up. The worst was getting bed bugs. Inheriting baby mattress sound disgusting too because there was previously pee, poo, barf, and who knows what. Plus newborns need firm mattresses not used mattresses that get softer with time.

Besides, if let’s say I have “saved so much money” it is not like the monies I saved went towards a vacation or home remodeing project. “Free” stuff does not give me peace of mind if it falls apart. The broken Christmas decorations and the faulty washing machine were relatively low-risk, we were not in any real danger. The used mattress with the bedbugs and pests from my roommate’s sidewalk finds were probably the worst I’ve experienced out of free stuff. We went through cycles of fumigation, homeopathic remedies, and cleaning our clothes and did it all over again. But were adults who worked it out. Based on my collective experiences with second hand items, I don’t want to put my baby (or anybody’s baby) the problems I dealt with.

What is your take on secondhand baby items? Or secondhand items in general? Comment below!

Foods I miss eating during pregnancy

  1. Poke bowl, sushi burritos, sushi – This warmer weather calls for colder food like poke. There are days where I go “this would be a good day for poke” and then I tell myself, “oh wait…I can’t have raw fish” I would say out of all foods, I miss raw fish the most.
  2. Deli meat and canned tuna – I was informed deli meats were food pregnant women should avoid, but I see other articles say it is fine to eat deli meat. The message is confusing. Anyways, I eat these in moderation. And when I say “moderation” — I say once per week. Before pregnancy, I would eat deli meats several times per week because it was a cheap and easy protein to put in my salad and sandwiches.
  3. Alcohol – I have a small bar full of wines and liquors. It will be a while until I start mixing drinks again.
  4. Kombucha – There is a tiny percentage of alcohol in kombucha. Even I was told it was not recommended during pregnancy.

I was surprised to find that I had a fairly small list of foods that I miss. Nowadays most of my diet consists of fruits, vegetables, beans, chicken, and some sort of plant based milk. I thought I would miss eating dessert all the time. I use to eat several sweets per day and now it is down to one sweet item. It is the healthiest I have ever been. Here’s to keeping it this way!

What foods have you missed during pregnancy?

#weekendcoffeeshare: Remodeling Reality

If we were having coffee, it would be at my house. I apologize for the mess. We’ve had builders for the last few days remodeling the bathroom. Check out the paint samples I picked up at Home Depot for the bathroom walls. I find it impressive that I grabbed as many color samples in five minutes. I narrowed it down to these few for the bathroom. Would you like to take a guess which one I ultimately picked?

The bathroom remodel is part one of many remodeling projects in the house. The ETA of the finished home is…a few months.

I’ve been documenting the bathroom remodel it on my Instagram stories. It is better and more real than any HGTV show out there. I am surprised to get a lot of engagement around our home remodel journey. I was worried about oversharing and dragging it on and on. But then I told myself, “eff it.” People share all their stages in planning a wedding and pregnancy through social media all the time and it drags. Sometimes I feel they were engaged for five years and pregnant for two years — which neither true. Thus, I think it is perfectly fine to share my stages in house remodeling.

House remodeling kind of comes off as a mystery to a lot of people. Those who are thinking about remodeling ask me, “how do you go about that?” The truth is, it depends on what you want done to the house. You need to interview as many contractors as possible and talk to as many people as you can who have remodeled. Also, read just about everything you can around construction so you have talking points to your next contractors.

Then there are people who enjoy watching HGTV and think they are home remodeling experts. When we first got our house, people were making references to various HGTV shows and how we should be remodeling. Just like any media, HGTV is completely unrealistic in terms of timeline and budget. My stories would be an opportunity to show people remodeling reality. On HGTV, those expeditious timelines are attributed by builders working all the time and around the clock to meet the deadline for TV. The rushed job compromises their quality. In real life, the remodel is not “just build.” There are permits, inspections, financing, and shopping for the materials. You can’t cram that on a TV show.

One-minute rule

I started listening to “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.” I decided to start from the beginning. I would follow her happiness hack for the week. If I like it, then I decide to continue trying it for a month and say if it made a difference.

The first episode, Gretchen and co-host, Elizabeth Craft talk about the One-Minute Rule. If a task will take you a minute or less to complete, do it as soon as you realize it needs to be done.

I’ll admit when I come home, I’m too tired to put away my jacket in the coat closet after a long day at work. Or I am too tired to wash my dish after I finish a meal. All those little neglects add up: dishes pile up and coat pile up too. Since I followed the One-Minute Rule, I’ve gotten around washing my dish, putting away the dishes from the drying rack, cleaning the bathroom mirror, and watering the house plants. It looks like I’ll carry this simple tip for a while.

My Amazon Diet

This diet does not involve fat-burning berries. Instead, it involves my shopping habits with Amazon. Ever since I listened to “The Human Toll of Instant Delivery” from The Daily, it made me think that my order of toothpaste and whatever impulse buy came from a warehouse where these people are living in horrible work conditions. These people work hours without a bathroom break, they get daily patdowns upon clocking in, and worst cases these warehouse employees die on the job. To top it off, their supervisors tell these warehouse employees to continue working even if it means working around the dead body. I could not believe this was the actual cost of two-day delivery.

The impact of this episode stayed with me for a long time. Each time I drove to work in my cushy office job, I always thought about how there is someone who is working in a warehouse receiving poor treatment by their superiors to the point it is slavery.

In response, I decided I was going to stop buying anything from Amazon. Adios two-day free shipping and Amazon textbook rental. It was convenient for the days when I did not have time to pick up toothpaste this week. It was awesome when I got to rent textbooks for a semester rather than be bound to it for the rest of the year. But ultimately, I cannot buy something in good conscience if whatever I am receiving from Amazon people were dying or being ill-treated behind the scenes.

Note the Amazon diet is difficult. There are a lot of Amazon subsidiaries (i.e., Whole Foods) and numerous websites that run on Amazon servers. The easiest way to start is to stop buying anything from the Amazon website itself.

brown leather wallet
Photo by Lukas on

How has it been? I have been on the Amazon wallet diet for the past four months. Yup that means I did not even go on Amazon to buy Christmas gifts. For me, I feel good. The most significant effect I have experienced is that I am a less impulsive shopper now. There was a time where I would go on the site and buy something each day. One day it would be toothpaste, the next day it would be mouth rinse, the following day would be dog food, the following day it would be a book because I want to, and so on. I was sucked into the convenience of two-day free shipping. I, like many other avid Amazon shoppers, would buy on Amazon so often I would forget what I ordered. It’s called Prime-nesia.

Along with becoming a less impulsive shopper, I have reduced my carbon footprint too. I feel better because I support other merchants. For those independent merchants who sell their goods on Amazon as a platform, Amazon would see if the product sells well by that merchant. From there, Amazon would duplicate the product and sell it at a lower price. To actually support the merchant, don’t buy from Amazon.

Ideas for parking strip

I just need to end the vicious cycle of removing grass and weeds over and over again. So I have decided instead of having myself remove the grass on the weekends, I’ll pay someone to do it and I can focus on the landscaping. To start, here are some ideas for the parking strip.


Project gallery 5 - parking strip

Project gallery parking strip 3

Since the parking strip will not get a lot of water, I wanted to focus on placing drought-tolerant plants and gravel. Here’s to hoping this project would actually happen.

All for neighborhood revitalization

Today we received a letter from our Department of Building and Safety to repair/repaint all chipped and peeling paint on wood gable siding, clean up and remove bricks and trash on the driveway, and remove excessive weeds and vegetation in front of the house. In regards to the last point, it rained a lot over the last two months thus the overgrown vegetation.

My husband described this letter like it was a citation from the Homeowner’s Association. This is simply a courtesy notice to clean up to boost our curbside appeal. They did not charge us a fine.

We have lived in our house for about almost four years. To be honest, we have received its sloppy seconds. For one, it looks like the owners tried changing the color of the house, but were undecided which paint color. Also, the neighbors have told us the previous owners rented the house to people over the years, and the last renters did not take care of the place at all.

When we first moved in, there was that initial feeling on DIY-ing everything. Unfortunately, life got in the way. When we both get home, we are both tired and it is too late to work on the house. We thought our house projects could strictly happen on weekends until we found out we have got a long way to go. My husband who works a lot still insists to continue to DIY as much as we can, but things fall on the wayside. If our weekends had a monotonous pattern, it would be doable. In fact last summer and fall, we did get in the habit of cleaning up our front and backyard. I made a bird bath and a bird feeder and maintained it frequently too. We had a plan on what to plant in our front yard and parking strip and we were making actual progress until late November when his dad passed away.

Yes, it is a very extreme example but it is true it threw our entire schedule off. When his dad passed away, we spent the week of bereavement in San Diego and then the next seven weekends in San Diego. When the mourning period ended, we went on vacation to Peru. That vacation was planned in advanced. Then we came home. We were gone for 2 full months of worth of weekends, and our hard work from the yard disappeared. I was hoping to come back to landscaping but everything grew back again. When we were away, it rained a lot.

Why did we get this letter?

This clean up is part of the neighborhood revitalization efforts. When we first moved to this house, it was not the nicest neighborhood in LA but we decided to live here anyways. For me, I saw potential in this neighborhood. It is a walkable neighborhood to shopping centers, schools, gathering spaces, and culture. I have mentioned many times before suburbia is my version of hell — it lacks culture, it is a waste of space, and it makes me cry. It simply is not for me. Over the years, I have seen this neighborhood turn around with better things. Plus we are finally getting a grocery store around the corner from the house.

background brick wall bricks brickwork
Photo by Pixabay on

Though our neighborhood has turned around, I have to admit our house has not. Our turn offs has been costs and time — especially time because we go away on the weekends. We want to remodel the house and landscape the yard like we want to.

As much as I want to DIY the yard, I know I have to start all over again by ripping all the grass. I am exhausted. I would rather pay someone to remove all the grass so I can go straight to doing the landscaping myself. I just want to jump to the next step because I am tired of removing grass as my weekend project over and over again. What will happen next is another life event will throw our schedule off and we will have to do it all over again. I told my husband we work too hard on everything. If there is an opportunity to relieve one stressful thing, why can’t this be it?